Tag Archives: mental illness

Nora Left Eye Lopes

To preface (because I love a good long-winded preface), the purpose of this post is two-fold.

1. To express and work through the emotions and anxiety I have as a new mom processing and managing her child’s medical issue. Even if you feel these emotions are insanely out of proportion to the issue, they are MY emotions AND I’M ALLOWED TO HAVE THEM, GOD DAMNIT. (Ching! That’s the sound of my therapist earning the $500000000000000000000000000+ my family has paid her over the past 12 years). Plus, writing about my anxiety always helps to relieve it. And sometimes, it even helps someone else going through something similar– bonus! imgres

2. People have already noticed and asked about the issue, because it is physical and perceptible. It doesn’t bother me that people ask (meh, not totally accurate– depends who it is. Friend? Fine. Guy in elevator? Fuck off.), but I want to use this platform to educate, inform, and perhaps just not have to repeat myself and explain the situation to everyone I know in the future (because saying things in person is hard and I hate it). Generally though, I feel it’s always best just to put things out there rather than have people wonder about it or make assumptions.

I know, that was only the preface and you’re already exhausted. I’m sorry. Not all my posts fit on twitter.

Here we go.


 

In the first few days after Nora was born, she did not open her right eye. At all.

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Eric and I thought this was a bit bizarre, but also recognized that she had just been through a trauma of epic proportions (ask Eric what it’s like to watch a C-section– his face goes pale and he makes multiple references to the movie Alien). So we tried not to obsess. But when the pediatrician checked her over in the hospital on Day 2, we made a point to ask about it.

Us: “So, is it weird that she hasn’t opened this eye at all?”

Pediatrician: “Nope. Totally normal. Don’t worry– she does have an eyeball under there. I checked.”

We all had a good chuckle and I tried not to interpret her remark as slightly condescending. The concern, clearly, was not about a missing eyeball (mainly because it didn’t occur to me that that was even a thing. IS that a thing?!) The concern was about her ability to open the eye. But we were assured that newborns often take days to open both eyes (which, to be fair, is true), and she was fine. So we joked that she was just giving us the stink eye for having so brutally evicted her from her cozy uterus-home, nicknamed her “One Eyed Willie,” and tried to call it a day.

But internally*, I obsessed.

(*in this context, “internally” means saying things out loud to Eric every 2-6 seconds for weeks on end.)

I knew something was off. I think they refer to this as “mother’s intuition,” and maybe there was a bit of that going on, but I believe it was really more just a product of my textbook anxious-paranoid-obsessive-compulsive tortured existence personality.

At her 3-week pediatrician appointment I brought it up again. At this point, the right eye was opening, but not nearly as wide as the left. Unfortunately, the doctor could not really assess this, as Nora slept though the entire appointment, ignoring any and all attempts to wake her. She had no problem laying there, unclothed and comatose in a freezing cold room, snoozing soundly. Like this, but stark naked:

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Clearly my kid.

So at her 8 week appointment, I brought it up once again. This time Nora decided to be awake, probably because we stupidly booked the appointment for 6pm, in the midst of her witching hour. Rookie new parent mistake. She was pissed and tired and hungry and glaring at me with “wtf Ma!?” face.

But the plus side was that the doctor was able to get a good look at her (murderous) eyes.

And she didn’t love what she saw.

“At this point, I’d expect to see both eyes opening to the same degree.”

I wanted to shout I KNEW FROM DAY 1 THAT SOMETHING WAS WRONG, DICK! But instead I smiled politely and said “Mmm hmm,” because society.

She referred us to a pediatric ophthalmologist, who confirmed a diagnosis of Congenital Ptosis (the p is silent, FYI. We learned that the hard way). Ptosis is a fancy way of saying “droopy eyelid.” Without getting too technical (I have warned you all repeatedly that this is NOT a medical blog, and most of my info comes from Wikipedia, what I’m able to decipher of my frantically-jotted doctor’s appointment notes, and what I heard from “someone I know who knows someone”)– in congenital ptosis, babies are born with a damaged levator muscle, the one that is in charge of lifting the eyelid. Unfortunately, since the muscle is damaged (not simply “underdeveloped”), there is not much that can be done to strengthen it and improve the droop– treatment is instead focused on maintaining vision in the affected eye. In severe ptosis, the eyelid covers the pupil and restricts a child’s vision, which can lead to all kinds of eye problems such as lazy eye, astigmatism, or amblyopia (google it. Or don’t. I don’t care, I just don’t want to get too medically complex here. I like to think this blog is a safe space where people don’t have to learn/think too much). When that is the case, surgery is recommended ASAP to prevent these conditions from developing.

