Last night at 2am I woke up somewhat suddenly, but for no apparent reason. I looked around to sort of settle myself and finally glanced at the baby monitor, which is when I noticed that something with Eli was off. It looked like his blanket was across his throat, but I couldn’t see either end of it, which was unusual. I thought maybe it wasn’t a blanket but a stuffed animal or his smaller lovie, but I had this nagging feeling that it needed further investigation. So I went into his room.
It turns out that it was his regular blanket (which is an Aden + Anais swaddle blanket) and it was wrapped around his neck twice. My head was positively shrieking with panic, but I managed to stay quiet, unwrap his blanket while only barely waking him up, replace his a pacifier, give him a kiss and a butt pat and leave the room.
And then I did the most incredible thing. I went back to sleep.
Look, I know that doesn’t sound incredible, but for me, it really was. After months of horribly broken sleep, and hours of laying awake panicking, this is really a huge deal. There are times I really struggle to see the progress I’ve made in the past few months, but this is one that I feel really proud of (even if a small part of me also thinks that this is entirely the fault of the medication and wants to take away all credit because that’s how I am, but whatever).
I think one of the biggest parts of that experience, for me, was feeling like I could trust my intuition. It has been really difficult to parent my child, never knowing if listening to my gut was the right thing. My gut has a tendency to overreact and I never really know if a perceived danger is serious or if I’m catastrophizing something insignificant. And last night, I was able to identify that Eli needed me to do something, do it, and not flip out in the process.
This is what I always thought parenting would be. I thought I would be supermom- not needing help, not needing reassurance, but I have been the opposite. I have felt like I can’t trust myself for months now, it’s an issue that hasn’t let up and is always intensified when my husband is out of town. I never feel like I can make a parenting decision without approval, not because my husband requires me to do so, but because I don’t trust myself to make the right decision. Last night, without hesitation, I made the right decision.
And while I have spent a fair portion of today worried about how to deal with this situation since Eli is very devoted to sleeping with a blanket (almost never under it), I was able to work through it and come up with a solution that is working for him and for me. Am I likely to check the monitor more frequently tonight? Yes. Am I still doing much better than I would’ve been 2 months ago? Absolutely.
There is still work to be done, but there’s no denying that progress has been made and that things are moving very much in the right direction. And it feels really, really good.
I realized I’ve alluded on various social networks and even here that our future is a bit cloudy right now, but I figured I may as well take some time to elaborate a bit. I’m sure you can all use a break from my riveting PTSD coverage anyway. (You’re welcome)
My husband is in his final year of his original Residency/Fellowship (he did a combination program) and will be completely finished at the end of June 2014, which, hallelujah, that was a very long 5 years for him. At that point, he can go out and just be a physician, which is kind of awesome considering how long it’s taken to get to that point, but, that’s not what he wants. So instead, the past few months he’s been applying for a second fellowship. He wants to do one more year of training (that is highly specialized), which will allow him to have a more narrow scope of practice and make him pretty highly appealing to just about any children’s hospital in the county.
So the interviews have been going on since August. So far he’s interviewed with a hospital here in Southern California and one in Cleveland. He has another scheduled next week in Buffalo and another right after that in Virginia. I’m not sure if you realized, but Cleveland, Buffalo and Virginia are oddly not in Southern California.
I’ve been doing this dance with these interviews, because I do support whatever it takes to get my husband to the point where he can be the physician he wants to be, but at the same time, the idea of packing up for a year to move across the country is tough. He and I both agree that the Southern California option is our first choice for several reasons, but they have had issues with funding and so it’s looking less and less likely. At the same time, the program in Buffalo is more and more interested. They called him at 10:30 their time on a Sunday night to let them know they wanted to interview him. They tracked down one of his coworkers at a conference last week to let her know that they are highly interested in him for the spot. They want him and the availability in their program was a surprise (someone backed out after originally committing) and is not something to be ignored.
