Category Archives: Invisible Illnesses

Leaving baby

This week I started student teaching, the last step in the masters program I’ve been in for the past two years. I have known this was coming. Since having Baby Love I was not looking forward to it. But I do love being in the classroom, so I thought it would be ok.

I was wrong.

I haven’t cried. I get to leave while Baby Love is still sleeping, so no tearful goodbyes. While I’m at school I’m busy and happy working with the kids. It’s been surprisingly easy to leave her.

And that is much of what I hate.

I’m gone for most of her waking life now. I miss SO MUCH. If this was all I knew, it would be fine. I do see her awake every day. But comparing it to what I had? What I’m missing is painfully obvious and huge.

People say it will get better. The thing is, I don’t want it to. I don’t want this to be my new normal. I don’t want to get accustomed to missing most of Baby Love’s life. For me, this is not what I want in being a parent.

People told me I would appreciate the time I had with her more. But I don’t. The time feels exactly the same, even now when I’m feeling extra tender; there is just less of it. If anything, I cherish the time less, because I feel like I have to cram more extraneous stuff into it. I need to go to the store, do laundry, run, cook dinner, etc., but now instead of having all day I have a few short hours. Before I was enjoying our pace and fitting things in as I could, now I am less patient because I feel I have to be more efficient.

And on top of that, I need time to decompress from work. I hear working moms say that when they work some they are better moms because they feel more able to be fully present to their kids when they are there. For me, it’s the opposite. Maybe because of my invisible illnesses that made it impossible for me to keep my engineering job, but I cannot be fully present at home when I give all my spoons to work.

Before baby, I thought when I was a SAHM it would be boring. I thought I’d need part time work to feel sane. But I don’t think I do now. My days were full and satisfying. Watching Baby Love grow was amazing, and it just kept getting better. I wasn’t looking for a way out. I wasn’t needing accomplishment elsewhere.

I have a wonderful husband who fully supports me in throwing away this degree for awhile (or forever) and not working once I have it. So I only have the next 13 weeks to get through before I am done for the forseeable future. Done being gone all day. Done missing her time awake. Done missing all the little details of her life. Done giving her my leftover time.

I can try to get through that time. I can look forward to when I am home with her all day again. I can give up on all else, like cleaning and running, so I can give as much as possible to her. But the fact remains I will still miss most of her waking time.

And there is nothing, nothing, I can do to get these 14 weeks back.

And I hate that.

Today my mind was going around in circles trying to find a solution. A way to make both things work. And I couldn’t. There isn’t one.

I will miss the last third of her babyhood. At least, I will miss it in the intimate way I have known the rest of her life, and by a long shot. And there is nothing I can do about it.

I know this sounds silly. I’m sure if I read words like this two years ago I would have rolled my eyes and thought the author was pathetic and needed a life outside of her kid.

But you know what? I love my kid being my life right now. She won’t always be. As my mother tells me, parenthood is a series of letting-gos. Baby Love will grow, she will get more independent, she will need me less, and eventually she will move out and have her own life which I will be only a small part of. And that is right and good. But right now, my baby needs me fully. I am her life, and she is mine. This time is short, it is fleeting, and I want to live it fully.

So I will get through these next thirteen weeks. I won’t count them down, because I don’t want to miss what I do have of Baby Love’s days in the meantime. But I look forward to when I can leave the workplace and she can return to being my world.

Because one thing I have learned about myself since having her, something I would never have thought to be true before she was here, is that, at least for now, I am totally and completely fulfilled being “just” a stay-at-home-mom.

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Embracing it while it’s here

My daughter will. not. sleep.

Don’t get me wrong. Things have improved DRASTICALLY since we have started the No Cry Sleep Solution (which I barely even do anymore because holy hell am I tired, but still).

Baby love has now a few times fallen back asleep after I lay her down awake.

She naps. Regularly. For at least an hour. Multiple times a day.

She can be startled half-awake and go back to sleep.

She can go down for a nap with no special anything, even just sitting in her carseat while we’re out if I time things right.

She goes back to sleep very easily.

