Thursday, June 6, 2013

She's my daughter.

An open letter to the moms who judge me,

My daughter is Rory. She is 4 years and 1 month old. She weighs in at a whopping 39 lbs and stands 41 inches tall. She had beautiful greenish brown eyes and an adorable brown bob. She likes her toe nails painted alternating colors and doesn't like finger nail polish unless it's sparkly. She prefers butter on her toast and her juice in a cup with something Disney printed on it. Rory is obsessed with dolls, especially her American Girl Rory Dolly, playing on the swing set and doing craft projects. She's learning to ride a 2 wheeler and is determined to be able to swim in Aunt Barbie's pool without her life jacket this year.

She's a pretty normal kid.

Rory is also desperately creative. Her imagination is enormous. She is never bored, always creating games or scenarios to play in. She loves to dress up, even forcing her brother to be her prince at the ball once and a while. She extremely intelligent, can count well past 50, knows all her letters and is learning to read. She loves to learn and soaks knowledge up like a sponge. Rory is a beautiful little creature, inside and out.

Rory also has stress management issues. Did you know that? Oh you didn't? Okay let me explain...

Rory was born from a mother with clinical depression and a father who is extremely nervous all the time about things. Neither is a negative thing, it's just two facts. Rory, unfortunately, got a cup full of both in her human being recipe. She is incredibly sensitive, feeling all her own emotions and everyone else's in the room too. Rory takes the tiniest things to heart and never wants to disappoint anyone. We went through a good 6 months of her being scared to death I would leave her or give her away if she got in trouble. That was followed by a few months of her deathly fear of the police. (That one was only cured by me calling in a favor to a dance dad who happens to be a police officer) She isn't acting. She isn't faking. Rory develops her fears in her mind in to something huge, much bigger than it needs to be. It's okay. We're used to it and we know how to deal with it, but you don't. That's all right. I'll educate you.

Oh and...she also has trichotillomania issues. Basically, when she's stressed, nervous, sick, tired, etc, she twirls her hair obsessively. On her really bad days, she'll pull it out. Last fall was exceptionally bad and we ended up at Pittsburgh Children's for all sorts of tests and scans, making sure she didn't have a hairball in her stomach that she'd need surgery to remove. Because of her tricho, she is extremely sensitive to having things in her hair. It bugs her so bad...twirling her hair is her security blanket and with her hair in a ponytail, she can't twirl if she needs to.

So let's go back a few weeks to dance recital.

I saw the looks you gave me when you realized "the dance teacher's daughter" wasn't wearing tights or a bow in her hair. I saw you whispering about how Rory cried backstage. I overheard you discussing Rory's "bad behavior" at the recital. I saw you roll your eyes when Rory didn't go to the cafeteria with all the other kids her age and stayed with the advanced girls. It did not go unnoticed.

But guess what, judgey moms, I don't care. I really like you the other 363 days of the year so I'm going to let this slide. But please, listen up...

My daughter was born one month to the day before the dance show in 2009. She spent her first dance show snoozing in her car carrier right offstage. She knows nothing but the hectic, busy pace of being backstage. That's where her grandma, great grandpa, grandpa and mom all are. What do you expect? I hired her a wonderful babysitter to hang out with her, get her snacks, play games, etc and Emilee did a fantastic job.

Backstage. Where my daughter, with her stress management issues and trichotillomania, could be near her family.

Did you think about that, judgey moms? Did you, as you were changing your own daughter in to her one costume and shiny black tap shoes or pretty pink ballet slippers and fussing over her hair and makeup, did you remember that I don't get to do that with Rory? I don't get to sit beside her before the show, perfecting her eye makeup and touching up her lipstick, because I'm running around getting everyone else's kids ready and in place. I'm fussing over Susie's headpiece, pinning it just so. I'm adjusting Mary's hat, so it's perfectly cocked to the left. I'm adding bobby pins to Annie's bun, securing it tight. I'm handing out band aids to Johnny, for his skinned knee.

