How PPD made me lose control.

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I know, this title makes you think “the devil made me do it,” but some thing I had to discover when struggling with postpartum depression was that, it wasn’t my fault. This was some thing that happened to me, not a reflection of me. So many women, present company included, think that the symptoms of this condition are a reflection of themselves and their character, when in reality what they’ve experienced is a severe chemical imbalance in their bodies after childbirth that has brought on certain symptoms.

I remember wanting to yell, even scream at my baby. This urge was so strong, I had to run into my bedroom and scream into my pillow while punching the mattress. I knew it was an inappropriate response. I knew that babies cried, that it was normal, and that I shouldn’t scream at a baby for age-appropriate behavior, and yet I literally could not stop myself from releasing this rage.

Flashback to the birth of my first child. Yes, I do say that she is what you could call and “easy,” or “good,” baby… but it was still hard. I was still sore, she still cried, and the exhaustion was still unbearable. There were times that I wanted to scream and cry, but instead chose to care for myself and my child. Postpartum Depression took away my ability to choose, and therefore robbed me of my ability to act like myself. It was identity theft, plain and simple. I could see the options, what I wanted to choose versus what my mental illness was suggesting, and more than half the time, I was unable to make my own choice. The helplessness was overwhelming.

Now, I’m going to give myself a lot of credit. While I was unable to make appropriate choices [i.e. screaming versus not screaming] I had the ability to remove myself from my children and let the mental illness have its way without harming anyone else in the process. Much like Dr. Jekyll would lock himself away before transforming into Mr. Hyde. Obviously the trouble is, there is always the risk of Mr. Hyde taking over completely, or strong arming his counterpart, which is ultimately why I went for help. That, and because I was sick of having to remove myself from my children when all I really wanted was to cuddle them in estrogen filled bliss. I was in the most powerless position I’ve ever been in, and the strongest. I clawed and climbed my way from rock bottom to where I am now. I fought doctor’s and nurses who wanted nothing more than to lock me in the hole I was already in, in the name of “safety”. I fought multiple healthcare systems who told me they couldn’t help, until I finally found women who would.

I wish it didn’t have to be a fight. I wish it had been easier… but the silver lining in all of this is that I got to see how strong I really am. Hind sight has shown me that what I thought was my weakest moment was actually my strongest. I am a badass, and I pray that moms everywhere will find and embrace their own inner strengths, even if they find they are cloaked in weakness and dusted with shame.

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Leaps and Bounds

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Some times I feel like I’ve made no progress; like I am still that woman who, when she looked at her children felt nothing. Even when they were pleasant and smiling, every neuron in my brain was telling me to run and I didn’t know why. Was is because I was a “bad mom”? Was it because I just wasn’t cut out for family life? Ever since I hit puberty I had been daydreaming of a husband walking through the door to greet me as I sat on the couch with our children. Where did that desire go?

There are times when I still feel like I’m not good enough, empathetic enough, or strong enough to be a mom. There are days when I just want to sit and cry, and I wonder Have I even made any progress? The answer is yes, and I see it most in my relationship with Cora.

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A newborn baby, fresh from Heaven, with a clean soul filled with innocent wonder. She had done nothing to wrong me, offend me, or cause any other kind of strife where one feels “owed” some restitution. All she demanded was my presence and my love, and I felt like I hated her for it. There was resentment, confusion, anger, and depression. Not always in that order, but those emotions were felt intensely by me on a daily basis. I knew it was wrong. I knew that wasn’t how motherhood should feel, and that’s when I knew I had to fight for myself and my baby.

I fought the good fight for appropriate mental health care, but still get angry and frustrated — what mom doesn’t? — and it is hard not to fall back into the depressing cycle where I tell myself I *can’t* do it. Some times the fear that I will slip back into that numb persona feels consuming. However, when Cora smiles, I smile. When she runs, I chase her and we both laugh. I want to snuggle with her, I want to shower her with kisses and play with her hair. If you can believe it, I am having these desires for the first time. She is 16 months and only now am I bonding with her. Pity me, highlight how depressing it is, call it sad, call it unfortunate… but I call it progress.

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Consolation

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About a year ago, I suffered through a pretty intense trauma that scarred both me and my entire family. Part of me can’t believe that I haven’t composed a post since Easter, and the other part of me sees that I stepped out of the spotlight for awhile to take care of myself during the anniversary of when I received this wound.

The good news is, I successfully made it through the flashbacks, the memories, and every thing else the flooded over me last month. I am also happy to announce that I launched my photography business and put together a portfolio of family portraits.

I wanted to give you guys a sneak peak of what my work will look like from here on out.

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and because my own children hate posing for me, I have enlisted the help of Matt Seal Jr. A professional whom I have had a photography crush on for a couple years. I am excited to have some one else be behind the camera, and to finally update our family portraits to include Cora.

That’s the update I have for you, and you can expect more posts from me this month now that i am feeling well and consoled again.

Self-Care

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Every once in awhile I take time to write on self-care. In this fast paced life, it is hard to slow down to take care of ourselves. Self-care is viewed as sloth, when in reality, it is the practice that helps us work harder and longer.

A few of my close friends and I were talking about self-care in terms of a gas tank. Motherhood can often leave our tanks on empty, so going out to get our hair done, or taking a zumba class helps to fill it. However, when our tanks are SO depleted, we need to fill them multiple times before we are ready for another road trip. Maybe a trip to the gym makes the tank go up one gas gauge, but going out for drinks later that night makes it go up another. We have to stack these moments and even set aside time for them DAILY in order to keep functioning within the endless road trip that is life and motherhood.

Last week, there were multiple events that had me “on call” with certain members of my family. I love them, and happy to give them the 24/7 care that they some times require, but it was time to fuel up. I painted my nails, made banana bread, put out some candles and bought myself my favorite flowers. Those are all tiny things that boost my mood and can make a big difference in my day. Later tonight, I am going to zumba with a friend, which is another way I invest in being a better mother. You don’t have to only chose one solitary thing that you are “allowed” to make yourself feel better; and it isn’t selfish to need multiple activities or social interactions before you start feeling like “yourself” again. It’s not selfishness, it is mental health care and mood nourishment. Do it, and it may even help you become more productive in other areas of your life.

originally posted on my column at mytrendingstories.com

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