I have always felt that the phrase “we can do hard things” is a little…cheesy. True, but with a side of gouda.
But today I did a hard thing that I didn’t even know was going to be a hard thing until I was staring down the barrel of a panic attack as the situation repeatedly punched me in the face.
A local hospital has signed on to be one of our sponsors for the Warrior Mom Conference (and I am legitimately thrilled they’re joining us despite my experience today. Cognitive dissonance.)
I was tasked with going to the hospital to interview someone in their behavioral health program to find out what they’re doing for moms with maternal mental illness. It should have been an easy enough task. Drive (an hour) to the hospital, ask a few questions, drive (an hour) home, and write up the interview.
That’s at least two hours in the car with Hamilton: An American Musical on blast and me pretending to be in the room where it happens now instead of in August.
But I just…didn’t want to do it. And not in the sense that I wanted to be lazy and do nothing (though re-entry IS hard and I did just get back from Mom 2.0).
I just felt overwhelmed and sad and I kept visualizing a little tiny me in my brain throwing an actual, honest-to-god, face-on-the-floor tantrum and my whole body felt like it was rebelling. That zappy, electrical feeling I get when my anxiety feels like I’m about to shoot lightning out of my fingers.
You know how sometimes you just have this nagging feeling in your guts that grows and grows and gnaws away at you and you just really, really don’t want to do something but you HAVE TO because it’s your job to do it and you agreed to do it and so there’s no backing out?
That’s where I found myself today. And then it hit me.
Going back into that hospital today would mark the first time I’ve ever stepped foot on any of its properties since the day I was discharged from the hospital following Joshua’s birth and everything just went to shit.
A literal and actual epiphany happened in my brain and suddenly I was crying and all the memories of laying there on that operating table alone while everyone talked about and around me but not TO me came pouring back in.
I remembered bouncing and walking and crying with my brand new baby at 4 in the morning just saying “I’m sorry…I’m so sorry…” over and over.
I remembered being alone in the recovery room while everyone else was down the hall meeting my baby. I remembered the doctor’s notes, “failure to progress,” and felt like a failure all over again, once more carrying the shame of that word–failure–on my shoulders.
But I went. I put on my pants and got in the car, my heart heavy the entire way. I circled the parking deck around and around and around. I walked across the bridge and let the automatic doors open in front of me and then I was inside.
I felt my breath grow shorter and my heart beat faster as we walked through the doors to Labor and Delivery toward the conference room where we would have our interview.
And then I told her.
“This is the first time I’ve returned to one of your hospitals since the c-section that led to my postpartum depression and anxiety. Today is really hard for me.”
She was sympathetic. She hated hearing my story and I could tell that she felt compassion for where I was and how I was doing in that moment.
I was glad for her compassion, but it didn’t help. Everything was too raw and fresh and hard.
I finished the interview and drove back home, that same sense of grief pressing into me, thoughts just coming rapid fire in my brain.
I have spent countless hours of my life helping other women learn how to move past their experience with postpartum depression, how to share their story until it doesn’t hurt to do it anymore and today my own experience just came flooding back to me.
I just keep thinking of lines to “Shake It Off” by Florence + the Machine.
Regrets collect like old friends, here to relive your darkest moments…all of the ghouls come out to play…I’m always dragging that horse around, all of his questions such a mournful sound…I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind, I can never leave the past behind…
It’s amazing how, 7 years out, the scars can still be ripped open, like the wounds never totally healed.
I’m better, but I’m not.
Tomorrow I will be. I hope.