Blogging for Mental Health

I felt like I was outside myself, watching what was happening. It was like a dream–a nightmare, really.

I wanted to just stop myself.

But also like in a nightmare, I couldn’t. The rational, sane part of me was frozen, only able to watch in horror as the crazy came out.

I yelled.  A lot.

I was so filled with rage.

Cortney walked very softly around me for months, fearing that one false move would send me off into a blind, white rage from hell.

I bluntly told him he sucked. I told my mom she was unhelpful and ridiculous.

I was a bitch.

My insides would start churning and winding and the only way to release all the pressure was to rage at someone. I wanted to keep my mouth shut, but the more I tried, the worse the rage was.

Cortney didn’t read my mind, so he was constantly berated.

I didn’t know what I wanted, but I expected him to not just know, but do all of these things on an imaginary list that I hadn’t written yet. I would realized I wished the bathroom was a different shade of yellow and somehow I was so SO pissed that he had not anticipated that and painted the bathroom to appease the rage monster inside of me.

I wanted so badly to just be good and normal and happy, but the more I tried, the worse everything fell apart.

I didn’t want anyone to know about my wound-up insides. I wanted to be better, so I thought I could pull the whole “fake it ’til you make it” routine.

But my insides got worse.

I was crying a lot. I couldn’t control myself at all and I was afraid I was going to hurt my husband.

Every time the baby cried, which was often since Eddie had colic, something in me began to boil. I wanted to shake the baby, but I did NOT want to shake the baby.  So instead I lashed out at Cortney.

Until one day I broke down and realized something was broken in me.

That was the start of my healing.

I got help.

If you think you or someone you love may be battling depression or anxiety, let them know they are not alone. They can get better.

For a list or resources for mental health including postpartum mood disorders and other illnesses, see sites such as Your Mind, Your Body, BonBon Break’s List of Resources, and Postpartum Progress.

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.

glitches

I haven’t talked much about anxiety or depression lately.

From time to time people will ask me how it’s going, and I know they mean my Mental Issues. To be honest, I am usually caught off guard. Not that they would ask about that; in fact, I feel glad people feel comfortable enough with me to ask about that stuff. I’m usually thrown off because I’m not sure if they really want to know, or if they are looking for an “Ok” or a “Great!” type of answer.

Usually if people are asking me about how It is going, they read this blog and know about the Mental Issues already. Again, it’s touching that they care about me to want to keep up on These Things. It’s also means I am not sure how much they want me to go into it. Maybe it’s more comfortable for them to read about it rather than have me talk about it out loud.

But I haven’t said much here about it lately.

It’s not that I haven’t had any anxiety attacks or episodes, but by the time I get around to it, I have worked it out and it’s passed and I don’t have any need to write about it.

I get through each episode as it comes, which means when people ask me how it’s going I say, “really quite well.”

That is not to say that I don’t work at my Mental Issues daily.

Daily.

Still with the daily.

Every day I have to fight my urge to go to sleep all day.

Some days the urge is barely there.  I hear one of the boys wake up and my body eases out of bed fairly easily.  Coffee is poured, the day proceeds.

Other days the minute I hear a child I want to cry, and I have to fight with myself not to introvert on the spot and to interact meaningfully (and not just dutifully) with my kids.

I have to be conscious of everyone’s temperaments and know that when the natives get restless, we need a change of scenery…regardless if that is what actually want.  If I ignore the signs from Eddie and Charlie, the restlessness will turn into fighting which will turn into disobeying which will turn into screaming and crying.

And then I am triggered.

Even the days when I am tired and feel like I am just a hair away from a trigger and I just want to sit and drink my coffee and be all in my own head…I can’t. I can’t fall into that.

Every single day is still a challenge.

It’s not bad though.  Not like it sounds.

Well, some days are.

Some days are just hard.

Some days the ugly falls like a heavy fog on this house and I cannot see the good a joyful and beautiful even with my fog lights on.

But I have to keep going.

Sometimes I make bad choices that leave me feeling guilty and awful and mad because I feel like I should have been able to control that outburst. I shouldn’t have yelled at Eddie that way or redirected Charlie with such force.

Sometimes I sit in my bag chair in the garage staring at my phone while the boys play during that last 30 minutes before Cortney gets home because I can’t STAND to be the sole parent for one second longer and staring at my phone is all that is keeping my head from exploding.

Sometimes during Charlie’s afternoon nap, I take a nap on the couch even though Eddie doesn’t nap anymore. I just put in a movie for him and tell him that Mommy needs a rest.  I turn my back to him, face the back of the couch, and silently cry myself to sleep.

But in the grand scheme of things these moments are but glitches.

There are way more good moments that bad, and there are very few whole days that I would put in the trash pile.

I guess that is why I don’t really talk about it.

I don’t have any HUGE EPISODES that require me to “write it out”.

I’m aware that sometimes, things just suck because that is the way life is. I am also aware that sometimes things suck because that is just how my brain is.  It’s hard to tell the difference, but it doesn’t matter.

Every day I take my meds.  Every day I thank God for my family, my husband, modern medicine, and my faith.

Every day I start again.

living with depression

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my walls

There is this white wall, above which the sky creates itself-
Infinite, green, utterly untouchable.
Angels swim in it, and the stars, in indifference also.
They are my medium.
The sun dissolves on this wall, bleeding its lights.

People describe me as energetic and fun and easy to talk to and laugh with.

My students are surprised when I tell them I am in my mid-30′s; they expected mid-20′s.

Sometimes, on casual Fridays, my ponytail/hoodie combo paired with my grin and the pep in my step get me mistaken for a student.

I love fiercely.

Most people don’t notice the wall that closes in on me.

On the days when that smile fades as I climb into my car.  As I wish for an early bedtime.  As I dread going home to more people.

On days when I want the world to go away because I just can’t care about your problems anymore. I can’t care about your mundane, whiny facebook updates or your cheery coffee-induced tweets.

I don’t care about feeding the family or doing the dishes.

I don’t care about grading or lesson planning.

I just want to sleep the world away.

The wall moves quickly.

I suffer from Depression.

A grey wall now, clawed and bloody.
Is there no way out of the mind?
Steps at my back spiral into a well.
There are no trees or birds in this world,
There is only sourness.

I post a million happy pictures of me and my sons and my husband.

There is so much love in this family it is overflowing.

Hugs and kisses and flowers and snuggles and drawings of “macaroni and cheese machines”.

But there are also those thoughts that zap in out of nowhere.

My son hit by a rouge car, his body crushed and broken.

My baby floating lifeless in the tub.

Like in the movies, there is a flash, the image, a flash, and back to reality.

I shudder.

But sometimes, there is a flash, the image, and then…it doesn’t stop.  The scenario plays out.  I can’t turn it off as horrified as I am.  I am feeling the horribleness of the reality that is not real.

I do not want this.

I do not want to see this.

I have had intrusive thoughts.**

I want to get over, around, under, away from this wall that is closing in.

I have suffered from Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, and OCD.

This red wall winces continually:
A red fist, opening and closing,
Two grey, papery bags-
This is what i am made of, this, and a terror
Of being wheeled off under crosses and rain of pietas.

I am confident and laid back.

People ask me how I keep it all together.  All the schedules and the achievements.  How do we do it all?

We have gotten degrees while working and having children.

We have great times and throw wonderful parties.

We love each other forever and always.

But there is also the terror that it will crumble.

There is a wall of fear that closes in.

There is the fear that something will happen to take my joy away from me.  That it’s all “too good to be true.”

That is a cliché for a reason, after all.

Other shoe dropping and all.

Where are those shoes?  Are they heavy? Do they look like terminal illness?  Death?  Divorce? Destruction?

A crushing wall.

I suffer from Anxiety.

On a black wall, unidentifiable birds
Swivel their heads and cry.
There is no talk of immorality among these!
Cold blanks approach us: 
They move in a hurry.*

The walls closed in before I even noticed.

They always do.

Thankfully, I am surrounded by people who keep an eye on my walls.

Because when the walls move, they move quickly.  And if no one is watching, they will crush me.

I’ve been squeezed, but those walls have yet to finish me off.

And I am confident that they never will.

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

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.

*From the poem “Apprehensions” by Sylvia Plath

**I have never acted on these intrusive thoughts.  Intrusive thoughts do not always mean feeling like you want to harm your loved ones, but in my case it was the playing out the scenarios if they did get hurt.

that scruchy, wound up feeling

This time of year is tough for those of us with any kind of depression, isn’t it?  The days are mostly dark and gloomy, and what little light there is vanishes before the evening commute home.

I’m coping, though.

No, seriously, this is the best winter I have had in years.  Cort has really worked with me {and the stuff my therapist suggests} to try to be proactive.  I have gotten a SAD Lamp that I use a minimum of four times a week (for 15-30 minutes at a time, although ideally I would use it for 30 minutes every day), I have been charting my symptoms of when I feel most anxious during the month and what seems to be the cause.  I have found out that a lot of it is hormonal (which I hate because it feeds into this “thing” about women and their uncontrollable “moodiness”), but I’m on anxiety meds during a certain week of the month to help with that.

It’s not perfect yet…it’s definitely a work in progress…but I am seeing that it’s working.

The problem is, even when I know that the anxiety “time” is coming, I can’t foresee when exactly it will hit.

Saturday it hit.

The day started out–to the casual observer–perfectly.  Cort let me stay in bed until after 10am.  I got up and sipped my coffee while perusing social media.  While I was still in my jammies, Cort packed up Eddie and they went to the hardware store, leaving me alone with a napping baby.

How is this not perfect? Trick question. It’s totally perfect.

But I was restless for some reason.

The house was a wreck. I had a deadline to meet.  I needed to shower.  But I didn’t want to do any of it, but I also knew I couldn’t focus in this pile of a house.  It was a definite Catch-22 and it was causing me to want to go HAM all over everything and everyone.

(You know it’s bad when I use the phrase “go HAM” since I abhor that phrase for its stupidity)

Anyway, lunch time came around and the boys were sort of whiney.  Eddie went down for nap shortly after and Charlie? WOULD NOT NAP.

