2018 Resolutions?

Resolutions are not my thing. I used to think they were and went through the whole exercise of choosing resolutions, mostly pertaining to my weight, and then breaking said resolutions before my birthday. (which is January 12th so yeah, not an impressive track record in the least.) I decided to stop torturing myself, skip resolutions and just do the thing I really love: make plans.

For several years, I have created lists of things I want to do. I invested a lot of time on these lists, agonizing over the right style of bullet points, as if that might help me squeeze more productivity out of the next year. I assumed this year would not be any different. I opened a new document on my computer and named it 2018 Goals and Schemes. I started the list and waited for the surge of bliss that usually comes when I’m planning my life.

Nothing.

I closed the document. Walked away for a day. Reopened the document and tried again.

Nothing.

I waited some more, returning to the document a few days later, determined to chart my course through the coming year. The glee did not come. Instead, an idea floated to the surface of my subconscious: maybe I shouldn’t plan my goals for 2018. 

$%&*!?!?!

But the thoughts kept coming: don’t plan 2018. Have faith in your intuition. don’t plan 2018. I’ve been listening to my intuition more and more this past year, so I thought it might be time to take “Plan 2018” off my To Do list. But my brain resisted.

I’ve had a book, Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver, on my To Read shelf for nearly a year. And I don’t mean my symbolic To Read shelf on Goodreads. I’m talking about an actual shelf in my bedroom. I decided this was a book I needed to read, ordered my copy from Amazon, and was ready to go. I pulled the book down to read at least a half dozen times but every time, I jammed it back on the shelf. The timing didn’t feel right.

Last night, the children were playing sweetly. I was reading a book by the Dalai Lama. Suddenly, it hit me. It was time to read Outrageous Openness. A minute later, the kids were still busy with their farm animals, and I was curled up on the armchair, ready for my introduction to Tosha Silver.

Before I could even get into the proper book, I found my answer in the forward:

I’ve listed my goals every birthday for more than thirty years. I’ve created countless vision boards and recited countless affirmations. And yet … and yet … some goals have eluded me despite my efforts. By reading Outrageous Openness and learning to align with the Divine, I’ve come to know that Divine Order has a bigger plan for me than my limited view. I now trust that what’s mine will always come. I gleefully burned all my vision boards. Were they helpful in the past? Yes, but it’s even more important to turn those desires over to a Wisdom that is far greater than the intellect can possibly imagine. – Dr. Christiane Northrup writing the Forward for Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver

WOW. It’s like Dr. Northrup knew what was in my heart.

I’m publishing my memoir in early 2018, but what happens after that? I love writing, I love big projects, so it makes sense that I’ll start writing another book. I had that on my 2018 list. But it didn’t feel right. Now I understand.

I have to give up planning my future, week by week, and trust that I’ll figure things out when the time is ripe. Throughout Outrageous Openness, Tosha Silver includes prayers, like this one on page 29:

Today the Divine will show me the way. I’m open to all messages, signs, and omens.  I’ll move as if there’s a Force of Love waiting to aid me in every area of my life, big or small.

I don’t want to set goals for 2018 because then I might close myself off to the things I am meant to do. Maybe I will write a novel. Then again, maybe I’ll do something that isn’t even on my radar yet. I don’t know. I’m excited to see what happens.

I guess I do have a resolution for 2018: to stay open to messages, signs and omens; see what adventures unfold; and become the person I am truly meant to be.

My new favorite word: Cumulative

Julian and I take a class on Wednesday mornings. At a recent class, we were talking about holiday traditions. The teacher said something that I can’t get out of my head:

Our childhood holiday memories are cumulative.

When I heard that word – CUMULATIVE – something inside of me clicked and I felt a profound sense of calm and relief. I want to give my children the same happy, joyful holiday memories that I have. But my memories? They are more of a warm cheerful glow than a particular moment. The things that happened when I was four are intertwined with Christmases from adolescence, creating a big messy collage of memories.

