Category Archives: mental health

Happy

The other day I was off from work, so I took the baby to meet Cameron for lunch at Costco and do a little shopping. We perused Christmas toys and she ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the twinkly lights on display. She ate all the samples they were giving out and even convinced me to buy a bag of veggie stick chips after being so interested in them. On the way home we stopped at a playground near the house because it was so beautiful outside. Bean laughed while I pushed her on the swings and played in the sand area and went down the swirly slide all by herself.

And I realized, as I was driving home, that I was happy.

This kind of revelation probably shouldn’t be a surprise, but it was for me. It’s been a difficult year in a lot of ways. Nearly 6 months of unbearable PPD and anxiety that at one time had me terrified to leave my own house, with or without the baby. Trying to adjust to being a new mom among all the other things that life throws you. This summer was tumultuous and honest to God left me wondering if my whole life was about to implode.

So to take a moment and realize that I made it through all of those things and I’m happy now is a bit of a big deal for me. Because pretty much for the better part of a year I’ve been faking it, one way or another. And part of it wasn’t conscious, it was just normal, until I looked back on the situation and wondered how I ever fooled anyone, least of all myself. But it’s better now. I have a job I like and feel confident in. I’m getting closer to finishing my manuscript. Cameron is finally in a job that doesn’t require his attention 24/7. Bean is happy and upbeat and doesn’t need constant attention. Sure my house isn’t always clean, sure we don’t always sit down to a home cooked meal every night. But we’re still enjoying a beautiful life together. And that’s worth everything.

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Formula.

I know, super engaging title. Roll with me.

I mentioned in my last post how hard it was for me to cope with the ending of my nursing career with Caroline and, further, switching from pumped breast milk to formula. I’ve been wanting to write about it for a while, because it’s something that I’ve been struggling with.

I never was one of those people in the “no formula! evil!” camp. I was a formula fed baby and so was my brother and for the most part both of us turned out just fine. Sure, obviously breast milk is #1 because, well, that’s what we’re designed for. Boobies are for milk no matter what the lingerie industry likes to have us believe. But as an alternative, it isn’t as if formula is poison. Similac has been a trusted resource for quite some time now. And I always knew that, but I had pretty much resolved myself to spending the time and energy required to breastfeed for a year–that was my optimistic goal, but I figured absolutely no less than 6 months. Well, I barely got 3 out of the deal, which upset me a lot. Part of it was pride, because I liked the fact that her nourishment came from me. Another part of it was that I liked it–I liked the quiet time, I liked the fact that it was something that only she and I could do. Obviously it started out rough, but I was proud of the fact that we had worked through the hardest moments and after 8 weeks or so we had finally turned a corner–so I thought–and it was all working out. It never really occurred to me that the reason for the colic/discomfort was potentially due to the mechanics of the breastfeeding and/or the fact that she probably just wasn’t getting as much milk as she needed and wanted. It was a nasty cycle that was feeding into itself (no pun intended) and it really didn’t become apparent until it was already in hindsight.

And of course, once we did start bottle feeding and the change was so dramatic, I had to come to terms with the fact that I probably couldn’t nurse anymore, or at least not exclusively. For a while I tried to hold on to our nighttime feeds, but when a week went by and she woke up every single hour at night we started to sense that she just wasn’t getting full. The first night I fed her a bottle, she slept for 4 hours. So there went my last hold out of night feeds. I was pretty well crushed about the whole thing. I felt like this one thing that I was designed to do wasn’t working and there wasn’t a lot I could do about it.

Then, when my supply started to dip and my anxiety peaked again, I found myself sitting at the kitchen counter with 2 ounces of pumped milk and a hungry baby who was ready to go to sleep. And I didn’t have enough milk for the night. In the cupboard was a box of trial-size formula tins that Similac had sent me in the mail before the baby was even born. We still had a couple little bottles of newborn nutrition ready-feed formula that the hospital had sent us home with when she was being supplemented at the very beginning, too. Cameron, of course, didn’t think twice. Add the formula to the milk, he said. What’s the big deal?

