I have a few new readers on my blog, which I'm really excited about. I wanted to spend a little bit of time just re-sharing my story (in brief) and hopefully filling in some of the gaps.
When I was pregnant with my third baby, Will, it was a totally normal pregnancy. My other two were pretty young, 4 and 2, but life was manageable. After a routine pregnancy, I ended up having a fairly traumatic birth experience. In short, I thought Will was going to die, and then I thought I was going to die. But thankfully, nothing like that happened, and we actually had a really great recovery from the birth.
It wasn't until several months (3 or 4) after he was born that I realized I was depressed. At first the depression came monthly, right around my period. I tried to brush it off as PMS, but having suffered depression before, I knew it felt just like depression. I also began having intrusive thoughts of harming the baby and harming myself.
I didn't have a clue where or how to get help, especially because we were uninsured and not covered by medicaid at the time. My husband and I were scraping to make ends meet, so the thought of shelling money to a therapist just seemed outlandish to me.
My husband did not have a clue about what was going on with me. He knew that something was wrong, but he thought I was just withdrawn and angry with him. He had no idea I was sinking deeper into depression and anxiety.
I met with my OB, first because my tailbone was extremely sore from the birth, but also to tell him about the depression. He wrote me a prescription and sent me to get an x-ray for my tailbone. Around this time, I was also convinced that I had some kind of cancer developing in my belly. I was sure that the x-ray would show some kind of massive tumor, in addition to a broken tailbone. When the x-ray came back clean, I was stunned and disappointed. I knew something was wrong with me, but it just wasn't showing up.
My husband was working and going to school full time, and his work was at a restaurant, so he was only home first thing in the morning and then after 11 pm at night. I was watching all three kids by myself all day, while teaching at a local private school (where I could bring the kids with me, thankfully). I was stressed out and feeling completely disconnected from Will.
I began to get so overwhelmed that I began self harming. When things would get too stressful, I would blank out completely, staring at the wall. Then I would put the baby somewhere safe, make sure the other two were watching TV or something, and I would go into the bathroom and cut.
I was having intensifying suicidal thoughts as well, in addition to thoughts of harming my baby. I reached out to a friend who I knew had been through postpartum depression before.
Together, we ended up talking to my husband, and ultimately I checked into a hospital for ten days. I was released, but things really didn't get much better, even though I had begun to see a therapist. I ended up checking into another hospital exactly one month later.
Each time I went to the hospital, they switched up my meds and basically waited to see if they were kicking in. But it was kind of ridiculous, because the medication I was on typically takes 6 to 8 weeks to do anything.
At this point, my sister in law, who was visiting Utah from Colorado, volunteered to take my baby and look after him. I was so despondent and unable to deal with anything, I agreed. I knew she would take much better care of him than I was at the moment. Jessica took Will back to Colorado, where she and her family cared for Will for a few months (I can't remember the details).
In the meantime, I was continuing to care for my other two kids, Emma (4) and James (2). We went through some rough times, but eventually, I felt that I was feeling better. I felt that things were going well enough that we could bring Will back home.
When I try to remember the details, they are really blurry. Things went really well for a while; we were back to normal, going to school and coming home and playing, etc. Unfortunately, the intrusive thoughts started coming back. I continued to feel out of control, and I continued with the self harming.
Everything kind of reached a crescendo one evening when I felt I could no longer handle taking care of the kids. I kept having thoughts of taking my kids upstairs and smothering them in their beds. The thoughts were pretty strong, so I called a couple of my friends - one who lived nearby, and another back in Colorado. My friend Kristin stayed on the phone with me while I put the kids to bed. I told her I needed her on the phone with me so I wouldn't do anything stupid. I was shaking and crying.
My other friend came over, along with a bunch of other women who came in, made sure the kids were in bed, and then they cleaned my house, did the dishes and folded my laundry. I sat upstairs in my bed, just shaken.
From that point on, we decided that I really needed additional help. It was decided that I would go to Colorado and live with my parents. They would help me with the older two kids, and Will would go back to Jessica. This all happened last April.
Since I have been in Colorado, I have reached out to a postpartum support group, where I have received support both for me and for Will. I have also been working with therapists, though that in itself is a long story. I'll just say, it's not so easy to find the right fit all the time. At one point last year, I was hospitalized a third time after an episode with a therapist didn't go so well.
Thankfully, though, I have been able to find the right support, even though it took a very long time to get to this point. I am working with a psychiatrist for my medications, and am working with a therapist who seems to be a good fit. (crossing fingers). I attend weekly groups at a postpartum support group, and I was lucky enough to be approached by one of the child psychologists at Children's Hospital to do play therapy with Will. So we have been doing that once a week, and things have been going great. Will transitioned home to live with our family around Halloween, and has been back home and doing really well.
While working with Dr. J (the above mentioned child psychologist), she suggested that my middle son, James, might benefit from some therapy as well. He had been having a lot of tantrums, where his face would go bright red, his muscles would tense up, and he would just get extremely frustrated and scream. He was also dealing with confusion about Will - who does he live with, where does he live?, that sort of thing. Also, James went from being middle to youngest to middle to youngest to middle again, which I think was extremely confusing. She put me in touch with the Mental Health Center of Denver, where James and I go to play therapy once a week. At play therapy, we talk to James about his big feelings, about how to identify his feelings, and about what to do to help him feel better when those feelings get overwhelming.
The environment is very child friendly - James just feels that he goes there to play with toys. But while we play with toys, the counselor, who is actually a licensed clinical social worker, guides the play by asking James questions about his feelings and guiding him through by asking him leading questions and making suggestions. Sometimes it feels like it all goes in one ear and out the other, but I can tell that James' behavior is improving at home, especially when I identify his emotions and try to talk them through with him.
So all of these therapy programs I am involved in are an ongoing thing - there is no deadline or final appointment set. My hope is that I will eventually feel well enough to be able to go back home and be a normal mom and be able to do laundry and dishes and make dinner and play with my kids like most moms do. I am getting there, but I still have a ways to go. If I have learned anything from this journey, it's that it takes time, lots of time, to heal.
I hope this post answers some questions some of my new readers have had. If not, please continue to leave comments and ask questions. I am very willing to share my story, especially if it is helpful to someone dealing with a similar struggle.