Friday, January 25, 2013

One Year Later

Last Friday I was scheduled to see a psychiatrist for the first time since starting on anti-depressants for postpartum depression & anxiety. I started on those meds almost 9 months ago. I had a zillion refills and my situation didn't warrant an immediate appointment so I let it slide for a long time. But in December I realized was getting down to my last refill so I got the appointment scheduled.

Husband arranged to stay home that morning with the kids, which was very helpful. I arrived at 9:50 AM for my 10 AM appointment, checked in and took my seat.

I filled out a form that the receptionist gave me that assesses how I was doing at that very minute and basically it showed that I was feeling really good. Then I played on my phone, texted Husband, and waited. I thought to myself that I was glad I was going to be out of this waiting room soon because it was packed with many people in highly anxious states (pacing, tapping, intense and frantic whispering to family members). Obviously reasonable behavior given that it was a mental health clinic, but it made me reflect on how anxious it must have made my eating disorder clients to have to wait in the waiting rooms at our clinics. I retroactively wondered if there was something I could have or should have done to alleviate that uncomfortable feeling for my clients.  But that was years ago and seeing this particular psychiatrist that was in-network meant far less insurance hassle for me so whatevs.

10 minutes pass, 20 minutes pass, 30 minutes pass...Since it was now 20 minutes past the start of my appointment time I check in with the receptionist. He tries to call the psychiatrist but she doesn't answer. I sit back down. I'm now feeling anxious (so much for presenting to the psychiatrist as someone doing great) and I'm wondering how I'm going to manage to squeeze in a 60 minute appointment in 30 minutes. I text back and forth with Husband and he is also feeling anxious since he has to get to work by noon. Shit.

I go back to the receptionist and explain my situation - is wasn't easy to arrange for me to come and I need to be home sooner rather than later.  Can he find out how late this psychiatrist is running? Is there anyone else I can see?

He knocks on the door of the psychiatrist and she is indeed running incredibly behind. (Duh.) He gets no further info nor any time that I can expect to be seen. I tell him that I arranged childcare specifically for this visit, never an easy feat, and my case is quite simple, I just need to see someone regarding a refill. Anyone. Now. Please.

It's now 45 minutes past the start of my appointment time and I've been waiting in this unnerving waiting room for 55 minutes.

Finally the receptionist comes back with the manager and they have me stand at the counter one more time. Both apologize profusely but they can't get me in with anyone. Can I come back at 1:30 pm? No, I can't do that. Childcare, etc. etc. I'm feeling extremely frustrated but I can see that they both feel badly about the situation. The manager writes out the earliest time I can be seen - two weeks from that day - and tells me to call her by the next day if I can't make it work. They apologize again and I say, a little tersely, that it wasn't their fault, I understand that these things happen.

And I do understand. I have worked in the mental health field and in hospitals. These things do happen.

I would like to note here that I am not peeved with the patient whose crisis cut into my appointment time. Surely that woman was in a really bad place for her to have required a two hour appointment. I am, however, peeved with the psychiatrist. It was unprofessional for her to not recognize that she was going to have to cancel on me. As someone who has had suicidal patients in my own office on occasion in the past, I don't understand why she didn't place a quick call to the reception desk to let them know that her later patients would need to be rescheduled. There was no need for me to wait for a full hour. (Turns out the psychiatrist was new to the clinic...color me not surprised.)

Anyway, I tell you that too-long story because that experience made me realize just how different of a place I'm in than last year. I'm coping so much better. Like night and day difference.

Last year January I drove to a pharmacy and was told they hadn't yet filled the prescription for my extra special nipple cream and I needed to come back in a few days. I stood at that counter and could not stop the stream of tears from cascading down my face. The woman was alarmed and very sympathetic and stepped away to check on the situation. I could hear her conferring with the pharmacist, also a woman, and the pharmacist was saying how she often cried right after her baby was born, too. Of course, I didn't have a little newborn at home, I had a nearly 8-month-old baby. After that incident I gave myself pep talk in public for the next several weeks, coaching myself through emotions so that I wouldn't sob in public anymore. This time last year I could not. stop. crying. I was so fragile.

But it's a year later. Life is not like that at all and what a relief that is. I didn't cry over the psychiatrist appointment getting cancelled. I felt annoyed and irritated and yes, somewhat anxious over it but there was no crying. I can't imagine what would have happened if that situation had happened to me last year. It would have pushed me over the edge. I'm glad the missed appointment happened to me and not to a mom who was in a shitty place. I will happily take that inconvenience to my life if it kept another woman from publicly sobbing at a reception desk.

January and February are typically low months for me, they always have been since they are the months of being trapped inside while the weather is bleak and gray and bitterly cold. This year feels different. This year feels easier...even though it's colder outside.

