where there is light darkness has to hide – my postpartum depression story

By Tuesday, September 22, 2015 4 No tags Permalink 0

Talking about it felt like lighting a candle in a dark room.

where there is light

March 2014.

A gift. In the form of a perfectly beautiful 9lb 9oz  baby boy.  Our third.  Joy.  Unimaginable joy.  The feeling of accomplishing something that doesn’t seem humanly possible.  A 40 week journey ending with the birth of a beautiful baby boy full of life.  I’ve heard grace is defined as a gift you’ve received that you don’t deserve.  And grace I’ve been given.

I’ve done this 3 times now.  Each time has ended with the same intense joy and sense of accomplishment.

However, this time was different.  It seemed like the joy disappeared a little quicker.  Not long after his birth, things seemed to be more difficult than previous times.  I mean, sure I now had 3 little people who needed me almost all of the time.  But it just felt harder than it seemed it should.  I was exhausted.  But you almost never get a full night of sleep with a newborn in your home, so exhaustion should be expected, right?  But this was different.  It was so hard to pull myself out of bed and start my day.  I would self-talk my way out from under the covers.  “You have to do this, they need you”.  But the thought of getting dressed was nearly impossible, so I would just stay in pajamas, and have the goal of showering and dressing by 5pm before my husband came home, so it looked like I had it together.  I could do that.  I could “look” like I had it together.  I could “talk” like I had it together.  10 months later and this scenario was still like it was with a newborn.  I could sleep for 10 hours and never feel rested.

“I just didn’t feel like me.”  I said those words a lot in the beginning. Jayden and I would talk about mentioning something to the midwife.  But as each appointment came, I would feel okay.  More like me.  So there was no need.

Life resumed.  I would stand in front of my bed in the morning with all my clothes laying on my bed.  Frozen.  I’m typically a fairly decisive person.  But I just couldn’t make a decision.  Sure, I just had a baby, and my body doesn’t just bounce back to it’s pre-baby form, and my clothing options were a bit more limited.  But it was more than that. I literally lost the ability to make decisions.

My husband started getting groceries more and more often until it became a regular item on his weekly to-do list.  I was just so grateful to have one less thing to do.  But it was the groceries that made me realize something was wrong.  One day we needed groceries, and I said I could get them.  But in reality, I couldn’t.  3 days.  3 days saying I would get them, trying to plan the trip in my mind,  and finding random bits of food in the cupboards to create meals for my family.  Planning how I could stretch it out one more day.  The thought of grocery shopping might as well have been the thought of climbing Mount Everest.  I wasn’t grateful that he was taking away one more thing from my to do list.  I was grateful that I didn’t have to climb the mountain.  I was grateful I could avoid the exhaustion, the intense weight this trip had become for me.

There were many times over the year that I would say the words, “I think I need to talk to someone”.  Jayden would agree, and ask me if I would call the doctor the next day.  The next day would come, and I would feel okay again and brush all those anxious feelings aside, until the next time all the little things became too much to bear.

One morning the boys had appointments which required the entire family packing up and heading out of the house early.  I was angry.  I didn’t say much.  But anyone could have read my face.  There was no hiding the rage.  Jayden asked what was going on.  I don’t think I answered.  If I did, it would have been a quiet “nothing”.  I know that my internal dialogue was searching for an answer.  “What is wrong?, why are you so angry?, what is your problem?”  I couldn’t find an answer.  There didn’t seem to be one.  There never. seems. to be one.  We arrived home and he left for work.  Telling me he was afraid to leave me alone.  I assured him I was fine.  I was fine because I have gotten so good at “faking it”.  I would fake it all day, everyday with the boys.  Singing songs, walking them to the park, playing, pretending I was happy.  By the time Jayden came home from work, I was done.  Ready to be real again.  Angry.   Exhausted to the point of being ready to turn in for the night at 5pm.  That particular evening, I was sitting in the tub.  He came in and asked in a ‘walking-on-eggshells’ manner, “What is going on with you?”  I mumbled, “I don’t know”. I really had no idea.  Coming up with words to describe how I felt seemed like an impossible feat.  A single tear rolled down my cheek.  He asked if I could talk to a friend.  I mumbled, as if the very act of speaking hurt, in a monotone, “no, there’s no one to talk to.  Everyone has their own stuff.  I don’t want to burden anyone”.  This voice in my head kept playing like a broken record, “You’re worthless.  You suck at everything you do, why bother working towards anything.  You have no one.  You’re disgusting.  You can’t do anything.”  When at the very same time, I knew that a week ago, I was on top of the world dreaming up business plans, and plans for our future.  What was wrong with me?  I knew I just wasn’t me. But I had no idea.

