Monday, January 31, 2011

What my dog and I have in common

You've heard me talk (write) about my love/hate/hate relationship with my dog Max. I have always loved dogs and been able to love them through most of their shenanigans. I gravitate toward dogs more than cats because cats are still mysterious to me since I never had one growing up. I don't dislike cats I just don't really relate to them very well. Dogs I understand. They like to eat and go chase something. They like to be rubbed around their neck and that's pretty much all you need to know. We had a chihuahua that lived to be 18 years old. Did you know that? Anyone who grew up with me remembers Maverick. Ah Maverick. There are some dogs that you could stand to have for 18 years and I'm not sure he was one of them. But we loved him. We didn't have a choice.


Max is Sean's dog and Sean is his master. If there was ever a question of who Max obeys just camp out in my house for a few hours and it'd be clear. I am like Max's big sister who feeds him and makes sure he goes out to potty but my no means does that make me his master in his eyes. He likes me just fine and I tolerate him. It's a beautiful friendship. Well. It's a friendship. A partnership at best.

When Max was a puppy he freaked out every time Sean left him at the house. He'd tear things up and have kind of panic attacks yelping and would even eat his collar off so he could chase after Sean's car. He was kinda pitiful. (So I've been told...see I wasn't in the picture at this point.) Sean took him to the vet and explained his behavior. The vet said that anxiety is common in labs when they are away from their masters and he prescribed Prozac for baby Max. Sean thought it was funny and a little excessive but he gave Max the meds and they totally helped. From time to time once we were married Sean would tell me stories about when Max was on anti-anxiety meds and how he had outgrown the need for them.

Fast forward four years and three kids later. I was battling Max at all ends. He'd be fine when Sean was home and then lose it when Sean was gone. Lose it like chewing holes in our wooden fence, color our carpet upstairs with diarrhea, eat things like soap, starfish, rabbit poop, yada get it, he was losing it. So we asked the vet, (a different one than before,) for advice. Guess what he suggested. Yep, Prozac. So we started giving our dog Prozac again and within a month I could totally see a difference. He was still eating food off the high chair with a child in it but he didn't have stomach issues and seemed to calm down and just relax a lot more. We were thrilled.

So that's the Max portion of the story. Here is the me portion.

After I had Joy and a tubal at the same time, I recovered as I normally did after a c-section plus about ten times the pain. Call me before you have a c-section and tubal at the same time if you're thinking about it. We need to have words. Anyway. Once the pain was gone all seemed the same except that now I had reason to be a little overwhelmed more than I was just with Ty and Charlie. Joy was a miracle baby and we were thankful for her health and her life but she was a testy baby. Much like Ty, she didn't love sleep and had stomach issues so she was often fussy. She screamed every time she was in the car until she was four months old. I'm not exaggerating. I've never been one to avoid asking for help so I always asked for it when I felt myself getting overwhelmed. Mom and Dad have always come to my rescue when I needed help during Sean's trips, (and when Sean is home and WE need help!) so the problem stayed at bay for a long time. When Joy was about 6 months old I realized I was having severe PMS symptoms for the first time. I'd always had bad cramps and mood swings, (hello I am female,) but this was more of a "I can't take the pressure, the crying, the pressure, the crying, the pressure..." that comes with tending to my kids. I would break down often and feel like I couldn't keep up. I'd get really frustrated with the silliest things the kids did. I literally cried over spilled milk more than once. My friends helped tremendously and my family did too. I kept everything in a delicate balance then would always feel like I needed a vacation when Sean would come home to trade off with me.

I felt a strong need to get away and calm down.

I thought it was normal and to a certain extent I think it is. Stay at home moms can feel like their job isn't really contributing to society. They can feel trapped and forgotten. They can feel frustrated and bored. Moms who work can feel the exact same things. They can feel like they are doing wrong because they aren't with their kids all day every day. They can feel trapped in their job when they would love to be at home with their kids. Being a mom, it seems, equals feeling pulled in many directions. The great news is that God has given us the ability to live with our heart outside our bodies. He has given us the gift of carrying a child and bonding with it before anyone else can. We can feel their movements and really know them without even seeing them. It is a gift. It really is.

