Coming out of the Darkness: My Struggle with Postpartum Depression & Anxiety
I’ve spent the last eight or nine months planning in my head how I was going to get this information out and into the world. For eight months I’ve seen myself doing a pre-recorded video discussing my struggles. I’ve also seen myself sitting and doing a live video on my personal Facebook page, or maybe my business Facebook page, or maybe in my Facebook group, or maybe on Instagram. Then it led to seeing me type it out in a blog and maybe attaching a video with it as well. All of this was in my head, down to the words I’d say/type, what I would wear, where I would be, all of it. However, it still never got done and made its way out of my brain. Well here is my essay. Here is my story, as I sit in a coffee shop sipping on pineapple green iced tea in downtown Nashua. Hello world, this is what happened to me and how I got through it:
It was winter 2016. Technically it was still fall, since the first day of winter wasn’t actually until December 21st. Who are we kidding though, if you know anything about New England, then you know that once the fall colored leaves have fallen off the trees, the Ugg boots are out, along with scarves, mittens, and winter coats… it’s winter. So it was winter. My first real inclination that anything was wrong, was a majorly sad day. I drove my daughter to preschool and immediately headed to my husband’s work. I didn’t know where else to turn or where to go. All I knew was that I didn’t want to go right home. I couldn’t. What was I going to do, go home with my baby boy and sit at home alone crying? Nope. That’s not who I was. I wasn’t going to go cry alone, when I knew something was wrong. Something was off, I didn’t want to be alone and I needed my support person. I drove to his work, parked, and called him to see if he could take a short break to come chat. He came out to my car and I just cried. I told him I think I needed to be on medication, I have to call the doctor’s office. I knew right then and there that I was dealing with postpartum depression and/or anxiety and needed to be seen, or have something done asap. I didn’t have thoughts of harming myself or anyone else. It’s not always like that with postpartum depression. I had an internal struggle going on though where I just wanted to cry and not stop.
My son was six months old. The previous six months had been anything but easy. Not only had we been adjusting to now having two kids, but we also had more than our fair share of family drama. This story isn’t about the drama though. I have recently let that all go and no longer place any blame or judgement towards anyone else. The fact is that I went through what I went through because I needed it. As crazy as that might sound, yes I needed to go through everything, even though it was sooo hard at the time, the Universe felt it necessary and so it is. It made me who I am today and now I have this to share with you all.
Anyway, back to the story.
I called my primary care physician to make an appointment asap. They said they couldn’t get me in until Tuesday. That made my anxiety worse, but I figured, “OK, my husband is home this weekend, I can make it until then. I have to.” As I said, I wasn’t a danger to anyone, including myself. The feeling I had inside my body was and still is incredibly hard to describe though. It was truly the worst feeling, I feel, one could ever feel emotionally. I didn’t feel like myself. My body just didn’t feel right, or good. No other way to explain it. As my husband, Dave, and I talked that night, and looked back over the previous months, we realized maybe there were signs leading up to that day. I had been losing my temper more often with our toddler. Even little things would cause my anxiety to go through the roof and I’d end up yelling. I’m not one to yell, so it was unusual, but we also were still adjusting to having two kids. So maybe unusual or maybe it was normal?
The next day, one of my friends from high school was coming over so that I could embroider some shirts for her bridal party for her upcoming wedding. I was still not feeling myself, but managed to suck it up like everything was fine, the whole time she was there. By the time we were done, I remember I was just barely holding in the tears and holding it all together. Almost immediately after she left, I started bawling again. I didn’t know why, but I told Dave that I couldn’t wait until Tuesday, I needed to be seen by someone that day. I didn’t and felt I couldn’t wait another day. It’s not that I thought something bad would happen if I waited a few more days, it’s that I one hundred percent felt completely miserable and awful inside my head and my body that I couldn’t wait. My body physically felt numb: A feeling I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.
Unfortunately we had Santa pictures scheduled with the kids and my sister-in-law’s family that evening and I really didn’t want to cancel that. It was our son’s first Christmas, I had already paid, and wanted a nice picture of the kids with Santa. I knew, or hoped, I could suck it up and hold it together during the pictures appointment. Dave called up his sister to have them come up early, while he took me to urgent care before we got pictures done. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting a doctor to do, I just wanted to be seen by a medical professional.
