Moving Toward the Sun

I’ve been in a depressive episode for nearly 8 weeks. The decline has been gradual. There have been good days scattered throughout, but I’ve been edgy, tense, fatigued….my mind has been too loud some days, eerily silent during others. I’ve been crying off and on in my bathroom to hide my breaking from my kids…in my car as I drive from one errand to the next. I’ve had to shift to auto-pilot to just get through hard moments, root myself in detachment to keep from getting swallowed up by the stress. I’ve spent the last two weeks cycling rapidly between hypomania (marked mostly by agitation and a mind packed with too many thoughts), and a dragging depression that swallows me up and sends me into its belly for a few moments then spits me back out into the sun and air where I can breathe again. And then everything’s still and quiet…I feel “normal” and then the cycle repeats itself hourly, daily, weekly….and so it’s been for nearly 2 months now. Rinse. Settle. Repeat.

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I’m still in that critical postpartum window. I just weaned nearly a month ago. My body and hormones are in flux and adjusting as a result. I hate it.

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Stress is both motivating and crippling for me. I can handle 10 things going on all at once with ease. It’s once the 11th shows up demanding my attention that my mind starts to split and scatter off into darker corners. I think about my life these days and chide myself with all kinds of “should” statements for feeling and being overwhelmed by all I manage on a day-to-day basis: baby is teething & raging,  middle child with special needs, oldest was just diagnosed with ADHD and his enthusiasm for school has waned significantly, trying to overhaul our home and parenting lifestyles to accommodate and support their needs (like increasing structure and making our home more sensory friendly), supporting my husband while he deals with stress at work. New therapy schedules, trips to the pediatrician, and comprehensive psychometric testing have dominated our lives over the past month. Up ahead there is more testing to be done, and meetings with the school district to discuss accommodations for Brennan and evaluations and placement for Alex who is gearing up for preK this fall…

It’s not all stressful. I’m involved in birthing great projects. I’m taking my mom’s advice on avoiding burnout by feeding my spirit so I don’t fall prey to losing myself, you know? I’ve joined writing & art communities online,  I’m painting at 11pm, I’ve signed up for retreats and writing eCourses, done a couple of write-ins with groups, and I’ve done a juice cleanse to try to reset my body and mind. I’m re-reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown as well as books on painting, sensory processing disorder, creativity, and feminism. I’m trying to find my way here still, in this space as far as my writing is concerned. I’m trying to learn how to embody all the parts of myself that have come alive over the past few years-artist, writer, advocate-in the midst of the daily demands on my person and time as a mother and wife. I’m trying to bloom where I’m planted. At 31, it’s still a stumbling process though.

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I’m searching for my flow amidst the rhythms, rocking and swaying as the ebb and flow of my life’s current carries me throughout my days. But the stress of everything gets triggering and I find myself cycling with the ebb and flow as a result sometimes. That’s when my knees buckle and my head spins. My chest constricts and my brain starts to feel like it’s suffocating. My grip gets weak. Fatigue sets in and my steps forward get heavy. Taking care of myself gets harder, and usually becomes the last checked off item on my must do list-if it’s checked off at all. I end each day feeling as though I have no safe place to come up for air and just process my thoughts, fears, and anxiety…I end most days feeling unsettled and bottled up, stuffed to capacity and as I close my eyes to sleep I’ve found myself starting to pray like Jabez, asking God or whoever is listening for an increase in capacity…in ability…in might…

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My hair is pink again with some blue added for extra fun. My hair and color are always my first lines of defense against the disorder of my brain chemistry and mood.

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I visited my psychiatrist last week at the VA. This is another area that I can’t seem to find solid footing. We’ve lived here for nearly two years and I’m on my 3rd psychiatrist. Obtaining talk therapy has been a fail. The appointment scheduling system here is confusing and useless to me because I have very little say in what days and times fit into my schedule that’s already inundated with the kid’s school and therapies. I’ve had to fight to get treated, and I’m constantly having to say “but if you read this and go here, research and experts agree that….”. I feel lost in a system that I’m constantly told is for me to use and that I should trust. But the bureaucracy I face with nearly every interaction chips away at that trust. I have no confidence in my mental health care these days, in the professionals assigned to my care. And yet, at my appointment last week, I sat in front of her desk and allowed myself to become undone. Completely and unapologetically. I unloaded nearly 24 months of thoughts and stress right there in her office in 20 minutes while my smiling baby squirmed and cooed in my arms. She listened to every word. Asked some questions that dug a little deeper. Apologized for all the trouble with the system I’ve had and for not really hearing me 6 weeks ago when I told her my anxiety was becoming a problem. She admitted that lack of knowledge about medications while breastfeeding restricted her ability to really give me what I was needing. We decided now that I’m no longer pregnant and breastfeeding we could get more aggressive with my meds again-go back to finding a more therapeutic dose. So over the next two months I’ll be doing that-going up on lamictal and prozac and trying out an additional med for anxiety. I started the increase yesterday. I’m hoping by the end of the week my brain and mood will start to grab ahold and adjust accordingly.

