3-week-old Liliana Flynn
Liliana woke up with a night terror last night. She hasn’t had one (that I can remember) since we lived in Regina. I went in to deal with her and when I couldn’t calm her down, I started to feel my anxiety rise very quickly. I just wanted her to STOP CRYING. I felt myself losing control, so I went back into the living room and told Noah that he had to deal with her because I could not. He didn’t get up right that second, and I could feel the anxiety and anger continue to rise and told him he had to deal with her RIGHT NOW.
A couple minutes later he called for my help because apparently she had an accident (all over him and her bed) in the midst of everything, so he gave her a quick bath (which finally woke her up) while I changed her bedding. She very rarely has an accident during the day and had been dry at night for months before tonight. When the bedding was in the washing machine (mattress covers are AWESOME) and Liliana was clean and redressed and back asleep (in our bed this time), I was expecting Noah to be mad for the way I’d spoken to him, but instead he just asked me if I was alright.
He’s come so far in his understanding of depression and anxiety. I was thankful that he could see that it was that, and not that I was angry at him or something like that.
That incident scared me though. If my anxiety (and with it, anger) can build up that quickly with a three-year-old, how am I going to deal with a newborn? I haven’t felt that way since Liliana was a baby. I’d get to the point where I had to put her safely in her crib and walk far enough away that I couldn’t hear her so that I could calm down. My head would fill with horrid angry thoughts. Through that time, I started to understand why mothers hurt their children. I’m not talking about the ones who purposely hurt their children, but the ones who find themselves losing control and doing something that they immediately, or later, regret.
Thankfully, it never got that far with me. I was always able to put Liliana in a play pen or crib until I was calm enough to deal with her again. But the thoughts that go through my head while that is happening? The thoughts of being willing to do ANYTHING to MAKE THE CRYING STOP? They’re scary thoughts that should not be in a mother’s head. I felt guilty and ashamed of those thoughts and I don’t think I even told Noah about them. The thoughts and the anxiety got worse and worse. I felt like a failure and I began to detach myself from Noah, the girls, and everyone else I knew. I began to feel severe anxiety any time I was not with the girls. I didn’t seek help until 3 days before we moved halfway across the country, away from my amazing mental-health-savvy doctor. Through her questions I learned I’d been suffering from a mild form of depression for years, and it had spiraled out of control after Liliana’s birth.
I didn’t know anything about depression. It was a stigmatized topic in the little small-town world that I lived in. It was something I should be able to snap out of. I should be able to be in control of my emotions. I should stop being so selfish and self-centred. I started reading about depression. The more I read, the more I understood what depression is. It’s not something you choose (I certainly didn’t) or something you snap out of. I also learned that it wasn’t going to go away with a simple prescription.
I saw a new doctor a couple years ago, after our move, for a prescription refill. She asked about my symptoms and handed me a handful of samples of the medication I was on. I was thankful for the free medication (it’s STUPID expensive) but then she told me that I would feel better if I thought of women who were in worse situations than I was. I never went back to that doctor.
One of the reasons I love the blogging community so much is that it’s full of women who are not afraid to admit that they’re struggling. I didn’t know anyone in my “real life” world who was that open and honest and willing to share about something so sensitive and personal. They instilled in me the confidence to not be ashamed that I was sick. Depression is an illness. An illness is not something to be ashamed of.
I started feeling anxiety over experiencing postpartum depression with Three at about 20 weeks. I started to prepare myself, both to deal with it and to try to prevent it as much as possible. A well-informed friend emailed me a bit ago saying that new research has found that it starts as early as the third trimester. Um, hi! I’m there.
I have hope though. I’m taking more time off work this time so that I can focus on my family and my mental health without the pressures of working added on to that. I’m learning how to cut out unnecessary stresses. I’m planning on spending a lot of time outside. I’m going to keep my doctor up to date on how I’m feeling.
I’m not expecting that everything will be fine! and joyous! and perfect! and happy! this time around, but I have hope that it will be better. And if it’s not, this time I know what to do.