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The Adults Should Know Better

22 Mar

I’m well overdue for a good ol’ fashioned internet rant, and I’m afraid it’s gonna be a doozy.

Maybe you haven’t heard the story of the little boy who was bullied for his love of My Little Ponies and his Rainbow Dash backpack.  Grayson Bruce’s bullies physically attacked him as a part of their bullying, making him feel unsafe at school.  The school’s response?  Was to ban the backpack as it was a distraction and a “trigger for bullying.”  Basically, the school told Grayson that he was responsible for his own bullying and for the physical and emotional pain other children were intentionally causing him.  Their message to Grayson and to any student in their school who may be a little different is “Maybe you could be just a little less weird.  Is that so much to ask?”

I wish I could say that this kind of mentality from school officials isn’t the norm, but time and time again, I have witnessed students’ individuality systematically discouraged under the guise of rules about maintaining a “distraction free learning environment.”  Just this week, I heard from a friend and fellow parent that her daughter’s teacher recommended that her 4th grader seek counseling to learn how to “fit in better.”  You see, this child’s peers have sunk to ignoring her, name-calling, and the occasional “oops, I didn’t mean to place that sticker on your shoulder by hitting you.”

“Jane” is ostracized in and out of class because she’s a little different.  She likes things other kids don’t like, speaks a little loudly, often has her nose in a book, and doesn’t care about keeping up with the latest clothing styles.  I know this child well and see her weekly.  She is brilliant – mind-blowingly brilliant.  Creative, witty, and fun.  While the other girls in her class are swooning over teen heart throbs and gushing over their newest miniskirt, she loves Minecraft and computer games about animals… and it just so happens that her My Little Pony collection could probably rival Grayson’s. She loves learning and pours herself into school.  Or she did.

You see, her school’s response to the relational aggression and outright harassment being directed at her has been one of dismissal and excuses.  Her teacher insists she hasn’t seen any incidents of bullying and when Jane asks for help with a specific situation, she is told that nothing can be done since it’s a case of “he said, she said.”  When a boy harassed Jane on the bus, the bus driver told her that she was lying, and no action was taken until the mother contacted the administration.  Even after the boy’s mother had her son admit to the incident, no apology was issued to Jane from the school or the bus driver, and the boy suffered no consequences from the school for his behavior.  It’s no wonder Jane’s enthusiasm for school has waned.

And I have to wonder.  If Jane was more “normal,” would the teacher dismiss her cries for help?  If she were less introverted, would the administration tell her mother there is nothing they can do?  If she were your typical “popular” kid (tall and thin with designer clothes and an impatience to grow up), would the bus driver have accused her of lying?

The truth is that struggling to fit in with your peers is a rite of passage.  Kids can be downright cruel as they figure out how they fit into society and how to bend the social rules to their will.  That’s easy to explain and frankly, to be expected from children whose brains are quite literally still developing.  The adults… should know better.  School should be a safe place for all students to learn and play and it is job of each teacher and administrator to ensure that safety.  If Jane doesn’t have any advocates, even within the school staff, how can she possibly stand a chance with the other students?

Quote Bullying Post

I’m angry.  I’m angry for Jane and for Grayson.  I know firsthand that a teacher’s intervention can lift up a child who’s different from “weird” to “wonderful,” without asking the child to change who they are.  I’ve seen classrooms where teachers insisted on mutual respect among all the students, and where the “weird” kids were celebrated for their talents and abilities.  I’ve participated in classes where “unique” was the compliment it should be, and where there were no misfits because everyone was a misfit.  These teachers do one simple thing differently from teachers like Jane’s:  they place the blame for the bullying on the bully instead of the victim.  Students are not expected to love or befriend everyone in the class, but teasing is not tolerated and accusations of bullying are addressed immediately and sincerely.

My friend Miranda wrote about this recently as well, with her piece Stop It With the Victim Blaming.  In her piece, she reminds us that children are being destroyed by the kind of relational aggression and harassment that Jane faces at her school daily.  So don’t tell me that “in your day, you knew how to take an insult and just not let it bother you,” that you “don’t have enough time to deal with bullying,” or that these kids who dare (because they are DARING) to be themselves in a world that increasingly values homogeny somehow deserve to be treated as less than human.

