What anxiety feels like

I’ve read so many articles on news sites, medical sites, Christian authors’ sites, and blogs enough to know this will probably rehash a few things you have read before. My purpose of writing this is to tell you what anxiety feels like first-hand, from someone a lot of my readers know or you’ve been reading this blog long enough that you feel like you know me. Many of the later have sent me emails and I appreciate it very much. I, too, have read other bloggers for a length of time and they feel like a friend. Thank you all for being my friend.

Having anxiety is knowing you have what honestly feels like you have a million things to do, but literally cannot fathom getting up to do a single one. I say literally because it’s true. You do not know how to start your day.

Having anxiety makes you feel awful about breaking plans with a friend because you cannot leave the house. Not because you’re too busy. Not because that friend will talk your ear off and pick a restaurant you don’t like. Because leaving the house means taking a shower. Taking a shower means you have to do your hair and makeup and not wear yoga pants and slippers like you’ve been in for two days because you can’t face people. Because facing people means you’ll have to talk to people and that’s the last thing you want to do.

Having anxiety means you put off phone calls because you don’t have the energy to call and pretend you’re ok and normal.

Having anxiety means you might take a medication just to get you through the day, but that medication might make you so relaxed that you’re comfortable watching a movie on your sofa instead of getting out.

Having anxiety makes you procrastinate. Even procrastinate doing things or seeing  people you love because of what the expectations might be.

Having anxiety feels like everyone is judging you for not being at whatever the event is that you didn’t go to.

Anxiety means you sometimes have to fib about why you weren’t at that event.

Anxiety feels like you’re lying and it’s only a matter of time before you’re found out.

Anxiety feels like you’re wearing a mask when you’re in public.

Anxiety makes you feel that you’ve let other people down.

Anxiety makes you feel like you’ve disappointed people.

Anxiety makes you feel like you should give up.

Anxiety can (not always) lead to panic attacks. Panic attacks feel like a heart attack. It’s a physical AND mental thing.

Panic attacks make you feel like a freak.

Panic attacks make you not want to engage in the activity or go back to the place in which you had the panic attack.

Most of the time you cannot stop a panic attack from happening or simply make it stop.

Having anxiety makes others around you say they understand because they’ve been anxious before.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is not just being anxious. It is a disorder just as Autism Spectrum Disorders. No one would argue that Autism is real, however people often do not understand of believe that GAD is a real disorder.

Anxiety makes you feel like you should be able to “snap out of it” or “cheer up,” as well meaning people tell you. But you can’t. Just like you can’t tell an autistic person to stop being autistic.

Having anxiety makes you angry when people tell you to “give it to God” as if you haven’t tried to pray away your thoughts and feelings. Sometimes praying is all you can do when your thoughts are racing and you can’t sleep because of them.

Anxiety makes you wonder if those same people tell people with cancer to just “give it to God.”

Having anxiety means you are sent this verse by Christian friends and family:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Having anxiety means you ask yourself if those friends and family members send Bible verses to friends with heart conditions as a cure-all for what ails them. And you answer yourself: “no, they would ask if they’ve gotten a second opinion. If they have a good doctor. If they’re taking medication.”

Anxiety makes you feel as though you let your Christian friends down even though you know what is in your heart.

Anxiety makes you feel alone.

Having anxiety feels like there is no good reason for how you feel, yet it’s inescapable.

When you have depression and anxiety it’s another dibilitating two-for-one package.

Having anxiety means no one can see on the outside that something is wrong.

Having anxiety means you don’t have a cast or a cane (even though you feel broken). You’re not dragging an oxygen tank behind you with tubes going to your nose (even though a panic attack makes it incredibly hard to breathe).

Anxiety feels like a slow death. Dying from the inside out with a life expectancy the same as any other “normal person,” only you’re not normal.

Thank you for reading as always.

I meant no offense to my Christian friends. I’ve been a Christian since I was 11 and I love Jesus. I don’t blame Jesus for not “curing” my anxiety just as you would not blame Him for not curing your tuberculosis. It’s not a matter of not believing enough. It’s not a matter of the condition of my heart. It’s a mental condition.

“I’m fine,” She Lied: Part 7 – Breakable

11168947_10208042614038235_7354239651790743009_nI’d always known I was different, but I convinced myself it was my creative side wanting to break loose. It seemed when my creativity was stifled was when I felt the creeping anxiety and the depression that swallows you up. It swallows you up, but not all at once — but not all at once — it swallows the deepest part that makes you YOU first, then the ability to enjoy things that once brought you happiness, then the people around you seem different and uncaring — despite close friends asking if you’re ok. Depression whispers that they don’t actually care. They don’t really love you. They’re only saying those things because who could care about or love you, depression says. Depression tries to isolate you from the people you love. And then if you get as far down the rabbit hole as I did, depression is an anvil from the Looney Tunes cartoons that is dropped on you and you can’t move. You’re Wile E. Coyote reaching for something, but it’s just out of reach. Normal becomes the Roadrunner that you cannot catch, no matter how much you want it. No matter how much you scheme, no matter how much you need it, no matter how many gizmos you order from Acme and designs you draw in your mind. You’re trapped.

And then you go to the hospital and they take away your lipstick. Your signature thing. They might as well take my hair color and my fingerprints, you think.

Let me back up.

It had been a rough summer. It was always a rough summer. Then school started for the kids and I was swept up in back to school stuff and new teachers and a new school for Katie and an IEP for Andrew and finding out that he didn’t qualify for any modifications or accommodations for school (which I’m still positive he needs). I was feeling let down. The oldest was already failing an elective (an elective!) and it was the first couple of weeks of school. I didn’t feel that I was being understood by anyone — friends or family. It seemed like Scott was being harsh. I would send him articles about my Bipolar 2 Electric Boogaloo and he would say he understood my mental illness. I didn’t think he did.

In September I took my usual trip to scrapbook in Mandeville with my close girlfriends and I vented to everyone. I talked about what I was going through. I told Scott’s family. I was in crisis, but I didn’t recognize it as crisis. I knew I was reaching out for help in the way I knew how — talking to friends. My friends could usually help. This time was different. I was different. It felt different. I couldn’t verbalize it to anyone. I drove home on Sunday feeling like the shell of myself.

When I was back home it would be a few weeks until I was scheduled to see my psychiatrist. I didn’t have a therapist at the time. I was crying a lot. Sleeping a lot. Unable to get up and take proper care of myself. Barely bathing. I thought of the song “Barely Breathing” and would go over in my mind “I am barely bathing and I can’t get out of bed” to the tune of the song. I wasn’t functioning. One day someone that I knew posted on Facebook that the previous month they found a litter of abandoned kittens that they bottle-fed until they were old enough to give away and that there was one left. I said I would take it without asking Scott first, then told him when he got home. He was not pleased to say the least. He was irate. I lost it and couldn’t stop crying. The dam broke and couldn’t be mended. Scott was still angry, I felt nothing and everything all at once.

For me it wasn’t one thing, it was everything. It was old hurts brought forward, deep hurts from years ago. It was little things that turned into enormous things in my mind. When you’re that far down the rabbit hole, you can’t see a way to make things better. You can’t see light. All you have is darkness and all you see is darkness and the only way out is suicide. But I didn’t think of it as suicide. I hadn’t intended to commit suicide. Scott left to run to the store for something and I went to the pantry and got the bottle of Benadryl and took the whole bottle. I got the Xanax from my purse and poured a few into my hand and swallowed them. I told the kids I was going to bed. I wanted to drift off to sleep — to infinite sleep. Again, I didn’t view it as suicide. I viewed it as getting out of a life I couldn’t bear anymore. That I knew there was something different about me since I was sixteen. I knew something inside me shut down. That I didn’t feel anymore. That I was capable of feeling, capable of emotions, but they stayed under the surface most of the time. By the time I arrived at college I had turned off emotion almost completely. I was at that point again, but this time I felt dead on the inside already. I was a slave to that feeling. Going through the motions of the everyday. All of those motions could go on without me if I was already dead inside. This was simply one more step. Infinite sleep.

In one of my favorite novels, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, the main character is symbolized by a caged parrot that says, in French, “go away, for God’s sake.” Edna is desires solitude and unintentionally or intentionally pushes her husband and children away and that’s what I had done. Edna commits suicide by walking into the Gulf of Mexico and drowning. As I’ve read and reread the novel, I’ve read what other readers have interpreted her suicide as. Many feel that it’s a triumphant escape. Is that what I was trying to do? Escape? Many viewed it as giving up. I didn’t think of it as giving up. I knew I had a mental illness. I now know it had completely clouded my judgement and reasoning, but at the time I had no reasoning. I just couldn’t access it. There was no coming back from the hole I was in.

By the time Scott got back I was asleep. I only know that my alarm went off to get the kids ready for school and I thought I was dreaming. It had to be a dream. I wasn’t waking up. I couldn’t be waking up. It was supposed to be infinite sleep. I got up and put on my robe and slippers as usual and woke up the kids and told them to start getting ready. I dropped the girls off at the bus stop and took Andrew to school, then returned home and went back to bed. Around 11 I got up and sat on the sofa, took my usual medication and turned on the tv. I called Scott and he told me everything was okay about our fight the night before. I said I wasn’t okay and that I had taken a lot of medication that night and wanted to die. He said he would be home before too long and I would be okay. I messaged Will and told him that I wasn’t okay. I told him I had taken a lot of pills. He messaged me back immediately and asked if I was trying to hurt myself and I said yes. He told me to call my psychiatrist that minute. I said I would. He messaged me every few minutes for about an hour telling me to call, asking if I had called. I didn’t call, but said I would. By then it was almost 3 and I put on some clothes to go pick up Andrew. I sat in carline and cried hard. Will messaged. I asked what good calling my doctor would do. He said “they will stop you from killing yourself.” I called my doctors office in tears and told them that I was going to kill myself and they told me to go to the mental hospital my doctor was affiliated with, to call first and then go. They told me that I would be evaluated and they would decide if they would admit me. I called Scott and told him that he had to take me to the hospital.

When I got home with Andrew I went to my bedroom and sat on my bed for a minute. Everything was swirling. I only packed gray and black clothes for the hospital. Will had said they may not admit me, but I was sure they would. I shoved random clothes into my Vera Bradley weekender bag and the new bag of Cacique undies I hadn’t even unpacked from my Louisiana trip. We called the kids together and I told them I had been feeling sad and would probably be going to the hospital to feel better. That was enough of an explanation for them. They were ok with that. I wore my biggest diamonds (they would be taken, along with a barrette from my hair, and anniversary ring). My random clothes, deodorant, and Paul Mitchell hair stuff were placed in a paper bag with my name written in Sharpie. When I arrived they took my things. I would be admitted — they had decided before I was formally evaluated. I couldn’t even have my bag because it had a strap and patients on suicide watch weren’t allowed anything with straps. Not nightgowns, not hoodies with drawstrings, not shoelaces.

It was around 6 by the time we were brought to the waiting room to wait for my evaluation. There was paperwork to fill out of course, then a nurse brought me into a small room to take my blood pressure and ask me questions. Scott came with me. I was asked if I attempted suicide. I said yes; Scott said I was only reaching out for help. I said that I wanted to kill myself. The nurse asked Scott to step out. I was asked more questions. Did I feel homicidal? Well, a little. Aren’t we all just a little homicidal a little? Like, “I’ll have the filet mignon with a sliver of homicide.” Just a tiny bit. The nurse wrote something down. I’m sure it said “definite crazy person.” She asked more questions. Had I ever attempted suicide before? How long had I had these thoughts? How long had I been feeling depressed? Had my medication recently changed? Was I being physically abused? Was I being emotionally abused? Was I in any pain? Any history of sexual abuse? Any family history of mental illness? More questions. I only had one question: would they be admitting me. The nurse said yes.

