March 8, 2012

Becoming a Better Me - Part 1: My Struggles

This isn't something that I've talked openly about here on the blog (or really at all) but, I've felt very convicted about sharing my story, getting it out there, and being honest with some major struggles I've personally dealt with over the past 18 months.

I hope that being open about postpartum depression and anxiety, as well as situational depression, will help women be more open about such a taboo subject.  No one needs to suffer in silence - I know I did for far to long and I hope and pray that women can tackle this nasty disease, watch out for our friends/ family, and help each other work through something that is easy to ignore.

I also hope that being open about my struggles, which began when I gave birth to Kate, will allow my family and friends to hold me accountable as I experience the birth of another child.  I never want to feel like I did again and the more open and honest I am, the better I am preparing myself to never suffer in silence again. 

As most everyone knows, Alex and I struggled for years to get, and stay, pregnant.  Our second round of in-vitro fertilization finally lead to a successful, albeit complicated, pregnancy.  While I had anxiety about my pregnancy, I never once gave thought to how difficult my life might be post delivery.  We were finally going to have a baby - in our arms - that we could bring home!  Life would be perfect!  Our hopes, dreams, and prayers were coming true!

Boy was I mistaken.

Yes, Kate's birth can go down as the best day of my life, however the weeks and months that followed were not sunshine and roses.  Yes I love being a mother, yes I love motherhood.  But, I struggled with many things as I made the transition to "mom".

The first few weeks post birth I just assumed the weepy, blah feelings that consumed me were typical baby blues.  Several of my friends prepared me for that so I just kept going.  Add in the fact that Kate had terrible reflux, colic, and wasn't gaining weight and I assumed my emotions were just your typical "surviving the first few weeks" feelings.

When Kate was around three or four weeks old, my parents suddenly and unexpectedly separated and ultimately divorced.  This shocking change did nothing to help with how I was doing.  This was supposed to be the happiest time in my life - my family should be doting over the new baby - not completely divided attempting to survive a not so nice at the time divorce.  I tend to be the family peace maker and the stress of trying to reconcile family members, dealing with extremely stressful situations, and witnessing my family unit fall apart was too much for me to handle.

I didn't say anything.  Didn't do anything to help myself.  Just trapped it all inside.

I told myself the divorce was causing me to feel down.  That I would feel better as soon as things settled down.  I didn't mention my feelings to anyone - just keep trucking along, feeling miserable, not being the most pleasant person to be around, completely exhausted from dealing with family drama and a baby that was up every 2-3 hours during the night.

When Kate was six weeks we discovered that her blood counts were "off" and started down the long, exhausting path to diagnosing her.  As you know, this took almost 9 months.  I stopped worrying about me and put everything I had into doctor's appointments, lab visits, Dr. Google, etc.  Deep down I always knew something major was wrong - maybe I was preparing myself for the worst - maybe it was a mother's intuition - either way, I knew. I was researching pediatric bone marrow transplants long before we got the official word that Kate would need a BMT to survive.  I was totally consumed with fear of losing my child.

However, I didn't say anything.  I didn't do anything to help myself.  Just trapped it all inside.

I told myself that having a sick, undiagnosed child was stressful.  That admitting my feelings, admitting that I knew I was depressed, that I knew I needed help would just make me look weak.  I suffered in silence - hardly ever "letting it out" and venting/ unwinding to anyone about how stressful and scary Kate's medical issues were.  I was quick to get snippy, quick to push people away, quick to snap.  All to avoid anyone realizing just how bad things were on the inside.

I'd always heard, or thought, that postpartum depression manifested in ill feelings towards your new baby and/ or life.  I never felt this way, never had a single ill feeling towards Kate.  All of my negative thoughts were projected back onto myself.  I wasn't a good enough mother and that was why Kate didn't ever sleep.  I did something, or didn't do something, while pregnant that ultimately caused her mysterious medical issues.  I couldn't get pregnant without help so that must mean I shouldn't have sought infertility treatment in the first place.  Basically, I felt like I was failing Kate, failing at motherhood.  I was extremely hard on myself.

Bottling up all of my emotions, and blaming myself for anything that might not be "perfect", lead to extreme anxiety and really brought out my type A, control freak personality.  This resulted in me being extremely possessive of Kate and controlling every aspect of her life/ schedule I could.  I would nearly have a panic attack if someone other than myself or Alex fed her a bottle, changed her diaper, held her, put her down for a nap.  Basically I had to do everything myself in order to remain calm and feel like I was in control on the outside since I was so far from in control on the inside.

I did have many, many good days, even weeks.  I think feeling good every so often was one of the major reasons why I didn't seek help sooner.  I just told myself that a bad doctor's appointment or extra family drama was causing the anxiety and depression.  I convinced myself I wasn't really depressed but rather I had a lot on my plate.  I wasn't really suffering from anxiety - I was simply a touch over protective because I had a high needs/ special needs baby. 

I could go on and on but I'm sure you get the picture.

A few weeks after Kate was diagnosed with CAMT I had a routine appointment with my OBGyn.  I hadn't seen her in a while since we used a fertility specialist to get pregnant and then I saw a high risk doctor for my entire pregnancy.  When she came in the room, she simply said "so catch me up on what's been going on". 

And I completely lost it. 

I'm sure the woman thought I was crazy (and by that point I probably was a bit crazy).  After calming down I completely unloaded on her - went through everything - got it all out.  It was much easier for me to be completely open and honest with a "stranger" verses my friends or family. 

