I’ve been quiet online and in my real life, too.
It’s not you. It’s me.
It started as irritability. I found myself cursing at tiny grains of rice as I tried to scoop them off the floor after a meal. I snapped at my husband for little things: hair left on the bathroom counter, a tone in his voice I took offense to. The girls pushed buttons. They couldn’t help it. Everything was a button.
And then the quiet set in. And I wanted to curl up with hours of The West Wing and my crochet. From the moment I got up in the morning.
I started to hear my inner-monologue whisper nasty things about being unloved, unworthy.
I waited. Because sometimes, a bad week is just a bad week. And then the timing suggested it was PMS. And well, it should have lifted by now. I should be back to my overachieving, confident, take-life-by-the-horns self.
So yesterday, I call friends and told them what was going on. I asked them to hold me accountable for calling my doctors and making therapy and psych appointments. I cut back on my commitments and took the evening to take care of myself. I know exactly what to do.
And I know what not to do. I will not believe that I am unworthy. I will not seek out truth in the grey cloud that is casting shadows on my life. Whether this is lingering PMS, a reaction to teething-induced sleep deprivation, or something more, I will not forget that depression lies.
I will be okay.
Todays’ HAWMC prompt is to write about the best conversation you had during the week. I’m going to apologize in advance for subjecting you to this.
Hubs (looking out front window): Boy, the robins sure do love the lawn after it’s been aerated.
Me: I bet it makes the bugs easier to catch.
Hubs: What we really need is to genetically modify robins so that as they dig for worms in the lawn they also drop grass seed. That would save me so much time. Of course, then they would need some sort of biological advantage so they would survive better than the regular robins.
Me: You mean, like make them bigger?
Me: Or make them bulletproof?
Hubs: LOL. We could give them little tiny bulletproof vests.
At that point in the conversation, I started picturing a very bloody version of the Sneetches. At one point in time, a silly conversation about outfitting wildlife with kevlar wouldn’t have been possible for me. After No1 was born, all I could talk about was the baby or my anxieties about the baby.
And that, my friends is why this is the best conversation I had this week. It had nothing to do with PPD, anxiety, or children. It was just a funny moment between a husband and a wife. This time around, I’m not taking that for granted.
Prompt: Go to flickr.com/explore and write a post inspired by the image. Can you link it to your health focus? Don’t forget to post the image!
I must confess that I did not write a new piece for this prompt. A’Driane from Butterfly Confessions and I swapped posts a while ago based on this picture I snapped while on a walk with my husband one evening. It couldn’t be more perfect for this prompt. So please forgive my recycling. Can we just call it “being green”?
A tree stands in a garden, nestled between stone buildings of importance and dignity. Reaching out from a small patch of green near a brick pathway, its branches twist and turn in a ragged, unrefined manner. The bark, speckled with spots of white, reveals its age.
This tree did not choose its lot in life. If it had, surely it would have chosen a larger pasture, one which isn’t hidden in shadow most of the day. A field, perhaps, filled with flowers and fed by sunlight and gentle rains. Instead it was planted where even basic needs would be a struggle to fulfill.
And instead of withering, fading behind the shadows of the surrounding foliage, it reached its branches toward what little light dappled the garden. Stretching out at an odd angle, its trunk carried the life-giving leaves up to the sun, until it could no longer hold its own weight. The roots strained against gravity. And then… salvation. In the form of a simple wooden frame, erected in defense of this tree – in support of its persistence.
My husband says, “It’s so sad. Why don’t they just cut it down?” Recoiling in horror, I look at him with shock and disappointment. Can he not see the beauty in this tree, this being? The beauty that instead of lying in youth or perfect form, lies in its strength and will to survive. This tree, which has taken a beating from both nature and time, all the while fighting for life in the face of unfortunate circumstance, still has shade to give and leaves to nurture. It is not less for needing buttressing, but more for welcoming it, growing up from its second trunk in gratitude. Its worth lies simply in its existence.
I wonder, would we have even stopped to notice it, had it been perfect? No, most certainly we would have walked by, never noticing the beauty in its vulnerability. I want to say, “We are the same. I see your fight, your resolve. Keep reaching for the sunlight; keep surviving.” Instead I simply snap a picture, in awe of what this tree has taught me about myself in an instant.
