29 April 2012

The Circle of Life

The Circle of Life
Music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There's more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round

It's the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life

As I noticed the date today, I realized that it's April 29. April 29 was my Pawpaw's birthday. I pretty much always think of the Lion King song "The Circle of Life" when I think of Pawpaw because it's entirely fitting.

In 2008, my parents and I flew back to Atlanta for Pawpaw's 80th birthday party. It was a big deal because, well, he was turning 80, and because he was in hospice home care for cancer and we didn't think that he'd see any more birthdays. It was a great party. Family and friends came from all over, people I hadn't seen in literally decades and people I had heard about from when my mom was growing up but couldn't remember ever meeting. It was a wonderful day, it was the Saturday before his birthday. He looked pretty worn down and it was obvious that the cancer had taken a toll on him but he was SO happy to be at this party and to be surrounded by his loved ones.

Tuesday was his birthday. I was staying with one of my aunts and her husband since space was limited at Pawpaw's house. My mom and her twin sister took Pawpaw from his house to The Varsity and Dad came to get me and we drove to meet them there, it was where Pawpaw wanted to eat for his birthday lunch. Dad and I were almost there when Mom called to say that Pawpaw had had a sudden downturn and collapsed and they were taking him home. Dad and I went on to eat lunch and then went back to Pawpaw's house.

Pawpaw was pretty much out of it from then on out and once he was gotten into his bed, he stayed there, hooked up to his medication to try to keep him comfortable. The family gathered that night to see him and say our goodbyes. The next day, he passed away quietly, at home, with my mom and Auntie in attendance.

I know he was so proud that he made it to his 80th birthday. I like to think that it was God's Birthday gift to him, to allow him to see that milestone he had so deeply hoped for. He didn't lead a perfect life but he led a full one. He was in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was proud of his service to his country and was proud to have grandchildren serve in the U.S. Army. U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Marines, as well as one of his great-nephews doing well in the Naval JROTC with plans to join the ROTC in college. He got along very well with my other grandfather, a U.S. Air Force veteran and POW from the Korean War, and had great respect for what Grandpa went through. One of my favorite pictures with him is from when he drove from Atlanta up to Ft. Jackson, SC to see me graduate from Basic Training. I was glad that he, and family members from my dad's side, were able to be there for that proud occasion.

Lest one get the wrong impression though, Pawpaw was equally proud of all his children and grandchildren who did not join the military. He absolutely doted on all of us. Eventually, he ended up working at J.C. Penney and he loved to buy us Easter dresses, candy, toys, and Barbies (for the girls). I have a whole collection of limited edition holiday Barbies, thanks to Pawpaw.

I've thought about Pawpaw and Memmaw so many times over the last 4 years. Pawpaw died at the end of April. In August I found out I was pregnant and in October I got married. I've thought so many times that it's so ironic that he came so close to getting to meet my husband and daughter. I wished that both of them could be there for my wedding and the feeling was intensified by how recent his passing was. We honored them, and the rest of our family members who are no longer with us, by a memory candle: a pale blue pillar candle on a round glass mirror surrounded by small votive candles, one for each loved one. One of my aunts and one of Eric's sisters went up at the beginning of the service and lit the candles together and that was the candle that our mothers lit the tapers that we used to light our unity candle. It was our way of having them there with us, and showing that we carry their love and memory with us in our lives. I still wished that they could have been there, I wished that they could have met my children, I've wished so many times that they were here. I"m glad, though, that I had them in my life for so long, it was a true blessing.

And that, my friends, is the circle of life. No matter what your religion or spirituality, no matter who or what you do or don't believe in, one fact remains: life begins and life ends, and life goes on in a never-ending circle. Through this cycle we take these cherished memories with us and honor our loved ones who have gone before us. I find it no coincidence that my oldest daughter was born almost exactly one year after Pawpaw's birth and passing. I find it to be a wonderful reminder of the fragility of life, and that even though life is fleeting it still endures.

Happy Birthday, Pawpaw. I'm glad that you came into this world 84 years ago.

28 April 2012

Life goes on

Happy Saturday! I think it's safe to say that I won't be finishing all 30 of the HAWMC prompts, considering how far behind I am and that this weekend is not particularly conducive to catching up. I've learned an important lesson though: taking on a 30 day challenge is not necessarily the most realistic goal when you're going to be traveling. Haha.

