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Monday, February 20, 2012

Motherhood Mondays: The hardest two months of my life

In an effort to be authentic, I'd like to talk about something difficult I went through as a new mother. A year ago, I went though the worst two months I've ever experienced. I never mentioned it on the blog. I couldn't; I was too overwhelmed. But now that a whole year has passed, I want to share my experience with you...

Flashback: Toby was eight months old. It was a chilly January in New York, and we had just had a blissful Christmas vacation. But suddenly I started feeling bad. Out of nowhere, my mind started obsessing and worrying about inconsequential things; I had trouble sleeping (I'd wake up in the night and feel gripped with anxiety and fear); I began feeling very down, like that heavy feeling you get in your chest when you're sad about something. Why? I had no idea. But I knew it wasn't good.

Over the next couple weeks, I felt worse and worse. I felt guilty because I had a wonderful baby, a loving husband, and a great life on paper, yet I was inexplicably falling apart. Although I had loved taking care of Toby since he was born eight months before, it suddenly seemed exhausting to look after a child. I dreaded hearing his cries in the morning and having to get out of bed and face the day. I felt utterly overwhelmed and exhausted. Work projects seemed especially intimidating. Even the smallest work decisions seemed like insurmountable obstacles, and I was quickly moved to tears. I felt certain I would disappoint the people I was working with and for.

My self esteem plummeted, and I felt completely overwhelmed. I would read other blogs--Oh Happy Day, Swissmiss--and think, how are these women doing so much? How can they handle everything--job, family, life--and get it all done and seem so happy? What is wrong with me? I wondered.

Through my sad eyes, I read blogs and saw strangers on the street and just assumed everyone had a perfect life. When I told that to Alex, he swore to me that everyone, without exception, had their own true story, their own struggles, their own flaws, worries, concerns; everyone is human. And then he said, "Look at your own blog, after all. People would have no idea that you’re going through this. You come off like you’re handling everything effortlessly." That was true, I realized. (I mean, look at this post, for example; I was feeling terrible and insecure that day. It’s the type of event I would have normally loved, but instead I felt self-conscious and lame.)

To explain my sadness and worry, I looked at my life and tried to point to something—my career, right? It must be ending, I figured. Everyone would surely stop reading my blog and it would just fade away; people would stop hiring me for projects, and I’d never get work again; I convinced myself of these things. And I was a bad mother—I didn’t know if I was making the right choices about sleep, food, discipline, everything. And I was a bad wife—I was suddenly boring and cried a lot. Alex would get sick of me. My friends would stop hanging out with me, I would be alone from now on, and then how would I fill the endless days? My mind took on crazy scenarios, and life felt so bleak.

When you're feeling down, you often compartmentalize it, right? You have to get out of bed in the morning, so you try to take a deep breath and get through as much as you can--working, going to dinner with friends, watching TV. You try to put your sadness out of your mind and put one foot in front of the other. I didn’t want these feelings to bleed into my whole life, so I tried to keep them bottled up as much as possible.

At the time, I wasn’t able to mention my sadness on the blog. Even now, I don't know what I would have said if I had written about it. And I didn’t want to admit--even to myself--how lost I suddenly felt. It was disorienting and inexplicable, and I felt like it would never end. My sadness felt like my new way of being.

(I *almost* mentioned it in this post, which I wrote right after I was feeling better again, but I couldn't. It was still too close to home.)

Although I try to keep Cup of Jo as honest and true as possible (and am always happy to share personal things), I wanted to keep the blog separate while I was depressed--and keep it a place where I didn't have to think about my sleepless nights and strange sudden deep sadness and self doubt.

Even most of my best friends had no idea. I told Alex (of course; it was obvious to him), my parents, my sister and brother, and just a couple friends. I remember my sweet friend Jason took an afternoon off work to come hang out with me. I barely talked. I kept thinking that he must think I was so boring and wouldn't want to be friends with me anymore.

It came in waves. Sometimes I'd feel better, almost like myself again. Other times, I'd feel so overwhelmed with sadness and hopelessness that I'd feel like I couldn't move or breathe.

Honestly, it's hard to think back, but here are a few of the tough moments I remember:
* One evening, I was crying on the phone with my sister Lucy, while holding Toby. I looked up and saw myself in the mirror and thought how sad I looked, and how worried Toby looked, even though he was still so little.
* My mom came to visit, and I sat on the sofa and looked at the floor and could barely manage to whisper, "I am so depressed." I would just lie with my head in her lap and she would stroke my hair.
* I was walking down the street with Alex and Toby on a sunny day, but it felt dark to me. And, even though I adore them, I didn't want to be there, I didn't want to be anywhere. And Alex said to me, "You're so sad, you can barely walk down the street."
* I was walking to a work meeting on a snowy day. The whole world felt grey. I just wanted to lie down on the street and fall asleep. It was hard to keep moving.

One afternoon, while taking a walk along the Hudson River, I told my mom, who was visiting us, that I wished that Toby had a different mother. He deserved more, I thought. I felt like such a failure: I had always wanted to be a mother. I always had baby fever. I always looked forward to having children. But now that I had a sweet, curious, beautiful baby, I suddenly couldn't handle motherhood. I felt exhausted and inept. I hated seeing or reading about families with more than one child, because that meant that they could handle having a baby...and even choose to have another. What was wrong with me? I didn't want Toby to be affected by this weighty sadness I was feeling.

Writing down these words feels strange now. That time feels so far away from me, now that a year has passed, but it was so rattling and all-consuming at the time. I felt like a totally different person. I thought it would never end.

Of course, I had ok moments, too. I felt some relief when watching TV in the evenings. I liked having friends over, as long as I wasn't expected to talk much. Every Saturday afternoon, Toby and I would go to the Upper West Side for a playdate with my friend Leigh and her two sons. Hanging out at Leigh's apartment was cozy, she's easy to talk to, her boys were charming, Toby loved playing with their toys, she'd make a delicious lunch. Leigh had no idea that I felt so bad. I once told her that I felt overwhelmed by "the juggle" of everything, but I only mentioned it in passing. (She was shocked months later, when I told her the full story.) It was a relief to hang out with her and NOT talk about it. I still felt sad underneath, but I enjoyed those days and found them refreshing and bolstering.

But overall, for six weeks--from late January to early March--life felt really, really dark. I couldn't bear thinking about the future. Every day felt long and exhausting, and I couldn't imagine making it through all the days ahead of me.

My mom, my sister and Alex kept telling me over and over: This is a clinical depression, not your life; you must have some sort of chemical imbalance, some sort of medical reason why you’re feeling like this. But I didn't believe them; I thought I was just sad because I was lame and going to fail in life, but a tiny part of me held a flicker of hope that maybe they were right. With their encouragement, I started seeing a therapist, and she gave me tools to help with anxiety, but overall I remained overwhelmingly sad.

The funny thing about depression is that you don't know that it's depression—like, chemical imbalance in your brain, or a hormonal crash. You just think it's your actual life--that your career really IS ending, that you really ARE a terrible mother, that your husband really WILL stop loving you, that friends DO think you're boring. At any time in your life, if you just start feeling bad in your mind and mood, you can always come up with a random reason to point to--oh, it's my job! Oh, it's my dating life! Oh, it’s my looks! Oh, it's just me being an awkward person! When you're depressed, you don't realize that your life actually is fine--you're simply sad because you're depressed. The depression is the reason for the depression.

After about six weeks of feeling so low, a funny thing happened: I woke up one Tuesday morning, and it was over. Just over. It felt like I had been swimming in a pool, and suddenly—woosh!—I had resurfaced and my head had come back out of the water, and I could see the bright sun and breathe in the fresh air again. It felt like waking up from a bad dream. Suddenly, I was myself again. That Tuesday morning, I woke up, the sun was shining and I felt happy again. My depression had just...ended.

And the crazy thing was: I got my period the very next day, for the first time in over a year and a half--since before my wedding day, since before I found out I was pregnant. It was as if my hormones had finally figured themselves out, and boom! I was back to normal. And that's the first time that I realized what had happened. Suddenly, I looked back at the situation and slapped my forehead with the realization: Of course! My depression was related to weaning.

Here's what had happened, I realized: In late January, I had decided to wean Toby from breastfeeding for a number of reasons, so I quite abruptly weaned him within a week. But instead of feeling liberated, I began feeling tired and sad and went into a downward spiral. The timing of the beginning of my depression (weaning Toby) and the end of my depression (getting my period again) lined up perfectly.

Next, I researched depression related to weaning and it all made sense. I've also now spoken to many other women who have been through the exact same situation--including the wife of our friend C., whom he described as getting "hit by a mack truck" when she weaned their baby.

A lovely Cup of Jo reader, who went through the same thing, had written to me: "When some women wean, they experience a depression similar to postpartum depression, because of the drop in the hormones prolactin and oxytocin. (Studies have shown these hormones produce the same kind of 'feel good' as cocaine or ecstasy.) So, when I weaned, I was having a hormonal crash, similar to a withdrawal. It was something my counselor didn’t catch until I told her—and it was something I really hadn’t heard about before. There are tons of online articles about the benefits of breastfeeding and about postpartum depression, but unless you are really looking for 'weaning' and 'depression' on google, you won't find much. This is unfortunate because I suspect many moms just chalk it up to lack of sleep, not adjusting to the new situation, or a plethora of other things...If I had known that depression was something to look out for when weaning, it would prevented a lot of turmoil (my husband wouldn't have felt as helpless, I could have taken more proactive, preventative measures, etc.)"

And I agree: Even though there's a wealth of information about postpartum depression right after you have a baby, it was virtually impossible to find information about depression related to weaning. But now that I've spoken to other mothers who have experienced the exact same thing, with the exact same timing, I know that it's a real condition. I found a mention here, and a forum here. [Update: A lovely reader recommended reading this post, as well; thank you, Kathleen!] But otherwise, depression around weaning seems to be a real gap in medical research and awareness. (One psychiatrist, whom I called for an appointment, actually said to me, "Well, I guess anything’s possible.") I hope that people will become more aware of it, and more research and preventative measures will be developed.

Thankfully, once the depression ended, it really was over. This past year has been wonderful. My energy and confidence are back, and I'm honored and thrilled to be raising Toby, who is such a joy and a funny, lovely little person. I love my family with all my heart. We'll surely go through more ups and downs in life, but this year has been great—and restorative—and now I feel ready and able to handle future bumps in the road.

I wanted to share my experience, since, hopefully other wonderful mothers who go through this will recognize it for what it is, and get help for clinical weaning-related depression, instead of just thinking that it's them, their own life or failure to handle motherhood. I would recommend being slow and careful around weaning, and if you do feel the blues, or a more intense depression, get support and know that you are not the only one who has gone through this. As my lovely friend said, "If I could spare anyone going through what I did, I would for sure want to."

Also I have a huge new respect and humility for people who suffer from depression, and I'll never again secretly think that someone should just "shake it off" or "snap out of it." People are heroes for getting through it. In a way, I'm glad that I went through this because if friends or family or even sweet Toby ever goes through a depression, hopefully I will better understand how they’re feeling and maybe know a few things to say to help them get through it.

What about you? Have you ever experienced depression or anxiety? Was it related to having a baby, a hardship you went through, life in general, or no reason in particular? We really are all in this together. Lots of love to you, as always. xoxo

Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
--Mary Oliver, Dream Work

P.S. Related: My own balance of work/baby/life, and the schedules of seven other moms...
(These photos are from last May, when I was already feeling much better:)

(Poem via Andrea)

981 comments:

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kathleenicanrah said...

what an important post! I work with pregnant women and new moms and always try to warn the weaning mamas about this-- some people say it's the hardest, darkest part of motherhood.

