Capture Your Grief, Days 10 & 11 – Words & A Glow In The Woods

Hey everyone!  Sorry for my absence yesterday, except not really, because the truth is that I needed to take care of me yesterday, and well, today too. So today’s post is not only going to be a combo, but a shortish one. I love you guys, and I love talking with you, but I have needed some self-care from places other than my laptop for these last couple days, and so I’m just popping by to share a little, and then retreating back to my blanket fort.

I’m going to use my words (see what I did there? meh. yeah, it’s a writing prompt cop out) to explain what’s been going on, and then tell you about what helps me to heal.

So, what’s been going on is that my anxiety has been in full force for about 5 days now. It has been exhausting. There have been tears. There have been near panic attacks, brought down only with the aid of Xanax. It hasn’t been pretty. My therapist and I did some work trying to figure out what set all this off, and I think we uncovered some helpful info, which is actually contributing to a blog post that I’m working on, to be posted on a later date. However, this has largely just been a setback, plain and simple. It has been frustrating, because I was feeling as though I was making progress in therapy, so to slide back so drastically has been very discouraging, but I am trying to keep my head held high.

The “Glow in the Woods” prompt is actually a reference to a grief resource that Carly Marie (the creator of these prompts), found helpful. Glow in the Woods is a website for bereaved parents. Truthfully, I haven’t visited the site. Since I am battling anxiety as well as processing my grief, I’m nervous to go read anything that deals with the loss of children. I believe it will likely be triggering for me, and so I am staying away. My therapist is nodding her head in approval right now.

However, I do want to share with you some things that have helped me, both in processing my grief AND in managing my anxiety. I will list them, in no particular order below:

  • Xanax. Okay, this one is in a particular order. Honestly, it’s probably helped me the most in keeping anxiety from ruling my life these last few months. I promise the rest of this list is in random order, though.
  • ASMR– Okay, so, a bunch of you are probably about to think that I am crazy, but some of you will either already know what this is, or thank me for the rest of your lives for introducing you to it. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and rather than go into long detail explaining it, I am going to link you to some helpful information and share my favorite ASMR artist with you (p.s. – the sound in that video is binaural, so I recommend using headphones). If it does nothing for you, your brain may just not be susceptible to ASMR, and that’s cool. If it relaxes you or mesmerizes you like woahyou’re welcome.
  • This blog. This space has been an amazing source of healing for my grief. Sharing my experience with others is a balm for pain like no other.
  • My therapist(s). I started with one therapist, who originally diagnosed my PPA. She helped me dig my way out of the trenches the first time I battled this monster, and it is because of her that I know there is an end in sight. However, I am now seeing her colleague, because my new, current therapist is trained in EMDR, which is a trauma recovery therapy technique that we have not yet attempted, but have been laying the groundwork for. We haven’t really had a chance to give it a shot, because I’ve been on and off in crisis mode. Eventually though, we’re gonna give it a go! Even without beginning EMDR, my new therapist is just as great a fit for me as her colleague was. With a mixture of compassion, humor and Real Talk, she is able to say exactly what I need to hear, when I need to hear it. My ah-ha moments have been 100% based on things that she has said, my decision to take the medication which is currently making my life functional was bolstered by her encouragement, and my grief, which I tend to keep locked in a box inside a cellar which is also locked, bricked over and has a lovely garden planted on top, is now slowly beginning to come out, be observed and is beginning to heal, all because of her gentle pushing and well-leveled patience. Not trying to kiss any butts here, but my therapist is awesome and if you are currently battling PPA, PPD or any other mood disorder or unhappiness, I highly recommend you locate a therapist, post haste.
  • Self-Care. Obviously, this includes my meds. It took me a while to realize that was obvious, but it is. Meds. In addition to that, sleep. Also, seems like it should be obvious… but it’s not always. As for the rest, do what makes you feel restored. It can change, day to day, but take a moment and ask yourself “What do I need?”. This is an amazing, and huge article on self care. Peruse it, bookmark it, keep coming back to it. I’ll be honest, I suck at self-care. I am so busy “doing” that I often forget to stop and check in with myself. Today though, I rocked the self care. Just during nap time today I, gave myself a manicure, drank a cup of tea while reading my book in the library and ate a bowl of honey nut cheerios for a snack. See?  A+ self-care today. This was especially made possible by my excellent husband who cleaned most of the house yesterday, paving the way for me to have a day where I didn’t feel like self-care meant slacking on house-care. Speaking of that wonderful man…
  • My husband. He cleans, he cooks (well, sometimes), he holds me when I have panic attacks and reminds me to take my medicine. I married the best one, sorry ladies. Whether you have an amazing partner, an amazing best friend, or an amazing parent, I think it’s important to have someone who you can confide in. Someone who can be available when things are not so great, and who can celebrate with you when things are excellent. If you’re feeling isolated, a great place to start can be a support group. I’ve linked to PPD support groups, but there are support groups for just about anything and lots of info about where to find them online. If you don’t need a support group per say, Meetup.com can be another great place to meet like-minded individuals and make new friends. Hopefully this goes without saying, but if you’re meeting internet people, please make sure you use good judgement and meet only in public places. There are great people on the internet, and I’ve made a lot of real-life friends that way, but there are not so great people, too. Be smart and safe.

