Tag Archives: hope

Bumps in the Road

18 Nov

Going back through all my posts about mental health in the last two weeks was like digging up a time capsule.  Did you ever do one of those in school?  I assembled one my freshman year and when it was returned to me 4 years later, I almost didn’t recognize the “me” I had locked away.  I blog because the words want to spill out of me – because placing them here and sharing them brings me peace.  But looking back, the icing on the cake is that I have a record of my recovery.

When people ask about my experience having a second baby after experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety, I tell them that my second baby was the pregnancy and postpartum period I felt robbed of the first time around.  I share how I have never frightened my 2 year old with the rage my oldest had to face.  (On a side note, Robin is writing about rage on Postpartum Progress today.  It’s a must read!)  And I believe my story gives moms new hope that they can have a better experience the second time around.

But reading back?  I had some pretty big bumps in the road after Bean was born.  Periods of depression, a severe panic attack, and continued anxiety management.  I was actually surprised reading some of the pieces from Bean’s first year.  I clearly remember how awful Bug’s first year was.  It was hell.  But memories of my second daughter’s infancy have an overall joy about them.  It’s as if how I feel about my experience didn’t measure up to my actual experience, if you were to judge merely by the blog entries.

Gratuitous adorable toddler pictureI think the difference this time has been that throughout every depressive episode and every panic attack, I never felt hopeless.  I never felt crushed by the lies my brain was telling me.  I knew better and I had a support network around me mirroring that back to me on the days I couldn’t see it.  It’s not that I didn’t suffer from bouts of mental illness with my second baby, but that they were less severe and well-treated.  Simply put, I was ready for them.  And no matter how bumpy the road, I always felt like I was still traveling forward.

Have hope.  Always, hope.

I Am Not Okay (But I Will Be)

16 May

Hi.

It’s me.

I’ve been quiet online and in my real life, too.

It’s not you. It’s me.

It started as irritability.  I found myself cursing at tiny grains of rice as I tried to scoop them off the floor after a meal.  I snapped at my husband for little things: hair left on the bathroom counter, a tone in his voice I took offense to.  The girls pushed buttons.  They couldn’t help it.  Everything was a button.

And then the quiet set in.  And I wanted to curl up with hours of The West Wing and my crochet.  From the moment I got up in the morning.

I started to hear my inner-monologue whisper nasty things about being unloved, unworthy.

I waited.  Because sometimes, a bad week is just a bad week.  And then the timing suggested it was PMS. And well, it should have lifted by now.  I should be back to my overachieving, confident, take-life-by-the-horns self.

So yesterday, I call friends and told them what was going on.  I asked them to hold me accountable for calling my doctors and making therapy and psych appointments.  I cut back on my commitments and took the evening to take care of myself. I know exactly what to do.

And I know what not to do.  I will not believe that I am unworthy.  I will not seek out truth in the grey cloud that is casting shadows on my life.  Whether this is lingering PMS, a reaction to teething-induced sleep deprivation, or something more, I will not forget that depression lies.

I will be okay.

Why 2012 Can Suck It… and My One Word for 2013

2 Jan

I was ready to write about how this year was full of highs and lows.  How it almost broke me but gave me back my life.  And then my husband reminded me that No2 was born in 2011, that we went to Vegas in 2011, and all the good stuff happened in… you guessed it.  2011.

My New Years Eve tweet read, “Suck it, 2012.”

You see, this was the year I lost my last grandparent.  It was 52 weeks of broken sleep with a baby toddler who still does not sleep through the night.  I severely injured my spine twice this year, got one ride in an ambulance, spent a cumulative period of 5 weeks on narcotics, and endured one spinal injection and 7 days on an oral steroid.  I watched helplessly from afar as one of my best friends nearly lost her battle with Bipolar Disorder.  This year, the stomach flu wiped out my entire family for two weeks.  For four months early in the year, I argued with pediatricians about my colicky newborn only to discover that I could cure all her ills if I could live without dairy.  It’s the year I saw my local bestie maybe a dozen times in the last 365 days, and she lives in the neighborhood next to mine.  It’s the year my husband and I sacrificed our time together and put our marriage lower on the priority list so we could just survive.  Turns out my “one word” for the year was survive.

