Category Archives: Postpartum Depression

Your Feelings Toward Yourself Feel Like a Condemnation of Me

Lets start with this caveat, life has been hectic and I have not been as medication compliant as I need to be.  I am starting to feel the effects.  Emotions and reactions are getting overly strong.

Today I peeked into one of the support groups I depended on heavily in the early days of my voyage into mental health concerns.  I don’t stop in often anymore, as my journey has veered into permanent, not the temporary we all hope for when a postpartum mood disorder shows up.  (see this post)

And there I found a thought that I totally related to and wanted to rail against.  The mama listed all the meds she’s on, some I recognize as part of my cocktail.  And she said being on a variety of meds made her feel like she really was crazy.

I get it, I do.  And yet, I wanted to scream at her.  Rail at her.  Protest, how dare you be so callous?!!!  YOU feel crazy?  Gee thanks, what does that make me?  You take about half of what I swallow every stinking day and will for the rest of my life.

Y’all, I do get it.  I have been there.  I was there today, and yesterday, and the day before…

And yet, I want to scream at her.  I want to punish her.

She still has hope these meds won’t be forever.  I don’t!!!  Where is my hope?  Where is the end of my crazy?

My crazy has gotten so bad I have to aggressively avoid news stories about depression and suicide, because what others see as incomprehensible, makes a heck of a lot of sense to me.  I have been there.  Thankfully, I am not even close right now, but I have been.  I  have stared into that hole and wished something would give me just a little push to let me go headlong in.

And that’s with the meds.  Contrary to what some believe, the meds don’t make my brain work 100% as if the bipolar disorder did not exists, it just makes sure I can sort out the real from the lies.

That’s where I sit with my crazy.  That might be where I always sit.  I don’t know.  It makes me mad.  It isn’t really that lady at all, it is myself I am mad at.  It is my med cocktail that ticks me off.  It is the permanence of the struggle.  I don’t know how long I will be here.  I don’t know how long it will take peace and acceptance to come, but as of right now, it is not there, not even close.

Sigh.

Note:  I am not suicidal at all, but as I said to a mom in our Christian homeschool co-op, “it just hits too damn close to home.”  I’ll let you know if I get banned from co-op for swearing.

 

To the Mamas

Baby comes.  We fall immediately in love.  Or we don’t.

We take to motherhood like a duck to water.  Or our anxiety is so high we are afraid to pick up our new bundle for fear of something horrible happening.

We feel all the changes in our life and just smile because we’re the mama.  Or we see the chaos and our mind tells us we must get control, we must make everything perfect, so we lose ourselves in folding the baby’s clothes just so.  Over and over.

We sleep when baby sleeps.  Or we force ourselves to stay awake and watch the baby so nothing happens to it.

We sleep when baby sleeps.  Or we lay wide awake, unable to sleep at all, knowing that in a few short hours baby will be awake and we need to sleep.  But we can’t.  So we reorganize our Pinterest boards.

We undertake motherhood and feeding baby without a second thought.  Or we struggle to breastfeed only to have our stress grow with each attempt.  Or we formula feed, kicking ourselves because we are not breastfeeding the baby.

Sometimes, motherhood comes easy.  Sometimes, it doesn’t.  Sometimes, it is the first baby that introduces us to the struggle that is postpartum mood disorders.  Sometimes, it’s our third.

As we struggle, we hate ourselves, thinking we are  terrible mothers.  We judge ourselves because we’re sure everyone else is too.

We fight to get better.  We fight to breathe in and out.  We fight for each day.

And finally victory is ours.  We sort through some memories.  We hide others that can’t be dealt with all at once.  We breathe.  We try to exhale, but in the back of our mind we’re afraid of the pain.  We’re afraid of it coming back.

Birthdays are one of the days that threaten to overtake us with the memories.  Our mind is naturally drawn to those early days of babyhood.  The good, the bad, the really, really ugly.  And the thing is, we focus mostly on the bad and the ugly.  We don’t give ourselves enough grace to hug the good to ourselves.

Birthdays wake up the hurt, they wake up the feelings of failure.  They scare us.  And we still don’t let ourselves remember the good.

