I don’t own a scale.
I had one once, about 5 years ago.
I used it so often during that time, as I had nothing better to do. I was home with my 18 month old son in a city I knew nothing about in a home we had bought only a few months before. My Husband was deployed and I had a goal in mind for those 9 months.
Look really flipping amazing in a bikini.
I found a gym that had 2 hours of daycare in the morning and 2 hours in the evening…every day except for Sunday. I signed up and I basically moved in. I bought new workout clothes, new shoes and a pair of headphones. I started by walking and using machines that had instructions on them. I had no idea what I was doing…but I was doing it! I showered at the gym. I watched movies and tv shows at the gym. Some days I would work out for a solid 2 hours in the morning and then bring a book with me and hide in a corner of the locker room, reading until my daycare time was up.
I began eating insanely healthy because I didn’t want my efforts to be wasted.
I gave up KETCHUP, DRESSINGS and DIPS OF ANY KIND.
( probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done )
I drank at LEAST a gallon of water a day. Usually more. The only unhealthy habit I had was consuming 6-8 cups of coffee every.single.day.
At one point I was driving home from the gym and I remember suddenly trembling SO MUCH that I missed the radio controls TWICE when I was trying to simply turn down the music.
I made an appointment with a physician for the next day.
(( I was sure it was cancer or some kind of random disease. Here I was, finally skinny and I was going to die. I tried to diagnose it but WebMD didn’t help much… ))
During my appointment, the doctor asked about how things were going. She asked how my eating and sleeping habits were. I lied to her and said I slept well. I truthfully told her I had never eaten healthier in my life and didn’t even remember the last time I had carbonated ANYTHING or even THOUGHT about eating any kind of food I didn’t make myself.
She asked about my stress levels and if I had been able to have any breaks from parenting lately. I told her I had plenty of breaks – 4 hours at the gym, every day but Sunday. Then she asked about any sort of supplements or drinks I might be using.
“I drink water and I drink coffee.”
“How much coffee would you say you consume in an average day?”
“…um…about one pot per day.”
“One full pot of coffee each day?”
“Well, sometimes two – depending on what kind of day it is.”
Apparently that was concerning because the next thing she did was question my sanity and mental health. She asked about how much longer my Husband would be gone. I forced myself to refrain from any kind of physical reaction. No tears, no sighs, no trembling…
“I’m not sure, but I can handle it.”
Truth is…I didn’t know if I could.
She continued for a little while, insisting that I consider finding a therapist or counselor to help me make it through the rest of the deployment. She asked if I felt like medication might ease my stress levels. And then she told me I needed to stop drinking coffee.
I hated that woman. I refused all of her suggestions and flat out told her that she hadn’t been any help, that I would seek out another physician. She just stared at me and handed me a slip of paper with the name of her therapist on it.
“Just try it.”
I didn’t try it. BUT I did cut back on the coffee. All of my bloodwork and labs came back completely normal and my chances of death by a weird disease nobody had ever heard of were VERY slim. I told myself that it had NOTHING to do with that idiot doctor. I knew I was drinking too much coffee long before she brought it up.
Why did I even bother going??
…I had a scale.
I used it for awhile, somewhat religiously. I watched the numbers change overnight. Sometimes I gained weight while I slept. Sometimes I emptied my bladder and suddenly had hit my weight goal for the week. But eventually, the numbers quit changing. They remained at a near constant. I started to get angry, pushing myself harder and harder at the gym. I added miles to my cardio and upped the intensity in every part of my routine. The numbers STILL stayed the same. According to the scale, I was overweight.
But I couldn’t wear my running shorts anymore.
They started slipping down so far that my butt crack showed.
When Harold left for deployment, I was unhealthy and overweight. I was in size 10/12 pants and didn’t feel comfortable in any of my clothes. By the time he returned, I was a 2/4 and comfortably wore tank tops and shorts for the first time since I was 8 years old.
Yet I weighed a good 30 pounds more than my best friend, at the time.
(( she liked to point that out whenever she could ))
And still, if the numbers were right…I was practically obese – for my height.
So instead of getting angry…I got even.
Finally, I tossed my scale.
I figured if I didn’t know the numbers, I couldn’t answer the questions. If I wasn’t sure of my weight, I didn’t have to answer for it. As long as I felt good and healthy and comfortable, that was enough for me.
And I haven’t had one since.
