Looking for Shangri-La when you’re stuck in Toddler Land

It occurred to me lately that I’m trying to find Nirvana and it just doesn’t exist.

Every morning I wake up and rush around, trying to find it. Here is how my crazy-anxiety-brain works: If the house is perfectly clean and the children are fed and the laundry is put away and the dishwasher is emptied and nobody is crying or fighting, then my anxiety will go away. My heart will stop pounding. My skin will stop crawling. My head will stop buzzing. That’s the idea anyway. I have no idea where this idea came from because this has literally never happened. Shangri-La doesn’t exist. I mean, that’s the point, right? Once you find it, it means your journey is over. And the journey with two toddlers is never, never, never over. There is always more to clean. There is always someone whining, screaming, or peeing on the floor. And yet I keep cleaning.

My anxiety lately has been through the roof. I don’t know why. Maybe my hippie best friend is right and I need to cut out the gluten. Maybe I need to increase my zoloft. Maybe I have OCD? Maybe I have a progesterone problem. But I think searching for Shangri-La is a symptom, not a cause.

Anxiety is such a heavy cross when you’ve got two small children. As much as I love them, they make it exponentially worse. Their tiny, squeaky voices (which I adore) are just relentless. June never stops talking. Everything she says I find impossibly cute and nerve-destroying all at once. Her two thousand constant questions. Her acting out. I’ll be frantically trying to vacuum (because if I just get all the crumbs off the floor, then maybe I won’t feel like running out the door. No crumbs will mean that all order has been restored and my anxiety will magically dissipate. Right?) and June will dump a bucket full of glue and glitter right in front of my vacuum ON PURPOSE and oh my gosh, the restraint it takes for me not to scream and pitch everything out the window (including the toddler) and light myself on fire and run down the street screaming is just heroic. Instead I just scream at her and fight back the urge to cry.

Parenting: I nailed it!

I’ve had anxiety before, but I’ve never had this weird, panicky-anger, which is throwing me for a loop and making life with two small children almost unbearable. Part of me hates writing posts like this because it makes me sound like Complainey McWhiner and I definitely love my life. But I definitely do not love this anxiety that creeps up on me like a rising tide and overpowers me before I even realize that it’s there. I don’t even realize how stressed I am until mornings like this, when my heart is pounding and I’ve literally vacuumed and mopped the entire downstairs before 7 am, and I’m yelling at Henry to just STOP SHRIEKING, for the love of God, because I don’t know why he’s upset and seemingly nothing I’m doing is helping. Maybe hand-washing and rearranging all the dishes in the cupboards will help?

(Spoiler: it doesn’t.)

What’s frustrating is that I know it’s futile. It’s impossible to have a perfectly clean house AND two well-behaved, expertly-groomed toddlers. But I still keep trying. And it just rachets up my anxiety even further. Just as soon as I load all the dishes in the dishwasher, Henry will empty all of the tupperware out of the tupperware drawer, giving me something else to put away. The more I clean, the more mess they’ll make. And the less attention I give them, the more they act out. But for whatever reason, I just can’t get out of this weird OCD cleaning loop. I have to clean, and I get panicked when I don’t.

What do you do with all this weird stress-anger? How can you keep from snapping angrily at your baby when he’s upended an entire sippy cup of milk on your freshly-mopped floor? Why is a clean house even important to me right now?

Aaaand June just shit her pants. For the third time this morning. That’s three times before 8 am.

 

Calgon, get me the hell outta here.

 

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Baby Terror. And Agoraphobia Terror. And Just Plain Terror.

Lou can tell when I haven’t been taking my zoloft, and his accuracy is alarming. It never ceases to astound me how totally chemical anxiety is.

Without getting too detailed, having another child is almost a physical impossibility for us at this point. We’ve decided we won’t be having any more kids for some time, and knock on wood, there won’t be one. But that doesn’t stop me from peeing on a pregnancy test every single month, even though pregnancy is nigh-impossible and my husband is rolling his eyes in exasperation. There’s no way we could be pregnant this month right? I ask, three times in a row, rapid-fire. Without fail, he raises his eyebrows in a ‘you’re insane’ way. No, he says. Have you taken your zoloft? So there you go.

