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.

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

Don’t forget to check out this quick and easy way to win some Amazon bucks just in time for the holidays.

Also, I have a giveaway for $50 to Blurb going on right now too!

‘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.

 

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?

Heavy Alphabet Soup

Two weeks ago I had an episode that made me terrified my PPD was back in an ugly horrible way.

One week ago I admitted it here.

Wednesday I saw the psychiatrist that my therapist referred me to for re-evaluation.

Dr. D.

I was a nervous wreck going in.  I had no idea what to expect and that drives me all sorts of crazy.  No pun intended.  Ok, maybe a little intended.

Dr. D is a man.  My therapist is a woman. I have never ever had issues with having a man as my doctor for anything until I started therapy four years ago with a man whose name I no longer remember, but refer to as Dave Thomas when I talk about him with Cort.  Because that is who he looked like.  A total grandpa in a cardigan.

How in the heck to you talk about major anxiety and anger or woman stuff with Grandpa Dave?

You don’t.

So you quit therapy because you figure you can manage your Generalized Anxiety Disorder with all coping techniques you’ve learned.  And you would be right…until you have a baby.

Ok…enough with the second person…I was doing great managing my anxiety for about a year and a half…until Eddie was born.

Nine months after Eddie was born, I was diagnosed by my General Practitioner with Postpartum Depression (I’ve written about those horrible 9 months).  I was put on Celexa.  A few months later, I was also given Ambien to deal with my lack of sleeping due to Postpartum Anxiety.

Everyone in my life noticed a positive change once I grabbed my diagnosis and attacked the plan to make myself healthy.

And then I got knocked up with Charlie.

My OB really wanted to see me give up the Celexa while I was pregnant.  My therapist and my GP didn’t think it was a good idea.

For some reason Because I put Charlie before myself, I tried to go off the meds.

I failed horribly.

But instead of being down about it, I looked at it as proof that the Celexa was still doing something, and I agreed with my therapist and GP that a healthy momma would be a MUCH better momma.

Then I started my rounds of Progesterone to help sustain the pregnancy.

Then I started barfing my face off on the daily and needed to take Zofran.

Then I went through a super ugly bout of Antenatal Depression that thankfully dissipated during the second trimester.

And then other than being uncomfortably pregnant and worrying about a placenta previa, things went smoothly.  Charlie was born via a wonderful planned C-section, we bonded immediately and fiercely, and I experienced a joy I only read about on other people’s blogs.

I have raved that this time has been better.  And it has.  Hands down.

Charlie is an “easier” baby than Eddie was which means my anxiety hasn’t had a chance to sky-rocket.  The times it has all centered around things not going my way or as it was planned.  I did have a few anger issues with Eddie (never violent and I always removed myself when I could feel it building) and twitchy eye moments with stuff not being EXACTLY how I wanted it.  But I was managing.

My therapist has mentioned that she thought I might have a bit of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder still lingering from Eddie’s emergency C-section since it was as much as an emergency with my health as with his. And possibly even from my miscarriages. But I didn’t think too much about it.  I mean, it had been three years ago.  Surely that had worked it’s way out or you know, whatever.

Anyway, that brings us to the episode in which I couldnotavoid it happening (although the thing I almost did, I didn’t do, but it was terrifying nonetheless).

So here we are. In Dr. D’s office.

He was nice, I guess.  I mean, he didn’t try to get to know me since it was just an evaluation. He didn’t laugh at my lame attempts at jokes, so I sort of rung my hands the whole time, but he wasn’t a jerk or anything.

It was all just very clinical.  He asked me questions about symptoms that I assume he was pulling up from his computer because he was staring at it and typing every time I would answer (or he was on twitter talking about me to his followers. “this lady is CRAY, yo!” whatever). And I would answer as best as I could.

It was sort of like the checklist of stuff you fill out with a new therapist, but instead of just checking the box, I got to explain it.

His office was also very cold and boring. I am not sure why I feel like I need to say that, but it was painted this stupid blue color which I am assuming is supposed to be calming, but there was NOTHING on the wall or on his desk to prove that he wasn’t a machine.  It was…odd.  But the furniture?  WAY more comfy than in my therapist’s office.  Which is also strange to me.

And yes, he had a couch.  But no, I didn’t get to lay on it.

So at the end he looked at me and he told me this:

“So I would say that you have Generalized Anxiety, Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, a bit of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, what we will call “regular” Depression that is somewhat in remission at the moment, and you show significant signs of having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.”

This is what I saw fly out of his mouth:

GA, PPD, PPA, PTSD, and OCD.

Alphabet soup.  Heavy Alphabet soup as a twitter follower pointed out.

Then he talked about doubling my Celexa dose and giving me “on a need basis” anti-anxiety med that I am a little bit terrified of, if I am being completely honest.  I am terrified of the drug and I am terrified of what could cause the need for me to take the drug (another episode like two weeks ago), and I’m terrified that he thinks it might happen again so it’s best if I have the drug.

I’m even a bit scared of this doubling my Celexa.  Is this permanent?  Why does it need to go up?  Will it ever go back down?  How will we know?

I am sort of looking forward to talking with my therapist about all this in a couple weeks.

I am proud of myself for stopping when the episode happened and reaching out immediately to Cort to let him know something happened. I know that getting help is what is best for me and my family.  I know from experience I can’t just handle this on my own.

I just very much struggle with what I KNOW and what I feel.

