I Have Bipolar 2 And This Is What People Don’t Understand

bipolar 2

I have bipolar 2 disorder. Right now, my psychiatrist and I have finally hit on a combination of medications (several used in tandem) that treat my disorder without unmanageable side effects. Family and friends tell me I look well and seem happy. And I am well and I am happy. But I am not cured. I am okay today, but I might not be okay tomorrow.

Here’s why: mental health disorders are usually chronic. Chronic means they do not “get cured.” They get treated. Right now, my treatment is effective. But the same way cancer can come back, my brain chemistry can warp, twist. It can winnow its way around the drugs that once kept it orderly. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. My doses may need to go up. One drug that worked before may stop working. This is normal, and this is normal because I am not cured.

Psychiatric drugs do not cure. Listen to the ads. They don’t say the word “cure.” They use the word “treat.”

If you have anxiety, you may go through many different treatments. Anxiety tends to be a chronic condition. Maybe sometimes guided meditation and yoga works, but at other times, you need Xanax to get you through the day. This, at no point, means that you are cured. Getting through the day without side effects means that your anxiety is currently treated.

The same thing can happen with depression. For many of us, depression is a ravenous beast, always lurking. It lies in wait. The depression monster wants us, and for many, pills keep it at bay. We are not cured. We are treated. Because sometimes the pills stop working. We need to switch to a higher dose, a different pill, an extra pill, more exercise, more time outside — the list of depression treatments can seem endless, and figuring out your magic bullet difficult.

We are not cured. We are never cured because on people with chronic mental health disorders like persistent depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety have fundamentally different brain chemistry than people without it. This altered brain chemistry causes us to think and react differently than other people. We cannot change this chemistry permanently. It cannot be cured. It can only be treated.

The knowledge that I cannot be cured, and will never be cured, enrages me. I will always think differently. I will always be dependent on pills, and those pills will often stop working. Many of us who cannot be cured feel that same sense of helpless rage. We can’t fix ourselves. We cannot outthink it, we cannot outrun it. We are deprived of one of the most fundamental, the most basic of human rights — the ability to think rationally.

It also terrifies me.

If I am not cured, I could spiral at any time. I could lose everything I’ve carefully crafted for myself: my stable family, my career, my own life. Everything. Bipolar disorder, according to Medscape, has an 11% mortality rate — via suicide.

If I am merely treated, my BPD2 can come back at any time and spare nothing, not even me. In an episode of one of my favorite TV shows, a character who’s long struggled with mental health issues dies and goes to the underworld. Quentin immediately asks, “Did I do it?” He means, “Did I die by suicide?” When I saw this episode, I bawled. Like Quentin Coldwater, I know that when I die, this will be my first question. Did I do it?  

Because it always, always comes back. One day, the pills will stop working. One day, my brain chemistry will veer off the pathways I’ve carefully carved for it. Those of us who live with mental health condition know this. Anxiety waxes and wanes, never cured, only treated. Depression ebbs and flows. Bipolar disorder works the same way. We can only keep the wolves from the door.

So, to everyone else, please stop assuming it gets better.

Yes, it can get better. It can also get a hell of a lot worse.

And when it does get better, we are not cured. This is not a permanent fix. You do not go to the psychiatrist and magically, suddenly, no longer have depression. You do not pop a pill and wave away the anxiety. People still have mental health conditions. Those conditions are merely treated. They are not cured.

The rest of the world needs to understand this. You do not pop a round of pills and decide you don’t need them anymore. You do not visit a psychiatrist once and realize everything’s all better. For most of us, mental health treatment is an ongoing process, a maintenance effort, that will take the rest of our lives.

You cannot expect us to get better.

You cannot expect us to be cured.

In turn, we must give ourselves the space and grace not to be cured. We must accept that we might relapse. These relapses will hurt. They will be frightening. We will need a strong support network and plenty of help to get through them. But with the right medical team and the right help, we can make it through them.

I know all of this, so I’ve made plans for what happens if I spiral. I have people around me who know the early warning signs. I have plans for what to do when those signs show up. I have a good doctor who can usually figure out another treatment. If all else fails, I’ll go back into a mental health facility for a little while. If it’s necessary, it’s necessary.

But if we know we can’t be cured, we need to have a plan in place for our continual treatment. We can’t get blindsided. So we work with your diagnosis, rather than against it. We try our best to understand that our brain works differently, and we must make allowances for it.

That is neither good nor bad. It just is.

And we do not deserve any shame for it.

The post I Have Bipolar 2 And This Is What People Don’t Understand appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Sorry Introverts, Science Says The Key To Happiness Is Interactions With Strangers

Science is telling us we need to put down our phones and…talk to strangers?

Avoiding small talk and interactions with strangers is something many of us find ourselves doing on a regular basis — not because we hate people, per se, but because introverts in particular derive our energy from alone time. Which is great, except a new study says that by being more social and talking to strangers, we’re likely to be happier. So there’s that.

The study, conducted by University of British Columbia psychologist Elizabeth Dunn and her colleague Gillian M. Sandstrom, decided to test whether brief interactions and conversations with strangers could be mood-lifting. So they asked participants to enter a busy coffee shop, grab a coffee, and made half of them strike up a conversation with the cashier.

