Friendship & New Moms.

Right before I got pregnant four of my very close friends moved out of state. All to different states. They were all people I hung out with regularly and none of them have children at this point, and were not planning to when I got pregnant.

Then I had the worst pregnancy ever and puked every day literally for nine months. So not much socializing then. It was incredibly isolating actually. I had previously been spending at least weekly visits with my niece and sister and sister-in-law and hanging out with friends and then bam. Puking. Never could leave the house and just trying to survive my work days.

Then I had twins. Bam. Trust me no one lines up to offer to take care of twins. As infants and as toddlers we’ve heard crickets when looking around for any extra help. Which is fine in some ways because I don’t regret any time I spend with my sons. And when we’ve really been in a jam my family has definitely pulled through for us.

I worked very hard to grow them. I never want to feel any resentment toward them. And I don’t. I just feel sort of a loss.

The loss of a social life. And also the loss of regular visits and time with my niece and extended family. Because the boys are a lot. They are energetic, they are stubborn, and they have no fear. All very bad combinations. Three and a half year old twin boys. Yup it is as bad as it sounds.

Through the first year I rarely made it out, and therefore grew apart and lost more friends. It was like I lost my inner circle and my outer circle all in a few short  years.

Then I stopped feeling sorry for myself and made myself reach out to people I lost touch with. I reconnected with some girls I went to high school with, now mom’s of kids the boys age. We have get-togethers with a ton of kids and three or four moms every 3 months or so. It’s great!

My best friend who moved to Florida has actually been back a shocking number of times so far, and makes it a point to stop in and stay with us every time. So I think I’ve actually seen her more this year with her living in Florida than when she lived thirty minutes away.

I connected with other therapists as I forayed deeper into mental health. I now have a couple nurse practitioners I’m close with and their spouses and kids. I also am so lucky to have kept a friendship going over time with a therapist I trained with many years ago. We grew apart and saw each other maybe once or twice a year and then slowly reconnected; now she was the one I called when my dad died and I asked her to watch my kids with her partner. And they did. For roughly eight hours. God bless them.

My business partner used to be my boss, and she and I have always been close but grew closer in the last couple years in starting a business and then after the deaths of our Dad’s within three weeks of one another.

I do have supportive family around also (and far away supportive family as well).

But socially it’s been the hardest adjustment for me. I’ve never had a ton of friends but I’ve always had people I can hang out with and just relax and have fun with. It’s like with the boy’s birth I shed some really good friends, gained some great new ones, and reconnected with others. But it took time and there were months at the beginning when it was just me, the boys, and my wife. And the cats.

I feel much less lonely now than I did three years ago, and more connected. I have learned that I have to put myself out there. I can’t just expect good friends to drop on my doorstep. I also have to reset my expectations for friends with kids versus without kids.

My friends with kids don’t blink an eye at having a bunch of kids and adults get together. My friends without kids I always give the option of just seeing me alone without the boys or seeing us all together.

I try and be respectful of others expectations. But it’s hard. It’s hard to be a good friend a good mom and a good wife and all that other stuff. Having twins has been the most wild adventure of my life. But also the most isolating. The most challenging.

While deeply rewarding and marveling still sometimes that there’s TWO of them…I sometimes think how much I truly sacrificed for them. It’s a lot.

I wouldn’t trade them for a hundred friends. But there have been moments I’ve wished for at least a couple more.

My point to this long rambling is not to make anyone feel sorry for me, because please don’t. I’m loved by my friends and family and most importantly by my boys. My point is to bring awareness to the fact that new moms; especially of twins and multiples are still the same people they were before just with some extra babies floating around. In my case three year old monsters.

We still want to be called and texted and messaged. We still want invites. We still think of you and all our wonderful pre-kid times together often. We hope to connect with new friends and stay connected with old friends. Don’t leave us alone during these first few years of mommy-hood. We are being pulled in tons of emotional and physical directions.

What was striking to me was that more people reached out to me when my dad died then when my sons were born. More people offered to “help out” when my dad died then when my sons were born. I needed the support more three years ago. I don’t need help now. I need you to just show up and either take me out for a drink or tell me you’ll watch my boys for an hour so my wife and I can go have a drink together. Alone. Maybe we will just have sex in the car. Or a nap.

Either way an hour alone together would be magical. Either way just show up. Or call or text. I’m still here and so is every other new mom. Don’t forget them.

 

p.s. Thank-you to every one who has done this! You know who you are and I could not live my life without the support of everyone who shows up!

Also did a family photo shoot in our bathing suits. Yes. Next blog post.

 

Vagina, Penis, and Poop Problems in Psychiatry

Let’s set this straight. I work in mental health. Psychiatry. I am a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Technically.

Yet when I go to my “open recent” tab in Word I find “Bowel Regimens” as a commonly and recently opened file. I prescribe many medications that cause constipation. So we talk a lot about poop in my office.

Diarrhea is often also a symptoms of anxiety so yeah, poop comes with the territory of mental health.

Nothing surprised me more though than the first time someone told me about their vagina problems. Or their penis problems. I have made the following statements in my office:

“You can use plain yogurt as lubricant because it doesn’t affect your ph so it shouldn’t cause a yeast infection, just make sure it’s plain. No sugar added.”

“Is the rash on the shaft of the penis or are you talking upper thighs?”

“‘Down there’ doesn’t cut it my friend, and remember I’m married to a woman, so you’re gonna have to be wicked specific.” 

“An odor can be caused by many things. Don’t douche that’s so bad for your ph. Stop using all the wipes and scented crap. Let your body regulate itself. I promise your vagina will thank you for it.” 

“That sounds like Herpes. Get that shit tested.” 

“Pull your damn pants up, NO I don’t want to see your rash! Go see your gyno!!”

“So are you able to ejaculate or no?” 

“You understand this means that your testicles will be removed permanently from your body?” 

“You can still orgasm, you just need a partner who’s committed to getting you there. You are familiar with your clitoris yes?…NO!? okay. Here’s a drawing for you. Start externally. Move internally. Use a vibrator at the same time as internal stimulation. From the expression on your face you’ve never used a vibrator. Okay you ever heard of one?” 

“Very rarely this medication can cause a sustained erection. Take sudafed. It works.” 

“Have you ever heard of the jade egg? Well you can pop it in before you start making dinner, by the time you’re done with dinner you will definitely be ready to have sex.”

“Yes there are some that are made with a stringy thing attached so you can pull it out.”

“Your how old? Ugh…okay….let me take a breath here….okay yes we can talk about sex but just know that I think you’re not old enough and the only reason I’m entertaining this conversation is because if you’re going to have intercourse anyway I’d rather you do it safely, but good lord please God wait!”

“To clarify condoms protect against STDs and birth control only protects against getting pregnant and only if you take your pill every day.” 

“And you’re sure there’s no possible way you are pregnant?…..I think you’re pregnant.” (I have said this on multiple occasions and have yet to be wrong. Four times I told the patient before they knew and they later called me to confirm and ask how the hell I knew.)

“Well your partner is stating that douching before anal sex is important to them. How do you feel about that?”

“I’m not the person to tell if you should or shouldn’t have an abortion. I’m just here to support you. I see you. I am here for you no matter what you decide. Let’s keep talking.” 

“You’ve decided to keep it. Okay. Let’s talk about how you’ll finish high school and the stigma of being a young mom. There are people who will want you to fail. But I know you won’t. I know you have what it takes to do this. You’re going to be a great Mom.” 

“The abortion was when? Okay, so let’s talk about how you’ve been feeling since.” *

There are a couple reasons I end up talking about vaginas and penises. Medications I prescribe have sexual side effects. Depression causes a decrease in sex drive. Bipolar mania can cause an increase in sex drive. So people’s sex lives can directly correlate with their mood.

But also, what I’ve discovered, is people want a safe space to talk about sex and sexual organs.

MD’s in their white coats draping patients in awkward paper create a sterile environment. One in which patients don’t feel like people. They feel like specimens. Whereas in my office we may never have touched physically but I know intimate secrets about them and their mental health.

I also treat them like humans. Not specimens.

I also ask. Not about their actual parts. But about their sex lives. Do they have one? Are they satisfied with it? Do they use protection? What kind? I ask these questions and then they know it’s okay to talk about that stuff here.

No I was not expecting the questions about vaginal odors and rashes that accompanied the safe space sex talk. But after it started happening and my initial shock and horror subsided I realized that it was actually complementary. I made them feel comfortable. When I asked why they didn’t ask their medical doctor these questions they often shift in their chair and look down, “Well, I dunno, it always feels like she’s in a rush,” or “I dunno I mean I’m naked and they are in and out, and it’s embarrassing talking about this.”

They are less embarrassed asking me whose never seen their vagina, then asking the doctor who is up their elbows in their vagina.

I also treat a lot of transgender and non-binary individuals who are pursuing surgical intervention for their gender journey. If I’m writing the letter of mental health clearance I have to bluntly say what exactly will happen and what the consequences are so I can write they have a true understanding and can consent to the surgery.

It’s not that I’m uncomfortable talking about sex and sexual parts. It’s that it shocked me at first because I went to school to treat the brain. I felt like I was at the wrong end.

Disclaimer: I have never diagnosed or treated with medicine or assessed visually any of the issues that are brought to me by my clients when it comes to anything below the brain. I listen and provide feedback and refer them to a specialist. I am obviously very careful about not practicing outside of my scope.

I think it’s wonderful that clients feel safe with me. I think it’s disheartening that so many don’t feel safe enough to say these things without my support to their primary OB/GYN or urologist or primary. Modern medicine has become so forced, quick, and detached that patients are missing a connection with their providers. They are missing the opportunity to feel safe and supported by all their healthcare providers. Not just in mental health.

It used to bother me. The vagina and penis questions. But now I take it as an opportunity to try and understand what’s missing from their relationship with their medical provider. Why don’t they feel safe saying this to the people who can actually assess, diagnose, and treat it?

I’ve learned a lot about sexual health and sexual dysfunction. I’m proud to say I could likely help any one with difficulty orgasming. I also know more than I ever imagined one could possibly know about anal and vaginal intercourse. I can say the words: penis, vagina, anus, ejacualation, masturbation etc. without blinking an eye or making faces and changing my body language. I mean that’s a score one for me. Try it. Try saying any of the phrases I quoted above to anyone and try keeping a poker face.

My point to all of this: If you are a healthcare provider: people WANT to talk about sex. They need to. They need guidance and help and they have questions. Be open to it. Welcome it. Create a safe space.

If you are not a healthcare provider: ask the questions. You deserve the answers. There is nothing wrong with you for asking.

To all the Mental Health Practitioners: God bless. Find a quality picture of the anatomy of a vagina and a penis. Trust me. You’ll use it.

****To any one who thinks any woman makes the choice to have an abortion lightly: they don’t. We don’t. I have held clients as they wept over the loss. I have treated teenage moms in the thick of it. Society doesn’t like teenage mom’s yet we also judge those who have abortions or who become pregnant. The young women I’ve treated who have faced abortion versus becoming a teenage mom have continuously impressed me with their grace, their strength, and their pain no matter what path they choose.

Let’s Talk “Mental Health Reforms” (eye-roll)

I’ve worked in mental health formally since March 2013. I’ve worked as a nurse, and in an emergency department for seven years prior to that.

It disturbs and angers me when I read or hear ignorant people make ignorant statements such as:

“We must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence,” Trump said in an address to the nation from the White House on Monday. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”

Back in 2015 I did a research project and presentation to incoming resident psychiatrists regarding mass murders. I specifically reviewed data and research related to school shootings and looked deeply into fourteen perpetrators. They were all high school shootings except for one college perpetrator- Virginia Tech.

I also looked at more recent cases (not schools) that didn’t have data in studies yet- Aurora, Giffords in Tucson, and naval base shooting: all three had mental health professionals report the perpetrators PRIOR to the shootings. All three times nothing happened. Specifically in Tucson the person refused treatment and state laws protected his choice to refuse treatment.

I also explored the Tarasoff case. That is the case in 1969 that the duty to warn law came out of. A psychologist reported the patient as a threat. Nothing was done. A month later the patient killed the person they threatened the month before. Out of that the Duty to Warn law came: a mental health professional can break privacy laws in order to warn a named target. To be clear- the psychologist did provide a warning. Nothing was done about it.

Here’s why.

Those pesky state laws and HIPPAA interfere with legal and mental health intervention when something is threatened but not actually carried out. A person who is threatened can get a restraining order or protective order. But as we see in every single dramatic movie about domestic violence; what the hell does a piece of paper do when a person shows up and breaks the protective order with a bullet?

Let’s start at the beginning. I have a patient in my office. They are homicidal. They don’t have an intended target. They just have images of killing people when they are sitting in class or walking down the street. They watch ISIS videos of beheadings. They find these thrilling. All of this is disturbing to me. If they are under 18 I will tell their parents my concerns and encourage a higher level of care. If they are over 18 I may talk to their therapist as I am likely just doing medication management. We may chew over what we can do.

It’s usually a whole lot of nothing. Without a specific intended target we as mental health professionals can do nothing. I can threaten to discharge them if they don’t complete an IOP or go inpatient. But usually they leave and don’t come back.

If there is an intended target I can hospitalize them. Rather I can send them to the emergency department. There they will be evaluated. If there are no inpatient beds the emergency room doctor or APRN will likely try and lead them into stating they are not actually going to kill any one, get them to agree to go to an intensive outpatient program (IOP) and then discharge them.

If on the off chance they are admitted…well I’ve worked there too. Insurance companies will be breathing down our necks to discharge them. We will likely not be able to medicate them because they will refuse and we won’t have enough evidence to win an involuntary medication hearing. Even if we do win a hearing, medicate them, and discharge them they can stop taking the medication as soon as they are back home. We set them up with an IOP or back to their primary therapist and prescriber. And then we start back at square one.

I’ve had patients who are homicidal. They generally stop coming to see me as I relentlessly try and medicate them and push them into higher levels of care when the homicidal ideation does not stabilize.

“Mental health reforms” would have to include: private and public insurance companies being told to back off, pay out the nose for treatment for every single person who has an inkling of homicidal ideation, and never question the length or intensity of treatment.

It would have to include training every single mental health professional in the country to better assess and predict violent behavior. Good luck with that. It’s not something that can be predicted.

It would have to include sweeping federal legislation and the states to give up their individual laws and be okay with ceding power to the federal government (which right now is made of dipshits who I wouldn’t trust to baby-sit my children let alone create standardized mental health laws)…this legislation would have to include the ability to involuntarily mandate individuals to higher levels of care who have homicidal ideation and not all together as I don’t think group treatment of a room full of homicidal individuals would be a smart thing.

It would have to expand duty to warn to include any one who has contact with children/schools/public spaces: student teachers who make generalized statements about killing a room full of children. Currently we can’t report that. Daycare workers. Students. For all ages there should be some sort of mandate regarding medication compliance if some one is actively homicidal. For under 18: there should be regulations for parents about following the recommendations of a mental health professional if their child is homicidal. Etc. Etc. Etc.

The list could literally go on and on. All of it will impede patient rights. All of it would put mental health professionals in a position of power that is not deserved. We should not be making these decisions for other people. It strips people of their ability to choose.

Guess what would be easier. Banning freaking guns. But it’s cool. Just keep throwing this back on mental health as our funding is cut and we have less people going into the field because it pays crap and it’s dangerous in many different ways, and oh yeah, there has yet to be ANY reform to our mental health system.

In all the cases I examined they all had one thing in common. EASY and OPEN access to guns NONE of them were registered to the perpetrator. They were all registered to family members. The Jonesboro murders: by the way they are alive and well, and one tried to register for a conceal and carry license under an assumed name…but I digress. The boy who’s guns they used…the parents had locked them up so they changed their plans the day of and just drove a mile to his grandparents because the grandparents had plenty of guns laying around. And those boys used them to kill children.

THREE shootings mental health professionals made the call to report a concern. NOTHING happened. They still had access to guns. Guess which shootings were not reported by mental health professionals? The one’s perpetrated by children. Because it’s very hard to access a child’s homicidal ideation. Trust me on this one. It’s then even harder to convince the parent that little Johnny the apple of their eyes is actually homicidal. Trust me on that one also. Been there.

