Speaking of using my words, I remember the first time after my big breakdown that I made a conscious effort to voice my frustration.
I had just graduated from the hospital outpatient program with the lessons on effective communication fresh on my mind. The psychiatric counselors taught us that stress and anger stoke each other, and that left alone for too long, these guys would host a keg party inside your brain, triggering excess adrenaline and cortisol that do bad things to every organ in your body.
Cross-eyed Katherine was sitting on my lap inside an ophthalmologist’s office. We had already seen a doctor who told me that my two-year-old would absolutely need surgery. But I wanted a second opinion
“When did you first notice her crossing her eyes?” asked Dr. A.
“This summer,” I said.
“Is it snowing outside?” he asked
I looked out the window. “Yeah, it is.”
“What have you been doing for the last six months?” he asked.
I wanted to tell him that I had been in the psyche ward a big chunk of that time eating rubber turkey with some folks in hospital robes, that I had trouble dealing with mean people like him.
Instead I told him that he was a second opinion–that I had already been to see an ophthalmologist–and that he obviously sees a lot of patients because it took three months to get an appointment with him.
He continued Katherine’s evaluation, but I couldn’t let it go. I was getting angrier by the minute.
“You know, your comment about the snow,” I said. “I don’t appreciate your suggesting that I am a slacker mom. Because I’m not.”
“I’m sorry if I offended you,” he said. “I was just getting you back for your joke about the diaper.” (Katherine had pooped as soon as he walked in and I asked him if he changed diapers.)
“There are some things I’m sensitive about,” I explained, “and being a good mom is one of them.”
The hospital counselors would have been proud. I think I decreased my adrenaline and cortisol by a few levels. And at the next appointment, I found out that Dr. A is not only an excellent ophthalmologist but also a kind person (as long as you don’t bring up diapers).