What I Remember About Postpartum Depression

This post was easy to write–because I’ve been thinking about it for weeks–but scary to publish.

Big deep breath … here we go.

I recently read this blog post from a fellow mother with bipolar disorder recounting her experiences with postpartum depression. It’s courageous and beautiful and painful–and brought back many of my own experiences. It also inspired me to write this post.

I don’t remember much about my postpartum with Turbo. I was so, so sleep deprived for 6 months straight. I remember at one point telling a friend I’d been living on 2-3 hours of sleep that whole time. So the sleep deprivation has erased many of those memories. I’m sure I’ve conveniently forgotten some as well. Here’s what I do remember:

I remember crying every single day for 6 months straight. Often multiple times a day.

I remember wanting to run away. Thinking about how much I hated being a mother. Wishing it had never happened. Then crying out of guilt the next minute because of course I wanted to be a mother, how could I ever think that?

I remember pleading with my child to please, please sleep. And please, please take the bottle so I could get back on meds.

I remember meds helping … but not enough.

I remember throwing the bottle across the room when he kept refusing to take it.

I remember noticing I was bouncing him quite hard one afternoon, and realizing for the first time how someone could shake a baby.

I remember setting him in his crib, still crying, because I couldn’t take it anymore.

I remember countless nights of insomnia. I was so, so exhausted and yet as soon as I got in bed, I couldn’t sleep.

I remember lying awake at night, making plans to get up, drive to the grocery store, buy some alcohol, come home and get drunk so I could shut my freaking brain off and finally sleep.

I remember desperately talking myself out of that plan time and time and time again. (I don’t drink alcohol for religious reasons.)

I remember slamming my head against the dresser behind me one night when Turbo had his umpteenth cold and I was trying to clear his nose out in the middle of the night so he could just please sleep, and he was crying and fighting me and not sleeping and not sleeping and not sleeping.

I remember many nights of laying in bed and talking myself out of going to the kitchen to get a knife to cut myself. But I had to self-harm, I was going crazy, so I “settled” by hitting myself in the head as hard as I could.

I remember spending two weeks of Turbo’s sixth month of life in bed. In the morning, I’d get him, grab his bottles and diapers, eat enough to sustain me, and crawl back into bed. He was literally the only thing that kept me going.

I remember so many out of body experiences. (This is a form of psychosis.) Two while I was driving. One in particular was scary because it was rush hour traffic and the cars whizzing past me seemed so harmless and far away. I remember telling myself, “Just get off the road. You’ve got to get off the road. Your baby–your entire world–is in this car and he’s depending on you.”

I remember Thanksgiving when my brother came to visit and I had a breakdown of epic proportions and he and the Mister had to pick up the pieces and finish cooking dinner while I slept off the insanity.

I remember dreading the night.

I remember dreading the morning.

When Turbo dropped to two naps a day, things got much better and the postpartum depression cleared. When I got pregnant this time, I had a plan. After Nugget was born, it took two weeks for me to get up to a viable dosage of my multivitamin, and in that time I could see that my postpartum was on a path to be much worse this time. But then I started taking enough, and the world was a brighter place. I still cry from time to time, because being a mom is hard, and newborns are really, really hard, but it’s not the same. I’m still tired, but it’s not the same. No more desires to run away. No more thinking I hate being a mom. No more dreading each coming day. I’m not happy every moment, and my body has readjusted so bipolar depression is hanging around the fringes waiting to pounce. But I am sane. I am mostly balanced–and when I’m not, I can get back in balance fairly easily.

I love my children. I love being a mother. I’m not happy every moment, but there’s a bud of ever-present joy nestled in my heart.

Hey, I feel like a human again!

Hello, blogland! Last I posted, I was 32ish weeks pregnant and 3 weeks away from moving into a new house. Well, it’s been 4 months, and I’m now in the new house and I have a new baby! Nugget was evicted on his due date, November 3rd, and now that he’s 2 months old he’s sleeping well enough that I feel like a human again. It’s a miracle, I tell you. Turbo was a terrible sleeper and napper until he was 6 months, so I was a zombie for a very long time. Nugget isn’t a perfect sleeper, but he’s good enough! Plus, I’ve got some amazing multivitamins (the ones I’ve mentioned before, specifically formulated for mental health) that are chock full of B vitamins, which help a ton. Night and day difference between this time and the last, my friends. Night and day.