It just feels like we’re living, but not really. We don’t know where we’re living next year. We don’t know if I’ll be working or not. We don’t know if Eli will go to preschool or stay home with me. We don’t know if we’ll have a house or another apartment or some variation therein. We can’t make any long term plans for our lives because we just don’t know anything beyond June. It’s like we’re living in a waiting room. Waiting to get the call or email with our next stop.
We are comforted that my husband’s current hospital has offered him a position as an attending if he doesn’t get a fellowship so there’s not a great deal of panic about that, and he can reapply next year (part of the issue is that he started applying a bit too late, which was entirely not his fault and very frustrating). It takes a lot of the stress off of him, which is a good thing because I know that this is terribly taxing on him.
I’m struggling the most because I really love my job and don’t want to leave it. It’s some place that I can see myself working at for decades. It’s small, but it feels very much like a family. I love the people and patients I work with, I love the work I’m doing and the idea that if I go away for a year, I may not be able to come back to it is terribly sad. But at the same time, I’m willing to risk that for my husband because I know that his desires are as strong as mine and he has worked so very hard to get to this point, I can’t hold him back.
Sacrifices are being made all around and they are tough (as sacrifices are wont to be). I will be fine regardless of where we live next year. Truly. I can adapt and I will, but the waiting is killing me softly. I just want to know already.
I’ve been in therapy for a year now, which is just a really long time. And it’s interesting, because I’ve unquestionably made progress, but I honestly don’t know if I’m really better off than I was this time last year. This is not the fault of therapy, nor my therapist (especially the one I have now), who I really think is great, it’s an issue with my brain and life and this two steps forward and 6 months back thing that’s happening.
I had a meeting with my psychiatrist yesterday, where he determined that even though the medication is making me more anxious, I needed to up my dose until I wasn’t anxious or until the side effects became too toxic, then lower it down to the last tolerated dosage and then stay on it for a year. Which, what? And hey, I have some feelings about this and not one of them is happy. He told me that my dose now insufficient.
Which is interesting because on the dose I’m on right now, I’ve had more moments of happiness than I have in ages. And I really don’t understand why we can’t give it more time since the max effect isn’t seen for another month, but when I asked I was told that it’s because my doctor doesn’t do “half-assed medicine.” I just feel like I got duped. Like I agreed to medication and now I have to take high doses of all of it. I’m not happy.
On Tuesdays I do double therapy, once by myself in the afternoon and once with my husband and Eli in the evening. It’s a long day of feelings, but it’s helping me and it’s helping my marriage. I actually often look forward to Tuesdays because I know that what we’re doing is making me better, but they are long, difficult days. And today was no exception.
I spoke with my therapist about the medication, about feeling happy and then crappy last week and she did her due diligence in reminding me that I’ve worked hard and come a long way. She’s right and I know that, but I also know that 2 weeks ago, I wouldn’t have felt as happy as I did last week, and that’s not because I’m working hard, it’s because my brain chemicals are changing and my serotonin levels are better now. I know that, and it’s partially great and partially blows. I want to have it be the direct result of hard work, but we both know that isn’t the case.
Halfway through our couples counseling session tonight, Eli threw up all over himself (we overfed him? I think?), which was just really a hot mess of awful, and it brought to light some serious OCD issues I’ve had brewing for quite some time. Issues I’m well aware of, and issues that are definitely having a negative impact on several areas of my life, my husband’s life and my child’s life. And I just sort of feel like perhaps I have a psych bingo now? Depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD. I mean, I am not bipolar or schizophrenic, but we’ve pretty much hit all the other ones, and surely there’s a free space in there somewhere. How many more things can we find that are wrong with me.
I just feel like I’m really kind of broken, like there’s little hope that I will ever be truly normal, even with medication and years of therapy. I feel like I’m facing obstacles that are bigger than me and even 2 hours of therapy a week and 10 or 20 or 30 milligrams of this medication aren’t going to fix that.
