Dear The Band,
I’m a writer.
Or, at least, I think I am. I’d like to think I am. I think about writing all the time – and then I feel ashamed of myself because I’m not writing. I think about all of the stories I could be writing – I think about the text file of ideas for stories on my desktop – and then I get even more depressed because I’m not writing.
The great thing is that I’m not writing because I’m depressed, because I have no job, no friends, am 1300 miles away from all support systems, except for my wonderful soon-to-be husband, and I spend most of my time in an insecure, anxious ball feeling sorry for myself.
I keep seeing over and over again, on Twitter and Facebook and in my MFA program’s forum this statement: “if you don’t write, you aren’t a writer, and you probably shouldn’t be. To be a writer, you must need to write like it’s the way you breathe.” So I second-guess myself; I don’t need that. But I need to need that, if that makes sense.
I miss the feeling of excitement when I pull off a great scene. I miss feeling proud of myself. I miss the sense of self-esteem writing gives me. But right now, depression is taking it away.
I just don’t know how to push through the overwhelming apathy and shame to start writing again. And everyone who tells me to shit or get off the pot – to just start writing regardless – really isn’t helping.
How do I get through this loneliness, depression, anxiety and shame to find myself again?
I’m not sure where I went, but it’d be damn good to see myself again.
With all the upheaval and negativity running rampant through our lives, it’s important to be able to stop, take stock of what’s important, and find some joy wherever we can.
At The Band Back Together Project, we like to take the time specifically to arrange a little happy boost for everyone.
t dawns on me as I sit there, anxiety at an all time high, my left butt-cheek falling asleep, that I could be somewhere else eating a bagel. Like Paris. Or Detroit. Or learning the Swahili phrase for “pants are bullshit.” Or washing my car. Okay, maybe not washing my car. It was like -900 degrees out. Washing my car would be like that scene in the Terminator with the Nitrous Oxide and the robot.
I smile, imagining my car shattering in the car wash, until I remember I’m probably sitting on barf germs. I hate barf germs.
My iPhone isn’t getting any signal in here. Stupid AT&T. Should be named the iCAN’TPhone because I haven’t been able to make a phone call since I got the damn thing. Hm. I really could use some mindless interaction from The Twitter right about now. Or maybe a Vicodin-Chip cookie. Or some vodka. Because my heart feels like it’s going to pound right the fuck out of my chest.
When the hell did this HAPPEN?
When did I start feeling stretched as taut as an over-tuned violin string? Why did I feel like the pressure to do more; to be more, to constantly outdo myself was omnipresent? Like I couldn’t ever possibly manage to live up to my own unrealistic expectations? Like I had to somehow be everything to everyone. Like if I didn’t constantly prove myself, I would cease to matter. I would cease to exist.
When did this start? And moreover: how could I make this stop?
These anxious racing thoughts; this anxiety, this had to stop.
Admitting that I had a problem the first step, I know from Al-Anon, and doing something about it was important. Hence the bagel-craving and the barf-germ-coated chair in my doctor’s waiting room. And, of course, the urge to flee so that I could learn Portuguese or Mandarin or really anything but admit that I had a problem.
I’m so tired of problems. I’m so tired of having something wrong that I barely want to admit to myself that I have a problem. Between migraines and my lazy-ass missing-in-action thyroid and insomnia, I can hardly stand to be in the same room with myself anymore without wanting to punch myself in the teeth. Problems are bullshit. I hate problems. Maybe I can make a “Problems Are Bullshit” shirt. Because they are. Bullshit, that is.
Maybe this isn’t ACTUALLY a problem. Maybe I can just ignore it and it’ll get better on it’s own.
Except it hasn’t. Because that’s what I’ve been doing. And it’s not working. Clearly.
Before I could do anything, though, the nurse poked her head into the waiting room, “Becky?” she trilled calmly, clearly unaware of my churning guts.
I sighed, put my iDON’TWORKPhone back into my purse and followed her back.
“What seems to be the problem?” she asked kindly.
“Well,” I started, looking at my hands, ashamed to be admitting this to anyone but the people who live inside my computer. “It’s sorta like this…”
Reprinted with permission from the original author, Becky Sherrick Harks, or Aunt Becky of Mommy Wants Vodka from March 8, 2001.
