Motherhood & Madness: My Top 5 Fears

Motherhood&Madness

B and I recently completed our hypnobirthing course. For our last class, we were asked to think of our top 5 fears and rate them on a scale of 1 (lowest) and 5 (highest). I would like to share my 5 fears with you as I believe there is much about pregnancy, birth, and parenthood that we don’t talk about. Many parents are shamed for their fears despite the majority of parents having the same fears.

  1. I am afraid that B will not be there for me after the birth (ranked 5): Certain things in our relationship have me fearful that it will mean I do a lot of parenting alone. While I completely recognize that as the mom that is staying at home with our son I am going to do most of the baby care I am afraid that it will even extend into when he should also be caring for our son. B has verbally said that he will be there for the baby and the fear is still in the back of my mind. It will be a transition for both of us and we will have to negotiate.
  2. I am afraid about not knowing what labour and birth will feel like (ranked 3): This is a huge unknown for me as a first time mom. No one can accurately describe pain, and everyone experiences pain differently. I think this fear is mostly linked to me being nervous that I will not recognize when labour is beginning. Hypnobirthing is used to help manage pain but what if I can’t use it because the pain really catches me off guard? I just don’t know what this experience will be like.
  3. I am afraid that I will isolate myself and not socialize/lose friends because I have a baby (ranked 3): I already isolate myself from others and have been for over 2 years. I don’t want to use the baby as an excuse to stay away from people and experiences. I know that if I do this then I will plummet into sadness. I have heard of people losing friends after they have children and I think it’s more about being at a different stage in life. I don’t want to lose anything because I’m having a baby. I want to gain.
  4. I am afraid that I will not bond with my baby (ranked 3): Pregnancy is very abstract. I can see pictures of my baby, hear his heart beat, feel him move, see him move and I can even feel body parts. I still don’t see him as being something that is real. I do feel this has affected bonding and I know that actually holding him will make a difference, I still cannot shake the feeling that I will see him and after the initial high I will still feel detached. What parents wants to feel detached from their child?
  5. I am afraid that my baby isn’t growing (ranked 1): People keep telling me that I look small. When we think of pregnant people we think of a huge belly and I don’t really have one of those. I think this is also a common fear that will never leave me. Parents always want to make sure their children are healthy. I do know that I am growing as evident by the measurements done by my midwife, my belly pictures, and ultrasound pictures. Still, every month I wonder if he is growing.

These are fears. They are not facts. Many of my fears can be dealt with, with facts (ie: measuring my belly to ensure growth) and proactive strategies (ie: attending mommy and baby groups). We all have fears while pregnant and becoming parents. I think if we didn’t have fears then we wouldn’t properly prepare ourselves, open ourselves to different possibilities and improve ourselves.

Vision Board 2016: Update

Back in January, I created my first Vision Board for 2016. Seeing as we are now in middle-ish of July I thought it would be a good time to see where I am at in meeting these goals. I can already say that I am not meeting most of these goals but I do have a good reason:)

  1. Relationship: Find calm when B goes out. I have improved in this area. I’m not entirely sure why but I have found ways to occupy myself and B has been improving at balancing my needs, his needs and our relationship needs.
  2. Reading: Read 50 books. I changed this goal as I found myself falling behind for awesome (but lame) health reasons. My new goal is 20 books and I have read 16 books so far for 2016. If I hit 20 books I may increase to 25 books.
  3. Physical: Do yoga 3 times a week. Ya…I was doing that and then I felt too sick. I am doing more walking so that is helpful for my physical health!
  4. Friendship: Go out at least once a week. Not really doing this either do to health reasons. I have gone out more at certain times depending on how I physically feel. Friends are also being accommodating by coming over to see me. I could still see my friends way more!
  5. Family: Become pregnant. I DID IT!!!!! Today I am 30 weeks pregnant:)
  6. Education: Complete at least 1 online course. I haven’t found any courses that interest me. This is still a goal of mine!
  7. DBT: Use DEAR MAN at least twice a week. I haven’t been very conscious about whether or not I have been doing this but I am trying to say things in a calm and clear manner.
  8. Cat Fostering: Foster a minimum of 2 cats. Naevia left in January and Ophelia left in March. I personally only count Ophelia has my 2016 foster because I had Naevia at the end of 2015. B didn’t want to foster anymore so we decided to stop. I am very proud that I was able to find homes for 3 cats (one of them with me).
  9. Work: Go to work unless I am physically or emotionally unwell. I missed a lot of work due to pregnancy issues. When I have been able to go to work though I have gone. Work has been a good distraction from some of the unpleasant physical symptoms of pregnancy and my co-workers have been amazing!
  10. Blogging: Write a blog a minimum of once a week. Didn’t really do this. I felt very sick and also have found that I have been running out of things to say. My focus has shifted greatly on making sure that I am taking care of myself and not stressing myself out. I appreciate those of you who have stuck around:)

In the end, becoming pregnant is the only goal I really care about and I was successful!

