Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Self Care For The Broken

I am trying to do some things for self care during this difficult time. When my amazing friend came to stay with me on Friday, she had some ideas. Bryce had some ideas too. Some of these, believe it or not, are mine. And I thought I would share those and what I am doing for myself with you, so that if you find yourself in a dark pit, these things can help light a way out.

Manage My Facebook Feed
I already have a technique for congratulating the zillions of people who announce pregnancies or births to protect myself. I write a message on their wall. If I congratulate them on the post, my notifications blow up with things like "Welcome to the club, Mama!" or "What a miracle!" and as a person decidedly NOT in the club and NOT the recipient of a miracle, that makes me sad with each ping. So, I do a separate well wishing post and then I get a couple likes or a thanks and I have been nice but not at the expense of my own well-being. Strangely I have had to do this quite a bit in the past couple of days, part of the grief salad that brought me to the events of Friday.

I also finally decided to unfollow a whole bunch of people. I hear you can do this and they can't tell unless they were weirdly calculating how often you like their posts. I felt like unfollowing was just one step off from unfriending, which I have never done. Because it sounds like middle school bullying. But, my friend said "UNFOLLOW the people whose posts do not bring you joy, who bring you sadness or anger or invite you to compare. It is freeing." And you know what? It is. So...I unfollowed people who really I'd been following on facebook because I liked to dislike them, and it would give me an outlet for irrational anger, sort of like a voodoo doll. Which is not healthy. So buh-bye. I unfollowed anyone who recently announced a pregnancy or is likely to give birth soon or who is probably going to get pregnant with a second baby and announce. I do not wish to see one more fucking ultrasound. I cannot handle that right now, and I give myself permission to let it go. I unfollowed the woman who became pregnant the day after me the cycle I miscarried, and she has a four year old and I have cats and a beautiful empty nursery. She is a lovely person, but her child is a ghost of what could have been and makes me interminably sad. So goodbye. And so it went, on and on and on. This is in the interest of better not bitter. It serves no one for me to go up there and be filled with sadness or anger, and so now my feed is a hell of a lot more pleasant. I may decide to unfollow more people. Who knows? But it is definitely freeing.

Stress Relief Yoga
I forgot I had this DVD (aren't you proud? I didn't call it a tape!) until yesterday, when my pulse rate was 118 and I was feeling very much fight or flight and Bryce said, "You know what, babe? You should go do a relaxing yoga thing. Go light some candles and shut the door so the cats don't climb on you, and do some yoga." So I did. This one is from Ashley Turner, made by Element, "Yoga for Stress Relief & Flexibility." It focuses on gentle, long holds in poses designed to get kinks out of your shoulders, your hips, your low back, your inner thighs, your neck and scalp. It also focuses on breathing techniques, which have been incredibly calming as I feel a constant state of panicky jitteriness. I got my pulse from 118 to 104. Sadly my resting pulse rate is pretty high normally, but right now I am basically a lab mouse. Or a chickadee. So this helps. So do the candles and pretending I'm with her in California or Hawaii or whatever verdant, flowery coastal place she filmed it. Also, lion breathing is hilarious and I love that she can't keep a straight face after. I don't think anyone can. Give it a go, I dare you.

I know it's all newly hip and everything, but I found myself calmed immensely by coloring. And not just coloring anything. I truly do love Jenny Lawson's You Are Here: An Owner's Manual for Dangerous Minds. It is full of short essays and sayings and things that make you laugh and things that make you feel understood. I am currently coloring a martini glass that says "I love us even when we're sober," which is strangely appropriate since with the Prednisone I have not been able to have nary a glass of wine nor margarita in a MONTH, and Bryce being sick has precluded him having anything fun either, and so it's good to know that we enjoy each other sober and hopped up on cold medicine and scary side-effect steroid drugs. But the coloring train...I'm on it.
I went for "Tuscan Pottery" with this one. 
The text Jenny Lawson wrote that goes with the dandelion image. I love this so much.

This one was instrumental on Friday. Tangle tangle tangle

Latest one. Yeah, let's grow weird together. Great plan.

