I was 21 weeks pregnant with my second baby girl when I was told that she could potentially have a life threatening disorder. My world turned upside down in that moment. On June 15, 2015, my baby girl was born – happy and healthy. Unfortunately, I was not. The night of her birth, I was rushed to the cardiology wing of the hospital, requiring that I be separated from my hours-old baby. That was the beginning of my struggle.
Coming home and adjusting to a toddler, a newborn, and the news that my heart may not be working as it should was terrifying. Shortly after coming home I started experiencing what I now know were panic attacks. I had never dealt with anxiety before and had never experienced a panic attack. I also had never heard of postpartum anxiety. I had convinced myself that something terrible was going to happen to me and my children would be left without a mom.
Every day was a constant battle in my mind. I was completely withdrawn from my reality and found it difficult to function and complete my typical daily tasks. I was terrified to be left alone with my children in fear that something would happen to me and they would be in the house alone. I was afraid to drive with them in my car. Most of the time I felt like a shell of myself watching my life but not really experiencing any of it. I was short tempered and not myself. None of what I was experiencing made sense, and I was scared to death. I did not know what to make of the things I was feeling or the thoughts I was thinking.
I did not feel like anybody understood what I was going through. My husband tried to help, but I think the “new me” scared him just as much as it did me. My mom loved me and supported me through it, but nobody really knows what you’re feeling inside. I took showers at night and would cry so that nobody else would know. I was ashamed and I felt like I was failing my family. I am a smart, educated, second time mom and felt that I should definitely not be feeling the way that I was.
I started telling myself that it may be better if something did happen to me because I was hurting my family and I did not think I could face the way I felt every single day. I was exhausted from fighting and I did not see an end in sight. I longed for the old me.
One night I ended up in the ER convinced that I was surely going to have a heart attack. After this experience, I knew I needed to get help. Unfortunately, I do not think postpartum anxiety is a well enough known condition. I felt like everywhere I went was a dead end. I sought out therapy which did not seem helpful…even my OB brushed me off.
Finally, one day I came across a post from a complete stranger who had experienced the exact same thing I was going through. It felt like a gift from God. In the moment I knew, I was not alone. What I was experiencing was OK and I would be OK.
My baby is now almost 1 year old and although I still have days that are difficult, I have learned how to control my thoughts and emotions and am mostly back to my old self again.
If you are experiencing any kind of postpartum struggles, please please please know that it is a real thing and there is NOTHING to be ashamed of. Seek out help. Get on medication if needed. You WILL make it through and you will be OK. Remember you are loved and you are not alone!