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Dancing with PPD

13 Feb

I’ve tip-toed dangerously close to the edge of the depression pool for years, dipping my toes in from time to time.   I somehow managed to never fall in, despite having risk factors such as family history, family dysfunction, family history of alcoholism, being a woman, and self-esteem issues. I always wore emotional make-up to hide the way I was really feeling.  Each new layer of make-up that was applied caused me to dance closer and closer to the edge of the dark cesspool that is depression.

What finally set me over the edge was being on bed rest with my daughter in 2009.  It was a lonely time for me and each day that passed caused me to slip deeper and deeper into the dark recesses of the pool I had danced around for so long.  During each visit with my doctor when the time came for me to tell her that I was sad, emotional, and uninterested in…anything, I just couldn’t do it.  I have always had a tendency to minimize my feelings and health issues and this was no exception.  The truth is that I was unable to do anything but sit on my sofa and cry.  I couldn’t work effectively (I was working from home at the time), I couldn’t complete my college courses (I went from having a 3.86 cumulative GPA to literally failing out of all of my classes), I couldn’t eek out a smile or even pretend to laugh.  I thought it would all go away once Madilyn was born.

Boy was I wrong.

After she was born, the depression stuck around.  I didn’t see it right away but I did know that I wasn’t myself.  I couldn’t find joy in anything, being around anyone but myself made me feel like I was being rubbed up against a cheese grater, I couldn’t finish even the most simple of tasks, I didn’t have the drive or desire to do ANYTHING.  Even my most favorite activities sounded absolutely dreadful.  I had to wind myself up in the morning just to get dressed, let alone leave my house.  We had recently moved and I honestly didn’t enjoy the women that I had met.  It wasn’t personal I’m sure, but I am/was not the same person that I used to be.  I didn’t know who I was.  I didn’t know how to be myself so how could I very well meet people and be authentic with them, or enjoy their company?  Heck, I hadn’t enjoyed ANYTHING in so long that I didn’t even know if the word “enjoy” was still in my vocabulary.

The lightbulb went off in November of 2010, 14 months after Madilyn was born.  I was also about 5 months pregnant.  It took me nearly a month to talk to my doctor about what was going on.  I felt like a hypochondriac.  Surely this just had to be some nasty side-effect of pregnancy, right?  When I realized that I wasn’t reacting to my husband the same and that I hadn’t laughed, truly laughed in over a year, I knew that something was seriously wrong.  When I did talk to my doctor, she suggested counseling.

Image Courtesy Google Images

As such, I have begun the journey out of the dark waters of depression.  I know that it will be a long road.  I wish I hadn’t waited so long to face my problems.  I wish I had been honest with myself,  my husband, and my doctor about what I was feeling.  When you haven’t been honest with anyone in years, it takes a long time to face the truth.  Every day is a learning experience, complete with new choreography.  Every day I feel a little more strengthened and am ready to make my way to the edge of the pool where hopefully I will someday dance, far away from the edge.

In the meantime, I expect to face obstacles.  I expect to meet people who are like sandpaper, or who are incapable of standing by me as I become the person I was meant to be.  I don’t expect to never cry again, or to pretend anymore that my life was ever, or will ever be perfect.  What is “perfect” anyways?  I don’t hope for overnight transformation, but for a slow evolution of myself.  Once a seed has been planted, it takes years for a tree to blossom and grow steadily where the seed once lay.  I know that I’ll get there.  And I appreciate everyone who has been by my side, or who will be by my side on this journey.

I am going to talk much more about my dance with PPD in the weeks and months to come.  I expect to hurt some people on the way but my truth, my life, my past is full of hurt and it has to come out.  Not only for me, but for other women struggling with the same problems.  You are not alone, WE are not alone.  And we can do this together.  Living with PPD, or any form of depression for that matter is real.  And it is absolutely not shameful.  So hold my hand, and together we’ll begin taking off the emotional make-up that we’ve worn for so long.

