There and back again….

Yeah, yeah. I am not a hobbit, nor I am elfin or dwarf…. but there are days I wish I were.

It has been some time since I wrote last, or had much to say for that matter. I am now, not only a mother to a precocious 3 year old but also to an almost 1 year old little boy who is equally just as active. There are days I wish I didn’t have to get out of bed. There are days where I would just like to do nothing. I am a mother…. so this never happens. Even on mother’s day.

My son really has a hard time letting me do much…. he wants to be held a lot. And if he is not held he screams. I can not stand the scream crying. It is too much for me. So, I am holding Smiley. A lot. Thus cooking is difficult and so is getting around to typing on my blog much. But, here I am. Trying to write while he is asleep on my lap.

I still struggle with depression and anxiety, but I have managed to do okay in most areas of my life. Patience, at times, is not one of those areas. There are days where I wish I could be a better, and more patient mother to my daughter. She is so much like me in so many ways that it is scary. I want so much more for my kids then to have to struggle with anxiety. My anxiety and lack of patience is higher with lack of sleep. I want to continue to use attachment parenting, but there are many areas in which I have just had to stop, or change tactics when trying to parent my highly passionate daughter. Have I mentioned that my daughter is a MASTER negotiator? She is even using the phrases “lets make a deal” or “lets compomize mama.” She wants something and she wants it 10 seconds ago, but she will use her impressive vocabulary to say why she wants something and try to negotiate how to get it.

You know that t-shirt that says ” I am a co-sleeping, breast feeding, cloth diapering, baby wearing, blah blah blah, attached mama”? I am still officially a breast feeding mama. My daughter quit 2 days before my son was born. I was all prepared to tandem nurse, but even after Smiley was born, Sunshine tried some pumped milk and just didn’t want it. I am still nursing my son and he just chows down a lot at night. Yes, we are still a co-sleeping family. My daughter finally moved into her own room, but she struggles with nightmares and anxiety. We would have her stay in our room but she actually sleeps worse when she is in there. Smiley still resides with us though. He is the better sleeper between the two. Otherwise, Sunshine sleeps from 7 p.m. to 7- 8 a.m.  I am still a “sometimes” baby wearing mother. Smiley prefers to be held, but he is outgrowing the ergo just a bit. Now, cloth diapering I save for swimming diapers. Regular cloth diapers just became too much. I am finding I need to really clean house. Get rid of a lot of clothes and items…. perhaps with kid #3 or #4 I will have time to launder such items… but babies make a lot of poop. And my kids especially. So, cloth diapers are out for now. I feel terrible about the earth and the ecosystem… but I can only do so much with the limited brain power and high stress levels I already struggle with.

I guess I am starting over. It is quite a journey; motherhood. I may not always be patient, but I am being more patient with myself. I am not perfect, but I love my family perfectly. So, I guess I will share what I know, what I don’t know, and what I am still learning; As a mother, as a woman, as a human being.

And another new beginning….

I apologize for being on hiatus for so long…. I found that I just needed to focus on my daughter and on myself. Now that I am writing again, (I still plan to focus on my daughter as she gets into EVERYTHING), but writing is for me.

I don’t care much what my blog looks like, as long as its accessible. I want anyone who needs to, be able to navigate without issues around the site.  So, thus I changed it around again. Plus, I like change. I don’t like things to become static because then I also become static. For some reason when there is not change, I begin to lose some of my creative edge and thought processes. Its like the longer you sit on the couch in one spot, the harder it is to get up cause you have permanently indented the cushion. No. That is not me. I like to move, I like to read new things, and be doing a new project. So, while I am mommy and still incredibly love to spend time with my daughter, I am also a person who loves to be needed and to use my knowledge and education that I have worked so hard to earn.

With that, I am putting ideas and thought into motion. I am now applying for some part-time positions. (I could not do full-time as that would totally take away from the fun I have with Sunshine and I so love to see her grow). I also acknowledge that when working full-time I become ill. My anxiety worsens and then proceeds to make my other mental illness just as worse. I find working part-time is wonderful and I get the best of both worlds and remain healthier, emotionally and mentally. There are not, however, that many part-time positions in my field right now. Just full-time. I fully acknowledge that a full-time job is NOT worth it to me. I don’t even need the bene’s. I would just like the opportunity to NOT have to pay back my RSA scholarship that paid for my Masters and stipulates that as long as I work for a nonprofit or government agency for the next 5 years, I won’t have to pay for my Masters.

