I’m Still Here

I’m Still Here

I have started and deleted probably ten blogs in the past few weeks. I haven’t been able to focus. Postpartum depression is really no joke. I can’t sleep (hence blogging at 2AM), I am either eating all day long or not eating until five in the evening, and I am either being perfectly patient with my kids or going off my rocker with them…there seems to be no in between for my brain right now. I’m either happy or so furious I can barely speak, or will be suddenly overcome with tears over something relatively inconsequential. Mixing my PPD with my PTSD and sleep deprivation is…interesting, to say the least.

In short, I’m a hot mess.

I’m blogging about this because more people need to be honest about the struggles with any and all types of mental illness. And postpartum depression, while temporary, is a type of mental illness. The stigma surrounding it needs to end, so that people will seek help sooner.

I thought I had it handled a few months back…I couldn’t have been more wrong.

These last few weeks in particular, I have felt like I was drowning in sadness. I walked around with this sadness that I could literally feel in my chest, like a twenty pound weight. Like someone had put a stone inside my rib cage to weigh me down. I could paste on a smile when I left the house, and try to play with my kids, and might even manage a genuine laugh here and there…but it was just these tiny flares of light in this deep, dark, black hole I had been sucked into. I haven’t felt this kind of depression since I was about 15 years old, and it was not a feeling that I had missed.

I knew that, having suffered from depression before, I was more prone to getting PPD. And I got it with my older daughter, but it passed fairly quickly and I didn’t really seek help. I just got over it. So this time, I thought I could just get over it, too. Take a few supplements, keep myself busy, it would pass.

Wrong. So wrong.

Have you ever felt like a passenger in your own body? Like, you’re watching yourself slip further and further down into this depressive state, and the sane and rational part of you is going “HEY! You’re falling! Get help!” But the part of you that’s falling is going “I’ve totally got this.”

And then one day soon, the sane and rational part of you is watching the insane part of you yell at your three year old over something stupid or have a panic attack driving down the freeway or sobbing on the floor of the shower while the water runs cold because you’ve been in there so long. The insane part of you picks fights with people and says mean things to friends and pretty soon, the insane part is sitting in the living room in her pajamas at four in the afternoon with all the curtains closed, letting the kids watch Daniel Tiger for the entire day, surviving off of your daughter’s goldfish crackers because, while you always make food for the kids, it seems like too much effort to make any for yourself.

And meanwhile, the sane part of you is screaming “I freaking told you to go get help! Now we are stuck down here in this hole and you are too depressed to get help for being depressed.”

I saw a meme the other day on Facebook that described depression perfectly. It said something like “What’s depression like? Depression is like drowning…only you can see everyone around you breathing.” You feel invisible. No one can see how much you’re struggling. If you had cancer or pneumonia or a broken arm, people would know you were sick, and they would want to help. But everyone believes the lie you have pasted on your face, and no one knows you can’t breathe. You share the happy moments on Facebook, the good pictures. It’s an instant life filter.

And then you hit rock bottom. You tell your friend you want to run away or die, and you don’t care which.

And you didn’t even realize you were feeling that way until the words come out of your mouth, and then you burst into tears, because you’re a mom, and you’re not supposed to think things like that, and it makes you feel like a terrible person and an awful mother, and you just feel…defeated. So defeated.

But somehow, putting it into words, realizing where you are at, lets the sane part of you reach the insane part. You pick up the phone, and you call to schedule an appointment with your doctor. You start talking to everyone.

You know that some people are going to think you’re doing it for attention, and in a way, they’re right, but not for the reasons they think. You’re doing it for attention, because you don’t want to disappear without anyone noticing. You don’t want to do anything you’ll regret later. You don’t want them to go, six months from now, “Whatever happened to…” You don’t want to be invisible anymore.

And, funny thing.

The good friends don’t judge you.

