Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Part I: The Reveal

I have already hinted several times at the fact that life at our house has not been so pleasant these past few months…though “not so pleasant” is too mild a term. Horrible would be closer.

Before I get too far, I want to say why I’ve chosen to write about this on my family blog, as well as why I’ve hesitated for so long. This is such an extremely personal story, filled with moments that I would just soon forget. It’s very difficult to put this out there in the world, where I really have no idea who might read it. I can’t control what people will do with the information I choose to share. I can’t control what they might say to me or how their opinions of me might change. It’s a risk. Once I say it, I can’t take it back.

But, I’m a writer. I have filled more than one journal in these six months already. I can only talk to myself so much! I have gotten to the point that I need it to be out there so I can take that next step in my healing process. So I can stop keeping secrets. And so I can help others who might be in a similar situation.

You may notice that I have titled this as “Part I”, implying that there is more to come. I hope to be able to write about each element of this story individually, but how—and if—I write those parts will depend largely on the response I get to this post. Please keep that mind if you choose to comment. I am willing to share as much as I think might be worthwhile to myself and others, but only if I feel safe doing so.

And one last comment. Please do not be hurt or offended if I haven’t told you about this personally prior to your reading this story here. It has been so, so painful for me, and I couldn’t talk about it. I needed to be able to escape and if too many people knew, I couldn’t get away from it. I had to keep it to myself simply to cope. I had to be able to hide it if I needed a break.

So, without further ado…

It’s hard to say exactly where this story starts, but it’s easiest to tell it the way I figured it out. In the first few weeks after Ben was born, life was hectic and stressful. I felt like I was drowning. As any new mother will attest, a newborn is difficult. No sleep, near constant demands on your attention—especially when it isn’t your first. I struggled. Oh, how I struggled when we brought Ben home from the hospital. He was such a sweet, mild, happy baby, but I just couldn’t seem to get my head above water.

I had often heard that the third child was the most difficult transition. I chalked my stress up to that—normal newborn stress plus two toddlers who were big enough to fight with each other but too small to take care of themselves at all. It was this stress that sparked my first Mother’s Retreat. I spent a weekend just me and Ben and took the time to really evaluate my situation, my family, and myself as a mother. I set goals, made plans, and recommitted myself to being the best mother I thought I could be.

I failed miserably.

I did my best to follow those carefully laid plans, and yet the world still seemed to be crashing down around me. I had no control over my emotions. I would snap so quickly at the slightest provocation. I couldn’t stand to be touched by my children. I didn’t want anyone to talk to me.

It probably comes as no surprise, looking at this from the outside in, that I was diagnosed with postpartum depression.
Let me tell you, it was such a miserable, dark time. I felt like I was swimming in mud. I couldn’t see or comprehend anything around me, yet I had a desperate, pulling need to somehow find my way out. I was only vaguely aware of my children from day to day. I knew I was missing something, but my mind was so clouded in the depression that I didn’t know what it was. My house fell to pieces. It was never clean, we rarely had real food accessible, laundry was never done…you get the picture. Without me able to keep us held together, our family was slowly falling apart.

Sadly, that’s only half the story.

Once I became aware of the postpartum depression (PPD), I began researching suggestions on what has helped in recovery. I learned a lot during that time about what PPD is and how it affects different people. I followed much of the advice and information I was able to glean and life did begin to improve, though only in minute degrees. I kept pressing forward, though, hoping that if I just tried hard enough, I would be able to dig myself out.

Then the panic attacks started.

It was fairly common knowledge that I was not happy with the process of Ben’s birth. The fact that he was transverse took the situation largely out of my control, and despite my many valiant attempts to help him turn head down, we finally had to schedule a c-section. Once that day came, however, he was head down and we induced instead. After sixteen hours of very painful back labor, lo and behold, he was breech. C-section it was.

I didn’t give birth to my baby. He was just born, and that killed me.

Every time I heard someone’s birth story, or read an account of a labor and delivery on a blog, I would have a panic attack—hyperventilating, uncontrollable shaking, and occasionally even passing out. Anything that had any connection to a birth or any remote reminder of my birth experiences would send me into a complete tailspin. Every single time.

It was at this point that I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

In addition to all the aspects of depression, I experienced horrible nightmares when I slept and violent flashbacks when awake that left me reeling. I’ve never been prone to having a temper, but my anger was completely out of my control. My emotional response to any situation was magnified beyond reason. In a word, it was terrifying.

End Part I.

I am going to stop there for now, and leave with a few parting comments. There is much, much more that I would like to be able to share. I know that my story doesn’t make sense as it stands here, but I can’t explain it all at once—especially the PTSD, with what it really means and why it happened to me and what further implications it has. There is just too much.

