Dredging it all up

I recently spent 7 days in NICU with my 4-week premature son G. While the experience was vastly different, it brought up a lot of trauma from previous psychiatric hospitalizations.

Post c-section I was in too much pain and was too worried about G to be bothered. But as we improved being there chaffed. I had a key card and ‘could’ leave at any time. But that would mean leaving him. I began to feel totally trapped. The smell of the hospital sheets was the same. The food was the same. The boredom was the same. Suddenly I was a psyc patient again.

As an involuntarily committed psyc patient you have no control over your stay. They say when and if you can go home. The worst part is they often tell you things are going well and you might be home by end of week and then they yank it away because of some small thing.

When this happened with G I totally lost it. He was doing so well. I had even gone home for the night to get the house ready. When I returned in high spirits the next morning he was back in the incubator under the jaundice lights again. The nurse told us at least another two days. I freaked out. This had happened to me so many times before and something in me just couldn’t hear those words again.

I feel selfish even writing this article because my poor baby was the one unwell and I should have been entirely focused on him, but I also have to be honest about how I feel.

G is really grappling with his bowels because his little immature digestive system is struggling to keep up to his voracious hunger. The little dude is up to 6lbs 3.5oz already and wants tons at every feed but is then gassy after. We have tried every method to help his poor little belly but the doctor assures us only time will help. It is hard emotionally to listen to him cry and exhausting to hold and burp/belly massage/comfort all day and night. Hubby and I are totally drained and hoping it passes soon.

Since I still struggle to sleep, even when given time, I have been dealing with a lot of symptoms creeping in around the edges. I keep telling myself it is just stress and fatigue- but I am also researching the earliest possible time to get back on meds. Everyone keeps telling me this is normal for new moms to be all over the place, which I am doing my best to deal with, but it’s the music that is really getting me. Some days it is so loud it distracts me from everything and keeps me awake. A few days ago (after 1 hour sleep in the last 24) there was a lovely mix of random disconnected talking, a few screams and MUSIC. I finally caved and took my rescue med Olanzapine and 10mg of Melatonin. After a solid 6 hours of sleep things improved dramatically. I was not cured, but I was coping again.

The part that scared me most was my anger toward G. That was really the straw that made me medicate, I could never live with myself if something happened.

I think it is this feeling of ‘crazy’ that is bringing back all kinds of junk from my past. I find in this state I can remember things that happened when I was in this state before. I’m sure it is because I don’t have the mental resources to block it, but also I think you just connect to those feelings better when situations are similar. I have been having very realistic and upsetting dreams about old things and potential new things. Since the meds I have started to ‘unpack’ my night with tea the next morning and put everything away so I can focus on my baby and the (seemingly endless) daily chores without being distracted. It is helping.

I think G and I are still bonding well. Hubby and I are trying to find little moments together now that my sister has come to help out (a total godsend!) and we are less snappy with each other. Overall things are not burning down. They are not ideal- but what life ever is?

Getting off meds

I can’t remember if I had mentioned before but I was/am weaning off meds to breastfeed my son. It was all planned out to be free and clear for his due date. But as we all know- ‘the best laid plans..’ Of course, he INSISTED on arriving 4 weeks early. This meant I had to ramp down my doses faster then originally intended. This, combined with the stress of NICU and normal birth hormone fluctuations means this last 2 weeks have been ROUGH.

I mean, laying sobbing while my baby screams. Sleeping about 3-4 hours a day. Forgetting EVERYTHING, including when last fed baby leading to very cranky baby. TMI but explosive poos for weeks (I have lost so much weight). Hardly eating and then stuffing my face. More crying. Waking up from 20 minute naps feeling like the world is spinning and I’m going to throw up.

Its been hard.

I feel like I am detoxing/depressed/manic most of the time. The first week home I was super mom, now I’m a shipwreck just hoping he stays quiet for at least 30 mins this time. Everyone keeps telling me ‘sleep when the baby sleeps!’ That would imply that I could turn my brain off, which would be lovely. Hubby drops off in 30 seconds. I stare at the ceiling all night, even when I am not ‘on shift’ and am SUPPOSED to be sleeping.