A year of therapy has passed and yes, I’ve made progress. I am stronger than I was a year ago. I’m more in touch with my feelings, my marriage is stronger and my self-awareness is heightened. But I’m also not okay yet. And I’m left wondering how many more years it’ll take to be okay again.
I’ve been on the (first) medication given to me by the psychiatrist for a full week now. I’ve made it 5 days on the maintenance dose which means, based on some pharmacology that I barely understood when I was studying it, my body now has a steady state of that dose and basically, from here the side effects should go down, not up, and we’ll be able to see what this med can do. Basically, we’ve reached the watch and wait phase. No more titrating.
It has been a rough start. One of the side effects I was warned about before starting was that my anxiety might get worse and while it took me a few days to see any changes, that was one that was very evident. I normally have intermittent flashes of terrible scenarios in my head each day (I say that like it’s normal, I know it’s not), but for the past week, these have turned into full blown panic attacks, complete with a racing heart, sweating, nausea and a profound desire to run away from whatever I’m doing to somewhere unrestrictive where I can freak out. It’s been really, really difficult. It feels like I’m trading one crazy for another.
There are other side effects that aren’t worth mentioning, but today, for the first time, I realized that it’s starting to work.
As I was leaving work today, I realized that I was happy. I had heard some good news, had a really great final patient of the day and I just felt good. And as I tried to figure out what I was excited about or why I felt so, so good, I realized that this is just what happy feels like. It’s been so long since I felt this way that I have forgotten what it really felt like.
I have forgotten how to be happy.
And of course, that made me kind of sad. It’s nice to feel this way, but it’s so frustrating that I can’t do it on my own. I want to be happy, I really, truly do. But I want to be happy on my own. And feeling that way today was just another reminder that I can’t do that. That I need a mix of pharmaceuticals to make me feel this way when everyone else can do it on their own.
I am, as seems to be the usual these days, feeling conflicted. I just really miss things being easy. I miss life being uncomplicated and straightforward. I miss feeling what I feel instead of trying to figure out what I should feel and how to change what I do feel and feel something different. Things are difficult, but in different ways than I imagined.
I’m ready for easy. I miss easy.
This month shall be known as the month of hair growth. My once bald baby now has a full head of (darker every day) hair.
(For the full list of pictures from the first year, see here)
Today you are 17 months old! It was a pretty quick month around here, but we did just a ton of things.
Earlier this month we took a trip to San Diego for your dad’s friend Adam’s wedding. You stayed with grandma and it was the first time in your entire life that neither your dad nor I put you to bed. I won’t lie, I was sad, but you did great and woke me up with your happy face (in your pack n play) right next to mine at 6:45 the next morning, completely unscathed. While we were there, we went to the San Diego Zoo, where by far the highlight for you was the seeing eye dog someone had with them. You’re a simple creature and I love that about you.
After San Diego, we went and met my friend Elizabeth and your (new) friend Colin at Disneyland for a day. It’s not your first time there, but it was the first time you really seemed to take some of it in and really have a good time. You were a bit worried on Pirates of the Caribbean until you saw that there were dogs scattered about and even a donkey at one point. You were okay with Haunted Mansion except that it really bothered you that the narrator’s voice came from behind your head, and you know what, I get that. You HATED Pinocchio and cried through most of it, which I did not expect. But you loved, loved, loved It’s a Small World. And while that was once my least favorite ride, seeing you dance and get excited, made it one of my new favorites. We rode it twice and you could not have been happier. Also, you took a 3 hour nap in your stroller so your dad and I got to ride some grown up rides too. We really appreciated that, by the way.
This month was also the first time you and I ever spent a night apart and while it was tough for both of us, we made it through not one night, but two. You and dad did great together, but I know all of us were pretty happy to see each other again. You made me hold you for a solid 20 minutes when we were first in the same place together and you cried and cried when I had to leave for a wedding the next day. I think it’s great we can both survive without each other, but I think we can agree that we’re happier when we don’t have to.