The nurse escorted me back into the waiting room. I told Scott I would be admitted and he stayed a bit longer with me. Another woman and her husband were in the waiting room, she was very jumpy and barely sat still. She kept repeating that she had to be admitted. Her name was Amy. After our husbands left we joked that we would probably be roomies. The nurse called me back into the small room. She told me that a psychiatrist would be evaluating me via Skype because it was so late (around midnight) and no psychiatrists were on campus. Ok, yeah, that’s not weird. I sat down in front of an iPad. A doctor appeared on the screen and asked me the same questions the nurse asked. That was helpful. I answered the same questions again and again was brought back into the waiting room. Amy went into the room. When she came back we talked about how weird it was. She told me she had anxiety. I told her I did too. On top of being Bipolar 2 Electric Boogaloo and that I attempted suicide. She nodded as if I’d said “I don’t like tomatoes.” We would both be admitted.

Someone from the front came back to get both of us and a huge man with a leg that dragged at his side I nicknamed Igor (I nicknamed everyone there because it was something to do) handed us paper bags with our clothes and allowable personal effects. A nurse put yellow wrist bands with our names on our left arms. Igor brought us from admitting to our units. Amy was dropped off at Unit 3 and I was brought to Unit 4. I didn’t know what the different units signified, but I thought 4 was probably better or worse than 3. I didn’t know how many units there were. Igor handed me off to a nurse on Unit 4. There was a girl in front of the nurse’s station laying on a mattress. The lights were down low and my paper bag was taken from me and put behind the nurse’s station. They told me they had to go through the bag again and I would get it later. The nurse brought me to a room where there were two beds. On one bed was a tiny waif of a person completely wrapped up in blankets. I got into my bed. The sheets were tucked under the mattress, so I immediately freed the sides of the sheets. I was still in my clothes. I didn’t have my iPhone to use the Sleep Machine app that I used every night to drown out any noise. I didn’t have my usual half a Xanax to drown out the racing thoughts of “what if?” every night. I went over Prufrock in my mind: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons; I know the dying voices with a dying fall beneath the music from a farther room. So how should I presume?” A nurse opened the door to check on us every 15 minutes. I barely slept.

That was my first night on Unit 4.

“I’m fine,” She Lied: Part 5.3 – I Wish I Was a Girl

I was 38.

imageAs I said in the previous post, I was facing health issues such as pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and just overall not feeling well, in addition to depression and anxiety. The class I didn’t really graduate with, but considered me part of their class, the Class of 1992 was starting to plan the big 20 year reunion. I was asked to do the website where people could get info and pay for their ticket to the event. It would be a two-night reunion, an informal meet-up at a wine bar, then a nice catered event the next night. I put up a no-frills website for the reunion and planned for ScrapFest, did my usual anxiety-ridden days. I’d wake up, send the kids off to school, most likely go back to sleep, then take my time getting around to website design or t-shirt design or whatever it was I had to work on. Scott was working in Salt Lake City and really liked it. He went to lots of concert and in Park City at Sundance, Joan Jett flicked a pick at him and hit him – he loves telling this story, just ask him. I would go to see him in SLC in October, the weekend after my reunion.

Girl with a pearl hoop earring. Just lipstick.

Girl with a pearl hoop earring. Just lipstick.

Just the idea of the reunion and seeing old friends and perhaps frenemies drove me into panic attacks. I went back and forth over whether I wanted to go or not and didn’t decide for sure to go a few weeks before. Because in the words of OK Go, “Cause nothin’ ever doesn’t change but nothin’ changes much.” There would be more people there that I wanted to see versus the people I didn’t care to see. I ordered a fantastic dress, if I do say so myself and played out scenarios in my mind. It would be fine. It would be a disaster. It would be no big deal. It would be great. The kids had that Friday off because it was “Fair Day” in St. Tammany – they just make up holidays down there, so we drove up on Thursday and stayed with my mom and grandfather. On Friday I met Will and Molly for lunch at Superior. It was delicious and they were great as always. The kids were with my mom. I did some shopping, ended up in a parking lot on Youree Drive crying and reapplying makeup before going to the wine bar, where I knew I’d see old friends. I was the second person there, due to my practically perfect punctuality. There to greet me was the always smiling Robin Jones. Robin was always great. I ordered some drink with Coke and told the server that I didn’t want to taste the alcohol. We chatted, waiting for more peeps to show. Jenny Roberts came and sat next to me, an anchor to my balloon just almost out of reach. Jenny and I would become great friends and I am thankful for her. Same goes for Christan and Katie who were there too. So were a bunch of people who annoyed me that I wasn’t really friends with but would repeatedly have classes with in high school. Then in walked the major frenemy. She found me instantly. The prodigal whore. She walked up and said she heard I live close to her and I told her I lived in Covington. She said a couple of other forgettable sentences, I handed a her a box of chocolates to try that were left on the table by a classmate in from Switzerland in skinny jeans. She semi-thanked me, I think, before saying “well, fuck you” and turning around and heading to the bar. That pretty much summed up our entire friendship – her shitting on whatever happiness I managed to find in life. Just the fact that I lived 40 minutes from her was enough to set her off. Or maybe she was already going to pop off. Or maybe it had nothing to do with me, I don’t know. I only know I was on the receiving end. I talked to Brandy and Jenny quite a bit before making eye contact with a guy I almost went out with in high school. He struck up a conversation with me, saying he’d be my date for the next night since my husband was out of town. I ignored this statement. More people were in the wine bar and I started to feel suffocated. Then the guy I almost went out with spilled an entire drink down my back. I turned to Jenny and Brandy and said I had to go and I would see them the next night. I went to my minivan, backed out of the parking space, drove to McDonalds and had a panic attack in the parking lot. I fumbled for my phone. Texted Will, but he was practicing for the Revel the next day. Texted Molly. Told her what a disaster the night had been and that she was smart to stay home; she got me to laugh, so that was an improvement. Of course, for a normal person, it wouldn’t have been a disaster, maybe getting told F you and having a drink spilled down your back after being hit on by a married man was just another night for a normal person. I took a Klonopin, drank a sweet tea and drove back to my grandfather’s, then told my mom about the disaster.

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Will and me

Then next day I found myself crawling under a desk and hooking up my grandfather’s new computer because that’s what you do when you’re the Tech Support in the family. Then I set off to see Will preform with his band at the Red River Revel. It was cold. It was very cold. I was wearing jeans and chiffon because I hadn’t packed anything for cool weather because I’m a genius like that. The band was great. Will and I talked for a few minutes before he packed up. He and Molly would be at the place early that night to help setup, I said I’d come too. I left the Revel and had a call from my dad asking me to come pick him up and drop him off at the motorcycle shop to get his bike. Sure, why not? I drove to the house I grew up in and it was surreal. Nothing ever looks the same once you go back. My dad was cool as usual and I dropped him off at a shady looking biker shop. Nothing like dropping your dad off at a shady looking biker shop Somewhere in Shreveport.

Robin was in the parking lot of the place where the reunion was held and said she would be back in a bit. I was left with the caterers and walked around. Will and Molly arrived and we set up where people would check in and get their name badges and Will took pictures of each person to post to Facebook. George arrived, I showed him to the bar. I was “on” Kerry for the first part of the reunion, until I retreated back to a corner table with Rhonda, Syralja and her husband, then Will and Molly joined us. It was fine, it was good. Until the frenemy sat down. I mean, seriously. My blood started to boil, the anxiety started welling up in my chest, then my throat. Molly and Will left the table and went to the other room of the ballroom where the music was. Then the frenemy stayed for a bit just enough to make me uncomfortable. A few minutes later Will came back to table and asked me to come to the other room, that there was karaoke. I said I was fine. I wasn’t. I don’t know how many minutes passed by, then Rhonda and I went to the other room. It was packed. Rhonda, Molly, and I did the photo booth, we were cute. Before long it was midnight and everything would turn into a pumpkin. Everyone was meeting up at some bar. Not my scene. Molly, Will, and I went to IHOP and then to a casino to see a friend of his play in a band. Will said I looked like a ball of nerves. I know he had never seen me like that. It was embarrassing. Once it was just the three of us, I was fine. I was good. The band was ok. There was a man with one arm dancing with women that I kept talking about. The dude was working that one-arm dancing. It was Twin Peaksish. I just can’t look away from stuff like that. I said something about him just needing an eyepatch and a parrot. Will and Molly were funny. We had a good time. I was finally relaxed when it was time to go. We said our goodbyes and left. I was thankful the night ended on a good note.

Where you don't want a softball sized cyst.

Where you don’t want a softball sized cyst.

The next morning, the kids and I set off back to Covington. Once we got to Natchitoches I was in a great deal of pain, like the worst cramps I’ve ever had. I pulled into a gas station and got some Aleve and managed to get home. There were several times I didn’t think I was going to make it. I had to be okay because the next weekend I was going to Utah to meet Scott and go to Park City, then to Nevada to see Air Supply. I called my OB/GYN as soon as they opened Monday and they told me to come in for an exam, so I did and spent the whole day there. Dr. B said I needed an ultrasound. Like I had time for that. Karen, the wonderful tech did the ultrasound and said Dr. B would have to look for himself, but I could see the giant mass on my right ovary. I went back to the waiting room and posted stuff from my phone to Facebook. I remember a man waiting with his significant other who had taken his shoes off. In the waiting room. Oh, yes he did. I waited. And I waited. The nurse I liked called me back and I waited in an exam room for Dr. B. He came in and showed me the ultrasound pics and said that I had a giant cyst on my ovary and that I apparently wasn’t in menopause. He explained that we would do the cautious thing and not rush into surgery, that he would give me pain medication and start me on birth control pills to try to shrink the cyst, making me come back for ultrasounds every four months and scheduled me for an MRI on Halloween.

concerts and me at Christmas recovering from surgery with a tiara.

concerts and me at Christmas recovering from surgery with a tiara.

That weekend I flew to Salt Lake City high on pain killers to visit my husband. It took forever to walk and use the moving sidewalk to get to the exit or whatever. My Vera Bradley Weekender Bag weighed at least 100 pounds. Scott was waiting for me and we drove to Park City resort. I love a resort. Our suite was amazing, dinner was amazing (I love a cheese plate), the next morning brunch was amazing, and my facial at the spa was amazing. I was high on Percocet, but trust me, everything was amazing. We watched a movie, but I don’t remember what it was, but it doesn’t matter because the throw on the end of the bed was the softest blanket I’ve ever snuggled with. The next day we saw the sights of Park City, then went back to Salt Lake to some outdoor mall. I was looking for socks because I forgot my boot socks. I went into a Cold Water Creek and looked around while Scott went into a bookstore. I browsed. There was a nice sales associate at the front who smiled when I walked in, then there was a bitchy angular-faced awful woman who came up to me and said “I’m sorry, we don’t carry anything in your size.” Let me tell you, gentle readers, there is nothing a woman who has money to spend LOVES hearing more than “we don’t carry anything in your size.” She didn’t know if I was shopping for myself, a gift, or socks. She saw an obese woman and made me know I wasn’t welcome. I stared her down and said I was looking for socks – turned around and walked out. I found socks at a store next door. Where there were nice people. I was in pain and I wanted to get back to Scott’s car where I could take something for pain. We went to a P.F. Chang’s and planned the rest of the day. I was still fuming. Don’t make a fat redhead angry. Just don’t do that, America.

