Postpartum Psychosis

I’ve had one major fear since getting pregnant: postpartum psychosis. I’ve been doing so well with keeping communication open about my stress and learning to walk away when my frustration reaches max capacity. Sometimes I get sucked in to things that I shouldn’t, external stressors cause me a huge issue and one of those is television.

Today I was watching Identification Discoveries show Deadly Women and the story of Andrea Yates began. In 2001 her psychosis lead her to believe that she was the devil, she and her husband were very religious so this was horrifying. She believed her children would go to hell if she raised them, in the ultimate sacrifice she drowned them to give them eternity in heaven. There were a number of things that happened with her, not the least of which involved sub-par mental health care from the hospitals, but the saddest part was what happened after. In the aftermath, instead of getting her help, the police and judicial system wanted to put her on trial with the death penalty. Obviously the show had a really short synopsis of this crime, I found a longer account on TruTV‘s website, but she wanted the death penalty. She felt like she would be sparing the world of the devil by no longer existing in this plane. I remember seeing this story on the news when it happened. I remember thinking “what the hell kind of monster does that to their kids?” Now I better understand that mindset.

I like to call my illness “full on crazy”, it’s not easy to deal with and I have cancelled plans with friends if their kids would be present because of it. It’s really unsettling to have my own son, knowing that at any time I may need to pass him off and walk away to keep my own brain in check. The Andrea Yates story hits me in a different place now. I have had those types of psychotic thoughts. Before Edgar was born I fully believed that I would have the baby and within a month I would be able to die. I gave my husband the progeny he wanted, what more would be needed? My child would clearly be better off without my presence. While any husband would have trouble hearing this it hits Terry in a different place entirely. His first memory is his mothers funeral when he was barely 3 years old. She died in a horrific accident and he feels the loss regularly. Fortunately, he understood the origin of those thoughts was fear and inadequacy. We dealt with it, but every day I still fear the return of psychosis. The belief that the world would be better off without you, or that a child would be saved through drowning, that is an indescribable pain. No one sees it, few can sense it, and it’s impossible to know how close the resulting action is until it happens.

Watching the Andrea Yates story today was a huge trigger. My whole body hurts fighting back awful thoughts. I have a number of things going in my favor though, first there are people willing to listen and believe when I say how terrible this can become. Second, Edgar has safe places to stay if the situation escalates. I have half a deep freeze full of breast milk “in case shit” as Terry would say. My son is happy and healthy. I recognize my emotions and share them quickly. If something starts to feel really off I am capable of walking away for an hour, a day, a week if needed. Last, and most important, I have coping skills to bring myself back to reality and so do the people around me.

So, while my thoughts started to drift to the fear of the possible today, I hugged my beautiful baby and connected with him the best way I know how. We piled in the car and went to the zoo to take pictures. People told me how beautiful he is, I played with him in the polar bear tunnel, watched how bright and fun he is, and thanked my lucky stars that I am able to ask for help if I need it.

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Vices and Excuses

I have a weight problem. A pretty fierce weight problem. An 80 lb overweight problem. Over the last 10 years my mental health has fluctuated really seriously resulting in medication additions and removals and adjustments. It’s caused me more problems than it should have because I never adjusted my diet or exercise to accommodate the physical fluctuations.

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These pictures represent my appearance in 2008 pretty accurately. I weighed about 160 lbs when I met my husband and had been off all medication for a few years. I was about a size 13 and really proud of the fact that I felt comfortable in a miniskirt for the first time since high school.

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By April 17, 2009 I was in a size 16. Honestly, I am pretty comfortable in my skin at all sizes. I’m one of those that makes sure I wear clothes that fit appropriately, and my chest has always been larger than my belly. Really what that means is when I look down I see boobs and feet so I forget the belly is there.[000274] [000735]

Skip ahead exactly one year and I was wearing a size 24. What happened? All that medication and lack of exercise coupled with a dead end desk job that made me feel like shit. While I look at my wedding pictures, or any pictures of me since, I want nothing more than to Photoshop out all the fat pieces. The thing is I am still not uncomfortable in my skin, I just really don’t like to look at myself from the chest down or in any kind of mirror. This was my heaviest (well, minus six pounds from my delivery weight, but I don’t count that weight…I lost 20 lbs during delivery) and I was 290 lbs.

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Sometime after that I stopped allowing full length photos of me, this was last summer.

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There are still some full length pictures of me, I just generally edit them to only show bust and up. This was May 2012 at my cousin’s high school graduation. I weighed 255 and was a size 18/20. I’ve maintained that weight and size and have now returned to it post-Edgar.

Now that we’ve gone through the transformation from 2008 – 2012 here is something incredibly stupid that I’m going to post.

Today I have decided to begin another weight loss journey. Those 35ish pounds I’ve lost from my wedding in 2010 have been it since. It’s time to get serious about getting the rest of the weight off. So, as a motivation strategy I’m posting my “before” pictures from today. Be warned, they contain short shorts and a pulled up tank top and make me feel a bit like Fortune Feimster doing a bit on Chelsea Lately. I’ve been manipulating photo angles for too long and need some real accountability in my weight loss journey. Eating healthy and exercise are two of the best things to maintain mental health.