And what was the big deal? Well, I had to deal with the feeling that my body was failing me and Caroline. Wasn’t I supposed to continue making enough milk for her? Why was it failing at only 11 weeks? And then there was the fact that feeding her formula was never in my “plan.” Of course I knew that there was nothing wrong with formula. It’s just that it’s expensive, and I figured if I was going to be home with her, breast milk is free. But still, when I added the liquid formula to my pitiful 2 ounces of milk and fed it to her before she went to bed, I heard this voice in the back of my head and it said you are failing. I felt so miserable and like such a horrible mother–and why? I knew that formula is no big deal. And let’s face it, I didn’t have much other choice. My milk was failing, Caroline was hungry, and there was formula in the cupboard. Easy solution.

As the next week went on and I supplemented more and more and eventually finally decided to just start formula feeding her, I thought a lot about what it was that made me feel so bad about giving her formula when I knew there was nothing wrong with it. And I realized that it all went back to the medical professionals I had interacted with since the time I was pregnant. During our childbirth classes, the teacher gave us a gloss-over of the benefits of breastfeeding versus formula, and I didn’t even really think about it at the time because I was planning to breastfeed. But I realized after the fact that her little “Breast is Best” speech was actually a diatribe about the evil horrors of formula and the havoc that it will wreak on the baby’s incomplete tummy. Our first morning in the hospital when she had lost so much weight, I had two nurses arguing over me–literally–about what to do with her. The older nurse was saying, we’ll supplement her with formula, no problem. The younger nurse, a lactaction consultant, was saying no, let her pump colostrum and we’ll syringe feed it to her. And again, I didn’t even think about it at the time, but some part of me was like, why is this even a question? The baby is hungry and tiny and losing weight, just give her the formula. When we left the hospital the nurse had to go to the pediatric unit to find some formula to send home with us so we could supplement like the doctor wanted, because the labor and delivery unit can’t even keep formula in the unit or they will lose their “breast friendly” status. When I went to her doctor about her colic for the umpteenth time and mentioned that she had been refusing to nurse, the nurse told me “usually when that happens you have to force them to nurse because otherwise they will prefer a bottle.” (And that was when I was still giving her breastmilk in a bottle.) Force her to nurse? Really? Is the act of breastfeeding really more important than the overall health of the baby and the mother? Who cares HOW she is getting the breastmilk as long as she is getting it?

So it finally occurred to me: no wonder I felt bad about giving her formula. Every medical professional I had bumped into since getting pregnant had been pounding anti-formula vitriol into my brain. Aren’t we supposed to trust medical professionals? It came to me that I actually had no idea what to do with the formula and I had to look it all up on my own on Similac’s website. There were no resources given to me when I was pregnant about what to do in the event that breastfeeding didn’t work out, for whatever reason(s). I felt oddly comforted by Similac’s website. It sounded inviting, comfortable, and had lots of disclaimers like “We believe breastfeeding is best, but if you decide to supplement with formula, we have what you’ll need.” It didn’t sound judgy. I didn’t find myself at a website saying “You shouldn’t even be looking at this website. Shame on you. Get back to putting that baby to the breast.”

It’s been several weeks now since we made the switch to formula and while I have to admit my stress is way less, I do miss the nursing sometimes. But, I have to look at my sweet Bean and admit that she is so. much. better. She is growing and learning and is happy and I have to remind myself that nobody should give a shit about how I am feeding her and what I am feeding her except me and Cameron. Still, it hurts sometimes when I come across blogs written by mothers who are lamenting the fact that their baby self-weaned at 2 years and how much they miss it. I have to curb my cynicism and my desire to say “You got 2 years out of the deal. Quit yer bitchin’.” I didn’t choose to stop nursing and I didn’t want to, it was a response to necessity, but sometimes I feel like some women look at formula feeders and think we must be lazy or have taken the easy route out. It hasn’t been easy to take this road, at least for me.

So, in those moments when I get nostalgic for the nursing or feel angry with the culture of anti-formula/mommy shaming, I remind myself of my new year’s resolutions and remember to be present and positive, and I think of the positives to formula feeding. I still get my quiet time with her before bed. She still can reach out and hold my thumb while she drifts off to sleep. She SLEEPS! No more getting up every 2 hours at night–this week she slept 10 hours in a row. I can wear whatever kinds of clothes I want. (My favorite hoodie was missing me!) I can go wherever I want with her and not worry about having enough milk pumped for her or having to get home in time to make more. She can stay overnight with Meme and Papi and I don’t have to spend days pumping a freezer supply first. I can drink as much coffee and wine as I want and I can indulge in my clove cigarette vice every so often. You know, all those bad things you’re not supposed to do anyway. (Hey, I’m a writer. When I get stuck, I drink more coffee and have a cigarette. What can I say.)

