Gone, Baby. Gone.

I didn’t know there were voices in my head until they went away.

If only the ones that keep telling me “Macaroni and cheese is a perfectly acceptable breakfast” would also go away.

I didn’t actually have voices in my head. I don’t think. What I had were intrusive thoughts, obsessive thoughts of doom.  Last Monday, I sat with my computer on my lap and tried to write something. Nothing light and funny would come to me. I generally write about what is on my mind, and I couldn’t think of a funny spin to put on “SIDS.”

I closed my computer and called my doctor. I made an appointment for the very next day.

I hesitate to share the details. I’m terrified to share. It’s sharifying.

Since the birth of my oldest, my thoughts have been occupied on an almost constant basis by images of my daughters being hurt. Not by me, nor by anyone specific. When I am not making up my own nightmare scenarios, I run scenes from movies and books through my brain. Episodes of “Law and Order: SVU,” “The Prince of Tides,” “A Cry in the Dark.” I check in on blogs written by mothers of dead children.

When I was pregnant, Odie was carrying Viva to the car to take her to school. She was sad to be leaving me and as he carried her away, I saw her tearful face over his shoulder, her arm reaching for me and heard her mournful, “Maaaamaaaa!” My brain flashed to the scene in “Sophie’s Choice,” when Meryl Streep’s character watches helplessly as a Nazi soldier carries her daughter away. I squeezed my eyes shut tight, as if that would make the thoughts go away. I even tried to start singing a song under my breath to distract my mind. It was all for naught. The feelings of grief and helplessness were so intense that I started to cry. I thought obsessively about this for not just for a few minutes, but for days, and weeks. Every time my husband walked in front of me carrying our daughter and I could see her face over his shoulder (happy or tearful, it made no difference) I flashed to pictures in my mind of a Nazi taking my screaming daughter away from me to be murdered.

All. Day.

Every. Day.

Viva would do something sweet and innocent like ask me for more milk, and I would picture her in captivity with some pedophile, asking if she could have more milk. This part is harder to explain. I walked around with this sense that my child was a kidnap victim and I was watching a movie of it. My heart was always heavy with fear and dread. When she would cry or say “No,” my head would go to the ugliest, most terrifying places. When I changed her diapers or her clothes, I thought of everything I’ve ever heard or read about child pornographers. I couldn’t make my brain stop it, no matter how much I begged it.

All. Day.

Every. Night.

I honestly felt like I was going crazy.

It wasn’t a normal, healthy fear that something bad would happen to my children. Those are thoughts every good mother has. You push them to the back of your mind and you take reasonable precautions. What I had was the feeling that bad things were happening to my children and I was witness to it. My brain would show me every horror a mother could imagine, over and over, relentlessly. And I couldn’t stop it. Couldn’t find the off switch.

I took 50 mg of Zoloft around 11 a.m. on Tuesday. About five hours later I felt extremely groggy. I took the same dose at 8 the next morning and had the same side effect. I resolved to start taking it at bedtime instead.

On Wednesday, I noticed that the thoughts were gone.

Gone, baby. Gone.

I did not realize I was mentally ill. Maybe some of you did, but I was in the dark.

Truly, I was in such darkness, and I didn’t know. I had some idea, but I thought that this was my mind: take it or leave it. When I started the meds, I believed that it would get better, but I never dared to hope it would GO AWAY. If I had known, I would have started so much earlier.

I don’t know how it got so bad. I’ve always had a tendency toward depression, but I resisted taking medication. That all changed when another weekend went by and I felt so relieved that it was over. That Viva was at day care, Odie was at work, and Pringles was asleep. What? The three people I love more than life itself and I wanted them all gone? Yes. I did. And Pringles had a yucky Monday. She wouldn’t nap. She was tired, fed, changed, and swaddled, but she would not sleep unless I held her. The third time I put her in the swing so I could write, and she started crying, I felt so overwhelmingly angry that I just wanted to leave. It was a physical craving. I wanted to run away.

