Six years ago, I woke up and wandered into my walk in closet. To my left, neurosis and psychopathy. To my right, temporary madness. I walked right past them to the very back of the closet and grabbed a pile of dusty boxes from the darkest corner.
There they were. All the members of the Postpartum Mood Disorder line, their labels obscured by years of dirt and grime, left there by the previous generation of women just for me. Chills ran down my spine as I placed the boxes on the floor and plopped down beside them, dizzy with anticipation.
Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and the most spectacular and rarest of them all – Postpartum Psychosis.
As I opened one, cobwebs covered my hands as stale air escaped.
I hyperventilated as the suspense of discovering my poison washed over me.
As I pulled the lid off, there it was, shining in all its glory.
Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder! I clapped my hands with glee, grinned, squealed, and slipped my toes into the bejeweled insanity, strapping my heels in for the bumpy yet glittery ride.
As I returned the other boxes to the shadowy corner, the fun times rolled full force ahead!
Horrible traumatic thoughts about harming myself and my baby slammed into me. I shivered in sheer delight. My anxiety level shot sky-high as my daughter screamed and fussed in the next room. And oh yes, my favorite of all – my newfound fear of kitchen knives as they became central to the little shards of horrificly delicious thoughts.
THIS is what I am talking about. This is awesomeness all wrapped up in a gorgeous pair of killer heels. Where on EARTH had they been my whole life? This rocked.
As I sat down in the living room to nurse my daughter for what seemed like the 50th time in less than 3 hours, I admired my fancy new shoes. They were hypnotic, yet psychotically tragic at the same time. But dammit, they were mine. Bejeweled, beveled, and shining like gold, they clung to my feet with a grip that just would not quit.
Slowly the sun slid beneath the horizon as the house darkened and a loud silence filled the world, screaming at me. Yet here I still sat, pinned to the couch, nursing baby on my boob, on my gazillionth episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, shoes still strapped to my feet. My heels blistered, my toes horribly pinched, my arches swelled, and my cankles threatened to devour the straps.
I wanted to take the shoes off. Now.
But baby wouldn’t stop eating. Life wouldn’t stop moving forward, swallowing me whole, the thoughts wouldn’t stop swirling around my head long enough for me to figure out how to undo the now almost buried straps beneath my cankles.
I pulled, I fought. I screamed, I wept, wailed, gnashed.
I needed professional help.
Had I waited too long? Had I done permanent damage to myself? To my marriage? How would I care for my baby if I could no longer function? What on earth had I really sacrificed to be so fashionable? Slipping on a PMD was the trendy thing to do, right? Why wasn’t this working for me? What the hell had I done wrong?
Turns out I had done nothing wrong.
And for the record, I didn’t really slip on a PMD. No, it crept up on me from behind, beat me over the head, and rode me like a drunken sailor rides a mechanical bull after one too many beers during shore leave.
I did NOT choose to have a PMD.
I do not claim to have a PMD so I can be like Dooce.
I do not claim to have a PMD so I can outdo your bad days.
I do not claim to have a PMD just because the cool kids are doing it.
I do not claim to have a PMD just because I want more traffic to my blog, dammit.
I started my blog to cope with an unexpected pregnancy AFTER two episodes of Postpartum OCD, one of which spit me out on my bed, rocking back and forth in the fetal position muttering “I don’t want to be Andrea Yates,” over and over to avoid grabbing a pillow and smothering my daughters. Yes, I said daughters.
My Postpartum experience couldn’t be solved simply by going home and calming my daughter down because even when she was calm, those thoughts still crashed against my shores, angry, unforgiving, and pushing me even further toward the overgrown jungle.
I for one, applaud mothers daring to be vocal about their experiences with PMD’s. As we raise our voices in a loud and beautiful chorus, more mothers are aware of what CAN happen after the birth of a baby. More mothers today know what to do, how to seek help, and have access to peer support immediately via the blogosphere, Twitter, Facebook, or other Social Media sites.
At the same time, I do agree that some might cry wolf. BUT – it is not my place to judge them. It is not my place to tell them to MAN UP. It is not my place to force them to a doctor so they can pop pills and become one of the “cool kids.” (By the way, if you go to a doc about a PMD and he/she immediately writes you a script, RUN. Run quickly. Find someone who rules out physical causes such as thyroiditis or anemia first. Please?) It is not my place to diagnose them. It’s not my place to compare their journey to theirs and try to one up them. It’s not my place to brag that my Motherhood Lane has more or less potholes. It’s not my place to blame them for feeling lied to if that’s what they express. It’s just not.
