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If you missed part 1 of my surprising journey to better health and wellness, please read that first, here.
I left my doctor’s office, thinking I would just cure myself with nutrition and fitness (nevermind the fact that I loathed working out and loved donuts), and got myself on the wait list to begin the partial inpatient day hospital in January. And unexpectedly, things began to spiral really, really quickly. My mood worsened, and it took nothing to set me off. I was snapping at everyone, and basically woke up yelling. Sun up to sun down, I was yelling. If any one thing went slightly wrong, I collapsed into a puddle of tears. Every single tiny inconvenience – or anything really – even a child asking a question – was incredibly irritating to me. The process to get into the day hospital (read: insurance nightmare) was enormously challenging for my increasingly fragile state, and I remember standing at my kitchen island, ugly crying tears of frustration, so many times. I was starting to question my decision to skip medication, because I still hadn’t gotten off the couch, or removed my face from the piles of candy I was eating.
Is this even real?
This entire time, I was intensely questioning if I actually even had postpartum depression and anxiety, and if I was “bad enough” to warrant this day hospital program. I felt like maybe it was overkill. Maybe I wasn’t that bad and it would go away on its own. Maybe my doctor was overreacting, and maybe the director of the day hospital, who sat with me for over an hour doing the intake interview, was also overreacting when she agreed I should attend for at least a two-week period.
I connected with another mom via a PPD group on Facebook, who had suffered severe PPD many years ago. She had gone to this day hospital program, and I sent her a private message asking if it was worth it. She offered to call me on the phone – I hate talking on the phone, let alone to a complete stranger – but for some odd reason, I agreed. We spoke for about an hour, and I couldn’t believe the tears that poured out of my eyes, explaining my shame and embarrassment that this was happening to me. Surely this wouldn’t happen to a good mother.
She gently questioned me on why I was so adamantly opposed to medication, and said there’s nothing to be ashamed about if it’s needed – that medication could help me to climb out of this dark hole. I still remember exactly where I sat on my bed, talking to her, the notebook I had out where I thought I’d write down information, but couldn’t, because I was fighting tears so hard, and nursing my newborn, all at the same time. I brushed off her thoughts on meds, but started contemplating her words for days after we spoke.
A Very Un-Merry Christmas
I somehow managed to survive the worst Christmas ever. Nothing was particularly bad about it – we saw our families, the children were happy, and everything should have been fine. I should have been thrilled. I had three healthy children, a husband, a home. That’s all that matters, right? (or, at least that’s what they tell us is all that matters) But I was in such a deep state of misery, trying at all times not to break down, that mustering up the effort to pretend like everything was wonderful – at multiple family functions – was almost too much to bear. My brain could hardly put together sentences, and conversing with anyone was nearly impossible. I seriously considered playing hooky and skipping every family party. I just didn’t want to fake it anymore – it was too hard.
A few days after Christmas, I was in such a bad state that I finally waved the white flag. As much as I wanted to cure my depression and anxiety with exercise and nutrition – like some kind of health and wellness guru – I couldn’t wait that long – and I couldn’t risk that it wouldn’t work. Let alone the fact that I hadn’t started eating better or exercising anyway. I nervously and shamefully informed my doctor that I wanted to start medication – she had recommended a small dose of Zoloft, and seeing how that helped.
All the while, I was still questioning if I was that bad. A big realization was about to hit me in the gut, big time.
The Moment I Knew
The prescription never made it to the pharmacy. Somehow it slipped through the cracks. A few days later, I called the pharmacy, asking why I hadn’t gotten my, “your prescription has been filled” text message. They had no record of anything. I hung up the phone and wanted to scream in frustration, and immediately started crying. Looking back, I realize this was not a normal response at all. I collected myself and called my doctor’s office, explaining the situation. I was advised someone would call back shortly. In the meantime, my parents were on their way to pick up my two older children for a weekend sleepover, and they couldn’t arrive soon enough. I could barely hold myself together enough until my parents (who still had no idea anything was wrong) arrived. It felt like they’d never arrive. All I wanted to do was collapse on the floor and sob, but I didn’t want to do that in front of the children. I started questioning if I should be around them at all in this mental state – worrying that I would scar them for life, and thinking how much they deserved a better mother than me. Finally, my parents arrived, left with the older kids, and I was alone with the baby, free to feel all the emotions privately and let the tears flow.
A bit later, a nurse called, and I fought tears as I told her I needed this prescription immediately – that it was Friday and I really needed to start taking it. I could barely squeak out how worried I was that this wouldn’t get called into the pharmacy before the weekend, leaving me stranded for a few days (even though I know these medications don’t start working immediately, I couldn’t stomach the thought of postponing my misery even one more hour, let alone several days).
I could tell the nurse could sense the desperation in my voice. She apologized, and said she couldn’t do anything until she spoke with my doctor, who happened to be in surgery and then was off for the weekend. The nurse said she would try to get in touch with the doctor before the end of the day, but she couldn’t make any promises – and that it might have to wait until Monday. Oh. And to “hang in there.”
I got off the phone, wandered to the couch, and uncontrollably scream-sobbed. I couldn’t stop. The strangest part – which I recognize now as a sign of how sick I truly was – was that I took this whole situation so deeply personally. That this was done intentionally. That the entire office hated me as a patient and purposely let this happen. How could they not care? How did they not see that I didn’t want medication, but it was so, so bad, that I finally consented? How did they not know this was an emergency for me? So many feelings of shame, anger, betrayal, sadness, and confusion washed over me. I felt like now that my baby had been born, I was not a priority anymore. At the bottom of the totem pole, left behind. Forgotten. Unimportant.
My husband called from work, and was so concerned about the intensity of my emotions that he asked if he needed to come home, and if we were safe home all alone. I reassured him that never in a million years would I ever even consider harming our precious baby boy, and that he should stay at work. I spent the rest of the day on the couch, soaking up every moment with a warm, snuggly newborn, just drinking him in. It was the only thing that could give me a moment of peace.
This photo was taken on that day. It gives me chills to look at, and I haven’t been able to wear that sweater in almost a year, because it brings back so many memories of that awful day. This was when I fully realized how bad things had gotten. How much I deeply really needed to go to the hospital program. I was 5,000% skeptical if it was going to help, and with our insurance, it was going to cost a mint and take years to pay off. But I had to try it, just in case it worked. I was willing to try anything.
Stay tuned for part three of my postpartum health and wellness journey, coming to Daily Mom soon, and be sure to follow along here for more frequent updates.
Photo credits: Heather @CookiesForBfast