It’s Time To Talk About Maternal Mental Health, And Be Civilized About It

{Serious Post Alert}

I am not one to pretend I know everything about the way the mind, or the body, or the world for that matter, works. But if there is one thing I know based on factual research, history of our culture, observations in society, and my own, anecdotal experiences, it is this: having a baby seriously fucks you up. It fucks up your body. It fucks up your sleep patterns. It fucks up your life as you knew it. And it fucks up your head.

Sometimes it really really fucks up your head.

So much so that there is an entire array of postpartum mental health disorders that you can find yourself diagnosed with. Postpartum depression. Postpartum psychosis. Postpartum anxiety. I am sure the list goes on.

The question is: why won’t anyone do anything about it?

Shortly *before* I had my third little ball of perfect, I started having major problems with anxiety and panic attacks. I was approximately 8 months pregnant, 34 years old, and all of a sudden I couldn’t handle going to the doctor. I would worry – excessively – in the days that led up to whatever appointment I had. Something was going to be wrong, I just knew it. Then when I got to the office, with absolutely nothing wrong, I would have a full blown panic attack. On several occasions, it rocketed my blood pressure up higher than it has ever been.

If you know anything about pregnancy, you know that high blood pressure is bad news.

It got to the point where my OB started me on a mild sedative to make it through the duration of the pregnancy. It worked, a little. While in the hospital, they gave me something else that was safe in breastfeeding, then sent me home saying that the hormones with breastfeeding would likely fix everything. And if it didn’t, call my primary care physician.

Since then, I have lived in a constant state of anxiety. Constant. Not a day goes by that I am not worrying about things I cannot control, making myself sick to my stomach from the fight-or-flight adrenaline rushing through my body, being angry about things I am not entirely sure anger is an appropriate response to, and having about one full blown panic attack a week.

This has gone on for 21 months now.

At first, I tried to deal with it, patiently but also impatiently (as anxiety has a tendency to draw minutes out into agonizing years). I thought to myself: you know what, I am sure when the breastfeeding gets going, it’ll help like they said.

When I went in for my six week c-section follow up, I mentioned that the anxiety had not gone away, so my doctor gave me the card for a psychologist who specialized in postpartum mental health.

She wasn’t in network for my insurance.

So I called my primary care physician, who – in short – did very little. Six months later, she gave me a prescription for Xanax with the side note that no you really shouldn’t take Xanax while breastfeeding – but she finished breastfeeding at six months, so maybe this would give me the incentive to quit breastfeeding at six months too. Then I could deal with my anxiety.

By taking boatloads of Xanax.

When I said that the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of two years breastfeeding, she said that the AAP only recommended six months to a year. So think about it, here’s the Xanax if you decide to wean.

I changed doctors.

Unfortunately, over the course of the following months, it’s been more of the same. Either a doctor doesn’t support breastfeeding beyond a year, or they don’t support treating a woman with postpartum anxiety, or they don’t support either.

My most recent doctor finally said: you know, there just really aren’t many options, why not give therapy a shot with someone that is in network.

So I went on the search for a local therapist that supports breastfeeding, deals with postpartum anxiety, is in network with my insurance, and is taking new patients.

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Very few that meet all of that criteria exists.

So few, in fact, that it got down to one guy. One fucking guy. He called me back (which most of them didn’t even give me the courtesy of doing), he asked about what insurance I had, went over a little phone interview, then scheduled an appointment.

Here is how the appointment went, in a short list:

  1. {Appointment started 20 minutes late}
  2. “Oh hey – you said you have California Blue Shield? Yeah so…I’m out of network with them now. It’s August now, last week when we spoke it was July so… I’ll take your regular copay for now and then when I get the EOB in 90 days, we can just settle up whatever the difference ends up being for all the appointments. Cool?
  3. “So when do you plan to start weaning so you can take some medication? I just want a timeline to see what we are looking at here? OH you’re letting the baby decide? Huh…
  4. “Alright, if I have this straight, your husband works nights and you are alone with the kids…you say you get about 4 hours of sleep a night? Well you should do something about that, it’s probably making your anxiety worse.
  5. “I think you should consider this workbook about cognitive behavioral therapy…I mean it’s for teens but don’t think that means I think you are stupid. Well you are a stay at home mom HAHAHA, just kidding…it’s just a good workbook.
  6. {Appointment ended 10 minutes early, which – combined with the 20 minutes late, turned an hour into 30 minutes of paperwork and literally just the above comments}

So uncivilized.

I left horrified. And yet still I had scheduled a follow up visit, figuring I would give the guy another chance. I mean…I was at the point where he was literally the only therapist in a 50 mile radius that fit the bill.

But there was still that sticky insurance thing, so I called the insurance company and – long story short – out of network meant my weekly copay to see this pseudo-sexist quack was going to be $57 instead of the in network $10.

That would be $228 instead of $40 a month. An unreasonable difference that – honestly – was out of my copay budget and – frankly – not worth it. I’ll deal with the fucking worrying and upset stomachs for now. My baby – now a toddler – is 21 months old; it is very VERY likely this will begin to subside soon anyway. And if it doesn’t, by that point he will likely wean on his own and I can explore a safer non-narcotic medication approved for anxiety.

So I called the guy to cancel the appointment, explaining – what I thought politely – was that I had called the insurance and the copay was just going to be too high, and here was the TEXT MESSAGE he sent me, within minutes:

“Heather i will take you out of the book for friday. You are PPO fyi, and although you would likely pay some what more, it shouldn’t be exorbitant as you claimed.”

Okay.

At what point are we going to talk about maternal mental health, or mental health in general, and actually make the situation better? Or how about we just address the general lack of healthcare available for anything?

It is terrifying to think that so few doctors in my community want to actually doctor. It is even more terrifying to think that so few doctors in my community seem to be able to put their personal opinions and beliefs aside so they can assume their call of duty as practitioners of whatever specialty they chose.

To be honest with you all: the thought of going back to the drawing board with this therapist situation seems to have straightened my anxious head right up, anyway. Every time I start worrying, I think to myself now: Heather, the last thing you want to do is have to go back to a quack like that jerk that called stay at home moms dumb. Panic: away!

It’s 2018. We should be able to talk about this shit, and for that matter to be civilized about it. Not everyone is so lucky to be able to redirect their thoughts so easily as I seem to have. It is for those people that we need to have this discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Best Way To Support Your Adult Kids That Are Parents, Is To Keep Your Mouth Shut

Over the years, I have learned one thing that I hope I remember when I am older and my kids are older and have kids of their own: to keep my mouth shut. Don’t foist my opinion on them about how or what they are doing as a parent. Don’t make comments under my breath in regards to their mom’ing or dad’ing decisions.

Just. Keep. It. Shut.

Even if I don’t agree with something they are doing, or feel it’s hurt me or attacked my own decisions when I was a parent…the reason why is because their choices as parents are theirs to reap and sow. And as a mother-turned-grandmother (God, I shudder at the thought) I am not on the inside of all the aspects of parenting THEIR kids during THEIR time (times change, Mom).

Now it’s one thing if they come to me and ask for an opinion or advice. But if they don’t, unsolicited advice or comments or, as they most often come across, criticisms, should be considered better left unsaid.

My father, who lives with us, is the worst with the under-the-breath comments. I am constantly having to tell him to stop, which he doesn’t. It’s insensitive and hurtful, but never a direct confrontation. So I’ll give him that.

It usually goes something like this:

Me: “Ava, today your chores say put away the dishes.”

Ava: [whines]

Dad: “I’ll help you baby…I’ll be right there, you just put away the silverware.”

Me: “Dad please don’t help her, you’re just making it more difficult for me to get her to do her chores.”

Dad: “I’ll help her if I want.”

Me: “Dad, please let me be the mother.”

Dad: [Slams something down on the counter and starts walking away] “Yeah, a real great mother.”

It’s pleasant.

The thing about *my* dad, though, is that I have enough years and not-give-a-shit enough with him to be able to just let that roll off my back. I mean it stings at first, and I’m sure a psychiatrist is somewhere out there just rubbing his hands together, waiting for me to crack and spend years in his office at $300 a pop, but for now we’ll stick with…I get over it.

But this highlights an issue I’ve noticed more in public, among other parent-friends, and with my husband’s family, to a greater degree than with my dad:

Sometimes, the biggest Mom Shamers (or, if you will, Parent Shamers) are our parents.

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Many of you read my social media shit show saga just yesterday. If you missed it, you surely missed out. In any event, as a follow up my husband called his mother yesterday morning, much to his dismay because she had no interest in 1) letting him talk 2) actually listening to what he had to say 3) doing anything other than screaming over and over again that she is a victim and 4)…

To. Shame. Us. As. Parents.

The backstory is as follows: a couple weeks ago, we secured a new home. A better home. A bigger home. A home with a yard.

We had previously been living in and caring for a family-owned condo, and we knew that there was a high probability that said family would be upset we were moving out. Not only because they wouldn’t have us taking care of the lemon of a place anymore, but because then they’d have to find someone else to get in there to pay the mortgage. Now we could have been wrong, but there’s always that risk with them…so we had to play it safe for our own mental health and decision-making ability.

We wanted to be able to make our decision about the new home without the the opinions of others. Yes, sometimes asking for advice is the best thing to do; but on this one, we wanted to do it ourselves. It’s hard to make the right choices for your family enough as is without the opinions of every Tom, Dick, and Susie squawking in your ear like pigeons.

So we didn’t say anything at first to them, until we had made our own choices.

What complicated the issue was that someone saw online that we had been looking at places, and my husband’s mom heard about it (because what kind of a family doesn’t gossip and talk shit about every. fucking. thing they come across?) and she flat out asked us if we were moving out of state. This is a sensitive issue for her because her other son, my husband’s brother, along with his wife and toddler just moved … out of state.

“No of course we aren’t moving out of state” was our resounding response. Because we weren’t. My husband works in film, that’s actually a stupid question to begin with. Unless he were to move on to work at Girls Gone Wild in New Orleans (um, he actually did apply there years back – they pay well I guess)…we are LA area for life. It’s just the way it is.

But we didn’t continue the conversation beyond that. We changed the subject, because we weren’t ready to talk about it. We hadn’t made our final-final decision on anything yet. And, honestly, the way she responds to any kind of change in other people’s lives is not usually the most positive.

Even just us making a decision for ourselves like “I’m having surgery that day, would you mind giving me one day to recover before coming to visit” turns into a hurtful barrage of comments and attitude, and …opinions and shaming.

As a side note: the kids were there when this whole moving-out-of-state-freak-out happened, and we had talked to them and told them we didn’t want them to lie to Grandma, but it’s really important that they let Dad talk to Grandpa about it privately once we’ve made our decision for sure. Because of the sensitivity of it.

You see, I believe that it’s really important to, yes, teach my kids honesty; but at the same time to teach them that there is a time and a place for everything. And, more importantly, that it’s important to set their own boundaries on what they do and do not share with people; and even more importantly than that to set boundaries on the influence others have on their own happiness.

THOSE are the life lessons that I think are important, especially in light of our daughter already being worried that Grandma and Grandpa would be mad we were moving out of the family-owned home. She didn’t want to move into the new house at first because of that. To me, as a parent, I have failed if my kids believe they should make their life’s decisions based on other people’s bullshit.

Flash forward to yesterday, my husband had this conversation with his mom about the social media shit show, and her main focus was to actually talk about how that conversation about not moving out of state (just being clear: we aren’t, we are moving 2 miles down the road) was an example of how she doesn’t agree with our parenting. She doesn’t think we should be teaching the kids to lie to her and keep secrets. That she should be able to extract whatever information she wants from them, and that by teaching them to have boundaries on how much they share and how much they let others have say in their lives and happiness is bad parenting. Bad parents raising liars and sneaky, sly people that do things behind people’s backs.

What was my initial reaction? To feel shame.

But then I felt the opposite of shame: pride. I felt pride because in her negative reaction, I realized that our decision in this with the kids was actually the right one. That she validated our decisions as parents with her behavior; and more importantly that we actually sometimes make good choices for our kids. I’m not teaching them to be liars. In fact, we are very emphatic with our kids about honesty. Rather, we are teaching them about healthy boundaries – something so few people have, and everyone needs.

Now before all of you are like “oh damn, I can’t believe she’s putting all this on blast on the Internet,” I just have to say: very few people in my husband’s life – from the beginning of it to the end – give a shit enough about me and what I have to say to read my blog. Let’s say none of them do. And, remember from yesterday, I lost (deleted and blocked) 31 friends on social media.

But really… I shouldn’t have to hide what’s right. If you don’t like people finding out about your bullshit, you should probably not pull the bullshit.

And, I’m a writer. The old adage is you shouldn’t ever say or do anything around a writer that you don’t want out in the open. I’m fairly certain that the only reason my husband actually loves me is because I call out all the shit he is too afraid to call out.

Moreover, there is absolutely nothing wrong with talking about what is going on in your life that is categorically, without a doubt wrong. It ain’t up for debate. What kind of people have we become that feel we have to hide everything about our lives and not speak up about what is right and wrong?

People that are ashamed, that’s what kind of people.

In the end: isn’t that where this whole parent shaming thing got going anyway? We aren’t only just shamed for doing whatever we do, we’re shamed for talking about it too. We’re shamed for talking about our decisions, we’re shamed for talking about how we came to our ideas as parents, and we’re shamed for feeling ashamed.

Lord help us.

I Lost 31 Facebook Friends Today Because I Posted About My Anxiety Disorder

By “lost” I mean that I gave them the boot. They were all family. My husband’s family, to be specific.

I have an anxiety disorder. It’s mostly hormonal at this point, but the more I deal with it the more I realize it’s also situational. Situational in the sense that I feel a huge conflict between who I am and what I feel I’m allowed to be.

What I feel my husband’s family allows me to be.

To the point, though: right now, I’m in a bad place anxiety-wise. Depression too. It’s OK for me to say that. It’s OK for me to talk about it. And it’s OK for me to set limits and boundaries with all of that in light.

That I feel I have to say any of that is absurd.

So we have been thinking about moving out of our neighborhood basically since we moved in about two years ago. There’s a lot of crime in the community, which is crazy because it’s a beautiful neighborhood with a lot of wonderful people. But moreover, the situation with living in a family-owned home was stressful. And…it just wasn’t enough room for our family.

Finally, several weeks back we found a couple rentals within our price range. Rentals that were bigger. Rentals that didn’t make us feel we were responsible for maintenance because of the family nature of it. Rentals that were a real step up for our family. We started looking at them, applying for them…and within a day or two of even looking, we got the best of all of them.

So we’re moving out of the family-owned townhouse in the crime-ridden community with AMAZING neighbors (that part is in no way sarcastic…except for the ones from that whole pee gate episode a while back, I have never met nicer people)…and the family owned townhouse is up for rent.

Today, my father in law just showed up at the townhouse, though, insisting he be allowed to come in and inspect the place to see what kind of work he would need to do.

To start, we have put so much work into the place simply because my husband and I felt it was our responsibility. Nay, it was said it was always his and his brother’s responsibility. So to be so freaked out and worked up about how much work it may or may not need before it goes up for rent again was a little…suspicious… Moreover, we paid through the 31st. If we need until then to move out, we sure as hell can. And if you really have to get all freaked out and come over – is it so hard to make a phone call and ask when a good time would be? REALLY?

Apparently.

In any event, my husband walked outside and asked politely that he come another time. Today was not a good time. My anxiety level was already through the roof. I have spent every day since Saturday (today is Wednesday) crying, most of the time for reasons I’m not sure. I’ve used more Xanax this week than in the last several weeks. In short: I’m a mess.

The move, however, has been going PERFECTLY. We have just a couple more days in the townhouse and the new place is basically all set up already. And my husband knew that I needed to know that THAT aspect was under control, since everything else seems to be falling apart. Not to have the added pressure of any complaints about the townhouse on my shoulders.

Also, my home is – right now – my only safe place.

His dad pushed his way past him, and barged into the house.

Terrified of my personal space being violated like that, I went up to our bedroom and shut the door. I stayed in there trying to stay calm until he left. It isn’t that I can’t be around other people, it’s just that my home is my only safe space and I need to feel that way. And who knows, anyway? I could have been in the shower. The kids could have been running around in underpants… Who thinks they can just show up and barge into another person’s house like that? ESPECIALLY someone you know has an anxiety disorder?

Once he left, I felt completely panicked and violated. My safe zone was taken control of. I’ve been working so hard to have safe zones – things that help me stay calm, help me keep my anxiety under control… now I have lost that one. Sure, we are moving out in just a couple more days…but a couple days with a panic disorder is an eternity.

