I’ve been pretty open with the fact that Daniel and I had to use fertility treatments. In my opinion there is not a child that is more wanted than Elizabeth. She is my best friend and God's greatest gift in my life. I haven’t been too open about my struggle with pregnancy anxiety, postpartum depression and psychosis.
When I was pregnant, my anxiety went far beyond worrying if the baby was okay. I constantly felt someone was out to get me. I worried about the helicopters that would occasionally fly over my home as if they were coming for me. Yes, I know that’s irrational but it’s just an example. I remember one time watching out the windows for an hour. I would have nightmares of someone coming into my house and killing themselves in my living room while I watched. I had dreams that felt so real of people watching me through the windows. I remember trying to wake Daniel up in the dreams and I couldn’t. I started to stay up at night just to look out the windows. I honestly felt like I was losing my mind. Everyone around me had seen how irritable and irrational I was but no one truly understood.
After I had Elizabeth, the extreme anxiety and paranoia turned to anger and disassociation. I wasn’t bonding with her and I hated being left alone with her. Daniel was a much better parent than I was. I often wondered why I couldn’t connect with her like he could. I loved her with every ounce of my heart but I felt like I was living someone else’s life. I went to my 1 week postpartum appointment and told my doctor I didn’t feel right. This was the first time I told a doctor something was going on. I was given Zoloft. It didn’t help. Things got worse with every new milestone and stage that Elizabeth experienced.
There would be moments that I would scream at my baby to shut up instead of comforting her as she cried in her swing or crib. I would sit on the floor and cover my ears. I felt like a prisoner. I was so easily overwhelmed. Slowly my thoughts became dark and totally opposite of my character. I remember laying in bed at night during a sleep regression while scrolling on social media, seeing someone having a miscarriage and thinking “At least they won’t lose any sleep.”
Yes, I know that’s horrible. Yes, I know that’s repulsive. What kind of person thinks that? That is just one of the many thoughts I had. At this point, I had tried a multitude of prescription antidepressants. None helped me and I was on my second doctor. The thoughts progressed and became less like thoughts and more like visions. I could see myself purposely driving off the side of the road into a tree or harming myself while cooking. Eventually the visions became daily and started to involve others. I started seeing myself hurting my baby, to the point that I couldn’t bathe her without these visions. I had visions so evil and despicable towards her that I can’t even bring myself to type them out.
The gradual decline in my mental health is a blur defined by major events. One of those events was contemplating hanging myself in the closet by my husband's belt just so the visions would stop. I was still seeing doctor after doctor. I even tried a holistic approach. I was guided in meditation by a doctor who told me I “needed to connect with my inner mom and my ancestors.” Days after this appointment my therapist told me all mothers have these thoughts and it’s normal.
The second major event that stands out in the blur is an episode in January 2021 that landed me in an inpatient treatment center two hours away from my home, 17 months after having Elizabeth. I was still battling this 17 months postpartum. By this time I had already confided in Daniel about the visions and my mom was caring for Elizabeth during the day. I couldn’t even be alone with my own baby without my husband being worried about what would happen. On this night in particular, after harming myself, I lashed out at Daniel. Things escalated, the police were called, and I obviously was taken to the ER. There, I sat for what seemed like forever before being transported two hours away. I had to ride in the backseat of a car that had steal bars on the windows and between the driver and myself. I cried myself to sleep on the ride there. I felt like a criminal. When I got there I was stripped of my belongings and clothes and examined all over naked. It was humiliating. All I wanted was help.
I was admitted the detox unit because the psychiatric unit was full. I was placed in a room with a roommate that was coming off of heroin really, really hard. At this hospital I received a heavy duty antipsychotic medication along with a new antidepressant and something for sleep.
I was also given a diagnosis of postpartum psychosis.
I went through so much trying to get help. I was told I had postpartum depression and “baby blues” for such a long time when I knew it was so much more. When I was discharged not only was I threatened with CPS because of “threats” against my daughter, but when I turned my phone on, not one person had messaged me. I felt truly alone and misunderstood. I wish we didn’t have to go through so much to get a diagnosis.