Tag Archives: daughters

“Mama, Will I Take Pills Too When I Grow Up?”

prozacThe complexities of raising a child when you have a mental illness

Every morning, my daughter and I have breakfast together.  It’s imperative to me that she has it every day; studies have touted the multiple benefits of having breakfast.  Plus, she’s honestly Linda Blair from the Exorcist when she doesn’t have it.  That’s an added incentive.

I either have oatmeal or cereal mixed with yogurt; she often has cereal, fruit, and yogurt.  She drinks milk and I drink my coffee, just with cream.  And beside my coffee lay my two magnesium pills (for my migraines) and my tab and a half of Prozac.

We are not a house who hides things.  We burp loud and have loud emotions and make big mistakes and both the parents and kid say sorry in our house.  We also don’t hide the fact that Mommy takes two different kinds of pills in the morning: one for her muscle health, and one for her brain health.

The learning process started slowly.  My daughter first noticed the black and white pills on the table, and exclaimed as any three-year old would, “Me have!”  I then proceeded to educate her that she cannot just pick up any pill and take it; that these were for adults, and if kids had to take them, adults would inform them what and when.

She then asked, “What dat do?”

“One helps Mama to have less headaches.  The other helps Mama’s brain to work well.”

This was followed by a few days, where on the playground, or after nap time, my daughter would trot up to me and ask, “Where is my brain?”  And I’d point to her head, and she’d remember, and trot off.

I was fully confident in the way I was handling things until a few days ago, when bleary-eyed, I turned to my daughter at breakfast, and she asked quizzically,

“When I’m an adult, I will take pills?”

I wanted to choke on my cereal.

In the sentence she uttered, I felt the judgment of a million anti-medication people yelling at me, thinking I’ve set my kid up for a life of drug addiction.  I felt the despair of a mother who, having her own mental health struggles, was worried she was raising a child who had to be on medication to be happy.  I felt the uncertainty of my daughter, who knew that these “pills” held some importance, and, was it something desirable?  Something to be scared of?

I knew this wasn’t true; that one day, she’d have the cognitive ability to wrap her mind around the fact that I’d made a healthy decision for myself, but for now, it stung.

Even in today’s somewhat-enlightened society, being a mother on medication is not something you yell from the rooftops.  There are the types who believe that everything can be solved through the chiropractor and through organic, gluten-free food, but that is simply not true.  And those types feel free to pass judgment on those who actually have experience with mental illness.  There are cases, cases like me in which the person feels suicidal unless they are on the correct dosage of medication.

More power to the people who can solve their depressive episodes with a change in exercise routine.  I cannot.  More power to the people who can take away their anxiety by practicing mindfulness skills.  I cannot.  People like me are wired differently, perhaps by biological makeup, or perhaps by early trauma.  There is nothing worse about us.  We haven’t tried less or made less of an effort.

I mean, perhaps I wouldn’t experience depression or anxiety if I didn’t work full-time as a therapist and mother, and didn’t owe thousands of dollars in student loans.  My life simply doesn’t afford me time to spend at a Zen Buddhist retreat for weeks on end.

So what do I want my daughter to know?  When she’s grown and ready to handle this information?

I want her to know her Mama spent years trying to self-medicate her depression and anxiety through alcohol and numbing eating behaviors, and that during that period, her cholesterol went up and her blood pressure reached dangerously low levels.  I want her to know she tried exercise as a form of endorphin release, but that it ended up becoming obsessive.  I want her to know that once Mama took those prescribed-by-a-doctor pills, she was able to stop screaming and she was able to be a good Mama.  I want her to know that her Mama finally realized her therapist was right about it being ok to rely on something to feel like she wanted to live on this planet.  I want her to know her Mama chose life, and not being a martyr, and not suffering.  And I want her to know it’s ok to rely on something, if need be, too.  That it wouldn’t be something she did wrong; it would be an act of bravery to admit she needed help.

Most importantly, I want her to know:

Just because Mama takes pills, doesn’t mean you’re going to.

And that’s what I told her uncertain, quizzical face that morning.

“No, your brain works great.  You might not ever need pills honey.  Mama’s brain just works a little different.”

And at that, she grinned and burped loudly.

 

Anorexia, On Vacation

I wish this article was about my anorexia going on a permanent vacation, but it isn’t.  There aren’t two ways about it: recovery is hard on any average routine-filled day.  So when you throw in a two-week period of little sleep, constant activity, and strange, indulgent foods, one in recovery can feel like he or she is on an anorectic rollercoaster.

I went to Los Angeles for almost two weeks, to introduce my daughter to friends she hadn’t the opportunity to meet yet.  (Oh, and I forgot to mention above the fun of putting a Boston toddler on Los Angeles time.  Joyful 3am awakenings where SuperWhy MUST be watched.  But I digress.)  Now, I love LA for many reasons – it’s beautiful, the weather is almost perfect, the people are relaxed, and I’ll admit, it’s pretty cool to see celebrities alongside of you shopping for groceries.  But it’s image-obsessed.  Two years ago, I had gone to LA, and when I got off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan…wait…

No but really.  The first billboard I saw read:

“1-800-GET-SKINNY”.

I remember thinking how you’d never see that in Boston.

Also, the last time I went, I had gone out to a bar with my boyfriend and some of his friends.  I had excused myself to go to the bathroom, and when I entered it, immediately felt out of place.  The white hippie sundress and sandals I had previously thought were pretty attractive paled in comparison to the row of stiletto heels and skintight dresses I saw on the other women.  Now, I’ve never been one to follow trends, but I had to admit that my Boston-ness seemed glaringly apparent that day.

This time, I didn’t compare myself as much to other women, but I found the off-schedule eating pretty abhorrent.  Can you eat healthy on vacation?  Absolutely.  Is it harder when you’re dealing with low finances and a screaming toddler?  Yup.  So, long story short, I found myself eating more fast foods and sugar, and while you know I DEFINITELY don’t endorse abstinence from any of these foods, it was an imbalance for me.

candyamanda

 

The above picture was taken in this fabulous candy store, Dylan’s Candy Bar, in the Grove.  Think candy you haven’t seen for years AND a chocolate fondue bar where you could dip strawberries and rice krispie treats in chocolate.  This is me, overenjoying one of those delectable treats:

amandalickingchocolate

 

The folly for me always lies in this common anorexic miscalculation: linking food intake with moral value.  Because I ate a ton of candy that day, I was immediately a disgusting person…not.  I may have had uncomfortable feelings of my body breaking down sugars it doesn’t usually, but that doesn’t translate into my moral value.  Separating the physical and the emotional are so very important, at times.  And also…one can’t maintain a perfect food intake 24/7.  We are humans, which means we err.  Which means it’s ok to get off the bandwagon for a bit if we know we have the ability to get back on safely.  And at this point, I do.  I just need to remind myself it’s ok to indulge in healthy substances.  Writing, friend time, nerds ropes, and my daughter.

I will say this trip was not a total anorectic mental slip, and is documented by the following:  I wore a bikini with little to no shame, for the first time in my life.

amandabikini

 

I had planned this photo mentally, because I needed to challenge the irrational idea in my head that I looked disgusting in a bathing suit and needed to hide my body.  For some, this might be triggering, but for me, it was one of the most liberating experiences I ever had.  Truthfully, I’ve still found ways to pick apart this photo since then, but, it’s a work in process, isn’t it?

 

How does being on vacation affect your self-care?  Does it improve it or throw it off?

Shake What Your Momma Gave Ya.

Yesterday, I was inspired to resurrect an old head scarf I used to wear all the time when I lived in Amherst.  One of my close friends, Devin, had started wearing head scarves and bandannas recently, and I wanted to look as cute as she did.  The fam and I were on our way to Boston’s trendy SoWa open market, and I wanted to dress up.  It’s a big deal, these days, you know.  Dressing up when you’re a Mama.

So I donned a long summer dress, drop earrings, and a paisley head scarf.  I indulgently took this ridiculous duckface selfie, complete with seat belt:

bohoselfie

 

What’s important to note about the scarf, is that it was my Nana’s.  She passed away in 2003, and I gratefully received this after she died, along with a few other cherished jewelry pieces.  It got me thinking about what she, and my mother, and the women before them had to go through to let me be as strong as I am today about this whole body image thing.

A little backstory:

This is what I was told about my Nana: she was born in Ireland and came to the US when she was a baby.  She was adopted by a family over here, and worked fairly young, as her family was not, let’s say, the Kardashians.  One thing that always made me smile was the stories my mother would tell me about her trips into Boston as a teen.  She would take the train into Boston by herself, walk around the city, and buy a trinket with the little money she had.  She seemed fiercely tough and independent, and I identify with that.  Anywho, she married my Grampy, and worked tirelessly as a housekeeper while raising seven kids.  One of them being my mother.

My mother often tells me, “When I was a kid, we didn’t think there was any other choice than marrying and raising kids.  That was just what you did.”  And she’s right.  Were there some women going to college in the mid-sixties?  Sure.  But not like there are today.  In 1965, Betty Friedan truly hadn’t reached everyone yet, and when there were financial stressors on a family, college was a completely ludicrous idea.  So, those women married, and followed the ideals of the fifties.  They pleased their husband by cooking and cleaning.  They tried to look pretty for them.

1950

Someone I see on a weekly basis often likes to tell me, “You women are lucky today.”  And he’s right.  Choices for my Nana and mother were limited – and they, perhaps, didn’t have the time or energy to love their reflection because they were too busy cooking or working or cleaning.  Also, they didn’t know they even had a RIGHT to challenge old, patriarcal beliefs because they had been taught to not question things like that.

My mother, however, had a streak of hippie in her (even though she denies it).  She was an attachment mother before there were attachment mothers, she organized church food drives for the hungry, and she was a bleeding heart who took her patients home on weekends from the Fernald State School to get a respite from the horror.  Her compassion – despite ARDUOUS circumstances that I will keep private – inspired me to choose the career road I walk down today.  It spurred me to get an education that furthered my liberal, feminist beliefs, and challenged me to look beyond what I had been conditioned to believe about my body.  And I’m sure her mother had an effect on her character, in some way.  But that’s her story to tell.

What am I saying?

Even if we have a conflictual relationship with them – even if they hate their body and you learned that as a result of being around them –

Let’s thank the women who came before us.

Without them, we wouldn’t be able to be the fantastic individuals we are today.  Maybe you’re completely different from your mother because you felt angry with her and wanted to rebel.  Well, your fabulous rebellious self?  Thank your mother for that.  Or maybe you’re a carbon copy of your mother, who spends half her time cooking organic food and the other half volunteering for the homeless.  Either way, they have an effect on our personalities – and our body image.  

All I know is, I feel absolutely gorgeous when I wear my Nana’s scarf.

How have the women in your life affected your body image?

 

(1950’s ad provided by Molly Treanor’s blog.  Check her out!)

A Husband’s Perspective

heartout

Happy Tuesday, folks.

A BIG thanks goes out to Liz for sending me this posting by Nate Milsham.  Nate writes about the difficulty, pain and triumphs one experiences when trying to support someone with an eating disorder.  (I’ll go on record and say it’s one of the most difficult disorders to support.)  His wife has been battling ED-NOS for years, and in this post he details his sensitive observations of her and the how the outside world treats women.

Beautiful.  That is all.

 

 

Dear Media: Stop Trying to Kill My Sisters.

Dear Media,

I woke up this morning to a picture my friend had posted (mockingly) of a “Get Beach Ready!” article in some beauty magazine.  In it, the first tip suggested,

“BAN STRETCH MARKS.”

stretch marks

and I say –

Go fuck yourself.  That’s right.  You heard me.

Stretch marks have nothing to do with beauty; in fact, I think they have a lot to do with skin elasticity.  So stop trying to attach moral value to stretch marks.

Or anything else body-related for that matter.