Scott drove across the salt flats, giving me facts about Utah while I was thinking about how nice that facial and brunch were and how much I would forever hate Cold Water Creek. We checked into the hotel of a casino just over the Nevada border. The time zone changed when we got to Nevada. We were barely over the border and my iPhone kept switching time zones each time I turned around. It was like being in an episode of the Twilight Zone. Scott had tickets to see Air Supply. I was pretty sure I knew two of their songs, but I was happy just to be with him. We attempted to go to dinner in the casino before the concert, but the servers were taking too long and never came to take our drink orders, so we left and went to the concert hall. Once at our seats, you could see older women everywhere – taking selfies, clearly inebriated. The man sitting next to me was listening to me converse with Scott and asked “where in Texas are you from?” I said “actually I’m from Shreveport, Louisiana” and he said, “well, that’s practically Texas,” which is what I had always told people – it was weird hearing it from a stranger. Air Supply took the stage. One dude’s first name was Russell, the other guy’s last name was Russell. I felt like that was a missed band name opportunity: Russell Russell. With almost each song they sang I’d remark, “oh, I didn’t know this was an Air Supply song” and Scott would laugh. The Russells came into the audience at one point and women pawed at them. At another point in the show, one of the Russells reached his hand out to a woman from the stage and she attempted to climb on stage and he actually said “oh, no, no.” For me, it was a comedy concert.

20130328-210645.jpgThe long weekend was over and I went back to Covington. I was in a ton of pain all the time. While I was in Utah, Scott and I had started talking seriously about me having weight loss surgery and once I was home, I called the surgeon’s group that I knew I’d want to use. They contacted my insurance company (which would pay nothing) and I made an appointment for a consultation. After talking back and forth with Scott and the surgeon’s office, my surgery was planned for December 12th, 2012. It would be laparoscopic and my mom would come in to help me with the kids. Scott would come in for Christmas. Hillary and Megan were there for me and I went into surgery weighing 309. You can read the whole story under my “Shrinking Kerry” series, but I lost right around 100 pounds. It was the best thing I could have done for my health. No more high blood pressure, no more pre-diabetes. Like I’ve said, I always thought I looked cute, so I think I was pretty cute in my before photo. I was wearing my favorite dress by Johnny Was and those boots were made for big girls with wide calves. They would be too big by the end of the winter. Weight loss is funny like that. My recovery was harder than hard. For the month after surgery I wanted to die just about everyday. That’s how terrible I felt. Everyday I woke up and asked God to make me better. It was a month until I felt better. I went scrapbooking in January with my friends and could barely eat anything and nothing sounded good to me anyway. I felt like that for a good while. Absolutely no appetite and no desire to eat. I forced down protein shakes, then protein bars. I bought a blender to make my own shakes, then broke it. But I was losing weight. And hair. And shoe sizes.

Scott started working back in Texas and was home every other weekend. It was a relief to have help with the kids and an adult to talk to. He handled grocery shopping for me for the most part. While I was recovering, I was still in pain from the giant cyst on my ovary. Dr. B said I wasn’t far enough down the road from my sleeve surgery to have the cyst removed during open surgery, which he was afraid he would have to perform. He said he could go in laparoscopically to see if he could remove the cyst and go ahead and do an ablation. So, that was in May, I believe. My mom came down again to help with the kids. My mom was always a great help during the times I had to have surgery, and there were several in just a few years. I was thankful for her. My mother-in-law brought me to the hospital. Dr. B was late and it went down from there. When I woke up, I was told the cyst couldn’t be removed because of the size – OH AND THERE WERE TWO GIANT CYSTS – and I cried and cried. Later my mother-in-law would tell me Dr. B removed tons of adhesions, fibroids, and did the ablation. Again, I was on pain killers. I was released before I was ready, blood running down my leg. I have never been treated that way by medical staff. Once I was able, I called Dr. B’s office to get my favorite nurse to explain what was done. I cried and told her how disappointed I was and told her how horrible the hospital experience was – she asked the name of the recovery nurse and said Dr. B would take it up with her supervisor.

I cannot tell you how disappointed I was to find out I was still carrying the cyst around, and the new extra cyst. I was saddled with constant pain and able to do less and less as time went on. Here I was losing weight to improve my life, but having to take pain meds and stay laying on my side half the time I was home to lessen the pain. Pain + depression + anxiety does not make for much of a life. I cried often. Mostly in the shower because no one can tell you’re crying in the shower and you don’t have to explain why Mommy is sad again. And again. I managed to go to lunch with Hillary once a month and plan ScrapFest with Megan and try to do my usual activities. I barely went to the grocery store. I did a lot of shopping at the Walgreens practically down the street from my house. On good days I could make it to Target or Winn Dixie. I lived like this for a year and a half.

I sank lower and lower into a new depth of depression. I was on antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, and Ambien to sleep. I went in every four months for another ultrasounds of cyst one and cyst two. Nothing changed. Dr. B was putting me off. I could tell.

And then I was 39 and Scott and I decided to put the house up for sale and look for a new house in Texas.

“I’m fine,” She Lied: Part 5.2 – House

The song for today’s post is “House” by Ben Folds Five from Folds’ Retrospective recorded as a new song. For me the song says everything – it could mean a literal house, but for me it’s a metaphor for my hometown and my mind. Yes, this is the first time I’ve posted the song before the post, but that’s how much I identify with this song. Take a listen for yourself, here are most of the lyrics.

“House”

There’s a sign up in the yard,
And the the furniture has gone,
Filled with fetid memories,
Unworthy of a song.

Flashes of sad and angry faces come and go,
Could anyone live between those walls and never know?

And I could go there,
But I’m not going,
Pulse is slowing,
No, I’m not nervous anymore.

I’ve had the nightmares
I’ve seen some counselors,
But I’m not going,
Back up in that house again.

It’s just like waking up,
In that second and a half,
The bliss of not remembering,
Before it all comes flooding back.

So what do I do as all these voices come and go?
Could anyone live inside my head and never know?

 

I was 34.

I had just had my fourth miscarriage. We kept it to ourselves and for the most part didn’t tell anyone. No reason to go through the emotional part of “I’m so sorry” and “it wasn’t meant to be” statements from well-meaning friends and family. I could put this one behind me too. Pretend it didn’t happen and go about my everyday life. And I did.

Facebook was just starting to be THE THING that everyone was talking about. How fun to look up old friends and post photos and see what everyone was up to. Before long, almost everyone I knew was on Facebook, including me. Again, it was (and still is) an outlet. To be filled in on the latest you logged into Facebook. News of every kind was posted. It was great. I friended Will’s wife, Molly and struck up a friendship with her. Even though we weren’t friends in middle or high school, we became good friends and had a lot in common. We had sons about a year apart. She told me to look Will up on MySpace and I emailed him to say hi, then before long he joined Facebook too. It was like no time had passed. We updated each other on old friends, talked about music as we always had, and got caught up on each other’s lives. It made me happy. He sent me CDs he had recorded with a couple of bands he was in and I sent him my collection of George Harrison records. George was always his favorite.

Hillary's bridal luncheon

Hillary’s bridal luncheon

I got back in touch with great friends. A few BFFs from college – Dana, Hillary, and Michelle. Without them, I don’t know what I would have done these past few years. They are amazing. Amazing friends and amazing women. I suggest that if you don’t have a fantastic bunch of girlfriends (if you’re a girl), that you go out and get yourself a female wolfpack right now. Friends that will be there for you, that will hate the same people you hate and tell you you’re right when you need to be told you’re right even if you both know you’re wrong. Everyone needs a Dana, Hillary, and Michelle – but they’re mine – go get your own damn group of three friends who will love you, but call you out when you’re being a little bitch. Friends that tell you the truth no matter how hard it is to hear and will lift you up when you can’t get up yourself. These girls are the bomb.com.

Andrew was in Mother’s Day Out and doing ok. He was two and not very verbal at all. He had lots of ear infections and we saw a specialist who told us it was like Andrew was hearing everything underwater for two years and that’s why he wasn’t talking. We had tubes done immediately and had hearing testing done. The testing went fine and he was put on a waiting list to get into a special preschool at my daughters’ elementary school. He started talking and I was thrilled. Katie was doing great in Kindergarten, but Molly was struggling with ADHD and we held her back a year.

ScrapFestin'

ScrapFestin’

Scott was working in Pascagoula, MS and stayed in a hotel there if he had a long day, but otherwise was home at night. I had ScrapFest and MOPS going on and stayed fairly busy. When people asked what I “did,” I said “I’m a stay at home mom that doesn’t stay at home much.” At that time it was true. I was pretty ok, drained, but ok. I had been through probably 3 different antidepressants and could manage ok. My house still suffered. At some point Scott started working further away again and I held it together for the most part. I told myself I was ok. I was reconnecting with old friends on Facebook and chatted with friends new and old. Megan and I would prepare for the next ScrapFest. It became routine, my days were routine. I napped a lot. I zoned out with books and television as a coping mechanism once Scott was working away. I took the girls to softball and went through many days, weeks, and months feeling virtually nothing. It was like when I first started Louisiana Tech. Little emotion, starting to put up walls.

One day in October, Will said he was there for me and if I wanted to talk about the past he was up for it when I was. A few days later I said I was. We chatted on Facebook for a couple of hours after he left work that day. For the first time in a long time, I let myself have my feelings. I told Will everything from high school, all the things I had kept bottled up for so long. He said “I’m so sorry, I had no idea” several times. I told him about my suicide attempt at 19 and how I stopped taking pills when he happened to call that day. He said that was a God thing and I agreed. It was very cathartic to tell my closest friend the things I was afraid to tell anyone else but my husband and a couple of counsellors. I don’t know if he was ready for everything I opened up about, but he was still the amazing friend he had always been, and continues to be. It felt great to have someone to talk to about things that happened that he was there for me at the time, even if he didn’t know what I was going through. For the first time I told someone about the nightmares.

Being able to tell Will  was terrific, but it all came rushing back. It was ripping off the bandaid.

That Thanksgiving my family went to Shreveport to spend the holiday with my family. My grandfather had lost weight since losing my grandmother and was looking too thin. Everyone else looked great. I worried about my grandfather. The night after Thanksgiving, Scott and I went to see Will and his band play at a local bar. It was the first time we had seen each other in what? 17 years? Something like that. I had gained 100 pounds. He had changed, but he hadn’t changed. He called me “stranger.” I was happy that Scott got to meet him after I had talked about my friend for years and I was glad to see Molly now that we were friends. A couple of friends from high school were there and it felt comfortable. It was fine. After the show we said goodbye and Scott and I left. It was a good night. When we got back to our hotel there was an ice cream truck parked at the end of the parking lot that said “Getto Snowcone” and I was mad that the photos of the truck didn’t turn out. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing to see a Ghetto Snowcone truck.

We drove home with the kids that Saturday or Sunday – a familiar drive. It was on that drive that I started getting pains in my side, but I didn’t pay attention to it. Then the pains got worse. And worse. I lived with it for a few months and finally went to my internist. He felt my belly and side and the pain was excruciating. He sent me for an ultrasound and the ultrasound tech said “wow.” I said “what?” She said “I’m not supposed to tell you, but you have a mess of gallstones.” My doctor’s office called a couple of days later and said I would have to have my gallbladder removed. Scott and I met with a surgeon and scheduled surgery for the day after Labor Day. I didn’t look forward to it, but felt much better once it was gone. The surgeon wouldn’t let me keep it in a jar. Dammit.

Scrapbooking the week after being diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Scrapbooking the week after being diagnosed with high blood pressure.

That’s when my medical problems started. First it was the gallbladder, then pre-diabetes. Then one day I was testing the water temperature in the tub for Andrew and I fell backward into the tub. Full of water. I hit my head and was woozy. I reached to the back of my head and there was blood all over my hand. I managed to get out of the tub, soaking wet, and called for the kids to come in the bathroom. Katie came in first. I asked her if the back of my head was very bad and she said she couldn’t tell because the blood was red and so was my hair. Very helpful. First I called Megan, she said she would come get the kids while I waited for 911. 