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I’ve struggled today to pick everything back up and keep walking. To push past and through. To square my shoulders and lift my chin. To turn a deaf ear to the tape playing in my head that has all kinds of lies and frenzied talk on a loop.

But I’m doing it-picking up and pushing. I’m moving forward. Slowly. The sun is shining outside despite the cold front that’s moved through. I’m working my way out into the sun, breathing in deep as I go.

Chigger (Trigger) Bites & Battle Wounds

Ok, how many of you are country bumpkins like me? If you are, then I’m sure you know all about Chiggers….and if you know about Chiggers, I’m fairly sure it’s because you’ve been bitten by a good amount of them, like I have.  Pesky little things, aren’t they? Barely visible, they can cause a serious bout of irritation and make you uncomfortable. As a matter of fact you rarely you know you’ve been bitten by one until you’ve started to itch and you see little red dots staining your skin.

For myself, since developing PPD/PPA after Alex’s birth, and now living with BP & anxiety, being triggered is like being bitten by a chigger: I rarely notice it’s happened until after the irritating itch has already set in, and I’m scrambling for ways to relieve it. Like the small, tiny, invisible little things that crawl up and under your skin til the find the perfect place to take a bite, triggers can make your life  freaking miserable. At least they do mine..the itching becomes unbearable. I’ve battled depression & anxiety since I was a teenager, but for whatever reason, since Alex’s birth, I’ve become far more susceptible to certain things that make me “itch”….like noise…

… Loud noises in fact. I can’t tolerate them. Haven’t since April 8, 2010 at 6:37am. It’s the crying, that grates on my nerves and sanity. It literally feels like I’m being raked over with metal spikes. When it happens, everything in me goes into Deafcon 4 and the heart races. The thoughts scatter like roaches in the light, scurrying for some dark corner to hide and fester in….only coming out after the onslaught of anxiety is over, when I’m most susceptible to depressive moods. The tiny noise chiggers, they move rapidly across my body, setting off my sweat glands…the sweat literally pours from me like rain that refuses to let up. Fatigue creeps in and reaches for the shut off button-it usually finds it and I collapse, even if it’s just mentally until I can do so physically.

It seems like the minute he came into the world, my ability to withstand kid-induced noise exited-stage left.  It’s like some kind of secret inside trade went down between my body and the universe, and I don’t really think that’s fair….I mean didn’t Martha Steward go to jail for doing something similar?  It’s just not cool. Shouldn’t even be legal, if you ask me.  But for whatever reason, no matter how much preventative maintenance we do, we just don’t get much of a say as to what the trade-off for having children will be.

It sucks. I wish I could say that I’ve mastered it. I have coping strategies, breathing exercises, medication, and Jesus. But there are moments….there are days….when the meltdowns, the screams, the always-being-peppered-with-questions, the “Mom, mommie, MAMA, MOM, MOOOOOM, mommie…” the whining, the neediness, the tantrums have me running for the only place I find refuge:

THE BATHROOM

Yes. The bathroom…it shields me from the demands of motherhood, and provides a nice, comforting cold floor to rest my sweaty body on. It’s like a spa I have an unlimited membership to, that’s open and offering respite whenever I need it, no matter the time of day. I sit in there, cool off and distract myself with tweets & FB statuses. Everyone always wonders why I have so many FB status updates and go on tweeting sprees…well, it’s not because I think I have something beneficial to say, it’s simply because they offer a solid distraction while my body attempts to restore me to homeostasis…and some semblance of sanity.

I found myself hightailing it to El Bano yesterday after an ER visit resulted in an exorcism-esque meltdown courtesy of Alex. Screams, flailing arms, wrestling, body contorting, AND an always questioning and Power Ranger yelling 4 year old set off every alarm bell in my being. It was all I could do to keep from cowering in a corner somewhere. I spent the rest of the day trying to breathe through the edginess and irritation…tried with everything in me not to scratch, scratch, scratch the itches that just wouldn’t stop coming.

Just writing about it is making me sweat and my heart to feel panicky…so let me stop here.

