Mental health and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day






I wish I could tell you life after starting treatment was all rainbows and butterflies, but it’s not. Being treated may help manage symptoms, but real world problems still pop up.  Mental health is a life long war, but there are daily battles. Minute by minute we have to make decisions to either cope, or give up completely.

When 2019 started, my psychiatrist left the practice, and my insurance deductible reset. I ran out of one of my medications last week, and it’s been absolute hell jumping through hoops to get it refilled.

Obviously being without a medication means the psych symptom will be affected- but withdrawing also has so many physical side effects. I’ve had the most painful, debilitating migraines. I’m constantly nauseous and dizzy, and I haven’t been able to sleep.

The nights have been long. I’m either awake or having terrible nightmares. My husband has woken me up several times for talking, crying or yelling in my sleep.

On top of being sleep deprived, I’ve been dreading Jacen’s doctor appointment all week. As part of his Ehlers-Danlos treatment he is followed by a laundry list of specialists at the Boston Children’s Hospital. It’s top of the line care, and I’m so thankful to have such an amazing medical team, but driving into the city absolutely sucks.

I have a huge issue with driving. I avoid it as much as I can, and work on it with EMDR weekly. If you add New England weather, highways, the confusion of the city and my POS car it’s totally a recipe for disaster.

Enough back story, let’s talk about our day:


While merging onto the freeway in my overtired and anxious state, I received a text message. The text was in regards to my sister’s baby shower next weekend. It was a small detail, but threatened to shake up my preparations.

Living with OCD and Bipolar disorder doesn’t leave much room for surprises. The OCD in me obsessed about details and planning. I’ve been making lists, organizing and budgeting since I found out my sister was pregnant. My mind is already super structured. Add to that all of the emotions that come up when plans change. Emotions that run so high in Bipolar patients. I was immediately consumed by my anxiety.


My therapist likes to use the analogy of anxieties being like beach balls in a swimming pool. One or two is manageable, but if the pool is packed wall to wall, there’s no room to swim. They’ll even start overflowing the side. I had to pop some balls in my pool before I could breathe again.

 

The biggest ball in my pool was getting Jacen to the hospital. I had to get rid of the smaller ones so I could focus. I pulled off at the next rest stop. I was afraid by not engaging, they would proceed without me and undo the work I’d already put in. I was also in tune with my feelings enough to know I was not in a good mental place to vocalize my thoughts without projecting the feelings of ALL my other beachballs.I responded to the text message by answering her question the best I could, and saying “I have to revisit this conversation when my feelings settle down. I’ll text you later.”

 

Text sent, one ball out of the pool. I let Jacen and Anna sit in the car for a minute. I needed to calm down before I drove again. I got some air, and stretched my legs. I tried to clear my mind a bit, but still ended up vomiting.

 

Anxiety sucks.

When I got back to the car Jacen was playing baby shark on his tablet for Anna. I watched through the rear windshield for a moment, just to take it all in. From where I stood behind the trunk, I could see Jacen looking at the tablet and singing. Anna wasn’t looking at the tablet. She was looking at Jacen’s face, beaming ear to ear and trying to master the mama shark hand movements. There it is. There’s the calm and the happy.

 

As we pulled out of the rest stop, I made a conscious decision to keep my pool the way I wanted it. I asked questions about Jacen’s ‘cocoa & movie’ day at school. We laughed about Anna’s new hairstyle- this spunky little ponytail that makes her look like a unicorn. (It’s silly, but functions to keep the hair out of her eyes.) I just kept asking open ended questions when the conversation started to calm down, and it would pick right up. Before I knew it, we were pulling into the parking garage.

img_6900(Anna’s unicorn ponytail)


When we finally got checked in and seated in the waiting room, I gave the kids their snacks and tried to regroup. I knew at some point I would have to process those crazy beach balls and coherently make arrangements for the shower. I also still had to make the two hour drive back home. Better to sort myself out before getting back behind the wheel.

 

So the beach ball analogy belongs to my therapist. I visualize things completely differently.

Step into my mind:

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ouch

 

For me, anxious thoughts and mental lists are always running through my mind. They pop up like comedic subtitles, similar to the old school house rock movies. 

The problem is that they pop up quickly and multiply, but they don’t go anywhere. I end up with this overwhelming cloud of words that grows and grows in my chest, until I can’t breathe.

 

 

word cloud

 

So now I have a choice: book or volcano?

