becoming jolie


23 Comments

People Pleasin’

It’s been a long time coming that I talk about my life on social media. Not that I’ve never talked about it before, but condensing it in a place where I’ve tried to gather all of my thoughts on various topics that I’ve either been mulling over myself or have been criticized for in the past.

There are so many things to discuss and it feels very meta: blogging about blogging, social media-ing¬†about social media. Instagram alone feels like a topic I could write a novel on because I spend a lot of my time on there. I’ve struggled with putting my thoughts together in general because there are so many facets and sub-topics I want to hit on and it’s hard to even know how to put it together cohesively. Additionally, it’s hard to have an opinion online. Most of the time when I share a comment or blog post that isn’t laced with smiley face emojis or apologies, I generally get critiqued for being a whiner, ungrateful, or a brat. Well, I should say that’s part of the feedback I get. The other 95% of the feedback is people telling me that I’m saying what they’ve never had the courage to say and they are so grateful that someone else has put it out there.

So where to begin. Maybe I’ll tackle this by topic. Maybe it will need to be more than one blog post? Let’s start with Instagram Expectations.

Recently I shared this on Instagram in a caption:

Hey friends! At the risk of pissing off loads of people, I wanted to share something I’ve been mulling over for months, so, here goes. I’ve been wanting to address the why behind when I do and do not respond to comments on here. Honestly, I could write a novel and there are a lot of complicated reasons, some involving time management (it’s kind of impossible for me at this point to thoughtfully respond to each one) and some principle. But essentially, I want to say that if you find me not responding to comments about sources on clothing or decor, it’s because honestly, it’s just not my goal here.

This isn’t a dig on those who do tag their content or those who ask. I am offended by neither. But, I’m trying to facilitate an ongoing conversation about womanhood, motherhood, careers, and identity. I’m sharing my life in small pieces when I feel inclined. And I really appreciate that you think I have good taste and want to know where I get my clothing and home decor from. Seriously it is very flattering! And sometimes, if it’s a special piece and I want to draw attention to the maker, I’ll tag them. But most of the time it’s just from all of the same places you also have available to you…target, IKEA, the thrift store, etc. And I just don’t want this space or the focus of my posts to be relegated to pure consumerism.

I’m not a lifestyle blogger and I never have been. If I’ve ever been compensated for a post, I’ve made/make it clear, but it’s not where I’m steering this figurative ship. I am very cognizant of how that makes me come off – snobby, bitchy, whatever. I hope it’s clear that’s not my intent, but instead that I just want to fuel the deeper conversations. Thanks for understanding (…or I guess, if not, for unfollowing, ūüėā) much much love, Jolie

Something I’ve been fascinated by in the past two years is the culture of Instagram. Instagram started off small and quickly became a platform for bloggers and businesses to promote themselves and their businesses. From there, the growth of “lifestyle bloggers” and even just “lifestyle Instagrammers” seemed to skyrocket. You can look around and within a few seconds find people whose entire homes are curated down to the throw on their couch, and their comment sections are almost exclusively full of people asking things like, “Where’d you get that picture frame from? I’m in love! DO share!” With this has come the simultaneous complaint that Instagram profiles are too curated, that people have set the bar too high, that people are not showing reality. As an aside,¬†I’m guessing there is a least somewhat of a crossover between the people saying how bad Instagram makes them feel about themselves and the people that spend their time on Instagram roving around asking everyone where they can buy all of the things they see in photos. It’s what you make it, is how I feel. If you don’t want to compare, then stop comparing. Work that out in your own self. But I digress.

Many of the accounts who have comment sections like this are making money off of their feeds. They are doing sponsored material, which means, they are either being giving free merchandise for their homes/selves/children/etc. and in turn must promote it, or, they are ¬†flat out charging a fee to share photos. They’re called influencers, and honestly, of course they are acting happy and kind and excited to answer¬†any and all questions all day. It is literally their job. It used to be that influencers didn’t even have to share if or when they were being paid to share photos of or share about products. Now things are getting more structured and, typically, if money or product are being exchanged, people must now include #ad or #sponsored so that you as a consumer know that you are being advertised to.

//

So – in the past few years, there started to become a culture on my personal Instagram account where everything I posted was followed up by several comments asking about God knows what in the photos. My laundry baskets were a big hit for awhile. My clothes. My daughter’s hair bows. My son’s outfits. How to cook what I was cooking. My duvet cover. I get it. My account is genuinely confusing for people. It’s a big account and my house is pretty, so everyone jumps in and assumes this lady is some lifestyle blogger. But I’m not. I don’t make money there.

It is not that I am against sponsored material – on the contrary, I think that it’s absolutely permissible and great for people to use their social media presence to garner income, eventually I’ll probably dip my toes in that water – but it’s not something I’ve chosen to do yet. Additionally, much of the time this type of stuff was happening, it felt that the sentiments I was communicating in captions were being completely ignored so that seven people in the comments could ask – and often demand without any sign of manners – to know where various things in the photo were from. It’s not that I feel angry whenever I get a question. I don’t mean to throw this post out there as an EVERYONE QUIT TALKING TO ME. It’s just that, if I answer, great. If I don’t answer, I don’t want to know that everyone is lurking behind their screens calling me a bitch because I don’t answer questions.

I think this situation stems from two misunderstandings. 1) People assume large following = this lady is making money and 2) People assume that because I offer such an “intimate” version of my life online, that they know me. People tell me all the time they feel like they’re my best friend. I’m not offended by this and I consider it a compliment, but I do think people seem to be forgetting how one-sided that is. You may feel cozy enough to ask me questions that require a lot of time and effort on my part, but I have no idea who you are. Sure, if my best friend comes over and she’s in love with my throw pillow, I’m happy to tell her where it’s from (but chances are she’s not bombarding me with those questions…) but do I really owe that to strangers all day long? Am I really never allowed to poke some light-hearted fun at how that has become the norm now?

