The Demon that Won’t Go Away: A little known fact about HG

Hyperemesis Gravidarum has been getting a little more publicity lately as Amy Schumer and Kate Middleton have been honest about some of their struggles with it. HG is really severe morning sickness that can end women up in the hospital, on IVs, and with many different pregnancy complications. Many don’t know though, that HG doesn’t always end completely when the pregnancy ends.

I didn’t know about HG during my first pregnancy. I thought that either it was just normal or I was making up in my head the constant nausea and stomachaches that came with pregnancy for me. Almost every day I was bowed over my desk at work(I was teaching full time) desperately holding on to keep myself from passing. Some days I would be almost in tears from the stabbing pain in my side. I couldn’t eat anything but yogurt and cheese and saltine crackers. Believe me, I tried. Whenever I would try to eat anything normal I would vomit with a violence I have never experienced outside of HG. I will never forget the spinach I ate one day when I got desperate for some vegetables. I could not move for the rest of the day without making myself sick again and again and again. My mom and I got in an argument because I didn’t want anyone to come visit for a baby shower because I was in so much pain I couldn’t fathom the idea of trying to keep up with people visiting. But I couldn’t express to people how awful it was because I thought this was just what pregnancy was like for everyone.

Thankfully, I found out about HG before my next pregnancy and I had a much easier time. It was still difficult, but there is medicine for HG and while it didn’t fix everything for me, it definitely helped. I was able to eat and drink a little more, and there were days where I felt good.

Since this last pregnancy, though, I have learned something about HG that makes me angry, and frustrated, and strikes fear and anxiety into me.

It doesn’t always end completely with pregnancy.

I am somewhat lucky in this regard because mine does mostly go away. However, recently my symptoms have been coming back around ovulation and PMS. That’s two weeks out of the month. It varies in how bad it gets, but there must be a huge hormonal shift at one year because lately it has been bad. Just last week, I couldn’t stop shaking, and I was lightheaded for several days, and everything I ate seemed to make me nauseous.

What sucks the most about this is the despair and anxiety that comes with it. I was just working on getting a job to get me out of the house when the week started. At the end of the week, I was shaking and in tears because it was taking everything I could do just to watch the girls during the day, and get enough to eat and drink. As the next week started, it didn’t go away like I thought it would and despair started to take over, I started to feel like it was never going to end, I started feeling consumed with my own inability to just “be better.”

What this means, is that in addition to any PPD or PPA that a woman has after pregnancy, a woman with HG must also deal with the paralyzing fear that, not only might it come back if she were to get pregnant, but it could come back whenever it darn well feels like it. It is terrifying to be at the mercy of a monster that could come back and take over your life with no warning at any given moment in time. My husband has repeatedly had to talk me down from panic attacks about death that I think are arising from feeling as helpless as I feel when this happens. 

Also, having all of these issues while having a baby, or two toddlers in my case, is a special challenge, because falling behind in chores and consistency with the kids is BAD. One week of feeling sick lost us a full day of cleaning, a week of laundry, a whole bunch of organizing and adulting things that needed to get done. So now that I’m recovering from the anxiety of seeing how sick I could get at the drop of a hat, everything in me is screaming out that I need to do a major overhaul to fix everything, and I feel like a complete failure. Now the healing process has to start all over again.

The healing process for me is a variety of stages of working through paralyzing fear of getting pregnant, anxiety attacks about death, getting back into physical activity, trying to learn to be fun or have fun again when you were too sick to even think about having fun, and the hardest part, learning to fight again after you feel like giving up. The mountain of tasks before me seems absolutely impossible while I am attempting to repair my body and mind, but it’s time to take it all back and pick the fight back up.

Take a second to imagine the worst flu you have ever had in your life, the one that made you feel like you were going to die. Now imagine that you feel that for 9 months straight, and just when you thought you were free a year later, it came back for seemingly no reason. That’s what HG is, and that’s why it sucks that it comes back with a vengeance after being silent for a time, like a demon that pops its head out of random corners so you never feel safe. I share this, so that you may know a little more about what HG survivors fight, but also for those women who feel lonely and miserable and hopeless when their HG seems like it will never go away. You are not alone, I see you. 


