1 in 7

Tonight I am attaching an article that I wrote for another mommy blog. Unfortunately they ultimately decided that perinatal mood disorders are not something that they are interested in posting about. In fact, they never even got back to me regarding a decision.

Which is okay.

This is a hard topic to talk about, but just because it is hard doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t.

Too many moms suffer in silence. Too many.

So here is the article:

1 in 7

I never saw it coming. I already had three perfectly normal pregnancies and births and had recovered quickly. I didn’t expect anything different this time around. My doctors never talked about it, never told me that it was possible to have such a horrific experience postpartum, even if you have a history of perfectly normal recovery periods….

The anxiety had started to build in the last few weeks of my pregnancy. We had just moved, already had 3 kids, and were navigating a pretty hectic schedule and the holidays were coming up. I assumed my anxiety was directly related to the fact that the baby was coming, and that it was nothing to be concerned about. After a whirlwind birth, that included almost no labor and only 30 seconds of pushing, I was left feeling a bit in shock in the hospital. I felt different. Nervous. Worried. Alone. But, even then I thought perhaps I was just worried about juggling 3 under 3 with another one in elementary school. Maybe I was nervous about transitioning to such a big family. Perhaps I didn’t like being in the hospital. Whatever the reason that my nerves were going crazy, I tried to ignore it and get back to normal.

Fast forward 3 days and I am in the emergency room for a massive panic attack. I thought I was dying and I was so scared. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of the four month hell I was thrust into. The world around me felt foreign, everything scared me, panic attacks happened daily and I sat up at night just waiting for morning to come. I didn’t sleep for weeks. I dropped 30 lbs. and truly thought that my life was ending. 24 hours a day my mind thought things that I never could have imagined on my own. I was afraid of myself, afraid of the next thoughts that would come, afraid that I would never regain control of myself. I feared being locked away in a hospital, away from my kids and husband, the people I loved more than myself. But, mostly I was afraid that one day I would wake up and realize that I wasn’t able to handle it anymore. I didn’t know how long I could survive living like that, but somewhere deep inside, I knew it wasn’t long. I needed help. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I feared that I would never again be the person I was before.

I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and postpartum panic disorder. Finding help was very challenging, as therapist after therapist didn’t have any experience in treating these perinatal illnesses. Even my obstetrician was at a loss for what to do. I felt like I was the only person in the world suffering like this. I didn’t know what my next move would be. But I KNEW that I had to do something.

After so much prayer and out of desperation, I admitted to everyone around me, everyone I knew, everyone that asked how I was doing what was going on with me. I wrote about it on my blog, posted about it on Facebook and talked about it every chance I got.

And something amazing happened. Women began sharing their stories with me. Their illnesses started the same way that mine had, seemed to follow the same pattern and they had felt totally alone. The similarities between cases were unbelievable, and the number of women who have admitted their experiences to me have been astounding.

1 in 7. That’s how many women will experience a postpartum mood disorder at some point in their life. Less than half of those women will seek the treatment necessary to be on the road to recovery. They will feel ashamed, embarrassed, scared and alone because as a society we have placed a stigma on these illnesses that makes women afraid to admit that something is wrong. We expect moms to be able to handle it all, we set incredibly high standards for ourselves and if we can’t meet them we beat ourselves up for it. We push ourselves to the brink. We suffer in silence because we want others to think we have it all together.

The harshest reality is that suicide is the number one cause of death in the first year postpartum for women. Suicide. Women are choosing to take their own lives because they are so scared, lost and alone.

I am sharing my story because I want any woman reading it who has experienced this to know that they are not alone. You are NOT alone. There are so many of us are suffering alongside of you, even if it is silently.

My progress gets better every day. I found a doctor willing to work with me and take my suggestions and follow up on my treatment ideas with research of her own. I take a combination of anti-depressant medications to help stabilize myself. I try to be kind to myself. I celebrate goods days and I tolerate the bad ones. I know that someday I will fully be back to my old self.

As moms, we need to rally around each other and offer support. We need to remove the stigma of perinatal mood disorders and recognize as an increasingly common reality of giving birth. We need to push doctors for mandatory screenings and we need to tune into ourselves and recognize when something isn’t right.

But, more than anything, we need to speak up. Speak up if a mom you know isn’t acting like herself. Speak up if you have survived this illness. Speak up if you are suffering and you need help.

