Post Partum Anxiety is Real

I Was Institutionalized for Post-Partum Anxiety

Post Partum Anxiety is Real

I (stupidly) thought that if postpartum depression hadn’t hit by the first 2 weeks I would be good to go.  By six weeks postpartum I was admitted to a psych ward for extreme sleep deprivation, suicidal depression, and anxiety.  Now that I look back there were signs that the extreme anxiety was starting before she was even born-I would lay awake at night, worrying… weeks before she was born. I hardly slept at all in the hospital the first few days following her birth but all the nurses kept reassuring me it was normal and that it would pass. I called my OBGYN 2 weeks later voicing my same concerns: my heart would not stop racing and I couldn’t sleep even when the baby was sleeping.  I couldn’t even sleep when my husband or someone else took her and commanded me to go get rest.  My doctor prescribed me like 10 sleeping pills (she didn’t want to give me more since I was nursing) and once again I was reassured  that since I didn’t have a history of anxiety or depression that it would pass.  Usually the pills would help me fall asleep but then I would have to get up to nurse her twice in the night and either it would take me hours to fall asleep again or I wouldn’t at all-and then it would be time to get up with the baby again. I became obcessed with sleep.  All day long I would worry if I would sleep that night or not. It was like I forgot how to fall asleep. I started avoiding going in our bedroom because even being around our bed made me anxious and sad.  Even seeing people on t.v. sleeping would cause me anxiety.  I began to feel trapped, like a caged animal.  It was winter outside and constantly gray and I was home all day by myself trying to care for a newborn on literally no sleep.  My husband was missing work because I could not function but he didn’t know what he could do for me since even with his help I still couldn’t rest.  He was also struggling with his own personal depression in adjusting to a new baby.  I asked my OB for more sleeping pills but she refused to keep prescribing them to me and referred me to their psychiatrist whom I would have to wait to see for another week.  Another week without any sleep-I began to fear I was going to die.  The psychiatrist prescribed me Zoloft over the phone without even seeing me but when I first starting taking it it made me feel even more depressed.  The tipping point came when I was discussing this with my husband on the couch one night expressing that I couldn’t handle this anymore.  He asked me what I was going to do and I just shook my head and said “I don’t know”.  Inside I was thinking “I’ll just kill myself”.  I literally thought that was the only way out of the situation at the time.  I was not in my right mind at all but luckily-there was some part of me that was still logical and could think clearly. I knew I had to do something serious then to get myself right for the sake of my husband and my baby.  I knew that the quickest way to get better would be to admit myself to the ER, otherwise it would take weeks and weeks to see a psychiatrist and get me on the right medications.  By this time my baby and I were staying at my parent’s house so that I wouldn’t be alone during the day because I had admitted that I was suicidal and also had had thoughts of hurting my daughter. I went two more nights without sleeping at their house and then I made some phone calls that day figuring out which psych ward my insurance would cover and my mom took my baby and I to the ER.  I packed a bag (and I’m glad I did) expecting to be admitted.  I remember while we were waiting at the ER I just slumped over in the chair and started breathing really weird because I was so sleep deprived I was losing motor control.  It is a very strange feeling to be SO physically exhausted that you feel like you can’t move your muscles but your brain at the same is like a live wire that won’t shut off.  I just wanted someone to literally, knock me out and MAKE me sleep.  I had fantasies of being hooked up to tubes in the hospital that would pump me full of sedatives.  Anyway, 5 medications later (2 of which were sleeping pills) and with my husband helping with night feedings I was sleeping through the night a few days later and feeling completely different (and I continued nursing throughout all this hubbub, I DID NOT want to give up nursing, I love it)  Six months later I am off all those medications and happy to report sleeping just fine-though every once in awhile I catch myself having a little anxiety over sleep.  I’ve learned to talk myself out of it and to make myself relax.  The moral of this story:  postpartum anxiety is just as real as postpartum depression and just as serious.  Not sleeping is a big indicator of it and trust me, it only takes about 2 nights of not sleeping at all to really get the insanity going.   Also, postpartum depression can happen anywhere in the first YEAR of having a baby-6 weeks being the most common.  If you are struggling at all-ASK FOR HELP!   I’m so glad I did and I’m so grateful for the team of doctors that were there to help pull me out of this hell.  And man, was my little girl ever worth it but next time…. let’s just say I will be prepared:)

Shirsti Shuler, mama to Baby Catarina (Cata for short)

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6 thoughts on “I Was Institutionalized for Post-Partum Anxiety

  1. This really reminded me of how I was too. I don’t think I had PPD but I would lie on my bed with other ppl taking care of the baby and I would just cry because I couldn’t sleep and my bed would feel hard as a rock, my heart would race, is imagine someone dropping her, and I couldn’t turn over l because I was in so much pain. At the end of two weeks without sleep I was seeing things and I never really told anyone at the time how bad I was feeling. I knew that it would pass so I just kept going but it was truly awful. I had ppl around me all the time. I think it’s so important, more important than anything else that new mothers are not left alone for the first month.

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  2. Koseli, you are a very brave woman! Thank you for sharing your story, it will certainly help other mothers who are struggling. The terror of untreated depression and anxiety is what leads to suicidal thoughts/actions. Sadly, our family knows this all too well. I’m so glad you are Carrie’s friend, and that I met you and your darling little family! Wendy

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    • Thank you so much, Wendy. I was so proud of my sister for sharing and so proud to call her family. It’s okay to go through times. It’s incredible what reaching out can do for yourself and others. Much love to your family! xo

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  3. I just wanted to say thank you for being honest. Postpartum Anxiety is real and debilitating. I’m here to tell you, you may continue to have a little anxiety, the good news is, you have reality back. That is the key in my opinion, having the ability to know what is a chemical imbalance and just plain concern for your baby. But seriously, so many women keep this to themselves and I think it does all of us women a disservice. You helped women with this blog, maybe 1. maybe a 100. Thank YOU!

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