The Day I Realized I Needed Help

December 10, 2015

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. 




  • Kristine Brite McCormick is mom to Cora, who passed away at five days old of undetected congenital heart disease. She lives in Indiana with her husband and two dogs. You can read more about Kristine and Cora at her blog.

    2 Comments

    • Charles Morris

      December 11, 2015 at 6:40 pm

      I have been learning about this topic for twenty eight years. My entry into the realm of grief, trauma and recovery occurred when my eight year old son and wife died. Since then I have raised my (at the time six year old) son Jeremy, written a book about this journey “we” are on and confronted every obstacle I have found so I can say from the deepest part of me that I am a happy person. I am mentioning the up side of my experience because I believe the hurdles of processing grief can be overcome. When I learned about the stages of grief I thought these unwanted roller coaster emotions(anger,depression,denial, acceptance) would drift away with time. I also learned that a very high percentage of spousal deaths result in the death of the survivor by a stress related disease within five years. I was in a life and death situation. My life was at stake and my ” new life” was about to unfold. I knew I had to get rid of the emotional toxins of grief. That’s when I discovered if I didn’t process my grief it would process me. As everyone who has suffered these condition knows, it seems impossible to deal with your loss. Confronting my toxic emotions was an unpleasant reminder and a mountain I did not think I could climb. The phrase ” when you are ready” became a big part of my recovery. I do not believe there is a linear time line for processing grief. For me, it became a pass/fail course. I was going to create a new life. I was determined my new existence woul be toxin free no matter how long it took. In that sense everyone has a unique and personal journey. This society is not presently built for recovery, it is focused on “moving on”. Over time I was able to function and process grief simultaneously. As we see in the healing and heartfelt posts at Still Standing.this is not a short term process. Treating yourself gently and with kindness seems an appropriate back drop for possibly our most important journey. This was about the rest of my life and the way I interacted with my community and my son Jeremy. As Kristine has said, get help and if you are so inclined, stay the course. Increased understanding and compassion were born from my seemingly impossible journey.
      In the beginning i was so consumed with my loss and the surrounding discomfort I never even thought about the trauma side of the event. Thankfully and without really knowing what I was doing I employed a healing process that gave me hope and some positive results during the initial stages of my journey. It wasn’t until I started to write my book that I was able to go back “in”and see if I had successfully purged the grief. Simultaneously I discovered I had some more work to do and that trauma had been a silent partner. I was happily disheartened, wishing the work was finished and happy that I had defined my final cobwebs. For those interested, “In an unspoken voice” by Peter Levine describes trauma and the challenges for restoring the body and mind to goodness. The most revealing discovery I experienced when studying trauma was it was not in the same arena as grief although both occurred at the same time. A different approach to dealing with the trauma was necessary for me.
      If all that I have described sounds like a lot of work, it was. But isn’t this about our lives and the precious time we have left. The courage and willingness of everyone who openly talks about this “taboo topic” can send a message of hope to everyone on this path and those who can only imagine this kind of tragedy. In kindness Charles Morris, author, Butterfly, The Journey from loss to Recovery

    • Elisabeth

      December 26, 2015 at 10:04 am

      Thank you for writing about this. Depression has been an on an off struggle for me. It didn’t strike when we lost our little girl at 16 weeks, but when we moved a few months later to a larger but darker house, seasonal depression came roaring back, exacerbated ten fold by her loss and the sense of defeat that I didn’t feel at the time of her death but I do now,
      Partly because it looks like we won’t be able to try again. Grief is nothing like depression for me. Grief is pain and roiling emotions. Depression is fog and bleakness. But grief can be a trigger for depression, and sometimes you need help with that. That’s ok, and it doesn’t invalidate your grief or anybody else’s, you just have to deal with it so you can get on with your grief.

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