My Story

a woman shatteredShe sat in the physician’s office, crying uncontrollably, unable to speak. She wanted to explain to him how small her world had become. To tell him that she was barely functioning. She’d open her mouth, but the reality of it would hit her in the face and she’d choke on the words. She had already visited her OB (twice), spoken with her pastor, another Church counselor, and three different therapists.

Desperate for help, she was begging someone – anyone – to fix her. Finally at the end of her rope, she sat trembling in that cold, sterile room for the second time.

She couldn’t leave the house. She couldn’t let anyone hold the baby. She would stand at the sink for an hour washing her hands. Showering was torturous. It would take so long that before she could finish, she’d run out of hot water, forced to finish in icy cold water.

If anything touched the floor, it was sanitized with bleach or thrown away. Books. Notebooks. Expensive make-up and lotions. Toys. Food. Clothes. Towels. The list goes on and on. Her hands and arms were raw from cleaning and washing. She would even obsess in her dreams, waking up relieved that she hadn’t really held her daughter without washing her hands.

Every day, she would beg her husband to leave her to find a better wife and mother for their daughter, one that they deserved.

By the time she realized what was wrong, she was already in the depths of it. She was living her own personal hell. What started out as attempt to keep her daughter safe had spiraled into an agonizing nightmare that is beyond words – postpartum OCD, one of the lesser known and misunderstood of all postpartum mood disorders.

Initially, even her doctor had written off her fears as normal first time mom feelings. Her OB did the same. Each therapist talked about anxiety and breathing exercises. It wasn’t anxiety – it was an intense FEAR. Fear of germs, fear of SIDS, fear of losing everything that meant anything to her … complete and debilitating fear.

One day, she met a woman online who was struggling with some of the same issues. Like a beacon of light in her darkest time, Cate understood her. She talked to her daily, always there to encourage her. At Cate and her husband’s urging, she was able to get the courage that led to that fateful day when she sat sobbing in her doctor’s office. He prescribed a very low dose of medicine – too low. She would call his office crying and begging for a higher dose. Every second was excruciating.

Looking in the mirror, she did not recognize herself. A woman shattered.

It’s still so hard to believe that woman was me.

I’m slowly getting back to my old self. It scares me to think where I would be if I hadn’t met Cate and didn’t have my husband there to hold my hand every step of the way (he really meant it when he vowed for better, for worse).

It has been a very rough journey. A journey that has certainly taken its toll on us, our marriage and our family. It makes me sad when I think about where I was 2 years ago. I would’ve rather had two broken legs. Gladly. It would have been less paralyzing and painful.

I still struggle. I’m still afraid at times. I now understand what people mean when they say “rock bottom.” But I am able to live. I’m able to visit friends and family. I’m able to take a shower, an entire shower, in warm water. I’m able to play on the floor (gasp!) with my daughter. I’m able to live without that horrible fear in the pit of my stomach that something very, very terrible is about to happen. I’m able to enjoy the family I had always dreamed of.

We’ve come a long way and remain committed to getting our life back. If there’s a silver lining in this journey, a journey that almost cost me my family, marriage and my life, it’s that through these struggles I’ve been able to help others dealing with some of the same issues and hopefully can continue to do so.

PICKING UP THE PIECES

Someone once told me that if you take something fragile and shatter it, even if you glue it back together, it will never be as beautiful.

I am not fragile.

I’ve traveled a long road to get to where I am today. Not the “life is a highway” kind of road, but a treacherous and winding road. I’ve fallen more times than I can count and have the emotional bumps and bruises to show for it. My marriage was shaken to it’s very core. Although most were understanding, some people couldn’t help but show their true colors with their lack of empathy – those relationships will never be the same.

There is hope. There is life after a postpartum illness. A beautiful life.

Maybe it won’t be entirely as it was before, but it will be even more glorious. You will wake up every day and be grateful that you were able to crawl out of the darkness and depths of a place so terrifying that most can’t even imagine it. You’ll laugh. You’ll breathe. You’ll begin to feel alive again. But you will never forget. And that inability to purge those memories is what will make your life so much more amazing. Stronger. More appreciative.

Some people have called me brave for stripping away the layers of pain to expose the rawness. I would call it desperate. It’s terrifying to expose your soul to the world, but too many women are suffering in silence just as I did. So if I can reassure one mother, save just one person by sharing my experience, then it’s all worth it.

