Dependency

I do not like being dependent on a little pill.  I like being in control of everything.  I’m an Alpha personality, something I didn’t realize until in the hospital for Postpartum Depression.  I have perfection tendencies.  Both these things are extremely damaging to my psyche.  After Sophia was born, it took years in therapy to not push for perfection in her.  There are still times now I have to hold myself back from saying things.

And now I’m dependent on a few small pills to function “normally”.  Ugh.  I internally yell at myself because of this.  When I fell victim to this most recent bout of Depression, I had multiple people tell me, “Stephanie, maybe you should stay on the antidepressant permanently.”  Honestly, being my 6th time suffering and realizing that as I age it is more physically draining, I agreed.

Okay, so now I am dependent by choice with one little pill.  It’s the other 2 that have me constantly battling my mental self. 

The pink pill that helps me sleep.  I know I will be on this one for awhile and am okay with it.  Not happy, but okay.  Prior Depression times it took me years before I could trick my brain into thinking Melatonin was my sleep med.

This brings me to the tiniest pill of all… My anti anxiety med, Ativan.  The hospital had me on this 3 times a day.  Since being released in January, I’ve been able to drop 2 a day.  I only take my 6pm dosage.  This dosage I attempted to drop this past weekend with the okay from my psychiatrist.  The results were not good.

I couldn’t fall asleep.

I worked myself up with so much anxiety regarding not being able to sleep that when I caved and took the Ativan it didn’t work.

My result… Lack of sleep and the residual effects of taking the Ativan too late.  It left me foggy, cranky, tired, and angry… At myself.

This little white pill controls me.  I am hopeless without it.  I am dependent on it.  I’m ashamed with myself.  Mad at myself.  Having a boxing match with myself.  For some reason I can’t drop it.

Am I becoming addicted?  Why can’t I drop it?  Why am I still fearing not being able to sleep that I need this 6pm dose?  Will I ever stop the internal battle with my Alpha self over it?

Under Your Spell

I’m having a rough day and am unsure why.  There has been no triggering factor.  I just woke up feeling undeserving of love, once again beating myself up.  It inspired a little poetry writing which has been dormant for over a decade
Under Your Spell
by: Stephanie Paige
Fake smiles, forced grin,
Hides the Depression within,
Rapid breaths, pulsing heartbeats,
Drowning in air,
Undeserving and hopeless, void of love,
Hard to concentrate,
Strong grip, suffocating,
Over and over… Infinite,
Increasing hurt, heart breaks,
Need an escape,
Trying to climb, to break free,
Return to myself,
Hold too intense, pressure grows,
Wanting to be loved, not knowing I am,
Cannot think, going under,
Is Death laughing?
Racing ideas, rid myself of this pain,
Soured dreams go unnoticed,
Regression, not well,
Struggling to find me,
Still climbing, will not forfeit,
Been under your spell before,
Positive thoughts, intensely hard,
I am again a warrior… A survivor!

I’m Okay, Really I Am… Am I?

I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post today as I’ve been okay, really I have.  At least, I think I have…

My place of employment is having a food and diaper drive this month.  I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to finally get rid of all the diapers and toddler food we have left.  After all, I am okay and looking at these items does not make me cry anymore.

Last night I took all the unopened diapers out (5 bags) and gathered the unopened toddler food.  This morning I placed as much as I could in a reusable shopping bag and brought it in for the drive.  I am okay.

But now I sit at my cubicle and my anxiety is building.  The person to bring the donations to is not at her desk.  The bag sits right behind me under my back desk and it is taunting me.  It’s reminding me of what I had, what I had to give up.  Vivid images of my former foster son keep flashing in my head.  My breathing is becoming slightly more rapid.  Do I take an Ativan?  Do I risk the foggy feeling at work from it?  Can I get through this without it?  I’m okay, aren’t I?

My co-worker just messaged that she is back at her desk.  I couldn’t race fast enough to bring these items over that haunt me.  I choke telling her why I have them to donate, gulping at the words foster son.  The damage is done.  My heart is still beating a little faster.  How am I supposed to do this at least one more time as I have more diapers to bring in?

I’m okay, aren’t I?