Luckily, for now, Nora’s case seems to be fairly mild (fingers crossed– we’ll know more after her appointment next week). Her lid does not cover her pupil unless she is extremely tired, so thus far, her vision seems fine and is developing normally. We will have regular checkups with the ophthalmologist to ensure that this remains the case, and if anywhere down the line her vision becomes affected, we will do the (very routine, relatively simple, and not too invasive) surgery. Otherwise, surgery is a future option simply for cosmetic reasons. Yes, Forrest Whittaker (thank you, “celebrities with ptosis” google search) has rocked his droopy eye all the way to the bank, but the droop life isn’t necessarily for everyone. Depending on how it looks when she’s a toddler, we will consider the surgery just to even things out and not have to worry about the vision aspect anymore.

I know what you’re thinking (no I don’t, but I know what the critical voices inside my head are thinking, so I’ll go ahead and address those relentless bastards)– cosmetic surgery for a toddler?! But let’s call a fig a fig**, people– kids can be cruel. The world can be cruel. I’m totally cool with Nora’s eye looking a little wonky. Maybe even she’d be cool with it (likely, as at zero years old, she’s already showing signs of being a way cooler person than I am). But other kids, and society in general, might not be cool about it. There are going to be a million challenges in this world that Nora will have to overcome, and I will be unable to control most of them (*takes deep breath, pops Prozac*). But if this is one hardship that we as parents can help alleviate, and we can prevent a lifetime of her having to explain her face (that no, she’s not tired, or sick, or skeptical, or giving the stink eye), then damnit we’re probably going to step in and do something.

Plus, Nora comes from a long line of cosmetically-enhanced women (three generations of nose jobs, praise be 🙌  ). I wouldn’t want her to feel left out.

Let me also assure you that, droop or no droop, vision issue or 20/20, I think my daughter is the height of amazingness. She is adorable, beautiful, sweet and already showing all the signs of being extremely social, happy, smart, strong, and even funny (those first slew of adjectives are all Eric, but I’m claiming the sense of humor and taking it to my grave). Her endearing personality is emerging more and more each day, and it’s incredible to watch. She is my everything, and I couldn’t possibly love her more or be more unabashedly obsessed with her (my instagram deserves a rating of 5 vomit emojis. I wasted no time becoming that mom). To use a trite phrase that I can now appreciate, she truly is perfect in my eyes (but check with me again when she’s 13 and calling me a bitch).

So in the meantime, we are putting an eyepatch on her for 30 minutes a day to ensure she uses the affected eye, and that her vision remains intact.

Clearly, this is where the nickname “Nora Left Eye Lopes” comes in– and if you don’t get that TLC reference, then may god have mercy on your un-pop-cultured soul (or maybe you’re just too young to get, in which case, fuck you). We bought some cute, stylish patches to rock, attempted to find a Lisa Left Eye Lopes Halloween costume that wasn’t slutty (doesn’t exist) and for now, as the ophthalmologist instructed, we are just “keeping an eye on it– no pun intended!”

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I’ve been asked if ptosis is something Nora will “outgrow.” The short answer is no. The muscle is damaged, and it will never work properly without surgery. However, some babies with congenital ptosis “grow into it,” in that the droop becomes less noticeable as they get older, their features grow, and they learn some compensation strategies (such as lifting their eyebrow to raise the lid– which Nora already does (below), and it’s amazing because it creates this “Are you fucking serious?” look on her face that makes me laugh every time):

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Although the raised eyebrow in THIS photo is more specifically “Are you fucking serious with this headband, Ma?”. Ugh, I don’t know Nora, I was trying a thing.

Now I also just want to take a moment to acknowledge that I am extremely aware of the fact that Nora’s ptosis is, in the grand scheme of things, a minor issue to have. Please know that I know this. Please don’t remind me that things could be a million times worse. I am well aware, and my heart aches for parents having to deal with far more terrifying and complex medical issues. Ptosis is diagnosable, and there is a pretty straightforward protocol for treatment. It is not at all life-threatening (assuming it’s not the symptom of a more serious neurological issue, which it appears not to be), and, as long as we continue to monitor it, it likely won’t ever affect her growth and development (HARD knock on wood). We are very lucky. Beyond lucky.

But when any kind of issue arises with your kid– well, it’s scary. Really fucking scary. To pretend otherwise, and to say that I immediately recognized (or have even now fully recognized) this is not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, would be, I think, disingenuous to the experience of parenting (and to the general experience of being human, I would venture to say). Plus, I’m new at this. Nora was barely in the world for an hour before I noticed something was off. There’s no handbook for this shit. There’s no way to stop your mind from going to the deepest depths of worst-case scenarios– what if it stunts her vision? What if it’s a symptom of a more serious, underlying illness? Or what if it IS just cosmetic, but causes kids to pick on her? Laugh at her? Call her horribly mean names? (This last one, I suppose, is not REALLY a concern, as Nora will wear a hidden camera at all times throughout her entire life, which I will monitor, and should any kid even LOOK at her funny, I will kill them.)

No no, relax guys, I’m kidding.

Eric will kill them.

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So how did Nora develop congenital ptosis? Well, the doctors say it’s just something that happens sometimes. No real reason.

But I blame myself. Obviously. Because hi 👋 .

Slowly, I am starting to accept the medical (non)explanation, and my therapist’s insistence that nothing I did during pregnancy caused this, but I still can’t fully shake the crippling fear and guilt that this is somehow my fault. Here’s a list of questions I asked myself in the wake of Nora’s diagnosis:

  1. Did this happen because I was depressed during my first trimester of pregnancy?
  2. Did this happen because I took meds for the nausea, even though they were approved by my doctor?
  3. Did this happen because I worked out too much, even though I was assured it was safe, and even healthy?
  4. Did this happen because I ate that funky cheese from the farmer’s market before knowing I wasn’t supposed to eat funky cheese?
  5. Did this happen because I complained so much during pregnancy?
  6. Did this happen because I was mean to my mom in high school?
  7. Did this happen because I once stole an avocado from Whole Foods?

As you can see, the guilt has become increasingly irrational.

My intellectual side (mostly) knows this is not my fault, but my heart aches at the nagging, persistent thought that my actions might have caused this.  The mere idea of my daughter having to face any kind of hardship makes me want to just crawl up and die– to think I might have caused that hardship makes me want to die even faster and more violently.

But apparently, that’s motherhood. It’s incredible and beautiful, but it’s tortured. This is the first challenge Nora has faced, and it won’t be her last. This one may or may not be my fault, but I’m sure future ones will be. This time I might be able to step in and minimize the effects, but that will not continue to be the case as she grows older.

There will be a time when I look away for a second and she falls flat on her face. There will be a time when I can’t make it to her event, and she feels neglected. There will be a time when she discovers this blog and, mortified, hires a lawyer to request emancipation. There will be a time when she is a young adult, telling her therapist how I am the root of all her problems (and referencing printed-out excerpts of this blog as evidence). It’s the circle of Jewish life.

In the meantime, like all moms, I’m just doing the best I can not to fuck it all up. I’m accepting (gulp) that I can’t control it all. I’m managing my anxiety and working through my guilt. And in the meantime, I’m doing everything I can to ensure Nora knows that Mom will steadfastly love and support her throughout her life, through any and all challenges she might face.

Will it be enough?

We’ll see.

(Get it? Ptosis? We’ll SEE? Ugh I hate myself.)

No I can’t end this on a bad pun. Here, this instead:

 


(** I recently learned that my go-to expression, “Let’s call a spade a spade” has racist undertones. I was clearly blissfully unaware of this, but am nevertheless horrified that I was walking around spewing this expression left and right. Unfortunately, I have yet to come up with a good replacement expression. “Let’s call a corgi a corgi,” is Eric-approved, but I’m not sure it has universal appeal. Some quick research led me to the discovery that the original expression was actually “Let’s call a fig a fig.” So that’s my temporary fill in. It’s not great, but it’s not racist, so priorities. Feel free to use it. #themoreyouknow)

When You Die

Therapist: “I know you’re overwhelmed and it’s a lot of change. But having a kid is the absolute best lesson in learning how to let go of control. You’ve had many opportunities for this lesson in the past, and it’s always been scary at first but beneficial in the end.”

Me: “Right. Well, I guess with those lessons, there was always kind of an end point. I feel like this time there is no end. Like the second I become ok and comfortable with something, she’s going to change.”

Therapist: “Correct. The lesson is ongoing. It ends when you die.”

Me: url.jpg

Therapist: url.jpg

Me: img_7086-2

Therapist: “K so here’s your August invoice! See you next week!”

 

We Named Our Daughter After a Mouse

(Note: This post was written while still pregnant, lest you think I just shot a kid out of my baby-cannon and now have any ability to construct a coherent sentence, much less a mini-memoir.)

Yes, a mouse.

But stay with me. We have a rational reason for doing so. Well, maybe not a rational reason (not sure how anyone can expect me to be rational right now, as I am currently in month 9 of having two vaginas), but a reason that will at least provide some context for my desire to name our child after an animal that most people try to kill with strategically placed snap-traps.

Ten years ago, I suffered a deep, terrifying, paralyzing depression. I’ve written about it and referenced it many times on this blog so I won’t re-hash the details in this post, but needles to say, it was my darkest hour. What I haven’t mentioned before is a somewhat interesting (and now extremely relevant) aspect of this terrible time in my life– my obsession with mouse-kid Noisy Nora.

Yes, I’ll explain (because who? And huh?).

In the months I spent depressed living in my parents’ home at age 26, I was unable to do virtually anything. One day, while robotically eating breakfast and staring blankly at the Honey Nut Cheerios box, my mother put a pencil in my hand and suggested I draw something. Not only did I think this was pointless, as EVERYTHING was pointless, but I thought it was extra ridiculous given that, a mild talent for photography aside, I had never at any point in my life shown any kind of visual-arts ability or interest.

But I had nothing to lose (and nothing to do), so I grabbed the pencil and started drawing what I saw on the cereal box in front of me.

