Sweep the leg

I unraveled last night and I’m not afraid to admit it. Unraveled like a giant ball of yarn. Every fucking day is like a roller coaster of emotions. So why was today different? Who knows really. I couldn’t handle the fighting between the girls at bed time and I just gave up. I told them to leave me alone and not to come find me because I was done. I unleashed a war with my husband and then the night just kept getting worse and worse by the second.

I had the most epic cry with my 6 year old. When I say epic, I think both of my kids went to bed at 9:30/10 due to this epic cry. We were all sitting together all nestled up tight and just cried. Cam was crying because she was so god damn tired and didn’t know what was going on. Harper and I knew why we were crying. We cried about her ending first grade so abruptly. We cried about not being able to see Grammy, the boys, her new baby cousin and her aunties. We cried about life not being what it used to be. Then she looks up and says, “well, auntie will fix this so don’t worry”. I cried harder because as strong as she knows her auntie is, auntie can’t fix this right now. Part of me in that moment wanted to be a kid again. Although they are clearly affected by this, they still have this positive outlook. I wish I had a glimmer of her positivity. I don’t. This whole thing has made me even more jaded. More scared. More anxious. More negative. More angry.

As we gained our breath back and looked at each other with our crazy puffy faces and red eyes, I had one small nugget of gratitude. An extremely sad but also incredible moment happened during all of this that will never be lost on me. Both of my girls came to give me hugs and check on me when I was at my lowest point. Camryn asked me why I was crying and kept saying that I was ok. Harper came over and wouldn’t stop apologizing for me not being able to see my family because she knew I missed them. We have raised such incredible little girls with the kindest hearts and mounds of empathy for others. For that, I am thankful.

After crying for several hours with my kids and having a massive headache, I feel asleep when they did. Writing this in two sessions didn’t make me feel any better. I was hoping that since I finally went to bed at a semi decent hour I would feel refreshed. Nope, not at all. Woke up with a pounding headache and felt like I was sucker punched in the gut and had a Cobra Kai come out of nowhere and sweep the leg.

In order for me to keep my chronic anxiety at bay, I take a lot on. Actually a million things on, let’s be more realistic. Having struggled with anxiety for some ungodly amount of time at this point, my method works. Pile on as much shit you can bear and continue doing that until you break. For me, breaking doesn’t come all that often, but when it does, I break hard. Really fucking hard. Most times with one hell of a panic attack. Tonight it was sponsored by tears instead of panic. And no, I’m not complaining. I will take tears over panic any day.

People in whatever category you want to put me under are always the strong ones. We are always the ones that hold everything together, well, we look like we hold it together. We are always the ones that take other burdens on because we genuinely like to and it gets us out of dealing with our own shit so I typically welcome anyone else’s shit to deal with. Right now, like most, I am managing a household, working full-time and consulting part-time (but now from home), dealing with two children who are struggling coping with their new normal, a husband who is now realizing his own mental health constraints and dealing with the fact that my entire family are all essential employees. Let that sink in for a minute. All are essential employees.

My dad seems like the lowest risk safety-wise since the campus is closed and lack of people that he has to encounter. My youngest sister who just had a baby is returning to work after most of her maternity leave was stripped away from her due to this virus. You know the time where you need people the most so you don’t do anything to harm your newborn who just cries, shits and eat all day and night and doesn’t really want to sleep. Then there is my mom. She is in the hospital setting managing supply chain for sterile processing and material management. She is the rock star with the PPE for her whole hospital and her department are the ones sterilizing all equipment and continuing to keep hospital staff safe. Last but certainly not least, there is my middle sister Kerin, a nurse on an all covid floor. She has been stripped away from what she has grown accustom to nursing actually being. You can’t comfort patients like you used to, you can’t comfort their family members like you used to. Everything she was taught and knows what’s right in her heart has completely been taken from her. Never have I ever been more scared and more proud of my family in all of my life.

I spend a portion of each day securing PPE for my family and the hospitals they work for, donating food and keeping the spirits up of the nursing staff on my sister’s floor and making sure she can continue fighting this battle with as much strength as she has each and every day. But, she is tired. They all are tired. That is what gives me the strength to keep doing what I do. At the end of the day, family is family and I will go to the ends of the earth to protect mine even if it means that I have this very much needed breakdown I had last night.

