Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What is worth crying about

This afternoon I got a call from a debt collector.

Getting help meant getting bills. It's one thing to finally accept that you need some assistance with postpartum depression; it's another thing to pay off all that assistance for months and months. We had to borrow thousands of dollars from my parents to pay off the medical bills from my therapy program and from my knee surgery I needed just a few months later. The bills keep piling in, like terrible little surprises waiting in our mailboxes. They are literally dozens to keep up with - maybe 50 different accounts from different hospitals, doctors, labs, specialists. (Did you know that when you receive care over several months, medical folks create different accounts for each month? So there are three bills for each of my therapy doctors/hospitals/etc.) It's a paperwork nightmare, not to mention a financial nightmare. It's so embarrassing. I'm so ashamed.

So I've gotten a few calls from debt collectors before, but I've managed to avoid answering the phone. This time I did, and she gave me a long introduction about how she represented a law firm that needed $400 now. Like, right now. I told her I didn't have that right now. I didn't know when I would have that. I just went Christmas shopping and spent $90. If I had known, I wouldn't have got presents. She told me I had to pay or it would ruin my credit report. She asked me questions about what L and I earn, how much we take home, how much our bills are. She suggested we cash in our 401ks to pay our bills.

I started crying.

She told me to calm down and that it wasn't worth crying about. I told her it was worth crying about. We didn't have $400 and we weren't going to have an extra $400 any time soon. We have so many medical bills. We're just trying to stay organized and stay afloat.

I tried to stay calm and not take it personally, but I was so angry that she told me it wasn't worth crying about. How would she know? How would she know what in my life is worth crying about? How dare she.

For most people who get help, treatment has a price tag. There are so many treatment options - counseling, medicine, electric shock therapy. But there is an epilogue of getting treated. Bill after bill comes in the mail. I am so thankful we at least have good insurance. We have spent thousands of dollars this year, and our insurance company has paid out tens of thousands. If we didn't have insurance, we would have no options.

Every check I write for these bills makes me feel guilty and selfish. I think, "If I was a stronger mom, a better mom, I wouldn't have had to go for treatment in the first place." I know in my head that this isn't true, but my heart aches. I feel like a burden to my family.

So I'm grateful we have insurance. I'm grateful I got help. Now we the first thing we have to do is take care of this bill. I don't know how but we have to. I think I will return some of the presents and maybe not visit my dad for the holidays. We can cut out some things and make it. It will be all right. But it's OK to cry about it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A birthday

I've been struggling for the past few weeks, and things have been particularly, inexplicably tough the past few days.

When I woke up this morning, I was sure I would feel better. Today is my birthday, and like New Year's Eve, I always have high hopes that it means the a new beginning.

But today a birthday has meant crying, eating and vomiting.

Last night I had what I think might have been a panic attack. I cried uncontrollably for maybe half an hour. L hugged me, but the feeling of sadness just pushed down on me. I felt this overwhelming sense of guilt for being alive.

I don't want to die; I happen to be horribly afraid of it. But I just feel like my family would be so much better without me. They wouldn't have to worry about paying for daycare or the house because life insurance would take care of it. They could find a better wife and a better mother to take my place. Another mom - a real one - could fill in and take my place. M would have a good role model. Life would be better for them for sure.

I feel selfish for being around. I feel like I don't deserve them. I feel so buried under these bad feelings. I don't know how to come up for air.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The girl I couldn't protect

I've spent the last week in a fog. It's the first time in several weeks that I've really felt down, depressed, dark. I couldn't get out of bed last Tuesday. Then M got sick and couldn't go to daycare. My husband didn't have any time off, so I stayed home with her Thursday and Friday. I took her to the doctor Friday and had to have blood drawn. I felt so scared. The nurse taught me how to clamp down and hold her still, and then she sent me to the hospital. I was nervous. M felt so sick that she just sat quietly on my lap, a rarity now that she has turned 1.

I wrapped my arms around her, held her tight and whispered shh into her ear while she screamed. She jerked her head back until she could see me. "Maamaamaamaaa!" I couldn't do anything. I cried. I tried not to let her see me, but I sobbed. She twisted and screamed, and the blood draw seemed to last for minutes, minutes, minutes. The nurse pulled the rubber tie off her arm and then took the needle out of her arm. I eased my grip. She spun around on my lap and clung to me. I held her close and rocked. She popped her thumb in her mouth until her cries subsided. They wrapped a tiny bandage around her arm while I kept crying.