Swistle has a great post about this- one that really made me understand how tough and real it can be. http://swistle.blogspot.com/2010/01/reader-question-weaning-hormones.html

again, thanks so much for writing this.

Stylemindchic~heather said...

I so appreciate your honesty. It's a big deal to talk about more than the 'pretty' stuff. I have suffered similar feelings after 2 miscarriages....depression is tough and it's painful. So glad you are feeling good!

Eva B. said...

Joanna, your courage in posting this is a testament to how helpful, honest, and inspiring your blog is. I am so glad that you felt good enough to share it, and I am sure that many women who have gone through the same thing or something similar will really appreciate this post. I have an even deeper admiration for your blog , and it was my favorite from the start! Keep on keeping on girl!
XOXO,
Eva

Ashlae said...

Your honesty brought me to tears. So happy your gray skies have turned blue - you are a beautiful woman, Jo! Don't forget that.

holtkamp said...

wow, thank you for sharing this joanna. i had no idea about depression that can come with weaning, and i'm sure i'm not the only one. i can't imagine how you must have felt and so glad you are feeling better!

Britt @ The Magnolia Pair said...

This had me so teary eyed. I am so glad to hear you are doing better. You and your family are in my thoughts & prayers! Stay strong!

xo.brit
themagnoliapair.com

Anonymous said...

This is great - thank you for writing this. I have felt depressed, but it was after a year from hell. My husband had lost his job, we lost our loved apartment (and had to live with family), and had just come off a year of treatments for my son's condition. I didn't do anything for three months. I just felt so...extraneous. I was miserable.

Eventually, we found jobs, and were able to move home. We hadn't quite settled in before I was diagnosed with a low-grade cancer. That was two years ago, and I honestly feel like we're FINALLY coming out of the cloud.

Hope is hard sometimes, but I'm beginning to see more of it. I think that's what was hardest in the dark days - I couldn't see any hope for tomorrow. Now, I can.

Amanda said...

Joanna,
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I literally felt as though I was reading about my own experience. I wondered why my husband would want to be with me, and why I should even bother finishing my degree (even though I'm mere weeks from finishing!). It was just like you described - I would go out, looking at everyone, and envy the lives of perfect strangers. I would think "how wonderful it must be to be so carefree, and to have such a perfect life!" Yet I knew nothing about them! I was plagued with my worries for about a month, until I finally went to the doctor about something else. She pointed out to me (after meeting me not 15 minutes ago) that I seemed extremely anxious about everything. Her first recommendation was exercise - every day. She even asked me "you haven't been exercising much lately, have you?" And no, due to the dreary winter weather, I hadn't. I've taken her advice, and now - three weeks later- I feel refreshed and happy :)

Cmp said...

Thanks for your honesty, Jo. I have twins about Toby's age and I have recently been feeling exactly as you described. It's not due to weaning - I did that a long time ago - but I am also hoping to snap out of it. Your post has made me hopeful that I will, soon. I love your blog and it makes me feel happy every day, so thank you!

Laura said...

I really admire your honesty and your courage to share your story with us. It's great that you were able to recover and that you are feeling better! Your blog and your writing really inspires me.

kati said...

tears! thank you for posting and i'm so glad to hear you are so much better.

i did not have weaning-related depression, but i've battled anxiety/depression off and on since childhood and ended up taking medication after my second baby. i'm off it now, but sometimes i miss the lift it gave me :)

have you ever noticed how right before you get your period, you go through a mini day or two episode of that? and the thing is, if it were rational, you'd be able to say "this is because of x, you'll be over it in a day" but instead you don't realize that your life isn't completely horrible until after your period starts and you say to yourself "of course!" :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am currently breastfeeding and so grateful to you for sharing your experience so that I know to look out for depression when I wean. So many people go through bouts of depression for one reason or another (or no reason at all) - the more we talk about it, the better. A giant hug for you!

Annie said...

Thank you so much for this post, Joanna. Your honesty and openness about such a personal topic are moving, and I'm sure this will be a huge help to many women going through the same thing. And even for people not facing any kind of depression, it's a wonderful reminder than even the people who seem to have the "perfect" life have rough times, too. We're all carrying secret struggles and can feel overwhelmed. We'd all do a lot better to share our experiences.

jeanette from everton terrace said...

What a thoughtful and considerate post. I'm glad you waited to share it. Perhaps it's a more well rounded story, perspective and time round it out.
Very glad you came through, figured it out and were willing to share, to help others. Powerful information. What a great support system you have, lucky you :)

Ladies Holiday said...

Your honesty is such a gift to all of us, those who have had this or a similar experience, those in it and for women in general.
Thank you so much.

Smith And Ratliff said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Joanna. I know it wasn't an easy thing to do, but I'm sure so many of your readers have been there or—who knows—are there right now.

Great seeing you, Alex and Toby today, too. You all seem so happy together. Hope you've mastered your skateboard! :) -LR

Melissa Blake said...

Joanna -- I went through a very serious depression about a year and a half ago. It was one of the scariest times of my life -- even scarier than my 26 surgeries, if you can believe that! -- and I thought I would come out the other side. I did. And you did. We are STRONG women!! Bravo! xoxo

Elena said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story! I know it took me something like a year to write on my blog that I had seen a psychologist and been depressed...and even then I wasn't comfortable giving details (so I completely give you credit!). This year, when my engagement ended a month before the wedding...I HAD to be honest and share that this had happened. It made me really question my blog's authenticity (it's not as though I documented that I was worried my fiance' was slipping away from me or that we were fighting), which has continued to guide how I write posts now. That said, I think everyone has a choice to share what they want to on a blog, and keeping personal things off of there or sharing them much later----ALL GOOD. It's your virtual space :) Here's to respecting what each person chooses to share.

mondaybirds said...

thank you so much for sharing!
the weird thing is, that post you mentioned featuring anthropologie wedding dresses was my first intro to your blog. i don't know how i stumbled on to your site but am so glad it happened!

i am not a mom yet so i won't even try to pretend that i can understand what you experienced but thank you for sharing something that other women can relate to and feel that they're not alone.

michelle from http://mondaybirds.tumblr.com/

Cathi said...

Thank you for sharing your honest story about your depression. I am going to send this to my two nieces who are nursing for a little bit longer, so in the event they start feeling that way, they will have some resources to look into!

I went thru a similar depression when my first child was 2 years old, I was overwhelmed with being a mother and wife and like you felt like I was doing a terrible job. It took a few months, but eventually it just went away.

I started my blog a few years ago, as I was losing my best friend to cancer and I just needed relief from the grief. So if you had looked at my blog then you would have thought all was fabulous in my world, as I needed a reprieve from the sadness like yourself.

Thank you for this, Joanna. There are many women that will benefit from your honesty.

Gaby said...

Such a beautiful and honest post. Thank you for sharing. xx

Lauren said...

this is SO beautiful!!!

and so BRAVE!

thanks you for posting about it! i think that is a huge step in healing... being open and sharing.
i actually wrote about my anxiety today on my blog! interesting timing!
you can have a read here if you like
http://www.thesphinxandthemilkyway.com/2012/02/mix-in-little-love.html


sending love and light to you and your family!
Lauren

ps - Toby is adorable in those photos! his eyes are amazing!

Kimberley Mosher said...

Your description of depression is spot on. I've been in a similar place in my life, although for very different reasons, and when you're in it, it does feel as if things won't ever look up. But, luckily for me, things turned around and I had a similar "wake up" moment. What a relief! I think it's so, so important to share these thoughts and stories so other people can read them and embrace the parts of life that are harder to deal with.

I love reading your blog. Thanks again for sharing!

Mary said...

Thank you for sharing this, Joanna.
I have been feeling blue for quite some time now, and truly I appreciate your honesty and openness.
I look up to you as a mom and a human being.

Lissa said...

Thanks for sharing this. I am an aspiring midwife (and current doula) and through all of my research so far, the only mentions I had heard of this were from ohdeardrea's blog and now yours.

I'm going to look into this more so I can spread the word to new mamas I work with. Not to scare them obviously, but to help them prepare for potentially having these feelings along with the weaning process.

Anonymous said...

I started reading your blog around that time (about a year ago) and I've kept reading because between your upbeat attitude and the small joys and pretty things you share, it's always a ray of sunshine. Makes me sad to think of you bringing happiness to others while feeling down yourself -- SO glad you're feeling better! Your honesty will help someone who needs it; thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you for writing this. It will help many people. :)

liza said...

I surely have. However, mine is related to symptoms of perimenopause. I wrote about it here http://bit.ly/vZLuvJ after a long hiatus on my blog. I felt all those things you were saying. I felt unemployable, unlikeable, etc. Just like you, I woke up one morning and I stopped feeling so blue anymore. I was scared to post it, however, everybody who has read it has commented and whether they want to admit it or not, have felt the very same things.

I'm so glad you were able to push through it. You're much to talented to think those things.

Kelly said...

Thank you so much for your openess. I don't have children, but have suffered from depression in the past. It's so wonderful to hear people honestly describe their experiences, as I think depression is a topic that can not be talked about enough

Kiley Kate said...

After graduating college I was filled with so much hope and confidance in my abilities and over the past two years those qualities have been dwindling. I moved to Chicago in November and didn't find a part time job until recently, but it's not related to my career field. I took up writing a blog to keep my passion for writing alive but I still feel cloudy and sad most of the time, like I'll never accomplish what I want to. On that note, thank you so much for sharing. It really does make me feel better to see a blogger who has everything I'm working towards admit that they've had problems with depression and self-doubt. I'm working through it as best as I can and hope that the next year will bring better things.

Mommy Lauren said...

omg!! The exact same thing happened to me!! Your story felt so familiar. I completely agree about the time after weaning. The whole time i was reading your post i was wondering if youd stopped breastfeeding.I stopped pumping when my son was 2 months and CRASH I felt like my world collapsed, the same depression, sadness, anxiety, overwhelming, sleeplessness...and then it was just gone ( thank god!) you coped much better than I did, I was luckily still on materity leave and confided in friends, family, anyone who would listen and I continue to feel so blessed by the support I received. Thank you for sharing Joanna, I love you and your blog that much more!

Kristina said...

thanks so much for this wonderful, personal, honest and important post! i am so glad the sun is shining for you again - the heavy weight finally lifted!

Kelsey said...

Joanna, I read this with tears in my eyes. Thank you so much for your honesty and being willing to share it with the world. Big, big hugs.

Katie said...

I'm teary reading this! I am so glad you are through the rough patch and have chosen to help other on the other side. The poem you posted is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Sara S ♥ said...

Thank you for sharing this story with everyone! You're very brave for sharing such a hard time and I'm so happy that you got through it and are informing tons of people about this.
~Sara
sarastrauss.blogspot.com

Christi said...

Thank you so much, Joanna, for sharing your story. I appreciate your authenticity all the time, but this one is very close to home for me. I am a mother of a 10 month old and I will be weaning him in the next couple of months. I wouldn't have had any idea that this was a reality for weaning mothers, but I will be aware of it now! Thank you for empowering us with your story. xo

AG said...

