Saturday, January 06, 2007

I am writing this post, right here, right now, in the interest of remembrance. It seems to me that I am forgetting a great deal.

I got going on this blog because I didn't want to forget this time in my life. I've got a new beginning going in a city of new beginnings...or potential ones, anyway.

But there are things I have certainly wanted to forget in my life. How insanely I behaved when I was first down here in New Orleans, trying to work and not getting along with most of my co-workers. The detritus of personal relationships I have left in my wake at certain times in my life. How I tied myself to one employer as a willing slave for five years. I have also really tried to put behind me the ongoing effects of depression, effects that blew themselves up to great proportions once I had my son.

Putting my depression in the past denies the fact that it is still a factor in my life. That it colors many of the decisions I make on a daily basis. That I still, after nearly a year down south, haven't fully cleaned up the leftover stuff from our move here, damn it!

I learned that I was pregnant shortly after we were making preparations to move up to Queens. I had been so relieved, overall, that I was leaving a work situation that had grown oppressive to me, and that I was doing it without making a major enemy of my ex-boss. What could she possibly say to me now that my husband had found a good job elsewhere? I had to go with him, simple as that. Hey, I was looking forward to a fresh start, too; I had become very interested in pursuing a master of sacred music degree, and New York was the place to do it, since the two big cantorial schools were located there. There might well be a year in Israel involved in a five-year program at either school, but I was young, newly married, and I could do it!

Until I got sick. In the middle of getting our stuff ready for the big move. I was still working, but I got so sick that I couldn't do any glass blowing. Things got really bad when I went to fill up the gas tank of my car at a local station and became sick to my stomach from the gasoline smell - someone passing by even asked me if I was all right, I looked that green. I got a home pregnancy test, followed the directions, and my heart sank at the positive result.

Hence the beginnings of a PPD recipe: A new career beginning deferred + a move to a new city + my hiring of horrible thieving movers who stole half my CD collection, our TV, VCR, and stereo, and Dan's 1920's-era saxophone. What else should be added to this stew? Try the decision I made to go off my antidepressants. I figured I was no longer in an insane employment situation, and it might well be safer for my developing baby if I were to discontinue my medication. Plus, I was lazy. I just didn't want to go through having to find another therapist.

What was I, nuts? Ummm, yeah.

I had my son. My mother stayed with us for a week while I recovered from the episiotomy. She yelled at me on the last day of her stay, a rage fueled just as much by the fact that she hadn't had much sleep as by the fact that I was crying my eyes out at the drop of a hat. She told me to suck it up, that I was a mom and I couldn't be feeling sorry for myself. I was never happier to see her leave, and yet I wanted to crawl on my hands and knees and beg her not to go. I went through two weeks of off-and-on breastfeeding, of days when my son would take to the breast just fine and then days that would leave me reeling from his refusal. He finally took to it fully after that time and stayed with it for six more months. But I still wasn't happy about it. By that time, I had a hard time seeing him as something other than a needy appendage.

I was yelled at once by an elderly woman in the SelfHelp program at my synagogue when my son was still very young and was squalling to be fed. Initially, she seemed very nice and wanted to chat about kids, but when she saw I was breastfeeding, she began to yell at me to leave, that there were men present. Forget that I wasn't in a conspicuous place in the room at all. Forget that the men that needed to be protected from the sight of my chest were yelling at her to lay off me. I left because I just felt so bad in general. I wasn't in any mood to fight back against her raving, because I was having trouble fighting against my own internal raving.

In New York, there weren't many stay at home moms like me. I couldn't find them initially. I didn't have the time. I was trying to keep up with my exhaustion, with keeping house in the apartment, with the care and feeding of this very needy baby. The synagogue Drop-In center for parents and their kids aged up to three was about to dissolve because the few parents who were coming regularly had kids who were outgrowing the program - and there weren't many stay-at-home parents around to continue the program. I signed my son up for a morning Kindermusik program at the local Y, but most of the caretakers of the attending kids were nannies. Gymboree classes weren't much better; in fact, they were worse, because the instructors for them were just vapid.

My biggest depression indicator was when I would be crossing Queens Boulevard, a massive, eight-lane street with three medians and giant signs at our corner that proclaimed CROSS WITH CARE - A PEDESTRIAN WAS KILLED CROSSING HERE. I would be crossing it at least a couple of times a day, and each day, I would wonder how I could make my own death look like an accident. I clearly wasn't serving anyone well, least of all my son. Maybe if I walked just a little bit slower in traffic, but not too slow, I could be hit and my son could be saved, his stroller having made it onto one of the medians. Yes, that would work. Except it never happened due to my autopiloting skill in crossing the street before the lights changed.

I finally, really snapped when my son was seven months old. I was tired of being angry at him and of wanting to kill myself. I caught myself slapping him on his rear end when he wouldn't stop wriggling while I was changing him. Was this what I had become? It scared me so, I called the social worker at the synagogue for a referral, and she gave me the name of an organization in Douglaston. I called them up right away and made an appointment. I talked with a friend I'd made through the syangogue, a newlywed and recent convert to Judaism, who recommended a friend of hers to look after my son while I went on my appointments or just decided to take a full day off.

On my first day in the therapist's office, I was a bawling mess who could barely get out her sorry tale. I felt very alone walking into that room, and only a little less alone when I walked out of it. This wasn't going to be easy. It would take a lot of work to get me saner, and nothing was going to happen overnight. However, I had to do it. I had to retrain myself as the parent that I had never wanted to be, while still keeping most of my self intact. My therapy was no longer only about me - it was about keeping everything together enough so that I and my family could thrive.

My daily life at home is still chaotic (i.e., the aforementioned messy house - anyone want to help? I'll pay. Really, anything... ), but manageable. I've moved to an entire city that is on SSRIs, so I'm not alone in that way. I am still remaking myself into Mom - not supermom, but the mom that is me. What I found I need to do more of, however, is the act of telling it like it is. That very act is what can help set us all free. I do my best in the service of New Orleans' recovery with this blog. I rail against cover-ups in my comments on other people's blogs. I need to keep putting my money where my mouth is.

The fight hasn't left me. The battle is still raging inside. I'm just waaay less likely to take it out on the people I love the most.


Leah said...

That was an incredible post. Thanks for your honesty...

Judy Thorne said...

Wow, I would've never known about your struggles. You are definitely a fantastic Mom and a New Orleanian. The city is blessed to have you!