Media, did you know eating disorders are the deadliest mental health illness?  Bypassing alcoholism?


death

Well yes, they are.  And you are contributing to many a woman’s death, on a daily basis, all for your love of money.

Stop trying to kill my sisters.  Or my daughter, for that matter.

What if you, instead, chose to publish an un-airbrushed, average looking lady on your cover?  Might that young pre-teen you’re selling to have not chosen to go on a 500-calorie a day diet?  Maybe, maybe not.  Even if you’re not the direct cause, you’re part of the equation.

And when the women who don’t kill themselves via starvation give up on attaining that perfect ideal, they swing the other way.  They start binging, because they just as well might give up and “get fat because there’s no hope for me anyway.”  You may have heard of an epidemic called “obesity.”  You play a part in that.

binge

They buy into your bullshit because you’ve inundated them with false truths since the moment they were born.  Society’s values do a number on them too – “sweet, cute, Daddy’s little girl.”  Pushed down by the patriarchy as soon as they can breathe air.

Oh, and stop trying to kill our mothers.

The other day, I heard a husband joke about giving his wife 6 months post-partum to appear as if she never had a baby.  Behind the joking that made me want to stick a needle in my eye – there is truth.  A million of your articles have been dedicated to women pretending as if they never took part in assisting the human race in surviving.  Makes sense.

babyweight2

 

Keeping women insecure earns a lot of money for you.  How do you sleep at night?  How do you live with yourself?

Either way, it’s got to stop.  You make my new-mother friend feel like she should weigh less, you make my daughter the subject of weight stereotypes, and you make me feel like my genetic spider veins are little spindles of evil on my pasty-white, untanned-and-therefore-unappealing skin.

STOP.

(Another Piece of Cake realizes there are healthy ad campaigns out there, and applauds them!  Another Piece of Cake also realizes men are hit hard by the media too, but Another Piece of Cake only writes about women because she’s, well…a woman.)

Blissful Body Fridays: Don’t Talk About Your Weight in Front of My Daughters

Happy Friday, everyone!  We made it!

elfgifThis week’s link comes to us from Pam G, a friend from college who is a caring Mom of three (one older son and twin boys – she’s my hero!)  The article is written by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, who has a TV show and books and other fabulous stuff.  It’s called Please Don’t Talk About Your Weight In Front of My Daughters, and in it she writes about the importance of adults NOT putting their own bodies down in front of kids.

Why?

Kids do what we do, not what we say.  So even if you tell them they’re gorgeous and breathtaking, they’re still probably going to have bad body image if you talk shit about your abs 24/7.

And I LOVE the attitude this lady has towards food.

Read away, and have a great weekend, folks!

(Gif provided by coed.com)

The Real Issue At Hand

I’ve been struggling lately.

(UGH, that sucks to say…)

Not like, using full-out behaviors struggling, but having eating disordered thoughts popping back in my head.  And when they do, my wise mind quizzically says, “huh?” and pushes them away, at least for the time being.  That’s the cool thing about working so hard on my recovery – having old thoughts doesn’t  mean they become old behaviors.

Eating disorders are just a distraction from the real issues at hand.  For me, they’re a way of “numbing out” or dissociating from current emotions because they’re simply too hard.  And if you have strong emotions, like me – it’s deceptively helpful, because who wants to live with sky-high and below-ground emotions 24/7?

In an attempt to not slip back into old thoughts, I’m going to tackle one of the issues at hand.

Yesterday, Father’s Day put me in a really bad mood.  And I felt really fucking guilty about it, because I have another Dad to celebrate now – my daughter’s father.  But I couldn’t get out of it and here’s what I’m guessing was the cause:

My Dad’s health.

My Dad is 83.  He was born three months before the Great Depression.  Up until two years or so ago, my father was unstoppable.  He lived 5 lives before he even met my mother, flying airplanes in the Air Force, schmoozing with celebrities as an actor, teaching classes and co-opening his own theatre.

And then old age struck.

