My Tuberculosis Is Acting Up

Since I’ve known Betsy she’s always been a somewhat active person. However, after every hard workout she always comes home with a slight cough. She’ll make a comment that she needs to get checked for asthma while I remind her that anyone who works out hard typically has a minor cough that follows.

Before kids
Circa 2010 (Pre-latent TB)

Fast forward several years and she is asked to have a TB test done for one of the agencies we work for. She goes to her primary care doctor and gets the serum put in her arm and is asked to return two days later to have it checked.

Two days pass and as she is leaving the house I notice the giant red spot on her arm. The following conversation ensures.

Me: “Hey, I think your TB test is positive.”

Betsy: “It’s fine, I’ve had this before.

Me: “Betsy, you have a giant, bumpy, red spot on your arm. I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to look like that.”

Betsy: “No, it will be fine. I’m not worried.”

Out the door she goes and 45 minutes later I get a call from her. “Yeah, so my TB test is positive. I have to go get chest X-rays and go on some medication that’s going to make my pee look like Tang for three months.” Um, cool!

Although my first reaction was slight worry the doctor assured us this happened more frequently than we realize. It is apparently considered latent TB and is very common in people that work with populations from Mexico and Asia. She is now required to have chest X-rays done every couple of years to check for anything strange.

Although now every time she works out and gets her cough she looks at me and says, “Hey, Babe I think my Tuberculosis is acting up.”

What’s In a Name

I’m an introvert. I mean, one can clearly assume this from the blog title.  It often surprises some of my newer friends or colleagues when I share this with them. “But you can start a conversation with anyone.” It’s true, but I think part of that is manners. We all learned how to fake being an extrovert in school. However, once I got to college I realized I would rather spend on weekends reading a new book then going out to a bar or club. In conversation, I typically ask the questions and keep it very superficial about me. Unless you ask my birth stories, then you better grab a chair. I share those with everyone.

I could barely handle my wedding because I was the center of attention. We eloped so I could avoid a wedding. But even after the elopement my wife was set on a formal wedding. I obliged and panic attacked my way to, and through, the day.

Wedding 2

People wear me out. I will eat lunch in my car during an all day workshop or job just so I don’t have to interact with anyone.

I leave most large parties without saying goodbye to anyone. Betsy tells me I’m rude. I tell her my heart races a hundred miles an hour thinking about the goodbye, let alone doing it.

I dread singing happy birthday to anyone in a large group. Restaurant happy birthdays are the worst. A group of waiters singing to someone at my table while various patrons watch or participate, cue bathroom escape and sweating.

If I see someone I know in a store I will probably go out of my way to avoid them. Nothing against them, I just don’t have the energy to maintain a conversation without being rude.

If we’re having friends over and one of them asks last minute to bring a friend that I don’t know, I wonder if it’s too late to cancel. Surly they must understand how much stress this causes an introvert? Nope, they’re here. Cool, I think my kid needs me.

Kids, they are the best excuse for an introvert. You can use kids as an excuse for anything. Nope, can’t come to your party. No sitter. Sorry I disappeared to the car without saying goodbye, Atticus was having a meltdown. Excuse me while I go put my kid down for bed, 45 minutes later Betsy comes to look for me. I just couldn’t bring myself to come back down.

IMG_4395
Sleeping babies are so good.

Except birthdays. Three times a year I have to endure the anxiety that comes with my children being sung to for their birthday.
A year ago I read the book ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ by Susan Cain. It completely changed how I saw myself and other introverts. I’m much less hard on myself when I don’t want to be social and go out. Or when I exit a party without saying goodbye. And I’m trying to get better at being honest with others in my reason for not attending a social event. Although telling someone you can’t come to a gathering because being social requires too much energy doesn’t always go over well. I may just stick with the kids excuse.

“Hi, Princess”

 

Atticus, our two year old has ‘long’ hair for a boy. We love it! It is thick and luxurious and beautifully blonde. Sometimes we put it in a man bun. He looks like a beach bum. But these days he is liking it down. We are often asked when we are going to cut it. We thought about it for a little while but can’t bring ourselves to do it.

