Never say never

•May 16, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Even after we moved back to Long Island, I still said never.  I’ll never be able to have a job related to construction in any way.  I’ll never be okay with certain things, no matter how much progress I make in getting better.  I may never be okay with stuff being stored in the crawl space.  Lots of stuff like that.

Well, I have definitely learned to stop saying never.  Highly unlikely, not sure, maybe; yes, I say all those things.  Just not ‘never’.  Now I had a good reason for saying never (yes, I did, and yes it was a good reason).  I thought it was true.  I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be okay.  Did I hope to be one day, fully recovered, able to withstand my triggers (or at least understand them)?  Yup, of course I did.  But at the time I felt that saying “never” was true.

As time has gone by, I have gotten better.  I’ve been able to do things now that I would have, and probably did, say never to, things that I thought were out of my reach.  I’ve driven on roads that at one point were “contaminated,” hell I’ve walked by my triggers almost without noticing, and been okay.  That, in turn, has given me a little more confidence, to do other things.
So while it’s highly unlikely that I will ever work in the construction business (perhaps green construction, but I think that’s my limit – see, I said ‘think’ there), I have in fact had several situations, temp jobs, etc., where I’ve been in the vicinity of my triggers and not panicked.  Was I blase about it?  Hell, no, but I didn’t run from the room screaming, crying, or doing anything else that other people would deem padded-cell worthy, not knowing my particular brand of brain muck.  On such jobs I could see one of my triggers; and yes, my heart beat faster, my stomach/chest got tight, I felt my limbs stiffen up a little.  I was, however, able to get on with my day.  Did I go in that room again?  No, thankfully I did not have a reason to go in there during my time at this job.

There are also things being stored in the crawl space.  I followed a suggestion of packing the items in bags and then into a storage crate, therefore 2 layers of protection from the evil stuff (although it’s more the air, than the surface since it doesn’t actually touch it, but I digress).  Now, when that stuff comes out, I’ll want to have it cleaned, for a variety of reasons.  One, at the moment, yes, I still need to be able to tell my emotional brain that the stuff is in fact safe.  Also, and better for my family, it’ll have been in storage, so cleaning and freshening up clothes that have been in storage is not a bad idea, in general.

One HUGE sign of my progress is my job.  I work in NYC.  Anyone who has been there for any length of time knows there’s always construction going on somewhere.  Stuff gets finished, new stuff gets started, etc.  Now before this, I wouldn’t have been able to do this job, not with all the construction around.  Even though there’s walls, and scaffolding to keep both the construction workers (I hope) and regular people safe, it’s still construction.  And, yes, I have instances where I see my triggers, but the fact that I’m writing this proves that I’m okay.  Do I go up and touch my triggers?  No, no, and no.  I am however, able to walk past them, sometimes giving them a wide berth, and go on with my day.

What’s my point?  Truly, never say never.  However (wait, what?), IF you are even THINKING suicidal thoughts (i.e. I can never live a normal life again, I’ll never get better, etc.), please, please, PLEASE call 911 and get help.  Call your doctor, therapist, psychologist, a friend or family member, someone to talk to about what you’re feeling.  One of my dear aunts was able to calm me down during a HUGE panic attack/nervous breakdown.  I was still thinking negative thoughts, but my husband was on the way to make sure nothing bad happened.  So please, get help.

And never say never.

Be well.

Have Wipes, Will Clean (even when you think it’s not necessary)

•May 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

So I’ve been very neglectful of this blog and I really hope you can forgive me.  I didn’t really want to be a postpartum depression hero or anything, but I wanted to get my story out there, because there are still so few.  More of them in the blog world to be certain, but VERY few in the published world.  And I’m not knocking the celebrities that have written about their experience.  They’re people, deep down bare bones, they are people, and not immune to this lovely (yes that’s sarcasm) life-changing mental illness called postpartum depression/anxiety/OCD/psychosis.

I just ALSO want regular people.  And I just happen to be one of those regular people.  And I just got smacked in the head with something I’ve known for a long time on this blog, I can SCHEDULE stuff!  Now, as I said, I’ve known about this for awhile, but it didn’t really click until today.  Hip hip hoo-f*cking-ray!  So I’ll try to post more often by scheduling stuff in advance.  I promise to do my bestest :)  I’m going to aim for two posts a month, basically every two weeks.  If I’ve got a lot in the pipeline, then I’ll try to do more per month.  You can also always ask questions in the comments or by e-mailing me.

