home from the holidays

I’ve been avoiding writing in this thing and the longer I avoid it the more I don’t want to do it.  Sometimes the words are scary.  Sometimes you have no idea where to begin.  I’ll try though.

Prozac is a wonderful drug.  Recently, I’ve been slack about my medication.  I keep forgetting to take it and when I remember I just think “oh it’s too late, i’ll do it tomorrow.”  Then, I don’t.  The level of Prozac in my body was not at a therapeutic level in the past few weeks and with my upcoming cycle… it was a recipe for disaster.

All I needed was one trigger.  That trigger was my son’s Christmas performance at school.  I was so excited to see him perform but also very nervous.  I saw him as he walked in the sanctuary.  He saw everyone and immediately turned to run away.  The teacher nudged him forward and he saw us and became more at ease.  He stood there with the other children and he performed like he was supposed to… however, anxiety set in.  He started to jump up and down, yell things randomly, sit down when he should have been standing, etc.  It wasn’t highly disruptive… but I was sensitive to it because of everything going on this year.  They had a teacher sitting beside him guarding him like a prisoner.  If he looked in the wrong direction she corrected him.  Side note: I haven’t decided if she just has a naturally mean resting face… or if she just really is mean and grumpy all the time.  I am not a fan of his teachers.  Anyway, with each criticism he seemed to act worse.  It was painful to watch.

Last year, his Christmas performance was a dream.  He did a perfect job.  He was so happy.  I cried… I couldn’t believe how grown up he was… how well he did.  It was magical.  This year, that joy was not there.  He was an anxious mess.  I knew in that moment that what my gut had been telling me all year was right.  He needed out of that school.  The teachers are not supportive.  They’re judgmental and critical.  They aren’t providing a nurturing environment for my baby… they’re stressing him out more.

It took some convincing but my husband is finally in agreement with me.  He saw the performance and knew that we should take my son out of preschool as well.  I am now talking with other preschools to find a place that is more understanding, compassionate and supportive.

In therapy one of the main things I talk about is trying to figure out where the line is… between the crazy stories my OCD and anxiety try to tell me… and what my gut is rationally telling me.  It is very hard to know which to listen to all the time.  When your gut is really telling you something… I think you know that feeling when you feel it.  Others can doubt you… disagree or tell you otherwise… but you know. I’ve known since September that this school was not the right fit.  I’ve known since September that is teacher was not the right teacher for him… (or maybe anyone?) and I’ve tried to talk myself out of this…but I haven’t been able to because it is what it is.  I know now that my gut is telling me to take him out of that school and I’m confident in the decision.

The holidays were especially hard for many reasons.  The performance was disappointing, the kids were sick, I was off my meds, we traveled and we’re exhausted.  We’re feeling better, I’m on my meds and I’m grateful for the newfound confidence in this specific situation.  I hope the New Year brings us some much needed rest, relaxation and clarity.

A rough spell

I’m going through a hard time.  I could feel it coming.  I could feel the nervous energy building in my body.  I notice it especially when I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.  Everything is quiet.  The bathroom light is much brighter than normal. The silence frightens me and the light crushes me.  My foot shakes and my teeth clench.  I stare at something stupid on the counter for a long time.  I read each ingredient in my toothpaste while I think 32897 thoughts at once.  I check my heart rate, the color of my urine, I blink to make sure I can see… It is happening.

I don’t know how long it will last this time… but I’m sinking.  I’m scared.  I’m in my head and I’m all alone.  My husband sees it happening and he’s so frustrated.  He is pleading with me not to fall into this downward spiral but I can barely hear him.

I’m so scared.  WHY DONT MY MEDS HELP THIS part?!  What is this and where does it come from and why is it random and I just don’t understand.

 

The day I couldn’t hold my baby

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Night time is here and as I sit here with a soon-to-be 8 month old,  sleeping peacefully in her rocker, I think back on the day’s events.  This is a routine for me.  I get my daughter to sleep, zone out for a bit reading articles/news/social media and before I get started on my work for the night I take a moment to reflect on my day.  Today I got to catch up with an old friend.  We chatted about her work, my work, day to day lives, our husbands and then my kids.  My daughter showed off her new crawling skills and even managed to kick my friend’s coffee cup out of her hand, spilling coffee all over her sweater. (This is why my wardrobe consists of leggings and t-shirts.) I stared at my daughter as I often do, beaming with pride over how fast she’s becoming so mobile, and then thought about how last week she wasn’t crawling at all.  It seemed like yesterday that I was just bringing her home from the hospital.  I shared this with my friend and before I knew it I was telling her all about labor, delivery and the horrible postpartum depression and anxiety I suffered through.  It is not my favorite part of this life I am building with my little one, but it has been an important part.  I’ve learned a lot from my suffering.

I’d been in labor for about 17 hours.  The time was finally here to push and after only two pushes, the doctor was throwing my little girl onto my chest.  I remember feeling the weight of her little body resting on me and being so relieved the pain was finally over.  I kissed my husband, cried, looked at her, cried some more… and then I asked the doctor if I was bleeding too much.  From that moment on, for the next few months — everything would be one giant blur.  The minute my body recognized I was no longer pregnant and the hormones did whatever the hormones do, I was not the same.  I obsessed over my postpartum bleeding.  I convinced myself I was swelling and that my blood pressure would sky rocket.  I called the nurse in every few minutes to examine the swelling in my feet (there was none).  My brain was on a rollercoaster that had no end.  I couldn’t stop obsessing.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I didn’t sleep for the next two days at least.

I knew that I shouldn’t have left the hospital without being put on some sort of brain medication but I was so set on breastfeeding.  I had the solly baby wrap, I had the breast pump.  I had everything I needed to be supermom.  I was going to breastfeed her for a year.  I was going to conquer this crippling anxiety because I had to.  I got home and I collapsed.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t do anything but cry, shake, panic, pace.  I couldn’t see my postpartum bleeding without feeling sick and having a panic attack.  I called the hospital nearly every night after I was discharged.  I called to ask if things I was experiencing were normal.  I called because I had a temperature of 99-something even though the handout I was given said to only call if it was above 100.4 .  I took my temperature exactly 200 times that night.  My husband grew concerned and called my parents.  I was losing my mind.  I was trying so hard to control my thoughts and feelings but they were so far gone at this point.  I was unrecognizable.

Only a week after having my daughter I got a minor infection and had to take antibiotics.  I had to stop nursing temporarily so she wouldn’t be exposed to the medication.  I started my daughter on formula.  This was my breaking point.  I hated myself.  I couldn’t do anything right.  The world was cruel in my eyes.  I’d wanted nothing more than to breastfeed and here I was, only 1 week postpartum and I was already “giving up.”  I told my parents that I was a horrible mother.  I lashed out at my husband…I didn’t want to exist.  I was so ashamed of myself.  I was so sorry for my daughter.  She deserved a mother that was so much better.  She deserved a mother that had her life together.  The hatred for myself surpassed everything.  I couldn’t even look at her.  My husband would take care of her and offer her to me.  I kept telling myself to hold her… take her… cuddle her.  I told myself to like it.  The truth was– she reminded me of what a failure I was.  When I recognized that I “didn’t want to hold her,” I knew something was definitely off.  I needed help.

For 6 straight weeks after delivery I was never alone.  I had an AMAZING support system.  My husband, my family, my friends.  They were all here.  Someone stayed with me constantly.  They helped take care of my babies and they helped take care of me.  My OBGYN called to check on me.  She saw me every time I called my doctor’s office with some new irrational fear.  She talked me through my postpartum depression.  She built me up.  My psychiatrist listened to my fears about medication and relayed to me her own postpartum experiences.  A member of her staff even came to my car to talk to me when I was sobbing too hard to go into the building.  My therapist, a Godsend, has helped me every step of the way.

As I sit here nearly 8 months later I can’t help but feel grateful for my experience.  I know that probably sounds completely crazy– but its true.  I learned from my postpartum depression and anxiety that every mother’s story is different.  This idea of the perfect mother I had in my head was just that, an idea.  It wasn’t reality.  Motherhood is messy.  Life is messy.  It never goes to plan.  I was dealt a hand of crappy cards.  My hormones were out of control.  They were bigger than my obsessive need to control them.  Because I couldn’t do it alone, did not make me a failure.  The important thing was connecting with my daughter.  The important thing was being happy and healthy for myself and for her.  I wasn’t currently the mother she deserved but I could get there.  I worked hard the next few months to get on medication that helped me level out.  I made sure to get some sleep.  I meditated.  I went to therapy.  I prayed.  I survived.

My relationship with my baby is better than I ever could have imagined.  She and her brother are the lights of my life.  They are the joy I feel in my heart every single day.  I am so blessed to be their mother.  All of those days I spent worrying about the bond that would be destroyed between my daughter and I were for nothing.  She loves me.  She smiles when I smile.  She laughs when I laugh… she knows my heart.  She knows I always loved her and will always love her, even when my mental health issues overwhelmed me.  Postpartum depression and anxiety are scary, hard and exhausting.  It is so important to see a doctor, build a support system and ask for help.  They say it “takes a village to raise a child.”  My village saved me.  And because I’ve been through such a dark time, the good times are now just a little bit brighter than they would have been.  I can see how fortunate I am and feel that gratitude on a new level.   I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety.  Something I can now say without shame.  I survived postpartum depression and anxiety.  Something I can now say with pride.

 

Claire: a one minute poem 

I knew I was on the road to recovery when I felt inspired to write. I held my almost 3 month old daughter and could feel the words being created in our bond.  Postpartum depression/anxiety can rob you of a lot of things- but eventually you find your way home.  These words aren’t groundbreaking literature, but in that moment they were everything to me.  They were me breaking free from darkness and discovering my new self.  After 3 months of feelings that were hard to manage, I was allowed to feel the joys of a new baby. She was and always had been the biggest blessing- even when I had trouble seeing anything beyond fear.  I am grateful for this moment and will never forget it.

Claire

Breathe you in
Warm skin, loving lips
My hair around your fingers
Pulling me close
Covering you
Protecting you
Your skin so soft
Your will so strong
A simple kiss
A loving gesture to you
Your home and your protection
Keep me this close forever
Forever with you

mindfulness.

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Yesterday I had therapy.  I feel like a lot of people dread going to therapy or don’t see the value in it.  I’ve been those people at one time or another.  It feels good to get it all out …but you don’t necessarily take anything from it.  I’ve discovered after having this therapist for the past 6 months …that all of those times I felt that way were because I had the wrong attitude, or maybe the wrong therapist ha.  I am currently seeing a phenomenal, intelligent, gifted therapist and she has really helped me with my struggles over the past 6 months.  I can honestly say that I feel like I am improving and it is in large part due to biweekly sessions with her.

I just wanted to put that out there because I feel strongly about therapy.  It can be REALLY beneficial.  Yesterday, I told my therapist about the conversation with my husband.  I was able to take her through each part of it again, and she was able to walk through the emotions I experienced with me.  The breakthrough in this is that for the first time I was able to lead her.  I was able to carry her with me through the initial anger, the frustration, the sadness and then eventually to the acceptance, the silver lining and the push to get better.  I was able to take a situation in my life and approach it calmly… on my own.  She taught me how to do this.

In the past I’d approached therapy like a reality TV show.  I would go …tell them about all of the psycho moments I’d experienced. Each session I would introduce more characters with crazy stories… and it started to feel like I was going just to shock them with my day to day life.  It was interesting to tell a stranger about my past and see them feel for me.  I was there for the viewers but lacked the substance.  I don’t know that I ever really had an actual desire to change anything.  Maybe I thought just telling them about it would suddenly shift everything around for me and things would change on their own.  Maybe I hadn’t been broken enough when I went to therapy before to allow it to help me.  I don’t know what the answer is honestly.  I just know that 6 months ago I walked into her office completely beaten down.  I feared everything.  The anxiety was too much.  The OCD was taking over.  I felt paralyzed with these emotions.  Something had to change.  She has guided me each step of the way.

I know people that refuse therapy.  They think it isn’t beneficial.  They feel dumb… or they feel scared.  They feel like they don’t need it at all.  I think everyone needs it at some point or another and they shouldn’t be ashamed.  Being mentally healthy is critical. I’ll gladly go every other week if I can be a better mom, wife, daughter and friend.  For these reasons, I’d like to share a few things I have learned in therapy so that maybe this experience can help others.

Mindfulness.  This is so important.  Just being present in your life.  God has blessed me with 2 beautiful children and a husband greater than any man I’ve ever met… and for large parts of each day I was missing them completely.  I was in my own head.  Dwelling.  I was abandoning them to spend all day with my thoughts.  This has happened so often and for so long.  It is tragic.  Being present in this life.. in this moment.. with your blessings.  It is unbelievable.  I told my husband that at one point I laughed whole heartedly with my son… and in that moment I felt truly present.  I immediately felt pain in the pit of my stomach.  I’d left my anxiety post and allowed joy to creep in.  It felt scary.  My husband couldn’t believe it.  He couldn’t believe that I’d had so few happy experiences like this that my body didn’t physically know how to react to it.  Over the years I’d programmed my brain to scan for danger.  I’d programmed my body to respond with fear.   There were no other emotions.  There was “no time.”

I am in the process of retraining my brain.  I am trying to teach it to fear a rational amount of things and let the rest go.  I am devoted to being more present and I am seeing a change.  There are many ways to become more mindful.  One of the most beneficial tools I’ve used is the Insight Timer app.  This app has changed my life.  After only a few meditations… I could feel a change.  They work in the moment to reduce anxiety and they work overall.  There are such wonderful meditations.  The loving kindness meditations are probably some of my favorites.  If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, anything really… please take time to download this app and meditate with me!  Be receptive …it can help you.  Try not to go into it with negativity.  Approach it with an open mind and an open heart.

Another important thing that I’ve learned is that your mental health is a class that you have to work VERY hard at to succeed in.  You have to do all of the work… you have to study it, practice it, live it, and work at it.  Showing up for therapy and psychiatrist appointments does not get you an A.  You have to do work.  This may seem like a “duh” statement… but for a really long time I didn’t think it really mattered.  I didn’t think I needed to work so hard just to exist peacefully.  It takes work …and that’s okay.   It takes time… and you’ll find it.  You’re worth it.  Some of us are blessed with the ability to live mindfully and peacefully with minimal effort, others of us have to fight like hell to keep the peace.  (ironic huh?.) I am not going to dwell on why things are so hard… but instead I am going to try hard to make the best of them.

I hope this blog post helps someone… I hope that anyone suffering finds someone like my therapist that can help them.  Tomorrow, I may feel horrible again.  I may look back on this and feel like a fool for thinking I could feel better.  –but that’s the beauty of living in the present.  I have this moment now… and for now, it is wonderful.