My wonderful doctor sat in the room and talked with me about everything for nearly an hour.  She reassured me that all of the situations in my life (divorce, sick child, going back to work, etc) were extremely stressful and would have most people responding the way I was.

Most importantly, she told me that getting help for my struggles didn't make me weak - rather it made me strong. 

A strong woman that realized she was in over her head and needed help to get through. 

A strong woman that was doing everything in her power to get better so that she could be the best wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend possible.

That day, I made the decision to no longer suffer in silence.  I made the decision that I was going to finally make sure I was taking care of myself - I was going to work on becoming a better me.  Because let's be honest, we can't be wonderful wives, mothers, sisters, or friends if we aren't confident and comfortable with ourselves to begin with.


The Morrows said...

Thanks so much for sharing. I love your honesty and vulnerability in this post. I think it will help a lot of women!!

Rachel said...

Shortly after I had Connor, I had many of the same feelings you have described. And I didn't tell a single person. I was so embarrassed and felt defeated. Everyone kept talking about how this should be the best time of my life - and honestly? I WAS MISERABLE.

I put on a smile for everyone around me, but inside I felt like I was slowly fading away. I became very possessive of Connor and wanted help from no one. Even at my 6 week post-delivery appointment I pretended that everything was just perfect.

I'm honestly not sure when (or how) my switch flipped back to normal, but I know it was after Connor's first birthday. In retrospect, I realize that I needed help. Desperately. As soon as I realized what all I'd been through in the past year, I called my OBGYN and made an appointment. I told her everything and BEGGED her to help me through this if we ever have another baby. I'm terrified that I will go back to the same 'place' and not ask or want any help. And I know I'll need it.

I hope that things are easier for you this time. I'll be praying for you because I truly understand your feelings!

Stefanie Blakely said...

Great post! I just quit breastfeeding so that I could take my anti-depressants & anti-anxiety meds. It's only been a week & I'm already starting to feel better.

Here's my post about it:

Samantha said...

I'm sure that sharing your struggles will help a lot of women. I hope things are better for you now.

Turner Aycock said...

Been there, done that! PPD is the worst. I even walked the line of psychosis. It was awful. Lots of therapy and zoloft later, I feel better than I ever have in my whole life. You don't realize how bad you felt til you finally feel good again.

Nicole said...

This is such a moving post. Thank you for sharing.

Lauren said...

Girl you are so not alone in this... I was feeling the worst... I'm still struggling but with different issues that I guess extended it. I didn't understand why I felt the way I did...unhappy... All these moms talk about how much they just LOVE being a mom and I honestly was not there with them. I love my daughter to death but I was struggling with motherhood.

Great book I me a quick laugh and makes me feel less alone when I'm stressed. "I Was A Good Mom Until I Had Kids." basically it's about all the expectations we had for ourselves as parents before becoming parents.... Helping us learn to love motherhood as much as we love our kids...which I think is an excellent way of putting it.

Life is really a bull sometimes I tell you...a deck of cards... I got dealt a hand diagnosed with an incurable disease just this past week. Symptoms started 9months after birth of my daughter and took 7months to find diagnosis...affects my vision and can be prevented, treated or reversed. Now I worry about my ability to raise my daughter.... It runs it's course ..could be bad or mild and I can pass it to my kids so pregnancy is a whole other story now.

You have been dealt a hand and I have been praying for your babies and grandma recently said that the sun doesn't always shine on the same old burnt asshole and I think the sun is starting to shine on your family! keep your chin up and thank you for your honesty. I wish more women would be honest...I think it would help us all feel less alone.


Rebecca said...

Although I never experienced PPD, I did have severe PP anxiety. It was like I had worked so hard to get him here, I did not want anything to happen to him now.
I would have 6-7 panic attacks a day, pulling over on the side of the road because I could not drive anymore.
I got medicated, but I also learned how to deal with the stress. I still struggle with pieces of this 2 years later, but it has gotten much better. I am still crazy schedule mom, but it is more controlled.

Lucy Marie said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. It is so incredibly important for women to be open and honest about these struggles so that others know they are not alone. I felt so helpless at times in the first 6-9 months of Eva's life and I felt like if I reached the point where I asked for "help", it would make me weak. But you are so right ... what makes a woman strong is her ability to admit that she may need help and can't always do everything alone. Praying for you as you transition to being a Mama of 2.

Ashley said...

Thank you for being brave, Linds. I love you!

Lindsey said...

I am reaching through the computer and giving you the biggest hug I have right now mama!! You are by far one of the strongest women I have ever come to meet and I so grateful for this post!! I have been wanting to write about my struggle with PPD forever but have been so scared "what will people think, my family doesn't even know, my husband may not want me to share that" but your strength truly inspires me!!! Big hugs!!! Xoxo

Unknown said...

Hi Lindsey!
I found your blog randomly through someone else's blog roll and loved your post! I hope you don't mind a total stranger posting a comment :)
I have a 12 week old and definitely struggled with post partum anxiety. I dealt with anxiety before I had a baby so I knew what to 'look for' in my behavior/thoughts. I didn't hesitate to go see my doctor and I'm so glad I did because it freed me up to enjoy my baby and our new family when I had that issue controlled

Allie said...

Oh my gosh, this is almost exactly my thoughts feelings after our second, it is what terrifies me daily as we are days away from baby #3, do not want it to happen again! But I think talking about it and acknowledging it is so helpful! Thanks for sharing you story, if you ever want to talk I am here and now I know I have someone to chat with if needed here in the next few months! I am really hoping that going through it once is going to make this transition easier and I will be able to know when I need to take help and all that jazz! Thanks for sharing, lots of hugs to youmama!

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