Covid found our household. Gabe woke up sick on the morning of Sunday, December 13th. He seemed to only have a cold, but given that he still goes into work, I sent him to get tested. Out of an abundance of caution, Olivia and I stayed home from church that day and watched remotely. That would prove the correct decision as I woke up ill the following day. Gabe’s symptoms worsened that day as he had a constant, unbearable headache, fever, and was easily short of breath. My symptoms also progressed through that day, with my wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, chest and upper back pain worsening. I had no intention of getting tested as we received Gabe’s positive result Monday night, so it was a fair assumption that I also had covid. However, the type of chest and upper back pain I was experiencing has historically always equated to pneumonia. I had only been sick one day and my lungs were struggling, so I knew I had to get checked out. Sure enough, my rapid covid test was positive and my lungs were full of crackles, suspicious of pneumonia. I was started on an antibiotic as a precaution for worsening of any secondary bacterial lung infection and using my inhaler around the clock. Gabe’s symptoms, and mine, remained this significant for over a week. My husband doesn’t really get sick. The handful of times I remember him having a cold, he had recovered within a few days. So to see him this sick was quite worrisome for me. We were both struggling and praying so hard that Olivia would not also experience these symptoms. In the beginning, she was crankier and was also having sweating episodes (like we were). But her symptoms never progressed beyond that, thankfully. However, that meant two very sick parents trying to tag-team caring for, and chasing around, a rambunctious, newly walking 13-month-old. Exhausting doesn’t begin to describe it. And now here we are on days 9 and 10, respectively. Gabe is improving and will be out of quarantine tomorrow as he has not had a fever since Sunday and has been getting better the last few days. Side note – as I typed that sentence, I heard him in the living room having a cough attack. Ugh, it’s relentless. Anyway, he will be out of quarantine and will take Olivia out and about because she has been cooped up for too long… Well, we all have. We did go for a drive yesterday just so we could all get out of the house. But today, I feel worse. And all I did was sit in the car while Gabe dove us around. Yikes!
So how does somebody with perinatal mood disorders handle this? As you can imagine, my anxiety was fairly out of control when this started. Having asthma, and having recovered from bronchitis only several weeks ago, I know that I am at a higher risk for complications. I checked my pulse ox constantly, keeping an eye not only on my oxygen saturation, but also on my tachycardia and palpitations. I was sure I would end up in the hospital. I googled every symptom we experienced and my mind catastrophized like none other. I jumped to the worst-case scenario for everything. Gabe’s unrelenting headache? Cytokine storm. My labored breathing? Pleural effusion. Debilitating flank pain? Acute kidney injury and failure. An anxious mind locked up at home, with all the access to health journals and case reports is a very bad combination. But I just kept reminding myself that we could fight this off, and that thankfully Olivia was mostly asymptomatic, which was my biggest concern. She had such a long run of sickness culminating with the allergic reaction, that my mind couldn’t fathom her being ill again. I already felt like I had failed her by “letting” her be so sick. Irrational? Yes. Did it change my mind knowing that? No. So I am incredibly grateful God protected her. And truly, He protected us as well.
My depression has done fairly well, also. Isolation is a dangerous thing for me. Thankfully, Gabe has also been home this whole time (though I wish he weren’t sick), so I haven’t been alone, or caring for Olivia alone. Nevertheless, as I have required more days in bed with the pneumonia, and the bulk of parenting has fallen on him on those days, the guilt has been overwhelming. My mind transported me back a year ago, to days when I couldn’t get out of bed due to my depression. Gabe would be alone caring for Olivia, while I hid in the room, not sure how I could endure another day of pain. So here I am, in bed again, not caring for our daughter as much, and I can’t help but see similarities. And then my mind asks: are you really in bed still because of the pneumonia, or is your mind shattering again? Are you capable of handling this or are you just giving up? Of course, I know I am physically ill. But I can’t help but question my own mental fortitude and wonder if that is all that is going on. And to doubt yourself in such a way is a really uncomfortable thing. To not trust your own mind still sucks. There is no other way to put it. It downright sucks. And then the guilt kicks in higher, my OCD flaring up with obsessive thoughts. If I didn’t have PMADs, I wouldn’t require so many scheduled outings for my mental health, and maybe we wouldn’t have gotten ill. So, even though we don’t know how we were infected, my mind has already decided it is my fault because of my mental illnesses. If I could just be a “normal Mom”, none of this would be happening. I don’t know that for fact, but my mind isn’t interested in truth. My mind is set on blame, and disgust for myself, and guilt at this person I am now. And believe me, I try to rebuke those lies and test them against God’s light – but sometimes they are so loud.
And so here I am… Day 9… In bed all day for probably the 3rd time this sickness and fighting the feelings of guilt and failure; the feeling of shame for “causing this”; the feeling that I will never be enough because my mind is sick. These thoughts won’t win. But I share them because I know other Mom’s with PMADs are getting covid… And you are not alone in your thought processes. Remember none of it is true. Remember, as I am reminding myself, that you are a different person now with tools, skills, and resources to help you through. Remember to be gentle and kind to yourself because you are an amazing Mama! And most of all, remember to take the time to get well!!