About the Author

 

I’m Brooke. A wife to the most supportive Husband, who is my rock, and a mom to four handsome boys. I am a survivor of Postpartum Psychosis, Postpartum Mood Disorder and Postpartum PTSD. I’m not yet healed but I’m here clawing my way out of the darkness. I feel it is important to bring attention to the lack of support and resources for the mothers suffering along side me.

Sometimes I question why the hell am I going through this?? I’m not one to question God often but through this I have. Through this I’ve wrestled, screamed, fought, weeped and pleaded with God. Through this my faith has been tested and tried from every angle. I have seen God show up throughout my story, giving me glimpses of comfort, strength and hope. I only share this because my belief in God is such a big part of my life.

Here I will share my story. Through this I’m going to share excerpts from my journal, I hope you will be respectful. A journal holds no judgment and because of this I can write openly, raw, and honest. This is my truth. This is raw and painful. It’s not easy to share something so personal but I do it in hopes it can help you or maybe someone you know, know they are not alone.

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Hi, I’m a Sugarholic

I know it seems almost cliche to bring up sugar during the holiday season, which we’ve managed to land ourself squarely in now. Hang in there with me though, I think it will be worth it.

I’ve not eaten sugar for 7 months now. Yep, 7. Not because I’m on some diet craze, or anything fancy like that. Solely because I’m a sugarholic. There, I said it.

Now I know what you’re thinking, or can guess it, because this is how my conversations usually go.

Me: “I’m a sugarholic.”

Them: “Oh, me too! I love candy and all things chocolate!”

Me: “No, really, a REAL sugarholic. I didn’t know there was such a thing till I found myself here. So I don’t eat sugar. Well, refined sugar. I do however enjoy my natural sugars and you better believe I’ve figured out to still enjoy my coffee.”

From there the conversation typically goes like:

“I’m sure for now you can’t but later you will be able to handle sugar again.”

I’d like to say yes to that but I know that I have to say no. Just say no.
Now let me start from the beginning. We all have addictions, coping mechanisms we use to get through life. Some are rather healthy, and some are not. I had a variety of coping mechanisms through my postpartum period. One was Netflix. I watched it on my phone nursing because I needed to be anywhere but there. I’d stick the boys in front of one T.V. and I would sit in front of another. In the beginning I mostly used that and chocolate to cope. They were key to my survival.

As time went on and it became harder to fight the demons I began doing other things to try and cope. Thats when I found myself in Postpartum OCD. I cleaned ALL the time. I hated it and loved it. I always have liked cleaning for an outlet and mess has always caused clutter in my mind but this was more like I would  get angry if something was dirty or not tidied up. It almost felt like something I wasn’t in control of.

This phase continued but wasn’t enough. That’s when I turned to emotional eating. I’m a berry skittle lover, red fav starbursts supporter, chocolate enthusiasts, and there’s many more I’m a fan of that I could list.

Now here is where I draw the line of a candy lover or candy-holic. When you are hiding candy from your husband when you’re already eating a butt load of candy in front of him then it’s gone too far.

I’d drive to the store every single evening. Any given night at oh say 9:00pm you’d find me at Smiths on their candy aisle. I think the checkers started to notice my pattern. I’d try not to go to the same person all too often because for some reason that mattered??

Then upon arriving home I’d get settled in my bed watching probably Friends or Parks and Rec eating easily 2-3 thousand calories. Yeah.. it was that bad. What made it worse was I was eating another 400-800 calories on the way home from the store. I’d then hide the trash in the outdoor trashcan so my husband wouldn’t see it. That right there is why I call myself what I do. He didn’t even know I did this till a few months ago when we sat down and talked about my sugar recovery. On a side note it was a flat out miracle I wasn’t gaining weight.

I think at some point I knew what I was doing. Honestly, I wanted to drown my sorrows with wine but I knew how bad that would be so instead I used candy because that’s more socially acceptable I suppose.

It was a few months post hospitalization (you can read more about that through my What Brought Me Here series) when I was getting on new medication that I knew I needed to get off the sugar. I went cold turkey. After a month I thought well I’ve been good I can have a little bit of cake celebrating my sons birthday.

It was that cake that confirmed my self diagnosis. I sort of went mentally crazy from one small piece of cake. It S.C.A.R.E.D. me. I went back to feeling “crazy”. It was like my  version of a high from sugar I guess. It scared me enough though that I haven’t had sugar since.

I’ll now admit I actually went through therapy to get over the shame I felt surrounding this. I knew I needed to share this part of my journey but its been just as hard as sharing some of the really dark skeletons in my closet. I think it must be that I feel this is extra taboo.

Want to know what really sucks about being a sugar addict? It is everywhere. You don’t think about it really till you have to look at all the hidden sugar in products as well. Then in good humor I joke with my husband I should have become an alcoholic. There’s nothing I can do to change it so making a joke seems most fitting.

