Category Archives: depression

“A Year of Love”

“A Year of Love”

Something I wrote recently about my New Year’s resolution for 2014 was published over at Home & School Mosaics Blog today. Here’s some of it:

“How would you feel if Evelyn felt the same way about herself as you do about yourself?”

I had an interesting conversation with my husband the other night, in which he posed that question to me. For those of you who know me relatively well, I don’t try to hide the fact that I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for long periods of time.

One of the big side effects of my issue is that I put myself down. A lot. So often that I don’t have to TRY to slip in something negative about myself. It comes naturally to me to beat myself up mentally. It’s almost as if I am afraid my pride will get out of control if I don’t give myself a daily deluge of mental criticism and put myself in my place.

The night that this conversation took place, my husband, our 18-month-old daughter Evelyn, and I were hanging up Christmas ornaments on the tree. The majority of our ornaments are special to us – dated ornaments from each year we’ve been married, or gifts we’ve been given through the years, etc. A favorite is from when we went to Disneyland on our honeymoon. (YES, that is absolutely what I wanted, and my sweet hubby delivered, even though we were still poor college students!) While there, we got a picture of our faces pressed together with big smiles etched into a flat glass cutout of Mickey Mouse’s head.Family2013

For more, please continue reading HERE!

What are some of your new year’s resolutions?

Advice to New Moms from Another New Mom

Advice to New Moms from Another New Mom

If you have investigated the parenting world at all, no doubt you’ve come across the lists and articles. You know, the ones that say, “10 Baby Sleep Habits to Avoid! I did this with my child and they sleep great!”

Or whatever.

Anyways, whenever I see those, I am compelled to click on them, even though part of me knows that this sort of advice is going to in some form or another bother me. Why? Because there is no “One Size Fits All!” way to parenting. I’ve been at this for just over 7 months now, and I can say that with certainty.

Example: Evie is just now KIND OF getting a schedule down for naps and bedtime. We usually have about three naps a day, and the middle nap is usually her longer one. Then we usually can get her into bed sometime between 8:00-9:00 PM and expect her to be awake by 7:30-8:00 the next morning.

Yesterday, she decided she didn’t want to have any naps, fought every time I tried to put her down, and maybe managed about an hour’s worth of sleep between 7:45 AM- and 9:00 PM despite my best efforts. It just worked out that way because she was having that sort of day.

One of the things that bothered me the most when Evelyn was first born was when others would say, “You can set a clock by my child’s feeding schedule!” or “I set my child up on a feeding and sleeping schedule from day 1, and you should try it, too!” Why?

Well, Evelyn was born small, despite my best attempts at having a healthy pregnancy. The hospital was constantly worried about her blood sugar and gave her many of the same tests they would do for a premie, even though she was born at 38 weeks, 6 days. (Labor story on why that was can be found here.) She had to eat often- and even though we wanted to exclusively breastfeed, the hospital force-fed her extra formula through a SNS tube and occasional bottles. (By the way, she never suffered nipple confusion because of use of a bottle and pacifier in the early days. She now knows what a bottle and pacifier are and wants nothing to do with either of them.) Then she also had GERD/acid reflux.

A feeding schedule and sleep schedule were out the window with these issues. I read several books, articles, you name it, but she didn’t consistently sleep long stretches through the night until almost 6 months. She sometimes still will go 3-4 hours without wanting to eat and then eat hourly. She is just that way. And I am learning to love her all the more for it. She keeps me on my toes.

All those comments about “Well, my baby did…” were like a slap in the face to me. Even though I knew it was well-meaning in most cases, I felt as if those people were insinuating that I was not as good as them, that I was doing something wrong, because my child did not fit into the same sized box as theirs.

(It didn’t help that those postpartum hormones are killer. Factor in that I was averaging between 1-3 hours of sleep per 24 hour period, and my postpartum depression, saying that your child was so great was probably one of the LEAST helpful things you could say to me. THINK, people, before spouting out how great something worked for you to new moms!)

So, here’s the food for thought I’d like to leave you all with for now.

