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{October 2007. Sister C's wedding weekend. Big Girl is 10 months. Dad has just been diagnosed with cancer. A lot going on behind that smile of mine.}

I have been wanting to write this post for a long time. It's been inside me for almost a year, the words rearranging themselves in my head. I've waited. For what? I'm not sure. For the right time. For the perfect time. But the thing is, the thing to remember, is that there is no right time. No perfect time. There is no right or perfect time to leave that job, or have that baby, or tell that truth. And so you must just do it, that thing that matters to you, that thing you will look back upon in years to come and say: Thank goodness I did that. Thank goodness I said that. Thank goodness I had the guts to go for it.

I wrote the following words last spring:

May 20, 2011

It's a little past 5am. I shoot up in bed. My bangs are stuck with sweat to my forehead. I look down. My breasts pop from my tank, full and ready. I will feed my baby soon. She's two months old. Asleep in her crib upstairs. On the monitor, I hear her pre-waking grunts.

I don't remember the end of my night.

I shake my husband awake, as I do on mornings like this - yes, there have been others.

"Babe," I say.

He grumbles something in acknowledgment.

"Why do I do this to myself?"

It's a question he's heard before. One he's never quite able to answer. Why do I drink myself into oblivion only to hate myself the next day? It's a tough thing to explain. Even for me.

The monologue begins. A true shame spiral. I travel down. My husband reaches out and strokes my arm.

I'm crying now. Shaking from the white wine aftermath, but also from some kind of awareness. This morning's different.

I shake my husband some more. He sits up in bed, cradling a lavender pillow.

"I think something's wrong," I say.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm not sure."

His eyes open now, and he looks at me.

It was a Friday morning. Husband was due to leave in just a few hours for his cousin's wedding. It was the first time he would leave me with all three girls. The day before, the pediatrician confirmed that Little Girl still had blood in her diaper from a severe milk allergy; I was cutting all dairy from my diet in an effort to continue nursing (and barely eating as a result) but it was not working. The day before, Big Girl had taken her ERBs - a Kindergarten placement test. My beloved baby nurse was due to leave me in a couple of days. I had not slept much. I had too much wine the night before. My body was a mess. So was my mind. I was due to attend a building dedication to my family, a quasi memorial to Dad.

Still in bed, I considered two words for the first time: postpartum depression. I asked Husband if he thought it was possible and he said he didn't know but that I should call my OB. I promised I would. But first I went with Mom and my sisters to Green Chimneys and sat in a folding chair as new dormitories were dedicated to the Donnelley family and as people, and Mom, talked about Dad. And I listened but in my head, my throbbing head, four words pulsed: The day everything changed.

You see. I am a writer and I title books that do not yet exist, and might never exist. I knew it, I felt it, that the day would be an important one for me, that it would mean something looking back. And so, it had a title, this story: The Day Everything Changed. It would be a story of waking up, literally and figuratively, to a truth, to a life. It would be a story of surrender and strength.

I came home. Wiped out, inspired, missing Dad. I called my OB. And she gave me two names, two numbers. I stood there in my bathroom and called them both. Left messages. Even though it was a Friday afternoon, they each called back. I arranged to meet both of them the following Monday. Monday came and I sat in two different offices and said the same things. I'm not sure what is going on, but I want to figure it out.

Tell me a bit about you, your upbringing, your history. And so I did. I grew up here. I am the middle of five sisters. We all went to the same schools - Dalton and Yale. I went on to law school at Columbia and practiced for a bit and then left to write a novel. I published it not long ago and am trying to write my next but it is hard because I have three kids under four.

They nodded, smiled, jotted notes.

Why now? they asked. Why did you call on Friday?

And so. I told them. Everything. About the buckets of wine. About the allergy. About the Kindergarten test. About my husband going out of town, the baby nurse leaving. About missing Dad.

More nods. More notes.

You are not depressed. They both said this and it was obviously a tremendous relief.

But they were not finished. They both arrived at the same conclusion: You are anxious.

I sat there, in those comfy chairs in two different offices on the very same day, and I nodded and thought something. Duh. Of course I am anxious. I have always been anxious. I am a perfectionist, an achiever. I spend my days writing about insecurity, and anxiety. I like things a certain way. Myself. My life. My world. I did not say these things aloud, but listened.

