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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Pit of Despair {PPD Part 3}

I have two disclaimers.

First, I'm (obviously) not anything special. Duh. I don't even know why this needs to be a disclaimer. LOOK AT ME.

Okay, besides the fact I'm a ninja.
ALL of us have things we'd rather not talk about. Most people, in fact, have gone through struggles that make my life seem like a frolic in a lavender field. The problem is that we as a society have a terrible tendency to sweep all the hard things under the rug, be it depression, eating disorders, miscarriages/child loss, addictions or whatever else. This gives them a power they should not have.

My goal in sharing this is to open a dialog about issues we don't talk about in “polite society.” We cannot let the fear of judgment paralyze us. Sharing is cathartic. Sharing is right. We should be able to expose our jagged edges without fear of retaliation. No one should EVER be shamed or trivialized for their “issues.”

We all have a story. It is worth sharing. And it is worth fighting for.

Second, I would NEVER, EVER, EVER want anyone to think I don't love my daughter. If you're reading this in 10 years, G, YOU ARE THE MOST KICK ASS DAUGHTER A MOM COULD ASK FOR. I love your passion and your feisty spirit. You have taught me so much about myself.

I would do anything for her.

But we had a rough start. 

(If you're here for the first time, HAI! Here's Part 1 and Part 2 so you're up to speed.)

***

The pregnancy test showed two lines. No it didn't. It couldn't. Statistically the chances were slim to none. I was still breastfeeding around the clock. T was only seven months old, for God's sake! Surely not.

And yet, there it was.

The feeling I remember most was shock. Chance and I had kind of “ha ha” joked about having another child after T was born (due to some circumstances I may or may not go into later). And there was that one time (isn't there always?) ... but it was highly unlikely.

Go ahead. Laugh hysterically at my dumbassery. I would, too.

Part of my brain was happy and excited. A very small part. The rest of me? Not so much. The first thing I thought after the flash of blind panic was, “DAMMIT! I JUST got skinny!”. So delightfully shallow of me.

Next came the tsunami of doubt about my parenting abilities. I could barely handle one kid, let alone two! What the heck was I going to do?

Then came nervousness. It washed over the sore spot of my little identity crisis and I couldn't breathe.

And then it was all smothered by rage. Not an in-your-face-choke-you-until-you're-purple kind of rage, but a simmering malcontent. This probably had a lot to do with feeling like my life had spun completely out of control. I didn't want another thing to think about, another thing to lose.

And I was terrified, terrified, I was going to lose the baby.

In my religion, there is a doctrine about “following the footsteps of the Lord.” It's a great doctrine. It encourages you to think before you act and walk in love and all kinds of other good stuff. Unfortunately, if you have a perfectionist bent, it can become all-consuming. At this point in my life I had completely bastardized this doctrine to mean there was ONE way to do things, ONE right path, ONE white choice, the rest blacker than black.

This was how I rationalized having all these embarrassing feelings. I had gotten knocked up at the wrong time, obviously. I had completely upset the balance of the Sovereign Lord's plan for my life and the life of the tiny human inside me. Because of my stupidity, this baby was doomed. God was going to take it away. I was not equipped to handle it. I had made a mistake.

The idea was completely ludicrous. And it stuck faster than dog hair on peanut butter. Little voices began whispering horrid thoughts in my ear every moment of every day.

You're going to lose it, it would slither.

Or:
There is something terribly wrong with it.

Or:
You're going to have it and it will die before its first birthday. *evil maniacal laugh* Not even kidding. That is exactly what I heard.

Or:
You're going to have it, fall in love with it, and it's going to die in a fiery car crash on its sixteenth birthday.

I know, I know. Terribly conceited. Illogical. Just plain DUMB. My emotions did not care in the slightest. I felt myself begin to fracture under the stress of thinking these things over and over. I became completely convinced I could not attach to this child. If I didn't love it, maybe, just maybe, it would hurt less when God took it away.

Of course, I also felt terribly guilty for even thinking these things in the first place. But I could not bear the thought of losing a child, and I surely would lose this child. Thus saith the Lord. 

100 percent bat shit crazy, you guys.
When we announced the pregnancy, things got worse. "What is wrong with you?" "Do you know what causes that?" "How the hell are you going to survive having two children under two?" "Are you crazy?" (yes, but still … ) My favorite was, “Babies should not be having babies!”

I did not throat punch these people. Maybe I should have. Without the “shell” of my identity, I internalized their criticisms. I sunk deeper into the pit of despair.

More junk happened, culminating in the decision to move the whole family back to my childhood home. It was a ridiculously hot summer. I gained a ton of weight. I got angrier and angrier, at myself, my family, the weather, the universe in general. My family started referring to me as She Hulk. My husband avoided me like the plague.

The pregnancy dragged interminably. Any fleeting moments of happiness were swallowed by anger and overlaid with panic. I was terrified, every single day, that I would lose the baby. 

Maybe not then, maybe not in five years, but something awful was bound to happen eventually. All because I was a stupid person who made a stupid mistake.


I had officially lost my mind.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

In the Beginning, There was Hair Color {PPD Part 2}

If you missed the last post, click here. Your reward is a video of a dinosaur volcano. You're welcome.


A lot of the information I'm about to dump on you does not fall neatly into the category of postpartum depression. And a lot of it is going to sound really weird if you're not familiar with the modern non-denominational church of 'Murica. Bear with me. I believe these circumstances played a part in my first skirmish with the PPD monster.

Don't misunderstand. Depression is a disease, not a character flaw or a specific set of circumstances. It fights dirty, though, and it will use every weakness you have to tear you down. Part of the fight against it is becoming self aware. 

It's not a fun part. I'd rather dig a ditch with a plastic spoon. It hurts to analyze yourself and drag your flaws under a microscope, but it's worth it. 

I don't know what my story would be if all of this hadn't occurred simultaneously. But it did. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Caitlin, the ticking time bomb.

***

The year was 2011. I was a mostly stay-at-home mommy/wife with a cute little house and a cute little life. My only commitments were a part-time job at the local newspaper, being a full time food source for baby Talen, and leading the praise and worship team at my parent's church.

Everything was wonderful.

Except it wasn't. The first component of the disaster was my deep-rooted self esteem problem. I'm pretty sure there are cows who think better of themselves than I did at that point in time. It was bad.

When you're jealous of a cow's eyelashes,
you have a problem.

Then I became a mother, and we all know how good that makes you feel about yourself. All the times you can't get a tiny human to JUST. STOP. CRYING really let you know how hilariously little you know. Being a first time parent is HARD.

"Whoa. My mother is cray cray."

It's possible I would have been able to float along in my self-hating bubble if everything in my life had stayed exactly the same. Unfortunately, that's not how life works.

In June 2011, my father resigned as pastor of the church we had planted in 1998. It was very, very brave and the right thing to do. What I didn't realize was how much of my identity had formed during the 14 years I was defined as a “Pastor's Kid”and later, my place of importance as the praise and worship leader.

I should have resigned, too. But I couldn't bear the thought of losing so much of my life. I started having daily panic attacks from the self-inflicted stress of trying to fit into a place that was no longer mine. After a VERY awkward few months of passive aggressive stand-offs with the new leadership, I gave up. The annual Christmas Eve service would be my last hurrah.

I wanted to serve God, sure, but I was also drawing almost all of my self worth from my place in the (stupid, unnecessary, unbiblical) church hierarchy. It could have come from all those years of getting a little laminated “RESERVED” card on my seat or being invited to exclusive tete a tetes with the small-time celebrities of Christendom. Or it could have come from my stubborn adherence to the idea this thing we had poured our lives into HAD to matter, that we were making a difference and would be richly rewarded at some undetermined time … probably in heaven, because, you know, the Lord works in mysterious ways. We were the saviors of the world, dang it! … or at least the 20 people who ventured into church on Sunday morning.

I believe with all my heart we did do good things and we did make a difference. I also believe I turned my church performance into my god, and that was a big mistake.

I had honestly never considered a life without The Church as the central point. My world had revolved around it since I was three years old. I mean, what did “normal” people even DO on Sunday mornings (and Wednesday nights, and Friday afternoons, and Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other Saturday of the month)? Who was I? What was I? Stripped of my title and position, I found my “faith” was rather weak and my identity nonexistent.

Right around this time, I was hit with mild postpartum depression. I don't know if it was simple coincidence. I do know it was really, really, REALLY bad timing. The realization that I was not, in fact, a bad ass for Jesus was crushing, but on top of that I lost all gumption to do simple life stuff. I stopped caring about things. I quit cleaning my house. I went on a shower strike. I cried and whined and wept. My panic attacks became debilitating.

After approximately a month of doing nothing (seriously, the only reason I didn't drown in my own filth was my mom), I swung to the opposite extreme. I started manically cleaning my house, spending hours and hours obsessing over dirty floors and spots in the sink. I dyed my hair crazy colors. I cried. I washed the walls of my bathroom. I cried some more. I started crafting. I continued to have panic attacks. I cried. I learned to crochet. I started this blog. When it didn't magically gain thousands of followers, I added it to the list of things I was a failure at. I lamented to anyone with ears (yes, even the dog) about being a faaaaaaiiiilllluuuurrrreee. Everything I did was pointless.

I was trying desperately to redefine myself with external labels, but it wasn't working.

Looking back now, what I thought was an “escape” from the grip of PPD was more of a lull. I was keeping myself busy instead of acknowledging and dealing with the problem.

After my last “performance” on Christmas Eve, I cracked.

 photo tumblr_inline_n654qhFxBj1rsuvrp_zps78c2701c.gif

It was a terrible time to have an identity crisis.

Nine days later, on January 2, 2012, I found out I was pregnant again.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

This Never Happened

Heyyy,

First of all, thank you so much for the outpouring of support after my last post about my struggle with postpartum depression <<< and reading that horrifically constructed sentence.

I've been writing about it and it's helping tremendously. Today I even put on real clothes! Most of what has come from these writing therapy sessions is weepy drivel, so I hope to make it readable and release it into the universe soon. Again, thank you so much. You guys are all stuffing squeezers ... which will only make sense if you make it to the end of this post, so ...

For tonight, let me just ask you one semi-uncomfortable question.

How many of your Facebook friends do you avoid in real life?

It matters not if you've ever met them in person (honestly those are some of the best ones; I can keep my weird unable-to-breath-properly-when-speaking problem under wraps that way).

But anyway ...

How many of them would you have coffee with?

How may of them would you say "hi" to at the grocery story?

How many of them would you want by your side when your money laundering scheme blows up in your face?

(I hate it when I launder money. Happens all the time. Better than laundering checks, though. Those things just disintegrate ... )

And how many of them, if encountered in a public place, would make you panic, hide behind a toilet paper display, accidentally knock it over, blush furiously, and then turn on your heel and walk out of the store with a shopping cart full of merchandise you forgot to purchase, setting off the theft alarm and causing armed security officers to come running?

And as the security officers took you down, said "friend" would not even acknowledge your pleas to, "Tell them I'm not a delinquent! It was an accident because I was avoiding you! C'mon, we're friends!"

Seriously. How rude could they be?

What I'm asking is, how many of your friends are not really your friends (in that they would cause you to commit unintentional theft) and how many are just so awesome you could squeeze the stuffing out of them?

Hmm?

My ratio is ace. :)


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