So, naturally, I took to social media to vent my frustrations. I did it as vaguely and anonymously as I could. There was NO WAY anyone would know who or what I was talking about. NONE!

I had no intention of even going into specifics as to what happened. I wasn’t planning on blogging about it, like I just did. I. Planned. Nothing. But. To. Post. A. Vague. Vent. And. Reminder. (And note: my husband’s dad is not on Facebook, so would never even see this.)

Here was the pertinent part (the rest was me talking about how much I truly hope to keep the friendships I have with my former community)…

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Within minutes, though, the family brigade came out in full force. First, my husband’s mother, who is never online and was at work at the time, suddenly became active enough on Facebook to see my post and decided to reveal in the comments who the offender was. Suddenly aunts were telling me I am ungrateful and should delete my post. That I should be thankful for everything they’ve done for me (to be clear: the only person that has done anything for us has been MY dad, and my husband will be the first to admit that). Shame on me for being such a terrible person!

Shame. On. Me. For. Having. An. Anxiety. Disorder. That. Necessitates. I. Need. A. Safe. Space. That. Being. My. Home.

I tried not to respond to their shit, but finally I did and just defended myself. Which I know I shouldn’t do. I’ve been going to therapy for this anxiety, and the therapist even tells me if I don’t stop defending myself to these people nothing will ever change.

But it just kept going. Suddenly uncles were revealing gossip that had clearly been spreading through the family about us moving out (the idea that we gave no notice that we were moving out). MY near and dear and long time friends were coming to my aid, and family were telling – Internet screaming – at them to butt the fuck out of family affairs. Family members were making public calls for other family to join in and back them up about not tolerating MY TOTALLY AND UTTERLY EGREGIOUS BEHAVIOR ANY FURTHER (it sounded a little drunk-Facebooking at that point). My husband, at work, started getting phone calls from people not even affiliated with me online to get me under control.

Like really?

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To all of this bullshit, I have a few things to say:

  1. It is not OK to just show up at someone’s house, under any circumstance, for any reason whatsoever, and just barge in. You may be stupid. You may have no manners. You may be a blood relative. Doesn’t matter – it is never OK.
  2. It is not OK to shame someone for having an anxiety disorder that requires a little extra consideration about the rude and ignorant shit you do and say.
  3. People are allowed to have feelings and express them.
  4. If you are so stupid so as to respond to someone’s vague post about something with all the specifics, YOU ARE TO BLAME when that escalates out of control.
  5. Facebook friends should be people I would actually be friends with in real life. I would never be friends with people that shame someone for having an anxiety disorder and asking that their personal space at home be respected because of it.
  6. My husband’s family never responds to all the positive and bad ass things I post online about our lives. Adorable pictures of the kids. Silence. Husband got a promotion. Nothing. Heather has an anxiety disorder. FUCK YOU HEATHER YOU DUMB CUNT HOW DARE YOU DISRESPECT THIS FAMILY LIKE THAT.

Here’s the thing about it all that I have come to realize and think about over the last several months – not just today. Our kids are witnessing all of this. They hear about it or see it or feel the effects of it at a family party. Is this really the lesson I want to teach my kids? That people can bully and shame others for sharing about their mental health? My oldest daughter has generalized anxiety disorder – should I teach her that she should hide it and not set boundaries with others to keep that under control?

At this point, this isn’t even about me anymore. It’s about my kids. They deserve extended family that is accepting and loving and compassionate and doesn’t act like a bunch of psychotic drunks calling publicly for a revolt against someone that says something they don’t like. If someone doesn’t gel with those values I want to raise my kids with, they’ll be deleted and blocked from online and real life. Tonight, it happened to be 31 of them.

 

 

The Worst/Best Part Of Having a Panic Disorder Is You Can’t Hide It Forever

I had a blow out panic attack in my doctor’s office today. He knew I had anxiety, but I don’t think to the extent that it is there. Likely because I’ve done an extremely good job of concealing it for a long time.

Or maybe he did know and was just taking it one step at a time. I don’t know, I’m not the doctor but I think it’s probably that because he walked in the office after the nurse had made me lie down, and the first thing out of his mouth was “HEATHER…WHY are you worrying so much right now?”

The thing is that very few people in my life know about just how bad my panic disorder is. In fact, very few people even know that I have one. My husband does, but even he didn’t grasp the full effect it has on me until today, when in the doctor’s office I was made to lie down on my left side until my blood pressure and heart rate went down, because both were THROUGH. THE. ROOF. as I sat in there hyperventilating, completely unaware of what was going on.

The first panic attack I can remember ever having was when I was 11 years old, visiting my grandparents at their new home near Yosemite. We were in the grocery store and suddenly I just had a terrifying feeling like I was in a dream and my heart was pounding. I had no idea what an anxiety attack or a panic disorder was at the time. And I just dealt with those types of situations over and over again, as the years went on, until I finally researched what was happening to me just 6 years ago.

So it started when I was 11, and I am now 34 and have only known what has been going on for 6 years now. I mean that I knew what was going on (that I was having a multitude of symptoms I could not explain), but I didn’t know why it was going on (that I have a panic disorder).

And since knowing why, I have done literally nothing legitimate to take care of it.

Why? Because when I started trying to figure out what to do, I was told by closer family and society in general that this should be kept “private” or that I should be ashamed of it. That. I. Should. Be. Ashamed. Of. A. Mental. Health. Issue. Completely. Beyond. My. Control.

And that I should just calm down.