(GULP.)

Sorry Introverts, Science Says The Key To Happiness Is Interactions With Strangers

Turns out we might be our own worst enemies when it comes to overall happiness because the research shows that connecting with people around us has a bigger impact than one might think.

“We found that people who were randomly assigned to turn this economic transaction into a quick social interaction left Starbucks in a better mood,” Dunn tells NPR. “And they even felt a greater sense of belonging in their community.”

The social interactions they studied weren’t longer than a few minutes, but the results show that a simple conversation with a stranger in an elevator or, perhaps, another parent at the park could certainly increase feelings of happiness and human connection.

So what’s holding us back from engaging more? Well, according to the study, social anxiety, introversion, technology, and due to the fact that many of us are so bogged down with a zillion things to do on any given day, we simply convince ourselves we don’t have the time.

Sorry Introverts, Science Says The Key To Happiness Is Interactions With Strangers

Listen, I’m an introvert. And this admission surprises many people, even those who know me fairly well. I often hear, “But you’re not shy! You’ve done community theater! You’re opinionated and advocate for yourself!” (That last one is courtesy of my therapist.)

And I say yes, yes, these are all true. But I feel like the best version of myself when I’m refreshed from enough alone time reading, writing, binging Netflix for long enough periods that I’ve reserved enough energy to head out into the world. I often describe it like this: I can get on stage and perform as a character or engage in public speaking as myself with no qualms whatsoever. Put me amid the audience later when I’m being asked questions or forced to engage in small talk, and I want to crawl into a hole.

Sorry Introverts, Science Says The Key To Happiness Is Interactions With Strangers

Luckily, Nicholas Epley, a University of Chicago behavioral scientist, says finding a balance is easier than we’d think. “It takes very little to acknowledge somebody’s existence,” Williams tells NPR.

Similarly to the study, we can strike up a brief conversation with people we have to talk to anyway — like the local barista, or a cashier at your grocery store. Not enough to distract them from getting their job done, but just a quick friendly exchange can improve our state of happiness.

The study also suggests putting our phones away because being on them sends a signal that we’re “not interested in interacting with the people around us.” I mean, YEAH, that’s kind of the point for a lot of us?

Sorry Introverts, Science Says The Key To Happiness Is Interactions With Strangers

I don’t know about you, but the thought of striking up a conversation with someone who is doing their job, like a barista or cashier, feels like an automatic “no.” Unless they initiate it, and I feel comfortable responding in kind, I will avoid it like the plague because I suffer from crippling self-awareness and also don’t want to hold anyone up while they’re working or waiting in line behind me.

BUT I GUESS IF WE WANNA BE HAPPY WE SHOULD TRY. Or something.

The mood boost of talking to strangers doesn’t last long, but the research suggests that a happy life is made up of many of these positive events occurring frequently. And yes, human connection is important. Just not as easily or automatically enjoyable for everyone when it’s the humans found within the pages of your favorite book or TV show.

“Happiness seems a little bit like a leaky tire on a car,” Epley explains. “We just sort of have to keep pumping it up a bit to maintain it.”

The post Sorry Introverts, Science Says The Key To Happiness Is Interactions With Strangers appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I Had A Social Hangover

Introverts have a bad rap for incessantly talking about being introverts. We can be annoying, but there is power in understanding and respecting one’s own temperament. And when you finally have a handle on these things, you want to tell people.

So, hi. My name is Mandy and I’m an introvert. I lived my childhood and early adult years without any understanding of why certain things that other people loved left me feeling drained and overwhelmed. I didn’t understand why social events that I honestly enjoyed often left me with a headache. The run-down, tired, worn-out moods I frequently experienced were mistaken for depression and the stress I felt over the need to keep going could push this already slightly anxious gal to the very edge of dysfunction.

I love my family and friends in a big way, but my inner circle is small and sometimes even those dearest to me wear me out. I mean that in the nicest possible way, of course.

Courtesy of Mandy McCarty Harris

Let me repeat. I LOVE MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS. But I also need to be alone sometimes. Finally understanding that this is part of my temperament and not a personality flaw has been freeing for me.

For example, my husband and I recently took our daughter on a road trip. We had the best time adventuring and being silly together. On our road trip we spent a whole lot of hours in the truck together. We spent time with out of town friends. We visited places I had never been and met people I had never met. I love people, but peopling requires lots of energy for me. We had the best time and came home from our five-day trip in time to host family one afternoon, attend a barbecue with friends the next evening, and then host family at our house for the weekend. And it was all lovely. I loved every bit of it, even the chaotic parts. I genuinely did.

Then what?

Then I crashed. Then I was toast. Then I was officially, 100%, without a doubt suffering from a social hangover. Exhaustion, fatigue, a tinge of a headache, and — one that always surprises me — my body ached for no apparent reason. I had zero small talk left in me, and I wanted nothing more than a nap in a dark, quiet, cool room. So you know what I did? I took a nap, gave myself some grace, and let myself recharge.

I had a social hangover, but I’m okay. Today I am me again.

