Why I Climb…

Why I Climb…
I Climb for my daughter, my husband, my parents, and my in-laws. This was my support system in my darkest time. They were there when I wasn’t there mentally, emotionally or physically. They came to therapy and psychiatric appointments. They visited me in the hospital. They kept my daughter healthy and alive when I couldn’t. They woke up with me to feed Sophia. They kept calm and cool in a situation that should’ve driven them crazy with worry. They have my utmost gratitude and love.
I Climb for myself. Somehow I survived an ordeal that rattled my brain and mentality to points this Depression sufferer never thought imaginable. I battled by going to therapy, admitting myself into the hospital and taking my medications. I came out stronger.
I Climb for other mothers who have, are or may suffer… To be their support… To show them they are not alone. There is a whole Warrior Mom Family out there to lean on.
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This year’s theme song for Climb Out Of The Darkness is my favorite song right now… it is the song that keeps me going… the song that keeps me fighting… it is Rachel Platten’s Fight Song.
Please take a few minutes and watch the video.  You may spot a familiar face or two along the way.  All of these mothers thought they were alone too until they discovered the beautiful community of Warrior Moms at Postpartum Progress.
After watching this video, I am sure you, my readers, will want to help out either by joining a Climb near you or donating.
If you wish to donate to this great cause, click here: https://www.crowdrise.com/mariahwarren-COTD2015/fundraiser/stephanietrzyna
And now, the video… #climbout #warriormom #myfightsong

Are You Down With PPD (Yeah, You Know Me…)

My daughter was born on a typical fall day.  Labor and Delivery, although somewhat long, was a great experience as were the first 2 weeks of her life.  I was the doting and glowing new mom.  I held her, cuddled with her, kissed her constantly.  I loved changing her stinky poop diapers and I relished at her newborn screams.  She was all mine.  She gave me the title of “Mommy”.

After those 2 glorious weeks, I changed.  I was a person I didn’t recognize.  My daughter’s face with her plush cheeks now disgusted me.  Her whimpers were like banshee calls.  The never ending dependency broke me… plummeted me into a dark abyss so deep I am still amazed I ever got out of it.  My new title should have been, “Depressive Anxiety Woman:  Robotic in Nature, Dead in Emotion.”  This all occurred in the span of a day.  One morning I just woke up different.  I woke up mean.  I woke up full of hatred for this little being that needed me.

I didn’t get help right away.  I was told it was “Baby Blues”.  When the vomiting started a couple of days later, and the crying spells increased daily by 200%, I knew it had to be more.  But, I was ashamed.  I couldn’t admit I hated being a mother.  I couldn’t admit I hated my child and wished every second I could turn back time.  I couldn’t face the ugliness that was growing in my head.  I didn’t want to face myself.

3 weeks after her birth, I started seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist.  This was the first step to recovery but honestly it wasn’t enough.  I was drowning more and more into the abyss of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.  The only good thing was I finally knew what I was suffering from.  I now began planning my escape while under the care of medical professionals.

I would run away…

My plan was incomplete as I only figured the following details out… Leaving after my husband was off to work, Sophia was at my parents, I would withdraw money, get in the car and go…

Go where?!

That last important detail saved me from doing something stupid.  Saved me from leaving the 2 most important people in my life.  Saved me from myself.

1 month after my daughter’s birth, I admitted myself into my local hospital’s short term psych ward where I finally was given the tools (and medication) to save myself.

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Okay, I’ve told my story over and over before… I know, where I am going with this?

If you have noticed in my story I continuously use the words “I” and “me”.  I felt alone.  I didn’t think there was anyone like me out there.  All the mothers I knew at the time had never experienced this.  If only I could interact with others that felt just like me!  Knowing I wasn’t alone could’ve helped me in so many ways. 

Postpartum Progress does this with their private monitored message boards.

Although I finally did get help, it was from psychiatrists and therapists that do not specialize in Postpartum Depression.  I wonder what would’ve happened if I had access to a list of professionals that do.

