Saturday, April 5, 2014

An Honest Reflection

One year ago, I was admitted to the ER. Head trauma? Broken bone? Bleeding profusely? No, not any of these things. An illness of a different sort.

One year ago, I drove myself to the ER for postpartum anxiety/depression. I cried on the phone with my doctor. I cried the whole way to the hospital. I cried the entire time I was there. And I cried the whole drive home. I probably cried that whole day for all I know, maybe that whole week.

Why was I crying? Was it because I was scared? Sad? Was it because I had been fighting my greatest demon and had come out on bottom? Yes, it was all those things. But on top of that, I was relieved. Relieved to look at someone and say, "I've done everything I can on my own. I need help. I need help, please help me."

And even more than all that, I was ashamed. Guilty. Embarrassed.

I knew everything there was to know about postpartum depression. I knew all the symptoms, all the possible feelings, all the risk factors. I definitely knew that it was not the mother's fault, it was hormones, it was chemicals, it was things firing in the brain at all the wrong times.

And yet, when I was at my worst, the things I knew were not to be found.  They were buried so deeply that I could not remember. If someone told them to me, I could not believe them. My mind was turning and churning with a million other thoughts. What kind of mother am I to think those things? What kind of horrible person am I? What a worthless waste of a person. Worthless, horrible, lazy, unaccomplished...... Am I in control? What if I hurt someone? What if I'm not depressed, what if this is who I really am? What if I go to sleep, and I wake up, and Kallan suffocated in the night or was kidnapped? What if I go to sleep and the fan falls on Kallan and squishes her? What if I go to sleep, and I wake up to find out that I have killed her in the night? Am I crazy? I am. I am crazy. This is me, I'm a bad person. I'm a horrible mother for having these feelings. Horrible.  Monstrous. I should be ashamed, embarrassed. No other moms feel this way. I should be loving every minute with my baby.  I should be happy! I have everything I ever wanted.  How dare I think those things? No one but a sick, evil human could possibly think those things.

I had been battling postpartum anxiety/depression for months and months. Entirely due to weeks of encouragement from Erik, I finally called my OB to come in and have a chat about it. I owe everything to him!

But still, after getting help, I was still convinced that I could get rid of it on my own. I was sad, I was anxious, but if I changed my lifestyle, things would get better. It would go away. But no, depression is a bigger monster than that. As soon as I thought things started getting a little better, they would suddenly be about ten times worse.

Then, enter "intrusive thoughts." It was about three days after I saw my therapist and told her how much better I'd been feeling lately.  I will always remember when it first happened. I was sitting on the couch with Erik, and he was bouncing Kallan on his lap. She was laughing, smiling. We all were. And then out of nowhere, in my mind I'm throwing her against the wall, on the ground. I burst into tears, I ran to the bathroom and sobbed.  I remember feeling afraid to tell Erik. What would he think of me? Even after that, I had such a hard time just calling the doctor because I knew what I would say, and I was ashamed.  I think it took me several hours to make the call, and I think it would've taken a lot longer if Erik hadn't been at home.

"I'm having thoughts about hurting my baby." I could barely say the words, but I did. And it saved me. Not right away, but things got better.

You might wonder why I'm writing this post. I've been seeing so many of my peers becoming moms. I know what it feels like to be a new parent, the pressure and the anxiety that comes from sleepless nights and endless parenting decisions.  And I've been thinking about my depression. I've only recently told anyone besides my parents and in-laws about it. Because even now, a year later, it is hard to talk about.

But I want to help. I want to help any mom out there who has PPD and is writing it off as "baby blues" or avoiding calling the doctor out of shame, guilt, nervousness... anything. If you break your leg, it's obvious to head to the doctor right away.  But when it comes to mental health, why is it so hard to call someone and ask for help? Even when the pain is great, even when the need is clearly there, why is there such a hesitation? Why is there this fear of being judged?

So I guess this is a message to all the parents out there, and I'm just saying, I've been there. There is nothing to be ashamed of. And you're a great, amazing, wonderful, loving (etc.) mom!! Don't hesitate to get help, and you'll hear this a million times from your OB, but don't forget it! Reach out, lean on your support, ask for help. . And take care of yourself. My OB once told me that the best thing I can do for my baby is be happy myself. That is advice I won't forget.

And most importantly, you are not alone. I know you are probably on facebook and instagram stalking all the other moms and noticing how happy they seem to be. You might feel alone, but I am taking this time to let you know that you are not. Even if it's just you and me, you are not alone!



  1. This is beautifully honest, Kara. While I have never had a child, I have battled depression. I know the embarrassing stigma. I know the feelings of shame. This is courageous and brave. It is a light to all those walking terrified in the dark. Thank you for sharing your struggle and your heart. Love and happiness to you and your beautiful family!

  2. Kara, what an amazing and empowering story you've shared...I can totally relate to perceptions you'll find on Facebook, and the feeling of being alone or like a failure. I had PPD with my first baby and remember how isolating it was. Thank you so much
    for candidly and bravely sharing your story

    1. Meghan,
      Thank you for reading and taking the time to respond to my post. Realizing that so many others have struggled with the same thing is what this is all about, so thank you!! If you are ever in the Holland area and want to get the babies together, let me know :)

  3. Proud of you in every way possible. Too many of us suffer in silence. You are brave and compassionate, and just the most extraordinary mommy to Lyla and Kallan. So very proud to be YOUR mom!

  4. Thank you for sharing this, Kara. I had a similar experience after Elise was born. I remember how the guilt only compounded the anxiety and depression. When I began to truly believe my family would be better off if I disappeared, one way or another, I realized this was something bigger than my will. I was helped by taking a anti-depressant approved for nursing mothers. But, even now, when Elise is a happy, healthy, sassy 12 year old, I still look back on those days with an irrational regret - as if I purposefully "wasted" what should have been a happy time. I've tried to redeem that time (and continuing battles with anxiety/depression) by acting as a guardian for those I love - watching for signs of struggles, and sharing my experience to remind them they are not walking alone. And to tell them that asking for help might feel like weakness, but is really bravery. You are a dearly loved member of the family, Kara, and I'm proud to be your cousin.

    1. Thank you, Amy! Your attitude is really inspiring, and I know you have helped people because you helped me! I think my mom passed along a message you gave her about postpartum depression/anxiety. Just knowing that you had gone through it and that you came out on the other end gave me some relief in those days. So thank you for that, and for your response to my post!