Still the Best Mom in the World

Inspired by Mama Kat’s Writers’ Workshop.

Writer's Workshop

1. Throwback Thursday: Choose a photo from a previous May and write a poem or a blog post.

When I found this post from May of 2013 I was really glad I saw it because I need to be reminded.

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It’s part of Tyler’s Mother’s Day card from when he was in kindergarten. I was suffering from depression (as I am now) and feeling guilty because I wasn’t able to play with him or take him places as much as I liked. A lot of mothers feel guilty if they can’t spend quality time with their children, but when you are a chronically ill mother, the guilt is tenfold.

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The card says:“Dear Mom, Thank you for taking me to the park. You are a peacemaker. Love, Tyler”.

I was stunned. I was so upset that I thought I wasn’t taking my son to the park enough and that was the thing he remembered the best.

It made me realize, maybe I wasn’t such a failure as a mom after all. That Tyler loved me for who I am and that what I could give him was enough for him.

With summer vacation two weeks away I will try to be confident that my best is good enough for my son who loves me unconditionally, despite my disabilities.

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May is Maternal Health Awareness Month

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Since May is Maternal Health Awareness Month I thought I would write about my postpartum experiences.

The symptoms of postpartum depression are fairly well known: A feeling of not bonding to your baby, wondering whether your baby would be better off without you, and crying for no reason.

This was not my experience and I think mine is something you still don’t hear enough about. I worried about everything. If my baby’s pediatrician appointment was a week from now I worried about how I was going to make it there. I’d wake up in the morning with my heart racing and my first thoughts were “What’s for dinner?” or “How am I going to handle dinner?” I had twelve bottles for my baby and I washed them constantly, scared to death I would run out of clean bottles.

When I had my sixth week check-up, the nurse screened me for postpartum depression, but I wasn’t depressed, I just kept thinking these thoughts.

I saw my family doctor who chalked it up to being a new mother. I went back to my life with my son with these racing thoughts that bordered on torturous.

Eventually I alone decided that this WAS NOT the product of being a new mother and I sought help from a therapist.

I learned that besides postpartum depression a woman could also develop postpartum anxiety or even postpartum OCD. According to Dr. Jonathan Abramowitz, “We call postpartum anxiety the hidden disorder because so few moms recognize it and it often goes undiagnosed.” In fact, postpartum anxiety is more common than postpartum depression and the two can often overlap.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of postpartum anxiety, depression or OCD, and need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

If you are looking for pregnancy or postpartum support and local resources, please call the Postpartum Support International Warmline (English & Spanish) at 1-800-944-4PPD (4773),
or email PSI at support@postpartum.net.

Postpartum disorders are treatable but sometimes it takes a mother alone to recognize that she needs help.

This is a blog hop! To see other posts about maternal mental health, click here.

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A Different Career Path

Inspired by Mama Kat’s Writing Prompts

Prompt #3. You HAVE to go back in time and choose a different career path for yourself. What do you choose?

Writer's Workshop

For as long as I could remember, my father always wanted me to be a teacher or a nurse. He reasoned that the money was decent and that there will never be a shortage of opportunities. Nursing grossed me out and I didn’t want to teach.

Instead in college I majored in Communications and became an on-air personality/voiceover artist for eight years.

When radio wasn’t fun for me any more I answered an ad citing, “Recruiter wanted, no experience necessary.” (This was in the time when the economy was good!) I became a Recruiter for the pharmaceutical industry and I did that for eight years before I became too sick to work any more.

The thing about being on the air and recruiting was that I never got a satisfaction that what I did mattered. Even though I placed many people in positions, they rarely thanked me.

If I had to do it all over again, maybe I would have become a teacher to make a difference in a child’s life. Or else work for a not-for-profit organization. I find myself envious of people in these types of positions.

What career would you choose if you had to do it all over again?

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My Blogiversary

May marks the sixth year I have been blogging at Mama Sick. This year I am finding the challenges of mental illness difficult to deal with.

Due to being depressed, I have had long occasions in which I did not post on my blog. I lost a lot of readers and advertising. I am angry and frustrated with my illness and wonder what this blog could have been had I not become very sick.

When I felt healthy and balanced and even when I was hypomanic, I was full of ideas for blog posts. Now I struggle to publish once a week and the writing has become more difficult.

Still, I will continue along, hoping things will get better, because I do love my blog and spreading it’s message. I will continue writing about chronic illnesses, seeking to erase the stigma of mental illness and writing about what being a disabled mom is like.

