Admitting I’m Certifiably Crazy

My first hospital stay started November 16th, 2006, exactly one month after the birth of my daughter.  Although I needed to admit myself to short term psych it was extremely hard for me to come to the conclusion that I was being hospitalized in a psych ward… It was hard for me to realize that I was indeed, now certifiably crazy.  I was amongst so many other people in for various reasons… Depression, Schizophrenia, Anxiety, Addiction.  I thought of myself as the most normal one there.  After all, I was only “crazy” because of the hormone drop from having a baby.  I wasn’t like these other people!

But, I was and still am.

While there all of us patients had to attend various group therapies.  We had Morning Meeting where we would pick inspirational quotes and our goal for the day.  We had art therapy.  We had actual group therapy where we shared our stories and then Wrap Up at night to see if we achieved our goals.

Day 1 that I was there still believing I wasn’t mentally ill I did not join group.  By day 2 the nurses and therapists forced me downstairs.  I went to group but remained exceptionally quiet.  I just listened to all the “crazy” people speak.  It still didn’t click.

Then, one day, an older gentleman spoke about his Depression and how because of holding out for help his wife and daughter had abandoned him.  Years that he could’ve gotten help… Years he could’ve had with his family… just wasted.  It wasn’t until he described his symptoms that I realized I wasn’t just crazy for the first time now.  Sure the hormonal drop didn’t help but like him I experienced the anger, the verbal abuse, the crying, the sleep changes, the food changes and ultimately, the distancing.

He and I actually became good acquaintances while there in short term psych.  I pushed him to call his daughter and he pushed me to get better for mine so I wouldn’t turn out like him.

I left 12 days after I admitted myself into the loving arms of my husband, daughter, parents, sister and inlaws.  These are the only people outside of the hospital who knew my diagnosis.  I was embarrassed to be labeled “Mentally Ill”… Certifiably Crazy.  I fed the stigma.  I didn’t tell friends for a long time because I thought they would abandon me.  I mean who wants a friend with a mental illness?! After all it took me days in the hospital to realize I was mentally ill, that I belonged there.  How would others feel when the stigma over mental illness just grew more and more over the years?!

Once I decided to tell other people, I was not abandoned but accepted.  They wanted to help me.  A few were mad I never told them I was in the hospital.  They wanted to visit.

It was because of this overwhelming support that I became such an advocate to dismissing false information about people with mental illness.  I decided to tell anyone who would listen to my story… Not just my postpartum story… but my story since my first bout of Depression at 14.  I continue this now with this blog.  Yes, I may be medicated under the eyes of a psychiatrist and in therapy, labeled with mental illness, but I honestly am a relatively normal person.  I don’t exhibit behaviors of a crazy person stereotype but I am one.  I am turning my experience into help for others… I am helping to tear down the wall called ‘Stigma’.

Mommy Is Not Going To Kill Herself

Recently Sophia has forced me to listen to a popular local radio station.  Normally, I enjoy what I call classic rock (or 80s rock which makes me feel old now that it’s called ‘classic’).  I gave in to her request being that her recital songs play on this station and I wanting to be a cool mom decided to learn today’s music.  Honestly, with what comes next it wouldn’t of mattered what radio station was on. 

On our day off, Presidents Day, my 8 year old daughter and I had a day of fun.  This day included the most fun activity of all… visiting my psychiatrist.  Note sarcasm.  Because of this I had to go to CVS to pick up my monthly medications.  Sophia was with me.  While we waited for them to be filled, Sophia was perusing the magazines…  Then she asked…

“What’s going on with Bobbi Kristina (Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s daughter)?”

Tough one.  How do I explain this, mental illness, anxiety, depression and ultimately suicide to an 8 year old who suffers from anxiety herself and tends to turn everything into a catastrophe?!  I thought about this for a minute. 

Some of you will diagree with me about talking to Sophia about this but being that she can read, suffers herself and has just witnessed her mother’s breakdown, I felt I had to tell her something.

I told Sophia that Bobbi Kristina suffers from Depression like Mommy does.  I then explained that some people who suffer from Depression feel that the only way to escape their pain and sadness is by taking their own life.  I quickly followed that with…

“Don’t worry, Mommy is not going to kill herself.  I’ve never ever had those thoughts.  I’ve only had thoughts of running away.  I NEVER had thoughts of killing myself.”

