The house has been cleaned, de-cluttered and organized to the point of being useless. If everything is put away, how am I supposed to find it?

We are moving.

I am pregnant. Again.

I’m also not working.

It has been an eventful few months, culminating in our decision to leave the area where we’ve lived (individually and together) for 13 years.

You’ll recall my little depressive episode back in the fall. I’m being humorous, minimizing it, but it shook me terribly. A demon I thought I had under control with therapy and medication woke from its slumber with a vengeance. I landed in the ER at one point because I stood in front of our stupid Keurig coffee machine and could not remember the steps for using it. I have no idea how long I stood there, trying to remember what I came into the kitchen to do. My husband called and I couldn’t form sentences. Those commercials for anti-depressants show that little grey cloud following you around or a woman looking longingly out of a rainy window. They don’t tell you about losing all higher brain function, wanting to curl up in the fetal position and die while a doctor asks you who the president is and orders an MRI to make sure you didn’t have a stroke at the ripe old age of 35.

I made it through that incident and with therapy and medication adjustments. My husband and I took a trip to Ireland, something we had planned to do for our 5th anniversary the year before but too many other things got in the way. I love Ireland, and I think it loves me. The air makes it feel like my lungs open wider, the dampness is great for my skin (but terrible for my hair) and the music and beer make me so happy. And I love the soup and brown bread. I might open an irish soup and brown bread restaurant here in the states. I’m taking name suggestions.

My therapist and I had been working on figuring out why I had this particular break, at this particular moment in time. There were a number of stressors: kids, money, commutes, jobs, work travel. My life was out of whack and I knew it, but I was doing my best to hold it together with scotch tape and rubber bands. But I was exhausted and I was very unhappy at work. And like a cat chasing its tail the cycle just continued until I collapsed in a heap.

I was on a leave of absence from work while our trip, and getting away from the day to day provided some perspective and clarity. I resigned my position. This was not as easy as it might seem- my income was much needed. I made good money, slightly more than my husband. And where we live is very, very expensive. Two kids in daycare alone costs us almost $30,000 per year.

Between my husband’s job and some consulting work we’ve both been doing we have been able to make it work. I’ve kept the girls in school because frankly I expected to take a little time off and then find something new, perhaps a step down on the ladder but better for my work-life balance.

But then we found out I am pregnant. We were stunned. This was not planned. I had always wanted a third but the timing was near-disastrous. We walked around in a daze for a while before it sunk in. We are ultimately very excited for this baby, but I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a rough couple of days.

We’ve been talking about leaving DC for a while now (full disclosure: we live in Maryland, about a mile from the DC border. To some of you this is an important distinction) but that’s easier said than done. We bought our home at the height of the housing boom and only recently is it worth more than we paid. This is also a very difficult area to leave- the people are so smart, the schools are excellent, the cultural offerings have no equal. It is an amazing place to raise children. But that all comes at steep price in terms of cost of living and the worst traffic in the nation. My husband works 13 miles from our house, and a 90 minute commute home is relatively common.

We have friends, family, a support system here. But still we feel like we aren’t being fair to ourselves or to the girls. Providing for your family is one thing, but providing for them to point of not seeing them is another issue entirely. I don’t want them growing up thinking that work and money is everything, and that’s the message I feel they’ve been getting.

So we’re leaving. This was not easy, a decision almost a year in the making. Charlottesville is about two hours away, nestled near the Shenandoah in a pretty little pocket of Virginia. Thanks to Mr. Jefferson and UVA it is a vibrant college town with a booming wine industry. It has many of the qualities we love about DC- history, intellectualism, educational opportunities. Good restaurants, used book stores, antique shops- it’s a great small city.

Our house hits the market on Friday. With any luck we will be in Charlottesville by June. We will rent for a year, make sure this works for us, and then hopefully buy a home. Maeve will start kindergarten there, Bridget can go to a pre-school that costs 30% less than what it does up here, and we shall see what happens with my work situation and baby Gus*. I do plan to go back to work, I will truly lose my mind if I don’t, but at this point it will have to wait until fall.

So much is happening but all of it is good. I am looking forward to the change of scenery and so are the girls. Maeve is telling everyone that we are moving so we can have a house that fits a bunk bed. The baby and I will have the opportunity to explore a new place together. Bridget will have a whole new set of people she can boss around.

