A Mom Shares Her Terrifying Battle With Postpartum Depression

hopeShortly after Katie Gleason brought her son home from the hospital, the visions started. "The only time I wasn't completely miserable was when he was sleeping," she says. "I couldn't stand it when he cried, and I hated that I was breastfeeding and nobody else could feed him but me." Like many new moms, Katie felt lonely, isolated, and not like herself. But what she didn't realize, almost until it was too late, was that she was suffering from crippling postpartum depression.

Katie talked to The Stir about her battle with this condition, and how, with the help of therapy and drugs, she was able to come out on the other side. Her hope is that her story will let other women suffering from this "embarrassing" condition know that they're not alone and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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How was your mood during your pregnancies?
During my first pregnancy with my son Mikey, I felt amazing but apprehensive. Somehow, I had convinced myself that I couldn't get pregnant, so when I found out I was, I was excited and shocked. But I was constantly worried that something was going to go wrong. I called the doctor over every little thing, and Google became my best friend. Every time I went for an ultrasound, I was sure it would be bad news. With my second pregnancy, with my daughter Alex, it was different. I knew everything was going to be okay. I just knew that my baby was going to be born perfect and my family would finally be complete.

When did you first realize something wasn’t right?
In hindsight, things weren't quite right from the get-go. The first night after Mikey was born, I only fed him when the nurses told me to. Aside from that, he slept in his bassinet. I didn't even change him that first night. It wasn't until the next morning when the nurses asked me how many diapers I had changed that it occurred to me that I hadn't even checked him. At the time, I didn't think anything of it. But when we came home, I realized that something truly wasn't right within the first few days. I started seeing visions of myself throwing him against the wall or drowning him in the bathtub. There were times I hoped SIDS would take him, and then I felt immensely guilty for even thinking such a thing. Some days, I'd fantasize about ways of killing him and having it look like an accident.

However, during our first year, from the outside looking in, I'm sure it looked like I was a loving mother. And I tried very hard to be a loving mother, but I just couldn't grasp the idea that he was my child. It was almost surreal. I knew I had carried him for nine months and had given birth to him, but I felt like nothing more than a babysitter. I remember holding him in my arms wondering when his real mom was going to come and take him home. I felt completely isolated, and didn't get help. I felt like I couldn't tell anybody how I was feeling because what kind of mother feels this way? I didn't want to be that mother.

By the time he was reaching a year old, things were getting better, and I felt like we were bonding. Then, when he was 16 months old, I found out I was pregnant with our second child. After our daughter, Alex, was born, everything felt perfect, but it didn't last long. Pretty soon, I started to feel depressed again. The thoughts and visions came back. Unfortunately, a lot of my anger and resentment were directed at Mikey again, who was 2 at the time.

Were you nervous that you would suffer from PPD after your second pregnancy as well?
Actually, no, not at all. By the time I became pregnant with my daughter, I felt okay again. While I was pregnant with her, I just knew everything would be perfect. When she was first born, I remember telling my husband that she was what I needed. I felt happier than I had ever felt in my life.

Was there a specific moment when you realized you needed help?
Mikey was somewhere around 2 1/2 and Alex was about 6 months. Something inside me just snapped, and it occurred to me that I might actually be capable of seriously harming my children. Up until that point, I felt like I had things under control. I was miserable on the inside, but I was able to put on a good show. Then, one day, I just couldn't keep it up anymore. I was scared when my husband left for work because I didn't know what I might be capable of. The thoughts and visions were overwhelming. I couldn't make them stop. I knew I had to see my doctor. I was convinced that he was going to have my children taken from me, and that scared me. But at the same time, I had come to the decision that having them taken from me would be in their best interests.

How did your husband react?
He was surprised. He said he could tell I was a little "off," but he had no idea how bad it was. I was in nursing school at the time as well, and I think he figured all the stress was getting to me. When I finally confided in him, he was incredibly supportive. Everyone told me that I was/am such a good mom, but really, I was good at putting on a show.

What treatment did your doctor offer?
The doctor initially prescribed Lexapro, which worked for a short time. Once the initial high wore off, that was it. So, he switched me to Cymbalta, which I took for about three months before I stopped it on my own. I felt like I was better and didn't need it. About a month later, I began an affair and started making plans to leave my family. I almost lost my family. I had come to resent them all so much that I was desperate for a way out. Shortly after that, I began seeing a therapist who referred me to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist prescribed several medications in varying doses and combinations including Remeron, Topamax, Trazodone, and Prozac, which helped.

What helped you the most?
Therapy. My therapist was kind, but he was harsh as well. He made me realize that it was my choice to fight or to run away. I could blame anybody I wanted, but in the end, it was up to me to make myself happy. Nobody else. Prozac was a big help too, but without the therapy, Prozac would have just been a band-aid for my situation.

How do you think your depression affected your relationship with your children and husband ?
Yes. I screamed at my children when they were just infants. I feel so much regret over that every day. And because of that, I'm very lenient with them. Sometimes, I feel like I'm trying to make up for my past wrongdoings toward them. I also cherish every moment with them because I know there could have been a significantly different outcome.

As for my husband, he knows about the affair I had. He knows I had plans to leave (I went as far as asking for a divorce). He's forgiven me, and we don't talk about it, but I know that it will always be there in the back of his mind.

How did you feel about your postpartum depression?
I felt a lot of shame over it. That's a big part of the reason I waited so long to get help. I didn't want anybody to know what a terrible mother I really was. Now, I'm not ashamed. It was a very negative time in my life, but I overcame it. I talk openly and honestly about it to anyone who wants to listen because I know there are other women out there who feel like I did, and they need to know they are not alone.

If there’s one thing you could tell a mom suffering from PPD, what would it be?
Don't be afraid to get help! Talk to somebody right away. With the right help, you can get past this. You're not alone, and you shouldn't have to feel like you are. And mostly, postpartum depression does not mean you are a bad mother.

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Did you have feelings of depression after your baby was born? How did you deal with them?

 

Images via pol sifter/Flickr/Katie Gleason

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