 

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They Hate me Because I Wear Make-Up

31 Jan

It’s true. They seriously hate me because I wear make-up.  I’m not talking about the shellac on your face, eyeliner, rouge, and mascara kind of make-up.  No, I’m talking about the emotional make-up that has almost always made me up. I was one of the teenagers you hear about who has the perfect life, or at least they pretend to have the perfect life. I was rarely seen NOT smiling. My laugh could be heard from one end of the school to the other. I’ll never forget painting my self portrait in school without a smile. I was told that it didn’t look like me because no teeth were showing (NO, I’m not buck-toothed). I painted over my mouth and started from scratch, this time including a big smile with large, white teeth shining through. I don’t know what happened to that painting. I thought it was hideous and flat. I couldn’t seem to make my eyes smile quite as much as my mouth did. But that was my reality. That painting truly captured what I felt inside, not the Summer that I was so keen at portraying.

I was the lead actress in my own life. I began hiding my feelings and wearing emotional make-up when I was still in elementary school. I went through a lot during my childhood but I’ll discuss that at a later date. The fact is that I felt like I had to put on a smiley face for everyone. I wanted my dad to think I was immensely happy at my mom’s house and I didn’t want my mom to know that I was either happy or unhappy at my dad’s house – I wanted her to think I was neutral. I learned quickly how to hide my tears; not an easy thing for a fair skinned blonde girl to do. I look like an albino leopard when I cry. I eventually learned how to hold my tears in and I believe it was at that point that my heart began to harden. Each tear that I refused to release became a brick inside my heart.

It didn’t take long for me to be dubbed “The Ice Princess” by my family. No feeling, no sympathy, no emotion. That wasn’t and ISN’T the case. I feel deeply. Too deeply. I’m passionate but I sometimes feel as though I have to hide it under a bushel basket. I care more about what people think is going on in my life or who I am than being me. The real, authentic me. So I put this make-up on to be who I think people want me to be. I have been guilty of pretending to have the same interests as other people to appease them. I’ve done it with men and I’ve done it with women. And it’s done nothing but cause me heartache, pain, rejection, and loss.  It’s caused me to daily apply another layer of make-up.

Sometimes I’m unable to keep the make-up on and my frustrations become very real. I am incapable of being fake with people. If I have something bad to say about or to someone, I don’t usually want to ever be in their company. Why would I talk about someone behind their back and then pretend to their face that I like them? I can’t do it. That make-up melts off in an instant and my painted-on smile resembles the sneer of Chuckie. When I know that I’ve been talked about and am on the receiving end of the gossip, I have a tendency to be downright ugly. I don’t handle gossip or fake people well. But wait…isn’t this entire post about how fake I am?

Dangit. You got me. But here’s the rub: I’m not fake about my passions or my intentions. I’m not fake about whose time I want to share my own with. I’m not fake about my dislikes. My facade is there to protect me. To make people think that I’m happy and that everything is wonderful. It’s the face of a mime that has been painted on since childhood. I find that with each passing year the foundation begins to crack. A little here: Crow’s feet.   A little there: Laugh lines. Since my pregnancy with Madilyn, chunks have begun to fall off of my face. The make-up is stale and I can’t fight it anymore. I chose to ignore the degradation of my mask for nearly 16 months. But one day I woke up, looked in the mirror, and didn’t recognize the eyes that stared back at me. They used to be blue but they’re grey now. They had no life left in them. The same eyes who used to look upon an empty canvas with loaded paintbrush in hand with excitement; now dull and slate grey. The same eyes who found an honest joy in life in general; now unexcited by anything. Smile lines had faded and a downcast shadow lie where enlightened crow’s feet once danced.   Large chunks of foundation had calved from my face and it wasn’t mine anymore, not that it ever was.

That was 6 weeks ago.

I have since begun the removal of my make-up. I am daily applying make-up remover with a soft cotton ball to eradicate years of daily application. Each day a little more surface area wipes clean. Each day I’m a little more honest with myself and with the people around me.  Each day I try to write about something that I’m genuinely passionate about, hoping that with each typed word, a little more of my true self can be revealed.  Some days I rub a spot raw and those are the painful days. Then there are days where I work lightly on a new area, softly scrubbing away at the shellac that has become my face.

I appreciate those who have been on this journey with me for years, and those who are just jumping on the roller coaster. I cherish the people who love me unconditionally, even when I say or do something that hits a nerve because they know my heart and know that I am never, ever coming from a bad place.

I can be nothing but honest now. Because the more make-up I choose to put on, the more ugly I become. So I’m stripping down – take me or leave me. What I need now is maturity, honesty, authenticity, and strong people by my side. What I don’t need are more fake people surrounding me, liars, weak minds, and lack of understanding. I am using the people around me to help me grow, no matter what role they play. Instead of applying more make-up when someone lets me down or stabs a knife through my back, I will pull the knife out and use it to aid me in the removal of years of artificial happiness. So again, thank you for being on this journey with me. Thank you for supplying the make-up remover, the soft cotton balls, and the knives.  Without each of these tools, I could not continue to purge.