Mental health is broken for sure. But “reform” of the system will not stop mass murder. Banning guns will. And “reform” of mental health will require an administration who understands the mental health system. The barriers to treatment. The barriers to mandating treatment, and the lack of training we receive in predicting violence. Because yeah that’s not a thing.

I only pull this out occasionally…I attended an ivy league school and worked with some of the top psychiatrists in our country. They write the research papers. Not one time was I taught how to predict violence. In fact I was told that is not our role at all and it’s virtually impossible to do anyway. This was from the best of the best.

I’ll leave you with this:

  • Stated by the US Supreme Court (1980’s) and the American Psychiatric Association in the 1980’s and then after El Paso 2019:

    • “Neither petitioner nor the APA suggests that psychiatrists are always wrong with respect to future dangerousness, only most of the time.”

    • “Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing. Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. The rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them. One critical factor is access to, and the lethality of, the weapons that are being used in these crimes. Adding racism, intolerance and bigotry to the mix is a recipe for disaster. 

    • “If we want to address the gun violence that is tearing our country apart, we must keep our focus on finding evidence-based solutions. This includes restricting access to guns for people who are at risk for violence and working with psychologists and other experts to find solutions to the intolerance that is infecting our nation and the public dialogue.”

“In 2017 the NRA spent over 5.1 million dollars in lobbying.”

Guess how much the combined families of all the parents of all the children killed by guns contributed. Not 5.1 million. But yeah it’s totally a mental health problem.

Next time someone makes the statement “We need mental health reform not control,” please ask then to expand on exactly what mental health reform means to them. How will it be accomplished? What would the goals be? Where will funding come from?

Because make no mistake it needs to be reformed. But no amount of laws and reform and funding will help humans predict which humans will commit murder.

  • Campbell, Messing, Kub, Agnew, Sheridan, Workplace violence prevalence and risk factors in the Safe at Work Study, JOEM, 2011
  • Chaloner, R., Hall, W., Friedman, S., Guns, Schools, and Mental Illness: Potential Concerns for Physicians and Mental Health Professionals. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2013
  • Czaja, Moss, Mealer, Symptoms of PTSD among pediatric acute care nurses, Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 2012
  • Gates, Gillespie, Succop, Violence against nurses and its impact on stress and productivity, Nursing Economics, 2011
  • Hawkins, McIntosh, Silver, Holman, Early Responses to school violence: A qualitative analysis of students’ and parents’ immediate reactions to the shootings at Columbine High School, Journal of Emotional Abuse, 2004
  • Shulz, Muschert, Dingwall, Cohen, The Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting as tipping point, Disaster Health, 2013.
  • Daniels, Bradley, Hays, The impact of school violence on school personnel: Implications for psychologists, Professional Psychology, 2007
  • Book- Deadly Lessons-Mark H. Moore, Carol V. Petrie, Anthony A. Braga, and Brenda L. McLaughlin, 2003, IOM

Finding Our Other Sister.

From a young age I knew there were other siblings. I don’t know how I knew. I don’t remember being sat down and told I had three half siblings somewhere out there. I just remember knowing. I remember always wondering about them. I remember wondering why my Dad had no contact with them. I remember wondering if they wondered about me.

My dad was the simplest and most complicated man I knew.

He and I were always playing a game of chess. Trying to outsmart the other and me specifically trying to get him to reveal something; anything about his past.

He had a past in Vietnam that I would piece together over my entire life; with so many pieces still missing at the time of his death. He had a past family that I would also piece together over time with bits and pieces from various family members and friends.

They were always something I came back to, these elusive siblings.

I’ve treated quite a few clients now who have siblings or half siblings they’ve never met. They always express feeling a certain way about that and I get it. Because when some one asks me if I have just one sister, my sister I grew up with, I always hesitate. Well yes but no. I don’t like to lie, and that felt like lying.

It’s a chronic sort of wonder and curiosity that plagued me.

When I was twenty eight or twenty nine I was with my sister one night. I had done a lot of wondering over the years and turns out so had she. We drank too much then of course where did we go but to facebook. We found them. We friended one of them. One of our sisters.

She friended us back.

At some point I realized the how and the why my Dad was cut off from them didn’t matter. I realized that it didn’t mean my sister and I couldn’t connect with them or at least try to. We had no agenda. We did not want to reconnect them with our Dad. We wanted to meet them. To know them. To see our siblings.

We met with one of our sisters at a restaurant. We were all nervous, we all brought our spouses, and I remember saying to my sister “What’s she going to think that we are both lesbians?” I mean it’s one thing reuniting with two sisters you’ve never met, but two lesbian sisters?! My sister is much calmer than I am and she didn’t ever think it would be an issue. And it wasn’t.

I got out of my car and I approached a woman in front of a restaurant. My wife trailing behind me, and her husband behind her. We came face to face and it was bizarre. Because she was this mix of my sister and I. There was a third one of us. She said, “Do people call you Mere? Because people call me Ger!” It rhymed and she smiled and I smiled and we had this one stupid thing in common immediately and would come to find out so much more.

We laughed and we hugged. Then we all spent the next six hours in a restaurant asking about the last thirty years of each others lives. It was incredibly comfortable.

We had a lot of weird stuff in common that felt like stuff only siblings could really know about each other even though we never met before. The whole experience was surreal and felt like we were in a movie where long lost relatives are united.

