Thank you to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill , for this initiative. I will forever be indebted to your servitude.
This past week I noticed a story on CNN of an upcoming app that was to be released. I am submitting this after receiving an email today giving me permission to submit my article to the organization responsible for this International study of women suffering/or having suffered from Post Partum Depression, and/or, Psychosis. It is my sincere hope that you will spread this information in an effort to draw attention to this program. They are looking to collect thousands of participants for this study. You can find the app, for free. Look for PPD ACT app. I found it through the Apple Store.
I literally had tears running down my face when I read that this initiative was taking place. In 1984, at the time of my episode, there was not much information readily available to women suffering from PPD. This study will no doubt change that, and with it, the lives of thousands upon thousands of women. It is my understanding that one in five women will experience some sort of the so called, ‘baby blues’ and some will not be as fortunate as those of us who have survived the mayhem of insanity that swallowed our souls. Thankfully, we have returned to tell a story, using genetic markers they may one day find the answer to helping others from being driven into the abyss.
Bring hope to those who have lost theirs by sharing this initiative. Again, I thank you.
This original post was submitted in May 31st of 2013.Story of My Life Challenge…Etched upon my heart…
Jenni, It’s Day 31, and a Friday. Somehow I managed to write for all 31 days of your May Challenge (although, somehow a post of mine is time-stamped for the last day of April?…we’ll count it anyway, okay girlfriend? Thanks, I knew you would understand).
Today’s post, our last one, is writing about:
“A Vivid Memory”
This may take me all of today and well into the night. I had written in an earlier post that I would revisit something. I made a special promise to my oldest daughter. And today is the day I fulfill that promise. It began the day that she was born.
She arrived three weeks early. And, just like any new child’s arrival she came without a warranty clause, a type-written instruction manual and no return address label.
I’d practiced the natural birthing process, The Bradley method. The 8.25 months of pregnancy went without a hitch, except for mom catching the flu at five months of pregnancy.
Birthing went almost according to plan. No pain meds, no spinal block, but after several hours from having my water break, the doctor(s) where concerned that infection or stress of labor may cause concerns to the unborn baby. They prescribed Pitocin, and with knowledge I’d gained in birthing class, I clung to my hope of having a natural child-birth, but was also warned that the induction could produce rather strong contractions, and it did not offer a buffering from any pain that I would incur by its introduction. I kept with Plan A. Let me bear this baby, naturally. (The following link provides further details on Pitocin via Yahoo)
Now, I have to give my doctors and St. Francis hospital in Tulsa, kudos for the way they helped my delivery. My labor had begun at work, around 8:30 in the morning, and by 10:00 a.m., I was strapped to a gurney, and plugged into all the machinery a labor and delivery room can offer for the monitoring of baby and mama. Noon came, but no lunch, who cares though, laboring the birthing of a baby you really have hunger on the last of your lists of wants.
Hubby and I logged miles around the nurses desk and lobby. Too many to count, and at one point a nurse beckoned me back to my appointed room for a vitals check and centimeter observation. I tried resting, but I was too anxious. I was on top of the world and could not wait to see my, Megan Kathleen. I had dreamt of this moment for so long. The afternoon rolled on, more walking, more monitoring, and finally at six p.m., my doctor arrives and tells me that he thinks it’s time we get this baby something to speed up her arrival. It’s that drug, Pitocin. I agree, but only after he can confirm that I can still birth her naturally, no pain meds, spinal taps, nada, zip and zero. He assures me he will follow my directive, but warns me that the drug used to induce labor can also cause severe labor pains, and if the time came that he felt it was too much for baby and me he would medically do what he needed. I couldn’t fight with him there. He’s the educated soul. He graduated medical school, a certificate that required 12 years of laborious studies. Let’s rock and roll! You carry the knowledge and I’ll try marathon walking until this unborn baby charges to the finish line. Deal?
Shortly after six my husband’s family arrived from Texas. Someone mentioned they were hungry. The folks had spent four hours en route, and I know that Cliff hasn’t eaten since breakfast. I knew that I couldn’t, but more importantly, as the Pitocin’s effects began to work on my body, and labor earnestly began, eating was the furthest thing from my mind. I asked them to go, give me a breather, grab some food, enjoy themselves. Linger if they wished. Why hell, I’ve been here all day and it looks as if I’ll be here all night trying to birth this baby.
8:30 p.m., and where in the heck were those fools? Did they not have any clue about what I was going through? I’m not a screamer, but I do enjoy a hair-pulling now and then. The R.N. assisting me was becoming less than jovial as I started practicing my Bradley method of breathing. Every now and then she would ask, “Are you sure you don’t want something for your pain?”
“Sister, where were you when I gave my directive? Is my clipboard of info missing from the foot of this bed? Has the doctor given YOU the board certification to overtake his assigned SEAT at my party?”
I tried to deliver it humorously. I tried to cajole her into seeing my side of it. She tried to get me to see her side. We both failed, Communication Skills 101.
WHERE IN HELL IS THAT FAMILY OF MINE? ARE THEY EATING PRIME RIB AND CELEBRATING? I’LL BET THEY ARE. THEY HAVE THE EASY PART IN ALL OF THIS. THEIR THEATER TICKET OFFERS A FREE DRINK AND REFRESHMENTS…while I stroll through hell…
The little girl dances into my world after midnight. Drug free from day one, but moms chucking her insides out and there are four nurses pummeling me, explaining something about blood flow, placenta, oh hell, I don’t know the jest of it all! I was too busy loosing my insides, suffering a notorious headache and begging for water.
