Sunday, November 1, 2015

I Wonder What They Will Remember....

Things have been rough for the last month or so, kind of on and off, but the last few days have been pretty bad.  I have to say that I am thankful that I haven't been ragey depressed....just sad depressed.  I feel like sad depressed isn't quite as bad for everyone around me, so I don't feel as guilty about it.  But sad depressed is a heavy weight to carry.  It actually even hurts sometimes.  I hate feeling like this.  It really sucks to feel depressed when you know that in actuality you are really happy.  I have been on the verge of tears for several days now.  I have been forcing myself to carry out my daily duties.  Some get done, some don't.  I go from feeling totally disconnected from everyone to wanting to curl up in a ball to just wanting to hug someone, be it a small human child, or husband or lovable dog. 

I have found myself wondering lately what my kids are going to remember from their childhood.  I often worry that I am ruining them.  I am afraid that all they are going to remember is me yelling, or sending them to their rooms so I can just breathe.  I wonder if they will remember me putting in movies for them so I can just sleep on the couch and escape for a little while.  Are they going to remember the times that it got to be so much that I just left them?  That I yelled up the stairs to their Dad saying "That's it!  I am leaving!", and then I did.  Are they going to remember the things that I said in the heat of the moment, the stuff that I didn't really mean? 

What is growing up with a depressed Mom going to do to my kids?  They aren't really old enough for me to explain this to them yet.  The fact is, this is not going away.  I have learned to accept this, but that doesn't mean that I like it.  I am honestly exhausted from the fight these days...sometimes I don't know if I can even fight it anymore.  If it swallows me up, what happens to them?  Are they going to remember the times I shut down, and left them, or are they going to remember that I always came back? Will they remember that I always fought my way back to them?  Will they understand?

I have been going through photos for the past couple of days, getting ready for some Christmas scrapbooking projects.  So I have been looking at hundreds of pictures from the past year of my kids.  One of my joys is to take pictures capturing all the big moments and lots of the little moments.  I love making scrapbooks as gifts for them each year and for their grandparents too.  As bad as I have felt the past few days I have been constantly reminded that my kids are happy. 

One of my favorite pictures of Anne this year, it just captures the joy that she always carries with her.
Joyful, goofy and cuddly, that is my boy!

My kids actually seem to be undamaged and secure.  They are both confident and compassionate kids.  Is it in spite of my depression or because of it?

I really do wonder what they will remember about their childhood.  Will they remember how much I hate to cook or will they remember that every Friday I made them homemade pizza and we curled up on the couch and had a movie night?  Will they remember that I was always rushing to get them places on time, or will they remember that I signed them up for their favorite activities and made it work every week to get them there?  Will they remember that we stayed inside more than we should have, or will they remember the fun they had playing with each other when I just let them run rampant with their imaginations while I was trying to cope inside my own head?

Will they remember Halloween this year?  Will they remember how close I was too the edge that weekend?  Do they know how many times I almost cried that day?  Do they have any idea how much I just wanted to crawl into bed instead of taking them to our Church's Fall Festival?  That isn't what I think they will remember?  I think they will remember that Mommy dressed up like a pirate to match their pirate costumes and went out anyway.  And I hope they will know how glad I was that I did, and how grateful I was to be present with them in their joy.  I hope they just remember that all I ever wanted to do was play pirates with them.


Monday, October 26, 2015

This Crazy Up and Down Life!

I feel like I go so long between blog entries these days.  Honestly it is just this crazy up and down life I live.  I went off my anti depressants last spring and things were okay for awhile.  Then I had a bad cycle and they weren't okay for awhile.  Then the summer happened.  I was determined to keep myself and the kids busy through the summer, so that the depression would not sneak in and take over.  I guess that is always my goal, that it won't get in and take over.  But it does, and then I fight it off and things are good again...and then it comes back and so forth.

The summer was busy, we filled it with playgroups and playdates and swimming lessons and Vacation Bible School and family reunions.  I actually made it to the gym three times a week for most of the summer.  In general I was pretty impressed with myself.  I have had good days and bad days, but honestly the bad days hit harder without my meds.  I wouldn't say that there are necessarily any  more bad days being off the meds, the bad days just seem  harder.  My focus sometimes is so driven by just staying okay that I don't realize how it affects the rest of my life.

My husband is self employed in the wedding business.  He works all the time, and as you can imagine, the summers are especially busy for him.  So I live my summers determined to get through them and keep everyone busy and happy.  I stumbled through the bad days and pushed forward.  After a while I realized how angry and disconnected I was feeling.  And then I realized that we, my husband and I, just weren't talking anymore.  My bad days are really hard on him.  The anger pulses through my depressed mood and then before I know it, I am letting it all loose on him, and the kids, but more so at him.  The kids are used to me yelling, they are not even really phased by it anymore.  I wish I didn't do it as much as I do, and I try not to, but it still happens.  I don't think I am as "yelly" as I used to be though.  But on the really bad days I can't control it.  I was afraid things were getting too bad though, going down a road that we wouldn't be able to get back from.

