I wrote the following in early April of this year as I was working up the courage to tell family and friends what I had been through. I haven't gotten up the courage to show this to more than a handful of friends and I still haven't told any family. A friend of mine told me about Band Back Together and hopefully sharing here will get me one step closer to telling those around me.
It all started when Dustin was born in February of 2009. I hate to say it like that because it’s not his fault or anything. After doing all I could for a natural birth, I ended up with a very unwanted c-section. I felt like I had failed at the one thing a woman’s body is meant to do. I also missed out on what should have been one of the happiest moments of my life because I was in such a drugged-up haze that I don’t really remember seeing him for the first time.
I didn’t get to hold my baby until he was a couple hours old, as I had to wait until the medication wore off. Breastfeeding took us a solid four months to get comfortable with. Dustin was colicky, too, which made for a very rough start.
During those first months, I didn’t have time to process my own feelings or let myself heal. All my attention, all my energy was focused upon trying to keep Dustin calm. After the colic passed, I still didn’t feel right - I didn’t feel like myself. I knew that it could take up to a year to completely heal and feel normal after a c-section, so I waited.
After that year passed, I found myself feeling worse and worse. I couldn't find anyone who understood my feelings. If I vented about Dustin being difficult, I heard either "you’re the one who wanted a baby" or "did you think it would be easy?"
I tried to talk about how sad and angry and disappointed I felt about my c-section, but after hearing the "it doesn’t matter how he got here, all that matters is that you are both healthy" line over and over, I stopped trying. I felt completely alone.
Hearing a birth story that ended in a vaginal birth left me sobbing and unable to sleep for several days. I decided that acting like I was completely fine was the way to go. But after something simple like grocery shopping, a play date, or lunch with my mom, I was utterly exhausted from pretending that I was okay.
When Dustin was nineteen months old, I completely snapped and hit rock bottom. The littlest things would trigger a depression. It was getting worse by the day. The flashbacks and nightmares were happening more than ever. Finally, I decided suppressing my feelings was not helping; I needed to do something.
I contacted my OB-GYN and told her what I had been going through. She said it sounded like I may have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and she referred me for counseling and therapy with a therapist who specialized in PTSD cases. The news that I had PTSD hit me like a ton of bricks! Therapy had always been something to joke about; only "crazy" people needed therapy! And now I was being told that I needed it. I was scared and embarrassed, but I knew I needed to do something; if not for me, then for Dustin and my husband Johnny.
I was so embarrassed by the stigma attached to mental illness that, aside from my friend who watched my son during the sessions, I never told anyone I was in therapy. Three sessions in, I started to wonder why I was putting myself though this. I gave myself a goal of just a couple more sessions, and stuck with it. I did nine sessions and lots of very difficult "homework" over the course of a few months.
I really wish I'd have known what a difference therapy would make - I'd have made that first call a year earlier! I feel like an entirely different person. Sure, I still get jealous when I hear a great birth story (or see a calm, quiet newborn) and I’m still not happy with the way things started out for Dustin, but thinking about those things don’t send me into a bout of depression and anger any longer.
I would never wish PTSD on anyone - it was one of the hardest things I have ever dealt with; I even mentioned during a session that I have had deaths of family members not affect me as much as all this did. I am hoping getting this out in the open will help me fully move on; it’s been hard living a double life.