Climbing Out

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

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

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

“What do you need to see her regarding?”

“I think I have postpartum depression.”

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

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

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

“But I took the day off.”

“We will call you back.”

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

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

“That is unacceptable,” he stated angrily.

I cried harder.

“We are calling them back.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This year I am doing the climb.

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

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

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

I’m doing it to celebrate surviving.

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

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

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

That could have been me.

But it wasn’t.

So I am celebrating.

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

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I’m Depressed, Not Moody

I’m having a hard time.

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

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

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

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

I was just so tired.

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

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

If there were no guarantees…what about me?

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

I know how and why.

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

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

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

I just felt…worthless. Trapped. Done.

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

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

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

I am mentally ill, not a little moody.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m having a hard time.

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

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

Because I am not alone and this will not last.

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

Until it Sleeps

There is a beast that lives inside my brain.

It tells me untruths about my worthlessness and my capabilities. It threatens my children and my husband’s lives. It shows me pictures that are false so that I will believe that I am harmful.

The beast wants me to believe that I am the monster, and that it–the beast–holds the logical answer to keeping my family safe. It wants me gone.

It tears me down and beats me into submission until I agree that I am dirt and I claw my way to bed and stay there.

The beast is tricky. One minute it allows me fun with a friend, but later distorts the images when it replays it in my mind. It causes me to second guess every comment and reaction. The beast delights in my paranoia. It finds joy in creating awkward distance between me and others.

When the beast sleeps, all is well. I can laugh and imagine and create. I can be the me I know. The me my husband fell in love with.

But when it awakes, it physically hurts. First my head and back begin to ache. Then long, dark fingers wrap around the back of my eyes and everything gets tinted black. And once it starts, I can’t get away until the beast decides to retreat and go back to sleep.

The beast grows bigger the less sleep I get, the less I take care of myself, the less I ask for and accept help. Yet at the same time, the beast hisses in my ear that I do not deserve any of these things.

And I believe him.

Where do I take this pain of mine?
I run, but it stays right by my side
So tear me open, pour me out
There’s things inside that scream and shout
And the pain still hates me

So hold me until it sleeps.*

I live with depression and anxiety every day. Even when it seems to not be there, it’s there. It’s been five years since I was officially diagnosed with postpartum mood disorders–disorders that have grown and morphed with each pregnancy.

It’s been five years since Cortney gently suggested I get help and I agreed.

Five years since the work of healing and learning to battle the beast began.

And I am not alone.

There are so many women out there who suffer in silence and do not get the help they need or deserve. This is why I am so honored to be a contributor in an anthology dedicated to those moms titled Mothering Through the Darkness available November 2015.

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The essay that I contributed is one of my most raw and honest yet describing my very first experience with postpartum depression after Eddie was born. In it, I finally come completely clean about the rage and hate and paranoia that filled my head. But I also talk about getting help.

Depression is a beast, but it’s not unmanageable. It is possible to be stronger than the beast.

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*lyrics from “Until It Sleeps” by Metallica 

I Am Not Alone and Neither Are You

At the end of my last therapy appointment, my therapist of almost three years said to me, “so do you know Katherine Stone? I thought of you when I saw that she is behind the blog Postpartum Progress. She was the MC of the conference on PMDs that I attended last week.”

I smiled. Big.

“I do know Katherine Stone. As in I know her personally.”

“I thought there was a good chance of that,” she said. “She seems so inspiring.”

I thought about that word “inspiring” as I drove home. I also thought about when I first “met” Katherine. I was a hot damn mess when I was directed to Postpartum Progress by some people on twitter who read my very first post admitting that after nine months of suffering, I got sought help.

I combed through the entire site. I found stories and resources. I found help.

I think I officially met Katherine via twitter. When I was pregnant with Charlie and scared of a relapse of PPD, she was there assuring me. She sent me names of local people I could call. She checked in on me after Charlie was born and I went silent on social media. When things weren’t fine, she was there.

But it wasn’t just for me. She is there for every other woman struggling.

I met her five years ago when Postpartum Progress was much smaller and it’s reach confined to mostly women I “knew” via social media and PPD groups.  Now, five years later, it’s expanded to something so much larger than I can even wrap my mind around.

Katherine did that.

She is now known nation-wide and has been on CNN and other national news outlets.

And yet, she is still Katherine. She is still real and easy to approach and hilarious and passionate.  In fact, I think she is more passionate now than she was five years ago…if that is even possible.

She’s so big my own therapist is asking me if I’ve heard of her.

I admit that sometimes I figure she is so busy with all her amazing work, she probably doesn’t think much about me or remember me, but then she makes a funny comment on Facebook or tweets me and I think, “She’s still Katherine.”

I have given her name and website as a resource to moms so many times over the years, and I can still say “Here is my friend, Katherine’s information,” when I give it. Because she is not just a bigger than life public figure fighting for mom’s rights and health, she is my friend.