Younger me would have pushed on through, felt frustrated, pushed harder, and wondered how I was to manage the unavoidable anxiety and exhaustion of life. Current me understands that my energy reserves are not infinite. I need recharging and, for me, that comes in the form of time alone. It’s vital, and current me knows that is okay.

I’m grateful for a spouse who understands how important alone time is for me. I’m grateful for a daughter who doesn’t fully understand why I didn’t have it in me to play dinosaurs yesterday but who is more than happy that I’m ready to play today. I’m grateful for the loud house full of cousins and family over the weekend. I’m grateful for a calm and quiet house today. I’m grateful for this goofy family photo from our road trip. I am grateful for rest and recharging. I am grateful to understand what it takes to be my best me.

 

We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners,) daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook pageis here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)

The post I Had A Social Hangover appeared first on Scary Mommy.

This Is What It’s Like To Be The Oddball In Your Family

From a very young age, I knew I didn’t quite fit in with the rest of my family. I was a weird little kid with an overactive imagination. My family was supportive, always coming to my school performances and dance recitals. Even now, they read my work and talk about how proud they are of me. But I don’t think they can really relate to me when it comes to my creative pursuits.

I have always been “the dork” of the family. I’d much rather surround myself with a million books than just about anything else. As a child, my idea of fun was playing library. Even though I had plenty of toys, my most prized possessions were my shelves of Baby-Sitter’s Club books.

My cousin — who was around my age — thought I was a total oddball. Who would rather read than play in Barbie’s RV? Well, I would. Obviously. As my cousin and I played together, I must have suggested playing library (total oddball move), or maybe I asked her casually about her reading habits. She told me she didn’t like to read. She may as well have told me she liked to kill puppies for fun. I was aghast. We spent the rest of our time together playing, but once she left, I told my dad that was our last playdate. EVER.

“She doesn’t like to read!” I exclaimed, horrified at the thought.

During family functions, you could always find me off somewhere on my own. It’s not that I don’t like being around my family, but I was always working on something different than everyone else. I’d find any hidden corner where I could put on my portable CD player and have some space to myself. Sometimes people would find me there reading a book. Most of the time, they’d find me scribbling furiously in a notebook. Or pulling a stack of looseleaf paper out of a folder, re-reading my work.

If I was reading a book, I’d excitedly tell them about the plot. If I was talking about my writing, I was more cagey, because hello, how do you tell your brother-in-law that you’re writing a story where Justin Timberlake falls in love with you? As I would talk, though, I could see the vacant stares of either a lack of understanding or disinterest.

That’s when I began to realize I was the family oddball. No one else in my family got excited about the same things I did. Their normal was never my normal. If I went to one of their houses, I wouldn’t see piles of books everywhere. My normal looks like chaos, books in piles literally everywhere. They never have a million pens laying around, color coordinated to the million notebooks laying around.

And you know what? My family still doesn’t quite understand me. Even now as an adult, I’m still the family oddball. Because I haven’t really changed much as I’ve gotten older. I still enjoy the same things, reading a million books and now I’ve turned that love of writing into a career.

I’m the only person in my family who works in a creative field. One of my brothers works for the government. A few of my family members work in education. Even my parents, who have backgrounds in creative fields, still don’t quite understand what I do. When I tell them I just read a book where the son of the first female president falls in love with the prince of England, they’re confused. Or, if they ask me what my novel is about and I say a teenage pop star and a bunch of boy bands, they try to be enthusiastic but I can tell they’re really thinking, Huh.

But I’ll give my family credit, they always encourage of my interests and enthusiasm. I’m lucky that my family tries to at least pretend to understand all the things that make me the family oddball. It would be easy for them all to totally ignore me or my interests. Thankfully, they don’t. Sure, they don’t get me, like, at all. But they’ve wholeheartedly embraced all of the things that make me who I am. Sometimes that’s the basic bitch who likes to talk about the social media quiz she took. Most of the time I’m the woman who will rant about why you should always read the book before you see the movie. And sometimes you can still find me in a corner typing furiously instead of scribbling my story ideas.

terri/Reshot

That’s the thing about being the oddball in the family. If your family really loves you, like mine does, they will indulge you in your quirkiness. Even if they have no idea what you’re talking about, they’ll smile and nod along. Because they know that whatever you’re doing means a lot to you. But, being the family oddball doesn’t feel as isolating as it did when I was a kid. Probably because I’m more secure now.

Thankfully, I don’t mind doing things on my own. I can find ways outside of my family to do all of the stuff that makes me the oddball in the first place. When my family doesn’t understand me, I have plenty of friends I can turn to who 100% get what I’m talking about. My friends are usually the oddball in their family too, so we’ve bonded over the fact that no one really gets us.

For me, being the family oddball is something I wear like a badge of honor. Sure, it makes me stand out from everyone else. But I was never meant to blend in. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to embrace who I am — the book reading nerd who still loves to sing showtunes. My family knows who I am, and they still want to be around me. So I call it a win.

The post This Is What It’s Like To Be The Oddball In Your Family appeared first on Scary Mommy.