Most of all…she is happy. She has been so happy since we stopped nursing and as much as it hurts me, I have to remember that her happiness and health is the most important thing. It would have been incredibly selfish of me to try to continue nursing when it obviously wasn’t the best for her, no matter what the anti-formula doctors and lactivists say. Life is a moving target and nothing is ever black and white.

“A Good Problem to Have”

The future of human-cat relations

This is a post about breastfeeding. Pass it over if you feel so inclined.

The first night Caroline and I spent in the hospital after her birth was tough. Really tough. Cameron and my mom went home to rest because we thought, well, they’re only 2 blocks away, and more than likely the baby will sleep most of the night anyway since that’s what she’d been doing all day. That’s what babies do their first few days, they sleep. I had the nurse there for support, we figured it was a decent solution to allowing some of us to get some sleep. The second Cameron left the hospital, Caroline started wailing. And she pretty much never stopped the whole night. I held her, I cuddled her, I walked around the room with her, I changed her and I tried to feed her, pretty much my entire arsenal of things I knew how to do less than 24 hours into my career as a mother. The nurse would come in occasionally probably to make sure that I wasn’t passed out in the bed ignoring her because she was crying for so long. She helped me re-swaddle her and gave me a different binkie to try and checked her to make sure her temperature was okay. Because my milk wasn’t in yet, feeding her was still a challenge, but boy did I try. All night long. When she first came out at only 5lbs3oz, we were instructed to feed her every 2 hours on the dot, which I did (or attempted) dutifully and happily. It was the first sign for me that breastfeeding was going to be a challenge, but I was still too tired (and too hopeful that it was just “the first night”) to read the writing on the wall.

The next morning when the pediatrician came in to do a checkup on her, instead of being told that she was doing well and we could go home that day, he told me that she had lost 9% of her birth weight in little over 24 hours. She had dropped all the way to 4lbs11oz which is preemie, might need to go to the NICU territory. In case you’re not familiar with what’s considered normal, doctors expect babies to lose about 10% of their birth weight in a week before they start gaining again. Naturally this was a little distressing, but not the end of the world, and the doctor told me that he wanted us to stay an extra day to make sure she could put some weight back on. I held it together till he left the room and then immediately started bawling in front of the nurses who, bless them, were very supportive. I was overtired, physically exhausted, hormonally overloaded, and alone–Cameron was still on his way over with coffee. Most of all I was worried about my baby. Since I was still only producing colostrum at that point, the nurses said we would try to supplement her with some formula so that she could get a few extra calories out of every feeding and that when I could, I would pump to try and help bring the milk in. We fed her formula by syringe at first, and then the nurse whipped out a supplemental nutrition system, basically a supply line that fed formula into the corner of her mouth while I was nursing so that we were killing two birds with one stone–she was nursing and helping bring in the milk AND getting some extra calories. Luckily, the next day when the doctor came in to look at Caroline, she had gained back 5 whole ounces–he’d expected one at the most, so this was extremely encouraging, and he allowed her to be discharged that day.

The next few days were a struggle as my body adjusted to nursing and milk production. On top of the super painful nipples every time she latched on, my milk came in so crazy fast I was engorged almost immediately and spent a good 2 or 3 days in severe pain that left me crying pretty much every time she nursed. Once at three in the morning I got up and had to put hot washcloths on my chest just to get some relief. I also have an overactive node or gland or something under one of my armpits near where the milk ducts are, something that has been an annoyance pretty much all my post-puberty life, and when my milk came in, this thing swelled up to the size of a chicken egg and stayed rock hard for three days. Misery. Pure misery. I remember at one point saying to Cameron that if this was going to continue, there was no way I’d be able to breastfeed for an entire year.

