PPD: 7 Years Later


It has been seven years since I was hospitalized for Postpartum Depression. There are so many thoughts swirling in my head about that time in my life. It still boggles my mind that I was ever admitted to a psychiatric inpatient hospital. I said it then, and it has stayed true seven years later: Postpartum Depression was paradoxically the best and worst thing to ever happen to me. It was certainly the scariest time in my life, but it has also taught me more Truths about myself than I ever dared to know. Going through PPD has opened doors to my soul I never deemed possible.


Postpartum depression taught me how to manage my stress and anxiety. I wasn’t even aware I had childhood anxiety until I dove into numerous hours of therapy. I sometimes imagine what my life would be like now had I not gone through what I did, and I cringe at the thought. I cringe because I envision myself utterly uptight. I know I would still be sweating the small stuff and suffering from panic attacks. But mostly, I know I would be missing out on LIFE. I would be stuck in “playing it safe” and always reaching for the Easy Button. Now, let me not be mistaken… it’s not that I don’t experience insecurities and difficulties like everyone else, but I’m not paralyzed or plagued by them anymore. 


Postpartum depression has guided me towards a more grateful heart. It has helped me see the gratitude in any situation. Is it hard to do this all the time? Yes, of course; I’m only human (with three kids!) But the amount of therapy I’ve experienced has helped me implement this practice into my daily life. I believe this will always be a work in progress, but “practice makes progress” not perfection. 

Most importantly, PPD led me to Catholicism. I haven’t shared with many people the story of my “Awakening”, but it happened during my stay in the hospital. The priest who married my husband and me, visited and performed the sacrament of “Anointing of the Sick” (something most people receive on their death bed). It was in that moment that I felt The Holy Spirit envelop me with His love and say, “It’s okay. I am here. I will never leave you.” It is bringing me to tears just writing these words and revisiting that precious moment. I used to repeatedly ask myself, “Why me?” Why did I *get* PPD? But going through what I did was suppose to happen to me. It was GOD’S WILL, and I believe that with my whole heart.

Even though life is seriously crazy, demanding, messy, and chaotic with an elementary school-aged child, preschooler, and infant at home, I’m much happier and confident with who I am NOW, than I ever was before. 

And I have Postpartum Depression to thank for that.

loyally (& always learning),
katie

We are human

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how far I’ve come as a mother. Most people know about my battle with Post-partum depression, and how horrendous it was. It may get deep here for a quick moment, so bear with me. Shortly after Emmalyn was born, I was convinced I was going to die–that something was terminally wrong with me. As time went on and I wasn’t feeling any better, I wanted to disappear. I wanted to float away on a cloud, have my mom take care of my daughter, and return when I felt like myself again. Flash forward (to almost) four years, and I haven’t returned to myself again. I’ve returned as a much better person.
 
Cognitive behavioral therapy helped me immensely. It aided me in becoming a better “me”. I was at the lowest of lows. You can’t get any lower than being brought to the emergency room, stating you’re suicidal, then being admitted to a behavioral hospital. On the ambulance ride from the ER to the behavioral health hospital I kept demanding answers from God, “Why? Why is this happening to me? I’m a good person, so why? Why?! Why?!!”
 
I now know why. God challenged me in ways I never knew were possible. He was stripping down my insecurities and building up my strengths. He was doing this so I could be the best mother possible to my daughter, and future children.
 
My spit-fire of a (almost) four year-old (!??!!) challenges me nearly every day. She can sometimes make me question if I’m doing a good job as a mother. She can overwhelm me and get my blood boiling with her gold medal temper tantrums. But she’s also tangible proof of my triumphs. She was put on this Earth by God to make me a better person.
 
I needed help. I couldn’t do it on my own. Life isn’t easy. It’s hard! No one should have to carry all the burden and do it alone. Sometimes reaching out for help is the kick-start we need to becoming our better selves. I know it was for me.
 
The other day when we were putting Emmalyn in the car, my husband called her a “doll baby.” Emmalyn shouted back, “I’m not a doll baby–I’m a human!” We laughed because it was so cute and innocent coming out of a three year-old’s mouth, but it stuck with me on a deeper level–because it’s true: We are human.
 
