Your outpouring of support during Medicating Salvation has been a tonic and I thank you so much. From sharing personal experiences to offering pats on the back to telling me about my amygdala, the almond-shaped set of neurons in my head that need to chill the f*ck out, well, you’re the reason why I put myself out there. Here.
Sometimes however, like that time at your high school prom, putting out can bite you in the ass. In the middle of a dialogue about my attack, my friend underestimated my vulnerability and called this blog, my words, a “portrait of depression”.
It made me think of my kids reading this blog, as I’m sure they will one day, maybe as teenagers but probably as adults and/or parents. It’s not the first time I’ve thought about it and while I write for myself, I am accountable to them. So please let me be clear:
Getting to you was the hardest and most heart-wrenching thing I ever endured but no sadness or stillness could keep me from you, and nothing, nothing could keep me from you now.
Labor and birth was agony but the purity of your entrance gave me the most powerful and clarifying experience of my life. You and I are bigger than any pain or despair. You and I are a phoenix.
Moving, engorgement, polar vortices, sleep deprivation, traveling husband, moving and moving again have been hard and sad and isolating but you and I, my Darlings, we are resolute. My love for you is stronger than anything that will ever happen to me.
While biking around yesterday morning, Farrah, you and I fell upon this playground and stayed here, alone, for more than hour. What the hell? Where is everyone?
But on the way here, I kept jabbering as I am wont to do: “Hmmmm…..where in the heck are we? What are we doing? Where should we go? Hmm. Where are we?” And Farrah Star, do you know what did? You turned your head to look at me and smiling, replied, “MONTREAL!”
Worth it. Empty playgrounds, skipped breakfasts, terrible sleep. Worth it.
Arlo and Farrah, all these words all these years should tell you what I already know: the hardest work reaps the sweetest rewards. In ever single instance, in every single post, you are not the work; being with you is not hard. Being with you is the reward. I’m not afraid of trials and heartache nor am I afraid of talking about them or of you reading them. You are perfect to me and we to each other; it is only the path that has potholes.
This is my Portrait of Parenthood, not of Depression, my testimony of a life well-lived but a life hard-earned. How we got here is merely a story, but who we are is the Universal Truth: I grew you and birthed you and there has never been nor will there ever be anything more perfect than what you and I are together. The rest is just details.
I love you,
Continued from No Xanax No Peace …
I feel great from school pick-up until about 10:00pm when sleep should be imminent. The switch goes on. The hot water bottle offers solace but it cannot block the rush. I take a melatonin and lie down then immediately get up, spinning. I take my first Xanax at 10:45pm. An hour later I take a sleeping pill. I consider taking two and wonder if I’ll die. Everything stops and moments of sleep flutter in and flutter out. I have to leave the bed. I cannot lie next to Kris who sleeps so soundly, yet everything plummets at the prospect of being alone. I boil more water for the hot water bottle and move to the sofa. I avoid all clocks.
I mourn my husband, my kids, myself.
I know at some point I do sleep because I dream.
One more day, one more pound lost.
Half-blind with fatigue but dread-full, Farrah and I go to the walk-in clinic. Like any parent I hate bringing my healthy kid around sick people and since she’s a thumbsucker I feel worse. Cue more guilt and despair: If only I wasn’t _______ then I wouldn’t have to put my child at risk. But I am so I do. Spin cycle.
It takes two hours to see a doctor and when we finally do I start sobbing and confess all. She confirms my physical wellness, questions my mental wellness, scraps the .25mg Xanax and tells me to take .5mg Clonazepam twice a day for an entire week – regardless of how I am feeling – and then once conquered, use as needed.
Wednesday Night – PILL ONE
With my new pattern of terror one night, collapse the next, I don’t think I need the Clonazepam. (See how I am?) My body will shut down on Collapse Night so why should I take it? I’m very scared. I detest mind-altering drugs (see Marijuana Doula). Kris knows this but gently pushes. I take the pill and simultaneously the terror washes over me, just like every night.
Indescribable panic fills my veins as I think the one thing that should work is not. Kris talks me down, reminds me it’s only been 15 minutes. I exhale and distract myself with an episode of Friends. Very soon my body grows heavy. Kris helps me to bed with the hot water bottle I now cannot live without. My chest is busy, my mind is busy but it is Collapse Night so I sleep.
