Thursday, April 5, 2012

What I wish my doctor told me

*Warning: This post contains some material that may be triggering to some people. Please do not read if that is the case for you. 

As I sit on the white wrinkly paper on the table in your office waiting for you to come in, my entire body is shaking, my mind racing with thoughts about what I am going to say, my hands warm with sweat. My tiny 7 week old baby is sleeping peacefully in her carrier. She has no idea that something is even wrong with her mama.  I glance over at her and cry.

Why me? What is happening to me?

As you enter the room, tears start pouring out of my eyes again.

I’m so sorry. What happened? How did I miss this?

You didn’t miss this. Last week for my 6 week postpartum checkup I was fine. I was more than fine. In fact, I was on top of the world. I felt as if I was the luckiest woman alive.

But now?  My life is changing right before my eyes and I have no idea what I am being hit with. I have no idea that unfortunately there is no turning back with this. I have no idea that I will never be the same girl that was here a week earlier.  I have no idea how to tell you how frightened I am. I have no idea how to tell you that scary, scary thoughts are consuming my mind and numbing my body. I can’t tell you. If I tell you, you will think I have gone crazy, you will lock me up and take my baby from me.

You ask me the routine question, “Do you feel like you may hurt yourself or others?”  

This question is terrifying to me.

No, I do not feel as if I may hurt myself or others but what do the scary thoughts mean? Why are they happening? 

I don't dare say a word about my fears so I give you a simple no for an answer. After this quick evaluation you tell me what I am going through is called Postpartum Depression.

You have no idea what you are talking about. I am pissed at you right now. I am not depressed. I am happy. I just want these thoughts to go away.

I can’t tell you about these thoughts though. Instead, I only tell you small details of what is going on. I leave out the most important piece of this puzzle. The intrusive thoughts. This is what is eating me up inside. These thoughts are making me feel as if I am going crazy. These thoughts are scaring the crap out of me. These thoughts are why I am terrified of giving my daughter a bath. These thoughts haunt me every night when I am alone in the dark feeding my daughter. I am petrified of what my mind will start to think about.

This shouldn’t be happening. These thoughts shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be afraid to give my daughter a bath or feed her at night. I shouldn’t be afraid of my thoughts. I shouldn’t be afraid of being alone. This isn’t how it was supposed to be. This isn’t what I was told motherhood would be like.

You were there for me throughout my entire pregnancy but I need you now more than ever. Tell me what I am supposed to do. Tell me that I am going to be OK and that many women experience what I am going through. Tell me you know of support groups that I can go to. Tell me that Postpartum Depression is an umbrella term and can include Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and more. Tell me intrusive thoughts happen. Tell me you know a therapist who specializes in Postpartum Mood Disorders. Tell me you know of moms who have been through this and they gave you permission for moms suffering to contact them just to have someone who understands and can be there to listen. I desperately need someone to talk to.

You never asked me if I was having scary thoughts. You never told me that intrusive thoughts can happen. You never told me about Postpartum OCD or any other Postpartum Mood Disorder. You didn’t tell me. It was unnecessary that I suffered in silence for years before I found out on my own what was happening to me.

Instead of fully enjoying the first few years of my daughter’s life, it was also filled with emotional pain like I have never felt before and has changed my life forever. Instead of cuddling with my baby, I was at my computer sobbing, researching and trying to find answers. All the money spent on doctor after doctor trying to figure this out could have been spent on my daughter and my family. All the time taken away driving hours from appointment to appointment, month after month, year after year, this time could have been spent playing with my daughter.

It’s not your fault though. I didn’t tell you the full details of what I was experiencing. For me, it was don’t ask don’t tell. You didn’t ask me the questions I really needed to be asked. All I knew at the time was if you weren’t asking me if I was having these thoughts then it must be bad and I really must be going nuts.

Many of us are too afraid to tell you or anyone exactly what is happening. Many of us need to be asked specific questions. I needed questions such as, Are you having thoughts that are scaring you? Are you having negative or unwanted thoughts? That day I came to you I needed to be told about intrusive thoughts and that I wouldn’t be locked up and my baby wouldn’t be taken away from me if I was having these thoughts. I needed you to tell me it was more common than I realized. If you had told me about all the other Postpartum Mood Disorders and told me that these thoughts happen and that I wasn’t going crazy and that it was called Postpartum OCD, I truly believe in my heart that I would have told you. I would have been able to get the help I (and so many others) truly deserve. I may not have suffered for years.  

Postpartum Progress is doing an open letter series to doctors written by moms about what happened to them and what they would like to see done in the future for other moms who need help. You can check out the letters here.


Kimberly said...

This is so fantastic. I never had intrusive thoughts but I do remember my OB asking about them. My doctors aside from my family doctor were phenomenal. I was very lucky.
This is great and I tweeted.

Andrea said...

I agree. I definitely see that it is slowly changing & I am so glad I know what I know now & will hopefully be completely prepared if it ever happens again. I won't be afraid to speak up next time :)

Andrea said...

Thank you :) I actually really love my OB & I don't blame it on her, I know it wasn't her fault. I believe she really did care about what was going on but I think it is important for doctors to ask specific questions & for them to make sure as they ask the questions to tell the patients that they are not crazy & their babies won't be taken away. They need to tell us that it really happens & we are not alone. They also didn't even have any resources for me, no support groups, no therapist that specializes in ppmd, not even online resources!!

I do remember going to my primary care doctor about a year after it started & I told her about the anxiety to try to see if she could help in any way but she told me that I would have anxiety forever & didn't even try to help, needless to say I ended up leaving that place!