So we found some time to reconnect, and went on an awesome family vacation the last week of summer.  We all needed it so much.  Going to the ocean always rejuvenates my soul.  My husband and I actually used to daydream about moving there.  We used to think that was the only place we could be happy.  This trip, though, as our daughter was declaring that she wanted to live at the beach forever, we realized that we are exactly in the area where we want to be.  We know that we have more to lose than to gain if we moved away from our family and friends and the kids' schools and our church feels good to know that we actually have a place in the world where we feel settled.

Then school started.  We have a first grader and a pre-schooler this year.  My emotions started going all haywire about the kids growing up.  My baby will be starting Kindergarten in a year, and I just don't feel ready to give him up just yet.  I know he will be ready but I won't be.  Crazy roller coaster emotions.  And First Grade is hard.  HOMEWORK is hard.  We are just adjusting to a whole new set of routines.  I let the kids each choose one activity outside of school to participate in this year.  My daughter has wanted to dance forever, so I signed her up for ballet, and my son has been begging to play soccer for ever, so I signed him up for a soccer skills class.  So three nights a week after school we have activities now.  We have soccer night, church night and ballet night.  And on Saturday mornings the kids have swimming lessons.  I do better when I am busy, and I feel better when the kids are doing stuff that they love, and both of them really love their classes.  But it has also been a struggle to get in a routine where all the homework gets done, and dinner is on at a reasonable time.  And honestly I always feel that there is so much stuff to do, that I then start to get overwhelmed and then nothing gets done at all.

Right now I feel like I have this huge to do list and there is no way that anything will get done.  This is kind of funny, because who decides the stuff I have to do anyway?  I mean aside from the daily laundry, homework, food preparation  and cleaning, all that other stuff is on me, right?  All those deep cleaning and basement organizing and scrapbook making projects are things that I have assigned to myself.  I guess I don't really have to do them.  But I feel like I do.  Then there is the list of phone calls and e-mail kind of stuff that needs doing.  I  hate doing that stuff because the kids always interrupt me at the worst moments....and I just hate doing them.  I just need to buck up and plow through them, but finding the motivation for that can be challenging, so that stuff just falls into the I have overwhelmed myself category.  I don't know what it is about feeling overwhelmed.  This is kind of a new thing for me.  The just not feeling motivated feeling is very different from the overwhelmed feeling.

I think that I just keep coming up with these plans and ideas about how to make myself feel better, how to parent better, how to make my marriage better, how to make my relationship with God better.  Then I just fail miserably at trying to follow through with anything.  I bought a parenting book, a couples devotional and we went to a marriage retreat.  I get determined to diet and exercise and go to the gym and walk the dog...and all of these seem like completely reasonable things to do.  None of them take much time.  I just can't seem to do them.  The only thing I am doing remotely well is making it to the gym several times a week.  I usually do 3-4 times, unless I have a kid who is so sick that she misses four days of school.  That happened last week. 

So why can't I find time to read a book every day?  To pray more?  To clean the basement?  To write more blog entries?  To make that phone call to switch my car insurance?  It is seriously frustrating.  And when I stop to think about it, sometimes I wonder why I bother to try to change things at all.  I feel like even if I start, I will never follow through all the way anyway, so what is the point.  There are some days where I do really well and then I feel accomplished.  I have succeeded in creating a good school year routine for the kids.  We are keeping up with Anne's homework and both of their church quiet times pretty well.  We are fitting in their classes and dinner is on the table every day.  I have yet to fall into that giving up on dinner attitude that I have excelled at in the past.  But I just feel like I can't push it to the next level.  I feel like I will never get past the point of just doing what I have to do for show.  If the kids aren't fed and the homework isn't done, other people will see that.  I can run the vacuum and clean the bathroom before people come over. I would like to do more than just live on the surface though, but mostly I am just too tired.  I fight the daily battle.  Some days I win and some days I lose.  But I am coming to the conclusion that this depression is going to be part of me for the rest of my life, and it kind of sucks.  I wonder how much fighting is actually worth doing.  I feel like it is pointless to try to change because I will never really ever get there.  Then I just feel like I am failing myself and everyone in my life because I just can't move past it.  When I feel like this, everyone elses' lives just look so much easier, and better.  What do you do when you want to change, but you actually can't because something inside of you is broken? 

It is hard to go from having days where I feel motivated and I feel like I actually can change some of the things that I want to change, to days where I feel like everything is impossible.  In actuality, I have changed.  I have changed a lot.  I am more in tune with myself and my emotions, which is probably part of the reason why I feel like I have failed so miserably every time I lose it and yell at my kids or my husband.  I know that things can be better in certain areas in my life and I actually know what I need to do to change them, which is why I am so hard on myself when I feel overwhelmed and generally unable to move forward.  It is just a constant, exhausting battle.  I just have to do everything I can to make sure that I keep moving forward, even if I am moving at such a slow, painful crawl that I can't even see it.  I know that someday I will be able to see it, even if today is not one of those days.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Difference a Meal Can Make....


It was a just over a year ago that I started having severe pain in my left hip joint.  The pain progressed over a three week period, until it got to the point that it was so bad that I could no longer put weight on my left leg without it giving out completely.  I have never experienced that level of pain before in my life.  I was eventually diagnosed with a stress fracture just below my hip joint.  So here I was, home with a three year old and a five year old, and I was not allowed to put any weight on my left leg at all.  I was still in a great deal of pain and trying to hop around on crutches without falling and causing myself further injury.  I was on crutches from the middle of August to a few days before Thanksgiving.  That is a long time.  During that time, I had one child starting kindergarten and one child starting pre-school.  Both kids had to be transported to and from school on a daily basis.  My husband, who is self employed in the events business, had exactly two entire days off during the whole period that I was on crutches.  This whole experience has been on my mind lately as I am reflecting on how far I have come since the injury occurred.

