Finding Gratitude During Postpartum Depression
Four years ago, if you had told me an attitude of gratitude could change my life, I would have laughed in your face. In fact, I am pretty sure I snorted some coffee while I read such advice on a postpartum depression (PPD) self help page online. How could I keep a Gratitude Journal, a daily record of three things I’m grateful for, when I hated my life and couldn’t stop thinking of ways to end it? The whole concept seemed a challenging, pointless waste of time, yet I knew I had to do something to get out of the dark pit of despair I had fallen into.
I wanted to live, I wanted to laugh again, and felt I was failing as a mother and wife, so after trying different modalities of depression treatment (acupuncture, Chinese herbs, light therapy, antidepressants) to no avail, I decided to give the old Gratitude Journal a try. “What a joke!” I thought to myself on my ill-fated first attempt. I sat there staring at the page for 20 minutes with no clue what to write. I couldn’t think of single thing I was thankful for other than my family and reckoned that was too cheesy to put down on paper.
If you have never been depressed, you have no idea how hard it is to think positively. It took about a week before I could churn out three things I was thankful for without grimacing or having to concentrate. With a bedtime deadline for my journal, I had all day to think about what to write; perhaps the smell of apple blossoms, Baby cruising and giggling… Unknowingly, while doing homework in my mind, I was cultivating an attitude of gratitude.
As I became less negative, my friends started coming around again, I made more of an effort to get out and exercise, and found even more reasons to be thankful. My journal entries became longer, more descriptive, and just plain happier. One of my favorite reads: “I am thankful for irises and lilies blooming, gloriously warm and perfect for playing outside weather, and my clever kids’ cute made-up songs.” The Gratitude Journal was not the cure to PPD, but a step in the right direction, a step away from the ledge.
Since that time, I have not written in my Gratitude Journal consistently, but I do the exercise in my head daily and keep the journal on my nightstand. If I am ever feeling down, I take comfort in reading past entries; they remind me of what fills my bucket. Today, I am grateful that I did something productive even though I thought it was silly, that most of my friends stood by me when I was hard to be around, and most of all, for my husband and children’s unconditional love.
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This post was written by Karen Ung exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.