The following piece is an original story which was submitted for consideration. The author takes you from one of the darkest places she has ever been in to a place in which she offers hope to others. She’s still struggling in the midst of it all but thankfully has hope on her team these days. Without further ado, I give you this week’s Postpartum Voice of the Week:
I didn’t have a “mom” growing up. I had no one to teach me right from wrong, no one to talk to, no one to look up to. My mom was physically there, just enough to scrape by with the title of “mom.” When I needed her to get through some of the darkest times of my life, she wasn’t around. I was so miserable having someone who was supposed to be there, but who wasn’t. I had promised myself that I would be the mother to my kids that I never had.
The time came for me to be mom when my first child was born in 2008. I was overjoyed, ecstatic, blessed to have such a title and to give everything I had to this little baby. We welcomed his younger sister into our family in early 2010, and with that, our family was complete. I was ready to raise these children in a family full of love and be the best mom I could possibly be. I was meant to be a mom, it was the only aspiration I ever had.
Having had a difficult childhood myself, I knew the face of depression. I understood feelings of being worthless, hopeless, and simply not good enough. What I didn’t know was that these feelings could accompany the birth of a child. After my daughter was born, things gradually started getting worse. I would become irritable with every cry, angry every time a bottle wouldn’t soothe my crying little one, and just hostile when things weren’t going the way I had planned. Six months had gone by; I had brushed the feelings off my shoulder as if they were “normal.” I had 2 kids under 2, things were supposed to be hectic, right? Running on very little sleep, being needed by two kids simultaneously with only 2 hands was enough to make any mom a little discouraged when things were rough and there was no help in sight.
Six months postpartum, I had noticed I wasn’t getting better. The irritability was at its worst, I had those same feelings of worthlessness that I had once experienced, I had no desire to take care of my kids, I had no desire to even take care of myself at this point. I let all the housework go, I cried at the drop of a hat even when I had no logical reason for crying, I started spending more time in bed, and nothing seemed worth it anymore. I had awful thoughts of leaving my children, my family, and never looking back. I just didn’t want anything. I felt like a failure; I wasn’t even good at what I wanted to be for so long…a mom. My children didn’t deserve me anymore. I kept thinking of my mom, and how there were times I wished she weren’t around-that she weren’t my mom. I didn’t want my kids to grow up wishing I wasn’t their mom or that I wasn’t around because I was a spitting image of my own mother. I thought taking myself out of the equation was the best decision for my family. I whole-heartedly believed someone could do my job better.
No matter how much I wanted to in that moment, I couldn’t ever leave my children. Ever. I knew something was wrong, and I needed help immediately before such irrational thoughts became my reality. I asked my husband to drive me to the hospital, that it was an emergency. He really had no idea what was going on, my feelings were kept to myself because I didn’t want anyone to think bad of me or that I was a bad mom for having such thoughts. After being evaluated for an hour, I wanted to walk right back out the doors I walked in. I was scared; there was no way I belonged there. Seeing other patients walk the halls with their head down, the screams that came from rooms down the hall that warranted a handful of doctors to hurry off, I knew this was a mistake. My anxiety was too much for me to handle at this point. The evaluating nurse asked me many questions that left me with feelings of shame. How could I have such deep, dark feelings when I have two beautiful children at home needing me? Needless to say, I was admitted. There was no turning back, I was there and there was no way out. Although I knew this wasn’t the right place for me, I made the decision to get everything I possibly could out of this hospital stay. I told the numerous psychiatrists and therapists I saw on a daily basis exactly how I felt, why I was there, and let them in on my life (which is something I don’t do until I have full trust in a person). Against medication from the beginning, I openly tried whatever meds they wanted to put me on because I was desperate to get better. I was diagnosed with PPD/PPA/PPOCD. What was that? I had no clue there was such a diagnosis. I was never talked to about this. After nearly a week of being there, I was released…sent on my way. I had the number to a psychiatrist and a therapist whom I was instructed to follow up with. I did just that. The psychiatrist changed my meds completely, and it was only weeks before I started to really see an improvement in my behavior. I’m still working on finding the right combination of meds to keep me stable, and we’ll go from there.
What I can tell you is that I now have hope that things will get better. If someone would have told me something, anything, about PPD ten months ago, I wouldn’t have hit rock bottom before reaching out for help. I wouldn’t have gone through four months of absolute misery thinking of how bad a parent I was and how guilty I felt that I couldn’t take care of my own children. I saw multiple healthcare professionals during my months postpartum- the OBGYN, my family doctor, my children’s doctor, nurses at hospitals when my kids were sick, yet no one ever asked me how I felt emotionally. I was too afraid to bring up my feelings, fearing they would tell me it was all normal and I was worrying too much. I almost took my life because I thought I had ruined not only myself, but my children. I almost walked out on the two most important people in my life because I thought I was crazy. The fear of admitting the awful thoughts I had was bizarre. I believed people would immediately think I was “crazy” or “undeserving” of my children. But I reached out. I took control of my own behavior. I waited too long hoping that someone would help me. I waited too long thinking I would eventually get better on my own. I waited too long to take this illness by the horns and control my own destiny. I wanted to get better so bad for my children, for my family. However, it took me wanting to get better for MYSELF before I had the courage to do so, to reach out and put myself and my feelings out there into the hands of people who have the control and the knowledge to help me. My biggest motivation was the thought of having to live the next day as miserable as the day before. Things needed to change.
These postpartum mood disorders have me in check. Every time a thought passes through my head that I have conquered this beast, I am made aware that I am still on my journey to recovery. I am, by no means, fully recovered from PPD/PPA/PPOCD, but it no longer controls me. I control it.
As awful as this journey has been, I have become a better person because of it. I have learned to cherish every moment with my children, from the sleepless nights to the temper tantrums. I have learned to appreciate things for what they are, rather than what I want them to be. Most importantly, I have learned that even in the late hours of the night, or on my darkest days, I am stronger than I think I am. I can get through the bad things, and things will get better. There is hope, and that’s what keeps me going…