Postpartum Progress has this.

My story above is a summation of what happened to me.  Nowhere above do I mention what my suffering did to my family members… my loving husband, my parents, my sister and my in-laws.  The amount of tears they wept, the amount of stress that was put on them, the hopelessness they felt because they couldn’t help me…

Postpartum Progress has support for them too!

In 10 days I will be Climbing Out Of The Darkness with my team to raise awareness for Perinatal Mood Disorders.  This event is through Postpartum Progress (www.postpartumprogress.org).  It 100% funds this organization.  An organization I wish I found over 8 years ago…

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Please consider clicking on the link below and donating to keep these message boards active, they keep these medical professional lists updated, they keep the support for new mothers and their families available.

Thank you!

Stephanie

https://www.crowdrise.com/mariahwarren-COTD2015/fundraiser/stephanietrzyna

I Fed The Stigma

Yesterday, I posted I was upset with being dependent on medication indefinitely.  I truly believed this statement until one of my good friends posted a response.  Then I realized I fed the stigma behind Mental Illness.  I was no better than the thousands that do not understand Mental Illness.  I didn’t think the drugs were needed because I didn’t think I was sick enough.

I was foolish and am kicking myself for even thinking this.  21 years I’ve been under the spell of Depression and Anxiety.  Those years included many medications on and off.  Sometimes I was on them for a few months and sometimes years.  These medications help me function, they help my defective, lack of serotonin producing brain function normally.  Without them I would need hospitalization, increased dosages and increased visits with both my psychiatrist and therapist.  Without them the tears would flow, the vomiting would commence and the desire to stick a screw in my head would return.

Does the above sound like someone who is ill?! 

Normal functioning people do not want to give themselves a labotomy.

And yet all these years later, all these bouts of Depression later, I fed The stigma I am fighting to destroy.  Kind of hypocritical, isn’t it?!  Maybe it was because I was drug free in “remission” for 4 years prior to this January… Maybe it was because so many people around me do not believe Depression and Anxiety are at the same level as someone being sick with Cancer or MS and they have convinced me.

After all these years I’ve never witnessed a telethon for Mental Illness.  I’ve never seen a local 5k for Mental Illness. I’ve never seen our local Froyo place have a fundraiser for Mental Illness.  It’s no wonder I became a hypocrite.  It doesn’t seem like the world outside of my immediate friends and family realize Mental Illness is, in fact, an illness.

I will live with this forever just like an Alcoholic is always an Alcoholic even if they have been sober for decades.  I will not feed the stigma anymore.  I will fight for my care, my illnesses, my medications.  I will now embrace taking these pills instead of having absolute hatred for them.  I will argue with anyone who disagrees with me.  I will repeat to anyone:

I am sick.  I suffer from 2 Mental Illnesses, Depression and Anxiety.  I will always be prone to them and to prevent reoccurances, I will take my medication because they keep me stable.

Two Steps Forward… One Step Back…

The last few days have been rough.  I once again tried to quit my anti anxiety medication, Ativan, cold turkey.  My psychiatrist said that would be okay since the dosage is not that high.  The Alpha and perfectionist in me hates to be dependent on pills.  3 nights I went without the Ativan and 3 nights I slept like utter crap.  I couldn’t fall asleep.  Thoughts raced in my head.  I tried to tell myself it was withdrawal symptoms.  By night 4 I found myself crying in bed at 1:20am because I still wasn’t asleep.

I caved.  I tossed the Ativan in my mouth and swallowed.  Not sure how long it took to fall asleep at that point, it wasn’t long, but I woke up at 9:30am the next morning.

I’m upset.  Just furious at myself.  Last night everything came crashing down on me.  I could feel the heart palpitations rising in my chest as I laid quietly on the sofa next to my husband watching a DVR-ed episode of Elementary.  My stomach started to twist and turn just as it did months before.  The old feelings I had were returning.  I was experiencing the beginnings of a Panic Attack.  At the end of the episode it was 9pm.  I had decided to go up to bed then because unlike the weekend, I couldn’t sleep until 9am on Monday morning.  Work required I wake at 7am.

