Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Calm down, crazy: Movies and my experience with postpartum depression

Anyone who was around long enough knew something was wrong with me.

I could get out of bed in the morning. I didn't sleep all the time. I didn't cry easily. Those things weren't there.

But I had no energy. I wanted things to be perfect and I stressed out trying to control it all, feeling anxious and jittery while doing so. At the same time I was lethargic and felt too tired to parent my kids like I saw others parenting their kids.

And I yelled. A lot. I punched the walls and slammed doors. I freaked out and lost my temper over ridiculous things.

When I was postpartum with my first I asked about postpartum depression but was told that I was just overly exhausted. I just needed more sleep.

More sleep helped, but there was still the anger that was always right there, right under the surface, just about to erupt.

Travis took me on a walk and he told me that I was different and that he knew I could get better and that he and the kids needed me to do so.

But I didn't get better. I tried praying it away. I tried confession and Mass and begging God to take it away but I also never told people, including my confessors, my husband, or even God how bad it really was.

One night Travis and I watched the movie The Prestige. It's a really interesting film, very well done, starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and Hugh Jackman. It's about magic and morality and secrets and in it one of the characters hangs herself.

I secretly watched that scene over and over again: a broken woman swinging from a beam. I was terrified by it, by how much I was attracted to it.

But my real temptation wasn't a noose, it was the car. Most times I drove over a bridge I thought about just driving off. Or I thought about leaving. If I put on a movie, gave the kids some snacks and left fifteen minutes before Travis was due home from work everything would be fine. Surely everyone would be better off without me there, a ticking time bomb ready to explode.

For five years my family suffered and I suffered and our home was happy-ish, but not right. And then a day came and one of my little kids made a little mistake, something so small it feels silly to even call it a mistake. But I was livid and I snapped and the magnitude of my reaction scared me.

I had had enough and in my shame I reached out to my midwife, who prescribed me medication, and a group of friends, who agreed to come over during the day so I would not be alone with my children as I adjusted to the drug and took time to sleep and take care of my newborn baby and myself.

It was only a matter of months before I could see how improved my life, my family members' lives, and my home atmosphere was. But in the year since I've learned something else:

I had no idea how crazy I was until I was experiencing normal again. 

If it was a movie that first attracted me to acting out on my depression it was a movie that helped me look back on it and see it for what it was.

Since the first time I watched Silver Linings Playbook I have watched it again and again and read the novel it's based on. Watching the characters talk to one another about their meds, their mental illness, and the way they acted out because of it was healing for me. There's one scene where Jennifer Lawrence's character tells Bradley Cooper's character to "Calm down, crazy!" and that's exactly what I needed. I needed to hear people acknowledging their craziness.

On this side of normal I laugh things off. On this side of normal I don't lose my temper multiple times a day, if at all. On this side of normal I don't think about leaving my family and I definitely don't think about killing myself. Even more telling, while those thoughts made me feel very little or nothing during my crazy season, to think back on them now makes me sob.

I'm so grateful for where I am and what I know now. Should another pregnancy happen, my husband and I know what to watch for and I will not wait to ask for help. Turns out, it's not normal or healthy to think death and abandonment on a daily basis. It's not normal or healthy to live with your temper always about to explode. It's crazy, literally and figuratively.

This post is part of a blog hop, hosted by Katherine from Half Kindled, in order to raise awareness for Maternal Mental Health Month. I encourage you to read the other posts in the blog hop:

Jenna from Call Her Happy
Rosie from Check Out That Sunset
Jenny from Mama Needs Coffee
Laura from This Felicitous Life
Katherine from Half Kindled

Friday, May 22, 2015

7QT - Lord Huron, Little House, & my name in 1930

Happy Friday, all! Thank you, Kelly, for hosting Seven Quick Takes each week.

1 - Lord Huron is my latest kick. Their whole Strange Trails album sounds great to me, and maybe will to you, too. If you like The Head and the Heart or The Mavericks then I think you will. :)

2 - David L won the American Sniper giveaway. Congrats to you, David! :)

3 - If you missed the first two episodes of The Visitation Project you can find them in the archives here. If there's something you'd like to hear us discuss on the show please let us know! Our next episode airs Sunday night at 9:30 CST. You can listen live here or you can tune in at 88.3 FM.