Fitting in?  Is overrated.  It’s time to spread the word and stand up for the kids who are struggling.

Enough is enough.

**Obviously, the names in this post have been changed.***

Purple Crying and Click for Babies

1 Sep

NOTE: The Click For Babies site has been hacked and is down.  The other links work.  The NCSBS hopes to get the main hat donation site back up soon.  Because the site is down, I have added information below from their site with instructions for making the hats and the address you’ll need to send them in, as well as a link to a PDF file with FAQ.

Any mother knows THAT cry.  The one that stops you in your tracks.  It makes you see your baby through tunnel vision and takes over your brain, rendering you incapable of rational thought.  All you want is some quiet.  For her to stop screaming.  For you to be able to make it better.

It’s frustrating, upsetting, and for some of us, very triggering.

Both of my girls were PURPLE criers.  PURPLE in the sense that they fit the acronym coined by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (NCSBS):

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 1.29.15 PM

While I believe my girls’ PURPLE crying was in part due to their severe milk protein intolerance, many babies  cry during their early months without explanation.  As mothers, our instinct is to respond to the crying and to want to make it better.  And if you’re anything like me, being unable to stop the crying left me feeling helpless, frustrated, and like a failure as a mom.  My inner-monologue whispered, “If you were a better mom, you’d know how to soothe her.”  My frustration combined with my postpartum anxiety led to rage with my first baby.  I would find myself bouncing her with tension in my arms and anger in my breath.  I am so thankful I never shook her or hurt her but I regret each and every moment I spent feeling fury toward my newborn girl.

I distinctly remember the signs in my hospital room on the postpartum floor where I spent two days after my youngest was born.  I stared at them while holding my newest girl and took great comfort in their information.  They described PURPLE crying and explained that having intense reactions to it is normal for parents and caregivers.  Biologically normal.  They went on to assure me that asking for help or stepping away when the crying got to be too much were signs of strength and not weakness.

And I knew I was not alone.  I was normal.

Because of my psychiatric and psychological care postpartum, in addition to my education about PURPLE crying, my response to my second child’s crying was much calmer.  I was able to hand her to my mother or my husband and step outside for a break.  I was able to put in earplugs and continue to rock her in the nursery.  It wasn’t that I was able to prevent the emotional stress or frustration, but that I was able to process and respond to my feelings with caution and responsibility.  No small feat for someone with a history of mental illness.

And now that I’m on the other side, with two children instead of two babies, I’m glad to be able to contribute to the education campaign.  The NCSBS is collecting PURPLE knit and crochet hats for their yearly Click for Babies campaign.  Their website has information about contribute a hat, has patterns for hats, and has buttons and more for sharing on social media.

From the NCSBS:

The NCSBS will be collecting purple infant hats for CLICK for Babies 2013 through October in an effort to generate awareness of and decrease infant abuse. Knitted or crocheted caps will be given to newborn boys and girls in hospitals throughout November and December to help educate parents about the evidenced based Period of PURPLE Crying, a normal, but frustrating period of increased crying all infants experience in the first few weeks and months after birth.

WAYS YOUR FOLLOWERS CAN HELP

KNIT or CROCHET infant caps using any newborn baby cap pattern. Caps should be made using any shade of soft, baby-friendly purple yarn, be at least 50% purple in color, and free of straps, strings or other potential choking and strangling hazards. For baby boys, please remember to include blues, browns, grays and other “boy friendly” colors in your cap designs.

Organize and host a “KNIT IN” or “CROCHET PARTY” …which really is just our fancy way of saying get a group together and make some hats. These make for fantastic service projects in an array of settings: school, club, community, church, family, Scouts, etc.

POST FLYERS around your school, neighborhood, work, community, church, gym, etc.  To receive flyers please contact the NCSBS.

SHARE this information! Know someone who knits or crochets? Know someone in a position to organize a service project? Give them a CALL or send them an EMAIL.

Help us spread the word through SOCIAL MEDIA. The campaign not only involves making hats, but also educating others through word of mouth and active discussions on social media: PIN, SHARE, TWEET, and YOUTUBE (see http://clickforbabies.org/spread-the-word.php).

Please drop off or send hat donations to the NCSBS at 1433 N 1075 W Suite 110, Farmington, UT, 84025 or see our website (www.clickforbabies.org) for donation sites closest to you.

CLICK FOR BABIES Frequently Asked Questions

I’ll be crocheting hats to send in and would be more than happy to teach you to do the same.  I promise you can do it!  All you need is a crochet hook and a skein of PURPLE yarn!  It’ll cost you less than $5 at your local craft store!  I’ll post a video below and will  be more than glad to answer questions on twitter or meet you on a G+ Hangout for a quick private lesson!  Just ask!  And if you can’t contribute a hat, it would be a huge help if you just share a tweet, facebook status, or post about PURPLE crying and the efforts of the NCSBS.  Thanks so much!

“CLICK FOR BABIES” PURPLE BEANIE PATTERN

Purple Beanie for Click for Babies

Using worsted weight yarn and a 5.5 mm hook (I hook)

ROW 1: 6 single crochet (sc) into a magic circle, join with a slip stitch (sl st). Chain 1

ROW 2:  2 sc in each stitch from before (12 stitches total.  When you get to 12, stop.  It will look like you need to keep going.  Don’t.) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 3:  2 sc in the first stitch, 1 sc in the second stitch.  Continue this pattern around the circle, counting your stitches. (18 stitches total) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 4: 2 sc in the first stitch.  Then 1 sc in the second stitch and 1 sc in the third stitch.  Continue the pattern around the circle, counting your stitches.  (24 stitches total) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 5: 2 sc in the first stitch.  Then 1 sc in the 2nd, 1 sc in the 3rd, and 1 sc in the 4th stitches.  Continue the pattern around the circle, counting your stitches.  (30 stitches total)  Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 6: 2 sc in the first stitch.  The next 4 stitches get 1 sc each.  Continue this pattern around the circle, counting your stitches.  (36 stitches total) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

This completes the crown (or the top) of the hat.

ROW 7: 1 sc in the first stitch and every stitch.  (36 stitches)  Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROWS 8-18: Repeat row 7, Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 19: 1 sc in the first stitch and every stitch.  (36 stitches).  Join to the top of the first single crochet and tie off.  Weave in ends using hook or yarn needle.

For a ribbed edge, stop at row 17 and use this for ROW 18: fpdc (front post double crochet) in first stitch, bpdc (back post double crochet) in second stitch.  Repeat pattern around.  Join to the top of the first fpdc and tie off.  Weave in ends.

Video Tutorial: How to make a magic circle to begin your hat.

Great YouTube Channel with easy-to-follow crochet lessons. This channel has everything you need to learn to crochet!  From how to hold your hook to how to single crochet (sc).

How to Slip Stitch to Join in the Round

Additional Links for More Information:

http://purplecrying.info

http://dontshake.org/

http://clickforbabies.org

https://www.facebook.com/NCSBS

One Kidney McGee

14 Aug

Did you know I only have one functioning kidney?

I discovered a lump in my abdomen when I was 8 weeks pregnant with Doodlebug almost 5 years ago.  My OB chuckled and told me it was probably just my organs moving to make room for my growing uterus and joked that I was so tiny that it was probably my kidney being pushed up.  When it failed to stop growing and moving around (I marked my skin with sharpie to document its comings and goings), and it began to hurt, I went back 4 weeks later and insisted on an ultrasound.

Two hours after my scan, the OB called and asked me to “come in right away.”  I was instantly sick to my stomach.  She explained that the ultrasound showed a large mass, 11cm x 18cm, and they were unsure what it was.  She wanted me to go for more tests and to see a surgeon for removal of what might be a cyst.  At 12 weeks pregnant, the idea of abdominal surgery terrified me and every doctor I spoke with seemed unsure as well.  Turns out, pregnant women make doctors (and their malpractice insurance) very nervous.