First and foremost, we are human. There are going to be days where we question if we’re doing the right thing. That’s “only human,” as the saying goes. If you and your baby are fed, bathed, and clothed, you are doing the right thing.
 
We cannot be so hard on ourselves. I know I am doing the right thing. YOU are doing the right thing, my friend. Because after all, we are human.
 
loyally,
katie
 
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Grateful.

 This is an oldie, but goodie. I have several friends who could currently use some prayers and encouragement. I want to share this with them, and you. It’s one of my favorites–from May 2011.

***

Have you ever tried worrying and being grateful at the same time?

Go ahead. Try. I’ll wait.
Did you do it?
Didn’t think so.
The antidote for worry is gratitude and well-being. It’s impossible to worry about something when you’re busy being grateful. Unfortunately, the same is true the other way around. You can’t be grateful for something if you’re too damn busy worrying about a million other things.
Have you ever been stuck smack in the middle lane of the interstate during 7AM traffic? Do you cope by blowing your horn, or huffing and puffing because you’re going to be late to work, only to get yourself so worked up, you actually break a sweat? And what does all that blood, sweat, and tears (I exaggerate. Kinda.) get you? A headache? Maybe two inches of black top, only to be cut off by a punk on a motorcycle? …aaaannnd, now we’re cursing.
Next time, instead of focusing on the negatives, why don’t you try being grateful? Katie, how can I be grateful for morning traffic?! Well, my friends (& I hope we can be friends!) it’s simple. You have to change your way of thinking and count your blessings: I may be sitting in bumper-to-bumper agony, but at least I have a car. There are people who have never even set foot in a car, let alone have paved roads. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful I have the money (at least for now) to fill up my tank. I’m grateful this seat belt is keeping me safe. I’m grateful I don’t have to walk to work. I’m grateful for my air conditioning & music to keep me company. And if, and only if, I’m stopped at a traffic light, I’m grateful for Facebook on my iPhone.
Have we forgotten about that punk on the motorcycle yet?
Good! And trust me, it works in all sorts of situations: Baby screaming? I’m grateful she has working lungs. Shins and calves burning after that two-mile run? I’m grateful I have legs to run on. With practice and determination, you’ll soon be riding the “Grateful Train” first-class to “Calmville.” Scout’s Honor.
Now how did I get to be all expert-y, noble & wise about gratitude?
{Hi, my name is Sarcasm. Nice to meet you.}
I am who I am today because of a nasty thing called Postpartum Depression; or “Hell,” for short. The past six months of my daughter’s life have been a whirlwind for me, to say the least. I, probably like most women, skimmed over the PPD sections in the baby books since ‘yanno… never thought it would happen to me. Ain’t that how the story goes?
Anywho… long story short: I found myself hospitalized for a week at a behavioral center. Most terrifying and astounding life-changing experience of my life! I’d like to share with you my personal testimony after spending an additional month in an outpatient recovery program:
Written on February 15, 2011
I have certainly come a long way in this ever so challenging journey. This has been by far the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. My dream has always been to be a mom, so when the foreign and nightmarish thoughts hit me like a brick, it scared the living day lights out of me, to say the least. The anxiety attacks were like nothing I’ve ever experienced or even seen before. I didn’t know who I was anymore.
The best decision I ever made was going to the hospital. Although it was absolutely terrifying at first, it was the right place for me to be. And PHP [the Partial-Hospitalized Program] has continued to help me tremendously. I have learned so much—especially about myself. I never knew I had so much strength and determination.
I learned that in order to gain massive momentum in my recovery, I had to get moving! That became my new mantra. I lacked a lot of motivation when I first stepped foot in here, but I soon realized it didn’t mean I couldn’t still do the things I used to love. I am capable. I am capable of so much. It took a lot of practice, but my mood is finally catching up.
I made a promise to myself to never give up no matter what! I wanted things to change, so with the picture of my husband and daughter in my mind, I knew the only way I was going to make that happen was to JUST DO IT! Even if I didn’t feel like it, I made myself do it because it was the right thing for my recovery. If I didn’t change my thoughts and behavior, then things were going to stay exactly as they were, and I definitely didn’t want that! I took my first step, stayed committed to my recovery, and things started becoming easier day by day.
Seven weeks ago, I was crying and screaming on the bathroom floor, begging to die; and now I’m playing flag football and caring for my daughter like I always knew I could. It’s hard to imagine I once thought about taking my own life, and now I would give it away in a heartbeat if it were to benefit my daughter.
I despised the fact that I got Postpartum Depression. I thought, Why me? Why is God punishing me? But now? Now, I see the beauty of this experience and how it has strengthened me. Every day I’m a little bit more of who I want to be. Every day I become a better person; and for that, I am truly grateful.
***
You can’t have a testimony without a test, right?
A fellow patient—a mom, who lost her twenty-six year-old [former soldier & current police officer] son, to a heinous murder as he was called to a robbery, told me I inspired her. Well if that doesn’t humble your heart, I don’t know what will! If she had the courage to dust herself off, then I surely didn’t have any excuses. I could hold my baby in my arms—she no longer could.
Life isn’t always easy. But it sure is worth the fight.
So that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it! I’m Katie. A devoted wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend, who strives to be the best I can be, every day, for all the right reasons.
loyally,
katie
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Dear Katie — A Letter to Myself

