As I sat down to write this, this beautiful song comes on the radio. I hadn’t ever heard it before, but I tuned in at the following part:
You are that God that saves
You are the One that rescues me
And You rescue me, ohh-oh
You are the God that saves
And You called me from the grave
You rescue me!
(God That Saves by Iron Bell Music)
Oh, such timing. God is so good in these little prompts that remind you He is near. Admittedly I have been struggling a bit more this week. I am heavy with memories, which makes everything else more difficult. I am feeling challenged in parenting the tough transitions that occur with toddlers. I am feeling very triggered by the screaming. And so my anxiety gets set off, which makes me angry and impatient; it makes me hypervigilant, which means everything startles me and then ramps up my anxiety again. And then my depression sinks because I feel unqualified to be Olivia’s Mom. And it brings up a lot of old emotions from two years ago. If we are being completely honest, there are times when I have wondered why everybody jumped in to help save me. To me, it’s been two years, they all would have moved on by now. And I know that is hard to read for some of you. But a sick brain is exactly that, a sick brain with flare-ups like all chronic illnesses. Anyway, all of that to say I have been putting off doing another post because it feels hard. But God did save me. God came into my wreckage and rescued me. How can I not share my gratitude and praise?
I posted two nights ago with the lyrics to “How Great Thou Art”, as well as an image of Paul and Simon imprisoned, yet singing and praising the Lord, saving their jailer (Acts 16:25-32). I promised an explanation to these two images, and so here it is.
Many of you know that two years ago, at 10wpp, I attempted suicide. I wasn’t unsuccessful. I was stopped. Spiritually stopped. God spoke into my heart that I was just really tired and needed to go to bed. I did as prompted, placing the knife back onto the counter next to the still unopened formula container. I went to bed where I continued to awake every 20-30 minutes as had been the routine the last two weeks. I couldn’t handle it anymore. The exhaustion. The worry. The depression. The hopelessness. The darkness. The utter despair. The anxiety. The obsessions. The compulsions. The hypervigilance. The worries. The agony. The despondency. The constant suicidal ideation. The thoughts feeding into all of it. I was a burden. My death would provide such life and freedom for them; of this, I was sure. Olivia deserved an actual Mom. Gabe deserved a wife and partner. My nieces and nephews deserved their aunt back. My parents deserved their daughter and my siblings deserved their sister back. Not this shell of a human so incapable of living and experiencing joy. And so, I made a decision.
My first choice was to just disappear. Pack up my car in the night and leave. I still have the note typed out on my phone that was meant for Gabe on January 1, 2020. But I knew that would cause more stress in that they would feel obligated to look for me, instead of just moving on. At that point, I felt very peaceful with what needed to happen. Death was the only answer to help heal everybody. But even death had me afraid. My mind was so sick that it had me convinced that even in death I would suffer these same horrendous afflictions. Only then, I would be in eternity and there truly was no way to escape. That level of hopelessness is beyond anything I can describe. I cried and prayed to God without ceasing. I prayed for healing and restoration. I prayed for it to be over. And then I started praying for a car accident, a medical emergency, an overdose, anything. But that never happened, so I knew I had to make the decision. And I prayed and begged God to please still accept me into His Kingdom when I would be met at the gate because my illness no longer felt compatible with life. That night was January 21, 2020.
Upon waking the following day, I continued to care for Olivia in a way that was likely excessive. I was so afraid that she would feel neglected or unloved because I was incapable of recognizing her as my daughter and bonding. So I did all the things with her and held her constantly, even though in doing so I was causing myself such pain. And so, sitting on the couch with her napping in my arms, I was just sobbing and sobbing while listening to worship music and praying. I texted two of my sisters that I thought I needed to be inpatient. My sister then called and in the course of the conversation, I told her in a very inconsequential way of my actions the night prior. It really felt like no big deal to me. I was too tired to kill myself that night but would just make sure to get it done soon so as to stop causing all these issues. Those were my actual thoughts. All while holding this incredibly perfect, precious little miracle God gave us. I felt like a monster.
My sister talked Gabe through implementing a safety plan at our home and flew up within a few days. That next week was a whirlwind of trying to get somebody to see me. Mental health resources in North Idaho are greatly lacking. There just isn’t availability, and there is definitely not any appropriate help for crises, nor for following up with Moms in the perinatal time frames to ensure they aren’t being afflicted by these maternal mental illnesses. Because truthfully, if it were being monitored more closely by providers, I firmly believe severity would decrease and we would also see a decrease in maternal suicide (which is one of the leading causes of postpartum maternal death).