With those things in mind (I’m not making money, ultimately I have no personal, two-way tie to most of my followers) you can begin to imagine how that become frustrating on a few levels. For one, I often wasn’t even talking about what I was wearing or the items in my home. Certainly I sometimes do, because thrifting and clothing and decor are interests of mine, but sometimes, it had nothing to do with what I was saying. Another aspect is that it just felt frustrating to feel like I simply existed to pass on all of my own styles and preferences onto people who were watching me. Again, it’s confusing to me because everyone’s like, “Instagram makes me hate myself!” but then every comment is, “I NEED THAT DRESS! WHERE IS IT FROM!” I just think people could stand to find themselves a little and expect less from social media “personalities”. This culture of Instagram being a mall to window shop is fine or whatever, but consumers are forgetting that not all large accounts exist for this purpose, and I feel I have every right to say, you know, I’m not engaging on that level here.

At one point I posted a photo of my mantle¬†last year and several people asked where a large art piece I had was from. At that particular point in time, I had been tagging items left and right in my photos if there was an applicable tag for a few months. But I also had grown tied over the past year from feeling like, in order to be acceptable at my newfound “caliber” of Instagram personality, I needed to answer each one with a smile. That it was my job to do so. That bothered me, so at the encouragement of several friends, I just started to ignore those comments altogether. That made me feel bad, too, but I wasn’t sure what a better solution was. It was getting to a point where I just didn’t want to invest that much of my day telling 15 people where my rugs were from.

So ignoring it was. On that post, a few weeks after I began ignoring, someone I don’t know (which is a lot of my feed) stepped in to those who were asking. I don’t recall the comment verbatim, but it included things about how I was one of the meanest “semi famous” instagrammers she had ever seen and that I frequently ignored people asking for help on where to find my items – it was too bad people couldn’t be as nice as ___ (some other blogger she likes more than me, lol). I just kept reading it like, where did she get this idea that I owe everyone all this information?

This takes us to the natural place a lot of people go when this topic comes up – you asked for this. You wanted a big account and you take pictures when you look pretty and you show photos of your home and this is what comes with it.

I take issue with this on so many levels. For one, I’ll reiterate: my account is what it is pretty organically. There wasn’t a point where I was like, “I WANT MY NAME IN INSTAGRAM LIGHTS.” To date, I have never done sponsored material on my Instagram, outside of a few small shops sending me their goods and me sharing about it (and sharing openly that the items were gifted.) A few years ago I did a few “follow friday’s” when other bloggers asked me to participate until I was like, you know, I’m not into this. I’m not, like, trying to get somewhere. I’m sharing my own path and the way I’m seeing the world and motherhood and womanhood, and it’s cool people want to join in but I’m not going to like, actively pursue some sort of weird IG fame. I don’t share photos of my living room because wayfair.com is paying me to show my rug. I just enjoy decorating my house and looking at my living room.

Also, the entire notion that me posting a photo of my dinner, or a selfie, or my home is my asking for anything is like, really disturbing to me. Let’s not go down the, “Look what she’s wearing, she was asking for it” path. Again, what YOU take away from someone and your interaction with them typically says more about you than about them. And this is a lesson I’m learning for myself time and again – what do my feelings about this person not just say about them – what do they say about ME? Melissa Hartwig has been doing a lot of discussion about this topic on her Instagram and Snapchat lately, becuase she’s taken flack for choosing not to answer questions about her hair and makeup. People continually use the argument, “But you CLEARLY spend so much time on your hair and makeup, you OBVIOUSLY want people to notice and ask.”

Mm, no.

No and no.

I’m posting a photo of my dinner, of my living room, of myself because it’s something that’s currently making me happy and I want to savor it, take a picture of it, remember it to some degree. IT IS MY ACCOUNT and I CAN DO THAT WITHOUT ANYTHING HAVING TO FOLLOW. Beginning, end. As Melissa has so often pointed out on her accounts, you are absolutely entitled to feel whatever feelings you feel upon consuming someone else’s content, but you don’t get to have a say on why someone is putting it up in the first place. And again, those feelings you are feeling say a lot more about you than they say about me. I get that Melissa is intimidating because of how she engages people. I get that *I* am intimidating.¬†But in conjunction with my no bull-shit mentality, I think I have done a lot of work engaging with my following on a very positive, very kind-hearted level. At the end of the day, I think it’s really, really important to remember you are dealing with a human being. Please don’t expect that you are going to agree or like every thing I do and say. I don’t even agree with and like everything I do and say. I’m a human being. I mess shit up all the time.

//

It’s all just sometimes bewildering, I guess is what I’m trying to say. I joined Instagram three years ago and there were times that I tried out being one of “those accounts”, like some blogger, where I detailed every recipe I shared and gave information on every last item in my bedroom photo until I realized, I DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS. THIS IS NOT WHO I AM. And I am entitled to decide that. I’m entitled to decide at any point what I want out of my life online and to change course and to stop catering to that audience. People who have accounts with 250 followers would be really confused and weirded out if, while making¬†no compensation for it, they were suddenly expected to take the time to detail every item of their home just because they showed a photo of it. It’s different now that I have 10k followers? I owe everyone a smiley response with no complaining because….there are a lot of you? I’m sorry, but I call bull shit.

Just yesterday someone left a comment on my blog here that detailed why I seem to have a mean streak. It gave a lot of examples of how I could be more polite to people when they ask questions, or simply ignore them altogether.

I want to point out that no matter what I choose to do, there will always be a small group of people unhappy with me. That is literally the law of Existing. When my posts get too happy, people are pissed that I am too happy. I’m spoiled. I’m unrealistic. I’m a lucky gold digger with an elite life in a bubble and I’m making everyone else feel bad for having such a happy life. When my posts get too real, when I engage people like a real human being and suggest that instead of asking me to take the time to explain something that is very easily accessed through Google.com, when I ignore questions altogether, ¬†I’m a whiner, I’m a bitch with a mean streak.

