Waning Interest

My interest is waning in my own anxiety. I am so tired of thinking about this stuff that I’d almost rather just pretend it’s not an issue. Except it is, and I’ve spent enough time in therapy to know that denial is not my friend.

After the muscle spasms of last week, I was given the immediate OK to stop taking Wellbutrin. Not surprisingly, the spasms have lessened every day since I stopped. I still feel an occasional twinge, but it’s nothing like it was. I expect that the twitches will continue to fade away until they’re gone.

Now, I’m taking Buspar up to 3x daily in addition to my Zoloft. I’ve only had the meds for 24 hours at this point, so it’s too early to comment, really. Actually, that’s a lie. I do have a complaint. They should warn you that these pills are the size of a grain of rice because when I tried to remove the wad of cotton they plugged the bottle with, the pills stuck to the cotton and flew out all over my kitchen. It’s great to have random tiny pills hiding on your kitchen floor when you have two dogs and a preschooler. Let’s just hope I found them all!

Tomorrow, we’re attending an open house at one of the schools we’re considering for kindergarten next year (!!!!!), and you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m going to be popping one of those tiny little pills before I head out into the terrifying world of elementary school. (This is not my beautiful toddler… This is not my beautiful preschool… How did I get here?)

Thank you for the words of support on my previous post. Let’s hope these tiny little pills do the trick.

 

 

Wellbutrin – 3 weeks in

I had such incredibly high hopes that this combination of Wellbutrin and Zoloft would help manage my anxiety. Instead, it’s making me twitch all over like an addict going through withdrawal.

It started out so mild. I could only really feel the tiny muscle spasms when I was lying in bed at night and they were mostly in my legs. Over the last week or so, they’ve become increasingly stronger, and now the little spasms are all over and I feel them constantly. Today, the twitching is almost unbearable. I feel it as I’m sitting here writing–my arms are even shaky now.

When I saw my doctor last month, she told me it could take up to 4-6 weeks for me to notice a decrease in my anxiety, and believe me, I have been counting the days. It’s only been 23 days, but so far I have seen zero improvement. If anything, the twitching has made my anxiety worse.

I’ve emailed my doctor to find out what to do next. I’m trying not to feel too discouraged, but it’s hard. This sucks. I just want to feel better.

World Mental Health Day: What my teenage self wants the world to know

When I was 15 years old, I tried to kill myself by overdosing on the medication I took to control the seizures I’d started having the previous year. I regretted the action almost immediately. Just as my mother was heading to bed, I tearfully accosted her in her bedroom. I told her what I’d done, and watched as what I perceived to be a mix of rage and frustration flashed in her eyes.

We drove to the emergency room in absolute silence. I don’t remember much of the specifics of our visit, but I vividly recall forcing down an awful liquid charcoal substance. I also remember my mom negotiating with the doctor to stop them from keeping me there on a psych hold.

They did release me that night, and I was too afraid to ask my mom if I could stay home from school when morning came. She drove me to school in silence, and I stumbled through the day overwhelmed with anxiety and fear of what would happen once I got home that afternoon.

Looking back, it doesn’t take a genius to see that those pills I swallowed were a desperate cry for help. I was in the throes of teenage angst at its worst. For starters, I’d been diagnosed with epilepsy and I was taking meds that made me feel like a zombie. I resented every single dose I had to take. I desperately missed feeling like myself.

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That previous summer, one of my friends died very suddenly of cancer. One Saturday, we were sitting on the floor in my room listening to the Smashing Pumpkins and then she just wasn’t at school on Monday. It was that quick. I was supposed to visit her in the hospital on Thursday. I’d even picked up a bouquet of sunflowers—her favorite—to bring with me. The phone rang that morning, and the thin, tired voice of her mother told me that her daughter was gone. It was my first real experience with death. I will never be able to hear the songs from that album and not think of her.

When you compound those significant life events with the normal rigors of life in a high school where I never fit in, it’s really not surprising that my bottle of pills called to me that night. It was too much. All of it. I needed help, but I had no idea how to ask for it. I couldn’t put a name to my feelings. I didn’t have any appropriate coping mechanisms. My mom thought she was doing what was best by giving me space because that’s what I said I wanted, but as we know, wants and needs are two very different things.

Today is World Mental Health Day, and this year, the World Health Organization has chosen to focus on suicide prevention. Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide. 20+ years ago, I could have been a piece of that statistic.

