motherhood

My Writing, Other Places

My Writing, Other Places

Last year I wrote here about my initial experience with the VA during my pregnancy with Austin. So many of you reached out and helped me make my voice heard online and the VA eventually heard me and decided to treat me throughout my pregnancy again. Dealing with their mental healthcare system hasn't been easy since I gave birth a year ago. It's been manageable, but it's been a process that has challenged me significantly.

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Ready For The World

Austin will be a year old on Wednesday. Half of me is consumed with relief, praising God I made it through his first year with my mental health (mostly) intact. My biggest fear as I approached his birth was that I'd relapse and be ill like I was during Alex's first year. Granted, the past 12 months haven't been free from moments of anxiety and forays into darkness, but I don't live in it's oppressive fog like I did back then. Many things have thankfully been different this time around, and the ones that weren't I've been able to address as needed thanks to knowledge and increased self-awareness.

The other half of me is dumbstruck, in search of where the time went. How did it pass by so quickly? I'm not sad necessarily-to be honest as much as I love how adorable fresh life is, I enjoy watching my children get older and find new ways to step into their independence and personhood. From my experience, babies are precious, but hard, especially in those first four months when everything becomes about surviving sleep deprivation and learning who this stranger is that emerged from your body. They then become conduits of wonder between six to nine months, granting you an opportunity to see the world through eyes and a perspective thrilled by discovery and exploration. Teething and rapid leaps in development make the last three months of their first year reminiscent of the first four, leaving you to wonder if you'll ever get uninterrupted sleep or your own skin to yourself ever again. So I'm not sad to see him turn one, even though he's my last. I'm embracing it, eager to watch him chase after his brothers on wobbly legs still finding their rhythm, and hear his first words. I'm just...surprised at how quickly it went. Alex's first year seemed like an eternity, Austin's a nanosecond.

I've been watching him intently these past 2 days, in awe of how rapidly he's becoming his own person, holding his own as the youngest in a family of five. He has this wild joy about him and thirst for living that makes my heart dance. His laugh frees my soul in a way that's hard to articulate with words...it triggers a release from what's binding me, causing me to rise and walk free; revived like Lazarus emerging from the tomb. Perhaps that's why this year has gone by so quickly-joy has been carrying us through it, even during the moments I thought I'd fall and break.

I snapped this photo of him yesterday evening. He was staring out of our hotel window, looking out of the expanse of the city and babbling emphatically as he pointed to various objects in the distant that only he could identify. He would look back at me every so often and clap his hands, a smile bursting across his face and excitement dancing in his eyes, then turn back and bang on the window, letting out a yell, as if to say, "Let me out, I'm ready! I'm coming for you, world!"

It was in that moment that I recognized what I love the most about watching a child cross the threshold of their first year-the readiness. It's in their eyes, lives in their voice, and dominates their body language. It's life-giving to witness, their daily declarations of readiness for what's next in life, their head first leap into further exploration and discovery, their fearlessness and wonderment.

He is my baby but already not so much of a baby anymore. Instead he's a little boy with an emerging independence that tells me when he doesn't need me to be so close, with eyes that ask for a bit of freedom and autonomy every day. I've held him so close to me this first year that watching him at the window yesterday reminded me it's time to start releasing my grip just enough so that he can stand and take on the world-one wobbly step at a time.

Ready to take on the world.

On Being at Odds With That Which Has Made You Whole

On Being at Odds With That Which Has Made You Whole

I never planned on having children, so the fact that I have 3 almost feels like I've been punked by one of those "never say never" situations. I remember being 18 in the women's underwear section of Target with my mother and sister, arguing with my mother that I didn't "owe" her any grandchildren. I had absolutely nothing to do with the physical event that led to my conception; that was purely her choice and I was determined then that mine would be absolutely no biological children. I preferred adoption, if I decided to have children at all. The aspiring world changer in me, freshly graduated from high school, had her sights set on joining the Peace Corp and from there, who knew where life would take me. I wanted to be free as a bird, on the front lines of a cause, making my voice heard, putting my hands to work for others, advancing justice while rocking out to Prince. Children? Pfffft.

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Dancing in the Light During the Seasons When Darkness Abounds

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Confession: My greatest fear is that I will lose my life to suicide.

I don't say that to be melodramatic, I simply state it as a fact. As a person living with bipolar disorder, it is a fear that silently stalks me, always watching for a misstep to expose a weakness it can take advantage of, a crack it can slide itself into. Once inside it starts searching for the gaps serotonin has been unable to fill, settling into each one, and methodically goes to work on eroding my mind's defenses.

Sometimes the process is slow, my mental erosion, building up to a collapse. Others it is swift and jarring, flinging me from the light of life into a plunging darkness that swallows my soul instantly. And then there are times when it's an excavation of my insides, a scooping and hollowing out of my personhood designed to leave me as nothing more than an outward shell of a woman.

When I was 13, years of abuse at the hands of my father gave birth to a despair that swiftly engulfed me one Saturday afternoon while my belly was empty from hunger and my father was out on a golf outing. That time it was pills. It was an amateurish and desperate attempt at escaping the hell I lived in that lead me to a drugged sleep but not death.

At 20 it found me after a series of rapid changes over a short amount of time and the hormonal shift that comes with miscarriage. Becoming an airman, being stationed at my first base, the dissolving of a tech school relationship that had left me pregnant and then suddenly not, surrounded by people I did not know, working a job that wasn't what I had envisioned or hoped for when I swore an oath to protect and serve my country, being estranged from my family...it found me in my dorm room and I went to work at my next shift, telling my supervisor I couldn't arm up and that instead, I needed to be taken to the mental health clinic on base to be seen.

It started feverishly raking its claws on the walls of my mind daily just shy of Alex's first birthday. I was constantly triggered by anxiety and depression, guilt over not being the mother I thought my kids deserved, feelings of overwhelm when he would scream inconsolably, and my thoughts dancing with sudden desires to just leave and never come back. I started seeing a therapist who specialized in treated women with postpartum mood disorders like PPD and its grasp on my mind unclenched just enough for light to enter in again.

In July 2011 I woke up on a Monday, found it staring me steadfastly in the eyes and just knew: I wouldn't make it past the next two weeks alive if I didn't get help. Even with the help I had been getting, my symptoms had been getting worse. I was dancing with what I know now was hypomania and plummeting into gravity wells of depression hourly. It was constant and unrelenting, its devouring and feasting on my mind. It's appetite was insatiable and if I wasn't crying from the burn depression's cold grip had around my heart, I was screaming from the rage flashing through me...if I wasn't bounding off the Earth from the energy vibrating through my body and bursting out of my fingertips, I was pressing my sweating, anxious body into the coolness of my bathroom floor, praying each inhalation would quell the panic trying to claw it's way out of my skin. My mind was too loud, full of thoughts that spun and splintered into chaos at a pace that often left me nauseated. Two days later,  I found a sitter for Brennan, put myself on a bus with Alex wrapped to my chest in the Moby, and walked into the VA Behavioral Health Clinic in Philadelphia, with whispers of death roaring in my ears. The intake psych diagnosed me with rapid cycling bipolar disorder type 2 & OCD and put me on a mood stabilizer. Within a week it kicked in and I embarked on a new treatment journey for an illness that I could more accurately name.