This commenter asked that I consider how *I* would feel if accounts I followed responded the way I do, or poked fun of their followers in their comments. I think she’s spot on there. It is always necessary to think of those things — and a week or two ago during my Q+A on Instagram, someone asked why I let my friends poke fun in the comments (ie. commenting “recipe?” on every food photo or asking where my laundry baskets are from just to be funny) and why I engage with them. It occurred to me as it does sometimes that I’m being watched closely and yes, perhaps that wasn’t the kind route. So I talked with that person, publicly, I explained my point of view and acknowledged that she was right, perhaps it wasn’t the kindest behavior, and the next time a friend of mine did that sort of comment, I deleted it and told her privately I was moving away from that.

So yes, always evaluate. And¬†to you Eliza, I would say yes. I am always needing to be challenged to evaluate and redirect and I will always strive to be kind and open to hearing people. But telling someone to google something is not being unkind. Feeling frustrated, as you brought up, that people out there are duplicating my products and talking about it? That’s not unkind. Having any emotion outside of Happy Blogger Here To Serve You is not unkind. And you know, I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I get that. So when I come across people irritating me online I ask myself the question: are they just being a human being who is annoying me in this moment like I annoy people sometimes, or do I just fundamentally not jive with this soul? If it’s the former, I try and have some grace and keep scrolling. If it’s the latter, I unfollow and move on with my life.

And I would ask my followers the same question you posed to me. How would YOU (or they) feel if on every post you put out onto Twitter/IG/FB you¬†were demanded to give every detail of every item, a tutorial on your¬†hair, a sample of your baby’s sleep schedule? An answer or description they could easily use a search engine for but instead they want you to stop your life, your parenting, your job, to sit down and give them your undivided attention. Often times, it’s asked impolitely, or as if there is no question I owe it to them. How would that make my followers feel? I’m guessing if that’s suddenly how their social media experience was, they’d feel pretty similarly to how I do. I’m a person sharing my life, and I honestly don’t owe anyone any of that. Am I in the mood sometimes to talk on those things? Absolutely, and when I am, I hop in kindly and try to help people and engage when I have the time.

Am I walking around constantly pissed when people ask me those things? No. Not at all. I generally feel pretty amiable to my followers and typically if I have the time for a personal question I like to answer them if I can help. Most of my interactions with them are very positive. You asked why I choose to keep my account public when it seems “so irksome” to me. I would say that me feeling frustrated by a very small minority of comments is not the general vibe of my account, but maybe my perception is off. I choose to keep it like it is because I don’t think the solution to a small minority of people behaving a certain way online is for me to depart when there is also a whole lot I enjoy about it.

This topic and this blog post aren’t static. I’m sure I’ll think of a lot more to add, or things I wish I had said differently (or not at all?) because, as I’m trying to illustrate, I AM A HUMAN BEING. I know you all are human beings too.

I would love to keep engaging on this topic and I would love to see some of the landscape change on Instagram so that it’s less consumer vs. content creator and just people with people.

Let’s keep talking about things that matter.


20 Comments

You are not a tree.

“It feels so hard as a woman to prioritize yourself. I feel like it takes about 30 years for women to start thinking of themselves, and by then, a lot of us have made commitments to – and sacrifices for – men who are (rightfully on some level) confused when we start being less okay with putting ourselves last.”¬†– E. Carlton

Lately Sean and I have been having a lot of conflict around our jobs and our responsibilities with kids. It’s been an ongoing project, a piece of our figurative land that we have to keep working and tilling over and over, and just when we’ve planted seeds and watered it and things look kind of green and progress-y, some rodent comes in and tears it up in the middle of the night and leaves us scratching our heads in the morning. It’s a project that started when we had our first child, and one that’s continued as the state of our working lives and family size has changed.

Admittedly, a lot of our conflicts have revolved around me picking fights. I acknowledge this 100%.¬†I hash out the gritty details about who is doing more with the kids and the house and when and where and what parts I think are unfair. Sean is a reasonable man, and while we do fight over these things (yell, cuss, sustain dismissive silences, and then come back together) we are usually able to hear each other and find a middle path. But it’s become more complicated as the years have passed and the children have been added. Sometimes there doesn’t always seem to be an answer for me, and I can see the look of being at a loss on Sean’s face.

Lately I’ve been discussing with my close friends the wide topic of women and family and working and this whole topic of men feeling blindsided by women picking fights about things like this came up.

It occurred to me that I’ve pulled somewhat of a bait and switch on Sean.

For my entire life, I was raised under a very religious umbrella. And during that time, from age whenever-I-had-conscious-memory to around age 22 (when I became a part of a more liberal church group and eventually detached myself from the religious community in general) here are the things I was told about being a woman – the right kind of woman, the one God (MAKER OF THE UNIVERSE, NO PRESSURE) wanted you to be:

You are a helper. You are to be meek. You are to be gentle spirited, quiet, submissive.

This mentality was both overtly spoken and also covertly displayed in a thousand different ways throughout my years in church and private school. Most of the time, by people who I’m sure meant well or were doing what they genuinely felt was God’s will for them. I grew up in a church where women couldn’t lead the congregation in prayer, much less give a sermon. For years I went to an early breaking of bread service in the basement of my church. It was a more intimate, low-key event than the large scale church service that followed it, and people were free to stand and read a passage or share their heart or what God had been speaking to them.

And by people, I mean the men. Once I asked one of the male leaders what would happen if I got up and shared something, because I had some things I had been mulling over and scripture I would’ve loved to read. It probably wouldn’t go over well, he responded matter of factly.

So this is the baseline I am working with – and, if it isn’t glaringly obvious – all of these attributes I was supposed to be displaying in order to be a Godly woman were nearly all completely contrary to my natural spirit. I am assertive, confident, outspoken, and independent. I wasn’t fitting the bill, but I was trying.

Fast forward through 12 years in a private school setting where this was the underlying message for women. It wasn’t necessarily that it was always taught directly to us (though, that, too) but certainly we were taught to be Biblical literalists (or, sort of? pick and choose? I don’t know, but definitely the parts about women being submissive to the husband, women being the body and men being the head, etc. the earth being only 5,000 odd years old, etc.) so you can imagine that a young girl who is being challenged in AP classes and asked to consider what she wants to major in during college is feeling a little confused because, if I also want to get married and that means I need to be submissive to my husband who will have his own dreams, and that I will likely be the primary caretaker of my kids like the vast majority of the women I see around me,¬†how do all those things line up? Do I pick something I really want to go after full-fledge or do I pick being a submissive wife and mom?