My point? Trigger bites suck the big wad. Period. I hate that no matter how much self-care I do, the itch from this particular trigger bite won’t go away. It sucks feeling like I’m at it’s mercy…I wish there was some kind of OFF-like spray that could shield me from being bitten so easily.

I may have survived my battle with PPD & PPA…but this is one battle wound that’s still scabbing over, still itching every time a scream or cry erupts.

What about you? What “bites” or triggers you?  Any PPD battle wounds that are still healing or have left an ugly scar?

 

Chigger (Trigger) Bites & Battle Wounds

Ok, how many of you are country bumpkins like me? If you are, then I’m sure you know all about Chiggers….and if you know about Chiggers, I’m fairly sure it’s because you’ve been bitten by a good amount of them, like I have. Pesky little things, aren’t they? Barely visible, they can cause a serious bout of irritation and make you uncomfortable. As a matter of fact you rarely you know you’ve been bitten by one until you’ve started to itch and you see little red dots staining your skin.

For myself, since developing PPD/PPA after Alex’s birth, and now living with BP & anxiety, being triggered is like being bitten by a chigger: I rarely notice it’s happened until after the irritating itch has already set in, and I’m scrambling for ways to relieve it. Like the small, tiny, invisible little things that crawl up and under your skin til the find the perfect place to take a bite, triggers can make your life freaking miserable. At least they do mine..the itching becomes unbearable. I’ve battled depression & anxiety since I was a teenager, but for whatever reason, since Alex’s birth, I’ve become far more susceptible to certain things that make me “itch”….like noise…

… Loud noises in fact. I can’t tolerate them. Haven’t since April 8, 2010 at 6:37am. It’s the crying, that grates on my nerves and sanity. It literally feels like I’m being raked over with metal spikes. When it happens, everything in me goes into Deafcon 4 and the heart races. The thoughts scatter like roaches in the light, scurrying for some dark corner to hide and fester in….only coming out after the onslaught of anxiety is over, when I’m most susceptible to depressive moods. The tiny noise chiggers, they move rapidly across my body, setting off my sweat glands…the sweat literally pours from me like rain that refuses to let up. Fatigue creeps in and reaches for the shut off button-it usually finds it and I collapse, even if it’s just mentally until I can do so physically.

It seems like the minute he came into the world, my ability to withstand kid-induced noise exited-stage left. It’s like some kind of secret inside trade went down between my body and the universe, and I don’t really think that’s fair….I mean didn’t Martha Steward go to jail for doing something similar? It’s just not cool. Shouldn’t even be legal, if you ask me. But for whatever reason, no matter how much preventative maintenance we do, we just don’t get much of a say as to what the trade-off for having children will be.

It sucks. I wish I could say that I’ve mastered it. I have coping strategies, breathing exercises, medication, and Jesus. But there are moments….there are days….when the meltdowns, the screams, the always-being-peppered-with-questions, the “Mom, mommie, MAMA, MOM, MOOOOOM, mommie…” the whining, the neediness, the tantrums have me running for the only place I find refuge:

THE BATHROOM

Yes. The bathroom…it shields me from the demands of motherhood, and provides a nice, comforting cold floor to rest my sweaty body on. It’s like a spa I have an unlimited membership to, that’s open and offering respite whenever I need it, no matter the time of day. I sit in there, cool off and distract myself with tweets & FB statuses. Everyone always wonders why I have so many FB status updates and go on tweeting sprees…well, it’s not because I think I have something beneficial to say, it’s simply because they offer a solid distraction while my body attempts to restore me to homeostasis…and some semblance of sanity.

I found myself hightailing it to El Bano yesterday after an ER visit resulted in an exorcism-esque meltdown courtesy of Alex. Screams, flailing arms, wrestling, body contorting, AND an always questioning and Power Ranger yelling 4 year old set off every alarm bell in my being. It was all I could do to keep from cowering in a corner somewhere. I spent the rest of the day trying to breathe through the edginess and irritation…tried with everything in me not to scratch, scratch, scratch the itches that just wouldn’t stop coming.

Just writing about it is making me sweat and my heart to feel panicky…so let me stop here.

My point? Trigger bites suck the big wad. Period. I hate that no matter how much self-care I do, the itch from this particular trigger bite won’t go away. It sucks feeling like I’m at it’s mercy…I wish there was some kind of OFF-like spray that could shield me from being bitten so easily.

I may have survived my battle with PPD & PPA…but this is one battle wound that’s still scabbing over, still itching every time a scream or cry erupts.

What about you? What “bites” or triggers you? Any PPD battle wounds that are still healing or have left an ugly scar?