Sixteen-months after Pumpkindoodle’s birth, I thought that Postparum Depression had left the building. After all, I wasn’t postpartum anymore. My baby was a toddler. I weaned myself off the antidepressants and looked forward to rediscovering my “old self.” The intrusive thoughts had subsided, but feelings of fear and a need for control gripped me. My patience wore thin, my home never felt clean enough, and anger seeped into my heart. I loved my daughter. I cannot write that enough. But I resigned myself to the thought that I just wasn’t cut out for motherhood and would have to just muddle through the toddler years…perhaps all her life.
Again, I kept these guilt-wracking thoughts to myself. I remembered my miscarriage with Little O and chastised myself for regretting motherhood, “You should be so thankful God gifted you with a healthy baby,” I thought. I felt a failure…as a mother and a child of God.
A few months later, we moved to Corpus Christi, and my life changed for the better. Anger still beckoned and I still felt helpless pitted against my daughter’s strong will, but our circle of friends broadened and I didn’t feel quite as alone or misunderstood. The ladies of our church small group became my dearest friends and we shared both the treasures and burdens of life. My faith in and understanding of Christ deepened. A year later, The Professor and I decided to try for baby number two and shortly there after, little Pickle was conceived.
The first seven months of my pregnancy with Pickle were trying physically, but not so much hormonally. Yet toward the beginning of month eight, I noticed some behavioral changes and immediately recognized them as PPD. At that point, I didn’t know the different forms of PPD. I just knew that I was terrified of getting my hand stuck in our garbage disposal, developed a phobia of bugs, and began having nightmares again about Pumpkindoodle’s near drowning a year earlier. Every time we walked by the pool at our apartment complex, my lungs trapped inhaled air. I felt dizzy with fear. Whenever I closed my eyes, I saw my daughter floating facedown in a pool of water.
Sleep had little problem finding me, but it didn’t keep me for long. I’d lie awake in bed for hours after a mid night bathroom call. I was tired, broken, and scared breathless. Pumpkindoodle was in the midst of the “terrible threes” and I was unraveling. I didn’t know how I could possibly raise a new baby.
I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know how badly I needed it until God spared me from a head-on collision with a tractor-trailer. While driving to a routine OB appointment, the 18-wheeler veered into my lane of traffic. I swerved and he served and we missed each other by an angel’s wing. You would think that my reaction would have been joy. Instead I felt regret. For a brief moment I thought that it would have been better if that truck wiped me off the face of the earth. Remembering that I was carrying precious cargo and that the end of my life would mean the end of his, that regret turned into guilt and remorse. I began to weep. I wept as I walked into my doctor’s office and wept as I told her that I needed help. She immediately prescribed medication deemed safe during pregnancy and encouraged me to seek therapy.
I began seeing a Christian counselor who diagnosed me with a Prenatal/Postpartum Mood disorder…three to be exact: Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Anxiety disorder. The medication, therapy, prayer, and support from family and friends helped tremendously. I felt as though I had licked PPD for once and for all. And then some additional life-changing events occurred.
Pickle arrived three weeks early, my beloved PapPap suffered a stroke that forever changed our relationship, and my husband learned that his job in Texas would not continue. We would be moving once again. This time, back to the East Coast.
The move was brutal. Pumpkindoodle despaired about moving away from her friends and so did I. I didn’t know how I would make it without them. I was part of a babysitting co-op as well, which helped me tremendously. How was I going to handle all this change?
After moving, I continued my medication, added Omega 3 supplements to my diet, exercised more, and made friends almost immediately. I did everything “right” yet so much was wrong. I began to spiral out of control. Without going to deep into detail, I will write that I no longer recognized myself. I was constantly on edge. My coping skills were minimal, my nerves shattered, and my peace all but destroyed. I didn’t know how to pray, how to mother or how to love.
During this time, I began seeing a psychiatrist to help monitor my medication and also found a secular counselor who offered me breathing tips. The counseling fell flat. The medication was taking a long time to work and I, for lack of a better term cracked under the pressure. After tearfully confiding in my doctor, he told my husband and I that I had two options: immediate hospitalization or to go away and allow family to take care of me and my children. We opted for plan B. And I remember very little of it.
After returning, things steadied some what, yet there were still days that rivaled a roller coaster ride. I found a Christian counselor through my church and began seeing her weekly. When my psychiatrist, during a telephone call, suggested that I may be Bipolar, I fell to my knees. “Lord, please give me clarity, please deliver me, please deliver me.” Instead of taking experimental medication for bipolar disorder, I kept a mood chart and learned that many of my mood swings were situational. That was a major discovery.
The medications helped steady the hormones, now I needed to work on the emotional and spiritual issues. Both my psychiatrist and counselor agreed that I was not bipolar and that my medication was actually too strong for me. The doctor lowered the dosage and my counselor and I worked through some major struggles and since December of last year, I have been symptom free. Praise God.
In my next and final segment of this series, I will discuss some more aspects of my treatment. If you have questions about symptoms and types of Postnatal Mood Disorders, please refer to the information in my side bar. Feel free to e-mail me as well and I can help you find an expert to help you.
God, listen to me shout, bend an ear to my prayer. When I'm far from anywhere, down to my last gasp, I call out, "Guide me up High Rock Mountain!" You've always given me breathing room, a place to get away from it all, A lifetime pass to your safe-house, an open invitation as your guest. You've always taken me seriously, God, made me welcome among those who know and love you.
Psalm 61:1-4 (The Message)