Love is a Battlefield

At first I started to type how I can’t believe I haven’t blogged in such a long time. Then I laughed and said of course I haven’t. The fucking world is ending. Well, it’s not but it sure as hell feels like it is. We are homeschooling our children which feels like an epic disaster on most days. I am making breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day and it seems like that is all I do. I am worried sick about my sister, my mom, my dad and all of my other friends and family who are essential personnel. I miss how my life used to be. We all do.

One thing that I realized through all of this is how much I miss music. I have always loved music. My dad has an incredible voice, sang in a choir and always sang when we were kids. I definitely take after him in that regard. I can memorize harmonies and lyrics typically after hearing them only one or two times. I was in little plays and musicals and my high school chorus. Music has always been a big part of my life.

Like most things in my life after having kids, you simply stop them or forget about them. All we listen to in the car on the way to school is Moana or some other kickass Disney princess. When Harper is in the car we try to listen to better choices of music but depending on Camryn’s mood and my inability to listen to any more screamfests, I give in to the womb gremlin and turn on Moana for the 828,492 time.

My anxiety and perhaps depression at this point is pretty high. Sadly, it has been manifesting in sheer anger and hatred for all the bad things that are happening right now. I try so hard to think about the things I am grateful for but my thoughts are so foggy and clouded with all of the chaos. And when I say foggy and cloudy, I don’t know about you but my brain is just mush and I feel like I am overall operating between 10-40% of a human. I have found that all of my breathing techniques don’t help and the other tools that I used to do at night (like color or read) I can’t do since I have to make up from all “lost” time I couldn’t get my work done during the day because you know, homeschooling and dealing with an insane fucking toddler psycho. Love you, Cam!

Last week while I was cooking dinner, (it actually could have been yesterday, I mean let’s be honest), Scott asked if I wanted some music on. I stared at him like he asked me a really hard question. I don’t know if it was my new covid foggy brain or if I suddenly realized someone was asking me what I actually wanted for once. I still didn’t answer and he said, “well, I’m going to go ahead and put on 80’s pop dance on pandora for you.” Pat Benatar’s ‘Love is a Battlefield’ came on and I honestly forgot what I was doing, but in a good way. I forgot about how much I really didn’t want to make dinner. I forgot about how anxious I was about everything that is happening outside my house. I forgot about how our worlds were turned upside down in a matter of minutes and how it will likely remain that way for quite some time. Even if it was for a couple of songs, in that moment, that is what my brain and body needed.

Since the world has basically stopped and reminded all of us to slow down, maybe we can all be reminded of the things that once made us happy. For me, during this chaos it is listening to music I chose and that I want to listen to. It helps me drown out all of my worries, even if it is just for the duration of the song.

I get it though, it is hard to be inspired when everything seems like a fucking dumpster fire and we just keep spraying it with more gasoline. If you don’t have the energy to go outside, then don’t. If you don’t have the energy to get dressed into real clothes, then don’t. I wouldn’t recommend doing these sorts of things every day because you will certainly end down the rabbit hole of despair. There is no right way to feel right now and that’s ok too.

Be well everyone!

Single Santa

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a husband who went to bed early and left his wife to whisk Sammi off to hide in the closet so she can take the next train to the North Pole while she begrudgingly ate the fucking carrots for the reindeer, drank the disgusting milk while happily eating the cookies followed by dragging up all the presents from the top secret location to their rightful place under the tree.
What could he be tired from?
Was it a)the buying of all the said gifts? Wait, no, that’s not it.
Was it b)the wrapping of all the said gifts? Well, that’s not it either.
Was it c)lugging all of said gifts from their top secret hidden spot to their rightful place under the tree? Nope, that’s certainly not it either.
Was it d)he is Jewish and doesn’t know the real meaning of Christmas? Perhaps, maybe. (And yes, I did just throw the Jew card in there.)
Well, we may never know the real reason he fell asleep so early on Christmas Eve. What I do know is that Santa is watching and may your wife not suffocate you whilst you rest your sugar-plum filled head.

My Story about PPD

Guest writer: Christine Lyalko

You can’t tell, but the woman on the left was suffering and in a dark place when this photo was taken.