One day before my scheduled exploratory surgery, I had an ultrasound with a specialist to check on the baby.  With one glance at the screen, she diagnosed me with an enlarged kidney.  Apparently the first set of doctors didn’t put two and two together when the original ultrasound showed a large mass but noted that my left kidney could not be found.

I was then diagnosed with severe hydronephrosis of the left kidney, caused by a congenital defect that narrowed or blocked my ureteropelvic junction. Basically, the urine created by my left kidney couldn’t drain into my bladder, backed up into my kidney, and slowly destroyed the healthy tissue.  All I had left was a thin membrane of kidney tissue filled with fluid.

Here’s a picture:

The good news? Hydronephrosis is benign in most cases.  A severe urinary track or kidney infection is the largest threat I face because of the difficulty the doctors might have treating it.  But the reality was that my kidney had most likely been this way for a while and I never knew it. It’s often diagnosed in infancy or childhood and corrected with a simple procedure, but mine was never caught.  In fact, the human body can function just fine with only one kidney!  This article from Scientific American describes how the remaining kidney can grow to compensate.  Thankfully, my right kidney has done just that and has 99% function.

None of this was much consolation while I was pregnant (and an anxious mess) for the first time. Doctors weren’t sure how my still-functioning right kidney would do when the pressure from the pregnancy caused the expected (and totally normal) mild hydronephrosis of pregnancy in my right side.  I was given options to stent the UPJ, to drain the kidney to relieve the pressure, or to do nothing.

I am grateful for the St. Louis urologist (because that’s where I lived at the time) who talked patiently with me while I weighed all my options.  He treated me like an intelligent partner in my health decisions and was frank but kind about the risks.  He helped me find a knowledgeable high-risk OB who monitored me closely, watching for signs of preterm labor and additional stress to my body and the baby’s.  And he supported my choice when I decided not to undergo any procedures.  He’s the kind of doctor everyone deserves.

My first pregnancy (and subsequent accidental second pregnancy) were thankfully unaffected by the kidney.  I am not, however, symptom-free.  The kidney is still huge.  The size of a small loaf of bread or a large eggplant.  It presses on nearby organs (including my intestines) and can be very uncomfortable if I move the wrong way or exercise too hard. I wish I had a copy of the MRI image to show you – it’s impressive how half of my abdomen is basically all giant-balloon-animal-kidney-thing.

The plan is to have it electively removed.  I even had a surgeon all lined up to take it out laproscopically before I got knocked up with Bean (oops).  My risk of kidney infection and my discomfort will both be ameliorated by its removal.  Plus, there’s nothing like a good old nephrectomy to lose a few pounds.  Kidding.  Now is just not a good time – we’ll do it when the girls are a little older.

I used to think about how I was down one kidney all the time.  It used to terrify me.  Now it’s just another part of my day, but I do take good care of Ol’ Righty.  Which is why I’m writing this post in the first place.

People, take care of your kidneys.  Drink water.  Pee when you have to – don’t hold it in.  Assess your risks for kidney disease.  Don’t take for granted the amazing work your body does for you.  I sure don’t.

 

That extra little bulge above my hip?  Kidney.

Here I am 35 weeks pregnant with Bean.  That extra little bulge above my hip? Kidney.

Talking Racism With My Four-Year-Old

1 Aug

Based on the positive responses to our original chat about postpartum depression prior to the Climb Out of the Darkness fundraiser for Postpartum Progress, Doodlebug and I decided to tape a conversation about skin color and racism.

Now, I’m no expert.  And watching the conversation, I count many things I wish I had said in a better way and others that I think we still need to discuss.  But it’s a good start.  Talking with your kids about racism is so important.  And it’s not as scary as you might think.  Especially if you bribe them with strawberries and cream cheese icing.

p.s. NutureShock: New Thinking About Children has an excellent chapter about how children think about race and racism and why white parents don’t talk about race.  Worth a read!  Here’s an excerpt from an outside link.  I can’t stress enough how thought-provoking it is.

Fill in the Blank

5 Jul

Asian people are _______________.

Black people are _______________.

White people are _______________.

Mexican people are _____________.

