Tag Archives: mental health

Therapy, Spring Cleaning, and An Update

23 Apr

Doodlebug

Almost 2 months ago, I wrote about taking my eldest daughter to counseling.  It’s a hard thing to start, counseling – at least it was for me 5 years ago when I began treatment for my postpartum depression.  All I knew of therapy was what I had seen on television and in pop culture, and neither was particularly flattering.

I believed that seeking therapy showed weakness.  Deficiency.  Now I know it shows strength.  It takes courage to admit that things are not as they should be as you want them to be.  What surprised me was the amount of bravery required to see the process through.

For me, it was kind of like cleaning out a long-neglected closet.  First, you take everything out.  You dig to the bottom of boxes and bins.  You spread the clutter throughout the room and it feels like you’re going backward – making more of a mess instead of cleaning up.  It’s at that precise moment you consider just scooping up armfuls of momentos, lost buttons, and dirty socks and  closing them back in the boxes they emerged from.  Maybe you can pretend you never saw them.  But instead, you take a deep breath and make a conscious choice to move forward.  As each item crosses you hands, you make a decision.  You process what it means to you and you decide how to let it further affect your life.  This goes in the garbage.  That gets put away on a shelf.  And maybe this other thing was something you had been desperately searching for.

It’s laborious.  Tedious.  Emotional.  And some days, I left therapy feeling worse than when I went in.  And then?  One day things started to feel less overwhelming.  It was like that moment when you place the last organized bin in the neglected closet and the doors shut for the first time in years, and you think maybe, just maybe, you can tackle another room.

So.  I was prepared for a process when my daughter began working with her counselor.  I was prepared for things to get worse before they got better, and I was ready for it to take a while.  As it turns out, she’s made incredible progress in the last 8 weeks.  Her outbursts are fewer and less intense.  She can identify her emotions and use her words to share about them.  And most importantly, she’s learned to ask for help.

It’s honestly been an amazing transformation, and I can’t rationally give all the credit to 6 therapy appointments, no matter how much I like and respect her therapist.  At the recommendation of several friends and family, despite my intense skepticism, we substituted almond milk for cow’s milk in our house.  Some of you suggested that a food allergy or intolerance could manifest as behavioral problems.  Doodlebug suffered from MSPI as a baby, and I assumed she outgrew it as the physical symptoms disappeared after about 18 months.  Because of her history with milk intolerance and her sister’s current inability to drink milk, I thought it was worth a try. She’s well-nourished, so what could it hurt?

Now, maybe the counseling gave her a sense of connectedness and belonging that she was missing.  Or maybe, like many things, her behavioral changes were just part of a phase.  Perhaps she matured neurologically in the last 8 weeks and everything I’ve done to help her only appears to have worked because of coincidence.  This is not hard science, and I’m not prepared to test my theories by handing her a giant glass of milk and waiting for the fireworks to begin.  I’m happy to just be glad things are better and to be mindful of what may have helped.

We’re taking a break from therapy for a while – she and I both know it’s there if we need it.  And my daughter knows it’s nothing to be ashamed of or to fear.

What a gift I’ve given her, normalizing something that was so traumatic and stigmatizing for me.

I’m kind of proud of myself.

Now if I could only find time to work on those closets.

 

Click here to donate to my Climb Out of the Darkness Hike!

Click here to donate to my Climb Out of the Darkness Hike!

Help and Hope

5 Mar

Tomorrow, I’m taking my eldest child to therapy.  She’s five.  And it feels like failure.

Now, I’m the first person to tell you that therapy is a wonderful gift to give yourself.  It’s one of the best and hardest things I’ve ever done – it broke me and healed me simultaneously and gave me the gifts of introspection and self-acceptance.  I’m eternally grateful to the tailspin that was PPD for forcing me into a shrink’s office. (Side note:  Anybody else remember that cartoon, Talespin?  I loved that show as a kid!)

So why do I feel fractured?  Why was the phone call to the counseling center about my child almost as hard as when I called about my own issues so many years ago?  Introspection to the rescue.

…………………………..

“Her fears of children’s television shows and the wind, her anxieties about crowds and friendships, and her rage-filled temper tantrums – how are these not my fault?  How can a child spend the first two years of her life with an depression-consumed mother and not have the yelling and the emotional barriers affect her personality?”

My inner-monologue screams at me as I write the appointment time and date on my calendar, adding it to my phone and my weekly to-do list.  And to add insult to injury, I find I’ve written the appointment on the incorrect date and must write it again, the hurtful rhetoric echoing with every letter and number.

I break down in tears and sob while both daughters smack their mouths on gooey peanut butter sandwiches.

……………………………..

I’ve written about my experiences as a new mother with postpartum depression and anxiety before.  I’ve made a practice of not hiding how devastating that time was – of not allowing shame to dominate my life now.  I thought I was over it.  But the guilt monster, it seems, has a thirst that can never be quenched.  She sneaks back in and reminds me of all the time I missed and of all the damage I must have caused.  When will I be able revisit those days without anguish and without all the sights and sounds torturing my memory?

Facing that my little girl needs some help with what we call her “big feelings”  is forcing me to reflect on my own struggles with mental health.  It’s making me step out of the present and reside temporarily in her past… my past.  And in looking back, I remember that I’m angry for what the PPD took from me and for what it gave to my child.

………………………………

“What a gift you are giving her.  The chance to learn to be introspective and to ask for help.  I wish it had been alright to not be okay when I was a kid.”

My friends talk me down from a shame spiral, the depths of which only a peer would  know.  They tell me I am a good mom for allowing myself to go back to the pain and recognize that it gives me the power to help my baby.  They speak of courage.  And I try not to feel like a fraud.

…………………………….

The truth is that even though I know that I did not cause my child’s dramatic and spirited personality – even though I recognize that I am doing everything I can to help her grow into who she is and to care for her needs with respect and love – I don’t feel worthy of her.

And there it is.  This therapy appointment feels like evidence that she deserved better.

And yet I’m exactly the momma she needs.

………………………….

We stand in front of the white door and she notices the meditation medallion hanging from the door knocker.  Nervously, she reaches out for my hand.  Together, we take a deep breath and step, through our fears and hesitations, into help and hope.

Make Your Own Agenda (or My Love Affair With Paper and Pen)

14 Jan

I seethe with jealousy when I see people’s gorgeous designer agendas, but every time I’ve committed to treating myself to one, I can’t seem to find just what I want.  There are always pages I know I’ll never use, and the calendars are never laid out the same way my brain works.  I was the same way with lesson planning back in my public school teaching days.  The standard lesson planning books bought at the local teacher store never quite fit the bill, so I always printed up my own.

And yes, I know technology is wonderful and I could use some combination of iCal, gmail, and some family calendar app to sync everyone and everything together, but it always seems like so much more work to unlock my phone, open the app, and thumb-type in my appointments.  Add in the additional 10 minutes I will inevitably spend checking email, FaceBook, and text messages upon unlocking my phone, and what should have been a 2 second job has now taken 300 times as long (no, really, I did the math).  Compared with jotting down a note on paper, there are just too many steps involved for it to be practical for me.

Pinnable Agenda Image

So I Frankensteined together my own agenda book, using a 1″ binder and some dividers I had in my old teaching supplies.  I use the “Weekly Family Calendar” from Mommy Tracked, and print about 8 weeks at a time, filling out the dates far in advance of needing them.  I have sections for Doodlebug’s school information, my piano studio, and plastic zipper pockets for things like checks, receipts, and notes.  A threadbare sticky note marks the current week and the binder often stays open during the day so I can check off appointments and tasks as they are accomplished (in my head, I say, “Boom!” every time I check something off.  It’s like my own little celebration).

Planner Image

I went through several different calendar pages from many websites before settling on the Weekly Family Calendar.  I love that it has just enough space for everything but a small “to do” area.  It only allows me to put a few most important items for the week, keeping me from overloading myself.  The bottom area houses sections for kids’ activities, dinner plans, and notes.  It’s where I do my weekly meal planning in anticipation of this:

PeaPod Ipad

That’s right.  I can order my groceries on my tablet and then pick them up at the store’s drive-through.  It’s like I have 2 hours of my life back, every single week.  And while I pay a smidge more for the convenience, it’s well worth the time I get back.  I still end up with a once-weekly Whole Foods trip for our meats and produce, but that’s a quick 10-minute visit after preschool drop-off.  I also think we spend less because our food shopping for the week is planned out and there are no gratuitous impulse buys (my DH is the worst about this).

I think my favorite thing about using a pen-and-paper system is the satisfaction of seeing, at a single glance, everything I have accomplished during the week.  You don’t get the same feeling with computerized calendars.  And as a stay-at-home-mom (who dabbles in several small home businesses and volunteer jobs), that kind of validation is hugely uplifting.  Maybe when they’re older, my kids will think I’m old-fashioned, with my ink-filled writing device and wood-based single-use tablet, but I’m getting old enough not to care.  That’s the consolation prize for getting older, isn’t it?

Do you have an agenda or calendar system you love?  How do you keep track of the chaos?

This Is My Brave

17 Dec

Have you heard about This Is My Brave the show?  Jennifer Marshall’s (from Bipolar Mom Life) kickstarter raised over $10,000 and the show is scheduled for May 2014!  It will be an amazing opportunity for people with mental illness to speak out, tell their stories, and decrease stigma.

From the This Is My Brave website:

I believe in the power of community. There’s strength found in people coming together to propel a movement forward. Which is why I created the show.

 “BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD” -Gandhi

This Is My Brave will function as a platform for people with something positive to say about living with ‪mental illness. It’s time we bring mental health issues into the spotlight because they’ve been in the dark too long. This is an effort to encourage people to be brave and to stand up and talk about mental illness.

I envision the show will include readings of personal essays, original music performances and also poetry. Everyone has a story and I’m positive there will be incredible tales of inspiration and hope shared through this mental health theater production.

Auditions will be held in February of 2014 (only 5 months from now!). Follow the show website for details as they emerge.

The show will debut May 18th, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia which is right outside of Washington, DC.

I’m writing about courage over at the show’s blog today.  I hope you’ll head over and support this amazing venture!

Depression and Anxiety Resources

17 Nov

I’m updating my page about postpartum depression and anxiety with a series of my favorite Learned Happiness posts. My journey to health is not unlike many others in the PPD community and yet it has its own subtle nuances and my story is, of course, my own.

I’ve pieced together my journey from the depths of postpartum depression and anxiety to the amazing place I find myself today – one of balance and mental health instead of mental illness. I will always struggle with anxiety and the depression it brings with it, but it is a part of my life instead of the entirety of it.

