My family doc, whom I LOVED and would’ve had babies with, moved on to bigger and better things in January. Of course, this was about the time I really needed a doctor. When she sent out her “I’m no longer practicing” letter, it included the name and phone number of a doctor to whom she was handing over all caseloads. I didn’t think much about it and had heard rumor that it was INCREDIBLY ugly, paperwork wise, when they made that change. So I was hesitant to call said new doc and try and explain something like what may or may not be PPD to a complete stranger.
When I called in this morning, a perky little lady answered the phone. I explained I was with Dr. Old Doctor, but I hadn’t been in to see New Doc, but I’d like to come in. ”Do you have some concerns, or are you just wanting to get established?”
Loaded question, eh?
I took a breath. ”Well, I had a baby five months ago, and I just.. well, I’m having some post-partum questions I need answers to.” I figured that was vague. It could be nipple leakage, too, right? Not necessarily gloom and doom.
She put me on hold and disappeared for about a minute. When she came back, she said, “We can squeeze you in today. Is an hour and a half good for you?”
I was really surprised by how quickly they could get me in! Since I had taken a “mental health day” anyhow, I was thrilled at the opportunity to chat with mom at the hospital, and then get this taken care of.
You know, it’s weird. I never once said “depression” in talking to these people. I didn’t include “PPD” or “depression” on any of the forms. But when I got back to the waiting room, the nurse said, “You’re feeling kinda down, huh?” I nodded and smiled. And then I hated myself for smiling. Why am I smiling? I’m fucking depressed, for God’s sake. Why smile? Or am I depressed? Shit, is she just gonna tell me to get the fuck over it? She is, isn’t she? And then I’ll just have to rely on meth or something to make it all better.
While I had this little inner struggle, she was babbling. Something about heart disease or some crap. Finally, she said the doctor would come in and see me momentarily, and would I mind filling out this “depression survey” in the meanwhile?
Dude, I fuckin’ ROCK at tests. Hells to the yes, I’ll take one of your little tests.
And I found myself cleaning up my answers. I had to start over again and FORCE myself to answer honestly. Because honestly? I don’t think I feel depressed. I just feel NUMB.
The nurse came and collected the survey (again, with me smiling like some obviously un-depressed dork), and disappeared. Leaving me with posters of groin injuries.
The doctor appeared. She was younger than I expected, but very sweet. And she jumped right in. ”Okay,” she said, skimming my test, “two questions: do you ever consider suicide?”
“Oh, God, no.” I said. Note to self: NOW IS THE TIME TO NOT SMILE.
“Good,” she said, nodding as if I had earned some extra credit. ”And have you ever had harmful thoughts toward your baby?”
“Nope. I don’t blame any of this on my baby, matter of fact.”
She set down her pen. ”Good. Because you scored really, really highly on this test, indicating you are what we would call ‘Severely Depressed’, and if you had answered yes to any of those questions, we would be on our way to a hospital right now.”
Well, raise my rent.
She went on to point out the red flags in my scoring, things that I thought were fairly harmless but raised red flags to the medical professionals scoring it. Like when I said, “I wish I could cry, but I can’t.” Red flag. ”I’m disgusted with myself.” Red flag. And “I expect to be punished.” Red freakin’ flag.
Then she admitted, “This is still not considered a real disease by a lot of people, some even in the medical community. I went ahead and checked your insurance to see what our options are, and you’re not covered for therapy, which is what I’d recommend in conjunction with medicine. So we’ll delve into medications. I see you’re not breastfeeding, which makes it a little easier. But please, do yourself and your baby a favor: make sure you’re taking time for you. If it means exercising a little every day, or taking a long bath, or getting your nails done, SOMETHING. That’s the best medicine I can prescribe.”
We talked for a little longer, and she eased my fears that I imagined all of this and that I just needed to get over it. Since I have a family history of depression, she was amazed I was even hesitant to acknowledge it in myself. ”It’s not your fault,” she said. ”Sometimes, the synapses aren’t firing right. We’ll get you back on track.”
And seriously? Aside from the outpouring of support I got from you guys when I finally came out and admitted I was not right, that was THE most comforting thing to know. I was not imagining this, and there is help. And I can finally show my baby the happy Sarah, because he deserves that.
Sure, it was disturbing for her to tell me that if I didn’t feel the medication was working right, my case justified me visiting the ER for immediate treatment (REALLY?), but in the meantime, I’m visiting back in a couple of weeks to check in.
For what it’s worth, I want to thank everyone who lent me support, either in comments on the last post, or in emailing me personally. Because it was SO NICE to know I wasn’t the only one, and even more awesome to know that it doesn’t make me weak to ask for help. You guys are all incredible, and I feel lucky to know you.
And that ain’t just the drugs talkin’.