Monday, October 21, 2013

Journey Through the Darkness

One Woman's Personal Account of Postpartum Psychosis and Recovery...  

Part 2 of 3:
I just needed a few hours sleep to recharge. But if I couldn't sleep, I should really get some things done around the house.

I'm getting behind on laundry. The car seat base needed to be installed in my car... Maybe if I bought some night-time pain medicine that would help me sleep...My damn brain won't turn off...

"Honey?" my Mom said. "Did you sleep?"

My chest got really tight. My stomach sank. The muscles at my temples contracted. Breathing rapidly I was panicking as my eyes teared up. I started to turn away but she stepped toward me. She inhaled to speak but didn't get a word out. A sob exploded from me like a balloon overfilled with air. 

"Oh my God, Mom. I don't know what I'm doing! I can't do it.” I held her so tight.

My husband came out of his office and took me from my Mom. "You can't go on like this. Call your doctor.” I had her paged and she told me to take Benadryl, wear ear plugs and feed the baby the formula. I explained I was breastfeeding. She said that me getting six solid hours of sleep was absolutely essential so feeding him a bottle of formula would be fine. Mom got us dinner and picked up the Benadryl. I took it and barely ate. I nursed the baby once more before bed. God willing this insomnia was finished... But it wasn't.

The beginning of my third day home brought a crushing depression. I laid on the couch when I wasn't breastfeeding. My father came to visit and replace a bulb for my car light. He looked over the couch and I managed a few words. Later I heard my parent's whispering in the kitchen. I knew it was about me.

That night I was in bed thinking.

Why is this so hard? How do other mom's do this? Why can't I make this work?!?

I listened to the spinning fan. Under the noise of the motor I heard something else. 

You know it's all his fault don't you? He's ruined everything.

Was I thinking this or hearing this? I couldn't quite tell.

You're not sleeping because you're on baby duty.  You're falling apart. Everything was going good until HE came along...

I shut my eyes tight and held my head. I brought my knees up into my chest. Stop, stop. 

I don't hear this. This is not real.

I exhaled sharply. Whatever was happening to me, it was true. I hated this. I wanted things back the way they were before the baby. Shutting my eyes I saw angry faces, dogs barking at me, blood...A life of agony and torment being previewed for me. 

Could you be strong enough to take your life back? There's a way to fix it. You have to get rid of the baby. If  you make him choose, your husband will choose him and he'll make you leave. You have to get rid of the baby.

Stop. Stop.

So I made a plan. It would have to look like an accident. 

I'll carry the baby upstairs. I'll pretend I tripped. I'll drop him over the staircase. He won't survive and  then my husband won't have to choose. I'll get my old life back.

I have never been much of a religious-type, but I honestly think God has intervened in my life three times... twice during my pregnancy. What followed was the third:

My mind cleared - for an instant - and I realized what I was thinking. I called for my husband. "I'm not safe. I need to go to the hospital." Riding in the car to the hospital, I didn't know if I was going to die, if I'd ever see my family again or if my husband would leave me. Whatever person I had been, that facade, was gone. Someone capable of killing her baby had been left in her place.


The intake process took forever. We had come late at night and there was no one to provide a psych consult. "We've paged the doctor on call," the nurse said. So we waited. When I finally got to my room I went to shut the door and a security guard told it needed to stay open. Other people had their doors shut. I was annoyed. I realized he was there to make sure I didn't try to kill myself. 
It was early morning by the time I got my psych consult. I asked my husband to leave the room because I couldn't bear to say these things in front of him. She asked me why I was in the ER tonight. I sobbed. I told my story of having given birth three days ago, my history of depression and that I asked my husband to bring me here.

"Are you thinking of hurting your baby? Have you made a plan?”

"Yes, I know how I was going to do it."

"Are you having hallucinations?"

"I hear whispering. A voice telling me my life is over and it's the babies fault...When I close my eyes I can't stop the pictures. Blood. Me throwing the baby down the staircase. Dogs barking at me."

(I still don't know why, but dogs barking at me was very significant. I never asked why at the time.)

It didn't take long to have me admitted. I said goodbye to my husband and the heavy double doors for the behavioral health unit opened. The click they made when they closed behind me scared the hell out of me. It sounded so... final. CLICK.

I told my husband that I rationalized my mental illness by a series of degrees. At first, I was ashamed that I needed antidepressants, but I rationalized that it was okay because at least I didn't need therapy. Then I was in therapy... but at least I didn't need a psychiatrist. Then I needed a psychiatrist... but at least I wasn't on something like Lithium. I was prescribed Lithium. And on and on... check, check, check, CLICK. 

Many of my belongings were confiscated. The staff took my bra, my shoe laces and drawstring sweatpants for safety. No phone or electronics. At the end of it all I had a pair of tennis shoes with no laces, three pairs of panties, some socks and two t-shirts. They understood I had just given birth so they made sure I had plenty of pads.

I would have a "shadow" 24/7 by my room. I got under the covers of my bed and they reeked of bleach. I grabbed a handful tightly and decided to rest. The irony is that I missed the biggest surprise of the night. Away from home, scared and alone, face swollen from crying- I drifted off to sleep. It was completely lost on me too, because waking up the next morning all I felt was panicked and trapped. I wish I had been able to recognize that one little thing, that I was finally able to sleep. But I was at the emotional and physical Ground Zero. Yet for the first time in a long time, I was safe.

-to be continued-
 Written by H.W.

Hollie Scinta edited this article with permission from the author.

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