This is the big one. It's been brewing for a while.
My honesty, my frankness, might make some people uncomfortable. That's okay. Aimee's dead, and I know she wouldn't want anyone to be complacent about life. I'm not about to shame her memory by being a coward.
Aimee suffered from postpartum depression and psychosis. While postpartum depression is widely recognized (some studies show as many as one in eight women suffer some depression after childbirth), postpartum psychosis is much more frightening and seldom discussed. Postpartum Support International has a good overview of the condition at their website. You'll note it is a rare illness, affecting around 1/10th of 1% of new mothers.
It's a scary damn disease, too, and one which has too much stigma attached. Aimee never spoke of her bouts with psychosis by name--it was always her postpartum depression or postpartum trouble. It breaks my heart she couldn't call the monster by its real name.
And it is a monster.
I am a trained school counselor with a master's degree in counseling psychology. Aimee was a licensed clinical social worker. We both knew mental illness did not define a person. Aimee was not the psychosis, just as a cancer patient is not a tumor or one with a broken leg is not a broken bone. All the same, mental health issues carry such baggage--so many stereotypes. Aimee was the most vibrant person I've ever known when she was healthy. I still can't fathom what she saw in this small town Kansas boy when she agreed to marry me.
She first struggled about nine months after Owen's birth. It came on slowly with typical depressive symptoms, but slowly morphed into something more hideous. She spent a week in inpatient psychiatric care for the first time in June, 2004. With medication and rest, she recovered. Mostly. Such an experience leaves scars, even if you can't see them.
After Max was born, the psychosis came with a tiger's ferocity. I woke on August 1st, 2006 to a stranger in my bed. She spent her second stint in psychiatric care and navigated a shaky three months before being hospitalized again in November, 2006.
Her recovery was slow. The old Aimee--the most vibrant person I've ever known--never fully returned, at least not to those who were around her most. It breaks my already-shattered heart to write this, but I never stopped loving her. I never stopped caring for her. That is not how I operate--or ever could operate. When I took a vow--to honor and care for her in sickness and in health--in front of God and everyone, I meant it. I'm stubborn that way. I love that way.
Aimee always wanted another child. I was afraid.She never felt our family was complete.
She told me she was pregnant with Elliot last spring. I cried. A cannonball settled in my gut, a cannonball of ice and rusty nails. I steeled myself for the journey ahead. With her history of postpartum psychosis, chances were very great she'd have a relapse.
Nearly four months after Elliot's birth, she did.
Here's what I want you to understand: Aimee was not her illness just as my father, who died as a result of a malignant brain tumor and subsequent treatment, was not the cancer.
If I can help one person have the courage to seek help when
they need it--I know Aimee would want that. I know she would.This post is the first step.It's the truth. If Aimee showed me anything, it was how to be brave. I'm not sure what the next step is--but I'm not going to be quiet about Aimee. I'm not going to dishonor her memory by being a coward.