Learned Happiness – My original piece on how my depression created a cycle of learned helplessness and how I hope to break that cycle with this blog.
Therapy – A post about how my attitude toward therapy changed during my treatment and why I believe it’s so important.
Lows – Two steps forward and one step back.  Despite healing after my first bout with PPD, I found the lows returning and challenged them with all the self-care and depression tools I had.
Health Activists Writer’s Monthly Challenge – The WEGO Health HAWMC post about what my anxiety is and feels like.
Because I Can – Why I write about mental health.
Mother’s Day Rally – The first time Katherine invited me to write for Postpartum Progress and I went all fangirl and freaked out.  You must read all the Mother’s Day Rally for Mental Health Letters to New Moms.  They are inspiring.
Antental Depression Part One – I was seven weeks pregnant with Bean when I began having intrusive thoughts and felt my world collapsing around me.
Antental Depression Part Two – Thank you to Postpartum Progress, the Mother’s Day Rally Letters, and Marlene Freeman at MGH.  This is where my life began to truly turn around.
Rainy Day Letter – Yael Saar was kind enough to host me at PPD To Joy.  This is part of her Rainy Day Letter series.  The other letters?  Worth sitting down with.  Bring some kleenex.
A Rough Couple of Weeks – On increasing medication mid-pregnancy and all the feelings that come with it.
Dog Tired – On my pregnancy progress.  Evidence that with the right medication and therapy, a second pregnancy can be joyful.
Invisible Wounds – Anxiety and depression are “invisible” to the outside world, but they are very real illnesses.
Ready – Feeling ready for the second baby, prepared for possible PPD, and supported by my IRL and online army.
Warning Signs – A post informing my friends and family what to look for after my second baby was born, written just before her arrival.  My PPD went unnoticed the first time around.  I believe the key to my health the second time around was being upfront and honest with my support network about what to look for and how to help me.
Happy Birthday – The joyful arrival of Bean.
Expectations – How lowering my expectations postpartum helped me stay mentally healthy after my second baby was born.
Panic Attack – The panic attack nine weeks postpartum that had me waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Time Capsule – A HAWMC prompt post about what would be in my PPD time capsule.
When We Know Better… – A HAWMC prompt with my favorite quote.  How does knowing better the second time around translate into a better postpartum experience?
Self Care – Another HAWMC prompt about why I write about mental health.  Hint:  It’s mostly for me.
Persistence – My favorite post of all time.  Inspired by a tree.  Yes, a tree.
Haiku – I wrote terrible haikus about mental health.  Seriously terrible.  But the links to Sweetly Voiced’s diabetes haikus are worth the click!
Tweet, tweet. Boom. – One silly conversation with my husband.  That’s all it took to tell me I was really on the way to being well.
Mother’s Day – “To love her more than I feared her.”  That Mother’s Day I had all I really wanted.
Anything – Five months postpartum, the anxiety and obesessive thoughts returned.
PPD, the Second Time Around – On feeling hopeful and full of joy despite the return of my postpartum anxiety.
Giving Up Control - Why does everything mental health-related for me end up being about my childhood?  On seeking out a reason for my anxiety and how that helped me put it in its place.
PPD and Marriage – PPD rocked my marriage.  Hard.  My husband was hurt just as I was.
I Need Your Help – My post for Strong Start Day 2012 in which I admit to intrusive thoughts about falling down the stairs.
When Birthdays Aren’t So Happy – Dealing with the joy of my oldest daughter’s 4th birthday and the trauma of the anniversary of my PPD onset.
Breastfeeding on Psychotropic Medication – Why I choose to breastfeed while medicated for depression and anxiety, with special care to support women no matter how they feed their babies.
Not For Weak Stomachs – A horrid month of health issues, which I dealt with without any mental health complications.  This was a huge week for me, realizing that my mental illness was well-controlled enough to allow me to deal with crises calmly.  Also?  I was carried down the stairs by a team of firemen while wearing only my underwear.  Good times.
So You Think I Shouldn’t Have Had Children – My response to Anderson Cooper’s piece about the “trend” of mothers taking antidepressants and the horrid FB comments on his fan page in response to the story.
Don’t Call Them “Happy Pills” – On medication and stigma and a primer on how my antidepressant and anti-anxiety pills work.
I Am Not Okay (But I Will Be) – My low days and irritability may periodically return, but armed with therapy, medication, and support, they are short-lived.
Talking Climb Out of the Darkness With My Daughter – Doodlebug and I made a video about postpartum depression and why we were hiking in 2013.
A Tale of Five Medications (Or Don’t Lose Hope) – All about my medication journey, why it is so hard to find the right medication formula and how stigma kept me from being treated for much too long.

And that bring us to today.  A day where I am healthy enough to be an advocate with thirty-something posts on mental illness.  Which honestly?  Is humbling.

I’ll be adding them to the resource page and updating my sidebar this week with my favorite blogs about mental health.  The more we talk about this, the more people we help.  I’m proud to be a part of that.

