Wednesday, February 29, 2012

suffering in silence-part 1

*Warning: This post contains some material that may be triggering to some people. Please do not read if that is the case for you. 

Writing about the first few days of the war I had no idea I was about to fight is extremely difficult. It’s hard to push myself to relive that terrifying time. It took me almost 3 years to be completely honest with others & with myself. No one understood the painful disturbing details of the horror movie that replayed in my head, not even me.

It was a Sunday, 7 weeks postpartum, the day my entire world turned upside down, a day that I will never forget. I wanted to clean the house but we didn't have any swiffer sweeping pads left. You would have thought the world just ended. Oh no, how the hell am I going to sweep the floors?? I was pissed & started screaming at my poor husband as if he did something wrong. I took off in my car & went to what seems like 10 different stores to try to find the cleaning product I so desperately needed. Not one flippin store had them! Driving around, terrifying intrusive thoughts began swirling in my head. I began to cry, petrified of what was happening to me. 

My scary thoughts came in the form of ideas such as what if I drown the baby in the bathtub, or thoughts such as what if my daughter chokes or falls down the stairs. Flashing through my head was the story about Andrea Yates drowning her children in a bathtub. Anxiety kicked in full force. Oh my God, why am I thinking these things, what the hell is wrong with me?I knew that I would never do anything to harm my baby or myself, I knew these thoughts were completely irrational but they took over my entire body & mind & paralyzed me. I was in complete shock as to what was happening. I thought I was going crazy.

Not even a full day of these thoughts & I couldn’t take it anymore. The disturbing, disgusting thoughts just kept playing over & over in my head. I thought this is it, I am going to be in a mental hospital, my baby is going to be taken away from me. I had never felt so scared or alone in my entire life. I tried my hardest to snap out of it, to push the horror movie type thoughts out of my mind, to just "get over it"…nothing worked. I was drowning so quickly & had no idea how to get back up for air.

 Later that evening I had my mom pick me up to take me to the ER. I have to get to a doctor as quickly as possible, I have to get help. I was in a full blown panic attack. Driving to the ER I was somehow able to calm down enough where I felt OK to go home. I will call my doctor in the morning. I had to pull every ounce of strength inside of me to keep it together. I knew I wasn’t ready to tell a doctor the thoughts going through my head, all I could think was that they would lock me up for sure.

 Just a week before this all started I had my 6 week postpartum checkup & was totally fine. No worries, no fears, no scary thoughts…nothin’. Just a happy new momma who was in love with her baby. A week later, I am sitting in front of my confused OB crying uncontrollably. She gives me a hug & hands me a tissue to wipe the tears pouring down my face. She tells me that I have postpartum depression. In that moment I was kind of pissed at her because I thought seriously she has no idea what she is talking about, I am not in any way depressed. In fact I was the complete opposite of depressed. I was happy. I was in love with my daughter & had a great life. It was the thoughts that were killing me. If only I could have told her that.

I do remember her asking a routine question, are you having suicidal thoughts? Well no, I  wasn’t. What I really wish she would have asked were questions such as are you having unwanted thoughts that are scaring the crap out of you?  Are you worried all the time? Are you having fears?  I would have loved to hear honey, you will be OK, obsessive thoughts can happen in new mothers & PPD can be accompanied by obsessive thoughts in over half of new moms. If she had mentioned any of this, maybe I would have felt a bit of relief in knowing that this actually DOES happen to other women. Maybe I would have told her the truth as to what was happening . Instead I kept quiet. Don’t ask don’t tell, right? I continued to feel like I was going crazy & that I was the only one in the world experiencing such awful thoughts.

Upon leaving that office I set up an appointment to see a therapist & was handed a prescription for Zoloft. Although I saw the therapist, I didn’t feel a connection with her so I never told her about the intrusive thoughts. I never filled that Zoloft either. My husband & I discussed whether or not I should go on the meds and we both agreed that it wasn’t a good idea for me. Really?! Did I seriously think suffering was the best choice?! Deep down I wanted to fill that prescription so badly but I felt that as soon as I went on medication it meant something was indeed “wrong” with me. I didn’t want that. I thought that I could get over it on my own. Not filling that prescription was probably the worst mistake I could have made.

Fears began to creep up on me out of nowhere. I became petrified of knives.  I didn’t know why at the time but they just scared the hell out of me. I couldn't watch horror movies or the news anymore. It caused too much anxiety & worsened the intrusive thinking. I had to steer clear of reading the symptoms of postpartum psychosis. Having postpartum psychosis was one of my biggest fears at the time, it horrified me. Then there were times I dreaded giving my daughter a bath or waking up at night to feed her. Dark, quiet, alone with my thoughts...way too terrifying for me. When I did force myself to wake up to feed her, I had to keep the TV on just so I wouldn’t be alone with my thoughts.