The good friends suddenly blow up your phone with text messages like “I had no idea you were struggling so much. What can I do?” Or “I want to get you out of the house, so lets take the kids out tomorrow.” Or “Lets have coffee next week.” One person sent me a text that said “I love you. I’m here for you. Don’t ever get so lost in your mind that you forget how many people feel the same way I do. You’re a good friend to so many people…let them be good friends to you, too.”

My favorite was this message from my best friend that lives out of state.

“Like a shattered mirror
You’re beautiful,
Refracting the world around you in a dozen different ways.
You are perfectly imperfect, a chaotic storm of deepest reds and blues.
Your heart is huge, your emotions deeper than the oceans.
I don’t even have the words for you.
You’re more than I can describe.
You’re amazing.
Beautiful.
A Disney freak to the highest degree, and loyal to a fault.
You carry the world on your shoulders, and pick yourself up when you shatter.
Stronger than you know, just remember, that I see you.
I know you.
And you are wonderful.”

I love the line, “You…pick yourself up when you shatter.”

I have talked to more people and been invited to more places in the last week than I have been in probably the last year put together. And I’m not blaming the people doing the inviting. It’s hard to get a depressed friend to want to do things with you, and even when you manage to make plans with them, there will be a lot of last minute cancellations. I’ve canceled a lot of plans in the last 9 months especially. I’m just mentioning it because it surprised me how many people cared enough to issue an invitation.

Just…if you have a friend with depression (whether PPD or otherwise), please don’t give up. Keep making plans. If they don’t want to go out, go to their house to watch bad movies and eat popcorn. Keep trying. Because the fact that you care enough about them to love them even when they aren’t necessarily a bundle of laughs means the absolute world to them. I promise.

My appointment is on Tuesday.

I am very nervous about it.

But I keep reminding myself, it’s a step toward feeling better. I want to feel like myself again.

I’ve been writing in my journal again every day. There have been three days this week where all I could bring myself to write were three words…but they’re pretty important.

“I’m still here.”

 

Warning: Melodrama Ahead

Warning: Melodrama Ahead

 

This is a venting blog. You’ve been warned…

My insomnia is worse than it has been in years, and I am averaging three hours of uninterrupted sleep on a good night. I am not a person who functions well on three hours of sleep. Or five hours of sleep. Eight hours of sleep MIGHT be enough, with coffee. I’ve just always been a person who needs a lot of sleep to feel rested. I don’t know why.

Life has been stressful. The freelance editing I’ve been doing to try to help out financially is great, but in between jobs it’s not helpful. And finding new clients is difficult, because a lot of the people I know already have editors, and the ones who don’t aren’t ready for an editor yet. Our lease is almost up at our apartment, and they are raising the rent to a ridiculous amount, so we need to find a new place to live, which means moving expenses and packing and change for our three year old, which means extra stress for her which means extra stress for us.

I haven’t been able to focus on anything lately. Cleaning and even cooking feel really overwhelming. I lose track of what people are saying when they are halfway through a sentence, and it’s not because I am trying to be rude or space out, it’s just that focusing on a story long enough to get to the end feels impossible. I find myself nodding and saying “yeah” a lot, when I have no clue what we are talking about anymore.

The baby is going through a stage where she doesn’t ever want me to put her down, walk more than a foot away from her, hand her to anyone else (even her dad), or do anything without her. I always have her on my hip or in the Ergo carrier, bouncing on my lap or sleeping in my arms. On the one hand, I love the snuggles, and it’s nice to feel that needed. On the other hand, I feel like I am going to lose my mind if I don’t get some time in the day where I don’t have a child attached to me. Bri went through a clingy stage, but she would still spend time with her daddy or grandparents without complaint. In fact, I remember being jealous sometimes of the big smiles and laughs that her daddy would get. Chelsea is different. She wants me ALL. THE. TIME. And it’s absolutely exhausting. It’s been going on for weeks now. She’s always been clingier than Briana, but now it’s at a whole different level.

