I needed to not be in the house today, but I wasn’t able to leave. Between the coronavirus and the weather, the best I could do was open the french doors, close my eyes, and let the rain and wind take me somewhere else. This is where I went.
I have always loved to swim. It came naturally when I was a kid, and I even swam on a team when I got a little older. Laps aren’t what does it for me though. I’m talking about the way it feels to sink as deep as you can, head all the way under, as low as you can go.
The first thing I notice is the weightlessness. Especially when I was obese, the water relieved so much physical pain and pressure. Second, the mind feels lighter. My hair floats upwards. As it rises it brushes against my shoulders and face. I feel it lift away from me. I feel the negativity lift away too. It will float up with the bubbles, and I’ll stay here under water just a little longer. In my mind I’m a glorious thick-locked Disney beauty, but in reality my hair is shaped more like the fire on top of a match.
I am aware of the breath in my chest. The air has filled my cheeks, lungs, and has even found its way to my belly. My toes stretch freely, and the tension rises upwards like my hair. My ankles relax, my legs, my hips. I feel my spine stretch taller, and my shoulders open up as my arms float to my sides. I am taller than ever, from the tip of my toe all the way up to the ends of my hair.
Under the water, outside sound begins to muffle. The deeper down, the more distant the noise becomes. Then it is gone. Just quiet. Peace, and quiet.
From the depth, I look up to the surface. There’s a spot of white, clear water from the light above. It gradients into beautiful colors as we move away from the light. White, cyan, azure, blue. Looking below me are shades of violet, grey and black. Do the colors ever end? How far do they go? The water is so vast. I feel so small in it.
I take just one more moment here, but I know I can not stay forever. Let me leave my stress, my negative thoughts, and my anxieties here, down in the depths of the water. I head to the surface, letting the passing water cleanse the last of my soul.
I return to the surface for a new breath, a new start.
When I open my eyes, I’m back at home. Staring into the backyard as the rain falls, and I’m at peace with it. Suddenly the house doesn’t feel so small, as I still have that vast ocean in the back of my mind.
Using CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) For Anxiety
Last week I suffered with some really dark thoughts. They still come and go, but I’m getting better at keeping them at bay. CBT is a great therapy to stop the ‘looping’ cycle by proving the dark thought is not real.
A perfect example of this is when I feel worthless, and my depression says things like “the kids would be better off if I wasn’t their mother.” (definitely note that I have no intention of killing myself- I question my general worth. please don’t misinterpret.) Historically, the thought would pop into my head. “They are better off without you.” I would get anxious and frustrated and try to push the thought away, but it came right back like a boomerang. This time it would be a little louder. “BETTER. OFF. WITHOUT. YOU.” It would be a battle of back and forth, the more I pushed it away the louder it came back. CBT breaks that cycle.
Yesterday was my day #1 of getting back on track. I made good nutrition choices, got outside, and have felt pretty good.. because those are the easy parts of being healthy. The hard part was facing my anxieties when they crept back into my mind. I heard, “You’re useless. The kids would be better off without you as a mother.” I wanted to swat it away and not deal with it, but that wouldn’t be progress in feeling better. I had to break the cycle. Instead I asked the voice “Why? Why would they be better off? What would Jacen, or Anna, or any of the kids say if you asked THEM if they’d be better off without me?” It stopped the voice. I kept going, kept thinking.
What would Jacen say? He would say I protect him. I keep him safe. I’ve gotten him through a lot of his own anxiety attacks, and he trusts that I would never put him in danger. He knows he can come to me when things are wrong, and I’m going to do anything in my power to make it go away. He would say that I taught my boy to read so well, so young that he is now a super star at school. School is easier for him presently because of the days we spent together when he was young.
What would Anna say? That I’ve rescued her from many failed Evel Knievel stunts just in time. It’s a miracle we haven’t had an ER trip, but those mom reflexes tend to kick in. She would say mama is the only one who clips her nails and remembers the fluoride tablets at bedtime.
And Arielle? I hope she would say nice things about me, but that girl is at an age. (Lol) She knows that I don’t always have the same interests in the beginning, like anime and monster shows, but I try my best to learn. I try to listen, support and nurture her interests. I want her to be whatever she feels to be, and do the things she wants. I want to be a part of that, and I think that behind the preteen sass, she probably would admit that she can feel it. She knows how hard I try, and how much I love her. Catch her on a good day and she might even tell you I’m pretty fun to be around.
My shame boomerang must have gotten a little scared, because it hasn’t returned since our “true talk” conversation. Are my kids better off without me as a mom? No. Absolutely not. That was the bully in my brain making me believe something that wasn’t true. CBT helped me sort out my wrong perception and the actual facts, and I saw an immediate lift of my anxiety.
Today was day 2 of kicking my ass back in gear. I got out of bed. I took a shower. I helped Jacen with home school. I put together a gift bag for a friend that I love, and it made me happy to see her reaction. I have befriended a person I never thought would be on my side, and it’s beautiful. Her kind, welcoming behavior seems to be the start of a beautiful friendship. I hope it lasts forever. I kicked my anxiety attack’s ass with my CBT. I spent some much needed down time with my husband instead of rushing into depression sleep.
I still miss my friends. I’m going to hug the crap out of my sister and niece when this thing passes. I’m going to take my nana out for a glorious day on the town. I’ll even go to bingo with her if she invites me. I’m going to let the kids pig pile on their nana and give her all the overdue hugs and kisses. Social distancing is hard. It messes with our minds, especially the minds who struggle with illness every day. Keep fighting back, because you deserve to be happy and healthy, even in a time like this. Get out of bed. Get some sun. Try your jeans on. (Trust me, quarantine snacks.)
Most of all, this too shall pass. I don’t know when. I don’t know how. But I know it will.
Until then fight for your wellness. Fight to keep our sense of community, even from afar. Fight to have good days and good relationships.
Yesterday I got slapped in the face with a real “grow the fuck up” moment. I knew going into my therapy appointment that my own quarantine habits were not helping my mental health, but damn did she lay it out for me.
Last week I snuggled in and watched movies all day. Sometimes with the kids, sometimes binging Tiger King by myself. I took a lot of naps when I could, and encouraged the kids to do quiet, indoor play on their own. I trusted that Jacen was keeping up with his Google Classroom work on his own, and didn’t intervene.
At the end of the week (Friday night) I had the biggest panic attack I’ve had in years. I couldn’t breathe, speak or stop throwing up. All coping mechanisms went out the window, I even failed to take my rescue medication. I felt like I was under rock bottom. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried on the floor by myself. The dark thoughts spiraled and they just wouldn’t stop.
‘Things with Arielle seem weird today, does she love me less?’ ‘Jacen isn’t putting enough effort into his studies and it’s my fault.’ ‘Anna is so wild, is it my fault? Am I not doing a good enough job teaching her to be a lady?’ ‘Are we watching too much tv?’ ‘Those clean clothes have been waiting to get put away forever.’ ‘The weight is getting out of control, will I ever work out again?’ ‘You’re not contributing financially.’ ‘Your mental health is a burden on the family.’ ‘you are not good enough.’ ‘you don’t contribute anything.’ ‘you are worthless.’
The tears wouldn’t stop, and I couldn’t quiet the voices in my head that were just tearing me apart. On paper I can tell you that the best things for good mental health are routine, movement, socialization, getting outdoors, organization, etc. My body just did not want to participate. I didn’t have the energy or motivation. I slept as late as I could every morning, watched tv on the couch or in bed, took an afternoon nap, and looked forward to an early bedtime. The guilt started to mound while I just ignored the healthy me inside that was screaming “Get up! Get better! You can do this!”
But no, I wasted an entire week.
Monday morning I started to whine to my therapist, but she stopped me. She was right to do so. She reminded me that antidepressants are only going to do so much, and the rest is on me. That’s partly therapy- putting in the hard work of CBT, EMDR and talk therapy. It’s also the everyday stuff- getting out of bed, taking a shower, being active, getting work done. Okay, okay. I knew this already, I was just being lazy.
Today was my new day #1. I set my alarm, and got out of bed for 9. We got through our morning and breakfast routine. Jacen and I sat at side by side desks so I could be involved with his school work. I sat down to write this. I made a schedule. Even if we don’t do every single thing on the schedule every day, or even if we don’t do them at the same time everyday, it’s at least an announcement of what our expectations should be. It’s how we are going to get motivated and stay organized. It’s going to get the whole family back on track, and I’ll be the one leading the pack. I’m excited to pull myself out of this depression, even if it still feels really, really hard at this exact moment. (I’m dying to go back to sleep! Mama wants a nap!)
So, let’s lay it out. What work do I need to put in to get back on my feet? The first thing I usually do is reference my ‘overall family wellness goals.’
My Family Wellness Goals:
Right in order, I’ve neglected my physical goals by relying heavily on processed “easy” food (due to my laziness for cooking) and skipping working out. Emotionally I have decided to wallow in my depression instead of taking time to resolve my problems. I have neglected to read, learn or grow my mind. Instead I have rotted it via Netflix. I leave Facebook messages on “received,” ignore calls, and avoid opening texts. I let myself use the “social distancing” excuse to isolate myself in every way. I have not connected spiritually as I prefer to. I have not been outdoors or seen the sun in weeks. I want to blame the quarantine, but there is no restriction to being outside as long as we still practice 6 foot distancing. Thankfully I haven’t messed up too much financially. I always feel guilty that I do not provide like Mike does, but I’m also not stupidly spending it either. I’m going to call that a point in my favor.
Simply jotting down a loose schedule has already solved so many of these problems for me. By blocking out time to cook meals, I know I will be preparing something healthy instead of microwaving something packaged at the last minute. I have time where I am expecting myself to workout, to read or listen to podcasts, to be outdoors with the kids, and to overall interact with my family more. It’s amazing that just writing these things down sparks a fire of motivation inside of me. I decided to change out of my loose, dirty sweatpants and into some workout leggings. I threw some dry shampoo in my hair, and even took out some meat to thaw for dinner.
This has not been my first day #1. It won’t be my last. Everyone goes through the cycle to some degree of fluctuating between moods, motivation and success. We can not always control the organic sources, so we have to take control of what we can change. The first being our outlook. Don’t wait for a new week, or the next Monday. Don’t wait for the first of the month. Don’t wait for another day. Don’t even wait an hour. Do it now. Think of one thing that could make tomorrow easier. Implement it today, and watch your mood lift. Trust me I’m right there with you, but I have faith we can all climb out of this darkness with effort, help, and a desire to be healthy again.
My family doesn’t usually serve alcohol at holidays or gatherings. When I turned 21 I thought it would be fun to bring sangria to Thanksgiving. It made me feel grown up, and I liked the thought of bringing something that had never been served before. I had a friend in high school who made sangria all the time. She had told me once that it was crucial to give the fruit a few days to soak in the wine. I put in about a week’s worth of work between researching recipes, shopping, and preparing. The night before the big day, I sampled the wine. It was amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of my pot-luck contribution.
The recipe I used made A LOT more wine than I’d anticipated. I had stored it in a couple of plastic tupperware pitchers, but decided they didn’t look nice enough to bring to a family holiday. I had just started dating this guy who worked at Walmart. (9 years later, we are still together, married, and four kids between us!) He was heading to my apartment when his shift ended, so I asked him to pick up the biggest pitcher he could find.
The thing was beautiful, and huge. It looked like a giant glass wine barrel, with a fancy spigot to dispense. It was absolutely perfect, especially for a wine I was so proud of.
Mike jumped into the shower, and I focused on my wine project.. It took a bit of time to transfer all of my little plastic pitchers from the fridge into this mega barrel, and I pressed the fruit artfully against the glass. Everything was perfect.
I heard Mike shut off the water in the shower, and decided I had spent enough time on such a simple project. I grabbed the pitcher and brought it over to the fridge. How in the world did I overlook how heavy this thing would be? The pitcher itself had some serious weight to it, being so big and made of glass, and I had filled it with a massive amount of wine. Wine that had been in my refrigerator. Cold wine.Cold wine in a very heavy, glass pitcher. Cold wine that had started to accumulate condensation on the outside of the glass. I was really wishing I had thought to prop the fridge door open before picking this thing up.
You know where this is going.
As if in slow motion, the pitcher slipped from my hands. The bathroom door squeaked open, and Mike caught the last split second before the wine hit the ground. Together we watched my kitchen disappear behind an atomic bomb of sangria. I froze. What the hell just happened? Is this real life? I looked at Mike, who just dropped his head to his chest and laughed. Still gripping a towel around his waist, he shook his head, and walked away smiling. I could hear the chuckle in his voice when he yelled from the bedroom “let me find some pants.”
Mike emerged from the bedroom to find me standing in two inches of red wine. I pushed a mop back and forth, not really doing anything but spreading around the puddle and shards of glass. I looked up and met his gaze with tears in my eyes and said, “I didn’t know where to start.” As if on cue, sangria dripped from the ceiling and onto my face. I couldn’t hold back anymore. The dam broke, and the tears came flowing out.