So, as I said, there are not many part-time positions out there for me at this time. What am I doing in the mean while?  I am starting a foundation. Just getting my feet started on the steps of at least starting the support groups.  What I plan to do is form a Resource and Peer Support program for Mothers that have Mental Illness. I am not excluding those who have Postpartum depression, but I am focusing on the women who had diagnosis prior to pregnancy and there mental illness is not related to said pregnancy after.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some mental health issues that come along with just having a kid that some people do fall into…. this can be directly correlated to lack of sleep, inappropriate diet or lack thereof of healthy food, and no real self-care. This is an area that I, myself, am trying to alleviate.  (Will post more on that later).  The real issues are that many women who have a significant mental illness (like Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective disorder, Dissociative disorders) become pregnant and don’t have the resources to really be the best mom that we can be. That is what we all ultimately want, right??!! To be the best parent we can be. Our mental wellness, or lack thereof can get in the way of this. On top of this, because we have children, the previous resources or avenues to seek peer support or help are closed to us because children are not welcome at such places.  Thus, the need for a place that women can go with their kids to receive assistance and peer support.

So while I am not working, I am working on something. It can be difficult for me to get my head wrapped about this, and I do have my daughter going with me in everything I do. That is the point…. She is my reason for being a better mom, and for trying to support and help other moms in this same quest.

For now, I must sign off, as my kid is currently pulling out all the dog bones out of the drawer again, and I need to protect her from the dog.  But let me know what you guys think and which direction I should move on this now (Aside from developing a pamphlet, contacting a local church to set up a first meeting, and contacting all the mental health agencies and hospitals in the area to let them know we will be up and running soon….)

Blessings to all and don’t forget to giggle!!

Manic Monday: Power of Sleep

This Monday I dedicate this post to myself. For almost 10 months I have had severe sleep deprivation, but have hung on, clung to, and gripped for dear life to my sanity so that I may be a better mother to my daughter, and continue to nurse her. Almost 10 months! I didn’t know if I would be able to be a good  parent for a few days or few months while on medications, let alone off of them in order to nurse. I am doing pretty well. While I am not able to dedicate as much time to blogging as I would like, I can at least focus on some good things every once in awhile.

My Life Today

Over the years I have learned more about the restorative powers of sleep. What is more important is how bad sleep, or lack of sleep, would cause me to cycle more.

This is different for everyone, with or without a mental illness. Being an ultradian cycler (swinging back and forth from happy to sad several times a day) lack of sleep would either send me into depression or my hypermania would become worse and my cycling would speed up to swinging several times an hour. An exhausting way to live. Often my medications compacted or made side effects worse.

What is important to note is that hypermania often induced insomnia. Can we call it a vicious circle? So sleep medications were given regularly. Usually an antipsychotic. My anxiety shoots sky high if I didn’t get good sleep. I believe this is still true… if I don’t get sleep than I tend to worry. Sometimes worrying about the fact I didn’t get good sleep. (Stupid, I know. But I had to perseverate on something, right?) In the past, I would be unable to get out of bed let alone the house. It was scary and detrimental to my ability to work.
So, to say sleep is important is really too simple. There are many studies sighting the effects of lack of sleep on mental illness, or mental illness effecting lack of sleep.  Either way, it is important to note that my lack of sleep has reduced me to blethering idiot and crying fits at times.  Compound this with bordering on post partum psychosis. In fact, lack of sleep might be the root cause of post partum psychosis. I thought I would provide some information regarding this issue, in case anyone would be interested in learning more.