As I lifted myself up off the couch I started to cry.  Tears streaming down my face.  It was happening again.  All the work I did for my recovery and I felt as if I was back to square one.  I was scared to go up and sleep in my bed.  I was scared I wouldn’t fall asleep.  I was scared I wouldn’t sleep at all.  My husband, a truly awesome man for staying with me, tried to calm me down.  Telling me I have come a long way and that no I can’t quit the medicine.  What I see as a failure in my recovery he sees as a success… coming to terms as to what my mind can and can’t handle.  At this point he also realized I was too forgone to calm down and kept demanding I go upstairs and swallow the Ativan.  I was in tears, hyperventilating repeating how much I am a failure because I am dependent on this medication. 

Over and over again, one realization came into my mind… I am sick.  I may always be sick.  And Alaska Stephanie (the perfect vision of myself) may never return to me without the daily use of these medications.  Like I have stated before, I had agreed to stay on my antidepressant, Lexapro, indefinitely and this took years for me to be comfortable with.  Realizing last night that I may have to be dependent on Ativan (or Xanax or Klonopin) for the rest of my life put me in a downward spiral.  It just increased my tears.  As my husband said, “Why do you care?  The meds are there to make you you,” I cried more.  I want to be me without the help of medication. 

Alaska Stephanie (see this blog post http://spaigedepression.blogspot.com/2015/05/grieving-loss-of.html) seems like a dream that will never be again.  She was strong and not medically dependent on anything.  I now have to come to terms that although she may return, she might have to always be medically dependent.

It also made me realize, and cry more, that although I am such an advocate for breaking the stigma associated with Mental Illness, I never actually thought of myself as seriously being Mentally Ill.  The infinite pill use just solidifies that I am.  Maybe it angers me more because of the stigma.  I am angry that I am sick and at this point may always be sick.  I am angry that I will have to take pills daily for the rest of my life to not spiral into a deep depressive state and to keep my anxiety under control.  I am angry that my brain is defective.  I am angry that there are people out there who do not understand what it is like and do not believe it should be taken as seriously as other lifelong illnesses.  All this fed my panic attack last night.

I did eventually go upstairs but prolonged the swallowing of that small round white pill.  I laid in bed still hyperventilating and watched some shows on Netflix.  At around 10:15pm, I swallowed that pill along with my “sleep med” which is actually an Antipsychotic, Seroquel, and rolled over.  My breaths started to become longer and shallow.  My heart stopped beating fast.  I fell asleep within a half hour and awoke to my alarm clock at 7am.  I could feel the after affects of being so tense last night as my arms and thighs ache.

I am Mentally Ill.  I will always be sick.  I am dependent on an Antidepressant (Lexapro), an Antianxiety Med (Ativan), and an Antipsychotic (Seroquel).  I am Mentally Ill.

