When Everything Isn’t Enough

Yesterday morning, I swiped my debit card for my $20 copay and planted myself nervously in a beige vinyl chair as I waited for my name to be called. I would be seeing my doctor shortly—for the first time in almost 2 years.

A nurse called my name and exited the room after taking my blood pressure and temperature. I sat on the exam table staring at my feet wondering how I was going to approach this.

How do you tell your doctor that you think you’re dealing with postpartum depression/anxiety? Would you believe that I actually googled that before I left work for my appointment? I did.

Last week, I told my wife that I made a doctor appointment. She responded, “Are you really feeling that low?” I had to think about it for a while because all this time, I’ve thought it was obvious. I had a similar conversation with my mom a few months ago.

That exchange left me questioning whether I really belonged on that exam table or not. I wasn’t contemplating hurting myself. I wasn’t having trouble bonding with my baby. You wouldn’t look at me sitting at the dining room table across from my wife as we laugh at the antics of our daughter over dinner and think, “That girl needs help.”

But I wonder if you’d think differently if you could see inside my head. I wonder what you’d think if you could see the scene that plays out in my head when I strap my baby girl into her carrier—it’s always the same. I trip as I’m walking and watch as my baby’s head hits the ground and her brain smears onto the sidewalk. Graphic isn’t it? Sometimes I can shake my head and make it go away. Sometimes, I put down the carrier and reach for the stroller instead. Always—always, I silently plead with my brain to stop. Just stop. But it doesn’t. It’ll be there the next time I reach for the carrier, too.

It’s the same as I lie in bed at night and suddenly in my head, I’m standing over my daughter’s dead body after she’s lost a battle with cancer. Or she’s been kidnapped. Or hit by a car. I’m holding a heavy urn filled with her ashes. I’m sobbing. The list goes on and on, and all of the scenes play out so vividly inside my head. Like watching movies. I shake my head. I count backwards from 999. I take deep breaths. I argue with myself over how ridiculous it is and how there are far more mothers in the world who get to watch their babies grow up than those who don’t. I remind myself how badly I need sleep. I try counting again. Eventually, I’ll fall asleep.

The horrifying scenes that take place inside my head are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s more—things that I’m not particularly comfortable sharing right now. Maybe someday, but not now.

So how do you communicate all of that to a busy medical professional who hardly knows you? At some point, you have to stop worrying about whether other people think you’re struggling and accept that it’s enough that you feel like you’re struggling. It’s enough that something doesn’t feel right to you. You are the only one inside your head.

That’s what I told my doctor yesterday morning. I explained the flashes of horror-film-like anxiety. I touched very briefly on some of the other things. I explained how I just don’t feel like myself.

My doctor listened. He reassured me that in his experience, about 30% of new mothers have postpartum struggles with mental health, and that I’m not alone. He made sure I knew that even though he’s telling me how common it is, he recognizes how serious it is and that it requires treatment.

I learned that the medical group I belong to has a department dedicated to postpartum mental health. He’s referring me to them, and said that I should hear from them this week. He suggested that I may need medication, but that he will work with them in making that decision rather than prescribing something on the spot.

So that’s where I am right now, friends. Struggling more than some and less than some, but struggling nonetheless. My daughter is this amazing, beautiful ray of sunshine that I am grateful beyond words for, but it turns out that just being her mother isn’t enough to make me feel whole right now. It turns out that I’m going to need some assistance from the professionals.

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28 thoughts on “When Everything Isn’t Enough

  1. That sounds exactly like how you do it. Good for you, seriously. It is so hard to ask for help, and so important. You are taking care of you and being the best mama you can be and this is love. I wish you the best.

  2. Check, check and check. Reading your posts lately, I feel like we’ve had very similar first-year-of-motherhood experiences. I am definitely lucky to have a milder version of this than you describe, but it’s all there, extending to my husband and myself as well. Shitty and scary and definitely mars otherwise great moments with my son. I hope they find a plan that works for you and you’re free of these thoughts soon. Every med group/hospital should a PP mental heath dept, what a great idea.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this. I have been experiencing a lot of the same things. I’m frequently trying to shake graphic imaginary scenarios out of my mind. I’m glad you’ve recognized that you need help and I hope things get better for you.

  5. Good for you for reaching out. It might be exactly what you need.

    Another thing you might want to try is getting your bars run. I was just listening to a radio show on stress and anxiety and as I read your post what I heard is what I was told last year. You are picking up on everyone else’s fears, and then taking them on as yours. That creates immense anxiety, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. The bars is a healing process that removes them and gives you the space to no longer choose to take everyone else’s fears on as your own. Yes, I still relate to stories of other people’s children being hurt or killed, but they don’t hit me nearly as hard anymore. I can recognize that I’m simply connecting to the story and I can choose to release that as well. In the modality they use a tool called ‘return to sender.’ Here’s how it works.

