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You are not your diagnosis.


It was dark in my room in the psychiatric ward, but there was some light coming in from the open door. I looked in the mirror, baggy-eyed from lack of sleep, hair frazzled, and pale from lack of sun. Something got in me to start singing Plumb’s “Exhale.”  

“It’s okay to not be okay. This is a safe place; this is a safe place. Don’t be afraid and don’t be ashamed. There’s still hope here. There’s still hope here. No matter what you’ve done or who you are. Everyone is welcome in His arms. Just let go, let His love wrap around you and hold you close. Get lost in the surrender. Breath it in, until your heart breaks. Then exhale. Exhale.” 

This must have been my third time in the psychiatric hospital because it was a breaking point for me to come to terms with what I had experienced. I had to make sure that the third time I went I checked myself in voluntarily. I had to surrender one more time. 

 I had never experienced depression, sadness, or anxiety before my second pregnancy. My first birth was a calm hypnobirth. I nursed my daughter for over 3 years. Everything was wonderful, and when she turned 4, we were ready to grow our family. 

What was the most shameful moment you have ever been through?  

For me, it was standing on the side of a busy road handcuffed, 8 months pregnant with my second child, and screaming for my 5-year-old daughter because they were going to take her away from me for a week. I had a panic attack and prenatal psychosis breakdown while driving her home. I started driving erratically and going in circles and couldn’t find my way home. On my second trip to the psychiatric ward, I was screaming for someone to help me as I was dragged down my apartment stairs and hustled into the back of a police car. My husband was scared when I couldn’t sleep and was paranoid and anxious about my life and the life of our new 5-month-old child. I was nursing around the clock and exhausted. I didn’t take one night off or give him an ounce of formula. I didn’t even own a pump.  

Things I’ve learned from my struggles with mental health: 

Put on your oxygen mask first. The cardinal rule on airplanes says we can’t help others if we ourselves are about to pass out. At the first psychiatric unit, the people there frightened me. They were tough. I was flipping out one night trying to escape. And the guy asked, “what are you so afraid of.” I said dying. He said my name is Enoch. He escaped death. Immediately I felt at peace and fell asleep. We all have an undeniable strength in us to make it through anything. I listened to "No Longer Slaves" repeatedly. I prayed that I would stay sane through the lack of sleep and constant care of my baby and that I wouldn’t deal with postpartum depression or anxiety. I ended up right back in the mental hospital. Every time I was in the hospital it seemed like I was going to be there for eternity. It was torture not knowing when I would get to go home, see my family, and sleep in my own bed. I had to sleep at this scary place at night, wake up, and participate in the day. Talk and make friends. Take my medicine. Succumb to the program. Get up the next day and do it all again. At the first unit, there was no outdoor area. We would walk in circles and talk. I was 8 months pregnant and feeling tired. But one girl told me to just keep walking to get out sooner. She said it helped her calm her nerves. Soon others started walking with us. I did some yoga and others joined. At the hospital the second time, I was never offered or brought a pump. It was physically painful, but more painful sensing that my 5-month-old baby was crying for the only way he knew how to feed. At this point there wasn't a mother-baby unit. I didn’t get to see my baby.  

I thought my husband would leave me 

The first time, for endangering my daughter in the car and embarrassing him on the side of the road when he came to pick her up. The second time, for staying up all night, crying, pacing and worrying about my son getting enough to eat while nursing exclusively. The third time, for not getting my life together after two hospitalizations and going off medication and for being so stubborn and trying to do everything, be everything, and heal within 18 months. When I came out of the hospital for the first time, my sister gifted me a photoshoot with her professional photographer friend from high school. I was 9 months pregnant and never had a photoshoot done before. I put on some make-up and got dressed up, and it was so wonderful to have the experience of feeling put together. We got the pictures of such precious memories captured that we could hold on to no matter what happened. They were ours. It was our family, and I cherished this experience. Nothing has ever been wasted because there’s nothing that can't be restored. I thought about speaking at MOPS about postpartum depression/psychosis and seeking help, but I figured I needed to be so put together, maybe off medication, maybe a little more accomplished. Maybe this will never happen. Maybe the road I have been on will someday be someone else’s survival guide.  

Sometimes you have to seek more help:  

I am still in therapy. I started EMDR to train my brain to reprocess my trauma. I wanted to just cancel every time. I didn’t want to think about my pain, my stress, my shame, my guilt. I didn’t want to face the reality of what I went through. I wanted to shove it under the rug. I wanted to just wish it away. I hope researchers learn more about medication that can help with postpartum psychosis. When I went to a psychiatrist after my first episode, he said, “No, you can't breastfeed your baby. Formula is fine. What if you think your baby is a demon and kill him?” I was so mad and frustrated. I didn't know where else to turn or who else to ask, so I took matters into my own hands. I took myself off medication. I didn’t try to find another psychiatrist, and I nursed my son for 5 months, until I broke again.  

The hardest part of recovery was acceptance: 

10 years later I'm still healing. I get flashbacks. I question why. I wonder how I can help others that experience this. But I am so thankful. We survived, and we will keep surviving. If I could talk to a woman experiencing PP, I would say you are loved. You are not more broken than anyone else. You may be wondering: “how will I ever get through this? How will I ever heal?” Or you may be in denial like I was at first. Please rebuke any feelings of guilt or shame. Please accept humility, authenticity, and power. You are not your diagnosis. 


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