When Destiny Musil and her husband need quality family time, they buckle their 18-month-old into her car seat and enjoy the drive from Irvine to Las Vegas. They bask in the sun, play in the pool, window-shop and sleep in until baby Brooklyn decides it’s time for breakfast.
What Destiny will never forget, no matter how many vacations she takes, is her recent battle with severe anxiety and depression after the birth of her daughter.
“It started with 36 hours of labor and a C-section, and then things went completely haywire,” says Destiny, 32. “I’m such a control freak that I insisted on being super-mom 24/7 and barely let my daughter out of my sight. For the first week, I ate one meal a day and got less than 10 hours of sleep. I thought I was going crazy. Now, I know why.”
MORE THAN MOODY
The birth of a baby can be an exciting, cherished moment for mothers. But for many, it also can be overtaken by their negative emotions, nervous that they won’t be able to care for their newborn. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 1 out of 10 women will experience postpartum depression.
Symptoms can include feeling overwhelmed, confused, irritated, angry, disconnected or feeling nothing at all. Postpartum anxiety can come on by itself or together with depression, triggering an inability to gain control of disturbing thoughts. It may even manifest as physical symptoms like stomach cramps or headaches.
“Postpartum depression and anxiety goes beyond having a bad day, or a few bad days,” explains Elizabeth McGee, licensed clinical social worker, Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders Program, Community Hospital Long Beach (CHLB). “It’s when you find yourself stuck, unable to shake the feeling. That’s not normal, and childbirth may worsen the situation. Women don’t have to live that way.”
The Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders Program (PMAD) at Community Hospital Long Beach provides diagnosis, treatment and ongoing support for mothers struggling with anxiety, depression and other psychiatric disorders, including obsessive compulsive disorder and postpartum psychosis. Only one of a few hospitals in the nation to offer inpatient care for these conditions, the program focuses on mother-child bonding and attachment, while helping women regain their independence.
For Destiny, the constant worrying about everything from whether the baby was breathing to why she was crying became unbearable. Afraid to sleep, leave the house or open the windows, her thoughts turned intrusive and spiraled out of control.
“I would never, ever do anything to hurt my child, but the more I’d try to forget about my thoughts, the more I’d end up thinking about it. It was a vicious cycle,” says Destiny.
A frightened Destiny checked herself in to CHLB, proactively seeking help from the experts in the PMAD program. After a week in the hospital, she transitioned to outpatient care, continuing her therapy twice a week with McGee.
“Women who experience postpartum mood disorders frequently think that they’re the only one, or are embarrassed because having a baby is supposed to be such a wonderful thing. So they pretend that everything is fine,” says McGee. “They try to hide their feelings, but keeping the secret just leads to isolation and deeper feelings of anxiety and depression. Our goal is to reverse that process in a supportive and caring way.”
Thanks to the coping tools she’s learned at CHLB, Destiny recognizes the triggers that can affect her emotions. Today, she feels empowered and healthy. She advises other moms to sleep, eat, get outside and most importantly, to speak up if they’re feeling alone.
“From day one, Community Hospital Long Beach was the start of the solution – and hope,” says Destiny. “Elizabeth taught me how to do the work and retrain my brain to get off the ‘what-if’ merry-go-round. I’m in control of me again. And that’s the best feeling. My husband and I are now even thinking about having a second child.”
For more information, please visit MemorialCare.org/MentalHealth or call (855) CHLB-4-HELP.