And I’m so proud of her. Proud to know her. Proud to have been a part of something that is so much larger than I am.

The letter Katherine wrote me in the collection of letters Miranda (Finding Walden) sent me after I had Charlie

The letter Katherine wrote me in the collection of letters Miranda (Finding Walden) sent me after I had Charlie

She helped me realize I am not alone, nor that I have to feel so isolated. I have become a vocal advocate not just for postpartum mood disorders, but for mental health in general.

I suffer from depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD and I am a great mom, a loving wife, and a successful teacher and writer. I laugh and smile and have wonderful friends.

I take medication and see a therapist and I love my life.

It’s possible to have a rich, wonderful life and have a mental illness/mood disorder. Katherine helped me realize that.

I am forever grateful to her and so very proud of this milestone of TEN YEARS of Postpartum Progress and kicking stigma ass.

Congratulations on Ten Years, Katherine!

Congratulations on Ten Years, Katherine!

Please visit Postpartum Progress if you or someone you know if struggling.

A Letter to the Depressed

It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead.
If I think too much I can get overwhelmed by the grace
By which we live our lives with death over our shoulders*

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I am currently in the process of watching you spiral down. Again.

It’s hard and it sucks and it’s not the first time you have been down this road, but just like every time I hope it’s the last.

Depression sucks.

Depression tricks you into thinking you don’t matter and that nothing you say or do will work to get rid of it anyway. So you try things that make you feel good in the moment, make you forget that your brains sucks at being a brain.

You take risks because, why not? When you’re not risk-taking you feel like garbage, so you may as well try all the things that will make you fee–at least for a little while–like none of the trash in your head matters.

Depression is heaps and heaps of bags of rotting trash leaking all over your brain. Leaking into your thoughts and memories. Tainting every day activities and routines and making them unbearable.

You can’t get through even mundane tasks because it feels like such a heavy burden.

Depression dupes you into thinking that making the same old bad choices will somehow have a different outcome and that things will be better this time.

Instead you barrel towards the pit again, and you are surprised to find that all those things you did to try to hide the rubbish piles in your brain didn’t help…again.

You cycle.

You get just far enough out of the pit to tell yourself that this time will be different.

But you don’t follow through with finding a permanent solution to the trash removal.  You think, because depression tells you so, that you can handle all that refuse on your own because you feel better. You’ll haul it all out by yourself with your new-found energy.

Slowly you’re overwhelmed. You’ve gotten rid of a few of the bits of litter only to find that Depression has piled on a whole new truck load.

You cycle.

Depression tells you to do the things that felt good before.  The ones that put up the curtain, the screen. You can’t see the depression when you do those things…but that doesn’t mean it’s gone.

It’s never gone.

Life is fragile.

But you know that because, well, you just know. Depression even told you a few times that life was worthless. And you believe that.

You want it to go away…you want it all to go away.

But you don’t want to change.

Change is hard. It’s scary. You don’t know what you look like without all this.

What if…what if it’s not better?

But what if it is?

You can’t keep living life in a constant state of “barely” forever.

You can’t keep living life staring at the ground in front of you wishing it would change.

You need to look up–despite what Depression tells you about there being nothing there. There is. Something there, I mean. It’s a light.

But you need to look up to see it.  And probably squint really hard.

Ok so maybe from where you are, with all the garbage bags piling up, you can’t see it. But it’s there.

You can’t see the air, but you know it’s there because you are breathing it, and you are alive.

The light is there too.

You know because you are alive.

You can go to that light. You can be warmed by it’s energy-giving light.

But you have to want to.

You have to want to make a change. You have to decide to go against everything Depression is telling you.

It’s a lot of work. It’s hard. It’s scary.

Change seems way less secure than the dangerous things you’re doing now.

It’s scary to open your mouth and tell those around you, “I need to stop and change because I’m broken, and if I keep this up I will be dead.”

It’s hard to believe you matter, but you do. You are important. The hard work will be worth it.

I know. I’ve done it.

I am doing it.

Every day.

I hope this time you will join me.

We can do hard things…together.

We can claim the light for you too.

light

*lyrics from “Sirens” by Pearl Jam

falling into darkness: what depression feels like

I was miles away from home, my email, all the lists of To Do’s for the upcoming school year.  I was sitting on a beach under a lovely shade tree. There was just the right amount of breeze to keep us from sweating, but not to keep us out of the lake.  Both boys were happily splashing and digging holes with their daddy.

I was on a towel with my Diet Coke and a book I was ignoring.

And I could feel my head slipping. My world was starting to do that thing when you throw water on a painted canvas. The picture that was once realistic and lovely starts to look like it’s melting and distorting.

Everything started running together.

It came out of nowhere.