Finally after some tense moments, Cort went to deal with Charlie, and I decided I more than needed a timeout.  Everything on my insides was getting clenchy–that is how I described it to my therapist. It’s like everything on my insides starts winding around itself and it gets tighter and tighter and tighter. If I release the pressure of how tight it’s getting wound, it will come out in snaps and hurt someone.  If I don’t release at all?  It will eventually wind so tight it will crack and break and make a mess.

So.  This is what I am working on.

Anyway, I went into our room, closed the door, and changed our sheets for no reason other than I needed to control something and get away from the rest of my world.

I still wasn’t ready to go out and face anyone without exploding, so I decided I would take a shower.  I didn’t tell Cort. I didn’t consider if he had anything else he needed to do that day. I just did it.

While I showered, my insides became so tight I wanted to punch a wall.

I started letting all the things that bother me have a hand in turning the crank in my gut:  the dishes in the sink, the crumbs under Eddie and Charlie’s seat, the mess on Charlie’s highchair tray, the floors that need to be mopped, the floors that need to be vacuumed, the bathroom that looks like a college boy’s dorm bathroom…why does it seem like I am the only person in this house that notices these things? Which really means: Why doesn’t Cortney notice these things???  Why am I the one always in charge of crumbs and the bathroom?

Then I immediately feel guilty.

He let me sleep in.  He let me have a whole night locked in my room to do writing that week.  He made dinner for us.  He ran errands I didn’t want to do.

But I was still annoyed.

More than annoyed.

I was MAD.

But I felt guilty.

And then I felt hugely burdensome.  He sighs a lot around me lately.  Especially when I ask if he can do something for me.  He spends most of his time making sure I am on an even keel…that my mood doesn’t dip.  And when it does, he gets sad and annoyed because he can’t do anything right.

Even though he does everything right.

But yet…I am still annoyed.  Mostly at him.

I stood for several minutes with my head under the hot water.  I took deep breaths like I taught Eddie to do when he is upsets and loses his words.

A few tears fell and I realized the week of anxiety was starting.

And then my anger shifted.

Is this just my “normal”?  When are my feelings “real” and not because of hormonal/chemical issues?  And is that possible?  Does it make them less valid?  I feel like it does because it’s unreasonable and illogical.

I KNOW one thing, but I FEEL something else.  And then anger takes over.

I was able to recognize it and come down from it by the time I was done drying off and getting dressed.  I walked quietly into the livingroom and curled myself in my chair still feeling fragile and cracked.

Cort was just sitting on the couch alone–Charlie must have finally gone to nap–staring at the TV but not watching it.

“How was your shower?” he asked me automatically and without much feeling.

“Ok,” I started, “sorry I didn’t let you know what I was doing.”

“I figured it out.”

“I’m sorry I am this way.”

“It’s Ok, babe.”

I know he means it.  And I know he doesn’t all at the same time.

But mostly he means it.  I just have to believe it too.

I still have bad days when I am angry and nothing gets done.

But most days I am not like this.  This is not the norm anymore. I need to celebrate that and not dwell on the bad days.

I know that, but I have to believe it too.

praying in the shadows

Last week my 11th grade English students finished reading The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and Friday we began watching the movie to analyze various differences in a play for a live audience vs a movie version.  None of that is either here nor there.

Today {Monday} after the tragic events of the weekend, my students are watching the conclusion of the movie and finishing their assignment.

As I graded papers, the movie boomed through my classroom.

I have probably read this play a thousand times and watched the movie almost as many times.  But today I paused and watched as the actors portrayed the mass hysteria of the people of Salem.

I’m not sure if you are familiar with the movie or the play, but there is a scene where the hangings of the “Salem witches” reaches a fervor of excitement.  People cheer and laugh and root on the hangings of the so-called-witches. The young girls of the village are convinced they are instruments of God cleansing their town of evil and the Devil, when in reality they are carrying out beefs their parents have or vengeance they have on innocent people.

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

I’ve been struggling, like the rest of the country, with how to…what? deal with this?  That doesn’t seem right.  Sort it out? Make sense of it in my mind?

See, I still don’t know what I am supposed to do with it.

But this is what I know: The public reaction to the entire thing sickens me almost as much as the killing of innocent children and school staff members did.

Friday afternoon, after my last class left, I got on the internet and saw the news.  I didn’t read any of it knowing that my desk at work was not a good place for me to read something so triggering to my anxiety, instead I did the super dumb thing…but the habit…and checked facebook before signing off for the week.

I wish I had stayed off facebook all weekend.

There were people calling for bullets to be put in the heads of all people with mental illnesses.

There was a massive uproar to get rid of all the guns.  And consequently, there was an abundance of MOAR GUNS! ARM THE TEACHERS!

There were those praising the teachers, and people calling those of us who shared stories illustrating our bravery and heroism selfish and insensitive.

There were those making personal connections because they too had children that age. And they, like myself, let the tragedy seep into their imaginations and play out the “what if’s…”

There were those immediately posting pictures of candles and holding vigils.  There are those who are taking a blogging day of silence today to honor those who died.

There were links to posts people passionately hammered out in the moments after the news and impassioned debates under those links with personal attacks and name-calling and finger-pointing.

Accusations started flying about the intents of people and why they would post things.  Passions ran at an all time high on the interwebs.

Friends…family…started turning on each other.

