May is Mental Health Awareness month. This is the story of just one of the hundreds of days during my struggle against postpartum depression eleven years ago. I share this with all of you with my open heart.
I'm seating on the green couch in my living room when suddenly, in the distance, I hear my 10-month old baby crying. She just woke up from her nap and I'm still paralyzed. The two hours she slept vanished away as a black cloud wrapped me without letting me function, tying me down to that sofa during all this time while feeling an inexplicable body ache. Her crying starts escalating through the baby monitor and with each howl, my body paralyzes even more, it becomes immobile, static. Suddenly, a sudden haunting silence worries me, forcing me to react, to stand up and to go rapidly to her room.
I take her out of her crib and change her diaper feeling as if I'm watching myself from a distance, as if I'm outside my body. I hug her and I go back to my green couch from where I watch her play inside her playpen. Suddenly, uncontrollable and inexplicable tears start falling down my cheeks accompanied by stomach tightness and crumpled up emptiness. My only responsibility of the day, besides making sure my daughter survives until my husband comes back from work, is to go to the grocery store, and I can't find a way to make it happen.
I try to write down the shopping list but in my head, there's only fog. Words come and go every second making it impossible for me to concentrate. So many years working in a corporate office, somewhat successfully - and now, after deciding to quit my job to take care of my kids, I can't even finish a damn list.
A recurring question comes and goes in my head all the time, what the heck is happening to me? Could it be post-partum depression? Nah - that only happens one or two months after you have your baby and my daughter is almost one. It's not that bad, it'll go away.
I quickly ignore incoming calls on my cell phone from friends. How could I possibly answer? And chat, about what? The only thing I want is for my husband to come home so I can crawl into bed and fall asleep. After a while, another call, but this time it's my mom. Painfully I choose to ignore that call too just out of fear she finds out just by the sound of my voice that I'm not well and certainly I don't want to worry her.
Tears assaulted me again, but now I’m out of breath, and I start hyperventilating. I cry hysterically and suddenly I sense someone watching me, my daughter is staring at me from her playpen. We make eye contact and we both start crying inconsolably. I hug her without realizing that it's me who really needs that hug, and I say to her ear: ¨we're going to be fine my sweet love, I'll put more effort into feeling better.¨
Stop the drama! What the heck is this? - I think to myself. I pull my hair up in a quick ponytail and pull myself together to go do the impossible, go to the grocery store. How difficult could it be?
I get into the car, buckle my daughter into her car seat robotically and as soon as I turn the corner, what seems to me to be the most terrifying thunderstorm of my life begins. Rain, thunder, darkness and traffic accompanied by my daughter's howling cry.
Suddenly I need air, I can't breathe, I just can't continue driving like that, I feel like I'm going to crash the car. I stop at the nearest gas station and I step out of the car to try to regain my breath with the same question in my head, what the heck is this? Why on earth am I feeling this way?
After calming my daughter down a little bit, I decide to drive back to my apartment. Soaked, I open the door, without any of the groceries, feeling impotent and as a total failure.
A few hours later my husband finally comes back from work, gives me a kiss and asks, how was your day today?
I chose to describe this day specifically just to make the point that you don't have to be going through a terrible tragedy or something extraordinary awful to be suffering a terrible depression. Did you identify the symptoms? Physical paralysis, body ache, stomach emptiness and tightness, lack of concentration, mental fogginess, lack of air, disorientation and depersonalization disorder.
Feeling like that is not normal, and the most dangerous part of this is getting used to this symptoms and starting to feel that it's normal to feel that way or even worse, hearing from people around you that all you have to do is “put more effort into feeling better”, because believe me, you just can't.
Thanks to my husband's and family's encouragement, I sought help and found a wonderful psychiatrist that after one year of treatment, helped me get out of that terrible depression eleven years ago. As part of my treatment, my doctor forced me to find a physical activity I could practice every day and that's how I found my passion for running and I became addicted to that feeling of well being after you run.
I've heard from lots of people that taking anti-depressants or anti-anxiolytics is not the ideal route, however, in my experience, I can tell you that such a brutal biochemical imbalance was cured thanks to medication combined with exercise.
Today I can say that I conquer that terrible depression thanks to the wonderful support system that forced me to get help quickly, however, a person I love very, very much wasn't that lucky and for not getting help on time, was never able to recover and suffers from it every day.
Since I started my blog I wanted to write and share this post with all of you. I hope this story encourages people to go get help, but honestly, the person that this post really helped was myself.
My First Race
This post is dedicated to all the people out there suffering every day and every minute of their lives one of these terrible and deadly diseases.
I strongly believe the death rate data due to a mental illness is inaccurate. I think people that suffer these illnesses fade away way before their hearts stop beating. Mourning a loved one due to a mental illness is a very slow, confusing, deceitful and treacherous process. That person you knew and loved disappears, he or she is still physically there, but they are simply gone.
The reason I shared my story today is because if you feel identified with any of these feelings, go get help. Even if you think you're overreacting, you're not. Untreated depression or anxiety attacks can destroy your life, leave you lonely and make you fade away slowly and painfully.