The baby who wasn’t 

I have three gorgeous children, aged 8, nearly 5, and 1.5. I love them more than I can fathom, and they drive me to the brink of full-on lunacy every day. I have three gorgeous children, and I have had seven pregnancies. 
My seventh occurred a few months ago. After my husband left for his most recent romp with the Navy, I realized I was pregnant. We have talked extensively about having a fourth child, and we both agreed that another baby just isn’t something we can do. With that in mind, I was at first afraid to call him and break the news. I chose to wait and process the situation for myself. 
For a few weeks I quietly prepared myself for the conversation I would have with my husband, my children, and then my family. I stayed up at night looking at options for a second vehicle, a bigger house. I started taking prenatal vitamins, and without realizing consciously, I was becoming exited. I talked with my sister about it, and my best friend, and decided that I was ready to tell my husband. 

At week 9, I miscarried. 
I have had SAB before, as well as late term, and what I have learned is this: it doesn’t matter if it’s week 2 or week 22, when you miscarry you lose a piece of your soul. The hopefulness that pregnancy can bring is ripped away from you, and all that was left was a crippling sadness, a feeling of worthlessness, and a rapid descent into an ugly depression that is all-consuming. The hint of joy inside of me is gone, and no matter what, it can never be replaced or recreated. When a living person leaves you, they take a piece of you with them. You grieve, you wonder if you could’ve done something to help. When someone dies inside of you, the guilt of having let this person-to-be expire, to deny them their right to life, it is a pain that stays fresh inside of you for as long as you live. Whether or not it was my fault is inconsequential, because no one will ever be able to convince me that it wasn’t. I’m a statistician and an historian – I am an entirely logical person. However, for me, miscarriage defies logic and understanding. Perhaps it’s not meant to be understood as a whole, because everyone’s experiences causes them to forge their own reality to cope with the unyielding pain that comes with unconscionable loss. 
My soul is ripped in seven pieces, but I am not immortal. In fact, with every tear my humanity is amplified in my own consciousness. Three pieces of my soul live on in the beautiful children I have helped create, and four live on in the annals of my heart and mind, never to be known by anyone but me. In my heart they have names, faces, and the sadness that I feel for them has shaped who I am, and who I have yet to become. 
On top of this furious flurry of emotions, I am still very much bipolar/BPD/major depressive. The demons hiding in my darkness have come out to play in full force, and at times I feel as though I need to scream to silence them. But silence doesn’t come no matter what I do. I hide, I cry, I hug my babies, I carry on as usual, I eat too much, I can’t sleep, I read the same page of the same book for days, I get dressed and force myself into normalcy. No matter what I can’t win. There’s no version of this story where I come out a better, more evolved human being. I leave this essay just as broken as when I started writing it, but feeling infinitely more exposed having vocalised what I have been trying so hard to hide. 

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The lines you amend 

*addiction, compulsive behaviour, and any other symptom can be substituted for the one I’ve chosen to write about. Pick your poison.*
How does one make amends for all of the horrible things that they do in a day? How does one recognize when their actions are underhanded? Is there a line between succumbing to your symptoms and being malicious?

Bipolar comes with some very unique symptoms, some of which are compulsive spending, and habitual sneakiness (I have refrained from using the word lie, because it insinuates a conscious decision to deceive). Usually accompanied by these symptoms is regret, self-loathing, and sometimes, thoughts of suicide and/or self-harm. When you are involved in a partnership, you are expected to, and want to, contribute to said  partnership. Whether it be a roommate, a spouse, an employer, you want to succeed at being normal. You hope and pray and beg yourself to make this the partnership that changes everything. You set your sights high, and you start out with a clarity you’ve never experienced before. More often than not, that clarity is delusion. Your glorious brain telling you that it’s finally got a grip and is going to behave itself. 

Everything is hunky dory until your first regression. A trigger, known or unknown, presents itself, and you panic. The light switch is clicked off and you are left in the darkness of your disease, groping for anything that will help pull you out. What’s the first thing you grab? Your debit card. 

Impulsive spending is a very slippery slope that destroys more than your credit; but how do you curb it? How do you avoid these destructive behaviours that can cause myriad problems for you and the people you love? You don’t do it on purpose, it just happens. For those around you who don’t live with bipolar, this is not a good enough excuse. How can spending money be a symptom of anything, aside from vanity and arrogance? 

Unfortunately for all, this is a well documented and very real problem that the majority of us don’t know how to deal with. We don’t know why we do it, how can we possibly ask for your understanding and forgiveness? 

We can’t

So we hide it. We find ways to bring things in without notice. We shop online, we overspend on things we consider necessity, until we get called out on it. We don’t have the forethought to cover our tracks. Hindsight is usually found on the way home from a panic shop, when you have to consider how everything will get in the house undetected. When the panic has passed, the guilt comes knocking. If you don’t catch us we feel the guilt of being dishonest, but we’re also afraid of having to tell the truth. What will be the straw which breaks the camel’s back? If we do get found out, we have a very quick decision to make, though it’s not entirely conscious decision. We must decide if we will defend, or amend. 

If you are in defence mode, it turns into a battle royale. Our magical brains come up with excuses at the speed of light. It is expert at telling us why you’re at fault. Why you’re the one causing our problems. If we decide to make amends, we must admit freely that we are wholly in the wrong, and that even though it is a  symptom, it is not an excuse for destructive behaviours. 

The wish of those struggling with compulsive/impulsive spending is of  course, to permanently stop those behaviours. The knowledge that we cannot completely eradicate ourselves of these short comings amplifies the self-loathing, which can lead to harmful thoughts and behaviours. 

Mental health/illness is a cycle. You are the hamster running on the wheel of illness, powerless to stop and get off. You are exhausted, you don’t remember why you’re running, but here you are

So you keep spinning the wheel, every rotation presenting a new obstacle. Sometimes the hardest obstacle is progress. The longer you succeed at ‘wellness’ the more steep and rapid the descent becomes. Every few rotations you slow down enough to ask yourself if any of your triumphs have been worth it. Is anything worth it? Is continuously punishing your loved ones worth it? You know that you’re ruining their lives. 

Like many of my posts, I don’t have the answer for how to fix this. I struggle with this symptom almost daily, and there have been many low points where I’ve had to defend or amend. Luckily for me, I have an unreasonably understanding husband who refuses to give up on me. Does that make our rows over finances any easier? Hell no. More often than not I would prefer if he yelled, or threw in the towel. The self sabotage finally works, and I am left alone to deal with my psychosis. That suicidal grey area that tells me he’s better off without me is a very scary place. It doesn’t tell me that I don’t love my family, it tells me that if I truly loved them I would free them from the burden of my existence. 

 However, as of right now, I have chosen to accept my defects, make amends, and work with my loved ones to be an effective and valuable partner. I won’t ever stop running on my wheel, but I think the struggle is worth it, and I would rather be their burden in life than their burden in death. 

Ad Hominem

For the first time in my life I am choosing not to attend a Remembrance Day service, and I have received a lot of flak because of this decision. I would like now to explain  myself, in the hopes that for those of you who have judged me may understand what I am thinking and feeling. 

I have never missed a service. I have sat with dignitaries, laid wreaths alongside veterans, marched in parades, and cried while holding photos of my loved ones. I have drank with légionnaires, and argued with my husband over wearing his uniform. I have held hands with  strangers, shaken hands with people who served alongside my grandfather, and argued with people who celebrate Christmas before commemorating Remembrance Day. 

Each year I put on the equivalent of my Sunday best, do my makeup, pin poppies on my  daughters, and carry a photo of my husband and my uncle, to the service at the legislative grounds. I have gone in every kind of weather imaginable, and have tried my best to present the façade of the strong, elegant, cornerstone of the military family that is the military spouse. It is exhausting, and this year I am too tired to carry on. 

This year I will sit on the couch with my daughters, and the photos of our loved ones, and we will watch the Ottawa service on tv. If I feel like crying, I will cry. I will hug my babies and we will talk about our loved ones, their daddy, and why this day matters to us above all else. We will talk about all of the mom’s and dad’s of my children’s friends who are currently deployed or away for various reasons, and we will count every one of our blessings, made possible by all of these heroes. I won’t put on makeup, I will not present myself as anything that strangers or friends expect me to be. I will watch the service from the comfort of my home, where I am free to feel and express myself without feeling as though I have to “keep it together” for the sake of those around me. 

After the service, we are going for a walk. Maybe we will go to the park, or perhaps the lagoon. From there we can see where their daddy works when he is alongside, and we will count the days until he is home, together. This year I am not doing this for anyone but my family. For too long I have placed too much importance on  appearances, and trust me, keeping them up on a day like today is more exhausting than running a marathon. 

After a decade of being a military wife, and a lifetime of being a military family member, I think I have earned the right to observe this day in a way that is healthy for both me and my girls. My love has missed countless birthdays, holidays, moments that cannot be recreated – including the birth of one of our daughters. He will spend the next year away from us, and I will be strong while I wipe the tears away from my daughters’ eyes, check their homework, take them to lacrosse, doctors appointments, and read them emails from their daddy. I spend 364 days of the year being strong, today I would like, even if only for a few hours, to let my guard down, and feel what I try to avoid the rest of the year. 

So no, I’m not going to a service today, and if you disagree with my decision, I respect your opinion. I am not a bad wife, I am a tired one. If you don’t agree that I deserve to observe how I choose, I suggest you reread this post, or any of my posts, until you feel empathy for what I have to do to survive. If that doesn’t work, I will politely ask you to mind your own damned business – but I’ll only be polite once. 

