My son was around 6 weeks old when my friend panic returned with a vengeance. I was getting on so nicely and I thought I was in the clear. I really did.
Then Santa brought me the gift of more panic attacks for Christmas 2007.
I could not sit still. I could not relax.
I remember being at the dinner table in my mom’s living room on Christmas day literally willing the minutes away. I just wanted to be somewhere under a blanket without people talking to me and asking questions.
And then it happened again at New Year’s. And again. And again.
And it was spectacularly awful.
All panic attacks are spectacularly awful for people who have them. For me, I felt like I couldn’t breath. I could not physically get in a breath, no matter what I did. I would bend over in the hopes of getting that air in. My heart pounded. I wanted to ask people around me – “can you hear that pounding? Can you SEE my heart beating really fast in my chest?”
I twitched, involuntarily. It is as though my jaw and lips moved of their own accord. My muscles were always tense as though I was on guard for something. I was nauseous and had stomach issues.
One night I tried to “sneak out” of my condo with my son by telling my husband I was going to the walk in clinic due to a sore throat. I was really going to the hospital. His friend was over and our daughter was sleeping so we left his friend to watch our daughter while we (and our son) drove to the hospital and sat outside. And waited. I was really concerned about what his friend would think of me. I still wonder.
“If anything bad happens, we are right here at the hospital”, my husband told me.
You are a fucking asshole, I thought. “You don’t know how I’m feeling”, I would scream at him.
“I know I don’t know what you’re feeling, but I know what’s happening to you, and I’m here for you”.
I really hated my husband in that moment.
We ended up going for a walk around. And then we got ice cream. And then we went home.
Two days later I went to the hospital for real. I went with my son, sure that something was terribly wrong. They ran all the tests and they were all normal.
I followed through with my doctor and it was clear to him and to his resident that I was not well. He increased my meds (I had checked with mother risk for breastfeeding compatibility) and I had an appointment to return the following week.
I was back at the ER before that next appointment. This time, after all the tests had been run, they asked if I wanted to speak to the people in psychiatric services. I’m not sure if it was the baby, my hysterical crying, or the fact that I was begging for help that tipped them off, but needless to say, I said yes.
I remember saying “please don’t take my baby, I’m really not that bad”. The thought of removing me from my child made me feel so much worse.
The nurses and doctors were AMAZING. They took me to a room in the ER that was quiet and private and let me talk and they adjusted my meds and referred me to a group run in the hospital. It was really a turning point for me. They were totally non judgemental and not frightening in any way. It was validating to me that despite the fact that I was sick, I wasn’t alone.
I realized at that point, that while I did not have post partum depression, I did have a Post Partum Mood Disorder (anxiety and panic).
Part 6 coming soon.