Thursday, August 22, 2013

Here We Go Again Part 2

When we last left this saga, I did indeed go back to Dr. H.  To this day, I regret that decision.  His demeanor at my visit the next day was one of joyous frivolity, gosh, wasn't I happy that I had such good results?

Never once did he apologize for his part in this error, but he did place blame where he felt it was entirely due, onto the hapless ultrasound technician, who 'didn't have adequate training' and who was clearly 'inept'.  She was going to be given a firm reprimand and/or lose her job if he had anything to do with it.

"I can only diagnose with the tools I have at hand, and the ultrasound measurements the technician provided clearly showed the fetus to be at 12 weeks gestation.  Therefore there is no error on my part, you understand," he said, with a broad smile on his face.   "Now we can move forward and retest again in a few weeks."

I told him there would be no need, since my new friend, the Ob-gyn, Dr. S. assured me that his office would handle the next test.  This took Dr. H aback a bit, his puffed up attitude slipped ever so slightly and he said he was a bit saddened to hear this, but if I felt it was absolutely necessary to involve Dr. S, he would be fine with my decision.

 I could tell he wasn't 'fine' with it, in fact I know the very thought Dr. S was going to be basically supervising this pregnancy was a decided thorn in his side. After the chewing out Dr S had given Dr. H over the phone in my presence, I could tell his fake veneer of confidence wasn't as perfectly polished as before.

I would have had more respect for him as a physician and as a person if he would have apologized to me for his mistake instead of passing the buck to the ultrasound tech.  I know doctors are constantly at risk of being sued for malpractice and part of the reason our health care system is so exorbitantly priced is due to the lawsuits and the insurance doctors must carry to protect themselves financially.  But a simple and sincere apology would have done a much better job of soothing my anxiety than his arrogant placing the blame on someone else.  After all, if Dr. S could simply look at me and believe my account of my due date, why couldn't Dr H have listened in the first place when I repeatedly told him I was only two months along?

Oh, well.  I know.  Let it go.  And I did.  Thankfully, the pregnancy went along smoothly, though in the back of my mind, doubt lingered.   On the last day of June, 1990, David made his entrance into the world.  Like all new mothers, I counted each precious finger and toe and sobbed with relief that he was finally here, safe and sound and perfectly healthy. 

A different doctor had attended the birth, since Dr. H was on vacation.  I wasn't sad about that.  By this time I had been seeing Dr. H for four years, both as my general practitioner and Joel's doctor, too.  I know doctors see a lot of people in their practice, but wouldn't you think they would kinda sorta remember faces just a wee bit, or at least check the chart before they come into the hospital room?  I mean, I don't expect the man to remember what my pet cat's name is or anything, I'm not that silly.

But the morning David was born, Dr. H appeared on his rounds.  He came into the room, all smiles, and congratulated us on our new bundle of joy.

"Marge, congratulations!  Let's see the new baby!  Sorry I missed your delivery, but I hear it went just fine.  And I cannot get over how good you look for being a first time Mom!"

Um, well, I wasn't a first time mom, he'd been seeing me as my GP for five years and Joel for four years, but I thought, ok, he's a busy guy, I guess.  I did tell him my name wasn't Marge and this was Baby Number Two but he didn't really seem to hear me.  

I wasn't depressed after Dave's birth, which was a blessing. I was very, very tired, but then who isn't at that time?  Dr. H came back one more time the next day before we were discharged from the hospital and wouldn't you know, he still called me by the wrong name and once again, complimented me on my composure as a first time mother.  Carl was there with little four year old Joel, too.  Carl looked at me quizzically but I didn't attempt to correct him again.

All you can say is, "Oh," and let it go.

Things went along swimmingly for a few months but the fatigue was ever-present.  Dave was a very easy baby to care for, almost too easy, for he slept through the night nearly a month after coming home.  I was getting adequate rest, but upon waking every morning I felt as if I'd never slept at all.  I was anxious, moody, and depressed.

After two years,  I was feeling awful.  I talked to Dr. H about my symptoms one more time which in the previous two yearly physicals were still brushed off as new mom-itis.  I had two young children, of course I'm tired, try relaxation, etc.  You're normal.  All your blood tests look fine, except for my cholesterol levels, which were borderline.  Here is a new low-fat diet.  And I should lose weight. As for the depression, maybe you just take life too seriously. Would you like to start on an antidepressant? 

I declined.  Ok, I just had to get myself in hand and start watching my diet.  I can do this. 

But I couldn't.

I was well aware I wasn't a Special Snowflake and that other people had it much harder than me, I wasn't holding down a full-time job or running marathons, but I felt completely overwhelmed by everything.  My emotions were all over the place, from high to low, I was so miserable.  I knew it was getting worse when I couldn't summon up any enthusiasm for anything, even gardening. 

Carl and I had been  attending the local garden walks for years and always looked forward to seeing the beautiful yards on display.  But I was now in a spot where I didn't really want to leave the house anymore.  I had horrible, panicky feelings and the only place I felt safe was home.   I told Carl I didn't think I could handle going on the annual garden walk that year, but he encouraged me.  I know he was worried and I felt guilty for letting him down, so we went.  It was a hot day in July and I could barely walk down the street.  I felt so useless.  I was only 34 years old and creaking along like a little old lady. The headaches were now with me twenty four hours a day.