I thought having a miscarriage was the most devastating time in my life. I wasn’t expecting the overwhelming and all consuming grief I felt over something that wasn’t even an actual baby yet. I was only 7 weeks along when I lost it (although I have to point out to myself that the “only” in that sentence is an unfair word I use to describe my pain, because I thought my pain was not as great as those who lose babies when they’re farther along – but it’s awful no matter what).  

But then I experienced PPD, or some version of it, after having my son.

I read up on PPD, my OB told me about it, I heard about it from a friend who experienced it.  I was armed, prepared, ready to call it out if it happened.  But honestly, I didn’t experience even an ounce of it with my daughter, so no way was I going to have it with this baby I wished for so badly.  And I wanted him SO BADLY.  I even “prayed” for a baby in my mind to a God I don’t particularly believe in *just in case*.  When I got pregnant again, I was ecstatic.  I loved him immediately. And when I gave birth I was in heaven, head over heels, could not be happier.

But 6 weeks later something changed, tilted, knocked me on my ass.  He wasn’t sleeping.  He cried a lot.  I still had hormones and chemicals running their course through my body. But mostly, HE WASN’T SLEEPING.  I was a level of exhausted I didn’t know was possible.  Having two kids was nothing I had prepared for.  I was suddenly choosing between nursing my infant or making dinner for my 3 year old daughter.  Bouncing him around like mad to stop the crying, or doing her bedtime routine. Waking him up from a nap or being late to pick her up from daycare.  The choosing killed me.  I felt awful every minute that I had both of them with me.  And when my daughter was at daycare, I was spending most of the day crying.  The second he would fall asleep, I’d tiptoe downstairs and eat finally or shower finally and then go to lay down and POOF.  He would wake up crying every damn time.  So I’d skip eating or showering, and just lay down immediately, but somehow those were the times he’d wake up instantly and cry too.  I put my head down, he’d cry.  I’d give up and stay awake to do chores, he’d sleep. My head touched a pillow, the monitor lit up like a Christmas tree. It felt evil, like the universe was somehow punishing me. It felt like absolute torture. 

So most of the time, I’d cry.  I’d cry with him, along side him, tears would sometimes spill onto his head and that would make me cry harder.  Writing about it now makes me cry.  And for some context, I rarely cry, so this was unnerving. But I thought I was just exhausted, just totally sleep deprived, perfectly normal.  Until one day when, after a night of barely any sleep for us both, he finally was passed out around 5:30 am. My husband got up to get ready for work and I was trying to stay in bed thinking I could get a half hour of sleep in, which sounded like bliss.  It was then that my daughter opened the door to our room, slammed it shut (not on purpose), woke the baby and I started screaming at the top of my lungs into a pillow.  My husband looked at me with a worry I hadn’t seen before.

Then the awful thoughts started coming.  I’m going to be raw and honest here which quite frankly is terrifying but I think it’s important because I believe I am not alone….  I started thinking it was all a giant mistake.  How had I ever thought another baby was a good idea?  Why did I do this to us, we were so happy before? Did I even love him?  Did he even love me?  Maybe they would be better off without me? I could suddenly understand how a mother could run away from her family.  I even daydreamed about it sometimes, what life would be like if I took off. I didn’t want to be there. I desperately pleaded for time to go faster so I could go back to work and bring him to daycare so I didn’t have to be with him all day.  And with all these thoughts came the loudest one of all: I am the worst mother in the world, an absolute failure and do not deserve these kids.  I know now that it was the PPD taking over, but I have never felt such utter disgust in myself in my entire life. 

For weeks I alternated between guilty, disgusted, hopeless, desperate, sad, angry, confused, lonely, anxious – sometimes a combination of some or all of these.  There were happy moments too of course, but the heaviness of those other feelings drew me so far down into a place I didn’t think was possible.  I didn’t want to talk to anyone, didn’t call anyone, barely answered texts.  And I definitely didn’t want to hang out with anyone – even if I did at times, I didn’t want to and would be counting down the minutes until they would leave.  And for the most part, my husband didn’t know any of this. He’s a wonderful hands-on husband and father, so it was through no fault of his own. I was really good at hiding it, really good at keeping it inside. 

This was PPD (or like I said before, some version of it).  I knew it, although I constantly told myself I was just exhausted, if I could sleep, it would get better, I would be better.  It was the lack of sleep for sure. I almost convinced myself that’s all that it was. But that was only a piece of it and I knew it deep down and for some reason I couldn’t say it out loud.  And this went on for another 4 months, which felt like 4 years.

