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My Story: A Journey Through the Darkness

By: Kirsten Tilbury

I was diagnosed with PostPartum Depression (PPD) in January of 2003. Claudia was 4 months old and I was having horrible intrusive thoughts about harming her, suicidal thoughts and a lot of anxiety! I thought someone was trying to kill me; I was locking my doors and became very paranoid! I was having horrible, horrible nightmares and I couldn't eat or sleep! I just couldn't do anything! I didn't want to take care of Claudia and I was so afraid that something was going to happen to her! I donít understand why this happened to me! Claudia was planned and I was so happy when I found out I was pregnant. I had wanted a 3rd baby for so long! She was a very content and happy baby! She would go to anyone! She wasnít colicky or sick! I just donít understand how this could have happened!

Claudia girl Claudia was born September 12, 2003. She was 3 weeks early and was so tiny weighing only 5lbs 15oz. I was very determined to breastfeed Claudia; I had breastfeed my son and thought it would be just as easy! Claudia did not get the hang of things at all and when I was discharged from the hospital I tried on my own to get her to breastfeed, but quickly realized that I needed help! I decided to call the Health Unit and they sent a Public Health Nurse Diane to my home that day and put me in touch with the Lactation Consultant Susan. It was an extremely stressful time and I was seeing Susan weekly! I became very anxious whenever it came time to leave my appointments! I was so afraid to be left alone with the baby and I felt so helpless! It took 10 Ĺ weeks for Claudia to finally latch on! I didnít think she was ever going to breastfeed! No one was happier for me than Susan when Claudia finally started breastfeeding! Susanís support was so wonderful; sometimes I wonder how I would have made it through those 10 Ĺ weeks without her! Despite how difficult it was to get Claudia to breastfeed, it was the most rewarding experience of my life and I would do it all over again if I had too!

When Claudia was about 2 weeks old Susan sent me to the ER, I was exhausted and couldnít stop crying. I saw a nurse from the MHAT team and it was then just diagnosed as PostPartum Blues. I didnít want to admit what was really going on! I was afraid that if I told people what I was thinking I would lose Claudia and they would throw me in a mental hospital! I was exhausted from trying to get the baby to latch on, giving her breast milk in a bottle and then pumping to keep my supply up! When Claudia was about 4 weeks old Diane called during what I had thought was the worst day of my life (but I was wrong, the worst was yet to come)! I couldnít stop crying, I thought my milk was running low and I thought I would have to stop trying to breastfeed. I had thoughts of suicide although I never told anyone what was really going on. I just thought everyone would be better off without me. Diane called my Family Doctor and made an appointment for me to see him that day! When I saw him he told me that if I went on antidepressants I would have to stop trying to breastfeed. I would not do this! I lied to my doctor! I told him that I was just a little overwhelmed by trying to get the baby to latch on and that I would give it another couple of weeks and see how I felt! I lied to him again a few weeks later and I pretended everything was fine!

During the Christmas Holidays (which is usually my favorite time of year) I became increasingly angry and had horrible nightmares! I was having trouble sleeping and wasnít really interested in eating. I was snapping at the kids and yelling at Mark over the stupidest things. I just couldnít seem to function! At this time Mark was doing everything, the laundry, cooking, cleaning, making lunches, etc. I just couldnít do anything! I finally took a PPD test and scored very high! I had no idea that I had PPD; I thought I was just angry. On Thursday January 9 I told Susan that I was very depressed and that I wanted to try medications. I still could not bring myself to tell her what was really going on! We researched medications and when I called my doctor I told him I wanted to try Zoloft. He was still very adamant that I stop breastfeeding. Susan phoned Mother Risk for me and made sure that this medication was safe to take while breastfeeding. She also wrote a letter to my Family Doctor explaining this to him. Diane called that Monday morning after I had spoken to Susan. I hadnít slept that night and I was very depressed. I told her that I couldnít eat, couldnít sleep and that I was having horrible, horrible thoughts! She was very persistent and asked what these thoughts were! I told her they were about people dying, me being dead and people finding me dead. She asked if I had thoughts of hurting Claudia, I didnít want to answer her! But she kept asking me and reluctantly I said yes! She immediately told me that I needed to go to the hospital, but I was too stubborn and argued with her that I would never hurt Claudia! I did go to the ER that day and I thought I would be admitted to the hospital. I spoke to the MHAT team and explained to them everything that had been going on. When the doctor came he told me that they could not admit a healthy baby to the pediatric floor at that time! I wouldnít stay in the hospital without Claudia!

