#MentalHealth: My Complex Depression Story
Warning: This is going to be a very long and very graphic post. I apologize if you get queasy or you are triggered by your experiences. I hope you can understand why I am going into this much detail and why I needing to tell my story.
This will probably be the hardest thing I will ever write. It has taken eight years to get to this point. Six of those years, I repressed everything about the event I am about to tell you about. The last two years have been closed conversations with myself and my therapist. It wasn’t until the beginning of June, I was sitting down with someone that I consider a friend and a mentor that it finally came out without tears. It was surreal. Every time I talked about the event and the time after before then I would cry and become an emotional mess for the rest of the day. I felt I had finally had a breakthrough.
I know I have mentioned this event in several other posts about my mental health and therapy, but today I am finally going to spell it out for everyone. I am telling my story because I need to for my own mental health, but I also hope it will help others with their own stories similarly related to this subject.
On top of all the other mental health problems I experience, I have postpartum depression. This is that story.
In March 2010, I found out I was a month or so pregnant. I had gotten back from my last Iraq deployment in January and was planning my move to Germany. I was shocked, horrified, yet deep down happy. I had always been a person who never desired children and had little to do with them, but this was something different. I went back and forth with my options; but finally after talking to the boyfriend (at the time), friends, and family, as well as, self-reflection, I decided to keep the pregnancy. We started planning everything out; I started looking at books, and I started to look when I could reenlist next.
It was Friday, June 4, 2010, when the following event happened. I woke up in the middle of the night, in my barracks room, covered in sweat because, despite being on an American base, we still didn’t have A/C and your girl is from Texas. It was then I realized I was covered in liquid from the waist down. I honestly thought I had peed the bed. It wasn’t until I got to the shared bathroom that I saw my legs and pelvis covered in blood. In my head, I thought I was having my period or spotting because I was barely out of the first trimester. I stripped off all my clothes and threw them on the ground. I decided to take a shower. All while this was happening, I was having horrible cramps and still bleeding. As I scrubbed the blood off me, large chunks started coming out of me. I tried to push the pieces down the drain but ended up having to pick them up and flushing them down the toilet. It was only later I would realize that it was the fetus aborting.
After my shower, I put a pad on, cleaned up the bathroom as much as I could, got dressed, stripped my bed in the light of the bathroom, and went back to bed thinking that it was just a really bad spotting incident. I would wake up a few hours later, covered in blood again, cold, and needing to get ready for formation.
I took another shower, put on my PT uniform, and was prepared to go to the clinic on base to get some help. I walked to the clinic, which really wasn’t far, but this time it felt so far. I found myself shaking in the early June morning, with my physical training (PT) jacket on and trying to get there for sick call. When they finally opened the clinic and I was able to check in, they told me I needed to go to the German hospital because they could not help me [not all base clinics in Germany are hospitals or equipped to do most women’s health or anything other than basic first aid and triage]. I was not afforded transportation to the hospital, but thankfully, my platoon sergeant had decided not to run on that Friday and I asked him to take me to the hospital. Honestly, if I had my car there at the time I probably would have taken myself. He saw that I was bleeding, pale, and scrambled to get me there. To say he sped is an understatement.
He dropped me off at the door and went to go park his car because he was going to stay with me until I was let go. At this time, I barely knew or read German; so I walked around the hospital trying to find someone who spoke English or the Emergency Room. Thankfully, I found it and my platoon sergeant found me. I was wheeled back to a prep room, with blood running down my legs, and still in my PT gear. I was seen immediately, stripped down and had a gown put on me. When the doctor performed an ultrasound on my pelvis, I felt that my heart had stopped. She told me the fetus had aborted itself and the embryonic sack had stayed in my body, hence I was still bleeding and would continue to bleed without surgery. So, they wheeled me back to an operating room and put me under. They performed a dilation and curettage, aka a D&C.
Perhaps it was a few hours later, I woke up in a recovery bed, surrounded by curtains, and able to hear the other people in the big wardroom of beds. I proceeded up doze off and wake up a few times until one nurse woke me up and said I was ready to go. They had found all my bloody clothes and handed them to me. I proceeded to get dressed back in my bloody uniform in front of this nurse who was impatiently waiting to discharge me. She told me I couldn’t drink alcohol for seven days and I had to take it easy.
