A Long Journey with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from a Warrior Mom in Australia. She said that this site helped her understand more about postnatal depression and anxiety (PND), which is how they refer to postpartum depression and anxiety Down Under. She wanted to share her story to help other moms. We’ll note that if treated, postpartum mood and anxiety disorders don’t have to last as long as this mom’s experience. Postpartum depression is temporary and treatable. This mom got help. You can too. Note: Mild trigger warning for suicidal ideation. -Jenna]

A Long Journey with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Looking back, the anxiety began the day my son was born. I hadn’t slept in three days by the time he arrived at 4:45am on Sunday morning, July 7, 2013. He was ten days late and I’d had a fairly long labor: 52 hours including the very early stages. But he arrived safe and was feeding and sleeping. I wasn’t. We spent two more sleepless nights in hospital then my husband took us home to my mum, a nice warm apartment, and home cooked meal.

Everything was a blur after that. The first few weeks flew by. Mum had to fly back to Sydney after a week to get back to work. My sister visited when Flynn was around four weeks old. That was around the time I got mastitis. It wasn’t the worst kind, but it happened and it took me a week to get over, whilst still trying to care for and breastfeed my baby.

Which we struggled with.

I still vividly remember crying to my husband when Flynn was around three months old asking why he wouldn’t feed from me, why was it taking so long to get the hang of, why was it so hard? I think we finally got into a rhythm when he was about four months old, and I’m glad we persevered, as I was able to feed him till he was 13 months old.

I was tired, severely sleep deprived, and still living off adrenaline and nervous energy. My husband worked long hours, and we’d just opened a gym when Flynn was nine weeks old, so I had no help during the week and limited over the weekends as I was breastfeeding and was the only one who could settle our baby at this stage. I didn’t ask for help from anybody. Most of my family lived in Sydney and I didn’t want to burden anyone. Plus society puts this pressure on us as mothers; it tells us that we’re supposed to know what’s best and should be capable of doing it alone. I didn’t want to be seen as a failure.

Flynn wasn’t the best sleeper. Maybe it was me, maybe it was him, could have been the mounting anxiety I started to feel over my baby every waking hour. The books all told me that he should sleep but he didn’t. I guess that’s when the cracks started to appear. I remember crying to my husband on the phone one day because Flynn wouldn’t stop crying. I was so upset and would cry all the time. I thought it was normal, but it should have been the first sign I wasn’t coping.

The months passed and we were finally booked into a sleep school when Flynn was seven months old. Relief at last, or so I thought. He did well but the baby next to us cried all night, so I didn’t sleep and it would often wake Flynn up. This is when I was finally forced to seek help. The following week, I saw my GP, he did the test, told me I had postnatal depression, gave me a prescription for an antidepressant, and off I went.

Back up, what? I don’t have postpartum depression and anxiety. I’m just severely sleep deprived with a newborn, well seven month old, that doesn’t sleep. Why would I get postnatal depression? I was never going to have it. Everyone had told me I was born to be a mum, and besides, PND only happened to others. Clearly I didn’t believe it, so of course, life went on. I didn’t tell anyone and continued to live in denial of the unforgiving illness that was slowing creeping into and taking over my life.

Flynn eventually turned one and it was lovely to celebrate. We’d made it through his first year. Life went on and as a couple more months passed by, I decided I was better and it was time to wean myself off the meds. That didn’t go so well, so my GP upped the dose.

Flynn and I took a lot of trips to Sydney to be with family. Christmas came and went and then in early January, the day Flynn turned 18 months, we found out we were pregnant. I felt elated! Then the severe morning sickness hit and I began to find it hard to cope with an 18 month old and the stress of being pregnant again. We were in the middle of planning a move, trying to find a new place and packing, which is stressful enough without adding a toddler and pregnancy into the mix. My GP didn’t write me a referral for any ultrasounds; they were too expensive apparently and I was told I couldn’t have one till I was 20 weeks pregnant as we had opted not to have the Nuchal Scan. He was not supportive of my pregnancy to say the least. Obviously my PND hadn’t been resolved.

On Monday March 2, 2015, we lost our baby at 13 weeks. I still can’t write these words or think about them without crying or feeling utter despair at the loss I still feel for that little soul. Through my own healing and trying to seek out some kind of closure for this unexplainable loss, I found out that we were having a little boy. He would like to be called Ben and that he was cheeky, happy, and understood that it was just not his time. Sometimes when Flynn would be playing by himself in his room, I could hear him chatting away and could picture Ben there playing with him and that gave me great comfort. Understandably, my depression and anxiety spiraled down further from here. I still remember weeks and months after losing Ben that I just couldn’t bare to let Flynn out of my sight, constantly fearing that something would happen to him too. [Read Also: 13 Things You Should Know About Grief After a Miscarriage or Baby Loss]

Life went on as it does and another few months passed when I had a pretty bad, “bad day.” We decided to go Bunnings one Saturday afternoon as you do, and Flynn was just being a normal testing toddler. I told Rob I’d had enough and retreated to the car. They came back five minutes later. I’d had a good cry and said to him, “Now I know why people kill themselves.”

Wow. But I was still in denial.

We went back to our GP that week and Rob told him what I’d said, so the doctor decided to change my meds. I wasn’t weaned between the two properly or even told the side effects of this new medication. As I was still in denial of my illness, I didn’t do the proper research either. To say this new medication did not agree with me is an understatement.

One morning I forgot to take it and by the afternoon I was in a severe drug withdrawal. I was told to stick with it, so I did. By this time, I thought it might be best for me to talk to someone who could help me sort through my thoughts and help me. My GP told me that talking to someone was a waste of time, it never helped anyone, and was an extreme waste of money. Seriously? Time to change GPs.

We’d moved not long after losing Ben, so I eventually found a new female GP in our area from a recommendation. She immediately referred me to a psychiatrist, who referred me to a psychologist. Flynn turned two and we celebrated with our big boy. I couldn’t believe two years had passed and everything seemed to move along just fine. Things were starting to look up with the right help and care. Christmas arrived and I couldn’t be happier. It is my favorite time of year after all.

