The Memory Tree

I wonder a lot about life after death. In fact, sometimes because of my OCD, I get obsessed and can’t stop thinking about it.

Anxiety disorders are fun.

Anyway, I have done more thinking about not being alive than the average person. It usually starts with the fear of “not being” because I can’t prepare for it. Lack of control or knowing what to expect is a giant anxiety trigger for me.

I know as a Christian, I am supposed to “rest in the salvation of Jesus” knowing that I will have eternal life if I follow him.

But as someone who is not just anxious, but also has a severe case of doubt, that is a hard one for me. I want to believe that when we die, our conscious souls dwell together and we “see” our loved ones again forever. Sounds great.

However I lay awake at night often trying to imagine not being. I think about how there was a time before me, and there will be a time after me. But since I don’t remember “where” I “was” before I was born, I get a bit freaked out about where I will “go” when I am gone. Or will I just be gone?

People often say they know there is life after death because they can “feel” their lost loved ones. I don’t know if this is true or hopeful thinking. There are times when I feel something, and it makes me think of those I’ve loved who have passed on. Is that them? Or is it just a memory of them? Is the memory actually them? I don’t know.

Since having kids, my fears of death and what happens have deepened since I worry about leaving my kids without a mother. I worry they will forget me, and that if I am just “gone,” there will be no way for them to feel my love once I am gone.

As my children get older, however, I’ve started to have a different view. I’ve often referred to Eddie and Charlie as “old souls.” They are such different personalities, but both have a way of thinking that is downright profound. If you follow my #SluitersReadHarryPotter hashtag on Facebook, you already know this. But something they said last week made me pause and wonder about the age of their souls and the depth of their wisdom.

Thursdays I pick the boys up from the after school program around 4:15pm; last week was no different. As we were getting in to the car, Eddie nodded toward the corn field that lies adjacent to their school property on the parking lot side, “Oh. There’s that construction truck.”

There was a parked van in my way of seeing what he had referred to, so I said, “what? construction? where?”

“Over there. They took the big tree down. I miss it. It held my memories.”

I looked at him quizzically as I buckled Charlie in. “What tree are you talking about?”

“The one that was in the middle of that field,” he said indicating again with his head.

Now that I was getting into the driver’s seat, I could see the large yellow back hoe in the middle of the field where I assumed they were extracting a stump. “There was a tree there?”

“Yeah. It was big and old and held my memories. Charlie, you probably don’t remember it because it was taken down at the beginning of the year.”

“No,” Charlie says, “I remember it. It was there at the start of this year. I remember it in that field before they cut it down. You are right, Eddie. It did hold my Kindergarten memories too.”

“Yeah,” sighed Eddie, “and now it’s gone.”

“Wait a minute. That tree held your memories? What does that mean?” I asked.

“Mom. Trees hold memories,” Charlie told me completely annoyed that I didn’t know what they were talking about.

“Yeah, you know. Like in the leaves or something. I don’t really know how it works,” Eddie tried to explain. “I feel like mine are in the leaves. But maybe not because those fall off each year, but the tree keeps the memories. You know, like the tree in our front yard. That has my whole life’s memories.”

“Yup,” Charlie added, “I think the memories are in the branches. But maybe that’s not right either, because I have more memories than how many branches our tree has. But they are in it. It holds them.”

“But you guys, your school memories aren’t gone just because that tree is gone,” I explained.

“Hm. Maybe,” Eddie shrugged.

And that was it. Neither kid talked any further on it. They went on to talking about other, more kid-related things.”

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that conversation, and how they both sounded so serious and wise and sure of themselves–not like little kids being goofy and making stuff up, but like elders who tell you about the way the world moves and works.

If there was anything in this world that gave me an indication about life after this world, it is my two boys. The wisdom that comes from them  feels like they pulled it from generations back. That they are somehow connected to those generations in ways that I am not. That certain things aren’t just “new” to them the way they should be for an 8-year old or a 5-year old. I’m not sure how to explain it.

