26 June 2012

Cedars and surf: antidote to a meltdown

Have I mentioned that I don't enjoy being pregnant? I have? Oh, well. Let me mention it again. Not only do I hurt all over, my hormones are going NUTS. This was bad enough when it was my first pregnancy, but at least then I was only taking care of my husband. This time, I have a precocious trouble-making three year old (is there any other kind?) and a sweet energetic one year old (who has figured out she can walk and climb) to waddle run after.

Said three year old has been pushing my buttons and testing every single boundary more and more every day since she hit two years old. This week she's been especially... ahem... adventurous? Brave? Daring? Those are nice ways to put it, we'll leave it at that. This afternoon, I broke down. Eric got home and kicked me out of the house. I didn't even argue about what I still needed to get done or anything of the sort, I went gladly to get some time away to myself.

Originally I had planned to go down to the beach in Seaside and watch the seagulls or maybe to Asilomar to watch the tide come in, and go to the weekly Farmer's Market in downtown Monterey. Instead, I found myself just driving along Highway 1 South. I had no idea where I was going or when I'd get there, I just went.

I think I'd been driving for about 2 minutes when I found myself bawling my eyes out. Tired. Overwhelmed. Frustrated with my kids (and maybe a little with myself). A headache (or two, counting Elizabeth). Homesick beyond belief. Missing my family and friends SO much. It seems like the closer I get to having the baby, the more often I'm homesick. Maybe it's because this is my first pregnancy and delivery so far from home. I had both the girls in the same city, now it's a different place. Of course it's also likely that 4rd trimester hormones and exhaustion play a hefty role too...

So there I was, driving and crying. I was literally blubbering "I want my mama". But a funny thing happened. The further I got from the city (well, town, really. Monterey is hardly a booming metropolis) the more I started to settle down and relax. Finally I started to notice the coastal views. It was gorgeous! I started to feel like I could breathe again, like maybe the world wasn't actually closing in around me.

I got a little ways out and pulled over several times to take pictures with my cell phone. The first time, I walked along a little trail admiring the flowers. Suddenly, I noticed that I didn't just smell the salty ocean air, I smelled something tangy and familiar, something that reminded me of home. There were cedar trees! (or maybe junipers, I've never really been able to tell the difference between the two. They both smell and look the same and heaven knows they aggravate my allergies pretty identically). Normally at home, I HATE the things. But today, they made me happy. I sat down on a rock and alternated between looking at the trees and looking at the ocean. I never would have thought that a cedar tree would make me happy, but it did.

I went back to the car and drove on, pulling over a couple more times at some more scenic lookouts. There are so many, and with good reason. Especially on a gorgeous summer day like today, the view is breathtaking. I just enjoyed the scenery, enjoyed the quiet, enjoyed the vastness of it all, enjoyed being out in the open with nothing, and yet everything, around me, just enjoyed being.

I did eventually make it back home, after a stop off at Asilomar Beach (my FAVORITE beach in the Monterey area). I plan on taking that drive again soon, this time with my camera to get some even better pictures. But for now, I'll post some of the pictures I got today, a little piece of the stillness and quiet that helped me find a measure of comfort and a sense of right-ness in my world again. Somehow, the ocean always helps me calm down. It's almost like I let my frustrations get pounded in the waves and taken out to sea. Whatever the reason, it works, and it's better for my weight than ice cream.


17 June 2012

My pride won't let me admit I need help

The other day, I was in a discussion on Facebook about PostPartum Depression and mental illness in general, and the fact that telling people "Just get over it" isn't usually particularly helpful. Eventually, the conversation came around to someone saying that a lot of people who say those types of things might even have problems themselves but their pride won't let them admit it.

I'm not into diagnosing whether or not people have an illness, mental or otherwise. That's not what this post is about. This post, I'd like to focus on something that really hit home: the idea that "My pride won't let me admit I have a mental illness".

There are two things that really stood out to me here, as indicative of how far we still have to go in destroying the stigma and myths surrounding mental health and PostPartum Depression.

"My pride won't let me admit I have a mental illness".