The cyber yelling that I could hear in my head that I couldn’t sort out or understand was echoed in the movie today.  The people of Salem calling for public hangings and turning on one another over politics and beliefs all while tragedy took place around them.

I still don’t know what to say.

Cortney respected my need to not watch the news, but last night {Sunday} after the lights were turned out, I tossed and turned because the intrusive, anxious thoughts began pouring in.

I imagined it happening to my children.

I put myself into the shoes of the parents…having presents under their trees for children who will never receive them. I can’t…I can’t even go on.

I had nightmares of horrible people doing horrible things in the world.

I woke up to people yelling at each other on the TV, the radio, and the internet over beliefs.

I can’t make the noise in my head go away.

This weekend we took the boys to visit Santa. We celebrated Cort’s graduation with family.  We watched Eddie sing in the church Christmas program.

It is the holiday season.  It’s always been my favorite season because it brings out the best in humanity.

Except when it doesn’t.

So on the outside we celebrated.  But on the inside…at least on my insides, I started to lose faith.

As I sat in church watching my little boy sing, “Wake up, Shepherds!” tears formed in my eyes.

What does my heart feel?

Overwhelming grief for those not watching their little ones sing.

Confusion that my profession has become a “dangerous” one.

Anger…oh the anger..at so many things. The shooter.  The system that failed him, his mother, the students, the teachers…us as a country.

I am mad at guns. There, I said it.  My beliefs about gun control haven’t changed other than right now I would probably be glad if I never saw one again. I am sure someday I will be more rational about it.  But right now? I hate them.

I’m angry at those who think that people with mental illnesses should kill themselves.  I have a mental illness.

I am pissed off that people are claiming that if we had more God in our schools, this wouldn’t have happened.

I harbor a deep rage for people who think in order to honor someone, we can’t say our personal opinions, while at the same time hating some of those personal opinions.

I hate the call for silence, but I can’t function through all the noise anymore.

I keep thinking…”if it were me. If that was my class. If we were all sent to heaven…”  But I can’t get past that. I can’t let that scenario play itself out because then I have to imagine Cort raising our boys alone.  Sleeping in our bed alone.  Charlie never knowing me.  Eddie only having vague memories.

Damn it.  See? I can’t do it.

But I wouldn’t want silence.

But this noise that is happening? Is not what I would want either.

I have thoughts on all the political views this tragedy has stirred up…but I just…I can’t. When I voice them, I get roared down and I just don’t have the stones right now to take it.

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

Saturday night Eddie couldn’t sleep because he was afraid of the shadows.  I was too…different shadows though.  So when he asked me if I would lay by him, I got under the covers and held him close to me. I traced his face with my fingers and pushed my nose into his hair.

I asked him if he wanted to say a prayer, and he said yes.

So we thanked God for our lives and for our family. We asked him to bless “mommy, daddy, Eddie, and Charlie.”  We asked forgiveness for “our sins yike being mean.”

And we asked him to keep us safe from the shadows.

In this season of hope and charity…I am losing my faith in humanity.

There is one thing I know for sure…destruction does not heal destruction; Hate does heal hatred.

As Mary Warren says in The Crucible “We must all love each other now.”

A Mother’s Worry

I say I don’t worry, but that is really a lie.

I worry constantly.

Maybe not all-consuming-life-wrecking worry, but “is that normal?” and “what if…” creep into my mind when I least expect it.

It’s usually when we are playing.

He’s 8 months old…shouldn’t he be crawling?

He’s three and a half years old…shouldn’t his speech be correcting itself by now?

Most of these worries are ridiculous because as soon as these milestones I fret about happen? I cry.

I want them to both grow up happily and healthy and…normal.

Normal.

What does that even mean?

It’s something we mothers beg God for…”Let our babies be normal“.

What if something happens to Eddie at daycare and I can’t get to him?

What if Charlie is not getting his needs met at this age the way Eddie did because Cort was home full-time back then?

What if Eddie gets bullied?

What if Charlie’s roll down the stairs did something to his little brain?

What if someone tries to hurt Eddie? Will he tell me?

What if someone tries to hurt Charlie?  How will I know?

The things that are not happening and may never happen cause my heart to hurt and my stomach to turn.

If I let them, they will keep me up far into the night and invade my dreams when my body finally demands sleep.

They are the reason I can’t watch some of what used to be my most favorite crime shows like Law & Order SVU and why certain news stories get turned off or avoided in our house.

They are the reason I did not talk about the little boy who died in an accident during my school’s homecoming parade.

Some things I can’t face because they start a chain reaction of chest-tightening, feet-sweating, panics.

If it can happen to someone else, why not me?  Why not my family?  Why not the people I love?

Most teenagers think bad things can never happen to them.  They are “indestructible”.  This was never my view of life.

When someone told me taking drugs would kill me? I believed them, and consequently have never done a drug in my life.

But what if my boys do drugs?

What if they lose their way and can’t come back from bad choices?

What if I lose my sons?  My babies?  My heart and soul?

All of these thoughts happen in just a snippet of a moment.

Eddie could be pretending and I am captivated by how sweet and innocent and wonderful his small world is.  His easy smile, his doe eyes, his mop-top head.