 But I can’t help it. I think it’s how your hormones shift after you ovulate. A doctor drew it for me on a napkin once, after I told her that during ovulation, I feel amazing. Great! Stable! No anxiety here! Depression? What’s that? And then a week later, I am hyperventillating, crying, obsessing, and generally wanting to hide in a hole.

Go figure that your hormones (progesterone, I think? And estrogen) plummet after you ovulate. And when your hormones plummet, you start to feel like shit. Your anxiety (or depression, or both) comes back in full force. You go from thinking, hey, life is pretty great! to over-analyzing completely everything. When I’m ovulating, I think, you know, having another baby wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe in a year or so…? We’re in a good place right now. A week later, I think of having another baby and my heart starts pounding. Oh Jesus no, I think, no no no, please don’t send me another baby, I couldn’t mentally handle it. 

Truth be told, another BABY wouldn’t be so bad. Pregnancy and birth are what I hate. I have an intense fear of vomit and some vestiges of medically-related PTSD that makes birth and pregnancy a whirlpool of uncontrollable anxiety. A pregnancy without antidepressants is not possible for me, but now that I’ve had a child with a neural tube defect, I’m so terrified of taking anything during pregnancy, in case it was a medication that caused it. I start skipping my zoloft after I ovulate — you know, on the near-impossible chance that we actually did concieve a baby and on the premise (which is not evidence-based, by the way) that the zoloft actually caused his NTD somehow. Anyway, I’m terrified. And the terror convinces me to skip a dose or two. Which makes it worse. Which means until I start getting some mad therapy (and until we get, like, our own house, obviously), there are no babies on the horizon.

If it were morally licit and I had a zillion dollars, I would totally have a test tube baby. No vomiting for months on end. No danger of me poisoning the baby with my very-much-needed antidepressants. No painful, terrifying birth. No danger of a post-partum hemorrhage. I would have like ten test-tube babies. I would have my own Jurassic Park full of test tube babies.

Literally a conversation my husband and I have had, post-delivery.

So it’s with alarming accuracy that Lou can tell whether or not I’ve been taking my meds. I start sounding a little bit like Shoshanna from GIRLS, hyper and fast-talking. I start talking over and over about things I can’t control and I start imagining worst-case scenarios. An example: I was pinning away on Pinterest the other night, dreaming of having our own condo and what it might look like. For some reason, people like to pin pictures of trap doors in houses – trap doors under the stairs, hidden rooms behind bookcases, that kind of thing. I’ll admit it’s pretty cool, but when I haven’t taken my zoloft that day, I start imagining myself as a Jewish woman in 1930s Germany, cowering with my children while Nazis tear through the house. Or I imagine I’m Jodi Foster in Panic Room, and I have to corral my child in a safe room while intruders try to coax us out. Basically, I start running through a billion scenarios in my head where my children are in danger and I have to protect them. And then my heart starts pounding. And I have to shut off the computer, take my medicine, and go to bed. All because of this:

OH JESUS, YOU CAN TOTALLY SEE THE HINGES, THE NAZIS WILL FIND US

I also, ever since being diagnosed with PTSD, have struggled mightily with agoraphobia. When I skip a few days of my zoloft, and then convince myself I’m miraculously pregnant, and then skip more zoloft so I don’t poison my imaginary baby, and so on, and so forth until I’m literally incapacitated by anxiety, it is hard — nay, impossible — for me to leave the house. This was a phenomenon I never really understood until a counselor sat me down, opened up the DSM-V, and showed me the part of the book where it spelled out explicitly what agoraphobia is. I half expected to see my picture next to the description.

Avoidance? Well … I only avoid class because there might be a shooter or something. And I avoid Devon Avenue because it reminds me of India. And I can’t walk to CVS without a buddy because there might be a stabber on the loose. But other than that, I’m cool!

Restricted Travel? Not really. Except I haven’t been able to take the train in three months without a panic attack. And I’m late for class every day because once I muster up the courage to go to class, I have to walk three miles to get there. That’s normal, right?