I wake when Kris comes to bed later. Surge for several minutes then sleep. The cats do their usual 3am howl. Surge for several minutes, despair over Clonazepam not working/needing sleeping pill, panic about having to move to the sofa but then … sleep.
Thursday – PILL TWO
One more day, one less pound. I have no appetite and realize this is the cause of the daytime tremors but eating makes me sick. In other words, everything is fucked up. I cannot put too fine a point on that.
I wonder again, why am I taking this pill? I don’t have these attacks during the day and well, I have children to raise. But I do it. I do it because the doctor told me to and with Kris’s sound logic, I remind myself that I can wean off later.
After hemming and hawing with Kris about whether he should stay home or go to work (“BUT WHAT IF I PASS OUT?!?”), he leaves and the kids and I head out to school. We walk because 1) I’ve been counseled not to drive or bike and 2) if anything does happen to me there were be plenty of strangers on the street to help. Welcome to my life.
I feel nothing different except not caring about being 15 minutes late which is notable because I have never been late to school, let alone 15 minutes’ worth. It’s a good feeling this not feeling. I sure know my kids are happier for not being bullied/rushed around.
Farrah and I have a good time wandering back home. She’s content. Everything feels normal. I prep a dinner I won’t eat.
I am clear in thought and even inspired as I decide to move Farrah’s play kitchen into our kitchen.
After nap we walk back to school to get Arlo and then go to a friend’s house to play. I feel totally normal until this friend tells me that he and Kris will likely go out to drinks Saturday night which I only hear as “You will be ALONE Saturday night.” Cue churning gut, loose bowels, cold sweats. etc. Could he tell? It was time to go home anyway so we made it outside and then things got worse. I have walked many times with the kids loose on the busy streets of Montreal and while it is always nerve-wracking it never manifests physically. Today though I was almost vomiting from the panic at them running too fast or being too close to the curb or pausing too long — every single thing made me sick and I could not get us home fast enough.
I’m a week in at this point and I’m pissed. I’m more scared than pissed, but pissed nonetheless.
Thursday Night – PILL THREE
Things calm down at the dinner table but there’s no question of taking the Clonazepam after the kids are in bed. I’ve also decided to sleep in the extra bed upstairs. No howling cats, no snoring husband. When the pill kicks in, I trust I’ll sleep. I’m not scared, or if the fear is there, the medicine is holding it back. I sleep and don’t really wake up until the kids do at 6am. I am elated and enjoy my bounding-in bedmate who is delighted to see his Momma upstairs.
Friday – PILL FOUR
One more day, no pounds lost.
I take the pill, don’t even think about it and feel no impact from it the whole day. It was a day like any other. A good day.
Friday Night – PILL FIVE
My appetite has returned. I feel certain that It won’t come tonight. I already feel like maybe It is something in my past. But I take the Clonazepam anyway and retire to my sanctuary upstairs. It never comes. I fall asleep to Jenna Mulroney choking on artificial coffee creamer. I shut the laptop and sleep all night.
In the morning I think about that episode of 30 Rock that revolved around Liz Lemon taking an anti-anxiety pill for a flight.
Stars – They’re Just Like Us! This is so normal. Is this normal? I can’t go to sleep. A week ago I could go to sleep and now I need a pill and the mind control of David Blaine to shut my eyes for 30 seconds.
Saturday – PILL SIX
Just going with the prescribed flow.
Saturday Night – PILL SEVEN
Before I even take the pill Arlo wakes up from vomiting everywhere. In the shower, with the laundry, getting him dressed, etc. and I panic that now I’ve waited too long. The attack doesn’t come but it feels like it might. To make matters worse (for me), Kris retires to bed with Arlo (who was fine, just too aggressive a cough), with his laptop and headphones so I am left alone. I take the pill and wait, then make the big mistake of peeking in to Kris’ bedroom to make sure he’s still awake. Dumb. I make it upstairs and fall asleep anyway. Amen.
