Climb Out of the Darkness, A New Business, and Other Busyness!

I’ve been a bit absent from the blog, but not because I’ve been hiding! No way. I’ve been BUSY. First, I found this great new self-care idea called Jamberry Nails:

Turquoise and purple ombre nails, with a lace accent on my ring finger! I'm such a grown up!

Turquoise and purple ombre nails, with a lace accent on my ring finger! I’m such a grown up!

I tried a sample my friend sent me, and I loved it so much that I wanted ALL the designs! Well, wearing that sample around, other people loved it, too, and they started asking me about it. It just made sense to go ahead and sell the stuff myself, if it was going to be that easy! It has been SUCH fun adventure. I’m still wrapping my head around the idea that I’m officially responsible for my own “direct sales” business. I’ve done so well, though, and it hasn’t even been three weeks, that my confidence has gotten a huge boost. I love looking at pretty hands whenever I type, play with my toddler, open his snacks, make my endless calorie-filled smoothies (yes, I’m still fighting weight loss and barely winning) – these babies can handle anything, without getting damaged. I just took that picture, and the manicure is five days old!

Well, after signing up with Jamberry boosted my confidence, I decided to register for this year’s Climb Out of the Darkness fundraiser for Postpartum Progress. As I was signing up for it, it became painfully obvious that no one in my area was taking charge of this thing. So, I signed up to be the Team Leader for my area! You should register to climb with a team in your area to support maternal mental health, and you should learn more about what Postpartum Progress does, too. If you’re not going to fundraise for your own area, please donate to my Climb! You can also shop for the cause at my Jamberry site.

I am doing this fundraiser to raise awareness, as well as funds, for the struggle women face with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. I have struggled with anxiety all my life, but I was shocked and horrified to find that anxiety and depression experienced by pregnant women and new mothers is so often shrugged off and ignored.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 11 to 20% of women who give birth each year have postpartum depression symptoms. If you settled on an average of 15% of four million live births in the US annually, this would mean approximately 600,000 women get PPD each year in the United States alone.

In fact, more women will suffer from postpartum depression and related illnesses in a year than the combined number of new cases for men and women of tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, and epilepsy.

You might be interested to know, however, what’s missing from the CDC’s estimate.  Women who miscarry or whose babies are stillborn are also susceptible to postpartum depression, but the CDC’s report only looks at live births, so if you consider that 15% of the 6 million women who have clinically recognized pregnancies annually will get PPD, that’s 900,000 women each year.

EXCEPT …

Only 15% of women with postpartum depression ever receive professional treatment.

AT LEAST 1 in every 7 women will suffer–that’s more than will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Postpartum Progress is a national nonprofit that raises awareness of maternal mental health and provides support for pregnant and new moms struggling with it. It is a patient-run and patient-focused organization. I have found the most welcoming, beautiful community, there.

I somehow escaped the terrifying symptoms of a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, even though my chances of being diagnosed with one are three times greater, because of my history with anxiety and depression. No one in my community has ever asked a harsh question or made a judgment about me; I can get support and help for the challenges I face as a mother coping with anxiety, even if it is anxiety I’ve faced all my life. Support, resources, and e-hugs are always available. I have made lifelong friends. And I have never met a stronger, braver, or kinder group of women in my entire life.

My goal is to raise $1,000 for my climb, and I only have until June 21st! If I reach that goal, I will earn free admission to the Postpartum Progress conference in 2015. I know that you can help. I know that maternal mental health matters to everyone reading this, because you all know mothers. How many of them have struggled in silence? How many of them even know that pregnancy and birth do NOT need to come with terrifying anxiety, or heavy bouts of depression? How many of YOU are struggling, and would like a safe place to get some help? Even if it’s just the message that it’s ok if you don’t feel overjoyed with bliss at the news that you are going to have a baby, or even at the birth of a new baby–moms NEED to know that. Climb, donate, shop for charity. Do something.

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Other news: My husband and child were in a car accident, and while it was very frightening, everything is a-okay with them. Thank goodness for car seats! We’re not thrilled about adding a car payment to our monthly bills, but my new business venture came at just the right time.

I’m continuing to work with a functional medicine practitioner, and will update you as soon as there’s something concrete to say! So far, I just know that I feel great!

