Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son

Updates (actual) 


In list form, because darling Jackalope was up from roughly 12:30 to 4:30 last night and slept thereafter only while nursing.  No apparent reason, and she bit my right nipple so hard at about one that it hurt the whole time.  Even when I tried to ignore her and she came and sat on my rib cage.  Woke up fresh as a daisy, altogether too early.

Item: It appears I do not have thyroid maladies nor anything else weird in the blood test arena.  On the one hand, boo for the loss of a sensible, treatable explanation for the sudden rise in crazy.  On the other hand, yay for not having a serious physical health problem.  Dr. Wonderful says she will send me to a cardiologist if I really want, but that she really, really thinks I am healthy.

Item: It has meanwhile occurred to me that there are two things on top of my chest that could be implicated in the acute (but not agonizing) pains I am getting, namely my ribs and my boobs.  Is it possible some of the physical stuff is rib cartilage gone awry? My posture and so on is awful, and I spent a lot of the summer carrying a heavy baby and huge amounts of beach stuff in less than ergonomic ways.  Or could this be milk duct shenanigans?  As a side effect of My Summer Adventures With New Phobias, I discovered that my nipples no longer spasm at this level of nursing (yay) and therefore stopped taking the nifedipine.  But possibly there is still some spasm action at the duct level.  But this doesn’t really feel like that, so I don’t know.   I might go get a massage; I have a gift certificate and I don’t have to teach on Tuesday, thanks to the large Jewish population of this city. Edited to add: I mean thanks about Tuesday. To be clear, the gift certificate is from Sugar, though I am not opposed to gifts from entire peoples. Interested parties should inquire via email for terms.

Item: Welcome back, ability to safely eat grapefruit.  I missed you.

Item: I have met with Friend’s Therapist twice.  She is nice, even if she does have a slightly annoying poster about how great breastfeeding is.  The kind with 80’s drawings of glowing women.  Very Park Slope.  I want to take red pen to the parts that are overstating what the research shows, which is to say all of it, or at least say that isn’t the least upsetting thing to hand next to a therapy couch, but those minutes are expensive.  

Item: She is not ridiculous or annoying, and she has had one or two insightful things to suggest in terms of what kinds of things bother me.   

Item: I think I have to break up with her anyway.  

When we first exchanged emails, I said I was looking for someone who does CBT. She lists that on her website, but she cautioned me that she doesn’t primarily do that.  At the time, I was so desperate and relieved that someone had written me back that I said I didn’t care, but it turns out I care.  Her method of approaching this problem seems to be 1) techniques for feeling better right at the moment, and 2) talking a lot about the past.  The trouble with 2) is that I already have a degree in writing, which I increasingly think covers a lot of the same ground as this kind of therapy, and that the roots of my current problems don’t seem terribly complex from a literary perspective.  My mother died unexpectedly, suddenly, and alone, leaving me feeling very, very not okay; I subsequently develop a panic problem based around the belief that I am suddenly and unexpectedly dying (poison, heart attack) that is made worse by feeling terrified about leaving my children.  A disgusting amount of education went into making such a simple mind.

(And then there’s all the stuff about being raised with a sick mom, the responsibility/fear/resentment thing people always seem to think I won’t have realized.  I get very, very touchy about that.  Probably because: resentment/protectiveness, but also because yes, I realize that.  This isn’t the first time I am hearing this story.)

The trouble with 1) is harder to explain.  I have noticed that I am more likely to get panicky or have a true attack if I am underslept, hungry, or if I have alcohol, even in small amounts.  Likewise, places and things associated with a previous incident may raise my anxiety level and make another more likely.  Last Saturday night, for instance, we were visiting friends in Boston, where, in March, I thought I was dying from an overdose of my albuterol inhaler.  (Spoiler: I wasn’t. An extra puff isn’t enough to do that.  Moreover, I had not actually taken an extra puff.)  Jackalope had a very rough night, and I was up for most of it.  The next evening, very tired, I made myself a weak Salty Dog and proceeded to come apart at the seams.  

The following Tuesday, I sat down to talk goals with Nice Therapist.  I would like, I said, to be able to have a drink with close friends in a very safe environment without wigging out.  That’s a goal.  It’s a good goal, she said, but some people do need to make permanent lifestyle changes to avoid panic attacks.  

Look, I’m not opposed to the idea that clean living is generally a healthy idea.  Drinking less alcohol and caffeine, getting exercise, all that jazz.  But I’ve been doing that on my own.  I drink very little now.  I have about half a cup of coffee in the mornings.  And I think it’s making things worse.  This kind of anxiety appeasement just seems to make I more real, more scary.  Meanwhile, I see the sphere in which I live getting smaller and smaller, as every step outside the lines I am drawing around myself seems fraught with danger.  I’m terrified to do anything, lest my heart beat.  

Meanwhile, I watched this very convincing Scottish psychologist on YouTube make a case for a different approach.  He sends his patients out with orders to have a panic attack as soon as possible and then, rather than breathing into paper bags, telling themselves that the attack is uncomfortable but not dangerous.  I find this whole idea scary but intriguing, and I’ve been giving it a bit of a go.  It sort of works, and it’s much more appealing than teetotaling.

Item: So I suppose I will give that CBT shop another chance to find me someone at price level Mildy Outrageous. 

Item: I am not looking forward to writing this break up email.  She’s very kind, and sitting around talking about my life history isn’t unpleasant.  I’m just not sure it’s what I most need right now.

