Angelos - Spring 2017

From the Edge of Despair

Lisa Abramson, Beta Tau-Vanderbilt 2017-04-13 01:57:12

WHY I WANTED TO JUMP & MY JOURNEY BACK FROM THE EDGE OF DESPAIR Shortly after the birth of my daughter in January 2014, 1 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 my husband I was going to 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, such as " I'm nuts" and that the trial for my imagined crime was coming up and since the gloves she brought me did indeed fit, they would never acquit me. None of what was going on made any sense, and my blurred "reality" terrified me. In fact, I was practically mute for the first five days in the psych hospital. My husband brought me information from the Postpartum Support International website so he could explain that I had a disorder called postpartum psychosis. I had all of the symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, irritability, insomnia, 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. 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 I hear about others' experiences with some type of maternal mood disorder ranging from the baby blues to depression. Recently, a girlfriend commented that seeing me now, doing so well, gives her hope that if she suffers from a postpartum disorder, she also could bounce back over time. The shame and guilt associated with maternal mental health disorders is part of what made my experience so awful. I felt so alone, misunderstood and 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. I served as vice president-public relations and president of my KD chapter, Beta Tau. After graduating from Vanderbilt University, I pursued a successful career as a marketing executive and entrepreneur. I prided myself on my mental fortitude and self-sufficiency. People described me as happy. I had never suffered from depression. By age 30, I was ready to take on my next challenge – motherhood. When my daughter was born, 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. I was not the happy and vibrant 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 told myself that I couldn't have postpartum depression, because I thought only mothers who didn't bond with their babies suffered from this disorder. I didn't know that sleep deprivation, stress and hormonal changes after birth could have such a drastic impact on my brain chemistry. I thought my deep sense of sadness meant I didn't love my daughter enough. I thought I was a bad mother. The sense of guilt at not being good enough was unbearable. About a month after my daughter's birth, I became suicidal, and my family moved from worried into action that saved my life. This is when 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 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 made a commitment to myself and my daughter that I would do anything to be stronger and more resilient. I turned to meditation, prioritizing my sleep and learning how to let go of trying to do everything. 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. 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. Lisa Abramson is an entrepreneur, executive coach and advocate for maternal mental health. She founded Wise Mama and co-founded Mindfulness Based Achievement, the New MBA, which teaches high potential women leaders how to create sustainable success. She shares her experience with postpartum psychosis in a TEDx video that may be viewed on You Tube or by clicking here in the digital edition of The Angelos. twlten you should worry - and seek help Baby blues is a normal adjustment period that happens during the first two weeks after giving birth. It is not an illness, and many women experience it. It goes away on its own and doesn't require help from a doctor. If you believe you have symptoms of postpartum depression or another maternal mental health disorder and these symptoms are preventing you from functioning as you would like each day, you should reach out to your doctor. Postpartum depression can include appetite and sleep problems; difficulty concentrating and making decisions; lack of interest in the baby; irritation, anger or rage; withdrawal from interacting with others; sadness and crying; the constant feeling of being overwhelmed; and/or possible thoughts of harming oneself or running away and escaping. One in seven – or 15 percent – of new moms suffer from postpartum depression. It can occur any time in the first 12 months after birth and is not exclusive to first-time mothers. Postpartum anxiety is marked by excessive worries and fears that are often centered on the baby, difficulty sleeping or eating, and sometimes physical symptoms like diarrhea, headaches or nausea. There is some discussion in the medical world that postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are actually one in the same illness, and that some moms may have more depression-like symptoms while others' experience of PPD is more filled with worry, fear and anxiety. Postpartum psychosis is a rare and dangerous illness that is considered a psychiatric emergency and features delusions and/or hallucinations and mania. It occurs in approximately one to two women per 1,000. Treatment for maternal mental health disorders may include therapy and/or medications. If your needs are urgent, or if you fear that you may harm yourself, your baby or others, immediately call your health-care provider, dial 911, go to the nearest hospital emergency room or contact a qualified crisis line, such as the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK. Source: www.postpartumprogress.com

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