…This is not who you are, you know who you are. Who you truly are. ”
That song, I have heard about 100 times since October, and no not an exaggeration. For anyone who has a toddler, you understand.
But not until I had my latest anxiety episode did it truly resonate with me and who I am. (Listen to that experience here.)
So I am sharing my PMAD story, for the first time in this much detail, because I can finally open up holistically about the thought, emotions, and actions that occurred in those months following birth.
Hello, I am Nicole. I am a Mama of a 2 year old boy named Dylan. But also wear many other hats. Just to name a few, I am a Wife, corporate project manager, Reiki Master, PSI NJ Membership Chair, Climb Leader, and Multi-Modality Practitioner in Training.
Most importantly, I am a Survivor. Without that title, nothing else would be possible. I was diagnosed with PPOCD and PPA a meat ten days after giving birth. * And by giving birth I mean, doing the most amazing, bravest, most powerful thing I have ever done with my body in my life. (I hate that our society downplays pregnancy and birth)
I immediately sought help from my Dr. and Doulas when I had my first intrusive thought episode and started seeing a PP Specialized therapist. I had an amazing supportive husband and family. And even with those two key components that most moms I have learned do not do/have.. it was the darkest hardest few months of my life.
I am now on a mission to share my story, raise awareness, create resources, and provide support and healing programs for moms that also experience PMADs.
It all started on a Friday Night.
Up until that moment, I had felt empowered as a mom. I was dealing with recovery fine, I was proud of my mombod and although breastfeeding was a bit painful, I was okay with supplementing formula due to Dylan’s jaundice. I even passed the PPD test my Doulas had given me just days before.
And then my husband ran to pick up Chinese food, Dylan was in his pack and play. And thoughts of knives and him flashed before me. I instantly was anxiety ridden. Called my mom, who came by and walked with me til I was calm but the emotion just poured out. She called my doulas for advice. But again, it was Friday night so nothing anyone could truly do until Monday morning.
So that weekend, I was anxious, anticipating Monday thinking okay I just have to get to Monday. I was a mess. The thoughts kept creeping in, Dylan in the wash machine, Dylan drowning in the bath tub, just any possible scenario he could get hurt in the house.
I went to the doctor’s Monday, he prescribed Xanax and Zoloft and gave me a recommendation for a therapist.
I filled the Xanax but not the Zoloft I barely took them but felt better just having them. I wasn’t ready to be medicated. I thought I could heal this with Meditation and Reiki.
I scheduled an appointment with the therapist and just had to wait til I met with her to feel safe.
I was waiting for someone to validate that I wasn’t going to snap. That I wasn’t going to lose it. I had no idea why these thoughts were happening but I knew I was terrified.
For the next few weeks, I was in an anxious state almost constantly. I refused to be alone with the baby or by myself so each and every morning, I would wake up pack a bag and head to my mom’s house as John left for work. My sister was home too with my niece who is 3 weeks older than Dylan.
I would stay there until John got home then head back. This repeated every day, I could not even be alone downstairs too long. John could not even go out to his car to grab something without me freaking out.
I just thought “it” whatever this madness was, was waiting for the one chance or moment for me to “snap”. Like it was something out of my control and external from myself.
I then started getting visions of hurting myself. Triggered by Chester Bennington’s tragic loss. It scared me to the core because he was such a positive person on interviews, and the song he had released with Kiera that I liked a lot then seemed like a warning sign to the world that noone picked up on. So needless to say my disorder took this information and ran with it.
Then there were talks of nuclear testing and North Korea, so thoughts spiraled of all impending doom and why are we even here, this world scares the shit out of me. I was seriously at a breaking point. And just a reminder I had a newborn who needed my love, care, and sane mind.
I only could only watch shows that were upbeat or mindless. I couldn’t see, hear, or talk about any news or headlines and would stop anyone who brought up anything that I couldn’t handle.
I couldn’t hear the word suicide and I couldn’t have a knife at my place setting or even on the table.
It was completely overtaking my life.
During this time, I went to therapy, I did meditate and self healed but it only helped in the moment.
So finally, I made the decision to go on the medication I was prescribed. I was also so fearful that the medication side effects would make things worse because of all the commercials you hear. I didn’t want to heighten the “suicidal thoughts and actions” you hear about.
It did take a few weeks to fully kick in, I slowly began feeling normal again, in control of my life. Not ridden with anxiety and fright. I pro-longed my suffering because of shame and embarrassment and fear. I now look through a different lens when it comes to Mental Health and Medication.
I was able to go out in public without thinking the worst would happen. I was able to socialize without someone saying something that would trigger me.
I was still cautious. But everything got better as the time passed. I still to this day have certain uncomfortableness with that word and still cannot watch any violent TV even like SVU.
Postpartum OCD changed me, that is for certain. But it does not get to define me as a Mother or the Women I am for the rest of my life.
I am still on the medication because it allows me to live empowered and be the person I am.
I still have thoughts that creep in, and some bad days- but that no longer defines my Motherhood.
I am finally able to share, and beyond that I want to help others and spread proactive awareness about PPMD. Maybe this story would have been a little different if I would have known that PPOCD existed and I was a perfect candidate for it to happen.
I am so thankful for those in my family and the caring doctors, therapist, and doulas that helped me through this darkness. But now I am on a mission to be another Mama’s light.