Now vision us all sitting in a circle in a gym or meeting place. Whatever seems most fitting to you.

“Hi, I’m Brooke and I’m a sugarholic. I’ve been clean for 7 months and I’m proud of that. Thanks for accepting me. It was hard to learn to accept myself and break through the shame I’ve struggled with.”

and that is when you say

“Hi Brooke! Welcome.”

Not the Only Survivor

It’s been a longer gap between posts than normal. It has been a bit hard to follow the last one that got so personal I suppose. I feel now I know what I should write about so I find myself here, for a fourth time starting this weeks blog.

I have struggled to bond with my youngest child. Even through pregnancy I found it difficult.  Then he was born and I had the rush of “I made him, he’s beautiful, I’m so in love.” I wish it could have lasted and been the start of a great relationship but it wasn’t.

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The Devil on my Shoulder

** Talk of postpartum psychosis, thoughts of self harm, and thoughts of harming others**

I wonder if I’ll ever truly be able to put it into words. I suppose the answer is no. I could never put the pain, demons and isolation into words but I try. I try because putting it on paper helps it to stop spinning around in my head. I am filling my second journal in 9 months. The words just flow because I don’t know how else to let this out. 

I really don’t write for anyone else. My writing is simply for me. It’s just a bonus if others along the way can be helped by reading it. 

I fill my pages with anything that seems to get stuck swirling around my mind. Picking up a pen seems to be a key that unlocks the spinning of the thoughts. Picking up a pen can release the thoughts and emotions that haven’t been able to break free on their own.  Continue reading

My Pity Party

I wrote this post only 10 days ago. At the time I had no idea what the weekend ahead was going to hold. I found myself landed in a hospital bed this weekend unable to feel from the waist down or move my legs. My brain unable to register I had legs or arms below my elbow. I felt like a box. The pain in my neck and head was unbearable. With help of the physical therapist I’ve been able to regain feeling in my legs and over the last few days I’ve been able to manage to walk once again, praise the Lord! My thoughts this last week instead of a pity party has been determination, acceptance, and praise of the small victories. My exact thoughts were “I haven’t been through hell to let this take me down.” Continue reading

Poem: Survivor

Poem about the hospital stay. Sometimes the only way to cope with things is to write.

Survivor

If only these walls
would tumble down.
Would I find myself
in this place?
These walls haunt me.
These tears a
constant reminder
you’re not here..
This pain in my chest
is no longer
from this darkness
but because I’m
doing this alone.
The strength within.
The will to live,
I’ll have to find a way.
Misunderstood, unheard.
How can you be here to help?
You’ve taken so much from me.
You’ve caused me pain.
You’ve controlled me long enough.
I won’t let you take me down.
You’ll make me stronger.
You’ll empower me.
You’ll cause me to create change.
You no longer haunt me.
You no longer control me.
You no longer define me.
Because of you
I’ll make a difference.
Because of you
I’ve found my passion.
Because of you
I’ve found my place.

Poem: The Mask

A poem about the recovery the months following the hospital stay. Everyone seemed to think the hospital would magically fix the problem and the pain and medication adjustments lasted another 6 months before I felt like I was really starting to make progress.

The Mask

You see the smile
All I see is the pain

You see the happy pictures
All I see is the mask
That I put on

Those that know
Think I’m recovering
They don’t really know
It’s only getting worse

The trauma is piling up
And they think
The meds have fixed it all

I still see the pain
Behind every fake smile

I still see the struggle
I’m trying not to show

I still see the pain
piercing through my heart

You’ve stopped reaching out
Because you think it’s all done
But for me the healings just begun.

My Motherhood Shame

I’ve been thinking about you for days. Wanting to post but feeling none of my drafts were the ones to be posted this week. I had plans of sharing some poetry but it just didn’t feel right. For some reason I feel today I need to get much more personal and I’m really not  sure what direction this will go.

There is so much shame surrounding motherhood mental health, not just postpartum mental health illnesses. I think so many mothers don’t share their thoughts or feelings because they believe they are the only ones to think and feel them. I know I did.

I always wanted to be a mother. I wanted to go to college teach at a deaf school for a few years and then settle down to raise a large family, I mean large. I thought I would love motherhood with all my heart even though it wouldn’t be easy and would be exhausting. I came from a large family I wasn’t completely naive to what motherhood would taste like.

Life doesn’t seem to go as planned, but even so it’s good to make plans and have dreams. I became a mother much younger than planed. Even so the transition seemed to be smooth. I didn’t struggle as I thought I would with becoming a mom. I did have problems breastfeeding, postpartum depression, and a hard recovery but the actual “moming” part was exactly as I expected. I even felt guilty some days that I was the one home raising our son because it seemed like my husband got the rotten end of the deal. That was until our second son came along 20 months later.