It’s my place to listen. It’s my place to show compassion. It’s my place to love them as they travel down their OWN Motherhood Lane. It’s my place to offer resources through which they will also find compassion, empowerment, and achieve the Motherhood Journey they so sorely yearn for as they lay curled in their beds, unable to get up because the thought of facing one more day has left them powerless. Or the thoughts racing through their heads have frightened them so much they want to sleep forever – because when you’re asleep, when you’re asleep .. those thoughts are quiet. But they’re there as soon as you wake up and when you have a new baby, let’s face it, you’re up a LOT.
Once again, disappointment creeps deep within my heart. I wish we could co-exist in our own spaces without offering critique. Without feeling like the grass on the other side is just a smidge greener and then offering suggestions on how to improve our neighbor’s lawn or gossiping with the other neighbor about how the problems we are having with our own lawn is SO much worse than the ones they are experiencing. Fire Ants? Yeh, well, I’ve got moles. Moles? I’ve got groundhogs. STOP IT. Just stop it.
Can’t we all just grab a margarita and tear down the fences between us without the competition? Please? Cuz that, that would rock.
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yes. completely right. there may be some people who are improperly diagnosed, or who jump to conclusions before being seen by a professional. but WHO GIVES HER THE RIGHT to pass out judgment like candy on valentine’s day? all i can say is, grown up honey. grow up.
Beautiful post Lauren! I blog about my experiences as raw as I can be so that the one woman who finds it will sit back and go “that sounds just like me and I CAN GET HELP and I WILL GET BETTER.”
through my PPD experience I have learned not to judge because everyone is different. It’s like pain…totally subjective…so who are we to judge what is worse and what is fake etc. It’s just wrong.
Like you said all we can do is listen and support. Stop the judgements!
PS. if PPD where like Jimmy Chu’s I’d have at least 10 closets full of em…. =)
I was never asked to have my thyroid checked or hormone level. I was just put on antidepressants, one after another and never reached a tolerable dose. After 6 months of living hell, i quit the antidepressant and am in CBT. Still havign these thoughts and wishing and hoping someday i i will get better.
Another great post, Lauren. I keep reading and every time I do something in me breathes a little easier. “By the way, if you go to a doc about a PMD and he/she immediately writes you a script, RUN. Run quickly. Find someone who rules out physical causes such as thyroiditis or anemia first. Please?) ” This is exactly what happened to me; when I finally got the courage up to go see my nurse practitioner and tell her how I was, she got me in to see my doctor right away. He asked me what I wanted him to do and I said “Help me feel better.” He wrote me a script for Prozac, explaining that my brain chemistry was out of wack. No tests, nothing. I never filled it and just kinda kept on going with my life.
several times I’ve come here, like today … and it’s been that sigh of relief that, I”m not alone … that I’m not cuckoo, that I’m coming thru … and that it will get better! Truly, this is one of the only sights that I’ve come too … that’s been a place of peace, peace of mind! Thanks for being a voice!
Lauren, once again you have hit the nail right on the head. Thank you so very much for writing this. The happenings of this past week to which I think you are referring have been horribly upsetting. I am so thankful for people like you who understand and can express these feelings so much more eloquently than I can.
AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN.
I DIDN’T WANT THIS. I don’t want it.
People dare suggest I want/fake Psychosis TO BE LIKE DOOCE?! No. The 8 days I spent in the hospital were not to be like Dooce or to drive traffic. They were to help me through withdrawel, help me find a better doctor, & keep me alive.
Thank you for writing this.
*standing ovation* Women are the most voracious, catty and awful creatures, it would almost make you think it is not the same animal that can be so nurturing and loving. I blame rabies.
Wow. So all this time it’s been rabies, eh? Suddenly it’s all so much clearer!
Oh thank you thank you thank YOU. I read this after reading all the messy PPD blog “wars” and comments and manning up and this and that…and…well, all that was what I told myself for NINE MONTHS. then i gave in. then i found you and the rest of the support on twitter and on blogs. I was surrounded by people who UNDERSTOOD. then today I was smacked in the face with my old thoughts of ‘is this real? can’t i just get over it? maybe i DON’T have anything wrong with me…i have been feeling good lately…maybe those “other” bloggers are right….”
I needed this tonight. I didn’t choose to cry and swear and and come THIS close to smacking my husband and child. It chose me. and I hate it. I want it to go away forever and ever.
Thank you for this awesome response. You are the best.
((hugs)) I’m so glad you found us. And I am SO glad you are speaking up about your experiences. It takes guts. It takes courage to pull through – and I commend you for fighting your way out. YOU are the best – beautiful, strong, and amazing. I can’t wait to see the growth which awaits you.