Monday, March 24, 2014

Label it and Put it in a Box

I asked my therapist if I will be diagnosed with post natal depression or anxiety or both.  

As I spoke I realized- why do I need to know?  What is this constant desire to label everything?  It happens in society all the time.  We label our careers, our sexuality, our social status.

Maybe if I fit into a category, there will be instructions on how to fix me.

So how did I get here?  Could the physical rigors of being a new mom actually cause post natal issues?  The mind and body are inexplicably linked so it makes sense that the newborn stage alone could make any sane person crazy. Isn't sleep deprivation a form of torture?

I wish I started documenting these feelings earlier so I could see my progress.  By progress I mean gone are the mornings Matt would leave for work while tears streamed down my face.  It's no coincidence that everyone in our house is getting more sleep lately.

Even though I don't feel hopeless most days, I must now deal with the residual effects of being in that state for the past few months.  My thinking patterns have changed.  I guess is why I asked the question- anxiety or depression- in the first place. Now I feel less depressed and more anxious. 

But what’s the difference really?  Just two different words, two different labels.  I might not cry as much but my hands tremble when I'm running late.  There is work to be done.

The short answer- I won't be "diagnosed," but I will continue to go to sessions as long as I feel they are helpful.

So many women I know have shared their own battles with me recently.  These are women I respect.  They are educated, successful and fun. Some are Moms (Mums) and some are not.  Regardless, these women are constantly shadow boxing.  We put so much pressure on ourselves that we have to fight to live up to our own expectations.

A good friend said to me recently; “You’re good at everything you do- what makes you think being a Mom will be any different?”  

It’s a fair question.  Maybe it’s because nothing else I’ve ever done in my life has mattered to me as much as this. And it's all relative.

More than anything else- I don't want Lavinia to learn to force herself into boxes or labels already created by society. Please my little baby, live outside the lines. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

You can't Fix it Overnight


However, yesterday's session has left me feeling frustrated.

When the therapist pulled out her ‘dittos’ I was immediately reminded of grade school.

In addition to this quite complex chart, I was given another handout with hypothetical questions about hypothetical people in hypothetical situations and asked to hypothesize on how these people may think and feel....Um...When can I talk about me?

I’m no expert but I get it- my negative ‘thoughts’ are creating negative ‘feelings’- just tell me how to make it stop already. 

Admittedly I’m not a patient person.  I'm not new to this but it's been a while so I must remind myself that it won’t hurt to do some refreshing.  And it DOES take some effort to retrain the brain, just like it takes exercise to lose the baby weight. 

My session wasn’t a complete waste.  She did have one clever connection I had not thought of.  The link between my anxiety about (the lack of) packing and my feelings about the trip itself.

To pre-game a visit to Buffalo I usually stress about family drama.  My parents won’t get enough of me. They will make me feel guilty when I want to see my friends.  To prove I can do it all, I make too many plans, run around Erie County until I feel like collapsing, and sputter on until I reach Buffalo Niagara International Airport.  There I will elbow my way onto the plane looking forward to 24 hours of peace.

This visit will be different.   I am returning with my new identity as a mother.   I will be introducing my baby girl to the other half of her life.

Maybe it’s time to face the fear that I may not be looking forward to that flight back to Australia this time around.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Anxiety is a Chain Reaction

All it takes is one thing to tip the first anxiety domino. Monday it was my iPhone.

While feeding Lavinia her lunch, we were listening to Spotify and all the sudden the phone went blue and shut down. It was stuck in recovery mode and would not reboot....just when I felt like I was getting things under control.

Tuesday spent 2.5 hours at the mall so I could go to the apple store.   You would think this was a positive in many ways:

1.) At least it happened before we went overseas
2.) All I lost were a few photos and text messages
3.) I was able to go to Babies R Us and buy some expensive travel crap for our trip

But no.  Now I feel overwhelmed. I had to shuffle plans for the rest of the week and it's making me freak out.  Normally I'm a great traveller/ packer/ organizer.  This time I feel lost and don't know where to start.  How can I pack baby stuff that I will need between now and then?  How will I find the time to make a list? And this is only for my carry-on bag!

So what do I do?  Start cancelling plans.

This does not make me feel good.  I already went two days without a phone and now I'm going to have to miss out on a few social commitments.  Talk about extending out the isolation.  What is the universe trying to tell me?

I blogged about my feelings and was greeted by a touching response.  Messages were still coming in when my phone died and I worry that kind people will think they are being ignored.

See what I mean- it all starts with a phone and suddenly I'm blowing off my friends and have to take a flight with no luggage.  I'm being a bit dramatic here to make a point but still...

My second appointment with the shrink is today.  I'm really looking forward to getting into things.  The first visit was just me blabbing about my background (for two hours- can you say issues?)  I'm just ready to get my hands on some tools to help me control my brain.

What's up with your phone Mommy?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Not Sure What I Expected

In the few short days since my last post, the outpouring of support from friends and family is overwhelming- in a good way.

Within about 10 minutes of publishing my husband got a text from his good friend offering to help us in any way possible.

In the morning I woke up to Facebook and SMS messages from people close to me in Australia who had no idea, my best friends mother and her experience with being a transplant, a girl I knew in middle school, friends in Europe and Africa.  

People I have plans to visit are offering to come to me rather than have me drive to them (if only I had done this sooner!)  They all tell me I am brave.

