Black clouding with style

And so here I am… again. Back where I started. Sitting on the floor. Exhausted for no reason. Tears brewing. Eyes closing.

I felt so great last week. Now, I feel depressed. Nothing. Sad. Black. Cloud. Symptoms of depression that are straight from a 90’s movie, with an introspective and depressed teenage Claire Danes playing me.

Last week I was raw juicing. I was yoga-ing. I was parenting. I was doing it. I was living! I was smiling. Laughing. Washing my hair. Putting on makeup.  And now…. I don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like any of it.

Now I’m black-clouding. There is no reason, I just can’t seem to get at the joy under this big pile of nothingness. At least I remember it’s there. for now.

I read somewhere that people with Bipolar, can have symptom remission for years at a time.  Maybe this is an urban myth. I had a fleeting thought that maybe the feeling of last week could hold for the next 20 years. Then, when I’m 50 and lose my mind again then, my kids will be older and I’ll have had 20 great years and I can call it a wrap.  But no. This is not how it will be.

Maybe this is what my remission looks like? This sorta up and sorta down.

I had a great week or two where I felt mostly strong and capable and happy. And then I just wake up one morning and my head feels heavier and I’m confused and suddenly the lights are too bright and the kids voices are too loud and I never want to open my eyes again. Only I do… I’m sure this will pass. It just feels so horrible. Forcing a smile is too much effort. Knowing what I’m missing makes the pain all the more profound.

Do the meds work? Does the yoga and juicing even matter? Would it make any difference if I stayed up late, smoked pot and drank alcohol? I think it would. I think it matters.

I think that if despite all the good work that I’m doing to try to stay stable, I’m this unstable, I would probably be really really unstable without it. Without all my hard work, I would not have had two great weeks. I probably wouldn’t even have two good days. The medication that I take is called an anti-psychotic for a reason. It keeps me from being psychotic. And for that, my kids are grateful.

So, I’m happy. I’m depressed today. But I’m happy.

painting on carved wood of a woman on a swing with two smaller versions of herself in the background.

This beautiful art is by Peter Schacht.

She is not me

“Dear Diary, Have you ever had a day when you feel like you were never born? Well that’s sort of what I felt like.” -This is an excerpt from a diary I kept when I was 8 years old. (8 years old!)

My daughter is almost 6 years old. That’s dangerously close to 8 years old. …but she is not me.

I remember when she was 3 days old, I left her in the living room with my mother because I was forced to take a nap in my bedroom. I remember lying there alone and wondering if I still existed or if maybe I was my baby daughter now.  That little baby who I put on my bare chest the moment she came out of my body- so that she wouldn’t feel lost. That little baby who I was scared to take out of my sling, to let out of my sight – lest she feel abandoned. I was so scared that if I was not touching her, we would both cease to exist. I actually convinced myself that she could somehow hear my heartbeat through the walls. It was the only way for me to tolerate being in the other room. If I had to pinpoint when I should have noticed that something was ‘off’, I think it was this moment, when she was 3 days old. (I didn’t get help for another 11 months…)

I still struggle with feeling like my daughter and I are somehow telepathically connected. Last night I was reminded that my daughter has her own secrets, her own internal life that she keeps to herself, as she should.

Last night I realized that she has been asking me to tuck her in with her blanket over her nose and not calling me in after I say goodnight – because she is secretly sucking her thumb. *shocking*. Not really shocking. It actually makes lots of sense. She is almost 6 years old. Of course she is an individual with her own internal private world.  But feeling so tied to my daughter, it’s hard to understand that her secret world could be anything other than one of confusion, fear and pain.

The fears I had when I was her age are not her fears. I know that this is true. This must be true. The family I lived in, the world I knew, it is not her world. I have worked too hard to make sure that life is different for her. But then, I see that her fears include one of my daily deepest fears. The fear of “getting caught”. She probably doesn’t feel it as strongly as I did- I felt it every moment of every day. Maybe she isn’t even afraid, she was just being clever. I really don’t know.

I say my daughter.  She is not me and she is not mine, she is her own. She needs to continue to separate from me and I need to enable her do that. My role is to keep my arms open to catch her when she needs it and let her take reasonable and safe risks as she explores the world for herself.

6 years old. 6 years old is time for more independent activities, more space for herself, more unsupervised playtime. It’s time for summer camp.

But I fear. I fear that if I am not watching, if the teenage camp counselors are not paying attention, she may cease to exist. I have to clarify this. The fear is not only that she will die, it’s that she will cease to exist. I will drop her off one morning and when I come to pick her up the counselors will say “Soni? Soni who?” and that will be that. I will have to go home without her and try to understand that she was never real.

This is my own annihilation anxiety. I am projecting it onto her and I need to stop. It comes from a very real place where I used to live and feel that I would randomly become invisible. This is not my daughter’s world and it is no longer my world either.

