Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

Technology. You Should Try It.

Wowzah!  That seems like the right word for how I feel right now.  I’ve made some new discoveries, and I’m just super excited about them.  I am figuring out technology.  It is awesome!  I told Olivia this morning that my  next blog was going to be about apps.  I told her that I wanted people to know how crazy apps are.

Olivia said, “Mom, absolutely EVERYBODY knows about apps.”

I told her that wasn’t true.  Dad and Grandma don’t know anything about apps.  I’ll write a blog for them.

I have had a smart phone for a long time.  I’ve always needed one for work. But, I have never really used my smart phone.  Not like I should.   I am using my smartphone now.

It all started with Netflix.  The kids helped me download Netflix so that I could watch “Madmen” while the boys watched football.  Let’s take a side trip here for a moment and talk about “Madmen”.  You might know that this show is not always appropriate.  I feel like I need to apologize for that.  You may expect better from me.   Sometimes I make good decisions; sometimes I make bad decisions.   I don’t like pretending.

Scott and I started watching this show together.  Scott bailed.  He didn’t like it.  He’s super selective about what he hears and sees.  I could learn a few things from him.  He told me he’s too impressionable, and the characters were bringing him down.  He didn’t want to be negatively  influenced.  Sometimes I think my husband might be the coolest person I know.

I find the characters depressing too.  They’re pretty hopeless.  Kind of like people in real life.  The show is a tragedy, and that’s why I’m hooked.  It’s fascinating to see people trying to be content with an absence of hope.  I desperately want to tell these characters to cling to something that is permanent.  Someone needs to tell these sad folks that money, sex, power and status are illusions of happiness.  That’s why I watch this thing.    It’s all very spiritual and deep.  Not at all because Betty is so pretty, or because it’s totally interesting, or because they always leave me on a cliff hanger.  Not at all.

None of that though is really what I wanted to tell you about.  I wanted to tell you about technology.  After figuring out that I could watch “Madmen” any time I wanted, I started figuring more stuff out.   Here is what is amazing.  I have an app that measures my walks.  I have an app that plays my kind of music while I walk.  I have an app that gives me a daily devotional and Bible reading.  I have an app that recommends books, and allows me to participate in a virtual book club.  What is NOT to love about this stuff?

Besides the apps, the other technology that is making my life fun is my kindle.  Getting my book club recommended readings is as easy as a touch of my finger.   On top of that total awesomeness, I have “Fitnessblenders” on YouTube.  This is basically like my virtual personal trainer.  When I get back from my walks, I type in what I have time for in my browser: 15 minute strength training, 20 minute yoga, or 30 minute cardio.  How could it be more convenient?

I’m sorry that I’m telling you all this stuff you already know.  I just can’t contain my excitement.  I’m like Christopher Columbus, when he thought he discovered the United States.  You are  like the Native Americans.  You’re like, “We know.  We live here.”

I can’t wait to share all this stuff with Scott.  I told you that he has this big, shiny new smart phone.  He found a way to save us money by upgrading his flip phone to a smart phone.   Mostly his big shiny phone just sits on the coffee table like a big, shiny coaster.  I am so excited to tell him about how he can start using this thing.  When he first got the phone, he was more enthusiastic.  He actually carried it with him.  He kept telling me he had to check his Gmail.   Other then receiving calls and texts, Gmail was his only other use for his big, new phone.

Every time Scott told me he had to check his Gmail, it made me laugh.  He wasn’t sure why I thought that was so funny.  Truthfully, I didn’t even know why I thought it was so funny either.   Now I do.  Scott’s phone is the most grossly underused device imaginable.  I can’t wait to tell him.

Another incredible use for technology is learning that Beagles are nannies.  I think it’s fair to say that my life is better because of the video below:

 

 

Without YouTube we might have thought Beagles were just Beagles.  They’re not.  They’re also nannies.  Like I needed another reason to love Beagles.

 

 

 

Back to school.  They don’t ease you into it.  Like many other families,  our family is sprinting.  If we run fast enough, we MIGHT be able to keep up with all the stuff.   I’m not a fast runner.

This week I was proactive.  I told myself on Sunday that this week wouldn’t beat me.  I wrote our menu down on Sunday afternoon.  I made my menu selections based on what was already in the fridge.  I’m really very  clever.  Here is what I chose:

Monday – Chicken Tacos/lettuce/tomatoes/re-fried beans

Tuesday – Chicken Enchiladas (with leftover chicken – presumably) lettuce, tomatoes

Wednesday – Spaghetti with rice noodles/salad

Thursday – Egg and sausage muffins/broccoli/yogurt w/fruit

Friday – Homemade Pizza (grain free crust)/salad

 

I wish I could have tasted those meals.  I bet they would have been good.  Here’s what we ate instead:

 

Monday – Don’t know.  Worked late.