Also, in a situation with family that gossip about each other’s personal and health issues TO NO END – where you can’t sneeze without everyone hearing and speculating about it – the need to keep things utterly secret so as to avoid all that unnecessary speculation was paramount. I don’t like it when people speculate about my personal life.

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Incidentally, I started writing my blog roughly 6 years ago too. Coincidence? I mean come on now. 6 years ago was when I also developed the coping mechanism of making fun of everything and joking my way through my unrelenting anxiety, which was getting worse and worse by the day.

But the jokes can only go so far, and of course people that think you should be ashamed of your uncontrollable panic disorder also like to shame you for just being yourself to try and cope with it. Suddenly the speculation turned to being that about my blog and I started to wish I could *just* write for bloggers and strangers, because whenever close family or friends read it I would get text messages and emails in response, as well as “unfriended” by many online.

Then only recently, I realized that to cope with the social spectrum of my panic disorder, I had made it a habit to just drink wine. I don’t mean – like – alcoholic status drank wine, but anyone that has ever known someone with an addiction knows, it often starts as a way to cope. Which is exactly what I was doing.

And I’m not going to lie – I love my wine. But if I were to be completely honest, as delicious as wine tastes, it gives me a headache and makes me feel like crap. And yet I still drank it as a social lubricant. Often.

Until I realized what I was doing, that is.

Now, it has been months since I drank wine. I don’t tell as many jokes anymore, because I never know who is going to read them or how they are going to respond; so basically I’ve stopped being *myself* in as many venues as I needed to to feel comfortable.

And I worry endlessly about everything.

I worry about money, as I talked about in my blog post yesterday.

I worry about the health and safety of my kids, and how one little thing will set off a chain reaction of other problems, many of which amount to more money worries. This is mostly because of a couple things that have happened in the last few years that should have been as simple as a bruised knee or a minor cold, but that got blown into huge, costly, and long-term problems.

I worry about what people think of me as I write blogs/homeschool my kids/parent in front of others/basically just live my life.

And I worry about my own health.

This is a new one for me, and it’s gotten out of control. Of course it doesn’t help that everyone around me acts as though I’m suddenly some fucking invalid because I have some allergy problems and had an asthma attack a couple months ago. Regularly, I go to the doctor and come back with a clean bill of health, and yet even just this last weekend my mother, as well as several other of my and my husband’s family members, made comments like “well you aren’t in very good health you know.” Um, OK…I’m not sure where you got that one, but…I guess I’ll go ahead and let your negativity work me up (which is exactly what I do).

I could go on…in a nutshell, I spend all my waking hours worrying.

So today, as I was lying in the doctor’s office, my heart pounding, trying to catch my breath, my blood pressure up to dangerous levels (I actually have low blood pressure, normally), a few very shocking things were presented to me. They shouldn’t have been shocking, but for someone who has been coping with a debilitating panic disorder for 23 years by basically pretending nothing is wrong, they were.

  1. I have a panic disorder and that is nothing to be ashamed of;
  2. I cannot hide my panic disorder forever;
  3. Ignoring, rationalizing, telling jokes, and drinking wine may be short-term solutions, but when those are gone the panic is still there. In fact, it’s worse;
  4. If people want to be negative and toxic to me about who I am – in whatever way they want to, be it giving me a hard time about a blog I wrote or a joke I told or the way I homeschool my kids; or speculating on my general health and happiness with others – I have every right, regardless of who those people are, to cut them out of my life permanently;
  5. It’s OK to say “NO” to people if it’s a situation I don’t feel safe in; and,
  6. If the doctor says to take the fucking Xanax, just take the fucking Xanax.

Yesterday I wrote a blog about people swimming in debt but being OK as long as they just pretend everything is fine. I think this is a lot like that, in fact maybe that’s really what I was trying to write about. I am literally swimming in this mire, or more like drowning but you guys get the point.

Now I can go on and pretend that everything is fine. Or I can deal with it head-on.

The only question, though, is how? That is where I am like a fish out of water – I have no idea truly where to begin. I do know that I want to feel like myself again. To start, I think it has to be found in my #2 realization today: I cannot hide my panic disorder forever. Perhaps the best way to start dealing with it is to stop concealing it.

WWRWD? (What Would Robin Williams Do?)

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Unless you live under a rock, or are involved in a much more catastrophic, international crisis (like the one going on over in Iraq; yeah – hello – did people forget about that one?)…then, you are aware of a few certain tragedies that occurred over the last few days; most discussed being the deaths of Robin Williams by suicide, and that of Lauren Bacall of stroke.

Let’s be clear about something: the loss of any human life is, in and of itself, tragic. The loss, for any reason. Any. Reason.

But as the outpouring of sympathies, grief, and broader discussion about depression, mental illness, and suicidal tendencies overtook the world of social media as a result of Williams’ death, the conversation necessarily took a certain tone. A tone that was less about the loss and the future, and more about the moral.

Everyone, mental illness is real – get help.

Everyone, Robin Williams is smiling down on all of us.

Everyone, let’s imagine that a man who committed suicide is now laughing in heaven, because that’s totally what religious doctrine that suggests such a place exists says will happen to people who take their own lives.

I’m no atheist, and I’m also no Bible thumper. But if I know one thing, it’s that some, if not all, religions say people who commit suicide go to hell, or at the very least purgatory. So if you believe in heaven, you should be believing that Robin Williams is actually toasting on the devil’s pitchfork right about now.

Even Williams’ What Dreams May Come has the suicide victim stuck in the middle of hell.

These droves of pithy suicide and depression morals then turned into the haves and the have nots, the haves being those that felt their positivity and opinions on suicide were absolute truth; and the have nots being anyone who said anything the haves did not like.

