I have suffered from anxiety and depression off and on since college. I had PPD after the birth of my daughter in 2016, but an anti-depressant did the trick. I was able to wean off of it within 8 months and was pregnant with my son by the time my daughter was 16 months old.
When my son was born in April 2018, I thought it would be much easier since I wasn't a new mom, but it wasn't. He was a much different baby than my daughter and I felt like a brand new mom all over again. My husband was in a new career as well so he only had a week off with us. Since I had PPD before, I knew at 2.5 weeks postpartum that what I was feeling wasn't just the baby blues. I saw my OB and he prescribed the same antidepressant I was on with my daughter. The problem is, the meds don't full kick in for weeks and I was a mess.
I became a zombie. I couldn't sleep at night because I was so full of anxiety thinking about when my son would wake up next. I couldn't nap during the day unless I had someone watch him. I couldn't sleep when he slept and I started feeling resentful that my whole world was turned upside down. I would just sit on the couch and cry. I wasn't eating either and dropped down below my pre-pregnancy weight really quickly.
When my son was 4 weeks old, I had my first full-on panic attack. He was sleeping in his infant car seat on the coffee table while I sat there staring at him, just waiting for him to wake up and was paralyzed by what I would do when he woke up. I called my mom to come over and help me and called my OB. He gave me some quick working meds for the anxiety and ordered me to sleep through the night over the weekend. My mom and husband took over baby duties for three nights. I slept and felt a bit rested, but was still in a deep depression, compounded by intense guilt for not caring for my son.
Just a few days later, the day after my 31st birthday, I sat on the couch sobbing and feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience. I had no idea who I was. All I knew is that I wanted this feeling of hopelessness to end. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. I wanted to die. My mom and husband agreed it was time to go to the hospital.
As I sat at the ER in a paper shirt and pants with everything bolted to the room and an attendant watching me from outside the room, I realized I hit rock bottom. I sobbed as I explained how I felt to a behavioral response counselor. My mom teared up when she heard me say the only reason I had not taken my own life was that I didn't want to leave my daughter without a mom. I didn't want to live and I could tell it broke my mom and husband's hearts and so the guilt piled on. After discussions with the doctors and consultations with my support system, I was released to leave with the stipulation that I would see a psychiatrist the next day and enroll in an intensive outpatient program. My mom and husband thought time in the hospital would make me feel more guilty for not seeing the kids. I wasn't allowed to administer my own medication, so my husband hid my pills and gave them to me each day. I felt like a child.
The day after I left the hospital I was supposed to meet with a psychiatrist at a mental health facility. When my husband and I arrived, they told us there must have been a mix up in the scheduling done by the hospital and that they didn't have an opening for months. I sat in the waiting room feeling alone and depleted again. Someone who worked there must have seen my despair because she called me back to her office and went through a list of places in my area until she found one that could fit me in that week. Thank goodness for her.
My first day of group therapy (an all women group) was hard. I never imagined I'd be in a situation like this before, but it was where I needed to be. For three days a week, three hours each group session, I was forced to work on myself and give myself grace, which is something I've never been good at. I saw a psychiatrist weekly as part of the program who monitored my meds. My mom and husband did most night feedings for several weeks, but group therapy helped me let go of the guilt, eventually.
I completed 160 hours of group therapy during my maternity leave and learned coping skills, how to ask for help and how to stop beating myself up for being human. I learned what my triggers were and what to do when I felt triggered. It took time and baby steps to start to feel like I wasn't a complete failure.I still see an individual therapist and my psychiatrist on a regular basis and have officially been off the benzodiazepine that I felt dependent on for months.
I'm a work in progress. I have healthy days and sometimes unhealthy days, but I try not to beat myself up when I do. I journal and try to allow myself to feel emotions instead of pushing them away and try to teach that to my kids as well. I no longer feel resentment towards my son and have the amazing connection with him that I desired so much when he was born. He is a mama's boy and I love it.
I share my story in hopes of helping others. It's ok to not be ok. I'm almost a year into PPD and I still have tough times, but I know I'm worth it and understand that to be a good mom, wife, daughter, sister and friend, I have to take care of myself.
I went to Washington D.C. to advocate for better maternal mental healthcare in May. Mom Congress was truly amazing and I plan to attend next year as well. As a survivor, I want to make sure other moms who are struggling know they are not alone and understand the resources available to them.
My personal motto comes from the movie I watched hundreds of times on maternity leave, The Greatest Showman.
"I am brave. I am bruised. I am who I'm meant to be. This is me."