That’s not to say it wasn’t also full of joy.  I went to BlogHer ’12.  I dyed my hair hot pink and slept in a bed with a stranger from the internet.  I watched my baby grow from a limp newborn to an inquisitive, walking toddler.  I met a major personal goal and breastfed No2 for over a year (and am still going strong)!  I made new friends and found a community of moms online who have enriched my life in a way I never knew was possible over the Internet.  I have a warm home, plenty of food, and friends and family nearby to experience life with.  In many ways, I was very lucky last year.

But still, I’m looking forward to 2013 and the renewed excitement and hope that comes with the new year and fresh, clean calendar.

My word this year?  Is FUN.  We’ve been so entrenched in survival mode around here, I feel like we’ve forgotten how to let go and have fun.  I want my girls to remember a childhood of silliness, laughter, and joy.  And I want that for myself, too.

OneWord2013_Fun

Huge thanks to Melanie at Only a Breath for the beautiful One Word button!

Not For Weak Stomachs

10 Dec

It’s been a hard month or so here.

Six weeks ago I tripped over the preschooler and tweaked my back while keeping myself from falling or dropping the baby.  The following day, I walked into my bedroom after bathing the kids and collapsed on the floor in agony.  My L4 disc blew.  Again.  For the third time in 2 years.  My screams terrified the baby while I begged my husband to call my mother and then an ambulance, in that order.  Within three minutes, the room filled with firemen and a medic was pressing his knee into my back to ease the tremors that the shock were causing.  They rolled me onto a frigid metal board and carried me down a flight of stairs and the stone steps leading from my front door before loading me and my exposed nursing bra into the ambulance.  I refused any pain medication on the ride, not knowing what was compatible with breastfeeding.  The medic called me “one tough cookie” upon our arrival at the ER.  One IV of morphine later, the pain subsided and I was both high as a kite and severely nauseous.  I spent a week in a haze of codeine and bed rest, only to suffer a seven-day regimen of oral steroids that brought on a severe (but temporary) depression.

Four weeks ago, I contracted what I can only describe as officially the world’s worst cold.  Not quite the flu.  More than a cold.  Body aches, fever, congestion, fire throat, zombie brain, and finally a hacking cough.  It’s still not completely gone.

Eight days ago, I woke up at 1am with my heart racing, almost jumping out of my chest.  My first thought was a random panic attack and I wondered where my Ativan was.  Then the vomiting began.  And continued every ten minutes for three straight hours.  The heart palpitations only increased and between my fatigue and signs of dehydration, I graced the ER with my presence once again.  The male nurse who placed my IV tossed each vial of blood he took for tests onto the bed as if it was the bane of his existence.  I have never had such a painful needle stick.  And yet I could kiss him for bringing me the Zofran.  And though the nausea ended early in the morning, the following day’s fever, body aches, and fatigue had no magic cure.  It took until Saturday – seven days – before I felt like myself again.

Six days ago, my mother took the preschooler overnight so DH and I could focus on my recuperation.  DH took some Tums in an attempt to cure his indigestion and I prepared for the worst.  At 10:01pm, I watched on the video monitor as the baby threw up over the side of her crib.  There is nothing worse than the sound of a baby attempting to cry in-between dry heaves.  I started nursing her in-between bouts of nausea just so she wouldn’t have an empty stomach.  We snuggled in the guest bed until morning, when her nausea subsided and her body relaxed into a deep sleep.

Three days ago, we packed everyone up and drove 40 minutes north to my parents’ home.  It’s not easy for me to ask for help, but DH was still on the mend, the baby needed my constant attention, and the television is incapable of providing my preschooler with any babysitting care other than distraction.  They were, as they always are, amazingly helpful and I started to think we were out of the woods.

