Mommy Blogs

D is for Depression not Demonic possession

Please excuse any errors. I wrote this at 3am when I couldn’t sleep.

I find it easy to believe that people once believed depression or other mental illnesses were considered a demonic possession. I mean, do you really want to take responsibility for the thoughts of wanting to drown yourself and wonder if anyone would miss you? No, it must be the devil messing with your head. But I didn’t blame any evil forces for those thoughts. I sought professional help. I probably should have also sought spiritual help, but that’s for other issues entirely.

Since being on summer break, I’ve really had the chance to reflect on some of the differences in my postnatal life with Bennett compared to Adelyn. The first and biggest was being emitted back into the hospital the day after being released and told I would be separated from my newborn son. My logical side knew how dangerous my condition was, but that didn’t mean my emotional side could process what I was going through. Instead of trusting the healing process and getting better, I was bitter. I was alone in a place I detest and fear. To make matters worse, I was about to spend my 36th birthday alone. I have issues with my birthday. My cousin died on my birthday. I’ve had multiple years of people being flaky and disappointing me that I would leave the state so no one could make me feel less on an already horrible day. Physically I was recovering, while mentally, I felt myself breaking and falling apart the longer I stayed in bed with wires attached.

When I came home, I didn’t trust myself to be alone. I knew something was wrong. I loved my children and husband but felt like a shell of myself. There were a lot of moments that I know were faked. Holidays were taxing. Finances were tight. I was only bringing home 60% of my paycheck, and the extra insurance I’d been paying for the last three years just told me my coverage didn’t cover C-sections. Apparently, to them, they were an elected surgery, and they didn’t pay out the hospital stay like they would have if I had a vaginal birth. So that was 600 dollars I had budgeted that disappeared along with three years’ worth of payments.

Instead of thoroughly enjoying the time with my family, I was bombarded with emails and text messages from my students. The person left in charge was less than a glorified babysitter. He didn’t assign the detailed work I left, and the chaos students shared made me feel like I failed them. I know I couldn’t pick their sub, but good Lord, it weighed on me.

For nearly two months, I was at my doctor’s office battling an infection in my incision. Apparently, a small part of my body was reflecting the stitches. There was a laundry list of other things my body was doing, but I don’t fully remember them. I remember thinking everything was happening so fast and slow all at once. I remember, at three weeks, I was sitting in my doctor’s office telling her about how I needed something. Something to help me heal the wounds that no one could see. She said I couldn’t take anything while breastfeeding. I guess my body knew this before I did because my milk had dried up two days before the appointment.

I was nervous about taking a daily antidepressant. I didn’t want to lose myself. But the little voice of my logical self reminded me I was already lost. The shell I was presenting to the world wasn’t me. She ordered me Zoloft. I was warned about weight gain, and it possibly blocking my ability to climax, but I should feel like myself again. I had to fight with the crazy person inside my head, telling her that I could return to normal. Things would just have to change.

Slowly the unexplainable tears stopped. I was more in control of myself. However, instead of weight gain, I had to remind myself to eat. I was dropping weight fast and waiting to the point where I would get dizzy and nearly pass out. Being an appetite suppressant is not one of the side effects; however, I got it. When my cycle finally returned, my PMDD was under much better control. I was far less of a bitch those few days before my period. But I started noticing something strange.

A girlfriend, who used to be a nurse and was prescribed this drug, warned me about a side effect that the doctor didn’t address. Or maybe I didn’t think it would be an issue. I was starting to forget words. I’ve always had small moments when I forgot a word or two. However, while on this little happy pill, I forgot far more than a word or two. It was slowly progressing and becoming more difficult for me to explain things because it felt like a block between my mind and my mouth. A few weeks ago, it went fast passed word. There were moments in my day gone.

That was it for me. It didn’t matter how stable the medication was making me. What was the point if I had no memory? I no longer wanted to kill myself, and I had picked up my house that my depressed state destroyed. I felt better. So I stopped taking the pill of happiness. I was on the lowest dose, so there was nothing to ween off from.

For the last few weeks, things were good until the other day. Adelyn and I were talking, and she told me how her feelings were hurt by someone she thought was her friend. The friend said some really nasty stuff. It reminded me of the fake people I’ve encountered in myself. Only I was much older than her. I had to hold back tears because I hurt so much for her. I never wanted her to feel that way, especially at six years old.

The over feeling of sadness for others’ pain was something new and definitely not something I felt while taking the medication. I’m not sure how I would have felt on the pill. That mental state already feels like years ago.

I’ve also started to dream again. My dreams stopped after having my son. I guess being trapped in a hospital for a week was a living nightmare that my imagination didn’t think it could do better. While on the pill, I’d have dreams but not remember them. They would fade away as soon as I would wake up. Now I’ve returned to the moves that fill my head. Only they are disjointed and not yet useful for me. I wonder, once my brain is fully detoxed, what weird shit it’ll come up with.

But being off the happy pill has brought back my PMDD. I was not prepared for the emotions to be so strong. The rage is the worst. Everyone is doing something wrong by existing. I’m trying my best not to lash out. The kids do not deserve it. It’s not their fault their mother is unstable. I guess that’s why God gave me Bennett.

He’s the happiest little chunk. However, the only time he truly cries and gets upset is when others raise their voice or cry. Bennett is pure innocence. He’s a baby who only knows love, and when others are upset, he doesn’t understand why and will cry too.