Add into the mix that Briana has been testing boundaries lately. Acting out. Pushing all of my buttons.

I know she just wants attention, and I try really hard to remember that. When I finally get the baby down for a nap and Bri immediately starts tugging on me and jumping on me and demanding hugs and demanding to twirl and demanding that I dance with her, I try really hard to remember that she doesn’t understand personal space. That she doesn’t understand that sometimes people just feel touched out. And I try really hard to give her those hugs and dance with her and let her climb all over me. But sometimes I just have to tell her no, and when she gets upset and jumps on me anyway and I say no again, she gets angry, and when she gets angry at me, I get angry at her for not understanding. I get angry at her for not giving me five minutes in the day where I don’t have a small person pulling on me. And then I get angry at myself for getting angry.

And then there are the bedtime battles. Briana has not ever given me so much trouble at bedtime. She goes to bed at 8:00, and then it immediately starts. We hear “I need to go potty” six times an hour. After each trip to the bathroom, we have a battle about her wanting a snack or asking for water. If we say no, she starts screaming that she needs to go potty again. I am at a loss. I don’t want to tell her no, that she can’t go to the bathroom. I feel like that’s not right. But at the same time, I KNOW she doesn’t need to go six times an hour. And the snacks…ugh. I tell her no most of the time, but I hate hearing her scream and cry. So even when I say no, I end up going in to try to calm her down, which only adds to the asking for snacks or telling me to stay with her. I know she wants extra one-on-one time with us, but the baby doesn’t go to sleep until 10:00 (at the earliest), and since the baby doesn’t want anyone but me right now, I have to listen to her screaming the entire time I’m trying to spend time with Bri.

Last night, we put her to bed at 7:45. She was awake until 12:30. She doesn’t nap anymore. She’s up at 9:30 every morning. I’ve tried getting her up earlier, and it actually seems to make the problem worse. If I wake her at 7:00, all I get is a really angry, tired kid all day, and she still doesn’t go to sleep at night, and by bedtime we have an over-tired, wired, pissed off kid. We have a set bedtime routine (reading and lullabies and snuggles before lights out) and she doesn’t eat sugar, other than the occasional cup of juice or treat. We don’t give her stuff with artificial flavoring or anything like that. On the rare occasion that she takes a nap during the day, we don’t let her sleep longer than an hour.

I don’t believe in letting kids scream and cry. I don’t care if they’re three months old or four years old or ten. If they’re crying, they need something. (And I’m not talking about fakey crying, like “boo hoo I don’t want to go to bed so I’m going to pretend to cry” crying, I’m talking about real tears, real distress.) That’s just not the way I choose to parent. I just…I’m running out of ideas.

Maybe if I can manage to give her more attention during the day, bedtime won’t be so difficult. I just don’t know how to do that when I have Miss Superglue Baby needing me all day long. I am so emotionally exhausted. I am so physically drained.

There’s so much stuff going on right now, and I feel pulled in a thousand different directions nearly every second of the day. Laundry and dishes pile up, the Christmas decorations still need to be put away, and I am drowning in toys and blocks and kids books. There are bills to be sorted out and debts to pay and groceries to buy and floors that haven’t been swept or vacuumed in an embarrassing amount of time. My neighbors probably think I’m a psycho with as much yelling as I’ve been doing lately, and I just feel…I feel like a complete failure in almost every aspect of my life.

So there. That’s my melodramatic woe-is-me blog for the day. I’ll come back and actually write about the children another day. When I have time, and there’s not a baby sleeping on my shoulder.

 

Worn Out Mama

Calm

Calm

I went down to the beach this morning. It was 5AM when I eased my pregnant bulk out of bed, dressed, and quietly left the apartment. I told David last night I was going to be doing this, that I needed some me time desperately. He asked why I didn’t just go after we put Bri to bed, and I said “I think they close the beach after dark. I don’t want time limits.”

