The War: Light

dealing-with-1

This is the third blog post in a 5 part series called, The War. I invite you to read, empathize, understand, and share my story with others: new moms, especially. I am not ashamed of what you are about to read, but the stigma of post partum depression is very real and polarizing. Start the discussion with others. Join it if someone shares theirs with you. You are not alone.

Part One: Breaking Point
Part Two: Darkness

I can’t say that the sun shone for me in full force that first day I started feeling better. In fact, I was wary of it because of how dark I felt just twenty four hours before. About two weeks after beginning my medication, I started to get my mojo back. I was being creative and laughing at the nuances of life again. All of these things that I had forgotten were a part of my soul were starting to emerge again. Color returned to my face and people commented that I looked better. Happy, even.

During my time off, I had tried to be gentle with myself. I rested when I felt tired, and I went on walks with Lo around the neighborhood, and I ate what I wanted, and I took every single appointment with a therapist I could book. Because I needed accountability and reassurance. I needed to be told that I was going to be able to handle life again, even when I didn’t believe it to be true.

I asked for help from friends. I indulged in retail therapy. I cuddled my fat dog in bed, for lazy afternoon naps. I gave my mind a much-needed break. And what I found from this time was that I hadn’t been ready to go back to work at 9 weeks postpartum. I relished the time with Baby Lo now, 5 months old, smiling and laughing and cooing “mama”, napping on my chest, smiling at me with her beautiful blue eyes. She was much more therapy to my soul than anything else I encountered. She got me through it.

And for weeks of soulful rest and carb-eating and sunshine and fresh air, I started to feel incrementally better. I had energy! I could take on the day when I woke up in the morning. I looked forward to going back to work.  I could make logical plans without feeling utterly exhausted or overwhelmed; I believed that I could complete everything that I set out to do. I didn’t dread the night anymore. When Lo cried, I felt calm, rational and I could hold her and comfort her and tell her that it would be okay- because for the first time since she was born, I didn’t want to join her in crying hysterics.

And I shared my story. I told everyone who asked- friends, family and people on Facebook. I wasn’t looking for pity- I was looking for camaraderie. I knew I couldn’t have been the only one going through it: and I was right! So many people messaged me and commented and told me that they, too had dealt with perinatal mood disorders- anxiety, depression. Many had stories so close to mine- and they even said that they were afraid to talk about it out loud, just like me! I found a tribe of people, who I didn’t even know, who wrapped their arms around me in my time of need- who, in some ways, know my struggles better than my friends and family. Thank you, MLPC, for being there for me when I shared my story with you. Listening to your stories and hearing your words of encouragement helped me more than you’d ever know- and encouraged me to write this blog entry with such candor.

I still have days where the darkness seeps in, and I have to be kind to myself on those days. I have to know that not every day is going to be like it was before I became a mama; I’m not the person that I was before. And hopefully, someday I’ll be able to be better than I ever was.


The War: Darkness

dealing-with-1

This is the second blog post in a 3 part series called, The War. I invite you to read, empathize, understand, and share my story with others: new moms, especially. I am not ashamed of what you are about to read, but the stigma of post partum depression is very real and polarizing. Start the discussion with others. Join it if someone shares theirs with you. You are not alone.

Part One: Breaking Point

I arrived in Kansas City with Adam and Lo with little fanfare. I didn’t tell people I was coming back because I just wanted a few days to catch up on sleep and adjust to my new medication. I’d be back to new and I’d go home to conquer my life again in just six days.

The first thing I did was give up breastfeeding. While this was such a tough thing for me to do, I knew that I needed to focus on my mental health and it was causing me stress. Pumping and feeding- along with an unpleasant, depression-like milk letdown feeling, had me dreading every session. I cried at the thought of feeding my child formula. However, I knew that my window of opportunity was closing- I was rapidly approaching the point of no return with my mental health and I needed to grab the reins then.

But the new medication was too much; I was given something to bring back my appetite and help me sleep, that left me in a zombie-like state for 20 hours. I went to bed at 8 pm each night, with Adam and the baby following at 10 pm. It wasn’t like me- I’m usually the life of the party! Being with others refuels my spirit, not squashes it.

Lo still wasn’t sleeping, especially in the new environment. She wouldn’t sleep in the crib in our guest room, so most nights we struggled in the dark to make a bottle and squeeze her into the bed with us. Adam and I took turns, but I wasn’t getting any more rest in Missouri than I was Pennsylvania.

We returned home and all of the stressors we left behind came back in full force. I met with a post-partum specialist the first day back. I had chewed my nails down to nubs. I used practically a whole box of tissues on her desk that day.

I remember saying out loud, “I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that scares me, because that’s always been one of my best personality traits- positivity.” She looked at me and said, “You aren’t you right now. Your body and brain are under so much stress, you’re in survival mode.” She was right. But I didn’t feel like I was surviving, I felt like I was drowning.