Sleep Loss and PostPartum Psychosis “It is argued that sleep loss resulting from the interaction of various putative causal factors may be the final common pathway in the development of psychosis in susceptible women. Clinical significance of these findings, including strategies to prevent postpartum psychosis, are discussed and suggestions are made for future research directions.” Sharma, V. and Mazmanian, D. (2003), Sleep loss and postpartum psychosis. Bipolar Disorders, 5: 98–105. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-5618.2003.00015.x

Canadian Medical Association Journal “The only possible exception is puerperal psychosis, which emerges much more often in women with a personal or family history of a bipolar affective disorder than in women without, a finding that probably explains the reluctance of some researchers to recognize puerperal psychotic episodes as distinct from psychotic episodes at other times.” G E Robinson, D E Stewart, CMAJ. 1986 January 1; 134(1): 31–37.

Healthy Sleep

About.com- Bipolar and Sleep Disorders

Sleep Medicine Reviews

General Psychiatry Archives

A Year Ago Today

1/27/2011

A year ago today, I was almost 6 months pregnant.

A year ago today, I sat in a waiting room with a dear friend waiting, hoping, praying and doing a fair bit of crying.

A year ago today, my husband went through surgery #2 for his thyroid cancer. It had metasticized to lymph nodes in his neck.

Yesterday, we discovered that the biopsy done on a suspicious lymph node they had found does not have cancer and at this time is not carrying the thyroid tissue cells that could cause cancer. Doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be there later. But it is the first good news we have had for a bit. He will continue to go in every 3 months for blood tests to measure his thyroid globulin levels. (he isn’t supposed to have any thyroid cells, and if there are they could be carrying the cancer).

A year ago, we were not parents and I was one emotional soon-to-be-mama. This surgery led to a large scar on his neck. It was super scary to me…. to know that his throat would be cut open and how close they would be to his jugular veins. I was so scared I would lose him.

We were at UW for the surgery as the surgeon in Tacoma felt that my hubby needed extra special care to do this type of surgery and navigate the sensitive tissues and nodes in the neck. He wasn’t confident he could do the job since he didn’t do that kind of surgery every day. The doctors at UW do. I remember sitting next to him as they prepped him for surgery. They had a young resident that was learning to insert the IV into his hand. I would say he was rather inept as he couldn’t seem to do it. There was blood everywhere, and luckily Mike couldn’t feel a thing. Nor did he see all the blood.

The resident doctors, the surgeon and several nurses came to check up on me about 4 or 5 times. They could tell that this momma was super scared and looked really pregnant. I totally appreciate the special attention they gave me. On top of that, the surgeon came and spoke to me and my MIL afterwards to discuss how it went. Mike came out of the surgery and being that he doesn’t do well with the anesthesia, promptly got sick. I, of course, started crying again. Why they had me come and see him when they hadn’t even cleaned him up yet, I have no idea. There was blood all over him. Sigh.

I can only look back on that day with thanks. Michael is still with me. We have been blessed with a beautiful child. Though we don’t know what the future holds and we continue to pray and wait for the day we are told his cancer is gone, or that he is at least finally considered in remission….

We hold on to what we have now. We are grateful for what we have. Things may not be perfect, but life isn’t perfect. Life is messy. Life is difficult and challenging. But thats what makes life worth living. These perfect moments we find amidst the chaos where we are truly thankful for what we have and the imperfections that makes life unique and special.

Cherish those close to you today, and always. Even those imperfect moments.

Don’t forget to giggle!

Wednesday Worries

So being the person with Anxiety disorder that I am, I tend to worry a heck of a lot. Combine this with Bipolar disorder and my worries take on a stream of conscious type feel to them… worrying about a spot on the carpet somehow leads to Armageddon. Yeah, a bit of a stretch, but it does happen. If I let my worries carry me away then I worry about things WAY out of my control and then I go into panic attacks and things happen to me that I imagine are heart attack symptom related, though it’s not a heart attack.

So why Wednesday Worry day? I decided to dedicate a day to just getting the worries out there…. and then to let them go. Everyone has worries, but sometimes just sharing what those are give you a life, a sense of peace… or maybe a short plan on how to approach this worries or solve some problems. Some of my worries are lame inane things that really are stupid to worry about, and some are really viable issues that I think most anyone would worry about.