When I got home from the hospital I phoned Susan to let her know what had happened. I kept apologizing to her for not being able to tell her what was going on! She made an appointment for me to see a doctor at the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital (LPH) that Wednesday. I called Diane the morning I was going to see the Doctor at the LPH, I was very scared about the LPH and I just needed someone to reassure me that things would be okay. Actually I was calling both Diane and Susan that morning. I just kept dialing their numbers until one of them answered the phone. I explained to Diane a little more of what was going on. She was able alleviate some of my fears about the LPH and told me to be completely honest with the Doctor. When I got to the LPH I saw one of the nurses there, she was so wonderful and very supportive. I felt that I could be completely honest and was able to tell someone for the first time that I had thoughts of suicide! That afternoon I came back to the LPH and meet with one of their General Practitioners. It felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I was able to tell her about the anxiety, the fear that someone was trying to kill me, the intrusive and suicidal thoughts! The Doctor prescribed something to help me sleep and I had another appointment with her the following week. Diane came to my house the next day; we were filling out the forms for the Healthy Babies Healthy Children program. We talked about how everything had gone at the LPH. She was so supportive and compassionate. It was so nice to talk to her and thank her for all of her help. Diane explained to me that because of my depression and the thoughts of harming Claudia she would have to notify the Childrenís Aid Society (CAS). I was shocked and scared; I honestly didnít know what CAS would do! When she left the doctor phoned and told me that CAS had been in contact with her. She told me that Diane had phoned them the day before while I was at the LPH! I felt so betrayed and angry! Diane sat in my living room and said nothing to me! I just couldnít believe it! I understood why, but for some reason I just couldnít accept that and all I felt was anger! I was so worried that everything I had feared was true and I thought they were coming to take the kids away! I was becoming more depressed and I just kept holding Claudia and pacing! My thoughts were spinning and I started feeling more and more anxious!

That weekend things did not go very well, I had thoughts of running away, throwing myself in front of a bus and the thoughts of harming Claudia were getting more and more bizarre! It was just awful! I knew deep down that I would never hurt Claudia, but the thoughts were so disturbing I was so afraid of what I would do! When I saw my doctor again on January 20 we both agreed that I should be admitted to the hospital. They admitted Claudia to the pediatric floor and I was able to continue breastfeeding her. I was only in the hospital for a week when the resident psychiatrist came and saw Mark and I. He told us that Claudia was going to have to be discharged! I became so angry; I went back to my room and started packing! I would not stay in that hospital without Claudia; he reluctantly discharged me from the hospital.

I left the hospital feeling as low as I had the week before, I called the LPH to arrange an appointment with my doctor but her week was full. The nurse was going to arrange for another doctor to see me the following day and she was going to call me the next day. That evening the anger kept rising! I just wanted it all to end, I didnít feel that my stay in the hospital had really accomplished anything and I was starting to feel very hopeless. Diane called the next day; she was very concerned and had Crisis Response call me. My mother in law also called that day to see how I was doing and she was also very concerned and called Mark at work. I began defrosting breast milk and was ready to send the baby over to my in laws house! I was feeling so desperate and so low! I called Mark to have him come and pick up the baby, but what I didnít know was that he had already spoken to Diane and she told him that I shouldnít be alone. I begged Mark to just take the baby and go. I just wanted it all to be over! But he wouldnít listen to me. Mark took me to my appointment at the LPH and the psychologist I saw was concerned enough to trick me into going to my Doctorís office. My Doctor readmitted me involuntarily to the hospital. I spent a total of 3 weeks in the hospital on the Psychiatric Floor. During my stay in the hospital I began seeing a psychologist Dr. Barney and started working with him on cognitive therapy. While in the hospital I underwent psychological testing. Through these tests it was determined that not only did I have PPD; I had Dysthymia and traits of Borderline Personality Disorder as well.