Did you set any goals that you have met or are having difficulty meeting?

“I don’t feel comfortable treating you.”

Image: Clipart family standing near a stethoscope.

Today I had an appointment with a potential family doctor. My midwife and psychiatrist encouraged me to get on as I am pregnant and will also need one for my child’s healthcare. Cool, no problem! I found a doctor accepting new patients at the health clinic just around the corner! What luck!

I was called into his office and he asked me why I wanted a family doctor. I told him that I didn’t have a family doctor and my midwife and psychiatrist were encouraging me to get one due to my pregnancy and the need for my child to have a doctor to go to. He then proceeded to ask me questions about my psychiatrist, where do I see them, why do I see them, what my diagnoses are, if I am or have ever been on psych drugs and if I knew where I could get those health records from over the years. I answered the questions without hesitation. My mental health care is a part of my overall health care history so I assumed he was just starting there and we would get to physical health later, that is really why I was there after all. I told him that I see a psychiatrist through a program at a local hospital to ensure preventive steps are taken against post-partum depression. I said that my most recent diagnoses are major depression and generalized anxiety and that over the years I have been on a variety of drugs and am not on them now. After less than 10 minutes he explained to me that he does not feel comfortable treating my mental health issues and recommended I go to a community health centre in the area (but further away) so I can have a holistic approach to my health care. He explained that it is just him in his practice and anyone he would potentially refer me to in regards to my mental health would possibly cost money.  He also said that there would probably be a wait list but since I’m not due until September I shouldn’t have a problem. He wrote down the name of the community health centre (it’s one I already know) and thanked me for coming in.

I sat there smiling, saying ok, being understanding and it wasn’t until I got to the elevator that it hit me, “Wait…did he just reject me because I’m crazy?”

Image: Health care form with a denied stamp on it.

I do know that doctors, therapists etc. can refuse to treat patients if they feel they are not competent. I respect and understand that. This interaction though just does not sit well with me.

  1. He never asked me about my physical health needs.
  2. He only gave me 10 minutes of his time.
  3. He gave me no choice in having him as my doctor as demonstrated by assuming that I would not like his referrals that require payment and telling me I should have a team of healthcare providers.
  4. He made quick assumptions about the type of patient I would be due to my mental health status.
  5. He dismissed the fact that I have my mental health taken care of and therefore do not need him to do that.
  6. Does this mean that none of his patients have mental health issues? If not then this trend is alarming and if some do then why am I excluded?

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario says that will not discriminate based on the any of the protected grounds as stated in the Human Rights Code. This includes disability which includes mental illness. The College’s policy on accepting new patients says,

“It is not appropriate for physicians to screen potential patients because it can compromise public trust in the profession, especially at a time when access to care is a concern. Screening may also result in discriminatory actions against potential patients.”

Was I not screened? I think I may have been. That policy also states,

“While physicians should accept or refuse new patients on a first-come, first-served basis, clinical competence[5] and scope of practice[6] are permissible grounds for limiting patient entry into a practice.

Some physicians’ practices are focused on treating certain groups of individuals, such as female or geriatric patients. Where the focus is legitimately based on clinical competence and a clearly defined scope of practice, this would, in most cases, be an acceptable reason for refusing to accept a potential patient. Refusal on this basis likely would not infringe the Human Rights Code.

Decisions to accept or refuse new patients must be made in good faith. Clinical competence and scope of practice must not be used as a means of unfairly refusing patients with complex health care needs or patients who are perceived to be otherwise “difficult.”

Clinical competence and scope of practice must be communicated to all individuals who inquire about becoming new patients. This will help determine if it is appropriate for them to make an appointment.”

Now, GP stands for General Practitioner. General meaning, not something specific. I had no reason to think that I would not be walking out with a GP for myself as I was not told at any point before arriving at my appointment that this doctor did not treat patients with mental health issues.

It is being suggested to me that I file a complaint. I am looking into it.

