Postpartum Depression and Turning Corners

Postpartum Depression and Turning Corners

Every year, I try my best to write about my personal struggle with postpartum depression.  It was such a huge part in the turning of chapters in my life, and I feel obligated to share with other mommas who may be experiencing, or could experience, the same hell I lived in for several months of my life.  PPD is left largely undiscussed.  No one really talks about the post-natal depression because it still widely viewed as “taboo” or a “non-issue”.  Hell, the “baby blues” are barely mentioned.  That fact has left me gobsmacked ever since Gabe’s arrival six years ago.  In fact, the longer I think about, the more ludicrous it’s absence in every-day talk seems to me.

Even knowing my family’s history of varied mental illnesses and depression, my OB/GYN at the time didn’t even warn me of the possibility that I might develop the problem.  I was very young — twenty at the time — and might have heard of PPD in passing, but never at length, and never from the one person who could have filled me in.  I don’t blame him in particular — I blame society, mostly.  A society that is in no way, shape, or form idyllic has these contorted views of what the “ideal” mother should be.  I’m telling you right now — the society that runs the world today should have no say in what an “ideal” mother is.  Plain and simple.

But backing off blame, I’m here to urge anyone who might have this problem or knows someone who might have this problem to seek help — NOW.  Asking for help is not embarrassing.  It does not make you a bad mother.  It does not take away from your parenting abilities.  IGNORING the problem, however, will absolutely emphasize the problem not only for the mother, but also for the people that surround her — including her child(ren).

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I have found that opening up a bit about my own conflict with PPD has helped a few women seek help and counsel regarding their own struggles.  It is still somewhat difficult for me to come forward with my own story, but it is something I am more than willing to do to spare anyone of the terror that went on inside of my own head.  So, here goes:

My Gabe was born on August 20th, 2009.  As luck would have it, my heart truly began beating on that day.  I, however, wouldn’t have that feeling of pride and warmth for several months after the fact.  All my life I’ve been told of these miraculous stories of “adoration at first sight” upon a mother holding her baby for the very first time.  That this feeling of pure bliss just soaks down into very fiber of their being without question and without exception.  A love that, as I’ve said before, is nearly nauseating.  I didn’t have those feelings.  In fact, I was very nearly numb to everything — except terror and the unknown.  The unknown of what I was experiencing; the surprising terror of being petrified — of an infant.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it and I was certain no one else would be able to, either.  So I kept quiet.  I kept quiet for nearly a year.

I’ll go to grave believing that a plethora of factors contributed to my depression; family mental illness, being overweight and in an unhappy relationship, working three jobs from sun-up to sun-down… I believe all these things contributed to my issues.  Add to that a rash of unstable post-natal hormones?  I was just waiting for someone to put me in a padded cell.  My attitude towards everyone, not just myself, was deplorable.  I couldn’t not cry — any and everything made me bawl.  I was living with my parents at the time and refused to be left alone with my own child — I was out of control on a downward spiral.  I needed help and I knew it.  But, due to my fear and hardheadedness, I decided to wait.  I waited almost too long.

For months, I would climb into my grandpa’s old leather chair when my parents would settle down for the night.  So every night from 10:30 to 4:30 the next morning, I would sit there, in my “safe place” — forcing myself to stay awake.  I feared that if I slept, I would hurt Gabe.  He slept soundly every night in my arms — never suspecting; trusting me fully.  He didn’t know that the person he trusted the most had no faith whatsoever in herself.  One day after a long night, I couldn’t tell if I was awake or dreaming.  Awful thoughts and fears poured into my mind as though someone had removed the top portion of my head only to fill it with fright.  Horrified and feeling monstrous, I finally sought help.  Adding to the fear of losing my mind, was the new thought that I could feasibly lose my child.  That the possibility of having my son taken from me could lie in whomever I sought counsel.  Sitting in the counselor’s office didn’t help any — waiting alone, wondering what would be said… what would be thought.  Finally, after what seemed like hours, my name was called.  I was led to another smaller office where I waited once more.  I considered running — I considered calling the appointment off under the guise of a “reschedule”.  What little common sense I felt I had at the time finally took course and I stayed, anxious and alone.  And then someone with the kindest eyes came in.  She held my hand.  She listened.  She let me express every fear I had, no matter how silly or unreal.  I talked until I was out of words and cried until my face was sore.  And after all was said and done, she hugged me the tightest hug I’d ever been given.  She assured me that I was not crazy and that everything would be fine; no one was going to take Gabe and no one wanted to.  To this day, I have not experienced the kind of relief that I did in that room.

We continued to meet for quite some time.  I was prescribed a strong antidepressant that gradually became less and less.  The last day of that prescription, I enrolled in a local college — I had been given two new reasons to live my life fully.  I finally had my little boy, even though I was never physically absent… and I’d been given my life back ten-fold.  It became my wish from that point to today to educate and spread the word regarding postpartum depression in its every form.  I hope you will do the same if you took anything away from this post.

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Postpartum depression is real and horrifying.  But there is help and hope.  For more information on PPD, follow this link.  If you or anyone you know is suffering from or could suffer from this problem, please seek help and encouragement.

