Trigger Warning – Suicidal ideation
Clare’s Story of Recovery
November 17th, 2022 was the day it felt like my life came to a screeching halt. I was 5 months postpartum, and I thought I had completely lost my mind. I packed a small grocery bag with random items that I thought I would need in the hospital because I believed I would be there indefinitely and texted my amazing friend Ann that she needed to take me to the ER without giving much explanation as to why. She picked me up, took me, and sat in the waiting room until I was called back. I told the doctor that I needed help, I couldn’t sleep, I had racing thoughts, I was waking up with full blown panic attacks. Inside my mind, I thought I had gone mad and would be committed for the rest of my life. I was scared for my children, my husband, and for myself.
What got me here? Maybe it was the grief over my father’s dx. Of Early Onset Alzheimer’s, maybe it was because when I returned to work I left my son at 3 months old overnight consistently when my body and mind were crying to be closer to him, maybe it was because I was in an unhealthy situation at work? Looking back, I think it was a combination of all these things coming to a head.
If I could go back, I would hug Clare in the ER. I would tell her it’s OK to have boundaries and, in fact, it’s vital. I would tell her that she is enough and doesn’t need to prove her worth to anyone. I would tell her to get help and not wait.
Because I was still breastfeeding, I was discharged with an allergy medication and Zoloft. Unfortunately, the doctor failed to see that I was in a crisis. I needed help, and time was of the essence. I was clinging to hope that these medications would work- they didn’t.
The next month was a blur as I tried to get better on my own. The Zoloft didn’t agree with me, and the allergy medication wasn’t strong enough. I bought so many books, even a vagus nerve stimulator machine. I was so desperate to make the anxiety stop but I didn’t know how. My lack of sleep was causing even more issues with my mind and making it all worse. On the outside, I presented fine, but I was dying on the inside. I thought that if I just faked it enough, I would pull through. My doctor prescribed trazodone but it wasn’t strong enough to stop the panic attacks.
I stopped being able to eat, I was losing too much weight, and my milk dried up, which didn’t help my mental health. I started to become reclusive. I started to think about death. How warm it might be, how comforting, How I couldn’t take this pain anymore.
On Dec. 4th, 2022, I told my husband that I didn’t want to live anymore. I hadn’t slept for two nights and had found a Perinatal hospital in Charlotte for women that I wanted to be sent to. I wanted to be admitted because I knew if I didn’t, I would hurt myself. My family deterred me from this decision. They didn’t think it would help- But I don’t think they knew how Deir my situation was.
At this point, I was no longer breastfeeding, and my NP put me on Klonopin to help my sleep- I was so nervous about being on a benzodiazepine. I didn’t want to be addicted and I was already anxious and prided myself on not being medicated. How could I need this medication? Well, it helped save my life. I was able to sleep. I was also put on Lexapro, which helped my anxiety and depression overall. And the most important healing was seeing a new therapist—one who is a survivor herself- One who understands this journey.
I was able to come off the Klonopin and I still take the Lexapro. I also had to take a stimulant, which gave me energy in the depths of my depression to get out of bed. Lexapro is a wonderful SSRI that has helped me regain a sense of normalcy in my life. I am so grateful for these tools that have helped me survive.
I want to pause to say that having severe depression is terrifying- my brain didn’t work. No matter how hard I tried, I had no control over it. Some days, I was ok- others, I could barely function. My experience was made worse by not having the support I needed from some of the people closest to me. It is easy to get frustrated with someone who is depressed- you want them to snap out of it- Look on the bright side. But this is a disease. I can’t stress enough how important it is for loved ones to educate themselves on postpartum depression and to support the mother. Attend the doctors’ appointments, etc. The more support a mother has, the sooner she will recover.
Why am I sharing this? Because I was once a terrified new mother, scared and unsure of what was happening to me. I thought that If I just prayed more, found the right book, and took the correct pill, I would be fixed.
Postpartum depression and anxiety are ups and downs; it’s climbing out of a dark hole. But if there is one thing I can say to any mothers struggling, get help. The sooner, the better. You are not weak. You are not an unfit mother. This is a disease that can affect anyone, even if you didn’t struggle with mental health in the past.
This journey has brought me to my knees, I have never felt more alone, scared or frightened. I stopped believing in God at one point because I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t heal me. I just wanted to be a good wife and Mother.
But there have been so many gifts from the pain and grief. I took a big step down at work which has given me the space and time to heal. I have worked hard on myself in therapy. I have found God again in a way I never knew him before. I know that Jesus loves me, and through my suffering, I see it united to his on the cross.
I now thank God for my life.
I want to thank Postpartum International for being an amazing community. Through them, I found my amazing therapist and could attend virtual support groups for free. I will be leading a Climb Out Of The Darkness walk in 2024 to honor my experience and those of other mothers and to raise awareness for Postpartum Perinatal illnesses.
I also want to thank my husband, mother-in-law (Who mothered me through this), and our amazing Jocelyn, who (Mothered my children when I couldn’t.) And all my wonderful co-workers and my leader for taking great care of me.
It is wonderful to be able to say I am grateful for my life. I still have a way to go! Recovery isn’t fast and everyone is different. But I am so blessed to be alive, and if my journey can help someone else, that is the greatest gift.
And if you know a new mother- reach out to her. Give her some love. Don’t just ask about the baby. Check-in with her. Let her know you care, and don’t ask- just do! Most mothers aren’t great at asking for help!
And finally, if you struggle with mental health- know you are not alone. I do, too. Get the help you need. You are worth it!
“Three times* I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me
9* but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,* in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
10 Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ;e for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians