“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.”
“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.”
“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.