Since then the engorgement has gone down (thank goodness) but breastfeeding has still been a challenge pretty much every day. Caroline is gaining plenty of weight and in fact is surpassing the doctor’s expectations–at her last appointment she weighed around 7lbs8oz–so that’s good, but pretty much every nursing is a complete crapshoot and could go one of two ways: perfectly fine, or completely terrible. I have occasional oversupply and a near constant overactive letdown, and if you’ve ever experienced that you know how frustrating it can be. One of the lactation nurses at the hospital told me it was “a good problem to have” and I wanted to ask if she was kidding me. I know that it’s probably preferable to having low supply or some other issues, but in no way is it a “good problem to have.” It’s a miserable, horrible problem to have and I think it’s the one thing that’s contributing the most to my baby blues, more so than the colic even.

Here’s a basic rundown of how nursing goes. If it’s a good session, she feeds for 5-7 minutes on one side and that’s all. I offer the second side but usually she is not interested and I end up having to pump. Her doctor says that because she is so efficient at nursing and gaining so much weight that this really isn’t an issue, so I figure I’ll take it. If it’s a bad session, it’ll go something like this: I put Caroline to the breast. She latches on perfectly and nurses calmly till the letdown happens, which I can sense because both my nipples feel like they have binder clips clamped onto them for about 10 seconds. I can also tell it’s happening because it’s at that point that the baby starts choking and gagging and unlatches, then starts to scream. Then let’s not forget the milk that ends up everywhere because I have turned into a garden hose with no valve. The crying and constant latching/unlatching means two things: Caroline is not eating, and she’s swallowing air which is giving her gas and contributing to the colic–and usually it means she ends up spitting up whatever milk she did get in the first place. It’s a horrible cycle and gives me miserable anxiety pretty much every time I have to feed her. I’ve tried just about everything that’s been suggested by the lactation consultants and that I can find online, so no advice please, and in any case nothing that I’ve been trying is working. When we get really desperate we decide to pump and bottle-feed her for a few weeks until she can handle the amount or my body regulates, but usually by a few hours into this plan I end up so miserable that I put her back to the breast again because I can’t stand the bottle (not to mention she doesn’t love it either, so bottle-feeding sessions are usually just as stressful as nursing). It’s just not the same and let’s face it, issues aside nursing is just easier than bottle-feeding especially late at night. I don’t have to keep track of pumping all the time and I don’t have to spend time heating up a bottle, I can just feed her. Or try to, at least.

Still, it’s been hard. Really hard. We usually get in a pattern of having a good few days and then a regression happens and she will go back to having problems again. The problem for me is that my brain sees a cause-and-effect pattern: I feed her, and she immediately cries, which means I’m not doing a good job. I know it’s not rational and I know I have little control over the issue, but it’s not easy to cope with. It also means that she is not eating enough to get a full stomach in one sitting, so she still at nearly 6 weeks old sleeps maybe 3 hours at a time, and most days I end up feeling chained to the couch because she has to eat a little all the time instead of eating a lot occasionally. And naturally this snowballs into a lot of other issues that have been hard to cope with, the baby blues chief among them. I guess I thought by now something would have “clicked” and we would have figured it all out and gotten into a pattern, or something. All the people I know who recently had babies say their little one is giving them 4-6 hours of sleep at night and everything is going fine, but I’m still up with her pretty much all night, sleeping in a different bed from Cameron because it’s too hard for us to both be awake all night long, and I’m getting more and more frustrated and upset every day. It’s exhausting when something you spend so much time of your day doing doesn’t go well. I have days where I want to give up breastfeeding altogether because why spend so much time being miserable, and others when the idea makes me break down because I need that time with my little girl and the idea of doing anything else means I’ve failed (again, not a rational idea, but it occurs to me anyway.)

Anyway, as we approach Caroline’s 6-week birthday all I can hope (and hope and hope and hope) is that maybe we’ll turn a corner soon and breastfeeding will become easier, because at this point I don’t see it lasting nearly as long as I’d hoped because there’s simply no way I can continue like this. And that makes me desperately sad. Still, most everyone we’ve talked to say that the first 6 weeks are the hardest and it does, despite all odds, get better after that. So I have my fingers crossed, because at this point it’s really about all I can do.

I was trying to get a smile…all she would give me was a pout!