Yet, there is, so much good.  You’ve come through so many battles to be where you are.  And that baby that awakened so many fears and struggles–they love you.  You are their mama.  You are the one that soothes them when they have a fever.  You clean up the vomit they project all over the house. You laugh with them.  You teach them their alphabet.  You teach them to tie their shoes.  You teach them to be kind and courteous.  You teach them to make friends and to be a friend.

They don’t remember you folding the baby wash cloths over and over.  They remember you making them a birthday cake and letting them have friends over to play.  They remember you buying the fun band aids to make their boo-boos all better.  They remember you buying them fun sunglasses and the coolest backpack.  They remember you walking them to school and back home again.  They remember your hugs.  They remember the love you always had for them that you can now show them with ease.

Mamas, as the birthdays come, give yourself grace.  Give yourself permission to know you are a good mama.  Give yourself permission to see the love you show now, and the love you had then.  Give yourself permission to look at your little one, growing up so beautiful, strong and funny, and say, “I got them here.  I got us here.”  And know it is true.  The journey hasn’t been easy and there may still be days of struggle, but you are here now.  You have loved all the way through and you are here now.

To the mamas who read this, I am so proud of you, no matter where you are in your journey, because no matter how hard it is, you are still here.  I am proud of you for finding joy again.  I am proud of you for growing and becoming a more beautiful you.

Survive til you Thrive

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety and Patrice’s birth felt very similar–primal.  I remember thinking while I was in labor, each contraction feels like it is starting at my toes and engulfing my entire body before it subsides.  The laboring process included more swaying, yelling and full body involvement than my first two.

I dug deep inside myself to survive both.  Just as each contraction had engulfed me, the intrusive thoughts and driving need to be busy took over my mind as the depression and anxiety overcame me.

Daily, I begged for relief.  The labor had ended, surely the depression and anxiety must depart.  Each day brought crushing disappointment, as the awful thoughts of disappearing and not being able to escape surged over and over.  My soul and mind were a quagmire of doubts, tears and anger.  When would I escape?  When would I be free?

I saw women in the postpartum mood disorder communities beat their demons and overcome the thoughts.  And I hated them.  I had battled so long and hard, with no hope in sight.  Why were they free while I continued to live in the dark in between?

My mind screamed to give up, but everyday I chose to fight anew.  I leaned on the women I knew on-line and in my daily life, that understood, or simply loved me enough to hang on to me.  I was here, but I wasn’t living.  I was barely surviving.

Soon, my catch phrase, for myself and others, was “Survive til you Thrive.”

I yearned for my Thrive to arrive, but it didn’t.  It eluded me.  I gave up on that, and decided I would just have to survive for now.

In the postpartum mood disorders community I met an amazing woman, AddyeB.  She writes beautifully and passionately; her artistry reaches further into amazing paintings.  One day she offered to do a word painting for me.

I was a little surprised to find myself saying yes and asking for Survive and Thrive on paintings.  But she took my tiny words and made them beautiful and bold, made them a statement.

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Today, I added Survive til you Thrive as a signature on my blog posts.  I had hoped to be beyond this idea by now, Patrice will be 4 in 2 weeks, but that is not in the cards for me.

My Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, didn’t just quietly exit my life, no, they left a friend, Bipolar II.  So what started as a temporary mental illness, has become a lifelong companion.  It breaks my heart, and threatens to break my will.  The fight would go out of me if it weren’t for my girls and my hubby.  For them, I Survive til I Thrive.

And I am not alone in this journey.

My friend Kim, the amazing author of Make Mommy Go Something Something, recently did some research on Postpartum Mood Disorders and Bipolar Disorder.  She found:

