The Best Laid Plans

So far, my baby journey has not been anything like what I had planned. This makes me sad. I know it shouldn’t. He is happy and healthy (I’m a lucky girl) but I can’t help it.

I didn’t get to give birth. I didn’t even get to try. It is a rite of passage that I was terrified of and excited for. I really wanted to experience it. Since conceiving G was so hard I don’t know if I will get another chance.

I am no longer breastfeeding. To me breastfeeding is like magic. Somehow your body can keep a teeny baby healthy all on its own. It’s pretty incredible. Bottle feeding will never compare to that feeling of connection you get breastfeeding.

My baby is still too small for cloth diapers. Every disposable I throw out makes my heart ache a little for the Earth. Its been two months of waste, and its a tragedy.

Little Bean was born too early so hubby was not able to take paternity leave because of project commitments he had made. So our first couple months have been stressful and tiring instead of the slow snuggle fest I had envisioned.

My mental health has tanked and I have had to start medication again. I felt so wonderful during pregnancy I really believed I had been cured. It is heartbreaking to know I was not, and this garbage will continue. I wanted to be a happy, loving mother who had her shit together. Now I’m a sad one who listens to the WiFi. Obviously, I am getting better because I know now it’s not real, but I still hear it.

It’s really hard to rationalize all these things when you feel like crap.

A friend told me that the ideal of motherhood will never be 100% realized and that is perfectly okay. That we do the things we need to to get by.

My mom says I have a happy baby who loves me. Who doesn’t care that I am formula feeding now, he just wants to be full. Who hasn’t noticed I’m sad because I try so hard to only show him love.

My hubby says were doing the best we can and that should be enough for me. That having to switch to bottles has allowed other people to help more. That a few months of garbage is minor, and all my other plastic-free efforts are off-setting it.

Why can’t I listen to all these people? Why don’t their kind, reassuring words get through to me? Why must I continue to beat myself up and feel miserable?

It doesn’t help when its not only your voice but others telling you your horrible.

I really hate my brain sometimes.

Just One Damned Thing After Another

I got this book because of the title. And it completely delivers.

It is by no means literature, but it a rip-roaring, time-travelling, laugh-out-loud adventure. I enjoyed the heck out of it even while pretty depressed- so that’s saying something.

Unfortunately, it is part of a long series so now I’m committed to something big. But even as a stand alone, the story was good. Plus the protagonist is awesome. She’s funny, tough, and smart.

I’m not going to tell you anything else because each chapter had me gasp and go: ‘no way!’ And I want you to have that experience too.

Goals

Part of my recovery from a depression has always been setting some goals for the future. This usually helps me be more forward thinking and not feel so trapped in the mire. In the past I have set goals like: have a family (check), get into medical school (check), finish medical school (nope), run a 5k (check)… This time I have decided to commit to something I have always dreamed of but never thought possible. I want to dance ballet.

I took dance lessons all through my childhood and absolutely loved them. But I never took ballet because the teacher convinced me I did not have the body for it and training would be a waste of my time. I have pined over ballet since. I watch all the movies, I go to recitals, I do barre work at home when I’m alone, but I’ve always shied away from classes. I believed I couldn’t.

Now I say: ‘fuck that’. I won’t know if I don’t try right? I’m pretty heavy so I likely will never get up onto pointe, but nothing says I can’t dance my little heart out right?

With some research it seems like I need to strengthen and stabilize everything, especially my feet, before I start to dance or I will hurt myself. So (starting yesterday) every morning I have been doing the exercises I found. Yesterday all afternoon I felt tight and sore but it was like a glow in my muscles, a secret there.

Knowing I’m working toward something is helping.

Also having my mom here and taking my meds.

It always amazes me when I start to come out of the darkness. It always feels like everything is shiny and new. Like the world has colour again. I’m not totally out of the woods, but things are definitely turning around. When I picked up my son this morning I felt those warm fuzzies again. He is my sweet baby boy again. Plus, he smiled at me this morning. If that doesn’t make a heart melt, I don’t know what will.

A Liar

I’m laughing. I’m smiling. I’m pretending I’m not dead and empty inside. I’m good at it. Most people don’t want to see through my act. So I let them believe things are okay.

But really I am hurting. My soul is tired. It goes so deep no amount of sleep helps.

My baby grows. I hold him and rock him. I kiss his cheeks and pretend to eat his toes when people are watching. But he feels alien to me. No longer part of my body. A noisy part of my life that I can’t seem to feel much for right now. I don’t feel negatively about him. I just don’t feel anything. I have a need to keep him happy, and healthy, but I don’t really know why.

I still keep the house clean. I still put food on the table. But things have no taste. There is no joy in it anymore.

Sometimes my heart hurts so deeply I wail and moan in my bed. And then to relieve the pain I hurt myself. It feels good for a moment and then I am ashamed that I have let things get this bad again. I have been weak again. And then I think about dying. And how I would do it quickly.