And then, just like in the movies, my mind scrambles and horrible, awful worries seep in.

Intrusive thoughts.

Charlie could be sitting, reaching for an object and he eases to his tummy to see if that will help.  He is so small.  His happiness depends solely on his needs being met.

And suddenly, the eye of my mind zigs and then zags and I have anxious visions.

I worry about their present.  The present I can’t control because I am not a part of it.

I worry about their future.  Something I will never be able to control, but can only do my best to shape parts of.

I worry about comments like, “You can barely handle two, what makes you think you should have more?”

I worry about things I know are not true. Or at least I am 99% sure are not true.

But for some reason, I let those untrue…or not happening…or not going to happen (probably) worries consume me…even though, logically, I know it is for naught.

If a friend of mine wrote this blog post, I would shower her with, “you’re a great mom, and you know that” and I would be tempted to say, “you know you shouldn’t be worrying, so don’t!” but I would more than likely say, “me too”.

Although inside, I would want her to quit worrying if she knows she shouldn’t worry.

That would be the hypocrite in me.

Sometimes when I am feeling my worst, I hate to see my reflection in other people because I don’t want that to be me.

But it is.

I worry.

I have intrusive thoughts about what could happen.

Not what I might do, but what others…or the world…or my boys’ choices…might do.

I envision the worst and I am left drained and depressed and tired.

My psychiatrist recently asked me if I was having any intrusive thoughts and I said no because I thought he meant like I wanted to hurt my family.  I don’t have those thoughts.

But I do have another kind of intrusive thought.

The kind about everything else beyond my control hurting my family.

I know staying home with my boys would not fix this {I suck at being a stay at home mom, remember?  And they love daycare}.

Because new fears would crop up to replace the old.

I know giving into my fears is not a possibility.

Because I can’t shelter them forever {nor does the completely rational part of me want to}.

However I can’t shake the way my brain runs off on its own and scares me nearly to death.

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

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‘Tis the season!

That Day I Got A Break

Last week Monday night I was feeling sorry for myself.

I was already stressed about getting my grades done, having parent/teacher conferences later in the week, and having absolutely no time. At all.

Cort is gone three nights a week:  Tuesday for league bowling and Wednesday & Thursday nights for class.

Monday night, he had also made plans to get a drink with his brother.  The plans had been made weeks ahead of time, I knew they were there, and I totally approved.  Cort’s brother is about to become a dad and since their own dad passed over seven years ago, he doesn’t have a father figure to chew the fat with.  Cort is painfully aware of this since he was in the same position three and a half years ago.  He wants to be there for his brother.

I totally get and support that.

But Monday was horrid. And busy. And stressful.

Cort left around 7pm and I was left with a cranky three year old and a teething baby.  Once I finally got Charlie down, Eddie was impossible.  He got up about a million times, was difficult, and there were many MANY tears {from both of us}.

When Cort finally got home just before 10pm, I was a wreck.

I knew in my head that everything was just what it was: busy.  Necessary, but busy.

But my irrational, anxiety-ridden voice up there kept piling on the self-pity.

I couldn’t focus and I was trying to get grades done.

A wonderfully wise friend {whom I had been texting my vents to for about an hour} encouraged me to talk with Cort that night, in person–not over email the next day when we were both busy with work–and get it all out.

So I did.

I told him that even though it made no sense and wasn’t rational, I was feeling trapped and burned out and just…blah.  That all my stress and all my worries were being made to feel even more massive because he was never around.  It was me and the boys three nights…and this week four.  And…and…Tuesdays he was out having FUN bowling. It wasn’t even class.  He got to drink beers with his brother while I played GO TO BED OR I WILL LOSE MY LAST MARBLE!

I told him sometimes I resented him.

I told him sometimes I get “needed” out and “touched” out.

I told him most days I want nothing more than to fall into bed after work because I am so tired and overwhelmed and that I am both glad for and horrified by having to keep plugging along for the two boys who do not care in the least that I am overworked.

And then I got quiet.

And he sat and didn’t say anything.

I looked at my hands.  My computer screen.  My phone.

He started doing homework.

So my Wonderful Friend and I had this convo via text:

Me: i said my piece to him and he isn’t responding. um.

WF: Huh. Is he sleeping?

WF: Like you said it in person or via text?

Me: Nopee. Just sitting here working on homework. Things now feel…awkward.

We went to bed with that awkward feeling.

I don’t ever remember doing that before.  It was…awkward.  And I did NOT love it.

The next day I got an email from Cort telling me that Saturday after he got our cars serviced bright and early, the rest of the day was mine.  He would stay home with the boys if I wanted to leave.  I could nap if I wanted to.

And he held true to this promise.

On Saturday morning I took a nap when he got home from car stuff, and later found that he left me a $20 on my dashboard for coffee treats at Starbucks.  I was able to set up shop for 2 hours with a venti pumpkin spice latte, my phone, and my laptop with my entire itunes catalog (which is unnecessarily extensive at over 40 days of music…and that is me handpicking stuff so that I don’t have our DAYS AND DAYS of Pearl Jam shows or the oddities that my wonderful husband collects from his equally wonderful best friend. I have 14,251 songs on my computer. Sheesh).

