Bye-Bye, SSRI

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I’m not on my SSRI anymore. It happened accidentally-I would get so scatterbrained with work and taking care of the twins plus the preschooler that I would totally forget for a day, then take it the next day and swear I wouldn’t do it again. That happened over and over for months. Then one day became three. Three became a week. Then one day I realized that it had been two weeks since I had taken one and it was an opportunity for a hard choice.

I had been considering getting off of it-this time around it was more of a precaution to ward off PPD/A since I was the poster child. I had talked at length with my husband and toyed around with the idea with my doctor. We decided to go for it, though I knew I had a hard road of withdrawals ahead and I would need to work extra hard to put what I had learned in therapy into practice.

After a few more days of feeling off but otherwise ok, I turned into a cranky grizzly bear. I cried constantly and my emotions were roller coaster to say the least. I had headaches and I was exhausted, but I pushed through.

A week later my coworker commented on how I looked like weight was off of my shoulders and I was much more level-headed than the week prior. She could actually tell that I had gotten over my withdrawal symptoms and I seemed happier. That was really nice to hear, because I’m always worried about how my emotions present themselves.

Two months off and I’m feeling pretty good. I still have my moments. I’ve always been a crier– after not being able to have a good cry when I needed the emotional release for nearly four years, the tears are welcome. No one has pulled me aside to tell me they think I need to get back on them, so for now I’ll take that as a positive sign too.

I’m relearning to operate in a stressful world without the thing that has helped me get through a lot of hard stuff. Sometimes I wonder if my emotions and reactions are a result of my history, or if they’re just normal feelings related to raising a strong-willed preschooler and infant twins. Or is it that I’ve changed so much as a person in the last four years that I don’t know quite what to expect of myself? It’s probably a little bit of everything. Raising kids is HARD. It’s emotionally and physically draining-I’ve had to grow up and make changes I never dreamed of. It’s confusing, and ugly and beautiful and the best thing I’ve ever done all rolled into one. 1972253_10101347043226636_9202139299031372242_n

When I’m having a rough go, chatting with other moms to find out that they’re all going through the same things helps me feel normal and gives me the boost I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Medicated or not, surrounding myself with real, honest moms was [is] a huge part of my recovery success and one of the best things I could’ve done.

I know that there’s a chance I may need to take medication again in the future. I needed it once before kids and I needed it for nearly four years after. I’m ok with what the future holds in that department-either way, I know that I’m always going to be trying to be the best me I can be for my three children and my husband. That won’t ever change.

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Adult Time-Outs: Lessons From Postpartum Rage

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As part of my recovery from PPD, I learned through lots of expensive therapy that I also experienced what’s called postpartum rage. What could be a simple annoyance to a regular person could send me flying off the handle. My rage manifested itself in yelling, lots and lots of yelling. Occasionally there were slammed doors and a desire to hit wIMG_1612alls-nearly all of it was directed toward my husband, but upon my return to work (pre-diagnosis) I reacted poorly to stressors and would find myself crying in my office, angry that I hadn’t been able to contain my frustrations or explain myself without becoming a blubbering idiot. My emotions during that time cost me a lot of professional respect that I’m still trying to gain back.

The birth of my twin girls brought a whole new set of stressors, but I didn’t experience the PPD/A to the extent I did with my son because I was prepared and so was my doctor.

Now that my son is older and he can read and understand my tone and body language, I have to work extra hard to contain my urges to express my gigantic frustrated feelings with loud words, slammed cabinet doors, or throwing a toy outside on the porch, aka “toy time out” when he accidentally-on-purpose tries to hit his sisters or nearly breaks the TV with said toy seven times. He’s my mini-me: a big-hearted fixer who wants to make and keep everyone happy, but he has just enough mischief behind those big blue eyes and smart-alec in his mouth to push every single one of my buttons. We butt heads a lot because we are so alike. Lately, I’m finding that he’s picking up on my yelling and it breaks my heart that he’s learned that from me. As a result, I’m trying to be extra aware of my triggers and follow through. Sometimes I walk away, but walking away isn’t always possible with the ten-month-old mobile twins in the mix. Sometimes I try to distract or deflect our attention from the stressor, even if that means TV, candy, or something I might find more annoying or would normally deny. Going outside always seems to help us both. Still, there are plenty of times when I lose my composure and I yell. When that happens, I try my best to walk away for just a minute to pull myself together, and then I explain my “big feelings” and talk about why I yelled. I also apologize and remind him that I always, always love him, even if I get mad or frustrated. We attempt special one-on-one time when we can, and I do my best to use positive reinforcement.

I need time-outs from more than just my son. The other night my husband tried to express his frustration with my addiction to screen time. I understood his underlying point, but his delivery frustrated me and I worked myself into anger (this happens a lot with us-he’s a man of few words and I expect lengthy discussions and explanations.) As I lay in bed trying to go to sleep, I felt the heat burning a hole in my tongue, and in order to resist saying things that were unnecessary and downright mean, I put myself in time out by exiting the room and laying on the couch in the dark. Twenty minutes later, he found me asleep and when I awoke, apologetic. He didn’t deserve my outburst.

I try to think of myself as s toddler when I’m frustrated. What are the roots of my rage? It’s usually the big three: fatigue, hunger, or feeling like I’m tapped out. If I can stop myself just before the yelling starts, or even in the midst of it, I address these things first. Snacks, snuggles with my three kiddos, sneaking off to take a rare Saturday afternoon nap, and trying to use my words to explain why I acted out and ask what we can do together to fix it all help. Communication is key with my husband. Venting to friends and patient coworkers helps me survive when I’m at the office.

I’m far from being the perfect parent, but I know that I still fall into the realm of normal. My son is not old enough to understand this, but I remember my mom saying “I love you, I will always love you, but I do not like you very much right now.” We all have those moments. All of us—and that’s okay.

Some of us just have to work a little bit harder to make sure they’re fewer and farther between.

 

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A Third Pregnancy, A Chance To Heal

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by guest contributor Lindsey O.tea

My first pregnancy I was blissfully unaware of what pregnancy and childbirth was like, and honestly I wish that I could get a bit of that naiveté back. Every bit of those 9+ months was new and exciting and fun. I loved learning about everything my body was doing and how my son was growing. My birth was a little scary at the end but with the techniques I learned in my Bradley classes, I was able to achieve my goal of an unmedicated birth.

The second baby was conceived quite by chance shortly before my first son was a year old. The anxiety kicked in and I was feeling more isolated from my husband because of the demands of his job and his inability to well, care. My entire pregnancy I hoped and prayed that the baby would be breech so I had an excuse to not go through an unmedicated vaginal birth again. My husband assured me that I would be disappointed in myself and the experience if I “wussed out” and agreed reluctantly to help me re-study our Bradley book. Every time we sat down to go over it I would have a rush of fear and start to cry or get angry and decide I was done for the evening. I just didn’t want to think about what the process was going to do to me again.

At some point in the last ten weeks of that pregnancy I decided to be “tough” and “suck it up,” telling myself that having unmedicated births were the greatest gifts I could give my children on their birth days. Also I had decided this was our last baby so I just had to do it this one last time. Labor was quicker, I was strong and determined and confident. I kept my wits the whole time (well transition was the usual craziness, but I held out) and had another unmedicated birth. This time, a nine pound, one ounce screamer. And then the room fell silent. I was holding my baby and didn’t notice much but wasn’t allowed to sit up, and then all I really remember was a lot of fundal massage and cramping and code words. Honestly, I felt like crap and couldn’t walk and was incredibly dizzy. Later that day a nurse informed me that I had hemorrhaged and they were about to give me a transfusion but I stabilized. The OB who delivered said something about me being past the point of blood loss that “we worry about losing the mother.” They then told me that the severe cramping was because I had been given Pitocin through my hep lok. They kept me an extra night for in hospital care for GBS+ reasons which I disagreed about and then guilted me into a heel stick for my baby because he was “big” and they wanted to check for diabetes. Where was my husband for ALL of this? You tell me. I was ALONE. However, I knew that at least I would never ever have to go through this again.

Fast forward exactly 3 years later and we are stunned by the conception of another baby who will be here in less than 13 weeks. I was in a funk for two weeks and it took me three months to get back to reality and my responsibilities with my business and mothering. Here I am, now, in some ways getting my mojo back and in others an absolute mess. I try to do what I can when I can in different aspects of my life to maintain order but there is a lurking emotional monster somewhere near me at all times. I have broken down now in two midwife appointments and cry whenever I think about having to do that again. I have been diagnosed with PTSD and clearly I have anxiety/depression which I have never experienced in my lifetime. I fear that I may die next time, that I may bleed out, tear horribly as I did with the first two, or just have something dangerous or scary happen. It takes up a good deal of space in my daily life. So what do I do about this?

I have answers from everyone and suggestions and loving advice but all I can think about is this: I am not telling anyone what I really want. What I really want is control. I want to have a birth I am happy about not because I “did it for the baby” or did it to make my husband proud, or did it because I felt I had to after being given a sense of control from a child birth program. I want to feel I had my best outcome in a birth because I got what I needed to have closure (I will be getting some form of permanent birth control after this baby, as will my husband). I NEVER in a million years thought I would say this, but I am seriously considering a c-section. Do I care if anyone judges me in this? Honestly, I did until the anxiety took over my life. I don’t want to let that evil in any more than I have. I see this as a chance to heal and I don’t think I would have been forced to deal with all of the bottled up stress from my first two births if this third baby hadn’t come along. I want to heal from this and I want to feel like I can close this chapter in my life and let it all go. I also want to make my body a safe place for this child while she is still there and right now I know it is not. I can’t go on hoping to have the decision made for me and suffer like this all the way to the end and then come up with some last minute decision about how I will birth. I’m still working this out in my head and will have a discussion with my midwife at the next appointment so I definitely don’t have concrete plans for anything yet, but I feel better knowing that I am finally taking full ownership of this and not allowing myself to feel pressured in any direction.

If I could say anything to anyone who utters one word to a pregnant or postpartum mom, I would urge them to take consideration for the mother and her well-being and not spend so much energy on the baby. Let her shower, rest, do the chores for her, hold the baby for her while she eats dinner, and let her cry to you if she hurts. But most of all tell her it’s okay and it’s normal to feel whatever she does or doesn’t feel. Let her be in charge and own the entire experience and not feel like she has to put on a brave face for you. I wish I had been more vulnerable after those first two pregnancies so that I could be more open for this one.

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Thanksgiving Survival Tips

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Thanksgiving Fog

Thanksgiving Fog – Albany Nov 02 by altuwa on @flickr

Before I experienced Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression, I will admit my self-care during my adult life was nearly non-existent. I still had interests, hobbies, things I loved to do, but I didn’t put any of it into practice on a regular basis. Instead, I allowed myself to give in to what others wanted and needed all too often. This was, of course, no one’s fault but my own. Motherhood and my subsequent fierce battles with Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder were my great teachers – albeit they taught me through fire and not calm patience.

This morning it hit me just how much I have learned in the nearly 10 years since my first episode. (Side note – I can’t believe it has been nearly TEN YEARS!)

Holidays are difficult for me, Thanksgiving in particular. You see, when I was a pre-teen (I believe they are called tweens nowadays – kids and their slang), I lost my step-grandmother on Thanksgiving Day. She died in the morning and that afternoon, we were at my other grandmother’s house to “celebrate” with a large meal and an even larger family. Some years it bothers me more than others but for the most part, it’s simply part of the day and she’s always with me, even if just in my thoughts.

This year, we invited my parents to come up for Thanksgiving. They accepted and said they’d be here unless there was weather. All looked great until earlier this week when there was talk of a major snow storm due to hit today. I continued to prepare as if they would be arriving. This morning, the final call was made. They won’t be traveling to see us and I am staring at snow-covered ground at the beginning of the threatened storm which is now all too real.

What did I do this morning, you ask?

I relaxed.

Instead of crying or allowing anger to take over, I sat down on the couch, exhaled, drank coffee, and watched a fantastic documentary the TiVo recorded about snow monkeys in Japan. I turned on my HappyLight and snuggled with the cat.

I chose peace. I practiced it without guilt.

When we are in the midst of a battle for our mental health, for our sanity, it isn’t always this simple to choose peace. We cannot choose peace any more than someone who has cancer can choose to be healthy. We have to wait and hope for the best, hope that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel. Once we find our light, however, we carry it with us through our lives and it makes us a stronger person. It changes us deep down.

Days like today make me grateful for my experience. Grateful that despite the horrid darkness into which I sank, I rose above it with the help of others (like Katherine). I am grateful for the silence and the magic of the world around me and being able to choose to see it instead of focusing on the what if’s of chaos.

For those who are heading into the holidays and struggling to keep your own anxiety and other issues at bay due to the increased social expectations, please remember to take care of yourselves. Here are a few tips to help keep your holidays (and you) sane:

Know your boundaries and do not be afraid to defend them.

If you are visiting others, scope out the location when you first arrive for a quiet corner to which you can escape if that chest-tightening ball starts to swell in your chest and throat. (Bathrooms are fabulous for this as no one questions it!)

Remember to breathe. Deeply. Breathe is essential and slowing it down helps us soothe anxiety.

Talk with your loved ones, particularly your partner or someone you are close to – develop a strategy for exit if things get too overwhelming.

Remember that you are not required to give an intimate description of how you are doing unless you are up to it. Change the subject. Wikipedia is your friend!

How people choose to react to you is NOT YOUR GIG. Be the best you that you can be at this time in your life. How people choose to react to this says far more about them than it ever will about you.

You can get through this holiday. You can. You’ve come so far, and you are fighting a far fiercer foe than the one which exists on this one day.

Me? I’m gonna head into the kitchen now and wrap things up so I can binge on Netflix for the remainder of the day.

You? Have a fabulous holiday season and don’t forget to be the awesomeness that is hidden deep inside.

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