Three Years Since the Breakdown

July 27, 2017 at 9:01 am

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On July 31, 2014, I wrote these words:

Since coming home, I have felt considerably worse. . . . I’ve really regressed. The anxiety is worse, the depression is deep. I really don’t know how much more I can take. I feel like I’ve gone so far backward. Everyone keeps telling me I will get through this, that things will get better, and they seem so confident about it. But I feel so done. I feel so exhausted. I feel like it will never end.

Splitting the Sky

June 4, 2017 at 10:18 pm

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Two summers ago, my wonderful friend Amber asked if she could interview me for a project she was working on. At the time I was on vacation, visiting my family for the summer, and I was newly pregnant with my 5th baby. Amber and Camlyn came to my dad’s house and set up their cameras and sound equipment. They asked me excellent questions, and I did a lot of crying in front of the camera. Ha.

Five Things for Friday: 2nd Edition

October 24, 2015 at 12:50 am

About three weeks ago I wrote my first “Five Things for Friday” post. Time for another quintuplet of randomness, I think. 

Friday

Thing 1

I learned a fun fact about kissing and breastfeeding this past week. Many of you probably saw this on facebook, but I want to share it again here just in case. It’s rare that the word awesome is applied to something that is truly awe-inspiring, but this really is:

kissingbabyKissing your baby changes your breast milk. Did you know that the undeniable urge to cover your baby in kisses serves a biological purpose? When a mother kisses her baby, she samples the pathogens on baby’s face, which then travel to mom’s lymphatic system. Mom’s body then creates antibodies to fight those pathogens, which baby receives through breast milk. What?! Amazing, right? (quoted from 10 Things You Might Not Know About Breastfeeding)

I learned something similar related to nipples and “baby backwash” a couple of months ago. Katie Hinde, a biologist, associate professor, and blogger at Mammals Suck… Milk! shared these fascinating details with Angela Garbes for her breastmilk post on The Stranger:

According to Hinde, when a baby suckles at its mother’s breast, a vacuum is created. Within that vacuum, the infant’s saliva is sucked back into the mother’s nipple, where receptors in her mammary gland read its signals. . . . If the mammary gland receptors detect the presence of pathogens, they compel the mother’s body to produce antibodies to fight it, and those antibodies travel through breast milk back into the baby’s body, where they target the infection (Source).

Is Play the Cure?

October 12, 2015 at 12:12 am

Over the past few weeks, I have devoured Peter Gray’s Free to Learn, a book recommended by one of my readers. Gray is a psychology research professor at Boston College, author, blogger, and a parent. I added that last title because parenthood has a huge impact on how people view children and education. This point was made almost humorous in The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn who cited example after example of teachers who revised their homework policies after their own children began bringing homework home. This particular passage is underlined and surrounded by stars in my copy of Kohn’s book:

“Now that I’m a parent myself,” one fourth grade teacher in North Carolina said, “I realize they have lives at home” (The Homework Myth, p. 23).

freetolearnHa ha! I realize they have lives at home. Cracks me up every time. So it was important to me that Free to Learn‘s author Peter Gray was a father himself in addition to being an “expert.” In fact, the first words of his book come straight out of one of his most painful challenges as a fatherthe day his nine-year-old son told him to “Go to hell” as they sat in the school principal’s office. Gray explained:

We were there to present a united front, to tell Scott in no uncertain terms that he must attend school and must do there whatever he was told by his teachers to do. We each sternly said our piece, and then Scott, looking squarely at us all, said the words that stopped me in my tracks (p. ix).

Both Gray and his wife immediately began to cry, and in that moment they both knew what they had to do. They pulled him out of the school, and “not just from that school but from anything that was anything like that school” (p. x). Free to Learn presents educational history and research through the lens of Gray’s own experience as a father striving to provide his son with a learning environment suited to his needs.

What Hope Really Is

August 23, 2015 at 12:35 am

Hope is a talent like any other. -Storm Jameson

Ever since I learned my baby’s name, I have been slightly obsessed with all things hope-related. Songs about hope, poems about hope, hope art, hope jewelry, hope scriptures, quotes, and t-shirts. I haven’t actually bought anything except a few songs from iTunes, but I have plans to make some art to hang over the co-sleeper we’re planning to make.

How adorable is this (from Etsy)

How adorable is this (from Etsy)

Speaking of baby Hope, after a few days of mourning Elijah, I found myself at peace and growing more and more excited to meet this little girl. I think I know who she is and why she is coming to me. Long story. Maybe I will tell it to you some day. What matters now is that she is coming, and she is very grateful, and I am looking forward to meeting her.