That made me a bad mom, by my definition. The desire to leave my child when she was crying for me erased all the ‘good enough’ from my mothering. I pictured the mother who shook her three month-old to death because she wanted to play Farmville on Facebook. I never had any desire to harm my child in any way. But I wanted to scream “Shut the fuck up!” at the top of my lungs. Maturity, education and resources were my allies. I called the doctor.

I feel free. I feel sane. I didn’t know I was crazy. Recently, I saw a rerun of “Law and Order” where a schizophrenic man goes nuts and kills a bunch of people he thinks are Russian spies. Then the assistant D.A. compels him to take anti-psychotic medication and he becomes a completely reasonable human being. That’s how transformed I feel. Such a burden has been lifted from me. I don’t have to go to bed tonight and imagine the brutal rape and murder of my family in front of me. It won’t even occur to me. Before last Monday, it was a given that it would be there, like a vicious current, running under every other thought I had, day and night.

Thursday night, I tip-toed into our bedroom to wake Odie. Lately, he puts Viva to bed at 8, which involves reading her a story, then lying with her for about an hour. At 9:30, I go in and wake him so he can grade papers until midnight. On that night, I looked down at my sleeping Viva, and I was no longer in my mind-movie of a pedophile looking down at his captive. I saw my precious, sleeping daughter and felt nothing ominous. I felt love and tenderness, not the cold grip of terror.

I’m on anti-depressants for postpartum depression.

There goes my Scientology fan base.


About Mrs Odie

Friendly Pedant; Humble Genius
This entry was posted in Essays/Commentary, Parenting and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Gone, Baby. Gone.

  1. Rosemary S. says:

    Oh girl! It’s 2:05 a.m. as I’m reading your post – but, I couldn’t read ‘now’ and post a response ‘later’! I could so have written your post today (well – not as eloquently!). You describe what I went through for years – and years, starting with my daughter’s birth, 36 years ago!………truly thinking I must be nuts! Imagining all the crazy scenarios that ‘might’ happen – some so far-fetched they could never have happened – and then – because I’d thought them up – I was forced to spend countless hours and energy working out strategies to thwart them………..all the while, acting ‘normal’!!…………..’acting’ being the word!

    I will always be grateful for Zoloft – and for the doctor who realized my problem………and – of course, for the years it kept all those terrible, dark thoughts away. For some strange reason, after menopause, I no longer suffered from depression – and now – 10 years after – don’t require the medication………….I truly am ‘normal’ (whatever that is!) now – I don’t have to ‘act’! 🙂 Menopause ain’t all bad!

    I’m so happy for you…………My fingers were itching to type “go and see your doctor – you’re dealing with depression” – and I was so relieved for you – when I read ‘Zoloft’ in your post. Take the darn stuff for as long as you need to………and know that you have just heaped a huge blessing on so many people – who may read your column and recognize themselves – and say, “oh my gawd – I’m not nuts – I have a medical condition that can be treated!”

    Thank-you for your honesty…………………Rosemary

  2. Shellie says:

    Good for you for recognizing what it is and doing something about it. So many women just suffer because they can’t put a name to what they feel.
    Good thoughts for you and all the Odie’s. If Zoloft allows you to concentrate on your joys and blessings instead of imagined horrors, then bring on the meds!!!

  3. Meghan2 says:

    I love love love love how you can be so truthful, so honest and funny all wrapped into one. Whenever I am having issues I talk to a friend I have that is like you, in that respect, and it is always awesome. Just the right blend of sharing and funny. You make it okay for your readers (and your friends I imagine) to be okay.