Gradually over the next month and a half the Zoloft was increased from 50 mg to 200mg! I was given many different prescriptions for sleeping medication none of which really helped. I thought I was losing my mind! I was becoming more anxious and more paranoid. I explained this to my doctor and she told me it would take much higher doses of Zoloft to make these symptoms go away. I kept telling my doctor and Dr. Barney that I was not doing very well and I was slipping deeper and deeper into depression! I couldnít bathe Claudia because I had thoughts of her drowning in the bathtub, I was afraid to go in and get her in the morning because I thought I was going to find her dead in her crib. The anxiety was getting worse; it felt like I was having a heart attack! I was afraid to be in public places and began spending more and more time at home. When I was out in public I became very anxious and had to leave. On March 17 I tried to call my doctor to let her know how I was feeling. I could not get through to her and I called Susan, she told me to have Mark take me to the ER and phoned Dr. Barney. I was very worried about going back to the hospital; I felt like I was failing everyone and was very ashamed of my relapse. While in the ER I saw the Psychiatrist and he was very sympathetic. He wrote out a prescription for ativan to help with the anxiety and a different prescription to help me sleep. We talked about me being admitted to the hospital for a few days, to help me get some sleep! But he couldnít guarantee that Claudia would be admitted, so I decided to go home! The nurses reassured me that I could come back to the ER at anytime if things did not improve or if I started feeling worse!

Nothing seemed to be working. I became more and more depressed. I began having a couple of glasses of wine in the evening to take the edge off of things and on March 21 I took 2 sleeping pills and drank 3 coolers. I just wanted all the pain to go away! I passed out on the couch, we had students living with us at the time and I found out that morning that one of them had tried to wake me but couldnít. I was so ashamed of what I had done and when I saw my doctor on March 24, I was completely honest with her! She informed me that if CAS had found out what I did I would be at a greater risk of having my children taken away. I told Diane what I had done and what my doctor had said. She was so wonderful and just listened to everything I had to say. I was becoming more and more depressed that day. I just couldnít cope anymore! I was yelling at the kids, they were just driving me crazy! I asked my sister to come and stay with me that evening and I told her my fears. I was so worried and so depressed! Nothing seemed to matter anymore! I made the kids a poor supper that night and I sent them to bed early! I felt like the worst mother in the world! I just wouldnít stop beating myself up about how awful I was! I didnít sleep much that night and Claudia woke up early. I was exhausted and thought that my family was better off without me!

On March 25, I GAVE UP! I was so afraid that my children were going to be taken away from me! I thought my family was better off without me! They didnít do anything wrong and I thought if anyone was going to leave it was going to be me! The thought of them having to leave their home, and all of their belongings was so sad! I just couldnít stand the guilt, shame and all this pain anymore! So at 6:30 in the morning I walked to a bridge and I deliberately overdosed on chloral hydrate and ativan! I found my cell phone in my pocket and I called Crisis Response. I told them to tell my family that I was sorry and that I loved them! The women I spoke to repeatedly asked me if I wanted an ambulance sent and I told her NO! An ambulance was being sent anyway, they just didnít know where I was. The women I spoke to told me that I might not die and this scared me! She said that my overdose could do a lot of damage to my body, but it might not kill me! I finally agreed to have them send an ambulance, but by this time I did not know where I was and was so desperate to have them find me! I found out later that they were tracing my cell phone! When they finally did find me I was so relieved! I donít remember anything else about that day! I just remember waking up the next morning in the hospital hocked up to all these machines and tubes everywhere! Everyone tells me that it is probably better that I donít remember! But it is so scary not to be able to remember a whole day!

I spent 3 days in the ER and was transferred to the psychiatric floor where I would spend another 2 weeks. This time they did not admit Claudia with me and despite being separated from her for 2 weeks she is still breastfeeding! Mark had a very difficult time getting Claudia to take a bottle! I suggested that we call Diane to ask her advice and after some arguing I just dialed her number! That was the hardest phone call I ever had to make! To tell Diane what I had just done, I just didnít know what to say or how I was going to tell her and I kept praying that she wouldnít ask how I was! When she answered her phone and asked how I was I just blurted it out! I told her I had tried to kill myself and started crying! That was probably not the best way to tell someone news like that! But I just didnít know of any other way to tell her! Diane and Susan's support throughout my hospital stay was very overwhelming! They both took the time to just listen and offer their support! Susan brought an electric breast pump to the hospital for me to use and Diane attended another case conference on my behalf. I donít know what I would have done without their support through all of this.

