The Welcomed and Dreaded Diagnosis

“I’ve been feeling off,” I started out. “You know, I mean, I work. And I have lots of kids. So that would make anyone tired, right?”

She cocked her head and pointed her head at me, but never lifted her eyes from the keyboard. She typed as fast as I do when I furiously putting together another briefing. I wondered if she did Powerpoint in her dreams. Like I do.

“So, yeah. I’m tired all the time. But to fall asleep, I have to take something. Well, a LOT of something. If I try to fall asleep on my own, even if I’m dead tired, I will just sit there and think. Worry, mostly. It’s like my brain is a ticker tape of things I didn’t get done that day or things that are looming over me later in the week or things that I haven’t considered even worrying about until right that very second. It will go on for hours. So I usually take something to fall asleep.”

She nodded.

“But, not like, a DANGEROUS amount of anything. I don’t, like, put myself in a drug-induced coma or anything. I can still hear the baby if he cries. And he does. A lot. He seems to wake up every 2-3 hours. Not really wake up, where you get him up or even really feed him anymore, more just like he fusses a lot because he’s crawled into a corner of his crib and can’t figure out how to roll over. It’s pretty stressful, I guess. Being a baby, I mean.”

Her eyes flicked up at me and then back down to the keyboard.

“So, yeah. The sleeping thing. Also the worrying. I mean, I love my job. I do. I’m always telling people how much I love my job, and man, do I. I work in the space industry, in human exploration. HOW COOL IS THAT. Super cool, that’s how cool. I love it. But it can be a little much sometimes. But, I mean, we all do that. We all are under that same amount of stress. I shouldn’t complain. It’s just a hard job. But I love it.”

She nodded again and pursed her lips.

“The thing is, I feel like I have to work harder, you know? I’m a woman in an engineering industry, and I’m a woman with no education. I have unmatched skills in a lot of areas and that should be enough, but I feel like I should still work harder. To prove myself, I mean. But I wouldn’t mind maybe not working this hard. Or maybe not stressing out about working this hard. But I love it! Man, I love my job.”

Her hands flew across the keyboard.

“My husband is pretty amazing. He helps a lot. He helps so much that I feel guilty; he’s easily got 75% of the responsibility of our household. That’s not fair to him. He’s so great about it all, though; he’s an amazing dad to the boys. And the boys are growing up so quickly! Now we’re in soccer and lacrosse season, which is a struggle, obviously, to juggle two separate sports and separate schedules. And now that Tony’s in school, he’s got a whole new list of things that I’m always having to miss because of stuff, so there’s that. He’s just a minature me. Emotionally, I mean. So incredibly sensitive and tentative. Not shy, mind you; obviously I’m not shy, right? He just.. he feels too much and it’s overwhelming. I know how that is. I imagine it’s a lot harder at 6 than it is at 33. I worry about him so much. And I feel like I’m not a great mom to him most of the time.”

She took a deep breath and took her hands off of the keyboard.

“Oh! Also! I’m tired of being fat. That’s really the reason I came today.”

She folded her hands in her lap and looked at me. She had an engineer’s gaze.

“I want you to try Lexapro,” she said.

“For weight loss?” I asked, incredulously.

“For your anxiety,” she said, clinically. “You’re vibrating right now. You’re having trouble sleeping and you’re anxious. I want you to try Lexapro.”

“But I have tried Lexapro,” I said. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling, but this sure was not the How can I qualify for a gastric bypass conversation I had rehearsed in the car on the way over.

“And why did you stop?”

“Because.. I didn’t need it anymore,” I said, maybe a little too decisively.

“There’s nothing wrong with medication to treat you,” she said.

In my head, I agreed. In my head, I happily swallowed that pill for three years when I had PPD after Tony’s birth. In my head, I agreed that if medication made you a better person, by God, take the pill. There is no judgement in letting yourself be a better parent, wife, person, even in a generic prescription.

But my heart was shattered.

I thought I had this under control! I thought I was hanging on to this, and I thought everything was fine! Hard, yes. Difficult, of course. Sustainable? Probably not. But I thought I was in the clear!

I have put on such a good, brave face!

My God, what have I been doing to my children? To my husband? To my coworkers?

I have let them all down.