First of all, the fact that pride gets in the way is an indicator that there is still a serious problem with how mental illness is viewed in this country. FAR too many people still see it as a weakness, a defect. NORMAL people don't have mental illnesses, crazy people do. Strong people don't get it. It's seen as a chink in the armor, something that makes you less than others.

One's pride should not be keeping them from saying "Hey, I need help". I've said this before and I'll say it again: there is NOTHING wrong with needing help, with seeking treatment. And not only is it not a weakness, it's a sign (in my book) of strength, of courage. It's really hard in today's society to speak up and say "Hey, I think something is wrong, I need help". To speak up, to reach out when you're drowning for the hand that will save you? In this day and age, that takes guts.

The second thing that stood out to me is the use of the word "Admit". In today's culture, when you "admit" that you  need help with PPD or anything else of the sort, "admit" is seen by many as an admission of wrongdoing, again of weakness. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You're not admitting to a crime, you're simply making the choice to say "Hey, I can't do this on my own, I don't even know where to start, someone help me please".

I can't speak firsthand to what it's like to have to reach out for help when you're suffering from anything other than PostPartum Depression. I've seen loved ones go through other mental health issues but that's the only one that I, personally, have dealt with for myself. I can speak, though, to the pride issue as it relates to PPD. With PPD, I felt like I was a bad mom. I felt like a bad wife. I felt like a crappy Christian. I felt like I must be doing something wrong. I felt like I must be failing. I was a new mom, I was supposed to be happy, I was supposed to be over the moon, I was supposed to be adoring my new role. Instead, I was sad. Lonely. Angry. Numb. Every negative emotion you can possibly think of. Sometimes all rolled in to one, sometimes fluctuating between what I felt or even not really feeling anything at all. SOMETHING was wrong with me that was my fault and surely I had messed up. I couldn't tell anyone how I was feeling, they'd know what a failure I was.

The truth is, I wasn't a failure at all. There was nothing for me to be ashamed of. My pride didn't need to get in the way and keep me from reaching out for help. When I finally did, yes it felt like the weakest and darkest moment of my life, but in reality that was one of the strongest. I finally found the courage to confront the beast that had been devouring me, I found the courage to fight back.

If you're reading this right now and saying "Wow, that's me, I know something is going on but my pride won't let me ask for help.", please know that you are not a failure.

Repeat that after me. Say it out loud. "I *insert your name* am not a failure.".

There is no shame in what you are going through. There is no shame in getting treatment. It's not a sign of weakness at all. You're not any less of a person. You are a wonderful person and you deserve to get help. I don't have to know you to know that.

Don't let your pride stand in the way any longer. Help is there waiting for you, you just have to ask for it. You are stronger than you know. You are stronger than your pride. You can do this.

15 June 2012

Channeling my inner mythbuster

There's a show on tv that my husband loves to watch, it's called "Mythbusters". Today, I'll be channeling my inner mythbuster, Warrior Mom style.

Statement: "You can't participate in a PPD support group because your baby is past his 1 year birthday so it's not PPD anymore".

The bolded is a myth.

PostPartum Depression does not magically go away when a mom hits the one year postpartum mark. It does not magically cease to be PostPartum Depression and morph into something else. A mother does not have PPD the day before her baby's first birthday and then suddenly cease to have it overnight just because her baby turns 1. PostPartum Depression can last beyond the first year. In fact, to look at this logically, PostPartum Depression can be diagnosed at any time during the first year postpartum. If I can be diagnosed with PPD when my baby is 11 months old, does it make ANY sense whatsoever that I would suddenly stop having it just because I hit that 1 year mark?

(I'll give you a hint: the answer is "No".)

Moms with PostPartum Depression can still be suffering beyond that first birthday. They need our love and support just as much as the woman who was just diagnosed at 2 months postpartum. It is the height of cruelty that not only would we erroneously tell her that she doesn't still have it, but that the community of women who is going through the exact same thing, struggling with the exact same condition, would turn her away from receiving the support that is so vital, just because her baby is no longer under 1 year old. We should be the most welcoming people of any she will encounter, our hugs should be the warmest, our arms the widest open, our sympathy the most heartfelt, our ears the most open.

