Baby Blues, or Postpartum Depression?

 By Karen Boerger:

Are you experiencing the baby blues or postpartum depression after having a baby? You’re not alone.

 

Having had two boys within 2 years of each other, my unexpected daughter–born within 17 months of my last child–was overwhelming.  Yikes!  But the joy of having a daughter was huge because I knew this would have to be my last child.  I had previously had great difficulty carrying a child to full term, plus had one miscarriage and one tubal pregnancy that ruptured. To say that I was tired of hospitals is an understatement! I had been in hospitals once or twice every year for the first seven years of our marriage, and it was stressful for me and my husband. Yet despite all this, I was still surprised to experience the baby blues.

I brought my beautiful daughter home in December. Christmas was filled with warmth, beauty, and love.  I had two wonderful boys and now a daughter. I was on top of the world; but something happened.  I slowly began to lose all those good feelings; in fact, I became disagreeable and angry. I would cry when alone.

One evening in January as I was sitting waiting for my husband to come home for supper, I looked at the large picture window and thoughts of how the window would look if I threw something through it went through my mind. I could see the thousands of minute shards of glass in all sizes and shapes moving through the air in slow motion. It took on a kaleidoscope effect that made the pieces turn, reflect colors, and show patterns.  It was a beautiful sight in a seemingly evil way.

As I watched this imagined act take place, I remember thinking, “I’m in trouble!”  I recognized that this was not a good situation I was in, but I couldn’t understand how I could be so sad and moody and irritable with all the blessings that I had. I felt very unsettled.

I reluctantly went to see the doctor and broke down into tears while telling him that I didn’t understand this. I said:

“I should be on top of the world with my little daughter, but instead I’m sad, irritable, plagued with mood swings, and I can’t seem to concentrate.”

He gave it a name – baby blues heading toward postpartum (also called postnatal) depression. I was relieved to know that I wasn’t losing my mind and that someone truly understood.

I learned that symptoms of the baby blues include:

  • mood swings
  • crying
  • trouble sleeping
  • sadness, and
  • irritability, and may be caused with hormonal imbalance.

Postpartum depression may start out as baby blues but becomes more intense and longer-lasting. Postpartum symptoms include:

  • loss of appetite
  • intense anger
  • lack of joy in life
  • feelings of shame or inadequacy
  • severe mood swings, and
  • thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

Untreated postpartum depression may last up to a year or two.  Fortunately, my depression was treated early on with medication and counseling, and my daughter today has three handsome sons of her own. What a joy they all are to me!  Thankfully I received help before things got out of hand.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t sought treatment. Would I have really thrown something through that window? Would I have used those shards of glass for hurtful reasons?   My advice is to get help quickly so that those baby blues won’t turn into the more destructive postpartum depression.  Then you can enjoy that adorable little child that has come into your life with all the love you possess.  Don’t lock your feelings inside!  Seek help!

For more information you can read Get the Facts from SPI (postpartum.net). They also offer a chat helpline from that site. You can also read about Risk Factors (what makes a woman more likely to experience postpartum depression) at the Mayo Clinic website:  mayoclinic.com.

 

Hope for Military Veterans with PTSD: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

By Karen Boerger:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is Real! There is help and hope for military veterans with PTSD.

 


Image by Stuart Miles (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

I recently heard a presentation by a Major in the Army Reserves (retired), who told her story about her military career.  After her tours of duty in the Middle East, she realized that she didn’t feel that she fit in with family and friends any more, thought about committing suicide, but went back for one more tour of duty.  She was injured and had to go stateside for recovery.

While recuperating in the hospitals, she began to see that there was a purpose in her life.  After much counseling from a pastor, she went for training and is now helping military veterans and their families.  Sometimes when we are at our lowest, we find God right beside us.

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a very real problem in the military.   The following are some recent statistics:

  1. There are 18 suicides a day.
  2. To seek help for depression or PTSD  (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) while serving in the military, there is a 400-day wait to get in.
  3. When a military person receives a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), it’s found that they are 20% more likely to die from suicide.
  4. One soldier dies every 24 hrs. – not from combat.

