Thursday, September 18, 2008

Episode 22- Pre-Term Labor

A few days before Thanksgiving I had an appointment with Schneiman. I happened to take Ethan along with me that day for the heck of it, as I sometimes did. He would usually sit on the floor in the room and tinker with some little gadgets that Schneiman had. I actually loved taking Ethan along with me.

On this particular day, I left the office and as I held Ethan on my hip I walked down five steps right outside that led to the parking lot. I lost my footing and fell forward, flat on top of Ethan. His poor head caught my fall and my entire stomach. He conked his head so hard on the pavement and he didn't make a sound at first. I was completely terrified and panicky as I scooped him back up. Finally he began to cry and I did too.

The whole thing happened so quickly and I didn't know what to do. I was very afraid that he had a concussion and rather than run back into Schneiman's office, I instinctively called Cody on my cell phone as I held my screaming toddler. Cody asked me if I was okay to drive and I said yes. He then said he would meet me the children's hospital. To this day I don't know why I didn't go back into the office and ask for help. Obviously I wasn't thinking clearly at all.

I prayed the whole way to the hospital that Ethan was okay. I was afraid he would lose consciousness on the way there, but he never did. I ran into the ER and my arm was covered in blood as I held him. The nurse grabbed him from me and started asking me questions. She then noticed a huge gash on my wrist which was the actual source of the blood. My arms must have grabbed his head right before he hit the pavement and my wrist bore the brunt of it.

As she continued questioning me, she noticed me wincing in pain. She finally asked if it was the pain from my wrist or something else. I told her I was contracting and we were quickly rushed into an exam room. The next few moments were surreal. A doctor came in to examine Ethan, who turned out to be fine. Another doctor came in to check on me and she discovered I was having regular contractions only four minutes apart. They took some blood from me and found that I had virtually no sugars in it. I then realized that I hadn't eaten all day. This was common practice for me. Between the high doses of meds I was on and the depression, I never had an appetite. It is a wonder how I gained fifty pounds during that pregnancy.

By this time Cody had arrived and he took over care of Ethan. It was so strange being treated in a children's hospital! I was hooked up to an IV and they got me to drink lots of juice and eat cookies. But the contractions kept coming and they were starting to become more painful. The nurse called Dr. Draper and he said to send me right over to Labor and Delivery at the University hospital. Luckily the two hospitals were on the same campus and were linked by an indoor bridge, so the nurse wheeled me over to the other wing.

Once I was in LD they hooked me up to a fetal monitor and sure enough, the contractions kept coming. A resident came in to check me and said that my cervix was still tight and thick, so that was great news. But for the next two hours I continued to contract despite anything I did (or didn't do). I was only 32 weeks along and I felt like I would have the baby soon. I prayed so hard that it wouldn't happen and finally around 10:00 that night, the contractions suddenly stopped!

I had been lying in a hospital bed for several hours watching dumb re-runs on TV, so I was very distracted from what had happened and worse- what could have happened. After a thorough evaluation, they decided I was in good enough shape to be discharged, so late that night I drove home with Ethan asleep in the back seat while Cody drove ahead in his car. What had started out as a two hour trip to Schneiman's office that day had turned into much more.

When I finally pulled into the garage I looked in the back seat to see my precious boy sleeping soundly, his head slightly tilted against his car seat. He looked so sweet and innocent and thoughts began racing through my mind of what could have happened. What if my wrist hadn't caught him and he'd busted his head open on the pavement. What if he'd hit it just right and he...died?

And then I thought about the baby kicking in my belly. What if something had happened to her? She had endured so much already in the seven months since I'd known her. What if something terrible had happened to her too? I tried to block the thoughts from my mind but it didn't work. I slumped down the seat and sobbed silently for several minutes and then finally I got Ethan out of the car and went inside the house. I quickly put him to bed and then raced into the kitchen to get some meds. I needed to be high and right then too. I'm not sure what I took or how much, but I was successful at getting into a deep fog and staying like that the rest of the night.

Episode 21- Dr. Newman

Dr. Draper decided to refer me out to a psychiatrist who could handle my prescription needs. He felt that the psych could better know drug interactions and possibly some more affective drugs.

I actually began seeing Dr. Newman in September shortly after the Zoloft experience. On our first few session it felt a lot like talking to Dr. Schneiman, however Newman was much more quiet and reserved. And he seemed overly willing to prescribe me anything I wanted. He had a million samples in his office and was always asking me if I wanted some. But I exhibited some self control and passed.

But on one visit that fall I told him I wanted to try the new Ambien CR sleep aid that I'd seen heavily advertised all over TV. He was eager to prescribe it for me. That is what I learned about those doctors. They are in the drug business and are alwasy excited to push a new drug on you.

So I started the Ambien CR and continued to see Newman twice a month. He never really counseled me on anything. It was always a drug re-evaluation to see how things were working for me and what I wanted to change. This seemed to help with my Ativan problem because I told him I needed a higher dose and he was all for it, never questioning my level of addiction. So I upped that and I upped the Trazodone too. I was high as a kite. What a cocktail I swallowed every evening!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Episode 20- Working the System

As time went on, my dependecy on my meds only worsened. I remembered how upon discharge from the hospital during the summer, the psychs said I should be off all drugs within thirty days. Months had passed and not only was I not off of them, my dosages on everything had increased and I was highly addicted. It was a physical addiction for sure, but morover it was a psychological addiction.

There were nights when I would be sitting there alone in the darkness and wonder what it would be like to dump all my pills down the disposal. What if I was to never take them again? I would entertain the idea for a moment, then I would panic at the thought and I couldn't get those pills down my throat fast enough. I was aware that I would be hooked on pills for the rest of my life. It was something I had come to accept.

During this time Cody's mind and sainity began to suffer as well. You've heard of sympathy weight, referring to the weight a man gains during his wife's pregnancy. Well Cody was experiencing sympathy insainty and sympathy insomnia. He wasn't sleeping well amd I convinced him to go to the doctor to get started on some meds too. We would be one happy pill popping family! Our family practitioner prescribed him ATIVAN!!! I was so thrilled, and this is why-

Ativan is a controlled substance and I was only able to fill it once every thirty days. I would go in to see Dr. Draper but I was never fully honest with him. He would ask me how I was doing and how the meds were working for me. I always wanted to tell him that I wasn't surviving on 2 mg of Ativan a day. I really needed at least 4 mg. I was afraid that he would see that my addiction was out of hand and by some turn of events I would end up hospitalized again. So I would lie to him and.

For thirty days I would only have sixty mg of Ativan, but I would always use it up by about day fifteen. Do the math and you'll see that I was out of the stuff long before the end of the month. No way no how could I refill it before then. So when Cody came home with his prescription for Ativan I was ellated because I knew I could steal his. Even if he needed it, I didn't care. All I cared about was having more at my disposal. If he noticed his pills were being depeleted, I would figure out some way to cover it up or make up some lie about how they got dumped. At the moment I didn't care about the consequences. All I cared about was my next fix.

So as soon as my thirty day supply was gone, I began to dig into Cody's. Luckily for me, the Trazodone was not as highly controlled so I always had more of that on hand. If for somre reason I ever ran short on Ativan, I would double up on Trazodone and get my fix that way. Or if I didn't have enough of those, I would take anything else in the medicine cabinet that had a similar effect. Nyquil, benadryl, cough syrup, Xanex, codine or percocet (left over from a back injury)...anything to make myself feel high.

Watching Your Child Cry

It's often times so hard to sit back and watch your baby suffer. There is so much that they go through during the first year alone that is necessary pain. Necessary or not, it kills me to watch them hurt.

I remember when Ethan cut his first teeth and he was miserable. I did my best to soothe his aches and calm his fussiness, but there wasn't really anything I could do to make the hurt stop. When Hailey cut her first molars it was hell for all of us. I remember one day when she was fifteen months old I did nothing all day but hold her against me and cry along with her. She would scream and scream, then quiet down and finally fall asleep. Then the pain would start again and she would scream some more.

I rocked miles with her in that rocking chair during that month. Then one day Cody was brushing her teeth and he yelled excitedly "Get in here and feel this! Those suckers finally popped through!" Sure enough, we could feel sharp points on the back of her gums. Things were a lot better after that and I know she enjoyed her new found chompers because it made eating crunching things much easier. She was much happier from then on, until the next set of teeth came in.

I have often thought about that night when I sat in my car in the Targert parking lot and had that "discussion" with Heavenly Father. Looking back on it, I wonder how it made him feel. I wonder if he sat by me that night and held my hand and cried with me. I wonder if, in someway, he too tried to rock me to sleep and hurt as I hurt. How many miles did he calmly rock me during that time.

As much as I love my own children, I know that Heavenly Father loves me even more. He was my first father and I am his little girl. He saw the bigger picture and knew that I had to endure that terrible trial. He had a purpose and I'm sure he wanted to badly to be able to show it to me. But instead, I had to learn to trust him. He knew that it was for my own good that I go through it. But just like a loving parent, I'm sure he would have done alomst anything to make the hurt stop.

If I walked away from this experience having learned only one thing, it is that Heavenly Father knows me so personally. He knows who I am and he loves me more than I'll ever understand in this life. He gives me challenges so that I can grow, but he is always there wanting to help me along the way. He doesn't intend for me to suffer alone. He suffers right along with me and wipes my tears away. I can call on him any time that I need to and he is so quick to listen. I don't know if I could have developed a testimony of this on such a level any other way. And for that alone, I am thankful.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Episode 19- Target

It was a cold and wet evening in mid October when Cody sent me out to run an errand. This particular day had been exceptionally bad for me and for no real reason at all I had spent most of the day in and out of tears. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d gone the entire day with out food and water. Whenever I tried to pull myself together, something would remind me of the nightmare I was living and the feeling of hopelessness would consume me all over again. Each time I felt the baby move I would be overcome with feelings of guilt. Guilt for not wanting the baby, guilt for despising her for what she was doing to me, and guilt for being such a dreadful mother. For days I had been fantasizing about what it would be like not to exist anymore. I don’t think I necessarily wanted to end my life, I simply didn’t want to be alive at all…not ever.

Cody could tell by the condition of the house and the expression on my face when he walked through the door that evening that something was very wrong and I needed to get away. The house was in total disarray. Dirty dishes were piled high in the sink, laundry was scattered through out the entire house, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ethan was still in his pajamas covered in his breakfast. Truth be told, I didn’t even shower that day.

It didn’t take a genius to realize that I needed help, so my dear husband told me to get away for a while so he could take care of Ethan. We had been doing some organizing in the basement and had run out of plastic storage bins, so that seemed to be the ideal thing for me to go fetch from the store. I didn’t hesitate when he said I should go. I was in such a fog from all the crying I had done that day, and I don’t remember grabbing my car keys and heading out the door. I just remember that I suddenly found myself driving down the highway, and from the surrounding landmarks I gathered that I must be heading toward Target. At this point my whole body felt numb and I didn’t think in a million years that my tear ducts had anything left to give. So I pulled in to the Target parking lot, took a deep breath, and headed through the front doors.

