Last year I was joined by several awesome bloggers to talk about maternal mental health together here at HalfKindled. This year I am passing the torch on to Lydia at Flourish in Hope, today she is hosting a blog hop over at her site. Be sure to check it out to read her story and others.
“Two lines. There are two lines. What am I going to do!?!” And that, unfortunately, was my reaction to learning that I was pregnant with my third child.
In the weeks leading up to that moment, my husband and I both noticed a dramatic increase in my anxiety and depression, but couldn’t determine a cause. The anxiety had grown so strong that I had developed a muscular “tic.” Now I knew why: I was pregnant.
Pregnancy is supposed to be a time of joyful anticipation but, for those who experience pre-natal depression and anxiety, it can be a time of anguish where the pregnancy hormones wreak havoc on one’s mental state. Unfortunately, we had discovered during my pregnancy with my daughter that this is what happens to me,
That night in my journal I wrote: “Today I found out I am pregnant. I see no answers. I have no hope for any sort of positive resolution for a long time. I could cope with the exhaustion, nausea, migraines, months of Braxton hicks, restless legs, insomnia and then labor and delivery, but I can’t deal with the thought of the never ending waves of anxiety and depression that are going to beat me against the rocks mercilessly for the next . . . I don’t know when I can expect a reprieve. Each episode leaves scars on my brain leaving me more susceptible to worse panic attacks. I see no escape.”
Mostly, I was desperate to escape my constant internal barrage telling me everything I was doing was wrong and what a horrible person I was. I particularly remember standing over the kitchen sink sobbing as I told myself if I really loved my baby I would give him away since he would be better off without me in his life. I worried that I would never be able to show him love because of my depression.
So intense were my feelings of failure and of being trapped that I began to fantasize about any option, even bad ones, that could provide escape.
When crossing the street, I would sometimes wish that the breaks on the oncoming car would fail; I would die and it wouldn’t be my fault. Later on in pregnancy I would fantasize about seriously hemorrhaging in labor, imagining that the baby would be OK, and I would either die or have an emergency hysterectomy and at least be free from childbearing, if not from life. I was apathetic about whether my life would be saved or lost. I just wanted a “guilt free” way out.
Then the situation took a turn for the worse. Instead of just hoping an accident would kill me, it took all my will power to stay between the lines while driving. Every day I experienced desires to kill myself.
Even though things had reached such a horrible state, I was terrified to go on medicine. I was so scared of it hurting my baby or causing me to become psychotic. I knew I couldn’t go on as I was.
My intervention came from my midwife. When she saw how bad things had become she advised me to see a psychiatrist. She took the responsibility for making that decision for me so that I wouldn’t be plagued by the guilt and fear of doing something wrong. I am incredibly grateful for that.
The psychiatrist put me on a low dose of Celexa (10mg) to start. It took all of my strength to put that pill in my mouth. The first few days were awful as my body acclimated to the medicine, but after a few weeks the symptoms went away. Gradually, I started to feel better. I didn’t want to kill myself anymore, I experienced fewer panic attacks. The depression and anxiety were still there, but it felt like something was helping me hold it in check. Life was still very difficult, but I no longer wanted to die.
Once my son Alexander was born, the anxiety and depression was GREATLY reduced, even within the first 24 hours. I was able to feel joy holding my baby and showering him with kisses. I was able to start laughing and smiling again. Contrary to my fears, I loved my baby wholeheartedly and was even able to enjoy the postpartum period.
Now when I am having a rough time, he is one of the people who most cheers me up. His smile is infectious. As I write this, he is playing with his sister and keeps looking up and flashing me the biggest grin. He helps to heal me and it is a true joy to be his mother.
Are you or someone you know struggling with prenatal depression and/or anxiety? Here are some things I have learned the hard way that are a big help:
- Get help. And then keep getting help. Too often mothers feel like they should be able to manage on their own and don’t want to burden others by asking for help. Asking for help is humbling, but it is probably the most important part of managing depression/anxiety. Get professional help from a counselor and/or psychiatrist, get support from family and friends. Figure out what it is that you need and then find a way to have that need filled. In my case I went to a counselor, and when counselling wasn’t enough I went to a psychiatrist. At home my husband helped out a lot, but when things got to be more than I could handle while he was at work, the kids and I went and stayed with my parents for a week. Do whatever works to get your needs met.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Nobody wants to have others see them at their worst. When depression hits, people often keep to themselves, but the isolation usually makes the depression worse. Instead, try reaching out to close friends more when you are feeling depressed.
- Remind yourself that “this too shall pass.” What you are going through is hard, give yourself permission to acknowledge the difficulty of your situation, but recognize that it won’t be like this forever.
Take each day a moment at a time, and remember that someday you will look back and be so grateful that you didn’t give up.
Linking up with Flourish in Hope, Lydia has so many great resources for those suffering with PPD, be sure to check it out!