There is help for PTSD. Medication and counseling are very effective. If you have had a traumatic event, don’t despair. Seek guidance from a counselor, psychiatrist, or doctor and stay in touch with your pastor.  Healing takes time but can be achieved.

The National Veterans’ Suicide Prevention Hotline is a valuable tool for veterans.  Watch this video to see how important this hotline is to the veterans. For help call 1-800-273-TALK, then press “1” to be routed to the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline.  This free service handles about 330 calls per day and has a staff of about 20. Call and talk to someone who understands veterans with PTSD.

 

Help for the Family after a Child Suicide

By Karen Boerger:

How does a family cope with their painful  “new normal” after a child suicide?

 

The newspaper’s front page article at the bottom right read,  “Middle school student dies; school cancels classes.”  

“How tragic!” I thought.

As I began to read the article to see what happened, I saw that this boy was an 11-year-old fifth grader who took his own life. There was no name or reason mentioned.  It went on to tell how the school was putting together a plan to help students deal with their classmate’s death.

The superintendent said, “Anyone needing special assistance can call the school’s Crisis Hotline which the district identifies as a caring and supportive voice.” They provided the Crisis Hotline number twice in the article.

My heart aches for the family left behind after that child suicide. Did anyone have a clue that this was coming?  Would they have called the hotline on this young man’s behalf?  Would it have made a difference?  I would hope that it would have helped to give this individual a touchstone – something solid to base the rest of his life on.

It saddens me to think of what could have been for this family. All the fun a parent would have with their child as he grows up: first car, first job, prom, wedding, grandchild, etc.  It’s sad to think of the many losses.  The young man obviously had some troubles, but could they have been worked out?  Could talking with a friend, pastor, counselor, teacher, or relative have helped?  I can’t help but say, “YES!”

Even though the grief will be long, our help is in the Lord.  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13 ESV).”  There are times we are so low that we cannot see our way out of the pit of sorrows, and yet our Lord is there with us.  God also has provided people to help us.

Here’s a video book trailer describing the difficulty families have adjusting to a “new normal” after a child takes his life with details about the book Coping Techniques After a Child’s Death, written by Sandy Fox.

According to the author, the book “consists of over 80 articles of coping techniques and informational skills to help any bereaved parent as they move through the grief process. Readers will be able to learn how to get through the holidays, read 10 inspirational stories from those who have been there, delve into the abundant resource section and read a variety of book descriptions of other literature in the field.”

Sandy also has a helpful blog: I Have No Intention of Saying Goodbye…surviving grief: death of a child at survivinggrief.blogspot.com.

One aspect of losing a child, which may or may not be mentioned in Sandy’s blog, is that believers in Christ have the additional promise of being reunited with a child in heaven. It doesn’t make missing them now less painful, but does offer hope for the future.

A Mistake, Jail, Depression then Hope: One Day at a Time

By Karen Boerger:

Caroline – a wife, mother, soccer mom, friend, and more – enjoyed a modest life in a west coast suburb. She worked tirelessly to help with fundraisers for the school. When a friend developed a terminal illness, she and three other friends held a fundraising event for the mounting medical bills, but disaster was looming around the corner.

Being as busy as she was, she sometimes hurried through her life with little notice of the details. One day she reached for her credit card and paid for the new carpeting in her home; however, the credit card she used was for the funds raised for her friend with the terminal illness. The $6,000 didn’t come out of her personal account but from the fundraiser account.

Calamity came when the family found that there was money missing from the account before Caroline. Once it was discovered, Caroline wanted to rectify the oversight immediately; however, the family went to the police. Caroline’s busy life spiraled downward. During the investigation her picture was paraded through the media, her friends shunned her, her children were bullied at school, and Caroline spent 45 days in jail.

Feeling alone and separated from family and friends caused her to think everyone would be better off without her. She began to contemplate suicide. Her mind couldn’t seem to think of anything else. There were times when Caroline felt she was going crazy!

During a visit from her husband and youngest daughter a crack began to open in her frozen heart. Her daughter cried when it was time for visitation to be over and kept yelling, “Mommy, come home. I need you!”

She could feel her heart beginning to warm. That was the beginning of Caroline’s return to the human race. Her daughter needed her; someone found something worthwhile in her.