Once inside the store, I felt the world spinning around me. I looked up at the fluorescent lights and I saw a jillion little spots dancing on the ceiling. For a few moments, I couldn’t even remember where I was or how I got there. I grabbed a shopping cart and began to push it. I knew I was there for a specific purpose and I figured if I wandered long enough I would remember what that purpose was.

And then I smelled it. It was the familiar scent of popcorn making its way from the snack center and suddenly I was taken back two decades to a little league game in Texas. There I was, six years old standing in the ball park complex where my brothers played ball each season. The smell of popcorn lingered in the air and I never failed to beg my mom to buy me a bag of my own. Popcorn and cherry flavored Jolly Ranchers which where always sold at the concession stand seemed to be staples of little league for me.

But there I stood in what seemed to be a million miles from the security of childhood. There in that Target store I stood with my hair still damp from the rain outside, breathing in ever so deeply that familiar scent of innocence. The simple smell of popcorn instantaneously reminded me of what it was like to be naive, small, and unattached. I kept my eyes closed tightly as not to let in the reality of what lay beyond the safe feeling of the Bear Creek Baseball Complex in Houston, Texas.

My body felt completely weak and I didn’t think I had the strength to face yet again the despair that was encompassing me. As long as I kept my eyes closed I could feel my dad’s warm embrace around my tiny six year old body. I could even detect hints of Old Spice aftershave on his skin. And I knew that if I stayed like that long enough, the soothing sound of my mother’s voice reading to me could be heard above the ringing cries of help in my head.

I’m sure I looked like a moron standing there like I was. Then I heard a voice come over the PA system and I suddenly jerked back to reality. That flicker of happiness was gone in a second and I realized I was still standing there holding on to the cart. Oh that’s right. I had come to the store for something. I still couldn’t remember what it was, but somehow my feet obeyed the message sent from my brain and I began to walk. My empty shopping cart felt as if it had one thousand pounds in it and it seemed impossible to push.

As I started down one of the main aisles, I looked straight ahead of me and even though it was probably only two hundred feet to the back of the store, it looked as if it was an endless trek to reach it. My perception of everything was utterly blurred. Everything continued to spin around me, but I kept on walking. I could hear noises around me. People were talking, music overhead was playing, even the wheels on the cart were squeaking. But it was all an empty echo in my head. All life around me was being played in slow motion.

I guess I decided to wander until I recognized what I had come to the store to get. I have no idea how long I wandered for, but at one point I rounded a corner to see a display of neon orange and black storage bins. Who on earth would pick such hideous colors to keep in their house? And then I remembered it was nearing Halloween and above the display was a sign that read “For your Halloween d├ęcor needs”. I thought for a minute about whether or not to buy storage bins in such dramatic colors. I thought about it and thought about it. Looking back, it was a very trivial decision. One might say to themselves “Who cares about the color. They will be stored out of sight in the basement anyway.” But to me, as I stood there weighing out the pros and cons in my mind it seemed astronomical.

My body began to tremble and I could feel the hot sting of tears welling up in my eyes. Why couldn’t I get my head on straight enough to make such a simple decision? If I chose not to get them in that color, I could easily find some others in another department of the store. It really wasn’t a big deal at all. But at that moment I couldn’t think rationally about anything, and I suppose this was the final straw for me.

I buried my face in my hands as to control my sobbing. I wasn’t going to let this monster take a hold of me again, not right there in the middle of the store and give strangers the opportunity to gawk at this crazy lady. Somehow I got a hold of myself, wiped the tears from my eyes, and began pulling bins from the shelf to load into the cart.

For some reason I had the impulse to take off one of the black lids, perhaps because I thought something scary might be lurking inside. After all it was Halloween. I unsnapped the lid and peeked inside and of course found nothing but the potent smell of plastic hit me. Satisfied with the emptiness, I went to snap it back on. And then I saw it. On the underside of the lid was a bright yellow warning sticker with a horrific sketch of a baby being locked inside. In huge black letters it read “Warning- may cause suffocation.”

I can barely describe what I felt next. My heart began to beat so fast that it felt as though I was having a heart attack. It was as if I was living that experience with the Zoloft from September all over again. The pit of my stomach came right up to my mouth and I could taste vomit. I quickly clasped a hand over my mouth and luckily swallowed whatever had made its way back up my esophagus. This time there was no possible way to control the tears and they poured like faucets from my eyes.

I dropped the lid I was still holding on to as all strength left me and I sank to the floor. Something inside of me began to scream and I longed to let it out for all to hear. Instead, I sat there and sobbed silent tears into my jacket sleeve. I clenched my eyes closed and all I could see was Ethan’s little body lying lifelessly inside that bin. It wasn’t real by any means, but it didn’t matter to me. In my mind it had already come to pass. Part of me really thought that when I went back home that night I would be met by paramedics and neighbors telling me that Ethan had been found dead inside a storage bin. All logic was totally gone and I sat there and cried for my loss.

I don’t know how long I was there on the floor, but it was probably somewhere around five minutes. I wonder how many people passed by me asking themselves what in the world could be wrong. At one point I felt a hand on my shoulder and I looked up through blurry eyes to see a man in a red shirt kneeling beside me. “Are you okay, Mam?” I could hear fuzzy voices coming from his walkie talkie and I could see his nametag which read “Chris”.

I looked at him blankly for several seconds, wiped my eyes and told him I was fine- I was just having a bad day. Normally I would have been humiliated by what had just taken place. But in my state of mind I don’t know if I was fully aware of anything that was going on. Chris then asked me my name and it was as if everything inside of my brain was gone. I didn’t know how I had gotten to the store, what day it was, or even my own name! I knew I had to tell him something, and I think I told him my name was Jennifer or Janet or something like that.

All I wanted right then was to be exiled away from all life. I wanted no one around me and after a moment, Chris walked away. Somehow I convinced him that things were okay. Again I’m sure I did a great job of lying, something I’d become a pro at in the last few months. I gathered all of my lost marbles from the floor and gained some composure and decided to finish what I had set out to do when coming to the store. I loaded up my shopping cart and attempted desperately to push the image of Ethan’s lifeless body out of my mind.

It seemed like a never ending walk from that aisle up to the check out stands, and it seemed like an even farther distance from there to my car. After I made my purchase I said to myself “Okay, now all you have to do is make it to the car and then you can explode again.” As I stepped outside I could feel the rain falling down all over me. The air was frigid and I thought for a moment that it was far too cold to be July. Why was it so cold if it was summer time?

I looked around me, so confused and alone. “No wait a second,” I thought silently. “Halloween decorations were out in the store. It must be October. The cold makes sense then.” Even though I was freezing and wet, I was in no hurry to get to the car. I walked sluggishly through the parking lot, taking in the chilled, damp air. It so perfectly mirrored my every thought and it was like the weather itself was the only thing on the face of the earth that understood how I felt. So in some twisted way, I took comfort in it.

I loaded the storage bins into the car and slumped down in the front seat. I sat there for quite a while, starring vacantly into the night. I didn’t care that I was soaking wet from head to toe or that my hands were so cold that I could barely feel them. And then from out of no where, a sound ruptured from deep within my soul. It came out in such a violent way that it almost scared me to hear it. I began to scream and scream, and then scream some more. It was like everything that had been bottled up, everything that I was afraid to tell anyone, every bit of anxiety, anger, and fear came bursting out of me. I felt like a three year old child throwing the tantrum of the century. The tears gushed freely and I clutched my abdomen as I felt the baby begin to kick vigorously. I’m sure that this outburst was quite alarming for her. I was crying in heaves so hard that I thought my lungs would burst. I could imagine the baby saying “Mommy, why are you so sad?”

“I don’t know!!!” I yelled out. I started banging on the steering wheel with my fist. “I don’t know why this is happening to me! I don’t know what’s wrong with me! Why me?! Why, God?! Why?!”

For the next several minutes I had a very intense conversation with God. Well, it wasn’t really a conversation so much as I was simply letting God have it. Then the fear and anxiety changed to pure rage. I was so angry with God and I wanted Him to know exactly what He had done to me. I felt like He had taken this perfectly capable, sane, happy, thriving human being and broken her. And for no reason at all! “Is this some kind of joke to you? Do you get a kick out of seeing me like this?” I felt so powerless and the only way to combat it was to scream. Here was God, this gigantic and powerful being, totally in control of my life and everything that happened to me. And here I was, an insignificant pawn in His little game. I was being tossed around, moved this way and that, all for His pleasure.

And so I yelled, and cried, and beat my fist so hard that one of my knuckles began to bleed. “Why won’t you just take this from me?” I pleaded over and over. “I know you can. You can do anything, and yet you won’t do such a simple thing for me. Make me sane again! Let me sleep again! Make me want to live! Take these terrible thoughts from me! Just give me back the person I once was!”

I caught my breath and sank back into the seat. That episode had completely exhausted me and I had no more voice to yell. “Okay, God,” I sighed “You win.” I sat there in the dark for a long time and cried for the better part of an hour. And then by some miracle, an ounce of logic entered my mind and I had the brilliant idea to listen to the silence. I bowed my head and humbly prayed “Dear Lord, please help me. Help me.”

I don’t fully understand what took place next. All I know is that I was suddenly calm and the foreign feeling of tranquility overtook my body. It had been so long since I’d felt anything like it, but I sat there and tried to absorb it. Then it was as if I saw a flicker of light before me. I know it wasn’t a real light, but in my mind I saw hope. I was encompassed by this deep, dark tunnel, and at the end there was a pinhole sized light shining through. I think that when we are going through a trial, God does allow us a little breathing time. Wave upon wave crashes down on you, but in between each one you get a second to take a breath of air before the next one crashes. And as I sat there in my car on that cold and rainy night, I was allowed a small breath of air. I was completely aware that the calmness I was feeling was fleeting and that I would likely feel the despair and confusion again.

But for a tiny moment, I was calm.

Episode 18- The Move

The big day finally arrived. We closed on our house and moved in on September 24, 2005. That first night in our new home was crazy and a little unerving, but I made it through okay. I had been looking forward to the moved because it meant a fresh start for us. No one new of my condition and I was going to do everything I could to keep people from finding out. Even if that meant that I was a hermit, I would keep it a secret as best I could.

Everything surrounding our new house was a stresser for Cody and me. It had taken a toll on our marriage, even before my illness began. We had been house hunting for months and we couldn't agree on anything. There were days when divorce seemed like the only option for us! Not really, but it was very stressful. Then I found this new dvelopment and I was excited about it. Cody, however, hated it and was against it from the start. But in the end I won and he resented me for it.

Then I got sick and our marriage suffered terribly. Looking back on it, I don't know how we survived as a couple. I guess the test of true love is when things get really bad, are you willing to stick it out and make things work? Or will you hit the road. There were times when we wanted to hit the road. Cody began going to see Schneiman with me every once in a while and it never went well. I would talk and he would clam up. Then we would leave there and he would say he had been "attacked" by Schneiman and me.