 

That word cloud will eventually hit the walls, build up pressure, and need to escape. Before treatment that cloud would create an angry volcano. Mean words, things I never meant, insults and anger would fester like magma in my heart until I finally blew. Hot lava would run out, slow and viscous but deathly hot. It would smother those close to me. Fiery spatter would project fast, and bystanders would catch blistering droplets of my spiteful outburst. Even those far away would be caught in a cloud of ash, as the darkness of my hate and anger spread. Finally, all that hot lava would cool into hard rock. They rocks would pile high, creating walls that would never completely fall back down. Word volcanoes kill relationships.

 

angry volc

This is where blogging has really accelerated my progress. I have chosen to force my word volcano into a dormant state. Goodbye volcano, hello book. I know let my word clouds out, one sentence at a time. I just get them out of my chest and into writing. My cloud now comes out like beautiful apparition of ink. I see calligraphically ornate images dance out of my mind and settle onto a page, where they stick. When all the words are out, the weight is lifted. I can turn the page, close the book, even put it on a shelf. Those thoughts are out of my chest and put away. That’s what blogging does for me. All my lists, all my worries, clouds and thoughts- having them here means they aren’t my ball and chain anymore.

 

Join me again in the waiting room of the hospital.

 

I sat and wrote, I got my thoughts out. The cloud cleared, the beach balls were out my pool. You see, the old me would have just accepted this as a bad day. I’d let myself get depressed and angry. I’d take it out on my sister or husband when they asked me about my day, and I’d reply with a volatile snap back. Not anymore. Now I know these things were just speed bumps on a day that still had potential.


I’m so glad I was able to get myself together before meeting with the doctor. My list making was zoned in on Jacen. I was able to discuss his progress, problem, symptoms, and even a plan of action for the future. I wrote things down, asked questions and felt organized. It was the most productive appointment we’ve had thus far, and I can’t help but wonder if they’d all have been as successful if I’d gotten myself together sooner.

 

Before we left the hospital, we headed down to the food court for lunch. It was packed. “Crowd anxiety” goes into the word cloud, along with “child abduction” “pickpocket” and “nowhere to sit.”
Jacen asks for pizza. Add “mother’s responsibility” “pediatric nutrition” “messy” and “greasy.” .. Follow quickly with “childhood” “treat” “special occasion” and “moderation.” We negotiated to a slice of pizza and an apple.

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We grabbed our lunches and miraculously found seats. I was actually feeling better. I let my word cloud out by telling Jacen “I’m relieved we found seats, it was so crowded. I’m proud of you for staying close, I’m always afraid of losing you when it’s busy like this. Your pizza smells great! Isn’t this a nice treat?” That ornate calligraphy leaves my chest again. Instead of sticking to a page, it sinks into Jacen, and again find ourselves in a happy conversation. It’s at this point that I realize Anna has found her way into my peanut butter. “Mess,” “embarrassment,” “mom fail” and “peanut allergies.” Oh dear Lord.

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We got cleaned up, and bounced back.

 

Traffic.

2 hours home.

$40 for Jacen’s treatment for the weekend.

45 minute drive to pick up Arielle.

1 hour drive back home.

 

I just wanted to be home, but we had to stop at the grocery store. I tried so hard to stay in the positive. All three kids were full of energy. They were loud, and in the way of other shoppers. Anna tried to wriggle out from her seatbelt and escape the cart. The lines were so long. I think we were in that market for roughly 84 years.

 

When we finished up, it was 20 degrees and windy. I could barely work the straps on the carseat while my fingers were numb. Shivering, I popped the trunk and almost cried. This is the moment I realized my trunk was full with our stroller, and our backseat was full with the three kids. Where the hell was I going to put all these groceries? I was so cold I thought I’d throw up again. I jammed bags in where I could, and Arielle tried to help me play trunk- tetris. On the short ride back the only thing I could think was, “…and it will still be 20 degrees and windy when I have to UNload all these bags.”

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Frozen, hungry and tired we finally got everything (and everyone) in the house. I worked quickly to throw together healthy dinners- veggie pasta, chicken, cheese, fruit, vegetables- the whole darn pyramid. Not just the whole pyramid, the perfect arrangement of ‘this one likes barbecue sauce’ and ‘ I don’t eat chicken’ and three different fruits for three different children. I even had the meals served on the correct colored plates!  I placed them on the table and turned my attention to the baby.

 

Boom.

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Both perfect plates of food pyramid splattered across my kitchen floor. I’m not going to lie, my kids watched me cry on the floor in front of the stove.

 

I bet you’re thinking “page 5! We must almost be done. Surely this poor girl has been through enough today!” No. Sit down and buckle up, cause shit’s about to go sideways.