This journey is unfair at times. It is hard and it takes so much out of you. It’s exhausting, frustrating, scary, nerve wracking, and painful. But there is one thing that it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to be lonely.

Recently I have been informed of some tragic events, both in the news and not, regarding postpartum mood disorders and various outcomes.

My heart breaks for these moms who didn’t reach out, who didn’t have help, who no one checked in on to make sure that were okay. 

Let’s make a pact.

A pact to look our friends in the eye who have just had a baby and ask the hard questions. Give them an opportunity to open up, without judgment, about how they are really feeling. You never know, it could save a life.

May for Moms

I know that I had promised this post a few days ago, but our weekend ended up being super busy and time literally got away from me. I am so glad to be sitting here now though, getting ready to launch a month of posts devoted to moms, and mainly those moms who have suffered, are currently suffering from or think that they may be suffering from any postpartum mental/mood disorder.

I have made it no secret that following the birth of Emerson I launched into what would be the absolute hardest time of my life. I experienced a quick onset of postpartum anxiety followed by months of severe anxiety and depression. Thankfully, through prayer, research, medication, help from family and friends and giving it time, I am on my way to a full recovery. I’m not going to lie and pretend that I am all better, I still have some really bad days  and sometimes just thinking about what  I have gone through is enough to make me want to just curl up in my bed and never face the world again. However, those days are spacing out farther and farther from each other, and I am so thankful for the good things that this experience had brought me. As a result of this strenuous time, my relationship with my husband is stronger, I feel closer to my friends than ever, I am a more relaxed mom with my girls and I am learning to trust God in a whole new way.

And part of that new found trust is really listening to the Lord as He calls me into a new season of life. While I was incredibly lucky to have such a safety net of support in both my family and my church, I was left in tears on numerous occasions after attempting conversations with others about what I was going through. Both women, as well as fellow Christians, had some things to say or advice to give that I was a little shocked at. The stigma placed on these types of illnesses is horrendous, but even worse than that is how little everyone knows about these mood disorders. In fact, before I experienced it myself, I had no idea how many different ways these illnesses could present themselves. It also took me an incredibly long time to realize that this was an ILLNESS and there was NOTHING that I could have done to prevent myself from going through it. I also had to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t cause it.

So this month, be on the look out for posts breaking down all the different types of mood disorders that women can experience after pregnancy, as well as during it.

Here are a few statistics:

The American Psychological Association estimates that anywhere from 9-16% of pregnant women will experience some type of mood disorder during the postpartum period. Other statistical date shows that that number may be as high as 20%.

If you experienced any type of anxiety or depression following a previous pregnancy, your risk of having a mood disorder following a subsequent pregnancy jumps to 41%.

And these statistics only apply to REPORTED cases of postpartum mood disorders.  Due to fear, stigma, lack of quality care and support and other factors, a surprising number of women suffer in silence each year.

While I know that these percentages might not seem very high, in an article written by Katherine Stone at Postpartum Progress, she applies these statistics to the number of clinically recognized pregnancies in 2007. With their being around 6.4 million recognizable pregnancies (that number including live births as well as miscarriages and still births) that would mean that 950,000 women reported experiencing some type of mood disorder that year. (You can read the entire article here.)

950,000!!!

In one year….

Imagine how many of your friends may have suffered without you knowing. If you are the one going through it, imagine all the women who are experiencing it right alongside you.

Imagine what would happen if we all banded together, stripped away the façade, opened up about our experiences, admitted how hard it was, described how we got help, how long it lasted, what it was like and how we are doing now.

So…

In addition to posting information on the different mood disorders that can come as a result of pregnancy, I would REALLY, REALLY like to share your stories.

For the month of May, I would like to run a series entitled “The Faces of PPMDs”.

In order to that, I need your help.

Please consider emailing me your experience, in the form of a post, including a short bio about yourself, to asfourbecomesfive@gmail.com

Email me also if you have any questions before writing it up.

Maybe, just maybe, we can start to chip away at this stigma….

 

 

Peeling Back the Layers–PPD Vol. 3

In the past few weeks I have noticed small slivers of time where I wasn’t thinking about my PPD/PPA. It always seemed though, that as soon as I recognized that I wasn’t thinking about it, it would creep back up and I would begin to obsess once again over how I had lost myself.