Birth: 16 Apr 2004
Death: 23 Jan 2019
“My dog does this amazing thing where he just exists and makes my whole life better because of it.”
Chihuahua. So not a breed of dog that I would ever have thought I would ever own. I’ve always been more into the working breeds, (ie: GSD, Dobermans, Boxers, Rotties, etc.) But way back in 2004, my ex (who wasn’t an ex at the time) and I stopped at a pet store. (Ok, please don’t yell at me about buying a pet store dog. I now know all about puppy mills and stuff. I know, I know. But back then I didn’t really know, or didn’t think about it, or whatever. If I ever get another dog it will be a rescue. Please don’t yell at me.)
Honestly we were just out enjoying the day when we decided to go in and look around. It was something to do.
I said “No dogs”, but somehow we walked out with a dog, who we ended up naming Jack. This dog went across country with us a few times; he was a great traveling companion. But I always told people he wasn’t MY dog. I mean my ex was the one that talked me into getting him. And they seemed pretty attached to each other.
Fast forward to 2013.
We had moved from Florida to Minnesota in 2010 to be closer to her family after I got laid off work. Then in March of 2013, My ex and I split. I was devastated. Don’t get me wrong, there were things wrong on both sides. I take my fair share of the blame there. But when she was preparing to move out, I was informed that I got to take the dog, she was taking the cat. (Um, what? He’s not my dog, but ok.)
I was now keeping the dog.
It’s probably a good thing I got him. You see I have PTSD, it’s probably actually CPTSD but that’s just now becoming a thing. And along with PTSD, I get a side of anxiety (with panic attacks) and depression.
Woohoo….I have a trifecta of mental crap! Yay! Go team me! /end sarcasm.
But the one living being who helped me through all of the break up and mental stuff was Jack, my little chi.
He was there when no one else was.
He laid next to me when I cried.
Back when I was in therapy, I’d come home and talk to him about it. Jack was the one I celebrated with when I got my first degree black belt. He celebrated birthdays with me, and helped me when I was down.
Because no matter how much I wanted to just hide from everyone and not get out of bed, I had to get up.
Jack needed me, to go out, or to be fed, or whatever. I could not neglect him just because I was a mess.
I had to keep going because this little sweet soul needed me. Even when I felt like no one really needed me for anything, Jack did. He depended on me for food, shelter and companionship.
As much as he needed me, I ended up needing him as well. I needed someone to get excited to see me. I’d come home from work and he was so glad I was home. Jack was the one thing in my life who wanted me there.
It was he and I against the world.
I took him to parks, we went on drives together. He heard me rant about stuff and listened to all my stories. If I was anxious he came and sat in my lap so I would pet him. We were best buds.
Late last year I was beginning to suspect that something was going on with him. There was nothing I could pinpoint and say, that’s it.
So I just kept an eye on him.
He was still the same loving dog he was just slowing down a bit; he WAS 14 years old, not a young kid anymore.
So I just kept an eye on him.
Then in January of this year, he took a turn.
I’m not going into it all but I did get him to the vet. They did blood work to start because we didn’t know what was going on. This was a place to start trying to figure it out. His blood work came back all normal. She said according to his blood work he was healthy.
The vet said the next step was getting some imagining done to see if there was tumors or something else.
But we didn’t get that far. His blood work came back on a Tuesday afternoon and Jack died in my arms the next day.
It was Wednesday the 23rd of January at about 8pm.
I don’t know what happened to him.
But I do know a part of me died that day.
He might not have been a trained emotional support dog, but that’s the job he fell into, he was there for me through some dark times. I’ve cried more over the death of this dog then I have over anyone else, human or animal.
I’m crying right now typing this.
I don’t even feel like I’m putting into the proper words what this dog meant to me.
I’m still not over his death and I’m not sure I ever will be. I’m still grieving seven months later.
I still talk to his ashes and tell him mamma loves him.
When I make popcorn I still put a piece or two by his ashes. He loved popcorn.
I have a couple of wonderful friends who had a book made for me, one of those Shutterfly ones.
One of my friends works in marketing (she’s a graphic designer) so she swiped the photos from my Facebook. My other friend, who is my TKD instructor, found the quotes.
