Alaska is one of the most breath-taking places on this earth. Little did I know that this would be where I would experience true depression for the first time in my life.
I moved to Alaska after getting married in Texas the end of April. I was excited for the move but I had not prepared myself for the isolation that such a big life shift would bring. I went from having a full time job, full time grad school, tons of friends, and easy access to shopping 😉 … to being in a place where I only knew my husband's family and small group of friends, had no job, had nothing to do and the nearest shopping mall was 200 miles away. To top it off- I was cold (being a Texan, hot meant 105 degrees and sunny- but instead we had a cold and rainy 50 degree summer). I could understand that I was going through a small environmental case of depression due to all the big changes (I was a mental health pre-professional after all) but it didn't prepare me for what was to come...
After three months, I found myself being extremely moody and super depressed- I mean, sleeping all the time and writing emo poetry- depressed. When I realized I was pregnant, I threw the pee stick at the hubs and grunted, “ugh, I knew it- I'm pregnant”. I felt relief that my lack of mood control was something I didn't have control over. But it also meant I didn't have control over my mood and little control over my thoughts. I had a tough time keeping food down and the mild, 'situational depression' turned into a gnarly black cloud that left me, the smiley peppy girl, without the ability to smile to anyone (not even puppies and babies- WHO DOESN'T SMILE AT PUPPIES AND BABIES!!!!)
The birth of my son was not as I had planned, as if we ever we ever get what we plan, am I right ladies?! You know the kind: trying for natural pain meds free, bla bla bla... Well it ended up turning into a natural nightmare. Nightmare! In short, super long and painful labor. Ended up emergency transferred to hospital. Thought I was going to die. Pain meds needed. Torn lady parts (not purdy!) Pride hurt. But much more than a hurt pride, I realized that I was experiencing the signs of post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD, me??? “Is that even possible?”, I asked myself... Google answered, and sure enough it was a thing. 'Traumatic birth'.
When I finally had the courage to look up the resources I could connect with, I found nothing in Alaska. That was when I decided to become part of a movement toward creating resources and sharing information about how common perinatal mood disorders are. The national statistics, according to Postpartum Support International, are listed as 1 in 7 in the U.S. but here in the great state of Alaska it is closer to 1 in 4 due to the lovely (*cough* sarcasm) lack of sunlight in the winter months and tendency for seasonal affective disorder and depression.
Today I am a volunteer state representative for the state of Alaska chapter for Postpartum Support International to bring awareness of Maternal Mental Health and perinatal mood disorders. May has been designated as Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. If you find yourself in the same situation or know of someone who is there is help.
For immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
For pregnancy or postpartum support and local resources, please call or email us:
Call: PSI Warmline (English & Spanish) 1-800-944-4PPD (4773)
Know that there is help and that you are not alone!
Like we say in Spanish, Si se puede! IT IS POSSIBLE!