I put on an Enya c.d. I haven’t listened to in years before I started out, and I let my mind wander where it wanted as I drove. I wasn’t sure which beach I wanted to go to, but my car kept following familiar roads on its own, and I ended up in Edmonds. I didn’t go over by the marina, but to the little diving area near the ferry docks. As early as it was, I wasn’t the first to arrive, but that was okay. There were few enough people that I could pretend I was alone.

I put on a sweatshirt and grabbed my journal and my keys and walked along until I found a good rock to sit on. I closed my eyes and listened to the water, the seagulls, and oddly, a bunch of ducks that were hanging out near me. I smelled the saltwater on the wind. I took a deep breath and held it for a minute, and then I let it go.

I let go of the frustration and stress. I let go of my impatience. I let go of the rage that has been hovering just beneath the surface the last couple of weeks, the rage I haven’t been able to find the source of. The rage that’s freaked me out and made me snap at my two year old baby girl for no good reason. The rage that prompted this uncharacteristic early morning jaunt to the beach.

I came to find my calm.

I sat there on that rock for a long time. I wrote in my journal, and I prayed, and then I just watched the water and the birds and the sky. I tried to remember the last time I had done something just for me and I couldn’t. It had been too long.

Eventually the cold wind drove me back to my van. More people were showing up as well, making the illusion of solitude harder to maintain. I sat for a bit longer, writing in my car, listening to my music, watching the early morning joggers and walkers and elderly couples. I saw the first ferry of the morning arrive. I waited for all the ferry traffic to disappear, and then decided I was ready to leave.

I drove the winding road back up the hill and stopped at  Starbucks and spoiled myself with a cheese Danish and decaf white mocha. I listened to my music and smiled as I sang along. I felt human again. I felt calm. I felt ready to be a mom and a wife and just be myself again, instead of that crazy, raging, hormonal lunatic I left behind at the beach. 

I got home about three hours after I left, and everyone was still asleep. I finished my coffee and crawled back into bed. I didn’t wake up until 1PM, bless my husband, and when I did, it was to a beautiful smiling little girl with curly blonde hair an infectious smile. “Mommy! I miss you. You get up now, okay?”

And then she disappeared again, laughing and shouting about Lady and the Tramp and playing with her dolls and would I please color with her? And for the first time in what felt like a long time, I laughed and said yes, and hurried to play with her, not to make her stop whining or because I felt obligated, but because I wanted to.

I need to remember to do stuff like this more often. I need to remember to take care of me, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, too. Because when I do, I’m a better mom, a better wife, and a happier me.

Relaxed Mama

I kicked my anger demon out of the house…

I kicked my anger demon out of the house…

A few weeks ago (a couple weeks ago?), I wrote a blog about how I felt like anger was a huge problem for me as a parent. I wrote about how I pretty frequently lost control and screamed at my baby girl, and then felt awful about it. I talked about how parenting with PTSD can make things hard sometimes, and how I was making an effort to step back and take deep breaths and parent differently.

And I just wanted to share, I feel like I’ve really gotten a good system going. I’ve had to walk away from her a few times, I’m not going to lie, and I won’t say I haven’t yelled, because I have a few times. But I haven’t screamed rage in her face. And she isn’t afraid of me. If I get upset, she doesn’t get scared. She feels safer, I can see it in her face, and feel it in her hugs. She’s grown ten times more affectionate with me in the last few weeks, and she’s listening a little bit better when I switch to my “mommy isn’t kidding” voice, which leads to less yelling and less loss of patience on my part.

She’s still two, so it’s not perfect. She doesn’t always listen, and there are days when I lose my patience. But taking deep breaths and counting to ten and making a conscious effort to keep my VOICE calm, even if I don’t feel particularly calm, has had a positive effect on my parenting. Pretending to be calm makes me feel calmer. It’s weird, but it works. Singing to myself (or to her) helps, too. She loves music, and singing has always calmed me (and her!), so it’s a doubly helpful thing.

