Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Tag Archive: mental health

On depression and infertility

So, you guys are probably expecting a recap of my Boston/Massachusetts trip because that’s what all good bloggers do when they get back from vacation. They share pictures of family and sights and food and give all kinds of tips for travelling to wherever just returned from. Unfortunately (fortunately?), I’m a shitty blogger and I have no recap for you. Instead, I want to address two topics close to my heart that of course popped up while I was away. Warning: this a long post, filled with two very emotional topics. I won’t be mad if you don’t read the whole thing. 

The first is Wentworth Miller’s post about the meme mocking him for his post-Prison Break weight gain. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you can read Buzzfeed’s summary here (I realize it’s Buzzfeed but it’ll do to help me make my point). Make sure you watch the video. I’ve watched it about 6 times since 2013 and each time it gets more powerful. 

Now, it’s no secret around these parts how I feel about Wentworth Miller (I love him. LOVE. HIM. Seriously, if you go to the search bar and type in his name, about a dozen posts will come up. I think I’ve mentioned him more than Matt Damon). When he came out a few years ago and he talked about how he attempted suicide because of wrestling with who he is, it gutted me. To hear that someone so intelligent, talented, successful and let’s face it, hot, tried to kill himself because of a mental illness that he couldn’t control, circumstances he couldn’t control, and choices he felt he had to make to protect himself and his career, destroys me. And I’m glad his attempts failed because if he’d succeeded, the world would be worse off. (And so we’re clear, anytime I hear someone, not just a famous person, attempts or commits suicide, it guts me. But that’s a post for another time, and a topic that I once addressed).http---janasays.com

Because what he’s doing now, speaking out with his stories, sharing his tales of lows and survivals, is inspiring. Not just to people like me, who are suffering from depression, but to people who need to understand depression. To get a glimpse into what goes through the mind of someone living with it. To see it can happen to anyone regardless of looks, money, or fame. To realize depression isn’t just sadness but something so much bigger. To understand that surviving depression isn’t as easy as just “choosing happy” and that for many of us, surviving means assigning meaning to it by speaking out and sharing our stories and letting others enduring it know that they truly aren’t alone. 

But beyond that, what I love the most about what he said (and can we pause to say what a beautiful writer he is?) is that he was able to take what should have been a low point in his life and make it positive. That he sees beyond what the paparazzi wanted us to see. That he sees and feels absolute no shame in an unflattering picture because what it represents to him is so much more than what the rest of us see. That he’s using it as a source of strength and recovery and fortitude rather than a reason to hide. 

It’s something I know I need to work on. When I find a picture of myself smiling, really smiling, no matter how bad I look in the picture, rather than looking at how fat or ugly I look in the picture, I need to look at from a different lens. I need to see someone who’s survived a whole lot of shit over the last 5 years and the fact that I can still put a genuine smile on my face and enjoy life means more than the fact that I have weight to lose. I need to see those pictures as something to treasure rather than delete. It doesn’t mean forgetting everything; it just means accepting it as part of my story and moving on from it. 

 

Which is a semi-decent segway into the next topic. 

April 15 marks the one year anniversary of my miscarriage (you can read about that here if you’d like). I still can’t fully write about it without crying but I’m going to try because my friend Justine, an infertility blogger and amazing person, has launched a campaign, We are More Than 1 in 8, that I want to share with you guys (1 in 8 is the statistic for people suffering from infertility). The campaign is dedicated to sharing what life looks like as a result of infertility. To show that not every infertility story has a happy ending (the happy ending being the baby) but that you can redefine your happy ending. The campaign has a mission to bring faces to infertility and to bring together a community of people who, like those suffering from depression, need to feel less alone. 

Infertility is a very isolating thing. When you’re dealing with it, you feel like there’s something wrong with you, like you’re being punished for something you did or didn’t do and the punishment is no baby for you. You don’t want to bring it up because you feel like no one can relate and you don’t want to be the one to make someone feel awkward or uncomfortable, even though you know that talking about it is exactly what you need to do. 

And then there’s this. No one wants to talk about it because how do you talk about it? How do you explain to someone who has one or 5 or 10 kids that you just can’t have them? That when someone says to you “why didn’t you have more” or “why don’t you have any”, it’s hard not to punch them in the face or snap back with something expletive laden. How do you make someone who’s never had a miscarriage or experienced infertility just how much it hurts and that when you can’t be around a baby, they need to not take it personally? 