And for your peace of mind—I am doing much better now. I am still at the beginning of my road to full recovery, but I have made giant leaps and strides along the path that have enabled me to again be a functioning human being. Please do not be worried about where I stand at the present moment. Fingers crossed, the worst is over.
I would like to share more of my story of healing, both for my own sake in writing it (writing is one of the most cathartic things I have) and for the sake of others who may benefit from my experience. If I can save anyone any measure of the pain I have been through, I would do it in a heartbeat.

So there you go. You know the beginning. What I ask now is for a simple comment on if you personally have an interest in hearing more of this story. I have considered starting a separate blog, or perhaps including these posts on our other parenting blog, just to keep this story separate from the much happier reports of my adorable children. But I would be interested to hear your thoughts on that, as well as anything else you may feel prompted to share. If you would like to have any personal correspondence rather than posting a public comment, feel free to send me a facebook message or leave your email address in a comment.

Thanks for listening.

29 comments:

Rebecca said...

Thank you for sharing this Laura. I would love to hear the rest of your story. I have had friends and family members who have struggled with PPD, PTSD, and depression. Even just this one post has opened my eyes to what it's like and I feel like I can be a better family member/friend to them just by reading this, so thank you. I am so glad you're doing better and am anxious to hear more about your road to recovery.

Meags said...

Cheers to you for having the courage to share your story, your struggle, your desire for and work on recovery. I would love for you to share more. Depression and related struggles are very, VERY real and anyone who says they aren't (someone you and I both know comes to mind, actually) is just, well... not a nice word. I also appreciate that you're willing to share because I think that a lot of people's blogs make them seem like they have perfect kids and a perfect life. Thanks for helping us all realize that we've got something we struggle with, that it's okay, and that no one is perfect. :o)

Rebekah said...

Wow. I've had depression and anxiety issues for years but never had the courage to write so candidly about it. I really hope you will continue sharing your journey and I am glad that you are recovering.

Jess said...

Please do write about it. I never get to talk to you, and I would like to understand what you went through. Love you, Laura!

Erin said...

I'm so sorry for all you've been through. I just want to ditto everything Meags said.

David and Charyl Wampler said...

It takes a lot of courage to tell this kind of story. I would love to hear more. I love you a ton! Please dont be afraid to keep going, your story can help others and you do a fantastic job at writing it so others can comprehend.

Elizabeth & Roberto said...

Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story Laura. I can't even imagine what you've been through. Since you're asking... my two cents worth is that your family blog is the perfect place to share this story. It is now part of YOUR story and family history...

Karrie said...

I love you!

Ruby in the Rough said...

Wow, I am surprised to hear about this, but my goodness, who's going to fault you?! I'm glad you're finding help. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the story.

I suffered from panic attacks my first year at USU. Those are not fun. I don't know how I got over those.

Also, my house has been a flaming disaster, too. It's kind of a relief to hear I'm not the only one in that situation. Blogging and the Internet frequently show us only at our best. In honor of you, I'm going to go post pictures right now!

Megan said...

Laura I would really like to hear the rest of your story and I hope you continue to do better!

Faye said...

I am also interested in your story. And I look forward to learning more about PPD and PTSD as you share your experience. As an army wife, I have gained an interest in learning about PTSD. I want to know as much as I can about PTSD in all its forms so I can understand and support any friends or family who may have it.
I am so glad to hear you are doing better! I have enjoyed reading your blog. You are a great writer.
-Holli Sharp

Brenda said...

I would love to hear your story. I know that I missed the worst of it, but I'm glad you are doing better. I've found it such a relief in my own life to let things out. It is hard to over come things when you have to keep them hidden. I feel like I hold so tightly to them, rather than letting them go. Love you!

Michael and Amanda said...

I want to hear the rest. I NEED to hear the rest to know you're ok. I feel like there is so much more I could have done, can still be doing, to be there for you. I know with what you're going through that there is only so much that can be done by others, but I still feel the need to help. And if listening is as good as it gets, I'll definitely do that! I love you so much! (fist bump definitely not a hug :])

Meghann said...

I'm sorry for your pain friend. I've never has PPD but had depression after my dad died. It's very painful, I'm glad you're winning the fight. Keep it up! You write beautifully and I think your store will do great good, if shared.

Meghann said...

Story* always a typo with me

Liz, Karl, Madison, Brooklyn and Aubrey said...

Laura, I love you. I just want you to know that I am ALWAYS here for you.I am so glad you are doing better now but I want you to remember you can always call me for a playdate or even just some time away from your kiddies. Feel free to drop them off sometime. We would love the visit. Maddie just loves playing with Jane. :)

The Pearce People said...

Laura, I am so glad you are able to share your story with others! I somewhat know how you felt with the depression side of things as my mother went through a very trying time when I was a teenager. It is hard to see someone you love struggle with depression but part of her healing process was sharing her experiences with others and helping them overcome the same challenges. I am SO glad things are getting better, just keep on moving up!!

Tannie Datwyler said...

I've been worried about you the last couple of weeks... I haven't heard from you much and kept wondering how you were doing. You know I'm always here. I'll listen or I'll just be a support. I pray for you every single night. I hope you know that.

