*Please see Part 1 here:
PART 2 – THE LAB RAT YEARS
My DR tried to help me, but she also exploited me. She told me that because I had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, the likelihood of relapse was high and that, I would be on anti depressants for the rest of my life. I told her that if this is what my life was going to be, I didn’t want it. I wanted to die. I told her that my depression was making it difficult to work regularly I was not making enough money, and that I would now no longer to be able to afford the anti depressants. She responded by throwing me a bone. She said that there may be HOPE.. there’s that word again. She said that she knew of a study on depression going on at one of the hospitals, and that I was a *perfect* candidate for it. It was a chance to not only help myself but to possibly be able to help people in the future who were struggling as I was. She saw my vulnerability, and my hopelessness and used it to her benefit. If I *chose* to be in the study, all my medication would be paid for for the duration. She gave me the forms and sent me on my way. The study would make me miss more work because it was only run during the week, and the hospital itself was a 2hr bus ride from where I lived, but I wanted to feel better. I trusted that my DR was really working hard to help me deal with my depression. So I took a medical leave from work. That didn’t go over well at work because of all the time I had already taken off, but they allowed me the time. I look back on that time in my life, and I see the pattern clear as day. There I am, vulnerable, scared and needing desperately to find some help to (not manage – but overcome) my depression, and the “professionals” swoop in to tell me they know better, and I trust their assurances that everything will be all better if I just do this one *thing*.
Part of the study was group therapy. It was held in the psychiatric wing of the hospital, and there was me and about 20 or so people, both men and women in the group. One of the topics (each week was a different topic) was “what lead you to being diagnosed with depression?” and it went around the room. There were the more common abuse experiences, and down on their luck experiences, and traumatic event experiences (car crash, house fire), and everyone was so supportive, and empathetic. I was one of the last ones to answer.
“I became depressed after giving my son up for adoption.” There was a gaping heavy silence that filled the room. I looked at the floor. No one knew what to say. The counselor cleared her throat and said “that must have been a difficult choice for you” and another woman piped up and said “She could have kept her legs closed, I would never give away my flesh and blood.”
I learned again that day, that I couldn’t talk about my depression as a result of my sons adoption. I gritted my teeth and I stayed in the study until the end, never again talking about the real reason I was there. Again, I was in the wrong place.
I went back to my DR and told her of my experiences, and she had me sign a list of repeats (meds) for my time in the study. She was paid by the drug company, a “finders fee” for adding me to the study. So now I’ve gone from
Grieving mother…to Crazy, Mentally ill, and grieving mother…to medicated, Mentally ill, and grieving mother… to Medicated, Lab Rat, Mentally ill, and Grieving Mother. What gives? It didn’t stop there. For the next three years, She had me on drug cocktail after drug cocktail and at one point, had to write me a list of things to keep taking and their dosage, and things to stop taking and bring back to her. Drugs to help me sleep, drugs for anxiety, drugs for depression…it became very confusing. One time, I took one that I thought was still on my “here take this” list, and started having hallucinations. I went back to the DR and she looked at the list, and found she had “forgotten” to take one of the ones off the “here take this” list and put it on the “stop taking this” list. There was a drug interaction. Did I mention that the whole time this was happening I was holding down a full time job and doing childcare on the weekends?
The cycle of open adoption also continued. I visited with my son four times a year, for three hours each, and not a moment more. Each time, I would get anxious before the visit, be thrilled once I got there, have some quality time and fun with him, and then leave. I was always feeling numb by the time it was time to say goodbye. I couldn’t cry, or show anything but happiness. There was always the threat of being cut out of my sons life, and it was a threat I took seriously.
I held on during those dark years, and I don’t know how I did. My will? My determination? I kept researching, I kept reading, I kept learning. I would find some way to help me not just “live” with my depression, but to OVERCOME it. Ironically, it wasn’t a really popular thought in the medical community. They wanted me drugged. They wanted me silent. Whenever I asked my DR about the possibility of getting off the drugs, there would be the speech again about me having a relapse, but how could I really have a relapse, or overcome the depression if I wasn’t given the chance to go off the drugs? I had stopped taking everything except for anti depressants by this time. I wanted my life back. I wanted to not have to rely on meds to keep the depression at bay. I wanted to feel, but I was also scared to feel. My “out of control” feelings are what had gotten me into this mess in the first place.
I continued to work but my anxiety was making it difficult. Even though I had been told I was brilliant in my field, I never felt like I was doing a good job. I was constantly worried about my co workers, that I did something to offend them, or that I wasn’t pulling my weight. I would obsess on it. I would go above and beyond what was expected of me at work, but I never felt it was enough. I imagined my coworkers talking about me behind my back, and that kind of anxiety caused me many issues. I would wake up sick to my stomach with an ailment I couldn’t name, and as it got more and more out of control I lost more and more work. I went back to the DR and she diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder on top of the depression. She told me that switching my meds would be a good idea, and there was a new drug on the market (Effexor XR) that treated both depression and anxiety. I jumped on it.
Effexor XR really helped my mood and my anxiety, but the damage at work had already been done. My superiors had been talking while I was on one of my medical sick leaves (which in fact was a nervous breakdown due to all the stress I was under), and decided I could come back to work but only part time. The part time hours soon turned to a 2hr shift once a week (down from 37.5), and because I was in a union I got them involved on my behalf. They were prepared to go to court and sue for my lost wages due to discrimination because of mental illness. My employers backed down and gave me a hefty settlement to leave, so I did. Thanks to the union rep, I had a job at the school district within the next week making twice as much as I was at my previous job. It was the first time since the adoption anyone had stood up for me and I was humbled. It also inspired me to start fighting for myself again.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that depression is a common illness. It’s not something to be ashamed of, and it doesn’t mean you’re crazy just because it fits under the heading of mental illness. I could have saved myself alot of heartache and shame had I known that earlier on. One of the other things I have learned in the last year or so, is that depression in birthmotherhood is a given. If your one of those birthmothers who says you have never fought depression, I’m sure we would all like a side of whatever your DR is giving you!
My days in my new job were numbered, although I didn’t know it yet. I was still anxious, but I managed. I was just a few months in to my new job when I found out I was pregnant again. I went through alot emotionally being pregnant for the first time since the adoption. It was not an easy pregnancy, and that’s probably best saved for another post.
I was three months pregnant when I went to visit my son. I was excited to tell him that he was going to be a big brother. His amom didn’t show up to the visit, and the next visit they cancelled when I was about 7 months along. They avoided me my whole pregnancy. I was able to see him 2 months after having my daughter. I got a few pics of my two children together that visit, but the Amom avoided me the whole time. The second visit was when my daughter was almost 6 months old. That was the day the open adoption was closed, and I was pushed out of his life for having another child. (the exact quote was “You’ve had another child now, you don’t need to see him anymore”)
Over the next few days, weeks and months I died a little more inside every day. The only thing that kept me going was that I had to live for my daughter. Truth be told, I was so brokenhearted losing my son to adoption all over again, it compacted every bit of grief I had ever felt and added to the postpartum I was experiencing from having my daughter. I felt so guilty about not being completely present with her as she grew, and I felt like I was betraying him by enjoying parenting her. I just didn’t know what to do with myself anymore.