Your language continues to evolve this month. You now say: baboon, bubbles (which also means balloons), donkey, a dog, kitty, daddy, dad, rabbit, please, yea, Addie, a ball, I did it!, up above the (as in Twinkle Twinkle) and occasionally bow wow wow. You’ve also learned to shake your head no, which is decidedly not my favorite development, but it’s nice to have better communication with you, so I’m happy for that. You’ll notice that the word mom continues to be missing from your vocabulary, please ask me how I feel about this.
Your mobility is amazing at this point. You’d never know that you only took your first steps 3 months ago because you walk with amazing confidence. Last week you made it (closely supervised) up a flight of stairs on your feet with a rail without anyone helping. And let’s not forget your dancing skills, which are nothing short of amazing these days.
Your likes this month include: Glen, ketchup, rice, blankets, anything with a handle that you can carry around, dad, mom, Aunt Claire, Addie, Grandparents, Peekaboo Barn, Wild and Trick-or-treat, legos, music, Sesame Street, shoes, running away from us, your pacifiers, your bed and your kitties (until they bite you).
Your dislikes this month include: Getting into the car, when I won’t hold you while I’m cooking dinner, when food doesn’t arrive at restaurants the instant we get there, when a toy won’t play the song you want it to, diaper changes and taking your shoes off.
I really, really love this age that you’re in right now. I feel like I can watch you learn something new at least once a day, sometimes more often. You’re observing and repeating and growing right before my eyes. You love to make us laugh, which for the most part we love too, but we have some class clown fears brewing.
It’s been sort of a tough month for me, watching you grow and become more independent, very much a little boy. I know that it’s exactly what you should be doing at this age and I love that, but sometimes when you pull your hand away from my hand or shake your head no when I ask for a hug, I get a little sad, because I’m going to miss little bits of you being dependent. The parts where you needed my help and the parts where you just wanted it. I know that there will still be many of those times, but it’s hard to see you become so grown so quickly.
Your joy for life continues to infuse us with happiness every day. You love things so unabashedly, without reservation or concern for what anyone else thinks and I try each day to be a bit more like you in that way. You infuse everyone around you with happiness and make us smile and laugh all day long. Sometimes after we put you to bed, we both just kind of sit around wondering what to do, because everything gets so quiet without you. You live loudly and fully and it’s a lesson we all need every once in a while.
I feel like after 17 months I’ve run out of ways to tell you how very much I love you. I am better each day for having you in my life and getting to be your mother. Even in your toughest moments, you are my joy and your happiness is contagious. In some ways, you sustain me, maybe more than you should, but you remind me each day how lucky I am, just to be here, to be your mom. I cannot imagine loving anyone or anything as much as I love you.
Eli, we love you so much and can’t wait to see what next month will bring.
I’m sure it’s no secret that I’m a relatively sensitive person. I wear my heart of my sleeve, I’m easily hurt and easily saddened and have a bleeding heart for a lot of causes. But I don’t think my feelings right now have to do with being sensitive, but instead, with the gravity of the situation.
Over the weekend, a family put their 2 year old to bed like they have every night for the previous 2 years. At some point in the night, the 5 month old baby woke up and was fed and then everyone went back to bed like always. In the morning, when Meredith went to get her 2 year old up, she discovered that he passed away in his sleep. Jack was a completely healthy 2 year old child and yet, he’s no longer here. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this is literally every parent’s greatest nightmare.
Since I heard about Jack’s passing, I can’t get an image out of my head. I’ve never met this family, they are friends of a good friend of mine (and have given permission for me to post their story), but I am devastated for them. I cannot imagine how heart wrenching this has been for Jack’s family and I am left, like most people who knew them or knew of them, feeling entirely helpless for these parents.
I can only speak for myself, but when things like this happen, I want to do something, to try to make some tiny bit of difference to these people who are suffering in a way I cannot even imagine. I can’t comfort this family in any kind of tangible way, but I can pass along Jack’s story and I can, in some small way, help defray the cost of Jack’s funeral.
