22 weeks and counting

I am 22 weeks with my baby girl. I have been so bad about posting updates and keeping everyone in the loop. But, time is slipping by oh so fast, with the other two kids to keep up with, and life just refusing to slow down.

While I am excited about her arrival (though cautiously excited because my anxiety never lets myself get too excited about anything), I have been plagued with some pretty serious negative emotions, and it’s made this whole thing very difficult. I’m panicking for two now.

My anxiety has been a constant in my life, going back as far as I can remember. But I feel like it is escalating as I get older. Partly because motherhood is, well, motherhood. And also partly because I found my way through an extremely difficult couple of years by always having a bottle of alcohol by my side, and sometimes I am afraid I will lose control again, and let myself sink to that point again. It is a constant terror of mine: that I will relapse again. My psychiatrist tells me to think positively about my awareness. That being on guard all the time will work in my favor. And he’s right. But it’s exhausting.

I am on a lower dose of my antidepressant than I was before I got pregnant. Just to keep things safe. But I can definitely tell the difference. It mostly keeps the depression at bay, but I have some pretty terrible days. Whereas before, it was a lot of fairly good days, almost no terrible days. It just feels like something isn’t right. I don’t know exactly what, but something is off. I am allowed to take my anti-anxiety medication in moderation, but even that doesn’t seem to help much. I can barely go five minutes without letting my intrusive thoughts evolve to the point that I and/or the baby and/or my whole family are dead. I can’t get it out of my mind. It hasn’t been this bad for a very long time. I’m the one-day-at-a-time girl again right now, which is working. But gosh I want to be “normal.”

The “logic” behind worrying about anything and everything is that you can prepare yourself for the worst. And if you worry about the worst, it probably won’t happen. If you go along in life all happy-go-lucky, not a care in the world, that’s when the bad stuff sneaks up behind you and side swipes you on a random weekday morning. Just when you thought everything was ok. So, worry! Worry it up. Of course, I know logically that this is absurd, life will happen as it happens whether I worry or not, so I may as well spare myself the anxiety. It’s just not quite that easy.

I find myself doubting whether or not I can handle the early days with a newborn without feeling swallowed up by the whole thing, unable to breathe, unable to move. Those early days are so hard. You’re all hopped up on hormones and lack of sleep. And not to mention the physical healing you have to go through. And with the demands of life scratching at the door like a dog that needs to be let out, you can feel very guilty and ashamed for focusing on your baby so much.

The comedian Jim Gaffigan made a joke once about having a fifth child. “It’s like you’re drowning, and then someone hands you a baby.” Which is pretty funny, I laughed very hard at that. But, I think it can also apply to a mom with serious mood disorders trying to be just a mom, just a regular mom who can do it all and be it all (even though we all know in the back of our minds that those expectations are just too high). It’s like you’re drowning in your illness, and then someone hands you your baby. Good luck, hon!

But, hey. There’s also her gorgeous ultrasound pictures. And the reassurance that she’s growing and developing wonderfully. And I can look forward to looking into her eyes for the first time. And smelling her big, bald head. And watching her sleep in my arms. And watching her brothers bond with and love her. There are positives here. I was avoiding buying anything because I was afraid I’d jinx something. But I bought a few tiny, adorable pieces of clothing. And no matter how many babies you have, it’s still mind blowing to imagine that a person tiny enough to fit into that stuff will soon come out of you. Just mind blowing.

The first thing I ever said to Bowie was, “I’m so glad you’re out of me.” And when they handed Ferris to me, I said in a hormonal daze, “I forgot how small these things are.” I’m hoping I can come up with something a little more brilliant to say to her. To my daughter. To my little fork in the road. I will be nervous, I will battle my illnesses, but I will be able to see the beauty in all of it, I just know it.

Just a little more than halfway done, and holding on. Thank you everyone who has offered kindness and support. This mama needs it.

My Meds and Me

This is a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time, but I haven’t been able to figure out where to start. But I was reinspired this morning when I read this piece. A fellow mom in the trenches, chastised on social media for using medication to balance her mood.

I take an antidepressant and, on occasion, an anti-anxiety medication. Which frankly I find harder to admit on here than I did to admit I was an alcoholic. Because that’s just how stigmatized mental illness, and medicating mental illness, is in this country.

Now, anxiety is not a cop out, not some new diagnosis I’m trying out. Some of my earliest memories are of being anxious about something. A thunderstorm, having to hug grown ups I didn’t know at church, the health and well-being of my infant brother, even death. Yes, at four years old, I feared death. I won’t forget this memory. My parents were watching that TV show Fame. And in the theme song, it is declared, “I’m gonna live forever…” Which, of course, they are talking about living forever because they will be famous and therefore remembered forever. But my four year old brain thought, “Can you live forever? You can’t, can you?” And suddenly, my first time struggling with the concept of death.

So, anxiety has always been there. The one constant in my life. And when I got sober, my counselors and psychiatrist worked with me to treat the underlying cause of the alcoholism. Which was mostly the anxiety, peppered with depression to keep things exciting. And I took the medication as a last resort. They kept offering it, and I kept refusing it. But, you might remember from my story, I left rehab and almost instantly relapsed, and I was willing at that point to try any goddamned thing to help. And as it turns out, the medication helps. A lot.

And the medication makes me a better mother, not a worse one. In the article I mentioned at the beginning, the woman got endless negative comments about what a terrible, pill-popping mother she was. How selfish and irresponsible. And I take heavy issue with that. My kids don’t need me moping around the house all the time, struggling to find the energy to take a shower, dropping them off for school and saying goodbye with that hollow, far-off look in my eyes. They need me here, present, happy and capable of my mom duties.

And, as the woman also says in the article, the use of alcohol to “deal” with parenting is applauded and celebrated. You can’t get through one Facebook scrolling session without seeing a half dozen of these memes. “Mommy needs her sippy cup.” “Is it wine o’clock yet?” And the photo I see every mother’s day of a chalkboard sign outside what I assume to be a liquor store, urging patrons to buy their mom a bottle of wine because, “You’re the reason she drinks, after all.” I started collecting screen shots of these memes, to share with this post, but I had to delete them all off my phone, they were making me uncomfortable.

And honestly, I think my addiction took such a strong hold because I was caught up in this culture. I thought I was fine because I was just like everyone else. And I bet there are moms out there right now who think the same thing, but really need help.

I couldn’t even get myself to watch that new movie Bad Moms because of the party scene in the previews. I mean, this is the idea of what moms would do if they gave up trying to be perfect? Had a night to do whatever they want? Throw a kegger? The whole idea makes me sad.

I’m not condemning drinking here. Go ahead and have that glass of wine if you want to. But if you feel like you need it, then maybe think twice. And have compassion for those of us who struggle, and leave the picture of the coffee mug that says, “There’s a chance this is wine” off the social media.

And if you think you need meds, if a medical professional thinks you need meds, by all means take them! You will be helping yourself and your sanity, and some of us just need to exist this way. It’s not a crutch, it’s not a fad, it’s not weak, it’s what must be done. And let’s do away with the double standard here. A mom drunk on wine is more fit for motherhood than a mom that takes a Xanax once in a while? I don’t think so. And you know that’s not true, I know you do. So, why all this love surrounding motherhood and drinking on social media?

No, when I was finishing a bottle of wine a night, I was not being fun and blowing off steam and taking the edge off of parenting, I was fostering a terrible habit and putting myself and my children in danger. And when I take my medication, I am setting myself right. I am putting my brain in the right mindset. I am a better person for it, and will no longer apologize for it or feel ashamed for it. The article I read this morning has empowered me to feel proud that I’m doing something good for myself and for my family, and no amount of berating will make me feel any differently.

Take good care of yourself, my friends. If I learned nothing else through the process of recovery, I learned that we have but this one life to live. One chance to do it right. Make good choices, choices you can be proud of. Take care of yourself, no matter what that means. And treat other people with respect and give them their dignity.

Consumed

I’m currently trying to conceive after having miscarried my second baby in April. I thought when I got my period again, and we could start trying again, that it would make me feel better about everything. But, it’s so stressful and frustrating and infuriating, it’s just brought on a whole new set of negative emotions.

And I have become obsessed with MY CYCLE. And AM I OVULATING? And WAS THAT A PERIOD? SPOTTING? IMPLANTATION? (Because my body is a whole effing lot different than it was before.) Are those pregnancy symptoms? Or am I just getting another period?

Do my breasts hurt? My breasts kind of hurt. But do they really hurt? Is that first-trimester fatigue? Or am I just tired? Is that nausea? Or nerves? Or am I just CRAZY? This stuff swirls around in my brain all day long some days. If you could hear my internal monologue, I know I would annoy the crap out of you, because I am seriously annoying the hell out of myself.

I find myself measuring time in how dark the line on the ovulation test was. Life is a series of 28 day increments. 28 days to “get it right” or just start over from scratch. My heart goes out to anyone suffering from infertility. I don’t know how much I could bear, honestly.

The most frustrating part is that I ALREADY WAS pregnant. That ALREADY HAPPENED. And then it ended abruptly, and I’m right back where I started. It makes me want to put my fist through a wall.

And the undue stress that this whole experience has put upon my marriage? Well, let’s just say…it doesn’t make for a whole lot of romance.

I hope this gets easier. As easy as it was before. But something tells me it will never, ever be like it was before.

People keep telling me, “It will happen, it will!” But I can’t get rid of the nagging little voice in my head that keeps saying, “What if it doesn’t?” I want to fast forward like, 6 months or so, just to see how things are going. To see if this really is going to happen for us. And to skip all of this frustration and waiting.

Trying to Stay Strong

I waited 5 months after getting laid off to file for unemployment. I suppose I thought that I could find a job right away (even in a recession?) and I suppose I was embarrassed to be in need of public assistance. But, thing is, we really needed the money.

So, now I’m going to the slew of meetings they make you attend, which I’m sure you’re familiar with if you’ve ever been on unemployment, at least in California.

This morning was a job-finding workshop. Aside from the woman complaining about her 11 hour days to a room full of people who don’t have jobs, the session was motivating and informative.

She mentioned at the end that with all the rejections and frustration, we should not allow ourselves to get depressed, because it was a road with no end. You end up curled up in bed, never finding work.

Well, that info would have been so helpful 6 months ago. As I said in an earlier post, I am there. I am what they call down in the dumps. Taking rejection after rejection and not having enough money to pay bills and facing the terrible realization that I did not network or update my resume enough while I was still employed, well it has a very deteriorating effect on your fighting spirit.