Friday, June 10, 2016

Stop With the Mom Shaming Already

When I started this blog, I picked the name One Mom's Blog for a reason. I am just one mom. I am not the only mom who's kids came with owner's manuals. I am not the authority on anything kid related. I am just a mom. I am just one mom out of many. The best I can do is the best of myself...but I know that I am just one mom.

My dear friend and fellow mom and blogger Lindsay wrote a piece the other day about how hard it is to be a mom with social media being so prevalent in our lives, and it really got me thinking about how hard we are on one another. (you can read her piece HERE ) None of us knows better than the other, so why do we act like we do instead of lifting one another up? And I don't mean giving props to your friends. We all do that shit. That's easy because we already like them. I mean encouraging ALL the moms to do the best they can instead of coming down on them for the things they do. Even the ones you don't agree with.

I have one key to parenting that I use more than any other key on my mom ring. LEAD BY EXAMPLE. I don't tell my kids to be kind, I am kind so that they see how it works for me. I don't tell my kids to be courteous to others, I am courteous to others so that they learn having manners is a way of life and not something you do because someone tells you to. Why are we not doing this as much with one another as moms? If we think we are doing a good job, we should continue to do a good job. Create generations of good people from these efforts. Lead by example. You think you rock this mom stuff? That is fucking awesome! Keep rocking it! You created a human and now you get to help shape them to be the best person they can be. It's really pretty freaking amazing what our role is in this world now. But seriously, stop knocking other moms down.

Yes, we all have our principals and beliefs, and those are things that we have found work best for us in our lives. Why do we expect those things to work for everyone? Why are we walking around in the world telling moms that what they are doing is wrong? Heck, we tell other moms that what they are doing might KILL their children! I am not talking about things like putting your car seat the right way (I even had to do research on that one myself to see that the laws were right) or not hanging around with crack heads in your home with your kids. Yes, you don't smoke in the car with your kids. That is bad. Yes, you don't leave bottle caps on the floor of your living room because your child can choke (learned that one the hard way with my first born...thank God for his dad having quick reflexes). Yes, do all the things your pediatrician tells you will prevent SIDS because that shit is terrifying. I am not talking about the obvious things. I am talking about the other things.

I refer to moms who tell other moms that BREAST IS BEST like a broken record. As a formula mom, yes. We know this. And you know what? A lot of us COULDN'T breast feed. We didn't not do it because we just didn't feel like it. Many of us were physically unable. We have dealt with massive guilt and severe depression and anxiety over the struggle to make something work that our bodies were screaming at us was not possible. When you have a child, you are supposed to be able to breast feed. It's natural. It's something that evolution has told us our bodies are designed specifically to do. Sometimes, it just doesn't work. No amount of teas or dry nursing or anything else will make it happen. So seriously. Do you want me to breast feed my baby enough to push my postpartum depression to suicide? No. Then seriously. Shut up. I feel inadequate enough. My baby is fed and happy. This does not make me a bad mom.

I refer to moms who are on a crusade to get us all to stop buying store products to bathe our children, treat their rashes, and protect them from the sun..etc. Listen, I like Johnson's. I used their products as a kid. I used them with my son. I now use them with my daughter. Do you know why? Because they fucking work. They smell good. Their NightTime line is a miracle for a fussy, teething baby. They are also moderately priced and within my tight budget. Aveeno makes a great line as well. So does Baby magic. If your all natural, gluten-free, earth friendly bath soap made from the anal secretions of sacred unicorns was affordable and readily available when I am at Shop Rite with my massive stack of coupons, I might be more inclined to use it. But it's not. So just stop. Stop threatening us with rumors of cancer. Seriously. It's fucked up. Our kids are not smoking Newports. They are taking a bath. You act like we are using nuclear waste water instead of soap.

I refer to moms who tell us we are spoiling our children by wearing them everywhere. Listen, I like hanging out with my baby. I like it even more when she is happy. Do you know how she is happy? Strapped to my body. There is ZERO evidence to suggest that wearing a baby will create any kind of attachment issues or psychological damage later in life. Am I saying EVERYONE should baby wear? Of course not. Like everything else, it's a matter of what makes you and your baby happy. If your baby is independent, he or she might not like being stuck to you all day. They want to be exploring or playing or eating the cat hair she finds under the couch. (ok, maybe that is just MY baby)  That's TOTALLY fine too. No one is right or wrong here.Wearing our babies is not sentencing them to a life spent residing in our basement into adulthood.