 

I have a theory about Post Partum Depression. I haven’t talked about it, because I’m kind of afraid I’m going to get stoned for this, but hear me out, ok? I have a theory that PPD is not really a thing as much as we think it is. I think what everyone thinks is PPD is really just a natural reaction to insane amounts of stress brought on by how completely our society neglects moms, especially at the beginning of motherhood.

Let me start this off by saying, I have said that I have PPD, and my counselor agreed. I am not saying this out of some suffering-free glass box. I am saying this out of the heart of someone who curled up on the floor in complete despair, more than once. I had to ask my husband to tell me that he wanted me alive and wanted me around, over and over again because I was so overwhelmed by it. I have been in the trenches, and they were bad.

As someone who has gone through it, I don’t know if I even believe in it. Not because I don’t believe in the suffering, but because I believe that IT IS NOT IN OUR HEADS! The problem is not women. The problem is that women are being put under insane amounts of pressure at the most vulnerable time of their lives, and then people are asking why they are having a hard time.

After birth, women have a wound NINE INCHES WIDE inside of them, and they have just gone through one of the most physically and emotionally taxing experiences in existence. I was lucky enough to have people to watch out for me for the first week after my first birth and a month after my second, and I still had a hard time. I was not feeling better by the time my family had to go back to work and daily life. They just had to go back to work and daily life.

For months after birth, women are enduring huge hormonal shifts, an adjustment to their new body, their new mind, their new life, their new child, and at the same time, most of them are dealing with working, and the ones who aren’t dealing with that are dealing with staying home with other kids, which comes with built in expectations of keeping the house clean, cooking all the meals, getting the errands done, being the best mom ever, and not worrying about money, which is no cake walk when you are dealing with all of these other things.

So moms are overwhelmed, physically and emotionally and mentally exhausted, their entire lives have changed, and everyone is telling them that everything is fine, and this is how it goes, and life is just hard. Then, we blame it on their minds that they are suffering.

My midwife gave me a list of things that would help with my feelings after birth. For a little while I had time to do them, and when I did, they helped a TON. Who has time to do anything extra with two under two though? And the people around me would ask why I wasn’t doing them, but sometimes you are barely holding your own head up, let alone able to follow all the things you are supposed to be doing.

If you are suffering PPD and you reading this, I am NOT in ANY way saying that you are not suffering, what I am saying it is possible that there is NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU OR YOUR BODY.

Women are being neglected and wronged. We do not have a society that supports women who are just starting out, that is, unless they think about having an abortion, then we will help them, either to not have the baby or to “save” it.

Women need a community to rally around them, not for a week or two, but I would say for a year. While all these hormones and changes are happening, women need extra support. Their struggles and their suffering NEEDS to matter. They need to not be told it’s “just depression,” and “maybe they should go talk to someone.” They need HELP.

I’ll just clarify here, this is a symptom of a bigger problem. I am not saying moms need help and other people don’t. I am saying our entire society is built on rushing to keep up with everything going on in our lives, but people are not helping each other. I believe we have widespread issues we are experiencing because we are not taking care of each other. I believe men need to be supported too, I believe children need to be supported. I believe everyone needs more love.

Be the love that changes the world.

Ash Wednesday:What Religious Abuse looks like Ten Years Later

I hate going back to what happened to make me struggle with things. Those of you who know me are probably rolling your eyes. I don’t blame you, because no matter how much I don’t want to talk about it, I do it often. Im still trying to figure out how to exist in a world that seems easier to other people than it is to to me, and I am a little slow on the uptake. Today’s deep dive into The History of Things That Make My Life Complicated, is a kind of abuse that sparked anxiety in me that I have not heard many talk about. That is, religious abuse.

So first of all, let’s talk about what I mean when I say religious abuse. There are a million different definitions for each type of abuse and this is no exception. My definition of religious abuse is anytime religion is used as a weapon, especially to manipulate the person. To clarify, I do think it can be done unintentionally, which I believe about other kinds of abuse as well, and I’ve written about that in the past, but the effect of the abuse stays the same the either way.

I don’t want to get into the exact specifics of what kind of religious abuse I experienced right now. What I do want to talk about is why it matters at all. Traditionally, it seems that a majority of people psychologically associate God with the authority figures who are meant to teach them about Him. What this means is that one’s parents, priest, nuns, Catholic school teachers, are all representatives of God, so psychologically we believe that God holds those traits. The problem with this is that when the representative of God is abusive, the victim starts to believe that God also is abusive, even if they wouldn’t phrase it that way.

