I’m back!

That would make more sense if I had written here how I’ve been feeling for the past couple of months. But I wanted to understand what exactly was going on before I did.

If you’ve been reading here for long, you know that I suffer from depression and anxiety at times. As far as depression goes, it’s mostly been a seasonal thing up until the past five years or so when things started seeming a little consistently bad. When it began to seem like I was dealing with something beyond my seasonal stuff, I went looking for some professional help. This was in the year after Silas (he’s 5 1/2 now) was born. I saw doctors a couple of times for bloodwork to look into my thyroid function, but despite having all the symptoms of hypothyroidism, those doctor’s told me my numbers weren’t within treatment range and basically sent me home. I didn’t argue, because I didn’t like the idea of taking medication. I believed I could fix myself if I just worked hard enough. I changed my diet, going strictly gluten free, and did have stretches of feeling better. However, I think I have been coping with depression more often than not since Silas was born. Bad things have happened, and I thought that maybe life itself was just getting me down. There’s been a lot of loss these past few years. Family, and friends have died. Friend’s babies have died. I had a difficult pregnancy and birth (Job’s) that left me unable to walk long distances without pain (still). Life has been unpredictable, hard, and just plain sad at times.

Last fall–well fall 2015, after running some bloodwork, my obstetrician put me on medication for my thyroid (early on in my pregnancy with Mabel), and within a week the depression that I had been battling lifted. I felt like myself again and it was amazing. I could hardly believe how much better I felt, and how quickly. When you’ve battled depression, you don’t take feeling good for granted. The real me is a positive, high energy person. I tend to see the good in most things, and am pretty darn good at practicing contentment no matter my situation. Depression robs me of that, of the real me. And I hate it. For what it does to me, and my family.

Needing to figure out what is going on for the longterm, outside of pregnancy, I scheduled an appointment at a local doctor’s office that came highly recommended. Before I could see the doctor, I had to have lots of bloodwork done and saw only the P.A.s. It was suggested to me that I switch to a more “natural” drug, and I agreed it was worth a try. That was early December. My instructions were to take the new drug for at least six weeks, and then repeat my bloodwork and return to see the doctor. I started feeling bad within days of switching drugs. The inside of my head turned into a really ugly place. Bad went to worse, and I should have probably gotten switched back right away, but I wanted to give this more “natural” treatment a real go and have the bloodwork done to see what it did for my levels, rather than just going by how I felt. And I started wondering if maybe my real problem was postpartum depression anyway. Or maybe I was just crazy? I had my labs drawn about a week before my scheduled appointment with the doctor, literally counting the days until I could see her and find out what was really going on. That appointment was Monday this week, and she swept into the room all smiles and positive energy, which I love (inspires confidence!) and told me that my levels were terrible, that I was having an auto-immune “flair” and that I have Hoshimoto’s disease. So now I know. My meds have been changed, and I am already feeling so much better. I can actually get out of bed in the morning without a long mental battle first. I’m not sad about every. single. thing. And, I am eating dairy free (dying!!!!!!) in addition to my usual gluten free diet. My lovely doctor sent me home with instructions on how to eat, how to supplement, and a suggestion that I read this book after I explained that I must operate at 100% (at the very least). No room for feeling so bad!!

I am obeying doctor’s orders and truly thanking God for her, for good meds, and for coconut milk. And, I am knitting HATS. Hats are fast and always needed. I discovered the joy of colorwork last week when I knit Beatrix a Hillier Hearts cap.  That pattern is so fun, so quick, and just all around great. In other hat knitting news, Job claimed Jonny’s sacrificial ribbed beanie, so I knit Jonny a new hat too. That pattern is pretty fun, though next time he’s getting a hat with some sort of colorwork whether he likes it or not, because that is my new thing. Silas requested a red hat with yellow lightning bolts, but I can’t deliver on that one for lack of appropriate yarn or pattern. Instead I cast on a blue Hillier Hearts cap and replaced the hearts with sort of grayish (same as Bea’s main hat color) snowflakes that I improvised. It isn’t very good because there isn’t enough contrast between the yarn colors and snow isn’t really gray anway, and it’s definitely not yellow lightning on a red hat. So, I will probably have to knit Silas another hat when I finish the dirty snowflake hat. No big deal. Hats I can do. Right now I feel like I can do all sorts of things which is so much better than the way the past couple of months felt.

p.s. Sorry for the personal health saga. But I had to tell you. 🙂

p.p.s. Realizing that you might want to know what that toy is that Job is playing with. Those are his bees! He loves them.