My platoon sergeant was waiting for me at the desk and took me back to his car. I proceeded to use my jacket as a buffer between the still wet blood and his leather seat. We sat in silence as we drove back to base. He helped me to my room. I stripped my bed and my clothes again and tried to get rid as much blood on the mattress cover as I could. I found a clean sheet, got dressed, and then proceeded to curl up to go to sleep.
I woke up a little later and shuffled myself down with all the bloody sheets and clothes to clean them. Since it was a Friday and due to early release on Fridays, my roommate came back early. She took one look my face and just sighed. Her suggestion was retail therapy. So, Saturday we took a cab into town and I shopped until I felt comfortably numb. She asked if I wanted to drink with her and her friends, but I informed her I couldn’t. Instead, I went back to the barracks and called everyone back home. My mother and stepfather (at the time), my dad and stepmother, and finally my boyfriend. They all cried and tried to comfort me as much as they could. The boyfriend said it was okay and that we would try again, that he still wanted to be with me and that he would try his best to get to Germany. As far as his reassurances were concerned, I came to find out this was all lies.
Monday came fast and it was supposed to be my first appointment for my baby doctor. I called the liaison on base and informed her that I no longer needed those appointments because I was no longer pregnant. That morning I put on my PTs and tried to run for the first time in months, all while getting looks of pity from my platoon. It would be that way for the two years I would be in Germany. Anyone who knew about the incident took pity on me. Or at least that is what it felt to me and I hated it.
That Wednesday after my miscarriage, the boyfriend and I were talking over Skype. It was a normal conversation until he said he needed to tell me something important. I thought it was something to do with work or he was going to try and transfer earlier. Boy, I was ever wrong.
He was breaking up with me.
I would find out later when he got married a month after breaking up with me, that he cheated on me with his ex-fiance. She had been his ex as he found out that she had cheated on him, emptied his bank account, and destroyed his house while he was in Iraq.
After the conversation, I proceeded to go to a friend’s barracks room across the base and drink my first beer in several months. That weekend I got completely drunk. I stumbled back to my room with my roommate and that was the start of a two-year binge.
Later that year, I found out about an upcoming deployment. I was getting the itch. I needed to deploy to feel like I was doing my job, which I hadn’t felt since the miscarriage and it would get me back in shape. Since the miscarriage, I had been basically forcing myself to push every emotion out of my body. I was completely numb. I had sex with any guy who would want to have sex with me, I drank almost every day. I hated myself. I couldn’t feel anything and I was fine with that. I would be like that for six years until I got out of the Army and the repressed emotions all started flooding back.
There was one exception to this self-imposed silence in that six-year period. One week, one of my friends who was a married soldier in Germany had a miscarriage at a couple of months of gestation. She was behaving strangely and I knew something was wrong. I pulled her aside and we talked about what happened; making her cry and just asking a bunch of questions. I told her my story, which allowed all the feelings that I had repressed to come to the surface. We both cried and then went back to work. I told her I was there for her and if she needed to talk I was there. She never took me up on the offer, but it was probably she could tell I didn’t want to talk about my experience. I still keep in touch with her. She and her husband would later have a baby boy while still in Germany.
You are probably asking me why no one referred me to a mental health specialist. Well at the time of the incident, military personnel with a security clearance could not seek mental health. If we sought help or had a mental health episode, we would have our clearance revoked and possibly have our job taken away from us. No one in the job field I was in ever wanted that to happen to them or to anyone else in the security community, so I went without mental health help until after my service terminated. This was the same with a lot of people in my position. Hence, the pity looks and “kid gloves” treatment by co-workers and command. It wasn’t until about 2013 to 2014, with the rise of military suicide, that this barrier was finally pulled down. Hopefully, the people in my old job field have taken advantage of it, but I have no way of knowing.
With all this being said, I finally feel free. I am not over it, but I do feel that I am finally on the road to being open to my experiences and feelings and being able to work with them. I truly feel they are no longer a heavy or restrictive burden on my mind and soul.
I am looking forward to getting to know my true self better with awareness and a sense of adventure.
If this article has caused you any stress or painful memories, please consider seeking some mental health support.
Also, if you have any questions about my journey, please email me or leave them here. I will gladly answer them.