Jayden placed his hand on my back.  I sat emotionless with tears rolling down my cheeks.  As if there was this girl inside me crying and begging for help, stuck inside a stone face.  I was numb.  Jayden placed his arms around me and prayed.  He prayed and prayed and begged God to help me realize His love for me, begged God to help me find a friend to talk to.

The next day I met with a dear friend who I felt confident I could trust enough to share these feelings with.  Talking about it felt like lighting a candle in a dark room.  I felt better.

The next morning I made an appointment with my doctor and was diagnosed with Post-Partum Depression.  She suspected I’ve been struggling with this for at least 10 months.  Looking back, I think my entire family has been struggling with this for at least 10 months.  I didn’t feel sad, or like I wanted to harm myself or my children.  So I just kept brushing it aside.

I had no idea. The anxiety.  The kind of anxiety that grips your throat all day long because you know you have to go somewhere that night.  The kind of anxiety that forces you to create lists everyday because you don’t think you can get through a day without one, because the last time you didn’t live by a list, it was a bad day.  The kind of anxiety that causes you to pace around your kitchen looking for something to eat, but not even your most favourite meal seems at all appealing.  But you make that meal because you know you should eat, and you know it’s good for you.  And then you take 2 bites of that delicious salad and just can’t stand to eat another bite.  The kind of anxiety that throws you into compulsive organizing and reorganizing cupboards and drawers and spaces because you just. NEED. space.

Somehow having 3 kids became my excuse for calling all of this “normal”.  I was under the impression that this was just “normal”.  Meanwhile, my life as I knew it was on the brink of extinction.  This disorder was effecting everything around me.  Friendships, my marriage, my life with my precious children.

Jayden and I began assessing our year.  2014 had been a very difficult year.  The greatest gift of 2014 was our beautiful boy.  He was our silver lining.  He brings me joy everyday.  For that, I am so grateful.  By God’s grace, my favourite part of each day is spending time with the boys.  Teaching them, answering questions, giving and receiving hugs and cuddles and bedtime prayers.

I had no idea.  I had no idea that what I was experiencing wasn’t normal.  In Author Andrew Solomon’s TedTalk, he states that depression isn’t a loss of happiness, but a loss of vitality.  How true.  In 2014 I lost vitality.  But my plan has been to light thousands of little candles and brighten the room in 2015 and take back what was stolen from me and my family.  My healing journey began with seeking medical support.  My healing became stronger with a cocktail of medication and psychotherapy.  I feel like me again.  And I feel strong enough now to share this journey, and to move forward and give each day moving forward the BEST of me.

I plan to share the keys to my personal healing journey in the following weeks and months.  I do hope that you follow along, if not to bring strength to your own personal well-being, to at the very least be sensitive and supportive in the well-being of someone you may know.

Because where there is light.  Darkness has to hide.

POST PARTUM DEPRESSION - INFOGRAPH

3 rules for discipline

It’s important to be in agreement and have boundaries and rules for the way you discipline.  Whether you are flying solo, or have a partner in this parenting journey, I believe it’s essential to communicate and write down your personal plan for discipline and ask yourself : Where do you draw the line?  What is unacceptable?  Having this tool will hold you accountable when you’ve reached your brink, and when your  Ugly Red Button gets pushed.