When A Stranger Told Me I Was ‘Brave’ For Wearing Shorts

As a work-at-home-mom, I don’t see the light of day very often. When I do, it’s a just cause to get myself “all done up.” And by “all done up,” I mean changing out of yesterday’s loungers, putting on some denim shorts, brushing my hair, applying some cheap mascara, and calling it a f*cking day.

It was one of those “all done up” days a few weeks ago when I was able to bust out of the doors of my prison household and get my nails done for a long-overdue appointment.

And as I walked into that salon, I felt damn good about myself. As usual, the manicurist and I chit-chatted our way through the hour. But when my nails were done and I went to stand up, she remarked to me, “You are so brave for wearing shorts! I just can’t with my mom bod anymore.”

Say what, lady-who-I-haven’t-tipped-yet?

Now, I’m a “thick” woman. Like most, I have cellulite. My legs rub against each other, and I don’t have anything close to resembling the “perfect” ass. (In fact, I’m nothing but legs from my heels clear to the bottom of my back.) But it’s hotter than hell, so I’m going to do whatever I need to do to feel comfortable and keep cool. Which means I will be wearing shorts despite those who believe shorts withhold some unspoken, designated weight-limit.

After her remark, I could see every inch of her cringing with regret. She had negatively mentioned my weight without thought, and she’s not a cruel being. She began overcompensating with all of the many reasons I was brave for wearing shorts… and it was obvious. In her attempts to make the situation better, she was making it far worse.

Still, I blew it off. People say things without a flippin’ thought every damn day. Hell, I do it. I’m familiar with that sinking, oh-shit-I-wasn’t-thinking-clearly feeling. Therefore, in my book, she gets some grace. After all, if her words did anything for or to me, it was that they spoke volumes of her own insecurities. And for that, I truly feel sympathy for her.

She’s gorgeous, and not that it matters, but she is far thinner than I am. And it breaks my heart that she, or anyone else, feels like they cannot wear shorts or reveal their body. Especially in the sticky heat of summer, because every human being deserves to do or wear whatever it is that they can to keep themselves cool and comfortable.

My Lord, it is hot outside. Wear. The. Damn Shorts.

Even though I’m certain my facial expression told a different story in the moment, when she made that comment, my heart broke for her. Because I used to be her. For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with self-love. Correction: I still struggle with self-love.

When I was eight, I remember covering my body at daycare on our weekly swim days because I was more developed than others. When I was twelve, I purged after meals so I didn’t have to be one of the only girls in middle school with boobs, an ass, and rolls. When I was fifteen, I was told I was fat more times than I was told I was beautiful. When I was 23, my ex put me down because of my weight on a regular basis.

I’ve come to a point in my life where I should feel fragile when it comes to my weight. But I truly don’t have any f*cks left to give when it comes to the matter. Because when I was at my absolute thinnest, I thought I was at my biggest. I should have been wearing all of the skimpy shorts, crop tops, and bikinis my little heart desired, but in my deceiving and distorted eyes, I was “too fat.”

To present a visual of how potent my body dysmorphia was, at that time I was a size three.

The excuses for hiding my body were pretty much all one of the same:

“I’m too fat.”

“When I sit down, I have rolls.”

“My inner thighs have stretch marks.”

”My arms jiggle when they move.”

Did you catch that?… “My arms jiggle when they move.”

Looking back, all I can think to ask my prior self is, who in the fresh hell has arms that don’t jiggle when they move?!

Frankly speaking, I was practicing self-hate for being a human being with an average body.

Now I am the biggest I have ever been when discounting my carrying-a-human-self. My stomach has (no joke) at least one hundred lines of criss-cross applesauce stretch marks, each of them telling a different tale of my unique pregnancies. My belly-button looks like it’s been robbed of all it’s joy and it’s name should be Droopy. I haven’t been a size three since those days long ago when I stood in front of the mirror and repetitively call myself fat, and that’s okay.

Today, I’m a size 12… and that’s modestly speaking. I notice my new curves, what the rest of the world might call “imperfections,” and I still have my days where I judge my body way too harshly. But I have more self-love as a size 12 than I ever did as a size three.

I’m a thick woman, and it’s summer. It is too hot outside for me to cover myself for another’s convenience, and I refuse to do so.

I will be wearing shorts every single day for as long as the weather is willing, because I — because everyone — is worthy of comfort no matter their body type, shape or size.

I am brave for so many things, but wearing shorts is not one of them.

The post When A Stranger Told Me I Was ‘Brave’ For Wearing Shorts appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Shingles Can Happen In Your 30s And 40s Too

It started with a weird rash. It looked like two clusters of bad acne, honestly, but my husband said it hurt. “Should I go to the doctor?” he asked. Thank God I said yes. He called me two hours later. “You’re not going to believe this,” he said, “but I have shingles.”

We’re in our mid-30s. I thought only old people got shingles. I thought shingles was highly contagious (and subsequently flipped out). I thought shingles went away pretty quickly.

Wrong, wrong, wrongity-wrong.

What shingles is

According to the Centers for Disease Control (the CDC), shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, which also causes chicken pox. If you’ve ever had chicken pox, or ever gotten a chicken pox shot, you can get shingles — and 1 in 3 Americans will get it in their lifetimes. The virus goes dormant in your nervous system and becomes active again (scientists aren’t really sure why).

