It has been three years. Three years of fighting, inner terror, fear, and searching for myself. Three years of tears and wanting out. Three years of surviving…and winning.
Two days after my twin boys were born I noticed I was having trouble sleeping and felt extremely overwhelmed. I chalked it up to just giving birth and being a new mother. I found I was sitting on the edge of my hospital bed staring out the window in silence for unknown periods of time looking out at a world that all of a sudden seemed so foreign. I would wake up so excited to see my boys and as soon as they were wheeled into my room, I felt an overwhelming sense of chaos inside. That chaos was also married to numbness. They would cry and I would start panicking. I still blamed this on new motherhood, a c-section, and anesthesia. Until nighttime came.
As our friends were visiting, I looked at my husband and said, voice shaking, “I feel like I want to come out of my skin.” He left our room to get help. The next thing I knew, several medical professionals were rushing in and the first words out of my mouth were, “I don’t want to hurt myself and I don’t want to hurt my children.” The first words of the battle against myself. These words began a three-year war and the fight was for myself.
We went home two days later and I was in the trenches. I cried, hysterically, the entire ride home. I soon found I cried all day, every day. I cried when I thought I couldn’t cry anymore and soon I was crying because that’s all I knew. I felt empty. I looked at my children and felt nothing. Where was this overwhelming love I was supposed to feel? I felt everything but love. I wanted to run away back into my old life, back to when I knew who I was. Back to a time when it all made sense. Nothing seemed to make sense anymore and it only took two days.
I would look at my children and cringe when they cried. Logan was screaming one night because he had a soiled diaper and I did not want to change him. In fact, I couldn’t have cared less if he ever got changed. Since I had a horrible reaction to the anesthesia from my c-section I did not get to do skin-to-skin in the hospital so my sister, who had been visiting, thought it would be a good idea to try it. The photo below is from that night. From my desperate attempt to bond with my babies. After a few minutes, I screamed, “Get them off of me! Please!” It felt so unnatural and like an act of desperation. I had reached the darkness. I was in the trenches. I was soon crying to my husband, “Why did we put in two embryos? Why did we put in two?” (My husband and I conceived our twins through our second round of IVF, transferred two embryos, and both implanted).
I convinced myself that having just one child would erase all of the feelings I was having—that one child would surely be easier, make me feel love. I contemplated adoption for about a week. I would look at my children and try to decide which one would be better off with another family. I was at my lowest point. I felt helpless, lost, and empty. I saw no way out. I didn’t see it getting better. I couldn’t. Until I did.
I was a fighter, I still am. I knew I could not live like this. I knew this wasn’t living. I knew that my children deserved a mother who stood on her own two feet and faced life. I knew I needed help. I started medication and began working with a therapist. Slowly, but surely, I was climbing out of the darkness and three years later I am still climbing and fighting. A friend told me very early on that, “Love grows,” and she could not have been more spot on. My boys and I needed time to get to know each other, and we did.
This postpartum journey, this road of mental health, has been the fight of, and for, my life. Literally. It is one that I have accepted I may be fighting for the rest of my life and this fight is ugly, terrifying, and full of unknowns. While my depression has gotten better, I suffer extensively from anxiety. I have been on and off meds for three years and in and out of counseling. I wouldn’t choose this for anything, no one would, but I am immensely grateful for all of the resources that are available to me as I battle this monster. I spiral, easily. One thing could be off and that is all it takes to send any good season I am in, south.
We go through many seasons when suffering from mental health challenges. I am working with an internal liar. That’s how I like to think of my anxiety. It’s a pathological liar. It tells me to be scared of the day. It overtakes my thoughts as soon as I wake up. It makes me wonder who I will be that day. It instills in me fear and social awkwardness and robs me of my days. I look it in the eye every day and stare it down, knowing I have two choices. I could let it take over my life and eat me alive, or I could fight with everything I have. Sure, I have cowered to it. Sure, I have been so exhausted from the combat that I feel I cannot give any more of myself, but I refuse to give up. I know that in order for me to be the best for my children and my husband I have to be the best for myself first.
This fight makes you question, “Why?” on repeat because truth be told it is not fair. It is not something we would choose. It is not something we would wish on our worst enemy, but here we are. I wake up every morning afraid of who I will be that day. It is often scary to go to bed afraid of the morning, but I will rise every day. I will rise for myself and I will rise for all of the others suffering from mental health who scream as I do from the inside out. If there is one thing I have learned in the past almost three years, it is that there is always hope, both within us and hope to be found out of the darkness. I have also learned that we are stronger than what scares us, even if what scares us is ourselves.
We are never, ever alone.