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How to Have a Baby, Lose a Parent and Get Sober All in a Year

This is the post excerpt.

(I’m writing this with our nine month old daughter crawling all over me)

Parenthood stops for nothing, not even death.

Which brings me to this blog. You see, I’m an orphan. At 35.

And one of my “things” is talking to psychics. I tell my husband, D, that its healing for me and he just rolls his eyes and says it’s a waste of money and “how many psychics can I talk to?”. So when I told him over dinner the evening before, that I had a call at noon the next day with a local psychic who was a friend of a friend, he just looked at me and did his ‘flicking crumbs off of his thumb with his fingers’ motion (which irritates the fuck out of me) which denotes he’s annoyed.

And we had the same exchange; healing, waste of money blah blah blah. But I told him this time that I was looking for guidance. He perked up a little. Earlier in the week, I confessed over a plate of Moroccan chicken and massaged kale with tahini sauce and diced potatoes (which was delicious and would not have gone to waste on any other day) that I had a drinking problem. And since then he’s been supportive and also trying to figure me out; depression and anxiety (yes and yes), boredom maybe needs a job (no thanks, I have two tiny bosses that dictate every waking hour of my life just fine), needs a hobby (ok, maybe), needs more friends (have we met? Anxiety plus two children does not a fun time Shannon make). We both decided that I should head to a psychiatrist about my anxiety since I was already on medication for my postpartum depression. But in the meantime, I had my call with the psychic to help calm my nerves and he liked the idea that this time I wasn’t trying to talk to dead people but was instead looking for a path to well-being, so he let the subject go.

The morning of my call, I woke up feeling fuzzy. I had yet another dream about my parents. This time I woke myself up by saying out loud “I don’t have hockey practice” in response to my dream moms question about what time hockey practice was. (I never played hockey growing up). Since I had quit the booze after my startling confession, I was no longer waking up every morning at 3am, anxious and regretful. Now I was sleeping the sleep of comatose. The same sleep I had when I was pregnant – which I’m not! Now I wake up around 5:30 to use the restroom and promptly go back to sleep until 7:30 when Tootsie, our nine month old, wakes me up. So the fuzzy headedness confused me since I’ve been getting much better sleep.

The morning was normal, Ds dad came over with breakfast, hung out with the kids. D went for a walk and when he came back I went upstairs to use the spin bike. Then D and our three year old, Mr. Man, went to Target while I got Tootsie to sleep. And before I knew it, it was time for the call with the psychic! I took Tootsie outside so she would have a new environment to explore and wouldn’t get fussy while I was on the call, which worked like a charm while I waited. Then, one of our neighbors decided right then and there it would be the best idea ever to start trimming up this dead tree that grew on his side of the fence in the corner between our houses. Tootsie was enthralled, the dogs, which I kept inside for this exact reason, started losing their shit – barking their faces off. And then she called. The psychic. And for whatever reason, I decided it was best to have her on speakerphone. Loud enough for my neighbor to hear and most certainly judge me for wanting to talk to dead people.

My visit with my new psychiatrist was amazing. It was everything I ever wanted in a visit with a mental health provider. She asked all the right questions, didn’t need to hear long explanations, no “how does that make you feel?”, she cut right to the chase. I had no wrong answers, she made me feel as if anxiety and depression is the norm.

Moral of the story is she diagnosed me with panic disorder and agoraphobia. Plan of action: just up my Celexa by 10mg! I’m so glad she didn’t layer. And with getting my anxiety under control I should see an improvement with not wanting to drink to deal with my anxiety. But it’s also in how I decide to distract myself and find healthier ways of coping.

I’m so excited to see how my body responds and to move forward.

As I write this, I’m enjoying a brunch with Tootsie who is asleep at my fave brunch spot and I’m loving the alone time. We hired a nanny service as well, which normally would send me into a tailspin of worry and anxiety but I’m so tired and desperate for alone time (Hi, my name is Shan and I’m an only child) that I’ve gotten to the point of fuck it. Thankfully, Mr. Man loved the nanny and now we just have to get Tootsie onboard (stranger danger) so D and I can have child-free date nights again! For a couple of hours anyway.

After my money started disappearing, always blamed on the excuse that he had to buy supplies for work and they’d reimburse me, the ex-fiancée started losing jobs left and right. First it was the restaurant, his reason was that money was stolen from the safe and because he was the manager on duty that night he got fired. I became extremely stressed out because now I was the sole provider. And I started drinking more. The wedding plans were coming along. I had my dress. My parents put a down payment on the venue. He got a job landscaping and eventually his sister was able to help him get a job at a pizza place as a manager.