Triggers… And I Don’t Mean Guns

Triggers…

We all have something in our lives that will cause stress, tension, anxiety…

What happens when your biggest trigger are the people you love the most, your child(ren)?  What happens when looking at them makes you want to vomit?  What happens when even hearing them suffer from a cold makes you want to physically rip your hair out?  What happens when hearing them whimper (not whine) makes you want to run from the house screaming?

This sounds horrible and cruel and yet this has happened to me twice in my lifetime.  It is painful to admit as I feel I’ll be judged and someone will call DCF on me.  No mother ever wants to think her child will drive her literally to insanity, but it happens.  It happens more then people will admit. 

The first time this occurred was almost 9 years ago after the birth of my daughter.  As I’ve mentioned in another post, I was on cloud nine when she was born.  I treasured her.  I watched her sleep.  I gave her so many kisses and cuddles and then one day it started to change.  Her sweet innocent newborn face became ugly to me.  Her little cute coos became like a crows caw in sound.  Her low cries for me to feed her or change her or even hold her became like a banshee screaming.  All this happened in almost a blink of an eye. 

I couldn’t stand to be around her.  I blamed her for what was happening to me.  I began to hate her.  I began to plan my escape, my freedom.

Am I an awful mother yet?

I felt that I was a horrible human being, let alone a bad mother for a few months.  How could a mother hate her child?!

As if suffering from Postpartum Depression and Anxiety once wasn’t enough it occurred again this past year with my foster son whom we were to adopt.

Again, this little innocent child became my biggest trigger.  Looking at him, thinking about all the responsibilities that came with him on top of the responsibilities with my daughter’s Generalized Anxiety Disorder, on top of work with very little help from my husband and I broke down.  His face with his cherub dimpled cheeks that I used to love to kiss caused me to dry heave into the toilet.  His toddler gibberish that I found adorable now made me scratch my arms with my nails.  Worst of all, his coughing from his continuous colds made me want to rip my ears right off my head.

I don’t blame my husband for the lack of help.  In both instances it was my alpha personality that prevented him from helping more.  I thought I could do it all.  It was more painful with my foster son because I was in such a good place mentally, emotionally and physically.  I really thought I could do it all again.

Triggers… Some professionals say that they cause the stress and the tension but in my case the stress and the tension caused my daughter and my foster son to become triggers.  That looking at both of them caused severe anxiety and ultimately depression.  It’s hard living with that.  It’s hard to admit that at two points in my life, I was a horrible mother, an incompetent mother. 

I will always carry guilt over that.  Even as I stare at my daughter now with awe that this beautiful girl is mine…  Even as she laughs and I smile… Even as I once again continuously hug and kiss her…

I feel the guilt that at one point just looking at her gave me such negative feelings.

The Guilt

I used to think I carried around this never ending guilty feeling because of the stereotype about Jewish moms and guilt.  I have thought about the guilt so much and have read enough articles concerning Depression lately to know that this guilt is not because I’m Jewish but in turn because I am Depressed.  This is a daily battle that for myself has been going on for not just years, but decades.  Yes, you read that right, DECADES.

I have guilt over everything.  It stays with me so much so that whenever I see a cop I start to shake and hyperventilate.  This becomes especially hard when I visit a friend of mine whose husband is in fact a cop.  Funny thing, I’ve never broken the law that I would have a reason for excessive guilt and anxiety around law enforcement.  Well,  that is to say I’ve never broken a federal or state law but I’ve broken many of my own laws or beliefs.  I think this is why I feel nervous around police.

What governing laws of Stephanie have I broken?  Why am I so guilty? Why do I still live in the past?

Sophia.  My beautiful almost preteen daughter.  I carry a horrendous amount of guilt about her:

~ I passed on my genetically linked illness to her. (I don’t even know if this is true, but I feel guilty over it).
~ I caused her childhood Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
~ It’s my fault Tyler is not in the house.  This one is so strong that I’m trying to impose thoughts into Sophia’s head.  I believe she’s angry with me about it even though she has said she’s not numerous times.  I keep telling her she should be.
~ I missed 12 days of her life between her age of 4 to 6 weeks old because I needed to go to the hospital for help.
~ I missed 5 days of her life this past January for the same reason.
~ I thought of running away and leaving her when she was a baby.  I had a whole plan.
~ I showed her my illness.  Another biggie.  I never meant for her to see any of it.  To witness my dry-heaving, the shaking, the crying, the delusional thoughts, the drug usage.  The pain… My pain and hers for witnessing it all.
~ I am the reason she is an Only Child.