Thanks for sharing your story! It is very brave of you and I commend you. I've had a similar two years of anxiety/depression after a panic attack that seemed to come out of no where, when otherwise I've always been fine. I too felt like an absolute failure at first, and still do on some days, mostly because I became someone that people had to worry about when that had never been the case. I felt like I was going insane, and was the only person in the world who felt like I did. I also didn't want to write about it, it somehow made it more 'real' and I didn't want to face it. I've shifted quite a few things in my life and am doing much better. I think the dent to my confidence has been the worst of all. I relied hard on yoga, Buddhist readings and family and friends, but it took a long time to figure it all out (I still am). I know what its like to struggle and give you a hug from afar!!

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks so much for sharing it.

Stephanie said...

So glad you are feeling better, Joanna! You are so lovely and talented, I read your blog multiple times a day! Thank you for sharing the good times and the not-so-good times. All the best to you.

Shoppe Girls said...

What a beautifully honest post. I think at some stage we all have our own little bouts of depression, oh well I do. Thank you for sharing your story and I believe you should also follow your gut and wait until you are ready to share certain parts of your life. I too have started opening up on my blog and I am finding it all so liberating.
Congratulations on making it out the other side. Enjoy your life especially your adorable little man.
I too have had a little bout of depression and also will never tell people to shrug things off. It is not that easy for them as they are so deeply into where they are and they need to find a way out. Hormones are amazing things and rule our body so much.
Take care love to you and your beautiful family. xoxo

Kassie said...

Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing, it was incredibly brave.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. I've been a long-time reader of your blog & it's funny that this post went up today because I have been experiencing my own struggle with being authentic about my birth experience.

My birth experience was terrifying (not to mince words). I had a post-delivery hemorrhage & required blood transfusions, rounds of medications...it was all so very scary. My husband was running back & forth between the nursery & my bedside (they wouldn't let me hold my son because I was in that much danger & they felt the priority was making me stable). I was alone & thought I was going to die. I was literally scared to death. I haven't told anyone except my husband about this. Because so many times people say that they were scared to death, or say something like "I was so embarrassed I wanted to die!" & I was so afraid of sounding dramatic. Yet in those moments when I was alone, the doctors & entire L&D recovery staff were working on me, I was thinking that yes, death was a possibility. How can you tell others about the deep, dark place you go?

Anyway, I did find a *wonderful* therapist who specializes in post-partum anxiety & PTSD (both of which I struggled with in the months following my son's birth). My son is 19 months old & it's only now that I can open up to people about my experience. And I don't want to scare people, but it is *my* experience & has shaped me in so, so many ways.

And after reading your post, I feel better about sharing my story & a little bit braver too.

Thanks again for such an inspiring post.

Anonymous said...

It is not often that you read words, written by a stranger, that ripple through your entire body and echo in your heart. You have done that with this post.

There is no greater vulnerability (or joy) than mothering. Thank you for sharing your experience and for being brave enough to expose a deeply intense time in the interest of helping others.

Blessings to you and your family and thank you for this blog. It brings many people happiness.

~ S.

LPC said...

Hugs and kisses is all I can say. The more we all pretend everything is OK, the less often it actually will be. Thanks for sharing. You're using your audience for good.

Anonymous said...

Joanna, I appreciate your blog so much. I read it everyday, but I rarely comment. Today it feels so important to comment to thank you for being so brave to share something like this. Your mother was right that sharing something like this can mean so much to the people reading it. Thank you so much.

MEL said...

You are very brave for writing a post like this on your blog. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder when I was 15 years old and have been medicated ever since (I'm 27). Last year, I wondered if I had been misdiagnosed or diagnosed so early and maybe things had changed, maybe I could do without medicine. I spent about 6 months going to doctors and a therapist, changing my diet and incorporating exercise and better sleeping habits into my daily routine. Basically, I was the perfect patient, trying to build myself toward being able to wean myself from medicine effectively and correctly (under direct doctor supervision). The third day off my meds (it takes a few days for the meds to leave your system), I experienced real deep dark depression, for the first time since I was 15. I don't remember the rest of the week. I must have blocked it out. All I know is I cancelled almost all of my work obligations and cried the entire time. My husband finally called my doctor after the fifth day of this and I went immediately to be seen. He told me that depression did not define me, but it was something that I needed to deal with. I couldn't just write it off. It was real. I thought that I would feel upset that I couldn't be off medicine, but after getting re-aquainted with my depression, I was just so grateful and ready to get back on meds and back to life. Now, I am not disappointed in myself; I am proud that I am a woman who knows herself well enough to know what she needs and who loves herself enough to give herself everything she needs.

Long story short, depression sucks, but you can prevail. I'm so grateful that you did. And for all who don't get over it alone, they can also prevail.

Thanks for speaking out so poignantly about such a terrible thing. Your story will be strength to many.

Your loyal reader, MEL

Anonymous said...

joanna,

what a beautiful, inspiring, moving post! i love your blog because you're not projecting a perfect life--your posts always feel like talking to a good friend honestly, without pretense. your admission of life's difficulties make your blog that much more beautiful.

your post really captures the feeling of being depressed and also the hope when you do feel better. i am so grateful there are people like you who are so brave to admit going through it, because without people like you, people like me wouldn't realize they need help.

thank you and i am so glad you are feeling better! you are an inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Amazing! It's wonderful to hear people's perspective on depression. I'm sure you've helped at least one person on writing this post.

Unfurled said...

Thanks so much for sharing. I'm going to be a mom in six weeks and will certainly keep your story in mind.

Danielle said...

I'm grateful you shared this. Depression in that first year of motherhood can be so overwhelming (along with everything else), and I think you're exactly right when you mention how you don't even know what's happening. It's good to know that you had a lot of support and that it came to an end. Sharing these kinds of experiences make all the difference for a lot of people.

Lady Grey said...

What an incredible journey you've been on. I'm sorry to hear your were suffering so, and from the outside your life does look perfect.... everyone's human. We all have our problems.
I think your weaning hypothesis makes a lot of medical sense, and it must be a relief to find a possible cause for all that suffering you went through.
I'm glad to hear you are better now.
xo

JCross01 said...

Joanna,
Your words mean so much to me and I'm sure to many, many others. What strength you have for sharing - as it hits close to home for me, and I know that I'm not alone with certain issues I've experienced in the past. You are an inspiration to me!

Josephine said...

Respect. It was very good of you to post about this.

I went through something very similar last November/December. I was weaning my then 19 month old son shortly after experiencing a chemical pregnancy. For a couple of weeks (only, thank goodness) I careened from being really sad to ferociously angry, overreacting to everything. I've never felt such extremes of emotion. I was so confused. Then, like you said, one day I woke up and felt exhausted, but still and more peaceful. As it happened, a few days later I discovered I was pregnant again! The pennies dropped and I realised I'd been the victim of a massive chemical imbalance caused by an unholy trinity of failed pregnancy/weaning/new pregnancy.

Thanks again for this post. I adore your blog and visit almost everyday!

JeNifer said...

whoa, what an eye-opening post! While i am not a mother (yet! :) i have heard of post-partum depression (and have a couple of friends who have been through it) I have never heard of it occurring months after the baby being born, or it being related to weaning. But now that u have mentioned it and shared your story...It does make sense when you think about it! Like u said, breast feeding does trigger feel-good hormones, surely going cold turkey would result in a major emotional crash.
I have definitely had my moments of depression, but they're always short modes (thank goodness!) and I have noticed that they're related to where i am in my cycle - so its def hormone-related for me! I also notice I get super cranky when I haven't exercised in a while. (yay for endorphin addiction?! haha)

Joanna, thank u so much for sharing your story and experience with this. I am sure I speak for all of us readers when i say that it seriously helps us all, esp. moms-to-be and ones who are considering having a baby in the next year or so! This is an important post and something I will keep in my mind should I happen to go thru something similar! I understand why u were so reluctant to share - sounds like it was some pretty powerful emotion! So so happy to hear u pulled thru and saw the sunshine again, and so glad u have such a great support system. Your honesty is so refreshing, thank you for being honest with us. :) much appreciated and much love! xo.

Anna said...

I have been reading your blog for a while now. I have always loved your sweet way of injecting honesty into every post. But I have to say, this is the most beautiful and authentic post yet. I think a lot of people will really relate to your experience with a season of depression, as I definitely do.
It feels good to know that none of us are really alone in how we feel - good or bad - and that most often, the bad feelings will not stay with us forever.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Joanna. xoxo

Lili said...

Thank you for talking about this sensitive topic! I'm a psychologist and I have worked on a huge multicenter study on post partum depression. I know that post partum depression can occur long after the actual birth and may be hormone-related (it seems to help to eat your placenta. Well...), but I did not know that weaning can also be a trigger. I think the psychatrist's answer was what I would have said too, it might just be possible although I have never heard of it. It sound quite convincing. I hope this article will help women in need. Depression is such a bad feeling. Also, I think it is insanely important, even if it does not relate to you, to get the word out that suicide thoughts in depression can be a symptom of depression, too. It's not within the depressed person's life, it's not within the person itself. It is the depression that's talking. I sadly do not have any good links for US Americans to go for help on post partum depression, but if any German woman reads this, "Schatten und Licht e.V." is a great resource!

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, Joanna, I could have written this post myself just 3 months ago! After having my little boy 7 weeks early and then enduring 5 weeks of special care, I gradually slipped into the same feelings and thoughts. Having just moved home to Australia from London with no friends and family, life was miserable and I had often thought about packing my bags and leaving my baby and partner in the night. I got lower and lower, to the point where I almost admitted myself to the hospital, then, BAM, my period came and I felt like my old self immediately!!! I felt guilty for all that time I wasted, but am doing my best to make up for it. Thank you for sharing your story, it's so hard being a new mother, and we need all the support we can get. xxxxxxxxx Sally

Beth said...

Oh Joanna...hugs...from this "old enough" to be your mama blog reader! Your story is going to help someone else and that is what being present in life is all about! My daughter introduced your blog to me and I love to read about you and your family...this same daughter was put on anti-anxiety/depression meds the last day of HS... so sad but so needed.. I had a short time on meds also...and have been anxious through out my life... I am rambling...my point being is once you tell about it you are saving others! Give Toby a squeeze for all of us! Keep Writing!

Kristi said...

I could have written this post! although mine was post partum, not weaning, i went through it twice, with my 1st and 2nd baby. medication was key to my recovery and i am so thankful for people who shared their stories with me. my OBGYN was so wonderful in helping me realize it wasn't about the babies, husband, work, etc. it was a real issue with real hormones! it was easier with the second baby b/c i knew what was coming and that it would pass. THANK YOU for sharing. we are NOT alone!

Ana Degenaar said...

I went through depression last year and it took me months of treatment to get back to my normal life.

My blog and life did fall apart for a moment. At the beginning of 2012 I decided to start all over again and I got a new business organized and a new blog that doesn't remind me of those times.

I do understand how you feel, a blog is such a personal space, it is in it's fullness the representation of all your hard work and when you share and get involved with people at some personal level you feel obliged to be inspiring and be happy, precisely because you don't know how happy or sad their lives are.

I also used to think everyone around me was so happy and wondered why I was so dissatisfied. Many times it's hard for me to put things into perspective and it is not until now that I'm able to point out the reasons of my sadness and the main reason why it all fell apart. I have a 3-year-old daughter and I love her to pieces, sometimes when I think of it, it still pains me to think that at that time in my life I transmitted something of that sadness to her.