Change is good.

*Baby is due August 2nd, hence Gus. It is another girl, so that name probably won’t stick.

Dear Sappy

Here at Braevehearts we aren’t all depression all the time. Because that would be depressing. So I am starting an advice column. Send me your dilemmas, questions, concerns, thoughts on life to I will change any recognizable details to protect the guilty. I will cover any and all topics you send my way, from fashion to relationships to politics to your grandma’s creepy gentleman caller.

So send away! I need this people, for the depression. Feel guilty yet?


Breathe Deeply

First of all, thank you for everyone who emailed, commented, sent me messages, prayers and wishes. Your support has buoyed me during this time more than you know. 

I have learned that many of you have experienced depression, either  personally or with a friend or family member. This disease is widespread, and I take comfort in the suggestions, recommendations and kind words, especially from people I don’t even know. It is amazing.

Also, I discovered that a lot of you are in the mental health field, which is good to know 🙂

We decided to get out of town for the weekend and headed down to Charlottesville, VA. We first went there for a wedding back in August and loved it, so decided to pack up the girls and go for a change of pace. We spent Saturday at the farmers’ market, where the girls got balloon animals and face paint, I got a delicious apple and some much needed fresh air and sunshine. And also a beer. That was key. We enjoyed a lovely walk around Mr. Jefferson’s Academical Village (I like saying that) where I made a game out of saying the names of the students who live on the Lawn in a snooty voice (they have little plaques on the doors saying who lives there). Try it in your best Thurston Howell voice: “Landon Halliwell Forrester III”, “Abigail Rebecca Hainsworth”, “Willard Mitt Romney”. 

There were some kids walking a low tightrope they had strung between two trees. Maeve was fascinated. Bridget was appalled that they didn’t have shoes on and made her disapproval known by shouting “they no have shoes on!” several times. I think it was mostly out of respect that they could get away with it and she can’t- I promise you this now Bridget: when you go to college, you can take your shoes off any damn time you want.

We went to dinner and I walked back to the car with Maeve, Marc having taken Bridget a little earlier to check out a shop. As we walked along streets packed with students wearing orange pants or dresses that I fondly recall once being able to fit into, Maeve took my hand and said “Mama, it is a nice night for a stroll.” And it was.

On Sunday we headed home, stopping at a few wineries along the way. The girls were remarkably well behaved as their parents tried some of Virginia’s finest wines, although Bridget was rather upset to hear the grapes were not for eating.

I drove home, through winding backgrounds of Virginia countryside, past Montpelier, home of James Madison. The windows were open and it was all just what I needed: a tonic of sunshine, scenery and fresh air. I felt like all of me took a deep breath. 

We are back home now, with a chilly night of crisp autumn air and the smell of our neighbors’ fireplaces being used for the first time in months. When I wrote my original post I was probably around a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10. Now I feel like I’m at a four. Each day has gotten a little easier, and this week I have appointments with my psychiatrist and therapist. I think I can get out of this. I can’t say that’s what I believed just a week ago.

A Confession

For how open and frank I am, there is something I almost never discuss. My family members know, a very select of handful of friends, and several members of the greater Washington, DC medical community.

I suffer from depression.

But wait, you say, you are so funny and snarky and such! However could you be depressed?!

Yeah well, tears of a clown and such. 

Right now I am in the midst of a major depressive episode. They hit me every six months or so and it is like being mowed over during the running of the bulls. They have gotten so bad that I am pretty sure my diagnosis is moving towards that of being clinically depressed. That means you are depressed all the time, not just when you hit what I call a wall. Something about this particular episode is different. I feel more despondent. I’ve barely left the house. I’m not interested in eating (which is usually my favorite contact sport). I just want to sleep, and that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing.

As you can imagine the effect on my life is staggering. The idea of work is paralyzingly exhausting to me. It is all I can do to get up with my kids and get them out the door in the morning. Showering and changing clothes regularly are pipe dreams. 

No two people experience depression the same way. For me, I become completely hopeless. It’s like tomorrow doesn’t exist. I can’t adequately describe the exhaustion- it is bone crushing and comes out of nowhere. Take the most exhausted you have ever been, multiply it by 20, add in a gut-wrenching sadness that you can’t pin on anything in particular and you might have an idea of where I am now.