I’ve had a few small outbursts that have brought him to tears. It has broken my heart, but it has also quickly changed my mindset. I can’t stay in the negative space because I have to comfort him. And it has to be me because he’s a pure momma’s boy, and Dad just isn’t good enough. Even though his first word was daddy… Which he said clear as day, yelling at Tyler.

So now I’m learning how to be me again without the outside chemical change. It’s uncomfortable, but I no longer feel like I’m fighting a demon whose main goal was to take me to the underworld. The only monster is me, and learning how not to release the angry red panda on my kids or husband. I’ll get through it. I’ve already survived once I know I’ll do it again.


Day 40: 40 days and 40 nights of not interacting with social media

After 40 days and 40 nights of not interacting with social media, I don’t think I’ll be adding it back to my life. I woke up and checked my notifications. There was nothing that I truly missed. There was nothing on any of the apps that required my attention. I added the apps after Easter dinner and deleted them before midnight.

I finished reading book two of the new series I started last week and picked up my phone. Instead of checking to see if I turned my alarms back on. I opened Instagram and Facebook. I didn’t even really interact with the app. I just cleared my notifications. It all just felt like an empty habit. I got no enjoyment from what I was reading, and as I scrolled through my timeline and saw people’s pictures pop up, I felt sick. Everything about it felt voyeuristic and empty.

I discovered a friend of mine had a baby while I was on my detox. I also learned another friend had been pregnant and delivered the daughter she so desperately wanted this Easter morning. Out of the two women, I only knew one was pregnant. I thought it was strange how I felt nothing while looking at their tiny cute babies.

However, I’m not a cold-hearted ice queen. One of my longest friends gave birth to twins a week ago. I knew they were due on a Monday; however, I couldn’t remember what Monday. Time slipped by, and I texted her about the babies on Thursday morning, asking when they were arriving. Instantly bombarded with pictures of two adorable faces and a phone call. My friend apologized for forgetting I gave up social for lent and not letting me know the twins arrived. It baffled me. If anyone should have been apologizing, it was me. She just brought two tiny humans into the world. The least of her concern should have been the weird person breaking away from social norms.

We talked. We caught up. She sounded amazing. It felt real and meaningful. Nothing like I felt when I reconnected with the thing marketed as the best way to communicate.

My time away has been healing. I don’t feel the need to always have my phone on me. I am less anxious when I see my notification light go off. One of the biggest things is I feel my interactions are more human. What I know about my friends is what they want to share with me, not what I stalkers learned about them while silently watching their lives through a screen.

I’m not deactivating my accounts, but apps aren’t going on my phone. I will randomly check things on a web browser, but nothing like I used to. For the short time I had the apps on my phone; they were trying to occupy my time. I turned off notifications. However, whenever I opened an app, it asked if I wanted to turn on notifications. I don’t need that kind of bullying in my life. I already told it no multiple times. It was forcing itself on me.

So here’s to newfound freedom. I hope we all can break away from this false reality someday.

Lent, Teaching

Day 38: The danger of misinformation, especially with school safety

Today was a shit show and a half. But the chaos started the day before. 

We were in code red before the first period was over. Only this time, it wasn’t a drill. My students were outstanding. We all went to the secure location, and everyone was silent. While we waited for a clear, all I could think about were the students out filming. Not even five minutes after the code started, the all-clear was called. 

When my students returned to my class, I asked them where they had gone. Some entered other teachers’ rooms, some entered the bathrooms, and others headed to grade-level offices. Two students told me they left the camera rolling when they ran off. I said that’s fine; maybe you captured something interesting. However, a few told me they were worried about the equipment. I reminded them I could always buy new cameras. I couldn’t purchase their life back if the unthinkable happened. 

Finally, the last three students returned to class. And boy, did they have a story. They were recording as the incident began. A male student had become hostile and was verbally threatening a teacher. The girls were packing up. They didn’t want him to break the camera. He was punching the doors and shouting at any and all authority that came near him. Before that could return to class, the code red started. They left the gear and went to a secure location. They could still hear the student yelling and threatening as the Administration detained the hostile student. Two of the three girls said they were concerned about his behavior, and my third said she wanted to stay and get footage because it would be a good news story. I joked and said, “Well, we know who the future newscaster will be. But in all seriousness, your safety is the number one priority.” 

We all went about our day, and aside from thinking about how well our students handled the situation, I gave little thought to it. 

This morning we had our monthly faculty meeting, and we found out the teacher didn’t mean to activate the code red. Although I think it was good, who knows if the Hostile student could have lashed out at an unexpected student walking in the halls? We learned that pressing our emergency badges three times, pausing, and then pressing them three times again counts as six times. And if they were pressed after that, it activates a code red. We all assumed that pushing it three times would alert the administration that they were needed in the room, and if we waited a moment or two in between that, it would just reactivate the administration call. Most of our teachers didn’t realize that even if there were moments between the three punches, it would activate a code red, which is what happened. 

When we arrived at school today, there was more police activity on campus than usual. Most of them chalked it up to the code red. That was until the principal told us the suspended student had posted a threat on social media. The principal wasn’t even aware of the danger until he arrived on campus. We have an extremely good system where parents and students can report social media threats or any threat. However, our local police force was on our campus faster than the reporting system this time. Somebody had notified them about the student making a threat to our school. Our principal had just found out this information not too soon before our meeting started. Our principal is amazing and very transparent with the teachers, the students, and their parents. He composed a message to inform us that there was a report and that the police were already handling the situation, which he sent out once our meeting was completed. However, that wasn’t soon enough.

