The Day I Realized I Needed Help
Please, as always, seek professional advice and talk to a doctor if you have questions or concerns about mental health. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, pick up the phone now and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.
The first day at my new job as a newspaper reporter in my small hometown, I lifted the stack of faxed obituaries from the local funeral homes, leaned the top one against my monitor and opened a new Word document to transcribe and edit it. The obit was for a newborn.
I felt my stomach turn to knots. I saw flashes of Cora in a casket. Cora’s dead skin. I relived her funeral. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t think. I wanted out of there. I wanted it to end.
I took a bit of a walk, and calmed myself down. Drudge work like retyping obituaries is part of the job for small-town newspaper writers. For me, it was what I imagine fireworks must be like for a war veteran.
Three days I felt a little anxious when I went to work, just a general type of anxiety. When the faxed obituaries started finding their way to my desk, I picked one up, and suddenly time slowed. My mouth dried. My stomach clenched. I was there. I was at Cora’s funeral. I wanted to cry and scream. I couldn’t take it. Not again.
I picked up my purse and tried to at least look calm until I found the nearest door away. As soon as I hit a long, empty hallway that lead outside, I ran.
I had to get away.
I had a problem.
Days after Cora’s death, my OB asked me to come into her office. “It’s like you went to war,” she said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if you have PTSD issues.”
I shrugged it off. First of all, I hated the war reference. Nothing is like going to war, just like nothing is like your baby dying.
Second of all, PTSD seemed like one of those “syndromes of the month,” that somehow everyone had. Something that didn’t seem like anything that needed much help, like having a little depression or something.
I was so wrong about all of it. After my whole run away from the third day of a job I really wanted episode, I knew I needed some help.
Here’s where I’ll insert a huge disclaimer; I’ve hesitated to write about this for so long. The medical community and society as a general sometimes wants to act like grief is abnormal or a medical condition. It absolutely is not. I am writing my experience not because I think most of you will have compounding mental health issues, but because I think it needs to be talked about for the small amount of us that do. My PTSD, depression and anxiety issues are not about my grief. I had depression and anxiety before. I did develop PTSD because of my daughter’s death, but please know that grief is perfectly normal, even though it really sucks and feels like you’ll lose your mind.
In this loving and wonderful community, I think much has been written about the horrible treatment some moms have had by medical professionals and misguided but well-intentioned friends and family dealing with the after effects of grief, pushing pills down your throat, or telling you to, “Get help.” Only a true, and well-trained behavioral help expert can make that judgement. Don’t let Dr. General practitioner or Aunt Makes You Feel Bad push you into think you’ve got issues.
Back to my experience and why I felt drawn to come out of my semi-blogging retirement to talk about this, I got help and I feel much better. Not healed. Not all better. More work to be done. I talked to someone. We did targeted therapy with breathing work, exposing me to so-called “triggers,” and I got on medication. It was so hard, and it is so hard.
If you need help or if you wonder, there are baby loss mamas out there like you. I’m one of them. It’s okay to ask. It’s okay to talk about.
It doesn’t mean one of us loved our babies more because we developed a mental health thing. It’s not a competition. Most of it is a, “My brain chemistry and genes combined to make me all whacked out thing.”
You are not alone.
You are loved.
You will get through today.
If you ever need to talk, need help or wonder about anything, just ask. Ask for a second opinion.
I’m surviving PTSD because of one hot day in August, 2014 when I realized what I was experiencing was not normal. I’ll write more about my experience in the future and hope we can dive deeper into some of the mental health conditions that might arise, become worse, or change after losing your baby. I also hope we can all remember grief is not a mental illness, and find a way to talk about this in a way that helps everyone.
Again, I am far from a medical professional, or any kind of expert, and this is not medical advice.