Tubthumping with A. A. Milne

I have decided that one of my new goals is to stop having generic blog post titles. No more Motivation Mondays! And Three Things Thursdays! And whatever else boring-ass alliterative stuff I come up with.

From now on, Cat is my blog title sensei.

I am currently on day 12 of my last medication shake-up, and on day 8 of feeling…pretty darn decent. I haven’t had a panic attack since the 4th of November! Things are (knock on wood and any other appropriate anti-jinx activities) seeming okay.

And now that I’m seeming okay, I can talk a little bit about NOT seeming okay. (possible trigger warning.)

Y’all – this year has been hard. The first week was pretty awesome – it started with a run (okay, fine, a pregnant waddle) on the beach with my bestest besties. It quickly went down hill, though. A week later, my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. I started having a lot of problems with my pregnancy (stress-related, and no details of those will ever be shared on this blog). I was in the home stretch of my MS work – trying to not only finish my capstone project but finish it with GREATNESS because I am (surprise!) competitive.

I got grounded from flying in February and wasn’t able to make a trip back to South D or to LA to eat my weight in Mexican Food.

Two weeks before my due date and 3 weeks before the bean made his appearance, my dad died. The juxtaposition of the emotions involved in mourning the death of a beloved parent while preparing for the birth of a greatly anticipated child are nearly indescribable.

The birth was difficult, but Alvie was perfect. The rest of the year has been similar ups and downs, although nothing so extreme as that.

The architect got an architecture job in February for the first time since 2008! And was furloughed in June. (And is now architecting again.)

Grad school was stressful! And I finished in February. I won the Capstone award & graduated in August.

I took 3 months off work for maternity leave, and that was hard. I came back and that was hard. My job is morphing into awesomeness and that is good. I do not have enough hours in the day and that is bad. I am going back to work full time (for the first time in almost 5 years) the Monday after Thanksgiving. And that is good/bad.

All of this + the post-partum hormonal shifts + the fact that I have a history of bi-polar disorder (managed w/o meds since 2003, bitches!) = severe post-partum anxiety/depression with a side of OCD & a special course of the bi-polar stew.

It was dark and grim for awhile. There were panic attacks. And bad, dark thoughts. I fantasized about doing things I hadn’t done in over 15 years (I was a cutter).

BUT – I did not cut myself. And I did not give in to the dark thoughts. And I did not let the mania take hold when I could feel it welling up. And, for those who don’t know, mania is the best feeling in the world. I am not kidding even a tiny bit. Everything is so wonderful and you can do anything be anyone and there are no consequences and you don’t have to care about anyone or anything and no one can hurt me or stop me. (There is also no punctuation.) So, to know you’re on the verge and purposefully stop it is a new thing for me. However, apparently my desire to be a good mother outweighs my desire to ascend (descend?) into a crazy spiral of fun. Being manic kind of makes me a bit of a sociopath. And sociopaths do not always make good parents.

And so – when things got bad, I got help. I reached out – to my husband, to my friends, to my therapist, and to my psychiatrist.

And now, I am in a place where I can look back on October and feel good about the decisions I made, because I did not give up. I didn’t cut myself. I didn’t allow myself to become manic. And when the depression tried to pull me down and it told me that there was no more light and no more hope and why not just disappear, I closed my ears and did my best not to listen.

And here I am. On more drugs than I’ve ever been on. I have drugs to regulate the mania. And drugs to regulate the depression. And drugs to regulate the anxiety. And drugs to help me sleep.

I thought I would feel numb with all these drugs, but I don’t. I don’t feel quite myself, but this is not numbness. I still have better days and worse days, but they are not very high or very low. I have joy. I feel hope.

This morning, I was driving to work and listening to 90s music. The Chumbawumba song “Tubthumping” came on, and as I sang along at the top of my lungs (there’s only about 5 words, really), I realized that I did get back up again, and I will keep working to make sure that nothing ever keeps me down.

And then I thought about my dad. But not with the heart-wrenching sadness that usually accompanies such thoughts, but rather with fondness and love.

My dad also struggled with darkness and it was a constant battle for him. I’m lucky that it’s not for me. But once, when I was having a very hard time, he wrote me a letter, and in that letter was this poem:

Sometimes when the fights begin
I think I’ll let the dragons win
But then again perhaps I won’t
Because they’re dragons —
and I don’t.

–A.A. Milne

And so, I won’t. The fight is likely not over, but I’ve won this battle at least, and it was pretty damn decisive. I am not back to 100%, and some things are still very hard for me, but I’m getting there. I’m now at a point where I can actually ‘fake it ’til I make it.’ And no matter what, these dragons are never gonna keep me down.

My dad embroidered this on the quilt my family made to celebrate my marriage to the architect.

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