I’m going to post the link to a fundraising site for the family. I can’t promise this money is going to Jack’s funeral and not to any number of other items. I can’t promise that the overflow will go into a scholarship fund or to a charity as the family has promised. All I can promise is that a family lost their little boy this weekend and that giving a little bit of money to help pay for a funeral they never should’ve had to plan or pay for in their lifetimes, is the very least I can do. Also, any money generated here in ad revenue this month and next will go towards Jack’s fund, because I have no desire or intention of profiting in any way from this situation.
If you’re interested in helping out this family, please check out their fundraising page. And if you can’t or don’t want to donate, please keep them in your thoughts and if you’re the praying type, pray that they may find peace again and be able to honor their beautiful son, even in his absence.
I had a pretty different post planned for tonight because I was tired of hearing about my own issues and because I actually got a good night of sleep last night for the first time in ages (I haven’t started the meds yet, so it’s not that). Basically, I was having a pretty great day.
After work, Eli and I headed to my former grad school for a lab for the first year students. They were analyzing walking in the very young and old and wanted Eli to come walk for them. So we did. And he was having SUCH a good time from the very first moments. It turns out my little boy really enjoys being the center of attention. Our room had somewhere between 30 and 45 students in it, in addition to 3 other children and a few parents and faculty. And he was just having the best time in there. He was walking around, taking toys from other kids, periodically trying to use people’s iPads and gleefully running around trying to escape from me or anyone else who was trying to encourage him to share.
And then, about 10 minutes into the lab, he walked up to a soccer ball that was every so slightly flat, went to kick it, like he does all the time at home, but instead accidentally stepped on the top of it and before I could even blink, he did a huge banana peel style slip and slammed the back of his head on the floor without any other body part breaking the fall.
The collective gasp from the room was just about enough to suck all the oxygen out of the universe. The sound of his head hitting the ground was one of those sounds that just makes you nauseous. It was awful.
Eli cried. He cried and cried and cried. For a solid 5 minutes he cried no matter how much I soothed him. And while I was present there in that moment, comforting my child, I was also frozen with fear. I have done this before. I’ve comforted an inconsolable child with a head injury and it all but ruined me. I was so scared.
After a few more minutes, Eli perked up and went back to playing (but avoided that ball), but I feel like my heart hasn’t resumed beating in the 7 hours since it happened. I had a therapy session planned for tonight already and before we even got in the room my therapist knew I wasn’t okay because the panic was written across my face. At one point in the session she made me stop what I was doing and breathe because I was making her anxious, which I feel is sort of impressive, really.
I was terrified that when I got home, Eli was going to be showing signs of another bleed. That he would be vomiting, or lethargic or that we’d just know in the way we had a gut feeling when it happened before. I was and continue to be so scared that that fall, which was really very hard, and like his previous injury, left absolutely no mark on his head, is very serious and rumbling under the surface.
It went against every fiber of my being to put him to bed in his room tonight. He won’t sleep in our bed and I know that, and I won’t sleep if I did that either, but I am so scared that if he has an injury, it’ll rear its head in the night. I know the odds of this are incredibly small, but the odds of it happening the first time were pretty miniscule. I can’t get past the fear of something happening and all I can do is hope that in the morning, we’ll be past the scary window. In the meantime, my heart feels like it’s being stomped on repeatedly.
I’m really very tired and frustrated. I just wish that either this wouldn’t keep happening, or that I could respond to it normally. I don’t want to feel this kind of panic every time Eli bumps his head, nor this level of fear knowing it could happen again and again. I don’t want to have to put on a brave face when I am destroyed inside.
I just want things to be easy. I really miss easy.