It doesn’t take much when someone gets ill to lose everything. When I got sick I was making a good living. When I was no longer able to work, I was forced to spend my savings and max out my credit cards. I want people to know that this could happen to anyone, and if you have your health you should thank God for it.

I also want healthy people to know that just because you look well doesn’t mean you feel well.

I want to thank my devoted readers for sticking with Mama Sick and I hope you will like my
Face Book page and share my posts with others who may need it. And not just for those who have chronic illnesses, but for those who are healthy and have never had a life-threatening, chronic illness.

Here’s to a hopefully better year.

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Trap, Neuter, Release!

I am very excited to tell you about a project Jacques and I have been doing. There are a number of stray cats in our neighborhood so we decided to do a Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) program that’s been very effective. You can learn more about it at Alley Cat Allies but it’s pretty simple to do.

I bought a humane trap for cats off of ebay and we put food in it at night to attract the cat. We’re not always successful at trapping cats, last week we trapped a raccoon! When we get a cat we take it to the Cleveland Animal Protective League where they will spay or neuter, give a rabies vaccine and ear tip the cat for ten dollars. The ear tipping is to show people that these feral cats have already been spayed or neutered.

So far we have trapped eight cats, two who were pregnant and one female who was in heat. After we do the TNR we feed them with the idea that the cat will live out it’s life without reproducing. Some we never see again but some hang out on our porch and some are friendly. I wish I could take them all in but my place is just too small.

TNR has become the best solution for the feral cat colonies throughout the world. Simply taking them and putting them to death does not work because new cats then will join the colony.

I feel good that I am doing something to help my neighborhood cats, and like I said, it is very easy to do. If you have a colony of feral cats hanging around or that your are feeding you may want to try it!

This is Otto, coming out of the cage after his recovery from surgery.

This is Otto, coming out of the cage after his recovery from surgery.

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Telling Tyler My Truth

I’ve hidden my mental illnesses from Tyler because he simply hasn’t been old enough to handle them. But yesterday when he teased me again about always wearing pajamas, I felt the time was right to tell him about my depression.

I described depression as feeling sad and that sometimes there wasn’t any reason why I felt sad, I just did. He said, “Just think happy thoughts”, and I told him that sometimes that didn’t work. I emphasized that my depression was not his fault and that he was not responsible for my happiness or my sadness.

After talking, Tyler asked if he could come and sit by me and hug me. We wrapped our arms around each other. “Let’s just stay like this”, he said. And we did for a long time.

I hope I did the right thing telling Tyler about my depression. I know it will be a long time before I tell him about my bipolar disorder and my mania.

And I pray he will never know the pain, sadness, and exhaustion of depression.

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In a HEAP of Trouble

Last November I applied for Ohio’s HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program). I called three weeks or so later to find out the status but was told it could take up to 12 weeks to hear back! That made it February. When I called them they told me they did not have an application for me, that I wasn’t in their system! All of the documents they called for that I worked so hard on getting were somehow lost…where? In their system? In the mail?

They suggested I make an in-person appointment as those applications are seen more quickly. I had my appointment with a counselor who said I probably had too much income to qualify. Tyler collects Social Security because of my disability and I said that his father took money from the account too, but she said it was based on income flowing in. She wanted to see what I paid for in insurance premiums for Tyler’s health and dental insurance. After hours spent on the phone trying to get from the insurance companies what I wanted, I went back with the information needed to complete my application.

I heard back quickly, I was not qualified because I made too much money. If you take out what I pay for in doctor’s visits and in medications I would have qualified but they don’t take out for that.

I was really upset. Jacques said I shouldn’t be upset because I never had the program in the first place, and he also said he would help out if needed and Grant wouldn’t let Tyler and I freeze.

The whole thing threw me for a loop depression-wise and I had a bad couple of days. Like so many people who get turned down for food stamps or SNAP (Supplementary Nutritional Assistant Program), I feel like I have fallen through the cracks. I worry the whole month until I get my disability money direct deposited on the 3rd of every month. I almost feel like it would be better to have a little less income in order to qualify for these types of programs.

Thankfully, there is not much cause for heat this time of the year.

I’ll try to save a little money by going to the food bank and for meals at various churches. Tyler gets free lunch from school so that does help out.

Have you ever felt like you have fallen through the cracks?