As for it being “an old person disease?” WRONG. Turns out at least two of my friends in their mid-30s have also had the disease. Even children can get shingles, says the CDC. Luckily, you usually only get it once, but some people get it multiple times. There is vaccine available. My husband’s doc said he can get it five years after his infection.

What are shingles symptoms?

My husband started out with some mild nerve pain in the general area where he eventually developed the rash. This is typical. A few days later, he got the typical rash, which in his case, has looked like acne. It can also resemble fluid-filled blisters, and usually only occurs on one side of the body. The kicker, though: it hurts like a bitch, agrees every single medical source and my poor husband. He developed the sometimes-typical “fever, headache, sensitivity to light, and tiredness,” according to the Mayo Clinic. But not only do the blisters hurt. Your nerves hurt. Your muscles hurt. Bear said it felt like he had been scalded with hot water about an hour before, all the time. Yikes.

After about 2-7 days (2 days in his case, as he was immediately treated with heavy-duty antivirals, thanks to me insisting on an immediate visit to the doc), the blisters crusted over. By about a week, the pain had lessened, though he still hurt. 

And about that chicken pox connection …

I had a massive freak-out when I discovered my husband had shingles. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. Guess who has two kids who aren’t yet fully vaxxed for chicken pox (we thought they were up on all their vaccines … we discovered we were wrong when we called the doc to check). Cue the complete mama meltdown, especially after a brief consult with Dr. Google.

Remember: Dr. Google always gives you the worst case scenario.

View this post on Instagram

So this has been my last week of life. It’s sucked in ways I can’t quite convey. This is what shingles V2 looks like. I’ll spare you today’s blisters that have opened up. I’m on a bunch of antibiotics and I’m being closely monitored so that my vision isn’t effected. I’m blind as a bat to begin with so please pray for me. It feels like the worst sunburn of my life and I feel like a vampire as I bob and weave to avoid ANY sunlight bc it brings tears to my eyes and said tears make the two blisters on my lids burn! I’m sharing this bc not all shingles look the same. Trust your gut and keep asking questions until you get answers. I earnestly believe the mixture on my face has lessened the amount and severity of my shingles. This mask has gone on my shingles every two hours while awake for 20 minutes at a time. I started this on Saturday. The clay is a detox, ACV is a major astringent and turmeric has wonderful healing advantages too. I just started my viral antibiotics so hopefully I won’t be dealing with this for a full month, praying for a speedy recovery. #shingles ##shinglesvirus #aztecclaymask #thissucks #chickenpoxpart2 #acv #tumeric

A post shared by @ makingmulligans on

Yes, shingles can communicate chicken pox to those who are not fully vaccinated against the chicken pox. That is, if, according to the CDC, someone who is not immune to the chicken pox comes into direct contact with the fluid from the shingles blisters (ick). You are not infectious before the blisters appear. You are not infectious after the blisters crust over. You are only infectious when the blister actually pop and the fluid comes out and you touch it and then you touch someone who doesn’t have immunity. Ew, ew, ew.

Easily solved: don’t touch your damn rash and wash your fucking hands a lot.

The good news? Dr. William Schaffner, doctor of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and a leading infectious disease expert, told Live Science that kids who get the full complement of chicken pox vaccines are at a much lower risk of getting shingles later in life — as in, 99% of kids who get the vaccine won’t get shingles. One more reason to vax your kids, folks.

So how long does shingles last again?

Basically, shingles sucks ass. It’s like this miserable gift that keeps springing new and inventive presents on us regularly.

Most people don’t get antivirals so quickly, or have a weakened immune system, and so have to deal with this shizz for two to four weeks. I might be forced to move out at that point. One side effect of both shingles and the antivirals that we’ve discovered, and which no one really talks much about? Violent fucking mood swings, some of which have to do with your nervous system being out of whack, some of which have to do with being in constant pain. My husband is mostly exhausted and hurt-y. It sucks.

What about complications?

My husband has been super lucky. No complications here. But they exist and they’re awful. 

According to Drug Topics, about 10-15% of people of all ages develop postherpetic neuralgia, which is when severe shingles pain persists for months or even years after the rash disappears. It can be debilitating, and the older you are, the more likely you are to get it. Lucky for my husband, the CDC says it’s rare in people under 40.

If you get shingles near your face, you can suffer vision loss or encephalitis (swelling of the brain), says the CDC. The Mayo Clinic adds that it can also cause facial paralysis, hearing and balance problems, and skin infections if the blisters aren’t properly cared for.

So how do you treat this misery?

Antivirals, folks. Pill yourself up with some hardcore antivirals — my husband took horse pills five times a day for a week, and a lot of the time, it was hard to tell if his symptoms came from the antivirals or the shingles. You can also take pain meds. While my husband, Bear, stuck to over-the-counter stuff (a magic combo of ibuprofen in addition to prescription Xanax seemed to do it), the Mayo Clinic lists a whole host of other meds for severe pain that your doctor might prescribe.