Students were already making their way to campus in the morning. Those who travel by bus leave insanely early, and many parents drop off their students before school hours because they have to go to work. So while we were in the meeting, students were already on social media sharing the post that the student had threatened the school. And they panicked without knowing that the situation was being handled. They did not give us a chance to calm the storm before it took place. The rumor mill had already begun. 

This was probably the most dangerous part of the day. Teenagers gossiping. Students are not talking to adults but to each other, exaggerating and making the situation worse. Kids were already calling and texting their parents, asking to be picked up. Parents calling the school jammed the phone lines, limiting communication. 

But while there were kids that were worried and calling their parents, those who wanted to be sure the Administration saw every single post made. They wanted to ensure everyone was aware of the situation, and I was so proud of these things. They wanted to make sure that there was no possibility of anything wrong. Unfortunately, things became worse when rumors grew.

This was when I started getting emails from parents asking me what was happening. I told them everything was normal, and we were all fine. I asked where they heard things, and they said a teacher told their children the suspended student had returned to school. Which I knew was not true. I reassured them that everything was safe and that even though everything was safe, out of an abundance of caution, we had an excessive amount of police force on campus. Then some parents sent me screenshots of the local community input people were saying. Some parents didn’t even have children on our campus and were spreading lies. And then the thing that pissed me off the most happened. My former news station reported that we were in a code yellow. Code yellow is when teachers are still teaching but restrict the movement in the halls unless absolutely necessary. We were not in a code yellow. We were not in a code anything. It was a normal day being blown out of proportion by people spreading lies and rumors. This was ensuing chaos. One mother complained that it took an hour for her to pick up her child. Not only was there an excessive number of parents picking up their kids, but they must vet every single person who was picking up a student. The administration was not just going to allow anybody to come to pick up kids randomly. It always has to be checked, and there were parents complaining about that. 

Today was a fucking joke, and it wasn’t because of our administration. They were doing more than necessary to be open with all the parents. They did everything possible to ensure safety. And they were trying to keep the students on campus calm. Unfortunately, worried parents made the situation worse.

I fully understand the concern, but social media’s gossip mill made things awful. News stations reporting with false information made it even worse. Adults and students alike spreading lies and gossiping made things atrocious. Teachers were with the students all day. We were calming nerves dealing with those having panic attacks. This put us under a lot of stress and pressure to make sure all students were okay and safe. Not just physically but mentally as well. Some teachers taught while others, like myself, turned on a movie and tried to distract the students from thinking of anything negative.

Adults need to be smarter. They need to stop gossiping and spreading rumors, and inciting horrible comments about things they do not know what is going on. Some parents were saying how their students were telling them a different story than what the principal was saying and calling the principal a liar. Our principal is anything but a liar. The students’ safety is his number one priority, and today he took every precaution. Our administrative staff in the front office were dealing with hostile parents, who were making the situation worse than it needed to be. Parents need to remember these are middle schoolers. There is a total no chance that their precious little babies would exaggerate the situation. I heard them exaggerating the situation. There were rumors spreading that an administrator got into a fight with the suspended student and was in the hospital, and there were people that actually believed it. Which I found absolutely absurd, since the man was walking around campus unharmed and obviously not in a hospital.

I truly understand people being concerned and worried. But they need to be smart. They don’t need to make a situation worse. And that is all that happened today. Gossip, rumors, news stations sharing false information. All of this caused more chaos and is not helpful.

I can’t believe this is my second post in less than 40 days about the chaos in schools.

Lent, Mommy Blogs

Day 35: Downward Spiral

Last week I didn’t have the energy to write. We returned to school from Spring Break, and all my students were going insane. While I spent the week paying attention to my students’ needs and trying to get them back into the swing of things, I should have been paying attention to my mental health. I didn’t want to write and couldn’t focus. I was just diving deeper into a darker space, and it wasn’t until Saturday did I get a slap in the face. 

On Saturday morning, we finally took a break from baseball…so of course, that mean we headed to the baseball fields to support friends who were playing against each other and later met up with a group of boys so they could have fun, practice a bit and just be ten-year-olds causing chaos. I would never have questioned our Saturday plans if I were mentally sound. It was a beautiful day. There were daughters at the games that Adelyn is friends with. I would have never had a moment of uncertainty. However, that was not the case. 

When Tyler came into our room to ask me what I wanted to dress Bennett in, I just stared at him.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

I fidgeted with whatever was in my hands. “Are you sure I’m not intruding?”

“What? Why would you be intruding?”

“I don’t know.” I felt uncomfortable even voicing feelings, which is something I rarely have a problem with. “You’re just going with the dads, and I don’t want to feel like-”

“Stop,” he interrupted me. “Have you taken your pill?”

I shook my head no.

“Okay, well, take that.” He watched me and waited until I did. “You’re not interrupting. We’re going to Jeffery’s and Reese’s game. Their moms will be there, and Deanna will meet us afterward and bring Hailey. You need to get out of the house. You aren’t staying here. Alex, you never intrude, ever. You know this. If I wanted just time for Mark and me, I would have said so.”

He was right. He has never had a problem saying he felt, and until I had our youngest, I never experienced this issue either. I thought I was getting better, and I was feeling normal. But this weekend just proved that the medication wasn’t a miracle drug. I mean, logically, I know antidepressants don’t fix things immediately. I’m not even five months postpartum, so I don’t know why I would think everything is fine. 