Tuesday – Don’t know. Worked late. (Culver’s drive through for me).

Wednesday – Broasted Chicken from Costco.  I think I told the kids to grab a handful of raw carrots for their veggie.

Thursday – Chicken wins again.  This time I made it.  I also sauteed vegetables.  I made  this meal after the football game.  It was done by 9pm.   When it was finished, everybody was too tired to eat.

Friday – Thursday’s chicken for Scott and me.  McDonald’s for the kids.

I know.  Just all together impressive.  Feel free to print off a copy of this menu for your family.

In terms of being busy, this week was not exactly typical.  This was a burn the candle at both ends type of week.  I’m not good at burning the candle at both ends.  I’m going to own that fact right now.  If I was your surgeon, and you needed emergency surgery that lasted all night, that would be bad for you.  There’s a good chance you would die.  I would look around at all the nurses and medical people at 5pm, and I’d be like, “I’d love to keep working on this guy, but has anyone seen the clock?   It’s quitting time.   Besides,  this guy’s insides seem good enough to me.  He’ll be okay for the night.  Let’s pick this up again at 8:00 A.M. tomorrow.  I might grab some coffee on my way in, so maybe more like 8:15.”

Did you see that funny saying that goes, “I don’t want to work hard/play hard.  I want to work medium and play my DVR.”  Sometimes those sayings just really make me emotional.  They so capture my deepest yearnings.

I am NOT feeling sorry for myself because I had a crazy week.  I hope you don’t think that. I wouldn’t do that to you.  I love that someone thinks I’m worthy of being employed.  I love that I have money in my wallet to buy Culver’s and Broasted chicken when there are no minutes to make dinner.  I love that there’s food in the refrigerator for my family to find and eat when no one makes them dinner.

I never realized until lately what strong feelings I have about the act of feeling sorry for yourself.  It’s just a thing I really hate.  And, I know hate’s a bad word.   I think it might be the right word to use here.   Now that I’ve discovered this thing I hate, I hope I don’t go overboard.  I don’t want to ruin my kids.

Generally, I’m pretty soft on my kids.  They’ve even told me they wished I’d throw down the hammer a little harder, especially on their siblings. I’m more likely to throw down a cotton ball.

I’m not really a tough love parent, but then, maybe I am.  I can’t listen to my people feel sorry for themselves.  I’m pretty hard on anyone in my house who does that.

Teenagers have plenty of things that don’t go their way: Dads  ride them about getting their homework done and making plans for their lives, they sprain their ankles, they make the “B” team, they don’t get the solos (even though they try out every single year). I’m just pulling from a random pile here.  Totally unrelated to anything going on in our house (just go with it).

When my kids are sad, I’m sad.  I want them to be happy.  But, have you ever seen someone round that corner from sad to self pity?  That right there is what I won’t have.  I just tell my kids, “Stay where you are.  Don’t go around that corner.  It’s dark around that corner.  You won’t find any solutions there.”

Sometimes, I’m surprised to find that I feel a little harsh.

I think maybe I’d be more sympathetic, but instead I want to be happy.  I want my kids to know how to be happy too.  Happiness doesn’t materialize without warning.   You don’t win happiness like you win the lottery.  You have to learn HOW to be happy.  Happiness is a skill.  You choose happiness.  The more you choose happiness, the easier it is to be happy.   Happiness is powerless to show itself in the presence of self pity.

I want to believe my kids see this.  I think they do.  Before school, Olivia was telling me that at practice she was almost certain she was going to learn she made the “B” team…again.  I kissed her forehead and put her sweet face between my hands.

I said, “Honey, I know that will sting a little.  Remember to ask yourself if what is making you sad is a real problem. Does this troubling thing have something to do with poverty, hunger, war or abuse (probably not an exhaustive list…but for the sake of my point)?  If it doesn’t, then there’s a good chance it’s not a real problem.  It’s a disappointment or an obstacle.  It’s an opportunity.  Embrace it.  You have just been given a chance to become stronger, learn new things or meet someone new.”

Olivia said, “I know, Mom.”  Then, she smiled.  I am SO relieved she knows.

 

self pity

I love watching you grow.  It’s my favorite.  I like watching your brothers grow too.  That’s also my favorite.  When I became your mom, I thought that I was supposed to teach you everything you should know.  I didn’t know that you would teach me things too.  You have.  I like who you are.

The other day you came home and told me some boys were bothering you.  They were asking you if you’re a goody goody.  You said you smiled and told them to “shoo”.  You said they meant no harm.  I’m glad.  You’re probably right.  Boys can be super weird.

I have been thinking about your story.  I think it’s funny how people say, “history repeats itself.”  I think they might say that, because it’s true.  The things that you are going through, have been gone through before. By by people like me.