Sunday – PILL SEVEN-AND-A-HALF
Yesterday’s pill made me a bit groggy and that just tells me I don’t need it so I only take half of today’s pill. I am still groggy and sleepy but I also know it’s because I did too much. Whatever that means. My children’s whole room had to be basically laundered and disinfected before nap and who’s going to do that? This is the one truism of my parenthood: it doesn’t matter how I feel. People need me and I will be there.
And here’s where I stop with the minutia.
If This continues past the prescription I will seek therapy to shed the negative feelings I clearly still harbor over our move to Montreal. At least I understand the trigger and that gives me peace, or a starting point anyway. I also need to give myself a break which every time I am told this – and I do believe I need one – I laugh because who do you think will be coming to therapy with me?
I appreciate you reading along. As a child of adoption I document everything about my health so that my kids will never have to guess their medical history. That I also share it here on BPS means I get to speak my truth, out loud, and for those staring at a bottle of pills they never thought they’d need, I offer peace, over-the-counter, but with the best of intentions.
It started Wednesday Night, April 15th.
I had to wake early for our flight to New Jersey on Thursday so I set the alarm for 6:15am and went to bed. My head hit the pillow and rather than sleep, my body prepared for battle. The large muscle in the back of my thigh began to quiver and then convulse; it bullied my other leg into doing the same thing and soon my back spasmed in communion. Fear crept up my throat and closed it off; my tongue thickened absorbing all the moisture in my mouth. I had an immediate urge to evacuate my bladder and bowels that would repeat itself for the next five hours. My heart seized inside my chest.
I left the bed. I drank wine knowing it would slow my body down and it did, but not my mind nor my chest. I was filled with terror – terror of being alone, terror of tomorrow, terror of not going to sleep.
Time climbed forward and my spiral climbed with it. At some point I took a vomit bowl (I am not a drinker) and lied down on the floor in my kids’ room, thinking their sweet slumber would soothe me. It didn’t. I turned on the tv very, very quiet so I would have to work to pay attention to it but I didn’t need to work; I was already tired. I am tired. I am always tired and never have a problem going to sleep.
I thought of the time my friend Julia bought me a lavender-weighted pillow to lay on my chest after the end of my first marriage and how good that felt, how comforting. I find my flashlight and dig out the next best thing; my hot water bottle. It does feel good, my chest slows and somehow I fall asleep. It’s 4:30am.
Our taxi and flight were without complication which was nice, but irrelevant since the trigger had already been pulled.
I’ve never said much about our last flights (we took three when moving from Madison to Montreal), only that “Farrah does not do well on planes”. But the truth which I NOW HEAR YOU LOUD AND CLEAR, BRAIN, is that I was deeply and sorrowfully affected by those flights. I scheduled them poorly and my daughter suffered during all three by vomiting, thrashing, screaming and hyperventilating. The dirty looks of the entire cabin quickly switched to sympathetic pats on the back and offers of assistance. Farrah was spiraling and the communal sense of worry was palpable – “she’s going to need to be sedated”. She had hand-foot-mouth disease and refused the breast – not that she could manage a latch what with her writhing and jerking body – and in the middle of it all, of all my prayers and pleas, I turned to Kris and sobbed, “I want off this plane NOW. I want off this plane and I want to take my baby home!” But of course, we had no home. The impact of those flights and particularly that painful realization took root in me and only now, eight months later, the night before the next flight to which I would expose my child, did my anxiety manifest.
At 8:30pm while watching tv with my in-laws and eating papaya, a wave washes over me. Immediately sick from the fear of reliving last night, I abruptly say good night and go to bed. Every symptom appears only now with the added dread of doing it alone in a different house. I am existing on an hour-and-a-half of war-torn sleep and yet I cannot go to bed. Embarrassed, scared, and crying now, Kris runs to the pharmacy for melatonin and sleeping pills.
The pill shuts my body down enough to collapse. Farrah, though asleep next to her brother, wakes several times in her unusual surroundings. I somehow manage to go back and forth to her throughout the night.
Some rushes throughout the day. No rhyme or reason. I’m scared enough to call my doctor back home in Montreal. She cannot see me until May 12th. Today is April 17th. I feel terrible. When I’m not shaking I’m aching from the previous nights’ shaking.
Full house of family. Exhausted by 8:30pm and determined to fall asleep while everyone still awake. I say goodnight and take melatonin. I work very hard at controlling my mind and fall asleep by 10pm.
