Thursday, October 15, 2015

Depression Doesn't Look Like Eeyore

So this post has been in my drafts for months now. I wrote it during the summer but didn’t feel like I was ready to put it up on the blog. Then today as I was driving to drop my kids off at school local DJ’s were talking about something on the radio that caught my attention. I heard one of the DJ’s speak about someone was checking themselves into treatment for postpartum depression (later found out this is Hayden Panettiere) and in not so many words stated that he thought she should just suck it up and keep being a mom. He felt that her checking into a facility to get help for her depression was somehow a cop out or selfish. There was a broader and more cohesive conversation that ensued but the attitude and comments of this young male DJ made me remember how widespread and uninformed ones feelings tend to be about mental illness and more specifically about depression. 

I have been open on this blog about my scuffles with depression and postpartum. It is something that would be easier not to have to battle but I do. Mental illness the name in and of itself always bothers me. Mental illness…sick mind…mind isn’t well…crazy person.  I don’t feel as though I am any of these things yet that is the lens with which people view you through when you are a human with depression. I was first put on anti-depressants when I was in high school and this continued much into my adult life. By all definitions I have every right to be depressed but I never wanted to be depressed and I didn’t choose to have depression.  I don’t think anyone does. Depression is like this slow stealth creeping of sadness. It rarely happens all at once. It’s more like slow drops in a tin bucket and then one day you realize that you’ve been holding this bucket for far too long and it has now become so heavy that if you don’t do something to get relief from holding it right now you will internally combust. It feels urgent and helpless and overwhelming and exhausted all at the same time. It is not something that you can just simply try harder to get it to stop. It is a constant battle between what you authentically feel and what is deemed acceptable to feel and the two are never congruent. 

For many years I accepted the societal stigma that accompanies having depression. I kept my melees to myself because embracing or talking about depression isn’t common or generally acceptable. Unapologetically owning or having open conversations about depression makes other people feel uncomfortable and act awkward.  As soon as someone obtains this fact about you a barrage of judgments and ideas fill their minds. You go from being looked at as normal to being looked at as damaged. You get this overwhelming expression of melancholy from others because of your condition. The outcry of “I am so so sorry for you” to me is just quite aggravating. The problem with “I am so so sorry for you” is that it assumes that the person feeling sorry has somehow been spared from depression and its reaches. I’m not saying that every person has depression. What I am saying is that the statistics on depression are actually kind of astounding and the chance that you or someone that you really care about is travailing from depression is highly likely. 

1 in 5 adults have experienced depression in the last year and an estimated 16 million American adults—almost 7% of the population—had at least 1 major depressive episode last year. People of all ages and all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds can experience depression, but it does affect some groups of people more than others. Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression, and young adults aged 18–25 are 60% more likely to have depression than people aged 50 or older. **

1 in 5 people. Think about that for a second the next time you’re at the office or at a grocery store. 1 out of 5 of those people is dealing with depression. This attitude of “I am so so sorry for you because this is such an odd and rare anomaly” needs to shift. It needs to shift so that people dealing with depression can openly and unshamefully engage with others about their struggles in an attempt to regain control over their lives. It needs to shift so that people who are suffering in secret will have the courage to get help. It needs to shift to save the lives and souls of people who have depression. The perception just really needs to shift. 

We need to understand that depression doesn’t look like Eeyore. It looks like me and Hayden Panettiere, and Princess Diana, Jim Carrey, and Robin Williams. It looks like the lady down the street and the teller at the bank, your cousin or a teacher. Depression doesn’t discriminate. Deciding that you or the people you know are somehow exempt doesn’t bring about change or help progress this concern. Pretending like this isn't happening to people all around us doesn't help anyone. Getting caught up in the misguided judgements of "oh but she seems so normal or the "what does he have to be depressed about" aligns energy in the wrong thresholds. What we should be focusing on is how to normalize depression so that people suffering from it can come back out into the sun of life. What we can do is move away from this idea that people have to be happy and perfect all of the time and move towards this idea that living authentically is the point of it all. 

