It’s really hard for me to write my story and leave anything out of it that would assign blame, which I do not want to do. What I want to do is tell you about what I did. What I felt and didn't feel.
I might start at 13 when I first started showing signs of depression. When I first started cutting myself and when I first was prescribed an antidepressant. Although I feel that is part of the whole picture, it was on the periphery when I conceived my first son at twenty. After his birth I wouldn't say I was deeply depressed, but I would say something was going on. It took me a long time to process Isaacs birth. Not only had I had a baby, I’d started my family! I didn't feel myself for a while and by then I found out that I was pregnant again.
This time I worked really, really hard to overcome any negativity that I had experienced during, before and after Isaac's birth. I hadn't had a satisfying birth experience and I was worried what would happen this time around. But I was also excited to be expanding my family. Now that I had been married for three years (instead of two weeks) I felt more settled and prepared. I made a bunch of freezer meals and foods I could eat for lunch. I felt ready.
That didn't matter. None of it mattered. Rowans birth went fine, right up until the end. I went home confused and bruised. I still occasionally have nightmares of the midwifes smiling face. The feeling of falling and the flash of light from the scalpel. Her telling me, “this will be easier for everyone.”
Twenty three days later after a long day on my feet at work I had a gallbladder attack that brought me to my knees. My husband found me shivering, gasping for air on the bathroom floor as my body was wracked with unexplainable pain. After this is when I start forgetting things. I know that I was brought to the hospital, but I don't know who brought me or who was taking care of Rowan and Isaac. I also don't remember what happened in the hospital. I remember a Dr. coming in and telling me, “your gall bladders all sludged up, we'll take it out in the morning.” This man did not examine me, or even make eye contact. In fact, no one examined me. In the morning another doctor came in and told me that my gallbladder was really okay. That I could have it out laparoscopically and that I should make an appointment for an out patient procedure. The nurse checking me out looked at my chart and told me that it’s fairly common for postpartum women to have gall bladder issues. I had no idea what to do. I had already been prophylactically pumped full of antibiotics for my not actually “sludged up” gall bladder. There was a serious gap in my trust for these people. I decided to wait and see what happened. I ended up having five more gall bladder attacks. None of them were as painful as the first and I found definite correlation between what I ate and having an attack. I am still glad I chose not to have the surgery.
What happened next in November? December, January or February? Those months are lost I won’t ever remember Rowans first Christmas, what it was like when he saw snow for the first time, how he smiled at me, the little noises he made when he nursed or my favorite clothes for him. I know those things happened. I know the sun shined across his sweet belly when I changed his diaper on the sofa, but I don't remember. The next memories I have are from March. In March I started shoplifting. Something I'd never done before. I just did it all the time. I mostly never stole anything we needed. A lot of magazines. I shoplifted with my kids or alone. During the day. During the night. Late, late at night.
I want to tell you these things so that you know you are not alone. And because five days ago my husband came home from work and told me that woman had been shot to death in her car in front of the capital building. Then he told me she had a child in the car and I knew. I felt it in my bones that Miriam Carey had suffered from PMAD. A few days later my hunch was confirmed when a friend posted about Miriam. I want to share my story for her, but there are still words I don't know how to say.
I remember shoplifting. I remember cutting myself. I didn't cut myself for people to see, I always made sure I only cut in places no one would notice. When I was doing these things, I wasn't doing them with my mind. My mind was watching my body hurt itself and put my children in danger. I remember being alone, completely alone. I was terrified that CPS would come in the night and take my children so I didn't sleep. I sat in an easy chair in a room above the front door, holding my son while he slept. Often when he slept I got into the shower without taking my clothes off and either cut myself or didn't allow myself to use any cold water, or only cold water. During this time I could barely cook, raw meat disgusted me. There was very little I felt I *could* do. I could make Isaac breakfast and lunch. I could empty and fill the dishwasher one time. I could do one load of laundry, but I couldn't fold it or put it away. I could go to the grocery store every two weeks when my husband got paid. I could sometimes go to the library. Before leaving the house I had to work myself up to leaving. I had to get ready one foot at a time. Then after I couldn't put anything away and I had to rest for at least two days after. Which meant for those days I couldn't do anything extra, in other words dishes and laundry. I *thought* I would fold the laundry so my husband would dump it on the sofa. I never felt able to fold the laundry so every morning I had to dig through the cloths to dress my kids. And at night I had to do the same for pajamas. Every morning I wiped my sons bottoms with clean wash cloths after taking their diapers off. I dressed them in clean clothes every morning and every night they were always in clean pajamas that had a matching top and bottom. Isaac always had enough food and we did things together. I read him literally hundreds of books. I worked once or twice a week. I’m not sure how I did that, but I did. I worked usually up to twelve hours for the most part wearing Rowan on my back in a wrap carrier. Then usually the next day I would go to the farmers market and work in the booth.