It’s word association, only more uncomfortable.  What were the first words that came to mind? No, really.

Jewish people are ______________.

Christians are ____________.

Muslims are _____________.

Athiests are _____________.

It’s time to be honest with ourselves.  You see, it seems to me that these days, people are more concerned with being right than being better, so they hide their prejudices behind a wall built from denial and sometimes outright lies.

Gay men are __________________.

Lesbians are __________________.

One of the strengths of the human brain is its ability to categorize and organize.  To compare and contrast.  And to make inferences and predictions.  Prejudice and bias are built into how we think and socialize.  And your biases will affect how you complete each sentence.

Women are ___________________.

Men are _____________________.

We all know the politically correct answers to each blank. We want those correct answers to be the first we think of.  I get that.  So take a moment and free yourself from the shame that comes with admitting your faults.  Can you answer each blank honestly?  Can you admit that there might be one or two at which you cringe, glad that you only answered them in your head?

Bottle feeding moms are ________________.

Breastfeeding moms are __________________.

As a middle class white girl who grew up in North Dallas, my own words for each blank have changed over the years based on my life experiences and people I have come to know.  When my only experience with people from Mexico was in my small, white, suburban town? I would have filled in the blank with “poor” or “uneducated,” I think.  After sharing an orchestra stage with many Mexican and Latin members for years, and playing under the direction of an amazing Maestro from Monterrey, my world view shifted.  So much so that I felt very ashamed of my previously held prejudices.  It’s hard to admit them, even now.  I am still in touch with friends from my college days and I would hate for them to think that I ever assumed they were any less than the amazing people they are.  Now?  That blank would have to be filled with “family-centered,” after the trip I took in 2001, touring with my college orchestra in several Mexican cities.  Maybe “cultured,” too.

French people are ______________________.

Americans are ________________________.

Indians are _______________________.

There were maybe 4 black students at my elementary school that I can remember.  Total.  And I don’t think I can tell you if I remember any at my high school.  They were few and far between at my college.  After moving to St. Louis a few years after graduating college, I worked for a major museum downtown, creating and presenting hands-on science curriculum for area schools.  I used to drive an enormous van (that was painted like a dinosaur) into the heart of inner-city St. Louis at least once a week.  I would drive past apartment buildings with crumbling outer walls, grocery stores with metal bars on the windows, and arrive at the school only to walk through 3 metal detectors on my way to a classroom.  I have never felt more white in my life.  And honestly?  I think the word that would have filled in the blank for me on my first visit?  Was “hostile.”  Doing that job changed my life.  I was greeted with curious faces and hugs from children I had never met before.  We marveled over the chemical changes and the physics of air-powered rockets.  They lit up as we discussed the planets and rocket designs.  The teachers were welcoming and professional.  In need of supplies, training, materials, and so much more, but passionate educators.  I was so wrong.

People with diabetes are __________________.

The mentall ill are _____________________.

The overweight are _________________________.

Smokers are  __________________________.

Being a part of the blogging community has afforded me the opportunity to meet people outside the suburban, New England bubble I currently reside in. And though I know that the connections I have made online – the people I know who are black, who are muslim, who are gay – don’t speak for the entire group that they belong in, it’s helped me get a glimpse of what their experiences as minorities in this country have been like.  My friend A’Driane has been singled out repeatedly in the last year for being an African American woman living in a predominately white upperclass neighborhood.  Her children have been marginalized and just last week, her oldest son asked her if their people were still slaves.  Before our friendship, the affects of racism on the black community in this country weren’t really on my radar.  I mean, I knew about it, but it was (and  this is hard to admit) easy to go about my day without thinking of it..  But when it directly impacts someone you love – when it’s one of your best friends being treated as a second-class citizen – it changes the way you see the world.

Rich people  are _________________________.

Poor people are  _________________________.