It feels good to be blogging again. I’ve been itching to blog more about mental health, as well as vulnerability. And of course writing. And I can’t wait to reconnect with all of y’all out there. I’ll be commenting on your blogs very soon!

I usually start my year off with a post about my goals. I will do that again and soon. But I haven’t thought about it much yet. Still in survival mode to a degree, plus this week I got a wild hair and decided to potty train Turbo. How’s it going? Well, this week hasn’t been my finest, let me just say that. But he’s progressing, and doesn’t completely hate me, so there’s that!

How was your Christmas and New Year’s, lovelies?

My Latest WIPs

Hullo there!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Let’s see, last time I posted was in April, and I signed off promising goals for the second quarter. And it’s been radio silence ever since.

But that’s because I’ve been busy, see! I finished rewriting the end of THROUGH CLOUDED EYES (much improved! though still needs work). I outlined ILLUMINATE THE NIGHT with a shiny new plot and have been (slowly) rewriting it. (And methinks I need to switch the POV from 3rd person past to 1st person past.) I went to the LDStorymakers conference in May which was AMAZING. (Definitely more on that!) I drove with my sister and our two kiddos (2 year old Turbo and her then-9-month-old daughter) to SC for a month of fun with my family. I started house hunting, physically looked at 85 homes, and we’re now under contract for a dreamy new pad. And, OH YEAH THIS:

I bought a new dress! ;)

I bought a new dress! ;)

I was planning on making the announcement on here when I turned 13 weeks, but I was still SO flipping nauseous, and as you can see, we’ve been busy, so it just got pushed to the way way way back burner. I’m currently 32 weeks along and due with another boy on November 3rd. We’re thrilled!

So now I’m in the last few weeks of pregnancy and we’re getting ready to move in 3 weeks. And also,Turbo’s birthday is in a month. And also we’re keeping our current home and renting it out, so we have lots to do to get it ready. Life is crazy! I can’t promise how much I’ll be active with the blogging for the rest of the year, but I will try so hard not to leave y’all hanging for 5 months again!

So how are all you lovelies?

First Quarter Goals Review

This started out as a What’s Up Wednesday post. I even published it and went to link it when I saw that’s no longer a thing. So this may seem a bit disjointed, but I’m kind of ready to get off the computer and eat some breakfast, and don’t feel like making it smoother. :)

First off, I finished the first draft of THROUGH CLOUDED EYES and I did it early, even! Wahoo! I finished it on March 29th, two days early. The word count is definitely low, but that’s always the case with my first drafts. I’ll layer in more introspection and detail as I revise. Plus, I need to add at least one more chapter. But I’m not thinking about that for now because I have a completed first draft!! And it feels soooo good! I’m going to let it sit for at least a month, though I’m still submitting chapters to my writing group on occasion, so I’m not getting a completely clean break from it.

I was supposed to get to ILLUMINATE THE NIGHT as soon as I finished TCE, but we started the month with lots of sickness in our house. I’ve been napping every day with Turbo, instead of writing. And I don’t feel bad about it. That’s how life is sometimes. But I need to buckle down. I thought I could go ahead and start writing, but I realized the changes I made are negating some aspects of the existing plot, so I need to do more tinkering before I can get to it. The thought was really discouraging me last week, and I told my writing group I was wondering if that means I should just give up on it, but they emphatically told me that NO I shouldn’t give up. That was encouraging to hear. I’ve been working on this story in some form for over 6 years now, and it’s hard to know if I’m too close to be subjective.

In January, I set some goals for the first quarter of the year. Let’s see how I did:

-Finish the first draft of THROUGH CLOUDED EYES. I’m currently at 30k of a projected 80k. Totally doable. SUCCESS!!! HUZZAH!!

-Decide what to do about the currently-drawered ILLUMINATE THE NIGHT. I love that book and I believe in it, and I need to figure out its future. SUCCESS AGAIN!! HUZZAH X2!

-Get a rough draft of my publishing plan. More on that later. Another success! I’ll post about this soon–promise!

-Decide about my super secret idea. Obvs, more on that later. So, I was thinking about offering editing services, but have decided against it for the time being. My life just isn’t in the right place right now. And that’s okay. But–this is a success! Yay!