I refer to moms who actually have the balls to tell moms like me that because we had a C-section, we didn't REALLY give birth. These people are a special kind of annoying. First of all, I had my son the good old fashioned way. Twenty one hours of active labor, a third degree tear from end to end when his shoulders came through my lady bits like a linebacker, hemorrhaging after the placenta was delivered. and then proceeding to vomit. My recovery was very difficult with bleeding and stitches and I can remember the pain of that first pee like it was yesterday. Yes, it was everything I dreamed it would be. It also scarred me. It made me not want to go through childbirth again. I was quite literally terrified when I became pregnant with my daughter. After discussions with my doctor about risks due to my first delivery, we decided on a C-section. It was scheduled, it would be quickly done, and my recovery would be different. In my opinion? It was better. This does not mean that YOUR birth through the birth canal was in any way not as good or special or qualifying for mom-hood. It means we brought our miracles to this world in different ways and now we have great dinner party conversation when we compare stories! So don't tell me I didn't "experience" birth the right way (whatever the fuck that is) because my baby came through my stomach and not my vagina. That's stupid.

What stupid complaints or criticism have you gotten that made you want to scream?

Here is the thing. Somewhere in some other dimension 100 years from now when we are dead and gone and have met up in heaven or hell or Nirvana or wherever, we can compare notes on who did a better job. By then our kids will have lived out their entire lives. We can see who's kids had attachment issues, obesity, and who's kids died from cancer due to our not using earth friendly products. Seriously, I will put that in my date book for the afterlife. Until then though? You know no more than I do. You might THINK you do. Maybe you have more kids than I do. Maybe you had them in a more "eco-friendly" way. Maybe you had your kids decades ago when "things were different". In the end, you know no more than I do. You have no business telling me my way is the wrong way, nor I to you. You do what is right for you, and I do what is right for me. Ultimately it's our choice whether or not we choose to criticize or encourage.

I will encourage. I think you are fucking amazing, Mom!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Forcing Kids To Hug and Kiss People...Why I say NO

I don't know if anyone else remembers being a kid and having your parents tell you "OK! KISS SO-AND-SO GOODBYE!" and we did, because that is what we were supposed to do, and we didn't want to upset our parents or whatever relative that was. And we hated it. At least I did. It made me feel so uncomfortable deep down in my soul to have to force physical affection when I knew I didn't want to. But I did it rather than give my parents or whatever relative that was any kind of an issue. I didn't want to offend anyone. I didn't want to upset anyone. It would be over quick, right? Just get it over with.

The more I think about that reaction that I had, the less and less I want my own daughter to have to go through that.

In adulthood, we are told that our bodies are our responsibility. That we ourselves are in charge of what happens. What affection we give and receive is up to us, they say. In a world overrun with the debate about "Rape Culture" and who is at fault in an accused sexual assault, why are we teaching our kids that they have to provide physical forms of affection to anyone they don't want to?

For some time now, I have thought maybe I was looking too hard into this issue. Maybe it's not a big deal. But it IS a big deal. It's a huge deal. Kissing is an intimate act. Eventually in their lives, it will be something that they use to convey their own very personal affections to another person. It will be the start of an intimate relationship. It's a sign of friendship. It's a sign of love. It's something that no one should be forced to do when they don't want to, and especially to someone they don't want to. I want my daughter to grow up confident and in control of her body and her mind and I cannot with good conscience think that and then in the next breath, tell her to kiss someone.

Puppy smooches are ok

A lot of people don't think this is a big deal. The response I tend to get when this discussion is brought up is, "Well, I did it. I'm fine." or "Do you want to offend (insert relative here)?" I don't want to offend anyone, but more than that, I don't want to force my daughter to kiss anyone. I don't want to teach her that her affections, especially of the physical variety, are something to be commanded from her.

My feeling as a child was that it would be over quick, so get it over with. I think hard about that reaction. It goes deep. I then think about my daughter as a teenager. Peer pressures. Some boy who says she should kiss him, or do something else. Will she feel she should do it so as not to offend him? So as not to upset him? It will be over quick, so get it over with. Yes. That is exactly what I feel I am teaching her by forcing her to kiss people she doesn't want to now, as a child.

My son is now eleven years old, going on twelve. When he was a toddler, I used to tell him "Give so and so a kiss goodbye!" and I could see in his face it made him uncomfortable. I didn't care who it offended. I stopped. I never made him do it again. Nowadays, he hugs who he wants to. He gives a pound. He is NEVER rude, always kind, and he never has to kiss anyone. When I pick him up from his grandparents, I remind him to tell his grandparents goodbye, but I never tell him to kiss anyone. I won't. I refuse.

It's important to me that in today's world of blurred lines regarding physical affections to make sure my kids know that their body is THEIR BODY. No one else's. No one can force them to use their body in a way that makes them uncomfortable. They do not EVER have to allow that from anyone. In most cases of sexual abuse, the abuser is familiar. Family. An older friend. Counselor. Clergy. Neighbor. These are the same types of people we force our kids to kiss goodbye. In my mind, how can I teach my kids not to allow someone familiar to touch them in inappropriate ways if I am telling them to provide affection to familiar people when they don't want to? This doesn't make sense, and yet so many of us were taught it was ok.

Someday, my kids will choose love. They will have someone on which they can lavish their affections. They will know then how wonderful it is to have those intimate moments and what they can really mean. Until that happens, on their terms, I refuse to tell them they have to. Even just a peck on the cheek. No. The answer is NO.

So when my kids are visiting someone and it's time to go, you will not hear me tell them to kiss anyone goodbye. Ever. I don't care who it offends. If they want to, they are free to do so, but that is their choice and not my command. They are the masters of their own bodies, and I want it to stay that way.

Just a Quick Thought about Johnny Depp...

You can't open any media outlet web page lately without seeing everyone's opinion of Johnny Depp. It's a sad situation on so many levels, but the saddest thing of all seems to be that people in this day and age are GUILTY until proven innocent. And even then, they will have a pox on their reputation for decades. We have seen this scenario play out in the media over and over again.

Spousal abuse is real. It exists. It's not just physical. It can also be mental. It can be sexual. It can be caused by stress, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, mental disorders, or a combination of all of the above. It affects women. It affects men. Worst of all, it affects children. It is never a subject to be taken lightly or casually and speaking as someone who has been in an abusive relationship, it's almost impossible to make anyone understand the complexity of it unless they have been there themselves.

I normally don't have an opinion on celebrity gossip more than just a passing comment or two. I used to love celebrity lifestyle gossiping and I bought all the supermarket tabloids and devoured them every month. It was like that scene in Sex and the City where Miranda's mail finally comes to her new home and she gets her gossip magazine. "It's my thing, leave me alone" she says. This was me, and I TOTALLY got that scene.

However, in recent years it's been less and less fun to watch these folks like zoo animals in their habitats. Maybe it's because I am 37 and have lived too many lives myself to really care anymore about what people who never had to struggle financially are doing. Maybe it's because that world has become saturated with reality TV and you no longer have to speculate about details while reading a magazine with limited information because its all blazing in front of your face on TV every day. Something happened and I lost my love for celeb-life gazing.

But I am still a film nut.

I have favorite actors, directors, cinematographers. I make my husband watch movies so I have someone to talk to about the colors, the imagery, the way the light hits a character's face in a certain scene. My husband would prefer to watch movies with comic book characters in them, but I am sitting him down and forcing him to watch Pans Labyrinth and Rosemary's Baby. Being that this is still close to my heart, I find myself still occasionally interested in what some of these people are up to. Johnny Depp is one of those people.

When I saw the story break about his pending divorce, I read the stories with a casual interest. I knew he had not been married this time too long, and there always seemed to be something going on. The first report I read had a statement from his legal team that he would not be granting spousal support (alimony) to this woman. Well, ok. Something must be going on. An ugly divorce. Cheating? Who knows. I am a divorcee myself and I have been through the legal system. I live in New Jersey though and our laws are probably different than those of wherever they live. (I am pretty certain it's not NJ...)

Suddenly, a few days later, the media EXPLODED with images of a bruised face and accusations of abuse. I would imagine I am not the only person who thought..."Well, that's a funny coincidence, isn't it?" What I mean is...she was denied alimony a few days ago. Now she is screaming abuse. It doesn't mean it didn't happen. It just means it's strange.

As I said above, I have been in an abusive relationship. I have been included on a restraining order (different situations) and I have been through a divorce. I am not speaking from a place of complete ignorance when I say that to me, this is a bit fishy. I would not think this at all if not for the sequence of events. I also know though that if you were not there, you just don't know. I try hard not to speculate on things because of this, and when I do, I have no problem at all admitting that I am wrong - should that be the case.

What bothered me about this whole situation was the fact that most of the media has already convicted Johnny Depp. The pitchforks and the torches are out and they are ready to chase him from the castle and into the woods where he belongs. There are witness testimonies, there are lawyers, there will be a judge. There needs to be proof to convict, and we don't know if that exists. I am finding it hard not to do the opposite of what the media is doing and declare him innocent, despite that being my instinct about the whole situation, because I feel it's unfortunate that any situation should ever come to this.  Nine times out of ten, I side with the woman in these that right or wrong. This just doesn't feel right though.

What do you think?

Does the media jump too soon to convict?

Do we help that along by making up our own decision?

We won't know the outcome for some time on this case. It's terrible and unfortunate for all involved. I hope that both of these people can find peace in their hearts and their minds.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Why I Needed a Break From Facebook

I have stayed on Facebook for a lot longer than I should. The truth is, for a long time I really enjoyed having it. It was the only way I stayed in touch with a lot of people in my life. Friends who had moved away or just gotten busy. It enabled me to share pictures and stories of my kids and any adventures we were having with family that I rarely ever saw. It gave me a place to let my brain throw up when I needed to get things off my chest. It allowed me to remain safely in my own world and still feel a part of the rest of the world and the lives of my friends...which as someone suffering from mental illness, it allowed me to straddle both worlds safely. Or so I thought.

In reality, it had begun picking away at me. It was swallowing me.

I was drowning in sensationalized misery.

There are so many good things that come from social media, but it's a fine line to walk. Eventually I had to realize that I needed a break.

Every day was spent scrolling through anxiety triggers. Horrible pictures of tragedy shared over and over again by news outlets, bloggers, and ordinary people. I couldn't handle seeing these pictures and videos over and over again. Having to "Hide This" ten or fifteen times in a day just to keep from breaking down in the bathroom. I'm an empath. I have severe anxiety. All it takes is an image to reduce me to a pile of tears and snot on the floor for two days.

I was inundated with opinions. Things I was doing wrong as a mother. Things I was doing wrong as a wife. Things I was doing wrong as a daughter. Things I was doing wrong as a sister. Things I was doing wrong as a human. As a friend. As an adult. As a driver. As a gardener. As a bill payer. Do I need to go on? What is worse is my need to comment on all of it. The posts. The blogs. The horribly spelled memes.

I was exhausted by how much nonsense and misinformation was constantly shared, re-shared, and made viral. I was tired of feeling the need to comment on that crap too.

I was overwhelmed by everyone's good fortune while I seemed to be wallowing in ordinary life. Did everyone else REALLY have it that easy? They had great jobs. They made lots of money. They never had to choose between paying the electric bill and the rent, or the car payment and the cable, or the insurance and the phone bill. They always had money for vacations and new cars. They always took their kids on day trips and to super fun restaurants. We were eating hot dogs for the third time this week.

It seemed everyone was fit and fabulous, and I am here struggling to get my medication/pregnancy weight to just stay the hell under 200 lbs. People are constantly posting pictures from marathons and mud runs and yoga poses and gym mirror shots and flattering Crossfit shots of jumping on boxes and shit. I am over here sweating my way through 25 jumping jacks every day and hiking up the street pushing a stroller, dreaming of cupcakes and eating salad and my weight is barely budging. Everyone looks fab. I look like a cow. Then a picture of myself from six years ago would pop up, I would remember that I still had those jeans in the closet, and I would sink even deeper.

I was so tired of feeling isolated. My stressful job, my depression and anxiety, my devotion as a mother has kept me as an introvert the last few years. I am not an unhappy person, but I struggle with mental disorders that affect me deeply and keep me to myself a lot. That are hard to talk about and even harder to make anyone understand who doesn't know from experience just how complicated it is. How hard it is to get myself out of the safety of my home. I think I am an ok person to hang out with, but people don't really ask you to hang out anymore after a while. Plus, I am usually with my kids. I am happiest there. But to see everyone you know out and about and hanging out with their friends makes you feel a little...well, diseased. You feel lonely. You feel replaced. You feel a little bitter. Mostly you just feel invisible.

One day you would realize someone had blocked you. I would drive myself crazy trying to figure out why...even if it was someone that I didn't give a rat's ass about. It would destroy me to know that I did something or shared an opinion or a photo or something that disgusted someone to the extent that they could not see any fragment of my existence anymore.

I was really over the vanity aspect of it all. Everyone takes the occasional selfie. I take them with my kids, and struggling with my weight, I would happily post ones where I looked good. There are folks who post them every. Single. Day. It doesn't matter how much I like you, I eventually grow tired of seeing the many versions of your face.

Mostly though, I was just tired of spending so much time and effort in a place that made me feel so bad about myself. A place so competitive. So full of anger, hate, misery...often hidden behind smiles and inspirational quotes. The negativity was draining.

I needed to let my head clear. To remember that I was important. That I didn't need validation from 600+ people, most of whom didn't think about me at all, ever, unless they saw a picture of me as they scrolled their news feed. I have a list of friends who probably don't even like me. Hell, I don't even know if my family likes me most of the time based on Facebook, and I really can't be bothered wondering anymore.

So I didn't block anyone (unless they are harassing you with pictures of their wiener or being a fucking pervert, I think that is childish anyway) or unfriend anyone or agonize over any of that. I just disconnected. I am sure I will go back eventually, but not now. Not for a while.

There is too much sunshine outside. And I don't need to tell anyone about it.

Monday, December 28, 2015

I'm The Least Likely Meditater...

I never thought I would be someone who meditated.

I will admit that prior to discovering meditation, I had no real idea what it was and looked a little strangely at people who said they practiced it. It seemed a silly practice to me. A waste of good TV time. Why are you just sitting there? How on earth is that helping you do anything? I don’t get it. If you are tired, just take a nap. That seems hard. That seems pointless.

Oh how WRONG I was!

A few years ago, my path to faith led me to Buddhism. I was so enthralled, intrigued, and fascinated by everything I was reading and discovering about my new path that I devoured every article and publication that I came across. Obviously this meant I was going to need to figure out what this meditation thing was all about, and I was intimidated. Everything I was reading painted a very different picture of this practice than I had ever known about it previously. It was no longer some strange reason to sit quietly, but a new way to finding my own mind. How was this possible?

I began slow. I would find ten minutes here and ten minutes there to sit quietly and clear my mind. On my lunch breaks in my car. Before I sat down to watch tv when I got home from work. After dinner. It wasn’t easy. I was learning on my own from scratch. Add to that my very busy mind. I like to compare it to a constantly running TV with a brick on the remote control’s channel button. It’s just scrolling over and over again through all the channels. All day, all night. I did what I read and sat still, closed my eyes, and concentrated only on my breathing. The pattern of the in and out of my breath. I felt it slow down. I felt my heart beat slow down. Unbeknownst to me, my blood pressure was also slowing down.

It felt so incredibly good. My nerves would calm and that television in my head was still running, but it seemed that brick had fallen on the mute button somehow because it was much quieter now in my head. When I would close my eyes and sit still, I would feel the tension leave my neck. I would feel my usual anxiety back away. Something was welling up inside of me, starting in my chest and spreading to my brain. It seemed to be taking the path of my blood vessels. My bones. My nerves. It was peace. The feeling of peace was washing over me.

 After a couple of weeks of actively making it a part of my every day, I got hooked. To my own surprise, I also got healthier. I found that without that ever pressing tension, I felt better. I was able to move around more freely. I also found that I was sleeping better. The television in my mind had stopped scrolling through the channels. It was now back under my control. This threw me for a loop because while I was simply looking for a way to connect with myself, I was finding a way to connect with everything and it was changing me. It’s something I will never be without for the rest of my life! This is incredible!

Then I had a baby.

She is my second, but there is a ten year age gap between my two kids. My son was six years old when I started practicing meditation so finding a quiet moment was not too hard. He is a pretty independent kid, even now at 11 years old. I could sit cross legged in front of Buddha and find that solitude that I needed while he was playing by himself, at school, or at his dad’s house . I had no idea then that I would eventually remarry and have another child or how that would impact my practice.

While I was pregnant, we fell on some hard times. Health, finances, a high risk pregnancy all contributed to my excuses for my lack of meditation through that time. None of those excuses was good enough and I should have kept up that practice at a time when I probably needed it more than any! I was dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety and was having a hard time finding a quiet moment so I just stopped looking for them. This was the wrong thing to do. The brick had fallen back on the remote in my mind and that television was back to its old tricks of scrolling all day and all night through all the channels. I was not sleeping well.

Then my gorgeous little girl was born! As is usually the case for new moms, the first few weeks were tough. They were wonderful and tough. The lack of sleep, physical recovery from a c-section, and caring for this new human life had my mind a tangled mess and I knew then that I needed meditation back in my life. I was also on my way back to work soon full time and I knew that would do a number on my soul being away from my little baby.

 I decided to try and find a few minutes each day to meditate. It was hard at first as the quiet moments I got were usually reserved for sleeping. I was determined though so went back to my early methods that got me started. I would look for ten minutes here and there to sit quietly and clear my mind. I would do it when baby girl was napping. I would do it after she had fallen asleep. It took me a while to get back into it, and I am still now trying to find a pattern again.

Being back at work, I am again finding those quiet moments on my lunch break or sitting at my desk when it’s slow. I am a work in progress but I can report that it is in fact working. The change in myself has been amazing, even after this short time back in the saddle. I am finding my anxiety backing away and the impact that even these small meditations have had on treating my postpartum depression has been incredible. Meditating doesn’t cure all my ills. It simply helps me better navigate them. This can do wonders for us all as new parents. (again!)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light - Coping with Postpartum Depression

I have been dealing with some form of depression and anxiety for most of my life. I am 37 years old and I honestly can barely remember a time when this was not part of me. Part of my every day. Part of who I am. Over the years I have tried a lot of methods of self help and professional help to get through the vast fields of dead flowers in my mind to try and find the sunshine and soft new blooms that I know are there. Some things work, some don't, but I had found a way to mostly manage my every day despite some slips backwards here and there.
Then I had my children and I was introduced to a whole new level of darkness called PPD. It's not more dark than what I knew of depression before. The difference is that now you are responsible for this amazing, tiny human that came from inside your body. This mass of love and being that you cannot imagine life without. You should be elated. You should be glowing with motherly wisdom and centuries of experience welling up from your soul. Instead, you feel empty. You are a hole of darkness and numbness. You can't find your balance inside anymore. It's truly terrifying.
The biggest issue I have found in dealing with postpartum depression is that no one seems to take it seriously. It is assumed by many to simply be what is known as "baby blues" and nothing more. Once you are feeling better physically, you'll get over it. When that doesn't happen, people tend to look at you like you are simply a selfish person. Someone who doesn't know lucky she is. Or you are viewed as overly dramatic. Plenty of people had babies before you. This is nothing you are unable to handle. Buck up!

Here is the truth. PPD is a jerk. It will creep in during your recovery and slowly take over your mind. I have suffered from intense bouts of anxiety. I am terrified I will hurt my baby by accident. I fear dropping her. I fear forgetting her somewhere. I fear her choking. I am so paranoid about SIDS that I will watch her breathe all night at the loss of my own sleep. I am unable to leave her alone with most people. I don't like people outside of her father and I to hold her. I absolutely hate the idea of her being in anyone else's car. I fear car accidents. I fear fires. Normal fears, but mine are intense, overwhelming, and cause me to lose sleep and concentration. It overtakes me. This is on top of already very present depression and anxiety that has me terrified that one day I will just fling myself off my balcony. Not to die. Just to make it stop for a minute. Some moments are that intense.
New Jersey where I live has a law that requires obstetricians to screen new moms for postpartum depression. Some do more than others. Mine had a one on one talk with me after I filled out a questionnaire. At the time, mine was not nearly as bad as it has gotten so me telling him I was fine despite my questionnaire results was enough. I was already on medication via my primary care physician so I guess together we figured I was ok. Things got progressively worse from there. My general practitioner advised me to seek help from a psychiatrist who could better diagnose and monitor my condition with proper medications and therapies.
Mental health care in this country at this time is just awful. I went through every name my insurance company website spit out at me, trying to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. What I found were phone numbers that rang and rang, practices where the listed doctor was no longer a part, and waiting lists to see doctors that were three and four months long. It's like every psychiatrist in New Jersey ran away. I am still trying to get in to see someone.
In the meantime, I had to find ways to help myself. Being a mom is the most important part of my life. It IS my life. My kids are my everything. I need to be there for them 100% in mind and body and that is the one thing that has helped to keep me grounded and helped me to find a few ways to keep myself in check. If you are suffering yourself or know someone that is, here are a few ideas that might help find the light switch in the darkness:

It sounds a bit hippy, but it really does work. Nothing elaborate is required. You don't need to sit cross legged. You don't need to burn incense or listen to chanting or anything of the sort. You simply need a comfortable place to sit and just ten minutes in a safe place where you can close your eyes. Find your spot, have a seat. Close your eyes and allow your mind to go completely blank. It's hard the first time you do it, especially if you are like me and have a constantly running television in your brain that doesn't shut up. The trick for me is to focus on your breathing. Think about nothing but your own breathing. Listen to the pattern. Feel the air go into your lungs and then feel the air as it comes back out. Do this over and over again and do not allow your mind to wander to anything else. Just the simple breathing. In and out. Before you know it, ten minutes will have passed and you will have had a clear mind. Believe it or not, your blood pressure just went down!
I never thought I would be someone who meditates. I don't do it around other people. If I didn't tell people I did it, no one would know. I do it before I go to sleep to help ease my insomnia and anxiety. I do it on my lunch break, sitting in my car to help combat anxiety and depression. So give it a try. While your baby is napping, put him or her in a safe spot and sit right down next to them. Use the sounds of your own breathing (or theirs, if you find it as comforting as I do) to focus and clear your mind. Do it once a day if you can. Even once a week will make a difference.

Do you write? Do you paint? Do you color in your kids coloring books? Do something creative. Anything. Doodle on post-it notes. Decorate cupcakes. Look up how to carve lemons into birds like they did in the 70's at dinner parties. Anything that gives you focus. So much of what we are dealing with is centered in our mind causing our mind to spray about like a fire hose on full blast with no one holding on. Getting our minds to center is like the incredible hulk coming along and taking hold of that hose and pointing it where it needs to be to put out the fire. This is why there is a new fad of adult coloring books happening. So many adults nowadays deal with anxiety and the simple act of coloring actually helps to lessen anxiety and add focus. You can sit there and hum or talk to yourself, whatever you need to do. Get yourself some way to focus on your hands instead of inside your head.
I write. I sing. I bake. Anything that will put my brain somewhere specific is helpful.

This is a tough one. PPD is not something taken seriously by a lot of people so we tend to find ourselves looking at an empty room a lot. We pull away from the people we know, meanwhile the people that we know have pulled away from us usually just because they have no idea what the hell to do with us. We don't know how to talk about it. They don't know what's going on and for a lot of people its just easier to walk away. There is usually a much easier friend to have somewhere that is not you. I have watched this happen my whole life. I blame myself because if I knew how to be more open with what I am dealing with, maybe people would not assume I was being aloof. Or a bitch. If you have someone to be with, take a day or night every week or so and get out of the house. Get out of your usual space. If you don't have anyone, take your baby and go to the mall. I did this with my son after my first pregnancy (and first bout of PPD) and while you would think it would be lonely, it helped me a lot.
I loved watching my baby look at the world. I enjoyed the exercise. I would get myself a treat...a milkshake or slice of pizza or even a gumball, and that would be a part of my trip. I looked forward to those walks around the mall with my baby. It was human interaction but I didn't need to feel awkward because I didn't have anything to say or was not able to form sentences properly because of a bad anxiety day. I didn't have to talk to anyone. I simply strolled along for as long as I needed to.

This is SUCH a tough one. Depression makes us tired. It makes us hole up like a hermit. Some days just getting out of bed is a challenge for us. Now we are supposed to go exert ourselves? Get the hell out of here, lady. This is my actual conversation with myself on a regular basis. I am not going to pretend that I am some sort of fitness guru. Richard Simmons would never be my friend.

I make fun of fad diets, I joke about my own jiggles, I only run when chased. However, I cannot deny that something happens to the brain when I do actually get off my tush and do something. The normally out of whack chemicals in my brain get a jolt of something and they even out a little bit. Maybe it's the oxygen that is flowing more concentrated through my blood. Maybe my heart is happy to not be clogged with Doritos dust and is instead full of rushing platelets and happy chemicals. I don't know, but it actually works.
I am the biggest cynic. I am the laziest of the lazies. But I cannot deny that getting up and moving around helps depression and anxiety. If I can't find motivation to actually do proper exercises, which is very often, the best thing I have found is dancing. Not structured real dancing, just dancing. Putting on songs you love of an upbeat tempo and moving your body around. You don't need to be by yourself. I have done this with both of my babies. They will benefit from the interaction with you and you will benefit from the movement. Just take off your shoes, find yourself a clear piece of carpet, turn up the music and move around. Sing along, make faces at your baby, just wiggle yourself around a bit and you will get your blood moving. It really, really works. Don't tell anyone I said that.

Postpartum depression is a real jerk, but you are not alone. There are a lot of us out here weathering the storm with you. You CAN get through this. Even if you, like me, are having a hard time getting the professional help you need, try a few of these ideas to help you regain your center. These are relatively simple and inexpensive ways to calm yourself and reel in a wandering, anxious mind. After a good mediation, look into the eyes of your baby. You'll see why you are here. Why you are on this big, blue planet. I hope you find peace. We are all in this together.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Positivity IS Possible

Some days you are the pigeon, and some days you are the statue.

Ever hear this phrase? It rings very true for a few reasons. Basically it's saying that some days you are the one on top. You are the one taking the dump. You fly along, doing your thing. Everything is cool. Gotta go? No worries! Let it go!


Right onto the statue. The unwavering statue. Can't move from where it sits and just has to take what happens with a straight face. The rain will come eventually and wash it away, but there will always be another bird coming.

I have always found this to be very relatable to life. It doesn't matter how much you think you have it all together. Something will come along to derail that concept eventually. For some of us in the trenches, it's a constant shift between bird and statue. Work, family, finances, life. The struggle to balance it all and keep your focus. Factor in a lifelong  battle with depression and anxiety, and the balance is more complicated to maintain. Your scale seems perpetually weighted too heavy on one side, so you are always trying to compensate for that on the other side. It's exhausting.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 16, though I felt it's creeping darkness long before that. Over the years, I have tried everything to keep that darkness at bay, or at least under some sort of control. Younger days were spent trying to pretend it wasn't there. I numbed it with alcohol. I covered it up with the attention from other people that I craved and did whatever I had to in order to get. I fought the loneliness with promiscuity. I made a lot of broken promises. My heart took the brunt of it.

Later as I moved into my thirties, I was a divorced single mom and the old methods were no longer applicable to my life. I tried various medications. Some worked, some didn't. I finally found one that did the job better than the rest and I stuck with it. I stumbled into mediation and yoga and those helped. I found Buddhism and threw myself into my studies, trying desperately to understand the world around me. About this time, I was also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder that affects the nerves. I was on medication though, so I was coping with it. The darkness was more of a gray than a black these days, and sometimes was even a blue or a purple. I fell back in love and got engaged. We became pregnant.

We lost the pregnancy.

My world stopped spinning for a little while. I seemed to forget all those coping mechanisms that I had used over the years and just shut down. It was a working shut down though, and I continued to function. I went to work. I planned a whole wedding. I attended several. I lost a job, got a new job, Things just kind of happened around me and I took part, but I didn't seem to feel any of it. It was like trying to talk with novacane. You can make the sounds, you can communicate, but you can't really feel it happening. You know it is because you can hear your own voice. You know you are making it happen. But that sensation of motion you would normally feel is just not there. This was me going about life.

This is how depression will happen. It will always be there, and eventually we can get a handle on it. We can find life again through those clouds and finally see the sun again. Something will happen though that will knock it all off track, plunging us back into darkness and we have to scramble to find that footing again. This is not easy. This is hard as hell.

But you CAN do it. Even through the darkness, positivity is possible.

My husband and I became pregnant again last year. The fear that filled me was incredible. I was afraid everything I did would make me lose the pregnancy again. I was afraid of myself. I was afraid of the world. My depression and anxiety were incredible despite my medication. My doctor kept me on the meds throughout my pregnancy and this year I gave birth to a healthy little girl. Would I be ok with this? Would I be able to feel the love through all the darkness?

It's not easy for me. My ordinary depression and anxiety has been compounded by PPD - postpartum depression. Every single day I have to wake up with the determination to make the day a success. Depression is not a choice for me. It's a disease. I have to fight it like one. Part of that is being positive. Some days I win. I wake up and tell myself I will make this day a success, and it is. Some days I lose. I wake up and tell myself I will make this day a success, and I lose terribly to the darkness. It overtakes me. But I know I tried. I did my best. I will always do my best for my kids. I know they need a mom who is here - who is present. Who can get things done and keep the smile on her face. I won't be anything less for my kids.

So methods. How can we do it?

I have found that being kind to others is a huge motivator. Kindness is infectious like good laughter. Once you see it and you feel it around you, it's hard to resist. When everyone is being kind to one another, do you want to be the lonely jerk? No. Of course you don't. All that aside, it just feels so GOOD to be kind. Something as simple as a smile for the person you pass in the supermarket. Hold the door for the person coming in behind you. Smile and be polite and cheerful for the cashier, no matter their demeanor towards you. It becomes habit and it feels very good.

Being neat also helps me. If I keep a clean environment around me, it helps keep the environment in my head a bit cleaner as well. Simple acts like making sure the dishes are done every night makes a big impact on me. Waking up to a dirty, disorderly kitchen ruins my mental space for the day. Waking up to a clean, orderly kitchen in the morning is a breath of fresh air to start my day. I am also a big fan of occasionally moving my furniture. The change in the room seems to shift the energy in my home and things feel new and improved, even if all they are is in a different place.

Keeping lists is another big one. It seems like a small thing, but if I have a list of things I need to get, things I need to do, people I need to pay, etc, it feels like things are orderly. It feels like things are organized. It's a small thing but has a big impact.

Most than anything, it's telling myself that I am doing ok. Sitting in meditation for a few minutes to clear my head and then letting myself know I am ok. I am doing well. I can get through the task at hand. I can make it happen. Things are ok.

Some days I will still be the statue. But I am having more days where I am the bird than I used to. Here is hoping you have your feathers as well.