Finally, coming up: a post about how you can help check on a friend who has a new baby, while sounding purely supportive and not judgmental!

Choosing Self Care (even on Easter)

My gorgeous men are away this weekend, celebrating Easter with extended family. I love Easter. I have actually been planning my son’s outfit for months. I’m not with them, though, because my health pretty much demanded that I stay home. There are two things happening that require me choosing self care over everything else, right now: my weight is still dropping, and a cold is threatening to become a sinus infection. Obviously, the first is the greater of these two problems, but the sinus headaches are really what made the decision for me. Now that I’ve been on my own all day, though, I don’t know why I thought I could get enough calories in me away from home, on a holiday where I wouldn’t be eating most of what’s on offer. Since I cut out sugar, gluten, dairy and soy, I have had exactly one migraine. Before this change, I had a hormonal migraine for five days. Two cycles of hormonal changes later, and one headache? I’m sticking with what works. My relatives are lovely, accommodating and so willing to work with me. The problem is that I have enough trouble listening to my body’s signals about food when I’m not busy and away from home. My anxiety is an appetite suppressant. I need to eat every three hours. I need to eat more protein. This was not going to work, unless I stayed at home, this weekend. I’m also just putting this out there: it helps to be alone, at one’s own kitchen sink, when trying to see if swallowing a tablespoon of coconut oil, straight up, is going to work. (I got it down. Not happening again.) I got to spend today, free from any distraction, figuring out what I can/will/want to eat that still fits within my dietary restrictions and also has a high calorie count. My gorgeous husband made sure I was stocked with everything I needed to work this out for myself, before he left. I also slept, and let essential oils fix my sinus pain. (I have empty capsules to put oils in, so I can swallow them without irritation, and this *worked* – 3 drops oregano, 3 drops doTerra On Guard, 2 drops frankincense. Felt better in about fifteen minutes. Twice a day. No sinus pressure. BOOM!) And, obviously, sleeping. The downside is that I missed out on this (photo credit to my lovely mother-in-law, aka Gram): walt with ball But this growing boy needs his mama to keep up with him (and keep making that mama’s milk he loves so much–losing weight will hurt even a seemingly endless supply like mine!) and not disappear. Plus, now he can eat all the candy his Gram can sneak into him without me knowing about it or wishing so desperately that I could eat some! Seriously, people, I LOVE Reese’s peanut butter eggs. I love Easter candy. I love dressing up. I love the optimistic church services about resurrection. And there will be many years when I will enjoy all those things. This year, it’s sleep, food, pajamas, and healing.

Anxiety Over Weight Loss: Passive Self Harm

I haven’t felt anxiety about my weight since I was a teenager. Ten years ago. Suddenly, I’m facing serious anxiety over weight loss. I knew that had lost some weight, but I feel good and didn’t look *too* different. When I visited my doctor’s office to find out why my ear hurt (of course, by the time I got there, the discomfort I had felt for days was pretty much gone), the nurse did a routine weight check. I heard the number. I asked her to repeat it. I asked if she was certain. I asked her to please inform my doctor that I had lost twenty pounds since January, and that I did not remember seeing a weight this low in my entire post-pubescent life. I wasn’t surprised that I had lost weight–I did cut sugar, gluten, dairy and soy from my diet, over a month ago. The nurse was nice enough to tell me that I was still within a healthy range for my height, and because the doctor and I had recently talked about how my change in diet had really helped my migraines, he wasn’t too worried about my thyroid or heart or any dramatic underlying cause. In other words, I was the one feeling major anxiety, while my doctor was mainly concerned that I include more calories in my diet.

Of course, he did run every test he could think of. He’s that kind of doctor. None of the tests made me anxious. I did not for a moment feel afraid of a damaged thyroid or a disease of some kind.

No, I feel anxiety over weight loss, because once I see that it’s happening, I am always tempted to let it go on… and on…

I have never had an eating disorder. According to some definitions, I have engaged in “disordered eating” when I have skipped meals, because the idea of paying for or preparing one has sometimes felt like too much. My husband does most of the cooking around here, because I would just let it slide. (He’s also much better at making meal-type food, anyway–pie is my speciality. Oh, how I miss pie!) My close friend nailed this one right on the head, though, when she asked if this was “passive self-harm.” I usually love the Mayo Clinic website for defining words and phrases I use, here, but this one is flawed (“self injury/cutting” is a bit narrow) and clearly written by someone who hasn’t ever experienced the impulse to self-harm:

Self-injury, also called self-harm, is the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It’s typically not meant as a suicide attempt. Rather, self-injury is an unhealthy way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and frustration. …

While self-injury may bring a momentary sense of calm and a release of tension, it’s usually followed by guilt and shame and the return of painful emotions.

When I’m tempted to just skip one meal, to ignore that light-headed, hungry feeling for another hour or two, I am engaging in this behavior. I am refusing to listen to clear signals in my brain. Anxiety often manifests physically, but I cannot ignore its signals. Shaking hands, shortness of breath, nausea, all interrupt daily life. I can cope with the frustration of feeling out-of-control by simply continuing an activity well past meal-time, until I have skipped that meal altogether. It does bring a momentary sense of calm, release of tension. And then yes, I feel shame.

Thinking of this impulse as a self-harm impulse, rather than a first step down the terrifying road to an eating disorder, feels more accurate, because what I’m feeling doesn’t seem to have much to do with my body or body image. I don’t dislike the way I look. I don’t want anything about my body to change. I do want something to think about besides the sharp increase in anxiety that follows a discovery like that one on the scale, on Thursday. The shame comes from feeling that I have failed at this diet, even while it has helped my migraines all but disappear. I have failed to eat often enough, or to eat the right foods. Worst of all, I didn’t even notice that I am lighter now than I have been since the age of twelve. Isn’t that something I should notice? I’ve had issues with my milk supply these past few weeks. Why didn’t I think that that might have something to do with a decrease in calorie intake? Why didn’t I think?

Most of my “negative self-talk,” the mean thoughts I swirl around my mind, centers around being too stupid to see something important. I “should” have seen this coming. I should have known what to do. I should have stopped it. This is quite clearly my mind’s response to the heavy importance placed on my intelligence as a measure of my self-worth, by my father and myself. It’s a good reason to stay away from academia, and to not finish my graduate degree; it’s too easy, in that world, to depend on grades to give me a sense that I have an important place in the world.

I know all of this. I know what to do. I know what to eat (please, no advice–I’m hearing lists of foods from two professionals) to maintain my weight and easily avoid losing an unhealthy amount. All of that knowledge is playing in my head, like NPR. Calm, quiet, informative.

Anxiety acts like the static that refuses to let me listen to NPR while driving; I can’t pick up a clear signal on the real programming, so I hear and can’t stop focusing on the awful static that mutes those calmer voices.

How I feel when it's time to eat. (In case you thought I had lost my sense of humor)

How I feel when it’s time to eat. (In case you thought I had lost my sense of humor)

Celebrating 5 Years, Late

March 19, 2014, marked my fifth wedding anniversary. I feel weak in the knees just thinking about that day, and I’m always shocked when I think about how much closer we are, now, than we were, then. I think there’s no way we can love each other more, and then we just do. I actually had tears running down my face listening to a song that came on the radio, because it reminded me of the day I realized that Nathan was the guy for me. It’s your standard love-at-first-sight song, but the reason I started to cry was that, even though I had known Nathan for months, there was one moment, during a very long and depressing subway ride, when I just knew–Nathan was and is the kindest man. What was I doing going on dates with anyone else? I called him and left him an awkward and long voicemail for him telling him as much. One day, I was going on dates. I knew some cool guys. The next day, one of them just made the rest fade away.

Then, I found out that it was a Taylor Swift song. “Everything Has Changed.” But it’s ok, because under interrogation, even the character Jake, on TV’s *amazing* Brooklyn 99 admits that he loves her. And Sergent Terry understands. Yes, he does:

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Those two are just part of a series of amazing images at this tumblr.

I don’t mind admitting that I like quite a few Taylor Swift songs, but just for the record, the version that made me pay attention to this song was the live one from The Voice, by two adorable teenagers:

Madilyn Paige vs. Tanner James: “Everything Has Changed”