January came and my mental state started to decline again. I still can’t pinpoint why. Christmas was over, maybe the medication had plateaued; I’m still unsure. The end of February was dreadful and the bad days never ended.

Looking back now I can see more clearly. It was coming up to the anniversary of Ben’s birth and so on his birthday, March 2nd I was admitted to the psychiatric emergency department at the Royal Brisbane Hospital. I had been having intrusive suicidal thoughts for days, couldn’t see the positive in anything, I didn’t want to keep going anymore, and started to plan my exit.

That day and experience was a real eye opener for me. Rob and I sat there for over 12 hours in a tiny locked room with just about any and every kind of public mental health patient there is roaming around outside. The doctors gave me hope though. They just had to find the right medication combination for me and I would get better. We were able to leave later that night and the following week my doctor added a new mood stabilizing medication to the mix. Within a week, things started to improve. We had finally found a winning combination, and the old me was starting to shine through again.

A few weeks later, on the eve of Easter Friday I found out we were pregnant for the third time. Surprise, shock, and elation: I couldn’t have been more excited! We were all very happy and couldn’t wait. It didn’t take long for the severe morning sickness to kick in again, and within weeks I had stopped all my meds cold turkey as I could barely swallow water. Not a good move, but I was so miserable with nausea that I wasn’t thinking straight.

However, as luck would have it I was about to see a new psychiatrist, one of the leading doctors in Brisbane who specializes in Pregnancy and Postnatal Disorders. She immediately changed me to a new medication to help with my severe nausea. Unfortunately, this one also didn’t agree with me. Typical weight gaining medication, I put on 10kg in my first trimester, not to mention it didn’t help with the nausea at all. Then some poor luck struck again, she went away on holidays, my previous psychiatrist was away ill, and I was left to deal with the morning sickness and mind games alone. I eventually stopped that medication and changed back to the previous mood stabilizer that had worked but not soon enough.

By the end of May, I wasn’t coping again. I let it go on for days and by Thursday June 2, I was having another bad, bad day. I kept trying to push through it but I’d let it go on for too long; my thoughts were too far gone, too intrusive, and I was resorting to suicide as my only option again. I eventually rang for an ambulance when I realized I wasn’t going to make it on my own.

They took me to the Royal again and it was like déjà vu. Luckily I only had to spend one night there and was transferred to Belmont Private Hospital into their BCPND (Brisbane Centre for Post Natal Disorders) ward. It’s a shared mum and bubs unit and the only one of its kind in Queensland. I’ve been here for the past three weeks and am going home tomorrow in a much better state of mind. They’ve given me the right tools, coping mechanisms, and taught me so much through my time here. I know my journey through PND isn’t over yet, even after a long three-year battle. I’ve still got at least five months before this baby arrives, and I hope to stay well and in control so that I can love and care for our new babe as much as I do for Flynn.

I want to thank everyone who has stood by me through this journey. My husband Rob; I don’t think he knew what he was getting himself into when he promised me five years ago to stick by me “in sickness and in health.” My family who has been so supportive no matter what I’m going through and who are always there for me. I know I’m not the easiest person to know and love! My amazing friends, you know who you are! You’ve texted me constantly, come to visit, and understood if you hadn’t seen or heard from me in days, weeks, or even months.

And to the stranger reading this, thank you for continuing to the end. The more people who are aware of the signs and symptoms of PND, the sooner they can get help and recover.

And to my son, thank you for loving me unconditionally no matter what I do. Your smile, your laughter, your boisterous manner and infectious energy make me want to be a better person and mummy to you everyday. I love you much!

~Kyrie McMaster

Fighting PPD After Weaning

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from a Warrior Mom who found hope here on the site and wants to share her story to offer struggling moms the same thing. We love our Warrior Moms who give back in this way! -Jenna]

Fighting PPD After Weaning

Hello ladies. My name is Jen, I’m 30 and from Ohio and I have recently experienced postpartum depression after weaning my son after one year of breastfeeding.

I hope my story gives hope to all my sisters who feel like they are barely holding on. I do want you to know that it does get better and you will feel like yourself again. I promise. Postpartum Progress helped me a lot. I would read and reread the stories of all the women who posted their stories. It helped me so much to know that I was not alone.

Here’s my story:

I noticed that I didn’t feel quite right when I was in labor and delivery before I had our son. I had my epidural and all of a sudden my mood dropped off. I told the nurse and my mom looked at her and asked if that normal. The nurse shook her head no.

I brushed it off thinking it was the drugs. I had Lucas. We spent two nights in the hospital, and by the second day, I thought I was going to lose it. I was anxious; I needed out of the hospital. I felt this way until my milk came in. When it did, I was calm.

I stopped breastfeeding in August 2015. In July, I noticed that I didn’t feel quite myself. I felt aggravated, on the brink of having a panic attack many times. By November I started to spiral into what seemed like a deep dark hole that I felt bound and determined to get out of by myself.

I do want to mention that I developed OCD when I was about 12. I had controlled it well up until this point in my life with prayer, exercise, and staying very active.

By December, I knew that I could not do it on my own. I experienced panic attacks that seemed to last all day. I couldn’t concentrate. I wasn’t sleeping very well, and I was barely eating. My husband was worried about me, but did not understand depression/anxiety/OCD. He felt that it was all in my head and that I needed to snap out of it.

I had to go to the doctor; just knew I had to. So I went.

I wrote my whole story down so I wouldn’t forget anything (because my short-term memory was horrible) and just sobbed in his office. I felt like a failure. Here I was in a doctor’s office telling him my deepest. darkest. thoughts. The thoughts that I was sure he was going call child protective services over as soon as I left his office. He didn’t. Thank the good Lord.

He gave me a prescription an SSRI. My husband and I talked about the appointment, and he saw the prescription. We had one of the biggest fights that we had ever had. He felt like anti-depressants should be the last resort. I decided not to take the meds and try counseling, a natural doctor with supplements and calming oils instead. The counseling seriously helped. I strongly recommend it, especially if you do not have someone at home who can listen and tell you that you’re not crazy.