  1. Trust your intuition for your child. Parenting is not “One Size Fits All”. One recent study says that letting a child over 6 months cry it out is just fine and that there was no measurable emotional or physical differences in children 5 years later (in who did and didn’t “cry it out”). Then another study says it might not be so fine. Do what you can tolerate. I was comforted when my pediatrician told me that you have to balance your mental health into the equation with the baby’s needs, too.
  2. Don’t do this alone. I felt like since I was now officially a Stay At Home Mom, I had to primarily bear the burden of late nights. When Evelyn had been crying for 4 hours straight, and it was 2:00 am, I was desperate and felt alone and hopeless. Jared could tell my frustration level was peaking, and even though I usually fought him on it, he would take Evie from me and make me lie down. Those 30-60 minute breaks, even if I didn’t sleep, helped me regain some sanity. I am so grateful to have a wonderful partner. Plus, it took two to tango our way into this mess… Sometimes you need to take two to tango back out. 😉 (Also, I am horrible at asking for help, and I feel uncomfortable taking others up on their offers, but if you force your help on me, usually I will eventually accept it. Don’t be like me: Accept the help when offered!)
  3. Just because somebody else had it harder, doesn’t mean that right now, this isn’t hard for you. There are cases of babies being a breeze, and then there are babies and parents having to deal with much worse trials than we have had to face. Their suffering doesn’t devalue your own. So, going back to #2, let others help you if you need it. It doesn’t mean you are weak.
  4. SLEEP WHEN YOU CAN! Seriously. The dirty dishes, laundry, vacuuming; it all can wait. Sleep when the baby sleeps. You can only do so much when you are sleep deprived. Even better yet, use all those visitors to do something for you. If they stay longer than 10 minutes, they should bring a meal for you all, or vacuum a room for you. Don’t feel guilty about it. It’s rude for them to expect you to be a host when you have a newborn in the house. Anyone who’s had a kid understands, promise.
  5. It gets better. So, so, so much better. I remember during week 2, when everyone said, “It gets better around 2-3 months!” I turned to Jared and said, “I don’t even know if I will make it that far.” But I did. And it did get better. I am so grateful I get to stay home with my sweet daughter and watch her change day by day. Looking back now, some of the the things that happened seem funny. Ironic, even. Of course, it is easier to see the humor on a few extra hours of sleep, too…

Sorry for the long-winded post, but this sort of thing has been irking me for some time and I had to say something about it. New mothers- unite! We need to support each other, not boss each other around because what worked for one person doesn’t work for another. There is so much joy to be found in this new adventure as a mother to be bogged down by feeling like we aren’t doing things right.

September blues

September blues

Fall colors are usually warm colors- reds, oranges, yellows, and even browns, but this isn’t the case for everyone.

I’ve been struggling a lot this month. Not for any one reason. Many times, we’re quick to blame it on the baby. However, Evelyn is doing better every day. (She slept for SEVEN HOURS STRAIGHT last night, y’all. I got up and checked her breathing several times AND took her temperature this morning to make sure she was okay. I might do it again when she wakes up from this TWO HOUR nap she’s in the middle of. (And yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition. Check the rules; it’s actually okay to do.))

Back to my post.

I’ve touched on the fact I have depression on occasion here, and it goes up and down. It probably wouldn’t be a surprise to a few of you to know that I’ve been dealing with some postpartum depression since Evelyn was born. The first week, fueled on adrenaline, I was just so happy she was here. I couldn’t stop smiling. I thought maybe, just maybe, I would get lucky and not have the “baby blues”.

Then, as week #2 hit and Evelyn decided to start her 4-5 hour fits of screaming through  the night, it all came crashing down on me.  I would never, ever dream of doing anything to my daughter, even in the middle of one of her horrible fits, but I did not extend the same courtesy to myself. To put it simply, it was awful.

I muddled through it until around week 6 or so, when I had my postpartum appointment. I probably should have called sooner, but part of me kept hoping it would just go away. But of course, it didn’t. After taking a very obvious survey (With questions like, “I feel hopeless: 4-Always 3-Often 2-Occasionally 1-Never”… Then add up your “points” at the end, as if depression is your prize for the high scores! Go team!), my doctor and I took action to battle back the depression.

This also came around the same time we were able to positively diagnose Evie with acid reflux (hence the near-constant crying), and get her needed medicine, too. The end result- both Mom and baby were happier campers.

The past week or two, things have been going down a little more again. Evelyn has good days and bad days, but really, it’s more me than her.

Enter I love this blog. Besides having a particular brand of humor I find both refreshing and irreverent, I have really identified with her because of her struggle with depression. There’s such a stigma associated with having depression, or any sort of “mental illness”, in our society, that we often ignore the problem or feel incredibly alone because we are all reluctant to share our experiences for fear of judgement. Despite the criticism, Heather of Dooce shares anyway. In reading her blog today, I came across this post, “Remember it tomorrow morning” I wanted to share because of the helpful reminder to me.

Basically, more people end up depressed and/or commit suicide in the months of September and March. Blame it on the rapidly changing light from the sun jumbling up our already messed up brain circuits. So, if you are feeling down, and you can’t quite put your finger on it, it could be this.

Sometimes just knowing is the difference between going crazy, or having a problem and being able to put together a game plan to get it under control.

Some weeks just stink…

Some weeks just stink…

And this week is one stinky week.