We are NOT perfect parents (far from it), and are still learning and adding to our toolbox every day.  Unfortunately, some of these amazing rules get broken.  But they are there, and in place, and I know when I need to apologize to my little people for crossing the line we said we won’t cross.

In our house we have 3 Rules we’ve gathered in our almost 5 short years of parenting that we keep in our back pocket. (Yes, just three to offer up so far – we’re still learning as we go – waiting for that instruction manual to turn up – until then – we just do the best we can with what we have)

Rule #1: Don’t React, Respond!
Speak with love.  If you are too angry to respond with the love and respect you yourself would deserve if you were in those little shoes, take a time out.  Find somewhere you can just take a few breaths, perhaps a splash of cool water on your face, or maybe even just a good cry on your bed, revisit the situation when you know you can respond and model to those little people “self-control”.

Rule #2: Be Realistic and Offer Choices
Don’t make impossible threats.  “If you don’t eat all of your supper, you won’t get supper for a week”.  Well, that’s not realistic.  They know they’ll be joining you at the dinner table for another roast to refuse the very next night.  (We actually have very great little eaters who eat up all their brussel sprouts and asparagus on a regular basis, but mix a whole bunch of things in a creamy casserole, and it’s THE end of the world.)
Be realistic and if you’re going to take something away, try to make it a natural consequence.
“I see you’re having a hard time settling into bed this evening, your choices are to settle in with bunny and blanket now, or mommy and daddy will take bunny and blanket for the night, which do you choose?”
“It looks like you’re not really into your dinner tonight.  We have a yummy dessert prepared for you.  Your choices are to finish your supper and enjoy your dessert, or you can decide to be done with dinner and have no dessert, what do you choose?”
My favourite for grumpy little people.
“We want to have a happy time with you, but you aren’t seeming too happy at the moment.  You can stay with us and be happy, or you can go to your room, which do you choose?  Happy? or bed?”
By offering choices, you’re giving your child the power to make a choice.  So when they continue to not eat the rest of their dinner, they’ve communicated “no dessert”.  When they are still being a little monkey jumping on the bed, they’ve chosen to miss out on having they’re favourite blanket to sleep with.  When they are still being grumpy, they’ve chosen to be alone away from the rest of the group.
Let’s face it.  You may think you’re in control, but the only one that controls me, is me.  Soon enough, the only person that controls these little people, will be themselves!  I want to train them up to have the ability to make great choices for themselves!

Rule #3: Don’t Belittle The Offender
Remember the shame that comes with getting in trouble in front of someone else? The embarrassment? The ridicule?
Don’t squash someone’s spirit to make a point.
We need to remember that these little people haven’t lived all the life you have.  There’s a world to discover.  They are learning each and everyday how to do life.  Treat them with love and respect, even when you feel they don’t deserve it.  My best lessons have been learned through receiving grace rather than being shamed.  I know it’s easier said than done.  But sometimes it’s just a matter of having the tools to ponder on, so that at least you can go back and apologize when you’ve wronged your own child.

Does your family have Rules that hold you accountable?

 

amieleighartistry_proverbs22.6

the ugly red button

By Wednesday, September 3, 2014 0 No tags Permalink 0

Brothers006

Brothers007

Brothers001

Brothers004

Brothers002

Brothers001-2

You know what I’m talking about.  That button that gets pushed over and over and over again. The one that turns up your internal temperature.  The one that takes you from simmer to boil? I’m not sure when it first appeared.  I think it made it’s first appearance when I was about 4.  The year my brother was born.  I was no longer the only child.  I no longer had my mom and dad all to myself.  I had to share.  I wasn’t happy about it.  He knew it.   And I’m pretty sure he found it amusing.  I have a novel’s worth of stories that prove this.  The instigator. I love this guy to pieces.  But if there were anyone on earth that could turn me from a comfortable room temperature to boil in a matter of minutes.  He was it.  He knew exactly where the button was.  And exactly the way to press it.