We took a picture, the three of us and my niece and we all looked at it later and thought holy crap we look like sisters. It wasn’t until I saw that picture again and again that it really sunk in for me. The half siblings I always wondered about were real and I met one. And I could call her my sister now, not just some distant half sibling. She was my sister now too.

When I got pregnant with twin boys later on, and I worried about Declan’s big head she sent me photos of her sons as infants. Big heads. I was so relieved. They also looked incredibly like my sons. My mom’s side of the family only has one boy. So it has been great to have other boys to compare my sons’ likeness’ to. It seems silly, these little things, but they are important to me.

We have met up a few times since our initial meeting. We text and call and message when we can. What’s great is that there is not this pressure to develop any sort of relationship that is fake or forced. It’s like we know that the other one is there. Really there. Not just a far off dream. That she is a phone call away and vice versa is comforting. It laid something to rest for me.

I don’t know many things about my Dad’s life before he was my Dad. But I left nothing unsaid between he and I. I have no regrets about our relationship. And now I have no regrets about my siblings either.

Water Wednesday…#Mom Fail

You ever see The 10th Kingdom? Great series. I’ve watched it hundreds of times. Starting in seventh grade I think when it first aired. Back in the days before DVR and youtube.

I always identified with the main character Virginia because she was guarded but people liked her. She was incredibly smart and also brave. There were two scenes that always stuck with me. One with the Wolf (human looking but with a tail) who said, “Well, you may not get hurt, but huff puff, you won’t get loved either.” The wolf was as emotionally open as Virginia was guarded.

I felt that was very wise and that has always been in my head a bit when I’ve entered into relationships.

Another scene that always stuck with me and especially recently was with Virginia and her Father. She opens up about being abandoned by her mom, “I still have this uncontrollable urge to just go up to people and say, ‘My Mother left me when I was seven!’ As if that would explain everything. And I miss her.” 

Seeing it written doesn’t do it justice. The actress does an amazing job in that moment making herself very vulnerable and raw. I think of it often now after having lost my Dad.

This morning I dropped the boys at daycare and realized when I got there it’s Wednesday. Water Wednesday. It’s only the second one since they started and I forgot all about it. I also forgot that at this daycare we don’t leave their swimsuit like at our previous one.

The director of the daycare asked me to tell the boys they couldn’t participate before I left.

I kneeled down on the ground, with tears welling in my eyes and for some reason as I was telling them that Mama forgot their swimsuits and they couldn’t play outside with the other kids all I could think of was my Dad and that scene in The 10th Kingdom because I was like how dare she? My Dad died in April! I was screaming in my head; I can’t remember that there’s Water Wednesday’s and their swimsuits are at home.

Anything extra throws me over the edge.

The boys looked pathetic. I was in tears. I’m pretty sure she took pity on me and said they would figure it out and I said I didn’t care if they were out there in their underwear. I wanted them to be included.

When I left they were figuring it out and I was crying less. Of course now I’m crying again writing about it.

Grief I’m learning fills you up. I tell my clients with depression and anxiety, that they are filled up, like a teapot, and so when there is normal stress added they boil over. Apparently the same holds with grief. It sucks.

Our washer crapped out, it’s my Dad’s birthday on Friday, I forgot Water Wednesday my clients all seem to be melting recently, the boys don’t have shoes that fit and I just can’t seem to make it to the store, I’m on a smoothie diet so I’m generally starving and there’s no wine or chocolate in my house…the list goes on. Boiled over.

These are all innocuous seemingly normal every day stressors that normally don’t throw me for a loop. But the week of my Dad’s birthday every little thing has me breaking down.

I keep waiting for the layer of grief to lift. I’m sure at some point it will. Maybe Election day 2020 if America gets its head out of its ass long enough to vote for a non-homophobic and non-Islam/Immigrant/abortion-hating-racist dude. That will help.

Wine and chocolate would also help. Sigh.

 

 

 

Dykes and Daycare Part II

We went to the movies for the first time with the boys last weekend. We saw Toy Story 4. I noted the scene at daycare drop off with a biracial lesbian couple hugging their child good-bye in the background. It was less than three seconds of screen time. But I wanted to stand up and be like “Hell yeah! Disney rocks!”

I didn’t though. I felt it all on the inside. (Birdcage reference…anybody?) I thought Toy Story 4 was rubbish. But I got to have a drink and recline while watching it and there was a biracial lesbian couple in the movie. All good things.

Then of course I had to read articles about “family values” and how Disney is forwarding the “homosexual agenda” blah blah blah. I’m still thinking ‘fuck yeah Disney!’.

Two women hugging their child good-bye at daycare. This is generally what happens on the regular with my wife and I. We are not always there together. But everyone knows the boys have two mom’s. I think it’s kind of funny that something Disney shows in the background is our every day. And there are articles and protests and boycotts because of it.

I’m thinking is there any one at daycare boycotting us? I don’t know.

I know tonight I was floating in my pool with Toy Story 3 playing on the deck, the boys laughing and eating pops while watching it, thinking it’s so cool to watch a movie on the deck, and it felt like one of those moments that I wanted when we were trying to get pregnant. I just couldn’t put that moment into words at the time.

I wanted a family. I wanted my wife talking to me while we relaxed in the pool listening to the boys in the background and Toy Story 3. It was indescribable. One of those “all the feel’s” moments. Perfection.

