I used to think that I didn’t need counseling, that my mental health was… what? I never talked about mental health. I didn’t know what it was. Welcome to the club, right?
Well, now that I am suffering from the aftermath of postpartum psychosis, bipolar affect, shock, and the trauma of losing my children for three months I am acutely aware of how important mental health is, how difficult it is to maintain, and how being open about it with a counselor can help.
So, if you have a counselor (that you see via the internet these days) know that you are not alone and that its a good thing to seek help for your mental health. Its step one, in fact, and arguably the most important step.
Psychosis, and the recovery time after, has a strange symptom. A sense of grandeur. A feeling as if you are spiritually connected to all around you. A feeling of telekinetic powers. For me, anyway.
During this time I met a horse. A neighbor of my father’s property in Tennessee. “A mean horse,” my father had warned. Well, with all the confidence in the world I walked down the hill and to the fence where the horse was standing.
It was sunny out, the middle of September. My heart had already been ripped from my chest and I was searching for an animal familiar to me.
The grass where the horse stood was nibbled short and he was trying to reach some of the longer, sweeter grasses on my father’s property. But barbed wire was strung along the fence, in areas where the horse might poke his head through.
His nose was scratched. Foolishly, I tried to pull the barbed wire loose. Nothing happened. So, I reached down and pulled up big handfuls of grass and passed them to the horse. Greedily, he munched.
“This is me,” I said, shaking my silver chain, which at the time hung round my neck with Bella’s tag attached. It jingled and the horse pricked his ears. I fed him more grasses.
Then, I kissed his nose.
I was raised around horses but generally fear them, which in turn makes them fear me. I hope this horse doesn’t fear me the next time I see him, because he was just the connection I needed.
Judging by my postpartum experiences, one might expect that I had traumatic birth experiences. Well, I didn’t. I gave birth two both of my children easily. I received the epidural with my son when I was dilated to 7 cm and I received an epidural with my daughter at 9 cm (I should’ve skipped it but I was tired by that point). Each pregnancy and birth are different for each woman. I had two perfect pregnancies (except for the fatigue in the first trimester) and two easy births.
Postpartum depression doesn’t take that into effect, I guess, and according to Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, there is no one cause of PPD. Hormones seem to overwhelm my body and the chemical imbalances in my brain cause me to suffer postpartum depression (and psychosis with my daughter). According to the MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health, there is a spectrum of mental disorders that occur after birth including the baby blues, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis. The center also claims that 85% of women suffer from some sort of postpartum mood disturbance.
Postpartum depression and mood disorders are serious, but more common than you might think. I will be continuing my research and am participating in research through the MGH Center for Women’s Health with their study on postpartum psychosis. I am lucky to have support, medical care, and an outlet in this blog to help me recover.
If you, as a new mom, or someone you know is feeling guilty for no reason, has changes in sleeping or appetite, has obsessive thoughts about the baby, or has thoughts of harming themselves or others, call 911 or go to the nearest ER. This post is not to diagnose or treat postpartum disorders. The symptoms I have listed are from the MGH Center for Women’s Health website and from the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy.
The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy offers some suggestions for treatment but talking with your doctor is the most important. I advise that you speak honestly with your doctor as well, something that I was too ashamed to do when I suffered PPD with my son. The Mayo Clinic offers tips such as exercising daily, eating well, staying connected with family, and asking for help. Above all, talk to your doctor.
In a bid to kick negative thoughts, fear, and anxiety out from my mind I have developed a little mantra that I try to keep on repeat. It goes something like this and I encourage you to steal what you like.
I am strong as a horse. My body is strong. My mind is strong.
My children are strong. I love my children. No one can take them away.
I am strong. My body is strong. My mind is strong.
I can handle anything. I can handle anything.
I’ve been through worse. And I’m strong as a horse. Strong as a horse.
Well, almost. I think embarrassment has been triggering my panic attacks (and I’ve been trying to put a finger on my triggers). I am embarrassed of a lot of things that I said while in the hospital and after leaving it. I’m embarrassed for having lost my children, for acting crazy and hurting my family.
I guess I need to forgive myself and remind myself that I was sick. It’s ok to be embarrassed. It’s ok to be regretful. But I must face it head on. Yes, things have happened that I’m not proud of. But you won’t see me backing down. Because I’m developing a new immunity. And you can too.
Hell, we can do it together. Anyone else understand?
I am not a make-up expert but recently I’ve found that playing with make-up is soothing. Organizing these products has also been therapeutic. I’m practing and learning lots. To all make-up bloggers: you guys are great! This stuff is a lot of work! Lol.