By January, I was down 15 pounds. I was thinking about hurting myself, hurting others; I didn’t want to do this, but I could not stop thinking about it. My brain would not shut off. I had racing thoughts that would not quit. I thought I was seeing things. I thought I was hearing things. My mind would go from memory to memory, on things I haven’t thought of in years. I felt like I was in a dream.

I thought for sure I was going insane and at any moment I was going to lose it. I could not get my thoughts in a positive place; I could not snap out of it. I was not sleeping and if I could fall asleep I was up four or five times a night. I would wake up shaking with anxiety. The lack of sleep exacerbated the anxiety.

At this point, I had the blessing of my husband to start taking the anti-depressants. Of course, it was not a quick fix, it took five to kick in to where I felt a little better. I am thankful that the SSRI the doctor first prescribed worked because sometimes you have to try many medications to get the right fit. I seriously did not have time for that. I was at the point where I wanted to die.

I did go back to the doctor when I started taking the anti-depressant because I had to get something to sleep. My husband went to the doctor with me. He had to; I couldn’t drive. That was the turning point for him. The doctor was very calm and answered all of my husband’s questions. From that day forward, he was so supportive. We actually grew closer through the storm.

So, let’s talk about the anti-depressant: Yes, I had side effects at first. Dull headaches, dry mouth, nauseated. I would wake up in the morning drenched with sweat. In February, I started reading more about the gut/brain connection and decided to give up gluten and dairy; that helped a lot. I am still on the anti-depressant, but I have absolutely no side effects.

When I eat gluten or dairy I can tell, my anxiety does escalate and I have night sweats. I would like to start weaning myself from the meds because my husband and I would like to have another baby, but at this point I’m too scared to be in the dark place I once was. I’m loving life again and I do not want to compromise that.

Ladies, there is hope. Please hold on and reach out for help.

~Jennifer Reed

Working Through Postpartum PTSD at the Same Hospital

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from a Warrior Mom who experienced postpartum PTSD after a traumatic birth—and then had to finish her senior capstone at the same hospital with the same doctors in the same room. She wants those still in the depths of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders to know that it’s okay to seek help and that it does get better. -Jenna]

Working Through Postpartum PTSD in the Same Hospital

The hospital I was at included discharge teaching on postpartum depression. We even got a cute little handout of the signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for. They were even really smart, and the nurse addressed my husband and said that it is often the husband that notices before the mom does.

So when I started to feel out of whack, I got my handy little paper and looked at the symptoms. Lack of joy? Not really. Feelings of inadequacy? Nope, not that either. Withdrawal from friends and family? Only because I was in nursing school and had no choice. Thoughts of harming myself of my children? Negative.

But really, it all came down to the fact that I wasn’t sad. I’ve battled depression, and this wasn’t it. So I just kept going, unprepared for the battle.

I had panic attacks on a daily basis. Flashbacks of my birth haunted me like the plague. My dreams had turned dark. I cried all the time, but not because I felt sad, but because I kept reliving those key moments of my birth where I thought I was going to die; heck, where I should have died.

I hated not being able to go through the day without something hitting me and taking me back there. Even the simplest things, like looking at a clock. Showers became bad, because they were really the only time I had to myself. And so I would go through it over and over in my head, while my tears fell down faster than the water.

I acted very edgy with my family, and had very little patience for my two year old. The worst thing was looking at my sweet baby and all of a sudden feeling flooded with resentment for causing so much terror in my life and guilt for not being the mom I wanted to be.

This was not me.

One day, after leaving class because it felt like too much for me, I talked to my teacher. She told me that with time, the pain will dull and not hurt as much. And then she told me that it is okay to talk to someone about all this in the meantime. I realized then that I needed help for the first time, and so I called up my OB office and they referred me to a counselor they work with.

I received the diagnosis of postpartum PTSD. Therapy involved some relaxation techniques, that I originally thought were totally dumb. But it turned out they weren’t, as I now do them every day a year and a half later. This helped my recovery tremendously. I finally realized that I wasn’t crazy, and that there was something behind the new, post-baby me.

Through therapy, online support such as Postpartum Progress, and a continual fight to not let it control me, I returned to the floor I had my daughter in for my senior capstone and work there for 130 hours. I was not only able to see my doctor’s face and walk in my room, but witness a birth in there.

Were there hard moments? Oh, yeah. The bathroom was a great friend for ugly crying those first couple days, and I may have called my teacher to say it was too much. But, when she said she could find me a new place to finish my capstone, I said no. I had to finish what I started.

I am so glad I did. I have never felt more strong than walking out those doors that last day. I did it. I am stronger than this disease. It will not hold me captive again.

So, this is my plea to you, dear reader. If you are questioning if what you are feeling is something, chances are high it might be. So please, seek help. It does not mean you are weak. It does not solidify that you are crazy. In fact, it is the opposite. Taking that first step takes great strength, and I know that you have the strength to do so.

~Alicia Glascock

Misdiagnosis Misses Postpartum Psychosis

[Editor’s Note: Trigger warning of child and sexual abuse, self-harm, suicidal ideation. Only read this piece if you are in a safe place. If you are, read this and know that too many mothers are misdiagnosed and written off like this Warrior Mom. We share her story because we don’t want it happening to you, to those you love, to anyone. This mama had risk factors that should have sent off alarm bells for all professionals involved. We’re so very glad she is still here to tell her story. -Jenna]

Misdiagnosis Misses Postpartum Psychosis

I have a story to tell; we all do. Finding my voice has NOT been easy. After verification of a misdiagnosis I received, I feel like my voice is free and that I am able to talk about my experience. But, fear is clouding my vision. I need my story to be heard and I’m unsure why I feel so strongly about this.