The lactation nurse in the hospital said: ‘you need to be on these meds’. I brushed her off and confidently told her I had felt amazing all pregnancy. Now I’m starting to wonder if she was right. The worst part is G won’t latch and I am still having to pump and bottle feed him. At least its not going down the sink anymore and into my baby. Dumping that bright yellow colostrum out felt like a sin. I keep telling myself (through tears of frustration as he screams in hunger while my boob is right there) that eventually we will figure it out and things will get easier and it will all have been worth it.

Having a baby was my dream for so long and now, through some miracle, I have one. I need to remember that and realize he won’t be a baby forever- I just have to make it out alive.

28 weeks

Had my 28 week check up today. I had 4 anxiety poops before leaving. I had to breathe through a pretty intense panic attack en route. But once I got there it was all good news. Gestational diabetes scan was negative. Baby is (clearly) growing well. Heartbeat was strong. And I had only gained 0.8kg in four weeks. I attribute this entirely to Zumba. Its is crazy fun and you don’t even realize you’re doing cardio for an hour. I’m obviously a lot less graceful right now but I still do it three times per week.

My sister has been here saving my bacon for several weeks. I get over heated easily and bending over is a chore, so she has been doing my part of the work expected on the fence. It’s finally done so she’s going to go home and pick up her new kitten (who sounds adorable). It’s been nice having her around and luckily she’ll be back in August for the birth.

Now we must prep the shed area for the delivery on Monday. The dude is just going to back it in and slide it off. It’s pretty amazing. And a hell of a lot less work then building from scratch. It will be so nice to have my yard back, though the areas not covered in crap have grass a foot tall that I will have to intensively mow.

I’m still not writing which is sad and frustrating but likely the norm for a long time. I am also adjusting nicely to decreased lithium and getting ready for another step down- exciting!

So, let’s just say things are going great (knock on wood) and I am happy and balanced. Hope everyone is enjoying their summer as well!

The lid is off

Okay. I’ve only been on a lower dose of Lithium for a very short time, but I am already noticing a difference. It’s like the lid is off of the jar. So far everything is just sloshing around in the jar, nothing has escaped yet, but I don’t know what will happen with the next step down.

Its both terrifying and exhilarating to have the cap off. My emotions are bigger, fuller- more real. I’m also more creative and energetic. Unfortunately, this new brightly coloured world poses a real threat of my mind getting too free. I will have to be so careful and manage this with a tight leash.

In keeping with this louder life I am still seeing things all the time. My sister says I’m “beautiful minding it”. The other day a fully formed child ran across our lawn- and then vanished. The visitors are getting more real looking and often are indistinguishable from reality until they disappear. It is unsettling.

I also wonder if others experience this: speaking about someone near the phone and then worrying for the rest of the day that they somehow heard you. If I need to say something negative I will move my phone to a different room. Is this weird? Asking for a friend- lol.

Despite all this I am doing really well. Getting lots done in a day. Also have started Zumba online with a good friend of mine. It’s super fun- but I can feel that soon the belly will be too big!

Nesting

Holy crap people- “nesting” is a legit thing!

Our baby furniture FINALLY arrived and I had to almost immediately put it together. But I couldn’t stop there. I had to put out the blankets and put the clothes in drawers. I set out some of the cloth diapers with wipes and lotion. It was like I was possessed! I couldn’t stop until the room was done. Now I go in there and just sit in the rocker looking at everything. It’s all so goddamn cute and I am beyond excited.

Also, ‘we’ are re-doing the fence and shed. I am basically useless at this point, so I make sandwiches and ice tea. Unfortunately, this is a long and messy process. So my beautiful backyard is completely filled with lumber and garden equipment. This chaos outside really motivates me to make the inside perfect so I have a ‘safe space’ to be calm.

By the way, I may have to just be pregnant for the rest of time. I have not felt this good in YEARS, perhaps even a decade! Of course I get the regular pregnancy things- but those are all physical and easy to manage. My MIND is in order. If I want to do something in a day- I just do it! I have the energy and the drive. My anxiety is so low I can just ‘pop up to the store’ without planning it in minute detail all day and then chickening out when hubby offers to go.

I am doing so well my psychiatrist and I agreed that we would try a decreased dose of Lithium. Lithium is the only thing preventing me from breastfeeding. This feels important to me. I have carried these cannon balls around since 6th grade so I want them to have a purpose. Also breastfeeding has many other benefits and is FREE- so I’m all over it.

I have to remember this is just a test. We are going to decrease until symptoms come back. But a little piece of my brain says: they won’t come back! Well, who knows? I’ve spoken with women off meds for years before a life stress makes them nuts again. Maybe that could be me? I’ve certainly learned how to care for myself.

Stability

I received a lovely letter today from a friend. It reminded me of why I started this blog over a year ago. My life is rapidly evolving and I have lost sight of what my original motivation was for this blog.

I started this to connect to people. To help people feel less alone. Hopefully to make people feel empowered and ready to tackle their illness head-on. Basically, I wrote the blog that I had been searching for for years.

Now I am living in the land of stability and all that long-ago strife is conveniently forgotten.

Sometimes I forget all the effort, time, and pain that went into reaching this place. Bipolar is just some distant evil that can no longer reach me. But then I can’t sleep one night and the fear come rushing back. Is this the break? Am I on a cycle now? Are these feelings going to pass? I am uncontrolled, emotions right at the surface. Old fears and paranoia rush back in. I am terrified that I have wakened the beast. But so far these days have been one-off. Developing into nothing. It’s a new way of living that I haven’t quite adjusted to.

I want to say that anyone can reach this place- but I have only lived my life and cannot judge others. I hope that all those out there still struggling to find who they are in this new life landscape have everything work out soon. I know how exhausting it can be to fight a battle every goddamn day. A bit of balance goes a long way to recharging the batteries to fight the next fight.

I can tell you that even when things are going well you won’t be the same person you were before. When you have danced with madness and flirted with suicide you cannot go back to the time before. You have learned and experienced things that will change you forever. You wouldn’t want to go back anyway. That person was not well, was not coping. But the new you is. And you need to listen to them. They know what they’re talking about.

‘Well me’ knows that going back and dredging up all those old experiences is not healthy. I need to build my new life. I have dealt with some of the trauma that arose from slipping off into the ether but at this point a lot of it is too much to handle. I have the scaffolding up and have started laying the first bricks but it’s a delicate thing and I have to protect it still. Maybe one day I can un-load everything and live free but for now I have to focus on the forward momentum I have achieved.

So, thank you for reading, it brings me so much joy to hear from you all. I will keep posting as much as I can but if I am silent it is because things are working and I want to live in that bliss.

Keep fighting.

In need of sleep

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My brain is a toddler.

It refuses to nap. Then gets so tired by the end of the day it throws a tantrum at bedtime. Sometimes I’m so over-tired I cry with frustration as my restless legs keep me up pacing the house. I fall asleep in front of the TV but when I get moved to bed by hubby I am wide awake again.

In the morning I wake confused about what day and time it is, but ready to jump up and play. Then as the morning wears on my faculties deteriorate to liquid walls, breathing furniture and a dense fog preventing any productivity.

I do the best I can around the house, too scared to go out, but its generally a waste of a day.

Then bedtime rolls around again. Sometimes, mollified by my day of spoiling, I fall asleep peacefully and on time. The next day I wake as if the last 48 hours had never happened. But sometimes the cycle starts again. My sleep debt grows and grows, and things make less and less sense.

The frustrating part is I don’t deserve this punishment. I do all the things. I vigorously exercise everyday. No caffeine after my breakfast coffee. I stay busy. I have a long and elaborate nighttime routine. And yet- my two-year old brain is displeased and throws itself around crying most nights.