This is the darkness.

This is when I stop talking. When I don’t move for hours because I worry if I do, I will do something I may regret.

But so far I have eventually been able to get up again, and smile, and pretend a little longer. Hoping that some day soon the meds will start working and I can heal and be a better mother, wife, and friend. Hoping I can feel present again and not a visitor in my own life.

Failings

Well all that was all for nothing.

I worked so hard to get off my meds to breastfeed only to go back on and have to stop. Not only did G miss the colostrum because I was too slow decreasing, he now has only been getting breast milk for 6 weeks. What was the point of all that nonsense?

The worst part is now that he is on formula he is happier. He sleeps longer. He cries less. It makes me feel like crap. I like to think he misses breastfeeding but he honestly doesn’t seem bothered.

I keep telling myself that a fed baby is best. And a mom with good mental health is best. But with all the pressure to breastfeed it is hard to not feel like a loser. Probably doesn’t help that my brain has decided to stop making Serotonin. Back on the Lithium for me. Funny how when you feel too great meds seem stupid but as soon as you crash you’ll do anything to feel better.

Trust

I theoretically have a case worker. I have for years. My original one, M, was wonderful. We would walk our dogs together. She would take me for coffee when I felt down and alone. We had a good connection and I told her many things.

Then M left for a better job in management. I don’t blame her. It sounded like exactly what she wanted.

So she was replaced with R. R was the same age as me and I just couldn’t respect her opinions. She was fun and chatty, and I enjoyed when she took me to bloodwork appointments, but we never had a therapeutic relationship.

Then I was transferred from that interventional program to a long-term management program. In the two years or so I have been with them I have had 3 different people. The first 2 I didn’t even get a chance to know. Mostly because I didn’t click with them right away and I was doing well so I didn’t really need their help.

Now I have S, my first male worker. He seems nice and reached out to me when he took over the position. But now I need to talk to someone and I barely know him. We’ve never met in person.

I have a deep-seated mistrust of most people in the industry. They are very intrenched in their beliefs and training to send to hospital if concerned. They usually don’t even try to really help, they just phone over and before you know it your on a 48 hour hold. It makes me feel that I can never be fully honest with what I am thinking and feeling.

Because I don’t know this guy I asked if he would listen without intervening. He said he could not promise that. So now I have no one to talk to. It’s the worst.

I wish we had a chance to build up some trust. I can hardly text him, let alone trying to dial the phone. I definitely am not telling him what I am dealing with internally. It scares me to my core that I have no one to open up to but I don’t want to burden my friends or terrify my husband or mother. They love me too much and don’t want to see me hurting. So I spiral down into the darkness because I can’t say anything out loud.

Why is it so hard to admit I need help? Why can’t I trust that people will look out for me?

Momming is hard.

I’m not sure we can ever fully appreciate our mothers until we become mothers. Those sleepless nights, the tears, the fear you’re doing it all wrong… And yet somehow they never let on that they were scared and confused a lot. They also loved you more then anything, even themselves.

When you have your own baby its like you wake up to all the sacrifices they made for you that you never saw before. They also rocked you for hours at 1am because you had gas and were inconsolable. They also proudly showed you off to their friends and random people on walks. They also watched you grow and change from a wiggly pink blob into a mother yourself.

Most of the time I post here and a few hours later I get a call from my mom or dad, or even my sister, asking not-so-subtly if I’m okay. According to my sister my mom almost always cries after reading my ‘struggle posts’. She worries about me and feels powerless to help.

Folks, my mom helps me every. damn. day.

Just knowing she’s there and that if I really do need her, I only need to ask and she will move mountains.

She has rescued me from horrific hospitals, listened to me cry on the phone, made my childhood loving and supportive (dad did too, don’t worry pops), kept me inspired in med school when things got hard, and more recently visited and told me I was doing great and not to worry.

Mom, when you read this know you are not only are you a good mom- you are the best mom. I hope I can be half as good for G.

Edging

Remember a few years ago when the big thing in sex was edging? Like getting super close but never cumming to make the actual experience later fantastic? Maybe you don’t. Maybe I’m weird. But I definitely remember reading an article about it.

Anyway, that’s what life has been like for a few weeks now. I get so close to flipping over to the darkside but I never let myself go all the way. Every time I get really ramped up I do all my soothing/coping skills to keep from falling over the edge.

Lots of things push me up higher. A sunny day. Exercising. Having a visitor. All normal things that would make anyone feel better. But I start to feel irrationally good. Like maybe we should sell all our stuff and move to the moon good. I talk really fast and loud. I demand that hubby pay attention to me and listen to my somewhat illogical ramblings. I start a big project.

And then Shamus gently says: ‘honey, you’re getting a bit up’. And I say: ‘shit. But I feel so good!’ ‘Exactly’ he says.