Thank God we’re on the tail end of this misery. The kids haven’t gotten chicken pox. Bear is still behaving like, well, a bear, but his pain is decreasing and he’s regaining more function, though he still spends a lot of time watching Netflix (he says you know it’s bad when he’s watching the entire Children of Dune series). I’m just grateful I sent him to the doctor when I did. If you ever find yourself with a painful rash, call your doctor. Quick antivirals could make the difference between a week and three weeks of severe pain.

The post Shingles Can Happen In Your 30s And 40s Too appeared first on Scary Mommy.

When You’re A Person Who Overthinks

When you’re the person who overthinks, everything becomes more complex. You analyze every little detail — every text, every glance, every change in demeanor. Like a detective, you try to see behind the curtain, you have a hard time believing there’s no hidden meaning behind what you see. A one-word answer means they’re mad at you. No answer means they want nothing to do with you anymore. Your mind skips right past the logical explanation that maybe they’re having a hard day or they’re busy. No, it’s personal. ⁣

⁣You spend hours typing and re-typing a two phrase answer, shaking as you hit “send,” and re-rereading your message over and over until finally they answer.⁣ Even after they’ve answered, you can’t help but read your conversation again. You wonder why they said “hi” instead of “hey,” and why they didn’t use an emoji. Maybe you should have worded your text differently. Maybe they’re distancing themselves?

You try to convince yourself that everything’s fine, but you can’t. You don’t have control over your mind. It’s a constant inner fight between the part of you that wants to let go and take words for what they are, and the part that’s guarded and mistrusting.

You come off as needy, and you wish people understood that your heart, trust, and feelings have been broken before. You’re just trying to protect yourself. You prepare yourself for the worst in a vain attempt to cushion your soul, because if you’re prepared for the pain, it hurts a little bit less. ⁣

There aren’t many people who understand you, but you don’t blame them — you’re tired of your own mind too. If you’re on high-alert all the time, it’s because you’ve been there before. You had it all. You allowed yourself to be happy. You allowed yourself to love without worrying about the future. You allowed yourself to not over-analyze everything, but then you got hurt. You made yourself vulnerable, and they left.

So now, you’re afraid of change — afraid people will leave you with a broken heart, one more time. It’s hard for you to believe that happiness can happen to you. You believe the universe has a way of rebalancing everything, so even when it’s all going well, you’re scared that it’s going to get taken away. That’s what your experience has taught you, you say.

⁣You constantly feel drained from the intensity of your mind that never stops throwing a tornado of thoughts at you. You wish there was an off-button, but there’s not.

Your anxiety might be trying to protect you. It might be preparing you for the worst so you have a chance to grab a parachute to soften the fall. One of your downfalls (like me) might be to prevent potential heartbreak, so you might distance yourself from the people you love. It ends up affecting the relationships, even though in reality there was nothing to protect yourself against with to begin with. Sometimes it’s difficult for us to believe that people can stay even when we’re not our best self. It’s difficult for us to believe that there are people who actually stay through the storms life throws at us. It feels like utopia to believe that forever friends do exist and that they can happen to us too. But forever friends exist, and for them I am thankful.

You know it makes it harder for people to love you, so you’re thankful for the people who stay, even if they know you need a little more reassurance than most. They’ve seen you at your worst and they don’t run away. They won’t even mention that you’re telling them the same story for the third time today. They listen every time like it’s the first. They hug you quietly when you can’t express the messiness of your mind into coherent thoughts. They stay.

In a world where people run away at the first sight of struggle, find the ones who stay. They’re the keeper who will keep your heart safe.

 

We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners,) daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook pageis here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)

The post When You’re A Person Who Overthinks appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I’m A Divorced Mom And I Can’t ‘Just Take A Break’

Lately, I’ve felt like a damn sponge that has been twisted to death, wrung out too many times, and has pieces of itself falling off and swirling down the drain.

My friends and family tell me it’s a sign I need to take more time for me. I need to “get away from it all.” Perhaps I should pack my bags, travel alone for a while. Take a break. Blow off work and leave my kids with their dad for a few weeks and find myself again.

I know I could do those things. Maybe it would make a big difference and I wouldn’t feel like a moldy hunk of cellulose. Maybe I should just “get away from it all” for a bit. But then I think, What if I get sick? What if I need surgery? What if the roof caves in or the basement flood or terminates eat their way into my house and I need to take care of it?

I don’t need to find myself. I know who I am and what my role is right now. I am a woman who wears many hats and talks about being tired and stumbling quite a bit, but I’m fine. I really am. I have a lot of jobs to do and I’m going to fucking do them.

rawpixel.com/Pexels

I simply cannot take time for me because it is all me. Yes, my kids go see their father — he is a wonderful person and adores them so I don’t worry about much when they are in his care. I am not a true single parent as many people have told me; I am a co-parent so I have that going for me. I should take advantage of the fact that my kids’ father would love to spend a week with them.

But that doesn’t take away the weight I carry around with me, the one that makes me feel like I’m walking through quicksand. My name is the only name on the mortgage. If I don’t show up for work there is no second income coming in to assist with expenses. If I’m having a shitty day, there’s no emotional support available. If I’m sick, there’s no one bringing home ginger ale and saltines and taking care of dinner and telling me to go to bed early.