Treatment has helped, and while other times it just shows up to flirt, every Fall has become hunting season. Suicide is the predator, my life and sanity the prey. No matter how well I've been taking care of myself and compliant in treatment, it hunts me down, licking its chops as it circles me, watching...waiting.

Two years ago I had to go inpatient to stay safe from its advances. I slowly paced the halls of the VA Mental Health psychiatric ward in Waco in my green, floppy, foam sock shoes desperately wanting to go home to my boys and my life but at the same time stay hidden, monitored by those who whose job it was to not let Death have me. "Do you really want to die?" the doctor had asked me. No. I didn't. I just wanted relief and couldn't find it in living with a mind designed to self-destruct...fray at the edges...unravel...erode...become my enemy.

It's found me again as I'm nearing one year postpartum. It's been a year that's come with it's difficulties as I've adjusted to mothering three while living with this illness, but joy has found me at various points throughout, grabbing my hand and saying, "dance with me, Addye. Be free."

This is the freest I've ever felt in my almost 32 years of living and yet here I am again staring at the whites of Suicide's eyes and searching desperately for a gun to shoot it with...

I want to keep dancing in the light.

But my marriage is barely breathing as my husband and I scour the landscape for a path that brings us back to each other. Each of my sons has An Issue that demands every ounce of my mental capacity daily that leaves me exhausted and specialized attention that is straining our finances. Writing here has brought some success this year, but exposure saw my inboxes become inundated with vitriol from those who'd rather the Other stay silent. I look at my baby as he screams and cries like babies do and brace myself against the panic that floods my system. Images I'd rather not see flash through my mind, unwarranted and unwanted. Overwhelm asks me repeatedly throughout the day if I'm done and my breath is labored when I whisper "No." Worry fills me. Depression courts me. Anxiety ravages my insides, ripping me open, exposing where my heart and resolve are weak.

I want to keep dancing in the light.

So I tighten my grip as my mind cycles from one extreme to the next. I expand my ribs out as far as my bones and skin will allow and I drink in the morning air as I take Alex to school. I concentrate on the laughs bubbling up and spilling out of my infant son and use it to anchor me to the present. I respond when Brennan asks me if I know that lions are the only big cats that live in packs, and beg him to tell me more so I can marvel at how much information his brain clamors to hold. I take their pictures on my phone and use them to dig in and root deeper when the darkness pulls at me. I paint my lips with my favorite shade of purple lipstick because it makes my heart beat a little faster and my hips sway with power and allure when I walk. I text my friends. I use the internet to distract. I read the words of others, press my hands in paint, go away for a weekend retreat to hold onto myself. I call my psychiatrist and resolve to hold on until December 9th when I can sit in her office and say "help me."

And I come here. Today. To find my way back after struggling to see Why My Words Matter in the hopes that it will help me remember why my life does.

For them.

For me.

I'm here to dance in the light even in the seasons when it can't be found.

Selah.

Climbing Out of The Darkness

A few months ago, I wrote a letter to Miriam Carey, the mother who lost her life after a chase with police at our nation's Capitol.  After her death it was revealed that she suffered from some form of mental illness, possibly triggered by postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis. In that letter I made her and her daughter a promise: that I would do better, do everything in my power to make it so that mothers like her, like myself, don't suffer in silence, nor fall through the cracks of the healthcare system in our country. I promised her that I would continue to be a voice crying out for those in our communities to take our mental health seriously and to seek treatment-even if it felt like I was speaking in a silo, into the wind, and no one was listening. I promised I'd do better so her daughter wouldn't be ashamed to seek mental health help if she ever needs it as she grows older.

I've been working very hard since then to live up to that promise, even if it just involves me being completely honest here about where I'm at mentally. I haven't erased my YouTube videos, even though I haven't updated it in months and regret that I haven't seen that project through like I wanted. I do, however have other projects in the works that hopefully I will see through and that will help me carry out my promise to her in tangible, impactful ways.

I WILL be a change agent.

**

When I was thinking of writing this post-what I wanted to say about why I volunteer my time and resources to Postpartum Progress, and why I'm asking for your support, I thought of Miriam, my promise, and then I thought of myself.

I thought back to January 2011. I don't remember the exact date but I remember it was nighttime, and I was sitting in the dark, crying as I sat in front of my laptop typing words into Google search. I had spent the previous hour sitting on my bathroom floor, envisioning my family coming in and finding me bleeding to death in the bathtub. I'd been having suicidal and intrusive thoughts for over a week, and was exhausted from the mental strain and impact of severe shifts and cycles in mood. I remember thinking about the people in my life who had told me that either nothing was wrong with me or that I was suffering because I wasn't "living right." No one could explain why I was feeling insanity dance within me, and no one understood because I could barely articulate what it was that was happening to me.

I remember feeling the exhaustion settling in deep within my bones, overtaking any resolve that remained. So there I was, Googling what I thought were my symptoms. The first link in the search results was Postpartum Progress. I spent the next 3 hours reading everything there: posts, comments, the "Plain Mama English" guides that outlined the symptoms of perinatal mood disorders. I remember crying as I read everything, realizing that I finally had an explanation for what I had been enduring since even before I gave birth to Alex. The rage...the sadness...the anxiety...the compulsions...the intrusive thoughts...the guilt...there it all was, laid out for me in black and white on the screen.

I emailed Katherine Stone, the founder. She emailed me back, encouraging me to seek help and telling me that no, I wasn't crazy, and yes, I would get better, and there as hope for me. She directed me to the Postpartum Stress Center in PA where I eventually started treatment.

Hope and a lifeline. She and Postpartum Progress had given me both.

***

Postpartum depression and related illnesses like postpartum anxiety, ocd, and psychosis, are the most common complications of childbirth, impacting 1 in 7 women, and at a higher rate of 1 in 4 women in minority, lower-income, & impoverished communities every year. Suicide is among the leading causes of death among new mothers every year. (As I mentioned above, it nearly took MY life) With these kinds of grim stats in mind, Postpartum Progress has grown from just a blog, to a non-profit laser focused on improving the maternal mental health of women worldwide through a variety of programs.

For example, in the next 24 months, Postpartum Progress will be updating and expanding the blog including a Spanish language version, creating a video PSA, and starting the development of a mobile app that supports moms through PPD and related illnesses.

These are the kinds of initiatives that Climb Out of the Darkness is designed to help fund. Climb Out of the Darkness is THE first event of its kind: one designed to spread awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and help fund Postpartum Progress' efforts to reach every mother, in every community, on every socioeconomic level.

I'm joining mothers all over the world-there are climbs in London, New Zealand, Canada, and South America-to raise money  over the next 48 days that will help Postpartum Progress help every mother and their families have the strong start they deserve.

I did it last year to honor my experience and ascent out of the darkness I found myself in that night in 2011. This year, I'm leading a team of survivors here in Austin, and I'm doing it for Miriam. I'm doing it for the other women who have lost their lives in the last 12 months to suicide. I'm doing it for the mothers in communities that lack access to adequate mental health resources, for the mothers who have no insurance, who are at risk and don't know there's hope and help. For the mothers who are ignorant of the facts and range of their symptoms because their OB doesn't have adequate information in their brochures on PPD. For the mothers who just think that PPD is nothing more than being sad and doesn't understand why she has scary thoughts or full-blown rage she's never in her life experienced up until this time in her life.

Some quick facts on PPD and related illnesses:

  • PPD and related illnesses happen to ONE MILLION WOMEN in the US alone each year.
  • Only 15% of moms with PPD and related illnesses ever get professional help. That means there are more than a half a million mothers (in the US alone) each year who have not gotten any help.

  • The National Research Council reports that untreated PPD is associated with impaired mother-infant bonding and long-term negative effects on the child’s emotional behavior and cognitive skills, lasting into adolescence and adulthood. The Urban Institute says the biggest tragedy of this illness is that it is treatable and thus we could be preventing the damage it has on so many mothers and children.

  • The annual cost of lost income and productivity in the US of not treating mothers with depression is $4-5 billion.

Let's not lose any more mothers to these very treatable illnesses. Let's eradicate the shame associated with these illnesses that keep so many from seeking treatment. Would you consider a $10 or $20 donation this week? Team Austin's goal is to first raise $500, and then stretch to $1k. We're over 60% of the way to $500. Help us get there?

Thank you SO much for your support. Seriously. You're helping us save lives. You're helping us save the other Miriams & A'Driane's out in this world.

To join a climb in your area, click this link: https://www.crowdrise.com/COTD2014

To donate to our team here in Austin, click this link: https://www.crowdrise.com/addyeB-COTD2014/fundraiser/addyeB

To read my latest post over at Postpartum Progress, go here: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/postpartum-anxiety-comes-back

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, you are not alone. Please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

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.

Universal Mental Health Screening for Pregnant and New Mothers is a MUST

Every mother. Every time.

pregnant mother of three drove her minivan into the ocean at Daytona Beach yesterday. She was reportedly incoherent when questioned by police and is undergoing a mental health evaluation at a local hospital. She is believed to be suffering from psychosis. 

Every mother. Every time.  

A mother in Chicago is being held on $1 million dollar bail today after she tried to kill herself and her 8 month old son by causing head on collisions with other vehicles, not once, but twice. 

Every mother. Every time. 

Out of ignorance I used to judge mothers who committed such acts. But during my second pregnancy, I started experiencing symptoms of antenatal depression and had fleeting thoughts of suicide. After I gave birth, I spent the first year of my son's life crippled with anxiety, despair, and found myself planning suicide 2 months before his first birthday. I wanted to be free of what my mind had fallen prey to. I wanted relief from the intense mood swings, frenzied OCD, and graphic intrusive thoughts that flashed in my mind unwarranted and unwelcomed. (Full disclosure: Driving my car into a body of water or into oncoming traffic? I've had those thoughts. Learn more about intrusive thoughts here)

Thankfully I found hope and help after a google search led me to Postpartum Progress, and I read about the full scope of perinatal mood disorders and their symptoms in "plain mama English." I sought and began treatment;  my diagnosis eventually changed to rapid cycling bipolar 2, OCD, and anxiety, and when it did, I began a medication regiment that included a mood stabilizer instead of just an antidepressant.

I don't judge anymore. Instead I recognize and question if these mothers recieved adequate help and support. I wonder if they felt safe enough to reveal their struggles or if the stigma surrounding mental illness in motherhood choked them into silent suffering. I wonder if  their obstectricians were taking them seriously if they disclosed struggling with the mood swings hormone fluctuations during and after pregnancy trigger. I wonder if their obsetricians and children's pediatricians screened them for depression and anxiety during pregnancy and beyond the 6 week postpartum check up. I wonder if they were told that depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy can manifest as rage, obsessive thought patterns and behaviors, and if they were made aware of the symptoms of postpartum psychosis, and told what to do if they began to hear voices or have delusions. I wonder if anyone told them that having an intrusive thought doesn't make them a bad mother, and doesn't mean they will harm themselves or their child. 

I wonder. 

I wonder what it will take for the medical community and our society to take maternal mental health seriously. I wonder when we'll give just as much care to women's minds as we do their bodies during and after pregnancy. I wonder how many more women and their children have to die because we aren't making a mother's mental health our priority when we care for and treat them.  

Every mother. Every time. 

What will it take for every obsetrician, every pediatrician, every insurance company to screen mother's during pregnancy and their infant's first year? Suicide is THE leading cause of death among women in their first year after childbirth, yet we stop screening for PPD, PPA, and postpartum psychosis after 6 weeks-if we screen at all. At least 50% of the 1 in 7 women who suffer from a PMAD go untreated, whether it's due to lack of screening, or access to support and mental healthcare. 

What will it take to screen and care for every mother, every time? What will it take to offer our mothers and their babies treatment and hope? 

 

There is hope. Women don't have to listen to the siren call of despair. Treatment makes recovery possible. We don't have to leave women to suffer silently on their own, trapped in their minds, unable to free themselves. But too often, we do. Women are being missed and overlooked. 

Every mother. Every time. We must screen. We must be louder than stigma's voice. We must enoucrage our mothers to seek treatment. 

If you believe universal mental health screening for pregnant and new mothers should be mandatory, please consider signing this White House petition. If you or someone you know is currently suffering, please know you are not alone. You are not a bad mother. There is hope and there is help. You can find information and resources at Postpartum Progress, and you can find a community of support on Twitter through the #PPDChat hashtag, and Postpartum Progress' private support forum. 

To read some more about my experience with PPD & Bipolar Disorder during pregnancy, you can type "ppd" in the search box here to find some older posts, and you can read guest posts I've written here and here

 

(addyeB)

Confessing

I'm approaching week 38. Still contracting. Still not progressing much. As of Wednesday, after 15hrs of contractions? 1 1/2 cm and 50%. I startled my OB with my exclamation of "FUCK!" as he finished my cervical exam. Distraction has been my focus-anything to take my mind off my body, and keep edginess away. Last night's distraction wwas season 2 of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. This morning's was scrubbing the grout between the tiles in kitchen til they were white. I found the rhythmic motion and sound of the scrubbing brush and soapy floor sparkling in the sunlight from the kitchen windows soothing as I went about it.