The Ugly Red Button made some other appearances throughout the difficult and emotional teen years.  But for the most part, I forgot that Ugly Red Button existed.  I certainly don’t recall even so much as raising my voice for several years.  I had no need to.  Life was pretty good.  No need for boiling.  I had possession of “self-control”. And then it happened.  Got married.  Had a baby.  Baby turns toddler.  Toddler realizes he’s separate from me, and can do things all by himself, like, play in the toilet.  And JACKPOT! We’ve found the UGLY. RED. BUTTON.   I have a voice I’ve never heard before.  And WOW…it’s ugly!  Like…the kind of ugly that makes you cringe and frown all at once.  I hate it.  I hate everything about it. But most of all, I hate it because it’s an example of reacting when I should be responding.  Here are some instances the Ugly Red Button has gotten pushed and how I could have responded instead of reacted with the “ugly scream”.

 

UGLY RED BUTTON REACTION RESPONSE
child playing in toilet ugly scream remove child from bathroom calmly, and clean child and bathroom up and find something else to do
child poking baby brother in the eyes ugly scream explain that babies are fragile and have no defence mechanism (not even a blink) to fend of said fingers.
child singing  loudly on purpose while brothers are sleeping after being asked to sing quietly ugly scream (which wakens brothers) obviously child is bored and needs attention (which you just gave to him, along with an amusing show that he will share with his brothers as teenagers while laughing).  Find something to do WITH him.
Child not putting on shoes at door in a timely manner ugly scream turn getting out the door with all appropriate attire on into a race.  Have fun, and laugh.
Child dragging little brother across the yard by shirt. (In his defence, it was because little brother was beyond the boundary) ugly scream ugly scream.  No? I’ll have to come back to this one when I’m armed with an appropriate response in my back pocket.

 

When AsaJude was just a few weeks old, I attempted to gather the troops and get them all ready for church on my own.  The plan was to meet Jayden at church because he had to go a little earlier than the rest of us.  Well, I was 90% successful!  I had everyone dressed, breakfast in bellies, hair brushed, teeth brushed.  It was all going according to plan.  And then it happened.  AsaJude decided he was hungry and it was the end of the world if I didn’t feed him RIGHT. AT. THAT. MOMENT. and no one was putting their shoes on.  In fact, I think shoes were coming off. The ugly scream came out of my mouth accompanied by the tears of each one of us.  I looked at the clock, and it was 11am.  Church was starting.  I was not going to come anywhere near close to being there before church ended. Jayden called me to see how I was doing, and suggested I just make the most of it (wise man he is), and I tried to turn the morning around.

I found an online lesson on “attentiveness”.  I thought “Perfect! This is EXACTLY what these boys need right now!  If I could just get these little people to listen to me, my world would go a little more the way I expect.” Little did I realize that it was just as much a lesson for me as it was for them. We watched some youtube video documentaries about deer., and how alert they are.  They are always listening.  We made cute little deer headbands and wrote James 1:19 across the brim.  We had a great morning together.  And little baby AsaJude got his fill. Whenever our little boys forget to turn on their listening ears, we can now remind them of the deer.  But even more importantly, the memory of that day reminds me to be slow to speak, and slow to become angry.  We are seeing less and less of the “Ugly Red Button”.  As I enter the Refiner’s Fire; as I learn to stop, listen, think and respond; it’s in those moments I start to mirror my maker, becoming a little less ugly, and a little more beautiful.

What are some ways you respond instead of react?  What tips and tricks do you have to offer up to parents out there just trying to do their best?

 

amieleighartistry_james1.19

finn asher – my sweet sleeping babe

Today we spent a day swimming and playing in the hot hot sun.  On our way home, you fell asleep in the car as you so often do.  When we got home, I unpacked the car, and you opened your eyes.

I asked, “Do you want me to carry you in?”