Mike walked up to me, wrapped his hands around my upper arms and made me look him in the eye. “I got this,” he said with a smile. He kissed me on the forehead, and pulled the mop from my hand.
That was the moment, right there when he looked me in the eye. That was the moment I fell in love with my husband.
I thought of this today, and it made me smile. I hope you’ve found a smile-thought today, too.
Keeping a consistent routine is one of the basic and most useful therapies in managing bipolar disorder. Obviously COVID-19 has not made that easy. I haven’t been getting out of the house with the younger girls, we’ve been adjusting to “distance learning” for Jacen, and our custody schedule for Arielle has been all kinds of stressful. When I lost our routine, it felt like someone pulled a Jenga block from the bottom of my emotional stack: everything is pretty wobbly, I’m praying I don’t get knocked down, and I’m definitely fearful of what will be taken from me next.
My OCD is running high. I’m checking the stove burners and the locks on the door several times an hour. My husband tries to make light of it by saying things like “Kate, you’re getting your steps in today” and mockingly “wait, have you checked to see if the door is locked?” It’s really embarrassing to be aware of a strange habit but not be able to stop yourself.
By far the absolute worst part of staying home has been my anxiety. I feel completely out of control- crying spells, massive panic attacks, vomiting, restlessness, irritability. All of it. All the time.
I try to remind myself that this time is actually a gift. This is more time with the kids, and at the end of my life I know that more time with them is all I’ll be wishing I had more of. There’s just a huge difference between receiving a gift and enjoying it.
I want them to remember this time as calm, safe, and loving. I want them to remember how strong mom was when the world was scary. I want them to remember fun things we did together, and things they learned at home that they wouldn’t have been taught in school. I want to enjoy this time. I fear they will remember me crying myself dry, anxiously vomiting, pacing, and worrying. I fear I won’t be remembered as the super mom that I always aspire to be, but a weak woman who fell apart in crisis. I fear the memories we make during this time will show me as overwhelmed, anxious, confused and stressed.. And all of these fears end up feeding my anxiety, making me fear even more. It’s an endless cycle.
In both my OCD and my anxiety, I’m aware that my actions are unnecessary, but I’m unable to stop myself. I have to touch the door knob. I can’t just remind myself it’s locked and walk away. I’m aware that I appear preoccupied and unapproachable when I’m sobbing and stressing, but I just can’t stop it, no matter how much I would rather be laughing with my kids. I just want to stop. I want to change things. I want to enjoy the gift of time with my children.
This pandemic has been hard on everyone. We miss socialization. We fear for our businesses, our finances. We fear for the education of our children. We miss our family in healthcare, first responders, front liners, and essential employees whom we have not seen nearly enough of lately. We stress about getting sick, or getting someone else sick who can’t fight the virus. We fear of going without; of running out of food, soap and toilet paper. There is so much fear and sadness in the world.
I know there has to be a way to turn this around. I’m fighting every day, trying to claw my way out of the hole I’ve dug myself into. I’m still seeing my doctors via Telehealth. I take my meds. I think of the kids. I think my next small step needs to be carving out a new routine. I do better when I know what to expect next, no surprises. No stress or guilt at the end of the day due to forgotten tasks. Organization.
I know I’m not the only one scared. I’m sure you are, too; to some degree, and in some regard. The world is a crazy place right now. I’m going to start small and get into a daily routine, because I deserve to feel better than I do right now. And so do you. No matter your reason, diagnosis or situation you can feel better. What’s your next step? Think about it. Tomorrow is a new day, and a perfect day to start turning things around.
The coronavirus has my family staying home, and we are getting a little cabin fever. Yesterday we decided to move furniture to mix things up. It also made disinfecting the kids’ toys so much easier!
At one point, we had Anna’s toy buckets stacked up and drying. I bumped the pile, knocking it over and she immediately lunged for the fallen buckets. “It’s okay! It’s fine, mama! It happens!” She quickly squirreled around and collected them to restack. I was in awe for a moment. She, at two years old, had comforted me, her thirty year old mother. I wondered when she got so smart, when she became so kind and thoughtful, and how she learned how to comfort others.
I replayed her words in my head. “It’s okay. It’s fine. It happens.” Why did that sound so familiar? Oh, right. I laughed out loud at my slow realization. Those are the things I tell her when she makes mistakes. If she falls down, I try not to make a big deal of it and just say “you’re okay!” Usually this results in laughter and going back to playing instead of crying over the fall. When she spills things, I say “It’s fine. Accidents happen!”
These are phrases I use every single day, usually in times when she is upset that she has embarrassed herself, gotten a minor injury, or thinks she may get in trouble. I say them to make her feel better, so she knows things like this happen to everyone, and we have to stay calm and keep moving on. My hope is that these phrases will help her to later mentally compartmentalize accidents as ‘no big deal’ so she can focus on making them right and moving on.
I am most impressed that Anna not only remembered these words in a moment of minor crisis, but was able to apply them with the intent to comfort me. It got me thinking of a Facebook meme I’ve seen going around lately- it reads something like ‘your children will barely remember the virus. They will remember how you reacted to it. Will you react in panic and chaos, or calm?’
Anna’s reaction to the buckets falling over was my “Ah-ha” moment, and those words on the meme finally clicked in my brain. I don’t want to be the mom who panics, or makes it sound like we will immediately die if we leave the house. I don’t want to be the selfish mom, the hoarding mom. I don’t want to be the yelling, mad mom.
I want to be the mom who checks on family and neighbors. I want to be the mom sending care packages to those who need it. I want to be the mom who is rational. I want to wash my hands, stay home, and not touch my face. I want to be the mom who follows the rules during a pandemic. I want to be the calm mom, the one who sometimes gets anxious but fights through it with grounding exercises, yoga, meditation and mindfulness. I want to be the mom who talks about my feelings, and listens to others talk about theirs. I want to be the mom who comes out on the other side of this pandemic with children who remember this time at home as positive.
If Anna can learn that “it’s okay, it’s fine” just from watching me respond to accidents, I know my kids can learn how to survive this time in a positive way. All I have to do is set a good example. If it sounds silly, I would have agreed with you a few days ago.( My corona plan at the time was just to survive.) It’s different now. The kids are always watching us. They learn more from our body language and facial expressions than anything else. My two year old learned to comfort mistakes just by hearing me do it. Now she will learn how to respond during a pandemic by watching me, and you bet your ass I’m going to set the best example I can.
I don’t think a single day has gone by in the last 30 years where I haven’t stressed about my body. I’ve been 300 pounds, I’ve been 150 pounds- and every number in between. Since having baby Lucy at the end of November, I think about my regain a thousand times throughout the day. It gives me panic attacks, it messes with my depression, and can even send me manic.
Last month my therapist told me I needed to see an eating disorder specialist. It didn’t make sense to me. It DOESN’T make sense to me.When I think about eating disorders I immediately think of underweight girls- definitely not a category I fit into. She tried to find a provider who takes my insurance, but it hasn’t been easy. I was kind of relieved that it bought me some extra time. She put in a ton of work over the course of two weeks, and finally came up with a list of three names. Last monday she handed me the list and asked me to contact someone to schedule. I left her office, and put the list on my passenger seat. There it has stayed for the last five days, untouched.
Now I have really dug myself a hole. I have to face my therapist Monday morning and tell her I didn’t try to follow through, after all of the work she put in. Today being Saturday, I can’t even really slap together a last ditch effort without revealing that I waited too long. Do I lie? No, Lying only makes things worse. I have to bite the bullet and be honest that I wasted her time. It’s just another thing to be anxious about.
It doesn’t feel like I belong in this kind of treatment. If anything, I SHOULD be restricting myself to lose my remaining 27 pounds of baby weight. I wonder what the other people in the waiting room will look at me and think. I wonder if the therapist will take a look at my case and decide I don’t need to be seen. I’m embarrassed to present myself to this kind of therapy, and I don’t feel deserving of help. A big girl isn’t going to fit in with the other clientele. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to walk into that office, I know I’m going to be eyed and judged harshly.
I don’t want to go. I don’t think I fit in. I don’t think I’m deserving of this kind of attention or help. I don’t want to face any of this. Part of me is even thinking of no-showing my regular therapy appointment on Monday, I just don’t want to admit that I dropped the ball. That’s a lot of “don’ts.” I have one “do.” I DO want to set a good, healthy example for my kids.
I worry that I will mess up my kids. I don’t want them to go through everything I did as an obese child, but I also don’t want to raise them to obsess about their weight. Neither scenario is healthy, but both are anxiously playing in my head. Constantly. How can I help them when I can’t even help myself?
I’ve always carried so much guilt with food. Guilt when I diet, and stress about staying within my calorie goals. Guilt when I binge, and stress about going astronomically over my calorie goals. I don’t want the kids to think this way, or be weighed down with the negativity that I feel every time I eat.
This treatment is so awkward. I still don’t understand how someone who is mathematically, medically overweight would need to see an eating disorder specialist. I’m anxious, and dreading every part of this.
Getting these words out of my chest and into writing has already brought some clarity. Time to put on my mom jeans and get over myself. I took some time between proofreading to run out to my car and grab the list. I emailed one provider. At least it’s a start. I don’t want the kids to fear food like I do. I don’t want to put that on them. I still don’t feel like I categorically should be in this kind of therapy, but I’ll take any help in keeping my kids healthy.
The weeks before my birthday gave me so much anxiety. I mourned that the ‘exciting’ stuff of my 20’s were behind me- getting married, having kids, etc. – and I felt I had nothing good to look forward to. My self confidence has been shot since having Lucy. Postpartum body doesn’t make me feel very good, and I’m obsessing about the number on the scale. Planning to go out seemed like a labor intensive task on its own. I didn’t have anything to wear, needed a sitter for four kids, I hadn’t drank in about 18 months and didn’t know how alcohol would make me feel, and I carried a lot of guilt over leaving my 2 month old with my mom for a couple of hours. I was dreading the whole thing.
At the same time, I genuinely felt like I needed a break from the kids. Only a couple of hours, not all night. I forced myself to get excited. I put on my ‘going out’ boots, eyelashes, and the bravest smile I could muster. Twenty ten years old, ( you know, the number that comes after twenty nine..) and this was the best it was gonna get.
I actually got a little nervous when my ride came to pick me up. It was my last chance to cancel, but as I opened the front door to leave my sister ran toward me with a gift bag and a big old hug. How could I turn away from that? I opened the car door to find two of my long, lost friends. All of a sudden I felt a change in my chest. I was excited! I was happy.
For a while now I have wanted to build a friendship with a friend of my sister. This girl is awesome, hilarious, and we actually see eachother for most big events and holidays. When we invited her out it was 50/50. Does she know me well enough to come? Are we close enough to count as friends? My social anxiety gave my little spurts of heart palpitations. Seeing this girl in the car shot a lightning bolt of happiness through me, and I started to feel less guilty about leaving the kids. I genuinely felt like I needed to spend my mama-self care time on strengthening our friendship. I want more friends, specifically someone who makes me laugh as much as her. She is a breath of fresh air from my little gremlins at home. I truly feel that having more friends like her will round me out as a person, and make me feel like more than just a mother.
As expected, alcohol didn’t go over well. It just tastes so bad! How do people get it down? I literally ordered three drinks and only took a couple sips of each. I really AM getting old. No more falling down drunk for me! It was still so nice to sit down at the hookah bar, relax, and spend time with adults. My sister and brother in law bring me so much comfort, and make me feel incredibly loved. The two friends that came out kept things interesting, and I got to catch up on new gossip. I love hearing about the exciting lives of people without kids. (I’m not kidding.) They have the best stories. By 11:00 these wild and crazy kids were exhausted, so we headed home.. I think in the club world most people are just leaving their house at this time. (insert face palm) Still, I was more than happy to be heading toward my bed and some Tylenol.. And of course some baby snuggles!
I woke up that morning by turning twentyten. I mourned my younger days, and the things I’d missed out on in my 20’s by having my kids young. I harboured negativity. I was irritated with my husband for not taking time off of work to spend the day with me. I was annoyed that the kids made birthday cake pops, and left chocolate all over my stove. I dreaded going out, and wondered if my favorite boots would pinch my toes. I was overwhelmed with the thought of getting ready with all four kids running around, and then rounding them up to get in the car. I’d sum it up in three words :Anxious. Irritated. Overwhelmed.
Crawling into bed that night, things had changed for me. My husband (who had been sleeping when my brother in law dropped me off) sleepily gazed at the clock and noticed it was a few minutes past midnight. “It’s not your birthday anymore, you can relax again.” We both kind of laughed. I was pretty silly about this whole twentyten thing. I’m thirty. It’s dumb to think that the fun stuff is behind me. Sure, I won’t be a princess on my wedding day again, nor that glowing mama holding her new born baby, or even the kind of girl who can stay out past midnight. Those things are gone, yet fondly remembered. The fun things to come outweigh the past anyways! I get to watch my four babies and beautiful niece grow up. I’ll get to see my girls dressed as princesses, and give them all of my attention. In many years- and i do mean MANY years- I’ll hopefully be a glowing NANA holding my newborn grandchild. I won’t be the center of attention anymore, but that’s okay. I’ll be the one pointing the spotlight at the girls when it’s their time. I, of course, was disappointed my husband didn’t get to come out with us, but the silver lining was that I could focus on my friendships and try to put my mama/wife pot on the back burner. We spend plenty of time together anyways. The chocolate on my stove? It actually came off quite easily, and in the end my kids had made me birthday cake pops. They really do love me. The older kids helped out with the younger girls so I could get ready. It was such a relief, and I actually felt pretty for the first time in a very long while. And no, my boots did not pinch my toes, they just made me feel pretty sexy. If I had to sum it up in three words: Relieved. Comfortable. Accepting.
So, This is thirty? I can take this. I can handle this. I can own this. I am 30, and I’m going to try my best to make it my best chapter ever. Luckily I have the biggest and best team supporting me than ever before. I’ve got this.
I’m struggling to find myself outside of motherhood. Trust me, being a mom will always be my favorite role, but I’m really starting to miss the other parts of myself. For a long time I’ve had fleeting thoughts about what I could accomplish without a double stroller and a purse full of car snacks, but I try to shove them into the back of my brain and block them out. Now those thoughts are creeping to the forefront and are hard to ignore.
I didn’t enjoy the person I was before motherhood. It’s been 10 years since I got pregnant with Jacen, so we are basically talking about a teenage me. Back in those days I felt isolated and unloved. I had one good friend and clung to her, but always felt alone. I thought becoming a mom would change those feelings, that I’d always have someone to look after and love. It’s true, from the moment I saw two lines on that pregnancy test I had someone to love and adore, but it didn’t make my lonely feelings go away. I still had to work on myself. When I say I want to be more than a mother, I certainly do not mean that I want to go back in time to the days before babies. I don’t want to be that girl again, and I’d rather not repeat all that hard work I’ve put into bettering myself. I just really feel like there has to be more to life than cleaning up legos and watching the Paw Patrol Christmas special for the millionth time.
Maybe it’s just January cabin fever kicking in. Maybe my depression is less controlled than I thought. Either way, I find myself watching the clock and waiting for Mike to get home. I long for conversation without baby talk, but when there are adults around I can only talk about the kids. I don’t do anything without them. Sometimes they are the only people I see for days at a time. I have nothing interesting to say, no new stories that don’t include them. My world is starting to feel very small, and I am feeling like a very uninteresting person.
Everyone wants to solve my problem by reminding my to take time away from the kids. Self care.That’s easier said than done. Even when I do have time away from them, I can’t shut off my mom brain. If I’m on that once-in-a-blue-moon solo trip to the store, I instinctively navigate to the fruit snacks and clearance baby clothes. When I get home I realize I forgot the tampons that I ran out for in the first place, but the kids are stocked for a long, cold winter. Self care ends up feeling forced. I’m hyper aware of the time limit I have, what other things are on my to-do list, and the guilt of having an exhausted husband take the kids after a long day of work. In the words of Jerry Smith, “Have you ever tried to relax? It’s a paradox!” It’s never alone time when the kids are always on your mind. The more you try to forget, the more you think about them.
I miss having hobbies. I was never any good at figure skating when I was young, (even when I was competing) but as an adult I like skating laps. When Jacen and Arielle started school, I could go to the rink on my days off. I had the ice to myself on weekdays, and I could re-learn how to skate without judgmental eyes. Ice skating was one of the many skills I rediscovered after my weight loss, but I was only able to go for a few months before finding out I was pregnant with Anna. My doctor told me the pregnancy was too high risk, and skating needed to be put on hold. I hoped to resume after baby, but trustworthy babysitters are hard to find and the rink is way too cold for an infant.
These days I don’t even get out to the gym. I had to cancel my YMCA membership last Christmas because Anna melted down in the babysitting room, so now working out has become ‘mommy and me’ time. I asked for a cheap gym membership for Christmas this year, but instead Mike got me an exercise bike for the living room. It seemed logical- no need for childcare, no reason to leave the house. In reality it’s just more time staring at the same walls I feel closing in on me. It’s more baby talk. It’s more time splitting my focus between the task at hand and keeping my littles alive. It’s taking things slow, being patient, and multitasking. No wonder the scale isn’t moving. For a few years there my fitness journey was part of my personality. Now it’s merged with motherhood, and I can’t decide if I even enjoy it anymore.
Last weekend I cleaned out my workspace, and ended up donating a ton of yarn I’ll never get to use. It isn’t easy to crochet with a toddler on your lap, and the last time I tried, Anna pulled out an hour worth of stitches in about thirty seconds. I tidied books I haven’t been able to read, fabric longing to be sewn, even seasonal crafts I haven’t been able to sit down and complete with the older kids. What a waste.
I’m not an ice skater. I’m not a gym rat. I’m not a hooker, (person who can crochet, get your mind out of the gutter!) I’m not a bookworm, not a crafter. Hell, I’m not even ‘the girl with the eyelashes’ anymore. I’m just a mama.
This weekend I turn 30. We’re planning on going to a piano bar- my first time out since the summer of 2018. I’ve been thinking about it all week. I only own sweatpants, and I threw out my tackle box full of makeup a few years ago. What the heck do I wear? Do I remember how to put get my eyelashes on? More importantly, What in the world do I talk about? I ONLY have stories about the kids. Fingers crossed no one asks me, “what’s new” because the only response I have is “Lucy is sleeping through the night.” Oh, and the thought of meeting a new person? “Tell me about yourself.” uhhhhhhh, I have kids? What else is there?
Unfortunately my husband is working the night we are going out. My mom is going to take the kids in the evening, but I still have to get ready with all four of them home. I’ll be taking my shower with Anna splashing in the tub at my feet. There will be fingerprints and smudge marks in my nail polish. I won’t be taking the double stroller on a last minute run for makeup or an eyebrow wax, so who knows if I’ll even feel pretty. Honestly, it’s a gamble if I’ll even make it out the door.
Mike wants to take a vacation, a second honeymoon. Something all inclusive, so we can sit on the beach and drink. Somewhere 21+, no kids allowed. That seems like years away considering Lucy is only two months old. On a smaller scale, I just want to sit down and watch Frozen 2. I haven’t even made the attempt yet because I love Frozen too much to watch it unfocused, while Anna begs me to switch back to Spongebob. Oh, just watch it when the kids go to bed? I haven’t heard that one before! Just kidding, I hear it every day. My kids all go to bed at 8:30. I fall asleep at 8:35. It doesn’t matter if I’m lying in bed, sitting on the couch or standing. Most nights Anna is still standing at the babygate whining to stay up a little later. I can’t hear her, I’m snoozin’. An honest break from being a parent is just impossible while they’re this young. Not for one movie, not for a trip to the store, not for a vacation. Guess we will reevaluate when Lucy starts kindergarten in five years.
I love being a mom, I promise I do. I just feel like every day I lose a bit of my own personality, and morph into a sitcom housewife. I want to have a thing- a hobby, and interest. Something. I’m not looking to ditch my kids and go out EVERY night. I just want to go out for my birthday and feel that I’m interesting enough to hold a conversation. To be honest, I even love the double stroller.. And walking with my sister and our side by side strollers? Literally the cutest thing ever. But there was a time where we spent our days taking spontaneous trips, clothes shopping without crossing to the kids’ side, and even doing shots in the parking lot before a concert. Now we whisper when we want to curse. Who are we? Who the heck am I?
Over the summer I wrote a post called “I’m Back, Baby!” and you know what? I really tried to be back. I really tried. In said post I shared that someone in my life had used my blog posts against me. They took my very real, very vulnerable recounts of my worst mental health moments and tried to make me out to be a bad mother. I wanted so badly to overcome it. I wanted to prove them wrong, rise above, and keep doing what I loved. I couldn’t. At that time I just wasn’t strong enough.
Next month I turn 30. That’s 30 years of a whole lot of crap that I’ve lived through. Really dark stuff, really difficult stuff. I’ve felt really terrible about myself but the one thing I always felt like I had going for me was that I was a good mom. Having someone cherry pick my worst moments and represent me as a horrible mother got in my head. I started to believe them. My depression worsened, and I questioned our choice of having another baby. I started spiraling out, needing validation from others for even the most simple of tasks. I chased sleep to escape my own thoughts and quiet my anxieties. I canceled plans consistently and isolated myself from the people I love. I latched on to my husband and prayed he would face my battles for me. I couldn’t blog. I couldn’t think. I could barely even survive.
I only had so much energy, and when it was gone there was no finding more. I prioritized the kids. I tried to keep the family areas clean and food in their bellies.I neglected myself because there was just nothing left to fuel my body. All the gas was used up on the kids. I stopped showering every day. I didn’t exercise. I went so long without leaving the house that my car battery had to be jumped before I could drive it postpartum. I frequently walked into my office/work space, got overwhelmed and walked away crying. My desk was no longer a place of creating and healing, but a place I dumped the things I didn’t want to deal with – both physical clutter and my own feelings.
The negative repercussions of my blog posts have died down. My children have reconfirmed how much we love each other, and that (in their opinion at least) I AM a good mother. Really, their opinions are the only ones I care about anyways. I gave birth to baby Lucy on November 27th, and my health complications started to resolve almost instantly. The miracle workers at Women’s Behavioral health have helped me come back into good mental health. I’m back in counseling, seeing an eating disorder specialist, taking my meds and (hopefully) back to blogging.
As we come up on two months postpartum, I’ve made a lot of progress in taking care of myself. I’m back to showering, working out and trying to stay on top of the chores – but seriously a family of 6 makes a whole lot of laundry. I’m not a god. Yesterday I walked into my work space and those familiar overwhelming feelings came flooding back. For the first time in months I didn’t turn away and ignore them. It was time to face the mess, and take back my space.
Self care has become a little misunderstood. It’s trendy to grab some Starbucks and an expensive face mask and tell everyone on snapchat you’re taking care of yourself. (Not that there’s anything wrong with those things if they give you the boost you need.) Self care doesn’t need to cost a thing. It comes in many forms, and sometimes it isn’t easy. Sometimes it isn’t relaxing. Sometimes it isn’t fun.
My self care this week was taking back my space. It was difficult, it was time consuming. It was hard work, especially with the kids calling “mamaaaaa” every three seconds. Most of all, it was necessary. Clearing out the clutter has lifted me up and renewed my spirit. I have more confidence in myself, more pride in my home, and my desire for writing has already come back.
My bipolar disorder makes maintaining consistency very difficult. Having four children seems to make maintaining a routine impossible. Between the two it feels almost impossible to keep blogging, but I do this for myself. Writing is my self care, and a way to manage all of the emotions that come with parenting and mental illness. As a perk, my readers give me motivation and validation. Hearing stories about others relating to my journey makes me feel a little more normal, and gives me a boost of self worth. I look forward to the posts my future holds, and continuing to bond with my readers. Just know I’m trying my best over here, and I’m thinking about you all even when blogging is impossible.
This pregnancy has not been easy. It seems our medical complications have grown with each child. The stress has really affected my energy, mental health and weight. Most of all, I struggle with my binge eating every minute of every day.
My activity level has been limited due to an abdominal hernia and a torn ligament in my belly. The baby and I both have cardiac issues, so working out has been a real struggle. Ideally we would balance the limited activity with a healthy diet but there’s something in my brain that just won’t let that happen.
My friends and family are some of the sweetest people on the planet, but don’t realize how detrimental they can be to my eating habits. If I crave something once, my husband will continue to buy it a million times to surprise me. Everytime he goes to the supermarket, he picks me up a donut and raids the bakery. Considering carbs and sugar have always been my drug of choice, the sweets have really been dangerous to keep in the house. I had been so strong against them for almost three years, but once I opened the door for one, the bingeing came flooding back.
I struggle every single day with my desire to eat- pregnant or not. On a normal day, I have the support to restrict my eating and be healthy. As a pregnant woman, people think eating is the healthy choice. It means they like to offer food whenever they can, and it’s almost never anything healthy. When I have support, I can say no to temptation. When temptation is offered to me, I struggle to stay away.
The old ‘eating for two’ thing is completely wrong. Doctors today suggest that a woman of average weight only needs to gain about 25 pounds during their pregnancy. Most of that number is the weight of the baby, placenta, and extra fluid. In the beginning 25 pounds didn’t seem so bad, but as the number on the scale creeps up so does my anxiety. Am I gaining healthy baby weight, or am I gaining carbohydrate fat?
It is almost never a good idea to start a weight loss diet during pregnancy- unless a doctor directs you otherwise. In my case, I have brought up my weight at every visit, and my doctor has shot down every calorie-reduced idea I’ve had. He tells me to try and reach for healthier options when I’m hungry, but not to count calories and drive myself crazy.. The truth is, NOT counting drives me even crazier.