We finally got in with a psychiatrist who agreed to squeeze me in to his lunchtime
due to the severity of what was happening. He specializes in kids, but knew it was dire and truthfully helped to save my life. I am so grateful for his willingness to step in and help a suicidal mother. My OB was fairly devastated to see me as I had lied to him four weeks prior about needing medication. It felt shameful and embarrassing to admit that I was struggling so badly. That, in and of itself, is a big reason why I am so vocal and vulnerable about my experience; because the stigma needs to end so people can get the care they need. However, my OB, though not familiar with the medication (Zulresso) I was trying to get or the processes required to do so, patiently listened to the explanations of it and it’s medical necessity. He graciously signed the form that would get me enrolled with the drug manufacturer so they could begin working on the long approval process.
We then got on a red-eye flight on January 29, 2020 with our almost three month old and my sister. We landed in North Carolina, rented a car, and drove the three hours to UNC Chapel Hill where they have a perinatal inpatient unit. Being given the possibility of getting a bed there was already miraculous. And then to arrive with that bed still being open was even more of a miracle. Though, lets be honest, I would have been quite fine with having an excuse to not follow through. But I did follow through and I signed myself into the perinatal psychiatric inpatient unit (peri).
That first week is a blur. I spent the first couple days in bed, sobbing. And then the rest of the time is trying to get medications figured out, art therapy, groups, etc etc. I was a terrible patient (as most providers are!). I would take my medication, but all the other stuff was just filler for me. I participated and interacted because I wanted them to see me doing so. I wanted them to believe that I was improving so I could be discharged and carry out my plans of suicide. I figured I had at least tried everything, and if the Zulresso infusion was not going to be approved, then this was it for me. I could discharge and just go launch myself off the pedestrian bridge at the university. It sounds so horrible and insincere to write it in that way, but that is exactly where my mind was at. I had given up. And though I continued to pray and wanted to believe I could be better, I didn’t really think I could be. So really, I had given up on God also. But, in God’s mercy and grace, He doesn’t give up on us.
So the night of 2/10/20 (yes, we are finally getting to the point of the post!) was full of heightened emotions. I was supposed to receive the Zulresso infusion starting the following day. This infusion is specifically developed for the treatment of severe postpartum depression. This is the treatment I had latched onto and obsessed over getting since I decided I would give treatment a chance. Inpatient was just a holding place to me; a place to keep me safe until I could receive Zulresso. And please don’t take that to mean I am ungrateful for that opportunity. I was at the time. I was focused on getting through it for the “prize” of the “real treatment”. I can look back now and see the care and empathy received there. I also developed deep, lifetime friendships with amazing women that I would have never known otherwise. I digress. So that night I had fallen back into hysterical sobbing. We (my two sisters and husband as well as myself when possible) had spent countless hours on the phone with the insurance company trying to get this approval done. But it just hadn’t even been looked at. So it was looking as if we would not get the news we hoped. And so I prayed and cried and when I ran out of words, I started singing. I began praising God for His goodness. He had brought me to that place and gotten me into care, and for that I was grateful. I distinctly remember laying on my left side staring at the rain splattered window in front of me. The double paned window which held blinds in the middle so you could get a glimpse of the outside, but could never really feel the warmth of the sun. I was so lost in desolation. But still, I raised my right arm, extending it toward the window and the tiny sliver of light coming in through it and began singing, “How Great Thou Art”. Just over and over and over again. Oh Lord, my God! How great Thou art! And when I couldn’t remember all the words to the subsequent verses, I just filled them in with my own words of gratitude and carried on. I was singing, and crying, and praising, and worshipping, and trying to rock myself to sleep. It wasn’t a quiet affair. I’m sure it was heard throughout the unit. I didn’t care. This was the only thing that felt right in that moment. And the waves kept crashing on me, over, and over, and over; until suddenly, all was still. The air was thick with peace and comfort. Not a word was spoken, but I felt the Lord’s presence so strongly. I imagined him sitting in the chair across from me, knowing His presence would be a soothing song all it’s own. And I just closed my eyes and cried silent tears of relief. And truthfully, tears of joy and gratitude. Because in that instant, I knew everything was going to be okay. Whether I received the infusion or not, I was no longer going to kill myself because God was literally right there with me. He felt me worthy of saving over and over again. And He would sustain me and carry me through. As it says in Romans 4:21, “and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform”. I just knew that I would be okay by placing all my trust in God.