She will lay in her crib and entertain herself and get sleepy before I come in to finish putting her down at bedtime.

All of those things I would have KILLED for two months ago. And I do love them.

But do you notice what is missing?

Her sleep DURATIONS will. not. increase.

She is still getting me up usually every 1.5 hours at night. Often every 40 minutes. Sometimes I get 2. If I’m very lucky I may get 3. Those are the stretches I praise heaven for.

Did you know that we really need two complete back-to-back sleep cycles to feel fully rested? And that that takes 3 hours? And that if you don’t get that regularly you go slowly insane?

I have some living proof of that for you RIGHT HERE.

I am so frustrated. I’m in a moms support group. We were there today. My baby is the oldest in the group by 4 weeks. Most are at least 6 weeks younger than her. And yet every. single. one. of them sleeps better than mine. The worst gets up 3-4 times a night. Even the ones who were bad sleepers have outgrown it.

And it’s not fair. I did everything right. I had her fall asleep different ways from the start (in my arms nursing, in the car, in her swing, etc.). I always laid her for bed on a flat surface, even if it took a dozen tries. I most definitely never responded to her every whimper, but made sure she was really, truly awake before intervening. Etc. Most of them didn’t think about it, or didn’t think about it as much, yet their babies sleep. There isn’t much I could have done differently with my baby love except to fight the fall-asleep-not-on-the-boob-but-in-my-arms thing more fiercly when she was tiny (but plenty of people say it’s fairly impossible to fight then, and I did try).

I’m a horrible sleeper. I have a very difficult time sleeping. I have a very difficult time falling asleep. And staying asleep. And napping. Etc. See: “insomnia”. My daughter seems to have inherited this from me. So no matter how much I set her up to succeed…she doesn’t seem programmed to sleep well.

I am so frustrated. Today, after wearing her for 50 minutes of napping (we were at my mom’s group and she needed to nap) my back was giving out because I couldn’t sit down and I tried to transfer her to laying down in a friend’s pack and play. And she woke up. And I lost it.

Not mad at her. But just EXHAUSTED. There was so much going on, not the least of it being stress over student teaching and my SAnD building up to get me to near-breakdown point. But her waking up from that nap, which she needed, was just the final straw.

So I hid in a back room and I cried.

Then tonight I laid her down for bed and she went easily. And I was slightly mollified.

Until she woke up.

Forty.

Minutes.

Later.

And I wanted to cry again.

As I left her room, 30 minutes later, I was feeling defeated.

How can I keep going when my daughter needs me so many times in the night? What else can I try that we haven’t already been doing or attempting? I don’t need or want her sleeping 12 hours continuously…but 3 would sure be nice and seems reasonable.

I was exhausted. And beaten down. And overwhelmed. And just wanted her to learn to sleep on her own.

And then I stopped. And I reframed it for myself.

In not-that-many-years my sweet baby love won’t need me in the night anymore.

She’ll roll her eyes if I stick my head in to check on her.

She’ll push me away if I suggest a nighttime snuggle.

She won’t cry for me in the night, for something that only I can make better.

No matter how long it feels like it has been now, this is very, very temporary.

And no matter how tired I get, this will end.

And I will miss it.

I do love my nighttime snuggles. I love our nighttime nursing. I love feeling her warm body melting into mine.

So while I may want it less frequently, I will try to embrace it while I have it.

And when I am exhausted beyond reason and just DONE with the whole thing, I will remember: This too shall pass.

And when it does, I will miss it.

Or at least a part of it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s been 40 minutes again, so I must go put my screaming child back to bed.

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Filed under Baby Girl, Invisible Illnesses, Life

It’s baaaaack

Today I was feeling lonely. I didn’t feel like doing any work. I didn’t feel like doing anything. It kept getting stronger as the afternoon went on. I couldn’t figure out why nothing felt good.

And then I realized.

It’s depression.

It’s back.

Once during my pregnancy while in a REALLY stressful situation I had a short relapse. But once I left the trigger (which was big and understandable) the depression left.

Today? No trigger.

I didn’t sleep great. But not bad. I was kind of grumpy when I woke up. But normal, healthy grumpy. And then I took a nap snuggled up with my baby love and I felt great.

I had a little stress from school, but certainly no more than I’ve had for weeks.

I had a wonderful lunch with my hubby. I brought something up I felt a little bad about, but no big deal.

There was nothing to set me off. Not even a combination of things. This has been a better day than many of late. Nothing outstanding.

And yet…And yet…

I’m depressed.

I want to go crawl into bed and do nothing for the rest of the day. And the foreseeable future. I just can’t make myself care about doing…anything.

I had a mentally healthy pregnancy.

I had a mentally healthy first four months post partum.

I guess that’s all I get.

At least I knew what I had and enjoyed it while I had it.

And at least, even as it’s taking over, I want to snuggle my little love more, not harm or neglect her.

I’m grateful for the healthy time I got, even as I’m sad it’s apparently ending.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go hug my beautiful baby and hang onto her until I find my way back to me.

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It’s creeping back

I thoroughly enjoyed my dysthymia being more or less in remission for almost all of my pregnancy. And my post partum. But now that baby girl is three months old it’s starting to creep back.

A little thing going wrong Sunday sent me into a mini depression.

A silly thing currently going wrong won’t let go of my brain and let me sleep. I keep obsessing over it and can feel the depression pushing at the boundaries of my mind, seeking a crack to let it come in. Tension is gripping my whole body over this eminently first world problem.

Being healthy was so nice while it lasted. I’m trying to focus on being grateful for the reprieve rather than bitter that it doesn’t appear it will last. But man, having a taste of normalcy was so tantalizing…

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Riding My Pregnancy Mood Swing

When I got pregnant I was wary of what it may do to my moods, given that I already suffer from dysthymia and anxiety disorder. I was warned repeatedly to keep an eye on my conditions and watch for them to get worse. Every midwife I talked to who found out about my history cautiously told me to be sure I had support in place. After all, post-partum depression is real, and so is ante-partum depression. The raging hormones of pregnancy can do crazy things to our minds and moods. Every pregnant person I’ve known has complained about the wild mood swings their hormones force on them. I was aware things may get worse, but I also knew they may not.

What I didn’t expect was that pregnancy would actually serve to level me out. Since getting pregnant I have had exactly one episode of depression, and it was under some pretty extreme circumstances when I was forced to be without my service dog.

I have, however, experienced the pregnancy mood swings everyone talks above. Oh my goodness, those swings have a range!

I tear up at lame TV shows. I panicked over finding the absolute best price for our stroller. Little comments can sting deep and cause hurt. Stupid things can make me sad. Crying is becoming a regular part of my day.

However, “mood swing” is the perfect name. It is as if I am on a playground swing, swinging out over ocean, secure in my seat. My moods go up and down randomly and unpredictably as I swing back and forth.

But it is nothing like depression.

Depressions is like falling out of the swing and plunging into the deep, dark ocean so low you no longer know what is up and what is down. You are lost, disoriented, confused, and hopeless as you struggle valiantly in a battle others cannot see.

The emotions of my mood swings, which my husband can tell you are pretty significant, are nothing, nothing, compared to the potency of depression. Yes I have a roller coaster of ups and downs throughout my day. Yes, I cry at the drop of a hat over things 20 minutes later I’ll realize don’t matter at all. Yes, I get genuinely unhappy more easily than before.

But these emotions are all so surface-level. They are me swinging securely well above the fathomless ocean, and in the lowest low of these hormonally induced moods my toes aren’t even touching the spray of the water below.

I almost enjoy my pregnancy lows, because they are so handle-able. They are so easy. I can deal with this surface-level unhappiness. It is nothing!

The experience of being pregnant and having these mood swings I have heard so much about has really showed me that what I suffer? Dysthymia? Is not normal. It is not a weakness that I cannot deal with depression taking over my mind in the same way other people deal with unhappiness. Now, for the first time in my adult life, I am getting the chance to deal with simple unhappiness. And I can not only do it, I can do it easily!

While I have said over and over to others that unhappiness is not the same as depression, I have always wondered. Doubted myself. Thought maybe it was just me. Maybe it was a personality flaw. Maybe if I just tried harder. Maybe I, for some reason, wanted to be unhappy and that’s why I couldn’t shake it off. Because even my unhappiness was always tinged with the threat of depression. My swing was set low enough that, at the low point of my arc, my feet were in the sucking ocean water. It was all caught up together.

Now it’s not. And I am realizing.

I am strong.

I am capable.

I can deal with regular emotion.

Depression? Is not regular emotion.

And you know what? I still deal with it.

I kick it’s ass. I did every day of my life for years before I got pregnant.

You know how you can tell?

I’m still here.

Depression didn’t win.

And I’m so glad. Because I’m getting to live the truth that it really, truly, does get better.

This may not last. I may have my baby and get hit with PPD so hard I cannot cope. I realize this.

But for now, I am enjoying this time of better.

Please realize this: Depression is not unhappiness.

If you do not suffer from depression then no matter how bad your PMS, how bad your mood swings, how often you might “get sad” sometimes, you are still swinging carefree over the ocean those with depression are drowning in. Recognize the difference. Even just that recognition can help those around you fighting the battle stay strong.

And if you are fighting that battle? You are strong. You are facing challenges most people don’t even realize exist. And you are winning. Every day you are here, you are winning. Keep fighting.

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What is this “energy” of which you speak?

This week has been killer.

Daylight savings

+ Pregnancy fatigue

+ Chronic fatigue syndrome

+ My appetite coming back

–  My ability to eat coming back

+ A major paper/project due every day this week

————————————————————–

I AM WIPED OUT!

My school work has slipped because I’ve been so worn out. So has my teaching. And my patience.

But I’m getting through. And sometimes, that’s all you need to count it as success.

(On that note, sorry my posts of late are short. Now you know why. At least I’m posting!)

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It gets better. Live to see it.

I have been there.

In bed, the middle of the night, my husband asleep beside me, unaware of the battle raging withing my mind and soul.

An almost-full bottle of sleeping pills mere inches away.

Lying awake. Contemplating the possibilities.

Feeling alone.

Unloved.

Unneeded.

Unseen.

Thinking how much easier things would be if I just didn’t have to go on existing.

My psychiatric service dog saved my life that night. I was so close to swallowing that bottle full of pills, and falling asleep never to wake up. And I likely would have “succeeded,” given the circumstances. As I came close to reaching out for the peace to be found in nothingness, it was my psychiatric service dog whose unconditional, never-ending love cut through the emptiness.

And now, more than two years later, my life is so much better.

I am loved.

I am needed.

I am seen.

And I am not alone.

I have a sweet, wonderful, supportive husband.

I have amazing friends who stay in contact with me from afar and who get together with me when they’re close.

I have a mommy who loves me no matter what.

And I still have my psychiatric service dog, still filling me with his unconditional love.

I have left the job which was draining so much of my energy, the energy I needed to stay on top of the depression.

I am studying to go into a career which I am passionate about.

I am hoping to have a child of my own soon.

It gets better.

I love my current life. And I am so glad I am here to live it.

I was loved, needed and seen on the night I almost took my life. But depression is an insidious disease, and it refuses to let your brain realize those things.

When depression has wrapped its coils around your mind, it can be impossible to see your worth.

To feel the love of others.

To see hope for the future.

But remember, and always keep in your mind for when you need it:

It gets better.

You have no responsibility to do anything except get. through. each. moment.

Keep on living. Keep on breathing. Survive.

You have to do that in order to see how much better it will get!

It gets better.

I promise.

And remember:

You are loved.

You are needed.

You are seen.

And you are not alone.

If nothing else, some stranger on the other side of the internet is thinking of you and loving you and sending you strength.

One moment on a time.

One breath at a time.

Keep on going.

It gets better.

I missed World Suicide Prevention Week, but figured this kind of message cannot be sent out enough.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please ask for help. Seek medical attention immediately. Call the suicide prevention lifeline at (800) 273-TALK

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