I got four posts written and and uncountable number of emails responded to.

When I got home, Eddie was just up from his nap and Cort took him to get groceries.  Charlie stayed sleeping so I got some laundry done and another post revised and submitted.

When the boys got home, I was able to take a leisurely shower and then put on real clothes and go see some girl friends for a couple hours.

And to end the night, I got some couch cuddles with my main squeeze.

I can’t even begin to tell you what a difference that day meant to my mental well-being.

Sunday I was happier and less anxiety-ridden about the weekend ending.

I started this week with a positive, rested mind and soul.

And more importantly, that one day to myself gave me more of a need to hug my little boys and to let myself be wrapped in my husband’s arms.

I KNOW that self-care is important.  I KNOW I need to set aside time to be alone and reboot.  I KNOW that Cort is not a mind-reader and needs me to ask.

Just ask.

And yet…I don’t.  I don’t want to look lazy or needy or annoying or as a burden.

So, as my psychiatrist said last week, I keep running this marathon at a sprint.

And I when I can’t keep up the pace, and I cramp up and collapse, then and only then do I ask for a break.

I can’t wait until disaster.  I can’t wait until I break.

I need to do this more often.

Thank you, Wonderful Friend (you know who you are), Cortney, and my healthcare professionals for pushing me to remember that out of all the people I take care of in my life, I can’t forget about myself.

Because without a healthy me, I can’t help anyone else.

my pretty new earrings that I got Saturday night at my friend’s house via R&L Design (click on pics to see her cutie shop)

because of them

Oh November, you bring with you such a mixed bag of emotions and moods and thoughts for me.

I love fall.  I do. I love crisp leaves and pumpkin spice lattes and leggings with boots and scarves.

But you make it so hard to really love those things with all the other stuff you bring with them.

With daylight savings time, you make my world darker, making me consider a SAD lamp every year. But I am cheap and delusional that I can get away without any SAD this year.

You also bring the end of the first marking period at work with it’s fluster of GET ALL THE THINGS DONE NOW week, so you know, stress and anxiety kicks in.

You also have the election.  Even when it’s a non-presidential election year, there is still something that we are supposed to vote for and people get jazzed up and political commercials take over the TV where there should be commercials for erectile disorder and tampons.  You know, light topics. And try as I might to ignore it, know my own beliefs and not get sucked into the opposing view, I do anyway.

And then there is that other thing about November.

That thing that was supposed to happen five years ago, but didn’t.  And then again four years ago, but didn’t.

I never know how to talk about my miscarriages.

I think I am in the minority of miscarriage survivors when I say that I don’t think of them as people that weren’t.  At least not most of the time.

I think about how our life would have been different if, five years ago, we started our family.  And I like to think that the spirits that were possibly in those small balls of cells…if there were souls in them…are in heaven with Cort’s dad.

But I don’t think of them as ever being full-fledged babies.

I don’t think of them looking like anything.

I don’t think of them and wonder about their futures…because they weren’t meant to have one.  That was not the plan.

That sounds harsh, doesn’t it?  It sounds cruel and insensitive.

I don’t think that about other people’s miscarriage.  Especially those who have suffered so many and have never had the blessing of a full term baby.

I read in my devotions not that long ago that everyone has a purpose in this world.  The ones who die young fulfilled their purpose quickly…even if we don’t know that purpose.  If the purpose is never revealed to us, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one.

I try not to play the “why” game.

I gave up on that game when Cort’s dad died.  There just wasn’t an answer that I was allowed to know.

I mean, I can conjecture from what I see has become of our life and how certain things wouldn’t be as they are without those tragedies, but I can’t say that was for sure the purpose of losing two pregnancies.

As I told my therapist last week, I never even thought of them as babies.

I’ve tried to.  I’ve called them babies, but after having Eddie and Charlie, that just didn’t feel right to me.

The first never progressed past a couple cell divisions before it quit.  It was my body that didn’t get that message.  My bodythought it was pregnant.  Had my body not mixed up that message, it would have passed without me ever knowing it was a miscarriage.

The second was a small dot on a screen.  But we never saw a heartbeat.

However, if I am being honest here, even seeing Eddie’s heartbeat for the first time didn’t convince me he was a real baby.  I know now that was probably a defense mechanism on my part.  And I am in no way saying anything about when I believe life starts (goodness knows I don’t want to start THAT debate here…this is about me and my experience only), I just don’t really grieve those lives that never were anymore.

I have a small box next to my bed with two hearts in it that represent those two pregnancies.

They were hugely important in my life.

The first convinced me I did, in fact, want to be a mother.

The second showed me my own strength and that I could get through physical pain that was greater than anything I ever thought I could endure.

Both pregnancies opened my eyes to who I am…a person I didn’t know I was.  A woman who was stronger and braver than I knew.

Both pregnancies are a puzzle piece to how our family was shaped.  How our attitudes toward loving each other fiercely and not holding grudges was fashioned.  How our persistent to be open in communication and our love for one another was created.

I know that those losses created an urgency of love and appreciation and living in the moment with those we love.

I know I am different because of them.  I know Cort is too.

I know Eddie and Charlie are seen through different eyes and loved with different hearts than they would had their not been loss before them.

