Yesteryear

Last year, I took my kids to Dallas for Spring Break. David couldn’t go because of work, so the three of us drove up to spend the week at my parents’, stopping at every Buc-ees along the way.

While we were there, the news starting to report more and more cases of the virus we kept hearing about. Cases were multiplying and spreading across the U.S. at an astounding rate. Cases were even reported in Corpus Christi, which is a bit more remote than the bigger cities.

I got the email that my kids’ preschool was closing for a week, and I started to panic. I didn’t want to stay in Dallas any longer, so we cut our trip short and again made the seven-hour drive home. This time we didn’t stop at Buc-ees.

The following week with all of us home was not so bad. We played, went to the beach and watched movies. Then the school emailed again saying that school would again be closed the following week. And the one after that. The teachers starting sending out packets for the kids to complete each week, but they didn’t get done, not without yelling and crying on both our parts.

I started to realize that our lives weren’t going to go back to “normal.” And I started to worry about my mental health, always precarious but now even more so because I had virtually no breaks from my kids. Eli’s sleeping pattern changed and he started waking up at 5 a.m. every morning, further compounding my stress and anxiety.

I finally gave up on the packets and starting teaching them what I could. We played more outside and watched more movies. We baked a lot. We survived.

Last Saturday I received my second vaccine and contemplated the past year. Even though my mental health has taken a hit, I survived. Not just survived but thrived in some ways. For one thing, I started blogging once a week, then twice a week. People started commenting on how much my blog has helped them or how I was brave. I was even asked to join State Rep. Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Task Force and spoke at a symposium about my experience with suicide. I also had a mental health series published in the local paper. I became more confident and have evolved into a version of myself that I’m pretty proud of. A more authentic, more fearless version.

I’m also able to go longer between ECT treatments, which has been my ultimate goal. I did gain 26 pounds in the past year, and sometimes that really bothers me, but I coped the best I could. If I come away from this only having gained weight, then I am considerably lucky, and I’m grateful.

I often joke that the pandemic is an introvert’s dream — socializing has never been my thing. But there’s really nothing funny about what we’ve been through. The past year has been gut-wrenching, difficult to say the least and heartbreaking for those who have struggled with COVID or lost a loved one. I’d like to believe that now more people are getting vaccinated, we’re closer to the end, but I just don’t know. I’m afraid to hope, but at the same time, I just can’t help but hope. Being optimistic is newly acquired, too.

So many of us will not come out of this nightmare unscathed. Millions will continue to struggle with their mental health, not to mention grief or financial ruin. I don’t mean to sound tone-deaf in writing about the positives I’ve gained this past year. I acknowledge and deeply sympathize for those who are struggling, whose lives are indelibly changed.

It’s only been a year, but there has been enough heartbreak for a lifetime. If you are experiencing any fraction of that I’m so sorry, I pray that this year will be a vast improvement.

One can only hope.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

This past week we spent the kids’ Spring Break in Mabank, where my parents have a lake house. The weather wasn’t that great, so we couldn’t fish, swim or go on the boat but we still had a good time. My mom found all my old Beanie Babies from when I was a kid and Eli played with those quite a bit.

I’m going to cut this short, because I got the second covid vaccine yesterday and it has knocked me on my ass. If you’re not vaccinated, please find out how you can be.

Gifted and Talented, Part III

As previously mentioned, I have been stressed and anxious about the results of my daughter’s gifted and talented scores. The scores determine which school she’ll attend next year, and the G/T school is amazing. My husband actually attended when he was little.

Because of the winter storm that passed through here a couple weeks ago, the results were delayed, which I understood. But my brain did not — I wanted the results and my anxiety made a mountain out of a molehill. After being told the second deadline would not be met, I was so upset. I’m so impatient, and then my anxiety made everything worse. You’re probably saying that worrying doesn’t make the results come sooner, and I know that, logically. But the logical side of my brain gets overpowered all too often.

I digress. Yesterday while I was nursing a migraine, I checked my email and there it was — an official school district email with the results. My heart started pounding (dramatic, right?) and I opened the attachment — she got in! I’m so happy that she’ll get to benefit from such an amazing school. I think it’s important for me to say that I don’t care about the “title” of being gifted and talented. I already knew she was gifted and smart, but it’s important to me that she learn critical skills needed to succeed in this world and the school can help prepare her. Not only that, but the program will challenge her and nurture her intelligence and creativity. That’s what I’m happy about. It’s just such a great opportunity.