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about my depression and anxiety issues, but it really has been a daily battle this year. I made some very specific decisions about not staying on medication. That started around the 2010-2011 school year. Things were going well in life and I felt like I had reached a place where I didn’t need it. I was still enjoying teaching, and I knew Jared and I were wanting to start a family, too.

Unfortunately, by April 2011, things were unraveling with teaching due to the potential budget cuts from the state, and soon the work place morale was extremely low. Starting the 2011-2012 school year was miserable for several reasons, many you know of from previous posts, and many that I couldn’t talk about on a blog. It would have been a perfect time for me to restart medication, but Jared and I didn’t want to postpone our family any longer, and I remained off them. Once we did find out that we had been successful in starting our family, it was that much more important to me to make sure that I was as healthy and un-medicated as possible for my unborn child. Naturally, pregnancy hormones and symptoms didn’t exactly help with a stable frame of mind.

With all that being said, there have been several days and weeks this year that have threatened to crush me, and I try not to focus too much on them. But this week has definitely made a run for the stinkiest.

1. I left a job that I thought I would be doing for several more years. Yes, it was my choice to leave, and several people there wanted me to stay, but I know it was the right choice for me at the time. However, knowing that it’s the right choice doesn’t make it any easier walking away. I suspect I will have more twinges of sadness near the end of August when I know everyone’s heading back to school, and I won’t be there.

2. My energy level is terrible… All I want to do is sleep or sit on the couch!

3. Baby Boothe preparations are not going as well as I hoped. I wanted her room to be ready by now; painted, crib set up, clothing arranged. And we still have many essentials that we need to get in order. (Shout out to my mom for some of the “big” purchases that you’ve done to help us out!) But I think that “nesting” urge is kicking in and I desperately want things to be perfect for when Baby gets here. I told Jared that if the room’s not painted by this weekend, we aren’t going to worry about it.

4. My house is a mess. Boxes from school things I had to move home over the last weekend have taken over our living room, and they’re too heavy for me to lift (especially according to Jared). Our dining room has baby stuff all up in there. It’s just so messy! That “nesting” instinct must be kicking in…

5. Stevie’s Wednesday accident. ‘Nuff said about that trauma.

6. Stevie’s stitches started coming apart Friday (DESPITE his cone-of-shame wearing). Our regular vet wouldn’t look at them, so we had to go back to the EC vet. Fortunately, they fixed him up for free since the stitches shouldn’t be coming undone yet. Unfortunately, some of them had to be completely taken out and staples put in (making him look like Dog of Frankenstein even more!). They also had to put glue on the remaining stitches to help them hold… and got glue on what’s left of his fur, too.

(Despite the hodge-podge of stitches and staples, the wound does look less inflamed! It helps when he wears his cone of shame…)

Those are just some of the bigger things that are going on right now. There’s been several little things that have just overwhelmed me this week, too, but it would sound too whiny. Plus, it’s not good to focus on all the negative. I just needed to blow off some steam from the stinky week, and purge this all from my system to move on to next week.

So, here’s to next week, and hoping that it will be much, much better than this past one!

Running, not walking, away from teaching

Running, not walking, away from teaching

When people hear that I am leaving teaching, they automatically assume it’s because I want to be a stay at home mother.

Ironically, one of the biggest reasons I considered teaching as a career was because I thought it would allow me to still work, but have more time with my family, whenever that would happen. An honest confession for you all: growing up, I never really had the desire to be a “stay at home mom”.

Don’t get me wrong, here. The prospect of staying home with little Baby Boothe, at least for now, is more exciting than I ever dreamed it could be. But, I think that there was some serious divine intervention in my life that she is coming at this time, because knowing that she would be here this summer helped make the decision to leave teaching more obvious and clear-cut.

But the true reason I’m leaving the teaching profession:

I have to leave for myself, because the system is broken.

I first wanted to be a teacher when I was in high school. I had a few teachers in particular that were truly inspirational to me, and I saw how they loved their work and their students. They were truly mentors to me, and I wish they all knew it now. In college, the decision became more clear and obvious, and I realized it was more than just a job to me; it was a calling.

I am crying a little as I type this, because there was a point in my life that I thought I would never want to do anything but be a teacher.

I loved teaching. I loved watching my students “get it”. I loved (most of) my students. I loved sharing beautiful poetry, tense short stories, and exciting novels with my kids. I loved getting to know my students and watch them grow throughout the year as better readers and writers. I especially loved this time of year where we would have conversations about what they learned about writing, and they would proudly pull out their favorite project of the year and excitedly explain to me what they learned by doing it. I loved how students would declare at the beginning of the year, “I hate reading. I never like the novels we read in class.” And before they knew it, these same students were begging to read the next chapter of The Outsiders, or they had finished The Hunger Games early and asked if it was okay to start Catching Fire on their own. (Picture me rubbing my hands together here and giving a little evil laugh). I even loved most of those crazy things they would say and do that would make me laugh out loud when I retold the stories to Jared that evening.