So what does all this have to do with the title of my post?  Looking back, I remember how devastated I was when I was diagnosed and I realized just how long my recovery period was going to be.  Initially the possibility of surgery was discussed.  Here I was three weeks before I was supposed to send my five year old off to kindergarten, crying in the doctor's office because I was afraid I was going to miss it.  I was afraid I wasn't going to be able care for my little ones and be there for them during some of the most important moments in their lives.  AND, if I couldn't care for them, who was going to do it for me?  I have never been the type who is comfortable asking others for help.  I like doing things my way, and I like doing them alone.  But desperate times call for desperate measures.  I was blessed to not have to ask for much help, most was offered.  People came and helped me with my kids, especially in the evenings when my husband couldn't be there to help with bed time.  My friends and family were there to help with child care.  When school started I worked out arrangements for people to walk my kids in and out of school for me, so I didn't have to get out of the car and hop around, risking further injury.  One lovely woman from my church volunteered to come to my house once a week and clean it for me.  Her visits meant so much to me on and it was wonderful to not have to worry about getting things clean around the house.

My family is blessed to be part of a wonderful church family.  Whenever someone has surgery, or loses a loved one, or welcomes a new baby, the meal train comes along.  I always signed up whenever I was able too, but I don't think I ever realized the importance of this ministry.  Everything changes when you find yourself in a situation where you need help.  My church family, as well as some outside friends and family faithfully brought my family dinner for six weeks. I don't know how many of those givers realized what that meant.

The pain that I was in was overwhelming and exhausting.  I spent my days going from the sofa bed in my living room to my desk chair across the room.  I only left the house to do school drop offs or pick ups.  By the time I got home each day with the second kid I was spent.  Healing the body takes a lot of strength and energy, so does fighting the pain.  Every night, like clockwork a different smiling face was at my door, with a hot, fresh, DELICIOUS meal.  It was quick and easy to serve my kids nourishing food, and easy for my husband to clean it up when he came home.  It eased my husband's burden.  He was working incredibly long hours and trying to take care of all of us.  He was exhausted.  Having a meal ready when he came home was such a relief for him as well.

It was also exciting to see what new and delicious delights we would get to try each day, getting to sample everybody's different specialties.  The kids were into it too, my usually picky eaters ate pretty much everything that came through the door.

In short, that meal train saved my sanity, kept my family fed, and gave me the strength to heal.  When you bring someone in need a meal, you are showing love, making them feel cared for, and giving them something to look forward to, at the end of a long day.  It's basically hope and love on a plate, wrapped up in something yummy.

There doesn't have to be a meal train set up for you to bring someone a meal.  If you know a person who is going through a hard time, or is just having a bad day, show up with some food!  If a formal train is created for someone in need, I encourage you to participate.  Even if you don't have time to cook you could always just pick up the phone and have a meal delivered.  One of my husband's cousins who lives three hours away did that for us when I was recovering and it was amazing. 

Food is a basic human need, we can't live without it.  Bringing food to new parents allows them more time to rest and relax and enjoy their new babies, you are literally gifting them with precious moments!  Bringing food to someone who has lost a loved one, shows them how much you love and care for them, but also meets a need for them, they they may not feel able to meet for themselves in the midst of grief.  Bringing food to someone recovering from a surgery or injury or suffering from illness cares for them and their family and allows them to rest and heal, and enjoy the little things, without pushing themselves to prepare a meal when they are in pain and exhausted.

If someone that you know is facing one of these situations or something similar, and you wonder how you can help, bring them a meal, or order a favorite for them and have it delivered.  And I hope that if you are ever in a situation where you could use this kind of help, I hope it is provided for you.  For my family it made all the difference in the world.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dear Master of the Darkness

Dear Master of the Darkness,

I wanted to take some time to let you know something.  You fight a good fight, and lately you have won a few battles, but guess what?  You are not going to win the war.  You might sneak into my thoughts and prey on my insecurities and make me doubt myself, my Faith and my ability to mother.  Some days are harder than others to push you back, but I always do.  It's been 3 1/2 years and you haven't won me yet.  You aren't going to.  I am stronger than you are, I have too much to live for, too much to fight for.  Let me just remind you (and myself) of what I have that you are not going to get.

I have my God.  No matter what kind of day I have, or how far I wander, He isn't going any where, and He will always take me back.  Whatever confusion and questions and doubts I have, He and I will work them out, and you aren't getting in there.  You can try, but you won't succeed.

I have this guy:

I waited around for most of my adult life for him.  I spent a lot of lonely years before I found him.  Then I did.  Our life together hasn't been easy.  We face constant challenges and struggles.  We have bad days, bad moments, but we have more good days and spectacular moments.  I miss that sometimes in the dark moments.  You sneak in there.  Then I make mistakes.  I worry that I am failing him.  But guess what?  You can't take what we have.  He loves me.  He will fight this fight with me, and he isn't going anywhere. 