But in the last few days, that obsession turned worse before it got better. I suddenly began to have overwhelming anxiety over not actually knowing myself. I seemed to have an identity crisis. I began to wonder if this is who I will always be, a purposeless, anxious, worried mom who likes to put on a façade and pretend to have it all together. I suddenly began to wonder if I had any depth at all. Its funny the things that your mind can think when it begins to function on its own. These “intrusive thoughts” are far less scary than the ones I had at the beginning of my battle, but they still frightened me.

I have been trying to be totally honest about my thoughts and feelings with my husband, and doing said lead to a conversation last night that made me really start to feel better. Matt has this fantastic way of calling me out on things without making be feel bad, judged or embarrassed. He just really can cause me to think about how I view myself. Last night was no exception as he began to ask me questions about trust and defining myself. He recanted to me a story that he had heard on the radio at work about a woman who idolized her family, defined herself by motherhood and held herself to all of these ridiculous standards. She loved God, but when it came to the one most important thing in her life, her family, she didn’t even trust Him. She wanted to have total control, she wanted to call the shots and she was always okay with God as long as things were going her way. She put being a mom before her husband, herself and God and hadn’t even realized it until she had to face tragedy.

This woman is me, or was me up until 4 months ago and I don’t think I even knew it. When I became a mom I put pieces of myself aside and turned to God a little less. Then with each subsequent child it only seemed to get worse. I became a little more anxious, a little more controlling and a little less me until suddenly I hit rock bottom and with the help of some serious hormonal imbalances experienced the worst 4 months of my life.

At the start of all of this, to say that I wasn’t angry with God would be telling a lie. I was mad that He allowed this to happen, that He didn’t miraculously heal me and that He would let me feel so awful. I went back and forth between days of crying out to Him, begging Him to rescue me and days of completely shutting myself off to Him. I would pray with all of my heart and I would turn away just as fervently. And then when I realized that He was trying to get me to change through all of this, at first I got even more mad. What was wrong with me?? What had I done to deserve this “punishment”??

The answer of course is nothing. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. But God wasn’t going to allow me to suffer for nothing. God wanted me to grow, to change and to trust Him completely. But in my previous state, I wouldn’t let Him break through the surface. I was okay with how things were going and didn’t want to invite Him any deeper. Why? I think that I was afraid that God had a different plan than I did, and that maybe I wouldn’t like it. Or perhaps its simply the fact that I have serious trust issues in normal relationships and trusting God with my LIFE was too much.

In order to get to me, He had to peel back the layers. He had to remove everything that I used to define myself, everything that I put before Him.

We willingly left the home that I constantly took so much time to clean, organize and decorate. While it was the best decision for our family financially, our home had been my “job” and when we first moved back in here I felt like I had lost it. I soon realized that I took so much pride in the appearance of our home that I was beginning to let that define me.

But it wasn’t enough. Even though Matt and I had trusted the Lord that moving was the right decision, I still put everything else that was my responsibility before Him.

So He allowed my ability to care for my family to be stripped from me. I couldn’t take care of my kids by myself. I couldn’t clean, I couldn’t cook or do laundry or bathe them or even shower myself. I couldn’t do ANY of the things that I was so in love with doing. My husband willingly took on all of my jobs and I just existed. I was a shell, empty and purposeless. I was lost.

And now He is helping me to rebuild myself. He is helping me to learn that being a mom is only one aspect of who I am, but that God has called me to be much, much more than  that.  He has a plan. and if I trust Him, it will be so much better than mine.

I can be a wife, a mom, a daughter, a friend, a student, an employee, a volunteer, a runner, a PPD survivor, a writer, an editor, and a homemaker.

But the ONLY thing that I need to define myself as is a child of God.

Living Through Postpartum Depression – Volume 2

Well I did promise to be honest and to document my journey through this season, so I figured an update was in order.

I have been having longer strings of good days lately, but it seems to make the bad ones that much worse. Two weeks ago I had one day where I felt as though I was completely back to normal, and I even said to my husband that I didn’t have any negative thoughts that day. We rejoiced and celebrated, only to be slammed with anxiety again a few days later. I know that setbacks don’t mean that I will NEVER get better, but on those days it is harder to be hopeful. My former self seems so lost in my mind that I wonder if I will ever get to be her again. In reality, I won’t. I won’t because even when I do get better, I know that I will be forever changed. I don’t know what that will look like, but I am trusting that the Lord will use it for good.