  Megan is the most dependable person I have ever known and she does silly things I tell her to do to pose for pictures. Like the one to the left. I called 911. The ambulance and Megan arrived at the same time. She took the kids, I went to the ambulance where they took my vitals. The EMTs were fantastic, but wouldn’t tell me anything and didn’t seem concerned at all with my head. They were worried about my blood pressure. I was whisked off to the St. Tammany Regional and wheeled into the ER waiting room. They were monitoring my blood pressure while I sat in the waiting room. In walks Bethy Beth and I say “hey Beth” as if I were running into her at the grocery store. She had talked to Megan and Beth came up to stay with me because at that time Scott was in Utah. She and he talked on the phone several times that night so he could get updates. My blood pressure was super high, so the Hot Doc in the ER gave me some pill to lower it and put nitro paste on my chest and sent me for a head CT. No one had cleaned up the back of my head or anything. There was an elderly patient in the next bay behind a curtain who was belligerent. It was a fun night. My blood pressure dropped too fast and a nurse scrubbed off the nitro paste and gave me something else to take. I’d been cracking jokes and posting on Facebook the whole time and when my blood pressure dropped I felt like I was on another planet. Hot Doc released me at one or two am. Beth drove me home. I still had dried up blood on my head. I went to bed and went to see my internist the next day. He put me on meds for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, told me to lose weight, change my diet, get exercise, and take my two meds for my blood pressure. My doctor basically made me feel like I was going to die. He suggested weight loss surgery. I had pondered that before, but thought I would look into it.

which one is the hippo?

which one is the hippo? trick question

Then I had to have my wisdom teeth out. It’s much worse getting your wisdom teeth removed at 37 than at 15. They gave me all the drugs. This was on December 21st. Yes, I remember the day. We had two family Christmas parties that I would be missing because I was high as a kite and in pain. I could only eat soft things, so I basically ate an entire red velvet cake myself. I had always been good at binging. I was great at it. How do you think I ended up at 326 pounds? It was funny, the most I gained with my pregnancies was 18 pounds and never had gestational diabetes. Now I was looking at having diabetes on top of asthma and a thyroid disorder. Again, I never thought I looked bad at whatever weight I was. Your girl can dress cute and accessorize. I started Nutrisystem and lost 30 pounds, then gained much of that back. Have you ever seen a serving of Nutrisystem food? It’s tiny. In high school I attempted Slim Fast until I cut my hand open on the can in the cafeteria. Then I tried the powder shakes, but I added Cool Whip or ice cream to them, so that really didn’t help. I was not a good dieter. For the first time my weight was really becoming a problem.

One October I went to Shreveport to visit my family and see Will and his band play at the Red River Revel. My Aunt Darlene had been diagnosed with ALS and I wanted to see her before she got much worse and couldn’t communicate. We had lunch at one of my favorite places, Monjunis, with my dad and grandmother and I noticed it was difficult for Darlene to get food on her fork and chew. When lunch was over I gave her a big hug because I knew it wouldn’t be long for her disease to make it impossible to do most anything. We lost my Aunt Darlene two summers ago. That night I had dinner with Will and we talked about diabetes in depth. I could tell he was concerned as well. On the way back to my hotel, I ran into a trailer standing straight up in the middle of a completely unlit part of I-20, then saw that several cars were cast off into the median and a winnebago was pulled over to the right. I was scared to death. I pulled over and called Scott. He was at a concert with his mom and didn’t answer. I called Will. He was on his way to round at the hospital. I called Triple A, they called the state police and I sat in my car crying until an officer knocked on my window 15 or 20 minutes later. He told me my minivan looked driveable and that he had to take pictures and get my statement, then I was free to go. I went back to my hotel room, took Xanax and Ambien and went to sleep. The next morning I went to say bye to my mom, then met Molly and her boys for breakfast. I was in a daze. The boys were precious. Molly made me forget momentarily about my wrecked car and the drive I had to make back to Covington. Once I got home it was at least a week before I left the house.

I mustache you, are you ready for Cinco de Mayo?

I mustache you, are you ready for Cinco de Mayo?

I was in complete denial that anything was really wrong. Lots of people had depression. Lots of people have anxiety. Lots of people have nightmares. Thin people have gallbladder trouble. Thin people have high cholesterol. Thin people can have high blood pressure. But I was becoming less able to do the things I wanted to do. I couldn’t keep up with the kids like I wanted. I couldn’t do things without getting winded, and it wasn’t just because of my asthma. I’d been battling my weight forever, but now I had to get serious about it. Scott was very concerned. My mother-in-law was very concerned. My mother tip-toed around it because I’d always been sensitive about my weight. I got very depressed, feeling that I was failing at everything. It was common sense, just lose weight. I couldn’t do it. Not on my own. And my house started to become too much for me to keep up. I hired a maid, but the house would only stay straight for a couple of days. Around that time my internist suggested I start seeing a psychiatrist because nothing I was taking for depression was helping, so I sought out a psychiatrist and started seeing one in Mandeville. I was diagnosed with Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder and I had to come back every six weeks or so. The counselor there didn’t really get me and I felt mostly like this almost middle-aged mom of three who just couldn’t deal with her life and had irrational fears of nothing. I would have hot flashes in the grocery store. Everything was closing in on me. I was done with MOPS, so I joined the PTA – but I couldn’t just join, I had to do the newsletter and take the mic for events. I had ScrapFest and enjoyed the heck out of it. But that year I wasn’t asked back to head up preschool crafts at VBS and for the first time in years I felt majorly rejected. I wasn’t used to this. I was used to being in the spotlight with whatever I did. And that’s not to say I was an extrovert, I’m an introvert with extrovert tendencies. Now I know that I like having a sense of control. Big shock, right? I let this drive me further from church. I already could barely stay through a service – when I went to service – because of my anxiety. Now I felt rejected and developed anxiety about that. My anxiety was so high that I rarely left the house once again and would turn down invitations to lunch. Unless it was for Cinco de Mayo because it’s mine and Hillary’s favorite holiday.

Physically, I felt awful. Mentally, I felt worse.

I was 38.

 

“I’m fine,” She Lied: Part 5 – Best Imitation Of Myself

Not only is it probably my favorite Ben Folds song, it sums me up in four words. Perfectly. You see, all but a few people know that for the past ten years I’ve been doing the best imitation of myself. If you recall in this post, I thought I mastered the “ON Kerry” act in high school when the depression first moved in and set up camp. It wasn’t until after Andrew was born that I became a professional.

image

doing the best imitation of myself

If you know or knew me from high school, you didn’t know what was going on with me. I guarantee you didn’t. If you knew or know me from college, you know me as the RA or from a class, or from Campus Crusade or Fellowship, and if you were very close friends you thought it was funny that I dropped classes or almost exclusively drank mint chocolate chip shakes from the Student Center. Or that I had that cute room with the pink carpet and pink couch. Or that I wrote some downright hilarious RA newsletters. Or that I was Scott’s girlfriend. If you knew or know me from MOPS, you remember the funny mom who wrote the newsletter (unless you were Beth or Megan). If you knew or know me from scrapbooking or ScrapFest, you know I love a microphone and tend to sing and love to give away doorprizes.  You know me from funny Facebook posts.

But you don’t know the Kerry that dwelled for years in things people said in school like “you’re too fat for him” or when my favorite teacher told me she was disappointed with one of the best things I ever accomplished in high school or that I tried to kill myself a couple of weeks before I started at Louisiana Tech.

You don’t know the girl who couldn’t leave her dorm for days (and lived in Snickers bars and Coke from the vending machines).

You don’t know the me that slept for hours and still felt tired after having kids.

You don’t know that the reason I canceled that lunch with you was because that day my anxiety was so high I couldn’t leave my house.

You don’t know that I volunteered when you asked me to do that thing for MOPS or PTA was because I felt the need to prove to you that I was good enough, even though I had no reason to feel that I had to prove anything. Yes, I loved my time in MOPS and (most of the time) I loved PTA, and I did my jobs and did them well, but I was trying to prove to myself that I was enough, but nothing could make me feel that I was enough for myself or anyone else.

You don’t know the woman who went to a sporting goods store in Covington, LA to ask for something and when a worker thought I wasn’t looking, he blew up his cheeks and made a motion like a Weeble and pointed to me. You don’t know that I went to my car, texted a friend and cried because grown ass men made fun of my weight.

You don’t know how much I fretted over that ScrapFest t-shirt being just right and that I had a meltdown in the parking lot of the Castine Center when the shirt came back printed with day-glow pink instead of the perfect pink I chose so carefully.

All of this is to say, no one really know the “real” anyone unless you’re extremely close. Sometimes a spouse doesn’t even know how much their loved one is falling apart. I started to really fall apart after Andrew was born. My current psychiatrist says he believes I had postpartum depression on top of regular old depression with each of my babies. But I didn’t have a psychiatrist then. What I did have was a friend named Beth, who, like I said in the last paragraph of my last post in this series, suggested I get help when Andrew was nine months old. When Andrew was seven months old, Scott was in a terrible car accident while he was working in the Texas panhandle. He had many injuries, but would be ok. His company flew his mother, Andrew, and me on their private plane to get to him and rented us an Expedition to bring him home after he was released from the hospital. Scott’s stepmom stayed with the girls and was a blessing during that time. I held it together while he recovered at home, but lost it when he went back to work. I’m very good at holding it together for other people. It’s when I’m alone that I fall apart.

image

a few members of the Justice League

Once again, Scott went to work out of state. If you’re wondering why we didn’t move each time he relocated it’s because we didn’t want our kids to have to change schools over and over. And because there is no Lane Bryant in St. Croix. So, when my husband went off to work, I cycled through depression and anxiety almost like a drug addict can pull it together for a while and then go off the wagon. Or is it on the wagon? I’ve never been good with wagons.

After Beth suggested I get help, I called Dr. B.’s office and talked to one of his nurses. I didn’t know who else to call, so when in doubt, call the OB/GYN. I talked to the nurse who didn’t really know me. His other nurse knew me well. So, I talked to this nurse who called me back after I left a message. I tearfully told her that I was depressed and anxious and couldn’t leave the house and she partially covered the mouthpiece of the phone and relayed this information to another nurse (I assume), then came back to the phone and said Dr. B. might call me in some Xanax. I didn’t want to take Xanax because of addict stories I’d read. The nurse went back to covering the phone and I couldn’t make out the muffled voice. I hung up. They didn’t call back. I took this as a fail. Every time I had tried to get help before that I had been let down. When I went to a doctor in college who only wanted to sell me his vitamins; when I went to counseling at Tech; and then calling my OB/GYN’s office – all failed in helping me.

me, AB, Melissa, Lisa, and Lunchbox (Megan)

me, AB, Melissa, Lisa, and Lunchbox (Megan)

I retreated even further into my own head. What was wrong with me? Even though I was miserable, I let Megan talk me into going to a scrapbook retreat with her right after Andrew turned one. I had gone to retreats in Canada, but this one was more fun. I scrapbooked all weekend and looked back at old photos. I took tons of pictures of the kids, but I was rarely in them because I hated looking fat in photos. Although I was 300+ pounds, I never had a problem with what I looked like in a mirror. It was photos that made me feel fat, so I just stayed out of photos.  At some point that fall I got bronchitis and went to my internist. When his nurse asked me what brought me in that day I told her I had diagnosed myself with bronchitis (I used to get it twice a year, so I knew what it was) and that I was also depressed. When my doctor came in he asked me about the depression and put me on Wellbutrin. I started taking it and maybe it masked the depression. I still couldn’t step foot inside a Walmart. It didn’t do anything for my anxiety, but I was able to do more than before.