Over the course of 5 years, we’ve added two children to our family. My pregnancy with my daughter was easy. I was fit and barely gained any weight. I still practically lived at the gym because it was all I knew. It was where I had found my identity and my purpose. The only big change was when I began CRAVING spicy chicken sandwiches from Wendy’s. I ate them as often as I could…which still wasn’t often because the nearest Wendy’s was a bit too far for me to bother.
By the time my daughter was 4 months old, I was back into 4/6 pants and could run 3 miles no problem. I fit into all of my workout clothes and I loved it. I felt good and healthy…physically, at least. I often thought to myself about how wrong that doctor had been. All I had to do was give up a bit of my caffeine and I was perfectly fine again.
But…I was wrong. My health wasn’t anything a scale or pant size could tell me.
In the months following, my Sister and her two young girls moved in with us in our tiny house. We planned to have them stay until she could get a job that would help her get her own apartment. We knew we would be where we were for a couple more years, at least. And she needed a change that we were so very happy to provide.
We were comfortable. Financially, we were in a really good place. We could afford fun things and extras and by the end of the year ( besides our mortgage ) we would be debt free. We were handling life. My son was in preschool and my daughter was a happy, easy baby. I was in shape and our house was spotless. Sure, my Husband and I barely spoke to each other. We stayed busy in our own little worlds and pursued our own hobbies and ambitions. But we weren’t fighting. It was marriage. We were…normal.
We were in a good place and in my mind, it was time to help my Sister get to a good place, too.
And then, everything changed.
Not long after the Girls all moved in, our little family experienced what would become the biggest life changing moment we have yet to walk through. I’ll write about it sometime, if you really want to know the yucky, messy details…but for now…I’ll just leave it at this.
My Husband lost his job.
Suddenly, our world flipped upside down. We quickly went through any and all savings we had. The zero balance credit cards became maxed in a matter of weeks as we scrambled to fix and maintain our home to hopefully sell it. (( we didn’t )) We would be missing out on a scheduled bonus that would have paid off my Husband’s pickup. (( we sold it )) My sister saved us, helping buy groceries and moving boxes. (( so much for giving her a break ))
We were broke. We were embarrassed. We were angry.
I gave up my gym membership and the day I walked out of that building, locker belongings stuffed in my gym bag and a farewell card from the staff in hand…
…that was the day that I realized that the life I had known was gone.
I’ve grown a lot through the years since then. 3 years of life have happened – one day at a time. Some days have been harder than others. Some days I couldn’t even stand to remember our lives before. (( honestly, it still stings a little )) For awhile, I longed for the days of deployment, where everything was routine and I had a purpose. I longed for the distance between us and our friends and family back home. It was easier to tell everyone how fine everything was. It was much, much harder to actually allow them to SEE just how fine we actually were.
In those three years, I became pregnant with and gave birth to our third baby.
He was a curve ball – in every way.
But, at the same time, I believe he was the reason why I finally sought help.
His extremely difficult first year of life is what literally saved mine.
I experienced severe post-partum depression after my younger son, Jack, was born. I rarely slept and hardly ate…and when I did eat, it was junk. I consumed any sort of caffeine that I could get my hands on. I focused on staying busy. I began going to park play dates when he was just 2 weeks old, running on maybe an hour of sleep. I attended yoga classes two times a week – just to have someone else hold my exhausting newborn – and I quickly found a gym I could go to – though they only had 2 hours of daily daycare available.
I didn’t work out all that much. Mostly I just sat down and watched people.
The cafe inside the gym had excellent bagels and cheap coffee. So…I spent a lot of money on bagels and coffee while my kids were cared for by the daycare staff. I listened to elderly gym goers as they chatted about their cats and vacations and medications. I pretended to read as I listened in on teenage gossip.
And soon, it was an expense we just couldn’t justify. So I gave it up.
The bagels. The gym. My life.
One day, after being forced to stop breastfeeding my baby – that’s a whole other blog post – I sat on the floor next to my screaming infant as he laid in his swing. I sat there, completely drained. Emotionally, physically, mentally…I was just…gone.
I sat there and I ached for a cure for his cries.
I sat on the floor and I thought to myself…
“My family would be better off without me.”
And I genuinely believed it.
I wanted to leave. I wanted to get up off of the floor, grab my slippers and my pillow and just leave. I would take enough money to get me anywhere but there. I would find a place to camp and then get a job. I would go away and become a nobody, just living and watching and listening.
My Husband came into the room and stood next to me.
“Come take a shower. He’ll stop crying. Come stand in the shower and you won’t be able to hear him.”
Of course I resisted. I yelled at him. I am sure I called him horrible things.
I’m lucky he loves me.
