MARIA VASQUEZ shared her story earlier this month during her college sorority’s founder’s day program, held online.
This Thanksgiving, Maria Vasquez says she wants to give thanks that 10 years ago so many people answered her family’s call for help when she vanished from their Cairo home, deep in the throes of postpartum psychosis.
It was the day after Thanksgiving when Vasquez disappeared. She says she doesn’t remember any of it, except that she was wearing pajamas when searchers found her 24 hours later in a wooded area not far from her parents’ Cairo home. It had rained the night before.
“I don’t remember getting there,” explains Vasquez, “it wasn’t intentional on my part.”
Ten years later, she is sharing her story in hopes of helping other women who may suffer from postpartum depression or even worse postpartum psychosis.
Vasquez was 21 in 2010, a junior at Valdosta State University and president of her college sorority when she had her son Miguel on Aug. 22.
She says two weeks later, she started experiencing symptoms that she didn’t recognize as postpartum related. It was impossible to sleep, she says, and eating seemed unimportant. Eventually, she had to be hospitalized in intensive care when she became catatonic.
Vasquez says she had even forgotten that she had a child, all symptoms shared by many women with postpartum psychosis, which doctors diagnosed Vasquez as having. Her treatment included a slew of medications.
Over the next four months, though, she was hospitalized six times, suffering from violent side effects.
“Each month there was some different reaction to the medications,” Vasquez says. She even suffered from seizures at one point.
By Thanksgiving, she and her son were living with her parents in Cairo. On Friday after Thanksgiving, though, she left the house and disappeared. Her frantic family collected friends and relatives to help look for her, and posted flyers around town asking for help.
It was 24 hours later when she was found. Vasquez says she vaguely remembers being discovered in the woods.
“I heard people screaming and coming towards me,” she recalls.
After, Vasquez was hospitalized again, this time staying until Christmas. Once released, she worked intensely with a psychiatrist in an effort to function normally again.
She says, “By August (2011), I was able to go back to school and was no longer on the medications.”
Two years later, she had a second son, Adriano, and that time managed to escape any postpartum depression or psychosis.
“The experience (in 2010) made me have to have more frequent doctor visits during the pregnancy and they would always ask how I was feeling and we talked through (it), and everyone was more alert and in tune with me,” Vasquez says.
After graduating from V.S.U., Vasquez worked several years as a high school art teacher both in Albany and Cairo and as a professional makeup artist. In 2018, she opened Queen of Arts Studio in downtown Cairo, and has since expanded to open Syrup City Nutrition. She says her business Creative Nutrition is now located in Thomasville.
Vasquez shared her story earlier this month during a virtual “Founder’s Day” program held online by her sorority at V.S.U. “I want to help other young girls who don’t know,” she says, “and I want to say thank you to everyone who looked for me.”