It’s Time To Talk About Maternal Mental Health, And Be Civilized About It

{Serious Post Alert}

I am not one to pretend I know everything about the way the mind, or the body, or the world for that matter, works. But if there is one thing I know based on factual research, history of our culture, observations in society, and my own, anecdotal experiences, it is this: having a baby seriously fucks you up. It fucks up your body. It fucks up your sleep patterns. It fucks up your life as you knew it. And it fucks up your head.

Sometimes it really really fucks up your head.

So much so that there is an entire array of postpartum mental health disorders that you can find yourself diagnosed with. Postpartum depression. Postpartum psychosis. Postpartum anxiety. I am sure the list goes on.

The question is: why won’t anyone do anything about it?

Shortly *before* I had my third little ball of perfect, I started having major problems with anxiety and panic attacks. I was approximately 8 months pregnant, 34 years old, and all of a sudden I couldn’t handle going to the doctor. I would worry – excessively – in the days that led up to whatever appointment I had. Something was going to be wrong, I just knew it. Then when I got to the office, with absolutely nothing wrong, I would have a full blown panic attack. On several occasions, it rocketed my blood pressure up higher than it has ever been.

If you know anything about pregnancy, you know that high blood pressure is bad news.

It got to the point where my OB started me on a mild sedative to make it through the duration of the pregnancy. It worked, a little. While in the hospital, they gave me something else that was safe in breastfeeding, then sent me home saying that the hormones with breastfeeding would likely fix everything. And if it didn’t, call my primary care physician.

Since then, I have lived in a constant state of anxiety. Constant. Not a day goes by that I am not worrying about things I cannot control, making myself sick to my stomach from the fight-or-flight adrenaline rushing through my body, being angry about things I am not entirely sure anger is an appropriate response to, and having about one full blown panic attack a week.

This has gone on for 21 months now.

At first, I tried to deal with it, patiently but also impatiently (as anxiety has a tendency to draw minutes out into agonizing years). I thought to myself: you know what, I am sure when the breastfeeding gets going, it’ll help like they said.

When I went in for my six week c-section follow up, I mentioned that the anxiety had not gone away, so my doctor gave me the card for a psychologist who specialized in postpartum mental health.

She wasn’t in network for my insurance.

So I called my primary care physician, who – in short – did very little. Six months later, she gave me a prescription for Xanax with the side note that no you really shouldn’t take Xanax while breastfeeding – but she finished breastfeeding at six months, so maybe this would give me the incentive to quit breastfeeding at six months too. Then I could deal with my anxiety.

By taking boatloads of Xanax.

When I said that the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of two years breastfeeding, she said that the AAP only recommended six months to a year. So think about it, here’s the Xanax if you decide to wean.

I changed doctors.

Unfortunately, over the course of the following months, it’s been more of the same. Either a doctor doesn’t support breastfeeding beyond a year, or they don’t support treating a woman with postpartum anxiety, or they don’t support either.

My most recent doctor finally said: you know, there just really aren’t many options, why not give therapy a shot with someone that is in network.

So I went on the search for a local therapist that supports breastfeeding, deals with postpartum anxiety, is in network with my insurance, and is taking new patients.

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Very few that meet all of that criteria exists.

So few, in fact, that it got down to one guy. One fucking guy. He called me back (which most of them didn’t even give me the courtesy of doing), he asked about what insurance I had, went over a little phone interview, then scheduled an appointment.

Here is how the appointment went, in a short list:

  1. {Appointment started 20 minutes late}
  2. “Oh hey – you said you have California Blue Shield? Yeah so…I’m out of network with them now. It’s August now, last week when we spoke it was July so… I’ll take your regular copay for now and then when I get the EOB in 90 days, we can just settle up whatever the difference ends up being for all the appointments. Cool?
  3. “So when do you plan to start weaning so you can take some medication? I just want a timeline to see what we are looking at here? OH you’re letting the baby decide? Huh…
  4. “Alright, if I have this straight, your husband works nights and you are alone with the kids…you say you get about 4 hours of sleep a night? Well you should do something about that, it’s probably making your anxiety worse.
  5. “I think you should consider this workbook about cognitive behavioral therapy…I mean it’s for teens but don’t think that means I think you are stupid. Well you are a stay at home mom HAHAHA, just kidding…it’s just a good workbook.
  6. {Appointment ended 10 minutes early, which – combined with the 20 minutes late, turned an hour into 30 minutes of paperwork and literally just the above comments}

So uncivilized.

