14 May 2012

The first day of the rest of my life

Back in October, I wrote about the night I wanted to kill myself. It was July of 2009, 3 months after giving birth to my oldest daughter. For that 3 months, I had been denying that anything was wrong and telling myself that it was totally normal to cry over anything, everything, and nothing, to sit around doing and feeling nothing, to avoid the stairs at all costs if I was holding my baby because I was scared I would drop her. I told myself that it was just exhaustion and the baby blues.

It all came to a head that night in July when I found myself standing at the top of the stairs thinking how easy it would be to throw myself down them, and then walking away and thinking how easy it would be to overdose on leftover pain medication from my husband's ankle surgery and from when I had sprained my foot (quite on accident) during pregnancy. That was when I realized that something was really wrong. I called and spoke with the on-call chaplain who said "No, you really need to go to the ER, I'll meet you there in a half hour". I went to the hospital and was admitted to the ER until they could find a civilian facility out in town that had room for me (the military hospitals in San Antonio only admit Active Duty service members, they don't take dependents). Sure enough, Laurel Ridge had room for me and I had only to wait overnight until I could be transferred.

I think it was about 8:00am when Paramedics arrived in an ambulance to transfer me from Wilford Hall to Laurel Ridge. I remember seeing the Paramedics filling out paperwork at the desk and I knew they were there for me. I remember them coming in to my room and asking how I was and I started crying again. I was strapped to a gurney and the journey began.

It seemed like it took forever to drive there but in reality was probably about 30 - 40 minutes. One of the medics sat in the back with me to ask me some questions and fill out paperwork. I don't remember much specifically; in many ways it was like other ambulance rides I've had. In other ways though, it was abnormal. It was a blur, everything was a blur at that point. All I could think was that I was being admitted to a mental hospital because I had wanted to kill myself.

The medics took me in to Laurel Ridge and turned me over to the staff there. I was taken to a room where someone did the intake paperwork with me and got my vitals. Then I was walked over to the unit that I would be staying at. Laurel Ridge isn't a one building hospital with different wards on different floors. There are multiple buildings, each with two separate units, each being one story. I don't remember the name of the unit I was in that first time, just that it was a general adult ward. I can't speak to how things are now but I know that back then, Laurel Ridge didn't have any units that were specific to women or to PostPartum Mood Disorders. There were childrens units for various age groups, adolescent units, geriatric units, a unit specifically for alcohol rehabilitation, a unit specifically for Active Duty military personnel, and several units of varying security levels for general psychiatric issues for adults.

I was placed in one of the general psychiatric units. Most of the other patients there were in with a dual diagnosis of a general mental health issue (bipolar, etc.) along with some sort of substance abuse/detox issue. There were group therapy sessions of various sorts, including cognitive behavioural therapy and art therapy, along with 12 step meetings. I was not required to attend the 12 step meetings and chose not to, preferring to have some time to myself to sit and think and write. My treatment team decided to start with just talk therapy to see if my PPD could be managed without the use of medication since I was still breastfeeding Elizabeth. It wasn't really helping, so I was started on medication. After a few days, my family and friends started to see a positive change in me as the medication began to work.

That first day at Laurel Ridge is what I think of as the first day of the rest of my life. The thing is, just because PostPartum Depression clears up doesn't mean that it's as though it never happened. I still live with the memories, and the missing memories, from when everything was a blur and from the times I wish it was a blur and it was painfully sharp and clear. I still live with the occasional niggling thought of "Did my PPD hurt my baby somehow? Would things have been different if I had asked for help sooner?". With every subsequent pregnancy, I battle the fear and worry that PPD wil rear it's ugly head again and that I'll fall back into that deep, dark, seemingly hopeless pit of despair. There have been good changes, though. I came out of it with a newfound compassion for anyone who is struggling with a mental illness, even those who commit horrible crimes in the midst of their battle with their mind. I'm much more understanding and much less judgmental of people in general, and especially of women who are struggling with unexpected thoughts and feelings during what is "supposed to be" the happiest time of their life.

Life after PostPartum Depression is different. That day was the first day of the rest of my life, a different life that has gone in a different direction than I imagined it would. It was a painful, difficult, tear-filled day, a day that was embarrassing and numb, a day that still hurts a little to remember. But I choose to remember it, to talk about it, because that gives ME control over it. In remembering, in talking, I take the reins. I am the one who decides which direction my life goes in, not my memories or some stigma. The first day was the hardest, but it was a turning point, even though it didn't feel like it at the time. It felt like rock bottom, and maybe it was in a way. But do you know what the good thing is about rock bottom? There's nowhere to go but up.


1 comment:

  1. This is such a beautiful post, I wish I'd found you earlier. The scars will always be there, but you know what, you made. And it's because of such brave posts that some of us are alive. Thank you