I was also called a goody goody by boys.  When I was a little older than you (14), I remember being at a party.  Not a crazy, wild beer party.  Just a bunch of kids hanging out in the same place.  At one point in this party, I was alone with a bunch of older football players.  I was a freshman.  We were laughing and having fun.  These older boys seemed to really be enjoying my jokes.  I won’t lie, I didn’t hate the attention.

At some point during the fun, one of the boys pulled out a  bottle of whiskey.  The boys asked me if I’d drink the whiskey with them.  Now, I can’t remember the exact words I said , but I do remember responding with something like, “It will be a cold day in Hell before I drink a bottle of whiskey with a bunch of older boys.  I AM 14!”

I guess I wasn’t THAT big of a goody goody.  I cussed.  I’m sorry.  I did.

Even though that was  a great  idea those boys had, and I’m sure it would have been a lot of fun, I  just couldn’t shake the feeling that the boys would have come out better on the other side of that great idea than I would have.  I had this nagging feeling that those boys didn’t have my best interests at heart.

After I declined the boys’  generous whiskey offer, they told me I was a goody goody.  They didn’t think I was funny any more.  I’m pretty sure I never held their interest again.

Do you think I feel badly that those boys decided they didn’t like me?  Maybe I did a little back then.  Mostly I felt good.  Like you do when you know you did the right thing.

Do you know how MANY things happened to me in my 14th year?  So.Many.Things. I wish I could remember them all.  I can’t.  Don’t you think it’s weird, that this one thing that happened is something I  remember?  I think I know why.  This moment was one of those moments you get in life that help define you.  This moment was an unexpected, unplanned series of events that put me in a situation where I had to decide whether to impress and be liked, or to choose what was best for me.  I had to use some courage.

This is a story I wanted you to know.  You are standing at the gateway of  what could be some of the most fun you’ll have in your life.  There won’t be another time in your life when your main priorities should be to try new things and  have fun. I want you to come out on the other side of your teenage years with good memories, a clear conscience and the start of an understanding of who God made you to be on Earth.

I see already  that one thing God gave you  is a strong mind. I thank Him for that.  I see you making decisions that you feel are right for you.  That makes me happy.  I hope you never come to a moment where you make a decision to please someone else, even while you’re knowing it’s not right for you. You might do that. I have.  If you do, remember grace.  God has plenty.  Every moment is a chance to start over.

I wanted you to know that being a goody goody is okay.  It takes confidence and strength to be a goody goody. Strength and confidence are attributes that become more natural for you the more you use them.  They are attributes that will serve you well and help you live a good life.  Not everyone does.

Sometimes people favor you only when you follow their lead.  I want you to be okay with falling out of people’s favor.

I want you to know your mind. I want you to like the person God made you to be, and not try to be something else. I want you to do all that and also be humble and kind.  That’s it.  That’s all I want for you.  Just the world. I’m kidding you now, daughter.  I can’t give you the world.  I don’t know that it would be good for you to have it.

We are on this journey together; I want to point out the tricky spots that I’ve passed by before.  Maybe you will hear me and those spots won’t be as tricky for you.  That’s what I was hoping.

Mother-Daughter-Magic

My Kids’ Inheritance

“Why is summer taking so long?” In the history of the world, has this ever been said?  I doubt it.  No. We are all asking each other where summer went.  What happened to it?  Summer was just here a minute ago.

Our family ended summer on a fine note.  I love long weekends. I like Labor Day better than Memorial Day.  Labor Day doesn’t come with all the guilt; no one posts Facebook messages on Labor Day scolding you for not properly celebrating Labor.  That’s a relief.

We went to Scott’s family reunion over Labor Day.   I don’t like the words “Family Reunion”.  Those words don’t conjure up positive imagery for me.  I get the same kind of feeling when people talk about Family Reunions as I do when I hear about dental appointments or weighted lunges.  I don’t know why; generally I’m totally in favor of families.

A family reunion sounds like there’s a chance I could be stuck on someone’s plastic covered sofa, drinking tea and listening to a story about Great Aunt Bertha’s favorite Hymns. That doesn’t sound fun.  I get it.  I’m selfish.

This reunion was fun.  This reunion was NOT like a like a dental appointment, or like weighted lunges (I could certainly stand to do a few.)  This reunion was with Scott’s Mom’s family.  Their kids, and their kids’ kids.  Scott’s Mom and her siblings have a story.  I wish that I could tell their story in detail and at length. It is way more interesting than talking about hymns.

