Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Seven quick takes whateverday


If I start this on a Tuesday, I may finish by Friday, right?  Does it really matter, considering I never find the time to link it up to the little linky thing?  And in fact I no longer know who hosts it?

I haven't done much blogging in quite awhile, and part of the reason is that my moods have been bad.  Not that life is bad -- it's actually great -- I just feel bad, a lot of the time.  I feel depressed and anxious and overwhelmed and generally crummy.

Sometimes it's like this: I'm walking along, minding my own business, thinking happy thoughts about how excellently my life is going.  And in the middle of that, very suddenly, I'm hit by a crushing weight of sadness, so intense it hurts, like you feel when you're suffering from a broken heart, like badgers are eating out my innards.

Sometimes it's more like this: I'm running around doing stuff, and in my mind I'm constantly thinking of all the things I have to do, all the bad things that will happen if I don't do all the things I have to do.  My heart starts racing, I feel like my chest is hollow and I have to gasp for air.  If the kids are touching me, I snap at them and run away.  I feel like I have to hide under my bed and do nothing.  Or I wonder if massive amounts of alcohol would help, but I don't want to be a day drinker.

It got bad last month where I was constantly struggling for breath for a few days.  I thought maybe I had a chest infection or a pulmonary embolism (that's me, jumping to the worst possibility!) and kind of freaked myself out.  Then I told John and he freaked out, and in the end he took a half-day from work so I could go to the doctor.  He tested my lungs and blood oxygen and found nothing the matter with me.  Which made me very upset.  I felt like I was being called a liar, like he must think I must be faking the whole thing because I was breathing fine while I was there.

At the end he threw out that stress might be a factor, and then dismissed it saying I didn't look stressed.  Both of which annoyed me.  The first, because suggesting it was caused by stress meant that it was all in my head, I was faking, I wasn't really sick, I was wasting everyone's time and money, bad me.  And the second because hello, you don't diagnose anxiety by looking at them!  Anyway, he told me to keep up with my regular activities and come back in a month if it wasn't better.

I gave it some thought, concluded that it probably was stress after all, and resolved to just stop doing it.  When I feel like I'm out of breath and suffocating and I must gasp for breath -- I just don't.  I remind myself that my lungs work fine, that my blood oxygen is fine.  I force myself to breathe normally, I feel like I'm going to die, but eventually it goes away.  So, win for me I guess.  But I still feel horribly ashamed that I went to the doctor for something I should have been able to stop on my own.


Anyway, that's what I'm dealing with.  I want to blame postpartum hormones, but Miriam is 20 months old now, so isn't it late for that to start?  Of course, I haven't felt good since before I got pregnant with her, but for all this time I've mostly been putting down any issues to actual stress -- I mean, a baby who can't be put down ever and boys who are constantly biting each other would make anybody feel bad.  Now, I feel like my life is relatively calm but the problems aren't getting better.  They might actually be getting worse; I'm not sure.  This makes me discouraged; I feel like I've been waiting and waiting to feel better and it's not happening.

Not that it's an every day thing.  Some days I feel great, I accomplish lots of stuff and get myself thinking, "See?  I've been waiting to feel better, and it actually happened?"  But then a day or two later, it all comes slamming back and I realize that nope, it's still around, that was just a break.  And I can't find a correlation that holds; it seems to happen regardless of whether I got sleep last night or whether I eat right or whether the kids are cranky.  Exercise helps some; having as little as possible on my plate helps too.  I quit my homeschool group mostly, though I still do park days with them because that's low-key.  People ask "why don't we see you much anymore?" and I never know what to say.  I'm not busy, I'm just inadequate.


Anyway.  That is more than enough about that embarrassing topic.

Both boys had birthdays this month -- now they're four and six.  Can you believe it?  It astounds me.  They are both so delightful.  Michael doesn't seem different to me, but thinking back, I remember a year ago he was really whiny and clingy and he still nursed.  That seems like ages ago -- mostly he likes to play with Marko and come back to me from time to time with a big smile to give me a hug and a kiss.  He gets really excited about his ideas and the games he is playing, and tells me about them in a hugely expressive voice, with a bit of a lisp to make it extra cute.  His ideas are more original and freewheeling than Marko's, which sometimes cause arguments.  A lot of Marko yelling "NO, dogs DON'T ever fly!" while Michael answers, "but in my game they do!"  They rarely get into physical fights anymore, though sometimes they get really upset and push each other.