The prejudice I carry the most shame about? Is an ignorant homophobia.  I remember being about 10.  And loving neon-colored sweaters.  Big, bulky ones.  It was the 80’s.  For Christmas, I got a black sweater with a brightly colored rainbow stretching across the middle of the shirt.  I loved it and wore it whenever it was clean.  Then one day, a classmate told me, “you know that gay people wear rainbows, right?”  I had no idea what gay meant.  I had no idea what sex was at that age and my idea of love was a note left in a cubby hole that required a checkmark.  And yet I remember distinctly being angry that “they” had taken rainbows.  That I could no longer wear my favorite sweater.  I don’t know that I can tell you what word would have filled in my blank when I was a child, but it wouldn’t have been good.  I am so thankful that, since college, I have met and befriended enough LGBT people to have had my biases broken.  From the neighbors who lived next to my parents, to members of my husband’s music fraternity in college, to the authors of stories written by friends online like Vikki of Up Popped a Fox, each person has taught me that someone’s sexual orientation does not define who they are.  That gender and sex are not the same thing.  That it is not something to judge, and that their relationships deserve the recognition and rights that those of straight relationships take for granted. I deeply regret the time I spent judging and misunderstanding a group of people because of a stigma imposed by my peers.

***************************

I am, by no means, prejudice-free.  Noone is. But I’m becoming increasingly aware of mine and how they impact the decisions I make.  Your biases don’t make you subhuman.  They merely make you imperfect.  They mean you are subject to social conditioning, as we all are.  And until you are able to openly admit them to yourself?  They’ll continue to shape your attitudes, words, and actions, unchecked.

And so I challenge you.  Go back and fill in each blank.  But do it mindfully and honestly.  And then see where your answers take you.

Blatant racism is dangerous.  But so is ignoring and denying the seemingly innocent biases we all live with every day.  Only when we are all are striving to make the ending to each of those sentences above “PEOPLE,” will we stand a chance at real tolerance.

EDIT: There has been discussion of my choice of the word “tolerance” above.  I’d hate for anyone to think I’m suggesting that we only “tolerate” those we disagree with.  Instead, I’m using the word to mean define a bigotry-free world view.  This definition on Wikipedia speaks to my intention.  

Thank You, Target

3 May

I don’t shy away from nursing in public, for a host of reasons.  Mostly? I’m just feeding my baby.  And I’m not about to put the discomfort of a few strangers above the needs of my child.  But since Bean is 16 months old, she doesn’t often need to nurse while we’re out and about.

Today was a different story.  No matter how many times I offered a sippy and no matter how many toy aisles we walked down, she desperately wanted to nurse in Target, in the middle of our shopping trip.  She signed for milk half a dozen times, but it was when she signed “please,” that I finally paused my shopping to indulge her.

I found a quiet spot behind the children’s clothes and plopped myself down on the ground near the stroller display.  A Target employee came over to ask if I was okay, uncertain why I was sitting on the carpet.  When she noticed I was nursing, I braced to defend myself.

And then she said, “There’s a rocking chair on the endcap where you’ll be more comfortable.  Do you want to move there?” I thanked her and assured her I was fine, finished nursing Bean, and went about my shopping.

I’ve only ever had two strangers address me while breastfeeding.  I’m fortunate that they have both been kind.  And this?  This was exactly how a nursing mother wants to be (and should be) treated when nursing her child, especially by a store employee.

Target has gotten a bad rap in the last few years for their treatment of nursing mothers.  And if I had been treated poorly today, you’d better believe I’d share.  But I bet there are many positive stories, too, and I wanted to be a part of accentuating the positive.

Thank you, Target.  Your team member treated me with kindness and respect.  I really appreciated it.  I hope this is a sign of progress in your company since November of 2011.

Also?  You’re welcome for the $120 I ended up spending despite my short shopping list.  You win.  Again.

Logistical Nightmare

29 Apr

My oldest daughter will be 5 this fall.  And in the last few months, it’s become more and more obvious that she’s a little girl now and not my baby.  Along with her fashion sense and her ability to manipulate and lie, has come the desire to “hang out with friends.”  What used to be a play-date, arranged so mothers could escape the solitary confinement that is life with a toddler (or two) has morphed into a social life for my preschooler.

Other moms? Are ready at a whim to have neighborhood friends over and after-school visits.  Daily.  Until now, I haven’t felt any pressure to join in.  But I can tell the days of play-dates arranged days or weeks in advance are fading.