Two steps forward… One step back…

Behavioral Crisis Center: An Excerpt

As promised, here is an excerpt from my first manuscript of my 1st experience in the Behavioral Crisis Center.  Please note, all of this is truth.  It is a pretty scary place.
I was then taken not to the E.R. area like last time but beyond it to an area I knew nothing about… The Behavioral Crisis Center.  The sign above the monitored doors were metallic and nice looking but they hid the blank depressive state that lied beyond the doors.  Buzzed in, Jimmy and I followed the nurse. 
I was then shown to a room.  The walls were as neutral as possible with no decorative trim.  The only object in the room was a twin size bed centered on the floor.  The bed had a slight appearance of hovering.  The mattress was topped with blue vinyl.  No headboard, no foot-board.  The only decor to the bed were metal hooks for the sole purpose of strapping you down.  No sheets or pillows were provided to me.
The security guard left his bullet-proof glass cube and entered my room.  He dropped a plastic bag on my bed.  A nurse followed with a stark white with blue design hospital gown and blue pants, size XL.  The guard then proceeded to tell me to go into the bathroom and change putting all my clothes and belongings in the bag.
I entered the bathroom and was somewhat shocked at what I saw. For one, the guard stood outside the door, there were no locks. The second thing I noticed was the lack of glass mirror so those like myself would not break it and try to slash our wrists. The mirror was made of metal and you would need a strong Philips head screwdriver to attempt to take it off the wall. I guess I should be happy there was still a toilet and not just a  hole in the floor. In one corner was a shower stall with no curtain. Once again, the room was as neutral as possible.
I don’t know why they couldn’t add color. A burst of orange here, a splash of green there. No, just beige and plenty of it. In fact the only color I noticed was the blue vinyl that adorned the beds.
After I changed, I knocked on the door and the guard opened it, took the bag and made sure I went back to my room where Jimmy was sitting. I was unsure of what was going to come next. The bed still bare, I laid down and attempted to rest as anxiety still riddled my body. I started to shiver, not from nerves, but from the cold temperature in the room. When the nurse came back she informed me that I would be talking with a psychiatrist and a social worker that evening to see what exactly they would do with me. I felt as if I were in limbo. I kept praying they would come soon. I was desperate for help, hopeless, worthless, empty.

I asked the nurse if I could have a blanket as I was freezing. My teeth were chattering. She smiled and replied yes and that she would bring me two. She returned with the blankets and asked if I were hungry. I nodded and replied, “A little.” She said she would return with a tray of food and to eat as much as I could which in the end didn’t amount to much.
As I lay there, Jimmy and I listened to the other patients. The woman next to me kept getting yelled at by the guard because she was leaving her room. She whined incessantly to use the phone to call her young son as he was going to bed soon. Over and over, “Please, please let me use the phone. I promise I’ll be quick.” The guard told her no, the phone was off use to patients unless it was for setting up plans for picking up. Within the next five minutes she left her room, the guard yelled and she pleaded once again for the phone. This cycle repeated over and over almost the whole night.”

Not scary enough yet… It gets worse.  You’ll just have to read my book when it is published.  Maybe I will post another except at a later date.

Floating Above…

This poem was going to be published in Stigmama.com’s poetry slam this month but due to unforseen circumstances, the site and FB page have been taken down.  It is about my suffering during postpartum… How I was somewhat there conciously but couldn’t do a thing about it…

I will publish it here…

Floating Above
By Stephanie Paige

Floating Above,
Looking down at this woman,
Unrecognizable to me,
Almost a corpse,
A programmed robot,
Going through life’s motions,
Void of feeling,
Loss of an energetic soul.

Floating above,
Looking down at the newly born,
Seeking the warmth,
Holding up tightly fisted hands,
Crying for her love,
Yearning to be held.

Floating above,
Looking down at this forlorn man,
Hands on head,
Thoughts flowing,
What should be do?
Knowing aid is needed,
Confused on what comes next.

Floating above,
Looking down at this woman,
Wondering why she sits alone,
Why she does not rush to the babe,
Why she is silently voiced,
Why she avoids the man…

Floating above,
Looking down on this woman,
Realizing this is me,
First step to getting help,
Apathetically hugging man and child,
Admitting depression, anxiety,
Admitting myself into hands medically trained.

And, I am republishing my poem from Monday about being a Foster Mom after my foster son was removed…

A Foster Mother’s Love
By: Stephanie Paige

I cried tonight,
Salted tears down my cheeks,
Tissue in one hand,
Picture of a family never to be in the other.

I am staring at you,
A small tot with a blank face,
Gripping my shirt,
Thinking protect me, hold me, love me.

I gaze at your cherub cheeks,
That dimpled when you smiled,
The petite hands that reached out for mine,
Holding on to love, a new emotion.

I cried tonight,
Mother’s Day and I feel incomplete,
Sharing happiness with your sister,
While a piece of me flies miles away to you.

I trace the curvature of your face,
And pull the picture to my lips,
Kissing your innocence,
Hugging you from afar.

I hold the picture in an embrace,
Just as I did you many months ago, many moons ago,
Squeezing tighter hoping that when my eyes open you will be there.

