Look at the night and it don’t seem so lonely

forgive my neil diamond lyrics as the title of this post– i am currently in a messenger debate with a friend over whether or not Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond is a good song.  guess what? it is.  a chorus of the bopbopboppppp makes it 100.  don’t @ me.  (is that what the kids say these days?)

on to more pressing matters– i am on a leave of absence from work.  there– plain and simple… no dancing around it- i’ll just put it out there.  life has been increasingly stressful over the past few months– i’ve made difficult decisions i wholeheartedly felt were the right thing… only to have them blow up in my face.  i’ve listened to the hurtful words from some and believed them.  i internalized them… they took control.

i looked at my social media feeds from the days leading up to my “breakdown,” and i could see it coming.  –tweets about feeling like i was unraveling…  guzzling coffee because i couldn’t feed my kids fast food dinner again… or be late on a work assignment.  the hits at work hit hard and broke me down–  the messy house, the exhaustion, the tantrums from the threenager, the meetings at school for my five year old– those became harder to handle.  i was losing strength.

i think… though i can’t be totally sure…. that i basically stopped my OCD medication without meaning to.  the deeper i got into the madness… the more i kept telling myself… “oh you’ve already taken it– don’t take it again… you’ll OD” …or “you can’t be sure– you don’t want serotonin syndrome– best to just skip it tonight…” — eventually i couldn’t determine the days i’d had it or hadn’t had it… i was lying about taking it regularly… though i kept telling myself that i wasn’t lying– i was just being protective.

i am not functional without Prozac.  i have come to terms with it– it is the life i live.  when the postpartum from my daughter became too much to bear– and i felt i couldn’t hold her in my arms because she deserved better than the piece of shit mother she was given… i had to get help.  for months, my life after her birth was the darkest time in my life.  i found the energy to make it to my psychiatrist even when i couldn’t get out of the car.  the office coordinator met me outside, sat down on the ground and talked me through an unbearable moment.  together, my psychiatrist and my therapist…. saved me. they’ve both seen me in my darkest moments.

a few weeks ago the darkness was creeping in again.  some of the most hurtful words of my life were said– lies were told– i stood my ground… at least i tried.  i stood my ground until i couldn’t stand any longer.  i texted my therapist– “i’m not feeling like myself… it’s all too much… everyone deserves better than me…i can’t do it anymore.”  She wanted to see me– I refused.  I needed to finish work that day.  I had to show the world I was okay.

I left work a few hours early and then went home and crumbled.  i impulsively cut my hair because– why the hell not?  i wanted to be different… look different– not be who i am.  things got darker… &  hours later i started vomiting and nearly fainted.  i realized i hadn’t really eaten or drank much all day.  –after some sleep, some water and some more vomiting…i fell asleep on my couch.

the next day i texted my psychiatrist.  i have my psych’s number for emergencies only.  i’ve used it maybe twice in all of the years i’ve been seeing her.  she told me to come in immediately.  my blood pressure was very high– my pulse was very high… and i was inconsolable.  she called my husband to discuss a care plan and i fell backward into the chair collapsing on the arms and relying on them to hold me upright.  i stared out the window and wondered how i was here… again.

when she came back the plan was decided.  i was out of work for 2 weeks at least– with regular check ins for my vitals and mental state.  my appointment tomorrow will determine if i am fit enough to return to work.

every single day of my leave- i have desperately tried to relax… it was hard at first.  my brain was on steroids– i was worried… terrified, anxious, crazy.  i listened to my doctor– i took my medication and things started to become a little more manageable.  i slept… a lot.  mental exhaustion is very real.  i’ve been exhausted for months.  i got a completely new haircut– i attended meetings at my son’s school… i prayed– i watched trash TV– i read …i saw friends i haven’t seen in months.  these moments have felt really good.  i’ve felt more myself– and as a result, i’ve had real moments of being present with my children and enjoying them in these amazing stages in their lives.  i’ve had the complete support of my husband who comes through for me time and time again.  i don’t deserve him but God blessed me with him and he’s rescued me more times than i can count.