All I can be grateful for right now is how attentive my husband is to my mental state. I appreciate how well he knows me. Even if it can be annoying, especially when I think I can hide that I am irritated by a situation. But I will forever be grateful that he knows me well enough that I might need‌ help, especially when I may not see it. 


Day 24: A painful journey from the V.A to the Cleveland Clinic

I am not going to lie; there are times that I forget that my husband is broken. Maybe that’s not the best way to word it. Should I say permanently injured? I don’t know. Tyler joined the Army at eighteen in the best shape of his life, and now about six months from his 40th birthday, we are spending our fifth day in the hospital, hoping to get some relief for the pain in his back. Only this time, we’re at the Cleveland Clinic instead of the V. A. 

You’d think after almost eight years, I’d be used to his limitations. But I am not. I 110% blame him. Tyler is amazing and pushes through the pain more than he should. To give you an idea of how bad things are, he was medically retired from the Army for how destroyed his discs were in his lower back. Before thirty, he had one of the destroyed discs replaced, his back fused, and has two rods and four screws. However, if you looked at Tyler, you’d never know he lives in constant pain. 

Probably one of the worst things about his injuries; unless he takes his shirt off, there are no visible scars. I know they are there, but it’s easy to forget. Tyler still goes about his life, mind you, sometimes slower than others our age but still more active than most. 

He coaches our son’s 10U rec baseball team, and he isn’t just sitting on the side. I can not count how often I watched Tyler and wondered if his brain had fallen out because he was catching for Mark as he warmed up to pitch. I’m certain that I pray every time he squats down that he’ll be able to stand back up because I’m far too tiny to help. Luckily there are some big dads, and his assistant coaches can help if that is ever the case. 

In December, on his way home from work, Tyler hurt his back after changing the tire on the truck. When he got home, he was very stiff and was having trouble getting off the couch. I suggested that we go to the V. A., and he shot down the idea. He told me he just needed rest. So Saturday rolled around, and I did my best not to bug him, which felt impossible since he had promised to put up the Christmas lights. However, the rest did not help, and when he woke up Sunday, he told me, “we’ll go. Something is wrong.” 

The V. A. doesn’t give painkillers anymore; however, they did give him something to help manage the pain. The Er gave him two shots, one was a steroid, and the other was a muscle relaxer. A few days later, we were surprised to find out that the Er doctor could get him in for an MRI. It had nearly been two years from his last one, and no matter how many times he told his primary care doctor, they never sent him to get a new one. 

Tyler got the results of his MRI back through the patient portal with no call from a physician at the hospital. So we were left to try and decode what was going wrong with him. As he waited to hear back from pain management or anyone from the hospital, his back went out again. 

At the end of January, and the beginning of 2023 baseball season, Tyler was in pain. It was so bad that he called me and said we needed to go to the Er. I called my parents and asked if they could watch the kids as we went to the Er. Of course, they said yes. 

After checking in, a nurse came in with a wheelchair. Tyler tried to refuse it, but she was very convincing, and thankfully he took the ride because it would have been a very long and slow walk. 

We had been to the V. A. hospital nearly once a month for the last three months and it had been a pure shit show. Just trust me when I say you never want the government involved with your healthcare. It has been a nightmare of a fight trying to get Tyler taken care of. It took putting the V. A. on blast on social media, before we finally started to get somewhere regarding his health care. Only it was far too little too late. His health was declining, and the injections scheduled at the end of February were looking to be too long down the road. 

The Er doctor gave Tyler the steroid shot again to alleviate the pain. That way, we could make it to the February appointment. The nurse came out with a cane, and he outright refused it. But I took the cane and threatened to beat him with it if he didn’t use it. The nurse laughed and asked how long we were together. She also asked him to blink twice if he needed help. Tyler, of course, blinked rapidly. 

Since he likes to pretend nothing is wrong when he’s on the field, I’m a bit hypervigilant watching him during practice. And at the beginning of the season, one of the mom’s noticed that I looked stressed. Anita was Adelyn’s cheerleading coach in the fall, and that was probably why I unleashed everything when she asked if I was okay. I didn’t mean to word vomit everything we’ve been dealing with with the V. A., but I did. Anita sat and listened to all the crap we’ve dealt with the V. A., and her ex-husband listened too. I knew she was a nurse, and I assumed he was a doctor because he always wore scrubs. I didn’t know he was a neurosurgeon specializing in spines and degenerative disc diseases. 

After I explained all the shit we’ve been going through over the last seven years, Dr. Miller asked if we had a copy of Tyler’s mri, which, oddly enough, I had the write-up in my email. I showed it to him, and Dr. Miller said, “that was the worst thing he’s ever read.” I wasn’t surprised because the medical care, or lack thereof, we were used to getting at the V. A. had to trickle down and into the imaging department. So I told him we’d bring the cd to the next practice. 

So by the rec baseball season opening day, we had to visit the V. A. twice for how severe his back pain had gotten. Even though Tyler is in chronic pain and probably shouldn’t be coaching baseball, he has never allowed the pain to get in the way of doing what he loves. Because if he does let the pain stop him, then what does he have left?

I know I joked at the beginning of this blog about Tyler falling down and not getting back up, but it’s not really a joke. His bulging discs have been pressing on the nerves in his back, affecting his legs. Tyler’s right leg has lost feeling, and when he steps, he doesn’t entirely feel what his leg is doing. 