Prompt: If you had a superpower – what would it be? How would you use it?
This is easy. Teleportation.
The beauty of the internet (and twitter specifically) is that it allows you to instantly connect with people. In my case, people who are struggling with the same mental health issues I am. At any moment, day or night, I can search for #ppdchat and find love, support, and virtual hugs. I can turn to my Facebook groups and know that the mamas on there will know just what to say. And I’ve skyped or hungout or facetimed (poor spell-checker is having a fit over those verbs) with a handful of them, making what I hope to be life-long connections. I’m convinced the internet is a key reason I was able to manage my antenatal depression so well and am PPD-free this time around. It’s also the reason I’m still breastfeeding (my baby thanks you, twitter!)
Yes, the internet is a great tool for those of us suffering from and advocating for mental illness. And virtual hugs are nice. But how awesome would it be to be able to just pop over to your virtual friends and hug them in person? I got to meet Katherine Stone in person in February and it was intense, amazing, and thrilling. I get to meet a ton of my fellow bloggers in August at BlogHer 2012. But what I’d really love is to be able to see a cry for help on twitter, wiggle my right pinky toe (everybody knows that’s where superpowers really reside), and throw my arms around a mama in need.
And? I’m dying to meet Yuz from Not Just About Wee in person. She lives in Australia. I adore her. And plane tickets are expensive.
Prompt: Find a quote that inspires you (either positively or negatively) and free write about it for 15 minutes.
When I asked for a quote on Facebook and Twitter from my #ppdchat mamas, this one instantly had me in tears. Must have been the right one.
”When we know better, we do better.” Maya Angelou
It’s very popular and I’m sure you’ve heard it spewed from Oprah’s mouth on more than one occasion, but there’s good reason for that.
And it’s true.
This is my second baby. My second time living through the physical and emotional roller coaster of pregnancy, and my second time experiencing the fourth trimester. It really is amazing how much you forget about having a newborn. The sleep deprivation. How hard breastfeeding is. All of it. This is my second time parenting with an anxiety disorder, but so far without the PPD.
Of course I know better this time how to take care of a newborn. All the logistics are less frightening because they are more familiar, but also because I know that I made mistakes with No1 and she is just fine. But what I’m struck by is what I know better about myself.
“When we know better, we do better.”
I know postpartum depression is a medical condition and not a personal failing. I will recognize the symptoms and seek treatment if things take a turn for the worse.
I know newborns are not my favorite age. I will not feel guilty for just surviving these first few months (or more).
I know when I’m taking my husband’s comments personally, I’m projecting. I will stop and look inside myself.
I know that lack of sleep is a recipe for disaster. Sleep has become the most treasured resource I have. I will treat it as such.
I know that my health and feelings matter just as much as my baby’s. I will value myself.
I know that the hard parts about having a new baby will eventually fade. I will take comfort that “this too shall pass.”
I know I am not alone. I will continue to reach out and connect with others.
I know that depression is a liar and shame likes to hide in the dark. I will fight both with the light of truth.
Prompt: Pretend you’re making a time capsule of you & your health focus that won’t be opened until 2112. What’s in it? What would people think of it when they found it?
The first thing my husband said when I told him I was participating in the WEGO Health HAWMC again this year was, “which health issue are your going to write about?” We both laughed. Because you see, I’m a mess. This year in addition to the anxiety, I’ve battled antenatal depression, have a newborn and thus am guarding against a PPD relapse, have struggled with breastfeeding due to baby’s reflux and my OLS (overactive letdown syndrome), and have injured my back…again. But the one that still impacts me the most is my anxiety. Any of my other conditions have the added risk of triggering the anxiety, and possibly becoming worse because of it.
So I’m going to focus on mental health again this year, including postpartum depression, antenatal depression, and generalized anxiety disorder.
I’d like to think that on April 1st, 2112, my time capsule will be irrelevant. That anxiety and mood disorders will be so well-treated and understood that it will be incomprehensible to anyone who opens it why I have included the items I chose. That people will look back 100 years to a time when stigma surrounding mental illness prevented new moms from getting help and will regard it as barbaric. And while neither of those will probably happen, a girl can dream, right?