The last movie I saw in the theaters before Toy Story 4…I was pregnant and it was Into the Woods. The central premise is the baker’s wife trying to get pregnant. I sobbed the entire time while rubbing my belly. I worked so hard for those boys. My wife and I scarificed so much to have them.

Tonight for an evening; I know why I sobbed during Into the Woods. I know why I loved seeing a biracial lesbian couple in Toy Story 4. Because it was like I came full circle. Last movie I saw was a woman struggling to conceive. Now I could see a family.

I think it’s funny that people who preach “family values” think lesbians don’t have any.

Not funny. That’s simplifying an incredibly hurtful and deeply profound gut reaction I have when I read these articles by heterosexual good Christians preaching marriage the way God intended it to be. It’s painful to have most of our country think my family is not a family or less than their own family because of it’s make-up.

When Disney and any other major media outlet puts Queers in their shows or movies it is “normalizing” my family. It is saying, “We see you,” and for that I feel the opposite of that gut wrenching hurt. I feel hope. I feel seen. I feel loved.

It’s important. Queer visibility. Don’t minimize it. Don’t ignore it. Be part of the change.

 

 

 

 

A Night Without Puppy.

This has been an emotional couple weeks. I had a bracelet made for my sister, and a pendant necklace made for me from two of my dad’s military items- dog tag bracelet and pin turned into pendant.

I cried at the jewelry store. I mean not full on sobbing, but tears coming out of my eyes for sure. The lady was nice. But I’m sure also horrified. I’m planning a new tattoo and also has some part of my Dad to it. It’s a full moon so work has been crazy. Yes. That’s an actual thing. I can also always tell when Mercury is in retrograde.

Throw in searing temperatures with an asthma flare-up and I’ve about reached my max. Then Declan forgot his Puppy. He actually calls him Cry-Puppy. Not sure why.

I heard him cry, run to my room, and then tell me through sobs that Mommy (my wife) forgot Cry-Puppy at “New school” because we also started a new daycare this month…hence why Cry-puppy was at daycare. I was letting him bring it because it was a new place.

Honestly I think I’m more anxious about the new daycare than the boys who seem to have adapted beautifully.

Anyway. He’s sobbing. It was bedtime. We couldn’t get Cry-Puppy that night. I started thinking about how we could fix this and now my wife and Jackson were both sitting on the floor with us watching Declan cry. I thought a couple things. We are a real family. It’s weird.

It hits me sometimes when we are all sitting together and all clearly feeling Declan’s hurt. Jackson was somber, my wife had tears in her eyes, and there are these moments we have connections like this that I realize we are growing and connecting as the boys get older.

I remember Russell. Russell was one of my top two stuffed animals growing up. He also somehow survived college, multiple moves, and I told Declan that he could have something really special instead of Cry-Puppy tonight, and I pulled Russell out of my dresser drawer.

Declan could see Russell was old and loved and worn. So he knew I wasn’t lying when I said I’d had him since I was his age. He called Russell a “she” and I didn’t correct him (even though obviously Russell is a boy bunny) and he called “her” “Bunny” not Russell. I also let that go.

He then held up Bunny and said, “Mama, she doesn’t have a tale!” I told Declan I loved her so much when I was little that her tale sorta wore down. At which Jackson ran horrified to his room and checked all his bunnies to make sure they still had tales, and then he showed me all of them as if to say, “I love my bunnies and they still have their tales…” rather accusingly.

Declan cuddled with Russell and slept soundly through the night. The next morning we found Cry-Puppy at “New school” and all was right with the world.

Tonight Declan brought Russell back to me and said, “Mama you have to sleep with Bunny tonight. Bunny back in your bed now.”

So here I am laying in bed next to my stuffed animal that slept next to me through many years of my childhood and there’s this full circle feeling happening.

These moments that we move through as a family strengthen my love for my sons in ways that I can’t really put into words. They make this morning when Declan found scissors and cut a big chunk out of his hair…slightly more bearable.

Month 3 Dad-less

A lot happened this month.

We switched the boys daycare. We made progress painting our fence around our pool…we started in June. It’s kind of a horrible Summer project but needs to be done.

And we passed the three month mark since my Dad died.

I’ve been super irritable. I kept blaming PMS but then I realized it revolved around July 6. The closer we got the more irritable I became. Then it came and now it went. Still irritable but less so. More just sad.

The thing about Dementia is that you sort of grieve the person when they are alive because you lose pieces of them along the way, but the shitty thing is that for me at least, I also walled off some of that grief because he was still alive. I wanted to enjoy as much time as I could and not dwell in the morbid thoughts of him slipping away.

It was hard and I think I’m paying the price now. It’s like I’m double grieving.

I’m grieving the Dad I had in the last two years because it wasn’t the dad I knew for the 32 years prior. I’m grieving the loss of those two years. That my last times with him were with him fighting an illness. I saw him fall, I saw him have a stroke, literally in front of us at my niece’s birthday, and so many other things that signaled decline after decline and it was heart wrenching.

Death sucks regardless and I don’t know which is worse. Losing them suddenly and unexpectedly or watching them slip away into nothingness slowly.

The boys talk about him less. But we were looking at picture books from when they were babies and there were a ton of pictures of Poppy holding them as babies. He was generally okay when they were born; started to really decline when they were about 10-12 months.

There are so many times I think oh Dad would be playing with them with this toy right now, or Dad would want to know about the new daycare, or Dad would be helping us paint the fence. Because that’s the kind of Dad he was.