I plan to wean off the medication in the spring time and I am pretty sure it will go well. I have learned a shit ton over the past year about what I need (i.e. time to myself), what triggers me to feel low (i.e. crappy sleep) and how I can prevent those triggers from pushing me to a place where I feel completely overwhelmed and despairing (i.e. do the dishes the night before so mornings are less overwhelming). Life is very, very different from winter 2012 and I'm so glad for that.

I've gotten a few emails lately from other moms who are struggling with possible depression and/or anxiety and I'm glad they reached out to me. Maybe you are struggling, too? If you are having trouble turning off the crying or you find yourself fantasizing about running away on a daily - or hourly - basis or you feel like you could just scream and scream and scream in frustration, then maybe you would find comfort in reaching out to someone, too. Postpartum depression and anxiety can look like a lot of different things and it can coexist with someone being a loving and excellent mother. You can outwardly do great but inwardly feel like a black hole of despair. It was true for me, maybe it's true for you. A doctor's visit might reveal a physical problem behind your feelings, like low vitamin D or an out-of-whack thyroid or it might reveal a need for something like therapy or anti-depressants. But it's worth admitting to yourself that something isn't right and something might need to be done.

I'm so glad I took those initial steps to get out of the dark pit I was in, even though it was painful and hard to admit to something being wrong. And then it was painful and hard to work through the crappy stuff. Oh, but so much good came out of the crap.

Can I tell you a story? This is something I never told anyone besides Husband and my therapist. Here it is: I kicked through a wall last year. It was right around the time I first started taking the medication, or maybe it was before it, I can't remember now. But I was so frustrated by life one day that after Oliver was down for his nap, and I had Bella settled with a Dora episode, I went down to the basement and I kicked the wall. And my foot WENT THROUGH IT. Oh my God. I stared at the hole in the drywall, couldn't believe it really, and then texted Husband with a story about how I had accidentally dropped something down the stairs - OOPS! - uh, could we fix this?

And then when he got home that night I told him the real story and he laughed (in a kind way) and said he knew what I had done and honestly, he found it kind of refreshing that I did something like that because I NEVER EVER do things like that. My therapist had the same reaction, which was just bizarre to me. She thought it was almost a good thing. The hell?? But I insisted it wasn't okay, it was NOT OKAY that I kicked a wall. I DON'T KICK WALLS! But she pressed me - Did I do it in a completely out of control way in front of the children? No...  Did I hurt anyone? No...  Was it really so bad to feel something and react to that feeling and to show it externally by kicking the wall?

I didn't know how to answer that. I was ashamed of kicking the wall. I couldn't bear to tell anyone. I was in a place of transition in my life and everything felt so off kilter. I mean, what the ever-loving fuck? I had kicked through a goddamn wall! ME! How was such a thing even possible?

But now I see it differently. Now I'm more like, "Eh, life was a pile of shit last winter. So I kicked a basement wall. So what. I'm a messy person. I'm allowed flaws. Life goes on." I'm no longer so horrified at myself, which I think is proof that I have come a long way in accepting myself more. So here it is. World: I once kicked a wall. I am a wall kicker. (On rare occasions.) (And away from children.) (And probably not ever in my new house for I like it too much for kickery.)

So one year later, life is good. Even when it's not good (we are sick again, Oliver gave my iPhone a bath today, I share my bed at this very moment with three loads of laundry), it's good.

If something feels off in your life, know that it doesn't have to continue to feel so low. There are regular ups and downs and then there is being depressed or anxious at a clinical level. If you wonder if maybe you crossed the line somewhere, talk to someone. I did it. You can too. Life should not feel so shitty.

Okay, friends. PSA over and out :)


  1. Thank you for sharing. I to have dealt with depression and PPD. Ita refreshing to know that others have gone through similar situations as me!

  2. Thank you for sharing. I to have dealt with depression and PPD. Ita refreshing to know that others have gone through similar situations as me!

  3. Love this. Thank you. I am feeling especially low tonight, and it made me feel just a little bit better to read this. Sometimes we need a little whisper or sign to let us know things will be alright, and this has helped, most definitely. I've suffered on and off with depression/anxiety since I was in my early teens, but thankfully have managed okay during pregnancy and post partum. But I definitely have my days, for sure. Glad you're feeling better and that there is an end in sight for your anti-depressants. :)

  4. So happy that you're feeling better. I definitely can tell a difference in your blog in recent months, it is much more uplifting and positive and back to the blog I remember reading a couple years ago :) So happy you were able to find the help you needed and that you were able to admit to yourself that something needed to change; those are not easy things to do. I hope this winter continues to go well for you and remember there's a lot of us stuck inside during these months and would happily meet you and the kids for an impromptu playdate or something else to break up those long, long days :)

  5. Thank you for sharing your story and I am so glad you are feeling better :) It really helps to know other went through similar things after babies and that you are not alone.

  6. I'm so glad that you are doing better. Thanks for sharing your story- I'm sure that it is going to help others that are also feeling down.

