Friday, January 30, 2015

One of those women

I am one of those women.

You know the ones.

The ones that society pretty much ignores until something catastrophic happens and we end up on the news, the stories where everyone wonders what went wrong.

The ones that other people constantly tell to be happy, to enjoy this time, to just think positive, to be grateful for what we have.

The ones that make other people uncomfortable.

The ones that other people don't understand.

The ones that struggle enough with an internal dialogue, so much that the words of others just serve to reinforce what the voices in our heads are saying to us.

The ones misunderstood even by our doctors, the doctors that might ask us one time if we're okay as a passing part of an exam, usually in the same manner that they ask if we're still taking our vitamins as if that's good enough.

I'm one of those women fighting post partum depression every single day.

I'm one of those women that people condemn when something terrible happens, when they interview those closest to us and they all say that they had no idea that things were this bad or that there was no sign or that everything seemed fine from the outside.

They use words like crazy. Like homicidal. Like monster.

They don't know what it's like to be in my head.

There are women, so many women, just like me out there, fighting this beast back with a dull blade, exhausted and worn down. There is so little help out there, even less compassion and sympathy. What there is in ample supply is judgment.

She should have done this, she should have felt this. How could she (insert whatever here)?

I'd never do ______.

Our society is one that places the most extreme demands and expectations on mothers to be perfect at every single aspect of motherhood, from even before conception all the way through until our children are grown and raised. We have these impossible demands, these requirements that society imposes on us. To eat perfectly, to be pregnant ideally, to not suffer complications, to labor beautifully, to deliver naturally, to breastfeed easily, to bond immediately, to nurture constantly.

And we're all supposed to do it without help.

Without failing.

Without breaking under the pressure.

As much as this society of ours demands of us, places these unattainable expectations upon our shoulders, it expects us to be able to meet them almost always alone.

We don't support women the way that we should. We don't support new mothers. We schedule one postpartum visit six weeks after delivery and declare her healed just because the physical vessel has recovered.

What calls itself support out there is often judgment in disguise. Spend any time with any new group of moms and you'll know just what I mean. Instead of supporting one another, we are arguing, debating, judging, wagging fingers at each other, declaring what we would do in their shoes, insisting that we are right and they are wrong.

It isn't just society failing us, no.

We, as mothers, are failing each other.

Those of you out there who don't struggle with post partum mental conditions may be able to weather it, to let the words spoken by others to roll off your skin a little more easily.

Those of us who do struggle though, we may not always be able to do that. Our arms are tired from holding up the shield all the time. We are weary. We feel so alone. The words, they bite.

And we're afraid to talk to you about it, all you other mothers, because we're afraid you will judge us even more.

The ugly truth is that we only ever see maternal mental health in the news, on television, when it has reached a point of critical mass, when something horrific has happened.

That mother, the one being called a monster now, she needed help months or years prior. She needed a village, but what she got instead was a raging mob after the fact.

The portrayals on television, in movies, the stories of crisis in the news, they mislead. They paint an unfair picture of those of us who struggle because they only ever show the worst case scenario down the road. They don't show the mother who hasn't showered in three days, the one who stares at her screaming newborn across the room because she doesn't know how to make the baby stop crying. They don't show the woman curled up in a ball on the shower floor. They don't show the woman giving every reason under the sun to avoid leaving her house, justifying her isolation because she just can't do it. They don't show the woman who wants to tell her doctor that something is wrong, but holds back in that moment out of fear.

We need to do better, as a society, as women, as mothers. We need to take better care of ourselves and each other.

To do that, we need to admit that this happens far more often than most people realize. Then we need to confront the fact that most of what we believe about post partum depression is wrong. We need to understand that the images we are fed are misleading.

Postpartum depression looks like me.

We need to have an open dialogue about these conditions, what they are really like for most of us, instead of only believing that they need to be addressed when we go off the rails. We need to be supported instead of judged, and we need it long before it gets to that point.

We need to not be fed misinformation on the screen, misinformation that only serves to perpetuate the stigma.

There are far more of us crying on the floor in the shower than there ever will be who end up in those horrific news stories. We need a society that understands that, that doesn't think the extremes are indicative of what most of us experience, that doesn't judge us and call us names. We need a society that encourages us to get the help that we need, that encourages all women to speak out about the battles they fight, that doesn't make us believe we have to do this alone.

My name is Kelly. I am a mother of five. I have post partum depression. I struggle every single day.

I am one of those women.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Can We Not?

I'm in a weird place. I should just tell you that right from the beginning here. There's so very much going on inside my head right now. As my daughter would say, you don't even want to know because it's scary in there.