There is no magic date, no magic timestamp, no guarantee that passing a certain milestone will mean that the mother no longer suffers from PPD. Just because someone has a baby who is older doesn't mean we should be turning them away. If you run or participate in a support group of some sort for women with PPD, please make sure you educate yourself on this point and that you aren't turning people away on a faulty assumption or erroneous information.


11 June 2012

Ah, pregnancy, how I love you...

It's finally happened. I've hit the dreaded creature known as "The Third Trimester". In keeping with the tradition that his sisters set, my little alien parasite body-dwelling angel has decided that there's no need for me to be particularly comfortable during these last few month. After all, I'll love him when he's born so why not be sadistic and test the boundaries of his mother's unconditional and unending love? OH come on, it can't really be THAT bad can it? After all, you're PREGNANT. Pregnancy is supposed to be the time in which you glow, go about smiling beatifically while lovingly caressing your belly, daydream about the wonderful things you'll do with your soon-to-be newborn, and channel your inner Madonna.

Let me set the record straight. Some women love pregnancy and love being pregnant. I am absolutely and emphatically not one of those. I adore the end result (a baby) but the 10 months required to bake the bun... well, I would be more than happy to just skip straight to the end. When I glow, it's usually because I'm sweating buckets while my husband freezes because I have the thermostat turned down as low as it can go. If you see me caressing my belly, it's usually because I'm having what are by now uncomfortable Braxton-Hicks contractions, or trying to get Baby Boy to stop jamming his elbow/butt/head/spine/foot/whatever into the walls of my uterus so hard I fear a ruptured spleen. My daydreams involve pants that have buttons instead of elastic at the waistband, being able to shave my legs, and not having a belly so furry my husband rubs it and talks to it, pretending he thinks he's talking to one of the cats. Did I mention that my feet also now resemble a hobbit's? I can't remember the last time I slept through the night. I wake up for a variety of reason, ranging from having to pee every half hour (more often if the little darling decides to get the hiccups or practice tap dancing on my bladder) to leg cramps. He's sitting on my sciatic nerve which is decidedly uncomfortable. My hips, back, and pelvis all hurt. This was bad enough when it was my first but now that I'm in the middle of moving AND have two small children to chase around? Dear HEAVENS.

As though the physical discomforts weren't enough, though, there's the emotional roller coaster. And I'm not just talking about the typical "She's up, she's down, she's happy, she's sad, she adores her husband, she's ready to kill him". I'm talking about a different see-saw, one that I've been going up and down on since I first found out I was pregnant. Normally, by the time I hit this stage, I'd be going "I'm ready to be done, can we fast forward to getting the baby here please???". Not this time. This time, I can't make up my mind whether I want him here or am content to stay pregnant for another year or three.

I'm past my initial ambivalence. I'm excited for the baby, I love him, and I'm looking forwards to meeting him.We will be overjoyed when he gets here. I'm looking forwards to meeting him and finally having the answer to the burning question: "What color will his hair be?!?" (we have a redhead and a blonde, perhaps we'll get a brunette and have a matched set?). Considering all the odds he had to beat to even take up residence in my uterus, it's evident that he's meant to be, no if's and's or but's. Speaking of but's though, "But" I'm scared too. I'm terrified of the idea of having a 3 year old, a 1 year old, and an infant. I worry about whether the PPD will come back again, considering how much of a roller coaster this has been. Some days I feel overwhelmed just with the two I have, I'm scared of feeling even more so with another unplanned one added to the mix. I've had a lot of stressful situations over the last year, and during the course of my pregnancy. I'm almost 2000 miles away from my family and close friends. My husband will be starting another (very intense) training course with the military not long after the baby is born. He'll probably be pretty occupied and we won't see him very much/ I worry about how I'll cope with that without adding more unneeeded and potentially badly distracting stress to what he'll have going on.