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Looking at it now, I think “Not a bad little Cheerios bee!” At the time, however, all I could manage was, “Well this drawing sucks.” Because, you know. Everything sucked. But what I did notice was that for the brief time I was immersed in the sketching process, I wasn’t, for once, writhing in despair and wondering how the minutes of life could possibly be ticking by so slowly. I was able to escape my agony for a short, precious time, and that alone was enough reason to keep drawing.

So I did. Basically, I stuck to sketching images that were on the boxes of the food I was eating:

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As you can see, I was really into carbs.

Then one day, in a further desperate attempt to pass the interminable minutes, I began sorting through mountains of crap in my parents’ storage room. To my delight (delight is a strong word– I hated everything) I stumbled upon a box of my most beloved childhood books. They were all there: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Where the Wild Things Are, Doctor De Soto, The Snowy Day and, finally, at the very bottom of the box– Noisy Nora.

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GOD how I loved that book as a kid. It’s about a very endearing yet insufferable little mouse-kid who is jealous of the time her parents spend with her siblings, and therefore seeks attention by being a destructive little pain in the ass. I adored her, because I was her. No one could yell, stomp, and slam a door (then open it and re-slam it) for NO GOOD REASON like kid-me (and, ok, teenager-me. Adult-me…).

And for reasons I could not articulate, I suddenly became OBSESSED with drawing Nora. So obsessed, in fact, that I purchased a separate sketch pad solely for Nora drawings, where I could practice sketching her over and over again until I had her every tiny little detail perfected. (Side note: This genius separate-notebook idea backfired, as somewhere in the five times I’ve moved residencies since then, it got misplaced, while my notebook full of meaningless cereal box characters has somehow stood the test of time Face_With_Rolling_Eyes_Emoji_large ).

I sketched these Nora drawings in the privacy of my own bedroom, and kept the special Nora notepad under the bed where no one would find it. Unlike my Cheerios bee and Keebler elves, I was very protective of my Nora sketches and did not want to show them to anyone, even my mother, who was always so delighted and impressed by my cartoon drawings– so impressed, in fact, that she suggested I pursue a career in comic-strip writing (she was pretty desperate to give me purpose. She was also, understandably, drinking a LOT of wine during that time).

Nora was my little secret. I was never really able to articulate or explain to myself why I was so obsessed with her. Sure, I loved the book as a kid, but I loved lots of books and characters and wasn’t obsessing over any of THEM. At the time, the infatuation made no sense. But then again, nothing made sense, so I didn’t spend too much time or energy trying to figure it out.

Eventually, with copious medical interventions and the unwavering support of family and friends, I began to heal in early 2009, and life restarted again. I moved back to NYC, got a teaching job, found my marbles, and was functioning like the human I had forgotten I was capable of being.

And in the process, I let Nora go. Not completely and not forever– after all, she was there with me for those lonely, agonizing months and got me through a truly hopeless time– but now that I was able to participate in life again, the inexplicable obsession subsided and found a cozy spot in the back recesses of my mind, rather than in the fixated forefront.

Fast forward 9 years and I’m pregnant. As soon as we learned we were having a girl, out of (seemingly) nowhere, the name Nora came to my mind. I casually mentioned it to Eric as a name I liked, and he agreed it was nice, but suggested we keep thinking. He liked it but didn’t necessarily LOVE it, and maybe there was something out there we’d both LOVE. That was fine with me– I wasn’t even sure in that moment why I liked it so much, or why it came to me so suddenly, so I agreed to keep thinking. We looked through list after list and flirted with other names, many of which I did really like. But at the end of each day when I put my head to my pillow, I kept coming back to Nora.

And slowly, I began to realize why. Now, bear with me here– I’m not typically a hokey, whimsical or overly-spiritual person. But I am a big believer in things happening for a reason, and I do think “the universe,” however one might define that, plays a role in the direction our lives take. And in that time when I felt I truly had nothing to live for, I feel that maybe, just maybe, the Nora obsession was the universe’s way of saying “Do not give up, Emily. This darkness is temporary, and light awaits. There’s something big coming, and you’re going to want to be around to see it.”

Now I don’t want anyone to interpret this as me thinking that having a child is the only, or the ultimate, thing to live for. It has been 10 years since that depressive episode and my life has been beyond full of reasons to live– from big reasons (family, friends, major accomplishments both personal and professional, fabulous travel, discovery of new talents and interests) to all those little moments that make up a full, meaningful life  (a burst of uncontrolled laughter, hearing Journey’s “Faithfully” and remembering every single lyric to your camp alma mater, a post-run nap in a shaded hammock, the satisfaction of finally killing the pesky fly that’s been occupying your apartment for a week– sorry, that last one just happened like 5 minutes ago and DAMN it felt good! Anyway, we all have our things.)

There are trillions of reasons to live, big and small, but when you’re severely depressed, you can’t access any of them. So I think this Nora obsession, for which I had no explanation at the time, only an intense and seemingly primal NEED to draw her, was the universe desperately trying to shove hope in my face– to tell me that if I could just hold on and get through this time, I would rediscover all the reasons to be here, and come to see that I still have so much important work left to do in this life, including (but certainly not limited to) becoming a mom.