His resentment toward me about the house got so bad and we fought about it all the time. I often wondered if it was really about the house, or was it something else. I felt like he really resented me about the illness, as if it was my fault. Or maybe it was too much for him to deal with and he wished he'd never married me. I thought he wished he had married a more sane woman; a woman who would never get sick like I had. He didn't deserve this. He deserved someone better, somone stronger, someone who could be a better wife and mom.

I hoped and prayed that was we settled into our new home, both Cody and I would feel better about the situation. But at one point I called our realtor and asked him what he thought of us trying to sell the place. I wanted to know if we could break even on what we'd bought it for. I was desperate to fix things between Cody and me. I prayed that time would heal it.

Despite my best efforts to stay hidden from the neighbors, I met Becky one day while I was unpacking the garage. She mosied over across the street and introduced herself to me. I did my best to be friendly and polite, but on the inside I felt like a small child on the first day of kindergarten and I was scared. I was scared of being found out! But I would later realize that Becky truely was one of my greatest allies during this ordeal and I would grow to rely on her very much. I thank God for sending Becky into my life to be my friend when I needed someone like her.

Episode 17- Zoloft

Dr. Draper and I had discussed me going on an antidepressant, but I was not in favor of adding another drug to the mix and I wanted to see how I did without it. And since things had been going a little better, I thought I could manage on my own just fine with out it.

Then things took a turns for the worse and the attacks started coming frequently and I was crying all day long. Again I began having irrational thoughts that the baby was harmed and that I was a terrible mother. There were days when I couldn't even get out of bed. Then on a Sunday afternoon I was reading in Parents magazine (I loathe that magazine, BTW) and there was an article about prenatal depression. It talked about how the placenta can actually be damaged if the mother is depressed. There were other things mentioned in teh article that scared me beyond belief, so I decided to try the Zoloft.

The doctor had given me a sample pack at a previous appointment and I had it on hand, so that evening I took my first pill. I was aware that it would take about two weeks to work so I wasn't expecting a quick fix. But I also wasn't expecting that I would experience every side effect listed on the label.

The next day was pure hell. I was dizzy, I threw up a lot, my mouth dried up, I shook like a leaf, I was more anxious than normal, and my heart rate was accelerated. I decided to give it one more day so I took another dose Monday evening. Tuesday was even wrose, if you can believe that. I could not function at all and Brandi came over to babysit me during the day while Cody was gone.

I called my mom that afternoon (she happens to be a PharmD) and asked her if what I was feeling was normal. She went down the list of drugs I was on and said that Trazodone is actually an antidepressant in itself and I was taking 100-150 mg a day, so I could actually be overdosing when combining that with the Zoloft. I decided the side effects were worse than the depression and anxiety so I decided to throw the pills away.

That evening Brandi, her little boy, Ethan, and I went to get dinner and then to see the development on our new house. It was all but done and we walked through it and sat in the empty living room and talked. We would be closing in one week and I tried to feel happy about it, but I couldn't get past how awful I was feeling at the moment. I was trying to distract myself from my misery but it wasn't working.

We drove home, but on the way there I noticed I was breathing very hard and my heart rate had accelerated even more. Brandi helped me back into our apartment and I sat down on the couch. Cody was home by this time and Brandi told him what had happened on the way home. It was like all of the ill side effects I had experienced were now ten fold. I ran to the bathroom and started throwing up again, then I laid down on the bathroom floor and had what I thought was a heart attack. My chest hurt beyond words and I could not breathe.

Cody paged my doctor and when he called back he said to get me up to the hospital for an EKG. What I was experiencing was not normal. On the way out the door I grabbed my Ativan and Trazodone and downed a few pills in the car. Brandi was so sweet to stay at our apartment with Ethan. By the time we made the twenty minute drive to the hospital, I had calmed down immensely and and I was in a state of euphoria. The EKG came back normal and they chalked it up to a massive panic attack. Who knows what had really happened though. We drove back home and I crashed very hard when I hit the pillow.

Episode 16- Different To Others, Too

For a people person, going through something like this is terrible because it turns you into a socially awkward person. For the first time in my life I knew what it was like to be shy.

Cody's family reunion was coming up and I dreaded it. Many of his family members knew what had happened and I hated to see their pitty faces. I didn't want people to feel like they had to walk on egg shells around me. I didn't want people to see me as fragile. I would have rather stayed away from the reunion all together, but I was a good sport and I went along.

It was a weekend ordeal and I lasted okay during the first evening's activities, but as we were driving to his aunt's house for ice cream, I started having an attack and I became hysterical. The thought of being around people made my stomch hurt. I felt that I couldn't do it but somehow I managed to pull myself together and I made it through the night. But I knew what people were thinking the whole time and it made me ill.

At the end of August we had our ultrasound and that was the first time since I "snapped" that I felt at all close to the baby. I had felt close to Ethan from the first moment I found out I was pregnant. By the time we had the ultrasound I felt like I already knew him completely. Then by the time he was born I felt like I'd known him forever. I longed to have that same closeness with out baby.

We found out it was a girl and that everything was perfectly healthy. They could find no traces of anything wrong with her and I felt a little relieved, but not fully convinced. But I tried to put it out of my head and focus on my daughter and what all that meant. I was estatic and for the rest of the day I was on cloud nine. It was as if God granted me a small break and I felt good again.

For the next week or so I was doing okay. My attacks were not happening as often and I was sleeping just a little better (heavily medicated, of course). We went to Cody's parents house for Labor Day weekend and I felt tranquil, even with his family around. In fact on Labor Day we were sitting out on the lawn and I felt the cool breeze on my face and I remember feeling peaceful and happy, for the first time in a long time. Things seemed to be looking up and as we drove back home, I even said to Cody that I felt good.

