I have joined a really interesting facebook group called Breastmilk for Preemies and today we were talking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and having had a baby prematurely. It was one of the first things I ever blogged about. You can read about it here
At the time of writing that piece I was still on Citalopram, the anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drug that helped me move on from what had happened. It gave me my brain back.
I wanted to explain more about what had happened to me mentally and my recovery and how it differed from depression. I am not a clinician, and this is not intended to be an exploration of the differences between PTSD and postnatal depression (PND) but merely an explanation of how it was for me.
I was really confused at first, when Joseph came home. Having had depression before, I knew I wasn't depressed. I felt totally in love with my baby, I really enjoyed having him home, I loved watching him, caring for him and doing things for him. I loved being a mum, and was really wanting to enjoy motherhood.
I was highly anxious. I had intrusive thoughts - what if there was something wrong with him that had been missed? What if I have an accident in the house, spill coffee on him, or drop him? I was having very graphic nightmares. I started avoiding sleep at night, and only sleeping in the day. I was very difficult to talk to. I found it hard to relate to my husband. I had no enjoyment of anything that wasn't related to Joseph. I also found it very difficult to leave behind hospital. Conversations played back in my head over and over. I kept wondering if I could have done things differently. And I was completely tortured about breastfeeding. I felt an utter failure, and felt very angry and disappointed with myself.
Once I opened up to the support worker at our local SureStart centre, and then got the courage up to see my GP, things started to improve, but very slowly. The psychiatrist I saw explained that all the trauma I had gone through over the years, right back to being bullied at school, had built up, layer upon layer, and Joseph's birth had tipped me over the edge. She felt therapy and medication was the way to go. She was thrilled I wasn't breastfeeding, as the medication she felt was best is not compatible with breastfeeding, so I felt better, that because it hasn't worked out, I had the opportunity to take this medication and feel better.
The side effects of citalopram were annoying. The funniest was it made me feel hot. I remember going to see the GP for a review in December, there was snow on the ground, and I was in a t-shirt sweating buckets. She just laughed! It also zapped my sex drive completely, which initially didn't bother me, but later on, was problem, particularly as my husband had had a vasectomy to prevent further pregnancy, and seemingly, with me on this drug, there was no need.
But the medication stopped the nightmares in their tracks. I stopped having flashbacks. My concentration got better and better. It really worked for me.
But the real key was the support woker at the centre, and also my friends, particularly the friends I had made on the unit. Their support and friendship, and the fact that they hadn't been traumatised by the experience, really helped me to get things back in perspective.
I feel now that I have recovered from the PTSD. I stopped the medication a year ago. I did have a bit of a wobble a couple of months ago, when Joseph was under investigation for the walking issue, but I feel fine now.
I will always be a little sad, that Joseph had a tough start. And I am sad I can't have more children. At the moment its particularly hard, I think the 2 year point has struck a chord as many of my friends that gave birth in May 09 have new babies or are pregnant, and that will never be me. I feel sad that I never got the full pregnancy experience, and that so many things were taken from us. I still, at times, think "why me" and then get over it.
I can see now that we are so blessed, I am blessed, to have such a perfect little boy (ok a normal, tantrumming, delightful, challenging 2 year old) and wonderful husband, and my brain back.