I’m losing sleep over my weight gain, and my self confidence has plummeted. I’m only seven months along, and fall comfort food has already started appearing on our dinner plates. I’m mentally preparing for the holidays and our family’s “birthday season.” I struggle to plan events knowing that there will be an abundance of food. Attending events is a daunting thought. Today is Jacen’s birthday, and I’m already stressing my food choices for the night. I want to enjoy this time of year, but my issues with food stand in the way.
‘Do as I say, not as I do’ has been ringing in my ears lately. I know what changes I need to make, but can’t seem to physically follow through with them. I wake up every morning with the best intentions of turning things around, but fall flat rather quickly. It’s so easy to make the excuse, “I’m pregnant, it’s a craving. I’m allowed to eat it.” No one is going to tell a pregnant woman to stop eating, but it’s something I really need to hear.
I’m fighting the battle today. I fought it yesterday, I’ll have to fight it tomorrow. Repeat for the rest of my life. Food will always be there- it’s necessary to stay alive. It’s one of the only drugs that an addict can’t quit completely, and must use daily in moderation. It makes recovery all the more difficult.
My goal today is to be mindful. I want to try and be in tune with my body and hunger cues. I want to focus on baby Lucy, and constantly remind myself that my decisions affect the health of both me and her. I want to eat for nourishment and not for enjoyment – this is sure to be a challenge when Jacen’s birthday cake comes out. It’s only 9 AM, still plenty of time to make today a good day. I’ve had rough days lately, but can not change the past. I can only focus on making today as healthy as possible.
Stand with me. Make healthy choices today, and let’s feel better about tomorrow.
This pregnancy has been exhausting. Baby Lucy and I each have a couple of medical problems, and they take a toll on my energy (mental and physical.) Yesterday I canceled my plans to get things done around the house, but still wasn’t able to get everything done on my to-do list. I spent a good chunk of the day sick, and had to take it easy.
Anna woke up at the crack of dawn this morning. Before I even opened my eyes, I realized that my throat was on fire. The acid from yesterday’s morning (but really all day-) sickness had burned my throat. My body felt heavy, and getting out of bed seemed impossible. My mind started forming a list of everything I needed to get done today, including my rollover tasks from yesterday. It seemed like I had a marathon of errands accumulating. A marathon that I would have to complete with sandbags of anxiety, depression and physical exhaustion slowing me down. The weight of the world was on my shoulders.. And also in my womb, on my swollen feet, in my head and in my heart. Things felt dark and gloomy.
As I got Anna set up with breakfast, I spied a new Amazon Prime package on my counter. I got a little flutter of excitement and intrigue. I couldn’t remember what I had ordered, so it was going to be like Christmas morning.
There was a pair of maternity pants inside and a note that said, “ A gift for you: These were the ONLY pants I was comfortable in! I hope these bring you some comfort while you grow that beautiful baby! We love you Auntie!”
Happy tears stung my eyes. My sister. My beautiful soul of a sister, had taken time out of her day for me. She was thinking of me. She was empathetic to my problems. She took time to think of a solution that might help. She spent her hard earned money. She put together the sweetest note. I was on her mind, and she made me feel loved.
Her package was more than just an item. It was validation that my problems were real. Someone had experienced the same discomfort, and tried to ease that pain for me. It was the sentiment of being loved, being thought of, and being worthy. Reading her note made me happier than I’ve been in quite a while, and I’m so glad she is in my life. I wish everyone had a person like her. The world would be a better place.
You could be that person today. You could be like my sister. Maybe there’s a compliment you could pay to someone who’s down. Maybe pop a note in the mail to a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Maybe it’s just a phone call to tell someone you love them. Maybe it’s just a thoughtful text. Be like my sister today. Make the world better. You can do it!
I woke up with anxiety. Things got loud. I had a million thoughts going through my mind, and a very long to-do list forming. Old Kate would have gotten out of bed with her head and wheels spinning, wasting a whole lot of energy without actually getting much done. I’m not that girl anymore.
I bit the bullet and immediately canceled my plans for the day. I needed time and peace to take care of things at home. My sister immediately texted back with an “lol you beat me to the cancellation punch” kind of text. I instantly felt the weight on my shoulders lift, and things seemed a lot more manageable.
The noise in my brain settled a bit. All of a sudden I was amused by listening to Mike and the three dogs snoring. Their breathing came together in a kind of harmony, almost like a song. I laughed a little on the inside. Instead of getting out of bed and ferociously tackling my list, I laid in bed. I read for a while, then started writing this post. All the while silently smiling at the four snorers. What was this that I was feeling? Oh yes, peace.
There’s a reason flight attendants tell you to “secure your own oxygen before assisting others.” You have to be alive and breathing before you can take care of everyone else. That’s self care. That’s preparing yourself to be the best helper you can be. In the long run self care benefits not only you, but everyone around you. It’s a ripple effect of peace.
Canceling my plans today was my oxygen. I’m now ready to get the house put together and finish painting the nursery. I’m ready to tackle laundry (we may or may not be out of clean towels at the moment) and I feel better prepared to handle whatever tantrums my terrible two year old throws at me.
I’ve set myself up for success today by prioritizing the important tasks. I found relief in minimizing, and peace in a slower day. What can you do this morning to give yourself the best day possible? What stressors can you drop to make your day less crazy? Secure your oxygen. Breathe. Make today a good day.
Jacen and Arielle have recently sparked an interest in Anime. They watch an English-dubbed show called ‘My Hero Academia.’ I really, really try to be as interested as they are- but it just isn’t for me. There’s a really cool phenomenon with anime, where it becomes more than just a show- it’s a culture.
Part of nurturing their interest in anime meant welcoming that culture into our home. They’ve learned a TON about Japan and have asked to try new foods and traditions from the show. They’re getting an educational experience without realizing it. They’ve also gained an obsession with drawing an animation. I never thought I’d see the day, but they’ve even VOLUNTARILY left their tablets at home and brought the sketch books instead. Mom-mind blown.
Jacen and Arielle asked to go to Comic-Con as their “one big outing” of summer vacation. (Just as a side note, Comic-con was WAYYYY cheaper than King Richard’s Faire- their pick from last year. That place costs more than Disney!) I was happy to take them.
Our bonding started weeks before the day of the convention. I asked the kids to introduce me to their favorite characters. I followed r/BokuNoHeroAcademia on Reddit to connect with other fans of the show. I used pinterest for costume inspiration, and asked the kids a million questions. They loved it. Their faces would light up at a chance to bring me into their world. Even when they lost me in the explanation, it was never a wasted question. Sometimes you get your answer in the way they respond, and not the words they use.
We crafted the costumes together. Arielle was in awe of my new cricut machine, and Jacen had the time of his life dying his hair crazy colors. We had so many laughs, and talked about so many things. They were such precious hours.
When they day of Comic-con arrived, the kids had trouble containing their excitement. Even Anna, who had no idea what was going on, fed off the older kids’ energy. She giggled and squealed all the way into Boston, trying to be heard over Jacen and Arielle’s increasingly loud banter.
I don’t know if I will ever see Arielle so excited to get dressed ever again. Honestly, it may have topped prom AND her wedding. She treated each part with such delicate fingers, respecting and appreciating every component. She was still adjusting the last few pieces when a car slowed down next to us. A boy leaned out the window and said, “Great Cosplay, Tsu!” She beamed ear to ear, “They recognized me! They know who I am supposed to be!” I’m pretty sure her soul momentarily left her body, did a joyous back flip, then returned with a surge of positivity.” She was absolutely elated.
Both Jacen and Arielle walked around the convention with confidence and swagger. They were recognized time after time, and had several photos taken. Everyone was incredibly kind to them. My kids found “their people.” They were glowing. Everything was exciting and interesting. I didn’t want the night to end.
Even as we held on to our time at Con as long as we could, eventually the crowd started to die down. Vendors closed up, Anna got cranky, and my pregnant feet were swelling beyond the confines of my sneakers. Sadly, it was time to go.
Jacen and Arielle treated the walk out like a farewell on the red carpet. They beamed the biggest smiles and held their heads high. A teenage girl walked up to us and asked Arielle where she got her costume, as it was one of the better quality Froppy cosplay she had seen. That soul of hers did a second little backflip again as she grabbed my hand and said, “my mom made it for me!”
My soul started with the backflips. Several, huge backflips.. And maybe a tear or two in my eye.
Sometimes Arielle gets confused. She almost always calls me Kate, but when the world is spinning “mom” just slips out. This was not one of those times. This was intentional and meaningful.
Anime, for me, is not super interesting. Some parts of the process were confusing, and maybe even boring for a moment or two. Tickets were a little pricey, the convention was crowded and hectic. Still, I would not change anything. She called me Mom, and she meant it.
My ten year old has a lot going on these days. She lives between two homes, (mom’s house and our house) she goes to school, participates in activities and has (finally) made some good friends! Her world is bigger than it used to be, and she’s got the mental exhaustion to prove it.
This past week was even wilder than usual. My husband took a vacation from work, and we decided to end our summer break with a bang! We took a few little day trips and spent a night at Great Wolf Lodge. There were a ton of moving parts, things to remember, and stress. At some point we all had to just let go of the reigns and go with the flow- especially Arielle.
When Arielle has a lot on her mind it doesn’t come out as, “I’m stressed out.” She can’t always describe or communicate her feelings. Sometimes she’s even so overwhelmed that she can’t say anything at all. In our younger parenting days we would have gotten angry at these moments- wondered why she couldn’t just behave and enjoy our expensive week. We would match her frustration, angry that she wasn’t appreciating our hard work and planning. It only made things worse.
You see, parents can not control the way their child behaves. They can only control their OWN behavior in response to their child’s actions. We try to teach them, we try to shape them into model citizens. What we really need to do is HELP them.
Our kids have responded very well with the coping mechanisms and mental health awareness I have shared with them lately. When I noticed Arielle was being mentally spread thin, I decided to introduce mindfulness. She needed to gather herself, to do one thing well instead of a million things at low power.
Mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment. Don’t worry about the past, don’t stress about the future. Focus on the moment you are in, and let the rest go.
We were at the indoor water park when Arielle had a moment of anxiety. She couldn’t remember if she had brought her phone charger from her mom’s house. This problem was completely irrelevant to the moment- there was no one she needed to call at that time, and water is the last thing her phone needed. She was still stuck on it. “I know it doesn’t matter, I just can’t remember and it’s driving me crazy.” I tried to calm her fears by telling her that we had many micro USB chargers, and even if she did forget it she would be able to use an alternate. She nodded in understanding but I could see in her lack of eye contact that she was still racking her brain for the answer.
This is where I reached my parenting ‘fork in the road.” Path A was to get annoyed. We had spent a TON of money to come to Great Wolf. It had been a ton of energy to pack and haul all three kids around. It would have been easy to get mad and call her ungrateful. Path B was to help her. Yes, I mean help her relax and maybe even help her focus, but most of all, I wanted to help her enjoy herself.
I asked her if she knew what mindfulness was and she just kind of nodded. In a dazed voice she said, “kind of, they told us what it was in health class once.” I could tell she was still thinking about the charger. I sat down to bring us closer to eye-to-eye level. Just the change in position seemed to snap her back to the present. All of a sudden I had her full attention.
I told her that this was a great moment to be mindful. We didn’t have to think about what was going on at her mom’s house, or even ours. We didn’t have to think about tomorrow or what we were going to do after lunch. In this exact moment, all we had to worry about was choosing our favorite waterslide. She laughed, and I knew she was back “in the now.” We moved on to fun activities, and didn’t give that charger another thought.
Later that night Arielle came to find me. We were getting settled into our hotel room and changed into comfy pajamas. “Hey Kate, I found my phone charger. I had it that whole time.” I smiled and told her how awesome that was. After a little moment of quiet she asked, “So, how did that mindfulness thing work? I was so worried about my charger and you made me completely forget about it. How did you do that?” I was excited she wanted to know.
Sticking with the water theme, I told her our brains were like a water hose. When we are thinking about the past, it pokes a hole for water to escape. Another hole for the future, and another for what was going on at Mom’s house. The more we thought about, the more holes in our hose. The problem with that is we want the water to come out of the end, into the present. If there are holes everywhere, all of the water will escape before reaching the end. We have barely any “water” or energy to use in this moment. If we plug up all the holes, water pressure returns. We have the full strength or water to use right now. We have all of the enjoyment.
I’m not saying mindfulness is foolproof, especially for a ten-year old. I’m not even saying its easy, for anyone. It’s a tool, and it’s work- but they payoff is huge. What holes can you plug this evening? Stop losing water from yesterday, tomorrow, or work problems. Use all of your water pressure for tonight. Tuck your kids in, tell them you love them. Bond with your spouse. Focus, enjoy, be mindful.
Yesterday was a really tough day. Anna has started her terrible two’s early, and she was mid tantrum at the register in Target when a familiar voice called my name. I was already falling apart when this poor woman unknowingly hit a nerve by asking about my blog. I struggled to keep my chin up, and told her we were just busy with other things. That statement was definitely a half-truth. We are always busy, but I used to find time to blog. There’s a big reason I wasn’t, and time had nothing to do with it.