But I don’t spend my November thinking about babies who weren’t born in this month.

And now, with the addition of my sweet new niece, Maria last weekend and the other niece, Lilly due in a couple weeks, I have two babies births to celebrate this month.

I don’t forget what I lost, but I don’t mourn it anymore either.

Instead I say a prayer of gratitude for all I have been blessed with despite the losses we have endured.

And we just are.

 

the penny reminder

Tuesday after dinner I had to go out to our local Mejier (much like Wal-Mart in the whole department store thing, but unlike Wal-Mart in the whole skeeze thing) for some supplies for a baby shower I am giving this weekend.

As Cort cleaned up dinner, Eddie announced he wanted to come with me.

Cort told him, “That’s up to mommy. ”

Normally, I would say, “no. it’s too close to bed time.  I won’t be gone long and you’ll have fun with daddy and Charlie.”

But since it was only just after 6pm, I said, “finish your dinner and you can come with me. But only if you can be a good helper. Can you be a good helper?”

“Yeah, Mom! I can! Let me go wash my hands and face!”

So off we went.

For anyone who has been around for awhile, you know I have a generalized anxiety disorder along with PPD/PPA.  After Eddie was born I was paralyzed with fear to go out with him alone.  Not because I thought he would get hurt, but because I was afraid I couldn’t handle it.

It was easy to avoid going out alone with Eddie.  When he was 4 months old, Cort lost his job and became a stay at home dad for a year and a half.  He did most of the errands during the day and had no problem taking Eddie with him.  In fact, he planned it so they would get out of the house at least once a day.

If I went out for anything, it was to pick something up on my way home from work.  Alone.

When I had Charlie, I had over a year of therapy to work on my anxiety and I had discovered baby-wearing. Charlie and I got out about once a week to do all sorts of things.

It was still rare that I took Eddie out alone though.  Not because I was anxious, but because we didn’t have tons of alone time.

So Tuesday night when he wanted to come along, I figured it would be good for both of us.

When we got to Meijer, Eddie insisted on holding my list.  As we held hands through the parking lot, he peered down at it and said, “yet’s see…hmmm.  what is first?”

I almost melted right there.

Once we were safely inside, I crouched down and asked if we could look at it together.  I pointed to the first thing and I said, “this says we need eggs and strawberry soda.”

“Hmmm,” he replied.  “yup, mom. You’re right! It says it riiiiight here.”

(I should remind readers that Eddie is 3 and cannot read, but we “pretend” to read often as a form of “play learning”.)

So I let him help me pick a cart and off we went.

I let him run a bit ahead of me and didn’t get panicky or yell to him to slow down or wait.  I trusted that he would.  And he did.

He would get a certain length ahead of me and then stop, turn around, and wait for me with a smile on his face.

I let him choose which package of sausage we would buy.  And then I let him “fix” the rest in the display so they were nice and neat.

He put strawberries in the cart and helped me pick the “right” paper plates.

It took longer than if I had zipped through the store on my own, but it was so SO much better this way.

A few people commented on how it was nice that we worked together to do the shopping instead of my just having him be there.  Each time we found something on the list, I would get down on my knees in the aisle so we could look at the next list item together.  He held the list the whole time.

At checkout, I let him unload the entire cart (except the eggs).  The belt was not as neat and organized as when I unload (I have a method of what gets grouped together for bagging purposes), but he did it all on his own.  Luckily for us, the cashier smiled and talked to him and told him what an awesome helper he was.  She said it was nice to see someone using a trip to Meijer as a “learning” tool instead of a battle between mother and child.

On our way out, he wanted to ride the penny pony, but I didn’t have a penny.  I felt sad for him as I watched him hang his head in disappointment because he had been such a great helper and he deserved a spin on the pony.  Just as I was telling him that I promised I would bring TWO pennies next time, a lady in the check out next to us bent down and handed Eddie a penny.

“OH THANKS YOU!” he beamed at her.

“You are very welcome, young man.  I saw you help your mommy.  You are quite the gentleman!”

“You too,” Eddie replied.

To which we both chuckled while I thanked her.

As we approached the pony, we saw that someone had left three pennies next to it.  Eddie asked if he could use one to take a second ride, and I let him.

When we were done, he asked about the other two pennies.

“Are those for other girls and boys?”

“Yup, someone left those there for good boys and girls so they can ride the pony too.”

“If they don’t have pennies they can use them?”

“That’s right.”

Just then a little boy, smaller than Eddie, walked up.

“You has a penny?” Eddie asked him.

“no. I can’t wide it.” The little boy said, “I just looking.”

Eddie reached down to the extra pennies, and handed one to the little boy.

“Der you go. Now you can ride too!” And he patted the horse.

As the little boy ran back to his mom to show her his new treasure, Eddie and I walked to the car.

“That was very kind of you, Eddie.”

“Yup. Dat boy can ride duh pony now too!”

“That’s right.  Thank you for being such a great helper and such a kind boy.”

“I yuv you, mom.”

“Aw. I love you too, Eddie.”

I am beyond stressed out and way overly exhausted.  But these small moments…just 30 minutes out of my day on Tuesday, made me smile.  It made me forget the deadlines and the calendar conflicts and the have-to-do’s for 30 minutes and just focus on my older son.

