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Postpartum Depression

Self-Help for PPD
By Karen Kleiman, MSW
Karen KleimanQ. I am a PhD student who works part-time and I'm remodeling my home. I'm sure that I will easily fall into the "overworked" category. However, since the birth of my 5th child, I've just felt that something isn't right. We live far from family and my mother was really against our having another child and she is no support. My husband is in the military and left the day after the birth. When he came home, I told him something was wrong, but he didn't know what to do. My GP asked me if everything was all right at one of the well baby visits and when I told him that I thought I might have PPD. He asked me if I was still enjoying my leisure activities (what the heck is leisure???).

I should say that I live in a non-English speaking country and finding a counselor is next to impossible. We have a new nanny and I'm feeling a little less overwhelmed but like something inside of me has broken. Where is the line between being overwhelmed and PPD? Nobody here even talks about PPD let alone medication for depression. I'm afraid that if I say anything I'm going to end up in a closed psych ward. Do you have any "self-help" tips?

A. You're in a difficult situation, to be sure. I'm very sorry that you have limited access to resources, not to mention treatment!

And yes, the line between being overwhelmed and PPD is indeed blurry. A quick diagnostic overview: if symptoms of depression (sadness, crying, hopelessness, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, impaired sleep, changes in appetite, increased irritability, decreased sexual interest, feeling like nothing matters, suicidal thoughts may or may not be present) persist for more than two weeks, then it meets the criteria for clinical depression.

Self-help measures can take you very far; sometimes they're enough, sometimes they're not. You will probably get better advice for this from other women who have struggled with PPD and tried out various self-help techniques, some that work, some that don't.

To start with, here is a link to our website with a list of some "feel good" interventions to keep in mind: Things you can do to feel better.

Self-help books are always good (I hear This Isn't What I Expected is REALLY good! ) In all seriousness, one of the reasons this book is so helpful is that it can walk you through some of the steps toward recovery, so it can be very helpful for women who cannot get to a therapist. There are other good books on recovering from PPD that you might find additional support from.

And finally, we have the list of tried and true self-help steps:

  • taking care of your physical self
  • getting sunshine
  • taking a walk
  • eating well
  • staying close to people you care about
  • finding support, both emotional and practical, to help you get through the day
  • journaling your feelings and your experiences so you can vent and find a place for your thoughts
  • taking vitamins especially if you're not eating well
  • resting as much as you can (I know this is all hard, especially when you have a houseful, like you do), and of course
  • finding online support, such as this wonderful site, for you to reach out to others in similar situations. This can be invaluable.

Good luck to you. I wish you the best.

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