As I read this article on my local news website, my heart felt like it was in my throat and tears formed in the corner of my eyes. I can’t imagine what this beautiful family is experiencing at all, but I can imagine what Emily must have been going through before her death.
My son was just barely two years old and I had just found out I was pregnant again. My marriage was not fantastic but better than the years earlier. We had bought our first home and I had just quit my job to be a stay at home mom. Since I was pregnant, I stopped talking an anti-anxiety medication that I realized I was relying a little bit too much on for sleep, but didn’t expect it to be too rough. And what I started experiencing was some anxiety going to bed at night, fear of not sleeping. Now it seems really silly to say, “I was afraid of not being able to sleep.” But it was honest to God 110% the truth. It would start a tailspin of panic attacks and a huge dive in my mental health. It stopped just being at night, it was following me at all times. Never sleeping. Watching the clock all night long, tick tick tick while trying to slow down my heart rate. It would just get worse. After fighting the night all night every night, I would be a walking zombie on the brink of a break down while trying to function as a new mother and also carry a baby inside my body. My eyes always burned, my heart was always racing so fast, my adrenaline was always making me sweat and causing such weird symptoms. Every little thing I had to do took way too much energy. I did this every day and every night. I tried everything. Hot baths, classical music, vitamins and supplements, massage therapy, reading, praying, watching movies, boring movies, therapy, ER visits, calling hotlines. I would be outside in the sun on a beautiful day and watching families in their yards, while I was sitting on the porch feeling like I was under my very own dark cloud. I was screaming inside but felt like no one understood what I was experiencing. My panic attacks obviously turned into major depression. I got to the point where I thought about aborting the baby so I could drown myself in sleeping medication so I could just shut off my body. People would always say, “at some point your body HAS to shut down and fall asleep.” But it wouldn’t. It would want to, but my mind and heart racing wouldn’t stop. It was the weirdest battle I would fight day in and day out, every hour. I started finally sneaking Ativan (anti-anxiety) medication that used to help me. After taking it, I would read about the side effects if you took it while pregnant. It would say that the baby could come out with a cleft lip and palette. I would just imagine having this baby and seeing him/her with a cleft palette and not be able to live with myself. I would cry and call nurses and hotlines asking if I could get an ultrasound that day just to see if my baby had the cleft lip/palette. My husband at the time, didn’t know what to do for me. He finally drove me to the ER when I was freaking out and crying. They literally looked at me almost with disgust. They sent me home with 2 Ambien and told me to check with my gynecologist on Monday morning. The minute I took the Ambien, it was as if my body and mind would start to calm down. So Monday I got right into my doctor and she explained that it was much healthier to take an Ambien to sleep for the baby, then go through such trauma like I was putting myself through. The guilt from taking any medication ate at me, but after she explained it that way, I relaxed a little but it still bothered me. So I would have anxiety all day but in the afternoon I would start getting ready to take the pill just waiting for the relief it brought. I would take it as early as 6 pm. I didn’t care about the side effects, like how crazy I would act and not remember the next day. It was such an unhealthy cycle. Anything was better than not putting myself through the hell I had been through. My husband and family didn’t understand why I would rely on this pill so much and why I would take it so early, rather than not right before bed. This went on all through my pregnancy and after, but I was functioning. I was able to be a mom and a normal human being, but night came and I couldn’t go without my special pill. When my daughter was born and I saw her for the first time, she was perfect. I was still so afraid that I had caused her to have some type of problem with her looks or her health, but when I saw her I bawled. She was beautiful and seemed to be perfect. I fell in love and cried and prayed to God thanking him for her and that I was able to carry and deliver her and she was healthy. But even in the hospital, I was relying upon something for sleep. This went on and on. I’ll never forget when I went to take it at night and realizing my 90 supply bottle was no where to be found. I usually had it in my purse but realized it was missing. I immediately drove to the park where I was in the day and started going through the garbages. That was such a low knowing what a problem I had. I always told myself it was better than ever feeling those anxieties and panic attacks I would have all day and night long. I knew EXACTLY what it was like to have postpartum depression and to fight the battle that other women talked about. I continued to taking anti-depressant and Ambien for years, but after getting out of my unhealthy and toxic marriage, I also faced my problems with substance abuse. This was a huge issue in my life but I didn’t want to face it until reality set in after my divorce and that I had to look myself in the mirror and love me. I will never forget my therapist years ago would always say “Age and Stage” in response to my guilt for needing medication. What he meant by that was that there is an age and stage in all things. My babies were little then and I needed more help. That was the stage of my life then. Sleep was extremely important being a young and pregnant mom. But over the years, I have a new stage where I get more sleep and things are different and my focus and age has shifted. Luckily, after much hell and then help, I am finally in a place where I am no longer on anti-depressants nor do I need Ambien. There is one medication I am currently taking but I am weaning off that as well. There is an Age & Stage in all things and we need to be kinder to ourselves and have self compassion. I have always been so understanding and compassionate with everyone else but myself. I look back and wish I would have been more loving and understanding of myself while going through such hard and traumatic times.
Coming back to The Emily Effect, I pray for her husband and those sweet kids. I pray for the women that are currently in the struggle and wondering what to do, where to turn. Don’t keep it in. We are all in this together. There is too much judgement in life, we need to stop it in it’s tracks and fight against this illness. There are tools out there and sometimes they don’t feel like they fit you and your needs, but don’t give up. Talk about it. You are not alone. Keeping fighting until you succeed and overcome it. Remember, there is an age & stage in all things, things will change, perspectives and struggles shift. Grateful to my therapist, I kept a piece of paper in my wallet that said age & stage as a reminder. There is an age & stage to whatever problems you are dealing with right now, it won’t stay.