But it wasn’t just physical health – in fact, the emotional health fell away first.  He stopped working, started getting depressed, and then his physical health began to fail.  He needed to use a cane.  He needed to use a walker.  And then he needed to use a wheelchair.

Not to mention the fact that the stuttering which he struggled with as a kid mysteriously came back about 8 months or so ago.  So basically, he can’t talk.

Or hear well, or see well.  He has hearing aids in both ears and has macular degeneration.

My mother takes care of him, and also takes care of my daughter two days a week.  One of those days, she brings my father with her, and he lights up at anything my lady does, but it’s a production just getting him in the house.

So, you’re thinking, I must be torn apart.  And I am, on one level.  But let me give you a little history.

My father is from a totally different generation.  The kind that thinks mental illness doesn’t exist, or maybe that it’s a choice.  So he’s had trouble understanding or even acknowledging what I’ve been through at times, and denies any depression on his part.  I jokingly remind him that I’m licensed to diagnose him, but he dismisses it.

And let’s just say he wasn’t given the best upbringing emotionally.  So, he and I were never particularly emotionally close.  Maybe it was because I clung to my mother in the early years and he took it personally.  Or maybe it was because we were too alike and clashed during my teenage years (We are so alike.  Stubborn as anything, intelligent, independent, ambitious, curious.).  Either way, the “Daddy’s girl” thing always eluded me.  I’m not putting him or I or our relationship down – it just wasn’t us.

So, now that his health isn’t great and it’s obvious that he probably doesn’t have 30 years left to spare, I’m left thinking I should feel something different, or do more.  I’m sad – it’s fucking inhumane to watch your parent decompensate like that.  And I feel bad on a daily basis that I can’t do more because I have my own family.  I feel bad for my mother.  But I also have about two minutes to spare on a daily basis, and when I do, I try to take care of myself.

It always comes back to that issue – that I’m not doing enough.

My partner likes to remind me that I have, however.  He likes to remind me that I’ve made my amends to my father for past transgressions, and I’ve set up VA services for them, and  made calls to the Council on Aging to look for any services they could utilize.

I don’t know.

It just sucks, and this is the work I have to do, writing about it and talking about it, instead of  distracting myself with useless thoughts and behaviors.  And I usually don’t do it out of fear of insulting some family member, but I’m sick of living my life for others, and I think everyone would agree with what I’ve written anyway.

Have you ever had to deal with the loss of a parent in one way or another?  How did you healthily cope with it?  Did you ever catch yourself numbing out?

Blissful Body Fridays: How Being A Kid = Loving Your Body

Me, before I cared.
Me, before I cared.

In case you didn’t know, Good ol’ New England is having a heat wave; the temps are expected to hit 93 before the end of today.  So naturally, I went to Revere Beach this morning with my 17 month old daughter.  It was 85 degrees by 9 in the morning.  Crazy.

I grew up overhearing tales of the old Revere Beach from my mother; she regaled us with stories of cotton candy and vomit-inducing roller coaster rides with her cousin.  It’s nothing like it used to be; it used to be a resort area filled with amusements and fast food.  Now, after a couple of conspiracy-story fires that were set, it’s just quiet.  Which is fine.

I camped out right where the dry sand met the wet, mushy stuff.  My daughter wanted nothing to do with the cold, rolling waves, but loved the sand.  So she literally bathed in it.  While I was leaning over to make a sandturtle, she had dumped a pile of sand on her head.  A thick layer of sand coated her scalp.  I groaned inwardly, but laughed to myself.  Because the best thing that’s ever been taught to me was by my daughter – the art of letting go.  The art of getting messy and not caring what things look like.

Before I had her, I would spend 20 minutes on my eye makeup.  I would have long pedicures at home and just curl my hair for fun sometimes.  Now, I don’t have time for that stuff.  Which sucks, sometimes, but it’s great, in another way.

Why?

