Light and Dark

As the joy of the holidays subsided, the dark days of winter took hold.  Truly, the last few days of 2016 brought death to a close and disconcerting distance.  It stepped in and stayed until as recently as last week.  And still, it lingers.

I’d pulled my black leather pumps from their shelf high in the closet.  I’d arched my inner soles into their uncomfortable embrace.  I’d released my tired, swollen toes from their pinch at the end of the day.  But I’d yet to return them to their box; death would not let me store them away for the next black dress event.

There was another, and another.

A year of new life was marred by the loss of three precious ones.

Death is always waiting in the wings – but I’m comforted by the thought that their spirits fly in the wind that catches our breath and reminds us we’re alive.

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Real Time

It’s taken me five months to realize what’s wrong.

Five good months since the birth of my child.

Five months of kisses and cuddles and bleary-eyed marches; blaring noise and silent sleep.

All this time and all this experience it took me to notice things around me:

Systems out of whack. Needs untended. Tweaks to be made.

Funny, how the way you realize you’re surviving is the ability to see what’s awry.

One day, you feel the slight twinge of annoyance. Stress at the the logistics of life. And you think, wait, I’ve reentered the real world without even realizing it. Without any fanfare. No great plunge. But a gradual dipping in of toes, then ankles, calves – until suddenly the cold on your belly button makes your breath catch.

It is exhilarating and chilling at the same time.

You’re doing it. You’re living life, your life, while navigating the care of that of your little one. It’s never easy, always imperfect. It may turn your lips blue and make your teeth chatter, but you’re afloat.

And that is a feat in and of itself.

floating

Pinterest, multiple sources

 

I Am Proud

I see how you drag gray gunk out from under the drain plug with a q-tip
I see how you scrape dark purple nail polish from the bathroom tile
I see the smile you give,

the squeeze of a hand,

the rub of a knee.

How you tackle the monotonous and never-ending mountain of laundry

How you give and give and give
to the point of an extinguished flame

I see how tired you are
yet you keep getting up,
keep going.

I see how you love your children.
You think I don’t notice, but I do.
I see how you bear your pain for them.

Let me bear your pain for you.

An addendum

In my post Thursday, I discussed the pitfalls of postpartum in dads.  There is a major one I erroneously omitted.

One more thing for postpartum moms to worry about

In all my talk about supporting dads in their postpartum world, I failed to think what such advice/discussion would do to a mom currently suffering from postpartum.  Though I’ve still got plenty of issues to sort out, I am no longer in the deep, dark depths of my postpartum period.  I have traveled far enough beyond it to be able to reflect upon what the experience was like for my husband.  In the midst of it, however, I couldn’t help myself – let alone another human.  I apologized for lashing out; I thanked him for his support; I commiserated when he said he didn’t know what to do.  But beyond that, there was nothing I could do for him.  Nothing except put myself back together.  And that took all my energy.

So all you women and mothers suffering from postpartum mood disorders out there, my last post was not meant to make you feel bad.  It was not meant to give you one more thing to feel shitty about.  To make you think you’ve ruined one more life.

Let me reiterate the point that it takes an entire community to surround and uplift the postpartum tribe.  It should not fall to you to do everything.

Yes, dad needs support, but you don’t have to be the only one to give it to him.  You may not be able to at all.  And that’s okay.

People outside your tight-knit trio need to help put you all back together.

Tripod-of-Life_Holy-Trinity

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

A new mother, five week old strapped to her abdomen, stood nearby as I spoke to another returning preschool mother as we all three watched our little ones play.

My anxious hackles were actually down, since my daughter had had a few play dates with this other mother’s daughter between the end of last school year and the beginning of this one. I knew her well enough that conversation seemed to come easily – a small miracle for me with nearly anyone other than family or close friends.

Seeing this new mother navigate a newbie preschooler with infant in tow brought me back to my own first experience with preschool – a time otherwise known as the year that shall not be named.

What a difference between the easy, breezy tenor of today and the hell on earth that nearly every morning was as I unwittingly struggled with postpartum and getting three children out of the house each morning.

Forgive me as I recite the Virginia Slims cigarette commercial catch phrase.

from a t-shirt of the same name

from a t-shirt of the same name

I try to tell myself that as I ease my muscles down from the twitchy edge.

I try to remember that time – only to make any morning issue seem that much easier now.

I try to recall just enough to vindicate my survival – not send me down the path of PTSD.

And I try to share the short version of my story, not to scare young mothers or one up them, but to provide a sympathetic show of support. Even if it’s just a knowing smile to show them they are not alone, that they are not the only one who struggles with such pedestrian endeavors.

And to remind myself that yes, I have come a long way.

Psychosis Sucks

Information on symptoms and treatment of psychosis – Fraser Health Authority.

You may want to spend some time perusing this website.  Its brilliant title is not its only merit.  A pharmacist specializing in mental health brought it to my attention.  Great tool kit.

Solitary Confinement

 

It’s not that I didn’t believe her . . .

