Aligning With The Pagan Community

I attended a Pagan festival yesterday.  I went to sell my artwork but I came away with so much more.  I had forgotten just how much I missed that particular community in my life.  How much I missed the spiritual, the creative, the energy of Pagans.

I had a very successful day.  I sold quite a bit of artwork, found some of my old books and tarot decks new homes where they would be loved and appreciated (not stuck in a dark drawer) and spent time with one of my best friends – my younger brother.
But the energy OH the energy.  I feel rejuvenated today.  After the amount of artwork I had done over the last week and a half I thought I would be all art-ed out.  But I’m not.  The ideas are flowing more free than ever.  I missed this feeling, so so much.
I kept walking by a tent with two lovely ladies in it.  I liked the way they smiled as I walked by.  They were offering $5 chakra reiki alignment so I took a chance and did it.  I’ve never done reiki before.  It was pretty amazing.  I even sent my brother over after to do it as well.  I’ll have to save up and see about a whole session with her someday. (I also bought a bunch of candles but we’ll talk about my smelly candle/incense obsession later)  She asked me near the end if I wanted my crown left “open” and I said yes – because I want to receive energies and it might allow me to see ghosts.
All in all I had a really good time.  I really really needed a day like this to come my way.
 This post ties heavily into my mental health and mental illness.  I think that no matter how isolated we make ourselves, some of us just want to find a community we belong too.  A group of people who understand us.  A place to belong.
But sometimes that drive to find a place to belong can lead to some dark places.  It can be an overwhelming urge, and often we are naive in our expectations.  Easily lead and easily influenced.  This can end up being a slight detour or a life-altering thing.  Not necessarily for the better.
I’ve been down that path a couple times.  Always at my lowest point.  I nearly got myself into groups I’m not sure I could have gotten out of.  I might have ended up getting hurt, or hurting someone else.
The local Pagan community though – that’s a good place for me.  Full of healing energies, love, light and laughter.  And mead.  You can never forget the mead.

Drawing Up A Storm

I’m on new medication.  It is working.

How do I know?

Because I recently did this:

LastUnicorn

And this:

DoctorStitch

And I’m working on tons more!  The hits just keep on coming.  So blogging has taken a back seat to drawing, but if you are interested in finding me and my artwork, here are a couple links:

https://www.facebook.com/JKDoerffer – On facebook for updates and fun previews (also to buy any artwork)

http://jkdoerffer.deviantart.com/ – If you are on Deviant Art, here’s a great place to see my gallery.

There isn’t much…yet.  I’m hoping to build up a good stock and do some shows – and save up to buy one of these:

A Cintiq.  Oh, how many t-shirt designs could I make with that!  🙂  Karen Hallion – the artist at the link above, is such an inspiration to me.  I love her work but she represents someone I could be, should I apply myself.

I’m looking forward to sharing more of my work with you in the future!

Please Don’t Touch The Mama

*Trigger warning for talk of mental illness, sexual assault and rape*

Right now, I don’t want to be touched.

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The simple act of my husband holding his hand out to help me up from the couch causes a subconscious revulsion.  My body reacts before my logical mind kicks in.  I shrink back and get up from the couch without help.  Hugs?  Forget it.  Kisses?  I’d rather not.  We can safely say that sex is so far out of the question it’s orbiting Pluto.

It’s hurting my relationship with my husband.  He needs closeness and physical intimacy – and I just can’t give it to him.  A simple hug feels like a violation of my space and I retreat as fast as possible.  Whenever I have to touch somebody (mostly my husband because there are not many people who require physicality from me) my brain just starts SCREAMING “stop touching stop touching stop touching”

This isn’t limited to my husband either.  Though not as common, oftentimes I have to force myself to touch my son.  He still wants to breastfeed once in awhile, for comfort and closeness, and I have to clench my teeth and fight back the tears.  The tension in my body is clearly visible when he snuggles up for cuddles.  I have to force myself to touch the one thing in this goddamn universe that makes me remotely happy.  That is so so so fucked up.

I don’t know if this is related to the fact that I am a mentally ill person suffering depression and am currently unmedicated and not seeing anyone.  (Not for lack of trying, believe me)  Or if it’s tied to my horrible past that has been seeping into my dreams unwanted.  Past trauma I had forgotten, or shut out is giving me nightmares.   As I’ve learned more about rape, about rape culture, and what sexual assault actually is, I’m realizing I’m a victim.  My past is littered with unwanted gropes, touches and assaults.  I didn’t know back then.  I thought it was just par for the course, that it was just what guys did, that it was just what happens.

I’m living, currently, in a roulette wheel of feelings.  One day I’m angry – angry at my husband, angry at my house, angry at my job.  I hate it all.  I want to leave it all behind, run away, hide.  Then I feel guilty and slip into depression where all I want to do is sleep, sleep and never wake up.  But sleeping brings no relief as I’m haunted by memories.  I fake my way through work, fake smiles, fake caring.  Sometimes it’s real, mostly it’s not.  And my patience is very, very, very thin.  I am losing my ability to deal with…well…almost everything.

The only thing, the ONLY THING, that brings me joy is Bean.  And even he suffers because his mom is sick.  He suffers my inability to deal normally with day-to-day toddler behavior.  The mom I wanted to be, the soft caring mom, she’s only around part time.  The other times I’m angry mom, sad mom, frustrated mom, too-tired-for-this-shit mom.  I’m the mom who doesn’t want to touch her son.  To feel his soft skin and relish in his silky, beautiful, curly hair.  To snuggle his rolls and kiss his little nose.  The fact that oftentimes I have to force myself to do these things kills me.

I can’t keep living like this.  Feeling like I’m swimming underwater and not quite ever reaching the surface, even though I keep following the sunlight.  Sometimes I sink so low I can’t even see the light anymore.  I hurt so much I’ve gone numb.  I don’t want to die, but I can’t keep going like this.  Something needs to give or I’m going to implode, again.

It’s hard for me to talk about all of this on here.  There are people who read this blog who know me in real life.  Family, friends, even work-related people.  But this is me.  This is the turmoil I am in these days.  Some days are good.  Some days are bad.  Mostly they are just days.

 

Struggling To Keep Up – PPD, Anxiety and Back To Work Blues

I knew going back to work would be hard, but I didn’t think It would hurt this damn much.

Thursdays and Fridays are the worst days for me.

Every Thursday I wake up and cram as much “special time” in to the two hours before we leave that I can, in between getting clean and dressed.  I’ll feed Bean his favorite breakfast of grapes and crackers and turn on a bit of Pocoyo so he’ll sit in my lap and munch happily away.

He’s so excited when we get ready to go out the door.  He holds my hand and laughs as he half walks/half jumps down the stairs to the car.

He’s content and happy and silly and everything I love until that fateful right turn.

The right turn down the street towards his caretaker.

I try not to look in the mirror.  I try to ignore his little whines and cries as his face scrunches up in anxiety and sadness.

By the time I get him out of the car he’s sobbing, his body shaking.  I make it as painless as I can.  I hand him off, dig out his current lovie from his bag, give him a hug, tell him I love him, then head out the door.

I can hear his cries until I’ve pulled out of the driveway and driven away.

The last image I have of Bean as I head into work is a look of total…well…betrayal.  I’ve betrayed his trust.  I’ve made my child cry.

I hate it.  Most of the time I spend the drive to work near tears and coiled in taut anxiety.

I don’t even get to pick him up as my shifts are long.  I don’t see him again until the next morning, repeating the same from yesterday only I’m more beaten down and bone-tired from the previous day’s 10 hour shift.

I get three days with him a week and one of those days I spend wound up in extreme anxiety over the Thursday morning that will inevitably come.  That look on his face, those tears in his eyes.

It breaks my fucking heart.

Before I went back to work I was told by a woman at the local drop in that “You could stay at home if you tried.”  What a damaging comment for me to hear.  She has no idea what kind of anxiety and sadness and guilt her flippant remark caused.

See, my husband’s in school.  It’s his last year and he needs to concentrate.  I’m making just enough that we are scraping by.  Of course the childcare subsidy hasn’t kicked in either (thanks ultra slow government) and I am working two of my four days just to pay for childcare.  Seems stupid to me.