The list for today, the 25th day of January 2012, is as follows (in no particular order):

  • My daughter is cruising. As in walking using the support of furniture. This is scary since she practically didn’t start crawling until last week … and her crawling efforts are minimal since she wants to pull herself up and walk. Not ready for this yet.
  • I am worried about our financial situation. I need to help us out somehow, but is would cost more for childcare these days and I am not willing to work full-time just yet. Somehow I need to get my brain out of baby mode long enough to come up with some working ideas.
  • I am getting pretty down. Not my really low seasonal depression stuff, but definitely not too happy. I am afraid this has a lot to do with not getting enough recuperative sleep.
  • I am worried about my relationship with my hubby. I am currently super resentful of my husband. I am angry at the choices he is making. This does not make me want to be warm and fuzzy. I don’t really want to snuggle. Then again, when are we in the same room together for very long in order to do this? Not so much, and when we do, Sunshine is usually between us. Although the choices he has been making are mostly to deal with his own emotional stress, or the bit of down time he has,  his choices have repercussions on me. For instance: not going to bed until 4:00am in the morning because he is stressed out. He chooses to play video games or computer games. Thus he doesn’t get up until late. Thus he works from home. Thus he works way more hours than he normally would to compensate for slower internet workings here and interruptions from Sunshine. Thus I get no time to myself except the 7 minutes it takes for him to get her dried off after bath time and put her in a new diaper, whilst I sit in the bath a bit longer.Perhaps I am resentful because all those hours he is spending playing games, I am not getting to do something for myself. I KNOW that I need to sleep, so any spare chance I get I nap. No reading, no playing games, no fun time for myself.  Now, don’t get me wrong… Sunshine is fun. My hubby loves to point this out when I say I want to do something for myself… “But she is so much fun! Don’t you love her?”  Duh!  I love her, but if you spent 24/7 with her you would want a reprieve as well! If I hand her off to him, its seems an inconvenience for him, or it doesn’t last long because he says “She needs the boob.” Is this the lameass excuse all men whose wives breastfeed use to get out of caring for their kids? I found out that this is common and I am not alone. (Damn. Will have to rethink this whole breast-feeding thing next time around).
  •  In the same theme… I am worried about my hubby. His health. Mental health mostly, and possibly physical health. I give him all sorts of information to look at, as he is one of those guys who has to have quantitative (not qualitative) peer-reviewed research presented to him that supports whatever conclusion he wishes to derive from such things. I am not sure he really even looks at the information I send him any longer. He is a logical thinker.  Why can’t he see that he is not his normal self and that all this stress and worries is effecting his life, his physical health, his reactions to me and his daughter, and his energy levels?

Sigh. I believe those are the brunt of my worries today. Perhaps I am overtired so also over sensitive? Perhaps I just need to let go, or call in a favor from a friend and take myself to a movie? Perhaps I just need to get people together and go the Zoo?  Oooh!  I think I will take Sunshine to the zoo tomorrow.  Get us out and do something fun.  Yep. Year long passes rock!  Woot.  Well, until next Wednesday I will let my worries go for now. 

Have a great day and don’t forget to giggle!

When it rains…

It pours.  Yeah, I know. Currently in the great PacNW it is snowing, and you know what that means?!!  Two inches of snow and the state goes down in “emergency lock down” mode. Government agencies, schools, colleges and the like all shut down.  Two inches folks!  Plus, we make national news for those lame two inches because of all the Wuck Fads out there that can’t drive in said snow.  Thus, I stay home and stay safe, out of the asshat drivers way.

So, when it rains, it pours.  (or in this case, it snows).  This is my life right now. 

Before Sunshine, I never batted an eyelash regarding returning to work after having a baby. It was a foregone conclusion.

Here I sit, eight months in with a beautiful little girl, and I haven’t gone back. On the one day (Seriously, only one day) that I felt like “Man, I need to be doing something else. I need to have a life besides just being a mommy,” I ended up applying for two different jobs that happened to pop up and that I would totally have wanted and enjoyed doing.  I still feel I would enjoy these jobs… but I have changed. My goals professionally may be the same, but an added factor has taken priority and really is more important to me right now than pursuing this professional career. Who knew having a kid would change a person? I still am involved in a semi-professional choir (who happens to be the Chorus for a Broadway musical coming to our area!). I still am involved in disability advocacy work, though in  a much more limited fashion. I still love to read, to write, and to help others. But my focus was changed forever when Sunshine came along.