Today I can give you the cliff notes:  Scott’s mom, Gail, had four siblings.   Gail’s parents owned a busy and profitable tavern in a small town in Iowa called Earlville.   Earlville is kind of like Chicago, only instead of all the buildings, people, streets and business, you have corn fields, corn fields and cornfiels; otherwise, exactly the same.

earlville is chicago

Earlville and Chicago = Same

When Gail was young, her mom, Caroline, would rise early and stay up late; Caroline took care of the family and helped run their business.  Caroline was cheerful and hardworking.

When Gail was 12, her mother died.  Gail’s father tried to keep the family and the business going, but it proved to be too difficult without his wife.   Caroline was a strong woman.  Her absence could not be overcome.  There were medical bills.  The family quickly went from prosperity to poverty.

After Caroline died,  Gail’s oldest brother joined the Air Force.  Gail’s oldest sister moved out on her own.  Gail and her younger sister were sent to live with an Aunt and Uncle in another city in Iowa.  Gail’s little brother was sent to live with a different Aunt and Uncle. The children never lived in the same house together again.

That’s the only part of the story I can tell; that’s all I know; except the ending.  I can tell you the ending.

Here it is:

specth family reunion

Almost Everyone

 

Gail’s oldest sister is in heaven.  The other four siblings are on Earth.  All four of these living siblings raised really, really (I’m tempted to add another “really” here) cool families.  I’m serious.  At this family reunion, I realized that every time I turned around there was someone awesome standing there.

How did those little kids in Earlville who lost their Mom, then their home and then their family survive in such a happy fashion?  How did they overcome their adversity?

I think the least those siblings could do is brag about it a little bit.  They don’t.  Scott doesn’t have the huggy- lovey-let’s-hold-hands-and-sing-Kumbaya before we share our feelings type of family.   That means I have to work extra hard to figure out how this all happened.

What I DO know is that those Earlville siblings were all gritty.  They were tough and hard working. They were loyal and devoted to their families.  It’s kind of beautiful.  Sorry, Gail’s family.   Don’t mean to go all mushy on you.  You can tell I’m not one of them.

It made me happy to take a tour of Grandma Gail’s little town where she was born.  I liked learning about her family.  It felt good to look my children in the eyes and say, “These are the people you come from.  That’s good news for you.  Your people are tough.  They value family, and they persevere.” I saw something good on the faces of my children as they listened to these stories.

tour of earlville

Grand Earlville Tour

My kids will face their own adversity.  It may help them to know that giving up and feeling sorry for themselves is not their natural way.  Strength is in their blood line.   It’s their inheritance.

I took Olivia to get her sport’s physical this week.  We waited an hour to see the Doctor.  Apparently, waiting until the week before school to get your kids’ physicals is what all the cool moms are doing.  The clinic was running a little (a lot) behind.

I didn’t mind.  I liked talking to my girl.  When we were sitting in the lobby, Olivia gave me some career advice.  She said that I should open an office up right at our house and become a “Christian Organic Doctor who sells wellness”.  I’m like, I have no idea what that is, but I am TOTALLY in, Olivia.

She said that when she’s older she’d be my partner.  But, then she said she isn’t actually interested in any of that stuff, so she thinks she’d rather just watch my patient’s kids.  I love it when your children figure your life out for you.

I’m sad again.  I’m sad every single start of every single school year since I’ve had a school age child.  Zeke pointed out that going back to school does not really change my schedule at all, so there’s no reason for me to be sad.  I know that is true, but I’m sad any way.

Good byes have always made me sad.  Every fall I know we are saying good bye to another piece of our kids’ childhood.  It won’t be long before the last pieces are gone.

It’s going to be messy when all these kids go for real.  I know it.  I’ll be sad. I know one person for sure who will be sadder.  The kids have this one BFF who plays with them all the time.  This guy wants the kids to spend all their free time with him.  The other day the kids were gone, and this guy told me he felt so sad and lonely.  He didn’t know what to do with himself.

I said, “Scott.  I think you need to find some friends your own age.  These kids aren’t meant to live with us forever.”

He had a lonely look on his face.  He said, “I know.”

This is the down side of marrying a guy who has no interest in rubbing elbows with the movers and the shakers at the country club.  The guy who, if I’m remembering right, has never had a single “guys night out” in 22 years.

Guys like that  take their kids growing up pretty hard.

I’ve got a few years to figure out how to find some kind of life for Scott and me by ourselves, without kids.   I might get him into some pottery or paper mache classes.  Perhaps, interpretive dance?  If I keep this up, he for sure is going to ask the kids if he can live with them in their dorms.

Olivia has enjoyed her summer. She has sweet friends.  They have been busy filming and editing videos for their Youtube channel.  Is there anything at all about modern day child hood that looks like our own?  I recognize none of it.  I thought you were supposed to snap beans and wait for “Love Boat” reruns in the summer.

