Friday, September 10, 2010

Another Note to (Another) Friend

(Sharing rambling, unpolished honesty here as I did a year ago with another friend, with the hope that it will bless others.)

Hope in the Dark

Dear Friend,

Oh, girl, I've been there, am there, and will be there... in that same place. For probably a few years.... This season of our lives is TOUGH. And it feels worse because we feel like we SHOULDN'T be there. Mothering is beautiful, right? And kids are an amazing blessing, right? And we are lucky to be home with them, right? And if we are good parents, the kids will be well-behaved, right? And homeschooling will turn our children into amazing, intelligent, well-balanced adults, right?

But we're exhausted, overwhelmed, guilty, and alone. And then we get less accomplished. Stuff (and to-do's) start piling up. And then we feel more guilty and overwhelmed. And it feels like it WILL NEVER BE ANY DIFFERENT. Unless it gets worse. THAT we can imagine.

Then there are the things we can do to make things better. The 'advice.' Except those things feel like adding to the to-do's. They take time, energy, and/or money. So, I can give you advice, but I understand what it will feel like. :( Get enough sleep. ( if we had control over that, and as if we didn't just want to take a nap instead of doing what we are suppose to be doing.) Eat well. (I'm a huge comfort-food eater, but when I was depressed it began with anxiety which made me nauseated and I lost my appetite. That was WEIRD. And fed the anxiety. Either way, I have no desire to eat a big bowl of veggies and fix my family great meals.) Clean the house and get organized. (This is HUGE, but an insurmountable obstacle when one is depressed and has NO energy or get-up-and-go, and often what sends me into depression in the first place.) Exercise. (When? And with what energy? Yeah.) Hire help. (How does one find good help, and where does the money with which to pay them come from? Oh, and then the guilt, because we should be able to do it all.) Stop reading about sad stuff. (Sounds terribly shallow and un-Christ-like (more guilt), but my first priority (and ministry) is my family, and I have to be able to function and take care of them.)

Oh, and take medication. There it is. Probably one of the things you don't want to do, but the only real advice I have, because taking meds CHANGED EVERYTHING for me. It doesn't work well for everyone (without side effects), but it worked wonders for me within a couple weeks. We had an amazing (FUN!!) family vacation right after that, and then a wonderful holiday season. It felt sooooo good. Then I could get out of the depression rut. It was easier to get things done, I had more energy, motivation, and a better attitude. Not like I wasn't ME, but like I was a FUNCTIONING me, you know?

I didn't want to stay on meds, so I weaned myself really slowly during summer. I started in October, and the Dr. recommended staying on them at least 6 months and only stopping them during nice weather (rather than the dead of dreary winter....). Then I started taking some herbal stuff. My sister and I got up early most mornings to walk together starting in October. I think that really helped. Exercise + fresh air + an hour of uninterrupted talking with my sister = therapy. It cut into my sleep, so that was tough, but I really needed the exercise. And I read funny books instead of serious ones.

I could feel myself slipping (though not nearly as badly) last Nov/Dec, just feeling as if there wasn't enough of me to do my job as mom and wife. And then guilt about that, because I SHOULD be enough. I just must be lazy. Sigh. So it was a HUGE BLOW to find out I was pregnant. (Oh, more guilt. I should have felt so blessed.) Any glimmers of the 'light at the end of the tunnel' (AKA: all children being semi-independent and able to contribute to the household) were gone. Already I wasn't 'enough' and then I was facing months of extreme fatigue, nausea, personal space issues (I feel claustrophobic when largely pregnant.... don't TOUCH ME!!), and all the other physical AND EMOTIONAL stuff. Oh, and Dr appointments, labs, etc... Oh, and then delivery and recovery. Oh, and then the newborn phase (sleep deprivation turns me into a walking nightmare). Oh, and as if I didn't have enough to do every day, let's add 8 hours of nursing. During which the boys understand that I'm less able to deal with them (think phone calls), so they act up and get into more trouble.

So, the winter was bad. And then we had a terribly rainy, extended spring. Then the boys started going CRAZY. They were getting into an obscene amount of trouble. They needed to be watched 24-7. Like all in the same room with me. Including quiet time and bed time. I almost lost it. Russ took them on the boys' camping trip, and that was the start of the turn-around. I desperately needed that time alone. It was heaven. Then the boys had 3 WEEKS of VBS. We HAD to get up in the morning and get ready and eat breakfast and get somewhere. I had 3 hours of quiet time, and they got messy crafts, interesting snacks, fun songs, 'education', games and exercise, and social time. All by noon. AMAZING. I had no guilt whatsoever if we did no other fun things. We could do quiet time or chores or errands for the afternoon...whatever *I* needed. I could just kiss those VBS people, LOL.

