There's a Light Up Ahead
Updated: Mar 13, 2019
The community in which we choose to live in is an extremely important decision. This community will be the family, friends, co-workers, church fellows, doctors, teachers, gas station attendants, etc. that you allow into your life to celebrate with, to live the mundane days with and to share your darkest hours with. The truest test of how good your tribe is, is when you share parts of yourself that you are afraid will be met with unease or judgement. Because either this community of people will leave you in the darkness to figure it out yourself, or they will step up to the plate and uphold you in support and prayer.
When I published my last blog entry I was quite nervous. Admitting to everyone you know that you have had to spend time in the psychiatric ward is not my typical Facebook post!! But my community showed up in a big way - I got so many messages of encouragement and love that I was brought to happy tears many times! My people did not give me the cold shoulder when they read about my difficult days, they instead enveloped me in the warmest embrace. So THANK YOU to all of my friends, family, co-workers, and every other type of acquaintance out there for accepting me without judgement. You are all such a gift from God, whether you realise it or not, and I thank Him for you all every day. I hope and pray that I will be able to return that support whenever you might need it.
With the extraordinarily important task of showing gratitude done for the moment, I will continue where I left off from my last entry. There are so many more people to thank for so many more reasons so my gratefulness is never ending.
Being admitted to the Dube Centre (Mental Health facility in Saskatoon) was a very difficult reality to live in during those first couple of days. I felt like I had let everyone down - particularly my husband and daughter. I remember constantly going through a cycle that looked a little like this: complete disbelief that this was happening > intense guilt towards David and Beth (therefore I was constantly apologizing to those around me) > inability to stop crying > convincing myself that I really was losing my mind > fear of never being discharged/ever getting better > onset of panic attack > either medication or sleep required to halt panic attack > back to stage one. It was exhausting. It was humiliating. It was terrifying. When I got over to the ward and saw the other people who were admitted alongside me, I wanted to die. Not in a suicidal way that made me think about ending my life, but in a way that made me think about how much better David and Beth would be without me. Thoughts I would think were along the lines of "no one wants a crazy person as a wife/mother" and "my family must be so ashamed of me" and "this will never get better, only worse" and "I'm a complete and total failure". Those are just a little example of what my negative thinking was like. There were many other terrible things I convinced myself of but I don't really need to share all of those with you now. I was admitted on a Thursday, and Dr. Aftab told us that I should be prepared for a stay of at least 5-7 days. This sounded like an impossibly long time to me and it just fed into my anxiety. I was admitted to a shared room which also fed into my anxiety - who in the world would I be sharing a room with?!? Would I feel safe?! Would I be able to get any rest!? Unfortunately there were no single rooms available so I just had to deal with it. Thankfully, for most of my stay I did not have a roommate. The room itself was white, bare, cold, and institutional. But the public spaces were actually quite inviting, with massive windows facing the Saskatchewan River and Meewasin Valley. The dining area was spacious and you were able to access simple snacks like toast, fruit or yogurt whenever you wanted between meal times. The staff were all very friendly and kind. But I couldn't really see any of those positive things in the first two days - all I could see was the psychiatric ward full of "crazy" people (I hate admitting that I thought those things - people with mental illnesses are NOT crazy!!!!) and a bunch of nurses and doctors who probably thought I was ridiculous. Why ridiculous? Because the loudest voice in my head kept YELLING at me that I was losing my mind simply because I was not capable of being a mother. I couldn't breastfeed her. I didn't like being at home alone with my baby. I couldn't connect with her the way a real mother should. I didn't know how to take care of her without David around. It was because of motherhood that I was here, not because I had a real mental illness like depression or bipolar or schizophrenia. No, I was here because I was so bad at being a mother that it drove me insane. I did not believe that this would change by being admitted to the hospital, but rather would only make it worse.
Well by the grace of God, the massive support from my family and the blessing of medication (yes, blessing of medication!) I was able to begin the long climb out of the hole I was in by day 3. That morning I remember waking up without the same heaviness on my chest that had been resting there for weeks. My first thought upon waking up was not about how scared I was. I was able to feel gratitude towards the nurse who came in to check my temp and heart rate. I certainly didn't feel completely normal but I was capable of thinking about something OTHER than the state I was in. What a feeling that is!!! It's like I was waking up from a nightmare and could feel some hope that maybe, just maybe, I could get back to feeling normal again. God is good, friends, He did not forsake me!
When Monday rolled around (day 4) I was feeling about 70% back to normal and wanted to get out of that hospital as soon as possible. My Mom was going to stay with us for a few days to help care for Beth, so that David could go back to work, and I was very ready to be in my own home. I was especially ready to BE WITH MY BABY. Which was such a good feeling to have!! I had been able to work my way through some of the fog to see that I really did love my baby and I really did want to be with her. I also didn't want to keep taking up a bed on the ward because there is an unfortunately high demand for mental health services in our city. These were all good signs for me - I was thinking about other people instead of myself. Thankfully the Dr was willing to discharge me since I had such a good support system at home, and because I was willing to follow up with outpatient care.
Going home was a strange feeling. There was a huge amount of relief because I was no longer in the hospital. But there was also a lot of fear there too. Fear about being too fragile to be at home. Fear of it starting all over again. Fear of being a mother. You see, while I was no longer having panic attacks and my mind wasn't stuck on the repeat cycle, I was still believing that I was a terrible mother and that I was not the best person for the job of taking care of Beth. That negative thinking did not disappear, despite the medication helping me find some balance again. I was hanging tight to a hope that I had made it through the worst and only had better things ahead. But I would discover that what had happened to me was not going to be just a one-off experience, and that my version of PPA was a very unpredictable beast.
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