Regardless of what he wears, he gets called ‘she’ or ‘her.’ What’s her name? How old is she? Even with a shirt that says ‘I’m a boy’ he’s still called a girl because of the long hair. Most of the time he is in truck or train shirt. I’m not saying girls can’t wear truck and train shirts, but most people view these as ‘boys’ clothes. It doesn’t bother me, and more often than not, we are entertained by it. We gently correct, “Actually, he’s a boy and his name is Atticus.”

Last week we were out to dinner with Betsy’s family. Uncle Jake was holding Atticus. A server walked by and said to Atticus, “Hi, Princess!” Without skipping a beat, Atticus responded with, “Hi!” and a fantastic hand-wave.

Living in Shame

A couple of years into my mental health journey I was listening to NPR and heard this interview by Andrew Solomon. He was talking about the prevalence of peri-natal depression and anxiety. One of the things he mentioned was that most of the women experiencing depression and seeking help are so afraid to tell their husbands that they text (instead of call) their therapist because they don’t want their husband or partner to overhear them on the phone. What the fuck? I mean, really?  Women have so much shame about how they are feeling they cannot tell the person they are creating a child with.

In a typical healthy marriage if you are sick with any physical ailment most likely you’re going to tell your partner. Your partner is going to suggest some type of antidote to treat the condition. Except when it’s a mental health problem then we keep it a secret, hope it goes away, or are told, “can’t you just not think that way?” Obviously, if I could just turn it off (‘like a light switch’- name the musical) I would. You think I want to feel this way?

With each of my subsequent pregnancies I took an anti-depressant for OCD and later in the pregnancy anti-anxieties. I did EXTENSIVE research about the safety of these meds while pregnant. I have OCD, of course I researched the shit out of it. I spoke to midwives, OBs, Perinatologists, and my PCP. I read research studies. Don’t get me wrong, if you can avoid meds while pregnant, great! But not all of us can. And my need for medication was not going to stop me having kids if I wasn’t putting the fetus at risk.

I remember one particular encounter with my perinatologist (they are the doctors that work with high risk babies.) I was asking, repeatedly, about my use of a benzo later in the pregnancy. She assured me it was safe. I mentioned my experience with my first pregnancy and how it came to me using meds while pregnant. Betsy, briefly explained her role in the whole process and the perinatologist commented to Betsy, “You should give a talk on how to recognize signs in your partner and how to be a better support for those struggling.” She proceeded to tell us about how many women don’t have a supportive partner. They live in fear and shame about telling their partner if they don’t feel absolute love for their new baby.

Part of the reason I was able to get my mental health crisis under control so quickly was because I was completely honest about what I was experiencing with Betsy and my parents. During my first week of therapy the therapist suggested Betsy not be part of the sessions because it might influence what I shared. I instead she was involved knowing that I would not be able to tell her alone what I was thinking and feeling. She needed to know and I was willing to tell the therapist with her present.

Betsy, and the rest of my support network (few knew the severity of my situation) were amazing. But this isn’t the norm. Lying to our partners and trying to get through it alone is the norm. And it should not have to be that way.

Four Year Denial

Getting pregnant for the first time, or the second or third, wasn’t a surprise. A lot of planning and obsession went into the process. And when you’re trying to conceive as a lesbian, you’re all in, mentally, physically (at least for me,) emotionally, and financially. When we finally got the positive pregnancy test I was thrilled. Although I worried through most of my pregnancy (it runs in the family,) it seemed a healthy amount of worry until the third trimester. Then it was a shit show. Seriously, ask my wife. I woke up one day at 32- weeks pregnant and wondered what the hell I was doing. It quickly turned into crying for no reason and severe panic attacks. Lying on the floor, unable to function panic attacks. Unable to function in society panic attacks. Betsy took several weeks off of work.