Fear of being confined? Uh, duh! If I’m confined, I can’t escape if there’s a shooter!

This is the picture they’d use, too. Because CRAZY EYES!!!

I can safely say I no longer have PTSD. But I very much still struggle with agoraphobia. Even with medicine, it is hard for me to voluntarily leave the house. I can’t tell you how many times we miss Wednesday Rosary at church because Henry pooped his diaper twice this morning and he might do it again when we’re out! or June is potty-training and she’ll pee everywhere! or there might be rain — the sky is cloudy!. It’s not logical. It doesn’t make sense. But, I guess, the anxiety I have makes me have an incredibly low tolerance for anything surprising, or unplanned, or anything from whence I can’t immediately flee. At the height of my PTSD, I couldn’t ride in a car because if I had to pee while I was driving, I couldn’t immediately get out and pee. I would have to wait and find a gas station or something first. That terrified me. Legitimately. One night, on our way to a friend’s party, I suddenly had to pee while we were on the highway, and we had to drive around looking for an exit, trying to find a Burger King where I could relieve myself. We found a gas station within fifteen minutes, but by then I was a sobbing, hysterical, hyperventillating mess. Because what if I had peed my pants?

Believe me, it doesn’t make sense, and I lived through it. That’s the funny thing about anxiety. Your brain takes situations that, to anyone’s right mind, are no big deal. Wearing a dress. Riding in a car. Going to Wednesday Rosary. And it takes those situations and warps and perverts them until they become insurmountable obstacles. You start thinking this dress is too tight! I’m gonna asphyxiate and die! I have to pee and I have to find parking before I get out of the car! I’m gonna have to hold in my pee forever and I’ll die of uremic poisoning! And on. And on. Until you’re a crying mess.

Whoever drew this knows what’s up.

By the way, the anxiety is never really about being in a dress or going outside. The anxiety is about things happening that you can’t control. The anxiety is about the fear of having a panic attack. It just feels like you’re freaking out about something mundane.

 Even worse, sometimes anxiety manifests itself as a physical sickness. Ever wonder why people go years and years with untreated anxiety or depression? It’s because sometimes anxiety or depression doesn’t look like a humorous personality quirk. Sometimes, back in college, I would start coming down with the flu. Achey limbs, runny nose, sore throat, headache. And then I’d cancel my plans and all my flu symptoms would go away in an hour. That’s weird, I thought, and thought nothing of it. It took years and years to realize that, oh, this feels like the flu, but it’s not really. It’s kind of like having a twinge in your stomach and then finding out it’s cancer. It kind of tilts your world on its axis.

 Anyway. I guess my point is that it doesn’t matter what your triggers are. Anxiety triggers look different for everyone. And they only very tangentially make sense. And your anxiety symptoms will probably not look like the next person’s. And they might change over time, as well. (Ask me about the time I developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome and I couldn’t go anywhere without the fear of crapping my pants! Actually … don’t ask me.)

But my point is that anxiety is debilitating. And elusive. And it makes you crap your pants.

And all you can do about it is suck it up, take a deep breath, and try your best to make it to Wednesday Rosary. Even if June pees her pants on the way there.

And get some zoloft. Sweet, sweet zoloft.

 

Underlying Depression

This is the fifth part in a series about PTSD, anxiety, trauma, and depression. This is the part about depression. Obvs. Read this post to catch up. 

I didn’t even realize I had depression until I was in the thick of it.

It was my senior year of college. I was going to school full-time, working part-time, and going to therapy once a week where I was in the midst of processing some really traumatic shiz. It was January, and I had started taking an SSRI for the first time in November, to combat my extreme anxiety and PTSD. It did nothing at first. And then — it kicked in. And it felt like my prayers had been answered.

The antidepressants worked. They worked so well. Instead of a constant hypervigilence, I felt normal, calm, that relaxed feeling you get after a hot shower or a deep-tissue massage. After a year of constant anxiety, I practically buzzed with happiness. I felt like I could breathe again. Why didn’t I start these earlier? I asked. I could talk about India without being massively triggered. I could walk to campus, hear car horns honking, and not suffer major panic attacks and have to turn around and hide out in my room. It was like I had a new lease on life.