I wish more bloggers where more honest and real. I wouldn't expect anyone to over-share or open their entire lives to the judging-eye but it is burdening to many of us to see all these woman apparently juggling everything with grace and living happily when in reality we all have our ups and downs and it's normal, natural and in some way beautiful.

The blogging world is growing but it is also causing people to feel down and incomplete. We all share the best parts of our lives and as much as I tried to fight it last year I felt like a dark could every time I was being real about my strives.

I read this quote last year and it changed me.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Thank you again for sharing! You TRULY are inspiring.

Allysha said...

Good for you, Joanna. This is a lovely post. Thanks for being willing to post it. It's important to share our difficulties when we can, because it does help others.

Janet said...

Thanks for this, Joanna. My daughter is 10 months old and I'm not weaning yet, but I just went through a pretty terrible depression for the last month or so, too. My dad was just diagnosed with cancer and his treatment plan is very uncertain (though we think it is treatable), so that on top of sleep deprivation (she's up at 5:30), juggling work and staying home a few days a week, and the lack of sunlight in midwinter, I was a mess. I feel a bit better now, and it helps to read your story, too.

Chase, Paige, baby Link said...

I secretly have been dreading weaning when the time comes because it's such special bonding moment for me and my baby. I'm so nervous that I'll dip into a depression since I had a little bit of post partum issues and it took me a while to shake it off. Thank you so much for sharing this, it's helped me out so much! You're a great mom and wife!

Hothouse Blossom said...

Joanna! I have been reading your blog for almost two years now. I read almost every post and none of them have made me feel more connected to you as a person than this one. I feel lucky that you shared it. I look forward to having my own baby someday soon and I feel like I am constantly collecting information about children and pregnancy. This is really important. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I think that it was so brave of you to share your story. I feel that most women--at one time or another go through depression, or at least being down. To be honest, sometimes when I read blogs I feel like such a loser, "look at all the rad s***t they're doing, while I'm sitting here staring at this computer screen," I'll think. Your honesty made me feel better, everyone (even cool bloggers) go(es) through rough patches. I'm so very glad that you're feeling better! Xo

Anonymous said...

thank you. this was so real and resonated so completely with me, because i think i'm there now, for different reasons... i lost a loved one recently, and most days i don't remember which way is up. thought i had pulled out of it, but then i woke up this morning and it was all back. i'm glad you pulled out. depression is really a monster. enwhysee27 at gmail

asiajane said...

What a brave post. Thank you for sharing. I battled with postpartum anxiety with my first and then depression during the first trimester of my second pregnancy. It's no wonder when you consider I was pregnant, had a baby, nursing, weaned, and then pregnant again three weeks later. My midwife said, "Your hormones are in chaos!" I am happy to say that after the ups and downs of all that (my daughters are now 5 and 7) I am feeling better than ever. Best wishes to you and your family.

M said...

So glad you got through that difficult time, Joanna. Depression is so hard. I started out at a college that I just hated, but I had to stay there in order to be able to transfer to another good school. Long story short, one super sunny, blue-skied winter afternoon, a horrible depression came down on me. It was so weird - I'll never forget that bright blue sky and how weird it was to feel - physically feel - the depression come over me. It had never happened before. Even today, on a sunny winter day I sometimes worry that it will happen again. But it was absolutely related to my situation and not hormonal, etc. I took advantage of the school's therapist and started feeling more in control and better very soon. Anyway, thanks for sharing your story. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of, but so many of us are ashamed of it.

Julia and Matt said...

Thank you for this post. I am sure you have/will help(ed)many women by making us aware that this could happen.

I will soon begin weaning my 8 month old baby son and will definitely pay attention to how I'm feeling.

the Hawks said...

Dear Sweet Joanna,

I'm so grateful that you would trust your faceless readers with such insight and vulnerability. You are so very right about the need for more recognition, discussion of, and research into the connection between various female hormonal cycles and bouts of anxiety and depression. But I'm of the mind that most of the real matters women face are ignored in place of quick fixes.

Thank you for giving attention to the tremendous influences the phases of mothering have upon us.

You are a good mother and a good wife. You are the only blogger I read daily, and I am still grateful for your personal letters during my own time of mothering struggle.

Sincerely and with great love,
~jen

Anonymous said...

What an eye opening post. Thank you for sharing. This information is so important and I'm glad you chose to share it. I'm a breastfeeding mother of a 9 month old and have recently started questioning why it seems as though I have been on a real high (an abnormal high, I'd say) since my baby was born while others experience depression. I have read a tiny bit about the connection to this (experiencing a high) to breastfeeding and what occurs hormonally and I have started to worry about what will happen to me once I wean. There is true power in knowing what others have experienced.

louise said...

Thanks Jo,
I appreciate you being so open and detailed in your journey.
I am mother to an 8 week old adorable child but struggling with comparisons to others with children and my own capacity to be a good loving and confident wife and mother.
It is hard when you want so desperately to enjoy your world and depression hits you.
Thanks also for understanding and vocalising what it is like to suffer from depression
very glad you posted today
thank you

Gloria said...

This is so raw and courageous of you to share. Thanks, Joanna. Newfound respect for your blog, which I've always loved regardless. It's funny because I always thought you lived such a charmed life in NYC. You do! At the end of the day we're only human. Don't forget that. Anyway, I think you're pretty awesome and I'm sending you buckets of happiness from Chicago.

Jennifer @ Belclaire House said...

It really is so brave of you to share your story and so wonderful for other mothers out there who might be going through the same thing. My son is just a couple of months younger than Toby and I love reading your blog and sharing the joys of motherhood with you. Looking back I think I had a bit of a post weaning lull as well. I remember my husband saying things like you're not yourself and why are you being so negative? I thought I was just tired. It wasn't until I started back on my birth control pill due to a very irregular period that I'm starting to feel like my normal fun optimistic self. Thanks so much for sharing. Toby is so adorable!

JeNifer said...

oh and p.s. that is a LOVELY poem. Thank u for sharing that too!!

Chantel B. said...

Joanna,

thank you, thank you, thank you!! Your honesty is refreshing. Especially in the blog world where so often lives are made to look "perfect" and women have it all together. Not a true reality, I know, but so often it's really hard to remember this when we read blog posts about other people. This is also very sage advice as I am currently pregnant and am happy to be informed about these possibilities before I find myself in the same situation. I know we all like to keep a certain level of privacy when discussing our personal lives but I really appreciate you being open about this. You will help a lot of women!! And kuddos for your bravery :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing about your experience - Doctors don't seem to understand how powerful the hormones involved in pregnancy and breastfeeding are. I think it is up to us mothers to educate each other about our experiences.

I weaned my son very gradually. I got my period when he was 14 months but continued to nurse him 3, then 2, then 1 times a day until he was about 21 months. The first period I had after weaning was horrible. I did not experience depression, but I got extremely ill for about 10 days prior to getting my period. I had such intense stomach pain that the Dr. did an ultrasound to check for gallstones. When I went back a few days later for a follow up, I'd started to also have cramps, and dawned on my that maybe it was all hormonal. I suggested this theory to the Dr. and he had the same response yours did, "well, with a severe hormonal swing, it is definitely possible." Once I actually got my period, the symptoms went away! Even with gradual weaning, I really experienced a physical reaction the changing hormones.

I am so glad you feel better and thank you again for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

You are so brave and this is so important.

Leslie said...

Jo-

I gush to your blog about everyone, mainly because of how honest and open you are. Many, many times I send your posts to friends--mainly personal posts about how you worry too much or about how you thought you would never find the right man. I even printed them out so I could go back and read them when I was feeling helpless.

I have definitely had my own bouts of depression, and I had the same thoughts-that I was boring to my boyfriend, that my friends would leave me because I was crying all the time, that I would lose my job because focusing on work was just too hard. It's really awful! I also had times when I really felt okay, which felt like tricks or naivety later when I wasn't okay. Your post had tears streaming down my face, because I feel less alone, and because thinking of anyone else feeling the way I know it is possible to feel is hard.

Once again, you are a model to me that life will get better. You are a constant inspiration.

Monica said...

Thank you so much for sharing, Joanna.

This was truly great.

Samantha said...

How brave of you to share your story, and I am sure that your words will reach other women who are going through a similar ordeal.

I myself have never fought depression, but my mother was in a deep depression for about 5 years while I was a teenager. It was hard on all of us, and I often remember that as one of the hardest times of my life. She had been on medication for many years but it was the wrong medication. She finally switched doctors and was put on a different anti-depressent and it totally changed her life. She told me that it felt like the clouds were lifting after a few weeks and after a few months she felt like herself again and I had my mom back. Thank God. Now we have a wonderful relationship, but I never underestimate what people are going through when they are depressed.

I am glad that your depression lifted so quickly, even though 6 weeks must have seemed like forever. I love your blog, and I read it everyday.

Jules said...

Joanna, your beautiful writing about your experience made me teary eyed. And then just as I pulled myself together, I read through these comments and got teary eyed again. Your writing brings so many women from all over the world together in solidarity - what a wonderful gift.

Thank you a thousand times for sharing - like so many women, I've had a run in or two with depression, and just knowing that others have in some way been there too is so comforting. You're so brave for starting a conversation. Thank you.

Chloe said...

This is really helpful and I should come back to this post later again after my baby is born in April. Thank you so much for sharing such an important story.

Esperanza said...

My little sister has been depressed for the past year, after entering a big college without knowing many people. I attend the same school and have tried to help her feel better and make friends, but it has been a challenge not to lose patience. Thank you so much for this article; you are definitely a hero, not only because you overcame your depression, but also because you've shared your journey with your admiring readers :-)

Anonymous said...

Joanna, thank you so much your honesty. I read this with tears in my eyes. My daughter just turned 1 and I have been going through a depression for the last couple of months. I could relate to so many of the things you said.. especially the part about how it seems that others moms are somehow able to handle everything so much better. I have friends with similar aged children and they're talking about having a 2nd and it just seems like there's no way I'd ever be able to manage that! I have thoughts all the time that my child would be better off without me and I get so worried now that she is older and more cognizant of what is going on. I hate for her to see me like this and feel like I have already failed her. I have not yet begun the weaning process, so unfortunately I can't pin this on that. But I have only heard of that one other time, so I think it's incredibly important that you shared your story for other women that may go through something similar. I hope that I surface soon. I'm ready to see the light again..

Nicole said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I have 7 month old twins and have just started the weaning process. I have been super irritable lately- full of ups and downs. I feel like I am either completely in love with my life or everything in it is making me angry. I have been wondering what is wrong with me. It has been really wearing on me. This post has lifted a huge weight off my shoulders and reminded me to go easy on myself- my body is still going through big changes and I never knew the relationship between weaning and depression. Thank you so much

Pamela said...

Thank you Joanne for sharing. Your courage and honesty are admirable.Your sharing will help many women. May God bless you and your family.

Sarah said...

Thank you for your courage. Thank you for sharing your life with all of us strangers who so appreciate your authenticity. You may never know how much it means.
Also, that is one of my favorite poems- Mary Oliver gets it right so often!
I am so impressed by the way you love Toby and Alex. I am impressed by the way you share your life on your blog. Thanks again for your honesty.

Desiree Fawn said...

Thank you so much for sharing -- lots of mamas will be helped by your post. With love.

Sarah van Loon said...