Learning to Be Alone

I know, I know. Sounds like a strange title coming from a new mother. I know most days in my near future will be spent begging for time alone to drink a hot cup of coffee or go to the bathroom alone. But that’s not necessarily what this post is about.

I was thinking about something that’s been repeated to me about this phase of Caroline’s life. She is learning to be outside the womb. She is learning how to deal with being hungry, being wet, being cold, being sleepy. All those things that she spent almost 10 months taking for granted (as it were) in the womb she suddenly has to learn how to deal with. She has to learn how to deal with being away from me–even if it’s only for a minute at a time.

So while I was thinking about that, another thing occurred to me, and it’s something that I feel isn’t often discussed with new mothers, but that I think could help explain some of why baby blues and postpartum depression happen.

Sure, Caroline is learning how to exist on the outside of my body. That makes sense. But I am learning how to exist with her outside my body, too. I am learning how to exist alone. As an individual again. For almost an entire year of my life I was never alone, ever, no matter what. I always had her inside me, always felt as though I was coexisting with her even before I could feel her somersaults and jabs and punches. I always had somebody with me, even if I did not know her as I know her now.

Does this make any sense or am I a total nutjob?

I keep trying to explain to Cameron that when I feel anxious when I am away from her, it has nothing to do with my trust in him. I know perfectly well that he is more than capable of taking care of her, feeding her a bottle when she is hungry, changing her when she is wet…of course I trust him. He’s a great daddy. I’m not anxious because I don’t trust him. I’m anxious because I have forgotten what it’s like to be alone. And it’s not like I want to be away from her–but in the times that I want to leave her with Cameron and run to the grocery store or visit a friend or do SOMETHING without her…I don’t know how to relax. Don’t know how to not think about her. I literally get shortness of breath when I leave the house alone. Last weekend, at my parent’s house, we left her with my mom and dad upstairs for a few hours and went downstairs to take a baby-free nap and I could barely sleep because I felt like a part of me was missing and it just didn’t feel right. And she was only a floor above me.

I know that this time will pass. Soon enough I will relish and look forward to my time alone. Soon enough I will allow myself to let someone else take her for a while so that Cameron and I can go to a movie or go to a restaurant by ourselves. It isn’t that I don’t trust the wonderful friends who have been offering to watch her so we can have some baby-free time, it’s just that I can’t be without her for that long. And that’s hard to explain right now, I feel rude when I tell friends that it’s okay, thank you very much but no thank you…just yet. It’s taking baby steps, no pun intended. Today Cameron forced me out of the house to spend a couple hours with a friend, and it was hard and I really didn’t want to go…but I needed to. I needed to trust me again, trust that I can exist on my own. It’s an aspect of this postpartum journey that I never, ever anticipated. Nobody ever warned me that I could or would feel this way.

Still, like I said…baby steps. This will get easier and I will learn how to be alone again. And I will actually enjoy it too!

On Raising Our Daughter (Practically) Alone, Sort Of

This summer turned me into a reluctant hermit.

I didn’t want to be this way. I might enjoy my alone time more than some, but I never intended on becoming an all-out loner. It’s just one of those things about living in a town like this, and it just sort of happened. The tourists invaded and I eventually ran out of places to be in peace. So I came home after work and stayed inside. It’s only been in the last week or so that things have been calm enough in town that I can go back to my table at Starbucks.

On the bright side, I’ve been able to (by and large) avoid the kinds of people who ask stupid questions about pregnant women. You know, those lists of “things not to say to pregnant women” and things like that? Yeah, been able to avoid that for the most part. About the worst I’ve gotten is “how are you feeling?” and “Wow you’re really small!” And this is due mostly to the fact that I work in a small office (with only guys) where I don’t get a lot of walk-in customers. So that’s nice.

But it’s also gotten me really scared that by this time next year, I’ll have an 8-month old, won’t be working, and will basically be stuck in my house in avoidance of the tourists all day, every day. My hermitude will probably reach new levels and I doubt it’ll be healthy.

This summer has got me thinking about the fact that Cameron and I will pretty much be raising our daughter solo. And I mean that in a couple different ways. One of them is that this community does not have a huge “young” population. Yeah, there are some people our age having kids up here, but mostly, the people we know are enjoying their retirement in mountain paradise. (Because why wouldn’t you?) There isn’t a huge work force up here other than tourism, so naturally there aren’t a lot of young people with young families who settle here for a long time because that’s where the career is. Most of the people our age that we know work odd hours at restaurants or in retail stores and are single or dating. There’s only one other couple in our childbirth classes, and I am really, really hoping that we can hit it off and I will have someone else to talk to about this crazy journey, which brings me to my second point.

I literally do not know anyone (in person, that I am close to) who has young children or who is pregnant. I don’t have sisters, no cousins close by/that I even know, and none of my girlfriends are at this point in their lives. About the only people I can think of who might remotely fall into this category are Cameron’s step-brother, who is expecting his 3rd son in October, but he and his family live all the way in Florida, and one of his cousins who just had a baby a few weeks ago, but she is in the Atlanta area. (I HAD a friend from college who had a baby last month and I was really excited for that because we’d sort of be in it all together, but she basically cut me out of her life after announcing she was pregnant last year and I have no clue why, so, guess not. Womp.) So anyway, all of this leaves me feeling kind of daunted about this whole thing because I have no idea what I’m doing and I have almost nobody to call to ask stupid questions. I have my mom, obviously, but I don’t think I’m way out in left field by thinking it’s totally different to have someone your age who has gone through this recently or is currently going through it to lend an opinion or just let me cry for no good reason because they’ve been there too and know how it feels. (I love my mom, but sometimes she gets a little bit of a “suck it up” attitude that probably won’t be very helpful.) Luckily, I’ve made some connections with a couple other young moms through the blog network that I can hopefully contact in confidence and ask questions, but again, different than being in person, I would imagine.

The other part of all of this that worries me is for the baby’s sake. How will it affect her if I don’t have a network of other moms with babies for her to interact with? What if I can’t find any opportunities for her to socialize? Will this be bad for her? Agh! My first-time mom’s brain is already overloaded with worry that I won’t give her the chance to bond with other people because I just don’t have the resources. I would hate for her to end up socially nervous like me because it kind of sucks being this way. I wouldn’t say I am socially awkward, but I’m definitely no social butterfly. I get nervous meeting new people. I hate it, but I don’t know exactly what to do to fix it–and I’d really like it if my daughter didn’t end up this way either.

I’m probably over-thinking it all anyway. As far as the baby goes, I am sure that the first 2-3 years of her life are not going to define her social capabilities (unless they do and you can cue my freak-out) and by the time we move back down to civilization she’ll be fine. Without wanting to sound like I am looking for a pity-party (because I’m not), I am worried about me in all of this. I feel like having a network or at least a couple friends nearby to help me get through the stupid questions and the hormone overload and the panic and overwhelming changes I’m about to face would be super helpful. Same goes for Cameron as a first-time dad, because I’m sure at some point he’s just going to get tired of my stupidity (if he isn’t already, bless him), but he has several work peers who have recently had kids and he’s already getting a lot of good advice from them about the whole first-time dad thing (i.e. what do I do with my crazy wife who won’t stop crying), so hopefully he won’t feel so daunted. Key word hopefully.

Did any of you run into feelings like this before having your first baby? Were you the first of your group of friends to have babies and basically had no idea what you were doing with no help to fall back on? How did you deal? Or am I just in the throes of hormone-crazed first-baby pregnancy and need to chill the fuck out?

Speak.

For some reason, the last few days have made me feel like blasting Ray LaMontagne. I don’t know why. Maybe because his music always makes me feel like he’s responding to some great sadness. Maybe that’s what we need right now.

I’d like to move on from the events of last week but it just doesn’t seem possible. As horrible as it is, I think it’s important to continue talking about this. That’s the one theme I’ve heard repeatedly in the last few days: let’s talk. And I’m glad for that. Because this needs to be talked about. Whether it’s talking about making change to gun control, or change to mental health, or whatever, let’s talk. When bad things happen, I firmly believe that one of the most important methods of coping is to talk. Get those feelings out. Because if they stay inside you, they start to multiply and take over like a virus. And that’s when explosions happen. That’s when those feelings bust out and sometimes it’s dangerous.

