Hey guys, me again! After taking the huge leap of faith by beginning to post again yesterday, I’m really feeling the support! One of the reasons I didn’t know if I should keep writing was I didn’t know if anyone was reading, but with over 200 people reading my article yesterday, I know you’re out there, so I’m just gonna keep typing away! Please, please “follow” me, spread the word, share my story, reach out to your friends or family who might be struggling, leave a comment, message me, do ALL the things. Even if a story doesn’t completely mirror mine, there are always relatable aspects.
My original plan for today was to post about my experience with medication, but after thinking about it more, I decided to post about reaching out for help, because that is the first step. Now, unless you are a huge fan of my writing (hey dad) or a supportive personal friend, you are most likely visiting this page because you need help. Good help is hard to come by, especially if you are living in fear. So I’m going to share with you my journey of finding help.
(Family picture taken 1-2 weeks after everything started)
My first “intrusive thought” happened when Easton was 3 weeks old. By the time my 6 week postpartum appointment came, I had a lot of anxiety, but was too scared to reveal the specifics. I played off my anxiety to my OB out of fear and said I’d call her if I changed my mind. After another week of hell, I called her back and asked to be put on anti-anxiety meds. I got my prescription filled and crossed my fingers. Unfortunately, the medication I started with made me worse (panic attacks, etc). While on this medicine I was 1 minute away from checking myself into a hospital because of the overwhelming anxiety. I again called my OB in hopes of trying a different medication, at this point I was told I was no longer a patient under their care (since the baby was already born and the 6 week check was over) and I should contact a family practice doctor. HUGE blow.
I decided that I would again try to beat this without medication, but still searched for help. When I took Easton in for his 2 month appointment, I mentioned to our pediatrician that I was having a lot of anxiety and was very worried about safety. Now, let me first say that I LOVE our pediatrician, she has been with us for 6 years and still sees my children to this day. On this day, however, when I said I had anxiety, she said “not about the baby, right?”…instant red flag. Now I felt like I didn’t have a doctor to trust AND I couldn’t trust my pediatrician.
By this point, I felt alone in the world. I made sure to do extensive research before reaching out to anyone else. I ended up Googling “OCD Specialists MN” and found a therapist who had been through Postpartum OCD. I e-mailed her telling her that I thought I had developed OCD and would like to meet her. The first time I met with her, I could barely speak the most mild version of my fears to her. I barely could blurt out “I thought, what if I put a blanket over his head” before collapsing in tears while clutching my newborn. I thought for sure she was going to call child services. She didn’t.
I kept going to therapy weekly, spending the majority of my hour crying while rocking Easton. I would write down all of my fears throughout the week to make sure I didn’t forget to tell her any potentially harmful thought. Eventually, it became clear I needed more help. I ended up contacting The Mother Baby Program at HCMC in Minneapolis, MN.
I’ll never forget sitting in the office for my first interview with my 2 kids, barely able to speak through my tears and depression, begging for help. By this time, I wouldn’t sleep at home alone with my children and I also feared becoming a pedophile. I was given a prescription for a new medication and told I could start the program the next week. Through a tear streaked face, I asked them if they were worried about me. The psychiatrist’s response is forever burned into my memory “you’re worried enough about yourself for all of us.” I remember telling them that in real life I’m actually super funny, then I packed up my kids and my prescription and headed home.
The Mother Baby Program was a game changer for me. I had intense group and individual therapy and was also able to get stabilized on the proper medications. The only reason I’m sharing this struggle is because I GET how scary finding help can be. It took me a month to even tell my husband about my first “scary thought.” I feel like it is important to share my struggle to spread awareness. I was in contact with medical doctors who didn’t get it. I was falling through the cracks in plain sight. The fact that my biggest fear was being dangerous to my children was compounded by the fact that IF I told they could potentially be taken away from me, and that was unbearable. I want mothers AND medical professionals to learn more about postpartum mental illness. Mental illness has a stigma. Scary thoughts have a stigma. The problem is, anxiety driven scary thoughts are not dangerous and the person who thinks them are in more pain than you could imagine.
I want to reiterate. I’m NOT a mental health professional. I’m a mom who had scary thoughts and anxiety and got help. One thing that made me so scared was websites that said “if you have a scary thought, get help immediately!” This made me feel like I was abnormal and potentially dangerous. If you have scary thoughts and anxiety, you do need to get help. Not because you are abnormal, but because you don’t need to suffer. The anxiety is making you super protective and causing your brain to malfunction.
The point of this post is that if you sense anything is wrong, get help. I recommend contacting a psychiatrist (if you want to take medication) because they truly understand mental illness. Medical doctors are also great since psychiatrists can have a long wait time. A great website for finding help in your state (and for information in general) is Postpartum Progress. In my case, I also just used Google to find people who could help me. I typed in “OCD Specialists MN” and combed through the profiles of thrapists until I felt I had found someone I could trust. Spreading the word and opening up in an honest way is so important to helping people stop living in fear and silence. Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a question/comment or message me on Facebook (and “like” Delicate Change on fb)!