Something was really wrong. I had a sweet newborn boy, plenty of help, a safe and happy life and I was terrified.
Each night it took me longer and longer to calm myself and sleep and each day I woke up a little earlier, straight out of a dead sleep in a heart-pounding panic. Every scary movie, news story or Oprah episode with images that were "too graphic for young viewers" came back to me in vivid detail. Images of violence, darkness and murder filled my mind and I became completely incapable of crowding them out.
It felt like they were happening or would very soon happen to me and my family. I became paranoid, afraid of the milkman, sure he was stalking our house with the intention of killing us in the most gruesome way. I couldn't open the door. I was scared to answer the phone. When Dan and I took a drive to the electronics store to get my mind off things, I saw a man wearing a bandana and baggy jeans. He must be part of a gang, I thought. He was looking at Magoo. How could we walk out to the car if doing so would leave us exposed to fight him off alone in the parking lot?
Even if we did get away, what was the point? There was so much hate, darkness and evil in the world. If one thing didn't get us, it would be another. As I struggled to slow my pulse and resume normal breathing, I began to fill with despair. There was no way I could raise my children in this world. There was no way I could watch the horrors that would happen to them.
When the terror was bad, I could hardly breathe. I could find some relief curled up in a ball in the bathtub where I shook with cold and fear and fought to make tears come, some sign of any emotion besides fear. They wouldn't. My stomach was so tight I couldn't keep down food or even water. Even Disney movies terrified me so we banned the TV from the house, especially the news. I read scriptures and prayed almost constantly, sure if I were only closer to God, he would make the anguish stop. My milk production slowed way down and sleep became almost impossible. Each night Dan would read aloud from C.S. Lewis, his gentle voice willing me to calm down, his arm across my body. I would begin to breathe. I would fall asleep and then instantly it seemed, I would shake myself violently awake, drenched in sweat and shivering.
Looking back I can say I was really blessed. My symptoms of panic and anxiety were so sudden and so uncharacteristic that it was obvious to anyone who had ever met me that something was desperately wrong.
I went to my OB for help, explained my symptoms and he followed a standard course, prescribing a common and frequently effective postpartum anti-depressant, one that had been shown to help with anxiety disorders long term.
Now it was one thing to go and ask for help, to take the pills home and to read the instruction booklet. It was a completely different thing to actually take them. I wanted to keep breastfeeding and was afraid that despite my doctor's assurances they would somehow harm the baby. I was scared they wouldn't help. I didn't want to give up and feel like a failure. If I could just try to focus my mind a little harder, I knew I could get through it.
So I looked at them for a few days, talked to Dan, talked to my mom, prayed and panicked a lot and got sicker and sicker. 3 days later I was ready for drugs. I started to take them but things only got worse.
Three weeks into my precious baby's life and I was begging my mom to take the kids back to Texas and raise them for me.
Everyone was afraid. My mom kept extending her stay, one more week to give the drugs time to work, two more weeks to make sure I was stable. No one knew what to do with me. I was a strong, positive, confident woman, reduced to a dry-sobbing, vomiting basket case with blue/grey skin and dark circles around my eyes. I was a loving, nurturing, capable mother and suddenly I was completely unable to care for my family.
Down 40 lbs and completely incapable eating or sleeping, I would lie awake each night with my eyes closed, fighting the waking terrors and imagining how good it would feel if it was all over. My uncle called to say a friend of his had died. I couldn't believe his luck.
Then finally one morning after 72 hours without sleep, living in a state of constant fear and frequent panic, I hobbled into the living room and announced to my husband, mother and in-laws, "You need to take me to the hospital or hit me over the head with a mallet. I'm done." They chose the hospital.
To be concluded...