It’s like being trapped under dark water so cold you can’t breathe or think or move. It’s like being inside your own skin and desperately wanting to get out. It’s like being slowly, insistently poisoned by your own mind. There is nothing I want so much as to get away from myself. I haven’t been eating. I’ve been sleeping less and less to the point that one night I didn’t sleep at all.
It was my birthday and I was losing my mind.
I knew something was wrong as far back as Thursday. I could feel the burn of adrenaline streaking through my veins uncontrollably. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t slow my heart or control my breathing. Despite Anthony’s gentle, earnest and numerous attempts to calm me, I felt totally alone and was utterly convinced everyone hated me. I was completely unworthy of my husband and my beautiful child. I was losing my mind.
This was my first panic attack. But it wasn’t my last.
Over the next six days I had more, at first with gaps of recovering, head-clearing and feeling better, but always they returned, and worse than before. Then they grew closer and closer together until I had no relief. I have been seeing a therapist since I was diagnosed with PPD, and over the phone he assured me I was not insane. It took me awhile to believe him. I was convinced I was losing my mind.
I wanted to tell you this because my typical tactic is to keep everything to myself, even from my closest friends. Not many people know this, but I grew up in an alcoholic household and my mother and sister and I dealt with this problem by never mentioning it, ever. Not even to each other. Especially not to each other. I grew up knowing that something was very, very wrong, but I was never exactly sure what that was. One day, I realized it must be me.
We just didn’t talk about it, this problem that was making our lives hell, and life went on, until one day when I was about twenty my father had a seizure. Barely coherent from drinking, he fell to the floor in the living room, convulsing. Firemen saved his life and he was rushed to the hospital, no one knowing if he would make it. When I visited him he looked at me with his bright yellow eyes, not comprehending who I was. When it became apparent he’d survive, doctors still weren’t sure how full his recovery would be. We lived months with the future of our beloved Dad in limbo. He spent months learning to walk again and regaining his motors skills in physical rehab centers. After that, when it became clear his mind and body and heart will mostly recover, and he spent many more months in a drug and alcohol rehab center. I am so proud of him and his ten years of sobriety. He has changed, but I still cling to the old coping methods. I hold it all in, isolating myself from friends and family when I need them most. I still keep my feelings locked deep in my heart like they were shameful things best kept hidden.
Throughout these last six days I’ve lost 10 pounds and countless hours of sleep. At the advice of my therapist I saw my doctor to get back on the medicine I took for PPD. While I was in the doctor’s office sobbing, Isobel rubbed my leg and said, over and over, “Don’t cry, Mama. Don’t cry, Mama. Mama is sad.”
Mama is sad.
I’m sharing this with you because I don’t want to live with half my heart in lock down until the point it spills over into mental disorder. I’m sharing this with you because I want my daughter to grow in a healthier environment that I did. And I wanted to share this with you because I could use the support.