June 2008

I’m about 8 months pregnant, maybe 8 1/2 months. So much has happened this pregnancy, but I’m starting to stop denying that I’m pregnant. Depression and anxiety have already overtaken my life. I lost the job I loved. I withdrew from school and left the degree I was meant to earn. We had to move from the small village we had lived in for 6 years back to the city. It made me easily accessible to toxic family and friends. Instead of being a 15-20 minute drive away, I was now 5 minutes (10 with traffic) away. All of this fed into my depression and anxiety, and fueled my OCD around anything surrounding Nathaniel including his clothing, bedding, and toys.

I just picked Hunter up from school. He was wrapping up the 1st grade, but would be attending the summer program during the month of July. As we came up to a set of lights, I was in the right hand turning lane. There was a school bus on my left. Since the light was red, I had slowed down to stop. The bus was already at a complete stop. On the right of me was the entrance to Dunkin Donuts. The bus driver waved a driver wanting to turn into the parking lot. Instead of him turning into Dunkin’s, he turned right into me.

My first thought was Hunter. Was he okay? Did he get hurt? How do I get to him? My thoughts NEVER once went to the baby; he wasn’t a thought or concern. As the contractions started, I didn’t think of his well-being; I was still denying I was pregnant. Hunter was so pissed. He whipped off his seat belt and yelled, “What is wrong with you? Don’t you know my mom’s pregnick?”

I called 911, because I needed Hunter checked out. The dispatcher was concerned because I was having contractions. They sent an ambulance. The EMS workers were wonderful with Hunter and calmed his worries about me. They put us both in the ambulance and off we went. Luck was on my side because my OB was the one on call at the hospital, so I was brought right up. I was hooked onto monitors and machines.

Next thing I know, my parents are there, Rob is there. I didn’t call my parents, but I did call Rob. My parents found out because as I was being carried away in the ambulance, my sister was leaving our grandmother’s house and she saw my car. So she called our parents.

I felt numb. I was mad my parents were there. They were bitching about how Rob wasn’t there yet. He worked 20 minutes away, but it was 45 minutes by bike. Neither my parents nor sisters even offered to go get him. Instead, they just bashed him until he made it.

My thoughts were dark and scary, saying the baby would die, he would be born still, he would have disabilities because of the accident. None of those things happened and I’m blessed. When my doctor came in, she asked how I felt about being induced and I said sure. The sooner I got rid of this kid inside me, the better off I would be! I’d get my body back and I could stop eating and lose weight. Because of his size, she induced us three weeks early. I still felt nothing. My mother said I only wanted to be induced so I would know his birthday. When the truth is, I wanted him out of my body. Hours later with the contractions stopped and follow up already scheduled, I was sent home.

July 2008-August 2008

When I was in labor and ready to deliver, my doctor did the perineal massage and it triggered me to a time in which I was abused and raped and that led to my dissociation.

When I was growing up, I was severely abused in every which way, and because of that, my brain split into other parts (alters), and that is how I survived the horror I grew up in. The alters had been “quiet” if you will for many years, and we lived in peace at least until I had Nathaniel. And then in that one moment, everything changed.

The room went black. He was stuck on my pelvic bone; he wasn’t breathing. They were hitting code red, nurses were rushing into my room and jumping on me to get him out. I felt victimized all over again. I tried to say “NO” but no one was listening. It felt like what happened many years ago all over again. I dissociated to get through his traumatic delivery, and when they placed his ghostly white body on me with his purple and blue head, it took whatever strength I had left not to push him off me. I didn’t want him!

Everything had changed. Everyone was with the baby. As he was finally breathing, he didn’t need to go to the NICU. Then the nurse brought him to me and told me I needed to nurse him. I told her to give him a bottle, I didn’t want to nurse. I told her to keep him away from me, I didn’t want him. She carried him over to me, undid my gown and brought him to my breast, where he latched on like he had been born to do this. I pushed back the tears and swallowed my words. I put the smile on my face and felt nothing.

The second night in the hospital, the nurse came in and saw me crying and said that it was normal to cry from so much happiness. I told her I wasn’t happy. She said it was hormones and it was normal. The next day, we were discharged with the knowledge that the nurse would be coming to the house the following day to take blood because his bilirubin levels were elevated.

So, we went home.

It was in my head that I had to nurse; there was no other option. The next day, the nurse came and drew his blood and learned that his levels were even higher. We were to immediately get him to the hospital. So we did. I didn’t think to pack myself any clothes or toiletries. I grabbed the diaper bag and we left for the hospital.

Once there, he was admitted and they said I could stay with him. He was put in a bassinet with special lights for phototherapy. I wasn’t allowed to hold him except once every two hours to nurse him and change his diaper. The nurse would come in and give him 1/2 ounce of formula with a syringe.

On the second night there, mind you I was in the SAME clothes and everything (including the wonderful “diaper” you get to wear after giving birth), I had nothing clean to change into and I didn’t know how to ask anyone for anything. I was all alone for most of the day and night.

During the day for two hours, my friend would come visit while Hunter was in summer school program. Then when Rob got out of work, he would come and visit for an hour or two, and I couldn’t ask them to bring me clothing or toiletries so I could shower. I couldn’t ask them to bring me food or anything to snack on. I was given breakfast every morning, but all other meals were my responsibility to provide for myself.

On night three, I have been up for almost four days straight with some light dozing. I had to nurse every two hours around the clock. I had been doing this since he was born, every two hours nursing him and right after nursing him, I pumped.

When the nurse came in on the fourth night, I was a wreck. I hadn’t showered in days. I felt disgusting. I was being forced to nurse. I was trying to deal with the nurses who kept repeating it was my fault we were there because his bilirubin levels reached 19.7 and it was because we had a traumatic delivery.

It was my fault. I did this to him.

I needed sleep. I needed a shower. I needed clean clothes and girl products—and I had no one to ask. I hadn’t left the hospital room in four days.

The fourth night, the nurse came in and I was caught crying. She said there was a group starting that could help me. She said she would leave a note for the nurse who ran it to see me the following day; the nurse never came the next day.

The nurse on the fourth night begged me to get some sleep, and I couldn’t. I told her I had to nurse, the baby needed to eat. I couldn’t sleep because I had to nurse and I had to pump. She said she would use a syringe to do one of his feedings and that she would wake after four hours. I slept for three.