Working, it sometimes seemed from looking around, was only for those who were too poor not to. It was not the ideal situation for a woman, and if by chance you did want to work at something, it was a good idea to pick something that meshed well with having children. I was encouraged by several women in my life to move toward teaching or nursing, because, this was a good job for mothers. Summers and holidays off for teachers, and you could be off in time to get your children once they were school aged, etc. Everywhere I turned in my social bubble, I saw women who were working around their husbands and children. It was rare to see a woman going after something she truly loved and asking her husband and children to rearrange for them.

Most women I spoke to seemed to be very concerned that I was forming whatever ambitions I had around the understanding that being a parent would come first for me. I did not see this same thing happening with the young men in my life. At the time, it didn’t seem odd to me at all. It wasn’t necessarily that “Child rearing will be your responsibility entirely!” was being bossily communicated, but it did seem like that was what I was supposed to be excited about, that was the primary conversation piece when I projected into my deep future with others. Did I want kids? I was too young and too deeply influenced by that community to think anything of it. Sure! I want to have children. And I did! But nobody seemed too interested in the other things, or how I would blend those together.

I am not blaming my initial career path on those influences, because I did enjoy Spanish and I personally felt a general lack of direction¬†on a career. The internal monologue for me at 17 was something along the lines of, “I’m good at Spanish, kids are ok…*shrug*, I guess I’ll be a teacher?” (Really who can blame someone at 17? What does anyone know at 17? That’s for another day…) And when I did teach, I enjoyed it. But I guess I am saying that the overarching and underlying influences I had around me led me to not take myself very seriously. It wasn’t that I was forced into pursuing teaching, but maybe that nobody challenged me to pursue anything else with the confidence that I could actually achieve it. I think my dad tried – he enrolled me in art classes and often encouraged me to take that path, but he was the only voice in that direction in a very large sea of people communicating the opposite. It was a persistent, subtle message, I suppose. And for most of the messengers passing this message to me, it was passed along in a benign way. Loving, even. We see life differently, we see how women and men co-exist differently. But I see that method of raising women as harmful, now.

And so I entered into marriage with these conflicting energies — I was passionate and driven, so I was excited to pour myself into something (teaching), but also there was that subtle undertone that ultimately, Sean was the “head of the household” and I would “follow where he led” etc. and also the whole issue of how I had never really taken myself seriously enough to boldly ask myself what REALLY lit me up professionally – and then go after it. If I were being entirely honest, I would say that a year or two into teaching, I felt pretty convinced that I would just quit once I had kids. I didn’t say that out loud because I didn’t want people to think I was a quitter, but I just didn’t enjoy teaching as much as I thought I would. Plus, that’s what women do, right? I just didn’t feel that passionate about it, so, why not just be a mom…or…whatever. (General Directionless-ness 101.)

Also of grave importance in this discussion was that I had absolutely no clue what it really meant to be marrying someone who would later be a doctor. Sean being a doctor didn’t even feel real to me until probably his residency stage, and we had been together since undergraduate, before he had even been accepted to med school. I was just so young. I had no concept of what life would look like for him or, consequently, for me. I didn’t know any doctors or what their lives looked like. So I should mention that it’s true to some degree, that part of the conflict Sean and I presently feel has nothing to do with gender and a lot more to do with professions. He is a doctor, and that required many years of sweat, money, and sacrifice – on both ends – and this same conflict would apply to some of Sean’s colleagues that are women. Their job will probably take precedence over their spouse’s despite the fact that their spouse is male (provided their spouse is not also a doctor) because they will make more money and getting them their cost the couple more, financially and otherwise.

But there was still the other aspect: that all this time I had been quietly told that I’m to be soft, the helper, the domestically busy, the second fiddle. That it is attractive and endearing and what I was made for – to enjoy cooking, to serve my husband (that phrasing was thrown around a lot) to make a home. Throughout my twenties, I grappled with a whole lot of my religious upbringing. There was a lot to it that I didn’t seem to be fitting into anymore, and most of the way that Christianity (or, in the least, the brand of Christianity I grew up with) viewed and treated women was one of the bigger issues for me. I spent my early twenties trying to force Sean to be more of a “leader” for us than was ever natural for him in most ways, and I’ve spent the latter half of my twenties working to unravel those knots I tied with my own hands.

My friend was right: How can Sean not feel a bit sabotaged now, when the first half of my marriage was me trying in many ways to fall in line, be the helper to achieve his dreams, and be generally clueless about who I was or what I even wanted on a fundamental level?

One of the fundamental things Sean has consistently boiled our conflict down to is asking me, ok but what do you really¬†want then, if not this?¬†And honestly — in the past few years I’ve had to stop and say, DO I EVEN KNOW? I don’t feel like I was given (or gave myself) the space to seriously ask myself such a question, really. It feels like I was just sort of pushed through the system and rocketed in the direction of “nice lady motherhood” before I even had the chance to open my eyes and look around and figure out if that’s really what I wanted. And – I know I always say this, but I’ll keep saying it so you know – Two things. I DO want to be a mother. I just also want to be other things. And, I am not disparaging the calling of motherhood or those who feel exclusive motherhood is their calling. For some women, it is. But for some of us, it isn’t. And those are both ok. Different, and ok.

So, there has needed to be a lot of learning happening, on my end, with myself. At nearly 30. What DO I want? How DOES that fit into the life I’ve already created with this other person? What does mutual respect and pursuit of passions look like here, in light of our chosen professions, our children, our responsibilities? What is ACTUALLY FAIR of me to expect from Sean, given our history together and where we currently stand in the life we’ve created?

At the end of the day, I’m left with two things: I picked a good man, and if you don’t like where you’re standing, move.

You are not a tree.

 

 


8 Comments

A PPD Update

Two weeks ago I was deep into a hole that felt like the darkest I’ve ever seen. I was functioning purely off of survival mode emotionally and just trying to make sure my kids were fed and had had a bath in the past four days. (Keep those standards high!)

