The day of my appointment with Dr. O’Connor marked a turning point in my life. It was the day that I received and filled the Zoloft prescription, not knowing the terrifying effects it would have on me. I sometimes wonder if I would have even had postpartum anxiety or depression if I hadn’t ever taken the Zoloft in the first place. Or, maybe the one dose I took sped up a process that was going to happen anyway. Maybe none of the above. I would torture myself with these thoughts in my darkest times. But the truth is that I’ll never know, and what happened is what happened.
But the universe never takes away without giving something in return. I truly believe that. It may not be what we wanted, and it may not be recognized at first, but in my heart, I believe that for every loss there is something that comes into our lives as a measure of balance. The most difficult part is to accept what comes to us, whatever fears or uneasiness are circling about.
That same day that Dr. O’Connor scratched out the Zoloft prescription, she also mentioned a local moms support group which happened to meet in the lobby of her office. She gave me a flyer and suggested that I call if I continued to feel anxious. I remember looking at the flyer and remembering that I had received the same one in the hospital with my check-out folder. At that time, I didn’t think much about the group. I was feeling incredible and had other things to occupy my thoughts. Now, three weeks later, I took the flyer with a different mindset. I had no idea what this group could offer to me, or even if I needed it, but I decided to call when I got home.
The window that opened to me that day, when I first called the warm line for Moms Supporting Moms, became my life line, the string that I held onto the same way that Bryce would wrap his arms around me on those first few days of preschool: Honest, a little desperate, and with trepidation. Although I was still a few days out from the true onset of my anxiety, I knew in my heart that something wasn’t right. Whatever made me call that day, I am and will always be thankful.
I’d never called a warm line before, and I expected someone to answer the phone. Instead, I heard a recorded message telling me to leave a message and that someone would call me back. I had no idea what to say. What exactly was going on? Butterflies in my stomach? A slight feeling of dread? More worry than normal? I paced outside on the front porch as my mother-in-law and her mother-in-law sat inside, completely unaware of what I had even gone to the doctor that day. I paced and recorded, then erased and re-recorded my message, until I finally got somewhere close to the truth.
The call I made that day was the first step on a winding road toward eventual peace and the reclamation of my mental health. I couldn’t have known that before the week was out, I’d have the bad luck to be the one in 7 women diagnosed with a maternal mental health illness. How I would convince myself that I shouldn’t have been allowed to take this perfect baby home, let alone care for him. How I’d end up weighing less than I did before I got pregnant so after, so weak I could barely get into a car. I didn’t know any of that, but that afternoon I did find out one thing: The name Andrea Bates. And that, it turns out, was all I needed to know.