Psych Drugs: Same Old Story, Still a Problem

To summarize the above picture: the media needs to stop romanticising coming off psych drugs as “becoming your true self”. Psych drugs help people become who they are supposed to be (although they are not for everyone). Psych drugs are not “artificial happiness”, they give you a brain that can be happy.  

I have blogged about psych drugs before. I am probably repeating myself. Now that the conversation of psych drugs has come up in my life again I would like to talk about it again (also, by conversation I mean my psychiatrist brings it up and I smile and say, “Oh, we’ll see…I don’t want them.”).

I feel sad when I see conversations or pictures like the one above. I’m not mad that people are sharing the positives that psych drugs have had on their life. Those of us who struggle with our emotions, thoughts and behaviours need as many tools as we can get to support us in living the lives we want and deserve to have. I feel sad because my experience with psych drugs as being a prescription for suicide is often ignored and shamed.

When I have mentioned my experience I am told by some that I am lying, that my experience with psych drug induced suicidality is too rare or I am told that it’s people like me that keep others from helping themselves. When I then tell these people that I am not on psych drugs currently this is then seen as “proof” that I do not actually struggle.

I do also have the amazing opportunity of hearing from others who have similar experiences. I always appreciate hearing from these individuals and I hope they take comfort in knowing that others can begin to understand their experience.

My psychiatrist does acknowledge my experience which I appreciate. She is concerned that if I reached a point in my pregnancy of after birth that psych drugs were needed that I would have to be closely monitored. I did find out something interesting during my appointment with her last week about my most recent experience with Effexor. I told her that I did find 37.5 mg of Effexor to be fairly effective and that I increased it to the dose that threw me over the edge in response to trying to cope effectively with the emotional abuse in my previous relationship. I told her I would consider taking it again but that when I first started taking 37.5 mg  I spent the first 5 days extremely high and unable to sleep, eat and relax my muscles. I told her it was similar to an ecstasy high. She swore loudly, apologized, and explained that I had experienced a huge serotonin surge which is how individuals can get serotonin syndrome. This can be fatal and obviously something I would want to avoid!

My message is always the same. Listen to your body, advocate for what you need or have a trusted person support you and be open to the experience of others!

When Bad is Good: “Psychopathic” Traits in All of Us

Image: A portrait of an older man with white short hair, glasses and a black suit. The quote says, “If I wasn’t studying psychopaths in prison, I’d do it at the stock exchange.” – Dr. Robert Hare

I am reading a book called “The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success” by Kevin Dutton. This may sound strange to some, that individuals with psychopathy might have something to offer us but many researchers are finding that there are substantial advantages to having some of these traits. Of course, we’re not talking about these traits as a whole because the combination can lead to some individuals acting in very violent ways. Others have just the right balance that they end up running large, successful companies, occupy high ranks within the military and acting as protectors in the FBI and related agencies.

I’m thinking about these “psychopathic” traits in a very simple form when I write this post. I’m thinking of all the times that I cared more about myself than others and when I made logical decisions rather than emotional ones. Having some of these traits, under no circumstances, means that I or you are psychopaths. It just means we should not condemn everything about these people because many of their behaviours are what have got humankind to where we are right now.

It has always bothered me that society seems to require us to always be empathetic. Many of us have probably experienced this requirement when we are told that self-care is selfish, when we need to stop thinking badly of people who have died and when we’re supposed to go above and beyond to keep our interpersonal relationships together.

It has been to my advantage to stop caring about the feelings of someone I am in a relationship with, to completely shut off the emotion and look at the benefits to my life and only my life. Some people have been bothered at my ability to cut people out of my life when they no longer benefit my life and maybe I do go about it in a harsh way but it’s the way that causes me the least amount of pain. It has been difficult but necessary when I have had to think logical about a client’s mental capacity and safety when discussing next steps in their treatment. The tough decisions do not always have the most desirable outcomes in terms of emotions and they need to make logical sense when it comes to cost and benefit.

The above image describes what I am trying to say very well. A doctor needs to be charming, ruthless, focused, fearless and be empathetic. In order to be an effective doctor, the right levels of each are needed. When you work with people you need to be charming (people need to like you). Working in medicine will mean that you have to push for procedures that come with high risk, you need to stay on track when you are performing surgeries and you need to just do things that you think are best based off of your education and experience (ruthless, focused and fearless). Finally, doctors do need to be empathetic as working people requires you to be and you also need to be able to push feelings aside, make tough decision, share sad news and cope appropriately with death. That is why each character trait knob is set at different levels. This is not a bad person. This is a person that is fit for their job.