Which leaves me with one question:

If my house needs to be ready for company at a moment’s notice, when will I have time to relax in my pajamas with three-day hair and no makeup?

By “relax,” I mean chase my children around the house, refereeing their constant bickering and cleaning up the tornado they leave behind.  And by “ready for company,” I mean clean enough that I don’t end up on an episode of hoarders.

I’m not hoping to invite my daughter’s friends into a cover from House and Home Magazine.  I’d just like it if playmates and their parents were exempt from seeing my underwear on the bathroom floor and dried yogurt painted onto the kitchen table.  Currently, if we’ve scheduled a play-date, I probably made sure I would have time to wipe the boogers off my clothes and sweep the cheerios under a rug.  With two kids under 5, any attempts at picking up are merely exercises in futility, so tidying the house requires a nap time or the strategic sacrifice of one room while I clean another.  It’s a logistical nightmare.

So what I really want to know is: How do they do it, those families with tidy houses?  Just the idea of being “on” 24-7 leaves me feeling exhausted.  But I also can’t stomach the idea of friends (and even family) coming over to the disaster that is my house (and me) on a regular basis.  I need a few days a week when I can focus on my kids and taking care of myself.  Sometimes that means a shower and a trip to the library.  Many times it means crafts in our pajamas at 2:30p p.m.

I’m seriously looking for wisdom here.  Do you keep a tidy house?  What is your secret?  Or are you like me, hiding in your messy house?

Don’t Call Them “Happy Pills”

15 Apr

It’s no secret that I take medication for my anxiety and OCD.  It’s in my intro on the sidebar, for crying out loud.

Every morning, it’s 1 1/2 antidepressant pills and 2/3 of a long-acting anti-anxiety medication.  And in the evening, another 2/3  of the anti-anxiety, along with my prenatal vitamin for lactating moms (yes, I’m still nursing), and lately some ibuprofen for my earache.

Medications

I don’t take them lightly.  After all, these medications are altering my brain chemistry.  I’ve worked closely with my doctors and therapist to find a medication combination that works for me while balancing the side effects.  I’ve considered the risks and have researched their effects on breastfeeding.  I’ve adjusted doses and schedules more times than I care to count.  And this is all after spending a year fighting against taking anything at all because of the stigma and my misunderstanding of how psychotropic medications work.

My antidepressant works by soaking the nerve cells in my brain with seritonin.  Seritonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible in part for regulating the intensity of moods.  See, a normal brain releases seritonin, exposing the nearby brain cells, and then reabsorbs it.  My brain either does not produce enough seritonin or reabsorbs it too quickly.  SSRI’s (selective seritonin reuptake inhibitors) work by blocking the reabsorption process, thereby allowing the nerve cells to bathe in the seritonin for longer.  In my case, more is better.

The long-acting anti-anxiety medication increases dopamine levels and, along with melatonin,  has been shown in studies to rebuild neurons.  Dopamine is part of the “reward system” of the brain and is responsible for many functions, including mood, movement, working memory, learning, and motivation.

These medications work together to relieve the crippling anxiety and buzzing energy of my OCD and anxiety disorder, both of which have contributed to depression in the past.  They allow me to strap my children into my mother’s car and watch as she safely drives them for a sleep over without slumping to the floor in paralyzing fear that they will crash during the ride.  They help regulate my reaction to hormones like cortisol (the stress hormone; think fight or flight) during arguments with my 4-year-old.  Without this regulation, I am susceptible to anxiety-induced rage.  And most importantly to me, I couldn’t have slugged through the messy, emotional work of therapy had my seritonin and dopamine levels been unbalanced.

What they don’t do?  Is make me happy.  Instead, they allow me to feel the happiness that my unbalanced brain chemistry was robbing me of.

So do me a favor and don’t call them “happy pills.”  It makes you sound ignorant and makes me feel stigmatized.  It’s medication for a medical condition.  Period.

 

** I don’t have to remind you that I’m not a doctor, right?  I’m just one person sharing her story.  Medication decisions are personal and are best made with your doctor’s supervision.**

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