I chose to focus on this story from my youth because I think young people today are at far greater risk than in years past. Bullying doesn’t just happen at school—now, it’s online and it can even be viral. Teens today aren’t sheltered from what’s happening in the world. The news could be avoided when I was young, but now, the news is everywhere people are. They’re watching us in real time as we refuse to take responsibility for their futures. Imagine the weight of that.

I wonder if I could have better memories of my teen years if I’d understood what depression and anxiety were. We never talked about it—not on a clinical level, anyway. Depressed meant sad, and anxious meant worried. I never realized that sometimes, those feelings were out of my control. Mental health and suicide weren’t things we talked about then. It shouldn’t be that way.

We cannot expect our children to be able to tell us how they feel if we don’t give them the words to describe their feelings.

We cannot expect them to share with us if we spend their childhood talking about mental illness as if it’s something to be ashamed of.

We cannot be their safe space if they’re worried about the repercussions of feelings they can’t—or don’t know how to—manage.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. If you need help, call 1-800-273-8255.

Wellbutrin: The First 10 Days

It’s been 10 days since I added Wellbutrin to my Zoloft regimen to hopefully better control my anxiety. As a reminder, my doctor warned me that the first two weeks on the new medication might see an increase in my anxiety, but that it should settle down after the first two weeks. Although the impact hasn’t been as severe as I anticipated it might be, it’s been severe enough to mess with me.

One day last week, I decided that I’d take a leisurely, lavender-scented bubble bath to help calm my nerves. Instead, the hot water made me feel like I was suffocating, and I had to get out after just a few minutes. So much for that.

I’ve been acting like all is well on the surface, but all is definitely not well. I haven’t done a single bit of schoolwork in a week, and I was behind before that. These are short-term courses (8 weeks), so being so far behind makes it practically impossible to catch up. After a tearful conversation with Catch this morning, I emailed my advisor for advice. Her reply is sitting in my inbox unread, because I’m afraid to open it.

I’m aware that my response to an email is completely ridiculous. What am I afraid of? I’m a grown-ass woman. Even if this academic advisor I’ve never even met is an asshole who tells me my only options are to fail my classes and lose my federal aid, I have certainly survived worse. I don’t know how to explain the paralysis this anxiety causes me. These small-ish obstacles that seem totally unimportant in the big scheme of things become giant monsters inside my head, and no amount of reason or logic will penetrate the fortress they’ve built. I feel like I’m drowning, even though my brain knows damn well we’re not even in the water.

First thing this morning, I sat down and made a list of BIG IMPORTANT THINGS I need to deal with. Things like our medical insurance, finding a job, and dealing with my educational failings this term. The list is helping to hold me accountable, but it’s certainly not foolproof. I’m trying, though. I wish I could say I’m doing my best, but I’m nowhere near my best right now. I really hope these meds sort themselves out soon.

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The Final Countdown

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What do you do when you are the breadwinner/benefits provider and you have 6 months to find a new job, but no idea what you want to do with your life?

No, really–I’m asking.

It’s been 18 months since I left my 18-year job in the dust. When I’m feeling scared about the future, I often try to take myself back to that day when I was leaving the parking structure for the last time. I felt free. I felt like the world was mine. Opportunity was there for the taking. Goodbye safety net, but hello happiness.

I went back to school, and spent a year (so far) totally immersed in studying and enjoying the classes. I volunteered to be room parent for my daughter’s class. For a year, we haven’t had to worry about who will take Charlotte to an appointment, or who will stay home when she’s sick. We’ve only had one schedule to consider about when we plan trips.

I love this life more than I ever imagined I would, and the thought of heading back into the patriarchal world of corporate America makes me physically ill. I can’t do it. I won’t do it.

Except that’s total bull because of course I’ll do it if I have to. I would never sacrifice the security of my family for my own benefit. It would negate the perceived benefit. We need my income. There is no way around that short of winning the lottery or inheriting a lot of money from a relative I never knew I had. What do you mean I had a great aunt Matilda who passed away and left me her sprawling farm and 19th century country home in Vermont?

So here I sit. There are a lot of things I love doing–and not a single one of those things will pay enough to cover our mortgage and preschool. There are a few things that I hate doing, but I’m pretty decent at. Those things require my butt in a chair in some concrete business complex where I work to help men in suits earn their bonuses and sacrifice every bit of flexibility I have now for the sake of a paycheck.

Doesn’t it seem like there should be some middle ground? There has to be, right? I mean, I could take a modest pay cut. Nothing dramatic, but we could manage with a bit less. Would the expectation of less money offer me more flexibility in my work schedule? Why should I have to expect to make less money simply because I’m the parent of a small child?

I don’t have all of the answers right now. Hell, I don’t know if I have any of the answers right now. I just know I need to pick a path, start walking, and hope I read the map correctly.

 

Vanishing Twin

I wrote a piece for PopSugar last month about my experience with Vanishing Twin Syndrome. I agreed to share this with them because I think it’s a unique issue that doesn’t see much coverage when conversations about miscarriage arise. My hope is that other women who have experienced Vanishing Twin Syndrome may read this and feel “seen.” It was published today as we kick off October, which is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month.

Half a Pregnancy

Two

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Two anxiety meds, that is. Not kids. I realize that this headline was pretty misleading after yesterday’s post about my only child, but I decided to run with it anyway.

A few months ago, I started noticing little bits of my old anxiety creeping in for a visit. The occasional heart palpitation would catch me off guard. I found myself being incredibly short with my daughter, and sort of withdrawing from her a bit. Definitely not ideal, particularly considering that I’m supposed to be savoring every moment of this time with her before I go back to work. (Another topic for another day.)

I’m also tired constantly—to the point that I can fall asleep pretty much anytime, anywhere. That has NEVER been a thing for me. I am a lifelong insomniac and aside from the first trimester of pregnancy, I’ve never been a napper. Not even when I had a newborn at home and I should have been napping.

Then, things really got crazy. The past week or so, my anxiety has been absolutely crippling. I’m way behind on schoolwork—well beyond any concept of “behind” I’ve had since I went back to school. I’m just completely unable to focus on work. All I want to do is lie in bed and stare at mindless things on my phone.

I booked an appointment with my doctor about a month ago when the little bits of anxiety first caught my attention, and finally saw her this morning. I have seriously been counting the days out of desperation because I knew she’d be able to help. I am so grateful that I have a doctor who gets it. We’re the same age (ish) and she has a one year old at home. She’s totally down to earth, and I honestly think I’d love to be friends with her if only she wasn’t my doctor.

We chatted about what’s been happening, and after all of the options were laid out on the table, I told her that I trust her to make the right choice. She decided to add Wellbutrin to my Zoloft regimen. (She’s also looking into some other issues—running routine bloodwork, and looking into sleep apnea as a possibility.)

So tonight, I’ll start taking Wellbutrin. Let’s hope that within 4-6 weeks I’m feeling like myself again. I’ll let you know.

The Only is Lonely

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The other day, my cousin joined the ranks of people who show up at the hospital with a stomach ache and leave with a 5-and-a-half pound newborn. I truly can’t fathom how that’s even remotely possible based on my own experience with pregnancy, but it seems these things do happen. Frankly, in a family the size of mine, anything is possible.

My cousin’s surprise baby paired with Catch’s cousin’s subsequent announcement of baby number two have left me feeling… Wistful? I think that’s probably the right word for it. All of this family baby news has left me dreaming of something I can’t / won’t / shouldn’t have (for a variety of both practical and impractical reasons) more than I usually do.

The thing is, I love our family of three. It feels just right. Our house is perfectly comfortable for a trio, where it would be downright uncomfortable for a foursome. Our budget is definitely most comfortable with one child. We can afford important things like preschool, family trips, and wine. With a second child, at least one of those things would have to go and I can tell you right now it won’t be my wine.

One child makes it easier to find babysitters. Easier to arrange weekend plans. Easier to divide and conquer when we need to. Easier to have adventures. Easier to be less fussy about schedules and activities. There are so many positives.

I’ll be honest: I don’t love motherhood. I love my daughter more intensely than the light of a thousand suns, but the daily grind of parenthood is not my thing. I am the ultimate antisocial introvert, and frankly, this shit is exhausting. There are SO many people involved in parenting a child. Appointments to coordinate, play dates to make small talk through, idle chit chat at pickup and drop off… and then even when you’re through all of that, you’re rarely ever really alone. I do not excel at this forced socialization, and it wears on me like you wouldn’t believe.

So why on earth would I want to add another child to this mix?

Honestly, I don’t. But I do. But I don’t… and that’s my problem.

I’m afraid that one day years from now, I’ll wake up and realize that not having a second child is the biggest regret of my life. I’m afraid that my daughter will resent us for being left without a designated partner in crime. I’m afraid she’ll be sad that she won’t have an aunt/uncle or cousins to offer her own children. I’m afraid she’ll hate us for not making sacrifices now so that she won’t have to later in life. It doesn’t help that she is constantly telling us that she wants to be a big sister, though I don’t think she understands the level of sharing that will involve.

