Thursday, September 24, 2009

Love is back!

One of the more horrible things about having postpartum depression is the loss of the ability to feel love. Yes, that's right. For about 7 months I have only felt love sporadically, on the really really good days which were few and far between. I don't mean that I didn't love my children, because of course I knew that I loved my children with all of my heart. What I mean is that I never felt that feeling.

Love - when your chest gets all warm and tingly and you can't help but smile the biggest smile ever and you just might even get tears in your eyes, like the tingling just went to your head. Love like the kind that bonds you to other human beings. That kind of love. Skeptics say that love is simply a chemical cocktail in our bodies. Well, so be it. But I can't live without it. I'm a lovaholic!

I realized just the other day that I finally got my mojo back. I was nursing Oscar - watching his eyes get all milk drunk and his eyelids get really heavy. His cheeks working hard to get that precious milk. I started cuddling him in my arms, smiling extra big, eyes getting all watery - whoa! wait a minute! could this be love that I'm feeling?? actual love?? It was such a relief. The hole in my chest was filled with a warmth like the sun on your face on a cool, crisp day. It was filled with all the amazing blessings in my life - an amazing partner, a wondrous three and a half year old daughter, a beautiful and healthy seven month old son, a roof over my head (albeit a leaky one), food on my table, water in my cup, and yes, finally, love in my heart. I knew with my brain that I loved my children, but until I felt that in my heart, it just wasn't real.

One of the first times that I realized I had postpartum depression was when I told my therapist that I didn't feel any love in my heart. She said that by telling her that, I clued her into the fact that something chemical was going on here. So yes, love is a chemical cocktail in our bodies. But it makes life worth living and when it's missing, life is sick.

Welcome back love! Make yourself at home. I hope you stay a reeeaaalllyyy long time...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Enjoy Self Awareness

I will... thank you.

One of the single most important things that I have done for myself (ever, not just to heal from Postpartum Depression) is to learn and practice Zhineng Qigong. I am always amazed at the blessings in my life and one of those particular blessings is the opportunity to learn and practice Qigong with Deborah.

When my head touches the sky and my feet stand on the Earth, when I withdraw my vision into the center of my head and all sound originates from there, I am immediately transformed - I become one with the air around me. My body loses solid form and I live as spirit, as energy, as qi. My anxiety dissipates, as does panic - and I am truly living in the moment.

I am ever so grateful...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Spider Medicine

Just two nights ago, my husband, Gregory, and I watched a spider in our kitchen window for almost a whole hour as she set the table and prepared to enjoy her dinner. After dinner, she had a friend over for a visit. As Gregory and I watched, out of nowhere, another spider appeared in the darkness. Apparently it had built it's very own web connected to the gutters and side of our home. We watched as the spiders touched belly to belly, top legs touching one another while the rest of their legs tapped a morse code of communication into the night. All of a sudden, they melded into one and you couldn't tell that what you were looking was a spider, let alone two. After a while, their legs slowly came apart. The lady spider retreated to her corner in the window and we haven't seen the male spider since.

As of late, spiders have been attracted to me like the ocean waves seek the shore. Aside from all the various fruit spiders inhabiting little corners of my home, I have four spiders living in the corners of my bathroom, and one very large, very beautiful spider living right outside my kitchen window. My daughter even spotted one camoflauged in the rug at the doctor's office the other day.

For almost 3 years now I have been in the process of dismantling a paradigm that no longer works for me - well, more like shattering it. I've broken it apart, but the pieces of it keep hanging around my psyche. Every once in a while, the light that is cast over the new paradigm I'm in the process of building, bounces off the broken pieces of the old one; forcing me to look at a generations old belief that no longer feeds my soul.

Pieces of it are still food for thought. I pick up that particular piece, examine it with much scrutiny and decide whether or not I can discard that piece or use it in a new creation. And so, I weave my very own web. A web that I depend upon to protect me from the ravaging winds of life. A web that feeds the hunger in my soul. A web that fosters the creation of all the things that make life juicy.

There's something fascinating about starting over again - disconnecting the corners of the old web, wrapping it gingerly around the newest tasty morsel, retreating to safety, and reemerging to build a newer, even more beautiful web with which to catch the livingness of life.

For several evenings I have watched the spider in our kitchen window as she eats her dinner. She unhooks one corner of her web and wraps it around her meal, unhooks another corner of her web and wraps that around her meal and so forth. Until what's left is a skeleton of a web that she will use to construct a new web.

There is something so interesting about feeling fascinated and terrified, both at the same time...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"If you're going through hell, keep going"

Winston Churchill said this, but I think I will adopt it as my new mantra to get through postpartum depression... because it certainly is hell.

Churchill's bit of wisdom reminds me of the experience I had while walking the labyrinth at the Kentucky Foundation for Women's Hopscotch House. I was participating in a workshop for birth professionals centered around Birthing From Within's Laborinth philosophy. At the end of the workshop weekend, we would walk the labyrinth - quietly, mindfully and surrounded by the beauty of the area. I knew that I would be meeting my Love Warrior once I reached the center of the labyrinth, but I was not prepared for the message she had been waiting to deliver to me.

I took several deep, cleansing breaths before setting my foot on the path of the labyrinth. The labyrinth is not a maze. One cannot get lost inside the labyrinth. You must simply keep going - you will arrive at the center - you will begin exiting the labyrinth once you reach the center - and you leave the same way you came in. So, there I was - one foot in front of the other. Walking mindfully - being aware of the way my feet felt as they rolled from heel to ball, lifted up in the air, rolled from heel to ball, creating a circle of energy at my feet. My "monkey brain" started thinking, "Wow! You'll be here forever if you keep walking that slow! And what are you going to do if you have to pee??" Afterall, I was 5 months pregnant. So, I began intensely following my breath - in and out. Feeling the air as it moved past my nostrils, filling my lungs - sneezing (it was fall in Kentucky, mind you). Finally, I found my groove - focusing on the path in front of me, my feet and my breath.

Upon reaching the center I took a deep breath. Here I am, where are you love warrior? Oh, okay, there you are. Let's go.

So, I began making my way out, only this time I was accompanied by my love warrior. I began exiting the same way that I began my entrance - mindfully, quietly and making myself aware of the others who were traveling the path of the labyrinth. Somewhere along the way, my love warrior began pushing me from behind. "Go!" She commanded. "Faster! Faster! I'm with you now!" So, I listened to her and before I knew what I was doing, I was power walking the labyrinth. And the whole way all I could hear was "I'm with you! Keep going! I'm with you! Keep going!"

Fast forward to the present...
Following an amazing homebirth attended by no less than exactly who needed to be there for me - successfully breastfeeding my newborn son - enjoying the fact that I was home and not being harassed at the hospital - feeling like superwoman after the feat I had just accomplished...I found myself in the deepest, darkest, dankest place I had ever been in my life. I had traveled the labyrinth to the center...given birth in the center...and was now making my exit into my new life. Only I didn't realize that before I could leave the labyrinth, I had to walk through hell. And my love warrior was telling me that I was going to have to keep going through hell in order to get out.

Sometimes my love warrior makes an appearance as I live my daily life. She comes in the form of revelations about what I am learning about myself through all of this:
  • I am learning the difference between what life feels like when I'm exploring the things that make life rich and juicy, and when I'm depressed.
  • When I'm depressed it feels as though I'm living in a fog-filled bubble of gloom and doom.
  • When I'm not depressed, I can explore philosophy, spirituality and the "living questions" of life and feel fascinated and fulfilled by what I find, not terrified by it all.
  • When I'm depressed, nothing makes me happy - not even the sight of my husband dancing like a hillbilly to the sounds of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown."
My love warrior was trying to tell me something that day that I am only just now hearing: Go! Faster! Keep going! I am with you now! Yes, it's hell and you will get through it. Be patient with yourself and keep going...

So, in the great words of Winston Churchill, "If you're going through hell, keep going." What's on the other side has got to be better than this...

If you are interested in learning more about labyrinths and what they represent, I found a good description here:

Friday, August 7, 2009

My camera reappeared from the ethers!

Well, actually, Greg found it in a random box in the dining room. I really wanted to share the beautiful picture Greg took of Marie in "Fat Man's Misery." Oh I love this child!

Mammoth Cave...way down deep

So, apparently my camera has disappeared into the ethers. I will have to tell you about my Mammoth Cave experience sans the absolutely beautiful picture that Gregory took of Marie in "Fat Man's Misery."

We decided to take a day trip with the in-laws to Mammoth Cave this past Saturday. I was so excited and so was Marie! It had been more than 10 years since I had last been to Mammoth Cave and Marie loved the caves at Spring Mill, so why not visit the largest cave system in the entire world! When we arrived, we bought tickets for the next available tour. We had 3 hours to visit all the campy places in Cave City. Big Mike's Rock Store had a mystery house tour reminiscent of "House of 1,000 Corpses" so there was no way in hell we were doing that! We found a store loaded with 50 years worth of collected junk, including several pictures of the owner with Johnny Cash. The owner half admitted that the store was full of 50 years of junk adding that every once in a while he sells something (the $500 rusted cast-iron Indian at the front of the store would have me believe otherwise). Cool old man, cool store. It would probably be nice to "shoot the shit" with this guy a la Uncle Joe at the shop.

Okay, so back to Mammoth Cave. We meet up with the 60 other folks joining us on the tour and the tour guide begins to tell us all about the tour. Basically if you are morbidly obese, have heart conditions or are claustrophobic, you do not want to go on this tour. Okay..... he didn't mention if you happen to be suffering from Postpartum Depression, have an insane amount of panic and anxiety flowing through your body at any given do not want to go on this ride!

Why did this not occur to me??? Hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth, surrounded by millions of years of rock formations, squeezing through tight spaces created by rock walls - ancient panic, ancient misery rose up around me and I could not figure out a way to make my body believe that I would not be inside Mammoth Cave when after nearly 200 years of public tours, the caves collapse! It hasn't happened in over 200 years, but it would happen to me. Because I am cursed!

My husband was trying with all his heart to help me calm down - to help me see that really, I was totally safe. I would be inside the Earth Mother, where hundreds of years ago native peoples explored the cave with only burning sticks of bamboo to guide them. I would be "in the cave," just like when I was pregnant (more about that in another post). Bless his heart...

The tingling sensation began right between my shoulder blades, sending waves of panic out to the tips of my fingers. Before I knew it, my body had forgotten how to breathe and I felt exactly as if I were climbing the steps to the gallows. Now, the rational part of my brain knew that I wasn't in any danger because I was perfectly willing to allow my husband and three year old daughter to descend right into the mouth of the cave. But the ancient, reptilian part of my brain responsible for saving me and my family from saber-toothed tigers would have me believe otherwise. So the ancient part of my brain wins because I am currently not capable of overriding it with the rational part of my brain. Sometimes I can. This particular day, there was no way in hell I was getting out of this panic attack.

My normal method for overriding the reptiles is to take very deep breaths. I feel my abdomen filling up with air - I feel the air moving past my nostrils - I feel the air traveling down my throat and filling up my lungs, way down deep, with air - glorious air. Then I tell myself exactly what I'm doing, where I'm at, what I feel around me, what I smell around me, what I see around me, etc. So, in essence, I'm trying to orient myself to what is actually happening in the present moment. But on this day instead feeling my body resting on my cool, soft but firm bed, in my very own home, surrounded by soft blankets, my head on a soft supportive pillow, my body giving way to total relaxation, smelling lavender wafting through the air - I was walking down a paved path, heading straight for the confines of the deep, dark, hard and sometimes unkind, Mother Earth. The ancient part of my brain said to me, "You will not be spared unless you run like hell from this place!" So, that's what I did. Ran like hell - crying and fumbling all the way past the next tour of 60 people to enter the death cave. But, mind you, I had managed to tell my 3 year old daughter to have fun - in the cave of death (I didn't actually say that part).

The ancient part of my brain won that day. And having a panic attack is like an earthquake - there are always little tremors afterward. This entire week I have been battling waves of anxiety and depression. I get the anxiety to calm down and the depression kicks in - the depression melts away and the anxiety returns - vicious cycle.

Maybe I would have been an excellent cave woman... no saber-toothed tiger would ever catch me!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

And we are

After 5 months of grappling with the beast that is postpartum depression, I have decided to start a blog about my experience. For the first several weeks after Oscar was born, I attempted to thrust myself into life with two children. Play groups, music classes, play dates - I felt that as long as I kept myself busy, I was staving off the monster heading right for me. So, finally, I crashed - into a postpartum depression so dark at times that I didn't think I would ever see my way out of it. The walls were erecting and a panic was settling into my soul the likes of which I had never felt before. And while I'm crashing, I have two amazingly beautiful children who need me to take care of them and show them how to live in the world. Oy! This is not going to be easy. Motherhood is never easy, but throw in a mix of panic and depression and it's near to impossible at times.

Luckily, I sought professional help. I have an amazing therapist and I'm not afraid to quote her! I am tearing down walls, shattering mirrors, and opening myself up to new ways of living, thinking, breathing, being. I'm learning how to be a good enough mother.

Without professional help, the love and commitment of my husband (who also happens to be an excellent father), the unconditional support of my mother and sister, and the dedication of my friends, I COULD NOT get through this horrible illness. For now, the bad days are getting fewer and far between, though panic still settles into my being at times - which then creates a turn of the wheel toward depression. I intend to show you what living with postpartum depression is like and why it's so monstrously sad that so many women have postpartum depression and never get help. I also intend to show you that on my good days, life really is quite amazing...

And so, here we go...