I have this girl:

She can drive me absolutely crazy.  She is stubborn and dramatic and JUST LIKE ME!.  She is AMAZING.  Look at her!  She EXUDES light.  She has the gift of happiness.  She has an amazing imagination and creative spirit.  She has a kind and loving heart.  You can't have her.  She is my rainbow baby.  She is the light of my life.  I will fight for her with everything in me.  And when she is older and I explain all of this to her, she will understand what it is to have a Warrior Spirit.  She will know how to fight, and you will never take her.

I have this boy:

He has a quiet stubborness and a wild energy.  He is also snuggly, and charming, and so sweet.  And look at THOSE DIMPLES.   My sweet boy is my heart.  You can't have him either.  He will fill this world with light and love and those adorable dimples.  He will melt hearts where ever he goes.  Darkness can't get into melted hearts.

Then I have this guy:

Whenever I feel disconnected from the world, from God, from my family, when you get in there and I just can't feel anything...this pup is there.  He looks at me with those eyes filled with love and devotion and reminds me what unconditional love is.  He soothes my spirit, and fills me back up with light and love.  You can't have him, no way can you get in there.  This waggly, lovey, has eyes only for me puppy is the biggest barrier against the darkness that I have.  He always brings me back.

So you can keep trying.  You will bring me down sometimes, you do pack a pretty powerful punch, but with these four in my corner, plus my supportive family and friends and my God.  Let's face it, you don't have a chance.  So I guess the choice is yours.  You can admit defeat and move on, or you can wear yourself out trying.  You aren't going to get me, I have too many reasons not to let you win and I will fight you to the end.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Battle is Not Yet Won

So here is the thing.  It just isn't over.  Everything went so well through the process of weaning off the medication that I really thought that I might be okay.  I knew I would have some bad days, but I really thought all would be well, that I was strong enough.  If you are a follower of my blog you know that I have been battling PPD turned Chronic Depression for 3 and a half years now.  I just went off my medications about two months ago.  I really thought I was ready, maybe I am ready.  Maybe I should be on medication for the rest of my life.  Maybe I just don't really know what is going on at all.  All I know is this, I am feeling pretty crappy, depressed, emotional, and just plain broken.  There it is....I have been debating for weeks about whether or not I was going to share anything at all.  I have been walking a very careful line.  I feel like if I let too much out, if I reveal too much to anyone I will completely fall apart.  I guess I am afraid I won't be able to put it all back together.  So here I sit, wondering what the purpose of all of this really is.  Then I remembered why I started this blog to begin with.  It was born out of the absolute worst, darkest place of me.  I started this blog so other Mamas (and really anyone who suffers from depression) wouldn't feel as scared and alone and lost in the dark as I did.  So I have decided to share what has been going on over the last few weeks, as much for myself as for all of you who are going through this to.  And if you love someone who suffers from depression, this is for you too, because they probably can't tell you what it feels like to be in this dark place.

This is it people, the raw unfiltered truth.  Depression sucks and I am terrified that this is what my life will always be now, and that I am losing the core of myself to it.  This is not the darkest that it has ever been for me.  At this point the hold is not so strong that I can't fight through it to some extent.  I can put on a happy face, I can still immerse myself in projects, but the me that my kids see, that my husband not the me I want to be.  I can only hold onto the other me, the real me, for so long at a time, and then it starts to slip away, swallowed by the darkness and the rage.  When I fall there, I am afraid that I won't be able to pull myself out.  I fear this is the only me that my kids will ever remember.  I fear this is the me that my husband will someday no longer have the strength or will to love.  There are moments when it chokes me completely and I fantasize about packing up the dog and disappearing, that Joe and the kids would be better off that way, and maybe I will be too.  I know that if I did leave, I would miss them without measure in a matter of hours, it would never last.  But it breaks my heart that the thought ever comes to begin with.

Fighting this on a daily basis is exhausted.  I am thankful that there are days that I do feel okay.  My depression is very hormonally based.  I am on my second cycle since going off the medication completely.  I was actually okay while tapering off the meds and for the first few weeks once I was off completely.  I felt strong and empowered.  I was totally convinced that going off the meds was God's Plan for me.  Everything went so well.  His answer was so clear.  I had no reason to doubt it.  Then something strange happened.  I know that this catalyst has had a huge impact in how everything has been going over the last five weeks or so.  Joe and I are very done with having children.  We made this decision years ago.  We were always open to the possibility that something might happen and we were okay with that.  But...there would be no trying.  We were  not going to add that stress to our lives.  I certainly did not want to deal with the possibility of going through PPD again, so we were happy and we were done.  Then one day I was sure that I felt God tell me that I was pregnant.  It was two full weeks before taking a test was even possible.  So I went with it.  I hadn't asked for it.  I would not be disappointed if it wasn't true.  I am happy with my family the way that it is.  I begin having strong PMS symptoms, but one symptom in particularly, breast tenderness, was very strong.  It actually presented the exact same way that it did when I was pregnant with my second child.  I took this as confirmation and waited until I could take a test.  A few days before my period was to begin I started getting really irritable, a normal PMS symptom.  The issue with the breast tenderness was interesting though.  Normally with PMS it will last on and off for several days prior to my period.  It is never a constant discomfort.  The only time that it was a constant discomfort was when I was pregnant with my son.  It was to the point where I could not wear my sports bra, and could not get comfortable at night.  So I waited.  The early tests were all negative.  The morning my period was due the test was negative and it started a few hours later.  This is the part that gets difficult to explain.  I was  not disappointed that I wasn't pregnant.  The idea sounded fun here and there, but I am well enough versed in the reality of parenthood that I understand the stress that this would put on me.  My fear was never that I wasn't pregnant, it was what not being pregnant would do to me in my relationship with God.  And this little detail of not being pregnant struck a huge blow to that relationship.  Being pregnant was not something I asked for or desired.  As many women I do have an occasional fleeting moment of holding a baby where I wonder what if, but then I move on.  I still am trying to figure out and fight my way back from why God would tell me this and have it turn out not to be true.  Maybe I misinterpreted something, but I was so sure and so at peace with this knowledge that now I am utterly confused and frustrated.  I feel totally disconnected in my relationship with Him right now, and that has been the most difficult thing to deal with.  I know that I need Him if I am going to keep this depression under control at all.  This has also left me doubting my whole decision to go off my medication to begin with.  That prompt from God seemed so clear and decisive.  Yet here I am, weeks later, completely falling apart.

