Dear Steven & D’Achille Family,
I know we didn’t know each other that well growing up in Wexford and attending NA, but there’s a sense of community that binds those of us with a shared background… and for that reason I felt so compelled to write to you after hearing about the passing of your wife & sister in law, Alexis. My thoughts, my words, my racing emotions cannot begin to articulate the depths of my sadness for you over losing her. My fingers cannot type this letter fast enough or with enough delicate care as it made me weep to know that your Alexis lost her life to a battle with post partum depression. Through that video that was circulating on Facebook that Abby Griffith made, Alexis seemed to be someone who just glowed inside and out and radiated beauty. I hope that darling baby girl of hers always knows what a light she was to others, that her story will not be forgotton, and that her tragic death is fueling mothers like myself to really speak out about my experience with post partum…
You see, just 6mo ago, I was in the same place as your Alexis and barely hanging on with the most delicate thread. I had it all together. The life I had always wanted in New York City. After the birth of my daughter Morgan, my history of anxiety crept up in a way that hit me like a mac truck. When Morgan was 5 weeks old, I was experiencing multiple panic attacks daily, struggling to get even 20min of sleep a night, and walking through life in a grey cloud that I can only describe to others as pure hell. I kept telling myself that this was the “baby blues” and it would get better. I was crying uncontrollably every night when my husband Lee walked in from work and the layers of worry compounded every day. I would look at Morgan and think she didn’t deserve a mother like this. I wasn’t taking calls from anyone. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t hold any kind of conversation, I couldn’t feel my own skin. It took everything in me on multiple mornings not to break the glass in the bathroom mirror just to make me feel like I had a reaction to something. For 4 more months I struggled daily like this and the only ones that knew of my internal pain were my family, my best friends and Lee. But help is not easy to find. The task of even doing so seemed to be too much (even the idea of making an appointment with my doctor and going to that appointment seemed like a marathon race.) I honestly thought I was doomed to suffer like this for a long while, if not forever, and never feel the joy that others seemed to be experiencing with motherhood. I masked it well on the outside and kept up a fascade that was anything but helpful. And while my loved ones were checking in on me to try and protect me from myself and vicious thoughts, I needed more than that. I needed professional help. I happened to run into a woman in the park that I had met in a new breastfeeding class when our babies were just a few weeks old. When she asked me how I was doing, I completely broke down in tears. To basically a complete stranger. But it was a god-send. Her name is Amy and she was the catalyst to me finally getting the help I needed right then and now. No more wasting time. Amy had just emerged from the pits of a post partum period herself and I know for me I NEEDED to hear it from someone that really understood what I was going through exactly, not just know normal depression and anxiety. I ran into Amy just days after thinking to myself that I should really ask Lee to take me to a psych ward and be evaluated. I contemplated running away from my life and wanting more than ever to disappear and own none of my reality. I have been on the edge like your sweet wife sister and law was in. It is a place that no one can even describe.
I hope and pray that Alexis’ legacy becomes one of prevention for mothers struggling with the same illness and that we all become beacons of light and support for those in the same boat. Had I not seen that woman Amy, who is now a dear friend, in the park telling me her story and giving me a name of a psychiatrist and counselor to call, I’m honestly not sure what would have happened to me. I can say now that since June life has been the way I had always dreamed but that was a scary mountain to pass over.
Thinking of you and your family and especially Steven and Adriana during this difficult time. May the beautiful memories of her life dry all those tears…
With heartfelt sympathy,
For information about post partum anxiety and depression, please visit www.postpartum.net as well as more of the beautiful story of Alexis and ways to donate at The Alexis Joy Foundation.