I'm struggling with post partum depression but even more so with anxiety right now. I am at a point where I'm barely leaving the house and I'm completely okay with that...which is more concerning than anything else honestly.

I like it here in my cave.

I'm not writing much these days for a few reasons. The main reason is that I'm just too busy with everything involved with taking care of a newborn again. Since I know that he is my last one, I'm really sitting with it, all of it. Drinking it in, the good, the bad and the ugly, because I know that I'll never be here again. He wants me to just hold him while he cries sometimes, and I get that.

Sometimes I just want someone to hold me while I cry.

Here's this. For no reason other than it makes me happy.
I'm busy and distracted, sure, but it's more than that. I'm questioning why I'm writing these days, wondering what the point of this all is. It doesn't help that it's tax time, the time of year when I get the inevitable "how much did you make writing last year?" question that reminds me just how little this profession pays at times.

I need to work on my books.

But I have the attention span of a gnat right now. I can't focus on anything. Throw in all the uncertainty going on in my life right now, and it's a wonder that I get a shower on the days that I do.

The baby has taken to insisting that he hold my hand when he is nursing, which I am fine with. It's sweet and lovely and is firmly rooting our bond even more. It just makes it even less likely that I can ever be online because I used to scan Facebook and update my page when he was nursing.

In the few moments I've had to actually read anything online (because there's no way I have time to write most days), I've just wanted to throw things. So many of the stories and blog posts and articles I'm seeing make me angry. Some of them hurt in ways that I haven't even fully identified.

There's this epidemic of mommy wars posts again, some of which is being perpetuated by the measles outbreak currently happening. I'll save you my long diatribe on the subject, but suffice to say that my children (even the one who reacts to vaccines) are fully vaccinated, that herd immunity is actually a thing, that the fact that immunized people can still contract disease doesn't imply that the vaccines don't work, that measles can have some devastating side effects, that there are children out there who rely on herd immunity for protection because they cannot be immunized (like my youngest child who is too young, like cancer patients, like children with allergies to components, like kids with autoimmune disorders). I have a long background in patient advocacy and autonomy, but I've also studied public health and epidemiology. Sometimes your health isn't just about you or your children or your family. Period.

Anyway, the mommy wars are in full swing again. Normally, I can tune them out pretty well, but since I'm right in the thick of PPD, it's rattling my cage. I'm sick to death of these posts about what we should do and how we should feel and how we should parent. I'm sick to death of people chastising others for doing things differently. I'm sick of women declaring in one breath that they support all mothers, but in the next insulting some of them categorically. I'm sick to death of people believing that their opinions should rightfully be imposed on other people.

No, we aren't all going to be happy all the time.

No, we aren't all going to have this glorious maternal instinct thing kick in immediately.

No, we aren't all going to bond with our babies instantly.

No, we aren't all going to.

Stop acting like we're supposed to, like we've somehow failed if we don't.

There is a fundamental difference between sharing your story and your experiences and your anecdotes and what worked for your family and acting as though any of that should hold relevance for others. Just because something worked for you does not under any circumstances mean that it would be the right choice for someone else.

It's not about you.

I promise.

Stop telling me how I should or shouldn't feel about every single goddamn aspect of parenting.

Can we not insist that other mothers mother the way we do?

There was a post last week or the week before that kept floating by my newsfeed about the relationship that mothers have with their adult children. I saw it shared more than once, and I finally gave in and read it. It was one of those posts that you could just tell was complete and utter bullshit, but then I'd guess you'd only be able to see that if you'd lived through something similar.

Essentially, it was written by the mother of adult children who've distanced themselves from her. About how she tried, how she did her best, how she doesn't understand why they won't talk to her.


I have some ideas.

Those who haven't been through this shit seem to believe that the choice to cut someone out of your life, particularly your mother, is a decision that anyone can arrive at lightly and arbitrarily. That is most certainly not the case. I know because I lived it. I was put in the position, by my mother, of having to choose between my children and her. I wasn't there of my own volition, I didn't want to be there, I wish I'd never been there. I wish I had an uncomplicated and happy relationship with her rife with adequate boundaries and unconditional love and the things that parent/child duos are supposed to have.

I didn't get that.

A lot of us didn't.

Don't insist that I'm somehow damaged or flawed or at fault for the circumstances of that relationship. We're born into the families we are born into, we don't get to choose that, just like we don't get to choose the mental illnesses that run through our family trees, we don't get to choose whether someone is a narcissist or borderline. We don't.