In my experience, the most problematic issue that stems from this is a paralyzing confusion about who God is that leads to an inability to pursue a relationship with Him without intense self-examination and careful processing of the past. For example, if something in my life goes wrong, or might go wrong, I have a deep inner conviction that God is punishing me for something, and I have to work incredibly hard through prayer and self-analysis to convince myself that that is not what is happening. If someone mentions evil people, I am immediately sure that I am evil, and I have to re-process the conversation in my head and, so to speak, talk myself down off the ledge. If I miss a prayer for one day, then I become terrified that the entire day is going to go badly and I am going to die so that God can send me to Hell. Sometimes, if I am trying to decide whether or not to do something, my fear about what God does or does not want me to do is so paralyzing that I do nothing out of fear, or worse sometimes I end up choosing whichever option does NOT make me happy, just to be on the safe side.

This was much worse when I had no idea it was going on, and I have seen it in other people who eventually figure out why they are struggling with particular issues. It caused me to ruin chances I had of doing things I really loved, out of fear that God wouldn’t love me anymore if I did them. It caused me to not try to fulfill my dreams because God didn’t want me to have them. It caused me to stop doing things that bring me joy because it seemed like God was angry every time I did something that made me happy. It made me hate life because every single thing I did was so important because I was so afraid of Hell.

The interesting thing about this topic coming up around Lent for me, is that Lent was the focal point of some severe fear and trauma for me. I will never forget the year I was convinced the world was ending because JPII and Terri Schiavo died right before Easter. I will never forget my absolute panic on the way to Good Friday service because I thought that the whole world was going to go dark for Three Days of Darkness and we were going to go to Hell because we were not at home.

I am terrified of lent.

Every year I become convinced that God will rain every kind of suffering He can imagine down on me because “It’s that time of year,” but you know what? The last several years, I asked Him to show me who He was for Lent. He has rained graces down on me that I never could have imagined.

In 2017, I was convinced that my pregnancy was going to end in a still birth or miscarriage and I would maybe die, or if the baby made it, I would die and never get to hold her, because she was due in lent. The night of Ash Wednesday my terrifying pre-term labor got so bad, I really thought I was going to die, but instead I gave birth to an insanely healthy 31-week old baby. She needed some assistance, but nothing like what anyone had expected. She was a total spitfire, bit the doctor on her way into the world, and ripped out her oxygen tube because she didn’t need it anymore. My nurses were so kind to me, the priest who visited me revolutionized my faith life, my body recovered so rapidly that everyone was beyond shocked. I was tired, like anyone would be, but I was the happiest I had ever been. Later in lent, I lost my job, and it was the answer to almost a year f begging God to find me a way to be a stay at home mom. God heard my prayers-big, scary, terrifying, barely even hopeful prayers. I still can’t fathom sometimes how completely He heard me.

Last year was a little less spectacular, but still just as important. He gave me rest from anxiety during my pregnancy so much so that for a few weeks my hyperemesis gravidarum was almost imperceptible. I stayed pregnant until 40 weeks(past Easter this time) and she was perfect.

This year, I got cocky. I thought, oh I’ll do Lent the way everyone else does. God made it very clear to me, “Oh honey, you are not ready for that, I need to hold you for a little bit,” with me in tears on Fat Tuesday. So this year, I’m going to be little again, I’m going to ask God to show me who He is again, because I keep forgetting and doubting Him. But the nice thing is, it was His idea. 😉 So if you think you might need to, this lent, give up your pride. Ask God to take care of you, and show you what you need. He is so much more than we give Him credit for.

Jonah

Have you ever thought about checking yourself into a mental institution?
Felt like you were looking into a mirror on the backside of your brain
And that all you found was the potential for terror and not to mention, horror-
Your own ability to destroy everything good in your own life?

I think the most horrifying moment in life is that one-
When you realize you can actually do something wrong.
When you find out everything is NOT okay, because you could be what’s wrong with it,
Then you know you would never forgive yourself for becoming your own worst.

Everything takes on a new frightening veneer of what you could almost ruin for everyone
If you breathed wrong, or longed wrong, or looked wrong, for just one second
And everything you do wrong isn’t even your fault, but you did it,
Again and again, until the world stopped turning and they threw you off to save thermselves.

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