Holding My Breath

Like many Americans, I’m having some feelings this week. Lots of flashbacks to the last election.

Four years ago, I was pregnant with my daughter and I was excited. I was so sure my daughter would be born into a world where she’d be able to take a female American president for granted. To me, it seemed like a no-brainer: our country’s most qualified candidate in history was running against our country’s most unqualified, outwardly racist and misogynistic candidate. It should have been a slam dunk.

I believed the polls. I had faith that an overwhelming majority of Americans would not choose fear and ignorance and hate. Needless to say, the outcome was shocking and traumatic. The experience was definitely a loss of innocence.

That election day I attended a goodbye party for another mom-friend of mine. This was a sad occasion for my whole family since her husband was friends with my husband and they were basically the first friends we made after moving to Oregon. This party was also the last time I planned to leave the house for a while, as my goal was to potty train my 2 year old son as best I could before the new baby came.

We had election coverage on in the background while we ate dinner. We had to turn it off while my husband put my son to bed, and I remember sitting in my room on my phone, scrolling. My first indication that something was wrong was when Florida went to He Who Must Not Be Named. After that, we watched with growing fear and went to bed in shock and disbelief.

I woke up the next day in a daze and proceeded with the potty training plan. It was horrible, stressful. I spent a good portion of the day in tears, not knowing what exactly I was crying about. All of the day was spent elbow deep in piss and shit, one way or another.

I remember thinking that my daughter would be ALMOST FOUR before we’d have the chance to vote him out. Four years is a hell of a long time to do a lot of damage. And so much damage has indeed been done.

As I write this, it feels akin to how one might tell a story of where they were and what they were doing when the twin towers fell or when Kennedy was shot. It was a dark day; one I’ll never forget. Looking back, it spun me (us) into a crazy-ass couple of years. My daughter was born. My post-partum anxiety took off like a brush fire. I went back to therapy. I spent a good few years just trying to get ahold of myself and figure out who I was and how to leave the house with pants on. All this with a background of news reports on hate, ignorance, fear, anger, violence. Rolling back progress and denying human rights.

Fall of 2019, I finally started feeling better, consistently better. I, like many others, declared that 2020 was going to be my year. And it was…until the pandemic. And now the election.

So you can see (I hope) how I am holding my breath. I’m white knuckling this. I’m so angry and scared. I want to believe the polls. I want to have faith in people to do the right thing. But frankly, this country is not what I thought it was, and we’ve all been here before, on this abusive rollercoaster from which we can’t seem to get off. I’m honestly not sure how I’ll get through the next few days…or weeks…or longer, depending.

To those in power who are using that power for personal gain and to manipulate and spread fear: we see right through you. You might be fooling some, but you sure as hell aren’t fooling me.

Abusive people use anything at their disposal to have power and control over others. If they can’t control others, their power is gone. Abusive people try to stop others from voting. Abusive people try to sue for votes to not be counted. Abusive people lie and manipulate the system. Abusive people threaten violence. Abusive people intimidate (in this case, by bringing guns to the polls, or by blocking traffic, etc.). Abusive people gaslight others and deny any wrongdoing. All of these behaviors are coming from a place of insecurity, NOT love, NOT protection, because if these people knew they could be fairly reelected in a just, democratic system, then there would be no need for such devious theatrics.

Abuse is not strength. Make no mistake, we are in an abusive relationship and that is an incredibly powerless feeling.

I voted as soon as I possibly could. I even made sure my ballot was received. And now, I wait. Full of dread, fear…and some cautious hope.


Day 2

Whole30 Day 3 Update

Knock on wood, buuuuut I’m seriously feeling a lot better than I thought I would at this point.

I expected to feel like complete shit by now, based on what the book says and based on what everyone else has said, and also based on the fact that I’m addicted to sugar and prone to headaches. It all says that day 3 is shitsville, but I feel…pretty good, actually.

Let me back up.

Day 1, got up early and had some eggs, fruit, and coffee and then headed out in the rain to walk four miles with some ladyfriends. During the last mile or so, I started to get this mildly dizzy headfeeling. It made me need to focus a little harder to maintain balance and it reminded me of a feeling I often had during my second pregnancy.

As that day continued, I developed a mild-to-moderate headache (my threshold is high, mind you, because I’ve been getting migraines for years now), continued to feel dizzy-ish and foggy, and a feeling that I like to call “fragile” (the lightheaded pregnancy feeling). In the afternoon, I sat down to read and started to feel really low energy and sleepy…so I took a nap. Man, I felt out of it. I got kinda freaked out because I was worried that this was the beginning of feeling like hell for goodness knows how long.

I had a good helping of protein with dinner and felt much better afterward, but my headache returned and stayed overnight. I woke up several times and was still able to get back to sleep, but still felt generally out of it and yucky.

Day 2 I felt much better. My headache went away (I was shocked)! My body promptly decided to void itself of all waste products. And I do mean ALL. Afterward, I felt so light I could fly. I had some twinges of dizzy-ish-ness, but not anything to worry about. I had more energy and didn’t require a nap. I actually also ate out for lunch that day and had a burger sans bun or ketchup (if you know me, you know I worship at the base of Mt. Ketchup) and had salad sans dressing.

Day 3, today, has been even better. I continue to be surprised. I still feel kinda tired, but honestly, I always feel kinda tired so it’s hard to figure out exactly what is the new diet and what is normal momlife.

So far, what I don’t find all that difficult is the willpower part. Neither my husband nor my kids are on this diet with me, so yesterday we all sat together while my husband had a beer and brioche buns on his burger, and my kids had grilled cheese sandwiches. Did that stuff look good? Sure. But was I dying on the inside not getting to eat it? Not really. This is where my stubbornness works in my favor – once I set my mind on a goal, no one ain’t gonna get me to mess it up, least of all myself. To be fair, I haven’t experienced any intense cravings yet. We’ll see if that’s in store for me later.

The following things are aspects I am finding tricky:

  1. Meal planning/cooking/prep

My husband does all this normally. He’s the cook, and so he plans the meals and grocery lists, I add a few things I want or need, and then I do the grocery shopping and get what’s on the list. My husband has been awesome so far in that he’s agreed to make me W30 compliant dinners that I help him plan for if he needs, and then I have to take care of all the other food I’m going to need. I’m not used to planning out meals. Usually, breakfast is cereal and lunch is whatever is lying around because I have kids to drop off or pick up and ain’t nobody got time for that. I’ve had to make a few extra trips to the grocery store (which I haaaate) to make sure I have things on hand that I need or want for breakfast and lunch. Planning ahead and coordinating with my husband are key so I don’t wake up in the morning to find he used all the eggs, for example.

2. Cooking (meat in particular)

I don’t like to cook. I just don’t have the patience for it and I’m not great at it. I don’t enjoy it. I’d rather be doing something else. No doubt, this has contributed to some yucky food habits. More specifically, I haaaate cooking meat. I loathe the feel of raw meat and it spikes my germyphobe-ness. I avoid it at all costs. Clearly, on Whole30 this is a roadblock, so my husband makes big dinners that I can have as leftovers for lunches the next day. If I absolutely have to, I can cook it, but so far I’ve been doing eggs and lunchmeat.

3. Snacking

I was raised in a household where snacking was often prohibited. You’ll ruin your dinner! I remember snacking being ok while watching sports, while going fishing, and while on vacation. Otherwise, not so much. When I was pregnant, I had to force myself to snack. There were a few times I got myself into trouble because I was in public and feeling lightheaded and shaky because I didn’t have enough in my system. On this diet, I’ve made myself a trail mix of sorts and I plan to carry it around with me everywhere, just in case.

4. Eating off my kids’ plates

Another value instilled in me growing up was to not waste food, ever. We don’t throw away food in my house unless it’s downright unsafe to eat, and even that is negotiable. So when my kid leaves a half-eaten sandwich, I’d either pop it into the fridge or into my mouth. There’s been a few times already when I caught myself about to pop some cereal from their bowl in my mouth, or reach to finish the last bit of their grilled cheese from yesterday. NOOOOPE.

_____________

Also, I’ve been reading food labels like crazy. Here’s a few surprises I’ve come across, both good and bad. To be safe, I just assume that every freaking thing has sugar in it. Dear lord, it’s disgusting. A while back I watched Katie Couric’s documentary on the sugar industry, and I highly recommend it. My rant is this: I have a major sweet tooth, but I’d much rather save it for the good stuff, like ice cream. cake. the occasional soda. I DO NOT want sugar in things I usually eat all day, every day like bread, peanut butter, tomato sauce, cereal, granola bars (which are really candy bars), lunchmeat, etc. YUCK. We’ve had to work hard to find certain products with no sugar added or the least amount possible, even before Whole30.

Good W30 surprise

  • the salsa we usually buy is compliant! I just assumed it must have sugar, but huzzah!

Bad W30 surprises:

  • my freaking gum has soy in it. I can’t even have gum as a stand in for a desserty taste in my mouth. Sigh.
  • most prepackaged lunchmeat has added sugar?! It’s MEAT, why does it need to be sweet? I also never knew bacon had sugar in it. Or beef jerky. I guess I just need to go kill the animal myself. Yeesh.

Ok, I’m done for now. I’m just so glad this isn’t as hard as I thought…so far…knock on wood.

Wish me luck (and continued willpower)!

 

Feelings are having me

We’ve slowly been removing baby things from our living room area.

Before my second kid was born, we had a play kitchen and 273545585 pieces of play food just off the dining area, in an effort to get my kid out of the real kitchen but still feel like a part of the action. I got freaking sick of picking up said pieces of play food, and when I was pregnant with my second, “picking up” meant kicking them across the room into one big pile so I could yell at my husband to PICK THOSE UP the second he got home from work.

That was moved to the playroom many moons ago.

We used to have this colorful foam mat that fit together like puzzle pieces. We got it to save our kids’ noggins from smashing open on our laminate flooring while they were learning to be upright. While it did that, it also served as a thing for my kids to rip apart, chew, throw, and hide. My cat threw up on it. My oldest kid peed all over it during potty training. At that point I rinsed off the pee pieces and threw everything in the closet in a tearful hormonal rage (read: pregnancy).

We actually sold that (I cleaned it. A lot.) for real money. It’s gone.

We had this huge bouncy seat thing in the living room, too. When it was in use, it was SO LOUD, but it did its job of keeping each of my pre-mobile babies content for exactly 20 minutes (no more, no less) while I prepared and scarfed down my own lunch before I had to feed them.

Sold that too. Boom.

Since before our kids were born, we’ve always had a Pack N Play set up in our living room. It served as a diaper changing station, and it held loads of crap. Cloth diapers, disposable diapers, wipes, butt paste…and in the bottom: baby carriers, swim stuff, shoes, etc. etc. etc. In between kids’ diaper needs, my oldest napped in it, we took it camping, it even made a trip to the beach.

Since we don’t need a diaper station anymore because my daughter is a potty training ROCKSTAR, we took it down this weekend. I emptied it, found homes for all the random stuff, threw some stuff away, cleaned some stuff, and we….packed up the Pack N Play. It’s been a fixture in our home ever since we moved in. You can actually see our fireplace now; I think I forgot we had one. My son immediately wanted it back. He’s never known this house without it.

My husband looked over and saw me standing over the Pack N Play pieces and the still-full diaper caddy.

H: Hey Lady (He calls me Lady.)

Me, blinking away the tears: …y-yeah?

H: You gonna put this stuff away?

Me: Well, I don’t know what to do with it! Do we keep it? Throw it away? Sell it? Give it away? Do we need wipes anymore? Will our kids have any accidents? I haven’t changed a poopy diaper in weeks! WHAT IF I’VE CHANGED MY LAST POOPY DIAPER AND I DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS MY LAST?!?!?!

H: …we’ll keep some wipes for now. Let’s throw away the expired butt cre-

Me: NO!! BUT WHAT IF WE NEED IT?!

H: Just put it all upstairs.

Clearly, I’m just having all the feels about it. I wiped down the changing pad where my boy peed all over himself countless times. One time he pooped mid-change on himself. And me. And the floor. And I miss it. You know.

I remember putting my son in that thing right after lunches so that I could clean the frickin floor before he crawled through all the food he had just thrown down from his high chair.

After a while, we stored the kids’ shoes in there and they ran to grab them when it was time to leave the house.

Now it’s all in the closet.

My kids are growing up. They are taking huge steps out of the baby phase and it’s becoming real.

I’m sure you all know what I’m going to say next. On one hand, I am crazy excited. I can SMELL the increasing freedom and I wants more of it. The baby phase was HARD and I didn’t feel like myself and it was hard. And yet.

I find myself trying to drink my kids in a little more lately. They aren’t going to be so little and cute for very much longer, and I wish I could bottle it up. I sneak up and stare at them when they’re playing quietly. I smell their clothes right after they take them off, especially after yummy, sweaty, toddler sleep. I hug them whenever they let me, holding on just a little longer than is comfortable (for them, certainly not me). I need to make sure my kids never find out how to file for a restraining order.

Crap, I’d better stop now. You get the idea. Yay for having an actual living room! Yay for my kids growing up and becoming amazing human beings.

SOB.

 

Reclaiming My 2017

2017 has been a tough year.

I feel like I’ve been saying that every year since…2013, which…sucks. It makes me feel bad. It worries me, along the lines of, Is this my life now? (meaning: life=tough)

I want to talk about my challenges here, partly so I can continue to process them, and also so I can let people know about what’s been going on in my internal world all this time. I’d like to be able to talk about the hard stuff with people I see in person on a regular basis, but having screaming kids running around is not the easiest way to begin the conversation.

I’ve always been a fairly anxious person. I’ve inherited it, I’ve found ways to cope with it, I’ve found ways to power through it, and I’ve accepted it as a part of my life (but not who I am).

But.

This year, I’ve been the most anxious (and occasionally depressed) I’ve ever been and it’s been largely unbearable.

As I look back through pictures that were taken of me over the past year, many of my smiles have been pasted on over massive amounts of anxiety, worry, and irritability. A general inability to calm the fuck down and enjoy any moment of what is happening in front of me.

The tulip festival. A Mother’s Day tea. Playdates. Storytimes. Trips to California.

I remember talking to a friend in early summer and telling her how I had experienced some depression after having my first kid, but that it started to get better after about six months (as did the weather). At that point, it was passed the six month mark (which I realize is totally arbitrary) after having my second kid, and I told her that my symptoms weren’t going away- they were getting worse. It worried me. Actually, it scared the hell outta me.

I remember coming home from a Mother’s Day tea, where my kids were just in the other room from me, being cared for by teenagers I had just met. I sat there rigid, sweating, mind racing. I ate and drank and made conversation and tried SO HARD to enjoy the kid-free time. But it was too much (what was it, I ask myself). I burst into uncontrollable sobs to my husband when I got home. It was all just too hard. Everything felt wrong.

I knew I needed to get back into therapy, but I felt so overwhelmed on a daily basis that I didn’t have the time or the energy to start looking for a therapist. I emailed one of my therapist friends who lives clear across the country late one night to confess to her exactly how much of a shit time I was having. She did an amazing thing and researched therapists in my area and sent me a list of three to check out. It was a godsend.

I started therapy in June, and it was slow-going at first. Of course, therapists make THE WORST clients and I imagine I’m no exception. I want therapy to work and I want it to work YESTERDAY. I overthink everything. I start critiquing her choice of decor and start mentally taking notes for when I eventually go back to work. Mainly, I just wanted to dive in and get to the hard stuff asap so I could feel some freaking relief.

Since then, my anxiety has ebbed and flowed. For a few weeks in September, right after my oldest started going to school for the first time, I thought I had this beat. And then it came back full force for no apparent reason and it’s interfering with my sleep, which has been devastating. For the longest time, I blamed it on the cat and her early morning howling. Everyone around me heard about it. Well, we worked around the cat issue, and wouldn’t you know, it’s not the damn cat. It’s just plain irrational, raging-fire-in-my-chest anxiety. How mortifying.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me, at least recently, was that I had a panic attack. And it was in front of my kids. It scared me to death and I just can’t live like that. I won’t have my kids growing up being worried about their mom falling apart like that. What a horribly embarrassing and terrifying experience, as any of you who have had one surely knows.

I have held out this long against trying medication as an option, but after that, I swallowed what little pride I had left and called my health insurance and made an appointment for a med eval for January. I surrender.

I read some research that said if people are given some sort of escape button that promises a bad experience will immediately end if pushed, they are more likely and able to endure said experience. Case in point, I’ve had clients before who got anti-anxiety meds only to carry them around in their purses and never actually take them. Maybe an escape button is all I need? We’ll see…

I feel held captive by this monster, this thing. I’m desperately trying not to be in constant fear of it, nor constantly battling it. I’m exhausted. I don’t have time for this shit. What saddens me most – THE MOST – is the thought that I’m so incredibly preoccupied, terrified, irritable, utterly exhausted, that I’ll look back on my kids’ young lives and realize…I missed it.

Somehow, I must reclaim my life. (Ugh, that sounds so dramatic, written with tears rolling down my face.) Because this isn’t me, and this isn’t how I want to live. It’s not the mother I want to be, or the wife, or the friend, etc. This motherfucker is trying to rob me blind and I won’t let him. Kicking and screaming.

Me writing this, and putting this out there for people to read, is partly how I fight. Because anxiety wants me to stay silent. Anxiety wants me to shut myself in and cower in fear. Anxiety doesn’t want me to feel joy.

Well…fuck you.

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today, we went shopping for shoes.

I took Dylan and you, of course, and we went because I had a refund giftcard thingy to use up before it expired. I got shoes for Dylan, and also cute pink shoes for you.

I had been having a few contractions for a while now, but nothing really serious. I knew it could be any day now.

We went home and went about our day. That outing was the last thing on my to-do list before Christmas, and before you (it was also the last time I left the house before you were born). The presents were all wrapped, the cookies all baked, everything all decorated. Baby things all washed and set up. We. were. ready.

A year ago today, I went to bed only to wake up several hours later with contractions. Excited to get to use my app, I started tracking them. They were quite tolerable but became increasingly regular. Textbook. I woke your daddy and we called Labor and Delivery.

The nurse wasn’t convinced it was in real labor, because I didn’t sound like I was in enough pain. (All too true…) We called my friend to come over to watch Dylan just in case everything quickly ramped up. Were you ready?

Not yet.

A year ago today wasn’t your day.

Almost, though. Almost.

Like Nothing Had Ever Happened

This post was after a particularly shitty day, told in the third person. I’m sure many parents can relate.


NaBloPoMo Day 25

Psychobabble

It started like any ordinary day.

And that’s the thing – these days, most days were just that – ordinary.  Sure, some moments stuck out for better or for worse, but they were mostly spent in the monotony of keeping her kid safe, clothed, fed, occupied.

As she lied in bed, she could hear her son happily babbling over the baby monitor.  He rarely woke up in a bad mood.  She got up and started her usual routine of making the bed, getting dressed, dragging a brush through her hair, and then she went to go get her son.

As soon as she opened his bedroom door, the stale odor of his poopy diaper floated out to greet her.  And then she could see, under her smiling, blond baby boy, that his crib sheet was quite soiled.

She sighed.

First things first, she thought, Diaper change, then strip the…

View original post 585 more words

Cancer, Yoga, and Becoming a Parent

I wrote this guest post on a friend’s blog in 2014 when I was pregnant with my first kiddo. It serves as a good reminder about how mindfulness and physical activity remain crucial elements of my mental health and self-care regimen.


NaBloPoMo Day 24

Crazy Good Parent

yoga

I started practicing yoga soon after I had surgery to treat ovarian cancer. The surgery was my only treatment, as my kind of cancer wouldn’t respond to chemo or radiation. The cancer had fully engulfed my left ovary, which they removed, and my right ovary remained, although my surgeon said they scraped cancerous growths off its surface.

“We can’t promise anything,” was the answer I got when I asked about my fertility status. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a mom, in this passive way of knowing – I didn’t have to think about it, I just knew. Well, nothing made me realize just how badly I wanted to be a mom until there was a distinct possibility that I couldn’t.

That was 11 years ago; I was 20 years old.

Now, at age 31, I am happily pregnant with my first child, and I am counting…

View original post 775 more words

Reminders

Here is a post that took courage for me to write and post almost four years ago. I still think about it when going through bouts of depression from time to time.
(Please excuse the first attempt to reblog this today; my phone was not cooperating with me.)
—————-
NaBloPoMo Day 21

Psychobabble

I wrote the following post several weeks ago, shortly after moving to the Portland area.  I hesitated in posting it, mainly because of the reaction I was afraid it might get.  But after reading Charlotte’s brave post on her blog Momaste about her own depression, I figured I should go ahead and post, too, regardless of what others thought.

———————————————————————————–

It’s time to get up, Melissa.

…..what?

You need to get up now.

Not yet.  I don’t think I can.

Take off the covers, swing your legs over the side of the bed and sit up.

…O-Okay.

Now take some deep breaths.  One thing at a time.

I am doing my best to listen to the voice inside my head.  The good voice.  That voice who can see the other side.  That therapist voice who always knows that things are going to be ok, even when I seriously doubt it.

View original post 394 more words

All the hot girls wear glasses

I recently got glasses.

And not just new glasses, but glasses that I have to wear all the time now. People have asked me if I just wore contacts before, and the answer is no, before I was just blind and didn’t really know it.

To be fair, I’ve had glasses for driving and movies – distance stuff – for about 12 years now, but the problem was just that – they were 12 years old.

And it turns out that my second pregnancy really did a number on my body in many ways (another blog post entirely), and one of those was further killing my eyes.

It’s so wonderful to be able to SEE, you guys! I’ve never had this experience before. I drove to a friend’s house and was elated to tell her that I could see the individual leaves on trees and I could see the sharp outlines of the clouds against the bright blue sky. I even saw music, but I think that was just the LSD. It’s been glorious!

…except that wearing glasses kinda sucks when you’re a mom. I was planning to write this whole post on the many, many ways it sucks to wear specs while wrangling kids, but the list ended up looking like this:

  1. They’re constantly dirty.
    • Finger prints, boogers, sweet potato puree spat in my face. I mean, I’m supposed to wear these things to be able to see, and I’m still seeing the world through a gloopy mess. All. The. Time.
  2. Children like to rip them from my face.
    • All. The. Time.

/end list.

In closing, I’d like to point out that the addition of glasses is furthering my integration into life in Portlandia. Here’s how I look:

23472394_10107475477015943_2002150998550012470_n

And here’s how I think I look, right at the 1:20ish mark:

 

maxresdefault

….yeeeaahh!


NaBloPoMo Day 12

Happy Blogiversary to Me

I don’t know what to write today.

Usually when that happens, I write a poem. I scrape together some stream of consciousness and parse it into lines of prose.

WordPress reminded me that today is my blogiversary. I’ve been blogging since 2011. Six whole years. That’s nuts.

I am a very different person now than I was then. That was before I became a licensed therapist. Before getting engaged, promoted to running the therapy department at my old job, married, quit job, moved, pregnant, house, baby, then one more baby. I wonder if all that is reflected in my writing? It’s hard for me to tell.

But I’m still here and I’m still me.

I’m proud that I’ve kept this up for so long, and through everything that’s happened. It’s sad that the vast majority of the little blogging community I was a part of when I first started has disappeared. I miss them. I miss reading other blogs and getting comments and feedback from them. I felt like I knew them. I wish them well, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. I wonder how long the average blogger lasts?

Here’s a pic of yours truly from 2013, in California, post licensure, promotion, and engagement, but pre-wedding and everything else. I was reminded of this pic when I wrote my poem from yesterday (except it’s totally not raining, I know, but the way I felt was the same), but in my haste to post I forgot to search for the picture to accompany. Enjoy.

IMG_0780

aaaaand now it took me so long to find the picture on my computer that it’s after midnight so I technically missed posting for Day 11. FML.


NaBloPoMo Day 11 because I say so, dammit.