Suicide Prevention Day is observed on September 10. Awareness is the first step toward prevention. Moms, you are not alone!
A couple of years ago, I was on my couch reading about a mom who took her own life. I remember staring at her smiling photo, noticing that her eyes seemed sad. I closed my laptop and went to my bathroom and looked in my mirror. “Is that me?” I wondered to myself.
I was in the middle of my first fight with postpartum depression and I constantly found myself struggling. Intrusive thoughts would find their way into my mind and they would swirl around until I believed each one. I remember estimating how long it would take before my husband could arrive home and whether my daughter would be safe in her crib for that long. I wanted to run away, but in all honesty, I wanted to just close my eyes and never wake up. My life was perfect. After years of infertility and multiple miscarriages, I finally had my rainbow baby with an amazing husband, lovely home and perfect life. Even with all of the good in my life, I struggled.
One day, I finally made a phone call that would change my life.
“Hi, I need to speak to Dr. Noriega,” I told the receptionist at my OB/GYN’s office.
“What is it concerning?” she asked.
“I think I’m struggling with postpartum depression,” I choked out.
“Do you think you are a risk to yourself or someone else right now?”
“No.” I lied.
Every part of my body was screaming “Yes! I need help! I can’t see the next minute!” But, I was terrified of what someone would think about me or if they would take away my daughter if they knew that these intrusive thoughts were rooted in my mind.
After that day, and the next in my doctor’s office, I fell into a regimen of medication and weekly counseling sessions. After 9 months, I was able to come off of my medicine and pull back to bi-weekly counseling. I felt like I conquered mental illness.
Then, I became pregnant again and found myself ready to take on any negative thoughts or mix of hormones that would make me doubt myself. I did just that when I felt the baby blues becoming more serious. I started counseling again and felt comfortable enough staying off of my medication. After another 10 months of therapy, my therapist told me that I was “in a good spot” and we could change to “as needed” appointments. Little did I know that the pandemic would hit the following month.
Somehow, I survived the first four months of the pandemic without needing to go to counseling or reaching for my medication. One day, it was like a switch was flipped and I found myself drowning in intrusive thoughts and exhaustion.
“I just don’t know what to do anymore,” I told my husband one midnight.
“You know everyone in this house loves you,” he assured me. “We would all miss you.”
The next day I started taking my medication and set up weekly counseling sessions. That was six weeks ago. As I type these words, the loneliness and fear I felt still tries to wrap me in a cold hug as if it’s an old friend. As I type these words, I rely on grace from God, support from my family and the highest dosage of medication that I have ever taken to save me from giving in to those thoughts.
A recent study in The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that deaths by suicide, in combination with accidental drug-related deaths, accounted for almost 20 percent of postpartum deaths. Yet, somehow, moms still struggle in silence. We are told that we need to live for our children. We are told that we need to be grateful for what we have right now. We are told to take care of ourselves, but at the same time we are being pulled in a million directions while scrolling through social media and feeling more alone than ever. I am here to to tell you that the lies that have clung to your mind and heart are worthless.
As we recognize World Suicide Prevention Day, I am here to tell you that if you have ever felt like taking your own life, you are not alone. I am right there with you, sister. If you feel like this world is too much to handle some days, I hope you never hesitate to reach out to just one person. You are worthy of tomorrow and you are loved.