Anyways, just an update on bebe and me. I'm 21 weeks and change and am having a baby boy. At my doctor's appointment this week, everything looked good on the ultrasound measurements. I'll also be participating in a research study to see whether taking probiotics during pregnancy helps decrease the occurrences of Group B Strep later on in pregnancy. I'm excited to be a part of this study, it could have some very awesome implications for women and babies down the road. Now if only I got paid for it... :D

I am now the proud mom of a 3 year old and a 1 year old. Let me tell you, the Terrible Two's are a myth. It starts while they're one and it just gets far worse at three. There are definitely days (like today) when all I want to do is pull my hair out, scream, and refuse to do anything but hide in bed and eat chocolate. Sadly, real life is not conducive to this dream and apparently, it's not really considered a healthy diet (especially during pregnancy). Sigh.

I have lots to say but can't really put it into words. I'm sick, my husband is on duty for 24 hours (thank you Army), and my daughters have decided that when mommy is by herself with them and dealing with a tummy bug is the perfect day to have lots of REALLY stinky and gross diapers. Oh, and take them off during nap time or overnight... I got a couple of lovely surprises this morning. Even the one year old threw her diaper over the edge of the crib!!! See why I feel snrflebltz? (That's my own word, by the way, feel free to steal it).


22 April 2012

HAWMC Day 7: Health activists choice

Health Activist Choice! Write about whatever you want today.  (Maybe try a bonus prompt!)
My choice: the quotation prompt from Day 2. This involves choosing a quote and free-writing about it so be fore-warned that the only editing will be for spelling purposes and, thus, the post may not be quite as polished/make as much sense as usual. This is just raw thoughts and feelings.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.-Reinhold Nieubur
This quote is one that I've been particularly fond of for a long time. I think the first time I saw it, I was a young girl. I know that these days it is typically associated with1 2-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, but I think it also applies to every day life in such a way that it is something we should all ponder on a daily basis. Even those who do not believe in God can ponder the wisdom of differentiating between the things that can and can not be changed and knowing which is which, and having the courage and serenity that is needed.

I think it applies particularly well to activism. Obviously it could be applied to activism of all areas, but for obvious reasons I'm going to focus on how it applies to activism in the arena of PPMD, and, the thought occurs to me, even just for those who are going through PPD and struggling to make it through each day. Yes, I sound jumbled, but that's the risk of free-writing. :D

First, how it could have applied to me when I was dealing with PPD. I remember that often, I would get upset about things and end up with a panic attack that could only be handled by taking an Ativan. For a long time, I didn't even think to start going "Hmm, what am I upset about". Finally, I realized that the reason for this was because I had to get out of the throes of the anxiety to even be able to think straight. Once the Ativan had settled me down a little, I would start to be able to think a little more clearly. This was when I would start taking deep, rhythmic breaths and just BE. Then, eventually, I learned to start thinking about what had upset me, ask myself to separate the reality of the situation from the extra upset I was feeling, and determine if I really needed to be upset about it. I still to this day use this method, in a sense (minus the Ativan), when I am dealing with a stressful situation. If it is the middle of the night and I'm awake worrying about something, half the time I end up reminding myself "I can not do anything about this right now" and forcing myself to let it go for the time. I only wish that I had had this printed out or on a necklace or something that I could use as a focal point, a mantra of sorts, to help me come out of the hysteria.

Now, as to how it applies to activism with regards to PPD. When we blog, tweet, or choose to engage in conversation in Facebook, perhaps we should make sure we ask ourselves "Is this something that I can really make a difference in right now? Will engaging do any good? HOW am I engaging?". Usually, I think, the answer for me is that yes, engaging should occur, but I need to think about WHAT exactly I am engaging and how I am going about doing it. If I see someone who is advertising a program that is GUARANTEED to prevent PPD by teaching you how to think the right way, I need to make sure that I stop, collect all my facts, and don't do the same thing that I accuse them of doing. I need to make sure that I present myself in a manner that makes sense and doesn't just come across as hysterical. I need to pick my battles and make sure that I choose to write in a way and on a topic that can actually make a difference. If I'm blogging//discussing something/someone who is spewing ignorance, I need to remember that my goal is not just to hopefully get who/whatever to think about what they are saying and how, but that it is just  as much about taking an opportunity to educate others who may be reading and seeing the things/people/programs I am blogging about.

In general, in life, how much happier and healthier might we all be if we applied this quote to our every day lives? Will you join me in making it your goal to think about this and apply it?

How has this quote/prayer/mantra made a difference in your life?

HAWMC Day 6: Health Haiku

Health haiku. Write a haiku about your health focus. 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables. Write as many as you like.

Birth was not happy
I thought it would get better
That did not happen.

Motherhood was pain
Always felt so dull and sad
Nothing but alone.