so what is the point of this post?  i don’t know.  i just felt the need to write it.  i felt the need to let you know that my thanksgiving turkey and stuffing were delicious and my carrot cake turned out beautifully and was well received… my kids actually smiled in their school pictures– they’re SO smart and the lights of my life… and my husband and i are incredibly in love and he’s perfect… and every other fucking thing that everyone puts on social media.  i let you guys know that all the time if you follow my newsfeed.  but you know what– it’s not all gravy (see what i did there?) all the time.  the turkey may be good but the traveling is taxing.  the kids smiled in their pictures but bitched me out over not making hot dogs for dinner… or threw a tantrum over not getting to eat fruit snacks after school when i barely held it together that day at work.  my husband is my love– but sometimes he pisses me the hell off …and some moments i’m a whole lot to handle for him.  sometimes i call him an asshole and he really hates it– sometimes he treats me like a 3rd child and i scream at him for it.  and sometimes– i smile at you at work and tell you things are fine… i’m just tired.. –but sometimes… things are not fine.  it’s too much …and this time– it caught up with me.

i’m still struggling.  i’m still hurting- and truth be told, i’m terrified to go back to work.  i still don’t feel 100% and keep having crying spells and fits of feeling like a complete failure.  –but i’m better.  i got help.  i’ve had so many texts and calls and visits from good friends who know my heart.  their support- their own strength… their love– continues to help me through this hard time.  God I’ve needed it.  I’ve needed every kind word.. every heartfelt concern… every positive message.  It is SO important to tell the ones you love that you love them.  they NEED to know.  they need to know what you mean to them.  sometimes – they need to know that others see the true person they are when they’re telling themselves that the lies they’ve heard  and the words they’ve suffered from may actually be the truth.

through it all, the people i respect the most have supported me and loved me.  the people that matter– know my heart and love me even if i haven’t felt “normal.”  i am so grateful.

prayers for a positive psychiatric check up tomorrow and strength for the weeks to come.  <3.

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder and motherhood


Recently I read an article from themighty.com.  It was a wonderful article that I wish I’d read many years ago.  It talked about an aspect of Obsessive-compulsive disorder that is not often thought about when one thinks of OCD.  Obsessive-compulsive disorder to many people is someone who cleans incessantly or washes their hands one too many times.  It is much more than that.

My OCD started when I was a child.  I went undiagnosed for many years.  I knew I struggled with a variety of things but this was my “normal.”  One thing that plagued my early years was persistent worrying.  I worried every time it stormed that there would be a tornado and my family would die.   I worried that something would happen to my parents and I would be all alone.  I worried that if I talked to someone I would be rejected.  Sure, everyone worries about things like this every now and then but I was very young.

One experience that comes to mind that really triggered my OCD was my dad choking when I was about 7 years old.   I remember it very vividly.  The panic and the horror were embedded into my memory.  My dad recovered but I didn’t.  I made rules for myself when it came to eating.  I decided that I couldn’t eat hard things, or any food I’d read in my parents Reader’s Digest magazine that was considered a “top” choking food.  (carrots, nuts, hot dogs, etc).  As a child it was easy to get away with not eating very much.  I felt like if I could stick to a list of “safe foods,” then I could prevent choking.

As time went on this need to prevent choking intensified.  I had a larger list of foods I “couldn’t eat.”  The foods I did eat were chewed a million times.  I chewed my food until it was a liquid and then I swished it between my teeth to make sure there were no large parts that would choke me.  This caused me to eat very slowly.  I was embarrassed at how I ate and would often fill my mouth with food and then excuse myself to go to the bathroom and spit it in the toilet.  Eventually, being made fun of by my peers at the lunch table wasn’t worth it and I would just have water or juice for lunch.

