Faith, Life, Momming

Redeemed

We all have unpleasant memories. We’ve all experienced painful situations and seasons. One of my most terrifying experiences happened two years ago, and the worst of it started around Mother’s Day weekend. This isn’t your typical Mother’s Day blog post, but this is a story that needs to be told.

I was the stereotypical girly-girl growing up. I loved dresses, playing dress up in my mom’s old formal gowns, having tea parties, painting my nails, and playing with dolls. I dreamed of getting married and having kids. My dream of being a mom came true a couple of weeks before my 28th birthday. Six months after my son was born, I discovered I was expecting a second baby.

My kids are two of the greatest joys in my life, and I am honored to be there mom. However, after my daughter was born, I began experiencing postpartum anxiety and terrifying intrusive thoughts about the potential dangers for my new baby and the harm I had the power to cause. These horrible, unwanted thoughts led me to have thoughts of harming myself, lest I harm my precious daughter. I suffered in silence for many weeks out of fear that my children would be taken away. I knew I had to get help when I found myself crying in our bathroom closet.

I reached out to my midwife, began medication, and got into therapy. For the first few moths of medication and therapy, I felt broken and afraid I would never feel whole or normal ever again. I leaned on and clung to God. I filled my mind with His truth, and gradually the intrusive thoughts faded.

Two years later, I can finally say I’m beginning to feel “normal” again. Certain situations still trigger memories of the thoughts I had during my nightmare, but they no longer control me, paralyze me with fear, cause me to question myself and my identity, or cover me in waves of anxiety. In time, my scars may fade, and the memories of my nightmare may become dim and dull. But for now, I redeem my nightmare. I do not let it shame me into silence. If one woman finds hope and the courage to reach out for help because of my story, it will all have been worth it.

Postpartum anxiety is eclipsed by postpartum depression. We hear about postpartum depression, we’re given signs to watch for, but until two years ago, this mama had no idea to watch for anxiety or OCD in the months following the births of my children. Maybe this is the first time you’ve heard of anything besides postpartum depression. I highly encourage you to research it and to learn what to watch for in yourself and/or in the women around you.

This Mother’s Day weekend, if you are struggling in the postpartum phase, please reach out to your OB/GYN or midwife and a therapist. Do not let fear isolate you. You do not have to fight alone. There is hope, and you will be able to celebrate being a mother in time.

Faith, Momming

On This Day In History…

It started one year ago today. The darkest, most nightmarish time of my life started one year ago. A joyful trip to the zoo, for the first time as a family of four, resulted in a nauseatingly horrifying intrusive thought that propelled me into months of panic attacks, heavy anxiety, and intrusive thoughts.

I have never been as terrified or felt as broken as I did last summer. My foundation was shaken. I questioned myself, my perception of reality, my future, my faith, and my ability to love and protect my children.

When the intrusive thoughts first began, I remember wondering if I was suffering from postpartum psychosis. When I finally did some research, I quickly realized my symptoms matched the symptoms of postpartum OCD. Postpartum OCD can involve intrusive thoughts about harming your children. A few of the people I spoke to about my thoughts said they’d had similar thoughts in the past, but quickly shrugged them off, while I was horrified by them and couldn’t shrug them off. I felt like such a horrible person that the thoughts remained at the forefront of my mind, taunting and terrifying me. The fear of what I was capable of triggered thoughts of ending my life before I might act on the intrusive thoughts and harm the children I adored.

One night, as the thoughts and anxiety were intensifying, I cried to Thad, “I don’t understand why this is happening. I am so happy right now. I love my life.” I had just gone through postpartum hypertension in the days after my daughter was born. While I waited for my blood pressure to return to a normal level, I had been terrified that I would have a stroke and die. Who would love my children as much as I did if I died? I didn’t want to die. My experience only two months earlier made that crystal clear.

One year later, I’ve gone through therapy. I’ve been on medication. I’ve learned to fight the intrusive, lying thoughts with truth. I’ve seen just how blessed I am with an amazing support system. I’ve learned the power of having a mind fixed on God and filled with His Word. I’ve also gained a level of empathy and understanding for those who suffer from mental illness that I did not have before.

Looking back on the darkness that began a year ago makes me want to cry. I’m a million times better than I was, but I’m not completely back to normal. I don’t know if I ever will be. I have scars that weren’t there before. I am fully confident that God can redeem my nightmare, and make my scars into a story worth sharing.

One of the ways He redeems my story is in its sharing, because when I share it, others can see that there is hope. Life can be so much better. The nightmare can give way to dawn.

If you are struggling with postpartum mental illness, please reach out for help. I know it’s scary. I know it’s uncharted territory. But there is hope. You are not alone. Reach out to your doctor or midwife. Find a therapist you trust. Don’t give up. Keep fighting.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. #BreakTheStigma