I love my dogs. It’s not unusual, nor is it something not to be proud of.
I’m unable to have children, but dammit, I’m one hell of a doggie mom. I’m not all weird about it or anything – I don’t have little puppy clothing or diamond collars. I don’t buy my dogs exotic food more expensive than my own.
I do let the little dog, Bettie, sleep on the bed with me, and I totally use a weird voice when talking to her. I even call her “Pretty Girl.”
Ugh. I’m sickening.
I let the big dog, Fritz, sleep on the bed when the husband isn’t in it. He’s too large to sleep on the bed if that pesky man is there, otherwise you bet your sweet ass he’d be cuddled up next to me and Bettie.
I play fetch with Fritz – who also goes by “Mr. Foo” and “Handsome Puppy Face” – with his squeaky hedgehog toy. He’s nine and has arthritis in his hip, but he’ll run around like a puppy when you throw something for him to fetch. I swear he thinks he’s a year-old pup.
He can “sing” on command, and I’ve learned recently that he digs Motown and ’80’s music. He sits, shakes, and stands up either by hand signal or vocal commands. He even smiles! I promise. I have pictures to prove it! He’s the sweetest boy you’ll ever meet.
Bettie isn’t quite as talented in the ol’ trick department, but she makes up for it in cuteness. She’s small and shaggy and sweet. She follows me around the house wherever I go – like we’re on some sort of adventure when I’m walking to the refrigerator to grab a soda. She has some bizarre quirks like growling when a cell phone, soda can, or the like come near her tiny, little face. We’re teaching her to do some of the tricks that her “brother” does, but so far all she’s learned is how to sit and sing… sort of. Nothing cracks me up more than her high pitched squeal that is indescribable and oh-so endearing.
She’s a Mama’s Girl, even if the husband does call her “Daddy’s Little Princess” when no one is around.
For my Dose of Happy, I thought about writing about the husband (I still may), but I decided that people like me, who are/were unable to have any children, would appreciate a little levity about being a pet parent.
I love my dogs, and even though I was not able to conceive, I still have my sense of humor. I also have two furry creatures who need me.
They’ve been there with their unconditional love every time I’ve needed it. They’ve helped me when I was so sad I couldn’t breathe. They’ve listened to me sobbing and screaming. The only thing they have ever needed in return was my love. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
My therapist has asked me to write down a list.
A list of all the traumatic experiences that have happened to me in my life, that have contributed to my Bipolar Disorder and PTSD.
Right now, my therapist doesn’t feel as though I’m ready for the therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). As far as I understand, I have to relive my traumatic experiences, have the proper emotional response, get over it, then have Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) so I can develop some sort of coping mechanism for the future. But until my medications are adjusted and I’m in a better place, I have to wait.
So, here is my list:
Sexual abuse around age 3 by a family member. I repressed this memory until it slapped me in the face at age 12, causing an intense anxiety attack.
Constant arguing between my parents, thanks to my father’s alcoholism, gambling, and pain issues due to needing a hip replacement. The pain issue turned into an anger issue; turned into a power tool being thrown at my mother, missing, and going through the window and landing at my feet; followed by an argument on a holiday with my father resulting in me taking a heavy duty power torch to the head.
As a “gifted child,” I was bullied a lot in primary school and high school. I still carry some of those emotional scars with me.
Funnily enough, my brain is currently trying to stop me from accessing more memories. Suck it, brain; stop being a whiny bitch and let me write this shit out.
When I was 16, my mother – being severely depressed – attempted suicide several times. The last time she tried, she had an argument with my father (now a better man, nothing like his days in my earlier life), and downed a ton of pills. I found her and her suicide note. I actively suppress the things written on that note, but if I actively access that memory, the note started with “I no longer fear death. In fact, I embrace it.” That sentence haunts me in my dreams. She is fine now, thankfully, but I refused to talk about it with anyone and pretended it never happened.
I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder when I had a panic attack at high school so bad my heart rate was 180, and I had to be rushed to hospital for fear of doing damage to my heart. Since that day, I regularly have palpitations.
I had a psychotic episode at 17, when voices told me to stab my mother. I became paralyzed in my own bed while lights shone down from the ceiling, and I was convinced aliens were coming for me, despite my logical brain telling me I was being stupid.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis and told I should probably have children before 25. I’m currently a week away from my 24th birthday.
