I lifted myself off the shower floor with all my might and pulled it together as best I could. I needed to give this one last try for myself and my family. I needed to have trust in the healthcare providers, the facility and the process of the program.
Finally, my case worker was ready to see me. While I tried to force feed myself breakfast, I explained to her what I endured over the course of the night. I hoped this wasn't the standard of care, however, she didn't seem the least bit fazed by it. She shared with me that she had spoken to John that morning and he was very upset. I was happy to hear that I had at least one ally on my side. We discussed postpartum depression (not anxiety), expectations while on the unit, what my first official day would entail, and then she handed me a book called, "Beyond the Blues" and sent me on my way. Still, no one could tell me when I might see the psychiatrist.
The staff highly recommended that I attend all group therapy sessions. I could hardly stand the added stimulation mixed with the ongoing noise in my head. I went to what I could, but at times the conversations were much too deep increasing my already severe anxiety. I ended up back at my post, the couch in the common area. I waited there to see how this hellish day would unfold. Existing one minute at a time.
I saw a plethora of providers into the late morning. I recall the activity therapist that pulled me aside to chat. Her great smile and perky demeanor pissed me off and so did her questions. She asked, "So what do you like doing for fun? What are some of your interests?" Fun? That was no longer a word I could relate to. At this point, I was merely surviving. Frustrated, I looked at her and said, "Apparently I've come to the wrong fucking place for help. I can hardly stand to be in my own skin right now let alone think of anything fun."
At lunch, I tried to shove food down my throat so I'd get a check on the care provider's tally sheet. After every meal I was to give them the percentage of food that I consumed. Then I stood at the desk retrieving my breast pump and retreated back to #636. My anxiety caused me such claustrophobia especially when I was in my room. Once my pump was hooked up, I would try to close my eyes and then lay my head on the desk or look out the window. Over the course of my time there, every time I pumped someone would inevitably knock on my door. It shot my heart through the roof and my mind followed straight into a panic attack. It was due to a unit policy-every 15 minutes a staff member rounded the unit taking headcount. (After the fact I clearly understand the reasoning behind regular unit headcounts, but at the time I didn't have the capacity to create a solution.)
FINALLY I got news that the psychiatrist, Dr. Sanders, was ready to see me. He spoke to me quietly and kindly as he went through his evaluation. He was the first person who made me feel like I could reignite the light at the end of the tunnel. For most of the interview, I sat in the corner of the dim room with my hands covering my eyes while my head rested on my knees. We discussed things in my life that were important to me like breastfeeding, my support system, medications and what I would need to do in order to get better. After our discussion around meds, I decided to stop breastfeeding because I wanted the best chance at getting better without exposing Riley. If it meant that I was going to get a grip on life then it was going to be worth it. My mental, emotional, and physical health was more important. Life could no longer go on this way. (See a portion of my medical files from the evaluation below.)
Dr. Sanders came up with a medication plan for me which included Lexapro, Ambien, Seroquel, and Xanax. At the culmination of our appointment, he gave me my first dose of Xanax to see how I would respond. I took the pill and he would be back later to check on me. He also gave me permission to rest whenever I felt I needed to because that was one of the most important points of my treatment plan.
That one little pill gave me more relief in that moment then I had felt in weeks. It was the first time since Riley's birth that the pit in my stomach disappeared. The resident psychiatrist checked back on me. I assured him that the Xanax did exactly what they said it would. Dr. Sanders gave me what I was in search of...a glimpse at hope.
Days later, I was able to concentrate enough to read the book, "Beyond the Blues". In it I found a woman's description of what she had been through. The excerpt described so much of what I was experiencing that it could have been written by me. During the evening visitation I had John read that section of the book. Perhaps it would help him get a better idea of my diagnosis as well as the disorder I was suffering from. It was this day that I committed to myself that i was going to do what it took to find my new normal, a brighter light.
Continued thanks to those that have followed my blog series. I do not aim to place fear in anyone's mind but to create awareness around Maternal Mental Health. It affects 1 in 7 women. It's common, it DOES NOT discriminate...do not hide, do not suffer alone, reach out and with help you will be well. There is one last installation in the series, The Climb, that will be published on Friday...please stay tuned!
Your Village Doula,