I am not her. She is not me.

photo from my diary

This is not okay #dontshoot

I’ve always known that I was very privileged. I grew up in a nice house, we spent summers at a cottage on a lake, I lived in a nice neighborhood and went to private school. I understood the because of my education and financial security, I was lucky to be seen differently by authority figures and such. I take advantage of that all the time.

What I didn’t realize growing up was the most fundamental way that I was privileged. I didn’t realize that all this financial and educational privilege would not have been enough to open opportunities for me if my skin had been a different colour.

The other night, when I heard of the appalling and unjust verdict in the Michael Brown case, I became so upset. What kind of society have we created that lets this happen again and again?

I was walking home from work thinking about this. It was dark out and getting cold. I wasn’t having a very good day and I’m sure it showed in my body language and the way I walked. I was grumpy and wanted to disappear so I pulled my scarf up high and pulled up my jacket hood over so just my eyes peaked out. As people passed me and smiled at my blue/green eyes, I thought about Michael Brown and I thought about my son.

It’s terrifying that a boy just like my son, only black, might be walking down the street feeling tired and upset, trying to hide in his coat and he could be murdered – not harassed or beaten (though that would be bad as well), actually killed on the spot!

As a mother, I worry for my children. I worry about them every day. But the fear that my sweet son would be murdered on the street for being a moody teenager and the murderer will walk free, that’s not high on my list of fears. No mother should ever need to know that fear. But too many do.

I appreciate Kristen at Rage against the Minivan for writing openly about the subtle and overt racism and prejudice that she experiences against her sons. She opens my eyes to barriers that I may not pay much attention to from up in Canada (although they exist here too). I found her post explaining white privilege illuminating.

She also said some powerful words in this recent post:
“The world is watching as Ferguson reacts, and we are seeing a community of people who are angry. Do not let the criminal acts of a small number of protesters distract from the real issues going on in our country. While some may express anger in ways we find inappropriate, the anger is still valid. If my husband cheated on me and I burned his belongings in front of my house, that would be wrong. But it wouldn’t invalidate my anger. It wouldn’t cancel out the fact that what he did wrong.”

There is an enormous problem in what is happening. Children are dying and a people’s right to be angry at this betrayal is being minimized. So I feel obliged to write about this. I owe it to my fellow mothers to speak up. I must add my voice to the rage of those in Ferguson and across the United States. Maybe I have to recognize my privilege and use it to speak out so that those who won’t hear a black mother’s anger will hear mine.

I am angry. I am furious.

Too many children are being murdered by men who are quick to judge and shoot to kill.

The victims are all our sons.

I cannot be blind to the invisible system of privilege I am a part of.

*If you are not quite sure what I mean by white privilege, please read this article by Peggy McIntosh.

Swirling storm inside

Remember the scene where Anna goes to visit Elsa in the ice castle and Elsa learns that by trying to protect the world from herself, she actually froze the entire town and she starts to swirl in fear.  (I’m obvs talking about the Frozen movie.)

“I’m such a fool I can’t be free. No escape from the storm inside of me. I can’t control the curse… There’s so much fear. You’re not safe here.”

It’s snowing here in Canada. So it seemed appropriate for my kids to watch Frozen three times this weekend.

I remember when I first saw the movie last winter there were so many parts of the film that resonated strongly with me. I especially remember feeling that this scene really captured my internal struggle at the time. And my external struggle of trying to push everyone away so that I wouldn’t hurt them with my pain.

It was only a year ago but I realized watching it this week that I don’t really feel like that anymore. I feel other screwed up things. But today (because today is actually all I can be sure that I remember), I don’t feel a “swirling storm inside of me”. I think that must be a good thing.

There a new feeling that I’ve been having but it’s scaring me a lot. I think it’s called HOPE. I’ve spent a long time without this feeling. I’m very wary…

photo from the frozen movie of elsa in fear with anna in the background.

p.s. I have lots of other things I want to write about this but I can’t seem to get any words out… so we’ll just leave it at that for now.

Sisterhood of the crazy pants

I’m always thinking about the mamas who are in the crazy pot with me. Over the last two years, I have met many women (online and in real life) who have followed the same path as me from a seemingly good childhood (peppered with trauma) ⇒ youth depression/anxiety that persists (often untreated) ⇒ postpartum depression ⇒ bipolar 2.  Needless to say, it’s not a path to anywhere good. (and oddly, many of us were born in September…just saying)

The problem with this crazy pot is that even though we are all boiling in similar stinky broth, part of the illness is that we are each stuck in our own pot. We are fighting similar enemies but in the never-ending final battle, we are each completely on our own.

There’s a Broadway play called Next to Normal that I’m recently obsessed with (like actually obsessed, certifiably). It’s about: “a mother who struggles with worsening bipolar disorder and the effect that her illness and the attempts to alleviate it have on her family.” ahhem…

It’s a musical (because, why not?). One of the key songs that the mother sings really captures some of the horror of living with bipolar (as much as one can in a rock musical).

