This post is a guest post from an amazing fellow RCMP wife (who will remain anonymous) who has struggled with Post Partum Depression.
As I'm driving my not-quite two year old and my newborn down the highway a thought pops into my head: "what would happen if I drove off the road?" I didn't want to kill myself. I wanted to hurt myself enough that I would need to stay in the hospital for a week, maybe two. I wanted to be injured just enough. I wanted a break.
When my first born was six months old I took her in for her vaccinations. I completed the Edinburgh Test (https://psychology-tools.com/epds/) as was standard at the health unit. Only this time, for the question "The thought of harming myself has occurred to me", I checked off "sometimes". And there it was. My cry for help. The nurse called me at home almost immediately after she scored it. "You need to go to the hospital right now if you feel like harming yourself". She thought I wanted to commit suicide. It was then I first learned about intrusive thoughts. What I didn't realize was that I'd have them for the next four years. Driving my car off the road. Getting sick with a completely curable disease. And when things were really bad, slicing my wrists. I would visualize these things until I felt sick to my stomach. I felt a lot of shame. Shame and mental illness don't mix well. Shame makes you think "I am a bad person". Throw in being a new mother who is unsure of all her decisions, mix in a lot of isolation and you have a very ugly cocktail.
When my daughter was nine months old I started seeing the mental health nurse in my small town. The world of therapy and medication was still a long way off for me, but it was a good start. Because I lived in such a small town, she was the only mental health professional there. She was likely way overworked but she was compassionate and calm and helped me a lot in the time I saw her. And then she left and was replaced by someone just as overworked and just as compassionate. And then SHE left. And was not replaced. And I got pregnant again. And I really hit bottom. I started yelling at my toddler for stupid things. Things that didn't warrant being yelled at. Basically she was a toddler. And I was a tired, pregnant lady with no support whatsoever. We lived 4000km away from our families. I couldn't just head to my inlaws house and drop my daughter off because I needed a break. I couldn't leave her with my husband when he got home and go out with my best friend for coffee or a movie night. I was stuck. And I resented. I resented my friends who seemed to be so in love with their newborns. Who loooooooved being a new mom. I loved my daughter so much. But I was not loving being a mother. I was not excited about my pregnancy. I was scared. And then my daughter came early and we got transferred and shit got real.
New baby. New house. New town. Just a few of life's stresses in one go. But the advantage to our move was that I was in a bigger town with better access to mental health care. I found an amazing family doctor. Who referred me to a psychologist. Who gave me a test. And told me I had depression. And then dropped the medication bomb. And I was relieved. I felt like the world was lifted off my shoulders. I cried. Not that I would be magically cured, but that I may finally have some relief from feeling like such a piece of shit all the time. I have struggled with anxiety my whole life but I never thought I could be depressed. I never thought that every time I didn't feel like getting out of bed could be because of depression. That every time I sat on the couch all day staring into nothing and giving my kids my bare minimum could be because I was depressed. Anxiety and hypochondria are a part of who I am. They were something I could look past. But to me depression was...depressing. If postpartum depression was temporary, depression was permanent. PPD was a visitor. It was packing its bags and leaving after awhile. But depression was here indefinitely. It had unpacked and made itself at home. But with continued therapy and medication maybe there was a small, flickering light at the end of this seemingly unending tunnel. And maybe that light could get a little brighter and the tunnel a little shorter.
So now here we are. My oldest is four years old, my youngest will be three at the beginning of 2016. I'm slowly weaning off my meds. I'm currently not seeing my therapist because I didn't feel like I was getting what I needed. Unfortunately, she's the only psychologist where I live. (Which is ridiculous when you think that the combined population of my region is about 30 000 people. But that's another story.) I still have intrusive thoughts and I still have bad days. But I know what to do with those thoughts. I know how to deal with them when they come creeping into my head on a particularly bad day. And down the road, who knows? Maybe I'll need to go back on my meds. Maybe my depression will come back and roar its ugly head when I least expect it. I don't know what my future holds in terms of my mental health. It's a scary truth but it's my truth. And I'm slowly realizing there is absolutely no shame in it.
If you are struggling or know someone who is, please PLEASE get help! There are so many support networks out there!