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My Fragile Psyche

13 May

So as uncomfortable as I am looking at myself in the mirror, I have never been happier or more comfortable with myself in my life.  I don’t know if it is because I am getting older (30 in 2 months), or if it’s because my hunky husband somehow still wants to have everything to do with me every night of the week, or if it’s because I’m too busy to care.  Perhaps it is a combination of all three.

Image Courtesy Google Images

As solid as I feel emotionally, I have these supremely fragile days, like I did on Wednesday.  My dear, hot husband is a complete workaholic.  I feel blessed to be a stay at home mom but I never get a break.  Even rides in the car don’t provide me with any alone time.  My job is literally 24/7 and sometimes I have a mental health day.  I’m trying to learn to allow myself those days and to not feel entirely nutty when I have one.  This is by far the most stressful job I’ve ever had and add to it a nice dose of PPD, I think I’m handling it pretty well.

Image Courtesy theidagirlsays.wordpress.com

I just need to solidify the idea in my mind, that no day is going to be perfect, the house is never going to be perfectly clean, dinner will never be perfectly on the table at 6pm, my children will not always be perfectly behaved, and I cannot always look my best.  It would be nice if I had an Au Pair who could help me achieve all of these things but the reality of the situation is that I’m a one-woman-show.

So forgive me my fragile days and lift me up.  I’ll do the same for you.

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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.

 

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:

Bed Rest – Really Necessary?

27 Jan

“Bed Rest”. I think that these are two of the most feared words of all pregnant women. Many of us joke about how nice it would be to be sentenced to bed 24 hours a day/7 days per week; one long, uninterrupted nap sounds great doesn’t it?   But the fact of the matter is that bed rest is not only boring as all heck, it can be detrimental to a woman’s emotional and physical health.

I was sentenced to bed rest when I was 26 weeks pregnant with my darling daughter, lovingly nicknamed “P.I.T.A.” during my pregnancy with her. I was 50% effaced at that time, and her head was resting comfortably on my cervix. I was experiencing an immense amount of pressure “down there” and it felt like I was sitting on her head when I sat straight up. Really odd feeling. During my time on bed rest, I also had some bleeding issues but the blood was never coming from my cervix or my uterus, it was coming from my kidneys. I developed kidney stones and passed several grains. Apparently this is quite common in bed resting women.  My cervix grew to only 25% effaced by 30 weeks but my doctors kept me on bed rest, insisting that if I were to get up and move around that I would deliver a VERY pre-term baby. I was convinced that my body just works this way because I was 100% effaced and 1cm dilated by the time my doctor began checking me at 36 weeks when I was pregnant with my son 8 years prior. My new doctors weren’t convinced and they scared me into submission. Luckily for me, my mother-in-law was unemployed at the time and came over to take care of our house, our 7 yr old, and me, every single day of the week. She really saved me during that time. She cleaned, did laundry, and fed me. She picked my son up from school, entertained him, and made sure dinner was lined up for us. What she couldn’t do, was be my emotional crutch every waking moment. My husband was opening a new hotel and was working ridiculous hours as well as finishing his last semester of college. He was gone, on average, about 18 hours per day. When she left, I would immediately begin crying and I would cry, and cry, and cry, and cry until Kyle got home. I sometimes spent 7 hours straight crying my eyes out. I couldn’t explain my crying fits. I just DID. It just WAS. Aside from my mother-in-law, I had maybe 3 visitors the entire three months I was on bed rest. Maybe that had something to do with my crying fits. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends, I had some great friends in Orlando. The fact was that bed rest was MY life, not theirs. They had lives of their own; children to care for, jobs to work, new boyfriends to entertain, businesses to start-up, schools to attend. People said they’d come but they never did. I don’t fault them for it now, I know that as my life had come to a screeching halt, theirs had continued on as normal. And why shouldn’t they? Their lives were the same, it was mine that had changed so drastically. Knowing that deep down in my heart didn’t ease the pain. It didn’t erase the fact that I felt alone, rejected, and broken; physically and emotionally. I ended up carrying my daughter to term. Rejoice all you want for me, I was ticked. I spent all that time trying to keep her in and when I was taken off of strict bed rest and placed on modified bed rest at 36 weeks, I still didn’t have her until she was 40 weeks gestation. All that crying and time on my back for WHAT?

