Monday, July 31, 2017

Learning about PTSD, flashbacks, and a reflection of one year.

I have to start this post by sharing with you the very last memory I have before everything goes blank. That would be the day before I gave birth to Lucy, July 31, 2016, and our trip to the Rose Garden. It's worth noting that even that post freaked me out because in all of my therapy sessions I talk about the walk around the Rose Garden, I remember what Penelope was wearing and how excited she was to see flowers- she had been obsessed with flowers. I remember not feeling well and having to go home.

I don't remember going to Canal Park, or even eating lunch at Grandma's Restaurant, the same place Matt and I ate at while I was in early labor with Olivia.

This would be the last photo of me before I gave birth. It feels weird to look at things, photos, and not have any memory of it.

I remember when I started counseling, I think in September, I was convinced I didn't really need it. That my depression would go away once my memory came back and I could get my health back to pre-pregnancy normal and get off of all my medications. Then I started going to follow up care and I learned that I'd be on the medication for life because it keeps me alive, my memory likely won't come back but they don't really know because the brain is a strange (and fickle) thing, and that not only did I have depression and anxiety, but I had PTSD too. I absolutely scoffed at that and thought, absolutely not. I just had a crap experience giving birth- sure, I died and was revived, but that's not the end of the world.

I remember the moment where it hit me that I absolutely had PTSD and it scared the crap out of me: it happened in the OB waiting room for my 6-8 week check up. I was surrounded by women in various stages of pregnancy and I freaked out. I had my first actual panic attack and I had to hide in the bathroom until my name was called because I couldn't handle being in there. I was absolutely terrified. I thought it was just a phase and I discovered over this year that nope- definitely not a phase. At least not yet, because pregnant women scare me. I can save face and not freak out but as soon as I turn away I melt down.

Over the course of this year I've had all kinds of panic and anxiety attacks, I have nightmares and flashbacks. Logically, I know this can never happen to me again. I will never have another Amniotic Fluid Embolism. I'm still terrified. The fact that you can have a perfectly healthy pregnancy and still end up in this situation, or worse, it unsettling. I had a stroke, I hemorrhaged, but I did everything right. What's to say something bizarre won't happen to me again? I take my medications diligently, I track my water and salt intake so I don't become imbalanced, I watch my diet, manage my sleep, etc and yet... it doesn't really matter, does it? I could die of some other freak thing.

The worst part over the last few weeks is the intense chest pain. Or the time I felt like I was having ACTUAL labor contractions. More nightmares. Flashbacks of my labors with Olivia and Jackson. It's been horrible. My counselor explained to me about PTSD and how just because I don't remember what happened to me, my body does. A lot of what I'm experiencing is body memory and I have to recognize that in that moment, and I have some breathing exercises to do to help bring my anxiety down.

And it kind of works. Then I get so upset that I can't remember, WHY CAN'T I REMEMBER? I feel like I would be in such a different place in my recovery if I had memories of being in labor, being wheeled to surgery, holding my baby for the first time- all of it was robbed from me and I'm so angry. You know what makes me more angry? Being told this whole year, "wait until you're a year out, it'll be a different scenario" and here I am, and it's the same. Sure, I'm not wandering off or totally out of it anymore, but everything else remains the same. I'm in pain every day. I can't remember things from day to day, I've discovered I've lost long term memories too, and managing my health is so difficult. I know we're supposed to embrace major life changes and go and make things even better, but I'm struggling. I'm a year out, and I'm no better in all of the ways that matter to me.

So as I get ready to celebrate Lucy turning one, and I realize I have no memories of her first months and I can't tell you when she hit any milestones, I'm really having a hard time. I'm trying to keep it together because it's HER birthday, but in my mind it's an anniversary for me and I am struggling.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Four Weeks, Five People

*This post contains affiliate links. I received an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review, all thoughts and opinions are my own*

I am kicking myself in the rear that I kept putting this book off. It wasn't a "scheduled" review, which means I'll get to it once I finish all of my firm scheduled books. I've not been shy with my own struggles with mental health so when I got into this book, I was absorbed. I could identify with the feeling of these kids and it tugged at me for that, but also as a mother.

Four Weeks, Five People - Jennifer Yu

They're more than their problems

Obsessive-compulsive teen Clarissa wants to get better, if only so her mother will stop asking her if she's okay.

Andrew wants to overcome his eating disorder so he can get back to his band and their dreams of becoming famous.

Film aficionado Ben would rather live in the movies than in reality.

Gorgeous and overly confident Mason thinks everyone is an idiot.

And Stella just doesn't want to be back for her second summer of wilderness therapy.