I moved out of my family home to the capital of my state to attend university. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at this stage, and promiscuity, sleepless nights, shopping sprees, and severe irritability kicked in.
I dated a Muslim man for eight months. Toward the end of the relationship, I was emotionally abused, when he called me a dog. I went running into the arms of a male friend.
I decided I was the worst person in the world and went off screwing any guy who looked my way, drinking myself into oblivion, and eating pills like candy, just to numb the pain. I wanted to be used. I asked my male friend – now my fuck buddy – if he was using me for sex. He replied yes. I cried and said, “good.” Turned out he wasn’t using me: he was in love with me; as a result of my promiscuity, and his inability to tell me how he felt, he quit university, broken-hearted.
I started dating my current partner, whom I have been with for five years now. We lived with his sister, her fiancé, and their daughter. His sister is a lazy bully who cannot look after herself, let alone children (currently a total of three). Her fiancé is a violent, alcoholic gambler. After being made a prisoner in my own bedroom, we got our own place.
My diagnosis of fibromyalgia explained my constant pain and tiredness. Yay for inheriting every single shitty illness my parents have.
Recently, I have started to have feelings for a close friend, who also has a partner. While drunk, we have made out twice. I have feelings for him, but he is just attracted to me. I have immense guilt over betraying my partner, who is emotionally stunted. I think I’m just attracted to my friend because he has the social and emotional skills my partner lacks.
I was severely bullied at my last job until I began having daily panic attacks and getting into a screaming matches with a higher-up and former friend.
I decided to self-harm and contemplated suicide when the medication I was taking for five years stopped working. Unfortunately, while the medication stopped working, my now non-existent libido did not return.
Have also suffered Dermatillomania (chronic skin-picking) for most of my life, particularly my feet. It is disgusting.
Currently, I am plagued by insomnia, headaches, anxiety, shame, severe depression, guilt, and every other horrible feeling imaginable. According to my therapist, I have feelings of low self-worth. According to my friends, I have a much lower opinion of myself than everyone else does of me.
I am both numb and emotionally unstable. I can’t cry, even though I really want to let it out. I think of myself as selfish and horrible, a terrible person who doesn’t deserve what I have. I theorize that I have some subconscious need to sabotage myself. Every time something is going well, just to add some drama in my life. Why I do this, I don’t know. And as I have written this list in such a cold, emotionless manner, I find it odd that I can be so numb and feel so many negative emotions at the same time. I feel like a robot.
I don’t want sympathy. At least, I don’t think I do. I am just tired. Tired of struggling through every day with these issues. I want the problems to just magically disappear because I’m tired of fighting.
I know it’s a long road ahead to my recovery. And as much as I don’t want to relive the aforementioned memories, I am also excited for the first time in ages because maybe, finally, with proper therapy…
…maybe I’ll finally get some peace and closure.
Dear Mom and Dad,
I have waited a long time to write this. High school, college, my first job, my first apartment.
Your firstborn is finally an adult.
We’ve addressed the issues before. Usually at the kitchen table, or as you stand in my doorway while I cry in my bedroom. I have yelled. I have called you assholes, terrible parents.
I blamed you for fucking me up.
You did fuck me up.
I am an adult now, so it isn’t your job to parent me any more. To teach me acceptance of self. To tell me I am beautiful; perfect the way I am. To tell me I deserve only the best. To tell me that guy who broke my heart is crazy for letting me get away. To tell me I am a catch. A good person. A talented artist. A fountain of possibility. A woman with an amazing life ahead of her.
You weren’t there for me when I was bullied in middle school and high school. You wrote it off as “being a kid” or “well, that’s high school,” but I was a kid. I was in high school. That’s all I knew. I didn’t have your hindsight.
When I found the note in the garbage during science class, the one that was written about me by two girls in the class, you weren’t the ones who held me and told me it would be okay.
You didn’t acknowledge the pain that I felt when I read those words – ‘she’s such a stupid bitch. I wish she’d just like jump off a cliff.’
You told me they were being stupid and childish. You told me to brush it off.
You found the suicide note that I penned at 11 years old. You were going through my stuff. I was so mad at you. You sent me to therapy, and we never spoke of it again.
When I was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, you didn’t help me shoulder the burden. You didn’t cry with me. You didn’t buy any books on the topic. You didn’t do the Walk for Mental Health charity 5k that I KNOW happened several years ago.
Why didn’t you do that?