Oh Joanna, thank you so much for sharing. I feel like I've been obsessive-compulsive checking your blog all day, so thank you for being so open and honest, especially since your struggles are so rarely documented. Thank you for speaking on behalf of so many mothers, and for educating your audience (me!).

My husband suffers from depression, and I don't always 'get' it - but your description and whole story made me feel like I understand him more, so thank you. T h a n k y o u. so much love to you, Joanna.

Shanti Knight said...

Joanna—

Thank you so so much for sharing. I really appreciate your honesty and courage. I definitely feel teary-eyed with the touching knowledge that I'm not alone.
Thank you, thank you.

Shanti

Emily said...

Joanna,
I am on the (what I feel must be) the end of my own anxiety and depression experience. Your story is so similar to mine in so many ways. I feel (felt) very overwhelmed, helpless, and dreadful over every day happenings. I felt as though my husband was growing tired of my and my friends thought I was boring. My boy is also 8 months and like you, I just started my period after a year and a half of not having it. I haven't been actively weaning him, but I have noticed a drop in my milk supply so I've been supplementing here and there with formula.
I thought I was either going crazy or had some sort of delayed post partum depression , and subsequently I've started an anti-depressant. I'm feeling better, but not 100% yet, but compared to how I was feeling this is like whole new world.
Thank you for sharing your story. It is really hard to talk about these feelings.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely lovely and brave. Thank you so much for sharing this.

My little one is 6 months old and I have definitely had some low points which have all directly correlated to the two times I've had my period since having her. I never even thought that weaning might present a similar situation, but now i know to look out for it.

In advance, my family appreciates this acknowledgment. I'm glad you see the skies are blue again.

Ethaney said...

i seriously ADORE you, joanna. your family is so lucky to have you, as you are lucky to have them.

XOXOXO

Sarah O'Brien said...

Thank you for a such a great article. As someone whose has struggled with years of depression (I'm in a much happier state now) this is something I worry about. however I'm that much more grateful to be aware of this condition, so thank you Jo!

tabitha said...

thank you so much for sharing ... what you wrote was absolutely beautiful. raw. from the heart and nothing but the truth. i have had my own battles with depression. its a dark road and i cannot tell you the number of people who told me to "just snap out of it" - its not that easy i would tell them. after a hospitalization and many visits with the appropriate doctors i slowly got my life back to my normal. i have since been pretty open about my own struggles. ive written about it on my blog. share my stories with friends. and just in general talk about it. so many people have their own stereotypes about depression. some we can change. some we wotnt. but what i have found is that its because of people like you, and me, who are open about our struggles that give others hope. so thank you for sharing your story. chin up always.

Em {orange + barrel} said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I feel like I want to send this to every pregnant person that I know.

We are all so human and it is such a crazy thing.

Clamshell Claire said...

Thank you so much for this post. You are doing important work, sharing your story and bringing those who are touched by it a better understanding of hormones and depression. I think this post will mean a lot to a lot of women, I know it helped me!

Aya said...

Thank you Joanna for sharing and for your honesty. It's a great reminder that everyone has their sorrows and we could stand to be a bit more compassionate.
My boyfriend just came into the room and explained what I was reading. I tried to explain why I was touched by this even though I have never met you. I told him that it's like having a pen pal, someone faraway that you know about and care about. I told him that I felt so sad that someone so wonderful and caring was suffering and I had no clue.
Please be reminded whenever you feel low that you have many readers I'm sure that like myself, admire, respect and adore you and hope all the best for you and your lovely family. You're an inspiration--as much on your low days as your high ones. Thank you for sharing with us.

fleur_delicious said...

wow, I actually had no idea this existed - though it makes a *lot* of sense. I'm sorry you had to go through that (and thank god it's over and I hope you never have to feel that way again). I suffer from periodic bouts of depression. It's awful. Even though I am familiar enough with the patterns now to recognize, "uh-oh, here we go again," it's still just awful to be laid low like that. And somehow, knowing it's happening doesn't really soften the blow.

I'd never read about weaning and depression before, so I thank you for sharing this - though I don't plan on having kids, it may be useful if I ever learn that one of my girlfriends is in a similar situation.

stephanie said...

What a beautiful and important post. You are so brave to share this. I have gone through times of depression and never find popular blogs that mention the subject; I too trick myself into thinking that everyone else's lives are perfect. You have been my favorite blogger because you are so honest and open -- you write about sex, about breastfeeding, about struggles, and you do it with a grace that is comforting and often moving. Thank you for sharing your story. Although I am not a mother, I know that this will positively impact mothers who experience this same thing and all those who experience depression unrelated to motherhood. Lots of love.

Jilleun said...

That was probably one of my favorite post from you. So beautiful, thank you for sharing with all of us strangers.

The Jinkins Family said...

Went through the EXACT same thing when I weaned my son. My family is prone to depression, so I felt so lucky when I had absolutely zero problems with postpartum depression. I didn't even THINK to look out for it after weaning, but boy did it hit! Thanks for sharing. I love your blog:)

Diana @ frontyardfoodie said...

What a brave thing to share. I struggled with depression for a few weeks once in my life and same as you, it just one day evaporated completely. That experience helped me be sooo much more understanding towards people who struggle with chronic depression.

My son self weaned gradually over time and I was pregnant when I finally dried up so I didn't experience the same hormone change but it is GOOD to know because I don't know how things will be with the second son I'm now carrying. thank you for your honesty.

in dreams said...

wow, joanna...this is really powerful. i'm actually going to send this to my sister-in-law, since she's due in august, and she needs to know!

i know how it feels to be depressed, and to be rebuffed by people about it (i can't believe that psychiatrist said that!), whatever the cause. it's really tough, and for some it's an uphill battle, every day. but i fought it because the small rays of sunshine that poke through the darkness mean there's hope. i'm glad you're feeling better, and i hope you never have to experience depression again.

thanks for sharing this experience with us all. it's sometimes hard being so honest, but i'm glad to have had the chance to read about your experience.

Katie said...

thanks for sharing. you are incredible! toby is lucky to have YOU as his momma.

Kate! said...

Girl. Thank you for your sweetness and your bravery. There's no eloquent way to say it: depression sucks. I'm so sorry you had to go through that. I'm so glad you were able to get through it. I am extremely grateful for your honesty in talking about this--even when you have every right to protect the privacy of your life--because I get it. And it's a stinking miracle to be on the other side.

Keep writing, and I'll keep reading.

Kate

Julia said...

You are so genuine, inspirational, and honest. Your willingness to share such an obviously personal and difficult experience, with such raw emotion, is a gift to all who read this blog. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for being brave and letting others know that they're not alone. You are my hero.

Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful post. Thank you Joanna. I really needed to read this. x

Abigail said...

Joanna, this post made me cry. I just admire you so much. I think that there is a part of every writer that really needs to communicate the bad things, in order to make sense of them, but it is hard--and even impossible--to communicate those things in a public way. The blogging world is so interesting because, on one hand, most blogs create these visions of almost-perfect lives, and I find myself drawn to those fantasies, to believing that those things exist. For example, when I started reading your blog, I was so enamored by the love that you and Alex and Toby have for each other. I was so enamored by the life you had created for yourself. I started mentioning you in conversations to my mom, thinking that maybe I wanted to be a magazine writer, too. Blogs are inspiring and powerful. But I don't think that blogs would be nearly as interesting, nearly as touching, without authenticity. Who could have asked you to share this while you were going through it?? In the hard times in my life, I have been unable to explain it fully even to my mom, who I am closest to in the world, let alone thousands of readers. But I want you to know how much this meant to me. The past two years have been overtaken with depression for me. The worst part is that you really do start to feel as if YOU are the problem, and as if this new person who you don't understand is just a product of your failure, and that old shining you is gone forever. Two years ago, I moved away from my best friends and my home town. I went to a boarding school where I felt lonely and isolated and trapped. Then I came back home a year ago, and began having anxiety attacks at school. I cried every single night. Sunday nights didn't just fill me with that normal school kid dread; they immobilized me. And yet I felt compelled to maintain my straight A's, despite my depression, because if I failed then everyone who hate me even more, I would have even less worth, etc. Finally, two weeks ago, I made the decision to homeschool. Immediately (after I recovered from initial waves of fear and guilt), I felt like I could breathe again. I started laughing for no reason. I started smiling. I was driving with my mom one night, and she said, "I feel like I have you back," and I was overwhelmed by how true it was. I was overwhelmed to find that the person who was better, the person who was brighter and happier and more curious and excited, was not gone forever. Sorry for the long post! That final poem is so beautiful that I am going to make sure I remember it forever. Thank you. -Abby

Jess said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story...I admire your strength and am so thankful for your blog.

Sarah K. said...

Joanna,
Thank you. You are beautiful and courageous for speaking about your depression. Putting information and support about depression and mental illness on the web helps so many people. So much. You are helping those who feel alone feel less alone. I am in high school. In the last year 6 people in my "community" (high schoolers in San Fransisco) committed suicide. Your posts affect so many people and I am sure it will reach those who need it. "I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being." ~Hafiz
Love, Sarah

Anonymous said...

Oh my GOSH, do I know what you're talking about. I have suffered from a few bouts of depression, but the period following abruptly weaning my daughter (medical reasons) was The Worst. I felt like I wasn't a mother, a wife, a woman, a family member... I was nothing. One day I got very angry at a man who threatened to hit my car in the parking lot, and I thought, "Who cares if I punch him and get arrested? My baby doesn't need me, anyway, I can spend a night in jail." The hormones plus dealing with expectation vs reality were a tough combo. Thanks for sharing this so that other may have a "heads up" on the situation.

karen said...

Joanna, thank you! As someone who struggled for more than a year (way longer than I should have tried to tough it out on my own) with ptsd and depression, I can so identify with this entry. The grief, the sadness, the fear, chest pounding-ness, a heavy heart, overthinkasarusing everything, it was bleak. Like you, I can say that now, looking back.

I am so happy you had a support group, so happy one morning you woke up and it was over, but as someone who needed intensive weekly one-on-one therapy and weekly group therapy I want to tell anyone out there whose reading this, that sometimes you don't wake up and it's over. Sometimes you have to go get help (and I am sure other have or will mention this) the hardest thing I've ever done was drive to my first appointment, but it truly saved my life (and yes, I'm tearing up thinking about it.)

Thank you for being brave and telling your story. Mental illness needs to no longer carry the stigmas it once did. There is help and it does get better.

(Sidenote: a more humorous equally helpful post on this subject is by rob delaney, I don't have the link, but reading that more than a year ago is what convinced me that if I didn't get help, I wouldn't last much longer.)

Thanks again!

Amanda said...

How brave you are to write this post. As mothers, it is never easy to admit that your world is anything but rosy all of the time. There are real everyday struggles, and every mom needs to know that they are not alone. I read your blog everyday, and I think you are fantastic.

Sarah Hope Dickert said...

I am SO SO SO glad you wrote this. I am going through this very same thing right now. Ironically, I just am at the tail end of weaning my 8 1/2 month old daughter. I would have never even thought to connect the two, but it makes total sense now. Thank you for your bravery; this post gave me hope.

Ellen said...

Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your experience. You are so brave!! Mental illness in general is something that seems to be so taboo, yet it touches all of our lives wether it be directly or indirectly.

Yay for authenticity!

Maggie said...