Michael still does not always sleep through the night, and when he wakes up, he insists a grownup stay with him till he's back asleep -- which might be up to an hour.  I wish we could call his bluff and just leave, let him cry if he wants to, but remind him that he's four and is capable of sleeping alone.  But he's got two siblings with him who would wake up if he shrieked, and he knows it.  So for now we are just dealing with it.


Marko is having lots of fun tracing letters and repeating their sounds, but sounding out real words he can still only do with help.  It's hard to tell if he is really struggling or just lacks confidence, but the problem is that it's very hard for me to work with him on this stuff.  His siblings climb all over me and grab the pencil and tear the book, so that we never spend as much time on it as I'd like.  I want to get him some good phonics workbooks that don't require quite so much supervision, so I'm looking into stuff.  I'd also like a teacher's manual of some sort so that I make sure I don't teach him wrong.  My hope that he'd just figure it out on his own, like I did, is not happening, and since he is six now I really want to work with him on it.  I wouldn't push if he weren't interested, but he definitely is, so I have to get serious about this.  He wants to read so he can read Star Wars books, obvs.

Marko likes learning B is for Boba Fett, b is for bantha

His favorite thing in the world to do is make movies.  Sometimes he acts them himself, sometimes he wants to do stop-motion with his toys.  It's adorable, but also a big hassle for me, because it's not like I know anything about video editing or having the right programs to do it.  Still, I'm sure it's educational and he's definitely having a good time, so I do try. 

As another sign of how grown-up he's getting, he's got a loose tooth.  Behind it you can see the new tooth coming in, which seems weird but is apparently not unusual.

John had the idea recently that instead of letting them watch cartoons before bed, he should read aloud.  They've started The Hobbit, but Marko is extremely upset about the change.  He does not like change. He wants to watch The Land Before Time 14 every night before bed at the moment, and the biggest change he's willing to tolerate is a switch to yet another watching of Lego Star Wars shorts on YouTube.  Michael is a fan, though -- he likes change, and he also is enthusiastic about the promise of dragons later on in the book.


Miriam grows daily cuter.  Every time you think "okay, this is about it, we've reached Peak Cuteness," she goes and does some other adorable thing.  She can put two words together, like "blue car" or "go out" or "hi Gilbert."  She likes to play outside ALL THE TIME, but to my great relief she no longer needs me to hold her hand and walk around the yard with her.  She'll settle for Michael holding her hand and walking around the yard with her.  She needs somebody to be right there with her, but it doesn't have to be me and Michael LOVES escorting her.  (Marko could care less.)  I am so glad there are three of them, considering that Marko is so solitary.  Sometimes Marko just doesn't want to be with other people, but Michael almost always wants someone with him, and Miriam is almost always game for that.  I think of my own childhood -- desperate for someone to play with, and having a brother who preferred to be alone -- and I think, this is much better.  There are options and nobody has to be guilted into playing with a sibling.


Of course, very often Marko and Michael do want to play together, and sometimes they like to make Miriam the bad guy and run away from her.  That makes me sad and I try to either stop them, or play with Miriam myself.  It's no fun to be the odd one out.  (And yet, I am somehow not at all tempted to have a fourth kid to fix things up!)

We have moved Miriam into the boys' room, with a great deal of trepidation.  The first night I barely slept, certain that she would wake up and get into some kind of trouble before I heard her.  And I've been listening to a baby's breathing as I fall asleep for years.  But it's nice for John and I to finally get the joy of talking to each other before falling asleep, without risking waking her up.  Sometimes we even manage to communicate with each other about our plans for the next day instead of having to check our schedules by text on the day of!  It definitely does make a huge difference in how "in tune" we feel, having that time.  Also we go to bed earlier because we can read in bed.

The downside is that Miriam does not last very much of the night in bed.  ONCE, she stayed there pretty much the whole night.  Most other nights, she's up around midnight or one and I just bring her in bed with me because I'm too sleepy to want to put her back to sleep in her own bed.  John tried dealing with her at night instead for awhile, which sounded amazing when he suggested it, but it wound up meaning that he stayed up for an hour walking her around, trying to get her back to sleep, and in the end having to wake me up to help anyway.  Oh well.  Even if the kids never all sleep through the night, someday they will move out.