I have been on medication for five years now, ever since I had to pull my car over on my way to work because I couldn’t see through the hysterical tears I was crying. The medication controls things pretty well, with the exception of these crevasses every few months. I’ve been approaching and treating my depression as though it is these occasional episodes, but I’m realizing that it is more than that. I live with it daily, beating it back into the darkness from which it came, but every so often it wins. 

I told my husband today that I’d rather have cancer. People understand cancer. You can cut it out, you can radiate it or kill it with chemicals. Even if you succumb to cancer people understand. I don’t feel understood. How can I when I don’t get it myself? I have also said that I feel like there is something in my brain. I wouldn’t be surprised if you cracked it open and there was a little alien in there, like in Men in Black (“Orion’s belt!”).

I don’t want to be this person. Depression keeps me from being the best version of myself. It robs me of patience. My brain works slower and words don’t come as easily. I don’t enjoy things that I normally would. And I get so tired so easily. It sucks when you have two kids under 4 who just want to run and play and climb all over you.

I’m working with a psychiatrist to try and figure this out. I am hopeful that some medication changes and perhaps talk therapy will give me the tools to cope better. I’ve also decided to be more open about my struggle because I know so many people who are fighting the same battle, and perhaps this will give comfort to them. Plus, I’m done being ashamed and embarrassed of this- I think it feeds the little alien and ultimately makes things worse.

Thanks for reading, for listening. I appreciate it more than you can know.

A Poem

A dog, I have always said, is prose; a cat is a poem.  ~Jean Burden

Okay, I admit it: I am a cat person.

Truthfully, I’ve always liked cats but have been incredibly allergic to them. My sister had a giant long-haired furball of a feline named Bebe and I swear he was put on this earth to try to kill me. I vividly recall lying in my sister’s bed with swollen eyes, a throat that I thought was going to close at any minute, sneezing like I had just inhaled pepper. After that my visits incorporated various prophylactic allergy medications but none really did the trick- I mean, I love napping, but taking Benadryl meant spending the entire time asleep. Then some wonderful company invented Zyrtec, Allergy Medicine of the Gods. I take it every day and it alleviates my seasonal allergies as well as the cat issue. Which leads us to where we are today.

I would love to get a dog, but I just don’t have the energy. The training, the walking, the need for exercise and stimulation: I need to do all those things for two girls under 4 and adding a dog to the mix wasn’t going to happen. But my husband and I thought a pet would be good for us, as well as our daughters, and after discussing and dismissing a variety of small, rodent-like creatures we decided a cat might be ideal. I started looking at rescue websites but had done nothing solid about kitty procurement, until one day kitty kismet came calling.

A coworker sent out an email- his sister was moving overseas and had recently adopted a kitten that she couldn’t take with her. Would someone be interested in adopting her? Well, um, sure! I mean, look at the picture they sent of her. How could I say no?:

I sent my husband an email announcing that we would have a cat within a few days. He seemed a little confounded. After 10 years of knowing me, 5 of those as married; you would think he would know by now that you don’t decide to just humor me by saying yes, because I will actually execute on the deal.

Anyway, I brought her home and we named her Pippa. Her full name is Duchess Philippa Esmerelda Thibault of Silver Springshireton but she isn’t fancy like that. She is the sweetest little thing, with a tail that looks like a raccoon’s and a purr that can be heard from miles away.

Cats have a reputation of being standoffish and independent, with no use for their owners. I don’t know if it is because she is still a kitten, but she is extremely affectionate and remarkably tolerant of the two small people we live with. My husband and I both work from home, and Pippa enjoys plopping herself down on our laptop keyboards and demanding to be petted. She sleeps on us, sometimes on my chest and other times in right above my hip if I am sleeping on my side. She particularly enjoys the spot right between Marc’s feet.

Pippa is great with Maeve and Bridget. From Pippa’s point of view, I am pretty sure that this is exactly what both girls look like, so her patience is that much more remarkable:

So yes, I am officially a cat person. I got Pippa her own stocking for Christmas and an ornament for our tree. She got lots of kitty toys from Santa but like my children enjoyed the wrapping paper best. We will be taking the Christmas tree down tonight and I think Pippa will miss it most of all, primarily because running underneath it was relief from being chased by the hysterically giggling manic four year old.

The other night, Maeve said “Mommy, I really very love Pippa”. I do too, baby girl.