So, I was relieved, to say the least. I feel so stupid saying this, but her getting in validated some insecurities about myself. I thought to myself, “Yes! She got David’s DNA and mine’s not going to screw her up!” And I know it sounds silly, but I’ve always been scared that she’s going to have all my bad traits — that my genetics had overpowered David’s and she was destined to be depressed and unhappy (more drama, I know). But David is just so amazing and it makes me happy knowing that she’ll follow David’s footsteps at the G/T school. Not that I’m putting any pressure on her.

I need to stop worrying about what my kids inherited or didn’t. They’re a mixture of an intelligent, generous, logical dad and a creative, kind, sensitive mom. I don’t need to concern myself with their potential flaws. We all have them, that’s what makes us us. And even if they are riddled with my flaws, it doesn’t matter — I’d love and support them anyway.

That’s what makes me me.

What Makes Night Within Us May Leave Stars

Earlier today, I was writing a piece for my kids’ preschool, and I wrote something that I’ve never really discussed before, at least here on my blog.

I talked about how my depression and anxiety weren’t that bad until I had children. That it wasn’t lost on me that after I had kids my brain changed drastically and my depression worsened. But at the same time, my heart opened and I felt love that I’ve never felt. Sure, I experienced pain that I’ve never felt before too, but oh my god, the happiness and love that I feel when I’m with my kids is so amazing and just indescribable. It was some weird trade-off, I guess. And I’m here for it.

I also talked about how Isla sometimes is anxious. It isn’t surprising given my history with anxiety but it sure is painful to see her struggling or in a panicked state. She could just be an anxious child or she could just have common, every day 6-year-old worries. She’s too young to diagnose, and I hope she doesn’t have an anxiety disorder at all. Eli, either. Of course, I don’t want my kids to go through what I’ve been through. But just in case, I’m ready for it. I know how to navigate mental illness, believe me, and I so wish that I had the knowledge and resources when I was 12 that I do now. Early intervention is so important.

Now that I’m in a better place, I can say that every terrible thing I’ve felt and gone through has been worth it. It’s so worth it if I can be with and enjoy my kids. The meds, the psychiatric hospital, the panic attacks, ECTs, suicidal thoughts — it’s all worth it. Maybe it’s easy to say this while I’m not experiencing a depressive episode. But it needs to be said, I feel. I need to express just how grateful I am for my family, especially my kids and how they’ve shaped my life. Yes, my life would be dramatically different had I not had kids, but screw that idea of “what could have been.” My life, despite my illnesses, is so good. And again, I’m so thankful. And if I have to endure hell sometimes, so be it. Every depressive episode or panic attack only makes me stronger. My kids will see that, and it’s OK that they see me suffer and cope. They’ll see my resilience and perseverance.

And maybe that’s why I had to go through all that I did — to help one of my children go through the same. If that’s the case, it’s been more than worth it, and I’d do it all again. As a parent, I’ll always want to help my kids (read more here) and even remove all the roadblocks in their life, but I know it doesn’t work like that. But I can help. I’ll always be there.

Maybe my kids are just fine and I’m making too much out of nothing. Maybe I’m supposed to be blogging about my experiences to help others. If that’s the case, if I’ve helped even one person, it’s all been worth it.

It’s all been worth it, no matter what the case. I’m a better person for what I’ve been through, and all I want to do is make someone, anyone, feel that they are not alone. That their feelings are valid. That they are worthy and important.

And even though my brain tells me the opposite, I’d like to believe all that, too.

Maybe if I say, “It’s all been worth it” enough I’ll believe it. Maybe I can believe that I’m worth it.

It’s all been worth it.

And I’m worth it, too.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I don’t have much to say about this past week, other than it was OK. It went by quickly, which is good because I’m been anxious about receiving the scores of my daughter’s gifted and talented test. I thought they’d send them out, and I got so worked up about it that I called to office only for them to tell me they’re not sending out the letters until this upcoming Friday. That sucks, because we’re supposed to be leaving for Dallas that weekend for Spring Break. Oh well, I can’t do anything about it, and I know that worrying will only hurt me. So, I’ll try to let that go, lol. But I did talk to two other mothers who both told me they were constantly checking their email for the results, so I’m not alone.