Throughout my pregnancy, I’ve had numerous people ask me if I’m concerned about going through Postpartum Depression again. I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t crossed my mind more than several times. I’m not scared, but I do want to take as many precautions as possible.

One thing I wanted to do is write myself a letter ahead of time—just in case the evilness sneaks up again, and I forget that everything will be all right.

:: :: ::
Dear Katie,

I feel hopeful that Postpartum Depression won’t show up for Round Two, but just in case, there are a few things I want you to remember:

YOU ARE CAPABLE
You got through hell once before, and God-forbid you have to do it again, you are highly capable. You’ve already proven just how strong you are.

GET OUT OF THE HOUSE
Even if it is just a walk around the block by yourself (or with Indy), get outside for some fresh air and vitamin D. It’s good for your soul.

DO YOGA
This is something that’s also good for your soul, and your well-being just in general. Do at least one yoga position a day. Make it a habit, a lifestyle.

ASK FOR HELP
There’s no shame in asking for help. You know you would jump at the opportunity to help another mom so there’s no reason someone wouldn’t do the same for you.

PHONE A FRIEND
If you’re feeling anxious, sad, overwhelmed, or whatever, pick up the phone and call someone. Keep calling until someone answers. Sometimes all it takes is hearing a friendly voice, validating your feelings.

LET IT GO
Turn on that damn song and sing it with Emmalyn if you want to, but let the phrase be a reminder to not sweat the small stuff! Dirty dishes piling up in the sink? Let it go. Toys all over the house? Let it go. Someone said something rude? Let it go… let it go...

PRAY

Keep an open line of communication with God. Don’t ever forget: The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you. It’s the truth. Give all your concerns, fears, and troubles to God. He will take care of them, and you! Stop and talk to God every!single!day!

SMILE
Stand in front of the mirror and smile at yourself every day, even if it makes you feel silly. Say one thing you like about yourself, or a mantra such as, “You are enough,” or “You are the right mom for your kids.”

JOURNAL IT

Write down how you are feeling. It’ll make you feel better to get it off your chest.

BE GRATEFUL
State at least one thing a day that you’re grateful for. Grateful hearts don’t have room for worries.

GIVE HUGS
Hug your husband and girls every single day. This one’s easy!

WALK AWAY
If you’re feeling like the world is crumbling down on you, put the baby down (and away from Emmy), give Emmy the iPad, and walk away. Close the door and cry if you need to. Take deep breaths and splash water on your face. Read a trashy magazine if you feel like it.

DRINK WATER
Take care of your body. If you are feeling run down, the first thing you should do is drink a large glass of water. Make sure you’re eating fresh fruits and vegetables, too!

IT WILL PASS
Tomorrow is a new day. Heck, twenty minutes from now may seem like a whole new day. “This too shall pass.” I promise it will. Hang in there.

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! YOU CAN DO IT!!

loyally,
katie
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The truth.

