June 24, 2012

It Shouldn't Have Been So Hard

It shouldn't have been so hard. Not really.

It was a matter of the smallest pen stroke, circling one word on a form. All I needed to do was circle "Yes". But I hesitated, moved to other questions, came back to that blank row and hovered still.

At well-child check ups at our pediatrician's office, they hand you a sheet of Yes/No questions to answer while you wait to see the doctor, to avoid having the nurses waste their time repeating the same list of questions of everyone who comes in, I suppose. The "correct" answers are always the second choice, the word on the right. If you wanted to you blow off the form, you could just work your way straight down the column, circling without even reading.
  • Does the baby ride in a rear-facing car seat in the back row of the car at all times? No/Yes
  • Do you feed the baby juice, soda, or anything other than breastmilk or formula with iron? Yes/No
  • Does anyone smoke around the baby? Yes/No
Or the one that had me caught:
  • Have you felt unusually sad or anxious since the baby's arrival? Yes/No
I knew I needed to say "Yes", to hopefully set the process of seeking medical help in motion. I've had times in my life when I've felt blue or adrift or overwhelmed. I've had times I knew that talking to a counselor would help give me some new perspective to help me through a stuck place. This time was different. I knew that something had shifted in my brain and wasn't snapping back into place.

And, yet. As the weeks went by and I slid deeper into the pit, something kept me from seeking out the help the rational part of my brain knew I needed. I was a living checklist of depression symptoms. But I was scared of being dismissed or ridiculed and I felt so fragile, so breakable that even the thought of that possibly happening in a doctor's office was enough to make me want to pretend everything was fine. Depression alone isn't taken seriously all too often, much less post-partum depression, much much less adoption-related depression. After all, I hadn't given birth. I hadn't had to say goodbye to a child. I had nothing happen most people would label a crisis. I was supposed to be the happy, fulfilled one in this adoption equation, rejoicing over the newest family member who so many waiting adoptive parents would hypothetically have been thrilled to have in my place.

I leaned against the wall in the waiting room and looked at the baby sleeping in his sling and was overwhelmed by despair. Things were bad, and only getting worse. Scared enough, I finally drew a small circle.

After running through the usual routine with the baby, the pediatrician turned to me. "Now," he said, tapping his finger on the clipboard over that circled word, that glaring mark in the "wrong answer" column. I stiffened. "This is what concerns me most," he said.

He asked some kind and probing questions, then broke about a dozen HMO rules to get me an appointment for the next week with a physician who was similarly nothing less than compassionate and encouraging. I left her office not with hope exactly--I was too far in the pit at that point to scrabble together anything resembling real hope--but with the feeling that something had just happened other than the sadness and anger and anxiety that had become my constant companions.

So that's where things are. I'm trying medication, which has been a new and strange (and slow) experience. And I am finally feeling like things may be getting better. I am so very ready to return back to this life I love so much, to be someone who creates and serves and nurtures again instead of just someone who exists and needs.

Thank you for waiting for me, those of you who are reading this. I am sorry that I have been gone so long.
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