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Monday
Jun152015

Guest Post - Why I Wanted to Jump: My Journey into Postpartum Psychosis and Back Again

 

In the honor of raising awareness of postpartum depression I'm sharing this post written by my very brave friend and fellow mother, Lisa Abramson. Lisa is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Mindfulness Based Achievement and has a beautiful little girl. She has shared her story of dealing with postpartum depression and psychosis and today I get to share with our readers. Thank you Lisa for your candid honesty and bravery! The more we talk about these real life experiences, the more we can support others in what they might be dealing with.

 

Why I Wanted to Jump: My Journey into Postpartum Psychosis and Back Again

By Lisa Abramson

Shortly after the birth of my daughter, I spent 10 days locked in the psych ward of the hospital after my postpartum depression and psychosis made me suicidal. In my altered psychotic state, I thought my house was bugged and the police were coming to arrest me for a crime for which I was wrongly accused. I thought the only way out of my crisis was to kill myself, so I told my mom and husband that I was going to go jump off the Golden Gate Bridge.

 My delusions heightened while I was in the hospital and I remember my mother bringing me gloves and some of my favorite spiced pecans and thinking she’s trying to give me hidden messages… I thought everything had a double meaning and I thought she was telling me “I’m nuts” and that the trial for my imagined crime was coming up and that since the gloves she bought me did indeed fit, they would never acquit me. None of what was going on made any sense but my blurred “reality” terrified me and also felt so real. In fact, I was practically mute for the first five days in the psych hospital.

In the hospital, I remember my husband bringing me a printed copy of the Postpartum Support International website so he could explain that I had a disorder called Postpartum Psychosis. I thought my husband had created a fake website for me to make me feel better about myself and I didn’t realize that postpartum psychosis was a real thing. I had all of the symptoms ranging from having delusions, strange beliefs, hallucinations, paranoia and suspiciousness to feeling very irritated, being unable to sleep and having rapid mood swings and difficulty communicating.

It’s one thing to admit all of this to my friends, it’s another thing to share it with the world, which is why I’ve been dragging my feet for months. I wish I could just neatly hide my postpartum experience in the closet and have it remain hidden forever. I know it would be a heck of a lot easier to do that, but every time I share my story one on one with a friend, they tell me about their experience of having friends or family members with some type of maternal mood disorder ranging from the baby blues to depression.

Over coffee yesterday, I opened up about my experience with a new girlfriend and she shared that her sister went through a difficult time after the birth of both of her children and how it really helped to hear my story since she was concerned she too might suffer from postpartum depression. She said seeing me now, doing so well, really gave her hope that if she suffered, she also knew she could bounce back over time.

After talking with her I knew I couldn’t wait any longer, I couldn’t keep my story hidden out of fear. Especially because the shame and guilt associated with maternal mental health disorders is part of what made my experience so awful. I felt so alone, so misunderstood and so ashamed that I couldn’t handle things on my own and needed help. And it’s from the genuine hope that I can help others that I’m willing to sit with my discomfort and write this now.

So let’s start at the beginning.

I’m Lisa Abramson and I’m a survivor of postpartum depression and psychosis.

I’ve always been an ambitious and confident person. Professionally I pursued a successful career as a marketing executive and entrepreneur. By age 30 I was ready to take on my next challenge — motherhood.

People often describe me as the happiest person they know. I had never suffered from depression. I prided myself on my mental fortitude and self-sufficiency. I even thought it was a badge of honor that I had never been to therapy.

All of this changed shortly after the birth of my daughter.

On January 5, 2014 I gave birth to my perfect daughter Lucy. I loved her immediately and with all my heart.

But within a few weeks, I started to realize that something wasn’t right with me and I just couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror. I was not the happy go lucky woman I used to be, I was in a deep fog, I was exhausted, I was crying all the time and I started avoiding my friends.

I knew something was wrong, but I REALLY didn’t want to believe something was wrong with me. I kept telling myself that I loved Lucy so I couldn’t have postpartum depression, because I thought only mothers that didn’t bond with their babies suffered from postpartum depression.

