In Search of a Song for “Bug”

My sister began a beautiful tradition; she chose a song, “I Will” by Lennon/McCartney, and sang it to her daughter in utero, the day she was born, at nap time. It’s their song. For her son, she chose “St. Judy’s Comet,” which belongs to either Paul Simon or Kenny Loggins, depending on who you ask. He’ll be two next month, and you can still hear her singing that song to her beautiful child at bedtime. It turned out to be especially appropriate, because this child has a very strong will when he wants to keep himself awake! As the song says, “Though I know you’re fighting it, I can tell when you rub you’re eyes, that you’re fading fast.” It’s sweet and perfect.

I have been wondering which song would belong to my baby and me every since we started singing “I Will” to my sister’s girl. I thought that I had it with “Let it Be,” but the lyrics are all in the first person. I want to sing to Bug. With a “you” sprinkled here and there. “Hey, Jude” is still a candidate. Both of these songs represent cherished moments with my own family, hard core Beatles fans (I do not exaggerate when I tell you that I have heard every recording the Beatles ever made. Every. Single. One.) and the lyrics represent life lessons that have been really important to me. “Hey, Jude” kills me with the line “And don’t you know that it’s just you, hey Jude, you’ll do–the movement you need is on your shoulder.”

I’ve gone through every song I love, from Irving Berlin’s “Count Your Blessings” (featured in White Christmas) to a traditional Scottish lullaby that was on a CD my sister had, called “Bonny at Morn.” I’ll sing those to Bug, but there’s still something missing. I haven’t found Our Song.

Nathan and I have a song. It’s Blossom Dearie’s version of “They Say It’s Spring” which, if you haven’t heard, you must go listen to immediately. Back? Ok, I’ll tell you why. We heard it on WNYC (New York’s NPR station) like the geeks that we are, and I bought the album, in love with her voice. When we discovered that the date we had picked to go to city hall was the first day of spring, 2009, we knew that it would be the song we’d ask them to play in the chapel. (The NYC Marriage Bureau is high tech like that–you hand them an iPod, they play music at your wedding. It’s amazing.) It’s also perfect, because what we were doing was pretty crazy, getting married after having known each other about a year and dating for just over six months. But we knew. “Did I need spring to bring the ring that you bought me? Though it was spring, that wondrous day that you caught me, darling I thought we knew that it wasn’t spring–t’was you!”

I’m listening to Blossom sing the softest, sweetest version of “Fly Me to the Moon” doing what she does best–singing the meaning behind the lyrics. Her version of “Tea for Two” will make you smile, it’s so slow and heartfelt. I think I’ll turn to her songbook, next, and find a song for Bug in one of those simple, classic melodies.

Do you associate songs with people or relationships? Do any of you find yourselves transported to a moment in the past by a snippet on the radio or a trick of iTunes Shuffle? Tell me about your songs!

UPDATE: Within ten minutes of posting this, Val left a comment that sparked a memory that gave me my song. And, it is “Sing,” from Sesame Street. Here is a best-of medley. You are welcome.

Addiction and Benzodiazepines: Xanax DID NOT Kill Whitney Houston

Shame on you, Dr. Holland. You give psychiatry a bad name. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart, where there is lots of love for GOOD psychiatrists.

I am not an authority on addiction, benzodiazepines or Whitney Houston. But the media coverage surrounding the Xanax (a benzodiazepine) found in Whitney Houston’s hotel room has made me see red. I’m enraged and deeply, truly sad. So I’m weighing in.

I almost threw something at someone else’s television twice while watching The Today Show on Monday (the baby was napping). There was so much wrong with the segment I was watching, but because the Today Show is probably not bound by any real ethical boundaries, I point my finger squarely at you, Dr. Julie Holland.

Dr. Holland, a psychiatrist, played a nasty trick wherein she listed facts that, by themselves, are (mostly) true (millions of prescriptions for benzos are issued in the US, women do make up the majority of those patients, Whitney Houston was one of those women with a benzo prescription). The context combined with her disdainful tone, however, screamed this untrue idea: “Xanax causes addiction and benzodiazepines are Dangerous with a capital D. Women, especially, beware.”