So they made me a book of my Jack.
It’s probably the greatest gift I’ve been given. I have a shelf with a couple of photos of him and one of our other dog Abbie. The book is there too.
Jack’s ashes are there along with a clay heart with Jack’s paw prints. I call it my shrine.
I miss him…
I fell back into my depression and my anxiety has been worse. It’s been a rough year.
But I’m slowly trying to pull myself out of it. I’ve been trying to make myself get out of the apartment more. I’ve been trying to take walks in the park near here.
It’s the one Jack and I went to the most in his last 6 months before he passed. It took me several months to even drive back into that park. I still haven’t been able to bring myself to clean the inside of the windows in my van, his nose prints are still on them.
But I’m trying to do more, to get out.
But it’s hard. So very hard.
Jack’s ashes are in a small box inside of a velvet bag with embroidery. It says, “Until we meet again at the Rainbow Bridge.”
Got a burning question that you need to crowdsource? Look no further than The Band. Click here to add your question.
Hey The Band,
Does anyone in the group have a child with anxiety? My daughter is six and we are trying to get her back in with a child therapist to see what is going on and how to help her best manage her anxiety.
I am stressed about it all and I would love to hear from someone who has been through it.
By the time my first baby was born, I had been in therapy for about a year and a half. When I started therapy, I had reached a point where I knew I needed help, and the risk of reaching out for help was outweighed by the burden of sitting alone with the darkness I felt any longer. Therapy helped me a ton and I was in a much better spot when I became pregnant. My husband and I had been married for two years, and though the pregnancy was unplanned, I desperately wanted a baby.
Pregnancy was a roller coaster of emotions, with lots of vomiting. The last couple of months were good, and I felt strong and ready for childbirth, but still unsure of motherhood. My labor was not typical and there were a stressful three days and 20ish hours of active labor that led up to the birth of my daughter. By the time she was born, I was exhausted. The first thought I remember having when my husband placed my baby on my chest was “I don’t know how to do this,” followed by apologizing that she was crying and that I had been too loud during labor. I felt ashamed, like I somehow didn’t do it right. Then I felt doubly ashamed for commenting about the baby crying, because obviously babies are supposed to cry. And what kind of mother would think there is something wrong with her baby crying right after she’s born? No one was putting this on me or making me feel this way. There was also joy and a deep cozy feeling when cuddling my new babe but, mostly, I was scared, tired, and feeling completely unqualified.
The nurse let me “rest” for a few hours after the birth, during which my husband and baby took a nap, and I ate and took a shower. Then the nurse came back in to give me a bunch of instructions on baby care before sending me home with an hours-old extremely delicate creature who completely depended on me for survival. I told the nurse that I was too tired to remember anything and I wasn’t sure I was qualified to care for a newborn. She told me that newborns were made for new parents (which was oddly reassuring) and to set an alarm to go off every two hours all night long, so that I could wake up to feed the baby. She emphasized how important it was that I feed the baby every two hours and wake her up to feed if she was sleeping.
The first night was hard. I remember my husband waking me up because I didn’t hear the alarm going off under my pillow. I don’t remember if the baby was awake, too, in the cosleeper beside our bed, but I do remember that every time I tried to nurse her, she would fall right back to sleep. The next day, I called the nursing support line and they told me she was a “sleepy nurser,” and gave me some tips on how to wake her up to nurse. My mom stayed with us for about three days to help out and my grandparents came to meet the new baby. After about five days, my husband went back to work and I was very much alone at home.
I remember worrying about a lot of things and wanting to do everything right. I remember her gazing into my face as I rocked and nursed her, looking into her big dark eyes and feeling like I was falling down a very deep tunnel. Then weird thoughts would flash through my mind: “What if she can’t breathe while she is nursing, what if she knows I have no idea what I am doing, what if she is a demon? I am not emotionally stable enough to be a mother; what if someone finds out and takes her away from me?” This scared me to the point that I avoided looking into her eyes. I never wanted to hurt my child, but I was afraid of the things going through my mind.
