How a Postpartum Mood Disorder Starts
Updated: Apr 25, 2020
Today I want to talk about how postpartum mood disorders (postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum psychosis) begin. You've probably heard a lot about hormones and genetics, but I see things a little differently. I believe they all start with a mismatch, a mismatch of expectation and experience.
The circumstances of our children coming into our lives are always different. Some of us have textbook smooth deliveries; some of us have super traumatic deliveries; some of us bring home a baby that somebody else birthed. The circumstances are irrelevant.
Regardless of the manner in which the child comes into our lives, our emotional experience isn’t what we expected it to be. Obviously we all have different expectations, but they probably involve common themes like feeling happy, feeling affection toward the baby, and feeling confident. But that isn’t what experience brings us, at least not all of the time. Instead feelings and thoughts of darkness, desperation, anxiety, panic, disconnection, even misery make appearances in our field of experience. They feel wrong, and often they feel terrifying.
That’s when we often make an innocent mistake or where we get off course. Our little mind looks at these thoughts and feelings and starts to ask, “What is wrong with me?” and deep down, we start to believe that we are somehow broken.
I’m going to reiterate this because it is very important. Those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings mean absolutely NOTHING about you – no matter how dark, how scary, how “wrong” they may appear. I’ll talk lots more about that in later posts. The only mistake that we make, and it is always made with the very best intentions, is to start focusing on the thoughts and feelings as important and indicative of who we are and to believe that there is something wrong with us.
Once we lose sight of our true identity, and we take a turn down the “there is something wrong with me path,” we get wrapped up in the meaningless content of the thoughts and feelings and/or engage in thoughts or behavioral activity to try to stop or avoid the thoughts or feelings. Unknowingly, our focal point shifts to an uncomfortable transitory experience that was never concrete or real to begin with, and we innocently train our brains to focus there as well. From there, our very intelligent brains keep the cycle of depression and/or anxiety going by constantly and tirelessly searching for the problem and endlessly observing it and dwelling on it in an attempt to “fix” it. Before we know it, that “problem” which was never a real problem becomes our whole world.
But don’t worry; I have incredible news for you. No matter how “far gone” you feel, you are never too far gone to start seeing what is real. What I mean by that is seeing who you really are and seeing your experience for what it really is. Once you start seeing clearly, it is only a matter of time before the habitual thought patterns that keep your “disorder” going begin to fall away. Not only does that mean the end of your postpartum depression, anxiety, or psychosis, but also the beginning of a new life that is lived from the infinite source of your true identity. I promise that it’s better than you ever dreamed.