This month, our Whole30 HMHB team is publishing resources and stories related to postpartum mental health. If you need immediate help, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is a free and confidential network of more than 140 crisis centers nationwide. It is available 24/7 to contact in a crisis at 1-800-273-8255. You can call for yourself or someone you care about.
For additional help, call Postpartum Support International’s warmline at 800-944-4773. You’ll get a return call within several hours. You can also visit their website www.postpartum.net. Click here to connect with your closest coordinator to get info, support, resources, and referrals to trained providers in your area.
Meet Jordan L., a mama who reached out on Facebook to tell us about her journey out of Postpartum Depression. We are excited to share her inspiring #MyHealthyHappyPostpartum story in her own words. Do you have a Healthy, Happy Pregnancy or Postpartum story to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with us on Instagram.
In Jordan’s Own Words…
My family is my world. I have two amazingly spirited little girls (3 and 6) who are up from sun up to sundown. If I could bottle their energy and hoard it for myself I would. My husband Tim and I have been together for about 14 years, but married for 7. We were high school sweethearts. Tim has seen me at my best – that carefree 16 year old who has all the hopes and all the dreams, and he has also held steadfast through my worst, the curled up ball in the middle of the bathroom floor sobbing in the midst of the fog of depression. My family is the reason I wake up each morning and fight for peace and happiness.
Discovering the Whole30
I first discovered Whole30 two years ago on Pinterest. I was looking for a dietary reset and kept coming across this Whole30 program. I took it as a sign that I needed to give it a go. No one I knew had tried it, but I bought the book and forged ahead. My husband and I completed our first Whole30 together almost exactly two years ago.
I was one year postpartum when I started my Whole30, and by that time I had been suffering from postpartum depression for 6 months. I had a major health scare and landed in the hospital, thinking I was having a heart attack. Thankfully this episode was just stress and a displaced rib, but it definitely was a wake up call that I needed to regain control of my health.
Since then, I have done four mini-Whole30 resets. Two were 11 days long and the other two were 15 days long. I have attempted each of those to be the full 30 days, but found that mentally I was just not able to do it. We’ve moved about five times in the last two years and had many transitions within our family. My husband and I, however, have committed to cooking at home with the Whole30 rules in mind while still eating our “worth it” foods when we go to restaurants or my husband requests something special like homemade pizza with beer. Right now, I am 8 days in on another reset and am hoping to push through for 60-90 days. I am having some troubles with inflammation and am hoping to figure it out!
PPD, Whole30, and Food Freedom
My postpartum depression manifested at six months postpartum. It didn’t look like the “typical” sadness, lethargy or suicidal thoughts. I was obsessive about the cleanliness of my home; I would become overwhelmed by angry thoughts if things were even a bit out of place. I didn’t feel like myself and couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t the same and would become overcome with guilt that I simply couldn’t be who I remembered and break down into sobbing fits.
It took me three separate attempts of reaching out to doctors before they would even acknowledge my symptoms as depression. Finally, the nurse practitioner at my OB/GYN office acknowledged that what I was going through indeed was depression and astonishingly shared her similar experience. It was sweet relief to just not feel crazy after managing my symptoms for a year on my own with diet and exercise.
Whole30 was the reset I needed postpartum to help me begin to take back my health. Hands down, my favorite non-scale victory with the Whole30 is an overall sunnier outlook on life. Eating Whole30 lessens my depression and anxiety and restores some of the confidence I have lost along the way. I know I am making the right choice for me and my health, and that puts some of the pep back in my step.
I do not take medications to help with my depression. I find that watching my diet and getting regular exercise are enough. Unplugging in nature is essential to my well being. I do also supplement with a variety of different vitamins that work for me. I have a few friends that chose to medicate their PPD and are doing amazingly well. I believe each mama going through this should explore her options, consult with a trusted healthcare provider, and choose a treatment plan that she is comfortable with. After discussing how I had been managing my PPD, my care provider was okay with me continuing. She gave me a direct number to a therapist specializing in PPD and instructed me to return if anything changed. I also receive support from a wonderful women’s group that I found at exactly the right season in my life.
While the mental health effects are my favorite NSV, I can also note increased energy (woo-hoo for actually being able to keep up with my two rambunctious daughters), less joint pain as well as lessened brain fog or “mommy brain.” Following a mostly Whole30 lifestyle has helped me to gain a better understanding of what my body is telling me and knowing to listen. I love baking and occasionally will bake for my daughters. Their requests are usually chocolate chip cookies or creme brûlée. I’ll have a few cookies or one dish of creme brûlée and am satisfied. I used to eat one dish and then reach for a second or at least a dozen cookies on my own from a batch.
For me, this is food freedom: Living a Whole30-inspired lifestyle and knowing that when I eat non-compliant foods, my world isn’t going to crash down around me. I know that my next food choice can be healthy and whole.
Advice for Struggling Mamas
Life will always get in the way if you let it. Self-care will always be a struggle, especially if you are like me and suffer from guilt driven by anxiety and depression. Get help if you feel like you are struggling. It took me 3 months before I couldn’t find the energy to pretend that I was okay anymore. I wish I had asked for help from the first days I felt myself slipping. The Whole30 isn’t easy, however, as more and more resources become available and more stores and companies are putting focus back into healthy whole foods, it’s becoming easier. Whole30 is hard, but PPD is harder. You can do it! You are not alone, mama.
Please note, this is Jordan’s experience, in her own words. The Whole30 is not a medical diagnostic tool, nor a replacement for working with a qualified healthcare practitioner. Speak with your doctor before beginning any new dietary or lifestyle program. Your results may vary.