Something happened to me over Christmas this year, that I didn’t share with y’all. In the midst of it, I didn’t really know what was happening. It just felt like I’d changed and sunk into a pattern of fogginess followed by sadness followed by stress followed by breakdown followed by happiness…REPEAT. It was bizarre and dark some of the time, and the worst part was the fixation I had on all my similarities with Jenny.
Jenny Bankston was a fifth year orthopedic resident’s wife, who’d recently had her first baby, and was making it through the hectic holiday season three and a half years ago. Her husband Chip was working on a busy service–early mornings and late nights. Leaving for work while it’s dark and coming home when it’s dark. I knew Jenny only in passing, and Jeremiah and Chip were pretty good friends. I was carrying Mary Aplin while Jenny carried Graham. I can remember a couple of hormonal pregnancy fights between Jeremiah and me over what a sweet and attentive husband Chip seemed to be to his pregnant wife. I remember saying, “I can’t even imagine what I’d have to say to get you to leave the OR to come home and check on ME, like Chip does for Jenny.”…I didn’t know that Jenny was struggling in a different way than me…I wish I’d known.
I went to Dothan that winter three and a half years ago and on the same day that my Mom died, so did Jenny and Graham. I don’t know for sure if it was postpartum or PMD or a change in medication to treat one of the above, but in her pain Jenny took her own life and Graham’s. As I watched Mary Aplin pass her milestones that long winter, I cried for Graham so. many. times, and the fact that he and Jenny were missing these small joys.
And then this winter, that sadness came back. Jeremiah was on the same rotation that Chip had been on that Christmas season. Working with the same attending, with the same long hours, and there was one night when I’d gotten a babysitter to go to a Christmas party (that it seemed Jeremiah would never show up for) when I drove around by myself and cried and felt alone and scared at the idea that what Jenny must have been feeling was very similar to what I was feeling. Did she know how far gone she was? Would I know if it were happening to me right now? Was there a snapping point or was it a slow progression? Was I safe? Were my children?
I told Jeremiah I was struggling with these thoughts. Consumed by them, honestly, but I was scared to say, “I need help,” because I didn’t know if I did. Was I being dramatic? Was I making something about ME, that wasn’t about me at all? Was I manifesting the stress of something as silly as making Christmas presents and cards into something bigger so that I didn’t feel stupid about my stress?
I don’t know. But what I do know is that I was depressed, and I can tell you now from a clear state of mind that hormones and depression are real things. They are scary things, and it isn’t something that everybody is comfortable admitting. Thankfully, I did talk about it to Kendall, my sweet sister who came from Auburn and spent a week taking care of my children and addressing our Christmas cards, and doing a long list of mundane tasks–one of which was helping me to laugh at myself and the things I was feeling.
I shared all that to say that we, each of us, are capable of falling into depression, and when we do, we need. help. Jenny’s Light was started in honor of Jenny and Graham, to fund research- new medicines, proper screening, etc., sponsor support groups for expectant and new mothers and families, organize and execute fundraising events, build networks of toll-free hotlines around the world and sponsor local and national PMD (perinatal mood disorder) conferences.
The UAB orthopedic department is sponsoring a golf tournament to raise money for Jenny’s Light. You could get up a foursome to play golf, sponsor a hole, give a gift certificate from your business (or weekend at your vacation home :)) to be raffled away for money, or just email me if you have a personal connection to a local business I could contact about doing one of the above. THIS is a link to our Golf Tournament web page. It has links to tell all the different sponsorship and volunteer opportunities. Or, you could just email me (email@example.com) and I can tell you more about it.
I hope you’ve recognized that I don’t ask for support for any and every good cause out there. I share a lot of my own personal struggles, and you’ve all loved and supported me so much. I’m telling you about Jenny’s Light now, because it is very close to my heart, and I believe it’s important.