It is hard hanging around my friends who have gone back to work (especially the ones who never  ask me what I’ve been up to because obviously  since I am at home there is nothing new happening in my life. So they never ask, and go on talking about their work lives and so on. It’s like I don’t share anything in common with them anymore because I am not working but staying at home and being a mom. I’m treated as if I have nothing to contribute to their discussions). I have begun to find others who share the work life I currently have and share my day-to-day trials of being a SAHM. My old friends will always be there, but for my own sanity it is good to have people to talk to about what I go through during the day.

Sigh. I digress.  I have learned that with change comes decisions. Some big and some small.  I didn’t fully put my heart into applying for those jobs, but guess what? When you don’t truly want something, it comes along and offers you a chance.  Now you are forced to decide between something you could want, and what your heart is telling you to accept. Yep.  Both jobs I was called in to interview for.  In this tough economy, I think this is great and this means my resume rocks!! I actually didn’t go to one interview because realistically, driving 1 1/2 hours to work, ONE WAY, would totally bite the big one. And this is on good days of traffic in the Puget Sound.  Not. Going. To happen.

The other position, well… I have been in for not one, but two interviews. It is down to me and one other person.  I could totally do this job and it is temporary.  Only an 11 month position to go in and clean house for the disability services department at a local community college that is only about 10 minutes away from where we live. SWEET!!!!  I thought it was the perfect situation because they have a onsight day care so I could continue nursing and visit when I needed to.  A sign of the times, however, as they lost funding for the 1 month-12 month infant program, and thus cannot take Sunshine until she is one year old.  This is the status of a lot of day cares in the area.  She is 8 1/2 months old right now.  That means trying to find a place that could take her for 3 months.

I hate to say this folks… but it is not looking good.  I love my kid, as so many parents love their children.  I grew up with my own past issues of being left with people I didn’t know countless times as my mom had to travel down to Sacramento or San Fran when my brother was in the hospital for whatever reason at the time. I was left with a grandfather who was a pedophile and we don’t need to go into details there.  We know what happened.  So, I have trust issues with my own family let alone trusting complete strangers.  I want my daughter near me. I want to continue to watch her grow and see as much of it as possible. I do NOT want someone else to tell me she walked for the first time, or said a new word.  I want to BE THERE for those milestones. I am not able to leave her just yet. I am not able to let go when she clings so much to me as she learns new things.

Would it be different if the day care actually did take Sunshine? Would I be able to say yes?  I probably could.  This job would get us out of the “red” financially.  I am lucky to have a hubby who supports me no matter what.  He is reluctant to truly say what he thinks I should do, but then again, neither of us have an answer as to what to do for the 3 months before Sunshine could go to the college’s daycare.  We have lots of friends that returned to work, but their family members are caring for their kids.  We do not have family nearby to take care of Sunshine.

So it is down to this: Anyone have any ideas as to what we should do for daycare? Anyone have any advice as to what I should say if offered the job?

Best. Compliment. Ever.

Hopefully, you’re familiar with the feeling one gets when one receives a compliment. At its best, it can just about make your day, right? Ranging from comments in passing like “that shirt really brings out your eyes,” or the “Your hair looks great today,” to something deeper and maybe more meaningful, such as “I think you are a super role model for my daughter.” These can be a real pick-me-up. Today, I received such a compliment and for reasons that are personal to me and my situation, it pretty much made my year. Granted, the calendar year did just start, but being able to kick it off this way was/is pretty cool nonetheless.

Today, I was visiting my counselor and my ARNP. We were discussing my sleep, or lack thereof, as it relates to Sunshine-care. I happened to mention that I was going to be joining a MOPS(Mothers of pre-schoolers and this is # 6 on my list of new years resolutions- Woot!) group on Thursday and that I wanted to network and create more opportunities to get out and socialize. Perhaps it is that I am trying super hard to remain healthy and connected to people when I tend to want to stay holed up in my house with Sunshine and isolate. *sigh*…social anxiety sucks.