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On That Day|A Blog Dare Post

On That Day|A Blog Dare Post

I was twenty-one when I first-born, Gabe, made his mark on the world and on my heart August 20, 2009.  Twenty-one when my life as I knew it changed.  Twenty-one when my first experience with depression was triggered.

I’ve written about this before, and I’m sure I will write about it again.  You see, I fought an emotion-shattering & mentally monstrous case of postpartum depression.  All my life I heard of women’s true love stories over their small ones.  Positive emotions that seemed to ooze from their every pore and tired eyes.  A sweetest love that seemed so genuine it was almost nauseating.  I hoped that I would feel those things.. the simplest form of adoration.  But, no matter my dream or intent, I did not feel those things.  No; instead of happiness I felt terror.  For the first time in my own short life I was petrified… of an infant.

To this day I believe that a series of poor lifestyle choices and awful “mojo,” if you will, contributed to my PPD.  I’m sure my poor relationship, terrible self-esteem, and even weight issues were absolute set-backs.  The raging hormones that weren’t doing their job was just the icing on the cake.  At that time I was certain that I was the only one being affected and tormented by my constant mood swings and sleepless nights; the only one even remotely damaged by the depression.  Now, looking back, I realize what a selfish thought process I had.  Until on that day… I realized I had to get help.  My son needed me to get help.  My parents — the only other people in my life aware of the problem– needed me to get help.  Not just for me, but for them… and not at all selfishly.

It was on that day, in my grandpa’s old leather chair, at 4:30 in the morning that I sat stock-still, eyes closed, praying for the previous nights’ agony end.  On that day, I promised myself and my boy that I would get help.  Because the terrorizing thoughts of violence and grief were just too much the night before.  I’d been in that chair from the time my parents called it a night until my mother woke up the next morning.  The chair was my safe place. A familiar place.  The only place in the entire house where I knew no harm would come to my Gabe, or to myself.  It was in that chair on that long-exhausted morning that I told my mom I needed to be seen and heard.  I didn’t know by whom — frankly, I didn’t care.  So on that day, now 2010,  I let go of my fears and sought help.

As if the mindset of PPD isn’t scary enough, the seeking of help is twice as agonizing.  It was for me, anyway.  I had waited a year to get help… and by that point I feared my mind was long gone.  I just knew they’d lock me away or, worse, take away my boy.  A psychologist’s waiting room always has certain marks, I’ve noticed.  In my experience they’ve always smelled of old books and put off a bleak and dismal feel — as if to really hone in on one’s already magnified problem.  And there I sat, alone; my thoughts amplified and fears on instant replay in my mind.  I sat there for what seemed like hours.  And then my name was called.  I got up and considered heading for the door.  Instead, my common sense finally kicked in and I walked back through a corridor that was, if possible, even more dreary than the lobby.  I finally found myself alone in a room once more.. patiently waiting on whoever was coming to strap me in to a straitjacket.  And then the kindest face walked in.  As if on cue, my fears of the visit lifted.  I talked until I thought I could speak no more and cried until my face was sore.  And the thing she did next stunned me into an almost painful silence; she hugged me the tightest I had ever been hugged.  She assured me that everything would be fine.  That it could be fixed — that could be fixed.  To tell you the relief that I felt is virtually impossible.  But a wave of thankfulness washed over me… and a wave of regret because I had not sought help sooner.

We continued to meet and I was given a strong anti-depressant.  As time went on, we met less and my dosage finally depleted.  And on that day, we celebrated a new start and a new-found, long sought after love that I would not trade for the world.

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Postpartum depression is real and horrifying.  It is also still taboo.  But there is help and hope.  For more information on PPD, follow this link.  If you or anyone you know is suffering from or could suffer from this problem, please seek help and encouragement.

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My Momma Calls Me Hercules

My Momma Calls Me Hercules

My momma calls me Hercules.  She has told me I was tough my whole life.  Of course, by “tough” she could have also meant hard to handle & stubborn.  Back before I had Gabe I was a handful; always getting into things I had no business getting into.  In fact, before I had Gabe mom & I weren’t nearly as close as we are now.  I used to blame her for that.  Looking back, I see my fault as well.  Anyway, she’s always half-joked that I was as stubborn as a bull and just as tough.  Truth be told, I’m far from tough.  I’ve always been terrified.  I guess I thought everyone knew that… but I suppose I was wrong.

Rewind to the summer of ’08.  I moved in with my boyfriend at the time, who is now my ex, not long after we started dating.  By not long I mean within a matter of weeks.  It was an unhealthy relationship from the beginning.  I don’t think either of us really wanted to be in such a serious stage of a relationship at that point, come to think of it.  But we were.  And so it began to unfold.  We began dating in July of ’08.  I was pregnant by November of ’08.  I wasn’t lying; when I said we moved fast I meant it.  Things began to rapidly deteriorate the moment we found out I was expecting.  I took the test at the store I worked at and cried all evening.  I told him when I finally got “home” that evening, half expecting him to ask me to leave, and half wishing he would.  He didn’t.  He & I stayed together throughout the pregnancy and until Gabe was nearly two months old.

