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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Waltz of the Big Booty Bitches

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So on Saturday evening we were celebrating my birthday, a little early. I turn 31 on April 15th, but my dad is having hip replacement surgery next Friday and I’ll be spending most of April taking care of him. All we have is each other here, so we celebrated with a little Game Night with cake this past weekend. There were maybe 15 people there, including my mom.

I was walking into the kitchen to get myself a drink and my mom walked over to me.

Trailer Trash Mom:

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“So how much weight have you lost?”

Me:

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“I don’t know, mom … I don’t believe in using scales.”

Trailer Trash Mom:

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“Oh, well aren’t you just better than the rest of us big girls…”

First, thank you mom for implying that I am one of you “big girls.” And, to further imply that you think I used to be grossly overweight. To be fair, I weigh considerably less than my mother does. I may not be model-stick-thin, but I’m certainly no candidate for an obesity weight study either. My mom is a big booty bitch, and not in the way I’d use it as a term of endearment like with most girls deserved of the title. A Big Booty Bitch could be someone heavier; someone with just a big booty; or someone stick thin with a big heart. By contrast, my mom is overweight, like most mothers. She’s had periods where she was a lot heavier; and periods where she was a lot thinner. Like most women. She’s never been into dieting or exercising, though, so I’m not too sure why she gives so much of a shit about scales and weight tracking. Unless, of course, it’s just a facade to put people down and make herself feel better about her own physical appearance. I assume this is the case.

I didn’t give it too much of a thought until I read this article an HuffPost’s Facebook page today. It was about a poll they had done, inquiring whether or not weight gain was a justifiable excuse to divorce or commit adultery. I won’t go into the details of the article – you can gladly read it yourself if you are interested; I will not even respond to the opinion of the author (who I largely agreed with, actually).

I want to talk about the fact that we – as a culture – are even doing polls and having conversations about this.

Big Booty Bitches Respect the Sanctity of Marriage

(Not Physical Appearance)

One thing the article discussed was the double standard. If a man packs on pounds – for whatever reason – a woman should understand, and try to inspire him to get healthier. If a woman becomes a Big Booty Bitch from a weight perspective, we start discussing whether or not a man should feel justified to cheat on her, or divorce her big booty butt.

Perhaps the reason why we don’t even suggest this when a man’s previously firm areas begin to jiggle is because the Big Booty Bitches respect the sanctity of marriage, rather than a person’s physical appearance. I mean, I would never consider cheating on my husband because he packed on a few pounds. I further would probably only talk to him about it if it became a health concern; and even then, I would try to influence him with the meals I cook and the actions I, myself, take, rather than inflict the emotional harm that a conversation beginning with “hey, you’re kind of becoming a fat fuck…” can cause.

Because of the sanctity of marriage, it doesn’t even enter my mind to consider that it might be justifiable to even discuss options like divorce or cheating. Your vows say “…for better, or for worse…” for a reason.

Big Booty Bitches Are Faithful

(In Ways Other Than Staying Faithful)

Faithful is more than just not cheating. It’s not considering leaving or straying when the going gets tough.

To suggest that we should consider the acceptability (or lack thereof) for divorce or cheating because a person gains weight implies a lot. One is that all people who rapidly gain weight are doing so because they are lazy shits that do nothing but watch TV. This is just not the case – there can be many, many health reasons (physical, medicinal, and mental) why people put on weight. Two is that if a person’s physical appearance changes in any way, that now we should talk about whether or not it’s OK to abandon ship. This would be to say that if a man gets ball cancer, and a woman thinks a man with only one ball is unattractive sexually, she would be justified in divorcing him. Big Booty Bitches would never consider this, though, because sexuality and physical appearance is about a microcosm of what makes up a marriage and a happy life together.

As was the case with the “…for better, or for worse…” there was also a vow “…in sickness, and in health…”

Big Booty Bitches Do Not Find Divorce or Infidelity an Option

(On Most Matters)

When I walked down the aisle, I didn’t think to myself “well, I can always get divorced.” When my husband started acting like a jerk to me because he wanted me to give up my Ph.D. program, and stay in California, I didn’t say to myself “I’ll just go fuck someone else.” That isn’t the way marriage works.

If every time something didn’t go our way, we ran out and screwed our milk man or filed for divorce, we’d have a high divorce rate in this country. Oh wait, we do. Is it because things genuinely don’t work out? Or is it because people consider divorce and infidelity an option from the get go? While there are many instances in which a couple truly tries and tries, or one person has issues that make trying an impossibility, and it doesn’t work; there are also so many people in this country right now who will abandon ship for any old reason. I know a lot of them.

For myself, I don’t believe that divorce is an option, nor infidelity. Maybe it’s the Catholic in me, that has some backwards religious views engrained into my soul. Or maybe it’s because I take a commitment seriously, and don’t just bail when the going gets tough.

I took my vows seriously, and the fact that our culture has become so superficial and material so as to even enter into this discussion about weight gain sickens me to my very core. It makes me want to spew vomit everywhere, and on everyone. Marriage and relationships are about so much more than sex and being perfect for each other. In fact, I always thought they were about the ability to be imperfect and still be loved. What a crazy world we live in where this no longer seems to be the case.

Oh Mama

My mother and I pictured right

This will neither be the first, nor the last, time that I blog about my mother.  It’s no secret:  my mother lives an interesting lifestyle (and by interesting I, of course, mean insane).  In twenty-nine years she has given me one bizarre scenario after another:  from crazy boyfriends that claim they’re going on tour with Madonna, to setting me up on a date with a bartender when I was only sixteen.  Today’s phone call did not fail to meet the bar she has set up until this point.

Around 12:30 this afternoon, as I was rushing out the door, I received a phone call from her wherein she announced that this morning her boyfriend and she went down to the courthouse near his trailer in New Mexico and got married.

There are a myriad of reasons why this is a problem.  To start, she’s known the guy for roughly nine months, although every time I have mentioned that to her she reminds me that they both grew up in the same area so “essentially have known each other all along.”  Of that nine months, my mother has spent roughly six actual weeks with him, physically (the remainder of the relationship being over the telephone).  He told me six months ago that he was going to visit his daughter at school in Texas, only for him to reveal to everyone last week that he really had not communicated with any of his four daughters in over twelve years.  But it gets worse.  Since he and my mother met, he has “intended” on selling his home in New Mexico, but one debacle after another comes up, including a scene where the real estate agent reportedly punched out the guy at the bank of a prospective buyer; right now the story is that the real estate agent is in jail for an unrelated offense.  The crowning glory of the lies this guy has told was when he announced to everyone in my mother’s family that he was diagnosed with malignant cancer.  When I questioned a few things he said (mainly that his doctor supposedly said it would be alright to continue smoking two packs of cigarettes a day), three hours later he “miraculously” received a phone call with the news that his biopsy had incorrectly shown a malignant cancer, and it was really just a bacterial infection that a five-day course of Zithromax would clear up.  The line between fact and fiction with this guy is beyond blurry, so quite obviously my response to the whole situation of them getting married earlier today can be summed up in something I said to a friend in response:  I don’t know if I should be sending her a card or staging an intervention.  

So that’s the update on my mother, now to the relevance of it all.  In previous times that I have blogged about my mother, people have given me mixed responses.  Some have said that the candid humility I share my life’s story with is humbling.  This I consider a compliment:  my experiences with my mother and the characters she involves herself with are truly dysfunctional; to hide them would be to do nothing more than contribute to that very dysfunction.  For every time my mother has done something nice for me, she has followed that up with ten steps of hurt.  From abandoning me when I was ten, to exposing me to sex way earlier than any kid should be exposed; from stealing money and things from me, to spreading lies within her family about me and my contribution to her hardships – my mother has run me and my family through the gamut.  Talking about things that have happened is by far the healthiest thing a person can do in a situation like this.  And, anyway, beyond finding solace in honesty, if my mother didn’t want people to be talking about the things she does, well faithful blog followers, then she shouldn’t have done them.

But there has been another type of response to the blogs I have written about my mother, specifically more negative ones.  Some have said that I have gone against the very essence of a family’s value; that in a family these things happen and you just deal because it’s family.  Others have said that I owe my mother life and for that she can lie, cheat, steal, scandalize, abuse, use, and abandon me and my family all she wants.  On the day of my mother’s wedding, when she has ignored the advise of others and yet still expected them to come to her aid, I think now is the time to address these more negative responses.

One person said that I “should be ashamed to spread the business” of my mother around “like she’s anyone other than the person that gave me life.”  In response to that I simply reiterate that I carry myself with the utmost level of honesty that I can, so to lie about it would be against the very fabric of who I am.  To further that, I would have to argue that financially, physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually, I have repaid my mother for the life she gave me about fifty times over.

Another person responded that “one day” I will “regret such hostility towards her,” to which I question exactly where anyone finds hostility in honesty?  Here is where the real lesson comes in:  somewhere, somehow, our society morphed into this family-values-loving culture that defines everything by what is right for the family, rather than what is right for the betterment of our souls.  There are so many dysfunctional situations out there, in so many families, that are simply glossed over or turned a blind eye to merely for the sake of preserving the family.  And while it’s true that the reason why I continue to tolerate my mother’s shenanigans, time and time again, is because she is family, at some point I most certainly will say that enough is enough.  I will not regret it, either; in fact, no one should regret making the decision to be honest and true to themselves and their happiness.  There’s an old saying:  “some of the worst people I know are members of my family.”  I think this applies to a lot of familial situations and to stand by and let it go on is one of the most morally reprehensible things a person can do.

There are a lot of things in this world that are wrong and it is only in our refusal to confront those things head-on that they continue to persevere.  It’s time for everyone to stand up to the bad mothers, the emotionally distant fathers, the dysfunctional cousins, the rumor-mongering siblings, and every other injustice that they see happening on a daily basis in their every-day lives.  Blog about it, write about it, Tweet about it – whatever it is you need to do to prevent yourself from becoming no better than them.  That is the real lesson to be learned here, faithful blog followers:  in truth and what is right, rather than in lies and what is proper, is where we find our salvation.