So I kept coming back to the name Nora, and although Eric liked it, he still wasn’t totally sold. I wanted to disclose the reason I was so attached to it, but I also worried he might think I was nuts (not sure why I still occasionally fear this. The guy has witnessed some pretty emotionally ape-shit moments and he’s still here, inexplicably, with bells on). For months, I kept pressing the name on him, with no explanation other than, “I just really like it,” only to get a non-committal, “I like it too, but let’s keep thinking,” in response.

So eventually, on a particularly hormonal day, I explained my reasoning. With tears in my eyes, I cautiously relayed the story of my Noisy Nora fixation, and how in hindsight I think it might have been the universe giving me a reason to hold on.

“Oh,” Eric said. “Well then that’s it. That’s her name. Why didn’t you just tell me that? Of course that’s her name. And now I love it.”

And that is why I married him.

And why we named our daughter after a rodent.

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Mental Illness and Pregnancy: To Medicate or Not to Medicate? That is the Question. (…that I do not have the answer to. I’m not a doctor. But here’s my experience.)

**Disclaimer (in case the title wasn’t disclaim-y enough for you): Like literally everything else on this CLEARLY non-medical blog, the following is based on MY personal experience. It is not intended to serve as definitive medical advice for my fellow mental health sufferers. I am not telling you to go off your meds, and I’m not telling you to stay on them. I am suggesting that you thoroughly consider your options, under the close care of a doctor who knows you well, and that you advocate for yourself before making a rash, fear-based decision. Mostly I am just letting you know that no matter what you decide or what you are going through, try to go easy on yourself. You’re doing the best you can. You are not alone. And you got this.**

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A lot of people have asked me if I’m still on my depression/anxiety meds while pregnant. This is a totally fair and welcomed question, mainly because most of you have asked in a matter-of-fact, non-judgmental, just-curious way, like, “Oh, hey, what’d you end up deciding about that?” But some of you have asked in more of an accusatory “You’re not still on your meds, are you!?” way that implies some sort of moral wrongness should I be on them– and even though I know (most of) you people come from a well-meaning place, it still makes me want to light your face on fire.

So allow me to try to explain a few things. Knowdlege is power and faces are generally better not aflame.

The answer is no, I am not on my meds. But let me be VERY clear about this– I am not off them because I have some kind of holier-than-thou judgement about staying on meds while pregnant. I have absolutely NO judgement about that, and in fact encourage women to stay on them if that’s what works best for their health and situation. Obviously. I am the queen of mental health triage– you do what you gotta fucking do to keep your marbles, sista! #sanityfirst

The drug I was on, Prozac (an SSRI), is actually known to be safe for pregnancy, and I know plenty of women who have been on this drug or others like it and have given birth to perfectly healthy children. And in fact, countless medical studies show that having a depressive episode or being acutely anxious while pregnant is far more harmful to a fetus than taking medication that will effectively treat these conditions (these MEDICAL conditions, in case you needed a reminder that this shit isn’t made up hocus pocus, they are legitimate illnesses). But yes, it is true that some mental health meds are unsafe for pregnancy. As long as you are discussing family planning with your therapist ahead of time, though, he/she should be steering you clear of those particular meds while pregnant.

Soooo after reading the above regurgitation of all the fun medical facts I’ve learned during my family planning journey,  you’re probably wondering, “Ok, so if all of that is true, why DID you stop taking your meds?”

Well, in a shocking turn of events, it was for no good reason at all, really. Basically, my therapist presented it to me like this: “The optimal, ideal situation is that you are off all medications and feeling fine, aka not depressed or anxious. Should you go off them and feel anxious or depressed, then the next best situation is for you to go back on them and stay on them for pregnancy. The least optimal scenario is that you have an acute depressive episode or debilitating anxiety while pregnant.”

Ok, so obviously all I heard there was, “The optimal, most ideal situation is that you are off meds….” and then I sort of stopped listening and everything else just became giphy. After all, it was my first time getting pregnant, I had no fucking clue what to expect or what the process TRULY entailed, so yeah, I wanted to do the thing I was told is “optimal.” No-brainer here. Do the “optimal, ideal” thing, because those are strong words that sound good. And I’m gonna be a good mom, damnit!

I’m not saying that line of thinking made sense, I’m just saying it’s the line of thinking I had when I quickly declared, “Ok, off the meds we go!” with far more confidence than any medication-dependent person with a lifelong mood disorder should have. lets-do-this

This decision was made back in July, and we weren’t planning to try to get pregnant until December, so I still had some time to wean off and be completely med-free for a bit before inviting a fetus into this  shitshow of an experiment delicate situation.

A few things to note.