I just didn’t know that sleep deprivation, stress and hormonal changes after birth could have such a drastic impact on my brain chemistry. I thought it was all my fault and that I had done something wrong. That I was a bad mother for experiencing this.

By February 10th, my family moved from worried into action that saved my life once I became suicidal. I spent 10 days in the psychiatric ward on 24 hour watch as the doctors and my family patiently waited for the Zyprexa, Klonopin and Zoloft to stabilize my mind.

I thought that by admitting I had postpartum depression and psychosis it was somehow admitting that I was an unfit mother. That my deep sense of sadness meant I didn’t love my daughter enough. That I wasn’t sacrificing enough, wasn’t good enough, and the list goes on. The sense of guilt at not being good enough was unbearable and the pressure of trying to fake a smile and enjoy this precious time in my daughter’s life was too much.

I feel unbelievably fortunate that with medical, therapeutic and family support, I’ve had a full recovery and no longer need to take any medications. I’ve also been able to resume my career and have a healthy, wonderful relationship with my daughter, husband and family.

I’m a survivor because I got help early, but it was a terrifying experience.

What I needed to hear and what I want to shout from the rooftop to all moms suffering from postpartum issues is:

1. It’s not your fault.

2. You’re not alone. (1 in 8 women suffer from postpartum depression)

3. There is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.

4. It doesn’t make you a bad mother.

5. You will get better, just GET HELP RIGHT AWAY.

 

 

 

 

Saturday
Feb192011

The New Happy Hour

Instead of meeting up at a bar, we gathered in my living room filled with an exersaucer, play mat, books and toys galore. We enjoyed a glass of wine and snacks while our babies played with each other. The conversation revolved around sleep (nap times, night sleep, routines, sleep training…it amazes me how this topic never tires), feedings (many of us are enjoying the introduction of solids), our husbands (their involvement with their babies), the joys and challenges of motherhood so far, this, that and the other. This happy hour is a great way for me to incorporate some of my old life back into the mix and stay social.

The Special Bond Between Mothers (doesn’t need to include wine)

Getting together with a group of moms is like getting together with some of your closest friends even if you've only just met. We can talk about our babies incessantly without being totally annoying; we can laugh and sympathize with each other at first time parenting blunders (I accidently fed Taz too much milk once and it all came back up). But for me, mostly it's a safe place, kind of a support group where there are other moms who are going through similar experiences. It also gives you and opportunity to brainstorm and ask questions. There is a special bond between mothers that's hard for me to explain but if you're a new mom you know where I'm coming from.

This is the bond that I share fellow Mommy Betas Natali, Jennifer and Nathalee. I don’t know what I’d do with out them.  I think I cried straight for the first couple of months after brining home Taz and they were all there for me more than they could ever know. They are amazing Mothers, wives and friends and I'm so fortunate to get to share my experience of motherhood with them.

Mommy Groups…for that matter Daddy Groups too

I’m a huge advocate of Mommy groups.  If you aren’t a part of one I think it’s a great idea. For those who work full time, even if you can’t attend a mother’s group in person sometimes it’s nice to be able to ask questions over email or just communicate with other mothers online. This goes for Daddies too!

I think I found my new Friday afternoon activity. Cheers to the new happy hour! How do you keep social with other mommies and daddies?



Sunday
Aug082010

Got Help? A Big Thanks to Family and Friends

Throughout my pregnancy my Mom and my in-laws offered to come and stay with me and Josh after we had the baby to "help" us out. Time and time again I kindly rejected the offers thinking things like:

"I can do this on my own, I don't need/won't want any help" or
"Josh and I need this time to ourselves to start our family" or
"If I accept help does that mean the grandparents will get to feed, change, play with baby while I cook, clean and do laundry?"

I guess there was also a big part of me that associated accepting help with me not being a capable mother. Well I can say I was naive to think any of this and have since accepted all the help I can get from all interested parties. We've had the luxury of having extremely involved grandparents and friends who continue to show support.