It started with people talking about whether or not suicide is a choice, which it – by definition – is. (Arguably, it is the most personal choice, as the truest consequence is to no one but the decision-maker.) Calling it a choice pissed a lot of people off.

It continued with people railing on about whether or not suicide is ever justifiable. This is when the “suicide is so selfish” posters came on the scene; and when the know-it-alls of the world came out in droves to claim that suicide is an idiotic, narcissistic thing to do. (For the record: it is neither idiotic, nor selfish. Some of the most intelligent and selfless people I have ever known, or known of, have taken their own lives; Robin Williams is included in that group.)

Then Matt Walsh entered the room, and everyone lost their fucking minds.

For those of you unfamiliar with Matt Walsh, he is probably the most hated blogger on the Internet; so much so that his sometimes-controversial positions have garnered him the infamous title of “douche dick.”

People (mostly bloggers) hate this guy so hard for almost anything that comes out of his mouth, no matter how innocuous it may be. They post long diatribes about hating him on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Often. Then they get very dramatic at the end with “I just don’t want this guy to get more page links, I’m not going to link him…nope, not going to do it, I would feel terrible if he got page hits by my hand!!!!”

Because (1) none of us know how to use Google (apparently), and aren’t now intrigued enough by your psychobabble to go look his newest offense up; and, (2) we should all just blindly believe everything you say.

Absolutely everything, no questions asked.

Well, today I believed it, at least for a while. I believed that Matt Walsh probably made some callous remarks about Williams’ death, and it would just annoy me. I’ll admit to having read things he said that made me mad in the past; not all things he’s said, but definitely some. Still, I agree with more of what he says than probably anyone else on the Internet. I’d never get so crazy about my disagreements so as to talk publicly about him being a douche dick, or whatever the cliques are calling him these days. But we’ll leave it at: I’ve always had mixed feelings about him, so I figured there was at least some probability he’d said something out there.

So I ignored it and moved on with my day. I was busy, so you know…

But suicide is different. It’s very personal to me. It’s very visceral. It’s happened to two people very close to me, within the last two years; so the wounds from their deaths are still open and bleeding. Going about my day, therefore, still kept the question about what Matt Walsh said in the back of mind, just as the discussion of suicide and it’s consequences had been there since I heard of Williams’ death yesterday afternoon. Has pretty much always been there for the last two years.

Then I saw someone share a site called “What Matt Walsh Is Wrong About Today.” That was when I decided to actually read Walsh’s original post about Williams’ death. And as I toggled between the two – one calling Matt Walsh “a dick,” “callous,” “careless” and “ignorant;” the other a (seemingly) careful analysis of suicide and the discussion that needs to be had, I realized that there is a lot about suicide that people don’t seem to understand.

Even more they don’t understand about what Matt Walsh said.

(EVEN MORE about acting like adults. That a group of people have gotten together and made a website to single out someone they disagree with, or don’t like, says a lot about why bullying is so rampant in our culture.)

Without going into all the details of the Walsh controversy, it started with a tweet from Walsh, stating that “When we talk about depression we shouldn’t pawn the whole thing off on ‘chemical imbalances.’ It’s not just clinical. It’s spiritual.”

The responses to that tweet, both on the What Matt Walsh Is Wrong About Today site, as well as Twitter, are insane. As I read through some of them, I realized that people are so ignorant, uneducated, and closed-minded, it’s baffling. Baffling. Suddenly they all seem to completely deny that there is such a thing as non-clinical depression. Clinically, there is – it’s called situational depression (my 10 year old daughter suffers from this). There’s also a depression called “existential depression” which is related to existential (versus acute, situation, or clinical) anxiety (I suffer from this). This is the kind of fantastical ideas that the Existentialists and Shakespeare’s Hamlet talked about.

And it’s even more complicated, and there are even more classifications, than that.

Do you people see yet how complex depression and suicide can be?

There was nothing callous, incorrect, or horrible about Walsh’s tweet. In fact, it’s a discussion that needs to be had, because clearly people aren’t getting it. Because Robin Williams is one of millions that have taken their own lives, and will continue to, until people wake up and stop romanticizing these terrible and tragic emotional situations.

No one seemed to like Walsh’s elaboration on the point (in his lengthier blog post), because people responded in kind by calling him negative, insensitive, one-sided, and – again – a dick. They called his very thoughtful comments ignorant.

If anything, I think Walsh’s post was insightful; and in some ways comforting to know that someone – finally, anyone – understands that the depths and the hells of depression and suicide are so much more complex than just one thing; that it isn’t just about chemicals or illness or disease, but about choices, personal circumstances, and an understanding of the abyss that only the person committing the act of suicide could possibly have.

That these things have to be had in the conversation about suicide and moving forward to prevent them. That you can’t just chalk it up to a disease; that it may not always be simply negativity making the decision to take the pills or slit the wrists, or in the case of Williams, hang from the rafters. That you can’t just say “they’re in heaven now smiling on us, get help if you need it, moving on with my PTA meetings and other mundane bullshit that exists for everyone but those that have succumbed to nothingness.”

Because that’s what suicide really is, that no one wants to admit. It’s succumbing to nothingness. People don’t commit suicide because they want to shine down on us from fucking heaven. They succumb to nothingness because they want the dark, black, nothing of non-existence. They want life to stop, which makes the people referring to suicide’s afterlife sound like the only true idiots in the room.

At the end of Walsh’s post, he talks about joy, and it’s absolute necessity to life. He says

So this, for me, is always the most essential moral at the end of these kinds of sad, terrible stories: we are all meant for joy. We are all meant for love. We are all meant for life. And as long as we can still draw breath, there is joy and love to be found here. I believe that. If I didn’t, I would have left a long time ago.

