Feb 142011

“Even if your hands are shaking . . . and your faith is broken. Even as the eyes are closing . . . do it with a heart wide open. Say What You Need to Say…”

Thank you, Sarah…for being brave enough to Say What You Need to Say.


Hi, my name is Sarah and I have post-partum depression.

Thanks to Glennon, who has cured me of the need to measure up to her blogging standards, and after much agonizing, procrastinating and rewriting, it finally dawned on me that I don’t need to tell you all my story and teach you something about post-partum depression (PPD).

Instead, I just want to have a conversation. And maybe while we’re talking, you might have a “me too” or “aha” moment. Because I believe that it’s not PPD that kills mothers, it’s the silence that surrounds it. It’s how much like an untouchable you feel while experiencing it; an outcast. Even among your closest, most supportive friends, spouses, sisters, mothers. At least that’s how it felt to me. By admitting I had PPD, I felt I was breaking the universal law decreeing that women are born to be warm, natural, stable mothers. Like I was breaking up the band

Things are much better now, but I still don’t really feel like a true success story–my oldest son turned 4 years old in November, his little brother turns 2 in March. I’m still dealing with PPD, but in ever-changing ways. Just when you feel like you’ve really gotten one over on it, it bites you in the ass. That has been the hardest lesson for me, that I have to be ever vigilant in order to maintain the balance I’ve clawed may way back to. Frankly, it tires me to be that vigilant. But on most days, I’d tell you—joyfully–that I love my children, my husband, my life as a mother.

I’ll start things off by laying it out there and doing what Brené Brown, a wonderful researcher, teacher and writer, calls “speaking shame:”

I suffered from PPD with both of my kids, but didn’t get help until the second one. Yes, I went to therapy weekly once I got help, for over a year. Yes, I just saw my therapist again a few weeks ago for the first time in almost 6 months. No, I’m not taking medication. But I think almost weekly about trying it just to see whether I’ll feel better more consistently. Yes, my husband is supportive and wants me to get better. But no, he doesn’t really understand it and might never do so.

Yes, my oldest son would tell his Daddy that he didn’t want to be alone with me because I “yelled at him and cried all the time.” No, I didn’t think I was suicidal, but then had thoughts about how much better off my family would be without me. Running away was another possibility.

Yes, there were a few times when I was afraid I might hurt my second son. No, I did not tell that to my therapist. Yes, I put him in his crib, crying (both of us), and walked away when I felt that way. No, I never hurt him. Yes, it ripped a hole in my heart, and continues to, when I think about it. Yes, I’m caught off guard many days with waves of nausea-inducing shame for aiming that much anger toward a small, helpless baby. Yes, I have a normal, loving bond now with both of my boys.

Yes, walking, fresh air and time alone helped. Yes, yoga helped. No, bubble baths and wine did not help. Yes, getting four consecutive hours of sleep for several nights in a row helped, a lot. Yes, I seethed with hate for my husband for a long time, for no clearly apparent reason. Yes, our relationship suffered. No, we never went to couples counseling. Yes, I wish we had. Yes, I had to hire a babysitter to stay with me and my sons when my husband played golf every Monday night during the summer my second was born. Yes, I called him on the phone, hysterical, the first time he tried to leave me alone with my two boys to play golf. Yes, I was working full time when I was in therapy, still fighting PPD. Yes, it sucked. Yes, I did tell a few colleagues.

No, I don’t plan to have any more children. Yes, I’m happy with that decision. No, I didn’t have complicated pregnancies or deliveries. Yes, I needed and enjoyed therapy.

Of course, there is much more, but I think this is enough for now.

Feb 162011

“It seems like everywhere I go, the more I see, the less I know. But I know, one thing, that I Love You.”

Since I find it impossible to understand what’s going on in my own head, I would never try to describe what goes on in yours. But Sarah’s post and the amazing comments that followed got me thinking about the difference between navigating the normal highs and lows of motherhood and real depression. Since, over time, I have suffered through the effects of both an extremely dramatic personality and true depression, I thought I should try to describe the difference between the two. For me.

I come from a long line of dramatic Irish personalities. We are an emotional bunch – my family. Our highs are high and our lows are low. We love easily, but we cry and yell easily, too. We are quick to hug and quick to anger. Now I know that you won’t believe me, because I am so sweet and calm on this here blog. But that is because no one in my house is awake yet. After people wake up, I tend to get dramatic. I often struggle through the day. Trudge through the day. I have to take a lot of deep breaths. I experience joy, too, everyday. But I am not the type to roll with things. I get very down – for reasons that I can never identify. I decide, thirty times a day, that no one in the history of the world has ever had a harder life than I do. When I say this to God and He brings homeless people to mind, I actually think, well – at least they don’t have to SWEEP.

I also worry. Worry, worry, worry. Obsess might actually be a better word. Not about the plight of the Sudanese…I TRY to worry about things like that, but I ACTUALLY worry about whether I chose the wrong throw pillow for my new couch. I snap at my kids for acting like kids. I resent them for getting hungry three times a day. And even though I don’t believe in mommy guilt, I feel guilty all the time. If I could choose a phrase to describe the polar opposite of my personality, it would be “easy-breezy.” As a matter of fact, I call Sister daily crying and whining and I CANT DO IT ANYMOR-ING and I always end the conversation with “Whatever. I’m easy-breezy, Sister.” And she says, “I know you are, Sister. I know you are. Me too.”

Sometimes I get so upset that I become debilitated…I’m talking crumble to the ground, tears, head in hands… the whole she-bang. My break downs appear to be brought on by one little thing… like a grocery bag breaking in the driveway – and so Craig will say, “It’s okay honey, it’s just a grocery bag,” and I’ll say: “IT”S NOT A GROCERY BAG! IT’S EVERYTHING! WHY CAN’T YOU SEE IT’S EVERYTHING???” And I don’t want anyone to try to fix it or fix me – I just want to be upset. I just need to be upset for awhile. Because life is upsetting, obviously.

I’m just A LOT to deal with on a daily basis. And I know this. I do not cruise through life. I sort of crash through life. But I also “WOW” through life, too. And so it’s okay. I’ll take the lows with the highs. Basically, I really like myself. And I think I’m an awesome mom. God chose ME for these kiddos and He knows me better than anyone, so I’m gonna be myself. My kids don’t need some fake idea of a perfect mom, they need me -Glennon, the real person. I get that.

But every once in awhile – something scary happens to me. A black, heavy, murky fog sets in over my heart and my head. When this happens, I do not alternate between super high and super low. During these awful times I alternate between super low and super numb. The fog is so thick that even when I get still and try to find my way home to myself – I can’t. During these times, none of my usual tricks….quiet time, sunshine, exercise, friends, prayer . . . none of them help me find my way through the fog. I can go through the motions of the day . . . I remember what to do – pack the lunches, smile at the kids, sweep the floor, hug my husband….repeat. I just can’t remember why any of these things matter. The love, the life that usually infuses each of these tasks with meaning is gone. I become like a robot. I have completely lost myself. Gone is the joy, the drama, even the suffering that makes me, me. This state of mind has nothing to do with my dramatic personality. It is more like a complete loss of my personality. I’ve suffered this loss three times in my life. Once when I was much younger and suffering from bulimia and alcoholism. Once after my second child was born, and again about a month ago. I have come to believe that this loss of myself is what is commonly accepted as depression.

This last month, when I realized that I had lost myself again, I called my doctor who told me it was time for some help. She prescribed a pill for me and I brought the bottle home and told Craig that I was going to start taking the pills immediately. His face lit up like a Christmas tree. I said, “Be patient though, husband. They take two weeks to kick in.” Craig’s face fell and he said frantically, “What? Well then maybe you could just take a whole bunch at once. Maybe that would work faster.” Clearly, the preceding months had been as hard on him as they were on me. He loves me. He loves his high and low wife. He wanted her back. He didn’t want to medicate me away. He wanted to medicate me back.

Last year I was having a hard time dealing with my usual anxiety about life and love. I emailed my friend Josie and said, “I can’t take the intensity in my head anymore. I need to relax. I’m gonna medicate myself. What do you think?” I hadn’t talked to Josie for years, so I don’t know why I emailed her. I guess if you listen hard enough, God will always point you towards the right person. Josie wrote back and said, “A friend once told me that if medicine allows you to be more yourself, take it. If it doesn’t, don’t.” I really liked that. And that advice helped me decide NOT to take medicine back then. Because the truth is that myself is dramatic and anxious and obsessive and ridiculously intense and you know, a little WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

But myself is not numb. When I get numb, I take my own hand and help myself find my way of the fog, back home. And medicine helped me this time around. I’m grateful.

I’m also hesitant about taking medicine. Not for the reasons that many others are. I’m not embarrassed. Ever, really. It’s a gift, my shamelessness. I know that I’m only gonna get one go ‘round on this beautiful Earth and I want it to be a good ride. I figured out a while back that there is no award for she who suffers most. No way, Jose. Not my bag. I think it’s a strong and brave and inspiring thing to find out who you are and then find a way to be it.