I mean, I knew I had been stressed out with thinking about school starting, taking on an adjunct position at the local community college last minute, and all the loose ends I had to tie up with social media campaigns and freelancing before I headed back to work full time. I knew that going on this vacation a week before all the madness started up was cutting it a little close.

But I also knew I was very much looking forward to it.

Cortney and I had been saying to each other repeatedly for a couple weeks, “Soon we will be on a break with no internet or lists. Soon it will be just family and fun.”

We arrived two days before. I didn’t feel the usual release of stress that happens after getting the car unloaded, grabbing a beer, and plopping down in a bag chair.  But I chalked that up to having one more mobile kid this year, having a LOT on my mind, and needing a night to just chill out.

I’m not sure what happened between arriving and sitting on that towel on the beach.

I wish I could pinpoint these things because then maybe I wouldn’t find myself in a delightful situation getting slammed in the face with the load of bricks that is depression.

My reality went wonky.

I didn’t want to do any of the fun things people suggested, but I did want to cry.

I didn’t want to be around anyone, but we were on vacation with my parents and both brothers and their families.

I started finding fault with everyone and everything they said and did.  The more I tried to just hurry up and get over it and “be happy,” the worse it got.

I tried to be positive and it made me more negative.

I tried to see that they were just jokes and humor people were using, but I ended up taking offense even quicker.

I tried to tell myself all the questions were because my family was interested in me and wanted to make conversation, but I couldn’t help feel like I was being judged and eye-rolled.

I tried to “get over it” or “not worry about it” as was suggested when I would mention my stresses, but instead I felt unheard and more anxious.

Within 48 hours of being home (which included some good sleep), I was pretty much passed it.

My falls into the depression pits aren’t as far of a fall or as frequent as they used to be before I started managing them with therapy, diet, exercise, and meds, but they are still disconcerting and exhausting when they do happen.

No matter how long I live with depression, I never see it coming. Sometimes I will have all the triggers, but the depression never shows up.  Sometimes I will have one tiny trigger and BOOM! Like a sack of bricks to the face.

But every time it starts to push me, it feels the same way and it starts with the feeling of falling and of my whole world melting and distorting.

I have copy of the Salvador Dali painting The Persistence of Memory in my classroom. Since I frequently lack words to describe what my brain does when depression hits, I think of this painting. It’s like my life slows down–but not in a good way. In the way that things start to bleed together out of slow motion in dreams. Images melt and droop. I become an almost unrecognizable lump of a grey creature in the middle of it all.  I can see myself from the outside, but I can’t help myself.

If I don’t allow myself to vanish…if I keep awake and don’t melt away…I come out of it.

At least I have every time so far.

And on the other side is always this:

2013-08-30 08.02.39And I promise myself that I will always fight to stay.

Always.

Do you have a story?  Natalie from Mommy of a Monster and I are sharing our stories. She is talking about crawling out of the pit of depression while I told what it’s like to fall into it. If you want to share with us, please join the link up below and let’s all support each other.

 

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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.

hurt

I hurt myself today
To see if I’d still feel.
I focus on the pain,
The only thing that’s real.

Sometimes it feels like I am watching the world through my front window.

The world–mostly my friends–is having fun and doing great things.  All with each other.

While I sit in my living room amongst the toys and the whining toddler and the waves of nausea and smell of toddler poop.

I feel forgotten.

Maybe not completely forgotten, but avoided.  Avoided long enough that I have been forgotten.

Nobody wants to invite the downer.

Nobody wants to try to “have fun” with someone who is going through a “phase”.  Again.

What have I become,
my sweetest friend?
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end.
You could have it all,
My empire of dirt.
I will let you down,
I will make you hurt.

My jokes fall short.

I break plans and then wallow when no one invites us around anymore.

I tell myself that I am a terrible friend, wife, daughter, mother.

But I want people to like me.

I am a ball of contradictions.

I don’t make sense.  To you or myself.

I let myself down by not accomplishing my goals.

I let my loved ones down by not doing what I say I will do.

I am unreliable.

I am unstable.

I have done this to myself.

I wear this crown of shit,
Upon my liar’s chair.
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair.
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear.
You are someone else,
I am still right here.

My friends and family move on and live without me.

I am still here.  Behind my window.

And when I feel better?  When I snap out of it?

Everyone has changed.

There is no trust.

There is no laughter.

There are eye rolls and polite nods.

And an empty inbox.

And a quiet cell phone.

If I could start again
A million miles away,
I would keep myself.
I would find a way.

I wish I knew when this began.

I wish I could go back and keep Katie the way she was.

I wish my friends would treat my like they always did.

I wish “depression” wasn’t a deal breaker.


*”Hurt” is by Nine Inch Nails, but I chose to use the Johnny Cash version because it is hauntingly beautiful.
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