Such a fantastic, amazing post.
XOXO

natalie holbrook said...

oh my dear, this was such a beautiful post. good on you for your bravery and honesty. i'm a little terrified of weaning for this exact reason! (who says you have to wean, anyway? can't we just nurse till he gets married? ;).

hope to see you around very soon!! glad you're back in the city, we've missed you!

Courtney said...

Wow, thank you so much for sharing your story Joanna! Reading your words resonated with me so deeply and actually describes exactly what I am going through at this very moment. I actually stopped nursing my son a year and half ago (he's 2 1/2 now) but have been experiencing terrible anxiety and depression just as you describe above since that time. I felt on top of the world while I was nursing him and as soon as I stopped its like a dark cloud moved in and has stayed over my shoulders. I just don't feel like myself anymore. I actually have still not had my period since I stopped nursing him so I now feel like it could all be connected (none of the doctors I have seen have even mentioned something like this.) Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing as I feel this could help me on my journey to healing and finding freedom from all of this and the darkness that has been lingering. I feel hope having read your story.

Emily said...

I'm so glad you're feeling better. I've been experiencing the same feelings along with anxiety to match for the past six months. But I'm 18, and don't have a baby, or a reason for experiencing these things. Regardless, my heart goes out to you, for I know how helpless and pointless and just overwhelming everything becomes in that state of being.

I wasn't as lucky as you to have mine disappear, but I'm on medication now and doing better. Glad to hear you made it through this, too. :)

princess kanomanom said...

Oh man, this is amazing. Thanks heaps for sharing; I'm not yet a mother myself, but I've been through the kind of depression you write about ("I remember my sweet friend Jason took an afternoon off work to come hang out with me. I barely talked. I kept thinking that he must think I was so boring and wouldn't want to be friends with me anymore"--YES; oh how I know that feeling/fear), and I know I speak for many when I say that, by being so candid about your own experience, you're bringing considerable relief to countless readers. And that is absolutely invaluable.

Brava!

MD said...

Thank you so much for sharing this story! I have dealt with anxiety for many years and understanding what events trigger anxiety attacks is so empowering. I think doctors understand the chemical aspect of depression and anxiety well, but I think women's bodies and hormones operate so differently than men's that doctors don't always realize how huge of an impact hormonal shifts have on women's mental health. Again, thank you for writing what I imagine must have been such a painful article - I'm sure it will help so many new mothers!

RACHAEL said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I am currently breastfeeding my baby and am soo thankful that you have shared this so I can wean slowly and be aware of this and realize what it is if I am feeling this way. I have a blog where I frequently do posts about my experiences in breastfeeding and try to raise awareness, so I will most DEFINITELY be talking about this and sharing it with those I know in my own circle. Thank you and I am so, so happy you are feeling better. :)

http://danandrachaelinreallife.blogspot.com/search/label/breastfeeding

margaret said...

I'm so glad you shared this story. It was beautifully written and so touching. I've gone through a period of depression and I didn't tell a soul, not even my fiance (now husband). I remember sitting with him at a cafe, discussing some wedding plans, and actually thinking that I might not make it to the wedding day; I felt so hopeless and depressed that I thought I'd die. It's over now, and it really was just a season--I'm so glad for that. And I'm thankful to now be aware of the correlation between weaning and depression. Thank you again for your honesty and openness, Joanna!

Michelle said...

I so appreciate your honesty here, and this gives me a reason to love your blog even more. I am not a mom (*yet*..hopefully one day), but I know I will look back at this moment and think about how relieved I am to know that not all skies are blue and sunny all the time, and that's ok.

amynicole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lux T said...

Oh Jo! It really broke my heart the way you were feeling. I´m so glad it´s over. I felt really identified with two things you´ve mentioned:
1. seeing other people and thinking how happy they were, and wondering how and where they ´ve found that amazing amount of energy they seemed to own, an energy I was certainly lack of!
2. The thought that this horrible sad feeling wasn´t going away...
Happily, things got better!!
:)
So if someone who is going through this horrible, horrible feeling is reading this: be hopeful, everything it´s getting better, you´ll be fine

Aja Lake [the gold hat.] said...

i’ve been on pins + needles! i thought you'd taken president's day off! :)

what a riveting post! well-worth the read (and wait)! as the mother of a 14 month old son, i spent some time contending with the conversion from career to homemaker. and then, began trying to figure out how to navigate the path to best achieving both. it was crazy exhausting. and then you debuted your work/baby/life balance series. i swear i heard angels singing. "these girls are gonna tell me how to do this!", i thought. at the time i had begun writing my own blog and was mesmerized by all the fabulous, blogging women who seemed so creative, so successful, so together. a notorious over-achiever, i didn't give much thought to not being able to do it. but, it was hard. and, it still is. undoubtedly, i have grown over the last 1+ year but, it's surely a gradual process. i still incessantly re-read the work/baby/life balance series. and i, no joke, almost emailed you last week to ask how you really, really strike the balance (“there has to be more to it,” i thought). so, for me, this post could literally not have come at a better time.

as a firm believer in the "shake it off"/"snap out of it" school of thought i spent years casting "depressed" people off as weak. or self-obsessed. or overtired. too drunk. or too hungry, even. and while i can’t say that i was particularly depressed during motherhood (although, i had my frazzled moments), after experiencing a moderate depression in the years just prior to i came to see that depression (in all its forms and relative levels) is a very real thing. however, like you, i am able to be thankful for the dark time that i experienced. it was a life lesson. one that, i feel, has made me better prepared as a mother, a wife, a friend, a sister. even, as a daughter. you see, my grandmother instilled in me from a very early age that "everything happens for a reason" and, throughout life, i have come to believe that like it's the gospel.

as you've heard me say before, you're like a blog-world big sister; a source to look to. and thankfully, you are a clever, intelligent, striking + genuine source. thank you for your constantly stirring content, joanna. and particularly this emotional, courageous, compelling post. in my short time as a mom i have quickly come to believe that motherhood is, indisputably, risky business. but, without risk there is seldom reward.

p.s. kudos to alex for his keen advice, "everyone...[has] their own true story." that was especially poignant for me.

xx,
Aja Lake
the gold hat.

Meghan said...

Thank you for your story. I am going through this right now (not weening - but depression). I have been having depressed moods for probably the past 2 years. Some days I am fine, some I am very far from that. Then, on Christmas morning, I found out I was pregnant. I was so happy! Sadly, I miscarried at 7 weeks and that sent me deep into depression and self doubt. It was like all the terrible things I had thought about myself were true - just like you explained - I thought my husband would leave me, like I was always making mistakes, I was a terrible person, I just sucked - then I miscarried and had no answers. All I could do was blame myself and think, not even my baby wanted me. My husband saw how bad I was struggling and pushed me to see a psychologist. I have gone a few times and am starting to understand what is happening and where all my thoughts are coming from. It has been so hard - but things are getting better.

Anonymous said...

I just love reading your blog! Thanks for sharing your experience! I have just spent the last year and a half on and off battling depression and anxiety. It's funny, I came across your blog, and read through old posts; there were some things that helped me to re-evaluate how I think (i.e. the post about your counselor, worries, and the grand canyon). I felt I could easily relate. I also really loved your positiveness in your posts. I've since been seeing a counselor myself and just starting to really focus on myself. I feel like I'm finally getting past my slump and really starting this year out right. I'm really learning to enjoy life and take good care of myself. I enjoy reading all your posts!

Anne-Mare @ Do Not Faint said...

I blog because I couldn't find anything personal or helpful about how to plan for pregnancy knowing in advance that I struggle with severe anxiety. It took me a year to work everything out. I don't know what will happen, but I am now pregnant! Four weeks! And I write it all down for the three or four women who have searched for specific terms related to the choices I've had to make. Silence does so much damage. Thank you for adding your voice.

katie [the bright life] said...

Joanna, you have made such an impression on me (and so many others), even from miles away. How brave of you to enter into that place of vulnerability and offer your story as a way to help others. Much love and much respect to you. Xo, Katie

Jessica Brown said...

I feel like this right now related to my husbands endless schooling - and you are right - it is hard to tell what's real and what is just my tired brain complaining

tammy h. said...

your blog is amazing. I've been reading it for over a year now, and I would have never guessed you went through something so tough as this. I understand how difficult it must have been to keep it a secret, and how brave you are to write about it now. You're truly inspiring. Toby is so lucky to have you as his mother!

Kylin said...

I so appreciate your honesty in sharing stories from your life. Even though I'm in a very different phase of life, I feel a great deal of compassion and respect for what you share with us. I feel like this post really came at the right time for me. Since graduating from college and moving to the city, I've felt a little down. I'll go through moments where everything's fine but then will start to feel a little like I'm drowning. I'm chalking it up to the big transition from school-life to life-life, but, of course, can't help but wonder if I'll always feel like this. Reading your post felt very assuring. Thank you for all that you share. Your candidness is wonderful! I am so glad that you "woke up" one day and hope there are many more "wake ups" for those who are dealing with or suffering from depression.

Akshita said...

Thank you for your honesty and courage in sharing your story with us. It is inspiring to read what you've been through and I'm so glad you've made it past the depression. Your resilience is admirable. Lots of love to you and your lovely family!

mariclare said...

This post could not have come at a better time for me. I have been spending the last 2 or so months depressed, and today I had another sob-fest; the kind of crying that comes from deep within and just takes you over. I don't know what's wrong with me, but everything you described is EXACTLY how I've been feeling, right down to thinking that I'm a failure and everyone around me is perfect.
My depression is not related to motherhood since I'm not a mother. I don't know what it is, since I'm normally a bubbly, sunny person. I just want it to end soon so I can get back to being a productive member of society.
Thank you for sharing all of this, because it gives me hope.

Joanna said...

So brave of you to share - so glad you're doing well now! That poem you shared really resonates with me, thank you for sharing.

Jennifer_NJ said...

Joanna, thank you for your honesty today.

If Toby could read, he'd be so proud of his momma! You are strong, girl.

Erika said...

I'm not sure that I can articulate my gratitude for sharing this information. This was my experience, and it is only now, after reading this post, that I am able to begin to understand what occurred 8 weeks ago. Thank you!

chambanachik said...

I've read your blog forever, and I like the prettiness, the sweetness, the photos, and the lightness. But this post is my favorite. It's so nice to read the honesty in it that so many other people can identify with, myself included. Depression is far harder than childbirth or so many other painful things, but making it through to the other side is so beautiful.

KatelynMade said...

Very candid, thank you so much for sharing. I'd never heard of weaning depression myself. I've actually suffered from depression just as you described for no real reason but for years, not just a couple months. That's in the somewhat distant past now but now that I'm pregnant I do fear postpartum or some kind of relapse. It's good to be reminded that these things do end and lot of the time they are hormonal.
Thanks again

Emily said...

Thank you. If anyone EVER questions your status as the "Queen of Bloggers," they need only look at this post.

You are so graceful and honest and eloquent.

I applaud you for talking about these sensitive, tough issues with such a large audience.

Harley said...

thank you so much for sharing this. I love you are wiling to share such a personal experience in order to benefit so many of us.

annelise said...

Well done. It takes so much courage to talk about depression and I can only imagine how much was needed to address an audience as large as yours.

I went through a few rough months of depression a few years ago and I felt exactly the same way you've described. Sad. It was awful. It comes back every now and then but at least I can recognise what it is now, rather than just think I'm pathetic for feeling that way. Thankfully, it never really lasts longer than a week or so at the most. My wasn't related to anything in particular, just life. It sucked.