The PMS part of that last cycle was rough physically, but mood wise I was okay except for the irritability the last several days.  Once my period started that irritability persisted and the depressed mood started to kick it.  I am an angry person when I am depressed.  I don't have loads of patience to begin with, so when I add this anger on top of my lack of patience things do not go well.   Luckily I had lots of stuff going on to distract me.  Both kids were still in school and I had a huge birthday bash to craft and plan for.  This kept me motivated, and we went right from that to all of the end of the school year activities, including a Kindergarten Graduation.  So I plowed on through, feeling depressed and irritated here and there, but I was managing it.  Then school ended.  Now both my kids are with me ALL the time.  And we are in wedding season, so my husband is working ALL the time.  PMS for my current cycle kicked in hard, right as school ended.  Then my period started and girls, it has been a rough one.  Besides the issues with my mood, it has been really heavy and the migraines have been killer.  And I have also turned into an insomniac over the last week, which is NOT helping.  I used to have issues with insomnia when I was younger and they popped back up during my pregnancy and every now and then with a bad cycle, but it has been a long time. 

So this is where I stand right now.  I am exhausted, I am depressed, I am angry and I feel completely alone.  I have really been trying to work my way back into having a connection with God, and have done a few things that have helped a little,  but I keep getting overwhelmed by the thought that I can't trust myself to know how He is trying to guide me, which leaves me feeling that disconnect all over again.

I feel like I don't have anyone to talk to.  I could talk to Joe, but honestly he is rarely home and the times I have had the opportunity, I haven't been able to talk.  I held back because I knew I would end up dumping all over him spewing everything out, and I just didn't have the strength to even let a little out, because I was just barely holding on in that moment.  I felt like if I moved just one little inch everything would come crashing down.  So I held it in.  I have lots of Mom friends....lovely people, I am sure many of them would listen to me and be supportive, but have you ever tried to have a serious conversation with kids running all over the place.  I honestly feel like I never actually get to finish any conversation when my kids are around.  I decided it is more frustrating to try to start a conversation about the stuff I need to get out there, and then get cut off and never get to finish.  That will just leave me feeling more lost and disappointed.

Then I feel terribly guilty.  I feel awful for the way I speak to my husband and my kids.  I feel like I yell all the time.  I snap at Joe for no reason way too often and make him feel terrible.  I don't know why he puts up with it.  I feel so jealous of him sometimes that he gets out, that he has time to himself even though he works so much.  He still has time with other men, he gets to talk to them, he gets to get AWAY.  I desperately need that and I know that it is not going to happen, so I try not to think about it.  We are immersed in wedding season now.  I am lucky if Joe is even home more than three nights a week.  And when he is home we are both so tired that we put the kids to bed and watch tv and go to bed ourselves.  He actually went up to bed at 7 pm tonight.  I can't blame him, he didn't get home until 2:30 am last night.  It is so much harder when he is not here.  One night this week, when he was home, and there was one meltdown too many from the kids, I just got in the car and left.  I didn't have to say anything to him, he knew what was happening.  It didn't help as much as I hoped it would...I was too emotional to calm down much.  I just know I am faced with night after night all summer long without that as an option.  Forget just the summer.  Last year the working all the time lasted until hooray.  I love my husband with everything in me, but I often wonder how things are going to be able to last, with him gone so much and me like this. 

I need time to myself to reflect and work through this, time to not think at all.  I need time to talk to other people who get this, to have uninterrupted conversations to help me hash all this out.  I need time with my husband.  We need to have some fun, this stress is not good for him at all either, and I hate what it is doing to him.  BUT, funds are low and debts are high, so I basically have to figure out how to work through this as things stand.  The things I feel I need aren't going to happen often enough, so I am going to have to figure something else out.  I am going to have to figure out a way to pull myself out of this darkness that is trying to take over the core of who I am. 