I have also learned to just step away, or ask David to step in, if I truly feel like I can’t maintain control of myself. Because I’ve learned it’s not really about what she’s doing, it’s about what it’s triggering in me, something making me anxious and something making me overreact. *shrug* I don’t have to be supermom and have control of everything every second. And sometimes being supermom means handing control to someone else while I go hide behind a closed door for a while. Usually with a book. Or a pillow over my head so I can cry without anyone hearing me. Whichever.

I’m not sharing this to brag, I’m sharing this because I know I’m not the only mom out there who loses her temper and screams at her kids and feels guilty. So I’m sharing because if I can fix it, so can you. And if you can’t fix it by yourself like I have been trying to and been mostly successful at, then talk to someone who can help you. ‘Cause you’ll feel better, and your kids will feel better, and your spouse/partner/boyfriend/girlfriend will probably feel better, too. Living with someone who loses their mind all the time cannot possibly be comfortable. (I know it stressed my hubby out to no end.)

 

Feeling Calmer Every Day

Not-So-Angry-Mama

Making the Switch

Making the Switch

On Friday the 6th, I had my last appointment with my OB. I went in knowing it would likely be my last appointment, and determined to keep my mouth shut and just get through it so that I could go meet with the midwife the following Wednesday and switch to them as my care providers for the remainder of the pregnancy.

I was nervous, and angry about being nervous, angry that my OB was so incredibly rude about my weight at every appointment that I had to feel NERVOUS before an appointment that should be pretty happy and relaxed. I mean, I’m having a baby, and that’s a happy thing, yes?

I had been so anxious about this appointment that for three or four days before the appointment I was barely eating and only drinking water. I wasn’t starving myself or anything (I do have a baby in there), but I wasn’t really eating enough. I went to bed hungry the three nights before my appointment, because I was so stressed about how much guff he would give me about how much I weighed. I told David “even if the midwife thing doesn’t work out, I have got to get a different OB. I can’t keep doing this before every appointment. It’s not healthy.”

At any rate, I survived the last appointment. My OB cautioned me yet again about my weight gain, while, confusingly, telling me that I was right on track with my weight gain. How can I be gaining too much but be right on track? Does this make any sense to any of you? No? Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one.

On Wednesday the 11th, I met with a midwife at a birth center just a few minutes away from the hospital I gave birth to my daughter in, where I had planned on giving birth this time before I finally decided enough was enough.

We walked in, and the women at the front desk greeted me in a very friendly way. No stuffy doctors office environment here! They waved me through to a waiting area that looked more like a living room in someone’s house (excepting the very high ceilings), and David and I sank onto a couch that was almost sinfully comfortable. (Though, I think I’ll have trouble getting out of it once my due date gets a bit closer!) There were beautiful photographs up on the walls of pregnant women and women holding babies. My OB office has some prints in their office of old-fashioned paintings, but none of them are very beautiful, and none of them catch your eye like these photos do.

We waited for a few minutes, and I found myself leaning comfortably against David with my head on his shoulder, completely relaxed and at ease, something I never feel at any doctors office normally. It was almost like we were sitting in a close friend’s living room instead of sitting in a waiting room. I quietly told David that even though we hadn’t met the midwife yet, I was almost sure this was where we were going to end up. “It’s amazing, what a different atmosphere this place has compared to where we’ve been going.” He nodded in agreement.

A friend of ours, who had actually recommended the birth center, came out of her appointment with her fiance and little tiny newborn, and we got to say hi and chat for a minute before the midwife came and got us for our consultation.

She led us to one of the birthing suites and told us to make ourselves comfortable. We sat on a couch while she pulled up a chair. About two minutes into our consult, I’d made up my mind completely, but I still asked a ton of questions and listened to her talk about how they do things at the birth center. My eyes kept getting drawn to the gigantic tub in the corner and imagining how amazing and helpful that would have been to have during my labor with Briana. (The hospital claims to allow you to labor in the tub, but the “tub” they are referring to is just the smaller-than-normal tub/shower combination in the bathroom in your hospital room. Not comfortable!)