Similarly to you, I didn't tell many people, just my mum and boyfriend and two friends. Maybe I should have, the support some people give is incredible. I think I was scared of the stigma that is unfortunately still attached to depression.

Anyway, I really hate how people overuse this but thank you for sharing. It's a beautifully written post and hopefully it will give some hope to others who feel the same.

Alison said...

Thank you for sharing this. I have been a long-time reader and love your blog, but I have never posted until now. I have hormone-related depression and anxiety that comes and goes with my monthly cycles. I try to tell myself it's just the chemicals, not my life, but you're right, it really does feel like it's your life falling apart. It's amazing how much we are affected by these chemicals. I tried two different antidepressants but stopped them because they made me feel worse. I'm hesitant to try anything else and just live with this. Luckily for most of the month I feel absolutely fine. Anyway, I am so glad you posted this...it makes a lot of us feel better to know others have dealt with similar problems.

tracypea said...

This article is exactly why I find myself looking up to you day after day-- your personal honesty, introspective insights and your willingness to share them are changing the world :)

musiqueblox said...

Joanna,

Thanks for posting this honest and raw admission of how fragile we can be and what an undertaking it is to have a child. It's not just the physicality of it, it's so much more. I have a little girl who is now 8. Born a beautiful healthy little baby and at 3 1/2 months, I was told she had a brain malformation that would leave her severely disabled. I was struck with extreme shock, disbelief and sorrow. I immediately stopped breastfeeding. The depression I felt was immense. My depression was different, but depression is a dark place no matter the reason it comes. I didn't stay in that place for too long. It was scary and dangerous. I also felt it was so wrong to be so sad while my little baby was happy and living. That it was wrong to be sad about her life. Her life would not be as I expected, but it would be a life none the less. I chose to give her dignity and worth to her life by embracing her diagnosis and braving a new world I knew nothing about. You don't come out the same person when you are depressed, I believe you come out a much better person. A person with better perspective and appreciation for your life and the lives of others.

Reading your entry today really reminded me of that time. I know what it's like to reach the end of the rainbow and have it be brighter than you ever expected. I and I know many other women share in your story for the same and different experiences.

Thank you for uniting us in this special way.
Yvonne xo

Penelope's Wardrobe said...

Joanna,

I've been reading your blog for years, and love coming here on a daily bases. I am so proud of you for opening up on what was a really difficult time in your life. It's sad that we still live in a time were it's difficult for us to talk about these kind of things, and I'm sure by telling your story you've not only helped a 100 women to know that what they are experiencing is normal, and it does too pass, but you are making it a little easer for us all to start talking about depression.

You seem like such an amazing woman, and I am thankful to have this little place to visit.

xoxo
Katrina

Natasha said...

You are vulnerable, authentic and courageous. I applaud your honesty. Thank you for sharing this story. Sometimes we don't know what we suffered from until we hear the stories of what those before us have gone through. Thank you for being so brave.

Sammie said...

Hi Jo! I cannot commend you more for this post. I actually went through a very similar depression when I weaned my daughter. Mine only lasted for 5 weeks, but it was devestating. Everything you said, I completly understood. I actually wrote about mine on my blog. I was desperate to have some one learn from what I had gone through because like you said unless you are looking specifically for "depression and weaning" you won't know anything of it. My blog isn't even a fraction as well known as yours and I thank you so much for telling your story. I am happy that the few people that do follow mine are now aware of the possibility, but through your blog, you can reach thousands of people. Thank you. Thank you so much!

If you are curious about my depression from weaning blog post here it is:

http://mylittlemaisie.blogspot.com/2011/12/post-partum-depression-after-weaning.html

xoxo
Sammie
sammie.lambie@yahoo.com

EmilyJane said...

Thank you for your honesty, Joanna.

When I go through periods of darkness, I look around and see only happy people. When I was feeling sad at Christmas time, I logged on to Facebook and tortured myself by reading about how happy everyone was and silently wondered why I didn't deserve it. Your words really hit home and made me think about how we are not an honest society; we crave perfection and will go to any lengths to create that illusion. This only makes life harder for all of us. Next time I feel dark, I will think of this post and I will not feel so alone.

Thank you,
Emily

katherine rose said...

hey Joanna,

I've been reading your blog for over a year now and forever have wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog and moreso you through your blog.

You just seem so real (even before this post) and yourself and just lovely. I feel like your my favorite friend, just that we've never met.

And this is such a good reminder whether it be for depression or just a bad day, life will always have ups and downs despite how good you might have it.

Thanks for being the sweetest and realest.

lots of love and happiness
-katherine

and here is one of my favorite quotes from the prophet,

'Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrows carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven"

Casey said...

Oh thank you for sharing. I am currently in a tough spot in my life and feel like such a failure. Though not baby or weaning-related, still tought. You are great and amazing for sharing your story!!

erin / dfm said...

jo - such a brave and selfless post this was. thank you so much for sharing your experiences!

i was diagnosed with clinical depression (and anxiety! it's a mess in this brain!) in college, and it really has been an uphill battle for me. i'm so, so grateful you pulled through, and what a blessing it is to know the cause. i'll be on the lookout for changes in my emotions when weaning comes time for me and my baby!

thank you, sweet jo. i'm so proud of you for sharing this.

Heather said...

My mom has suffered from depression most of her life so I know first hand how hard it is. Unfortunately it's something that people try to hide from the outside world but it needs to be talked about more openly. It's not something to be ashamed of and there is help out there. Thank you for being brave enough to talk openly about this, hopefully it will give others the courage to do the same. I'm so glad to hear that you're feeling happy again and able to enjoy your beautiful little boy!

Bucktown Mom said...

Thank you SO much for sharing this! I went through something very similar when I weaned my son, who is just a couple of months younger than Toby.

A couple of weeks after my son's first birthday he pretty much weaned himself cold turkey. He just stopped wanting to nurse, and I didn't push it since it seemed like a natural stopping point. I can't remember how long after that I started to feel bad, but it was pretty bad. My period had returned several months earlier even though I was still nursing, so for some reason I thought all of the hormonal stuff had worked itself out--boy was I wrong! Finally out of desperation I posted a thread asking about depression and weaning on a local (Chicago) parents' board. I got several responses from women who went through the same thing, which made me at least feel like there was a reason I was losing my mind.

I tried to take care of myself (exercise, sleep, eating) as best I could, talked to my husband (who was probably wondering why I was either crying or yelling at him every day), and told myself that if it didn't go away in what felt like a reasonable amount of time I'd talk to my doctor and get help. It basically felt like the worst, darkest, bleakest PMS I'd ever had, except instead of lasting one day it lasted weeks. Then one day it just lifted and like you I felt like myself again.

Thank you so much for raising awareness about this. My gyno never warned me, and it is glossed over in the baby books I have. Just being prepared would have helped so much, and by writing about this I'm sure many women will be helped themselves or can help other people they know who are going through this.

Oddly enough, during the dark days I would read your blog and think about how you seemed to be such a perfect mom and wife and how things were so chaotic at my house. I don't know if you are a Desperate Housewives fan, but I remember a show pretty early on when Lynette almost has a nervous breakdown from the stresses of parenting. All of the other housewives find her sitting despondently on a soccer field if I remember correctly. She tells them with shame what a hard time she is having as a mom. Then they all share their darkest parenting moments. Lynette says something along the lines of "Why didn't you tell me? Why don't we Moms talk to each other?" I think we're all trying so hard to put up the front that our marriage or parenting skills are perfect that we're embarrassed to admit to each other that we are human and we all struggle sometimes.

You really don't know how much it meant to read your story. Thank you.

jodi said...

Nothing compares to the refreshing honesty of a mother. Thanks so much Jo.

No doubt the exhaustion of maintaining your professional persona was overwhelming too.

AS for the way Toby was reacting to you at the time...I recently found a fabulous memo written from a child to parents and number 15 goes like this:

"Don't ever suggest that you are perfect or infallible. It gives me too great a shock when I discover that you are neither."

Toby wouldn't change you for the world x

Alex from Australia said...

Ahhh Joanna. You're an amazing woman. My heart broke for you, discovering that you were going through a challenging experience last year while keeping Cup of Jo so upbeat, and also for your courage in writing the story. I'm so glad to hear that you are back to yourself (the lovely and joyous self that you genuinely seem to be!), but also glad that you are able to see the positive of the experience once on the other side of it. It sounds like you have an amazing family - Alex, your Mum, your Dad, Lucy and Nick. Hope this doesn't sound weird but please thank your family from us (your readers), for being there for you when we couldn't be. You give so much joy to so many of us on a daily basis! And, by the way, Toby is so incredibly lucky to have such a cool mum :)

kristen said...

That was so so beautiful. I also felt really depressed when I weaned but I thought it was because I had combined weaning with getting on birth control so I blamed the birth control. I just felt like a dark cloud was over me at all times. It is so disheartening and scary. thank you so much for sharing your story- I had never heard of anyone else having it besides myself. You are always such an inspiration and encouragement.

Karina Love said...

I'm due in May and had no idea there was such a thing. I too plan on breast feeding. I'm glad you told your story. You might be helping hundreds of other women.
<3

17 Perth said...

You are a beautiful beautiful woman. Thank you for your rawness, honesty and authenticity. Toby is one lucky little man. :)

SK said...

Thank you Joanna for writing this and sharing your story with us. I was completely captivated by your post and have learned something new! I am going to share this with the new moms I know :) So happy that your body got back into balance and that you had a wonderful year after the small bump in the road. You are so brave!

xoxo
sk

sumslay said...

I won't lie- at first, after clicking on your page with no update about 100 times today, I was going to be a little pissed if it was "just" postpartum depression. Mind you, I think it's crazy it took women at least 4,000 years to talk about "just" that!

Ive *never* heard about the weaning depression. Hormones are crazy things, so I can only imagine! Thank you for sharing this.

I always describe myself as "prepartum" (hahaha), because I get depressed just thinking about how much having a baby changes your life. I mean, your previous life is over!!! Not that the new one is bad, but that's a HUGE transition.

Going back to depression, I pretty much stay in a state of depression/anxiety. Life is never as one pictures it, and
it just seems to me like it takes less for other people to be happy.

Anyway, thank you for sharing your story! Glad you're better!

Cupboard Love said...

Thank you for posting this. I suffer from depression - it's not child related, but probably situational and chemical. I lost my job, my husband lost his job and I could go one from there.

I was one of those readers who never would have guessed that you didn't have it all together. And reading that you were struggling with all of this during all of that - it makes me feel less alone. It makes me feel like maybe things will be okay for me, too.

I read your blog because your life seems so perfect to me. I adore Toby - I think he was one of the cutest babies I'd ever seen. Thank you for this little window of hope. Seeing your authenticity only makes me like you that much better.

Laura E. said...

