I have a weakness for snarky blogs and the first time I visited Stephanie’s blog Mommy vs Madness and saw her header that says “it’s not me, it’s you.” that I was going to like reading it. She has 2 beautiful boys and a refreshingly open style of writing that does in fact contain a good amount of snarkyness. She has a great blend of showing of and sharing her family life and raising awareness of PPD and other mood disorders. She also has a great resource page for postpartum mood disorders with an excellent checklist of symptoms to look out for if you think you are suffering from any type of postpartum depression or other mood disorder.
I am honored to be able to share story and her blog with you. When you are done reading her story here, head on over to her blog and check out the rest of what she has to say. You wont be disappointed.
I wake up in a cold sweat unable to move. I lay on a low bed on a thin mattress in a transition floor of the Regions Hospital psych unit. My thoughts are cloudy as I run through why my husband and the doctors would do this to me. Unbeknownst to me, I am still delusional and still suffering from postpartum psychosis.
The events of the previous night bring no recollection simply a shudder of fear.
For 9 days this hospital would by my home. But unlike my home, my worldly possessions sans a book or two are not at my disposal, only a tiny fraction of my life is allowed here and that fraction, like me, has been placed behind lock and key.
I would spend many hours staring at that locker behind the nurses’ station wishing I could open it, release my dignity and go home where I could just be the mother and wife I wanted to be—tried to be.
In fact, I probably tried to do too much; protect my baby from every danger imaginable, breastfeed, cloth diaper, do homework with my older son, clean the house, be the perfect wife and legal student with a perfect GPA, but the harder I tried the harder I would sink and sink and sink until one day the reflection in the mirror was unrecognizable.
Most days I never left the master bedroom. Everything I thought I needed in the world was there; my bed, my laptop, my breast pump and my baby which I was sure only I and this room could protect him from all the tragedy in the world. This was our space.
Was I happy? No. But I felt protected by those four walls. It was an environment I could control. But I was simply just miserable.
Typing an email was exhausting; texting a friend was even more exhausting. I stopped answering or making phone calls and I dreaded the day when my maternity leave would be up.
Every day I was in tears over the fact that I was one day closer to leaving this room and sending my baby to the hands of a stranger to be cared for or because I wasn’t good enough for my baby. I thought he deserved so much more.
A few days before I was supposed to return to work, I quit my good paying, stable, and career level job. My husband was angry, but I just couldn’t do it. I would’ve been fired had I returned-assuming I could even walk through those double doors. The antidepressants prescribed by my OB/GYN did fuel a fire in my emotions but only one of hyperactivity, irritability and rage. I eventually sought
help of a psychiatrist at the insistence of my husband and started new medication. But before it could take effect I was hospitalized for believing the CPS was out to steal my baby because I was such a horrible mother. After the hospital, I was so ashamed of how much my mind had failed me. I was embarrassed to face my husband, my family, my in-laws and even my older son. This shame only seemed to drive my depression deeper.
I started a partial hospitalization program (PHP). PHP is a 9am-5pm program that is just like a hospital stay but you return home in the evening. There was group therapy, relaxation, mindfulness sessions, coping skills and I saw a Dr. 3 times per week each of the 6 weeks I was there.
Over time, I did get better. I no longer became anxious around cars parked on the streets, or by being followed more than a few turns by a car behind me.
The thing about dealing with a mood disorder of any sorts is people automatically assume that just because you leave a hospital or because you are taking medication that you are better, that you can just resume your normal life and not look back. But for many and for me, it doesn’t work that way. It takes hard work, time and the utmost patience to reach that place of “sanity” again.
I struggled for nearly 8 months after the hospital (~18 months after birth) and a few setbacks before finding a new, more healthier, optimistic me. And I am there most of the time.
In the end I was officially diagnosed with postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis and postpartum onset bipolar disorder. The latter is not widely discussed as a postpartum mood disorder, but it can be. As the eternal optimist there is a lot to gain from experiencing a postpartum mood disorder. I cherish my children and family even more for their love and support.
It can be empowering to me, knowing I have been in a deep dark place with no control and fought my way to the surface.
And I have a burning desire to give back to the mental health community. I plan to go into Mental Health Law when I finish law school, I have been walking for NAM, learning how to give back through teaching their peer-to-peer courses and have even dedicated all the proceeds of my blog to such charities.
Yes, I have set backs. Things are not nor will they ever be perfect, but I am here, outside a four-walled fortress, with no lockers or hospital gowns living life and most of all I am happy again.
If you are a Postpartum Depression Survivor, and wish to share your story, you can find all the details at The Nut House Community. Sharing Your Voice is a weekly feature at The Nut House and visiting authors share their stories on Mondays.