When the doctors in the Emergency Room told me they needed to admit me to the psychiatric ward at the hospital, my first thought was “What is everyone going to think? I don’t want people to think that I’m crazy!” I was worried about how my friends and family would react. It was absolutely ridiculous, because if I had been seeking help for a physical illness, I would not have felt embarrassed. However, because I was suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety, I felt ashamed. I felt like I was weak and had lost my mind. I thought I was a bad mother and blamed myself for what was happening to me.
When my first son was born, he had some health complications and had to remain in the NICU. Having him in the hospital while dealing with being a new mom was extremely stressful, and I experienced insomnia and anxiety for several months after he was born. I had never suffered from anxiety or depression before having a baby, so when I asked my doctor and family members about it, they all concluded I was just having a hard time adjusting to being a mom. I was told that since I didn’t have feelings of hurting myself or my baby, it wasn’t postpartum depression. Looking back, I now know that I was experiencing postpartum anxiety.
When my second son was born, we were so excited to have him join our family. I felt great after the birth, so I thought my anxiety would not come back. About a week later, the anxiety and depression hit me like a ton of bricks. Additionally, my son got really sick with RSV, and we had to take him back to the hospital for over a week. At this point, I began to spiral downward.
My struggle began with anxiety in the evenings and got to the point that I couldn’t even sleep if my baby wasn’t right near me. I would just lie there wide awake with my heart racing and in a constant state of panic. My chest was so tight all the time, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My arms and hands started going numb. I felt so sick to my stomach that I couldn’t eat or drink anything, which in turn made me extremely dehydrated. I was absolutely exhausted and couldn’t even stand up without blacking out, but I couldn’t sleep either because of high adrenaline. I had a few panic attacks as well and even told my family repeatedly that I didn’t want to live anymore because it would just be so much easier for everyone if I died.
We sought help from various doctors, and I was prescribed sleeping medication that didn’t work. We contacted every medical professional we could think of to try to find some help in the short term, but we had no luck. My panic attacks were getting worse, and I went three full days without sleeping. At this point, I was admitted to the psychiatric ward at the hospital where I stayed for six days. I was completely devastated. I have never been more scared in my life, and being away from my family was absolutely excruciating.
The psychiatrists in the hospital adjusted my medication and it gave me a chance to sleep and recover. As much as I hated it, my time in the hospital was extremely humbling and eye-opening. I learned about myself and realized that I am much stronger than I thought. I met some incredible people (people that you would consider “normal” if you met them on the street), which showed me that mental illness can affect anyone.
I am happy to say that I’m doing so much better with the help of medication and therapy, but I’m still working on keeping my anxiety under control. When I was being treated in the hospital, I was mortified at the idea of anyone finding out that I was there, so we only told a select few people. I felt so much shame about my situation and hated that I had to be there. Reaching out and asking for help seems like the scariest thing in the world because of how our society views mental illness, but I think that seeking help is the bravest and strongest thing you can do for yourself and for your family. I’m so glad that there has been a recent movement to raise awareness about postpartum depression and anxiety.
When I started having issues, I was so frustrated because everyone else around me was handling having a baby just fine, and it felt like I was the only one who couldn’t cope. But as I’ve reached out to friends and family members, I have heard many stories of people who have experienced similar things. To those who might be suffering, you are not alone. You are not abnormal. There are so many women who have felt the same way you do. You’re not weak, and asking for help doesn’t make you less of a person or a mom. Getting help is the best thing you can do. It may not feel like you’ll ever get out of this hole and get back to being your normal self, but you will. These feelings won’t last forever, and you can make it through! You are wonderful, strong, and capable–you are LOVED.