[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]
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.