I was so angry after his birth. I blew up at the kids at the smallest things. I was convinced my oldest son was going to die so I never left the house except for walks. I didn’t know it at the time but my postpartum anxiety was through the roof.

Our second son was only 6 months old when I thought I had the flu. Five days into the flu I decided to take a pregnancy test to rule it out. I was in bit of a shock when I found out I was pregnant and couldn’t even wait to tell my husband so I sent him a text on the spot.

All of my pregnancies came with some severe complications. Pregnancy to say the least is not something I like going through. When I was 8 months pregnant I  laid in bed screaming from some very large kidney stones that had developed due to the pregnancy. My 5 lb baby kicked non stop at them which made the agony so much worse. To ease my pain my husband helped me into the bath. He left to get me something and I looked at the water and thought slipping into this and never coming back would be so nice right now. I seriously considered it for a moment until I realized I’d be ending another life, not just my own. I couldn’t do that. So I sat and cried in pain.

The depression didn’t let up the rest of the pregnancy. I honestly wasn’t sure if I had postpartum depression or prenatal depression. Either way it was a dark time in my life. Our third son was welcomed into the world at 37 weeks. Our oldest was still 2 years old and our second was just 15 months. My hands were full and for a moment so was my heart. At five days old I ended up in the ER with my nursing newborn because I was in so much pain. We weren’t sure if I had a blood clot or an infection. After a few tests were ran we discovered some of my placenta hadn’t detached and I had developed an infection.

Three kids under the age of three was a lot to juggle. After not successfully nursing my first two kids past three months I was determined to make it work. So every hour night and day you’d find me nursing the baby. Didn’t matter if I was pushing a shopping cart through the store, making peanut butter sandwiches or reading a book to the kids.

To leave the house it took two hours of prep work. I nursed, started getting everyone dressed, a snack and diapers changed. Then I’d have to nurse again, pack the diaper bag and schedule ten minutes to load the kids up in the car. It was exhausting yet I tried to find a way to make it work.

It was at this point I started to wonder why anyone even likes to be a mother. I hated it. I dreaded every morning and looked forward to bedtime. I’m not sure why as I then was up every hour to nurse. Just to repeat the next day. I was very depressed but didn’t tell anyone.

Everyone told me I was super woman but I felt far from it, I didn’t even like my kids. Taking care of them was a chore and I’d  become extremely jealous of my husband being able to work. I would become angry every time he spoke of lunches served at work, or talking to other adults during the day. I hated that I was in a  prison.

When my son was 9 months old I began to learn how to take care of myself again and slowly I felt like I started to find myself. By the time he was a year I had lost all my baby weight from my first three pregnancies and was feeling so much better about myself. I wasn’t hating motherhood though I longed to work outside the house or go back to school. I wanted so badly to impact the world in a way that would matter. In a way that went beyond my four walls.

It was when my youngest was 18 months old that I discovered I was pregnant with the son who brought me here, to writing these blogs and breaking the silence. I broke inside finding out I was pregnant. It crushed me. I wanted so badly for God to take it back. I even went has far as to think if I miscarried that would be okay. I had had three previously so it wasn’t out of the question. I felt so guilty for thinking that.

I had postpartum psychosis after him (you can read more about that in previous blogs).  It was after him that I began to wish I had never become a mother. I felt lied to by society and the medical field. Motherhood was nothing like what I was told it would be and nobody sat down and told me how many risk factors I had for postpartum mental health problems. If I’d been educated all of those things would have been taken into consideration before bringing biological kids into this world.

I wondered if any other mothers felt as I did but I didn’t dare ask because what if they didn’t?  That would make me look like an awful mother. What if I told them I didn’t want to be a mom, that God could take them back, that if I could go back in time I’d do it differently. How could I share that? Surely I’m the only one who doesn’t like my kids or motherhood.

What I’ve learned about breaking the silence, being courages enough to speak my truth through the shame is I’m not the only one who feels like this at times. Even though I had these thoughts, and sometimes still question why I’m a mother, it doesn’t make me a bad mom. I love my children fiercely, they are why I’m still standing. My determination to be a good mom for them even while I was fighting so many demons.

I’m not sure why I felt the need to ramble through this other than to break the silence for myself. Maybe to help a mother who has had these intrusive thoughts as well or someone who is struggling with the guilt. Perhaps to help break through the shame we feel when we don’t love motherhood or it doesn’t come easily to us. No matter the reason thanks for sticking it out with me.

The Diamond in the Rough

Much like listening to the same song over and over I feel like I can get stuck on repeat in recovery. Finding the same issue resurfacing again and again. It can hurt. It can be frustrating and it most definitely has made me feel defeated at times.