The Maker Makes

I have three daughters, aged 7, 4, and 10 months. As my beautiful ladies grow older and develop their own interests and personalities, I find that I’m discovering parts of myself in them. My biggest fear for them is that I will pass my poisons onto them, and not recognise that I’ve done it. 

When I was a child and even a teenager, not many people subscribed to the idea of childhood depression. Many people, my mother and father included, believed that the brain wasn’t capable of mental illness until after the age of 18, and also that “teenage angst” was a choice – not a symptom of mental stress. 

After discussing my youth in-depth with my psychiatrist and councillor, we mutually determined that I have been suffering from anxiety since childhood, major depressive disorder since my mid to late teens, and bipolar disorder stemming from around the same time. Looking back at those times in my life I can quite clearly see the signs and symptoms, which of course, seem obvious in retrospect. 

Now, as a mother in this new mental illness enlightened age, I worry for my girls- my eldest especially. Certified gifted, I was told that I may experience behavioural problems with her, and was giving a few books about “coping” with the gifted child. My amazing, hilarious, friendly, little L has trouble getting out of bed, especially if her dad is sailing. Prone to fits of rage, sometimes physically attacking me, sometimes not being able to eat. Happiness countered immediately with sadness, coupled with anger and obsession. 

It’s hard to deal with. 

I have my own emotional shitstorm to battle with every day, sometimes trying to deal with her is too much for me. I check out, lock myself in my head, and hope that the kids will engage autopilot before I crash the plane. But they deserve better. L needs my compassion, my understanding, my experience, but most days I’m just too tired to give it to her. We do battle on a daily basis. It’s hard on all of us. No matter what, I always try to validate her feelings. She is entitled to feel. Whether I agree with her or not, she gets to tell/yell her thoughts to me. I don’t know if it helps or hurts, but at this point I feel like she’s constantly on the cusp of exploding, but it seems like the yelling and stomping keeps her from diving over the edge  

I’ve read the books, the blogs, the listicles, the forums, and the truth is: I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing when it comes to my girls’ mental health. I have no clue. I barely have a grip on my own mental health, how am I supposed to be responsible for that of these precious beings? I’m terrified daily that I’m causing permanent emotional damage, or passing on my mental instabilities (or both). On the other hand, I don’t want to see symptoms in them that aren’t there. We all know what tricks the mind can play to spike our anxiety and send us spiralling. For now I’ll keep reading, keep fighting, keep cuddling, keep trying, keep failing. I owe them my best, even if some days my best is merely existing through the day. 

I need so desperately to protect them, but I can’t save them from themselves. Or, maybe I can. I wish someone had tried to save me.  

Graceless 

I have been in a bit of a slump lately. 

 I am cranky. I am pessimistic. I am quick to anger. I need to make a change before my guilt and anger get the better of me and my depression swallows me whole. 

Whenever my anxiety is high, my sister asks me to make lists of my favorite things to help me focus and ultimately calm down. 5 favourite songs, books, movies, places, etc. Today, in an attempt to let go of some anger and to remind myself why I am worthy of being here, I would like to make a list of things that I’m grateful for – in no particular order. 

  • I am grateful for my three incredible daughters. Their individual personalities are amazing, and even though some days it seems like I’m failing, at the end of the day, they always love me. I am so lucky that I get to spend the rest of my life with these amazing human beings. 
  • I am grateful for my sister, who will at a moment’s notice, drop what she’s doing to talk to me. She gives the best advice, never sugar-coats anything, and always tells me what I need to hear. She has also given me a beautiful niece who has taught me that I am capable of loving a child that isn’t my own unconditionally. 
  • I am grateful for my little circle of friends. They put up with my sudden absences, lack of communication, bad moods, good moods, all of it. I have few people whom I feel are true friends, and I am grateful for every one of them. (For the sake of privacy I won’t mention their names, with the exception of Dyane, who’s blog everyone needs to read!)
  • I am grateful for my husband, who has been a season ticket holder on my emotional roller coaster for ten years. His dedication to our family is inspiring, and I would not be who I am or where I am without him. 
  • I am grateful for my location. At any given moment I can look out my window and see the Olympic mountain range, the ocean, and a small forest full of beautiful flora, animals, and waterfalls. I can step out onto my porch and smell the ocean infused air. A five minute walk puts the sand between my toes, or takes me on an adventure through the trees where I can hear peacocks and owls. I will never tire of watching the sun fall behind the mountains. I am indebted to the earth for allowing me to take this beautiful place in, every single day. 
  • I am grateful for my life. Every breath that I take, every beat of my heart. All of my accomplishments, all of my flaws. It’s easy to forget that I have a purpose. It’s easy to beat myself up. It’s easy to fall victim to negative thoughts. Happiness is a fight, but It’s always worth fighting. Every day that I wake up is a victory, regardless of if I feel successful that day. I am worthy of this life, and I won’t quit just because some days or weeks or months are harder than others. 

A life with bipolar is an uphill hike through a hurricane, but I am working on remembering that everyone has their own battle, and most importantly that comparison is the thief of joy. The less I focus on how it seems everyone else is doing, I need to focus on how I’m doing. 

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Remind yourself of what you’re grateful for. Hug your children, give your dog a treat, and forgive yourself. That’s the best anyone can do. Today it is all I can do. 

10,000 Maniacs

How many times in your life have you felt out of control? I’m not talking party animal, too drunk to function, throw up in the Arby’s bathroom, I’m talking about your brain operating so fast that you can’t make heads or tails of anything that you’re thinking. For some people, bipolar is a mixture of depression and mania. I am one of those people. I have experienced depression as well as manic depression, or a mixed-state, but never true mania without the depressive undertones. You would think that being a mixture of manic and depressive could lead to a balance of sorts, because one should even out the other. This however, is not the case. Manic depression is terrifying because your wheels are turning at an incomprehensible speed, and you are powerless to stop them. The thoughts and feelings I have are almost never productive or helpful, and it is in these times that I hate myself the most. 

Some of the symptoms of being manic in my case are excessive sweating, the inability to sit still or focus on one task at a time, spending too much money, insomnia, no appetite, and delusions.

I am about to be  very explicit with my experiences in the hopes that it better explains what I am going through. I want my transparency to help those who are suffering without knowing the root of the problems they face, and the caregivers who feel helpless. If any of these thoughts, feelings, or behaviours sound familiar to you, talk to me. If you know someone who suffers from these symptoms, love them. Don’t punish them for the things that they cannot control, and certainly don’t make them feel ashamed to come forward. Sometimes just being able to say one’s thoughts out loud can save someone’s life. If you can’t be someone to lean on, I strongly suggest you get off of the crazy train at the next stop.

 When I am feeling only depressed, I am tired constantly. I eat too much, and doing anything feels like too much energy. I wear the same clothes, I don’t shower, I feel pathetic. When I am feeling manic depression, I have a lot of energy. I clean, I cook, I put makeup on. On the outside I function mostly well. On the inside, I can’t control my thoughts or emotions. The hate that I feel for myself while depressed is amplified exponentially by mania. My inner monologue screams at me. It tells me that I am useless, that I am not a good mom, a terrible spouse, and that my family would be better off without me. It is during these times that thoughts of suicide crowd my brain, and because i can’t get my thoughts in order, it starts to seem like a good idea. I project my own feelings of self-loathing onto my loved ones, and assume that they are tired of me, tired of having to care for me, tired of having to constantly clean up my messes. Those feelings are my own, and it’s wrong for me to assume that others feel about me the way I feel about myself. One part of me knows and acknowledges this, but the rational part of me has trouble overpowering the yelling that is constantly going on in my head. 

When I am manic depressive I act impulsively. I lavish my loved ones with gifts and money in the hopes that they will continue to love me, in the hopes that they can see a value in the things I give them, because I can’t see the value in just being myself. I am so sure that everyone hates me, and I’m afraid that if I dont’t shower them with gifts that they will give up on me. They will wish me dead just as I do. 

The pinwheel spins so fast that all of the colours blur together and become gray. It slows down long enough for me to see the blue thoughts, the ones that tell me that I’m worthless, incapable of normalcy, inadequate. It speeds up again and I’m left to dwell on the thoughts that came to the forefrunt during the small slow-down. I feel like a car without a driver, a brick on the accelerator. I can see where I am headed but cannot stop myself from getting there. I say and do things that hurt people, but because I can’t explain myself. The result is anger and frustration from the people who I love. I am not an easy person to live with, and I know that I put strain on my friends and family. What they don’t realise is that it causes me pain, too. I don’t want to hurt them or anyone, and as a result we are all stuck in a vicious cycle of me hurting myself emotionally as well as hurting everyone else.

My thoughts of my family being better off without me, running away to help them,  or committing suicide as a way to put an end to their embarassment from having a crazy wife and mother are unfounded in the real world. The rational part of my brain knows that my children need a mother, and that I am thinking about a permanent solution to a temproary problem. I don’t want to die. I want to live free of pain and confusion. Even though that will never be a reality for me, I have to remember that I can make them feel better by trying my best to be a good mom. Removing myself from them doesn’t solve anything, and will cause a permanent hurt that I will never be able to take away. 

Being manic is a very selfish state to live in. The problems that I have inside consume me, and I can’t see a way out. It is truly terrifying to not know what you are capable of. I feel very self-involved, but I’m afraid of what will happen if I let myself stop thinking about it for even a moment. So far, the fear of myself is what has kept me going. 

Two years ago I got into our family vehicle during the only snow storm that we had that year. I jumped on the highway, and I spun my vehicle into the rock face as fast as I could. After I hit I tried to drive away again, even though the front end of my vehicle was gone. It was only after I was in the ambulance and on the way to the hospital that I realised that I had never intended to make it home. I hated myself so much, I was angry that I didn’t die in the hospital a few months earlier when I was sick. I was a shell of myself, filled with hate and anger and disgust. The only thing that could get rid of those feelings was to stop feeling all together. I got home after being checked out in the hospital, and a new hatred filled me. A hate that was fueled by my willingness to leave my family. I looked at my children and wondered how I could be so selfish, how I could think that they would be better off with a dead mother. I felt disgusting and unworthy of love. One thing that I have leraned from that experience is that suicide is not based on anyone other than yourself, but it’s not selfish. You are trying to put an end to their pain, you feel as though you are giving them a chance at a better life if you remove yourself from it. In my case, I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, I was trying to free them. 

Being manic depressive is a constant emotional rollercoaster that can’t be easily explained. It’s like being asked to explain the feeling of vomitting – you can’t listen to an explanation and picture the feeling – you have to experience it. I truly hope that no one I love ever has to know exactly how I’m feeling, but I do hope that if they read this they understand that I never, ever, intend to hurt them, and that I am always trying to act in their best interests. I also want them to know that I am always going to seek help when I know that I am losing control, and that I will, to the best of my ability, shield them from the trouble that my instability can cause. I know that my actions always affect my loved ones, and I am doing everything I can to minimise the blast zone.

Do you know someone who is eperiencing or has experienced anything that I have described? Don’t know how to treat them, act around them, or care for them? Here are a few ideas on how you can engage them in a positive way.

If they don’t want to be touched, don’t touch them. Sometimes being manic can heighten the senses, sometimes to the point of touch being extremely uncomfortable. Always ask before embracing.

Don’t force them to engage. Ask how they are feeling, ask if they need to talk, but don’t pressure or guilt them into talking if they can’t. One thing that bipolar people are good at is deception. If they can’t sort themseves out they will tell you what YOU need to hear, getting you off of their case so they can go back to fighting silently for their lives.

Don’t. Get. Angry. If your loved one opens up to you and is honest with the thoughts and feelings that they are having, don’t react negatively. The first time that you do will be the last time they trust you with their demons.

We don’t come with a ‘fragile’ sticker, so please don’t label us. I know that this is a difficult one, because it’s hard to know what will set someone off. I get that, I don’t know what will set me off, either. Just be patient, and know that we don’t do it on purpose. No one likes being handled with kid gloves. 

Know when you’ve had enough. There is no shame in recognising that you aren’t able to be someone’s nurse-maid for the rest of your life. We know that we are hard to deal with, and the unpredictability of our emotions is taxing on everyone. Have the courage and the decency to say if you can’t do it anymore. It won’t be easy, but if it’s what’s best for all parties, so be it. YOUR mental health should alays be your number one priority.

Most importantly, love and be loved. Let the people you love know how much you do, make sure that they feel it. Gifts don’t equate to experiences…something I’m trying to learn. Everyone has good days and bad, just remember that every new day is a new chance for forgiveness, kindness, and the pursuit of living a full and happy life with someone who is wired a little bit differently from yourself. 

Pieces. 

Does anyone else feel like their lives are constantly on the verge of falling apart?

I have a lot of good things going on right now. Biggest kid is playing lacrosse and loving it, middle kid is coming out of her shell and enjoying her school and mates, smallest kid, is growing like a seed and developing a very sweet personality. This weekend I met William Shatner, something that I never thought would happen, and he was every bit the man I imagined him to be. Later on this month I’ll be travelling to Calgary with my brother for the Fan Expo there, and at the end of the month I have my oral surgery consultation so that I can begin the process of fixing my teeth. In the wise words of every 90’s kid, everything’s coming up Milhouse. So what exactly is my problem? 

I am constitutionally defective. No matter how much good can happen on the outside, the inside is still highlighting all of the things it feels are wrong about me. My inner monsters hate my body, but steal my energy, so I can’t find the motivation to exercise. The want is there, but the hate always wins. The inner journal of my mind is constantly stained with pools of sticky, black ink; the kind that never dries, but instead glues pages of good thoughts together so that I can’t read them. I know that they’re there, but I can’t see them without tearing the pages. 

The biggest pools of ink currently staining my mind are telling me that my supporters and loved ones are getting tired of me not ‘getting better’. One minute I’m feeling strong and wanting to talk to Big Daddy about what I’m feeling, and the next I’m worried that I’m becoming too much of a burden for him to bear. His life comes with its own stressed and worries, a lot caused by me. How much more can I put on his shoulders before he collapses? I have nightmares of waking up to him gone, the children with him. Finding out that he can no longer act as my caregiver, that I am no longer fit to be a mother. My bipolar monster telling me that they would all be better off without me. Even in dreams I cannot escape the clutches of mental illness. I awake in a cold sweat, heart racing, sometimes crying. I know that everyone is tired of hearing how tired I am, but I wake up exhausted from stress. I haven’t slept peacefully in years. I can’t remember the last time I went to bed not hating myself. 

I spend the majority of my days trying to make it seem like I’m not struggling. I can smile, I can laugh, I enjoy my children, but nothing (so far) has been able to quiet the anger and self loathing that I feel inside. Everything I do, my demons find a way to tell me I could’ve done it better, or that what I’ve done is too insignificant to matter – so I should stop trying. Run away, stop being a burden on the people I love. They don’t deserve a crazy mother, wife, daughter, friend. Why do I punish them? I rationalise how much better off we would all be. Perhaps if I left and didn’t feel the constant guilt or not being the person I should be, I would also feel better. When the rational part of me pushes those thoughts away and reminds me that I am a good mother, and that I couldn’t survive without my girls, the monsters call me a coward. It hurts, and I feel alone. No matter how hard my loved ones try, I am always alone. Alone with my manic thoughts of grandeur, my depressed thoughts of wanting to die, my rational thoughts of putting on clean clothes and trying to make it through another day. In the end, these thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are all I’ll ever have, they are what I’m made of, and as hard as I try, I cannot quiet them. More often than not it is too hard to combat these feelings. I lay on the couch, distract myself with tv or my phone. My mother thinks I’m lazy. Maybe I am. I’m losing the will and the energy to fight every single minute of every single day. I make promises I can’t keep in the hopes that something will click inside of me and I will magically become the person that I’m “supposed” to be. Instead I repeatedly let people down. Why am I the only one that doesn’t function like a proper human being? 

I know that I’m not, but it’s hard not to feel that way. I am always alone. I am the only one fighting my battle, and even though they try, no one can help me. 

So here I sit, the coward on the couch. Over weight, lazy, and unwilling to be a productive member of my family. I’m sure that’s how it looks from the outside, anyway. 

100 Acts of Kindness

Looking through my house a while ago, I determined that we have way too many things. Toys, clothes, movies, books, too much of everything. In the interest of making sure that my children don’t grow into ungrateful little monsters, we have decided to make some much needed changes to the way we live.
One night while mindlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed I came across an article about a man from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, who was in the process of performing 1000 acts of kindness in his community. Feeling inspired, but knowing that 1000 of anything is likely too ambitious for my little ladies, we’ve settled on 100.
100 acts of kindness that can be performed throughout the year, starting with this Christmas and ending with the next. We have already performed our first act, and the girls were very happy to do it! Last night we took them to the mall where they picked Santa’s Anonymous presents. The big girls each picked a child off of a Christmas tree- L picking a seven year old girl and P picking a three year old girl- and then we went to Toys R Us to pick out the gifts. We had a lot of fun browsing and in the end the girls picked some great gifts that they each out a lot of thought into.
I was so proud of them for understanding what they were doing and for not asking if they could have something that my mind went immediately to rewarding them with some kind of gift. Knowing that they would defeat the purpose of this whole endeavor, I decided that the reward should be feeling good about helping others.
Our next act involves all of us packing up the things that we don’t need and donating them to a few different places. I have way too many clothes that go unworn, Big Daddy has way too many books. The ladies will be packing up the majority of their toys and too-small clothes. Toys that they actively play with, no more than ten each, can be kept. They can keep their art supplies, and the stuffed animals that have sentimental value. The goal is to strip the house of all of the excess. Relying on things to make us happy is not the lesson I want to teach my daughters, and I think that by teaching them go pass things on to others when they are done is a good way to help teach that. I want giving to become second nature to them, and even though we are starting during a holiday season, by continuing throughout the year they will see that is important to care all year round-not just when we think Santa is watching.
I have some more ideas lined up for our year of giving and learning, and I have every intention of continuing the cycle for as many years as i can. who knows, maybe when the girls have families of their own, they will continue the tradition!
If you have any suggestions for acts of kindness, please pass them on! Has anyone out there reading done something like this? Let’s talk about it! Reach me via the comments here, or on Twitter! (@thesagemum) Let’s get a discussion going on ways to make our children more kind, forgiving, empathetic people.
I will keep track of our progress here, so stay tuned for more good deeds!

From The Archives: ELEUTHEROMANIA

*This post originally appeared on my Blogspot in July*

ELEUTHEROMANIA is an intense desire for freedom, or a break from your usual routine.

Moi sans toi.. Ça n’existe pas!
My life as a Navy wife
Every military spouse has their own unique story. We all have a lot of the same challenges to overcome, and we all find different ways to overcome them. Here is a brief version of my challenges as a military wife, and why somedays I consider growing a moustache and assuming a new identity.
My military spouse career started almost 10 years ago. I already had a good idea of what the life was like, thanks to various family members serving in various branches and countries. We had our first daughter, and for the first 18 months, I was pretty sure that I had everything figured out. I was at the top of my game, going to school, looking after my kid, being supportive of my husband.
Now, three postings and (almost) three kids later, I am waving a white flag from my fox hole.
My oldest daughter, now six, is gifted – with an exceptionally high IQ, and the ability to rationalise thoughts that should be too complex for her age. After she was tested I read several books on how to help her, but there is no book on how to deal with the gifted child of a military member. During his first major deployment on this coast I learned that children like her can develop depression at an early age. It took several months to accurately diagnose what was wrong with her, and the stress of her not eating, barely moving, trying to quit her life, was very hard to handle. (Understatement)
I went to every professional I could to discuss why she ceased to function as a human child. I blamed myself entirely for not being able to kiss her emotional boo-boo’s. Why wasn’t I good enough to make her feel better? Finding out about the cyclical depression she suffers from was a huge step for all of us, though the knowledge didn’t make our day to day any easier.
Our second child was introduced in 2011, while my husband was on a course for his trade. Giving birth without him was surprisingly easy for me, because I knew I had no choice. What was hard was driving myself home from the hospital, and going back to business as usual with kid 1. I celebrated my birthday (2 days after she was born) by taking myself to Costco and buying a slab cake. I ate most of it. My husband’s first view of our daughter was via a text message that my mother sent him. I count myself lucky that I am always the one with the kids, because I have no idea what it feels like to miss out on these milestones. I’m sure it is a guilt that he will harbour for his whole life.
My primary job is to assuage him of that guilt. Be a constant reminder that he is our hero, and is always doing what is best for our family. 97% of the time I believe this to be true. The other 3% I wish he were at home more often so I could shower by myself.
We are now expecting our 3rd child, and a few weeks ago he was called away on less than 48 hours notice. While I am good at last minute planning, my children are not. This sail has been confusing and frustrating for both of them. I try daily to keep them engaged with activities. Take them to see friends, plan movie nights, to to events, but as a pregnant lady and cardiac patient, I need breaks. Between depression, PTSD, and a heart that will never function like it used to, (thanks to it stopping and then having a mild infarction when I came back to life), I am not the 10/10 mother that I wish I could be. (5/10 on a good day).
It’s a vicious cycle. I have fun, I slow down, I feel guilty, I exert myself, I have fun, I slow down, I feel guilty. I feel weak, and some days want nothing more than to lay down and hide while my kids destroy the house.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, it’s not an option. With a spouse who isn’t home, I don’t get to take the day off. As much as I feel sorry for myself, I can’t make my kids suffer. Although on days like today, a pillow over my face doesn’t seem like a bad idea….
As I mentioned earlier, I live with a gifted child – now two gifted children (Kid 2 was also tested). These two beauties that I love and cherish and blah blah blah can be ASSHOLES, and I say that in the most loving way possible.
Both girls deal with their dad being gone through anger. Kid 1 will tell me she hates me, tell me how much better life is when he’s home, how she wishes that I was gone instead of him. She knows that these things hurt me, and I’ve recognised that at the tender age of 6, she is a major manipulator. When I don’t bend to her I feel guilty. I know that she loves me, I should be more kind when she has these outbursts. When I do give in, I know that I’m enabling her to continue to treat me this way.Vicious cycle.
Kid 2 has found her voice and her fists. She kicks and punches and screams at the top of her lungs, and it’s getting harder and harder to dodge her blows. (Maintaining agility with beluga belly is not my strong suit).
Today after a particularly rousing screaming session that lasted from the park to our house, she grabbed a wrench out of the tool bag and threw it at me when I told her she was on time out. The first thing I thought was, ‘time to put the fucking tool bag away.’ 
On top of dealing with my charming kidlets who are currently in the process of planning my murder, I have a house to maintain. This is where I fall short. I have several friends who are also military spouses, and their houses seem infinitely more cared for than mine. It drives me batty, but most days I don’t have the energy for entertaining the kids and doing housework. It’s one or the other. Today I was up at 0700 doing the dishes and trying to clean up, while kid 2 sat on the floor cutting paper and scattering it.
On days like today, I put my kids to bed early, and daydream of the day when I finally have the balls to pack up my shit and run away. Make no mistake – I love my family – but when I am feeling stressed I yearn for a life with no responsibility. Laying on a beach in Europe, gently and consistently buzzed, sounds so appealing, and the psychosis inside of me has me convinced that I would feel very little guilt.
Are there flaws in my plan? Absolutely. We don’t make enough money for me to run away. I could get a flight, but I wouldn’t take the food out of my children’s mouths to fund my own sick fancy.
Also, the thought of knowing that I could never return prevents me from doing anything irrational. I would eventually get bored and want to come home, but I know in my heart that I would not be welcomed back – which is totally reasonable and understandable. I know the feeling of being abandoned by a parent, and just as I would never forgive my father if the opportunity presented itself, I would not expect my girls or my husband to ever forgive me.
So I plan little vacations in my head, picture going to fabulous places, imagine not speaking to anyone for days at a time, I read books in the middle of the night, and I remember that the little shits who want to murder me are also the best things that have ever happened to me, and they are the glue that bonds me to my amazing husband while he is away.
He is under an immeasurable amount of stress while he is away, worried that he’s left me at home with a broken lawn mower, broken washing machine, and children who pine for him. He deserves to know that I am working my hardest to keep things stable while he’s away. That is my biggest job as a wife. Keeping a home that is deserving of his daily sacrifice. He has given up being with us so that I can be at home, getting hit with wrenches. When he is home is a super dad, and I fade nicely into the background – free to do what I want. So should I complain while he’s away that it’s hard to parent? Whether I should or shouldn’t, it’s hard not to. Staying positive when I talk to him can be very hard. Choosing what to omit or gloss over so that he isn’t worried can be difficult, and sometimes I break down and tell him that I’m useless without his help and guidance.
Afterward I apologise, pull myself together, and remind myself that we live a very good life, and counting my blessings is just as easy as whining about my shortcomings.
The point of my story is this: my life as a Navy wife is a roller coaster of holding myself together and completely falling apart. Vicious cycle. Would I trade it for anything? Never. I’m proud of how far we’ve come, and I know that my kids won’t always be monsters. It’s all about perspective. Other women’s houses may seem cleaner, their children better adjusted, but I don’t ride their roller coaster, and I cannot stand in judgement or jealousy of any family that works as hard as we do.
If my children are still throwing punches when they turn 12, I will definitely consider the running away plan, but I’ll take my husband with me. He deserves the break, too.

Postpartum Depression? Never heard of it.

Thursday October 9th, 2014, I gave birth to my third and final child. A daughter, a perfect mix in looks of her two older sisters and the final puzzle piece that completes my heart. As the excitement of visitors, gifts, and warm wishes dies down, I will receive a different kind of guest. Tomorrow a psychologist from Social Services will come to my home to ask me if i plan to commit suicide, or feel the urge to harm my family. I am ready for the visit, as unpleasant as I find the prospect of having a stranger come into my home and interview me about my mental health – I know it’s necessary, and I don’t begrudge them coming to check. After all, I could be the one that slips through the cracks and hurts myself, or worse, someone I love.

Postpartum depression is something that, oddly enough, I have never experienced. After each of my pregnancies I have experienced the happiest phases of my life – like a not quite manic version of postpartum euphoria. ‘The baby pinks’, as opposed to ‘the baby blues’, is very real, and like the blues, it goes away. The first few months after my children are born I am radiant, thoughtful, active, and genuinely happy. I take care of everyone like I was born for it. I float happily through 3 am feedings, I am not affected by endless crying, I even make friends more easily.

Now that I am properly medicated I am hoping that this pink phase isn’t as extreme as it was with the other two – although it feels like I will be doing her a disservice by not being as doting as I was with the other girls. The pinks are frightening because the inevitable come-down is devastating, and not just to me. I go from beaming angel of motherly excellency to the catatonic, stinky, angry, person that I normally am. I go back to not eating properly, not sleeping, and not brushing my hair.

I don’t understand any of it. Some have told me that I do better at the beginning because I feel like I have a purpose again; but do I not have a purpose to begin with? I am already a mother, saying that I have ‘new meaning’ makes me feel as though I didn’t love my older children as much. (I am fully aware that that is not the intent of the statement). I love all of my girls so much (understatement), why can’t I constantly be in the pink? Will I ever have enough to satisfy me enough to be happy with my every day routine? Fortunately for me, this is the last time that I will be enduring this unique form of mental illness – but I am scared of what is to come. Am I destined to a life of indifference and complacency?

Wake up, medicate, just get by, repeat.

My girls deserve a pink mom, and so does my husband. I have signed up to do volunteer work at my oldest daughter’s school in the hopes that I feel valuable for a longer period of time. I am determined to keep writing, to leave the house every day – even just for a walk around the neighbourhood. I want to fight back, and I want to succeed. I can be permanently pink, but it’s going to take a helluva lot of work – work that the cloudy part of me doesn’t feel interested in participating in. Be prepared for my struggle, I will document it here in the hopes that if you have any advice, you offer it up.

Even though The baby blues/pinks can go away with treatment and time, it is still a very serious and very real form of mental illness, and I think we can all benefit from keeping a dialogue and educating everyone on the risks and dangers of postpartum psychosis. As a community, we shall let no one else slip through the cracks. No more mothers harming themselves or their precious families. Support and understanding is something that we all need, but these women especially, need to know that we are here for them. I am here for you. When I reach my downward fall from motherly grace, I hope that some of you can be here for me.