I was watching the girls’ videos and I thought they were funny and cute.  I’m not one bit biased, either.  I told the girls that the videos were awesome.  I said most of them were so long, that really only their Mother’s would have it in them to stick with it until the end.

I told the girls that if they made a short little video, I would love to put it on my blog.  Because, really?  just how long can people listen to me blather?  There’s gotta be something more interesting than that.  Like, a middle school girl’s fashion video.

Happy Back to School to all the wonderful families out there.  Blessings on you and your sweet children.  I am rooting for you!

 

 

I’ve lost my blogging rhythm.  I used to have one, but I don’t any more.  Now my blogs just erupt spontaneously.

After writing about depression, I felt a little depressed.  That surprised me.  I spent a lot of myself writing that story.  When I finished, I thought maybe I finally got all of these words inside of me on the outside of me.  I felt empty; like I was actually done.

I thought, well then. I guess I finally have blogging out of my system.  Soon I will be saying, “Remember when I used to blog all the time? I was so weird back then.”

A couple of days after I published my Depression Story, I felt more words starting to slowly pile up again.  Not words to change anybody’s world.  Just more like another purge of random nonsense.   Those kind of purges are soothing for me.

Maybe I’m sick?

Just a sec. I have to go Google something.

SHUT the FRONT DOOR!!!  This is a thing.  I knew it.  I’m suffering from an illness.  And, you didn’t believe me?!  Maybe this will teach you trust my instincts.  Especially when it comes to impending doom.   I always have my money on that.

Check it:

Hypergraphia is a behavioral condition characterized by the intense desire to write. Forms of hypergraphia can vary in writing style and content. It is a symptom associated with temporal lobechanges in epilepsy, which is the cause of the Geschwind syndrome, a mental disorder.[1]Structures that may have an effect on hypergraphia when damaged due to temporal lobe epilepsy are the hippocampus and Wernicke’s area. Aside from temporal lobe epilepsy, chemical causes may be responsible for inducing hypergraphia.

Now I don’t understand most of that definition, nor did I read anything but the first sentence.  But,  what is pretty obvious (when you read between the lines) is that this writing disease is fatal.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to make you cry again.  I know we’ve become friends.

I shall make this vow to you: I shall keep writing and writing and writing things for you, until I die from it.  You have my word and my honor.

Wow.  Things just got real serious.  Real fast.

One of the things I felt so compelled to write about was Olivia’s dream.  Scott doesn’t like it when we talk about dreams.  He’s so literal; he abhors drama.  Dreams are dramatic. I think when we explain our dreams to Scott, he mistakenly thinks that that WE are being dramatic.  Like we have a choice about what our subconscious conjures up while we sleep.

I have been in the middle of telling Scott about how I gave birth to his little son who actually turned out to be a monkey, and Scott will  just cut me off.  He doesn’t want to hear another word.

I’m like, “Just let me tell you the part about how we bravely overcame our disappointment in our monkey son, and how we embraced him instead.  We gave him a home, Scott.  That should mean something to you.”

MonkeySad

Hello, Scott Junior. Your Father doesn’t mean to be so harsh. He’ll learn to love you, in time.

Nope. He doesn’t care.

I am very interested in dreams.

Olivia has been on edge lately because, well, sometimes she hears the news.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but lately the news IS terrifying.  If I were writing a serious blog today, I might point out that if hearing about the terror happening on another continent is enough to give us nightmares, I wonder how it is affecting the victims actually experiencing it.

I know that I can’t actually know how good I have it.  It’s impossible to appreciate it adequately.

So, here is the dream:  Olivia dreamed that the enemy/terrorists stormed the United States.  The terrorists came into our home with guns.  They pointed them at us and said, “If you praise God, we will kill you.  If you praise the Devil, you will live.”

Then, the terrorists said, “Get on your knees.  If you face East, you are praising God.  If you face the West, you are praising the Devil.  If you praise the Devil, we will let you live.”

Of course, we all folded our hands, and faced God’s direction together.  Then, at the last minute I yelled, “Wait.  Wait.  Don’t kill me.  I’m going to face the Devil’s direction.”

WHAATT????  Are you kidding me, Olivia?

So, that dream is simultaneously terrifying and humorous.  Terrifying, because people really are executed for their beliefs.  Not in some weird era of history either.   Right now.  Humorous, because I thought maybe my daughter had more confidence in me.  Apparently, she thinks it will take approximately 15 seconds to break me.

That makes me nervous, because I have been known to crumble under pressure.  Let’s just say nobody’s every accused me of being overly courageous.

I’m glad Olivia gave me this horrifying plot to think about.  I’m going to visualize and practice bravery in my mind.  For the record, I’m totally a God worshiper.

I’m also going to ask God if there would please be another, slightly less scary way to end my time here.  Like a writing disease, or something like that.