I had no idea what would follow as Sophia’s Anxiety Attacks can be triggered by almost anything and forces her to freak out at a moments notice.

Then she asked about herself.  I told her for Mommy Anxiety is a major cause of my Depression but I’m an adult.  I told her I know what to look for in her and right now Anxiety is her only issue.

Luckily, my explanation was enough for her and no anxiety attack followed.

Well, Sophia is a big thinker.  She constantly thinks about everything.  In the car this morning listening to her radio station, the DJ started to list off some news items starting with Bobbi Kristina and how she was still on life support but getting worse and her organs were beginning to fail.  Sophia perked up and once again asked about her. 

I explained that Bobbi Kristina must have been really depressed and tried to take her own life but she didn’t succeed.  She then asked if she was okay.  I told her that although she is still alive, she did a lot of damage to her body and most likely she will die soon.

Sophia then asked, “Mommy, are you going to do that?”

“No sweetie.  Mommy is not going to kill herself.”

She then told me how she was going to talk with her therapist about this at the next appointment and added that maybe she shouldn’t listen to this radio station.

All this has left me in awe of her.  At 8, she’s picked up news by reading magazine covers and by little snippets on the radio.  I can’t hide everything from her.  Most of me wanted to brush off the topic and lie to her telling her Bobbi would be okay but I just couldn’t.  This little girl has seen me shaking, crying, dry heaving, delusional.  She’s seen me at my worst and is old enough to remember and know Mommy is sick.  This little girl suffers herself with Anxiety which makes her nauseous and delusional.  I had to tell her something.

Mental Illness is real.  It affects all ages.  It plays with your mind.  It plays with your body.  Unfortunately, it can occur in children.  Unfortunately, children can witness their parents.  My child both suffers and has witnessed her mother’s suffering.  I chose to explain it to her in a way an 8 year old would understand.  I chose to break the stigma.

Less Of A Mother

I am a blessed mother of one, an only child.  She’s growing into such a young lady.  Sophia is kind, loving, strong willed and stubborn (like her mom). She’s also amazingly talented in the arts (my lefty!). 

And at 5 she was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  So yes, my beautiful daughter has issues.  She is emotional, a huge worrier that tends to turn everything into a catastrophe.  There are times her anxieties will last 5 minutes and times they have lasted over an hour.

I am a mother to an only child, an only child with issues and still I feel like less of a mother than those who have more than one.  I feel I have no right to give any parenting advice even if it is about raising a girl or raising a child with anxiety.

I feel like less of a mom.  I tried mothering 2 and my mind and body broke down.  They told me I can only physically mother 1.  As I suffer with this bout of Depression and Anxiety I can’t help but to beat myself up even more.  I’m less of a mother because I only have 1 child.

Am I though?  So I don’t have a sibling for my daughter.  She’s still not a stereotypical only child.  She’s a great kid.  She’s a great student excelling in reading and writing.  She’s nice to all her classmates.  She’s empathetic to others emotions.  She’s a great kid that has issues.

And yet that nagging negative Stephanie, the one that suffers from Depression and Anxiety still feels like less of a mom.  Maybe it’s because I always imagined I’d  have more kids and because my body broke down trying to mother 2, I am less of a mom. 

Maybe that actually makes me a stronger mother.  My body told me I couldn’t do it and I listened after trying too hard. 

Being a mom to an only is simple to most.  I constantly hear the following:

“Well you only have one, how hard could it be?!”

“There’s two of you (parents) to one child, that’s so much easier”

“You have no idea the battles we have with our kids” (To this I usually add, I  may only have 1 BUT I am 1 of 3)

“You probably have so much money because you only have one child.”

Hearing these aids in making me feel like I’m less of a mother, especially as I battle Depression and Anxiety again.  It will take quite some time and therapy for me to not feel like “Less Of A Mom.”

