Saturday, 10 December 2011

Perhaps I'll Take A Holiday And Get As Far Away As I Can But Then I'd Just Be Far Away

Two months after Grady was born, after weeks of tears and yelling and distorted thinking, I was diagnosed with postpartum anxiety with a side of postpartum depression and just a dash of postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder. Though I did manage to skip the compulsions part of the ppocd (lucky me?)

The doctor who delivered Grady was the person who got me the help I needed. When I saw her for my followup appointment, she saw that I wasn't coping. She referred me to a psychiatrist at a reproductive mental health clinic. She also referred me to a counsellor specialising in cognitive behavioural therapy. For weeks after taking the first step of getting help, I felt so positive that I was making the right changes. I dove headfirst into therapy. I was going to earn straight A's in therapy. My psychiatrist and counsellor were going to be amazed at how hard I was going to rock therapy. I was going to get one hundred therapy gold stars.

Which is something they warn you about when you start cbt. They told me to take it slow. To work at it gradually and consistently so that I didn't have a huge high followed by a huge low. I don't listen well, though. I'm stubborn. I was going to show them.

For a while it worked. The obsessive thoughts that plagued me since Grady's birth disappeared almost completely. I no longer had a panic attack when I walked within six feet of the patio guardrail because I no longer saw, in graphic detail, my baby sailing over the side and falling fifty feet onto the concrete below. I could walk by the kitchen counter and not shudder because I no longer imagined my baby rolling off and landing on the ceramic tile underneath. My disturbing, illogical (I don't put the baby on the counter, I never would put the baby on the counter, and yet every day, a hundred times a day, I would picture my baby (who can't even roll yet) rolling off the counter) thoughts were gone.

My anxiety lessened. With the urging of my counsellor, I joined a yoga studio. Once a week, I'd leave Grady with Shawn for almost two hours and go to yoga. Coming home to a happy baby and a condo that hadn't turned into a disaster zone in my absence helped to reassure me that Grady doesn't need me all day every day. I can still have my life and it can be a little bit separate from my baby.

My anxiety didn't disappear completely, though. I got very good at tamping it down. I focused on my victories (I joined a yoga studio and continue to go to yoga weekly even though I am complete rubbish at it! My kid is giggly and smart and happy! After a rocky start, I now breastfeed like a motherfucking champ!) while completely disregarding the nagging anxiety and depression at the back of my mind. I blamed my daily meltdowns and crying jags on my grandma's passing. I refused to acknowledge that I was slipping. I couldn't accept that I wasn't winning at therapy.

My depression consists of a lot of guilt. Guilt that I'm sad even though I have a healthy, happy, beautiful baby. Guilt that Grady has me - fucked up me - for a mom. Guilt that there are so many people who would give anything to be in my position. Guilt is a useless emotion. I know that my feeling guilty serves no one and fixes nothing. Yet here I wallow.

This week was a low point for me. Maybe the lowest since the early hormone-addled days. In hindsight, there were a few weeks of build up. I was crying a lot, forgetting things, not sleeping well even when Grady was asleep. I crashed in a spectacular blaze of crazy this week. I thought of the meanest things I could possible say to Shawn. And then I said them. I spent a lot of time lying on the bathroom floor, crying. I declared war on Christmas, friendly grocery clerks, and kind strangers because they all obviously exist to highlight my own failures and make me feel bad about myself.

Tuesday is therapy day. I'm holding on until Tuesday. I'm taking deep breaths and relishing the feeling of clarity that comes after I have a meltdown. The dam broke but I am not broken.

I need to write this for me. I need to be able to look at this in a few weeks or a few months and see that I was so low but I found my way out. More importantly, I need to remember this feeling just in case it rears its bastard head again.


  1. I wish I knew what to say, but since I'm not a mom, all I can tell you is that you're NOT alone. You're not crazy or defective or a bad mom.

    I went to my first therapy appointment last week (I'll be doing a group therapy thing mid-January). I think the same way you do as far as being the star student and worry I'll set myself up for "failure" if I don't miraculously! improve! over night.