This warm weather is fabulous.  We spent a day down at the river last week and had a wonderful time.  The kids waded and I swam -- in knee-deep water, but it still counts because I got wet all over.  I got a sunburn, despite reapplying the sunblock twice.  The kids did not, because that 1/4 Latino is apparently enough to make a difference.

The garden is getting along well.  I surrendered one bed back to weeds, because it's gravely and has never done well, but all the other beds are either planted or ready to plant.  I have chard, beets, spinach, broccoli, purple cabbage, radishes, peas, and red onions planted.  I tried to plant lettuce a bunch of times, but I suspect it just hasn't been wet enough.  I watered a lot, but you just can't keep a bed really wet if it's 70 degrees and sunny.  I really want to get my tomatoes in, since we have a warm, rainy week predicted, but all the stores just have hybrid varieties and I want heirlooms.  Those can usually be found at the farmers' market, but do I dare wait till Saturday?


My TV shows lately are Fringe and Friends.  Fringe, of course, is for evenings when the kids are in bed, whereas Friends I watch while putting Miriam to bed or any time I'm not in the mood for scary.

I loved the first three seasons of Fringe, but season four is baffling me a bit.  I don't like the new timeline.  Walter's not Walter!  Olivia's not Olivia!  Are they ever going to explain how the people in this timeline think the machine worked?  On the other hand, I feel like some mysteries from season one might be explained a little at last.  Apparently JJ Abrams is famous for mysteries that wind up never getting explained.  But even if it does end up that way, I think I'll stick with it to the bitter end, because I love Olivia Dunham so much.  She is a freaking awesome character with a ton of depth.  And I like everyone else too -- Walter, Peter, Astrid, the people in the alternate universe.  Character development really is everything to me in TV -- that and moral quandaries, provided they are dealt with properly.  I need at least some of the characters to be morally admirable, or else forget about it (which is why I gave up on House of Cards and haven't tried Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones).

Watching Friends is part of my project to get caught up on the nineties.  (Buffy was the first step; I guess this is step two.  I want to experience everything popular enough to be a cultural touchstone everyone my age knows: I'm taking suggestions.)  Already I've recognized references to that show in other things I've read and watched.  It kind of puzzles me that I managed to get through the nineties while getting exposed to so little of its culture.  I remember the clothes and the hair though.  MY GOSH.  It's strange seeing people dressed in overall shorts and being portrayed as "cool."  And very strange getting a shot of the World Trade Center without sad music being played. 

My favorite character by far is Ross.  Who could help loving him?  He also reminds me of a friend of mine (if you read this, Ibid, it's you, and it's a compliment).

How have you all been?


EMB said...

I've never met you, but your sister is the same age as my oldest child and I run in circles with your extended family.

Anyhow, I read your first few takes and it sounds a lot like me before starting Zoloft last year. I had these symptoms that mostly made me feel like I was weak or sucked in some capacity. I've always been like that off and on. Exercise helped, sleep helped, eating well helped, not being too busy helped. Unfortunately its really difficult to balance a high rate of self awareness and need meeting with four kids, including one who nurses all night long.

I hav eno idea if this was PPD, if I will eventually wean off the medication, or if its just the way I am wired, but finally allowing myself to try it for a period was really a great decision. I'm less grumpy, I don't feel exhausted, and I don't wind up in those bad mental states where I brood about how awful everything is.

The Sojourner said...

I want to eat Miriam with a spoon.

On a grimmer note, I am pretty sure I still have PPD from J and he's 2.5. But the sucky thing about depression is that I don't have enough leftover energy to beat my head against the wall that is getting mental health treatment. Catch-22 and all that.

Anonymous said...

I still suffer from postpartum anxiety, and my daughter is almost 2 1/2. I kept waiting for it to get better on its own, but it never did. Meds help me function and enjoy life, but I still have bad days ... especially when I'm sleep-deprived.


Anonymous said...

A few quick takes on your quick takes:

Stress doesn't mean you were faking or it wasn't real; it has such a physical manifestation of symptoms and really shouldn't be dismissed by medical professionals and others so much. No need for guilt!

Perhaps flipbooks would help Marko understand the concept of how stop motion and animation are made? And he could practice drawing his own flip books before graduating to digital media.

