Originally posted May 27, 2013.
Guest Post! PSI’s Valerie Rudiak!
Today I have the honor of hosting a story that looks at postpartum depression from a different angle; the angle of a friend looking in. Read Valerie Rudiak’s story about her relationships around the time of her wedding and what the cure for cluelessness is! Please join me in welcoming Valerie’s contribution to the Postpartum Support International’s 2013 Blog Hop! Speak Up When You’re Down!
The Clinically Proven Treatment for Cluelessness
I have a confession right off the bat. I don’t have any children yet. In fact, I got married less than a year ago. So my story is not about my own battle with postpartum depression. My story is about another disorder that often hits the friends and family members of women who experience this powerful illness; Cluelessness. And in this case, one of my dearest friends in the world was the one with postpartum depression.
I joined Postpartum Support International as an Air Force support coordinator in March of 2012, while I was knee-deep in the trenches of wedding planning. My husband-to-be is in the Air Force and he had moved to Arizona for medical school. We agreed to do the long-distance thing for a year until we got married and I could move down there to be with him. I was left to plan our California wedding by myself.
My bridesmaids were very active in the early parts of planning – all except for one. Though she was normally a thoughtful and supportive friend, Diane responded slowly and inconsistently to e-mails, calls or inquiries about plans. I thought it was out of character for her. By nature she is a kind, organized and upbeat person. She had always been there for me and I looked to her for insight and wisdom with life’s challenges. I chalked it up to the fact that she had a 3-year-old and a new baby. Parents are busy. I got that, but I still felt a little disappointed.
When it came down to the wire and she was still slow to respond, I called her and asked what was going on because she did not seem like herself. She maintained that she was just “busy and stressed” with the kids. Since she lived in Oregon and her husband was in school, I asked if it would be less stressful for her if she attended the wedding as an honored guest instead of a bridesmaid, though it killed me to say the words. I could hear the tears in her voice over the phone. “No. I do want to be in the wedding. I haven’t really told anyone this but…” Out came the story of what had truly been going on for the past six months.
After the birth of her second child, James, she had trouble bonding with him and did not feel the connection she had felt with her first daughter. She felt completely overwhelmed taking care of her daughter, Anna, and the new baby. She felt exhausted, lost pleasure in everything she liked to do, and did not want to play with her daughter. Though her husband Matt is a caring and supportive partner, he did not know what was wrong either. Heavy guilt and confusion weighed on her.
Diane admitted she was too ashamed to tell anyone what was going on. She visited her doctor for her postpartum wellness exams and the pediatrician for James’ check-ups without mentioning what was happening. Finally, after a second visit, she told her doctor what she was going through and the doctor recommended medication and counseling. She told Diane that this happened to a lot of women and that it was okay to take medication until she could get back to her normal self again. Diane said it was the first time she felt she had “permission” to get help. She wished her doctor had asked about it sooner.
A few weeks after starting a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, Diane felt her personality coming back. She had more energy and was able to bond with her son. She was able to enjoy her family in its new form, with her husband, son and daughter.
Our relationship improved, too. Though I was embarrassed to have been so clueless about what was going on, I was relieved that she told me about her experience. Now it all made sense. How could I have been so blind? I even volunteer for an organization dedicated to making postpartum depression survivors heard and I still somehow missed it! I would have been there for her if I had known.
My hope for writing this story is to let moms know that speaking up about a postpartum mood disorder is one of the best things you can do. It is the only clinically proven treatment for Cluelessness in those around you. It frees you to get the help you need and allows people to understand what you are going through. Most importantly, it can strengthen or even save a friendship worth its weight in gold.
If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline
If you are looking for pregnancy or postpartum support and local resources, please call or email us:
PSI Warmline (English & Spanish) 1-800-944-4PPD (4773)
Valerie Rudiak is a registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern specializing in perinatal issues in Arizona. She is a proponent of integrative medicine, women’s mental health, military family support, animal-assisted therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Valerie is a volunteer Airforce Military Family Coordinator for Postpartum Support International.