It’s all my fault and I carry this guilt around daily.  Yes, my antidepressant does help but it isn’t a cure all.  Therapy helps but that too will not take it all away.  It’s the disease speaking and it is with me all the time. 

But wait, I have more guilt, Jimmy:

~ I put him through hell when I suffered with Postpartum Depression.  His days were filled with waking up at 5am to get Sophia to my parents and himself to work 1.5 hours away only to come home late and pick Sophia up to visit his crazy wife at the psych ward.
~ I put him through hell again with my disease while Tyler was here and I vowed years ago I would never stick him in a situation like that. 
~ I am the reason he does not have a son.  One day I know he will hold this over me, although it might be the guilt talking.

I constantly tell him to leave me, that I don’t deserve his love or Sophia’s.  I tell him to take her and run away.  He won’t and tells me I’m nuts.

Then there is the guilt for what I put my parents through.  I can only imagine what they felt 8 years ago during my PPD and PPA.  I say imagine because I at first was so delusional and then I was so drugged up so in all honesty, I don’t remember and that’s sad.  This last time I had some brief moments of normalcy that I know I put them through hell.  As a parent, I can’t imagine seeing Sophia suffering the way I did and basically being helpless.  All parents want to do is help their children.  This I hold guilt for.

And of course, more recently, the guilt I live with about Tyler.  We were supposed to be his forever home.  He was the little boy I always wanted, my perfect son.  I let him down.  Each piece of clothing that pops up, each toy that is discovered only reminds me of this… And that I disappointed myself too.

Depression.  It lives in me daily.  It’s biggest fighter is Guilt.  It is a strong fighter and currently winning.  It wins because with Depression, you live in the past.  You dwell about the past.  You are your past.  I’ve never heard about anyone feeling guilt over the future.  Although the guilt is ahead right now, it will fall behind like the hare in The Tortoise And The Hare.  It just takes time.  Time… Each bout of Depression for me takes a full year at least to overcome.  I may feel better.  I may look better.  I may act better.  Inside though I still ponder about the past.  I relive it over and over.  The Guilt.  It painfully hurts me mentally and then it physically manifests itself.  It drains me over and over.

Turning My Life Into A Book

I should’ve titled this, “Petrified, In Need of Confidence”!

Last year after one of my good friends published her first book I started to think about writing myself.  I had a remarkable talent for it when I was younger.  I was actually in Creative Writing Talent at my Junior High, had a poem published in high school, and turned the sport of bowling into a semi erotic poem in a college class.  So, why the lack of confidence?

I feel as if when the real world set in (job, marriage, child), adulthood, the creative part of my brain sold its living space and found a new host.  I used to write stories, poems, digiscrap, do crafts… Now, there is an empty spot in my brain that says, “VACATED, SPACE FOR RENT” and it has been that way for years.

So, as I was saying, my good friend wrote a book and it got me thinking, not creatively (remember, that part left) but logically… I used to write.  I’ve always wanted to publish a book and lastly, what I’ve been taught through the years, write what you know.

What do I know?  I’m a pretty ordinary person.  I have a daughter.  I can write about her.  No, nope, been done before.  I work.  I can write about that.  Who wants to read a book about me working?!  I suffered from Depression and Anxiety since age 14…  BINGO!

I started writing.  Jumping around from one bout of Depression to the next and then stopped.  Why did I stop? I once again fell victim (Great, more ammo for my book).

Recently I’ve started to write my book again.  It has a working title the same as my blog, “Rising From The Ashes: My 20+ Year Battle With Depression And Anxiety”.  I am nowhere near done with my first manuscript.  Baby steps.  But, I’ve started.

So why am I lacking confidence?  I’m scared no one will read it.  Who cares about some 30 something’s battle with mental illness? I’m scared my creative writing ability will not move back in and remove the vacate sign.  I’m scared it will be used against me.