A few days after Tyler gave Dr. Miller the cd of his MRI, Tyler told me that the pain was terrible. He didn’t actually need to tell me. I could see it. He had trouble standing from a sitting position, and his legs had trouble supporting him. I suggested we go back to the V. A. He complained that there was no point since they wouldn’t give him anything for the pain, and he had an epidural scheduled for a few weeks. But I reminded him that the Er gave him a steroid shot, and it did help a little with the pain. Instead of going to the ER, as I suggested, he waited. But he did promise that if it got worse, he’d go. 

The following day was the opening day of baseball. Tyler coached, but this time he actually sat. His thigh started to pulsate, making it even more challenging to stand. I was worried and told him we should go to the hospital, but he said no because Mark had a travel game. He promised if he felt worse after the game, we’d go. I teased him a little about waiting, but I was glad to know he was toying with the idea. 

I didn’t join him for the second set of games. I went home with our five-year-old and three-month-old and started making dinner. As I cooked, I had a strange feeling that something terrible had happened. For the last hour, I had not received a text or phone call, and usually, he would text me randomly throughout the games, like stupid memes or updates on how Mark was playing. However, it had been radio silence. 

Then the game ended, and shortly after Tyler would usually call to tell me about the game, I received a call. 

“I’m only telling you this because I know how pissed off you’d be if you heard it from someone else.” 

I don’t know what ran through my mind other than it couldn’t be that bad because he was driving. 

“My leg gave out,” he said before I could ask. 

I tried not to laugh, but I did. “Excuse me, what?” 

“A foul ball came over the fence, and I stepped to catch it, and my leg gave out.” he was laughing while explaining what happened. 

“Did you at least catch the ball?” I asked. 

“No! That’s the worst part.” 

I waited until he got home to hear the whole story. Again I called my parents and asked them if they could watch the kids as we went to the hospital. I think it was becoming routine at this point. I finished cooking, inhaled my food, and packed up things for the littles in case they had to stay the night. 

I heard the door open and nearly pounced on him. I asked him if he was okay, and he said not really. His thigh was still pulsating. It looked extremely uncomfortable and weird. He grabbed a bowl of dinner and ate, explaining what had happened. 

A ball went over the fence, and he barely stepped back. I asked if he was on the sidewalk or stairs, and he said no, it was level ground. One minute he was fine, and the next, he was on the ground laughing. A few other dads laughed with him, but I think they did it because they were equally uncomfortable with what happened. 

One dad, Larry, a physician assistant who used to work for a nero, walked over and asked if Tyler was okay. He said yes. Then Larry asked if Tyler was going to just lay there or wanted help. Tyler chose to lie on the ground for a while. 

A few moms checked on him, and one yelled at the other laughing dads and then yelled at Tyler for not using his cane. That just made Tyler laugh more. His motto is if you can’t laugh at it, then what’s the point? 

He said that after getting off the ground, Dr. Miller called to discuss his MRI, and Tyler told him about his leg going out. Dr. Miller said his nurse would call in a steroid pack for him and try to get a hold of him on Monday. She would be starting the process with the V. A. To get his case transferred to Dr. Miller because what the V. A. had planned wouldn’t help fix what had made Tyler’s leg go out. 

As he told me about the incident, Tyler rubbed his leg. It had been pulsing for eight hours, and it was fatigued. The muscle hurt, and Tyler couldn’t fully support himself. We dropped the kids off and headed to the V. A. 

They gave him steroid injections and sent us on our way. 

About a week or so after that Er visit, we were at the V. A. again, only this time for a scheduled visit. Tyler’s pain management doctor had him set up to get his nerves burned, and the procedure that he was supposed to go through was to see if he was a candidate or not. Everything seemed to go reasonably smoothly. He went in relatively close to his appointment time and was out in the approximate amount of time.  I was ready for him to tell me something had gone wrong. Nothing ever goes smoothly with the V. A. 

So when I asked him how everything went, I shouldn’t have been surprised when he said they changed everything once he went back with the doctor. 

“Well, what did they do to you?” I asked as we were walking to schedule his next appointment. 

“I got an epidural,” he told me. “the doctor said he looked at my MRI and said what the pain management doctor wanted to do wouldn’t help without doing the epidural first. And since I was already there, they just had to get a different pack.” 

I guess that’s the only bonus of being at the V. A. If they change their mind about what they want to do, everything is at their disposal. It seemed the epidural helped some with the pain. He could walk without a cane if he used a knee brace to give him enough support. The epidural worked well enough to avoid returning to the Er as we waited for Dr. Miller’s office to be approved by the V. A. 

About two weeks later, we got a call from Dr. Miller’s office. They were ready to schedule Tyler’s procedure. The nurse apologized to Tyler for it taking so long. She said there was a miscommunication between the offices. Without her even saying what the issue was, Tyler asked, “did you receive information for an R. Jenkins?” and the nurses said, “yes! I couldn’t figure out why they kept sending me the wrong person’s information, and finally, I saw that Tyler was the middle name.” 

I don’t know how many times this has happened. Tyler always forgets to tell people that he goes by his middle name. And I don’t think he thought about mentioning anything to Dr. Miller’s office since he’s so used to doing everything at the V. A. with his last name and social. 

Tyler received the call Monday, and by the end of the week, I was waiting in the lobby of the Cleveland Clinic to take him home. 

After the procedure, Dr. Miller came out to talk to me. He explained that Tyler would be a little sore and that in the next 48 hours, things may hurt slightly, but it should be better by the end of the week. He reminded me that Tyler should take it easy and not overdo anything, and I said that would not be a problem. Usually, I’m the problem asking him to do things for me because I’m too tiny. Dr. Miller also recommended lots of fluids. 