And a huge thanks to Gwen Stefani and No Doubt for writing a song about my life:

A Quickie

18 Jan

I was put on “Pelvic Rest” for this pregnancy about 6 weeks ago. For those of you who don’t know what pelvic rest means, it means no fun after dark. No playing “hide the salami”, no dancing the horizontal mambo, no mid-afternoon “naps”, no more practicing for more babies (so what I’m already pregnant?), you get the point yet? Basically the reason for this is so that no more trauma is being done to my cervix that began dilating and effacing at 27 weeks. BAH HUMBUG! So like this week, we tried busting doc’s orders and it resulted in the tell-tale soreness and pressure in my nether regions. No bueno.

Then today, The Stir posted a titillating post called 5 Ways to Have Sex Without Having Sex. Ok, so these ideas aren’t completely brand new but they definitely revved my engine. My doctor doesn’t really want me to even have any uterine contractions if you know what I mean, but it doesn’t mean I can’t get excited about something, right? Check out the website for some fun ideas on how to keep things fresh in your bedroom, whether you’re on bed rest or not.

I Want my Body Back! (whatever that means)

22 Nov

It all happened way too quickly.  I was not pregnant and not looking to get pregnant one minute and the next minute I was most definitely pregnant.  Two pink lines and BAM.  My body began to change.  I went from being the head chairwoman of the “Itty Bitty Titty Committee” to Pamela Anderson Lee’s chest double.  I was 19.  Then my hips began to spread (even more) and my thighs became even more thunderous.  I was thick to begin with (save the lack of anything up top), so this journey even farther into womanhood was no fun for me.  I was athletic and fit but as soon as I got pregnant I gave all of that up, at least for a little while.  I gained 59 lbs while pregnant with my son.  I weighed 206lbs the day I gave birth to him and I was DISGUSTED.  I breastfed him for 9 months before he went on nursing strike, and during that period I only lost about 20 lbs.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had gone from gross to even more disgusting.  It didn’t help that I never had high self esteem to begin with.  That’s what happens when your mom dubbs you “Bubble Butt”, your dad always comments on how much more weight you could lose, and you’re on a dance team with a bunch of skinny minnies and your own measurements are 34-25.5-41.  Yeah.  No joke.  In any event, as soon as I quit nursing, I dropped the baby weight and was back to my “normal” (albeit still not skinny) self.  I even got my little boobies AND perfectly flat stomach back, although I’m not sure my hips ever went quuuiiiiiiiite back to where they were prior to pregnancy.

My favorite tattoo, which hasn't seen the light of day in almost 2 years, situated on big hips and a flat stomach. 1 year before getting pregnant with M. (note huge stretch marks on hips acquired while pregnant with #1. I love those now too)

Life handed me its own sets of twists and turns in the years following.  A divorce and another big break up later, I found myself caring more for me, handling my body with more TLC, and wanting to look fantastical again.  I had been diagnosed with PCOS which is a syndrome largely controlled by wacky hormones.  My doctor immediately put me on a super-strict diet and I lost 30 lbs just by changing the way I ate.  I then started working out for 2 hours/day, 5 days/week and got down to a size 10 for the first time since elementary school.  (Note:  I have not grown one inch taller since sixth grade.  Puberty came early for me and I was massively tall at an early age, I’m quite average now.  And for those of you wondering, I was a 12 – 14 in high school, at my most fit.)  I kept that trim (for me), muscular body for about 2.5 years, until Kyle and I started dating.  Roll in the happy weight.  I gained about 20 lbs over the course of about 6 months when we started dating.  Once again, I had never been happy with the way that I looked, even when I was working out all the time and looked great, so once those 20 lbs came on, I felt even more undesirable.