Whatever it is, it brings me comfort. And so does their assertion that trees hold our memories. Perhaps this is why I cried when my dad cut trees out of our yard and/or woods when I was little. Or maybe it’s why I feel so connected to the tree that we planted in our front yard. In fact, no one in the family wants to leave that tree behind when we move some day. Maybe it’s because it holds all the Sluiter Family memories.

Outtakes

Outtakes are usually the part that you don’t show the world, right? Outtakes are all the times you tried, but didn’t get it right.

Photo Credit: Erin Barkel Photography

I’ve been thinking about what I don’t show the world. The other day I got a message from someone asking for some advice about mental illness/wellness because I seem to be so put together and wise.

I never write anything in the moment.

Remember that.

Anything that is posted here has been lived through and then thought about. Or I am living through it, but have had enough time in and space in it that I feel comfortable sharing it.

Remember that.

When you read about my struggles with my faith or my anxiety or my depression or my impostor syndrome it’s almost never written while in the darkest hole.

When I am deep in it, I can’t write. I can’t talk. I can’t do much of anything. Even feeling my feelings doesn’t usually happen until there is some sort of break.

When I am deep in it, I sleep or lie in a ball on the couch with my hoodie up over my head. I am unkind and unlikable. I have to imagine it’s hard to give me grace, because when I am deep in it, I am a total bitch.

There are things written in journals that make no sense–that are just scrawled words that I am trying to get out of my brain. I have treated my family horribly. I am neither wise nor put together in those moments. I am ugly and vulnerable and rabid.

When I come to this space to write, it’s because I have broken through a little bit. Enough to think about my situation coherently.

If that appears wise, I hope it is helping someone else.

If that appears put together, I hope it gives hope to someone else..

I’m not always neat and tidy. But I’m not always a mess either.

Just remember, you see what I decide to put here.

You don’t see the outtakes.

Sanctuary

I had a hard time going to church today.

I didn’t want to. I wanted to stay home in my jammies and drink my coffee all by myself.

But I went because I stayed home last week due to this stupid cold I actually still have. I tried to gear up because we had a baptism today and I love infant baptisms.

We ended up in the back of church, which I hate because I have a hard time paying attention back there. I feel so…far away. So out of it. I get distracted by every little thing.

And I was distracted. An ink pen exploded on Charlie’s fingers, then Eddie needed tissues for his runny nose, and then Charlie wanted to write our names in the “friendship register thingy” that we pass later in the service. Then it was time for the children’s message, but Charlie doesn’t go up to the front for that because then he would be in front of church and eyes might be on him. So he hung out into the aisle to get a peek at the baptism. Then it was time for him to go to Little Lambs. Then I saw Ed out of church (he said he had to use the bathroom…Ok). Then when we were finally all in our seats, I couldn’t turn my brain off other things.

I had coughing fits.

I know nobody likes to sit by the person having coughing fits.

Church was full, so people were close. I was self-conscious of my coughing fits.

After communion, Cortney headed to the back to be a Deacon. After that Eddie left for Children in Worship.

I was left alone in the pew.

Normally this is when I start to exhale because I drive separately and then go write.

Today I didn’t drive separately, so I started to sweat. I didn’t know if I could talk to anyone today because no one wants to talk to the person having coughing fits and looking all awkwardly anti-social with her piece of delicious Costco baptism cake.

But I did it while the kids were in Children in Worship and Cortney was being a Deacon and counting money.

And it totally didn’t suck.

I survived.

Then Cortney gave me a ride home where I heard about the over twenty people who were shot while in church in Texas.

Perspective, man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When is it going to end? When can we talk about this cancer that is eating our country? Is it finally time? I would love to be optimistic, but I know better.

If killing little children doesn’t get the conversation going, why would killing people worshiping in what should be the safest place? In a sanctuary?

Come, Lord Jesus.

The Week that Felt Like Trying to Run Through Waist-Deep Mud

Nothing horrible happened this week, but my brain felt all murky and jumbled and just not…ok.

Have you ever had those dreams where you had to do something fast–run or get something–and every attempt felt like something like mud or jello was keeping you from doing the thing you needed to at the pace it needed to be done?

That was my week.

It was like trying to run a race through waist-deep mud.

But in my brain.

That probably makes no sense at all.

Thursday I had my monthly therapy appointment. I actually planned to bring up some of the challenges we have had with Charlie at school, but the minute I walked through the door and made a comment about the fall-like weather, my therapist gave me this look that was the definition of side-eye. Then she said right out loud, “you just don’t look like you are doing ‘fine’.”

She was not wrong.

But I couldn’t put my finger on why. Nothing remarkable happened during the week; it was the same as it ever was.

Teaching is exhausting this year for a number of reasons that I can’t really go into here. I can say my students are awesome, but require a LOT of me which means my grading and planning workload gets shifted to doing a lot on my own time for the first time in a few years.

Having two kids in school with all the homework and field trips and just “stuff” to keep track of is a part-time job of it’s own.

Cub scouts and soccer has carved out yet more of our downtime (although now soccer is over so maybe we will get some of that time back).

Cortney is on consistory at church which is awesome, but with two meetings a month plus his weekly bowling league, it means he is in and then back out again often.

We have more things to do at home that we just don’t have time for including winterizing the outside stuff, organizing inside, and the regular house-cleaning stuff.

I have deadlines for grades, conference presentations, articles, and PhD application materials looming.

Parent/Teacher conferences are coming up next week for me, and then the following week for our boys.

We have family photos coming up.

It’s just…a lot to keep track of. A very carefully choreographed balancing act.

I feel like I’m going to trip over my own feet and it’s all going to come crashing down at the same time.

Forget having time for my own self-care. That has come in the form of eating horrible things at night before bed that make me feel gross and bad about myself the next day. The hour between the kids going to bed and me needing to go to bed feels like forced relaxation–a time when I play on my phone or watch TV or read a book, while all the time thinking about all the crap in my school bag that needs to get done and now it’s just another day that I put it off.

I’m going to let someone (other than myself) down soon.

All of this is VERY anxiety-inducing for me.

And I know…I KNOW…if I don’t figure something out fast, I’m going to fall into depression and all those balanced items in my week are going to crash everywhere while I dig myself into a hole. The longer I allow myself to try to run through mud, the harder the fall is at the end.

I KNOW THIS.

And yet…I can’t stop. I can’t find a place to set anything down.

I’m mixing metaphors for goodness sake.

Because I’m running on shitty snacks and caffeine.

I know I’m on a frenzied road to depressionville, but I don’t know what to do about it.

My therapist says to use my support system, but I don’t know how to do that right now. I don’t know how to give any of this away.  My main support–Cortney–is deep into crazy busy at work himself working at his Chromebook from the kids’ bedtime until our own bedtime.

There is no way to stop this crazy train, Ozzy.

The Recovery Letters

recovery letters

It’s been over seven years since my original postpartum depression diagnosis and over ten years since my general anxiety disorder diagnosis. Since that time, I’ve tried my best to be open and honest about my struggles while celebrating the victories of living with a variety of mood disorders.

I don’t always feel great about the stuff I admit online; in fact, I feel very vulnerable letting people know that I don’t always love being a mom and that there are days that I struggle to find anything joyful. However, I know what it’s like to feel alone.

Flipping through social media is a great way to stay connected, but it can also create a feeling of being left out, being alone. The images people put out there are carefully curated to look like their best life. I totally get that. I am guilty of that too. But I have also always tried to put the not-so-perfect stuff out there; because really, my life is very much not perfect.

I want people to know that they are not alone, but also that things can–and do–get better.

Two years ago I was honored to be included in an anthology of personal essays specifically about Postpartum Mood Disorders. When I first sat in my doctor’s office, I had a really false idea of what PMDs looked like, and it’s always been my goal to put a face on these disorders for others.

This summer I am honored to be included in another collection, this time of letters addressed to all sorts of people who suffer from depression.  One of the editors, James Withey, approached me because he wanted PPD represented.

recovery letters

The result is a collection of letters edited by James and his partner Olivia Sagan called The Recovery Letters: Addressed to People Experiencing Depression. Along with my letter are many, many others that are encouraging and uplifting and filled with hope. The message is loud: you are not alone.

The book will be officially released on Friday, July 21, but you can pre-order on Amazon. If you suffer from depression, this is a fantastic book to have on hand to flip through during your tough times. If you know anyone who suffers, this would make a lovely gift when you know they need a little extra hug.

Suffering from depression makes me vulnerable, but not ashamed. I am honored that I have been offered so many opportunities to put my words to good use to let others know it is a survivable disease.

Other anthologies I have been included in:

Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience (2015)
My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends (2014)
Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss (2014)

*None of the links in this post are affiliate. I gain no monetary compensation for sharing these books with you.

Summer FOMO

FOMO. Fear of Missing Out.

Mix in a little Paranoia that Nobody Likes Us and you get my signature summer mental cocktail: Fear of Missing Out because Nobody Likes Us.

It’s not as tasty as it sounds.

Around May I start getting the itch for the long, lazy days. Warm, but not too warm. Slight breeze. Beers under our tree. Books in the sun on the deck.

School lets out and I allow myself to indulge in these things a little–mostly on the weekends. June however brings a whole lot of busy-ness. We have Eddie’s birthday and our anniversary. And at some point in the spring, I start saying, “let’s wait until school’s out in June to do that.” Suddenly it’s June and all “that” hits us.

Glances onto social media show family and friends at beaches, on boats, in pools, and at cottages. They are making memories. I’m wiping up lunch crumbs and telling kids to get outside so they don’t wake their sister.

A few open weekends allow for us to do some much-needed outside housework. Cortney checks a bunch of stuff off his list, cracks a beer, and feels good about it. I log on to Facebook and inform him about what everyone else is doing.

“Do you think people don’t like us? Are we downers? It’s me, isn’t it? The boys? They are always fighting. No one wants us along. Or maybe they forget we exist.”

He has been sitting, leaning his head back with his eyes closed, listening to me blather. He lifts his his head, scrunches his eyebrows, and says, “I don’t think that’s it.”

He’s probably right. After all, isn’t this what we wanted? Time to get stuff down and to be able to sit back and relax after we did it?

But neither of us has put on a bathing suit yet this summer. It’s July. We live within throwing distance of lakes. We have friends and family with boats and beaches and pools.

“Do you even WANT to go to all those places every weekend?” He asks me?

“Not really. I like to sit in peace and quiet.”

“Then why…mmmm.” He doesn’t finish. Just lays his head back again and shuts his eyes. He worked hard today and is probably sore.

“But I would like the chance. It looks fun.”

I hate getting the kids all ready to go somewhere fun. I hate the stomach I give myself imagining every single worst case scenario. I hate how I talk too much when I am finally with people. I hate that I don’t listen to others better. I hate that it’s my kids rolling around screaming at each other. I hate it when people say, “they are fine. It’s fine!” because I can’t even believe them.

It’s not fine to me.

I hate the hot tears and nauseated stomach and tight chest that all threaten to take me down in front of people.

But sometimes it is super fun. Sometimes the kids and my brain cooperate. Sometimes I am able to relax.

On a Saturday night, Cortney will sit down and turn on a ball game. I put my feet in his lap and flip through social media on my phone. Everyone is out doing something fun: outdoor concerts, beer tasting, movies, dinner and drinks out.

I’ll tell Cortney what everyone is doing.

“Mmm hmmm. Sounds fun,” he will say as he either flips through is phone or watches the game.

“I wonder how come we weren’t invited. Do you think no one likes us?”

“No. That is not it.”

I know I frustrate him with our paranoia. He points out that then we would have to find a sitter. It’s hard to do that and we feel guilty asking our parents and our regular sitter so dang often as it is. I also have a hard time feeling Ok about spending money on fun stuff like that all the time.

“It would be fun, but it comes with having to set it all up and that stresses you out.”

He’s not wrong.

I’m known to wish for invites, but when I get them go back and forth about whether I really want to go. I am known to bail at the last minute, and then take a nap because I have stressed myself out so badly. I’ve been known to accept and get super grumpy with my whole family while we get ready. My stomach eats me from the inside out.

But sometimes we end up having fun. Sometimes everything aligns and I don’t freak out and my stomach and brain stay under control and we laugh and have a wonderful time.

I don’t know where I’m going with this other than to say that my brain is always trying to make me miserable, I think. I mean, I know things logically, but my brain tries to override the logic with feelings of self-doubt and paranoia. It’s dumb. And also if you are like this, you’re not alone.

And people probably don’t hate our guts.

And maybe I should just stay off Facebook in the summer so I don’t see what I’m missing. Because really, we have a pretty good time here.

Climbing Out

It has been six years and I still remember it like it was yesterday.

I sat on the edge of our disheveled bed in my pajamas while Cortney got his breakfast ready in the kitchen. My hand shook as I followed the instructions and pushed the appropriate numbers to make an appointment.

“I need to make an appointment for today with Dr. W.”

“What do you need to see her regarding?”

“I think I have postpartum depression.”

“According to our records, you haven’t been in to see Dr. W in over a year, so we will have to process this as a new patient. I’m not sure she will want to see you for this today.”

“I have to come in today. That is why I called at 7am. For a same day appointment.”

“I’ll have to put in a note for her and call you back when she gets in.”

“But I took the day off.”

“We will call you back.”

I hung up and started crying. It was too late to get ready and get to work. Besides, I had already put in for a substitute and made plans. Now what?

At that moment, Cortney came in and asked what time my appointment was. I told him there was no appointment and relayed the conversation I had had with the receptionist.

“That is unacceptable,” he stated angrily.

I cried harder.

“We are calling them back.”

I knew what he was thinking: if I didn’t go in today, I wouldn’t go in. And I had to go in. The night before was one of my worst meltdowns yet and it was the first time I admitted that maybe something was wrong. If I waited, I would change my mind. It had to be today and he wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer.

I’m not sure who called back, but I remember Cortney getting on the phone and demanding an appointment for me…and getting one. Later that day my doctor nodded vigorously as I told her what had been going on: I was mad all the time. I took out all my rage on the people closest to me. I wasn’t sleeping well, but I wanted to sleep all the time. Mostly I was just mad.

She looked at me and said, “normally I would say let’s wait and see, maybe try some therapy, but it’s been nine months of this, right? You did the wait and see on your own. You have postpartum depression, and I am going to suggest an antidepressant along with talk therapy.”

Sometimes I look back and hate that day. My postpartum depression and generalized anxiety are full-blown depression and anxiety (with some OCD on the side) now. Some people have PPD and it goes away. Mine has stuck around. Sometimes that makes me mad.

But mostly I look back on that day as the day I got my life back. The day Cortney got his wife back. The day Eddie got his mom back. That is the day a team formed around me: my doctors, therapist, psychiatrist, family, and friends. That was when I found out who was going to stay with me; the ones who said, “let’s tackle this thing together!”

That was the day I found out I don’t have to do anything in this life alone.

IMG_6675

 

I credit the internet for helping me know what to look for because I never, ever would have connected my rage to depression. I thought that being mad all the time was just how I felt about having a child–I thought that was what motherhood felt like. I was totally wrong. Katherine Stone and the other warrior mommas of Postpartum Progress saw my blog post about it and rallied around me immediately. Because of them and Lauren’s (of My Postpartum Voice#ppdchat on twitter, I was able to connect with hundreds of women who were just like me–going through the same thing as me.