-Blog every week. Start blogging about mental illness too. Fail. Not even close. But I’m not stressing about it.

Some non-writing-related things I want to do this year:

-Send birthday cards. I’ve never really done this, but I want to change that. Because everyone likes real mail. Success so far!

-Cook dairy-free, grain-free dinners. The Mister is mostly paleo for bike racing, so I’d like to make dinners we can eat together as a family. And it’s good to end your day with a healthy meal. Fail! And I don’t care! It’s been a stressful first 3 months of the year, and I’ve been in survival mode for much of it.

-Get back into couponing. I’m actually starting that this week! Fail! Hah!

-Budget on a weekly basis. Gulp. Another fail!

So, I got 5 out of 9 goals. That’s over half. Not bad! I haven’t thought about any for the next quarter, so I’ll ruminate on that the next week and come up with some for next week.

WUW: So close!

What’s Up Wednesday is an easy and fun weekly blog hop that’s hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk. All you do is answer the four main questions, then visit the other participants’ blogs to see what they’re up to this week. Join us! Jooooiiiin uussss!

wuw2WHAT I’M READING

For book club this month, we’re reading Living Among Cannibals and Other Women’s Adventures by Michelle Slung. It’s a quick NF read about women doing awesome, adventurous stuff like skiing to the magnetic north pole with a sled dog as their only companion, or living in the rainforests of Africa to study mountain gorillas. It’s a fun book that makes you say, “Yeah women!” Also, I’m still listening to Enchantment by Orson Scott Card. Audiobooks aren’t my thing, I’ve learned. I wish they were! But, alas, no.

WHAT I’M WRITING

I’m into the 3rd act of THROUGH CLOUDED EYES, though I really need to go back to the second half of the 2nd act and make some big changes. I find myself getting burned out, mostly on editing but also only fully fleshing out my scenes and not just getting the dialogue and scene-blocking on there. This happened with ILLUMINATE THE NIGHT as well, so I think it’s safe to say it’s a weakness/tendency of mine. But I’m getting so close! Actually, after I get those edits in, I’ll be able to start the climax! It feels so good to be this close to finishing another manuscript.

My goal for this week is just to keep on keeping on. I’m trying to add 1300ish words a day, but today I’m feeling super burned out and decided to take the day off and focus on blogging instead. Then tomorrow I can tackle those edits and then continue my forward progress.

WHAT WORKS FOR ME

Writing every day. I used to think I wasn’t one of those writers, but I’ve been pretty good about writing every day since January 2014, and honestly I can’t imagine going back. Yes, I miss a day (sometimes two) every now and then, but the momentum I keep by writing every day is amazing. My brain really is used to being creative around 1 pm every day. Brains–aren’t they amazing? ^_^

WHAT ELSE I’M UP TO

I joined Camp NaNo for next month! If you’re doing it too, come find me! My goal is 30k on ItN, but that’s kind of an arbitrary number I pulled out of a hat, because I’ll be using a lot of the existing draft.

I also finally joined Instragram with an author account. I’m @krisatkinswrites (of course)–come find me if you’re on the ‘gram! I’m really enjoying it as an easy way to connect to the world wide web 3 times a week.

How was your week?

I Go To Extremes

Originally posted on my personal blog on September 14, 2009, a month after I was diagnosed. Lyrics quoted are from Billy Joel’s “I Go To Extremes.”

“‘Darling, I don’t know why I go to extremes. Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens,'” I belted as we sailed across Wyoming. I suddenly stopped singing and giggled, glancing over to the Mister. “This song’s like my theme song.”

But the fact is I do know why I go to extremes. For a long time I thought it was my imagination. Or I was simply being dramatic. Or it was the hormones in my birth control. In reality, my extremes have a very solid cause. I have bipolar disorder.

‘Call me a joker, call me a fool

Right at this moment I’m totally cool

Clear as a crystal, sharp as a knife

I feel like I’m in the prime of my life

Sometimes it feels like I’m going too fast

I don’t know how long this feeling will last

Maybe it’s only tonight’

Looking back over the years, I was hypomanic my freshman year of college. I got entirely too little sleep, spent way too much money, and ate a ridiculous amount of food. I hung out with my friends constantly, thinking I was charming, witty and funny, when in reality I was probably more along the lines of loud and obnoxious. I took a wide variety of classes, from ballet to mass communications, public speaking to American Sign Language, chasing after various grand ideas. The year seemed to a great one but when it was done I was left with debt, horrible grades, and 20 pounds more on my frame. My euphoric high came to a screeching halt the day I broke up with my serious boyfriend.

‘Sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I’m shot

Sometimes I don’t know how much more I’ve got

Maybe I’m headed over the hill

Maybe I’ve set myself up for the kill

Tell me how much do you think you can take

Until the heart in you is starting to break?

Sometimes it feels like it will’

There’s no question that I was depressed my sophomore year. I regularly slept in till 11, missing my morning classes. One day, in fact, I literally slept all day, not emerging from my room until 6 pm and only then because I was hungry. I hated myself. I hated my reflection. I chopped my hair in a vain attempt to be happy with my appearance. This produced an even worse image, and my spirits dove because of it. I rarely dated and when I did, I only wanted to make out. I didn’t see my friends much, but luckily I lived with my sister who helped me through this time. I also sought counseling, free thanks to BYU, which helped me recognize my experience and get through it. At the time I thought it was only situational depression. There was no chemical imbalance, or so I thought. With time, counseling, exercise, and my faith, I pulled through. Surely it was only situational.

‘Out of the darkness, into the light

Leaving the scene of the crime’

I was given a respite my junior and senior years. Two blissful years of sanity. I didn’t know well enough to cherish them like I wish I had. I don’t remember much about my mental state during that time, which proves to me it was a time of sane thoughts and healthy self esteem. The Mister and I found each other. We dated. We fell in love. We got engaged. With the oncoming marriage came birth control. I went on the ring, about which the nurse at the health center said she’d never taken anyone off of it because of negative side effects. It sounded like my cup of tea. After the initial adjustment period, things seemed peachy keen. We got married and moved to New York for what I thought would be a summer of love and fun. In many ways, it was. But I had no idea of the tidal wave that was coming for me.

‘You can be sure when I’m gone

I won’t be out there too long’

The poor Mister didn’t know what to do when it hit. I suddenly couldn’t sleep anymore. I cried. Often. I mentally and verbally beat myself up, in typical Kris fashion. I was cranky a lot. I felt listless and not useful. I felt like a waste of space. I was no longer the optimistic, cheerful young woman he’d married. I was someone altogether different. Somehow, we made it through the summer and back to Provo. That fall I was able to dive into a busy schedule of work, school, and LOL (my improv comedy troupe). I lost myself in the business of it all. This isn’t to say I was hunky dory. The Mister had to, more than once, literally pick me up off the floor and tell me that I could in fact pass the test, write the paper, go to class. I put my head down and pushed on. I spoke with the Lord often as I walked to class, sat at work, or entered another late night of studying. On my last day of school, on which I had to take 4 finals, I cried. However this was a healthy cry. I thanked the Lord for carrying me through that time. I cried for the beauty of the setting sun as I drove home to a napping husband. I sat in the parking lot and cried with sheer exhaustion. I was finally done. But now that my mind was no longer occupied with these healthier things, it found time to eat in on itself. On Christmas Day I hit a grand low, as I found myself crying miserably while all around me was love, happiness, my family, and celebration of our Lord. I looked at my mom and told her I’d had enough. It was time to get off the birth control.

We returned to Provo and I met with my doctor, explaining my plight. He immediately recommended I go on the non-hormonal IUD. It sounded like pure heaven to me. The initial physical pain was intense, but the immediate relief I felt emotionally was enough to outweigh it. I was finally free! It had been the hormones all along! Victory!

Unfortunately, not victory. I was OK for a few months. But then my moods started to go crazy again. I lamented to the Mister that my emotional-free days of high school were long gone. I found myself getting depressed again. I would cry at the drop of a hat. I decided to get help. But then hives sprang up and I decided I should see someone about those first. By the time my hives were under control, the depression was long gone.

‘Sometimes I lie awake, night after night

Coming apart at the seams

Eager to please, ready to fight

Why do I go to extremes?’

My family member is the one who suggested that I seek help. I hadn’t even realized I’d needed it. Yeah, I was suffering from panic attacks 3 to 5 times a week, but that wasn’t a big deal. I was very confident in myself. When we hung out with friends, I was witty and charming again. Now as I look back, I see that I was hypomanic and this bout of hypomania was increasing in severity. When I felt like such a fun person around our friends, the Mister told me that I was being a bit obnoxious. I was having fun buying clothing for myself in what seemed like months. And buying stuff for our house. And more stuff for our house. I thought it would be great to run a half marathon. Then to do a fitness competition. And why not go ahead and apply for grad school in a month? My panic attacks were increasing and the thoughts in my head swirled round and round each other. I started to get confused and dizzy multiple times a day. My thoughts were racing so fast I didn’t know how to attend to them, let alone gain control. Then my family member said I was “showing signs of mood instability” and that I should see a professional. I realize now that family member saved me. I saw a doctor who put me on lithium. All sad thoughts instantly disappeared. But I was suddenly angry most of the time. Some of the worst fights the Mister and I ever had were in this period. I told my doctor, who put me on zyprexa. The rage was gone. But I was still feeling manic. So she upped the lithium dosage. This was the visit when I asked my doctor what my diagnosis was. “Bipolar two,” she told me. I was floored.

Even though it was scary to hear something like that, it was also a relief. After all, it’s an answer. All of the experiences I wrote about, I had no idea what they meant. It is only now, as I learn more about this illness I suffer from, that they are making sense. The diagnosis is also like a solution. I can now take medication to treat my symptoms. Sometimes I get sick of being medicated. I spend my days sedated and there are times when I want to throw my pills in the trash. At those times, I force myself to remember what it’s like without the pills, what it’s like with the confusion, racing thoughts, and panic. Sure, the highs are intoxicating but I can’t experience them without the detrimental lows. As I embark on life with this new perspective, with the aid of modern medicine, I find myself relearning emotions and relying on the Lord more than ever.

WUW: Snowy Writing Days

What’s Up Wednesday is an easy and fun weekly blog hop that’s hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk. All you do is answer the four main questions, then visit the other participants’ blogs to see what they’re up to this week. Join us! Jooooiiiin uussss!

Bench Button (Final)WHAT I’M READING

We read Enchantment by Orson Scott Card for book club in February, and I’m terribly behind because I decided to try audio books. Aha! I thought, I can listen to books while I fold laundry and clean the kitchen! Except I hate folding laundry, so I kept avoiding it. Anyhow, I’m really enjoying the book. I read it back in high school and liked it a lot. I love re-reading books from my teen years because you respond differently as an adult, and it’s interesting to compare. I definitely recommend it.

WHAT I’M WRITING + A GOAL

Drafting is coming along swimmingly for THROUGH CLOUDED EYES. I’m at 46k words (out of a projected 80k), with a clear path to the end and good word counts every day. To finish the book by the end of the month, I need to write 1,161 words every day (except I missed Monday, so I’ll have to make that up sometime this week).

I also finally figured out how to fix ILLUMINATE THE NIGHT, and did a fairly-tight (for me) outline. I’m pitching it in May (ack!) and will start on my next draft in April. BECAUSE I WILL FINISH THE FIRST DRAFT OF TCE BY THE END OF THIS MONTH!!

For my weekly goal I’m going to continue on my 1,161 words a day, which will put me at least at 54k words next Wednesday. We’ll see if I check in though. I’ll try! :)

WHAT WORKS FOR ME

Okay, so, personal deadlines rarely work for me, to be honest. There’s no consequence if I don’t meet them. But with my pitch session in a couple months, I’ve found my fire. Something else I’ve done to keep me trucking along on TCE has been to have a friend (who is a reader but has no inclinations to write) read a few chapters every week. It’s good motivation because I have to get her something new every week(ish). I’ve been pleasantly surprised how well this has worked out for me. I’m not sure if she agrees, reading the very first draft and the accompanying terrible writing, but I’m certainly benefiting. ^_^

WHAT ELSE I’M UP TO

January and February were rough months, the kind where you keep your head down and plow through. The Mister worked every single day from December 28th to February 18th (with the one exception of Sunday February 1st), and worked past Turbo’s bed time most nights. Single parents and military spouses: I’ve always saluted you, but now it’s even more fervently. That was exhausting and I wasn’t the best mom all the time. But we made it through with a lot of play dates and LOTS of Chick-fil-A visits. We’ve had a ton of snow recently, which I don’t mind, but I’ve got an eye toward spring, my very favorite time of the year!