  7. Good work! What a difference a year makes!

    PS- Side note about the waiting room at your old ED job. As I'm sure you know, there was a journal always sitting out that anyone could write in. I never had the guts to write in it, but just reading helped any anxiety I had about my appointments. I actually looked forward to having some time to wait so that I could read it.

  8. I'm so glad you're doing better this winter. While I have never kicked THROUGH a wall, I've definitely punched inanimate objects out of frustration when dealing with toddler antics. I always figure it's certainly better than punching a kid ;)

  9. Good job writing this Laura, so many mom's worry about talking about depression, or any other crappy thing we have to deal with as moms! It is messy work and we are flawed people. That's okay, we love them with all our heart and there isn't much left for us at the end of the day. Keep making time for you.

  10. You know what's funny? When I read "I kicked through a wall" I thought you were being metaphorical. Then you explained that you really did. But I still think the metaphor holds.

  11. I went on meds right after my son was born, because I could tell I wasn't feeling right, normal, and I couldn't afford to wait and do all the self care things that might have helped. I was alone with two kids, a husband away, a move to contemplate, a house to pack, and I WAS SO SCARED. Best thing I could have done. Sometimes we need extra help. This post makes me heart you even more, you wall-kicker, you.

  12. I am so happy to read this post! There were so many times that I felt for you because man, having closely spaced kids is STRESSFUL and I was going through it right there with you, but I was also really worried because you just seemed so down and defeated a lot of the time. I wanted to reach through the computer and give you a hug and tell you to hang in there. I could tell that you are in a much better place these days but it's good to have confirmation. Yay!

  13. This is so refreshing to read!
    I have come to realize that I am in my most fragile mental state when pregnant, and while haven't kicked a wall YET, I do this thing where I grunt/sigh really loudly to release my frustration with whatever it is I'm dealing with (sometimes the kids, the other day it was just getting my kindle charger unplugged) and it drives my husband CRAZY! So what if a wall takes the brunt of your frustrations...better than yelling at your kids or hurting them or yourself.
    As one of your regular readers, I feel like I can sometimes tell from your posts how things are going for you and I have definitely seen a more positive upswing to your writing lately. Even with all the sickies, you occasionally mention having a third baby, so that in and of itself must mean things are MUCH better than they were a year ago!

  14. So glad you are in a better place now, Laura. Great post--I'm sure it's going to be incredibly helpful for so many of your readers!

  15. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. So honest, so insighful. So glad you are in a better place! I'm glad that you wrote about seeking help, I honestly think that is such a huge problem with society today. People are afraid or feel judged if they go get it. But, you can tell through your writing you are really in a much better place. I love reading either way though, your honesty keeps it real!

  16. Dude, have you ever read my account of the year leading up to going on meds? Because my "rock bottom" moment was, duh duh duhhhh, kicking a hole in the wall! Also completely and totally and utterly out of character and almost funny if it wasn't so horrifying. It's like we're PPD soul-sisters ;)

    I'm so glad you're feeling so much better and although that appointment fiasco sucked, what a nice moment of comparison to feel good about how far you've come. It truly is amazing to look back at what you thought for awhile was "doing ok." My husband still, 2+ years after the fact, comments upon how infrequently I cry these days without reasonable provocation.

    If you have any questions about the wean process or my experience, don't hesitate to ask. Great of you to share this with readers and it is and has always been so comforting to me and likely others how many of us struggle with the same issues.

  17. I think you should add a "huge achievements" or some other kick-butt label on this post. :) That's a wonderful story and great achievement! My "hole in the wall" was a broom. And it's now half a broom. It was a cheap plastic one - I don't have hulk strength or anything. That was a turning point and actually a really positive thing to have happened (although at the time, it totally freaked me out!). I use that 1/2 broom all the time now. It's a great reminder of where I want to be (mentally, emotionally) and it's way more useful than it was before. ;)

    I think the hardest part of post-partum is that it's really hard to identify what's going on while you're going through it b/c everybody's experience is different. All the more reason to encourage and help each other out, especially during periods of big changes.

  18. So glad to read this post and that you are doing so well!

  19. This is one of the many reasons that I find value in reading blogs. Not in a million years would I wish this on someone else, but knowing that others have struggled helps people know that they are not alone. Our stories are different, but I have had my own struggles (with motherhood, work issues, being a wife and a daughter... ugh, the list goes on). I am a huge proponent of therapy (hey, I was a therapist for awhile) and have been debating about going to one recently. Therapists aren't just for the 'crazy' - we all need support from time to time (sometimes a friendly ear of your girlfriend or husband is enough, but sometimes we need something different, if not more).

    So glad to hear that you are doing better. I felt the weight of your posts during that time. Recently, I feel like some of my posts have been 'woe is me', but perhaps there is someone out there that understands or needs to hear that as well. Here's to looking forward and getting the support we all need.

  20. my husband once punched a hole in our wall during a Lakers playoff game (a game they eventually won, not that he was allowed to watch the end, I might add). teehee