We went to urgent care, got seen, and got told that postpartum depression and anxiety is out of their scope of practice and I would have to go to the emergency room. We try to avoid the ER unless a true emergency, but they made us promise we would go that evening after the pictures. Pictures with Santa were taken, I held it together, we went back home, left the kids with the in-laws and Dave and I headed to the ER.
At the emergency room, not much was done, as I kind of expected. I spoke with the on call mental health counselor or psychologist and got sent home with enough benzodiazepines to last me until my appointment on Tuesday. As I said, I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t know what I expected to be done, I just wanted help. I was hoping they’d start me on an antidepressant rather than give me an as needed medication for anxiety. It did help me though and I made it to my appointment on Tuesday.
Tuesday came, I drove my daughter to school, Dave was at work, and then I headed to my doctor’s appointment with my little one in tow. I had planned it out where I’d be pretty early. Now, at this point in my struggle with my postpartum depression, all I felt I was capable of doing was making sure the kids’ needs were met. I didn’t slack as a mom. They were fed properly, bathed, clean, and I played with them. I wasn’t able to take care of the house or myself very well. My thoughts felt so jumbled at times and then empty at others. I couldn’t think straight, make decisions, or focus my energy in one place. It was HARD. The doctor’s office wasn’t too far from my house, or my daughter’s school and I had been there many times before. I should have been able to get there pretty easily, especially since I pulled up my GPS. Well, I ended up getting there at least 20 minutes late. It might have been closer to 30. I could not find the office. I couldn’t think straight at all. I hadn’t taken the medication that morning because I knew I would be driving so it wasn’t due to side effects of the benzo. It was worse; it was side effects of my mental health disorder. After parking nearby and breaking down in tears, I called the office and finally made it there.
If you don’t know, I also have a disability. I have Spina Bifida and use a wheelchair. So with my son strapped to me in a baby carrier, I wheeled into the office. I tried to hold back the tears while checking in, when they told me that I would have to see another doctor because I was so late. I broke down crying again. Luckily, they managed to get me seen by my doctor. I got started on an antidepressant and was set up to meet with a therapist once a week.
It can take a few weeks for an antidepressant to build up in the system and feel better. Just knowing I would soon feel better, helped me feel better in that moment. I started seeing the therapist, which was very helpful, and slowly began feeling like myself again. At the point when I thought I should be feeling better, I started feeling worse, way worse. I was referred to a psychiatrist who determined that the medication I was put on was not ideal and I would probably benefit better from another, safer med. All sounded good and I was filled with hope, once again.
Just when you think things can’t get any worse, guess what? Sometimes they do. Because I wasn’t doing well on the current med, the psychiatrist didn’t want to taper me off and then start the new antidepressant. Instead she had me tapering off the current med while slowly starting the new one. Within a week or two, I would be fully switched over. Well, pretty quickly after I started the process, I began having suicidal ideations. Suicidal ideations are thoughts of harming yourself, but not wanting to actually do it. I was overwhelmed with these severe compulsions to harm myself. I had never experienced anything like it before, but I knew that despite being paralyzed when I was 20 years old, this was easily the worst experience of my entire life.
Every day, from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, I was filled with these compulsions. I would put away the dishes and see a sharp knife and have vivid images in my head of me shoving it into my thigh. I’d see some scissors, or anything sharp and have the same images. It was scary! Even though I was having these ideations which my therapist knew about, at this same time she felt like I had been seeing her for a while and didn’t need to see her again. She tried to end our relationship a few weeks prior, but I didn’t feel ready yet. At this point, I was convinced that maybe I didn’t need therapy anymore. I had started meditating, I began reading spiritual self help books, and things were getting better. I agreed and we ended our appointments.