We are FINALLY remodeling the upstairs attic room into a nursery. It took my sister and her husband coming over and spending a couple hours dealing with the ridiculous mess which used to be a playroom. Once they got the ball rolling, I had to step up. :) It got me excited about getting everything together for baby. I'm trying to get things done and facing the fact that I'll have a newborn within a few weeks (officially 4 weeks until due date, but I'm praying she's a little early...). And getting things done tends to create energy for me. I have the hardest time getting going (depression really magnifies that), but once I get going I do much better. The nursery will look so wonderful when it is finished. I think I'll live up there. :) It also gives me a place for the stuff that has been overflowing in our bedroom (adding stress). And I'll feel amazing when my basic before-baby checklist is done.

One of the biggest changes happens this week. I'm getting help. Yep. Found someone I'm actually excited about. IF she works out, I might have her here every afternoon for a couple months to do all the house cleaning (I HATE cleaning house, but I HATE a messy/dirty house) and whatever else I need her to do (child care, dishes, even help with meals). I can't even fathom having a completely clean house at this point. It is beyond thrilling. Now, we'll just see if I can handle having someone in my personal space. Sigh. I really might live in the attic room. But to have a clean house when people come over to see the baby? It's going to be worth it.

As far as school goes, I think Classical Conversations will be PERFECT for us this fall. Forced get-up-and-go and accountability for me. It starts next week, so I'm hoping to start our light fall schedule then. Bare bones. If I can accomplish that, I'll feel so much better than if I try too much and fail (happens every time). And since I have no idea what this baby will be like in terms of personality and needs (or how the boys will respond to/be distracted by her), we'll have time to figure that out before adding to our schedule.

So, here is my happy list:

::Get one room clean and beautiful and then live in there. :)
::Start getting things done on the to-do list. It feels good once you get started.
::Hire someone to help out. Let them do stuff you HATE to do but makes you feel GREAT when it's done.
::Cut yourself some slack.
::Do bare-bones homeschooling and feel good when you get it done. After a while, add one thing at a time until it feels manageable.
::Read a funny book. Like Our Hearts Were Young and Gay, A Year in Provence, Cheaper by the Dozen, or Down the Garden Path.
::Find someone/something to keep you accountable in the areas in which you struggle.
::If you can't get started on a task, ask a friend or family member for help. If they show up to help, you have step up. :)
::(And take meds if you can't pull yourself out of a downward spiral.)

Oh, and was a life-saver for me after Levi was born. Helped me create routines, focus on what I COULD do, and stay on top of things. Very positive, simple baby steps. I'm going to be using some of her systems to get myself organized and so that I can tell my 'housekeeper' what to do. :)

Well, this novel probably isn't all that encouraging, other than to let you know that I really do understand where you're coming from, and I'm guessing a huge number of mothers with several young children feel the very same way.

P.S. Boys terrorizing 'MY' house, YES. And destroying EVERY thing they touch. Yes. And being loud. And messy. And not comprehending what that feels like to me. I take it personally, and I shouldn't. But I do. And our relationships tank. And then the whole house is in shambles (broken, messy, dirty) and I 'know' that if I clean it up and organize it (with blood, sweat, and tears), it will be back to shambles tomorrow. That sucks every bit of motivation I have right out of me. So I let it go, and it gets worse, and I feel worse about life. Oh, what cycles we get ourselves into!!

P.S.S. Things have been going fairly well for me the past month and a half. The past week or two has been great. The boys and I have really enjoyed each other, the house is shaping up (what a difference that makes!!), and the project and to-do lists are showing progress. I've been allowing people to help out (that's a tough one for me!) and have been more social than usual. I'm getting quite excited about bringing home a little baby girl and introducing her to everyone!!


annlaura said...

Thank you. I needed that.

Heidi Sexton said...

I found your blog a couple years ago...and have so enjoyed it! We share the same name and like a lot of the same things! I've just had my 4th child in June (all our kids are about the same age). I've found myself thinking of you alot while I'm doing the "mundane"...laundry, cleaning, meals. I will be praying for your transition. Thank you for your transparency.

jeana said...

You know, I really really appreciate this. You are absolutely one of my favorite blogs to read, and I love how real you are. I feel I could've written this post down to the "hiring for help and them crowding my personal space" I too have 3 boys and after our first with special needs and our third being an extremely hard pregnancy and HAVING to have help with the boys, my depression seemed hopeless. With some of the things you've posted here I am doing much better. Still have moments of MAKING myself go out to co-op type things for the boys, because really if it were up to me I'd be a hermit in my own little world, failing miserably by "doing" everything myself. So, thank you for letting me see a glimse into your world, thoughts, and even struggles. I will keep you and your family in my prayers. Can't wait to see that baby!

~beautyandjoy~ said...

I've written a lot in the past about my own depression, Heidi, and I found your perspective really refreshing and real. Thank you for writing about this.

Lisa said...

