I married my high school sweetheart when I was 20 years old. Three years later, I gave birth to our first-born daughter. I instantly fell in love with being a mom, but I struggled to find a good work-life balance. At the time of her birth, I was in my last semester of college and about to start student teaching. I was determined to make it work, no matter what it looked like. I even brought my two month old to school so I could set up my classroom.
I was excited for this new chapter of my life; everything seemed to be coming together when it was really about to start falling apart. Student teaching while taking care of a newborn meant staying up to 12am to finish my assignments, waking up at 2am to nurse and waking up at 4am to pump so I could provide enough breast milk for my baby while I was away. It meant only a few hours of sleep at night, no time to make healthy meals, and excessive amounts of coffee. This lack of self-care was about to take a major toll on me.
There were slight changes in my behavior and thinking patterns over the next few weeks. I was oblivious to them though. I started to worry more. I took my two month old daughter to the emergency room for seemingly no reason, which was way out of character for me. I also started becoming obsessed with spiritual gifts and had an obvious misunderstanding of them.
My delusions become more apparent one day while student teaching. My memories of that day are fuzzy, probably by the grace of God, but what I do remember is that I convinced myself that the school had been cheating on their state tests to increase funding and that somehow the students were getting hurt in the process.
That’s when I started to see things that weren’t really there. People who I felt could be trusted were glowing, as if in an angelic way. People who I felt were evil, were surrounded by a black mist. I was convinced that I was on a mission from God to save these students and that God was allowing me to see who I could trust, but that really wasn’t the case.
That was my last day of student teaching. It became obvious to the principal that I was not thinking clearly, so I was asked to leave my placement. After that, I become extremely paranoid. I was convinced that the teachers at the school were coming to get me. My husband and I, along with our now 3-month old stayed a few nights with my parents. They eventually took us on a mini vacation to Shenandoah in hopes that the fresh air and time away would be good for me.
While time away helped, my recovery process would be long. There were many instances over the next two months where I experienced other symptoms that were causes for concern: religious delusions, hallucinations, extreme paranoia, temporary memory loss and so much more.
It was a scary, emotional time for our family that drew us to our knees in prayer more than any other time in our lives. The day before Thanksgiving that year, I checked myself into the mental health unit of our local hospital in desperation. It was an eye-opening experience that made me realize I have so much to be thankful for, despite my current state. It was after that three day stay that I started to truly feel better. I contribute my recovery to answered prayers, heartfelt counseling sessions and some medication for anxiety.
As we are expecting our second child in August, I write this story in slight fear of it happening all over again. We will be taking necessary precautions in hopes to avoid it, but nothing is a guarantee. No matter what happens, though, I know I serve an all-knowing God who is there to help us through any obstacle we may face in the future.
I would love to hear your postpartum stories. I think opening up and talking about our experiences will not only help others currently going through these issues, but it will help us get the closure we need too.