The things I write about are extremely personal. Sharing the details about my mental health leaves me quite vulnerable. Unfortunately someone has recently taken advantage of that vulnerability to hurt my family. I was faced with two options; to fearlessly continue to write, or to go radio silent and stop feeding them ammunition. I looked at my kids, and realized there was nothing more important to me than them.. not even my blog.
We’ve spent the summer rebuilding what was broken, and getting stronger as a family. The time we’ve had together has been so valuable. We are better than ever, even with ALL of the hurdles life has thrown at us. We are a unit. We are a team. Not even the most vicious of attacks could break us apart.
On the way home from Target, Arielle broke the silence and asked, “so, why DID you stop the blog?” I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. I had never intended on a full stop, more of a hiatus. I told her that when I was a kid, my dad used to tell me that ‘your enemy’s best weapons are what you give them.’ In this case, when people wanted to hurt me they were using the ugly parts of my mental health journey. Things I had willingly shared with them. Things I had given them. I had stopped writing in hopes the battle would fizzle out on its own. Arielle listen quietly as I tried to explain. After a brief moment of thought she said, “I just don’t think we should stop. It’s something I loved about us, and if mean people are being mean that’s their fault. Not ours.”
So, here we are. I’d be lying if I said I wrote this without hesitation. Maybe I am a little scared to bare our faults again, but at the same time I’m excited to continue healing- not just our household family, but our blog family too. We have a TON of awesome stuff we’ve been waiting to share with you, and we just can’t wait to move forward together. Our family, your family, blog family.
In case you haven’t heard- WE’RE PREGNANT! Our family will be growing by 10 little mistletoe-s this Christmas, and we are all very excited!
It took us four years to conceive Anna, so we weren’t expecting to get pregnant so soon. I had my Nexplanon implant removed on March 8th, and just three weeks later on March 31st we got our positive home test! Ultrasound confirms, we got pregnant THE DAY my birth control was removed. Holy guacamole, my head has been spinning!
Things have progressed very quickly, and more than once I’ve begged time to slow down. I’m still trying to bond with baby Nora, who is now just over 2 months old and already SOOO big. Anna, (at 20 months) is giving me a run for my money- showing signs she is ready for potty training, and has become a clothing escape artist. It seems every time I turn my back she’s gotten completely naked, diaper included. The older kids have entered their last month of school, which means we’ve been bombarded with field days, fundraisers, concerts, plays, performances, theme days, award nights, field trips, and everything else you can think of. Things have been crazy, and I could certainly use a few extra hours in each day to get it all done.
I’m lucky to say that every dose of the craziness has been balanced with a reason to be happy. There have been so many blessings, laughs, and good times. We have so much to look forward to, and so much to be excited for. I think that’s why I find my debilitating depression so confusing.
Given my history of mental illness and the role it has played in previous pregnancies, I’ve been extra careful to be proactive in getting help this time around. I see my therapist religiously, practice mindfulness and meditation, stick to my medication routine, and see the behavioral health clinic at one of the most prestigious hospitals in my area. Even with all of this, the darkness has managed to creep in. I’m battling every single day to keep it under control.
At first, I just felt a little heaviness. I had a ton of reasons to be happy, and yet something was holding me back from enjoying them at the full 100%. It then progressed to a ball and chain, where the depression made it hard for me to move forward. I started to struggle with the thought of socialization. Preparing for our Memorial Day gatherings became painful. I literally felt slow, like I was hauling an anvil with every step. When Anna became a little restless at one of our cookouts, I had a major breakdown. I snapped at Mike out of anxiety, and choked back tears. We had to leave. I could feel myself losing control.
At this point, I tried to slam on my emotional breaks. I knew where my depression was heading, and I didn’t want it to get worse. My therapist saw me on Monday, even though it was Memorial Day. On Tuesday, I saw the behavioral health clinic for medication management. I tried to focus on the good, but it was too late. When I got home from the clinic on Tuesday, I laid down for a nap on the couch. While I slept, my ball and chain turned to an anchor. I haven’t been able to get that anchor to move, not even one inch.
From my spot on the couch, I’ve watched the clutter pile up on every surface in the house. The trash is overflowing, the dirty laundry can not longer be contained into a basket. There’s a layer of dust accumulating on the equipment in my home gym. Last night, a shivering Jacen had to holler from the shower because we were out of clean towels. I’m ashamed to confess that Anna has been watching an insane amount of Sesame Street, and I’ve skipped our regularly scheduled reading times. I doze off and on throughout the day, then struggle to sleep at night. I’m always looking forward to the escape of sleep, and chase it like an addict looking for their next fix. I haven’t left the house since my appointment on Tuesday morning. I haven’t seen the shower in days. I haven’t even checked my voicemails, messages or texts. I see the kids and Mike, and that’s about it for socialization.
Trust me, I know that this behavior isn’t okay. I’m trying my hardest to chip away at this anchor; trying to make it lighter. I’m honest with Mike about my dark thoughts and feelings, and I’m in contact with my mental health team. I’m open to help, and I’m still setting goals. I’m looking forward to the weekend, and hoping Arielle will kick my butt into getting out of the house.
I didn’t want to write this post for pity. I wanted to share that depression can happen to anyone, even to those with the most to be happy about. I have a beautiful family. They motivate me to be the healthiest *ME* that I can be. I’m overjoyed to be pregnant, and excited to grow our family – but that doesn’t erase my wacky hormones. I have everything I’ve asked for in life, and yet I’m still chasing the escape of sleep instead of spending my time enjoying myself. When things are dark like this, it makes asking for help seem like I’m a burden. Some days I feel more like a dependant, or an additional child to my husband. The days when I want to avoid help are actually the days I need it most. I’m very lucky to have an incredible support system. My husband is very in-tune with my emotional needs, and helps me stay on track. His patience alone is a gift from God. My sister is good at getting me out of the house, changing my environment and trying to spark a change in my mood. My kids don’t always understand what’s going on in my mind, but they just keep telling me they love me.
If you’re feeling the darkness with me, please know that you are worthy of help. You don’t have to do this alone, and receiving love is not burdensome.
If you’re the support person, please know that you are nothing short of an angel. The smallest actions, the quiet kind words, the hugs, the company, the “I love you”s- they mean the world. They help us dig out little by little. They give us light in the dark.
Depression can sneak in at anytime. It doesn’t mean that we are any less deserving of our blessings. This will pass for me, especially when I accept the help of friends, family, and my medical team. I’m looking forward to taking my body off of auto-pilot. I want to be present. I want to enjoy Nora being little, before she isn’t little anymore. I want to foster Anna’s growth by helping her potty train. I want to be an active parent, celebrating with Jacen and Arielle through all of their special end-of-the-year days. I want to be healthy and happy as I bake my little bun in the oven. I want to feel like ME again- and I’m working for it. We’re working for it, as a family.
When I made the decision to start blogging, I had every intention of sharing the aspects of wellness that applied to my whole family- including my children. As time goes by, I find myself saving posts about the kids as drafts, unable to publish them. We all have our fair share of obstacles. We are working individually and as a family to be our best version of ourselves, and most of the time I think sharing our stories would help the masses. On the other hand, my children ARE children. They are learning every day, but also make mistakes every day. It’s hard to balance respecting their privacy while sharing their progress. When something is posted on the internet, it’s there forever. Even if it’s taken down or deleted, someone, somewhere, is able to find the deeply hidden shadow of the original post. The last thing I want to do is embarrass them or write something that I later regret sharing. In the current age of cyber bullying there is a risk that their classmates and peers may get a hold of my posts, and use them as ammunition to torture the kids. With that being said, our family is finally ready to move forward and be more open. We plan to choose our words carefully, and all be active in the writing process. Don’t be surprised if we blog about things that have happened long ago. I’m going to give the kids as much time as they need to re-read, and reprocess. We are a family and a team. We are in this together, and I’m not posting anything without their approval.
As a parent, it can be extremely difficult to identify issues or struggles in your child. It’s even more difficult to accept help. For a long time, I wore my rose colored glasses and chalked issues up to “kids being kids.” Going way back to 2013, Jacen first started showing signs that something was ‘off.’ He was melting down on a regular basis, afraid to go new places or try new things. We once took him to the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, and missed half of the park because he refused to walk into one of the dimly lit buildings. We tried to explain that it was only dark by the door, and would get lighter inside. No dice. He absolutely refused, even lying on the floor and clawing at the carpet. If we tried to carry him in, he would grab on to anything he could- walls, door frames, other people- anything to get traction and stop us. We tried to get him to talk to us about how he was feeling, or what was scaring him, but all he could muster was a frustrated, “I don’t know!” Finally it got to the point where I could see that this was no longer normal fear of a three year old child. There was absolute, extreme terror in his eyes. It was interfering with his life and social progress. My heart broke for him. I just wanted to make things better. I wanted him to be able to participate in more, and be open to new experiences. I just didn’t know where to start.
We tried to handle this behavior on our own for far too long. We tried exposure therapy, bringing him new places on a regular basis to try and get him to be more comfortable with new experiences. He started dreading things ahead of time, making the days even longer and more painful. We tried just picking him up, and carrying him into scary places to “bite the bullet.” We hoped that once he got through the worst part, he would calm down and enjoy himself. He started questioning his trust and safety with us. Sometimes we got angry. I’m embarrassed to admit that more than once I had yelled at him to “get over it” or exploded over the money I had wasted on admission, only to not enjoy our experience. My anger made him feel ashamed of his own emotions, and he started turning to other people for comfort. My husband and I were failing him, and he ran to Nana or Auntie whenever he could.
My heart broke. He was the most important person to me, and he felt like he couldn’t trust me. I wasn’t able to comfort him or make him feel safe. I was failing him as a mother. The old “buck up and be a man” method was not working, and I could see the emotional toll it was taking on him. I desperately wanted to fix our relationship. I knew I needed to be his rock, and moving forward relied on BOTH of us getting some professional guidance. I wanted to be close to my son again, and finally welcomed help.
I reluctantly reached out to a therapist. I was still holding back, not wanting to admit how much I had failed my child. It was tough to let an outsider in, but I was definitely interested in having him evaluated. I wanted a professional opinion about what was going on. Were these feelings organic, something chemical like my own mental health? Or, were these issues something I created by my own parenting? Maybe these things were completely age appropriate and normal- maybe they would just tell me he didn’t need intervention, that he would grow out of it. I sucked up my pride, and let the therapist in. It was the best thing I’ve ever done for Jacen.
At first, he passed his evaluation with flying colors. He was friendly, outgoing, and very intelligent for his age. At just four years old, he was asking very grown up questions. He would ask how your day was going, or about things you were looking forward to. He knew how to ask open-ended questions and engage in conversation. They were about to close out his file and send us on our way when his therapist asked to try just one more, unorthodox eval method. The therapist had one of his trusted, vetted interns come by the house. She was a college student on the younger side, and a new person to Jacen. When she first showed up to the house, he was his typical, friendly self. She asked to take him outside to blow bubbles in the yard and he enthusiastically agreed. He was even okay walking up and down the street with her. In familiar places he was welcoming and happy, even borderline flirting with her. He had zero issue with new people. She asked if we could all go to her favorite playground, one Jacen had never been to. The three of us were planning to drive there in her car. Even though I was there with him, he started to get nervous about being in a new car. She didn’t want to push it, so we ended up driving separately. It was the first time his nervousness was seen or documented.
She got to the park before us, and was waiting in the parking lot to greet us when we pulled in. Immediately, Jacen started frantically looking around, clutching his seat belt to his chest. She opened his door, and used a playful, excited voice to try and coax him out of the car. He blocked the safety belt release, and would not let her unbuckle him. His cheeks were bright red and hot. His eyes were darting quickly between the open car door, me, and his seat belt button. He started breathing in quick and shallow, holding the air in his chest without releasing. She tried to back off, to give him space and time to calm down. It was too late. As soon as she stepped back from the car, he fought to pull the door closed. The tears flowed, the yelling started. There was no reasoning with him, and he refused to listen to anything we had to say. We had to turn back and go home, but his anxiety attack was finally documented. It was painful to watch, but also an important step in getting a diagnosis.
The first thing they worked on with Jacen was identifying the way a panic attack felt. I liked that they didn’t put words in his mouth. They asked him to describe what he felt in those moments. He didn’t use the words anxious or panicked. In four year old terminology, he described feeling “nervous” and “scared.” Those became our go-to words to identify his attacks, and his care felt personal and tailored to Jacen. They asked him to describe how his nervousness physically felt in his body. He described it as “a storm in my belly” and “a balloon in my chest.” We were finally getting some information on where to start, and the break through felt amazing.