MOPS Convention

MOPS Convention

That fall, 2006, I was the MOPS Publicity person in our group. I enjoyed this because it was a great creative outlet. If I’m not being creative I start retreating into my head and the anxiety is too much to bear. I recently told a close friend that I feel that I was put on the planet to make beautiful things, whether it’s something in my house, refinishing a piece of furniture, designing a ScrapFest t-shirt, or the design of a poster – I feel at my most authentic self when I am doing those things. So, I designed and put together the MOPS newsletter, posters, etc and I scrapbooked with friends. I went to conventions and had a good time. I was able to hold it together long enough to attend events as long as I felt that I had some control over it. At MOPS convention, I knew I could leave any meeting at any time. I knew I could go back to my room and relax if it got to be too much. It was the same way when I went to scrapbook retreats with my friends if the event was held in a hotel. It also helped that most of the retreats we went to had masseuses. That’s always a plus.

500 women at ScrapFest; one of my fave shirts I designed, AB, me, Stacy, Lunchbox, Bethy Beth, Stacy, and Melissa

500 women at ScrapFest; one of my fave shirts I designed, AB, me, Stacy, Lunchbox, Bethy Beth, Stacy, and Melissa

When my friend Lisa moved to Connecticut, she asked me to step in for her at ScrapFest. ScrapFest was a production company founded by Lisa and Megan, who put on scrapbook retreats twice a year in Mandeville. I loved going to ScrapFest. First, they asked me to do the announcements for fun because neither of them liked to talk on the microphone much. A microphone is my best friend. When Lisa moved, I took over her duties at ScrapFest, plus the website and design. I had a blast doing the event and planning it. I genuinely did. I made great friends because of the event that I wouldn’t have otherwise (I’m talking to you – AB, Melissa, Stacy, Marleana, Shelly, and more). ScrapFest was my outlet and it took a great deal of energy to host the event for three days. At the height of scrapbooking, we had 500+ women come scrapbook for three days. After it was all over on Sunday mornings, I felt hungover for a week and then my outlet was over until we started planning again. I still had MOPS, which was great. I was asked to be in charge of our church’s Vacation Bible School preschool crafts, which was planning crafts, ordering materials, and getting together a group of helpers. Preschoolers can’t really do crafts, so I took a note from Megan, who had done the job before, and I made projects for the kids. More keepsakes than crafts. It was fun. It was a stressful week, but it was fun. It was an outlet. And again, after VBS, my outlet was over. I always had to have the next thing to look forward to – be it ScrapFest, MOPS, or attending another scrapbooking event. There had to be something for me to concentrate on or the day-to-day became too much and I couldn’t function.

hanging out at the OB/GYN

hanging out at the OB/GYN

Wellbutrin didn’t seem to be helping that much, so my doctor put me on another medication that didn’t do much either. It was a test and see type of thing. Stay on this for six months or a year and try something else. It was around this time in 2007 that my anxiety got worse. It crept in slowly, like all good villains do. It started to rob me of my time. My family. My friends. There was a time when I couldn’t cross a very short bridge on the highway that was off of my subdivision. I didn’t tell anyone about that. I also started having weird symptoms of menopause. Over the course of two years (starting when I was 34), Dr. B. decided I had gone through menopause at 36 or whatever. I found this hard to believe, but after my history of miscarriage and an inhospitable uterus anything was possible – right? So, I had all of these things working against me – my brain, my body, my organs. Everything internal that no one sees. Everything you can hide. That’s how I did the best imitation of myself.

People always said how “put together” I looked. That was no accident. I had to look put together or people would know I was imploding. Sure, I looked fine on the outside. My kids looked great and well-dressed. But my house was a disaster. At home, once the kids were in bed, I zoned out in a book or with tv, so I wouldn’t have to think. I blogged. I didn’t clean. I didn’t leave the house unless it was absolutely necessary. I slept during Andrew’s naptime. I barely felt awake much of the time. Scott would come home and everything would be ok – I’d have it together. He’d leave and I’d fall apart. It was a cycle. My doctor prescribed Xanax as needed. I rarely ever took it.

I stopped going to church. I couldn’t be in a big building where I couldn’t see windows or an exit. For the most part, I am still like this, even on medication. Add people and lights and sound and it just amplifies the anxiety. I could always do ScrapFest because we were set up at the exit/entrance. I could do other events when I was seated by a door. I had to have a sense of control or I didn’t do well. At all. Church was the worst place for my anxiety. Second was a big store. I rarely felt panicky in Target because of how bright and well-spaced out everything is. Mardi Gras was horrible. I only did the bare minimum of what I felt that I had to do for my kids. When Scott turned 40, I planned a weekend in the French Quarter for just us. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law met us for dinner at one of Emeril’s restaurants and then Scott and I started walking back to our hotel. He wanted to go to Pat O’Brien’s on Bourbon Street. It was July 30th. It was hot. There was a street preacher in the middle of the street screaming about the fires of hell and someone screaming back to him, upping the volume, measure for measure. There were drunk people everywhere. Loud music. Someone flashed the street preacher – boobs on full display. At that moment, a drunk spilled his beer onto me from a balcony above. The anxiety had been rising since the mention of Bourbon Street. I had a full panic attack. It was the first time my husband witnessed one of my panic attacks. I started shaking, my heart raced, and the tears flowed. Scott moved me to an alley or a street off of Bourbon where there were no crowds. I told him I was going to have a heart attack and I had to get back to our hotel. I kept repeating that I had to get out of there. He kept repeating that I would be fine. I ruined his birthday. In my mind I ruined everything. He got me back to the hotel, I took a Xanax, washed my face, and sat in a chair. He asked me if that’s what the panic attacks were always like and I said they were, for the most part. That particular one was exceptionally bad. He said I didn’t ruin his birthday, that he had a great time. I didn’t believe him.

I couldn’t get any worse.

I was 34.

 

“I’m fine,” She Lied: Part 4.2 – July, July!

imageI was 27.

In September we moved to Fort McMurray, Alberta Canada. Or Canadaland as I like I like to say. Scott’s company flew Molly and I to the tiny airport. Scott drove our Ford Escape. All of our other possessions would go into storage in Houston. When we flew into Canada, we would fly to Denver, then Calgary, then Edmonton, then we would take a tiny plane – that you just knew was going to fall our of the sky – to Ft. McMurray. I am not a nervous flyer at all, but I am on teeny tiny planes that look like a slight breeze might blow them off course, to say maybe, Russia – I don’t know. Anyway, the company shipped our clothes (which didn’t arrive for two weeks), gave us an allowance for winter clothes, and an allowance for furniture, etc. We lived in the fancy suite of hotel for a month while waiting for our townhouse to be ready. After being in Canada a week, the first cold front came in and we didn’t have jackets or coats. Or anything remotely warm. There was one children’s clothing store in town and I bought Molly a ton of Winter clothes (they only sold expensive clothes and the child was well-dressed) and was told by the owner that I needed to order the child a snowsuit and get her boots immediately. I was all “in September?”

imageOur townhouse was ready and we ordered furniture and winter clothes. I refused to get a parka. I am a chubby southern girl and I don’t do pouffy coats. The snow started shortly after we moved in. It was so beautiful and unreal I had experienced snow probably three times in my life before this, and it was that Louisiana and Georgia snow that melted the day of or the day after it snowed. This snow was for real. It stayed for 6 months. Snow for the first few weeks or a month is gorgeous and fun to play in, easily manipulated into snowmen and fun. The worst part of snow was having to get a munchkin who was potty training dressed for zero degree temperatures. We would have to do this every time we left the house. It got real old real fast. The snow would melt a little and have this hard slippery layer that you couldn’t play in until it snowed again. Then it would get too cold to snow. And I would have to go to the grocery store with a toddler in the snow and ice. Let me tell you about the grocery stores in Canadaland (or at least Ft. McMurray), to get a grocery cart you have to stick a quarter in a little lock that unlocks the carts from each other, then when you return the cart, your quarter ejects back to you. This meant you had to make sure you had a quarter on you when you went to the store. There was also a charge for plastic bags. There was one craft store in town that was tiny. There were three decent restaurants. There was one plus size store in the mall that was a chain called Cotton Ginny and was actually really great. Once the mall had a drugged tiger in a cage you could take photos with. No, I’m not kidding. It was weird.

We were trying for another baby because it had taken so long to have Molly. Of course, I got pregnant right away. I made an appointment with the one of two doctors in town. Our town was like the show Northern Exposure with a little Twin Peaks thrown in. Both OB/GYNs were from other countries, as was every doctor I saw in Ft. McMurray. My OB was African and educated in England. He informed me on my first visit that I would be put on the Gestational Diabetes diet even if I didn’t have GD. Thanks, Dr Ican’trememberhisname. I know I blocked his hame out because my experience was so bad with him. I told him of my miscarriage history and that I was bleeding and he said either I would have a baby or I wouldn’t and there was nothing he could do. Mentally, I knew this, but it was hard for my heart to hear. His bedside manner did not exist. Once I noticed there was a thumb-sized hole in his Bill Cosby sweater and I felt bad for him. I knew how medicine worked in Canada and assumed he had to work a certain number of years in Ft. McMurray before moving to a better, larger area. You don’t get into medicine in Canada for the money. Nurses would come and go, I didn’t have the same nurse each time at his office. The office was in a strip center. The whole thing was completely surreal.

We would go to Edmonton (5 hours away) to the giant West Edmonton mall a few times for fun. It was the biggest mall in the world at the time. It was fun, but exhausting. We went to the only Mexican restaurant there and Scott ordered a chimichanga. They didn’t fry it. It was a burrito. In our town there was a restaurant called Montana’s that was okay. I ordered nachos once and they had mozzarella and ranch style beans on them. We had been told to go to the local seafood joint and get the fish cakes. I wrongly assumed they would be like crab cakes, but no, they were patties that had minced fish and mashed potatoes, formed and fried. I can’t explain how much I missed southern food. I joined the Newcomers Club, which was a Godsend. We had a bookclub and I made an American friend named JoAnn.The bookclub saved my sanity there.

imageWinter was hard. The sun would rise at 9:30 am and set at 3:30 pm. It was incredibly depressing, especially for someone who was already depressed. I slept a lot. Much more than normal. I was not okay.  I went to two scrapbook crops while I was in Canada. People would make fun of my accent. At the deli counter in the grocery store I ordered a pound of sliced turkey and they looked at me like I was crazy and asked me how much I would like in grams. I didn’t know what the hell a gram of turkey was. Should I get two grams of turkey? 30 grams of turkey? I told the guy to start slicing it and I would tell him when to stop and that was how many grams I wanted. They looked at me like I was an alien and asked me to keep talking because of my accent. I believe they thought I came right out of The Deep South and was probably related to everyone in Steel Magnolias.

I fell twice on the ice in Ft. McMurray and was sure I would lose the baby. I didn’t. Then it was spring and then it was summer and believe it or not, it gets very hot in Canada and I thought I would die from the heat. Homes that far north are not airconditioned and I was miserable. We had fans all over the place. It didn’t help that I was huge and couldn’t get comfortable. I ordered this giant candy-can shaped pregnancy pillow that was like having an extra person in our bed. It was the only way I could get any rest.

It was July. My mom came in a week or so before the baby was born. I was ten days late (same as with Molly) when they brought me in for a stress test, only to tell me I was having contractions and admitted me. Scott went home to get my bag. It was July 4th. My holiday. We were going to dinner for our anniversary and my mom would keep Molly. I was upset when they admitted me because we couldn’t celebrate our anniversary. My doctor came in and said the baby would be born by midnight and mentioned it being my American holiday. I said proudly that it was. The anesthesiologist was called in and actually told me that he was perturbed to be on call because he was in the middle of painting his bedroom. Every medical professional I encountered seemed pissed off except for one nurse I had who was Jamaican. She admired my pedicure. I liked her. I had an epidural that didn’t work. I felt everything where you don’t want to feel everything, but legs were completely numb. It was awful. There was no music playing. They were all business. Katherine Grace was born on July 5th, our anniversary. She came into the world angry. She was so late she had meconium in her lungs and was immediately taken to the nursery. It was scary, but I was assured she would be fine. She would be brought to me to nurse, then whisked off again. That night they let her stay in my room, but she cried the entire time. Literally the entire night. I knew this baby would be night and day from my Molly.

imageWe brought Katie home to her big sister and grandmother. Over the next few months, Scott’s mom and dad would visit to meet their newest grandbaby. Scott’s maternal grandmother would pass away while his mom was visiting. Scott went in for the funeral. It was a difficult time.