Note small waist and thunder thighs (6 months before getting pregnant with M)

I got pregnant in December 2008 with our daughter.  I had that extra 20lbs hanging on and was determined to not gain much weight while pregnant this time.  I was on a roll until I got put on bed rest for nearly 3 months and like BAM, I gained 80lbs.  Count them.  Eighty.  I won’t tell you what I weighed the day I had her because to be honest, I don’t even know myself.  I could tell that I was gaining weight rapidly while on bed rest and I didn’t allow my doctor to tell me my weight.  My best friend had always been exercise (so that I could eat whatever I wanted to), and because I wasn’t allowed off of my back, I couldn’t very well get that extra cardio in every day.  Change the way I eat, you say?  Yeah.  Screw YOU!  You’d eat cookies all day long if you were on bed rest too.  By the time Madilyn was born, I was HA-UGE (for me), and my boobies had grown to enormous proportions.  40E’s.  FOURTY E’S!  Just hearing that makes me want to run screaming in a different direction, leaving my boobs behind me.  I hated the pups but loved nursing so I kept on keeping on.  Gone were the days of low-cut sundresses.  When you have cleavage, you can’t wear nice things like that because you look like a floozy.  Crap, I couldn’t find ANYTHING to go over my new “girls”.  I know that, that probably sounds insane to some of you.  I know plenty of girls who have big boobs (real and fake), and that’s great for them.  My mom has implants for goodness sake!  But I’ve never, EVER felt the need to have a big chest to prove myself.  As a matter of fact, I can honestly say (because I’ve been huge and super-small), that I feel my most sexy when I have a small chest.  Perhaps that’s because my booty more than makes up for what I’m lacking up top.  Boobs just make me look fat, even when I’m not.

Me (left) and my crazy curviness (B's enhanced by superior bra). 6 months before getting pregnant with M.

I had planned on losing weight while nursing this time but it didn’t happen, yet again.  I held onto every pound that I had gained.  I have very few clothes that fit and can’t even bring myself to wear skirts and dresses (once a wardrobe staple) because my THIGHS TOUCH.  You ladies know how irritating that is, right?  I knew that I wanted to nurse Madilyn for at least 2 years but I wasn’t planning on staying fat forever so I decided that around her first birthday we would reevaluate things so that I could lose some serious weight.  The really funny thing is that when Madilyn was 9 months old, I got pregnant again.  My first thought?  “I’m going to be fat for at least 2 more years.  Shit.”  My second thought?  “I want my B’s back.”

(un)Luckily, I was super sick during my first trimester this pregnancy.  I lost 16lbs which sounds tragic to most mothers but it was

I like big butts

You can thank my husband for his obsession with my butt & this picture.

quite an accomplishment for me.  Granted I spent my days lying by the toilet waiting to heave up every last drop of saliva that I swallowed.  But hey, I lost 16 lbs so there’s a bright side to everything, right?  I was miraculously able to nurse Madilyn through the first trimester of my pregnancy.  I’m still not sure how because I wasn’t eating or drinking anything.  Right around her 13th month, I dried up.  I blame it on 3 months of involuntarily starving myself.  In any event, in a week I went from a 40E to a 38D.  I haven’t been this happy in my LIFE.  I still hate these puppies, they’re way too big for my taste but I’m much happier with them.  Now my stomach is growing again and I’m still at a 9lb deficit.  As big as I feel when I look in the mirror, I have never been more comfortable with my body.  I’m not happy being chunky but I’m comfortable with who I am.  My husband adores me and reminds me several times daily how happy I make him, how attracted to me he is, and how sexy I am.  Seriously?  I don’t get it but I relish the compliments.

I still long every day for the moment I can have my 34B’s back but more than anything I’m looking forward to having my curves back.  I think for the first time in my life, I love my non-proportioned body and I MISS it.  My “bubble butt” and my flat chest are what make me, ME.  I can’t wait for the day I can slip back into my size 10 jeans and size small T-shirt or my low-cut sundresses that don’t show cleavage (because it doesn’t exist).  But for now I am going to enjoy being pregnant, savor every nursing moment, and do whatever it takes for my body to build babies and produce milk.  I am going to do my best to not loathe my lumpy thighs and hips, despite walking by the stick-thin mommies with perfect pregnant bodies or the rail-thin chicks with 3 day old infants.  And I will love my big ole’ booty (when I get my skinny, small waist back).  Take THAT, Cosmo!

What I'm workin' with NOW (24 weeks pregnant)

Three-Cent Thursday: 2 (19) kids and counting…(?)

