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How a Trip to My Gynecologist Made Me Face My Depression

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This is a little tale from me about the time my Pap smear led to a talk about Prozac.

I will admit it. There are times I don’t talk about autism or our connection to it at all — mainly because where or what I’m doing doesn’t warrant a need for the discussion, and I kind of enjoy that now and then. My eyes and ears are forever focused on all things autism, and it’s nice to get a little break. Frankly, I never thought I would be having a discussion about caregiver burnout with my lady bits doctor. Yet, there I was in my paper gown and socks having a good cry about being completely overwhelmed and utterly stressed out. Having now had an ugly cry in such circumstances, awkward does not even begin to describe it.

It started out innocently enough. My doctor is the one that delivered the kiddo all those years ago. So she was rather amused to see his name on the school roster where her kid attends. (She had a baby the year after me.)  We did the chitchat thing where we both pretend it’s completely normal for her to examine my boob while talking about the PTA and whatnot. Then she asked “Oh, he’s in the same grade as mine is? Isn’t he older?” and then I had to let the cat out of the bag about why he’s in the same grade — but really not in a grade actually — but just does inclusion subjects with that grade. All the autism stuff came a tumbling out with it.

And I really didn’t want to talk about it. At all. I wasn’t in the mood, and at that point in my life I was barely hanging on with a white knuckle grip. I didn’t feel like being the cheerleader for Team Autism Awareness when I was just trying to get my annual done by the gyno. Since I have no poker face or filter, I guess you could say my rapid-fire explanation and sudden change in mood tipped her off I was a tad stressed out. It then came to a header when she gently suggested I try getting up an hour earlier than the kiddo does in the morning so I could mediate. That is when the dam broke.

“Get up an hour earlier? My kiddo gets up at 4 a.m. now. You want me up at 3? Let me tell you something, Doc, the only thing I want to be at that hour is unconscious!” Cue the tears and a confused doctor handing me tissues.

Despite not wanting to raise awareness for living with autism, here I was doing it. Her next suggestion was I open to trying medication. It was something I’d given thought to previously, but like most moms, taking care of myself gets shoved aside. I knew I had to be healthy to be a good mom. This includes mental health. Every person in the kiddo’s life looked to me to keep the momentum going, and I wasn’t going anywhere at the moment. I was stuck in the mud. I needed help — more than just a simple babysitting break now and then, more than just a chin wag on the phone with a pal. Brain chemicals meant big guns. My kiddo was young, and I knew I had a lot of years ahead of me on this path. If I had a sinus infection, I would never question taking medication for it. Why would this be any different?

Now I won’t say that every one should take an antidepressant. Not at all. Different strokes for different folks. For me, it’s helped. It’s just something I need to do. I’m a much better wife and mother on them than off.  (Yes, I tried going off for a while to see and decided that was not a good idea. I prefer not crying every day. It fogs up my glasses.)

I never hid this, but at the same time I wasn’t walking into rooms saying, “20mg Prozac in da house!” But I keep seeing so many news stories about caregiver burnout, and it frightens me. It scares me to think folks are not getting help they need in order to take care of others. Again, medication won’t solve all your problems, but it sure can help you get through the day-to-day grind of it all.  I don’t want to be a news headline. I want to be a mother. His mother. The mother he deserves.

So even if you think, “I don’t have time for me,” you do. Make it. Nothing is more important than you if you are dealing with depression. Even if you’re like me and don’t go to the doctor unless you’re sick, I bet you go to your gyno annually. (Well, my female readers, anyway. Sorry fellas.) Talk to that doctor. They can talk about options with you. You might find yourself feeling awkward talking about this in a paper gown and socks, but know I did it too. We’ll be like twinsies.

Why am I even talking about this very embarrassing moment in my life? Because we need to talk about depression and stress. We need to talk about mental health. We need to talk about burnout. We need to not be shamed or made to feel guilty about our feelings. Raising an autistic child is hard. One thing improves and and another problem or challenge pops up. We’re forever putting out fires and advocating for our kids, all while doing it in on little to no sleep.  We cannot let the idea continue that we are these blessed saints chosen to be these kids’ parents because we never lose our cool. We’re no different than any other person on the planet. We screw up, we yell, and, yes, we even get depressed.

We need to advocate for ourselves just as much as we do for our kids or we are no help to them at all. A side of fries can only do so much.

This post originally appeared on Autism With a Side of Fries.

Ready more from Mama Fry on The Mighty:
6 Arguments for Using the ‘R’ Word…
and 6 Reasons Those Arguments Make No Sense
Why I Don’t Care What Causes Autism
My Son Has Autism. This Is Why I’m Lucky.

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Originally published: October 16, 2014
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