At this point, my ARNP stopped me and said, “You know. You are like a mom living without a mental illness.” She went on to explain that I am healthier than I have ever been (in her eyes), and being that I have been visiting her since 2006, this is quite significant to me, as well as flattering. She mentioned that perhaps this is the best job for me to have; being a mom, that is. She also spoke about how situations related to work most likely have had a negative impact upon my mental illness due to my anxiety, perfectionism, and having had some pretty crummy bosses/supervisors.

Depending upon your own perspective/experience, maybe you’re scratching your head and wondering how this might be a compliment. Well, you see – when someone says “You seem almost normal to me” when in the past I have felt anything but that, it gives me a boost of confidence to know that I am caring for myself well, and that this shows. Taking into consideration that which I know to be true about myself of late, I DO feel that I’ve got my crap together. I am super observant of my emotions and where they are taking me, so upon reflection, this seems pretty much spot on.

With this exchange having further cemented my decision NOT to return to the workforce at this time such that I might experience the joys of mommyhood full-time 24/7, I now get called to interview for a job that I would absolutely LOVE to have. *ARGHH*

Were I to accept an offer for this position, I would be working at a college teaching students with disabilities and helping them find internships. This is what I am good at. This is what I love to do. Can I take this on and still be a good mommy? Still maintain my mental health? Can I miss out on all the learning Sunshine will do, as she is so close to walking and possibly crawling (yeah, I know backwards but she is an ambitious little gal). She is engaged in learning new things each day, and I am not so sure I want to miss that.

The dilemma for this lovely day is to decide whether I should interview or not. I do not wish to take up this organization’s time if they are unable to accommodate me. I do great work. I am good at what I do. I say this while looking back upon the work that I have done during my career and this gives me the confidence to go and interview. I would be worth their time. However, I hope that if I am offered the position that I could ease into it somehow – I’m not sure how to get used to the whole “Sunshine and me apart for more than 3-4 hours” situation. She will be 8 months old tomorrow, and we have not spent more than 4 hours apart. I know that working will be hard on her, and incredibly hard for me. This Saturday will be her first time just with dad for the whole day while I attend a choir retreat. This will be really hard for me (and for the Orbs), but as absence makes the heart grow fonder, the return home to get my Sunshine hugs will be just that much better.

I also need to be realistic. She is still not sleeping through the night. As in, waking up about 9-10 times between 1:00- 7:00am. Plus we are still co-sleeping with her. This equals not so much sleep for me. Being a SAHM, I currently have the flexibility to sleep in a bit longer with her, or to just take it easy . This may be a significant factor as to why I am doing so well mentally/emotionally. Signing me up for a rigid schedule and book-ending it with a pretty hectic commute…well, maybe that’s not so fun or easy on my sanity and well-being. If we are still not getting good sleep during this next step in my professional career, at least Sunshine will have the option of sleeping during the commute. I will be jealous at times, I’m sure.

This is going to be a hard decision for me. We could use the financial stability. We could use the peace of mind knowing our bills were getting taken care of, and outstanding debt has been eradicated. On the other side of the coin, we could have the peace of mind knowing that Sunshine is with a parent, me, and I get to spend time watching her grow. I may also be giving myself the best chance at mental stability. Yeah. Not such a tough decision now, is it? *sigh* As my hubby observed, “It’s Murphy’s law. When you don’t want something to happen or don’t care if it comes around, it will do just that. When you do want something and the timing is right, it won’t work out. The perfect job just doesn’t ever seem to come at a perfect time.” No kidding.

“It is an experience common to all men to find that, on any special occasion, such as the production of a magical effect for the first time in public, everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Whether we must attribute this to the malignity of matter or to the total depravity of inanimate things, whether the exciting cause is hurry, worry, or what not, the fact remains.” (Murphy’s Law; Wikipedia)

Well, at least I can bask in the glory of the compliment I received for today. My ARNP thinks I am pretty normal. Considering where I’ve been, this is magnificent indeed.