I was able to spend quality time with him encouraging his fierce independent streak in a positive, healthy way.

I am an overworked working mom.  But I am a good mom.

My son is kind and helpful not because he just knows to be that way, but because we have modeled that for him.

We have taught him to share what he has, even if all he has in that minute is a penny and a helpful nature.

These small moments also remind me that I am not raising boys, but men.

Men who I hope will bring good to this world instead of sadness.

Watching my son share a penny made me hopeful that I am achieving this goal.

advocacy vs avoidance

Over the past week, five totally unrelated people who know nothing of each other’s existences asked me similar questions:

“Do your students know about your blog?  What do you do if they find it?”

“Do you think your students know about your mental issues?”

“What if parents or administrators found your blog?”

“How can you advocate for being open about depression and stuff on your blog, but not talk about it in real life much?”

“You don’t talk about depression at your school, do you?”

In a nutshell, no I do not advertise my blog at school, but I like to think I write in a way that if a parent or administrator were to find this site, there would be no issues.

I mean, when you google “Katie Sluiter” I am the entire first page of search results (at least I was the last time I checked which was not just before I wrote this, so things could’ve changed).

But yes, kids find it.  Usually while we are in the computer lab doing something that has nothing to do with google searching your Spanish or English teacher.

This is how it usually goes…

Kid: Hey Mrs. Sluiter!  I just found you on google!  You have a blog?  HA HA HA HA!
Me: Yup.
Kid: What’s it about?
Me: It’s on your screen; read it.
Kid: Looks like mom stuff.  BOOOORRRING!
Me: Are you done with this part of your assignment that you should have had done 10 minutes ago?
Kid: Wait. What are we supposed to be doing?
Me:  O_o

And that is all I hear.

Except when I hear this:

Kid in hall to me when no one else is listening or after school in my room: Um, Mrs. Sluiter?
Me: What’s up?
Kid: I saw you had a blog.
Me: Oh yeah. I do.
Kid: I like it.  You have really cute kids.
Me: Aw thanks.  Yeah, they are handsome guys.
Kid: Um, I like that you talk about your depression.  I am on celexa (or other antidepressant) too.
Me: Oh yeah?  Small world! I hope it’s helping.
Kid: Yeah. It does. {insert longish, awkwardish pause} I like that you wrote about it.  Thanks.
Me: No problem. It helps to write it out.  You don’t have to put it on the internet like I do, but it does help.  You should try it.
Kid: Yeah. Maybe I will.  Thanks, Mrs. Sluiter.
Me: You are always welcome.

I have had a total of one parent comment on it.  It was a parent/teacher conferences and it was one of my writing students.  One of the coolest, most supportive moms I have had the pleasure of working with.  She told me she loved my open, honest writing and that my school and students were lucky to have me.

I’ve sent the link to my principal so he knows it exists.  Pretty sure he has never read it, but maybe he is just silent about it. I don’t know.

I don’t talk about my depression and anxiety in school at all.  Sometimes with a few co-workers, but not with students unless they bring it up.  And I never stick my hand out to parents and introduce myself as the English teacher with PPD.

Consequently, I don’t talk about it much with my family or friends either.

They either read the blog and know about it, or know about it because they have been made aware of it.  Either way, it’s not a conversation we have much.

I’ve been accused of being hypocritical because I don’t shout it from the rooftops.

I am all about breaking down the stigma.  It’s why I talk about it here.  But I don’t know how that translates into “real life”.

It’s uncomfortable to bring up out of no where with people, but if someone asks, I am good about dispelling myths or telling them what my experience is like.

But I don’t go to restaurants and order my burger and then tell my server about my PPD, PPA, and OCD.

I don’t let the dressing room attendants at the GAP know I have Generalized Anxiety.

I don’t let the cashier at Target in on my PTSD.

And I sure as heck don’t put any of that stuff in my syllabus in the About Mrs. Sluiter section, nor do I introduce myself that way in my welcome email to parents.

If someone asks about it, I don’t lie.  I mean, duh. The google search.

Do I hide it?

Do I fear stigma?

Am I afraid parents won’t want their kids in the class of someone who suffers from depression and anxiety?

Do I think parents/students would blame ME when their child gets called out for behavior because I am the one with a problem?

I guess yes a little to all of these things.

But only as much as I feared these things being a pregnant teacher too.

Kids all the time would say, “You’re just mean because you are pregnant.”

No, I am being mean because you have been talking to your neighbor ALL HOUR WHILE I AM TEACHING.

You see what I mean.

So where is that line?  It seems to be a mighty light, hard-to-see line between being ashamed and being an advocate.

For me, it’s easy to “talk it out” here because I am not talking out loud to a face.  I can think about my words. Pace myself.  Say things exactly how I want to.

In real life I am awkward and nervous and can’t look you in the eye well when I talk about it.

Here I bring it up. Over and over and over.  Mostly so I can process it and document it, but also so YOU can feel less alone and YOU can know how your best friend, sister, wife, mom, whomever is feeling.

In real life I don’t bring it up, but I definitely don’t run from it.

Here it is natural.

In real life it is awkward.

Why is that?

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