Putting A Hiatus on Profile Calls
This one is hard, so hard. Bryce called the agency today to say that we probably should not receive calls the month of April. I was going to do it, but he said no. He said no because he felt like I might get resistance, and I might share more than is necessary, and the resistance would be of the KEEP THE HOPE ALIVE variety when right now I would just like to restore my life to something more resembling normal. The Prednisone is truly the exacerbator here, but everything else has been piling up, and right now I have to focus on being healthy -- my eye, my sleep, my mental state, getting the panic under control, etcetera etcetera etcetera. Not that we've had a profile call since January (the one in February was a blind I just happened to find out about), but if we did get one this month I don't think I would be in a good position. First, if we'd gotten a call while Bryce was sick I think we'd have had to say no even if it was perfect, because you don't bring an infant into a house of illness like that. Second, I don't think right now with my eye and my medication woes that I am physically able to care for a newborn necessarily -- I am already sleep deprived and jittery, and I have a lovely new chest cold (that is possibly allergies and asthma) to boot, so that wouldn't be good. And then there's the whole thing of COULD I HANDLE A NO ON A PROFILE RIGHT NOW? The answer is no. No I could not. And so Bryce called and said we need a hiatus until this shakes out healthwise. Which is super sucky because we basically lost a month of our homestudy, but them's the breaks. It is necessary for self-care, for helping me to heal from this clusterfuck of physical and mental badness so that we can accept a call in the months we have left. It was a hard call, and I cried when I found out it was done, but I'm glad we did it. And I am eternally grateful to Bryce for doing it for us.

This is happening one small space at a time. Like the garden, I can't attack it all at once. I need to do small bits and pieces. So the first thing was the dust under the furniture and vacuuming. The next thing was my desk. Then some garden. Now I am going to attack the one area of the table that has associated papers and books and gifts for people that I picked up but haven't boxed up to send and about a zillion medical paperwork packets from the eye specialist and urgent care and emergency. I need to sort that crap and get the table clear. Clear surface, clear mind. But one thing at a time. Permission to not do it all at once. And to stop if it makes me tired or feels overwhelming. Small spaces at a time seems to be the key.

Making Lists
This, in itself, is a kind of list. And lists help me make order out of entropy. For a short while, anyway, since that is the nature of entropy. I have, completely un-ironically, a list of lists. Some of them are T-charts. Some of them are wish lists. Some of them have to do with my identity, which has been wrapped up in something that hasn't really been coming to fruition, and who am I if I am not driving the baby bus? Who am I if I've driven this baby bus straight into the ground? What are new priorities? What do I need to balance better? SO MANY LISTS. They are grounding. They help organize the chaos of What Ifs and What Nows and Where Do We Go From Heres? Because we dont' have to make the big decisions right now, but clearly when your health goes down the toilet something has to change. Lists are a powerful tool for making sense of those things. Pro/Con ones especially, as they can be incredibly surprising when you go to put things on paper and balance is different than you originally thought.

Sitting outside
I went and did a guided meditation outside on a bamboo mat on this gorgeous 70 degree day (Thank you, Lori Lavender Luz, it was the Expansion one). It was glorious. Just being in warm air with breezes and birds is shaking some cobwebs from my soul. I would love to go for a walk in the woods, but I don't think that's a good idea by myself with the panicky feelings and the super high heart rate and the agitated asthma. But walking out into my backyard, sitting outside, feeling the grass on my toes and my fingers...it's healing. I meant to have the chaise lounge out from storage for today but we forgot. There's always tomorrow.

Talking to People Who Get It
So, I am not talking to everyone right now. There is a magic password. That password is ASK ME HOW I AM DOING. Or connect with me in some way via text or phone. Or be someone I am reaching out to who I know has gone through something eerily similar. And by similar I mean facing down the death of a dream, or having experienced loss and are able to talk to me about it without it constantly cycling back to them, or who can offer me just silence and I'm sorry. Because that is what is best. Not "this is what you should do" or "you shouldn't do this" or "Why don't you" or "Well I blah blah blah blah blah" but JUST LISTENING. And commiserating, which is the fine art of saying "I can understand some of what you feel because of this directly related experience and bring it back to your pain as much as I can." And not putting me in the position of comforting YOU for what's going on with me, not making me worry about your discomfort as I am falling apart at the seams. Oh, and not trying to fix it. That is invaluable. And I have had a handful of people serve in this capacity since Friday, and I am so thankful. If you are not one of these people, don't be offended. I need real connection right now, and I will need real connection moving forward, so you can always step in. There's no expiration date. I don't want to be coddled or to be "saved." I want to be a hot mess and have it be okay. I want a witness to my pain, but also hope that it's possible that you can go through something horrid and come out the other side and eventually be okay. People who have lost a spouse, people who have figured out their own anxiety and depression (as much as is possible), people who have fought or are fighting life-threatening illnesses, people who went through infertility and were left a family of two, people who are gifted listeners and not talkers.... this is my tribe at the moment. I don't want platitudes. That may seem harsh. But it's what I need. And in a time like this, when you are hurting and everything is totally out of whack, what you need takes precedence over pretty much anything else.

