For as long as I can remember, all I wanted to be when I grew up was a stay-at-home mother with a lot of children. Of course I was ecstatic to find out we were expecting our first child, a girl, and daydreamed about hobbies I’d get to share with her. When I was 35 weeks along, we went to the hospital after some intense cramping and learned that our daughter’s heart had stopped beating. I stayed and delivered our sweet stillborn daughter. We were of course completely heartbroken and shocked. Add in a move to a new state during that same week, and there were some big changes in my life all at once.
I tried extra hard to be a great person after we lost our baby. I remember telling people that I wasn’t wearing black and huddled in a corner, I was just sad off and on. However, nearly 4 months postpartum, I was having a hard time sleeping and was filled with extra energy (at times, I would text or talk to friends and family for over 12 hours straight).
I had a delusion in my mind that grew steadier and stronger as the days passed. One day, my husband came home from work worried, as I had called him several times during the day. My husband asked our local religious leader to come over, and his training as a psychologist was very helpful. I was soon admitted to a mental hospital for evaluation and stayed for a week due to postpartum psychosis. Nothing could slow my racing mind, and my inability to sleep was making my symptoms worsen. I refused medication, but finally the nurses resorted to sedating me. With the help of sleep and sedation, I slowly came down from my high.
Upon discharge, I met with a psychiatrist who prescribed me an antidepressant medication. I took it, but then stopped a few months later as I was desperate to have another baby. I quit seeing my doctor, and was sure the hospital stay was all due to being sad about the stillbirth (there had been no official diagnosis). I met with a therapist for grief counseling a few times, and then stopped that as well.
I got pregnant and delivered a healthy boy, but afterward I was a nervous wreck. I was so scared that something would happen to my son and I’d have to bury another baby. The first week of his life I wouldn’t even put him down while he was sleeping. I slept little, and when I tried to rest, my heart literally hurt. I would rarely take my son outside, thinking I could keep him safe from germs and physical harm.
Similar to my first experience, I started having extra energy about 4 months postpartum. I was happy and chatty; I couldn’t slow down if I wanted to. Again, I was admitted to the hospital with postpartum psychosis. A similar pattern of medication and some therapy followed.
We moved states again, and as I started to feel better, I stopped taking my medication three months later.
After a third pregnancy, my husband and I decided to make some changes so I wouldn’t be hospitalized postpartum. I took antidepressants right after I delivered our second baby boy. We also hired a mother’s helper so I could get more rest and avoid the trigger of sleep deprivation. However, I was so nervous about having someone watch my kids that I rarely slept. Once again, I began to feel my thoughts race and I began ruminating.
Around this time, a talk from a religious leader was given about the reality of mental illnesses and advice on what to do about it. It came at the exact moment I needed it, and a couple of days later I met with a highly recommended psychiatrist. Upon hearing my history, the psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar 1 disorder. He put me on strong medication, which quickly helped bring me down back to normal. I met with a therapist for months until we felt I had improved significantly.
This was nearly 3 years ago. I’m now taking 4 milder meds, and I’ll need to be on them for the rest of my life. Not only are there are some negative side effects, but I may not have any more children because of the risks. My dreams of having that large family will have to be placed on hold, and that’s taken some tears and time to get used to.
Having family and friends support is a huge blessing, as is modern medicine. I want you to know that everyone is struggling with one thing or another. We’re all in this together and need to help each other no matter what our own trial is! You’re not alone.