PTSD is defined as:
A type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you've seen or experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death.
I remember my follow-up with the doctor that did my emergency c-section. He talked briefly about postpartum depression, but never PTSD. The NICU social worker also checked in on me a few times and asked me how I was feeling and if I was experiencing any postpartum depression. She told me the symptoms and I told her that aside from the craziness and trauma I felt from being in the NICU, that I wasn't feeling depressed in a way that I thought was out of the ordinary for someone having a baby at 23 weeks.
After leaving the NICU, I had no mental health follow-up care. I didn't really know if I needed therapy or counseling. I didn't feel depressed in the way that I thought one could feel depressed, but I was wading through some pretty heavy waters. In hindsight, I believe I was experiencing PTSD.
I remember one night, sitting in bed, reading like I normally do. I started to have the most intense flashback of the day Jack was born. It felt so incredibly real that I immediately sat up in bed, heart racing, sweating, and just started balling my eyes out. It was like I was back in the thick of it, feeling every single emotion that I felt it that day. Hearing the doctor say "not viable", rushing me onto the helicopter, going into emergency surgery....
This experience totally freaked me out. I got out of bed and started to try and process what I was experiencing. I knew it wasn't normal, because I had to calm myself down, remind myself that it was over, that Jack survived, that he was safe at home.
I knew something was up and I decided to do a little research. Here's what I found:
Symptoms of PTSD fall into three main categories:
When I read the description, I just knew. I was experiencing a whole lot of these things. I did more research and it was only then that I began to hear how common it was. I started reading about other micro preemie mom's going through the same thing. Most told me that it would be bad for a time, but usually, it would get better.
I contemplated going to a therapist. I don't know why I never did. Maybe because it was during RSV season and I didn't want to leave the house. I know that played into it, but there was more. I was in a place where I really didn't want to talk much about it (avoidance and numbing!) and discussing it with my husband felt good enough. I don't believe it was the best choice on my part.
I often wonder if I would have healed much quicker if I would have taken the time to get help. I remember blogging about my emotions at the end of 2009, leaving the post saying how my one resolution for the New Year was to heal emotionally from everything that we'd been through. That healing did eventually come, but looking back, I wished I would have done things a little different.
Update! Right after I posted this, I saw this great video put together by Hand to Hold.