We made gingerbread houses from candy and graham crackers, but that did not happen until elementary school. Was my three year old self robbed of some essential holiday moment? Of course not! Besides, the cozy memory spills over to all my childhood memories. So even though the gingerbread house may have only been constructed when I was ten, when I think back on childhood Christmases, it’s as if we made houses every year.

There’s a lot of talk about traditions this time of year, and with social media and Pinterest, it can be easy to get freaked out and worry that we are not doing enough to make Christmas special. But Christmas is not some isolated event. It’s cumulative, and Christmas 2017 is linked with Christmases past and Christmases future. That’s why overall, the thought of Christmas makes me merry, even though a few specific Christmases may have been less than perfect.

For the holiday season, I propose a new greeting: Merry CUMULATIVE Christmas!

Memoir Update

A quick recap: I started writing about my experiences with postpartum depression in November 2013, when Pippa was still a baby and my recovery had just begun. I’ll spare you the gory details, but I decided to indie publish and hired an editor over a year ago.  I sent her my manuscript in September 2016. She sent me a 19 page memo with suggested revisions about six weeks later.  I assumed it would take me a couple of months to implement all the suggestions and that I’d publish my memoir in early 2017.

Oops.

I learned so much from that 19 page memo – it was basically a crash course in writing a memoir – and spent the next ten months overhauling my book. It was hard. It was demoralizing. But it felt right. Yesterday I got back my editor’s line edit of the latest version of my book.

I’m sitting in Panera now with a binder and exactly 300 pages of suggested line revisions. (Which means she is suggesting ways to tweak sentences, clarify scenes, etc.) I’ve gotten through the first 116 pages. It’s time for me to head off for the Postpartum Support Group that I run, but damn, I’m feeling good.

The book is in excellent shape!

I still have a lot of work to do. But nothing like the overhaul I did this past year.

Looks like I’ll definitely be publishing my memoir in early 2018!!!

Adventures With Meditation

After reading Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart (which I highly recommend), I have been trying to meditate on a daily basis. The word “daily” is subject to interpretation. Over the weekend, for example, I did not formally meditate, but I did  pretend I was meditating while snuggling my kids. Totally counts.

I am home now with a napping toddler and messy house, and could have made the house less messy, but I prioritized meditation. I sat down cross-legged on my bed, with a pillow behind my back, put my palms on top of my thighs, and directed my gaze about four feet in front of me, looking slightly down.  I always thought I had to meditate with my eyes open, but Pema suggests meditating with eyes open. That has been working great for me.

Here’s a recap what happened while I meditated:

  • The music from one of my favorite songs from Les Mis drifted through my head until I realized I was humming a song about dead Frenchmen to myself.
  • A few seconds of emptiness
  • Why did I eat so much chocolate? Now my stomach hurts.
  • Maybe four seconds of silence in my head
  • Wow, it’s so much easier to meditate when I’m tired. I don’t think as much. I’m so glad I went swimming this morning during Julian’s swim lesson. I’m not thinking as much because I’m tired. Fuck, I’m thinking about NOT thinking, which means I’m thinking…
  • I’m going to blog about this when I’m done 
  • My gaze drifted upwards and I looked at a photo of Pippa on my dresser for at least twenty seconds. Then I realized I was admiring my beautiful daughter and returned my gaze to the floor.
  • Moment of quiet.
  • Then I imagined a big cartoon image of a brain being attacked from all sides by little monsters squishing it together.
  • Moment of quiet.
  • I started thinking about the episode of Shameless that I watched last night with Nathan.
  • My neck got itchy.
  • I scratched my neck.
  • I thought about the fact that I was scratching my neck.
  • I congratulated myself for thinking about the act of scratching my neck because at least I was thinking about something happening in the Here and Now.

