Letters of Light
I thought that I had endured what would be worst phase of my life watching my Dad suffer for almost 3 years from Lou Gehrig’s. I had many ups and downs watching him struggle and the heartache I felt after losing him, I thought it was the worst I would ever feel.
Fast forward to December 2011, 11 months after my Dad’s passing and I was sitting in a hospital bed being told that my unborn baby boy had passed away at 23 weeks. I was beside myself. I thought my whole world had come crashing down as I sat there devastated, having to face the reality of delivering my now deceased baby boy.
Devastated probably isn’t even something to describe how I was feeling during the next days and months. I wouldn’t talk to anyone or even leave the house. My husband noticed how I was just existing and not really functioning and asked me to get help. I agreed that I needed to do something to help bring me out of the darkness I was in. I began to see a counselor and discuss my feelings along with the loss of my Dad and baby. She helped me to realize I wasn’t just grieving the loss of my Dad and now son, but that I was physically depressed and wasn’t going to be able to handle it all on my own. I needed help getting through it. She suggested medication and while I resisted saying that I would be fine, she explained to me that the chemical imbalances in my brain wouldn’t be something that I could fight off without medication.
Because I wanted to get better for my family – my husband and two young living children who were 5 and 2 at the time – I decided I needed to take the medication.
The doctor prescribed me with a specific type of anti-depressant and within the first 48 hrs of taking it I began to have a severe panic attack. I didn’t sleep for 2 days, thought I was dying from an infection that had started in my arm (from a scrape), and just couldn’t concentrate or function because I felt so out of control inside my own body. I remember calling the doctor and rambling forever telling them how I was feeling and that I couldn’t stop no matter how hard I tried and I feared I was dying. The doctor decided it was best to have me switch to another medication in order to ease my fears that the first medication was what caused my panic attack.
Once on the new medication I began to feel a lot better about my life and started to function again, but I have never been the same. I continued to take the medication for 4 months to help get me through the depression and grief. I still had anxiety and depression, but at a level I was able to function with.
Once I began to feel somewhat like myself again I decided I wanted to try and have another baby. I got off the medication and seemed to be doing well. I was able to get pregnant again right away. While I feel like it was the right decision it did come with more anxiousness and heartache as I navigated through another pregnancy. I was so worried that I would lose another baby and wouldn’t be able to handle what that would do to me.
Thankfully I was able to make it to full term. My delivery was not the same experience I had had with my other living children. I was now a different person. I went into the hospital so nervous thinking worse case scenarios and not able to experience the joy of having a baby. It was a very unpleasant couple of days at the hospital for me mentally. While I was so happy to have another healthy baby boy my mind didn’t stop worrying. I was mentally and physically exhausted. None of which stopped after we left the hospital. Being home only made matters worse. My mind would race with concerning thoughts, like how I didn’t want to die of a blood clot or another labor complication and leave my children motherless, or have my two other kids come home from school sick and get their baby brother sick. So I would sit and cry and feel fear and anxiety all the time. I hated life and I would tell my husband.
I wish I would have asked my doctor more persistently for medication after his birth because he thought that I was fine and looking back I clearly wasn’t. I was living in a constant state of fear of things I couldn’t control. I would make my kids come home from school, change their cloths and wash their hands before I would let them come near the baby. I very rarely went to crowded places and if anyone tried to touch or come near my baby my throat would start to feel like it was closing off. It was not a good way to live. For me I had to get to the 8 week mark where he could get his pertussis shot and he would be okay after that. Thankfully he was born during the spring season in April and while we were living in San Diego. I truly think that’s the only way I survived.
I believe because I wasn’t on medication I struggled for a really long time with my anxiety and depression after having my last baby. My doctor told me that because I knew my thoughts weren’t rational and could think through them that I was okay. While I agree with him to a certain extent I do think my family and I would have benefited from me being treated more seriously with my PPD.
It has taken me several years and lots of ups and downs to feel like I finally have a better hold on my life and my emotions. Having a hold doesn’t mean that I am completely better or don’t have dark days filled with sadness and anxiety. It just means that I feel like I am in a better place then I was following the loss of my baby and then the birth of my next one. I recently attended an anxiety support group that focuses on DBT which stands for dialectical behavior therapy which helps to train your brain to work through your thoughts and emotions in different ways. Having the support of others going through similar experiences helped me a lot when I needed it most.
I hope that sharing my story here will have a similar affect on other women. The darkness at times can be all consuming making you feel like having a normal life isn’t possible. Its been 4 years and while I do have dark days that come and go, I have had many happy, healthy days were I feel so thankful I made it through those very dark days to find light in my life once more.