Monday, July 31, 2017

Learning about PTSD, flashbacks, and a reflection of one year.

I have to start this post by sharing with you the very last memory I have before everything goes blank. That would be the day before I gave birth to Lucy, July 31, 2016, and our trip to the Rose Garden. It's worth noting that even that post freaked me out because in all of my therapy sessions I talk about the walk around the Rose Garden, I remember what Penelope was wearing and how excited she was to see flowers- she had been obsessed with flowers. I remember not feeling well and having to go home.

I don't remember going to Canal Park, or even eating lunch at Grandma's Restaurant, the same place Matt and I ate at while I was in early labor with Olivia.

This would be the last photo of me before I gave birth. It feels weird to look at things, photos, and not have any memory of it.

I remember when I started counseling, I think in September, I was convinced I didn't really need it. That my depression would go away once my memory came back and I could get my health back to pre-pregnancy normal and get off of all my medications. Then I started going to follow up care and I learned that I'd be on the medication for life because it keeps me alive, my memory likely won't come back but they don't really know because the brain is a strange (and fickle) thing, and that not only did I have depression and anxiety, but I had PTSD too. I absolutely scoffed at that and thought, absolutely not. I just had a crap experience giving birth- sure, I died and was revived, but that's not the end of the world.

I remember the moment where it hit me that I absolutely had PTSD and it scared the crap out of me: it happened in the OB waiting room for my 6-8 week check up. I was surrounded by women in various stages of pregnancy and I freaked out. I had my first actual panic attack and I had to hide in the bathroom until my name was called because I couldn't handle being in there. I was absolutely terrified. I thought it was just a phase and I discovered over this year that nope- definitely not a phase. At least not yet, because pregnant women scare me. I can save face and not freak out but as soon as I turn away I melt down.

Over the course of this year I've had all kinds of panic and anxiety attacks, I have nightmares and flashbacks. Logically, I know this can never happen to me again. I will never have another Amniotic Fluid Embolism. I'm still terrified. The fact that you can have a perfectly healthy pregnancy and still end up in this situation, or worse, it unsettling. I had a stroke, I hemorrhaged, but I did everything right. What's to say something bizarre won't happen to me again? I take my medications diligently, I track my water and salt intake so I don't become imbalanced, I watch my diet, manage my sleep, etc and yet... it doesn't really matter, does it? I could die of some other freak thing.

The worst part over the last few weeks is the intense chest pain. Or the time I felt like I was having ACTUAL labor contractions. More nightmares. Flashbacks of my labors with Olivia and Jackson. It's been horrible. My counselor explained to me about PTSD and how just because I don't remember what happened to me, my body does. A lot of what I'm experiencing is body memory and I have to recognize that in that moment, and I have some breathing exercises to do to help bring my anxiety down.

And it kind of works. Then I get so upset that I can't remember, WHY CAN'T I REMEMBER? I feel like I would be in such a different place in my recovery if I had memories of being in labor, being wheeled to surgery, holding my baby for the first time- all of it was robbed from me and I'm so angry. You know what makes me more angry? Being told this whole year, "wait until you're a year out, it'll be a different scenario" and here I am, and it's the same. Sure, I'm not wandering off or totally out of it anymore, but everything else remains the same. I'm in pain every day. I can't remember things from day to day, I've discovered I've lost long term memories too, and managing my health is so difficult. I know we're supposed to embrace major life changes and go and make things even better, but I'm struggling. I'm a year out, and I'm no better in all of the ways that matter to me.

So as I get ready to celebrate Lucy turning one, and I realize I have no memories of her first months and I can't tell you when she hit any milestones, I'm really having a hard time. I'm trying to keep it together because it's HER birthday, but in my mind it's an anniversary for me and I am struggling.


The Flynnigans said...

I remember when you last wrote and then everything got hairy real fast and I know so many of your family and friends were updating Facebook, but it was a scary time.... for everyone but most certainly YOU. You will forever be changed by something that took everything from you and I can't even begin to imagine what your daily struggle is like. I just wish I lived closer so I could help any way I could and just be there. You mean the world to a lot of people Sara and I love you my friend. xoxoxo
Sending much love and hugs, always, but especially right now.

Julie H said...

:( it all sounds horrible :(