Two days ago, No1 woke up at 5am and was sick every 30 minutes for six hours.  After the first hour, she began fighting the illness, insisting she was fine and wrestling with anyone who tried to help her.  She seemed to bounce back the quickest and yet this evening brought a relapse, complete with fever and nausea.

Yesterday, we left my parents sitting on the couch with saltine crackers.

And today, my preschooler threw up in the parking lot of my psychiatrist’s office on my $300 Clarks riding boots.  The fear in her eyes brought me to my knees beside the car and I held her through all three fits of coughing.

But when my psychiatrist asked me how I’ve been the last three months, I was honestly able to answer, “normal.”  I’ve been overwhelmed.  Stressed.  Short-tempered.  Exhausted.  And in desperate need of some intensive self-care.  But I think my reactions in every situation were typical.  And though not ideal, typical is a pretty great place to be if you struggle with mental illness.

I’d like to think it can only get better from here.  Knock on some wood with me, will ya?

Wordless Wednesday

29 Aug

Today I felt beautiful. Ever have days like that?
And just look at those girls.
Today was good.
I don’t get to say that often but today I can.
Maybe it’s the wine talking, but I might just be looking forward to tomorrow.

PPD, the Second Time Around

2 Aug

“Every pregnancy is different,” you hear over and over while waiting for your second baby to arrive.  And mine were like night and day.

My first pregnancy was punctuated by moments of overwhelming anxiety.  I wondered if my husband would leave me; if he really wanted to have a child.  I obsessed about every little detail of the nursery.  I went to the hospital at 34 weeks having shortness of breath and heart palpitations.  And my delivery was a terrifying combination of panic attack, induction with pitocin at 37 weeks, and a baby who had to spend 12 hours in intensive care and then receive antibiotic injections for days after delivery.

It took me 6 months to recognize and seek treatment for postpartum depression and anxiety, but both gripped me from the second day in the hospital.

My second pregnancy, I was prepared for the anxiety.  So when I felt myself spiraling out of control and wishing I hadn’t gotten pregnant, I ran to the doctor and started a medication regimen.  And though I had difficult days, for the most part, I enjoyed my pregnancy.  I felt relaxed and confident.  So I rubbed my belly, decorated a nursery, and wished and wished to be free from PPD the second time around.

The first two weeks were blissful.  No2’s birth was healing.  The first four months or so I was so glad that I continued on my antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications.  They were working.  I stopped waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.

And then five months in, the wheels came off.

This time, it’s not depression.  I don’t feel hopeless, or worthless, or empty.  I vibrate with nervous energy.  I feel the need to control everything.  When the baby eats, when the baby sleeps, what color diaper she’s wearing, what tv show the preschooler watches, what my husband does when he’s got the kids to himself, and on and on.  Any variation on my plan results in tension and rage.  The intrusive thoughts are agonizing.  Now that she’s 7 months old and *still* not sleeping more than 4 hours at a time, the sleep deprivation has made all of this all the more overwhelming.

I’m adjusting my medication doses, supplementing with an additional “as needed” med.  My husband and I are teaming up to find ways for me to avoid sleep deprivation.  And I’m visiting my doctors.  A lot.

It’s been bad, but this time?  I haven’t once lost a sense of who I am.  I’ve had to fight for my sanity.  But I’ve been present enough to fight.  This time I feel bonded to my new baby.  I love my girls.

So if you’re expecting another child after a postpartum mood disorder, I want you to know that it’s possible you won’t have to suffer again.  But if you do, you will be alright.  Just like every pregnancy, every experience with PPD is different.  And just like with the second baby, you aren’t  a rookie anymore.  And at the very least, now you have online communities like #ppdchat, Mama’s Comfort Camp, and Postpartum Progress to help you navigate your journey to health and happiness.

You will be whole again.

Anything

21 May

I used to have to do everything perfectly.

So I learned how to do everything well enough.

Then I learned how to do just some things.

These days, I’d take anything.

I’m really struggling with how little gets accomplished around here these days.  All of a sudden, my anxiety  is back with unwelcome company… postpartum OCD.

I want to take apart the kitchen cabinet that houses the bottles and reorganize everything – daily.  Each bottle has a corresponding-colored top and it’s driving me literally nuts that they aren’t matched up, but I’m consciously avoiding fixing them.

The bottles work fine mismatched.  Breathe.

A load of laundry is overwhelming – all that washing and drying and folding.

It’s just laundry.  Take your time.

And deep down, I feel like if I could just get the house spotless, I would be a better mom.

Your kids will never remember the messy house.  It is clean enough.

I obsess over how much No2 nurses.  It never seems like enough.

She will nurse when she is hungry.  She’s growing like a weed and obviously eats just what she needs.

But the worst part is the intrusive thoughts.  The thoughts make me feel unworthy, insecure, tense.  I feel so angry at nothing…everything.

You cannot always choose your thoughts and feelings but you can choose not to believe the story they tell you.

I know I will be better.  I know that this is acute, treatable, and temporary.  And I know that these thoughts and obsessions aren’t me.  But it hurts.  And it’s hard to battle every day.

The anxiety and OCD whisper, “Don’t tell anyone –  they’ll think you’re a bad mom.  Look how great everything is – they’ll never understand.”

Mental illness clouds rational thinking.  Tell someone.  Scream it from the rooftops.  You are not alone.

I will not let shame bury me.

Tweet, tweet. Boom.

8 Apr

Todays’ HAWMC prompt is to write about the best conversation you had during the week.  I’m going to apologize in advance for subjecting you to this.

Hubs (looking out front window): Boy, the robins sure do love the lawn after it’s been aerated.

Me: I bet it makes the bugs easier to catch.

Hubs: What we really need is to genetically modify robins so that as they dig for worms in the lawn they also drop grass seed.  That would save me so much time.  Of course, then they would need some sort of biological advantage so they would survive better than the regular robins.

Me: You mean, like make them bigger?

Hubs: Yeah.

Me: Or make them bulletproof?

Hubs: LOL.  We could give them little tiny bulletproof vests.

At that point in the conversation, I started picturing a very bloody version of the Sneetches.  At one point in time, a silly conversation about outfitting wildlife with kevlar wouldn’t have been possible for me.  After No1 was born, all I could talk about was the baby or my anxieties about the baby.

And that, my friends is why this is the best conversation I had this week.  It had nothing to do with PPD, anxiety, or children.  It was just a funny moment between a husband and a wife.  This time around, I’m not taking that for granted.

Inked

22 Jan

I have a reputation for being a “good girl.”  And honestly, it’s been earned.  I’m polite in mixed company, friendly, well-spoken, shy in groups, and petite.  I’m not the friend you call when you want to throw a wild party.  Instead, I’m the designated driver, the voice of reason.  Everything about me reads “girl next door” (I hate how E! has ruined that phrase.  I mean, really.).

So the fact that I want a tattoo would shock the people I grew up with – probably my parents, certainly my extended family, and maybe even my friends.  And although it’s not such a rebellious thing to do anymore (several of my IRL friends have them, many of my family members, and apparently tons of the twitter crowd), it’s still outside my comfort zone.

There’s the pain for one thing.  I don’t do pain.  At all.  Yes, I know I’ve given birth, twice.  I’ve herniated a disc in my back.  I’ve broken bones.  But to decide to sit while someone shoves a needle in and out of your arm for 10-15 minutes? There’s something different about that kind of pain.  I worried about what people might think, too.  What would my father say?  And would it keep me from getting hired later on if I return to public school?  Now, I’m proud to say that I care little enough about what others think to do what I want instead.  It’s not that others’ opinions don’t matter.  It’s just that they matter 1% and mine matters 99%.

But more than all of that, it’s the commitment that kept me from it for so long.  How could I choose what to adorn my body with, forever?  I’d need it to be meaningful.  A flower, a bird, a star…none of those would be worth the pain.  I mean, this is art on my body we’re talking about.  I want it to represent me in some way.  I briefly thought about having my daughters’ names or birthdates, but realized I want this to be about ME.  Something that sums up who I am and something I love.

I couldn’t think of an image, so I challenged myself to think of a quote.  And then a quote got whittled down to a word.  Party because it will hurt less, but also?  Because sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes one word is really all you need, if it’s the right one.  If I could come up with one word that I could live by for as long as I have the tattoo…one word that speaks to who I am not just as a mother, or teacher, or wife, but as a whole person…then I would take the plunge.

During my pregnancy, the word came to me.  It’s how I want to live my life now that I know it doesn’t have to be ruled by fear and anxiety.  It sums up everything I’ve accomplished, growing as a person in the last several years, becoming more whole, and is necessary for living life to its fullest.  It’s my life goal, my one word.

COURAGE.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.

~Ambrose Redmoon

I’m excited and nervous – but determined not to let fear keep me from doing something wild and crazy and totally out of my comfort zone. I’m torn as to whether I should wait until I’m not nursing anymore.  Some places won’t even ink you if they know you’re breastfeeding.  But that’s okay.  I’m committed.  Whether it’s now, several months, or a year.  I’m going to do it.

So tell me…or link to pictures…are you inked?  If so, why did you choose what you did?  What does it mean to you?

 

Warning Signs

14 Dec

This pregnancy has been completely different from my first.  Easier.  Less stressful.  More joyful.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s been an uphill battle, and I’ve had some of my very lowest points during this journey, but with the right medical care, therapy, support, and medication, I feel like I’ve experienced a *mostly* normal pregnancy this time around.  I am so grateful for all the help I’ve received and so proud of myself for all I’ve done to stay healthy and happy.  But also?  I look back at pregnancy number 1 and want to scream in frustration over all the warning signs I missed.  I realize that I did my best last time, and even more so, that patients cannot expect to self-diagnose mood and anxiety disorders.  But hindsight sure is 20-20, isn’t it?

Because I have seen what a contrast my two pregnancies have been, I feel hopeful that my postpartum experiences can be different, too.  And like I’ve said before, this time I’m prepared.  Armed.  And I want the people around me to feel armed too.

I’ve spoken with my friends and family.  I want them to know I’m wary of the PPD returning and that I will need their help to stay healthy, but I don’t want to feel like I’m being babied or watched over unnecessarily.  Even a normal postpartum experience can include mood swings and tearfulness.  When I talked with my mom (Hi, Mom!), she said she looks back now and feels like she missed signs, too, and she wanted to know what to look out for.

What should we have seen before did we miss because we didn’t know?  What do I want my friends and family to watch for?

