This week I’d like to share with you a beautiful piece written by Julie Santos, a program strategist from Costa Rica, and published in March of 2019 in Thrive Global. I hope that moms who are experiencing their own postpartum depression will find comfort in Julie’s story, and useful, practical survival techniques in my notes following her piece.
Julie shares her insight and experience with how to thrive in the aftermath of postpartum depression. After her story, I have included some information about how these symptoms and challenges can be eased.
Maybe you are a woman who is past your own postpartum experience, or maybe you are a man or a woman that cares about a someone who may be experiencing postpartum depression. This story and the real-world solutions that follow are for you too.
(I have edited the piece to remove language that some may find offensive.)
For me, postpartum depression hit particularly hard after my second child. Knowing it would eventually go away gave our family hope throughout the 11 months that it lasted. I assumed once it went away things would go back to normal. What I wasn’t prepared for was the aftermath it left behind.
When my second baby was two months old, I was convinced that the baby had eaten my brains and turned me into an anxious, raging, indecisive bitch. Although I knew about postpartum depression, I didn’t think I had it because I wasn’t sad, but rather anxious and angry. I remember waking up and dreading my time with my kids, not because I didn’t love them, but because it felt so incredibly overwhelming.
I had a hard time figuring out the most basic parts of parenting without feeling like I was making monumental decisions in complete isolation. The anxiety around mothering became so tedious that the days dragged on and I felt so unengaged and quick to get annoyed. Thankfully, a friend of mine, who happened to be a doula, informed me that anxiety and depression are two sides of the same coin and that it sounded like I had postpartum depression.
After the official diagnosis from a doctor, I was relieved to know that the baby had not, in fact, eaten my brain, but that I had something that would eventually heal itself. What saved my family is that I became very transparent about what was going on and it meant I didn’t have to pretend around my friends and family. Also, they gave me a pass everytime I raged or acted completely out of line.
When people ask me to describe mental illness [like depression], I say it’s like having a guest in your house who you vulnerably and blindly trust. You allow them to use everything inside your home and speak to you in whatever tone they want. Unfortunately, this guest is disrespectful, abusive and messy. They may treat others like crap, but the person they abuse the most is you.
Depressions acts like a fog and while during this time it’s important to be gentle to oneself, we tend to do quite the opposite. In a society where mothering is done in isolation and the most connection we get is from picture-perfect social media posts, we begin to own the actions of our ‘unwanted guest’. So every time the ‘guest’ makes a mess or acts out of line, instead of saying; “Remember you have an intruder in your home. Stay calm. Love yourself. Breathe.” you say; “What’s wrong with you? You’re a bad mom! There you go again crying. You are so disorganized. Other moms are so much better!” And after the ‘guest’ leaves, things do get better, but I can’t exactly promise you will, unless you take a few steps to consciously clean your mental home and all the [crap] they left behind.
After my postpartum depression went away, I began looking for jobs and getting back in the swing of adulting. I’ve always considered myself a smart, competent person with a great sense of humor. I’m vegan and my career is focused around making the world a better place. I mean, come on, isn’t that Pinterest worthy? So when it came time for me to start putting myself out there, I noticed this choking insecurity that kept me from breathing easily every time I sent a resume or pitched myself.
What was going on? My spirits were high, I was mothering like a ninja, I started going back to the gym and eating right. I had apologized to my friends and family for things like, “Sorry I broke the remote control when I couldn’t figure out how to watch that one thing I recorded that I couldn’t remember what it was called.” So while my relationships healed and my body slowly recovered (yes, slowly) I found that I was still feeling broken.
I asked for my husband to give me a day to myself, for me to take stock and really see what was happening and what I needed to do to feel better. That’s when I realized I had gone to great lengths to fix all the [crap] this guest had tried to mess up, except for the one thing that is most important, my inner self. Almost six months after my postpartum depression went away, my negative self talk lingered in my mind every time I had to make a career move or make a bold decision.
I had not addressed the fact that I called myself unattractive and unpleasant to be around for almost a year, leaving me feeling unworthy of friendships and sometimes romance. So, for the past 11 months I mentally belittled myself so much that in the twelfth month, the guest had left, but some of their lies had become truths. I’m writing this today because, had it not been for this realization, I could carry these new beliefs as truths for years to come.
Just like we create crappy habits when we aren’t in the best state of mind, we also create really crappy thought patterns. Limiting beliefs do not go away on their own; we need to consciously uproot them. Think about how many decades you carried around the belief a parent or a teacher gave you when you were a child? The scariest part was, since I did not have my depression to blame, I was really close to believing that this simply was who I was. A “less than” version of my old self. That’s when I started an intense campaign to find ways to replace those negative thoughts with positive affirmations of my strengths and abilities.
We all know that depression can lead to a cluster of negative thoughts in our heads, encouraging behaviors that prevent us from being happy and secure within ourselves, but are we aware that after the fog lifts, depending on how long we experienced our mental illness, we have to un-tell ourselves all the lies we told ourselves, and break the negative patterns we created in our day to day lives?
I realize today that if I did not become conscious of the lies I had once told myself, they were going to become truths. But slowly, as I dive into the world of self-help and spiritual awakening (and that’s another story), I can begin to address all the crap that unwanted guest left in my home while I blindly trusted them. The process is creating a stronger more compassionate version of my old self, because not only am I coming out of the fog, I am rising above it.
The Role of Hypnosis
Many of our beliefs, habits, behaviors, emotions, and memories are stored and maintained in the subconscious. In fact, everything we experience gets filtered through the subconscious mind. And most of the time, the subconscious is helpful
We see a bird at the park, and we’re able to identify it instantly. That’s because buried up there in the subconscious is a lot of useful information. We filter our experiences through this database, and in a fraction of a second the subconscious helps us make sense of the world around us.