Luckily, we know people in the mental health field. After a few phone calls I was able to get into a psychiatrist and psychologist within the week. I wish I could say it’s that easy for everyone. Most places we called forced us to leave messages or never called back. And those that did call back couldn’t get us in for a month, or more. We went in to see the psychiatrist and I was diagnosed with perinatal- OCD and anxiety. Now, I’ve been to psychotherapy before in my life. Never had I been diagnosed with OCD or anxiety. I had experienced one panic attack in my life and that was on my wedding day. Totally normal. Yet here I was, getting ready to have my first child and in the depths of it all. Thankfully after three weeks of being on the meds and thousands in out of pockets expenses it was well managed. And I’m still on those meds.

I remember being in the fertility clinic getting ready to try for our second child and being told I had to sign a waiver saying I was taking an anti-depressant and could be putting my fetus at risk. Mind you, this was the same clinic that was doing IVF with a 30 year-old’s eggs and a 65 year-old’s sperm. This further perpetuated my rejection of the label. OCD. Anxiety. Not me.

When asked if there were any complications in previous pregnancies I was embarrassed to admit the diagnosis. As if it was my fault my hormones wigged out. This wasn’t a self-caused issue. This was bad luck.

My family doctor mentioned putting the diagnosis in my chart and I immediately responded with, “Yes, I have anxiety but I don’t really agree with the OCD.”

I was, and am often asked, “Are you going to come off the meds once you’re done having kids?” Of course. Pregnancy caused this. I don’t have anxiety and OCD when I don’t have these shitty baby hormones in me. Or maybe I do.

Four years into my mental health journey, and still in some denial, I met a colleague that is a clinical psychologist, married to a school psychologist. We become friends, I would even say close friends, and apparently being friends with a couple Ph.d Psychologists is enough to get you to believe that having OCD and anxiety is okay, regardless of what society says. Blaming hormones doesn’t change the situation. However, being open with friends and seeing them accept you for it, changes the stigma. Talking about it changes the stigma. Having a supportive wife changes the stigma. And writing about it on a blog for anyone to read, changes the stigma. I have anxiety and OCD and I’m still a kickass wife and mom, and I want to change the stigma.

A Nibble 

I have sleep anxiety. I mean, I have all kinds of anxieties but sleep is one of my more common ones. Apparently this isn’t uncommon for moms. I have three kids, one of which is an infant, he wakes up a lot. Plus, I never really know when I’m going to get a good night of sleep. Noa came in the other night at 3AM because she had a bad dream about a tiger in a bathtub. What do I say to that?

I’m frequently tired. And if there is one thing that makes anxiety worse, it’s lack of sleep. As soon as I lay down for bed I think about all the shit I need to get done. I’m super productive at making mental lists of things that need doing. Less good at doing them. Eventually, I start calculating how many hours of sleep I might get if I fall asleep right now. Or now. Or now. I could do this for hours.

I have anti-anxieties that I  started taking at night to help me not obsess about the playhouse I REALLY want to build, or the five thousand dollars I just spent to keep my dog alive (she’s worth it.) However, I noticed I didn’t need a full pill so I began breaking them in half. This was still too much so I further broke the pill in half. Betsy calls it my ‘nibble.’ It’s the smallest fraction of a pill I could take. I could lick the powder off the bottom of the bottle and it would equate to how much I take. But it works. Most likely placebo, but if I don’t take it, I obsess. Betsy will wake up, notice I’m still awake and tell me to, ‘just take the damn nibble.’ And so it is, I take a nibble and doze to sleep.

Friend Interviews

Making friends as an adult is hard. We all know this. We’ve all got values, and political opinions and cultural groups we belong to, finding like-minded people post college requires work. Plus, I don’t like superficial friendships, I want something deep and meaningful. Since becoming a mom I’ve been on a mission to make more lesbian friends. Betsy, on the other hand, has felt like her friend quota is full. She’s got a half dozen close friends and some chickens, she’s good. 

