Thursday, November 8, 2012

When Life Gets the Best of You

Life?  It's bittersweet.  I'm not depressed.  Not really anyway.  The low dose of medication I've been on for almost 18 months has kept the PPD at bay, or maybe even prevented it completely.  It's done its job.  For that I am grateful.  I have had the opportunity to yearn for a return to the days of feedings every three hours and day-long newborn snuggles.  I didn't even get to do those things the first time around, let alone yearn to have the opportunity back again once that stage had passed.  I suppose that could be viewed as progress.

But, if I'm honest, I'm not enjoying life right now.  I feel as if I'm constantly putting out fires.  Unless the kids are both asleep, there is always something that they perceive as urgent.  And they are both highly verbal and physical about their needs.  Therefore there is no ignoring or waiting or escaping.  Perhaps I've failed at somehow preventing this type of misbehavior and disrespect?  Perhaps I didn't teach them to be quiet and mild?  Perhaps.  My guess is that it's more likely for Jamaica to get a foot of snow than for kids with this genetic make-up and in this environment to be of a calm, shy nature.  I can come up with a bunch of excuses.  Italian families talk over one another and are naturally loud and boisterous!  I have boys.  Boys will be boys!  Whatever it is, it is.  This is how it is and I can either accept it and make an effort to slowly modify it or I can fight it and waste the little energy I have left being angry and bitter.  I know that.  But yet, I am angry and bitter.  This isn't what life looked like in my crystal ball.  And even as I type that, I internally scold myself.  I know how ridiculous that sounds and how irrational it is.

Some of these fires I've even started or fueled myself.  Marital stress is at a pinnacle and instead of partnering, my husband and I have somehow found ourselves on opposite teams.  It's all very chicken and egg.  We're on the hamster wheel.  "It's your did x, y, z."  "Yeah, well you did a, b, and c that you know sets me off, so it's your fault."  Add a toddler who doesn't stay out of trouble for even a minute.  You thought I was kidding about the joke that childproofing devices are in my house? Nope; they are present only so that I can appear to other mothers to be a mom who tries to prevent her kid from drinking Windex.  In reality?  My kid knows how to unscrew the dishwasher rinse-aid cap and lick it fast like a lollipop before I can get to him.  The five year old?  Will NOT be alone.  Not in his room.  Not in the car.  Not on the roof.  Not in the yard. Not with a dog.  Not with a frog.  Not with green eggs or ham.  Sam, he is not.  His playing independently is such a rare occurrence that we actually whisper to one another on those rare occasions when he finds a quiet activity in his bedroom for 10 minutes or so, "Look, he's doing it!" like one would the first time their toddler crawls or walks.

This is where the guilt and self-shaming enters the story.  I mean, really, what do I have to complain about?  A comfortable life.  A decent home.  A healthy family.  It could be worse.  So, so much worse. I'm ungrateful.  My faith mustn't be as strong as I think.

As I type, the baby has picked the lock on the snack cupboard and has taken every single item out.  The chex mix is scattered across the floor, the tupperware container emptied and the food it contained wasted.  And yet, it has bought be 10 minutes of peace to write.  To do something that brings some joy.  To engage in catharsis for just a moment.  He bangs the cups and plates together, making his own happy sort of music.

This is the payment for my peace:
(Be sure to take note of the pound of peanuts strewn across the tile and the bag of tortilla chips crumbled into bits amongst them.  Guess that's lunch...)

And I convince myself that cleaning it all up once he's down for a nap will take less time than that which the activity allowed me to just be.  To remember who I was.  Who I am.  Inside of all these trappings and labels.  In spite of the stress and the distractions.

Life is chewing on me like a tough piece of meat recently.  Gnawing and tossing me about, leaving its toothmarks, but not swallowing me up.  Maybe I'm not a tender meal.  Yet.  Not quite vulnerable enough to wave the white flag.  No, I'd still put up a fight.  I'd kick and flail and muster up enough energy to even yell a bit.  I'd grab onto the good things and my faith and use them as my life preserver.  And if I looked closely, I'd see all of you reaching out towards me, begging me not to give in, offering me your strength, an emotional rope.  So rather than allow myself to get to that point, I'm going to stay tough.  I'm not going to allow myself to be a palatable feast for the depression beast.  No matter the cold temperatures, and the weather, and the dark nights, and the needy kids, and the marriage challenges, and the lack of joy.  I am not anyone or anythings victim.  Life might get the best of me some days, but it will not get all of me.  I determine my own destiny.  I make that call.


Jess B. said...

Thank you for your honesty and ability to be raw but not rough. As a wife with marital challenges, a mom of boys, a mom of toddlers, and one who from time to time battles emotional instability, I am so grateful to read your post. It allows us all to breathe a little, knowing we are not alone in our frustrations, self doubt, real life struggles. I am proud of your strength and your faith and YES you have enough of both. We must at times lean on those whom we trust...I encourage you to do that now as you have been the trusted one so many times.

Karen said...

Thank you for having the courage to post this, Amber. I actually just forwarded it to my husband as I feel exactly like this myself right now and you have the gift to explain it better than I am able to. One of my children is at school all day and the little one who is at home with me isn't even fully mobile yet. Reading your post, I wonder how I will be able to survive when she is and is into everything?? With the older one, we don't have one quiet moment...EVER. It's so hard not to have a minute of time to myself these days. It definitely puts a strain on everything, and all relationships. Hang in there, you have so many women out there supporting you!

Tina said...

I totally get your post. I, too, am past the crippling stage of Postpartum Depression. However, I am hardly at a place where I am full of joy and the marriage struggles you speak of are weighing heavily on my heart. The medication I take has caused me to have considerable weight gain and my husband is not pleased about it at all. It is quite the source of contention between us. I am glad you have chosen not to be a victim. I am going to choose that route, too.