And then, I think, the antidepressants worked too well.

Gonna eat some dinner and not worry about dying from botulism. Take that, anxiety!

The paralyzing depression snuck up on me. I noticed that I was taking more naps. I was slowly more sluggish. It was harder to get out of bed in the mornings. But I attributed that to working, school, and “writing my trauma narrative,” as the counselor called it. I was physically and emotionally spent.

Slowly, throughout the month of January and February, I would come home from class and just zonk out for hours. I had a 3 hour writing workshop — my favorite class — and I would come home in the afternoon and sleep well into the evening. My counseling session was every Friday, and I would come home at noon and routinely sleep until four or five in the afternoon. Even if I just felt like I could take a quick cat-nap, I would wake up and five hours would have passed. Even if I didn’t even feel all that tired. It’s like I would just lapse into a small coma every day, and wake up feeling like I could keep sleeping. Maybe if I had known more about depression, I would have suspected it. But to me, depression was just “feeling sad.” It was that little cartoon bubble with a frowny face and a cloud following him around. But I didn’t feel like a sad cartoon bubble. I didn’t feel “hopeless” or “unmotivated.” I didn’t even particularly feel tired. I just kept sleeping. And sleeping. And sleeping.

On the contrary, I felt really good. Kind of sluggish. Kind of groggy. But hell, after the year of heart palpitations, of extreme anxiety, of hypervigilence, feeling “kind of sluggish” and “unusually relaxed” was a welcome reprieve. I’m probably napping so much because of the zoloft, I thought, but hell, between crippling panic attacks and a few naps here and there, I’ll take the naps. And then again, it could have been the hectic work/school/therapy schedule. Who knew? I brushed it off. And kept brushing it off.

Depression is so cute!

For the life of me, I didn’t realize it was depression. Or maybe I just slept a lot, because of the medicine, and that triggered the depression. But either way, I wasn’t sad. I felt amazing, and relaxed, better than I had in the past year. But more and more, I started to love my bed. Not in a I-dont-have-the-will-to-live kind of way; Not even in an I-feel-so-tired way. I just craved being in my bed. I craved it like a big, fluffy, delicious sandwich. It was warm and soft and my pillow was just the right firmness, and I had just purchased an electric blanket that made nap time downright heavenly. So for whatever reason, I just became really attached to nap time. I’d look forward to it all day. I’d wake up in the morning, go to class, and count down the hours until nap time. And then when I’d come home and fall into my bed-haven, thinking, I’ll just nap for twenty minutes, I would open my eyes and four hours would have passed. I hadn’t even been tired!

We were BFFs, my bed and I.

Soon enough, I started sleeping through class. I would set an alarm and wake up seeing that it had been blaring for hours. That’s weird, I thought, and set the alarm for different frequencies, different volumes. I would sleep through most of them. I started sleeping later and later in the mornings, and taking naps earlier and earlier. And for longer. I missed more and more class. I got farther behind, try to catch up, and get really quickly overwhelmed and want to take a nap. And the more class I missed, the more overwhelmed I got. And the more overwhelmed I got, the more I kept on napping. And the more I napped, the more I felt like I couldn’t leave my bed. I felt stuck there. It was comfortable, and warm, and sleeping felt so good. I felt high off sleep.

I don’t remember when the weird crying spells started. I would go to class and just come back home and randomly cry. I wasn’t even crying about anything in particular — nothing that I recognized, anyway. I wasn’t particularly sad, and I didn’t cry because I was triggered by anything specific I would have a good day in class and then just come home and burst into tears and sleep. Well,  that’s weird, I would think, but I attributed it to PMS. Or stress. Or maybe it was the zoloft? But between debilitating anxiety and a few crying jags here and there, I’d take the crying jags. I made a mental note to call the doctor — after I took a quick nap.