TIME CHECK: 4 minutes and 11 seconds OH MY GOD HOW CAN IT ONLY HAVE BEEN FOUR MINUTES AND ELEVEN SECONDS

  • I’ll call the blog post about meditating “Adventures With Meditation” and isn’t that cute because my podcast is Adventures With Postpartum Depression and oh my god, I’m so lame.
  • %$#&
  • and
  • &*$%
  • and
  • #$*&
  • Moment of calm serenity
  • Congratulate myself on the moment of calm serenity
  • Realize that during the moment of calm serenity, my brain was not actually quiet. Instead, I was replaying a song from Moana.
  • %$^$*&#^@
  • I start thinking about the podcast interview I’m doing tomorrow and rehearse what I’ll say to the guest before we start the interview because it has been so long since I did a podcast interview and gulp, I’m a bit nervous…

TIME CHECK: 6 minutes and 39 seconds – Not bad, not bad at all! I’m rocking this meditation!

  • Pema suggests we direct our gaze downwards and four to five feet ahead but that means I’m looking at this pile of dirty laundry on the floor and criticizing myself for leaving laundry on the floor.
  • I quickly jot a note down about this on my iPhone and smile when the phone interprets Pema Chödrön as “Emma Shojin.”
  • It feels good to ventilate my brain. Pema uses the word “ventilate” a lot. That makes sense to me.
  • What should me and Julian do the Wednesday after next when his class is on winter break? 
  • I don’t seem to spend a lot of time dwelling on the past when I meditate but I sure spend a lot of time rehearsing and planning the future. 
  • When will Julian wake up from his nap? 
  • Will I have enough time to write after meditating? 
  • Should I do laundry first? 
  • When will my dad bring Pippa home? 
  • Did I remember to schedule the next Meetup for my peer support group? 
  • Moment of quiet.
  • Then: an intense visual image of a glass of Diet Coke and a strong craving for soda.

TIME CHECK: 10 minutes and 53 seconds

  • If you want to be immortal, all you have to do is spend the rest of your life meditating because time passes so slowly while meditating, you effectively become immortal.
  • I am so good at relaxing into the experience of meditation and being forgiving of all my thoughts.
  • My gaze wanders the room.
  • Intense feeling of boredom.
  • Quick visual memory of a person who treated me poorly.

TIME CHECK: 13 minutes and 23 seconds

Mic drop. I’m out!

Journal Excerpt: Being Hollow

I’m looking back through my journal from last month, and found this excerpt from Julian’s birthday, when he was in the middle of a big sleep regression after transitioning from crib to bed:

sometimes we need to be hollow

sometimes we need to be depleted

sometimes we need to struggle and feel like everything is over all done and lost

and then we rise back up

taking care of yourself is hard hard work

add two children to the equation?

jesus

that’s tough

It’s funny. I’m way past that moment. Today I feel alive and full, energized and vibrant. But I know I’ll be back to this sort of moment sooner or later. There are ups and downs, rises and falls. We feel full, then empty, full, empty, and endless cycle.

It’s good to know that there are days we feel depleted and days we feel full. On the days I feel empty, I remind myself that this has happened before, it will come to an end, and then it will happen again. That does not eliminate that empty feeling, but it does give me the boost I need until I start to recharge my batteries.

 

This is terrifying.

I love being an advocate for maternal mental health.  I love raising awareness about postpartum depression and doing things to crush the stigma of mental illness.  I love finding ways to help moms who are struggling. This is my passion. But that does not mean it is always easy to be an advocate.

Actually, sometimes it is downright terrifying.

Over a year ago, I designed a tote bag that says I believe in iced coffee, cute tote bags, and talking about postpartum depression. Carrying that bag around? Actually exhilarating. I never know who is going to see the bag and be helped by the message.

I also used to wear my Climb Out of the Darkness t-shirt to the gym. I wore it so many times, the fabric stretched and got wonky. Between the tote bag and Climb shirt, I assumed I was over the fear part of being an advocate for maternal mental health.

Nope.

