I’m not clapping.
I’m generally a really happy, positive person. Sure, I am occasionally snarky and sarcastic but for the most part? Lots of rainbows and dancing up in here. But lately? It’s all been an act.
I’ve been trying to think about how long I haven’t felt like myself. It’s hard to pinpoint. Did it start with my bed rest? It could have. That was one of the darkest times of my life. And of course, who wouldn’t be out of sorts with a baby in the NICU? And then I was on Reglan, twice, for my breast milk, and one of its side effects is depression. So that explained it then. And then Maddie was hospitalized again. And again. And then Jackie! got her diagnosis. I got good at explaining it all away.
I still laugh. I still find joy in my daughter, my husband, and my family and friends. But something inside me has been off for a long time. I’ve been ignoring it and pushing through it for so long now that it feels like I’ve always been this way.
Oh! The anxiety. The anxiety that is so bad I keep my jaw clenched all day long, clenched so tightly that my dentist freaked out at my cracked teeth. I am constantly popping pain medication for head and jaw aches. My jaw has locked up repeatedly, and I’ve had panic attacks with increasing frequency. I get up multiple times in the middle of the night to obsessively check on Madeline, so I am barely sleeping. Poor Mike probably grew sick of asking me what’s wrong, because I always replied, “nothing.” I didn’t want him to worry about me. Instead I made it worse.
A couple days ago I realized that I have no desire to eat. And that the desire not to eat made me feel good. You see…six years ago, right after my grandmother died, I lost a lot of weight. I told everyone it was because I did yoga and went on a diet but really? I didn’t eat. I survived on coffee, tomatoes, and powdered coffee creamer. That’s pretty messed up, right? But I lost a lot of weight and I got lots of compliments and boys started to notice me. It was completely a control issue – weight loss was just a side effect. I loved the power I got from not eating. I was so good at it. I ate in front of my family and friends. I honestly don’t know if they knew I was starving myself. And when I first started dating Mike, I sort of back-handedly admitted that I was good at the not eating. He listened, and he made sure I ate, and I realized that maybe I didn’t want to starve myself anymore. So the weight came back, slowly (and that was a good thing). I felt better and I would look back at that time and think, well, I wasn’t anorexic. I just went through a bad spot. Everyone does.
But, does everybody? I don’t think they do.
I’ve been somewhat fascinated with a dream I had a few months ago. I’ve played it over and over in my head. In it, I’m alone in my car, driving to work, and I get in an accident. I’m hurt enough to go to the hospital, and I don’t get released for a few days. In the hospital, I get to sleep and be quiet, and I’m not clenching my jaw to the point of extreme pain. I don’t have to go to work, or take a shower, or sit in traffic. I just get to lay there.
Last Wednesday I spent my lunch hour in my car, parked in the lot at work. I leaned the seat all the way back as it was my intention to sleep. Instead, I closed my eyes and tried to figure out how fast I’d have to be going to make the scenario in my dream come true. If I crashed into a wall at 45 or so miles per hour, maybe I would just break a leg and get a concussion. And, side bonus, my crappy VW might get totaled.
Then I thought, maybe planning a way to crash my car wasn’t exactly healthy. So I did something about it. I called my doctor, and left her a message that went like this:
“Hi Dr. Looove. It’s Heather Spohr. I was just calling because…well, I have some questions for you. About depression. Should I be talking to you about this, or my OB? I sure hope it’s you because my OB…well, please let me know, if you have the time.”
When she called me back, I didn’t have the courage to answer the phone. But at least I made the call, right? She wanted me to come in to see her, so I did. I didn’t tell ANYONE.
Dr. Looove is only a couple years older than me. She has big, compassionate eyes and seriously cool shoes. She came into the room I was sitting in, grabbed tissues, and just looked at me. And I started crying, telling her everything I’ve been trying not to feel. About how hard it is for me to get out of bed. About my cracked teeth. About wanting to crash my car. About not eating, and not feeling right, and about how I just want to be myself again. And she listened to me, and she did NOT say, “well, of course you’re depressed, look at the year you’ve had!” Instead she said, “I’m sorry you’ve been suffering. I’ve known you for a while, and I’ve been waiting for you to come talk to me.”
She knew I wasn’t okay. Mike knew I wasn’t okay. It took me almost nine months to acknowledge I wasn’t okay.
I know my experience isn’t anything new – tons of women go through this. But for a control freak like me, this is uncharted territory.
I started taking anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medication for postpartum depression at the end of last week. I don’t know if they are making me feel better, or it’s simply the knowledge that I will feel better soon. But I feel more in control. It’s still hard to get out of bed in the morning, but I AM getting out of bed.
Hopefully, before I know it I’ll be clapping again, too.