mental health- motherhood

Triggered: My Battle with General & Postpartum Anxiety pt1

Last Friday, my evening turned upside down in a matter of seconds. An anxiety attack triggered a flashback which triggered a panic attack, which left me completely undone the rest of the night....and it all started with a scream.... Piercing. Shrieking. Shrill. Excruciating.

My 16mo is screaming. At the top of his lungs. Standing in the middle of the floor in the living room, tears streaming down his face, mouth wide open, lips trembling from the force of the energy it takes to. just. SCREAM.

His screams are sharp, slicing through me, and the reserves of patience and calmness meds, self-care and God have helped me store the past week or so.

Scream. Slice. Scream. Slice. Scream.....this one cuts me to my core, its razor sharp edges cutting a clean, precise gash through which all the anxiety stored up within me could just bleed out....and it did. So much so that it crippled me. Crippled me because I had a flashback and with that flashback came all the emotions & physical sensations associated with it.....

No, please no....not this....not now....I'm hiding in the bathroom, on the floor, soaked in sweat, my heart is pounding, he's still screaming, and I'm triggered. All I can feel is despair sweeping over me, fatigue overwhelming me...and panic. Frightful panic. Before I know it, in my mind I'm back there, revisiting the day I first heard him cry...and felt like this.

It was the evening of April 8, 2010. The day Alex, my 16mo was born. After nearly nine months of a physically & mentally rough (ie depressing)  pregnancy, FIVE days of ACTIVE labor, numerous hospital & doctor visits, finally being admitted & getting an epidural, and 5 pushes, he finally made his grand appearance. When he was placed in my arms I remember looking at him, being glad he was finally here, but I remember feeling hollow. The previous 6 hours and his quick delivery had been a blur, a frantic rush, and then there was.....nothing. Of course my son was here, but somehow the experience felt so anti-climatic. Even though in my mind I knew he was mine, I felt....he felt (Oh I know this sounds so bad, but it's the truth) foreign to me, like I knew he was a part of me, had come from me, but he didn't feel like he had. I don't know how else to articulate it. I just attributed it to my being overwhelmed & tired from giving birth and brushed it off.

That evening instead of sending him to the nursery I kept him with me all night. It was a long night. At first I was fine, he was fine. And then he started crying. That's when I felt it deep down in my gut: the panic. My face grew hot, my hands were shaking as I pulled him out of his "crib" and into the bed with me. I fumbled trying to get him to latch-he screamed louder. After a few minutes he was happily eating and I was holding him tightly in an attempt to calm my nerves. Again, I just thought it was just nerves. "I'm just a little rusty," I told myself, "I can do this, I've done this. I'm a mother. This is my second child. It's cool, just have to get used to things again. Babies cry. It's no big deal." But it was. I had barely fallen asleep when he woke up crying again an hour later.

That cry. There was something about that cry that pierced right through me, and left me feeling like I was being ripped apart. His cry. It triggered a physical response in me-one that was normal & motherly & one that felt very violently NOT normal. It scared me. Jarred my senses. His cry. It grated on me and I didn't understand why.

On the outside I appeared perfectly calm as I tried to soothe him. The inside was a different story. On the inside I WAS FREAKING OUT. His cry evoked a heart pounding, pulse racing, nauseating fear in me that I don't remember experiencing with my oldest. It made me nervous. What made it worse was my inability to soothe him. He didn't want to eat, he was dry, I couldn't tell if he wanted me to hold him or put him down, no position seemed to settle him....all he did was cry. Each one he vocalized felt like needles on my skin, each one seemed to scream "YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING!" "EVERYTHING YOU'RE DOING IS WRONG!!!!!"

I finally laid him on my chest and after a few minutes his crying stopped. A few minutes later he was sleeping. Me? I was crying. Silently. i looked for the nurses button, to have them take him to the nursery, but the remote was out of my reach and I was too scared moving would mean he'd wake up and cry again. I couldn't take that-not yet. I looked at the clock. It was 2:03am.......

my experience Friday night left me feeling like I did my first night alone in the hospital with Alex. I was a wreck then and I was a wreck Friday night. The screaming stopped, but my response to it didn't for the rest of the weekend. As bad as Friday night was, I'm glad it happened, because it made me realize that I need to accept & acknowledge what I felt & experienced those first days so I can understand how it has shaped & impacted the last 16mos of my life. So this is me, telling my story. OWNING IT. hoping it heals me and help someone who needs to know it. 

part two coming soon.....



