Postpartum Depression and Anxiety and Patrice’s birth felt very similar–primal. I remember thinking while I was in labor, each contraction feels like it is starting at my toes and engulfing my entire body before it subsides. The laboring process included more swaying, yelling and full body involvement than my first two.
I dug deep inside myself to survive both. Just as each contraction had engulfed me, the intrusive thoughts and driving need to be busy took over my mind as the depression and anxiety overcame me.
Daily, I begged for relief. The labor had ended, surely the depression and anxiety must depart. Each day brought crushing disappointment, as the awful thoughts of disappearing and not being able to escape surged over and over. My soul and mind were a quagmire of doubts, tears and anger. When would I escape? When would I be free?
I saw women in the postpartum mood disorder communities beat their demons and overcome the thoughts. And I hated them. I had battled so long and hard, with no hope in sight. Why were they free while I continued to live in the dark in between?
My mind screamed to give up, but everyday I chose to fight anew. I leaned on the women I knew on-line and in my daily life, that understood, or simply loved me enough to hang on to me. I was here, but I wasn’t living. I was barely surviving.
Soon, my catch phrase, for myself and others, was “Survive til you Thrive.”
I yearned for my Thrive to arrive, but it didn’t. It eluded me. I gave up on that, and decided I would just have to survive for now.
In the postpartum mood disorders community I met an amazing woman, AddyeB. She writes beautifully and passionately; her artistry reaches further into amazing paintings. One day she offered to do a word painting for me.
I was a little surprised to find myself saying yes and asking for Survive and Thrive on paintings. But she took my tiny words and made them beautiful and bold, made them a statement.
Today, I added Survive til you Thrive as a signature on my blog posts. I had hoped to be beyond this idea by now, Patrice will be 4 in 2 weeks, but that is not in the cards for me.
My Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, didn’t just quietly exit my life, no, they left a friend, Bipolar II. So what started as a temporary mental illness, has become a lifelong companion. It breaks my heart, and threatens to break my will. The fight would go out of me if it weren’t for my girls and my hubby. For them, I Survive til I Thrive.
And I am not alone in this journey.
My friend Kim, the amazing author of Make Mommy Go Something Something, recently did some research on Postpartum Mood Disorders and Bipolar Disorder. She found:
- 25% of women who have bipolar disorder, childbirth triggered the illness that had been dormant beforehand
- Among patients who develop Postpartum Psychosis (PPP) immediately after childbirth, 72%–88% have bipolar illness
- those who have had a previous period of severe illness following childbirth, and those with a first-degree relative who has suffered postpartum psychosis. For these groups of women, PPP affected 74% after delivery
- For women with known bipolar disorder, 20% to 50% had a relapse in their symptoms (trigger episode depressed or manic)
In the course of life, I don’t fully grasp what this means for me. I don’t know what the future will look like. Right now, it is a day-to-day situation, seeing and determining what lies, or truths, my mind will tell me. I will admit, it leaves me feeling cheated. My day of freedom is not coming.
I also feel a bit like a liar. From time to time, I interact with women who are living the Postpartum Mood Disorders battle. I, like so many others tell them, hang on, you’ll be yourself again. But now, now I know better. There is more than a little chance they will never be the person they were before Postpartum Mood Disorders struck. There is a possibility they will live with a mental illness from here on out. There may not be a magic day they Thrive, it may always be a journey of some days they just Survive, and other days they Thrive. The words of reassurance I speak, may be just hollow platitudes. There are no guarantees. I can give them no promises.
So instead I offer this bit of advice, this bit of wisdom, Survive til you Thrive.
Embrace today, more importantly, embrace what you love, throw your arms around it and hang on for all you are worth. Grab that life preserver and float as the waves of emotion push you this way and that. Sometimes, you’ll go under, but if you keep hanging on, you will Survive til you Thrive.