In Which I Admit I Hate Exercise

23 Oct

My husband loves running.  He lives for the beautiful days when he can run the 5 miles to the dairy farm down the road, around the trails, and back home.  He loves the thrill of cutting time off a particular route and he welcomes the pain that running brings.  He would run daily if he could.

I run?  If chased by a bear.

I’ve tried several times during our relationship (ten years, people) to pick up running.  He insists that it gets easier after the first few weeks and has patiently jogged beside me, cheering me on and motivating me by humming the Rocky theme as I force myself to run jog just… one… more… lap.  It’s never stuck.

Last month, I swam laps twice a week for three weeks in a row only to then catch a horrible cold and lose my momentum.  A year ago, I made it weekly to a wonderful yoga class – until the positions put strain on my bum kidney and I had to bow out.

It seems there is little routine exercise that I ever commit to, despite knowing how good it is for my back and how important it is to not only be heart healthy but also to set a good example for my girls.  And everytime I try to begin anew, I end up kicking myself for not doing enough and eventually quit.

This morning after dropping the oldest at preschool, and after a very long night with little restful sleep and a very cranky toddler, I sat at a stop sign and pondered which way to turn.  Left to the walking trail?  Or right to my probably-still-warm coffee, a blanket, and some tv with a snuggly toddler.  I should mention I was still in my pajamas and it was 34 degrees out.

It wasn’t my slightly snug-fitting pants or my achy back that made me turn left.  It was my mood.  I have been irritable and anxious.  I have caught myself wanting to hibernate and to lose myself in the next season of The Good Wife.

cutest workout partner everAnd so I forced myself to walk today.  I even did a little jogging. And something happened after 3/4 of a mile.  The urgency in my steps eased. My shoulders relaxed.  I smiled at the baby’s antics as she picked up leaves and attempted to sign me their colors instead of fretting at how she was impeding my progress (good god, how is it possible for someone who moves so fast to walk so slow?). I lost my worry over the oldest’s first bus field trip without me and I felt ready for the day to begin.

Whey do I always forget how powerful fresh air (even cold air), sunshine, and movement are in lifting my mood?

Which brings me to my title.  I hate exercise.  I won’t ever love the activity, the challenge, or the pain.  But I do love the results.  It is a vital component in my self-care and it helps to manage my mental illness.  So though I am not committing to being a runner, a biker, a yogi, or a swimmer, I am committing to move every day.

Especially if it means I can wear yoga pants more often.

Purple Crying and Click for Babies

1 Sep

NOTE: The Click For Babies site has been hacked and is down.  The other links work.  The NCSBS hopes to get the main hat donation site back up soon.  Because the site is down, I have added information below from their site with instructions for making the hats and the address you’ll need to send them in, as well as a link to a PDF file with FAQ.

Any mother knows THAT cry.  The one that stops you in your tracks.  It makes you see your baby through tunnel vision and takes over your brain, rendering you incapable of rational thought.  All you want is some quiet.  For her to stop screaming.  For you to be able to make it better.

It’s frustrating, upsetting, and for some of us, very triggering.

Both of my girls were PURPLE criers.  PURPLE in the sense that they fit the acronym coined by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (NCSBS):

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 1.29.15 PM

While I believe my girls’ PURPLE crying was in part due to their severe milk protein intolerance, many babies  cry during their early months without explanation.  As mothers, our instinct is to respond to the crying and to want to make it better.  And if you’re anything like me, being unable to stop the crying left me feeling helpless, frustrated, and like a failure as a mom.  My inner-monologue whispered, “If you were a better mom, you’d know how to soothe her.”  My frustration combined with my postpartum anxiety led to rage with my first baby.  I would find myself bouncing her with tension in my arms and anger in my breath.  I am so thankful I never shook her or hurt her but I regret each and every moment I spent feeling fury toward my newborn girl.

I distinctly remember the signs in my hospital room on the postpartum floor where I spent two days after my youngest was born.  I stared at them while holding my newest girl and took great comfort in their information.  They described PURPLE crying and explained that having intense reactions to it is normal for parents and caregivers.  Biologically normal.  They went on to assure me that asking for help or stepping away when the crying got to be too much were signs of strength and not weakness.