You respond, “Waa” (which is your insanely cute  version of “ya”)

I carry you in.  And settle you on the couch.  And you fall back to sleep.  Chaos and fun all around you, but you’re just. so. tired.  that you can’t fight it.  And I just want to hold on to that precious moment forever and always.

The peacefulness of my sleeping baby boy.

Those lashes.

Those chubby little fingers.

Love.

FINNASHER_REMEMBERWHEN001

FINNASHER_REMEMBERWHEN002

so I’ve decided to homeschool…

Some may think I’m crazy. And I’m not sure I’d argue. But here’s the thing.  There isn’t anything in this world more precious to me than my family.  It goes by so quickly.  I’m only 4 years in on this parenting journey, and it’s been the fastest four years of my life. Some days, I just want to go back and do it over and over and over so no one ever gets any bigger.  However, some days, I can’t wait to start a new one.  A better one. And this is precisely why we’ve come to the decision to teach our own kids.  I don’t know if I’m in it for the long haul.  But I’m committed for the year. And here’s why.

#1. I’m creative. I love coming up with creative ways to teach answers to questions.  Anyone who really knows me, knows that I never grew out of the “why” phase so commonly attached to the toddler years.  Really.  Why IS the sky blue? I’m excited to discover the answers to life together.

#2.  We love God. I can’t expect everyone in the world to have the same values our family does.  Therefore, I can’t expect to hand my boys off to someone else, and a classroom full of peers, each with a different set of morals and values, each and every day and expect my children to learn the morals and values we, as a family,  hold so dearly.  I don’t plan to shelter them.  Quite contrary, I want them to experience the world.  All of the extraordinary beauty as well as the bad and ugly.  I want to equip them with how to face the hurts, and how to enjoy the great!  But I want to be the one to equip them.

#3.  Call me selfish.  But I just want to be with them.  Yes.  It’s exhausting some days.  Yes.  Some days I want nothing more than to lock myself in a bathroom with earplugs, ice cream (triple chocolate brownie please) and a warm bubble bath with a book and a lock on the door.  But I love these little boys more than life itself.  If I weren’t spending my days with them.  There would be a lot less joy in this little life of mine.  I just want to spend time with them.

#4.  No Regrets.  I don’t want to look back and wish I tried homeschooling.  It’s something I’ve considered since before we ever had children.  I know if I don’t at least try it on, I’ll regret never doing so.  I figure this is the best time to try.  At the beginning.  Anytime is a great time to try something new!  But I might as well know now if this is a good fit for us or not.  So here we go.  I’m trying.  I’m making this 1 year commitment to teach my own child.  (I DID start a week before school started, so that I could change my mind and send him on the first day if it went horribly wrong – haha – But I’m actually LOVING it!)

So far – 5 days in – it’s been incredibly rewarding to watch his brain grasp concepts.  It’s heartwarming to watch him line his alphabet letters in a row while singing the ABC song.  And watch his little face fill with pride when i say “Way to go! That’s Great!”.  I get to watch this happen! I get to be there!  I’m grateful for that.

I look forward to sharing more about this experience as we journey through.

 

asa jude

My greatest fear when bringing new life into the world has been this: Will I have enough love to spread out one more time?

When it was just J and I, I couldn’t imagine spreading my love any thinner.  And then I fell in love with JonasJayce.  Then FinnAsher was born, and again, my love just grew!  How could I doubt the same wouldn’t happen again?

It happened!  I love him just as much as the others!  I introduce to you, AsaJude.

Asa means “Healer” (Asa is also a King in the bible who pleased the Lord)

Jude means “Praise”

We had his name picked out for months, but were waiting to see if something else would jump out at us.  Nothing else did.  Friends shared this song with us when they heard we were considering the name.  I was sold.

Asa, you make our hearts leap with joy! I love you, and commit to giving you my best!

amieleighartistry_2Chronicles14.11

ASAJUDE1

ASAJUDE3

ASAJUDE2

ASAJUDE4

“Asa” by Bry Webb – Provider

facebookfacebookfacebook