The Mom Dilemma

March 10, 2011

I haven’t posted in a while. Really, there’s been nothing to tell on the baby-making front, except that no baby has been made. Sometimes I assume that my body is not capable of it and other times I chalk it up to timing or lack there-of. We are taking a casual approach. I have no desire to allow something that’s supposed to be fun to turn into hard work. He he he. Hard. Yep, I have the sense of humour of a 13 year old. So maybe yes to the hard, but no to the work, how’s that?

Outside of the nothing-to-tell-ness, there has been the usual wintery mood disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Really – SAD. Because all of those crazy PhD-having mofos have nothing better to do with their time than come up with clever names for crazy. I know when spring is truly coming because I enjoy reading books more and the desire to write, in any capacity, returns. Through the cold months, I write mostly what I am paid to write, with occasional NaNoWriMo, if the mood allows.

Finally, I have had no overwhelming urge to communicate anything. Rather than blathering on just to fill space, I have allowed this blog to lapse. Apparently folks have still been reading my old posts, which is kinda nifty.

No Wire Hangers! Ever!

What’s changed? A message. From my mother. Looking back over my posts, I haven’t really talked about her at all. She’s what you’d call a touchy subject. I don’t actually call her mom or mother or anything approaching a parental nickname. I call her by her first name, which for the sake of this relatively anonymous blog I will say is Margaret. As in Margaret White.

Margaret and I haven’t spoken in more than a decade. When I was a teenager and my world was imploding, she kicked me out. But before that there was a lot of hitting and even more emotional manipulation – and considering how much hitting was going on, that’s a lot of manipulation. There was some extreme religiosity and a great deal of blind eye turning when some really horrible things were happening.

Half a lifetime after all of this comes a small message from good old Mags. Very small. Very timid. Nothing approaching an olive branch or an apology. Nothing to indicate any changes that might make it safe or healthy for me to respond.

“It’s like you have Stockholm Syndrome.” Says my love, a good and true and caring human being. I think about this. He is sure that my contemplation – my wondering whether I should respond at all – is proof of this.

I suppose this is partly true.

But to reject this small contact – it’s like embracing the title of Orphan. Admitting I come from nowhere good. It’s like deleting any hope that the good moments (and even the most damaged of us can usually recall a few) were an indication of the possibility of change. That Margaret could grow. That she could be “Mother.”

As an adult, I have empathy for her. She married young, had children young. Her resources were limited. She was, I’m sure, chemically imbalanced (as I am.)

“But you did something about it.” My love intones. “You fought it. You got help. You wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

It’s true. And yet I am reluctant to assume that it is because of some effort and determination on my part. I wonder whether – in the same circumstances -

But there the logic breaks down. I DID survive as a homeless teen, a group home teen, a lonely and destroyed person. I was obsessive about birth control. I knew that I wasn’t going to be a young mom. Until my husband and I decided to have a child, I had NEVER had unprotected sex. Even at my worst, I was aware that it was my responsibility to make sure I was not a parent before I was sane enough to do it without endangering my child’s well-being.

So do I embrace this title of Orphan and accept that my children will not know this woman who carried me and failed at raising me? Who sent me out into the world unprepared and punished me for the sins of others? I don’t know.

Trying

September 14, 2010

Now that hubs and I are actively trying to conceive, I find myself hyper watching my body for signals that I am pregnant. It’s a little confusing to be looking for the same signs in anticipation that I once looked for with fear or anxiety. My breasts are tender – what does it mean? There is spotting – what does it mean? Am I being crazy? Well, of course, but crazier than usual?

And what an odd commitment to make. To spend 250 some-odd days with another human being gestating inside me! Yikes. To commit to spending 1/4 of my likely life-span taking care of them. To watch my stomach stretch and grow and my body change drastically. To change in a way that I cannot back out of. I like an open door. I may not use it, but I like to know it is there.

Yep. Babies change everything. Unless you’re Barbie (or rather, Midge.) Then you can get your figure back after your painless birth. And plastic babies are very quiet, I hear.

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Well, What The Hell Happened There…Huh?

September 1, 2010

It’s been three months. Three effing months. And what does this prove? That mental illness does, indeed, mess up my day to day life. After keeping up this blog pretty regularly since January, my brain sort of fell apart. Why? Partly because I lowered my medication, I suspect. I did this because Zoloft is known to cause problems with breast feeding and I suspected that it also had something to do with my lowered libido. Another factor was probably stress. The family that I provide child care for has seen its own challenges this year and it has certainly made my job more complicated. I’ve always got my finger in many metaphorical pies (mmmm, pie) and many of them seemed to come to a head all at once. Add to that a freaky oil spill in a hunk of water I’m rather fond of and KERBLAM! The return of the crazy lady is in full swing. Daily panic attacks, sometimes hours long, a sense of constant desolation and the strongly held belief that we are doomed as a people. I’m not say we aren’t, I’m just saying that it had become a certainty to me. No reprieve, no growth, just death and destruction and pain. Am I fun at a party or what?

