June 20-27, 2012
In the days that followed my 24-hour long panic attack and slide into a state of anxiety that left me completely debilitated, I developed what could only be described as the ultimate case of verbal diarrhea. I had a desperate need to talk to anyone and everyone, which still surprises me, even years later. It was, I now realize, the only way I felt I could get better; if I told everyone what was happening to me, maybe someone would have the answers, the magic serum, to fix me, because I was unraveling by the minute. I had to have that answer, and I would do anything to fix myself. I am glad I didn’t have a looking glass into the future, because even though I would emerge from this horrific time stronger and a much better person for it, it would be several months until I could say I felt “right” again.
After being assured by several doctors and our local pharmacist that the small dosage of Zoloft I had taken should be out of my system within 48 hours at the most, the end of June 2012 was the darkest time I have ever known. This includes the year or two following my parents’ divorce, when my already absentee father literally walked out the door the summer I turned 12, and never looked back. I could rationalize the benefits of him leaving because he had never been a part of my life anyway, and I didn’t like being with him. Even during my black crushed velvet and Doc Maarten-wearing days, I don’t recall ever questioning my will to live or my sanity, although my mother may tell you differently; she still refers to Trent Reznor’s gigantic poster which hung above my bed as the “Nine Inch Nose.” Until I was able to find the right medication and feel it working; I had no hope for the future, or my abilities as a mother. I started having intrusive thoughts, which sent me scurrying upstairs like a tortured soul heading for the heavens. I had nowhere to go, and nothing but time.
Time. The one thing the universe loves holding over my head. I find in my life that when I need it most, time gets snatched out of my grasp. In these days, I had a surplus, and it was terrible I couldn’t bottle it up for later. It was almost as if time was a curtain, and each day, I had to decide whether to pull back that curtain of time and continue fighting for air, fighting to find some shred of light when everything else was sharply defined within the context of survival. Curtain after curtain piled up each day, making it harder for me to find any sunlight, any hope.
I had so much help at home that I was able to feed Bryce, and head upstairs for the kind of rest most new mothers (or all mothers, for that matter) could only dream about, but it only made me feel more alone and lost. I would lie in bed, tossing, turning, thinking, absolutely terrified of my thoughts. Completely exhausted, yet unable to rest in any capacity of the word, I would stay as long as I could, and often picked up the phone or texted someone. I remember how much I learned about people during that time; I found out that the people in my life were so willing to share things with me as I opened up to them. I’m sure it was a little odd to hear from me in those days; I cried through most conversations. What do you say, other than, I’m so sorry? And even though out of everyone I came in contact with there was really only one person who could personally relate, that was OK. I had to surround myself with people so I could prove I wasn’t a complete societal outcast. In the process, I learned that one of my friends has struggled with anxiety for many years. Another told me that she had phantom cries so badly that shopping trips to Target became almost unbearable soon after the birth of her first son. Everyone I called wanted to make things better. That was most horrible part for me; none of them could help.
Thankfully by this point I had been made aware of an insidious obsession with Internet research that had begun right after Bryce was born. I had joined an online baby blog for May 2012 babies, and at first it was a great place to connect with other moms. I began visiting the blog all the time; especially during late night feedings when I would perch my Nook on my lap while Bryce ate. Since reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes, I didn’t think anything of this new behavior, which quickly turned into very careful and deliberate searches for information. How much tummy time was enough? Exactly how much should DS (Internet-speak for darling son) be sleeping, and should we be making sure we put him in his Rock and Play sleepy, drowsy, or soporific? I couldn’t get enough information, and one link turned into another, until my eyes were so cloudy from staring at the screen that they ached.
I had found myself searching out the most obscure questions, things that I shouldn’t have been concerned about, and after I had my panic attack, I began to read everything I could about antidepressants. I knew there was something out there that could help me, so if I just spent enough time looking, I would find that pot of gold. Instead, I found websites that scared me, that provided nothing close to scientific or medical findings, just the rantings and ravings of people who were also hoping for answers to the mysteries of life. It was obsessive behavior, and thankfully Chris and my mom were there to recognize it. I realized that I was dragging myself deeper and deeper into my own fears, and somehow was able to stop. At least I had that going for me, because otherwise, I spent far too much of my time staring out the windows of our bedroom, thinking it was a shame that we had just moved into this beautiful house a few months ago, because I hated living there, and I was sure I always would. When I was with Bryce, I ached to be away from him because I was convinced he knew how weak I was, but when I wasn’t with him, my arms felt empty and I cried more than I knew was possible for everything I wanted but couldn’t have.