For years I kept all my issues to myself. Always remaining tight lipped and bottled up. I talked with no one but my husband. One thing I have learned from having cancer is that it's ok to need help. Now more than ever I believe that knowing other people have walked your shoes and survived is very helpful. So many women have helped me though my struggles by sharing their stories with me. Whether it was Postpartum Depression/anxiety or cancer related. Every single person who has poured their heart out to me has helped me.
I suffer from depression and severe anxiety.
Every. Single. Day.
It all started after my Daughter "Roo" was born. In February 2008 the nurse called to come for a visit. "Sure thing! Come on over!" My husband was still home with me, having taken a month off to help me after a very difficult c-section. I remember greeting the nurse and welcoming her into my immaculate home. I had stayed up ALL night cleaning and making sure things were acceptable for her scrutiny. I was exhausted, and felt miserable but I knew it would pass so I plastered a big dreamy "I-love-my-life smile onto my heavily made up face. She sat with us, asking questions about the baby and her routines, and how my delivery was along with how I was healing. I spoke honestly about that stuff but everything else was a lie. When she asked if I felt down, I said no. When she asked if I was sleeping I said yes. When she asked if I had any unusual thoughts or feelings I said no. Then she moved to my husband and explained to him, not to me, what PPD was and what to look for. In other words she gave me the cliff notes version of what to keep hidden from everyone so they wouldn't know something was very wrong with me. Then she smiled, said everything looks wonderful, wished us well with our newly expanded family and went on her way leaving little more than a card behind.
Months went by and I remembered every little detail she told my husband to watch for, and those were the things I stifled. If I needed to cry I went for a shower so I could cry without glaring eyes. If I was feeling anxious over unfinished housework I would lie in bed breathing slowly and quietly until I knew the rest of the house was asleep then I would get back up and take care of it keeping a watchful eye on the time so I could make sure to get back into bed no less that 30 minutes before the alarm was to go off. In my heart I knew a good mom can get all the housework laundry etc done AND be an involved and active parent who plays with their child, goes for walks, and attends mommy & baby classes and regular playgroup dates. So that's what I did. I played perfect mom during the day, and stayed up at night doing the chores. I rarely slept and that was ok, because I was honestly scared that "they" would take my kids away if I wasn't doing everything right.
Eventually I began having a hard time holding it all together. I can remember standing at the door, baby upstairs screaming and I was begging my husband to please just stay home. He brushed me off saying he needed to make money and couldn't stay home. He walked out the door and I crumpled to the floor sobbing. I sat there for hours before I realized that if I left the baby crying any longer the neighbors would call "someone" and "they" would take her away from me.
It got so bad that after living like this and hiding what was wrong for 8 months I had an emotional break. I totally lost it. After all was said and done I took to my local mommies forum and wrote this anonymously:
Hello- I have been feeling very out of sorts lately and I don't know what to do.
I am a wife and mom 2 two kids. THey are the bright spot in an otherwise bleak day. My infant cries non stop and I can't even step into the kitchen to get a drink without ear piercing sobs. I cuddle my baby and spend lots of time playing and singing etc but by the time DH gets home I really need a break from it and I ask nicely for a few minutes to myself to get dinner made in peace. My problem is that until recently I have been keeping up this front and faking that I am great when the truth is I am far from it. I am stressed out about so many things that I don't know what the biggest issue is anymore.
My home life is horrible because of outside contributing issues from other family members. (My husband and kids are wonderful and I love them so much!)
Money is tight and I am scared of not making my payments.
I never get a good nights sleep and I am constantly do everything while I get no offers of help. Example: last week I broke down and asked DH if he could bathe the baby and he asked why I hadn't done it earlier that day. I was super busy with groceries and the baby and dinner and housework so I thought it could wait until DH was home. I begged him to just give me a break. I didn't have the energy to di ti myself and I wouldn't have enough time in the morning to do it. He said no problem he'd take care of it. I went out for a walk with a friend for 1 hour (stopped at the store for lunch things at DH's request while walking). When I got back I watched tv for a bit then headed to bed. I asked Dh ihow her bath was, he said he didn't get to it. I was so angry I went to bed and quietly cried out of hurt and frustration.
A week of the same thing goes by, yesterday the baby refused to eat anything all day this led to a trip to the clinic to be sure all is fine. I am in there for over 2 hours. The baby screamed the whole time. I was litterally at my witts end. When DH got home from work I broke down in tears and begged him to help me. I explained that I feel like I am drowning and no one is there to help me. I even said that if he didn't start helping me more then he would ge tthe opportunity to see what its like to do it all himself, because I was ready to take a knife to my wrist. GASP!!! yes I said it, I really didn't mean it but I needed him to get it. I don't know whay I said it but out it flew. Then all of the sudden I couldn't breathe and I was having extreme pain in my chest this went on for about 20 minutes, I was close to going to the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack.
I am normally very composed and "together". But the facade is begining to crack.
I booked an apointment with my dr. but she can't seem me for a couple of weeks. I know most of my problems are common but I was always able to deal with them, but now they seems so much worse and harder for me to cope with.
I just don't know what to do to get back to the old me.
I had had my first major panic attack. I truly thought I was dying and that the world was closing in on me. I am very blessed to have had an amazing woman reach out to me to suggest that it could be PPD, and either way she would love for me to come to a meeting that she was running for moms struggling after having a baby. I went twice, sat in my car scared to face and admit what I had known all along. I was sick, severely broken. I never even got out of my car those first 2 times. I drove straight back home. The 3rd time I got to the door and was about to turn back for my car when the door pulled open, and a woman was standing there. She knew right away who I was an hugged me long and hard. I just stayed in her arms crying for what seemed like forever. It was instantly comfortable. I didn't speak much at the first meeting but I heard storied from the other women, some were like me and others were very different. But we all had the same thing in common, something changed in us after our child was born. I attended those meeting for a very long time. So long that I felt funny going because my DD was over a year old. They helped me through Dr's appointments, medication change after medication change and all the does increases that went along with them. They were my strength when I had none of my own.
Eventually I found the medication that made me feel closest to my old self and was doing much better for about 6 weeks. Then in June 2009 I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer, sending me back into a spiraling mess.
My life has never been the same. What has changed was the diagnosis, after 2 years with the PPD/PPA label, my diagnosis was changed to generalized depression and severe anxiety. Along with that came visits to a therapist and psychiatrist to help me to worth through old unresolved issues, and to learn my triggers and some coping mechanisms, and I'm on the edge of a new diagnosis. I still struggle, I still feel like much of my life is under a blanket of fog but thanks to one person reaching out to me way back then I was able to connect with other people suffering like I was and the world seems a little smaller, and I felt a little bit less alone in my struggles.
In light of the rash of suicides I want to urge you to be proactive with your friends and family and even people you may not know well. Many people suffer in silence, walking around with a big smile and lots of happy words when they are deeply hurting. If something seems wrong it probably is. Please take a moment and offer your help. YOU could be the one voice that saves a life in crisis.