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.

Now Let’s Talk Goals

Ahh, the beginning of a new year. A time for reflection and goal making. Yep, I’m not a resolutions girl. I make goals. I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to accomplish this year, and think I’ve got it figured out. But this year, I’m going to do things a little differently … I’m going to make my writing goals one quarter at a time.

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

-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.

-Get a rough draft of my publishing plan. More on that later.

-Decide about my super secret idea. Obvs, more on that later.

-Blog every week. Start blogging about mental illness too.

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.

-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.

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

-Budget on a weekly basis. Gulp.

What about you? Have you set any goals or resolutions for the year? Anything you want to accomplish?

Let’s Be Real For a Minute

Happy New Year, y’all! I still can’t believe 2014 is over and gone. That had to be the fastest year of my life. I reflected back on it as I wrote our family Christmas letter, and concluded that it was a fantastic year. And it was, truly. We went on trips, and rode our bikes, and finally sodded our backyard and enjoyed the heck out of that grass. The Mister got a new job, and Turbo turned two(!). I made a breakthrough in my writing, and read some terrific books.

Yes, 2014 was a great year.

But as my reflection continued through the last week, I’ve realized something else.

2014 was a hard year.

I’ve mentioned bouts of depression and my dark night of the soul last summer, but in reality, I spent most of the year depressed. See, I have bipolar disorder. I’d planned on making this clever video when I came out about my illness, in which I talked about my story–and I still will do that one day because I’m passionate about banishing the stigma around mental illness–but, I don’t know, it just feels like it’s time. And frankly, I’ve had a crap week and feel like being real with y’all.

I don’t sugarcoat my life to make it seem perfect. I feel I’ve been honest about other struggles, and my Facebook account is littered with pictures of my nowhere-near-pristine home, but I am very personal about some things (total INFJ here), and emotional struggle is one of those things. I have a hard time opening up about it to anyone, including my sisters and the Mister, the people I’m closest to in this big, crazy world. It’s hard for me to be vulnerable, but this year I’ve learned that’s one of the things holding my writing back.

So I’m finally opening up. It feels good.

Anyhow, so, I have bipolar disorder, yes, and I’ve been in a long depressive episode … actually, for most of Turbo’s life. (Not because of him, because he’s wonderful and gives me so much joy and peace, but parenthood is hard, and also, sleep is very very important for my mental health, and it’s not as consistent these days.) But especially this year, and that’s because of one thing: we have been trying to get pregnant. Actually, since September of 2013. And in order to do that, I had to go off my meds. So, other than a brief bout of hypomania last January and February, and a few days here and there, the name of the game has been depression. It was steadily getting worse, until early this fall when my dad sent me a multivitamin specially formulated for mental health. That was a game changer. I have felt much better since then. It’s not as effective as my meds, but it doesn’t have any of the negative side effects–a trade I’m more than happy with. But, I’ve still dealt with the depression through the fall, off and on, though not as bad.

And it’s been mitigated by the fact that I’m still not pregnant. It took us a year to get pregnant with Turbo, and now we’ve been trying for #2 for 15 months, and let me just tell you … it sucks. I hate trying to get pregnant, really and truly. I know I need to relax, that it will happen when it happens, but that’s easier said than done. Much easier. Every month, no matter what my mental state was prior, when I found out I wasn’t pregnant, I’d get launched into (or further into) depression for a few days. It feels like this sticky spider’s web that I can never be completely free of. I’ll get some distance from it sometimes, and think I’m in the clear, then I lose my footing and it snaps me back into its hold.

So when I look back on 2014, I see two sides. The bright side, filled with memories with my family and friends, of all the fun I’ve had and all that I’ve done. And the dark side, the times I’ve cried (and there have been more than a few), the days I’ve spent unwashed, clad in my bathrobe, managing to take care of my child and little else. It’s quite the dichotomy for 12 months.