  1. For the previous year before going off it, I had been on a very low dose of Prozac. That was part of why I felt I could probably be ok stopping it. Had I been on a high dose, it would have been a much more difficult and lengthy weaning process and likely wouldn’t have been worth it in my mind. Going off a low dose seemed easy and low risk.
  2. That being said, the last time I was med-free (age 26), I lost my goddamn mind. Like, completely incapacitated, lost 25 pounds, moved back in with my parents, played lots of senior-living type board games and took copious lukewarm baths just to pass the interminable minutes. I was extremely sick, and it was terrifying.
  3. THAT being said, I was younger then, far more naive, and had no idea what was happening to me. I had no reliable therapist, coping skills, or treatment plan for dealing with my illness. I didn’t even remotely UNDERSTAND it as an illness, so I certainly had no way of managing it (and no faith that it would ever end). Since then, I’ve done a ton of work on myself and have learned how to manage things (to the extent that I’m able) when life gets dark.
  4. THAAAAAAT being said, I’ve always had the medication to help me.

The conclusion I made based on these four somewhat unhelpful and conflicting points? If I go off the meds and things get bad, they probably won’t get as bad as that really bad time, because things are different now, and I’m more prepared.

But let’s be real, given I’ve had the consistent help of meds for 9 years, there’s just no possible fucking way to know that.

So I took the gamble, because gambling is fun when you’re drunk in Vegas so it’ll probably also be fun when you’re sober and housing a fetus, thought no one logical ever.

And at first it was fine. The weaning went smoothly. By the time I was completely off the meds, it was late October, aka my non-optimal time of year thanks to colder, darker weather setting in, and a general life-long refusal to understand why summer ends. So I didn’t feel GREAT* (*not really my M.O. regardless) but I certainly wasn’t depressed. Plus we had the 2-week, warm-weather honeymoon to look forward to, so that kept me going.

But the second I got pregnant in early December, shit hit the fan. I alluded to a lot of this in my post In a Shocking Turn of Events, I Am No Glowing Goddess, but shied away from some of the grimmer details because a) it was my first post about the pregnancy so I didn’t want to come out Depression guns a blazin’ and b) I was genuinely excited to finally share the news. But I do now feel the responsiblity, as a mental health advocate and general blogger of honesty, to let it be known that I was NOT ok that first trimester. I was hesitant to use the word “depressed” while I was in it, because I really didn’t want to admit to needing meds, and I felt like I should “stick it out” until the second trimester. Plus, recognizing you’re depressed WHILE you’re depressed isn’t always easy– it’s part of the mind-fuck of the illness. The very symptoms of depression (self loathing, worthlessness, hopelessness) prevent you from assessing the situation as “This is medical. I am ill,” and instead twist it to “I am the worst, I am being a little bitch, and I need to grow a pair.” (but alas, you cannot grow a pair– and the harder you try, the more you hate yourself for failing. Tricky little devils, these mood disorders).

I convinced myself it was all normal first trimester stuff. And some of it definitely was. Constant nausea and exhaustion will make anyone feel like shit. But some of it was really fucking dark, and I’m not so certain that’s normal.

I cried every single day. I stared blankly a lot. I couldn’t write, and could barely read. I felt absolutely no attachment to the pregnancy, and had no ability to see how anything was going to get better, or how I was supposed to love or care for a child. I was stuck in a thought loop of “You’re going to be a terrible mom, what were you thinking? This was a huge mistake.” I could barely get out of bed and I felt horribly, utterly lonely– the kind of lonely that can’t be cured by another person comforting you, because that ironically just makes you feel all the more alone (on that note, God bless Eric. No, literally, God, PLEASE bless him with a bevy of Corgi puppies upon his eventual arrival in heaven). That self-hating loneliness was the only feeling I had– about anything else, I felt absolutely nothing at all. It was 3 long months of toggling between complete isolated self-loathing and absolute, utter detachment. I’m not sure which I prefered. Both were pretty fucking non-optimal.

But it got better, eventually. Very recently. Do I feel great now? No. But I’m not depressed, and I’m able to feel excited at times. I have some energy back. I feel more motivation to get up and go. I open the blinds. I listen to music. I’m doing my job, not just suffering through it. I walk on the treadmill. Food tastes like food again.

But please note, the second after this baby is born: tenor-1 (<— definitely what post-labor looks like, no?) I will be right back on that Prozac. That was always the plan– my risk for postpartum depression is high, and we’re not taking any chances. And when it comes to the next pregnancy, should I be lucky enough to have that happen, I will likely stay on the meds. Those 3 months were horrible, and I see no reason to make an experience that is so hard on even the average, emotionally stable woman even harder. 

So, this is just to say, if you are one of those pregnancy newbies out there, and you are presented with your options in the same way I was, please know that it’s ok to not choose the “optimal, ideal” scenario if it’s not going to work for you. It’s not optimal or ideal if you feel like a self-loathing garbage truck for three months. It doesn’t make you selfish– it makes you reasonable and responsible. There is no wrong moral choice here, and you shouldn’t feel bullied* into making a decision that might not make sense for you (*to be fair, I really wasn’t bullied by my doctor. I still completely trust her. While I wish she had worded it slightly differently, what she said was perfectly reasonable– but I heard what I chose to hear and then I proceeded to bully myself, because that’s what we depressives do best).