Whenever I write a blog entry, I try to end it with a positive thought.  My purpose is to bring hope to those of you who are also fighting the darkness.  Sadly I don't think that I can do that today.  But maybe that is okay?  Sometimes it just really sucks.  Sometimes you will feel completely alone and like you can never find your way out.  There are people out there that have found ways to overcome this.   I honestly don't know what I am going to do.  I am going to try to do better tomorrow than I did today.  And I actually did do better today that I was at the beginning of last week, so maybe that is progress.  I am going to find projects to immerse myself in. I am going to try to find ways to feel connected to other people.  I am going to try to keep my kids busy and happy this summer.  I am going to try to not yell as much tomorrow.  I am going to try to let my guy know how much I love him, even when I feel like the darkness is trying to choke it out of me.  I am going to keep fighting. No matter how lost and alone I feel, I have never lost sight of how much I have to fight for.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Witness To A Miracle

Miracles happen all the time, every single day, in thousands of different ways.  Most of the time we aren't paying attention and we miss them.  Then every now and then we will hear a story on the news about a miracle.  Like the people that survived for days, and days trapped in the rubble of the Nepal Earthquake, or how someone miraculously walks away from an accident that should have killed them.   We are always moved by these stories, but then we forget, because they didn't happen to people that we know and our lives were not touched by them. 

Google defines a miracle as this:  a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

How often are you lucky enough to be a witness to a real miracle?  We all hear stories from time to time, but how many miracles do you know?  I know one, beautiful, living, breathing miracle.  Her name is Audrey.  She and her family (Mom Krista, Dad Matt, and Big Brother Austin) are part of my church family.

Audrey has always been challenged by some physical and developmental delays, but her amazing Mama and Daddy have made sure that she has had the support that she needed to conquer the obstacles in her path.  But, last summer, when Audrey was three years old she started to have unexplainable seizures.  This was very scary for her parents and her big brother and for Audrey.  The seizures came out of no where and quickly got worse.  Audrey was admitted to Albany Medical Center and the testing and questioning started.

The initial fear was that Audrey had a brain tumor.  I went and visited her when she was in the hospital. I will never forget the talk that I had with my Kindred Spirit friend Krista when Matt took the kids off for a walk.  Once the kids were out of the room, the first thing I said was "How are you really?"  All the testing hadn't been completed at that point.  Krista sat before me, full of grace and peace and told me that she was prepared for the worst case scenario.  She said "If three years is all we have with Audrey, she has already touched so many lives."  I was amazed by Krista's strength that she was able to say this at such a desperate point in her life.  But Krista knew that God was in control of the situation.  That is the amazing thing about God, if he brings you to it, he will bring you through it, if you let him!  A big part of this miracle is the steady faith that Krista and Matt have had, and their trust that God would care for their daughter.

And Audrey, she was just her happy, smiley bubbly little self.  So happy to see me when I came to visit, and so pleased with the little bag of trinkets that I brought her.  Audrey is a LIGHT BRINGER!  Light shines from her where ever she goes.

Over the next few days, Audrey went through a series of testing to determine the cause of her sudden seizures.  This is a picture of her right before she went in for her PET scan.  They had to sedate her because a person has to remain perfectly still for a PET scan to get accurate results.  That cannot be expected of a three year old! 

The testing showed that Audrey has a rare brain malformation.   There is no cure for this brain malformation, no surgery that can help.  It explains the physical and developmental delays that Audrey has had to deal with.  The goal for treatment for Audrey is to control the seizures to protect her brain from any further damage.  But, that is not the miracle part.

Over the last year Audrey has spent time in and out of hospitals for testing.  She has visited doctors that specialize in her particular brain malformation as well as doctors that specialize in treating seizures.  Why is Audrey a miracle you ask?  I will tell you.  Every doctor that has seen this child has said the same thing.  This child should not be able to walk.  This child should not be able to talk.  This child should definitely not be able to run.  This child should not be toilet trained.  The list goes on and on. Audrey should not be able to do any of these things, but she can! The doctors' have told Audrey's parents that they cannot not explain her abilities.   Krista always responds with "I can explain it."

This little girl has a whole army of prayer warriors, and a whole big extended family who loves her.  What blows me away is God's purpose for this little girl.  He gave her warrior parents who will fight for the services that she needs.  He put her family in our church so they would be surrounded by love and support.  He gave her the exact big brother that he knew she would need.  Austin loves his little sister so much that it warms my heart.  He won't leave her side when she has seizures.  He is always making sure that she is okay.  He has such an amazing heart.  Austin is another LIGHT BRINGER!

Most importantly God has given Audrey a determined spirit.  When the doctors told her that she would never be able to write her name, Audrey decided that she was going to learn to write her name.  She spent days practicing over and over until she could write an A.  The doctors have said she will never be able to read.  The teachers and therapists that work with Audrey every day say that she will learn to read.   Audrey is a true miracle and I feel so blessed to be able to know and love her.

Audrey is four years old now and still continues to battle with the seizures.  She can go weeks without one and then suddenly have multiple seizures in a day.  We all continue to pray for her family and the doctors and hope that they can find the right medication to keep the seizures under control and prevent further damage to  her brain. 

In the mean time, I, and many others will continue to be in awe of this amazing little LIGHT BRINGER that continues to baffle the doctors with everything that she can do, everything that they say she can't do, but God says she can do!  We are all so blessed to know this little Miracle.  We love you Audrey!! 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Following the Light....