Crying, but also thinking about what to order for dinner. Pizza or Thai? I can’t decide. Let’s cry about it!

Crying takes a lot out of you. I’d come home, cry for no reason, get super exhausted from crying, and take another four-hour nap. I spent a few months like that, and suddenly I realized I wasn’t getting out of bed much at all. And showering? That required you to stand. For a long time. Homie don’t play that. I was tired. From crying. Who had the energy to stand? Sure, my hair looked greasy as hell, but who did I have to impress? Who cared? Washing my hair would require lifting my arms, and my arms were tired. I’d take a shower later — right after a quick cat nap.

Slowly, it progressed. More naps, more crying, less socializing, less leaving the apartment. But I wasn’t having anxiety attacks anymore, so it was all good!

Depression is so full of shame. I don’t remember when, or why, but I very slowly became morbidly fascinated with death. It was confusing — I wasn’t suicidal. I didn’t want to die. I loved life. I was happy — aside from the random crying jags. I was excited to get married in a few short months — if I had the energy to make it down the aisle, that is. But for whatever reason, I wanted to know what death felt like. What it would look like. What would look like, if I died. How would I do it, if I could choose? It wasn’t an obsession at first. Just a casual curiosity. I found myself mulling over it more and more. What would happen to me? I mean, physically? If I hanged myself, how would my face look? Bruised? Bloated? These thoughts disgusted and shamed me — even now, they disgust and shame me. I didn’t (and still don’t) want anyone to think I was weird, that I was deviant. I didn’t want anyone to think I was unhappy or planning to die. I wasn’t. But I just kept thinking about it. What would people think if they knew I was imagining myself hanging in my bathroom? If I told someone, would they have me committed? Would I get put on some list? Would they “flag” my medical file? (Is that a thing?) I didn’t want to find out. I tried to push the thoughts out of my head. It didn’t matter anyway, I told myself. I wasn’t suicidal. I didn’t want to die. I just … wanted to imagine that I was dead.

Soon, it was all I could think about. I would have Googling sessions that lasted for hours, when I was supposed to be writing papers or studying, where I would just google graphic images of plane crashes. I didn’t like these images — I just wanted to see them. It was like a little game — what was the most graphic image I could view, without wanting to shut down my computer? I didn’t get very far, admittedly. I was terrified of gore. But the non-gory stuff I was all over. For hours, I listened to cockpit recordings of planes that had gone down. I wanted to hear the pilot’s last words. I wanted to imagine how it felt. How did it feel to die? How did the pilots feel in those last minutes, knowing that death was inevitable? I had heard, in my own family, of people beckoning toward the sky in their last moments before dying. Had the people on these planes experienced that too? The cockpit recordings disgusted me, calmed me, and thrilled me, all at once.

I googled 9/11 a lot. I listened to 911 dispatches. I was horrified. But I kept seeking it out. I kept imagining myself on those planes. I omitted this when I saw my therapist — I knew it wasn’t really considered a suicidal ideation unless I had a plan to kill myself. And I didn’t. Not exactly. Did I? I mean, I had thought about it a lot. And I had decided that hanging — no, pills — would be the way to go. But didn’t want to die. Did I? I mean, I didn’t want to die, but I also spent a lot of time thinking about death. And I didn’t feel sad … but I also spent a lot of time crying inconsolably. It was all just very overwhelming. And you know what helped that overwhelming feeling? Naps.

I don’t know if I had a “bottom” — some low point that made me realize I needed to get help. But I remember one day I googled the phrase I can’t stop thinking about suicide and a suicide survival forum popped up. I made a username and posted on it. Please help me, I posted. I’m not suicidal, I don’t think, but I keep thinking about suicide. I can’t stop. I can’t think about anything else. I can’t get out of bed. Does this mean I’m suicidal? I don’t want to die, but I just can’t stop thinking about it. What do I do?

The response was overwhelming: You’re depressed, dummy. Get to the doctor. NOW. 


And I did.

We Need to Talk about Antidepressants

The fall of my senior year in college, I had a nervous breakdown. Until recently, I didn’t even know what happened to me could be considered a nervous breakdown. When I hear that term, I think of a padded cell and a 5150 hold. I think of a complete psychotic break — like running around the streets naked and smearing feces on cars, or something. That didn’t happen with me. Instead, I spent a week huddled under my electric blanket, feeling like my heart was going to beat out of my chest, convinced I was dying of Swine Flu, crying and eating cereal and watching Frasier on an endless loop. This was triggered by the PTSD I developed after studying abroad the previous semester.

Accurate.

A “nervous breakdown,” according to MayoClinic, refers to a stressful situation when someone is unable to function in day-to-day life. It’s really helpful for me to read that definition out loud to myself. It helps me realize, to this day, that yes, things were that bad. Until recently, I kind of just referred to that time in my head as the week I binged on Lifetime Original movies and drank a lot of wine and missed a lot of class. As it turns out, I wasn’t just “having a bad week.” I wasn’t just “feeling stressed” or “feeling sick.” I had completely ceased to function in the world. I had a full-on nervous breakdown. And maybe had I known I was careening toward a breakdown, I wouldn’t have been so reluctant to start taking some medicine.

Pretty much verbatim what I told my roommates and coworkers

So after my full-on, hiding-under-the-covers nervous breakdown, I finally admitted that yeah, maybe I wasn’t doing so well with just therapy and a bottle of wine. And perhaps — just perhaps — I needed to kick it up a notch.

Up until that point, my therapist had been cautiously suggesting that I try an anti-depressant. And for months she had respectfully nodded and hadn’t pressed me when I all but laughed in her face. Well, I didn’t quite laugh in her face, but I made it clear that the thought of taking medicine was ridiculous. Hello? I thought. Haven’t you been paying attention? I freak the fuck out when I have to urinate, and I’ve been urinating for my entire life. If I start getting weird symptoms because of these pills, I’m going to have a heart attack. I’m going to start obsessing every time I take them. I’m going to start feeling imaginary symptoms. I’ll over-think every twinge, every cramp, every unfamiliar ache. It’ll make my anxiety worse. So for months we’d do a cat-and-mouse where the subject of meeting a psychiatrist (for medicine) would come up and I’d awkwardly try to side-step. And by side-step I’d be like:

But after that week in October, I felt like it was very literally my last option. Either I could take some medicine and hope that it worked, or I’d cease to function like a normal human. And that kind of panic — that flu-like feeling of sickness — is simply unsustainable. I’m not saying I was suicidal. But I really don’t know how much more of that I could have taken. So when I went crying to the campus nurse about how I had the Swine Flu and all my “Swine Flu” symptoms turned out to be anxiety induced, that blessed nurse scheduled a therapy session for me immediately. And from there I saw the psychiatrist.

Psychiatrist guy gave me two things — and I feel like it’s important for me to tell you what they were, at the risk of sounding like a druggie, because every week or so I’ll get an e-mail or an instant message with someone asking me about anti-anxiety drugs and what they’re like. There’s a definite undercurrent of shame, and fear, and, well, anxiety about what the side effects are going to be — which was totally my preoccupation before I started trying them. So. Psychiatrist guy (who looked curiously like Tobias Funke) gave me xanax, which has short-term effects and calms you down in the midst of an anxiety attack, and started me on Zoloft, which is an anti-depressant. Basically, untreated anxiety or PTSD feels like you’ve got your hand on a hot skillet and you can’t take it off. You’re expected to function as though everything is fine, but inside you’re thinking HOLY SHIT THIS HURTS I CANT FOCUS ON ANYTHING ELSE BUT THE BURNING IT BURNSSSSSSS!!!! Xanax is like splashing some cold water on the skillet — a temporary relief, but your hand is still on the skillet, and it’ll heat right back up again in a few minutes. Zoloft is like someone coming up behind you and turning off the burner — gradually, the anxiety goes away, and you start acting and feeling more like your normal self.

Seriously. Can you tell I was an English major?

So I started the zoloft that day. And I’d be lying if I said I had about a million tiny little anxiety freakouts and IBS flareups wondering what the side-effects would be. And I did get side-effects — nausea, primarily — for a few weeks until it started to kick in. And boy, did it kick in.

About a month after I started taking it, sometime in the first week of December — about ten months after the incident that spurred my PTSD — I woke up one morning and I felt lighter. Physically lighter. My limbs were looser. And the biggest difference was that I could breathe. It was a totally unparalleled feeling and I’m sure I looked like a complete dumbass, because I would just walk around campus and take deep, long breaths, sucking all the cold air into my lungs that I possibly could. It felt wonderful. I hadn’t even noticed until the anxiety went away how completely crushing it was. A weight had literally been lifted, and I felt joyously free. Right in time for finals. And then winter break.

When I went home for winter break, the primary feeling I felt was utter bliss. I’m not kidding. It always really irks me when people refer to anti-depressants as “happy pills,” because they make me functional, not happy. But this period was the exception — I had been living under the crushing weight of PTSD for so long that I had forgotten what it felt like to just feel normal. I could take big, deep breaths. I could  hear the doorbell ring or the blender turn on without hiding under my covers. I could wake up and actually feel excited about the day, instead of dreading all the millions of little noises and random events that would trigger an episode. I spent the whole winter vacation in my parents’ house, absolutely blissed out, reading books and lying on the couch and just feeling like I had gotten my life back. I could talk about my anxiety triggers without actually feeling triggered. I could think about India without feeling like I was dizzy or short of breath. I could ride in a car or a train without willing myself not to jump out of it. It was heaven.

Oh, it felt so good

I kind of sound like a druggie, don’t I? Obviously, anti-depressants aren’t for everyone. And Zoloft, specifically, is not for everyone, I’m sure. I wasn’t high or anything, but getting your life back after ten months in hell? Oh, it was wonderful. I couldn’t breathe deeply enough.

And then — I got depressed.

Stay tuned.

Things that suck about being post-partum

June is no longer an infant and it rules. I’m sure I’m going to look back on her infancy and get all teary-eyed and yearn for those days of yore. That’s why I made this list:

Things that suck about being post-partum: 
My body proportions are completely out of whack.
Breastfeeding makes your boobs look huge (or maybe they just make my boobs look huge, I have no clue). For this reason, my enormous rack creates the illusion that I have a really tiny head. Whenever I look at myself in the mirror I see:

Yeah, GET REAL, Barbie! Unless you’re Post-Partum Barbie or something. Then you’re a little too real.
And not only do you have a huge rack and a shrunken head, you still have a big floppy pregnancy gut hanging off your midsection and a shitload of extra skin. Oh, and your feet grew a full size during pregnancy. So have fun looking like Pale Man.

“Aren’t you glad you have your body back?” UM, NO. 

I don’t have an excuse to get fat anymore.

I gained 35 pounds when I was pregnant, and the last 10 pounds I gained is what I like to call “Taco Weight.” When I was pregnant, we didn’t eat out very much at all. But every once in a while we would drive to our parents’ houses in the Chicago suburbs for a visit, and with traffic the ride would take usually two hours or so — which was an hour longer than my tolerance for not eating, so I’d insist we swing by Taco Bell for a “snack.” Sure, it wasn’t really healthy, but it’s not like I wouldn’t gain weight anyway, right? If I gained five pounds because of umbilical fluid, or five pounds because of two Chalupas, who would ever know the difference?

I had the baby five months ago, and now the difference is painfully clear. The weight you gain from growing a placenta and developing umbilical fluid — that goes away. The weight you gain from eating Chalupas? That sticks around. On your ass. Probably forever, since I don’t exercise. So now I’m fat and the worst part is that I can’t even blame the baby. I’m fat because I eat Taco Bell, not because I’m pregnant. Baby’s out. Taco Weight is still hanging around. The jig is up.

Also, Taco Bell meat looks like June’s poop. So it’s not even as enjoyable as it once was (lie).

Picture this inside a diaper. 

You get a monster period.
I don’t want to get all graphic on this blog, and normally I wouldn’t talk about my bodily functions and fluids because that’s fucking disgusting, but I have to bust a myth here. When you give birth, you don’t just push out the placenta and that’s it. You bleed. For WEEKS. And it’s not just some “spotting” like everyone is going to tell you beforehand — you get a SIX-WEEK-LONG MONSTER PERIOD.

 What I didn’t anticipate was having to wear ADULT DIAPERS until J was two weeks old, and then bleeding steadily for a month after that. Like, damn, enough already.

Like this. For six weeks. 

Some people I know only bled for a week or two. And by “people I know” I mean random bitches on WebMD.

You cry — a lot.
Crying is probably my least favorite thing to do besides passing kidney stones. I’ve found that motherhood messes with your hormones in a major way, but at no time is it more intense than in the first two weeks of your baby’s life. By some miracle I did not have postpartum depression, and yet I would start tearing up if my husband made fun of me for putting potato chips on my chicken salad sandwich. Everything makes you cry like a bitch. Baby smiles up at you? Cry like a bitch. Husband falls asleep while you stay up and nurse? Cry like a bitch. Milk stains all over your adult diapers? Cry like a bitch.

And God forbid you’re ever exposed to something in the postpartum period that reminds you of your baby. On a trip to Target when June was still an infant, I made the colossal mistake of wandering through the book aisle. I saw a book that my mom used to read to me when I was little and I made the EVEN MORE COLOSSAL MISTAKE of opening it up and skimming through.

More like CRY LIKE A BITCH FOREVER

I literally panicked and ran home so I could watch my baby sleep before she GREW UP AND LEFT MOMMY FOREVER. This book is the saddest shit in the world and I have no idea why parents want to read this to their children — as though the thought of them growing up and leaving home and never coming back to visit is something you want to drill into their subconscious every single night. Plus how can you even read this to your kids without sobbing uncontrollably? Because I sure can’t. The baby grows up and becomes a man! He rocks his mother when she’s super old! And then he sings the song to his own baby daughter! I CANT EVEN. 

“As long as I’m living my baby you’ll WAHHHHHH…”

If I could even read this book long enough to deconstruct the thing, I would be really weirded out by the whole thing. This mom raises her son like a single parent — the dad is never mentioned anywhere in the book — and the son is pretty much a thankless turd throughout. He trashes her house and is loud and obnoxious and shit. Doesn’t stop her from crawling in his bedroom when he’s fifteen and rocking him like an infant. And this continues well into adulthood. She drives over to his house and climbs in his bedroom window and rocks him to sleep, WHEN HE’S FORTY. No wonder he moves away and doesn’t come back home to visit until she calls him up and is like hey, I’m gonna die soon. It’s a weird, weird family dynamic. I still cried. 

You turn into a dairy cow.
I was lucky enough to successfully breastfeed June, and it’s been incredibly gratifying to see her plump up, knowing that it was my body — all mine! — that nourished her to the pinnacle of health. That said, every time she latched on for the first three weeks I wanted to kill myself. Breastfeeding was an excruciating nightmare where I literally felt like my nips were on fire and I winced whenever she eyed my boobs. And the pain isn’t the half of it.

This is what happens when you google “milk explosion.” Trust — this is not a milk explosion. You’ll soon know what a real milk explosion is. 

Until your milk “regulates,” you’re going to be soaking wet every time you hear the baby cry. Or whenever you think about your baby. Or for no reason at all. I have no idea if this is something that happens with the first baby only, or if it lessens with every subsequent baby, but there came a time when I was so sore and leaking so much milk into my nursing bras that I literally just sat upstairs in the loft with no clothes on and watched Keeping up with the Kardashians and iced my boobs with bags of frozen vegetables. I don’t even remember where the baby was.

So keep that in mind, future-self. When you get misty-eyed and baby-hungry, remember the boobs. Remember the nipple-fire and the lanolin cream and calling your lactation consultant like ten thousand times. Remember the NO SLEEP and the monster periods and wringing milk out of your yoga pants.

And then remember getting pregnant means having an excuse to eat tacos, and get pregnant anyway.

**No I’m not pregnant.