Molly loved having a sister. She wanted her to play and didn’t understand why the baby couldn’t play. Almost immediately, we realized there was something wrong with Katie. She was breastfeeding and couldn’t keep anything down. She had horrible reflux. After we were home for a few weeks, a nurse from the hospital came out to visit (as they do in Canadaland) and suggested that it was because she was lactose intolerant and that I go lactose-free and introduce a soy formula in addition to nursing. So I did. It didn’t help. Her pediatrician said she may have some rare condition she would need surgery to fix. I went into the anxiety I had when Molly was a baby. I just knew this little angry baby wouldn’t be okay. That she would always cry and vomit and have to have surgery. It turned out that she didn’t have the condition – that she just had horrible very bad no good reflux. She barely smiled and constantly threw up. She would go through 4 or 5 outfits a day and numerous bibs. It was ridiculous. Completely ridiculous. We went home to Louisiana for Christmas that year and Scott went back after two weeks. The girls and I stayed at my parents for another couple of weeks. It turned out not to be a good idea and my sister and I had words. She basically said I was a lazy mother and didn’t care much about my girls. She was still living at home with my parents and her three year old. It was a very hard time and my feeling were incredibly hurt.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care about my girls or that I was a lazy parent. I knew from the beginning when Molly was little and I saw other mothers at playdates and other mothers. In short, I was not a “mother-woman.” In high school, I read one of my favorite novels, The Awakening by Kate Chopin. In the novel there is a mother who sees herself as more than being a mother and as a woman who never saw myself as being a wife and mother and not a big city novelist or writer, I understood this more and more as I had my second child.

From The Awakening: “If one of the little Pontellier boys took a tumble whilst at play, he was not apt to rush crying to his mother’s arms for comfort; he would more likely pick himself up, wipe the water out of his eyes and the sand out of his mouth, and go on playing. Tots as they were, they pulled together and stood their ground in childish battles with doubled fists and uplifted voices, which usually prevailed against the other mother-tots. The quadroon nurse was looked upon as a huge encumbrance, only good to button up waists and panties and to brush and part hair; since it seemed to be a law of society that hair must be parted and brushed.

“In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman. The mother-women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.”

I was simply not a mother-woman. I didn’t swoop in the second a pacifier was dropped. I didn’t run to pick up Molly if she tripped over her feet in the grass. It wasn’t laziness, and if that’s the way people viewed it, then that’s their problem. I was just not THAT mother. Now mother-women are called “helicopter parents.” That is not who I am. I never have been. When we took both kids to West Edmonton Mall for the weekend in the spring, we went to the indoor water park. It smelled of chlorine and the pasty white patrons acted as if they were at Disneyland, when it was really a barebones water park. Nothing fancy, just enough. I was was sitting in the water with baby Katie and looked up and Molly was gone. My anxiety set in. I screamed for Scott. We couldn’t find her for probably 7 minutes. A man walked up holding her hand and she was fine. In my mind, I already had her kidnapped and having to call our family and tell them and going on the news as the horrible American parents who lost their three year old in a water park. That’s how my mind works. Expect the worst. She was fine. Of course she was fine. There was a bar across the street from our hotel called Filthy McNasty’s and that night in the hotel, Molly kept flinging the curtains open to see the neon sign across the street. She was three and she was happy. She loved Blues Clues and would only talk to her grandparents on the phone if they pretended to be Blue the dog. I couldn’t have asked for a better toddler.

imageWhen Katie was 7 months the reflux suddenly stopped. We went to Breckinridge for my sister-in-law’s wedding on the slopes. Katie was crawling. Then walking at 9 months. She was suddenly a happy baby. The first 7 months were miserable and I had been miserable. It had been winter and it was dark. My outlook was dark. I barely left the house. I hated Canada. I grew to hate the snow, the people who asked me to repeat what I had just said so they could hear my accent, not knowing how much things would cost in Canadian money, I hated the fact that they called their two-dollar coin the “twooney.” I hated that the main coffee/donut shop, Tim Hortons, rarely had chocolate for my mochas and that the fast food restaurants had weird Canadian offerings like Poutine (french fries with gravy and cheese curds). I hated that there was no Popeyes and that KFC didn’t have macaroni and cheese, but had macaroni salad. I hated it when the only plus size store closed in my town.

I started blogging. That was 13 years ago. I mainly posted photos of the babies for family to see, then crafty stuff I was doing. I didn’t blog about anything very personal until we were back in the U.S. I missed my friends. I missed everything American. I hated our Mountain Time Zone. I missed the American Food Network. I got letters from friends, but not many phone calls and it was extremely isolating. My mother told me that she saw that Will had started his own medical practice, so I Googled (or in truth, probably used AskJeeves.com) his name and found some random email address that had to be his. I emailed a short “congratulations, I’m proud of you” type note and was surprised when he emailed back. We asked how each other was doing, I sent him the photo you see of the four of us above. Our emails went back and forth for a few weeks.

imageIt was spring, then it was June and Scott’s job was complete at a mega oil plant. The company was happy with him and I  was happy to be going home . They paid to ship whatever we wanted back home, so I decided to take our bedroom furniture and kitchen table. We sold off everything else and had a garage sale. Scott made the drive back to Louisiana. He didn’t have a job to start at that time, so we decided to live in Mandeville, where his mother and brother lived. His grandparents lived across the lake in New Orleans. The girls and I flew into New Orleans a few days before Katie turned one. We would have her birthday party on the 5th at my in-law’s and my family would come visit too. My still bald baby was one. She was happy and she was one.

It was July. We were rid of Canada. Thank Sweet American Baby Jesus. My 22 month exile was over. I would be back amongst my people and I would be okay. Except that I wouldn’t. I would be worse.

I was 29 the week after Katie turned one.

“I’m fine,” She lied: Part 3 – Why Georgia, Why?

Note: I’ve put off writing this part because much of it will be difficult and some bits are things only a few  people know. As usual, there is a lot of humor in my pain, so at least there’s that.

 

I was 23.

We returned to Shreveport on July 11th, rented a U-haul to move my things, and said goodbye to my family and friends. It was hard. Our honeymoon was wonderful except for the sunburn I got on my back while snorkeling. Guess what? When you apply sunscreen on the boat while wearing your swimsuit cover-up, you shouldn’t forget your back if you’re snorkeling. We drove to Macon, Georgia to Scott’s apartment. We would live there for one month while waiting for KBR to send him to the next project. The apartment was what I would call “not purposely minimalist.” Scott had exactly one half-broken recliner, a computer desk, a hexagonal kitchen table with the most uncomfortable chairs you can imagine, two twin beds – pushed together, and one small dresser. I added my antique dresser and vanity to the mix. When you plugged in and turned on any appliance in the kitchen (toaster, microwave), it would blow out all the power in the kitchen. We were newlyweds and it was okay. We were about to move to Pensacola when Scott got a job offer in Atlanta, so we got ready to move to Hotlanta. I got very sick and found out I had asthma. Turns out I was allergic to Georgia.

We had a cute apartment in Duluth, a suburb of Atlanta. This would be where my job search began. While we were engaged Scott told me that we would not start out in debt and he paid off my credit cards and AT&T bills. When I got bills in college I just put them in a drawer and didn’t look at them again. He bought me my first car, a green Corolla, and told me I needed to find a job. I began my search. This would prove to be an adventure.

I interviewed at a major department store that rhymes with lizards for a position as a “beauty advisor” at the Estee Lauder counter. Turns out I wasn’t experienced enough to sell people makeup, but I was qualified to dress mannequins and work as a sales associate in the Ralph Lauren department. I was informed that if my commission wasn’t high enough I would be fired. Guess what? I was fired.

From there, I applied to a fancy preschool where a few members of the Falcons children attended. Why I thought this would be a good idea, I don’t know. I was a pre-K teacher and really loved my munchkins, especially a little nut named Catherine. She was 4 and a half and her mother constantly told me she had to be able to spell her name before she would be considered for the fancy Kindergarten she had her heart set on. My co-teacher was relieved to not be the newest teacher anymore and gave me a hard time and asked too many personal questions. It was an uncomfortable workplace. I was written up for not accurately describing how a child got a broken arm when a football player’s son fell on him on the playground. Kid slid down the slide and fell on the other kid – how is that a wrong description? That was the first odd thing about the place. The younger kids were constantly shoving pea gravel up their noses and I felt bad for those teachers. My co-teacher asked me what kind of birth control I was on and if I took it at the same time everyday. I told her I took it in the morning or at night, depending on the time I had getting ready in the morning. She told me that was how she got pregnant and miscarried when she was a newlywed. I told myself I wasn’t like this idiot who managed to get pregnant on birth control. One day we had a field trip to the pumpkin farm and the only kid who was allergic to bees was stung by a bee. One day we were informed not to release one child to anyone but the mom because of separation and restraining order. One day Catherine came up to me and pulled down her leggings to show me where her dad had hit her with “a strap.” I teared up. I knew I had to report it because it was part of my job. The next day the father screamed at me. I quit.

It was early November. I applied with what was then the largest correspondence school in the country and got a job as an Education Specialist in their high school diploma program. People would get textbooks, do work, take tests, send them in, and would get their diploma. It was a good way for working people to get diplomas to get jobs that required more than a GED. I enjoyed this job. Students would call in for help and I would advise them. I had a student named Filay Mignon. I made friends with a coworker named Crystal who would marry a man with the last name Ball later that year. Things were going great. Scott and I were members of First Baptist Atlanta and I was happy. In late November I would miss my period and find out what kind of idiot gets pregnant on the pill. I was ecstatic. A baby! We had just gotten married and were having a baby. Scott was excited but reserved. We decided to tell family when we visited for Christmas. We talked about names. Scott wanted to name the baby “Andromeda” if it was a girl because that’s totally normal. I made my first doctor appointment for the week after Christmas. I would not need that appointment. It was December 20th. Crampy feelings started. There was a drop of blood in my underwear when I went to the bathroom during church. When I got home I felt like I was going to wet my pants if I didn’t get to the bathroom. There was a “plop.” I screamed. I looked at it and looked at it. I couldn’t stop looking at it. A tiny little transparent embryo. Scott looked at it. This would be my first miscarriage. I called my mom and told her. It was a shock because we hadn’t told anyone yet. Scott had previously told me to not leave kleenex everywhere from my allergies. I cried and he said to throw kleenex wherever I wanted. We went to the doctor the next day or the day after, I don’t remember. The nurse asked if we brought “the specimen.” The specimen. It. The doctor concluded I was most likely nine weeks along. We named it Andi. We told our families. No one knew what to say, except for one of Scott’s grandmothers who had lost a baby. She assured me I would be a mother one day. I believed her.

I went back to work. I wasn’t engaging anymore. I wasn’t the same. I didn’t go to lunch with coworkers. Kim came for New Year’s Eve and we rode the (S)Marta to watch the peach drop for the new year.  We went to see Titanic. Kim helped me to feel better about the future. The new year would be better. The new year wouldn’t have a dead baby. We did all the things one does when they first move to a new city. We went to all the fun places, my favorite being The Varsity for hot dogs. We went to Braves games. One night I got very upset about not having living room furniture and prayed that we would soon be able to afford furniture. The next day we went to Delonagha where gold was first discovered in Georgia. We got fudge and came home in late afternoon. There was a gray sofa and loveseat on the lawn of our apartment complex. People were evicted and the furniture was free to whomever came first. Scott wasted no time getting some neighbor to help put the furniture into his truck. I had furniture. It smelled like smoke, but it was ours. One day I would come home from work and Scott was sitting on the steps of our apartment. He had been laid off and would start a new job search. He went back to KBR and they moved us back to Macon. My great-grandmother, Katie, passed away. I went in for the funeral.