I eventually came across postpartum ocd symptoms on the internet. Racing thoughts, can’t quiet your mind? Check. Having disturbing thoughts, thoughts you’ve never had before, thoughts that aren’t you? Check. Afraid to be alone with your baby because of these thoughts? Check. Right then I knew what I had was postpartum ocd but I had myself & everyone around me convinced that it was just anxiety. Anxiety sounds better than ocd, right? I felt ocd just took things to a whole new level, a level that I was not ready to accept or believe. I was afraid to tell people I had postpartum anxiety never mind throwing the words ocd in the mix. Wasn’t gonna happen.

These scary thoughts were constant & caused major life interference & distress for me. I was embarrassed, disgusted, mortified & felt guilty. The last thing I wanted was to go through this alone for almost 3 years, but at the same time I didn’t want people to know. What would they think? I hid this & I hid it good & consequently suffered alone for years. I put a smile on for my baby, my husband, family, friends & the world to see but deep down I was hurting, confused, in shock & terrified at what was happening. I now understand that suffering in silence was completely unnecessary & it caused extreme feelings of isolation.  I thought I would never be myself again & that this would never go away. I told myself I would never, ever have any more children. I couldn’t imagine going through this hell of a roller coaster ride again.

Read suffering in silence-part 2 here.


Lindsay said...

Sweetheart, you're not alone. I was screened at my six week appointment and I passed. The ppd army is here to stand beside you. Big hugs. You're brave for putting this out there, I know how hard it is.

Kimberly said...

I never had intrusive thoughts and I can't even imagine how horrifying they must have been for you.
I'm so proud of you for speaking up and reaching out for help. So many women suffer in silence.
That is the sad thing about the 6 week postpartum checkup...PPD can manifest any time during the 1st postpartum year. And some doctors don't probe further when asking new moms about their emotions.
Thank you so much for writing about this. I know it's painful to relive those horrifying times, but you are going to help so many women.

Andrea said...

Thank you Kimberly for the kind words. I have learned SO much during this journey and it was reading all these amazing ppd blogs and finding postpartum progress that finally changed everything for me :)

Slish said...

Yes! I also wonder if this is my new "normal" and just a part of who am now. Seems like stress can spiral into anxiety unless I watch myself. But at least the good days are more often then hard days.. .and the hard aren't as hard as they were. It is mostly battling the "what if it is coming back" fear. Finding postpartum progress really helped me although I didn't use it for awhile... it wasn't until I was feeling quite a bit better that I realized how helpful it was. I had to get a little distance from my symptoms. Anyhow, it is just now that I am finding all the blogs that are so great!

Andrea said...

I agree Alicia! Sometimes I can feel the anxiety coming on & that's when I need to remember to take care of myself & do something relaxing like yoga or a bath or just sit & relax & that usually helps me a bit. I get the "what if it is coming back" thoughts too! So glad to know I am not alone :)

Kristin Novotny said...

Andrea, I came to this post via your recent post about #ppdchat video. I cannot believe I never knew this, but these thoughts were my own. I must have had PPOCD as well, but no one told me. Come to think of it, I'm not sure that anyone ever asked me if I had been having scary thoughts. This isn't something I've talked with my therapist about yet. We've just discussed my anxiety. Wow. Are there any resources out there that talk specifically about PPOCD? I've only seen things specific to PPD and PPA, and now I'm really wanting to know more about this. I can't believe that it's been 6 months since my PPD diagnosis and I'm first now realizing this.

Thanks for sharing your story. xo

Kristin Novotny said...

I just found several links on Postpartum Progress. :) I think I'm in shock! lol

I shared your fear of knives. And stairs terrified me - I could not carry my son up or down stairs.

Margaret (mammacockatoo) said...

I've had OCD in one form or another for as long as I can remember, and over time it has had periods of higher and lower intensity. Postpartum is one of those times that it flares up, this time in a big way. I understand those thoughts - not always the same thoughts as you or anybody else, but the general experience of them - and they're terrifying, and crippling.

I'm sorry you had such a struggle for so long before help came, but please don't feel guilty that you didn't feel better sooner. It's part of the illness that we hide it from others. Confessing the secret fears and thoughts can be as terrifying as the thoughts themselves. The anxiety feeds itself and self-perpetuates.

Please don't beat yourself up about not taking the Zoloft when you first had the prescription. You don't know that it would have worked at the time, and the effect - and side effects - will be different for different people. I have heard that often, people with OCD will be diagnosed with depression and find that the meds don't actually help, since they are different "beasts". I know how hard the "what if"s are, trust me, but it's what you're doing NOW that matters. If diet works, or meds, or therapy, or exercise, or sharing your story with others... it's what you're doing now that matters.

Andrea said...

I guess I always had a touch of it or at least anxiety for as long as I can remember, but I never thought it was a "problem". I never knew how Postpartum could make it come out, big time!

Thank you for your kind words, it is so helpful & comforting to hear from others who have been there too & I agree that it matters what we do about it NOW :)

Andrea said...

I just went to your blog (love it by the way!!) I am soo glad that you found me & that I found your blog. And thank you for sharing :) I would love to keep in touch with you & talk whenever you want!!

Anonymous said...

your story is almost identical to mine.. i got mine at 7 months pregnant and all i can say it was a nightmare!.. i pray for you and if you would like to talk i would love too my e mail is :)