Well, as usual, I am long winded and my “short” post is anything but. Oh well. Hopefully you find something helpful here and I’ll try to be back tomorrow with another Capture Your Grief post, but if I’m not, you’ll understand, and I’ll appreciate you for it!

Lots of love to you.

Advertisements

Capture Your Grief, Day 9 – Family

We are very fortunate, in that my husband and I have remarkable families. Even better, all of our immediate family lives in the same state as us, with many of them just down the street. What this means is that, when things happen, we have a support network to fall into, and with the events of last year, we indeed fell.

When we received our diagnosis and made the decision to end our pregnancy, our family rallied. Trips were cancelled, days off were scheduled, meals were cooked, shoulders were available for crying, phone lines were tied up and everyone made themselves available for either comfort or counsel, often both. We do not take this blessing lightly. My husband and I are both very aware of our good fortune in the relationships we enjoy with our parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins. We both know, through loss or estrangement, what it feels like to be without family, and it makes us all the more grateful for these beautiful people who jumped in to catch us when we fell. We would not have made it through our loss without them.

Whoever your family, whether they be by blood or by choice, take a moment today to thank them for being in your life. We all need people to catch us when we fall.

 

Capture Your Grief, Day 8 – Wish List

Today’s post is going to be brief, because bloggy things are afoot. In the spirit of Wish List, I’ll be pretty transparent about what I’m up to and why I’m doing it.

I created this blog because I wanted to use my pain and experience to help other women heal. I wanted to help other parents, mothers especially, know that whether they are battling Postpartum Anxiety or Depression or navigating grief after a devastating loss, they are not alone.

I wanted to create a sanctuary for these women, and add my voice to the community of amazing people who are already hard at work bringing visibility to and removing stigma from postpartum mood disorders and parental grief.

So, as this blog, and its readership, has grown, I have been asking myself what I can do, to continue this forward momentum. I have been thinking of ways that I can broaden our reach, and spread our message, experience and love further, and further.

The most obvious answer has been that it is time to upgrade this blog. It is time for a tune up!  So, I have been hard at work, learning some techie things that I need to learn and making some moves in the background, in an effort to get this space ready for the future.

I’m not ready to unveil it yet, but it is in the works, and you’ll know when it’s ready!

Sending you love and peace, my friends.

 

Capture Your Grief, Day 7 – Memory

I almost opened this post by saying something about not really knowing Clara, since we had to say goodbye to her before she was born, until I realized that this isn’t true at all. I knew her well, as I believe most pregnant women know their unborn children. This sensation, this powerful, primal connection before birth, is difficult to articulate. The best I can do is to describe it as both instinctual and spiritual. We shared a body, she and I. My womb served as her sanctuary in life, and in death. Oh yes, I knew her.

It is strange then, to think that this little person, who has impacted my life so profoundly, occupies very few actual memories in my mind. There is one, though, that stands out.

