Mental Health Day

Yesterday I took a mental health day. I don’t take too many of these since I need to save my leave as much as possible. (You never know when your child is going to get sick!) However, by midday on Sunday I knew I needed some time to myself. I experienced more fits/seizures and mood disturbances over the weekend. One big contributor was the state of our house. It had been neglected for some time, because, well, you know, life… it just happens. It was as if the clutter was assaulting my senses. It compounded my feelings of being overwhelmed and overstimulated. Instead of my home feeling like a place of relaxation and restoration it was making my mood disturbances worse. And it wasn’t just affecting me. It was making Hubs and Baby Boy feel bad, too. We were all just so cranky from it all…

So off to work went Hubs, and off to daycare went Baby Boy. I didn’t let my mama guilt get me on this. If I had gone to work he would have been in daycare anyway. Plus, I can’t seem to ever get any cleaning done with him in tow, and this was as much for him as it was for me. I spent the day cleaning. I started at one end of the house and worked my way to the other end. I even finished all the laundry! I know it seems counter intuitive that cleaning would be good for the mind. No, I don’t enjoy cleaning, especially extended bouts of cleaning, but I needed everything cleared out so that I could be at peace in my own home. (And it worked! When Hubs came home he said it felt like coming home to a new house.) The day at home cleaning also meant I spent a day to just myself, with only my thoughts and my favorite tunes to keep me company. I didn’t have anyone tugging on me or asking me for anything. It was so nice to just be responsible for myself for a little while.

In the afternoon, I went to therapy. I needed it. I was on the verge of tears for probably half my session. We talked about all the things bothering me – the daily struggle to maintain without my meds, pregnancy (both with Baby Boy and my hope for another child), my guilt over my moods affecting Baby Boy, my weight and difficulty with my wardrobe not fitting, my bookkeeping coursework and the feelings of self-doubt with such dense material, the dramas at work, and the sudden lack of time to just hang out with Hubs, to exercise, to get enough sleep or to journal. I fully acknowledged, though, that I’m not as bad off as I was in the fall. It is spring/summer after all. If it was cold and dark out, I would be worse. She validated all of my feelings on these issues but reassured me I’m handling these issues better than I have in the past and that I will get through this.

And today, I went back at work, and am feeling more level headed. A day invested in my mental well being paid off.

Seizures

One thing I haven’t talked about yet is my seizures because they’ve been under control  and I only have one or two a month now. For much of 2017 the seizures were more like panic attacks and I had hope that they wouldn’t be an issue anymore. I have something called PNES – Psychogenic Non Epileptic Seizures. My psychiatrist tells me it’s a conversion disorder; that my brain converts stress and internal conflict into seizures. When they started last summer I was taken to the ER twice in an ambulance and for one of those visits they kept me in the Neuro unit for three days. When they did the video EEG they found out that the seizures weren’t due to a wiring problem in my brain, like in Epilepsy. So the neurologist said it was probably due to postpartum depression and referred me out to a psychiatrist.

At the time I was having several day and it was very distressing to both me and my husband. We were at a loss at what to do and were very worried the impact this would have on our son and the life we have built together. I was so relieved to learn that this is a condition that is supposed to get better with time and therapy. And it did get better. As I said I’m down from several a day to one or two a month.

Last night though I had them on and off for about two hours. Instead of being panic attack like, these were full on flailing and eyes rolling back into my head seizures. They left me feeling weak and exhausted. It meant I had to rely heavily on Hubs since I needed help getting through them and I was unable to care for Baby Boy. I was so grateful Hubs is more than capable of handling dinner for our son. After he was fed Hubs suggested I participate in bedtime routine; that being involved might help get my mind off the seizures. He was right. I needed that family time. Hubs of course stayed with me as I changed Baby Boy into his nighttime diaper and pajamas, but we more or less were able to keep things consistent for the baby. We kept to our tradition and both read him a story.

Once Baby Boy was in bed though, Hubs said it was straight to bed for me. No laundry, no house cleaning, and no homework. He was absolutely right that it was more important that I take care of myself and get a solid night’s rest. We’ve learned that exhaustion makes these seizures worse. I’ve also learned that when I have these, it’s a big clue that I need to do some introspection and get a handle on my stress.