I’m looking forward to our trip to Dallas to see my parents. We haven’t traveled in a long time, and it’ll be nice to get a change in scenery. I’m hoping to see my best friend, too but I don’t know if it’s in the cards.

Anyway, that’s it for me. This week I’m going to focus on decluttering, so I’m not so anxious and writing some more. I hope y’all have a great week. If you’re so inclined, please say a prayer about Isla’s scores. It’s important to me and my husband.

Stay in the light, my friends.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I’m proud of myself this week. I had to move up my ECT (to this past Friday) because I quickly became depressed after the last one, which was four weeks ago. I hate getting them, but I knew I needed it. I went into survival mode last week (and had to cancel plans) and made it to Friday.

I was more nervous about this one, but I don’t know why. When we got to Laurel Ridge, I started pacing in the waiting room. Luckily, there was only one girl ahead of me, so I didn’t wait long. But when a bed was available, the nurses couldn’t get my IV in. This made me incredibly nervous. I was afraid that they would do a bad job with the IV, then I wouldn’t get all the anesthesia I needed. I know that’s not likely, but that was the thought racing around my head. One of my favorite nurses finally got it, but to be honest I had shed some nervous tears. I tried to chat about my kids to take the focus off, and it helped.

When I went into the room, everyone was really nice and accommodating because of my anxiety and I had a good seizure — 72 seconds long. I was told the shorter the seizure, the better, but looking at my records, all my seizures are kinda long, over a minute. One was two minutes long — after that seizure, I was doing very well and was able to go nine weeks without an ECT. So, who knows. I am keeping a notebook where I’m documenting my symptoms a week leading up to an ECT and immediately after. I think it would be helpful to find patterns or correlations.

Enough about that. My birthday is this coming Saturday, so I’m looking forward to that.

That’s really all I got for now. Y’all have a good week, and stay in the light.

Cancelled Plans and Spoons

I’ve had to cancel plans with three different friends this week. I HATE cancelling plans — it makes me feel so guilty, because I feel like I’m letting my loved ones down. I know I can’t help it — and my friends are very understanding — but I still feel guilty and less of a friend.

At least now I can tell them the truth — I’m too depressed to leave the house. Before I went to The Menninger Clinic, I didn’t tell the truth, and I probably seemed like such a flake who didn’t care about spending time with her friends. But now, I’m honest. I said that I was having intrusive thoughts about suicide (not suicidal thoughts per se) and I just didn’t have the energy. I call it survival mode. You see, I’m getting an ECT treatment on Friday, so I just have to make it until then. The ECT should reset my stupid brain and maybe I won’t be so depressed and fatigued. I’m hoping that I won’t have as many migraines after this treatment, too. For some reason, my migraines have ramped up the past few weeks, and it’s been really annoying. I hate being limited by my illnesses, and on that note, I’m reminded of an article I read about the Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino, who suffers with lupus. She writes about the physical and mental toll an invisible, chronic illness can take. And I relate.

While describing what it’s like to have a chronic illness, Miserandino grabbed spoons and used them to represent finite units of energy. Healthline.com writes this of Miserandino’s theory, “Energy, for many of us with chronic illness, is limited and depends on many factors including stress levels, how we’re sleeping, and pain. Miserandino then walked her friend through the friend’s normal day, taking spoons, or energy, away from the friend as the discussion went on. By the end of the day, her friend wasn’t able to do as much as she wanted. When she realized Miserandino went through this every single day, her friend started crying. She understood, then, how precious time was for people like Miserandino, and how few ‘spoons’ she had the luxury of spending.”

I feel this in my soul. Especially right now. I have to save every waking minute in order to do what is absolutely necessary, what I deem necessary, at least. This includes taking care of the kids and all their needs. This, to me, comes first. My remaining energy, if you can call it that, goes to taking care of myself. Many people would argue that it should be reversed, and I don’t totally disagree, but this is how it is right now. I hope to change it, because I know you can’t pour from an empty cup, and if I don’t start taking better care of myself, my cup will stay empty. I’m working on that, too.

It dawned on me this week that I could probably space out the ECTs more if I just put in the hard work of self care. I don’t mean getting a massage every week, although that would be nice right now, but I mean taking my medicine as I should, taking breaks and eating healthier. And actually sitting and exploring my emotions instead of burying them then stuffing my face. That happens a lot, almost every day. I also would like to increase my therapy sessions to twice a week — I have a lot to do, lol.

That’s OK though. I’m worth the work; I just need to remember that every single day.

Thank you to my friends who were so gracious about me. cancelling on them. I love y’all and appreciate your support.

11 Things I Hate About Having Migraines

  1. It feels like you’re dying — When I get a migraine, I have awful throbbing pain about my right eye that wraps around my head and sometimes goes down my neck. I get dizzy, sometimes I can’t see that well out of my right eye. I throw up. And sometimes my abortive meds fail and there’s nothing I can do except wait for my neurologist to call me back with ideas. It’s scary when I can’t manage my migraines, so I deal with fear and panic on top of the physical symptoms.
  2. People think I’m faking — Like with other invisible illnesses, people assume you’re faking and have no sympathy whatsoever.
  3. Doctors and other medical staff have thought I seeking drugs when going to the ER — When my abortive meds fail, I can’t get a hold of my doctor and the pain is severe, I have to go to the ER for treatment. I have been accused of trying to score drugs. Once, I went to the ER and I told the doctor I couldn’t have NSAIDs, which is true, so the doctor goes, “OK, so you’re here for narcotics, then?” It was embarrassing and frustrating, because I was in so much pain.
  4. I cancel a lot of plans with friends — Migraines spring up fast, and while my meds work quickly most times, I still don’t feel well enough to hang out or go anywhere. I’ve had to cancel on my friends a lot, and I know it hurts their feelings and makes them feel like I don’t want to be friends. Most of my friends now get it, though.
  5. I missed a lot of work (when I did work outside the home) — When I was working, I had to call out sick A LOT. Like I said, migraines can come on quickly and my meds don’t always work. Sometimes, the migraines last for days (called an intractable migraine). Not only did it piss my bosses off, it made my co-workers resent my absences because they had to pick up the slack. And if you can’t see the illness manifest physically, it’s hard for some to understand.
  6. The medicine is sometimes worse than the migraine — Right now, I take Imitrex when I start to feel a migraine coming on. Sometimes, it works with little side effects and others it’s just as bad as the migraine itself. It feels like my brain is leaking down the back of my head and neck. It makes me nauseated and very fatigued. I don’t know why I feel such severe side effects at times and not others. It’s frustrating, but I’m going to try a new medicine called Ubrelvy.
  7. I can’t wear my hair in a pony tail or put anything on my head –– This is not a huge deal, but when I have a migraine, I can’t wear my hair up or wear a buff (to help dry my curls) or have anything touching my head at all. My scalp is so sensitive that even water in the shower can hurt.
  8. I can’t sing — This might seem odd, but I love to sing. I sing all day long, which seems to really aggravate my kids. But when I’m sick with a migraine, it hurts so badly to sing, which makes me hard for me to put Eli to bed because he requests lots of songs. If I try to sing, the throbbing becomes way worse.
  9. I can’t always be there for my kids — Sometimes, I’m just down and out. I can’t get out of bed, which leaves my husband to pick up the slack. I hate not being able to play with them or spend time with them, especially because they don’t always understand why I can’t. It’s hard, and I have a lot of guilt about it, but it is what it is.
  10. I get migraine “hangovers” the next day — After a migraine, I feel like crap. I’m very fatigued, I can be irritable and each of my limbs feels like it weighs 700 pounds. Sometimes, my brain feels foggy, too.
  11. The medicine can be expensive — The new medicine that I’m going to start costs $1,000 per month. That’s not a typo. I have a savings card, but I’m not sure how much that will actually knock down the price. The thing about this drug is that there are no side effects — I was able to try some samples a couple months ago and I didn’t experience a single side effect and it worked quickly. I’m looking forward to using them, and hopefully, the savings card will help a lot.

If you suffer from chronic migraine, that means you can have 15 or more migraines in a month. That’s a lot of pain and time missed with family and friends. It’s not fun. Thankfully, after I had kids my migraines got a little better but they can still wreak havoc on my life. And one thing I didn’t mention — and probably the most important — is that having so many migraines adversely affects my mental health, and so many people don’t think they are related.

If you know someone struggling with migraines, ask how you can help and don’t ever judge!

Imaginary Brakes

Sometimes my anxiety runs rampant. I catch myself moving my foot as if I’m slamming the brakes in a car. I guess I want time to come to a screeching halt, as if I’m in the driver’s seat. But I’m not. It’s the out of control feeling I can’t stand. And though I have anxiety every day, Sundays are the worst, as documented here.

I’ve always hated Sundays from the time I was little, I guess because I NEVER wanted to go to school, especially on Mondays. I used to get a feeling of dread when I got older, too when I had a full-time job. The Sunday Night Blues or Case of the Sundays was always present, no matter what age or circumstance I faced.

And today, even though I don’t work outside the home, I feel it. The threat of responsibility looming is just too much to take and I feel the tightness in my chest and butterflies in my belly. It makes no sense to me — I don’t have anything unusual happening this week, nothing to be all doom and gloom about. But it’s there. At least, it’s consistent.

I try really hard to have a “countdown” methodology about anything — like countdown to Christmas, to the weekend, to my birthday, etc. So, as much as I’d like to look ahead to Valentine’s or my birthday, I need to be here, now. I look ahead at this week’s events, but that’s as much as I’ll let myself look.

It may sound silly, but as depressed as I am and how often, I get wrapped up in looking ahead and squander the perfectly good time I already have. I don’t want that. I don’t know how much time I have where I’m lucid and not depressed. I need to make hay when the sun shines, as my daddy says.

I still feel a nagging feeling in my belly, and I realize that I have an ECT treatment Friday. I wasn’t supposed to have it until March 5, but last week I felt the all-too-familiar signs of a depressive episode, so I moved my appointment up to stop it in its tracks. And even though I know it will make me better, I still get anxious and scared. Even though the past couple treatments have been pleasant. Even though…

Just thinking about it, I have a white-hot feeling pass from my head to my toes. It’s adrenaline, I think. And fear. I feel my foot try and stomp on the imaginary brakes and start to sweat.

Ugh, I’m not a stupid person. I should be able to address my fear and anxiety with the logic that I mentioned. Tears are threatening. I’m scared.

But come Friday, I will joke with the nurses. I will ask my favorite nurse to hold my hand while they put me under anesthesia. I will wake up 15 to 20 minutes later, not even knowing whether I’ve had the treatment. I’ll irritate David by (unknowingly) asking him the same questions over and over on the way home. I’ll get Chick Fil A on the two-hour drive and fall asleep until we reach home. I will be a better version of myself, a more patient and loving one. I’ll be free (for now) of self hatred and self judgement. And if that’s not the case, I’ll go back weeks later and repeat the same thing, always hoping to get the best version of Heather I can get, born out of fear and an induced seizure.

Whatever version, I know it will be a pretty perfect version of myself….just with amnesia and neurons that are unruly af. And hey, maybe the Sunday Night Blues will disappear for awhile. But I won’t countdown until they do. That, I refuse.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

As previously mentioned, I’ve been stressed this week. Yesterday, Isla had her stage 2 gifted/talented test, the final test she’ll have to take. We don’t get the results for another two weeks, because the district has to rank the tests, and then they’ll take the top six-percent of kids. She was way more confident this go-round, so I’m sure she did great and will get in. But if she doesn’t, that’s OK, too.

I made Eli an eye appointment with a pediatric eye specialist because of his wayward eye, but he can’t get into until April. So, I may not have immediately answers for either of my big worries right now, but I guess I’ll live.

Last week, I also got sick and have been feeling like hell. I went to get tested for COVID-19 but was negative, thank God. Still doesn’t change the fact that I feel terrible. I could use the rest this week anyway.

I’m looking forward to Valentine’s Weekend, even though we don’t have anything planned, then the following weekend is my birthday. We don’t have plans for that either, but that’s just fine by me.

I hope this week is a better one. I hope you guys are doing well and staying in the light. Take care this week.