Tuesday, May 20, 2008

PPD Chronicles: Chapter 4-The Long Road Home

I am reading the book, This Is Not What I Expected by Karen Kleiman and Valerie Raskin. It's the handbook for our PPD support group and is handed out/shared/purchased regularly.

I am unemployed. I am looking to move my children, my husband and a cranky dachsund to another state. I am going to be joining a church for the first time in nearly 8 years. I just emerged from two weeks of illness for my children and I. I haven't really cleaned my apartment in too many weeks to count. My mother doesn't speak to me unless I call her first. My father is going through a messy divorce. The t.v. networks and movie studios have yet to recognize how brilliant an actor is my brother. The baby stopped sleeping through the night because he would rather smash his ankle into the bars of his new crib. My four year old has decided he is smarter than me and doesn't hesitate to let me know. And yet, I am okay.

Is it the talk therapy? My CSW is so patient. I have missed/rescheduled more than I have attended. Last time I talked the entire appointment.

Is it the medication? I am on the lowest recommended dose.

Is it the exercise? I have missed two weeks because of viruses, ear infections, strep throat and a rescheduled trip to celebrate Mother's Day with my Mother In Law.

Or is it, I'll whisper so I don't wake the Gorilla sleeping in the corner, that I am okay. Perhaps I am further on the road to recovery than I realize. Maybe, just maybe I am walking away from the PPD Gorilla once and for all.

Oh, come on. Be serious. Have you seen my apartment? The dust bunnies are banding together with the discarded sippy cups under the couch and are planning a coup. The 'talk therapy'? How long can I continue to poke at old wounds? They'll only heal if you leave them alone, right? And please, let's not even get started on the whole working thing. I got fired. Face it. So now I am right back at the beginning of the Mommy Guilt, shouldn't I be staying home and caring for the children?

And yet, I am okay. I'm still tired, though my bones don't turn to water so often in caring for the children. More days than not I manage earrings (my own personal 'word up' to freedom) AND a shower. I talk to friends and share the reality of my life, the good, the bad and the ugly. Heck, I even have a Margerita-Mommy-Movie night scheduled.

Maybe, just maybe, I am a few blocks down the long road to recovery.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day 2008: A View from the Pillow

I spent this, my fourth Mother's Day in bed. Swaddled in blankets, senses dulled by painkillers and antibiotics, I was not the queen for a day the jewelry store commercials promise. Instead, I was the queen of the near dead battling strep throat, exhaustion and the flu.

I have spent the past two days vainly attempting to block out the noise of my four year old and 9 month old fussing, wrestling and destroying my husband and apartment. One interesting side effect, besides slurred speech and swollen glands, was my husband's new found depth of appreciation for the actual work in motherhood. He was always involved, sometimes at the periphery, often in the middle, of the chaos of two children under 5. However, these past few days he was it. For better or worse their every need, and his survival, landed squarely on his shoulders.

I laughed as I vacuumed the crumb strewn carpet, in a vain attempt to recapture some semblance of order. Dripping with fever sweat, I picked up toys sticky with goodness knows what. I remembered last weekend. He was down with an ankle injury. Seated in the recliner, a cool drink in his hand, he never once thought to vacuum or pick up a toy. I, however, couldn't take it anymore. I simply had to straighten, soothe or care for something, someone other than myself.

This Mother's Day I had a lot of time to think. It wasn't quiet time. We live in a very, very small apartment, so I can still hear every move, every toy beeping and every 9 month old grumbling and fussing. However, with the fan running and a cd in the player, I could almost imagine true peace. In the peace I found out a few things about myself.

I found out I ignore myself everyday, a hundred times a day. I was coming down with this mac truck several days before I got fully run over. Had I taken a nap, some extra vitamins and tylenol could I have avoided this complete hijacking of my ability to breathe, eat and sleep? What would happen if I spent just one minute a day listening, instead of silencing?