It was the day that we found out that her ventricles were enlarged. The day we were alerted that there may be a problem, but before we had our actual diagnosis. Before we knew how bad it all was. I had spent the entire day navigating the red tape labyrinth of our health insurance, and was emotionally and physically exhausted. Unfortunately, when parents are distraught we are rarely afforded the luxury of appearing so. Not wanting to scare my children, I came home from work that day and promptly asked my husband if he would hold down the fort so I could take a bath. He, of course, agreed and so I quickly kissed heads and removed myself to the bathroom.

I went to the bathroom to cry. I went to the bathroom because I needed to turn on the vent and run the tub as loudly as possible, so I could cry unreservedly. I disrobed and eased myself into the warm tub, releasing my muscles and with them, a shuddering sob. I held my swollen belly and cried to her. I told her that I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but that I loved her. I sang Bob Marley to her, and in the process, tried to make myself believe that every little thing would be alright. I, though not a religious person at all, begged God to make it all okay. If there is anyone up there, pulling the strings, I begged them. I begged them until my throat was sore.

Eventually, spent of my pleading and reassurances to Clara, I sat naked, hunch-backed and bent over my belly, in the now cold and near-to-overflowing tub, pulled the stopper and sobbed, “My baby. My baby. My baby.” until I was shivering and both I and the tub were drained.

Heart wrenching as this memory may be, it also holds some peace for me. In this moment, I was Her Mother. I was not a woman with a devastating diagnosis. I was not a writer with a tough story and a penchant for sharing it.

In that moment, I was Clara’s Mother.

Capture Your Grief, Day 6 – Books

The room that was to be Clara’s nursery, a small little bedroom, right at the end of the hallway in our house, was transformed in to a home library after we lost her. Pretty quickly after we lost her, in fact. Her empty room, situated as it was, made walking down the hallway a somber affair. Barren and grey, it just loomed, if a room can do such a thing.

Over the course of a few days we transformed it, and the effect was immediate. A doorway which previously haunted me, became one of my favorite vignettes in our home. Beyond being pleasing to the eye, it offered a practical storage solution for the piles of books that were slowly taking over at our house. This is about to be the hipsteriest thing I have ever said, but I had actual vintage suitcases full of books in my craft room. I know. Despite the way it sounds, this was not some kind of quaint decorating statement, but rather a practical and strategic use of what once served as decoration at mine and my husband’s wedding, well actually vow renewal, but that is a story for another day. Anyways, we used the vintage suitcases as a card box. Thanks Pinterest, and yes, that is an actual photo from our day. The point is, I am not a charming decorating maven so much as I am just someone who sees vessels and fills them with books.

Anyways, I was able to unpack all my “charming” vintage suitcases,  unpile my teetering towers of tales (sorry, got a little swept up in the alliteration, there), and give all of our books proper homes among the shelves in the new library. We even brought in the kids’ books (to be honest, their collections rival my own when one considers the age:quantity of books ratio), so everyone’s books are all in one place. The room makes me so happy. As icing on the cake, we decided to put my husband’s various guitars in the library, as well (we plan to use wall mount hardware to hang them as functional art), making it, truly, a place for every single one of us.

Now, when I walk down the hallway, it no longer looms. It is no longer barren. Its somber tune has played out. Where once sat, framed, my sorrow and grief, I now see a picture of warmth.

Capture Your Grief, Day 5 – Empathy

Today’s prompt suggested that I write about what not to say to a bereaved parent, but I just can’t bring myself to.  Of course, people have said some pretty ridiculous (and sometimes hurtful) things since we lost Clara, but I have mostly been able to give them the benefit of the doubt. I know that they mean well, most of them at least. So, instead of talking about the empathy we expect from other people, I want to talk about the empathy we can provide to them.

I know this sounds crazy. I mean, I am saying that, as part of your grief process, you should show empathy to others rather than expect them to show it to you. But, hear me out!

