Here is Part 2 of Marla's story and her experience with postpartum psychosis. If you missed Part 1, READ HERE.
I went back to work in January against most everyone’s advice including my principal, and that’s when life became really interesting. I had a huge caseload of special needs kids and now needed to make lesson plans and write IEP’s (I also lost the ability to read). Looking back it was almost funny how I thought I could possibly handle all of this. In my “spare time” I was also planning how I could rob a bank. All these absolutely crazy outlandish ideas became so real and attainable. I lost an absurd amount of weight and coworkers and students kept asking if I was ok. I wasn’t dead yet, but looked like death I’m sure. I had no right being a teacher at that time. I was sleeping on my floor during planning periods and the exhaustion of a solid 6 months with 3 hours sleep a day left my mind capable of almost nothing remotely sane or typical.
The constant intrusive thoughts of death seeped into every space in my brain and body. To this day it is the hardest thing for me to think about. I couldn’t talk about it for so long and typing the words is still easier than saying them-I wanted my son dead; I wanted to die as well. I have nightmares still about what I wanted to do to him. I took pills a couple of times but never enough to quite get the job done. I would remove myself from Ethan when I wanted to harm him. I fought so so hard to not hurt him. I cried for hours agonizing and pleading for the voices to go away, for someone to save me, for a miracle, for God to take me and not let me kill my child. He was so beautiful and I loved him more than anything but keeping myself from harming him will forever be the biggest struggle and fight I’ve encountered and thankfully won. Nothing for the rest of my life will ever be as difficult as those months were. Everything pales in comparison.
By April my body had physically and mentally had enough. I cared about nothing. So when one of my students began sending messages that were inappropriate I responded in an inappropriate way as well. There were two students and I honestly can’t remember all that happened but I know that I began constantly sending sexual messages. It was attention and for some reason I thought they would save me. I do know that I didn’t start the messages but responded to them. I had been a teacher for 15 years in a community that I loved and was well respected. I graduated from this school as well and it was all I had known my entire life. The texting ensued for 10 days until I was caught. One of the students decided to share these messages out loud. To this day I’m thankful for being caught. I have no idea if I would still be here or not. I was saved after all-maybe now I could get the attention I needed.
I told no one my thoughts or how I felt about Ethan. Everyone wanted to blame the fact that my husband was never home and I was simply lonely-that I craved attention from high school boys. This wasn’t the case at all. Had I been in my normal mindset I would have never risked my career or gotten involved with my students. I was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors; official misconduct and endangering the welfare of a child as the one students was 16. My story made national headlines and was even featured on Larry King. It was on the news as far away as Alaska. I lost my job and can never return to teaching. This put a huge burden on the family financially as Ethan’s medical bills were still very high.
I went to jail for 30 days and this is when I learned about post-partum psychosis. My sister sent Brooke Shield’s book, Down came the Rain and for the first time I had a definition for what I had.
Throughout my entire case no attorney, doctor, nurse, or anyone that cared for my health recognized what was happening to me. There was NO screening process, NO information presented to my husband after birth, and mostly NO empathy or concern for me. All the concern was about the baby. But what if the mom can’t care for the baby? I wanted to be a good mom like I was to my daughter. I’ve always strived to the best I can and this one time in my life my brain failed me and I still don’t know why. I had no history of depression, or bipolar or any mental disorder that would lead to this life changing event for me. My sleep deprivation was compared by one doctor to that of a torture camp. He said that small amount of sleep alone could have made anyone go crazy.
Since being recovered and moving forward I have met some of the most amazing people ever. I have also lost many people whom I used to think were amazing. My circle of friends is very small now and I don’t easily trust anyone. I still live in the same community and it is much easier now than it was a few years ago. The hatred I have encountered is so gut wrenching, but hasn’t changed my heart. I want women to know that there can be so many good things after. Every day I see what happened to me as a blessing. That doesn’t mean I still don’t get angry and upset and sad. It means that I get to see life in a perspective I never would have otherwise. Ethan and Natalie get to have their mom and I love them so much.
My story is the best litmus test of people’s character. When I do share and I see how they respond, I know if they will love me for who I am and always was. I have so much to give and even more so now that I have a platform to help others and bring awareness to post-partum mood disorders. There is an after and I’ve learned that my future is what matters and my past is just that. It has given me strength I never knew possible. I get this life and that’s all. I don’t intend to let all that I’ve been through dictate how I love people, or how I live my life.
As it turns out Ethan is the most amazing kid. He is autistic and has a rare growth disorder and has a heart bigger than anyone I know. He fills my heart daily and I tell him my cup always overfloweth. My daughter Natalie will never know the depth to which she helped me survive. All the times she helped me with Ethan when she had no idea what I could have done to him. I have so much gratefulness and gratitude for those that help me now and have stood by me.
If you are inspired by Marla's story or by this film project
Or if you just want to help raise awareness about Postpartum Psychosis
Please visit our campaign!