Item: What I suspect I could very most use is a whole lot more sleep.  I wonder if about 80% of what’s wrong with me isn’t 4.5 years of broken sleep wreaking havoc on my cognitive abilities.  Certainly it is true that being especially tired seems to undo some kind of executive function in charge of keeping a lid on things; I wonder if something on a grander scale no longer works properly.  

Item: But short of sending the children to boarding school, I don’t know how to make things better.  Sugar thinks I should wean Jackalope.  I’m certainly more than ready to night wean her, if only I could figure out how to do so in a in apartment with the Bean, who has just now started mosly sleeping pretty well.  Even the middling step of giving her a bottle won’t work, as she can’t for the life of her figure out how to use one, a different post for a different day.
Item: on that note, to bed.  In other news, The Bean started pre-kindergarten at our local public school, a subject about which we all have Feelings.  Be sure to tune in next time, when we analyze the roots of my crabbiness about school uniforms.


5 thoughts on “Updates (actual) 

  1. FWIW, I am totally on board with the sleep theory.

    Lunesta is my best friend. She is not a miracle worker but a very kind soul who helps me most days.

    I’m sorry.

  2. Mmm, nice try, therapist lady, but it is actually NORMAL to occasionally have A drink. And kind of punitive to never do so.

    I ge the reluctance to risk worse sleep- no sleep makes me insane, and quickly- and I personally tend to be change averse lest I make it worse (and especially when depressed and running on very little reserves). Also, what if I make the change and it doesn’t help anything and then what’s left? and next thing you know we’ll be homeless on the street! Yeah.

    As for sleep ruining executive function permanently, perhaps you could re-evaluate after six months of decent sleep/sanity. The thing about tired, hungry, then nuts makes sense to me actually: you’re on edge alllll the time so it only takes a little stress or disinhibition to tip it over into ALL IS WOE land.

    If you want suggestions on weaning a reluctant child- something I have now done twice with toddlers- hit me up. In the meanwhile, how does she feel about straw cups? They make some with a nifty valve and all.

  3. Oh SIGH. I totally see the lack of practical options where getting better sleep is concerned (have Sugar take Jackalope to a hotel for a few nights where she [J, but also S, probably] can scream her way through some night weaning?), and totally believe that while sleep may or may not be the source of the panic attacks, it’s certainly gonna exacerbate them. It fucking sucks.

    I’m also so bummed that nice therapist wasn’t a good fit. That would have been so convenient! Just so you’re not disappointed, though: Even CBT folk are extremely likely to want to talk about 1) solutions for the immediate problems and 2) your past, and, honestly, to recommend changing anything you’ve identified as a trigger that can be changed. It’s a bit of a hallmark of the profession to want to talk about the past. I could say a lot about why I think that’s not stupid, but it might come off as a defense of this particular therapist, or be otherwise aggravating, so I’ll leave it to you to email if you’re interested.

    The way you describe your world getting smaller, oh, it gets me. Particularly since I cherish my liquor and hate being told that I should forgo it because not drinking is not a big deal anyway pisses me off because it feels puritanical and shaming. Anyway, isn’t the logic of an elimination approach is to see if it works? And you may find that either it doesn’t or it does but it’s not WORTH it, but either way, you’d know. The scottish youtube approach sounds like good old fashioned exposure therapy, which I know can be very effective for some people with anxiety disorfers, and I can certainly attest to the effectiveness for my social anxiety. Or maybe it’s something else entirely. In any event, I’m sure this sounds like the world’s most useless platitude, but I do believe you will not live this way for the rest of your life.

  4. So I am certain you are on to something with the sleep thing. Although I was masquerading as a functioning human being for the fifteen (ish) months where E. was up multiple times a night, every single night, it became very clear when he started sleeping through and I started sleeping through (not at the same time) that I had certainly not been operating at full capacity.

    Then I thought I was fine, and assumed that my tendency to wake up at 3:30 or 4 a.m. multiple times a week and not go back to sleep just meant that I needed less sleep since having E.

    Two Christmases ago my mother gave me a strategy to try to retrain my brain so I could fall back asleep. It took about a year for it to be consistent, but now I either a) sleep all the way through without waking up early, b) wake up at a stupid time but fall back asleep within an hour or so, or c) (very very rarely- like once every two months) wake up too early and struggle mightily to get back to sleep.

    The difference in my entire life has been astonishing. It is so clear to me that I was still sleep deprived, even when I thought I wasn’t, and even when E. wasn’t causing the disruption.

    That is a lot about me, but it is to say that I honestly think sleep is probably a huge part of the problem, and I have no assvice except to say that when your children are finally sleeping well, it may still involve a tremendous struggle to get you to get back to sleeping well. But it is worth the struggle.

    I’m sorry about the therapist. A couple of friends do a lot of CBT journalling. Is this something you could possibly start on your own while looking for someone who is the right fit? Can you find someone who does CBT to help you with this specific issue and then stick with this therapist for more general well being maintenance if needed? I know there is a very good CBT group near me, but they state very openly on their website that their program is designed to tackle a particular issue and give you the tools you need to solve it, which has always prevented me from contacting them, because my anxiety doesn’t fall into a neat category.

  5. The idea of embracing – if not rushing headlong at the source of the fear – is attractive, isn’t it? In a kill or cure way? I too see that, and I’m trying to be less avoidant/more embracing too, and can see the benefits. But. A good mentor would be helpful in that scenario, I think, to safeguard and provide a framework. And where are those? Answers on a postcard please.

    They do say any good therapist will understand if you just say lookit, not a good fit, I want to use my time trying CBT? Right? Just business, nothing personal. Don’t feel bad, bionic, you’re on a mission, and you have to follow your instinct.

    Many good thoughts to you. It’s got to get easier. Xxx

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