Most of you all know bits and pieces (or maybe a whole lot) about the postpartum depression I went through after Emmalyn was born. {If not, please click on the PPD link above} I held a lot back for several reasons, one of them being judgement. But I’m not afraid anymore, and I don’t want to hold back now that I’m pregnant a second time. I also don’t want to sit behind a computer screen, blogging about how amazing I feel, when I actually don’t. My experience is real, and I know I’m not alone. I admit, it’s a little scary to be sharing my personal life on the Internet, but if it helps just one person (whether now or in the future) than I feel like I’ve done something good in this world.

So here goes nothing! (or everything…)

This was written in my journal one month and five days ago:


I woke up, heart pounding of of my chest, sweat soaking the front of my shirt. I felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety seep through my veins, trapping me with an illogical thought that something bad was going to happen to Emmalyn and me.

I had convinced myself I’d be okay while Blake traveled to Texas for a week for casualty training. After all, I’ve been away from him for six weeks before; a week is nothing, right?

Well, apparently for some reason I was lying to myself. I got so nervous after he left that I became extremely emotional, crying uncontrollably. My dear sweet girl came over to me, asking me why I was crying. I told her it was because I missed Daddy. She said to me, “It’s okay mommy. Don’t cry. I’ll take care of you.” Which of course made me cry even more because of her innocent selflessness. She can be so sour at times, but she really has such a kind heart. She gave me hugs and kisses and two year-old promises that everything will be just fine.

I’m just so frustrated because my fears seem so real. I don’t want to go through what I went through last time, after Emmalyn was born. But most of all, I don’t want to put the people I love most through all the hardship again. They don’t deserve it.

I called my mom in hysterics, sharing everything. She wanted me to come down to stay with her for the week, but the thought of packing up, locking up, and traveling overwhelmed me even more. With some thought, she came to the conclusion that she would fly up and stay with me until B got back a week later.

After I talked to my mom I got a hold of B to fill him in on everything and he seemed to think I should stick out, with help from people already around me, instead of my mom swooping in to save the day.

I tried to explain to him that that’s what moms do! They come to the rescue when you need them. I understand his point of view, because I know I can’t always rely on my mom when things get tough, but this mental health shit scares me–and I don’t want to take any chances.

So my mom is flying in tomorrow and I don’t know how I’ll ever thank her!

I’m just so scared of what the future holds if I’m already feeling this emotional in the sixth week of my pregnancy. It’s going to be a long nine months!

But I can do it! I AM CAPABLE! With medical help, and help from my friends and family, I’ll get through it. Besides, there’s no turning back now! 😉

***

It’s been over a month since my panic attack, and I’m proud to report I’m doing so much better. The option of medication was given to me, but I’ve decided to take it week by week. However, if it’s something that is necessary down the road, I’m okay with it. Physically, I feel nauseous almost all day long, and I’m completely drained (no thanks to a two year-old to chase around), but mentally I am doing so much better. 

I have an amazing doctor and a therapist whom I’ve seen twice. They eased my guilt about getting support from my family. My doctor said, “If you had a heart attack, you wouldn’t feel guilty about them taking care of you, so having them take care of you for this is no different.” And my therapist told me to stop trying to be super wife and mom and go stay with my parents (and in-laws and friends) for a month while B has a month of night shift.

So that’s exactly what I’m doing. While it’s a bummer to be away from B, I realize I’d never seem him anyway, with us being on complete opposite schedules, so why not have a change of scenery and take care of myself and growing baby?! 

Thank you to all those who have known about this for weeks and have been by my side to help! 

loyally,
katie

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PPD: 2 Years Later

When Emmalyn was just several weeks old, and I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I once said to my mother, “I wish you could just take care of her for a couple of years, and I’d come back when I felt better.”

Emmalyn is two years old now.

Imagine everything I would have missed, had my wish actually came true?

I would have missed her learning how to crawl and laugh.

I would have missed her first steps.

I would have missed a bazillion irreplaceable hugs and slobbery kisses.

I would have missed her saying, “I love you, Mommy” for the first time.

My life would not be as rich and fulfilling as it is now if I had *sat out* the last two years. I’m thankful for those around me who pushed me to meet my potential in my role of motherhood.

