As we prepare for the 6th Annual Northwest Indiana Climb Out of the Darkness, we will be sharing some very special stories from mothers who have been through a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder. Today, we have the honor of sharing Autumn's Story. Autumn shares about her experience and struggles as a new mom and the support she found along the way. If you are struggling and in need of support, please reach out today by texting 219-742-4149 and we will connect you with the resources you need.
We are so grateful for Autumn for sharing her story with our community. If you or someone you know is in need of support, please reach out today. At the NWI Center for Maternal Wellness, we offer individual and group peer support and educational resources to mothers and families in need and we would love to walk alongside you on your journey to wellness.
"My story begins on my 29th birthday. I was 6 months pregnant and flying through pregnancy with ease. I had a wonderful husband-Mark, a dog, a family who loved me, some really wonderful close friends, a full time job, and I found joy in most my days. Until I gave birth to my son several months later. About five weeks postpartum I was experiencing severe depression and anxiety. I was not talking about what was going on inside my head, because I truly believed I did not have enough energy to talk. Looking back at this season of my life it feels like such a blur and the memories almost seem like nightmares. Some of the things that people said to me replayed in my head over and over, “motherhood is the best feeling in the world” and “sleep when the baby sleeps”. However, for me “motherhood” (5 weeks postpartum) was NOT the best feeling the world. Here is transparency for you all... I did not feel connected to my son. I had issues getting him to breast feed, he spit up ALOT, I felt like he didn’t really like to be touched or kissed by me, and his cry made me spiral into a full blow anxiety attack every single time. In addition, “sleep when the baby sleeps” was on repeat in my head. However, I was utterly confused by this phrase because my baby boy fought sleep. He never wanted to miss out- which is still true to this day. When he was sleeping for little bit I felt like it was my opportunity/responsibility to get something done. My expectations were so high for myself that it was completely unrealistic for me to meet my own standards. With these phrases on repeat in my head, my hormones going crazy, and no sleep in 5 weeks... it was a recipe for disaster. Which is exactly what happened.
I will never forget the night I was laying in bed with my husband and I said “I think I need help”. Allowing these words to leave my lips made me feel like a failure. As I tried to muster up strength to tell my husband about my mental battle, I was thrown into panic attack. With our newborn baby boy sleeping in his crib in our room- I began hyperventilating. My husband cradled me in his arms and asked if I was okay. I had nothing left. When I say nothing - I mean nothing. It took every fiber in my being to nod my head when Mark asked me simple questions. He wasn’t sure what was happening in the moment. It felt like this was the end to me. There was no way for me to come out of this.
At my 6 week check up with my OBGYN, Mark and my mom encouraged me to be honest with the doctor. So I was. At this point I don’t believe I fully understood what PPD was and I truly thought that medication would be enough to just correct my hormones and get me back to my old self. Fast forward a few weeks. I had a follow up appointment with the OBGYN. I was encouraged again to be honest with my doctor by Mark and my mom. So I was. This time apparently my honesty threw down some red flags and my wonderfully caring doctor said to me “Can I be blunt with you?” And responding “yes” he proceeded with, “Are you going to kill yourself?”. So, here’s the thing. With mental illnesses, you don’t ever perceive things correctly. This is a great example. When I was asked if I wanted to kill myself, what I really wanted to say was, “I’m not really killing myself if I am helping others”. Instead, I responded with “I mean, I don’t want to, but it crosses my mind”. Thank God for my doctor. He knew how to respond and what to do to get me on a better path. He pumped up my medicine, gave the name of a psychiatrist to see, provided me with a list of counselors in our area, and educated me on where I could go if I felt like I couldn’t wait for my psychiatrist appointment, or who I could contact if it was an emergency. He also shortened my next follow up from 2 weeks out to only 1 week. This, my friends, is a doctor who cares for his patients. I am so blessed to have had him.
I don’t want people to think that I didn’t have a support system during this time because I did. I had more support than I even knew existed. I had this amazing doctor watching over me, my loving husband, incredibly supportive family members, and friends who checked in on me... Yet I still struggled. I struggled for weeks. The hours within every single day were agonizing inside of my head. It felt like no matter what, I was exhausted and all I could do was count on other people to get me through this time. These people carried me through my daily life. I was going to counseling once a week, I was connected with support groups online and in person, I had a peer counselor who was graciously checking in on me several days of the week, I had a psychiatrist who evaluated me and helped me with medications, I had multiple hot lines and warm line phone numbers saved in my contacts for when I needed to talk to someone (RIGHT NOW), and I had physically made a list of people who told me “let me know if you need anything” so that I knew who to call if I needed someone. Even with all these people who poured so much time and energy into me... I still felt so scared and so alone. I sometimes wonder if it is because deep down I knew I hadn’t hit my rock bottom yet. Which is where I eventually landed.