    Sending you much love. <3

  2. I'm so glad you're writing about this.

  3. It hurts me so so much to read what you're going through at the moment, because I see so much of myself in what you're writing.

    I don't have the solutions, answers or magic wand to make it better. On those shitty days I force myself to think about the better days. I really try to go through at least 3 good things that happened in a day, and even though it might be hard to see, the fact that we have amazing babies means that there has to be at least 3 good things about the day. This is whats I try to tell myself, even on those days where i have said horrible things to the people I love.

    Try to focus on the positive. Sending positive vibes to you from the other side of the world.

  4. Been there. I've been there so many times. Four pregnancies, four babies, three bouts of ppd so bad that at one point I checked myself into a lovely mental health facility. Aka crazy town hospital.

    You aren't alone. I once woke up at 3am and ran to check on the baby because I KNEW I KNEW I KNEW someone had kidnapped him. No one had. He was still there. Throwing a half melted stick of butter at my husband's head while my children watched, though, may have been my low point.

    Know you're not alone. Know so many of us have been there. It sucks. Bad. But it doesn't suck forever.

  5. I so wish I could say the exact right thing that would comfort you - but I am not sure what it is.

    You aren't crazy. You aren't fucked up.

    I always have anxiety (and OCD, because I an over-achiever in the mental health department!)- so the post-partum issues are always yucky for me, but they are also sort of all-the-time issues.

    Sometimes it is better, sometimes it gets bad again. I hope that the bad gets less bad, and is less frequent.

    Also, I hesitate to say this because I want to say it *just right* and make things better, not worst, but BOTH of my parents suffered with mental health issues my entire life. My father spent years working on his, and I can't tell you have much I have admired and respected him my entire life for the way he handled it - with honesty, and determination. Grady is SO LUCKY to have you as a mom for those same reasons.

  6. I think you are brave and wonderful.

    And this post made me cry because I often feel exactly the same way. So just know that you're not alone. Because I know that the crazy place in your head can get lonely. xoxo

  7. As one of the commenters above said, I'm not a parent ... but I can tell you that you're not alone. Perhaps there is no cured-permanent-forever-better state that one can obtain ... but it will get better. Sending super-supportive vibes.

  8. As one of the commenters above said, I'm not a parent ... but I can tell you that you're not alone. Perhaps there is no cured-permanent-forever-better state that one can obtain ... but it will get better. Sending super-supportive vibes.

  9. I've never had a baby or understand completely what you are going through but you are brave to talk about it so openly and I wish you the very best on your journey.

    my friend encouraged me to think of mental health the same way as physical health - your never going to be in perfect condition.
    But you can do things to be stronger and feel better while you work on it.

    Best wishes.

  10. It sounds like we've got a lot in common right now. I had my third ten weeks ago and my grandmother passed away two days prior to his birth. I held it together for the first few weeks but by the time he was five weeks it was apparent that this was more serious than grieving and baby blues. Add to the mix his failure to adequately gain weight and I was (am) a hot mess. It's hard because I didn't deal with this with my other two and I'm sure caring for all three of them has just added to my problems. I finally gave in and went on meds and that combined with some mandatory alone time has helped immensely.
    Hoping things get better for you soon. Just remember that you are a great mom and this being a parent shit is tough work!

  11. This might help or it might not, but firstly, you are not alone. Secondly, you are so smart for even admitting it to yourself and your doctor and to the world.

    After giving birth I spent the next 5 months denying it to myself, bursting out into tears, getting mad at my baby (how ridiculous is that?), getting mad at myself, blaming myself, blaming my husband (bf at the time) for everything that was going wrong with this world. At a doctor check up, the doc asked how I was doing, and I finally said something like, "Yeah, you know, sometimes I feel a little sad, but it's getting better." It wasn't really getting better, I just didn't want to be labelled (in my own mind) as crazy. Stupid me.

    I look back now and realise that it wasn't exactly "Me" that was that person. If that person could just get over her own ego and do something right, she would've told the doctor right away that she was anxious, she got upset because her baby wouldn't stop crying one night, all night, and it turned out she had an ear infection - the guilt superseded anything else.

