About ten years ago shortly after my divorce went through, I took anti-depressants for a while. My doctor had suggested them a few times and I kept refusing but eventually I went in and said okay, Doc, I need help. Between panic attacks, no sleep, staying out all night, skipping classes, impulsive behavior and for lack of a better word, craziness, I was truly a wreck.
I worried that the pills would kill any creativity I might have. They did. I worried they would numb me. They did. I worried they would be hard to live without. They were. I worried they would change my brain chemistry. I can’t prove that last one but I know it took two solid years to feel like myself again.
I tried Celexa – the safest drug at the time for anyone who might get pregnant (in other words, not a nun). When I went to the doctor with a suspected pregnancy, he warned me to come back right away if I was expecting because he wanted me off those pills immediately. He said there were new studies saying perhaps they weren’t as safe as previously believed. Trials can’t be done on pregnant women so the findings have to be done after the fact. The results were in.
Luckily I wasn’t pregnant at the time so I weaned off them (very slowly and with doctor’s supervision) and haven’t considered taking anything since.
I have all the same concerns as before except the root of my symptoms is drastically different. Years ago I was battling OCD, struggling to pay living expenses, flunking out of school, was estranged from my family and didn’t have a whole lot to live for.
Yesterday I was supposed to be 37 weeks pregnant. Even though my son had numerous congenital malformations and problems with almost every organ and system – his death has affected me just as much as that of a healthy baby would have. I’m sad and angry but that seems pretty normal to me. It’s only been three months. I haven’t even reached my due date yet. Mother’s Day is this weekend. It’s kind of a rough time.
I explained that all to a nurse practitioner who tried to convince me she was the same as a psychiatrist. She is not a psychiatrist. She might have a prescription pad with her name on it, but she is not a doctor. She is not an MD. She is not even a licensed therapist. But her mind was set on me leaving there with a prescription for Zoloft. I even went as far as saying I would consider Celexa again since it had technically worked in the past. She said that was her second choice and pushed the Zoloft.
Why am I explaining all this?
Well for one, this is an example of regular life continuing on despite losing my sweet Joe. I cannot trust that every health professional I meet is going to have my best interests at heart or that they are even listening to me. I was reminded of the cardiologist who told me he wouldn’t recommend or encourage the surgery Joe needed on his heart because he wasn’t worth saving. I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that day and again yesterday. There were a few things that set me off.
I referred to the death of my son as the reason I was sitting in her office. I explained that he had a rare genetic disorder and died at twenty-five and a half weeks gestation. She replied “So you mean he was stillborn.”
She asked me if I thought about hurting myself. Yes, every fucking day. It would be a way out of this pain. But I have a son and husband who need me who bring such joy to my life I can barely stand it. So I have many reasons to live, I just sometimes want to die when it hurts too much.
“Well that’s not normal,” was her reply. I kid you not. I looked at the floor to try and go to a happy place and block out what she had said. So she bent her little squirrel head around to force me to make eye contact and told me two more times, “That’s not normal.”
She kept asking me if I thought about hurting my son or husband. No, of course not. She said no fantasies of killing them so you could all be a happy family. Nope. It’s never crossed your mind? For the last fucking time, I don’t think about hurting anyone but myself but you are coming dangerously close.
Obviously I didn’t say that last part because I figured she might try to take my dog too.
I left her office feeling like someone had violated me. She balled my life up and told me in no uncertain terms that I was unstable and had to start thinking of my family and what they needed and I was no good to them the way I was.
This is day 82 of my journey as a bereaved mother. If you count the days since I found out Joe would likely die, it’s been 130. Also since the first doctor delicately hinted that I should have expected this because of my advance age (35). Also since I was first told Joe didn’t matter.
I have been through something difficult.
I am in no way saying medication is not a good fix for some people. But I am functioning. I am enjoying life with my son, husband and dog. I am going to therapy. I go to a support group. I am what they call ‘doing the work.’
You know what would have been nice? If she had started the session with “I’m sorry for your loss. I have kids. I don’t know what I would do if anything happened to them.”
Instead she tore me down more than anyone has in a very long time.
Think someone will give you a break after you lose a child? Some people will. Some people on the other hand will not. She hid behind her clipboard and ignored all my questions. I want to have more children. She can’t tell me a medication that crosses the placenta and comes out in breastmilk will not affect a baby’s brain chemistry. When I asked how kids turn out she said there wasn’t enough evidence to say – we’d probably find out someday and know in hindsight what it caused.
I get out of bed every morning and try to live up to as many obligations as possible - with my family, with school, with teaching self-defense, with general upkeep of friendships. I am healing. I am going to trust that my body is telling me something every time I have a panic attack. That’s not something to ignore.
This might take a very long time to go away. What I need is coping mechanisms. I have a worry stone someone gave me that helps if I rub it between my thumb and forefinger when the anxiety hits. It helps if I deal with the little obstacles life throws my way even if it means I may act a little inappropriately. I want to feel some of the pain. It keeps me connected to Joe. The day it stops hurting, I would worry that depression had taken me over and maybe I need some pills. As long as I’m hurting, I know I’m still alive.
It breaks my heart to see H run for tissues when he sees me crying. I explain to him that I’m sad about his brother. I think this is a normal part of life. We did after all lose a child. It would be abnormal at this point if I didn’t cry. If I didn’t feel anxious. And if I didn’t feel outraged at someone who tells me I have a chemical imbalance and owe it to my family to take Zoloft.
I have to wonder sometimes if there are really people who nothing bad ever happens to. If they will just continue to be uncaring pricks for their whole life. It wouldn’t change any of the things in my life so I guess it doesn’t matter. I just wonder is all.