As for me, my story has a different turn. I had my daughter and then the infertility happened. It’s called secondary infertility and it hurts just as much. Having one child does not eliminate the pain of a miscarriage or seven years of trying for that second child or the failed infertility treatments. Secondary infertility means that my family will never feel complete and that something will always be missing. Adoption isn’t an option for my family for reasons we don’t need to talk about and also, the solution to infertility isn’t always adoption (like suicide, this another post for another time). 

This past year has been one of the worst of my life. Do I have a greater appreciation for what I’ve been given in the child department? Yes. Has it helped ease the unbearable pain of losing a pregnancy? No. Has it been the fight of my life to not sink into a paralyzing depression? You bet your ass it has. 

I still mark each day by where I would be if I’d had the baby. I still can’t walk down the baby aisles in stores, can’t hold babies, and still struggle with looking at pictures of healthy babies and pregnancies. I still can’t refer to the baby by the name he would have had (although we never got to find out the sex, we’re all confident it was a boy). I wrestle with the months my period is late because I still have hope yet I never want to experience the pain of a miscarriage ever again. 

But it’s easier today than it was yesterday. And each day it gets easier. It’s a heartbreak that will never go away but now it’s manageable. I’m learning to live my life with this as part of it, just like my depression. 

Depression will most likely be my most constant companion, like a long distance friend who I don’t hear from for awhile and then shows up on my doorstep. I don’t know when she’ll come calling again but I know I can’t run from her or hide from her. I won’t want to let her in but I know she’ll sneak in through a window or something because she’s an asshole like that. And I’ll deal with her in the best way I can or know how, whatever that looks like. And maybe she’ll win one battle and I’ll win the next, and I know it’ll always be a fight, but in the end, she won’t defeat me. 

Some days I wonder why I have to deal with so much fucking shit. It seems cruel and unfair. I’m sure there’s a purpose or reason for it and right now, I’m struggling to figure out what that is. But along with that struggle, I’m learning to appreciate all that is good because I’ve survived. I’m still here. 

I will continue to survive. 

That needs to mean something. 

 

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A big shift

As the year is starting to wind down and we’re seeing the best of lists and all that stuff, I know that lots of us are taking time for reflection. How we did on our goals, our successes and failures, our relationships, and what we want to see for the new year. How we can improve, trips we want to take, items on our bucket lists to check off. You know. The usual. 

For me, though, the reflection has been a bit different than in years past. Yes, I’m doing everything that I listed above but there’s something else I’m doing. This year, I’m looking at how the words I use have made the biggest impact on me and my goals and how I can use that for next year as well. words

If you know me, you know the way I speak to myself isn’t exactly what you’d call nice. I’d never speak to another person the way I talk to myself and it’s something I’m actively working on. Lest you think I’m perfect or have mastered this particular skill, let me assure you, I am not. In fact, just last night, I referred to myself as fatass. But the number of times I do that has substantially decreased since I decided to actively work on this. And that’s what it is. It’s a product of work and effort. 

The other way I’m using language to “fix” myself is to no longer say things like “I want to be someone who writes a book” or “I want to be someone who’s healthy”. Now I say “I AM someone who’s writing a book” (quick update on that: about 10000 words to go before the rough draft is done and the first pass of editing can start. Plus I have an idea that will significantly improve the quality of the story) and “I AM someone who’s healthy” and “I AM someone who can achieve the goals she sets for herself”. 

Changing the words from ones of aspirations and wishful thinking to ones of affirmation and declaration has been a powerful change for me, as well as a huge shift in my self-confidence. Again, I have a long way to go but it’s exponentially better than it was. In fact, it was the reason I was able to make it through the Whole30. During Thanksgiving. 

If you’re struggling with achieving your goals, any goals, or have problems with self-esteem and self-confidence, I definitely suggest changing your word choices. It’ll feel weird and awkward at first, and you’ll find yourself asking if you really are the kind of person you’re declaring you are, but I’ll tell you that yes. Yes, you are. You truly are anything you think you are. unicorn2

For someone who loves books and believes in the power of song lyrics, it’s amazing that it’s taken me so long to come to the conclusion that a simple change in my choice of words makes a substantial impact.

How about you guys? What are your tricks for staying focused or empowering yourself to achieve your goals?

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Thursday confession: Bad habits with a side of hypocrisy

Confession: Sometimes I feel like the world’s biggest hypocrite. 