All the wheels must keep turning. And guess who needs energy to keep them spinning? Me. I am the turner and if I stop, everything else will stop and I will worry even more than I do now. I can’t afford to worry any more than I do now, so I keep going.

When I’m with my kids, I want to be all in. I don’t see them as much as I used to and it feels so unnatural to me. When they are with me, I want to savor it, eat them up, and do right by them.

 

Taking off by myself to decompress for a week feels selfish to me, even though I know it’s not. I know they will be fine, and probably kick me out the door, but my anxiety about not being enough during the hours I see them, much less cutting them short, makes me feel inadequate. I know it’s not the truth. I know it, and yet I can’t relax into the thought of slowing down enough to actually do it.

If I take time off work, I’m afraid I’ll lose ground and never pick back up where I left off. I work when I’m sick, I work when my kids are sick. I rush home after a game to meet a deadline. I work when I go away for the weekend. Again, gotta keep it spinning for fear everything will get rusty in a few hours and stop.

It’s easy for people who are partnered to lecture others about taking some time off and getting some time to yourself to regroup, but I literally am not in the emotional place to do that. Being a single, divorced mother with three kids has its precious moments for sure. But it’s also one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I don’t just have double the worries I used to, my stress level has quadrupled. And the best way for me to stay on top of it right now is to delve into my life and keep trying to manage it all.

If I take time for me, it all has to be scheduled. It’s literally an hour at a time because that is all I can afford right now. I don’t know how to do it any other way. And honestly, at this point in time, that little getaway so many people are suggesting I take because they can see me white knuckling my way through life right now would probably be lost on me.

Right now, I need to be all in. And that means I don’t feel like I can just relax, or slow down, or take off for a week to a tropical island and have hot sex with a stranger while sipping an alcoholic slushie by turquoise waters.

I hope to get there some day, but for now, I need more practice on running my life as a divorced, working, mother of three before I can allow such luxuries to happen.

There’s no slowing down in my life right now and probably won’t be for a while. I’m not here to complain, I would have it no other way right now. This is what I need to be doing and I know the day will come when my kids don’t live here any more. Maybe I can slow down then.

The post I’m A Divorced Mom And I Can’t ‘Just Take A Break’ appeared first on Scary Mommy.

A Open Letter From The House ‘Nag’

Dear Family,

You know how everyone has a place in our family dynamics? One of you is the jokester, always cracking us up and keeping things lighthearted. Another is the endless peacekeeper, always finding a way to mitigate an impending blow up and alleviate stressful situations at all costs. And then, of course, the troublemaker and rabble rouser in residence. You know who you are.

And my place in the lovely little world of ours? My role is, and will always be, the family nag. And while I take little joy in this role, I accept my place in our family unit. And you know what?

Shit gets done.

You are welcome.

You think I don’t want to be the happy-go-lucky one? The one that spreads joy and sunshine all under the guise of a quick witted retort or a side of clever banter? The one that lights up a room with an off the cuff nickname or a snarky joke?

That, dear family, is not my job. I make things happen. Pure and simple.

I go to bed with 42 things that have to get done in my head and I wake up with 22 more added to that list. You know how many of those things will directly affect how your day will go? By my count, 64. That’s right: with the exception of buying Midol (and let’s be frank, everyone benefits from that being ticked off the to-do list), pretty much everything I do revolves around you and yours.

And you know how that comes to happen? My relentless and unmitigated attack on each and every day. And as much as I would like to channel my inner Wonder Woman (and look completely and utterly badass doing it), Gal Gadot I am not.

If you want to ensure that the lives you have grown accustomed to keep on keeping on, then my superpower will continue to be nagging. It’s not glamorous or flashy. I can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound or scale the side of a building, but I can remind, badger, pester, hound and goad the hell out of a day. That I can do with my eyes closed.

That is how your paper gets in on time so you don’t fail and beat yourself up for a week. That is how you remember to put air in your tire so that you aren’t stranded on the side of the road. That is how the fish you begged me for doesn’t end up floating lifelessly at the top of the tank from starvation tomorrow morning. That is how it all gets done. Each and every single day.

Luz Fuertes/Unsplash

Why do I have to use “that tone,” you ask? Because time and time again, it has been proven that one gentle reminder in the most dulcet of tones has no effect. Zero. In one ear and out the other, as my grandfather used to say.

When you finally hear me at DEFCON 1, you seem to have conveniently mis-remembered that it had been preceded by multiple stages of requests. You don’t seem to hear the first request, as kind and pleasant as can be. This, of course, leads to ratcheted levels of requests that also seem to fall on uninterested ears.

And do you know what got us here? My inherent need to not let you fall off of some impending precipice in your life. To put it more bluntly—you know that red box that you see everywhere that has the words IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS? I’m it, baby. That’s me. I’m your lifeline between the world of “oh shit” and “thank you sweet Jesus.” And do you know why? Because of my superpower.

So I will live with those heavy sighs and over dramatized eye rolls. I will ignore the under-the-breath string of swears and obscenities. I will try not to be hurt or believe you when you mutter, “I hate you.” I will do it. I will fall on that sword for all of you to ensure that your day runs like a well-oiled machine.

And through it all, shit will get done. You are welcome.