On the fifth day, his levels were finally low enough to go home again. The doctor said she was concerned because he had moderate shoulder dystocia, and then hello even higher anxiety. This is all because I dissociated; I couldn’t get out of the dark inside me head. This is because of the traumatic birth. This is because I didn’t want to nurse him. This is my fault, my fault, my fault—over and over again, the tape was on repeat and I couldn’t stop it.

I had an aunt that shared with me that Rob was disappointed in me and how badly I did with Nathaniel’s birth. I’m still crushed. I did so well with Hunter’s labor and delivery. He was so proud of me the day we had Hunter; he still talks about his birth. He never talks about Nathaniel’s. My heart is heavy. What made it even worse was how this aunt said how Rob was so disappointed in me. It was like she was happy that he “confided” that in her.

When Nathaniel was three weeks old, I had to start babysitting my at the time three year old niece. I had to take care of my seven year old a three year old and a newborn who I didn’t even want. I was angry. I was angry that my sister could screw off and do whatever she wanted and that her daughter was dumped in my lap. I was angry that I had to take care of a baby I didn’t want. I was angry I had to breastfeed him and that he wouldn’t take a bottle no matter what. I was angry that I had a seven year old that had Asperger’s and no one would help.

Not once did anyone ever ask how I was doing. I wasn’t sleeping. I hardly ever ate. I couldn’t get in the shower. About a week later, I was on my way to the ER because I had so much pain in my stomach. I learned I ended up with an infection in my uterus. It most likely was because I was stuck in the hospital room for 5 days without a shower or anything clean to put on. Lots of medicine later, it was gone and I was still stuck breastfeeding.

My 30th birthday was shortly after Nathaniel’s arrival. We loaded the kids in the car after my niece was picked up; I didn’t even realize it was my birthday. We drove around, and I was getting ticked off because I needed to be at home where people couldn’t see me.

By this time, the whispers had started. I could hear them in even the brightest corner. We met up with two friends so they could take me out for a surprise dinner. When I learned this, I panicked. I couldn’t leave my baby. He needed me. What if he needed to nurse and I wasn’t there to feed him? No, I couldn’t go, I can’t go, how dare they think I could leave my baby? What the heck was wrong with them? We took the baby with us and went for dinner.

Two weeks later, I couldn’t handle it any longer.

All Nathaniel did was cry or nurse, nurse or cry. Nothing I did ever made him stop crying. Ugh, this baby hates me, I can’t be a mother, I’m not good enough. I emailed my doctor and apologized for everything she did for me to help me get pregnant, but I was wrong and made a mistake. I needed to put both my kids up for adoption. I couldn’t be a mother. I was worthless and pathetic. I changed personalities; I heard whispers. I was crazy and a freak.

My doctors office emailed me the number for child and family services, and I called them.

A social worker came over while Hunter was at school. She sat in my living room and we talked. I remembered her and she remembered me from a program I went to when I was a young child. She knew some of my tragic history. I sat there nursing Nathaniel all the while trying to convince her I had to give both him and Hunter up for adoption. That they needed a real mother, someone who could do fun things and love them as a mother should love them. I never told her about the whispers or the alters (I didn’t realize at the time that I have dissociate identity disorder).

She said that I was the perfect mother for the boys and that she could see how much I loved even Nathaniel because here I was insisting I have to give him up for adoption while he is on my boob! She said I showed all the classic signs and symptoms of PPD, PPA, PPOCD and PTSD from the childbirth. She said she knew of a PPD support group that could help. She said there would be other women there that were experiencing some of the same things as I was and that it could help. The social worker came back the following week and dropped me off to the group that literally saved my life and most likely that of the boys.

A group member talked about going to a Stroller Strides class, and I was excited to meet up with her and join. I went to the mall that day and when I saw the mom from group, she just seemed to fit and belong with this group of women. I walked away in tears because I didn’t fit in or belong.

I never went to that group though I heard amazing things about it. To this day, I have regrets, but the whispers were there telling me that I didn’t belong, that I didn’t fit in, that I was worthless, that the kids needed a better mother, that Rob deserved a real wife, that it was my fault that Nathaniel was extremely colicky and had severe acid reflux and needed to take medicine for it. Every day the whispers got louder and louder.

I still attended group. I didn’t share what was really happening on the inside because the whispers told me I was a freak and that they would get the kids and they would be taken.

I can hear whispers in my head. I can see the shadows swaying. They whisper to one another about me, about how bad I am doing as a mother. I learned a secret way to make the whispers to stop. I learned a way to make it all go away, to feel numb, to not feel, to be able to get through the motions of caring for my children and niece and family. It’s something I did as a young teenager, to make myself feel, to remind myself that I am still alive, to punish myself.

When I did this as a teen, I wanted to die. I wanted God to take away all the pain that I felt inside and I knew that dying would make this happen. As an adult, I did it to feel relief, to get that “peace” feeling. Oh God, how it felt so good. I engaged in self-harm. The whispers said this was the way to do that. After Nathaniel, I never wanted to be touched again.

So I did just what the whispers said. After another round of nursing and another round of hours of nothing but crying (thanks to severe colic and acid reflux), I was finally able to escape to the bathroom. I pulled my pants down and sat, I opened up my goody bag, and there inside, was the most wonderful prize, box cutters! I engaged in self-harm.

Nathaniel was four weeks old. A week later, I started to expand the places of self-harm, in places NO one sees except one’s partner or doctor. I did’t ever want him to touch me again; he repulsed me. I hated him. The whispers told me it was his fault. They told me it was my fault as well and I believe that. I don’t EVER want another child. I will do things to make sure that can’t happen.

Nathaniel turned six weeks old, and I had visible self-harm marks but forgot about a stupid doctor’s appointment. She asked how I was feeling over Nathaniel’s screams. I told her that’s all he ever does. She asked me how I was doing. I said, “I’m fine.”

