Looking Up in the Rain: Prenatal Depression

While most of my blog views come from video game reviews and tips, this blog was always meant for more than that. Home Maker, Game Wrecker – that’s my slogan. Though I’m neither a Home Maker (I’m a marketing coordinator and graphic designer by day) or a Game Wrecker (they usually wreck me), I digress. I’m starting this post on LIES! Ahem, onto a more serious note.

I want to talk about something that I don’t find a lot: Depression during pregnancy. Don’t freak out. There’s no talk of gross things, or rather, extremely natural things that many people find gross. I haven’t had my baby boy yet, so I can’t talk about post-partum depression – the one that most people are familiar with. But what I can tell you is prenatal depression is BALLS.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression at 16. Anxiety shortly thereafter. Panic Disorder at 25. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder at 30. I am very familiar with my mental health. I know what helps, what doesn’t, what triggers the panic attacks, and how to stop my spiraling thoughts. Depression nearly always took a backseat to anxiety for me. Infrequent low moods gave way to my incessant need to feel productive. When I got pregnant, that changed.

The second-trimester hit, and with it, days of unrelenting sadness attached to nothing came in waves. I can’t pinpoint where it’s coming from, but it feels like a black hole in my chest that swallows everything. An empty, hollow feeling. I can’t get out of bed, I have no desire to achieve, or even play a video game. And sometimes, I’ll find myself just crying.

After two months of this, I have learned enough that I can share how I deal with it. If you’re struggling with depression, not all of these may work for you, and there are probably things not on this list that helps you even more. Let me know in the comments how you cope.

1. Recognize it. Have a serious conversation with yourself. Is there something that’s actually bothering you that could be making it worse? There are days I have left work miserable. In the car ride home, I take stock of why I feel that way. “Round ligament pain is acting up. I’m f***ing starving. I have to pee again.” Then tackle those things one at a time. Pee. Eat something. Epsom salt bath. Now how do you feel?

On the days where I am terribly sad for no reason, I recognize that I am not actually sad. My depression is a separate entity from me, and it’s being a big-ass jerk right now. I know this prenatal depression doesn’t last forever, I just have to let it do its thing and make its way out again. Good days often follow the bad.

2. Get out of bed. If you’re not familiar with Eat Your Kimchi/Eat Your Sushi, Simon and Martina talk about Building A Ladder when dealing with Chronic Pain. It’s a process of very small steps to take to feel better. Getting out of bed is the first step in that ladder, and especially feeling the drains of pregnancy, it’s an easy one to talk yourself out of.

3. Typical self-care. Pregnant mamas know hydration is important, but sometimes just drinking a glass of water can slip our minds. When was the last time you ate? Slept? Did you take your meds and/or prenatal vitamins today? Our bodies are doing something incredible – making a human being – and that kind of task takes a lot out of you. Cover your basics.

If I know I need to eat but don’t feel like eating, I whip up a quick avocado mash on whole-wheat toast with a fried egg on top. I keep bottles of water around the house to remind myself to drink. And sometimes, that extra nap is necessary.

4. Hot bath or shower. There’s something about feeling clean to lift your mood. But even if washing your hair sounds like a chore, I’ll use it to zone out and relax. Often, when I take a shower while depressed, I literally just sit with the hot water running on me. I close my eyes, breathe in the warmth (which helps those second-trimester sinuses… who neglected to tell me that was a thing??), and listen to the water and my breath.

Also, pregnant mamas – just be sure to talk to your doctor and do your own research about hot baths while pregnant. We have to be careful not to raise our core temps too much for baby’s sake, and there is quite a bit of discussion about essential oils and bubble baths. Do your research, k?

5. Do something productive, but not mentally taxing. That’s a mouth full, but for me, it’s simply baking. I love baked goods, and baby has decided that’s one of his favorite things, too. Baking makes me feel like I’m getting something done, and the reward is something I want to eat. And I’m literally talking about emptying a bag of Betty Crocker cookie mix into a bowl and scooping it onto cookie sheets – not elaborate cakes or fancy desserts. Blueberry muffins are my favorite at the moment.

6. Pull your mind away. This kind of goes with the one above. But my go-to for zoning out is a free mobile app game called Word Cookies. It’s quick to boot up and easy to play. Word puzzles don’t require a lot of brainpower for me, so it’s my first pick. In addition, I throw on an old favorite movie (like Legally Blonde or Ace Venture 1), and sometimes Travel Channel has a good marathon of ghost hunting shows. Or I’ll watch someone play A Link to the Past or Mario RPG on Twitch.

7. Go for a walk/ Get active. Fresh air and stretching your legs can help boost your mood. I’m not a scientist. Go google it. I just know I feel better. And if I’m feeling restless and cranky and it’s late or cold outside, my husband will literally walk laps with me around the kitchen and dining room. If my hips aren’t aching, sometimes we’ll fire up Just Dance and do a few on easy mode – and I’ll often modify it without the jumping. And here again, you know the drill – talk to your doctor before starting any exercise routine, especially if you’re pregnant.

8. Support. My husband has dealt with depression in the past, and he is familiar with how I feel. All I have say is “I feel sad,” and he will keep me company or suggest one of the activities I’ve listed above. If I am not ready to do anything, he’ll rub my back and make small talk with me about a dumb mistake someone made on Hell’s Kitchen or something funny one of our cats did that day.

9. See a therapist/counselor. I have a counselor who helped me wrangle my OCD and Panic Attacks. I feel level-headed enough now that I don’t need to dial her up right away. But the moment this depression gets worse, or I’m having trouble controlling it, I won’t wait for a second more to be seen. Sometimes a third-party perspective on your life and your mental health can make a world of difference.

Pregnancy is tough as it is. Aches and pains and restless nights. But if you trade your first-trimester nausea for worsening depression, it can feel like you’re playing a game with a severe handicap. Get your support lines in place, talk to your doctor, take care of your (and baby’s!) basic needs, and just do what you can. You’re not alone.

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