When the Joy Fades…

When my beautiful baby girl was born, I felt euphoric from the second I pushed her shoulders out.  I had never been so happy.  To know this little baby was all mine.  She was all I ever wanted since I was a child playing house with my dearest friend.  I would constantly pretend my Cabbage Patch kids were my babies.  I always wanted to be a mother.  Now I was one.
The pure glow continued as I was moved from Labor & Delivery into Recovery.  I saw elation on my husband’s face as he got to push the lullaby button marking the birth of our baby girl.  That lullaby plays throughout the hospital, a little joy.  Little did I know how much that lullaby would mean to me.
I held her… My Sophia Faye, my Wise Fairy.  She was so small but so beautiful.  I treasured her coos and even embraced her cries.  I was on a high and hoped I would never come down.  She stayed with me until bedtime so I could attempt to get as much sleep as possible before returning home where my sleepless nights would begin.  One night I awoke and started to freak because it was 5 hours since she was brought to me for feeding.  The worry was beginning.  Where was my baby girl?!  I made Jimmy go get her.  The nurses didn’t bring her because she was asleep and one thing you learn is never wake a sleeping baby.
The day came to bring her home.  This child I brought forth into the world.  Seriously, people were entrusting her life to me?!  I felt like a child myself and I was 26.  Things seemed to be going well until Jimmy was called in to work.  Some 2 weeks off.  His boss claimed it was because our child arrived 2.5 weeks early.  Out of the 10 days he should’ve been home with me, he was home 4 of them.  My mother did come to help.
Feeding was another issue.  My baby girl had no issues latching but she just felt like it was sleepy time once she did.  Okay, no problem, I would supplement with formula.  Even then I began to worry she wasn’t gaining weight.  I began to worry that she didn’t cry enough.  I worried she was too hot or too cold.  With all this worry, I started to have issues sleeping.  This should’ve been clue #1.
Two weeks after her birth the Baby Blues I was experiencing quickly turned into Postpartum Depression.  Aside from lack of sleep, I was barely eating and whatever went in me was quickly thrown up.  Crying was an event that occurred at least 6 times a day.  Then the thoughts moved in.
“What have I done?!”
“Her crying makes me want to rip my hair out.”
“They’d be better off without me.”
“I’m useless.”
“I hate her.  I hate myself for hating her. “
“I can’t stand to be around her, I can’t stand to be around me.”
“I wish I could turn back time.”
“I’m going to run away!”
That last thought plagued my mind for the 2 weeks before entering myself in short term psych for the first time.  I planned everything from when, to going to the bank to withdraw money, but always froze on where to go.  I was torn.  I didn’t want to be alone but I didn’t want Jimmy or my parents to find out.
Exactly 1 month after my baby girl was born I was brought to the emergency room by my mother.  Jimmy left work to meet us there and my sister was watching Sophia.  In the ER I began to tremble like I never have before.  The anxiety kicked in.  Silly me wanted to come because I was worried I was malnourished since I was constantly vomiting.  Once in the room the only doctor brought to me was the psychiatrist.  The same psychiatrist I just recently saw for a consult.  She questioned me and felt I needed to be admitted.  Her next question was, “Are you willing to admit yourself?”
I thought about this.  I thought about what I was doing to Jimmy, my mother, my father, my sister, and Sophia.  Reluctantly, I answered yes. 
This was the beginning to me getting better.  This was day 1 of twelve days I would be there.  12 days of therapy.  12 days of playing with my medication.  12 days of discovering things about me.  12 days to understand the Postpartum Depression that overtook me like an alien.


Jimmy and I took a big step.  After asking Sophia how she would feel, we finally opened the door to Tyler’s old room.  This door has remained closed since he left on January 2nd.  At first it remained shut for me.  I was far too emotionally unstable and cried at the site of anything that was his that remained behind.  As the weeks passed, I told myself it should remain shut as to not hurt Sophia… As I hate to cause her pain.

When we came home last night the door was open.  Jimmy was airing out the room.  I peered inside and although there was an emotional feeling of melancholy, I did not cry.  My medication must be working.  So, I asked Sophia if we could keep the door open.  She was hesitant not because of her feelings but she was worried about me.  My 8 year old should not bear the stress of worrying about her Mommy.

So, the door is now open.  I looked inside this morning at the bed he used to sleep in, the carseat that used to be in my car, and the highchair that used to adorn our dining area.  I could see him in all these visions.  Tears began to well up but then they stopped.  I am not the best Mommy for him and I know that.  I could’ve been had I not fallen victim to Anxiety and Depression once again, but I did.  I thought about how we helped him and about how he will find the best Mommy and Daddy for him.  That made me smile.

I will full out admit that I broke down crying a few days ago when I found his fall jacket in the closet.  I inhaled it… To smell him again, to not forget.  Then I put the jacket in the clothes donation pile.  After, I walked into his old room and took his throw that was left behind and sat on my bed.  I cried.  I inhaled him. I hugged it close and 5 minutes later my eyes were dry. 

The throw still remains on my bed.