– 25% of women who have bipolar disorder, childbirth triggered the illness that had been dormant beforehand
– Among patients who develop Postpartum Psychosis (PPP) immediately after childbirth, 72%–88% have bipolar illness
– those who have had a previous period of severe illness following childbirth, and those with a first-degree relative who has suffered postpartum psychosis. For these groups of women, PPP affected 74% after delivery
– For women with known bipolar disorder, 20% to 50% had a relapse in their symptoms (trigger episode depressed or manic)
In the course of life, I don’t fully grasp what this means for me.  I don’t know what the future will look like.  Right now, it is a day-to-day situation, seeing and determining what lies, or truths, my mind will tell me.  I will admit, it leaves me feeling cheated.  My day of freedom is not coming.
I also feel a bit like a liar.  From time to time, I interact with women who are living the Postpartum Mood Disorders battle.  I, like so many others tell them, hang on, you’ll be yourself again.  But now, now I know better.  There is more than a little chance they will never be the person they were before Postpartum Mood Disorders struck.  There is a possibility they will live with a mental illness from here on out.  There may not be a magic day they Thrive, it may always be a journey of some days they just Survive, and other days they Thrive. The words of reassurance I speak, may be just hollow platitudes. There are no guarantees.  I can give them no promises.
So instead I offer this bit of advice, this bit of wisdom, Survive til you Thrive.
Embrace today, more importantly, embrace what you love, throw your arms around it and hang on for all you are worth.  Grab that life preserver and float as the waves of emotion push you this way and that.  Sometimes, you’ll go under, but if you keep hanging on, you will Survive til you Thrive.

Hope in a Computer #postpartumprogress10

Years have passed but I remember it like yesterday.  I can still smell the smells, feel the angst, drown in the anxiety, hear my blood beat in my ears.

I was back to work after an extended maternity leave.  Patrice was born in August.  I missed my first return to work date when I was hospitalized after taking my girls to my midwifes’ office and begging her to take them home and love them.

After my release, when the hospital provided no help, my midwife again stepped in and found me a doctor who specialized in postpartum mood disorders.  We were trying a myriad of medications.  With very limited success.

And here I was, searching desperately online to find out if there was any hope for me.  One of my searches landed me at Postpartum Progress.  Suddenly the words to describe what I was going through were in front of my face.  I eagerly devoured article after article, especially learning there was such a thing as Postpartum Anxiety!

I read and read, finding words I understood to describe the thoughts and feelings that had invaded me and changed me.

Katherine Stone, the force of nature behind Postpartum Progress, has helped me a great deal.  And I am not the only one who has found hope in their computer because of her.  This week we celebrate Katherine and the work she has been doing to help women and families everywhere for the last 10 years!!!

It is a worthy celebration.  Katherine started Postpartum Progress out of her own struggles with Postpartum Mood Disorders, but she is not resting on her laurels.  Her dream keeps growing, the help she gives knows no bounds.

For all she does and has done, I say Thank you Katherine.  Thank you for loving mamas and families so much.  Your work is amazing and beautiful.

My PPD baby almost 4 years later

My PPD baby almost 4 years later

We Walked

Yesterday, we were a small but mighty band of men, women and children.

We walked.

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We snacked.

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We stopped.

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We swam.

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All for awareness.  All for the mamas.

Four years ago, I was anxiously awaiting the day until Patrice was born.  And doing everything I could to get this baby to turn out of the breach position, because I was not good with giving up my natural birth for a surgery.  Not my plan.

Thankfully, through LOTS of work, baby complied.  Head down.

Then my grandpa died.  He had been trying to hang on for our new addition but his body was tired and ready for Jesus.

Baby came, one tagged out, one tagged in.  The battalion was passed.

We welcomed our little girl amid a little bit of drama.  Seems, in all that turning in utero she had made quite the mess out of her cord.  But after some quick work, she was declared perfect.

We brought home our third daughter.

And I was so ashamed I had used part of a shot of narcotics for her birth, I hadn’t made it all natural.  That was my last chance and I blew it.  I spiraled down and up–my tears came unbidden, my need for activity grew and grew.

I ended up in the hospital.  I ended up sick for a very long time after she was born.

The time was very dark and very busy.  In my journey I found Postpartum Progress, an on-line foundation that provides support and help for families living with a postpartum mood disorders.  There I found answers to my many questions about what was happening to me, there I began to find a community of women who could put words to my journey, my spiral.

It is for that we walked yesterday.

