Has been the absolute worst month of my life in all honesty. And it definitely wasn’t because we were blessed with the most precious little girl, but it was because of the aftermath that followed.
I always thought that my very first post about Emerson’s birth would be her actual birth story – which I will write about later on – but I feel like I have something far more important to share, for the simple fact that someone out there may be experiencing this right now and needs to know that they are not alone. Because that is what I so desperately needed, to feel like what was happening was normal and that I wasn’t simply going crazy.
Thanksgiving day I was feeling more stressed out than normal. It was only a few days after Emerson was born, and holidays ALWAYS stress me out. I am a people pleaser, I hate to be late, I want everything to be perfect and I am always trying to create memories for the girls. I wanted this Thanksgiving to be no exception, but I was exhausted, overwhelmed and just at my limit. I figured I just needed sleep and I would be fine, but I was surprised when my anxiety began to get worse after we got home from our celebration. I texted my mom “I think I am having a panic attack…” and she came over. After about an hour, I thought that it had past, so I went to bed and that’s when everything hit the fan.
Matt left for work and the anxiety kept building until by 6am I was in a state of panic and fear that I cannot even begin to describe. I thought I had lost it, that I was dying, that I was going crazy and that my world was coming to an end. I called the doctor who advised me to go to the emergency room. I said goodbye to the girls honestly believing in my head that they were going to lock me up for being crazy. I had no idea what was going on….
At the hospital they made me feel a bit better, by explaining to me that this was in fact “normal” , even though it definitely didn’t feel like it. I went home exhausted but encouraged that through medicine and prayer this would all be gone within a few days….
What really happened was the beginning of “severe onset post partum panic/anxiety disorder” – which basically meant that for weeks I had panic attacks all night long, was exhausted all day and overcome with severe depression over the belief that the life I once had and loved was gone forever. I sat frozen for hours on the couch, could barely take care of m kids, couldn’t be left alone and didn’t want to leave the house or talk to anyone. The sheer thought of Matt returning to work sent me into a panic attack immediately, and at the advice of my doctor he took medical leave from work. It was either that or I go back to the hospital because it just wasn’t getting any better.
My mind was failing me. The thoughts that kept swirling in my head scared me even more – “you’re depressed”, “you’re scared”, “you’re life is meaningless”, “you’re life is over”, “you’re a bad mom”, “you’re an awful wife”, “Does God even care about you?”, “would these people be better off without you?”, “you know you can’t live like this forever….”, “you’re burdening everyone”, and on and on and on. A constant stream of incredibly negative thoughts that couldn’t be turned off, combined with the physical affects of panic – trembling, heart racing, chest tightening, stomach churning. It was beyond awful. I woke up every day determined to be better and fight through it and went to bed every night defeated, exhausted and fearing the next day.
I tried everything I could think of, from changing my diet, to natural supplements, mental health medications and prayer. Nothing seemed to be working and I kept getting the same answer everywhere that I didn’t want to hear – “you need to give it time.” Time was the one thing I felt I didn’t have, my kids needed their mom back, I needed my life back….
But then slowly, something started to change. The medicines seemed to start to help, I began to have a few moments of clarity each day, I could engage with people, I could do more things at home. I stopped being frozen all day, and then finally – I slept. For the very first time, I went back into my bedroom (where I couldn’t go for two weeks as the reminder of that first panic attack brought on subsequent attacks) armed with my Xanax and some worship music, determined to make it through the night. When I woke up and realized I had made it, I realized that I could fight through this and come out on the other side, stronger and better than before.
So here I sit, a month into the process and I am feeling better, but not completely healed. In fact, writing this is causing me the most anxiety that I have felt in a few days, as reliving it brings about the fear that I could go back there.
I am still taking Xanax, and waiting for my Zoloft to fully kick in, though I can tell that it is helping some already. I take natural B-vitamin, and D vitamin supplements, consume a ton of protein, drink massive amounts of water and spend a lot of my day talking myself out of depressive, negative thoughts. But I am a long way from that trip to the hospital. Matt finally was able to return to work, and though I get stressed out and anxious, I am confident in my ability to care for the girls at home.
The worst part of all it now is the lingering depression, which comes in waves now. I can rationally tell myself that I am happy and enjoy my life, that I love being a mom, that God is with me and working through me – but most parts of the day I just don’t “feel” it. For a person who has spent most of her life operating based on “feelings”, it has been a tough road.
But I know that I am healing, that God will use all of this for good, that I will come out better on the other side and that it won’t last forever. I can already see it getting better and that excites me. This has caused me to really evaluate how much time I spend worrying, and thinking about the future instead of living in the now with this amazing family the Lord has blessed me with. It has caused me to look at my relationship with the Lord and really be honest about how much I trust Him and how much I tend to try and just fix myself. It has caused me to be honest about how things around me affect me, to look at how I feel instead of how everyone else feels and to begin to find the areas in my life where healthy boundaries need to be set. It has caused me to remember that more than a mom, I am a person who needs to look after herself in order to look after her family – a thought that hasn’t occurred to me much over that past 7 years.
I will continue to document the healing process as it comes, and I know that I have quite the road ahead of me. But in the midst of all the panic, anxiety and negativity there is this small part of me that is excited to see the person who comes out at the end of all of this. I am excited to find the me that worries less, trusts God more, enjoys life more and takes care of herself. This small part of me grows a little each day that I made it through with out a panic attack, each time I find myself laughing again with my kids, each time I accomplish one of my “normal” daily tasks without fear and every morning that I wake up feeling rejuvenated from having actually slept.
I am ashamed to admit that I always thought that post partum disorders were what happened to other people. I took great pride in my ability to seamlessly bounce back from the last two births I had, and assumed that this time around would be no different. This came as a complete shock to me, my family and my doctor. I didn’t even know that post partum panic and anxiety disorders existed, I thought that it was only post partum if you were depressed. I also didn’t know that they can occur any time in the year following the birth of your baby. My advice to those out there expecting – find out about the symptoms ahead of time. This way if you begin experiencing them the fear will not completely take over. If you recently had a baby, or recently began experiencing symptoms of anxiety that are interfering with your daily life, call your doctor immediately. There are ways to help and get better. The earlier you begin some form of treatment (whether it be medication of some form of counseling) the sooner you will see improvement.
And while I know that I HATED hearing this during the worst of it – it WILL get better. I am getting better everyday. You will not be anxious/depressed forever. Your life isn’t over, and you are not going crazy. I know that it feels like you are and I know that it is hard see that it will ever end – but it will, I promise.
Thank you so much to everyone who has been so fervently praying me through this and who has been offering their help along the way. I couldn’t make it through this without each and every one of you. Please don’t stop praying, both for me and every woman (1 in 5 new moms experience some form of this) who is going through this.