I think how a few months time,
Turns into a lifetime
Of guilt, shame, blame,
But ultimately a Mother’s love eternal.

I realize your happy face no longer dwells in this home,
But continues to live and love in another,
Taught to you by a family that will never be.

I place the picture back in the envelope and tuck it away,
Another day, a needed cry,
Thoughts of you still floating in my mind.

I am Mother no more physically,
No more hugs, light kisses on cheeks,
No more soft foot falls and shirt grips.

I know even with all the loss
You changed my chemistry, made my heart whole,
Made me a Mother for a second time,
Loving every part of you,
An infinite feeling, never to be changed.

Reflections of Mother’s Day

Yesterday was Mother’s Day.  It was the first that should of included a little boy.  It was the 9th that has included my daughter.  Overall a great day, I could not stop thinking of Tyler.  Fostering a child is not an easy task.  A task that those who participate in know winds up with the loss of a child you grow to love just like one that is yours.  We did not go into fostering.  Tyler was legally free and would’ve been ours if not for Mental Illness returning to me.  So now I have learned what it means to be a Foster Mother the hard way.  It hurts.  It hurts loving a child so much that you can no longer hold, kiss, embrace.  Foster parents have a strength that is immeasurable.  I gave my heart to him and part of it still resides with him. 

I present a poem for my readers today:

A Foster Mother’s Love
By: Stephanie Paige

I cried tonight,
Salted tears down my cheeks,
Tissue in one hand,
Picture of a family never to be in the other.

I am staring at you,
A small tot with a blank face,
Gripping my shirt,
Thinking protect me, hold me, love me.

I gaze at your cherub cheeks,
That dimpled when you smiled,
The petite hands that reached out for mine,
Holding on to love, a new emotion.

I cried tonight,
Mother’s Day and I feel incomplete,
Sharing happiness with your sister,
While a piece of me flies miles away to you.

I trace the curvature of your face,
And pull the picture to my lips,
Kissing your innocence,
Hugging you from afar.

I hold the picture in an embrace,
Just as I did you many months ago, many moons ago,
Squeezing tighter hoping that when my eyes open you will be there.

I think how a few months time,
Turns into a lifetime
Of guilt, shame, blame,
But ultimately a Mother’s love eternal.

I realize your happy face no longer dwells in this home,
But continues to live and love in another,
Taught to you by a family that will never be.

I place the picture back in the envelope and tuck it away,
Another day, a needed cry,
Thoughts of you still floating in my mind.

I am Mother no more physically,
No more hugs, light kisses on cheeks,
No more soft foot falls and shirt grips.

I know even with all the loss
You changed my chemistry, made my heart whole,
Made me a Mother for a second time,
Loving every part of you,
An infinite feeling, never to be changed.

Grieving The Loss Of…

How do you recover when the person you grieve loss of is… You.

In the beginning I grieved the loss of Tyler.  Many tears flowed because that little boy left my house.  They flowed for my loss of him.  They flowed for Jimmy and Sophia’s loss of him.  It was like a death even though he is still very much alive.  Weeks of tears…

And then they stopped with the help of medication and therapy.  Therapy aided in helping me realize he’s fine.  Then why did I still feel a loss?…  Why was I still grieving?… Why do I still cry every now and then?…

And then it hit me, I am grieving the loss of me, of who I was.  What do you do when you can see your perfect self by delving into memories that occurred only months ago?! 

I call her Alaska Stephanie.  She was an amazing woman, in the best health of her life physically, mentally and emotionally.  Strong, finally confident in herself.   She knew what she wanted.  Happy with her figure and it’s flaws.  Finally able to not care what others opinions of her were.  Ready for new challenges with a smile on her face.  After all, she conquered the zip line and survived.  A Warrior, overcoming Depression five times and off all medication.  A determined spirit.

Alaska Stephanie is only within a finger length reach but I feel as if I lost her already.  I feel as if she will not return to me.  It hurts because the memory of her is so vivid.