My Grandmother’s Womb Trauma

July 31, 2015 at 7:24 pm

Last January, while I was attending my therapeutic imagery facilitator training, my mother was babysitting my kids. On the second evening, we had a powerful conversation after I practiced the Special Place journey with her. Something about the journey allowed her to open up emotionally in a way she usually doesn’t. At that time she shared a revelation about her mother, a missing piece, that made so many other things make sense. A part of me was hesitant to share this post, wondering if the information was better kept private. But then I thought of Brené Brown’s words about shame:

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Surrender, part 6

May 14, 2015 at 12:38 am

“It’s OK, Mommy.  You’ll grow another one.” -My second daughter (after I pushed out my fourth baby’s placenta)

Nearly four years ago, three months after my fourth birth, I wrote the last installment of my “birth story” in a post titled “Surrender, part 5.” In it I shared my somewhat graphic discovery that my youngest daughter was likely originally sharing my womb with a twin who stopped growing very early in the pregnancy. I finished the post with these words:

We can’t know for certain whether there was, in fact, a vanished twin. But my heart feels it’s true, especially when I’m in a room with my family and keep looking around for the one who’s missing, only to realize we’re all already in the room. Or when my baby girl’s face lights up in a huge grin, as though she’s looking at an invisible someone she adores, sitting or standing next to me.

Thinking and writing about it all, I can feel that bit of sadness and loss fading away, leaving peace and understanding in its place. And, even now, my eyes well up with tears of knowing… Yes, I know it now. I can feel it in my bones. I can see it in my tears and in the burning, overwhelming love and joy filling me and surrounding me. Yes, there is another child who loves me deeply and intensely, waiting… and hoping that I will have the courage to surrender again.

P.S. I gave birth to a baby boy in my dreams two nights ago.

Over the past four years I have become more and more intimately acquainted with this unborn child. He has visited my dreams, appeared in visions, made his presence palpable occasionally at family dinners or gatherings, and all along the way I have told him, “I don’t know if I can do it.” His response has always been a kind, patient, loving, “Whatever you decide is OK. I’ll find my way into your family somehow.” But all the while, he was persistent in his determination to make me aware that he was still there, still waiting, still full of love for me, still hoping to come to this earth through my body.

Who do you think you are? (Part 1)

February 10, 2015 at 11:11 pm

A week ago tonight I did something very brave. I got up in front of about 100 [felt like a billion] women and gave a speech.

For years I have had this belief about myself that I am “slow of speech.” I am the daughter of a master teacher. My father has taught and trained professionally for most of his adult life. But I thought my apple had fallen quite far from the tree. For years I have believed things like this: I am a writer, not a speaker. I can be eloquent in writing, but not in speech. I am horrible at [vocally] explaining things, but give me a computer keyboard and I’m golden.

Simultaneously, I have had multiple experiences throughout my life in which I have been told or prompted (by teachers, friends, God and others) that I should open my mouth more, that speaking would be a part of my future. Me? Really? Me?

So, last December, a friend of mine extended an invitation. She wanted to know if I would come speak at a church women’s dinner meeting in February. I told her, “I think I can do that. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

booklilenginesm1I thought it was going to just be a room of maybe twenty women. I would only be speaking for twenty minutes or so. No big deal. But the truth was… it felt like a really big deal. A really, really big deal. In fact, that’s exactly how I started my speech. After a few introductory words, I said something like this:

Littering Love

December 19, 2014 at 8:24 pm

So I got this idea. It grew partly out of the widespread belief that more people commit suicide during the holidays. I did some digging, and it turns out that this is sort of a myth. In reality, suicide rates peak in the springtime, though there is a significant uptick after Christmas… “a 40 percent uptick, according to one large Danish study” (see here and here). But, whatever. It doesn’t really help to get lost in the details when it comes to suicide. Regardless of when suicides are highest, they’re always too high.

In the US, nearly 30,000 people die by suicide each year, and the rate of attempted suicide is much higher—so much so that there is an estimated one attempted suicide per minute. Worldwide, suicide claims more deaths than accidents, homicides, and war combined. And many cases of suicide, particularly in the elderly, go completely undetected and unaccounted (Neal Burton, MD, Source).

Suicide is also one of the leading causes of maternal death, as I’ve written about before.

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Just Keep Swimming

December 5, 2014 at 5:20 pm

On October 29, I sent out the same text to a bunch of friends and family. It said:

Kind of suicidal please pray

I had spent a chunk of the morning on the phone with my neuropsychologist stepmom, who had called me after we exchanged a few crisis-riddled text messages, despite her being in the middle of a (no joke) suicide prevention tele-seminar.

I have great friends. They mobilized on many sides to keep me safe that day. For a good part of the late morning, I sat at the park with a circle of earthly angels (and probably spiritual too) around me. I couldn’t really participate in the conversation. Mostly I sat staring into a void of darkness, but I was so grateful that I wasn’t alone.