Everything felt wrong. I felt resentful of my children and my husband. Every day it felt like a struggle to get out of bed, and even the slightest rock to my boat made me spiral out of control emotionally. About a week ago, I meekly texted my dad to ask if he could come be with me and the kids while Sean worked a weekend of nights. I spent the weekend on and off in tears and lying in bed. Sean was scared. I was scared. People tried to help me by offering advice but I was so far gone that I just wanted to cover my ears and scream. I didn’t want advice, I wanted someone to hold me and tell me it was going to be ok.

That day I lied in bed crying with Sean, I told him I felt like I had lost myself completely. I was trying so hard to find myself but it was like I was drowning in something thick, impossible to see through or get out of. I knew I was depressed but it felt like a different breed. It felt bigger than me and any efforts I made – I know this is true for many people who suffer from depression. Sean gently suggested I consider medication, if only to get over the hump of PPD.

The part that had confused me the most was that I remembered having PPD with RR, but it came on almost immediately after her birth and felt very circumstantially influenced. I felt very confused about my new role in my life and my marriage, about leaving my job, about the new dynamic between Sean and myself. RR was a difficult baby — she cried way, way more than RM (my son) does. Everything was brand new and overwhelming and the crying baby soundtrack didn’t help.

But this time, the first 8 weeks were smooth sailing. I mean, all things considered. I definitely had my moments but overall I felt okay, like I had dodged the PPD bullet. And it was so, so confusing to feel it hit me at two months.

Several people suggested I take out my IUD — which I had absolutely considered. But, I have used hormonal birth control for years at a time before and never had issues, so I was hesitant to get it out only to find it wasn’t the issue – at first the PPD felt manageable, so I wanted to keep the IUD in and give my body some time to adjust to it. I had briefly used the pill after RR, but decided it was too difficult to take it responsibly (with nursing, I had to take it literally on the hour every day in order for it to be effective, and, yeah. Haha! No.)

Anyway – I have never had issues with birth control and depression before, but also, I didn’t take into consideration that this was a different type of birth control, and that I was mixing it with the mess that is postpartum. So two Saturdays ago when I was lying in bed feeling like I just wanted to fall asleep and not wake up for a solid¬†year, I told Sean, I am getting this thing out of me. I have to get as many variables off the table as soon as I can to figure this out because if this gets any worse I’m not sure what we will do.

I am not against medicating depression. Please hear me on that. But I also am aware of what hormones can do, and I wanted medication to be the route I pursued only after I’d exhausted all other efforts. By the time I called my OB’s office the next day, I was absolutely desperate to get the IUD out – anything that could lighten my mental load at that point was an action I needed to take immediately. They told me they could get me in in two weeks. I cried on the phone and said forget it. So I messaged my OB through the email system her practice has and said I was double checking with her that she really couldn’t get me in before then, and that if she or her partners truly couldn’t, I would go ahead and remove it myself. (Lol! That sounds insane but it really isn’t. I had spent the evening before surfing Mirena forums of women who had done it and texting a friend whose husband is an OB. They all were like, just pull it out like a tampon! No sweat!)

My OB, who is a hero, contacted me within a few hours and met me at her office (she wasn’t even in that day. Praise for this woman abounds.) I sat on the exam table weeping (AGAIN) and she put her hands on my knees and listened. I have this fear that people in the medical field don’t take women seriously. I mean, certainly there are many medical professionals out there that don’t, ¬†in regard to hormones and menstruation, etc. Anyway, I ran through the list with her. I talked about how this wave had only enveloped me about two weeks after the Mirena was inserted, and that despite being quite particular about everything in my life that could exacerbate PPD or depression in general (I had just completed a whole30, I was getting relatively decent sleep for having a 4 month old, I got out on walks, I was taking vitamin D, etc.) I felt like I was quite literally going under and I was terrified.¬†She agreed that at the least, I had some PPD that was being exacerbated by hormones. At the most, it was all the IUD¬†and either way we could absolutely take it out to see.

I was aware that I would probably have some placebo effect. And I did! Just seeing it physically out of me was enough to give me a sigh of relief – if that was the root factor here, it was OUT, and I could move forward. I walked with a skip in my step to the car.

But I have to tell you, it’s been a week and I am a NEW. DAMN. HUMAN BEING.

I remember my sister and my dad both trying to help me out on the phone in the weeks leading up to me getting it out. They gently presented the idea that perhaps my expectations for myself are just a smidge too high. Maybe I should set down work for awhile. Maybe I shouldn’t expect my house to be spick and span 24/7. Maybe I shouldn’t feel pressured to do whole30 or cook dinner for my family every night. Maybe I should turn on the TV for RR and go lie down.

And they are right, and I immediately began heeding their advice. (Last week the dinner menu was things like frozen vegetarian chick’n bites and frozen french fries.) But in my heart, I just knew. I knew it was more than that. I knew it was something beyond life management, and I was right.

I didn’t even realize how bad it was until it was out of me for a week. My baseline patience is back. My joy is back. My love for my husband and kids is back. I haven’t spent every waking moment barking at RR or wishing she would leave me alone or sitting and staring or waking up and wishing I could just go back to sleep.¬†I haven’t spent inordinate amounts of my time wondering what the hell I am doing with my life or how I will make it another day, another week, another month. I haven’t cried out of frustration or anxiety or anger once in the past seven days. That is miraculous in and of itself.

I am me again. I found her.

Post Script: Of course, I am giving myself more time to figure out if that was the true root of my PPD issues. I’ve also connected with a counselor which, can I recommend enough¬†that every human being see a therapist? It’s like taking your car in for a tuneup and it feels GREAT. DO IT. Life is not all butterflies¬†because I got it out. I’ve still had moments of¬†frustration. Life is still tough with two small kids. But it’s manageable again, and I’m having way more wonderful¬†moments than hard ones.