“We’ll start with the lowest dose,” she said. “Just to try it.”

I folded my hands in my lap and took a breath.

“And take time for yourself, okay? Try taking a walk. Every day. Half an hour. I’m sure your office has somewhere that you can walk, even if it’s just around the floor. Just walk.”

I nodded.

“This will help you to sleep without any additional medication. You’ll be able to fall asleep and turn your brain off.”

My eyes flickered up at her and then back down.

“We’ll fix all of the other stuff once we get this nailed down. And we will. Get this nailed down.”

I nodded and pursed my lips.

I considered not telling anyone, not picking up the prescription. I considered just saying that I was waiting on blood work to see what to do next. (Part of that is true; I got poked in every possible location of a vein today.) I considered just trying to suck it up.

But I’m telling you. Since 2004, you have been my accountability partner. You must hold me accountable now.

Help me help myself.

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10 Responses to The Welcomed and Dreaded Diagnosis

  1. Katie April 1, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

    You are a brave and wonderful person. And a hard worker. And a MOM. We can’t do it all, all by ourselves. It is hard to go ask for help. And to accept it. You did it. Awesome for you. You are on your way.

  2. Donna April 1, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    Oh honey, I know. You are not letting anyone down.

    I have taken Lexapro for over four years now and it helps me a lot. I will never be without medication. You might not need it forever. But it helps when you need it to.

    Hugs. You are amazing.

  3. Lisa April 1, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    Sarah…..I have so much to say that I don’t think I can say it all here…..just know that you are in the same place with so many women your age…..trying to balance it all….I have been there…..it has been and continues to be a journey for me…..I too, resisted any medication for many years…..I am now and have been on a low dose that basically makes me able to live and respond to things like a “normal” person…..you are obviously an A-Type person and folks like us make great employees but we are soooooo hard on ourselves…..I included my personal e-mail ….. please feel free to reach out to me ……talking it out with other folk really helps a lot!

    HUGS!

  4. Beth April 1, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

    Oh Sarah. I am wishing so hard that I could hug you right now. I struggled so hard when I had to take meds for ppd/anxiety so I won’t bother telling you that it’s okay, because I understand where you are…but I also remember that moment when the sky cleared a bit because of the meds and I couldn’t believe I’d waited so long. I’m sending you so much love and support.
    Beth wants you to read ..rocking

  5. Cass April 1, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

    My friend. Thank you for this post. I’m thanking you for it today. I’ll be thanking you after my (please god) next baby. Your realness – it’s admired. Who you are here – is amazing. And I’m in awe. So much love.
    Cass wants you to read ..Ask for what you want.

  6. Bekah April 1, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

    Sarah – consider this – if you had diabetes and required insulin to live, would you do without? Any kind of depression or anxiety or any mental issue is the same in my book. As a psychiatric nurse and one that is pursing a doctorate in psych nursing, there is NO SHAME in this diagnosis. Medications are a tool, simple as that. You need this tool to help you day to day. You go girl!

  7. Laura Dale April 1, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    Sarah-know that you are not alone. I had horrible PPD after both boys, took Lexapro both times and it helped a lot. I had/have the same thoughts about being a wife, mother, employee, woman, all the time! Just know you are not alone and you have lots of people in your life that love you, support you and are here for you if you need us!! Hang in there sweet friend and take things one day at a time!

  8. Erica April 1, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    Being a mom is so hard. Being a working mom is even harder. We all struggle to pull ourselves together. You do whatever it takes to get through the day and get some sleep. Well, as much sleep as you can with a baby. I’m there with you. Sleep deprivation is so hard. It’s all so physically and mentally hard. Hang in there.
    Erica wants you to read ..New Zealand – Waiheke Island

  9. Stacy April 1, 2014 at 10:21 pm #

    Oh honey, you have quite a lot on your plate. Please take the medication. There’s no shame. It’s just your crutch in our crazy fast paced, overworked world. (Mine too, btw.)
    Took me a decade to be comfortable taking meds but you won’t regret it. Postpartum anxiety is real, and awful. Please take a deep breath of fresh air and know you are not alone. 🙂

  10. Nanette April 17, 2014 at 1:18 am #

    I am woefully behind on my blog reading, so I’m just now reading this. But I wanted to send you lots of good thoughts, mama.

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