She did the exam, but I didn’t want her down there, didn’t want her to touch me! I felt mad at her; I felt angry with her! She should have told me about the perineal massage and about how they break the bed down for delivery. I trusted her to keep me safe. I felt she violated me. I hated that I felt this; she’s the reason Nathaniel is here to begin with. I forgot about the cuts as she’s down there doing the exam. She asked what happened. I remain silent as I am told to do. She asked if Rob did this to me and to this I respond with a solid and firm “NO.” She said if I wanted to talk about it, I could email her and make an appointment to talk to her. I remain silent.

I fall deeper into the black pits of hell.

December 2008

Months later, I think Nathaniel was about five or six months old, I finally started ytalk therapy. My therapist was a student and only there for three months. I was sent to another therapist and then to a doctor for meds. I still hated breastfeeding. I didn’t want to nurse. I would nurse then pump and freeze what I pumped. We had quite the stash in the freezer.

I felt numb. I didn’t feel anything, but you can bet I put on the mask and told everyone otherwise.

March 2009

I finally see a psych doctor. He put me on an SSRI and gave me something for sleep that I didn’t take. The medicine didn’t help; the whispers got louder, the OCD and anxiety became more intense. I had to clean the house. I had to scrub the house with bleach. I couldn’t let “them” take the kids. I had to get the germs out. I took straight bleach and a toothbrush and started to scrub the pantry and then the kitchen.

A good friend out of concern showed up at my house. I am unsure what brought her over; I had to clean, I had to get the germs out, I couldn’t let “them” get the boys. This friend called another friend and they brought me to the hospital, to the ER. Of course doctor, I am not on any drugs. Why no, I am not drinking. I take medicine. Nope, I don’t hear any voices; I’m not a freak.

The whispers talking to me, “Good, get a higher dose; it will make it easier” Why, no doctor, I am not suicidal, while in my head, the whispers were planning exactly how to die. Because that’s what I needed to do. I needed to die; it is what I deserved. I couldn’t get the whispers to stop. I couldn’t get the alters to quiet and work together. On the outside I looked like I was holding it all together, on the inside the lies were being told. The ER doctor increased my medication and sent me home.

June 2009

Nathaniel is only a couple of weeks away from turning a year old. The whole year has been so dark for me. I don’t remember his milestones. I just simply know he reached them, because he has teeth, he’s walking and already saying a few words. He still nurses and I am so distant and disconnected from him.

As the days pass by, I count down to when I can end it all. It’s the only way. Rob, the boys, family and friends will just be better off without me in their lives. I bring people down. I’m worthless. I’m pathetic. I’m unlovable. I make living with me hard. I don’t do anything right, ever. I don’t belong anywhere, I don’t fit in. People just say things to be nice, not because they mean it. It’s time to end my life; I must die. Rob deserves a better wife and person to mother his kids. I’m not good enough.

I have a plan. The whispers have to stop, I need them to stop. I can’t function with them. Dying is the only way to make them quiet. I’m convinced of this.

I have an appointment with the facilitator of the PPD Support Group I attend. I meet her in her office and we go to the conference room so we can talk (she shared an office). I don’t know what happened or what either of us said. I do believe I said I had a plan when she asked me if I was suicidal. She did know I was engaging in self-harm. She said she would go downstairs to the ER with me and I said okay.

I wasn’t worried. The whispers would tell me what to say to get more medicine and I would be discharged again. Only, that didn’t happen.

I snapped. The doctor was a freaking idiot, he kept asking me about the boys. What boys? I don’t have kids! This guy is a fruitcake! Allison is telling him I have a baby who’s almost a year old. “Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP! I DON’T HAVE ANY KIDS!! Make it stop, I can’t do this anymore! Let me go, I’m leaving!!”

Allison asked him to order me something to calm down. He said, “As soon as we get blood drawn and she gives us a urine sample.” A nurse comes in and says the baby needs to be nursed. “Baby? What baby? I don’t have any kids! Fuck you, get out of here!” I don’t have kids. The doctor asked, “Do you hear voices or see things that aren’t really there?” Um, no dumbass! And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you! How dare you ask me something so stupid? Jackass!

All the while Allison is trying to tell him I have postpartum mood disorders. Finally they got their blood sample and urine sample. Doctor comes and and says there’s no drugs in my system. Well, no shit asshole. We’ve already established that I wasn’t on drugs I haven’t sleep more than two hours a night in almost a year. I’m just tired and want to sleep forever. He finally ordered a medication to calm me down. Thank goodness this is almost over and I can get out of here.

He tells Allison there’s a bed open at Pathways. Next thing I know, I’m being transported onto a locked floor. They tell me to take me clothes off. Screw that! I was already humiliated in the ER again; no way my clothes are going off.

My breasts are full. They hurt. I need to nurse. Get my baby. I need my baby. He needs to eat. GIVE ME MY BABY! I have to feed him. He won’t eat unless he nurses. He doesn’t take a bottle. He never did. The doctor asks, if he eats table food and I say yes. The doctor said that’s all he needs. No, he needs to nurse. Can my husband bring him so I can nurse him? Doctor says no one under 18 can be on the floor.

Allison asks if I can go down to the nursery to nurse him. Doctor says no because I’m a patient on a different floor. He said he’ll have a breast pump brought up so I can pump and they would bring it to the peds floor for Rob to pick up. I need to nurse the baby. The baby needs to eat.

The next day, the day shift doctor starts me on a series of different medications. I have to stop breastfeeding. There is no option. I again ask for permission for Rob to bring Nathaniel in so I can nurse one last time. I needed to feel a connection with this child. I needed one last nursing session to say “goodbye” in a way. The doctor forcefully and angrily said “NO.” I had one last nursing session in the bathroom, in my room, on the psych ward in the hospital.

I was there for a week and they made me attend groups that didn’t help me with anything. I wasn’t there detoxing or for alcohol. The meds didn’t stop the whispering and I could still see “them” in the corner of the room.

