Sunday, June 5, 2016

Pain Is Real

When it comes to things I know, I know a lot, I know the sun will rise, I know that my children will love me even when I have had a rough day, I know that my bestie will always make me laugh, and I know pain.  I am not referring to the pain you feel when your high school crush takes someone else to the prom or when a loved one passes away but rather the pain I’m referring to is actual physical pain. Whether it is from an injury, a chronic medical condition, or a physical deformity, pain is real.  Pain is also subjective.  What one person feels as nothing major may be the worst pain of someone’s life.  I live with chronic pain every day, all day.  I have a spine that is degenerating at a rapid rate, at 40 I have already been diagnosed (5 years ago) with osteoporosis, I also have an autoimmune disease that affects my joints and muscles, I have chronic migraines that leave me unable to get out of bed, and I have MS. 

I tell you this not to seek sympathy but to say that yes, pain is real, pain is subjective.  I take opioid medications, I get steroidal medications injected into my spine, I take anti-inflammatory medications, do acupuncture, yoga, try not to eat certain foods, I do all of this and still have pain.  For years Doctor’s did not believe that my pain was as severe as I said. and that I was just seeking pain medication.  I mean how could I have the type of pain I was describing and still be a mother, wife, teacher, friend….well I became good at faking it, at minimizing my own pain to suit other people’s needs.

One night I was in so much back pain that I actually considered taking my own life, I sat against a wall in my house with a bottle of pills and considered leaving my children motherless, making my husband a widow, ending my life because of the physical pain I was feeling….this was a turning point, this was the point when I decided I needed better care than I was receiving.   Not long after I went to the Dr and let it all out, I yelled, cried, made her see what the pain was doing to my life.  After this display of emotions, I quickly apologized and thankfully she accepted and understood.  Thankfully with her knowledge she was able to find a Dr who not only understood and saw the reasons I was in such awful pain, but agreed to take me on as a patient.  Has he taken all my pain away, no BUT he has helped me manage it and be able to be a mother to my children, and lead a semi productive life.  Again, I share these details not looking for sympathy but in an age where pain is highly overlooked as a way to get “high” from the medications I feel that those of us who suffer everyday need to raise awareness of the real pain epidemic in this world. 

As I sit writing this I am in the midst of a several day migraine episode, so awful at one point that it hurt to touch my forehead, yes I have regular medication I take when I feel a migraine coming on but after being on it for over 10+ years it no longer works as well.  Yes I did do all the “old wives tales” tricks to help it go away, everything from drinking a double espresso to wrapping my head in ice (I’ve become an expert at sleeping like this), I went to the ER and received narcotics to help break it up, everything I can think of.  Currently my Dr has me trying a new migraine medicine, and a 7 day pack of steroids to break up the migraine.  Along with caffeine and ice this seems to be helping not relieving but making me able to function somewhat. 

Again, I don’t want sympathy but I hope to help people understand that the pain epidemic is a legitimate issue, and to some, the use of pain medications, used responsibly, is a necessity.

  The pain medication abuse epidemic in America, as well as the high profile deaths of celebrities who were found to have accidentally overdosed on prescription painkillers has made it bad for people like me who are in real chronic pain, and need to use prescription strength painkillers to achieve some sort of relief from my constant pain.  Some may classify me as a pill addict, or having a pill addiction problem, but to that I say, I am not a pill addict, I am an addict of not living in pain and if a pill helps me with that then so be it.  If a certain medication that is classified as an opiate makes me able to be there for my children and my family I am fine with that.  These are medications I will most likely be on for the rest of my life, I have never in 5 years asked for an increase of dosage, never have asked for a refill sooner than was authorized, I take my medicine as prescribed, and if a day happens when I don’t need a dose or two that’s great, I can recognize that.  If a day happens to be especially painful for one reason or another I can recognize that and have adequate medicine available if I have to take extra; all of this I do for me, for my family.  I have never been in bed so “drugged” that I cannot tend to my children (with this current migraine episode excluded, and it wasn’t medications that prevented me from getting up, it was the pain from the migraine).  I get up every day, work, do as much as I physically can, yes most days I overdue it but what mom doesn’t. 

I still encounter people that don’t believe I am in real pain, that I can be a living, breathing person and be in as much pain as I claim, I’m done trying to convince them that again (my) pain is real and subjective.  I have people telling me to just push through the pain, and when I can I do, but I will not sacrifice my health to satisfy someone else’s perception of what I should be doing.  I know my body and what it is capable of, it was capable to carry two babies, it is capable of putting one foot in front of the other, it is capable of writing my stories to share, it is capable of so much but most days it is not capable of being in pain. Pain affects every part of your being, your mental health, your physical health, the relationship with your spouse and peers, and perhaps most importantly your children. 

I hope by sharing this part of my story I can help someone else, as with all my real life posts I share.  If you are in pain just know you don’t have to live a life in pain.  There are lots of homeopathic treatments, opiate treatments, alternative treatments you can seek out.  Don’t let anyone; whether it is a Dr, nurse, family member or stranger undermine how you feel, they aren’t you.  Their pain is different from yours, even if affects the same part of their body, pain is subjective and I encourage you to seek out a Dr who will help you lead a life where you can enjoy living.  I will always believe you, I understand you, I sympathize with you whether you are 15 or 75 you don’t have to live a life in pain be it chronic or episodic.

I recently told Mr.O that one of my fears is that when H&Z look back on their childhood they will only remember their mama as being in pain, not able to do stuff with them, not play as much as other moms do, or not run at the playground with them.  After 20 years together I love that he can reassure me by telling me that they will remember a mom who read to them, did crafts with them, who did as much as she possibly could to ensure they had a great childhood.  As long as they remember and I remember “The Little Things” I think we will be fine…..

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

This Isn't the Way it's Supposed to Be

I wrote this piece for an audition to participate in a local production of Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) which was created by Ann Imig and held annually across the country.  LTYM gives motherhood a microphone, giving people from all walks of life a chance to share their stories regarding the many different sides of motherhood.  My story wasn’t chosen for our local production of LTYM this year, but that’s ok, there is always next year and there are more stories for me to tell if I choose.  If this story helps even one mother in some way, then I feel it has done its job.

This piece has been writing itself for 7 years, 7 years before I even had the courage to share or the opportunity, or for it to be finished, only to realize it will never be finished.  I wrote this piece in my head and in my heart long before I ever touched a keypad.  It is real, it is truthful, it is a story… story and I am ready to tell it. 

“This Isn’t the Way It’s Supposed to Be”

“I’m pregnant” I said to my husband one early morning in September of 2008, from that moment on my life would be forever changed.  The moment the words left my lips I knew instinctively that the baby growing inside me was a girl.  From then on I knew what to expect, the nausea, the cravings for onions….but only from McDonalds and only on a cheeseburger, the swollen ankles, even the complications but what I didn’t know was that depression was also right around the corner.  I had a “normal” pregnancy with my son just the previous year, no signs of pregnancy depression or post-partum depression so I had no idea of the emotional rollercoaster that was heading my way.  For the first few weeks after we found out I was pregnant we just sat on this piece of information thinking it was just a dream that we would wake up from, or that maybe the home pregnancy test was wrong.  I mean how could it be right, weren’t we the same couple who had just been told by a fertility specialist that our chances of conceiving on our own were pretty close to zero? Weren’t we the same couple that endured shots and nasty hormone therapies just to have our son?

Slowly we began telling people of our news; I remember telling my best friend, sitting on my couch while my son played at our feet.  Immediately she sensed something wasn’t right, she sensed the lack of excitement in my words, she knew what was happening.  As we told more people I remember thinking “maybe now it will seem real”, only that never happened just as it still didn’t seem real at the ultrasound or when I first felt my baby move.  As the pregnancy progressed family and friends were getting more and more excited, and all I could think was “why am I not excited?”  I vividly remembered the way I felt when I was pregnant with my son, how happy I was; wasn’t that the way every pregnancy was supposed to be?  As the months continued zipping by and my belly continued to grow my feelings of disconnect for the baby girl I was carrying did also.  There was no excitement or happiness; instead there were growing feelings of sadness and despair.

I wasn’t able to share my feelings with anyone except my husband and my midwife.  The little bit I did share was greeted with a “oh you’ll be fine” or “don’t worry everything will be OK” even “just wait until you see her”; all I wanted was to say “FUCK can somebody, anybody justify my feelings, can’t anyone see I’m drowning here”?  This was not an enjoyable way to spend any amount of time, especially not during the 9 months of carrying an innocent baby.