People don’t know what to say when you are grieving. One of my co-workers recently lost his father and, on his first day back in the office, I said “Hi! How are you?” Moments later, I was horrified at my own insensitivity and beating myself up for such a ridiculous question. Particularly since I have been traveling my own grief journey since last Fall!  How could I ask him that?! The next time I saw him, I apologized for asking such a stupid question by saying “I am sorry. Earlier today I asked you a very stupid question. I would like to retract my original question and instead say ‘Hi. I am so glad to see you. I hope you are doing okay and finding peace.” Being the good-natured (and forgiving) guy that he is, he graciously accepted my apology and brushed off my embarrassment. It was humbling, however, to realize that, given all my recent experience, I could still be so insensitive to another’s grief.

He had the good grace to show me empathy, even after my woefully thoughtless display. I feel like I had already been doing a pretty good job at doing the same for others, when someone said something stupid in regards to our loss, but being on the other side really highlighted the importance of giving others grace.

I think the large majority of my readers are people who have experienced loss, or are currently suffering from a mood disorder or mental illness, rather than folks who would be talking to people like us. So, instead of trying to tell them what not to say, I’m going to tell you that they will say it. They will say all the stupid things. They will be flippant. They will be discombobulated. They will say “Hi! How are you?” Most of them mean well. They really do. They just don’t know the right thing to say. And really, is there a “right” thing to say, anyways?

So, give them grace. I promise that doing so will always feel better than giving them anger or hurt. You won’t get it right every time, but do try. Try to give them grace.

Peace and love to you, friends.

Medicated and Mighty

12647337_10205898464556288_514598743923290892_nHi. How are you? Well, I hope.

I know I’m posting Capture Your Grief stuff every day, and there will be a post later today for that, too. (Double post day!  Yay? Hopefully not too spammy?) But I wanted to pop by to share something important. So important.

Apparently this was a viral thing last fall and I missed it (in my defense, I was losing a baby and mega-grieving right when this thing hit), so I am very late jumping on this train, but I am jumping on it so hard.

See that gal up there? The one holding the pill bottle?  That’s me. That’s little ‘ol me, and my Alprazolam, better known as Xanax. That’s the medication that I currently use to manage my anxiety disorder. It works for me and I am not ashamed. I am not going to make excuses. I take Xanax on an as-needed basis because it is what works for me when anxiety takes control. It is one tool in my toolbox. It is one part of my treatment and recovery plan. I will not apologize for that.

For a long time I was very hesitant to take medication for anxiety. I brushed it aside whenever my therapist would bring it up. I had heard horror stories about certain medications intensifying symptoms. Or people becoming addicted to them. Medication didn’t seem to fit in with my lifestyle, which trends towards the very natural. I wanted to heal myself “naturally”. You know, like you do when you have appendicitis. Or an infection. Or cancer. Oh… right.

Mood disorders and other mental illness affect the brain, which just so happens to be an organ. Meaning it is a part of your physical body. In other words, mood disorders are a physical illness, like appendicitis, like an infection, like cancer. That last one may sound shocking or sensational but it is not a stretch. Mental illness kills people, just like cancer. It is not always that bad, but it can be. Yes, many people do choose to to treat illness and disease naturally, and I do not mean any disrespect. However, I believe that modern medicine has a place in modern life, even a natural, mostly organic one. It took this realization, plus a trip to the ER during a panic attack that was so bad that I didn’t know it was a panic attack, for me to see that maybe, just maybe, medication had a place in my life. The way that anxiety manifests in my life right now, means that Xanax is a good choice for me. I don’t believe that I will be on it long term. It is not an ideal long term medication after all, and so if I need to stay on something for a longer period of time, my doctors and I will explore some other options. I am lucky to have these informed doctors and therapists who have my best interests at heart.

My medication allows me to remain present for my family, when anxiety tries to rip me away from them. My medication (plus a side of mediTation) quiets my mind when it becomes filled with horrific thoughts of bad things happening to my children (yes, this is an anxiety symptom, and it is as awful as it sounds). Medication is but one of many tools that I use to manage my anxiety disorder. My medication represents my courage, because I had to be strong enough to recognize when I needed help, and then brave enough to ask for it. My medication represents the love I bear for my family, and for myself, because I work hard every day, using this tool and others, to be stronger and healthier for them, and for me.

I am Medicated and Mighty.