Motherhood is not always bliss. Pregnancy definitely isn't. I want to do right by my family, by my kids, and I know that I'll need to make sure to do right by myself too (for the sake of everyone's sanity) but I worry about whether I'll actually accomplish it. As I did last time, I worry about what will happen if I start falling back into the pit of PPD and don't recognize the signs. At least this time, I know I can make it through even if it does hit. I've been to hell and back before. I know it exists and that it sucks major league, but that it's only temporary. I have my blog to vent to (if I'm not scared to), I have my Twitter and Facebook support communities specifically geared towards PPD, I know about blogs and groups that focus specifically on helping women with PPD. I can at least take comfort in the knowledge now that if it happens again, I will be strong enough to get through whatever nightmares PPD decides to throw my way (although I'll be more than happy to NOT do any catching, I prefer dodging in this scenario).

Now if only I could get through a night without having to pee more than the proverbial race horse...

08 June 2012

Jumping off the cliff of conclusions

Yesterday, I was wandering through Facebook, looking at the various groups and pages I frequent. Some I participate in regularly, some I just check out when I'm bored or need a good laugh, etc. One of the pages that falls into the latter group is a page called Military Ladies Chatter. MLC has a public page that I don't go to that often because of the level of "Whoooooa" that often runs rampant in the opinions and thoughts expressed by participants (the Admin rocks though). Yesterday though, one of the questions that had been posted by the Admin caught my eye:

"Is being a stay-at-home mom a job?"

I thought "Oh this should be interesting" and opened the thread up. Most of the responses, while varying from "No way" to "Heck yes!" were at least sensible and respectful. And then I got to this little gem...

 I think that depends on your deffinition as a stay at home Mom! As a stay at home Mom it's your job to make sure your house is spotless, kids are well taken care of, dinner (hot good meal) is on tbe table when your husband gets home from work and you look hot for your husband be in shape go to the gym ladies. I am not talking about him coming home to you being in sweats or pj's either at 5 p.m. you should always look good be dressed nice when he walks in the door. Make him want to come home to you. I hate these stay at home Moms that bitch and say staying home is so hard when there house is a mess, kids look like a mess (dirty clothes, hair not brushed and if they get up on time they go to school). Seriously I want to smack those women. Oh and in no way is your job harder then your husband's. You should feel blessed to get to stay home with your kids while your husband bust his ass at work just to come home and hear you whine. JMO

This was where things started to get interesting. I can't copy or screen-shot the rest of what she said because she has since gone through and deleted most of her posts (while continuing to defend them) but it basically boiled down to judging any and everyone who doesn't do things the exact same way she does. It was said over and over again "Look, you do things your way. If your way works for you, great, but don't try to force your "standards" on the rest of us and judge others who choose not to do things the same way". (as I sit here posting in my pajamas...). Now, I have no idea what this person is going through in their own life. I have no idea what demons they may be dealing with, maybe her act and talk of how perfectly she runs things and how awesome her family/home/life are is how she copes with some problem. I have no idea. But she also has no idea what others are coping with, and therein lies the danger she has so clearly and beautifully illustrated for us.

The whole discussion/topic actually does all tie in with PostPartum Depression. I had the thought (and said as much) yesterday, while this was all going on, that I hoped nobody with PPD was reading all her nonsense and feeling triggered. Why?

When you're dealing with PPD, one of the things you can run into is feeling like you're not doing things right, like you're failing, like you, your home, your kids, your clothes, your family, pretty much anything, is not enough. Some women will deal with this by keeping their house totally immaculate (and still feel like they're failing), some will bury their head in their pillows and go "I just can't deal!". For me personally, I had absolutely no energy and no motivation whatsoever. I struggle with keeping things clean and straightened up anyways, always have and probably always will. I have always been a messy bessie. But it got twenty times worse when I had PPD. It took all my energy just to get up and feed the baby, just to make it through the day. I certainly didn't have anything left over for making sure I looked "hot" and that my house was "spotless".

There is an inherent danger in looking at someone and jumping to the conclusion that they must be lazy because their house isn't as clean as you would keep it, or they wear sweats all day, or they aren't in the shape you feel they should be in. First, I just have to say, there is NOTHING wrong with wearing sweats all day. I love my sweats. They are comfy, they allow me to move around, and they aren't hard to clean up after a diaper leaks on me or a baby decides to blow raspberries at me with green beans and sweet potatoes in her mouth, or any of the other zillion things that happen that turn me into a mess. But besides that, you have no idea what someone is going through deep down inside just by looking at their clothes, house, or any other surface conditions. It can actually be very damaging to someone who is already in a fragile mental/emotional condition to read that they are a failure because they aren't "living up to" someone else's standards. It can cause a great deal of damage to be on the receiving end of that type of judgmental criticism when you're already in a vulnerable state.

