Lisa’s Story

Lisa‘s Story:

Why I Wanted to Jump: My Journey into Postpartum Psychosis and Back Again
Shortly after the birth of my daughter, I 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 husband that I was going to go 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… I thought everything had a double meaning and I thought she was telling me “I’m nuts” and that the trial for my imagined crime was coming up and that since the gloves she bought me did indeed fit, they would never acquit me. None of what was going on made any sense but my blurred “reality” terrified me and also felt so real. In fact, I was practically mute for the first five days in the psych hospital.
In the hospital, I remember my husband bringing me a printed copy of thePostpartum Support International website so he could explain that I had a disorder called Postpartum Psychosis. I thought my husband had created a fake website for me to make me feel better about myself and I didn’t realize that postpartum psychosis was a real thing. I had all of the symptoms ranging from having delusions, strange beliefs, hallucinations, paranoia and suspiciousness to feeling very irritated, being unable to sleep and having 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, which is why I’ve been dragging my feet for months. 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 one on one with a friend, they tell me about their experience of having friends or family members with some type of maternal mood disorder ranging from the baby blues to depression.
Over coffee yesterday, I opened up about my experience with a new girlfriend and she shared that her sister went through a difficult time after the birth of both of her children and how it really helped to hear my story since she was concerned she too might suffer from postpartum depression. She said seeing me now, doing so well, really gave her hope that if she suffered, she also knew she could bounce back over time.
After talking with her I knew I couldn’t wait any longer, I couldn’t keep my story hidden out of fear. Especially because the shame and guilt associated with maternal mental health disorders is part of what made my experience so awful. I felt so alone, so misunderstood and so 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. Professionally I pursued a successful career as a marketing executive and entrepreneur. By age 30 I was ready to take on my next challenge — motherhood.
People often describe me as the happiest person they know. I had never suffered from depression. I prided myself on my mental fortitude and self-sufficiency. I even thought it was a badge of honor that I had never been to therapy.
All of this changed shortly after the birth of my daughter.
On January 5, 2014 I gave birth to my perfect daughter Lucy. 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 and I just couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror. I was not the happy go lucky 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 knew something was wrong, but I REALLY didn’t want to believe something was wrong with me. I kept telling myself that I loved Lucy so I couldn’t have postpartum depression, because I thought only mothers that didn’t bond with their babies suffered from postpartum depression.
I just didn’t know that sleep deprivation, stress and hormonal changes after birth could have such a drastic impact on my brain chemistry. I thought it was all my fault and that I had done something wrong. That I was a bad mother for experiencing this.
By February 10th, my family moved from worried into action that saved my life once I became suicidal. 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 thought that by admitting I had postpartum depression and psychosis it was somehow admitting that I was an unfit mother. That my deep sense of sadness meant I didn’t love my daughter enough. That I wasn’t sacrificing enough, wasn’t good enough, and the list goes on. The sense of guilt at not being good enough was unbearable and the pressure of trying to fake a smile and enjoy this precious time in my daughter’s life was too much.
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’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. (1 in 8 women suffer from postpartum depression)
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.

An Apology…

I am sitting here with wet eyes, light tears rolling down my cheeks.  I just did something I’ve been wanting to do since my little boy left my house but it has been so hard for me to do… I sent an email to his social worker.  I sent an email apologizing.

I know, I know.  I’ve been told countless times that Mental Illness is not my fault so in turn it is not my fault that T is not living with us.  It is hard to convince me of that.  I still remember during our interview with T’s social worker, his boss, and our social worker being asked what would happen if I fell victim to Depression again.  Being the healthiest I have ever been at that point (and medication free for 4 years), I said that will not happen.  I was so stupid for saying that… so stupid for thinking that as a reality.  Depression has been a part of my life for over 20 years.  It is like the relative you don’t want to invite to your child’s birthday party but have to. 

Even with my Therapist, friends and family telling me it isn’t my fault, I’ve tried to put myself in my husband’s shoes.  What if it was him who was in pain, him who couldn’t eat, him who kept crying and shaking… would I be able to tell him it wasn’t his fault, it is an illness?  Would I be able to forgive him?  I’d rather not answer those questions but just admit that my husband is an incredible man for staying with me.

So, I wrote this letter.  I titled it “Apology” with T’s name after it in the subject line.  I explained how I was so sorry, that I had no idea how quick the illness would come on.  I explained to him how I got worse after T left and once again entered Short Term Psych.  I told him we still love T and think of him daily.  I told him that I hope T is doing great and that his new family loves him and can take care of him the way I couldn’t.

