Thank you Mari for sharing my story! I recently just shared this on my personal blog so if you'd like to read more head over to http://www.stillinbloom.com where I will have a follow-up to this post in the next couple of weeks!
I had no idea that postpartum anxiety was a thing until I was living with that evil sob. Literally the devil's work. But anxiety and depression usually go hand in hand from what I have researched. And with my experience I had extreme anxiety with mild depression. With this post I want to describe in detail what I went through after I had my second child. I hate to even relive it but I searched the internet for hours (bad idea ladies, bad idea) when I was at my worst to find women who went through something similar. So I want to be that person that also shares her story.
I'd also like to say that I will have a post following this that will have so much more in terms of how I [tried] to cope with the anxiety, what I learned, and so much encouragement for you. Do you ever feel like you just need to spill your guts out to someone? Yup, that's me right now. But I will say this-you are tougher than you think, you are loved by God and you FREAKIN MATTER! This is only a minor blip in your life and there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Anxiety messes with your thoughts and fear is a liar. Don't you for one second believe those lies.
My second child Jack was born a month early. My water broke at home in the middle of the night and my husband was just coming to bed. Sorry hun! It was fast, scary, involved me birthing him on the toilet, and a stay in the NICU. Not at all how I planned. The first 3.5 weeks were going as expected though. Not getting enough sleep, trying to keep my 20 month old daughter happy, trying to eat and drink enough for his nursing demands, and experiencing the normal 'blues'.
Around 1 month postpartum I was making my daughter lunch and I started to feel very off. I felt this intense feeling as if I were to pass out so I grabbed a snicker bar thinking that my blood sugar was low. It didn't help. I quickly stumbled to find my phone and called my husband who rushed home to be with me. I then started to puke, have diarrhea, and was shaking. The fear was so intense that I wanted my husband to take me to the ER. Blood tests all came back fine but I was dehydrated so they pumped me full of fluids and sent me home.
For 2 days I felt okay. Definitely not myself, but I felt good enough to be on my own. Then 3 days later it happened again at the same time of day. I felt so spacey and had the fainting feeling, and everything looked and felt so far away. Once again I got really scared and that brought on the nausea and vomiting. I called my husband but he was 40 minutes way so my mom came over to be with me. We called my OB clinic and they said I probably had low blood sugar and was eating the wrong foods. But to be safe I should make an appt. to get more blood work done.
Well for some reason this all sent me into a panic because I thought I was dying, I didn't want to be alone just in-case I passed out (which I never even have), and I could barely eat now and I had to nurse my newborn son. So this was the start of 5 months of hell and more recovery after that. What I didn't know then was that I had experienced 2 very awful panic attacks. Out of nowhere and for no reason at all. The only reasons that my husband and I can come up with are FUCKING HORMONES. I think all maybe would of have been well if I didn't get so scared, but I didn't know what they were so my mind went to the darkest of places and I googled endlessly which send me into a spiral of what-ifs.
Real quick, when I thought back to my past I only had 1 panic attack. And it was in my sleep but I thought I had just woken up from a nightmare. But it was indeed a panic attack that happened at a stressful time in my life. I've always been uptight and would get anxious over mundane things, but it never drove me into a panic. So all of what I was dealing with was essentially new to me.
MY OWN KIND OF HELL
For 3 months I suffered with severe anxiety and fear (5 if you include my time getting used to the antidepressant I tried and I will explain more of this in part 2). And it wasn't anxiety over my baby and his breathing, or if something bad was going to happen to him. It was all directed towards me and my health. I was afraid of fainting, not having an appetite, not feeling 'right' in my head', feeling bad for having my husband stay home from work because I couldn't take care of the kids, etc...I was a mental wreck. And when I say I didn't have an appetite, I mean that I lived off smoothies and around dinner time I could eat maybe a couple solid foods. Every morning I would wake up after a horrible nights sleep with a knot in my stomach, go puke, then try to form my thoughts so I could make a smoothie.
On the days my husband went to work my mom would come and stay with me until my daughter's nap time. Then I would have to be by myself for 4 hours. I would need help with my son because like I said I could barely form my thoughts to take care of the two at the same time. Even emptying the dishwasher or taking a shower sounded like so much work that I would cry. Like what the hell how is that even possible? I had to stop breastfeeding because I was so anxious and the zero sleep I was getting was making it worse. I needed so much help.
I remember looking back at these 3 specific pictures and thinking that I look 'happy' but inside I felt like I was hanging on by a thread. You never know what someone may be dealing with by their outside appearance.
Right now I'm going to list all the symptoms I had. And if anyone smarter than me thinks these are more than anxiety, please let me know. Because even today I have days where one or more of these symptoms come on and I think I'm dying from some crazy disease and that it's not really anxiety at all. But that's what this evil thing does right? Gosh dangit, eff you anxiety.
not feeling 'right' in my head and body
body felt heavy
panic attacks just as I would fall asleep
panic attacks during the day
headaches that didn't go away
no joy and peace
felt an intense darkness over me
fear of going crazy
vomiting and diarrhea
couldn't think ahead or form my thoughts correctly
ringing in ears
everything was loud and 10x brighter
resting heart rate was 90 bpm
an overall ache and pain felt through my whole body
had a hard time interacting with others
feeling as if my blood sugar was low all the time
So to sum it up it felt like I had extreme morning sickness, an ongoing migraine, a constant panic attack, and I WAS DRUNK 24/7. All while I was trying to take care of my 2 yr old, bond with my newborn, be a wife, and see people during the holiday season. Worst Thanksgiving and Christmas I've ever had! During this time I had so much blood work done that my arm was always bruised, I had a 24 holter monitor to check my heart, and there was one night my panic attacks and depersonalization were so scary that I told my husband I wanted an MRI. That is tough for me to write because of how ridiculous it sounds. But I got it anyways for peace of mind. I wasted thousands of dollars on tests to come back to say that I was in GREAT HEALTH.
You'd think that with all the googling I did that I would have realized that this was anxiety and that I just needed to hop on an antidepressant and call it good. But I was in denial that it was that and convinced myself that I had some type of cancer or I was going crazy. I literally had 1 moment where I felt such an evil presence on me and I couldn't shake it. I was so scared for how I was feeling I wanted to get out of my body right at that moment. I wanted someone to put me out of my misery. My skin was crawling and I begged God to save me. Sounds messed up right? I'm thinking it was just another damn panic attack but it felt much worse.
This was supposed to be the best time of my life and I felt crippled. I looked at my children and felt nothing. NOTHING. That was so heartbreaking for me. I never thought about suicide, but I regularly wished I would die by some natural cause. I don't know if that's considered suicide? How horrible of me to even write that but it was like my mind was taken captive and I couldn't rationalize what I was thinking. Getting help sooner would have probably been better than going through all of this, but I was naive.
I ask myself why all the time and I don't think I'll really have a definitive answer. Tough for a type A personality. Anxiety robbed me of that precious bonding time with my son and stole all of my joy. I am almost a year into this and I still have days where I feel 'off'. And I'm not going to lie those days scare me. But I've made it through this far so I know I can keep on going no matter what.
Now my story may not be anything like yours but that doesn't make your story any less important. If you have gone through something similar and need support contact me! I am all ears when it comes to anxiety and depression. Support is what you need through these times because these illness' are so damn REAL. And please look out for my follow up post on my recovery from anxiety!