As the five teens get to know one another and work to overcome the various disorders that have affected their lives, they find themselves forming bonds they never thought they would, discovering new truths about themselves and actually looking forward to the future.

I have to just mention first, before I forget, how pretty this cover is. I watched a video on how cover art was created and decided on, and so much work goes into that so I feel like talking about the cover is worth it.

The story centers around five teens, all with different disorders and struggles, who are sent to Camp Ugunduzi to basically get help. Their families have reached the ends of their rope, they don't know what else to do so they decide a therapeutic camp for four weeks is the next best option for them. Clarisa has OCD to debilitating levels but she's so anxious. Mason is a narcissist and I think at the core, he doesn't want to be the way he is but he truly can't help it. He's unnecessarily cruel and authority doesn't appreciate him and he doesn't appreciate them. Ben.. he was the most strange (to me), he believes he's watching a movie, everything around him is a movie. He's obsessed with movies and narrates his life. Honestly, he was the hardest one to really learn to like. Stella is... well she's there for the second time (which makes you wonder how effective this camp is from the start) and she hates life in general. Andrew is a rock star, (a real one) but he is anorexic and his life is in danger because he isn't doing well.

This feels like The Breakfast Club meets the amazingly under-rated shoe Hey Dude. Each kid is so wildly different from the other so you aren't sure they'll get along but somehow, they do. I have to come out and say my biggest problem with the book is how much drinking these kids do. To me, a therapeutic camp is not to place to pick up a drinking problem. It's mostly instigated by Stella, who is so angry with the world, it's not hard to realize she's using drinking as a way to cope with her issues but is unable to see that it's not actually helping. Is it realistic that a four week camp will seemingly cure, or fix, any of these kids? I don't know. I do know that a lot of in patient therapy things are about that length and they don't promise to fix you, but to give you a different perspective and some tools to help cope and get through things with continued counseling.

My favorite character was Andrew because I felt like, out of all the kids there, he was the one who truly was at a rock bottom, and he was willing to make serious changes. He knew going in it was going to be hard but you felt like he genuinely wanted to be better. Least favorite character was Ben, only because I didn't understand his issue. He's a sweet guy, socially awkward, but he at least recognizes his shortcomings (unlike Mason, but that's the nature of his problem).

Overall? I'm giving t his 4 out of 5. Not because I think it's amazing but because these characters are endearing. I can imagine the feelings they had going into this, and as a parent I can only imagine what it would be like to drop my kid off and hope for the best.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting

*This post contains affiliate links. I received an ARC of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review; all thoughts and opinions are my own.*

When I saw this book come through as a requested review, I had to jump on it because I have a daughter who is in the targeted reading age for it but also because she took a babysitting class this summer and it would be a fun read for her.

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting - Joe Ballarini

The Last Kids on Earth meets Goosebumps in this hilarious new series about a secret society of babysitters who protect kids from the monsters that really do live under their beds!

When middle schooler Kelly Ferguson’s Halloween plans switch from party-going to babysitting, she thinks the scariest part of her night will be the death of her social life. But then Baby Jacob gets kidnapped by the Boogeyman’s minions and Kelly learns there’s a whole lot more to childcare than free snacks and Netflix. Like chasing shadow monsters, drop-kicking Toadies, and mastering monster-fighting moves like the Naptime Headlock and Playground Punch.

Now, with the help of an ancient handbook and a secret society of butt-kicking babysitters, Kelly sets out to destroy the Boogeyman before he brings Jacob’s nightmares to life. But when the monsters’ trail leads to her school’s big Halloween bash, Kelly will have to prove she can save the world—without totally embarrassing herself in front of her friends.

Packed with black-and-white illustrations and insider secrets from the world of monster hunting, A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting is full of tricks, treats, and terrifying twists!

This book was SO FUN!!! I grew up with R.L. Stine as my favorite author and the Goosebumps series was just becoming a thing so had this been out when I was a kid, I would have been all over it. My own kids (well, the two that can read) are big fans of Goosebumps so I wanted my daughter to read this right after me so I could get her opinion and she absolutely adored it.

The book centers around Kelly, who finds herself babysitting Baby Jacob (against her will) and she's certain this is going to be a walk around the park. As it turns out, it would lead her on an adventure like no other! Baby Jacob is kidnapped by the Boogeyman's hired help and with the help of Liz (professional babysitter, and Jacob's regular sitter) they set out to save Baby Jacob. Kelly meets the secret society of babysitter's who train vigorously to fight Toadies, and other things that go bump into the night, and her world won't ever be the same.