Joy and love. There might not be much else for us on this Earth, but these are the only two things that matter anyway. These are the forces that brought the whole universe into being, and these are the forces that sustain it, and us, and all life.

I just don’t understand how someone can read that and call the guy a dick. Or a douche dick, or whatever they say about him. And it’s when I read that, and I toggled through even more posts about Matt Walsh and his terrible ways, that I began to wonder what Robin Williams would do. What anyone, really, who has committed suicide, or thought about committing suicide, would do. Would they call this guy names, and personally attack him for talking about these issues holistically and from the point of all sides?

Or would they act with compassion and understanding and the knowledge that only someone who has looked into the abyss could have?

 

So I haven’t technically worn a bra since October…

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Ah, where to begin…

We went to Disneyland in October. I really hate Disneyland, and what I hate the most is that I have to wear regular clothing for a really long time. Like 9 in the morning until late at night.

That is just intolerable.

During the week (and on weekends and holidays), I typically stay in regular clothes no longer than a few hours. Eight, tops. And by “regular” I mean – like – jeans, sweaters, bras, shoes.

So back to Disneyland, we went in October. I was dressed all day and wearing a bra. It was really hot out that day – like 85 I think – and I was sweating for a while in the sun standing in line, and somehow that gave me a rash of some sort from the combination of the silky material of my bra and the sweat. All over my left side and back I had a gross heat rash for about a week. It was miserable and I absolutely could not wear a bra because it just made it worse.

As that week drew to a close, I realized something very striking: there is really, and truly, very little reason for me to even wear bras most of the time. I mean I do have sort-of big boobs (though when I say that to my bustier friends, they all laugh heartily at my 36Cs, which they often refer to as a drop in the booby bucket). In any event, they are big to me.

But I also wear those bra-ish tank tops most days, and I certainly don’t give a fuck about saggage and people seeing my nipples poking out through my shirt when I’m cold, and shit. Oh no – someone might sort-of witness a naturally occurring phenomenon that somehow became totally taboo and referred to as ‘cutting glass’ (because you can totally cut a piece of glass with a soft bit of pink flesh).

So I haven’t worn a regular bra since then.

That isn’t entirely true, though, on two counts: one is that thing I just said about the bra-ish tank tops (the ones with the bra-like insert in them); the other is that sometimes I’ll wear those nylon casual bras that have no padding or hooks or wires or anything – you just pull them over your head. Kind of like a sports bra only much looser.

I save those for fancy times, like when we go out.

The other day I came to realize this and as a result went immediately to my nearest Gap Outlet and bought more of those little nylon pull over the head things made of wonderful, which was the moment I realized that I may never wear a regular bra again. It’s just that I’m so much more comfortable now, and also just don’t care. I’m sure I eventually will, but damn do I feel free right now.

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And on the note of being freer, I’ve also noticed lately that I’ve shied away from wearing regular clothes, and wear yoga pants and stretch pants out to even do errands and (most recently) hang out at the in-law’s house. This is a big step for me, personally. I live in California – the land of judging and anorexia – so to be so lax in my physical appearance means that I’ve finally crossed over that bridge of insecurity into the land of truly not caring about what people think of me. In spite of how Judgy McJudgerson seemingly everyone in my immediate surroundings can be.

This is huge for me. Huge in a good way.

So I’m wearing my yogas and my lounge pants so much now that they are wearing out quicker, which gave me a reason to buy more than just those non-bra nylon bras this weekend. As I walked up to the checkout to pay for my nylon things, and my new stockpile of lounge clothes, the sales clerk started gushing about how comfortable the lounge clothes there are, and how she wanted so badly to wear them all the time. I smiled and nodded and muttered a …”you are so right… I wish I could wear them all the time too!! Because I totally don’t now. Not in the least bit…………..”

Right then.

As I walked out of there, and headed home, I wondered to myself if this is just another sign that I’m depressed; or that I’m unhealthy and not taking care of myself. I wondered if this is just a phase – where I’m just too busy to look cute.

But then I realized that none of this could be any further from the truth.

I take care of myself, quite well actually. I am active, I shower and put on makeup every, single day.

I eat healthy foods too. It’s been this way as long as I can remember, except for one thing: I didn’t have a healthy feeling about myself. I always felt uncomfortable in my clothes, and worried about what people would think of what I was wearing. How I looked.

Now I just don’t give a fuck. Don’t. Don’t give a fuck. I think this is healthier than anything else I could ever do for myself, which is why I love that I’m not wearing real bras or real clothes; plus who is to say what is ‘real’ anyway?

So I haven’t technically worn a bra since October. And I wear lounge clothes or pajamas all day, most days. My husband still loves me and I feel about a million times better about myself now than I have in years.

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15 Things That Keep Away The Crazy

I think we all know that I’m a little off. By off, I of course mean batty; and by batty I’m trying to beat around the bush of insanity. And while I haven’t been dragged off in the ol’ straight jacket just yet, I probably should be. Being a Stay At Home Mom that homeschools can be tough sometimes. A little nerve-wracking, to say the least.

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There is an episode of The Simpsons early on in the series where Ned Flanders goes ape shit and drives himself to the mental hospital, driving straight through the wrought iron gates to get in. When he goes to check in, they ask if he’d like to go willingly to his padded room, or would he opt for the kicking and screaming option. He asks for kicking and screaming. I like to think that were Ned Flanders to have my fifteen things that keep me sane – or at least sane enough to avoid the mental hospital – he may have avoided his own mental breakdown.

(Yes, I am aware of the fact that I am talking about a cartoon character as though he is a human being. Need more proof I’m close to the nuthouse?)

