You Got Some ‘Splainin to Do

i-love-lucy

This morning my daughter sat down to some interesting breakfast reading.

Coming home late after an evening “med check” appointment with my physician, I had left the visit summary on the dining room table.  Yesterday’s visit went swimmingly well.  No problems to report.  Successful treatment measures.  A-ok – until the next six month visit.

The chart information on the second half of the sheet told a different story, though; that of my history.  The medication I’m on; my ‘problem list’.

Depressive Disorder Not Elsewhere Classified.

I’m hoping that eight years old is not old enough to know what that means.  Hell, I don’t really know what that means.  The first time I saw it, I stopped in my tracks.  I remember the NOS designation on IEPs from my teaching days.  I remember the frustration of parents and teachers who knew something was up, but no diagnosis could be made.  How would this individual get the help he or she needed without a direction to go in?

Now that was me!

My eight year old wouldn’t be able to recognize the name of the medication I’m on either, Sertraline sounding more like a foreign language than a medicine to help her mother get through life.

Thank God, in this case, for medical illiteracy.  I’m all for blowing apart the stigma, but haven’t quite figured out how to explain it to my young children yet.  How much information would help them see it’s perfectly acceptable to struggle and receive help and how much would open them to an overwhelming, suffocating side of this world they don’t need to know exists yet?

I didn’t know there was a family history of whatever the hell ails my family until I was an adult starting to suffer from similar problems myself.  As a child, there was an underlying tension at family gatherings, but having no explanation and no other frame of reference, I just thought that was how it was.  Do I let my kids live in ignorant ‘bliss’?  Do I give my oldest an age-appropriate mete-ing out of Momma’s struggles so she doesn’t think she’s responsible for Momma’s wrath?  Or will I be giving them the framework for their own self-fulfilling depressive prophecy?

All important questions.  All of whose answers will remain unspecified for now, just like my diagnosis.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around all this.

The Brand of Crazy I Am

I guarded my postpartum depression diagnosis like a dirty little secret.

While I felt a certain measure of peace at having a name for the pit I seemed to be peering out of, it didn’t translate to shouting it loud enough to be heard above the rim of that pit.  It didn’t even encourage me to tell my family.

After I nursed the baby and put her down for the night, I’d tuck the other two into bed saying, “Mama’s going to the doctor.”  It was never the therapist, or my LICSW, or someone I need to bare my soul to in order to process what’s going on in my heart and head.

I didn’t want to be one of those people.  The ones who lie on the couch to be psychoanalyzed.  The ones who aren’t normal, who can’t cope, who have problems.

And that was just the ‘me’ stuff.  Slathered on top of that was a thick coating of mommy guilt, seeping down into the crevices and open spaces.  What kind of mother was I if I couldn’t care for my own brood?  Blessed with three gorgeous, healthy children, why couldn’t I be happy?

I didn’t want anyone to see what a failure I was as a mother or how broken I was as a person.

I still have misgivings about sharing TMI on my blog.  I invited all my Facebook friends, many of whom I haven’t seen in years and knew me in former incarnations, from my personal profile to ‘like’ my author page on which I share links to these blog posts.  But did I want these acquaintances to know just what brand of crazy I am?

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If I’ve learned nothing else during this experience, it’s that having nothing to hide takes away whatever shame there is.  Being completely open is what destroys the stigma.

And as far as postpartum goes, I believe it helps other women get the help they need.  In the surreal realm of new motherhood, it’s easy to feel completely alone.  Start adding feelings not featured on any Hallmark card and there’s no way in hell you’re going to seek someone out to admit to them.  But if you heard just one story, just one little anecdote similar to yours, you might, just might, open your mouth and let yours fly bit by bit.

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