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Getting a Break and Other Stuff

I’m not sure if it’s the longer days, adding another medicine or making a change in my diet, but my depression is improving! The first day I felt better I cleaned my bathroom and I cleaned the cat box. I finally put away the clean laundry. I am showering and getting out more and I am sleeping less. My next goal is to clear the kitchen table so we can actually eat on it! I am still depressed, I wouldn’t call myself “normal” or as I like to call it balanced, but it a definite improvement!

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Tyler is making his First Holy Communion in May and on Sunday it was “Jesus Day” from 9:30 to 2:00 where the kids attend a mass and then do an activity. Parents, relatives and Godparents are supposed to share by letters their First Communion memories, but all of my relatives are back east and Tyler doesn’t even remember them or his Godparents. Jacques is Catholic but he doesn’t remember his first communion, and the only thing I remember about it was loving my pretty white dress and excited to finally taste the communion wafers!

I had a hard time getting Tyler to go to Jesus Day. There are many things about the church that scare him including the big Jesus on the cross over the altar and the pictures in the stained glass windows. I tried to tell him that Jesus loves him and would never hurt him. I’m kind of out of ideas to relieve his anxiousness about the church and am open to suggestions!

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One day a month Jacques and I eat a meal at our local Presbyterian church. We also eat a meal every Wednesday at the Methodist church to save us a little bit of money. I am always worried that we will never have enough. My SSDI/disability gets us by but we have little in the way of savings. At the Presbyterian church as I parked my car I saw a mother and her two children parking their bicycles. What did they do during the winter? Did they need to skip meals? I was struck by how grateful to God I was and how I take what I DO have for granted. I own my car and home and we never go hungry. I need to trust that when I need money I will have it.

Hope you all are as well as can be!

Emily

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Isolation

I moved to Ohio almost two and a half years ago and have yet to find a girlfriend. I have Jacques to love and support me and even Grant but I miss getting together with my girlfriends. My three best friends are out of state. I consider the people I meet online friends, some of them I’ve talked to on the phone and even some who have lent me money, but I long for a friend whom I could go out and get coffee with. I’ve tried to make friends with some of Tyler’s friends’ mothers but that hasn’t seemed to work out, in fact they never ask us for a play date again and I blame myself that I’ve done or said something wrong

Of course a large part of this is due to being depressed and mentally ill. It’s hard to put myself out there. I have a perception of myself that people can tell I am mentally ill, that they can see it in my appearance or my clothes, and I am also ashamed and unconfident because of my weight.

If I were to find a friend, do I tell her about my mental illness? What do I tell her when she asks what do I do for work?

There is a part of me that says I don’t need any friends, that I should just concentrate on being the best mom I can be to Tyler and it doesn’t matter if I have girlfriends. That I should be more concerned about whether or not he has friends, that my good times are over.

It’s possible I can meet friends through my church but mentally I cannot get it together to go to church and I would suppose these women are regular church goers.

Do you find yourself isolated by your illness?

Do you have any ideas on how I could make friends?

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On Track?

This post is inspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.

Writer's Workshop

Prompt #3 Update your readers on your 2015 goals. How are things going? Are you staying on track or facing some challenges?

I wrote my New Year’s Resolutions on December 31st. Let’s see how I’m doing.

1. Exercise/Lose Weight: Unfortunately, not much happening here. I’ve been dieting by having smaller portions and cutting sugar from my diet but my weight seems to be unchanged. I haven’t been able to go to the gym. I think part of it is that I am embarrassed that I might be the heaviest person there. But the weather’s getting better and I think I am going to like walking. My son Tyler has low muscle tone and his therapist said walking will make him stronger, so it’s a nice thing we could do together. My boyfriend, Jacques, is also on board with walking.

2. Better Mental Health: I am finally getting a break in my long-term depression! Suddenly I’m caring about how the house looks, showering every day and opening my mail every day. (That’s a big deal for some mentally ill people.)

3. Declare Bankruptcy or Debt Consolidation: Grant and I saw a lawyer earlier this week about declaring bankruptcy. My husband, whom I am separated from, and I both suffered catastrophic illnesses a few years back. While awaiting our disability we were forced to live off our credit cards and blow through our savings. The lawyer told us that my 2010 car was still worth enough for creditors to take so he suggested waiting a year to declare bankruptcy, when my car will further depreciate. That’s another year of mail and daily calls from creditors I guess I will just have to deal with.

4. Get a Divorce or Dissolution: The lawyer recommended we stay married so we don’t pay double the bankruptcy fees so that’s something I can’t cross off this year. Luckily Grant and I are amicable so it’s not that much of a big deal.

So that’s how I’m doing, how are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions or goals?

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