I’ve just slammed on the brakes. We’re on the shoulder of the on-ramp. You’ve just asked if I was sure I wasn’t trying to hurt my children. You’ve just given me that wide-eyed, what-kind-of-woman-is-this look that I’ve seen over and over again since the incident.
No, no, you’re not getting out this time. It seems you don’t know enough about postpartum yet. So we’re gonna talk about it, symptom by symptom. I just don’t want to see that look again. And no, I never intended to hurt my children. I was in a state of confusion and, though we went for a rough walk, I kept us all together and got in the cop car, went to the hospital, and have done what I am supposed to do.
I’ve read a lot of stories, done some research, talked to my doctors, and reflected enough for a lifetime. I know postpartum and look forward to helping others going through it. But let’s not give each other anymore weird looks, ok?
Nothing helps me to cope better than being outside. Especially therapeutic is digging into black dirt with your bare feet. The sun’s energy feels healing and the cool dirt grounds my thoughts. Give it a try sometime.
What is it? Is it the ability to carry two children at once, while only weighing 85 pounds? Is it the ability to fight your own mental delusions? Is it the ability to maintain yourself through times of extreme stress?
Yes, it’s all of those things. Plus something else. A small flicker that never stops, that never allows you to give up.
It’s something like a parasite. Something that you want rid of but must carry anyway, through each step of the day.
Strength is physical and mental. Strength is standing straight when you want to slouch. Strength is looking people in the eye when you’d rather close ’em forever. Strength is keeping quiet when you’d rather scream obscenities.
Strength is…exhausting. But we must continue on with something like strength.
I spent nine days in the hospital in total. Those nine days were full of more “tests” and delusional thoughts. They made me eat, but, like I explained to them, I would not eat without my children. Other patients and the nurses made sure I complied, however, and though it was like jail I did receive medical attention that I was needing. I haven’t heard from the hospital since discharge (except for calls from the billing department) and finding a psychiatrist has been difficult. We all know that healthcare in America is lacking. Well, I could write a book. But I’m not writing an expose on mental healthcare in America. I’m just cruising through my emotions, stories, and experiences. And you’ve just happened to come along for the ride. Thanks for your company so far.
I’m climbing in the car, off to visit my children. And when I come home I’ll be full of sadness and regret and longing. What feelings for a Friday.
It’s a two hour drive north, through some of Illinois’ finest small towns (and I ride as a passenger due to DCFS rules. With a great driver of course). Sometimes my husband comes but has been having to work more lately. So I’ll go alone. See the babies for three hours, tear myself away, ride two more hours home and then…nothing until next Friday.
Is it too difficult for me? It may be difficult but I don’t miss the chances I’m given to see my pups. They need their bitch of a mother, at least once a week. And only for now. I’ll have ’em back soon enough, I’m sure.
Well, have a good last day of the week. For me. TGIF, right?
I randomly become a music fanatic during times of sadness. Don’t you? The song above was one I heard while driving in a city a few years ago and I could never find the name of it. Thank you Pandora for bringing it back to me.
I told them that I must have smoked laced weed. That someone must have been putting something in my coffee. I felt drugged. I was manic, but that’s how it feels. My blood tests came back negative for everything besides a small amount of THC (I won’t lie to y’all and say I’m an angel). I’m sure that that news surprised at least one county cop, who my mother reports as having said that the truck “reeked” like alcohol. I try not to drink, and had not had a lick of liquor on the day of the incident.
They asked so many questions. And I asked for water a lot of times. They refused to let my mother see me, who might have been able to connect with me in a meaningful way, in a way that may have snapped me out of my delusions. But she spoke with a loud voice and, being extremely concerned, acted boisterous. A police officer asked her to leave at one point.
Critical decisions were made in those first minutes of my involvement with the hospital and DCFS. I was suffering from a rare condition, one that affects about 1-2 women out of 1,000 births, according to the MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health, yet they decided to take my children into their care. My husband, who arrived later, was not given custody because of his “work schedule.” I hope you can read between the lines here.
As for giving the children to other family members, they decided not to – probably basing their decisions off delusions I reported to them involving family members. Because I was very paranoid about everyone around me and had many delusions involving those close to me. Mistrusting those around you is a common theme I found in my research of postpartum psychosis. But they didn’t have to take my delusions as the word of god.
Now my children are trying to adapt to another home, are learning their ABC’s without me, and struggling to crawl in a daycare center.