I wanted to feel
To be happy to be mom
Instead I felt cold.

Sitting there with her
Looking at my baby girl
I cried, felt failure.

Sad, dull, flat, bored, lost,
Not the things I expected
Not what I wanted.

More than a bad mood,
Not something I could just kick,
Not a lack of faith.

Finally found hope
Finally out of the fog
PPD is gone.

Do you have a health haiku you'd be willing to share with us?

21 April 2012

HAWMC Day 5: Ekphrasis Post

Ekphrasis Post. 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!

My image:
Peace. Serenity. Reflection. Focus. Perspective. Meditation. Calm. New life. New beginnings.


Hello from the wild blue yonder

Howdy y'all! My sincere apologies for my sudden lack of blogging. Things got a little crazy there towards the end of my vacation. In retrospect, a "Blog post a day" challenge might not have been the most realistic idea to take up while I was traveling by myself with small kids, but hey, you live and you learn. I'll see if I can catch up on my HAWMC blogging but I'm not holding my breath (or holding myself to an impossible standard). I'm working on learning to be easier and gentler with myself and not have too high of expectations for myself that I beat myself up over not accomplishing.

In other news, Yumyum has turned 1 year old and Lizzie will be 3 on Monday. I'm now 20 weeks pregnant with... *drumroll* a boy! I'm excited about the chance to buy little suits and ties, and the fact that this means I will NOT have three teenage girls in the house at the same time (if this were a boy it would have been a 13, 14, and 16 year old all at once... oh my).

Anyways, just dropping in to say hi, and now I'm off to see if I can catch up on HAWMC. I'll leave you with some pictures from our recent vacation. :)

Yumyum had just had a little bit of Grandma's ice cream sandwich and then drank some tang. She made a face like "Ugh! I want the sweet stuff again!!!".

Lizzie taking a break from her hard work playing.

Lizzie "fishing" in the Discovery House at the San Antonio Zoo.

Lizzie hunting Easter Eggs.

Yumyum hunting Easter Eggs.

Yumyum just before she stuck a foil-wrapped Reese's cup in her mouth (opened the eggs on her own).

 The next two should be self-explanatory.

They're too cute for their own good!!!

04 April 2012

HAWMC Day 4: I write about my health because...

HAWMC Day 4 prompt: I write about my health because… Reflect on why you write about your health for 15-20 minutes without stopping
The first time I ever really talked about my PPD online other than in a private message with a very trusted friend was after I was released from my first inpatient stay at Laurel Ridge. I posted in a "Protected" forum at a military significant other and spouses discussion board with a brief "Hey, this is why I suddenly disappeared" but I still didn't really openly talk about it much. When I finally started really being open about my experiences, it was December 2012. My husband and daughter had been in the car with me when my brakes failed and I rearended a very large Dodge cargo van. You know, the kind with the metal bumper? My husband had his foot on the dashboard and when the airbag deployed, so did his foot... straight into the windshield. His ankle was broken on both sides, it was only because he had on very stiff leather cowboy boots that the bone didn't go through the skin.My seatbelt didn't immediately lock so I was thrown forwards into the airbag and then back against the seat, at which point my seatbelt finally locked into position but my head snapped forwards again. I was left with a very nasty headache, a concussion, bruises on my chest, and a hideous case of whiplash that left me unable to bend over, pick up the baby or a cat, turn my head side to side, or ride in a car without vomiting unless I took Zofran (we learned this when I lost my lunch all over my mom's car on the way to a followup for my husband's ankle at the ER at BAMC the next day, I ended up getting followed up on too).

My husband had to have surgery to set his ankle and put in plates and screws. I, of course, went along and stayed in the waiting room feeling very sore, extremely guilty, tired, and wishing I could take something that would be more effective on my neck and back than Tylenol and Motrin. There was good news though! The day before, I had gone to the clinic on post to see my own doctor since my back and neck were still hurting quite a bit. While I was there, I mentioned that at a previous appointment a couple of months prior with my PCM, they had mentioned something about my thyroid levels being low but never followed up on it and was that something I needed to be concerned about. The doctor who was seeing me, Major M (USAF), looked at my records and said "Uh... yeah, your levels are off. Since this is an old test result, I want to rerun your labs to see where they are now and we'll go from there". I went and had my blood drawn. The next day, while I was in that waiting room, waiting on news of how my husband's ankle surgery was going, I got a call from Maj. M's nurse saying "Your TSH and T-4 are extremely off, we need you to come in immediately to see the doctor and get on medication". Now, when I say "My levels were off", I mean that Within Normal Limits for T-4 is between .3 and .5 and mine was .02. This was DEFINITELY something that shoudl have been caught before and in hindsight, I should have filed an ICE complaint that it wasn't caught my my previous doctor. I promptly started on Synthroid (and switched my Primary Care Physician to be Maj. M) and three months of Synthroid had me ready to come off the antidepressants totally.

