Living Day-to-Day: Navigating Mental Health After Trauma


Living Day-to-Day: Navigating Mental Health After Trauma | Duluth Moms Blog

After the birth of my fourth child, I had an Amniotic Fluid Embolism. I wrote in a previous post about it in case you are unfamiliar with the rare phenomenon. Coming home was terrifying because I was battling (and still battle with) short term memory loss (I’m a real life Dory!) and a litany of physical wounds and trauma, but I was fully unprepared for the mental health train that was going to come crashing into my life when I was least able to handle it.

Choo Choo: All Aboard the Crazy Train

When I had my first baby, I was diagnosed with post-partum depression and put on a routine of regular doctor visits and medication. I didn’t realize that what I was feeing wasn’t simply “baby blues” but rather, full-blown post-partum depression until my daughter was around nine months old. Looking back now and realizing that I lost nine months of my first child’s life feels pretty awful. Fast forward to my fourth, and last, baby’s life… and I don’t remember any of it. Not my pregnancy with her, not her birth, not her firsts. I barely remember if I fed her today. I know I must have but if you asked me what and when? I have no idea. I can’t tell you what she wore, what we did… I can’t tell you anything.

I knew right away when I came home with her that something wasn’t right. I came home on the eighth day of her life and I had no idea I had other kids, let alone three of them. I wasn’t sure who my husband was or why the hospital was making me leave with a stranger. I didn’t know who the people at my home were, why the house was full of gifts, flowers, and food. It was overwhelming. It was terrifying. The only way to describe it is like being plopped into someone else’s life and told to assume the role. Within days the depression was so bad that I was contemplating killing myself in my bathroom; I just wanted out of the nightmare.

Around three months post-partum, my OB finally convinced me that I needed to see a professional and I needed medication. She told me it was common for trauma victims to go on to have depression, but there is no blue print for AFE survivors for what to expect or how to get through it. Fortunately, if you’re able to be patient with the process, there are some great therapists available to see in the Northland area. I’m lucky that the first one I had was a good match for me, and so we began my mental health journey together.

There are No Ups Without A Few Steep Downs

Shortly after starting therapy, I hit a tremendous low in January of 2017. At that point I was looking for answers down every avenue, I was connecting with other AFE survivors, I was visiting psychics, I was reading books about life after death and near death experiences, and it was all so mentally draining. I already had small reserves to handle stress as it was but I was bringing myself down.

I stopped taking the medication that now keeps me alive in an attempt to end my life. My thought was that I would just fade away in sleep and it would be this peaceful, non-violent way to end it all because at that time, life was really very overwhelming for me. But at some point, in a moment of anger at myself for wanting to give up, I decided that I was going to get myself together. I went to the emergency room to try to fix the damage I had done by not taking my medication.

I was deeply depressed, so it’s not like things were magically better after my emergency visit, but I stuck with counseling and started seeing a psychiatrist to get a better handle on my medication for depression and anxiety. I needed to find the right dose that worked for me because I can’t live life facing a panic attack every time I need to leave the house.

Of course, mental health medication is vast and very complicated. Dosing and medication choice is one thing, side effects are quite another. It is a really harrowing experience to try a variety of medications, combinations, and dosing because it all does just a little something to you, sometimes good and sometimes bad. That summer, after trying six different medications, my next step was to do a GeneSight test to gauge which type of meds would be the best fit based on my DNA. It was a fascinating test that I didn’t know existed, and it confirmed that all of my negative reactions to the meds made sense because my DNA is incompatible with many standard depression and anxiety treatments. It gave my doctor and I a new direction to go, and with that, new hope.

Living Day-to-Day: Navigating Mental Health After Trauma | Duluth Moms Blog

Life Isn’t All Roses; Sometimes It’s Full of Dandelions

While my new hope has helped bring some light into my life, I continue to have dark days. Just when I think I’ve turned a corner, depression will let me know who the real boss is around here. I’ve parked on the High Bridge and it was everything in me to not get out of my vehicle. I have stood on the cliffs of Enger Tower Park and thought about jumping. I have calculated the amount of any one of my medications it would take to end it all. Sometimes the happy days aren’t enough. Sometimes knowing I would be missed aren’t enough. Sometimes the voices drown out everything good and those are hard days. But I keep plugging along, hopeful that another good stretch will come, and maybe this time the voice won’t come back. Maybe this time I’ll win.

** We would like our readers to know that the author is safe and continues to be supported by her health professionals, family and friends.

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Sara Strand
Sara is a stay home mom (not a regular mom, a “cool” mom) of two teenagers and two elementary grade kids, who is always stressed out because one has their driver's license, one is a free spirit, one is fearless, and one is always in the clouds. In her “free time”, she is a book reviewer, dance mom, true crime podcast junkie, Dateline/Keith Morrison fan club devotee, and an Amniotic Fluid Embolism survivor. Always honest and sometimes funny, you can also find her at her blog, Stranded in Chaos (, where she shares good (and not so good) books, tales from mom life, recovery and life after birth trauma, and livin’ la vida loca after 40ish.