I came with two pages of questions. By the time she had finished her spiel about the center and given out her info, there were only like three or four questions on my list she hadn’t already answered. We ended up chatting a bit about my first labor experience, and I told her what I wasn’t happy about looking back on it, and what I was hoping for this time around. I told her about my breastfeeding concerns, and about what happened with Briana having a tongue tie and undiagnosed lip tie, and how I was really nervous about trying again. When I mentioned my OB’s seeming obsession with belittling me about my weight, she was horrified, especially after I told her where I was at with my weight gain. “You’re perfect! Don’t stress about your weight, you’re completely healthy and on track.”

I walked into this place comfortable, and left completely and totally and utterly relaxed. I trusted and liked this place and these women more after a one hour conversation with them than I had trusted or liked my OB in the entire time I had known him. Making my next appointment with them, I told David it was like this huge ball of stress lifted off of my shoulders.

I’m excited. I’m REALLY excited.

This picture is the birthing suite that I have fallen in love with. The other room is beautiful too, but this room just feels like “home.” And check out that tub!

Anyway, I’m sorry for rambling on so much about it, I’m just…I’m happy. I’m relaxed. I feel like that baby and I are going to be well cared for, and all stress I was feeling about appointments has melted away.

 

I was too chicken to call my OB to “Break Up” with him, so I logged in online and canceled my appointments that way. I received a message asking if I was going elsewhere for my OB care, and I kept it simple and polite. “Yes, I am. Thank you for helping me along to this point, but we’ve found care elsewhere that fits our needs better.” It was better than “Yes and take your scale and shove it…”

——————————–

I also went to my first La Leche League meeting with my friend Victoria last night. Victoria is also the person who gave birth at the birth center and recommended I check them out. It was pretty cool! I’m excited about going. I’m definitely going to make it a monthly occurrence, or twice monthly if I can manage to make the new morning meetings they’re starting up next month. I got a lot of good info, and it was nice to just meet some new people, all moms, and just…exist. They’ll be a good support network once the baby is born and I’m trying to get into the swing of breastfeeding.

 

I’m going to try to write another blog tomorrow that will be all about Miss Briana. She’s getting more hilarious and frustrating and amazing as each day passes by. I’ve got some gems I want to share with you all!

 

As always, thanks for stopping by, and feel free to comment or share if you think it’s worth it. 🙂

I’ve Done All This Before

I’ve Done All This Before

My mother-in-law and I were talking yesterday about how different it is when you have your first baby as compared to your second baby.

Now, obviously, I haven’t actually had a second baby yet. We lost Riley early on in the pregnancy, and while Riley holds the “second baby” spot in my heart, Chelsea will be the second child I actually get to bring home.

But even not having her yet, it just feels different. I’m insanely excited to meet her, to match a face to the little ball of punches and kicks and twists and squirming that I feel on a daily basis. That’s the same. But everything else feels different.

I know what I really need and what I don’t. Diaper Genie? Nice, but not necessary. Wipe warmer? Briana lived without it. Baby powder? Nope, doctor says not to use it. Butt Paste? BUY TEN! So much if the advertising and marketing I see aimed at pregnant women makes me smile, because I remember fretting over what I actually needed and what I didn’t, and ending up registering for EVERYTHING in hopes that someone more experienced in the world of motherhood would figure it out for me.

I know what to expect during labor. I know I will survive labor. I know that I will forget the pain the moment I make eye contact and feel that little baby in my arms. I know that once I meet her, the world will fall away for an hour or more, and I will drink her in and love her and promise her the moon.

I know more than I did when I was pregnant with Briana.