At last, the day came, May 14 2009, a day I was dreading and looking forward to at the same time.  I was scheduled for a C-Section and hoped that everyone who had been reassuring me was right, that the minute I saw my baby girl all those feelings I had would disappear and be replaced by feelings of love and joy.  Instead, the first time I saw her over the curtain in the OR she spit up all over me….not quite the blissful moment I had been hoping for.  After an uneventful hospital stay and my husband being home for a week, I was alone.  Alone with her, (and my son) you see I was ok as long as there were other people around, people to do all the things I should’ve been doing.  Holding her, changing her diaper, snuggling her late at night, now it was all me.  Only thing was I had no desire to do those things, I mean how could I after all I didn’t even like her?  Still the whole time day in and day out I kept hoping these feelings would disappear, you know after the sleep deprivation wore off, or I got used to a new schedule, or heck even while nursing her…..all this time I was hoping that these feelings of drowning into this emotionless relationship would disappear, knowing that they weren’t “normal”.  Instead of magically disappearing I was the one who disappeared, becoming like a robot just going through the motions.

There were parties, and meeting friends, holidays and family dinners, conversations and silence and through all of these nobody could hear me crying out “HELP”.  People would say “oh she’s so cute” or “how is she sleeping” all the familiar nice things that are always said when a baby is born.  All I wanted was someone to say “how are you” and the courage to answer them honestly.  That moment never came, so instead I continued to “fake it until you make it”, all of the smiles, the happiness, the jokes…all faked, which can be quite tiring on an already sleep deprived depressed mother.  This manner of faking it continued, and continued, yes there were occasional moments when I could let my guard down and say how I was really feeling, what was really going on but they were few and far between. 

With every passing milestone, every fleeting day, I would hope this would be the one thing that would snap me out of this funk.  Yes, there were counseling efforts made but when it came time to decide to pay my counseling copay or buy my baby the specialized formula she now needed I paid for the formula.  As the days passed there were moments I could see the old Michele returning, the Michele who cared about other people, and the Michele that felt pretty after a haircut.  It’s hard to say when exactly these feelings left, or if they really have just turned into feelings of acceptance.  Acceptance that she is my daughter, she is stubborn, hard headed, loving and helpful.  She is smart and loves her family, she likes to dance and cuddle, she is just like me. 

The thing I remember hearing during this time was “how can you not love her”, “how can you not see her as your daughter”, as if I could control it or caused it.  The one thing I do not remember hearing was “it is OK not to love your children the same exact way” or “you are going to feel overwhelmed” or even the truth “depression is a chemical imbalance, lets help you”. 

There is so much more to my story, so many more feelings, so many more details that I haven't revealed yet.  There are days when I think I beat postpartum depression, that I am a Warrior Mom, and there are days I find myself reliving all those emotions and feeling guilty, days when I think I haven't beat this but rather it has just become part of who I am.  Recently (2016) someone, a family member blamed me for causing my postpartum depression and said "you wanted children so badly", as if I had a choice in how I felt in the months and years after my daughters birth.  The pain and the guilt may never go away, but I will fight until my last breathe for my daughter and to resolve the feelings I felt and the depression I feel everyday as a result of her pregnancy and birth, that I promise

On June 18, I will be participating in a local Climb Out of the Darkness  to support Postpartum Progress and raise awareness of post-partum depression.  This post and this walk are the first time I have talked about and acknowledged my struggles with both my pregnancy depression and subsequent postpartum depression publicly.  I hope that someday these subjects won’t be hushed and “brushed under the rug” or have such a negative taboo around them, but rather spoken about in a healthy way.  I hope that this post helps make a difference to even just one mother, or anyone who know someone that may be suffering in silence.  Please consider clicking on the above link and making a donation to help spread the awareness of postpartum depression.

Edit: This post was edited to reflect the 2016 climb and appropriate links

Thursday, May 12, 2016

BrickFair is coming to Boston!!

That's right, you read correctly BrickFair is coming to Boston!! On May 21 & 22 BrickFair will be at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlboro, MA. There is no age limit for this event just like the is no age limit for those who enjoy building with Lego's.  Strollers are bot allowed at this event but wearing of comfortable shoes is strongly encouraged!! 

BrickFair is held a few times a year in various parts of the country.  All the models are built by Lego fans and Lego paraphernalia will be for sale at these events.  My children love building and creating  with Lego blocks (and the grown-ups too).  This event is not to be missed by any Lego lover of any age!! This event will be sure to elevate your parental status to SUPER PARENT!!!

I have 2 codes which will get you and 3 people in to BrickFair on May 21 or 22, to enter head over to The Little Things Facebook page and tell me how your family use Lego's to build and create!!!

I received 4 tickets to BrickFair for promoting this event on my blog, all opinions are my own