I have said this before, but I ALWAYS want to write more often then I do.  I have blog entries in my mind all the time, but rarely sit down to write them.  My life is full in many good ways.  I don't always have the time to sit down and think things out enough to write them down.  This is GOOD thing for sure.  But, I still feel it is important to tell my story, and I have so many things that I want to share that I hope will help others on their journeys.

Things have been busy for sure.  I run a playgroup at my church once a week.  Anne, my oldest, is in Kindergarten five days a week, and definitely keeping me on my toes.  There are so many things to navigate when your kids our in school and we have been dealing with some issues with her peanut allergy and how she handles herself with the other children in her class.  Everything is fine though, we have met with her teacher and are talking with her on a daily basis.  Her teacher and the school are so wonderful.  We are so grateful that Anne has such a loving teacher.  My Anne will be turning six in one short month.  I am just in awe of how much she has grown, and matured and changed in the last year.

Then there is my Matty, he will be four in three months!  I can't believe how much my baby is not a baby anymore.  Granted we have some issues that we need to work on, like using the toilet, but he has also grown and matured so much in the past year.  Pre-school has really helped him come out of his shell.  I LOVE his pre-school.  I will be so sad at the end of next year when I don't have a kid to send there anymore!  Matty has developed an amazing imagination just like his sister.  It is fun listening to them play alone, but even more fun listening to them play together.  Sometimes Matty forgets that he is growing up though, and likes to crawl into our bed almost nightly for snuggles and security.  I am savoring those moments, because I know, before long, those full on, squeeze you around the neck hugs are going to be a distant memory.  Slow down are growing to fast!

We are rolling into Wedding Season, that means my husband is working more, and we miss him.  We have been dealing with some hurdles lately with the business, but we are praying our way through them.  We know God is taking care of us, he hasn't failed us yet.  So we try not to get discouraged, and my guy just works super hard.  He is pretty amazing, always there to help, whenever his talents are needed.  He helps at church and my daughter's school, and still finds time to do a magic show every now and then.  Matty can't wait for Daddy to come perform at his school!

As for me, I caught the flu this year, just when I was getting myself into a good healthy routine with going to the gym and trying to be more active.  The flu then turned into a bad sinus infection that took two rounds of antibiotics to clear and then I ended up on steroids to deal with respiratory issues that have turned out to be allergies.  This has been strange.  I have had allergies all my life, but never more than the sneezing, itchy eyes kind of stuff, and never in the spring.  My issues usually happen in the weed pollen season in the late summer/early fall.  But suddenly I am on an inhaler to deal with spring allergies.  The doctor said it was probably just the wonderful timing of when I got the flu.  After about a month of feeling pretty crappy, we finally have it under control for the most part, and hopefully I won't need the inhaler for much longer.

Now the last time I wrote was in March and I discussed the issues that I was having with my anti-depressants and the side effects.  I was considering going off of them because of my frustration with the side effects.  This is what happened.  I kept feeling like it was time to go off my meds.  I felt like the side effects were starting to become bothersome, maybe because I didn't need the medication anymore.  BUT listen, I know the state that I was in when I started taking medication three years ago.  I was a mess, and I COULD NOT function.  I needed them and I don't regret my decision to take them at all.  In fact, I am quite sure that they played a significant role in literally, saving my life.

So I grappled with these thoughts, that quite voice saying, "Laura, you are okay, it is time."  but then the other voice saying "What if I still need them?  What if it puts me back to where I was three years ago."  Mamas, it is scary stuff.  It is scary to be in a place that is so desperately dark that you need medication and counseling to pull you back to a place where you can function, as a person and as a parent.  I thank God that there is medication that can help us when we are in such a desperate place.  God was telling me that I am okay that I can move forward from this, but after being on medication for three years I was terrified at the thought.  I don't ever want to go back there.  So I went back and forth in my mind about this for awhile.  When I brought it up to my husband, I could tell by his reaction that he had the same fears that I did.  Ladies, he has seen me at my worst and loves me too much to want to see me there again.  So I struggled with which voice to listen too, which one was real.  So I prayed this prayer  "Lord, I am too emotional about this medication topic.  The thought of going off them is very, very scary and my emotions are not letting me make a decision that I feel comfortable with.  Please Lord give me a CONCRETE sign as to what you want me to do."

Two days after I prayed this prayer I went to the pharmacy at Target to pick up my refill on my prescription.  I was taking 60 mg of Cymbalta.  This has been my good therapeutic dose during the worst of my depression.  It was early in the morning, the store was so quiet, the pharmacy had just opened.  I went in there with my son, only intending to go to the pharmacy and then leave.  The pharmacist handed me the bag.  I did not look in it, but I HEARD the pills.  A bottle of pills makes noise, especially in a quiet, echoing environment like an almost empty Target Store.  We left the pharmacy and walked right out of the store, I had the bag in one hand and my son's hand in the other.  My thoughts paused briefly as I walked past the front registers to congratulate myself at walking in and out of Target without spending any money.  I know you all understand what a big deal that is!  We went out to the car, I opened the back door to put my son in his seat, when I did this I reached over the front seat and gently dropped the prescription bag on the front seat.  The front door was never opened on that side of the car.  I strapped him in and we went straight home.  When we got home I came inside and went to take the pills out of the bag to put them out of reach of little hands.  THE BAG WAS EMPTY!  Totally empty, as empty as Jesus's tomb.