When you are eating a mud pie and smooshing it all over your face, you don’t care if your blue veins are showing through your pale Irish skin.  You’re having fun and marvelling at the fabulousness of having mud pie ALL OVER YOUR FACE.  When you’re throwing sand in the wind, you don’t pay attention to the cellulite on your thighs because you’re jumping in big, funny lunges to avoid getting sand in your eyes.  And when you’re picking up shells, you’re not caring about your untoned tummy, because you are collecting little magical treasures, one at a time.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still have control problems; you’d probably all laugh at my nighttime routine, which is OCD-esque and consists of this strange “sweep-the-entire-house-feed-the-cats-change-their-litterbox” routine.  But spending time has done wonders for my body image; I use my body in way more fun ways now than I ever did.

Do you remember that time?  Before you hit puberty and all hell broke loose?  When you made soup in the ground with sticks and leaves?  When you rode bikes just as fast as the neighborhood boys?  When girls were equal to boys and just as capable?

It’s still there.

You can still have it now.

Have a blissful Friday.

 

Blissful Body Fridays: Mama’s Wisdom

How’s everyone doing?  Hope you’re having a great Friday.  I’m kind of blah, to be honest…have a migraine and am exhausted…but I didn’t want to skip posting this AWESOME blog post my friend Michelle sent me on FB.

In this post, this brave mama blogs about her fearless daughter, and her attempt to explain beauty to her (which she does flawlessly).  I totally related to it because my daughter is a little daredevil with tons of energy, and is always having accidents like her daughter had.

Read away!

A little bit of both is health, IMO...

My Toddler Knows About Dunkin’ Donuts (And Other Non-Atrocities)

A little bit of both is health, IMO...
A little bit of both is health, IMO…

Every day I’m convinced I’m going to give my 16 month old an eating disorder.

Which is stupid, really, because it’s not just one thing that causes one – but the fact that I’m recovered from one ups the ante a little bit.

Let me give you an example:

Every week, my daughter has her play group and like one week out of the month we stop to get Dunkin’ Donuts right before (me: iced french vanilla with cream, you know it, and her: one or two munchkins ((crazy baby doesn’t seem to care either way for them.  WHAT??))  This morning, as I narrated her life, as I do maniacally every day, I said absentmindedly, “So we’ll get in the car and we’ll stop at Dunkin Donuts.”

She halted.  Her head swiveled and her eyes lit up.

I guess she cared more about those sprinkles-encrusted balls of goodness than I previously thought.

And my head went into a mindspin.  Is this why she’s in the 90th percentile?  She’s going to get bombarded by obesity comments at the doctor’s in a couple of years.  I’m so bad for giving her sugar, at all?  I’m going to parent hell!  I might as well be Honey Boo Boo’s mom!  I might as well set up camp at McDonald’s.  I’m ruining my daughter’s future!!!!!!

And then I stop, take a pretend Xanax, and reality-check myself.

First, I try to remember my therapist’s words (“It’d be pretty hard to force food to a baby, Amanda”).  Then, I remember that I feed my baby quinoa on a regular basis.

(You should have seen it when I tried to explain what it was to my mother.  She kept going, Kinney?  Quinna?  Finally I had to tell her to remember Joaquin Phoenix but backwards.)

(Some might even call me a “Quinoa Mom” – horrors)

And I mix spinach into her sweet potato so my fruit-lover will get some much-needed vegetables as well.  And I buy those overpriced organic pouches so she’ll eat SOMETHING nutritious on a day when all she wants is cheese in 1/2 inch squares only.  And, I don’t keep juice in the house.   And over my dead body will she have soda.

I think my downfall is comparing myself to those gluten-free-paleo-vegan-vegetarian-GMO free mothers who don’t let a drop of sugar pass into their kids’ sacred bodies.  But that’s kind of redonk, because a.  I’m never going to be that kind of mother and b.  I don’t, personally, think that’s healthy.  Do I think kids should snack on Happy Meals regularly?  No way.  But do I think they should enjoy the occasional bowl of ice cream that you can get messy in and smash all over your face?  Absolutely.  That’s part of being a kid.

And lastly, I try to remember the work I did on myself that brought me to the place where I don’t attach moral value to food, and the valuable lesson I will pass on to her.

So, I think I’m doing ok.  In spite of the neuroticism.