Months ago, I bought a beautiful blue t-shirt designed by Tabitha Grassmid. It says “1 in 7 Women will experience postpartum depression.” I was so excited to wear my new shirt to the gym, preschool, the postpartum support group I run — everywhere!

But it stayed in the drawer day after day, week after week, as summer turned into autumn, and the Halloween frenzy turned in the Christmas hullabaloo.  I always had a reason to wait another day. It’s too hot today. It won’t look right with these leggings. I’m not in the mood to talk about PPD today

Yesterday, while I was getting dressed for the gym, I could not stop looking at the shirt in question. I took it out. I put it on. I looked in the mirror. And I thought, fuck it. Today was the day I was done with inventing excuses. I was wearing the postpartum shirt to the gym.

That’s when I realized I was actually terrified to wear the shirt. 

I love my tote bag, but it is a bag. I carry it, I hang it off the back of my stroller, but it is not actually on my body. It’s an accessory. There’s an emotional distance between my bag and my sense of self. 

My Climb Out of the Darkness shirt is not obviously a shirt about postpartum depression.  Even though I wear it on my body, it does not scream POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.

The blue shirt, though, says it loud and it says it proud: “1 in 7 Women will experience postpartum depression.” That’s not exactly a declaration that I had postpartum depression, but I think most people who see me wearing it will jump to that conclusion. 

IMG_7513

Me! Wearing the shirt! 

As I left the house and took Pippa to preschool, I felt the terror. My skin tingled. I was very aware that I was wearing The Shirt and had transformed my torso into a billboard for postpartum depression.  As I walked past my fellow parents for the preschool dropoff, I felt ALIVE. 

Terror is terrifying, but it is also invigorating. I’m not saying you need to update your entire wardrobe and only wear clothing that says something about postpartum depression. But I am saying that sometimes the things we avoid doing the most are the things we really need to do.   

Today, for me, that meant wearing a shirt I had stuffed to the back of my drawer. In the grand scheme of things, wearing a shirt about postpartum depression is not a huge deal. It’s not as if I ventured into a dark cave to slay a monster.

But wearing the shirt today helped me practice being courageous. When I have to venture into a dark cave and face a monster, I know I’ll be ready.

The Night I Slept With Urine

A few nights ago, Julian came into our bedroom at 4 a.m. shaking around an empty bottle a little milk junkie seeking his next fix. Little did I know that my side of the bed would soon be drenched in his urine.

Let me backup.

Julian turned two years old last month. Right before his birthday, he climbed out of his pack n play (which he preferred over the crib). My husband and I knew it was Game Over, disassembled his crib, folded up the Pack n Play, and moved him into Pippa’s room. We had a couple of rough weeks with him waking up before the literal crack of dawn and refusing to go back to sleep, but we survived. After a couple of weeks, Julian adjusted to the big boy bed and started sleeping until the much more civilized hour of 6 a.m. Hooray!

Except a few nights ago, he stumbled into our bedroom at 4 a.m. shaking an empty bottle, clearly wanting a few fresh sips so he could get back to sleep. It being 4 a.m., we were not interested in reasoning with a toddler, so Nathan headed off to the kitchen for a milk refill. I reached down and scooped Julian up for a power cuddle.

I was so tired, it took me a full minute to realize that Julian was soaking wet. It took me another minute that he was wet with urine, not sweat. At least that explained his 4 a.m. wakeup. 

Nathan was so tired, that when I told him about the pee pee leak, he suggested we just strip off the wet clothes and put Julian back into bed sans pajamas. I did not have the energy to explain that if we did that, Julian would probably remove his diaper and defecate all over the place; so I took care of the pajama situation myself.  As much as I dislike staggering across the house for dry pajamas at 4:05 a.m., I would hate cleaning feces off the floor at 4:07 a.m. even more. 