I know that breastfeeding was a struggle the first time, but I also know that I have learned a lot and done a lot of research and created a breastfeeding support network for myself for this next go-round. I know that it’s what I want to do, and I am determined to make it work. I have armed myself with any and all knowledge that I can, and I am prepared in a way that I wasn’t the first time. I’m ready. I’m expecting difficulty but have a plan in place to push through it!

I know how to be a mom.

When I brought Briana home, I had never cared for a newborn, or even for a baby less than about 8 months old. I had held a newborn for maybe twenty minutes at a time, a few times in my life. I hadn’t ever changed a girls diaper. I didn’t know how to calm a fussy baby. But I learned so quickly. It just felt natural. And now, with another on the way, I am not frightened of bringing my baby home. I am confident and capable. I’m feeling very…powerful…in my role as a mother. I feel like being a mother is just what I was always meant to be.

I am a bit nervous about how Briana will receive her sibling, but I think that’s a normal worry, and I’m also confident we will handle the transition in whatever way we need to in order to make it work!

Another conversation my mother-in-law and I have had a few times is about the actual labor process. How, the first time you’re so scared, you just agree to what the doctors and nurses tell you to do without much argument, even if you don’t feel 100% confident that is the route you want to go.

I was happy with my hospital birth. I felt like I was well-taken care of. But the more I talked to other women and read birth stories and did research, the more I realized that although I had been happy with my birth experience, it wasn’t the experience I wanted for my second. I needed something different.

I have also become very disenchanted with my current OB. I don’t feel respected by him, I don’t feel listened to, and I feel very much as if I am being treated as a child. So I am switching providers, and also (pending a consultation on the 11th) going to a birth center and giving birth with a midwife instead of at the hospital with an OB.

I am very excited. It just feels right. I feel like I deserve to be listened to and treated with respect by the person I have chosen to provide care for me and my unborn child. I am not a child to be chided and shamed, I am a woman who has done all this before and is just looking to know that I and my baby are healthy.

Anyway… Rant over I suppose. I will keep you all posted about the birth center and midwife.

But in the meantime, just know, I’m feeling ready to bring the newest member of family into the world, ready to bring her home, and ready to expand my heart to make room for her.

Anger is my Demon

Anger is my Demon

For days and sometimes weeks at a time, I have it figured out. I rigidly control my temper, squash my first instinct, which is to yell and blather and lose control. And then, in an instant, it’s gone. And once it’s gone, it usually stays gone for a week or so while I pull myself together and regain that rigid control. And then the cycle starts all over again.

I so badly want to be the mother who is in control of herself. Who doesn’t yell at her child. No, it isn’t even about yelling. It’s about screaming. Every mother yells sometimes, even if only rarely. But screaming, losing your head completely, feeling like you are just going to explode like a volcano, or actually exploding like a volcano, and then seeing the confused fear on your child’s face? That’s not good parenting.

People defend me from myself a lot, telling me not to be so hard on myself, but the truth of the matter is, there are just some things that aren’t acceptable. And this is one of them. I do not want to be a parent that my children are frightened of. I do not want to be a parent who regularly loses control, then guilts herself into maintaining it until the next time, and then adds on more guilt each time she loses it.

That’s not who I want to be. But right now, it’s who I am.

Part of my having PTSD, part of the way that manifests for me, is feeling like I need to be control of everything around me at every second of every day. When I feel control slipping away from me, it makes me anxious, and when I get anxious, I either have a panic attack or get angry. And the wait time from me starting to get anxious or angry to me having a panic attack or losing my temper are both very short wait times. I’m a naturally impatient person, and when you throw in my PTSD (and right now, my hormones), you get a very volatile sort of mix.

Becoming a parent has allowed me (okay, forced me) to let go a bit, and taught me a little patience. Not having Briana dressed by ten in the morning every single day is not going to kill me. Peanut butter smears on the couch are not the end of the world, and a spilled cup of milk is just that…a spilled cup of milk. Tantrums are a fact of life, hearing “no” from my toddler twenty thousand times a day doesn’t faze me, and potty accidents happen. It’s not those things that cause me to lose control.

