Friday, October 30, 2015

It Got Worse Before it Got Better...

I found Jordan crying under her blanket on her floor, so I crawled in with her. I didn't say much. 
I told Adam I was lucky that I had him. I felt like I was failing him as a wife, and that I didn't deserve him. What happened to me???
I'm sick of spending $50 a week. For what? She still can't run most days. If it were me, there is no way that I would keep going to the chiropractor. It's not working. But what would I tell her, that I'm done trying to help? Nice.
Jordan said to me: "All of my senior friends are applying to Brown and good schools and I can't even get out of bed."  Shit.
Jordan asked me how come I cancelled Christmas this year. I almost lost it. How is that my fault? She didn't help at all, with anything. Fu** her. Both girls have been blaming me for everything. If I weren't trying to juggle all of their crap, then maybe I would be sane, and have time to do a damn Christmas card. 
They are sucking any life out of me and I'm pretty empty. Is it their faults? No. But it's not my fault either, that our lives suck right now.
Yesterday I did it. I went to my doctor to ask about going on medication. It was very hard. I cried when I talked about Jordan and Kayla. She said that it is hard to escape it, when it runs in your family. She said she would prescribe Zoloft but I needed to go to therapy first. Yay. I was shaking the whole time. 
It's hard to accept that it has come to this. Not like it's embarrassing or anything, it just sucks.
I told the girls "I think I've lost myself, but I am doing the best I can." It just wasn't good enough.

And that is how you know you need to get professional help. 

Thank you for putting up with my ranting. Please watch your loved ones and look out for the signs. If someone has a heart condition, or high blood pressure, no one would think twice about taking medication to help get it under control. A chemical imbalance is just another type of physical illness which needs to be treated.

The good news is that medication and therapy can help. I am living proof of this. So are Jordan and Kayla. I never expected life to play out this way, and I certainly would not want to go through it again. But some might say that they have emerged more resilient and better able to take control of their lives, because of depression.

Everything has its pros and cons. Even depression and anxiety. Right?

Thank you.
Us Too

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Straight From The Mother's Mind

These are excerpts from my journal from a ten day period towards the end of 2014.  Brace yourself for a glimpse into the mind of a depressed person.

I figured something out. I am not happy because I feel helpless. Helpless with Jordan changing her meds and her not being able to do her AP Lang. homework. I can't help her anymore.
Kayla with her injuries. She wants nothing to do with me or my opinions. There is nothing else that I can do for her. We saw doctors, she goes to the chiropractor, takes iron... nothing helps. I'm pretty much done since I can't help anyway. Helpless.
I'm having a rough time with both of our girls needing help. What the fu** did we do wrong here? 
I can't seem to make any changes to help myself. It may be time...
I'm not going to do Christmas cards this year. I did it all myself last year. I'm not going to decorate the Christmas tree by myself. I know that they are all busy, but that's not what the holidays are about.
I don't have the desire or energy.
So I just ran and wrote in my journal and I don't feel much better. At least I don't feel like crying anymore.
Today totally sucked. I cried in bed last night for a long time. I had plans to run with friends this morning, got all dressed for it, started to cry again and didn't go. I was either crying or laying down all day.
I keep hearing the commercial in my head:  "Depression hurts. Cymbalta can help". My body actually hurts all over.
I was a mess and couldn't snap out of it. It's crazy how if my kids are hurting, I hurt.
It's not fair to both of them.

So this is where we all were, kind of secretly falling apart. To avoid overwhelming you I will stop here and continue in the next post.

Thank you so much for allowing me to share our experiences with you. It is my hope that the more people understand, the less afraid they will be. That is the only way progress can be made in the field of mental health.

Us Too

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Everything Began to Fall A p a r t...

Kayla's issues began after she injured her quad during her freshman year of cross country. Before this point she loved running and she was doing very well. She adored the varsity girls, and believed that running was her entire identity. Her injuries appeared to multiply throughout the next two years. We went to so many specialists, trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors and doctors. It seemed as if every time one injury was controlled, another one developed. I have been running for, well... forever, and I would have traded places with her in a heartbeat. Her passion, and her ability to self-accept were being taken away from her, and she began to fear and hate running.

Not only was she dealing with muscle and tendon problems, she also developed Vocal Cord Dysfunction or VCD. VCD occurs when the vocal cord or voice box does not open correctly. It is often confused with asthma, but instead of having trouble breathing out, VCD causes more difficulty breathing in.  So she was trying to run at full speed and her voice box was blocking her air intake. It was like she was having a panic attack, while running. To top it all off, she also began showing symptoms of acid reflux. She needed to change her entire diet and started taking some hard core reflux medication.