Getting through depression really puts things in perspective. When I’m exhausted and can’t imagine enthusiastically reading We’re Going On a Bear Hunt for the umpteenth time, I think about how lucky I am to have a healthy child, and to be healthy myself. Some aren’t so fortunate. Some would give up everything they have to read to their child just one more time.

Postpartum depression or not, I still have days where I want to pull my hair out because Emmalyn has just thrown Cheerios all over the department store floor–again. There are days where I want to crawl up into a ball on the couch and wait for tomorrow. But my experiences have taught me how to *get it together* and BE the light at the end of the tunnel.

// // //

loyally,

katie

Flashback Friday

There are many… I repeat, MANY things I have anticipated sharing on my little piece of Interspace {i.e. Our Wedding Celebration… Emmy’s 1st Birthday… etc…} but for some reason or another I never got around to it.
Instead of feeling bad,  I’m just going to present this as: Flashback Friday. It’s a time where I will get caught up on important events from the past. Will I do it every Friday? Probably not. So it’ll be extra special when I do! 😉
So here’s my first…

What? Emmalyn’s 1st Birthday Party
                     {guess I better high-light this before she turns 2 in two months!!}


When? Saturday, November 19, 2011 (actual bday is 11/17)
Where? Our backyard {a.k.a. Emmalyn’s Enchanted Forest}
 
Who? So many of our family and closest friends came to celebrate our daughter’s first year of life. First birthdays are more for the parents, don’t you think? The invites should have said something like, “Come celebrate Katie and Blake’s first year of parenthood–they made it out alive!”
^ That’s my Dad! ^
yes, we like to dress up for celebrations.
& yes, that was my ballet recital costume from when I was 12.
Why? Go big or go home, right? I have never been one to comfortably enjoy celebrating my own birthday (I just don’t like being the center-of-attention), but I LOVE celebrating other people’s birthdays. & now that I have my daughter… well, that just makes me want to go crazy overboard! Planning, organizing, and creating events like these fulfill me. I love everything that’s involved in the process. It gets my creative juices flowing and is a sort of cheap therapy for me! 
In lei of gifts, we invited people to bring an item to contribute to Emmalyn’s “Time Capsule” to be opened on her 18th birthday. We received such creative things: from grocery store ads, to an iPhone case, to video diaries… some were wrapped up so even I couldn’t sneak a peak for another 18 years!
 
 
How? The whole party could not have been possible without the help of our super generous parents!
Before digging in to all the grub, we invited everyone to hold hands in a circle. It was by far my favorite part of the whole party. Blake opened up with a prayer of thanks, always knowing the perfect words to say. I, someone who barely speaks publicly, thanked everyone for all of their patience and support over the past year.
Everyone who was present knew of the postpartum nightmare I went through, and many of them went above and beyond to unselfishly take care of my new little family and me. It was such a surreal, emotional, humbling, and out-of-body experience, standing in that circle. In a second’s time, my mind flashed-back to all of the joy and pain I endured. But mostly, the circle of prayer brought me hope. Hope that I could make it through anything, after surviving the past year.
*
All I needed was a little faith, trust, and pixie dust 😉
*
loyally,
katie

PPD: I like where I’m headed

An entry from my journal, while going through postpartum depression:
written on march 6, 2011:

It’s been too long since I’ve written last and it frustrates me that I haven’t had time. I want to be able to write down all my thoughts everyday, but I haven’t gotten a chance. Between Emmalyn and all the [marriage] celebration commotion, I’ve had a lot going on. Oh, and let’s not forget trying to find a house to rent. This would be a lot for anyone to handle, but throw in Postpartum Depression–sheesh!

I was in such a funk today. I’m just so frustrated with planning the celebration. It’s in two weeks! I really just want to cry about it, but my medicine is preventing me from doing so. (I guess it’s doing it’s job then, huh?!) I want to be able to enjoy and cherish this moment in my life, especially since my grandma is coming down and has yet to meet Emmalyn. I don’t want to let everything else get to me.

I‘m super appreciative of my mom, who has gone above and beyond. On top of working full-time, she’s helping me with Emmy and the party plans. I am so grateful for her. A part of me wants to freeze time and soak up all the moments–all the way to its marrow; but the other part of me can’t wait until it’s all over and I can move on with life.