I think the bigger part of this is that I’m watching my baby girl grow up before my eyes, and I desperately want to stop time. I want a do-over of her infant days far more than I actually want to expand our family, and I need my brain to work harder at convincing my heart that we’re okay right where we are. I will never have a newborn again. My body is thanking me now, and the rest of me will catch up someday.

Visiting

Charlotte and I went to the car wash before school this morning. My car was desperately in need of a wash, but it’s been well over 100 degrees lately, and I had no desire to a) sit outside and wait for someone to wash my car, or b) watch some poor guy wash my car when it’s 105 out. Instead, we hit up the drive through car wash for their early bird special. $7 and my car was reasonably clean and shiny again.

I had a load of stuff to drop off at a kids consignment sale this afternoon, and the drive there would take me past the cemetery where my grandma is buried. I don’t generally go to the cemetery. I find the idea that I’m standing over a loved one’s remains to be kind of unsettling, and I don’t need to be there to feel connected to someone. However, today is her birthday, and I rarely find myself up in this area with time too kill, so I stopped for some flowers.

I parked my car and walked over to the St. Francis statue, silently thanking her for choosing a spot with an easy landmark. When I reached the stone with her name on it, I saw that the flower holder had been covered by grass. I dug around a bit, but I was only equipped with my car keys and they weren’t helping. I gave up once my knees were muddy and there was dirt under my fingernails, and laid a few roses on top of the stone instead.

After I sat for a moment and wished her a happy birthday, I turned to head back to my car. This is the scene I was greeted with:

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Well played, Grandma. Well played.

Sick Kid, Tired Moms

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I don’t think there’s an appropriate word in the English language to describe the bone-weary exhaustion that results from having a sick child.

Charlotte has been sick since Saturday, when she crawled into bed next to me complaining of a tummy ache and put herself down for a nap. She awoke an hour later with a temperature over 101, and spent the rest of the afternoon/evening curled up on the couch like a zombie.

That probably sounds normal for a sick kid, but it’s not normal for my sick kid. FOMO reigns over my child, and I have never seen a fever knock her down the way this one did. I stayed in her bed on Saturday night and felt her temperature climb steadily despite the variety of grape-flavored medicinal goop we were forcing on her at regular intervals. She cried, moaned, whimpered and shook as she slept. I did not sleep.

In the morning, the pediatric nurse line sent us to the emergency room. They didn’t want us going to urgent care because they were concerned that she was complaining of chest and abdominal pain, and they felt the ER would be better equipped. We spent 3 hours in the crowded ER where it was determined that her vitals were stable, she was dosed with more Tylenol, given a strep test (negative), and released after she demonstrated that she could eat half of a graham cracker. Because half of a graham cracker is apparently the measure of health in American medicine.

I’m not in a position to question doctors with years of medical training, but I expected that they’d at least give her some fluids since she’d barely had 2 sips of water in 24 hours. Instead, they were satisfied that we were able to force about 2 ounces of water/gatorade into her while we were there because she understood that she couldn’t go home otherwise. Now that we’re back home, the best I can manage is about a half inch of an off-brand Otter-pop equivalent every couple of hours. She’s been eating the same grape one for two days if that tells you anything.

My point is not to detail my daughter’s mystery virus, but rather to provide some insight into the myriad of things we worry about when our kids are sick. We sacrifice sleep to monitor everything from their pulse to their temperature, and to administer meds regularly. We torture ourselves over whether this is just a virus that needs to run its course, or whether it’s something more serious. Do we go to the ER and risk being looked at like a crazy, over-reacting parent by doctors and nurses who are spread too thin as it is? What is our intuition telling us? We’re so tired, can we even trust our intuition anymore?

It is entirely possible that this level of exhaustion lead the old woman in the hospital waiting room to ask whether my wife and I are Charlotte’s grandparents. Isn’t that just what you need to hear when you’re sleep deprived and anxiety-riddled with your child burning hot and sleeping limply in your arms?

She was a bit more alert this morning and her temperature was only 100.4 after meds, so I had hoped she was turning a corner. Then, she threw up all over my feet. (A new symptom! Yay!) Now, she’s been asleep for over 3 hours, and it’s the most peaceful and restful sleep she’s had in days. I keep hoping that she’ll have turned a corner for real when she wakes up, but given the puke incident earlier, I’m not willing to make any bets.