So I go downstairs and sit in the dark and try to chill. I drink herbal tea. I do some light yoga. I have a hot shower. I slooooow down. Eventually things start to come back into focus. Like now. I still feel pretty wired. But not wild. It’s like electricity buzzing under your skin and around your brain. Everything seems so bright and loud. Things MAKE SENSE in a way they never did before, connections form between things that they probably shouldn’t. It takes so much concentration and will power to ignore all this and just breathe. Every part of you wants to run a marathon or something but you must make yourself just sit. IT’S AGONY.

I only need look at the activity on my facebook to know things went off kilter. I’m usually a group lurker but this afternoon I commented on and liked ALL the things. I did Zumba. I drove across town with music blaring to get expensive sushi. And I planned a novel outline while breastfeeding G. It was fun.

Now I sit in the dark, like a mushroom with mint tea, writing this and hoping that the music stops soon and that since its dark I won’t see anything too weird (just cats so far).

Music is a big trigger for me. I am very susceptible to feeling what the music wants you to feel. Sad. Happy. Nostalgic. It all hits me hard. That’s why I listen to the (real) radio so much. The repetitiveness of it dulls this effect, but still covers the imagined radio noise quite nicely. There are certain bands and albums that will immediately make me feel up or down. I can rely on these to keep me modulated one way or the other. Regularly listening to new music helps keep the imagined radio fresh. It is currently playing “ordinary man” by Ozzy which is excellent, and you should check it out if you haven’t.

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that the absence of Lithium has become noticeable. My mind is fast and lose, just feeling everything really big. Its fun and scary. I am riding the rollercoaster again but I have some tools now, and a lot more to hold on for.

Um, what?!

I was talking to a friend about what my life is like. She said “I think it’s not Bipolar to have hallucination, delusions and paranoia ALL the time. Isn’t that supposed to be just during an episode? Are you sure you’re not schizoaffective?”

I laughed and said no, I’m pretty sure my doctor would have figured that out. We moved on to other topics.

Talking to my psychiatrist by phone on Monday I mentioned this to her and her response was “Oh yes of course you are.”

Um, what?!

She then continued that ‘Bipolar 1 with psychosis’ and ‘schizoaffective’ were essentially the same diagnosis and I could use whatever term I preferred.

Right.

So, being me, I did some research. It led me to this wonderful YouTube channel called “Living well with schizophrenia”. The creator is schizoaffective and she is absolutely lovely. A lot of the videos weren’t helpful (I already know what a psychiatric hospital is like unfortunately) but some of them basically explained my life. I also loved that her partner makes some of the videos and is so loving and supportive. I love seeing healthy relationships like that.

So I guess it’s not really news per se, but it is causing a wee bit of an identity crisis. Not sure what term I will use. I’m not keen on changing but I also think it might help others understand what my mind is like.

Re-framing

And just like that G is five weeks old. It feels like both an eternity and only a moment has passed. I still forget he is not inside me anymore and when I remember I feel a little sad. When we have playtime I marvel at how much he changes everyday. When he’s screaming for no apparent reason I have to remind myself its all part of the magic.

He’s now up to 8lbs and starting to both sleep longer stretches and be awake for longer stretches. We can get a good play in a couple times a day. He is so close to smiling- I can’t wait for that first true gummy grin.

I definitely feel like a real mom now, especially with the breastfeeding going so much better. I kind of know what to do- but I’m also finding that every few days you have a whole new situation on your hands!

It is true that you lose a lot of your old self. Not the core stuff, just the things that used to seem really important are no longer crucial. My schedule has totally changed, and it has taken a while to adjust to the chaos of a newborn. I sleep A LOT less, but I’m starting to get 7hrs consistently and I think that’s manageable. I long for those days of sleeping 12hrs then reading with coffee and a warm blanket the rest of the day, nothing to do and no where to be.

I’ve learned though that the most important part of having a newborn is how you frame it. My good friend grew up around a Mennonite community and she says the way they view children as a blessing and a miracle really changes your outlook on diaper changes at 3am. She says no matter how awful the baby, she never heard a bad word spoken about them. They were cherished every moment. I think in today’s world with all this pressure to raise the perfect child, to go back to work too fast, and to keep your whole life Insta-worthy, it’s easy to get frustrated and angry with a difficult baby. But I’m trying to slow down and enjoy every moment- even the not so great ones. To be present is changing the way I see G. Yes he’s a handful. He’s also a miracle that won’t stay small for very long. He’s already almost out of newborn clothes and his first few weeks were so crazy for both of us I want to make sure that I’m there for him in everyway possible from now on.

While I think its important for moms to be themselves as well as moms, sometimes letting your old self go a little bit can make you a better parent. After all, I CHOSE to have this baby. I wanted him. I can’t expect such a huge and powerful experience to not change me. I grieve my old life a little, I’m not going to lie- but allowing myself to change has made my outlook so much better. I’m happier for it. And getting peed on is no longer a hassle but hilarious.