Yet, I am still writing it.  I’m writing it for those who suffer like I did and remain in silence.  I write for professionals to get a first-hand look into a patient.  I write for myself.

Happy 3rd Birthday Tyler!!! (Letting Go…)

My Little Boy,

Today you turn 3.  I used to dwell on all the things that went wrong, blaming myself for everything and ultimately living in the past.  But, beating myself up is not something that should be done on a happy occasion such as your 3rd Birthday.  Instead, I am going to think of all the happy times we had when you were here and how much you grew.

You learned to talk with us becoming quite a chatterbox by the time you left.  Phrases such as “Coffee Time”, “Penguin, Penguin, Snowman”, “Christmas Tree”, “It’s A Mommy” still linger in my head.  You slept in a big boy bed.  You began to eat food… this is a biggie!  No more caloric shakes.  You also began to reject foods like a typical toddler.  You learned to love and play and be the boy you should be.  You have made such an impact on my life.  You will always remain in my heart.

So on a great day like today, I wish you all the happiness in the world and all the love a person can have because you are a special little boy who deserves everything.  Although I can picture a Blues Clues Birthday Party in my head that will never be, I know somewhere you are having a great celebration.

Sophia, Daddy and I decided to throw you a little celebration of our own, what we could do… to let go of the past and wish you a bright future.  We each released a balloon with our own wish for you on it in hopes that it will get to you.

Sophia chose Elmo for you.

Daddy chose a Monkey Balloon
I chose Mickey Mouse.

Letting go and hoping they reach you!

After that we lit a candle in a cupcake and wished you a Happy 3rd Birthday!

Happy 3rd Birthday My Little Boy!

With this I will close my letter to you.  Just know that we think of you all the time and will always love you.

Love, Your Former Foster Mommy

“Happy” Me vs. The Real Me

I’ve just read this great blog entry from the Project Helping Founder and CEO.  Everything he wrote in it was so familiar it was absolutely scary.
Here is the blog post.  I encourage you to read it:
Running From Myself 
The premise of the blog post is the constant battle he had between his “Happy” self and his Real self.  It got me thinking about my “Happy” self and my Real self.
Most people with Depression have 2 selves… The fake one, or “Happy” one, we put on for others to hide or Real self, the one that constantly suffers with mental and physical pain.  Ask anyone who has suffered from Depression and most likely they will agree to the constant battle.
Now, why do we put on the fake happy face?
Many reasons.  Stigma.  Hiding.  Confusion.  You name it, there is a good reason.  I would imagine the stigma behind mental illness is a biggie.  There are still so many people who fear the reactions of their friends and family that they put on a “happy” face.  I know several of these people who have privately confided in me.  I am glad they did tell me, I am glad that by me coming forward I am helping those in silence.
For me it was definitely the stigma in the beginning.  I was a teenager after all.  I was being judged on a daily basis for so many other things why add mental illness as ammunition?!
As the years passed, I still hid myself behind the stigma for fear of losing friends, employment, etc.  It wasn’t until after suffering from Postpartum Depression that I broke the mask I was hiding behind and became an advocate of breaking the stigma.  After this, my real self stayed hidden due to confusion on why I was suffering and the internalizing of my feelings I didn’t feel others needed to see.
The problem with having these 2 selves is the battle, like a real war, is massively draining in all areas.  Because of this duel between my Real self and my “Happy” self, I usually end up erupting with full blown crying fits, anxiety attacks and a body ache that my mind produced.
They call Depression a hidden disease for a reason.  You can’t look out in the public and pinpoint someone suffering but they are there, more than you’d like to guess.  Just realize underneath someone’s smile, their “Happy” face, could be a person who is inwardly suffering, inwardly at war with themselves.
I encourage any of my readers to talk with someone if they are hiding the battle.  Take the next step and get help.

Making Amends… I’m Sorry…

Last night I had a dream.  Actually, I was deep into this dream when my alarm clock went off at 7am this morning…

…Wake up, don’t sleep your life away…

Normally, I will gladly wake up but today I didn’t want to get out of bed.  I didn’t want to leave the dream.  In the dream I got to see Tyler.  I didn’t want to leave him.

