Getting pregnant for the first time, or the second or third, wasn’t a surprise. A lot of planning and obsession went into the process. And when you’re trying to conceive as a lesbian, you’re all in, mentally, physically (at least for me,) emotionally, and financially. When we finally got the positive pregnancy test I was thrilled. Although I worried through most of my pregnancy (it runs in the family,) it seemed a healthy amount of worry until the third trimester. Then it was a shit show. Seriously, ask my wife. I woke up one day at 32- weeks pregnant and wondered what the hell I was doing. It quickly turned into crying for no reason and severe panic attacks. Lying on the floor, unable to function panic attacks. Unable to function in society panic attacks. Betsy took several weeks off of work.
Luckily, we know people in the mental health field. After a few phone calls I was able to get into a psychiatrist and psychologist within the week. I wish I could say it’s that easy for everyone. Most places we called forced us to leave messages or never called back. And those that did call back couldn’t get us in for a month, or more. We went in to see the psychiatrist and I was diagnosed with perinatal- OCD and anxiety. Now, I’ve been to psychotherapy before in my life. Never had I been diagnosed with OCD or anxiety. I had experienced one panic attack in my life and that was on my wedding day. Totally normal. Yet here I was, getting ready to have my first child and in the depths of it all. Thankfully after three weeks of being on the meds and thousands in out of pockets expenses it was well managed. And I’m still on those meds.
I remember being in the fertility clinic getting ready to try for our second child and being told I had to sign a waiver saying I was taking an anti-depressant and could be putting my fetus at risk. Mind you, this was the same clinic that was doing IVF with a 30 year-old’s eggs and a 65 year-old’s sperm. This further perpetuated my rejection of the label. OCD. Anxiety. Not me.
When asked if there were any complications in previous pregnancies I was embarrassed to admit the diagnosis. As if it was my fault my hormones wigged out. This wasn’t a self-caused issue. This was bad luck.
My family doctor mentioned putting the diagnosis in my chart and I immediately responded with, “Yes, I have anxiety but I don’t really agree with the OCD.”
I was, and am often asked, “Are you going to come off the meds once you’re done having kids?” Of course. Pregnancy caused this. I don’t have anxiety and OCD when I don’t have these shitty baby hormones in me. Or maybe I do.
Four years into my mental health journey, and still in some denial, I met a colleague that is a clinical psychologist, married to a school psychologist. We become friends, I would even say close friends, and apparently being friends with a couple Ph.d Psychologists is enough to get you to believe that having OCD and anxiety is okay, regardless of what society says. Blaming hormones doesn’t change the situation. However, being open with friends and seeing them accept you for it, changes the stigma. Talking about it changes the stigma. Having a supportive wife changes the stigma. And writing about it on a blog for anyone to read, changes the stigma. I have anxiety and OCD and I’m still a kickass wife and mom, and I want to change the stigma.