But if I’m trying to get Briana ready for bed, trying to change her diaper, trying to get her dressed, and she keeps twisting away from me, trying to turn it into a game, giggling…I don’t know why, but it really sets me off. I start out keeping calm, but the more she pushes, the harder it gets, and pretty soon I’m feeling my blood start to boil, and my voice is getting louder, and she’s still doing it because she sees she’s getting a rise out of me, and I know that she is going to keep it up because she sees me reacting, but I can’t stop the reaction, and the fact that it’s my fault she’s still acting up makes me feel like I’ve lost control of the situation, and then, just like that, I’m yelling or screaming at her, and she’s crying, and I feel like an idiot jerk-face for making her cry. (Run on sentence there was intentional. Read it with a frantic note in your head, voice rising every couple of words until you’re yelling at the end…there you go. That’s how it feels!)

Or when she’s having a rough night and won’t sleep. For the first couple hours I’m fine. I go in, I comfort her, I try to soothe her, I rock her if she asks. But after the millionth (denied) request for a cookie, or watching her play with her water cup for five minutes instead of drinking it, or having her scream for twenty minutes because I finally took the cup away and told her to sleep, I feel that familiar I-am-losing-control-of-myself feeling, and I start to panic because I don’t want to lose control of myself, and then, there I go, losing it again. And then we both end up crying. It’s stupid.

It’s this absolutely vicious cycle, and I’m really not sure how to break it.

But I am trying, darn it. I’m trying harder to fix this than I’ve tried for anything in my life. I don’t want to be this kind of parent.

So, for the last couple days, when Briana says “NO” when I say “let’s go change your diaper,” instead of getting all frustrated and ending up having to struggle to pick her flailing body up off the ground to go into her bedroom where the diapers and wipes are, I say “Briana, it’s time to go change your diaper. Do you want mama to carry you or do you want to hold mama’s hand and come with her?” Nine times out of ten, she wants to take my hand and lead me into the bedroom. (The tenth time I had to tuck her under my arm like a package and carry her, but that made her giggle anyway, so I’m still calling it a win.) And when she starts twisting away from me, instead of yelling, I’ve been calmly repeating “Now is not the time to play, mama needs to change your diaper” however many times it takes, in a very neutral tone. And if she’s really being stubborn about it, I tell her she can have her diaper changed or go to timeout. She hasn’t chosen the timeout option yet.

It’s weird, but now that I’m changing the way I’m making an effort to stay calm, it’s like she’s stopped trying so hard to set me off. Or maybe I’m just not getting triggered so much into losing my mind because she’s not feeling the need to act out? Maybe I’ve inadvertently made the boundaries more clear by staying calmer instead of yelling all the time. Maybe because I am staying calmer, she is able to stay calm, too. Of course, it’s only been four days…so maybe it’s just been a good couple of days. Who knows?

All I know is, I’m not going to be a parent that my daughter has to be afraid of anymore. I won’t promise I won’t yell anymore, because I don’t want to break promises to my children. But I promise I won’t scream like a raving lunatic, wild-eyed and frightening. I don’t want my daughter to have fear in her face because of me, ever. It breaks my heart.

So, since it’s after midnight, this is Day 5 of the new No Screaming Mama. And I’ve not yelled either. Be proud of me. Every day I don’t scream at my kid isn’t just a victory for her, and it’s not even just a victory for me as a mom. It’ s me taking back a little more of the sanity I lost, taking back just a bit of power that the PTSD has over my life. It’s a victory for me as a woman, as a person, as a human being. I do not have to be in control every second of everything going on, and when I don’t have control, I don’t have to be afraid or angry. It’s the little things that feel really big sometimes.

Wish me luck.