 

My Depression Story

My oldest sister, Chris, told me about this blog she thought I would like.  Strange.  I had just started reading this exact blog a few days before my sister mentioned it to me.  Chris and I are like that.  We often are separately coming to the same conclusions.  It is starting to freak us out.

Chris thought I would like this blog.  She was wrong.  I don’t like it.  I love it.  The author of this blog is so clever and humble and sincere.  She is insightful.  She’s thought a lot about faith, and uses her faith to guide her every day.   She has a family, and she also has Chronic Lyme Disease.

If you read her blog, you will see that she has made up some of her own theology.  You don’t need to warn me about that.   I know.  I don’t limit my reading or listening to people who think just like me.   I would not like to live that way.

I read her essays, and I get that she is intellectually out of my league.  She is playing for the Brewers (during a winning season); I am still playing T-ball.

I’m not saying any of that because I need compliments.  I’m saying it, because it’s true.  Saying these things doesn’t make me insecure. It just makes me honest.

Some of my very favorite people in the world are cursed with a negative inner dialogue.  All day they are tuned in to an unending loop of self-criticism.  They negatively compare themselves to other folks, and reject their own awesomeness.

I thank God that tape is not playing in my own head.  I am okay with my weaknesses. Other people’s awesomeness does not make me feel unworthy.  It usually inspires me.

One thing this blogger/author said was that she has all these ideas floating by her each day, begging her to write them down.   She says that need to put her thoughts into words is intense. She has a busy life, and a beautiful family.  She has more thoughts than she has time.  Sometimes she has to let  thoughts go before they’re captured.

I cannot explain how much I understand this.

Sometimes people ask me if it’s hard to keep writing.  It isn’t.  It’s hard to NOT keep writing.   But, I’m not an author, and I don’t write for a living.  So, a lot of the time I’m forcing myself  to attend to my responsibilities, and not write.  Not writing is an act of self  discipline.

This author I like talks a lot about her own mental illness.  I’m inspired by her honesty.  Scott and I were discussing this author and Robin Williams the other night.  I said I thought that Robin William’s passing was creating this positive dialogue about mental illness.  I told Scott I considered writing about my own experience with post postpartum depression; I didn’t know if that was selfish.  Robin Williams death is so sad.  I shouldn’t use his death as an excuse to shine the light on me.

Scott didn’t agree with me.  He said that the more people talk straight up about mental illness and depression, the better.  He said there is strength in honesty.  He asked how we could help each other, if we weren’t  being honest. I agree.  I have always agreed with that.

I have never decided NOT to talk about my postpartum depression.  For me, it is like the time I broke my finger.  It happened. It hurt.  It healed.  It’s over.  It isn’t relevant any more. Except, now I’m thinking that maybe sharing my story might be relevant for someone else.  For someone who is living in  it right now.  My story  might help someone who’s suffering to know that sometimes there is an end to it.  Sometimes you heal.

I know it is not like that for everyone.  Some people battle with depression, mood disorders or mental illness their entire lives.  That takes courage.

Here’s my story:

When our third child, and first daughter, was born I could NOT stop smiling.  Olivia was like Christmas every day for me.  I loved her intensely.   I would guess that the folks who know me the best would tell you that my knack for loving people intensely hasn’t always helped me.  I have been known to love people so much that I start to believe  their happiness, good health and well-being are completely on me.  Their happiness and success are my responsibility alone.   THAT is a lot of responsibility.  I didn’t used to  know that you can over-love people.  You can. I have.

When we brought Olivia home from the hospital,  life was sweet.  I can honestly tell you that postpartum depression, or not, my 8 years as a  stay-at-home mom were the BEST years of my life.  They were also the hardest years.  

 

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I promise you that I didn’t take those years for granted while I was living them.  Scott and I made a conscious  effort NOT to do that.  We would tell each other out loud, “remember to appreciate this moment.  Some day they’ll be big.”   Then, we’d just be quite for a bit and try to permanently burn whatever image was in front of us into our memory bank.  It worked a little.  I have a whole trunk full of happy memories with our babies that I like to think about and re explore when I have time.

 

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I thought that not taking that time for granted meant that time would go slower.  It didn’t.  Time went just as fast as if I HAD taken those years for granted.   I was right there, and now it’s gone.

When Olivia was born, Zeke was a baby too. He was 16 months old.     Zeke didn’t take kindly to sharing his mom at first.  We knew that’s how he felt, mainly because he said, “WAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!”  All freaking day long.  Every day.  For many, many days.   He was sad.  Of course,  I took his sadness to heart.  I felt so guilty for giving him a sister.

Then, you had Eddie.  Sweet, sweet, precious, ever-lovin’, never puts a sock in it, Eddie.  Who’s bright idea was it to read to that kid in the womb?