I’m not saying this as a psychologist or a therapist or anything. I’m none of those things and I’m not trying to be. I’m just saying this as someone who has experienced the depths of pretty serious depression and I know what personally helped me. And I think it’s something very simple that could help many people especially when we deal as a societal collective with tragedies like this.

What prompted me to write this post is an article I read this morning that had been posted on the New York Daily News website. (Someone had posted it on Facebook.) It was about the killer’s mother, Nancy, and how she had spoken to a friend about how Adam’s depression (and whatever other problems he suffered from) was getting much worse. And the one thing that stuck out to me was this:

““Nancy told me he was burning himself with a lighter. In the ankles or arms or something,” he recalled of a conversation they had about a year ago. “It was like he was trying to feel something.””

“It was like he was trying to feel something.”

That, right there, was what rang a big loud clear bell for me. And I’ll tell you why.

I used to be a self-abuser. A cutter. And this is not a big secret. I will tell anyone who asks the truth and the reasons why. I haven’t cut in a really long time but I feel like there is so much misconception and stigma about self-abusers and people who suffer from depression that whenever this stuff comes up and theories get thrown around I feel like raising my voice and saying something, maybe for all the people out there who don’t want to or can’t say something.

Now, before I go any farther I’m going to say this: not every self-abuser’s experience is the same. And I do not mean to generalize when I say what I am about to say. I just mean to point out what happened to me specifically, as it relates to the situation at hand.

The reason that the line from that article spoke so loudly to me is because when I was cutting, I was doing so because I felt like it was the only way I could feel anything. My depression left me in such a numb state that cutting and self-abusing was the only way for me to feel anything. It was, several times, the only thing that kept me from committing suicide. I recall quite vividly once when I was a freshman in college, driving home from school and feeling like I had to do something or I was going to drive my car off the road. It was a very powerful, physically overwhelming sensation. The thing was, I didn’t necessarily want to kill myself. But that thing inside my head, the depression, was overriding all the things in my head that made sense. So instead of driving off the road and crashing my car into the woods, I one-upped that sensation by digging my fingernails into my arms till they bled. For me (and this is very important, please remember, for me), self-abuse was my method of coping with the depression. Most people I’ve talked to, through no fault of their own, believe that self-abuse is a pre-cursor to suicide. My parents were in this category–and please note that I do not blame them for this. Some people believe that a self-abuser is about to commit suicide. And sometimes, he or she does. But several self-abusers I’ve talked to have said the same exact thing that I felt–it wasn’t a pre-cursor to suicide. It wasn’t a cry for help. I wasn’t ready to ask for help. It was simply a way to feel. Anything. Even if it was pain.

And obviously, when we examine what happened to Adam Lanza and what happened at that school, we have to consider that depression was more than likely not the only thing that he was suffering from. But the fact is that someone was aware of what was happening to him. And for whatever reason, be it denial or money or the healthcare system (I don’t know, so I’m not going to point a finger at any one reason), not enough was done to help him. Sometimes you can’t help people. But it’s the exact reason why I believe it is so important to never be afraid to talk. Talk to anybody. For me, it was talking to my teachers (in high school) and a therapist in college, because that resource was available to me. The more I kept things inside, the worse I got. The feelings and emotions dragged me down like a stone to the bottom of a pond. But when I opened up and talked, those feelings escaped me and gave me buoyancy again. Obviously this does not work for everyone. But not everyone out there has depression–but everyone out there is a member of the human race and we are all in this together.

I wrote about this because it helped me to deal with my depression when I realized I was not the only one. That I was not alone. And so my point in doing this is to hopefully create a space for even maybe just one person to read about my experience and say, “I have felt that too.” My point was to hopefully just reach out to one person out there in the cybersphere and make them realize that they are not alone. Nobody is alone. We are all members of the human race, we are all suffering the human condition. But we do not suffer alone. And so–to get back to my initial point–I hope that by saying all this, it might get that one person out there to talk to another person before they bottle too much inside them and allow it to consume them. My hope is that if people talked more to each other we would realize that nobody’s experience is unique in the grand zeitgeist of the human experience and that maybe someday someone out there will turn to a friend and talk to them about their problems instead of resorting to much worse things.