“Does beer count?” I asked. 

He laughed. “No.”

 “Well, you might want to tell Tyler.” 

When Dr. Miller left, two women sitting in the lobby looked at me like I had grown two heads. 

“Was that Dr. Miller?” one asked. 

I nodded. 

“He must really like your husband. He never does that.” 

On the way home, Tyler and I talked about his procedure. The nurses kept asking if he had wanted to be satiated, and he said no. He was used to receiving the injections with localized anesthetic when he went to the V.A., but with how many times they asked, he was wondering if he should be sedated. When Dr. Miller started the procedure, Tyler and he were joking around. The first injection didn’t hurt, but the second one did. Miller said the second injection was on the nerve causing the most pain. The third injection hurt the worst. Dr. Miller had poked him once, but Tyler’s mental rod was in the way, and he had to dig around a bit. Dr. Miller apologized for the pain, and Tyler said, “don’t worry, I’ll just make your son run, so he hurts as much as me.” 

I don’t think the nurses were ready for the banter between the two men. 

We’re four days out from the nerve injections, and Tyler says he can tell that the feeling is finally coming back in his leg. Today as he was going down the stairs, he knew his leg was still a little weak, but it wouldn’t be long before he wouldn’t need the knee brace anymore. 

I just hope we’ll be able to avoid hospitals for a while. 


Day 14: School Guidance Counselors

I think guidance counselors are one of the most underused tools at school. Wait, let me rephrase that I think guidance counselors are one of the tools incorrectly overused.  

When I look back at my school career, I can say I remember my elementary guidance counselor. She was tall with brown hair and a kind voice. No clue who the guidance counselors were at middle school. I’m almost sure that I didn’t know they even existed. And for high school, I would invade my guidance counselor’s office for nearly four years, asking her to help me find a college that had a degree in oceanography or something close to it. But not once do I remember my guidance counselors being as present as the fantastic staff at my school. 

If parents were to walk the campus of the middle school I work at, I promise you over half of them would be astonished by how present our guidance counselors and behavioral health specialists are. Students of all grade levels know their names, most of whom know where their offices are. The repore the students have with these professionals is impressive. For the most part, they feel comfortable talking about their issues with the staff and even will seek out help. And those students who kept their problems closer to the vest don’t usually fight the extra push in the right direction. I’ve heard from many of my students that after speaking with a guidance counselor, they don’t feel judged but actually heard for the first time. And I agree entirely with them. 

I don’t know how often I have found myself in one of the guidance counselors’ offices asking for advice. Sometimes it’s for assistance handling a student with a 504 or IEP. However, I’ve found myself in their offices more often than not with personal questions, sometimes self-care because my students have stressed me the fuck out, sometimes about my kids, and a few times about my postpartum mindset. I’m unsure if this is like that at all schools or if we are just blessed with an and staff. 

I think all companies should have guidance counselors. Not HR people because you can’t talk to the person in control of hiring and firing freely. No, a guidance counselor, psychologist, whatever you want to call the person, someone impartial to your career should be available to talk to. I think that could help avoid workplace burnout. 

As much as I sing the praises of our counselors, there is something that I disagree with that is done across the county when it comes to them. Guidance counselors are used in so many other areas that are well outside the realm of counselors that I wonder how they can do their actual job. 

The district requires them to present Social Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons to each grade level several times throughout the year. They also have to present to each grade level these mental health suite 360 lessons as well. The one coming up is about the Prevention of Suicide. And while yes, the topic is tough to present, they don’t have control over how to discuss the issue. 

I don’t think it’s fair that schools are given those extremely difficult and triggering topics, and all schools are expected to teach them the same way. I believe each school should be able to take the issue and tailor it to the school’s location. Because I seriously doubt that the discussions going on at the middle schools in Boca Raton are the same as Belle Glade and Pahokee. Also, our guidance counselors may know what emotional level to present these topics with better than one size fits all. If the guidance counselors weren’t busy being testing monitors or filling in for teacher duties, they could target groups of kids and have a more personal discussion with them. 

I know many of these duties that guidance counselors go through now are because of what happened in Parkland. We don’t want another student to slip through the cracks, but I’m not sure if we keep adding more tasks to their plates, they will be able to see the students. We will have all these fantastic PowerPoint and well-thought-out plans but no students left to save because those who are meant to help are bogged down with the extra work of the School Board bureaucracy. 

Lent, Writing

Day 9: Aphantasia, past life regression, and a movie script

About a year ago, I discovered I wasn’t normal. I mean, I’m a writer who has made a career in television. I’ve never been normal. However, I discovered I am a part of a small group of humans who do not see with their mind’s eye. I have Aphantasia.

“Aphantasia is the inability to visualize. Otherwise known as image-free thinking. People with aphantasia don’t create any pictures of familiar objects, people, or places in their mind’s eye. Not for thoughts, memories, or images of the future.”

 I never knew that I was different. I always thought that when people said they saw pictures in their heads, they were speaking figuratively. It wasn’t until I was working with a friend, editing a story, did I learn it wasn’t a figure of speech. He asked me to picture the scene and my head, and I told him I couldn’t. This sparked a long conversation about how when I close my eyes, I only see darkness, and if there are lights, I’ll see yellows or oranges where the lights are.  Being unable to see images in my head is probably why my writing is, so dialogue driven. It also probably has a lot to do with why I love to take pictures of everything that happens. I can look at pictures, know what was happening,  and it evokes emotions, but I can’t recall a memory and see it in my head. 