Jacen often hyperventilated when he was feeling nervous, sucking in air but not breathing back out. His body tricked his mind into thinking he couldn’t breathe, so he would take in as much oxygen as he could, then try to save it as a reserve in his chest. He needed to learn deep-breathing exercises and self regulation, but those are not easy tools to teach a four year old. Coping techniques have to be learned when the patient is not currently suffering an anxiety attack. The skills are practiced and perfected while calm, so they can be applied correctly in times of panic. It was hard for Jacen to hold interest in learning, or to connect the skills with his ‘nervous feelings’ when he wasn’t currently experiencing them. It felt like he was deflecting therapy, and not absorbing the help.
I was starting to feel frustrated again. The adults were working hard, so why wasn’t he getting better? At the time I didn’t have the insight that I do now. After all of the work my family has put into mental health, the most important thing I have learned is that if therapy is not working, it’s not the right type of therapy for the patient. We had to change it up. If we couldn’t make Jacen fit into the textbook, we had to change the textbook to accommodate Jacen.
He had a habit of rushing through his deep breathing. He didn’t breathe deep enough or slow enough for it to be used as a coping mechanism, and we were not seeing a difference in the hyperventilating. We started making the deep breathing into a game. He held up four fingers (for four years old) and pretended they were birthday candles. He would take as deep of a breath as he could, “blowing out the flame.” When his breath was completely out, he put his finger down and moved to the next candle. At first he thought it was silly, but then began looking forward to it. He even asked if he could make a wish every time all the candles were blown out. It ended up being an unforeseen benefit. The candles were a success, even during the worst panic attacks. After four breaths, he was usually even calm enough to speak. If I asked him what his wish was, he often replied something to the effect of, “I wish it wasn’t so dark in here,” “I wish we could leave,” “I wish I knew what that loud, scary noise was coming from.” His wishes helped us identify the sources of his anxiety, and improved his care. We started being able to zero in on his triggers, working through what we could. He spent about 9 months in therapy. They discharged him in hopes that his new breathing tools and communication skills would be enough to help him grow. They made it clear that the office was always there if we needed to come back, and I could even just call with any questions or concerns. By discharging him, they returned the comfort and coping skills back to us, (as parents) and Jacen started to realize that we were there to help him. Our relationship has strengthened every single day, and we have grown together.
Jacen has witnessed my own anxiety attacks. He now knows how to identify them, and even tries to help me. Just hearing him say, “Mom, try blowing out some candles” can be enough to pull me out of dark thoughts. He will stop and breathe with me. He watches my effort and progress, and I watch his. We motivate each other to work through issues, and have bonded over new therapies. He loves trying different calming methods with me, like Yoga and meditation. We talk about mindfulness, and have rebuilt our trust in each other. We have seen rapid success in his anxiety recovery, and his willingness to try new things. He now knows that I would never put him in danger, and I will always keep him safe. He still loves his Nana and Auntie, but Mama is back to being his number one.
Mental illness can be isolating. It’s easy to feel like no one understands, and hard to forget when your symptom create frustration in the people you love. It can make you feel like a burden. I’ve felt this way myself, and it’s terrible. I never want Jacen to have these thoughts again. I never want him to feel alone. Reaching out and getting help was everything. If we had continued down the path we were on, we may never have recovered from our trust issues. Asking an outsider to intervene can feel like you’re giving up control of the situation to a stranger. In reality, it’s REGAINING control of the situation. It’s recovering in a way that will allow you to move forward. Parenting is fucking hard. It’s okay to not know what you’re doing from time to time. It’s not okay to ignore problems and let them grow. When you can get help, you can get better. You can all get better, as a family.
Don’t fear intervention. Welcome it, embrace it. We all want the best for our children, so utilize every resource you can to make that happen. Let’s grow together- as a household, as a family, as a community, as a whole. All of us, together.
My husband never gets time off from work- I mean ever. A few years ago we had even booked a cruise, deposit included, with my sister’s wedding party. Even as a financial and wedding obligation his job rejected his vacation request. I ended up going on the cruise with the wedding party, but had to room alone. He’s missed birthdays, events, and milestones. This made last weekend even more exciting when he surprised us with a full week off of work!
Mike’s birthday is May 4th, and we hardly ever get to celebrate it. In previous years it was just a grocery store cake after a long shift at work. You’d think after years of this, he would enjoy his time off by taking a day for himself. Not Michael. Instead, he planned a trip to Pennsylvania so Anna could see Elmo at Sesame Place. He’s a great dad, and I’m a lucky woman.
Initially Mike had planned to surprise me at the very last moment with the trip. He wised up as the weekend got closer, and remembered how triggering deviation from our routine can be for me. He let me know a few days in advance, and it was perfect. It was enough time for me to feel organized, but still surprised.
I think the biggest change I noticed was in my obsessive compulsions to over-plan, and over-indulge. In the past I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself (and the family) to REALLY enjoy our vacations. This inevitably ends in disaster when the stress pushes everyone to the limit, and we all fall apart. For our trip to Disney, I had made multiple outfits for the kids ahead of time. It’d cost a small fortune, and I had no confidence in my work. Some of the costumes were uncomfortable for the kids, and refusal to wear them broke my heart. There was high tension and high pressure, and everyone had to walk on eggshells around me. This trip I still handmade celebratory apparel, but I was able to focus on one thing. Scaling back kept the cost much lower, and meant that I could put a lot of focus and effort into what I was doing. We were all much more comfortable in cute little sweatshirts than in head to toe costumes. I had much more pride in my work, and the confidence really helped my mood. It changed the entire dynamic of the day.
I was also able to let go of a rigid schedule. I still downloaded the map of the park a few days before, and I looked at the restaurant menus ahead of time. I sincerely feel like this was necessary, as I eat such a strict diet and they don’t allow outside food into the park. I was, however, able to skip making reservations, or pre-planning the kids orders. I’m so glad I did because part of the fun was watching the kids choose elaborately decorated cupcakes and Elmo-shaped food. They would have missed out if I’d micromanaged their meals.
I usually obsess about getting pictures with all of the characters. I keep a pre-written schedule of where they are, and at what times. Then I drag the whole family across the park several times, only to end up with miserable faces in the photos. Talk about an emotional break down. The disappointment haunts me, and I ruin the day for everyone. This time I was able to let go, relax, and follow the kids’ cues. I let them go on the rides they wanted, and when we passed a character we popped in. The only exception I made was Elmo, and they were more than willing to compromise for my one request. I got awesome pictures, and (more importantly) a TON of awesome memories.
These are obviously huge changes for me, and they had an incredible pay off. We have not had a relaxing vacation in many years, and we were able to come home feeling refreshed instead of defeated. I accomplished these changes by participating in EMDR for the last year. In therapy I have processed trips of years past- how going over the top and stretching myself thin impacted my family. By reprocessing these memories I was able to learn from them, and let go of them. I no longer feel the need to top past vacations, or redeem myself for failed costumes. Redeem. Let me tell you how much that word weighs on me! I constantly beat myself up over the past, and feel the need to “do it better” this time. It compels me to obsess over the details, and I end up missing the big picture. EMDR changes this for me. I no longer compare myself to the old Kate. I can leave her in the past. I have a fresh start every day, and I can let go of my processed memories. I am able to be mindful, enjoying today. It has changed my life.
At the end of our trip, the kids were still laughing and smiling. We were able to do everything we wanted, even without the schedule. Going with the flow let them REALLY enjoy themselves, stress- free. I work every day at making myself a healthier, better mom. These are the things that keep me on track, that keep me motivated. My children will always be my driving force, and I will never stop wanting to do better for them. I’m so glad I got to see some progress in myself, and our whole family dynamic. I’m looking forward to checking in with my therapist, and to continue processing the old stuff!
My small steps and changes yielded an incredible pay off. What steps are you taking today to better yourself?
[Recently I have been blogging in response to a reader request. Part 1 covered my infertility and journey conceiving Anna. Part 2 described my pregnancy as an untreated bipolar. This is my 3rd and final piece in the series, Anna’s stay in the NICU.]
The first question they ask when you get pregnant is “when was the date of your last period?” Prior to getting pregnant, my PCOS had prevented me from getting a period for months. My due date had to be calculated via ultrasound measurements. According to those measurements, my water started leaking at about 36 weeks. We were expecting Anna to be a lot stronger, considering she was practically full term- but she ended up having respiratory issues at birth. It was later determined during her NICU eval that she was actually only 34 weeks, and her lungs were slightly underdeveloped.
In my last post I had explained that my October 17th had started at about 4AM. It was at this time that I had a major manic episode. It turned violent, and the physical exertion was enough to break my water. I stupidly waited until my OB office opened at 8:00 to call the doctor. I was seen at 9, and sent immediately to the hospital for an emergency c-section.
I had mixed feelings while waiting in pre-op. On one hand I was over-the-moon excited to meet my daughter, but I was also carrying a ton of shame that my behavior had caused early labor. My husband was the voice of reason, keeping me excited about our future and letting go of the past mistakes. There was nothing we could do to change our situation, so we made the best of it. We were expecting a small baby, but we were also expecting a healthy one.
I have an extremely low tolerance to medication, especially narcotics. As soon as the anesthesiologist started my IV, nausea came in like a tidal wave. I was sweating, crying, and trying not to vomit. I was completely disoriented, and voices sounded very far away. The surgical drape was practically on my face, tricking my mind into claustrophobia. I wasn’t completely aware of what was going on around me, or what anyone was saying. I felt the pressure change as the surgeon pulled Anna out, and listen for her to cry. Silence. Why was it taking so long?
Mike stood by my head, and watched the nurses. They took her right over to an incubation bed, suctioned fluid out, and immediately listened to her lungs. I told Mike to go take pictures for me, but he hesitated. I didn’t understand why. He kept his hand on my shoulder and watched from across the room. I started to notice how quiet everyone was. The room was spinning, and I couldn’t see anything while strapped down to the operating table. My thoughts raced with disorientation from the drugs. “What was going on? Had she made a sound yet? I think she had. No wait, now I don’t remember.” Finally, a cry. A nice, loud, distinct cry. The nurse came over with my daughter, and placed her on my chest. Mike and I cried together, relieved she was here and okay.
Coming out of the operating room is still kind of a blur. I was so tired, and so confused. Mostly, sooooo nauseous. I kept asking to nurse the baby. I’d previously struggled breastfeeding Jacen, and had done a ton of research to be more successful with Anna. It was important to me to get a good latch right away. I just wanted my baby, but the nurses kept saying, “As soon as we can. We’re just getting some numbers.”
When the pediatrician came in to evaluate Anna, the nurse expressed her concerns. Anna was visibly “tugging.” Tugging occurs when the respiratory muscles are not strong enough to maintain air pressure in the chest cavity. The skin and muscles sink in, and you can see movement around the intercostal spaces of the ribcage. At first, the staff had hoped this would be temporary. They even let Mike and I hold her, but I was not allowed to nurse her. They continued to monitor closely.
My mom, son, and sister had just made it to my hospital room when they came in to evaluate her again. They barely had a chance to meet her, only holding her for a minute or two each. The doctor told us she needed intensive care- something they did not have at this hospital. We were offered several local NICUs. I was still disoriented and confused. I didn’t know how to decide. My mom was the one who stepped in and said, “If she’s going to be transfered, she’s going to the best NICU. We want Women & Infants.”
The nurses got right on it, making phone calls and arrangements. The pediatrician immediately prepared Anna for transport. It was my OBGYN who made things difficult. Apparently he had gone home after completing my surgery, and coming back to the hospital was a major inconvenience. He told the nurses to have the pediatrician sign off on transporting the baby, but he wasn’t able to come in and validate my transfer quite yet. All I could do was cry. They were taking my baby away, even taking her out of the state- and I was trapped here. I was still sleepy from the drugs. I couldn’t speak, only silent tears ran down my face. I was terrified, devastated and completely lost. Thank God my mom stepped in again.
She told the staff that his answer was completely unacceptable, and he either needed to come in and get the paperwork done or find a doctor who could. She fought for me to be transferred that night, knowing the pain I would be in if they really made me wait until the following day. Mama knows how to get shit done, and that doctor came right back to the hospital with his tail between his legs.
During all of this, Anna began to deteriorate. She wasn’t maintaining her oxygen levels on her own, and the maternity ward did not have the equipment to breathe for her. My amazing nurse MacGyvered a contraption with items from a code-cart, and manually pumped air into her lungs until the NICU transport team got there. She saved my baby’s life.
Anna and I were still transported separately. Her condition was too severe to wait for my paperwork to go through, so my husband went with her. I followed just an hour later (instead of the 24 hours my obgyn had insisted I’d have to wait.) The drive from Wareham, MA to Providence, RI was the most painful experience of my life. I felt every bump and turn in my abdomen. My nausea was out of control, and my heart ached for my baby. I was still so confused- the day had moved so quickly and unexpectedly. Part of me still thought I was having a nightmare.
I didn’t get to see Anna again for several hours. I needed post transfer care, and her NICU setup was quite time consuming. I still begged to nurse, but was only allowed to pump.