I spent weeks contacting media, websites, care providers, businesses.  I hoped to bring families out to support and bring awareness to postpartum mood disorders..  I got exactly one comment on one blog post, but no participation.  Mind you, I got some wonderful support financially and emotionally from friends on Facebook.  I got a donation from a guy I haven’t spoken to since 1993.  Caitlyn got a donation from her best friends’ mom.  I am most proud of those two.

But I have to admit, yesterday, I was heartbroken my efforts had not found more walkers.  I cried, a few times, until it was just time to do it.

The girls and I headed out to the park, and were joined by a bestie from college, her amazing family and my wonderful sister-in-law.  I started a few remarks to them about postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.  I began with the stark truth “I didn’t die after Patrice was born.”  Then talked about my journey, shared my heart for helping other mamas live and mother with mental illness.

And we walked.

I realized then that our group was perfect.  I was surrounded by so much love.  I was surrounded by people who had loved and supported me through the journey, each of them at one time or another giving their all to be there for me.

Our group was perfect.

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Don’t forget you can donate until June 30 at Crowdrise, I still have a Facebook Jewelry fundraiser going on or locals can come out to dinner on Thursday at Noodles in Downtown Royal Oak.

 

Dine Out or Take Away for a Good Cause

I woke up extra early this morning…4 am extra early.  My thoughts were whirring with plans for tomorrow and next Thursday.

Tomorrow, I will join with family and friends to walk a 2.2 mile route in the beautiful park Independence Oaks in Clarkston.

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You can still join us.  Sign up here–https://www.crowdrise.com/charitycole-cotd2014/fundraiser/charitycole or donate at the same URL if you would like.  All money raised will go to the non-profit organization Postpartum Progress.

Postpartum Progress gives hope, help and community to families living with a postpartum mood disorder, including, but not limited to, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, OCD, and psychosis.

I found Postpartum Progress 3 years ago as I fought my own battle with postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA).  I felt so alone as the struggle raged months after Patrice was born.  I didn’t understand all that was going on.  I mean, I knew what situational depression had looked like for me at previous junctures, ie., an engagement called off over the phone or long hospitalizations with Multiple Sclerosis.  I knew and understood those experiences.  This?  Not at all the same.  My thoughts raged day and night.

“I must escape.”  “My family deserves so much better.”  “I need to die.”  “I can’t stop moving.”  “My thoughts make no sense.”  “I can’t keep up no matter how hard I try.”

How could I think these things about this amazing family?

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Thing is, I didn’t, but I didn’t know how to make sense of my thoughts.  I didn’t know what was going on.  Finding Katherine Stone and her non-profit organization Postpartum Progress was the first step in finding understanding and community.

I met her via her blog and then connected on twitter.  I followed her to the twitter group, #ppdchat; women who were or had lived it.  Women who could help me make sense of my thoughts.  Women who talked me through suicidal thoughts until I was safe again.  Women who supported me through two hospitalizations.  Women who have become friends.

We have found and created community.  And I found it all through Postpartum Progress.

Now it is my turn to give back.

Tomorrow’s walk is just that, me giving back, me helping the 1 in 7 women who will have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder.

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But my efforts will not end tomorrow.  I have one more fundraiser on Thursday June 26.  I have partnered with Noodles and Co. in downtown Royal Oak to raise money for Postpartum Progress.  We will get 25% of all dine in or take away meals if the customer mentions Postpartum Progress/Climb Out of the Darkness–or has a printed flier.

We will, of course, have yummy Noodles food (family favorite here!!!) and there will be a kids activity to add to the fun.  Please come join us from 4-9!!!!  And please mention Postpartum Progress/Climb Out of the Darkness.

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My Newest Endeavor

See that widget over there—–>

Scroll down a bit——>

Yes that one—->

It is my latest project.

Because I need more stuff going on, right?

Well, remember that  phrase “if you want something done, ask a busy person”?  Maybe it’s my goal to be “that” person.  Except it’s not.  I just need to get the word out about things that matter to me.

I am, what they call over at Postpartum Progress, a warrior mom. I fought a long arduous battle after Patrice’s birth against postpartum depression and anxiety.

It was hard.

It stunk.

But here I am, on the other side…

Thanks in huge part to on-line communities that understood and loved on me.