Now, the vivid memory.
I am not sure how to write about it, other than to say that it belongs to my Megan. It belongs to her and I. Beginning early in the days before we even left the hospital, something was amiss. Sadly, I felt no maternal bliss, and I feared that I knew nothing. All those books I’d read on childbirth, the before and after. None of those had prepared me for the roller-coaster ride , the journey in to hell and the fear that would one day it would descend into thoughts of infanticide.
I warn you. This is not an easy read, and although Megan is almost two thousand miles from me today, I would give anything to sit beside her and hold her hand as I attempt to answer her questions and to allay her fears. But I can’t, and since I have promised that I would find a way to communicate something to her within the 31 days of May’s Challenge, today is our day.
I could not sleep. For three days in the hospital, and for days, off and on, once we were home. Irrational fears would enter my head and I would quickly try to change my thinking. I cuddled my angel. I played with her. I fed her and I connected with her as best I could, but I was afraid that those so-called baby blues would consume me. I tried talking to my husband about them, but he didn’t get it, and how could he, had anyone in the male species been through this birthing thing?
Days dragged, literally. I became consumed with schedules. I laboriously centered my life around a list of ‘to-do’s’ to fill my time, to keep me busy. But, I still was not sleeping. And then one day I could not eat. Literally. I could not swallow. I choked each time I tried. But I had to eat and drink, I had to sleep. I had a little one that relied upon me and I was breastfeeding, so it was more important than ever that I find a way to get ahold of myself.
Then I found myself dwelling on a pair of scissors. I’d been in the baby’s room wrapping a gift. I saw the scissors, and I remember thinking, “These could kill the baby.”
The thought became obsessive. It overwhelmed me with grief and shame. And try as I might, I could not shake the image, nor the auditory, “These could kill the baby.”
I tried hiding the scissors, but I couldn’t find a place to put them, somewhere that was ‘safe’ … someplace where they couldn’t talk to me.
I forced myself to put them back in the spot where I always kept them. If they could talk to me. I could talk to them. I could tell them, “NO!”
For days I fought this battle, until I realized it was beyond me. I attempted to express my concern for the baby to my husband, but I did not tell him about the scissors, or the voices.
I became so exhausted. And then the hallucinatory began its foray. I was fighting an army, and I was ill-equipped for its challenge.
I no longer felt connected to anyone except for my baby. I felt as if I could protect her I could win the inner war, but I was losing.
The phone would ring. I wouldn’t answer it. I had nothing I could communicate.
Postpartum depression accompanied by psychosis
This is not a war to win. It cages a soul and will not allow reason of any kind. I prayed, I begged and I pleaded. You can have me, but you cannot have my daughter.
On this particular morning I thought I’d heard a knock at my front door, or was that coming from the back door? I trusted nothing. I sat in the nursery until the pounding stopped, and the sound of what I thought was my name being called, ended. Rocking my angel. I sobbed so violently. I wanted the voices and the visions to go away. I wanted nothing more than to save my baby from myself.
Something made me pause. Was that the front lock-set being opened, the door flinging open, where those real voices?
They found me. Jo and Prescilla. They found me, and they did not let go of me. One took the baby, the other took the phone directory.
And every chance I get, I tell them, “Thank you.”
I spent the following three and a half months in a locked Psych ward.
Each one of us has a story that shames us, it can trap us in a sort of hell, but sometimes to escape hell, we must find words to express its grievance. I used to think this would be one that I could not share for fear of losing someone whom I love(d). Now I fear that if I don’t share it, someone may lose their way, they may find themselves lost, alone, aberrant, and of course, crazy. I would rather lose every friend I have for the sacrifice of gaining that one that reached out to me in need. The one that discovered hope, when they felt there was none left. But, if you can find clarity, if you can trust that there are people in this world that care first for others, and second for themselves, than you, and they, will walk with you through hell. When we have true friends, they don’t leave us when the going gets rough. They stop at nothing to see that we realize how important we are, in their life. They don’t call you, Pyscho, MisFit, Crazy. They call you, Friend. That having us is a joy, a blessing, a God-send. A true friend does not judge, does not keep a score card and knows that we are them, should they ever need us and not out of guilt or because a favor needs returning. No, a true friend stands by knowing that without our connection we are only half of ourselves.
When others walked out, you walked in. You asked for nothing in return. You never used my illness to shame me, to discount me, to write me off. You stood beside me, carried me through my darkest hours. Prescilla Senn, Jo McCormack, thank you for seeing me when I could not see myself. But more than anything, thank you for saving my Megan from the psychotic lunatic that I had become. We have fought hard to win, and without each of you, I would have lost. It took three and a half months, out-of-state, in a mental institution, numbers of medications and therapy sessions, but I came home, loving and vowing that one day I would share this story.
Never give up hope. When you are at your weakest, grasp for straws. Dial for help. Swallow your pride. Do not fear that you will be labeled, CRAZY, for the rest of your life, even by those you thought would stand behind you through thick and thin. One of the best pieces of advice given to me were these words:
“They already think you’re crazy. Nothing you do, or say, will change their opinion. Absolutely nothing, therefore, be yourself. Only you know the journey and the victory.”
I promised you I would finish a tale that I had begun earlier in one of my posts. I think I even noted Day 16 as the day that I would write it. Day 16, arrived, but the time didn’t feel ‘just right’. Today it does. I believe you will recall the post, original, and if not, I’ll help you retrieve it.