I haven’t always been this way. Or at least there are a few distinct moments I know I saw images in my head. 

The first moment was my first year of high school. My drama teacher was out, and we had a substitute. I can’t recall his appearance, but I still hear his voice. Thinking back at this moment as an adult and teacher, what he did was weird as shit, but as a high school freshman, it was pretty cool. The substitute asked us if we wanted to be part of a group activity where he guided us through a past life regression trip. I am unsure if we knew what that meant, but it sounded way more interesting than reading our anthologies and writing a response. 

The substitute had us line up in a row in front of desks. He asked us to close our eyes and focus on his voice. He told us to imagine a blank chalkboard, and on the chalkboard, we were supposed to draw a circle. We were guided to draw the number 5 (or ten; I can’t remember everything from twenty years ago), erase it, and continue until we reached zero. Once we reached zero, he told us to imagine a field with flowers and warm sun. We should feel safe there. 

And what is crazy is that I could picture all of this in my head. When I try to do this now, I only see darkness. It wasn’t until I was talking to my editor did this moment come back to me. I had, at one point, actually seen images in my head. 

After the substitute guided us to the field, he went down the line and asked each one of us a question. I don’t remember exactly what my classmates said, but I know one said she was a princess. I think another said she was in the holocaust, and one said she was on the Titanic. Each time he asked them if they felt safe, and oddly, every one of them said yes. 

When he got to me, I wasn’t prepared for what came out of my mouth. He asked me what I saw around me, and I said I felt sand, and he asked me if I was at the beach. I told him no. He then asked me to look around, and I told him I couldn’t because it was night and dark. He asked me if I was standing or sitting, and I told him I was kneeling. I told him my hands were bound, and I heard people rushing towards me. I told him that the hair I could see in front of my face was dark, and it was not mine. And then he asked me if I was safe. My heart raced, and I told him no. Next, all I remember was his voice getting louder and louder, telling me to wake up, and I remember feeling sweaty and having my classmates look at me, unsure of what was happening.

For the next seven years, I would have random dreams that would expand on what I had in my supposed past life regression. Do I think that this was a past life that I led? No. I’m unsure what I experienced, but it was very vivid. 

It wasn’t until I was halfway through college before I could get the story out of my head. I took a scrip writing class and asked my teacher if I could write a historical script. He said he didn’t approve of them because students did a horrible job writing them. I didn’t like that answer. I had to get this story out of my head. So I asked if that meant I couldn’t write a historical piece. He told me to go ahead, but the likelihood of me passing with a good grade was slim to none. 

I wanted to impress my teacher. He was a former writer for Golden Girls and Dallas, among other shows. 

I took what he said as a challenge. I knew I could write a fantastic script. So for the next few months, I wrote my 90-page script. He had the class break the project into 30-page chunks. When I turned in act one, I expected him to tell me to try again. But the only note I received was, ” please edit your work so I can give you a better grade.” I was excited by that and went on writing. By the end of the semester, I had finished the script and the story I started seven years ago. I never saw those images again. But what I had was a script called Blue Lotus, and the only A in that class.

After going back and reading the script, I couldn’t help but giggle. Some of the dialogue is totally cheesy, but I still love it.


Day 7: Finding time

It’s hard to find time to write. Between being a mom of three that lives at the baseball and softball fields and a full-time teacher finding time to do something that I’m passionate about nearly seems to be impossible. If I want to write, I must decide what doesn’t get my time and attention. And my children and my career are not an option when it comes to neglect. That means that my husband and I have to divide our time between doing something together or me taking some time for myself and sitting down at a computer to write. In the past six days, while we were watching TV, I picked up my cell phone, and instead of opening social media, I completed the different blog posts. But I don’t like taking away our quality time. Part of me misses the freedom I had before children, but there’s no reason to linger in the past because the kids aren’t going anywhere for the next 18 years.

I’ve gone to bed late, and the glow of the cell phone stares me in the face as I try to review what I have written throughout the day. Sometimes sleep has to be sacrificed for me to do what I love. I feel like this is a pattern that has followed me throughout my life. Adding too much shit to my plate and trying to make sure that I can do everything that I want in the very limited hours of the day. Sometimes I’ll write five pages and delete it all because I am unhappy with what I wrote. 

Today is one of those days. I’ve tried writing four different posts, and they all seem forced. It’s like my creativity has been drained from me. In all honesty, that’s how I’ve felt since I gave birth. It took me years after having my daughter to find time to be myself again, and I don’t want to spend another three to four years figuring out how to keep myself as happy as I make sure the children are. But sometimes, that doesn’t always work the way you want it to, especially when you’re battling postpartum depression.

I thought I would spend my maternity leave snuggling my brand-new baby and writing my second book. I did not expect myself to want to become one with my couch.


Lent 40 days of no social media and 40 nights of writing

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This year, I aim to remove social media from my life and to fill the wasted time with writing.

What I originally planned on writing today had to do with my faith and the journey I’ve been on, instead, I’m going to vent about a training that our district is being forced to take. It’s called Youth Mental Health First Aid: A Manual for Adults Assisting Young People by Betty Kitchener. I understand the point of ensuring people have mental health tools, but throwing everyone into the same training is not the best idea. 

They offer the training as an all-day event that people can take online or in person. I chose to take the training virtually. I thought this might be an easier way to digest it; however, I was wrong. There is no way to digest these topics, especially when living with these problems. The only thing that made it easier was vocalizing that this is fucking stupid instead of internalizing it. 

