What I didn't know was that it was actually about to shatter.
After you have kids, doctors, nurses, friends, and family will mention PPD (post-partum depression). They will hit a series of bullet points to keep an eye out for. That's it. That's the extent of the warning.
But there's something much more dangerous lurking in the shadows.
Part of my story hasn't been told yet. Part of my journey I've been keeping to myself. It was one of the hardest situations and times in my life. I still have anxiety over just the memory of what happened to me. But that's just another reason for me to finally put it out there into the world.
I suffered from PPP. It's PPD on steroids. Some of the symptoms are as follows:
- Vivid images of harm being done to your baby
- Vivid images of YOU doing harm to your baby
- Vivid images of your baby dying (in multiple ways)
- Not being able to let your baby out of your line of sight
- Not trusting yourself with your baby
- Not trusting anyone with your baby
- Inability to sleep
- Delusions or strange beliefs
- Rapid mood swings
These can be mild or extremely severe. You've probably heard of more extreme cases (the ones that end up on the news). Mild ones can be just as scary.
I had an intermediate case. I would have panic attacks if I couldn't see Skylar. I would have the most vivid images of horrible, unspeakable things happening to both of my kids. Sometimes it would be strangers, other times it would be me. I was only getting 2-3 hours of sleep a night. My poor husband got whiplash from the mood swings, as did Chase I'm ashamed to say. I was ripping my family to shreds, and I couldn't stop myself. Something else had taken over. I was just a bystander watching in horror as it happened.
For those of you that have been here a while, you'll remember my blog post about being in a mental hospital for a week. That was the tipping point for me. The morning I went into the ER, I almost lost my grip on reality. I almost seriously injured my son. As soon as I realized what had happened, I hit the floor crying hysterically. I called my husband, who called my mom, who came and rescued me from myself.
The rest of that story led me to where I am. Stable (most days) and a much better mother.
But I still struggle with what happened to me everyday. There isn't a day that goes by that I wish I could take all that time back. There isn't an hour where I don't hope that my kids never remember any of what happened. There isn't a moment where I don't still hate myself a little bit for it. I know I didn't have control, and thank God I had enough of "me" left to realize what was happening, but it still hurts my heart.
And I'm not the only one. Statistically, there are only one to two cases per 1,000 births of post partum psychosis. .1%. That's it. If it makes you feel better, I'll be your 1 in 1,000. But isn't that nuts? UNICEF estimates about 350,000 babies are born each day. That means only 35 women on the entire planet will go through at least a mild form of PPP each day.
And that's 35 women too many.
Part of the problem is the stigma that still surrounds anything to do with mental illness. Doesn't matter if there are so many hormones in your body that four tween girls could be covered for a year. No one wants to talk about it. Let alone the horrors that run through your mind with PPP.
What mother wants to admit they want to hurt their baby? What father wants to know their wife has nightmares about them killing his new baby daughter? What person wants to hear about how a new mother has vivid images of strangers molesting their infant?
No one does.
But it needs to be said. Hundreds of mothers and children would still be alive today if someone would listen. If someone would realize that's not what we actually want, but we can not figure out how to get our brain to shut-the-hell-up, dozens of babies may still be here tomorrow.
It happened to me. It happened to my family. Please don't let it happen to another.