During my stay in the hospital the hospital was locked down because of the SARS breakout! I was not allowed any visitors at all! I didnít see my children for 2 weeks. I missed them so much! But I found this time that I was better able to cope with things. It was just me in the hospital and as much as I missed my children they were with my in laws and I knew they were being well taken care of! I could just concentrate on me! I participated in a group called Getting Yourself Together. I did crafts, puzzles and socialized with the other patients. I thought this time I would never have to go back to the hospital again! We had a Case Conference with our CAS worker Anne, the Health Unit, the Psychiatrist and Dr. Barney. I found out that my diagnosis had changed from PostPartum Depression, Dysthimia and traits of Borderline Personality Disorder to just Borderline Personality Disorder. Mark and I were shocked and I still to this day do not believe the change in diagnoses. At this case conference Anne, Dr. Barney, and the Psychiatrist did not want me to be alone with the children! Their fear was not that I was going to harm my children, but that I would harm myself and my children would be left to fend for themselves! None of them would offer any solutions to provide support for me at home! We were told repeatedly that we had to rely on our family and friends! It was impossible to have someone at our house all the time! It was hard for me to accept and I felt as though no one trusted me! The only solution Anne could suggest was to put the children in Daycare! I was heartbroken!

When I was discharged from the hospital this time I thought I would be able to cope with things. I was feeling really happy, I was keeping busy and things generally were getting better! I honestly didnít think that I would ever have to go back to the hospital and actually had fears about going to the hospital. But this illness had taken so much from me! I used to be a very strong and independent person and for me to have to have someone in my home to help me take care of my children was awful and I fought it all the way! My in laws stayed with me during the day to help in whatever way they could! They took me to my appointments, helped with the household chores and kept the children occupied! My in laws were absolutely wonderful! I couldnít have made it through all of this without them. When they went on a much-needed vacation my mom came to help out! My mom got me out of the house, took me shopping and visiting. But as much as I appreciated everyoneís help I felt like I had let everyone down. I didnít want to have to rely on all of these people!

One day Anne called, she couldnít make it over for her weekly visit and I was very depressed! Mark was working late and I knew I should have had someone with me, but I was so tired of asking everyone to stop what they where doing and come over! She was very concerned and called my husband! She told him that I needed someone there and that if anything happened it would be his fault! I did phone my sister and she came over. To my surprise a little while later my friend came over with tea! Mark had called her and asked her to stop by! When I realized what had happened I was so embarrassed, I didnít want people doing this for and I was beginning to feel like such a burden to my family and friends! I just couldnít stand having all of these people involved in my life and I just to go away!

At the beginning of June I started feeling depressed again. I was having horrible intrusive thoughts and I began fantasizing about razors and knives. I was terrified. I had never had thoughts like this before, I had had thoughts of suicide before, but they had never involved knives! I began to worry that I would act out on these thoughts. After struggling for a few days I decided to call Dr. Barney, he reassured me that they were just thoughts! But the thoughts of suicide were getting stronger! I didnít want to deal with anything anymore! These thoughts were getting worse and I was so tired and ready to give up. On June 4 I called to speak to one of the nurses on the psychiatric floor, but she was not available to speak to me. The nurse I spoke to told me to call Crisis Response. When I called Crisis Response, they sent their mobile unit out to my home. I spent about an hour talking with them before it was decided that I should go to the ER. I spent about 2 hours waiting in the ER to see the MHAT team. I was a little nervous about being in the ER. I didnít really want to be there and it took a lot to finally admit that I needed to go back to the hospital. I wanted to be admitted, I was so afraid that I was going to act on these horrible thoughts that I was having. When I was finally brought to the see a doctor, they sat me down on a stretcher across from the nurseís station. I had only been sitting there a few minutes when I heard a nurse talking to a doctor. They where reviewing a patients chart and I realized very quickly that they were talking about me! I was so humiliated! The nurse made a few comments ďrepeated trips to the ER, probably not serious, and that I had discharged myself against medical adviceĒ I felt so betrayed by the system! Mark and I had been told repeatedly by doctors in the ER that they would rather I come to the ER a dozen times than have something happen! I sat on that stretcher getting angrier and angrier! When the doctor finally came to see me he asked if there was anything they could do for me and I said obviously not and I walked out of that hospital! I walked out onto the street and started heading for home. I walked for about 45 minutes and when I finally arrived at home it was 1:00 in the morning! The whole time I was walking I thought about running away, throwing myself off of a bridge, anything to just make this all go away! I was so angry, I couldnít sleep that night and I was so confused!