The day is happily consumed by my in-law’s 50th Anniversary Party. Everything a pleasant blur, a warm distraction.
Things are the same as Friday night; lots of guests, lots of buzz, so I disappear early to pop a sleeping pill and spend more than two hours alone in the guest room willing my brain to overcome my body while the house is still awake; the fright of being alone through this drives me mad.
Visiting with friends in the morning and more family in the afternoon. I’m present but not really available; I know It can surface at any moment so I think very hard about not thinking about It. Brilliant. I think about It and think about not being 100% for my kids and nothing else. How am I managing my kids? I am scared something in me has snapped and I’ll never be whole again.
I go to sleep at 9:00pm, again while everyone is awake. Take two melatonin by mistake. Tremors and severed nerves begin shortly after lying down. I cannot control my body or mind. Constant evacuation. Fear escalates as in-laws retire to bed. 10:15pm I take sleeping pill. 10:30pm Kris turns off all lights and comes to bed. Panic washes over me. Convulsions and nausea take over. Kris tries to help but cannot. Guilt for keeping him awake. I accept the isolation and spend next three hours in the dark switching from sofa to sofa downstairs, mind and chest never stopping. Take another sleeping pill at 1:00am. Added terror about what I have just done.
It’s 1:30am and I know it’s not going to stop and decide that since my in-laws can be with my kids in the morning, I should go to the ER now. Sad and guilty that Farrah might not see me in the morning for the first time in her life. So desperate for peace.
My pulse is through the roof but my EKG and chest X-ray are clear, just like last year. I am given Ativan through an IV to prep for a CAT scan to check for pulmonary embolism but some blood test comes back saying I don’t need it. The Ativan takes over. I am released with a scrip for five Xanax pills.
I fall asleep in the car and sleep from 4am-9am.
It’s no coincidence we fly back home today.
Travel long but without issue.
Home. I collapse in bed with Farrah then somehow transfer to my own bed later.
My days were not too bad except today, my first day back home. Tightening of chest all day. Constantly sweating. I step on the scale because I know I am different. I have lost six pounds in six days.
First moment of calm came in editing Anniversary photos and writing these words. Farrah getting distracted-yet-inexplicably-patient-half-of-me. I can think of nothing else but this Thing I have become or that lurks behind me or exists inside me. One week ago I was normal.
No internet. No blogging. No street photography. I can’t conjure any part of who I used to be.
One thing I am though is an addict without swallowing a single pill. I only have five Xanax from that ER visit. Five.
But what if they actually help? In four days from now I’d be in the exact same position only worse because I will have known four days of relief. Kris is frustrated and rightly so. He spent the entire time in a New Jersey Emergency Room shuffling through our cross-border emergency-only health insurance. “Take the pill”, he says, sternly. But there’s nothing wrong with me physically; what has come naturally can be eradicated naturally.
My friend tells me this is irrational and I don’t doubt it.
Take the pill.
Even looking up quotes on sleep gives me a surge of panic, just seeing all those words about sleep on a screen and all the people who are talking about /enjoying it/doing it while i cannot drives me mad.
I am losing my mind.
Medicating Salvation to be continued …
I ran out to the market the other morning and a woman shouted down to me from her balcony:
“Are you going to the market? Could you buy me newspapers?”
That’s the French I understood anyway so I replied, “Oui!”
She motioned to the plastic bag in her hand which was tied to a long rope, saying it held the coins needed for the purchase. I waved her off and headed out. As I returned with les journeaux, she lowered the bag to me. It caught in the wind and I chased it like a fish, flopping about the sidewalk. Smiling at my situation I managed to snatch it and placed the newspapers inside. Hand-over-hand she pulled her catch over the railing. She thanked me like this was a completely normal exchange and I went home.
I said to my family, “You never know what’s going to happen the minute you step outside your door.”
I’m having a hard time helping others. I have reached out to a couple of organizations who connect volunteers with those in need and am getting rejected based on 1) language and 2) having kids. I’m requesting for us to act as companion to the elderly, for either at-home visits or assistance in grocery shopping and other errands. I write things in the Comments section like “My daughter and I have a lot of hours to give.”
