Lisa is no stranger to health issues. From birth, she has been struggling with a lifelong heart condition. Subsequently, she has become accustomed to managing her physical health, navigating the healthcare system and dealing with a multitude of physicians and appointments. However, nothing prepared her the complexities of mental illness.
For Lisa, the struggle with depression and anxiety began in 2013 when she became pregnant with her son.
“I noticed early on in my pregnancy that I wasn’t doing well mentally, I wasn’t sleeping and I would cry at the drop of a hat” she says. The mood swings and thoughts went far beyond hormonal shifts. “The anxiety and worries were all consuming.”
Lisa said her anxiety got significantly worse when she mentioned it to her physician at a routine appointment. She remembers feeling unsupported and shamed about the extra weight she was carrying. “I went to the doctor for help and he told me that I was too fat and it would be a miracle if my child lived. He also told me that I would have to give birth in Edmonton if I kept gaining weight because there were no beds in Lloyd that could support me.”
Lisa remembers that being a pivotal moment in her pregnancy, and her mental health. Instead of feeling supported and empowered by her healthcare team, she felt fearful and shamed.“After that, I found myself never bonding with the child while I was pregnant, I was so scared that something was going to happen to him.” She recalls.
Not only did she have her emotional struggles to battle with, her pregnancy began to have complications. “My pregnancy was a tough one” she said. She had multiple incidents of bleeding throughout her pregnancy and in her 2nd trimester was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. This added to her stress and worry for the child she was carrying.
On May 8 2013, Lisa son was born via a cesarean section. Lisa says she was prepared for the surgery however, the recovery was something she could not have anticipated. “I had a severe infection after my delivery, so I was back and forth to the doctor with my newborn in tow.” This in turn added strain and her depression and anxious thoughts only got worse.
“When my baby was born, I was terrified that he was going to die. I would just be sitting there holding him and I would just start to cry…I didn’t know why I was crying, but it would happen so often” she says. “Truthfully, I don’t really remember much of the first month of his life. It’s all a blur.”
Lisa managed to put on a facade when everyone else was around. Although she had a very supportive family, she kept her struggles private. “I was still functioning when I needed to, I didn’t show signs of anything being wrong. No one knew what I was dealing with.”
She suffered in silence for years. For various reasons, her marriage began to fall apart and her and Cooper’s Father got divorced. She did her best to move on with her life, but felt isolated and didn’t know where to turn. She said she felt selfish for asking for help.
She didn’t get diagnosed with anxiety and postpartum depression until years later when she found a new doctor and mustered up the courage to talk about her feelings. She was diagnosed with severe anxiety and was offered medication to help her cope. However, she found the first medication she was prescribed didn’t work well for her. Unfortunately, Lisa was not counseled on any other options, so she stopped taking her prescription. Luckily, the feelings of anxiety and hopelessness eventually started to dissipate. Lisa was extremely fortunate, as that is not the case with many women.
Lisa is now living her fiancé Ken and she is happy to say those dark days are behind her. She still has some mild anxiety however, she has learned to cope. Now, she another baby to share in the love. Lisa and Ken welcomed a baby girl in 2017 named Sophie to make her son a proud big brother. Lisa’s experience was very different this time around. She was prepared and knew the warning signs of depression and anxiety and found an obstetrician that she felt comfortable with. She was open and honest with her feelings.
“When I got pregnant with Sophie, I knew what to look for and I had spoke to my doctor about the depression I had had with my first son, so he watched me very closely” she said. “Thinking back to my pregnancies, they were both so different. I didn’t have the bad feelings or thoughts the second time around. I knew what to look for and I wasn’t shy about talking about it anymore.”
Although she still has an uphill battle with her health (Lisa recently had a hysterectomy and still has a condition she has to manage) she is optimistic about her future. Lisa is now taking her diploma in counseling to help others that are struggling. “I want women to know that they are not alone and that they have nothing to be ashamed of when it gets to be too much. They need someone to hold them up for a little while.”