We are starting to get into a weekly routine, which is helpful in two ways. The main one is that things seem to be normalizing, the kids know what to expect and as a result everyone is happier. The second thing is that I can almost predict what days I will feel the worst, based on our schedule and I can try to work things out so that those times are not as bad. Mondays are the best – I am usually filled with hope for a better week at the beginning of the week, Matt doesn’t have to work most Tuesdays and right now we just enjoy Monday nights by staying in. Tuesdays Matt is home, which makes things somewhat easier, but the girls have gymnastics so that can be a bit stressful. Sometimes it is fun and I look forward to taking them and other times it is overwhelming. Wednesdays the little girls and I try to stay home during the day and clean up the house. We try to keep it more relaxed because of everyone being up late on Tuesday. Thursdays I am the most anxious because from Wednesday night until Friday night Matt is only home for a few short hours. Every other week I currently have a counseling appointment scheduled right now during that time. This seems to be the best time for me, because I am able to be the most open with my counselor about how I am truly feeling, whereas if we met on Monday I may be tempted to just pretend that everything is fine. Friday nights are my nights with Matt, I love them but they always go by too quickly. Weekends in general go back and forth, depending on how busy we are. Sometimes I am anxious and just want to stay locked inside away from the world, and other times my usually extroverted self requires being energized by getting out of the house. Sunday nights, however, are always the worst as I see the week ahead and wonder how it will go.

My thought processing has been getting better as I begin to have more control over my thinking patterns and have learned some ways to distract myself. Writing has been a fantastic release, and I have also begun journaling again in an attempt to begin to give myself even more freedom in my writing. I love writing on my blog, but I still need to be able to break down some of these thought patterns privately with myself.

As a family we have decided to put off any major decision making until the end of this year. Initially with our move we had a whole list of ideas and directions to take our family, most of which involved one or both of us going back to school, job changing, financial planning and a whole host of pretty stressful things. We have decided to stay where we are at this year and just focus on total healing. I am so thankful for my husband being willing to work as hard as he does at work, and then to come home and want to work equally as hard at getting me back to feeling like myself again. I have read more than a few accounts of postpartum illnesses causing tremendous issues within a marriage, some women even writing about how their husbands couldn’t take it anymore and left. I am so thankful that this season is bringing us closer. God is really using this experience to humble me and teach me how to let Matt be my covering and my protector. I find so much more comfort in bouncing ideas off of him or asking him for advice than I ever have.

I have also slowly begun to learn yoga and meditation as a way to gain more control over my thoughts. My meditation always involves prayer and attempting to focus on scripture, but also learning how to really capture my thoughts and push them away. I want to learn to counter them and replace them with more positive thoughts. It will take time, but it does seem to be helping at night before I go to sleep. I have also replaced my previous Xanax use at night with a liquid form of the herb Valerian root. (Please, if you are reading this and creating your own wellness plan, do not replace any medications or begin any supplementation without seeking advice from your doctor or medical expert.)

I am also finding more and more comfort in connecting with other women who have been through a similar experience. While I don’t currently have time to find a local support group, I have found support online through a website called Postpartum Progress.  This site lists a ton of resources, as well as testimonies and support for women who are currently suffering from or who have suffered in the past from a postpartum illness. It is also a tremendous source of information for those who are close to someone else suffering and want to learn more or figure out ways to help. If you or someone you know if dealing with any type of postpartum illness, I would direct them to this source right away.

Sleep seems to be directly related to how I am feeling, and unfortunately there hasn’t been much of that going on around here. Between an almost 4 month old who is always hungry and growing rapidly (thank you Jesus!!) and a 20 month who is literally cutting 9 teeth at once, I have been up nearly every hour of the night for the last week or so. It has been exhausting, and sometimes when I am really tired, I find that fighting off the hopelessness is nearly impossible. I am so grateful to be able to stay home during this time.

However, if you look over the whole picture for the last 4 months, I am definitely on the road to getting better. I have moments each day that are perfectly normal. I am so thankful for mundane!! Haha! I am back to making dinner every night, I spend a lot of quality time with the girls, my relationship with my husband is doing great, I am learning to take things off my plate that are causing unnecessary anxiety and I am definitely a long way from where I was in the beginning of this whole experience. I have also come to terms with the fact that time is what it will take to fully heal, and that as long as I am doing all of the right things, in time this will all be behind us and I will be a better, stronger, more compassionate person because of it.

