The Day My Postpartum Depression Came Crashing Down on Me
It felt like a gust of wind that came from out of nowhere; it suffocated me and brought me to the ground, crumbled on the church floor.
Think… pray… how do I get myself and my son home? I need sleep.
Go to the car… there’s no noise in the car… the church has too much stimulation. OK.
I will just take a nap in the car until Mass is over and my son is finished with altar serving. Set alarm. Only I can’t sleep…
Should I drive home? Don’t overreact.
I will drive home and just tell my son to keep me distracted. It is 4 miles, only 4 miles away… you can do this.
Finally, at home… “Honey, I must sleep. I am going to bed.”
Bed, great… but no, my mind races. “Alleluia” is played in my mind thousands of times, and I can’t shut it off.
“Honey, I can’t sleep. Bring me my pump.” I pump because I have to keep up my supply.
What is wrong with me? I sit on the floor of my new home that has no furniture. Did I eat today? I do not know. Why don’t I know? Oh my God, did I eat today… No, no I didn’t.
“Honey, I need food; bring me crackers.” I eat one cracker as if it were 50. I crumble to the floor desperate to know what is wrong with me. Wait… you had this. This is postpartum depression. F%^&!
Something else is wrong with me. “Honey, come here. Honey, call 911.”
“You don’t need an ambulance, JoAnne; you are having a panic attack.”
“No, I need an ambulance.” Maybe it’s my thyroid. I am not taking my pills because they stopped them after birth. Maybe it’s my blood pressure? Too high? Too low? Just call, damn it.
“I will give you a Xanax.”
“A Xanax?” says me who never takes any drugs. “Yes, yes, give me a Xanax.”
Five minutes later… why isn’t it working? “It takes 20 minutes.” “OK, call 911 something is seriously wrong with me.”
Is he on the phone with 911 or is he faking it and talking with his mom? “Is that the police or your mom? You better have called 911.”
“Yes, I did.”
Well, why the hell is it so slow?
Police show up, and I have gotten changed, got my pump, got my wallet and my purse, and I am ready to go.
“Ma’am, you were not in cardiac arrest so the ambulance will be here soon but not blaring.”
Are you kidding me? Well I could have been dead and I could be dead in a minute because you’re not in my body, dude.
Thirty minutes later ambulance arrives. “Can you walk out?” I was ready to walk out a long time ago.
“Bye, honey, call the sitter. Don’t argue. Call the sitter. Meet me at the hospital; I need you there.”
I enter the ambulance, and the guy wants to talk to me. Xanax kicks in, and the edge is off. Thank God! Vitals checked, and I am OK. OK… I think I am going to live.
At this point I want to sleep, and all he wants to do is talk to me about my fascinating life. I am too nice to shut him down, so we chat.
We arrive at the hospital, and I immediately tell the nurse I know my problem: I am a mom of nine kids ages 9 and under. I had a baby on March 21, and on April 1 I moved into a new house and took everything from the last home with me. My house is in disarray, I am sleep-deprived, dehydrated, and I have severe postpartum depression. Ideally I would like you to give me fluids and knock me out. The nurse then agrees with my diagnosis but waits for the doctor.
While she waits she too wants to talk about my life. I entertained her because Xanax is great and I feel safe in the hospital. She tells me we are blessed because she can’t get pregnant. I launch into Felix-fix-it from “Wreck-it-Ralph” and immediately tell her about my fertility doctor. I give her all the info, which she takes down. I tell her I know two people for sure who could not get pregnant until they went to him. She says, “Who is the patient, me or you? as she smiles gratefully.
The doctor comes in and agrees with my diagnosis, then launches into our lives and he jokes with ‘da hubby and tells him he looks like John Mayer. Are we really having this conversion? OK… He says, “Since the Xanax worked I will give you a script and you should go to your OBGYN or follow up with him; and, hey, get some fluids and rest.” Gee thanks…why am I here then? I think in my head…
I arrive home to a bunch of people. It is a little overwhelming. I just want to go to bed. Then my friend talks about her postpartum psychosis and I get freaked out in my head. Bad timing to talk about it…
They leave and I go to bed, but sure enough, I can’t sleep. I call my OBGYN. He asks me about my thoughts and I tell him… I tell him all that is going on in my mind and body. He suggests the hormone progesterone. Yes! I have heard of that. Shoot. I am so stupid for not taking it right away after giving birth, like my friend told me to.
My husband arrives at the new pharmacy and it’s closed. Great. It doesn’t open until 8 or 9 the next day. That feels like an eternity.
That first night is a blur, but I remember freaking out. That was the scariest day of my life.
Fast forward. It has been 14 days since then, and in that time period I feel as if I have experienced every one of the senses so intensely. Sights… sounds… touches… tastes… smells… Seeing things that aren’t there. Seeing people’s mouths move like you can lip-read… Hearing things don’t make sense… Hearing things magnified in stereo… Wanting to touch and yet not wanting to be touched… Things not tasting the same or right or good for you or having no taste for anything at all. Smelling intently every smell or not smelling anything…
Thoughts… having every single ridiculous thought I could ever have and yet knowing it is totally irrational thinking.
Anxiety and fear about everything. Absolutely everything!… Holding the baby, bathing the baby, driving again, doing normal activities again, and being alone…. Every fear out there I have had.
Every day has gotten better, and I now know what triggers set me off. I am trying to take things one day at a time, one job or task at a time. I know what I need to do to get better; after all I have been through this before.
I will get better. I must get better. My husband needs a wife. My children need their mother. And now, I have a new desire, one I have had before but not as intently; I need to get the word out on postpartum depression. If no one else will speak out about it, I will. It’s too important not to talk about. So yes, this disease won’t silence me because it needs a voice, and I am going to be its voice screaming from the rooftops.
— The victim, but not for long…
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