I’ve been quiet on here for a bit, hey? I haven’t forgotten about Soundly Sarah, however. Rather, I’ve chosen to be purposefully quiet. While I have had many, MANY things I have wanted to write, a large part of me couldn’t consciously put any of it to paper until I addressed something that took place not long after I last posted here. Addressing that something has been an extremely private, long, arduous, six month journey for me, however, and I have returned here now as I am finally ready to write it out and begin again in this space that I have so missed.
On a Friday morning near the end of July, I had a breakdown. It was a full on, anxiety ridden, nerve stricken, tears and screams, I’m losing my mind, I can’t breathe, I can’t think, why am I shaking?! breakdown. It was very real, very scary, and with D’s help, immediate medical attention was sought for me to understand what the hell was going on.
But to make clear to you what I eventually learned about myself, I first need to give a bit of back story.
Many of you are already aware, but for those who are not, the first hundred days of O’s life were a nightmare. He would not, could not, be put down. At all. He slept nowhere but on us (no matter how many times or how hard we tried to change that). If he was awake, he had to be moving or breastfeeding 95% of the time or he was livid. It was all this and so so so so so much more. A part of me has chosen to purposefully forget some of it because I just have to. His colicky, angry and needy demands drained from me every ounce of energy, every ounce of sanity, and my every ounce of EVERYTHING, joy included. The posts I put on FB from during this period were mostly a façade of the few good moments he did have. All the other moments that didn’t make it on FB were the REAL ones, and by god did those real ones hurt.
But after those first hundred days, we found a bit of reprieve. We found a little bit of peace. I was able to find some happiness once again. I started to feel a bit more human. I bit more myself. A bit more like I could do this motherhood thing and that we would survive.
Near the end of July, however, O began a vicious cycle of teething. At the time I didn’t know it, however, as you tend to not know a lot of stuff during that first rodeo until you get slapped in the face with it, and boy – did it ever. The reprieve we had been experiencing? It was shattered to the ground, stomped on, set on fire and proceeded to have its ashes obliterated into one million pieces. Well, that is exactly what was happening in my head at least. Because, unlike freaking out like a normal person and hoping for the best, I began to have a series of PTSD like flashbacks that quickly worsened.
Imagine holding your child as they are screaming at you, unable to find comfort or calm. You are sitting in a rocking chair in their dark room, trying your best to help their exhausted, pained body. But rather be there and be present, your mind is waging war on you. Your mind is telling you that you are going back to those first one hundred days and you are never leaving it. Your mind is telling you this is it from now on. Your mind is telling you that there will never be better. Your mind is SCREAMING at you, as you struggle to breathe amidst a rapid tightening of chest, that this is going to be FOREVER. There is no escape, there is no way out, you’ve gone back and you will never return.
And then imagine telling no one for days and days that this is happening to you continually and soon constantly because you are ashamed, unsure, embarrassed and deathly afraid.
On that Friday morning, the bough finally broke. Like a river it all flowed out, unstoppably and rapidly, and the shell I had been frantically trying to encase it all in soon gave way.
With the help of BC Women’s reproductive mental health unit, psychiatrists, counselors and medicine, I soon came to learn of a thing I had never heard of before. Postpartum anxiety. I knew of postpartum depression, but anxiety? That was a new one. Additionally, I came to learn of the concept known as intrusive thoughts. They were the thoughts that were giving way to the PTSD like flashbacks and they were the thoughts I soon set out to try and understand, come to peace with and, if I was lucky, banish for good.
However, the weird thing about getting help for mental illness – which anxiety falls under – is that it breeds other things. Admitting it can be a chain reaction, and a revelation of so much can be equally clarifying AND unhinging. It brings you up the depth to which you’ve denied, it forces you to acknowledge that which you have refused to do, and it leaves you raw. It leaves you weak. It leaves you to realize just how deep, multifaceted and pervasive our minds can be, and how much they will refuse to let go and morph anew no matter the amount you shake.
Six months later, I still wouldn’t call myself healed, but I’m trying. There has definitely been some harder moments, and they’ve absolutely effected how I deal with the outside world (I apologize to those who might have read this who I KNOW have gotten the receiving end of some of that), but I’m trying. Intrusive thoughts are still a daily struggle of mine, though they have decreased in intensity and occurrence. But I am making my way back. Always.
Most importantly, and this has taken me a LONG time to say, I finally know now and can say with confidence that this doesn’t make me a bad mom. This doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve O. An inability to cope doesn’t make me abnormal. It makes me human. Admitting it here, on a public blog, can in fact be empowering. It can be healing in itself. And while this has been a damn hard journey to wellness, I am determined to get that shell of mine back. That is a belief that I refuse to let go of. And to those of you who are willing to join me for this journey, thank you. I appreciate you more than you know.