I’m doing my best to raise a happy, healthy (physically, emotionally, mentally) child and I think, for the most part, I’m succeeding. She’s a pretty amazing, confident kid and I know that much of that has to do with me (and the husband. Need to give him credit, too). I like to think I give her good advice and support and encouragement and do what I can to instill healthy habits and from what I can tell, she’s learning them. 

The problem is that I don’t follow my own advice. Let’s explore: 

What I tell the child: You need to go to bed now. You need a good night’s sleep so you won’t be tired for school/cheer tomorrow.

What I do: Stay up until 2AM reading or plotting how to get my husband to stop snoring without resorting to violence and then get up, exhausted, at 7AM, unable to function at any decent capacity the next day.

What I tell the child: If you have a junky snack now, you need to have a healthy snack later.

What I do: Eat ridiculous amounts of non-healthy snacks throughout the day, sometimes forgetting to eat fruit.

What I tell the child: Clean your room. Make your bed. Pick up after yourself. 

What I do: Leave my house a disaster. Forget to dust/vacuum. We won’t discuss the laundry situation.

What I tell the child: If you are having trouble, ask for help. 

What I do: Continue to get frustrated and struggle because asking for help is not in my nature. See also: me not wanting to burden anyone with my problems.

What I tell the child: Work hard and practice and you’ll achieve your goals. Don’t set a time limit on achieving something you truly want.

What I do: Set unrealistic time frames and then quit when I realize I’ll never achieve my goals by the arbitrary date I’ve picked.

What I tell the child: Be proud of your accomplishments. 

What I do: Never tell anyone anything because I’m 100% confident no one gives a shit.

It goes on like that. 

The thing is, I want to follow my own advice because let’s face it, it’s solid advice. The problem is that I cannot get out of my own way to do it. I’d be so much more productive and better at adulting if I could pull my shit together and do what I say. But I’m stuck in old habits and ways of thinking and, despite the fact that I want to completely transform many of these behaviors, I struggle. A lot. 

So, I’m asking you guys, what is your best advice for getting out of your own way and changing old, bad habits and behaviors? Because this hypocrite thing? It’s not working for me anymore. 

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On pregnancy loss

Seven.

That’s how many years it took to get pregnant again. 

Eleven. 

That’s how many days I got be pregnant again before I miscarried. 

Six.

That’s how many months have passed since my miscarriage.

Fifty.

That’s how many books I’ve read to keep my mind occupied during the empty spaces when my mind wanders to what could have been. 

Two. 

That’s how many failed infertility treatments I had over the summer. There would have been more except money ran out and emotions ran too high.

Countless.

That’s how many tears I’ve shed thinking about my child I’ll never get to meet.

Dozens.

That’s how many people I’ve talked to who’ve been through something similar (including my friend Jeff). Not surprising, though, because roughly 1 in 4 women experience miscarriage. 

Daily.

That’s how often I blame myself for what happen, even though in my head I know it’s not my fault. It typically difficult to pinpoint the cause for one and I know blaming myself doesn’t change or help anything but yet I do it.

The rest of my life.

That’s how long I’ll continue to mourn. I know over time, like any loss, it’ll get better but it’ll still be there.  

One. 

That’s how many children I have and will have. And I feel lucky and blessed that I got the one I did. For so many reasons.

I know my story isn’t unique. There are hundreds of thousands of women like me. And the fact that we’re still so afraid to talk about miscarriage frustrates me. Because it’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s something that happens. Instead of keeping it a dirty little secret, we need to be supporting each other, comforting each other, and being there to help one another through our grief. 

How to help is difficult. It’s hard to know what to say to someone. There are lots of things you shouldn’t say like “Everything happens for a reason” or “At least you know you can get pregnant!” or “You can always adopt”. Why these are wrong and completely unhelpful is a post unto itself. And if you say them to someone experiencing a miscarriage, know that we know you mean well. There’s no malicious intent. But those statements still hurt. What would be more helpful is “I’m so sorry” or “I’m here if you need to talk” or “Is there anything I can do?” or simply just bring us tissues and let us cry or talk about it, even if it might be uncomfortable to hear. 

That’s what we need.

What else do we need? 

We need people to stop asking “when are you having kids” or “why only the one” and my personal favorite, “you’re so lucky you only have one” (yes, I’ve had that said to me. Yes, I had to refrain from launching into a tirade). A) it’s none of your fucking business and B) if you need to make it your business, quit assuming it’s by choice. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. But you don’t need to concern yourself with anyone else’s reproductive issues or choices. Even if you’re related. 

