Wednesday, February 10, 2016

find a way to break through

Today I'm talking about...birth control. But only sort of! More than that I want to talk about depression and health and how I'm learning to take charge of all of those things in my own life.

I spent two years on the pill, which triggered crazy mood swings. Over and over I went in to talk to my doctor and they would tell me I was just adjusting to life as a newlywed, I was stressed with school, that there was no way it was affecting me so drastically as my dosage was so low. So I stayed on it until we started trying to get pregnant. I noticed a marked difference after going off the pill. The time that we spent trying to get pregnant and the 10 months of my pregnancy were the most emotionally stable of my marriage, even though that seems so backwards! David couldn't stop saying how relaxed I was, how much like myself I seemed again. I felt calm and in control for the first time in two years despite the ups and downs of trying to get and then being pregnant.

Six weeks after Joony was born I went in to discuss birth control options with my OB. I was interested in the IUD but nervous about the Mirena since it was still hormonal and I had reacted so badly to the pill. He assured me that there was no way the progesterone in the Mirena could affect me emotionally. So I went with it despite a bad gut feeling.

Over the next 3.5 years, I went back in to my doctor several different times because I was struggling so badly with depression and worried it was linked to my birth control. Every time they waved my concerns away and told me there was no way it was. They blamed the mood swings, anxiety, and soul-crushing depression on the adjustment to being a new mother, then the adjustment of weaning, until finally there was no adjustment to blame it on and they said I was just depressed and anxious. Every time they talked to me for 15-20 minutes and prescribed an anti-depressant. I tried to take the pills but couldn't ever decide if the side effects were worse than the mental instability.

Finally, a few months ago, I decided that enough was enough. My bad days were outnumbering the good ones. I had almost no ability to cope with even the most minor of disappointments, which would send me spiraling into either numbing depression or frantic panic attacks.  My cycles were irregular and frequent.  In short, my birth control wasn't working for me. My thinking was that anxiety and depression were things I had, but my birth control was making them worse. I decided I needed to get my IUD out and see where my mental health was at, then figure out the next steps in treating it.

I hadn't yet found an OB in Arizona, so I started researching and calling around and asking for recommendations. My criteria was simple: I wanted someone who would listen to me. I see doctors because they know more than I do, but I also live inside my body and my brain. I know what's normal for me, and I wanted someone who would trust me when I said I was unhealthy. I finally made an appointment and went in shaking and nervous, prepared to fight and argue and advocate for myself.

The minute I told my new doctor that I was worried the IUD was triggering anxiety and depression, even though my previous OB had told me time and time again there was no way it could be, he interrupted me and seemed almost annoyed. "I don't understand why they would tell you that. It's a hormonal IUD. Even with a small dosage there's a chance it's affecting you. The only was to know for sure it to take it out and see how you do!" I almost started crying right there in my paper gown on the exam table. Just that little bit of validation felt so freeing.

I had the IUD removed four weeks ago and I haven't had a single bad day since. I was told it could take a while for all of the progesterone to get out of my system, so I guess it could be attributed to a placebo effect, but this length of time without a breakdown hasn't happened in over a year. Like I said, my bad days had begun to outnumber my good ones. Every night when David got home from work he would ask me tentatively, "How are you doing today?" A week or so after my appointment I laughed and teased him about it. "What are you expecting when you ask me that?!" He pointed out that before, most nights I would burst into tears or tell him I was struggling to keep it together. I hadn't even realized. I truly feel like I've been lifted from a fog.

The Mirena IUD is not a terrible birth control option. If you do well with hormonal birth control, and SO many people do, that's great! It was wonderful to not have to think about contraception day to day. That wasn't the case for me, and looking back now, I feel angry and betrayed by my doctors in Idaho who told me over and over again that I didn't know what I was talking about. I wish I had stood up for myself sooner. I wish I had been more proactive about taking control of my mental and reproductive health. I wish I'd been able to spend the first 3.5 years of my son's life as the happy, mellow person I've been consistently for the last month. If your doctor is brushing off serious concerns, I hope you'll get a second opinion. I hope you'll find someone who listens carefully to what you're dealing with and then talks with you, not at you, to find the best course of action.