I was looking over my resolutions, and I blew almost all of them … except two: devote nap time to writing and leave nights for cleaning and reading. I did a pretty good job with those last year, and because of that, I wrote 40k words and read 25 books. That doesn’t sound like a lot, and I know other people did way more than that, but I’m proud of it.

This post is getting really long, and I’m worried it’s starting to sound whiny (another reason I don’t like talking about my struggles too much–I’m naturally an optimistic person). I doubt anyone has read this far, but I needed to write it. I need to be more vulnerable. In fact, I promise from here on out, I will be open about what I’m going through.

I made a decision earlier this week. There are so many things that aren’t in my control. Getting pregnant, my mental health (somewhat yes and somewhat no), my child’s behavior, the weather, my hair … there are so few things actually in my control. But there are some things. Like whether or not I write. So I need to take a tip from Elsa and let go that which I can, and take charge of what little is left. I’ve long touted the 100 Words a Day Challenge, and I’ll continue to stick by it … this time, with no excuses. Yesterday I felt like crap, but I managed 142 words (after typing stuff like, “blah blah blah I need to write what should I write let’s see last time we met Sloane, she was …”). They weren’t good words, but they were words, and I felt better after. Much better.

I’m going to make the best of 2015, no matter what it throws at me. And if I have another year like 2014, another year of stark contrast, of great joy and terrible heartache? Well, I’ll survive. And I’ll do it, in part, by writing.

No excuses.

WUW: Yeehaw!

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!

wuw fallWHAT I’M READING

I followed up The Graveyard Book with another creepy children’s book–Holly Black’s Doll Bones. I finished that yesterday and it’s very well-written and very creepy. A great October read. Today I’m going to start Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor. I am so excited to read it!

WHAT I’M WRITING

Still working through my revisions on the first act of TCE. I realized I have a lot of scenes of people just standing/sitting around and talking. So I need to remedy that, which is rather hard for a quieter story with no explosions. I’ve got some ideas though. And I’m getting through all of this much slower than I thought (isn’t that always the case?) so it looks like I’m going to be NaNoing it this year, basically. Hopefully all I’ll have left is 50k, if I’m a good girl the rest of the month.

WHAT WORKS FOR ME

Having a variety of readers for your work. I have a writing group who gets bits as I write the story, alpha readers who read my crappy first drafts, and beta readers who read the later drafts. All of the feedback I have found to be so crucial to my process and helping me see my mistakes at every stage. So, if you’re lacking one of those types of readers, I highly recommend finding some of your own!

WHAT ELSE I’M UP TO

Turbo turned 2 on Sunday. I’m kinda in disbelief it’s been two years–it feels like we just celebrated his first birthday. And on Saturday I did my second cyclocross race. It was really, really hard but I had an absolute blast. I can’t wait for my next race this coming Saturday!

WUW: I’m back … again!

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!

wuw fallWHAT I’M READING

I am in the middle of the delightful and delightfully creepy The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I think Neil Gaiman for kids is my favorite Neil Gaiman. This is my book club’s October pick and it’s just perfect for Halloween! It’s also a fast read, and my edition has pictures, so triple fun.

WHAT I’M WRITING

Wow, it’s been almost 3 months since my last WUW post. Things got a little rough starting in July, to the tune of depression. Seemingly endless depression that was getting worse and worse. (If I’m ever quiet for a long time without announcing radio silence beforehand, you can assume depression is the reason.) It’s not that I’m afraid of opening up when I’m depressed, it’s just that everything suddenly seems much bigger than it is, including blogging. I’d log on and stare at my blog and decide it was too much effort. So … yeah. Yay depression!

Anyhow, part of my depression was a dark night of my writerly soul. So, last you heard, I was getting into my revisions on ILLUMINATE THE NIGHT. Then I had the realization that my book was nowhere where I thought it was. I mean, I already knew I wasn’t writing to the level I aspire, but I thought I was closer than I was and the epiphany was a painful one. Very painful. Especially given the fact that I was already depressed. So I had some big chat sessions with two friends and some family members, and decided that it was time to put ItN aside.

Have you ever decided to drawer a manuscript? It’s painful. So very, very painful. And this isn’t even for good. I still whole-heartedly believe in this story and its potential, but I need space. So, I’m putting it aside for several months and have started working on THROUGH CLOUDED EYES again.

And what a fantastic idea that was!! I’ve rediscovered my joy, and avoided the mistakes I was making with ItN, and the difference is noticeable. My writing group has commented multiple times that this first draft of TCE is stronger than any draft of ItN. It seems I’ve learned something after all–which was so good to hear. It’s good to know that I actually was progressing, not backtracking like I originally thought. So, I’m 25% of the way through TCE and I’ve realized some changes that need to be made to the story and one of the relationships (that impact the whole book in a big way). I’m fixing all of that in the First Act, and then I’ll continue onward. I joined the YA Buccaneers Fall Writing Bootcamp with the overall goal of finishing this first draft by the end of November. My goal for October is 30k new words. Yikes! But I also realized, during the dark night of my soul, that writing is the only thing I have control over in my life right now. Well, one of the only things. So I need to act like it.

WHAT WORKS FOR ME

In my last post, I shared how I changed my phone’s lock screen to an image I thought could be the cover for ItN. As soon as I set ItN aside and switched to TCE, I changed the image to one for my new WIP. And then I poked around my phone settings, putting in the title of the book so it almost looks like a book cover. Egads, I love it!

2014-10-08 17.26.26

Oh look, I get terrible reception in my bedroom.

It’s so creepy and dark, and y’all, she’s totally looking through clouded eyes. How did this serendipity even happen? I swear the title came before the image. I love seeing it whenever I unlock my phone. It’s motivating and inspiring.

WHAT ELSE I’M UP TO

Other than slowly coming out of my depression, just being a mama to a busy nearly two-year-old. I’ve also gotten fairly active on Twitter. Come chat with me! I’m back to writing every day, which is great. I did my first cyclocross race a couple of weeks ago and hope to race again next weekend. Cyclocross is basically a hybrid between road and mountain biking and it’s a freaking blast. I got to ride through mud!

2014-09-20 15.00.35

How about you, lovelies? How’s your life?

WUW: July is hot

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!

wuw robotWHAT I’M READING

Actually, nothing. *gasp!* I finished Shadow and Bone on July 4th, and I haven’t started anything since then. And it just now hit me. WEIRD. We’re reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies for book club and this is one I really want to own so I plan on buying it. And, naturally, didn’t find the time to get to the book store last week because my sister came to play! And we were very, very lazy. So lazy, in fact, that I did no writing, but she and I had lots of brainstorming sessions which was very helpful.  We have more house guests coming tomorrow for the night, then more on Friday for a few days. So, I probably won’t get a ton of reading done in that time either. Goodness! But after that, my life will calm down and the reading and writing time will be mine! YESSSS.

WHAT I’M WRITING

I’m (finally) officially into this round of revisions. With my last draft, I moved my scenes around and then went through chapter-by-chapter, but this time I think it will work better to move them as I go. I edited Chapter Two yesterday (over 1500 new words! woot!) and today will be spent moving scenes around … which I’m not looking forward to because that might be the hardest part of revisions for me. It’s worth it, but sooooo much work. So, wish me luck!

WHAT INSPIRES ME

So, I was feeling really discouraged. Wanting to work on THROUGH CLOUDED EYES (aka the book of my heart) and wondering if all this work will be worth it in the end. And then I had this random idea.

See this image?

firehead

[via]

I shared it once in a blog post, and a friend who is familiar with the story said it would make a great cover for my book.

She’s right, of course. So, in a random moment, I made that image the wallpaper for my phone’s lock screen.

And that was an awesome decision. Because every time I turn on my phone screen (which is dozens of times a day, sadly) I see it and get excited and inspired and very motivated.

I highly recommend it.

WHAT ELSE I’M UP TO

Well, we went to Breckenridge, CO, for the 4th and It. Was. Awesome. I didn’t want to come back, but I kinda did because the next day my sister came to visit! She stayed with us for a full week and there was much eating and hanging out and swimming and napping. I also got a cold, which was a bummer. And, as I said above, we have a series of house guests in the next week and I’m tired just thinking about it. But I’m determined to revise five chapters this week (despite spending two days on one chapter). I will prevail!

How about you, dear friends? How is your writing going? Reading anything fabulous? Do tell.

 

WUW: My Character Bloghop!

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!

whatsupyoWHAT I’M READING

So, the day after I said I was enjoying The Devil’s Highway I stopped reading it. On page 55. Why? Well, it was technically written very well and the topic was interesting and I know next to nothing about it (illegal immigration through the Sonoran Desert) but it was So. Stinking. Dry. I was reading while making rice pudding and had to put it down to finish the pudding, and when it came time to pick it back up, I just couldn’t. I literally cringed thinking about reading on. And then I had an epiphany about why I love YA so much–it’s all about the feels, and I am allll about the feels, man. So if something has no emotion in it, I’m done.

So now I’m reading Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. I’m really excited about this one–it’s been on my TBR since it came out. High fantasy? Yes please. YA high fantasy? Mos def! YA high fantasy that’s not Medieval Western European based? Hells yes! I’m halfway through and loving the Russian-ness.

WHAT I’M WRITING

Jaime did the My Character Bloghop and tagged whoever wants to do it, so I considered myself tagged! Iwill now share 5 things about my main character.

1. She has had three names through the life of this story. Violet/Vi then Melia/Lia and now Elitsa/Elle. I’m so in love with Elitsa. It fits her beautifully. I needed something that sounded ancient but not too exotic. Bonus points for it lending well to a nickname because Elle is a nickname type of girl.

2. Elle has an eye on a career in public service and is active in model United Nations. In fact, during the book she’s in a prestigious model UN workshop at NYU.

3. She thinks she’s losing her mind at the beginning of the book when she starts having memories of the past, but not her past if you know what I mean. Think WWII, the French Revolution, and even ancient Egypt.

4. She’s modeled partly after Leslie Knope–I was very inspired by Leslie’s optimism and steam rolling. ^_^

5. She recently dated her brother’s best friend, unbeknownst to said brother. She also just might date him in the future … tsk tsk!

Here’s Elle (though her eyes are a brighter blue and not quite so big)! I love this girl, and good thing since I’ve been living with her for 5 years now.

WHAT INSPIRES ME

Reading YA! It’s become such a fuel to my fire for publication. Especially since I’ve had several moments of Maybe I should give up on this book since this draft will be another big one. But I know it has a good shot and reading other YA novels keeps me hungry.

WHAT ELSE I’M UP TO

On Thursday Turbo tripped at the park and chipped and cracked his tooth. So badly, in fact, they had to pull it. The top front left one, so it’s really noticeable. It was a sad day and his smile won’t be the same for several years, but I think I’m getting used to it. He got over it pretty fast–he’s such a trooper!

We’ve made more progress on the backyard! The Mister put in French doors onto our new patio while I was gone, and he finished up the last of the trim work last night. It looks awesome and I love all the light the doors let in (there was a window there before). I love being married to such a handy man.

Tomorrow we head up to the mountains–Breckenridge, CO–for the Fourth! I’m so excited for this little vacay with my little family and some of our closest friends. We’re going to swim, and hike, and play lots of games, and just enjoy ourselves. The Mister and his friend are doing a mountain bike race on the Fourth so we’ll cheer them on. And it will be much cooler up there–almost 20 degrees cooler. Yessssss.

For the Character Bloghop, I tag Kitty, Bridgid, and Angelica, but anyone feel free to participate.

Have a Happy Independence Day!! And if you’re Canadian or English, have a happy normal fourth of July anyway! :)