We need to destigmatize miscarriage and bring into discussion so we can get those dealing with it the help and support they need. Just like with mental health, keeping it secret because of shame or discomfort doesn’t make it go away. And I’m grateful to celebrities like Gabrielle Union and Mark Zuckerberg for openly discussing their fertility and miscarriage issues. For whatever reason, in this country, it takes celebrities to discuss issues to make the rest of us feel like it’s okay to talk about. But with this, if that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes. 

We also need more stories like my friend Justine’s, who shares what it’s like to know you’ll never have a child and to learn to accept it. We’re saturated with stories of people who tried and tried and then, miraculously, they had a baby. And then another. And then another. We’re bombarded with the message that if you never give up hope, a baby is in your future. But that’s not always the case and women need to know that you can still live a full and happy life without children (Note: I’m only referencing the women who want to have kids and can’t. Those who choose to remain childfree have a different set of issues to contend with).

We need people to know it’s okay to grieve openly.  To talk about their losses. To know that “miscarriage” is not a dirty word.

If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, please know that you’re not alone. You don’t have to grieve in isolation. I’m here for you, even if we’ve never met.

And know that your baby, your pregnancy, no matter how brief, mattered. Just like mine did.

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Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. If you can, please light a candle at 7PM in your time zone (I think that’s how it works. I’m struggling with understanding) to create a wave of light for all the babies gone too soon.

 

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This week in…: Volume 33

this week

  • I made the decision to return A Little Life to the library. It’s a wonderful book so I’m going to buy it and keep on the shelf for the winter. It’s just too heavy for me right now. I’m in the middle of Dietland and picked up three new ones–Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, and $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing. I also figured out that I can borrow and loan books from my Kindle app so now I don’t need a Kindle. Hooray for saving money!
  • I need to save money because I finally bought a FitBit. I am in love with it and I’m using it to track my sleep as well as my steps. Hopefully this will give me insight as to why I’m so tired all the damn time. The first night I used it, it told me I was restless 11 times. Eleven!!! That’s a whole lot.
  • Longmire is FINALLY on Netflix (well, season 4, which I’ve been waiting for for what felt like an eternity)! I can’t even begin to tell you how happy that makes me. Also making me happy from TV land? The return of Project Greenlight! Anyone else watch it? Are you as excited as I am about the new season?
  • You know what I forgot to mention in my post about fall? How much I love fall baseball. You know what’s extra exciting about this year? My beloved Mets are still STILL in first place and someone actually used the words “Mets” and “magic number” in the same sentence yesterday. Barring any epic collapse, my boys will get to hang the National League East Division Champions 2015 in CitiField next year! 
  • Speaking of NY, as today is the 14th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I encourage you to take a moment to remember everyone who lost their lives that day in New York, Pennsylvania, the Pentagon, and the ensuing wars (if you’re curious about my thoughts, you can read my inarticulate post I wrote a couple of years ago). 
  • I finally watched Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time ever. I did not like it. In fact, I forgot that’s the movie I was watching because it bored me so much and this conversation happened:

Husband: Are you even paying attention?
Me: Yes. He stole some shit. Now he’s teaching some shit. I’m all caught up.
Husband: Now they’re talking about the ark.
Me: There’s an ark?
Husband: IT’S “RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK”!!!
Me: Oh, right.

  • Internet reads: Are you Gen X like me (or are you in that weird bubble between Gen X and Gen Y like me)? Then read this post with 29 characteristics of Generation X. Maybe you’re not Gen X but you are creative so maybe check out this infographic of the daily routines of famous creative people. I loved the results of this blogger’s experiment of not complaining for two weeks and it kind of makes me want to try it or one of Gretchen Rubin’s 21 Day Projects (and yes, I’d pay $4.99 for one of her books. I love her). And finally, yesterday was World Suicide Prevention Day, so this post from Buzzfeed about the lies your depression tells you is timely and poignant. 
  • Re: Depression. It sucks. It’s the worst thing ever, and if you’re dealing with it, please know you’re not alone. And it might not seem like it now but it will get better. Maybe with medication, maybe with therapy, maybe with time, maybe with all three. But it will get better. And please, if you need help, reach out to someone. A professional, preferably. Especially if you’re thinking about suicide. You can find help at 1-800-273-8255 or via the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ Your life matters. 
  • And thanks to Ali for sharing this which I’ve unabashedly stolen borrowed: 

spice girls

 

Have a wonderful weekend! My new couch is being delivered so expect many pictures from my new sitting perspective! You can follow me on Instagram for those. 

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