At lunchtime, one of my angel friends came home with me. While we sat at my table, we talked and cried. Our kids played upstairs. After a while, my daughter came downstairs saying something like, “Mom, we have this movie!” I glanced up to see what she was talking about and noticed that she was holding a plastic Dory bath toy. My friend smiled and said to my daughter [to me], “Yeah! What does Dory say? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!” What my friend didn’t know was just how loaded with meaning those words were for me.

Suicide Prevention Week

September 11, 2014 at 5:23 pm

This morning a friend posted this on my facebook profile: “This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. Your life makes all the difference. Sending love and hugs.” I didn’t know that this week was National Suicide Prevention Week  until she told me.

Do you know the warning signs of Suicide? The American Association of Suicidology shares this mnemonic:

IS PATH WARM?

I Ideation
S Substance Abuse

P Purposelessness
A Anxiety
T Trapped
H Hopelessness

W Withdrawal
A Anger
R Recklessness
M Mood Changes

I Am a Desert Poppy

September 3, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Back at the end of May, as we were franticly packing up for our sudden early departure to my parents’ house, my mind was scattered with horrific thoughts and images. In those moments, nearly two days without sleep, my body pulsing with panic, I prepared myself to kiss my children good-bye, perhaps for good. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I was sure I was either going to spend the rest of my life in a psychiatric hospital or soon be dead by my own hands.

Then the doorbell rang. A little while later, my husband returned from answering the door, carrying a cheerful-looking basket full of yellow things. Last year, I had brought a friend a “basket of sunshine” when she was stressed-out and struggling, and she said now it was my turn. One of the gifts in her basket was a picture she had painted.

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Choosing Happiness

August 31, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Wednesday night I took a walk by myself. Surviving that day had taken everything I had. I hadn’t slept the night before. I was exhausted in every possible way. As I made my way back home, I started to cry. The words from a song were playing over and over in my head: “How many times can I break till I shatter?” It felt like I had reached my absolute limit. After walking in the door, my quiet tears turned into soul-wracking sobs that didn’t die down for at least an hour.

I don’t know how or why, but that night was a turning point. Whether something shifted inside of me or something shifted somewhere else I don’t know, but something shifted. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were mostly good. I’m having some mild benzo withdrawal symptoms this afternoon, but nothing I can’t handle. Who knows what the coming week+ will bring, but I’m grateful to be spending more time staring at my husband because I’m noticing how very handsome he is rather than staring at him because I’m pleading with my eyes for him to tell me I’m going to be OK.

People often say, “Happiness is a choice.” A part of me wants to instantly reject that notion. If it was really that simple, I wouldn’t be popping an anti-depressant pill every morning and the term “mental illness” wouldn’t exist. But at the same time, a part of me recognizes that it’s true.  Happiness is a result of choices we make.

Endurance

August 26, 2014 at 1:22 am

Tonight I will be cutting my dose again.

As much as I’m eager to leave benzodiazepines behind, it always feels a little bit like voluntarily submitting to torture when I reduce my dose. Generally the next two days are alright. The third… not so much. If the pattern continues, this Thursday should be interesting.

In other news, my sleep is definitely taking a hit. Sunday morning I woke up at 3:45 and couldn’t go back to sleep. This morning I woke up at 3:30, but I was fortunately able to fall back to sleep until 5:00-ish.  When I start catastrophizing, I imagine that I’m going to have some sleepless nights coming up. So far my worst fears haven’t materialized, so I’m hoping the trend continues.

I think it’s safe to say that the past four months have been the most difficult I’ve ever endured. I really hope September will bring mercy. I really hope I don’t have another month+ of withdrawals to look forward to. I really hope the next couple of weeks don’t kill me. <—Did you hear that? That’s called a will to live. It’s nice to have one again. I hope it sticks around. Never take yours for granted, friends.

Withdrawal

August 6, 2014 at 11:10 pm

Right now I feel almost myself. Yesterday was horrid. This morning was horrid. But right now is good. I love it when I feel good. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but I’m grateful for this moment.

So my psychiatrist prescribed me two medications back in June. One was a fast-acting anxiety drug (benzodiazepine) to help me sleep and take the edge off the anxiety (low dose). The plan was that I would wean off of the benzodiazepene as the SSRI (anti-depressant) began to take full effect (roughly two months). Benzodiazepines are notorious for creating dependencies and addictions. I’ve heard horror stories about benzodiazepines, so I really didn’t want to take one. But the doctor told me it was “impossible” for me to become dependent or reach a tolerance within the period of time I would be taking it. He promised me I wouldn’t have any withdrawal symptoms.

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