If you’re crippled by anxiety or fear, so angry you want to scream, empty, sad, or just generally not feeling like yourself, tell someone. Anyone. Your husband. A friend. Your doctor. If they don’t listen, find someone who will. Postpartum illnesses are treatable and a lot more common than you know. Women have been shamed into feeling like bad mothers if things aren’t always rainbows and butterflies after the birth of a child, making them too afraid to talk about it.

I will not be silent.

Will you?

Comments

  1. I’m so glad you’ve been able to get the help you needed to recover.

  2. Wow. This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this deeply personal story. There really isn’t enough societal awareness about postpartum (and prenatal) mood and anxiety disorders, and unfortunately, this means that too many women are suffering in silence and shame. I’m glad you are recovering and moving forward. 🙂

  3. Momma on the Rocks Momma on the Rocks says:

    Thanks, guys! Feel free to share this. I’m willing to talk to anyone and everyone who just needs someone to listen. I’m not a doctor, but a woman who has been there. I know how hard it is to reach out and ask for help. I can’t fix anyone, but can be their shoulder to lean on and their cheerleader.

    • I need to talk to you. I want to know how better, “getting better” is? Will I ever be normal again? It’s such a long journey. I’m at 2.5 years and recovery and want to share with every mom I know so they won’t feel alone.

      • Momma on the Rocks Momma on the Rocks says:

        Yes, you will. It’s a long process, but often you can’t see how far you’ve come until you compare to where you were with where you are. Are you seeing a doctor? Feel free to email me using the contact form above.

  4. Thank you for sharing. It’s not always easy to open up but when you do, it will help you and all other women struggling with the same.

  5. I applaud you for being able to talk so openly about this. As someone who has suffered from postpartum issues in the past I know what it’s like. I never could understand how a woman could do something as horrifying as drowning her own children to “save” them before going through what I went through. Postpartum psychosis is no joke and these issues happen to so many women. It has no prejudice…race, intelligence, or social status.

    I am so happy that you got the help you needed. I, like you, find it so hard to believe what my mind turned me into….and the secret hell I lived for about 9 months. I hid the severity of it from most people, until one day when I stood on a bridge and seriously contemplated jumping. That was when I knew I needed help. I am no longer ashamed of what I went through and talk about it openly as I don’t ever want another woman to be ashamed or to prolong getting help.

    Wow….I rambled a bit….anywho….I really just wanted to say thank you. 🙂

  6. Wow. It really does take immense courage to tell your (anyones) personal story. I applaud you! I’ve had 3 kids and after each birth I experienced some anxiety and depression and still do in a way. It’s very unnerving and hard to talk about. Going to work helps me a little to feel more grounded.

    I can’t wait to read more of your journey.

    Elle
    SeeMomWorkBlog.com
    All work and no play makes mommy a dull chick.

  7. Carolina Tumminelli says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I had terrifying post partum depression just a year ago after the birth of my son. I felt so alone, empty and like a complete failure – this was NOT how i thought motherhood would be. Luckily, I found a great therapist and my husband, although he couldn’t understand what I was feeling, held my hand every step of the way. Now, I can look at my son, and not see some strange being who entered and changed my life, but this amazing little person that fills my heart with joy. It was a tough journey, and I still deal with it today, but it helps to know that there are other women who don’t automatically experience the fairy tale motherhood…

  8. I’ve dealt with moderate to severe OCD for years, but didn’t realize that there was such a thing as post-partum OCD. From what little research I’ve now done on it, I believe I suffered from it. I was perpetually terrified of things happening to my daughter (now 18 months) or of myself doing something terrible to her. Thank you for writing about this.

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. I have recovered from a postpartum illness as well. It’s really inspiring and comforting to hear others’ stories from the early days that aren’t picture perfect.

  10. Savannah Miller says:

    This is an amazing post and you are an amazing woman <3 thank you for sharing your story with us

  11. I suffered from post pardum depression and psychosis. It was absolutely horrible and I am so glad I got help for it! I am glad you did as well. It is immensely shattering.

  12. Wow, I had no idea there was such a thing as postpartum OCD. I knew about depression but not OCD. What n amazing journey you have had. I understand about being shattered and trying to put together. We’ve gone through some marriage issues that shook us to the core. But we’re working through them. We’ve made amazing strides and improvements, but those who were not supportive or helpful through the process; those are the ones I now have rocky relationships with. But if all continues to improve; our marriage although won’t be the same, will be even more amazing because we learned how to work through trials and come closer to each other.

