Triggered: My Battle with General & Postpartum Anxiety pt1

Last Friday, my evening turned upside down in a matter of seconds. An anxiety attack triggered a flashback which triggered a panic attack, which left me completely undone the rest of the night….and it all started with a scream….

Piercing. Shrieking. Shrill. Excruciating.

My 16mo is screaming. At the top of his lungs. Standing in the middle of the floor in the living room, tears streaming down his face, mouth wide open, lips trembling from the force of the energy it takes to. just. SCREAM.

His screams are sharp, slicing through me, and the reserves of patience and calmness meds, self-care and God have helped me store the past week or so.

Scream. Slice. Scream. Slice. Scream…..this one cuts me to my core, its razor sharp edges cutting a clean, precise gash through which all the anxiety stored up within me could just bleed out….and it did. So much so that it crippled me. Crippled me because I had a flashback and with that flashback came all the emotions & physical sensations associated with it…..

No, please no….not this….not now….I’m hiding in the bathroom, on the floor, soaked in sweat, my heart is pounding, he’s still screaming, and I’m triggered. All I can feel is despair sweeping over me, fatigue overwhelming me…and panic. Frightful panic. Before I know it, in my mind I’m back there, revisiting the day I first heard him cry…and felt like this.

It was the evening of April 8, 2010. The day Alex, my 16mo was born. After nearly nine months of a physically & mentally rough (ie depressing)  pregnancy, FIVE days of ACTIVE labor, numerous hospital & doctor visits, finally being admitted & getting an epidural, and 5 pushes, he finally made his grand appearance. When he was placed in my arms I remember looking at him, being glad he was finally here, but I remember feeling hollow. The previous 6 hours and his quick delivery had been a blur, a frantic rush, and then there was…..nothing. Of course my son was here, but somehow the experience felt so anti-climatic. Even though in my mind I knew he was mine, I felt….he felt (Oh I know this sounds so bad, but it’s the truth) foreign to me, like I knew he was a part of me, had come from me, but he didn’t feel like he had. I don’t know how else to articulate it. I just attributed it to my being overwhelmed & tired from giving birth and brushed it off.

That evening instead of sending him to the nursery I kept him with me all night. It was a long night. At first I was fine, he was fine. And then he started crying. That’s when I felt it deep down in my gut: the panic. My face grew hot, my hands were shaking as I pulled him out of his “crib” and into the bed with me. I fumbled trying to get him to latch-he screamed louder. After a few minutes he was happily eating and I was holding him tightly in an attempt to calm my nerves. Again, I just thought it was just nerves. “I’m just a little rusty,” I told myself, “I can do this, I’ve done this. I’m a mother. This is my second child. It’s cool, just have to get used to things again. Babies cry. It’s no big deal.” But it was. I had barely fallen asleep when he woke up crying again an hour later.

That cry. There was something about that cry that pierced right through me, and left me feeling like I was being ripped apart. His cry. It triggered a physical response in me-one that was normal & motherly & one that felt very violently NOT normal. It scared me. Jarred my senses. His cry. It grated on me and I didn’t understand why.

On the outside I appeared perfectly calm as I tried to soothe him. The inside was a different story. On the inside I WAS FREAKING OUT. His cry evoked a heart pounding, pulse racing, nauseating fear in me that I don’t remember experiencing with my oldest. It made me nervous. What made it worse was my inability to soothe him. He didn’t want to eat, he was dry, I couldn’t tell if he wanted me to hold him or put him down, no position seemed to settle him….all he did was cry. Each one he vocalized felt like needles on my skin, each one seemed to scream “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!” “EVERYTHING YOU’RE DOING IS WRONG!!!!!”

I finally laid him on my chest and after a few minutes his crying stopped. A few minutes later he was sleeping. Me? I was crying. Silently. i looked for the nurses button, to have them take him to the nursery, but the remote was out of my reach and I was too scared moving would mean he’d wake up and cry again. I couldn’t take that-not yet. I looked at the clock. It was 2:03am…….

my experience Friday night left me feeling like I did my first night alone in the hospital with Alex. I was a wreck then and I was a wreck Friday night. The screaming stopped, but my response to it didn’t for the rest of the weekend. As bad as Friday night was, I’m glad it happened, because it made me realize that I need to accept & acknowledge what I felt & experienced those first days so I can understand how it has shaped & impacted the last 16mos of my life. So this is me, telling my story. OWNING IT. hoping it heals me and help someone who needs to know it. 

part two coming soon…..

 

 

Accept It. Own It. Tell It: Your Story Could Save Someone’s Life

It’s National Suicide Prevention Week.  It started yesterday, Sunday, September 4th. Someone committed suicide early yesterday morning. Known to many in the marketing & social media fields, Trey Pennington took his own life, leaving many to question why, and leaving people he “knew” online and in real life in complete shock over news of his death.

I never met Trey Pennington. Having been a social media consultant, I only know of him and his work in the field. I don’t know what drove him to take his own life, I don’t know what he suffered from internally….I don’t know his story. But I wish I did. I wish I did know his story, I wish he could have shared his story with someone & got the help he needed before he left this life. Perhaps if he had shared some of his story and it included struggling with a mental illness or mood disorder, I could have shared mine somehow with him, through a comment or message, to let him know that he’s not alone, and he doesn’t have to suffer alone. I would have told him about Band Back Together, a place where you can safely tell your story without worrying about fear or judgement from others…..