Schneiman and I talked about it later in the week and he seemed hopeful. Perhaps things in my mind and body were evening back out. Maybe things were looking up.

Or maybe it was the calm before the storm.
My sweet baby girl
Labor Day in Idaho

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Inside My Own Liberty Jail

I hate to interrupt the episodes, but I have to share a few thoughts; thoughts that have hit me like a ton of bricks tonight.

I have been watching KBYUTV tonight and I've seen/heard some great talks. But one talk in particular had profound meaning for me. I wish I could put this talk into words for you, but I can't find the text version. It is a CES fireside given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.
You can listen to the talk here, and I highly recommend that you do. Take 30 minutes out of your busy schedule to listen. You can actually download it onto your Ipod and listen while you fold laundry! But at any cost, please listen to the talk.

I believe the talk is entitled "Lesson from Liberty Jail" in which Elder Holland speaks about the trials that Joesph Smith went through during his stay there. This part of D&C has always been so meaningful to me, but as I listened to Elder Holland tonight I likened it to my experience these past three years.

The trials I went through (and my family too) were so intense and there were days when I really thought I wasn't going to make it. I probably felt a lot like the Prophet on more than one occasion. Continue reading the saga and you will understand why. I felt that the Lord had forsaken me and I was alone. Why was this happening? What had I done to deserve it? When would it be over? How would I make it through? These thoughts circulated my mind on a daily basis.

I continually prayed for strength, although there were many days when I was about to give up and I felt that my prayers weren't going past the ceiling. But looking back on it, I see that the Lord was so close to me during this trying time. It was when I felt the weakest that His arms encircled me and held me up. It was when I felt that I could not make it that He carried me piggy back across the depths of despair. The words of D&C 122:7 keep coming to mind as I reflect on this.

"And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."

This trial was given to me for a reason and I am so much stronger because of it. If I could have only seen things at the time the way I do now. But my vision was mortal and couldn't see past the moment that I was in. I am so thankful to the Lord for trusting me enough to give me such a challenge. I know that He only gives us what we can handle. I saw what I was made of and I am thankful that I was in fact able to sit in Liberty Jail for a time. And I'm thankful that the Lord carried me out of it.

Sorry again for the interuption, but my heart is full and I felt that it may burst if I didn't get that out. Keep reading and my words will ultimately make sense to you.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Episode 15- When the Sun Goes Down

4:00 in the afternoon became my least favorite time of day. I could feel it in the air and in my bones. When the temperature reached it's peak and began to fall, I knew that night time was imminent and I tried to keep my anxiety at bay.

Night time held new meaning for me. It meant that another round of insomnia was beginning and it was a battle I could not win, no matter how hard I tried. As I made dinner each night I would look to the cabinet where my drugs were kept. My hands would start to shake as I looked to my next dose. I would count the hours until I could feel the Ativan seep into my blood. It felt like a warm bubble bath encompassing my body. Then the Trazadone on top of that and maybe a Xanex....oh it was pure ecstasy.

The days were getting shorter as it does after the summer solstice and it only made my anxiety worse. Autumn has always made me feel a little blue and I feared for what lay in store for the next six months. I didn't know how I would cope once the cold weather hit and I was no longer able to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. But it was still August so I tried not to dwell on that.

Each night I found solace in three things. The TV show "Everybody Loves Raymond" was one of them. On one particularly bad night I was on the verge of a massive attack when Cody sat me down on the couch and began rubbing my shoulders and helping me with my breathing exercises. We were watching TV and this show just happened to be on. I recall sitting on the living room floor with him as he helped me through the attack, all the while hearing laughter from the TV. Despite the drama I was experiencing, I felt safe and I appreciated the comic relief from the sitcom. From that night on I turned the TV on to that show and it instantly took some of my desperate feelings away.

The second thing that brought me comfort was the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off". Again, one night I was having a hard time and Cody turned this movie on and we sat there together and laughed and it relieved the pressure from the attack.

The third thing that brought me comfort was the movie "The Sandlot" and that was for the same reasons already mentioned. Are you beginning to see the pattern here? I found that TV or movies was a great way to distract me from my depression and anxiety. It was a superficial and temporary fix, but it was a great way to keep a massive attack from occurring. I found that the key was catching it before it got out of hand and that's what these shows did for me.

I started watching each of them (at least in part) on a nightly basis and it quickly became routine for us. In fact, I would pop my pills, grab a pillow, then lie down and let Hollywood do it's thing. I would soon drift off to sleep, then about halfway through the show I would wake up, go to the bathroom, wander into bed and I was usually able to go back to sleep in very little time (thanks to the high doses of drugs of course). This is how every night played out for us for weeks.

One thing I wanted to mention is that Cody and I were no longer sleeping in the same room by this time. Since my sleep patterns were so sporadic and restless, I began sleeping on the spare bed in Ethan's room. For some reason being in the same room with him took away some of my anxious feelings. I guess it was being in there listening to him breath that helped me.

Episode 14- A Changed Person

Someone had died.

I would walk around each day with the sick feeling in my stomach and heart that one might feel after losing a loved one. I wasn't really dead, but the part of me that used to be vibrant and full of life was no more. She may as well have been dead and I was certain she wasn't coming back. Things I once loved didn't hold luster for me anymore. Things that used to bring me joy now brought me misery and confusion.

