February 12th is BELL’s mental health awareness day. so i thought i would share my story with you!
it’s not that major, or fancy (lol) but it’s all true.
my name is cathryn, and i have a mental illness.
call it postpartum depression, anxiety, depression or panic attacks, i have something. and have had it for a few years. after baby number one, i knew something wasn’t right, but i still felt like me the majority of the time…and by the time baby girl hit a year, i felt pretty much 100% fabulous.
and then i got pregnant again. let the hormones rage. i struggled with feeling more than tired, i was exausted. and taking care of a one year old, cleaning the house, laundry, groceries, working part-time and being pregnant was beyond my ability. so stuff was neglected. not my baby or groceries (a girl’s gotta eat!) but the house was a train wreck and lets just say my husband was beyond frustrated and at a loss as how to help me or what was wrong with me. finally i had baby number two and things got a little better. physically i was able to haul the laundry up and down the stairs and pushing a grocery cart alone was easy to do. but the mental part wasn’t fun. i was still TIRED and always felt like i was dragging 500 lbs behind me. any task was “ONE MORE THING TO DO” and i didn’t have the time, energy or patience to do it.
and then the panic/anxiety attacks started. looking back, i know i had one or two after baby #1, but didn’t know it. the summer after baby #2, it was crazy. i would have these attacks randomly. there were no triggers that i could think of, they would occur while driving, lying in bed, washing dishes, etc., etc., etc. it wasn’t until the end of summer that my sister and i went on a day trip shopping together that something finally clicked in my brain that something might be wrong. the whole day i was tense, stressed, nervous…i felt like i was about to give a speech (that was how all my attacks felt). the day was not fun, for me. my sister however had a great time…and at one point driving home she asked me when the last time i felt relaxed…
and i didn’t know.
it was then that i realized that something was off. and i started watching myself from “above”. it sounds strange, but that’s the best way i can describe it. part of me was able to separate away and observe myself with my nursing background and skills. and what i saw wasn’t good.
so i made an appointment with my family doctor, who i actually work with, and so know fairly well. and he asked me a lot of questions.
- do you have any repeating thoughts? and i did. i had (since baby #2 was born) been imagining/daydreaming/had horrible nightmares about finding the kids in terrible situations…crushed under dressers, hanging from the playhouse by their jacket strings, drowned in the toilet (the baby), etc…and anything horrible in the news about kids or babies, i obsessed over. the thoughts/images would roll over and over in my brain. and it was impossible to forget them or STOP thinking about it. (my husband knew i was thinking these things and he just couldn’t understand how i couldn’t just STOP. and neither could i)
- do you sleep well? actually to well, every opportunity to nap, go to bed or sleep in i took it. and i still felt sooo tired.
- are your emotions/feelings interfering with your normal day? yes. a thousand times yes. taking care of two kids and doing ONE other thing was all i could do. a few loads of laundry one day. vacuuming the next. groceries another. and that was it. i could only accomplish one task. and i felt like a failure. how were these other moms planning birthday parties or baking or painting rooms, etc. and all i could do was go to town, get groceries, put them away and i needed a nap.
- do you think about or want to hurt yourself or anyone else? i answered “my husband” but that was just a joke. kinda. i was lucky never to have any self harm thoughts or thoughts about hurting anyone else, but my husband and i were arguing. A LOT. it was no one’s fault. i couldn’t find the energy or motivation to do ANYTHING. and he couldn’t understand it. and it was more than he could do on his own, farming all day and then coming home to a crying, stressed out wife with no dinner cooked, the kids running around (happy!) with dirty faces, nothing on but diapers and the house looking like a train wreck. there was never any clean clothes, and if there was, they were in a HUGE heap in front of the dryer. need clean socks? feel free to dig in the pile darling…
i know my doctor asked more questions, but those ones are the ones i remember. (here is Bell’s “tip” sheet for more information on mental health and how you can keep healthy!)
so he prescribed me some anti-anxiety/depression meds. depression and anxiety tend to go hand in hand, and one prescrition can “solve” both.
i started on them that night. and by the weekend felt like a million bucks.
i hadn’t felt that good in a LONG time. and it wasn’t a good drunk buzz or anything like that. i just felt like ME.
i had missed me.
that was two and a half years ago. and i haven’t looked back since. of course there have been ups and downs. pregnancy #3 was better and harder at the same time. i regressed some with depression and anxiety attacks (we made the decision to stay on the medication throughout my pregnancy) but with med dosage changes and the KNOWLEDGE about what was happening, made things much easier. i knew why and what the attacks were and so did my husband. i’m not going to lie, the piles of laundry were still there, but at least we both knew what was happening and worked together as a team to get me back on track and moving forward. and now that baby #3 is over a year, things are even better. i always describe that one year mark as feeling like my head is finally above water, and this time is the best. i am still on meds, and probably always will be. and i am VERY ok with that.
i like to describe that my mental illness is like having diabetes. i don’t make enough of what ever hormone i am missing, so i take meds to fix it. like diabetics take insulin because they can’t make enough. i have good days, bad days, and my emotions are all over the place, just like every fabulous woman’s should be…lol. what i mean is, i don’t feel “flat” or “high”, i just feel like ME. and i am not afraid to tell anyone and everyone about my illness. i figure, if i help even ONE person find themselves again, it is worth annoying the 1000’s of others that have to hear about it. lol.
so that’s my little story. the short version of it. (ha!) i hope you don’t mind me sharing, and feel free to pass this on, maybe someone you know needs to hear/read it and find some help for themselves!
p.s. if you want to help raise some money for mental health awarenss, every text message or long distance call made by Bell and Bell Aliant customers and every tweet using #BellLetsTalk and every Facebook share of their Bell Let’s Talk image on February 12, Bell will donate 5 cents to programs dedicated to mental health (regular long distance and text charges apply). In 2012, 8 million Canadians answered Clara’s call with more than 78 million text messages, long distance calls and retweets on Bell Let’s Talk Day, resulting in $3,926,014.20 in additional funding for mental health initiatives across the country.