Here's what I loved: this is a FAST read for an adult but even my kids got through it quickly. The story starts almost immediately and it doesn't stop. There aren't any lulls to make you bored! The creatures and creativity around this secret society is something I think all kids would enjoy. Also, the book has some illustrations throughout and I think kids really appreciate that because it helps them visualize the characters easier.

The cons: This is actually book one in the series, and I'm worried that future books might get redundant? This acts as a stand alone, so if you don't want to invest in the series it's going to be OK, and while this book mentions seven (I think) monsters in it, this story only focuses on one. My guess is each subsequent book would center around a different monster, and if the guise is going to be baby gets stolen, baby sitter to the rescue, ending... it's going to be blah. I guess kids might not pick up on the repetition but adults reading along certainly would.

Honestly? It was a fun book and I think fans of Goosebumps most definitely will enjoy this!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Scattering

*This post contains affiliate links! I received an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review, all thoughts and opinions are my own*

Way back to early 2016 I read the first book in this series, The Outliers, and you absolutely have to read that one before you can get into this one. These are absolutely NOT stand alone books. I loved that book and it weaved this totally bizarre web and so when I saw this one show up in my mailbox for review I was over the top excited. I'm just said it's taken me these long to work my way through my review pile to it.

The Scattering - Kimberly McCreight

New York Times bestselling author Kimberly McCreight raises the stakes in the second book of the heart-pounding Outliers trilogy, a uniquely speculative story about secrets, betrayal, and a world where one small group of people are blessed—or cursed—with an incredible power.

Wylie may have escaped the camp in Maine, but she is far from safe. The best way for her to protect herself is to understand her ability, fast. But after spending a lifetime trying to ignore her own feelings, giving in to her ability to read other peoples’ emotions is as difficult as it is dangerous.

And Wylie isn’t the only one at risk. Ever since they returned home, Jasper has been spiraling, wracked with guilt over what happened to Cassie. After all they’ve been through together, Wylie and Jasper would do anything for each other, but she doesn’t know if their bond is strong enough to overcome demons from the past.

It is amid this uncertainty and fear that Wylie finds herself confronted with a choice. She was willing to do whatever it took to help Cassie, but is she prepared to go to the same extremes to help complete strangers . . . even if they are just like her? 

I had to go back and read my review of the first book so that I could feel like I was going into this one with a solid background. It didn't even matter because there is so much information in this around who the Outliers are, why everyone wants them, what their potential is, and nobody is who they seem.

Honestly? It's overwhelming and a few times I wanted to just set the book aside and say, I'm done, but I can't do that because you know that once I start a series I have to follow it through to the end no matter what. It honestly should be considered a mental illness .

My favorite part of this book is Wylie and Jasper and their relationship. Wylie alone is annoying and kind of stupid. Jasper.. he's got some issues, rightfully so, but them together I like. I want that to work out and I don't know if it will because Wylie is such a mess. Everything about the first book that was hard to follow, basically the science around being an Outlier, is in this book times a million. It got to the point where I didn't understand any of it or where the author is trying to go with it, and I can't keep track of who is with what government agency or whatever.

It's just too much information to follow in order for this to be a fun read.

And just as I was about to say, I just don't care about any of this or what happens, I get to the end and HOLY MOLY, BATMAN! That cliff hanger is TOO MUCH. It's too freaking much for me to handle and now I have to wait?!

I see you, Kimberly McCreight, I see what you did there. You're probably thinking you've gotten this web spun so out of control and you're worried you might be losing people, so let's throw that insane cliff hanger in there! I almost choked on my water when I read that!

*clutching chest like the old lady I am*

So for that cliffhanger of an ending alone, I'm giving this book a solid 3/5. You almost lost me because it's just too much information for my brain to handle post stroke, but now I'm in it. I can't get out, I'm in it for the long haul.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Truth About Him

*This post contains affiliate links. I did not receive an ARC of this book, this is out of my own stash, but all thoughts and opinions are my own*

You GUYS. This is the follow up book to Everything I Left Unsaid, which I reviewed last fall (and you can read that review HERE) and I was nervous to start it because I hate seeing a series end, but I really wanted to know what happened to Dylan and Annie. So on our vacation I brought this and whoa boy.

The Truth About Him - M. O'Keefe

We played our roles, told each other lies.

But now Dylan is no longer just a mysterious deep voice on the other end of the line. We’re face-to-face and our relationship is very, very real.

We still have secrets—but so much is crystal clear:

The thrilling danger.

The raw, naked desire.

The need to keep feeling the way he makes me feel. Forever.

Dylan is putting up walls, trying to keep me safe, but he can’t shut me out. He has seen my darkness and rescued me. Now it’s my turn, if only he will let me.