Clarity on Being Diagnosed with BPD2



That's what I've had since I walked into the hospital 3 weeks ago and asked-no begged-for help. For relief.


Like a seed planted in the earth it began to grow roots in me as soon as the intake psych began to describe this thing called Bipolar Disorder 2. Each word he spoke, every word I've read about it since, every conversation I've had with my ex, every memory that's risen to the surface since has been like water & fertilizer nourishing it to grow & sprout, leaving me in a reflective state of mind.


It's amazing how liberating and terrifying validation can be. How hearing someone tell you that yes, what you've been experiencing is REAL and yes it's treatable. but being terrified about what it all means. Medication isn't a cure, but will I have to be on it for the rest of my life? How long will it take to find the right cocktail that keeps me off the roller coaster ride? Will the wrong one, the wrong dosage trigger a hypomanic phase or push me into the steep waters of mania? Yes. Finally. An answer. Yes, OMG this answer makes so much sense. But OMG in hindsight I see myself at 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, and now 28 exhibiting the symptoms I've read & been told so much about. OMG...I need help. Real help.


I look back 2 1/2 years ago and see now what triggered this latest bout with what my psych calls manic depression. At first I thought I was just dissatisfied with my life, my circumstances. And I was. But I just told myself to shake it off...but I couldn't. I was having trouble concentrating. So much so that I couldn't work. Didn't want to take care of my son. Couldn't think clearly. Couldn't make a decision. Hazy...I remember things being hazy when it started. Then my cousin died tragically on my mom's birthday, the only day in my life where I've ever seen her completely free from worry and consumed with happiness....and waking up to her sobs the next morning as she heard the news set a whole series of things in motion that deepened the depression. Thinking that it was somehow PMS related, I went to my OB. He suggested birth control, exercise, change my diet. I tried those things....when I had the energy. When I had the motivation or when my focus wasn't so hazy. It wasn't often.Most days I just wanted to sit perfectly still or lie curled up in a ball-alone. I sunk deeper into this gravity well, not knowing what was wrong but knowing I wasn't myself. I botched my semester of school that spring. I ended a relationship/friendship with someone I knew I wasn't going to be happy with, and I was tired of pretending to believe in "us."  A month after I went on a casual date, just to feel somewhat human again, and a month later I found out I was pregnant. Again. Which threw me right back into the gravity well I had been emerging from. I had moments of happiness or moments of "being ok" during my pregnancy. But for the majority of it I was in hell. Once I got over the guilt of having another child out of wedlock, the physical complications I experienced dragged me back down. I cycled between being depressed, immobilized on my couch to raging and screaming at my ex because I felt he was judging me for being this, this blob of a person...or didn't like what I made for dinner. Didn't matter. If we argued it usually involved me either walking away or exploding with rage I'd never felt before. Hot, boiling, seething, lava-like rage that left me wondering what kind of person I was turning into.  So I cycled between that, and working myself into a whirlwind frenzy, never able to sit still or sit down. I'd be amazingly productive, full of ideas & projects I wanted to start....and then would lose the energy to follow through. I'd clean. I mean clean, clean, clean. I called it nesting, my ex called it obsessive, we both agreed it might be a problem if it continued after the baby was born. It did. I obsessed. With everything. Alex had reflux the first 3 months of his life and I obsessed over & bought every product possible that might help him....and keep me from losing my sanity because I didn't know what to do to comfort him. Meet his needs. So I would snap, scream, yell, in my closet alone, or in front of Brennan when he spilled something or asked me the same question twice in a row. I felt detached from my baby. I was beyond fatigued. So I went back to the OB. He gave me Zoloft-said it would help with the depression, PPD symptoms I was having, help take the edge off. Well, it lifted the depression, but increased the intensity of the edginess. I'm talking INTENSE anxiety. I'd have a perfect day with my family. And be so angry come night time I wouldn't even be able to utter a word or explain why I felt I could smash someone's face in. So the anxiety would trigger anger, which would trigger guilt, which would trigger depression and then out of nowhere I'd have a day or two where I was normal. Me. And then it would start all over again. Sometimes several times in one day. Some of it I blamed on the ambiguity & spiritual conflicts I was having with my relationship. Most of it though, I knew in my gut that something was wrong with me. But everyone I talked to about it,(therapists and pastors included) said it was normal. I was a single parent with an ambiguous relationship going to school full-time with two kids under the age of 5-IT WAS NORMAL.  So....I took that for awhile. I put on the "nothing's wrong with me, I just need to change my circumstances" t-shirt and tightened up my bootstraps.


