Her name was Svetlana. She spoke with a thick Slavic accent and wore a pantsuit, which for some reason made me think that she looked like a banker. A Russian banker. Which didn’t predispose me to telling her my secrets, but still: I had promised myself that I would do this, that I would seek help, and this place, this tidy office with a worn leatherette sofa and wilting fern and shelves upon shelves of books on psychiatry and therapy and parenting, was where I had arrived. This woman, the occupant of this office, would help me.
So, she says, peering at the file in her hands, you vant harm your child?
Um… no… that’s not…
She frowns. Say here, you vant harm your child… you have violent thoughts…
No, no, that’s not exactly right… I just…
Is chicken scratch. I cannot to read. You look, tell me vat it say. She hands me the file with my psychiatric referral.
Um… I squint at the inky scrawl “…reports intrusive thoughts of harming baby… reports wanting to drop baby on bed, escape home, reports experiencing feelings as violent, aggressive… denies intent to harm… denies intent to harm self… denies suicidal ideation… reports being afraid of intrusive thoughts.” I cringe. I’d rather not be reading this. “Sleep deprivation. Previous treatment for anxiety. Supportive husband.” I hand the file back to her. I didn’t say that I felt violent. I said that the feeling itself was violent. Like a shock. It frightened me.
Is frightening, yes, these thoughts. She looks me in the eye. I know you do not vant harm baby.
Which is as good a basis for a therapeutic relationship as any, I suppose. I could, I decided in that instant, overlook the pantsuit. I could work with this woman.
We spoke at length, Svetlana and I. Or rather, she spoke, and asked the occasional question, which suited me. I hate psychiatric therapy, I hate feeling that I’m being analyzed. I hate listening to the sound of my own voice droning on and on about can’t sleep motherhood hard feel anxious yes family history of depression no not suicidal just TIRED TIRED OH SO TIRED. I just want a solution. I just wanted her to give me a solution.
And Svetlana was all about the solutions. First, we get you to sleep, no? I give you Ativan; you sleep when baby sleep. Zen, we test blood: thyroid, B12, glucose… your body, I zink, it is PFFT!… zen we meet again; we talk… is good to talk… zen maybe, maybe I give you somezing for depression. Not now. Now, you are tired. You are post-traumatic stress. You need sleep and peas. She leans forward and grabs my hand. Sleep and peas.
I had to think about that for a second.
Yes, I say, finally. Peace would be nice.
Peas is nice, she says. I help you to get peas. She drops her voice to a whisper. I tell you somezing. You are not bad mother. You are good mother. She pats my hand. Not to forget.
No, I say. Not to forget. Thank you.
Peas is good. Today, I will fill the prescription for Ativan and will go to bed early with that little bottle of peas while the husband takes the baby and leaves me in the sweet, sweet quiet dark. With my peas. With my peace. So that I will rest, so that tomorrow will dawn brighter, so that I’ll move a step or two closer to feeling like the good mother that I know I am.
Note to you all, who do so much to sustain me: if you have e-mailed me in the last month or so and have not had a response from me, please forgive – I am completely overwhelmed and doing the best I can. I read everything. I respond as best I can, but that hasn’t been enough to keep control of my inbox. Please know that I so appreciate the support and the contact. I really, really do.