Putting one foot in front of the other and taking one step at a time, she began to lift her chin and press forward to find hope – one day at a time. Life would be different, to be sure, but her family needed her. They would do it together.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. Isaiah 61:1

Help for Chronic Pain with Suicidal Thoughts

By Karen Boerger

While vacationing recently in Florida, we were walking through the hotel lobby to begin our day when I heard my husband ask, “Are you OK?”  Again he asked, “Are you OK?” He had stopped beside a man bent over a chair. The man said he had two herniated disks in his back and was in extreme pain 24 hours a day, with no relief. He said at one point he had unloaded his guns at home. Chronic pain with suicidal thoughts threatened his life, but he showed wisdom in protecting himself when he knew the pain was causing him to not think rationally.

That comment quickly took me back to a time in our lives when my husband was having severe depression. Before he was hospitalized he had sent our 16-year-old daughter to our friend’s house with our guns.  My friend still talks about that morning; she still can’t believe it. I can’t out of my mind the look of bewilderment and concern she had as she delivered the firearms back to us later.

It’s good that my husband began a dialogue with the gentleman at the hotel, because with depression one of the helpful treatments is talking about your feelings. Social support is very important. Talking regularly with supportive family and friends is extremely helpful.  Healing from depression takes time, and patience is necessary; but making the choice to share your feelings with someone else is so important. You can also talk with others dealing with chronic pain (some hospitals have support groups), plus find hope and help online at www.restministries.org.

With treatment and support, even when experiencing chronic pain with suicidal thoughts when someone says, “Are You OK?” you will be able to boldly say, “Yes, I am!”

 A friend loves at all times . . .  (Proverbs 17:17)

Other pages here at this site:

Feeling Suicidal?

Letter 4 U?

What is Depression?

By Karen Boerger

My first caregiving role was when my husband was diagnosed with depression.  During his lengthy illness, I struggled to understand the “why” of his despair and spent hours looking for answers to my question, “What is depression?”

We eventually learned that various factors influenced my husband’s depression: sleep apnea, Seasonal Affective Disorder, his parent’s deaths, and work overload.  Any one of those factors would be a cause for sadness, but having all at the same time caused him major trouble.

At some point over 28 years of his becoming depressed, I noticed that every November (as the amount of sunlight decreased) he would began to slowly retreat within himself.  He would close his eyes to the world, stay in bed for long hours and wouldn’t talk except for one word answers to questions. He would cry at times and thought about suicide.

Depression affected each member of the family, not just him. I became a nervous Nellie and hovered over all three of our teenage children as well as my husband. I was the caregiver trying to keep the children’s lives as normal as possible, but it was difficult to do.

We lived on a farm, and my husband was no longer able to take care of the dairy herd and the other livestock.  Our children were often late to school because all the livestock had to be taken care of first. Bless the school principal for his understanding of the situation. Yet even though my husband’s depression was emotionally difficult for all of us; I knew that if I were to lose him to suicide, it would be absolutely devastating.

To gather strength to get through the lonely days, I would read the Bible and pray. God was my constant companion, and I could tell Him anything and everything.  David wrote in Psalm 6 about symptoms of depression:

  • “my soul is greatly troubled”
  • “my bones are in agony”
  • “I am weary with my moaning”
  • “all night long I flood my bed with weeping”
  • “I drench my couch with my weeping”
  • “My eye wastes away because of grief”

WOW!  Even King David suffered from depression!  We can be honest with God even when we are filled with anger or despair because God knows us so well and always wants the best for us.

We Found Hope and Help!

Our family trusted in God, sought help from a Christian psychiatrist, and was supported by our many friends. Medication helped, as well as getting to a sunny place in February, which gives him a boost so he’s able to make it into spring with energy. It’s amazing to me to see the difference in him even now after a couple days in Florida sunlight after a gray Ohio winter.

Today my husband is a thoughtful, loving man with purpose in his life and he enjoys his family. Praise the Lord for the help he received in his time of need.

Had he taken his life, my best friend wouldn’t be sitting in his favorite chair, joking with me, trying to make me laugh, or  able to chat with me about the world situations. He wouldn’t be able to play with our seven grandchildren and enjoy their silly antics. What a loss it would have been for all of us!

For more information about What is Depression? watch this video: