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Treatment Saved me From Postpartum Depression and Panic Attacks

“This was a different breed of anxiety. It took me down. I had never experienced suicidal ideation before. I am a fighter and have always been so proud of my resilience, but this was a whole different ball game. Resilience is no match for suicidal ideation.”

Hello! Who are you?

My name is Kelly Fabiano, and I currently live in Santa Clarita CA. I am the Founder and CEO of Life and Death with Kelly LLC. I’m a life coach and death doula.  

I am married and have two young children, a dog, and two cats. Joey, the oldest cat, is the OG of the household. She was here before the partner and kids.  

I consider myself to be human. I experience happiness a lot more than I have in my past! Life is messy, and I’m so grateful for that. As a death doula, I experience so much heartbreak alongside so much joy. 

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

I have always struggled with mental illness. I was a mere 12 years old when I was first diagnosed with anxiety. However, anxiety has been my baseline. I learned to live with it…until I couldn’t.

Here I was, 33 years old, and three months postpartum with my second child, standing at my kitchen counter knowing that if I were left alone that night, I would die.

This was a different breed of anxiety. It took me down. I had never experienced suicidal ideation before. I am a fighter and have always been so proud of my resilience, but this was a whole different ball game.  Resilience is no match for suicidal ideation.

The first few months postpartum were bliss with my second child. I was keenly aware of the strong possibility I might develop a postpartum mental illness due to the fact I was already diagnosed with anxiety, and I had postpartum depression and psychosis with my first son.

So when I gave birth the second time around, and these weren’t present, I was so incredibly grateful.

It started to surface around my return to work. It started with small, out-of-character moments. I ran a red light on my way to pick my son up from daycare. I never ran red lights, and it was almost as if I forgot what a red light was when I did it. As if my brain was incapable of processing that it was a red light and I needed to stop.

Then it led to panic attacks.  If you’ve never had a panic attack before, I envy you.  They are brutal, and you can’t think or reason your way out of them. I had one proceeding that night at my kitchen counter.

That night, I was breastfeeding my infant, and he bit me. It was not the first time it’s happened, but it severed the string I was hanging on by. I handed them off to my partner, got in my car, and drove off.

On my drive, I began to have another panic attack. It was dark outside, and tears were streaming from my face, clouding my vision. I struggled to breathe. I couldn’t feel my face. Then, I started to lose feeling in my hands and feet.  

I called my sister, sobbing profusely. She stayed on the phone with me the whole way home. I heard zipping and drawers opening and shutting in the background. She was packing a bag.  

By a pure miracle, I made it home. I got out of my car and walked into the house. The kids were down, and I sent my partner out on an errand. I stood at my kitchen counter, and I realized that I couldn’t be trusted alone. I felt it in my bones. As much as I wanted to live more than anything, I knew I would not live if left alone. I had never been so scared of myself before.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

I believe I addressed a lot of that in the previous answer (whoops!), but here is the reader’s digest version!

Postpartum anxiety stole my happiness. Every single ounce of it. It took everything from me. It took me away from myself.

I don’t think it was clear to my partner just how bad it was. He has never struggled with mental health issues personally. That’s why I called my sister. She knew, and I needed her.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

My sister and brother-in-law drove 5 hours down to LA in the middle of the night that night. That next morning, she insisted I get professional help. She accompanied me to a doctor and psychiatrist. She also worked on getting me into a mental health treatment center.

I was so afraid to go to treatment. I had just returned to work and felt terrible taking yet another leave. My sister truly helped me to see that it was ‘go to work and die’, or ‘go to treatment and live’. I chose life.

Those 90 days in treatment changed my life forever. I’m not waxing poetic here. It truly did. I wouldn’t have the life I have today without the healing I received there.  

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

For those of us that struggle with mental illness, I want you to know that you are not alone, and I’m sorry. It’s devastating to be at war with yourself.

I don’t think treatment is a one-size fits all solution, but I know that it changed everything for me. It helped me to come home to myself and to know that I’m worthy of taking up space in my own life. It’s okay for my health and happiness to come first.  

It also provided me with tools and support that I pull from to this day.  

And for all of those mamas out there struggling with postpartum mental illness – my heart breaks for you. You are loved, and you deserve all the support your heart can stand. This is not a battle we win alone.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

I openly share my struggles with postpartum anxiety, depression, and psychosis. I think it’s crucial.  

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

You deserve to take up space. Take up as much as you need.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

You can read more about the work I do on my website, or you can follow me on Instagram!

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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