It feels absolutely wrong to love Dylan as much as I do but I can't help it. I just can't. Dylan is so emotionally broken as a man and that's absolutely why I love him. I'm like Annie, I'm convinced I can fix the guy, just give me a chance!

This book starts where the first one leaves us, Hoyt is back and wants Annie to come home and be his wife. He's knocking her around and she feels like she has no way out. Enter Ben (Dylan's dad) who knows in his ill state he can't step in and defend her, but he can call Dylan who obviously runs to the rescue. What happens next happens so quickly I had to re-read it to see if I read it correctly. But the event shakes Annie to the core and she inexplicably has something in common with Dylan now. You'd think they'd be smooth sailing with the largest obstacle in their relationship out of the way but no, nothing is ever that simple, is it?

Enter Rabbit, leader of the Skulls motorcycle gang that Dylan's father and brother were members of. Dylan's brother, Max, needs to come back or else Rabbit has threatened harm to Ben and Annie. Because Dylan and Annie have a bizarrely unhealthy relationship that completely works for them, Dylan hides this bit of information from Annie for awhile and of course that goes tits up in due time.

So while that's all brewing, waiting to come to a head, Annie is trying to help Dylan repair is relationship with his dad since they learn that Ben has cancer and is coming to the end of his life. Lots of drama with that and so many times where the relationship between Dylan and Annie come close to the end, but their completely dysfunctional pairing works. It works and you find yourself rooting for them.

I can't give you any more without ruining the book but I loved it. It's going to be a book duo that I read again and again for sure. I loved the story and I loved the sex scenes between them, if you are in the market for a steamy read, I highly suggest this. But keep in mind, you have to read the first book before you read this, this is not a stand alone.

You know what I am sad about, though? Is that there is a follow up but so far, it's only in e-book format, and ugh... so disappointing. That book is called Burn Down the Night and I've heard it's really great. Unfortunately I don't have an ereader that works right now and I've made the solid decision not to buy another one. I wear them out and I'm sick of buying them.

So I'm actually going to be bold and give this book 5/5 stars because I was so invested. And I love Dylan that much. *sigh*

Monday, July 24, 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi

*This post contains affiliate links ~ I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*
This entire week I'm giving you book reviews! I know, it doesn't sound exciting, but it is! I'm going to be featuring different genres and books geared towards young adult and middle school age kids, so please keep checking back. If you are in a reading slump and need some new reads I'll have a few I think you should check out.

When Dimple Met Rishi - Sandhya Menon

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways. 

I have a pretty funny story on how this book arrived to me, first of all. So it was early evening when I had a knock on my back door and my kids all scream, "MOM! THE POLICE ARE HERE!!" Not knowing what the heck was happening, I answer the door. 
The very nice police officer informs me that a package for me was delivered to the wrong address by the post office (no shocker, back then I had a really awful, lazy mail carrier) and the person who received it was "alarmed" and thought perhaps it was something illegal, possibly related to terrorists. The police officer looked my name up and said he would deliver it and found me, and this blog, easily through a Google search so he didn't think I was a terrorist. He was inherently curious as to what was in the package though, so I said it's probably a book, look at the return address, it's a publishing house. But I open it anyways and it's this book! The look on his face when he see it was a book but one with a woman who looks of Middle Eastern decent? 

Hilarious. Totally hilarious. 

And no, I'm too lazy to be a terrorist but thank YOU, concerned fellow citizen. HA! 

Anyways. Let's talk about the book! 

This is kind of an interesting YA novel about two kids fresh out of high school, ready to start their lives, but at very different points of doing so. We have Dimple, who was born in America to parents who are from Mumbai and her parents try so hard to get her to live in their traditions, and appreciate her culture, except Dimple is from America- her culture is American. That statement alone is totally upsetting to her mother who is dead set on Dimple finding a nice Indian boy to marry, sooner rather than later. While her parents aren't exactly stopping her from going to college and enriching herself academically, they are plotting behind her back to meet Rishi. 

Rishi follows the traditions of his culture and has agreed to meet Dimple, under the assumption she's game for this as well. I think he really wishes he were more like Dimple but he isn't, he's following tradition because that's just what you do. 

It's a cute book that stands out in the bookstore because the cover is amazing, the description and author bio jump out at you, but my issue is that it was just.. OK. I'm giving this book 3/5 stars and only because I think that the book covers the generational gap really well and I think a lot of readers can relate to it, even if you don't have foreign parents. I think we all, in some way, have those moments where we feel like our parents don't understand us because times are different. I can't give this book it's fourth star because Dimple as a character is really... she's awful. She has such a dislike for everything and everyone and frankly, is not a character I would want my daughter emulating. Adolescent attitude aside, there's a part in the book where she waits in line just to throw an ice coffee on someone. 