And then one day I got a call from the apartment complex, the cops were looking for him. Huh? He was supposed to be at work?

Turns out he was spending a couple of weeks sleeping while he should have been working. He got fired again and he didn’t want to tell me.

But now the cops were looking for him. Coincidentally he showed up to my work with flowers shortly after the phone call from the apartment complex. I don’t even remember what he said, I was too busy thinking about how I was once again going to support us and pay for a wedding.

Through all of this stress, my drinking and eating helped me pack on 40 lbs onto my once 110 lb frame. My wedding gown was a size 12. I’d never been a size 12 anything before in my life.

But it just so happened that the local university was conducting a weight loss study and it couldn’t have happened at a better time! I could lose weight for the wedding!

My first weight in was March 2008. 155 lbs. The researcher who weighed me in was cute. My age. It was D.

The concept was eating 1200 calories a day and doing moderate exercise five days a week for 30 minutes.

The weight started dropping and the ex-fiancé got a job with his dad. Thankfully he most likely wouldn’t get fired or steal. But something more earth shattering was heading my way.

Mr. Man has a cold. Peace-out any hopes for a healthy February. The domino effect of illness shall commence and we will all spend our respective week sick for the rest of the month. But seriously, give me a cold all day every day over a stomach bug. So he’s holed away in his room watching Sandlot and Rookie of the Year while I Lysol everything short of Lysoling the humans in the house.

I made an appointment this week to meet with a highly sought psychiatrist who specializes in women’s mental health/postpartum/addiction. Shes not cheap. But D and I agree we can’t put a price on my mental health. I’m part nervous, part excited. I’m nervous about the layering of meds and how my body will respond. But I’m so excited to get better.

I didn’t know that I had anxiety until I was in my late 20’s. My whole life – literally from the age of 6, I had panic attacks. My anxiety was so bad at that age that I developed a stomach ulcer. I was switching schools and the stress of it all was just too much. And it kills me when people ask “what is there to make a kid anxious?” Ummmm, life? An article just came out last week that stated that anxiety is embedded in the cells in our brains and we are BORN with it.

When I was little, I could only describe it as feeling sick to my stomach. So I was lead to believe had a really sensitive stomach – but sadly, my mom didn’t understand what I was trying to tell her. And then when I was a teenager, the anxiety manifested itself into scalp picking – but I was able to stop that by the time I am got to college. And my anxiety was triggered around eating in front of people and to this day I don’t know why. I didn’t have an eating disorder. Once I started drinking, my social anxiety, especially if I had to go out to eat in front of people, melted away. And this was a good thing because after I graduated college, I became a sales rep and part of the job was wining and dining clients (most of whom were men twice my age and were beyond creepy). I’ll never forget my first full blown panic attack though and that’s when I knew I could put a name to it after Googling the symptoms.

I was in New York City visiting Madam Tussauds when all of a sudden, the crowd became too much. The nausea, the sweat, the feeling that I might pass out was overwhelming. I holed myself away in a corner – trying to talk myself out of this feeling. After a few minutes, it subsided but at that moment I knew something wasn’t right. After Dr. Google confirmed that I had had a panic attack, I felt better. A lot less alone.

My mom, she struggled with depression but would never take any meds for it – which frustrated the shit out of me. After my dad passed away, her depression deepened, obviously, but she refused to seek help. When I told her to talk to a psychiatrist she’d snip back “I don’t need to pay for a friend”. Thankfully, it was that response that helped push me to talk to a therapist after my mom passed away; because I wanted to be the exact opposite of her in any way possible.

I think this is day 5 or 6, (mostly?) sober. I had a glass of wine yesterday (hence the mostly) at one of Ds colleagues house for the Super Bowl. I nursed it. Otherwise, I’ve been doing great.

All my life, my mom instilled the fear of alcohol in me, mostly with the threat that it would make me throw up – which is a HUGE phobia of mine (mental note: seek therapy for this, too). Because she knew the family history. So I avoided it like the plague. I didn’t even drink on my 21st birthday. I handed each bottle of beer bought for me by my ex-boyfriends best friend to his girlfriend at the time, or threw them in the trash. The first drink I had was with a group of girls I was graduating Interior Design with. We had presented our final design projects and headed to the Fox and the Hound to celebrate. A round of shots, Southern Comfort, was bought for everyone. I tried to turn it down but everyone gave me such a hard time, so I gave in. It burned. It was gross.

My roommate worked at a restaurant down the hill from our apartment. This is where I spent most of my nights, before graduation and for a few years even after. I mean, honestly, some of those nights were the most fun nights. But I was young and could recover like a champ to be at work by 7 A.M. But I could also spend weeks at a stretch not drinking.

I made so many friends at this restaurant (none of which I’m in contact with today) and I also met my ex-fiancé there. He worked with my roommate and was the sweetest guy I’d ever met. Complete opposite from most of the guys I’d dated before – assholes.

Our relationship progressed quickly. He moved in as soon as my roommate moved out, which was the day of graduating college, we got engaged a year later.

He’d work odd hours – since he was a bartender and manager of the restaurant. But then even after the bar had closed at 2 A.M, he’d stay out. He’d be gone until I’d left for work the next morning. It was weird. A few times I’d try to call his friends when his phone was off but no one had a straight answer.

And then my money started disappearing.

Her name is Chrissy and she is part funny, part takes no shit from anyone and part sees dead people.

I started following her on Instagram months ago after a mutual friend of ours posted a picture of them having brunch together. I clicked on her name, saw she was a local psychic and I immediately became a fan. But I couldn’t pull the trigger and book an appointment with her right away. I had to feel it. Wait for the right moment. And that right moment came when I knew I had an issue with alcohol. Would my dead parents bring it up? Would they yell at me? Would they feel sorry for me? (After all, drinking problems run on both sides) Or would they even give a shit? I mean, come on, they’re partying it up somewhere else caring less that our current president is a shithole (and the biggest inducer of my anxiety. Thanks, Trump. Fuck you.) So maybe I was looking for guidance from them. But I also didn’t necessarily need to hear from them. Anyone who wanted to come through was welcomed.

The first thing she started talking about was my relationship with D. (I just chuckled at that sentence.) He was the right choice for me and he LOVES me. He finds me beautiful, even when I think I’m not. He appreciates my body, especially after having babies. He’s never cheated on me and never will – but not to say he doesn’t think of other women – he is male after all. And that I need to let my anxiety stop trying to find issues with him in order to protect myself.

And then she leapt into the world of anxiety and depression.

It was as if she had lived with me for the past nine months; she told me that I have postpartum depression and that my body doesn’t respond well to my hormones after birth, and that I had actually had it with Mr. Man but it wasn’t as severe as with Tootsie. She asked if I was on meds and I told her I was on an antidepressant and she told me right away that my body trusts it (which it does) but needs to be layered with something to help my anxiety and don’t let my doctor prescribe Wellbutrin. Holy shit! D and I had been talking about me making an appointment later this week to get me into see someone about my anxiety. I need meds, stat.

She touched on Mr. Man and Tootsie; he will push boundaries only to know he’s loved, she will be too trusting and needs to have the stranger danger talk. A lot. My maternal grandmother (whom Tootsie got her middle name from) is tickled pink with her and is her guardian angel. My grandma is also pleased with the domestic route that I’ve taken. No surprise there. That my paternal grandfather, who was a mean son of a bitch is my guardian angel. Great. She was able to tell me that he was an abusive alcoholic (see, told you) and liked farming. Gee, how did I get such a fun guardian angel?!

My dad came through with the message that he was terrified of having a female version of himself and when I turned out to be very strong and independent he freaked the fuck out and would try to deter me from doing certain things because of his abusive upbringing and what his parents did to him. But he loved me more than anything in this world. This was all true.

My mom wasn’t connecting very well. But was able to show Chrissy her sarcastic and judgmental side. Nailed it. Brought up something about sleep training the baby, which she always told me to do with Mr. Man but he still sleeps with D. She must be spinning.

And a cat came through. Good old Honey. We found his ashes while we were cleaning out my parents house and I spread them on top of my parents graves. Weird as fuck but I know they’d have liked it. Also, because another psychic told me to do so.

She said that I have a strong personality and those that get it and appreciate it quickly become my friends. Those that don’t, mock me (I’m looking at you middle school/high school bullies). And right now, my “voice” has quieted and that’s very much not like myself. She saw that I loved writing and writing would help bring a capital identity to myself, it would be therapeutic, it should be MY thing. Those that read what I write are meant to read it at that time in their lives for a reason.

Hence, this blog was born. I’m so inspired that I could help someone. It seriously gives me goosebumps.

After my reading with Chrissy, I immediately felt inspired, lighter, with purpose, like I could do this.

This has been quite a year for myself and my family. From birth to death, depression and anxiety and sobering up. I’m holding it together, in Tucson.