A guest post by Kristin Shaw
When I was going through a divorce in 2004, I was sad, hurt, angry, and I cried a lot. A whole lot. I prayed to make the pain stop, and I would call my mother sobbing.
“I can’t take this, Mom,” I would say. I’m sure her heart was breaking for me.
I refused antidepressants and I was determined to beat the pain on my own. I went out with friends, I self-medicated with wine, and I went to the gym for an hour or two a day. My journal was my closest confidante, and I created a mantra: “I will not be bitter. I am strong. I can do this.”
Five years later, with a new life under my belt, I took a hit that was even harder than that one.
In the face of postpartum anxiety and terrible sleep deprivation, I knew I had to beat the creature taking over my existence, but I could not get past it. I tried taking walks with my baby and took deep gulps of air, trying to calm my heart, beating out of control. I told myself that I was stronger than this thing; that I must get past this for our son.
I prayed for my life.
Dear God, I am asking for your help. Please lift me into your arms and help me get through this, the toughest time of my life, so I can enjoy every moment with our precious baby boy. Please continue to give my husband strength to carry all three of us. Help him remember to eat so that he can take care of us. He is my rock here on Earth and I thank you for bringing us together. Thank you for bringing our son into our lives and giving us such a little miracle.
He is such an amazing baby. He is happy and smiling every day, and he rarely cries. Right now he is talking to the animals in his mobile and laughing as he bats at them. He does not notice the tears in my eyes or the deep, dark circles on my face. We will get through this together, as a family.
Prayer alone did not help, as much as I wanted it to. The anxiety was building and building, and by the time I saw my obstetrician, I had full-out insomnia, was sleeping two hours a night, and was shaking like a vibrating bouncy seat. I could not focus long enough to read one page of a magazine. I hovered over the crib, checking my son’s breathing.
The doctor took one look at my face and could see I was floundering; she diagnosed me with postpartum anxiety, the close cousin to PPD. She prescribed Zoloft to regulate my sleep and anxiety, and it took two excruciating, terrifying weeks for it to kick in.
I nursed and took great care of my son, but I could not figure out how to take care of myself in the meantime. I lost all of my baby weight by the time my son was a few weeks old, which meant I was worrying myself through more calories than I was eating. I entertained the idea of showing up at the ER and begging for a room in which I could just rest.
Even as the Zoloft was working its way into my system, I took Ambien – with great hesitation – to help me sleep. I started with a half of a tablet and slept for three hours in a row. Reading about the side effects of Ambien, I started having nightmares about sleepwalking and trying to care for my son as a zombie. In desperation, I alternated between Tylenol PM, which made me worry about my milk supply since it included an antihistamine, and Ambien, which scared me. I nearly asked my husband to lock me in the garage one night so I could sleep in the car to ensure that I would not sleepwalk.
The light of the mornings saved me, even after a desperate night. I called a friend who had been through similar trials and she listened patiently. Finally, I got back on track. The sun came out. I could see how beautiful my life was again and it was even shinier and more gorgeous than I remembered it. My son smiled through it all – although he’s never been a great sleeper, he was consistent and mellow through his first couple of months.
Every new mother should arm herself with information on postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, just in case. It’s scary, it’s real, and she may not even know she is afflicted. I’m thankful my husband was there. I don’t know how a single mom could get through that without help, because having someone to lean on meant that I made it through to the other side. Asking for help is hard, and surrounding yourself with people who can help and will help you without question means the world.
Kristin Shaw is a freelance writer, 2014 BlogHer Voice of the Year, and co-producer of the Listen to Your Mother show in Austin, where she is the mother of a mini Texan. You can reach her via Twitter @AustinKVS, Facebook, or her bloghttp://www.twocannoli.com, where she writes about relationships, motherhood and love.
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