When I overdosed in college and you came to pick me up, you silently drove me home to your house, two hours away, where I stayed the entire weekend to “get away from everything.” On Sunday night, you asked if I was okay.
I’m okay. Two days ago I tried to kill myself, again, but you know, sure, okay, I’m fine.
And then you put me on a bus back to school.
And we never spoke of that weekend again.
I stayed in therapy.
When I gained all of that weight, because of the PCOS, and I was sad, miserable, and feeling less than worthy of anything, you bribed me with a new car to lose 20 lbs. You didn’t tell me I was pretty. You didn’t tell me size was just a number. You didn’t tell me to go out and have fun with my friends, to not care about what I looked like, to know that it was the inside the counted the most.
You told me you’d buy me a car, and when I starved myself for two months, you handed me the keys.
You never told me it would get better.
But then there was your second child.
I know now that parents have favorites. Do you love all three of us? Of course you do. If something were to happen to any one of us, would it break you? I would hope. But when all three of your kids stand in front of you, you know who your favorite is.
He is your favorite child.
He grew up bubbly, fun, surrounded by friends. Smart, adorable, well-behaved. Charming.
I hated him from the beginning. Remember the time I spilled hot soup on him when he was three? Remember the time I yanked a huge chunk of hair out of his head when he was seven?
I was, undoubtedly, your angry child.
But somewhere along the path of growing up, he became my favorite too. When you guys didn’t care about my broken heart, he did.
When I needed help with stats, he always knew the answers.
When I was in my darkest moments, fearing the end, I remembered that while I idolized him more than he looked up to me, I had a little brother to take care of.
He encouraged me when you didn’t. He took me seriously when you brushed me off. He laughed at my jokes. He asked to spend time with me. He got to know me beyond being his sister and your daughter.
All the while, he shined. Confident, secure, compassionate; he encompassed everything you’d look for in another human being. He made for great company.
He is gay.
You didn’t bribe him to change. You didn’t encourage him to shy away from his friends because he was getting used to his new skin. You just didn’t.
He was still beautiful. He was still talented. He was still smart. No matter what he “was” – he was still your son. My brother. And you loved him for exactly who he was, exactly who he is, just as you did before, just as you always will.
The acceptance was instant. It was non-negotiable.
He was surrounded by your love – the same love I lacked when it came to my yearning for your acceptance. Your non-negotiable support.
I resented you. I resented him.
In the wake of the recent suicides within the LBGQT community, I am so thankful that my little brother was one of the few who was enveloped in love and support from the very beginning.
That he became so much more that could define him other than his orientation.
That his life was so filled with possibility, he never wanted it to end.
You did not grace me with an abundance of love at the times I needed it the most. Perhaps it was because I was your first – your oldest – your first “go” at all things parenting. Perhaps you had no idea what to do, so you chose to do nothing. I know that as a child, I was different. I had different needs. As an adult, I can understand that. And I can empathize.
But thank you for being exactly the type of parents my little brother needed.
If you had been different, if things had been different…well, I don’t know how to even write the words that follow. I can’t write them.
All I know is that I am grateful for him – the one person that in my darkest hour will tell me, “Caroline…it gets better.”
My little brother.
This is the story no one wants me to tell – that no one wants to hear. But this is my story, and The Band gives me the space where I can tell it.
I was always a dancer. Nothing else mattered to me. It was my go-to activity after a bad breakup, I focused on what I could do: dance. Dance became all I ever wanted – my happy place, my home. I knew I was missing out on dating during high school, but no man could compare with dance.
I wasn’t supposed to go to that Big Band dance. I was supposed to be in bed, but my friend dragged me out, still in my PJ’s with stage hair and make-up from an earlier performance. And if I hadn’t seen that guy who hurt me dancing at that moment, I wouldn’t have gone for a drink. If I hadn’t gone for a drink, I wouldn’t have tripped. If I hadn’t tripped, he wouldn’t have caught me. He was Chuck*, a guy I knew through a friend. Soon, he became my own nightmare.
We talked the rest of the night, soon we were always talking, always together, and I found myself falling. Three weeks later, he told me that he’d gotten back together with his ex. We were watching a movie on my couch as we talked, and somehow, that night, we ended up making out — he got in my pants. I hated myself for that: I’m better than this, I told myself, but an evil voice whispered, He’s the only one who wants you. He is the ONLY one who will EVER want you.