I had once been a person who was in control of her life and her surroundings. I got things done. I was a go getter and I feared almost nothing. That is not true because I feared people thinking less of me. I had been working in the primary presidency at church for a long time and I was on top of things. I know people thought of me as a pragmatic and responsible person. But after my downfall, I knew that their opinions of me had changed. I was fully aware that word had spread through out our ward and I was mortified beyond belief.

Our house was going to be finished in one month and I decided to hide out from everyone I knew. I was looking forward to moving because it meant that I could start fresh. No one in our new community would know of our circumstances and I felt that I could leave it all behind and re-invent myself. Oh if only life worked that way.

I had once been a daring person. Schneiman and I talked about this numerous times and he believed that the old Veronica was not dead, but had been shocked into hybernation. He said all we needed to do was wake her up so on one occasion he gave me an assignment. He said he wanted Cody, Ethan and I to go to the local ski resort and ride the tram. It would take us up to 10,000 feet elevation and drop us off at the top of the mountain. Then we would catch another tram back down to the resort. He wanted me to do this because it was a great opportunity to practice
REBT in a real life setting. (I will touch more on REBT in a later episode).

So one Saturday we packed up and drove to the ski resort. To shorten the story, it was a terrible and frightening experince for me. I was overcome with panic the whole time and after we got off the tram, I got on the ground and held Ethan and sobbed like a child. I cried because I was scared, but I cried more out of frustration. Why did I feel so much anxiety from the experience? It my normal mind it would have given me a rush and I would have gotten to the bottom and jumped right back on to do it again. But there I sat on the cold cement, clinging to my child, my knuckles white with fear.

Where was the old Veronica? Would I ever meet her again?

This is us at the top of the mountain after riding the tram. The smile on my face is very forced.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Episode 13- The Parinatologist

I called the number that Dr. Brown's nurse had given me. There were several parinatologists at the University Hospital and I had no way of knowing which one to pick, or even if that is how it was done. I talked to the receptionist who took a brief history of my condition. She said she would pass it on to a higher up and they would review it and "match" me with the appropriate doctor. She said they would give me a call back in a day or two, so in the meantime I waited and waited.

I wondered if they would do the same as Dr. Brown had. I figured they would review it and decide that they didn't want me as patient either. I was bracing myself for the worst. But to my surprise I got a call the next day and the nurse said I would be seeing Dr. Draper, who happened to be the chief of OB residency at the hospital. It sounded like I would be in good hands and I was so relieved.

Within a few days I had my first appointment. This experience was unlike any OB experience I'd ever had before. My OB with Ethan had a beautiful inviting office with comfy chairs and nice wallpaper. The exams rooms were warm and it felt safe there. This place, however, was in a hospital and I have never been a fan of hospitals. I walked through the sterile halls which reeked of industrial strength cleaner. There were gurneys in the halls and high tech looking equipment everywhere. This was not at all like any OB's office I'd ever seen.

When I got into the exam room, it was even worse. There were posters on the walls about support groups for this condition or that. I knew that the women who frequented these rooms had problems of all sorts. Some women had problems, some babies had problems, sometimes the mother AND baby had problems and I prayed that I was not one of those people.

After the medical assistant took my vitals and my urine, I was met by the nurse midwife. Her name was Sam and she sat down in a chair across from me and began by taking my history. I hated when I had to give my history because I didn't ever know where to start and I always sounded like a crazy person. As I got further and further into the story, I couldn't control the tears and they fell freely. There are few things in this world that I hate more than crying in front of strangers. It always makes me feel so vulnerable and stupid, but Sam was so sweet and I could see genuine compassion in her eyes. As I continued with the story, I would have to stop to regain composure so I could go on. Sam would reach out and touch my arm and say "It's okay, you just take your time. I know this is very hard for you."

She took all of the history that she could, then she told me that Dr. Draper would be in shortly and he would want to hear it all again. I later realized it was pattern that Sam would come in first, then Dr. Draper would come in for a second exam/evaluation and then they would compare notes and double check each other's work. I suppose they were making doubly sure that everything was accurate. I was left alone again in that cold room and I felt so small and scared.

In a while a man came in wearing a blue pair of scrubs and sneakers. I noticed he had a a blood splatter on the cuff of his pant leg and I thought it was pretty gross. I later found out that he had just come from a delivery. He was middle aged with a little gray in his hair and he wore glasses. He grabbed a chair and flipped it around backwards, then straddled it and held out his hand. "I'm Mike Draper. I hear you're having a hard time. Want to talk about it?" Who was this guy? Was he a REAL doctor? He seemed so unprofessional, but in a good way. I was suddenly put at ease and I began to speak freely.

As I re-played everything I had just told Sam, he hardly ever looked up from my chart that he was writing in. I talked and he wrote. I talked and he wrote. And he wrote and he wrote and he wrote. He would occasionally nod and look up, stopping me to ask a question or get a fact straight, then he would go back to writing. At one point he ran out of paper in the chart, so he started grabbing paper towels out of the dispenser on the wall and he wrote on that! I wondered why he didn't just stop to go grab more paper from another room, but I know now that he was so engulfed in the moment of the story and he didn't want to stop me for fear that I would lose my train of thought. To this day, those original paper towels have holes punched in them and they are secured in my chart. This guy was not messing around!

So I finished up the story and he sat back and took a breath, reviewing his pages of notes. I could not believe that he listened so intently. In the past few weeks, no one...not even Schneiman had listened to me like that. I felt like maybe this guy was the one who would figure it out and save me. I had a good feeling about him and for the first time in a long time, I breathed a sigh of relief.