Bertski came back from the run I practically pushed him out the door to take, and we took the boys for a bike riding lesson on their newly acquired bikes at the middle school track down the street. They rode, they ran, I sat and soaked in the sun before making way around the track as Busta Rhymes & Talib Kweli blared through my headphones.

Just now, while laying here listening to my family snore the afternoon away, confessed these words via text to a dear friend who's worried about how quiet I've been lately:

"I keep telling myself once I have the baby I'll feel sane again. And not this anxious desperate person with thoughts that are too loud & too fast and who wants out of her body. I think that's half the reason why I want to have him already. I haven't felt like myself much of this pregnancy and that unnerves me. "

I know it's normal for women to feel like they're going mad with the waiting and anticipation of baby's arrival and from the physical strain of the final weeks. I do. But I don't like it. It's unsettling. My mind can't take it, it's not wired to handle such things very well without help. (Meds, YAY!) I'm also an impatient person by nature and while my pain threshold is relatively high, being in pain and under physical stress daily is triggering for me mentally & emotionally.

I just want it to be over and have him in my arms and my own physical space back. I want my hormones adjusted, my mind off the hamster wheel and fully engaged with living and learning as a mother of three. I want newborn snuggles and laughter and to not be consumed with the obsessive, compelling need to have everything in its "right" place internally and externally, from my house to the cluttered corners of my mind. I want to feel like myself more often and be consumed with the goodness that's taking up residence in life as the year prepares to close. I want to be present, not lost traipsing the corridors of my mind waiting for them to empty so I can breathe freely again.

I want to run. Not away to escape, but toward. To freedom. To the woman waiting for me on the other side of this. She's fully enjoying the season that's ahead and I'm desperate to join her.

But it I have to wait and somehow make patience my virtue until it's time.

My body shakes with the hope that it's soon. Very soon.

Operation Get Dilated

Today I'm 36 weeks pregnant. I've been contracting with minimal relief since the end of week 29. After my second trip to labor and delivery I was basically told my uterus is irritable and my cervix is soft but stubborn-it's like one of those broken garage doors that only opens an inch or so off the ground and then gets stuck.

Back at the beginning of my third trimester, this was a good thing-necessary as neither my OB nor myself wanted to see my baby boy in the NICU or worse, not make it. So I was given magnesium, a couple of steroid shots, and a host of other meds that didn't work in an attempt to keep everything at a standstill. My cervix didn't open any further, but the contractions refused to leave. So I've been living with them, each one eating away at my sanity like a zombie feasts on brains & flesh.

As I mentioned previously, I  went in to see my OB last Monday after a weekend of particularly brutal contractions that were practically on top of each other. That's when he gave me the "hang in there old sport" pep talk, checked my cervix and told me it had changed just a tiny bit, warned me that much like my labor with Alex, this one is starting off at a snail's pace, and told me he wouldn't try to make it go any faster until at least week 37. He also told me it would be a good idea to at least start doing some walking to help get things "ready."

So I've been walking every day, and honestly resisting the urge to sprint down the street in spite of my symphysis pubis being as wide as the Grand Canyon at this point. I pretty much try to waddle-walk as fast as I can without splitting my pelvis in half. So far thanks to my SI belt, I've remained intact, and while walking has helped baby boy drop it low (very low), he hasn't fallen out on the street yet, so we're good.

I would, however like him to fall-er come out within the next two weeks though. I started labor with Alex at 36 weeks and had him at 37. I normally would be all "oh let's just have Nature take its sweet ass time," but when you've been contracting for over a month while keeping up with two other children and running a household, AND experiencing early labor symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and losing weight for the past two weeks? You start thinking of how you can get Nature to get her ass in gear and end her tyrannous reign over your body.

Even if you've had one of those disgustingly goddess-like pregnancies where unicorns met you every morning and you glided everywhere you went in your pre-pregnancy skinny jeans held together by a single rubber band, weeks 36 & 37 are the weeks women start googling "how to get this f-----ing human out of me on time." That will lead you to the seedy underworld of pregnancy message boards where you find women desperately seeking not Susan, but ways to (safely) help the body get a move on.

Yes, I'll admit it: I've read all the boards. Repeatedly. I've asked friends who've studied midwifery for tips. I've asked my OB's nurse for suggestions. (Evening primrose oil, in case you're wondering). I spent all last week trying to tone my uterus via raspberry tea leaf like I'm training it to swim against Michael Phelps in the next Olympics. And again-I've been waddle-walking.

One thing that's struck me though when I've read these boards and asked folks for suggestions is that there's an obvious method that no one is mentioning. It wasn't until my friend Lindsay jokingly mentioned that I should just twerk it that it hit me: DANCE.

No one on any of these boards has mentioned dance as a way to get dilated & softened. Sure you could spend your time being all namaste in a squatted yoga pose till the pressure built up on your cervix causes a blowout, OR you could just throw on some "Pop, Lock & Drop It," by Huey.  At least the asinine lyrics will distract you from how uncomfortable and claustrophobic in your own body you feel.

So, I'm here at week 36, telling you that maybe instead of giving yourself the runs and worse via castor oil, destroying your mouth eating legions of pineapple, and having sex when the LAST thing you want at this point is to be touched by the one who DOESN'T have to get up every 2 hours to go the bathroom-try busting a move. Put on some music and pop those hips. Twerk it. Shake it. Drop it like you're 23 and in the club.

I just did. I did at one point drop it low and stay on my living room rug, but hey, I'm 9 months pregnant, that's to be expected. I didn't say doing any of this would look pretty-I'm just saying it might prove effective and will probably be MUCH more fun than chugging some nasty drink concoction or just sitting in misery.

If you're looking for songs to pop, hop, drop, & shimmy it to, I'll help you out and give you my playlist. You're welcome.

  • Anything by Missy Elliot. Seriously-ANYTHING.
  • Shake it Out by Florence + The Machine (for the hippie in you)
  • Show Me What You Got-Jay Z
  • Bring Em Out-T.I.
  • Hips Don't Lie-Shakira (c'mon, it's obvious why)
  • Party Rock-LMFAO
  • Runaway Baby-Bruno Mars
  • Locked out of Heaven-Bruno Mars (I suggest grabbing a hairbrush and just belting this out)
  • You Make Me Feel-Cobra Starship (remember-23...in the club...don't GAF about NOTHING-let loose)
  • Anything by the Black Eyed Peas. Begin with "Let's Get it Started", perhaps?
  • Jump Around-House of Pain (I can't jump, but I waddled and bobbed)
  • Square Biz-Teena Marie. (6:40 of absolute funk & soul to lose yourself in. Spin, twirl, snap fingers)
  • Get Up-Ciara

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If you're feeling particularly fearless and REALLY want to get into it, I suggest heading to YouTube and finding some Unk ("Walk it Out), Ester Dean ("Drop it Low), and another "Drop it Low," by Kat Deluna. Song is annoying but the moves might help things shift around down below.