And I knew I was not alone.  I was normal.

Because of my psychiatric and psychological care postpartum, in addition to my education about PURPLE crying, my response to my second child’s crying was much calmer.  I was able to hand her to my mother or my husband and step outside for a break.  I was able to put in earplugs and continue to rock her in the nursery.  It wasn’t that I was able to prevent the emotional stress or frustration, but that I was able to process and respond to my feelings with caution and responsibility.  No small feat for someone with a history of mental illness.

And now that I’m on the other side, with two children instead of two babies, I’m glad to be able to contribute to the education campaign.  The NCSBS is collecting PURPLE knit and crochet hats for their yearly Click for Babies campaign.  Their website has information about contribute a hat, has patterns for hats, and has buttons and more for sharing on social media.

From the NCSBS:

The NCSBS will be collecting purple infant hats for CLICK for Babies 2013 through October in an effort to generate awareness of and decrease infant abuse. Knitted or crocheted caps will be given to newborn boys and girls in hospitals throughout November and December to help educate parents about the evidenced based Period of PURPLE Crying, a normal, but frustrating period of increased crying all infants experience in the first few weeks and months after birth.

WAYS YOUR FOLLOWERS CAN HELP

KNIT or CROCHET infant caps using any newborn baby cap pattern. Caps should be made using any shade of soft, baby-friendly purple yarn, be at least 50% purple in color, and free of straps, strings or other potential choking and strangling hazards. For baby boys, please remember to include blues, browns, grays and other “boy friendly” colors in your cap designs.

Organize and host a “KNIT IN” or “CROCHET PARTY” …which really is just our fancy way of saying get a group together and make some hats. These make for fantastic service projects in an array of settings: school, club, community, church, family, Scouts, etc.

POST FLYERS around your school, neighborhood, work, community, church, gym, etc.  To receive flyers please contact the NCSBS.

SHARE this information! Know someone who knits or crochets? Know someone in a position to organize a service project? Give them a CALL or send them an EMAIL.

Help us spread the word through SOCIAL MEDIA. The campaign not only involves making hats, but also educating others through word of mouth and active discussions on social media: PIN, SHARE, TWEET, and YOUTUBE (see http://clickforbabies.org/spread-the-word.php).

Please drop off or send hat donations to the NCSBS at 1433 N 1075 W Suite 110, Farmington, UT, 84025 or see our website (www.clickforbabies.org) for donation sites closest to you.

CLICK FOR BABIES Frequently Asked Questions

I’ll be crocheting hats to send in and would be more than happy to teach you to do the same.  I promise you can do it!  All you need is a crochet hook and a skein of PURPLE yarn!  It’ll cost you less than $5 at your local craft store!  I’ll post a video below and will  be more than glad to answer questions on twitter or meet you on a G+ Hangout for a quick private lesson!  Just ask!  And if you can’t contribute a hat, it would be a huge help if you just share a tweet, facebook status, or post about PURPLE crying and the efforts of the NCSBS.  Thanks so much!

“CLICK FOR BABIES” PURPLE BEANIE PATTERN

Purple Beanie for Click for Babies

Using worsted weight yarn and a 5.5 mm hook (I hook)

ROW 1: 6 single crochet (sc) into a magic circle, join with a slip stitch (sl st). Chain 1

ROW 2:  2 sc in each stitch from before (12 stitches total.  When you get to 12, stop.  It will look like you need to keep going.  Don’t.) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 3:  2 sc in the first stitch, 1 sc in the second stitch.  Continue this pattern around the circle, counting your stitches. (18 stitches total) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 4: 2 sc in the first stitch.  Then 1 sc in the second stitch and 1 sc in the third stitch.  Continue the pattern around the circle, counting your stitches.  (24 stitches total) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 5: 2 sc in the first stitch.  Then 1 sc in the 2nd, 1 sc in the 3rd, and 1 sc in the 4th stitches.  Continue the pattern around the circle, counting your stitches.  (30 stitches total)  Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 6: 2 sc in the first stitch.  The next 4 stitches get 1 sc each.  Continue this pattern around the circle, counting your stitches.  (36 stitches total) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

This completes the crown (or the top) of the hat.

