For #mentalhealthmondays this week I have been blessed to have an amazing friend and mom write a post for us. The Queen – from DeBie Hive has written about her experience with Postpartum Depression:
I kept telling myself that I was fine, that it would go away, that I could ignore it and it would all magically get better somehow.
I knew that I was lying to myself, but I did it anyway.
I knew that there was something very wrong with me, but I pretended like everything was fine.
I even knew what was wrong with me, and still I did nothing.
I did nothing until one night, sitting in bed, I read a passage in a book about a family taking their children to the zoo. My brain, doing what it always did back then, took this harmless paragraph in a fictional novel and contorted it, twisted it, mangled it and presented itself back to me in the form of a vision.
I took my infant daughter to the zoo and nonchalantly threw her over the railing to the alligators.
I didn’t actually do that, of course. This vision, like all the rest of them resided in my head alone. I never acted on any of them. I hardly even left the house. Being home was hard enough since the house we lived in at the time had an open staircase to the basement. Each time I walked past it holding my child, I’d clutch her tightly to my chest and try to shake off the visions in my mind of throwing her down the stairs.
That night, I couldn’t take it anymore. I slammed the book shut and screamed. I cried and cried and cried. My husband, totally unaware that anything was wrong, was terrified. I let it out, I let it all out. I told him everything that was happening and had been happening in my head. I told him that I knew something was wrong. I told him I knew what it was. I told him that I was too ashamed to admit any of it, and so I kept it hidden, locked inside like a swirling vortex that was dragging me down deeper and deeper and deeper.
I had post partum depression, and by the time the events of that night unfolded, my daughter was over a year old. This had been happening almost her entire life, beginning within a few weeks of her birth.
I knew better. I am a doula. I have training specific to this condition. I have been taught to recognize the symptoms. I tell my clients all the time that there is no shame in having PPD, and that they need to seek help and treatment. I knew doulas and midwives, many of which had dealt with this personally, and I reached out to no one.
I knew better.
It still happened.
The following day, I called one of those midwife friends I should have called long before. She asked if I was safe, if the children were safe. I told her yes. She asked if I was suicidal. I told her no. She told me I needed to get help and I needed to do it immediately. I told her I knew.
After getting off the phone with her, I contacted a psychiatrist specializing in PPD. By that afternoon I was sitting in her office unloading all that burdened my brain and my soul. She told me that my self-analysis was right on. I had post partum depression that was flirting awfully dangerously with psychosis. The particular type that I had manifested with intrusive thoughts, ones that I had no ability to control. It is associated with obsessive compulsive disorder.
She told me that I may need to be medicated to reset the connections in my brain. I told her I knew.
I did know. I knew all of it, and I still had hidden it.
As it turned out, in my case, the visions stopped almost immediately once I confided in my husband, my midwife friend and this psychiatrist. The act of suppressing the truth had only made my situation worse. For a while, the visions presented themselves only as hazy memories, not the vivid images they were before. With a bit more time, they disappeared entirely.
It took me six months to admit what had happened to anyone else. I told my closest friends and my doula partner at that time. It took me several years to admit it to my family. It took me even longer to ever write about it publicly.
I write about it today because we, the women who have been to this dark place, we absolutely need to talk about it. We need to drag these monsters out of the closet and expose them to the light. We need to reassure our sister mothers that what they are going through isn’t something that they must endure alone and in secret. We must encourage other women to get the help they need for their families, for their children, for themselves.
There are several different types of PPD and the condition can vary in the degree of severity ranging from the baby blues to full blown psychosis. If you have any of these symptoms and/or they have lasted longer than a couple of weeks after birth, please talk to your doctor or midwife immediately. Do not wait.
– mood swings
– insomnia or sleeping too much
– suicidal thoughts
– feeling sad or hopeless
– not bonding with the baby
– elevated anxiety levels
– hallucinations or delusions
Do not wait. It is important to understand that this condition is very common, far more common than we know because so many women hide it. There is help out there, things can and will get better, but you have to take the first step.
I don’t have a single memory of my daughter’s first year of life. I’m sure that my brain has actively suppressed everything that happened in that time frame. I don’t remember the way she smelled or how soft her skin was or what her laugh sounded like. PPD took all that away from me. All I have now are photographs and a memory that I’ve tried to piece together.
I am pregnant right now, and live in a world where I need to be more vigilant than ever. I can’t keep my guard up. I ask friends and family to check in on me periodically. Please invade my personal space and make sure that I am not lying. I am also looking into acupuncture and other techniques that may help alleviate stress before and after delivery in an attempt to prevent the PPD from returning. I am hoping to hire someone to encapsulate my placenta, as the capsules are said to help with PPD symptoms in addition to bleeding, milk production and much more.
PPD is a scary and strange thing to deal with. Not being in control of your own mind is terrifying. I hope to never go back to that place again, but if I do, I won’t let myself stay there this time. I will get help.
If you need it, please get help.