Anyways, now that the history lesson is over, as soon as I got off the phone with the nurse, I sat down and wrote what became my first PPD blog post. I posted it as a note on Facebook and MySpace, posted it on the forums I was a member of, and started this blog. For some reason, having that diagnosis of Hypothyroidism was like a dam breaking open to let me post everything I had been holding in.

At that point, I posted because I wanted others who were dealing with PPD to know they weren't alone, and that is still a very big part of why I post but it's also evolved into so much more. I write about my health because I want people who have no idea to get one. I want people to know that PPD is a real problem, not just some bad attitude or some mental block. I write about my health because I want people to know what to look for in their loved ones who are expecting or have recently had a baby. I write because I recognize that there is a very real and very damaging stigma surrounding mental health in general and that it definitely extends in a very real way to moms who are struggling with PPMD. I write because I want to combat that stigma, I want to make it personal and real by putting a face to it so that people who scoff and dismiss it suddenly can't dismiss it so easily because someone they know has dealt with it. I write because this stigma is born of ignorance and can only be overcome by education, by breaking the silence. It's a lot harder to dismiss something as a "cop out" or a "lack of faith" when it's your relative/friend/neighbor/whatever, someone you know personally and care about, who is going through it.


03 April 2012

HAWMC Day 3: Superpower Day

I'd like to start by apologizing for being MIA. I've been traveling (with the kids) on vacation to visit family and friends while my wonderful husband is  out of the country with the Army and time to blog has been a little short, especially with Yumyum not feeling well the last little bit. I actually had her at the ER one night when she spiked a fever (very out of character for her) but it turned out to be nothing but teething and *possibly* a virus. I think I would have preferred a diagnosis of an ear infection since that's something we can treat with antibiotics instead of just "Grin and bear it". Urgh.

Anyways, getting back in the saddle, I'll be trying to play catch up on the posts I've missed. I've fallen down on my goal of actually blogging every day but I keep reminding myself that it's healthy to remember that real life takes precedence over a blog challenge.

HAWMC Day 3: Superpower Day. If you had a superpower – what would it be? How would you use it?

Oh, to have a superpower. There are so many that I look at and think "Wow, I'd really love to have that" but then I think of how much I love the fact that Heavenly Father has created us all with Free Will (aka the ability to choose our own paths and make our own decisions) and the fact that a lot of superpowers you see in movies sort of take that away from people. The one thing I've always wished I could do is to fly. I would love to be able to fly like Superman. To be able to instantly get away and just think, or to be able to gain some perspective by looking down and going "Wow, that's right, I'm just one speck of humanity and the whole world really does not revolve around me and what I want". To be able to fly to far away places and help people. To be able to play among the clouds, travel and see different cultures and scenery. Just to be able to FLY without the restrictions of an airplane or other machine. Flying. Oh, how I wish.


02 April 2012

HAWMC Day 2: Quotation Inspiration

Quotation Inspiration. Find a quote that inspires you (either positively or negatively) and free write about it for 15 minutes.

First, I'd like to take a moment to say that I love this prompt, except for the tiny detail that I had trouble narrowing it down to just one quote. I"ll have to keep this prompt in mind for the future when I have writer's block. Also, since it's a free write, I only went back and edited the spelling. And now, let the 15 minutes begin.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. -Winston Churchill

When I first read this quote, it grabbed me. If words could literally jump off a computer screen and yank at your hair, this quote would have done just that. When I first read it, my mind went immediately to blogging about PPD. To the people who have the guts to speak up when they see something that's not right. To the people who are so brave as to be able to tell their story and make themselves vulnerable to the entire world in the hopes that their story will help others.

But then, i realized that it applies to so much more than that. It applies to being able to reach out and ask for help. When you're struggling with PPD, one of the hardest things out there, one of the scariest thoughts, is to say "Hey, I know that I'm supposed to be blissfully happy right now and overjoyed at the fact that I have a new baby who is beautiful and healthy, and supposed to be overjoyed at the fact that I can now roll over in bed without knocking the pets and my husband off the mattress, and at the fact that I can now get up out of a cushy char without needing to enlist the assistance of a crane and other construction equipment, but I'm not. I'm sad, I feel hopeless, the world is bleak to me. I need help".