I also had frequent images of myself harming my son. Putting the thumb tacks or razor blades I used on myself against his sweet skin. This terrified me and I could barely tell my husband. I did so only because one day I knew that was the day it was going to happen. I was in that armchair again, nursing Ro, when I knew that if my husband didn’t take everything out of the room I would likely kill us both. It took him forty minutes. Because he didn't understand. I kept telling him take everything and he would take one thing and try to leave. I had to scream and beg him to take not only the cork board but the nails in the wall. The last thing he took was the ficus, in the crook of the ficus was a razor blade, but I didn't have the words to tell him that. We didn't die that day.
Rowan turned one and I don't remember that either. If we had a birthday dinner, if I gave him gifts I don’t remember. I remember that he had a red phase. He would only wear red pants, a red shirt and socks and a red hoodie. He would only eat using a red handled fork and spoon. And for about a month he would only drink out of a blue glass bottle we had gotten springwater in. I don’t remember when this was though. I remember his second birthday. I hand sewed him a birthday crown, but I didn't have a party for him. I think had blueberry pie, but that is actually a memory from Isaac's third birthday when Rowan was only three weeks old.
In ’09 when Rowan was about a year and a half, 3/19/09, we were at Barnes and Noble in the evening and I bent down to pick him up, I nearly blacked out. I drove myself to my parents house and someone drove me to the ER. I had a lot of testing to find out that I had an 8cm dermoid cyst. When I bent to pick him up the weight of the cyst had caused my fallopian tube to twist. The cyst, fallopian tube and ovary was removed the next Monday. I was in the hospital for a few days and went home to my parents’ house for a few days after that. I didn't know what hit me. But by the time the farmers market rolled around again I was back working with Ro on my back. I seemed to level out, but I was still experiencing a lot of paranoia. I remember one day I was nursing Ro to sleep on the easy chair and I became convinced that the front door was open and that someone was in the house. My entire body became stiff with fear. I remember feeling sore the next day, but I don’t remember how the experience was resolved. About a month later I had another series of gall bladder attacks. These were much more painful. I had a surprise birthday party for my mother. A few days after the party I went to a naturopath for the first time. He gave me some different vitamins and ox bile.
My weight during this time had gone up and up and up. I gained about 100lbs in 18 months. My diet had gone to seed. I couldn't eat during the day because it wasn't safe to do so. So I binge ate at night when my husband was home. I also ate a lot of candy. Around this time in 09 I read an article in Mothering magazine about a mother who had PMAD and how she saved herself by taking calcium magnesium supplements. I knew I was scraping by so I started drinking quarts of herbal infusion. I drank at least three quarts of infusion a day. And I didn’t die.
Everything we owned was on the floor. There were maggots in the kitchen under empty grocery bags. Friends tried to come and help me clean, but it was too much for one or two days. When I say everything was on the floor, I want you to imagine every single drawer, basket, toy bin and hanger empty and all of those things on the floor. Imagine a farm share not put away from last week under the farm share from this week. It felt like one thing after another after another. Every time I felt like I could get up again, I slipped back down. I didn't shower for weeks sometimes. I didn't realize I was gaining weight because I only wore the same three pairs of PJ pants. I couldn't shower unless I earned it and I never did. Eventually I would break down and clean myself because I couldn't stand it any longer or because it was time to go grocery shopping again. Nothing was ever going to be okay again. I was ruining my marriage, my children’s childhood and my own life and it would never be better. I didn't know how to get help. I didn't know how to help myself. I didn't know how to accept help if it were offered. I absolutely didn't know how to ask for help. If you are drowning in the ocean you can wave. If you are drowning in your mind there is nothing you can do except hope someone notices. If no one notices you have to save yourself.
There isn't a definite ending to this story. I didn't wake up and feel fantastic all of a sudden. I kept drinking my herbs and taking supplements. I have to watch myself every single day. I have to feed myself the ways I didn't before. I have to take time to breath and be outside my head. The hardest thing I have to do is reach out to women. I have to have friends and that means helping other women and letting them help me which is really hard. My next step is joining a fitness class. I don't know if I will ever be a size small again, but I want to feel healthier. I have to sleep which is also really hard. I have to eat food in the morning. I have to eat low carb, because I feel better when I do and every tiny ounce of feeling good is important. The way I survived is by not dying. Every single day I didn’t die is a day I won. Every single day I wake-up is winning. And not everyone does.