Not Talking
There is a lovely thing in silence, too. I need quiet time. I need naps (not that I am getting naps, because Prednisone has stolen sleep from me in a fairly significant way). I need time to read. I need time to disappear into Pinterest and add calming photos to my Serenity Now! board that is basically just one beautiful nature image after another that I can insert myself into and make my happy place. Just breathing. Just closing my eyes and trying to stop the chatter. Just having a cat on my lap. That is important, too.

Writing is therapy. Writing about all of this may make people nervous, because my goo is all out there, but that is sort of what I do. I cannot write if it is not honest, and I have been unintentionally lying to myself about the level of pain that I'm in and the level of stress that I feel and the imaginary obligations I have to anyone who ever asks me a question I don't truly want to answer... including myself. So writing gets it out. I have written before about being sadness or rage constipated, and writing is the best laxative for that sort of thing. Write write write.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. But it's what's helping me right now, and it's a pretty good list. It's for me to come back to and hopefully it's helpful to someone else, at a difficult time, too.


  1. I am so glad you are taking a time-out to refocus on yourself. And I am so glad you put some controls on your fb feed. So many people feel like they just have to be so invested in every single person they are fb friends with, and it's just not true.
    That coloring book you have sounds really cool. I have trouble getting in to coloring, but I have never been very artistic so that might have something to do with it.
    I am sorry to hear that you are sick or have asthma and allergies acting up. All the prednisone should be helping with that at least somewhat.
    I hope each moment is better than the last for you, until you are having more good than bad.
    P.s. I have been through my own horrible breakdown period before, and I understand about the anxiety/panic-y feeing being a baseline state. There is no shame in some Xanax to help get you through the worst of it.

    1. Yes. This has been lovely. I am thinking of moving facebook off my phone so I am not drawn into it. I bought this book, Irresistable, about how this technology is actually addictive and rewires your brain, and I haven't started it yet but I totally believe it. And FB? Lately so little redeeming there.

      I love that book. I might have sent you a message. Even if you don't color it, the pictures and the words are fun. And helpful.
      I seem to be feeling okay during the day but in the morning and at night I am full of poison grossness. I am losing my voice, so good thing I'm not teaching right now. But it has to be allergies I think if it's not all day long. I hope.
      Every day is better than the last, with the exception of Tuesday, which made me feel like I was being tested biblically. But now things are better. I am sorry that you know what this feels like in terms of breakdownness, and I did go to the doctor Tuesday and I have some fun new prescriptions that are definitely helping. Especially with the sleep aspect, which is the root of so much evil. Thanks for the love!

  2. Just another hint for the FB feed if you comment on something and you don't want to get future notifications for future comments, just click on the down arrow in the righthand top corner of the post and select "turn off notifications for this post."

    I am happy that you are taking care of you right now. You are not doing any good to anyone if you are so close to breaking down/current breaking down. Great job with the coloring! I have a coloring book which I should break out....although in the move I have no idea where it went. :-/

    1. Wow, thanks for the hint -- I did not even know that was an option! It must be newish... But that's good to know. So many secret tricks to managing these things!

      Oh no, sadness to your coloring book. I may have sent you a message. I am definitely trying very hard to take care of myself right now and rest. I am not good at it, so I almost feel like I need to hide things or have someone whisk me away to some retreat somewhere, but seeing as how I am not a celebrity, I will have to have self-control at home and force myself to do only nurturing things. Thank you for your support and love! :)

    2. I use the turn off notifications option too. However, the posts will still show up in your newsfeed. The only way to be sure you won't see something is to unfollow. (Any U/S photo post is an automatic unfollow for me, usually after a nice comment....and no hard feelings haha)

  3. Ah Jess, I'm so glad that you're taking care of yourself. This is a good list; I like this list. I don't have any words of advice or comfort other than to say that I'm here, I'm reading, I'm aching for you. I will keep reading until you are feeling better, and then I will continue reading. Keep doing anything and everything to get you through this period. So many hugs.