I tucked Julian into bed with a fresh bottle and clean clothes. Then i crawled back into bed. At first, everything was fine. Then I rolled on to my left side to get comfortable. The sheet was wet.

My side of the bed was drenched with pee pee.

By this time, Nathan had fallen back to sleep.  He’s been under siege at work, so I was loathe to wake him. Besides, if I woke him, then i would have to change the sheets, a chore that requires actually having clean sheets.

We did not have any clean sheets. 

We own two sets of sheets for our king size mattress. (I’d brag that I’m a minimalist, but really I’m just cheap.)  Set No. 1 was drenched with urine.  Set No. 2 was crumpled up with the rest of our dirty laundry, because our dryer had been broken for the past week. We were in laundry survival mode. I was more concerned with making sure we had clean underwear than washing the backup sheets.

So what was I going to do?  Strip off the wet sheets and then cover the mattress with towels? That sounded far too ambitious. Besides most of the towels were damp and dirty because, again, broken dryer.

It seemed like as good as any time to quit while i was ahead, roll on to my other side and sleep inches from my son’s urine.

If that’s not parenthood for you, I don’t know what it is.

Postpartum Depression Greeting Card!

You guys, I am so proud of myself! For over a year, I have had the idea to open a Zazzle shop to create various products about maternal mood disorders. First and foremost, I wanted to design a greeting card for new mamas that includes information about mood disorders like postpartum depression. I finally stopped procrastinating and opened my shop. Here’s my first card!

New Mama Postpartum Depression Awareness Card
And here’s the inside of the card:

New Mama Postpartum Depression Awareness Card

The shop has actually been open for a week, but I wanted to have a physical copy of the card before I told you about it. I was worried the quality might be cheap. It’s not! It’s printed on heavy card stock and has the heft and quality of a Hallmark card at your drugstore. Except instead of making some unrealistic claims about the joys of motherhood, this card gets honest!
The card is available RIGHT HERE along with a few other items in my new Zazzle shop. I’ll tell you about those items soon, but for now, I just had to brag about my first official postpartum depression card.

 

Episode 52: Zoloft, Exercise, And Buddhism

Zoloft weaning report: I am down from 50 mg to 25 mg each morning. I was able to make this leap very quickly, but remember, I started weaning off Zoloft almost a year ago, in late December 2016. Overall, I’m down from 150 mg of Zoloft. I’m grateful for how Zoloft helped me kick postpartum depression in the ass, and now I am grateful to nearly be medication-free.

I started talking about the pain of ovulation. That German word I kept using? Mittelschmerz. It really is the perfect word to describe that sudden stab of pain I get when I ovulate.

My psychiatrist urged me to amp up my cardio as I reduce and gradually eliminate Zoloft. I had been doing Zumba but alas, the classes are not working for my schedule anymore. I have returned to cardio at the gym and I’m also doing dance dvd’s at home when Julian is napping. It’s tough for me to get my cardio but it’s an important part of my well-being so I have to make it a priority.

Right now, as I post these show notes, it’s the week after Thanksgiving, and I have not done anything for Christmas.  I love Christmas.  I love the holidays.  But this year, I felt like I needed some space in between the two holidays. I am, however, very appreciative of all my neighbors who have decorations up. 

These days, I’m excited to learn more about Buddhism. I just finished reading When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chödrön and I could not put my highlighter down. It’s not about motherhood or postpartum depression, but I think it would be helpful to anyone making the transition to life with a new baby. Check it out! Maybe it will resonate with you, too.

Top Tips for New Parents’ Mental Health

Dr. Kat, host of the Mom and Mind podcast, complied a fantastic list of tips for new parents. My tip: “Knowledge is power – learn about PMADs before the baby arrives.” But you should definitely check out the other twenty-six tips. They are great for new parents but also relevant to moms and dads who are not so new to this parenting gig.

Check out the entire list right here.

Also: be sure to listen to the Mom and Mind podcast! It’s available on iTunes and all the other places you can find podcasts.