The other day, I blogged about how much my mom helped me after Bugster was born. She did. I was able to look back on the fact that Mom cared so deeply for me, and the curtains and end tables were a constant reminder of that. They were my connection to the reality that I was loved. And they were a constant reminder that I'd promised Mom that I would never hurt myself, if I ever got into the position of feeling like it again. I needed those reminders so much over the next several months.
I've struggled with varying degrees of depression my entire life, but nothing prepared me for what lie ahead. But let me back up a bit...
I grew up in an area where there was very little humidity, big open skies, four full seasons, and days filled with sunshine that wasn't hampered by a haze of pollution or humidity hanging in the air.
North Carolina couldn't have been more different.
The humidity was palpable and suffocating. The only sky we could see was along the roadways, where the lodgepole pines had been cleared to make room for the asphalt. Where you could see the skies, there was always a haze. It was overcast and rainy during the winter months and in the summer the skies were gray with moisture coming off the ocean, so even when it was sunny it wasn't really sunny. And there were only two seasons, but many would argue that, considering we needed to run the air conditioner every single Christmas we lived there.
It only added to my problems.
I am not going to go into details, but I had complications when I had Bugster that resulted in an emergency c-section. The cord was wrapped around her neck 4 times. She had quit moving a week before she was born, but the doctor refused to do an ultrasound. He almost killed both of us during the delivery. Three weeks later, I ended up with a serious infection as a complication of the c-section. And I had a new baby that couldn't seem to get how to nurse, so I pumped milk to fill her bottles for what felt like hours every day to give her the best I had to offer.
And I felt so alone.
I didn't know anyone except my neighbors, and while they were friendly relationships, they weren't my friends. Things rarely went beyond a simple greeting in the yard. We had one vehicle, so I rarely went anywhere, because it meant getting up so early with the baby to take my husband to work, and I felt safer at home. But The Hubster worked a lot. He often put in 14 hour days and often got called in on the weekends, so we didn't see much of one another. I knew this was part of being with him. I understood that it was part of the life of a Marine. But it didn't make things any easier under the circumstances.
I muddled through the days the best I could, but I was scared. Several weeks after Bugster was born, I started slipping into a depression like I'd never experienced. I felt like the worst mother in the world. I felt like I'd failed, because I couldn't even have Bugster naturally. I had to have help and have a c-section. I couldn't seem to keep up on the housework or get enough sleep, and I felt totally overwhelmed and alone.
One day while I was doing dishes, the water was running to fill the sink. I started to zone out as I went about the drudgery of doing the dishes. Suddenly, I realized I was seeing myself holding my newborn daughter under the faucet with her mouth open, her face red, and her trying to cry as I was drowning her. The vision scared me to death, and I snapped back to reality. I went in the other room and got my beautiful little baby out of the cardboard bassinet in the living room and sat in the rocking chair rocking her until my husband got home from work.
I didn't say a word to him about what had happened. I was terrified of what he would think of me. That he'd think I was a monster. That he'd think I didn't love our little girl.
I started having these horrifically graphic visions more often. Sometimes, they were of me holding her under the water in the kitchen sink. Other times, I floored my car with Bugster buckled into her car seat in the back until I careened off a pier into the ocean. And yet other times, I stepped on the gas as hard as I could as the car, once again with Bugster in the back seat, hurtled toward one of those lodgepole pines I'd come to detest. I got to the point where I was having these horrid visions several times a week, and I was terrified.
Mom's words came back to me. It was the thread I held onto for dear life.
I told my husband that I thought I needed help. I needed to talk to someone. But I never told him about the visions. I just told him to please help me find a counselor to talk to. I had no idea where to turn. We turned to the MWR (Marine, Welfare and Recreation) office on base, and I started seeing a counselor within a few days.
In many ways, I loved going in and talking with the counselor. He was a very sweet man and easy to talk to on a superficial basis. I found myself asking questions about him instead of opening up about what was going on with me. He was a paraplegic, but he had an incredible outlook on life. He was always so positive. But we never got into anything very deep. I sensed he didn't have the skills to help me, and I was still having the visions, even though I'd been seeing him for several weeks.
So before the next appointment, I called his office and canceled. I asked for him to return my call. When he did call me back, I explained that I was afraid of hurting my baby or myself, and I didn't feel he was qualified to help me. I told him that I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but I needed real help. Could he please help me find someone that I could talk to about all of this. I was afraid of being zoned out on mind altering drugs, so I asked, if he could help me find someone that couldn't prescribe medicines that I could talk to.
I got an appointment set up with a psychologist the next day.
I was so scared of hurting my baby or myself that I don't think I stopped talking to catch my breath the entire hour I was in the psychologist's office. The fact that I was seeking help assured him that I would not hurt my baby, and that I had her best intentions at heart. When I left the office that day, I felt like a huge load had been lifted from my shoulders.
I continued to see my doctor, often times twice a week, until we moved away from North Carolina. When my husband was stationed back at Camp Lejeune, I returned to see the man who saved my life and the life of our little girl. I saw him for a total of almost 3 years, and it was one of the best decisions of my entire life.
In spite of the fact that I know that what happened is hormonal, I struggled with telling anyone. What might someone think of me, if I ever told them what had happened in the months following Bugster's birth? Would they think I was a monster? Would they judge me unfit?
About 2 years ago, I realized I didn't care what others thought of me. That it wasn't my fault. That this wasn't something that I could have prevented, and I did everything I could to keep Bugster safe. I didn't hurt her, and I didn't hurt me. And I can't possibly be alone in what happened.
Although I don't remember my doctor telling me an official diagnosis, there is no doubt I suffered from postpartum depression at the best and postpartum psychosis at the worst. Twenty three years ago, there wasn't as much information available as there is today about these illnesses. I'm sure today I would be treated with medicines and likely be hospitalized until the doctors were sure I was no threat to myself or my baby.
The fact that I made it through alive, that we made it through alive, is a miracle in and of itself. It is by the Grace of God and that thread of a promise I made to Mom years before that we came through unscathed. So those curtains? Those end tables? They were my link to that thread. They were the reminder that I had promised my mom so many years ago that I would never, ever hurt myself again.
No. Matter. What.
Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder that is just beginning to be understood. As a hoarder, I have acquired things over the years with a specific purpose in mind at the time of the acquisition, used some of those items for their intended purposes, forgotten the goal for different objects, but now that I find that they have outlived their purpose in my life I am struggling to rid myself of those same things.
You can read the start of my journey here.