And it’s not, as people keep complaining, that childcare is “too expensive”.  It’s not.  In fact it’s downright underpaid.  If I could give the woman who takes care of the most precious thing in the world to me the money she deserved I would.  The problem is that those of us needing childcare the most – the ones who don’t have a “choice” – the ones who have to work to eat and put a roof over our heads – don’t get paid enough.  We scrape and save and get by on minimum wage while people who don’t understand turn their nose up and say we have a “choice”.

Right now the stress in our household is at an all-time high.  Hubby’s got some anxiety and depression issues coupled with some hard-core schooling (it’s hard going back after so much time away) so I try my best to give him some slack.

I’ve got some post-partum anxiety that kicked into high gear a few months ago (remember when I disappeared from the blogosphere and then wrote a cryptic message of sadness?  Yeah, then.) and has only started to get better the last two weeks (and by better I mean I can function day-to-day without weird and scary bouts of anger and panic attacks).  We are getting buried underneath a mountain of unorganized stuff that we had to throw as high as possible when Bean hit all his crazy growth spurts and began to walk.  And climb.  And grab.

I just can’t seem to catch up.  It’s overwhelming everyday to say the least.  Often I walk into a room and just stand there.  My apartment is a jumbled mess of disorganized chaos – I guess it’s kind of a reflection of me these days.

Things will get better, logically I know this.  Just how I feel, right now, in the moment is somewhat hopeless.  Bean is my only ray of light during my day to day and not being around him very much four days a week weakens me.

I’m not even sure where this blog post is going.  It’s a bit of a jumbled mess, like me.  Guess I just needed to vent a bit.  Thanks for listening.

Love Came Later – The Story of A’s Birth

I’ve decided to get the ball rolling on this writing thing again.  It’s been awhile and I’m rusty but I need an outlet to bounce some ideas off the world and work out the feels I am feeling.

In order to get my blogging juices flowing again I’ve decided to share with you the birth of my son and all the drama that surrounded it.

In a time not so long ago, in a galaxy far, far away….no wait, scratch that.  Sorry.  I really shouldn’t write these things at work.

June.  2012.  I’m freaking HUGE.  I started off as a plus size mom but gosh golly gee I’ve upped the plus sized ante.  I’ve taken off from work a tad early due to blood pressure issues – mine keeps rising when I do, like, anything.  So I try my best to sit at home and not drive anyone else crazy with my “nesting” instincts.  Which doesn’t happen but they all still love me anyways.

My ob-gyn (an awesome and smart dude who got me through the still birth of Joel) was worried.  My blood pressure kept going up, I was showing extra fluid and he was worried about how much blood the baby was getting.  So after much discussion we decided to induce.  He booked an appointment for me June 13.

I had read up on birth and taken some classes with my husband.  I was going to (despite the induction) have a vaginal delivery with little-to-no medication.  Ahaha.   Ahahahahaha.  

I went in on the 13th.  Which was, apparently, the same day half of the pregnant ladies in my city decided to go into labor.  So I was sent home to try the induction the next day, when the hospital wasn’t taxed to their limits.

The next day was the same story.  They did, however, get the gel inside and sent me on home to wait for labor to start.

A few hours later I took a warm bath which triggered my water breaking.  Not so bad I thought until OMFG THE CONTRACTIONS.  Seriously.  Nada to OMG THE PAIN.  I thought it was going to be some sort of build up.

When I entered the hospital they got me to a room quick.  My blood pressure was shooting up and up and up and…well….they threw me on an epidural.  Not literally, of course, that would be extra painful.  Also probably hard to throw a plus sized pregnant woman.  Unless you had a catapult.  Anyways, sorry.  Easily distracted.

Now I’m sitting pretty.  I’m out of pain, my blood pressure is stabilizing, the baby’s doing fine and we are just waiting for things to move along.

Which is when the other half of my city’s pregnant ladies went into labor.

Turned out it was fortunate for me as I was able to bribe my panicked husband with a kiss to go downstairs and get me a diet pepsi while the nurse was attending another patient.  Score!

5 hours pass.  The contractions are starting to be strong again so the doctor and nurse get me to start pushing.