I am so, so grateful that I was able to find what seems to be a¬†relatively simple solution for myself, but I want to say one more time: this is neither a condemnation of medicating depression or of hormonal contraception. Not everyone finds that their PPD or depression comes from their birth control, and I feel honestly really lucky that it was as easy of a fix, it seems, as that.¬†Those of you medicating your depression, I¬†salute you for finding what works for you and I’m so happy you have found¬†something that fits your life and your situation. I just felt, after the fact, that I was sorely under-informed when it came to what could potentially be the outcome of a hormonal IUD, and it really, really ruined me for the two months that I had it in. It scared the shit out of me. I know a few people who have IUD’s and who LOVE them. And I am thrilled for them that it’s working!

I wouldn’t advise against an IUD for anyone, because if it can jive with your body, it’s truly amazing. But I did want to share my experience so that anyone considering it can go into it with the knowledge to be mindful of its effects. And please, trust that YOU KNOW YOUR BODY BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. If you feel like something is affecting you, trust yourself. I wish I¬†wouldn’t have waited even the two months that I did,¬†because my body knew what was up and it was right.

 

 


16 Comments

postpartum depression

Yesterday I sat in the bathtub, half-filled with lukewarm water (all three other humans got to the bathroom before me…) and listened to Sean put the babies to bed.¬†As the stairs groaned under him as he¬†made his way downstairs again, I quietly got up, water dripping, to gently tip the bathroom door shut with my foot. Just as I lowered my body back into the water, they let out, fast. Hot and wet down my face. I felt so much shame. I was falling apart, again. I was failing. This was the third time in a week.

I didn’t even have the energy to wonder what was wrong. I knew I wouldn’t be able to give a good answer. Nothing? Everything? Everything felt out of control. Here I was again, feeling like I was thrashing about¬†mercilessly¬†at the end of another long day. He is tired. I am tired. And we have about, oh, just the rest of our lifetime to go?

Lately, it’s all I can think about: how positively endless it is to be a parent. Sean and I were talking the other night, and we agreed that somehow, we felt just a little hoodwinked about entering parenthood. By who, we aren’t really sure. But we certainly didn’t understand exactly the kind of binding contract we were entering into. Sure we “understood” – we wanted a child and we “knew” what that meant. But, you know. Also we didn’t know. We had no idea.¬†It makes me laugh when I see non-parents criticizing parents who are struggling. When they say things like, “Nobody made you have kids…” or “You should’ve known¬†what you were getting yourself into,” I just keep my mouth shut and laugh on the inside. Because NO ONE can be prepared for what parenthood is. It’s impossible to understand until you do it.

And so lately…man. I’ve been finding myself at the end of a long day, just standing in the kitchen washing bottles thinking, fuck. I mean, just. Fuck! It’s nearly tomorrow already and today took everything out of me – can I muster up the energy to sit on the couch and devote even 30 minutes entirely to myself in the first quiet moment of the day? And then after tomorrow there is another day after that, and another. Just an endless winding road of days unfolding ahead of me where two human beings need me more than I am able to give. At any given moment, I could spit out a list as long as my arm of things that should be tended to, but haven’t been. (The kitchen floor, the back of the refrigerator, my kids closets, my email inbox. To name a small few.) In the span of one day it feels like every ounce of my energy was issued out to help the children, to keep the house, to tend somewhat to my business, and just as you’ve finally tied up the ribbons on that day, SMACK. The next one is in your face.

With a normal bad mood, after my bathtub tears I¬†would wipe my face,¬†get on my clothes, and be on with it. But as I sauntered into our bedroom last night, I threw my towel onto the bed and sank down onto it. I didn’t want to get dressed. I didn’t want to divert my attention. This is how I know it’s more. The despondence. I think maybe tears were coming again. I felt so tired and bored with it washing over me again that I can’t even remember, really. When this happens, there is always a sliver of what feels like Actual Me left, buried under a hundred layers¬†of anxiety and sadness, that is trying her best to pep it up. “Come on, it’s fine. Just get up! Get yourself dressed! Go have a glass of wine…” but when I’m this deep, the weight of the PPD weighs out. I want to lay and stare.

Mental illness runs pretty deeply in my family. Throughout my early adult years, I thought that because I was overall such a fantastic human being (HAHAHA) that I had evaded all that. I liked to say that I was against the stigma of mental illness, but deep down I most certainly was still carrying around the judgment reserved for those who seemed incapacitated, or had to fall back on medication. Then I had my first bout of depression. Then, after R*sie, another. Then, in my first trimester with R*ys, another. And now, the fourth time.

Each time, it is so markedly different than any other bad mood or simple funk I’ve found myself in. It is all-consuming. It is debilitating. It takes a woman who has a lot of drive and incapacitates her until she is a quiet figure lying¬†on the couch, tears welling up in her eyes, wondering if she will be able to do all of this (this = life, parenting, adulting) again the next morning.

The strange thing about depression, at least for mine, is that it comes and goes in waves. One moment, I am fine. The next moment I’m wondering if there is any feasible way for me to somehow escape my entire life. Amidst the emotionally chaotic moments I am describing are a thousand moments that are really, just fine. Or even, really great.¬†But I’ve realized that¬†once the postpartum is around and I’ve identified it, it’s really always simmering under the surface, and usually only needs the slightest wave to set it off. The baby’s bottle leaks on my freshly changed sweatshirt. R*sie breaks down over getting grapes instead of blueberries. My mother says something benign that I interpret as criticism. Panera forgets my husband’s sandwich in our to go bag and I have to drive back. The grocery store not having my favorite granola bar. The list goes on of innocuous situations that a normal person should be able to roll with, but that seem to set me into a spiral in an instant.

But the waves of I’m-fine-we’re-fine-it’s-all-fine and then my-shit’s-hitting-the-fan-and-quickly — the waves are what make it hard. When people I know hear that I have postpartum depression, they either ask in a very hushed voice, “Are you okay?” or, when they see that I am dressed and out with my family, they say, “Oh! But you’re doing so great! Look at you all! You’re doing fine, don’t worry.”¬†Someone doesn’t have to be captive in their house looking like death to be suffering, and conversely, someone who is able to put on a face and get life done (because, what other choice do I have? Let my kids go hungry?) isn’t necessarily doing alright mentally.