But the subconscious can hold a lot of unhelpful information. Negative thoughts and patterns can become deeply embedded in the subconscious. And these filters can influence our moment-to-moment thoughts and feelings.
How we respond to stress, for example, is controlled almost entirely and automatically by the subconscious. If a stressful event drives you to anxiousness, anger, or frustration that’s how your mind told you to feel.
You can learn to use hypnosis to reprogram your subconscious mind to be more supportive, more helpful and a better friend. And specifically for depression, we can reprogram the subconscious to better manage the symptoms, to respond differently to stressful or emotional situations, and to release many of the underlying factors that accompany depression, like stress and worry, anxiety, or negative self-talk.
Hypnosis for depression helps us release many of the negative thinking patterns, bad habits, and suppressed memories that negatively limit the mind. At the same time, hypnosis can improve our coping abilities, empower us with past positive memories, and enhance the effectiveness of other depression treatments.
How Does Hypnosis for Depression Work?
Hypnosis is a highly relaxed, intensely focused state of mind that can be reached by following a few relaxation and focusing techniques. In fact, being under “hypnosis,” is a lot like practicing meditation. But there’s one key difference: Hypnosis has a goal.
This highly relaxed state allows us to set aside the conscious, critical mind. And when we’re under hypnosis, we can speak directly to the subconscious. Under hypnosis the mind becomes highly susceptible to new information and new ways of thinking that normally get filtered out and ignored.
That means we can feed the subconscious mind new information and positive suggestions during hypnosis, and they stick. We can change the way the subconscious makes sense of the world around us.
For depression specifically, hypnotherapy offers a few key benefits.
Hypnosis for depression allows us to retrain the subconscious. We can, in fact, override those automatic thinking patterns that kept unhealthy habits, negative thoughts, and irrational responses (all factors that can contribute to depression) in place.
Hypnosis for Low Self-Esteem
How we talk to and feel about ourselves has a powerful influence over our mood. As many of us know, the subconscious can get filled with harmful beliefs and negative thoughts. We learn to hate the way we look, to focus on our “flaws”. Or we learn to assume that we’re not good enough.
Through repetition, these underlying thoughts start to become more real. And whenever we look in the mirror or face a difficult task the negative beliefs invade our thoughts. The subconscious makes see what it wants us to believe.
Hypnosis can be a powerful tool for overcoming low self-esteem and negative self-talk. During hypnosis, we feed the subconscious new, positive affirmations about ourselves, and we can begin to release many of those old, automatic thinking patterns that dominate our inner voice.
Hypnosis for Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety, which can be caused by stress, is an irrational response to the world around us. We experience a stressful event, and the subconscious triggers the anxiety.
Hypnosis allows us to calm the mind, recognize the thinking patterns that can make us feel anxious, and control our thoughts in stressful situations.
Hypnosis for Sleep Issues
Insomnia can make depression worse, and is also often a symptom of depression. Many people suffer from insomnia because they have trouble shutting down the mind at night.
Hypnosis can improve sleep in a few ways. Practicing hypnosis prior to bed, for example, has been shown to help people reach deeper levels of sleep for longer. Hypnosis enables us to power down the mind, and reach a daydream-like mental state. This allows us to fall asleep more quickly, and ultimately spend more time in REM sleep.
Additionally, hypnosis can help us overcome the underlying conditions like anxiety or stress that are causing us to have trouble falling asleep.
Other Ways Hypnosis Helps with Depression
Beyond improving underlying conditions, hypnosis can influence how we manage depression. Learning coping skills empowers us to handle many events and emotions that can trigger a depressive event.
Using hypnosis, we learn to recognize our automatic response to a triggering event, so that we can see them as they emerge. Hypnosis can alter the way we respond to these triggers.
Unpacking and revisiting positive past experiences allows us to remember who we were, what we were like, and what happiness meant to us. By revisiting these experiences, we can begin to reteach the subconscious how to return to that state any time we choose.
Hypnosis can also enhance traditional therapies for depression, like cognitive behavioral therapy. Numerous studies have examined how hypnosis can work in tandem with traditional depression treatments. Hypnosis frees the mind to be more receptive to CBT, as well as increase our expectation of the benefits of CBT. Both effects result in treatments improving. One small study, for example, concluded that utilizing CBT in tandem with hypnosis provided a “more effective treatment in a shorter time.”
What is Postpartum Depression?
With postpartum depression, feelings of sadness and anxiety can be extreme and might interfere with a woman’s ability to care for herself or her family. Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth. Mothers with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult for them to complete daily care activities for themselves or for others.
Postpartum depression does not have a single cause. It often results from a combination of physical and emotional factors. Postpartum depression does not occur because of something a mother does or does not do.
Some of the more common symptoms a woman may experience include:
Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
Worrying or feeling overly anxious
Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep
Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
Experiencing anger or rage
Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
Eating too little or too much
Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
Thinking about harming herself or her baby.
Family members and friends may be the first to recognize symptoms of postpartum depression in a new mother. They can encourage her to talk with a health care provider, offer emotional support, and assist with daily tasks such as caring for the baby or the home.
If you or someone you know is in crisis or thinking of suicide, get help quickly.
Call your doctor.
Call 911 for emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room.
Call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).∎
Karen Gray is a Certified Hypnotist, a Registered Nurse, and the Director of Green Mountain Hypnosis. For more information on how you can use hypnosis to change your life, contact Karen at email@example.com, or (802) 566-0464.