I am already dealing with postpartum depression. Only a few weeks ago, before I started my antidepressants, I was sitting on the edge of the pool watching my daughter swim and wondering how long it would take for anyone to notice that I was no longer there. How could I sink myself to the bottom of the pool, or if I could walk off the pier and into the lake and never breathe again? Thankfully, I didn’t do it. Not sure how I could have done it. I think my body would have gone into auto-drive and brought itself to the surface to breathe. I kept thinking about how I could stop saving myself, and while doing that, my daughter didn’t leave my side. 

It was by far the worst experience to go through. I felt as if I was trapped inside my head, screaming, banging on a glass wall, trying to break through and stop the person who had hijacked my brain. I didn’t understand why I would want to leave her alone to go through life without her mom to help her. She’s an emotional little creature who needs both her parents, and I wanted to wear cement shoes on the bottom of a lake. 

Until today, I thought I had things under control. Who knew that a six-hour training would throw me into a tailspin? The whole thing is supposed to make teachers and other school employees aware of mental health issues with our students, but not once did they think about asking us if we were okay with the topics they were covering? They rushed to throw everything out there. They broke us up into three groups and asked to read little fictional stories and ask how we would handle them. 

My story was about a student who was developing an eating disorder. The only thing is that this topic isn’t fictional for me. I just had to handle this with a student upon returning from maternity leave. Listening to other educators talk about how they would be uncomfortable handling the situation brought me back to high school when I was dealing with my budding eating disorder. No one was aware of what I was going through. It also made me truly grateful for my relationships with my students. 

As I listened to the people in my group present what we discussed, I word-vomited how I handled my situation. How that only in a week or so back from maternity leave, I noticed one of my girls kept putting her head down, how she had transformed from an energetic student to one dragging through the day. When she returned from lunch, she talked about how she didn’t eat again, and I snapped. I responded as if I was out to brunch with girlfriends and asked, “Are you anorexic? Is that why you’re skipping meals?”

She just stared at me. “What’s that?”  she asked.

I explained to her and her other classmates that anorexia is when a person controls, limits, or stops eating because you don’t like the way you look or feel out of control in your life.

My student looked like I had just peeled a cover off her eyes. “Yes, it’s both.”

I told her I would notify the guidance counselor, and she asked why. I explained because I loved her and this was not the path she needed to go down. It only causes pain and more trouble. 

The trainer said I did what the purpose of the class was. Only she missed the part where I said I lived with this and didn’t have the mental bandwidth to handle my students’ issues. Not once did she ask how I felt returning from maternity leave and being inundated with students’ problems. But, you know, why would you want to check on the people asked to be aware of students in crisis? Obviously, we are all fully prepared and qualified to help students and guide them on where to go for help after a few rushed hours glancing over highlights of anxiety, depression, and psychotic disorders.

But we did get a solid hour or so being inundated with the worst guidance on suicide help and prevention. 

As the instructor spoke, I took a Xanax. I felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin. I kept staring at the webcam, not covering my mouth as I talked to my co-worker, who was in the same session. We both could not believe what they were covering as suicide prevention. It was like listening to someone who had never experienced or knew someone close that suffered from suicidal thoughts or depression. I swear, if anyone had approached me and asked, “Are you going to kill yourself?” or “How do you plan on killing yourself?” things would not have gone over well. When I expressed this to the behavioral health specialist, he said it was proven to stop people from killing themselves. I don’t believe this. 

I watched the screens of the other people in the session, and you could see those visibly disturbed and uncomfortable, and not once did the instructors say hey, let’s take a break or check in with us. No, because today isn’t about finding out if the adults are qualified to handle their students in crisis. Today was about the district covering their ass because they lack the proper amount of mental health professionals to help every student. Now, they can claim that everyone on campus, including those who work indirectly with the students, has received training from experts to be aware of mental illness and health problems. 

Oh, the best part, after spending most of my day being triggered and slipping back into a dark space, I have to teach until the end of the workday. 

So thanks, Palm Beach County School District, for thinking this is the best way to handle things. 

Mommy Blogs

Finding my calm

This morning before my doctor’s appointment, instead of rushing from dropping off my daughter to sit in the parking lot and steal internet from the doctor’s office so that I could work on things for school, I decided to take a moment for myself and go to the beach. It’s incredible how much a little salt air can refresh the soul. 

It’s been a long time since I slowed down and appreciated the world around me.

I have been stressed out worrying about finding a sub for my students, ensuring their lesson plans are ready, and wondering if they’ll be all right. All while our house has been under construction for longer than I wanted.

I allowed that to stress me out instead of letting go and just rolling with it knowing my husband was working the fastest his body would allow. We are still entangled in the kids participating in sports nearly every day of the week. I truly was having unrealistic expectations of what we could complete and it nearly caused a mental breakdown several times.

This pregnancy has been much different than my first with my daughter. I cherished all the small moments and let myself relax and enjoy what was going on while this one has seemed to be a strain on my mental and physical health. But standing here watching the sunrise over the surf rolling in has reminded me of the amazing little creature living inside me.

I’m excited about my maternity leave this time. Unlike with my daughter, I will not be working at all through it.

I’m blessed that Bennett is arriving in the fall, so we can spend more time outside, not sweating to death.

After recovering from surgery, I plan on spending as much quality time focusing on myself, the new little baby, and my family. Work will always be there, but little moments like watching the sunrise with my kids or just enjoying coffee alone will not always be there.