I feel so excited and free by my new ability to cope with the simple ins and outs of the every day. I understand that mental illnesses are complex, heartbreaking, impossible things to reconcile. It's not usually a simple solution. I don't think that my struggle is completely over forever, but I do think I've found a very key trigger for what I was dealing with. And that's really exciting.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Making: Piano music. Badly, and only sometimes when I have the time, but I got a piano for Christmas and I'm loving dusting off those old skills.
Cooking: Very little. Between being sick and trying to hammer out a thesis, my cooking energy level is non-existent.
Drinking: Diet Coke with limes like always, DUH.
Reading: Mainly Flash Fiction Forward...the textbook for my Flash Fiction class.
Wanting: All the new glasses! I want pink frames and half frames and clear frames and my prescription is so crazy that they always cost a fortune.
Looking: forward to this weekend, when I'm driving to Salt Lake to see some of my very favorite of whom is getting MARRIED on Saturday!
Eating: Trader Joe's cheesecake. On my 9th day of being sick, the day after David came home from 5 days in Georgia, I went to Trader Joe's and saw that sucker and thought "Yes. I've earned this."
Wishing: Arizona winter could last forever. It's cool and sometimes drizzly but sometimes quite warm. I could live like this forever.
Enjoying: David being home! Nothing like your husband leaving for 5 days to make you appreciate parenting (and living) as a team.
Loving: the Neko Atsume app. Am I the last person to this party? You get a virtual yard to fill with toys and food and cats come to visit. They thank you with fish, which you use to buy more food and toys. It's like Tomagotchi for iPhones.

Hoping: I'm able to make it out to Missouri for my graduation in May. I'm checking flight prices on the daily over here. I want to go so bad!
Needing: A "Stay in your bed FOR REAL" solution for Clark, Homeboy has gotten pretty creative with reasons to pop his head out at naptime. "I dust need to do a poot, mom, okay?"
Smelling: Nothing. I've had bronchitis for almost 2 weeks and I haven't smelled a thing the entire time.
Feeling: Better. Finally. The bronchitis I mentioned above really kicked my butt, though.
Wearing: A jacket! In Arizona it's been in the 40s a couple days and it's felt so good to pull a warm jacket on.
Watching: Happy Endings! I'm watching it on Hulu. I've heard it mentioned in passing before, but now that I'm watching it, how was I not watching it?! I swear everyone makes an appearance at some point in that show. Will I rewatch from the beginning as soon as I finish it? Maybe.
Bookmarking: All the random 90's movie and TV people I love over on my Tumblr.

Pot template snagged from Bridget

Monday, February 1, 2016

like lightning in a bottle

Tonight I went to Starbucks, got a coconut milk hot chocolate (holycrapsogood), and sat down to write. The perfect storm of dim lighting, chilly weather outside, and a week-long need to sit and create all combined and I was able to float up into that magical artist trance. My fingers moved and moved and my brain was buzzing and all time and outside influence had no meaning. It was meditative and peaceful and I felt so alive in the middle of it all. That is who I am. I'm a writer, and I'm prioritizing my life right now around this thing that I need to be doing. I drove home with my mind buzzing with all these feelings about figuring out how to be a mom, which is a thing but not the only thing that I am, and a student and a writer. It's hard to assign the right words when it's all a jumble of thoughts and emotion. But I wanted to record my thoughts at this specific time in my life, less than two months away from my master's degree, about motherhood and school and making it all happen.
In my church education for women is, in my experience, labeled as something that's good because "Someday your husband might not be able to work! So you should be prepared! But motherhood is the first and most important thing!" Those are all true statements, but they don't really cover this other huge aspect. For me, education (and I don't just mean formal education here) is all about realizing and developing talents and passions, finding the ways that we as unique individuals can best contribute to the world. I finished my bachelor's degree before I had my son and chose to go back even while he's little. I wanted to talk about that, about passion and drive and sacrifice and loving both my field of study and my family and pursuing both of those at the same time.
School for me is all about making sacrifices. I want this so badly that I decided to give up nap times and date nights and Netflix after bedtime for this dream. I've never doubted that it's worth it, something more than a few people have expressed surprise over. If I didn't want this with my whole soul, it wouldn't be worth the sacrifice. I decided to do this thing early in 2014 and I haven't looked back--no ifs, just when. I hope this doesn't sound obnoxious. I'm not trying to brag here, only to say that this level of wanting is what has made it worth it to balance motherhood and school. When I hear someone say they're not going for what they want, I hear that they actually don't want it enough to sacrifice to make it happen. And I think that's great! It's a wonderful thing to identify and honor limits. It would be stupid to divert attention from your family for something you're not wholly invested in. I'm wholly invested in this MFA, though, and I want it enough to figure out how to be a good mom while I'm also figuring out how to write a thesis. Right now my life feels full and busy, but it's with my beautiful son and my work as a writer. I love both of those things so completely that I just know I can find a way to work it all out. I feel so lucky to get to be both of these things. There was a time in my life when both motherhood and an MFA felt like faraway dreams that I only heard about other people doing. To be in the thick of it in my own life is so good it's overwhelming at times.