I don’t have a cute resolution to wrap up this post. I don’t know. I usually hesitate to share how deeply I am dragged down when depression hits me, because it seems most people’s solution is, “You seem so busy and overwhelmed, you should stop working!” And, maybe it’s my current emotional instability, but hearing that honestly flames up my chest. Perhaps it’s another whole can of worms? But I feel angry when that is the first solution presented to me.

Yes, work is hard. It’s much harder with two children. Right now I am choosing ¬†a path that is making it really difficult on myself, keeping the baby home while I continue to work. Eventually, I’ll have to work that out in a better fashion than I am now. So for now, it’s messy. I’m messy. I don’t know how to do this so I’m just winging this and, sometimes, I’m winging it the wrong way.

But, I have hope in a few things. I know that I’ve been through this before, and I made it to the other side. I know that a lot of this, a HUGE portion of this, has to do with the enormous adjustment that comes, not just with having a newborn, but also with having a newborn and toddler. I know that laying down my pride and seeing a therapist helps me, personally, in a great way. And I know that there is a lot of good practice to be had in not running away from the waves of PPD when they crash on me. Pema taught me that — that emotions are part of the human ride, and¬†acknowledging them as they come is immensely helpful.

I think I wrote this all down without a direction in mind because as I was sharing some of these things with my small circle of friends on snapchat yesterday, a few of them¬†told me how alone they had felt in their own similar emotional journeys, and how healing it was to hear someone else say the things they were experiencing out loud. It makes me sad that it’s “SO BRAVE!” to say you’re struggling. I don’t know, maybe I’m off on this, but I’m pretty sure most people in the adult world are struggling. Or like, all people. If not perpetually than for sure at certain points throughout their adult life. I know I do, and, from what I gather, most people consider me like, successful and functional or whatever. Which, lol.

There is power in not hiding when you feel like you’re flailing and feeling like you’re not getting it right, not even a little. So – hey. Here I am. I’m flailing and I’m not hiding.


3 Comments

A Day.

A few of my favorite bloggers have done one of these recently – a play by play narrative of their day. Tonight, with a dead iPhone, I decided I had the time to jot down a diary of today. Looking over it, it seems a bit tinged with…I don’t know. Frustration? I have great days and I have not so great days, and I have lots of just somewhere-in-the-middle days. Today was somewhere in the middle, I suppose. Still working on that delicate balance of contentment, three months into being a family of four…

2AM The baby is fussing. I get up, half awake, and fish in the blue light of his monitor for a loose pacifier in his crib to give him. We are working on cutting out this feed, and sometimes, the pacifier works. I give him the pacifier and go back to bed, two times over, and it works. Sleep, glorious sleep.

5:40 AM I wake up to the baby squeaking and chirping. He is always early, but always happy. I look over to see Sean next to me. I must not have heard him come in; he worked a swing shift and came home after I was in bed. I shuffle into the baby’s room to feed him a bottle, and he is delighted to see me. I lay him down and try for another hour of sleep.

7:07 AM RR is calling for me. I open her door and tell her to get in bed with daddy, I need to change the baby’s diaper. Reluctantly she goes, after peering into the baby’s room to make sure I was truly busy.

7:35 AM I slug down my coffee smoothie (the only way I’ve found to pump caffeine into my body on whole30, not even whole30 legal but, at this point, I don’t care) while I put on one of my three gray dresses in rotation and a little bit of makeup.

8:03 AM RR and I leave Sean and the baby at home to drive the mile to daycare and she is all chatter, jumping from topic to topic at the speed of lightning. When we get inside, she is quiet and a little sad today as I peel her off of my leg, until her teachers offer to get out the sand, her favorite activity. I slip out to the car unnoticed as her tiny friends join her.

8:30 AM Grocery shopping keeps falling on weird days at weird times. I often go to multiple stores, and prefer to go it alone if I can. Since Sean’s schedule is erratic, this week’s trip fell on a Monday morning, when he could be home with the baby. I spend too long looking for water chestnuts, combing the canned vegetable aisle, the Asian food section, and the canned aisle again. Upon asking the produce man¬†(the one I singled out because he is so kind and so interested in produce, I swear)¬†he smiles and takes me back to the Asian food aisle. He talks with a thick accent. I think it is New York? Like Larry David. Is that just Jewish? Am I racist? No, just¬†dumb.

9:10 AM I unload all of the groceries. The baby is upstairs chattering and Sean went back to bed since he worked late. I have no idea if the baby slept yet or was fed before he was laid down. After I get all the food put away, I go upstairs to check on him. He seems awake and he is kicking his feet. I’m still not sure if this is code for I’m so happy to see you, mom, or, hey, there is the person that feeds me, get excited.

9:30 AM I attempt to feed the baby in case he is hungry. I am having an angry inner monologue about how it is now 1.5 hours past the start of my self-inflicted work day schedule and I have yet to work, which is the recurring theme at this point in my life. Squeeze work into the cracks when you can. The baby is doing his typical I’m-not-that-hungry routine with the bottle, where he slowly sways his head back and forth and I weakly try to follow with the bottle. I call it the Stevie Wonder. RR did it too, at that age.

9:45 AM I give up on trying to have him finish the bottle, and plant him in his cove in my office. That is, under my work table on his boppy pillow. I have strung bakers twine around the table and dangled some toys for him. He seems genuinely pleased to slowly tap his soft hedgehog toy – just the week he learned to reach out and touch it, ever so meekly. I plant myself at the desk to print off some shipping labels and get packing.

10:15 AM Sean comes downstairs. He smiles at the baby and I grumpily request that he leave a note next time he goes to bed so I can be sure of when the baby ate or slept. Immediately, I regret making that our starting point for the day, and redirect to telling him about a work development. We start to discuss a consultation meeting I had to streamline my shipping process. The conversation takes a negative turn and ends with us both getting short with each other and fading into our own rooms and activities. Some days we laugh until we cry on the couch and make out in bed, and other days, we are both just tired and irritable, annoyed to be doing the Adult Thing again, wiping butts, wiping floors, over and over. C’est la vie?