When I felt myself seeing it more and more of a job too hard for me to keep up instead of a gift, I decided to ask for more help.

I talked to my husband, my family, and prayed about it constantly. It took having multiple panic attacks in the middle of the night to help me stop fighting the battle with the tools I already had. Prior to these last few months the only time I'd ever felt true anxiety was when I was flying. Anxiety wasn't one of my battles. I had other battles-jealousy, pride, discontent, etc. but wasn't an anxious person. I believed that I was aware and in control of my emotions. I was, and am, after all, a counselor. (enter the chuckle from God...) I hit a wall. If you have ever had either a panic or anxiety attack, you know the wall. You can feel reduced to the size of an infant in the feeling of fear that overtakes you. A helpless, defenseless infant.

I talked to my OB at length about the symptoms I was having that weren't going away as Joy was getting older. For me, older kids=easier. I always struggle after having a baby with feeling overwhelmed, and I think we all do. People who say being a mother is easy are lying. They're just lying! Ha! But they really are. For me, though, when they start sleeping well, it gets easier. Then when they are able to feed themselves, it gets easier. Then when they can move around, it gets easier. I'm just the type that eases into motherhood I guess. Anyway. He suggested taking either hormone therapy or an antidepressant. He suggested the antidepressant over hormone therapy since the circumstances contributing to my anxiety, (the ones I can identify,) are temporary. For me, the things I could feel contributing to the anxiety were normal stress-producing things-in other words, things that would cause anybody to have issues. The house, trying to sell the house, finances, looking for another house, the concern for Ty and his progress and taking him away from his teacher when we move, etc.

So I started taking what I now refer to as, "the pill." As in, "Did I take the pill? I can't remember." Sean saying, "Mar, you forgot your pill..." To an outsider it sounds like I'm taking a birth control pill I'm sure. :) But it's my pill. And in the words of my sweet husband who sees me more often than anybody else, "You're back. Your old self, it's back." I'd say that's indicative of how well it's working to help me with what I was feeling.

I love being a mom. I always have. But I didn't always enjoy it honestly. I talk about the funny side here and I also talk about the frustrating side. The lonely side. The hard stuff. I do that because God didn't create us for a life of solitude. He gave us each other. My belief is that He allows us to go through things and walks with us through them so that we can then help other people. He gives us compassion for people who are hurting. He gives us grace so that we will give it to others. He gave us life, didn't He? So that's why I, at His urging, share things like this that may not be easy to talk about. To me they are because guess what: other people have helped me through it so that I know I'm not alone.

And you're not either.

"Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings."

Psalm 61:1-4


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this Mary... love your honesty, your humor, and your encouragement. I may have to book-mark this one for one of my "rainy days" friend!

Emmy said...

I'm proud of you.

Sarah Sharp said...

I love your honesty! So glad you got the help you needed. I look back at my early days with Will and think I was a little depressed. It is such an overwhelming change, and hard to admit when things are not perfect. Motherhood is tough!

Julie said...

Mary, you are one of the most authentic people I know! Praise God for His word, His people...and meds!!!!


Mary said...

Thank you girls. Each of you has been a huge encouragement to me here. I feel like I can be honest so Thank You.

Carley said...

Love you, Mar! I have been praying for you since knowing your recent daily pill and I am so glad it's helping. It takes courage to share that and God is using you. I know resting from having the house on the market has helped too. You are a fabulous mother and I love watching you with your kids. I am proud to call you my friend!

Mommarazzi said...

Needed to read this. Thanks for sharing!

Lindsey said...

You are awesome. Love you, friend!

Mary said...

Thank you, y'all. If telling my story helps someone else, I've done my job :)