    I have had thoughts like yours, but it is always when the children (and sometimes my husband) are away from me. I start in with a mild form of panic and anxiety as soon as they are out of my sight, I still function, get the job done, but always at the back of my mind I wonder if they are okay. It doesn’t stop until they are back in my care. I already have anxiety about my eldest moving out of the home. He will be in about 3 1/2 years. Will I always be in that mild state of anxiety because he is never under my roof again? I always wonder, when do I know when it is time to be on medication?

    Thank you for your honesty and for the light humor. You are a skillful writer, whose words are enough to let us know when you are serious and when you are being funny…no need for the “lol’s” or “hahahaha’s” which I am sure you detest and that I have to rely on.

  4. kelly says:

    You are not crazy! You are a good, smart mother who got the help she needs. Bravo to you.

  5. cng says:

    Thank you for sharing that, Mrs Odie. I don’t have children yet but two of my friends have had babies in the past year and suffered post partum depression – one, like you, requiring medication. Both suffered alone for a very long time before being able to admit to themselves and their families that they needed help. They felt scared, guilty and alone. It takes a lot of courage to write so honestly and publicly. I hope you continue to feel better and to share your experiences of motherhood in such a real way.

  6. Kimberly P says:

    Reading your blog, I would have never thought you were depressed. I have the same thoughts you had everyday…all day…thoughts of my daughter running into the street and getting smacked by a car/truck, someone taking her, someone touching her inappropriately/raping her, etc…but I do not think I am depressed, I just think I’m a paranoid, concerned, overprotective, etc., mom who lives in a crazy place called America where thoughts like the ones you and I are having are normal b/c of what we are surrounded by.

  7. PS says:

    Good for you. I’m on ’em, too and it was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I was able to enjoy my older daughter and cope with the baby within days of starting meds, and I can’t believe I waiting as long as I did. Best of luck to you.

  8. Karen says:

    I find it sad doctors just prescribe these meds for post partum depression when in reality it is a hormonal imbalance. Please read Dr. John Lee’s books on progesterone deficiency and estrogen dominance (very common). Natural progesterone helps so much yet doctors just want to push the psych meds. It’s ridiculous. Have your hormonal balance checked by a good doctor who gets it and make sure they prescribe NATURAL progesterone, not the synthetic shit.

    • Chelsea says:

      Hope I’m not speaking out of turn, but Mrs. Odie said she has a history of chemical depression, not just hormonal imbalances. If Zoloft has removed those thoughts from her mind, then my friend is on the right medication for now.

    • Jessica says:

      So what you’re saying is, “I know this works for you and it’s such a relief to get to enjoy your family, but throw that away and try this whole other regimen that I, who am not a doctor, have just prescribed to you because I read a book on it once.” STFU!

      I’m glad you found something to help you. I went to my doctor at 6 weeks postpartum sobbing from my anxiety and he told me the fact that I was wearing makeup was an indication to him that I wasn’t doing too badly. He suggested I get more sleep (fuck off!), exercise, and go outside. I don’t know for sure if I was ever really a candidate for anti-anxiety meds, but I do feel resentful I was never given the option to give them a go, because when I look back at the first 6 months of my daughter’s life, all I can remember is the crippling anxiety I felt. I remember almost no joy from that time, and I feel robbed of that. Your doctor listened to you and gave you something so that you can enjoy your girls’ childhood. Don’t be ashamed because Karen thinks you took the easy way out.

    • Mrs Odie 2 says:

      Here is what I believe Jessica is responding to. Your response to my story of getting relief from medication was that you find it “sad” that doctors prescribe drugs. Maybe I failed to convey the depth of my suffering. I was not sad, I was haunted. If my doctor had told me she wanted to do hormone tests, I would have walked across the street to the ER and begged for drugs. I believe you meant to be helpful, but what you wrote did not come across that way. It sounded like you thought I shouldn’t be taking these pills even though I just described how much they helped me. To me, that felt critical.

  9. Carrie Tabor says:

    I’m proud of you.