Then I'm stapling more stars to the set. I'm figuring out special lighting for your daughter's ballet dance. I'm hot gluing silk flowers to one more wreath, spray painting one more cane and gluing more false eyelashes on than I can count. I'm braiding hair, twirling buns and handing out tights. I'm coordinating photographers, videographers, flower vendors and cookie vendors. I'm getting change for the ticket sales, I'm finding the rest of the programs and making sure the playlist is perfect on the ipad.

I'm not sitting beside my daughter, talking about how fun this is going to be and how grandma and grandpa are so excited to see her dance. I'm not reprimanding my son for kicking the seat in front of him, looking around the auditorium for the uncle who's 5 minutes late or the aunt who promised to bring a gift. I don't get to sit and watch my daughter dance, in a seat from the front. I don't get to cheer Yay Rory! and then rush out the door to pick her up at the end of the hallway with a big hug and a huge Way to Go!

At best...I get to watch my daughter from the wings, for about 30 seconds. Rory gets what's left of my energy when it's time to get ready. She gets snapped at for no reason. She gets a quick hug from her extremely busy grandma. Thankfully, our backstage workers are like family and make sure to fuss over her a little when they see her but still. It's not the same.

It's not the same experience for Rory. It's really hard. It's really stressful. It's no wonder she cries. It's no wonder she went on without tights on. And it's really no big deal. Please, stop judging her and me. We're just doing the best we can and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

To hell and back.

Where have I been?

To hell and back.

It's no secret, if you've been around here before, that I have clinical depression. I had some tough stuff to deal with in high school and that lead to a chemical imbalance and a slow functioning thyroid. Through a year of therapy and medication, I've been doing pretty darn good since then. Rough patches along the road, but nothing major. Even after the kids, when my post partum depression was really bad, it still wasn't AWFUL. I always knew it could be worse, but never really thought about it.

Until last week.

Last Wednesday, I didn't sleep more than 1 hour. I woke up in tears at my normal time and continued to cry for 36 hours. I was a mess. Shaking, sweating, nauseous, trouble breathing, chest pains...I was in the midst of a full blown panic attack. I didn't know what to do. I couldn't pull myself together enough to do anything.

I was such a mess. Now, a week out, I'm perplexed how I ever got to that state.

Thankfully, my sister is a Physician Assistant. One call to her, and through my sobs, a 1 minute explanation and she was in action. She called my mom and my dad. My dad was at my house in a few minutes.

I ended up in the ER that night. I was prescribed Ativan to help calm me down. I'm sure it works great for some people but for me it wasn't what I needed. One of my anxiety triggers is the fear of throwing up and the ER Doc said it could cause nausea and vomitting. That's all he needed to say in my fragile state...I was instantly sick to my stomach and it didn't go away for 2 days. I won't take Ativan ever again.

My in laws graciously took the kids over night and all day Friday so I could rest. I wasn't able to rest's how antsy I was: I couldn't even watch Grey's Anatomy because it made my skin crawl with anxiety.

That my friends is more than normal depression/anxiety issues.

Around 3:30 on Friday afternoon, I started coming out of it. I was able to eat some real food, my breathing improved and I felt calmer. I slept really well Friday night, thanks to Tylenol PM, and woke up Saturday feeling much more human.

I'm writing all this out to you, in a scattered way, I know, because panic and anxiety disorders are not to be taken lightly. I know taking medicine to control things like this aren't everyone's cup of tea and that's okay. For me though...medicine, prayer and quiet time, therapy and exercise all have to be combined to make me feel relaxed. There was no specific cause to my attack. This is the most stressful time of year for me and I think I just cracked under all the pressure.

What did I learn? A lot. I'm making lists, asking for help and prioritizing. I spent the weekend doing what I loved and what I wanted. I taught 2 classes, went on a date with Dave and we took the kids to a little zoo. It was delightful. I was happy and relatively stress free.

I am happy. I'm not sure what else I can ask for.

Do you have issues with depression, anxiety or panic? Email me! kateundercoffer (at) gmail (dot) com. I'm not a doctor and can't offer medical advice but I can tell you what has worked for me in almost 10 years of struggle and offer encouragement to help you along the road!