I couldn't help her. I couldn't protect her from the pain. During all the therapy I've been through in the past eight months, I've sworn over and over that I will protect M. My mom never protected me, but I will protect M. When she looked up at me, I knew I couldn't always protect her. I couldn't protect her from this pain. I couldn't even explain to her why it was happening.

I was already feeling kind of down, and this was a real setback. I spent last Tuesday at home sick, but I was really just heartsick. This Monday I missed more work for the same reason. I feel anxious, depressed and hopeless. I can't get that memory out of my head of her crying so hard. It was the worst day of motherhood so far.

I know there will be more days like that, but I'm not sure how to recover from it. Does anyone have any suggestions? I could really use the help.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The most or the moment?

I've been thinking about something I heard someone say the other day. Sometimes we have to give up what we want in the moment to get what we want the most. I know what I want the most for my family: for them to be healthy, happy and stable.

Then I realized I'm not sure what I want the most for myself. I want to be better. I know that for sure. Whenever I cry or feel sad or lose it, I sob to my husband, "I just want to be better! I don't want to be like this any more."

But I don't really know what "better" means. It's a pretty nebulous term, so I'm trying to be more specific.
  • Mental health: take my medicine, go to therapy, exercise, do meaningful work, volunteer, write.
  • Physical health: keep a clean house, exercise, cook, play sports again.
  • Accomplish a big goal: TBD.
I haven't chosen a goal to accomplish yet. I had originally wanted to run a half marathon, but my knee surgery recovery has been slow and frustrating. Maybe I can keep that goal and just give myself some more slack when it comes to the time to achieve it? I'm not that great of a runner, and I'm absolutely not in good shape.  I think I would feel so good about myself if I could do this, but I'm worried about spending time away from my daughter.

I think I just need to keep shaping the picture of what "better" means to me. Maybe the more I try to figure it out, the clearer the picture will become.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Standing in the rain

I'm not the most religious person I know, but I do rely on faith. I was reading my friend's blog about her son, who is spending the first days of his life the neonatal intensive care unit. She shared an email her friend sent her about fairness, and it really struck me. She cites Matthew 5:44-45.
Often times I think, "Why me? Why me, God? Haven't I endured enough?" I wonder why bad things happen in succession. I'm not the greatest person out there; I sin and make bad choices like everyone does. But sometimes I feel so wronged by God, like I have a disproportionate load. I just wish He would give me a break - give me a time to come up for air.
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
One time during my out-patient program this spring, a high school girl with bipolar disorder said to me that if you didn't have rainy days, you wouldn't be able to appreciate the sunshine. False. Going through horrible things doesn't makes me a better person. Surviving postpartum depression or the rapes or the abuse or the eating disorder or my surgery doesn't make me a better person.

Being a victim doesn't make me a better person.

We all survive things. We all are victims of hard times, of trials, of tribulations. It rains on the good and the bad; it rains on us all.

But what we do when it rains is what distinguishes us.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Accepting help vs. finding help

I came across this story today about how officials in Alberta are offering monthly information sessions about postpartum depression for the community. How amazing!

Getting help is a two-way street. Moms have to ask for it; health care providers have to offer it. But it's much, much easier to accept help than to find it. For me, I had to seek it out on my own. If someone had offered a month, two months earlier, I would have jumped for joy and accepted it in a heartbeat. I waited too long on my own.

I had a panic attack in late January or early February. I'd never had one before and wasn't really able to identify it as such until several weeks later.

M was sent home sick from daycare. She had a fever and was still battling colic. I had work assignments that had to be finished, so my hope was to work while a bit at home if I could. Well, of course, I couldn't. She screamed nonstop, tears pouring down her tiny, red face. Nothing would soothe her. I was still breastfeeding, and she would flail and cry and not eat.

