Saturday, July 14, 2012

The view while scraping the bottom

Regular clouds
Postpartum crash clouds

One of the most bizarre things that occurs when I am having one of my severe postpartum depression crashes is that the world kind of changes contrast and color a little. That may sound weird, but in the three bad bouts I've had I have noticed how surreal and Vanilla Sky the clouds appear when I am scraping the bottom. Everything becomes more vivid and my senses become more acute, and I feel as if I'm in a foreign world where my life exists and I only watch. I think this is because when I go through one of these spells, the nerves throughout my body are on full blast so I endure an overly sensory experience. It makes my skin crawl and I don't want to hear, see, smell, taste, or feel anything.

After a little over a week in my third crash, I am finally starting to feel like myself again. Thank God. This one was rougher than the second crash, which only lasted five days and wasn't accompanied by a brutal sinus infection/cold/virus/whatever-it-was from which I am still recovering. I fought hard to avoid going back to the hospital, and I actually think the sinus infection saved me from that because I refused to go while I was sick. As usual, my memory from this crash is a little foggy, but what I do know is that I was terrified and once again saved by my support system.

This crash began as a small whisper in the back of my brain on July 2nd. The whisper kept telling me, "You don't feel like yourself. Something is wrong." I still went to work on July 3rd and fought through it, and it wasn't too bad. But then, on July 4th, the whisper began to scream. I spent the entire holiday in my pajamas on my couch with a broken record playing in my head, "You don't feel right. You might never feel right again. This is terrifying. You are stuck."

I stayed home from work on July 5th and coincidentally had an appointment with my psychiatrist scheduled for that day, so I went to that and told him what was going on. I was given additional medicine to supplement the current cocktail I'm swallowing and he encouraged me to enter an outpatient treatment program at Center Pointe Hospital.

I looked into the program and had a tough time deciding what to do. It was group therapy for three hours a day three days a week for a month and I would have a meeting with a psychiatrist once a week. I told the nurse in charge of the program that I'd think about it over the weekend.

That weekend, I fought the mental battle until I was physically worn out. Even though it was all I could do to get out of bed, I agreed to go with Jason to his uncle's house in Springfield, IL for his family's annual Thanksgiving in July pool party. It was overwhelming, and I started sobbing as soon as I walked in the door and had to run to a bedroom and hide. Once I calmed down, I did what I could to put on a good face and mingle with family. Hannah had never been swimming before and I wanted so badly to be there when she got in a pool for the first time, so I forced myself into a swimming suit and got in the pool. That was an enormous victory for me, and I am really proud of myself for doing that.

I fought so hard that day that my immune system gave out and I knew on the drive home that I was coming down with something ugly. By Sunday it had occupied my body. My nerves became sparklers, popping sporadically across my skin. My throat was on fire, my ears closed, and I couldn't breathe through my nose to save my life.

Jason has to get up early each Monday for a meeting, so Hannah and I spent the night at my parents' house so my mom could once again step in and relieve me. My mother is one of the most compassionate, generous people on the planet, and I'm so blessed she's mine. We would be in a really terrible place without her help through all this. There is a castle made of gold in heaven waiting for her.

We went to my primary doctor Monday and I was prescribed an antibiotic (because Lord knows I need more pills). The doctor also wanted to check my electrolytes and B12 levels, so that meant more blood work. Turns out the levels were normal. Again, for someone who feels so physically screwed up, I am perfectly healthy according to my blood and every other test that's been run over the past few months.

I spent Monday through Wednesday fighting the swirling thoughts about my physical state and my fears, pushing myself to go anywhere I could to get out and pass time, screaming, and sobbing to my mother. Hannah went to stay with Jason from Monday night on so she could go to daycare. I didn't get to see either of them all of Tuesday, and that was really hard. My mom consoled me, encouraged me, and cried with me.

I had decided against the outpatient program because I was too physically sick and because I wasn't sure it was right for me. I am not sure hearing other people's problems in group therapy will be the spirit lift I need. One-on-one therapy might benefit me more. So my mom called Mother to Mother and spoke with the director, Linda Meyer, who gave us some recommendations for therapists who specialize in postpartum issues. I was lucky enough to get an appointment with Stacey Greer that Thursday. After my hour-long conversation with Stacey, it is clear to me that this is what I need. I have already scheduled two more appointments with her and I am optimistic that she will help me get through this. It was a relief to hear from her that I'm not the only woman she's met who has the physical symptoms and she reassured me that this would pass and I would be myself again someday.

My brain and body started to reclaim its old ways again by Thursday, and while it was still only about 50 percent I was grateful for any sign of light. I returned home, and I have been making positive strides to normalcy (or whatever that means) in the past couple of days.

Now that I've been through this crash three times, here is what I know:
  • The devil inside will tell me I cannot heal, I will not ever have my life back, and I am ruined forever.  He is wrong. I have written myself a letter to read if this happens again to remind myself that he is wrong and that I can feel normal again.
  • I am strong even when I'm weak.
  • God allowed His son to suffer for the benefit of the world. He is allowing me to suffer so that I can eventually use my story to benefit a population that needs a lot of help.
  • This disease perpetuates itself and is not something I caused or can control on my own.
  • I will probably never bear children again. This is an incredible disappointment and complete abolition of the dreams I had for myself and Jason. But the severity of this postpartum depression, when I'm enduring a crash, is such that I fear what I might do if I cannot talk myself out of the evil things that race through my brain.
  • I WILL get through this.

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