Reflecting on Mental Health

October 10th was World Mental Health Day, a day to bring awareness to mental health and end stigma around treatment. Important in a normal year, 2020 has magnified all of the ways that people can struggle with mental health. Isolation, fear, anxiety… all of these have been brought to the forefront for people who may not have had any issues with mental health Before Pandemic, and have heightened responses from those that do.

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Acceptance of the New Normal

2020-04-14 Acceptance of the New Normal

Photo by Matt Sclarandis on Unsplash

Day 32 of our confinement to our home.  The days have now turned into a predictable rhythm of remote learning assignments from the elementary school, juggling work and a toddler, endless dishes and laundry, and time in our backyard if the weather cooperates.  We do telehealth appointments with doctors when needed, FaceTime with family, and Zoom meetings for church.  I text constantly to stay connected, but it isn’t the same.  I miss playdates, going to the museum or zoo, Starbucks, and dinners with my friends. Continue reading

The Last Thing I Did “Before”

2020-04-01

Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash

Everything happened so quickly in a matter of days in March.  As the news from Seattle grew more serious, with large tech firms ordering their employees to stay home, major sporting events, theaters, and other gatherings announced their closure.  “Social Distancing” became a term we all knew.  Various states began to put in place their own measures.

Yesterday I tried to remember: What was the last thing I did “before”?

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Knowing When Something is Off

2020-03-05 Knowing When Something is Off

Photo by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, I felt like my heart was racing and I could not get calmed down.  I know the exact date: February 14th.  Valentine’s Day.  The day after Iris’s birthday.

Ger and I had spent part of the day in Chicago, having lunch.  On the drive back out to the suburbs, I felt it.  Like I could not catch my breath.  It was odd, since I had no reason to be upset or nervous – in fact, we had just spent a lovely morning together.  I brushed it off, wondering if perhaps I was getting sick. Continue reading

The Language About What Happened

2019-11-16 The Language About What Happened

Photo by LoboStudio Hamburg on Unsplash

In marriage therapy this week, Ger and I were talking about a confluence of events that started in 2016.  To describe the precipitating event, Ger said “It began after she had… her medical issues.”  He made a gesture with his hand to imply “you know what I’m talking about.”

I turned to him sharply and said, “You can say the words.  Our daughters died.  This all started after our daughters died.”

He gave a half-correction in saying “Yes, that was it” before continuing on to discuss what he had wanted to discuss – which wasn’t their deaths, but rather a series of cascading decisions that happened after.

Later, we sat in a restaurant for lunch.  It has become our ritual to have a lunch date after our monthly check-in with the therapist.  As we sat across from each other in the restaurant that was slightly too cold, dipping bread into olive oil, I asked “Why did you use those words – a ‘medical issue’?”

He shrugged a bit “What should I say?”  It was a genuine question.

“Our daughters died,” I replied.  “Our therapist knows this.  We weren’t talking to a stranger in passing where it would be hard to tell the entire story in a matter of seconds.  To reduce it to a ‘medical issue’… we have to be able to say those words.  Especially to each other.”

He nodded.  “Ok, I’ll say that next time.”  And I knew he would.

But to me, his choice of words still showed how he tries to keep a degree of removal from what happened to us.  He supports me endlessly, and fills our home with birds and trees – knowing that these represent out daughters, lights candles, and goes to the pregnancy loss Walk.  He cried with me and knows what impact this had on our marriage and family.

Yet, over four years later, he still says “that medical issue.”

I didn’t check into the hospital to have my gall bladder removed.  I checked into Labor and Delivery.  That place where most moms labor for hours and hear a baby’s cries at the end for their efforts.  I had pitocin, an epidural, only ice chips, and a long wait.  An OBGYN and nurse would check on me regularly.  And though I declined, I was given the option to hold my daughters after they were born.  When I left the hospital, it was in a wheelchair, as with most moms after they have given birth.  Except I was not holding my baby.

Later that night, we were watching the final episodes of season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale.  The show is intense, so I can’t watch it alone.  The storyline revolves around mothers who are separated from their children in many ways: both at birth, and from older children.  In the formation of this dystopian world, one high-ranking official comments in the episode that those in power overlooked “mental health and maternal love.”

As we watched the harrowing decisions that one mother makes in an effort to be reunited with her child, Ger commented, “Why would she risk so much?”

I hit the pause button and turned to him.  “Because.  Otherwise she will never see her child again.  A piece of her is missing.”  My voice broke a bit.  “I know what that’s like – to never see my child again and every day wonder what would have been.”

He took my hand and kissed it as tears slid down my cheeks.