He told me tales of his horrible, abusive mother and his girlfriend. He told me he truly wanted to be with me, and, like a fool, I believed him. This is how I became the “other woman.” Three months I sat by, believing that if I showed him how much I loved him, he would leave her to be with me.
Finally, in late January, I told him to decide who he wanted, and to stay out of my life until then.
He called me in March to tell me they’d broken up. We started fooling around again and I felt like less of a whore. Three days after my 18th birthday, in April, he asked me out, and a week later, I lost my virginity to him.
Soon I found myself at college, where I was studying dance. I thought things were great between us until he started threatening me. He’d tell me if I went out with my friends, he would break up with me, or how horny he was; how he was going to “give a shit-ton of chocolate and honey to a girl and get [himself] jumped.” This scared me.
Deep in my gut, I knew he’d already cheated on me over the summer, but I ignored it. I changed how I lived — made myself sick. I started to cut myself again, fell back into my anorexic ways, and hated myself. I was only happy when I was with him.
My wise Mama saw the signs, the downward spiral I was in. She tried to help, and I just shoved her away.
One night, I asked him if he’d ever cheated on me. This started a huge fight and he dumped me. After hours where I begged his forgiveness, promising I’d never to ask him if he’d cheated on me again, he took ME back.
I became so sick, so weak that I blew my knee out. My career was over. I was lost.
Chuck was happy – I left that college and moved home. I was half living with him, and still believed that I was happy. I swore I was happy even though he never took me out, never told his friends about me, canceled dates, and stood me up. I was never allowed to have a life outside of him. Another warning sign I wish I’d noted.
Soon, I was trying to rebuild my life when he broke up with me again: “We need a break so you can focus on healing yourself. But you’re always welcome to spend the night,” he said. Now I know he just wanted to keep me as a bed-warmer.
He left for a family vacation. During that time, I was raped by someone I’d trusted.
Chuck went crazy, calling me a worthless whore when he found out. A month after the rape, after I’d begged for his forgiveness, he took me back. Not as a girlfriend, though, because we still “needed time” to heal.
For the next four months, my life consisted of waiting for him to decide to take me back as his girl. If I denied him sex, if I didn’t risk falling asleep driving from my new college dorm to his place, if I didn’t skip classes to sleep because he’d kept me up all night, I was the most horrible human being in the world. If I did anything to anger him, he would scream, telling me how pathetic I was. When we talked, he talked down to me, as if I were a naïve child, incapable of understanding. If I countered him in any way, he’d yell and threaten me.
Chuck called me right after I found out my Mama had cancer. He managed to convince me he was going to break up with his girlfriend, and we would be together again. Like a total idiot, I believed him. But as my Mama got sicker, I spent less time with him and more with her. He made me feel guilty for it, but she needed me. Just four months later, she was dying.
At this point, Chuck was diagnosed with a disease that attacked his nervous system, but I couldn’t be in two places at once. When he was high on his medications, he’d become violent with me, so I stayed away from him. He was still with his girlfriend, and I was starting to have my doubts about him.
I lived alone at my parent’s house while my Dad stayed at the hospital with my Mama. My school was between the hospital and our house, so I became an expert at commuting. My friend, Tom, would stay the night with me – we took turns sleeping on the floor or couch because I didn’t want him to sleep in my room. When I had nightmares, he’d hold me until I fell asleep.
Dad and I were at lunch the Tuesday after finals. He had driven up to check on me, and as we ate, we got the phone call that Mama was gone. I hugged him as I cried, and went outside to text my friends before going back to force myself to finish lunch. When I got home, Tom was waiting for me. He held me as I sobbed uncontrollably laying on my Mama’s side of my parents’ bed. He held me until my Dad came home, and I finally let go of him.
Tom came to the funeral and sat behind me, rubbing my shoulder when I cried. Dad and my best friend, Cat, held my hands. Cat joined my family for dinner that night; Tom was over the next day.
Chuck sent a text four hours after Mama died. “I’m sorry, hon.” He didn’t come to the funeral. Didn’t even text or call to ask how I was.
Soon afterward, Chuck’s girlfriend asked Tom if he was cheating on her. Tom stayed quiet for me. He gave Chuck, his old friend, a choice: tell his girlfriend that he was cheating or Tom would. Chuck sent the two of us the same text: “I refused to pick between you two, so I pick neither.”
