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?

What’s Up Wednesday: It’s 2014, Baby!

Hello hello my friends! Long time, no blog, eh? Let’s see, the last time I posted, what was I up to … *checks* I was saying goodbye to October and getting ready for NaNoRevMo … which didn’t happen. I will be honest, the fall was rough for me. It always is–it’s the hardest part of the year for me, when I get an annual, prolonged stay from the depression fairy. And last fall was a particularly dark one. But something changed on January First and I’m feeling tons better. Oh wait … I forgot about What’s Up Wednesday!

What’s Up Wednesday is a super easy, totes fun meme and you should join us!

winter wuwWHAT I’M READING

I know, I know, I’m really behind on this one, but I’m (finally) reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and it is as wonderful as everyone says. Going through it pretty slowly, but part of that is on purpose because I’m just savoring it. The writing! Oh, it makes me melt. So exquisite. Zusak has perfectly captured the voice of Death, one to whom time is completely relative and sometimes unimportant, and one who is fascinated by humans. Love it.

WHAT I’M WRITING

So … I’m finally getting into my revisions on FRACTURED RADIANCE. Here’s the story: I started November with all kinds of hopes, but waffled on how to get into my revisions. First I was going to read the book, then I was going to jump into edits, then finally around the second week of November, I decided I should actually read through it first. So I did. And promptly became very depressed. What a hot mess it is! I made a list of all the major changes to be done. Spoiler alert: it’s a long list. I hmphed and pschawed and dragged my feet all the day long. And then, when our Thanksgiving trip to St. Louis arrived, I thought, “I’ll read in the car!” But let me tell you, 12 hours overnight in a car with a one year old is not the ideal place to write … especially when that one year old doesn’t sleep well in the car for more than 3 hours at a time. While in St. Louis (visiting my brother and his family), I discussed my book with my brother and his wife. And my sister-in-law said, “I’ll read it!” So I gave her my copy and returned to Denver happy to have an unexpected beta reader, but also happy to have an excuse not to work on my book. (I’m so terrible.) See, my SIL is a talented writer herself, and she was a writing tutor in college, so I knew she’d give me all kinds of valuable feedback and I didn’t want to start revising stuff when I’d have to go back through it again and maybe change things I’d just changed. Plus Christmas was coming up, which involved a 9-day trip to visit the Mister’s family, and yadda yadda, you get the picture.

WELL! My SIL has finished the book, though she hasn’t had a chance to mail it back yet (arctic vortex and all that), but we’ve had a couple of really good chats about the major problems in my book. But see! The exciting thing is I asked her to be brutally honest and tell me if I should trash this book or if it was worth continuing. And she thinks it is! So that in itself gives me hope. Then I had a, Where do I start?? moment yesterday, but then today I outlined a plan of attack, and BAM. I’m motivated. Now, my writing today was just a bit rusty (just a smidge … which is to say, actually really very rusty), but that’s okay. I just got to get my mind grapes going.

ALSO. This fall was hard because Turbo has taken over my life and I was just surviving day-to-day, unsure how to fit in anything for myself. I thought of the solution on New Year’s Day, and my goodness it’s so simple I’m amazed I didn’t think of it before! I mean, seriously y’all, it’s pretty sad it took me until he was 14 months old to realize this: nap time = writing time. DUH. So here was my dilemma: due to health concerns, I cannot be on the computer or exercise past 8ish or else I can’t sleep. Not, it’s hard to fall asleep, or I sleep fitfully. I. CANNOT. SLEEP. Insomnia pays me a not-so-kind visit. And Turbo is a ton of fun and super cute, but when I’m on the computer he wants to be held to see what’s on the screen. He loves playing by himself … until I’m on the computer. Then he’s screaming at my leg, demanding to be picked up, and y’all … it’s not fun. I’m sure I could break that cycle, but it would be so painful … Anyhow. Until Monday, I would usually spend nap time showering and doing chores that I can’t do while he’s awake, like anything involving the dishwasher being open. Then at night I’d read or watch TV with the Mister.

Enter my grand idea! See, I can easily clean at night without fear of insomnia kicking in. (It has to do with the harsh lighting of the computer screen. It’s a thing, I promise.) So now, when Turbo’s awake I spend time with him, accomplish that which can be accomplished with him running around (sorting laundry is one of those things), and leave the house, then when he goes to bed I exercise (before 8!), then do chores, read, and/or spend time with the Mister. And nap time! Oh, nap time is all about writing. And it’s glorious.

Okay, that was a super long section … next!

WHAT ELSE I’M UP TO

Being excited about the new year. :) I feel very optimistic about this year. I don’t know if I’ll get FR to query-quality in the next 12 months (it’s got a loooong way to go), but I have a plan on how to get it there, 1-2 hours a day to spend on it, and if I want to be published, I have to make it happen. This is an empowering feeling. (Okay, sometimes also exhausting, but mostly empowering.)