I push.  And push.  And push.  He crowns.  Yay!  He’s coming!  I still push.  And push.  They give me some pitocin as the contractions start to wane.  I push.  And push.  And push.

He’s still crowning.  In fact, according to the Dr, he’s stuck.  Also mom and baby are not faring well.  Blood pressure starting to skyrocket.  The Dr looks me in the eyes and tells it to me straight.  Emergency C-section.  So STOP PUSHING.

Yeah, easier said than done.

Especially when now the epidural wears out and the pitocin kicks in.  My pain level goes from 0 to 100 in less than a minute while I’m panicking that OMG MY BABY IS GOING TO DIE.

My terrified husband is tossed a covering and I’m wheeled into the operating room.  Where I meet one of the nurses who was there when I still-birthed before.  In my addled brain this means that I’m DOING IT AGAIN.

I am embarrassed of how I dealt with the pain.  I was BEGGING for more drugs.  To take the pain away.  I was screaming about how much pain I was in.  I hope the nurses realize that I wasn’t just screaming in pain.  I was PANICKING hardcore.  I was terrified and anxious and all those things compounded.  What came out though was a mom begging them for drugs.  And I’m embarrassed.  I look back now and I am ashamed.  So much so that when I am ready to give birth again I almost want to avoid that hospital.

Finally another epidural.  I’m numb from the neck down.  Fred is sitting in a chair beside me holding my hand, though I can’t feel it.  The doctors are talking in hushed voices.  I remember how QUIET it was because I was straining so hard to hear that little cry.  That first breath.  Anything to let me know everything is ok.  The nurses are running around making rustling sounds and in my head I’m screaming shut up shut up shut up.

He’s out.  They rush him to the scale.  Fred trims the cord.  Finally I can hear him squawking in the bright light.  Must be so weird to go from dark and warm to cold and bright so fast for the little guy.  He was born at 4:15 in the morning.

They brought him over to me and put him on my chest.  And that was it.  Things got really messed up from there.

When you read about birth, when you read about other’s experiences, you hear over and over about that rush of love, the stream of adoration, the tears of joy at seeing your baby for the first time.  Cue the choir and the cherubs and rainbows and sparkles.

I felt none of that.  The only thing I felt was panic that I was going to drop him because my arms were still numb and I couldn’t hold him properly.  I had Fred take him away and go bond in a corner away from me.  I didn’t want to touch him or see him.  I didn’t want to hold my child.  How fucked up is that?

The rest of it is a bit of a blur.  I think they sewed me up and wheeled me into recovery where I slept for awhile.  Then they put me in one of those rooms where there are 4 (or more) other moms.  I remember waking up and Arthur is beside me with an exhausted husband at the foot of the bed.  He hadn’t slept in over 24 hours so I sent him home to get some sleep (and also contact grandparents/friends who were anxiously awaiting news).  The baby was snoozing in one of those hospital beds next to me.

I was tired but couldn’t sleep.  I remember a nurse coming in and asking if I wanted to hold him and I declined.  My arms and legs were still pretty numb and he seemed content in his swaddle and bed, I thought.

I could hear all the action around me.  I was surrounded by moms who had birthed the day before and the room was swamped with visitors.  It was divided into four by curtains hanging down.  The people on the other side of my curtain thought it was ok to take my only chair (and possibly any other chairs they could find) and build some sort of living room in there.  Where they continuously kept banging the chair into my baby’s crib.  I tried to call out but no one heard me.  Finally after the third “bang” I called the nurse and had her go chastise them.  Which she did spectacularly telling them to have some respect for the other mothers and pointing out that the thing their chair kept hitting was a baby’s crib.  One of the men sheepishly brought me back my chair and apologized.

Sometime in the midst of all this excitement a big bouquet of flowers arrived for me from my parents.  They were dealing with a very sick pup and couldn’t come see me but sent their love via purple lilies and pink carnations.  It was pretty and a nice addition to my small room.  However it also made me sad because all I really wanted was my mom there beside me to tell me it’d be ok.  That it was normal to feel so disconnected from my kid and that it would get better.  I understood why she couldn’t be there but it doesn’t mean it hurt any less.