Now on to the business at hand.  I think most if not all OCD people carry wipes, and sanitizer, and maybe other on-the-spot cleaning stuff.  I am no different.  To this day (coming up on 5 1/2 years postpartum, when does it stop being postpartum?, another blog post, sorry, tangent) I still carry hand sanitizer and wipes.  I used to say that being a mom gave me permission to carry both and use them whenever I felt the need.  Well, I still do, feel the need that is, just not as often.  And I use the wipes for other things (mostly art stuff, like the little heart in the top left corner here)

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This here is a photo of my wipes on my lap while sitting in my car (bottom left corner is my shirt, so I’m facing the top right corner).  I was getting gas for my car.  Now someone told me a long time ago that she did carry wipes in her car for after she got gas.  Prior to getting sick, I filled my tank up on more than one occasion, and even topped off my oil (in older cars), so I was no stranger to the most likely myriad of dirt, etc. on the pump handle, etc.  After I got sick, forget it.  I could get gas, when necessary (and in fact it was because I could not find full-service stations in FL), so I would get a wipe ready.  I’d swipe my card, pump my gas, and then clean my hands and my credit card (and it’s always worked, so the wipe never hurt it).

IMG_2352That is a Nightmare Before Christmas bag I got at Hot Topic several years ago (the other side is Jack’s face), along with some other things peeking out.  It’s sitting on my front passenger seat, taken just after the previous photo.  Very important, however, is the package of wipes.  One package can last me awhile, since as I said, I don’t use them as often as I used to, or I’ve been using them for art stuff.  But I still always carry a package of wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer.  They have come in handy many times over.

Be well.

Personal Milestones – Basement Floor

•September 13, 2014 • 1 Comment

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(Don’t mind the one sock business, it’s just protecting my toes while they heal)

So here’s the quick deal with the basement floor in my in-laws house.  Originally, it was split in half, half unfinished concrete or whatever, half carpet.  The half carpet area was a play area for hubby and sister-in-law when they were younger.  Life went on, they moved out, needs changed, and my in-laws decided to put wood flooring on half of the carpet area.

Now from the time hubby and I moved in the second time (back in 2010), I refused to go down the basement AT ALL without shoes/slippers, yes, even on the wood/carpet.  Anxiety and OCD rearing its ugly head.  Now, fast forward to (photo date).  I’ve gotten a small space to myself for crafting.  For no real “reason”, I walked down to the basement (my space is on the wood flooring section) in my bare feet.  Huzzah!

It’s the little things.  Many people who don’t “get” anxiety or OCD, or who would deny or minimize the effects it can have on a person and their life in general, would and probably will say “OK, so what?  What’s the big deal?”  And that’s just it.  When you’ve been struggling with something big like this (mental illness, in general), and steps forward, no matter how small, are incredible.  And I’ve often found myself thinking, “Why didn’t I do this earlier?”  Answer: apparently I wasn’t ready, until now.

IMG_1363Huzzah!

 

It’s okay to feel bad

•August 12, 2014 • 1 Comment

Even if you don’t want to.

Some of you may know I have two blogs.  One for my art and one for my battle with postpartum anxiety/OCD.  I’m considering combining them.  For right now I’d like to share an art journal spread that started out as something very different, but sums up how I felt and still feel at times.  It’s okay to feel bad, depressed, angtry, afraid, or any other negative emotion when you’re battling a postpartum mood disorder.  If you need to, call someone.  If you’re negative thoughts are spiraling down and you’re considering harming yourself (the news of Robin Williams’ passing by apparent suicide has brought the topics of both depression and suicide  to everyone’s minds), please call 911.  Do not suffer alone.

“I don’t want to be afraid.”

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If you’re interested in how I made this, please visit my other blog: my ScrapMuse is…

Be well

Be honest and ask for help

•July 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I asked for help.

Many women suffering from postpartum depression or a related illness are afraid to ask for help.  And I get it, because even though I asked for help, I still kept my illness hidden from some people.  And I didn’t “look” sick, so why would anyone pay attention to me any more than they usually do.  Since we don’t “look” sick, we have to ask for help.  Sometimes we may get it without asking, oftentimes not.

I was told I was strong because I admitted that I had postpartum depression and willingly sought help.  I always knew about postpartum depression, at least that it existed and some mothers got it.  I was quite ignorant about the immensity of postpartum health as a whole.  I did worry I would develop it after I had a baby, but I was horribly unprepared.  I also say that my symptoms of postpartum anxiety and OCD caught me by surprise both by slowing emerging and hitting my fast and hard.  Time itself took on a different perspective or dimension.  I know something was wrong, and that I needed help.