Three key things happened during this time that were small moments with profound affects for me and which I truly believe eventually pulled me out of this state.  If it weren’t for these 3 things I truly think I would have suffered longer.

First, at around 8-9 weeks postpartum, a girlfriend reached out to me to ask me to join her at the gym, a spin class she had been going to.  Having two kids of her own, she is a big believer in “me” time and innocently asked me to go with her, wanting to get me out of the house, but not realizing what I was going through on the inside.  I was extremely hesitant BUT the idea of getting away for a guilt-free activity like working out suddenly seemed like bliss.  I have ALWAYS disliked working out, but at the time I disliked being home more.  So I went, even with my “lady area” newly healed.  And I LOVED it.  The darkness, the music so loud you could no longer hear your own thoughts, the heart pounding movements, the adrenaline, a dark and loud place where I could ugly-cry  and no one could hear or see me. It was exactly what I needed.  So I started going to this class every now and then when I could get a sitter, then once a week, then twice a week. I’d go and I’d cry and I’d sweat and I’d come out a tiny bit lighter. I’d never understood the appeal of working out before but suddenly it was my saving grace and I was hooked.  I’ve been going now for well over a year and a half, mixing in other types of workouts too. I’ve never felt healthier or stronger, mentally and physically, and I absolutely love it. 

The second thing that happened was, a week or so after that first friend reached out, I was texting with some girlfriends one day, thinking I was just doing some normal venting but in my clouded mind didn’t see that my words were concerning.  I wasn’t trying to let on that anything was really wrong – in fact I was actively avoiding it. But whatever I said, two of my girlfriends decided they were going to confront me and tell me they thought something bigger was going on.  It was like a dam broke and whether they knew it or not I cried harder then ever before when they started telling me their concerns.  But it was what I needed…I suddenly felt like my dirty secret was exposed but in a good way, as if them figuring it out on their own gave me the freedom to open up a bit.  I still insisted it was sleep deprivation but a little crack in wall I’d built opened up, providing a relief I didn’t know I could feel.

The third thing to happen was at 13 weeks I went back to work.  I hated that I was excited, but I was and that’s the truth.  And it was a HUGE factor in getting back to my normal self.  Just being in a normal routine, showering every day, using my brain, talking to adults, having all that distraction changed things drastically for me.  My son still wasn’t sleeping great but being at work somehow pushed me to muster up the energy I needed to get me through the day. It was as if my body went from trying to fake the energy to actually having the energy.  He didn’t start sleeping better until he was 5.5 months old, but by then I was feeling much better.  In fact, the minute he started sleeping better it was as if that last little layer of heaviness lifted and I felt like a completely different person….although not really different, just the person I was before I gave birth.  

Finally, I was working again, talking to my friends, going to the gym. And I was in love with my son.  I swear I don’t cry a lot but I could cry once again thinking about it.  Being so clouded and unable to focus on that love was the saddest time of my life.  But all of a sudden, I was happy again and so obsessed with him that I’d put him down for bed and wish for the morning immediately so I could go get him. I’d spend a good half hour, if not more, just looking through his photos and videos the second I was away from him.  It was just like when I had my daughter.  It was the best feeling in the world. 

So this story of mine is a little bit of advocacy for working out, because it absolutely saved me (as did going back to work and just getting time away from the house).  But mostly this is a plea to reach out to anyone you think is going through a tough time after giving birth.  I cannot even beg those going through PPD to ask for help because even if you recognize it, can name it, are totally aware of it, it’s debilitating.  For me, I felt that it was a burden I needed to bare for some reason and frankly I didn’t know how to truly talk about it.  And because I felt all those awful feelings listed above, namely the guilt and embarrassment, I stayed silent. So, for those that know someone who just had a baby, try to pay close attention.  Reach out, get them out of the house, suggest a spin class, barre, yoga whatever.  To my two girlfriends who paid attention and confronted me and to my friend that asked me to go to a spin class with her to get me out of the house: THANK YOU. I am forever grateful to them, to my body for allowing me to get out of that misery, to the exercise that brought me to such a healthy place, and to my babies. 

Fast forward a year and a half. The woman on the right is happy and healthy, both mentally and physically.  And absolutely beyond imagination in love with both of her kids.