Monday, January 14, 2013

The Time I Almost Ran Away

I wish I could say that my recent absence came about because I’ve been too busy reveling in the joys of my growing family, and if I wasn’t so compelled to tell the truth, that’s probably what I would have said. I might have told you about how much I enjoy watching Reese tell Allie what color everything is and asking her if she’ll be ready to play outside “when the snow goes away.” I might have told you about how busy I’ve been preparing for my new part-time teaching job. I might have even opened up about how difficult the transition to two children has been and how much harder it has become to juggle all of my responsibilities to my home and myself. All of these things are pieces of the truth, but they are only minor contributors compared to the real culprit.

Although it pains me to say it (or write it) out loud, the truth is that I’ve been caught in a dark place since mid-December because of a terrifying episode of postpartum depression that ripped through the center of my being in a matter of days and put my heart in a vice grip of constant panic.

I experienced some postpartum struggles after Reese was born, and I promised myself this time would be different. I spent months building a fortress of positivity around my heart and soul. Armed with self-help books, daily meditation, and relentless prayer, I truly believed I was prepared. Allie’s delivery went so smoothly, my recovery went so quickly, and we settled into our new routine so easily. Everything about our birthing experience with Allie was a stark (and pleasant) contrast to the many struggles we experienced during and after Reese’s arrival. I had every reason to believe that I had beaten it this time. After six weeks of baby bliss, I thought I was out of the woods.

I did not see this coming.

At first, I thought the tears were born out of exhaustion. I thought the frustration was a natural part of life with a toddler. I believed the panic was legitimate and the worries were real. By the time I realized what was really happening to me, I was already deeply buried in the trenches.

This was not a run-of-the-mill postpartum episode – the kind that leaves you crying over your permanent muffin top and mourning the loss of your personal freedom. Oh, no. This was a door-slamming, on-the-floor-crying, sanity-robbing hostile takeover that kept me up at wee hours of the night plotting my escape from this house, this town, this life. I was constantly distracted, always on edge, pacing the floors like a caged animal. Simple tasks overwhelmed me to tears, and I felt like I was drowning in my own life. I fought the constant urge to jump in the car and head out of town with no plans to return.

If the anxiety wasn’t bad enough in its raw form, I made it worse by wallowing in guilt and shame and allowing myself to question my love for my family as if a better wife and mother would never be in the place where I found myself.

Four days before Christmas, I overheard Reese addressing the guests at her stuffed animal tea party, “Mommy’s sad and I don’t know how to fix her.”

I had wanted to work through this on my own, and I believed my faith and my love for my family could carry me to the other side. I got through it before and I would get through it again, but not at Reese’s expense. With my white flag flying high, I made an appointment with my OB and came home with a prescription for the medication I swore I would never need.

Somewhere in the depths of the darkest emotional hole I’ve ever experienced, I found the inner strength for which I had spent so much time praying. It didn’t come in the form of a superhuman ability to defy biology and overcome a long-standing chemical imbalance. It came instead in the form of an emotional white flag and a rock-bottom willingness to accept my circumstances and receive help.

It’s been over three weeks, and I’m finally starting to feel like myself again. I knew the worst was over when we all got the flu on New Year’s Eve and I couldn’t stop laughing at Matt’s “happy new year” jokes in between trips to the bathroom.

Slowly, I’m remembering how to laugh at messes and spills and diaper blowouts. I’m playing with Reese more and fretting over the budget less. I’m learning to ignore the inner voice that makes me feel ashamed of this weakness and to listen instead to the one reassuring me that I’m still every bit as strong as I always believed.

Well, that’s the real reason I’ve been M.I.A. this month, and I chose to share the full extent of the truth because I know I’m not the only mom who has experienced this emotional cage. Even though most of us struggle through postpartum hormonal changes in some way, the voice of this part of motherhood – like many other not-so-pleasant aspects of our roles – often goes unheard. Let’s be that voice. If you’ve been there, let your story plant a seed of hope for someone else. If you’re there right now, reach out for help before your older kids start seeking counsel from their stuffed animals. And if you ever start to believe you are alone in this battle, just give me a call and I’ll tell you about the time I almost ran away from home.

8 comments:

  1. Oh Lisa, I'm so sorry. I have been there...felt the need to leave, plotted it over and over in my head. It took me till Abby was 8 months old and having Bob scared for my life that I got help. You're not alone. The second time around was much easier but I never got off my medication. A few months ago I tried, desperate to rid myself of all medication and it was a BAD idea.

    If you ever want to catch up, my number is the same its always been and my email is aschlau@gmail.com

    P.S. your girls are beautiful

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement. One of my favorite things about blogging has been reconnecting with some wonderful ladies from my past. It's wonderful to hear from you. I hope all is well. I will catch up with you on email soon!

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  2. Lisa,
    I'm so glad you were able to get help, and that it didn't take any longer, and that you could recognize how to get help and all that. There's no shame whatsoever in any of this, at all. I hope you know that :) And writing it all out will help someone else! It is amazing how something like depression (post postpartum or any other kind) can catch us even when we're looking for it and still be in the depths of it before realizing it is here (believe me... I know...)

    Hang in there. So glad you're starting to feel like yourself again. And so sorry you guys had the flu over new years!

    I'm glad to see you back :) And to echo Schlau, your girls really are beautiful!

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    1. Thank you. It's nice to be back. One of the first things that happens to me when my anxiety flares up is I lose the ability to write. My return to blogging parallels my return to a normal existence.

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  3. It is like a ton of bricks, and I'm so relieved for you that you've been able to shift it off of your heart. Writing this seems like it might be the best form of therapy -- because I know that talking about it was the best form for me. If I'd had a blog 7 years ago, I don't know if I would have had the nerve to write about what I went through, and I am glad you have.

    Many blessings and hugs to you this winter. Spring -- light and air and color -- is just around the corner!

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Having other women understand that place means so much to me. The emails and comments make me feel such a great sense of support. Cyber-hugs to you as well!

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  4. Sending lots of love your way, Lisa. Sometimes it takes more strength to seek and accept help than to go it alone. There is no shame in needing help. People are social beings. We weren't meant to go through this life alone.

    The best example you can give for your children is to both give and accept care. It will be something that they will remember throughout their own lives and hopefully they will also teach it to their children.

    Thank you for having the courage to share your story with us. We admire you even more for it. :) (((HUGS)))

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    1. Thank you, Sheila, and thanks for reading! I appreciate the support more than you know. I hope all is well way up north. I check in on your blog from time to time. Keep rockin' your talents!

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