I guess what I'm trying to say (other than DON'T MESS WITH MY SWEATS!) is this: you can't tell what someone is dealing with or going through just by looking at how they dress or keep house. Be gentle in your criticisms and judgments. Outward appearances don't mean anything. You can't look at someone and know whether or not they have PPD. Conclusions are a dangerous cliff to jump off of and once you jump off, it's hard to go back.

07 June 2012

Tag, I'm it!

Recently, a totally rad chick named Rose, tagged me on her blog. I first met Rose on a military spouse and significant other support forum (that has since gone FAR down hill and shall not be named). We've been on several of the same forums since then and are friends on Facebook. Someday I hope to meet in real life and be friends there too! Rose makes some of the awesomest tie-dye ever and she blogs at happyhippierose. HHR is where she got me. :) She "tagged" me and asked me a question, which I will now answer, and then I'll tag a few people of my own. If you answer (no pressure), add a link to it in the comments so we can all read what you have to say.

Here's what Rose said:

 Through The Tunnel.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!  I saw on Fb it was your birthday, so I just had to give you a shout out.  Doing anything fun for your b-day?  For the average person, what’s the most important thing we should know about PPD and those going through it?  Like the top bit of advice you’d suggest for being supportive or the top bits of info to know for the sake of having awareness awareness, can you give us a surface level little bit, and “intro” to PPD if you will.

First of all, thanks so much for the Birthday wishes and shout-out!!! I <3 my Rosie!!! Um... fun for my birthday... my birthday was... interesting. We're in the middle of moving from one house to another and I HATE moving and this move has just sucked. Monday was definitely no exception to that. However, since we FINALLY got our tax refund in (3 months after our return was accepted by the IRS, who let us slip through the cracks and lollygagged their tushies off in rectifying the issue), we had ordered a new washer and dryer. Our washer was broken by the movers when we came from Texas to California and the moving company refused to pay for it so we were without a working washer at home for a few months. Anyways, our new set was delivered on Monday AND we finally got internet installed at the new house!!! YAY!!! Those were awesome birthday gifts. Then that evening we had a couple of friends over for cake and ice cream. That was nice. :) And this Saturday is the Army Ball, I'm considering it my own huge Birthday Bash. :D

Now, on to PPD. It's hard to say what the most important thing to know is. PPD is a lot more common than people realize. In a blog post titled "How many women get PostPartum Depression? The statistics on PPD" Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress estimates that at least 1.3 MILLION women suffer from PostPartum Mood Disorders every year. Sadly, due to the stigma our society still has surrounding mental health in general and PPD in particular, far too many women suffer in silence out of fear, guilt, and shame. I certainly did, up until I reached the crisis point of wanting to kill myself. It's important for people to realize how common it is. It's also vital to understand that PPD is a very real and very serious medical problem. It's not something that women make up in order to have an excuse to be cranky. Far too many people say things like "What a cop-out" or "Just choose to be happy". If only it were that easy. I don't know ANY women who suffer/have suffered PPD who CHOSE to have the struggle that they did. It's not an indication of being a bad mom, of being a weak person, or of not having enough faith. It's an indication that your hormones are wonky after pregnancy and childbirth.

One of the top pieces of advice that I'd give on being supportive is to try to stay away from the cliche suggestions. You may think that saying "Well, have you thought about praying more?" is helpful but all it ever made me feel was a mixture of shame and anger, and all it ever made me want to do was say things like "Oh no, that never occurred to me, I had no idea it was such an easy fix!". The best support for me was friends and family who would just listen to what I was saying and let me know that they loved and supported me no matter what. Please note though that the phrase "For me" is bolded for a reason. PPD is not a one size fits all thing. What I find helpful may be something that sets another person off and what someone else finds wonderfully supportive may send me into a crying jag or fit of rage. Ask a mom with PPD what she needs nad how you can help/support her. But chances are that if she's suffering PPD, she's dealing with a lot of guilt, shame, and fear. Chances are that no matter how it manifests itself and what symptoms she does or doesn't show, deep down inside she's probably feeling on some level that she is a failure as a wife, mom, Christian, human, girlfriend, daughter, sister, whatever, and I can guarantee you that 100% of women dealing with PPD need to know that you love them, support them no matter what, and will ALWAYS be there for them.