Secondly, there's another part where Dimple actually punches Rishi and I get how it's downplayed in the book but in my head I couldn't help but think- really? Is this really how we would want our daughters to treat someone? Absolutely not. I take serious issue with downplaying any kind of domestic violence as light hearted or something a character does offhand. Can  you imagine if a male character did that to a woman? It would be an issue, so that really bothered me. 

I wanted to much to love this book because I'm fascinated by the Indian culture it promised and I wanted this to almost be like a modern Romeo & Juliet minus the suicides, but it didn't get there for me. But the discussion about the generation gap and arranged marriages in modern society was interesting and that's what is giving it the 3/5 stars versus 2/5. I can't think of another book like it at my local bookstore so we have to give it props for being one of a kind. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

The drive home, awful as I thought.

I was so worried about our drive home. By this point I hadn't stopped my Topomax completely but I was at a much decreased dose and I was feeling it. I was not doing well mentally or emotionally, and I didn't say anything to Matt. I'm pretty sure he could tell something wasn't right because I was very angry and short with everyone and I had been doing better with that while on my medication so I'm sure he was annoyed. I had increased my Straterra which was supposed to be helping my cognitive abilities and help me feel more awake but it wasn't making any kind of difference.

But on our last day we planned to drive to my grandparent's house again since it was on the way and I wanted to just sit and visit one more time before getting on the road. The kids had a great time telling them about their beach adventures, visiting with my uncles, Olivia wanted to show off her new hat, and Penelope wanted to bust into my grandma's stash of snacks, and we hung out.

Shortly before lunch time we had to get on the road so we said our goodbyes,
and we got back on the road for the incredibly long drive home. 

That night the goal was to get to somewhere in Georgia before crashing for the night, and day one of driving actually wasn't as awful as we thought. By the time we got to a hotel we were so incredibly tired. We ended up staying at some ramshackle motel which was the third one we stopped at for the night that had any rooms left, and it was dirty. I can't find the pictures, but the sink had what like pubes in it, dried toothpaste and other debris in it. The bed? Oh the bed was lovely because it had cracker crumbs in it. 

It was so gross. 

But what was even worse? Right as we turned out the lights, and we are all exhausted, we hear someone just puke every where

Immediately we turn the lights on to gauge what the hell just happened and discovered it was just Lucy, puking all over Matt as he tried to rock her to sleep, and she immediately wanted to play. Matt, very much not pleased, declares he's got to change (sadly he couldn't shower because the tub was .... it was gross.) 

I was so tired that I fell asleep immediately on the full size bed with Penelope and Olivia, but I woke up in the morning to the whole hotel stinking. Absolutely stinking. That's when I learned that not long after I fell asleep, Jackson woke up and puked on Matt again. 

Poor Matt. 

If there was an award for a dad being the best sport ever, Matt would win it tenfold. Not only is his wife losing her mind, but he's getting puked on repeatedly. 

We got back on the road pretty quickly in the morning after a light breakfast and had the goal of getting to somewhere in Illinois, which was pretty damn lofty. 

Spoiler: we did it, but BARELY. 

Somewhere in Tennessee we encountered the worst traffic ever. We were at a dead stop for almost an hour, then inched forward for the next two hours, until finally we saw an exit and had to get off. We were hungry, we definitely needed gas, and I had to get the hell out of the vehicle. I was having a panic attack and I was starting to cry. 

For no reason. 

We pull off and discover that the alternative route is also shut down because of accidents so we decide to just have lunch at this random Hardee's, because that's all there is. It's a Hardee's and a small gas station with signs on just about everything that say, "Sorry, out of order" so just Hardee's. But they have little to no air conditioning, it's easily 90 degrees and humid, this place is so busy and I'm sitting at a table with four very cranky kids while Matt orders food. 

By the time he gets back to our table, almost 40 minutes later, I'm losing it. I have tears streaming down my face, I'm doing my counting exercises in my head, and nothing is happening. Then I realize that Matt didn't order me a lunch, the line was so long that the hope of me getting a lunch was slim, and the kids are crabby and arguing/getting on my damn nerves and I ..... lost it. I know I pushed a tray, I know I slammed a kid back down in their seat and I remember crying as we walked out. It was bad. There is more about that little stop too but I'll save that for my someday book. 