So here’s the segment. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a clip shorter than five minutes. Please, wait through the commercial (sorry!) and then skip ahead to 3 minutes, 10 seconds. Watch for about sixty seconds until they start talking music cliches again, and you should get all of the offensive part.

[The video has “expired” and is no longer available. Sigh.]

I’m really, genuinely sorry that you had to see a 30 second commercial for only one minute of relevant footage. But I felt the need to give this Dr. Holland plenty of her chance to get out several statements that she is, in my opinion, ethically bound to make. She did not make them. Did you spot what was missing? There was this fact, which I found confirmation for at the American Association of Anxiety Disorders:

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). [emphasis not mine]

And here’s something I didn’t even know but doesn’t surprise me:

Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.

And this? This is repeated verbatim under the headings Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder  and Specific Phobias:

Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.

I also learned from the AAAD that women are more likely (but not twice as likely) than men to suffer from PTSD. So, there’s the context that she completely missed as she complained about the “millions of prescriptions” and about all these poor women on benzos and carelessly implied that taking benzos and being addicted to prescription drugs are the same thing. That last bit? That was the most unethical part of all of this, in my opinion. Because she didn’t say anything even remotely resembling this:

Benzodiazepines often create a physical dependency, but do not necessarily cause addiction, and are used by many as part of an effective treatment plan. Viewers: consult your doctor before making any changes to your medications.

I would have forgiven her if she had just fit in something like that, somewhere, even as a throw-away. She is, in fact, incorrect in a number of places (Xanax is the least habit-forming benzo and stays in the body for so little time that one of my two psychiatrists won’t even prescribe it because she prefers Ativan), but I want to focus on her dangerous confluence of addiction and dependence.

I am angry about that clip and coverage of Xanax in the media in general because taking a potentially habit-forming drug does not give me a drug habit, and I don’t appreciate the implication that I must have one if I take Xanax (which I have taken, but don’t at the moment). Taking a prescription drug that is habit-forming does not give you an addiction. Addiction is a disease. A person drinking a glass of wine might be an alcoholic and might not be. Alcohol is, nevertheless, a habit-forming substance.

Addiction is a disease that is not the same thing as experiencing a physical dependency on a prescription drug taken for the treatment of an illness. I’m not writing this to prove that I’m not an addict. I know that I’m not addicted to anything. That’s good enough for me. All the same, I do not appreciate a psychiatrist going on a popular television show and implying that I am an addict. I don’t like that even a few of the millions of patients with prescriptions for Xanax or any benzo might hesitate after her harsh characterization of the drug.

I am physically dependent on benzos. Klonopin, in my case. I feel like electric shocks are charging through my body at random if I haven’t taken Klonopin in over ten hours. I experience “textbook” withdrawal symptoms. In fact, I can’t even take a low dose without experiencing withdrawal, that’s how sensitive I am to the absence of this drug. The American Journal of Psychiatry published an article about “addiction” vs “dependence” in 2006. Here’s a neat definition of the term “dependence,” from that article:

The term “dependence” has traditionally been used to describe “physical dependence,” which refers to the adaptations that result in withdrawal symptoms when drugs, such as alcohol and heroin, are discontinued. Physical dependence is also observed with certain psychoactive medications, such as antidepressants and beta-blockers.

With me so far? Anything that causes your body to change when a substance is used, anything from caffeine to antidepressants to heroin, can cause dependence, and all that means is that your body experiences withdrawal when you take away the chemical. “Withdrawal” means that your body adapted to functioning with that substance (coffee, anyone?) and if that chemical (caffeine) goes away, your body has to adapt again. This adaptation is very different from the kinds of changes that happen with addiction. In fact, the very next sentence in the article I just quoted? It’s this:

However, the adaptations associated with drug withdrawal are distinct from the adaptations that result in addiction, which refers to the loss of control over the intense urges to take the drug even at the expense of adverse consequences.

I am physically dependent on Klonopin. I do not and have not experienced anything resembling and intense urge to take the drug. I know the difference: I was hooked on nicotine for about five years, and I know what it means to lose control over an intense urge, even at the expense of adverse consequences. Dead of winter? I was outside shivering with a damn cigarette in my hand. Sick? It seemed perfectly reasonable to me to smoke four cigarettes a day instead of eight. That was helping, right? No, that was denial, a huge problem when you’re addicted to something and don’t want to admit it! Quitting smoking was hard. Not taking my benzos? All kinds of uncomfortable, but not hard to do. I once (against the advice of my doctors) tried to function on less than my prescribed dose of Ativan (yes, I’ve tried a number of benzos, only to find that Klonopin is the only thing that really truly works, but I don’t them in combination unless directed to do so by a doctor). It felt gross and my anxiety spiked. I had some sort of idea that I’d be a better mother if I took a smaller dose. It was stupid. It cost me a job. I won’t do it again. But are you getting the difference between taking benzos and experiencing a physical dependency versus being addicted to the drug?

The following statement (same article) really helped me understand why this Dr. Holland failed to make the distinction between dependence and addiction:

…clinicians who see evidence of tolerance and withdrawal symptoms assume that this means addiction… [there is] tremendous harm that is now being done to the patients who have had needed medication withheld because their doctors believe that they are addicted simply because they are dependent.

And that’s not the only harm that a lack of understanding regarding this distinction has caused. I can only pray that the Today Show’s irresponsible reporting didn’t cause anyone to stop taking needed medication without consulting a doctor. It’s not even necessary to publicize any dangers posed by benzos–they don’t kill. They just don’t, not by themselves, not if you’re not trying to kill yourself. For more information on that, I will send you elsewhere: send you here and give gold-stars plus high-fives to the Huffington Post’s Walter Armstrong for writing The Truth about Whitney Houston and Xanax. It’s a good, informative read. And filled with less rage than this post.

Finally, I do agree with Dr. Irresponsible on one thing: combining alcohol with benzos is really bad. It says so on the label, but take it from me: however low your dose of any benzo might be, it will amplify the effects of the alcohol exponentially. I have actually injured myself (by randomly falling over in public on a date with my now-husband) by thinking that a few drinks would be fine. Nope. One glass of wine puts me to sleep. A whole bottle of wine and an overdose of Klonopin, combined with a hot bath? I am pretty sure that I would drown. Not that we know that that is what happened to Whitney Houston because we don’t know anything because the toxicology report isn’t back yet. That’s my public service announcement, but it’s also a reminder to get the whole story before making sweeping judgments.

Traveling Red Dress Update: Supplies Acquired!

Yesterday (the day of all things red) I had the brilliant idea to head over to an online community of seamstresses who help each other out by reviewing patterns. Want to know what Vogue pattern #1234 looks like in real life, not just on the model in the catalog? Chances are, someone at the Sewing Pattern Review has sewn the pattern and put up a description of the experience, as well as a photo of the finished product. Weeks ago, I looked for the pattern that I ordered, but didn’t find it. The site left my mind until an idea came to me from a Seamstress Angel: “I wonder,” I asked myself, “Does the site have a message board?”

They do! And it’s very active! (Note: you need to be a member to see anything on the site in detail, but membership is free and they don’t spam you.) There is even a section of the forums devoted to bridal and formalwear sewing. I put up pictures of the drawing of the dress on pattern and its fabric suggestions on the back and asked, “What would you use?” I described the Traveling Red Dress Project. Within twelve hours, I had four unanimous responses: cotton sateen. Know what’s cheaper than silk? Cotton. Know why they recommend it? Sateen is shiny and gorgeous, but machine washable and requires minimal ironing. They all agreed that it’s perfect for a dress that’s going to be worn by many women and travel through the mail.

I’m not settling for a second-rate fabric. Look at this example of how shiny the fabric is and how beautifully it photographs!

Side-boob isn't my thing, but just look at that fabric! (Hand-made gown by Chabri available at Etsy.)

Not only is it perfect and practical, but I found red 100% cotton sateen fabric for 50% off at the fabulous Fashion Fabrics Club. I knew I had found the right place when a quick search revealed that they had in stock the exact rhinestone trim I have been dreaming about!

Seriously. I ordered this exact trim that I had originally found on Etsy. The Etsy supplier didn't have enough of it, but the online store is sending me the necessary two yards!

The beautiful rhinestone trim is going around the neckline and cap sleeves.

I placed the order, which came to a total of about fourteen dollars more than I had left in the WePay account. (Still want to make a donation? I could use $14!)

Thank you, thank you, thank you, to everyone who has helped me gather the supplies! I’m so excited to start working on it. And just as a reminder, that red fabric and those rhinestones are going on this dress:


Valentine’s Day, Redeemed

My amazing friend Genevieve lives in Australia. I miss her, but she is very happy there. I also really loved Melbourne when I visited for several months (my sister lived there), so I get to picture her walking around doing fun Australian things. Like ordering coffee with bizarre names that don’t exist anywhere else. (“A Flat White, please?”)

Because it is another time and, often another day in Australia, I woke up this morning to the best Valentine I have ever received. The sheer creativity involved made me gasp. It was so good that it has redeemed the entire holiday. Gen loves Valentin’s Day, and her opinion gets extra weight because she has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to unhappy relationships. She’s perpetually single because the woman does not settle. Which means that she is happy, single, and will not be unhappy just for a boyfriend. You know, it’s hard to explain that, because I’ve never met anyone like Genevieve. Which means that you might not ever have met anyone like Gen, so you may have no idea what I’m talking about. I’ll just show you the Valentine.

Oh, and Gen?  If this is what V-Day is about then I get why you like it so much. I like this kind of Valentine’s Day, too!

I love you and miss you, Gen! (And thanks for making this not-pink.)

Just for Fun

The lovely Lindsay, one of the friends in my computer who says nice things on Twitter and blogs, sent this my way, so I thought I’d do it for fun. My brain is fried from the antibiotics I’m taking to kill the darn bladder infection. I think they’re killing brain cells, too. I feel like I’m just waking up from a nap for 98% of the day. I was supposed to answer 11 of these questions. I think I answered more.

1. Why do you blog? What inspired you to start?
My inspiration: I went looking for help when I knew I wanted to have a baby but didn’t know how to set up a mental health safety net. My history with severe anxiety and, less often, depression puts me at a really high risk for antenatal and postpartum emotional complications. I also had no idea how to get off my meds. I got lucky and learned a lot from my psychiatrist, who immediately expressed both his willingness to try slowly tapering my meds before conception and his concerns about my safety if I were to go unmedicated for so long. I say “I got lucky” because he’s a lot more knowledgable about this stuff than most psychiatrists and helped me find true experts to answer any questions he couldn’t. The whole thing was so complicated that I felt compelled to write about it.

Why I blog: When I looked for help in bookstores and online and found, I found one book. One. (The truly awesome and readable Pregnant on Prozac, by Dr. Shoshana Felman.) Everything online just said, at best, to get off meds and ask a doctor. Um, I’m not stupid, thankyouverymuch. I was stunned, because there are all kinds of books and blogs about pregnancy, all kinds of books and blogs about postpartum mental health, I just expected that there would be something there for women who knew in advance that they were at risk. There’s lots online about being pregnant and anxious and depressed and what to do if you find yourself pregnant while on medication (mostly terrible, uninformed advice). Where is the help for planning in advance? I feel obligated to share my own journey so that I contribute to a public conversation about mental health and motherhood. I have heard from and about so many women who have been told or just assume that they should “tough it out.” I blog in order to add to the growing number of women who are demanding the care they need in order to make educated choices about our own health.

2. What are you proudest of in your life right now?
I just started writing for other sites in the last six weeks, because I am finding the courage to write to editors and say “Hey, I have this idea, what do you think?” Now, if I can just convince someone to pay me to write…
3. What trait do you admire most in others? Why?
The ability to listen well. My husband consistently inspires with the kindest gestures he comes up with based on some little thing I often don’t remember saying. The day I started my latest job as a nanny, he made me my favorite breakfast; he went to the grocery store the night before and even remembered to get orange juice with vitamin D! (I’m deficient.) It’s what makes him my best friend, and it’s how I fell in love with him.

4. If you could meet one “big” or “famous” blogger in real life, who would it be?
I would love to spend an afternoon at the home of Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess. Her blog makes this sound like one of the most entertaining experiences ever. Plus, she has a cardboard Tardis. And I wanna play, too!

5. How do you balance blogging and social media with the rest of your life?
I’m pretty terrible at this one. My phone is always in my hand. I believe it’s safe to say I have a bit of an addiction.

6. What is the biggest source of support in your life? How did you find it?
My husband; nothing else comes close. I found him on For real!

7. When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
An actress. I would sometimes vary it by dreaming of other kinds of careers in the arts, like figure skating (fail) or writing. It took only one theater class in college to kill my illusions about acting! I switched to English and even wrote a full-length play. My kid-self would have been thrilled to know that she would one day write a play, but probably also disappointed that it didn’t go to Broadway.

8. What would you do for fun or self care, if you could do anything you wanted?
I read. Often, I “read”– audiobooks can be really therapeutic for my anxiety, because they distract me, but it only works because stories have always captivated me so completely. And I love to bake.

9. If you could bring just one book with you to a desert island, what book would it be?
Persuasion. Jane Austen. I never get sick of it, and I always spot something new. Nothing I’ve read has topped it, and I spent three years studying English lit in a PhD program, so that’s really saying something!

10. Do you prefer cake or pie?
Pie! Have you seen Waitress? A pie can by anything, so many flavors. It can be unexpected. Cake is, well, always cake. Delicious! But the texture and flavors are not as varied. Also, I’m really proud of my homemade pie crusts.

11. What is your favorite word? Why?
Lately? “Swoon.” I have this huge girl crush on Diana at Hormonal Imbalances, and she uses it all the time to describe things that are, well, just that wonderful. I’ve picked it up–it’s like a song she got stuck in my head.

12. What is a book you’ve read that changed your life or affected you strongly in some way?
The Waves by Virginia Woolf. I’m not trying to impress anyone with an obscure choice–after I read it, I spent my professor’s office hours trying to understand some of it, and from that moment (Spring 2004) until January 2011, I was determined to become an English professor, specializing in Virginia Woolf. I was convinced that was my path in life.

13. What are your favorite things to do when the kids are at grandmas/friends/away for several hours or the night?

14. What are your top 3 movies?

15. What do you have in your purse right now that you cannot live without?

16. Where were you the last time you sent someone a postcard?
January, 2012. A college friend and fellow English literature nerd sent me a Christina Rossetti poem written on a Penguin vintage book cover postcard. It’s on the fridge, now.

17. Which goal for yourself are you most proud of accomplishing?
Getting a full-time job as a childcare provider. I was a student for so long that I have never before had a full-time, 9-5 (8:30-6:30 but who’s counting?) real job. It is a huge deal for me to get out of the house every morning and show up for work. I’m even more proud that I feel happy be going. I spent years being unreliable, because I felt too anxious to leave the house.

18. If you could only hire one, which would you rather have – a cook, a maid or a nanny?
Maid. We are dirty. Seriously, we don’t even let my mother-in-law come inside anymore. I have no idea how we’re going to manage once we have a kid.

19. What do you hope your child or children remember from their childhood?
Since we’re trying to conceive, I have thought about this a lot, even though we don’t have kids yet. And I want them to remember laughing a lot. That’s my favorite thing about our family so far! We make each other laugh all the time. When they remember Home, I want them to smile.

20. Where or how did you meet your husband or significant other?

21. What do you do to pamper yourself after a tough day?

22. What is your favorite holiday and why?

Mardi Gras is a close second.

To change it up a bit, choose the 11 questions you’d like to answer from the 22 I answered.

The rules (yes, I broke one or two- deal with it):
I didn’t understand them. Sorry. You should go back to Lindsay for the real thing!

How I Used CBT Techniques to Smash Past a Panic Attack

CBT stands for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. It’s not “what I do” exclusively, but I’ve already written all about why I chose talk therapy with some CBT. The goal is to change what’s going on in my head by changing my behavior. Tonight, I get to show you exactly how it works.

Last night, I woke up too late from a too-long nap at 8:00 pm. And something felt off. I knew it was one of two things: bladder infection or dehydration. So I started drinking water like it was going out of style. If I’m really dehydrated, that makes the pain go away. It’s happened before. If not, well, then… not. It gets worse. Once I know it’s an infection, I have to decide if I can wait until my regular doctor’s office opens, or if I can’t make it that long. Around 3:00 am, I woke Nathan up. I couldn’t stop crying in pain. I knew we had to go to the Emergency Room. You can’t kill an infection with wishing or even hydrating. Pills have to kill the darn thing. But I was so scared.

Before we left, I made him promise that he wouldn’t let the doctors keep me in the hospital. I made him promise that we would come home together. Because I have been trapped in the ER, alone, without the choice to leave. Even though my reasons for going to the hospital were so incredibly different last night, I really felt terrified to walk through those doors. Just seeing an Emergency Room sign, for any Emergency Room, makes me feel panicky. And because ER doctors don’t know you, having a panic attack in an Emergency Room triggers a whole series of cautionary steps. I support that policy, but being the patient who has to have three psych consults and stay for twelve hours under observation? It sucks.

Here’s what I did to keep myself calm:

  1. I said it out loud. When I made Nathan promise that he wouldn’t let them keep me, which he couldn’t actually do if they really thought I was not psychologically okay, I was just expressing my fears. When I do that, they get outside my head. When I say it out loud, I can hear that it is not a realistic fear.
  2. Deep breaths. It helps with the pain. It helps keep me calm. It’s the most basic CBT technique out there.
  3. Focus on keeping my voice steady. This one can back-fire, but it works for me when I have to say specific things. I can go over in my head what I have to say to the triage nurse, the ER nurse, the doctor, the supervising doctor. After a good, deep breath, I can say those words in a calm, clear voice. Hearing my own voice stay even helps convince my brain that I am not panicking. The best part is that the professionals respond really well to a calm, articulate patient, so it’s a good kind of cycle to get into.
  4. Say “Thank you.” In my life, nurses have been awesome and amazing and so helpful. If it weren’t for the nurses in the psych ward, I wouldn’t have worked my out of there in under two weeks. That’s a long story. Here’s what happens when I look a nurse in the eyes and thank her for her help: she looks at me like I’m a real person and tells me what’s going on. “This is going to hurt, take a breath.” And “We have some of your labs back, but I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get all of them, and then the doctors are going to have to look over them. I’m sorry it’s taking so long.” (My nurse last night was Priscilla. She’s a star.) Talking to the nurse and hearing what’s going on keeps me engaged in what is actually happening instead of what I’m afraid might happen.
  5. Let Nathan make me laugh. The beauty of marriage is that he’s already seen me at my worst. So if I burst into tears and refuse to let him move more than three feet away from me, he doesn’t think any less of me. Then, he tells me a joke. And I laugh, even though laughing hurts (literally). And it’s a good distraction.
That’s how it works. And it does work. I tell myself to do something. Something I can do, like saying “Thank you.” And then I actually do it. This acts as a distraction, and it puts a stop to any negative cycle. And look, I did ok!

Okay, so the morphine really helped my mood. But they gave me morphine, which means they didn't think I was crazy! (They don't often give crazy people narcotics.)

This was going to be the end of this post. But then, I got a package in the mail this evening. It was a gift from Cylene, aka The Lovely Smith, who really is lovely. She’s a lovely person. Her blog about jewelry making and other things recently introduced a new design: a thin stacking ring with a loop of contrasting metal (gold or copper) that can spin around. She mentioned that she calls them “fidget rings,” and I joked that she should try selling them in psychiatrists’ offices–jewelry for anxious people!

Well, she sent me one. And it’s the perfect CBT tool. It’s easy to always have with me. It gives me a behavior to repeat (fidgeting with the loop–I’ll show you a picture). It makes me think about this random act of kindness from this artist who did not send me jewelry so that I could promote it here or anywhere. She sent it to me because she knew that I would love it. She says she wanted my feedback, but the chances of me not loving this ring were slim-to-none. She actually crafts jewelry for heaven’s sake, by heating up metal and stuff–what do I have to tell her? It would have had to be painfully uncomfortable for me not to love it. But I also love that it is a physical symbol for why CBT works. What we do can change how we think. I now have something to wear that gives me something to do that inspires positive thoughts!

Doesn't it also look great with the three silver stacking rings I already owned from Cylene's shop?

Give Me Your Money

If you already have, thanks! If you have not, you really need to do so. Because I found someone who needs this dress more than I do. Or the universe found her for me. I don’t know if she would be comfortable with me linking to her blog. I can’t find her first name. But I can quote her. First, she wrote a post called “Buzzing Fog,” which brought tears to my eyes because I could not have and have not ever said this better, myself:

I have to be clear, I’m not talking about anxiety like you may be imagining. I’m not talking about a stream of conscious thought about all the bad things that will happen.

There are very few words in this anxiety.

When I am anxious like this I tunnel down, and real clear conscious thought is almost impossible. The anxiety is not about conscious thought. It is a feeling disconnected from and beneath all thought, because the anxiety has slipped away from where I can examine it from the conscious mind. My conscious mind ends up sticky and slow.

I have never talked to anyone who seemed to understand my kind of anxiety like this. Not ever. It’s like she went into my head on my very worst day and described what she saw, there. I am serious when I say that no one has ever written a better description of the anxiety I feel, the kind that has kept me awake so many nights these past weeks. It really, really is a “buzzing fog.”

Then, she wrote about the Traveling Red Dress, and brought tears to my eyes again.

I love the call to joy that is this project. I hope someday I am willing to take that feeling to heart and do something for myself that is equivalent. Right now I would never ask for a dress – I don’t feel like I deserve one. I realize that’s the point, that everyone deserves joy and to feel beautiful and wonderful and real and to just be, alive, without judgement. I just don’t feel it right now.

By the time I read that, I was already thinking that this woman obviously needs to have the Traveling Red Dress I am making the second I am done with it.

Then, I kept reading. And the universe started to really get the point across.

Fear of pain is a reason for so much smallness in my life – fear of loss, fear of being judged, fear of hurt. The truth is that if I turn away from the pain – the mistakes I make as a parent, a friend, a volunteer, an employee, a wife – I turn away from the joy.

So, keeping that in mind, feeling the fear and feeling lost – I contemplate mailing a purple satin dress away to someone who might need it for prom. Then I contemplate donating to this project – because I love the idea of a hand sewn dress, one that will last and last through a number of wearers.

Yes, that link is to my blog post. I was quite shocked, having never seen a link to my own blog in a blog I was reading. Except when I knew it would be there, like the time Avi posted my This is What a Feminist Looks Like post on The Mamafesto.

I could go on about this person I found who makes me feel like I’m not the only person who thinks the way I do, about how she just had a baby and gives me a glimpse into my own future, about how I feel like it’s going to be okay because there are people like us who speak up and find each other. But instead, I’m just going to say:

Thank you. I hope you read this, so that you know how much it means to me that you write about this, too.


Universe, I hear you! Loud and clear!

So. People. GIVE ME YOUR MONEY. Or fabric. I need seven yards of taffeta. She needs it. We need it. I have to start sewing. The pattern is in the mail.

I’m going to write to people who sell fabric (again) and beg them for donations (again) just in case I get through to someone. I thought I had fabric–an Etsy seller said she would happily donate. Then, she asked why this isn’t an “official” charity. I explained. I never heard from her again. Only one other Etsy seller even responded to my message (I wrote to ten people), and she was absolutely lovely but has only two yards of fabric. Point is, I’m doing more than asking for your money. But seriously, I probably need it to make this thing happen.

Finally, a huge giant THANK YOU to the three people who have donated. You make my world a much happier place.

Day One

This morning, I wrote for Psychology Today about feeling “mommy guilt” before I am even pregnant (as far as I know) in part because I want to have a home birth and will instead be in a hospital. Because of the meds. And the risk to the baby. And you can go read about that over there.

Here, I want to illustrate for you why I want a home birth in a more personal way:

Me & Mom, on October 12th, 1984.

My mom had me at home, and this is what we looked like later that day; she gave me this picture so that I would have a reminder that she loves me no matter what.

Mom, I’ve been pretty hard on you. Often. But when I look at this picture, I can totally picture the day I’ve heard about so many times. I believe my aunt when she says that you were amazing and calm and made childbirth look easy. I believe that the midwife remembers my birth. I believe that after giving birth to me, you joined your friends and family to eat chocolate croissants. I wish I could give the same thing to my baby. The best I can do is make sure that you’re there when he or she is born.

Okay, so I’m a little exhausted from insomnia (up at 3 am this morning) and I spent all day cuddling the cutest newborn and I maybe miss her tons even though I spent ten hours with her. I am totally and completely baby crazy. I couldn’t help writing a sappy, post about this photo after including it in the piece for Psychology Today. If you had a picture like this, wouldn’t you get sappy, too? Look at the way she’s holding my tiny feet! Look how beautiful, relaxed and happy she looks, even though she just gave birth! Doesn’t she just look thrilled to have me in her arms?

This is why I always thought I would have a home birth. Always. And even though I’m scared and sad about having to go to the hospital for the safety of the baby (possible withdrawal from the meds), this picture helps me keep my eyes on the prize–I want to be present and peaceful during my first hours with my baby, just like my mom was with me.

Traveling Red Dress: We Have the Pattern!

Well, I ordered it today, anyway. Thanks to the generosity of donors (THANK YOU!), I had the money for the pattern as of this afternoon. Here’s a picture of it again, a slightly bigger one this time. It is so pretty I could stare at it all day long:

The dream dress pattern is now the property of the women of the Traveling Red Dress!

It’s a reprint of a vintage pattern, not an actual vintage pattern. This is a good thing. I’ve worked with vintage patterns, and they assume that the seamstress knows a whole lot. They use weird shorthand. Things were called by other names. They ask for things that are no longer made. I made a dress for my mom from a  vintage pattern, and it turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself, but I had to cut up drapery weights normally used in curtains to get the cowl right. Because whatever the pattern wanted me to use to weigh down the fabric? That thing does not exist anymore. So–phew! I will definitely be able to understand the directions for this dress.

The second advantage of a reprint of a vintage design is that this one provides instructions for modifying the size. This is important, because the pattern I used for my mom fit her measurements in the bust and the hip and the waist was several inches too small. While I am glad that I seem to have “won” some sort of genetic lottery and somehow fit the measurements of the Red Dress pattern, it occurred to me when I saw that the pattern is adjustable to “modern sizes” that I could keep making Red Dresses from the same pattern to fit other women as precisely as possible! How cool is that?

So, step one: complete. Pattern acquired. Once it arrives, I will trace it, so that I don’t have to cut it up and can keep it in its original, clean state.

Step two: acquire cheap muslin. This will be used to make a mock-up of the dress from the pattern. That way, if I come across anything tricky and make mistakes, I will have practice. I learned that this is important the hard way–I had to redo so many pieces of the flower girl dress I made for my niece that I used up fabric that was supposed to go for to the bridesmaid’s dress! My cousin was in fashion design school at the time, and she managed to pull the bridesmaid’s dress together, but it was, well, short. (I know–my bridesmaid is an awesome, awesome friend for wearing that dress.) The point is, make the mistakes with the $3/yd fabric or you will end up ruining the $25/yd fabric!

Step three: acquire nice red fabric. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I don’t want to use a synthetic (polyester) fabric. I want the dress to feel good; I keep thinking about how amazing my silk taffeta wedding dress felt to wear and want to repeat that. I also want it to last and let it be altered to fit other women, so I want a high quality fabric. I still love the idea of taffeta, but I also keep thinking about velvet. Would velvet look too dated? Stuffy?

I will also need trim and a zipper and something called horsehair braiding before I’ll have everything I need, but the way I see it, I’ve complete step one of three! Not including the actual sewing. Because that will include more than three steps, I’m sure.

Thank you again for donating, helping me get the word out, just plain supporting me. I am super excited!