I'm off to go get checked. Hopefully Operation Get Dilated is in full effect. I'll let you know :)

*By the way, I'm not a doctor. So talk to yours about what's safe for you to do and get clearance before you wind up having to search YouTube for ways to do an emergency home birth. Don't sue me. Thanks.*

 

In Between

I woke up at 5:24 this morning and stumble-waddled my way through the dark for yet another trip to the bathroom. I sat there, on the throne, looking at myself in the bathroom mirror through vision hazy from sleep, and whispered out loud, "It's almost over."

As soon as the words left my lips and drifted off into space, a mix of varied emotions weaved their way up from my toes to my belly where my hands were interlaced. My fingers tensed as each emotion swept through and around me, each one squeezing tightly and then releasing me much like the contractions I've been having the past six weeks.

So many contractions. 2 trips to L&D. Body pumped full of medications to stop them but they've refused to surrender. They are tenacious and stubborn, insistent on being present. Stronger and more frequent than Braxton Hicks, but not productive enough to fully initiate labor. They last for hours, pulsing and squeezing, tightening and releasing me sometimes one to two minutes apart, at others three to five, and at their slowest every twenty to thirty. They are overwhelming and tiring at their most frequent intervals and annoying at their slowest.

They are altogether frustrating, and their constant presence since week thirty have taken a toll on my psyche. At times they are all I can think about, my nerves on edge, trying to decide if I should call the nurse line and go in or just ride them out. Confusion and doubt often set in, intermingling with the pain, setting my OCD senses tingling and on high alert. My thoughts often ruminate during the more intense rounds and I often can't tell if I'm losing my mind, responding mentally and emotionally as any pregnant woman in my situation would, or just being melodramatic & hormonal.

The past two weeks they've been accompanied by nausea, cramps, back aches, loose bowels, loss of appetite and a drop in weight-all of your textbook signs of your body preparing for birth & early labor. "Your labor will most likely be very slow in the beginning, much like your last," said my OB last week. "Which we want, because we want to keep him in just another week or two longer. Your cervix is stubborn, which we need it to be right now. Hang in there. Let's see what happens-hopefully next week we'll start to see some big changes!"

So here I am, sitting on the toilet at 5:24am, at 35 weeks and 7 days, staring at the start of week 36 with an aching back and pulsing thighs...nauseated....exhausted yet mind abuzz with energy....body contracting physically and emotionally....forcing myself to whisper words to counteract the anxiety that has separated itself from the emotions pulsing around my belly and wound its way up to my chest, squeezing my heart until it feels as though it will burst from the constriction.

"It's almost over."

"Hang in there."

"Pregnancy is a shitty and invasive force of Nature that always biologically beats my body into submission, but it's worth the end result."

The end result being my third child, another boy.

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After the anxiety passes my interlaced fingers tighten their hold on my belly and I feel the other emotions that remain creating a sense of heat around my womb, both inside and out.

Yes it's almost over and there is excitement. There is anticipation. There is a desire for joy to meet me at the end when I peer into his eyes and behold the mystery behind them for the first time; the first glimpse into him, this tiny stranger, an extended combination of my husband and I that has been growing and squirming restlessly within me for nine months. There is hope. There is an eagerness to begin this new season of my life as a mother to him and his brothers, a mother of three. There is a shout wanting to shoot it's way from my soul and burst forth from my lips in exaltation at what a year it's been for me, for my husband, for the boys individually, and for our family as a whole. This child, this boy,  is the culmination of the new life we set out to build for ourselves back in April of 2012; when my husband and I sat in an IHOP in Philly, allowing restoration to heal our broken relationship. He is the embodiment of our new life as a whole unit, and the cairn directing our steps towards yet another new way forward for our family.

I've had each of my children during life altering transitions and significant periods of growth in my life, and timing of this child's birth will be no different. What he embodies and signifies in my life at this moment are special to me, just like his brothers. Brennan healed my heart from my past, he is my empathy, my reincarnated self given another chance at a peaceful and full childhood, he showed me that I was good, and clean, and capable at motherhood and life. Alex is the one who challenged me in new and painful ways that were unexpected but oh so necessary. His entrance into my life dug itself deep into my core and unearthed in me things I had yet to see, and shone a harsh light on what I need to face and finally deal with. He shifted me as a woman, a mother, a believer...with him I was forced to throw all I thought I knew and carve out a new way of living and thinking. Alex taught me how to take care of myself and make my well-being a priority-a first for me. Alex pushed me out of the stagnant, boxed up life I had been living and out into a world I hadn't let myself explore. He pushed me up and out of the rubble of the past 29 years and into wholeness-into my real self. I am the woman I am right at this very moment because I gave birth to him.

And here I am with this one. I know what he means to me personally, as a mother, and our life as a family in one sense...but he remains a complete mystery to me in another, which I find exciting and my being twinges with eagerness to learn and explore the world through his eyes as I have through his brothers.

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And yet there is also fear of what's to follow once we make our way back out through the hospital doors, and back to our home where the adjustment and shift of our family dynamic will begin to take shape; permanently rooting itself in our lives, our family.

Will I relapse? Will I catch it before it sucks me in?  What if I can't get appointments or calls in to my therapist and psychiatrist because of how slow and overbooked the VA appointment system is? How will I handle the hard and the overwhelming task of meeting the needs of three children, who are all at very different stages and seasons of life? My husband being unavailable due to work obligations? Fluctuating hormones and fatigue?

And the boys: how will Alex adjust to the change and new presence, both as a three year old, and as a child who struggles with change and disruption of routine on the sensory level? Will his ABA based preschool be enough of an outlet for him? How will Brennan feel, as the oldest? So much of the focus has been on Alex and his therapies these past months, I often wonder if I've given him enough attention, and now with a newborn....

There is fear...despite all of the knowledge, support, and awareness I have, despite knowing that I'm at a much different place in life than I was when Alex was born and suffered through that first year...there is a lurking fear that sits and stares me directly in the eyes, making me all the more aware of the reality of my illness and how stress, change, and motherhood trigger it.

**********

So I am here at 5:24 in the early dark of morning, with foggy eyes squinting through the bright bathroom lights at my pregnant self, fingers tightly interlaced across my belly. Body and mind are engulfed in emotions that jar against each other, breathing deeply and staring back at what has been, and into what lies ahead. Feeling new life roll and jab in a space that is becoming too cramped and ready to be birthed. Ready but yet not ready. Craving for it to be over, yet continue on because what's on the other side is still dark and unseen in a few areas. On the brink yet still stuck in the space and feelings between old and new. Waiting.

