After My Miscarriage, My Brain Broke
by Noelle Hatton
Going through a miscarriage was the most gut-wrenching and heart-breaking experience I had ever had. Then my brain broke, or at least it felt like it had. The sequence of events wasn’t anything I had expected. It wasn’t like the grief had settled, and then the ‘break’ followed directly after. There was no quiet before the storm. After my miscarriage, there was storm, and then there was more storm. I know people talk about grief coming in waves — but this particular kind of grief was relentless. I was far out at sea with no life boat. My legs were getting too tired to paddle. I lost all sense of who I was.
Doctors would not believe me when I told them about my “broken brain” because I presented so . . . perkily. I wanted them to understand that I was experiencing a grief which was crippling and that something had broken in my brain, too. I must have been begging for help from the doctors with some kind of demented joie de vivre still lingering in my eyes — because I couldn’t convince them that I was unhappy. In fact, they thought I was sincerely happy. I didn’t mean to seem happy, I certainly didn’t feel it, and I wasn’t completely sure I would ever know what “happy” was again.
The “Dementors” from Harry Potter came to mind often during that time.
Why couldn’t these doctors and psychiatrists see how much I was suffering? Where was the firefighter-like-response to come to my aid? How could they not see that I was on fire?
I sought out a Holistic Physiotherapist to help release the trauma I had been storing in my body. According to him, I was storing most of this trauma in my breasts and vagina — and it was his job to “release” it. I was too weak to stop him.
But that’s for a whole other article.
I remember the looks I’d get from my friends, with whom I confided about my broken brain, thinking they were a safe bet. They would often look at me, and with a pinch in their voice ask me, “are you getting help?” These people were not asking because they were worried. They were asking because I was making them uncomfortable. They were also looking at me that way because I was possibly the ‘craziest’ person they had ever seen (they were maybe not entirely sure. I could have resembled the crazed mom that Wynona Ryder plays in Stranger Things . . . but who knows).
It’s easy to tell if someone has real concernfor your well-being, because the people who really care ask, “how can I help you?” They want to roll up their sleeves and help dig you out of whatever trench you’ve rolled yourself into. These people are the most valuable resources you will ever have in your life.
I am sure of it.
I started gaining a greater understanding of Dante’s Inferno.
It became personal.
With depression, people talk about the darkness — but there was a fire closing in all around me. It was all lit up. In a bad way. I became this needy, desperate shell of the girl I once knew; like an emotional anorexic. It was all a bit Girl Interrupted. I am a proactive girl, but this time I didn’t know what to do. I left no self-help stone unturned, but found zero paths leading out of this hell. Looking back now, the most embarrassing aspect of the entire saga was the desperation. The word needy makes me cringe.
How do you cure a broken brain? No one knew, so I tried everything my psychiatrist would allow: I tried medications, but kept on having what felt like near-death experiences. Then I would try more medications. The half-used pill bottles where I’d been told, “these are the ones that will cure you!” only to take two and nearly die — kept staking up claim in my house. I’d feel seasick despite being on firm ground, or would fall to the floor — feeling like I’d been underwater for hours. I would even experience allergic reactions from these pills. A real fun time to be living completely alone, and not having anyone who lived close enough to call on in case of an emergency.
Where was the Baby Daddy, you ask? Your guess is as good as mine.
The amount of natural medications I took added a witchy apothecary feel to my house. I tried EVERYTHING I could get my hands on. I researched and read everything. I would arrive at the next naturopath’s office, armed with pages torn out of old books, convincing both them and myself that a cure did in fact exist. It had to. Even if we had to import it from the highlands of Peru.
This combination of severe grief and a broken brain was killing me.
A particularly telling moment was when I put up a star chart on my wall. I would give myself a gold star for every hour I survived. I think I was hoping the reward based system would boost the serotonin in my brain . . . or something like that . . .
Then something odd happened:
The grief took a sudden step back. I could breathe again. Like actually take in oxygen. It was the weirdest sensation. I want to know why and how it happened, so I can help other women. But I also don’t want to poke the bear.
Then my psychiatrist and I hit on the right meds. Suddenly the darkness lifted and it looked like a normal day. I was a bit disorientated, but I found my feet.
I began going to Pilates four times a week again because I could actually leave my house. I started drinking green juice again because I was no longer panic vomiting. I took my supplements and my Chinese herbs. I finally started working, reading, researching, going on courses, and setting myself up to become the Powerhouse People-Helper I’ve always wanted to become.
It’s incredible what one can achieve when our brains aren’t broken.
My goal now is to train as a midwife and life coach, and focus on helping mothers with grief after a baby loss, postnatal depression/anxiety and postpartum psychosis. Do I still want babies? Yes! Will I possibly have another miscarriage? Maybe. Will I have to plan my pregnancies because I’m on medications now? Definitely. I am going to have an extremely planned pregnancy and postpartum. I will have to come off the drugs (even the thought of it — yikes!) as these are not the sorts of drugs that are remotely safe for pregnancy. I have already decided that pregnancy is going to be the best hormonal high of my life (I am positive thinking the shit out of this one). Then, soon after birth, I will likely need to go back on the drugs; that way I may avoid a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD). There is no way to safely breastfeed on these drugs. So, Baby gets the bottle.
I have now made a full recovery, but any girlish innocence I’d held onto before the trauma I have most certainly lost. I feel like a woman who has survived a war, and though the war is technically over, she is still storing enough cans of food to feed the family for six months in the back of the pantry. You know, just in case.
It’s not panic. It’s practicality.
To every woman going through her own personal hell with a broken brain right now — whether it was triggered by miscarriage, still birth, infant loss or by PND or PPMD, or anything else — I see you. Females are strong as hell.
Noelle Hatton is a full spectrum doula and mama coach, she’s here for when it doesn’t all go to plan. You can follow her at @mothering.every.mother.