No one knew I was hospitalized. My family doesn’t believe in mental health and they are unsupportive and toxic. Rob still didn’t understand what was going on. He always says, if you’re going to kill yourself just do it. He didn’t get that it wasn’t so much about dying. It’s because I’m seriously sick. I’m ill. It’s about getting the whispers to stop, about Rob being free to find a real wife and mother to the boys. They deserve a real mother. Rob deserves a real wife, one who isn’t sick or crazy like me.

I am discharged from the hospital. The meds they have me on leave me emotionless. I went from numb to emotionless. I’m better on meds at little more functional at least. I still struggle with being forced to stop breastfeeding and that I couldn’t nurse Nathaniel one last time. I think it’s going to always be a struggle for me. I needed closure on that and because it was forced on me to quit, I feel as though something was taken away from me.

Nathaniel wasn’t ready to stop nursing. It was his comfort. All the milk I pumped since his birth, we froze. While I was in the hospital, Rob and our friends worked with Nathaniel to take milk in his cup. Finally, he did. The day I was discharged and I held Nathaniel, the first thing he did was snuggle down into me wanting to nurse. I couldn’t handle it and burst into tears. I wanted to nurse, I needed to. It’s my lifeline in a way.

Nursing Nathaniel was the only thing that kept me alive. If I followed through and killed myself, how would he eat? Now that he was off the breast, there was no reason to keep going. The doctors silenced me. They taught me it didn’t matter what I needed or wanted to say because I was invalid. A lot like how I grew up. So though I smiled on the outside, everything continued to get darker and darker on the inside and no one knew.

Four months later, we moved to Kentucky.

2016

I experienced PPD once again as we had a miscarriage in 2014. We had one in 2012, as well, but the one in 2014, affected me differently. I’m not ready to talk about this just yet.

Recently, I asked my therapist to research postpartum psychosis. I didn’t want to research it, didn’t want to look it up. I have shared other women’s PPP stories, though I have never read them. I was afraid of what I would learn and I didn’t want to self-diagnose that what I experienced wasn’t just PPD.

My therapist readily did so and later that day emailed me. In writing about my experience for the first time, my original diagnosis didn’t feel as though it “fit,” it didn’t feel right at the time either. It came out that I was misdiagnosed almost eight years ago. The doctors said I was bipolar, when in fact what I experienced was Postpartum Psychosis.

When my therapist shared this with me, everything clicked. It felt “right.” It fit what I went through and for the first time in years. I felt, well, I feel hope for myself and I can now see the light through the shattered pieces of me.

I feel angry that the professionals around me didn’t question me more, and I feel as though I am not allowed to be angry at them. My OB helped us become pregnant with Nathaniel. How can I be angry at her for not catching the very noticeable signs and symptoms I began experiencing while I was pregnant? How can I be angry with her, when at my six week postpartum visit, she saw my self-harm and just accepted my answers? How can I feel angry with my group facilitator when I love her to pieces for everything she did for me? Had she and I not met that day in June, I honestly believe and feel depressed in my heart that I would have followed through with my plan.

I feel conflicted. I have so many mixed feelings and emotions screaming through my body that I must now work through. What I can say, is that for the first time since I was given my postpartum psychosis diagnosis, I can share my story and say: I survived.

~Nicole Grodan

Announcing Speakers for Our Sold Out Warrior Mom Conference

We are thrilled to announce our speakers for the Warrior Mom Conference… as well as the fact that the Warrior Mom Conference is SOLD OUT!

Warrior Mom Conference Sold Out

Sold Out Conference

That’s right. With just under four months left until the upcoming Warrior Mom Conference, Postpartum Progress has sold out all of the tickets for the event which takes place October 14-15, 2016 at The Georgian Terrace Hotel.

We’re so excited to know that 175 Warrior Moms will gather together to learn more about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, share their story, and gather information and ideas on how they can help moms in their own communities. We can’t wait to meet everyone.

We also can’t wait to hear and interact with our amazing speakers.

Warrior Mom Conference Speakers

In January 2016, we opened submissions for this year’s Warrior Mom® Conference and were inundated with almost 50 speaker applications. They came from survivors and experts, non-profit founders and peer volunteers, women just beginning their journeys and women who are veterans of maternal mental health.

You wanted to talk about so many important topics: self-care, advocacy, underserved populations, art therapy, cultural norms, motherhood and guilt, the role your partner played in your wellness or pain, adoption, loss, hope, and more. But despite their varied backgrounds and subjects, each submission hit at the core of what this event aims to do: We use our experiences to bring people together and empower them with information and community.

We are thrilled to triple our speaker roster this year, and will be running concurrent break-out sessions to bring you a total of over 38 peers and experts in maternal mental health for 30 sessions over 2 days of learning and connecting, with the help of our incredible sponsors. It is with enormous gratitude that we introduce our 2016 Warrior Mom® Conference speaker roster to you and hope you are as excited and inspired as we are.

2016 Warrior Mom Conference Speakers

Nicole LetourneauNicole Letourneau, RN PhD FCAHS; Keynote Speaker; Professor, University of Calgary Faculty of Nursing and Cumming School of Medicine. Session title: Successful Peer Support.

 

Kristina GrumKristina Grum; Breakout Speaker; Certified Parent Educator. Session title: Parenting Dreams vs. Realities.

 

Samantha Meltzer-BrodySamantha Meltzer-Brody, MD; Keynote Speaker; Associate Professor and Director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program, UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders. Session title: Health Disparities in Maternal Mental Health: What Can Be Done?

 

Shannon HennigShannon Hennig, MA; Breakout Speaker; Postpartum Progress, Research Coordinator. Session title: Postpartum Progress Research and You.

 

Kate KripkeKate Kripke, LCSW; Keynote Speaker; Founder, Postpartum Wellness Center of Boulder. Session title: Everyday Self-Care: Honoring Ourselves, Body & Mind.

 

Pauline CamposPauline Campos; Special General Session Speaker; Author, AspiringMama.com. Session title: Sweeping it Under the Rug: Breaking the Stigma of Maternal Mental Health in the Latino Community.