Again, I am thinking in the most basic sense of what we know as “psychopathic” traits. We all have a little bit and should all have a little bit as many of these traits can keep us moving forward, allow us to make smart decisions and keep us safe.

Motherhood & Madness: Pregnancy meets psychiatry

Motherhood&Madness

A few weeks ago I had my first appointment at a local women’s hospital in their psychiatric program that supports pregnant women and mothers with mental health issues. It was a very different experience from my other psychiatric encounters and I don’t know if I could explain why. Possibly because the concern is not only my but also my ability to maintain a healthy pregnancy and eventually people a healthy mother to a newborn. More scrutinized! That’s what it feels like! This was also the first time I have ever spoken with a female psychiatrist.

It has been difficult to shake the unsettled feeling that I have had since I left the psychiatrist’s office. I feel like I was answering her questions and then later in the conversation when I would bring something up that was related to a previous question she would say something like, “Oh, why didn’t you say that earlier?!” Well, maybe because you asked the question in a way that didn’t make me think a particular experience was relevant, or you didn’t understand something I had said or you didn’t let me finish a thought. For example, she asked me if I had ever experienced abuse. I said yes, that I have experienced emotional abuse from intimate partners and “so-called friends” when I was younger. Later on, when I gave specifics about what the “so-called” friends would say as it related to another question she said, “Oh, you were bullied! Why didn’t you say that?” I just smiled and laughed as she flipped back a few pages to make notes. I said my friends emotionally abused me. That is bullying. Bullying is abuse. Maybe you should have asked earlier how that emotional abuse looked in each scenario? Just a thought.

This psychiatrist also disagrees with my borderline traits diagnosis which according to a colleague is common in this program. No one wants people to have a borderline label. This is a label I am 100% ok with so saying it’s not good is not something I would like to hear. I have found the borderline label to be a nice, all-encompassing name, to give my experiences and this psychiatrist ended up breaking my experiences into little pieces and giving each one a name. Here is what I wrote on a Facebook Group about it:

“I found it interesting that the psychiatrist didn’t like my current “borderline personality traits” diagnosis. Every psychiatrist has their own view of our experiences. So what she ended up giving me was major depression, generalized anxiety (I have never had that diagnosis before) and then said I have severe reactive interpersonal sensitivities. I feel like she just broke down my experience into small chunks, making them seem separate when they are really deeply connected. All of my emotional pain really stems from my sensitivities and I am worried that these professionals will just focus on how to make me less sad and less anxious and ignore the “interpersonal sensitivity”.”

I will have to wait and see how the counsellor I am assigned to deals with these different labels but I do not know if I feel very hopefully. I think I will ignore these labels and the assumptions that come with them and focus on what I know will be my biggest barrier: getting myself out of the house (which the psychiatrist bolded and said must be addressed ASAP).

The part that sent terror running through my body was how casually the psychiatrist talked about psych drugs. I know that this is her job and for many people psych drugs are not a big deal but for me, it is a huge deal and actually a life or death situation. The psychiatrist did acknowledge that I do appear to consistently experience the suicidality side effect of psych drugs and said that there is no reason I should be on psych drugs right now. The fear set in when she said that if at any point I start going downhill then it is something she would suggest  to me. She said that it’s important to have a healthy mother for a healthy baby. Trust me, I do understand that. I want a healthy mother for my baby. I just have no reason to believe that psych drugs will create that health. They have never created that health. I have made amazing progress in my life without psych drugs.

Some good things did happen in this meeting. The psychiatrist was very happy that I am not married to the idea of breastfeeding. She asked me if I planned on breastfeeding and I explained that I’m open to it, would almost prefer not to and care more about the baby being fed then how the baby is fed. She was very vocal with her approval as she explained that some women refuse to consider bottle feeding and then when their baby or their own bodies have difficulty with breastfeeding they become extremely sad and at risk for postpartum issues. Breastfeeding is one way to feed a baby. Some women do not want to breastfeed, some women physically cannot. Some babies cannot physically breastfeed because of mouth issues or their bodies reject breast milk.

She was also glad that pregnancy wasn’t giving me mood swings. I explained that if anything it has calmed me down and given me time to think about where I should put my efforts. This is another protective factor.

I know I wrote a lot of bad. I’m still giving this program a shot. I know I need support and will need it a lot after birth. This is just beginning and I need to see where it all goes. I know that I can advocate for myself and the more we all get to know each other the better it can become.