I’ve started to compare my mental recovery to healing from a surgery. It’s really painful in the beginning then slowly the pain comes down as you do things to help it. After that as you heal from the outside people no longer think of your recovery but you still feel the incisions brushing against your clothing, irritated and sometimes painful but most definitely uncomfortable.
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The Shadow in the Night

I can’t sleep, the nightmare haunts me. I wake with my heart pounding unable to shake the feeling of being trapped. Nobody talks about these things. The nightmares, the sleepless nights long after the baby starts sleeping through the night.

I struggle to find peace after these nights. I can’t seem to anchor myself into the present. The things that happened when I was at rock bottom seem to try and bring me back down. I wish I had an easy solution for once. Continue reading

Undertow

“God, keep my head above water
I lose my breath at the bottom
Come rescue me, I’ll be waiting
I’m too young to fall asleep”

– Avril Lavigne- Head Above Water-

*Talk of Postpartum Psychosis and suicide*

My baby was two weeks old when I started to feel crazy. Crazy was the only word I could use to describe it. Even so I just told my husband I had postpartum depression. I knew in my heart it wasn’t, but I hoped it anyway. I was well versed with postpartum depression as I had experienced it after each child as well as postpartum anxiety. Before the birth of my fourth baby I’d never heard of postpartum psychosis.

I wasn’t sure at first if I was just “seeing” things or if they were really there. At first that’s all it was. A shadow out the corner of my eye.  Paranoid someone was following me at all times. Even in my own home. I could feel them watch me through the window as I moved from room to room.

My baby was three weeks old the first time I knew I was seeing someone. It was dark outside as I stood rocking side to side trying to get him to fall asleep. I saw the man, knowing he had a gun and that he wanted me dead. I felt so panicked. I didn’t know what to do.. so I held still hoping if I didn’t move he wouldn’t see me. He obviously didn’t kill me and I wondered why he hadn’t. It terrified me. It was from this point on nearly every time I walked out of my house I thought I would be killed.

As odd as this sounds it scared me to think of being murdered but in my mind I could see in great detail what I planned to do to end my life. As time went on seeing my plan on repeat like a movie in my mind I’d become completely numb to the idea.

Struggling, drowning, unable to breathe. These words can’t begin to describe the agony I felt everyday. I wasn’t sure how I’d make it through the next task. I didn’t know how I was going to keep my kids alive each day. The thought of having to feed them made me cry because it was so overwhelming. Getting my son ready and then load the kids up to take him to school gave me such bad anxiety. It exhausted me.

My husband would head out the door in the morning, kissing me goodbye. I’d hold onto him till the last second and often cry. He never understood why but all that was running through my mind was I don’t know if I’ll still be here when you come home. I could never get myself to say that though. If I had things would have turned out differently.

Nursing nearly killed me in itself but somehow also saved me. My baby had a lot of food sensitive’s and some food allergies. I had to follow a strict diet to keep his tummy happy. It was so difficult with the state of mind I was in but him also needing to eat every hour and I being the only one who could feed him gave me enough mom guilt to keep going somedays.

All day I looked forward to bedtime. I’m not sure why as I was waking every hour to feed  a baby. Maybe I thought I’d get a break from my demons, yet I never did. Even so every day I still looked forward to bed, and dreaded the sunrise.

My babe was only 4 months old when I decided on an end date. I had family photos scheduled because I thought the least I could do was leave them with photos. The morning of the family photos the photographer called and told me she was down with the flu and needed to reschedule for two weeks out. I graciously said “Of course, hope you feel better” but moments later was filled with rage and bawled because I needed those family photos to leave them with.

My husband was at work so I let him know no need to come home early, the photos had been rescheduled. I then sat and cried for a good while when my mother in law offered to come get the oldest three to give me a break. Left with only my baby I fed him, laid him in the swing, and walked into my room fully intending to go through with ending my life anyway.

I made it just past my bed when I fell on the floor sobbing, furious with God. Somehow I found myself laying on my bed. I was crying harder than I ever had before. I don’t remember what I said now but I know there was a lot of anger and swearing in there. Then I heard it, my baby was crying. Starving. I looked at the clock and I couldn’t believe two hours had passed. It wasn’t long enough. Somehow I managed to get up, walk out there and pick up my baby. Somehow I managed to sit down and nurse him, staring at the wall. I couldn’t look at him. I still blamed him for this nightmare.

I got a text, my kids were coming home. My heart sank. I wasn’t ready to deal with them too but it was also because I’d ran out of time to end my life. I’d now have to wait for another opportunity. My will to be a good mother always managed to over power my will to die.

I could hear them approaching  the front door. Time to put my game face back on.. nobody could know what I was dealing with on the inside.