We continued to talk for a while and he said he wanted to do an ultrasound the next week. I would be about 17 weeks and we could likely tell the sex of the baby then. He told me that he would review his notes and ponder on it. He assured me that I had not harmed the baby. He said that he dealt with nothing but high risk pregnancies and that he was optimistic that things would be okay.

As I was about to leave, he put his hand on my shoulder and said "I want you to go home and not worry about this. You are a good mom and you have not done anything to harm that baby of yours. We are going to figure this thing out and I won't rest until we do. You are going to be fine!" And I felt like he really meant it. Looking back on it, it was a blessing in disguise that Dr. Brown dropped me as a patient. Dr. Draper came into our lives for a reason and I know that it was the Lord's plan.

(You can read more about Dr. Draper in this blog post)

Episode 12- Erin

Cody saved my life by hiring a babysitter who stayed at our house from 9-5 Monday through Friday. Erin was a fourteen year old young woman from our ward and she was eager to make some cash during the summer, so it worked out well for all of us. We were in the process of building a house and we didn't have a dime to spare, so Cody took some money out of our 401K to help pay her the $5 and hour that she charged. Her fee was more than fair and she was saving up for an Ipod.

Erin was such a funny teenager and reminded me a lot of myself when I was her age. She never understood the specifics of why we needed her help; she thought that I was just having a complicated pregnancy and that I had a lot of doctor appointments. So she would come over in the morning and help with house work and entertain both Ethan AND me. I loved hearing of her teenage woes. She would tell me about the boys she liked and the drama that surrounded her "relationships". Erin lightened the mood a lot in our home and I don't know what I would have done with out her.

Simply having someone else in the house (besides Ethan) made me feel safe and more calm, even if she was only fourteen. It was a life saver because I had appointments with Schneiman twice a week and I would soon be meeting with the perinatologist once a week. I completely trusted Erin to watch Ethan while I was gone and it put my mind at ease. She continued to work for us until school started at the end of August.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Episode 11- The Refill

The time was drawing near to refill one of my prescriptions. I had been instructed upon discharge to consult with Dr. Brown (the OB) on all my prescription needs, so I called his office to have the nurse call in a new prescription to the pharmacy. When I spoke with the nurse, she asked me my name and date of birth. Then she said "I need to talk to the doctor and then I'll give you a call back." That made me feel uneasy, but I tried not to think anything of it until I heard back from her.

Later that afternoon I got a call from her and it flipped things upside down. Her end of the conversation went something like this-

"I talked to Dr. Brown about this issue, and he said that he's sorry but he can no longer keep you as a patient. You are too high risk for our clinic and he doesn't feel comfortable prescribing medications that are that risky to the baby. He wants you to see a perintaologist at the University Hospital instead."

The room was spinning as I absorbed her words. I did not understand! Why was he cutting me off as a patient? Was I that far gone that he had to wash his hands of me? Was the harm I was doing to my baby that big of a liability for him? WHAT HAD I DONE TO MY BABY?!?!?! The nurse gave me the phone number to the high risk clinic and that was that.

I got off the phone and collapsed into a puddle on the floor. Ethan was down for a nap and I was grateful that he didn't witness the episode. I tried to call Cody at work but he didn't answer. Then I called my wonderful friend, Brandi. She had been my rock from the moment I'd met her a few years before. Brandi and I were kindred spirits and we knew it from the start.

So I called her and I cried and cried, and she did the only thing she could do. She listened. She listened and she cried with me as we thought about the sudden turn my path had taken only a few weeks before. Why was this happening? What had I done to deserve this? All I wanted was to be a good wife and mom, and I wasn't able to be. All I wanted to do was grow a healthy baby and I wasn't even able to do that much. And now I didn't have a doctor who would touch me with a ten foot pole.

Episode 10- Adjusting To A New Life

We somehow made it through the first few days and we tried to adapt to this new life that had been thrown at us. All of us walked around every day on eggsells, not wanting to disturb the fragile new balance we had atained.

There was one particularly bad blow that made me feel like a complete failure. I had been tending our nephew, Carson, who was the baby of Cody's brother Lance. He is only a few weeks younger than Ethan and I watched him in our home since he was five months old. The boys were toddlers at this time. Obviously when things went "koo koo" with me I was no longer his sitter.

It was just one more thing in my life that I had given up, something that was beyond my control. And I felt like I had let Lance and Courtnee down. Obviously they were well aware of the situation and they understood, but I felt like a failure and I was mortified to even see them.

I can only imagine how hard it is to send your baby to a sitter's every day, and I'm sure they felt fortunate that Cody and I were in a position where it was possible for me to watch him. And here that was no longer a posibility and they were forced to look elsewhere for his care. It was a giant blow to my ego. Looking back on it, I was lucky that I was still able to care for my own child, but even then I know that it was because of divine intervention that I could still do it.

When I was discharged from the hospital, the doctors were optimistic that I would be weaned from all meds within 30 days. Who were these people and who issued them their medical licenses? Okay sure, that is how it works. Get me fully hooked and dependent on the drugs and then expect me to be done with them after four weeks.

I continued to see Schneiman on a bi-weekly basis. On my first session with him post-discharge, I sat in his office and wept at the thought of my detox. How on earth was it possible? How could I suddenly give up what I had become so dependent on for my sanity, my security, and my SLEEP!!!

He didn't fill me with false hope. He said that he thought it was a long shot that I would be off the drugs in one month. He thought it seemed impossible, but we would work toward a more realistic plan. At hearing his words I was filled with a little peace. It was something to work toward and I was willing.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I Am Back

Hello readers! I am back from vacation and we are slowly getting normalized again. As soon as I get settled I will write the next installment of the saga! Stay tuned...