I still feel very angry that I have to deal with this at all.  I don’t want it.  Any of it.  I don’t want to be on meds, not because I don’t want to be better, but because I don’t want to have all these letters.

I know they don’t define me.  But they are part of who I am. They are part of my biological make up.  They are chemical imbalances in my brain.

Just like I hate that my best friend is diabetic and will be on insulin her whole life, I hate that I am a jumble of mental illnesses and I will be on medsmywhole life.

It’s not fair.

And that is what I am struggling with right now.

ashamed of reality

Yeah, y’all know what it is
Sometimes you gotta push through all your obstacles nah mean
No matter what the options are
There is no lose, there is no fail
Let’s go

I’m  not ready to tell you what happened.

But it was bad.  Almost.  Which made it bad to me even if the bad that happened really didn’t happened, but almost happened.

I can’t type the words yet because then I will have to look back at the and it will be real.

And I am ashamed of that reality.

Seem like life go lighting speed
Slow it on down just to breathe
It’s cold outside, adjust your sleeve

Today I am navigating life a little more slowly.  A little more cautiously.

Each moment hits my skin and I allow it to sizzle through me.

I feel it wholly.

Since Friday I have felt even my blinks be more deliberate.

It’s like something shifted.

Heart made of stone and I can not cry
Hand on the glass I can feel the rain
You don’t want to fight and I feel your pain
But I gotta go hard / gotta go far
That don’t mean we gotta fall apart
I’m gonna stand, tall, for all of us

I met with my therapist and said the words out loud for the second time.

(the first was to Cort, without being able to look him in the face).

I knew nothing she said would help what almost happen be erased.

There was some reassurance.  I did not have a psychotic episode.

But there was frustration.  Sadness.  Grief.  Anger.

At what was and is and will probably always be part of my life.

Fate on the phone and they calling us
Came from the ground and we crawling up
You can feel it in ya fist when you ball it up

I have another appointment on Wednesday.

This time with a psychiatrist.

An evaluation is needed.

I hate this.

If the sky turns black – It don’t matter
We know the sun is coming up
Built so strong – it won’t shatter
We were born to run!

But yesterday Eddie gave me the best hugs.

And today Charlie nuzzled me until he fell asleep.

And Cort swatted my behind in the kitchen.

And Eddie made me laugh so hard with just being himself that I was a pile of tears.

And Charlie’s soft warm hands found my face with giggles and coos.

And Cort’s fart jokes made me chuckle in spite of myself.
Sky turn black – don’t matter
Built so strong – won’t shatter
We were born to ru-ru-run
We were born to ru-ru-run

I still hate it.

But I will be better.

I hate that I have to “get better”.

But I love that I will be better.

Because I am strong.

Even if I am broken.

Hand on the glass I can feel the rain
You don’t want to fight and I feel your pain
But I gotta go hard, gotta go far
That don’t mean we gotta fall apart

I’m gonna stand, tall, for all of us

Friday I wanted to give up.

Saturday and Sunday I wanted to pretend Friday didn’t happen.

Monday I wished I was someone else.

The rest of the week I slowed down to notice the light getting closer.

And feel the warmth spread over my face.
If the sky turns black – It don’t matter
We know the sun is coming up
Built so strong – it won’t shatter
We were born to run!

I am broken.

I am.

But slowly I am gathering the pieces.

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

Lyrics by 7Lions from “Born 2 Run”

fighter

Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter*

The beast crept in while we were still in the hospital.

It saw it’s opening when every other person in the world held my baby rather than me.

It sneaked in as I encouraged Cort to hold him and snuggle each night in our hospital room, and it stuck to me as the nurse came and wheeled him out to the nursery as Cort left for the night.

It disguised itself as normal as I spent more than the allotted “normal” time crying about everything.

Then the baby started crying…screaming, rather.

And didn’t stop for three long months.

The beast wrapped itself around my brain and whispered in my ear that I was not enough.

That I couldn’t be what this baby needed.

The beast robbed me of my memories of the good times when the baby did not wail.

It put blinders on me so that I could not see myself learning to mother.

Rather, I began to believe that the baby would be better without me.

The beast moved into my chest and preyed on my heart.

It tried to tell me to leave this baby and my husband.

All I did was cry.

I was so mean to everyone.

I couldn’t even mother the baby right.

Why did I even try anymore.

As the beast had it’s way with my heart and mind, something kept me going…

kept me rocking in that chair with that tiny anger ball of an infant…

made me get up in the night and provide nourishment and love…

wouldn’t let me leave him to feel alone while he wailed…

something made me keep trying to be a mom…

something put a sheila over my soul…

or someone.

Until I could get help.

And even now, in the days when the beast sits crouching in the corners of my mind,

and in the crannies of my heart…

someone shines a light on it so it scurries away.

Or at least reminds me that I am not helpless.

I can claw and scrap and kick at that beast.

I do not need to be passive.

When I think that I cannot,

his smile tells me I can, and I will.

He didn’t let me give up.

He made me fight.

If Charlie healed me, it’s because Eddie made me a fighter.

Already my sons are protecting their momma…

and they don’t even know it.

our mad-we're-not-gonna-take-it-anymore faces. otherwise known as "Llama Faces" 'round here

*lyrics from Fighter by Christina Aguilera

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

Where else I’ve been this week…

Thursday I guest posted at Naked Girl in a Dress…I Ain’t Afraid of No Teenagers.

Today I have TWO posts up on BNV:  Placenta: It’s What’s For Dinner and the next in my school series: Getting Schooled Part II: Private Schools

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...