And let's just take a moment to say: Isn't it funny that I have a legit radio show? I'm still wrapping my mind around it and waiting for Heather and Rebecca to approach me and say, "Thanks for giving it a go. Here's your consultation prize."

4 - I took the little quiz from Time "Find Our What Your Name Would Be if You Were Born Today."

According to Time, Bonnie was the ranked the 169th most popular name in the US the year I was born (early '80s). Therefore, if I were born today my name would be Gabrielle.

In 2000s my name would be Ashleigh, in the 1990s it would be Rachelle, and in the 1980s it would not be Bonnie but Maribel. What?

My 1940s name is the lovely "Sybil" and my 1930s name deserves a huge WTH because its "John." My 1920s name was almost a fabulous "Alice" but they spelled it with a 'y' so I think it's dumb instead. Sorry if you're name is Alyce.

5 -  I finished the last two Little House books in the last two days. I had never before read them and really, really enjoyed them. Reading about Laura and Almanzo's courtship was so interesting to me and I was so excited every time he'd pop up at her home. But the books ended sadly, even though I know they went on to live happily in Missouri. The loss of their son, poor Mr. and Mrs. Boast wanting their baby because they couldn't have their own, the debt, the illnesses, the house with that suh-weet pantry burning down...

The stories have actually really impacted me and I have spent a lot of time thinking about how the family and I can live more simply. I'm pretty sure the answers are: Get Rid of the Internet and Purge the House. However, I could be wrong (my family hopes I am, and really so do I!) but it's something for me to continue to think on. I'm wondering if anyone else feels the same.

6 -  The Little House books were for my own pleasure but now I'm reading Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan with my book club. I'm bringing it on the plane with me today and will probably be awkwardly laughing on an otherwise silent plane. :)

7 - I'll be speaking in Rochester, MN tonight at the Brew-Ha-Ha gala for St. James Coffee. My old friend Brian works for the Catholic coffee shop and I'm so excited to visit the location and see what it's like. So far what I've heard has sounded great! Good coffee, speakers and Bible studies, open to the public, an Adoration chapel - I'd like one in my neck of the woods, please.

PS - I'm really excited to be part of a special initiative called The Credo Project. The bloggers who are part of it love our Catholic faith and want to share it with our readers. We are therefore putting buttons in our sidebars that link to the website Catholics Come Home. If you have a blog and want to join us in sharing what we believe as Catholics, please grab a button and join us! You'll see mine is already sitting pretty to the right. :)


Credo Project 

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Credo Project 

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Credo Project 

(With many thanks to Molly from Molly Makes Do and Kendra from Catholic All Year for creating the buttons for The Credo Project!)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I don't want to know you're looking at porn unless you need me to know you're looking at porn

Recently my Facebook newsfeed showed me a bit of information about a woman I know only in a professional way: She liked Fifty Shades of Grey.

I have not read the book Fifty Shades of Grey. I have not seen the movie either, but I know enough about Fifty Shades of Grey to know that it is porn. Actually, I have never even looked at porn, though some movies and shows I've watched have such graphic sex scenes I can't imagine how porn would be much worse. Peaky Blinders and The Wolf of Wall Street are two such types of, um, "entertainment" that showed so much dirty, not husbands-and-wives-making-love implied sex that my husband and I had to stop watching them.

I'm not saying this to show you what a good girl I am. I am saying this because I want you to know that I am afraid of the slippery slope which I'm sure I would eventually tumble down. I want you to know that it is easier for me to stand far away from the edge because I know myself and I'm pretty sure that if I allowed myself to watch Fifty Shades or Wolf of Wall Street or Magic Mike that a very easy next step could be hard porn, internet porn, and other things I don't even know about at this point.

Basically, I'm trying to say that in one sense I have no idea what I'm talking about but at the same time I am well aware of what my sins are and what I need to do stay away from.