I certainly encountered roadblocks.  When I called my ob-gyn to get a therapist referral, the nurse did ask if I was depressed.  I said no, I’m just anxious and scared all the time.  I got the name and number of a therapist.  The therapist wasn’t at that number anymore, but I got a new number.  I left a message, and thankfully the therapist called me back.  My therapist was incredible, and I know I was lucky.  Sometimes you have to go through a few to find a person you connect with.  If I hadn’t called my gyn’s office, I wouldn’t have found my therapist.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help and get the right help.

My hubby knew something was wrong, and also that he wasn’t equipped to give me the help I needed.  He never blamed me, and was very supportive.  He saw me at my worst and come June, we’ll be celebrating 9 years of marriage and 15 years since we met, along with a beautiful little boy who is smart, funny, and adorable.

Geographically speaking, I had very little of my family near me, and no one from hubby’s side.  I did, however, have the support of the family that was there, and also saw what had happened to me.  Early on, the best help I got was from my husband and my therapist.  One last thing, and I can’t stress this enough, KNOW YOUR MEDICAL HISTORY.  This means knowing the physical and mental health history on both sides of your family.  My therapist told my husband when I was in the hospital after my breakdown, that had she known there was a history of mental health issues on both sides of my family, she would have put me on medication much sooner.  Many families don’t like to talk about it, or have the mentality of “we didn’t talk about it back then.”  No excuses, it is imperative to know if you’re at higher risk.

Be well.

My symptoms are becoming apparent

•June 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment

While all this is happening, I’m noticing other changes.  I’m washing my hands more, and using sanitizer more.  And yeah, okay, new parent, obsessed (healthily) with cleanliness around my newborn.  Then other things started creeping in.  I’m becoming scared to go to work and touch everything at work, and having all that “stuff” transfer to and hurt Blue Eyes when I get home.  So I stop immediately taking my son when I get home.  The first time was the worst.  I actually cringed and pulled away when my husband offered our son to me.  My husband was rightly worried about Blue Eyes, and how seeing his mommy pull away from him might affect him.  He managed to convince me that it was okay for me to kiss him on the cheek before changing, since our son missed me all day.  He’d had enough time with Daddy, he wanted Mommy.  This ritual progressed, becoming more complex and time-consuming.  At first, I came home, slipped off my shoes and left them in their spot by the door to the spare room (where I wouldn’t touch them again until the next morning) and dropped off my (eventually new and only for work) bag on a chest that I would not touch again until the following morning when I had to work again.  I’d tiptoe (so my pants didn’t touch the floor) to the bedroom, where I’d carefully strip off everything but my bra and panties.  I’d grab baby wipes and wipe myself down (mostly my arms and hands, face, neck, and any collarbone area that had been “exposed.”  I’d also wipe off my hair, and wash my glasses (sometimes twice).  Then, I could get dressed in my jeans and shirt and hold my son.  Sometimes he’s be in my husband’s arms or the playpen next to our bed in our bedroom.  Later on, after a conversation with some friends (also a clue, very susceptible to suggestion and incorporating those rituals into my routine); my ritual became more complex.  No longer could I simply strip, wipe, dress and I was good to go.  No, now I had to strip and shower, cleaning my glasses, and after that I could dress and handle my son.

Going home with baby

•May 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

So I’m trying to nurse at home, and the suggestion is to nurse exclusively for the first six weeks.  And I really planned to do that.  I wasn’t strict, as in thinking “no formula EVER.”  I just figured, it nourishes my baby, it’s free, and it helps me lose weight.  We’d gotten bottles and cleaned and sterilized them, for the thought of me pumping and popping them in the fridge to be given to Blue Eyes when I was working.  I still had problems.  It all stemmed from Blue Eyes not being able to latch on.  I followed the directions, did (I thought) what all the nurses did who were successful in getting him to latch on.  With the latching on problems (and the hospital telling me to feed him every 1-2 hours or when he’s hungry, whichever’s first.  So unless Blue Eyes wanted to feed constantly or every half hour or something, I had to try every couple hours.  And of course, there’s was the little chart we had to fill in with when he was fed and changed and how many of each diaper (number 1 and 2).  If it wasn’t filled in, they asked.

So all that amounted to nursing becoming a traumatic experience.  I’d try (already anxious from the previous failed attempts on my own), my son would start crying, I’d get more upset, and it’d become an endless cycle.  I think I succeeded twice, and let him eat for a good long while.  At the hospital, the nurse had told me my “job” was 15 minutes.  Any longer was my decision.  Well, given the problems we’d had nursing, I let his nurse longer.  There was also the added anxiety that even if I was successful this time, there was no way of know if I’d be successful again.  Fairly soon it became clear that we’d have to get Blue Eyes on bottles and formula.  That realization wrecked me.  Obviously, I was glad we could feed him, that we had another means of giving him the nourishment he needed.  I did tons of research of breastmilk and formula, and found that the only thing missing from formula was immune system enzymes that science couldn’t duplicate.  I also found out (much later on) that back in the day, breastfeeding had a stigma attached to it (that’s right, breastfeeding had a stigma).  This stigma was basically that only poor people breastfed, because they couldn’t afford to buy formula.  Talk about wow.  Anyway, so knowing that formula was just about the same as breastmilk helped me a little in coming to terms with Blue Eyes getting formula.  I didn’t even care about the bottle (actual nursing was weird for me, but pumping was annoying and time-consuming; glad it’s available, but doesn’t mean I have to like it).  My concern was still being able to give Blue Eyes breastmilk.  So I pumped.

Something you learn, whether in Lamaze class or on your own, is that the mechanics (for lack of a better term) behind a baby nursing and pumping are different.  And the difference, at least for me, was key in my pumping.  Essentially, the way a baby feeds actually tells the muscles and nerves (or whatever) in a mom’s body to produce more milk.  Pumping doesn’t, and if you’ve ever actually watched a pump in action, you kinda get why.  It’s is subtly different, but it’s enough.  Now I’ve met some women (one of whom is a friend of mine), who had no problems pumping despite the fact that she was not nursing, or at least she stopped at some point (baby teeth are sharp, trust me).  Unfortunately, I wasn’t that lucky.

The other problem I had with pumping is pumping at work.  Now legally, they couldn’t stop me from pumping.  However, any nursing mom knows that the baby and the mother’s body are on a schedule.  Go too long and your breasts can actually hurt from having too much milk.  Normally, you’re supposed to pumps every couple hours, right after you nurse (if possible), but eventually your body gets into a routine.  When you’re working a 9 to 5 job, that means nurse/pump before work (if you can), mid-morning, lunchtime, mid-afternoon, and then nurse the baby and pump when you get home for dinner.  Here’s another thing, the actual pumping.  Pumping breastmilk is a process, it’s not a quick trip to the bathroom.  You have to have space because double pumps are best for working moms and they’re big and there’s setup involved, both with the pump and you.  So a good pumping session is probably a good 30-40 minutes.  Maybe longer if you’ve really got some steam going.

No pun intended, that doesn’t always work when you’re working.  Some people gets morning and afternoon breaks and a lunch break, some don’t, etc.  And normal morning and afternoon breaks are maybe 15 minutes max.  You see where I’m going.  There was no way I could get a good pumping session in.  Anxiety running through your veins when you’re on the clock and trying to pump, is not a good recipe.

So I tried, and tried, racing to the bathroom (yeah, no separate room where I was comfortable baring all and having the constant anxiety of someone accidentally walking in), trying to get set up and pump and make the most of my 15 minutes.  Now granted, I did have the option of taking a shorter lunch, and then I could have 3 30- minute sessions.  In retrospect, I possibly should have done it.  However, my actual job made it more difficult, as I was the front desk person.  Answering the phone was my bit, and yes I could get coverage, but I think I’d have had a bit more leeway had I been higher up in the company food chain (which wasn’t going to happen where I was because of the needs of the office, etc.)  Plus, I didn’t feel comfortable discussing my parenthood and the associated challenges with most of my co-workers, even the women.  So again, I struggled and struggled.  It felt like weeks, but was probably only a week at the most (when you’re constantly pumping, time both slows down and speeds up).  And throughout this struggle, because I wasn’t nursing, my milk production was decreasing.  At one point, past the six-week mark, I tried to nurse my son.

Mix all this up and I started researching different methods of increasing my milk production.  Another thing I loathe about the health system in the States, holistic and alternative medicine are not part of medical school training.  So unless you pursue the knowledge yourself, you won’t know what you’re talking about.  I was researching holistic methods of upping my milk production.  Obviously you want to be careful, since whatever you eat/drink/consume is going to be in your breastmilk.  I read about different herbs that could be taken, but, like a “good” girl, I checked with my ob-gyn first.  Unfortunately, even if someone on the staff there knew about holistic remedies, there’s a good possibility that legally they couldn’t advise me.  Liability and all that, which I kinda of understand.  However, they should have had referrals to other professionals to help patients with these concerns and questions.  As it was, all I got was the advice of, keep trying to nurse.  Great, thank you very much.  Granted I could have called a lactation consultant, but I’m a touch busy.  New mother and going back to work.  No one checks on you after you get out of the hospital, except for one checkup six weeks postpartum.  I’ll get to that later.

 

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