When the hospital discovered I was under the care of a psychiatrist and a high risk for PPD they moved me to my own private room.  At no extra cost.  There was even a “crashing couch” for my hubby to make use of.  Only thing is that I had to stay for 5 days for “observation”.

Looking back now those first few days, even the first few months, are all kind of a blur.  Mostly I remember moments and feelings.

Like the only thing that got me out of that bed the day after my c-section was the thought of a shower.  I was bound and determined to take a shower.  A shower will make me feel better, I kept thinking.

I remember staring at Arthur.  He was quiet (due to the drugs) and wasn’t latching on properly when I tried to breastfeed.  My milk was taking it’s sweet time coming in as well.  He had jaundice so the hospital had him on a strict schedule of formula to “flush” it out.  He was cute.  He was a baby.  But I didn’t feel, anywhere in those five days, that he was mine.

People kept telling me he was.  I would smile and look after him and cuddle and feed and then easily hand him off to Fred so I could roll over in bed and go to sleep.  I pretended to myself and others that everything was fine.  But a part of me kept feeling like someone would come and take him away to his real mom.  I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was not mine.

Even despite the fact he looks so much like my brother.

I felt guilt.  Shame.  Like a failure.  Disconnection.  Numb.

I didn’t show any signs of PPD and the c-section was healing nicely so when I had my staples out they sent me home.

It took a more than a few days until the feelings I had in the hospital to fade away.  Even longer for a bond to form.  Breastfeeding was a challenge – let’s just say he was on almost all formula and I managed to fight my way through mastitis and bad latches to get him breastfeeding without formula.  (okay, the occasional bottle at night so mom doesn’t lose her mind).

After bonding I had a sudden realization like “Ah, now I SEE what all those other moms meant.”  Now I can’t imagine a life without him and I look forward to our time together.  The days and weeks are flying by and despite our rough start I look forward to doing it all again.

After all I have a good idea how to work on making things go differently next time – but also I have a pretty good idea how to accept them if they don’t.

arthur

Confession Of A Medicated Woman

I have a confession to make.  

I have asthma coupled with severe allergies.  I’ve battled this disease since I was a child with many doctors weighing in on how to best control the symptoms.  It was decided that early on I would have to be medicated in order to keep breathing.

There were so many different kinds of medications I’ve lost count.  Some worked ok.  Some made the symptoms worse.  And some…some I had horrible side effects with.  Like vomiting and nausea.  I was told by my Dr to just keep using them – the side effects would go away eventually.  Finally we settled on a combination that works for my specific type of asthma.  Ventolin inhalers as needed with Advair to back it up.

Sometimes I’m angry.  Angry that I can’t live without this medicine.  Angry that I can’t be just a NORMAL person who breathes without difficulty.  Who can play sports and cuddle with kittens without fear of hospitilization.

Mostly though I’m ashamed.  I’m afraid to talk about my health issues in public for fear of judgement.  So many times I see posts from people with similar problems asking for help and there is a resounding cry that they can just “work through it” and that medication isn’t really needed.  When I was in grade six I had a gym teacher who believed I could just “walk off” my asthma after gym class.  It took a severe attack for my parents to remove me from that class – an attack that I nearly died from.

According to statistics Canada 8.5 % of the population aged 12 and over have been diagnosed with asthma.  More common during childhood, asthma affects more than 13% of Canadian children.

So I’m not alone.  There are many others like me.  So why does society view having asthma as something I can just “get over”?  Why am I constantly asked how long I’m going to have to be medicated and whether or not I really need the inhalers?  Some even feel the drug companies are to blame and I’m not really sick.  They just want to have me on inhalers so I’m easier to control by the corporations/governments.

I see people telling pregnant or breastfeeding women to “go off their inhalers” due to misinformation about the danger to the baby – despite the fact the mother may be a danger to herself without them.

No wonder I, and many others, are ashamed of their asthma.  Why we hide it.

If I have an attack in public I just tell people that I’ve got a slight cold.  I turn away from people if I have to take my inhaler so they won’t know I’m sick.  I don’t talk about it much online so that I won’t incure the judgement of the internet.