But screaming at Brennan and feeling the urge to hit him when he spilled something on the floor wasn't normal. Hiding in the bathroom or in my closet because I was afraid of  the intensity of my emotions & my kids wasn't normal. Being resentful of my ex and my baby and even myself might have been normal to a degree but the anger and rage that came from it wasn't. In February my ex and I broke up for the 2nd time and I wanted to kill myself. Not just because of the torturous pain of the break up or because I wanted to actually die.I wanted to live. Just not like this. I just wanted relief. I hated myself. I hated the mother I was. I hated how I was treating myself and my sons. I hated how I had treated my ex, my best friend. I hated the lack of control I was feeling. Not being able to control certain things happening in your life is one thing. But not being able to control your own emotions, not understanding what's going on within you, but doing everything you could to address it-working out, taking meds, doing group therapy sessions, going to church, praying-and STILL not being able to find relief? STILL euphoric & amazingly on fire one day and then curled up in bed the next, physically unable to move, the only thing stirring you from your catatonic state the needs & demands of your children? I couldn't take it. I wanted out. I sat for many nights during February & March with my door closed and a knife in my hand after I had put the boys to bed, trying to find the courage somewhere to just do it. But thinking of my boys always kept me from it. Who would take care of them? I couldn't do that to them. So instead I would just scream into a pillow to stifle my anguish & rage so they wouldn't hear me.


Things got better for awhile. And by things I mean my circumstances.I started therapy sessions at the Postpartum Stress Center, which helped me learn some ways to cope with my lack of enjoyment with motherhood. I found out I could graduate. I got accepted to the school I wanted. I realized I loved social media but helping others is what I was really passionate about so I switched my major. My ex and I got back together. We started making plans.I started running again. Lost 15 pounds but gained it back. I started having some health issues with my rambunctious ovaries and wacky thyroid. But ultimately, even though things were going well my anxiety was sky high. Sweats. Difficulty swallowing. Fatigue.  Edginess. Irritability. But then euphoric feelings of accomplishment on days I accomplished my to-do lists with a flourish. And then back to the edginess.Irritability. The screaming. Only I was more aware of it now. More focused on trying to control it. More self-aware. But I still couldn't grasp ahold of it like I needed to. I had to stop therapy. I graduated. I set out to have an enjoyable summer with my boys. But I couldn't shake the days of feeling on top of the world and then feeling like I was in the darkness of hell. I couldn't quiet the thoughts that raced through my mind nonstop and often spilled out at a rapid pace when I talked to people, namely my ex. My mind couldn't be quiet and hadn't for months. Concentration? Forget it. I went back to my doc who put me on Lexapro for the anxiety.


3 weeks ago the thoughts became worse. The racing, frantic pace of them. The hopelessness. The feeling like I just couldn't handle it anymore. The sinking feeling in my gut that told me if I kept going I was going to end up losing myself to the madness. Losing my kids. And then there were the thoughts again. Of killing myself. Because I was tired of suffering and I wasn't sure if God was hearing me beg for relief.


I got it when I walked into the hospital and sat down at the desk in the behavioral health clinic. Reading and being told what my symptoms mean has opened a flood gate of memories from the past 10 years,helping me to understand that after going through what I went through as a child, and after suffering from depression, and dealing with that and anxiety after my last pregnancy, a diagnosis like this only makes sense. Finding out that taking an antidepressant can trigger a rapid cycling of BPD2 symptoms has helped me make sense of the past 9 mos, cause that's what it's been. Swinging from one mood to the other, often without rhyme or reason.


It's helped me understand that despite whatever regular relationship issues we've had, my illness the past 2 years has taken a toll on my ex and he just can't be with me. He can be my friend. But he can't be my partner. My husband. It's taken too much out of him, and I don't blame him. It hurts like hell, don't get it twisted and I feel abandoned in a sense, but I get it. I don't want to be with me either.


This has changed my perspective on a lot of things-my faith, my relationships with people, my kids, myself as a Mama, ME. I don't have all the answers but just getting this one has set me on the path to finding them. To learning more about myself. To learning more about God and what it means to be bipolar & a Christian.


I'm glad I grabbed ahold of it before it was too late.