I'm Here...Just Consumed By Life

Sorry I haven't stopped by here since May 20th. Life's been pretty consuming as of late, and I'm not as good about writing my way through periods like this as I was a year ago. Things are busy busy busy and I'll be honest-sitting down to write has proved to be more difficult than I would like it to be. The words are there, waiting to be given life, the stories are stacked up on shelves in my brain, the desire is there, but it all just becomes a jumbled mess when I sit down to type or even write in my journal. Part of it is because my brain is so scattered, thanks to my disorder and my recent hypomanic episodes and cycling. Part of it is because I become to preoccupied by my compulsions to clean, organize, and rearrange everything in our apartment. Part of it is because I'm fatigued and the energy I do have is poured into being  pregnant, mama, wife, housekeeper, cook, errand runner...the desire to create or give anything back to myself lingers quietly in folds of my heart, but never finds its way to execution. My mind is scattered and my hands feel inadequate, empty, unable to form the words or images that are mixed in the chaos.

Part of it is because I've become completely immersed in a new parenting approach with Alex and in implementing new routines and techniques I hope make like easier for him...and for all of us, really. I'm seeing how different and significant some of his needs are and in a lot of ways re-learning this whole parenting thing. From how I discipline, to the words and tone I use when speaking to him, to even how much pressure I apply when I touch or hug him, my whole posture towards parenting and mothering him has changed. Most of my days are consumed with being engaged with him in ways I wasn't before. Learning about sensory processing disorder, autism, and what we're learning from his therapists since April has given me new ways to engage and interact with him  that are different from how I did before. It's been quite the learning curve-there's so much more to be aware of these days! I'm more watchful, taking note of the slightest change in attitude or behavior (positive or negative), more apprehensive and mindful about how changes in routine, however slight, will impact him from moment to moment. In some ways I feel like I'm on high alert from the time he wakes up until he finally falls asleep after I've put him back in his bed and given him a deep pressure squeeze for the fifth or sixth time. I've had to become much more patient, learning to move at his pace, and how to move him along faster in a way that he can understand when we're short on time. I've found that all of this has taken an energy that I, especially being pregnant, barely have the reserves for. The simplest things from washing his hands to getting dressed to helping desensitize his facial muscles before his speech therapy sessions is all a process; exhausting and consuming, but one I'm committed to helping all of us navigate and learn as best we can.

Part of it is because I'm committed to being well during this pregnancy and am forcing myself to focus on self-care. This becomes increasingly difficult when pregnancy is kicking my ass, particularly when migraines attack, and my blood pressure is low. The migraines have been pretty frequent this pregnancy; during a good week I only get one, during my worst I've had them for 4 days straight. Functioning when I'm a wreck physically feels impossible, but I somehow get through making sure the kids have what they need for the day and that's about it. Aside from eating and taking my medications, taking care of myself takes a backseat and I have to fight to make things like taking a shower, combing my hair, getting in any kind of exercise or leisure activity a priority. Overall I'm doing better on the self-care front than I have in the past, especially during my last pregnancy.

All of this focus on concentration on these other areas of my life leave little for my writing here and painting....advocating even. I had all of these plans for my creative pursuits this year but the mental and creative bandwidth I need to execute them isn't what I'd like it to be. For some reason I can't seem to find space for those two to fit in my life as of late and this does sadden me. Frustrates me. Leaves me to wonder how I'll fit them in when there are THREE children to give my time and attention to. I'm hoping I can find a way....I'm in awe of those who've found a way to balance and navigate it all.

At any rate, while I find it hard to write and paint these days, I have found it easy to keep up with vlogging-probably because I can just do it on my phone while I'm on the go and have a few minutes alone. So I think that's just what I'm going to have to do for now because it's the one thing that I can keep up with that fits in best with everything else. It's the one thing I feel I can keep up with right now on this front. I'm hoping to write here during the summer, but know that if you don't see me here, you'll be able to find me on my YouTube channel, addyeBeesWorld, where I'll mostly be sharing the nitty-gritty of navigating bipolar disorder while being a pregnant mama. Feel free to watch and subscribe-I've done videos for weeks 15, 16, and 17 so far (I tell you what we're having in my second video for week 16!) And of course, I'll always be on Twitter :) (@addyeB)

So that's where I've been, what I've been up to, what's going on. I'm still here...I'm just consumed is all.

Maybe I just need to Lean In...anyone have Sheryl Sandberg's number?

Turkey Baby!

First, some snaps from Alex's post bath photo-shoot...

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And secondly, I'm pretty sure my heart grew 2-3 sizes thanks to all the love pouring in it while these moments were captured. Which, if you ask me, is just the kind of expansion my mama heart needed seeing as though a new resident is moving in...

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Looks like I'll be having more than just turkey for Thanksgiving this year, y'all :)

Three....

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Three years and five days ago, I went into labor on Easter night. Six to be exact. I had just finished eating and went into the kitchen when I felt the first contraction-THE contraction that my body used to inform my mind that it was time. As I gripped the counter top and exhaled my way through its duration, Mother Ezekiel's words unearthed themselves from my memory and gripped my heart once again: "It's time, " she had whispered as she took my hand and drew me in close at the altar so I alone could hear the prayer on her heart for me...for us. "It's time, and it's going to be ok. All is well. It's time for the baby to come and he will be such a blessing to you-oh how God LOVES this baby A'Driane, " she said as her hands found their way to my belly and the small of my back.

Her grip was strong, yet gentle, much like the tone of her voice. I remember my heart breaking, releasing all of the turmoil that had been churning inside throughout my pregnancy. Her prayerful whispers of affirmation and encouragement were a soothing balm to my soul that had been bleeding quietly for months. I released the pain and weight of the depression I had been carrying and her arms encircled themselves around me, drawing me in yet even closer. Out of all of the altar calls I'd responded to in my life, that one was the most tender and beautiful. They were God's arms holding me, it was God's voice whispering healing and hope, affirming that despite the pain of the last month's, my son and I were going to be ok.

My labor started that Easter night, at the end of my 36th week of pregnancy....and lasted for the following five days. Yes you read that correctly, people-FIVE DAYS. Even my OB couldn't believe it. I was so desperate to move from 3 to 4 cm and be admitted to the hospital I left my OB's office and instead of taking a walk as he suggested, I RAN. A. MILE. In a maternity dress and sandals as my sister tried to keep up w/Brennan in the stroller.

22 hours and five pushes later, there he was, Alex the Great, laying on my chest, jet black eyes squinting from the harsh delivery room lights....we had made it.

 

Today, he's three and I'm always reminded of how I gave birth to him because every day he reminds me that he will do things in his own time, his own way, on his own terms. He's not one to be rushed, pushed or prodded into anything be it a t-shirt or trying something for the first time. He is fiercely independent, bold, fearless even, but cautionary when it's called for. He is a free thinker, stubborn like his father and I, adamant about having his way and never shy to voice his displeasure, but grows quiet when consumed with excitement. He's an old man in a young man's body, enjoying the simple pleasure of just sitting outside on the front step, observing all of the life going on around him. He trusts no one the way he does his big brother, and even we, Bertski and I have had to work diligently to earn his confidence.

