When I miscarried the second time, it felt like a two-fold tragedy: one, we lost a baby we desperately wanted and two; karma was having its way with me. You see, as a teenager, I had two abortions. I’ll pause here to say: Save your judgments. There is NOTHING you can say to me that I haven’t said to myself a thousand times before but I’ve probably said it with more loathing and malice than you could ever throw at me. So save it.
That second miscarriage felt like the Universe “paying me back” for my stupid decisions. The shame and guilt resurfaced like a clogged drain backing up; bubbling and spewing old things I had forgotten were buried below. It overwhelmed me; haunting my waking moments only to disturb my nights with horrific nightmares. It felt like Karma was saying: “You took two lives, I took two too. Now we are even.” But while I can’t say I regret my abortions I definitely wish my life had of played out a lot differently back then. But that was a lifetime ago and I’m not that person anymore.
It’s funny how your past can come back to haunt you in ways you never thought possible.
About six years ago I started having terrible bouts of anxiety. My heart would race, I’d start sweating and those feelings of dread would overwhelm me. I felt helpless to fix what felt like imminent doom. There was nothing I could do but wait for the terrible feeling of “something bad is about to happen” to manifest and then deal with whatever scenario presented itself. But like the trickster anxiety is, nothing bad ever happened. It was in my head. And once it was in my head, my body joined forces and together they tried to destroy my mental health. That anxiety led to agoraphobia (a fear of leaving your home) and I spent two months almost exclusively in my apartment, afraid of the outside world. I could barely get to work or go to school. I was scared and anxious all the time.
What got me through that spell was my pregnancy with my daughter. Those hormones are potent and they took over and suddenly I was back! Kelsey was happy, vibrant and outgoing again. I was worried what would happen once I gave birth but the anxiety seemed to dissipate over time. Since having my daughter four and a half years ago, I have had maybe 5 or 6 bouts of anxiety. I’ve learned how to manage it now. I can feel the doom creeping in like smoke slithering under a door and I can step back and witness it like an observer would. I can talk myself out of the feeling because I know it’s not real. Just because my brain is telling me something doesn’t make it true. While I do think there’s some truth behind our body manifesting other issues as anxiety, our thoughts aren’t always real. I can choose my thoughts 80% of the time and this skill has become a game changer in my mental health.
My second miscarriage sent me into a depression I barely survived. I’ve mentioned this time before in previous posts but I’ve never divulged just how precarious my mental health was. I had the tools to get through anxiety attacks and thought the same could be used for depression. But depression is like a fog that won’t lift, a darkness that weighs down the soul. I tried to seek help through a postpartum support group. After all, I had just been pregnant for two months and I had all the same hormones that can trigger postpartum depression; I just didn’t have the baby to take to meetings with me. The mental health team in my community told me I couldn’t join the group because I didn’t have a baby; the group was for mothers with postpartum depression. I was flabbergasted. I was a mother. With depression. After a miscarriage which was kind like postpartum minus the delivery of a baby. I realized I was very much alone in this fight.
I remember driving into the city one day and thinking, “I’ll put on my favourite music, turn it up loud and sing my heart out. That’ll help!” I tuned into my favourite 90’s hip hop station and instead of having a dance party I ended up in tears because all I could think about was how I missed those high school years; the years of no children and no real responsibilities, the years of parties and my biggest worry being the essay due the following week. It was ridiculous. High school was a great time, sure, but high school was also fucking awful. Why would I want to go back to that? As I drove, I continued down the past path and was thinking thoughts that I knew weren’t me. “I don’t want to be married anymore.” “I don’t want to be a mother.” “This is too hard.” ”When are you going to get over this?” “I don’t want to live this life anymore.” That last one scared me.
That was the first time in my adult life I truly didn’t want to live.
I had expressed my feelings to one of my best friends in Ontario and she rallied my soul sisters and together they bought me a flight home. The change of scene was a wonderful distraction and you can never go wrong spending time in Central Ontario, right on the edge of the Canadian Shield in the summer. It’s beautiful and I had an amazing time. But it was just a distraction. I got home late on a Friday night and while driving into the city Saturday morning, my husband asked me about the trip and all I could do was cry. I cried all day. I didn’t know it was possible to have that many tears in one person’s body. The depression hadn’t remained in Ontario like I had hoped it would.
The tools I had for fighting through anxiety were invalid for depression. This depression turned me into a person I didn’t know. Outwardly, I looked the same. I smiled the same. I joked the same. Inwardly though, my thoughts were sick. My mind was poisoned. I saw the world through grey glasses: everything was muted and somber. Joys were lessened by my feelings of nothingness and numbness. Happy times were clouded by my depression. I doubt even my husband fully knows the extent of how I felt during those few months. I was embarrassed by the internal dialogue in my mind. After being let down by the mental health support workers, I felt alone, hopeless and afraid. I was known as the happy girl, the outgoing one, the tough one. How could I explain to anyone that my thoughts weren’t happy and outgoing? How could I admit weakness in a society like ours? How could I look myself in the eye after acknowledging my darkness and not be sickened by my failures? My self-loathing built and built while my outward façade became weaker and weaker.
Then one night I went to a birthday party for my new friend Nichole. I met her group of friends and suddenly, I knew I was surrounded by soul soothing women. It was a relatively ordinary night but something happened. The fog shifted. I told them my fertility issues and they recommended amazing women to see. We shared private stories and laughed and related to each other. I was truly me that night for the first time in months and I was received with acceptance and love. I didn’t tell them I was depressed and borderline suicidal because that night, I wasn’t. I was genuinely happy, laughing and enjoying my time. And that small lift in the fog, that small glimmer of light that peered out in that small crack was enough to kick start my healing.
I took the advice of those same girls and I saw Andrea Kehler, an acupuncturist and angel reiki master in Saskatoon who helped me heal spiritually and emotionally. I went to counselling and saw an amazing counselor who also suffered with anxiety and depression and was so compassionate and understanding I knew I wasn’t crazy for feeling the way I did. I started talking about my depression with friends and journaling every night. Some nights would be passages that just said, “today was good” or “today was a bad day.” Other entries went so deep I had no idea I could hold my breath that long. It was cathartic and liberating. I forgave myself for my abortions, for the decisions and mistakes that led to those events. I let go of those souls and prayed they found the perfect parents elsewhere in the world. I prayed for my lost babies and hoped my next pregnancy would be the one to stick.
In bad times, we have the opportunity to do some real soul searching. I don’t shy away from those times now because I know that the best lessons will come from it.
In tough times, we have the opportunity to become tougher than the time.
I learned that exercise and nutrition are vital to my mental health. When I haven’t moved my body in a while, I can feel the fog creeping forward so I’ll go for a walk or even walk around my house. I’ve learned to communicate better with my husband and he knows how to support me in the best ways possible now. I’ve also learned that mental illness is okay. I don’t need to be perfect or be a superhero mom. I can be an imperfect person doing her best which may look like mediocre a lot of the time. I don’t need to be a superhero mom. I can have days of sitting quietly on the couch watching movies or days where meals of hot dogs and French fries are the best I can do. Our kids will remember our presence and love, not what we did or ate that day in 2018.
As my beautiful friend Reaschelle said, it’s not okay to not talk about it. By sharing my story, I’m helping to end the stigma. Share yours; you never know who’s listening and learning from it. Or even better, who’s healing.
United we rise,