Please note that I am not a medical professional. Please consult your doctor about your next steps as needed. I’m sharing my experience with post weaning depression (latent PPD/PPA) to bring awareness to maternal mental health.
“You’re fine. You’ve done this before, twice!”
“Who gets PPD/PPA when the baby is 1+?”
“Koreans don’t talk about stuff like this. Don’t speak it, don’t tell your friends.”
“Therapy is for crazy people.”
“You’re the strongest person I know, you’ll be fine.”
“People like us (Asians) don’t go to therapy. [But they need to because we’re crazy AF.]”
An Asian Mom’s Experience with Post Weaning Depression (Latent PPD/PPA)
In summer of 2018, I weaned Baby B after a year of breastfeeding. Unbeknownst to me, this was the start of latent PPD/PPA and post weaning depression that lasted on and off nearly a year before I finally sought help from professionals.
I still remember the feelings of emptiness and worry that I felt every night that summer. If I close my eyes for even just a second, I still feel my chest tightening up from the memories.
I had no idea what it was at the time. It didn’t cross my mind that I was experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety. Who experiences PPD/PPA after their baby is one? It just didn’t make sense to me at the time.
What is Post Weaning Depression / Latent PPD/PPA?
This is an article on Parents.com that hits the nail on the head. Post-weaning Depression or Latent PPD/PPA is a term used to describe depression that can occur after a woman stops breastfeeding. It can come as a result of hormonal fluctuations and/or the psychological stress of weaning.
My Experience with Latent PPD/PPA
The summer after Baby B turned one was busy and chaotic as any other summer. We were in the thick of building our new home. And the boys were enjoying all the usual fun, summer activities. I am a summer lover and live for these months every year. Yet, that summer was filled with a lot of sorrow and sadness.
I had nothing to be sad about: the kids were healthy and thriving, David and I were really in our groove as a couple and as parents. Work was fulfilling and I had plenty of down time for myself.
Yet, nearly every night that summer, I’d stay up for hours on end in a battle of endless thoughts and questions and anxieties about my life.
Am I a good mom / wife / daughter / person? What am I doing with my life? What’s the purpose of all ‘this’? How am I going to keep doing ‘this’?
I’d wake up every morning and get through the days, trying my best to ignore and push away these intrusive thoughts.
And it was like that for the better part of a year.
What symptoms did you experience?
While symptoms may be similar, they’re also vastly different for every woman and mom. For me, the recurring symptoms of post weaning depression were:
- night sweats
- intrusive thoughts
- lack of appetite
- panic attacks
I know these symptoms sound pretty generic and common. And I thought so too, for over a year. It’s what kept me from thinking that it was anything more than just the exhaustion that is mom life.
What finally broke me and sent me to seek out therapy was a full blown panic attack, while I was away from home, at a work conference last April.
As soon as I got back, I called the doctor that I’d googled in the months prior, set up an appointment and went in as soon as I came back from the trip.
Breaking Down Cultural Stigmas about Mental Health
When you grow up as a 1.5 generation immigrant (born in Korea, raised in the US), you’re constantly going back and forth between cultural norms of two vastly different ones.
I researched and googled all the things about pregnancy and motherhood. But, nothing prepares you for something like this. There’s hardly any information nor any readily available services about post weaning depression. I mean, even my 6 week post partum check up, was nothing more than a list of standard questions that my OB went through to make sure I wasn’t depressed then. Let alone, after a baby’s first year. The lack of support and mental health services seems to be great when it comes to maternal care.
That coupled with my cultural upbringing of “Asians don’t go to therapy,” stopped me from finding help for a long time.
Even my search for a culturally-matched professional in the mental health space was a tough one. While I was hoping to see an Asian psychiatrist, I didn’t have any options near me. The closest one was a 1.5 hour drive away.
The cultural stigma of mental health exists even on the professional side for Asian Americans. I’d like to say I was surprised, but I wasn’t.
What treatment worked for you?
Regardless of my lack of resources, I’m glad I went to therapy. Exactly, 1 year ago, I went to my first session to unleash years of mental health struggles.
My eyes were unveiled and I haven’t looked back. My first few therapy sessions made me dig deep into a lot beyond just my post weaning depression. If anything, it made me realize that I probably dealt with a lot of postpartum anxiety after my first son.
The obsession of his naps and schedule, the physical torture I’d feel when I felt like his needs weren’t being met. The constant worry and fear of making sure I could keep my baby alive. I didn’t know it at the time, but I know better now.
Therapy continues to be my guiding light in motherhood. It’s also been the only reason I’ve been able to peel back layers of my cultural identity, too.
How are you now?
2019 was one of the most exciting times in our family (moving to our new home). But, personally, for me – it was one filled with ups and downs. Emotionally and mentally it was the hardest year of my life.
It really wasn’t until the end of the year, with the hope of a fresh start, tools and knowledge in hand, that I started seeing the light at the end of my dark tunnel.
I’m still a constant work in progress. I have more good days, but still have bad days. I just feel better prepared to handle those down days. I know what I need to do to truly “fill my cup.” And I don’t get down on myself for having a bad day. Checking up on my mental health, is no different than caring for my physical health.
I’ve tried a few different therapists during the last year. Some were great for the time, but I haven’t found THE one yet. Regardless, the tools and knowledge that I learned through my various therapy sessions is what’s helped me manage my mental health on an ongoing basis.
I go for check-ups, actively participate in all of the healthful things that help me day to day. Talk space is a great resource for busy moms, especially during these current times, where we’re not able to go in for an in-person session.
To be honest, I’m not ruling out medication as a part of my ongoing treatment. But, that will be decided in the future, as needed, along with my doctors.
I share my story with hope to break down the cultural stigma & bring light to moms like me, especially Asian mamas. You are not broken. You are not crazy. You are absolutely not alone.
Resources for Maternal Mental Health
My friend Katie has an amazing list of resources she shared here. I know that the first step in seeking treatment is the hardest. Here’s how I found the help I needed to learn the tools to manage and take care of my mental health:
- I am blessed to know many moms who are very open about their mental health. I talked with friends for months on end, through my darkest days. If it wasn’t for this outlet, I know that it would have been even longer before I took the proactive steps to seek out professionals.
- With the encouragement of my friends, I started researching local counselors and mental health practices in my area.
- Psychology Today was the website that I used most often in my search.
- Talk Space is an amazing online tool and resource to help you stay connected to your mental health professionals.
- I also used Better Help in my search to find a mental health expert.
An Asian Mom’s Experience with Post Weaning Depression (Latent PPD / PPA)