I have a vision of making a video of my fellow mamas and I performing this on a theater stage.

Think 5 women staggered across a huge black stage standing on individual black risers under separate spotlights. But then towards the end, maybe we start walking closer and end up back to back united. I think that there would be power in all of us singing together against a common enemy.

But truly, it wouldn’t be very accurate. In real life, we would continue singing on our own separated boxes. Just like we do right now. We trade war-stories, we share strategies that seem to work, we learn that we are “not the only freaks in town“. But in the end, we face our demons alone. Time will tell if the sisterhood can save us and our children. I am oddly optimistic.

I’ve divied up the parts as I see them:
Rehersals start Thursday. Start learning your lines ladies.

#1: Do you wake up in the morning and need help to lift your head?
#2: Do you read obituaries and feel jealous of the dead?
#3: It’s like living on a cliffside not knowing when you’ll dive.
#1,2,3: Do you know? Do you know what it’s like to die alive?

#4: When a world that once had colour fades to white and grey and black
#5: When tomorrow terrifies you but you’ll die if you look back
#1,3,4: You don’t know the things you don’t know
#2,5: You say that you’re hurting – it sure doesn’t show
#2,4,5: You don’t know it lays me so low
#1,3: When you say let go and I say
#1,2,3,4,5: You don’t know!

#4: The sensation that you’re screaming but you never make a sound.
#5: Or the feeling that you’re falling but you never hit the ground.
#1: It just keeps on coming at you day by day
#1,4,5: by day by day

#2,3: You don’t know, You don’t know what it’s like to live that way!

#2: Like a refugee, a fugitive, forever on the run
#3: If it gets me it will kill me
#2,3: But I don’t know what I’ve done!

Here is the original Broadway cast in a Tony performance of this song:


This song from the play hits home too (and makes me laugh):


This shit is old news

My days are feeling more normal. My life has a certain flow and predictability. But my mind is still not all there.

The loose connection between my mind and me doesn’t seem to be getting any tighter. This up and down and all around shit is getting old. I feel okay enough. I’m mostly able to take care of many daily tasks. I just want to stop focusing on my mental state and focus on nurturing my family.

Last week my psychiatrist suggested I take part in a Trauma Therapy Program at the hospital (an intensive four days a week/ eight week program) and also that I consider switching my SSRI for a different SSRI (to help with all the “fun” intrusive thoughts). This felt like a blow. Like, after all the hard work I’ve been doing, and all the strides I’ve made, I’m still so unwell that I need a medication overhaul and more intensive therapy? This didn’t feel good at all.

Lists can be fun. (maybe) Here are some reasons why I don’t want to do any of this:

1. I am ready to stop revisiting the past. I want to move forward in my new life.
2. I can’t really wrap my head around the fact that I ever suffered actual trauma. Nobody ever hit me.
3. Switching meds is risky and I could encounter bad side effects, withdrawal and it may not work for me. If the current SSRI is mostly helping and I’m the only one bothered by the thoughts, it would be selfish to put my family through a risky med change just to make myself possibly feel a bit better.
4. This specific program would require taking a two month leave from work. My daily routine is too important to screw with like that. Working keeps me grounded.
5. The medication that she recommends is Prozac and that sounds pretty scary because whenever the news says bad things about anti-depressants, I remember they always name Prozac (even though I know that just means it’s popular).
FINALLY: I think that I am mostly stable, so I want to stop being so selfish and not waste another breathe talking about my thoughts.

It’s true that I’m doing much better than I was. But it’s very frustrating that I’m still not well. I don’t know how to say this in a way that captures the intensity of this frustration. I don’t even know that I can ever expect to feel much better than this.  I’m only 32 years old.

I’m sick of therapy. I’m sick of over-analyzing myself. I’m not that interesting. I’m sick and tired of traipsing around in my crazy mind.

Packing it in.

I'm eating my feelings and they taste delicious

My insides are all wrong

There is a fat old lady with a mustache
using a thigh-master on my lungs.
She is too fast and too slow- never in rhythm.
I beg for mercy.
She can’t hear me over the television.

My eyes are controlled by
A few stupid fairies who still can’t make sense of the world.
They like to draw on the backs of my eyeballs
and poke me with their tiny arrows.

My brain is actually one of those plastic globs
made to look like fatty tissue
that they keep in doctors offices
to teach kids how much 5 pounds of fat really is.

But my heart is real.
A young girl curls her naked body around it.
She is cold and hungry and sad.
Sometimes the heart warms her,
sometimes she freezes it.
She won’t let me near it.

Somewhere deep behind my pancreas,
There is a crazed woman locked in a tiny cage.
I’ve shoved her deep down
But I can hear her…

I feel guilty keeping her in
She knows I can hear her
She knows that I care
She pleads her case
Over and over.

She tells me that she is the real me.

She can never be free.

Clip from League of Gentlemen of Tubbs screaming "my insides are all wrong!"