By Sarah Coon
When I had my baby boy six months ago I had no idea I was about to experience the most terrifying time in my life. It was a mental health crisis.
When my baby was 4 months old I began to feel scared all the time. I kept my kids inside all the time because I was afraid of what could happen while we were out. The fear then began to escalate to terror very quickly! I took it out on my 3 year old by irrationally screaming at him all the time.
When I thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, I had my first panic attack in the middle of a family dinner. My hands were shaking, my heart was racing, and I really thought I was about to die. This is when I knew I needed to get help.
It took me a miserable week full of panic attacks to get up the courage to call my doctor, but when I finally got in to see her she frightened me even more. She told me that I probably didn’t have postpartum anxiety or depression because my baby was already 4 months old.
That same night I really began to lose it, panicking to the point of rushing off to the emergency room (ER) fearing that something was really wrong with me. The ER doctor told me that I had postpartum anxiety for sure and that it was possible to get it up to a year after you have your baby. After being prescribed Zoloft and being sent home I felt relieved to finally know what was happening to me, but that relief didn’t last long.
I spent that weekend making numerous trips to the ER with thoughts of suicide and the concern that I might hurt my kids. It was terrifying because I had never in my life had thoughts like this before. I was analyzed over and over again by mental health professionals and, by the end of the weekend, was begging them to take me to a psychiatric unit. They refused, stating that I wasn’t “psychiatric material.” The ER doctor determined that the Zoloft was not working for me and told me to make an appointment with my doctor on Monday.
After explaining my ordeal to my doctor that Monday he elected to put me on Celexa and Ativan. Within hours I was feeling slightly better. From then on my condition has been steadily improving and I have been seeing a mental health counselor and a therapist regularly.
Now that I have come out of the darkness I am angry at how little help there is for women going through this. My sister and I created an online support group on Facebook called “Postpartum Anxiety Support Group.” If you are a woman and feel like you may be experiencing postpartum anxiety or depression, I urge you to please see your doctor. You can also join our support group or contact Postpartum Support International.