 

I mom’d up, got off the floor and stopped crying. I was starting on meal #2 when the older kids shrieked that the dogs were eating off Anna’s highchair table. I shooed them outside so the baby could eat in peace, but quickly realized the dogs were faster than she was. I’d be re-making dinner for the entire family. That’s when Dorothy, our youngest lab, decided to show off her Olympic long jump skills. First, over the wall of the puppy pen. I chased her around the yard, and tried to get her back in the enclosure. Nope. I swear, she stopped to make eye contact and smirk at me before she ran and hopped our fence too.

 

20 degrees and windy.

 

Without a coat or shoes I chased that damn dog into the street, and down three blocks. I still can’t believe I got her back home with no leash, no collar, and numb fingers.. Oh, and still no shoes.

 

I STILL would not accept today as a bad day. All the dogs were inside, the kids were sitting nicely. I went back to preparing a second meal for all THREE children. It was a partial pyramid. A dilapidated, partial, microwaved pyramid. Honestly, I would have ordered pizza if we weren’t coming up on 9PM.

 

Dinner attempt number two barely hit the table before all three dogs swarmed the highchair. I have no idea who did it, I have no idea if it was tooth or nail. Anna was screaming, and bleeding. The cut wasn’t bad, she was more so startled by all the activity. The tears rolled out with no effort to hold them back.. My tears, not Anna’s.

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I got the dogs in kennels, and the big kids fed. I took care of Anna’s foot, dinner, and pajamas. I was so happy when I realized that I was the only one downstairs, and the night was finally coming to an end.

 

I sat down to start blogging. Bad things happened today, but it wasn’t a bad day. There was plenty to be happy about, plenty to be proud of. I responded to an overwhelming text very responsibly. I had some great  conversations with Jacen. We have a plan on making him feel better. Word cloud to blog. This very long day was finally coming to an end.

 

Over the quiet taps of the keyboard clicking, what did I hear? Jacen violently vomiting from the other room.

 

May your night be better than ours.

With happy (even on the bad days) hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

 

This is your Brain on Friendship.

 

For the New Year, I did something pretty non-traditional. I cancelled my gym membership. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s cancelled. The gym I was using didn’t work for me, it didn’t work for my family. It was outrageously expensive and I was stuck in a rut, doing the same workout daily. I made the plunge, and have been successfully working out in my home gym. I have no excuses anymore.

 

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I do have a lingering fear that my success will derail without my gym membership. I try to stay motivated, but I no longer have classes, trainers, or exercise groups. Because of this, I was especially interested when an old trainer of mine reached out on social media. He had noticed my 150 pound weight loss, and congratulated me. He asked what I was doing for training these days, and offered to meet up with me for a refresher.

 

I put if off for a few weeks. I’m still super self conscious and high anxiety. I hate going new places, so I knew I’d be out of my element at his gym (where I’ve never been before.) I finally gave in this week, and decided to be a gym buddy this morning.

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First of all, reconnecting with an old friend is a great feeling! Depression is an isolating disease, and being isolated makes depression worse. It’s terrible cycle where you’re stuck in a hole and digging deeper. Spending time with friends releases the hormone oxytocin, which in turn doses you with dopamine and serotonin. Combining socialization with physical activity will up the ante. Exercise releases similar brain chemicals that lift your mood. For the socially awkward, like me, it also relieves the pressure of a face to face conversation. There are things to do, activities to focus on, and natural ice breakers.

 

After I got over the hurdle of anticipation, I had a really great morning. 700 calories and 90 minutes later, I physically feel great. It was a nice boost of self confidence to have someone see the change I’ve made, and get excited about my journey. I was definitely happy exchanging stories about our kids, what we’ve been up to and how much we’ve changed. Driving home I felt the best I have in weeks.

 

As I drove, I started to think about my “highs” lately, and they all center around my relationships. Most excitedly is my niece to be. Even just seeing her on the ultrasound screen made my heart skip a beat, so feeling her kick made me cry. It was the smallest bit of affection, but the contact made me feel so connected with her! Her mama is always sending me positive texts. She tells me about the baby kicking, or her thoughts about my blog posts. When I get to see her in person, her hugs work some kind of hormonal magic. She makes me feel so loved, so safe, so warm. My husband is constantly pulling me out of a funk. He’s learning so many tips and tricks. He’s really trying to understand mental illness and help me. Even just planning our February vacation with my mom sets off little burst of happiness. I’m looking forward to spending time with her, and I know the kids are too.