The last straw was ironically, at the Hamburger Parade in our little town of Seymour in August of 1992, a few weeks after the garden walk.  We were seated in our favorite spot on Main Street and both six year old Joel and two year old Dave were having a good time watching the floats and tractors going by. 

Out of the blue, I started to cry.  Not loud wailing or anything, but the tears started to fall and I could not stop them.  My greatest fear was coming true, I was losing my mind in public.  I made an excuse to Carl, told him to finish watching the parade with the boys, and beat a retreat to the car.  There I sobbed uncontrollably over nothing.  I was so sick and tired of being sick and tired. 

When we got home, I still couldn't stop crying.  Carl and our little boys were worried, my mother came down to see me and was scared, too.  Even my father came in the house to talk to me, and for the life of me, I couldn't pull myself together.  I loved my dad, but I feared him, too, and he hated to see any show of emotion.  His mantra my entire childhood was, "Stop your crying or I'll give you something to cry about," so at a young age I learned to stuff any display of emotions, especially negative.  But there I sat, a 34 year old woman, bawling in front of my father who was thoroughly disgusted. 

"What is wrong with you?" he asked, highly exasperated. 

"I don't know," I blubbered. 

"Well, there must be something wrong, stop that right now!  You don't want people to think you're a nut, do you?  What are you bawling about, anyway?"

I cried harder and shook my head.  I had no idea what was wrong with me and no words to express the feelings. 

Dad left in disgust, shaking his head in derision.   I was now in the dog house with him, too.

I was amazed at my bravery in his presence, and yet also more worried than ever for my sanity.  I hadn't stopped crying even though I was commanded to.  There must really be something wrong with me.

 Dad had issues with depression of his own, though we never talked about it.  He medicated his demons with alcohol, but his mood swings were wide and rapid.  I saw alcohol as a blessing, not as a curse.  He was usually always jolly when he was drinking.  It was the sobriety that was hell.   I spent my childhood walking on eggshells around him, gauging his mood to see how I should act and feel.  He had a violent temper but what was worse was his usage of the Silent Treatment to punish my mother and me. 

Dad could go silent for up to and over a week or more, acting hurt and stiff, pretending we did not exist.  As a kid, I had no idea what I'd done wrong, and tried to win his affection, but the rejection was cold and swift.  I learned at a very young age to walk a wide berth around him when he was in a mood.  Sometimes, he would talk to my mother but not to me.  That was the worst, because being completely ostracized was pure pain for me.   My mere presence in his vicinity when he was angry with me rankled him, his body posture and abrupt leaving a room if I walked in was horrible.  As I grew older, I still had to work with him on the farm when he was giving me the cold shoulder, and there were times he put me in physical danger due to his contempt.  I felt abandoned over and over again.  He never got over his use of the Silent Treatment, either, carrying on with it for the rest of his life. 

 I grew up to become a humongous, anxiety-ridden People Pleaser and true chameleon as a result, always trying to be accommodating and pleasant, but also very shy.  I made it a habit to stay in the shadows and the background, hoping against hope that no one would notice me.  If someone stepped on my toe by accident, I apologized to them, because it was obviously my fault my toe was in their way.  To this day, there are still people I graduated high school with who didn't even remember seeing me in school.  I guess that's why Dr. H called me Marge?  See, I was doing a good job being a chameleon.   I did a lot of roaming around the farm at night after dark.  Darkness has always felt like a comforting cloak to me.  No one can see me, no one can criticize. 

So there I was, a blubbering mess.  I felt like such a self-pitying fool, I had a good life, there was no reason to be depressed.  I was certain it must be a mental illness.  Knowing I wouldn't get anywhere with Dr. H, I finally located the number in the Yellow Pages for the Crisis Center.   I have had no experience before or since with any Crisis hotline, but I figured what did I have to lose?  My mind was already well on it's way down the road.

I remember the conversation so well, the lady on the other end of the phone was wonderful.  She asked me my name and through my stuffed up nose and recurrent breakthrough sobs, I managed to spell it for her.  She asked me what was wrong.

"I don't know.  I'm at the end of my rope.  I can't stop crying, I don't feel like life is worth living."

"Are you suicidal?" she asked.  "Have you had thoughts of harming yourself?"

For some reason, this question struck me as funny (I told you I was losing my mind) and I half-heartedly laughed.

"Yes, I have had thoughts of ending it all," I said, "but the effort involved in finding a way to actually kill myself seems like way too much work right now.  I'm just too tired."

She seemed to take heart at that statement, and asked if there was anyone else there with me.  Carl talked with her and assured her I wouldn't be alone until they could see me the next morning. 

"We're setting up an appointment for you to meet with a psychiatrist, Dr. T at 8:00AM tomorrow morning.  I am sorry this is happening to you, but once you see him, I guarantee you, you'll feel SO much better, dear," the lady said.  "If you are feeling worse and don't think you can make it through the night, please call 911.  We look forward to seeing you tomorrow."

I wasn't sure.


Pamela Gordon said...

This is so interesting Karen. I'm so sorry you went through all this and am anxious to hear the outcome at that point in your life. You should get your doctor to read this. He might understand better. Thanks for sharing. Hugs, Pam

africanaussie said...

gosh what a horrible time you went through.