We moved to an apartment on the 7th hole of a golf course. It was another fresh start. We decided that we would start trying to have a baby later that year. I started a round of crazy jobs. I worked as the receptionist for a concrete plant. It was great – I didn’t have to work if it rained! I was fired because they decided they didn’t really need a receptionist. I was the receptionist/whatever they needed me to do for the local MDA. My boss was extremely pregnant and moody. I knew I had an ear infection and I was coughing like crazy. Scott made me go to the doctor when I started keeping him awake coughing at night.  He took me to the doctor and I had a really bad case of walking pneumonia and started breathing treatments, antibiotics, and had to take off work for a few days. The MDA fired me for taking off work. I found this to be hilarious, being that I was working to raise money for sick kids. I worked for a collection agency as the receptionist/data entry person who would also run credit reports on people when requested. I was fired a few days before my birthday. They had already asked what kind of cake I wanted. I filled in at a temp service for the rest of the year. Kim came in for New Year’s Eve. 1999 would be better. It had to be.

I found a good job at the Methodist Children’s Home. I was an executive assistant. It was an office job and I rarely ever saw the kids. After a couple of months they laid off a few people. Things were still good. We were trying for a baby. I took a pregnancy test in the bathroom of a K-mart. That’s how badly I wanted a baby. I had never been this baby-wanting woman, but after I miscarried it was practically all I thought about. I needed a baby to love and to love me back unconditionally. It wasn’t that Scott didn’t love me, he absolutely did – but after the miscarriage I needed a baby. Everyone in our Sunday school class had a baby or was expecting. The pregnancy test from K-mart was positive. I was cautiously excited.

We decided not to tell anyone until 12 weeks, when the chance of miscarriage was drastically reduced. I was at work one day and slipped and told a coworker. She gave me the name of “the best” OB/GYN in town and I made an appointment. At seven weeks I started bleeding. There was no “it,” no “specimen.” I went to my appointment and was examined. Another miscarriage. The best doctor in town patted me on the shoulder and gave me a pamphlet on Recurrent Miscarriage. A pamphlet and a shoulder pat. Technically, Recurrent Miscarriage isn’t until there are 3 miscarriages, the pamphlet said. I hated this doctor.

Scott and I told family about the miscarriage. Again, no know knew what to say. I heard “it just wasn’t God’s timing” or “it just wasn’t meant to be” at least 30 times from family and Sunday school friends. I didn’t want God’s timing. I wanted my timing and my timing was now. I went back to work. Early miscarriage doesn’t feel much different from a period and I had been through it before, so I felt like I could go back to work. I was laid off two days later. I got a job working in the clubhouse of the country club where we lived. It was ok. I didn’t care about anything anymore. I had lost two babies and half a dozen jobs. I hated Macon. The clubhouse was ok. I booked tee times and sold overpriced golf balls and country club shirts. I watched the Golf Channel from a stool all day. I was working on the day in 1999 when Payne Stewart’s plane went down and everyone came off the course to watch the Golf Channel’s coverage. I sat on my stool. Shortly after that, KBR moved us to Brunswick, GA. We lived in a cute duplex. It was a new start. I was going to get a cat while I waited to have a baby.

Kim and i took a trip to Tennessee and found the General Lee

I was pregnant again. I miscarried again. Now it was officially Recurrent Miscarriage. I started looking at adoption websites. I was convinced I wouldn’t have a baby. God didn’t want me to have a baby. For some reason God saved me from killing myself when I was 19 only to have me lose three babies in two years. There had to be a reason. We talked about seeing a fertility specialist. We said we could always adopt if we couldn’t have a baby. I was completely open to that. I read lots of articles on infertility. I would read the passage in the Bible over and over again where God tells Abraham his wife, Sarah, would have a baby after years of not being able to. Sarah and Isaac were 100 years old. Sarah laughed when Abraham told her she would have a baby. They named the baby Isaac, which means “he laughed.” Our landlady wouldn’t let us have a cat, even after she told me she would allow cats. I was angry and jaded and depressed.

Scott’s mom told us the pastor Jesse Duplantis from Louisiana was coming to Savannah and we should go listen to him preach. We went to the convention center to hear him. Duplantis was a Cajun and very enjoyable to listen to – lively and fun, but clearly loved God. At the end, he asked people to come forward for prayer and there would be local church members there to pray with. Scott suggested we go forward. I doubted it would help me (and I believed it was me, than it was I being punished for my suicide attempt, for leaving college, for being fired 42 times, for whatever I could think of), but we went up for prayer. A couple in their 50s asked us what we were coming to pray about. I broke down and cried, telling them our story of wanting a baby and our miscarriages. They were the only people I ever told the whole story to. Strangers. Strangers who would pray for us that night and would continue to pray for us. They told us to get a picture frame and find a picture of a baby to be our stand-in baby of the baby we would have in the future – to keep as a reminder that we were being prayed over and that God answers prayer. Scott bought a frame that said “I love Mommy.” The frame sat next to our computer in one of our guest bedrooms. I wrote a novel. I prayed and I wrote. The novel exists on a large format floppy disk somewhere either in a box from our many moves or was thrown out during a move. There would be ten moves in the first ten years of our marriage.

Kim came for Y2K. Remember Y2K? Ha. Kim, Scott, and I went to see the “Shrimp Drop” on the water in Brunswick. There was a long fishing line or string running at a slight angle from a tree or something leading to what looked like a giant satellite dish of “cocktail sauce.” People, I can’t make this stuff up. Here’s a link to the following year’s Shrimp Drop in the Jacksonville newspaper. There was a countdown, someone had to shake the shrimp loose and it crept along the line, finally landing at the dish of cocktail sauce, where it would keep jiggling, looking like a giant shrimp humping a satellite dish. Happy year 2000! Here’s your humping shrimp! It was a great time in a time when I was extremely depressed.

I worked for another correspondence school, this one Christian-based and very small. I had my doubts. Scott and I started looking for a house to buy. Our realtor’s name was Rusty Bolt. Again, you can’t make that up. We found a house on Easy Street. Seriously. And then it happened.

I was pregnant again.

We started packing to move into the new house. I was convinced this is where we would have a nursery. On Easy Street.

Scott's grandmother, Miriam, in front of our first home.

Scott’s grandmother, Miriam, in front of our first home.

I was 25.

“I’m fine,” She lied: Part 2.3 – A Long December

It was November.

I’m starting with a side note because it’s funny as hell. My tyrannical Hall Director I’ll refer to as Tiny Pippi Longstocking, invited four of us to her wedding in Mississippi. Kim, Bryan, Jay, and I made the drive because we were really the only friends she invited. And we weren’t really friends. On the way out of town, Bryan asked to stop at a gas station to get a drink. He came back with something in a brown paper bag. Whatever it was, he drank it on the way to Mississippi. We arrived at the church and were seated in a pew. The wedding started out normal, then Kim and I noticed the bridesmaids looked to be wearing blue potato sacks. They had no shape. I couple of the girls were maybe pregnant, maybe they’d had a big breakfast, I don’t know. Tiny Pippi Longstocking walked down the aisle in something that resembled a costume from a Renaissance Fair (not that there is anything wrong with that if Ren Fair’s are your jam, but this was weird). There were vines going up the bell sleeves of her dress. I couldn’t tell if she was wearing shoes. Bryan fell asleep on my shoulder. The bride and groomed walked back up the aisle to “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty. Jay, Kim, and I were giving each other funny looks and trying not to burst out laughing. If you know me, that’s a hard thing to do. The reception was in a room at the church. I was used to church weddings and receptions, they were usually nice and not too long – this one was too weird to be scripted. It was potluck. Now, if you’ve had a potluck wedding, don’t email me, I’m sure it was nice and the foods went well together and didn’t resemble something at Golden Corral. There was gumbo, spaghetti, unidentifiable casseroles, and other faire we dared each other to eat. The bride and groom were announced, a slideshow of the two of them as children started on a pull-down screen. Music started. It was “The Teddy Bear Picnic.” Kim and I shook our heads and looked around the room to see if anyone else seemed to think this was out of the ordinary. Obviously, it was just us. The song ended and began again. “The Teddy Bear Picnic” was on a loop. Yes, it was. Then one of us noticed him: a 70s pirate. There was a man dressed in a denim leisure suit with gold stitching and he was wearing an eye patch. Yes, he was. Needless to say, it was the best wedding I’ve ever attended.

It was early December. As the final nail in the coffin of my college career, Tiny Pippi Longstocking called me into her apartment to give me my review. She handed me the form she had filled out. It was brutal. Kerry did not attend classes and was a poor role model for her residents. My lack of enthusiasm for the job had diminished and my attitude was apathetic. No shit. I told Tiny Pippi it would be my last quarter and she could find my replacement. Good luck and fuck off.

Back in my room, I laughed and put on some music. I was meeting one of my friends in the Student Center that afternoon. I was actually going to go. The phone rang. It was Will. I hadn’t heard from him in months, maybe since spring. He had gotten my number from my mother. He was in med school. It was great to hear his voice. He asked me a ton of questions. I told him I was engaged and leaving college, that I wasn’t meant to teach, which I think he knew down deep. He told me he was happy that I was following my heart. We only talked briefly because I didn’t want to stand up my friend, but I wanted to stay on the phone as we had always done. We hung up with our usual goodbyes. I realized he never said why he called.

For the first time in a long time I was happy. I knew what I was doing. I was leaving school and getting married to the man I loved. I was getting my happily ever after. I had no idea what I was doing. That winter I studied wedding magazines instead of stuff from a syllabus. I only went to one class, African American Literature. Bryan and I were the only Caucasians in the class. Eventually I stopped attending even that class and the professor gave me an undeserved D. I was done. In my head I was done. At the end of that quarter my friends and I went to see my favorite band, Counting Crows, in Dallas. The show was held in a small warehouse-type venue and Adam Duritz sang just to me.

IMG_1600.JPGI left Louisiana Tech. I moved back in with my parents in Shreveport. I planned my wedding. It wouldn’t be extravagant. All of the ideas I had were tossed out the window. My dream dress with embroidered daisies was too expensive. My mother and I were told the 4th of July was a “non floral holiday” and florists and bakers took their vacations at that time. Everything was just bizarre. We would be married in my grandparents’ church where I once taught VBS and we would have a church reception. My bouquet and bridesmaids bouquets would be silk. My cake would be made by the bakery at Brookshires. It was actually delicious and the basketweave was exactly what I’d wanted. I adorned it with pink gladiolus. We had a rich chocolate groom’s cake. I loved my bouquet. Barely pink roses, the same color as the bridesmaids’s dresses. My shoes were heeled Mary Janes and the style name was “Kerry,” so that was destined to be. My veil was attached to a sequined and beaded headband that I would wear around the house and to watch Oprah in prior to the wedding. I loved that headband. I wore a blue garter, my grandmother’s earrings, and my dress looked like Ariel’s without the long sleeves. I was practically a Disney Princess.

IMG_1602.JPGI asked my sister to be my maid of honor. She accepted. We had never been close, but I still wanted her in my wedding. My sister had longed been troubled. Alcohol, drugs, the wrong crowds, you name it – but she graduated from high school with a 4.5 GPA. The girl was a genius. She could have been anything. It was my hope she could get it together enough to be my maid of honor. She would not. With all of the disappointments I had planning my wedding, this would be the biggest. Jennifer would be my maid of honor. Scott’s sister Amy, Darla, and my cousin Erin would be bridesmaids. Kim was director. I regretted not asking her to be my maid of honor. I felt that I had let her down. In all of the craziness with my sister, my mind was scattered and I didn’t do the right thing.