I left horrified. And yet still I had scheduled a follow up visit, figuring I would give the guy another chance. I mean…I was at the point where he was literally the only therapist in a 50 mile radius that fit the bill.

But there was still that sticky insurance thing, so I called the insurance company and – long story short – out of network meant my weekly copay to see this pseudo-sexist quack was going to be $57 instead of the in network $10.

That would be $228 instead of $40 a month. An unreasonable difference that – honestly – was out of my copay budget and – frankly – not worth it. I’ll deal with the fucking worrying and upset stomachs for now. My baby – now a toddler – is 21 months old; it is very VERY likely this will begin to subside soon anyway. And if it doesn’t, by that point he will likely wean on his own and I can explore a safer non-narcotic medication approved for anxiety.

So I called the guy to cancel the appointment, explaining – what I thought politely – was that I had called the insurance and the copay was just going to be too high, and here was the TEXT MESSAGE he sent me, within minutes:

“Heather i will take you out of the book for friday. You are PPO fyi, and although you would likely pay some what more, it shouldn’t be exorbitant as you claimed.”

Okay.

At what point are we going to talk about maternal mental health, or mental health in general, and actually make the situation better? Or how about we just address the general lack of healthcare available for anything?

It is terrifying to think that so few doctors in my community want to actually doctor. It is even more terrifying to think that so few doctors in my community seem to be able to put their personal opinions and beliefs aside so they can assume their call of duty as practitioners of whatever specialty they chose.

To be honest with you all: the thought of going back to the drawing board with this therapist situation seems to have straightened my anxious head right up, anyway. Every time I start worrying, I think to myself now: Heather, the last thing you want to do is have to go back to a quack like that jerk that called stay at home moms dumb. Panic: away!

It’s 2018. We should be able to talk about this shit, and for that matter to be civilized about it. Not everyone is so lucky to be able to redirect their thoughts so easily as I seem to have. It is for those people that we need to have this discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

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15 Things That Keep Away The Crazy

I think we all know that I’m a little off. By off, I of course mean batty; and by batty I’m trying to beat around the bush of insanity. And while I haven’t been dragged off in the ol’ straight jacket just yet, I probably should be. Being a Stay At Home Mom that homeschools can be tough sometimes. A little nerve-wracking, to say the least.

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There is an episode of The Simpsons early on in the series where Ned Flanders goes ape shit and drives himself to the mental hospital, driving straight through the wrought iron gates to get in. When he goes to check in, they ask if he’d like to go willingly to his padded room, or would he opt for the kicking and screaming option. He asks for kicking and screaming. I like to think that were Ned Flanders to have my fifteen things that keep me sane – or at least sane enough to avoid the mental hospital – he may have avoided his own mental breakdown.

(Yes, I am aware of the fact that I am talking about a cartoon character as though he is a human being. Need more proof I’m close to the nuthouse?)

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#1 S&Ms

You people are perverts. I know what you all are thinking when you see #1 as S&Ms: you think I’m talking about some kinky shit with my husband. Poor Nick bringing home cans of champagne and edible panties, and shit.

Not the case. When I say S&Ms I mean that what keeps me sane are my starlight mints. You know those old people candies that they sell either with or without sugar, the little mints you also get after a particularly garlic-y meal out? After my brief stint with smoking cigarettes in high school, my S&Ms replaced the nasty cancer sticks. They keep me sane in a big way.

#2 Lipgloss

Between this and my S&Ms, it’s very possible that I have an oral fixation problem. I apply chapstick and lipgloss so much. I’m addicted and develop a facial twitch if I go too long without glossy lips.

#3 Diet Coke

So yeah. I have an oral fixation. Clearly. My top three things that keep me from losing my everliving mind are relative to my mouth. What’s #4 going to be – blow jobs? Not the case. Nonetheless, I am heavily addicted to Diet Coke. The people at McDonald’s know me by name for no reason other than my morning trek to obtain a $1 Large soda.

#4 Books

This is really serious. As long as I have a book nearby when I feel the crazy coming on, all I have to do is open the book and lose myself in the story. This is why I love being a writer; and it’s why I am terribly obsessed with reading as much as possible.

#5 The Bathroom Lock

I hear moms complaining all the time about wanting to take a dump without being interrupted, and I think to myself: where’s the fucking lock? Your kids will be fine left to their own devices for a couple minutes. And as long as you have a key or another fail-safe to get the door open, should a kid lock themselves in – this is a surefire way to escape the insanity of parenthood.

#6 A Sense of Humor

I joke about a lot. And when I’m not making jokes, I’m finding something that’s naturally hilarious and laughing until I pee. A lot of times people don’t get my jokes, though. On my wedding invitations, I had a picture of a bride and groom with a joke about bringing your flame retardant clothing to prevent the lightning injuries that were sure to come from my husband and I marrying in the Catholic church. No one got it.

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#7 Weird Personal Fitness Challenges

I’m not one of those uber-douchey people that’s obsessed with fitness. You know them. They are constantly posting about their gym workouts and judging others for what they do and eat. Let’s be clear here: if you work out and like to talk about it, that’s totally cool. It’s when it moves on to judging others (…posting pictures of people’s cellulite on Facebook, and making fun of people that don’t eat healthy all the time…) that it becomes a problem.

OK, all that being said, weird personal fitness challenges help keep me sane. It isn’t even that I want to be fit, or lose weight. It’s that I find it funny to do weird workout and eating stuff, and it’s interesting to see the things I will do to keep it up. Right now I’m doing a three parter. Part One is 10 more seconds of wall sits each day. I started with 10 seconds on the 1st of April, and am up to almost 2 minutes. Part Two is eating only fruit for one or more meals a day. (It’s harder than you’d think, fruit is not very filling). Part Three is doing the Sweatin’ To the Oldies workout tapes. That’s right, I’m rockin’ it with Richard Simmons. Randomly about a month ago, I found one of my mom’s, so I went out and bought one and the Pookies went wild for it. (A video blog will follow here shortly…)

#8 Nonstop Weather Updates

I know. It’s weird. Growing up in the Midwest really made me fear the weather and all its wrath, though. Nonstop weather updates on my iPhone, iPad, and Macbook help me feel like I have control of the situation.

#9 Tetris

Hello! Mindlessly fitting blocks into impossible spaces. A metaphor for life.

#10 Reading Satire Websites

Like The Onion and Cracked.com. I enjoy John Stewart on YouTube sometimes too. Are you getting the theme here, though? I enjoy laughing at the absurdity of life. Better to laugh than lose it, right?

#11 Comparing My Life To My Mother’s

Whenever I start to think that life’s getting me down, I compare my misery to my mother’s. No one is in as bad of a situation as she is – with a hillbilly husband that lies like drinking a glass of water, living in a trailer halfway across the country, and cracking jokes about wanting to get her back to his trailer so that they can work the bed sheets (if you know what I mean).

#12 Fantasizing About Wolf Blitzer

Have you people forgotten about my terrible crush on Wolf Blitzer? Whenever I start to feel a little like I’m going to lose my mind, I let it get lost in thoughts of Wolf. And Ryan Reynold, Vladimir Putin, Hulk Hogan, and most members of the NBA.

#13 Writing On My Blog

People sometimes call their blogs “an outlet,” or a “place to vent their frustrations.” I think of my own blog as that, as well as a place to share my stories of every dip shit, asshole, douche-tart I come across so that you all may benefit from my wisdom in the ways of dealing with trailer trash jerk offs. And about parenting and being a shitty housewife. And stuff.

#14 Shitty Romantic Comedies and Episodes of Maury Povich

Good movies? Good movies that win awards? Good movies that are critically acclaimed? I typically hate those. But whenever I feel a bout of the crazies coming on, all I need to do is hunker down in my pajamas for a day with a romantic comedy marathon, coupled with Maury Povich paternity test episodes on YouTube, and I feel better.

#15 Making Fun Of My Husband

This goes along with my sense of humor. In my family growing up, we made fun of each other. Constantly. We still do. I maintain that this is – by far – the greatest gift my dearly departed grandparents gave to us, for we developed a thick skin to the world early on, and we learned that the best way to live life is to have fun. You know we love you if we make fun you, and as a result I rip on my husband nonstop.

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What keeps away your crazy, faithful blog followers? Are your things as mundane as mine? Or are they more meaningful or legitimate, like a prescription for antipsychotics?