The next morning came, 2/11/20, and no word had been received. Nonetheless, the nurses on my unit got my IV going just in case. Because there was a cutoff time to receive the infusion, they decided to have all other necessary steps taken care of as the time was winding down. And then Gabe got there with Olivia. He looked so relieved. He had been on the phone with the insurance company for over two hours that morning, ensuring the authorization was pushed through and completed. He cried a little and said, “we did it”. And he gave me a long hug. But just as quickly as that relief came, it also left. Our sweet nurse practitioner came in to let us know that the insurance company had approved the hospital stay only. There was no approval for the actual medication, and we were out of time. So I would be discharged to go home without receiving it. I remember my mouth feeling suddenly so dry as silent tears fell down my face. Gabe was in disbelief and saying that couldn’t be because he sat on the phone all morning. She assured him they had logged into all the systems to double check everything and it hadn’t even been looked at. They were so apologetic and crushed as they walked out of the room. I gave him a big hug and told him that everything was going to be okay, that I just knew everything would be fine, and that it was okay that this situation is happening. But having not known my experience the night prior, he was not okay with what was happening and went flying off unit with Olivia, handing her to my brother so he could call the insurance company again. No sooner did that literal door shut as he left Peri, did my door to treatment open. They came back with the paperwork and said they didn’t know how it had happened, or how it was even possible, but they suddenly had an approval for the medication. I smiled quietly because I knew how it happened. Only God. He can move mountains for us if we will just entrust him with faith the size of a mustard seed. And so, we took off running, yes, actually running. We had 5 minutes to get to the other side of the hospital, into the room, and hooked up to the medication in order to be in compliance with the REMS procedures. I only had time to give Gabe and my brother a thumbs up on our way past because there was no time for talk whatsoever. Somebody else would have to fill them in and get them my new room info. But that was okay, because I hadn’t even packed up my room or had a chance to say good-bye! So they stayed and packed for me, said good-bye to my ladies, and headed over to be with me.
I have so much to say about this life-saving infusion and will definitely share in my next post. But I just want to reiterate God’s power and willingness to get into the muck with you to save you. His love is endless. He would do anything for you. Remember that.
Turning our viewpoint to praise and worship of God is life-changing. And for me, it was actually life-saving. How Great Thou Art is an old hymn. But it is a hymn I really enjoyed singing in my younger years. And so, it just came forward as my song of communication with God. I am so blessed to have had that experience, and the many others that I will share about. As for the Acts verses, I really just want to focus in on Acts 16:25, which says, “but at midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them”. Being a newer Christian, I had actually never read all of Acts, and had never read this particular story. It obviously struck me. I was stuck in a place that I didn’t want to be in; it felt unfair that I had to be there because I was gifted a miracle baby and then my brain broke. None of that felt okay. But there I was. Stuck. So, I finally, FINALLY, turned to praise and singing with no regard to whom might hear. And that is the most important part of this verse, I think. You never know who might be listening. You never know who might be having a similar struggle and suddenly had life spoken into them by your citing scripture, singing, worshipping, prayer, etc. So, I encourage you to be bold in your ability to share your stories and how God has brought you through.
The journey of motherhood shouldn’t have to look like this for anybody. But we live in a fallen world where disease and illness permeate our bodies. I am so grateful for the extensions of God’s healing that He uses here on earth – the providers, medications, etc. God will use each of us for different things and I was so blessed by the people He chose to help me through this journey. So Mama, if you are experiencing symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), please know that help is available! You can feel better! And you are absolutely not alone in this struggle. Please reach out to me anytime at: [email protected]
Here is a link to that beautiful song that met me here tonight: God That Saves by Iron Bell Music
For those that don’t know my story and are interested in the background of this post, please click the Facebook link on this page to find them there, or scroll back to the very beginning of the blog.
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Local Resources: As We Thrive Counseling Services, LLC, Kerry Green, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Open Arms Pregnancy Care Center and Real Choices Clinic, #MomLife – MultiCare Spokane, Lake City Physical Therapy, Kootenai Behavioral Health Center, SPAN of North Idaho, Northern Idaho Crisis Center, Postpartum Support International Idaho Chapter, Boise River Birth Center & Women’s Health (via telehealth for perinatal psychiatry)
National Resources: Postpartum Support International, The Blue Dot Project, 2020 Mom, Mom Congress, The PUSH Revolution, Postpartum Progress, Sage Therapeutics, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ‘1-800-273-TALK (8255)’, Crisis Text Line, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Please note, these images are not my own; however, I do not know whom to give credit to. If they are yours, or you know whose they are, please let me know so I can give the appropriate person(s) credit.