You have probably always had anxiety. And your anxiety has always served you well - it has helped you achieve and accomplish all the things you have achieved and accomplished. But. But now you are in a different place. You have a husband and kids and a life that is at its core chaotic, a life you cannot completely control. And this is making you anxious, it is. Three babies? A child testing for kindergarten? A child with a health issue? A dead father? A desire to be an author and a hands-on mother? This is the perfect storm. This is too much. And this is not really about drinking. You are drinking - as many people do - because you are anxious, because you do not know how to relax, and because you need a release. But drinking makes anxiety worse. Know that.

Subconsciously, I knew these things. That I was anxious, that I drank wine to quell my anxiety, to cope. But hearing someone, two someones, say these things aloud struck me. And I decided something: I wanted to change. My life would not change; there would always be stresses, the chaos would not magically abate, but I did not want to feel the way I was feeling. So. For several months, I traveled to the East Side and talked to one of these women about my how I was doing. For several months, I took a very low dose of anti-anxiety medicine. I think it helped.

The sad thing? I barely told a soul about any of this. Even though I knew I was surrounded by people who loved me and would want to support me. I didn't tell anyone because I felt weak and ashamed. I didn't tell anyone because I felt like a failure, like I couldn't hack it. I didn't tell anyone because I felt like I would, for some reason, be judged. Instead of opening up, something I wish I did in retrospect, I slogged through very much on my own - thinking, writing, mothering.

In time, I felt much better. I told my therapist this. I told her I wanted to stop the meds, and with her thoughtful supervision, I did so right before Christmas. In January, I went to see her one final time to check in and talk about things. It was a wonderful, real hour. I told her that I was feeling good, that my girls were thriving, that I got anxious of course but in a way that seemed appropriate and manageable. I did say that I was still drinking a bit more than I'd like.

I have been thinking of giving up alcohol for one year. Just as an experiment, a reboot. To see what life feels like, and looks like, without it. I don't know but I just think it would be really interesting. The writer in me is curious and wants to do this, and write this, and just see.

My therapist smiled. I don't remember her exact words, but they went something like this: Do you know how many people would want to read what you write? Do you know that every single one of my patients, most people I know, would relate to your story? Do you know how common it is to feel anxious or depressed or disillusioned and drink or do something else to feel better, to escape? This would be a more subtle story. Not about alcoholism or anything severe. About real life, about stumbling, about coping, about trying to do it all.

I smiled. Nodded.

She smiled. Nodded. This is big. This is good, she said. And then we said goodbye.

And I left her office that day and walked back out in the world. It was a sunny, but cold day and I was buzzing. Buzzing with the idea of change. The book, that imaginary book in my head, would have a slightly different name now, a name that Thoreau would approve of:

The Day Everything I Changed.

The Day I Changed. Because Thoreau is right. Things do not change; we do.

I look back to a year ago. To a time that was tough. To a time when I woke up, yes literally, yes figuratively, to a murky and meaningful morning, to a series of truths. I am struggling. It is okay to struggle. To struggle is to be human.

I am writing this because I have wanted to for a long time. I am writing this because one of you reading this might be in the thicket now, struggling with something similar or different, afraid and alone. I am writing this because this is my story and I am ready, finally ready, to tell it.

I am writing this because this is me.

There is no right time. No perfect time.

So I chose today.

Thank you to the lovely sisters over at Momalom for inspiring me to finally write this and post it. I am linking up with several other bloggers for the wonderful Five for Five community blogging effort. Click here to read many more musings on today's topic of Change. Come back each day this week for more truth. I am also linking up with Imperfect Prose.

And leave a comment today before 11pm EST for a chance to win a copy of Danielle LaPorte's FIRE STARTER SESSIONS. Per my vow, I purchased one copy for every five of your wonderful comments Friday and now I have a slew of books to give away! And big congrats to Susan for being Friday's winner.

Have you or anyone you know dealt with any type of anxiety or depression, postpartum or other? Why do you think I was so scared to talk about this publicly? Do you agree that there is no right time, or perfect time to do and talk about important things? Please feel free to comment anonymously as I know this can be a sensitive topic for many. Thank you for listening :)

Drinking Words

She's On Fire