The first on-line resource I found was Katherine at Postpartum Progress.  Her foundation provides so much information about the various postpartum mood disorders, including but not limited to, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis.  She also provides active support for women looking for hope.

I was that woman.  I found so much on her website that had me nodding my head, saying AHA!, and finding out I wasn’t alone.

Katherine is tireless and amazing in her work, she was even part of  Jeopardy! question, but she can’t do it alone.

From her work and dream, was born Climbing Out of the Darkness.  It is a walk/climb held in cities throughout the world to raise funding and awareness.

This year, I’m not letting it pass me by.  I am leading a team!  Eek.

June 21 we will meet at Independence Oaks in Clarkston from 1-3 pm.  There are two of us on my team right now, but we need more.  We need to make some noise.  We need to be part of making a difference.

Won’t you please join us?  You can raise funds or not, that is up to you, but we need awareness raised.  We need to let other mamas know they are NOT ALONE!!!!!!

Climb Out of the Darkness

Please click in the above link or that widget to the right and link arms with mamas around world, mamas here at home!  We need each other.

TEAMOAKLANDCO14

Here’s My Story

A little bit ago my friend AddyeB posted a lengthy, important facebook status about her different postpartum experiences, particularly when it came to screening for Postpartum Depression (PPD).

She has three beautiful boys.  The screening she had four years ago, after her son was born, was nonexistent and when she was given information, it was flat out wrong.

She just had her third baby boy a few weeks ago.  And she has been screened for PPD.  This time, the experience has been full of empathy and correct information.  The way it should be.

I was blessed to be screened after each of the girls.  There were some concerns after Caitlyn was born.  We were ready to medicate when things finally got better…and I got pregnant with Sue.  I was watched like a hawk after Sue was born, but honestly sailed right through it.  I had the easiest time adjusting after Sue and there were no issues whatsoever past the baby blues.  (Those lovely suckers hit after each of the girls.  Man alive!!!)

Then they put Patrice in my arms.  Her pregnancy itself had been, ah, interesting.  She spent the last five weeks in my womb spinning like a top.  I spent weeks diving to the bottom of swimming pools, going to the chiropractor for the Webster Technique and every spinning babies trick I could decipher.  She literally spun in there.  Once during a midwife appointment, she was head down at the beginning and at the end when my midwife grabbed an ultrasound machine, she had gone head up again.  Then my grandfather passed away 36 hours before she was born.  And finally, her cord had wrapped around her neck and head so the last few minutes getting her into this world were very intense.  It was a crazy, wild ride toward the end of her pregnancy.

I knew, from the other two postpartum periods what to expect with the baby blues and even what to look for in depression issues.  And I had enough issues to make things scary.  But the bigger need was the need to move, do, go!!!!!  Which was easy to do with a four year old and a 3 year old.  They need to be active and busy, so we WERE!!!!!  And even though I kept in close contact with my midwife, I didn’t know that need to MOVE, was an issue.  I had never heard of Postpartum Anxiety (PPA).

My midwife and I did decide medication might be in order.  And it seemed to maybe help a little, so we increased the dose.  That wasn’t the best option.  It caused a mania episode that landed my butt in the hospital.

Patrice is now almost 3 1/2 years old.  It’s been bumpy trying to get the depression and anxiety under control, and to find out, in the process, that I was now dealing with Bipolar Depression.  It was all a real bummer.  Especially that last part.  But, I am now doing well.  Life is good.  The depression, mania and anxiety are under control.

All because I had great help from my midwife.  And found amazing resources like Postpartum Progress online.  If you, or someone you know just had a baby, ask, and really listen, “How are you doing?”  Ask yourself if you just had a baby, or even anytime in the first year (ppd/ppa can have a delayed onset) or after weaning a breastfed baby.  Ask your friends if they meet any of the above criteria.  It’s important to ask.  It’s important to listen to the answer.

 

*Please check out more of AddyeB story at Butterfly Confessions.

And There was a Hush

I grew up in a house without siblings.  It was just my dad, my mom and myself.  And a few goats here and there, but that, my friends, is an entirely different blog post altogether.  It was, except when the goats were there, a quiet place.

