I have the aim of highlighting the sticking stories of nurses who are strong enough to open up. These stories of nurses are not meant for medical advice. My goal is to educate and make people aware of what has worked for others with the aim of starting meaningful conversations. Please read about the seriousness of Postpartum Depression, here. With deep gratitude, I invited Maggie to share her story of triumph with you.
Being an RN, I had no fear of the caregiving aspects of becoming a new mom. I regularly stared death in the face saying “not today death, not on my watch." With that experience, how hard could taking care of one small healthy person be? Spoiler alert: I was clueless.
The Beast Begins
After my daughter was born, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. There were unexpected issues at birth, which stunned my husband and me in our young marriage (we had been married 9 months; we conceived our daughter on our honeymoon). I found myself terrified, and the isolation of new motherhood was smothering me (read more about this here). It didn’t take long for me to move past the ‘baby blues’ into full-on postpartum depression.
My depression manifested itself in all aspects of my life. I developed paralyzing anxiety, insomnia, separation anxiety, and a new one for me, agoraphobia. When I could sleep, the nightmares were novel-worthy. It didn’t look like depression to me, so I said nothing and trudged along. I had become a shell of myself, on the verge of cracking. I felt who I was had vanished, and would be gone forever. Needless to say, this didn’t help to improve things.
Back to Work
Getting back to work was an unexpected and indescribable blessing for me. If I’m being honest, it probably saved me. I had returned to a place where I knew what I was doing. A place where I had confidence, and everyone around me trusted my judgement. It marks the beginning of my very slow recovery.
As I went about my purpose of fighting back death, guiding my patients toward 'above the grass' discharges, things felt almost normal. Almost. Something in me, however, had shifted. My well of compassion and empathy had deepened. My own depression-addled brain somehow could see people in a way I couldn’t before. I could see their whole humanness. I witnessed their sorrow and their fear. Their souls were visible to me for the first time, and I felt a kindness toward them I hadn’t before.
One population I had always struggled deeply caring for were addicts and suicide attempts. Clinically, I always gave my best. Emotionally, however, I had put up a wall I couldn’t get past. I had been the recipient of abusive behaviors from addicts, and had lost and grieved several friends to suicide. I couldn’t cross over, because I couldn’t understand the depth and loneliness of their souls. I couldn’t see what they were running from. I didn’t see how desperately they were trying just to feel ok, even if only for a few moments. This changed. after my baby was born.
Domesticating the Beast
As time went on, I was able to climb from my abyss. My shell began to fill with old and new parts of me until I felt whole again. I’ve been conscious though, not to lose that lens. The lesson I never knew I needed gifted me with one of the best tools I have. It redefined empathy from a clinical instrument to a deeply felt guide for care. I had been in their shoes, so I could see it. I continue now to offer emotional respite for those weary souls alongside their physical needs. To honor their despair, and hope to offer a view of something more. Something brighter they can see, so they, too, may feel the joy and triumph of filling their shells with their true selves.
Maggie is a Critical Care RN turned Primary Care NP student, Freelance Writer, Consultant and Founder of Http://BeAHappyNurse.com, a blog dedicated to changing the landscape of nursing culture one happy nurse at a time. You can find her on Facebook here, chase her on Twitter, or subscribe to the blog at Http://BeAHappyNurse.com.