I’ll never forget the moment I realized I was a danger to my children. My husband and I had just gone to the store with our four week old son, and were loading things into our car. As I grabbed the car seat carrier to put my newborn in the car, I had one vivid thought in my mind – throwing the car seat. Thank God, I didn’t. But having been diagnosed with postpartum depression the day before, I knew my family couldn’t afford to wait until the antidepressants I’d been prescribed kicked in. I needed more help, and I needed it immediately.
That afternoon I went to the ER. I cried as I told the admissions representative what happened, and she came out from behind her desk to hug me. Soon, I was explaining my thoughts and feelings to an ER doctor and social worker. It all seemed so surreal because my case of postpartum depression started out with normal symptoms. I cried a lot. I felt like everything was my fault, and I didn’t deserve my family’s love. I loved my baby, but I didn’t want to take care of him. His cries annoyed me to no end. And I was extremely anxious.
But soon my anxiety led to something much more serious. Though my husband and I have a great marriage, I was distancing myself from him and was afraid we needed to get divorced. And I had terrible thoughts of my baby being hurt in grotesque ways – not by my own hands at first, but in my mind’s eye I witnessed these acts.
The ER decided to send me to a behavioral health hospital, and warned us I would go to the first facility in the state that had an open bed. I ended up going to a hospital in Gonzales. Being placed locally was an incredible gift from God because it allowed my husband to visit me daily. I can’t imagine how much more difficult hospitalization would have been without those visits.
At the behavioral hospital, I learned I had both postpartum depression and psychosis. I spent six days there this past December, and every day there was a blessing. Not only was I making steps towards recovery, I also had the chance to help others who didn’t have family nearby. When I noticed a fellow patient was in need of something, such as lip balm or clothes, l would tell my husband and he’d bring it with him next day. Even though I myself was suffering, it was such a gift to be able to help those around me. I also had a fellow patient seek me out to pray for her, another ask me to interpret a word in the Bible and explain a particular verse to him, and quite a few others ask in which book a certain verse was. Though I was in the middle of one of the greatest challenges of my life, I knew these were signs from God to remind me that I was in the right place, He was there with me, and that I was being called to help others with mental illnesses.
I’ve been out of the hospital for about two months, and by the grace of God I am getting better. Due to the severity of my case, my treatment plan is extensive and includes medication (which, as a crunchy person I was reluctant to take but has proven incredibly helpful), counseling and in-home care to assist me with my children. I’ve also been going to the gym, trying a gluten-free diet (I’ve been told gluten intolerance may be linked to depression), taping affirmation notecards around my house and praying a lot. And today I’m starting my journey to help others by opening up and sharing this very personal story with you.
If you or someone you know is showing signs of postpartum depression, please seek help immediately. While not everyone’s symptoms will be as severe as mine, early intervention is so important. Call your doctor or midwife, and tell the person on the other end of the line what you are experiencing and that you need to be seen that very day. Don’t wait to get help. I have learned that God has stayed with me through this challenge. I hope my story can encourage those who may be struggling to get help and overcome.
Karen is a native Californian who loves her new life in the Baton Rouge area. She is a wife and mom to two small boys, and stepmom to two boys. So basically, she’s surrounded by awesome men all the time. She is a Sr. Communications Manager for a software company and graduated Cum Laude from (don’t hold it against her) the University of Southern California with a BA in Communication. This beautiful photo was taken by G. Chapin Studios. Thank you, Karen, for opening up today and sharing such a powerful piece with us. We wish you the very best.