Saturday, February 18, 2012

the path (ii)

"You know, I think you'd really benefit if you talked with someone. Not just a friend or Charlie. But a professional. They can offer an ear and an unbiased opinion, and they might really help you put things in perspective."

Those were the words of my mother. She's been telling me for a long time, possibly predating the closet event, that I could really benefit from "talking" with someone. Whenever Mom has raised this notion, my response has always been, "When? When do I have the time? Because if I have the choice of talking with a professional, or say, seizing a moment of peace to stare out a window, the window is always going to win."

Years ago, during my parent's divorce, and shortly thereafter, I did talk to someone. A few people, in fact. They were located in medical office buildings, or old restored Victorian houses, and there were always Highlight magazines in the waiting room. Once my name was called, I'd be escorted back to a room. There was always a table, a stack of paper and a box of crayons that I'd dive towards. We'd typically sit around a table and they would quietly ask me questions as I colored pictures. "What are you drawing? How does that make you feel? Is that what you wish for?" I remember the questions, but I can't rightly remember the pictures. If I had to guess, I'd say that they were sketches of my mother and father in a heart, floating above my big family. Everyone would be smiling and holding hands as they watch me win a gold medal in the newest Olympic sport: Horse Gymnastics.

Some people might really benefit from talking to a professional in the medical health field. But these days, I feel like I can best get in touch with my inner self more effectively if I just write out my thoughts. Usually, once I purge the chatter out of my mind, the solution is right there.

Or, at least, the obstacle is in plain view and I need to find a way to get around it.

This past fall, soon after I'd returned back to work and I was, again, crushing under the stress that comes with a full-time job, motherhood, wifehood, household responsibilities, and a newly diagnosed auto-immune disease, my mother finally convinced me.

"I've been talking to a very good woman for a while now. It's great because all of our discussions are over the phone. She is in one city, I'm in another. We talk once a week, or once a month - or how ever often I think it's necessary."

Mom gave me her number and I called.

There was an exchange of pleasantries. I told her how I'd been referred and as it turns out, this woman doesn't just talk with one of the members of my family … she talks with several. So, it might streamline our efforts if she already knows a component of my history.

We discussed insurance coverage and I told her my carrier, and she said it wasn't one that she accepted. So we strategized how I'd call and request an exception and she'e call and do the same and we'd circle back in a few days. But first, she wanted to hear about what prompted me to call her. "How much time do you have?" I joked. As much time as it needs for you to give me an understanding, she replied. So I took a deep breath and began...

We'd been married for ten years. We struggled with infertility. We went through hell and back. We became pregnant with triplets. We struggled with preemies. We triumphed with adorable infants. We returned to work part-time. For the most part, there was a good balance.

We became pregnant, again. It was a wondrous, joyous, miraculous surprise. We continued to work part time. My company soon required that I come back to work full-time. Charlie reduced his work schedule to the point that he was laid-off. He started his own company. It felt like we were outgrowing our house. There were changes in the wind. My company's business strategy was changing and soon, I'd be out of a job. An opportunity to move came up.

From the beginning, it was met with resistance because although I work for one of the largest companies in the world, I was protected from The Corporate World in my cozy little home office. But recognizing that my job would be gone soon and seizing the opportunity for adventure, and proximity to my family, we accepted the transfer.

Almost immediately, we learned that I was pregnant, again. Our world flipped on it's axis. I withdrew my acceptance to move. I shot myself in the career foot but I was perfectly OK with that. A few weeks later, I suffered an ectopic pregnancy and the devastation was crippling. In a fog, I reaccepted the move. We were packed up and gone in less than six weeks. The day before we left, my hormones levels were checked to ensure that they'd returned to "normal." Normal = no trace of pregnancy.

Life was a blur.

Realtors came and put a stake and sign in our yard. We said goodbye to San Diego and the lives we'd established for ourselves over the past 17 years. By the time we'd driven cross-country we had multiple offers on our home. Most of them were full priced. We accepted an offer. But because of the state of the economy, we lost almost 55% of the equity in our home. We lived in a hotel for nearly two months and because of the instantaneous demands of my new job, I was immediately working long (stressful) hours while my husband was going out of his mind. We put in an offer on a wonderful house that needed an even more wonderful amount of work. Unfortunately, the economy hadn't hit this part of the country like it had hit where we were living and our funds were rapidly depleting.

Simultaneously, we learned that we shouldn't have accepted the offer on our California home - there was a paperwork glitch - and sorry, but we'd be losing almost all of our relocation benefits. Charlie and I stayed up ALL NIGHT talking and we knew what we had to do. We immediately started to drive back to California. We withdrew our Virginia offer, hired a real estate attorney and would get our California house back. I'd lose my job. I'd be unemployed. We'd lose a huge sum of money. But we were on the precipice of a dual nervous breakdown as we committed financial suicide and what we thought we were getting with this move, wasn't what we were getting.

Looking back, I don't know how we survived that.

Management talked me off the ledge. They said they'd make things right. We reconsidered and drove back to Virginia. We put the offer back in on the house. It was accepted. The house in California sold, two days later the house in Virginia closed. The moving truck arrived the next day and my babies started kindergarten two days after that. I was back at work. WORK WORK WORK WORK OH MY GOD IT NEVER STOPPED.

But I was the primary breadwinner. And my income was required to support our family. At the same time, I can see that the children need me more now than they've ever needed me before. Less than 12 months in to the new job, I am rushed to the hospital in an ambulance with a life threatening case of pneumonia. I'm put on full disability for three months. Present Day, I'm back to work. And I don't know what to do because the pressure is starting all over again. I'm afraid for myself and for my family and … I don't know what to do.

The line was silent and then I heard her cluck.

Wow. That's a lot. This will definitely give me something to talk to the insurance company about. Now, our time is up. But let's talk again in … how's next Tuesday?

Sure, that sounds great. I hung up the phone feeling justified that YES, THIS IS A LOT. But I'm working with a professional and she'll coach me through this. What in the world took me so long to get the help that I needed?

The following Tuesday night, I grabbed a blanket, notebook and pencil and made myself comfortable on our bed. I picked up the phone and excitedly called My Therapist. She started off the conversation by telling me about her discussion with my insurance company. "I told them that you have FIVE CHILDREN and are struggling with balance issues. You've been in and out of the hospital and there is a potential you might be a threat to yourself."

"Um, what? Well, I don't think I'm a threat to myself. Although, I am my own worst enemy because I'm not taking care of my physical health. Also, I have four children, not five. Remember, I lost that pregnancy…?"

As my voice trailed off she laughed and said, "Thank goodness you did! I'm sure you'd agree that was probably the best thing to ever happen to you! Like you need ONE MORE THING to think about, right?!"

"Um, well. Um, no. Not really? It was actually one of the worst things to ever happen to me. I couldn't get out of bed for a week and still feel terrible sadness whenever I think of it. Which is almost everyday. I'm sorry … you're a MENTAL HEALTH doctor. Right??"

Ultimately, my insurance company wouldn't cover her services. As she gave me a list of therapists that would be covered by my insurance, her parting words were that I was a perfectionist in need of a maid.

Yeah. Like I didn't already know that.