Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How I finally figured out I had Post Partum PTSD

I mentioned in my first PPD / PP PTSD post that while I had a doctor's diagnosis of PPD, I also eventually diagnosed myself with PP PTSD.

This took a while to figure out, because the primary symptom that I was experiencing, well, kept me from being able to know, being able to tell my obstetrician when I was seen for PPD at 4 weeks post partum.

You see, have huge gaping holes in my memory, primarily from the two days I was in labor, but also from the next few days in the hospital, and even in the months that followed.

I know, the reaction I usually get is "yeah, I forget a lot of stuff now that I'm older too", but... this is different. And I know it's very difficult to understand if you've never experienced it.

So, the day after Jena was born, I started hearing stories of things that happened during my labor. And I didn't remember any of them. By "didn't remember", I mean it didn't even sound familiar, and as far as I was concerned the person could have been making them up. We're talking things that I did, conversations that I had, major events that one should remember.

Of the 36 hours I was in labor, I can piece together maybe a grand total of 4 hours.

Even after looking at pictures, talking to Jason & my mother, hearing the stories over & over... well, it's just like hearing a story. As far as my mind is concerned, it never happened.

Except that it did.

I didn't realize the seriousness of it until one day, months after Jena was born, when I said something to Jason about how I couldn't believe they allowed me to make decisions, that I decided to forego the C-section, that I consented to the forceps delivery, etc, etc, etc. The list goes on & on. I told him that since I don't remember even having these conversations, I obviously was not in my right mind, and it was irresponsible of them to allow me to make those decisions, they should have had him, as my next of kin, be the one to make them.

I still remember the way he stared at me when I said that. And then he explained. There was no sign that anything was wrong, mentally. I was completely lucid, appeared clear of thought. I spoke clearly, I participated in conversations, I asked questions.

I was dumbfounded.

That was the moment that I realized it was more than me blocking some things out because of the pain I was in. More than just a defense mechanism.

I carried on clear, lucid conversations, made major medical decisions, and I remember none of it. Never did. Next day, it was like it never happened. For me.

There are huge gaps in my memory. There are numerous things from the first days of Jena's life that I only know because other people have told me, or because I've seen a picture.

As far as my mind is concerned, it's like they never even happened.

I can't stress that enough. It's not like when someone's telling you a story from your past, and you're like "I don't really remember, but it does kinda sound familiar, maybe", where there's at least the hint of knowledge of the event.

It's like it never even happened.

It's like someone is telling you a story about something you did, something in which you are the main character, and you are racking your brain to remember, but it doesn't even sound familiar at all, and then the person laughs and says "oh wait, that wasn't you! that was so-and-so! ha ha ha!"

Except it was you.
And then there are the flashbacks.

Last year, right about this time, a couple of months before Jena's 2nd birthday, I started having flashbacks to labor & delivery.

At the time, I thought it was the first occurrence of flashbacks. Until last month, when I stumbled across this post from 2009, where I talk about flashing back to my birthing experience and dealing with the trauma of it all.

I'd forgotten about my flashbacks.

Again, as if they'd never happened. How crazy is that?

So when there was no explanation for the memory loss & flashbacks, where else to turn, but Google?

And without fail, Google kept returning results of PTSD. Which made no sense to me, especially since not one of those sites mentioned giving birth, even a traumatic birthing experience, as a possible cause (although a few did mention "medical complications" as a cause).

I searched the internet for probably two months, looking for answers.

It was finally on another blog that I found talk of Post Partum PTSD.

And I cried.

There is something about feeling utterly alone, as if no one understands what you are going through that is... defeating, isolating, scary. So when you finally find that someone, anyone, knows what you're going thru... there is relief. An overwhelming sense of relief, a sense of not being alone, not being so scared, and not being so defeated.

I cried at not being alone in this anymore. I cried because someone else understood. I cried with relief.

And that, my dear readers, is one of the reasons that I write about everything that I do on this blog. Especially this. Because I know what it feels like to feel like you are the only one who possibly knows what you are going through. But I also know that we are on this journey together and someone else out there has experienced, or is experiencing, the same things I am. Or pretty darn close anyway.

And whether I get that sense of community, of not-being-aloneness, from them, or they get it from me... I believe it is good that we share what we have been through, what we are going through. There is strength in sharing. For ourselves. And for others.

Thanks for checking in.


Katie said...

Oh wow, I can't imagine how scary and weird that must have been to have such huge holes in your memory! I'm glad you finally found an answer as to why!

'Yellow Rose' Jasmine said...

How amazing it is that I have found this blog on a day that I am about to write my own post on PTSD... there really a plan for each and every one of us isn't there? I found you through Crazy Texas Mommy. Sometimes I check out people who have written comments and that's what I did to find you.

Mrs E said...

wow.... thank you for sharing your story.

Steph{anie} said...

Your story blows me away; someone less intuitive would probably dismiss their lack of memories and not given then a second thought. I love that you do your research and are informed.

Amber said...

Wow! This is the first I've ever heard anyone else say this. I thought I was going crazy because I had big gaps in my memory too after births of both of my daughters. Both were extremely dangerous, with my second being close to torture (had allergic reaction to epidural - had to turn it off....then have an emergency C-section w/o any anethesia)!

I'm totally going to go look this up...now! Thanks!

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