Erin on surviving crippling panic attacks, paranoia, and suicidal ideation

mom surviving panic attacks

Content warning: Discussion of postpartum depression, birth trauma, domestic abuse or other tough topics ahead. If you or someone you know is struggling with a postpartum mental health challenge, including postpartum depression or anxiety, call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (tel:18009435746)—The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline This free, confidential service provides access to trained counselors and resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English, Spanish, and more than 60 other languages. They can offer support and information related to before, during, and after pregnancy.

Just shy of 18 months ago, I gave birth to my child. Quickly after her birth, I developed symptoms of postpartum anxiety, later tumbling into depression, which then collapsed into a nervous breakdown riddled with confusion and a desperation for help. I thought I had truly lost my mind. I was so sick, I thought I was going to die.

I had shut many people out during my recovery due to shame, an immense amount of fear, and my mind telling me I don’t deserve their support and that I will never be better. My mind told me many lies, but I survived.

I survived crippling panic attacks, paranoia, suicidal ideation, toxic shame, obsessions, starving myself, out-of-body experiences, the ridicule of friends and family members who didn’t understand… I survived helplessness in a period that could have been the happiest time of my life.

I look back at photos of the first year of my child’s life and feel so much sadness because I know that the mother I see in these photos is in so much pain, feels deeply lost, and scared for her life. No one could really understand what was unfolding inside of my mind no matter how much I expressed my suffering. Not even my own therapist who had been with me since three months postpartum was aware of the nose dive my mental health was about to take. I was alone in my fight against a terrifying darkness.

I would have never thought that giving birth would lead to that sort of thing happening to me. I didn’t even know something like postpartum mood disorders existed before I took a birth class. Thankfully, there was an end to my suffering that didn’t involve the end of my life.

To this day, I am in therapy and navigating my trauma, giving myself the childhood I did not have, nurturing my needs and reminding myself that for my child to have a fulfilling childhood and future, I must also give myself those things. I remind myself that though it may not feel like things will get better today, they do get better in time. Every bit accumulates into recovery.

I am blessed. This I know. I have my life, my child, a future, and that is so much more than I could ever ask for. All of this was nearly taken from me by the darkness. I am grateful that I have made it this far. I feel like I have myself back again.