Howie Knew There Was SOMETHING Wrong With Her Brain

So that’s where I lived for a few months. Somewhere in there I decided that it was so not effing worth it. I re-upped my serotonin re-uptake inhibitor. I know when I’m licked. Okay, maybe not right away, but soon thereafter. Well, within a few months.

So after my mini vacation in brain hell, is there anything at all that I took away from it, besides a lingering sense of ennui? Glad you asked (or at least that I pretended you asked…)

Sure. In an attempt to fight off the illness that was overtaking my brain, I did something I’ve never done before. I ran. Like, moving my body with speed across the pavement ran. Why did I think this would help? The idea first occurred to me when I read this article at  work. It talked about a program run out of Victoria that encouraged folks with mental illness, homeless people and those fighting addiction to take up running. It cited both individual anecdotal results and research based evidence from reputable sources like Duke University. It planted a seed, I suppose.

I wasn’t certain how to start. So I bought a 99¢ iPod app called Get Running (’cause what else is a nerdy girl to do?) What it did was provide audio cues over my music as to when to start to run, walk, break, stretch, etc. The first day I ran for less than a minute, three times over, with breaks in between each one. I could barely do it. I’ve never been very sporty, and my former fat kid status made participation equal humiliation. I’m large chested – I usually wear an F-cup, no kidding – which made running seem like a painful, impossible task. Still, I’m scrappy, so I figured if it had a chance of working, I was gonna damn well do it. I have one sports bra, a super constructed bit of magic created by Enell. I had a pair of hand me down runners from my big sis. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I just did it. Three times a week. And very slowly I’ve been upping my times. Now I can run for ten minutes straight. Throw in walk breaks and I’m up to twenty. That might not sound like much to the super-marathoners out there, but it means a heckuva lot to me.

And the real twist? I love it. I mean it. I look forward to it. I feel amazing when I do it. I believe it’s helping me be well. It’s odd, coming from someone who frequently mocked runners as crazy, that running makes me less crazy.

So after my hiatus, I’m back. Actively trying to be well and actively trying to conceive. Wish me the best for both, ’cause the ennui is a hard enemy.

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Running in Circles

June 4, 2010

Hey Folks,

It’s been more than a month of mood disorder-iness. My doctor and I tweaked my medication and it has made a difference, though I can feel the panic attacks under the medication. Like I know when they would be happening. They’ve just been made quiet and much less frightening. In order to survive, I’ve been avoiding heavy subject matters and anything that might make me panic, which, as a writer, goes against every instinct I have. I’m forcing myself to do it, though and there’s an odd boredom to be associated with my small bubble of the world.

I asked my doctor the big question. No, not that one. “I’m worried,” I admitted, “That I’m not fit to have a child. That I’ll make a bad parent.” My doctor got a look on his face that seemed to indicate that he was a little sad I saw myself as a person who could be a bad parent. He went on to list all of the reasons he thought I was ready to be a mom. Most of them seemed true. But depression, in the midst of it, feels like normality. Like it will never change. Like this affect is the only one I’ll ever have. And who wants a moody mum?

On the bright side, I’d have to be better than this guy:

When former child stars and Tanya Harding think you’re a bad parent, then you’ve really effed it up. See? That’s how I’ll keep my self-esteem up. You Tube. Land of bad parenting.

Anyway, I swear my next post will be about something besides my mood. I have an interesting project I may undertake. It will involve something I never thought I’d do.

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The Last Lap Around the Crazy Pool

May 24, 2010

It’s been 10 days since I last posted, for a variety of reasons, involving a deadline or two, a wedding and more work than I’m accustomed to. Any time not owned by one of the aforementioned, has been eaten up by my brain’s attempt to sink me in the crazy pool.

Oh, what is the crazy pool? Shark!The crazy pool is the place I tread water. It’s not a nice place, but mostly I keep my head above it. I have to. ‘Cuz just under the surface is a bad, bad place. If I sink, I forget how to get out. I forget how to swim. I forget that there ever was anything besides the crazy pool. And sharks live there. Metaphorical sharks, to be sure. But they can still kill me. You getting the idea?

I am always in this pool, moving, never able to forget that I might drown, like I’ve drowned before. And if I drown, someone else will have to pull me out, because at that point, I can’t do it myself.

And I’d been swimming around, pretty calmly, actually starting to enjoy the experience, for a while now. Then a few weeks ago, something grabbed onto my ankle and pulled my head under water. I gasped and choked, shocked – it had been so long I’d almost forgotten that I could drown.

I had been there before and I was more prepared, but when my mouth and nose filled with that crazy pool water, I panicked, just like the very first time (I remember feeling the tug when I was 4 years old.) Maybe more, since I’d been swimming around for so long that I’d started to feel like the pool might be a safe place for me.

I’m smarter since last time, though. I’ve installed lifeguards. My husband, scared of the water, but willing to dive in. My sister, who mocks the sharks and makes me believe that they don’t have the strength to pull me under. My doctor, with whom I’ve built some useful flotation devices to try to keep me up. And Ty. Ty who has been to the bottom of the pool and has come out carrying a shark corpse which he now has on display on the wall in his office.

It was Ty who gave me some hope on this one. We were coming back from a meeting and he said, “This isn’t like before. This time it’s different. It’s like one last go, just for your body to see it again, before it goes away. The same thing happened to me. This isn’t the start of a new fight, it’s the last vestiges of the old one.”

The end of the fight? The possibility that I might not identify myself as being mentally ill, but rather someone who was and is now well? The idea that I could be me, without this label. This label that by necessity defined me so thoroughly. How else could I explain myself to people? How else could I justify that the steps I’d taken that assured survival, not success? How else could I compare my life to other people’s and not come up short? Knowing that I had to expend so much energy on the head-above-waterness, people could forgive me for not being more.

But this possibility: To get out of the pool altogether. To dry off and rest and have the energy to live life. To walk with feet on solid ground and never see sharks beneath them. Why, with all of my imaginings (and I am very capable of imagining) had I not considered that? Can I do that?

Can I use this last lap to end up at the ladder and just get out and walk away?

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Distractions and Mood Menders

May 14, 2010

When I’m feeling broken and mood disorder-y, I find that if I cannot feel better, I can at least distract myself. When medication doesn’t work right or right away, it can be a matter of self-care and time. In order to pass the time, there are a few sites I frequent that are easy on the neurotransmitters (ie: no heavy content, nothing loud and flashy, no depressing reality.) Here are a few that have gotten me through the past two weeks.

New Lite
This web site claims its content barely qualifies as news. It’s all human interest, no hard-hitting. When my brain needs content with a built in depression filter, I enjoy New Lite. Some of my favourite recent stories: Family finds an old church under their house, people wear space-esque bubble for pub privacy and wallabies find employment as lawn mowers.

"Make me, for I am so very cool."

Make A Shrimp From A Bendy Straw Craft
Seriously. If you want to turn off your brain, try making this totally pointless yet bizarrely enjoyable craft. It serves no purpose, much like mental illness itself.

Sketch Swap
This is such a cool idea. You do a sketch, then you get to see one that someone else has done. It’s very cool give and take. You actually get to see the process of their drawing. Some of the ones that I have received make me ashamed of my own lack of skill.

My break is almost done, so I’ll leave it at that. Happy days.

Howie.

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K’naan Performs Smile at The Drake

May 12, 2010

For the moods I been in.

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Review: Webkinz Jr.

May 9, 2010

Review: He (the three year old) loves it. I don’t totally love it.

As a nanny, I value my break. In a 10 hour day, a few minutes to myself allow me keep my balance and ensure that I’m giving quality care the rest of the day. During my break, the little guy I care for has a few activities he enjoys doing. He likes watching DVDs we get from the library, especially Tumbletown Tales, a math learning show featuring a ridiculous hamster named Tumbleweed. He likes to play Hot Wheels, recite books he’s memorized or draw (he’s in the scribbled circles stage.) His favourite break activity, though, is playing a web-based game called Webkinz Jr.

Webkinz Jr. Stuffed Toy and Virtual Pet

Webkinz is a wildly popular website started about five years ago. The gimmick is that kids buy a stuffed animal for about $10. With the stuffed animal, they get a one year membership to the website. On the website, a cartoon version of their stuffed animal can play games, build a house, make coins and purchase clothing, furniture and other virtual booty. It appeals to kids in the six to ten age group. Any younger and the games are a little too complicated. Webkinz Jr. was created for the littler folks. The stuffed animals are more expensive (about $30) and the website is far more pre-school in design and intent.

On Webkinz Jr., youngsters can travel through a virtual world using an interactive map. At three, the young fellow I watch has no trouble using the interface to visit all of his intended activities. In the beginning, I helped quite a bit, but now he can use it far more independently – though I’m always in the room with him. The activities are generally educational or are presented as life lessons (think public television.) They can be useful in skill development. I find that the little guy’s ability to recognize letters and numbers has improved and his mousing skills are very developed. That may not sound important, but remember that kids are on computers from the beginning now and this is like learning to hold a pencil. He is even able to do complex mousing skills like using a click-hold-drag to draw. As parent or caregiver, you can set up an account to monitor the improvement in their skills.

There are also clear problems with the Webkinz Jr. site. Every year a new stuffed animal needs to be bought to renew membership. You can renew without purchase, but it costs as much as the stuffed animal. There are occasional programming glitches and there can be considerable lag time on some activities.

As far as the content goes, there are two significant problems that I find: First, the characters in Webkinz World are solidly set in gender stereotypes. While the character the child plays is gender-free (I’m assuming so that they don’t have to program twice) the rest of the characters in town seem oddly gender biased.

In Webkinz World, Cops Are Boys

The Males: The park ranger, the police officer, the fire fighter, the science geek, the math kid, the bully, the word nerd, the knight, the construction worker.

The Females: The hair dresser, the pre-school teacher, the postal worker, the newspaper editor, the eco-geek, the caring center employee, the princess, the mom. Even the females who buck stereotype a bit, like the postal worker and the editor, wear skirts. All of the females seem to. The editor, the one powerful female character, is also presented, elsewhere in the site, as the friendly old babysitter. In the salon game, the character that gets made over with make up and dresses is the pre-school teacher. Even the little girl characters wear a lot of pink and frills.

In Webkinz World, Hairdressers Are Girls

The one exception comes in the form of the characters who run the bakery. A male and a female, they seem to work together to run the place and create treats – though she’s still in a skirt.

The second problem I have is with the heavy handed nature of some of the lessons. Set up like morality plays, kids can watch a series of videos called Paws For Caring (presented by a female, of course.) In these, the kids are confronted with situations in which childish characters are making the wrong choices. Then we pause and they are shown the right choice to make. While there may be some value in these, they smack of high handed brainwashing. I find them a little disturbing.

Over all, Webkinz Jr. has some kid-friendly content and does a good job of matching the skill level of users, while leaving room for growth. However, its presentation of gender norms is sadly archaic and its tendency to offer WASP values as reality makes me cautious to allow the little guy to use it without sitting over his shoulder and explaining that girls can be police officers too.

So there you have it. I don’t totally love it.

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And it all falls down

May 4, 2010
Blake's Beast

No, This Is NOT Puff The Magic Dragon

Hey all. I was raised on apocalyptica. Torture and death were my bedtime stories and I bought it. I lived in a constant state of panic, the heat in my throat, the tingling in my nerves, never quite catching my breath. I also had reason to be afraid. Of my family, of my supposed godhead, of myself, eventually.

There were a few years where I became completely consumed by the panic and then there was the depression. It was like I’d been so panicked that I was overwhelmed and I broke. That was a while ago. I’ve had minor panic attacks since then, but nothing like last night. It was set off by a conversation about oil spills and the end of our ecosystem and then it was just fear and tears. Me all scarred/scared. I couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t find comfort. I had a no hope moment. Something I haven’t had, to this degree, in years.

Fucking scary.

I ended up staying up late talking to a friend trying to bring down the fear, taking some of my Ativan and trying to get back to the fine I’d felt just hours earlier. Eventually I did go to sleep, with the thought that I used to feel this every single day. This used to be my whole life. Now it’s a disturbing anomaly.

That’s worth something, right?

You know you’re a mess when THESE are the songs you listen to in order to feel better.

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Food, Glorious Food

May 2, 2010
My Cooking Aventures

From the top, chocolate brownies with homemade peanut butter icing, apple crumble and ice cream

My efforts to eat better have reached a sort of stalemate. I’m learning how to cook. I’ve made a few good meals, like a chana masala over rice, with the help of gluten free (GF) Devya Simmer Sauces. I’ve made the occasional pasta dish, with Tinkyada GF noodles. I’ve even made my own GF pizza crust using this recipe that I found on Group Recipes. The secret is using bubbly water! My hubby has been mostly good about letting me into the kitchen, a domain that is usually his. We get veggies delivered by Mama Earth Organics and this has helped with the veggie eating, an area we were sorely lacking in. I created a half decent salad dressing that doesn’t take to long to prepare, adapted from The Everything Food Allergy Cookbook, one of my most used cookbooks.

The down side? I’m also learning how to bake. Mmmm. Dessert. I’ve created a half decent GF brownie, with a killer peanut butter icing that I could just sit and eat in huge hand fulls. My GF apple crumble has improved considerably since I first attempted it and is now my dessert staple. And just today I successfully made amazing two ingredient ice cream from this recipe here! It took about 10 minutes to make and 5 hours to freeze. I will never buy ice cream again. This was so much better. I know for a fact that it’s gluten free and I added my drops so it’s lactose-free too. Woot woot. So much dessert. This can’t really be an improvement in my eating, can it? On the bright side, I know what’s in all of it.

I think the next step really is to keep track of what I eat so I know what’s going into my body, but I always forget to do that. I think I may need to start making to-do lists. Who knew that my life would get this busy? Well, I’m off to sleep so that I can head to my new earlier scheduled work day and then to my class. Busy is good, right? But not as good as dessert.

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