ROW 7: 1 sc in the first stitch and every stitch.  (36 stitches)  Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROWS 8-18: Repeat row 7, Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 19: 1 sc in the first stitch and every stitch.  (36 stitches).  Join to the top of the first single crochet and tie off.  Weave in ends using hook or yarn needle.

For a ribbed edge, stop at row 17 and use this for ROW 18: fpdc (front post double crochet) in first stitch, bpdc (back post double crochet) in second stitch.  Repeat pattern around.  Join to the top of the first fpdc and tie off.  Weave in ends.

Video Tutorial: How to make a magic circle to begin your hat.

Great YouTube Channel with easy-to-follow crochet lessons. This channel has everything you need to learn to crochet!  From how to hold your hook to how to single crochet (sc).

How to Slip Stitch to Join in the Round

Additional Links for More Information:

http://purplecrying.info

http://dontshake.org/

http://clickforbabies.org

http://pinterest.com/purplecrying/click-for-babies/

https://www.facebook.com/NCSBS

Fear of Flying

19 Jul

It’s 8:22am and in 1 hour and 38 minutes I can take another Ativan pill.

Then I will wait 20 minutes for its effects to kick in.  My heart rate will slow back down, my stomach will no longer twist and turn.  And my thoughts will return to their regular, slow pace.  And until it begins to work its magic, I will breathe.  In my right nostril, out the left.  In the left, out the right.  Over and over again.  I will not able to do anything else.

1 hour and 34 minutes.

The panic comes on despite my protests.  Despite all reason and logic.  I know that statistically, air travel is safe.  And this is not my first time flying – I’ve been hurtling myself through the air at 400 mph from destination to destination since I was a small child.  I used to love it.  And then I developed this anxiety disorder.

1 hour and 29 minutes.

Before I was diagnosed (and medicated), I had to fight the panic alone.  From my early 20’s on, I suffered from fainting spells, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heart palpitations, and dry mouth when traveling.  I would describe my anxiety surrounding flying as just shy of a phobia.  But I had people to visit, places to see, and I pushed through each episode, though they left me emotionally and physically drained.

1 hour and 23 minutes.

See, I think that even though air travel is safe, and even though I kind of LOVE seeing the world as a patchwork quilt out my window, there’s a part of my brain that sees the giant metal bird and thinks the math just doesn’t add up.  I mean, I understand the science of flight, but that doesn’t make jumbo jets any less miraculous.  The idea that I’ll be 5 miles up in the sky triggers a fight or flight response that I simply can’t control.

31 minutes.  (I had to go get coffee and donuts.)

Now, armed with cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapies (and mostly with my medications), I can prevent the adrenaline and cortisol from overtaking my brain.  And even though nervous butterflies annoy me during takeoff and landing, I feel like I’m finally traveling like a normal person.

26 minutes.

So.  Here I sit at gate 36.  Waiting for a flight.  And for more Ativan.  Unashamed for needing it.

waiting in the airport

You Are Beautiful

27 May

This post won’t have a picture of me in a bikini.  It’s not about what I look like.  It’s about how I feel about what I look like.

There’s nothing that brings more dread come spring than the idea of bathing suit shopping.  No matter what your size or shape, something about having every inch of your curves exposed or hugged with spandex shakes your confidence.

I like to think of myself as intelligent and not susceptible to advertising’s dirty tricks.  And yet, as I stood in the mirror this week, trying on bathing suits in an attempt to walk that fine line between vulgar and mumsy, all I could think about was how I compared to the models displaying the suits online.

This is ridiculous behavior, I know.  But apparently I suffer from the same negative body image that I hope never to instill in my daughters.  Some of this was the depressive episode.  Depression lies – twists reality until you struggle to trust your own thoughts.  But I’ve honestly always been self-critical and dissatisfied with one or more parts of my body.