Miriam is so cute! And Michael sounds so sweet and charmingly imaginative. Like Figment the dragon from Disney or Puff the Magic Dragon -- both dragons for his love of them!

This isn't a 90s show, but I think you would enjoy Grantchester, a British drama about a crime-solving vicar in the 50s. There is so much moral quandary going on, especially in the second season, and weaves in so much social commentary within the context of faith and harsh pragmatism in daily life.
As for other 90s stuff, have you seen Hercules and Xena? Or Ghostwriter and Wishbone on the kid TV end?


Enbrethiliel said...


Remember when I told you that I gave up teaching because evidence that I was a bad teacher just kept piling up every day, sometimes in embarrassingly public ways, and I just couldn't bear looking bad any longer? I couldn't understand why, even after I detailed some of that evidence, you told me you believed I had actually done a fine job.

But now our roles are reversed. I think you're doing a great job as a stay-at-home mother.

Also, I hate to say this, but that feeling of waiting to feel better? I may not be a mother, but I know what that's like, too. It took me about seven years to crawl out of it, and even now I'm not sure I'm properly out. I can say that I'm no longer chronically sad . . . but neither can I say I'm actually happy. You might say I just accepted I'd never have what I wanted to have. But that doesn't mean I no longer want it. (My special metaphor for it is the man I was supposed to marry being aborted before he could be born. Nothing I EVER do could change THAT, but at least my inability to get married stops being proof that I am innately unlovable.) There have been so many times when you wrote something here that reminded me of what I went through at your age; I just never said so, because the accidents of our lives are so different that I could tell myself it was just coincidence.

Re: shame
Here's another author recommendation: Brene Brown. I've found that I don't really get what Americans mean by "shame" (because the word for it in all the local languages conflates it with mere embarrassment); BUT every time it has come up in online conversation with Americans, someone brings up her books or TED talks and talks about how she helped them to heal.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you feel embarrassed about having anxiety/depression. Many people suffer from it, and it isn't your fault, so there's no real reason to feel ashamed! Honestly, I think the shame we feel about mental health issues actually comes from the mental health issues themselves. I felt a lot of shame, too, but it's much easier to talk about it now that I feel better. And I still have a long way to go, to be honest. I plan on trying therapy (again) and maybe a higher dose of medication in the future. For, things are mostly under control.

Anonymous said...

The above comment is from Betsy.

Anonymous said...

The hyperventilating issues you describe sound exactly like panic attacks. I really wish you would get some help so you won't have to go through this anymore.


Sheila said...

Thanks for the outpouring of sympathy. At least I'm not alone ... though of course I'd rather all of you were happy than for you to be sad along with me!

Of course I have thought of medication. But there are so many reasons not to. I'm afraid I'd be on it forever, for one thing. And the thought of even going to the doctor to talk to him about it, after having felt so humiliated the last time I saw him, is dreadful to me. Oh, and the thought of trying to tell my husband I've been depressed all this time and not said anything. I suck at having important conversations with people close to me. The internet is so much lower-risk.

And, seeing how many YEARS I've been putting off going to the dentist, and how much more I dread going to the doctor, I don't feel very hopeful that I will ever manage it.

The shame thing is partly from boarding school. I was MUCH more depressed then than I am now, and I was constantly being berated for "complaining without words" by having a sad face. And there was this constant suggestion that the only reason I was sad was because I was caught up in myself, if I cared more about others I would forget myself and not be sad. Crying, of course, was just "to get attention" ... which really hit home because I *was* desperate for attention, so maybe I was unconsciously just trying to get attention? So I would try and try to be better, convinced that I was "doing it to myself" and could stop if I were just a better person.

Freaking toxic. I can recognize that, but at the same time I can't entirely shake it off. How do I know that everyone isn't secretly judging me all the time?

Sheila said...

Oh, and Heather -- I watched Xena every week, never missed an episode! The others you mention, no, I never saw them. Might have to add them to the list!

Anonymous said...

All the things you just wrote about fear and shame and worrying about people judging you are familiar to me. I think they are part of the package of depression/anxiety and would improve on medication. The inability to go ahead and do something to make yourself feel better is part of the self-perpetuating nature of mental illness. I'm not saying that these don't matter ... not at all! What I'm saying is that they may be symptoms of the problem, and you may find they fade away when you feel better.