This was two weeks to the day after my Mama died.
I screamed at Tom; I felt so betrayed. But the worst, most hurtful thing that Chuck said to me: “You were nothing but something to keep me happy when she didn’t. I never wanted you. I was happy with her. Why would I ever be with you? You’re nothing to me. And now, because of you and your buddy Tom, she dumped me. Thanks. You ruined the only chance I had to be happy.”
Tom had, after all, told the girl she was being cheated on.
I was sick in bed for four days after that. I stopped answering my phone, deleted all texts from Chuck without reading them – I knew he was just being ugly. Finally, all the warnings I’d gotten and ignored made sense: he was nothing but a manipulator who’d used me. And I’d let him. He’d manipulated me into believing whatever he said. I believed that God had killed my mother as punishment to me for being such a pathetic excuse of a human.
Tom finally came to my door. I hugged him so tightly and cried until I fell asleep.
Tom became my lifeline and soon I was in love with him. He treated me better than any guy ever had, he listened, he tried to help me heal. I tried to deny what I felt for my friend, but when you feel nothing but shattered and empty, you hold on to any other feeling like it’s the only thing keeping you alive. We ended up sleeping together as we tried to figure out what we were becoming.
Tom and I were still trying to figure out what was going on when he decided to tell his ex-girlfriend – one of my best friends – Jane what had happened. Jane broke that night. She told me that I was a whore and never to talk to her again. Tom left and the last I heard from him was a letter confessing that it was all his fault and he was no better than Chuck. Jane moved home after school, and though I have seen her twice, she turns away and pretends I don’t exist while I fight not to cry or run up and hug her. I love her, and I hate myself for hurting her.
Chuck is gone from my life, and my Dad forced me into therapy. I find my wounds from Chuck are still bleeding. Because of him I am depressed, have severe anxiety, am a borderline alcoholic and borderline sex addict. I am also a survivor of emotional and sexual abuse. In relationships, I panic and shut down completely. I cannot handle being yelled at and actually went off on a professor when he began to say the same things Chuck had said to me.
Tom helped me, he made me a better person, and because of him I had the strength to return to my church and my faith after Chuck pulled me from it. I know my only path for forgiveness is in God, and through my faith, I have forgiven Chuck. I cannot manage to forgive myself for the years of pain I have caused. I pray someday I might be forgiven by both Jane and Chuck’s ex-girlfriend, Gina, and that I will be able to hug them each one last time.
I pray that, by a miracle, I can talk to Tom and find out how he feels about me. I still love him. The same voice of hope that whispered that my Mama was going to be alive to help me celebrate the end of finals, whispers that maybe Tom and I will have a chance at a future together….
I wish that somehow everything will turn out okay. I cannot explain how much I hate myself for what I did; who I became. I want nothing more than to hug my friends again and to feel that something in my life will be right again. I pray and wish and hope to be forgiven, even if I feel like I don’t deserve it.
This is my story. This is what no one wanted me to say, what no one wanted to hear. But it was time for me to tell my story, and maybe time for the truth to come out.
*Names changed to protect privacy.
A long, long time ago, my father invented the Internet. As in, he worked for network solutions and laid down cables that later became what we know today as the Internet. A few years later, that company was bought out and the higher-ups were given a fat check and let go. That’s the official story, anyway. It didn’t really go down like that, but I’m not allowed to tell that truth. I’m sketchy on the details myself, anyway.
So, my father started plans to begin his own business. While he waited to get things set up, he did day-trading of stocks online. One thing led to another, it took a while, and then his father died. Suddenly, the money he had saved was getting his mom (who later remarried) out of financial trouble. With his money for starting the business gone, he continued to do day trading and living off of his retirement fund.
As the years went by, and the stock market started to not do so well, my father became very depressed. He had many dreams of how to support himself, but nothing seemed to be panning out. One day while painting his home, he took a bad fall off of a ladder that was located at the top of some stairs. When he fell off the ladder, he went down the stairs, as well, and the ladder went with him. This fall left him in massive amounts of pain and feeling very depressed.
Not too long afterward, my mom received a copy of his will and his suicide letter in the mail.
That was a long day.
The police in North Carolina, where he lived, entered his home to find him alive, but very sick in his bed after taking an entire bottle of morphine. He proceeded to spend the next week in the psychiatric ward of his local hospital. Around this time, 9/11 happened.
