I have touched upon PTSD in previous posts, discussing how people can be on that path and some of the ways that they can seek treatment. One way that helps many is therapy. In the military, there can be many barriers to a Soldier seeking assistance with Behavioral Health. These include Chain of Command conflicts, mission needs and availability of services.
Seeking assistance at the Behavioral Health Clinic on post can be as simple as calling to find out when their walk in hours are, and then going. But sometimes it isn’t that simple. The walk in hours are usually after the duty day has already started, and this can cause some Soldiers to avoid going because they must then speak with their First Line Leader about why they need to be gone. Sometimes if you get lucky, you can go on a day after Staff Duty or manage to find a day when there’s nothing going on and just let them know that you’re running an errand or two and you’ll be back in about an hour.
So what happens during the walk in? Well, you’ll most likely fill out a survey on the computer. It asks questions about how you’re feeling, if you drink or smoke, if you have any conflicts with anyone, whether you’re thinking about hurting yourself, and other questions as well. Once you complete the survey, you wait until a therapist comes and brings you back to their office. Once there, you talk with them about why you are there, what else is going on in your life, and some general back ground questions. Based on that, they will talk to you about making a followup appointment to speak with someone on a regular basis.
From there, you go to the front desk of the clinic to make your follow up appointment, and get an appointment slip. Here’s where it gets tricky for some Soldiers. In many units, it is customary for them to require you to bring your appointment slip in and then they write it on a calendar somewhere so they can help to decrease the number of “No Shows” that they have to medical appointments. Here’s the thing, posting information about your appointments in a place that can be seen by anyone is a violation of your rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Frankly, it really isn’t anyones business if you’re going to BH or not. But in the military, it can certainly be a tricky situation.
Your unit, mainly your Commander and your First Sergeant, are responsible for ensuring the health and welfare of all of their Soldiers. As a part of this responsibility, they should permit you to seek the assistance that you desire and/or require to ensure that you recover both mentally and physically from a traumatic birth experience. However, that doesn’t mean that they won’t want to speak with you regarding the situation as a whole to ensure that you are okay. I personally don’t know all the regulations regarding this, and whether they can even ask questions or not. My advice on this would be to confide in your First Line Leader first, and discuss with them whether you have to talk to the 1SG or Commander. Best case scenario, you’ve kept your FLL in the loop so they know where you are at and you avoid an awkward conversation with anyone else.
If you are uncomfortable going to the BH clinic on post, there are other options that you can explore as well. Calling Military One Source is a great way of finding out if there are counselors in your area to speak with, and sometimes they are able to get you in with them for several sessions for free. It can be very helpful to be able to speak to a therapist regarding birth trauma, and make a plan of action to not only recover from your past but to move forward.
It was a beautiful day for a race. The path stretched out before me, and mile by mile I conquered it.
It wasn’t about how fast I could run, or how many people were ahead or behind me.. it was about taking in the beautiful journey and challenging my body more than the last race. Pushing past the boundaries that the mind built.
I ran more consecutive miles today than I have since before my son was born. Eleven miles. Slowly but surely my body is healing. My mind is healing. It is not broken, ruined, nor defective. The more that I run, the more I believe that I am capable.
Doing something physically challenging helps me to know that the next time I am faced with immense and overwhelming fear, I can face it with the courage of an athlete who pushes through the hardest part of the race. The miles just beyond our previous accomplishment.
One mile at a time, I am healing from my trauma.
“Keep running the race that is set before you with Endurance” Hebrews 12:1
In the weeks, and months, that came after my sons birth day, we went through a lot.
Because he had breathed in amniotic fluid and muconeum following the cesarean, my son was in the NICU for a week while his breathing stabilized. He battled jaundice, dehydration and failure to thrive. We had trouble breastfeeding because of the delay after birth, the CPAP machine, the monitors, and the horrid nurses who had no patience to help me at all. Although he was 9 pounds, 15 ounces when he was born, he was down to 8 pounds 2 ounces before my milk finally arrived on day five. The antibiotics that they had pumped into me during labor (since I was GBS+), had not only delayed my milk for five days, but also triggered a massive case of thrush in both of us.
But at least we were both healthy.
It took eight weeks to rid of us the thrush. It’s taken a lot longer to to not sob when I think of his birth. The nightmares began to wane, but with the recent talk to TTC again, they have returned a couple of nights each week.
It took me ten months to admit to myself that I had PPD. That it wasn’t my Thyroid, or stress at work, or adjusting to a routine, or lack of sleep. Even when I did finally talk to the doctor, I was too embarrassed to admit to the nightmares. The military takes mental disorders very seriously. It could have a very serious impact on my career… What if they think I am unfit to continue serving? So I stayed quiet.
But at least we are both healthy.
I started reaching out to others. Slowly breaking my silence. Taking bittersweet comfort in the stories of others facing the same birth demons. There are so many of us out there. Many who have friends, colleagues, family, and even spouses who just don’t understand. How do you put into words the craving of birth? How do explain the disconnect of your child being born, but not birthing them, if they haven’t felt it themselves?
But at least we are both healthy.
Today as I started off on my first run after a month long, self-imposed “break” from running.. one of my first thoughts was… bug spray. I forgot to use bug spray. As I swatted away the bugs that convene along the rural Virginia road at dusk, I started to imagine myself as She-Ra, fighting my way through them. Weird? Yes. Empowering? Absolutely.
This was my first run of many that will come to prepare for my first marathon next January. A bucket list item, that at 29, I started to worry that I wouldn’t get to. Despite reports of 93 year olds completing them “all the time.” I wonder most days if I am crazy. But a few years ago, before my son was born, I ran a half-marathon. And I still remember that absolute elation as I crossed the finish line, tears streaming down my face as I quietly celebrated finishing as well as finally feeling the massive blisters and my bruised toes.
It’s the same elation that I had hoped to feel after birthing my son. You see, in the next six months, I’m not only training for my fist marathon. I am also embarking on a journey of healing my soul after a traumatic birth experience. I am preparing to try to have another child, and I desperately want to birth the way that millions of women take for granted every day. My fears of another cesarean make me paralyzed sometimes. Nightmares of my birth experience haunt me, and until I can face my fears and my experiences I won’t be able to move forward and embrace pregnancy and birth again.
This is going to be my journey.. It’ll probably get rough. It’ll probably get emotional. But I hope to emerge as a She-Ra, battling my way through fears and comfort zones to be a marathon runner and a kick ass mama who’s ready for anything.