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Socialization is such an important part of health- mental and physical. It’s not easy when the depression pulls you under, but the right friends will always throw you a life preserver. It’s amazing what the human body can do, and how it can provide us with natural antidepressants. We just have to stimulate our brains the right way! Call a friend today. Lift your mood. Make today a great day!

 

With happy hearts (and great friends,)

Kate and the Kids.

Discount Meal Prep and My Recipe for Baked Ricotta.

When I first started the keto diet, I stuck to the basic meat and veggies. I didn’t want to over complicate things until I understood my new eating habits, and how they would affect my body.

You can only eat so much chicken and broccoli before you start to lose your mind.

Baked Ricotta  (AKA crust-less Ricotta pie, AKA Ricotta Bake) was first introduced to me in one of my binge eating groups. The ingredients fit within the keto requirements, and individual portions can be prepared in bulk and frozen for those of us with over-eating issues.

Basically the ingredients are ricotta cheese and an egg, mixed and baked at 450 for about 25 minutes.. but there’s so much more you can do!!

I frequent the discount rack at our grocery store. They mark down ultra ripe produce to 99 cents per container. The downside is that they’re so ripe that they’re about to go bad, so they need to be used or frozen the day you buy them. No problem for this mama! I’ll take deals on clean food where I can. It isn’t cheap to feed a one income family of 5 non-processed food, but it’s 100% my goal. Ambitious, I know.

 

So here was my amazing mega- find on the discount rack:

 

Looking at the ingredients bestowed upon me, I knew immediately what I was whipping up. In addition to the discount ricotta, produce and eggs, I also grabbed shredded mozzarella cheese and steel cut oats.

 

The detailed recipe I use:

 

base ingredients:

8 oz Ricotta cheese

1 large egg, beaten

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

*optional 1/2 cup grated cheese. It binds the ingredients better, and will result in slices vs. scoops. It isn’t always something I have in the house, so I typically omit it.

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basic topping ingredients:

1/2 cup red sauce

1/2 shredded mozzarella

 

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Mix ricotta cheese, Parmesan, beaten egg and seasonings together.

Place in an oven proof dish, either casserole- style in a 9×13 or (my preferred) in cupcake tins.

Top with marinara and mozzarella cheese.

Add any additional toppings. (I pulled some ground beef out of the freezer, used my discount mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes)

Bake at 450 for about 25 minutes.

Freeze in batches.

To reheat:

Place wet paper towel over ricotta bake, microwave until hot or reheat in the oven for 10 minutes.

 

Viola! Baked Ricotta.

 

 

 

So, you’re probably thinking- what about all that other stuff you bought? Well, it all had to be used or frozen the same day, so I did a major meal prep haul.

 

I first whipped up a double batch of steel cut oats. Although oatmeal is technically not keto friendly, now that I have reached my goal weight I have reintroduced whole grains in small doses. My children also LOVE oatmeal, so we go through it fairly quickly.

I peeled and boiled my zucchini, and threw it in my ninja until it was blended thoroughly. Then, I folded the blended zuc into the cooked oats. This is similar to zucchini bread where the produce adds moisture, vitamins and fiber but doesn’t have a detectable taste. Add 2 pinches of salt.

I sorted my produce into similar- flavored piles. For this haul I got apple & cinnamon, pear, and “tropical” mango, orange &kiwi.

I blend each pile separately in the ninja blender, then incorporate into 1/3 of the cooked oats.

When cooled, separate into single portion containers to freeze.

 

I also cooked those sweet potatoes, mashed with salt and nutmeg, and froze them.

 

Let me tell you, my freezer is STOCKED. It’s nice that there are different flavor options when the kids choose their oatmeal. The cooked sweet potato is great to heat up quickly as a side for Anna’s lunch. The baked ricotta has been used as both the star of the plate (paired with baked eggplant chips topped with Parmesan cheese) and also as a side to our typical meat and veggie dinners. It’s incredibly versatile and delicious, and I love that my toddler can eat it herself without the fear of her choking.

 

This entire stock cost me less than $20. All home made. All natural. No additives. All healthy.

 

 

We’ve been using this stock for almost a week now, and still are not sick of it. While cooking, we make a point of using different flavors in each batch. After it’s prepared, the pairing options are unlimited. It’s fed the five of us multiple meals- still working from the same investment of $20.

Don’t fear the discount rack! Save money, stay healthy. Use your brain and your freezer. You’ve totally got this, and your family’s health will thank you!

 

With happy hearts (and full tummies!)

Kate and the Kids.

 

Finding Confidence Without Justifying.

