Postpartum Depression and How Running Saved Me 

07.19.20 01:43 PM Comment(s) By Lisa

1:7 woman will experience postpartum depression.

And the statistic grows when you have a mom who needs to leave her newborn to go back to work.

I know this all too well. I remember worrying about it during the pregnancy and my mom telling me she didn’t have it, so I wouldn’t. Except for my elevated blood pressure, I had no problems during the pregnancy, and I was happy. Then fast forward to two-weeks postpartum and I’m scared, and in constant tears. My mom then said “it’s ok, it’s just hormones, I had it too”. SHE LIED!! And I get it....So she lied to protect me from worrying. As a mother, I sometimes do it too. Well, weeks and months went by and I was still depressed. I went back to work 7-weeks after delivery and it wasn’t easy to hide the deep depression I was in. Every smile took a massive effort on my part. Those that knew me even for a minute had concerns, because I was usually labeled “the happiest person in the room”, and it was very clear I wasn’t. 

Unfortunately as a healthcare provider I’m well aware of how mental illness often gets swept under the proverbial rug. I’ll even admit that there were time when I had a patient on antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and anti-psychotic medications, and their complaints didn’t seem at the time, as authentic as those patients without them. Then I had feelings of guilt for thinking that way. This type of thinking is wrong and somehow it has been woven into the fabric of our society. Depression and anxiety are diseases, just like cancer, diabetes, or high-blood pressure, and they need to be treated as such. It may have been a physically invisible ‘ailment’ in the past, but now with modern medical equipment, we are seeing that it’s not so invisible. Treatments have also become more sophisticated and successful with modern medicine. We do have a massive nationwide shortage of psychiatrists, which is an issue with a growing statistic of depression. If one is able to find a psychiatrist, hopefully they take insurance, because that’s another dilemma. Many have dropped insurance altogether and are practicing for a set rate. My best suggestion would be, if you are dealing with postpartum depression (or any depression) please talk to your primary care doctor about it. They need to know so they can help set you on the right path. No one should ever feel alone. And if your friends and family offer to help, take it. I historically said no to the help as a new mom because I somehow felt lesser of a mom taking the help. I felt I must not be adequate if I needed the help and I must be weak if other women could do this with more than one kid. I only had one. I now know this is backwards thinking. It all goes back to self care. When we try to do everything and be everything, the pressure can build. We need an outlet for the steam..... and that’s where running came into the picture for me. 

In the summer of 2008, my daughter was now 3-months old, and I was still on a downward slope. I was avoiding friends and the panic attacks were getting worse. I fought off the idea of anti-depressants for so long, and I decided to give in. During that time, a postcard from Team-in-Training arrived in my mailbox. They are the organization that raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in exchange for training and preparation for a half or full marathon. Little did I know at the time, that my world would forever change as a result of that little piece of paper. I decided to go to the information session that was held at my local library. I was so moved by the presentation and all the good that this organization had done for so many people, that it was the right motivation for me to sign up. I had been on the track and field team in high school. I was not fast, and I mostly did the field events, and while I played volleyball in college, my endurance level was not optimal. In fact I hated running, and I would roll my eyes at those crazy happy people running on the road, rain or shine. After I officially signed up, We were given our instructions for fundraising and we were given our workout session schedule. Our short runs during the week were on our own and the once weekly long run was done as a group. Since I was participating in a Philadelphia-based group our runs would rotate between 3 locations: the scenic Kelly drive course, past the historic Boat House Row along the Schuylkill River (which I still have to look up how to spell), the tough rolling hills of the beautiful and also historic Valley Forge Park, and finally a tucked away trail known as Forbidden Drive, part of the Wissahickon Valley Park and crowned the 2018 Trail of the Year by Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

 On arrival day for the first group run I instantly connected with a girl my age. Neither of us had ever run a race. We had the same race pace and skeptical attitude, but we had signed up! And we were in it for the long haul. So sending a shout out to Melissa Thomas Hagan, my first running partner in crime. After many hours of side-cramps, sweat, cursing, laughing, and tears, we did it. (The Dunkin' Donuts bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches also got us through). Our friends and family supported us, both emotionally and financially with the fundraising aspects. We crossed the finish line of the Philadelphia Half Marathon, at the base of the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, on November 23, 2008. And like Forrest Gump, we just kept going.... I went on to train for the 2009 New York City full marathon, and Melissa went on to train for the Walt Disney World full marathon. I was back. I was myself again. I was a better mom for taking care of myself, and the happy endorphins that came along with the exercise made things so much better. While I’ve taken a break from running over the last 2 years, I’m slowly getting back into it. During that time, I finished 10 full marathons, lost count of the half marathons, 7 sprint triathlons, 2 Olympic distance triathlons, and an attempted half Iron Man mess which could be its own blog titled “Dealing with a DNF when you miss the cutoff by 90 seconds” (in the racing world DNF is ‘Did not Finish’). Yeah, I dusted my ego off and will face that challenge again someday. 

My BFF and business partner Adrienne and I are also a perfect  match on the pavement. The ultimate test was the Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World, January 2018. We set out 2 years prior for that challenge while daydreaming about getting our business off the ground. That was the last finish line I have crossed to date. I could not have done that alone. New beginnings for now, one foot in front of the other, reliance on my friends and family, and true gratitude for everyone who put up with me during the most difficult time in my life as a new mom. We can't forget to love and care for ourselves too. We can’t expect to be amazing caregivers to others if we can’t be great caregivers to ourselves as well. Now I need to follow my own advice more often. 😊
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