A week or so after my therapist told me I didn’t need her help anymore, I gave in to my compulsions to hurt myself. This is so hard to type out, as it was scary and I remember how pained I was. My husband went out to get some donuts before my daughter had dance. He took our daughter with him and my son was in for a nap. I wanted the compulsions to stop so badly that I was willing to do just about anything. As crazy as this sounds, I grabbed a pair of sharp tweezers, something that I knew wouldn’t cause much damage, and I dug them into my thigh. My right leg is mostly paralyzed and I don’t have much feeling in most of it. So logically it made the most sense to cause harm in an area that wouldn’t cause much pain. Immediately after I did it, I called my husband crying and told him what I did. I truly felt like I had no other option. I just wanted the thoughts to stop.
Dave, being a registered nurse and having worked at a psych hospital before, obviously freaked out. He called my mom, called the on call psychiatrist at the hospital and did what any loving husband would have done; not leave me alone. My mom came over and we spent the day talking. It helped a lot. I had been keeping so much inside, out of fear of judgement. I didn’t want others to think I was crazy or couldn’t take care of the kids. I knew I could take care of the kids and knew they were safe and well taken care of. I worried others wouldn’t believe us.
The next couple of months were still a struggle, but eventually spring came and my light began to shine bright. I went on a spiritual journey during this time which included lots of spiritual reading, a new spiritual practice, and a mom VIP day virtually with a spiritual life coach. As summer came, I then realized my soul’s purpose and why I was put on this earth. I always knew I was put here to help people, but never knew in what way. It was all so crystal clear now. I was put here to be a spiritual coach and help other moms like myself. I took Gabby Bernstein’s Digital Spirit Junkie Masterclass over the summer, as well as attended her “The Universe Has your Back” weekend retreat at Kripalu. That weekend was filled with lots of meditation and spiritual healing with other like-minded women. It was just what this mom needed.
I came to realize through the darkness that the number one thing us moms need is a well established self-care routine; emotional, mental, and physical. It is not possible to be the best mom you can be without first taking care of yourself. It just isn’t. The original medication plan was for me to stay on the antidepressant until this coming spring, but by the end of summer I had developed such a concrete spiritual self care routine, that deep down I knew I no longer needed the medication. With the help of my psychiatrist, I tapered off the medication and have been doing well since. My son is now 21 months old and I look back and think, “I don’t know how I made it, but thank God I did”. There are days that I get lazy and slack on my self care, but those days tend to be my worst days. We need an established routine for those bad days, because without it the bad days will just turn into horrible messes of a day and possibly carry over to the next day, and the day after that.
I am now a Spiritual Wellness + Transformational Coach. I help moms enjoy themselves and their lives. I help with mindset, a schedule, developing a routine, and emotional and energy clearing. I am NOT a replacement for medication, doctors, and therapists. I am for women who just need some extra help in their lives. I’m also helpful in addition to conventional medical modalities. I’m not against medication, I’m not against doctors and psychiatrists. What I am against is a “quick fix”. There is no true quick fix. You still need to do the work in order to live your true authentic self. Yes, I could’ve stayed on the medication and never helped myself through meditation, yoga, books, and journaling, but that wouldn’t have gotten me very far. What would happen if the medication stopped working? Then I’m back to where I was. Yes, some people truly need medication long term, maybe for years, maybe for the rest of their life. It’s my opinion though, that most people don’t need long term, years of medication. We have to put in the work to get the results we desire. What results do you desire? They can be anything you can possibly dream of!
I hope that you enjoyed reading my story. This was difficult for me to write, but it needed to get out there. This is reality and isn’t talked about enough. If you are, or think you may be, going through postpartum depression and/or anxiety, please know that you are not alone and please get medical help if you have not yet. Please don’t stay quiet. Speak up and get help! This goes for anyone who thinks someone they love may be suffering. Please don’t wait for them to speak up. Looking back, my husband and I realized the signs that I was spiraling downwards for a while. We just didn’t think much of it and thought it was situational anxiety, or maybe the “baby blues”.
If you are interested in working with me, or would like to schedule a free call to chat, please feel free to visit my website at www.SpiritualMeditationMama.com and you can schedule a call at http://bit.ly/ContactLauren.
Thank you for reading,
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