So now I'm off to dive back into my thesis! How are there only two more months left in this?

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Historically, January has been a very transitional month for our family.

In 2015, we decided to move to Arizona and we pulled it off in about a month. A month! Job quit, Rexburg house listed for rent, Mesa lease signed, one month. My most vivid memory of that time is seeing this little blue house on Craigslist and knowing in my stomach that we would be living here. It hit me like a semi truck: that's going to be our house. We're leaving Idaho.

In 2014, we were closing on our first house, a beautiful townhome in Rexburg. Looking at these pictures made me so sad because I miss that house so much! It was perfect for us. I can still remember so clearly the excitement of walking through that clean, empty space and imagining it as our home.

In 2013, we were handing the keys over to the new owner of our little business, a clothing store called Panache that we opened all the way back in 2008 (just a month after we got married!). I remember walking into a Wells Fargo in Rigby, Idaho to close out our merchant checking account. I crunched through the snow back out to my car with tears streaming down my face. I wasn't sad, it just felt very, very surreal to close that chapter of our lives.

And now it's January 2016. The huge thing on my horizon is my MFA, which I'll be getting in March. March! This January feels transitional because I'm starting my very last quarter of school, probably ever. An MFA in Writing is a terminal degree, so unless I decide to pursue a Lit PhD or something (never say never!...but probably never), this is it. I'm trying to hit the ground running with my thesis, which will be a sizable collection of personal essays. This quarter will be a lot of writing and revising. It feels good to be embracing the transition...and to not be moving, ohmygoodness.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

the most dramatic journey yet

Are we all watching The Bachelor? I feel like everyone I follow online is either live-tweeting and posting recaps or going on and on about how they DO NOT watch it and omg-how-annoying-ugh. Well, I watch it and now I'm posting about it, so I suppose I'd fall into the former camp, but this isn't a recap or anything. This is about the fantasy league I just joined. The Bachelor fantasy league. I have a friend (who also does fantasy football, thank goodness) who set it up and we got a few fellow fans of the show and boom. We're in business.

SO. We started by scoping out the bios on ABC's website. We drafted our teams before the first episode, so the draft really happened on our first impressions and best guesses. There are 6 people in our league.. We did a random draft order and picked one by one until our 4-person teams were filled. Every time someone from our team gets a rose, we get a point. Having a contestant in the final 3 gets you 5 points, and having a contestant who gets a proposal gets you 10 points. The person with the most points at the end gets $5 from everyone else! Why am I so excited about this?? It makes Monday nights so fun!

OK, so this is Team Brandilyn:
So far so good. I walked away from the first cocktail party with 4 points and last night with 4 more. On fire! I initially wanted both twins on my team, but Haley got drafted before it was my turn to pick again. Dangit. Speaking of the twins, I have a side bet going with my friend who drafted Haley--$10 at Cheesecake Factory to the person whose twin lasts the longest. COME ON EMILY! I want that cheesecake.

Is anyone else doing Bachelor pools? Dave had a buck on LB in a pool at work, poor guy. ;)

Monday, December 28, 2015

make a joyful sound

I took down my Christmas decorations immediately after we got home from celebrating at my parent's house. I guess this is to be expected, taking into consideration that I decorated in early November. Tina is markedly disappointed that the Christmas tree is gone--even though it's an artificial one, she had this one particular branch that she spent hours chewing on. She's mourning the loss of her make out buddy. I'm excited, though! My living room feels sparse and open and clean now. I hung new art, swept and vacuumed, twirled around like Fraulein Maria, etc.