That was a long week.
The doctors at the hospital pumped my father full of antidepressants and continued to see him on an out-patient basis. That medication was not good to him.
Here is where I will never know the full truth, and I’ll explain why later.
There is a small percentage of people who can’t take certain antidepressants. The medications do not metabolize well in them. My father is one of those people. It causes psychotic breakdowns and has led to some violent crimes (for other people – my father never got that bad), as well as memory problems and seizures. When my father went to talk to his doctors about what happened, they refused to discuss it and slapped a silence order on his therapist. My father stopped seeing them – all of them – as well as going off all medications. None of my doctors in the field have ever heard of problems like that with the antidepressant they had put my father on. So is it that rare? Or is my father that messed up mentally? More on that in a minute.
My father still has the memory problems and the seizures. He talks to people who aren’t there. Always has. He does this when he mumbles. He’ll never admit to it, but you can sometimes hear what he’s saying. He also has fanciful tails of the security clearance he used to have for the government, the people he advised, the projects he worked on. These stories are all the truth as he knows it.
Have you ever seen the movie A Beautiful Mind? My father reminds me of the home game.
Will I ever know the truth?
Only if my father receives a diagnosis that points us in one way or the other. And with my dad’s paranoia of the system – any system – we most likely never will see that diagnosis.
My opinion is that while at times I think my mom might have BPD, I’m pretty sure my father does. Everything fits well, and my acorn did not fall far from that tree. If my father is indeed having delusions, that would fit in well to Schizotypal, only in his case, I think it’s been his truth for so long, that he honestly believes it. Or who knows, maybe it really is the truth. As I said, I may never know.
I have to wonder, will I ever know the truth?
You are my sunshine
My son has taught me how to live, love and grow in ways I could have never understood before. His very being keeps me going and gives me purpose. It is a love like no other.
My only sunshine
After nearly three years of trying to get pregnant, (including an ectopic pregnancy, surgery and infertility) in June of 2009 I successfully conceived. I didn’t allow myself to get too attached while I went for weekly blood draws and ultrasounds to monitor my early pregnancy.
As the first trimester passed and we saw our tiny bean grow into a perfectly formed tiny baby, the hope in me stirred and I began to let myself feel joy. Anxiety continued, however, as I underwent frequent fetal echocardiograms to evaluate the baby for a heart condition he was at risk of developing.
The second trimester came and went and his heart remained perfect; we were in the clear.
In my third trimester, at 32 weeks, I started having contractions, followed two hospital visits for pre-term labor. At home, I remained on bedrest, and made it to the 37th week.
My labor was quick and my beautiful baby boy was born perfect and healthy at 6 lb., 1 oz.
I felt the biggest relief in my life when I saw my newborn baby. This joy quickly dissolved when the OB began the repairs. I began feeling very funny. I was trying to communicate how weird I was feeling when I found I was unable to speak. Ringing in my ears drowned out the sounds and I slipped into unconsciousness.
This is it, I thought. My baby was born healthy, but I’m paying for it by dying in childbirth.
The next thing I knew I woke up on the Mother-Baby Unit. The nurses there cheerfully told me I had experienced lidocaine toxicity and my baby was with my husband in the nursery. I ached to see his face and hold his perfect body. When they returned, I instantly felt a jolt of joy and energy as I acquainted myself with my new family.
Two days later, we were discharged and went home as a new family of three. Our families had camped out at our house but we sent them home to have the space to figure out what we were doing.
The next few days were quiet but things did not feel right with the baby. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with him. My milk came in late and my son became dehydrated and difficult to arouse.
After that crisis resolved, we received a concerned call from the pediatrician. The results from A’s metabolic screen were positive for a rare but potentially fatal disease. They cautioned us that there are many cases of false positives, but I went into panic mode. We stayed on alert night and day to watch him breathe. We had to wait for a week for the news that it was an error. He was fine.
You make me happy when skies are grey
The weeks after were full of relief, bliss and love.
I managed through the marathon feedings and fell more in love with my son each day. Parenting seemed to come naturally to my husband. I finally had everything I dreamed of. Then at 11 weeks, A did a remarkable thing: he slept through the night.
Usually a cause for celebration, this milestone marked the beginning of my downfall. I felt as though this gift I had dreamed of for so long was a mirage and could be taken from me at any moment. The lines between fear and reality became blurred.