And I do know that if you shamelessly enjoy porn, I don't want to know about it. Especially if the only way I know you is as a professional! Knowing that you kick back with a glass of wine and read about S&M at the end of a long day, knowing that you willingly share this info on Facebook, knowing that you are sending friend requests to people you know only from a professional setting - it makes me not want to see you professionally any more. How can I trust the decisions you will make professionally when you completely lack common sense in regards to social media?

To those of you who do read or watch porn and you want to stop...
To those of you who worry that you are addicted to porn and you are ashamed and feel trapped...
To those of you who are wanting to share your burden with someone who can encourage you, pray for you, and listen to you without condemning you...
I do want to know.

And I want you to know that truly, honestly I won't judge you and I won't think you're a sleaze or a creep or a horrible person. Sometimes it's just so good to finally tell someone about the shit so you can start to clean it up. There may not be a lot I can actually do, but sincerely I am telling you that if you need to tell someone about this struggle, you can tell me.

You may also want to check out The Porn Effect and Chastity Project

Friday, May 15, 2015

I get all choked up: American Sniper giveaway

Our little family is a bit patriotic, which I know isn't cool or hip, but we really don't care. Patriotism was modeled in Travis' home (his father was a Marine, his uncle in the Navy, and his grandfather in the Army). I've always been one to choke up a bit during 4th of July parades and while reading the Declaration of Independence.

It's not surprising then, that when Travis and I saw the movie American Sniper in the theater we were both really impressed with the film and impacted by its message. If you're not familiar with it, American Sniper is about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, portrayed by Bradley Cooper, who served four tours in Iraq. His accuracy as a sniper saves countless lives and makes him a bit of a living legend. However, when he comes home it is obvious that he is suffering from PTSD. The movie was incredibly intense at times but it definitely helped me appreciate what our friends and family experienced while overseas.

Because we liked the movie so much, and because of our patriotism, I jumped at the chance to partner with Grace Hill Media to give one copy of American Sniper to a blog reader AND to give one copy to any veteran or active duty military member I choose.

I instantly knew who I wanted to give the movie to: my friend Kim and her husband Matt. Kim is an officer with the Illinois Air National Guard and has served since 2001. Her husband Matt was Active Duty Air Force from 1999-2004 and joined Illinois Air National Guard in 2004. He's been to Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He's also been flown in to help with communication efforts for Hurricanes in LA and TX.

Also, Kim makes really good desserts and baked goods. So she and Matt get the one copy, but that still means there's one more copy for me to giveaway.

Enter via Rafflecopter and good luck! And if you are serving or have served, or are the spouse of someone who is serving or has served, please let me take a minute and say THANK YOU. I know those words aren't really enough but I mean them.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How can we build a Catholic culture in our parishes? Well, I just so happen to have some ideas.

It's probably already pretty clear but I'm a Catholic geek. Not in theologian-geeky way. Not in the way where I write really awesomely insightful commentaries on pop culture and legit culture. I'm a Catholic geek in that I sit around and daydream about ways that we can build up our parishes. I think about how I can possibly tell people about events happening at our parish so they'll want to come. I create wishlists of people who I want to be more engaged and using their fabulous personalities and talents to build up the Church.

See? Kinda geeky.

So I have all these ideas and I don't know what to do with them, or even if they're good ideas. But I'll tell you this: Besides the Sacraments, what I want more than anything from parishes is for them to actively be building a Catholic culture. I want all parishioners to stop being culturally Catholic and start living out their faith vibrantly.

I'm so bored with local parishes doing the same things that the local protestant churches and secular culture are doing. I want to see Catholic parishes sponsoring activities that are unapologetically Catholic.

I want to see parishes helping families to create Catholic cultures in their homes. I want to see those families' cultures to then feed back to the culture of the parish. And I want to see the Catholic culture that is thriving in the parish and the home spread into communities so that everyone knows that there is something special happening at the local Catholic Church, beyond transubstantiation.

Of course this won't be a one-size-fits-all list, but I want to see something like:

- An All Saints' Halloween party that has all the creepy quirkiness of Halloween and Catholicism instead of another Trunk-or-Treat.

