So. I went to the doctor and based on my complaints he was thinking gallbladder with a side of thyroid. Off I went to the lab and suffered the usual indignities: I had to refrain from asking the phlebotomist who shook worse than Loma Prieta if he’d logged enough time on his orange before graduation. I got a nice hematoma as a reward for my patience. And my ultrasound tech, while cheerful and lovely in every way, was a student. I think they must have drilled them in class not to be afraid of really getting in there with the wand, because she was merciless. My pancreas is now likely embedded deep within my liver due to her exuberant probing. I was on the table for an hour. An hour.
My follow-up appointment was today, and the good news is my labs and ultrasound were all unequivocally normal. The not-as-good news is that I’m likely having either a long-winded virus or an IBS flare or both, either of which will go away in their own sweet time. Prescription: rest. Oh ha ha ha. But then a strange thing happened. “Let’s talk about depression,” my doctor said.
Me: blank stare.
Him: steady gaze.
Me: uncomfortable hemming and hawing.
Him: steady gaze.
Me: sudden tears leaking quietly everywhere.
He talked about how some people are genetically predisposed to depression (check) and how sometimes things happen in our lives that can cause situational depression (two deaths in the family, child’s health scare, unemployment, marital strife, hmm, I’d say that’s a check) and how especially, when those things combine, the depression becomes a steep-walled crater that is very, very difficult to climb out of. And then he offered me a rope. He suggested that I take that rope. And he handed it to me, and on the rope was the word Prozac.
I’ve thought about it before, medication, and I do take Xanax on occasion when anxiety gets the best of me. But something about going on a steady diet of anti-depressants feels, in a way, to me (and let me be clear, I judge no one else for whatever psych meds they take), like succumbing. Like saying I give up, I can’t do this anymore. I’m too tired. It’s too hard. Like my kid gets about her homework. Like it’s, I don’t know, trivial, but I’m just not applying myself. I also worry that by taking the pills I’m somehow negating my blessings. That I’m pathological in my inability to enjoy and appreciate my children, my home, my privileged life of organic food and a car to drive and shelter and school. And when I say pathological, I think I mean spiritually pathological: that it is a fault, a lack, deep in my psyche, that I could fix if I truly wanted to, if I really tried.
Several of you very kindly twittered with me this evening and reassured me that it’s ok, there’s no shame in needing help to manage these things, that you take pills too. I’m so grateful for the support, and I’m going to keep checking in with you about this, because I need that support and reassurance, and I need it from people like me — mothers, writers, people who understand this life of domestic drudgery and the angst of trying to meet internal and external parenting standards and identity crises and baby blues and all the rest. I’m going to talk to people in my “real” life also: my parents, my sister, my best friend, because I need that part of me who is in the physical world to also own up to and get over these feelings of inadequacy and shame. I’m going to find a therapist, because even though I feel like I have already done so much therapy, clearly there is so much more.
But here’s the even weirder thing: I start my new job next week. Yes, I am once again gainfully employed, doing something I think I will love in a company whose mission I believe in and with hours that will still allow me to pick my kids up from school. My morale immediately shot up when I got the offer, and I’ve been buzzing ever since. So, as my husband wondered, do I even really need antidepressants now? Will I be happier and more fulfilled working outside the home and being a contributor and a person of tangible value? (And, please, do not for a minute think I think SAHMs/WAHMs don’t have tangible value, merely that sometimes they — I — don’t feel validated. There is a difference!)
I don’t know. I certainly don’t want to start crazy-head meds my first day of work and turn into some seemingly coked-out free-associating chatterbox of nonsense or pass out altogether (have you read the list of side effects for Prozac? I wish I hadn’t). So I may wait. But looking at this piece of paper, this prescription, and remembering the stealthy flood of tears that came in the doctor’s office . . . I think they were tears of relief. I think I was ready for someone to throw me a rope, and to climb up into the world again.