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 :)