You are wonderfully courageous for writing this. I went through something similar after the birth of my second child. After feeling so confident as mother to my first child I felt like I was never meant to be a mom of two, thanks to the ugly beast that depression can be. Depression is so difficult to talk about and I applaud your honesty for sharing it with so many.

cathie said...

joanna, i've been checking your blog all day to see when you would post. i had a hunch it was related to some kind of postpartum depression/anxiety, and i was so eagerly awaiting your sharing, since i've struggled with a form of ppd since i had my baby 8 months ago. like you, i've always wanted a baby & i feel super blessed to have a loving husband, wonderful friends, supportive family, & the sweetest baby. but motherhood has been incredibly hard, overwhelming & stressful! it's gotten a lot better since we first brought our baby home from the hospital, but i still get so nervous thinking about having more kids (and i wanted four!). for me, the most helpful thing has been my faith & just seeking to trust in God throughout all of this...and of course my super understanding husband. thank you so much for sharing -- i was really encouraged by your openness, especially since i've always thought you were one of those who just breezed through the early months/years of motherhood! thank you, thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. I was standing here at my computer dreading the endless and unachievable list of things I "should" be doing (and that a good mother would be cheerfully and energetically accomplishing). I had never considered that this sinking stone feeling seems to have come along with trying to wean my daughter but it gives me so much hope to realize that it's a feeling driven by hormone change not by something intrinsically wrong with me. And that everyone else has been in the same boat, no matter how with-it they seem to be.

So happy to hear to you found a good place on the other side.

Gourmet Chick said...

Beautiful and brave post. I always read Cup of Jo and never comment but I just wanted to say that this is one of the real attractions of this blog that you do not pretend to be perfect and are so honest with your readers. I can totally understand that it took you a while to share this but you have now and that is the important thing. Hopefully it will help others in similar situations.

Katie Erin said...

Your bravery and lovely way of expressing yourself moved me to tears. Thank you so much for sharing, Jo!

Sarah Carlson said...

Joanna, you're so brave and strong. Thank you for sharing your story and opening your life to all the readers who depend on your lovely, intelligent, real personality. i'm so glad to hear you are feeling better.

Shawnee said...

Joanna, I absolutely love your honesty.. one of the reasons your blog is my favorite! You are not the only one, and I think this post will help a lot of people out there, including but not only mothers! You are so strong, and I am so glad you shared this. You are a wonderful mother, wife, friend, blogger..
lots of love! xo

Helen said...

Dear Joanna,

Thank you for being so honest and writing about your experience. You not only spoke for yourself but for people like me. On the outside I seem like an accomplished person that has their life together but I suffered from depression for 1.5 years. I felt so sad. I had no words to adequately describe how I felt. I felt a wave of just pure dark misery coming over me. I had no energy and felt weak. You know what’s funny? I went to Dave and Busters with my boyfriend last night and looked all around and saw happy people drinking, eating, and playing games. And I remembered how the last time I was there I looked all around and I thought, “ Is this REALLY fun? Is playing a stupid game and tapping buttons THAT fun? These people must be pretending.” And last night I was having a blast and I thought to myself “ OH MY GOD. THOSE PEOPLE A YEAR AGO WERE ACTUALLY HAVING FUN!”
When you try to describe to a person who has NEVER had depression, never felt that clinically jacked up hormonally off feeling, its so frustrating. They just have no idea how bad it feels.
I think about those days when my best friend would tell me to pick my head up and open up my chest. I would do as he said and after 2 minutes I would be back in my position with my head down… I’m so glad I’m not in that place anymore. . and I appreciate my life and mundane everyday happiness so much. Sometimes I just want to run around and yell “ I’m so fucking Happy!!!”

So thank you for being so honest and writing about your experience. You are so genuine, sweet, and beautiful.

Bryn said...

It was brave and important that you shared this. Thanks Joanna. So glad you are through it.

- Bryn

Shawnee said...

ps ((HUGS!!)) you are brave!

TeamRamsden said...

I can only say what everyone else has said...what a brave post, what a brave, lovely lady you are. Thank you for being so honest.

Emily Elizabeth said...

Thank you for sharing your story! I'm glad you have had such a good year since.
It's so important to talk about depression, especially relating to post-partum. I am slowly training to be a post-partum doula, and have found the book "Mothering the New Mother" by Sally Placksin to be a great resource for information on post-partum depression (among many other things). Definitely something to read and pass along to other new or soon-to-be mothers! It seems so easy to focus on the pregnancy and then the baby, it's so easy for the mom to be forgotten in terms of all the crazy changes going on. I've been making an effort to give new moms lots of love, in addition to the new babies!

Rachel A. said...

Joanna,

Thank you so much for having the courage and strength to post this. It was not related to pregnancy, breastfeeding or anything of that sort, but I did go through a depression a few years ago and it was definitely the darkest time in my life. Even to this day, few people know about what I went through. It's hard to talk about, even now. It's almost a shameful topic to me, even though I know it shouldn't be. The few people with whom I've shared my experience have had similar experiences and did not share them until much later as well. It is so refreshing to see someone be so open about such a dark time in their life. You're an inspiration. Also, thank you so much for sharing these facts. I do want to have children in the future and if I encounter another depression related to this, it will be invaluably helpful knowing this. Thank you so much for being so brave and strong!

Andrea said...

You did such a beautiful and thoughtful job with this. Look how many positive comments so far. I knew there had to more of us! Thank you for having the courage to publicly tackle this topic. It will help so many moms. I'm glad we were able to connect. You are a gem Joanna.

Chelsea said...

Thank you for sharing. I have experience with depression, and I cannot imagine how much harder it is to go through with a baby to take care of, when you don't even want to take care of yourself. I think you really will help so many people with this post, and that's the most important part. My depression was related to a break up. It probably took about a year to get over, and I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone. It was years ago now, so I can't remember exactly how I felt, but I know just how horrible it was. But some really good things came out of it..I had people--some friends, some acquaintances, ask me how I got through this break up because they were having such a horrible and tough time. (I guess I didn't mask my depression so well!) I was so honored to share my experience and give my advice..although I'm 100% convinced TIME is the only thing that heals these types of wounds. My recovery was a slow one, unlike yours (you say you woke up one day and it was gone..I am SO jealous of that!) I am so sorry you had to go through that. Thank you for sharing. You are going to help SO many people through this. Everyone should know that life is worth living and that ALL things are temporary--whether good or bad! I'm really, really sorry you had to go through that, once again. I am so glad you are better.

xoxox

Alexa said...

I was really depressed right after Mila was born. She cried a lot and wouldn't sleep except in my arms and that time period felt like it lasted 10 years! It was only about a month really...but I panicked. No one had told me this was what motherhood was like. Would I be chained to my house forever? Would I sleep again? Would Mila still be crying and clinging to me when she turned 18?? Things did get better and I adjusted and Mila has adjusted too. It's funny because I would read YOUR blog and think: how does she do all of this? How does she stay so happy? Perception is a funny thing. Thanks for sharing. xo

Meghann @ Fuzzy.Little.Wishballs said...

The feelings and experiences you've shared here seem to be something I go through regularly. They're not constant, but reoccurring.

I often try to blame my cycle, but with the IUD I have, I really don't have a cycle to look to and blame. The feelings never last more than a week, but I'm always glad to see them leave and for some reason always surprised when they come back.

But, I have no problem admitting a therapist would do me some good, anyway.

I'm so thankful you shared your story. I envy your courage and hope I'm able to some day do the same.

Dana said...

we love you for being so honest, you are a beautiful and inspiring woman

Reagan said...

Wow Joanna! I'm so happy you wrote about this! You are such a great writer and so many people will be able to relate.

I struggled with post partum depression. I didn't realize it for a long time, but suddenly I saw this terrible pattern of waking up at 7 or 8 am, but staying in bed until 2 or 3 pm. I didn't even notice that I wasn't eating breakfast or lunch or how weird it was that I was turning off my phone to avoid talking to people. I just never wanted to get out of bed. I'm so lucky it only lasted a few months, because it was so terrible. Piperjane was still in the NICU at the time, and I was told post partum depression was almost a given in my situation, but I was still in total denial.

Catherine Masi said...

You are a darling + true human, dear Joanna. And, my gosh, we are a lucky readership to have you in this world sharing your life with us. You are so very very adored and admired for exactly who you are. Don't you forget that. Group hug!

Amanda said...

Thanks so much for writing about this. I've had depression on and off since I was in high school, and you describe the feelings so well. I was worried about post-partum depression and then relieved not to experience it, only to be knocked over by depression right after I weaned my son when he was almost 2. It came as a complete surprise to me, and I wish I had known how common this is.

Nina said...

It's a very big deal that you've shared this, and thanks to the popularity of your blog it's going to reach a lot of people. At an orchestra rehearsal the other day I was talking to a girl I barely know (who I was sitting next to that week), and she told me that she suffers from clinical depression. I saw that she hesitated before telling me and obviously felt quite nervous about it. It's so important for mental illness to become something that can be talked about more easily, and people like you sharing stories like this will surely help.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Just-wow. I have just weaned my baby and couldn't figure out for the life of me why I (happy-go-lucky all the time mama) was feelin the way I feel. Thank you for adding some clarity to my "condition" and thank you for sharing.

Aja Lake [the gold hat.] said...

after reading this post i could not help but to feature you as this week's mom cute. enjoy!

xx,
Aja Lake
the gold hat.

Kimber said...

Thank you so very much for this post. It made me cry. I have been depressed in the past (from childhood through my early twenties), apparently related to my life circumstances, and your description of depression is painfully accurate. It's a horrible place to be and when I finally came out of it in my twenties I just couldn't believe that normal people felt so GOOD. It had been that long for me...I no longer knew what "me" felt like. I also appreciate the fact that you brought up weaning-related depression. I had never heard of it either, but I'm grateful for the awareness now. I'll be having my baby later this year, and this knowledge will help me if I have to face the same situation you did. I'm so glad that you are better now...I hate to think of anyone experiencing depression because I really do understand how crippling it can be. *hugs* Thank you again.

Vanessa said...

So much of psychology/psychiatry seems to be about chemical or hormonal imbalances. I, myself, experienced one. It took me a while, and some distance to fully accept it for what it was, a chemical imbalance, and no reflection on who I was as a person. For me, it was also about a year ago, and I'm also just starting to talk about it more.

Anonymous said...

thank you Joanna. You blog is wonderful. As I scanned the comments I could not help but notice how many people expressed gratitude for your opening up about your depression last year. It seems that many people out there struggling with different kinds of sadness in their lives. I'm glad you're feeling better.

claire said...

Thank you SO MUCH for this post. I understand completely the feelings you had. I know I am guilty of assuming that you have the perfect life - how easily we are fooled. I will remember this post for a long time.

Anonymous said...

Hormones and the human body amaze me. The way the female body can grow and change to support life through pregnancy and breastfeeding is truly awe inspiring. But so few talk about the other side of the experience. Thank you for sharing this story. As a breast-feeding mother contemplating weaning, I am grateful for your honesty. It makes this often overwhelming blessing of motherhood a little easier to hear stories of the strong women before me. Thank you.

jarymane said...

I am SO THANKFUL for you blog, thank you for writing Joanna:)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this Joanna. You're right. There is very little information about this. I went through the exact same thing very recently...in fact I feel like I'm finally emerging from this dark period...(and found out I'm pregnant). I tried to find information about this but found almost nothing. New mothers are bombarded with information about postpartum depression...but nothing about depression related to weaning. Thank you so much for sharing this and for raising awareness about this.

Nina Leung said...

What an incredibly brave thing you did writing this post. Thank you. I learn so much from your blog and am every day excited to learn more.

Thank you for bringing up issues that we all need to learn more about and talk to each other about.

You're doing a wonderful service for us!

Bri Kovan said...

Thank you so much for posting this! It's a relief to hear that everyone isn't perfect, like you mentioned your husband told you. Everyone has their own obstacles to overcome and battles to fight! You are an amazing woman and Toby is so lucky to have you as a mom!

Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you.


I so appreciate your honesty.

xo

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