It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

(Content warning: this post contains discussion of mental illness and suicide.)

I haven’t written anything since late October of last year. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to. It’s that I haven’t been able to.

During the month of November, we had a lot going on with family and then Thanksgiving, and the week following the holiday, my grandpa went into the hospital. Sadly, he never went home. It had been barely over a year since we lost my grandma and that wound was still fresh for me, just so you can understand how devastating this was for me.

The holidays came around, and once again, I found myself trying to celebrate with my family while dealing with my grief. Having to do that two years in a row was tough, and I have no doubt that as Thanksgiving and Christmas come around again later this year, the season will forever be slightly tainted by the fact that two important people in my life are gone.

But this post isn’t about what will be happening six months from now, it’s about what’s happening in my life at this moment.

depression

I took this picture yesterday, a little after 3am. I got myself out of bed and decided that I finally had the energy to take a shower.

At that point, I hadn’t showered in a week.

It wasn’t out of laziness, but rather due to depression. I let my house — and myself — become a disaster this past week because all my energy went to making sure I took care of my kids: feeding them, clothing them, bathing them, doing the dishes when I could manage it. I’ve been in survival mode for a long time, but this week, I just couldn’t keep up anymore. I’d been doing the bare minimum.

Everyone thinks depression looks like sadness, but it’s so much more. For me, depression looks like exhaustion. It looks like apathy. It looks like dozing off on the couch while my kids play together. It looks like not doing my dishes for three days. It looks like not showering for a week. It feels like I don’t matter, and sometimes, it even feels like I just want to disappear for a little while. It feels like self-imposed isolation. It feels suffocating. When things are at their worst, even just physically, my body aches. I’m numb inside while I hurt all over.

When I heard about both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain this past week, I felt some sadness, but I also felt a sense of understanding. I get it. Living with depression is difficult and painful. No matter what you have, no matter what sort of successes you’ve found in your life, depression doesn’t care, and it can consume you and become overwhelming so quickly.

I’m currently working on getting my mental health taken care of, not just for myself, but for my family, too. They deserve a mom and a partner who is more present, and I would like to give that to them.

This post is meant to serve as a reminder to those of you who are struggling: you aren’t alone. I’m right here with you. It’s okay not to be okay sometimes, and if you find yourself lacking a support system, I’m here for you if you need me, because no one should have to suffer alone. I’m lucky enough to have a few people in my life who have been helping me through this, and you deserve that too.

And just in case no one has told you today: you are worthy, you are important, you are loved.

Grief and My Pregnancy

I woke up this morning with the realization that one year ago today, while my grandma was dying from cancer, I found out I was pregnant again. It was technically my fourth pregnancy, and my second in just a handful of months. At the time, I had a seven month old baby at home, too.

I honestly didn’t know if I wanted another baby. I’d had a very early miscarriage in August of that year, which had left me feeling relief, because my youngest was still so young, but I was finding myself looking at the possibility of another baby again, and I was anxious about it. The option to not have a baby was on the table, but the decision was initially put on the back burner because I had other things to worry about. In the end, I knew I wanted the baby, but it did take me time to get there.

The next few weeks were a blur, and sometimes I feel like I got cheated out of enjoying that first trimester. I was so focused on my grandma’s health, and then my grandma’s death and learning to get through the holidays without her, that I didn’t really get to think much about the growing life inside of me. By Christmas, however, the excitement was there, although it still didn’t feel real. It didn’t really feel real to me until almost the third trimester, and it certainly felt like the shortest of my three pregnancies.

Recently, I discovered that the only things getting me through the months following my grandma’s death were my kids. The first morning after she was gone, things were hazy, and that fog didn’t lift until many weeks later. It was hard to get out of bed most mornings for a while, but I did because I had to; someone had to take care of my kids, after all.

We got through the holidays and the new year, and then I was able to enjoy and focus more on my pregnancy. My older kids had birthdays, we bought a house, we had two big trips in the spring, then I had a birthday, and the baby was born. After that, my mom got married, we went on vacation in August, and once September came around, I realized that I hadn’t thought of anything else to look forward to. I had been so focused on making it through the baby’s birth, trips, weddings, and then our yearly vacation, that I was blindsided by a feeling of emptiness. In my head, there was nothing else after that.

Anxiety is a constant in my life, but depression comes and goes, and I think I spent most of the first year after my grandma’s death trying to battle it. The only thing that kept me going was having something to always be looking ahead to, and now that those significant dates have passed, I have to find new ways to cope.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, that pregnancy was probably the best thing that could have happened to me then. It gave me something to focus on, and something to hope for, in a time when I had lost one of the most important people in my life. Life really is all about finding the silver linings, I suppose, and I found mine in my pregnancy.

This is a hard time of year for me, but I know I can make it through. I’m so thankful for how far I’ve come and for all those who have been there for me, and I’m grateful for the support I had from friends and family this past year. I’m so glad that my son is a part of my life, and truly, without that pregnancy, I don’t know if I would have pulled myself up from my depression enough to take care of myself and my older kids.

There really is a silver lining on every dark cloud if you look hard enough.

Rules for Visiting a New Mom

I’m obviously not a “new” mom, but I did just have my third baby a couple of months ago, and I’ve learned a thing or two that I’d like to share with some of you who might need the advice.

There’s an etiquette to visiting a new baby. There are rules. Follow these rules, or suffer Mom’s wrath (which would be well-deserved):

  • Ask about hospital visits well in advance. Don’t just show up and expect to be able to see the baby right away. Birth is hard no matter how it goes, sometimes some of us may not want visitors.
    • …and always ask before showing up at home. Don’t just show up at my house once we’re home and expect me to host for you. Ask me first or wait for an invitation. Let me tell you that it’s okay. We both need to settle in, and I’m probably still recovering.
  • Wash your hands. Every time you plan to ask to hold the baby, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. The last thing anyone needs is for a newborn to get sick because you were being lazy.
    • …and just don’t visit if you’re sick. This one should just be common sense. No matter how much I love you and may want to see you, I don’t want you around my newborn if you’ve got germs.
  • Bring food. Or offer to do my dishes. Vacuum for me. Mop my floors. Feed my cats. Offer to change the baby’s diaper. Take my older kids off my hands for the afternoon. Not only will you get my undying love and gratitude, but you will get thanked in newborn cuddles.
  • Don’t comment negatively on my baby’s name. You hate it? I don’t really care, I don’t need to hear it. You can tell me how much you like it, you can tell me all about your great-grandfather’s brother’s niece’s step-daughter who used the name, you can even just say “oh, how nice,” but don’t criticize it. I’ve already filled out the birth certificate and you’ll just annoy me.
  • Leave the advice at the door. Unless you’re being asked for your input, chances are that it isn’t wanted or needed. I’m tired. (And I’ve done this before!) If you’re coming to visit, just let me do my thing, I’ll let you know if I need advice on something.
    • …and don’t be judgmental about my parenting choices. I don’t really care how you parented your kids, whether you diapered with cloth or disposable, whether you breastfed or formula-fed, whether you had a C-section or a vaginal birth, whether you had an epidural or not, etc. It doesn’t matter. Don’t judge how I chose (or am choosing) to do things.
  • Be nice. I just pushed a baby out of my body, it makes me feel good to hear nice things about my baby – or me. Keep it positive.