As people who live with depression we can refuse to allow others - social media, popular ideals, our families and friends - to set unrealistic expectations of what our lives should look and feel like. We can choose not to buy into this mass, false, and unrealistic imagery of what is normal. We can pass off the temptation to live a Facebook likeable life. We can choose and encourage others to live lives that are real and specific to them. We can challenge ourselves  to feel even when that feeling is sadness. We can dare to own our circumstances even if it’s disordered and embarrassing and socially uncomfortable. We can be honest with ourselves. We can attempt to live our lives in the present rather than pulling along our demons from the past. We can slough off this idea that having depression makes you damaged or less than or not normal. We can be audacious enough to own our life situations and to get help when we need it. We can embrace the fact that we all deserve and are worth feeling happy. We can accept that even though we have depression that doesn't make us sad and miserable all of the time. We can know that there are avenues to take that can help us  put down the tin bucket and regain a sense of ease in our lives. We can know that getting help doesn’t make us weak or selfish but rather brave and humble. We can know that we deserve happiness rather than perfection. We can know that depression doesn't even begin to define the totality of who we are as human beings but rather it is a small part that makes up a much greater whole. 

My life is so very far from perfect but I would rather my imperfect sideways life over a tidy perfect one any day. Because on my darkest days - the days where I sometime can’t even see that there is a path to follow - those are the days that I learn the most about life and about myself. Keeping moving forward and know that you are not alone. Dare to live a complete and present life where you experience not only the good but also the bad. Embrace your complete human experience and allow yourself to be yourself even when that looks and feels a little messy. 

 Depression Looks Like This                               Not This

To get more information about depression or to learn how to get help with your depression visit - or talk to your doctor to find a treatment that feels right to you.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Recap on My Journey and Taking the First Step

So I spent the last couple of days rereading the “my journey” posts and it was sadish and enlightening. Sadish because rereading those posts about my time spent in post-partum depression was sad and reading it again reminded me of how far I’ve come and yet that I still have a ways to go. Enlightening because I was reminded that I’m a writer not an editor – yikes!! 

Any who, to recap a bit about where we left off in the journey. It all started when I had baby numero dos (2) I was beyond exhausted and really just maxed out in my life. All of my life hood dysfunctions had sort of come to a head – I was tired all of the time yet I wasn’t sleeping well, I had massive migraines, body aches, back and leg pain, brain fogginess, over all sadness, stomach issues, skin issues (acne and hives), hair loss – I really just felt like I was dying or falling apart or both all of the time. On top of it all I was a stay at home mom who had two young kids to take care of and kids don’t care if you feel like hell - life had to keep going. I went to my 6 week post-partum appointment and was told that I had depression. I was put on medication for it. You can read more about the here.

Even after being put on the medication most of the time it felt like I was drowning – drowning in the middle of a huge lake and everyone was just standing around the lake talking, laughing and carrying on with their lives not even aware that I was drowning. In between weeks of not leaving the house I would get a spark of light and realize that life had to be better than what I was living. I would find another doctor and either get told I was fine or get another diagnoses. A year of doctors visits trying to figure out what was wrong with me got me 5 medications, multiple blood tests, a thyroid ultrasound, a CT Scan, x-rays of my back, hips and legs, I was told that I had fibromyalgia and I was also told I had a leaky gut and a gluten allergy. I was a mess and my body was falling apart. I was clearly not fine.

Amidst all of this we went to Kenya to visit my husband’s family for six weeks. I lost a bag along the way that had my medications in it. Coming down off of anti-depressants that rapidly sent me on a trip to crash landing villeKenya was a much needed wake up call for me. It gave me perspective and forced me to realize that I had ventured down a long dark corridor trying to find relief from my symptoms but no one could tell me why all of this was happening to me at the ripe young age of 24. I was 24 and was on multiple medications yet was finding very little relief from what was going on. Kenya was so extremely different from what I was used to in every way. I learned so much while I was there about myself and about life that I couldn’t go back home and not adopt some of these new ways of life and thinking. Kenya was the beginning domino that set off a long series of changes in my life. 

When we came home I knew I needed to get movement back into my body so by accident I started doing yoga and then began to address the emotional connection to my health problems. These were the first two steps on the stair case back up to feeling well again. The next series of posts will continue to be about how I got my life back through small yet sustainable changes. Get caught up on all the my journey posts here and I see you on the next post!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Birth Naturally

So I'm back (again) it's getting old right - that I just can't be a normal blogger who has her business together and posts at a frequent and normal rate. Well I have three kids now so normal and regular aren't words that you're going to find around here. I thought that I would post extensively about natural pregnancy but that's just not where my passions lie. I think that it's important for sure but I just don't feel super inclined to sit and write posts about what I did with myself while I was pregnant. I will post a little diddy about glucose testing later on but that's going to be the extent of it. What I am really passionate about is mindful births and natural child rearing. So I'm going to be posting more about that. Nothing crazy just simple steps that I find helpful for me and my brood.