Your House Nag,

MOM

P.S. I love you.

The post A Open Letter From The House ‘Nag’ appeared first on Scary Mommy.

This Newly Released Children’s Show Is Freaking Magical

Two dads. The daughter they adopted. A troll. And some seriously fun adventures. Welcome to Hulu’s newly debuted children’s show, The Bravest Knight.

The show features Nia, a brown-skinned ten-year-old girl and her parents, Daddy and Papa. Papa is a prince, and Daddy is a knight. Cedric, whom Nia calls Daddy, was a young pumpkin farmer who yearned to become the greatest knight. He grows up, marries Andrew, and then spends his days recounting his journey-to-knighthood adventures to his daughter.

Groundbreaking? Yep. But also–gasp–ordinary? You bet.

The star-studded cast includes T.R. Knight, most well-known for playing George O’Malley on Grey’s Anatomy, as Cedric. Storm Reid, the lead actress in A Wrinkle in Time, plays the spunky Nia. Guest stars include RuPaul and Wanda Sykes. The diverse cast is representative of the characters.

Each episode, which lasts about ten to twelve minutes, leads young viewers through one of Cedric’s adventures. He’s accompanied by his best friend, a troll named Grunt. Together they encounter giants and witches, embark on knightly adventures, and learn important lessons. Cedric lovingly teaches his daughter about growing up through his whimsical storytelling.

Family is family, as we know, but despite it being 2019, The Bravest Knight is the first of its kind. Yes, we’ve seen a few children’s shows, mostly aimed at teens, feature glimpses of same-sex relationships. But for younger audiences? The representation is seriously lacking.

Besides the apparently controversial and recent episode of PBS’ show Arthur, an animated series aimed at preschoolers, where Mr. Ratburn married Patrick, children haven’t seen LGBTQ couples or families in mainstream children’s entertainment. Yet according to The Williams Institute, a think tank of UCLA’s School of Law, there are 700,000 co-habitating same-sex couples, and 114,000 of them are raising children. Of those children, 21% were adopted.

I remember watching the revolutionary episode of Ellen when she revealed to the world that she was gay. Then a year later, Will & Grace debuted. Since those shows, most television series and movies have included at least one gay character or couple, though often they’re stereotyped as flamboyant, sarcastic, and fashionable. Even adult shows and films have a long way to go when it comes to representing American families.

The Bravest Knight takes family a step further, introducing viewers to the normalcy of two dads creating a family through transracial adoption. I admit, I’m biased, as my own family was created by transracial adoption times four. Seeing an animated multiracial family gives me all the feels.

Not only are Daddy and Papa characters on the show, but Cedric is the main character. The knight and prince don’t make a quiet, discreet appearance. They aren’t the token gay friends of the main, heterosexual, macho male character. Likewise, Nia isn’t the cool child-of-color sidekick to the heroic white protagonist. Instead, Nia, Daddy Cedric, and Papa prince are center stage.

Hulu

The show not only doesn’t shy away from putting the multiracial family at the forefront of the action, but creators are making sure the show’s content is valuable to those who watch. Each episode embeds several takeaway lessons.

In episode five entitled Cedric & the Fairies, viewers are introduced to a male fairy named Lucy. One character states that Lucy is a girl’s name. Lucy lovingly replies that names belong to people, not genders. HELL YEAH.

In another episode, Cedric & the Green Leaf, a young girl named Green Leaf uses her small size to her advantage when jousting with other knights-in-training. This episode, and the show as a whole, lacks violence; instead, it demonstrates how children can rely on their problem-solving skills and positive character traits when facing challenges.

Hulu

And can we talk about how precious the relationship is between Cedric and Nia? Daddy commits his time and energy to pouring positivity and confidence into his daughter through quality time instead of a lecture.

Let’s be real. Reading, much less telling our kids a story, can be the last thing we want to do in the midst of our busy lives and long days. (Though if you are the bedtime story reading type, the show is based on a children’s book, The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived.)

Cedric could spend his days doing kingdom tasks, but instead, he shows up for Nia, time and time again. And let’s be real. It’s no easy task to parent a tween.

Hulu

Maybe the show isn’t just for kids? Parents can learn a thing or two, as well. I was reminded of the importance of taking time to tell my children about my own childhood adventures. This included repeatedly “baptizing” my siblings in the swimming pool, writing and performing murder mystery plays with my cousins, and pranking my little brother.

Somehow the most ordinary moments of my childhood are downright magical for my kids. They beg me to repeat the story of when my cousin ran into the barn with her bike, breaking her arm. (Sorry, cos.) Or recount when my dad would get up early on Saturday mornings, pile us into the cab of his truck, and head to the grocery store to purchase rainbow sprinkled donuts.

In a society that values disengagement by burying our noses into our phones and busyness by over-scheduling our families, The Bravest Knight reminds us of what’s important. Parents, myself included, need to take a chill pill, slow down, and smell the proverbial roses. Because the truth is, the time we have with our kids really does fly.

So make the popcorn and gather the fam around the television. Because The Bravest Knight is nurturing and imaginative. And we could all use more of that.

The post This Newly Released Children’s Show Is Freaking Magical appeared first on Scary Mommy.