Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

So as this year comes to a close I can't help but be grateful for my many blessings. The year started out with much sadness as my grandpa, Big Daddy died. However, a lot of babies were born this year into our family and I know he loved all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren so that would've made him very happy. I believe that there is more to this life, that we go somewhere after we die, and I believe that Big Daddy got to meet his great-grandchildren there before they came to us.

So what else is new with us? James is growing like a weed! Today he is 20 months old! My how time flies! He loves cars, he loves "Mater's Tall Tales", and he is a bit of a dare devil. It's amazing he's made it to 20 months with no stitches! He has no fear! He loves climbing, running, spinning himself in circles, loves playing with the big kids, and loves books! He's also very stubborn. He only says words when he wants to. He can say: apple, up, Luna, Bubba (Kevin's nickname), row, cluck, wake up, get up, and shut up. His favorite word is "no". I'm also happy to report that he's a very healthy little boy. ❤

Kevin is coming to grips of going to school every day. He still loves Science. When the book fair was at his school he picked out a big $20 science book. I love that he loves Science. His goal for now is to get a job related to science when he grows up. He still loves Pok√©mon, video games, and penguins. He also continues to get taller and taller every day. Right now he is up to my chin and he wears a size 5 shoe, which my feet can fit into. He still sees a therapist every two weeks to help with Aspergers. He is getting a lot better at communicating his feelings and is becoming more confident with who he is. ❤

Jim has been working at United Fire for four years now. At the beginning of December Jim and I got to go to a Hockey game in Tampa to celebrate United Fire's 15th Anniversary. The company paid for our tickets, had food and drinks for us, and a hotel room. We're really glad that Jim has found this company! And they appreciate his work as much as Jim loves his job. ❤

As for me, as you might've read from my last blog, I'm doing much better. I am off of Zoloft and doing awesome! I have more energy, no suicidal or homicidal thoughts, and I'm feeling like my old self again. I'm still a stay at home mom because I love spending time with James and Kevin whenever I can. ❤

We did have a scare this year though. My mom had to take my dad to the ER because he was experiencing chest pain. Luckily it wasn't anything serious because he was only hospitalized for a few days. He was put on a liquid diet while he was there and lost weight. The doctor said he needs a no salt diet, no sweets, and needs to exercise more. If he gains three pounds in a week he has to go back as that means he's retaining water again. So far he hasn't had to go back and is losing weight from eating healthier. ❤

When he was in the hospital only I went to visit him. Jim stayed home with the boys. Kevin hugged me when I got back and so I told him Grandpa was doing great and should be released from the hospital soon. Kevin hugged me tighter and said, "I don't want your dad to die." That comment almost sent me to tears but I assured him that Grandpa would be okay. When my dad was released from the hospital Kevin asked his teacher if she thought his Grandpa would be okay. She reassured him that if the doctors released my dad then that means he'll be okay. Then the following weekend we went to my parents house and Kevin walked into my parents bedroom where I was talking to my mom and my dad was relaxing on the bed and Kevin said, "Are you feeling better Grandpa?" My dad said he was feeling lots better. Kevin smiled, "Good". Just that little conversation made my eyes tear up. To know that Kevin was so concerned that he brought it up to his teacher and to my dad ❤ Just pulls on my heart strings to have such a kind and sensitive boy ❤

Anyway, I wanted to share pictures of the new babies that we welcomed into our family this year as well as wish our family, our friends, and everyone reading this a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Heath and Bekah welcomed Adam
 into the world on Feb. 7

Ben and Lizz welcomed baby Kai on March 18

Colt and Katie welcomed baby Conner on July 25

And the newest baby to make
 her way into the world is Lilybell,
born on Dec. 20 to Jeremy and Hannah
 Congratulations to all my cousins for their newest additions this year;


Fish cousins: Kevin 9, Kennedy 13, Oliver 10,
Hayley 8, baby James 19 months, and Kalib 9

Kevin 9 years and James 19 months old

And to all our family and friends, as well as those reading this blog, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

I Am Surving Postpartum Depression and So Can You!

Getting pregnant with James was hard enough. Took us 10 months of trying on fertility drugs. Then when we were finally pregnant I was afraid of having a miscarriage... But everything went well. I attended college, got good grades, and toward the end I talked with my teachers so that I could take my finals over the summer as James was deemed too big for a natural birth and so I was scheduled to have a c-section during the week my finals were to take place.

Everything seemed to be going perfectly... Then when our son was born I wasn't able to hold him because he had fluid in his lungs. It's such a horrible feeling to hold your baby in your body for nine months then not be able to see him or hold him. After ten hours the doctors finally brought baby James to me for Kangaroo Care, but only for fifteen minutes. It was such a frustrating time... Then the next day we were told James would have to go to a different hospital. I was so broken hearted. Still I told Jim to ride in the ambulance with James and keep his eyes on him at all times. My mother waited with me to be discharged from the hospital then drove me to Orlando to be with my baby.

Once there we learned that baby James was jaundiced, he had a heart murmur, and his breathing was still too rapid. Jim got us a room at the Ronald McDonald's House around the corner. It was the longest three days of our lives. We would wake, get a ride to the hospital, and spend all day with James in the NICU. We only left his side to eat and sleep.

Once home I was afraid to leave his side. Always wanted to make sure he was still breathing. Then slowly I felt out of control. It started with crying. Endless crying because I didn't feel good enough. I didn't feel strong enough to be a mother. Then the intrusive thoughts started. They were horrible and constant. From  poisoning to cutting. Ridiculous things I knew I would never act on but for some reason they stuck around and got worse. I was afraid to sleep... Afraid that another personality would take over and act on the thoughts going through my head. I thought I could ignore it. I only went in the kitchen to make bottles. Afraid I'd hurt myself or others so I hid scissors and my husband's box cutter from my sight.