Another important thing to remember is that PPD can pop up at any time during the first year after giving birth. It's most commonly reported in the first few months but can even be diagnosed at 11 months postpartum. And just because your baby turns 1 year old does not mean that your PPD magically goes away or turns into something else. If you were struggling with PPD when your baby was 11 months, 3 weeks, and 6 days old, you're probably still struggling with it after their first birthday.

I can't stress how important it is for everyone to educate themselves about PostPartum Depression. If you have a family member or friend who is expecting or has had a baby, know the symptoms. There's a great list at PostPartum Progress (yes, again, can you tell she's my favorite PPD blogger?). Know the symptoms and if you think someone you know/love is suffering, push them to get help and don't take no for an answer... but make sure they still know you love them.

There's still far too much stigma and ignorance surrounding PPD and the way to combat that is through education and discussion. A HUGE thanks to Rose for doing just that! :)


05 June 2012

I wish I could get help but I'm nursing.

*Note* Just as a reminder, I’m not a doctor so I can’t say whether anyone should or should not be on any medication. This is not intended as an exhaustive list of all medications that are safe to take while nursing or as an endorsement of a medication for any particular person. All I am doing is sharing my experience and what I learned. You should always consult your licensed medical professional before beginning, altering, or ending any type of medical treatment.

Recently, I’ve heard several women express that they have been putting off talking to their doctors about symptoms of depression because they’re nursing their baby and don’t think they can take medication while they’re nursing. I just want to say, I’ve been there. That was one of the reasons I put off actively seeking help the first time was because I was nursing Elizabeth. I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I needed help but I didn’t think I could take medication and keep nursing, but I worried that if I refused the medication the doctor would report me to the police or something. It’s a horrible place to be in; it’s confusing, and for me it added to the guilt that I already felt.

What I didn’t know then, and what too many women still don’t realize, is that there IS medication that you can take for depression while nursing. I don’t know what all the options are, and I know that many anti-depressants are not considered to be safe to take while pregnant and/or nursing. This is not, however, true of all anti-depressants.

I learned this when I was pregnant the second time around. I had made my midwives aware of my prior history with PPD and they talked to me about the option to begin taking medication before I even gave birth, as a precaution. I had done some research prior but they reassured me that Zoloft is considered safe to take during pregnancy and nursing. I started on Zoloft when I was 36 weeks pregnant with Miriam and weaned off of it shortly before finding out I was pregnant again.

If you are nursing and think that you might be experiencing depression, PLEASE don’t refrain from talking to your doctor just because you think you can’t take any medication at all. There are options that will allow you to treat your depression while still continuing to nurse. There’s no guarantee that any medication will work any particular way but at least be willing to talk about the options with your doctor (or midwife, or whoever you see). A good care provider will listen to not only your symptoms but your concerns, be understanding, and work WITH you to find the best course of action for you. If your care provider is not willing to do that, that reflects poorly on them (not you) and is probably a sign that you should look for someone else.

Nursing moms have options too. Please don’t let nursing be the thing that keeps you from getting the help that you need and deserve.


02 June 2012

Sorry I haven't been around

I'm still here! I apologize for the sudden lack of posting. We've been in the middle of moving to a new house (same town) and have been without internet access (or a good cell phone signal) at the new place and I just haven't been able to get to somewhere that does have internet regularly to be able to blog. Thankfully, we will have internet set up at our new house on the 4th. Woohoo!!! I've been writing my posts in Word and saving them on my laptop so once I do have the internet at my finger tips again, I will have things to post. :)

For now, I just wanted to pop in and say hello. I miss my little blog and can't wait to be back to posting again. I didn't realize exactly how therapeutic it still is, even without ongoing PPD, until I didn't have the capability. Uff.