This morning was about 36 degrees. Here in Massachusetts, that’s a heat wave for January. I decided Anna and I needed some fresh air.

 

We bundled up, and hit the pavement. She isn’t a fan of having to wear the snowsuit, so we tried layers instead.. She still gave me the sour face for not being able to move freely. She got over it when DJ M.O.M. started bumpin’ baby shark on the speaker. (sorry to anyone in the neighborhood who heard our toddler rave.) We were moving, grooving and happy.

uhsiqru

We walk by a ton of our neighbors. They love to tell me how beautiful Anna is, or compliment my weightloss. Anna loves it most when she gets to pet the dogs. She’s a little Dr. Doolittle, I swear. We’ve never had anything but positive interactions.

 

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Well, I guess I can’t say that anymore. A grumpy old man walked up and scolded me for having my baby out in such cold weather. There was a fire lit inside me- anger, frustration, being annoyed- but I just swallowed it and said “have it under control, thanks.”

 

He seemed surprised when I kept walking, like he was expecting me to be ashamed and apologize. Maybe he was anticipating I’d engage and throw bitter words right back at him. Those are options, but not the only options.

 

There was a time in my life that words like his would have completely knocked me off my game. With low self confidence, I’d have completely believed his harsh words, been overcome with embarrassment, apologize a million times, and headed home to right my wrong.

 

I’m not that person anymore. I don’t need to change myself for a disapproving loudmouth. I’m not going to let you make me feel that I’m wrong, or that my worth is anything less than what it is. I don’t have to apologize OR explain myself to you.

 

I do not have to explain that Anna has one million layers on, or that we haven’t left the house in days. I don’t need to make you understand the road I’ve traveled or why staying active is important to both Anna and I. I have to do what’s right for us, for me. Even though I have taken appropriate precautions, I don’t have to justify them. I owe nothing to you. Not even a conversation.

 

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I won’t lie, as I walked on the anger grew in my mind. “I should have told him to fuck off.” “I should have yelled.” “I should have made him feel as stupid as I did.” “I should have stood up for myself.”

 

When the voices in my mind quieted down, I realized that I had, in fact, fought back. I stood up for myself without turning into a rage monster. I didn’t embarrass myself, I didn’t cause a scene. I was quietly and simply confident.

 

Grace has always been my intent, but not always my capability. Working with mood disorders and a younger brain (full or hormones at that) I’ve seen my fighting side. I’ve yelled out of rage, went right for the kill, and said the meanest things I could think of. I’ve even thrown a punch or two. More commonly though, I would retreat back into my low self worth. I’d meekly apologize several times, try to come up with an explanation. I’d run and hide away, beat myself up for being so stupid.

 

Not anymore.

 

I do not need to explain myself. I owe myself dignity, and owe nothing to anyone else. I don’t need to answer you, and I won’t. I’m not going to engage in negative people. End of story.

 

This has been a new concept to me, but I’m starting to really get the hang of it. Here are my tips.

 

  1. Don’t miss a step. Keep walking, and LITERALLY don’t let them slow you down.
  2. Simply acknowledge that you heard them with a short reply that doesn’t really engage. Acknowledging their words will empower you by standing up for yourself, instead if just sweeping it under the rug. You’ll feel confident and domineering for kindly taking control of the conversation.

Some of my favorite responses:

  • Got it under control, thanks.
  • I hope your day gets better! (said with sincere poise, this can be especially liberating to say to a customer service worker who has been less than kind to you.. And it feels much better than yelling or insulting them.)
  • The mother of all comebacks, look at them as if you pity them and drop an “ooohhh, I’ll pray for you.”

 

Mic drop. Walk away. No further engagement.

 

Hold your head high. Trust your own compass. Have stake on your own intelligence. Speak with conviction, without insult and without shame. You are amazing, and you don’t need to justify why. Be confident.

 

With happy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

 

Work it, Girl! – Even when it’s a literal pain in the back.

Exercise has been a crucial part of my weight loss journey. It was torture to move all 303 pounds of me originally, but I soon became addicted. I loved the feeling of accomplishment after a good cardio session. The more I lost, the more confidence and motivation I acquired- especially when I discovered my first “runner’s high.” For those that haven’t herd this term, it refers to the feelings of euphoria and reduced anxiety after a long and effective aerobic workout.

As I rounded 150 pounds, I looked forward to my daily 3.3 mile walks. I’d pop Anna in the baby carrier and take her right with me. Bonding, euphoria, weight loss- what could go wrong?

..Until the “POP.”

