5 Ways to Keep Sane While Going Crazy

5 Ways to Keep Sane While Going Crazy

It happens to every parent.  You’re going about your day when you suddenly notice the massive pile of clothes in the middle of the floor.  And then you see the juice on the counter because someone didn’t bother putting it away.  And then, it’s the chewed up pen that the dog got to, and the baby is screaming, and you have to make dinner but there are no pans, and, and, and.  And suddenly, you snap.

stressed woman screaming black and white“That’s it! I’m done! Do your own dirty work from now on,” you say, stomping off to your room and slamming the door.

Okay, maybe not. Maybe you manage to keep your cool, let the annoyance simmer under your skin, and get things moving.  I know for a fact that I can’t, though, because when I talk about sanity, I mean dictionary definition of sanity. In my world, days like this can mean a full swing into a depressive state, and if my environment doesn’t get better, that can turn in to weeks of depression.  Even worse, a chaotic environment tends to ratchet up the anxiety, which means I get really irritable and end up isolating for the sake of everyone. It’s a terrible cycle, all around.

So, how do I keep sane? Well, there are a few different things I’ve found that help.

1. Stave off what chaos you can.

Now, this comes with the understanding that some things you really can’t control. Others in the house are bound to put their stamp of mess on the public spaces, but you can focus on keeping your own personal refuge tidy and comforting.  In this way, if you do end up with an explosion in the rest of the house, you have a safe space to retreat that doesn’t add to the stress.

And on that topic:

2. Have a personal refuge!

woman in bed hidden under blanketI know for some this is easier said than done, but it is really helpful if you can manage it.  Your refuge doesn’t have to be anything big, even.  I personally have a bedroom of my own right now, but in the past I’ve had a corner of a room, a walk in closet, a utility room, and even a fort under the table.  Okay, that last one was a little more temporary, but it worked! In the end, it’s about having a space that is all your own where you can take a deep breath and regroup.

3. Enlist help.

Guess what. If your kids are the ones leaving clothes and stuff all over the floor, it’s totally fair to make them clean it up! Likewise, if the spouse is sitting around and there are dishes needing doing, get them on it!  Most of the time, I’ve found family members are more than willing to help with the workload, if they know what to do.  As much of a pain as it can be, teaching them what to look for can help in the long run.  And in the short term, you get an army of helpers!

4. Pick a small thing and attack it.

Maybe for tonight you just wash the one pan you need most.  Or maybe you just focus on moving the clothes to wherever they belong. Whatever it is that you can do, go ahead and do it.  Even the little things can make a huge difference and sometimes the little things add up to big things!

5.  If all else fails, get a baby and dog sitter, pack up the rest of the household and run away.

Okay, maybe don’t run away…  Still, keep in mind that it’s okay to pick your battles.  Sometimes that means you leave the dishes until tomorrow and get food somewhere else. Or, if that’s too expensive, let the kids make sandwiches. Either way, people get fed and you get a little less fed up.

<3

Shahana

2 Years Without Love – A Tale of Postpartum Depression

2 Years Without Love – A Tale of Postpartum Depression

9 years ago, I was sold a lie.  That in itself is bad enough, but the heartbreak of it was that I had no idea until it was too late. In fact, many new parents are lied to, every day, and in the most oblivious way. Well wishers, proud parents, tell you how lucky you are and how much you are going to treasure your new child. When they’re born, you’ll look into those big eyes and your heart will swell.

Well, guess what. That’s not necessarily true. Let me tell you a story about what it was like for me.

Waiting for Baby

My daughter was born the end of August, on a day that I can’t remember much about. It might have been hot, it might have been windy (it probably was because its always windy here). I honestly don’t know though, partly because I was busy getting ready to birth a child and partly because I had to be induced, so I was admitted the night before.

pregnant woman in darknessMy mom had arrived two weeks before hand because she wanted to make sure she was here whenever the kiddo showed up. Mom showed up on my due date and the kid…well, she waited the full two weeks. I didn’t mind though as I knew it was my time with my mom, and likely to be the last bit of “free” time I would have. Or rather, on the surface I knew that. Every mother out there was telling me to cherish these last bits of time carrying her because it’s “so much harder once they’re on the outside.” I’m not saying they were wrong, but I really wanted my own body back.

That said, the pregnancy wasn’t actually difficult. My mood was fine, appetite and activity level were pretty normal, and I tested perfectly on all of my check ins. I just really hated being pregnant. Some parents cherish the feeling of their child in them, but I found it creepy.  There was a whole ‘nother human in there, waiting to get out. I didn’t like that. But I did like getting to have Mom all to myself.

