Wednesday, May 30, 2012

on anxiety

Mental illness is not something that we readily speak about as a society. We'd rather push it back in the furthest recesses of our minds, somewhere it doesn't bother us.

It's disturbing to think of mental illness, to think of schizophrenia, addiction, bi-polar disorder, major depressive disorder, paranoia, narcissism. . . . these are hard things to discuss.

And you know what?? I know someone who fits each one of those diagnosis'. Family, friends, I grew up around dysfunction . . . . or so I thought.

But it's not dysfunction . . . it just wasn't spoken about. So many people suffer in silence, so many souls are crying out in pain just wanting to be validated and knowing they are not alone.

So here I am . . . writing on anxiety.

Because I have it.

I go to therapy every week.

I deal with panic attacks.

I deal with being scared and lonely and afraid and worrying that I'm crazy all the time.

But I'm not.

I'm just like you.

I just worry a lot and think about stuff way too much. I obsess over things. I make things catastrophic in my mind. And I worry about being sick all the time. That's my biggest fear, being sick.

So why am I the way I am??

I think I've mentioned it before, but I'll mention it again, I grew up in chaos. I never knew what to expect. I never knew if my father was coming home drunk or sober, if my mom would snap at us that day, if my brother would go to jail again. . . There was so much yelling and screaming and violence in my home. . . I saw so much, I saw too much.

And I can't take it back. I can't go back to that place and tell my younger self that it's okay, because it's not.

But it's created something of a monster inside of me. I need to be in control all of the time. I worry when I'm not in control. I worry about events that are out of my control.

And lately my anxiety has been through the roof because I separated from my fiance of ten years. And I don't want to be ashamed of it anymore. I can't be. It's part of who I am.

So what a few times a week or month I wake up clutching my chest and reeling from nausea?? And so what if I can't control every little thing in this world? And so what if my heart is broken right now? It will get better. . . I will get better.

I just don't want to do it alone. . . and I encourage all of you to find that person in your life, the one who you know it struggling from depression or anxiety or something else, and tell them that you are there for them. Tell them that you love them. Tell them that you will be there for them.

Because that is the best thing you can do for someone who is coping with mental illness.

And I would like to take this chance to thank everyone who has done exactly that for me.

Thank you,
from the bottom of my heart


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

on saving memories

This post is heartbreaking for me to write. Incredibly painful . . . more painful than anything I have ever had to deal with when it comes to Seth and Down Syndrome and even my brothers suicide.

This post is about the end of my ten year relationship with Seth's father, a man I always thought I would love and trust, someone I thought I would be with forever.

And it's over.

It's done.

There's no more.

There is so much that I can say, so much to be said, about why we are no longer together. We both made mistakes, I'm 29 and I don't play the blame game. We are both hurting, we are both sad that this is the way it is.

And I'm sitting here sicker than I've ever felt, I can't eat, can't sleep, can't think straight to clean or do laundry or try to untangle the mess of thoughts flowing through my head.

But last night, as I was trying so hard to fall asleep, I started remembering. . . .

remembering all those great times together.

And for once throughout this whole process, I wasn't sad, I didn't cry tears of sadness, I cried them of joy.

Cause we had some good times together, some damn good ones.

I remember the first time I met him and I was attracted to him instantly. . . it was magical. The first time we kissed, he didn't kiss me on the mouth, he kissed me on the forehead and it was wonderful.

The day we spend in Chinatown just shopping and laughing, then we went to little Italy for lunch and instead of being upset that lunch was $75 (a lot for us in our young age), I paid the bill with the last of my check money for that week and enjoyed a nice meal with him. We went back to Chinatown, but not before he bought me a Gamecube. No one had ever done anything that nice for me before.

I remember the first time we really went out to eat, we went to a pizzeria in Park Slope, a famous one, great pizza, and he spilled his drink all over my lap and I didn't care. We went to Prospect Park afterwards and met up with some of his friends.

I remember summer nights walking late at night, midnight, 1am, 2am, it didn't matter because we were together. We would walk everywhere, just talking, just being together.

I remember when we came home from the hospital without Seth in our arms because he had jaundice and we were hysterical holding each other.