When I had Charlie, they were right there for me: listening to my fears about my PPD coming back, supporting me as I tried (and failed) to go off my meds during my pregnancy, virtually hugging me and praying for me when I relapsed in the months after Charlie’s birth.  They were there through my pregnancy with Alice. They have celebrated with me as I have avoided a new relapse this time around.

Postpartum Progress is a non-profit that supports thousands of women around the world–including me. Katherine Stone and her staff advocate tirelessly for better support and less stigma related to mental health issues specifically surrounding postpartum women–including me. Their advocacy has saved lives–including mine.

IMG_6632

In 2013, Postpartum Progress started a Climb Out event where participants do a climb in their area to raise money and awareness for Postpartum Progress and their advocacy programs. The first climb had 177 participants in 40 states and 7 countries and raised $40,000. Last year the climb had 2,500 participants in 45 states and 5 countries and raised $230,000.

This year I am doing the climb.

I’m doing it to give back to Katherine and Postpartum Progress for helping me get my life back.

I’m doing it to show my kids that I am strong and healthy (and Cortney and the kids are doing it with me!)

I’m doing it to celebrate NO PPD with Alice.

I’m doing it to celebrate surviving.

I’m doing it because I think back at how uninformed and scared and angry and just sad I was six years ago sitting with my hands between my knees in my doctor’s office. I was afraid to say anything. I thought I was a terrible person.

At times, I wanted to relieve my family of the burden of me.

Did you know that the second leading cause of death for postpartum women is suicide?

That could have been me.

But it wasn’t.

So I am celebrating.

If you want to support my Climb or join our team climbing in Grand Haven, Michigan, you can visit my fundraiser page here. The Climb takes place on June 18 (our eleventh anniversary!) and our whole family will be participating!

COTD2016_BlueTan

I’m Depressed, Not Moody

I’m having a hard time.

For the past month I have been having some pretty rough bouts of depression, mostly brought on by long periods of time shut up in the house alone with my kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I love those crazy wiener kids of mine, but refereeing quarrels and having a whiny baby follow me around while I get nothing done wears on me, as I suspect it would anyone. Christmas break was especially bad for me. And I would open up this little blog of mine and stare and stare at the draft box, eventually heave a huge sigh, and close my lap top. I just didn’t know how to put words to anything. It was all just too hard. Life was too hard.

Then a local mom took her young kids out for Starbucks and never came home. She shot herself in a field while her children were right there. She suffered from postpartum depression.

On December 30, I had a chiropractor appointment and was feeling so hopeless that I just didn’t want to go back home to what I perceived was my jail cell. I knew the boys would be bickering and Alice would need something and Cortney would be frustrated. The kids all needed bathes and dinner. Bedtime would be a battle yet again. I would get maybe an hour and then I would need to go to bed to start it all over again the next morning.

I was just so tired.

Rather than go home, I drove around our town for over an hour. I drove up and down streets I hadn’t been to since I was in high school. I halfheartedly told myself I was looking for houses for sale, but I knew I was just avoiding my life.

I kept thinking about her. She had done everything right. She was seeing a therapist, she was on medication, she had a strong support system. Yet this stupid disease still won. It still talked her into believing the lies that her life was just not worth living.

If there were no guarantees…what about me?

I saw the news link shared on social media. I saw people ask, “but how could she do that?” and “why would she bring the kids along and then do that?”

I know how and why.

It’s because she didn’t plan it when she left the house. Her plan was to spend a new Starbucks gift card on her kids and get out of the house for a few minutes. She didn’t plan to kill herself.

But something snapped. When she pulled over, got out of her car and put a gun against her head, it was because her depression finally whispered something that pushed her over to believing it.

I wasn’t there, and I don’t know all this for sure, but I can imagine it because I have been so so close to this. I have been incredibly hopeless. I was that night I drove around town, although I didn’t have any intrusive thoughts. I haven’t had those since Charlie was a baby.

I just felt…worthless. Trapped. Done.