    One thing I'm dreading a wee bit with this next pregnancy is the PPD. Looking back again, I still feel the guilt of not getting help, the guilt of it all. I have thoughts that perhaps THIS time I'll be a better mother, THIS time I'll do it all right.

    And then you sigh and try to let go of it all, although it still creeps in.

    Being a mother is tough, and going through it, you start to regard your mother with much more empathy than ever before. Of course, our mother's are older now, don't quite have the recollection or don't want to remind themselves of the hard times, but they went through it. And they're (mainly) okay. But more importantly - YOU and I are okay. Our mothers did it, we can do it too.

    Hang in there, you're doing great :)

  12. Poor Hil. I'm sure Grady will be fine and always think you're a fantastic mum. You'll feel better soon. xx

  13. I also hope it helps to write because it shows you're not alone, that so many other mothers before you walked through hell to walk out one day. You'll walk out, and if you ever need anything, ANYTHING, you have a sea of women who understand, who have been there, and who will never flinch at a single thing you may be feeling. We can't offer too many in-person hugs, but hot damn, can we send them virtually. (And we are.)

  14. Thinking about you. You're very strong and brave for writing this post and I hope it's the first step towards healing for you. XO

  15. You know, I read all those gushy, "I just had a baby posts" and it makes me kind of throw up in my mouth a little. I find your posts to be profoundly more raw and have a whole layer of depth. I can only hope that your posts help others going through similar emotions not feel so alone - the silver lining to the gray cloud in which you seem to find yourself. I hold a strong belief that you will overcome all of this with time and hard work. You're a fighter.

    Good luck.

  16. Oh, Hillary. You are going to get back up. The fact that you wrote this shows that you know where you are, and where you need to be, and that you will get there.

    Grady is so lucky to have you for a Mom, because you won't give up. Ever.

    Love you, lady.

  17. Thinking about you, and admiring your tenacity. It might not feel like it, but you have come a long, long way, and Grady is one lucky dude.

  18. Oh, Hillary, you are so not alone. I cried a lot in the first few weeks after pregnancy. I also think of horrible things that could happen to my child. I might not have PPD, but I think all parents, all mothers, have common threads. Your struggles are just louder than mine. Having those thoughts in the first place - I think that's natural for a lot of parents. We were put on this earth to worry about our offspring. It's what we do with those thoughts that allows us to live in a positive place or not so much. I'm so glad you're writing about this and continuing with therapy. I know you'll pull through this dark time. And from the looks of it, you have a lot of people holding your hand along the way. xoxo

  19. I wish I could scoop you up and give you a big hug, hunny bunny! Except that I'm shorter than you and have a big belly and we'd just fall down and it would be such an awkward first meeting.

    PPD is a terrible, evil, soul-robbing thing. I got put on meds for it when I stopped being able to function, and it turned life around dramatically. I don't know if I would've had the energy at the time to deal with therapy and hope/wait for it to start helping enough. Sending you lots of hugs and good vibes and strength.

  20. i just want to give you so many hugs hillary. i clearly have no idea what you're going through but i know you'll make it out okay. and seriously, write it out, work it out, do whatever you need to to get yourself there and happy again. we're all here for you. woo!

  21. You are brave and not alone. Sending you SO many hugs and good wishes.

  22. Lady, I just know you are going to come thru this. You're strong and so loving. It's so good you are going to counseling and going to yoga (YAY!) because taking care of you is important. You are important! And how can we give to others if we are depleting ourselves?

  23. you are awesome and a beautiful mother. grady couldn't ask for a better mom: while none of us is perfect, you are strong enough to want to make yourself the best person you can be for him. that's amazing and i'm so proud of you.

  24. I know you know this, but the guilt is unnecessary. I'm going to keep telling you that until you believe it. You're not cheating or hurting Grady. You're a wonderful mother. You will come out the other side of this.

    I'm so glad you're writing about it.

  25. Thinking of you! <3 So proud of you for reaching out to a therapist & joining a yoga studio. You are so brave for writing this & I know you are helping other mamas who are going through the same experience to feel less alone. Grady is so lucky to have you! XOXO