When we have recently become mothers, we can sometimes experience a particular form of depression known as postpartum depression. We can feel many of the same symptoms of regular depression, along with the added challenges of recent parenthood and everything that can come along with it. Our postpartum depression can contribute to our struggles with addiction, and vice versa. We can find ourselves relapsing after getting clean for the duration of our pregnancy, or struggling to quit and feeling guilty for still using while we were pregnant. Let’s take a look at postpartum depression, how it affects us, and how it can impact our addictions.
Postpartum depression, in addition to making us feel sad and anxious, can also make it harder for us to bond with our new baby. We feel so overwhelmed and scared that we have a hard time connecting with our baby. We can feel as though we don’t recognize ourselves, and we struggle to feel like ourselves. For many of us, this is our first experience with the disorder, so we’re often confused and worried about our symptoms. We’re afraid we won’t be able to be good mothers. We’re afraid we’ll never be happy again, or return to feeling normal. Many of us also don’t have help with the baby, from the father or from our family or friends, so on top of our depression, we’re also struggling to figure out finances, how to return to work, and how to cope with the multiple challenges that are hitting us all at once. In addition to our depression symptoms, we’re also finding it hard to get adequate, restful sleep, especially when we’re alone with the baby and don’t have assistance. Sleep deprivation can exacerbate all of our symptoms. We can experience intense mood swings, panic attacks, feelings of restlessness and uneasiness, and a deep sense of hopelessness and despair. It can be a very scary time, particularly for new mothers who aren’t prepared for it and who weren’t made aware that it could happen to them.
As addicts, we know that emotional challenges can often function as a catalyst for our addictions. We try to numb our pain and self-medicate with our drugs of choice. When we’re suffering from postpartum depression, we have the added element of worrying that we’ll negatively impact our baby with our addictive behaviors. We’re faced with the very real possibility that our baby may have developed a dependence during pregnancy. Oftentimes we can’t breastfeed as a result. We live every day with our greatest fear, that our children will be removed from our care because we’re deemed negligent due to our addictions. Postpartum depression can impact us in very serious ways, causing additional challenges to our already difficult struggle with addiction.
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