 Eddie was a very early talker.  Once he started talking, he never stopped.  Non. Stop. Chatter.  4-year-old chatter on top of WAHHHHHHHH!!!! On top of nursing an infant who was extremely attached to her mother.  I think all those things together could have broken the toughest soldier.

I’m going to be really honest about something else.  I’m saying this, because I know there’s someone else out there like me.  Maybe I can help you avoid the same mistakes.  I want to tell you that the other contributing factor to my temporary insanity was my habit of being too nice.  I hope you don’t think I’m complimenting myself.  I’m not.  Being too nice is NOT a worthy attribute.  Being too nice has nothing to do with being a good Christian, or being loving and kind.  Being too nice is being weak.  You know what else being too nice is?  Being too nice is dishonest.

When we had three children under four, there were things I needed from Scott.  There were things I needed Scott to do, and things I needed him to stop doing.  Scott is my favorite person on this planet.  I am his biggest fan. He only keeps getting better.    I want you to know that.   I wish  I would have been more clear with Scott about how he could help me back then.   He would have helped me too.  I just needed to tell him how.  I didn’t tell him, so without trying to, he made things worse.

Olivia was born in June.  All summer long I could feel my mind slipping into something unfamiliar to me.  I couldn’t explain what it was;  it felt a little bit like despair.  

Women with preschoolers, who are trying to keep the house clean, entertain the children and keep everyone fed and healthy are working like slaves.  They are.  It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done.   The only people who think that work like that is easy, are people who haven’t done it.

My anxiety and sadness seemed to intensify over time.  I am an anxious person by nature, but I am definitely not  a sad person. I started to develop irrational fears for our children’s safety.  I remember at night giving myself lectures, “Normal people do not want to crawl in a crib with their babies.  Your baby girl is safe. Stay in your own bed.  Your baby is across the room.  You will hear your baby when she cries.  Just go to sleep.  You need sleep.  Sleep now, while your baby is sleeping.”

She would sleep, but I wouldn’t.  I wouldn’t sleep, because I was worried that she might not sleep.  Even though she was right there sleeping.  It all makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?  

One night, when Olivia was about 4 months old I went out for supper with my sisters, Mom and Grandma.  My sisters didn’t know how fragile my state of mind was.  They thought we were going to have fun.

I watched my sisters interact with their beautiful baby niece, Olivia.  I was jealous of how carefree and genuine they seemed.  I was so full of fear and worry, that I couldn’t remember the last moment of sincere pleasure I had with my baby girl.

At some point in our dinner, I put my head down in my arms and I started to quietly sob.  I know women cry.  We’re emotional creatures.  I am weird. I  have never been prone to crying. My sisters rarely saw me cry.  My role was to make them laugh.  That day I cried.

I sobbed for a few minutes.  Everyone around the table became silent.   When I brought my head up, there were 6 women staring at me with tears pouring down their faces.  Wow.  Empathy.  It is so precious. So many lonely women go through postpartum depression without love and understanding.  Now, it’s so easy to see how God used His people to comfort and carry me.

I went back home after our dinner, and I cried some more.  My sleeping became more interrupted and anxious as the weeks passed that summer.  Eventually, I couldn’t sleep at all.   Literally.  I went several nights without one blessed minute of rest.  Then,  one morning I had a panic attack.  

I have wished to God that there would have been just ONE occasion in my life before that point, where someone would have described a panic attack to me.     I didn’t know they existed.  Being completely unprepared and uninformed for one of the scariest moments of your life, makes the moment worse.  Much worse.

Now, I am glad I had that panic attack.   It was a turning point.   Scott took one look at me that morning and he said, “You need help.”    Scott downplays things.  He is calm, and he doesn’t think in extremes.   Scott is definitely not in the habit of asking for help.  That day he knew we needed help. He was clearly in over his head; his wife would not be able to pick herself up by the bootstraps this time.    

I told him I might need to go to a hospital.  I explained that I thought there was a small chance I might  be having a nervous breakdown. The real kind.

I can’t really remember everything that happened after that.  I didn’t go to a hospital.  I do remember staying with my parents.  I remember my mom drawing me baths, and my dad hugging me and crying.  I remember my sister, Chris, staying with me, and treating me like something fragile that needed to be encouraged and cared about.  She was exactly right about that. All of those things helped.

Our Doctor put me on anti anxiety medication, and an anti-depressant.   She told me I had postpartum depression, and that I should stay on the anti-depressant for a year, at least.  I had never been depressed in my life.  No one in my family had been clinically depressed either.  All these words were new to us.  

