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Inside Sources: Co-host shares her struggle with postpartum depression

Intermountain Healthcare has announced plans to build a new Primary Children's Hospital in Lehi. (File photo)

SALT LAKE CITY — At the beginning of “Inside Sources” on Monday, co-hosts Casey Scott and Lindsay Aerts agreed that they have each struggled with different problems. But they also agreed that both of their issues fell under the broad umbrella of suicide prevention.

Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day is Tuesday, Sept. 10.

The host of the podcast “Project Recovery,” Casey said he learned a lot from Lindsay in his own battle with alcohol addiction.

“Your ownership and getting the word going and starting a conversation,” he said.  I wondered, “How can I do that with my own, so I kind of mirrored it [Project Recovery] after you.”

Lindsay, who hosts “The Mom Show” on Sundays at 10 a.m. on KSL Newsradio, spoke about her struggle with postpartum mood and anxiety disorder that started with the birth of her daughter Lucy nearly five years ago.

The symptoms, she said, began with “scary, intrusive thoughts that bombard you out of nowhere and usually starts with a ‘what if… I just do this.'”

“I’m 100 percent an open book sharing what those thoughts are,” Lindsay said, “but oftentimes I refrain from sharing those thoughts in a public setting like this because the thoughts can be very triggering for someone who is in the midst of a postpartum mood disorder right now.”

And also, frankly, I just didn’t want people to think I was crazy. I was not crazy. I had an illness that was causing me these intrusive thoughts. And I now know that 91 percent of mothers have intrusive thoughts.”

“They were so out of character for me,” Lindsay said. “I was having thoughts of hurting my baby, and I knew that was not who I was. I knew I could never do that. But the thoughts were so piercing and paralyzing that I was like, ‘am I capable of these? What is happening to me?'”

“At this point,” Casey said, “are you talking to anybody?”

“I remember telling my husband, ‘You need to get me to the hospital because I’m not OK. I need a pill to take this away.”

Lindsay says the pills helped, but that they can’t eliminate postpartum mood disorder.

“I was really panicking. I also remember Googling: Does having scary thoughts mean I’ll act on them? That was my biggest fear.

“But I now know that thoughts are just thoughts,” Lindsay said. “They don’t cause actions unless you chose to act on them.”

“And no one teaches you that growing up,” Casey said.

I am so adamant now about teaching my daughter how to feel her emotions,” Lindsay said. “I think a lot of these problems that we’re seeing can be traced down to feeling emotions. And I really want to avoid feeling emotions a lot of times in my life, but it’s so necessary for healing.”

“So you tell your husband you need to go to the hospital, and what does he say?” Casey asked.

“He knew I didn’t need to go the hospital,” Lindsay said, “but he knew I needed help.”

Lindsay contacted her OB-GYN and said that she knew something was going on with her but didn’t know what it was. The doctor prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft and “sent me on my way. No follow-up, no nothing.”

But that didn’t work and “made me more sick,” Lindsay said.

“You’ve got that going on, but you also have a newborn at home. You got life still moving forward. You have three months before you have to get back to work,” Casey said.

Lindsay said she eventually received the right combination of meds and was able to see a therapist, who confirmed that Lindsay was indeed suffering from postpartum anxiety and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).

“That was probably a relief for you,” Casey said, “because you could finally put your finger on something. ‘Why are these thoughts coming into my head? Why am I feeling this way?'”

I know for so many women just having that language for what you’re experiencing brings such a relief,” Lindsay said. “The healing starts after that.

“And then I keyed in my support group — I keyed in my people,” Lindsay said. “I called my mom who was living in Maine at the time. She stayed for two months and took care of the baby while I was trying to recover. It was amazing.”

Lindsay said she created a code word for when she was experiencing intrusive thoughts.

“I would text my mom or my husband ‘elephant.’

“And they would text me back: Are you OK?”

“In the recovery world I live in,” said Casey, “the hardest part — and the most crucial part because it’s the first part — is asking for help.

“You don’t want to bother people, and you don’t want them to look at you different,” he said, “so you kind of sit there in your own world and say, ‘I can figure this out; I can do this’ and then you can’t and need help. Elephant, elephant, elephant!”

Lindsay said she didn’t want her struggle with postpartum anxiety to become her identity.

“I didn’t want people coming up to me in the grocery store, saying, ‘How’s your postpartum?” she said. ” I didn’t want people to think that I was always having a hard time.

“It did keep me from reaching out at times,” she said. “I think that’s a big stigma with both mental health issues in general and postpartum issues specifically. We as women are just socialized to handle everything.”

“You can’t?” Casey said.

“No. Can you?”

“No,” he said, laughing.

“I have two children under five, and I feel like I’m drowning constantly,” Lindsay said.

Casey pointed out that Lindsay only experienced postpartum with the first child.

“I thought that if you have it with one, you’d have with all,” he said.

“I was really lucky I didn’t suffer the second time around,” she said, “but it was a big consideration going into having a second child.

“If I have this again, can I handle it? That’s why I waited four years to have another one. I knew I had to be in the right place where I had the mental fortitude to handle this if it did happen again.”

“You were prepared, you had some tools and knew that this was a possibility,”  Casey said. “You could make a better-educated decision at that point.”

“Absolutely,” said Lindsay.