This pregnancy, I was concerned that the same thing would happen. I spent the first 26 weeks of my pregnancy constantly worrying that I’d wind up on bed rest again with positive FFN tests and short cervix problems. 26 weeks came and I was doing perfectly fine. My cervix was a solid 5cm thick, which is GREAT! I was SO excited when I realized that every pregnancy truly is different and that this time I was going to be fine. That is, until 2 weeks later I wound up in the doctor’s office having the tell-tale cervical pressure that landed me on bed rest with the previous pregnancy. Sure enough, I had thinned out to about 25% effaced and was already 1cm dilated. The news rocked my world before the doctor could even talk. I began to cry, slipping back into a dark, dark place. But when my doctor opened her mouth to tell me my fate, it didn’t include strict bed rest. What she said was that more recent research shows that bed rest really has NO effect on whether or not a baby is going to be born early or not. She admitted to me that my time on bed rest with Madilyn was likely all in vain. She said that she wanted me to “take it easy” and for the sake of not having anything else to call it, she termed it “Modified Pelvic Rest”. My sentence was less like a high-security federal prison and more like being on parole. She did throw out my trip to the National Championship game (which we couldn’t have afforded anyways). She nixed our nightlife. She vetoed my vacuuming. She forbade me from lifting anything over 20 lbs. And she denied any more trips to Disney – just TOO much walking for one day. But she didn’t confine me to my bed, or even my house. She told me strolls in the park were fine. She said that light housework was fine. She simply told me to listen to my body and to keep myself hydrated and rested. She said that if I were producing the enzymes necessary to start pre-term labor, that I would go into labor whether or not I was on bed rest. The ONLY thing she would have done differently had my FFN come back positive this time, would be to give me a shot of steroids for the baby’s lungs, but my sentence would have never included “bed rest”. As we talked further she confided that often bed rest can be more detrimental for the mom and baby than beneficial. Kidney infections are rampant in bed-ridden women (I can attest to that), they tend to not be as hydrated (check), they suffer from depression that can affect the fetus negatively (debatable for me – Madilyn was PAINFULLY needy after birth), they are at risk for atrophied muscles (yep, as my knees scream in pain from my non-existent quad muscles), and according to her it really won’t make or break an early term labor (aaaaannd check).

I am SO, SO, SO thankful that my new doctor is up to date on her research. I would have absolutely bucked a “bed rest” prescription this pregnancy either way, but I didn’t have to and I can’t say enough how glad I am that she is a new doctor who is willing to embrace new ideas. I am beyond grateful that she trusts me enough as a patient to listen to my own body and decide when I’ve done too much for one day. It feels fantastic and empowering to have a doctor listen to me and to allow me to keep my pregnancy, largely, in my own hands. And I’ll say it again: I’m SO very thankful that she is up to date on her research. Her knowledge and education have perhaps saved me emotionally AND physically. I feel blessed to have found her, and I tell her that every time I see her.

If you’re on bed rest, talk to your doctor about the “new” findings (one study I found was from 2005, not really NEW information if you ask me). Take your own pregnancy, emotional, and physical health into your own hands. Connect with your body. Learn to listen to it and know when you’ve done too much. And never, EVER take what your doctor has to say without getting a second opinion; especially when the effects could be so detrimental. “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy“, believe me. I have suffered for the past year and a half with pretty serious depression but didn’t face it until very recently, and it all began when I was on bed rest.  I’ve struggled with very weak knees that threatened to blow out every time I stood up due to extremely weakened quads.  I’ve had two pregnancies with very similar issues in each. I am now 34 weeks pregnant, NOT on bed rest, and thriving. I fully believe the same thing could have been said during my pregnancy with Madilyn but I’ll never know. I’m now left to deal with the depression I acquired while on bed rest, all the while trying to raise two other kids and maintain “good wife” status while adjusting to life in a new state. While I may not be a doctor, I am an advocate for taking your health into your own hands. I firmly believe doctors all-too-often try to cover their asses in situations without considering the real problems at hand, the latest research, or the ill-effects of their medical advice.

I’ve included a few websites with more information on the new bed rest recommendations. Print them out and take them to your doctor. Take the initiative in your health. If you don’t agree with your doctor’s opinion or want a second one, GET ONE! Your doctor isn’t going to advocate for you; you have to.

Bed Rest May Not Be Helpful for Threatened Miscarriage

Bed Rest to Prevent Preterm Labor

Bed Rest For Pregnant Women May Be Harmful

Placenta Previa: Mamas on Bedrest, what it means when the placenta presents first.

Bed Rest May Not Help and It May Actually be Harmful

 

I’d love to hear your own bed rest stories or your own triumphs with pregnancies that were deemed high risk and then carried to term. If you have no choice but to be on bed rest or you decide that it really is best for you, make sure you connect with Keep Em Cookin.  It’s a fantastic resource for women on bed rest with lots of information on the signs of pre-term labor.

Good luck and healthy pregnancies to ALL!

 

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