I also learned how to turn off my inner guilty voice. Like an 80 year old Yenta, she chatters in my ear saying things like, "Look at you, Queen Mother, laying around. Suck it up. You gave birth--this, this 'little cold', is nothing! It doesn't matter you can't breathe, swallow, eat, see straight. Get out there and read to a child for goodness sakes. Well, in my day..."

The PPD Gorilla began to growl from the corner. He reminded me exercising and resting were key 'treatments' for my 'condition'. I reminded him to shut the hell up and let me sleep.

Finally, I learned a hard truth about mothering. Short of natural disasters and other accidents we dare not name, my kids will be just fine if I check out for awhile. They'll eat (though who knows what). They'll sleep (not in naps, but exhausted from overplaying, face down in their own drool in the exersaucer). They'll play (giggling at their silly daddy or at how the baby likes to gag himself on whatever is handy, a toy, his bink, the dog, etc.). They'll be fine. The days will pass on just like any other.

On this Mother's Day I am okay with missing a few moments with the baby where he learned he liked lasagna. I am okay with not having the conversation with my 4 year old about why lint on his pee-pee isn't a disease. I am more than okay with the spa gift from my husband and dad.

Surprisingly, I am okay with having checked out for a few days. I think I'll do it more often. Only next time without viruses and antibiotics (though maybe not sans the painkillers!).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Dear Friend

Dear Friend,
When you looked at me with tears in your eyes and said, "I am so sorry I didn't know how bad it was for you. Can you forgive me?" My heart broke just a little more. I didn't realize until that excruciating moment I wasn't the only casualty in the PPD war. The Gorilla had stomped on you too, using my shoes.

I patiently explained the 'syndrome' using words I only recently acquired. Like a toddler learning the word for juice, I stumbled and mixed some things up. The Gorilla howled beside me, "It only confirms my existence! This only reminds you that you are sick! You are a sick mom! You are a broken woman!"

You listened and asked questions, pausing and sighing at all the right times. You said, "I know that's not you. I know you acted (or didn't act) because you were stuck." The Gorilla huffed into a corner.

Seeing the concern in your eyes, I reassuringly said, "If you had seen me everyday you would have known." Living four hours away from a BFF is convenient for the Gorilla. At a distance it takes less energy to hold up the thin wall of normalcy.

I am a wall professional. I had a broad panel in front of my 'reality' that was pathetically only 1 mm thick. I held it up proud, ignoring it's transparency in places, the cracks in others. I went to work. I bathed my children. I made dinner. I got up in the morning. I made it through the day. Depressed people, weak people, mentally ill people don't do those things. I was strong. I could hold it up. Until I couldn't.

Friend, when I began to make plans and didn't call it wasn't because I forgot your number. It was because I forgot myself. I didn't abandon you, I abandoned anything requiring effort beyond holding up the wall, as thin as veneer. In your graciousness, you said, "I'm glad you're back." I just realized I went somewhere. I went behind the wall and it fell on me.

I e-mail now. I plan playdates as accountability to get together. I write your names down in my calendar. I call for no, and sometimes, good reasons. It's because of you, friend, that I can put the Gorilla in a corner, get out of bed and hike with you and the children. It's because of you I remember how much I really like Jazzercise. It's because of you I know that peace isn't the absence of work or strife or hard times it's the ability to be calm in my heart (and the ability to laugh at random putt-putt jokes). It's because of you that I can be brave and tell my heart to beat again.

Now that the wall is down I can look into your eyes. I can see myself reflected there. I can see someone I am only beginning to know. A mother who will give you a high five when your son cares for his lovies and who will cry with you as our babies hold hands to navigate the scary woods. A sister who will roll under grape laden tables in laughter, soul and spirit deep. A girlfriend who will delight in cheesy eighties movies and John Cusack obsessions. A buddy who can plot and play endlessly over scrapbooks. A ya-ya who can laugh about talking on the phone in the only peaceful and kid free space in the house-the bathroom. I can see these things-because you are still here.

Dear friend, can you ever forgive me? You already did. Because you are still here.