Writing this short letter brought on images of T’s face.  His dimpled cheeks, dark brown hair, deep chestnut eyes.  It brought on memories of me kissing his soft cheek, holding his tiny hands.  Memories I never want to forget, but still remind me I am not in remission yet with Depression.

There is still some shame there… blame… horrible guilt.

I don’t know what I expect.  I will probably never hear from T’s Social Worker.  The mother in me just wants to know he is okay and is thriving.

Here I am, sitting, facing this white screen with dry eyes still thinking of T, choking back some tears.  I will get better.  I will get to remission.  I’ve been at war with Depression 5 times before and have always came out victorious.  I am winning this 6th battle and will hopefully be able to kick Depression’s butt to a far off galaxy to never be seen for a 7th time.

Therapeutic Thursday… The Week Leading Up To The Warrior Mom Conference

This past Monday, the article below came up in my Facebook newsfeed.  It sparked my interest a lot because those of us who have been through Postpartum Depression or have seen a wife, daughter, friend experiencing Postpartum Depression will ask, “What the heck could you love about Postpartum Depression?!”

7 Things I Love About Women With Postpartum Depression  

by: Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW

I hope my readers read this article.  While I do not agree with every “thing” the author loves, most them are inspiring.
Vulnerability…  I was highly vulnerable to everything under the spell of PPD.  I guess, looking back on this, the author, is right.  Since my emotions were so open to everything, eventually it did allow me to push back the guilt and shame and heal during therapy.  It allowed me to see all the emotions my brain and body could actually go through and handle.
Fear… Yes, 100%.  The fear is so intense.  Fear of not surviving.  Fear of your spouse actually taking your child away when you tell them to for the 5th time.  Fear that you will live like a hollow being forever.  It is there.  And from being so pained by it, you realize what it is really like to fear something.  When you have healed, you know what not to go back to.  You learn how the fear starts and therapeutic ways of coping to prevent it.
Laughing… seldom but easily.  This one is deeply hidden and very rare.  I remember laughing at my 6 week postpartum check-up with my OBGYN.  I was handed the Postpartum Depression Questionnaire.  Being that I had already been a patient in the psych ward for PPD these questions were pointless.  After reading each one, I just kept laughing.  It was so easy to do at that moment.  My mother looked at me as if I were crazy, and yes, yes I was.
Joy… Yes, we are craving happiness.  We do not understand why we don’t have it and other mothers do.  We want to know the exact date we will enjoy mothering our child.  We have no patience waiting for joy.  Everything the author of this article wrote.
Self-Aware…  Quoting the author, Karen Kleiman,… “It is this burden-blessing dichotomy that will spin things in a positive trajectory as she recovers”.  That about sums it up.
Angry Mama Bear… this one, is the one I do not fully agree with.  While I didn’t have such a disconnect from my child, I know many mothers who did.  With that the “Angry Mama Bear” would not have reared it’s ugly face.  I had a slight disconnect from my daughter but I did become the Angry Mama Bear with my PPD and PPA.  There came a point I was just angry.  I just wanted to be well again and enjoy my time with my newborn.
Ambivalent… Quoting Ms. Kleiman… “She does not want to feel this way for one minute longer. If we offer a glimpse into the option that she will not always feel this way, she is hopeful, she is grateful, she is desperately appreciative. She may be doubtful at the same time, but she so wants to believe. She so wants to just go home and be a mom. She doesn’t want help but she can’t stand the way she is feeling. She wants validation, reassurance and mostly, she wants relief from her symptoms. She is a beautiful paradox of defenselessness and power. Of nakedness and supreme focus. She is scared and she is determined. These contradictions can bewilder her at first, but can ultimately provide momentum toward healing.”  This is 100% true!
If we mothers can tap into these emotions and feelings, rather sooner than later, while suffering from PPD, we can attack Therapy dead on.  Feeling emotions are therapeutic.  Like many forms of Depression, there tends to be a lack of emotion.  We tend to live like robots until one day, one day when we are angry enough to fight back.

Wordy Wednesday… The Week Leading Up To The Warrior Mom Conference

Words…  words can hurt, heal, describe feelings, activities.  They are big, they are small.  Some carry intense emotion, while others are minute.  When we write, we use words to describe our characters in our stories.  What are they feeling?  What do they look like?  Where are they going?

What happens to that character, when that character is you?

What words can you use to describe what you are feeling as you sink into the depths of Postpartum Depression?