    1. Thank you so much. I like this list quite a bit myself. I have to keep reminding myself to come back here and do these things. Only these things. (well and eat and stuff too obviously) Thank you for reading, for aching, for the hugs. I am trying to get through, one heavy wading foot at a time. I so appreciate your words!

  4. I once attended a lecture where the speaker talked about emotionally managing loved ones of those diagnosed with terminal cancer. My naive self was shocked to hear that there are now people on staff at cancer centers to deal with the family as the patient is otherwise the one who is comforting and emotionally managing them following their diagnosis, leaving no time for them to focus on their health and put final plans together. Infertility cured me of that naivety, but it still leaves me shaking my head that the primitive response for many is to round it back to them when supporting others.

    Jess, surround yourself with what heals you. Find those that listen, are willing to sit with you in the hard and generally get it. You get to decide who is in this circle, what advice is helpful and what is good for your body and soul. Your body has been through hell, but so has your heart. So do what is necessary and do not apologize for it.

    I'm glad you took time to yourself to begin getting yourself back to a place where things will be okay. It's a hard thing to do (coming from someone who regularly fails to do this), but know you are inspirational in doing so.

    Thinking of you. Wishing so much bloom in your garden too

    1. Sadly that doesn't surprise me at all. I feel like in some ways I want to be sure that I have all kinds of plans in place for if anything like that ever happened to me, so that I could be sure that my wishes were fulfilled. Have you seen Captain Fantastic? I felt like it did a great job of showing how grief can make you want to disregard the wishes of someone you love.

      Anyway, yes. Yes, I am better each day at Do Nothing. Well, not nothing exactly, but nothing stressful (today was my last day doing school check-ins for an hour or two, and I know I'm not even supposed to be doing that), everything restorative. My circle opens wider every day with acts of kindness and connection. It is not up to me to inform everyone of everything. I agree. My body and heart are bloody pulps. I'm not sure which is bloodier actually.

      More blooms every day in the garden! And every day a little better than the last. (with the exception of Tuesday). I am trying to make my way through this to whatever is on the other side. It is hard, but necessary. I feel I lost myself somewhere in there and I am in a great position to rebuild and rediscover who I am and what's truly important. Hard stuff. Thank you for your thoughts and your love and your place in my circle.

  5. I'm learning how important self-care is - thanks for sharing what works for you.

    Take care of yourself!

    1. Thank you! Self-care is super important. It's not always easy to take it, but especially in dark times, in sad times, in the uncertainty of infertility and other losses, self-care is important. I wish you peace.

  6. These are all great self-care activities and strategies. Keep it up and be patient and gentle with yourself. All of the little steps add up and sometimes there is strength in those little steps, too. Sounds like you are surrounding yourself with the right people, both in friends and in seeking out a local counselor. You have a fantastic husband, and I hope he is feeling better, too.

    1. Thank you. For this, too "be patient and gentle with yourself." That is the hardest thing. I did too much one of the days, and I felt exhausted. Sometimes I have bursts of "I"m OKAY!" and then I'm reminded how NOT okay I truly am. Little steps are good. Picking myself up if I fall down again is good. Leaning on people who are there in all sorts of ways is good. Bryce is definitely fantastic, and even better, he's much, much better than he was. Now it's just the same allergy thing I have, no more scary choking-to-death coughing and fevers. Whew. So good news on that front! :) Thank you for your love and support.

  7. It is an incredible thing to observe you moving through this Hard Time so mindfully, Jess. I'm so glad the meditation has been of use to you, and that you are allowing Mother Nature to nurture you (allergies aside) and being so clear on what you need and what you don't need.

    I so get this feeling: "I want to be a hot mess and have it be okay." Everyone goes through Hard Things, and this post has so much to offer for when you're in the middle of them. The wheel will keep turning and you won't always feel like a hot mess. It IS OK, you will be OK; you are OK.

    1. Oh, thank you. It was so fun to lie on my bamboo mat and hear your voice through my ear buds. A little surreal, but it was like being calmed by a good friend. Which is sort of exactly what it was. I hope your ears were ringing. ;)

      I am trying. I am trying to not try to be okay anymore, to accept that strong can mean falling apart and picking myself up again in a different order. I'm all jumbled up. And I'm tired, so tired. I look forward to feeling less of a hot mess, one day.