Today was sort of a waste of a day. I felt sorry for myself all day and I allowed myself to do so. I knew I shouldn’t, but I desperately wanted someone to hold me and tell me it was all going to work out and be all right. I wanted someone to validate my feelings. But that didn’t happen–at least not at that particular moment. I kept waiting for someone to hold me, and when no one did… I just fell more into a funk.

On the bright side, Emmy keeps me going. And I appreciate that. Once Em woke up from her morning nap (ehem… 1pm), I finally rolled out of bed. I fed Emmy, ate lunch, and then went for a drive through a prospective rental neighborhood. When I cam back home my mom and I went up to the mall. After the funky day I had, I was craving a mile-run.

I miss B so much, but I don’t regret what has happened. I’m a much different person–and while I’m still recovering, I like where I’m headed.

:::

To read more about my postpartum depression experience, click here.

loyally,

katie

Today I’m Featured On…

Chaunie over at Tiny Blue Lines just posted my interview on her site!
Chaunie is “a freelance writer, advocate and speaker for young women facing unplanned pregnancies, and most of all–full-time mom to two amazing little girls [& a boy on the way!] [She] also works as a nurse to pay the bills, but that’s a whole ‘nother story…”
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to her always honest and inspiring blog.
So what are you waiting for?!
Go! Check! It! Out! Now!
Right Here.
Or Here.
Or Here.
Then come back and tell me what you think!
*
loyally,
katie

PPD + My First 5K

My journal entry from February 2, 2011

 

Written first-thing in the morning:
Affirmation of the day: I AM CAPABLE.
Today, I am staying home from the partial-hospitalization program to be with Emmy. My therapist suggested this so I can put my coping skills (and everything I’ve learned) to use. Then tomorrow, I can talk about it in group therapy.
I am feeling confident that this day will go well. I know what I need to do, and I can do it. I will persevere!
Written later that same day: 
I am feeling discouraged right now. 3-4pm seems to be the time of day that gets me down. It’s really frustrating. Right now, I feel like, “How can I do this everyday? Is this really my life? When will it all be over?” I know I’m not supposed to project predicaments into the future because I’m going to feel different then, than I do now, but I can’t help it. I don’t know what I need. 

I was doing so well this morning. 

But now? 

Now I feel very discouraged and incapable. 

It scares me because it’s not who I really am. 

It doesn’t make any sense. 

My dream was to be a stay-at-home-mom.  

So why is this happening to me?  

Why am I so miserable? 

This isn’t supposed to happen to me. 

I feel like I’m being punished.

– – – –

The latter is just an example of how mixed up my emotions could be. I felt like this e.v.e.r.y.d.a.y. for months. I’d wake up chipper and confident, then throughout the day I’d feel like my world was crumbling apart and I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. 
Over and over… again and again. It. Was. Exhausting!
I recently ran my first 5K. It’s the most I’ve ever ran my entire life. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to give up and walk. But I promised myself from the beginning that walking was not an option. I was going to run the whole damn thing! The race wasn’t a straight line. No, it would be too easy if you could see the finish line. Instead, the race took me through neighborhoods, downtown offices, and a lake–turning and swerving all the way. [Just ask my poor unsuspecting collar bone who got a nice jab from the elbow of a 6’5” man.]

& just like the race, Postpartum Depression took me through numerous turns and swerves. As soon as I was confident that my triumph was finally coming to an end, BAM! another curve would pop up.

Damnit… it’s not over yet. 

Okay, just a little bit more….

You can do it. 

Just keep breathing.

Keep moving.

Keep doing.

You’ll get there. 

Run.

Don’t walk. 

Don’t let yourself down. 

I imagined my husband in the sea of cheering people, running alongside me, shouting encouraging words: You can do it, Katie. You’re doing great, Sweetheart. You’re almost there. Just a little bit longer. Look! You can see the finish flags!

My husband was my #1 supporter and encourager during the toughest stretch of my life. Not a day went by where he didn’t tell me he believed in me–that I’m a wonderful mother. I was surrounded by many people who told me it would get better. And just like the race had to come to an end at some point, so did my postpartum depression.

I just had to keep moving, believing, and persevering.

***

Loyally,

Katie