And so it goes. Another year gone, another highlight reel to analyze. In reviewing mine, it’s clear that 2015 was the year that broke me.
I recently shared here that I’ve again been diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety. Shortly after I wrote that post I had a psychotic episode.
Whew. Those are some big, scary words.
I was having a normal day. My five year-old was at school and I was home with my three year-old son and the baby. The three year-old is pretty high maintenance (all of my kids are, really). He needs outside time every day or else he becomes unmanageable. This particular day was cold and rainy. Thus he became unmanageable.
I don’t remember what I yelled at him about; it doesn’t even matter. I don’t remember which request of mine he refused to obey. I don’t remember how long the baby had been fussing for or how many hours it had been since I’d been able to set her down and have a moment to myself. I don’t remember when or how I snapped.
I don’t remember these details. That’s kind of what happens during a psychotic episode. It’s all very blurry and doesn’t make much sense. I do remember, though, that I told my son he needed to go into the bathroom and lock the door. I remember laying the baby in the pack n’play in spite of her cries. I remember repeating to myself, “You will not hurt these children. You will not hurt yourself.” I remember that, even as crazed and out of my body as I was, I wanted to protect them. The maternal instinct is a strong one.
I then grabbed a pair of scissors and cut off all my hair. Chunk by chunk, close to the scalp, I cut it all off. It was such a satisfying feeling to channel all of this crazy into an action. I needed to damage myself in some way but I didn’t want to do physical harm. So I cut off my hair.
When I was done, I knocked on the bathroom door and told my son he could come out. I was eerily calm. I told him I needed to take a bath. And so I ran the bath water and climbed into the tub, fully clothed and covered in chunks of freshly cut hair. I don’t know how long I sat in the tub or what my three year-old boy was thinking as he watched me shaking in the water.
The baby’s cries got intense and so I climbed out of the tub to go get her from the pack n’play. I carried her outside to the front porch where I sat on the swing and nursed her in the cold while I was soaking wet. I was shivering. This is when I snapped out of it and realized just how sick I was. How wrong this all was.
I began sobbing hysterically and rushed back inside, frantically texting my friends to see if they could help locate some donor breastmilk for the baby so that I could check myself into the hospital. I tried desperately to get a hold of my husband but he was tied up at work and didn’t see my messages or calls until much later. I called my parents and told my father that he needed to come over and sit with me because I was not okay. I texted my therapist. My husband eventually saw the messages and rushed home from work to be with me. I had a lot of support in my corner, which gave me immeasurable comfort.
Over the next several hours of conversing and coordinating, my therapist and I agreed that I didn’t need to go inpatient that day since I’d stabilized. I had a psychotic episode but was not experiencing postpartum psychosis, per se, since my spell was brief and because I was able to quickly realize how irrational my behavior was (those who suffer from postpartum psychosis often feel as though their strange or harmful behavior is normal or justified). I agreed to see her more frequently and to also see a psychiatric nurse practitioner for additional help and to adjust my medication since my PPD had now gone from manageable to serious.
I’ve been mostly okay since this happened. My husband lost his job the week before Christmas and our entire household got hit with lice, pinkeye, and a brutal upper respiratory infection around the same timeframe so it’s understandable that I’ve been feeling more stressed than normal. I had another rough spell on Christmas Eve and missed my kids opening gifts at my parents’ house for the first time ever. I’ve never, in 34 years, not spent Christmas Eve with my parents. But the dark thoughts and the bad feelings were more powerful than my usual Christmas spirit and they won out. I succumbed to them and spent the whole day in bed, crying and sleeping.
I have nowhere else to go but forward. I am seeing a registered dietitian to help correct my food intolerances and digestive problems that have plagued me for years; as well as to help take off the forty pounds I’ve put on since the baby was born in July. I’m seeing my therapist and the Psych NP and taking my meds. I’m complementing my meds with aromatherapy and essential oils. I’m buying myself a year’s package of acupuncture (since my husband’s outstanding, once-in-a-lifetime health insurance expires in just a few days I’m milking it for all it’s worth) to help with the anxiety and digestive problems. I’m organizing my home and aiming for a clean and clutter-free life. I’m doing All The Things. I’m trying.
Many of my favorite bloggers and a few of my friends like to choose a word to represent their goals for the New Year, rather than make specific resolutions. I like this idea. So my word for 2016 is “Heal.” 2016 will be my year to heal my sick and overweight body; heal my depressed and anxious brain; heal my relationships with my husband and children who’ve watched me downward spiral into madness and joylessness; heal my home by purging it of what’s unnecessary and filling it with love and fun. I want to have fun with my family again. I want to heal.
I can’t write 2015 off as an altogether bad year — after all, I got a beautiful and lovable daughter out of it. But that pregnancy and that birth and that recovery and this postpartum phase have been downright soul-sucking. I’ve given every last bit of myself in order to create this family, and now it’s time to put those pieces of me back together to sustain this family. We aren’t whole until I am whole.
To 2016. To healing.