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”?
By Friday the 13th of March, we entered into our first full day of social distancing. One day before that, we saw the writing on the wall and went to a grocery store to stock up on supplies – slightly ahead of panic setting in to the general population. But what was the last “normal” thing I did outside of the house?
Earlier in March, I could tell that I felt off. I finally went to my primary care provider, who gave me a temporary prescription for Xanax. I let her know that I intended to follow-up with an individual therapist. My new therapist also referred me to a psychiatrist who would be able to prescribe ongoing meds.
I saw a psychiatrist once, many years ago. It was right after college and I was having some anxiety that was situational. The situation resolved itself and I didn’t feel like I needed to see her, and no longer needed medication. When going through my medical history, I can’t even remember what medication I was prescribed and those were the days before electronic medical charts.
After Iris died, I asked my OBGYN to prescribe anti-depressants before being discharged from the hospital. Losing two babies inside of six months… I needed it. He willingly wrote me the prescription. The anti-depressant did its job, almost a little too well. Instead of feeling like I could grieve my daughter, I felt numb. My emotions were contained. I didn’t like the feeling, but didn’t know how I would cope without the medication otherwise.
I also knew that I wanted to be off of the anti-depressants prior to becoming pregnant again. Since we were told to wait six months, I had only a small window of time before I needed to begin to wean. And I felt ok. As I emerged from the elevated mood of the medication, I was able to fixate on an upcoming pregnancy.
I saw in the office of the psychiatrist on Tuesday the 10th. It felt like a lengthy interview of my entire medical and family history. Rather than “telling a story” that I had done with my new therapist, this was limited only to the facts.
The official “label” I received was post-traumatic stress disorder, and a “fairly classic case” according to the psychiatrist. Out loud, my response was “Well, that sounds about right.”
At one point the psychiatrist said to me “I noticed that you get teary eyed when you talk about your pregnancy losses.” I was a bit taken aback, and in my head, my immediate response was “Of course. My children died.” After I was given the label, in my head I thought “So I have PTSD because I’m still upset by this?” She had made the observation in a very neutral tone, but I still felt a bit like it was a judgement: that I was past the point where grief was still acceptable.
For me, the label was neither here nor there. Perhaps because it has now been 4+ years since entering this new world. I immediately kicked into a mode of “So now what?” The next step was prescribing a medication for the anxiety, with the understanding that it would take a few weeks to have an impact.
That was mere days before the world turned upside down.
If I thought that managing my anxiety was getting beyond what I could control on my own before, an entirely new level was hit after we became confined to our home. So much is unknown. I had been told to continue to take the Xanax in the interim period before my new medication would take effect, but that supply quickly dwindled. I reached out to the psychiatry department and asked for a refill on the Xanax. When I didn’t hear back for a few days (I am assuming they were overwhelmed with requests from patients), I asked my individual therapist if she could push the issue, and she did.
Now 19 days into our “shelter at home” order, I feel like my new medication is keeping me more even-keel. But overall, it is about the worst time to be adjusting to a new medication, when my environment and routine have been uprooted.
Even more coincidental (?) timely (?) appropriate (?) that this was one of my last ventures out of the house before entering the new normal.