I was especially scared of trimming her fingernails. They were so tiny and her fingers were so precious. I worried that I would snip them with the trimmers by accident. Several people suggested that it was easier to chew baby nails than to trim them, but every time I thought of this, a picture would flash into my mind of my sweet baby’s finger chewed to a bloody nub. Sometimes those flashes would come when I was trimming her nails and I started trimming them only when I was feeling well rested, for fear of having one of those thoughts and freaking out.
There were other things that I knew I weren’t right too. Anytime I saw one of those child safety tags they put on every piece of baby gear, I would visualize whatever horror they warned about happening to my baby. I would lay her in the Pack-n-Play, catch a glimpse of the warning label and have a flash of finding her suffocated. Same with the baby carrier, the stroller, and the baby bathtub. She would cry when my husband tried to put her to sleep at night and I remember worrying that my husband was sexually abusing her, and wrestling with that being a totally crazy thought, but still feeling that I needed to protect her from him. (Please note my husband has never and would never do this. I think this just came up in my mind because my mother had been sexually abused by her father when she was a kid and I was just having really bizarre thoughts). Instead of resting, I would stay awake listening to them on the baby monitor, crying and worrying until she went to sleep. Once she was asleep, I would lay awake in bed thinking about all the horrible crap that could happen, plus my to-do list, and what a fucked-up person I was.
These thoughts were scary to me, but they weren’t entirely new. During the deepest part of my depression a few years earlier, I had similar gruesome flashes any time I saw my husband’s X-Acto knife. That gruesome image was always of the knife slicing my wrists, which is why I finally went into therapy, though I never told my therapist of my concerns about the knife. I was afraid that if I told her, she would have me committed or the have the baby taken away. I was not suicidal, did not use self harm, and absolutely did not want to kill myself.
When my maternity leave ended, I went back to work. I was incredibly sleep deprived because my baby would not take a bottle while I was gone and would nurse every two hours all night long. Her weight percentage had gone down and the doctor was concerned about her getting enough milk and gaining weight. I kept up the night feedings, tried different things to get her weight up and worried about everything. The gruesome images and thoughts kept up for a while, too. I can’t remember exactly when I stopped having them, but I remember having them when some friends came to visit when my baby was about six months old.
Around that time I attempted to handle my anxiety by smoking pot or drinking after I put the baby to bed at night. This helped me numb out a little but, ultimately, it added to my anxiety. Before becoming pregnant, I drank and smoked a lot, and it was too easy to fall back on those unhealthy coping mechanisms. I stayed in therapy for another year and a half for post-partum depression, and my therapist helped me “fact check” some of my irrational fears, like that my baby was going to starve to death or that my husband couldn’t adequately care for her while I was at work. She also helped me figure out what self care was, and generally made me feel loved and supported. Even though I never disclosed everything that I was experiencing, having her support was extremely helpful. I will forever be grateful for how kind she was to me and how much she helped me during this time.
Eventually, my husband and I decided that we were both worn too thin with our work schedules, and figured out how I could leave my job and stay home. When I left my job, I also lost the mental health care coverage I had through my insurance. My therapist and I made a self care and emergency plan in case the depression came back. When I ended therapy, I decided to stop smoking pot entirely. Facing shit without an easy numb-out was harder than I thought it would, and the first three days, everything felt very intense. Even though I didn’t smoke “that much,” I knew it was important for me to quit and develop some healthier ways of being in the world. I also joined a support group, took an online self care class for moms, started exercising, and found a really cool mental health video game that taught me about different aspects of self care.
When my second baby was born two years ago, I asked for more support from my family after the birth and I had a community of moms to talk with. I kept track of my two week timeline for depression and was more aware of how that looks in my own mind. Although there were things that I worried about and struggled with, I did not have any of the scary thoughts or gruesome flashes as the first time around. I did feel overwhelmingly joyful about gazing into his newborn eyes. It was a totally different and less scary experience. Having a completely different post-partum experience the second time has shown me how much of my experience was PPD and not just typical new motherhood.
I hope that my story will encourage other moms to get the support they need if they are experiencing PPD after the birth of a baby or depression years later. It can be hard to see the symptoms when you are in the fog of it, and it is worth seeking help if you aren’t sure about what you’re experiencing. Healing is worth it. You are worth it.