Bottles of Medication: If there’s one thing I have really learned during my experience with mental illness, it’s that psychotropic medications carry a heavy stigma. I didn’t realize how many misconceptions and negative stereotypes I myself held about anti-depressants until I was faced with the decision to take them. It took me nearly a year to make peace with my need for medication but now? I take my pills without any shame. I did nothing to cause my condition and I can’t magically wish it away or fix it with positivity.
Now I hope that in 100 years the pills will be a mystery. But if they aren’t, I’d like to think that they will be considered just a part of a person’s medical care, as necessary as a daily aspirin and just as banal.
Medical Journals and Research: I’d want people 1o0 years in the future to see how far the medical community has come. You know how they say that you have to learn about history so you don’t repeat it? I think that’s true.
Photographs: Pictures of moms and their babies – families who have overcome mental illness. These need to be included. They serve as a reminder that others have paved the way, proving you can survive and thrive. I do feel like I’m paving the way for future mothers – perhaps my daughters and their daughters one day. I want them to see that mental illness is nothing to feel shame about and can be triumphed over.
The Music of Lady Gaga: Just to mess around with the future folks. I’m sure they’ll look back and wonder what we were all smoking.
Of course, all of these objects will be lovingly contained in a stray baby wipes container. Cause that’s all I have lying around.
I’m honored to be guest posting for Charity over at Giggles and Grimaces. I’d ramble on here about how wonderful she is, but that would spoil my post. Won’t you please click on over and show her some love?
Inspired by my friend Yuz at Not Just About Wee.
- The phrase “sleeping like a baby” is full of crap. I’m sleeping like a baby right now and it sucks. I’m up every two hours.
- You love your kids with a fierceness that can be frightening and exhilarating.
- Babies are helpless. Really helpless.
- Marriage is a partnership – it will not always be fun but if you choose the right person, you will fight through the trenches together and come out the other side better for it.
- You can be friends with people you’ve never met. Good friends, who you share your deepest secrets with.
- Vulnerability makes you stronger.
- When you have kids, you end up throwing away a ton of food.
- Breastfeeding is a relationship. It’s a conversation between mother and child. It can’t be forced but perseverance pays off.
- It’s okay for moms (and dads) to need a break from their kids. Healthy even.
- With kids, everything is a phase. Even the good stuff.
- Toddlers love water. A sink full of water and Dawn is good for two hours of fun.
- I crave control. Having kids is an exercise in chaos. It’s okay to still be learning how to cope with this conflict.
- You have to learn how to trust your gut as a parent. And that your kids will show you what they need.
- I am guilty of passive aggressive loud diaper changing at 2am when I’m the only person awake. This is immature. I’m not sure I can stop it.
- Antidepressants are not “happy pills”. They are “let you be yourself pills”. And being yourself makes you happy.
- It’s okay to need help. It’s even better to ask for it.
I think it was from Brene Brown that I heard or read something like this:
You look at your newborn baby and think, ‘She’s perfect.’ And yet each of us is imperfect from our very beginning. We are all born imperfect and will remain imperfect for the rest of our lives.
I look at my new baby, and want to think she’s perfect. She has my nose, long pianist’s fingers (and toes), dark grey eyes, and the most beautiful little ears. She makes a grumpy old man noise out of annoyance when she sneezes, and laughs in her sleep. And she really only cries when she’s hungry, wet, or naked (seriously, folks…I’ve never seen a baby be so pissed to get undressed).
But she’s not. I could list a dozen things that make her difficult, and I’m certain I will only add to that list as she grows up. She’s as imperfect as the rest of us, and that? IS BEAUTIFUL.
If she were perfect, I would worry constantly about ruining her – about messing up. I would fret over every decision being the “right” one, because perfection implies right and wrong. There would be some utopian vision of the baby, child, and woman she should be, always in peril because of my impending parenting mistakes.
My job as a parent isn’t to protect her perfection, guarding her from mistakes and pain. Instead, it’s to nurture her as a whole person, hopefully teaching her that her imperfections don’t diminish her worth. They make her real, accessible, and whole.
By the way…if you haven’t read Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection, it’s life-changing. Honestly.