Seeing Anna for the first time in the NICU is something I’ll never forget. There were so many wires and tubes, and she just looked tiny. She was quiet, and still. I just wanted to hold her close, but I wasn’t able to.
Within hours of making it to Women & Infants, a social worker came to see me. She immediately evaluated my mental health- going through what had caused my water to break, and how I was feeling at the time. I was started on psych meds right away, and even offered inpatient care that would allow me to keep the baby with me after her discharge from the NICU. I declined, just wanting to stay with Anna at the hospital. I also wanted to get home with her, and put all of this behind us.
Anna stayed in the NICU for over a week. When I was discharged from post-op, the hospital put Mike and I up in the Ronald McDonald House across the street. We were given a free place to stay, meals, toiletries, and resources- all within a 2 minute walk to the hospital. Words can’t express how lucky we were to have been able to stay there. If we had to go home, the commute would have killed me. Honestly, I would have lived on the couch in her room. I probably wouldn’t even have left to shower. I certainly wouldn’t have been in good conditions to heal from my c-section.
Most of the people in the house were parents of NICU babies. Usually, we were quiet and kept to ourselves. We were all stressed, scared and tired. A lot of us were recovering from surgery or complications from birth, and yet we were still neglecting ourselves to be with our sick babies. We could come and go as we pleased, and take whatever we wanted. There was food to go, things we could take with us to the NICU, and also sit down meals. Every night, there was a hot meal prepared and waiting for us. We could eat in the kitchen together, we could take it to our rooms in privacy. We could even bring our own groceries and use the kitchen to cook whatever we’d like. We could have family visit. There were video games for siblings, TVs, donated clothing and toys. They had everything you could think of to support breast feeding- extra pumping supplies, special refrigerators, milk boosting foods – everything. Mental health specialists and support groups were offered. I knew nothing about Ronald McDonald house before our stay, but I can tell you first hand how important it is to NICU families. It kept us together, fed, safe, and close to the baby. I have no idea what I would have done without them.
It takes a long time for psych medication to build up in your system. I struggled every minute of every day, especially with the astronomical stress of having a sick baby. Being in a new environment and living somewhere other than my own home gave me a ton of anxiety. I was severely depressed from the events that led to Anna’s birth, and constantly beat myself up for it. I tried my best to be strong, but it didn’t seem like it was enough.
There were moments of happiness. When Anna was 4 days old, I was finally able to feed her for the first time. Granted, “feeding” was rubbing a q-tip moistened with breast milk on the inside of her cheek, but it was something! There was the day they removed the feeding tube, and the day they disconnected the oxygen. She got stronger and stronger. Finally, they cleared us to go home. It was a happy day, but inside I still was not happy.
In addition to my existing mental health issues, I was consumed by postpartum depression. I could not forgive myself for going into labor early. My heart ached for the days I’d lost while she was in the NICU, instead of being home. I wasn’t making enough milk, and had to supplement with formula. It killed me inside. I religiously pumped, never deviating from my schedule. I also woke up with Anna any time she cried, cooed, or moved. I worked off no sleep at all, and still felt like a failing mother.
I tried to kill myself a few times. I genuinely thought my family would be better off without such a horrible mother. My moods and self confidence were permanently at rock-bottom. I questioned my choice to decline the impatient care that was offered to me in the hospital, and wondered if I needed to be institutionalized. I used the suicide hotline daily. I cried to mike constantly. He tried his best to help, but eventually had to turn to me and say “this is out of my realm of being able to help. WE need professional help.”
The rest is kind of history. WE got help. Not just me, the family. I am the one on medication, I see the therapist, but my whole family has been on this journey with me. They support me every day, and I’m finally feeling like a successful, healthy mother. My husband has done anything and everything you can think of, and stands by me no matter what. I would have been lost to my mental issues without him. He is the only one who turned around my suicidal impulses.
I work every day at being healthy. It’s a constant battle. My kids are my life, my husband is my world. I have no intention of going anywhere any longer. I still think about the mistakes I’ve made in the past- but in a way where I can learn from them instead of just being ashamed of them. My mental health issues put both Anna and my own life at risk. Going back to being reckless and untreated could do the same. I’m staying on track. I’m staying positive. I’m staying healthy.
[I recently blogged in response to my first reader request- conceiving Anna after my struggle with infertility. It turned into a long post, and was harder to write than I’d anticipated. After a little break, I’m finally ready to continue! Here’s my SECOND content request – my pregnancy with Anna.]
Pregnancy with Anna was not easy. My body had gone through a whole lot of physical changes with my recent weight loss of 100 pounds. I struggled emotionally with the hormonal changes that come with typical pregnancy, but also learned about the mental side effects of drastic weight loss.
I went to my doctor in the beginning of my pregnancy after a large-scale breakdown. He informed me ( for the first time ) that as fat burns, it can release hormones like a time capsule. Because I gained most of my weight in my childhood and teenage years, I was releasing hormones that had been stored during puberty. It caused some major mood swings, especially with my underlying bipolar disorder. I also had some crazy acne and BO. Flashback to high school misery- but releasing the stored estrogen gave me the boost my body needed to conceive Anna. At the end of the day, second puberty was totally worth it. I got my baby, and that’s all I really cared about.
Unfortunately, my physical health wasn’t the only thing flashing back to my teenage years. In March, just weeks into my pregnancy, there was a bridal shower that needed to be thrown. My sister is the most important person in my life, aside from my children. She deserved the best shower in history, and I was obsessively stuck on it. My OCD reared its ugly head, as I became fixated on certain tasks and struggled to release any responsibilities to the other bridesmaids. I fought with the other girls constantly, then called my sister in fits of rage. On a 1-10 scale of mental stability, I was at negative 60. I couldn’t pull myself out of it, especially since I’d given up my rescue anxiety medication for the safety of the baby. I tortured everyone during the planning stages- including myself. Unfortunately my actions can’t be undone, and have left some permanent marks on those relationships. Obsessive compulsions can literally destroy lives, or in my case, destroy friendships.
My body struggled to keep up with the changes, and I developed orthostatic bradycardia. I lost consciousness several times daily, fainting when I moved positions, got active or even took a hot shower. I was in and out of cardiologist offices, tests, and emergency rooms for weeks straight. I even had to wear a holter monitor for a few days (which was absolutely miserable. 0/10 – would not recommend.) Soon my heart rate even triggered fainting with drastic mood shifts. Not ideal for an untreated bipolar.
By spring I was slapped in the face with multiple big events. We had my sister’s bachelorette party, friends visiting from California, her wedding, and our cruise to Bermuda. Nothing went smoothly. I was physically sick all the time, either passing out or throwing up. Again, I could not keep up with the major events. My emotions prohibited my enjoyment, and I managed to dig myself deeper with my troubled friendships. The depression and loneliness consumed me.
It was around this stage that my doctors began getting concerned. I was struggling with my weight. I monitored the scale daily, and went out of my way to make sure I wasn’t gaining. On the other hand, I melted down on a regular basis because I was not gaining the weight my baby needed to thrive. I fought mental and emotional eating for my whole life, and I just wasn’t able to put my feelings on the back burner for pregnancy. I was being torn in two different directions, provide for the baby or restrict to stay thin. Mistakes were made. I obsessively refused to finish meals, stayed busy to avoid eating all together, fasted, and meticulously counted calories. It didn’t help my bradycardia or my depression. I couldn’t provide nutrients to my baby. I felt like a failed mother already, and I wasn’t even in my third trimester yet.
By the fall, my body had been through so much. My abdominal tissue had changed drastically with the weight loss and pregnancy, and the ligaments were fatigued. I developed a massive hernia. It was super painful, and definitely limited my mobility. I felt worthless as I was able to do less and less around the house. I was so sick, all the time. I flew off the handle with every mild inconvenience, and sunk into rock bottom depression every night. My poor family went through so much with me and supported me until the bitter end, despite the terrible way I treated them.
We were leaving a party one night in October, about a month before Anna was due. I had one leg inside the car, the other still on the pavement. When I sat down, there was a pop. On the way home, Mike and I laughed about it- I thought I had peed myself a little. We really didn’t take it seriously. I watched throughout the night, and there was a bit of fluid every few hours. I called my doctor and debated going to the hospital. I still had a little over a month to go, so he told me it was unlikely my water broke. I felt stupid, and stayed home. This was Saturday night. I spent Sunday feeling depressed and disgusting. I was appalled that I was peeing myself continuously, and wound myself up into hundreds of small anxiety attacks throughout the day. I took the kids to a theme park and tried to stay busy. It seemed like that day went on forever, that I felt every single minute go by. It was an exhausting day, but I still found myself unable to sleep that night. Again, I watched every hour on the clock tick by.
It was about 4AM when I had enough. I jumped out of bed, turned on all the lights and cranked my ‘cleaning playlist.’ There was a fireball of energy in my chest, and I was compelled to get everything baby-ready. I woke Mike up, and demanded he go install the car seat immediately. It was one of the only times in our whole relationship that Mike said “no.” He went back to bed. I turned my music up louder, started the washing machine, dryer and dishwasher. I slammed doors. I opened the bedroom door and yelled at Mike to get up and help me. I did everything I could think of to wake him up.
At one point, I left the bedroom to get more cleaning supplies. While I was out, Mike jumped up and locked the bedroom door. He put earplugs in, and tried to ignore me. He had to work in the morning. (This is when things get real embarrassing, and really emotional for me.) There’s no doubt in my mind that I had been experiencing a manic episode- the energy, the obsession, the outright insanity- but the moment I heard the door click to locked, my brain flipped the switch from manic to rage. I found super-human strength and became violent.
First came the most awful, hurtful words I could think of. I went right for the kill shot, insulting Mike’s relationship with Arielle and his parenting. Then came the actions. I banged on the door as hard as I could, even when I felt the side of my hand start to bruise and swell. I screamed so loud that the dogs woke up, and barked along with me. The older kids woke up and came down to investigate. Unfortunately what they saw when they rounded the corner was my all time mental low.
There I was, eight months pregnant. Face so red, it was practically purple. Tears soaked my face, neck and even my chest. Snot ran everywhere, and I spewed spit with every word I screamed. I held a bar stool in my hand, and used it as a battering ram to break down the locked door. I got several holes busted into the wood before I realized Jacen was watching. I sent him back upstairs without even slowing down. With one final swing, I hit the door hard enough to really do some damage. Mike unlocked the door, and wrapped me up in a bear hug until I calmed down. With my arms pinned to my sides, I couldn’t hurt him or myself any longer. I had no choice but to calm down. I listened to Mike tell me over and over again how much he loved me, and instantly felt like the dumbest person on the planet. How could I have done all of this? How could I treat my family like this? My house? My unborn baby? Myself? My energy plummeted, and exhaustion finally hit. I remembered what Jacen had witnessed, and literally vomited out of shame. Then I realized the small “leaks of pee” had turned into much more during my outburst. My pants and the floor were all wet. It never was pee, and my amniotic fluid had now been leaking for 36 full hours.
There are major concerns regarding infection after your water breaks. Ideally, a baby is to be born within 24 hours of the rupture. I was far past that by the time my OB office opened. Things moved pretty quickly after my 9AM appointment, and soon enough I was being wheeled into the operating room for my emergency c-section, a whole month early. I hoped this was the end, that I could close the chapter of my miserable pregnancy and start fresh with a happy little fairy tale and my new baby. Unfortunately, the end was quite farther away than I’d thought.
I’ll be honest- I wasn’t looking forward to my latest therapy session. I’ve only been sleeping 2 or 3 hours at night, and it’s messing with both my mental and physical health. Lack of sleep affects memory, body sensation, focus, and so much more. The migraines have been terrible, and my patience with “mom problems” has run quite thin.
Like any parent, I carry a lot of guilt when I lose my cool with the kids. I don’t want them to feel like they need to walk on eggshells because Mom’s in a bad mood, but it’s easy to blow your top when you’re running on fumes. For a few days our home was caught in the vicious cycle of mom is tired-> mom yells -> mom can’t sleep at night because she’s anxiously beating herself up for yelling -> mom is tired.. etc.
While we are on the topic of vicious cycles, sleep has also sucked me into a physical-mental spiral. I physically feel crummy between the headaches and over all exhaustion, which makes me feel guilty, anxious and depressed. I make poor food choices, which physically makes me feel sick. I emotionally beat myself up for my bad behavior, then once again want to comfort myself with food. Some days I stay in bed because I’m “sick,” but the lack of productivity makes my depression worse. The depression manifests with body aches, tiredness and nausea- which tricks me into thinking I’m sick again. I stay in bed all day to recover. As much as I want to pull myself out of the loop, I just haven’t been able to.
There was a familiar cloud of dread when I looked at the calendar on Sunday night and saw my Monday therapy appointment. That old temptation to cancel it and stay in bed crept into my mind. Even on Monday morning I had debated blowing it off completely and sucking up the no-show fee. I’ve worked so hard to improve myself, why was I falling back into my bad habits? Getting there was 90% of the battle, but the moment my hand touched that office doorknob some of my positivity returned. I was making the decision to change. I was taking back control.