That morning I didnít know what to do! I just wanted it all to be over! I felt like I had let everyone down! Mark suggested that I call Diane and fill her in on what had happened. She had always been there to help me in the past and I needed her advice. She told me that I should file a complaint with the hospital (which we did) and reassured me that I did do the right thing. She didnít think it was a good idea for me to be alone and I told her that I was going to have my mother in law come over and spend the day with me! I told my mother in law that I didnít have any formula to send over to her house and needed her to come to our house. But after talking to Diane again I decided that it would be best for Claudia if she just went over there. Diane had called Anne and by 10:30 she was at my house. She spent an hour with me talking about everything that had happened at the hospital. She felt really awful about what had happened and she also reassured me that I had done the right thing. After Anne left, I was still feeling very depressed and hopeless! I felt like garbage! I started thinking very irrationally and I began transferring money into my account. I went through the cupboards and found all of the Tylenol and put it in a little bag. I was ready to walk out the door and never come back! I stood in the dining room thinking about my plans and just couldnít go through with it! I started crying, not really sure what I was going to do! I was just so confused, angry and sad! I felt like I had let everyone down again!

The week of June 17 I finally admitted that I was very depressed again. I was having a lot of difficulty reaching out to my support people. I was feeling very humiliated still and I was still struggling with the intrusive thoughts. Mark had gone through the house and hid all of the razors and medications. I was tired of struggling and still feeling pretty humiliated about what had happened at the ER. I was ready to give up and I began to think that maybe my family was better off without me! I just wanted to walk away from it all! I was very suicidal and I had a plan and was going to carry it out! I called Diane that morning. Iím not sure why I called; I think deep down I knew that she could help me! I had always been able to tell her exactly what was going on, but that day I did not want to tell her how I felt or what I was thinking! Somehow she new and was able to get me to tell her what was going on! She sent Mark home from work because she was concerned for my well-being. I argued with her and I told her that she was only concerned for the children. I know now that her concern was for me! But at the time I was so sad and angry! I just wanted to give up, take the pills and just let everyone get on with their lives! I didnít want to worry anyone anymore, I didnít want to feel this way anymore and I was tired of having setbacks! I saw Dr. Barney and I just did not want to listen to anything he had to say! I was just so fed up!

That evening I called Crisis Response and they sent their mobile unit over! I spent 2 hours talking with them and they told me that they would take me to the hospital if I needed to go! Over the next day and a half things did not improve. I was getting angrier and angrier; I was very anxious and depressed! I had found all of the medications and razors that Mark had hid and I knew that if I didnít call Crisis Response I was going to act on my plan. Saturday afternoon I called Crisis Response and they took me to the hospital. I had to go through the ER to be admitted to the hospital. I was so afraid that I would see that nurse! I was afraid that I was going to be sent home to deal with this on my own! But when the MHAT nurse arrived, everything was okay! This time I was hospitalized for 6 days! I did a lot of thinking while in the hospital. I began to see just how strong I was and how far I had come!

You would think that with all this support I would be doing okay! I still struggle everyday and at times I feel that it would be so easy to just walk away and give up! Some days I just want to wallow in what I am feeling, just to feel it! I donít think that is wrong! I am starting to trust Anne more and more now! I realize that she is not out to take my children away and I find that I can confide in her! The Childrenís Aid Society has done a lot for my family and Anne has been very supportive. I understand now why everyone was being so captious at the beginning! But at the same time it doesnít make it right! Just because someone has thoughts of harming their child, that does not mean they are going to act on them! I never once felt that my children were in jeopardy and I know I never would hurt any of my children!

Dealing with PostPartum Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder is like a roller coaster ride with many ups and downs! I find that the best therapy for me is telling people what I went through and what I am going through! The more people who know about PostPartum Depression the more women can be helped! The road is long, but I know I will make it to the end!