He took my hand and I was too weak to pull away. He helped me up and started a shower. I remember wanting to talk to him, wanting to insist that I was fine. I wasn’t a child, I could take a shower on my own.
But when I went to speak, my mouth didn’t move.
When I wanted to reach, my hands disobeyed.
He helped me into the shower and then he got in and silently stood beside me as he directed the water onto my hair. He stood and watched me, studying my face as I stared at the grimy tiles that needed to be cleaned. Jack was screaming and I could clearly hear his need for me, terrified or hungry or in pain or exhausted…I wasn’t sure.
He just cried. Always. And I was sure I could fix it.
I just didn’t know how.
Harold picked up my shampoo and popped it open. For some reason, this was the sound that I just couldn’t take. This was the sound that finally made me lose my freaking mind. I began to cry…and not a little wimpy cry.
I cried so hard and so loudly that I began to wonder if I would die right then and there, naked as the day I was born.
My husband wrapped his arms around me and I collapsed into him. I don’t remember exactly what I said or what he said. I’m sure anything I said didn’t make any sense. I’m sure it hurt him. I know that at some point, I told him I wanted to leave. I wanted him to take time to find someone who could be the person I had been pretending to be all those years.
I never should have gotten married.
I should have left for New York City the minute I dropped out of college.
I should have been on my own, not responsible for anyone’s life but mine.
You can only pretend for so long before something goes terribly wrong.
And I had given birth to a broken baby.
And there was nothing anyone could do. I ruined him. I ruined me. I ruined our lives.
I knew what I was getting myself into…and I knew I wasn’t good at it.
And I did it anyway.
Have you ever heard someone talk about post-partum depression?
Have you experienced it yourself or watched a loved one experience it?
It’s a subject I never paid much attention to before Jack was born. I wasn’t afraid of it, I wasn’t aware of how very real it was. Anyone I had known who had mentioned it seemed perfectly fine to me. I thought that it was odd that anyone could ever feel sad about having a baby.
Depression means sadness, right?
Depression is a very real, very scary thing. For me, it nearly destroyed my marriage. First it affected my husband as he dealt with losing his job and feeling like a failure. Nothing anyone could do or say could convince him otherwise. It was exhausting and until we knew what it was that was eating away at him, we were both convinced that we just had a broken marriage.
(( Eventually, after I started medication, he decided to get help also. Medication saved our marriage…it saved our lives. And neither of us are ashamed to admit it. ))
That day in the shower opened our eyes to the reality of depression. It made me realize that I very well could have walked away from my family and never, ever looked back. All the while thinking I was doing what was best for them.
Depression can’t be blamed for poor decisions.
But lack of care for depression?
Lack of knowledge?
Lack of support??
The shame and embarrassment that follows a person with depression is enough to make anyone push themselves to the breaking point, doing their best to fix it themselves.
For most of my 8 years of marriage, I have dealt with depression. And it wasn’t until I finally put my daily thoughts into words that anyone knew it…not even myself. Still, it’s something that very few people understand or know about me or my husband. It’s a subject that makes people uncomfortable. It’s something that makes people look at you and say…
“Darling, that’s just not something we talk about.”
And well…this is me saying…
“Why the hell not?”
Depression is different for everyone.
It comes in different forms and affects people differently.
Depression has a definition and proper symptoms and well-known names and signs. But even when you are looking at those words and telling yourself that you’re fine…because the words have told you so…it doesn’t necessarily mean a damn thing.
Like a scale telling you that you’re overweight.
The numbers don’t lie. If you are what the numbers say, you’re overweight – and it’s your fault.
The words don’t lie. If you’re depressed you are mentally unwell – and it’s your fault.
It took me awhile to finally get rid of my scale…just as it took me awhile to find the courage to get rid of my fear of addressing my own mental health.
If you have dealt with post-partum depression or are currently wondering if it might be something you are struggling with, would you want to talk about it? I may not even know you very well…if at all. But I do know depression. I do know the power that it can have over even the most sane and healthy of us all.
And I really like to talk to people and listen to people and help people.
(( All I ask is that you don’t abuse the power of knowing my email. No sales pitches, no ads, no spam, no porn. I mean, it will really just be a waste of your time. I have no money, no time to shop, no patience for surveys and no interest in seeing other people’s unders or weenies. Thanks, friends. ))
Depression is a real issue, especially for new Mothers.
Don’t ignore it. Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t be ashamed.
Talk to someone. Seek help.
You aren’t ruined. This isn’t your fault.
You are loved.