- Egg hunts, special coffee-and-donut socials, and maybe even  fun coloring page inserts in the bulletin during the fifty days of Easter instead of the Easter Bunny showing up at an egg hunt during Lent.
(Like these or these.)

- Parish cookbooks that have a whole section dedicated to meatless meals and education on the fact that if you're not practicing meatless Fridays you need to be doing another kind of penance every Friday of the year.

- But then of course we'd need special bulletin announcements celebrating Meat Fridays!

- Then, instead of having Santa Claus come to a Christmas party during Advent, St. Nicholas would visit the coffee-and-donut social just before his feast day.

- And instead of the Catholic parish hosting a generically Christian VBS, the same one as all the other churches in town, they would sponsor an authentically Catholic, engaging, and fun Totus Tuus youth program during the summer.

- Imagine if all the existing ministries would support, promote, encourage, and work with one another, plugging people into ministries that fit their personalities, stages in life, talents, and needs. Also, this kind of collaboration could and should lead to co-sponsoring larger events like bringing in top-notch, national speakers or musicians or parish-wide picnics with bouncy houses and catered meat.
(We had Auntie Leila come last year. Next goal: Fr. Barron or Audrey Assad or why not both?!)

- Events that are family friendly because children are either welcome / encouraged to attend, or free babysitting is provided are held on a regular basis.

- And imagine a playground that is close to the church so kids can run out and play after Mass while their parents visit. A couple of benches would be even better so parents can sit and watch kids play while their friends / spouses go to confession or split a holy hour.

These are the kinds of things I daydream about. These are the ideas that I geek out about. An entire parish, authentically living out the Catholic faith in a way that is joyful, beautiful, and fun.

Of course with this list I am also hoping that as the Catholic culture grows so will a deep love and reverence for the Eucharist; a strong appreciation for holy orders, religious life, and the sacrament of matrimony; and a true sense of gratefulness for reconciliation.

I don't know if my ideas are the best way to make happen my end goal, my ultimate dream of a thriving, Christ-centered, joyful, truly Catholic parish, but they're where I'm starting. There's nothing wrong with brainstorming, right?

And now a special note to my blog readers and especially other bloggers:

I'm really excited to be part of a special initiative called The Credo Project. The bloggers who are part of it love our Catholic faith and want to share it with our readers. We are therefore putting buttons in our sidebars that link to the website Catholics Come Home. If you have a blog and want to join us in sharing what we believe as Catholics, please grab a button and join us! You'll see mine is already sitting pretty to the right. :)


Credo Project 

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Credo Project 

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Credo Project 

(With many thanks to Molly from Molly Makes Do and Kendra from Catholic All Year for creating the buttons for The Credo Project!)

PS. I'm at Blessed Is She today talking about the children of Fatima, the converts of Athens and you!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

I was deep in sin (and snotty tissues)

For more than two weeks we've been battling sinus infections with antibiotics and breathing treatments. We were never contagious (so said my doctor)  but I have been so, so tired.

But I've also been finding a lot of fruitful prayer though this song, God Demonstrates by Harvest Parker. It's the the line, "I was deep in sin, deep in sin, but Your love was deeper still" that has been echoing in my heart. There's something about being ill and trudging through the snot and meds and sleepless nights that makes it easier for me to understand how sick my soul has been at time.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Happy 120th Birthday!

Today is Fulton Sheen's birthday.

Don't know Venerable Fulton Sheen or why I like him so? Well, here's a little glimpse:

I was really blessed to be able to attend Mass at my kids' school today, and thanks to my friends Jim and Sonyia, Father was able to celebrate Mass with the chalice from Venerable Sheen's traveling Mass kit. (You can see pictures of the Mass kit here.)

Then I was able to head over to my friend's classroom so Jim and Sonyia could share the relic with her students  and I could share James' story with them. The kids, 5th graders at a local Catholic school, all have a huge devotion to Sheen and were thrilled to hold his stole, patent, chalice, and cincture.

There will, of course, be dessert to night and a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday."

We thank God for Bishop Sheen and pray that he will one day be named a saint for the honor and glory of Christ Jesus. +