My parents found a friend at church to call me.  This friend had gone through postpartum depression.  She knew exactly what was happening to me.  I clung to her.  Every word out of her mouth was sacred to me.  She told me what was happening to me was not going to kill me.  She told me that I was not going to lose my children, and I would not need to live in a psychiatric hospital.  She told me that I was NOT insane.  Or, maybe I was, a little, but I could handle it.  

I know now she was guessing at all those things.  How could she really be sure of any of that?  But,  she knew what I needed to hear her say, and she said it.

Seriously, why had no one told me about any of this before?  Never.  Not one person had mentioned that I might lose my mind after I gave birth.  That’s something I would have liked to have known.  

I  listened to my new friend, and I took great comfort in knowing that many people had gone through what I was experiencing.  So many people, in fact, that there were books and other resources dedicated to the subject.   I did what I always do when faced with a problem.  I researched and read.  I gathered information,  and I followed the experts advice.  

The medicine didn’t work right away.  I was mentally weak.  I wasn’t the confident person I had always been.  I doubted my ability to do simple tasks, like drive to the grocery store.  I would feel paralyzed by fear.   “What if I ran our van off the road…on purpose?  I don’t  feel like I want to end my life, but what if I do?”  I lost trust in myself.

I also had this gloom hanging over me. It’s hard to explain.  I can’t remember exactly how it feels, and I am positive I don’t want to remember.   Somewhere in one of the books I read, a person said that I could embrace my suffering.  This person said to acknowledge that things aren’t right, and tell yourself it’s okay.  Don’t bury it and don’t fight it.  That advice made sense to me.   Fighting and burying take a lot of mental and emotional resources depressed people don’t have.  So I told myself that this state of being was okay; I just kept taking tiny little steps in the proper direction. 

Eventually, I started to feel more steady.  I felt more capable.  The anti-depressant did work.  It took me off the ledge and put me somewhere safer; it also left me feeling dull and numb.   My anti depressant had fully kicked in when the planes struck the twin towers on 9-11.  I couldn’t shed a tear.  My body wouldn’t make them.  I didn’t like feeling so dull, but I knew that dullness was better than the alternative.

Even though I felt a kind of numb,  I also still felt unsteady and scared.  I still had to be careful about what I read and saw for the next year.  For me, postpartum depression came in the form of intense anxiety.  It felt like my nerves were raw and exposed.   I couldn’t watch or read about other people’s pain or tragedy.  If I saw anything that had to do with children suffering,  the darkness would threaten to take me back.  I couldn’t watch the news, or watch anything but comedies for a very long time.  

I remember during this time listening to my Dad talk about someone he spoke with at work.  My Dad was a Pastor.  He was retelling a pretty wild story about someone who lived on the streets who came into the church.  Of course, my Dad tried to help this man, but I remember my Dad explaining how odd the behavior of this person was.  I guess most people would have called this guy “crazy”. That story scared me.  Didn’t my Dad know that guy was me?  

That guy was broken.  So was I.  And, what did it take to break me?  Taking care of three small children?  I couldn’t believe I was so easily cracked. I wondered why I would ever have been so cavalier about my sanity?  I didn’t realize that I was never more than a few bad circumstances away from mental instability.  I wouldn’t have believed it.

I was an excellent patient.  I followed all the rules.  I talked about my depression.  I sought comfort from people who cared. I tried to take more time for myself.  I slept more. I told myself what was true, even if I didn’t believe it.  I read God’s word.  I prayed.  I ate healthy food.  I exercised.  I did it all.  None of it worked by itself.  None of it worked quickly.  But, all together, applied day in and day out over the course of a year, I found my way back into the light.  I started to feel more like me.   

I went off my anti-depressant after a year.  I didn’t relapse, but  I wasn’t totally well either.  I started having more and more moments where I felt  like the real me.  Not the muted, anti depressant me.  

It wasn’t until Olivia was four years old when I remember the last storm clouds permanently disappearing.  The clouds blew away when I started to work again part-time.  My work excited and challenged me.  I thank God for using that work to restore me fully.

When Scott and I were talking about this the other day I told him about those occasional storm clouds when Olivia was four.  He was really surprised.  He didn’t know.  He didn’t know, because I didn’t tell him.  I explained that those clouds were scary.  I didn’t want to draw attention to them.  He understood.  

Those clouds don’t bother me at all any more.  I won’t focus on them.   I will focus on good health and happiness.  I have an abundance of those.  

Today, when I walk by the woman on the street who smells badly,  is talking to herself,  and carrying all her belongings with her in dirty bags, I will look at her and know.  I will know that I am her.  She is me.  I’m just a few tough circumstances away.  I will give her respect.  I will help her in any way that I can.  

I am sorry that I once held myself in such high regard.  I thank God for using my life to teach me how to see people properly.  I commit to remembering what I have learned.  I wouldn’t want to repeat the lesson.

 

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