So the Baby Has Reflux

April 23, 2011

It’s not that I thought caring for a baby would be easy. I just never imagined it would be this hard.

We found out the other day that poor little David has “silent reflux.” Basically, after he eats, his stomach acid comes up and burns his throat. He rarely spits up, though, so the acid would do its thing on the way up and down.

It’s a relief to know there’s actually something wrong. From the day after he was born, we knew the kid could cry. Shriek, actually. Things that he’d enjoy one day—like playing on his activity mat or sitting in his bouncy chair—would make him scream in agony the next, so we couldn’t get a handle on what, if anything, was wrong.

When I’d mention how unhappy he seemed all the time, people would say, in an irritatingly offhanded manner, “Oh, all babies cry.” And being a new mom, I thought maybe he was just a loud little guy who needed to be carried around on my shoulder all the time.

But he was also sleeping poorly, and then his breathing started sounding odd—sort of wheezy or gurgly, as though he was choking on phlegm.

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Can a Marriage with Mental Illness Survive a Symptom Cop Spouse?

April 7, 2011

A few weeks ago, the Weightless blog published an interview with Susan Schulherr, author of EATING DISORDERS FOR DUMMIES, in which she explains the distinction between a symptom cop—someone who tries to control your symptoms—and a truly supportive friend or family member. The interview, of course, focuses on eating disorders, but it got me thinking about how to best offer support to a spouse with any type mental illness.

Being in recovery for an eating disorder myself, and being married to a man with bipolar disorder, I have experience with this issue from both sides of the fence. Interestingly, when I was in the thick of my illness—bingeing and purging multiple times a day—I didn’t think I’d recover unless I was being monitored/controlled by a symptom cop.

I daydreamed about getting locked up on eating disorder ward, joining the army, even going to jail—all because I imagined that in those places, finally, with someone else dictating what and when and how much I ate, I would lose weight and be okay.

At one point, I tried to enlist my mother as a symptom cop. I told her that having sweet foods in the house was bad for me. She understood, and stopped buying them. Of course, that pissed me off, and in the end, it only served to reinforce my sneaky behavior around food.

In my experience, relying on someone else to fix you never works.

When it’s your spouse who suffers from a mental illness, however, it’s hard to remember this fact.

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