 

 

Motherhood & Madness: Where is there space to be sober?

Motherhood&Madness

 

Photo: A pregnant person drinking and a circle around them with a cross through it indicating “no drinking when pregnant”.

Even before I knew I was pregnant I was strongly considering quitting drinking. I have never had an addiction to alcohol but I do have a history of abusing it as a teen and as an adult found myself either having just 1 or 2 glasses or completely binging and making myself very sick. January was one of those months where I spent an entire week binging and being hungover (and unknowingly 1 month pregnant. It will not affect how the baby develops). I hated how I felt, I hated what I experienced while drunk and I was just tired of it. When I found out I was pregnant it was the perfect opportunity to cut out alcohol. It is my hope that I will not drink after I give birth (I say hope but it is in my control). I want to get away from the binging. I find myself becoming very frustrated with being sober, regardless of the reason, because there is nowhere for me to go or no one that will be there with me sober.

In May, B and I went away for the Victoria Day Long Weekend to a music festival. I had a great time being with him, getting away from the city and our responsibilities and the music was awesome. What I struggled with was finding a place to fit in amongst all the people who drank, smoked and did drugs…it was basically everyone. Every person there was at least doing 2 of the 3 things mentions. Especially with the smoking I would find myself standing or sitting off to the slide to try and avoid as much cigarette smoke as possible. I couldn’t connect with these people because they were intoxicated and/or high and they showed no interest in connecting with me (B and I only knew our friend out of this large group of people). I knew that if I wasn’t pregnant I would have no problem fitting in because I would be drinking with them.

This is also extending into my everyday life as people, even B, do not invite me places because there is drinking. While I guess this is done out of respect for me it furthers my social isolation and brings about a great sadness that I find very consuming. I am doing an amazing thing with my body and people are telling me that there is no space for me.

Where are the sober spaces? Our culture views alcohol very strangely. Many believe that drinking is one of the few ways to have fun and having an addiction to it is seen as a deep personal flaw. We love and hate alcohol and the person depending on how much or how little someone drinks. Our cultural views and experiences of alcohol go above and beyond what I could even express here and I can’t even begin to imagine the experience of people who fight an addiction. In comparison, I have it easy. I’m just very interested in the isolating qualities that not drinking is having on my life right now. I strongly encourage you to check out the following two blogs:

Clementine Morrrigan: Intoxication culture is a bore

geoff: Sobriety as accessibility (https://livingnotexisting.org/essays/sobriety-as-accessibility-interrogating-intoxication-culture/)

Both bloggers are Toronto activists who are simply amazing. Both go by they/them pronouns.

Photo: “I’m sober, not boring.”

A lack of sober spaces is something I had barely thought about because I was fine with social and binge drinking. When I first heard geoff and Clementine speak at a conference a few years back I began to realize we did live in an intoxication culture that is very inaccessible and traumatizing. Again, I will never experience this reality the way someone with an addiction does and I am affected by the consequences of this culture as a pregnant person, someone who wants to limit my risk of alcohol abuse and as a person who wants to support her sober friends.

There have been great positive consequences to not drinking and I would like to focus on those for the remainder of this blog post.

  1. I am physically well- not drinking, in general, will keep me healthy. I reduce that damage done to my organs, reduce any damage that may be caused as a result of drunken shenanigans (ie: falling) and I eliminate being hungover which is hard on the body as it tries to restore its natural balance.
  2. I am mentally well- I was becoming a very angry drunk, starting fights and not enjoying myself. Not drinking allows me to stay in control of my mental well-being.
  3. I save money- this is a really big deal! The cost of consuming alcohol adds up very quickly. At the music festival, I spent $4 on a bottle of water which I could refill. B spent over $20 on drinks (each beer was overpriced at $12 each).
  4. I see the consequences of drinking- it was very eye-opening to not be the loud person, the person that causes the trouble and looks a little less than impressive. I enjoyed having control over myself and being present in the moment at the music festival. I don’t think important moments would have happened if I hadn’t of been sober. These moments really needed to happen.
  5. My risk of abusing alcohol is lower- if I am not drinking then I am protecting myself from falling back into the habits and patterns I worked very hard to change. I do not want to use alcohol to cope with negative feelings or as a way to enjoy myself. I want to cope in healthy ways and I want to be myself.

Do I have a solution for my current isolation due to not drinking? No, not at the moment. I am just doing my best to remember that I do not need alcohol in my life and that my life can still be enjoyable even if others cannot see it.