I wasn’t lifting, or twisting, or doing anything unfamiliar. I was just wearing my 9 month old in the baby carried when I herniated a disk in my back. Driving and sitting is excruciating. I was put on a weight lifting ban, and started physical therapy.

It’s been a few months now, and the pain comes and goes. From what I understand, when the disk bulges on the nerve it causes electric pain in my back and leg. When it’s closer to where it’s supposed to be, I have less pain.

The injury has forced me to change my workout routine- but there’s no way in hell I’m giving up. I can’t imagine carrying those extra 153 pounds around ever again. I will not go back.

So what’s plan ‘B?’ I still walk, but I have to use the stroller or wagon for Anna. Unfortunately that means I cant take her on the track with me at the gym. I’m totally digging HIIT workouts at home. I use a free app as a timer. I warm up with 15 minutes of cardio, then lift and and move in intervals with the timer.  I’m careful with lifting, and cross reference with my physical therapist if I’m unsure. For cardio I walk outside with Anna, do step inside, and lots of jumping jacks.

The best thing for my back pain has been yoga. I’ve loved the relaxing aspect of yoga for years, but now that my body is aging I have a new appreciation for the stretching.

This is the routine I’ve found most helpful for back pain:

  1. Child’s pose – best stretch ever, and great for mental grounding.
  2. cat/cow pose – gets disks moving and warms up the surrounding muscles.
  3. downward dog– stretches my back and spine, and often puts enough distance between the vertebrae for my disk to work it’s way back to its painless place.
  4. Windshield wiper– slow stretches for yoga, slow tight sets for an awesome ab workout.
  5. repeat child’s pose
  6. end with shavasana, relax, meditate. Let you back muscles rest for a few moments. enjoy the peacefulness and rest.

 

Yoga and distance cardio (or HIIT) have been my winning combination lately. As with anything, if you’re hurting consult a doctor.

 

Just to bring this all full circle, I’d love to tell you how exercise and yoga affect mood. Endorphins released during physical activity diminish the perception of pain- some say it even mimics morphine. It’s been scientifically proved that activity reduces stress when used as an outlet, decreases anxiety and depression, boosts self- esteem, increases productiveness, and creates opportunity for more restful sleep. It increases your energy to assist with depression and lowers blood pressure to ease anxiety. Physically, it strengthens your heart, improves various muscle tones, and makes you feel fit and healthy.

Whether you’re looking for physical or emotional benefits, exercise is the way to go. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, out of shape, or don’t know where to start- start small. Go for a walk. Stretch. Lift a gallon of milk a few times. Tomorrow, walk longer. Stretch deeper. Do a few more reps with the milk. I promise if you just take one extra step each day, you’ll soon be confident enough to try new things.

Believe in yourself as much as I believe in you. You deserve health, you deserve happiness. You can do this. 

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

 

 

Shake your Bad Mood Today.

It’s so hard to pull yourself out of a funk, especially during these dreary days of winter. Here are three ways to consciously make the change.

 

  1. Do something good for someone else! Hold the door for someone, engage with your blogger friends by following and commenting on a post. Share a small business owner’s event or page on social media. Throw some quarters into an expired parking meter. Bring a surprise coffee to a friend or coworker. Help an overwhelmed mom carry a few grocery bags to her car- or even that super heavy case of water. Give sincere compliments, in person or on social media- it always makes someone feel good.
  2. Be interested. Talk to someone- friend or stranger and initiate a conversation with genuine questions like “where did you learn to do that?” or “where did you get that?” Breaking the ice with an open ended question is a door to open conversation. Asking a yes or no question doesn’t offer much wiggle room.
  3. Hug it out. Greet you friends with a hug, it will make them feel your relationship is stronger than ever. Hug a grieving friend. Let them release the hug first, when they’re ready. Hug your children- let them know they are safe and loved without using words. Hugs release Oxycontin and serotonin, so you’ll be feeling better too!

 

Make the choice to create your own happiness today. Even when things seem hopelessly against you, take a breath to regroup and change it. The only thing standing in the way of positivity is your own effort. Make it a good day.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids

 

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(Pictured- my oldest daughter Arielle carrying snacks for my middle child, Jacen during a recent hike. She later told me how good it felt to be prepared and help her brother when he got hungry. She had a much better day that afternoon!)