  • Inability to Sleep: Even when someone else was caring for No1, I couldn’t sleep.  I was too anxious and my mind spun with a million thoughts.  And the sleep deprivation was a huge trigger for me.  This time around, I’ve asked my mom to stay some nights with us early on, and I plan on being flexible about feeding No2 in a way that lets us all get some rest.
  • Control Freak: I could not let anyone else take over for me…with the baby, with household chores, Christmas shopping.  I had to do it all.  Part of me felt like I was supposed to be able to do it all, like I had something to prove.  I remember distinctly telling my mom not to do the dishes and feeling like an enormous failure when she cleaned my bathtub.  I had to pack the diaper bag because I was certain hubs could not do it well enough, and I struggled to let anyone else care for the baby.  This time, my mantra is “I’m pregnant (or I just had a baby) and I shouldn’t have to <insert your least favorite chore here>.”  I’ve come a long way in the last three years and feel like one of the biggest changes I’ve made is my ability to let go of perfection and to accept help.
  • Rage: This was the scariest of my symptoms and one I think very few people were privy to.  The littlest things would set off a chain reaction, causing me to spiral into an Incredible Hulk – worthy temper tantrum.  Missed naptimes were the biggest trigger.  The quality of my entire day hinged on how many naps No1 took and how long each was.  The anger was directed at the baby for not sleeping, at hubs for not matching the bottle tops and bottoms by color, at drivers on the road for running red lights…at anything and anyone.  And it was terrifying.  I became unrecognizable.  These days it takes quite a bit to trigger any kind of temper, and I truly hope it stays that way.
  • Fear: This sounds ridiculous, but for a while, I actually felt afraid of my baby.  Afraid that I didn’t know how to take care of her and afraid that she didn’t love me.  At times I thought she was trying to make my life difficult, and I expected way more out of her than a baby can give.  My confidence was nonexistent as a parent.  I remember once my husband telling me “caring for a baby actually isn’t all that hard, when you take the emotion out of it.”  I still think it’s a simplification, and at the time he said it, I was offended and hurt.  But you know what?  There’s a little truth in there.  My fear was making caring for No1 so much harder than it had to be.
  • Lack of Confidence:  I know new moms read a lot of parenting books.  In fact, I believe that there are an awful lot of people capitalizing off of the lack of confidence most new moms feel.  But I did more than just read a few books.  I read all of them, certain one would have “the answer”, because I certainly didn’t.  I lacked confidence in how to feed my baby, how to get her to sleep, and whether or not to use a pacifier.  Basically, if there was a book about it, I was sure I was doing it the wrong way.  It wasn’t until the fog of PPD and PPA lifted that I started to trust my instincts and it turned out, they were pretty darn good!  I’ve noticed that when I start to have an episode with anxiety or depression, my confidence is the first thing to go.  I doubt every parenting decision and the worthlessness creeps in.  What I know to be true fades into a complicated mess of confusion.  I anticipate needing advice about having two children – and I’m sure I’ll pick up a book or two along the way – but if I start to feel like I *need* them to parent, I’ll know something is amiss.
  • Inability to Deal with Noise:  This is a common trigger for many of us on #ppdchat.  Noone likes a screaming baby, but with PPD or PPA, the sound is torturous, quite literally.  These days, I can listen to my toddler holler, yell, and scream at me and as long as I know she’s not physically injured, I can walk away, put in some earplugs, and wait out the storm.  I’m sure I’ll still be triggered by the baby’s crying, but I hope this time around, it doesn’t completely shut down my brain like it did the first time around.
  • Tearfulness: This one’s tricky, because I think it’s what most people expect to see when someone they love is depressed, but it wasn’t my main symptom.  Yes, I would cry, but it was often mixed with the rage or came after an episode of explosive temper or anxiety.  It’s still something I want my loved ones watching out for.  If I’m tearful and extra-sensitive (especially to criticism) for longer than a couple of weeks after No2 is born, please check in on me.
  • Shutting Down: This one’s from my husband.  I asked him what the worst symptom was and he said it was that he worried that I would shut down when I needed to care for No1. For a while, I stopped being able to bathe the baby, go to doctors appointments, or run errands.  A pile of unfolded laundry would sit, wrinkling, because it seemed like too big a task to undertake.  The anxiety made everything seem overwhelming and my husband had to take over for me.  I expect to need help, but not for irrational reasons.

Quite honestly, I’ve done a bang-up job of recognizing symptoms over the last 9 months as they appear and asking for help immediately.  I’m extremely optimistic that should I take a turn for the worse after this baby is born, I will know it and continue to reach out to my support network.  I’ll be under the care of both my psychiatric nurse and therapist and I have the contact information from an amazing perinatal psychiatrist at MGH who specializes in postpartum mood disorders.

But.

I know that my brain overreacts to hormones and the postpartum period is an especially vulnerable time, specifically when you’ve suffered from PPD before.  PPD is a sneaky little bastard and at its worst can make you believe things that you know to not be true.  Denial is one of it’s most vicious weapons, and so I’m not going in alone.

How can you help? Please ask me how I’m doing.  Check on me.  Ask me how I’m sleeping and if I’m letting people help.  Ask me if I feel supported by my husband and if I’m connecting with my daughters. Remind me to come here and to read the blog and to take my own advice.  And if, as I hope it will be, my answer is that I’m doing well…trust me.  Let me be okay.

%d bloggers like this: