Tuesday, February 08, 2011
When Coping isn't an option - Donna Alward
The story is about a reticent rancher, Wyatt, who discovers a baby girl on his doorstep. He's hopeless with babies, and enlists the help of a neighbour, Ellison Marchuk, to help him care for baby Darcy while they find out who she is and why she's landed on his front porch, of all places. Elli and Wyatt both have their own issues to work through, but Darcy brings them together. That's what the story is really about.
But underneath it all is the reason WHY she was left with Wyatt, and so I touch on an issue really close to my heart: Post Partum Depression.
I had it. In a pretty big way after my second child was born. When she was two weeks old, I was at the point of not functioning and having 2 small children to look after. I was miserable, looked at my husband, and said, "I need help."
We called my doctor. Within hours I was admitted to hospital. It was perhaps the most frightening experience of my life. I had become a stranger to myself in the blink of an eye. It was like losing what made me me, and yet recognizing that it should be there just the same. And then I was told where I was being admitted to: the psych ward.
The ward is a pretty interesting place. When I walked in it was completely surreal. A few minutes later a man went streaking down the corridor screaming. I was terrified. I didn't belong there. My new baby girl was in pediatrics as a well baby so I could visit her, but in order to do so I had to sign in and out at the station - and be let in and out of the ward. Most of all I slept. And slept. For hours. The second night someone coded and died. I never left my room. I was too afraid, but it shook me to my boots.
In the ward, you are not allowed to eat alone in your room. You have to eat in the common room, which is an experience on its own. By the second day I was realizing that everyone there had one thing in common - for whatever reason, they simply couldn't cope anymore. They were real people, like me. Who were sick. And honestly - I realized very early on that I was not in that bad of shape. It was very reassuring.
By the second full day I was spending time in Peds, rocking my baby girl and feeding her. While I was there, a very dear friend actually braved what I call "The Ward" and left me flowers. When I returned to my room and saw them there, I cried.
The next day my husband was allowed to "sign me out" for four hours, during which time I got to go home and have supper with him and my toddler. After three full days I was released, with weekly appointments set up with a psychiatrist. After you've been admitted as a psychiatric patient, that is the protocol. That doctor also got me in contact with a support group. I learned strategies for dealing with anxiety - strategies I still use today. Some are as simple as learning to take down time. Go for a walk in the sun - a natural mood booster. Take a half hour to do something you enjoy - read. I treated those things as seriously as any prescription. Six months later I was handed off to my family physician. For another year plus, I dealt with sporadic anxiety attacks and insomnia. For the most part, it was over. But now and then I would get a reminder. I learned to listen to myself.
I know I'm not alone, and while this wasn't something I wanted to dominate the book, I knew that it was a very plausible reason why Barbara would leave her baby with the only person she could trust. And I knew that I wanted to say one thing about PPD: it's not hopeless. It does get better, and there is no shame in asking for help. Asking for help is the bravest thing you can do. And I'm better for having gone through it.