Hubs suggested that maybe coming off my meds played a part in last nights fits. (At home we call these fits since seizures don’t always feel like the right word for this.) It makes sense that if I’m not getting the medications I need to keep an even keel, then my stress levels will go up and I’ll be less equipped to handle them effectively. Related to coming off my meds, I think that planning for pregnancy is playing a part. It’s not from fear of having a baby, but more that (1) I worry about being unmedicated and therefore mood disturbances will occur and affect our home life, and (2) that if I end up needing to take them to control my moods there’s a chance of them causing birth defects and health issues for our baby. I’m also currently trying to complete an online bookkeeping course through our local community college in order to start my own business that will allow me to work from home as our family grows. (I already do a form of bookkeeping in my current job and it’s one of my favorite parts of it, but if I want to be a professional bookkeeper with my own business I need the appropriate training.) Even though I have another five months to complete the course my goal is to complete it by the time I am able to get pregnant so that’s extra stress in my life.

I’m very lucky, though. I have a supportive husband who helps me through both the seizures and the bipolar. I am also still able to drive and work. These fits are highly inconvenient (and definitely embarrassing) and temporarily prevent me from fulfilling me duties at home (and sometimes at work). But knowing that if I keep doing what I’m supposed to do (stay in therapy, continue to work on developing better coping skills, etc) helps me keep things in perspective and remember that this will pass with time.

A Cardigan and the Resulting Mood Disturbance

I fear that the effects of coming off my medications in preparation for pregnancy have started to manifest themselves. If I’m honest, the truth is that I haven’t really been doing the things I’m supposed to do to keep myself mentally healthy. I felt so much like my old self all my new ways of coping with stress and the structuring my days didn’t seem to be needed.

I was wrong.

The catalyst was a stupid cardigan. Since I’m a larger size than I used to be I’m having daily struggles to find something to wear to work. (This is mainly because I refuse to buy another larger size. I vow I will NOT stay this size.) I had an outfit in mind because I knew the pants would fit, but I couldn’t find the cardigan that went with it and it set me off. I spiraled. I’ll spare you the inner dialogue that had me screaming and crying but everything went from a missing cardigan to “I’m so fat and ugly” to “Life is so overwhelming, nothing ever goes right, I fucking hate everything.”  All the while, Hubs is trying to reign me in. He’s telling me how weight is a fixable problem and that I need to get myself to work and not let this instance ruin a whole day.

If you know me, mornings just aren’t my thing. Never have been, and I doubt they ever will be. Needless to say the cardigan went missing when I was already running behind. To top it off Baby Boy could feel my anxiety and it made him anxious in turn. He got clingy and needed extra holding. It’s for him that I feel the worst. He witnessed yet again in his short little lifespan his mother losing control. He even tried to comfort me by gently rubbing my face and arm while I held him. Obviously he had no idea what was wrong but he knew something was wrong with his mommy and it was upsetting him. By the time we eventually made it to daycare he was quiet and sullen. He clung to my neck when I took him in. The daycare lady asked me if he had a good morning, at which I couldn’t hold my tears in and said “No, we’ve all had a very rough morning.”

I didn’t want to, but I pried myself away from Baby Boy and went to work, practically crying the whole way. I legitimately felt that today would be have been a good day for a mental health day since I was stressed to the max before even leaving the house. I was a half hour late when I made it in. I really was in no mood to talk to anyone, but as soon as I got in people were knocking on my door. Then my assistant got sick and had to go home, so the option of leaving early after meeting deadlines was no longer available. Finally before lunch I made it down to see my very good friend on the first floor. (For now on I’ll just refer to her as Care Bear.) She knew right away that I was upset and let me cry in her office and tell her about my morning and how terrible I felt as a mother. As we were talking our dean came in and saw me crying, a side of me he’s never seen. Instead of letting me feel embarrassed, he laid on the encouragement. He doesn’t know anything about my mood disorder but he made a point of enthusiastically telling me that I’m a good mother and an outstanding colleague at work.  So between the dean and Care Bear I got a thorough pep talk and genuinely felt better.

No one may notice from the outside that I struggled with my moods today. I’m grateful the storm has passed, but I’m left with a sense of deep shame. I’m not ashamed that I had a hard morning and or that after 18 months I still haven’t figured out how to get in a good routine with my son. What shames me is that I let my mood negatively affect my family, especially my son. I feel like I took away his right to peace in our home. He shouldn’t be the one to comfort me in times of distress. I should be the one comforting him.