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 had my first baby when I was only 19 and had been married for less than a year. She was a difficult baby at first, and it took me a long time to adjust. Despite that, I never struggled with depression; I just assumed I was lucky. We had our second daughter about two years later, and at first everything was fine. It wasn’t until almost four months postpartum that I noticed my temper had been getting shorter. Additionally, I was constantly exhausted and lacked motivation. I realized I had postpartum depression, but it didn’t seem that bad so I kept it to myself.
However, things got worse when I stopped being able to function. Breastfeeding my baby repulsed me. Every time my children cried, I was overwhelmed and just wanted to be left alone. Then I started having visions of me stabbing myself with a kitchen knife to feel something, visions of stabbing my daughter, visions of putting us all in the car and driving into a wall. I also started having auditory hallucinations. I would be in bed with my husband while both children slept nearby in our room, and I would hear my baby crying across the apartment. I would occasionally hear someone calling my name or calling for mommy. Hearing these hallucinations filled me with an intense dread that something was there to hurt my family. I would be paralyzed with fear. I either felt fear that someone was going to take my babies or else I felt nothing at all. I didn’t want my husband to go to work because I was worried what I might do if he left me alone. I hated myself.
When I finally worked up the courage to tell my husband what was happening, he was understanding and loving, but he was firm that I needed help. I agreed, but I panicked and sobbed at the idea of someone else knowing the thoughts in my brain. When I finally got in to see my doctor, he asked me all the routine questions. I was so ashamed about why I was there and how bad I had let it get before asking for help. I skimmed over many details, afraid he would call social services and take my babies. He stressed the importance of diet and exercise, which only exacerbated my feelings of inadequacy, but finally prescribed a medication.
Slowly the fog of the psychosis lifted. I felt more like myself, but the anger deep inside me never went away. I still struggle to keep this irrational rage in check every day. I struggle to be kind and loving to my children. I still think about putting a kitchen knife through my arm or stomach to feel something besides anger and futility. It’s been two years since I sought help, and every single day is still a struggle. I still struggle to seek help from a provider for fear I’ll be shamed again. Sometimes I think I’ll never overcome it completely.
Despite my struggle, I’m grateful for my experience. I have a much greater empathy for how difficult and terrifying postpartum depression can be. I’m now in school to become a Certified Nurse Midwife because women’s rights and mental health have become my passion. It is my life goal to help someone who is struggling to recover and find joy in motherhood in a way that no one helped me because I was too afraid to ask. I want to tell every woman, “You are not alone. We are here; we have been where you are. We will love and support you through this trial.”