    Notice a thought/fear/etc pop up and ask, Who does this belong to? If you feel at all lighter or more expansive when you ask, it isn’t yours! You’re just picking it up with your natural empathic abilities that all people have to varying degrees. So, with that awareness, you can then say ‘return to sender with consciousness attached’. Keep doing this with all the thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc and it will get better. Get your bars run and it will get significantly better. You can find a practitioner near you here: bars.accessconsciousness.com

    It’s really helped me with a lot of things. The scary thoughts still show up, but they don’t create a strong reaction anymore. And I don’t lie awake worrying about things, which is important I think.

    You may still want/need medication. I offer this as a complementary therapy.

  6. Liking in solidarity. Good for you to go and talk to your doctor. I suffer from depression and anxiety too and it was so hard to open my mouth up the first time, but due to events of late I have been going to a psychiatrist and it is helpful. My doctor uses the oxygen masks on an airplane thing about putting yours on first so you can assist your child to help me deal. It is the truth and you are brave and courageous for seeking help.

  7. I think you’re amazing for recognizing how you feel and reaching out. That takes courage, bravery, and amazing self reflection.

    I’ve sat on that table and I’ve bit my tongue and I find it inspiring that you pushed forward and sought the help you needed. That’s really fucking awesome.

    Thank you for sharing. I hope you receive whatever help best gets you back to where you feel best.

  8. I have tears in my eyes reading this, which maybe is a weird reaction? I guess, I’m so so so proud of you for knowing what not normal for you and then for seeking help. I’m so glad that you are putting your mental health as a top priority and taking care of you. While I may not always be the best at doing it myself, I firmly believe that you need to be happy and healthy to enable those around you to be happy and healthy. Your beautiful little girls needs you healthy and you are so amazing for knowing this. You inspire me every single day my friend!
    Also, I’m glad you have a good doctor who will work with you!! I think that will make a huge difference to your overall treatment.

  9. I am SO GLAD you went, and that you are getting support. It doesn’t matter AT ALL what anyone else thinks. This is impacting your life, it’s causing you great pain, you deserve to not feel this crippling anxiety and fear! I hope you know what a fucking great job you are doing!

  10. Thank you for sharing this! It is no easy feat to recognize that you need help, especially when it has to come from inside, when others don’t see it. Like your doctor said, such feelings are relatively common, but no less serious and deserving of help. Good for you!! I hope you receive excellent care and support.

  11. I am so relieved to know that I’m not alone in this dark phenomena.
    Our brains, I tell you. The same organ making these thoughts is the same organ that makes the Drs appointment to get help for said thoughts. What the…
    Big hugs to you xxx

  12. Found your blog through Bumbi’s Mom’s post today, and I’m glad I did. I’m so glad you reached out for help. My husband has struggled with major depression and other diagnoses for most of his adult life, so I know what a difficult thing it is. But you will get better. Things will defnitely look much brighter when you get the right treatment. And you’ve made the first step, which is the hardest. Thinking of you. -Amy

  13. There is no such thing as something making you feel whole – you’re a complicated human being with a past. Charlotte may be the most amazing thing ever but that might also mean she brings anxieties to the forefront. I’m so glad you went to the doctor, that’s a huge step. It doesn’t mean you have to take meds or be in therapy forever, although if you do, that’s okay. It just means you’re doing what you need to do for today. It sounds like that doctor was excellent and the department is very promising. Xoxo

  14. Your doctor sounds wonderfully supportive, and it’s so great that you are reaching out for help. The information about postpartum depression/anxiety that we’re given while pregnant and immediately after birth is so incomplete. It took me almost two years to recognize that the feelings I had after my first son’s birth were postpartum anxiety.

  15. Thank you for posting this. I’ve been having fears and anxiety too. I’m afraid to put N down at night, her getting sick, other people holding her bc they might drop her. My mind always goes to the worst case scenario. Although I have always been anxious I’m recognizing this as not normal for me. I had a long talk with my husband tonight and he agrees that it’s something I need to talk to my dr about. Like you, I have no trouble bonding with my daughter, I really do laugh and I’m so happy, but inside my head my worry is insanely intense. I love her so much and I cannot stand the thought of anything happening to her. I’m hoping I have the same response from my dr as you did.

  16. You should be so proud of yourself for confronting this head on. There is a light and it’s so bright. You just need to turn off that film reel in your head to see it. You are not alone in this by any means. I’m so happy you found a good doctor who doesn’t downplay the seriousness of it all. Virtual Internet hugs coming your way, friend.

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