  13. Thank you for sharing.
    You will be someone’s Cate.

    *HUGS*

  14. Thank you for sharing your story. {{hugs}}

  15. What a journey you’ve been on! It’s so great that you’re opening up and sharing what you’ve gone through. I’m sure this will be a great way for others to realize that they need to reach out too.

  16. Powerful and well written! You have posted something of such great value that will help mothers, families, marriages and children. Thank you for being brave enough to get better and strong enough to share.

  17. This is such a great post. You are so honest and I am so glad that you made it through it and you want to help others

  18. I thank you and commend you for writing this post. I can only imagine how tough it must have been, but someone out there, is going to appreciate this more than you know. I never had to go through PPD or anything related to it, but it’s amazing to know you’ve overcome it and that are people like Cate and your husband to help you through it.

    <333

  19. It’s really brave of you to share this – and will probably help a lot of moms! I’ve never heard of postpartum ocd before. I’m really glad youre working through it, showing that it is possible!

  20. This is a very great post. Sometimes I feel like I have some issues in this area. They are not as drastic; however, they are there and it is hard to deal with at times. I wish I could just live life and enjoy it without worrying about the ‘what might happens’… it’s tiring. I admire you for being open about this. I’m also happy that you are doing better and still staying strong.

  21. Pamela in Calgary, AB says:

    Thank you for an amazing and heartbreaking post. My daughter had her first baby at age 16, then moved across the country with her little family of her dad and babe, then had baby 2at age 18. She struggled w.PPD for over a year before she left her kids with their dad and disappeared to the streets for some time. She became addicted to crystal meth and then met someone who helped her find a place to get clean, which she did with no relapses. We think that masked a lot of the PPD she suffered from, so when she gave birth in 1999 to her last little boy, we all knew what to look out for so we could intervene in time. She did need some help, but overall, was healthier and has remained healthier than at any other time. The more we speak out without shame, the more seriously people will take the situation and learn how to help, not mock or ignore. Thank you for starting a dialogue.

  22. I had a massive meltdown when my daughter was almost 3. Totally overwhelmed as a single mom, but thankfully I was able to get help through my job. They referred me to an awesome therapist and I started accupunture. I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, in other words, I would have anxiety attacks for no apparent reason. I was on anti-anxiety meds for about 6 months ( which I hated ) and with therapy, accupuncture and now yoga, I am in a MUCH better place ! I am a better Mom and have realized that I can’t do it all ! I am trying to teach my daughter, so she doesn’t suffer ( my Mom has lots of issues, too and apparently some of this is hereditary ) It’s nice to know we aren’t alone and that help IS out there !! The hardest part is asking for it !!! Good luck to you !

  23. God bless you for sharing. I know it is not easy. I went through a difficult post partum depression, including medication, hospitalization, losing my husband, losing my job. Yes, lost many relationships, and many family members became scarce during that time. Many people spoke death over my son, that he was going to be messed up or crazy because of all the turmoil. It was a journey back. I stopped taking the meds when my son was 7, but being a single mom is always a journey in itself too. I applaud your husband for sticking by you. Well my son is 25 now. He has a Masters of Divinity, is married 2 years and has a little baby boy who is 5 months old. Life is good. Step by step with Jesus and the help he sent along the way, my life and my son’s life is not the disaster others predicted when I went through that difficult period. Hallelujah!

  24. As someone who manages anxiety and depression, I can tell you that I get it. So glad that you are a fighter. Love the blog!

  25. Your story is Amazing. I am so very happy for you! I actually would love to know and read more, so I’m searching your blog for more to read. You write beautifully and are very inspiring. You sound so unafraid and brave. You are a hero to me today. Although my youngest is 19 years old and living his life, I can still remember the feeling of constant fear. That fear has carried through out my life. I have been learning, growing and getting better at managing it, but life throws in circumstances that can get in the way. I found that reading Real stories (as yours) fills me up with courage. I am so very proud and excited to have come passed your site and had the opportunity to have read your story. Oh and the recipes Rock too! Bless you!

  26. I’m so glad you were able to get help. Mental illness is very real and is often overlooked although it can be extremely debilitating. You are such a strong woman! I’m very proud of you.

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