My therapist told me that, while I may have had underlying anxiety for years, it hadn’t presented itself until I had one, two, three children because up until that point, it had been manageable. I could handle it. I’d organically and subconsciously found coping mechanisms. The fact that I could no longer manage it didn’t signal failure, but a new tenor to my life that was above and beyond – and that wasn’t going to change anytime soon. I balked at taking medication to control it, but she pointed out that there is nothing I can do to control the level of stress that accompanies three children – while I can assist my bodily systems and psyche with medication.

Intellectually, I understood it. I trusted her and her care. But there was a part of me that didn’t truly want to buy it. The control freak in me raged. I can do this! Even while popping the pills, I thought somehow, someday, I’d overcome this. I’d whip that three-kid schedule and lifestyle into shape and surmount the odds.

Then one day, four years, ten months into the anxious maelstrom that had become my life, I found myself alone. There was movement, noises on the edges of my consciousness, but it was gentle, distant. My husband came to kiss me goodbye before leaving for work and then I was truly alone.

I debated going back to sleep, but figured I’d be in that half-conscious state that would leave me feeling worse than if I’d gotten up early. I did roll around in my head various scenarios of what I might do with my time, but more mind blowing than my options sans kids was the quality of the time sans kids; that is, unfettered. There were things I wanted to do, things I should do, but nothing I absolutely had to do. For several hours, the majority of this fine day, I had to answer to no one.

I could eat when I felt like it. Nap when I felt like it (which I did end up doing to counteract the non-sleeping-in). Pee when I felt like it. I could open that new bag of crispy treats at midday and eat as many as I wished without vultures swooping down upon me. I could concentrate unencumbered on the tutorial for a new software program that’s been languishing on my desktop for lack of time (and be inspired to take said nap before returning to it 😉 )

There’s no such thing as perfection. I did need to intersperse my chosen activities with household duties due to the threat of family members coming to see the house for the first time. But even that may have been a blessing in disguise, as I finally found a home for the mound of summer attire that had taken over a chair in my room – which, again, would never have happened had I not been alone.

It was at some point during all this alone time, however, that I sat on the couch and stared at the gloomy scene out the rain-speckled window. I was still tired, I was still mushy-mush. I wasn’t channeling Gene Kelly in all my solitary resplendence. I was still the non-prioritizing, neurotic perfectionist able to unravel at the drop of a hat if things didn’t go according to plan.

The thing was – the plan was much more likely to stay stuck without three little whirling dervishes to spin it apart from the inside out. And if not, I could adjust accordingly, changing course according to my needs and neurosis. Or just chill out for the day until my thin skin thickened up accordingly.

It’s so much easier when things fall apart for one person than a whole tribe. And much easier to put the pieces back together. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that the whole tribe does not fall apart; in a poignantly fortunate way, I suppose, just its leader. And when it’s up to the leader to keep the tribe together, her own loose pieces rattle together until she has a day alone.

And since those days are few and far between, medication it is. At least I don’t drug alone.

 

Scars as Beauty

 

“On the girl’s brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.

In a few breaths’ time I will speak some sad words to you. But you must hear them the same way we have agreed to see scars now. Sad words are just another beauty. A sad story means, this storyteller is alive. The next thing you know, something fine will happen to her, something marvelous, and then she will turn around and smile.”

– from Little Bee by Chris Cleave

 

Rejuvenation

 

bleach

scrub

shave

sleep

supplement

maintain

refresh

 

want

need

require

 

refused

 

Work in(g on) Progress

When I started this blog chronicling my survival as a mother postpartum, I sought out other blogs with a similar focus.  My research took me all the way to South Africa.  I found Lebogang and her blog, For His Love.  A woman living a totally different life in a totally different part of the world felt the exact same way as me.  I was so glad to read my story on her pages with a different set of characters and timeline, especially since she was further along in her story, which meant I, too, would make it.  After all, that’s what the badge in the bottom right hand corner of her page said:

I survived postpartum depression.  You can too.

This image was like a magic talisman to me.  I clicked on it, half-expecting, I think, the spontaneous appearance of the how-to handbook for solving all my problems.  This mythical handbook did not appear – but Postpartum Progress did, which is, really, the next best thing.

Postpartum Progress is the brainchild of Katherine Stone.  She has built and branded a maternal mental health empire.  It started, as she says, with the blog, then a conference, and is now building its nonprofit status.  But while it started with Stone and her own struggle with postpartum OCD, its success is in the amazing community she’s created for women who all-too-often feel completely alone.

Simply their social media feed is enough to inspire hope, with affirmations, informational tidbits, and links to in-depth articles.  The blog and website offer a wealth of information and resources, that would help any woman while away the wee hours of the panicked postpartum morning before the doctor’s office opens.  And that may be precisely the point that Postpartum Progress exists.  To offer a voice and ear 24/7 to a struggling population whose problems do not adhere to office hours and are not as cut and dry as a short symptom list.

A disclaimer on all their pages states that the information and advice is not a substitute for professional care and consultation.  However, it is a place to start the journey and a companion throughout it.  It offers a place for women who have no vocal allies in their everyday lives, due to stigma, to find friends and examples of success despite struggle.

It is organizations like Postpartum Progress that give me hope for the empowerment, validation, and vindication of all women suffering from perinatal mood disorders.  Even ones like me, who are post postpartum.

IsurvivedPPD1

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