I am the Face of Mental Illness
I asked my daughter if it would bother her if I titled my post “I am the Face of Mental Illness”. Unfazed at 15, she matter-of-factly said, “It’s true” and went on with her business.
By that simple comment, my wise-beyond-her-years daughter gave me hope for ending the stigma surrounding mental illness. I teach my kids about mental illness and they know about the postpartum mood disorder I faced. We speak openly about it at home and I can only hope other young people are able to have the same open discussions with their parents.
Assuming the most likely memories she would have about me during my postpartum phases was when she was 6 and her brother was born, I asked her if she remembers anything about it. With the brutal honesty that only adolescence brings, I got my answer: “Besides you being haggard?” Thanks for that :P.
But, indeed, what she said is true, I was exhausted and overwhelmed with anxiety every minute of the day and during my wakefulness at night. When I look at this top picture I see the bags under my 8-weeks postpartum eyes. I was in the throes of severe Postpartum Anxiety. It is debilitating. It hurts. It’s real. I am amazed when I look back in my mind’s eye and wonder how I survived and took care of 3 children. I was being awakened at night by PVC’s – premature ventricular contractions made me feel like my heart was doing a 180 degree flip, convincing me I was going to be leaving my children mother-less due to an impending heart attack. (Eventually I would learn that one of the causes of PVCs is hormonal imbalance after pregnancy. They went away as soon as I started taking progesterone.)
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]I am the 1 in 5 [/pullquote]
I was exclusively breast-feeding so waking up with the baby and sometimes my other 2 children left me exhausted in the morning. Sleep deprivation is a compounding factor in mental illness and I was barely getting more than a couple of hours of sleep at a time so always missing out on the restorative sleep.
Bring on the anxiety – I had never heard of postpartum anxiety – I didn’t know my severe anxiety was related to postpartum mood disorder. I thought I knew about postpartum mood disorder – I knew about depression, mood swings, and psychosis. I thought I was knowledgable. Yet I had never heard of Anxiety and OCD commonly associated with pregnancy.
Today in Canada we’re talking about Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness using the hashtag #EndtheStigma and #Mental Health. I am compelled to share my story.
I heard Howie Mandel’s story on the radio this morning. He talked about his “accidental” public admission of his OCD and how devastated he was that he had just announced to millions of television viewers that he sees a psychiatrist. I am willing to bet that now he sees it as one of the best things that ever happened to him because when Howie left the television studio and felt like jumping into traffic a stranger came up and whispered in his ear, “me too”. Those two words uttered by a mere stranger changed his life. By sharing my story I hope that I can be like the guy who whispered in Howie’s ear for another woman suffering from a mood disorder.
To this day, when I think back to those times I am still brought to tears about it even though I recovered quickly compared to most people. I am in awe at what the human body and mind is capable of.
If I gained one positive thing from my experience it’s compassion. [pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]Please have compassion for those who have mental illness.[/pullquote]
If you are pregnant know the signs and symptoms, get your spouse to know the signs, inform your friends and family. There’s a myth that all women are being screened. I am here to tell you that it is NOT happening. Don’t wait for your doctor to screen you talk to someone. Talk to anyone who will listen. Help is near. You are not alone.
|Postpartum Psychosis is a medical emergency – if you believe you or someone you know is suffering from Postpartum Psychosis call 9-1-1.|