I find EMDR to be the most effective therapy, but it’s also emotionally taxing. In the past I’d jumped right into a session when I wasn’t ready, and it resulted in physical symptoms. Trying to process on low fuel gives me vertigo, weak knees and shaky limbs. I have poor depth perception, and sometimes bump into the doorframe on my way out or trip over flat ground. It isn’t safe to drive home like that, and it’s not conducive to emotional healing.
Now that I’ve spent about a year doing EMDR, I’ve learned what to do and what not to. I’m finally in tune with my body and can say “you know, I don’t think I can handle EMDR today. It’s a session for talk therapy.”
I definitely had enough to fill a session- good news, vacations planned, exciting Auntie updates over my beautiful niece, stress with the kids, non-scale victories, and hurt with absent family members. We talked a lot about my sleep habits, and some options for breaking the cycle. I’m hoping some of them will work, and I’ll be able to get back to my EMDR next session.
I wanted to share this to let everyone know that progress does not have to be tunnel-style linear. To heal emotionally, be open to more than just one type of therapy. Do not push yourself too far, or burn yourself out. It’s okay to take a small step, or even a slow step on your journey. Resting and recovering is a crucial part of long term success. Listen to your body.
Talking out some of the current emotions and thoughts lifted a bit off weight off of my shoulders. It was enough to motivate me to clear off my desk, and tidy up the clutter in my office. I’d been avoiding writing and keeping up with the administrative tasks of running a family because I didn’t want to deal with the mess. A clear desk literally gives me a fresh start, and opened up channels for productivity.
After writing, I found myself preparing healthy dinner plates for the family instead of giving into take-out.. (something I’ve regrettably indulged in for a few days out of laziness.) Anna and I picked up the living room together, laughed, tickled and snuggled. It was a nice change from the nights I’d passive aggressively chucked toys into the bucket from across the room, muttering under my breath the whole time. When the kids were in bed, I even spent some time with Mike instead of rolling over and hiding in a cocoon of blankets. Sleep still has not found its way back into my life, but I’m trying to stay positive and hoping for a quick return.
Small changes are still changes. Just getting to my therapy appointment was enough to veer away from my depressive cycle, and inspire healthy decisions this evening. It wasn’t the ultra-effective trauma processing I’d hoped for, but it was something. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and recovery does not happen overnight.
I had my very first content request this week! I couldn’t be more excited. It means so much to me that I have some seriously loyal readers, and having feedback from you all really makes me feel like you’re an active part in my healing journey.
Easter is a very special time for me. In 2017 we were able to make the EXTREMELY emotional announcement that we were pregnant with Anna. It was a long road, and one I still think about every day. I take every opportunity I can to share my Facebook memories of my pregnancy, and to appreciate the gift of my rainbow baby. It was on one of these posts that my follower had requested the whole story- so here we go!
Backing way up to 2009, I unexpectedly got pregnant with Jacen. I certainly was not trying. I was 19, and in my very first relationship. We had been together just a few weeks when I came down with a terrible case of Mono and resistant strep throat. For just over three weeks I took high doses of antibiotics and could not manage to get out of bed. I slept for huge blocks of time, and my whole schedule was thrown off. The days blurred, and I became super irresponsible with my birth control. I couldn’t remember when I had taken it or missed it. I’d sleep through days of doses, then try to make up for it by taking multiple tablets to catch up. This erratic schedule messed with my hormone levels, and the antibiotics I took lowered the effectiveness of the few doses I did manage to get down. That’s all it took. Bam! I was pregnant, just two cycles in to a new relationship. It was quite a shock.
Being a young, single mom wasn’t easy. I no longer took contraception lightly, and had an IUD placed. I met my husband, and we started talking about the future. We each had a child from a previous relationship, and had learned our lesson from previous “surprises.” We took our time getting to know each other and built a strong foundation for a good marriage. We decided to start trying for a baby right after we were married, and I had my IUD removed just a month after our wedding. This was December of 2013.
Just a few weeks later, we were preparing for a trip to New Hampshire for my birthday. We had booked a big condo with a group of friends, and planned on spending a beautiful weekend being snowed in on a gorgeous mountain. I was looking forward to it, and nothing would stop be from going.
Unfortunately, right before we were supposed to leave for the trip Jacen and I were in a car accident. The weather was horrible this particular day. It was snowing thick, heavy, wet sludge and it immediately froze to ice when it hit the ground. Traffic slowed as the conditions became more dangerous. The road had turned into a parking lot. Tons of cars had lost control, and other drivers were stuck as tow trucks and police squeezed in to do their jobs. We had come to a stop behind a line of stopped cars, right at the base of the Sagamore bridge. There was a new, teenage driver behind us. She was going a little too fast over the bridge, not expecting traffic to be at a complete halt when she got to the other side. She tried to hit the breaks, but the bridge was too icy. She slid all the way down, picking up downhill momentum. She was going pretty fast when she rear ended us. My car lurched forward and to the left, bumping several feet in front of her Jeep, and my front end turning to hit the guard rail. We were completely perpendicular to traffic when her Jeep caught up to us, and she slammed into us a second time.
Jacen and I went to the hospital, where they told me I had a bad case of whiplash and sent me home. Mike and I decided we still wanted to go to New Hampshire with our friends. If anything, I needed an escape to relax after the accident. Thinking I only had a case of whiplash, we headed out to our scenic condo in a snowstorm. It didn’t turn out to be the birthday I had expected. I could not stay awake, and the room was spinning. I was nauseous and confused for days. My friends were drinking, and the roads were iced over. There was no way anyone was driving me to the hospital.
At one point, my sister and her (now) husband jumped into my bed to check up on me. I was mortified when the sheet pulled back, and revealed I had been bleeding while I slept. I originally thought it was just a period. I was embarrassed and just wanted to forget about it. On the way home from our trip, we decided that my sleepiness and pain had gone on too long. I went into the emergency room, with terrible head and abdominal pain. I had a severe concussion, and discovered the bleeding was actually a miscarriage. We were devastated.
I ended up with PTSD from the accident, and had a hard time driving. I couldn’t make it in to work without major anxiety attacks on the bridge, and had to change jobs to avoid the accident route. I also could not shake my miscarriage, and the depression dragged me down every single day. We just kept trying for a baby, and I convinced myself that pregnancy would heal my emotional wounds. I really thought that it was the only thing that would help me get over the anxiety and depression.
I was training at my new job just a few months later when I suddenly felt a gush of blood. I went immediately to the emergency room and discovered I was having a second miscarriage. I couldn’t understand why it was happening, there was no accident or trauma this time. Depression consumed me. I withdrew in my marriage and became distant with the Jacen and Arielle. My binge eating was out of control, as I self medicated with the endorphins from carbohydrates. I put on weight rapidly, and my mental state quickly spiraled. My OCD reared its ugly head, and I became fixated on getting pregnant. I took daily ovulation and pregnancy tests, hoping for the best. I put a ton of stress on Mike with scheduled sex, home remedies and a TON of vitamins and supplements. We fought, a whole lot. There was a lot of blame and sadness, and we were not kind to each other.
I hated being at work. Every time I walked by the chair where I had felt that gush of blood I flashed back to my miscarriage. I had daily anxiety attacks, and was uncharacteristically irritable and confrontational with my coworkers. Every single day was miserable. I spent the days wound up at work, and the evenings fighting with Mike. I did not seek mental help, and food was my only comfort.
I ate myself sick. My A1C and blood sugar were completely out of control. I had high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. The weight caused huge issues with my hormones, resulting in skin issues, a fungal BO smell (no matter how many showers I took) and uncontrolled, miserable periods. My self confidence plummeted. I felt worthless, ugly and smelly. The physical pain from my PCOS made every single day a battle. Doctors didn’t offer much help, they just told me to lose the weight. I was stuck in a depression/binge cycle that got worse every day.
After months of trying, Mike and I sought intervention with IVF. I was put on Metformin (a diabetic drug) to manage my sugar and insulin issues. It took months of adjusting, and I ended up on the highest recommended dose. Imaging revealed several issues. I had masses on my uterus, cysts and polyps. I went for multiple surgeries, a ton of appointments and imaging, and buried us financially with meds and treatment that our insurance did not cover. Eventually, the doctor sat down with us and told me she had to stop intervention. She was out of ideas, and I needed to get my weight under control before proceeding.
If I thought I was at rock bottom before, I must have been in the negative at this point. I mourned, but eventually it was the wake up call I needed. I made some serious lifestyle changes, and started therapy for my binge eating. We took a break from trying to conceive, and started using birth control from again. I focused on getting healthy, and saw every pound lost as a step closer to pregnancy. Taking the stress of baby planning out of the picture gave Mike and I a chance to meet our relationship, and we were happier than ever.
When I lost 100 pounds, Mike and I booked a weekend getaway. We forgot the contraceptives, but figured it didn’t matter anyways with our history. When we got back home, we resumed trying to NOT get pregnant. It was quite a shock when I ended up with a positive pregnancy test just one month after our trip. We were overjoyed and over the moon. It was hard to keep our secret, but we didn’t want to get our hopes up and end up with another miscarriage either. Those first 12 weeks went by so incredibly slow, but finally announcing felt amazing. I’ll never forget my mom’s reaction, or the happy tears my sister shed. It had been such a long road, but I still feared future loss every single day. It was a very long, very difficult pregnancy.
Confession time- I’m detoxing from sugar again. There’s a big difference between a lifestyle change and a diet. A diet has an expiration date, an ending. Some kind of time limit or numerical pound goal. A lifestyle change is forever, which includes holidays for the rest of your life.
I am proud to say that I (most importantly) had a great Easter and school vacation week with the kids. It was only the second holiday in seven years that did not include a fight or emotional breakdown. I even mingled with my in-laws without a panic attack. All good things.
The other thing that I’m very proud of is my ability to refrain from binging. My previous “all or nothing” mentality would have set me off for the whole day, not being able to stop the sweets after dessert. In private, I would have consumed a bucket of Easter candy, emptied the fridge, maybe even stopped to load up on fast food on the way home. I would justify this behavior as a “cheat day” that I should live up before getting back on the diet tomorrow. No more of that.
Something I would like to get better at is being able to eat mindfully at family gatherings. Mindful eating at home has changed my life, and has empowered me to control my portions without going hungry. I still struggle with this at holidays. My social anxiety prevents me from ever reaching my baseline calm, and prohibits me from being mindful. I can’t focus on my food because I still hold that cloud of self awareness, self consciousness and defensive thoughts. Most of the time I’m actually just trying to hold my plate without dropping it, or getting the fork in my mouth. (When my anxiety is at its worst, I dissociate and have poor depth perception. I can’t control my hands, and often embarrass myself.) I noticed this Easter that I cleaned my dessert plate for the first time in years. I really feel that if I had be able to focus, I would have felt satisfied sooner and ate a smaller portion.
It’s done, it’s over with. It’s a new day.
My sugar goal is always less than 21grams per day, and no more than 6grams at once. Since most food has naturally occurring sugar, it’s impossible to meet these goals while consuming refined sugar. My diet is usually made up of protein and fibrous vegetables- although I do love my fruit. One banana can mess up my whole day, so I have to pay close attention to the choices I make, and the portions.
I’m mentally okay with my sugary decisions over the holiday. I knew when I ate them that I would need to detox eventually, and that I’d probably be sick for a few days. I still wanted to enjoy myself, and that’s allowed. As long as I do not allow myself to be completely derailed for long periods of time, things are acceptable in moderation.
It’s not required, but I like to start my detox on full liquids. There’s a huge misconception that this means you’ll go hungry, but it’s not the case. Obviously liquids include water, broth and sugar free drinks. It also allows sugar free jellos and puddings. Most importantly, it includes high protein liquids- creamed soups, protein shakes and low sugar Greek yogurt (check your labels! Some yogurt has a ton of sugar.) If I’m really hungry, a sugar free chocolate pudding and a scoop of natural peanut butter really hits the spot! It’s one day, and it’s worth it.
Starting a detox on a liquid diet will lessen the impact of sugar withdrawal. The biggest complaints of “Keto flu” or sugar detox are headaches, mild nausea and sweating. Staying hydrated will make each of these symptoms less painful, and prepare your body for the most success.
The next few days, (usually day 2-4 depending on my body cues) I transition to easily digestible proteins- soft foods, fish, and nut butters. These items are easy on your stomach if you’re experiencing flu symptoms, low in sugar, and will satisfy hunger with their high protein count.
By day 5 my body can usually handle the full keto diet, even tough meat like steak or dry protein like chicken. I’m back on track, and feeling great!
Exercise really helps move the sugar along. Activity will get your circulation going, moving those cells that have stored glucose. Sweat removes toxins and sugar from the body, and staying busy lifts your mood, re enforcing positivity and increasing your chances of success.
Today is a new day. This moment is a new minute. Forgive the choices you’ve made in the past, but don’t forget them. Learn from them. I’m starting my sugar detox today. Who’s with me?