The other crazy shitty incredible thing is he was a twin. His twin is still alive and well living in Florida. My Dad and his twin and actually their younger brother too, they all looked incredibly similar. I just think/know my Dad would get such a kick out of all the crazy antics my boys get into because he would see himself and his brothers in them.

The last week or two has been rough. I don’t know why all the sudden it’s hitting me hard but it is. Maybe because we are also now in his birthday month. It was always fun because he made a big deal about his birthday being my half birthday. Because it is. Half birthdays are cool. Don’t knock them.

Time is supposed to make it easier but it’s not. It’s making it more painful.

Because I keep seeing all this stuff happen in my life that I can’t share with him. That I will never share with him. That my sons will never share with him. And it sucks. That he won’t ever see them past the age of three just sucks. It’s like the more time without him the more stuff I have to tell him, and the more I have to accept that he’s just not here.

People told me losing my Dad wouldn’t get easier. They were right. It doesn’t.

I also don’t think I ever discussed the Office with him. He would have loved The Office. I don’t know if he even ever watched it! I feel remiss in my daughter duties for never having this discussion with him. We watched a lot of sci-fi and bad 80’s action movies together. Star Wars and Mel Gibson and stuff. We had similar tastes. I’m sure he would have loved The Office. Dwight would have been his favorite.

Update on waxing- I have an at home situation set up. I was literally laying on the ground  in my bathroom with wax on a delicate area of my body thinking, “My friends will be here in thirty minutes. I’m still going to have wax on me because it hurts too freaking much to pull it off and I’m literally going to have to have one of them pull it off.”

I screamed and cried and writhed around on the floor in the bathroom but I got it off. I told my friends. They think I’m nuts. As does my wife. I mean I got it off…

******In the picture I’m wearing one of my Dad’s button downs. I took many of his shirts and ties. I have been wearing the button downs to work and actually getting a lot of compliments on them. But that face is me trying to hold back tears as I take a photo before work knowing I’m wearing my Dad’s shirt and that he won’t be wearing it again.

 

Eating For Endometriosis

If I could eat whatever I wanted I’d have my Dad’s oatmeal pancakes for breakfast (with chocolate chips), chicken cutlet sub or egg salad with lettuce and tomato on whole wheat for lunch, and spaghetti with meatballs for dinner or fettuccine alfredo with broccoli. Then maybe a chocolate chocolate chip ice cream with hot fudge and peanut butter.

Now if I actually ate all of that in a day I’d likely feel super shitty in every way the next day. Oh and probably throw in a glass or two of wine. Forgot about the alcohol!

Around the time I had my two surgeries, so roughly ten years ago, I was exploring every possible alternative treatment for endometriosis. I learned it was a chronic illness and actually would never really go away…I needed alternative means to try and take control.

I read a great book, which I still have, by Dian Shepperson Mills, called Endomestriosis: A Key to Healing Through Nutrition. She is British so there were recipes with “aubergines” in them and I didn’t know what the hell that was. She also talked about inflammatory foods which I had never learned about before. I had a degree in nursing at this point…no one ever taught us about inflammatory foods. We learned nutrition based on the food pyramid. Shaking my head now.

She advised cutting out dairy, wheat, meat, and sugar. So basically everything in my diet. And alcohol. Over the next ten years I would try all variations of these dietary changes. I did cut them all out at one point. I remember that month of pain from endo and withdrawal from every food I ever ate.

I’ve perfected gluten free baking. It only took about five years to get that down. I now have a great flour mix that allows me to enjoy baked goods.

I slowly learned that gluten free, dairy free, and mostly meat free (some times chicken), with fish included, and low sugar is the best to keep my symptoms controlled.

It totally sucks at times though to be so restrictive. I’ve had epic meltdowns in restaurants. Well not in, but in the car afterward. We scour the menu before we go anywhere now to make sure there are options for me. When people ask if I have a food allergy I just say Yes, because I am sick of explaining that no I don’t have an anaphylactic reaction but I will be in crippling pain for a few days after eating wheat or gluten or dairy.

This year off birth control and doing hot yoga I still couldn’t lose weight though. I also was having a lot of pain and realized my PCOS was back as I now had several cysts on my left ovary. I was eating too much sugar and meat. I was eating a lot of what the boys were eating which was not good for me.

I met with my OB and she confirmed the cyst diagnosis I already had given myself. She did it by ultrasound; I knew I had cysts based off thirty four years living in this body. She offered me a lot of pharmaceutical and surgical options. I shook my head and asked her to order some lab work and then I left to go back to my roots of nutrition for endometriosis and PCOS.

When I examined my eating habits and my lack of weight loss I realized I was eating healthy-ish but not a true anti-inflammatory diet.

So I prepared my wife. She’s been with me through many cleanses before. She knew what to expect. No alcohol. No sugar. No gluten. No dairy. Lots of kale smoothies and this time I was allowing myself seafood because it has specifically been linked to lower PCOS symptoms.

Off I went. Two eggs over easy in the morning usually over sweet potatoes or veggies from the night before. Or with cooked salmon or homemade sausage (Whole 30 recipe). Lunch- Smoothie. No snacks. Lots of water. In the smoothie- kale, avocado, banana, frozen strawberries or frozen peaches, maybe a tablespoon of peanut butter, and maybe unsweetened cocoa, and definitely unsweetened almond milk. I fill up a 32 oz nalgene bottle with it and that’s my lunch.

Dinner- Generally another smoothie. I always change up the fruit or greens but there’s always an avocado. If I have “real food” I have grilled squash or sweet potatoes and fish like salmon or haddock. Sometimes I throw scallops and frozen veggies into a pot on the stove with olive oil and Old Bay seasoning.

