My story of healing – Maggie Colleary Reade
Updated: Aug 27, 2019
(Story updates in italics as up August 2019 are below.)
After the traumatic birth of her son, Maggie Colleary Reade was hit hard with postpartum depression and anxiety. Over the years, she’s come to see how profound her struggles were related to poor care during labor and delivery and now she’s found healing by helping other mothers suffering from similar struggles as a birth doula. She finds healing with a strong support system, talk therapy and writing.
Learn more about her story of healing below:
Tell me about yourself: I’m a mom of two, whose married to my high school crush. I am a birth doula, a nanny, a writer, and an empath.
What’s your story? I’ve struggled with my mental health since I was a child. I have been anxious and depressed for as long as I can remember. It is not surprising that I was struck like lightning with postpartum mental illness, but it didn’t feel fair.
What happened to cause your anguish? I was in labor with my son for 17 hours. When I was in the hospital, I refused all pain meds. I wanted to do it on my own, but I was unprepared and scared. The nurses would peak their heads in and laugh as I screamed through my contractions. One of them said smugly, “I bet you wish you’d gotten the epidural now!” I was panicking and couldn’t breathe. The contractions were on top of each other, and I felt what I thought was his head crowning. I pictured him trapped and suffocating. I shrieked for help. “He’s dying,” I yelled, over and over!
My doctor was out of town. The back-up was at another birth. A third-string stranger walked into my room to deliver my baby at 3 am. The nurses had woken him up, and he was annoyed. All he ever said was, “Stop screaming.”
Thankfully, my son was born healthy and beautiful, but unfortunately, he met a mother who had fear for him deeply ingrained. This has shaped our relationship, for better or worse, I don’t know. This fear for him still haunts me, still is very much present, but now more of a shadow than a monster. I’ve worked so hard for that. What was the moment that caused you to realize that you needed to seek care? Having my second child made me realize that I needed to seek help. I wasn’t desperately afraid for her like I was for my son. It was my vastly different postpartum experiences that shined this undeniable light on the trauma I endured during my first delivery, and how deeply it had scarred me.
What does your recovery look like? My recovery started with antidepressants. I was fortunate that the first medicine I tried worked well for me. The difference was night and day. As I got further down this path, recovery started to look like finding my voice again with sharing what I went through and becoming a listening ear for new moms.
My best friend saved my soul just by showing up in my life exactly as she is. My husband never gave up on getting me back. Talk therapy has been vital. And I started writing again.
Where are you now? These days I’m feeling the best I have in more than five years. My road to healing came full circle when I became a birth doula. No one should be treated the way I was during labor. I made a promise to myself to make my suffering count for something.
I had a major setback triggered by a car accident last winter. And I melted into myself. My dad said, “when you feel like this, it means you need to get back to see your doctor.” So, I called my psychiatrist, and she fit me in to her schedule the next day, and we re-evaluated my meds. It was almost a month before I felt like I had my head on straight again. Healing is an evolution.
Update: I had my last drink on July 10, 2019. I’ve needed to come to terms with my complicated relationship with alcohol for a long time now. I believe that recognizing my substance abuse was the missing piece of my recovery story. My mind is now a safe place for me to be, and I am beyond grateful.
One piece of advice you would give someone in a situation like yours trying to decide whether or not to seek care: To anyone who is struggling with anxiety and/or depression, please know that your feelings are real, but they may not be true. Mental illness lies to us, and these lies can cause us to destroy ourselves. If you have scary thoughts, can’t go through a day without crying, or just don’t like the way you’re feeling, reach out for help. There is someone waiting. You don’t have to live like this.
Mental Health Resources If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, don’t suffer in silence! There are free and affordable resources to help you get through these times. Here are just few options for you below:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255): Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential, toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network.
National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) offers peer-to-peer support groups in most locations. This in-person group experience provides the opportunity for mutual support and positive impact. You can experience compassion and reinforcement from people who relate to your experiences.
Some federal agencies offer resources for identifying practitioners and assistance in finding low cost health services. These include:
Health Resources and Services Administration works to improve access to health care. The website has information on finding affordable healthcare, including health centers that offer care on a sliding fee scale.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has information on its website about benefits and eligibility for its programs and how to enroll.
Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers resources to help answer questions about insurance coverage for mental health care.
Service members and Veterans have unique needs. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/veterans provides for their specific needs.