It has been a little over 3 months since I had a severe bout of postpartum depression. I am so happy to say that now I feel completely normal and back to my old self. It was a scary time, particularly the week where I had what I consider to be a psychotic episode. I hope that by sharing my story, people can be encouraged and feel open to talking about their struggles, whatever they may be. This experience has taught me a lot – and while I hope none of you readers ever have to go through something like this, I do realize that I am a stronger and more compassionate person than I was before.
Writing this was really therapeutic for me, and I know it’s very detailed (aka. long) but if you are interested I hope you will read it and let me know what you think. Thanks!
After Calvin was born, he was REALLY fussy. And it caused me to be worried. My mom was here for a little over 2 weeks to help with him. And after my dad came out, they both flew home on a plane on Sunday, July 17th. The next day, Dean had to go back to work just for one week. (He was intermittently taking paternity leave.) So I went from having 3 people to help me with Calvin, to just me and Calvin for a few days. Dean’s mom was coming into town late Tuesday night to stay for a week and a half.
On Wednesday, I started kind of feeling nauseous. I could still eat, but things were not sitting well with me. Thursday morning, I remember I tried to eat bacon and eggs while waiting for the Terminix guy to come, and it was hard. I had to force myself to eat – I was breastfeeding at the time and knew I needed to eat and be hydrated for Calvin to be able to get nourishment. There was so much pressure and I had so much anxiety.
I had my friend, Erin, come over to hang out and help me with Calvin since she is a seasoned mom. It helped me feel better and she got Calvin to go right to sleep after eating without fussing. That was a first! I felt so much better that I could eat that night.
But the next day I felt the anxiety weighing on me again, and I couldn’t eat. I went in waves like this for days. All the while getting more and more worried about Calvin not being able to get what he needed from me. I called the nurse at my OB/GYN office – they told me it was normal. Everyone I talked to said I was normal. I went to the urgent care clinic on Sunday – they did blood work and urine samples. Everything came back normal. The next day I called Calvin’s pediatrician because I was so freaked out and knew something was really wrong with me. The doctor told me I could come in that day and take the postpartum depression screener. In the office, he looked over it and decided to start me on 25mg of Zoloft. I felt really good that night, felt like the nightmare was over.
But that night when I woke up to breastfeed, I just didn’t want to. I felt like there was no way this situation could be real. I wasn’t eating, yet I was still alive. Calvin was feeding, but I knew there was no way he could be getting enough to eat. So I started questioning reality. Where was I? Was I stuck in hell, where I would have a fussy baby permanently and not be able to eat? Everyone kept telling me I was fine and this was normal but I knew it wasn’t! I knew I wasn’t fine. I had to prove to myself that this was a dream, or hell, or whatever it was. Since I thought it wasn’t real, I decided I didn’t care if I breastfed Calvin or not. I didn’t really want to breastfeed. It was a source of stress and since I thought I was in some sort of dreamland, I told Dean and his mom they could just give him formula. (Now this is WAY out of character for me! I was going to exclusively breastfeed for at least 6 months, and then supplement maybe for a year. I had had a totally natural birth because I wanted everything to be as non-invasive and natural as possible! I bought only organic groceries because I wanted to avoid GMOs and pesticides…) I told Dean that none of this was real and that it didn’t matter if Calvin had formula or not, because it wasn’t real. This really upset Dean, and he started tearing up and showing a lot of emotion. I have to pause here again to say that I have NEVER seen Dean cry in our time knowing each other. So, when this happened, in my mind it proved to me that this was not reality, because I knew if this had been real, Dean would not have been crying. So I told him that. “See, this isn’t real because you wouldn’t be crying if it was.” I know this hurt Dean a lot. I remember it happening and he got so upset that even though I was convinced it was a dream or fake or whatever, it was too much for me to bear. I couldn’t bear to see this version of Dean in pain because of me, so I backed off and told him I was sorry, and after we fed Calvin the formula we went to sleep. I still didn’t think anything was real, but I loved Dean so much that I didn’t want to see him in pain in any form.