I never knew Trey Pennington personally. But I did know people who did take their lives, both friends & family members. I’ve considered taking my own life as a teen and even in my adult years…

I’m saying all of that and I’m sharing the fact that I myself have considered ending my life at certain times because that’s part of my story, part of my life experience. I posted this on Facebook the other night and I believe it with everything in me:

 It’s not enough to just own your story-you’ve got to TELL it. In fact, part of owning your story IS telling it. That’s where the power lies in transparency-in the telling and sharing of your experiences. That’s what helps people, that’s what robs shame of it’s power, that’s what gives issues a face and a voice instead of a shadowy stigma…..Whatever your stories are people, tell them. I believe for every story/experience that needs to be told, there is someone who needs and wants to hear it. Let’s start sharing the things that really matter…

When we go through things in life, whether they be trivial or traumatic, it’s imperative that we do what’s necessary to first deal with the effects it has on us, heal from whatever it is, then accept it. And I think that’s what a good amount of people do. But that’s ALL they do. They stop at the healing and acceptance part. To many of us don’t go on to share our story with someone else. Oh don’t get me wrong, we give advice, we give people our opinions & suggestions on something going on in their lives, but we don’t dig deeper in the well of empathy & reveal enough of ourselves, so that the person we’re talking to feels like they aren’t alone in what they’re facing. Does that make sense?

Or if we do share, we are selective who we share our stories with. I know we have to protect ourselves to a degree, and maybe I sound idealistic & young here, but where’s the compassion for people? What happened to reaching out? Maybe if we created & fostered safe, compassionate, healing, & empathetic environments for our children, our family members, our friends, the guy who sits next to me in church, the woman in the cubicle next to me, etc, maybe we wouldn’t have to have an entire week dedicated to raising awareness about suicide. Maybe if we shed ourselves of our own tangles & shame surrounding our stories, it would empower & embolden us to speak up, reach out, not be so afraid to be vulnerable…..maybe, just maybe, suicide won’t be an option for people.

Think about the story of your life so far. Have you accepted it? Have you only owned certain parts of it? Are there parts of it that you still need to heal from? How much of it have you TOLD? Who do you know that could benefit from a few pages or even a few chapters of your life story?

I challenge you, I’m even challenging myself moving forward to have the courage, have the boldness, to accept your story. Own your story. And then in some form or fashion, whatever is in your capacity to do so, TELL YOUR STORY. You never know who’s life you could save by doing so.

You can read more about National Suicide Prevention Week over on my friend Cristi Comes’ blog http://www.ellieadorn.com/ -there are hundreds of sites, but I find hers to have a wealth of knowledge & information from stories to resources in this area. You can also visit this site as well for even more information & links to resources: http://www.suicidology.org

To share your story in a safe place and or read those of others, Join The Band at http://www.bandbacktogether.com/. They are also on Facebook.

Perseverance

A couple of weeks ago I decided to change things up here on ‘Confessions and I put out a call for some guest posters, because quite simply, I wanted to highlight the amazing writing skills & insights of some of the intriguing women I’ve met in the blogoshere.

One of them, Susan, from Learned Happiness, is one such woman. She’s witty, her style of writing holds a beauty to it that brings me to tears, and her authenticity & transparency is to be admired. She describes her blog as a place “To own my story,” and how she does so is just one of the several things I find beautiful & respect about her. I hope you enjoy her post today as much as I do, stop by her blog, & follow her on Twitter. Please welcome her to ‘Confessions, ya’ll 🙂

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A’Driane and I met in the #ppdchat mamas group on Facebook.  In the months we’ve gotten to know each other online, I’ve come to see her as an optimistic, caring woman who wants to be so much to so many.  She’s honest, both with others and herself, which is a rare trait to find in a friend.  And her outgoing personality explodes through my twitter stream every morning as I drink my decaf.  I’m so excited to share what we’ve been cooking up.  A’Driane asked me to guest post a while ago, so instead, we are swapping guest posts, each writing in response to a photo prompt – a picture I snapped in a garden next to Arlington City Hall. I’m honored she asked me to write for Butterfly Confessions and hope I can live up to the task. 

A tree stands in a garden, nestled between stone buildings of importance and dignity.  Reaching out from a small patch of green near a brick pathway, its branches twist and turn in a ragged, unrefined manner.  The bark, speckled with spots of white, reveals its age.

This tree did not choose its lot in life.  If it had, surely it would have chosen a larger pasture, one which isn’t hidden in shadow most of the day.  A field, perhaps, filled with flowers and fed by sunlight and gentle rains.  Instead it was planted where even basic needs would be a struggle to fulfill.

And instead of withering, fading behind the shadows of the surrounding foliage, it reached its branches toward what little light dappled the garden.  Stretching out at an odd angle, its trunk carried the life-giving leaves up to the sun, until it could no longer hold its own weight.  The roots strained against gravity.  And then… salvation.  In the form of a simple wooden frame, erected in defense of this tree – in support of its persistence.

My husband says, “Its so sad.  Why don’t they just cut it down?”  Recoiling in horror, I look at him with shock and disappointment.  Can he not see the beauty in this tree, this being?  The beauty that instead of lying in youth or perfect form, lies in its strength and will to survive.  This tree, which has taken a beating from both nature and time, all the while fighting for life in the face of unfortunate circumstance, still has shade to give and leaves to nurture.  It is not less for needing buttressing, but more for welcoming it, growing up from its second trunk in gratitude. Its worth lies simply in its existence.

I wonder, would we have even stopped to notice it, had it been perfect?  No, most certainly we would have walked by, never noticing the beauty in its vulnerability.  I want to say, “We are the same.  I see your fight, your resolve.  Keep reaching for the sunlight; keep surviving.”  Instead I simply snap a picture, in awe of what this tree has taught me about myself in an instant.

Susan is an elementary teacher-turned-SAHM and private music instructor.  She is a postpartum depression and anxiety survivor.  Now knocked up with Baby #2, she’s kicking antenatal depression’s butt.  A lover of music, books, and art, she blogs at Learned Happiness about parenting and finding balance and happiness in a life impacted by mental illness.