How about this? How about instead of categorically agreeing with clearly slanted posts such as that one, the one written by the mother who just couldn't fathom why her kids had cut her out, how about we give them the benefit of the doubt for at least a moment? How about we recognize that we're only getting one side of a story?

Says the girl who has been disowned by half her family because of this exact kind of situation in which no benefit of the doubt was ever extended.

Life isn't simple. It's rarely ever black and white, but shades of gray make people uncomfortable. It's easier to vilify others. It's easier to say that what we know is true and right and what others do or think is wrong.

It's just unfair and inaccurate.

Can we not make assumptions about people based on one version of a tale?

Can you tell that I'm sick of feeling like I need to defend myself?

I am.

And maybe that's why I'm okay with not writing right now.

Speaking of which, I'm being paged. The baby needs me...and right now, I need that.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Four Minute Lifetime

Heh. This should be interesting.

I've been intrigued by this article published recently about how there appear to be a set of questions, that when asked to someone else, can make someone fall in love with you.

I decided to go through the questions on my Facebook page, and you can see some of the answers if you head on over there. One of them requires a person to tell the other (presumably a stranger, or at least someone you aren't currently romantically involved with) person as much as you can about your life story in four minutes.

Since the online platform isn't conducive to speaking directly to people (and lord knows I'm not making a video right now), I figured this was the best way to do it.

So. My life story. In four minutes.

I was born in Southern California in 1977, exactly 11 months after my parents were married, on my due date. I was named after Jaclyn Smith's character on Charlie's Angels. My brother arrived the following year. We had a dog named Starsky and a cat named Hutch because clearly my parents liked to watch a lot of TV. 

My room was painted Kelly green and my favorite toy was Kermit the Frog. I dressed him up like a baby and refused to play with dolls like a normal kid. I was reading at 2 years old and skipped first grade. They wanted me to advance faster but my parents refused because they wanted me to be normal (insert maniacal laughter here).

I got kicked out of Catholic school in the fourth grade and went to a school for gifted and talented kids after that. I was marginally less bored, but only got more awkward. I loathed junior high school until I found a group of friends that accepted me. I screwed that up, then mostly hated high school until I met the guy who would become my husband someday in driver's ed class in 10th grade.

We went to different colleges in different cities but managed to stay together and got married right after graduation. I finished law school even though I should have dropped out after he was diagnosed with cancer and I lost the first baby because my priorities had been irreversibly changed. I have a mountain (literally) of debt that I will probably carry to my grave as a result. My worst decision ever was staying in school.

My son was born three days after I graduated from law school and I'm out of time.

HEY! I got pretty far and probably told you some things you didn't know. And I type

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the RSVP edition

There's kind of a lot this week, you guys. I posted the weekly TTPMOT rant on my Facebook page this week, as I've done this point....years now, and had to add a disclaimer about how it's okay for people to vent and to let them without criticizing them, that venting is healthy as long as it isn't all you do. Really?

Yes, really. I had to add that little disclaimer because it seems that every week lately when I post that thread on the great book of face, someone has to tell me that it's stupid to vent or has to give someone crap for what they are whining about or has to tell everyone to think positive or has to try and one-up whatever everyone else is dealing with and claim that no one else has real problems because they have to deal with ______ (fill in the blank).

Jaysus, people. Everything is relative. What might be minuscule for you might be overwhelming for someone else.

Anyhow, on to the things pissing me off....other than that, obvs.

Taking Dignity Away
Last week a church here in Colorado made nationwide news, and not for a good reason. Vanessa Collier passed away and her family arranged to have her funeral at the church. As people began to file into the church for the service, the church abruptly said that they wouldn't be able to hold the services there and moved the funeral across the street to a funeral home.

The reason? Vanessa was a lesbian and her family intended to show a video photo montage that included images of her and her partner. The church had asked the family to remove the images and they refused, saying that they weren't about to edit her life.

This story makes me sick to my stomach. This woman was used to make a point in her death, and that's just wrong. I'm so sick of people using religion as a weapon against others, even in their death.

The Price of Friendship
In this week's edition of adults fucking things up for their kids, we have this story. A mother, pissed off that a father had rsvp'd to her child's party but didn't come, elected to send him an invoice. A bill. For non-attendance. They refused to pay and now the mother is actually threatening to take them to small claims court.

I so wish I was kidding.

There are so very many things wrong with this whole jacked up situation, but let me see if I can summarize my feelings on the matter.

First, no one owes you a damn thing. No one owes your kid a damn thing. If you're so hard up for birthday party funds that you are billing people who don't show, maybe you should re-evaluate your birthday party budget.