But how should I respond when told it’s best to try to go off the meds, even if I don’t feel that’s the best option for me, you ask?

Well, next time, I’m probably going to say this, so feel free to borrow it: “Nope nope nope! No thanks, Doctor Person Who Isn’t Me, but I am me and because of that, I know myself farily well by now, and I sure do enjoy being sane! Seems the risks of the meds are pretty low, and the risks of me losing my shit are pretty high, so I’m going to keep doing that thing where I’m lucid and functional and seeing the point in showering, because, even though I don’t know much about babies yet, I DO know it’s easier to care for them when your mind is firmly planted in reality and you don’t wake up wondering why you have to exist. Right? Babies like moms who care about living and eating and clothing themselves? I feel like I read that somewhere and it sounded accurate.”

Or something similar. There’s probably a less condescending way, I don’t know.

Bottom line, do what works for YOU. I am not advocating for either option– every mental health situation, and every person, is different. I am simply advocating for you to advocate for yourself (under the care of a doctor you trust, of course. I really hope that goes without saying), and to really think through what will work best– again, for YOU.

Did going off meds work for ME? Meh. Hard to say at this point, because now that I’m out of the darkest darkness (I hope), it’s like “Ok, I survived that and no one died or anything, so that’s good.” But should that be the standard? No one died? Probably not. I feel like it was a lot of unnecessary suffering and potential risk, and I can’t imagine ever willingly going through that again. Plus, I can only hope and pray that my struggle didn’t harm the baby. So far everything looks good in there, the heartbeat is rapid and strong (doc says “Sounds great!,” I say “Sounds like anxiety!”), and I have no tangible reason to think she’s not thriving. But who really knows. And whether on or off meds, I’d have that “who really knows” feeling regardless. So next pregnancy, pretty sure it’s gonna be tenor.

And if you’re not ok with that? That’s cool. Just express your judgement to someone else, not me. I can’t go lighting faces on fire once I’m a mom, but I can definitely teach my kid to spit in your eye and claim it’s an accident.

In a Shocking Turn of Events, I Am No Glowing Goddess

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We’re pregnant! With a girl! (Which is great, as long as she is nothing like me).

We’re definitely starting to feel the excitement now that we are entering the second trimester and I no longer want to Linda Blair vomit all over town and have stopped drooling like Homer Simpson at a pig roast (oh, you didn’t know involuntary drooling was a pregnancy symptom? Well, neither did I until I got up to pee for the 47th time one night and essentially slipped in a pool of my own saliva).

So on that note, hey, here’s something no one tells you: the first trimester fucking blows. No, I’m kidding. Tons of people DO tell you that, minus those goddess-moms who feel great and glowy from day 1, but let’s be real, I’m not friends with those people. Because ew.

So yeah, most people say the first trimester is tough but guess who sort of secretly thought she’d be different, based on absolutely zero evidence?

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In fact, not only did I have zippity do dah ZILCH reason to think I’d have an easy first trimester, every thing I’ve experienced in life up to this point perfectly illustrated that I would be literally THE WORST.  My run-of-the-mill non-pregnant existence– like, a day I’d describe as “feeling pretty good”– is essentially already a mild version of pregnancy (exhaustion, stomach issues, headaches, irritability, anxiety, moodiness, profuse sweating, overactive bladder….). So I told myself, based on whatever the opposite of logic is, that because I feel pregnant NORMALLY, when I actually AM pregnant I will feel BETTER. It’s similar to the kind of logic one uses when they’ve had 18 too many tequila shots or are Forrest Gump.

It was just hopeful optimism– something I don’t usually partake in, so I’m not sure why I chose THIS particular circumstance to start lying to myself.

Here’s the logical conclusion that a rational person would come to, and perhaps then wisely prepare herself for– If you feel sort of physically crappy in your day-to-day regular life, in no circumstance are you going to feel LESS crappy when you add a nutrient-sucking fetus into that equation (and by “into that equation” I mean “into YOUR UTERUS.” The uterus that is INSIDE YOUR BODY, GUYS! I will never get over this. The “What’s Happening to My Body Book For Girls” Mom gave me at age 14 did NOT adequately prepare me for understanding how this is a thing humans can and should be doing. It’s fucking Animal Planet over here, except I have to go to a job every day and politely respond to people without vomiting on their face).

So anyway, yeah: “Feel Semi-Crappy Normally + Fetus Monster in Belly = Feel Crappier” is not exactly as obvious, concrete and indisputable as “1 +1 =2” but it’s pretty damn close, Forrest.

So weeks 5-12 were miserable. And I don’t say that to sound ungrateful, because believe me, I know how lucky Eric and I are that this happened for us, and happened so easily (more on that in a future post entitled “My Geriatric Uterus is Wearing a Catcher’s Mitt”). We are of course thankful for that, this is something we very much wanted, and we are both beyond looking forward to being parents (in that terrified-excited kind of way you look forward to riding a super-rickety, still-in-the-test-phase roller coaster that you heard many people have died on).