We are available and eager and isolated. They are available and eager and isolated. We are parents at home with our children. They are seniors at home with no one. There are a lot of us. There’s got to be a way to bridge this gap.
In the mean time I’ll be looking up when walking to the market now, hoping to help a stranger again with her daily catch.
I got a lot of eye contact this week which was both unsettling and satisfying. If I keep this up I know there’s going to be a confrontation and of that I am very wary, especially since Farrah is with me. I’ve learned that in Street Photography however, closer is better which means I’m going to be seen and I’m going to be held accountable. I just hope I’m prepared with a smile and a compliment.
Have a great weekend! Shoot ’em if you got ’em.
Farrah’s hair was so cute, right? I mean the top-ponys, the pigtails and the bow clips:
This is what Farrah’s hair looked like “natural”:
Appearance aside, you pull one strand of hair out of one snotty nose or off of one crusty hummus cheek and you’ll RUN to get her hair cut. Instead I was running after her, clips and rubberbands in hand, trying to maintain some social construct of what a tiny girl should look like. She hated it. I hated it.
We’d all be in the bathroom together, but while brushing and tying her hair, her brother got to sit back watch, free of being manhandled. “Ain’t this some bullshit?” her shrieks would announce. “Goddamn right it is”, I’d agree, silently. Day after day we’d do this dance but I never mistook our routine for her willingness. Farrah does not care about pigtails. She cares about playing. Period. If Farrah could talk she’d ask to get her haircut like her brother, and she does talk; she speaks to me and I speak for her. As her Constant that is my role, my honor, and I had been letting her down.
Her first haircut was ridiculous. Scared of “going too far” I just got her ends trimmed.
Useless as it still required clips and rubber bands.
The second cut was better …
but as we were still in the chair I knew we should have gone shorter. Again it was fear that drove me out early: “Ohhhh! Not too short! *wince*” The back of her head was constantly a nest of tangles. While she finally had more freedom to play, I still had to work on that nest and it was a battle. It had to go.
Haircut Three, aka What I Should Have Done In The Beginning:
I’m probably telling you nothing you don’t already know or haven’t experienced yourself. I just listened to my kid and did what she could not do for herself. When and if she becomes invested in her appearance I will accommodate her choices. I am after all a Masterbraider.
What has struck me the most during this process is that it has been a process.
Do you know how much I thought about my son’s hair affecting others? Not at all. When it got too long and obstructed his vision I cut it. About Farrah’s Hair I have gnashed my teeth, looked inside my heart and defended my feminism. I have blogged about it.
Finally, I am reminded of what Jada Pinkett-Smith said about her daughter’s hair more than two-and-a-half years ago:
“Jada Pinkett Smith used Facebook to perform an awesome smackdown on people who have been trolling the parental implications of the ever-changing short hairstyle of 12-year-old Willow Smith:
“The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair, first the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain… It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires.”
This women’s work, the examples we set, they are critical in the lives of our children, of our daughters. Because hair.
I’ve had an old iPhone in my drawer for several months now. I looked into donating it (too busted up) and also talked to my babysitter’s mother about giving it to him (maybe for his birthday in the fall). The longer it sat unused, the more energy I spent thinking about its uselessness. I couldn’t take it, so based on the success of giving Arlo my old Kindle last Easter, I decided to give him my old iPhone this Easter.
I stripped it of everything but the camera, map, weather and compass. I was presenting it to him as a camera as he’s always wanting to use my Canon, and the other tools I felt he would find interesting but only for a short time. I had every belief he would use the camera as he uses his Kindle, which he self-regulates perfectly.
His iPhone has no cellular service, no apps, no browser, no videos, no games.
It is a camera.
OR IS IT?
Balls if this kid didn’t unlock every single goddamn hidden feature within five minutes. Did you know that the compass turns into a level if you hold the phone sideways and click your heels three times? But who cares about a level, right? Level is learning! Have at it! Explore!
“THIS IS THE BEST EASTER MORNING EVER!” rang in between the church bells of Montreal.
Soon enough I saw something moving on his screen. “Gimme that.” He had clicked on Videos and opened the iTunes store to which my account is automatically linked. Shit. I moved the Video icon into the second-page folder I had titled “NO”.