The problem was, she was able to deal with the stress and anxiety of being a high achieving, disciplined student, (and why we had two of these types of kids in high school was beyond me) when she was running. But take that stress reliever away at age fourteen, and she began to fall apart, both physically and mentally. It is certainly all connected. 

It still probably took longer than it needed to for us to realize that Kayla was suffering from anxiety and clinical depression, but it certainly didn't take years, like it did with Jordan. Sadly, we had done, and seen this before. Distinguishing between what is normal teenage irritability and negativity towards their parents, from the slow plunge into depression is (at least initially) difficult. But at a certain point, you just know.

There is nothing worse than helplessly watching your own child gradually lose control, hope, joy, and love of herself.  Nothing except watching two of your children going through this at the same time.

As you might predict, I was wondering what the hell Adam and I had done wrong with this whole parenting thing. My reactions and coping skills were a mess. I was angry and sad about everything and everyone, including the girls. I was feeling hopeless, overwhelmed and tired of not being able to affect change.

And down I went...

Thank you.  Us Too

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I'm Not Only a Mental Illness Blogger, I'm Also a Recent Client

I miss the old, happy meMy last share on Us Too had a quote about how important it is for people, especially women, to start having a conversation about mental illness. So I figured it was as good a time as any to open up about the difficulties that I was faced with last year.

I'm not sure, but I would assume that most people who knew me when I was younger would not have pegged me for someone who would struggle with depression and anxiety as an adult. Please share with me if you feel this to be an inaccurate statement. I would truly be curious to hear why. I think that I was pretty low maintenance, non drama, laid back, and content with my efforts, even though many of my close friends were super high achievers. Basically, life was not much of a struggle for me. Because I am somewhat of a realist, I figured that since mental illness ran in my family, I would possibly need to seek out professional help much later in life. Like when my kids no longer depended on me (ouch), and my parents inevitably needed to increase their dependence on me. But that is not where I was last year.

I can honestly say that Adam and I worked our butts off to try and stay one step ahead of Jordan's issues. I'm not going to lie and say that it was easy, but we floundered and scrambled our way through, eventually searching for techniques and professionals that could possibly help. For some reason (maybe because we were never truly shocked by her behaviors, since they seemed to gradually progress throughout her lifetime) I was generally, able to cope.

But then last year, when she was a sophomore in high school, our Kayla began to struggle.
Our roly-poly, energetic, smart, giggly, self-assured, happy, athletic, beautiful daughter, started to slowly spiral downward.

And eventually, so did I.

To avoid this post from going on forever, I will pause here.

For whatever reason, you have decided to go along for this ride, and I would like to thank you for that, from the bottom of my heart. Selfishly, I find writing this to be somewhat cathartic. But perhaps it can act as a general road map for others who may find themselves sinking into the hopeless sea of depression and anxiety. In the next couple of posts, I will continue with Kayla's story, and also try to portray my journey from being a scared, overwhelmed, angry, lonely, depressed, anxious mess, to the much healthier, more content person that I am today.

Part of my plan to help illustrate this is to copy, word for word, some excerpts from my journal from last year. I'll warn you, it contains some harsh, angry, emotional language. But it will be real, and raw, and honest. Just like life.

Thank you,

Us Too

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bye-Bye Binkey-- aka How to Torture Your Child

Instructions not included BooginHead pacifier
Back in August I mentioned that when Jordan was around seven months old, pacifiers basically saved our lives. Well, at least they allowed us to sleep through the nights. At twenty-five months, we no longer had them hanging from her shirts or bibs twenty-four-seven, so we had taken some steps in the right direction. She was fine with this. I guess that the world was interesting and entertaining enough for her to not need them all of the time. We did know that she was still very dependent upon them when going to sleep.

But now she was over two years old, and the books were telling us that it was time to take the pacifiers away. So that is what we did. We wrapped them up for “Baby Tara” a neighborhood baby who had just been born. Jordan was so cute, wanting to give them to the baby. I knew she didn't thoroughly understand what the actual plan was, but she was so cooperative and helpful.

That first night without them was not fun. Not at all. She cried hysterically from 9:30 pm to 11:30 pm. She seemed so upset and angry. It brought back flashbacks of the whole self-soothing before bed, time. We went into her room like the books instructed, and spoke to her calmly, reassuring her that we loved her and that it would be okay. She would stop crying when we went in, but when we left, she just lost it. Finally she did go to sleep, but woke up screaming again at 3:00, and then at 6:00 am.

I went in when she was sleeping, because I was feeling so horribly guilty, and I would see her scratching at her crib mattress, groping and searching for them. This was while she was asleep. It was heart wrenching to watch. We were the ones who gave her the pacifiers, and let her use them for over two years. But now for no apparent reason, except that this was what parents were supposed to do, we took them away. The next night she tried so hard to be brave. She looked at books to keep busy and said “Me no need my pasey (pacifier), Me wrap it up.” But then she screamed, flailed, and kicked for over an hour.

My thought patterns at this point were basically this: "What am I doing to her? Even at age two she is trying to please. Trying to understand, and do what is expected of her." I'm pretty sure that I even got angry at our pediatrician and the nurses from the hospital where she was born. They all made it very clear to new parents that sucking is important for a babies' ability to eat and ultimately, to survive. At least that's how I had interpreted it.

A month later she was still screaming frantically before bed. One night I got so angry that I went in and yelled about how tired we were of hearing her, and that she better close her eyes and go to sleep.

Then she stopped crying. Really? That's what was necessary to get her to stop?

It took two months for her to finally stop screaming and crying before bed. That was eight weeks. Fifty-six nights of hearing our child scream like someone was tearing off one of her limbs.

Again, we were doing what we thought was best for our daughter. Would it have been so detrimental if we waited for her to eventually give the pacifiers up on her own? Probably not. I doubt that she would have continued to suck on them throughout elementary school. Could these many hours of discomfort and stress have changed her brain chemistry? Probably.  Or, was her brain chemistry the reason why she had such difficulty coping with situations that appeared to be easier for other children?

So many questions. So few answers. Maybe we can get our answers by looking at our children's successes, because all kids have them- each and every day. All we need to do, is make sure that we take notice of them. :)

Thank you.
Us Too

Thursday, October 8, 2015

"The Terrible Two's" - Ain't That the Truth

I knew that this was coming. I was warned. But like everything else, if you haven't lived through it, you don't really know what to expect. How does this transformation happen right before our eyes? Maybe it's because our children physically gain in strength and size. The anger that they once displayed kind of multiplies and grows in intensity, along with their bodies. I guess I really didn't think that it was possible for Jordan's intensity to increase, but it did.

When Jordan was two, her new goal in life appeared to be getting Kayla to smile at her, which she did all of the time. It was so cute. Since Jordan was speaking, and repeating herself (a lot) at this point, Kayla was the perfect audience. The doctor told us that her speech was a bit unclear because her thought patterns were so advanced for her age. It was like her brain was moving faster than her mouth could keep up. When she saw a pregnant woman and asked what was in her belly, I explained that it was a baby. I told her that she and Kayla were once in my belly and her clever reply was  “Me out now”. When Grandpa Tony hurt his back, she suggested that we get him a band aid. I was so amazed by her, and by everything that she did and said. She started out as this helpless infant, and now she was becoming a beautiful, logical, person right before my eyes.

I watched her as she began to give Adam a hard time. How can  that be explained? It was like she was pressing his buttons. I had no idea how this was possible for such a young child. She whined and carried on in shopping carts, and pretty much tortured him with defiance and complaints. When he changed her diaper, put on her shoes, gave her dinner, you name it, she fought it. He and I did things differently, and I could tell that she realized this.

So now I began to worry that maybe I gave in to her too easily, just to avoid the tantrums. An example of this was when I would let her out of the shopping cart. I wouldn't have done this if she wasn't so well behaved walking around stores, but she was so good. I didn't see the need for her to stay in the cart. She always stayed close by, didn't grab things off the shelf. So what was the harm of getting her out of the cart? But he didn't let her out. This, not surprisingly, made her angry.

Only one time did she run away from me in a parking lot. My quick reaction was to smack her butt. I was scared for her safety and I wanted her to feel the potential danger and fear of this situation.  The way I saw it, getting hit by a car will always be much worse than getting a smack on the butt. And she never did it again.

Some days she threw up to four tantrums. And I mean full-fledged  kicking and screaming, all out tantrums. Once she started them, she wouldn't (or couldn't) stop on her own. I would get hit or kicked if I tried to calm her down. Sometimes these went on for hours. The only way to stop her was to go into her room, and just sit and watch painfully. She would eventually see us sitting there and slowly calm down, and start talking to us about something. Then it was over. These usually occurred when she didn't get her way, which pretty much happened a million times a day. Clean up, time to eat, finish a game, turn off the T.V., get dressed, leave play group... She didn't want to do any of these things.  Do you know how difficult it is to try to get a child filled with rage out of a friend's house, through a door and home, while pushing Kayla in a stroller? I was so angry by the time we wrestled our way home. At least I wasn't pregnant anymore.

She told us “No.” no matter what we asked her to do. Sometimes she would yell it, and other times she would look all shy and put her chin to her chest, look up through her thick dark brown bangs, and whisper “No.”. What?? So sometimes we hit her butt, or yelled, or spoke to her, or put her in her crib without her pacifiers. We had thought and/or hoped that at least one of these techniques would be effective. After all, they worked for my parents.  But it did not seem to be working for us. No matter what we did and how consistent we were, it didn't seem to curtail her negative, defiant, repetitive behaviors.

This led to so many feelings of frustration and insecurity for me... What happened to: "If you are consistent then everything will be fine. Kids need consistency. If they know what to expect, then they will be comfortable."? One would assume that if a child is comfortable, then she will be compliant and somewhat easy going. That did not seem to be the case in our situation.

And I had no idea why.

Thank you.

Us Too

Friday, October 2, 2015

Pushing The (or My) Limits

When Kayla was around 4 months old, our lives began to settle down. We decided to do the unthinkable, and got the dreaded minivan. (Which I'm proud to say, we still have today.) We were amazed that we had two beautiful, perfect girls. Adam mentioned that I had everything that I had ever wanted. He was right. Jordan played with her baby dolls, and loved singing and playing in her crib. Looking back at this time in our lives makes me smile.

Jordan began to show signs of jealousy towards Kayla. I knew this was to be expected, but I wasn't thrilled when she threw a toy at Kayla's head, or when she covered Kayla's face with a blanket. One morning she lightly stepped on Kayla's leg, watching to see what my reaction would be. You know that look- “yeah, I'm doing this in front of you. So what are you going to do about it, Mommy?” I sternly told her no, so she decided to pick up a toy and throw it across the room. After that I smacked her hand lightly and made her pick up the toy. She then proceeded to say to me,  “Mommy not mad, Mommy happy. " in a cheery little voice.

Umm... no. This Mommy was definitely not happy with this behavior. Especially because she seemed unfazed by my reaction.

One afternoon I was suggesting to Adam that we may need to get the playpen out for Kayla, because Jordan has so many small toys. I noticed that she was listening, so I explained to her how Kayla could put a small toy in her mouth and it could make her sick.  To help demonstrate this, I picked up a random small toy to show her. Later that night I couldn't believe what she did. I watched her hand that exact same small toy to Kayla. She put it into Kayla's tiny hand, while looking right at me with that “I know that I'm doing something wrong.” look.  Damn. Again, I smacked her hand lightly and told her to get the toy back from Kayla, and to say that she was sorry. I'm sure that I probably said much more, but that was the gist of it.

Some of you who are anti-smacking, may be cringing when I say that I smacked her hand. The intention was certainly not to physically hurt her, or to humiliate her. It was to make the point that what she just did was wrong, and she should not do it again.  Hurting, and possibly putting your baby sister in harm's way, it's just not allowed. When I raised my voice, (and I wasn't just pretending to be angry, I actually was angry) for some reason, it just didn't send that message to her. It appeared to have no impact. She didn't even flinch. I was a bit taken aback that at 23 months, my discipline tactics did nothing to deter her from repeating a behavior. Not only did it not deter her, but she usually went one step further the next time, like when she threw the toy.

And my parents smacked me as a child. I don't resent them. I don't fear them. I never did.

But I did, and still do, respect them. I knew that they were in charge and that I was to abide by their rules. They were my parents. When they hit me, as much as I hate to admit it now, I deserved it. Usually I either lied, or was disrespectful. Mostly I lied. I learned that you can only get away with lying so many times before getting caught. And today, I consider them to be two of my closest friends.

As the years went on, our battles with Jordan got more and more difficult. She was always able to raise the intensity to a level that I was not comfortable with. A level that I never expected to be pushed to, especially by a child. By my child. My instinct was to try to match her, so that I would have the upper hand. To prove that I was in control, and that I was parenting. But the thing is, as the years went on, I realized that I was not in control. And neither was Jordan. No one was.

That was a scary place to be.

Thank you,

Us Too