Thank you for your honesty Heidi. I do not homeschool, but can still get into some of the same ruts. It is nice to read someone actually telling it like it is rather than polishing over the rough spots in life and acting like life's perfect. Pretending like it doesn't exist makes it worse...thinking everyone but you has it all together makes it worse too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. So often when I read blogs, it seems like the writer's life is perfect, their family is perfect, their home is perfect, and they have everything all figured out. And I wonder "What is wrong with me? Why can't my life be like this?" And then I feel guilty for the rough days, the days I am irritated with my kids, where I'm exhausted and feel like taking care of everything is a useless waste of time. So thank you for being real and letting us know that no has things perfectly figured out :) And we are all normal - mom just struggling to love and live and make a difference in our kids' lives.

Darcy said...

I have read your blog for years now (I am pretty sure I found you through Literarygirl-Jodi)...not a frequent commenter though.
I understand so much of what you are saying and recognize it from my own not-so-distant past when I really struggled with post-partum depression with both of my kiddos.
One book that was extremely helpful to me was "Women's Moods", here is the link on amazon...
It has a great description/explanation of why medicine can be necessary to beat depression and how it helps your brain chemistry heal. I highly recommend this book!
I also agree with your "read happy books" for me it is Rosamunde Pilcher...She is always uplifting to me.
I struggled more around pregnancy and after and have done better with life's ups and downs without that hormonal upheaval!
Thanks for your honesty.

Anonymous said...


Have you been peeking into my windows this past couple of weeks?...

As I type now, laundry is piled high, sink full of dishes, can barely find the keyboard to type, I DO NOT LIKE the program we are using for homeschooling (G does well with S and I do not, tried to chat with hubby about it and he says it doesnt matter if it works for me), didnt make a homemade dinner all week (sickening), A seems to have taken a step back in her recovery because I needed to get outside and play yesterday....

really I could go on....

so THANK YOU for posting sincerely..
~Aimee B from the next town. :)

Renee said...

Thanks for your honesty, Heidi! I can relate to much of what you have said. I have no idea what your experience will be with your baby girl. But I am praying that it will be an easy transition. I felt so differently with my daughter. Like she was my little friend and sidekick and much less needy. Or maybe I just understood her needs so much quicker because of her gender/personality (old soul). I think it is incredibly wise to see your threshholds and make appropriate changes. There should be no guilt in that! Thanks again for your honesty!!

Laura at By the Bushel said...

You may have meant this for one particular friend, but we're all blessed by your honesty.
I wondered so many of these exact things just today, slam-dunked by so much, including the ever present hormones, undending laundry, ... thankyou for posting this. my favorite post of yours was 'momma said there'd be days like this', with the picture of the boys in/on/around the cart...
thanks for sharing your 'real life'.

Laura at By the Bushel said...

You may have meant this for one particular friend, but we're all blessed by your honesty.
I wondered so many of these exact things just today, slam-dunked by so much, including the ever present hormones, undending laundry, ... thankyou for posting this. my favorite post of yours was 'momma said there'd be days like this', with the picture of the boys in/on/around the cart...
thanks for sharing your 'real life'.

Jessica Stock said...

thank-you for your honesty. Blogs are therapy for me,, but they can also be guilt-inducing and make me feel completely inadequate. It is good to know that other moms struggle too. thanks.

Kelly said...

yes...hire help. we call it "tuition" and i would be constantly depressed if the housework depended entirely on me. this was a very transparent look into your life. i think we tend to only blog the beautiful stuff, leaving us all getting these glimpses of others' sculpted images of what they want others to perceive about themselves, and you have spoken the hard truth. bless you as you walk this fragile journey, and may healing be yours.

April said...

Wow. I feel like reading your blog right now was an answered prayer. I have been on the depression spiral, feeling like nothing matters, like I'm not a good mother, my kids deserve better, it takes so much energy and will power to accomplish the simplest task. Almost as if I am literally shackled to the floor. I battle this daily, some days are better than others, some days are almost unbearable. For me, too, this brings so much guilt, like what am I doing wrong? Why can't I beat this? Is my faith lacking? After a particularly difficult weekend and now reading what you have said about medication, I am wondering if that could be what I need. An answer to my prayer for help. There's so much more I'd like to say-- I felt like you were talking directly to me-- but I am probably running out of room.

Anonymous said...

Okay, happy books definitely crosses Mockingjay off your list!!!!

Anonymous said...

the previous comment was left by Christina D.

Ellen - SkoMomma said...

Thank you...I needed that.

Anonymous said...

Heidi, I want to commend you for talking about taking medication. There seems to be a stigma attached to that. That somehow, we should just be able to "suck it up and deal". But it isn't that kind of thing. It is real. It is chemical And medication can be a life saver/changer for some. It has been for me. I am not ashamed to be taking what I need to in order to be a functional and happy mother and wife. Thank you for shedding light on that piece of the puzzle. There is NO shame in taking medication. :-)

Anonymous said...

Ooops, I don't have a blog anymore and forgot to sign my name. Melissa -- mom2legomaniacs.

Hannah said...

THANK YOU. Hugging you across the miles. I am not alone!