18 Nov

Please tell me you’ve heard of the Duggar family?  I first heard about them when I accidentally ran across their TLC TV show “18 Kids and Counting”.  They have since added another child to the mix making their show, “19 Kids and Counting”.  And counting?  Seriously?  Their last child, Josie was born seriously premature and fought for her life for 6 months before being allowed to go home.the 19th child She is now 11 months old but still has to be hooked up to oxygen at night to sleep.  Her siblings have to tiptoe around her and the family is constantly worried about germs.  During a chicken pox outbreak at the Duggar compound earlier this year, Josie and her mom had to spend a couple of weeks at a rental near the hospital where Josie was born so that she wouldn’t be exposed to the virus.  Soon after, the family shared a cold and hand sanitizer became a way of life.  I’m all for sanitary conditions but this just compounds the way that I feel about this family reproducing any more.

Who am I to judge, you ask?  I’m a mom who survived 3 months of bed rest with my second pregnancy due to a 50% effacement at 26 weeks.  After living on my sofa for 2 months, I began to go crazy.  I thought about taking myself off of bed rest and just living life as regularly as I could without doing too much (more) harm to my fragile cervix.  Luckily I have a very supportive husband and mother-in-law who both took care of me in their spare time and who also insisted that I stay off of my feet.  My doctor did let me have one hour on my feet a day at that point (for another month).  Sounds great, huh?  Nope.  I can equate it to giving a diabetic a 2-lb bag of their favorite candy and telling them they can have 1/2 a bite per day.  It sucked and I swore I’d never get pregnant again, despite the fact that bed rest was successful and my daughter was born full term.  I didn’t want to put myself through the hell that was bed rest again.  That might sound selfish to you but it’s not.  I also have an older son who was 7 years old while I was on bed rest.  I couldn’t spend any time with him other than watching television (yay) and even that wasn’t a fun pastime for me.  I couldn’t bring myself to smile, laugh, or even feign interest in…anything.  I slipped, very quickly, into a pretty dark place with which I was not familiar.  I cried all day, every day that I was alone.  On the days that my mother-in-law came over, I was fine until she left.  Upon her departure I would bawl my eyes out until my husband got home around midnight.  That depression hasn’t left me 14 months after giving birth to my daughter.  I still find myself crying over nothing when I’m alone.  I still have to (almost quite literally), wind myself up to do housework or even get myself out of the house.  I can’t find the drive to write anymore.  I don’t have any desire to go to school. The thought of going to a PTA meeting makes my skin crawl.  Hell, I don’t even want to spend time with my friends because I have some (paranoid, I’m sure) delusion that they all quietly hate me and don’t really want me around.  None of this is me.  NONE of it.  Not one single word of it.  My point?  I’m not as good of a mommy right now as I could be.  This whole bed rest situation put me in a really bad position to be able to raise my children with the love, care, and attention that I think they should be raised with.  And guess what?  I’m pregnant again and facing possible bed rest situations…again.

I will be 24 weeks pregnant on Saturday and as of today, my cervix has shortened 2cm in 4 weeks.  It’s not as grim as it sounds; I was 5cm thick 4 weeks ago and am only 3cm now.  My doctor is only concerned because I shrunk 2 cm in a matter of 4 weeks and I am feeling the same pelvic pressure that I felt with my daughter before going on bed rest with her.  I have options if it comes to that but I’d rather not even discuss those right  now.  I’d rather discuss the fact that Michelle Duggar had 18 successful pregnancies before she had her nearly-fatal 19th pregnancy.  How must have that experience left her?  I have a difficult time believing that she is perfectly fine after that.  I know she has her faith whereas mine is on more shaky ground but c’mon!  Let’s be real.  Having a child born weighing just over 1lb and having to spend 6 months in the hospital is enough to change any parent.  I know that I would be absolutely nuts and I would probably have my tubes tied immediately to prevent any further heartache and/or wrongdoing to my children.  I knew that getting pregnant again was a risk but the biggest risk that I face, is having to spend a few months on bed rest.  I don’t have to worry about the fact that my body has already weathered 19 previous pregnancies and is tired, worn out, and older.

This will be my last pregnancy.  Why?  Because I don’t want to go through this worry and concern again.  After this baby is born, I want to get myself “right” and become the Summer that I was before I was put on bed rest.  I owe it to myself but more than anyone, I owe it to my kids.  I owe it to them to be available to them at the drop of a hat when they need me and to not have to mentally prepare myself just to be in their presence.

And THAT’S why I have a problem with the Duggars wanting more children.  So that’s my 2 (3) cents for today.

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