This past week New York Bestselling Author Marianne Wiliamson posted this on her FB page:

CODE ALERT: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says women should be “screened for depression” during and after pregnancy. Their answer, of course, is to “find the right medication.” Follow the money on this one. Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy are NORMAL. Mood changes are NORMAL. Meditation helps. Prayer helps. Nutritional support helps. Love helps.

Let me tell you something: I was not screened for depression with Eddie or Charlie. It took me nine months after Eddie’s birth to admit something wasn’t right and get help. Yes, mine included medication and therapy. It was (is) a long, painful journey to wellness. It is NOT a normal hormonal change or mood change. Depression isn’t just feeling bummed out. It’s chemical imbalance in my brain. It’s an illness.*

I am mentally ill, not a little moody.

I can’t pray my way out of this, friends.

Although I know I am preaching to the choir here, I just want to make sure I say here that had I been screened before leaving the hospital with Eddie, some red flags may have shot up. If I had been screened at my 6-week postpartum appointment red flags would have punched my OBGYN in the face.

Thankfully, they do screen now. In fact, I failed the screening with flying colors when they asked me the questions after Alice was born.  I knew I would fail, the nurse knew that I knew that I would fail, but they followed up with me anyway so I could assure them my support team (Cortney, my family, my therapist and my GP) were on board and that yes, I was still taking my meds.

Now that I think about it, I have not had any postpartum depression with Alice. She will be 11 months old this week and while I have had some depression, none of it was the same variety as I had with the boys.  The screening didn’t prevent my PPD this time around, but it definitely put everyone on alert right away rather than nine months later when I practically crawled into my doctor’s office shaking from defeat.

All this to say…actually…I don’t know what my point in all this is.

I guess it’s this: I’m having a hard time. There is a lot going on in the media that is not helping. That makes me angry because I have fought and spoke up about my depression for six years because it’s stupid that there is still a stigma. Postpartum Mood Disorders are the #1 complication after birth and society is still trying to tell us to “get over it.”

I’m having a hard time.

It will get better. I will continue to go to therapy, to drink lots of water, to sit in front of my SAD lamp when there isn’t enough natural light in my day, to take my medication, and to let my support system know how I feel. I will continue to try to take the advice of those who love me and tell me to be gentle to myself and to find alone time to recharge.

I will continue to see the good and silly and beautiful that is right in front of my face, and it will pull me through.

Because I am not alone and this will not last.

2016-01-21 19.11.11

*and to be clear: I believe screening for depression in pregnant and postpartum women is important and does not necessarily lead to being medicated. For me it did because that is what I needed. Screening does not automatically equate to being put on pills.

feeding a hungry soul

Today did not start well.

Without throwing blame around, I’ll just say that Sunday mornings are a variation of hard. We have never  had a smooth Sunday morning in the history of ever.

I sat down in church grumpy and annoyed, and just not even wanting to be there. In fact, I came THIS close to shoving my Sunday school story at Cortney and saying, “I am staying home alone. Tell them I am sorry, but I can’t come do this today.” In fact the only reason I got in the car with my family was because my 2nd and 3rd graders were depending on me being there, and I did not want to put our VERY pregnant Pastor of Young Families in a pickle by not showing up.

While Cortney settled Charlie into nursery and I tried to get Eddie and Alice situated in our pew, my soul sister friend (The Preacher’s Wife) plunked a bag of wonderful soup, bread, and treats next to me, hugged me quickly, and whispered, “this small treat is just for you. Do NOT share.” It was HER birthday today, and she was feeding MY tummy and soul.

Then the message, of course, was something I also needed to hear. I wish I had been able to better concentrate, and truthfully I wish it had been longer. I wish there was more. I needed to be fed today. My heart and soul and spirit were very exhausted and hungry.

Once church was over and I had the kids fed and occupied, I realized I didn’t have time to get done what needed to get done for school today before we had to pack up the family and go to a birthday party.

Charlie didn’t get a nap and Alice only napped for 45 minutes.

