[Editor’s Note: Today I’m pleased to welcome Warrior Mom Nic, who shares how hard it was to get help once she realized she had severe PPD when her baby was six months old. -Katherine]
This place was somewhat familiar to me. I had been down this road before. I had felt this constant and nagging fear before. I had contemplated my own death before. My eyes had been sunken in before. And tears sprung the instant that I heard her cry out for me. There was always more to be done. And I was afraid every single day. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be enough for everyone, to everyone. After six months of neglecting this feeling of mine, of putting one lead-heavy foot in front of the other, I found myself paralyzed, and at the mercy of doctors and therapists.
You know when you’re in something, like really IN it, and you can’t see out of it, around it, or through it? You’re just entrenched in the muck and sinking slowly. Yet, somehow one foot finds its way to inch out in front of the other, just a teeny bit. Just enough to get something accomplished – a load of laundry (cleaned but not folded), a bottle cleaned (but not put away), part of the house vacuumed. And then you’re depleted of all energy just in time for the baby to begin needing you.
That was me. Only I was six months postpartum once I woke up and addressed my feelings and problems. When it came to help, I was willing to get it for PPD. I contacted my OB/GYN initially who offered me some referrals (this was after she told me that she was uncomfortable prescribing me anything because I “couldn’t have postpartum depression after being 6 months postpartum”).
The referrals were plentiful and I began running down the list of numbers and coming up empty-handed.
“The best you can do is go to the ER for now and see what their assessment shows.”
“We don’t accept your insurance.”
“We’re not accepting new patients until January,” I was told … in October.
I wouldn’t be alive come January and I knew it. The only time other I had contemplated suicide was after I was raped in college. Death seemed easy. The shame and stigma was not something I was willing to deal with at that time. I would rather have died. I didn’t do it then, but here I was, 31 years old, contemplating it again.
I dreamt of running away. Leaving my husband and two children was something I fantasized about on a daily basis. I told myself how much better off they would be without me. And then the baby would cry, need to nurse, and I would be shaken out of my fantasy and back to my reality.
When it came to the mental health professionals I sought, I was entirely confused. I wanted help! I was actively seeking help! Yet, I was being tossed around like a beach ball from one phone number to the next.
It was excuse after excuse that I received. Jump through this hoop … Try this hotline … Contact so-and-so … Here I was exhausted, nursing a six month old, raising a four year old, stressing about my husband’s upcoming deployment schedule, and unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had run into a brick wall. I had been going and going and going until I could go no longer.
The day of my mental breakdown is blurry because I blacked out for a portion of it. It pains me to admit that because the portion that I do not recall includes my daughter and I being in the car with me driving. Though I wanted to die, I never wanted to harm my children.
I had taken my daughter to World Market to go shopping, for what I do not recall. Coffee mugs? A compost bin? New shower curtains? It didn’t matter. I had the strength to get out of the house, which was unusual. So I decided to go with it. We drove to World Market, parked and had a diaper change in the back of my car. We made our purchase and drove home.
I don’t remember the drive home. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I no longer had my phone with me. I panicked. My phone was my lifeline. Contact with my husband was constant during those days. The crying on the phone to him, wishing he would be home sooner than he could, asking him to breathe with me over the phone while I had a panic attack … without my phone, I had nothing.
I used our house phone (that we only have installed for purposes of our alarm system) to leave a message on his cell. He came home immediately and I met him in the front yard weeping.
“I don’t know what happened,” I told him. “I remember seeing a text message from Stephanie and I don’t remember having my phone after that.”
He rattled off questions that I didn’t have the answers to, only trying to help, but nevertheless upsetting me all the more. He called World Market, asking if anyone had turned in a cell phone. Of course no one had. The only other thought was to go back there and see if it was somewhere in the parking lot. So we packed up the car, the two of us with our four-year-old son and six-month-old daughter, and headed back to find my phone.
I used my husband’s phone and called my own repeatedly in the hopes of hearing it ring somewhere in the parking lot. I went back in through World Market, calling it, willing it to ring near the couch cushions I had admired earlier.
Finally, someone answered. A good Samaritan had picked it up after finding it run over by a car and answered my call. He was in the parking lot across the street from me. How my phone got over there, I’ll never know. My only guess is that I set my phone on top of my car to change my daughter’s diaper, and when I drove away, away went my phone.
That night I told my husband that I needed help.
“No, I need help, TODAY,” I remember saying to him.
That Friday night, I completed a psych evaluation at a local clinic and was told I did not meet the criteria for inpatient care. Yet another hoop for me to jump through. I wanted to die, but apparently not badly enough.
The suicidal ideations continued, as I now realize they had for months before. Each time I found myself in my car alone, I wanted to run it off the road. I willed oncoming traffic to hit me. I scoffed at red lights. I wanted to die. Thankfully I made it through that weekend and checked myself in on a Monday morning.
I admitted myself to a different clinic. I saw a psychiatrist who read a blog post that I had written and told me that if I didn’t admit myself, he would Baker Act me. I had no qualms admitting myself for inpatient care.
I spent nine days in a psychiatric ward for PPD and anxiety. The hoops that I jumped through in order to get the help I needed were a pain in the ass. There’s no question about that. But, were they worth it? Absolutely. I’ve gotten the necessary help. I am currently in recovery. I’m still here, on this Earth. My children still have a mother. And when the days come for me to jump through more hoops for them, I will. I have the strength now to jump as high as they need me to.