You probably don’t remember me. It’s been almost 2 years since I had my first and only appointment with you. I was the single mother who came to you for help with my postpartum depression. My son was about to turn one, and my husband and I had just separated a couple weeks earlier. My self esteem was at an all-time low and I had never felt more alone in my life. I came to you because I knew there was a better life, and while I wanted so badly to be there, I did not want to move. I wanted to be prescribed a pill that would make the pain cease, that would make me suddenly be normal. I wanted a quick and simple solution to a very complicated, lifelong problem.
I promised myself I would be as honest about my symptoms as I could without sending up any red flags that would cause me to be hospitalized. This aching inner desire to hide the depths of my depression should have been a sign to me that things were far worse than I was willing to admit to myself. Instead I ignored those signs as I’d learned to ignore all my deepest fears. To this point I had spent my entire life reassuring myself that it wasn’t that bad, that I was just broken and weird, that I couldn’t change myself or fix this problem because this is just who I was. When things took a turn for the worse I told myself it was postpartum depression and it would all blow over. I told myself I could see a doctor, take a pill, and go back to being just “regular” depressed.
Why did I reach out to you, a general practitioner? Why not a psychiatrist or a therapist? The truth is that change is scary, and help is hard to ask for. Going to a psychiatrist would have meant that my problems were too big for me to fix alone, and I had spent my entire life trying to solve my problems on my own. I’d seen a therapist before, but I had never tried medication and the idea of it was so overwhelming and terrifying to me. I sought familiarity and indulged my aching desire to cling to the status quo. I went to a general practitioner because I was fine. Really. I was just having a hard time.
My visit to your office began like any other. My blood pressure and temperature were taken. I was weighed and my height was recorded. I even had my blood drawn to rule out any underlying diseases that could cause depressive symptoms. It was when you began to ask me questions that things took a turn. I mentioned my recent separation but did not mention the emotional abuse that had led me to this point. I mentioned my postpartum depression but did not mention the PTSD I experienced while breastfeeding. I mentioned that I had a difficult time getting myself out of bed, but did not mention that sometimes I would stay in bed for hours letting my son cry because I simply did not have the will to move.
Suddenly, there I was experiencing one of the biggest and most important turning points in my life- completely unaware of the weight of this moment.
You interrupted me and I thought it was a bit rude. You told me it was not okay that I couldn’t get myself out of bed, and I was a bit offended. You insisted that this was a symptom of a much larger scope of depression and that I needed real help. I was terrified and argued in what was barely a whisper that I was fine. Really. I was just having a hard time. Not only did you not believe me, but you refused to allow me to believe myself. I didn’t have much fight left in me at that point and you finally broke me by telling me you would only write me a prescription for an antidepressant if I agreed to be evaluated by the local mental health facility.
I agreed, expecting you to pull out your pad and scribble some numbers and go about your day, trusting that I would go home and schedule an appointment. Instead you dialed the number for me on my cell phone and handed it back to me, then stood next to me while I called to schedule the appointment. You stood by me while I answered a few basic questions and reassured me that this was only an evaluation, and that it was free, and that I was going to be okay. It’s strange and sad to admit that no one had ever done this for me before. I can’t say that no one cared enough, but I don’t think anyone ever really knew how to help me or felt that it was appropriate. I had never been forced to examine and face my depression while someone literally stood over me making sure I got help and understanding that my depression was so bad I would not be able to seek that help for myself.
I left your office feeling an odd blend of utter defeat and minor victory. I somehow found the courage to actually show up to my intake evaluation a few days later, where I lied my way out of an inpatient stay and instead opted for partial inpatient treatment. I worked out an arrangement with my husband for him to keep our son while I did this for myself. I felt like the worst mother in the world for that, but for the first time I really had the opportunity to change and get help for these problems that had been quietly eating at me for decades. My attendance was spotty at best but I eventually completed my program and began seeing a psychiatrist and therapist regularly.
Over time I have built myself and my life back up. I’m still so far from where I want to be, but I have made great strides. I fall into depressive states that seem all encompassing, and I remind myself of where I was before I met you and you changed my life. Seeing how far I’ve come reminds me of how far I can go. Learning to accept my depression and all of its ugly faces has pushed me to find inner peace. Some days I still have trouble getting out of bed, but I have learned to celebrate the days where I do not. I have learned to reward myself for crawling out of bed, no matter the time, because life is hard and the courage it takes to get up and face it every day deserves recognition.
I have not seen you since that appointment. I can’t imagine returning to your office for another visit and trying to express my gratitude for this profound impact you’ve made in my life. Something you probably don’t remember has changed not only my future but also my son’s, and for that I will always be grateful. Perhaps one days I will find the courage to send you this personally. Until then I want to say thank you to everyone out there who has truly helped someone who did not know how to help themselves.