I remember the movies, we loved going to the movies, all of the movies we've seen over the last 10 years, all the Star Wars and Spider-Man and action movies and geeky stuff that we've seen.

And I thought to myself last night, I'm going to write down each one of these memories and put them in a box somewhere. Because I don't want these memories to be corrupted by what is going on right now. I don't want those memories tainted. They are good. They bring me back to happier times.

I'm reminded about something that Rachel Coleman wrote in her blog, I forget which exact post it was, but it was something akin to "we stayed together because neither of us wanted to do it alone". She said this about raising her daughters Leah and Lucy, both who have special needs.

And truthfully I think that is what happened here. We stayed together because raising Seth apart would have been beyond difficult.

Those first two years were so hard, there was so much going on, neither of us could have done it alone. Neither of us wanted to do it alone.

And that is not a good reason to stay together, it never is, but it is what it is, we are here now, and five years of dealing with Seth and Down Syndrome combined with all of the problems we faced before I got pregnant snowballed to this point in time.

Am I okay?

Not today. Probably not tomorrow. Perhaps not next month.

But I will be.

And that has to be good enough for me right now.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

on becoming a mother

So I wrote my post on Seth becoming a real boy, here is mine on become a mother.

And for the record, a mother is not always the person who births a child. A mother is so much more than that. A mother is one who nurtures, loves and protects a child, whether or not that child is biologically hers.

I suppose I became a mother the minute Seth was conceived, that's how I view life, in terms that it starts at conception. Although technically I was a mother, I wasn't a mother in my heart, in my soul.

I never believed in maternal instinct, I still don't, it was always something that seemed to be missing from me. I never played with Cabbage Patch Dolls and babies like that, never even was sure I wanted to be a mother, not until I became pregnant with Seth.

We had this big plan, huge plan, we weren't go to start trying to have children until I was 30. . . for the record I'm 29 now so that plan didn't work. Seth was a huge surprise. . . him having Down Syndrome was an even bigger one.

So there I was, 24 and pregnant, unsure I was ever made to be a mother. So I did what I do best, research, study and learn all about being a mother. I read all the books, DS and typical, read up as much as possible about everything I could expect about being a mom . . . . . . and you know what it did for me???

Not a damn thing.

There is nothing in life that can prepare you for motherhood. . . . nothing like it in the whole world. Reading all that stuff made me feel confident, but once they placed Seth in my arms, wow I knew I was way in over my head. And some days, some very, very hard days and weeks, I still feel like I'm fighting to swim up to the surface.

I remember the first diaper of his I ever changed. In fact Drew and I did that together, the first diaper . . . and it was a shit diaper. It was one of those moments that I'll never forget, two scared people, scared shitless, with this little baby, trying to figure out how a diaper worked. . . . and we did it. 

And four years later, four very long years later, we are still figuring it all out. We are learning about Hirschsprung's currently and doing all sorts of biopsies for that, we are learning how to deal with a growing four year old who is still developmentally a 3 year old. We learned to deal with croup and sinus infections and stomach viruses and strep throat and pneumonia and ear tubes and tonsil and adenoid surgery . . . . we've gotten so far as parents.

I've come so far as a mother.

No wait, I didn't come so far as a mother, I've become a mother. I'm a mom. That's a huge part of who I am now. And I never, ever want to go back to the time before I was a mother. Who was that person? Who was that woman who was unsure, who didn't even know how to take care of herself? Where did she go? 

Seth has brought out the best in me. I've become the best person I could be with him as my son. I've learned so much. He has been the best son I could have ever asked God for. 

And if I had to go look back through all that hardship, through all that pain, through all that unknown, back to that scared, frightened Shanna who first held her baby, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. 

Seth became a real boy . . . and I became a mother. 

Monday, May 7, 2012


I've been thinking a lot about grief lately and I realized something, it's the great equalizer because no matter who you are, where you are, we have all felt it, we all know of it, we all have suffered some sort of grief in our lives. It's something we can all relate to.

It connects everyone.