I’ve added melatonin for now, it is helping slightly. The worst part in my meds (always taken at the same time) make me a drooling zombie while I cry in frustration. It’s like trying to put yourself to bed drunk.

I am comforted that this may all be related to the pregnancy. It definitely happened before, but on a pretty predictable cycle. Now its way more frequent and random. Only 17 weeks left…. Holy crap that has never seemed so long.

And yes, I realize this is only the beginning of my sleepless journey. But I ASSUME that baby-induced fatigue is easier to nap through then a brain who is a jerk.

Frustration

Does anyone else feel that the universe has a sick sense of humor?

For example: I FINALLY begin to overcome my anxiety and panic attacks and can go out into the world and enjoy my life again. BAM. Social distancing and self isolation. So much for that.

Also: After three years of trying to get pregnant we have a minor miracle and conceive a child. BAM. A pandemic strikes putting me and the fetus at risk every time we attend MANDATORY appointments. I live in constant fear of getting sick and having adverse effects on baby.

I know we are all dealing with the same problems, and that we need to get through this as a team, but can I just for a second feel frustrated?

Okay, second over. Put on your fucking big girl pants and get through this shitty situation. Just think of all those little projects you’ve been putting off. Now is the time! OR you could knit to Star Trek the Next Generation re-runs… yay knitting!

The Visitors

Photo by Elina Krima on Pexels.com

Has anyone else experienced this? I feel quite right in my headspace. I’m not having unusual thoughts or impulses like I normally would at this stage, but I am still seeing and hearing things all the time. It is bizarre. I am sane enough to know they aren’t real- but it doesn’t help get rid of them.

‘The visitors’, as I call them, walk across my vision regularly. Small creatures and people without faces. They hide around corners and give me a jump, and then vanish. I see cars drive across the road in front of me and then vanish into the trees.

I hear little tunes in the silence of the house, so I keep the radio on all the time to cover it up. I have to go check the appliances in the house regularly. Over and over I swear I can hear them running (laundry, dishwasher) without having turned them on.

Sometimes I see pictures moving. Or the walls look like they are melting. This is the worst. It feels like they are closing in on me and I start to panic.

There are a lot of days I don’t feel safe driving because of these phenomenon. Luckily, I still have good days to in which I get stuff done but often not when I had originally planned.

So what do I do about this? My meds have been adjusted over and over with no relief. Is this just what the rest of my life will be like? I’m not a fan… I would like my brain back please!

To Buy or Not to Buy?

So apparently there are like a billion things out there marketed to babies and moms. I’m almost certain you NEED almost none of it, but it is very easy to get sucked into what you WANT (usually cause it’s so goddamn cute!). I have caved and bought a few maternity tops. To my immense satisfaction they are actually built to house enormous boobs and look pretty darn good if you ask me. I may keep wearing them after baby.

I have also been added to some baby/mommy swap or sell facebook groups by other mom friends and the amount out there is astounding! Some of it is an amazing deal and it is soooo hard to not buy. Fortunately/unfortunately both my husband and I are terrified to jinx the pregnancy by starting to buy too early. I am just starting the second trimester and it feels like counting my chickens to buy a crib already. I think we are both natural worriers and incubating a baby is only making it worse.

We have decided to wait until the third trimester to start collecting the baby things. But that has not stopped us from rearranging the house to accommodate a nursery. It feels less permanent to just move furniture, but it is satisfying my insane urge to nest. Also, I have started a birth announcement cross-stitch that I work on when I’m feeling broody.

This part of the pregnancy is wonderful. No more morning sickness and the fatigue is lifting. Hubby says my skin is amazing and I look happy. I FEEL happy too. The only hard part is remembering you’re pregnant! Sometimes its painfully obvious (like trying to put on jeans) but other times you forget and then it comes rushing in (like almost passing out while trying to move a dresser downstairs). Everyone says to enjoy this part and I am doing my best to!

So amongst all the strife of what we need/what we can afford/what we want, little bean is happily incubating and causing very few problems. I am so excited to co-habitate right now that I am trying not to think about how bean will be exiting in a few months time.