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Here are today’s images – day one! I warned you they weren’t pretty. I found a simulator to help me see myself as I was again. Yes, I deliberately picked the most awful swimming suit the simulator offered. It’s a reminder that I need to not stay where I am.

Me now:

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Future me:

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There are a lot of things I can do to start this journey. First, I am using this blog as an accountability tool. I’m going to log my activity and food in at SparkPeople. My biggest nutrition weaknesses right now are drinking soda instead of water and popcorn with butter and cheese. I beat cutting almost cold turkey, soda will have to go the same way. In my eyes it is the same type of addiction, and really, who’s to say which is worse?  As far as the issue with popcorn…it’s really my own fault. I have an air popper so those toppings are a choice. I don’t know that I want to give up popcorn, and air popped popcorn is actually a good snack, so I’ll be looking for new delicious toppings.

There it is, the beginning of my new weight loss journey, complete with disgusting full length before pictures. I’m going to give it a real go for 100 days which brings me to November 27, 2013. I’m hoping to have crossed off a 5K on my bucket list by next summer. There are so many cool races now!

Jealousy and other things that have nothing to do with me.

One of the most difficult lessons for me to learn is not everything has to do with me. While asking for some advice one of the ladies mentioned what happened was petty. I realized as I responded the action was based in jealousy and it’s cause predates me. I have a really hard time relating to people; every time something goes wrong, every time someone isn’t happy, it is my fault. My whole life when a teacher gave constructive criticism, when a friend was angry, when an acquaintance was in a bad mood, my brain told me I was the cause. It was always about me and what I did to cause those emotions and pain. Not surprisingly the reverse never occurred to me, when something positive happened with the same people it was never “my fault”. I was always making amends for the times I had screwed up and put someone in a bad mood. “It has nothing to do with you” was my mother’s mantra I heard as “you aren’t important enough for this to be about you”.

The jealousy that caused me so much heartache over the last few years doesn’t have anything to do with me. I consistently have tried to prove myself; prove my worthiness of their friendship, prove that I deserve to be in their life. As the conversation from a few weeks ago continues to return in pieces I remember Terry saying their desire to have me in their life was a lie. I’ve never been given a real chance, the effort to include me has been, at best, superficial. The truth is I don’t really care to be in their life. What I recognized the other day is the superficial effort stems from a desire to hurt someone else entirely, I am an innocent bystander. They deliberately put me down and spread false information because they are jealous of someone else entirely and that isn’t fair.

After I recognized the pain was meant for someone else it felt like the world’s weight was taken from me. I still feel a residual need to be better than them, but I’ve always been competitive with strange and ridiculous things. The biggest change over the last few days is a lack of anger; it’s being slowly replaced with pity. Pity for their need to lie, for their need to hurt people, for their need to create anger where there should be joy. It will take some practice but I have a new resolve to no longer feel that hurt or have my joy stripped from me.

Leaving it all out there

I haven’t written in over a month. Part of the reason is because I was super busy with Edgar and family things, but mostly it was because of something I was told. It took me a little time to work through my thoughts on why I put myself out there, why I’m so vocal about how much things can hurt. In July I was told there are things that shouldn’t be shared ever, that are so painful and so horrible they should be buried and never discussed. Honestly, this conversation has been coming back to me in pieces. My brain protects me from things that can be too painful, it erases them and returns them to me little bits at a time. I’ve had that happen to me my whole life, relying on others to fill in holes.

My first reaction to being told that it’s important to keep things to oneself was to shut down completely. Once I thought about what was said my next gut reaction was “what moronic situations did you put yourself in that you can’t tell anyone”. I felt bad about that reaction, but I’ve been so much of an open book my whole life that I can’t comprehend a situation that would need to be kept quiet. I can’t comprehend a situation or experience that I wouldn’t be able to help someone else by sharing. Being with my ex I was told regularly that I needed to be ashamed of myself. I wasn’t pretty enough, mental illness was something that required shame, the list goes on and on. I’ve learned a lot from that experience and I try to share those lessons with friends. On this blog I do pause before posting things, I like to have my thoughts in order before posting. It helps to make sure the words really mean what I want them to mean. In my personal life I’m much less careful. Being friends with me often means allowing the time for me to muck through the story. It can also mean having the patience for all those time I shove my foot in my mouth, have the wrong words, and am wildly inappropriate. At thirty years old I’m still learning how to behave in society. Sometimes I cry in public, sometimes I sound like a jackass on accident, I’m not perfect and I don’t really want to be. I guarantee I have more faults than positives in my eyes, but if I don’t put myself out there how will people know me? More than anything I don’t want to be fake, I want people to know who they are around and I want them to make an informed decision about friendship. The cost of a slip if I hide things is so much more painful than someone not being interested in the first place.

I won’t be taking the advice to keep me to myself. Kathie Lee Gifford said something on the Today show about keeping a tender heart but developing a tough skin, this is my new lesson. If people don’t want me in their life, regardless of who they are, I will learn to let it go and find someone who is interested in being in my life. I have had the pleasure of meeting so many people that I love so much, family sometimes isn’t related to you, they chose you instead. Those that choose me are the ones I want.