We ended up driving in silence for hours. The littles dozed off, the bigs read their books, and I just cried as Matt drove. We heard at the gas station the highway was closed because of a major accident and they heard there was a fatality. It dawned on me that instead of feeling sadness like a normal person, I was jealous that they had an out. They got to die and go onto wherever it is we go when we die and I was stuck in this van wishing with everything in me that something would just take me. 

Nothing did of course. 

I messaged my psychiatrist and told him how things were going as I weaned off the medication (not well), told him about losing it in the Hardee's in the middle of Tennessee, and how I didn't think I was going to make it with nothing else. 

We drove and drove. Matt did a good job making up the time we lost in Tennessee and we agreed that we could still make it to Illinois, but it would be a late night. By the time we ended up stopping it was a hotel in the middle of a remodel but that was OK because at least the place was clean. 
We didn't even shut the door before Penelope was peeling her clothes off, ready to go to bed. Poor kid.
The next morning we got up early to head home- the last day of driving. The GPS said we were going to arrive in our driveway around 6 p.m. and that's about when we got home, even with bathroom and food stops. That day was pretty rough on me too but not nearly as bad as the day before. Thank god we had it planned so that Matt would be home for a day before going back to work because I was in no shape, emotionally, mentally, or physically to do it by myself.

So that was the end of our trip. It was good, it was hard, and I'm proud of myself that I held it together. This was challenging for me as New Sara, and Old Sara would have done this trip wonderfully, with no issues. I try not to think about what this trip would have been like if I was still old me but I'm glad that we went. I saw my family. I crossed something off my mom bucket list. I lost my shit in a Hardee's.

For anyone who looks at this trip and see it as a luxury vacation, you are an idiot. It wasn't that at all. For any of us. I had some poignant moments with the kids, I had a tough conversation about what depression is with my big kids, and I think Matt saw just how much his wife has declined. I think he's been in serious denial about my deficiencies but being with me for all of this time, I think it became glaringly clear to him- I'm not the same girl he married. I'm not even the same person who walked into that hospital almost a year ago. I don't know who I am yet.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Day 6: Johns Pass and our last beach day

When Matt and I got married, we didn't have a lot of money and so we didn't get to go on a fabulous honeymoon to an exotic destination. Instead, we went to Madeira Beach and it was pretty great in the end. We've taken the kids there before, but we wanted to spend the morning of our last full day at the place Matt and I spent a bunch of time- Johns Pass.

You can tell Penelope and Lucy were super not thrilled, right? Olivia and Jackson were excited because they had gotten some money from their grandma to spend on souvenirs so we told them today was the day to spend away. So we got there just as shops were opening and we had a great time going in and out of them. They each bought a shell they liked and I bought a sand dollar Christmas ornament for our tree this year.
The littles hated shopping on the boardwalk. By this point it was getting so warm so Matt wanted to look for a hat and we found an actual hat shop, so we stopped in. Matt didn't find one, but the kids did! 
Olivia got fitted for hers and basically spent all of her money on just the hat. Jackson found just a regular ol' ball cap and he was excited about. We went for lunch and they had fancy drinks with umbrellas. 

Afterwards I was so warm so we started walking back to the van to go and Jackson saw a sign for this alligator thing. I had no idea how badly he wanted to see an alligator on our trip, and I was going to just go but he started to tear up and I just... I couldn't. I had to at least see how much it was going to cost to see the alligators.  
So we took the elevator upstairs and this kid was SO excited.
No, I'm serious. He was SO EXCITED. The rest of us... meh.

We go in and it's a bizarre little thing. It was going to cost us around $25 for us all to see the gators and despite Matt's eye roll, we went in.
Penelope didn't know what the hell was going on but she sees fencing and she's trying to figure out how she can get in.
The place is like one big room with gators in various containment areas. They also have a room with a couple of fish tanks, and then another room with a few more tanks with lizards. Overall it's a total tourist trap.
You know who didn't care? This kid. This kid was in his glory.
 Lucy was a good sport and mostly sucked on her feet while we went from area to area.
I thought it would be cute to get Penelope's picture next to this tortoise and she was fine but it moved just a bit and she was over it and got back in the stroller.

Then Jackson saw it- the sign saying you could hold an alligator. Oh, but for an additional fee, of course! I looked at Matt and said we're in this far, we have to let the boy hold a gator. So I forked over the last $10 I had and my boy held a gator.
Do you see his face?
That boy was so happy.

So we were there and we told him he had to kiss the gator and he didn't even flinch!
Not for a second! Seriously! I couldn't believe it! That concluded our visit but we had to wait for him because he wanted to buy himself an alligator tooth necklace, to go with the shark tooth necklace he bought earlier. He was so happy.