I’m constantly told not to dwell in the past, that is where Depression lives.  But, if I forget the past then I am cutting all lifelines with her, my perfect self.  What to do?  Thinking about her is like a double edged sword… Good because I strive to be her again, bad because it saddens me at how much further I need to go to obtain her.

I’m a long way off from being her.  Still stuck on medication to live day to day “normally”.  Dependent on pills.  Scared of others views of me.  Struggling physically.  Having self image hate.  Craving her existance. 

How do you recover when you grieve the loss of you?

My Biggest Fear…

May is Mental and Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month… expect a lot of posts from me…

My Biggest Fear…

I have suffered from this horrible mental illness, Depression, for majority of my life.  Twenty-one years out of the thirty-five years I have been on Earth.  That’s a lot.  Thinking about it drains me.  Thinking about each battle, reliving it in my head even for a few seconds exhausts me on all plains, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  As I age and suffer, it takes more energy out of me than the last time.  I survive, stronger in ways, weaker in others.

This last time nearly killed me.  No, no, no suicide attempt.  Shear exhaustion from the anxiety.  New symptom of panic attacks and the fact that Anorexia had basically developed utterly scares me… for the next time.  I’m scared if I suffer a 7th time it will indeed end me and I’ll leave my child motherless and my husband a widower.  It seems as if my symptoms are progressively getting worse with each bout.

This past January, as I lay in the stark naked room of the Behavioral Crisis Center, I had one of the scariest intrusive thoughts of my life.  Facing what I felt was infinite mental pain, I stared at a screw on the lunch tray table.  Emaciated, weak, I thought about what I would do if I could loosen the screw.  I wanted to give myself a Lobotomy with it, push it in and keep twisting.  Eyes flashing all over the room looking for something to act as a screwdriver…

I’m petrified.  “What ifs?” run through my mind.  What if I succumb to Depression’s ugliness for a 7th time?  How bad will I be then? What if there is a screwdriver within reach?  What if it is worse and I succeed at slitting my wrist unlike when I was eighteen?

In a normal state of conciousness, like currently, I would never even consider it but when I’m suffering, when deep into the depths of the ocean of Depression, I am not sane.  I am not me.  I don’t think about how my absence would hurt my child, my husband, my family.  All I can focus on is how to rid my brain of rapid continuous thoughts, to rid my brain of thinking entirely, because if I am not thinking, I’ll be okay.  At least this is what Depressed me believes.

In an attempt to avoid a 7th time, I have agreed with my Primary Care Physician, my Psychiatrist and those at the hospital to remain on my antidepressant indefinitely.  Of course as a worrier by nature, I am horrified at what I may do if it fails me.  If Depression and Anxiety take up residence once again… What I may do since it becomes more powerful, and exhausting each time…

Physical Turmoil vs. Mental Turmoil

Baltimore, MD.  A beautiful city that I’ve been to many times.  It is also the scene of mass chaos currently.  Void of all facts, I’ll summarize the essentials.  A 25 year old black man was violently killed by a white cop, snapping his spine.  A brawl ensues of black rights vs. white rights which in my opinion has never been equal.  Thousands, mostly high school students, begin to terrorize the city.  Gangs join forces to eradicate law enforcement.  It seems so unreal.  Baltimore is declared a state of emergency.

This physical battle is not unlike the ones I’ve had in my head.  Old self battling new self for eternal reign.  Guilt beating up good.  Shame throwing rocks at happiness. Unlike those in Baltimore, I do not act this out physically.  This war is played out in my brain.

When does it crossover?  When do our negative thoughts urge us to become physical?

Battling Postpartum Depression and with this most recent bout, I’ve had thoughts of physically hurting MYSELF.  Never did I want to hurt another, but I know people who have.

It’s amazing how our brains work.  One minute we look at the world with love and the next we look at our friends with hate.  Like the flick of a switch.  We turn on those that keep us safe.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the beautiful city of Baltimore.  I hope that these physical turmoils end as quickly as they manifested.