Family

Our parents have taken turns staying with us. In fact my Mother just left after being here for the past week. Last week Josh's Mom was here and Josh's Dad and step-mom arrive tomorrow. It's been a huge help. They do things from grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, cleaning, changing Reese, feeding Reese, babysitting while I catch a nap... the list goes on.

If your family offers help, I suggest seriously taking them up on it. I don't think anyone can really be prepared for a newborn no matter how many books you've read, children you've babysat for and advice you've received. No one can prepare you for the hard stuff that's all worth it. We've successfully made it to week three and find that every day gets better! 

Extended Family 

I'm touched everyday by the love and support we continue to receive from our friends ranging from hospital visits, emails, phone calls and meals! Friends asked what they could do to help after Reese was born and Josh and I agreed that meals would be the most helpful. Just some of the dishes our friends have brought to us include:

Meat Balls
Beef Strew
Tacos
Halibut with pasta and salad
Lasagna
Thai food
Sushi
Tri tip with broccoli salad

Having food on hand has been a tremendous help. After a long day of pumping, changing, feeding and calming baby Reese, the last thing I have time to do is cook (even though I LOVE to cook and can't wait to get back to it).

The point: Consider accepting help from family and friends! Be clear with those who offer, exactly how they can help you.


Sunday
Aug012010

It's Bird, It's a Plane, It's Super Dad!

...Together we make this extraordinary and powerful team and we can do anything together. Being part of a team means competing, working, living, winning and losing together. It means greater friendship and understanding success and failure together. As a member of our team, I rely on the team, defer to it and sacrifice for it... - Josh and Alex, wedding vows, November 15, 2008

I can honestly say I couldn't have gotten past this first two weeks of motherhood without the support of my husband Josh. Our wedding vows say it all. We hold the perspective that we are a team and thus work together as a team.

Super Daddy To the Rescue

Because of my c-section and minor complications that followed I was unable to do basic things like pick up Tazzy or change her diaper for the few days and Josh immediately stepped up to the plate doing most of her diaper changes, many bottle feedings and keeping watch over her while I recovered in the hospital. He commented that every father should have to go through this (minus the wife having to recover of course) because it because it gave him time to bond with his daughter and immersed him into daddy hood and responsibility from the get go.   

Since we've been home Daddy Josh has been amazing! I look at the way he holds her and stares when she's sleeping. He has this look of a very proud father who just had his heart stolen by his baby girl. Every time I see this I fall more in love with him (something I didn't think was possible).                                                                                                                                                                                              
Roles and Responsibilities

It's important for Dads to feel like they have a role in helping take care of their newborn. Josh and I don't really have assigned roles and responsibilities but what has worked for us is being in tune with Tazzy's needs while being in tune with each other and our needs. For example, I don't have trouble getting up at night and going back to sleep so I've been trying to take on a majority of the night duties. This morning I was absolutely exhausted and Josh got up and took Tazzy while I got a good two hours of sleep. It's amazing what two hours will do for a sleep deprived gal!

I've heard of couples where the mother does everything! Takes care of baby (changing, feeding, bathing, etc) plus all of the regular household chores (cleaning, laundry, etc) and cooking. I know one couple where the Dad was very hands-off, so much so he didn't even change diapers and complained when he had to do anything for the baby. This is ridiculous and makes me realize that I'm so lucky to have a husband who enjoys being so hands-on. He is definitely my partner in crime!    

Make Sure to Ask
                                                                                                                                     
Men are not mind readers. If you'd like your husband or partner to be more hands-on I suggest first thinking about what you need help with or what you would like to see more of. What do you envision? Once you've collected these thoughts and have a good idea of what you want, plan to have a conversation with him. I suggest that this conversation does not take place after you've had a long day with the baby or are frustrated with your husband's lack of support. Your husband could take this as being attacked, when all you're really wanting to do is request his support. Instead set aside a specific time to talk to him (maybe when the baby is taking a nap and/or after you've had time to decompress).

Good luck!