We decided to head back to the condo and take a nap and we told the kids we would do one last visit to the beach that evening, hoping that the heat and humidity wouldn't get to me this time.
Penelope and Lucy were pretty happy about this.
Olivia and Jackson were, too. They found a book about shells in our condo so they made it their mission to look for shells mostly.
Penelope was all about it and kept asking me to take her picture.
Lucy found this chunk of tree and was obsessed with it. She held onto it and crawled around with it, brought it to me a few times.

We had a great time at the beach and we had such a hard time leaving knowing that was it. The kids were pretty bummed.

That night I packed as much of our stuff as I could. I got the kids to bed and I was so worried about the drive home. By this point I had been weaning off my Topamax and I wasn't feeling great. I could tell my depression was coming back, but so was my anxiety and panic attacks. I had a panic attack in the bathroom while taking a shower just thinking about the drive was scaring the crap out of me and there was no reason for it- we drove and got there, we can certainly drive and get home. Combine that with not being ready to go home and feeling... so sad.

I was sad for myself, I was sad for my kids, I was sad for Matt, and I just cried. I cried for so long in that shower and I got so angry because I am so frustrated that after a year of busting my ass off in therapy, of diligently going to every doctor and my psychiatrist, I feel no better. I'm still in this awful, dark place and I'm so angry. I don't know why I'm stuck and why I can't get better.

But I keep trying. I don't know why. But I do because I don't have any other plan right now.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Day 5: Independence Day & Lack of Dolphins

The timing of this trip meant that we would be in Florida during the Fourth of July, which is my second favorite holiday behind Christmas. One of the things I've always wanted to do is spend the Fourth of July with my kids in Florida, specifically, watch the fireworks on the beach. It's one of the memories from my childhood I no longer remember, but I do remember that we did it. Just the memories of it are gone. I remembered that it was always my goal to do that with my kids some day and I thought, now or never.

I don't know how long I'll be around and I don't want to die without having done certain things with my kids. It doesn't seem like a big deal to most people, but my early childhood is fraught with not great memories so the things that did bring me happiness as a kid are a big deal to me. So my goal was to medicate and go outside, even though it was even warmer this day.

Our first stop was Clearwater Beach because the big kids wanted to go on a dolphin cruise. We do this every time we come to Florida, and we had cashed in our change jar so we could do this.
We had lunch right before, but this was happening during nap time so you know.. crapshoot with moods at this point.
Lucy was ALL about it though. It's not a good picture but this girl was so excited, especially when other boats went flying by us. She loved it.
Penelope didn't give a damn. She mostly excited about unlimited iced tea and the lei's they were handing out.
Olivia and Jackson were all about the animals, they really wanted to see dolphins.
Olivia was such a great helper with Penelope on the cruise because she was a handful.
Jackson was in charge of refilling my water and Penelope's iced tea, he did a great job.
Me with three of the kids, Lucy wouldn't cooperate.

The cruise ended up being a total dud because we only saw one dolphin, that's it. Previous cruises we would see tons of them so we know for next time to stick to the morning cruises and apparently, the kind of boat you're on makes a difference. But it was still fun and we got to see Clearwater Beach from the water, and it's a really pretty beach.

After that we headed up to my Uncle Stephen's and Aunt Cheryl's house for a cookout. This uncle was the one who oftentimes would watch my brother and I on the weekends when my mom would work. He would always cook certain things for me especially because I was such a picky eater, and sometimes he'd get us Happy Meals and those were the best weekends.

So we hung out at their house for a few hours and it was great. I had such a good time, the kids loved them, and it made me wish we lived closer. I wish my kids got to know my family better because they'd really love them so much.

After dinner we had just enough time to get to the hotel and grab the sand toys and find a spot on the beach for fireworks.
 Taking a picture with all of the kids looking is next to impossible but this... this is what I wanted.
I don't think Matt understands my excitement over something so small like fireworks on the beach, but when we were little we truly were poor. This was a big deal for us, we would spend the entire day on the beach, and I just wanted to give my kids this memory.
They were loving it. We saw Clearwater's fireworks to our right. St. Pete's fireworks to our left. A couple of families had larger fireworks than either city and they were dueling it out right in front of us. It was the best.
Olivia at one point looked at me and says, "I bet this is your favorite holiday because of the beach, huh, mom?"

Sure is, baby. Sure is.
Jackson was having a blast. This is my kid who falls asleep early always and he was so tired but he was loving every minute of it.
This was the first time Penelope or Lucy have seen fireworks and they didn't really care. They kind of watched periodically and I think they had no clue what was going on, they were just loving being back at the beach in the sand again, at night no less! 
It was easily the best part of the trip. I'll probably forget most of it but I hope I never forget the feeling I had that night.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Day 4: Almost a crisis, and family time

On the fourth day of our trip we planned to see family, specifically my grandparents and hopefully my Uncle Danny, Aunt Ginger, and my cousins who are one and two years older than Olivia. I had promised the kids that we'd go to the beach first thing in the morning and that, this time, we'd be swimming.