I met with the psychiatrist today, as I had previously agreed to. I don’t have a whole lot to say about the situation- it went exactly as I expected. It started with her asking why I was there and me giving my mental health and medical history. Then we discussed Eli’s accident. Then she asked several other questions about the accident and my reaction and the way things have been lately. And then she diagnosed me with PTSD with some depression and anxiety. And then started discussing medications.
It’s not that I was under any delusion that I was going to leave the office without a prescription in hand, but I guess somewhere along the line I thought we could discuss whether medication was truly necessary and I suppose the answer to that was somewhat embedded in everyone’s very serious attitude about my treatment. My doctor is a resident so I also got to meet with her attending, who I liked very much and who, half way through, asked me if I wanted to be there. And before I could even stop it, the word no blurted right out of my mouth.
But, as I went onto explain, I understand why I needed to be there. I see that my treatment was not working at its current levels, I see that I need more help and I know that I need to do this for my son.
And so I walked out with a prescription and a plan. I’m starting one medication this week (the name of which I will not be disclosing) in addition to moving one of my current meds from as needed to nightly. Next week I’ll go back and we’ll see how things are going. If the new med is working, we’ll titrate it up and add another one that’s been tested for PTSD related nightmares, but which carries a bit of a medical risk for me and will require more monitoring. If the first med doesn’t work, we’ll try a different one and so on until we find the right one. If the first med and the nightmare med both work, we’ll continue to increase the doses of both until we reach the desired level and then potentially exchange one I’m already on for a different med with a longer half-life. The answer to how long I’ll be on these medications was a hearty “it depends.”
So basically I’m going to go from one as needed medication to 2 daily and a different as needed med with no real end in sight.
I have a lot of mixed emotions about this. It’s nice to know that this is a real diagnosed condition and that there are medications that can be used to treat it. It’s nice to know that I have a bunch of medical professionals on board who are interested in helping me get better. These are good things. Taking 3 different medications for an unknown duration is difficult. Knowing that this is a long process is difficult. Fearing that it isn’t going to get better is the worst.
I’m working hard to see accepting medication as a strength not as a weakness, but it really is a process right now. It’s hard to not see this as a big loss of control, as a big fault, or at least a bigger fault since it’s not like I’m living under the impression that everything else is fine. I know that in time this will get easier, but for the current period, it’s difficult.
But it’s not something that cannot be overcome. And if anything, taking this step makes me want to fight harder to get there, to get past this, and to get the life that I want and the life my family deserves. So even if my motivation isn’t entirely pure (though it mostly is), I think the end result, getting better, is what matters the most.
24 hours into my 40 hours without my baby and I am woefully sad, but surviving. Eli slept well last night and made it through bedtime tonight unscathed, which was my biggest concern. My husband has never done bedtime all by himself and the only other time that I haven’t been there to tuck Eli in was in a hotel when he was so overtired that nothing could’ve kept him awake, so I was a little afraid it was going to be rough on everyone. But as usual, Eli was the easy going baby I always take for granted. It was much harder on me, also as usual.
This afternoon I got a chance to skype with Eli, but I wasn’t entirely sure how he’d respond. When he has skyped with my husband in the past, he tends to be more interested in the iPad than the skyping, but I was pleasantly surprised. My husband had the iPad pointed at Eli and as soon as I said hi, Eli whipped his head around and then as soon as he realized it was me, his whole face lit up and he ran across the room. Things devolved pretty quickly when he started trying to stand on the iPad, but I got several kisses and it was just so nice to see him.
My course is going well, it’s interesting and I’m glad I’m here. I do think it’s good for my husband to get to take over full parenting. He is a good father, but like most spouses, I don’t think he realizes some of the things that I take care of for him (much like when he’s gone, I realize how much he does around the house). And it’s nice to get some time to myself to think and relax. But despite these positives, I still don’t think this is better than being home with my child. I’m glad to know we can all survive without me there, at least on some level.
More than anything else, being away reminds me how much I love my boys and how very lucky I am to have both of them. I absolutely cannot wait to get them back tomorrow.