***Trigger warning: If you are feeling fragile or struggling, this post might be triggering. I talk about intrusive thoughts. ***
This week I was plunged back into the hell of my postpartum depression and anxiety, triggered by an infant death in my state that was attributed to postpartum depression based on the information in the media. This case is currently in the legal system and the medical system, and it is up to the courts to decide. I cannot pass judgement in a situation like this. I had those terrible thoughts. My only saving grace was I never acted on them.
My husband has been checking in with me several times a day since the news broke. We both are reminded of the hell that we lived through together. He reminded me last night of the only intrusive thought that I had verbalized to him. One day in the throes of sheer and utter exhaustion, my nerves were frayed. I could not nurse Skeeter, and she would not stop screaming. I told my husband, “You better take her right now or I am afraid I might hurt her”. At that point I had not been diagnosed. I was struggling so much to do anything. I had this horrible vision of smothering my sweet baby girl or shaking her to make her stop. I knew that I could not act on these thoughts, so I stepped away to give myself a break.
My husband confessed to me that he was reluctant to leave me alone with the girls after I said that. He was formulating a plan in his head to take the girls and leave me if he felt that I was a danger to myself or to the girls. I had never realized the extent of the burden of pain that he bore those seven months before my diagnosis. With my diagnosis, I slowly recovered. Lately I have been talking to him more about my online advocacy and being a proud member of the #ppdchat Army and Mama’s Comfort Camp. I continue to be more candid about my moods and my feelings, and our relationship is stronger than ever.
I knew that these intrusive thoughts were not real and that they were not rational. I could not stop them from replaying over and over in my head. It took me months of therapy to realize that I had suffered from these thoughts. In order to protect myself, I stuffed those thoughts way down deep. I could not bear to bring them to the light of the day because they were just too horrible to contemplate.
Today I write this to reach anyone who is struggling right now with these thoughts. If you know that these thoughts are not real and rational, realize that you will not harm your baby. No one can take away your child because you confess to intrusive thoughts. Please reach out for help and let someone know that you are suffering from these thoughts. I know how much you hate yourself for even thinking those horrible thoughts. It is not you. It is the illness. You are not alone. You will get better. You just need to get help. To read other moms’ accounts of intrusive thoughts, please see these blog posts from Katherine Stone, my dear friend Frelle, and a fellow Warrior mom, Andrea.
If you believe that these thoughts are real, then you could be suffering from postpartum psychosis. You need immediate attention. Go to your local emergency room. Postpartum psychosis is a very serious postpartum mood disorder that requires immediate medical attention. Postpartum psychosis is treatable. You are not alone. You will get better. You need to get help right away.
To the loved ones whose wives, sisters, daughters and friends are struggling with postpartum mood disorders, please know this there is hope. I know how frustrating and heartbreaking it can be to watch your loved one struggle. Please take advantage of the resources available for help. Your loved one will get better; she just needs to get help.
http://www.postpartum.net/ - This is the website of Postpartum Support International.
http://postpartumprogress.com/ - Katherine Stone writes one of the most widely read blogs about postpartum mood disorders.