Being the only child gave me a lot of control over the noise level. I  have to say, there just isn’t much reason to scream or yell when you’re playing alone.  There just isn’t.  And I grew up in an old 10 room farmhouse.  Each of us had a lot of space to ourselves.

It was quiet.

Life is a whole lot different now!  I have as many kids as made up my entire household growing up.  Not only do I have three kids, but I have three in four years, which sets them up to interact, play and fight together, a lot.

My recent joke has been I should write a book for only children contemplating having kids.  Here is the entirety of the book, “It will be loud and you will lose your mind.”  Maybe I should just write a bumper sticker or a Facebook post, huh?

I jest,  but I don’t.  It has been the biggest, hardest adjustment for me when it comes to having a family.  It is sooooooooo loud.  All.the.time.

That theme has been amplified the last three years of my life.  Is it from the postpartum depression and anxiety, or is it, likely, that a third child adds a huge new layer of loud.

I talked about how loud it was so often to my one doctor that he asked me to find out from my mom if I had experienced a noise related trauma as a child.  She said there was no trauma, but our house was quiet and I was never really fond of loud.

So no deep, dark secret–it’s just the way I am.

I love my girls.  I wouldn’t change a thing about our family.  I’m well aware I could escape some of the noise by not homeschooling, but I refuse to let noise, or my reaction to it, run our lives.  Rather, I have spent the last three years trying to make a truce with the noise of my amazing family with it’s echo in my head.

Me and my weird relationship with noise.  I thought it was just me.  Until a friend asked me to read “The Good Mother Myth.”  It is an amazing anthology of essays by an array of mothers intent on telling the truth about motherhood.  Each author tells her story to help debunk the image that every mom must act just so, look just so and be just so in order to be a good mother.  I’ve been loving it.  Each essay resounds to some degree or another.  One, in particular, was written just for me.  “Through Distortion” by Arwyn Daemyir talks about her son AND HER, being sensitive to noise.  Like me.

All the sudden, while reading, I found out I am not alone.  There are other moms that want to yell and scream and beg their children to be quiet.

“I let my shoulders pull all the way up to my ears, tight, tight, tighter , then exhale and release…” and “Before having kids, I never thought of myself as having noise issues.”

Right there, she was writing to me.  To my heart.  To my ears.

In this particular piece, her son has figured out how to make an electronic keyboard play Happy Birthday on a loop.  She describes wanting to escape, wanting to smash the keyboard to bits.  But instead, she headed into her sons playroom and joined him in the noise.  She chose to go where he was.

I relate.  My girls love to run around and yell.  Last night we let them have a screamfest, brought on by daddy, when he chased them around the house with a water balloon and then with arctic cold hands.

I wanted to run.  I wanted to yell for the noise to end.  I wanted to cry, today I even did, but for a few minutes last night, we let them have a screamfest and I chose to ignore the fear and stress within me.  I let them scream.  I let them be little girls.

Do I always do that?  Oh no.  Several times today I have sent them to another room if they are going to be loud.  I have whispered to them, I have begged them over and over to be quiet.  I have cried because of the noise.

I don’t know what to do about it,  but for today, it soothes my soul to know I am not alone.  There are other Good Mothers who struggle with noise.  And for today, that will be enough.

 

Linking up for Pour Your Heart Out at Things I Can’t Say.

What I Can’t Have

I have almost everything I have ever wanted.

I have more than what most people dare to dream of having.

And yet I want something I can’t have.

I want to be medication free.

(I would have everything I ever wanted, if I had that)

Having Patrice ushered in postpartum depression and anxiety, which ushered in bipolar depression.  And lots of medications.

I hate them.  I hate the side effects.  I hate needing them.  I hate KNOWING I need them, most of all.

I want them gone.

When we  had Patrice, I just wanted a baby.  NOT ALL THIS.

Don’t get me wrong…I wouldn’t trade her for all the med free days in the world, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting something I can’t  have.

I want them gone.

I want what I can’t have.

(If you are an astute reader, you have seen this topic previously, but hey, it is my place to whine, so there you go. Even linking up with Shell at Things I Can’t Say)