She rallied the troops. She called my doctor and got me an emergency meeting the next day. She called another contact who checked in on me over the weekend. She encouraged me to call friends and ask for help. She text me throughout the weekend to make sure I was feeling okay, and re-assured me that I wasn’t alone.

This was the lowest I had ever felt in my life. I felt like a complete and utter failure. I had forgotten what it was like to feel good, to feel normal. I stayed in bed or on the couch while the dishes piled up and we ordered pizza. My little girl was the only thing that got me through these dark days.

How could I feel this way? I had a wonderful baby! Smart and sweet and pretty good (even without sleeping much!) It was hard to see Adam, who has always relied on me for strength, to see me like this. I could see the look of worry in his eyes, at one point patting a crying baby and me at the same time- telling us both that it would be okay. He said it to her because he meant it, he said it to me because he hoped it would be true. (More on Adam’s story here).

I became anxious as I got my return to work date. I didn’t want to go back. How would I handle it all again? I couldn’t even handle it while I was off every day, sleeping most of the day and not participating in much life activity. How could I do it all?

And then, one day, the sun started shining for me again. It wasn’t a full on sunshine, but it was enough to break through that cold, hard exterior I’d built around me the last few months. I felt my chest lighten a bit. I could breathe just a little easier.


The War: Breaking Point

dealing-with-1

A month ago, I wrote about my battle with post-partum anxiety in The Battle. When I let those words pour out of me and into the public but safe space, I felt freed. For a couple of weeks, I felt I had conquered this anxiety problem and it would merely be remembered as a footnote in my post partum recovery. But I was wrong. Because just a few weeks later, I would hit rock bottom in way that I never knew I could.

This is the first blog post in a 5 part series called, The War. I invite you to read, empathize, understand, and share my story with others: new moms, especially. I am not ashamed of what you are about to read, but the stigma of post partum depression is very real and polarizing. Start the discussion with others. Join it if someone shares theirs with you. You are not alone.

 

Lo was an easy sleeper: she started sleeping through the night at 3 weeks old, and it scared me so much that I called the pediatrician and said, “There’s something wrong with my baby, she slept all night!” The doctor chuckled and told me to enjoy it: it would be short lived. Well, she was partly right- we enjoyed peaceful sleeping up until week 13, when she started waking every half hour to nurse, or just to be held. Sleep deprivation slowly crept into my body and brain, into my relationship with others, with her.

Working full time and being a mom wore on me, but I suffered silently as it eroded my attitude and mood. I was breastfeeding and pumping four times a day at work. I was exhausted, irritable with people, very blue. I’d rush home to see Lo at the end of the day, just feeling so tired but excited to cuddle and kiss her. She was my only bright spot on those days.

But I dreaded the night. I started becoming more anxious in the evenings, chewing my fingernails, even pulling out my hair, anxious ticks that I couldn’t control or stop. I went in to see my doctor who had been managing my care. She told me that she’d done all she could do and she was concerned that this was deeper than just a surface mood disorder. She hesitated to say Post Partum Depression, but we both knew it had gravitated there.

I took mental health days from work to try to get out of the funk. I took the baby to daycare and came home to sleep- I didn’t want to get out of bed. I When I returned, I felt like a zombie and I couldn’t concentrate on my work. My boss called- and the truth came rushing out of me. I told her about all of it, how I was doing fine, until now. But at that point, I was just sad and anxious- I still had a grip- at least, that’s what I told myself. It’s just the baby blues! But it had been four months. But I was crying in my car on my lunch break. My grip was slipping.

I stopped pumping, I rarely ate. I was spiraling fast. I made all of the calls I could- to post partum specialists and counselors and clinics and psychiatrists- and if they did take my insurance, they were booking over two months out. I lost it- I was crying constantly. My brain was swarming with so much anxiety, I knew I was reaching my breaking point and I needed help fast- but who could I turn to now? Medical appointments book at a glacial pace- and even though it was early November, I took the first appointment- December 12- in between sobs as I learned on the steering wheel of my car.

When your mind is under so much stress, everything seems to be painful- simple brain functions such as memory are impaired- I couldn’t tell you what I ate yesterday or what I worked on. I couldn’t answer Adam’s simple questions about the dishes or the laundry- I couldn’t function. My boss and I discussed options and she urged me to take some time off of work to get better. It wasn’t like me to feel this way, and she recognized the need for self care at that moment.

It was at this point that I decided I needed to be surrounded by family, but I wasn’t ready to splurge $700 on plane tickets back to Missouri. Then my sister called. “I’ve been through this too, you know. Not nearly as bad as you, but I can relate to what you’re feeling,” she said. “Come home, let us take care of you for a week or so. Then you can get your head on straight and go back refreshed.” Those were the words I needed to hear. No one had offered to take care of ME before! I was always taking care of everyone else!

Somehow, someone pulled enough strings to get me an emergency appointment with a new doctor. I bought two tickets to Kansas City, with a new prescription in hand, and I boarded a plane back home. I had high hopes for rest and relaxation surrounded by family.

I wish I would have known things were going to get worse before they were going to get better.