A little poem I wrote for my oldest daughter Isabella, upon her birth. XO
A falling star I did see.
A tiny wish made for thee.
A silent summer sky of blue.
I wished for you,
My dream came true.
My Experience with
Perinatal Mood Disorders
Another contributing factor, and component of my illness, was that I was very over protective of my baby. I did not like anyone holding or caring for her, but me & George, and was constantly worried about her well-being. At the time I did not realize this was a common part of the PMD's, but it was. Often with PMD's a Mother can feel either very over-protective of her baby, or completely detached from the child and often reject it all together. What made this situation worse for me, was the lack of understanding I got from family. Instead of support, love and understanding, I was judged and no one reached out to help me. I remember an occasion when I was trying to talk to my Mom about Postpartum Depression and she said to me: “If you know what the problem is then it shouldn't be a problem anymore right.” Where is the compassion? My Grandparents who are very loving people, come from a generation when you were just supposed to suck it up and hush hush pretty much everything. This crazy notion I have of bringing things out into the open for discussion or awareness, is just that to them – a crazy notion.
It was not until quite a few months after Bella was born that I really began to realize something was wrong. I developed Postpartum Anxiety & Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. At the time, I honestly thought I was going crazy. I remember one day looking down at my hands and realizing that they were so red and covered in a million little, tiny cuts from washing them constantly. Running through my head was “...out damn spot...”, I think I really thought I was losing it. Without my consent I began developing all of these strange little routines for things, I was counting everything and couldn't stop. I obsessed and worried about a million things and felt very overwhelmed, sad and alone. The one light in all of this was my beautiful baby, she saved me. She gave me a reason everyday to try and be the best version of myself no matter how much of a struggle it was.
And it was a struggle. It got harder and harder to get out of bed, to the point where I dreaded the start of a new day. Things as simple as getting dressed and eating were very hard. Leaving the house seemed as difficult as climbing a mountain. I lost a lot of weight at this time because I just couldn't eat, and felt this way for close to a year.
When it got to the point that I knew something was wrong and decided to talk to my husband about it, I encountered another barrier: my husband. We were both young and had only been together a couple of years, so our relationship was not as solid as it could be. When I tried to talk to him about the problems I was having and that I needed more help from him and maybe others, he was defensive. He thought I was exaggerating some of these behaviors to get his attention; he was very uninformed. As I began to get professional help and he learned more about PMD's, he came to realize how wrong he had been, and sadly not in time. PMD's often destroy marriages as the stress level of an unwell Mom and new baby is too much for a relationship to handle, especially a young relationship. My bout with PMD's damaged our relationship for many different reasons, and when Bella was two we separated for two years. The good news to this part of the story is that love conquered all. George and I loved each other so much that we found or way back to each other, attended marriage counselling and worked a lot of things out. Today we are still in love, happy, and have two more children!
So I sought professional help. I cannot remember where I went first or all of the things I did. I do remember attending a support group at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. I also remember visiting a Psychiatrist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital who prescribed antidepressants for me. At that point in time I felt uncertain about what had been prescribed for me but wanted so badly to feel better. After taking the medication as prescribed for two weeks I felt horrible. I can remember sitting on the floor of the bathroom actually contemplating suicide and I have never felt that way in my life ever. Thank the stars that I had the sense to throw the pills out. I decided at that point to seek some other kind of help and discovered the Edmonton Family Centre. There I saw a wonderful therapist who was kind, compassionate and overall very helpful. Overtime through talk therapy I began to feel more like myself and as I picked up my life again and began to have goals, I recovered a great deal. I don't think I ever recovered completely as the PMD's I had was so severe, and to this day suffer from OCD that needs to be kept in check. Not only that but some family relationships became strained partly due to what happened in these years. It was an epic event that left a huge mark on me and my life. I am however an optimist and also feel that everything happens for a reason. These events good or bad helped to shape who I am today, had anything been different I would not be who I am now.
Something that amazed me during my first experience with PMD was how little seemed to be known about the illness. The nurses in the hospital were astute enough to tell us about it... but who was going to help those of us who actually developed the illness? Who were the experts...? One evening we were out visiting, and during our visit I realized that the baby was sick – she had a fever and all around looked unwell. I was worried. As my husband drove us home I sat in the back near the car seat. At some point I started to tense up to the point where I could not move my hands or arms, they were completely stiff. I had no idea what was going on and was very scared. George took me to the hospital and it turned out I was having a severe anxiety attack, and had been hyperventilating. The doctor on duty told me flat out that I should be on antidepressants, and then I would not be wasting doctors time with this trivial thing. Un-compassionate and uninformed was what I encountered a lot, and it honestly made me more and more afraid to seek help.
I have other experiences I could recount but I think I will move forward in my story for now.
Many years after all of this, George and I
talked about the fact that we might like to have another child. What
we decided in fact was that we wanted to have two more. One of the
first things we most definitely found ourselves discussing were PMD's. We decided we
could handle whatever came our way, as we were older and had more life
experience. Amazingly enough the postpartum period after my son was
born was pretty much PMD free. Everything was different where my son was concerned including the pregnancy. When I became pregnant with my littlest however I began to recognize some old symptoms right away, and even in pregnancy. I reached out to local resources and endeavored to be prepared before she was even born. I
read and researched, attended therapy, and probably did a little praying too (even though I am not
particularly religious). I developed antepartum depression & anxiety, which rolled right into postpartum depression and anxiety. However I was more prepared this time, but my preparation did not change the fact that I went through it again, nor did it change the fact that even though there is help out there, it is hard to find and often expensive.
I am now the Mother of three children, and the founder of an organization trying to help other Moms & Families. Have I fully recovered from PMD's? Mostly, but not completely. There are still dark, obsessive thoughts hiding in the corners of my mind, that I fight every day to keep at bay. Creating and working on PMDA has it's pros and cons too. Through helping others I can feel myself healing, and then in diving into the depths of it all I am forced to visit places in my mind I would rather not go. But as I said earlier, it is all part of my life and who I am. I have been rewarded with three beautiful children whom I love so much and would not trade them for anything; a little sacrifice is worth this happiness for sure. With a heart full of love for my children and empathy and compassion for myself and all the Mothers affected by PMD's as part of their childbearing journey, I have shared my story and created PMDA for you. I have healing thoughts and love for you all...
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