Disclaimer: The following article mentions the topic of suicide or other sensitive subjects, which may trigger negative thoughts and feelings for those currently suffering or still recovering from a mental or mood disorder. Reader discretion is advised.
I followed Emily’s story closely through the news, and my heart went out to her and her family. As I listened to the reports and how she had suffered from postpartum depression, tears ran down my face and I knew I had to share my story.
Emily’s story was my story. Shortly after the birth of our 3rd child, I became depressed and anxious. I had experienced the baby blues with my first and second pregnancy, but it was short-lived. My third pregnancy and birth were different. I had always struggled with breastfeeding, so I worried if my baby was getting enough milk. I also worried that I would be a failure if I couldn’t breastfeed, so when I decided to quit, this presented another problem. Our previous child had a serious condition called pyloric stenosis that was related to eating and digesting, so I was worried that the same thing would happen with our new baby if I stopped breastfeeding. I played the “what if” game constantly. I was not able to sleep when the baby was sleeping; I could not shut my mind down enough to sleep. I had no appetite. The anxiety was unbearable, and I would describe it as feeling like climbing the walls. I felt so alone, like I was the only mother that had ever had anxiety and depression. Additionally, I felt guilty because I was not bonding with my new baby–I resented her for making me feel this way.
My OB/GYN prescribed medication to help with the anxiety and sleeplessness, but neither medicine helped much. It was terrible to realize that the medicine might not take effect for 6 weeks; I didn’t have 6 weeks. I was afraid this was how I was going to have to live for the rest of my life. I even thought of ways to end it all, such as getting in my car with the garage door down and starting the engine. After about a month of having no sleep and experiencing overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, my OB/GYN told me he thought it was time I was hospitalized. He said that they would hook me up to an IV and give me sleeping medicine. It sounded wonderful! I was admitted to the psychiatric unit at a nearby hospital. Finally, I had hope. Soon after arriving, however, I was skeptical the treatment would work. I was the only person with postpartum depression; I was there with drug addicts trying to get clean. When we would get together for group therapy, my suffering was minimized. For instance, I was told, “You’ll be ok once your hormones get back on track.” I was not improving. However, I lied and said I was feeling better because I just wanted to go home. After returning home, I had blood tests to check my thyroid levels. I went to a neurologist for a sleep study to determine why I wasn’t sleeping. No one had any answers for me.
Without any explanation, I finally started feeling better, was able to sleep more, and the anxiety became bearable. I still suffer from anxiety, but I am on medication that helps. I still play the “what if” game with myself, which I believe will always be there after my severe stint of postpartum depression. I wish there had been more resources when I went through this challenge 12 years ago. To this day, there are only a few people that know how much I struggled. I was ashamed to tell anyone, especially because I didn’t want to be known as the crazy lady. I hope by sharing my story, other women will not feel like they are alone. I think we have made improvements since my experience, but we still have a long way to go. Let’s end the stigma surrounding postpartum depression and anxiety.