No, I’m hesitant to medicate away my depression because I worry that my depression fuels my writing. What medicine does for me is help me to relax into life a bit. Craig’s perspective is that when I’m on it, I am the same Glennon, I just “struggle a little less.” I agree. I struggle a little less. And I also lose the feeling that if I don’t write I will die. This is how I feel when I’m depressed. Since I lose my joy and meaning, I come to the blank page to create meaning and joy, to get it back. Because I become desperate to make sense of things. And that desperation, I’m afraid, is what makes my writing good. So it scares me, I guess, not to be depressed. A lot of really good writers are depressed. But, as Craig says . . .“Honey, don’t a lot of good writers also kill themselves?”

True, dat.

Anyway, even if my medicine dulls my creativity a little, I think that at this point in my life, I’m willing to risk it. I think I’d rather be a good friend to myself and Craig than a good writer. Yep, I would. How nice of me. I really do like myself.

Love You,


Feb 192011

Monkees, meet the newest love of my life.

Theo Cutie-Pie Melton.

He’s so fluffy I’m gonna DIE! (Have you seen Despicable Me? If not, please do.)

When Craig and I started looking for a dog, I wrote on Facebook that I needed advice “for a friend” who was considering dog adoption. I couldn’t admit that the friend was actually me because I didn’t want anyone trying to talk some sense into me.

In response to my request, my old friend, Mandy, sent me a long email with lots of wonderful advice about rescue dogs. Mandy is a dog trainer and spends most of her time and heart taking care of homeless doggies. Mandy asked me specifics about what kind of dog we were looking for, and I told her that I wanted a near-comatose dog. I wanted a semi-stoned dog. I wanted a dog that likes the couch as much as I do. I told her that basically, I wanted an adult, hypo-allergenic love bug. She promised to keep her eyes open as she visited the local shelters.

Last week Mandy emailed me and said something like: “I may have found your dog. Just did a behavior evaluation on a stray Lhasa Apso that was the chillest, most gentle dog I’ve ever seen. He’s white, probably about five years old, and he’s got a Brando-like underbite that makes him so ugly he’s cute.”

When I read the ugly thing, I knew he was mine. With the exception of husbands, I always choose the ugly one. Craig won’t let me choose our Halloween pumpkins anymore because I always insist that we purchase the ugliest one in the patch. It is extremely upsetting to me to consider that if ignored, the deformed pumpkins might perish without ever having fulfilled their pumpkin potential. It’s just so unjust. Who decides what deformed or ugly mean, anyway? Tears me up, those different pumpkins. I can almost hear them whispering to me “Pick me! Please, Pick me! You are our only chance!” We’ve also had a number of extremely rough looking Christmas trees in our home for this very same reason. I love a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. So obviously I fell in love immediately with this Charlie Brown dog.

When I told Craig that Mandy found our dog, he said, “NO, Glennon. I am not feeling a dog right now. No. No way.”

And I looked at him for a minute and then said, “That’s cute, honey. Are you done now?”

And he paused and said, “Yeah. I’m done. When can we visit him?”

So the next day we told the kids we were going to visit some homeless doggies and love on them for awhile.

When we arrived, the shelter people led us through a huge room of kennels. Every single dog was barking like mad. It was a little chaotic and intimidating. Amma was scared.

But then we got to the very end of the row of kennels, and in the very last cage . . . this little fluffy guy quietly walked toward us, peeked his head out, wagged his tail and licked Chase’s hand. No barking, no jumping, just wagging and kisses.

Craig later said that Theo seemed to be saying, “Well . . . there you are. I knew you’d come. What took you so long?”

We walked him outside to the shelter’s courtyard and played and played and played together.

After an hour we decided to apply to adopt him. We knew we couldn’t get the kids’ hopes up, so I kept my poker face on.

The next day the shelter called us and said that our doggie was very close to becoming our doggie. And they also said that we could pick him up as soon as they sent him to be groomed and neutered. They explained that since Theo was a stray, we was quite matted and dirty and needed to be freshened up.

I called Craig and said:

Husband -We have a problem. No way are they grooming him before he comes home.

Craig: Why, honey? (A little too wearily, I thought.)

Me: Because! I don’t want him to think that he has to be all cleaned up and pretty in order for us to want him! No way. He comes home just as he is. We’ll clean him up. I love him all jacked up. He comes home all jacked up.

Craig: I can’t say I really understand that.

Me: Well, that’s fine because I understand it enough for the both of us.

Craig: Silence.

*Sister beeps in on call waiting*

Me: Gotta go, husband, sister is calling.

Husband: Sigh of relief.

Me: Sister! They want to groom Theo before he comes home and this is unacceptable!

Sister: Why, sister?

Me: Because I don’t want him to feel like we didn’t love him enough as he is to bring him home.

Sister: Oooooookay. Let me try to understand. You …..don’t …want….him…to…feel….like…you…didn’t…love….him…..enough.