Fast forward a few hours to about 5am. It was time to feed Calvin again. But I had had it. I was done. I knew I was stuck in hell, feeling nauseous, stuck with a baby I couldn’t take care of. Again, I had a mission to prove to myself that everything was fake. I didn’t know how that would help, but at least I could know that nothing mattered anymore if I knew everything was not real. I could wait and see if it all passed and I went on to the afterlife I expected. Because this afterlife was nothing like I had read about or thought – I didn’t think everyone I loved would still be in hell with me. I wasn’t seeing Satan or burning up like I had expected. Where was I? I was so confused, and scared. Did God exist? Was I stuck in my mind?
I woke Dean up and again told him that nothing was real, I was stuck in this alternate reality. I decided to call my mom – again, I needed to prove that this wasn’t real to myself. She answered, even though it was 3am their time in Phoenix. I told her that I was dead and in hell. She was very calm, and said everything I expected her to say. She told me and Dean that we needed to go to the emergency room. For some reason I didn’t think we would be able to leave the house in this alternate universe. And since I felt like I had proved nothing was real, I told Dean he would have to carry me to the car. (I know this doesn’t make sense, but that’s what I was thinking!) He told me he didn’t think he could do it and I told him it would prove it was real if he carried me, because, in my opinion, I wasn’t that heavy. So, Dean picks up my dead weight off of our bed and gets me to the couch in the living room. He then goes to tell his mom that we are leaving for the hospital, to take care of Calvin, and he goes in the garage to get the car ready. This whole time I’m just along for the ride, I’m waiting to pass on to the next life. Dean picks me up from the couch and carries me to the backseat of our car. As we are about to leave, Dean’s mom gives me a hug and tells me she loves me.
As we are driving to the hospital, I kept thinking, “this dream is really elaborate – I am experiencing the entire ride to the hospital and seeing all of Abilene.” I was hunched over, not buckled and slouched to the side, but my mind was racing. We get to the hospital, which was very familiar since 3 weeks prior I had just been there to give birth to my son. Dean parks right in front of the door, and gets out and goes inside. He comes back with a wheelchair and asks me to get in. I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. I figured I didn’t have any control over what was going on and I wasn’t going to play into this dream.
Suddenly a police officer showed up and asked if everything was okay. Dean explained how he needed to take me into the emergency room, but that I wouldn’t get out of the car and wouldn’t talk to anyone. The policeman told me his name was Jodi (MORE proof that this was fake, a man wouldn’t have a name like Jodi – that was obviously a girl’s name!) Jodi asked me what was wrong and I decided to go for broke and tell him that nothing was real and I was dead. He asked me what my name was but I didn’t want to tell him, I didn’t want to talk anymore. Eventually, after trying for a while to convince me to get out of the car, the policeman picked me up and put me in the wheelchair. Dean wheels me inside to the counter. There is no one else in the lobby. It was freezing inside. I was wearing these tiny gray pajama shorts and a thin pink maternity shirt that I had slept in. I start shivering. While Dean is checking me in, Jodi asks if I am cold and gets me a blanket. They take me to another room and start the process of asking Dean what the matter was.
Problem: since I did not have any obvious signs of physical distress and would not tell them what the problem was, they felt they could not admit me without my consent. I remember while being in the room just being very amazed by all the details this world had – I was reading the signs on the wall, looking at all the people that I thought were figments of my imagination. Maybe it was all in my head, but if so, I was really imaginative! Dean was getting frustrated because they weren’t going to let me in. “This is it,” I thought. “This is where the dream ends because we can’t go any further.” Somehow, they decided to admit me. This dream was going to just keep on going!
