My story begins in November 2007. I was one of those women who had heard of postpartum depression but never in a million years expected that I would experience it. My pregnancy with my first child, my daughter, was wonderful. How many women can say that! I had no morning sickness or any of the other feared “symptoms” that others had warned me about. I felt great and loved every minute of it. My daughter Alyssa was born July 28th 2007 and from that point on I knew that being a mother was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. While I was on my maternity leave I thought about the day that I would have to go back to work with dread. I loved being home with her and wanted things to stay that way.

I had a wonderful 4-month maternity leave and got very used to my stay-at-home routine. I went back to my job as a school speech therapist the week after Thanksgiving that year. I was greeted by anxious coworkers and students wanting to see pictures, asking questions and those who just wanted to catch up and say hello. I was happy to see them but my thoughts continued to go back to Alyssa. I kept wondering if she felt abandoned and alone. I kept thinking about what an awful mom I was to be leaving her for my job. 

With each passing day the guilt got worse. On my drives to work I would stare at houses along the way. I would imagine mothers and children within them spending time together. I wanted to be one of those mothers so badly. My days at work became more and more difficult. I would find myself crying all the way to work. It got so bad that I started to bring my entire make-up bag so that I could “fix” my face before going in. I hoped to god that my coworkers and students didn’t notice my swollen red eyes on a daily basis. I’m sure they did but no one said a thing. 

I missed my daughter like crazy. I was very fortunate to have my mother as her caretaker during the day but I still felt my heart ache every time I had to drop her off for the day. In my mind I was abandoning my child. What kind of mother would do that? A horrible one that’s who. I started to view myself this way. I told myself that I was the worst mother ever over and over every day. In my mind I believed that I truly was. When I was at work I did my job well but yet my thoughts were a million miles away. I loved working with children but felt angry that I had to spend my day with them instead of my own daughter. Hatred for my situation started to grow. I would daydream about being a stay at home mom. 

My daily crying sessions on the car ride to work went from crying all the way to work, to crying at work, to crying all of the time. What was wrong with me? I couldn’t sleep at night. I was having anxiety attacks. I spent my days at work obsessing about Alyssa. Was she feeling alone? Was she happy? Was she doing this? Was she doing that? What was I missing? My obsessive thoughts and anxieties about her paired with my guilt began to wear me out. The sadness and anxiety consumed my life so much that I no longer had time for my daughter. It went from this absolute love of my child to this fear of not being able to care for her and love her enough. 

My husband Matt started to do mostly everything for her. I was losing my bond with her and couldn’t quite explain why. It got so bad that I honestly didn’t know what to do with her any more. I wanted to cherish my time with her when I was home but yet I had this incredible fear of being alone with her. It was almost as if I had forgotten how to be a mother. My heart was breaking! I started to worry that I was going crazy and vowed that I could shake whatever this was on my own. I was in denial that there was anything medically wrong with me. I was embarrassed and didn’t want anyone to know what was going on. I became a pretty good actress in public but was dying on the inside. I let it go far too long and fell deeper and deeper into a hole. 

My anxiety continued and it was making it almost impossible for me to get through a day of work. There were days that I couldn’t remember what time of day it was and what I was supposed to be doing. I had to start writing out detailed lists sometimes minute by minute so I could accomplish things. It’s hard to explain but I was in a haze and the minutes, hours, days seemed to run together as if they were one. 

I realized that I needed help the night that I curled up into a fetal position in the shower and couldn’t physically get out. I cried so hard that I thought I was going to be sick. I was gripping my legs so hard that I actually dug finger nail marks into them. Matt had to pry me out of the shower and practically dry me off and get me dressed. The next day he helped me make an appointment with my family doctor. 

At the appointment I told my doctor I thought that I might have postpartum depression and he told me I most definitely did. He told me the typical things that you would tell a depressed person (i.e. get enough rest, exercise, time for yourself, etc.) and prescribed an anti-depressant. After about four days on the anti-depressant I began to shake. I felt like lightening was jolting through my body and the heat was unbearable. I would lie awake at night just shaking to the point that I would wake Matt up. Matt spent a lot of sleepless nights awake with me comforting me, reassuring me and just holding me while I cried. He started getting up with me when I couldn’t sleep and would run a bubble bath for me. I would soak for a while and listen to him talk to me about fun things that we did in the past. His love and support is truly what kept me breathing through each and every day and on to the next.