The processes behind Christmas decorations make me reflective.When I was pulling all of our holiday stuff out of boxes, I couldn't get over the fact that when I packed them up last year in Idaho we had no idea we'd be unpacking them in Arizona this year. I mean it--no idea. We'd been hoping to move to Arizona for years, but even then, 2 months before we moved, we didn't know how soon we would make it happen. It's been a year of transition and hard work and sunshine and I didn't fathom any of it in December 2014.
As I packed things up last night, my thoughts turned forward. I wondered where I would be unpacking Christmas decorations next year. Will we still be in this little blue rental house or will we have bought a home? We'll both have master's degrees, holy crap. I wondered where all of my siblings will be living at the end of 2016, if they'll all be happy and healthy. I worried that I'll be missing someone next year. I wondered what kind of 4 year old Clark will turn out to be, if he will still love Fireman Sam and dinosaurs and cinnamon applesauce.
I love this time in between Christmas and the New Year celebration. It somehow feels both content and purposeful, a post-holiday glow infused with goals and intentions for the new year. I thought I started my (FINAL!) quarter of school on the 4th and found out today I don't start until the 11th, so I'm extra smiley and making plans to spend my bonus week of break getting 2016 started on the right foot.

Monday, December 7, 2015

float like a cadillac, sting like a beemer

Clark and I go to Target pretty regularly, and we always stop by the Cars section of the toy aisle so he can admire all the characters.  For months they've had the same inventory there, so it isn't too hard to stop by, say hello, and then move on with our errands.  A few days ago I bought him one of the little figurines (Doc Hudson, in case your world is as doused in Cars as ours is) and it came with a pamphlet of all the Radiator Springs toys Mattel makes.  Oh boy.  He's been poring over it, pointing out the ones he already has, the ones he recognizes from the toy aisle, and asking me to read the names of the ones he doesn't know.

This morning, Clark fixated on Red, the fire engine from Radiator Springs.  He asked if we could go to Target and check to see if Red was there, and then maybe bring him home if he was.  I needed to get some groceries (mostly ice cream for David, who is sick), so I saw it as an opportunity to get Clark quickly and happily out the door. I told him yes.  "Can we bring him home?"  "Sure," I said.  "If Red is at Target, we'll bring him home."  You guys, I said this  knowing that our Target didn't have a Red toy.  We've been visiting that aisle for months and their Cars inventory has stayed the same.

Of course, it's Christmas time, isn't it?  And I didn't factor that into the evil plan that made me a fun mom who didn't have to spend money on an unnecessary toy.  Since the last time we'd visited Target, that section had been stocked, and stocked well.  New Cars figures left and right, and who was front and center?  Of course.  Red the fire engine...on a rack marked $15.  I believe I let an under-the-breath curse word fly.  Clark was overjoyed.  "Red! You are here! Mom, you see Red? He's so big! And he has a ladder! And we can take him home with us!"  What could I do? I suppose I could have used it as a lesson in disappointment, but I'd promised him at home and over and over again for the whole dang car ride to Target.  And so we headed to the check out, Red hugged tightly to Clark's chest.

And now it's time for the Christmas miracle!  We got the the checkout and Red rang up at $6.  Maybe $9 isn't a miracle to you, but a $6 toy (bought for no real reason, honestly) feels so much more doable than a $15 one. $9 is dinner at In N Out!  I was thrilled. Red is home, part of our Radiator Springs fleet, and has already responded to several emergencies.
The story of close calls and my kid's spoiled day isn't over yet, though, because I ordered him his dream toy (a Fireman Sam Jupiter fire truck) a few weeks ago.  It shipped overseas and the delivery estimate on it was between December 20 and 31.  I'd been crossing my fingers it would get here in time to be given by Santa.  When a box came in the mail today, I thought it was the pack of Larabars I'd ordered from Amazon (not the fire truck, which still had another week or two) and cut it open right in front of reveal Jupiter, the Holy Grail of toys.  I slammed the box shut so fast he only got a split second peek, but he knew instantly.  "Mom. That's Fireman Sam.  That's his truck. MOM!"  I was scrambling.  "Um...why don't you go in your room and we'll open this in a minute?"  I quickly chucked the truck into the dryer and replaced it with a box of cheese crackers.  When he wandered back into the kitchen we opened the box and he instantly yelled "Wow! Can I have one?!"

Disaster averted. Faith in Santa preserved. still spoiled.  And I need to up my game.