They took me to another room, where we would end up being for a while. It was even colder, but had a bed and a few monitors. The nurse said she would need a blood sample, and also a urine sample, although they weren’t sure how they were going to get the urine. I remember thinking maybe this was where the hell part would come in, they would stick me with needles and torture me. And somehow get my urine! (Ack!) There were two female nurses who were working on taking my blood, I kind of tried to pull away but they held me tight and took my blood. It didn’t really hurt, so I was thankful that this wasn’t going to be a torture session. And they dropped talking about the urine sample for the moment, so that was nice.
Dean left the room to go get coffee (it was free!) I was sitting in my ice box of a room thinking that if I was stuck in this reality, that maybe I’d rather be somewhere else. So, I got up and decided I was going to leave. I could find the car, go somewhere fun, go home, anything else. As I walk past Dean and the nurse I didn’t say anything, but suddenly they realize that I am on my way out. I got to the double doors (that later I realized were locked and I wouldn’t have been able to get out anyways) and Dean grabs my arm. I tell him “I want to go home.” He and this blonde nurse are trying to drag me away from the exit, I am resisting but realizing that in this reality everyone else is really strong! So I give in and walk back obediently to my room.
I didn’t realize that most of the time in the ER is just waiting. Waiting in the lobby. Waiting in the room. But that’s what it is: waiting. At some point a doctor finally comes in and tells me (for like the millionth time) that what I am experiencing is pretty normal for moms and that they are going to work on some treatment options. But otherwise there is nothing wrong with me physically. Story of my life!
All this time I am still thinking nothing is real. You know what brought me back to reality? I asked Dean while we were waiting if we could watch a few episodes of Gilmore Girls on his phone. I had been watching the entire series back when I was still pregnant and had watched it while I nursed Calvin in the early hours of the morning when there was nothing else to do. I only had a few episodes left to finish the entire series. So, we both curled up on the hospital bed, meant to hold only one person. We shared the blankets since it was so cold in the room, although Dean let me have most of it. And we watched an episode. It was so weird to me that in this alternate reality, we could watch an entire episode of Gilmore Girls. And then we watched another, the last one actually. You know (*spoiler alert!) the one where Logan proposes to Rory and she turns him down, and we all are so disappointed in her! I mean really, watching the entire series again really made me second-guess Rory’s personality. I mean, she cheated with Dean when he was married, and thought nothing of it! And she’s all back and forth and back and forth with Jess and Dean… you would think for someone so smart she would make better life choices. But that’s a topic for another time…
Anyways, I suddenly really felt like things were really happening to me. And then it hit me how crazy I had been. Did I really do all those things? Yes, yes I had done them. I felt so much better I even voluntarily gave them a urine sample which made the nurses very happy! After a few more hours of waiting, they said they had contacted OCEANS (which is a psych hospital in town) and they were waiting for them to come out and evaluate me and take me over there. So, what that basically meant was more waiting. While we were waiting, Dean’s mom came to visit with Calvin, and she brought us Chick-fil-A to eat. I was actually able to eat (which was something that was hard most of the time) and then I even nursed Calvin in the hospital room.
After that we learned that OCEANS did not have any available space for a new patient, so I was going to be taken to Abilene Behavioral Health Hospital (basically just another psych hospital). Dean was not even allowed to take me, I had to be driven by a hospital worker. He was a nice old man named Kevin, and very sweet. He asked me why I was being taken to the hospital and I told him I had just had a baby and was dealing with some depression. I’m pretty sure he said something about it being totally normal, which apparently is the stock response whenever someone hears about it.
As we are walking up to the front doors of the hospital, I just start laughing to myself. I was really about to be checked in to a psych hospital… me! I am an educated, stable person and here I was about to go into the loony bin. And it started to feel very real and yet totally surreal at the same time.
We go inside and they do an initial consultation and basically give me enough information so I can decide if I wanted to sign myself into being admitted. I knew Dean really wanted me to go in and I wanted to get better, although I was still skeptical about how much it would really help. So I agreed. I really didn’t even know what I was agreeing to at the time, maybe that would have changed my mind if I had known.
TO BE CONTINUED – CLICK HERE TO READ PART 2
THANKS FOR READING!