Written by Courtney Hazlett
It developed during pregnancy.
When I was about 3 months pregnant, I noticed that it was getting hard for me to leave the house. I constantly felt like everyone was staring at me. I had my first panic attack in the middle of a crowded restaurant. It seemed at the time it was just easier to stay home.
Until all I could do was stay home. I canceled dates with friends, stopped going to my dance lessons, and called into work. When I finally went to the midwife for one of my appointments, she could not touch me without me having chest pain, being unable to catch my breath, and crying uncontrollably. I was diagnosed with prenatal anxiety and depression, put on medication, and watched very closely.
My pregnancy and labor ended up being difficult, even without these factors. I was constantly ill and had to be treated with fluid IVs just to keep me functioning. Carpal tunnel came on in both of my hands from pregnancy, forcing them to seize up and become unusable for lengths of time. I developed terrible migraines and would faint frequently at seemingly the drop of a hat. When we moved to a new state halfway through my pregnancy, my anxiety and depression only got worse and I was put on medication to try and help me control it.
I went into spontaneous labor with my son 6 weeks early and labored in the hospital for about 52 hours before I finally had him. He was sent to the NICU.
What happened after giving birth.
In the days that followed, my depression got worse and worse. I cried all the time, especially when I had to pump. I couldn’t sleep at night with him away in the NICU and never produced enough milk to feed him. People around me made me feel like a failure when I said I was using the formula and not putting him to breast, even though he still got breastmilk I could pump for him.
Driving became difficult. My anxiety was so severe that I would often have to stop or pull over and vomit on the side of the road because of my constant upset. I was obsessed with my weight and mourned the loss of my pre-baby body.
When my son did come home, I began to realize that caring for him was harder then it should be. I dreaded every cry and often cried when I heard him start, especially at night. I couldn’t motivate myself to get off of the couch most days. He was alive, he was being fed and cleaned, but I literally could force myself to do NOTHING else. The house fell into disarray around me. I would go very long stretches of time without sleep and obsessively checked my door locks. Again, I stopped leaving the house for anything except doctor’s appts. I found myself often staring at the front door, wanting to walk out and never come back, and thinking my boys would be better off without me.
I was about 4 months postpartum before I started seeing a counselor, most of the time with my young son in tow. Even with her help, it was close to his first birthday before I really started being present in what was going on around me and actively remembering my sweet boy’s personality. But the point is, my life did come back.
Was it hard? YES. I had to claw my way through a lot of hardship, medication (which I still take with NO Shame), mental stigma, judgment, and my own personal vendettas against myself to get there. I know it seems at the time that it’s never gonna get better. But I FOUGHT to find myself again, and if I can do it, anyone can.
My son is now almost 5 and has a 2-year-old sister. The bad days come, but the good days do too. I encourage you to find the help you need. There is no harm in asking for help. Surround yourself with people who love you and your kids. Accept what you can, work with what you have, and don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t work right away or as fast as you want it to. It takes time for the woman you were meant to be to grow.