WHAT INSPIRES ME

My goals for the year! Yay! Here they are:

-Live with purpose — no more dallying on Facebook for hours because I’ve got nothing better to do. Be purposeful about how I spend every minute of every day. Get up at 6 every morning and spend a few quiet minutes alone before the kiddo joins me with all his chatterbox fun.

-Put God first — I know, I’m getting religious on you here for a second, but this is something I really need to do. Put Him first, and all things will fall into place. I’ve already seen it in action.

-Devote nap time strictly to writing — I’ve already touched on this (err, rambled on and on).

-Exercise daily — this is absolutely crucial to my health, physical but especially mental. Even if it’s just a walk with Turbo and the dogs, or a handful of crunches. It’s gotta be done.

-Comment on blogs whenever I post — I’m not going to make any goals about weekly posting or anything, but I definitely need to be better about visiting y’all’s blogs and commenting on them. So you’ll see comments from me tonight!

-One big project or multiple little projects a month–no more, no less — I’m going to be strict about this, even the “no less” part because I have a ton of projects that are half done and have been for over a year. Like the fact that all of my kitchen windows have a valance except one … and it’s been that way since I was pregnant. And it’s due to sheer laziness.

-Coupon — I got into this late last summer and, without a ton of effort, saved 40% on my grocery bill. This year will be expensive, so we’ve gotta tighten the belt some.

-Post-Turbo evenings dedicated to exercising, reading, cleaning, house projects (when possible–can’t really bust out the table saw at nine PM), and spending time with the Mister.

-Spend less time on phone/computer — this goes hand-in-hand with living more purposefully.

Even though it’s thrown my personal time for a loop, being a mother has been the best thing for my writing. I’ve had to really look at life, choose the things that are the most important to me, and become more organized so I can give them the time they deserve/I want. Even though I spent the majority of last year treading water, I still knew what I wanted to save my energy for, and what fat needed to be shed.

Here’s to 2014!

Precision of Language, please!

(Title taken from The Giver. I love re-reading books as an adult. But a post on that later.)

(Also, thanks for the well wishes! I’m feeling much better today. ^_^)

I recently read a debut novel I was pretty excited about. I knew beforehand that the author had a lot of talent and was excited to see their story. And, indeed, while reading the book it was clear that the author has some serious talent. The kind I can never even dream to have. But something else was very clear: someone didn’t do their job. Halfway through the novel, I noticed a number of mistakes being constantly made. The kind of mistakes I think the average reader wouldn’t notice, but a voracious reader, and especially a writer-reader, would definitely notice.

Perhaps it’s harsh to say someone didn’t do their job. But time after time I read one of these words or phrases I thought, “Why didn’t someone tell the author not to do this?” I wanted to take the author to the side and say, “Here are the mistakes you’re making. And the only reason I’m harping on these so bad is because I used to do the same things too, until someone was kind enough to point them out to me, slap me on the wrist and say, ‘You idiot!'”

(Okay, so they didn’t call me an idiot. But I felt like a dork for not noticing my own flaws.)

(And I think sometimes–at least for me–mistakes that I used to make, that someone’s pointed out to me, become my pet peeves. Am I the only one? Bueller? Bueller??)

So what were these mistakes, you ask? I’m glad you did, because I’m going to tell you!

1) Characters “realizing” things too often — Having you character “realize” something is lazy writing, most of the time. For instance, let’s say my character just drove up to a building: “The building was unremarkable, architecturally speaking, just a big rectangle with few windows. The walls looked to be made of corrugated steel. I realized it was a warehouse.” Now … I think sometimes you can get away with “realizing” things, but that has to be some sort of epiphany. Seeing something new and deducing what it is–a warehouse–is not deserving of a realization. Just say, “It looked like a warehouse.” If your character’s having a conversation with someone and they realize that they’re yelling, and have been for a few minutes … well, I think that’s okay to say, “I suddenly realized that I was yelling. That I had been yelling for several minutes. That would explain why Jackie was crying, huddled in the corner, and mewling for someone named Nay-nay.” What’s the difference between the two? Well, in the second example I think it’s that the character has thought that something–that’s quite important–was one way, but really it’s the other. Whereas in the first, the character’s just observing this building and deducing that it’s a warehouse based on its appearance (and probably location, too). The same rules for “realizing” go for “noticing” and other words of that ilk. You should not use the word “realize” on every page. Seriously. People will notice.

2) Having the character “see” and “hear” things — When we’re in first person or third person close, you should rarely say, “I watched as he punched the hobo,” or “Katie-Bell heard the doorbell ring.” Just say, “He punched the hobo,” or “The doorbell rang.” (Why would someone punch a hobo? That guy’s not nice …) When you insert these filter words, you distance us, the reader, from the protagonist. Now, this can work sometimes, even in first person (because every rule can be broken), but you must have a reason for wanting to place distance between reader and protag. I used to do this ALL the time, until a professor pointed out that when you write “Lulu saw the monkey attack the clown,” we aren’t watching the monkey attack the clown, we’re actually watching Lulu see this. And who wants to watch someone look at something else? It’s like in a movie, when the actor looks past the camera and gasps, and you think, “OH HOLY HELL, JUST PAN THE CAMERA AROUND AND SHOW ME WHAT’S GOING ON, ALREADY!!”

3) Passive verbs — SUCH a big No-No. Seriously, rampant passive verbs drive me crazy (and a certain member of my writing group–he will always cheerfully note when you use too many). Like all rules, it can be broken but you need a reason. For instance, if your POV is first person and the protag is a passive person, predominantly using passive verbs works because it’s true to character. But please, for the love of active language, make the character arc involve the protag learning to act, and thus learning to use active verbs. Otherwise, I will become very, very annoyed. In this book, the protag consistently used passive language: “Boba Fett is running towards me. I am crying. The monkey is laughing. I’m not sure how, but the monkey is definitely laughing, and I’m creeped out.” It should be, “Boba Fett runs towards me as I cry. The monkey laughs, and I’m not sure how, but he’s definitely laughing, and it creeps me out.” Now, some of those could still work as To Be + Gerund constructions (Such as, “he’s definitely laughing”), but when it doubt, cut the To Be verb auxiliary verb and go straight for the action verb. It takes out unnecessary words and strengthens your writing.

This is not an exhaustive list of language mistakes, but just ones I’ve noticed a lot. Also, this post is already 883 words, so I should probably shut up now.

What are some common language snafus you’ve noticed yourself or others making?

Hullo!

At school, talking too loudly and having my heart pound whenever I look at the podium where I will give my reading and presentation later this week.

So, no posting from me the rest of the week. So you! Yeah you, the lovely person reading this! Have a great week, okay?

And enjoy this poem:

If you think this is funny, we will be friends forever.

The Deja Vu Blogfest

DL Hammons is holding the Deja Vu Blogfest today. Basically, re-publish an old post you feel didn’t get the love it deserves. So, I’m reposting my Christopher Walken post. This time with a Christopher Walken gif! Yesssss.

I once heard a story that Christopher Walken never rejects a role he’s offered, no matter how bad. The story related that Christopher Walken believes you can learn from every role, even the bad ones. (Also, did you know he’s a former Broadway dancer? True story.)

I tried to corroborate this story this morning and only found a small mention in this article, that says, “Walken accepts any job offer that isn’t ‘too awful,’ per a humble work ethic fueled not by love of fame, glory or money … but by fear of his own capacity to ‘sit around and eat spaghetti.'” Which proves two things: 1) What my mother always said, about believing half of what you see and none of what you hear is probably correct (but can I believe it?) and 2) Spaghetti is the most terrifying pasta. (It’s very tentacle-like.)

BUT! Let’s pretend my story is true (it’s like fiction!). The idea that even bad roles offer opportunity for growth has merit. I suggest that writers could learn from “bad” stories. For instance, I (inadvertently) took a hiatus from creative writing during college (except a brief stint my sophomore year, when I took Creative Writing 101 (or something like that) and wrote a few chapters of what is now my thesis). I was still writing, just papers. Lots of them. Mostly in Italian (my minor). After I graduated, I wanted to write again, but couldn’t make it stick. I even bought a prompt book and read the delightful Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I felt inspired, but no story ideas came.

Finally, 9 months later, I told my sister about a dream I’d had the night before, filled with Greeks and wars and all that romantic stuff. She said I should write it. So I did. And let me tell you what: IT’S TERRIBLE. But I’m so glad I wrote it. Why? Because Almost 3 years later, I’m nearly done with my MFA and I’ve got one full draft of a book and another partial under my belt. I consider myself a writer, whereas before it was only an interest of mine. That story literally changed the course of my life.

Sometimes you just need to write. It doesn’t matter what it is. Write a character sketch. Describe your kitchen at its very messiest. Turn Christopher Walken into a superhero and have him save the Queen of England from an invasion of spaghetti-like aliens. If it’s terrible, laugh at it and be grateful you were able to get something down today. Because that’s what really matters. All words you write are important, even the ones you ultimately delete.

Write Until Something Surprises You

This image is so conflicting...

My fabulous prof, Leslie Pietrzyk, reminds us of this advice at every residency. It’s become one of my favorite mantras. (And apparently one of her favorite teachers, Richard Bausch, imparted those words of wisdom to Leslie. And thus, the circle continues…)

Things have been quiet here this week because my attention has been on getting all Christmasy things done. Shopping, wrapping, shipping, and decorating are all done! Huzzah! I even braved the mall yesterday, and let me tell you, that place was crazy. But not as crazy as Costco. Yeesh.