My husband was disappointed he missed the bathing suit fashion show.  “I wish you could see you the way I see you,” he says.  I do, too.  He looks at me and sees the whole package.  He sees how well I am proportioned, how beautiful my big, brown eyes are, and how my form curves in all the right places.  I see the dimples on the back of my upper thigh, the loose skin remaining from my two pregnancies, and the extra pounds that snuck on during a well-deserved cheese bender.

Yes, I see you checking out that avitar on the right.  I realize I’m saying all of this with a weight and body shape that many women envy.  Perhaps some will dismiss this post as vain and silly.  But I think it speaks to the scarcity culture that Brene Brown writes about in Daring Greatly.  Never enough.  We’re all programmed to believe that we never have enough, are never thin enough, are never good enough.  And that our value is based on our accomplishments or attributes instead of being intrinsic to who we are.  Additionally, in a culture where women are valued more for their appearance than their intellectual contributions to society, it’s hard not to get lost in society’s beauty standard.

I happened to text a couple of pictures to good friends of mine in a moment of vulnerability.  I admitted my insecurities and they assured me I was beautiful.  And though my husband had said the same thing, it was them I was able to really hear.  These are women I believe to be stunning.  And when I look at them, I don’t see flaws.  I see their strengths.  I see their glowing skin, their long, wavy hair, their luscious lips, and their deep brown eyes.  I see their spirits, their histories, their stories.  It is the culmination of all these that make them beautiful.

Our conversation redirected me to look at myself the same way I see them.  It helped me shake free of the cultural bias and recognize my anxieties for what they were.

I hope you have women in your life like this.  Women who make you feel as beautiful – because our culture sure isn’t going to do that for you.  And if you don’t, seek them out.  They are worth the hunt.

So.  In case no one has told you lately?  You are beautiful.  Believe it.

Logistical Nightmare

29 Apr

My oldest daughter will be 5 this fall.  And in the last few months, it’s become more and more obvious that she’s a little girl now and not my baby.  Along with her fashion sense and her ability to manipulate and lie, has come the desire to “hang out with friends.”  What used to be a play-date, arranged so mothers could escape the solitary confinement that is life with a toddler (or two) has morphed into a social life for my preschooler.

Other moms? Are ready at a whim to have neighborhood friends over and after-school visits.  Daily.  Until now, I haven’t felt any pressure to join in.  But I can tell the days of play-dates arranged days or weeks in advance are fading.

Which leaves me with one question:

If my house needs to be ready for company at a moment’s notice, when will I have time to relax in my pajamas with three-day hair and no makeup?

By “relax,” I mean chase my children around the house, refereeing their constant bickering and cleaning up the tornado they leave behind.  And by “ready for company,” I mean clean enough that I don’t end up on an episode of hoarders.

I’m not hoping to invite my daughter’s friends into a cover from House and Home Magazine.  I’d just like it if playmates and their parents were exempt from seeing my underwear on the bathroom floor and dried yogurt painted onto the kitchen table.  Currently, if we’ve scheduled a play-date, I probably made sure I would have time to wipe the boogers off my clothes and sweep the cheerios under a rug.  With two kids under 5, any attempts at picking up are merely exercises in futility, so tidying the house requires a nap time or the strategic sacrifice of one room while I clean another.  It’s a logistical nightmare.

So what I really want to know is: How do they do it, those families with tidy houses?  Just the idea of being “on” 24-7 leaves me feeling exhausted.  But I also can’t stomach the idea of friends (and even family) coming over to the disaster that is my house (and me) on a regular basis.  I need a few days a week when I can focus on my kids and taking care of myself.  Sometimes that means a shower and a trip to the library.  Many times it means crafts in our pajamas at 2:30p p.m.

I’m seriously looking for wisdom here.  Do you keep a tidy house?  What is your secret?  Or are you like me, hiding in your messy house?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,013 other followers

%d bloggers like this: