Remembering the Pain of Postpartum Depression

postpartum depressionRemembering Postpartum Depression

We were digging through a drawer looking for something in our bedroom this weekend, and underneath the junk in the junk drawer, a piece of paper with my handwriting on it caught my eye. I didn’t recognize the paper at first, so I couldn’t remember how it got there or what was written on it.

I pulled it out of the drawer and then sunk down to the bed when I saw the date: 8/1/03.

I knew exactly what was on it. A long-ago forgotten letter I had written to myself when our daughter was 11 months old. This was during the peak of my lingering bout of postpartum depression. All the feeling I poured out into this letter is totally foreign to me now. And yet, at the same time, achingly familiar.

“8/1/03

It’s been a really long time since I kept a journal. I started on my first journal (that were written in non-third grader complete sentences) here in 1986. I was 16. I kept them for several years – through college and even a little beyond, but stopped in about 1995. I just lost the desire to write about my life. When I look back on those journals, especially the early ones, I kind of laugh. It was pretty much all about boys. I wrote down poems that I liked, and song lyrics, too. Sometimes other writers could express the feelings that I was feeling.

A LOT has changed since I last kept a journal. It’s some of these changes that are compelling me to start again. I’m married to a wonderful man, and we have a little girl. She will be one in three weeks. To say that becoming a mother has changed our lives is probably the understatement of the century. I knew that I wanted a child, but I was unprepared for the rigors of what being a parent entails. It’s changed everything. I love my daughter more than anything. She is so beautiful and sweet natured. What I’m struggling with right now is that I feel somewhat like I’ve lost a sense of myself. I’m not working right now – I’ve taken the last year off. I’m finding that my days stretch out in front of me. As much as I hate to admit this, being with her is boring for me sometimes. I crave company.

Here’s the problem: I don’t have a job to focus on, I’m not a big hobby person, and I’m finding it difficult to NOT feel sort of lost. [My husband] has hobbies that take him away from home, like waterskiing, golf, etc. I don’t. I like to exercise, and want to focus on that, but I have to find childcare, which is a big pain. Juggling her schedule can be tough, too. I look at these obstacles and talk myself out of doing things that make me more ME. The weight of the responsibility feels very heavy.”

What I couldn’t find the words for, or maybe couldn’t handle seeing written on black and white, was the conflict I could feel tearing me apart inside. I had everything I had ever wanted, really. Why did I feel so trapped and heavy? Why did I feel so sad?

Shortly after writing this, I basically hit bottom. I went for several days either crying or nearly crying. I had intrusive thoughts about escaping. I knew I needed help, so I made an appointment with my doctor. I told her, weeping, “I have everything I’ve ever wanted. Why do I feel like this?” She handed me a tissue and told me, “Because you’re depressed, and it’s not your fault.” We talked some more, and then I agreed to start taking antidepressant medication and come back for follow-up.

Within a few weeks, the fog had begun to lift, and I started to make a plan. I realized that prior to the medication, I wasn’t even able to make a plan. I was stuck.

How did I get myself back? Medication, more exercise, a part-time job that involved doing something I used to love but had lost in the preceding years (singing) and that’s what started the slow but steady climb out. Looking back, I know that it was the combination of those things that began my rise out of the dark.

Thirteen years later, sitting on the edge of my bed remembering the pain in my words, I got a sense of just how far I had come. The next years weren’t without setbacks, to be sure, but I am healed. I may have times of sadness and depression again, but the difference today is that I know what to do about it: lean on my tribe. Take action. Ask for help. Reclaim something that I enjoy. Ignore the voice in my head lying to me, telling me “I can’t.”

I can. And I did.

If you’re reading this and think you may need some help, you’re not alone. Here is a link to resources. Please reach out. You are NOT “crazy” and there is help. 

Last Minute Gifts for the Chronically Behind: Part One

Is it me, or did this Christmas sneak up on you, too? I swear, yesterday was Halloween. Capt and I have been furiously texting back and forth on what to get the family, and it occurred to me that a few of these might be really handy for YOU, too. So, here’s a two post run down of some of the items I was able to review this year that I think would make awesome last minute gifts. Best part? Still available to reach you before Christmas.

I was provided with this super-cool iPhotoFlash from The Hoffman Agency to try out and review. Thank you! 

Last Minute Gifts #1: PhotoFast MAX 32gb

(affiliate link)

last minute giftsSeriously awesome. Easy stocking stuffer. If you have limited storage on your iPhone, this is fantastic. It has a lightning connector on one side, USB on the other. I recently changed to a new computer, and using this drive, I was able to quickly and painlessly transfer the files I needed from one computer to the new one. In this scenario, the drive worked exactly like a USB key.

i-Flash Drive App

Screen capture of the app

For using with your iPhone or iPad, there is an app needed, available for free from the App Store. The great thing about this little device is simply how many formats it can support, including music, photos, video, zip, Drive, Dropbox, and iCloud, It can also back up your photos, Dropbox, Facebook albums, Tumblr, and Drive. We have 16 gig iPhones. Girl Child loves to take videos and burst selfies. (Typical Gen-Z, I guess) and she is able to take photos off her phone to the PhotoMax to keep from filling up her iPhone’s storage. Recently, at one of Girl Child’s vocal performances, we were able to take a video, transfer it to the PhotoFast, delete it off the phone to make room for more. Another very cool feature I like is the ability to load music onto your iPhotoFlash, connect it to your iPhone or iPad, and then play it without hogging up space.

 

Specs:

  • Connections: Lightning and USB 3.0
  • App: Free App ‘i-FlashDrive ONE’
  • Compatibility: iOS 7/8, Mac OS X, Windows 7/8/XP, iTunes synch not available
  • Supported models: iPhone 5/5S/5C, iPhone 6/6 Plus, iPad Air/Air 2/mini
  • Color: White
  • Weight: 7.5g
  • Size: 51.2×22.5×7.8mm
  • Performance:
    • USB 3.0: 80MB/s
    • Lightning: 10MB/s write, 15MB/s read
  • Warranty: 1-year

You can still order the 64gb version of the PhotoFlash Max through Amazon Prime and it will arrive by Christmas! 

What’s a Sinsta and Why Should You Care?

SinstaGirl Child came to me the other day and asked if she could get a “Sinsta.” I thought, “What the hell is a Sinsta?”

The Current Social Media Rules

She doesn’t get an account without permission from me. End of story. No exceptions. Yes, EVEN IF she already has an account on the social media platform in question. I get all up in her social media business. We went over the rules when she got her Instagram account. We went over them again, in very direct terms, when she got a Snapchat account. The work of constructing a pause button in her brain has barely begun.

So, What’s Sinsta?

Yes, there’s a new thing now with Girl Child’s Instagram crowd – a “Secret Instagram” account, aka “Sinsta.”

What’s the difference between that and regular old Instagram, you ask? The secret part. Apparently the kids have grown weary of perfectly curated and edited versions of their Instagram lives, and are creating these “secret” accounts where they can post stuff they normally wouldn’t post on their regular Instagram account. So far, for Girl Child’s circle of friends, this is where you get to dork out “secretly.”

Why This Could be a Bad Idea:

As we saw recently in that high school in Colorado, secret apps and accounts play perfectly into the teenager’s penchant for bad decision making. This isn’t your 1970’s call and hang up on your crush kinda thing. This is, “I’m going to give myself a place to make horrible decisions that could last forever and let people watch.”

The bigger potential problem I see with a “Sinsta” is kids hiding their problems behind this “secret” account. You don’t want to be the parent who finds out their child has amassed pro-ana followers on their secret account because they are posting Thinspiration photos on it. There’s also the idea of having two lives: the life you want people to see and the life you let your guard down to live. If a teen has an Instagram account that is full of sweetness and carefully edited light, and then they let the tougher and uglier parts out on the alternative account, they are creating a fake self and a real self. They are creating an inauthentic way of living, which at best is a bad habit that wears thin over time, or at worst, carries through to adulthood and makes knowing who they truly are harder to figure out. Is the pressure to show their lives on Instagram as perfect so great that they feel compelled to create a secret account for relief?

The shiny Instagram life, as we see with many teens, often belies a deeper problem underneath. Instagram is sometimes where social warfare takes place. (See: The Secret Language of Girls on Instagram by Rachel Simmons) So, this new trend of a “Sinsta” makes me wonder what the spin-off consequences will be and how they will manifest themselves in the lives of our kids.

Teens spend a lot of time trying to skirt adults who they believe simply don’t understand; I want to make certain that my kids know that I DO understand. The venues may have changed, but the feelings remain the same. So, TALK. A few minutes of uncomfortable conversation for you could mean theirs or their friend’s lives. Sit down and find out what’s going on, learn their social media platforms, get on them, and get up in their business. Their “Sinsta” account should not be a secret from you. If you get there and find out all they are posting is picture outtakes and bad Dubsmash videos, at least you know.

LG Wireless Tone Headphones REVIEW: Back To School with Bluetooth

AT&T Wireless was kind enough to give me a pair of LG Wireless Tone headphones for review. Thank you, Andy Colley (@AndythePRguy) 

Bluetooth and Back To School

I’ve always looked at Bluetooth headphones and wondered how they would work, if I could run with them, and if they might be helpful for Girl Child in her school work. I can wonder no more!

The Product:

LG Wireless Tone Headphones:

LG Tone Wireless Headphones

I was provided a pair of LG Wireless TonePros for review. They’re really nice looking, first of all. Pretty discreet, too. It may be a status thing to wear gigantor, over-the-ear headphones, but where on earth do you store them when you’re on the go? These have a low profile, in-ear, cushioned ear buds, and they’re portable. They came with a few different sizes of ear bud cushions for comfort and sizing. I have a hard time with those sometimes, and so does Girl Child. They come in several colors, including the standard black and white. The pair I got are dark pink. Snazzy. I’ve seen them in green, blue, red, etc.

The controls are on the part of the headset that sits around your neck. You can click on the silver strip and answer your phone, summon Siri if you have an iPhone (Siri and I are not currently on speaking terms, but if you are in a steady, mutually beneficial relationship with her – more power to you.)

My favorite feature is the magnetic docks for the ear buds. They don’t have to trail behind you when you aren’t plugged in. Check it out:

Connecting and Pairing and Running OH MY!

I was hooked up and ready to roll within two minutes after they were charged. The first thing I wanted to do was find out if I could run comfortably in them. I was unsure because they sit on your neck near your collarbone, which, if you’re running can be really annoying. I was pleasantly surprised. They didn’t bounce on my neck, making me insane. Plus, it was really nice not to be tethered to my phone with the chord. So, for running, I like them – comfortable, non-bouncy, great sound, chord free.

LG Wireless Tone Headphones

School Use

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to test these out is because Girl Child has a provision in her 504 plan that allows her to bring her own headphones for activities that involve the use of the school’s technology. Girl Child’s middle school is a 1:1 iPad school – meaning each student is provided with an iPad for use during the school year. She has had a few incidences of using the school’s over-the-ear headphones that proved to be really uncomfortable and potentially harmful to her prosthetic ear. I thought this would be a great solution – the headphones pair easily, they are compact and easy to transport, and my daughter, who is hard of hearing on one side, can use them for the side that she can hear out of.

We paired the LG Wireless Tone headphones with her iPhone and they worked great:

LG Wireless Tone Headphones

The Summary:

Really easy to use, setup, and they are portable. I personally hate being tethered with headphone chords, so this is a nice alternative. I couldn’t really find any specific critique about these headphones. I thought they were comfortable, easy to use, they stayed in my ears while I was running, they sound great, and my daughter likes them. They fit well with her headphone requirements for school. Win.

The Offer:

AT&T Wireless is offering a 10% discount on any LG Wireless Tone headphones – plus free shipping (YAY FREE SHIPPING) when you purchase them now through September 24th. Great for early Christmas shopping, too. Act now!

Thank you again to AT&T Wireless for generously allowing me to try these out. They’re really cool. 

MOVIE NITE! ZTE Spro 2 Smart Projector Review

This just sounded too cool to pass up. AT&T Wireless gave me a review unit of a product called the ZTE Spro 2 Smart Projector. Guys. It’s cool.

The ZTE Spro 2: What is it?

The ZTE Spro 2 is an Android-powered portable projector. It has a small footprint, so it’s easy to transport. The unit also includes a hotspot, Wifi, a 5″ touch screen and it’s own carrying case. It gives you media at your fingertips for presentations, and decently easy on the wallet for $359.99 with a 2-year contract. I mentioned it to a friend of mine who runs a non-profit called Music Workshop  and she thought it sounded really useful to her. If she can present her video-based program to a potential donor with the help of this handy tool, all the better.

Our interest in the item was strictly entertainment. It’s summer, the weather has been hot, and we thought it would be a great opportunity to have some of the kid’s friends over for an outdoor movie night. My husband, whom you all know as “The Capt.” and I spent the evening before our event getting it set up and ready, testing it out, using the side of our house as a movie screen.

It. Was. Awesome.

ZTE Spro 2 choosenetwork

Plugged in, powered on, ready to connect.

Simple setup. It took us probably seven minutes, tops, to get it up and running. We connected it to our home WiFi. Yes, our network name is Man and WiFi. Capt is clever like that.

setup

Next up, time and date, etc.

If you look at the time stamps on the screen in the upper right hand corner, you can see how quickly this got set up. From 10:27 to 10:35, and we were ready to rock.

media

Main media screen

We then added the Netflix app from the Google Play store and downloaded it to the unit. If you look closely at the picture, you have a mess of options – streaming from YouTube, access to Drive for presentations, and even games. Imagine Minecraft projected on a large wall. The kids would go nuts.

netflix

ta da! Streaming.

I logged in, done. Movies at our fingertips. Being able to add apps and stream from WiFi is what makes this stand out. This isn’t your old 80’s movie projector. (Tell me I’m not the only one who remembers them? Please?)

That night, we went to the backyard and watched Turbo.

ZTE Spro 2

Sure, you can see our siding, but it’s still great, huh?

The night of our event, the kids all gathered around outside and watched Earth To Echo, one of Boy Child’s favorites.

Summary:

When I review a product, I make every effort to be honest. I add pros and cons, and make certain I’m not just blowing sunshine.

I really don’t have any cons with this one. It worked perfectly and was easy to setup.

One note: I didn’t attempt to use the hotspot feature, so I don’t have good info on how that would work in a setting where it is necessary.

It’s not too late, and it’s still really hot, so get out and enjoy! The ZTE Spro 2 has applications for home and work, and is a really good price with the two-year activation and the $50 off online order promotion. Check it out.

A big thank you so Andy Colley of AT&T Wireless for loaning me the unit. It was a lot of fun and our family loved having it.

Wisdom From My Father: The 3 Times You Call 911 (Or Your Parents)

wisdom from my fatherMy dad is a retired oral surgeon. He turned 80 late last year, but he worked part time as an adjunct professor of oral surgery at Oregon Health Sciences University until December. He golfs every chance he gets. Gets his favorite coffee everyday at Starbucks because he can. He’s livin’ the dream now.

Every year he got voted as one of the professors everybody likes. He’s reached an age where he doesn’t mess around with too many words. Remember that: you don’t have to be 80 years old to decide not to mess around with too many words. Clearly this is a life lesson I’m still working on.

He’s also a stellar grandfather to the kids. He takes them to Starbucks, lunch, the driving range, ice skating….best Papa ever.

We were having a conversation awhile ago about the maturing of Girl Child; her being in middle school, whether or not we should get her a cell phone, etc. This is what he said:

“When you get her a phone, tell her what I told my surgery students:”

The Three Times You Call 911 (or your parents)

1) When in doubt.

2) When you know what’s going on and you don’t like what you see.

3) When you don’t know what’s going on and you don’t like what you see.

We got Girl Child a cell phone a few months ago, and thought this idea needed to be revisited.

Is there anything else that needs to be said, here? I don’t think so. My dad is a smart man. You can find him on the golf course if you need advice.

Serve Humbly Where You Are

serve humbly where you areStanding by the sink, water running, dishes overflowing onto the counter, I felt physically sick. Not because of the dried up nasty that awaited, but because this household task was getting the better of me. My brain screamed, “I DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN TODAY. OR TOMORROW.”

Serve humbly where you are.

Several years ago, I was working part time at a place where one of the full-time employees was really unhappy with the way things were going. She and I were talking, and she said “I just need to tell myself ‘serve humbly where you are.’ I have a job and a lot to be thankful for.”

It’s a simple statement that took root in my mind and altered my attitude toward tasks many consider drudgery, and situations that make a person feel trapped and stuck.

I will never, ever forget it. “Serve humbly where you are.” There is something about repeating it in my head that opens up a hole in the dark and lets light seep in; when I feel overwhelmed, when I have a burning desire to escape whatever task is waiting for me that I dread. I repeat it in my head when I begin to think to myself, “If I have to ______ one more time, I might implode.” I stop myself before I go reeling to the light-less place of self-pity and think: Serve humbly where you are.

The dishes are part of a bigger picture. The non-stop bickering of my kids is a link in a long chain. The bills, the yard, the mortgage, the car….they’re all part of a life we have built; a life that requires maintenance.

A beautiful life requires the ugly – but momentary – task of taking stinky garbage out to the curb and scrubbing the toilet. Because when I dig in and do what needs to be done, I’m providing my beautiful life the maintenance it requires.

The Shift

special needsWhen our daughter was born and we discovered she had a craniofacial birth defect, it was earth shifting. Everything I knew and thought I knew changed. I recall not truly realizing what it meant. She was born without an ear canal or outer ear, a craniofacial birth defect called Atresia/Microtia. What is this? What does this mean?

The reality sunk in all too soon when she was wheeled away from me to have her newborn hearing screening done. One side wasn’t testable because it was closed. The other side? She failed it. Twice.

The Shift

Becoming new parents is huge. Becoming new parents of a special needs child is something else entirely. Capt and I experienced, simultaneously, the fear that accompanies a calling: “Am I strong enough? Are we?” Something unlocks inside your soul, and you slip uncomfortably into one of two places: strong enough, or devastation.

I watched her every second for a flinch, a twitch, something to show me she wasn’t deaf. In those first few days, the flinch never came.

Exhausted from typical newborn baby struggles coupled with the stress of creeping fear, I left her and Capt in the room to go put pajamas on and brush my teeth. I looked up at myself in the mirror, mid-tooth brushing, with a vision of myself as the parent of a deaf child. I cursed myself for not paying closer attention in my college sign language class. And then I cried. Hard. The kind of cry that comes from a place in your heart you’ve never been. Holding it together wasn’t available to me in that moment. There was nothing for me to hold together. I was empty. All the thoughts and fantasies about the child I had with the man I love and call my husband circled the drain with the water in my sink. This isn’t what I signed up for. How did this happen? Why? What now?

What rose out of that huge empty space, the place where who I thought I was, who I thought WE were existed untouchable, is the marriage we have now. A fundamental shift occurred after the birth of our daughter and the weeks of uncertainty that followed. United in a shared experience of fear, longing for might-have-been, and the vast unknown that lay ahead, his was the only hand I could see and feel in the dark, questioning space I found myself in. “Help me. I’m falling apart, and I can’t find any of my pieces.” Time after time in those first weeks, I would reach out blindly and his hand was always there. I don’t know how he did it, because I know he was falling apart too. He carved out a piece of himself for me to gather strength from. I know it must have been painful.

There’s something that happens to you when you no longer have the luxury of wallowing. The shift happens. It’s about standing in the new space created by the circumstances you find yourself in, and making it yours. This is what survival feels like.

In following years of learning what this meant for all of us, we found our way beyond survival and began to carve out the relationship we have now in that formerly empty space of fear and longing. What can arise out of the darkest time is sometimes the most important and changes the trajectory of your life. The child we have now; the strong, happy, loving, hard-of-hearing (not deaf) girl whom we wouldn’t trade or change for anything, and the relationship we found in those early days of parenting made us the family we are today.

The Day I Knew He Wouldn’t Leave

One from my Random Thoughts blog. I still feel this way.

I *knew* when the church doors opened and the music started to play I was in the right place at the right time with the right person. The last 16 years hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worth every minute.

The Day I Knew He Wouldn’t Leave.

My Grandma died in 1997. I had been dating Capt. for less than a year.

At that point, we were still kind of tiptoeing around each other. Neither one of us were the “fall fast fall hard” types, and I wasn’t sure if I could REALLY honestly believe that he would be there when I needed him. I’d been disappointed so often before with others bailing out or making an excuse when I was having a hard time, I had trouble even contemplating he might be different. So, I kept asking him, “Are you coming with me?” And he would say, “Yes.”

Then he got sick. Like, barely lift his head off the pillow sick. The fear I was going to have to go through this incredibly emotional experience without him was growing. All I knew was I really wanted him there. We had only recently said, “I love you,” and I was hoping against hope he was the last man I would say it to.

I struggled with myself in the days leading up to the funeral. He had been passing all my little tests thus far. Tests like, “how will he do when he meets my parents?” And, “how will he do during my family Thanksgiving?” With flying colors.

So here we were. One of my most beloved grandparents was gone. I missed her terribly, and really wanted him to be there. I knew I felt stronger with him near me.

The morning of the funeral came, and he showed up at my apartment, wearing a suit, eyes watering, stuffy nose, miserable, and there for me.

It was a turning point for me. After that I really let my guard down with him and allowed myself to fully trust his word. He was there for me. He didn’t try to run when things got hard. No excuses why he couldn’t be there. He’s been there ever since, and I’m so thankful.

Everything is Toxic!

toxicI’ve had this post in draft for a few months now. It’s time to put it out in the world.

TOXIC!

A few years ago I started down a journey of learning about and getting attached to where our food actually comes from. I called it “The Year Of Food,” and wrote a series of blog posts on Random Thoughts about the things I learned along the way. We have some work to do along these lines, as a country.

I became loosely attached to the “New Food Movement” a few years ago and advocated for GMO labeling. I haven’t changed my mind on a label. I believe in disclosure and truth in labeling. What I have changed my mind on is the “New Food Movement.”

I can’t sit by and watch while meme after meme shows up in my newsfeed about how toxic everything is. What I’ve found is some of the people who represent this movement believe that Western (i.e., evidence-based) medicine is trying to kill us. I am the daughter of a Western-based medical practitioner. I have been taught in scientific method, logical fallacies and the psychology of bias. I can’t abide what I’m seeing and associate myself with it any more. Reason has to prevail at some point.

For example:

Girl Scout cookies are poisonous. Wheat is toxic. Seed oils. BEER. School lunches, breakfast cereal, cream soups, milk, your perfume, sunscreen….you get the idea. Don’t get started on vaccines.

My kids go to a school where ~30% of the children are on free or reduced lunch. The meals those children get at school are sometimes the only ones they get for the day. The school community holds a food drive every year for the families who are food insecure in our area. I will sometimes bring in easy, quick breakfasts for the school counselor to have on-hand in case a child is late to school and the cafeteria is already closed. These families don’t have the option to choose the “non-toxic” cream soup. They’re hungry, and they’re trying to survive. They don’t ask “is this ORGANIC?” They say thank you.

If you like Thin Mints, then help a Girl Scout out and buy a box. If you don’t have Celiac, eat bread if you want. If you like Coors Light, DRINK IT. (I won’t, but you carry on with your bad self.) You are lucky to have the choice. Many among us don’t. Screaming at them that their food is poison doesn’t help them, it creates shame. No one should be ashamed for doing the best they can with what they have.

There is an emerging eating disorder called “orthorexia.” It is defined as an obsession with the purity and quality of food. A sure sign we’ve gone too far.

The never-ending stream of fear memes around food has finally worn me down. As I said, I’ve been an advocate in the past for GMO labeling, and I still am. A label offers choice. However, extremism with avoiding any food or medicine that *might* have science in it is a serious problem that hinders health for all.

Asking questions of the industries producing our food is appropriate. I’m not advocating a head-in-the-sand approach to food. I am all for looking at the way we do things and questioning – is this good for humans? Is it good for the earth? Is there an alternative? What are the unintended consequences of these decisions when it comes to food production? Questioning science in an effort to further dialogue is good, and good scientists question themselves. That’s how discoveries are made, and how we move forward. However, it’s important to keep in mind that questions like these and the ensuing arguments are immaterial to a person who needs something to eat.

We have a long way to go in this country when it comes to food equality, education and quality, but fear mongering won’t help. I’m taking a stand. A two-tiered food system – those who can eat “well” and those who can’t – is wrong.