First, I stopped being able to sleep. I felt the need to rest my hand on the baby’s chest to feel the reassuring rise and fall. I started having the most disturbing images in my head. These horrifying images tortured me relentlessly. I felt constantly nervous and on edge. I felt so agitated I couldn’t keep my body still. When I lay in bed, my legs wouldn’t stop moving.
I had the most intense feeling that sometime terrible was about to happen to my son, A. Something that I had to stop. Soon, I was having stomach problems and I couldn’t keep anything down. I started going days straight without sleeping. I stopped eating solid foods. I lost twenty pounds in a month. I became weak and fragile.
The images I’d seen before were now coupled with horrifying phrases in my head. They all involved seeing my baby hurt. I had urges to do things like bang my head on the shower wall to stop them. These urges were like the most intense itch you know you should never scratch. I felt if I didn’t give in to them, I would jump out of my skin or explode.
During the day, I had panic attacks where I felt like I was dying; my arms went numb, my heart raced, I became sick to my stomach and felt paralyzed.
At night; the baby and my husband tucked safely in bed, I started having these urges to disappear. I wondered how fast I could pack everything up and drive off before they awoke. I thought if I disappeared, my baby would be able to grow and thrive and would be better off without me.
My husband did not understand what was going on and became very angry. We fought constantly. I had to ask him to stay home from work or leave work numerous times because I didn’t feel safe alone with the baby.
Soon, I found myself unable to get out of bed. I wondered if I was dying or losing my mind. I didn’t want to live anymore. I pictured milestones in A’s life without me present. I became obsessed with planning A’s birthday party because I had the distinct feeling that I wouldn’t be around by then. The day came when I couldn’t take another second.
That was when I reached out to my Mom.
You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you
I’d always wanted to get better. For my son, for myself and for my family.
I didn’t want anyone to know what a bad mother I was so I tried to stop visitors and kept phone calls brief. I’d been refusing to take the medications I needed because they were not compatible with nursing. Having to suddenly wean my baby was like a final blow of failure to me.
After my urgent phone call to my Mom, she left work in the middle of the day without packing a thing, got on the highway and talked to me on the phone until she arrived three hours later.
She took me to the midwife, who sent me to the ER to be admitted. But because I told them I had no imminent plans to kill myself, they wouldn’t admit me. They gave me sleeping pills and the address of an urgent care psych center.
Problem was, the place was a partial-hospitalization program, which my insurance did not cover and would require me to be away from my son during the day. I felt helpless and desperate. I didn’t have any hope of anyone being able to help me. I was taking the medication, but it didn’t seem to be doing anything for me. Things escalated at home with my husband and I really feared hurting myself, so I packed our stuff and we left.
After my Mom and my sister helped me get settled in, things started to turn around. I moved in with my sister who was a huge support to me. I had family and friends around me constantly. I had the help I needed to care for A while taking care of myself. I sought help at a local center devoted to postpartum mood disorders and began to see a psychiatrist and therapist regularly.
I was given a name for what I was going through: Postpartum OCD. I joined a local support group that meets monthly and I met the most amazing and inspiring women who really get it and have been there. Their strength was contagious. I starting believing that I could get better.
The horrible thoughts in my head started to disappear. I felt more connected with my son. I still had some panic attacks where I felt myself regressing and dark thoughts would again invade my brain. Sometimes, I felt like I wasn’t getting better at all and there was no point to struggling through it.
But I learned to reach out to those who cared about me when I felt this way. During my darkest days the phrase “this will not end well” would repeat itself in my head, this mantra was now replaced by “this too shall pass.”
Please don’t take my sunshine away
Time, therapy and medication have given me my life back. My recovery has been full of ups and downs; good and bad days. I am still working on mending relationships. But as the autumn came, I felt my old self emerge.
I will never be the person I was before I had a child, but I am a stronger, wiser woman. I have found I am strong enough to make it on my own, but that the support of others is essential. I am learning to enjoy the moments without obsessing about what will come next. I am learning to let go of complete control and let my son explore and experience with my guidance.
It’s a new way of living, and it’s very freeing. I am able to enjoy every day with A. He amazes me on a daily basis. I don’t know what challenges or heartaches I might face in the future, but now I am healthy and strong enough to face them head-on. And if I’m not, I will still be okay because of the support system I have.
And in February, I will be at my son’s first birthday party, celebrating his year of thriving and mine of survival.