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Postpartum Depression? Or Postpartum Oppression? Part 4

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A month passed after our last discharge and we remained at home with the weekly appointments ongoing for Poppy.  Our team had determined my strong little babe had a left ureter leak (which allowed bacteria to grow and cause the sepsis) and that she had also developed MSPI, which is a milk/soy allergy.  By this point I was no longer nursing; the stress of the first hospital stay paired with the inconsistent meals had led to my milk drying up. I began to eat better, drink more water and was feeling better.  Again, not great but better. And then it happened a third time. Poppy was admitted for another sepsis infection (by this point the staff knew us and whisked us right up to peds) and we spent another 5 days there, largely isolated as we couldn’t afford to have my husband miss anymore work.  I returned home relieved to be out and with a healthier babe, but the stays had taken their toll. I was terrified of her getting sick, I kept my older one home and cancelled visits. I didn’t go out often and if I did it was only to get the essentials. I planned my routes around the hours of the store.  Either first thing or late at night. I never went to anything where there was a crowd and if I did find myself out, I panicked as soon as I got home. The panic attacks were awful. Hours upon hours of fear and worry. I stopped sleeping. I stopped getting help. I had a new counsellor by then and we didn’t mesh well, she kept telling me to breath and I was at the point where breathing did nothing but make me realize I was still alive, which I didn’t want to be.

It was a hot day in July.  My oldest was sick (a trigger for me as is) and I was having a giant panic attack.  I called a friend to try and calm myself down and I guess she heard what I was feeling in my voice.  I’m not even sure what it was.. Defeat? Disappointment? Fear? Complacency? I was done and she knew it.  Another friend had called and I had hung up with her to answer the call. The first friend called back (assumably to check up on me) and I ignored the call, thinking I would call her back when I was done talking to the current friend.  Shortly after there was a knock at my door, and I’m pretty sure I was the last person on earth to expect two uniformed police at my door. Awkwardly they asked to come in and surveyed me and my home. In my shock I let them in all the while frantically searching out my windows to make sure none of the neighbors saw what was happening.  They introduced themselves and said a concerned friend had called them (friend 1) as she was concerned I was a danger to myself. Looking back I don’t think I would have done anything to myself and I never would have harmed my babies but she was right to call. I wasn’t getting any help on my own (as much as I tried, I had also done a voluntary anxiety group course on top of the one I did out of obligation) and I was barely a shade of the person I once was.  Thankfully they didn’t cuff me and with my permission (after being deemed safe to be with my kids) they took me to the ER in Chilliwack where there was a psychologist on call.

There is something pretty sobering about having the police come and collect you to take you to the psych ward.  I was so upset that it had come to this. I had tried so hard to “fix it” myself without medication. I had seen doctor upon doctor that either ignored my fears of what would happen to me, or would prescribe me something unsafe for pregnancy (I had always wanted a second baby when I was in my less depressed state).  I didn’t want anxiety to ruin my dreams for a second baby, yet none listened. So here I sat. Behind the glass of the ER (on the “good side” where the nurses sit) because the psych ward was a) just some beds in the back of the ER and b) was full. Not only was it full but it was full of people who appeared to be far worse than me.  In fact they were literally chasing down a patient who had ripped his IV out and taken off down the street from the hospital. I was a mom, who had recently showered who had a bit of a handwashing problem. I looked normal. I made jokes (my defense mechanism) and smiled friendlily at the passerbys. This isn’t because I’m anything more than a person who  needs to do that so I don’t pass out from the stress. I was so angry. Angry I was sitting outside of a psych ward, angry that my friend had called and angry that my life was where it was at. After being told I would probably be kept there for a week while they helped me get on some medication, I was told to sit in a chair where I waited for 6 hours. I was seen once by the on-call doctor who instructed me “not to wash my hands” (I’m sitting in a chair in the ER, do you think I’m going to touch that washroom?) and that the psych on call would see me.  And so I sat. I sat and sat. Eventually they told me the psych doctor couldn’t see me after all, and handed me a prescription. I called a taxi (my husband was home with our girls, one of whom was sick) and filled it. And I did take it. I guess rock bottom has that effect on a person, you’ll do anything to get out of it.

The medicine helped, and we stayed with family while I tried to recover.  It helped slightly and I was able to slowly do more but some of the effects didn’t change.  I couldn’t stop washing my hands and I consistently worried about the germs. I stopped seeing the counsellor and she never called me either.  We just didn’t meld and that’s ok. I was given an appointment the following week with the hospital Psych (thanks to my first counsellor who found out what happened and pushed for me) who diagnosed me with PPD/PPA and to my embarrassment OCD (explains all of the handwashing).  To be diagnosed with these things was a hard pill to swallow (pun intended). There is such a stigma with mental health. Especially when it comes to something that isn’t necessarily visible. I look like a normal mom of small children. My legs aren’t always shaved, my hair is always in a bun and I have more bags than a luggage carousel but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to deal with.  My life has been completely changed. Medication has allowed me to gain back some aspects and I see the odd friend, but most of the time I stay isolated. I still shop at those early or late times and when I do leave the house, I’m armed with hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes. I can’t hide it anymore. Eating in public is too hard ( I worry about who touched what) and while I’m actually a fun person, the confidence I once had is completely gone.  I rarely take one of my children out, let alone both and I rely heavily on my husband to help me when we do. But as much as these diseases have changed me, they do not defy me. I am a wife, loyal to my husband and will always be. I am a mom, one who loves my babies hard, who is so grateful for them and probably kisses them far too many times in a day. I’m a mom who loses her patience, who asks for too much and often gives too little but I am still a mom.  I’m a daughter, one who doesn’t see her own mama enough or is too hard on her but loves her so much and I am a friend. One who communicates mostly via text or social media (because it’s easier for me) but who would do anything I could for you. I would literally give you the shirt off my back. These things are what define me. The times that I grocery shop or the fact that I once stared at my baby with emptiness do not. They are a side effect of a disease that I didn’t ask for, and one I may never fully overcome but little by little I recover, and reclaim what was lost.

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