  10. JJ says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to be so open and candid about something so “taboo,” but I’m certain you’ve helped other women. I hope the meds continues to work for you and that Tom Cruise doesn’t show up at your door to put you in rehab. 😉

  11. Rosie says:

    Oh, yeah?
    Well, I have a blog entry about Zoloft, too!
    Glad you’re feeling better. Better living through chemistry!

  12. I am on an ssri and I still have these worries,

    All. Day.
    Every. Night.

    I thought it was normal… apparently I need something more.

    I love your blog, you always bring me a smile.

    Every. Post.
    Every. Time.

  13. Karen says:

    Gee Jessica. Sorry. Was just trying to help. Don’t fret. I won’t be back to this blog with the attitude of people like her. You have real issues yourself Jessica. Look into that.

    Good luck Mrs.Odie. You have a great blog and sorry to have made a suggestion. Hormonal imbalances can play into postpartum despression too but I do understand the needs for meds.

  14. Frances M says:

    Karen, Your point may well be right in the grand scheme of things and I fend to agree that SSRIs are over prescribed where a little more investigation is in order but what’s right for most can also be VERY wrong for some. I am a student of alternative medicine and worked for one of the foremost researchers in women’s health (who focuses largely on hornonal issues) in the world but I too find it a little offensive that you would call the use of synthetics ridiculous when they are clearly needed in this case. One of the main tenants of preventing diseases of all kinds and/or treating them effectively is to treat the INDIVIDUAL!!
    Did you read the whole post before you decided to call her very personal decision “ridiculous”!?!? I’m pretty sure that is what people are responding to. While I agree that SSRIs are overprescribed they can also be critical in times of crisis. Having a new baby should not be a crisis but for some it is. I happen to agree that hormone crashing plays a big part in PPD and think it warrants looking into but synthetic hormone use is the most likely path once you go that route and that has major draw backs. I see that you are recommending natural hormone replacement but I’m not entirely sure how safe that is either. If increasing e p hormone in a synthetic form (which is much more measurable) causes cancer… why on earth would you think a natural form would be safe?
    As an almost certified wellness counselor I’d counsel people to get the help they know they need and then enter the medical rabbit hole. Testing can take weeks or even months and still be inconclusive. Living in a constant state of panic in the meantime is just RIDICULOUS but that’s just my opinion. Maybe that’s what you’re comfortable with and I won’t judge your choice but please don’t judge others!!!

  15. heidi says:

    I just found your blog and this post was me exactly for 5 months after each of my babies. The memory of it is so terrifying i never want to have another child. I should have gotten some help. I wish someone would have pushed me to get some help. But thanks for this post because I feel like I almost have a ptsd reaction when I think about that time and its nice to see i’m not alone in my experience.

  16. Lana says:

    AAAAaaaahhh….what a great post. You will help many women who read it. I too suffered with PPD and Zoloft was such a blessing. Allowed me to be present and enjoy my babies again. Feeling so anxious is not good for you or your family. Congrats on making the phone call and doing the right thing.

  17. Lana says:

    PS – It can take 4-6 weeks to feel the full benefits of the Zoloft. If you have a bad day here and there as you start up, take heart!

  18. Lily says:

    I am so glad you are feeling better. I’ve gone through a similar situation (intrusive thoughts) and ssri’s have been a godsend. I am in control of my thoughts now, instead of being controlled by them.


    P.S. And I know last time you got really upset at me for using fake@notreal.com, and then proceeded to write an angry post about your “trolls” but I really don’t want to make an account or anything to follow your blog. And I was really just trying to get you to understand that maybe with the right tools, you could be on your way to a half full glass. I’m rooting for you.

  19. There’s a whole army of women waiting to welcome you, myself included. Check out our blogs and Lauren’s Monday #PPDChat on Twitter. Also http://www.postpartum.net for local resources. Sounds like postpartum OCD had struck and Katherine at Postpartm Progress is a Survivor of it and has many entries about it. You aren’t at fault and are definitely not alone!

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