I welcome your continued prayers 🙂 And again – if anyone reading this has any specific or personal thoughts/questions that they don’t feel comfortable commenting with, you can email me directly at asfourbecomesfive@gmail.com

 

Living Through Postpartum Depression…Vol. 1

I received a lot of feedback from my last post and I am so very grateful for everyone’s kind words and prayers. I shied away from writing for a bit after my last post because the last one was so hard to write and because, to be honest, most of the time I am not even sure what to write. To be truthful and honest, things are not great all the time right now. This journey is proving to be a tough one for me emotionally, and though the worst of it is behind us, most days I am too mentally spent to write much of anything or too apathetic to care. Not to mention my focus and clarity seem to be off from time to time, making it hard to write as I did before.

This past week alone has been a complete rollercoaster, filled with sick kids, sleepless nights, horrible weather and a setback in my battle with my anxiety. By Friday I was emotionally drained and exhausted. I couldn’t pretend any longer that things were getting increasingly better and I started to open up about my setback with those around me, allowing myself to be a bit more vulnerable and taking down a bit of the façade. It proved to be a wonderful release of some emotions that had been building up all week, and Saturday proved to be much better, but ended far too quickly. This seems to be the pattern lately, the good days rush by in a blur leaving me wanting more and the bad days just hang around way too long. I woke up Sunday as I do most days, anxious and having trouble getting out of bed. Toddlers, however, have proven to be a great remedy for this, since they jump up immediately ready to attack the day and if I don’t follow suit I have found that they can get into a lot of trouble in a very, very short amount of time Smile. Thankfully Scarlet can’t get out of her crib…yet.

We made it to church on time, which always seems to be a miracle in and of itself. I am always so glad for our church. Our church family has consistently been a source of support for us throughout the entire 3 years that we have been attending. However, I have never felt closer to this group of loving people than I have during this time in our life. Walking in to service is like coming home every Sunday. There are fewer greater feelings on this earth than walking into a room full of people who love you, and there is no shortage of love and strength in that fellowship hall.

Aside from the people at church, the presence of the Lord has been astounding to me during recent services. And it is the service today that has me sitting here writing, no matter how much I don’t feel like it right now. The Lord has truly been speaking to my heart during services more than ever before, and I am so grateful to be able to feel it, especially since during the week sometimes I feel such a disconnect from Him that it makes my heart sad.

As the first song played and we began to worship, I felt the Lord continuously drawing me to Galatians 5. In the spirit of transparency, I am going to admit that I am not a person who has a lot of scripture memorized. It is a weakness that I struggle with in my faith, and one that I didn’t truly recognize until going through this season of anxiety/depression. So when I kept hearing “Galatians 5 – freedom”, I wasn’t even entirely sure that I had it right. But sure enough, Galatians 5:1 “In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off].” And then as if to solidify it even more, our worship leader began to also talk about this same chapter in Galatians. It was one of those “Okay Lord – you have my full attention today…”

And as the teaching on faith and unbelief began today, my spirit began to tug at my heart. I had never once thought of the notion of purposeful unbelief. However, once our pastor began talking about it, I began to feel convicted. I have been struggling this week in starting to believe that nothing good is ever going to come from this season. You see, I thought that postpartum illnesses went away quickly once they were recognized. After the initial weeks of absolute hell, I thought I was on the road to a speedy full recovery and that I would be sitting here by now telling all of you about my previous experience and what it taught me, not sitting here in the midst of all the ups and downs, unsure of what to say. When that didn’t happen, my faith began to waiver this week.

The thing is, I have seen others in the depths of struggles much harder than mine come out better on the other side. I have seen the work the Lord can do in others and walked in faith and prayer alongside others while they went through their own trials. I have seen others refined by the fire, but for some reason when it comes to myself, I still do not feel worthy. I still have a hard time believing that the Lord would want to do a good work in me. And even when I have heard the whispers of the Lord telling me that I should begin telling my story more in the midst of the struggle, I ignored it…

Until today.

Starting today I will begin to write more often and truthfully about the state that I am in. I don’t know if this is just a cathartic release for myself or if someone else out there needs to read it, but none the less here it is….

If you have not read my last post about how this all started, you can read it here. To pick up from where I left off there, I am still, more than a month later, in the process of healing. There are days when I feel amazing, aside from the anxiety over whether or not I feel terrible the next day and then there are days when I don’t want to get dressed, leave the house, or do anything. I slip into these little funks where nothing is enjoyable or has “meaning”. My mind starts questioning everything around me with things like:

– “Why does it even matter if I pick up and just let everything be a mess…”

– “Who are you anyways, do you even have any purpose??”