The Arrival

Suffice to say, delivery was painful. I mean, I don’t imagine any one who has birthed a child would disagree, as all forms of delivery come with their own pains. Induction is supposed to be one of the hardest but I couldn’t say, since my son came on his own schedule and it was pretty much miserable too. I do remember the moment I accidentally turned the TV on with my elbow, because Mike was suddenly distracted from counting me through my contractions. He denies it to this day, but I know better.

Eventually, she made her way into the world, 8 lbs 14.7 oz, scaly and hairy, and according to the doctors, absolutely perfect. It was that moment a parent dreams for, the moment you lay eyes on your creation for the first time, you lovingly cradle their hands and count fingers. A nursing mom is encouraged to bring their baby to feed in that first hour and I appropriately obliged, but it was a little off. The nurse helped me reposition and latch correctly and gave us our privacy. My husband stared down at us, tears in his eyes.

But still, something was off.

Realization

I’m not sure when I figured it out, but eventually I realized my magic moment was never coming. I cradled the child that I had created, I did all the actions I was supposed to, but the feelings of love and awe never appeared. Everyone I had spoken to told me that all the pain was worth it because when you hold your baby for the first time, you feel a fullness, a rush of joy and love.

It was a lie.

Or rather, it was a lie for me. At the time I didn’t know it, but not every new parent feels love and joy when they meet their baby. For some of us, it takes time to develop a connection. For me, it was over two years for that sense of awe to arrive. Two years. Somewhere between the bipolar disorder and the severe postpartum depression, it was impossible for me to feel that love.

Quick aside: this is actually something I have discussed with my daughter, now that she is older. I have always tried to keep the conversation as positive as possible, but also realistic. If she grows up with the same illnesses I have, I want her to be aware what it might mean.

So, we come to the meat of the conversation: how do you connect when you have no sense of connection?

First things, First:

If you have postpartum depression, GET TO THE DOCTOR. Seriously. Postpartum is hard, but postpartum depression is scary. I was very grateful that Mike and I had talked about it before Eileen came along because as soon as I started to feel unsafe, he got me help. Far too many horrifying things happen because parents don’t want to reach out when they start to feel off. So yeah. Talk to someone you trust and get help.

Second things, Second:

Remember, not everyone is going to feel like they’re in a magical wonderland when baby arrives. Sure, for my son, I felt my heart swell and I wanted to constantly cuddle and love on him. But the first time around? No. The only time I felt love for her was when we were nursing, and you can probably blame that on the chemicals. So, if you’re a new parent and your heart isn’t swooning at the sight of your new creation, don’t worry. Keep them safe and alive and chances are good you’ll get there.

So, how to stay connected?

Well, to that I have no answer. I wish I did, but it was all I could do to stay present during those two years. My husband (thank God for him) did almost all of the parenting, and ultimately it cost him his job. We lived with his parents for a good part of those two years, too, and they helped a bit then. But me, I was just too disconnected. I threw myself into work, telling myself we really needed the money so it was good that I worked so hard. Sometime, though, I look back and wonder if it was a lie I told myself to ease the pain.

Ultimately, I moved away to go to school full time while my husband and baby girl (who was two at that time, so not quite a baby anymore) stayed behind. We talked every night and they visited as often as they could, but I was here and they were most definitely there.

By the time we were reunited, I had missed years. It wasn’t until 2014, around my daughter’s 6th birthday, that we were finally living in one house. And, somehow, it was different. Somewhere in those 6 years, my heart healed. Maybe it was all that time. Maybe it was the realization of how much I’d lost that I would never get back, but finally I felt the love I’d been promised so long ago.

I don’t know how it happened, though. I wish I did, because I know so many other parents go through the same pain and I wish I could hand them the key to fix it.

But I can’t.

Instead, I teach them what I learned. I tell them congratulations, and wish them well. When they ask for advice, I tell them “It’s okay if you don’t love your child right away. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. You will love them eventually, even if you don’t feel it to start with.”

It may seem an odd bit of advice, but I promise I will never sell a new parent the same lie I was faced with those two years. And I promise I will do anything I can to help them if they ever land in the same place.

<3

Shahana

The Little Moments – Finding Them Where We Can

The Little Moments – Finding Them Where We Can

Finding time for the little moments can be incredibly hard these days, especially with all the things vying for our attention.  In the world of mental health, however, the little moments can make all the difference.  This is the story of my moment, found in the span of just a few moments.

We’ve hit that time of year where the weather just can’t make up its mind. We keep getting snow, but the days are warm enough that everything has melted by the afternoon.  The end result: a soggy mess. I have to step carefully to avoid the sludge getting in to the car, walking in to work, coming home, taking out the dog.  And speaking of the dog, let’s talk about those wonderful muddy paws all over the floor.

Yeah, I’m honestly not a fan of this time of the year.  I love the winter, so the melt is a little sad.  It means the snow will be gone soon.  Add in to that the soggy mess of the world (and the rotting plant life waiting to reassert itself), and I’m just about done with spring before it even starts.

That said, spring also means there are puddles everywhere and in the world of a 9 and 2 year old, well, that’s irresistible. Every day after we get home, it takes half an hour to get them from the car to the back door because both Jamie and Eileen have to splash every puddle until they’re both soaked.  At the end of the day, when we’re trying to get in the house, get the dog out, dinner going, and all the other things that need to happen before bed, this is beyond frustrating.

Still, a couple days ago we had a few moments.  It was a balmy 40 degrees and we had nothing to cook, so we sat on the back porch instead of trying to rush them.  And let me tell you, it was so worth it. Apart from the much needed sunshine, there’s something wonderful about being outside.  It was breezy, but not too much, and the

Jamie splashing in a puddle

Such concentration!

kids were overjoyed. Jamie discovered he could see himself in the puddles, and if he ran fast enough he could splash Daddy.  Later, he found out throwing a rock in the puddle made an even bigger splash.

Needless to say, he was soaked. But it was worth every second.

Sometimes the days just don’t let you slow down; that’s a fact of life.  But we always have to be sure to keep an eye out for those little moments where we can. Whether it’s watching the kids splash around (and trying not to panic over the mess), or taking a second to hold your coffee, every second is worth it.

Life is hard.  Parenting is hard.  Mental illness is hard.  But enough of these little moments, and it gets just a little bit better.

<3

Shahana

 

Brain Damage and the Concussion That Keeps Giving

Quick little off-day post here.  Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my concussion.  For those that don’t know, I was cuddling with my daughter in her room when I managed to snap my head back into the windowsill.  I was completely stunned for five minutes, unable to speak.  Ten minutes later, I was sobbing uncontrollably.  Ten minutes after that, I was slurring my words and unable to stand.

One ER visit later, I was sent home with a clean brain scan and the comment that I’d probably given myself a “mild” concussion.

I basically woke up 3 days later.  Needless to say, it was not a minor concussion.  I spent the next month trying to recover enough that I could get back to work full time, and to this day I struggle to understand language when I’m tired.  If I push it past that, I get headaches and eventually pass out.  One small event on one random evening has affected every day of my life since.

Yeah, I hear you asking…

What does this have to do on a blog about parenting and mental illness?  I’m not sure, to be honest, but it felt important to share.

From a parenting perspective, I know that my daughter, to this day, is still afraid to have me come cuddle in her bed. She will always come to me for hugs and even when I tuck her in, she warns me to be careful.  That tiny moment colors our relationship with worry that really shouldn’t need to be there, and all I can do is hope that one day she’ll move past it. Until then, though, we just both feel sad.

I know, too, that my bipolar was a lot more manageable before my concussion, and my depression exponentially increased afterward.  Was that due to the actual brain damage?  No clue.  Was it due to the stress of living with brain damage?  Most likely.

I miss me.  I miss being able to follow the logical patterns that made me pursue math.  I miss being able to hold a conversation without the words turning in to gibberish.  I miss being able to learn anything without having to sleep for the next three hours.  I miss being me, and I know my family does too.  If I’m lucky, it will heal.  Today is better than last month, which is better than the month before, so there is hope.  Maybe that’s where the similarity is.  We can all only hope and cope until the bad times pass, doing the best we can.

The Moral of the Story…

Appreciate each day.  You may not be able to do as much as you’d like, but if you do what you can, you’re always doing better and not worse.

Secondary moral: Always wear protection when cuddling.  Preferably a helmet.

 

Where do we fit in “Mommy Blog Land”?

Where Do We Fit in Mommy Blog LandI’m only a short distance into my blogging adventure and I’m realizing something very quickly… I don’t fit in here. Parenting blogs exist to show you how to succeed. They’re shiny, pretty, organized… they are filled with mothers just like us…doing their best. They deal with messy kids, hungry families, work, relationships, moves, all that stuff, and yet, somehow they manage to succeed.  Mommy blogs exist on the hopes that we can learn from the masters and bring some of that stability into our lives.

And you know what?  Sometimes it works!  Jeez, you never know unless you try, and there’s a really good chance that your veggie hating kid will love that cauliflower mac and cheese.

That said, my parenting life is a bit different.  The house is always chaos (yeah, I know, even the best mommy bloggers have their bad days), but there are some days I can’t even get myself out of bed.  I live with bipolar disorder (and thus, bipolar depression), so on my bad days, the weight is physical.  This means I can’t get out of bed to eat, shower, brush my teeth, let alone play with my kids.

When I look at most parenting blogs and I’m instantly hit with panic.  There’s a realization that it doesn’t matter if my son would love that mac and cheese, I’ll never have the energy to make it.

So it begs the question:

Where Do I Fit in “Mommy Blog Land”?

I told some friends I was thinking about starting a parenting, or mommy, blog and they laughed. Admittedly, I don’t seem like the type.  Anyone who knows me knows that it took me years (not weeks, not months, but YEARS) to even come close to loving my daughter.  I have struggled my whole life with creating meaningful connections with people and parenting is no different.  In the world of parenting experts, I’m probably one of the least qualified.

And yet, after the laughter subsided, every single one of them told me to go for it.

After all, there aren’t a lot of us about.

And no, the “us” I’m talking about isn’t the depressed or struggling or “failing” parent.  There are tons of those. We all struggle in our own ways with the joy of parenting.  Almost every new parent has to learn to live with a sink full of dishes, no makeup, and spit up on almost everything.  They do it with little sleep, no sleep, alone, with absent partners, or even with a family full of help.  Frankly, it doesn’t matter how well off you are in terms of money or support, parenting is hard work and we all suffer.

No, the “us” I was talking about is the mommy blogger living in a world of chronic mental illness.  Because, believe it or not, we’re there.  And there’s a special layer of guilt that goes with seeing all those wonderful pins for homemade play dough, and knowing you don’t even have the energy to pull out the store bought neon colored crap out of the drawer.  Yeah, it’s not that hard, but if you pull it out, it’ll be everywhere and then you’ll have to clean it up….or let the dog clean it up….or just walk on those nasty dry crumbles for weeks. Long story short: you’re not getting the play dough, kids. Go find a different toy.

I’m left to ask myself again:

Where do we fit in mommy blog land?

And the only answer I can come up with is….well, right here, I suppose.  After all, we’re parents, too. Even if it looks a little (or a lot) different, we’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got.  Right now, for me, that’s writing upstairs in my room while the kids entertain themselves.  If I find the strength for it, I’ll pull out my computer and play a video game for my daughter.  If I’m really lucky, I’ll be able to come downstairs for dinner with everyone else, but that always depends.  Some nights I won’t see either of them until they come upstairs to give me a hug and a kiss before bed.

Like I said, it’s different. We’re all parenting together here and we’re all doing our best, but sometimes what works for others won’t work for the rest.  I’m here, and I’m going to stick around.  Because maybe what I have to share will help you.

Maybe not.  Maybe you’re looking for the mac and cheese.

<3

Shahana

Growing Up with a Bipolar Parent

Growing up w a bipolar parent pin

I’m going to share something with you today that I didn’t learn until I was a teenager:

My mom has bipolar disorder.

I never knew it, but I lived my whole childhood under the canvas of a mental illness that I have since learned can make things hard on the good days and impossible on the bad. Now, many years later, I’m a parent myself living with the same issues and certain moments begin to make sense.

When I was in kindergarten, my parents separated and divorced. I had no idea, actually, for quite a while.  They sent us to live with our grandparents when things really started going south and much later we heard from my dad that they had divorced.  We stayed with my grandparents until the day dad showed up and told us he had a new home.  Mom, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found.

We actually wouldn’t see her again until about two years after we first went to Granny and Grandpa’s. When we did finally see her again, she had a new husband and a new home. It took a while before I figured out that this isn’t normal…not everyone has a parent that just vanishes for a few years and then comes back.  Obviously, some do, but none of my classmates ever did. My experience was different.

Lessons Learned

Years later, I learned about something called mania (or hypomania).  I learned that in mild cases it can lead to feelings of elation and and irrational actions.  In severe cases, it can lead to illusions of grandeur and even hallucinations. I never asked mom which brand of crazy was her particular one, but it’s something I’ve wondered about since.

At the age of 14, I was diagnosed with Bipolar type 2.  That means I get all the supremely severe depression, but only hypomania.  Don’t get me wrong, hypomania is dangerous enough, but I’m grateful I’ve so far managed to avoid the illusions and voices. Since my diagnosis, though, it has colored my view of life with my mom.  I look back on those years where she vanished with a bit more compassion than I might have, even though I really have no idea if it was a result of a manic episode or something else.

I wonder, too, what my own children will think as they get older.  Will they see my moments of crazy with compassion or annoyance?  Will they see they love and effort I’ve put into minimizing the pain, or will they see me as a lost and distant parent?

I suppose I won’t know until we get there.