You get the picture. No snacks. Veggies. Fruit. Seafood. Eggs. Lots of water. No alcohol.

The first week sucks ass. The first two days I’m always hungry. The third-fifth day I want to kill some one. The sixth day it becomes more manageable. That’s where I screw myself sometimes. Just when it’s getting easier a weekend pops up and I think, hmmm, I’ll have a drink or a dessert because it’s my cheat day. But cheat days don’t work for this.

Because the super annoying part is I see results. I am losing weight. I also feel better. I hadn’t gotten my period for over a month as often happens with PCOS, five days into my crazy new diet plan I got my period. No pain either. So yeah. It’s infuriating because it works. It’s amazing because it works.

I feel better now that I’m not starving all the time because my stomach adjusted and now I actually crave smoothies and feel full after them. I feel better now that I’m not in nearly as much pain. The cysts are gone. I don’t need an ultrasound to tell me. That constant feeling of pressure and fullness is gone. So yeah. Kale. My new bestie.

It’s nothing I haven’t done before. I keep telling myself I’ve actually been more restrictive in the past. But sometimes I just want to toss the damn blender and eat some chicken nuggets and fries and chocolate cake. I just want my body to not be my enemy. But that’s all self pity.

Endometriosis and PCOS force me to actually treat my body better than I would without a chronic illness. Do I yearn for an egg salad sandwich on real bread? Yes. But I love living without pain more. Does it irritate me that I can’t eat what I want when I want? Yes. But I begrudgingly appreciate the accountability this disease forces me to take over my choices and my nutrition.

Not one doctor of the many I’ve visited has ever told me to read Mills’ book. Yet among Endo people it’s a well known valuable resource.

I practice Western medicine. But I know firsthand it’s limitations.

Here’s to my nutrition and to yours. If you think you can’t…make it past day six and seven…then you can. Promise.

What I’ve learned the most is not all restrictions were right for me. I really had to feel it out and figure out what foods aggravate and what foods heal. That is very individualized. Some people wouldn’t tolerate eggs or seafood. For me they work. Get to know your own body and yes restrict so you can add slowly back in to see what makes the pain worse. It’s a horrible experiment. But worth it.

“Believer” (and why I sobbed through the entire thing).

I watched “Believer” tonight. Bad move. Long week. Lots of Queer clients. Then I watch a documentary about Queer people killing themselves. I mean not technically about them killing themselves, well sort of, mostly. It’s about the lead singer of Imagine Dragons and his journey toward activism for the Mormon church to be accepting of LGBTQ members.

I actually was very aware of the Mormon stance on Queers. Because generally all churches don’t like us. They are one of them. Through the course of my career I have encountered Queer youth who are Mormons whose parents don’t know they are Queer because they know they will be excommunicated and likely disowned if they come out.

I did not know the back story to Imagine Dragon’s lead singer’s activism. It’s intense. He pushes himself in this documentary to limits. And people die. I sobbed. My wife came out of the shower and I was about forty-five minutes into it and literally sobbing. She looked at the screen and saw him singing, and I was like no, no, it’s so much more than him singing. People committed suicide. Kids are dying. You just walked in on a clip of him singing so I look totally crazy right now.

But I couldn’t actually say that because I was crying. I sort of just waved my hands around and tried to talk between sobs.

She didn’t really react because I think she’s used to my twice yearly break-downs after a tough week.

Eventually I explained and pointed out all the people who lost family members so I didn’t seem quite so dysregulated.

This documentary is different because it shows the struggle of an ally. It shows the “it’s not my problem because I’m not gay” attitude and why that is not okay. Why allies need to stand just as loud if not louder for the Queer community.

When I’m feeling like I am burned out because I can’t take the homophobia and discrimination and transphobia stories that I hear, witness, and experience daily at my job, it’s those stories. The story of the ally who stepped up and spoke out that remind me I’m not in this alone.

There are testimonies by people who leave and/or are excommunicated from the Mormon Church due to them being allies or them being Queer and out. One person who was excommunicated due to speaking out says to the lead…You must know that quote, that evil only exists when good men do nothing.

I keep seeing stories about the migrant families flooding my newsfeed. My heart aches for them, but all I can think is LGBTQ people will be next. What if they ever come for my family? LGBTQ people are persecuted all over the world and discriminated against daily in our own country.

It’s like there’s only just so much space in my head and heart for heartache and I’m spending my energies on the Queer community and there’s just no room for anything else.

We recently switched daycares and when we were looking for new ones we had to ask “Have you ever had a two mom family?” and wait with bated breath for their responses. I recently started using a new pool guy, love him, first time I mentioned my wife though I wasn’t sure he’d come back. He did. There recently was a debate in my lesbian mom’s group about donor sperm and half siblings- add it to the list of my worries. We started a farm share. I’ve gone to pick up. My wife has gone to pick it up. Not sure if/when they will put it together that we are married and if/when we will find out if they are homophobic or not. We are about 50/50 for farms in the area.

That is a small list of the last week. The last week of experiences when I worry or fear because I’m married to a woman. I’m a grown, educated, confident, intelligent, working woman. Imagine the fear and vulnerability in a sixteen year old. Ten year old. Twenty year old. They are out there. Our Queer youth.

We need allies. Step up. Speak out. The exact quote is:

“It has been profoundly said, and how true it is, that the only thing necessary for evil to exist is for good men to do nothing,” Edmund Burke