But I’m not going to sit here and say this early part is magical. If you’re looking for that sentiment, I’m not entirely sure why you read this blog. Maybe this is your first time here and you know nothing about me, so if that’s the case, let me catch you up: My name is Emily. I don’t do whimsy.

So that leads us to the texts below. I was too tired, nauseous, and, quite frankly, sad to do any real writing these past two months, but I did somehow find the time to annoy/harass/alarm/frighten/disgust Eric with every single feeling I experienced as I experienced it. There was no emergency-bathroom situation that he was not a part of because A) THAT’S HOW LOVE WORKS and B) the late Steve Jobs definitely invented iMessage for the purpose of toilet updates in real time, so what am I going to do, NOT honor him?

So below is a chronicle of highlights (and I use that term VERY loosely, because I know of no society that would list “violent dry heave” as a highlight) of the first trimester, through text.

I’ll admit that reading through these was hard because, now that I am in a better place, my assessment is that I sound pretty damn whiny in a lot of these exchanges (and by “exchanges,” I mean me texting novels of complaints and Eric not knowing what to say because there is literally nothing TO say, but I just needed someone to listen and also not divorce me after listening. God bless his soul).

I imagine his face while reading was a mix of this blank-stare-gif-17.gif, this incredulous.gif and this 200w.gif , but he never let me know it, and that’s all that counts. 90% of marriage is knowing how to swallow your feelings and lie convincingly when your partner needs you to.

I actually ended up removing the majority of the sad, exasperated texts because they were just far too frequent, don’t make for great reading, and I think you can get the gist of my mental state by just perusing a few.  And the texts aren’t ALL misery– there’s humor sprinkled throughout, because I’ve done my best to try to laugh when I can, which is SUPER hard when you feel like death, but becomes possible when you have a partner with the temperament, light-heartedness and excitability of a newborn corgi.

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But bottom line– this shit is hard. For ANYONE. Is it harder for someone with mental health issues? I’m honestly not sure. I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t had some seriously depressive thoughts these past couple months, but I think early pregnancy can do that to anyone– veteran mental-health-sufferer or not– because the hormone surges are nothing short of batshit insanity. Sprinkle in some isolation (not sharing this HUGE thing going on in your life straight up sucks), the removal of your usual get-through-the-day crutches (coffee, wine, Advil, vigorous exercise, writing, openly venting to anyone who will listen including the internet) and add some persistent anxiety over not having that possible miscarriage that Google (and every Jew) loves to warn you about, and you have a perfect shitstorm for needing emotional life support. I legit don’t know how anyone keeps it together in the first few months (but if you’re one of those people, no judgement at ALL. Just a lot of jealousy and maybe also a touch of spiteful resentment and hatred).

And so if one struggling woman reads this and can relate and feel a bit better about the fact that her early pregnancy is/was no walk in the park either, then I’ve done the job I always set out to do– reach someone with the ugly, vomit-ridden truth.

So here’s what you missed– enjoy!….?

(note: Days refer to when we found out– so Day 2 is the 2nd day we knew we were pregnant)

Day 2 (while at a dentist appointment):

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 Day 3:

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Day 3, later:

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Day 4:

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Day 4,  (meeting my girlfriends for dinner): 

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Day 17,  (once daily vomiting commenced): 

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Day 19

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Day 20

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Day 23:

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Day 25:

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Day 28 (After finding out that my blood type is negative, and if Eric’s were to be positive, I would require an injection)IMG_4723.jpgIMG_4724.jpg

Day 35:

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Day 49 (after a lengthy ultrasound):

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Day 50:

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Day 64 (after finding out it’s a girl):

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Day 65:

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YES, PLEASE!

Me: “I just haven’t been feeling great for the past month. I’m exhausted and unmotivated and just want to hibernate.”

Therapist: “Wine or booze?”

Me: “Oh my god, yes! Please! Both!”

Therapist: “Excuse me?”

Me: “Huh?”

Therapist: “I said ‘winter blues?'”

Me: “Oh….”

Therapist: “What did you think I said?”

Me: “Nothing.”

Just thought you were offering an ACTUAL CONCRETE SOLUTION FOR ONCE.

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But…How?

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Real Story: A guest at our wedding is a friend of Ben Platt’s parents. This guest told Ben’s parents that “You Will Be Found” was our first dance song, and Ben’s parents told Ben, who then very graciously offered to autograph a photo for us.

Story I tell myself: Oh, NBD but Ben Platt reads and loves the blog. Huge fan of mine. He knows I love Dear Evan Hansen and that “You Will Be Found” was our wedding song, so he contacted our photographer and arranged this whole surprise for us because, you know, that’s the kind of thing celebrities do for their fellow celebrity friends.

Story I tell others: One of the two above, depending on how well I know you and your ability to fact-check.