10:30 AM Sean takes the baby to the basement for awhile and I spend a good hour wandering around packaging websites, trying to find a more efficient way to package my mugs. I feel like I am wasting precious time, but it’s a necessary evil. I take breaks to do other administrative tasks, like email.

11:50 AM I peel myself away to make a half-hearted whole30 lunch so I can get back to work. I am also feeling grumpy about whole30, as it is nearly done but without the traditional effects I’ve felt in past rounds. The last few pounds I’ve set out to lose refuse to come off. I suspect I’m hoping for too much too soon. I am also fed up with removing perfectly viable sources of health like whole grains and legumes, and resolve that the next time I do a 30 day stint, I will leave those two in.

12:30 PM I try and feed the baby again. He has been snacking, 2 ounces at a time, all morning. I am too tired to care today, so I allow it. Sean is busy vacuuming with his headphones on. When he’s done, I bring the baby to him and set the bottle down, reporting he hasn’t had much but will maybe want some a little later.

1:15 PM I settle back into the office to work on other stuff for my business that feel like wasting time: new stickers, brainstorming a more effective and/or professional way to package some of my products, designing the new packaging, emailing, chatting with customer service. It’s not that I mind these tasks so much as I feel that any time invested in one task takes away from time at another.

1:30 PM I reach for my phone for the 80th time today. The battery died two days ago and I am waiting on a replacement kit. Normally I use it as a calculator, or to get on snapchat when I need a social break. Man, I am missing snapchat with a dead phone!

2:10 PM Sean comes in to tell me he is leaving (another swing shift). He has fed the baby and he’s napping in the swing now. He will probably take a good long nap, since he only hardly cat napped in the morning.

3:30 PM After another hour designing packaging, finishing shipping, and finalizing a new product, my shoulders feel hunchy and tense. I feel tired all over, and my spirit does too. I think I have some postpartum depression. I tell myself that I need to slow down, lower my expectations,¬†so I¬†¬†go upstairs to draw a hot bath. I’m reminded of how Sylvia Plath agreed that a hot bath can cure just about anything. I sit in my bath and read a few pages of The Bell Jar. I feel so sad for Sylvia. I am not suicidal by any means, but as I imagine her in her small apartment in the dead of winter, alone with two small babies, it doesn’t seem so strange as to why she stuck her head in the oven. The poor woman – it’s all I’ve thought about this week as I’ve read her book.

4 PM I gather a snack for RR and get a bottle ready for the baby. I feed and change him before we leave to get RR from daycare. He snacks again, only 2 oz. I would be mad, but as he drinks he stops and giggles at me, catching my eye and smiling with his. He is the sweetest baby, only upset when he truly needs something. I can do nothing but smile back at him. I nuzzle him and sweet talk him and then we get ready to go.

5 PM I pull into daycare to see RR playing. She squeals to see me. Her teacher reports that she had a great day. She didn’t want her macaroni and cheese but ate all of her baked beans, and took her nap. We discuss how I can’t comprehend that someone wouldn’t like macaroni and cheese.

5:15 PM We head to the north end of town to pick up one of those door frame baby bouncers I found on a Facebook selling page. They always looked fun to me and I never got one for RR, so when I saw a nearly new one for $10, I figured, why not. RR was happy as a clam with Frozen (soundtrack) playing and a snack for the drive. I really play it up as a fun adventure so she’ll cut out the whining. It works.

6PM Home in time to get RR some dinner. I get her settled at the table and then change the baby and get him to bed.

6:30 PM RR is mesmerized by the new doorframe bounce seat. She immediately gets her baby doll and sets her up, with a blanket, a burp cloth, and several toys. She instructs me to be quiet while the baby rests. I make myself a quick dinner and then answer a few more emails as she becomes engrossed in Word World, a show where all of the objects and animals are illustrated using letters to spell the word that they are. The baby cries a few times and then finally falls asleep.

7PM RR¬†and I cuddle for a few minutes before I announce it is bedtime. We go upstairs to brush her teeth, change her clothes, wash her face. She really wants to read a Christmas book, I really don’t. She never wants to read the Nancy Tillman book I bought her (that I love.) We settle on a dog book, and with that, two songs, and a refill of (must be fresh) water in her cup, she’s in bed by 730. A must when I’m going solo at bedtime.

7:30 PM I pick up stray items around the house and get the dishwasher going. I feel regretful that Sean and I were snippy to each other, and wonder if I’m just becoming a horrible person now that we have two children, or if it really is postpartum depression. I tell myself that I will for sure make an appointment with a therapist once my phone is functional.

8PM In my office I take a look at my to do list for the week and cross off a few more items. I think about how bone tired I feel and consider, for a moment, going to bed at 8PM. But the thought of waking up to do this again with no free time logged in between makes me kind of sad, so I stay up to read, and maybe have a snack.

9PM Since my phone is dead, I can’t surf the Internet mindlessly like I normally do. All this silent alone time has me truly pondering the Internet and what it’s doing to my brain. The silence! It’s deafening! I decide to pick up my book and log a few more pages. Inevitably, I stop now and again to trot over to the computer when something hits my brain. A product I wanted to look up, a message to send someone (my iMessage still works, so texting is still viable) something I forgot to order on Amazon prime, an email I wanted to send.

10:30PM The baby is stirring so I go in. Overall he is improving on his eating schedule, but he always eats best at night in regard to focus and amount taken. He is quiet and cuddly and all I can think about when I feed him at night is how I love him so much that it makes my insides hurt.

10:45PM I am in the bathroom taking care of my little nighttime routine: removing contacts, washing my face, putting on lotion and retainers. I ponder how I am nearly thirty, and how old that feels. I know it’s not old, but it feels old. Thirty. (I’m not even thirty.) I am now someone’s mom, just like my friend’s moms, when I was a little girl and would go over to their house and ponder their adulthood, their grown up¬†nail beds, their diet soda and tv shows running. I am one of those, now. Weird.

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 154 other followers