Not sure about brave, I think impulsive might be a better word. 

Regardless of the motivating factors, I do not regret sharing my story.  I am beyond grateful and humbled by the responses.

One refreshing thing I've found in motherhood is the ability to be genuinely honest, a trait I’ve always admired in other people.  In the past I suffered from passive aggression- I worried too much about people liking me to openly speak my mind.  Time is too precious now for political fence-sitting.

Previously, every time I tried to write about myself there were boundaries. I’m absolutely uncomfortable with being vulnerable right now but at the same time I’m okay with it.  Gone are the days of censorship, of self- medication, of presenting only a surface with most people in my world.

I need to be someone my daughter can look up to and she has given me the courage to begin to set the example.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

My Restorative Journey to the Sea

I think I've suffered from post natal depression on and off for the last six months. Three people knew about this before I went to see a therapist last week. It's unlike me not to share.

Weakness is scary- by being so public about this, I tell myself it's brave- but my jaw is clenched as I type. 

Isolation is probably the main contributing factor (among others I'm not ready to write about). I'm thousands of miles from my family and (American) friends. Six months ago I became a suburbanite with a city-girl heart. I no longer have my bearings.

Anxiety about travel, driving on the highway specifically, is a new and unwelcome passenger in my brain. 

Yesterday I had plans to take an hour and a half drive to see a very good friend and she knew I was struggling with the thought of it.

Sometimes all it takes is someone to force you outside your comfort zone. If my mother were here she would tell me to suck it up (and since I'm a Mom now too- I may actually listen rather than do the opposite) but alas, she is not.

My friend drove the whole way to my house and talked to me about my fears until I agreed to follow her halfway to her place. The reward- at our destination I would able to show my daughter the ocean for the first time. 

The drive was tense, the experience both challenging and confidence building. More importantly I witnessed the perplexed and pleased look on Lavinia's face when the first, cold, bubbly little wave washed over her tiny pink feet. I feel like she is going to be a natural water baby, just like her Momma. 

The ocean has always healed me- imagine if anxiety stood in the way of me introducing that lifelong gift to my baby girl. 

I will work on this and share my journey here. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My Sweet Lavinia

These first few months of your life have flown by with a flurry of emotions. Time has both stood still and zipped by in a blink.

You have already developed a strong personality and sense of adventure. I never know which side or end of the crib you will wake up on. You are so incredibly beautiful but more importantly you are charming, hilarious, smiley, independent and cheeky. How do you already know exactly what you want and when? It took me almost 30 years to figure that out. Look at you, already my teacher.

I love the sound of your voice. You talk to your toys, pillows and especially to your Dad.

I love your cheeks and have to remind myself to get out of your face so you can breathe sometimes because all I want to do is kiss and nuzzle your sweet face.

The big, big world belongs to you my love. I’m both fearful and excited for you to explore and put your stamp on it, surely it’s already become a better place because you’re in it.

Thank you for choosing me to be your Mom.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Honeymoon Odyssey: Dresden

You can’t leave Germany without seeing the East.

Matt 2012
Dawn 2006

I think the best way to see Dresden is to take a day, or even a few hours, and wander around the city and along the peaceful river Elbe.

For me, Dresden is about quiet contemplation of what took place there.  The scars are still on the surface- more so than other popular cities in the West.

Staring at the blackened buildings and monuments you can’t help but think about the World Wars.  Before WWII Dresden was an arts and cultural center, even referred to as ‘the jewel.’  The sad fact is, this place really didn’t need to be bombed, it did have some manufacturing but it was filled with civilians and as a slap in the face, this jewel by the river was destroyed.

In 2006 I spent a few nights in Dresden on a business trip and I remember it being much quieter than it is now- which is a positive sign for it's development.  I remember empty lots of rubble, chain link fences and bulldozers.  Now there are tourist restaurants, shops and a bustling town center.

Puzzle pieces, old bricks next to new structures

As Dresden repairs itself it’s aiming to attract young people and students.  It just so happened that my cousin Shane was doing an exchange at one of the Universities.

This meeting was perfectly serendipitous because Shane is the son of my Uncle Charles, who visited me in Munich six years earlier.

My Uncle was doing business in Belgium at the time and went out of his way to come see me.  He took me to dinner and spoke to me as one adult to another.  I felt so grown up and had so many questions.  He was so refreshingly honest with me about how difficult yet rewarding it is to be a parent, and how important it is to travel.

I’ll never forget his advice or how much fun we had that night.  I had to put him in a cab after the trademark Jameson shots came out- what can I say I was in my 20’s?  Still he hung in there like a champ and I was proud to have him as an Uncle and a friend.

So taking Shane to lunch was something I insisted on, even though Matt and I were yet to be alone a week into our Around the World Honeymoon.

I’m a traveler and a gypsy but at heart- I hate to admit it- I’m a home body.  Because family means everything to me, I can still function so far away from them.  The physical distance is enormous but I carry them with me in every waking moment and often in my dreams at night.  They are in me.  In my accent, my style, gestures, attitude and all the experiences that make me the person I am today. 

My biggest wish right now is that my family and friends understand that I haven’t left them behind for another life, but that I’ve just taken all of us into a bigger life than we once imagined. 

Now I have Australian relatives, and so do all of you.