BENEFITING: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
ORGANIZER: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
I am so honored to be a part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Team for the 2017 NYC Marathon! I am raising money and running in honor of my sister Kristy. She was 36 when she lost her battle with postpartum depression and psychosis after the birth of her third son, in 2014.
Everyone impacted by suicide has a different story. Over the next few months I will be sharing the story of my sister and how I got to be here, running the NYC Marathon in her honor and memory. Through this journey I hope to raise money and shed light on the stories behind the suicides. The mental illness that often takes the loved one you know long before they are taken from this world by suicide.
Kristy and I were the only two children our parents had; she was 18 months younger. We were always close but had very different personalities and having a sibling that close in age, especially a sister, is like having your best friend living with you. We fought like crazy but no one could come between us. We went to college together for the first year, were in each others wedding and then we got pregnant with our first children in the same month!! We got to go through pregnancy together, shop for maternity clothes and baby things, and after Avery and Spencer were born we discussed the up and downs of motherhood!! It was great! Spencer (Kristy's first son) and Avery (my daughter) were born 5 weeks apart and love each other to pieces!
Kristy struggled with PPD with all her sons. The first and third were the most severe. The first was totally unexpected. My sister was the most together, stable, responsible person you could imagine (she was a CPA which totally fit her personality!!) and had no history of mental illness. She met none of the key risk factors for PPD. She was happily married, had a strong support system, a good job, and was very financially stable. She and her husband had waited to have children until they had paid off their home so Kristy could stay at home with them. She also had no history of or current use of drug or alcohol (which is what many first think after a suicide).
Before Kristy's struggle I was very unaware of PPD. Being a nurse I had heard of the baby blues and thought it was really no big deal, something you just got over as your baby got older. I had no idea what PPD truly looked like. Kristy and the family knew something wasn't right after the birth of her first son, Spencer. She had classic depression signs and symptoms and wanted help. She went to her OB and they worked on it together. She continued to breast feed and with the support of family and friends her depression lifted about 2 months after starting treatment. The most beautiful thing Kristy said about this period was that she was outside walking with Spencer one morning and the fog just lifted. The sky got bluer and she knew she was getting better. It was amazing how clear this was to her. With her second son, Sawyer, the postpartum period went smoothly. Kristy and her OB discussed her previous PPD, had a solid plan from the start and it worked well. With Simon (the third) everything was different. Kristy's depression started in the second trimester. Her OB that had been with her through her previous pregnancies had to have emergency surgery and that was very difficult for sister; from what I saw and we discussed this scared her. The OB that took over Kristy's care did not seem as aware of the issues she had faced with PPD. He was not quick to treat her depression during pregnancy and by the time Simon was born sister was in a dark place. This time she did not think she needed help, her brain was too sick. She did not want to go to the doctor. She was not bonding with Simon and was making frightening statements. Finally, we got her to go to the doctor about 2-3 weeks postpartum and when she told the doctor how she was feeling he told her she needed to "go home and bond with her baby"!!!! Things spiraled out of control from there. Kristy's OB came back from her medical leave about 6 weeks after Simon was born, took one look at Kristy and said "you are beyond what I can handle, we need to get you help". Kristy had at least 4 suicide attempts that we know of, 3 MIWs with admissions to different psychiatric hospitals, she saw 4 outpatient psychiatric providers. Her PPD had progressed to postpartum psychosis and healthcare providers didn't see it, were not addressing it aggressively, couldn't treat it!!!! I truly believe Kristy was hearing voices that scared her and were threatening to her boys. She would go see a mental health provider, get admitted to a psychiatric hospital or have a change in her medications and for a day or two she would get a little better, she would try so hard to turn it around. In the end I think she felt she was a danger to the boys and her mind was so sick the only way she felt she could keep her babies safe was to end her life.