There was more to this dream then seeing Tyler which is why I call this the “Making Amends” dream.  I was at Tyler’s daycare waiting for him to show up, to be dropped off by his new Daddy or Mommy (still pains me to say that). It seemed as if I was an employee there but not sure.  Every time the door opened someone I wanted to apologize to walked through.

… Daycare Manager & Assistant Manager…

… Daycare workers in Tyler’s room…

… Birth to Three Workers…

… Tyler’s Social Worker…

During this dream I had deep conversations with the Birth to Three people profusely apologizing that I screwed things up, I let them down.  We went into how he was doing and how they would be leaving him soon too since he’ll be turning 3 in a week.

Then I turned toward my right and Tyler’s social worker was standing there.  I once again apologized as I never got the chance to speak to him since before Tyler left.  I was ashamed and still am.  I was in the middle of talking to him (or should I say crying) when Tyler walked in.  It was in that moment that I turned to look at him and smiled that my alarm clock went off…

… Wake up, don’t sleep your life away…

This time I wanted to.  I wanted to dive back into the dream.  I wanted to hug him, to kiss him, to apologize to him and my stupid Cow alarm clock stole that from me.  It stole the most important thing, making amends with the adorable little boy I once called my son.

… Wake up, don’t sleep your life away…

Thinking about it now I wish I threw that clock across the room out of anger of that stolen moment.  Then again the damn clock is right.  There would be no good in sleeping my life away trying to enter that dream world again.  I’d miss those around me now that I constantly say I’m sorry to, those I love deeply and hope love me still.

Making amends… I know it’s part of many addiction 12 step programs but I wonder if there should be a 12 step program for those who put their loved ones through hell due to Depression and Anxiety.

Step 1… Breathe
Step 2… Therapy 
Step 3… Medication
Step 4… Meditation
Step 5… Make Amends

And so on.  In my dream all those people I apologized to accepted and told me it wasn’t my fault.  I wasn’t in control of my body and mind.  I was sick.  I still wonder though if these individuals would really accept my apology including my former son.

… Wake up, don’t sleep your life away…

Just wish this time I could’ve, just to hold Tyler once again.  To hug him, give him one last kiss on his cheek and tell him, “I’m so sorry.”

The Thinker

I’ve come to the realization that when suffering from Depression I become The Thinker.  My mind races between a million different thoughts…

… Did I pack my lunch? What do I do if I didn’t?…

… Did I pack Sophia’s lunch? Oh my god, what if I didn’t? What is she going to do?…

… Is Sophia going to have an Anxiety Attack today?  Is she going to learn coping skills already? Did I pass my mental illness to her?…

… Oh my god, what if i did?…

… I’m horrible.  I don’t deserve my husband and daughter.  I am the reason they are without a son/brother…

In the blink of an eye my thoughts went from continuous worrying to negativity about myself.  Unfortunately, this happens often.  It’s a very good thing I’m medicated.  It was these thoughts that landed me back in the hospital over a month ago.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Tyler.  We would’ve been celebrating his 3rd birthday this month.  Last night I caved and looked at his picture.  Tears began to fall.  Tears because it was my fault that we weren’t going to celebrate his birthday.  My fault that he wasn’t with us anymore.  I am my worst critic.  Once again the Depression showed its ugly face and I began to beat myself up again with negative thoughts…

… I’m horrible.  I don’t deserve my husband and daughter.  I am the reason they are without a son/brother… 

I don’t deserve to be loved…

I cried.  I cried some more.  I put his picture away and wiped away my tears, but the anxiety was there, the thoughts were there.  Luckily, the medication I’m prescribed for sleep, Seraquil, (This was at night) clears my head like my anti Anxiety meds.  The thoughts stopped and I fell asleep.

I was lucky last night but there are times during the day where my thoughts race and they always go from worrying to negativity about myself.  I constantly call myself evil, undeserving, horrible…  It’s a never-ending cycle while under Depression’s spell.

But the sun still shines.  With the medication I get stronger.  With therapy I get stronger.  With exercise I get stronger.  Instead of crying daily, I’m now crying weekly and soon it will be less.  I’m hopeful when my thoughts aren’t racing.  I know I’ll return to the old me, but a stronger one.  It just takes time.