[Editor’s Note: Every Warrior Mom is bound together in a sisterhood of understanding. We have all been through something that only another PPD survivor can truly appreciate, but our experiences, treatments, and paths to wellness are as varied as the mamas themselves. It’s important to remember that there is no one “right way” to suffer or heal from a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder. That’s one of the reasons Postpartum Progress is such a valuable resources for new moms; whatever path your journey to wellness takes, it is the right path for you.
I’m welcoming Warrior Mom Rach Black today to share her story of postpartum depression and the postpartum anxiety that followed. -Susan]
Having a baby brought me to my knees.
Having a second baby broke me.
I don’t mean that it was too hard for me to carry and deliver my children. And I don’t mean that raising kids is too hard for me, although some days I struggle in that area, just like all parents do.
I mean I wasn’t prepared for the physical, emotional, and especially mental changes that can take place after having a baby. Nobody told me.
I was excited to learn that I was pregnant. I had easy pregnancies and amazing deliveries. I was walking on air in the hospital. But in the weeks and months after, I was sinking and I didn’t know why.
I had always been so capable before. I was always able to perform, to achieve. I didn’t lack motivation or skills.
But after having my first baby, I wanted to sleep most of the day and didn’t want to get out of bed. When I wasn’t sleeping, I needed to do everything and anything. Everything needed to perfect; meals needed to be elaborate, the house needed to be spotless. I laid the baby on her play mat while I cleaned bathrooms.
I couldn’t sit still and hold my baby. She cried a lot and so did I. I detached and found solace in the computer or reading. Some days I just laid on the floor.
I was angry, scared, lonely, and depressed. It wasn’t until a year later that I realized what I was feeling wasn’t normal new mama tiredness and overwhelm. I found a counselor who helped me recognize what I was going through was postpartum depression.
When I found out I was pregnant the next time, I promised myself it would be different. I talked to my husband and my OB, both of whom said they would support me, but both of whom admitted they were somewhat surprised at how I’d felt. Either I’d hidden it well or they didn’t recognize the signs of PPD.
After my son was born I kept looking for signs of depression, waiting to feel the way I did with my daughter. Instead, I started having panic attacks and intense anxiety. So intense that I couldn’t take care of myself. Everything scared me. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t sleep. I tried to stay busy, trying to get out of the house as much as I could. I pushed myself to stay occupied. I was convinced something horrible was going to happen to me.
My OB had given me a prescription but I was hesitant to fill it. Out of sheer desperation, I finally did. I only took one dose, but I had a horrible reaction to it—so horrible that I couldn’t function the next day. It sent me spiraling even further down.
Somehow I got on the internet and started searching this site as well as PSI and found a counselor in my area who specialized in postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. She saw me the next day. It had been two days since I’d eaten.
I told her all of my fears, symptoms and behaviors. She heard me, she comforted me. I finally felt validated.
I have a wonderful relationship with my OB but I felt let down by the medical community. I didn’t want to be handed a prescription. I wanted support, someone to listen to me and offer assurance. While there is a time and place for medicine, there is also a time and place for talk therapy and support groups. I wanted a full balanced approach to my healing. I am lucky that I was able to find that through my faith, women at my church, my counselor, my husband and a holistic MD. I know other women aren’t that lucky.
I’m passionate about postpartum support. We need more awareness and openness. We need mandatory screening and access to resources. We need each other.
I am a work in progress. I am healing every day. I no longer have panic attacks and my anxiety is more manageable. I am loving being with my children and letting my house be a wreck. I have learned to let many things go and to take care of myself. The best thing I can do for my family is to get help and heal.
We still have our hard days and there are days where I struggle. But I have come a long, long way. It is possible to get to the other side of this, which is something I didn’t think was possible a few months ago. I am proof that there is hope and healing.
Rach Black is a full time mom to two miracles. Having battled postpartum mood disorders, she is passionate about reaching out to other women to make sure that no woman gets left behind. In her spare time (i.e. after the kids are in bed) she enjoys writing, cooking and other creative outlets. Find her on Twitter as @DonutsMama and reach out to her if you need support.