Rock bottom for me happened May of 2020. It’s all a bit of blur now. There are some things I will never forget and some things I don’t remember. I remember my son was with my mom because I had counseling and I needed Mark to literally support me though that phone call. After counseling, I spiraled to a place mentally I’ve never been. I was screaming into pillows and crying anxiously, because I wanted out of my body/mind so bad. I felt like I wanted to rip off my skin. I remember hiding in my closet and closing the door because it was the only place that was dark enough and quiet enough for me to hear myself think. Mark joined me in the closet. He hid from the world with me. My heart felt like it was being ripped out when I sat in that closet. I sat in the dark trying to explain to Mark how I had thoughts of harming myself. Mark and I both agreed it was time for me to try something else. Mark drove me to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
I really believed in the bottom of my heart I was going to be referred to the “outpatient program” this hospital had. It wasn’t even a possibility in my head that they would admit me, but the joke was on me. I was honest with all the questions I was asked by each medical professional. I made sure I answered every question they had- except one. This will forever stick with me. I was asked what the date was. I believe I said, “I’m not really sure”. Which they then prompted me to just give a guess to today’s date. I then replied with, “May 4th or 5th maybe?” And the look on the social workers face was stunned and heart broken. She was so professional and kind with me, but in that moment I saw true emotion emerge from her and also myself when she finally replied, “Today is May 19th”. I wasn’t a day or two off...I was not a week or even 10 days off... I was two weeks off. I began to cry when she told me the date. She grabbed a tissue for me and explained that it is very likely the doctor is going to admit me today. When she came back in the room she said, “doctor would like to admit you immediately”. Just like that I was admitted into the psychiatric wing within the hour. I had to say goodbye to my husband - unsure of when I would see him again.
As I walked away with the social worker, the flood of fear that set in was unlike anything I’ve every experienced. I thought to myself, “I am not prepared for this. I am still breastfeeding and have no pump with me. I should have just killed myself.” In that unit I was stripped away from everything. No phone, no music, no comfy bed to hide in, no dog to cuddle, no good food to indulge in, no relaxing shower to cry in, no good smelling soap, no refreshing lotion, no fan to keep me cool. I had a gown, a uncomfortable bed with a roommate, lights that flickered in the bathroom, no water pressure in the shower, and a huge headache. Over those next 26 hours, I saw so many medical professionals I honestly can’t remember them all. I saw doctors, nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, life coaches, counselors, etc. Each and every single person who I spoke to allowed me to take down a brick from the wall I had built. I know it was “one day” but let me tell you.... it felt like a month. When you’re put somewhere outside your comfort zone and pushed to speak - other wise you will not be discharged- you decide to start talking. Talking is what helped me. It’s still what helps me. It’s not what’s easy- but it is what works. That “one day” I spent doing inpatient treatment saved my life.
I continued with the suggested treatment after that stay. In fact, I still attend counseling bi-weekly, because I need it. I NEED counseling, because without it my brain just gets stuck. However, all moms have different and unique “needs” to get through their PPD/PPA. Some moms need medication, some need music, some need time away from the kids, and some need their kids all the time. But the one need that is the same for all moms is... we NEED to talk about our PPD/PPA stories. We need transparency with our struggles, we need honesty with the guilt, we NEED our veteran moms to check on our new moms so they know that they are not alone and they can climb out of the darkness just like we did! I pray that this tiny bit of my story reaches someone who is struggling. Someone who needs to hear, “It’s okay to not be okay” and “It does get better”. I promise my story is still ongoing... I am still working through battles, but I am happy I didn’t give up and that I climbed out of the darkness."
We would like to invite you to join us this Saturday at the 6th Annual Northwest Indiana Climb Out of the Darkness. The Climb is a free, family friendly event that supports the mental health of mothers and families. There will be refreshments, swag bags, kids activities and more. All funds raised at the Climb will be used to support Maternal Mental Health programs through the NWI Center for Maternal Wellness and Postpartum Support International. Find out more, sign up or donate here:https://climbout2022.causevox.com/team/team-northwest-indiana
Thank you for your support!