Tannie Datwyler said...

And... I already know most of the story. But I'm sure there is WAY more to know and hearing you write out the details is amazing. So, of course I think you should write it!!

Katie said...

Laura, I am glad you are getting this out. I can't tell you how helpful I think it is for these things to be out in the open. I have friends who have struggled with PPD and it seems like half the trouble with it is the stigma that comes with it. The feeling that it means you are broken. I think the more people talk about it, the more we all will realize that it's a pretty normal part of life and that there are ways out. You're not broken. You just need a hand and there is nothing wrong with that. We all need help from time to time. Thanks for sharing your story.

Molly said...

Besides the C-section part, it was like i was reading a page of my own life. I had horrible depression after I had Claire. So bad I remember laying in bed (I was pretty much useless for about 9 months) hoping that my recent pap-smear from my check up came back that I had cervical cancer so perhaps I would die because I had no clue how to care for my family. (Insane right?) I freaked out at the thought of making breakfast for my kids. How do you do that? My anxiety was through the roof, I became paranoid - i thought everyone was talking about me. I had a rough time going to church, if my doorbell rang I would freak out (you know I wasn't showering regularly or even getting dressed so much). It was awful. Anytime someone said that maybe I had the "baby blues" I wanted to punch them in the face. I couldn't admit I needed help. I kept thinking, maybe its because I am not exercising, or reading my scriptures, or fulfilling my church callings. Maybe I was just an awful Mother. Wife. Person. i didn't want to talk to anyone about it because anytime I tried people gave me crazy looks, told me I was depressed and told me to see a doctor. it was the worst with Steven. anything he did (not rinse his bowl out and stick it in the sink) was a personal attack against me. I would scream at him and really, I just felt like my life was falling apart. My family, Stevens family stressed me out so much. Any function was like the end of the world in my mind. When I became pregnant with Max (Claire was 11 months) all the sudden it was all gone. The pregnancy completely "healed" me...except I was able to look back and see what had happened. I realized I had been depressed after I had Nixon, but I became pregnant so quick with Claire I didn't realize it. I set up a plan for getting on anti depressants after I had Max. I had a dear friend explain it this way - Exercise and reading your scriptures are great, but if you had diabetes neither of those things would help my situation, the same went for my chemical imbalance. The one day from being home with Max before I could get to the pharmacy was Hell. All I did was sob. I didn't know why. I've been on Zoloft, which for me has worked wonders. I am not 100%, but I can function and care for the kids, I don't have panic attacks and I get out of bed in the morning. Due to my situation after I had Claire I stopped nursing her at 2 months. I couldn't deal with it, and I wasn't doing such a good job caring for her so formula made sense since dad could help. This seriously screwed me up when I had Max. I was already freaked out that I might have even worse PPD, I was scared I wouldn't be able to nurse him either, so I think that mentally, my body didn't allow me to. I barely produced any milk and I said screw it. I have regretted it every single day that I didn't try harder, especially since he has had so many problems with formula. Laura, this is not uncommon. I am so sorry Ben's birth didn't go how it should have. That kind of thing sticks with you because it is such a personal moment to share with your baby. Depression is Hell to go through. I love you!

Molly said...

That was a wee bit long of a comment. Sorry, I should have just messaged you. Love you.

Angie McKenna said...

You are fighting a very courageous fight! Thank you for sharing your story, even though it is so personal. I'l

Alyssa Harper said...

Oh my goodness. The fact that you can write about this so well, well enough so everyone can learn from your hardship, is a mark of how extraordinary you are, Laura.

Kelly A. said...

You are a very courageous, strong woman and I think sharing your story will help more people than you probably realize. i am sorry for the pain you have endured and am glad to hear you are doing better.

Gizzy Goo said...

Wow...Laura..you should keep writing. I think it's wise to write what you feel and can write because it definitely will help more people. You are amazing...and I'm sorry I didn't notice something was up earlier. I remember visiting you after Ben was born and not thinking anything out the ordinary was going on...Please know I am here to help. I can babysit too if there is a day you need it. Love you!

Lura said...

Thanks for sharing, and keep writing! I've many times wanted to write my experience with PPD, but I can never get it to come out right, so I just read others', and it makes me feel better. Check out my sister-in-laws blog, shttp://butnotunhappy.blogspot.com/. She is also a writer who suffers from depression, and her blog is great (her name also happens to be Laura). Keep writing!

Janneke said...

Bravo, Laura. I can't wait to hear the rest of your story. Please please continue to share. While I wouldn't wish these experiences on anyone, I know that it's therapeutic for me as well to hear that I am not alone. And that this IS a difficult thing. And that THERE IS HOPE. Love you.

Naomi said...

I think it is wonderful that you are posting this. I experienced PPD with Bella and to an extent with each child (though I was already medicated for it before they were born so it was a lot less intense than with Bella). The more people know about it, the less shame there will be. You are wonderful Laura, never forget it!