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.

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?

Decisions

Its pretty lonely when the person you spend 90% of your time with not only doesn’t talk or respond to your funny faces, but also sleeps a lot. I find myself talking to myself all the time. And sometimes others answer back.

These little convos are getting a bit out of hand. I’m trying to rein it in.

The other day I was just chilling on the couch with G when a man yelled ‘son of a bitch!’ right beside me. Of course there was no man. It was the loudest hallucination I have had in a long time. Unsettling to say the least.

Most of the time I just ignore the noise. Its often not voices but machines running or music so its pretty easy if you throw the radio on. But I have to admit without the much-hated Clozapine I am coming to realize how noisy my brain can make my life.

Ever since I went on this med I have detested it. It has the wonderful propensity to make you drool and sweat. On my original high dose I would have to wake up to change my pjs and pillow case at least once a night. Gross- I know. Once I got used to it and decreased the dose a bit it became much more manageable and I just got used to waking up…moist. So long story short; I was stoked to get off it.

I realize now that it is so easy to forget what things were like before. Meds suck- its hard to deny the side effects and the dulling effect they have- but once you stop them you realize being crazy kinda sucks too. So now I face a challenge: to medicate or not? Can I live with this? Get used to it again? I’m not trying to do something high-level like med school, a little distraction may be okay.

Surprisingly, this evening my pharmacy delivered my pre-baby meds to the door. I didn’t request them. They took it upon themselves which is very strange. Sometimes I think the universe sends us pretty clear messages, but I don’t think I am prepared to listen to this one quite yet. I am enjoying feeling like old Me. It’s like I’ve gone back in time to who I was before. I thought a lot of the changes in my personality and thoughts were just age and experience creeping in, but I see now that it was all medication.

Its not a myth that psychiatric medications change who you are a little bit. I would never lie to a noob and say they don’t. It’s a chemical designed to alter your brain chemistry after all. Now don’t freak out! I whole heartedly agree that medication is often both necessary and helpful. But I also feel it is over prescribed.

That’s why I love my psychiatrist. I’ve gone back to one I was seeing before being transferred to the psychosis intervention program. She almost never suggests a change in medication as the first action when there is a problem. She always asks whether more sleep or exercise or socialization might help. She also has touted CBD and melatonin for anxiety and sleep instead of throwing more commercial meds in my face. Its so refreshing. I’m not scared to go see her and I’m honest with how I feel instead of hiding everything for fear of an increased dosage or changed meds. I feel like we are a team and that together we decide what is right (and what I’m willing) to do.

I feel like with her on my side I can try to tackle this challenge. If I fail I know she will catch me. But if I succeed what a wonderful thing it will be!

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.

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.