Keto Pepperoni Chips

66% of Americans favor pepperoni pizza as a topping in addition to cheese. Unfortunately traditional pizza isn’t keto friends. I gift to you a recipe for baked, sliced pepperoni to satisfy your crunchy snack needs while on Keto. Awesome served with cheese (no crackers) or dip!
Facts:

Serving size 14 chips

Protein 5g

Sugar 0

Carbs 0

Fat 13

140 calories

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Line a baking tray with parchment paper (easiest clean up!) and arrange pepperoni
    slices in a single layer.
  3. Bake for 6 minutes
  4. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
  5. Cool and enjoy!

Supporting the Ones you Love.

The one thing that drives me to be open with my mental health experience is the hope that I can make it known that there is help available when you need it. I spend almost all of the time on my soapbox encouraging those who struggle to find support and try new therapies. That means I’m only speaking to a portion of my audience.

 

In my life I am the one who struggles, but it reaches out like cracks in breaking glass. The degree of breakage varies in every direction, everyone sees the darkness in different doses. They also handle the damage differently. The eclectic spectrum of supports creates the safety net that saves my life.

 

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I have the physical supporter. They wrap me in a hug and hold me until my body calms down, and it’s safe to let go.

 

I have the research supporter, always looking up tips, tricks, resources, medication, therapies and equipment to help me.

 

I have the empathetic supporter, the one with their own mental health issues who can relate. They can listen and offer insight. They let me know that I’m not alone, even if our diagnosis or degrees of severity differ. They understand.

 

I have the “I’m trying” supporter, who doesn’t quite understand but still wants to help. She needs me to state or ask for specific help, things I’m not always able to do.. but I know she means well.

 

I have the “I pay you” support- like my therapist, psychiatrist and pcp. They’re educated, and want to help me. Their insight is most valuable, however its clinical and not personal. It would not be successful on its own.

 

I have the hug it out, but don’t say it out loud support. Someone who doesn’t verbalize their feelings, or ask to listen, but makes me FEEL their support with loving contact.

 

I have the support of my children- the unknowing, the non understanding, but the deepest desire to change the way I feel. The innate desperation to make me feel better. They love without hesitation or boundaries, even when they can’t see the whole picture.

 

I have literal support groups- people who understand, but are also there to vent about the WORST parts of their condition. It can be inclusive to know you’re not alone, but it’s sometimes even more scary to hear their shocking stories. Ironically, It’s the least helpful support for me personally, but every person is different and every group is different.

 

I have so many different forms of support in my life. Maybe you’re reading this, and saying “I don’t know what kind of support I need to be. I have someone I love who suffers, and I just want to help.. Where do I start?”

 

So, now let me speak to the part of my audience whom the “cracks” reach.

 

Start small, start natural. When it comes to mental illness, if you replace “I” with “we” ‘illness’ becomes ‘wellness.’

 

Support is support. There is always strength in numbers. Everyone will show support in different ways, so do what’s comfortable. Need specific Ideas? Tell them you love them. Ask if there is anything you can do to help. Tell them you want to understand. Ask what they’re comfortable telling you. Research more on your own, but know that not every person will have every symptom listed under a diagnosis.

 

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If they’re okay accepting affection, hug them when you can. Hugs create grounding, physical boundaries. They make us feel loved, safe, and special. Scientifically hugs stimulate oxytocin (the love hormone) which promotes feelings of trust and affection. It’s a great ice breaker to make someone who is suffering feel they can be open and honest with you. An extended hug releases dopamine and serotonin- creating feelings of happiness and worthiness. These same feelings can make someone feel they are worth getting better, and that someone is on their team cheering for them.

 

Read the room- If you’re watching someone in a negative spiral who is refusing help, be honest. Know that your candidness may have them push you away initially, but put their well being first. “I know you disagree with your psychiatrist about being bipolar, but I think it’s time you hear him out. It seems like you may benefit from some help.”

 

On the other side of the spectrum, if someone is not asking for help, not seeking it out, and has not been told they needs help- approach differently. Just be there. Give hugs, sit as close as they let you. Ask open- ended questions that will induce a conversation.  Just try to get them to talk, or love them in a way that doesn’t require words.

 

When in doubt, just love them. Be there, be present. Be involved in their live. Try to bring joy and fun to it. Look inside of you, is there something you need help with? How would you want someone to help YOU. Be the change you wish to see.

 

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I support those who struggle, and I support the people who want to be supportive. Mental health is a web, its various people and institutions working together to help EACH OTHER. Listen, Learn, and Love. We will all be better for it.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

 

 

Today I’m Feeling Énouement.

This morning I came across a pregnancy meme that I just HAD to share with my sister. It brought me back to both of my pregnancies where I wondered the same thing, and I know she’s been thinking of it too.