For me, it was scary for a multitude of reasons, and I'm pretty sure that other people would agree that they dealt with the same fears. I was scared of being made fun of. I was scared of being looked down upon. I was scared that people would think there was something wrong with me. I was scared that it would negatively impact my husband's military career. I was scared that CPS would come and take my baby away until I was deemed safe for her to be around. I was worried that admitting I needed help meant that I really did need help. I was scared that I would be judged and found wanting as a wife, mother, Christian, human being, friend, daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter, cousin, and did I mention as a wife and mother? I was worried that this meant there was something wrong with me, that I would be told that it was all my fault. Saying I needed help, calling the Chaplain and agreeing to meet him at the ER and then actually getting in the car and doing it was one of the hardest and most absolutely terrifying things I have ever done in my entire life. The fear was almost palpable.

I'm pretty sure that I'm not speaking out of turn to say that this type of fear (if not these exact concerns) are what face other women dealing with PPD too. It's a big part of what keeps many women from speaking up and reaching out for help earlier on. And every woman who faces that fear, who stands up and says "Hey, something is not right here, I need help" shows an inordinate amount of courage that I have the utmost respect for. I have just as much respect for the women who make that choice as I do for the men and women who volunteer to join the military and go overseas, as much respect as I have for the men and women who choose to become firefighters knowing that they will be put into situations where they will have to run into a burning building to risk their life to save others, as much respect as I have for the men and women who volunteer and train to become Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers and jump into insanely cold and violent waters "That others may live", as much respect as I have for any men and women who volunteer to take up any profession that they know will ask them to literally put their lives on the line for others. This is not hyperbole. These women who speak up and reach out are every bit as brave, every bit as much my hero, as any of those I have just mentioned and all the others (tere are way too many professions to name).

But something else strikes me about this quote. IT also takes a lot of courage to be willing and able to sit down and just listen when someone needs to talk about the things they're struggling with as a result of their PPD. It's not an easy thing to sit there and listen as someone bares their soul, as they admit to having dark thoughts that we are trained from childhood to see as selfish and reprehensible. It's no simple task to listen and stay open and loving instead of saying "OMG, what is the MATTER with you, why can't you just get over this? Just choose to be happy instead of wallowing in this pity party!!!". It's not easy to just listen and respond with "I love you and I'm there for you, no matter what" instead of responding with pithy sayings, cliches, and your best guess as to what that poor soul needs to hear to drag them out of the depths of despair, instead of responding with "Well this is what you're doing wrong and here's how you should fix this".

It takes courage to stand up and speak and courage to sit down and listen. The trick is to know which is needed when.

/free write

What is the quote that most inspires you?


01 April 2012

HAWMC Day 1: Health Time Capsule

Happy April! April is a month that I usually look forwards to wit great anticipation for many reasons, and this year is no exception. For 2012, April means Easter, both of my daughters' birthdays, a visit to see family and friends (in the middle of that one), seeing my husband and pets again after a month away, and (hopefully) finding out via ultrasound whether I'm on Team Pink or Team Blue (hopefully as in we have an appointment scheduled but it's always dependent on the baby's level of cooperation). This year, I've also been looking forwards to the wegohealth.com Health Activists Writer's Month Challenge: 30 days of Health Activists writing blog posts based off of prompts provided each day. It's sort of like NaNoWriMo for bloggers except that it seems (for me anyways) more manageable because it's just "Write something each day" instead of "Put out this crazy amount of words in one month". Anyways, this year is my first time participating and I'm hopeful that I can actually do all 30 days, so it's been something else that has had me excited for the month of April. So without further ado, Happy HAWMC, and may the blogs be EVER in your favor.

HAWMC Day 1Health Time Capsule. 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 at the very top of the time capsule would be a letter, explaining who I am, what I've been through, and giving an overview of PostPartum Mood Disorders.
After that, there's no particular order but the contents would include
My blog, which I think is almost a time capsule in and of itself.
Twitter print-outs of threads and tweets pertinent to PPD, as well as something about #PPDChat and how big a help it has been to me and to many others.
Printouts of blog posts from PostPartum Progress, including the various "Plain Mama English" lists of symptoms of PostPartum Mood Disorders.
A copy of Marie Osmond's book "Behind the Smile: My Journey out of PostPartum Depression"
Empty bottles of the various medications I've been on: Celexa, Lexapro, Ativan, Ambien, and Zoloft.
A brochure for Laurel Ridge, the mental hospital I was admitted to in 2009.
The scriptures, hymnal, and journal I kept and wrote in while I was dealing with my PPD.
Pictures of my family.

Hopefully, the time capsule would suck less than this blog post does. :D