I’m a girl – check that – a lady. I married a fantastic man. I have a crappy job, but it’s okay. I hobby (yeah, hobby as a verb, got a problem with that?) – I read, embroider, write to pen pals, and water my dead plants.
I get panic attacks. I have Bipolar II Disorder. But it’s okay. I mean, I can’t cure it…so, I live with it, right?
Don’t get me wrong, it blows serious monkey balls most of the time. I’m currently untreated and once my insurance kicks in, I’ll still have to wait another six months to have it covered, “pre-existing condition” and all. (Wait, wait, I’m getting to something.) I’ve got a few problems – so what, right? I’m with the Band and “problems” is one tune we all sing.
So why do I feel like I’m the first person to bring up bed-wetting? I’m no expert. I don’t have any kids. I don’t know anyone who’s ever done it…sober. I never did it as a kid. I mean, well, since I got potty trained. I’m good at being potty trained.
Recently, though, I peed the bed. Not even in a drunken haze. Just while sleeping, like a normal person. That’s what you do, right, sleep? And then, a few weeks later, I did it again!
What. The. Hell.
Add that to the migraines when I’m around blinking lights, a nervous twitch when my sister visits, panic attacks when I, well, whenever – it just happens on the roller coaster of being untreated Bipolar. That’s not enough? Now this?
For fuck’s sake, I’m an adult. I’m married. I share a bed with a man and two dogs. I yell at my little dog for peeing on the kitchen floor, but at least she’s not doing it in the bed. (You should see the looks she gives me, by the way.)
The only two times it has happened – hopefully the only two times it will ever happen – the only commonality I can see is that I had nightmares. I get nightmares pretty frequently, especially when I’m shifting between ups and downs, so it’s not like I can say, “Oh, it was the nightmares which caused them!”
The first incident was in the early morning hours. I awoke to myself peeing and ran to the bathroom. I finished, showered, and continued on with my day. No sheets were wet, just my pj’s. I told the Hub and we passed it off as maybe I drank too much water before going to bed, and was in too deep a sleep to fully wake up. Or maybe I was getting an UTI.
But whatever, accidents happen. We never mentioned it again.
The second incident, a few weeks later, I happened to be sleeping on the couch. (So, maybe I lied. Maybe I peed the bed once and the couch once. Hah! So, I’ve only peed the bed once!) I woke up in a virtual puddle. Thank goodness we have dogs and my couch is stain-guarded so nothing really soaked in. I ran to the bathroom, but I had already drained everything; and it was a LOT.
There I was, soaked in pee, in my living room. I cleaned up myself and the couch, and change into something dry. This was 2:00 in the am. I hate being up at that time – we don’t have cable and nothing’s on. I just stood and stared at my couch, willing it to dry faster. The husband woke up and stumbled to the living room “Are you coming to bed?”
I had fallen asleep watching television (I heart The Nanny reruns).
I had to tell him what happened.
We talked about it.
Did I remember the nightmare? No.
Did I drink a lot of anything before I went to bed? No.
Is there pain? Could I be pregnant? Is that even a symptom?
Have I been feeling all right in the brain lately? Any issues maybe that are bothering me that weren’t before? No.
Nothing seems different. Panic attacks seem more frequent lately, and the migraines last longer. That could be because I’m shifting schedules – downs to ups, you know.
Nothing seems to be triggering this new symptom.
Maybe all my other symptoms increasing in number and intensity are just putting my body through hell. Maybe it’s a new thing. Maybe I’ll do it again. Maybe I won’t do it again until I can see a proper doctor (November 2nd). Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. I just don’t know enough about bed-wetting to be sure about anything. (I’m not even sure it’s hyphenated.)
I do know something, though. I know I have someone special in my husband. I know that even after I had cleaned it all up, my husband cleaned the couch. He still waited a day or two to sit down on it. He was so nice about the whole situation, though. He worried about me, and what this new activity means for me. He said he was sorry my broken brain was making my body do crazy things.
To relieve the new anxiety I had facing bedtime, he even cracked a joke and offered to put me out with the dogs for a potty break before bed. No, really, I laughed. It’s all I could do. But I threatened I might pee on the couch again if he made me laugh too hard. And we laughed at that.
And then we went to bed, nervous about what the night might bring.