This year, those things I loved so much were almost completely gone.

The government and state have shown how much they value education, which is precious little. That meant that time with students went down, while number of students and classes went drastically up. I went from teaching roughly 70 students to 120 students.  90 minutes daily with these kids went down to 50. And state testing standards/expectations just got more ridiculous.

First of all, trying to give meaningful, constructive comments and criticism on 70 papers takes time. When you nearly double that number, the hours of grading go up dramatically. As any good writing teacher knows, there’s not a shortcut or mnemonic device to help you be a good writer. It a process. It takes multiple drafts, revision, editing. It takes time and effort.

I know that it’s nothing new for a lot of teachers out there. Many have dealt with shorter times and lots of students for years. But those 90 minutes were absolutely beautiful and precious to me. My district was DOING IT RIGHT, investing in their students’ future by giving them valuable extra time for math, reading, and writing.

For many of my lower students, that was the difference between feeling like they could be writers and readers, or shutting down completely. We could conference one on one, discuss particular things that they enjoyed or were worried about in their writing. I could ask them what book they were reading, would they recommend it, why, and if they wanted any suggestions for when they were done. We could sit and discuss the beauty of a poem, and how it related to the novel we were reading or world around them, because spending 15-20 minutes to let THEM share what they noticed was not taking away from “Core Curriculum Standards”.

So, so many of the exciting things I wanted to do with my students fell to the wayside because we just “didn’t have time.”

Funny, how the other day, we had an activity at my school that shortened each class period by about 5 minutes. As one of my average, normal students was leaving to go home at the end of the day, he turned to me and said, “Wait, we only lost five minutes of class? It just felt like so much more, for some reason. I wish I had more time in here today.” I nodded, and before I could decide if that comment made me want to hug him or made me want to cry, he walked out the door.

Many times this year, little things that I could brush off my shoulders quickly started to stick like a nasty case of dandruff. The millions of monotonous meetings  and tasks that took up precious planning and grading time were too much, because I was still losing hours of sleep every week trying to make it all fit at home. The emails of parents angry that “This year in LA hasn’t been like last year” stabbed me to the core. When over half my students didn’t show up with their homework assignment, (they had a week to find a poem or song they liked and bring it to class; it could have been typed or hand-written), I was crushed with disappointment. And the morning sickness and fatigue of pregnancy didn’t make it any easier, especially when you are afraid of telling people why you really do look like crap. (How many times after I DID start letting people at work know was I asked, “Oh, really? Was it planned?”  If looks could kill…)

Ever seen this go around on Facebook? It’s completely true. I have lost track over the past year that I have gone out of my way to give up my lunch time daily to get kids in to work on an assignment, or before or after school, and still haven’t “Done enough” according the the parent who emails the principal to complain while CCing me on the email as an afterthought.

Every time something happened in my school that shouldn’t have happened, every additional favor or task I was asked to do, every parent email I had to write or respond to, extra paper work that wasn’t supposed to be mine, nearly overwhelmed me.  Daily, my sweet husband told me when I needed to vent, “It’s not personal.”

Angrily, I reminded him that teaching IS personal. Almost every teacher I work with devotes hours and hours of unpaid time because THEY LOVE TEACHING STUDENTS. We even love the awkward middle school ones, who aren’t as sweet as elementary kids, and not as mature and capable as the high school kids.

It was personal, and it was making me constantly physically ill and more stressed. My immune system had been low all year because of stress, but was even more drastically affected because of the pregnancy. By mid December, I knew that I would not return to teaching middle school, and was trying to decide if hanging in there to apply to high school was even worth it. (Turns out, it wasn’t.) But I didn’t quit like I desperately wanted or needed to, because I didn’t want my students to be affected by the mess it always is when a teacher leaves mid-year.

As I said earlier, the impending birth of my daughter has been the biggest blessing in this whole ordeal. If I didn’t know that I would have her, I might try to cling just one more year to this broken system, in hopes that it would “get better.” But I’ve seen what happens when people chose between their jobs and their own families. I’ve taught those kids several times. I’m putting my family first.

Daily, something happens that reminds me why I am so glad I made this decision. I will miss some of the amazing students I have taught and the incredible people I’ve gotten to work with, but I have never felt better or more confident in a decision than I do in this one to leave teaching.

Does it mean that I won’t be working at all next year? I don’t know. I’m looking into different options right now for extra income. If those don’t work out, I will stay at home, and I will not regret the decision to leave teaching public education.

Will I ever return to this profession? I don’t know. Maybe if some of the problems get fixed, I could go back. But until then, I am running, not walking, away from teaching, and I’m not looking back.