We split just days before Gabe was 2 months.  To this day I don’t really know what prompted me to leave.  Roll your eyes if you need to, but I believe it was God impressing on my heart to leave.  No, I didn’t audibly hear him.  And no, I didn’t run into some hobo saying he was God and I was a sinner.  Hear me out, ok?  Shortly after I had Gabe, like– the moment I saw him, I felt strangely.  Something wasn’t right.  I didn’t know what it was at the time… but I knew I felt crazy.  Terrified to see a specialist or tell a doctor, I opted to seek pastoral counseling.  I saw a pastor in Pineville a few times.  Slowly he got me to open up a little to him.  After speaking with him, praying with him, and really thinking things through, I realized that the life I was leading (living with him outside of marriage) was not the right thing to do.  So I moved out.  A few months later I admitted to my mom that part of my moving was because we began to fight  a lot (usually at 2 in the morning) and that wasn’t good for the baby.  But that’s beside the point.  Anyway, so you’re probably thinking, “Why did you move out AFTER you had Gabe?  Wasn’t the deed done?!”.  And, you’d be right… partially.  Having Gabe could not be reversed (and I didn’t want it to), but living with his dad outside of marriage could be changed.  And although my initial guilt had gone away after I moved out, the strange and terrifying feelings were ever-present.  And that’s where the story REALLY begins.

Rewind a bit to when Gabe was born.  Naturally, for the few hours after his birth, I was in recovery.  But after they wheeled me into our room and handed Gabe to me, I felt an over-whelming feeling of uncertainty and a serious lack of any happy emotion.  As horrible as it is to say, I wasn’t really impressed with my boy.  I felt urges and had thoughts that I knew were not normal… I knew they weren’t sane.  I spoke with my parents while Gabe’s dad was out of the room; I had no one else to turn to and I knew they could help.  I have never in my life seen my parents try so hard to look like everything was fine, and have fear practically pour out of their eyes.  It was clear that they were just as hopeless as I was.

I struggled with the thoughts and insane emotions for months after I had Gabe.  I refused to be alone with him.. even for a short amount of time.  I was scared to death that I was going to hurt him.  I cannot express to you how badly I didn’t want to…. and equally, I cannot express how hard it was not to.  I stayed up nights terrified that I’d hurt him in my sleep.  I felt the only way to combat that was to stay awake.  So that’s what I did.  I’d sit in my grandpa’s old chair and just hold him all night, wide awake.  Finally, in January of ’10 I sought help.  First I met with my general doctor.  I did not, however, give him any specifics.  I just knew he’d take Gabe away, and even though that might have been a better fate, I couldn’t face it.  Oddly enough, I couldn’t face my son alone.  I told him I felt depressed and couldn’t get on top of it — which was partly true.  He gave me some medicine and it never worked.  Probably because I wasn’t completely up front with him.  A few months later, the thoughts and feelings worsened.  I knew I had to see someone immediately.  My mom helped me make an appointment with a therapist.  From there, I began meeting with a psychiatrist.  My first meeting with him was a quiet one.  I was scared stiff to admit to anything, even though that went against my better judgement.  Finally, I caved.  I told him what was going on, how I felt.  I knew he was going to have me committed and that he’d send Gabe to stay with his dad.

He didn’t.  He was patient; he was calm.  It was exactly what I needed.  He said that what I was experiencing was postpartum depression.  He took his time to understand and prescribed a different medicine.  Slowly, it began to work.  I felt happier and more secure around my Gabe.  Everything changed.

Nearly a year later, I’m happy to report that we are doing quite well.  There are days that I still have troubled days.. depression, anxiety.. but looking back I can clearly see that I’ve made strides that I never imagined possible.  I love my Gabe, and he loves his momma.  We are going to be fine.

My momma calls me Hercules.  In reality, I’m not so tough.  But I made it through the darkest time of my life, and now I’m seeing the sun.  I thank God for walking me through the hard time.  My faith in Him has only grown that much stronger.  Looking back now I see that there was never a time I would have laid a finger on my child; I really don’t believe God would have allowed it.  I had little faith when I first started on that road; nothing seemed like it would ever be the same.  It is truly amazing what God gets us through.

Postpartum depression is a real thing.  I never put much thought into it until I experienced it first hand.  It’s also taboo.  Most people, like myself, find it hard to talk about because it is such a terrifying feeling.  I, for one, felt like a monster.  I wasn’t the same, and it was such a drastic change.  But there are things that can combat it!  It is NOT an incurable disease!  It can be treated and when given proper attention, will dissolve.  I cannot stress the importance of letting someone know, though.  There’s no telling what might have happened had I not seen someone when I did.  If you or someone you know is or might be experiencing postpartum, I encourage you to seek help.  Talk to someone who has walked that path.  You’re not alone; I wasn’t alone.  I hate to sound like a motivational poster, but truly, together we can fight this.

I’d like to thank Zohrbak for, once again, inspiring me to write this.  I never would have uttered a peep had you not “gone first”.

Take care.

Sarah