      It will be okay. I just feel a little phoenix-y right now. I'm in ashes at the moment. I don't know how I'm going to rise, in what form, what gets left behind in the flames. So hard. But to have this support, to have all these amazing things and people to get me through? I am the luckiest hot mess around. <3

  8. Good for you, Jess! The unfollow feature is my favorite Facebook invention. I'm still utilizing it to its fullest.

    I really admire you taking the month off profile calls. I don't think that's something I would be able to do even though it's obviously for the best.

    You're so good at knowing what you need and taking it, and I envy that.

    1. It was really hard to make that profile call decision. But, if I myself am struggling to add in those weighty decisions (not to mention the address anxiety of possibly driving/flying somewhere and also...I need to take care of myself right now, could I honestly take on that situation, even if it was the best possible one? Hard thoughts to grapple with.). I wish I had found unfollow sooner! I am doing an okay job. This list reminds me. I am still avoiding some things, and today the grocery store just about did me in, but ups and downs, you know? Thanks for your thoughts and cheers and support!

  9. I unfollowed someone a week or so ago, and I realised yesterday how (relatively) peaceful my Fb feed had been. The "don't allow notifications" thing is good too, but I usually only remember to turn that on after I've received too many of them!

    Everything else sounds good. The yoga, the directed meditation, the talking and not talking. I'm sorry about taking the month off, but that is such a sensible and responsible and loving (to yourselves, and to any child too) thing to do.

    Sending hugs again. You can't have too many, right?

    1. I will take all the hugs! Never too many hugs! I am trying to force myself to nothing. Which seems against the point, but I have this need to do things to fill the space so I don't think about the things that are hard. And so much is hard. I am sad, but definitely think the month off​ is a good thing, like you said, Especially for any child that could come along. Hooray for peaceful feeds. Especially in these turbulent times! Thanks for the love and hugs, lady.

  10. The FB "unfollow" is wonderful. I've unfollowed people at various times and it is amazing what a difference it makes mental health-wise.

    It sounds like you are doing the things you need to be healthy and taking care of yourself. That's awesome and I admire your determination to do that - especially the hard stuff like the profile calls.

    Prednisone is such a help but the side effects can be the devil incarnate. I took it once for a back injury, and only Lupron was more awful on the side effects. Prdnisone's a horrible drug especially when added to an already tough situation. Hope things get better and sending a hug and lots of thoughts.

    1. Funny you mentioned Lupron...I was thinking this has surpassed Lupron for me at this point. I will be happy to never take Prednisone ever, EVER again. A pipe dream unfortunately, probably, because of the asthma and whatnot. I am loving the "unfollow" feature. It has made things so much more pleasant. I am trying to do all the things, but once again I sort of overscheduled break and feel a little overwhelmed, even though it's all things out of love. I don't quite know what to do about this next week of school, but I know I at least have Monday off because my eye pressure spiked and they needed a one-week checkup and the only appointment was midday. So there's that.

      Thank you for the hugs and the thoughts. I am looking forward to being less goo, which I do feel every day I reconstitute a bit more (and some days I slide back a bit but that's to be expected). Thank you so much.

  11. These all sound like great strategies, and I can personally vouch for quite a few of them. ;) I hope they are helping!

    Unfollowing is definitely the way to go on FB, versus unfriending -- unless you're really in a vengeful mood...! My gun-toting Republican Trump-voting cousin quietly unfriended me earlier this year... not sure exactly when (because he didn't tell me, just disappeared from my friends list) -- but I am pretty sure it was right around the time of the inauguration & Women's March, when (I will admit) I probably ran a little amok liking and sharing a lot of anti-Trump articles & opinion pieces. ;) We are miles apart politically -- but I'll admit, it hurt. I only HAVE two cousins on that side of the family. He could have just unfollowed me & I would never have been the wiser. Dh suggested I just play dumb & send him another friend request. I might, eventually, but for now, I think I will just let things be. :(

    1. They are definitely helping! I am so sorry about your unfriending experience. I hate even the term, and when it is family and politically motivated that really sucks. Unfollowing is so much nicer. We were unfriended recently, and even the though the situation was different and a bit nastier, and part of me was grateful, it still was like, REALLY? I feel like the pro/con list of facebook gets more con every day. Good luck with your situation... do you talk outside of facebook? Maybe an alternate way of communication would be better. Sigh.

      And every day a little better. Sometimes I wish I had gone somewhere where I didn't feel the compulsion to do laundry or take phone calls, but I think I am doing a good enough job trying to recoup. :)