As someone with a chronic illness, I guess I don't understand what the problem is with taking medication for the rest of your life as long as it does its job. Having said that, the first time I was on Zoloft, I was able to stop taking it without any problems. Of course, pregnancy changed all that.

It's not like you've been lying to John; you just didn't know what was wrong. I think he would want you to feel better. I do, too.


Anonymous said...

For me, the key to getting a diagnosis has been directness. I just tell them I'm suffering from anxiety and depression. And it was hard, but I reached a point where it was harder to live with my anxiety and depression.


Anonymous said...

You are NOT inadequate. I follow your blog because you're such a great mother and person. Don't be so hard on yourself. You are doing a fantastic job with your family and you're a great writer. Go back to the doctor and insist on an antidepressant. And treat yourself to something nice every so often. xoxoxo - a fan in the northeast.

Meredith said...

"Sometimes it's like this: I'm walking along, minding my own business, thinking happy thoughts about how excellently my life is going. And in the middle of that, very suddenly, I'm hit by a crushing weight of sadness, so intense it hurts, like you feel when you're suffering from a broken heart, like badgers are eating out my innards.

Sometimes it's more like this: I'm running around doing stuff, and in my mind I'm constantly thinking of all the things I have to do, all the bad things that will happen if I don't do all the things I have to do. My heart starts racing, I feel like my chest is hollow and I have to gasp for air. If the kids are touching me, I snap at them and run away."

I do both of these as well. I start thinking children who died horribly somewhere and keep thinking about it until I have a crazy zombie-woman face. Or I get unbelievably irritated, usually around dinner, when James is squawking and Sean is talking to me while I try to cook. I blame nursing hormones (prolactin?) and general depletion. I know that I became anemic during pregnancy, but never found out if I recovered. I have started taking prenatal vitamins again with extra iron. Are you taking vitamins? I hate swallowing them but finally found a brand that was small and didn't taste weird.

The gasping for breath thing is something I have lived with since I was 13. It comes and goes, but an episode feels like I need to yawn and I can't open my mouth and lungs wide enough to get that "release." It is maddening not to know why it happens, but... I'm still here; haven't died yet! Even though I occasionally see spots. I do think that your anxiety could be linked to your breathing problem. I started having mine after a traumatic experience.

Haha, want to be problem buddies? :-P

Sheila said...

Ugh, the intrusive thoughts! Yes. I see a knife and I imagine someone getting injured with it *even though* it is somewhere safe. Or I lie awake thinking of a scene from a movie I saw months ago. It's like the bad stuff is so much stickier than the good stuff.

I am almost certainly anemic because of *mumble mumble* girl stuff. I take vitamins, but I don't know if I should take more iron on top of that or if that's supposed to be enough. I have a physical coming up ... as soon as I make an appointment for it ... and I'll have them test it.

I think the gasping thing started with my habit of taking a deep breath in and out when I feel sad or anxious. That didn't help so I'd take another one ... and then apparently I was getting too much oxygen, which made me feel dizzy, which made me think I needed more oxygen ... well, that's the theory, at present. It hasn't been a problem for a couple weeks, so maybe it's gone.

I was reminded today that a few months ago I tried meditation for awhile and it did help some. Practicing focusing on my breath was good training for tearing my thoughts away from anxious thoughts. And it just helped me stop the stressed-out freakouts ... I was yelling and blowing up A LOT at that time, and it helped me cut that down. Now I am back to being mostly quite calm, which is very reassuring, but maybe I shouldn't have dropped meditation the second I saw any improvement.

I had a great day today so now I'm thinking "see! I'm fine! I shouldn't have made a big deal over it!" But past history suggests this is just a good day and I should make the most of it rather than assume all future days will be good too. That careful balance between "everything will be awful forever" and failing to plan for having blah days later on.

The Sojourner said...

It was revolutionary for me one time my therapist explained that the reason you feel bad when you hyperventilate is because you're actually getting TOO MUCH oxygen. I have to be careful doing yoga for the same reason...breathing deeply combined with putting my head below my heart overloads my brain a bit.

That's basically the same thing you just said but wordier. Still, now you know you're not the only one who freaks out over it.

The Sojourner said...

Oh, and the intrusive thoughts. So fun to unload the dishwasher to your brain suggesting, "Wouldn't it be horrible if you went crazy and stabbed everyone?"

Yes, brain, that would be horrible, which is exactly why I don't do it. Now shut up.

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