One month before my wedding I called Will. We had talked since I had been home. It was June. He said he was practicing guitar. It would be our last communication for six years.

Out of nowhere, the frenemy called. I told her I was getting married and wished her the best with her life and went on with mine.

IMG_1601.JPGJennifer and my bridesmaids planned a Shreveport shower and bachelorette party. It was a wonderful weekend. My Mammaw Patsy gave me a breadmaker. Friends and family came. My great grandmother was there. She would pass away seven months later. My Aunt Joyce was there. We lost her this year. It was special.

My bachelorette party was held in true Kerry fashion with Mexican food and beloved John Hughes movies for an all night sleepover with brunch at one of the casinos the following morning. I had never been a partier and this was the perfect weekend for me.

IMG_1598.JPGOur rehearsal dinner was fun with fried catfish. It was the 4th of July – it had long been my favorite holiday because it meant fireworks and my birthday would be the week after. You couldn’t beat the 4th of July. There were fireworks just for me.

Our wedding was sweet I was surrounded by my family and friends. All of Scott’s big New Orleans family made the trip up. My dad looked so handsome in his tux. He took my arm to walk me down the aisle and I said “here we go.”

I cried through my vows. Scott meant every word of his.  He had a hard time getting my ring on my trembling finger. It was a marquis diamond with rubies and diamonds on the sides. Ruby was both our birthstone and we were getting married in July, so it wasn’t a question that I would want rubies.

 

IMG_1603.JPGMy mom and Jennifer and I went to the room I’d gotten ready in to help me out of my dress and change into my going away outfit. My Aunt Barbara and Uncle Jerry stopped me in the hallway and told me they wanted me to open their gift before I left. We all went into the “bride’s room” that was really a Sunday school room. My Aunt Barbara gave me a quilt with our names and wedding date embroidered. I cried again. It was so thoughtful and I cherished it. We lost her last year. I changed into my going away outfit, a dress Darla’s mother made for me when I spent a long weekend at their house on the lake. It was the summer of “Mmm Bop” (which is presently my ringtone, because you wanted to know that) and Darla and I must have watched the video a thousand times.

IMG_1604.JPGIn the end, my wedding was mostly a blur, as most weddings are for the bride. Probably even more so for brides that take a Valium prior to the wedding so she didn’t have a panic attack with all the attention focused on her. I tried to put away the disappointment of my sister not attending my wedding, as well as a few important friends. It was over. We were off to the Caribbean.

I had absolutely no idea what I would do as a married woman when I returned.

I was 22 on my wedding day. I would be 23 when returned from our honeymoon.

“I’m fine,” she lied: Part 1 – the battle of who could care less

I was 17.

Over the summer I realized I wouldn’t be graduating with my class. In April I’d had the flu and the chicken pox and missed three weeks of school. All of my classes were incompletes for that semester and there was no way to make up the work I’d missed. I wouldn’t graduate with my friends.

I settled into a new level of depression during my second junior year. I stayed in this kind of depression purgatory I couldn’t escape. In the previous year I learned how to turn the Old Kerry “on” when I needed to. I could turn on the spark that was underneath the depression for moments at a time. Newspaper and art class got the “on” Kerry.

Selling homecoming tickets? ON Kerry

Art piece in the Congressional art competition in which I got to miss school and attend with my art teacher who drove a Mercedes? ON Kerry

Date? Maybe half “ON” Kerry

Volunteering at ArtBreak or the Red River Revel? ON Kerry. A the Revel that year, I was given a box cutter and contemplated suicide for the first time. Each time I opened a box I thought it would only hurt for a minute – I would do it in the bathtub – it would be neat and clean – I could do this – no one cared anyway.

It’s amazing how much you can not care about anything. I was in my own battle of who could care less. Thank you, Ben Folds. And no one knew how much I was struggling daily, hourly, minute-to-minute just to live.

At this time I had two frenemies who were instrumental in beating down my self-esteem. They were the devil and angel on either shoulder, but of course, they were both devils in my case. One would say “oh, you’re too fat for him – you’ve seen his exgirlfriend!” when I mentioned crushing on a particular guy. I was a size 10. Huge, right? Somewhere in that time I started to gain weight and would be a size 16 by my graduation. The other frenemy expected me to be there to pick up the pieces of her failed relationships and issues with her mother. She was truly a horrible person. A pathological liar who slept around, made terrible decisions, and then wanted my advice (which she never took). She would be drinking Robitussin for the alcohol in classes during school by our senior year.

My friends graduated. They were off to college. I was alone. Will went to Arkansas. We would write and call occasionally call (long distance was for real expensive in the 90s), and see each other when he was in for holidays. One of the Jennifers went to Centenary, the other to LSUS and were still in town. But I was alone.

I was 18.

For my birthday, Will and I went to a pet store and he bought me a black and white kitten I would name Figaro. We went to a restaurant called T.S. Station to celebrate my birthday. A restaurant that isn’t there anymore. Like so many other things.

IMG_1439.JPGAgain, I put everything into my writing and art. I wrote an editorial that was extremely critical of our new sex-ed curriculum, “Sex Respect.” There were graphics of a dog that read “pet your dog, not your date.” It was insulting to teenagers attending a Magnet school. Someone from The Shreveport Times got a copy of it and I was summoned to the principal’s office. I had never been to the principal’s office (except in middle school to have my skirts measured by the skirt police). The principal told me that The Times thought my article was impressive and The Powers That Be were deciding to run a monthly “Teen Times” section in the newspaper. I was as happy as I would allow myself to be.

 

 

 

IMG_1440.JPGI started writing for The Times. It turned out they only wanted puff pieces like album and movie reviews, what fads were in, and school profile pieces. Not the editorial hard-hitting stuff I was sold. I was dating a guy, just a guy.  At the same time, my art teacher submitted me for a parish-wide extra curricular art class that would end with our art in a museum showcase. We learned new techniques and I loved it. It was a rare bright spot in a black year. Literally.

For the entire year I only wore black. I don’t remember it being a deliberate decision, but it was all I wore. Only my prom dress was green. On Halloween I dyed my signature red hair black. My red hair – the only thing I loved that made me unique – I turned black. I was practically unrecognizable to myself, but no one seemed to notice. I was imploding and no one knew.

 

IMG_1441.JPGAt some point in my psychology class we were given raw eggs (to represent babies) to decorate and keep in a basket for a week and bring everywhere with us. How could I take care of an egg baby when I couldn’t take care of myself? I felt as delicate as those eggs. Except my outer shell was becoming more fragile.

Graduation came and went. I was accepted to Centenary, Milsaps, and Ole Miss. I decided on Centenary and their $20,000 scholarship. Jennifer and my friend Christi were there, I would room with Carrie. We would have matching comforters. Things seemed to be looking up, but I was still down and only ON when need be. Then it got worse, much worse. The pathological lying frenemy took something I said as a joke and warped and twisted it into something terribly malicious and told Will and his girlfriend. It drove a huge wedge between our friendship. I wanted to die.

It was my birthday. I was 19. I spent that birthday alone. I was alone.

It was Prufrock:

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

I was afraid. I hadn’t the strength to force the moment to its crisis. I was in crisis. I had seen the moment of my greatness flicker with my last newspaper editorial and museum showcase. I was afraid.

At the very end of July, a letter came from Centenary saying my $20,000 scholarship was now a $2000 scholarship with no explanation given. That meant I couldn’t attend my school of choice and it was too late to get accepted anywhere else. Except Louisiana Tech University. I applied there on the very last day of admissions. I got in. It was an enormous disappointment. I was an enormous disappointment. I felt as thought I disappointed anyone left who remotely cared about me. Even the frenemy wasn’t talking to me.

I thought about the box cutter. No one was home. It would be easy – just two cuts – I would hardly feel it and then I would be gone. Gone. I just couldn’t cut myself. I just couldn’t. I opened the family medicine cabinet, then a cabinet in the kitchen where my mother kept medication, then went through my parents’ dresser looking for any type of medication that would harm me. I lined up medications on my vanity – sleeping pills, pain pills, whatever else I found. I got a glass of something from the kitchen and sat on the seat of my vanity. Just take one. I took one. Take another. I took another. Take another, you’ll fall asleep, you won’t feel anything, you’ll be gone. I didn’t want to feel anything. I wanted to be gone. I took another. Take one more. I took one more. The phone rang. I closed my eyes and breathed in. I exhaled. I answered the phone. It was Will. He told me he forgave me for anything I said, that we were friends regardless, that it was forgotten. Suddenly I wasn’t alone. I didn’t take another pill.

I slept and I woke up.

I was 19.

 

“I’m fine,” she lied: Part 1 – where it all began

So, how did you end up in a mental hospital is the question, isn’t it?

I’ll say a few things first. This is MY story, by no means am I speaking as an authority on mental illness, but I am an authority on myself. I’ve lived and struggled with mental illness before I knew what it was.
Before people talked about it. Before friends joked about taking their “crazy pills.” Before practically everyone knew someone with a diagnosis. And long before I was ready to write as raw as I plan to in this series. All my life I’ve used humor to hide my feelings. That’s mainly what my blog has always been: an outlet for me to post about whatever was on my mind — be it a new band, a story from my life, blog challenges, and crafty stuff. For the next couple of weeks or however long it takes me to tell this story, this will be a place to read my story. If it’s not your cup of tea, don’t worry, I’ll be back to posting about bands and silly stuff soon. For those of you who will continue to read, thank you for spending a little time with me.

IMG_1372.JPG

I was 15. I had all of the normal teenage issues – school woes, boy woes, parents that didn’t understand me – all the regular stuff. I had a best friend who became the brother I would pick if you could pick family members. He was wearing an INXS tshirt when we met in Mrs. Mim’s English class the second week of freshman year. I told him I liked his shirt. We always had a musical connection. Will was there for me through all of the good stuff and the bad stuff. He was there on the phone with me until 2am when I was stood up from Homecoming in 1990 by The Most Evil Person in the World. Will was my honorary brother and still is. This was us then.


And then I was 16 when a Very Bad Horrible Thing happened and I was never quite the same. I came home and called Will.

Maybe I’ll write about that one day, but today is not that day.

I had insomnia, my grades were beyond pathetic, I felt this vast nothingness inside. I was depressed. I stayed up journaling and watching 120 Minutes on MTV. I got through each day at school, writing notes to friends and zoning out in class. Except for journalism and art. I poured everything I had into the school newspaper and my art class. Other than writing, art, and music, I had turned off all emotion. I remember writing my name on the front of an algebra test, turning it over and writing the lyrics to “The Killing Moon” by Echo and the Bunnymen on the back of my test. My teacher called me up to her desk after class and asked if everything was alright. It was probably the first time I lied and said “I’m fine.”

My report card would come home and I’d change Ds to Bs before giving it to my parents and I got away with that until now, I suppose. Sorry, Mom and Dad. I didn’t care about anything. I dressed up for school each day and put a lot of emphasis on my outfits and accessories. Nothing shook me anymore. Nothing really phased me. I was just going through the motions of life.

I had good friends who kept me going. I had Will and the two Jennifers. Will and I would discuss the things of the day and crushes we had. He always lent me his jean jacket when I was cold. We would go out and eat Chinese food. I had fun with him. I had fun with the Jennifers and other friends. Depression doesn’t suck out your ability to have a good time, you are capable of it, but it’s always there as a shadow waiting. It’s always there when you go home alone and journal your good time, then buts in and says, “yeah, it was fun, but what about now? What about tomorrow?” You tell depression to leave you alone, but that is exactly what it wants – for you to be alone with it.

I had boyfriends. I dated. I never felt what love was supposed to feel like with any of my boyfriends. I was either with or on the phone with Will or the Jennifers practically every moment outside of school when I wasn’t asleep (or trying to sleep) or out babysitting. I wrote. And I wrote. Writing was the only thing that could save me.

I was 16.