I was kind of worried because I haven't had any experience so far with my panhypopituitarism and adrenal insufficiency in the heat/humidity. I made sure to take my medicine early, I took a little more to give me a boost. I ate breakfast, drank lots of water to ensure I was hydrated before I went out. I covered in sunscreen, I had my sun hat, and Matt hauled over an umbrella from our condo. I was sitting in the shade, angled with a breeze hitting me directly, loaded with water. I was good to go.

The kids were SO excited and Penelope kept squealing because she knew she was going to be able to play.
The plan was to play until lunch time, so about four hours, and get the younger girls to nap before going to my grandparent's house.
Lucy eagerly tried to eat sand, crawled to the water with Matt.
I did go into the water for a little bit but the sun was so hot and I knew after just about 15 minutes I had to get back into my shady spot.
The big kids were busy looking for shells and Olivia actually picked up a crab that she thought was a shell! Matt came back because he said I was looking not so great, and I wasn't feeling so great.
Lucy was totally enthralled with the sand. Seriously, I can't tell you enough how much she loved sand. She was doing her cute baby scream while kicking it and it was the greatest thing ever for her.
Matt tried to buy Penelope but she wasn't having it. She didn't even want to bury him, she was all about digging the hole, though.

By the point, only an hour into our beach adventure, I was feeling really ill. I was nauseous, I was shaky, I had a headache, my gut wasn't doing well and I was mentally going through my crisis check list and it was clear- I had to get back and take more of my hydrocortisone tablets because if I didn't, I was going to land in the emergency room. So I told Matt we had to go and I must have not looked well because I've never seen him pack up our stuff so fast and we hustled. I took a freezing cold shower, took my medicine, chugged even more water (by this point, I had only been up for 3 hours and I had 15 bottles of water), and laid down.

I woke up several hours later and I still didn't feel well but the kids were restless and we decided to just go. We stopped for lunch and I couldn't eat because I was so sick and sure I was going to start throwing up (which would have been bad, really bad) so I just stuck to my ice water and hoped for the best.

Seeing my grandparents was great. I am so thankful we were able to do this trip because it was so important to me that they got to meet Penelope and Lucy.
You can tell Penelope runs the show and poor Lucy is the casual victim.
But nothing a snuggle from mom can't fix.

Some of my best childhood memories are with my grandparents. To the time my grandpa tried to wear my nightgown, to my grandma buying me Jem panties at Montgomery Ward, always having treats for us. My grandparents have the best sense of humor, will tell you like it is, and they have always made me feel like they were so proud of me. It was such a comfort for me to just be there, to talk to them, and to get a hug. I didn't realize how much I needed that.
And I had to get a picture with me, all of my kids and Grandma. I have no idea where Grandpa was, but this picture.. I love it so much.

For dinner we headed over to my Uncle Danny and Aunt Ginger's house, which is just down the road. The kids got to swim in the pool and I wasn't feeling great so I just hung back.
I'm glad the kids got to hang out with my cousins, who are basically their age so they are more their cousins than mine.
I got to talk about my journey and answered some questions about what life is like for me. But like everything, I'm pretty guarded and I don't share everything. I've learned in this year that people like the drama and the crisis of the actual moment but that wears off. Once that's gone and you're struggling with long term problems, people quietly shrink back and stop helping. Stop reaching out. I'm lucky in the aspect that I do have friends, near and far, who check in with me and ask what I need help with. Do I need things for the babies? What about the big kids? Can we help with groceries? It's not as often but it's still appreciated. I try to make a joke out of it because if I don't it's just one more thing to bring me down, but we're broke. We are barely getting by and the amount of guilt I feel because I know it's because of me, because of my health problems, is immense. But I try really hard, though it doesn't always seem like it, to not share too much because I know people don't want to hear it. It's depressing. If people knew what my day to day is like inside my head? You'd be suicidal too. But I'm trying every day. If I could just switch it off I absolutely would because I wouldn't wish this on anyone. Not for anything.

But Day 5 was the Fourth of July. We got to bed early because I wanted to feel better to do something. I went to bed absolutely sick to my stomach, which was concerning because I had taken triple my dose of medication, as I would for the next three days as protocol for the situation, and I didn't feel any better. I went to bed kind of scared but also at the same time thinking, if this is how I go, then so be it.