He's addicted to trains, cars and trucks. Want to see pure joy? Watch his entire body explode with it as one of his trains falls off of a "cliff", be it the edge of the dining room table, the couch, or TV stand. Hear it in his laughter as you chase him around the house, or have him wrapped up in your arms as you tickle his belly.

Brennan saved me by healing my heart of wounds borne in childhood. Alex has saved me by forcing me to grow, mind, body and soul. As difficult as my pregnancy and first year postpartum were, carrying and giving birth to him helped me give birth to who I was underneath the wounds of my past. He's the one who has given ME new life. Were it not for him, I wouldn't be free of the tangles that kept me bound up in misery and ignorant of who I am. His birth led to me getting therapy and treatment and pushed me to grow and stretch in ways I didn't think were possible. From the challenges that have come with mothering him while battling a mental illness, I've learned empathy, patience, grace, and that time is my friend and not my enemy. He's taught me to slow down and LIVE.  He's taught me to seek and not just rely on what I've always known. He's helped me expand my perspective and worldview. From him I've learned how to be open and flexible to whatever may come my way.

From the joys that have come with being his mother and watching him evolve into the three year old little boy he is today, I've learned how to cherish every laugh, every smile, every expression of love bestowed upon me, big or small. He's taught me how to value the simplest of things and how to be an individual. He's challenged everything I thought I knew about life and parenting, and taught me how to endure.

I'd be lost without you my sweet boy. I'm so glad you're here. Happy birthday son. I love you.

running from the quad copter.

 

Yes, I'm Scared of the Dark. Terrified, Really.

I have a lot of fears. Well, maybe not a lot, but at least two or three that seize my body with terror & fill my mind with awful images & scenarios whenever I think of them.

Like drowning.

The thought of not being able to draw in a breath without choking on water & being submerged in a body of water petrifies me.

And snakes...my toes curled up & my heart nearly flew out of my chest just typing that s-word...so I think it's best we just move right along to my final fear:

I'm terrified of the dark.

Yes, I'm 29 years old and I'm afraid of the dark-have been since I was a kid. Even as grown woman & mother of two kids, a small part of me is always convinced something will emerge from it to "get me," even though my rational mind knows this isn't the case.

But that's the thing about fears, right? They aren't always rational, are they? (Follow me, I'm trying to go somewhere, I promise.)

I think what scares me the most about darkness is that it places everything it covers into The Land of the Unknown...what was sure & recognizable in the light becomes shadowy, fuzzy & unclear in the dark. For a control freak like myself, I'm sure you can imagine why this freaks me out. I wish I could tell you that I don't stay awake some nights wondering if the shadow in the closet is really from the ironing board that I KNOW is there...or from some horrific figment of my imagination it's put there to f-- with me. Seriously, I wish I could but I can't. I don't do it much when I'm with someone else but if I'm by myself? Forget it. I'm cowering under the covers trying not to think about how unsafe I feel...Sometimes, just to shut up & shut down the fears screaming in my mind I have to actually get up, turn on a light, and go physically touch objects around the room I'm in...just for reassurance.

Crazy, right? Weird, right? Yes I know. Stupid? Probably...but as I lay here in my bed typing this and trying to tell myself I'm not going to wake up with some stranger laying next to or on me, and that the boys & I are VERY safe, I'm realizing that my fear of the dark is really just a fear of uncertainty. I hate not knowing. Ambiguity and I are not friends. Not being able to see & know everything around me leaves me in a very unsettled place emotionally...which disrupts me mentally, and manifests itself physically into agitation, irritability, paranoia, and crippling anxiety. I even get intrusive thoughts sometimes. My mind smells any hint of fear & just takes off in about 20 different directions, all of which lead to something horrific happening. If I can't see or know everything there is about something, a person, or where I have to go, I'm a wreck and not too pleasant to be around. This is one of the reasons I hate getting lost. Can't. Stand it.

And it's one of the reasons why even though growing up a military brat acquainted me with change & taught me the importance of adjusting & adapting to it, I'm not very good at embracing it like I should be. I know, you're thinking to yourself "The chick who changes her hair color every time she blinks is afraid of change? What the hell?" But seriously, while I may not be afraid of changing how I look, I am terrified of how change impacts my life in other areas.

I like change...There are times my restless and adventurous little soul yearns for it...but then when it shows up ready to deliver I promptly begin to freak the hell out. I know-I don't get the contradiction either, trust me.

So even though I was dying to pack up & move across the country...am giddy at the thought of marrying the nerd of my life...am relieved to be taking a break from work & school and looking forward to just being MOM....here I am, laying in a hotel room in Austin, TX, (IN THE DARK!) absolutely paralyzed by my fear of the uncertain...of what's unknown...imagine Usain Bolt running around at record speed inside my head waving 500 "what if?" flags stirring up a fear tornado. That's my mind right now.

A fear tornado. I'm dead smack in the center staring wide eyed at all my fears & questions swirling furiously around me.

What happens if Bertski doesn't come back from PA next week because his train derails and crashes and I'm forced to be here by myself? How would we survive & live without him?

What if someone breaks in here or attacks us while he's gone? How would I defend us?

What if he changes his mind & doesn't want to marry me?

What if he hates it here?

What if I hate it here? And the boys? What if this was a mistake?

We haven't found a place yet-what if we don't? How long can we stay here at the hotel? Will they kick us out? Where will we go?

What if by choosing to "just" be Mom, I lose the other parts of me that make me...ME? What will happen to my passions, my goals, my ambition? What if I don't go back to school & I regret it? Will my children think less of me if I don't have a degree? Will I be setting the bar too low for them if I don't go back?

Can we survive off of just one income?

What if the boys get sick or need to go to the doctor? Or me? Or Bertski? We don't have health insurance...

What if I'm not strong enough to handle all of this change & I sink into an episode or my illness rages out of control again?

I could go on...but I'll stop the list there. I know some of these fears are irrational, slightly silly & maybe even stupid-I know this, I do. But there are others that are valid & real and they're the ones that cause me the most unease. I'm incredibly happy we moved. Grateful for the people we've met here & the connections we've made despite being states away from family & friends who have supported us for years. Thrilled that I'm doing this with the man I love dearly and my boys...

But I'm also scared shitless over the unknowns of this venture, of everything that sits in the dark, and restricts my vision of the future. We've executed a plan that brought us here, but large amounts of that plan have been rooted in uncertainty & our desire to just stick together & "make it happen"until we're settled.