 

Melanie Mendez-GonzalesMelanie Mendez-Gonzales; Special General Session Speaker; Blogger, Speaker: QueMeansWhat.com. Session title: Sweeping it Under the Rug: Breaking the Stigma of Maternal Mental Health in the Latino Community.

 

Laurie SyphardLaurie Syphard; Breakout Speaker; Warrior Mom, Climb Out of the Darkness® Team Leader. Session title: No Such Thing as a Small Climb.

 

Samantha DowdSamantha Dowd, CFRE; Breakout Speaker; Warrior Mom, Climb Out of the Darkness® Team Leader. Session title: No Such Thing as a Small Climb.

 

Jasmine BanksJasmine Banks, M.S. Community Counseling; Breakout Speaker; Postpartum Progress Program Manager, Climb Out of the Darkness®. Session title: No Such Thing as a Small Climb.

 

Katherine StoneKatherine Stone; Special General Session Speaker; Founder & CEO, Postpartum Progress. Speaking at Welcome and Closing.

 

Jenna HatfieldJenna Hatfield; Breakout Speaker; Postpartum Progress Program Manager, Online Awareness & Engagement. Session title: Social Media Clinic.

 

Olivia ScobieOlivia Scobie M.A., CPCC, ACC, MSP; Breakout Speaker; Founder, Postpartum Support Toronto. Session title: Reducing the Impact of Societal Pressure on Motherhood with Community Supports.

 

Bianca SpragueBianca Sprague, CLD, CLE, CBE; Breakout Speaker; Cofounder, www.bebomia.com and www.biancasprague.com. Session title: Reducing the Impact of Societal Pressure on Motherhood with Community Supports.

 

Heather ColemanHeather Coleman; Panelist; Writer, Speaker. Session title: The Power of Storytelling.

 

Graeme SeabrookGraeme Seabrook; Panelist; Blogger, postpartummama.org. Session title: The Power of Storytelling.

 

Ariane ArumburoAriane Aramburo; Panelist. Executive Producer, Co-Anchor, KTUU. Session title: The Power of Storytelling.

 

Jennifer SillimanJennifer Silliman; Panelist; Producer, Dark Side of the Full Moon. Session title: The Power of Storytelling.

 

Claire Kerr-ZlobinClaire Kerr-Zlobin; Panelist; Founder and Executive Director, Life With A Baby & Healthy Start Healthy Future Inc. Session title: Leaders in PPD Support.

 

Lisa TremayneLisa Tremayne, RN, C-PPD, CBC, CBE; Panelist; Director, Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Program, Monmouth Medical Center. Session title: Leaders in PPD Support.

 

Cheryl HartCheryl Hart; Panelist; Founder & Executive Director, Supporting Mamas. Session title: Leaders in PPD Support.

 

Sheila DuffySheila Duffy; Panelist; Director, Pacific Post Partum Support Society. Session title: Leaders in PPD Support.

 

Kelly BauerKelly Bauer; Breakout Speaker; Blogger, Motherhoodmisfit.com. Session title: Mompostors: Why Real Moms Feel Like Frauds.

 

Ashlee RahmlowAshlee Rahmlow, LCSW; Panelist; Founder, Mom 2 Mom Oshkosh. Session title: Self-Disclosure & Healthy Boundaries in Peer Support.

 

Andrea BatesAndrea Bates, LCSW; Panelist; Volunteer, PES North Carolina & Blogger. Session title: Self-Disclosure & Healthy Boundaries in Peer Support.

 

Alexia JohnstoneAlexia Johnstone, MA, LMHC; Panelist; Expressive Arts Therapist. Session title: Self-Disclosure & Healthy Boundaries in Peer Support.

 

Joyce MinerJoyce Miner, LMHC; Panelist; Mental Health Counselor. Session title: Self-Disclosure & Healthy Boundaries in Peer Support.

 

Margaret RiceMargaret Rice, MSN, RN, ANP-BC, WHNP-BC, ONP-C; Panelist; Nurse Practioner, New England Baptist Hospital & Norcap Lodge Comprehensive Addictions Program. Session title: Self-Disclosure & Healthy Boundaries in Peer Support.

 

Ali KozollAli Kozoll; Self Care Workshop Presenter; S Factor: Director of Teacher Training & Curriculum Development, Warrior Mom Ambassador. Workshop title: Body Love: Mindfulness Through Movement.

 

Amy-Rose WhiteAmy-Rose White, LCSW; Breakout Speaker; Executive Director, Utah Maternal Mental Health Collaborative. Session title: Do What You Can Do: Volunteer Advocacy.

 

Sandy CelauroSandy Celauro; Self Care Workshop Presenter; Certified Instructor, MOSSA Group Active and Zumba. Workshop title: Warrior Mom Dance Party.

 

Emily NewtonEmily Newton; Self Care Workshop Presenter; Certified Yoga Instructor. Workshop title: Yoga & Meditation.

 

Sarah KontranzaSarah Kotranza; Self Care Workshop Presenter; Warrior Mom Ambassador. Workshop title: Warrior Mom Cross Stitch.

 

Danielle NelsonDanielle Nelson, LSW; Self Care Workshop Presenter; Crisis Clinician, Warrior Mom Ambassador, Writer. Workshop title: Handwork as Stress Relief – Warrior Mom Yarn Circle.

 

Kristin JacobsenKristin Jacobsen; Self Care Workshop Presenter; Owner, FIT4MOM DuPont & Lacey. Workshop title: Warrior Mom Walking Group/Warrior Mom Running Group.

 

Tara JeffersonTara Jefferson; Self Care Workshop Presenter; Blogger and Founder, therenaissancesuite.com. Workshop title: Your Self Care Plan.

 

Candice BrothersCandice Brothers; Self Care Workshop Presenter; Artist, Warrior Mom Ambassador. Workshop title: Color Me Calm.

 
 

Full bios for all speakers are also available.

If you still want to attend the conference, you can put yourself on our Wait List. To do so, visit the Warrior Mom Conference page, click on Get Your Warrior Mom Con Ticket Here, and then click on Get Tickets. You’ll enter your information for the Wait List there.

We’re excited to see you in October!