Thursday, May 8, 2014

Climbing Out

Four short years ago, I was a very excited/scared/pumped/terrified pregnant mama.  I didn’t have insurance, so I found myself in a low-cost clinic where they treated every patient like they were not only low-income, but also low-intelligence.  Because I was wary of the box I was being placed in, I had an anxiety attack when a med student approached me at one of my appointments and told me I would be meeting with a social worker before I went home.


A social worker?  What was wrong? How had I messed up already?

I didn’t know what “social worker” meant, so I freaked out.  I walked into her office, and she started questioning me about my history with depression, and informed me that due to my history, I had a higher risk of postpartum depression.  My heart was racing. My palms were sweaty.  I thought they were going to take away my baby.  

So I lied. And I lied, and I lied, and I lied.  

“No, no, no,” I said.  “My life is great.  Everything is going well.  I feel awesome.  Pregnancy is fantastic.  I know the signs of depression.  I’m not worried.”  They let me go, and my relief was so great that I bounced out of the office without a care in the world.

Then my James was born.  His birth was traumatic, and I didn’t feel the way I was “supposed to” after he was born.  I was scared.  Nervous. Confused.  Lost.

And then he started to cry.  And cry, and cry, and cry.  For two weeks, he cried.  And I cried.  One night, as I laid in bed preparing myself for his next screams, I found myself in a room filled with spiders.  They were crawling in around the windows and through the electrical sockets.  They swarmed the walls, and were all coming towards me.  I found myself in the fetal position sobbing.

There were no spiders.

I was sick. I was so sick. But I remained silent.  I was afraid that if anyone knew, they would take away my boy.  I couldn’t feel anything for him, but I knew I loved him, and I was plagued with thoughts that someone could take him away because my brain was broken.

Three months later, Christopher got a job in Louisville.  We moved, we got settled, I found out I was pregnant again, and my depression went away.

The second pregnancy and delivery were easier than the first.  I knew better from my first experience, so this time around, I lied about depression every step of the way.  I didn’t even want to be on anyone’s radar as “unstable,” so I said nothing.  

After Sam was born, the depression hit again.  This time, not so hard, but enough that my whole life was dragging.  I was concerned and confused, so I reached out for help.  My local ecclesiastical leader recommended a therapist.  She immediately started asking questions about my far-distant past, labeled me as a “difficult child,” and asked me for some tips about healthy eating.  Obviously, that was wildly successful. Another therapist, terribly wrong diagnosis, and bad psychiatrist later, I took matters into my own hands. (More about that experience here.)

Through a fantastic blog called Postpartum Progress, I diagnosed myself with postpartum depression.  Everything written here resonated with me.  I knew what the problem was, and I set out to solve it.  I emailed someone at Postpartum Support Kentuckiana who got me connected with the medical professional who saved my life.  The woman who officially diagnosed my postpartum depression, listened to what was really bothering me rather than deciding herself what the problem was, found me the right medication, and turned my life around.  


With my third pregnancy, I told my doctor everything.  I told him that I’d had major struggles with depression.  I told him that each time I’d given birth, I’d struggled with severe postpartum depression.  I told him that sometimes I wanted to die.

Guess what?  He didn’t take my baby away.  He talked through a treatment plan with me, suggested we wait two weeks to see if any “baby blues” would clear up on their own, and let me know that I could call for medication as soon as I thought I needed it.  I called the day after Abby turned two weeks old.  I fought through the depression with the assistance of my medication.  I felt inspired, comforted, and uplifted by following the Postpartum Progress Facebook page and reading through the blog.  Especially this post about the stages of PPD recovery.  

And you know what?  Postpartum depression was still scary this time.  Terrifying.  Awful.  Horrible.  

And short.  I refused to continue suffering in silence.  I reached out for help.  I told my story.  Warrior moms all over the world wrapped their [virtual] arms around me, and I shook off the shackles of depression.  I rose above the stigma.  I looked my PPD in the face, and I beat the crap out of it.

Because I am a warrior.  
I am a survivor.
And I climbed out of the darkness.  


So now, I invite you to help other moms like me climb out of the darkness.  On June 21, 2014, the longest  day of the year, we’re going to “Climb out of the darkness” for Postpartum Depression awareness.  How can you help?  Easy!

First: Register to climb. Find your local climb here.  
In Cincinnati, we’ll be climbing at Harbin Park at 8:30 AM.  Meeting at Shelter 11. Not in Cincinnati?  That’s ok!  This event is international. 

Second: Donate.
This donation to Postpartum Progress will go to help raise awareness for postpartum depression, and guide moms like me to get the help we need.  Your support could help save a mom’s life.  A baby’s life. A family.  

Third: After you register and donate, let everyone know you support moms and babies everywhere! Hashtag on facebook or twitter using #climbout

If you’re currently fighting postpartum depression?

Don’t give up.  It will get better.  The illness you’re fighting with right now is treatable.  The nights are so dark.  It is as hard as it feels.  But you can do this.  I promise.  If I can, anyone can.

See you on June 21!