While holding her, rocking her, I tried to connect to the Internet from my laptop. I thought maybe I could still complete my work when M eventually cried herself to sleep. The Internet wouldn't work. I couldn't call the Internet provider for help because I couldn't find my phone. I couldn't call work to let them know my assignments would be late. I couldn't call my husband for comfort. And M cried. I tried to balance her on my lap while I tried over and over to connect to the Internet. The clock ticked. My deadline loomed. My baby cried. And cried. I cried. She needed a diaper change.

I took her to my bedroom to change her. She cried. I cried. She eventually started calming down; she had tired herself out from sobbing so hard. She accepted a pacifier. I laid with her, putting my hand on her tiny tummy. Her eyes drifted open and closed, and she finally fell asleep.

My frustration drained away as I watched her sleep. Then I started thinking about things, and my mind wandered to a story I read in the newspaper that morning. A father had beat his 6-month-old child to death because she wouldn't hold still for a diaper change. M was just four months old. How could someone hurt such a tiny child, such an innocent baby?

Then my mind started flashing with images of the horrible scene. I imagined it was M. I lost it. I cried. Loudly. M woke up and her crying started all over again.

How could someone hurt a baby? What if I hurt my baby? If that man could do it, does that mean I could do it? Would I hurt her some day? Is that what happens?

I fled the room, leaving her screaming on the bed. I collapsed in her room into a pile of tears and terror. I shook. I thought the house might crumble. I thought M might roll off the bed and die in the fall. I couldn't get up. I had no phone. I couldn't call 911. I couldn't call anyone. I didn't know where my fucking phone was. I couldn't get online to even email out for help. I would die right here, leaving M to wail and die alone in this house.

In that moment, I thought surely the world would collapse.

If I could get to a phone, I would live. If I could just get to a phone, I could call L and he could save us.

I crawled across the floor, into the hallway, into my bedroom. I pulled myself up to the bed, where M still lay screaming. I pulled her down on to my lap. I leaned onto the side of the bed and pushed myself up.

If I could get to a phone, I would live.

I strapped her into her car seat. I was shaking and sobbing. I dug quarters out of her coin jar for the pay phone. I held my balance and carried her to the car. I just had to get to a phone. I inched down our block, driving without my foot on the gas, coasting down the street toward the gas station. My crying subsided. M's too.

I reached the 7-Eleven by our home. I climbed out of the car, dropped the quarters in and prayed to God that L would be at his desk and answer his phone. He answered. Please come home, I begged him. I could tell he was caught off-guard. But he didn't question me. He came home.

By the time he arrived, the panic had passed. He took M and put me to bed. I slept the rest of the day.

Even after all this, I didn't seek help. I thought it was a fluke and that I was OK. It wasn't until a month later that I made a doctor's appointment because I could feel another breakdown coming. I ended up in the emergency room and then in a six-week out-patient program.

But there were doctor's appointments in between. And there were doctor's appointments before. I don't think anyone ever asked me if I was doing OK with the new baby. Maybe they did and I just lied and said I was OK. Either way, I wish that all the medical professionals I came in contact with - especially our family doctor and my OB-GYN - would have asked me if I needed help of any kind. Even just handing out a brochure about postpartum depression at any point would have been helpful. I'm hopeful that efforts like this one in Alberta will create a wider awareness of postpartum depression. Maybe moms will know they can ask for help any time, even at the first sign of trouble.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

To choose her again

This is a blog I follow by a gal I know just casually, and something she wrote made me cry. She and her husband lost one of their sweet boys in May. Her blog that I read today was about the rollercoaster of grief their family has been riding since then. They've had moments of recovery and moments of terrible sadness. She wrote this earlier this week:

Most of all, I am grateful for Isaiah. Grateful for his short life. I know that if given the choice between not knowing him and not knowing grief or knowing him and experiencing a grief like you have never known before...I would pick him. Over and over I would pick him.
It made me think of M. I am so, so grateful she is here. She is healthy. She is happy. I dropped off into the darkest place of my life after she was born. I thought of suicide often. I felt so hopeless and so horrible every day, every moment. But when I see M, I know that the love I feel for her is worth any hell I had to go through. Every minute I spend with her is better than any minute before she came into our lives.

I love the way Lee Anne put it: "Over and over I would pick him." That's how I feel, too. Over and over, I would pick M.