On the subject of child birth while it's still fresh on my mind. A little flashback to the first time I was pregnant - I was young and naive and I thought that if you listened to the doctors and showed up at the hospital all would be well. I thought I would know what to do and that would be that. Carry the babe for 9 months, go to the hospital, baby comes out - done deal. Well long story short my daughter's birth didn't go anything like I expected. I had to be on antibiotics, they tried an epidural which failed and they ended up giving me stadol which made the baby and I VERY out of it. Consequently we also had a really hard time breastfeeding and my daughter was very sleepy and lethargic for the first few days. Studies now show that use of some pain medications during labor impairs breastfeeding. See that information here and here. Any medication given during pregnancy transfers to the baby. Would you willing give your infant a narcotic? Probably not. Why don't they tell you this? Well my guess is that dealing with a vociferous natural birthing mother is most likely much more burdensome for doctors than a knocked out submissive one. My first birth experience felt very out of control. I didn't feel as though I had a grasp on what was going on or what was happening to me, it was just left up to others to decide what was best for me and my baby. In the end, although she made it here just fine, I didn't love the experience that I had bringing her into the world nor the troublesome experience of breastfeeding failure.

When I became pregnant with our second baby I researched birth like a crazy women. Every book, movie, or blog that I could get my hands on. I was devouring information about birth. Hours and days of my life have been spent reading about birth. While researching one night I came across a documentary about birth called, The Business of Being Born and it opened my mind to a whole new side of birth. To anyone who is pregnant or who might be pregnant in the future I REALLY recommend that you give it a look. After months of research, at around 7 months pregnant with my second, I settled on having a natural birth. I went over things with my OB and the plan was set into motion. Long and short of it, baby number two came naturally, beautifully and just how I imagined. He breastfed immediately and successfully. By far one of the greatest choices and experiences of my life.

Fast forward six whole years and I'm pregnant again. As you've read before, I was in denial for most of that pregnancy and was just going through the motions until around 7 months when my OB started to talk to me about birth and what I wanted to do in regards to it. I was like, "oh yeah that!" So I got back into researching. I was reminded that if there was a next time, that I had wanted to go the midwife route but I felt like at this point it was too late for that so I just stayed with my OB and figured out a birth plan for baby #3. It is possible to have a natural birth in a hospital with an OB but you sometimes feel as though you're rubbing against the grain. To make it doable you need to have a strong support person who knows what you want and is willing to advocate for you and it would be really helpful to hire a doula and definitely definitely write up a birth plan to discuss with your OB.

I am a huge advocate for natural birth for a couple of reasons. One being that women having been birthing babies naturally for thousands of years and most women around the world still birth babies naturally. Women are a strong species that can grow another human and then have the strength to bring that human into the world. It is a beautiful experience to be fully present for. It is also a great source of accomplishment and strength to be able to draw upon. If you can birth a person there's not much else that you can't do. I know that it's not for everyone but if nothing else be your own advocate and arm yourself with information on both sides so that you are fully aware of your options and their implications.

I'm not going to sit here and type out my entire labor and delivery because I rarely read it when others do it, it is interesting enough but that's not the point of this post. What is important to me is that when you enter into the birth process that you are armed with multitudes of information about laboring and delivering your baby. That you have a birth that feels comfortable to you. Also that you do some research as to what procedures are common to give to your newborn after he/she is born. Know everything before hand and know what you want to have happen and why. Know the pros and cons of pain medications and interventions during labor and how it effects babies after birth and subsequent breastfeeding. Take control of your birthing process and don't settle for procedures that are done because they are routine. Question everything, have as much information possible and dare to have your best birth possible. Remember at the end of the day you are paying the hospital/birthing center so they work for you. You tell them how you want it to go not the other way around.

Below I listed some of my favorite blogs and books about birth. Feel free to read them or email/comment if you have any questions. I'll also post my birth plan with baby M so that you can see what a birth plan might look like and tweak it in your favor.

Birth Without Fear

Anything by Ina May Gaskin

This post by Wellness Mama

Birthing Naturally

The Business of Being Born - This is the movie on YouTube

Here's my birth plan below - Sorry that the formatting of it is so wonky I messed with it for far to long so it is what it is!!


Natural Birth Plan for Rachael

Mother’s Date of Birth:                           Baby’s Due Date: 2/17/2015
Doctor:                                                         Hospital:

    -My delivery is planned to be a natural vaginal birth without interventions.

Early Labor –

   -Labor at home as long as possible

Induction (Only if medically necessary) –

   -Prefer not to be induced as long as my baby and I are fine
   -If my water breaks prior to labor I would like to wait maximum of 18 hours before inducing
   -Non-chemical induction methods to be tried first

Labor and Birth Environment –

   -My husband will be present at all times
   -Quiet music played (I will provide)
   -Minimal interruptions
   -No visitors or other family members present
   -No phone calls allowed into the room

I am not interested in –

   -Pain medication
  -An IV, unless medically necessary and approved by either my husband or I.
  -Continuous fetal monitoring – I would like to be up and moving around
   -Inducing labor in any way - as long as my baby and I are fine

First Stage of Labor (Active Labor) –

    --If available I would like to use – birthing ball, bath tub, shower, birthing stool
   -To be free to walk and move aroun
    -To stay hydrated with clear liquids and ice chips
   -I will handle the pain using – movement, breathing, massage, bath, shower, position changes and walking
   -I prefer the baby to be monitored intermittently using a Doppler
   -I do not want pain medications offered to me
   -As long as my baby and I are fine, I would like to be free of time limits and refrain from inducing labor

Transition –

   -Do not offer pain medication 

Second Stage (Pushing) –

   -I would like to push instinctively
   -As long as my baby and I are fine, I would like to be free to push in positions of my choosing.
Including but not limited to – squatting, lying on my side, semi – reclined, hands and knees
   -Try massage, changing positions, and warm compresses to avoid tearing or an episiotomy
   -Avoid having an episiotomy unless determined medically necessary. If an episiotomy is deemed      medically necessary please use local anesthesia during repair
   -Avoid forceps and vacuum usage
   -Allow position change if the shoulders are “stuck”
   -Avoid pulling my baby out in any way

Third Stage –

   -Hold my baby on my chest immediately after birth
   -Wait two minutes to cut the umbilical cord
   -My husband will cut the umbilical cord
   -Deliver the placenta without pulling or Pitocin

Newborn Procedures –

   -Postpone all new born procedures for 45 minutes after birth - except for suctioning and wiping off      the baby
   -Please use diapers and wipes that are provided
   -I would like all newborn procedures to take place in my or my husband’s presence
   -My husband or I will stay with our baby at all times
   -I would like to breastfeed my baby following birth
   -I do not want antibiotics to be put in my baby’s eyes. I will sign a waiver if necessary
   -I do not want any vaccinations administered to my baby with acceptation of vitamin K shot
   -No bottles, no pacifiers, no sugar water, no formula

If a C-Section is medically necessary –

   -Make sure that all other options have been exhausted
   -I would like a second opinion
   -My husband will remain with me at all times
   -I will remain conscious
   -My hands to be left free
   -My husband will hold our baby as soon as possible
   -I will breastfeed in the recovery room
   -Preference of my baby remaining in the recovery room with me

If the Baby is Not Well –

   -My husband will accompany the baby to the NICU or to any other location
   -I will breastfeed or provide pumped breast milk
   -My husband or I will hold our baby as much as possible

Thank you for taking the time to help us achieve a natural and peaceful childbirth for our third child!

-Aaaand scene! That was a long and inclusive birth plan. Much of it wasn't used but I wanted to be specific in any event during birth. You can look up different birth plans online and tailor one to meet your needs. This is good to go over with your birthing partner and with your doctor or midwife. 

 This post is just meant as a nudge for you to do your own research about birth. It is not a condemnation in any way towards women who don't choose natural birth. I do realize that sometimes shit happens and you just do your best. I also realize that sometimes vaginal birth isn't a possibility. My hope is that you feel like you have a choice in choosing your best birth possible. 

 He came two days after his due date and is perfection!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Baby Wait

As tantrums usually do – my anger came to an end. I was 31 weeks pregnant and busting along the life trail acting as if I wasn’t pregnant at all. I was teaching six yoga classes a week and making sure that I worked out daily. With my other two kids I gain enormous amounts of weight (65+ pounds) and became completely inactive and miserable. I was bound and determined to not let that happen again this time around. I already didn’t feel pregnant so going 1,000 miles per hour didn’t seem to bother me much. Until it did. Life rarely allows you to go full speed ahead ignoring a part of your life without throwing a major speed bump in the road to slow you down.

I was 31 weeks pregnant and had barely gained 13 pounds. I woke up one night with some serious cramping, luckily the next day was my OB appointment. I went to the appointment and told her about the cramping. She decided to check me to find out that I was already 60% effaced. She followed that with a fetal fibronectin test which came back positive. These two factors put me at risk for preterm labor. I was told to reduce my activity to walking and to stop any activity that caused contractions – which was everything. Doing the dishes, going grocery shopping, yoga, and basically standing any amount of time would cause me to start having contractions. I would wake up at night with them and have to get into the bathtub to get them to go away. It was a lot. The potentiality of having a baby at 31 weeks encouraged the way I was traveling in life to come to a screeching halt.

I’m the type of person who lives in extremes. This makes my husband cray cray. He always reminds me that life doesn’t need to be an all or nothing affair. This is a lesson that I’ve been working on for some time but one that I still don’t have the greatest grasp on. This was yet another opportunity to work on balance in my life. My husband assured me that nothing that I was doing was worth having a preterm baby and the expenses that would incur short and long term from this baby coming early were not equal to the amount of money that I was making teaching yoga. He encouraged me to pause the schedule and just enjoy being pregnant.  

I couldn’t argue with that. I stopped teaching yoga temporarily and slowed my activity down. There were many days of napping, movie watching and long baths to get contractions to stop. It gave me a lot of time to think and to get in tune with this new life that I was bringing into the world. Until this point I hadn’t stopped to enjoy the act of being pregnant or to grasp the gravity of what my body was accomplishing on a daily basis. I hadn’t ever enjoyed being pregnant to be really honest with you. The first two pregnancies came with many complications and discomforts. Being pregnant was a quite miserable experience for me until this third time. With the exception of the preterm risk, I was feeling really good this time around.

-Me feeling sorry for myself and taking a picture for my husband to prove how miserable I was-

I decided that instead of feeling sorry for myself that I got pregnant with a surprise third baby or wasting time trying to figure out why it was happening - I would just allow life to happen as it was happening instead of how I wished it was happening. I realized that there were millions out there in much worse situations and many more who wished desperately to be having a baby. I also found gratitude in the fact that I was able to manage the preterm contractions on my own because I know many women who have to spend weeks in the hospital to delay the risk of having their babies too soon. I had to consciously switch my attitude from tantrum angry mode to gratitude mode. I had to change my mental landscape. I found my mind many times throughout the day start to wander back to tantrum mode and trying to rationalize why this was all happening to me but instead of entertaining these notions I made conscious choices to pull my thoughts back into the lane of gratitude.

I think that we all find motivation from different sources. I find healing and motivation from words among others. When I find myself in this sort of mental rut I search through books and such to find the right combination of verbiage to realign my soul.  On one particular day while lying in bed trying to get contractions to stop, I came across this quote by Lao Tzu:

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

This quote resonated wholeheartedly with me. Up until this point I was resisting my current life changes and it was making me miserable. I had to wake up and see that what I wanted or thought my reality should be, was not what my reality really was. I needed to change the story of my life from I’m Rachael and mom with two kids in school, who teaches yoga and runs her own business to - I’m Rachael and mom with two kids in school, who teaches yoga and runs her own business and who is also pregnant and who is also going to be a mom of a baby again soon. I had to really sit with my new reality and be okay with it. I think so many times as humans we get caught up in what we think our lives should be versus what our lives really really are. We get caught up in the appearances and fantasizing about our perfect life and all of the what we “should” be doings -  instead of dealing with what is actually tangibly in front of us. We are pretenders and are a society of living a life only to look good on Facebook or in the eyes of others. I encourage you to take a step back from the idyllic image that you might be trying to play in your life and assess if that matches up with who you really are and what your life most certainly is.

For me I needed to make a mental adjustment. I needed to shift my focus. I could still be and do all the things that I wanted to do before I got pregnant but I could no longer pretend that this little life wasn’t happening. I needed to spend time and attention on growing this new little human and realize that my goals and dreams of business owning and yoga teaching and having older independent kids, was still part of my reality, it just wasn’t the full of my reality. For now, I had to be okay with slowing down and tending to the part of my truth that was lacking my attention. I had to embrace letting life flow freely in whatever way it wanted to instead of trying to build a dam to halt it. Whenever I found myself going back to tantrum mode I would invasion my life as a river flowing freely, beautifully, and effortlessly forward and let go of the blockages that I was trying to place in its way. I just keep repeating to myself, "let life flow freely". Being pregnant was nothing that I could change and continuing to waste time wondering why at this point was just a massive, senseless use of my time and energy. I was 31 weeks and had NOTHING for a baby. It was time to dive into this baby and pregnancy thing for the last time…hopefully.