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#1 S&Ms

You people are perverts. I know what you all are thinking when you see #1 as S&Ms: you think I’m talking about some kinky shit with my husband. Poor Nick bringing home cans of champagne and edible panties, and shit.

Not the case. When I say S&Ms I mean that what keeps me sane are my starlight mints. You know those old people candies that they sell either with or without sugar, the little mints you also get after a particularly garlic-y meal out? After my brief stint with smoking cigarettes in high school, my S&Ms replaced the nasty cancer sticks. They keep me sane in a big way.

#2 Lipgloss

Between this and my S&Ms, it’s very possible that I have an oral fixation problem. I apply chapstick and lipgloss so much. I’m addicted and develop a facial twitch if I go too long without glossy lips.

#3 Diet Coke

So yeah. I have an oral fixation. Clearly. My top three things that keep me from losing my everliving mind are relative to my mouth. What’s #4 going to be – blow jobs? Not the case. Nonetheless, I am heavily addicted to Diet Coke. The people at McDonald’s know me by name for no reason other than my morning trek to obtain a $1 Large soda.

#4 Books

This is really serious. As long as I have a book nearby when I feel the crazy coming on, all I have to do is open the book and lose myself in the story. This is why I love being a writer; and it’s why I am terribly obsessed with reading as much as possible.

#5 The Bathroom Lock

I hear moms complaining all the time about wanting to take a dump without being interrupted, and I think to myself: where’s the fucking lock? Your kids will be fine left to their own devices for a couple minutes. And as long as you have a key or another fail-safe to get the door open, should a kid lock themselves in – this is a surefire way to escape the insanity of parenthood.

#6 A Sense of Humor

I joke about a lot. And when I’m not making jokes, I’m finding something that’s naturally hilarious and laughing until I pee. A lot of times people don’t get my jokes, though. On my wedding invitations, I had a picture of a bride and groom with a joke about bringing your flame retardant clothing to prevent the lightning injuries that were sure to come from my husband and I marrying in the Catholic church. No one got it.

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#7 Weird Personal Fitness Challenges

I’m not one of those uber-douchey people that’s obsessed with fitness. You know them. They are constantly posting about their gym workouts and judging others for what they do and eat. Let’s be clear here: if you work out and like to talk about it, that’s totally cool. It’s when it moves on to judging others (…posting pictures of people’s cellulite on Facebook, and making fun of people that don’t eat healthy all the time…) that it becomes a problem.

OK, all that being said, weird personal fitness challenges help keep me sane. It isn’t even that I want to be fit, or lose weight. It’s that I find it funny to do weird workout and eating stuff, and it’s interesting to see the things I will do to keep it up. Right now I’m doing a three parter. Part One is 10 more seconds of wall sits each day. I started with 10 seconds on the 1st of April, and am up to almost 2 minutes. Part Two is eating only fruit for one or more meals a day. (It’s harder than you’d think, fruit is not very filling). Part Three is doing the Sweatin’ To the Oldies workout tapes. That’s right, I’m rockin’ it with Richard Simmons. Randomly about a month ago, I found one of my mom’s, so I went out and bought one and the Pookies went wild for it. (A video blog will follow here shortly…)

#8 Nonstop Weather Updates

I know. It’s weird. Growing up in the Midwest really made me fear the weather and all its wrath, though. Nonstop weather updates on my iPhone, iPad, and Macbook help me feel like I have control of the situation.

#9 Tetris

Hello! Mindlessly fitting blocks into impossible spaces. A metaphor for life.

#10 Reading Satire Websites

Like The Onion and Cracked.com. I enjoy John Stewart on YouTube sometimes too. Are you getting the theme here, though? I enjoy laughing at the absurdity of life. Better to laugh than lose it, right?

#11 Comparing My Life To My Mother’s

Whenever I start to think that life’s getting me down, I compare my misery to my mother’s. No one is in as bad of a situation as she is – with a hillbilly husband that lies like drinking a glass of water, living in a trailer halfway across the country, and cracking jokes about wanting to get her back to his trailer so that they can work the bed sheets (if you know what I mean).

#12 Fantasizing About Wolf Blitzer

Have you people forgotten about my terrible crush on Wolf Blitzer? Whenever I start to feel a little like I’m going to lose my mind, I let it get lost in thoughts of Wolf. And Ryan Reynold, Vladimir Putin, Hulk Hogan, and most members of the NBA.

#13 Writing On My Blog

People sometimes call their blogs “an outlet,” or a “place to vent their frustrations.” I think of my own blog as that, as well as a place to share my stories of every dip shit, asshole, douche-tart I come across so that you all may benefit from my wisdom in the ways of dealing with trailer trash jerk offs. And about parenting and being a shitty housewife. And stuff.

#14 Shitty Romantic Comedies and Episodes of Maury Povich

Good movies? Good movies that win awards? Good movies that are critically acclaimed? I typically hate those. But whenever I feel a bout of the crazies coming on, all I need to do is hunker down in my pajamas for a day with a romantic comedy marathon, coupled with Maury Povich paternity test episodes on YouTube, and I feel better.

#15 Making Fun Of My Husband

This goes along with my sense of humor. In my family growing up, we made fun of each other. Constantly. We still do. I maintain that this is – by far – the greatest gift my dearly departed grandparents gave to us, for we developed a thick skin to the world early on, and we learned that the best way to live life is to have fun. You know we love you if we make fun you, and as a result I rip on my husband nonstop.

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What keeps away your crazy, faithful blog followers? Are your things as mundane as mine? Or are they more meaningful or legitimate, like a prescription for antipsychotics?