We have all felt loss, all felt pain, all have a burning hole in our heart that is aching to be reconnected to that someone who died, or to the idea of life that we never lived, or longing for that one who got away, that friend that we don't talk to anymore.

We all feel it.

Grief is a hard one for me to deal with. I feel grief over the life I thought Seth was supposed to have, that we all were supposed to have together, as a family, and now those dreams have been pushed aside for reality. But the truth is, reality is not so bad, in fact reality is good. I love my son, and while sometimes I have those feelings of grief well up, they remind me of all Seth has been through to get where he is, of all that he has accomplished.

I also have grief over my brother's death. My brother committing suicide in fact. I grieve the man that he would have become, I grieve every birthday past my 27th one that I am now older than my big brother. I grieve for the uncle that my son will never know, for the son that my parents lost, for the brother that will no longer be there for love and support.

And grief is a funny thing, it binds us all together. I was on the bus the other day and the bus driver just loves Seth. And she said that I was lucky to have him. And I am. But at that moment I didn't feel very lucky. I was sick, Seth and I were coming home from yet another doctors appointment, we were tired and hungry and not in a great mood at all, and this woman was telling me I was lucky.

And I ask her if she had any children. "Yes" she said, "a son. He's gone now". Her son passed away in a car accident when he was 20 years old. 20. 20 years old. So much life ahead of him gone. And I told her that my brother was gone as well, gone at 27, and we connected. Because we all know grief. It's a pain that never, ever goes away. Time doesn't heal all wounds. It still feels like a stabbing pain in my heart when I think of my brother, when I see the image of his face in my head.

So yes I am damn lucky to have my child. And I assured that woman that she would see her son one day, that he was just waiting up there for her, because that is what I truly believe. Don't ask me if I believe in Heaven or Hell, I couldn't truly tell you one way or the other, but I believe that those who love us are somewhere, and that they see us going through our lives.

I can't ever imagine what it must feel like to lose a child. I can't imagine how my mom feels and I can't imagine how that woman on the bus feels. But I do know that grief makes us human, feeling is one of those things that reassures me that I'm still alive, that I still have passion, that I still have a heart, that God is still with me. Because if I didn't feel I would be. I would cease to exist. Drew calls me a bleeding heart, I say let it bleed. I'm a sensitive, emotional person and I'd rather be this way than not feel at all.

So Seth and I got off that bus and Seth gave the bus driver kisses and waves and a hug. And I remembered something else, something so important to grief . . . . hope and life and love.

It reminds me that we grieve because we love so deeply. And I would feel grief a million times over again before ever giving up the feeling of love, because even though it hurts, even though your heart feels like it's never going to heal and there's a giant hole in it, love is always worth it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

on becoming a real boy

Dear Seth,

When did you become a real boy? I think of the story of Pinocchio and am inspired to write a story about my own wooden puppet, the one that  became a real boy one day.

So when was it over the last two years that you became alive?

One day I was changing diapers, bathing you, feeding you, dressing you, being the puppeteer, and the next you decided you wanted to do it all on your own. . . . and you do. You feed yourself, you are fully potty trained during the day, you bathe yourself, you even try and sometimes succeed in dressing yourself. You do it all Seth. There are no more strings attached. And I'm kind of missing holding them but I'm so proud of you for letting go, for becoming, for coming into your own independence.

Two days ago we took a long walk, shopping along the avenue, and you walked by my side and by your aunts and grandma the whole way. You listened, you discovered, you learned, you asked questions and got answers. You even insisted on stopping and looking at items that interested you. You exuded life, personality, wonderment. There was nothing passive about your existence, about your thoughts, feelings, wants and needs.

You had passion.

You made yourself known.

So I don't know exactly when this  big change happened, when you became "a real boy" but it has brought us nothing but utter happiness and joy. We are in love with everything you are, all that you want to be and all that you will become.

You are inspired and you instill inspiration in all of those around you.

In so many ways I was terrified that you would stay that wooden puppet forever, to be manipulated by others but never having free will or personality or emotion.

I never wanted you to lead a life of passivity Seth, and from Day One I have taught you to fight and be stubborn.

I now have proof that you took those lessons to heart. You are most certainly a real boy, and I'm so glad your're mine.