– “What the heck are you going to do with your life when you can’t even make it happily through a day….”

– “Does anything in life even REALLY matter??”

When I have slept better and have more energy, or when I am feeling slightly rejuvenated from meeting with friends, getting out of the house or working out these thoughts are pretty easy to combat. But throw in a couple of sleepless nights, missed workouts, poor eating and being cooped up inside for days (pretty much what all of last week looked like) and it’s a recipe for disaster. I don’t have the energy to fight off the depression and it just suffocates me for awhile. The feelings of apathy can become overwhelming at times and then I just sit and cry. The anxiety now seems to be stemming solely from the depression, which is actually a positive. I no longer fear anything specific (you know like driving in a car, getting sick and not being able to care for my kids, being alone) but I do fear not returning to my former happy self.

This past week I have really pulled away from the Lord, reading scripture and praying out of anger. I got really upset that I was going through this and couldn’t think of who to be mad at. It definitely didn’t help my situation any, when just glancing over at my bible caused me anxiety. The fact is that prayer and reading scripture is helping, and that I need to strengthen my faith to get through this, not run from it. It was a pretty good lesson this week.

The natural ways that I am attempting to combat all of this is with a variety of vitamins (B vitamins, D vitamins, folic acid, fish oil and probiotics mostly). I also had started a workout regimen that seemed to help a lot, but with 4 sick girls this week that got pushed aside. I am hoping to be back in the gym this week at least a few times. I know that exercise is proven to help in the battle against any type of depression/anxiety, so I am looking forward to prioritizing that some more. I LOVE running, it is such a stress release for me, so my plan right now is to try and get 3-4 good runs in per week. I have also been playing around with my diet to see what helps. Feeling gross from food issues might not be making things worse, but it definitely won’t make things better. Plus – I am an emotional eater and downed nearly a whole pan of fudge during one depressing night. Gaining 30lbs is def NOT going to help me on my road to full recovery.

In terms of medication, I am still taking Zoloft and I am up to 125mg. I am, however, not sure how effective this medicine is for me anymore. While I had originally thought that it *might* be starting to work, I now truly don’t know and I am meeting with a doctor this week and next week to figure that out. I have had some funky side effects, like blurred vision on occasion, weird dreams, memory loss and what I had thought was some worsening depression. The truth is that I don’t know how depressed/anxious I would be had I not started taking the medicine, so I am hoping to find out what the next best course of action is. I know that there are a lot of different medications and that they affect everyone completely differently. I am hoping that I will find some relief with the right meds/dosing, should my doctors feel that I need to continue being on them. I know that there is a lot of stigma attached to these medications and I don’t think that it is fair. The truth is, now that I am on them, so many people have “come out” to me and told me that they too are on antidepressants for this or that. I am choosing to believe that the Lord has placed me with doctors who will give me the best advice for my individual situation, and that we are lucky to have to many different options to help combat these types of mental illnesses.

What I am grateful for is that I don’t feel any disconnect from any of my children, including Emerson. I know that for some moms connecting with their babies through this can be very difficult and I feel so awful for them. There is nothing worse to a mom than the feeling of guilt when they feel as though they have failed their children. While there are times in caring for my girls right now that I feel as though I am just “going through the motions”, I still feel very connected to them.

And if nothing else good comes out of this, I know that I will forever look at my husband in a different light. He has been my rock through all of this, talking me down and bringing me back to reality time and time again. He works so hard at work and then comes home and does whatever we need him to do that day to keep our home running as smoothly as possible. I am so incredibly grateful for him.

Going forward, I am hoping to write every few days or so about how everything is going – truthfully. The highs and lows of the days and what I am learning through all of this. My goal is to try to give an honest view into my personal experience with postpartum mood disorders.

What would be even GREATER is if any of you moms out there who are either going through this or have gone through this wanted to add your own comments and experiences! We could get a genuine conversation going about something that so many of us will experience in our lifetime as part of our crazy motherhood journey. I do ask that you please keep anything written positive – lets not pass any judgments on each others choices in the healing process.

If anyone has any specific questions, or wants to chat personally you can email me at asfourbecomesfive@gmail.com

Thank you for your continued prayers!

emerson

This smile is worth the struggle.

This last month…

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.