In our first installment of our new blog series “Bellingham Mom Stories”, local mom Amy Brannan shares with us the realities of perinatal mood disorders.
In her experience it was Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, OCD, and Post Adoption Rage (something less known, but very real in the adoption world). Whatever you may be experiencing we hope Amy’s story inspires you to dig deep, and take whatever measures you need to survive, and eventually thrive.
“To my fellow mamas,
Motherhood is a journey – one that can be filled with highs and lows. I think we can all agree with that.
My story of motherhood is still being written (I am the mama to a 10 yr old daughter, 5yr old son and an 9mo old son). I want to share a part of my motherhood journey with you – a part that I was not prepared for and one that, if you mamas reading this are feeling, you will walk away knowing you are not alone and that others know your struggle. Here’s my story of suffering from Postpartum Depression with my first daughter and suffering from Post Adoption rage with my two adopted sons.
10 years ago in May of 2007 I became a mother – My Ella Kate arrived 12 days late and was I ever happy to meet her once my quick labor ended. The first 5 months of being a new mama were amazing. I loved everything about it. And then one day, it all changed.
I was sitting on the couch and suddenly the biggest wave of exhaustion and fear hit me – I remember calling my husband Rick and he tells me now, I drifted off on the phone with him, so tired that I could hardly talk. He raced home to find me asleep. And so this continued – for days and weeks. I started seeing doctor after doctor and all I ever heard was “get more sleep.” I laugh now of course realizing how impossible that was.
December 6th, 2007 I remembering reading a blog post from Postpartum Progress listing postpartum depression symptoms and the light bulb went off.
Out of 10 symptoms listed, I had EVERY SINGLE ONE. This was it.
Early 2008, I was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and anxiety and some OCD tendencies.
Eight months after my daughter was born I was diagnosed. Eight months of no one hearing me and telling me to just sleep more. I was off the doctors radar to ask about PPD because my daughter was so old, I didn’t fit the “normal” timeframe of PPD symptoms starting. Nothing showed until my daughter was almost 5 months old.
My symptoms were intrusive thoughts (imagine you are watching 100 movies in your head at the same time and every thought has nothing to do with the last), panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, fear to open my door and walk outside, fatigue and by that I mean, I literally could not sit up from the couch, or I would just stop talking and drop the phone. There was nothing in me.
The hopelessness was such a scary feeling. I cried ALL the time, did not want anything to do with sex or intimacy at all, and I became overwhelmed with the simplest tasks like putting my daughter’s coat on, for example.
It was scary. There is no other word to describe it.
My road to healing was LONG. I started counseling and medication when my baby was ten months old. From the time my daughter was 5 months old to nearly 2 yrs old, I have no memories. I blame the PPD on that. My husband came alongside of me and cared for our daughter because I was unable to. I see picture of Ella and there are no memories. I see video’s of her as a baby and can’t place them at all. I was in such a deep depression, it stole my memories.
In late 2010, after 2.5 yrs of medication and counseling, I wasn’t getting better and felt like I was stuck in the road to recovery, like I was almost over the last hurdle. I was encouraged to start seeing a psychiatrist and she helped tremendously.
I began to diligently start seeking out women who have/had postpartum depression which was when I found PPD blogs and finally started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Facebook, PPDChat on Facebook, and a group of survivor moms saved my life and my sanity and allowed me to accept what is now my testimony in hopes to help others. I also started my own PPD survivor’s blog, to start writing as a way of healing for me. I still battle anxiety and depression that was brought on by the PPD.
The biggest lasting effect of suffering from postpartum depression was we chose to not get pregnant again because of the severity, my age and the 75% chance I’d have of being diagnosed again with any recurring pregnancy.
In 2012 and in 2017, we adopted our two boys. I knew my chances of experiencing a perinatal mood disorder again were possible even with adoption and it did – rage that can’t be explained.Rage that in turn created a depression so deep, I again wanted to walk away. I’m grateful I had tools, medication and help in place and I was far more prepared than most.
I’d like to assure women that everyone can/will have a different journey and every woman can have different symptoms from a perinatal mood disorder. I’d like to encourage women that they are not damaged or different, that they are not failures as moms or wives. Guilt can be a very damaging aspect of PPD; I am proof of that. I would not have made it if it weren’t for my incredible husband and his support and love.
When I first was diagnosed with PPD/PPA, my first thought was “Why can’t I be the mom that is all put together — like Sally? What is wrong with me?” And for months, that thought swirled in my head.
I compared myself to every single mom I saw at church, in the grocery store, even the complete stranger walking down the street. I always assumed that they must have it all together and that I was just a good-for-nothing mom, who was so depressed and anxious that I must be a terrible mother to my daughter.
As a survivor from a perinatal mood disorder three times, I will admit — it’s hard some days. I wish that my past was different. I wish that I didn’t experience and live those years of pain and depression and feeling like a loser. I wish I could have happy memories during my children’s early months. But because of that road, I’ve been privileged to help many women suffering. All I ever needed all those years ago was someone like me who would befriend me and tell me I’d survive.
I’m a warrior. It takes hard, hard work but mamas – please hear me. You are not alone.
You will survive. Reach out and ask for help. I know it’s scary. For any mom experiencing those feelings of failure or fatigue or depression or anxiety or whatever, I understand. Remember — you are INCREDIBLE, AMAZING, PERFECT, and the BEST mom.