Now it’s a camera with a couple of tools.
OR IS IT?
“Yahoo?!? Why.am.I.looking.at.the.internet.on.this.camera?!?” ten minutes later. He had turned on the wireless and automatically connected to our home’s wifi.
Still, none of this clicking around was too much of a problem, I expected such exploration. I was pleased he was so excited and assumed like any other much-coveted object, its novelty would wear off soon enough. It’s just a camera. But Arlo’s single-mindedness wasn’t dissipating. The bloom of his new “electromance” kept growing and soon it was this Thing with us in the room. Sweat started to run down his forehead as his battery ran out of power. He and Kris came home from lunch and they both sat in the window facing each other, staring at their phones. I shivered at the landscape, realizing I had introduced something that would need limits and monitoring and ohmygodwhathaveIdone. The final straw however came from Farrah Star.
Yes, Baby. I have made a huge mistake. I too see how instead of coming home after school and playing with you he will play with his phone. He will now have to be reminded and cajoled to engage and I feel as badly about that as I have anything else as a parent. You need him. I need him. I made a mistake.
By 11am the next morning, I parent-ed the hell out of this situation, assumed 100% of the blame, wiped away tears and bought him a new Lego.
I want to pause at this picture because it looks so manipulated. Here’s the original:
I really did catch her face in the shadow and wow did those headphones pop! I like the color a lot but I thought the black-and-white would intensify the contrast. The shot reminded me of those old Apple ads.
Those ads are 12 years’ old now and iPods are antiques. Incredible how quickly things develop, no? I love living in this age.
There you have it, this week’s Dancin’ in the Streets. Have a wonderful weekend. Hang on for dear life!
Back to the kitchen. Grumble, grumble, grumble.
I am probably late to this game (Jessica Seinfeld anyone?), but a SIX POUND winter weight gain coupled with motherhood propelled me to finally try Black Bean Brownies.
Pros: Simple. Smooth. Protein. Fiber. Chocolate. Kids ate ’em right up and the only bean they have previously eaten is of the jelly variety.
Cons: Bland (hence no link to recipe but google it, there are a million of them). I think a high quality cocoa would help tremendously (I have no-name cheapie stuff) but until I find some, I will either increase the brown sugar and/or mini-choc chips. Look at that – I already forgot about those six pounds.
Stop this post! I have successfully cooked fish. Chili, Lime and Cumin Cod
I do not tackle flesh. I might cook some sausage or curry some chicken, but I am mainly a veggie girl. Kris handles the meat in this house. HEYYYY! But sometimes you just gotta do.
Pros: Easy. Fast. So delicious.
Cons: Didn’t make enough of it.
My hand hurts from patting myself on the back for this next one. In Pot Pie of Despair I wrote about dinner table difficulties and the peace treaty negotiated (can one negotiate with oneself?). This bit is about success so please, follow along!
I have had a juicer for almost ten years. The only time I really haven’t used it is when we lived in Bermuda where produce cost a fortune. I like veggie juice, especially in the winter, and I really used to like it with vodka but that was then and this is breastfeeding. It dawned on me this winter that I was making juice for myself and buying juice for my kids. I don’t … what … this is … NO.
I stopped buying juice and the kids started making their own.
Farrah Star is the filler. Arlo is the pusher. Farrah is the stirrer. Arlo is the pourer.
Man, are they into the juicer! That machine is loud and it pulverizes solid matter into liquid. And they make that happen. I think they would even turn off Paw Patrol to make juice. But here’s the deal – they have to drink it if they want to make it. The drinking part still comes with plenty of reminding from Kris and me, but it gets drunk. Drank. Dranken. Drunken? Vodka!
That’s cantaloupe juice right there. My kids refuse to eat cantaloupe. They also make apple/carrot/cucumber juice. My kids refuse to eat carrots and cucumbers. Now they get it all and get it raw. RAW, Baby! I’ll take a little pulp in my success thankyouverymuch.
I know what you’re thinking – well, why not have them help me cook too?
I derive no pleasure in cooking and I work to erase all traces of it – meaning I clean constantly while doing it. I like my kitchen like I like my bowels; empty and clean. Fiber! No kids allowed, in either space.