April shares her story about battling mania as a young mom
Inside The Tampon Book. Photograph: Cedric Soltani/Studio Dropped
April’s Story: Battling Mania as a Young Mom

While Bell Let’s Talk Day is a powerful day to raise awareness and funds for mental health initiatives, I wish we had more than just one day in the year to mindfully stop and acknowledge the prevalence of mental health challenges around us. In a year full of such heavy tension and tumult, I feel like this day is even more vital for us as individuals and communities to speak up and end the stigma of mental health.

I am so grateful to be able to share a powerful story from someone I know personally. April is a young mother who developed anxiety while pregnant with her second child. She struggled postpartum, attempted suicide, and experienced episodes of mania through her journey. As you read her raw, heartfelt story, you will see the grit and determination it takes for people facing mental health issues to reclaim their lives – and their sense of self.

April is a beacon of hope for people dealing with mental health day in, day out. She hopes that by sharing her story, we may recognize the symptoms of struggle and learn to support one another better. Please read, share, and help those struggling around you by showing your support.

-Jenn

::: Trigger Warning: Suicidal Ideation ::::

April’s Story: Faith in the Darkest Times

My name is April, and I am a 34-year-old wife and mother to two daughters. I began having mental health issues close to seven years ago when I was pregnant with my second child. My pregnancy was very high risk; I started having contractions at 16 weeks and was told that I would likely miscarry. After that, I remember just feeling like there was a dark cloud over me, and there was nothing I could do to get out from under it. I had my first anxiety attack while pregnant and didn’t know what was happening to me. 

Before I had my baby, I ended up spending about four weeks in the hospital, located 2.5-hours away from home, with a violent virus. The day after I was discharged and returned home, my water broke, so I was back in the ambulance for the 2.5-hour ride to the hospital. Six days later, at 32 weeks, my beautiful, strong, premature baby girl, Willow, was born. I hoped that I would be ok knowing she had made it into the world alive. 

The Darkness Started Brewing

But, shortly into our stay at the NICU, I began having very dark, intrusive thoughts of suicide. I stayed at the Ronald McDonald house by myself for a few days and was unable to sleep more than 5 mins at a time. Around the third day of almost no sleep, my first suicidal thought happened.

It was like my mind was fighting with something outside of itself telling me to end my life. 

It was so dark. I was so scared.  

The next day, I experienced a drop in my breast milk supply, and I began to fear being unable to breastfeed my baby successfully. There were posters of mothers breastfeeding all over the hospital – it was clear that this was something expected of a new mom. My world started to spin, and my mind began to race as I felt like I couldn’t do what was expected of me. 

When the nurses told me that I would have to supplement with formula since I didn’t have enough breast milk, I felt my heart sink. This isn’t because I was against formula feeding, but because I had only ever done breastmilk with my first daughter. Now, I was questioning if something was wrong with me. I couldn’t slow down my thoughts, and I couldn’t understand their simple instructions to make the formula. I remember criticizing myself, over and over, “you can’t do this.” 

The Darkness Followed Me Home

Deep down, I knew I wasn’t ok. So, I went to our support nurse and took the postpartum depression test. I told her my dad had died by suicide, and I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me. I failed the test. The support nurse talked through it with me and assured me that once I was at home and could sleep beside my husband and see my other daughter, I would be ok. I wanted to believe her so badly, but I already knew it wasn’t going to be ok magically. My thoughts were very specific about how I was going to die.  

Once we were discharged home from the NICU, I was completely unable to sleep back at home. It was so hard because I was so worried about my baby not being ok that I just stayed up at night and kept checking to make sure she was breathing. I could not sleep.

By the third day, the intrusive thoughts became so I felt overpowered. 

I attempted suicide the next day.

Finding the Right Care

I was not physically harmed and was taken to the hospital. I thank God for sending his angels to protect me that day. It was an intervention that saved my life.

After seeing a psychiatrist, I was put on medication. It was so hard not feeling like myself for the next 18 months. I was on so many different meds, continually trying to find the right mix, and I even had a manic episode after trying a very high dose of anti-depressants. I was sent to a mental hospital for a one-month stay, where I was diagnosed with a permanent mental health disorder.  

I knew my mental health wasn’t just going to get better with medication alone and that it would take work and perseverance – therapy and the belief that I could feel like myself again. I vowed that I wouldn’t stop fighting until I felt like myself again. Along the way, I kept falling. But I also kept getting back up again as I thought about my children and husband. God helped me find the right doctor in that mental health hospital, and I can’t express it enough – finding the best care is so important. You need to find someone who listens and doesn’t stop fighting for you until you feel like “you.” You deserve that level of care.

I have tried to go off my meds several times with my doctors’ help but haven’t been able to do so without a manic relapse. It has been tough to accept my diagnosis, but I have accepted that my mental health journey includes medication to remain mentally stable.  

Over the past year, I have processed the traumas in my life and have done a lot of work emotionally to feel healthy and strong again. It has not been easy going through painful things from the past, but it’s what has helped me figure out triggers and work with them.

It’s been hard, but it has been worth it. 

If you are suffering from mental health issues, the most important thing I want to tell you, as someone who has been in the same fight, is that you are not alone and can get better. Your mental health struggles are not your fault. You will get through this stronger than before. It will take time and profound work to heal, but this world wouldn’t be the same without you. 

Don’t quit advocating for yourself – ever. 

And don’t give up. 

You were created for a reason; God made you with purpose and loves you more than you can ever imagine. You will get through this. 

What I Learned Coming Back from Darkness

I believe sometimes we go through hard times so we can take what we’ve learned and share it with others who may be struggling. Here are a few practical things that have helped me to get feeling like me again:

  • Getting out of bed each day and speaking positively to yourself changes your mindset
  • Self-care isn’t selfish. Exercising, drinking lots of water, taking vitamins, medication (if needed) – these are all critical ways to maintain your health.
  • Having support, including counselling, is crucial to your mental health journey.

These are the things that helped save me, the things that brought me back from the brink.  

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with my condition, though I will say that I do not regret this dark journey. I would never have understood the pain and triumph from it had I not gone through all of it over the past seven years. I also would’ve never understood what mental health is had I not suffered through depression, anxiety, mania, and suicidal ideations firsthand. It has been faith-building and brought me to a place where I know who I am. Faith is an essential part of who I am. But showing compassion is something anyone can do, regardless of who they are.

If you are struggling and need help or prayer, please reach out to me or someone you trust. Thank you for listening to part of my story, and God bless you!

-April

April and her family today

If you are in crisis, please go to your local hospital, call 911 immediately or locate a Crisis Centre in your region.

Further Reading…

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