From there it got progressively worse. The lights seemed too bright and I constantly felt like I was dreaming; I was constantly questioning what was reality.  My whole body was numb so how could I trust that I was awake? So I started telling myself "My name is Heather Panko, I am married to my best friend, we have two adorable sons and we live with my tween and two cats." Every day I was smothered with anxiety and more intrusive thoughts. If I was awake I was crying. I was avoiding my sons, which just made my anxiety worse. I didn't trust myself driving, being alone, or trust myself with my boys. Some days I didn't want to leave my bed or the couch. Nothing seemed to help. Jim wasn't getting enough sleep either. He watched over me as I slept and would wake up constantly to make sure I was still in bed. So I called a  psychiatrist but they wouldn't be able to see me until after the weekend. I didn't think I could wait so I talked to my cousin and Jim about me checking myself into the Psych ward at the Deland hospital. Jim was very upset. He has always been able to help me and talk me down. However, this was different. No words helped. Every day I thought of running away to save my family from me. I thought that they would be better off without me.

Once at the hospital and on the psych floor I felt more relieved. I was started on paxil and seroquel. The first day was still spent crying. I'm a very shy person and didn't like that I couldn't talk to nor see my family whenever I wanted. A lot of the time I just wanted to go back home.

When I met the psychiatrist he didn't say much to me. It was mostly me rambling on about my symptoms. At the end of it I told him I felt like I was going crazy and asked him if I would ever feel normal again. He never looked up from my chart and was writing something down continuously. When he spoke to me he asked what prescriptions I was on and what had I been on in the past. I told him that I only have been on anti-seizure medications, never anti-depressants.

I met with him one more time during my stay. But it pretty much went the same way as above. This time, however, we sat in a small office. The same place I was checked into and where the nurses took my belongings to put them into a locker. This time he was typing something into the computer and I could see my chart. At the top in black ink he had diagnosed me as being bipolar. That diagnosis stuck with me the rest of my visit because it didn't seem right. I've seen bipolar! I grew up with bipolar! There was no way that I was bipolar! I talked to my husband and cousin during visiting hours and they both agreed that I wasn't bipolar. I even talked amongst  my peers and therapist, different therapist, during group and they agreed that based on my symptoms it sounded like postpartum depression. I felt so relieved to have people listen to me and reassure me that it was postpartum depression. Some of the other women there have also suffered from it and reassured me that things would get better. However, I still had the intrusive thoughts but now that I was on medication and sleeping through the night they weren't as loud.

When I was released from the hospital I was still on paxil, seroquel, and klonopin (for anxiety). Paxil seemed to help the most. I was only to take klonopin as needed, which in the beginning was twice a day. Seroquel I took at night but as my baby didn't sleep through the night and seroquel made me too tired to hear him, I quit taking seroquel. Eventually it got to the point where I was taking one klonopin a day and then none a day. My anxiety stopped.

I was now going to therapy once a week. I told him about my diagnosis and that I didn't think it was right. He asked me what kind of things made me upset and so I told him. One of the things that upset me the most was having my day planned out and then an unexpected incident, such as my car breaking down, happening so that I would miss work and would need a ride. I don't like being dependent upon others. Also, I told him that I had looked up a Postpartum site on Facebook. I had become a member and a lot of the other mothers were sharing the same feelings and fears that I had! As my therapist and I talked about my symptoms and experiences he agreed that I had postpartum depression. He also noted that I was suffering from PTSD because of happenings during my childhood.

Now it's seventeen months later and I'm feeling more like my old self! There's no anxiety about harming my children or myself. There's no intrusive thoughts and I've been off of Zoloft for two weeks! Yesterday was the first day I had the energy to do a workout routine and these past few weeks have been the first few that I have been able to wake up before my alarm went off to take my oldest son to school.

It has been a long and exhausting journey but I finally feel as though it's coming to an end. So to the people, the group, the other women sharing their stories, my hubby, my cousin, my family thank you! Without any of you I don't think I would have made it!

Postpartum depression is scary! It's real! You're constantly on guard as you fear your biggest fears coming true: hurting your child, hurting yourself, not feeling good enough, and never being you again. I had constant fears of being bipolar or schizophrenic as I thought I would never be normal again. But it does get better. If you're reading this and you're struggling please hang in there because it does get better! Take it a day at a time, or if you felt like I did and it seemed unlikely that you could, then take it minute by minute, or hour by hour. In the beginning I couldn't think of tomorrow so I grasped on to minutes.

I felt like life was going by too fast, there was too much to get done... The chores that needed to be done, just the thought of them exhausted me. I didn't trust myself driving or being alone with my kids. A lot of the time my cousin was doing the driving and my hubby would come home from a full day's work and help with chores, homework, and dinner because I never left the couch. I hated feeling so useless but my cousin pointed out that one day I made it through and I managed to laugh. She reminded me that even a small accomplishment was still an accomplishment and though I didn't see it I was getting better. She often had to remind me that I was a good mother because I only saw the negative. I only saw the mother that never left the couch. Not the mother who cuddled with her baby, made him smile and laugh, or the mother who was taking care of her son and never left his side.

However, now I feel back to normal and I know that I am a great mom, not perfect, but pretty great. I try to stay on top of the laundry, the dishes, helping my oldest with homework, and making dinner. I don't feel like a failure as a mother and I know that I never would, never will hurt my children for they are my everything, my greatest blessings. So again thank you to everyone who helped me along my road to recovery <3 And seriously if you have the same feelings that I experienced or are struggling hold on because as dark as it is right now it will get so much brighter!