Unworthy, Hopeless, Helpless, Pained, Anxious, Nauseous, Angry, Unloved, Evil, Ugly, Tired, Hateful, Powerless, Emotional, Apathetic, Dead, Beaten, Failure, Stressed, Confused, Doubtful, Anxious, Depressed, Empty, Foggy, Somber, Shame, Blame, Guilt

Now, what words do you use to describe yourself after you have overcome the trauma of Postpartum Depression?

Empowered, Healthy, Loving, Worthy, Joyful, Happy, Strong, Survivor, Warrior, Successful, Deserving, Wholehearted, Inspiring, Lively, Rejuvenated, Refreshed, Alive, Beautiful, Good, Calm, Helpful, Hopeful

My lists are a only small grouping of words that describe the emotions and feelings I experienced while hurting from Postpartum Depression and after my recovery.  I implore my readers to tell me some more that they have felt if they are fellow sufferers and I ask others to think about how they would feel if they went through it and survived!

Teach & Tech Tuesday… The Week Leading Up To The Warrior Mom Conference

Teach and Tech Tuesday… I know, what the heck does that mean?!

Today I am going to provide information on Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, OCD, Psychosis, etc. and resources that can help.  I added the Tech into it because through the years, there has been a lot of resources that can be found and obtained through the great use of our world wide web, the lovely internet.

Please note, I am not a doctor or health care provider but rather a survivor and Warrior Mom of several of these illnesses.  Back when I had my daughter and went through the hell of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, resources were very limited.  This was the end of 2006.  Facebook wasn’t what it is today, MySpace owned the web.  Online psychiatric or therapeutic help wasn’t really available.  There was not a way to connect easily with others that were feeling exactly how you were.  There were no Postpartum Professionals in my area, in fact there were none in the State of CT at the time.  My help came from my hospital’s short term psych ward with competent staff but they were not specialized in Postpartum Illnesses.  Fast forward 9 years and we have made so many advancements in the field of Perinatal Mood Disorders, including specialists in the state of CT where I am, but we still have a long way to go.

My first resource, founded in 2004 by the original Warrior Mom, Katherine Stone:

Postpartum Progress – A great resource to those suffering, their family and friends, and for mental health providers.  Every year for the last 3 years on the Saturday closest to the Summer Solstice (longest day of the year), thousands of women all over the globe participate in an event called Climb Out Of The Darkness to raise both funds and awareness.  Postpartum Progress also runs a blog where Warrior Moms share their stories at .  Here women can read about others who are went through what they are currently going through.  Here they know they are not alone.  Here they can find private forums and talk one-on-one with others.  On this blog there are also links to find specialists, treatment programs, support groups, organizations, common questions, definitions and books.  It is a tremendous resource that I highly recommend and wish I knew about all those years ago.

Another good resource is:

Postpartum Support International – Like Postpartum Progress there are links to finding professionals, support in your area, support if in the military, etc.  You can chat online with an expert.  You can find training if you would like to become a volunteer coordinator… the list goes on and on.

A resource I hope you never need but very valuable to have:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – Yes, it is highly possible to have suicidal thoughts while suffering from Postpartum Depression.  Postpartum Depression is a form of Clinical Depression and carries with it much of the symptoms of Clinical Depression.

Another resource I like is:

Psych Central – They have articles about every Mental Illness you can think of.  Some relate to studies, some are from those that suffer, some deal with doctors.

And of course there is Facebook.  Just search Postpartum anything and numerous Facebook groups will pop up where you can friend people who are in pain like yourself or help someone.

Lastly, please, if you or someone you know is suffering from a Perinatal Mental Illness such as Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, OCD, Psychosis, etc… get help!  The repercussion of not seeking help can be deadly, not only for mom, but possibly for her child.

Motivational Monday… The Week Leading Up To The Warrior Mom Conference

The 1st ever Warrior Mom Conference through Postpartum Progress is this weekend in Boston, MA and I’m so excited to go!  It will be a weekend of learning, laughing, crying and lots of hugs!!!  I’m so grateful to be going and can’t wait to be around so many people who have been “there“.  People who have experienced Postpartum Depression and Anxiety like myself.  People who “get it“.  People who won’t look at me weird.  People who have survived.  People who have come out stronger.   Fellow Warrior Moms!!! (Oh, and I’m so anxious to meet Postpartum Progress’ founder, Katherine Stone!)
In light of this conference I’m going to post daily blog posts concerning Perinatal Mood Disorders this week.  It may be part of my story, a poem, an article review, motivational sayings, and important information!
Today is Motivational Monday!
I’ve lost my way more than once, but it has helped me discover who I am including all my good qualities.  The first time I really lost my way was when I suffered from PPD and PPA.  I was a completely different person.  But I came back, and I came back stronger!