Through the Fear

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One of the questions that I’ve been asked frequently over my years of blogging is, “What do you do about ticks?”  My family spends a lot of time outdoors, so I guess it’s an obvious question. My answer has always been, “We check for them everyday, and we hope for the best.”  I understand the concern about Lyme disease, but it never made sense to me to avoid the outdoors because of that risk. Maybe the hope was that I would have some secret for avoiding ticks. I am not a fan of spraying chemicals on my kids, though when I was in forestry school, we all sprayed ourselves without a thought, every time we went out in the field.

I don’t have any good method for avoiding ticks. They are abundant where we live, and we just consider them part of life. I did buy a flock of guineas just before Silas’ birthday in May this year, but as guineas do (based on what I’ve heard from others), our flock went from ten to two over the course of the past few months. But I do think they’ve helped. We’ve seen fewer ticks this summer.

Just before Mabel was born, Silas had an episode of swelling and pain in one of his knees. He told us his legs were broken. We assumed he had bumped it, fallen down while running around in the yard. After a day or two the swelling went down and he stopped complaining. We were caught up in preparing for Mabel’s birth, but I think both Jonny and I were a little troubled. Was this the first time he’d complained? Was this the first time his knee swelled? Or had this happened before?

After we brought Mabel home, Silas’ behavior turned wild and crazy, more so than his typical five year old self. We blamed it on the new baby and hoped he would eventually chill out. Then, in early September, he had another episode of swelling in his knee. This time, I called our pediatrician and made an appointment for the same day. I knew that this wasn’t normal. Examining his warm, swollen knee, she was concerned that he might have rheumatoid arthritis. She ordered labs testing to rule out leukemia, arthritis, and lyme disease. “I see a lot of Lyme this time of year,” she said.

Preliminary results ruled out the scariest scenarios, though his blood work indicated that he was fighting a parasite, or maybe allergies. “Let’s wait on the Lyme results, and go from there,” she told me. The following day, she called with his positive test for Lyme disease. I felt terrible for not having had him tested sooner, for dismissing his swollen knee as the probable result of a bump. My doctor reassured me, “This is better than the other possibilities we were testing for. I can treat this.”

We started him on a month long course of antibiotics, and almost immediately, his behavior became worse. That month was incredibly difficult with Silas, my thoughtful artistic child, wild and explosive, screaming erratically and bouncing off the walls. (And of course Job copies his every move.) We blamed the red dye in the medicine, the die-off of all his body’s good bacteria. I blamed myself. I know the signs of Lyme, why did it not occur to me to have him tested the first time his knee swelled?

We are about two weeks post treatment now, and I think Silas is calming down. I am working to rebuild his gut with healthful food and supplements, and trying not to be haunted by the countless Lyme horror stories out there. (Yes, I have googled, and googled, and read, and read.) We’ve eliminated family ice cream nights, and sugary desserts in general. I’m thankful that I can buy fermented pickles at the grocery store, one of the few fermented foods that Silas will eat. I made a big batch of my favorite fermented food, cranberry relish. It’s really good for you! We eat it in plain whole milk yogurt, and also use it to make cranberry granola.  I pulled my copy of Fermented Vegetables off the shelf and made sauerkraut, though we haven’t tasted it yet. A friend recommended chlorella in smoothies, so we’re doing that every day. Greens, goat milk, bananas, berries, pineapples, sometimes cranberry relish, and always the chlorella (can’t even taste it.) The same friend recommended rose geranium oil to repel ticks, so we’re going to try that as well.

At the end of the day, I can’t change the past, but I can do my best moving forward to help Silas heal.

I’m still working to make peace with nature. It hasn’t been easy for me, the girl nicknamed Nature Girl, no less, in her childhood. Ever since my dear friend Sarah was attacked by yellow jackets on a nature walk with her kids, resulting ultimately in her death, I’ve been battling fear, even two years later. It lurks deep inside me, surfacing when I least expect it. About a month after Mabel was born, I ventured out into our backyard with her, just wanting to get outside, to walk around a bit in the fresh air. About a hundred yards away from the house, I started to feel nervous. I had the thought, “What am I doing out here with a baby? How reckless to have her out here like this!” I turned to walk quickly back to the house, to get her to safety. It took me a few minutes to recognize that my thoughts weren’t rational, but based in fear, in past trauma. So yeah, I’ve still got work to do, but I’m battling it, and I’m beating it.

Every day, I’m more myself, and so is Silas. These things can’t be forced, but I pray that his body heals faster than my heart and mind have.

p.s. I realized I’d written a post all about Silas, without a single photo of him in it! Mabel is much better at sitting still for photos. Here are a few from the other day when he made a big mess pokeberry dye on the milking stand, (Gabe’s dirt bike project in the background.)