I'm afraid of the dark, because not being able to see what's in front of me leaves me feeling very unsettled...uneasy...uncomfortable. I'm trying to take it all in stride & just learn to be okay with not knowing. I'm trying to embrace the nuances of change without trying to control it too much. It's not easy, but I'm trying.

Well there you have it. I told you some of my fears, what are yours?

Mixed

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"I could be daydreaming but for a moment And somehow they're creeping back in I could be sleeping awakened the torrent Somehow I get caught in their grips again

And here I am in my shame spiral I'm sucked in to it again And I reach out for your benevolent opinion You bring the light back in

Don't leave me here with all these critical voices Cause they do their best to bring me down When I'm alone with all these negative voices I will need your help to turn them down..." Spiral/Havoc and Bright Lights/Alanis Morrisette

no one loves you. you're so weak. first name incapable, last name burden-that's you.

the Voice. it mercilessly plays it's record of shame endlessly on my inner loudspeaker, stirring up my irrational insecurities into a paranoid frenzy.

no one loves you. you're so weak. first name incapable, last name burden, that's you.

tiny arms reach up & around my neck, pulling me in close as if to say "You're mine, I won't let It take you."

boyish grins light up their faces as giggles escape from their little bodies as if to say "you make us so happy."

little legs struggle to climb into my lap, seeking solace & comfort as if to say "I need you...we're safe here, together."

his voice travels confidently through the phone, reminding me once again that I haven't been abandoned to wander Illness' deadly streets on my own. "you're not alone, you have me, I'm here, I came back, I'm not going anywhere. I love you, we'll get through this together," he says.

I am loved, they love me. I'm strongest when I'm weak because I don't give up. first name Addy, last name capable, that's me.

I am loved. I am needed. I am strong. I am capable....no matter how mixed & chaotic this illness makes me.

*I've been in a hypomanic/mixed mood since we left. It's been hard, but thanks to my meds & my family I've been managing ok....until this past week. I've upped my meds again & am trying to wait patiently for the Austin VA to place me in their system and assign me a psychiatrist....I was told today it's going to take 3-4 weeks. I'll be fighting like hell to keep the heaviness & chaos from weighing me down...and praying my mind doesn't get any worse. In my next post I swear I'll finally tell you about the awesomeness that has become our lives in Austin...and those fears I mentioned last post-have to share those too. In the meantime, enjoy your Labor Day weekend lovelies.*

Pausing to Readjust

I had a lot of plans for today, this first official day of summer vacation. Bertski started his new job today, so it's my first day home with the boys all. by. my. self.

I gotta say, it's been a relief and a huge comfort having Bertski home to help with the boys the past 4 weeks....Fun, even.

But now it's just me....and the rambunctious, rowdy, raucous energy that encapsulates 2 & 5 year olds. It bounces off the walls, off the couch and off of our dining room chairs as squeals of delight and laughter burst from their little bodies...As loud as it gets and as chaotic as they can be, their shenanigans prove an effective way to quiet the noise and chaos in my own mind.

Last summer, the thought of being home by myself with them was overwhelming and my anxiety was through the roof. This summer, though, I find myself feeling much different. I've moved from beyond the grip of PPD, and no longer feel as disconnected & detached from them as I used to. Incorporating new meds and increasing the dosage on others has left me feeling about 75% better than I was 3-4 weeks ago.

I could feel a twinge of depression about an hour ago, and instead of being swept away by it, I felt mentally strong enough (thanks to my meds) to pause and figure out what it was stemming from.

Expectations. I had a lot of plans for today which led me to expect a fun-filled, productive day with the boys. I had a lot of expectations for today and for this summer because I want for it so much to not be like last year. I expected to start off our first day trying to make up for all the time I've lost from being too sick or too busy with school to really engage & just play with them.

I wanted to prove to myself I could take care of us, and handle being home without freaking out or being overwhelmed. I wanted to get up early, go for my morning walk/jog, make breakfast, take the boys out, and have them do more than just watch Nick Jr. or game on the XBox and iPad. I wanted to cook & have a hot meal on the table when Bertski gets home. I wanted to do yoga and write...

I had all of these fabulous "I'm going to be Wonder Woman today," plans but I'll be lucky if I can do more than move from the corner of the couch I currently occupy. My laptop is dead so any writing I do either has to wait or be done from my phone, with one hand. While doing a downward facing dog last week during my oh so glorious yoga routine, I strained some tendons & ligaments in my left arm and pulled a muscle in my chest. In other words I can't move the left side of my upper body unless I want to die from pain or I've ingested a Motrin the size of my head. (Which is why, for the first time ever, I wish I had what they call a "peanut" head) Even turning my neck is painful. Docs orders? Rest for two weeks, follow up with an orthopedist. Oh & have I mentioned Brennan's ringworm? Yea. That.

So here I am, with Whitney Houston's version of "I'm Every Woman," blasting in my head, stuck on the couch, my plans to tackle our first day of summer useless. No exercising. No yoga. Limited writing. Tired from pain & meds. A bouncy mattress, graham crackers, and Nick Jr. have been keeping the boys busy while I just sit here and watch to make sure they don't kill each other. I did make the pot of pinto beans I wanted but learned cooking with one arm just isn't a good idea....not if you don't want your kids to find you passed out in the kitchen from pain.

Plans. Expectations. I had a laundry list of them today, thinking that accomplishing them all would ensure I'd be a "better mom" & woman than I have been in the past. So when I realized I was going to have to lay all of them aside, I started to get down on myself. The negative self-talk and guilt tape started to play in my mind...anxiety kicked in and set the "worst case scenario" snowball in motion. As my mind started to spiral into OCD mode and my emotions took a dive, I felt myself pause, just for a second, and I remembered something I learned in therapy:

"Change your expectations. Work within your limits, use what you DO have...Choose kindness. Be compassionate with yourself."

That one second, filled to the brim of that crucial thought, was enough to stop depression in its tracks.

I changed the tape. Laughed at how ridiculous I must have looked as I hustled my way around the kitchen, thinking that home cooked food would cement my worthiness to my family. We may not be crafting and doing some of the activities I wanted but we've had a blast this morning singing Fresh Beat Band songs, getting angry at Dora (she sucks as a pirate), and watching these two bounce around and wrestle is downright hilarious.

Taking that brief pause allowed me to readjust and reframe. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough to keep me from slipping over the edge. Expectations are tricky-give them too much power and they can set you up for failure. That hasn't been easy to remember but I'm learning managing them in a healthy way makes a huge difference in how I see and treat myself.

My plans for today and the first two weeks of summer got tossed out the window, but I'm okay with that for once. We'll figure it out and on the days I can't, I'm perfectly fine with lounging around the apartment bra-less, in sweats, tapping my toes to "I'm Every Woman," like I am right now. All that matters is that I'm here, being present and trying to enjoy the moments as they come. Sounds pretty productive if you really think about it :)