Second, people not rsvp'ing to parties is annoying, yes. Sometimes people say they are coming but end up not being able to make it for one reason or another. Shit happens.

Third, you've officially made it almost impossible for your kid to have normal friends because all the parents in a 50 mile radius of you will be leery as hell, and for good reason.

When did society become one so deep rooted in entitlement? For fucks sake.

Jury Selection Begins Today
Jury selection in the James Holmes trial begins today, and the whole thing is unnecessary. A plea deal has been on the table for a good long time now, one that the prosecutor refused. Holmes was willing to plead guilty and be sentenced to life in prison. His only stipulation was that the death penalty be taken off the table.

The prosecutor refused.

The state of Colorado is damn close to ending the use of the death penalty as it is. It is rarely ever used, and the cases where it has been applied aren't without ample controversy. It costs more to put a convict to death than to house them for the rest of their lives, as much as some people refuse to believe that truth.

Look, I used to freaking work for the District Attorney in Los Angeles. I'm all in favor of justice. What I'm not in favor of, though, are misplaced attempts to seek justice, especially when they appear politically motivated. 

Holmes will never be put to death by the state, that much I can guarantee you. He's willing to just take life. Instead, the DA is pursuing the death penalty in a case that is certain to cost the state millions and millions of dollars to prosecute. No conviction is guaranteed at trial, especially since he is claiming insanity. Jurors will be asked to serve for months. The entire situation will be rehashed in that court room over and over again, forcing all the families to relive the events of that day.

Instead, because of an ill-advised insistence that seeking the death penalty is the only acceptable means to justice, we'll be wasting a ton of money.

American Sniper
I haven't read the book. I haven't seen the movie.

I'm not here to opine on either.

I'm disappointed that the response to the movie has divided people even more in this country, that it seems to have bolstered this belief that certain ethnic groups, certain nationalities, certain religions are inherently evil somehow.

I wish, oh how I wish, that the movie hadn't just attempted to humanize one man, to simplify him in order to solidify his persona as a hero. He was far more complicated and some of those complications should disturb us.

More than that, I wish people were talking about military mental health right now, about the PTSD that killed him, about how little we seem to care about soldiers when they return home, about the fact that it is possible to both support soldiers and be opposed to the wars they fight and die in.

There is an opportunity to do good here. We should be doing that instead of arguing.

Monday, January 19, 2015

30 Days of Quotes about Life - Martin Luther King, Jr.

If ever you needed evidence of my inability to finish things, just look at one of my post series for evidence. The quote series is one of my personal favorites, though it seems to be hit or miss when it comes to my readers. Some of you love this stuff. Some of you can't stand it. 

I get that. Really, I do. 

I pick the quotes I pick for my own set of reasons, most of which totally depend on the place I'm at mentally on any given day.

The quote I am choosing today is one chosen for a fairly obvious reason. It's Martin Luther King, Jr. day. It only makes sense to focus on the wisdom of his words today.

I've done so in the past, choosing my personal favorite of his quotes the last time I wrote in this series. You can find that post here, where I discuss the following quote: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 

Today, I'll choose another. There are so many.

This one.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 

I've been thinking about this quote a lot lately, for a few reasons. On SNL this weekend, they did a skit about MLK and what he'd think about activism and protest, about his legacy and the progress we've made. If you haven't seen it yet, here it is. 

Comedy has a way of telling so many truths. 

I wonder what he'd think if he was here to see our society today. I can't help but think he'd be disappointed. 

Anyhow, on to this particular quote.

His words sting a bit because they hold so much truth in them, truths that have been revealed many times in the recent past.

This quote is one that captures so many of my personal motivations in life, why I do what I do, especially with this particular platform. I talk about the things that other people would often prefer I didn't. I discuss topics that many would rather ignore. I shine the light on the ugly truths. I point out injustices, urge people to see things from a different perspective than their own. Even when it's wildly unpopular. Even when my doing so carries consequences.

I do it because silence is dangerous. 

Silence is dangerous because of how powerful it is. 

If we stop standing up for what we believe is right and fair and true in this world, if we allow our voices to be silenced, if we stop advocating because it's too hard or will invite criticism or whatever our reasons are...who will then do it?

Having opinions and expressing them publicly opens people up to attacks and criticism, for sure. There are times that I really do struggle with pressing that publish button, but I almost always do it because I feel like I have to, like I am morally compelled to do it. 

In this current environment, one where those on the fringes attack anyone who disagrees, we need to remember that fairness and justice generally lie somewhere in the middle.

The voice of reason cannot be heard if it never speaks. 

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