I laid on the couch with a slight tummy-ache (stress-related, not actual sickness) for about 30-minutes because if I had tried to do the things on my To Do List, I would have just started crying. So I rested.

The birthday party was for my just turned 2-year old nephew, Ezra. We also got to meet our niece (his sister) for the first time. She was so tiny, and once she was placed in my arms (wearing an outfit Alice wore) everything inside of me calmed.

The sadness I had about giving Alice’s rock n play away left. The stress tummy-ache went away. And the pang of regret about having no more babies even left. She was perfect and lovely and…not mine.

Then I looked at my beautiful sister-in-law. She looks so tired. So beautifully new-momish, but so tired. I wanted to take her in my arms and rock her until she fell asleep. I wanted to whisk all of the people out of her house to my house and give her some hours of uninterrupted sleep.

I’m still tired and a little grumpy that I didn’t get all done that I had planned. I still really REALLY need some hours alone at some point. My heart and soul are still pretty tired.

But being with friends and family today did much more for me than I could imagine.

I am pretty damn lucky.

This Time, It’s Different

“Cortney, do you think this thing I have with Alice is because…well…I haven’t had any PPD, have I?”

“You are different with Alice, yes. And I think a lot of it probably is because you haven’t had PPD this time. I think you might be right.”

11401430_10206831462964261_1637316057478459814_n

Every second of the past almost eight months has not been glorious, but not once did I want to throw my baby off our back deck. Not once did I feel like driving my car into a tree. Not once did I consider that my children’s and my husband’s lives might be better if I wasn’t in it.

Not once.

Do you know what that means? It means I experienced being a new mom without “mah crazy” seeping in. I was REGULAR.

I loved my boys when they were babies. Eddie was difficult, but I loved him. Charlie was easy, and I loved him.

My love is not different, but I am different.

I’m present.

There is no cloud or fog or walls.

There is no rage–ok, there is rage. But it’s different. It’s normal, Mom Anger, not anxiety-triggered panic-attack rage. No rage that feels like the only way out is to hurt myself before I hurt someone else.

Not at all.

The first week home with Alice I took care of her. Cortney was home with me, making sure I took my meds, lifting things that needed to be lifted. But I got up with her. I fed her. I napped with her.

I mothered her from the start.

I can’t say that about my boys. Sure I was better with Charlie, but now with my 20/20 hind sight, I know that I have been my best with Alice.

The monster is not lurking behind a corner or in my closet. In fact, the monster is not in this house. Not this time.

Of course I am not naive enough to think it’s gone for good. I have too much experience with my own brain for that. I know I need to stay the course with my depression meds and my talk therapy. I know I need to get enough sleep and read books and write in my journal. I know I need to drink hot tea and find comfort. I know that letting the crazy of life overwhelm me without letting Cortney know will mean a slide back into the hole with the monster.

After Charlie was born, I watched for it. I was vigilant. I knew it was coming, but it took longer than I thought and I let my self-care slip. The monster burst in one summer afternoon.

This time, I was again prepared. But I stayed the course and it’s paying off. Right now, as I type this, Alice is snoozing on the floor next to me. It’s her new thing. After her dinner bottle, she plays until she tires herself out and she passes out with her blankie on the floor where she was just grabbing her feet and giggling. Then she wakes for a quick bottle and we put her to bed.

She is my last baby, and I am so thankful that I am taking care of my mind so that I can be here for it. So I can enjoy each snuggle and toothy grin.

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

Yesterday was the release date for the anthology I am a part of, Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum ExperienceI am incredibly proud to be part of this project in part because this is the book I wish was available when I was first struggling six years ago.

11232896_10207884365366163_93991569794426316_n

This book has the potential to help so many moms. Not only is it 35 voices telling those moms they are not alone, but it offers hope. It shines a light down the dark tunnel that is postpartum mood disorders.

Click here for ordering info.

And thank you for supporting me all these years as I struggle to put words to what I have experienced.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...