I went out to the car and searched it about three times.  My car is not that big.  I called the pharmacy.  The pharmacist assured me that the pills weren't there and he put them in the bag, and I believe him.  Not only is he a wonderful and helpful man whenever our family needs assistance with medications....I heard the pills in the bag when he gave it to me.  The bottle was not in the house, it was not in the car.  Matty and I went back to Target and searched the parking lot and retraced our steps in the store and nothing.  I kept thinking to myself that if the pills had fallen out of the bag at any point, either in the store or the car, I would have HEARD them.  I spoke to the Pharmacist, and he called the insurance company who, of course, would not pay for a replacement prescription (Shocker, I know).

"Well Lord, I asked you for a concrete sign, I guess you can't get any more concrete than making a bottle of bills disappear into nothingness."

I knew in my heart then, that it was time.  We simply could not afford to replace the missing pills.  Cymbalta is NOT a medication to go off cold turkey, no anti depressant is.  The pharmacist thought that the insurance company may approve a lower dose, so I called my doctor.  I had to wait most of the day for a call back.  So I had lots of time to think.  I started to think about all the things that I have now that I did not have when the depression took over:

1. Coping skills.
2. Kids who are older.
3. An amazing and supportive church family.
4.  Supportive friends that have been through similar trials that will literally talk me through anything.
5.  My therapy dog, always available for soothing snuggles.
6.  And most importantly, a much deeper relationship with my God.

God was telling me to go, I knew it was time to listen.  My doctor was a little concerned at our initial conversation.  I remembered the talk that we had when I first started the Cymbalta.  She told me it was one of the very hardest drugs to go off of.  The withdrawal symptoms can be debilitating.   At that time Cymbalta was the right choice for me.  Now I was confident that if God wanted me off it, then he would get me through it.  So my doctor agreed and called in a prescription for 30 mg, which is half of what I had been taking.  She told me to take it for a month and see how I was doing.

A few days into the lower dose I had one evening where I felt really dizzy and lightheaded and out of it.  This is a withdrawal side effect, so I assumed it was just my body adjusting to the lower dose.  After that day, I had no side effects, and most importantly no change in my mood or overall emotional state, sure I still had bad days, and bad moments, but everybody does.  These times were no different then the bad days and bad moments I experienced while taking the full dose of the medication, so I was prepared to press on.  After about two weeks on the lower dose I started getting sick with the flu, followed by the sinus infection.  I think I would have lowered my dose sooner but I was just too sick.  So on one of my follow up visits, she lowered my dose to 20 mgs.  That transition was absolutely fine, I didn't even have any dizziness, or if I did I think it was from the steroids I was on.  The final step was two weeks later, to go to taking one pill every other day for two weeks and then I would be done.  I was on an inhaler and steroids at the time, but I decided that I was already feel crappy, so why wait until I was off the steroids and lower my dose so I could just feel crappy all over again.

Now the decision I made next is not something that I would recommend to anyone.  Going off an anti depressant is serious business, and if you are ready you need to taper off following your doctors instructions.  Your tapering off dosages and instructions will be different from mine.  TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR, make a plan and follow it.  That being said, I didn't do exactly what my doctor said.  I did the every other day dosage for three doses.  I was feeling so dizzy and light headed about 36 hours after a dose (about 12 hours before the next one), but that was the ONLY symptom I was experiencing.  I made the decision to stop taking it after those three doses because I felt that was the right decision for me at the time.  I figured that if dizziness was my only issue, that the sooner the medication was out of my system for good the sooner the dizziness would stop.  I turned out to be right.  It got progressively better and after about four days was gone completely.  If I had any major issues I would have contacted my doctor.

I firmly believe with all my heart that my transition off the medication was so easy because I followed what God wanted me to do, and I trusted him to take care of it.  I have now been completely off the Cymbalta for two weeks.  I feel very empowered, like I have reached the end of a very long road and I am okay.  I am doing great.  I still lose my patience and have moody moments.  This is because I am a woman.  The biggest change I have noticed is that I definitely have more energy and that feels great.  It is amazing to get through the afternoon and not feel like I need to take a nap in order to make it to dinner.  This is actually a life changing thing for me.  I have been getting the kids out more, I have gotten tons of yard work and other projects done and it just feels good to have the energy to accomplish more things.  Don't get me wrong, I am still very done with the day by the time the kids go to bed.  I actually feel free of this depression burden that I have been carrying for such a long time.  I don't regret one step of this journey.  It has shaped my life and who I am.  It has put me in position to touch other peoples lives either through the blog or face to face with people that I know.  It has made me empathic to the struggles that all Moms face on a daily basis.  In fact, the two most important things I have learned are:

1. Nobody's life is perfect, no matter how perfect their lives LOOK on social media.
2. Everybody has something that they have to struggle with.  Some of us have dealt with trauma or loss, some of us battle with depression or other mental illnesses, some of us struggle with infertility, some of  us parent children with special needs.

Don't judge other people, LOVE them.  Because in the end, none of us get through our struggles alone, we all need love and support from those around us.  And Most Importantly, God is good. He loves you and will be there with you every step of the way, all you have to do is let him.