Sometimes I’m afraid to get help for my asthma thinking I’ll be judged.  That my friends and family won’t understand or think I’m a burden and abandon me.  That the doctors won’t think I’m sick enough to warrant medical attention.  It can be so difficult to admit I need help no matter how hard it is for me to breathe.

I live in a society where there is a stigma against asthmatics – especially those who are on inhalers.  Where we are judged from all sides and shamed into silence.  Where we suffer and often times don’t find the help and support we need in time.

………….Wait a minute.  Asthma is a serious illness.  I shouldn’t be ashamed and this is just ridiculous.  Is it though?  Let’s re-write this post with what it’s actually about.

I have a confession to make.

I have an anxiety disorder coupled with depression.  I’ve battled this disease since I was a teenager with many doctors weighing in on how to best control the symptoms.  It was decided that I would have to be medicated in order to keep functioning.

There were so many different kinds of medications I’ve lost count.  Some worked ok.  Some made the symptoms worse.  And some…some I had horrible side effects with.  Like vomiting and nausea.  I was told by my Dr to just keep using them – the side effects would go away eventually.  Finally we settled on a combination that works for my specific type of anxiety.  Ciprolex with the occasional prescription of Prozac if my depression got too bad.

Sometimes I’m angry.  Angry that I can’t function without these pills.  Angry that I can’t be just a NORMAL person who controls their emotions without difficulty.  Who can deal with stress and major life events without fear of hospitalization.

Mostly though I’m ashamed.  I’m afraid to talk about my mental health issues in public for fear of judgement.  So many times I see posts from people with similar problems asking for help and there is a resounding cry that they can just “work through it” and that medication isn’t really needed.  When I was in my twenties I believed it and almost did something irreversible.  I could have died.

According to the World Health Organization depression effects 350 million people worldwide. CAMH says anxiety disorders effect one in ten people.

So I’m not alone.  There are many others like me.  So why does society view having depression and anxiety as something I can just “get over”?  Why am I constantly asked how long I’m going to have to be medicated and whether or not I really need the pills?  Some even feel the drug companies are to blame and I’m not really sick.  They just want to have me on the pills so I’m easier to control by the corporations/governments.

I see people telling pregnant or breastfeeding women to “go off their meds” due to misinformation about the danger to the baby – despite the fact the mother may be a danger to herself (or others) without them.  They quote sources that aren’t even close to being scientific.

No wonder I, and many others, are ashamed of their mental health issues.  Why we hide them.

If I have an attack in public I just tell people that I’m having an asthma attack or allergies.  I turn away from people if I have to cry or hyper ventilate so they won’t know I’m sick.  I don’t talk about it much online so that I won’t incur the judgement of the internet.

Sometimes I’m afraid to get help for my anxiety or depression thinking I’ll be judged.  That my friends and family won’t understand or think I’m a burden and abandon me.  That the doctors won’t think I’m sick enough to warrant seeing me.  It can be so difficult to admit I need help no matter how hard it is for me to function.

I live in a society where there is a stigma against mental health – especially those who are on pills.  Where we are judged from all sides and shamed into silence.  Where we suffer and often times don’t find the help and support we need in time.

……

Did your feelings change when you read the re-write?  Many people’s do.  The point is summed up in one simple sentence.

Everyone, PLEASE, stop shaming those on medication for their mental health issues.

If you wouldn’t tell an asthmatic to stop taking their inhalers, if  you wouldn’t tell a diabetic to stop their insulin, DON’T tell someone with depression, anxiety or any other mental health issue to stop their medication.

What people need is support and understanding.  Patience and empathy.  Help them know that they are not being judged and that they are still worthy of your time and love.

With better support at home and in their community things do get better.  I’m living proof.

Someday I’ll talk more about my mental health journey.  The self-medication, the hospitalization, the attempts at…well, we’ll get there.  I know that without that one little pill I take every night each day would be substantially harder.  I wouldn’t find joy in my precious baby and would spend my time agonizing over “what ifs” instead of focusing on “what is”.  That one pill helps me be better and manage my illness and really, is that such a bad thing?

inhalerpills