I Think I've Gone Insane
Updated: Mar 13, 2019
I've said a few times already - this has all been harder to write about than I expected. For a while I've been wrestling with that statement because I haven't been able to necessarily define why it's been harder. But this last weekend, as I chatted with a good friend, I said to her that it's hard because I'm coming to terms with how much has actually happened in the last 6 years. When I originally thought about creating this blog I thought I would be able to explain my experience in maybe 5-6 posts and than be able to move on to other things if I wanted to. WELL...I hope you're all with me for the long haul because this is post number 4 and I've only just started getting into the actual stuff that happened!! It is of course also harder because along with realizing how much I've been through it has me reliving some really awful moments. And that's taxing on me emotionally. But I suppose that's why I knew this could be a therapeutic exercise for me; I'm trying to come to terms with MYSELF. And that is a long process. Hopefully not too long though...for your reading sake :)
To repeat what I said in my last post, there were two things repeatedly running through my mind when my PPA first really set in: 1) what is wrong with me?! and, 2) Beth deserves a mother who is way better than me. When I say repeatedly...I mean it was CONSTANT. It didn't seem to matter what anyone told me or how completely fine Beth was - I could not stop these thoughts from running in circles. To add to this, Beth's sleeping schedule was thrown WAY off by the time change (understandable) AND David's flight was delayed by an extra day due to bad weather. In the two days I was without him I got very little sleep. When he finally got there I hoped that things would get back to normal after I got some rest. But it didn't. And that scared me even more. So the cyclical thinking continued.
During the week in Newfoundland there were a lot of tearful conversations with David, my parents (who were also visiting at the time) and my brother and sister-in-law. I felt sure they were quite bewildered with me because I couldn't get a grip on myself - I don't say that to make them sound insensitive or anything of the sort, because my family has always been my biggest support system. I say it because I easily convinced myself that if I were them I would be bewildered at the sudden onset of symptoms too. While we were still there visiting I researched Post-Partum Depression (PPD) but that didn't seem to fit what I was experiencing. I asked my Mom if she had experienced anything similar to what was happening but she had not. One site I was looking at suggested PPA as another possible reason for how I was feeling - and even though I know that reading things on the internet is not the same as being diagnosed by a doctor, it was incredibly relieving to read about something that matched what I was feeling. While pregnant I had heard about PPD because it was something that was talked about a little in Pre-Natal Class and/or in other books or pregnancy websites. When I first started feeling my symptoms it didn't fall under any "diagnosis" that I had heard of before, so this scared me even more. But when I read that Post-Partum Anxiety was a real thing I knew that as soon as I got home I would need to talk with my doctor about it. And fast.
We did finally get home, after a very long and exhausting week (that, I might add, still had some really wonderful times too - being with my family is one of my safe places), and I went to talk to my doctor two days later. When we talked about how I was feeling she suggested that I start taking an anti-anxiety medication (Effexor/Venlafaxine). While I do not think that the answer to all mental health issues is medication, I do believe that it is sometimes necessary - and feeling the way I was feeling it felt very necessary. The downside to starting most anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication is that they take 4-6 weeks to actually start working. When I heard that I was even more worried. Why? Because my symptoms of cyclical thinking, negative self-talk, disconnection from the world around me, and lack of sleep were progressing really fast. I didn't know how I could properly handle being at home with a 5 month old while also feeling as awful as I did for another 4-6 weeks. I could barely go 30 minutes without some kind of breakdown, how could I last 8 hours of being the primary caregiver to a helpless little baby?! Regardless, I started the medication at a reasonably low dose (75 mg) and just hoped that I would start to feel better day by day.
I didn't even last a week, friends. The days after starting the Effexor were some of the worst I ever had. I started having panic attacks constantly. I started to feel such a deep disconnection from the world, from BETH, that I couldn't really separate what was happening in my head and what was happening for real. I began to have thoughts about my baby that I can't even really write about - not to physically hurt her, but thoughts that no mother ever wants to have about her own child. The breaking point was when I had a dream - more like a nightmare - that again, I can't really actually write down because it hurts me too much to form the words. I told David about it and he suggested I call the Maternal Mental Health phone number that our Health Region provides to new moms. I will forever be grateful for these people and the support that they offered me, because they would eventually become a part of my healing journey in a significant way. They suggested I attend the Post-Partum Depression & Anxiety Support Group that they held weekly, and that happened to be meeting the next day. I felt skeptical that this would provide any relief but still went because David encouraged me to and I didn't know what else to try. Though I would later find solace and solidarity in this group, that first time I couldn't even talk without crying/having a panic attack let alone listen well to my fellow-mothers experiences. As soon as David picked me up afterwards I had another panic attack and knew that things were just completely out of my control. NO amount of reassurance from those who loved me, NO amount of professionals telling me that I would start feeling better soon, was helping me regain control over my emotions and mental well being. I was completely drowning. So I went to the emergency room at RUH, with David and Beth there with me, and met their on-call Psychiatrist, Dr. Aftab. And without realizing that what she would do for me was actually what NEEDED to happen, she said words I never ever thought I would hear anyone say to me - "I think we need to admit you to our Mental Health ward."
I will never forget the feeling I had when she said that. I felt as though all oxygen had left the room and that everything started happening in slow motion. My head was screaming at me: WHAT?! ADMIT ME TO THE PSYCHIATRIC WARD?! IS THIS ACTUALLY F*#$#@! HAPPENING?! THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING!!! I wanted to refuse because I truly (but wrongly) believed that if I agreed to be admitted than I was admitting to being a "crazy" person. But suddenly David seemed to think that maybe it would be a good thing. And she - a Psychiatrist - seemed to think that it would be a good thing. And when David called my parents to update them, THEY seemed to think it would be a good thing. And so I allowed myself to be admitted and, for a time, believed the lie that I had actually lost my mind and would never return to my normal self. If all of these people, who knew me and loved me, were telling me it was a good idea than they MUST ALSO be thinking "she needs to be in the psychiatric ward because she has actually gone insane". I felt so betrayed by my brain because it wasn't fixing itself. Betrayed by my body because it kept giving away my terror by its lack of self-control. Betrayed by my heart because this was the opposite of anything I had ever wanted. I didn't think I would, or could, ever be the same again.
And that is true - I have never been the same again. But not because I was insane. Not because I was a "crazy" person - symptoms of my negative self-talk because I would never ever call anyone else who needed to stay in a psychiatric ward, BUT somehow felt OK referring to myself as such. I have never been the same again because I was becoming who I am NOW - a mother living with PPA. And while it's been super hard becoming that person I am starting to actually live with that person in a peaceful way. Not by own my strength by any stretch, but by the grace of a God who loves me more than I'll ever know.
I will share more about my experience in the Dube Centre (psychiatric ward), as well as the additional 2 other times I would be admitted over the years. But for today I leave all this exposed because after sharing with you the most difficult thing I've ever experienced, I need to be gentle with myself and give my heart rest. Thank you for being in this space with me, friends. Thank you for your patience. And thank you for being willing to know these things about me without judgement.
#postpartumanxiety #motherhood #parenthood #postpartum #embraceyourmotherhood #motherhoodrising #takebackpostpartum #momswholovejesus #commonground #mentalhealth #therapeutictools #ohheymama #thisismotherhood