After my body’s reaction to the anti-depressant I went back to the doctor again. He prescribed a new anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication. I tried those for a month but they were not making a difference at all. I just continued to get worse and wondered if there would ever be an end to this pain. At that point my doctor recommended I take a medical leave of absence from work and meet with a psychiatrist. 

I remember my first appointment to see the psychiatrist. I was a basket case. I cried through the whole appointment and my poor husband had to translate pretty much everything I was trying to say. The psychiatrist recommended yet another anti-depressant and of course we wouldn’t know its full effect for 4-6 weeks. I stayed on the new prescription for 6 weeks noticing no difference and continuing to get worse. 

By now I was so low that I spent my days sleeping either in bed or on the couch. Matt had to have a “babysitter” for me when he went to work. My mother or mother in law would come over to spend the day with me and help me care for Alyssa. The days were a blur and I don’t remember much of them. What I do remember and can never forget is that dull aching pain within. Being depressed is very much a physical pain as much as it is a mental one. My 6 week trial ended with anti-depressant #3 and I was on to trying #4. Number 4 did its time but didn’t improve my situation at all. I began to feel like there was absolutely no hope left in the world and that this is how I was going to be from now on. This would be my new life and I just had to accept it. I couldn’t accept it! This was not me and not who I wanted to be to my daughter. 

With support of my family and physician I requested that I be hospitalized. I wanted to get to the bottom of this once and for all. I spent a week in the mental health until at our local hospital. While I was there a new anti-depressant was prescribed and doctors added a mood stabilizer. I was now on four different medications for this condition. It was getting ridiculous. When I was in the hospital I was able to meet with some counselors and attend some support groups for depression. In my mind I was hoping that this short stay in the hospital would “cure” me but I knew that it wouldn’t be that simple. Unfortunately I left just as depressed as I was when I entered but I gained an understanding of mental illness and felt validated. 

After leaving the hospital and being put on new meds I felt a little ounce of hope. After a few days though I went home and back to my old routine of sleeping, crying, sleeping and more crying. The pain was unbearable. I started to think about how I could end this. Ending my own life was never an option but I started to understand how a person could. It would be such a quick and easy fix but that would mean the illness would win. I would not let that happen. Would I want my daughter to remember me as being a loser? A person who gave in and let depression win? That thought alone gave me motivation to fight to the bitter end. That’s exactly what I was going to do and that was it. 

I was very fortunate to have an Aunt who heads up a suicide awareness group and who is also a grief counselor. She was able to hook me up with a partial hospitalization program in a city about two hours away. The program was awesome and gave me the hope I was looking for. I met some other mothers like myself as well as other individuals going through the pain of depression from other causes. I took classes, learned about my condition, met with counselors and made some new friends who understood me completely. 

After leaving this program I went home with so much fight in me and I was determined to beat this! With my incredibly supportive husband and family around me I continued to work on finding the right medication, attending therapy sessions, going to support groups and sharing my story with others who were in my shoes. After about a year of fighting I began to get my life back. I was finally on the right medication, had the right resources and I started to bond with my daughter again. That fall I returned to work. I have to admit I was incredibly afraid of going through the same experience again but things were definitely different. I had developed a new outlook on life and my experience had made me a stronger person in more ways than one. I realized that I could never get that time back that was lost with my daughter but decided that I would make every second count from that point on for the rest of our lives. 

I went on to have a second child in November 2010. This time I was prepared and my doctors were monitoring me closely. I went back on an anti-depressant that was considered safe to take during pregnancy for preventative measures. I am incredibly happy to say that all went well the second time around. I was a little fearful of becoming depressed again but this time I was educated and more prepared. I am now living a happy healthy life with my husband Matt, daughter Alyssa who is now 5 and my son Andrew who is 2. Looking back at this experience I am proud of myself for choosing to fight! My advice to other women going through this is to continue to fight and that there is hope! I am living breathing proof. You are stronger than you will ever know and I am here today because of that.