Looking back on my childhood I can recall many moments that showed aspects of a slowly intensifying mental illness.  A family member passed away in a car accident and I thought it was my fault.  I thought that somehow I’d willed it so.  Though this was impossible, I confessed it to my mother like I was in a court room.  I sobbed and told her it was me…I did it.  She assured me I didn’t, but the guilt still felt so real.

My mom recorded in my baby book that I refused to sit with Santa at 4 years old because “he wasn’t wearing his gloves.”  I can only imagine it was because of my OCD.  My OCD has taken on many forms over the years, each one unique and debilitating.  It had become so much of my life that I didn’t even realize it was the culprit of so much of my anguish.  I didn’t even consider it.  I saw multiple psychiatrists and therapists whose diagnoses varied from bipolar disorder to depression to panic disorder, etc.  None of them mentioned the possibility of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

However, in college I realized that I felt a lot of anxiety if the gas pump didn’t stop on a number divisible by 5.  I felt a lot of anxiety if I didn’t complete a thought before the stop light turned green.  I replayed images in my head over and over and over again because I couldn’t stop them.  I checked and rechecked everything.  I started to become obsessed with everything medical.  I decided my lymph nodes were too large and measured them multiple times a day.  I would ask friends to feel them and measure them for me.  I took my temperature hundreds of times a day and I would google symptoms for various illnesses because I had to.  If I didn’t, I would get the illness and it would be my fault.

My obsessive-compulsive disorder turned my life into a mere existence, rather than actual living.  I spent multiple hours a day checking, rechecking, obsessing, thinking, preventing, acting on my compulsions.  Sometimes, it became too much and I would break.  Thankfully, I’ve had the support of an amazing therapist, psychiatrist, family and husband.  I am on medication and I am living my life.  I still struggle sometimes, but I am happy.

One reason I decided to write about my struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder is because of the article I referenced above.  For one, the article makes me feel less alone in the world.  I feel stronger having read it.  I feel like someone that is not a horrible person but someone who is afflicted with a mental illness.  I have a disability.  I have OCD.  I can admit it and I can deal with it and I can live with it.

Secondly, I referenced the article because there were many comments on the piece stating that they didn’t understand why people will mental illnesses continued to reproduce.  Some felt that it just made sense to stop having children if you were just going to pass these debilitating issues on to your kids.  I read the comments and suddenly I was flooded with all of this guilt that I’d been working on for the past 4 years.

You see, I’m a mother of 2.  I have two perfect children that are my everything.  My children are a true blessing.  I know most mothers feel this way about their kids, but I consider myself to be especially lucky. I’m lucky that there was plan bigger than myself for my life.  After I got married, I wrote in red lipstick on my mirror, “Don’t have children.  They will be like you.  Don’t be selfish.”  Shortly after I wrote these words… I was pregnant.  I cried and I feared having a child that had to live like I’d lived but he was coming regardless.

I had my son and he is now 4.  Unfortunately, he is showing signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Fortunately, I get to be his mother and he is my son.  I’ve been able to recognize his issues and tackle them early on.  He is in play therapy, he receives special services, he is encouraged, adored, advocated for and loved immensely.  He is happy.  I’ve been told over and over again by everyone that meets him how genuinely happy of a kid he is.  These words comfort me more than anyone knows.  If my boy is happy, then we are doing something right.  And the really amazing thing is that helping him isn’t a one way street.  He has helped me just as much.  I’ve exposed myself to many of my own fears so that I could appear strong for my son and alleviate his worry.  In many of these situations, I’ve gotten over my own issues.  He has helped me in major ways and he is only 4!

Having a child when you have a mental illness is not selfish.  If I neglected him, refused to acknowledge his issues or my own because I didn’t want to deal with them or admit they were there…that would be selfish.  I choose to help him, advocate for him, work hard for him, guide him, talk with him, get him services, laugh with him and love him forever.  I choose to continue to help myself and show myself some compassion.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a disability but it doesn’t have to define my life.  I can be a good mother with OCD and I can have a happy child with OCD.  We will get through it together.