I’m also the type of person that when I meet someone I can almost immediately tell if I want to be their friend. My go to line is, ‘Will you be my friend in real life?’ I’ve had great success with my direct approach in the past. I have two amazing midwife friends, psychologist friends, our primary care doctor ( I have a thing for medical providers) and a fantastic HR representative using that approach. 

Although, once it didn’t go as well. Let’s call her Lucy, which I often did and wasn’t exactly her name. Lucy and I hit it off great at a work training and I went with the ‘friends in real life’ approach. We swapped numbers and she seemed rather enthusiastic about hanging out or grabbing lunch. Although after a week of texting Lucy stopped replying. I can take a hint. But my overall success rate is still high.  

One afternoon I came home from work and told Betsy how I had asked one of the psychologists to be my friend in real life. I was super excited about this one because she was gay, married, getting ready to have kids. I started imagining our camping trips together and holiday gatherings. Sometimes I get ahead of myself. But I was hopeful. Betsy’s response, “I’m not really looking for new friends but we can have them over for a friend interview.” Fair enough, I mean I don’t really know this woman, just that she’s gay, married and has a good sense of humor. 

Our first friend interview consisted of dinner at our house, less chance of the nervous shits. I’d say things went okay. Betsy seemed to like them, besides the kale salad they brought. (Don’t get me started on kale.) The second interview went fantastic. We had brunch and they brought a bowl of fruit. Seemed like no big deal, but it has the good fruit in it; raspberries, pineapple, strawberries. Not cantaloupe and honeydew. What kind of fruit salad has honeydew and cantaloupe? A shit one, that’s what. 

Post second interview, Betsy and I were ready to make the friendship offer. Also known as making plans for the distant future. We committed to a concert that was eight months away. It was a big deal. 

Although now I think Betsy’s just in it for the bragging rights. 

https://tedx.usu.edu/portfolio-items/jenna-glover/

The Chickens

It all started with my mom. She had a lovely Spring decoration on her door that had some cute eggs. She decided to tell Noa that the eggs would hatch. Daily, Noa wanted me to call Yai Yai and find out if the chicks had hatched yet. We thought she would forget eventually but the concern over the hatching of the eggs continued.

My mom, my wife, myself, I’m not sure really who to blame at this point, decided that we should get some chicks. I was on board, I liked the idea of fresh eggs and my kids learning a little about homesteading. So I researched the best egg producing breeds and with the support and enthusiasm of my wife, we got chickens. Four, in fact. Noa named them, Lilo (yellow), Stitch (yellow), Scooter (red) and Hei Hei (‘boat snack!’)

IMG_0819

Except with chickens comes salmonella, and with salmonella comes OCD and hand-sanitizing and ‘don’t kiss the chickens,’ and ‘Atticus, why are you naked on the chicken coop?’ And then I realized I had a newborn and four pooping, salmonella producing chickens. I bought a giant bottle of hand sanitizer, every time the kids were within a foot of the coop we sanitized. I sanitized the door handle. I made sure Betsy sanitized and washed after handling the chickens.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the chickens. Although I feel like I’m competing with them for my wife’s attention. She LOVES the chickens. In a way that one might love their dog. An animal you can kiss and cuddle and don’t typically have to worry about getting a disease from. And they love her. She can get them to follow her to the coop while the rest of us literally chase them in circles. They’re alright, although I’m still waiting on the eggs.

Update: I recently spotted hawks on the roof of the neighbor’s house. I mentioned this to Betsy in passing. She now counts the chickens multiple times when they roam the backyard. Obsessed I tell you.

The Why

A little background…I tried blogging once. It only lasted a few months. I felt too exposed (still do) and then I became a mom to my first child.  And got lost in postpartum anxiety and OCD. I talked about my experience with others and realized so many women could relate. 

Then recently I woke up and decided I need to share my story with others. I want people to see that you can be a badass mom, wife, friend, ANYTHING! even if you struggle with mental health issues. I’m also lucky, I have a wife and friends that love the shit out of me and help me cope, laugh, and get through it. This is a mothering, wife-ing, what-the-hell-am-I-doing, but mostly obsessing blog.