Me: Why do people always repeat what I say verrrrrrrrrrry slowly and make it sound all crazy???

Sister: It doesn’t sound crazy because it’s being repeated slowly, Sister. That’s not the reason. The things you say sound crazy before they’re repeated. We are just hoping you’ll hear the crazy if we repeat it back to you.

Me: Whatever. Listen, Amma’s pretty now, but do you remember what she looked like when we got her? We didn’t insist on a make-over before she came home.

Sister: Silence. You are unreasonable, Sister.

Me: Silence back. Well. Hm. While we are on the subject of unreasonable, Sister, I feel obliged to tell you that I find it completely unreasonable that you continue to try to reason with me after having known me for THIRTY THREE YEARS.

Sister: Hm.You have a point, Sister. Yes, you do. Go get your dog. We’ll groom him later.

Me: Kay. Thank you. But I’m taking him back to the shelter next week so they can send him to get neutered. I don’t want Theo to think that part was my idea. That’s on them.

Sister: Silence. Fine, Sister.

So I went to pick him up at the shelter on Thursday night. I was extremely nervous for this final meeting. Let’s just say that I don’t always have the best luck with adoption interviews. So I called one of my bffs, Christy, because she fosters dogs and often facilitates interviews with potential families. When she answered I said, “Oh my god I’m on my way for my final interview and what if they ask if I take anti depressants and what if they read the blog and what if they ask me if I ever inhaled and just oh my god.”

And Christy said, “Glen. Breathe Deep.This is not like adopting a person. Just don’t mention Michael Vick and you’ll be fine.”

So I took a deep breath and walked into the shelter. And I began my interview with a lovely dog trainer named Feather. And as soon as she started talking, I knew I’d be okay. I mean, really – anyone who dedicates her life to helping animals or young children is okay in my book. It seems to me that these are two of the only vocations for which there can be no other motive than gentleness and love. Because when you are working with animals or children, there are usually no grown-ups around to give you kudos or respect or much money. It’s just you and the powerless ones and God.

So, as you would expect, Feather was good to me. And half-way through the interview, Sister showed up at the shelter. Because, well, because Sister always shows up. And now since she is John’s, he’s gotta show up, too. Which he doesn’t seem to mind too much because he is wonderful.

Sister was so excited she looked like she might pee. A new nephew, you know. The previous night she had arrived at my house with a doggie car seat and a zebra striped doggie bed and thirty dollar Bed Head strawberry banana doggie detangler spray. I know. But that’s sister. When they brought my doggie out, Sister held him first.

When Tish was born, Sister was the first one of us to touch her. She held Tish’s hand first. Before me, before Craig. It’s natural for us. My babies are her babies.

And then I left the shelter with my doggy. Just me and him. And he sat in my lap the entire ride home. He was a little shaky. But that was okay, because so was I. I cried a lot.

Because God finally let me adopt somebody. I am going to take such good care of my precious somebody.

When we got home, Craig was waiting on the floor in the foyer and Theo walked straight over to him and laid down in his lap – belly up, ready to soak up some love.

Then we gave him a bath. That was interesting. Moving right along.

The next morning we let Theo wake up each child, one at a time. The kids didn’t know he was coming home the previous night, so when they woke up to their very own doggie licking their cheeks – well . . . it was a good morning.

We decided to name him Theo because Mandy’s maiden name was Theobald…and since she found him for us, Theo seemed right.

Theo is so chill that yesterday I got worried that maybe he was sad, so I took him to the vet.

I have since learned that you don’t take your dog to the vet just because he looks sad.

Anyway, the vet assured me that Theo is perfectly healthy, just extremely calm.Theo doesn’t mind if you pull his tail a little or mess with his food or even if 15 children at the playground surround him and squeal and pet him all at once. He can’t be rattled. We hadn’t even heard him bark. Until . . .

. . . yesterday evening when we were sitting outside and one of my neighbors brought over her very large, very sweet Labradoodle. And this Labradoodle calmly walked over to sniff me. And Theo went nuts. He leaped out of my lap and all thirteen furry pounds of him started barking like mad at the dinosaur-sized Labradoodle and I had to pick Theo up to carry him inside. On the way in, Craig said: he was protecting you. And so I acted embarrassed and apologized to my neighbor and then scurried away and took Theo inside to the couch and cried and snuggled and kissed him for an hour.

My knight in white furry armor.

Look, I don’t know what this life is doing to me. But with every new love experiment, of which Theo is one, my heart just gets smooshier and smooshier until I worry I’m going to lose all form and turn into a blob of goo. It’s like one of these days I am just going to melt into this beautiful world.

I think I just really, really love my dog. Thank you, God.

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