Hello, my name is Rachel Burkhart. I have an absolutely wonderful life full of happiness, support, adventures, and unconditional love. However, I didn’t always view my life this way. Just a few short months ago I viewed my life much differently. I dreaded waking up every morning and facing my responsibilities. I avoided mirrors and hated the person I had become. I would put on a full face of makeup just to keep up appearances. I would lock myself in the bathroom and hide my crying. I was so frightened that anyone besides my husband would find out how bad I was struggling, and even then…he wasn’t fully aware of what was going on either. After the never-ending panic attacks and long talks with my husband, I decided to seek help. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.
On May 28, 2015, we experienced a miscarriage. This really took a toll on our relationship and my overall health and is something that I just recently overcame. On July 29, 2016, our daughter River Amelia was born. She is now three years old and the best big sister in the entire world. On May 28, 2019, our son Simon Thomas was born, and that is when it all began. I struggled with him being born on the same day as our miscarriage. It didn’t seem fair to me. Both of my babies were born by scheduled cesarean and both went as planned.
After my son was born, we had our ‘golden hour’ in which I became extremely ill and began to vomit, unable to enjoy our first bonding experience. The remaining two days spent in the hospital I was on so many different pain medications that I hardly remember anything. Once we returned home everything felt natural. I wasn’t overwhelmed like I had expected to be going from ‘mom of 1’ to ‘mom of 2’. My husband returned to work after 21 days of leave. Then reality set in. I was left to take care of a 2 ½ year old, energetic daughter and a NEWBORN baby. I couldn’t keep up with my daughter, the cleaning, cooking, and care for our new son. I became overly paranoid that I wasn’t doing something right. I didn’t know what ‘the something’ was but I knew that I wasn’t doing it right. I didn’t want anyone to touch him but at the same time, I was so overwhelmed with feeding on demand. I breastfed our daughter for 2 years and 4 months and never felt like this until she began teething. So why was it happening just weeks after he was born? Why am I already just so done with it all? I had started experiencing very lucid dreams that I was bathing Simon in the sink and putting his head completely underwater, that I left him lying in the closet in our shoe hamper and leaving him in the car overnight. I would NEVER do any of those things nor have I ever thought about doing any of these. Why was I having these awful dreams? Afraid of them becoming reality I would only bathe him with assistance from my husband, I didn’t want to drive anywhere by myself, and I would close the closet door while I was home alone. But the dreams continued.
We were shopping for our daughter’s third birthday, and I was so excited! I had my heart set on us wearing matching outfits. We found matching yellow shirts with white polka dots to try on. As I shut the door to the fitting room it was like time stood still for a minute. I saw myself in a way that I never had before. I saw a frumpy, ugly, frizzy-haired, chicken-legged, pot belly, miserable human. I literally did not recognize myself. I continued to dress our daughter and I could tell she felt so beautiful. I tried on my matching shirt and opened the door to show Brandon. He approved of both. I shut the fitting room door, ripped off my shirt, sat down, and my entire body filled with pure rage. How could he lie to me like that? I was silent for the whole car ride home. I had completely shut down and shut myself off from everything. Once we got home, I sat on the couch in silence, started an argument I can longer remember, then ran to the bathroom where I sat in the dark cold floor up against the wall and cried while pulling my hair out. Shortly after my disappearance, my husband came to the rescue. I knew at this point that something just wasn’t right. I had to do something. I couldn’t continue to live like this.
My husband and I had a very long conversation about the steps to take to improve my mental health. I contacted my doctor and had an appointment in exactly five days. But the wait until then, everything proceeded to get worse. I joined a support group and at my first meeting, I sat in silence trying to think of what to say and how to say it. I was so afraid of being judged. I didn’t want anyone to know about my thoughts. Did everyone see me the way I saw myself? I put on makeup, fixed my hair, and painted my nails beforehand. I didn’t want anyone to think less of me. I was trying to hide this image I had made of myself so I looked appropriate to the public’s eye. It was my turn to speak and all that came out were tears. I just started crying. I was so overwhelmed, embarrassed, and depressed. I wanted to be anywhere but there. I spoke a little of my experience and everyone was so extremely accepting. I felt like everything was going to be okay after all. I wasn’t the only one and I definitely wasn’t alone. The next day I took my NCLEX and obtained my LPN. After going through nursing school pregnant and taking the NCLEX with my current mental state, I felt so proud and it was a step forward.
Two days before my doctor appointment we were driving and a car swerved over into our lane. My chest got really tight, my vision went blurry, and I was doing everything in my power to breathe. I was dying. I truly thought I was having a heart attack. I was dying and going to leave my husband a widow. I felt like it was never going to end. In full panic mode, all I could think of was my children living a life without me. I realized what a major role I play in their lives.
At my appointment, we discussed the experiences that I had been struggling with. I was prescribed antidepressants and agreed to go to counseling. Almost four months later and with this combination I feel like a brand-new person. I feel better than when I was at my best. I have learned to control my emotions and that every panic attack does come to an end. You must ground yourself. I now use poetry and painting as my outlet.
Just wake me when it’s all over
My luck is the same as a three-leaf clover
I’ve lost track; I’m in a daze
I may just crack, one of these days
Tell me when it’s all said and done
Convince me that I will overcome
You tell me that I am so strong
But boy are you wrong
Because I know how I feel
I cannot go. I’m mentally ill
Every day feels like another Tuesday
But I should be happy
Because today is Friday
To share your story with us, click on the link above and fill out the form. These stories will be used to share on Cherished Mom’s website and social media for awareness only. If any other use is wanted, we will reach out to you for permission. We thank you for sharing your brave with us in an effort to help other moms feel less alone in their journey! You are a Cherished Warrior!