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The image reads, “Everything grows rounder and wider and weirder, and I sit here in the middle of it all and wonder who in the world you will turn out to be.” – Carrie Fisher

 

The image brought up so many feelings for me, feelings so big I just didn’t know how to describe them. Being raised by a mother who obsessed with reading, the love of beautiful words has been engraved into my soul. I just had to find the right word.

 

That’s how I came across the word énouement – The bitter sweetness of having arrived in the future, seeing how things turn out, and not being able to tell your past self.

 

If I could tell my younger self how things turn out, maybe I’d have been able to savor those little moments more. If I hadn’t been emotionally rushing my pregnancies out of excitement to meet my babies, I could have just soaked in every moment, every flutter and kick. Now I’m watching my sister have these thoughts and feelings and the “I can’t waits!” It’s so easy to tell her to slow down and enjoy it, but I know it isn’t easy advice to accept.

 

Of course, reading the definition of the word brought up a lot of negative stuff for me too, Like the night Jacen’s dad literally walked down the street and out of our lives. I wish I could tell my young self that it’s the best thing that could have happened, and not waste the tears. I’d love to tell myself how to lose my weight sooner and avoid all those years of torture. I’d love to tell my hurting self to welcome help.. But I can’t. I have to just accept that all of those things shaped who I am today, and there’s a reason I can’t spoil the ending for myself.

 

I’ve learn to trust that everything happens for a reason. Even if it doesn’t make sense right now, you’ll one day look back with hindsight bias and realize that ‘this too shall pass.’ It makes the “now” frustrating. It’s easy to have doubts and fears and anxiety. It’s natural to want to rush things, and to look forward to seeing how things turn out. Despite all of those easy feelings, I’m wishing you mindfulness today.

 

Living in the moment isn’t easy, but you’ll one day discover your énouement. You’ll wish you had those little baby kicks back. You’ll even wish you had those sleepless newborn nights back; when she smelled new, and didn’t rollover or run away from you. You’ll wish you didn’t waste the tears when negative people walked out. You’ll wish you learned from your mistakes the first time around, without repeating them. You’ll have regrets, for both good and bad reasons.

 

Slow down. You were given this moment for a reason, take it in. Take the best of it. Be happy. Be here. Be mindful.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

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Turning Gloom into Joy- because I’m not accepting defeat anymore.

It’s raining here today. Not just any rain, but that dark and gloomy kind. The barometric pressure is causing pain in my knees and back. I just want to lay in bed all day.

 

No. Not again.

 

I’ve spent enough time sad and depressed. I’ll never get another January 5, 2019. I’m not going to waste it. I took a moment to ‘reset.’ What about today makes me happy? Ironically enough, rain.

 

I’ve decided to take control of my emotions today. And I’m looking at the rain from a different perspective. I’m thinking about summer rain, and petrichor. Ever heard that word before? It’s new to me, too. Petrichor is the pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. Close your eyes and breathe that in for a moment.

 

For me, the name alone sounds elegant and calming. Thinking of the smell brings me back to summers as child, watching those first few drops of rain fall on the pavement and erase my chalk drawings. I picture the pink, powdery water slowly running off and toward the drain in the road. Things are quiet, except the light pops of droplets hitting the ground. It makes me want to slow my breathing and quiet my heart to hear them better. To take in air slowly, and relish the smell. To feel humid air fill my lungs and warm my soul.

 

Are you feeling better? I am. Just thinking about it changes my body language. Instead of huddling over stiff and feeling cold to the bone, my body relaxes as if the summer air is really here. Try it, and see if you can trick your body too!

 

There’s a lot of moving parts to recovery. There are so many aspects of help. Positivity and perspective can be so helpful, although I know they can be hard to muster. Take time to breathe today.

 

Wishing you a weekend of rest and recovery.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

 

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Mindfulness and Thrift Stores-  a Winning Combination!

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Growing up, my mom was a super hard working nurse. Everyone assumes we had a ton of money, but really she was just super responsible with what she earned. (I should stop using the past tense. She IS hardworking, she IS thrifty. Honestly, she’s fucking amazing and totally my best friend.)

 

We shopped at thrift stores throughout my childhood, not because we had to but because we liked to. It was a great way to supplement our wardrobes and save a bit of money. When I was 15, my first job was even at the Salvation Army! It was so much fun!

 

I fell in love with thrift stores again when I lost my weight. Keeping up with the changing sizes would have run me a fortune without being thrifty. Even now that my weight has leveled off, I’ve found my thrifting routine has done SO much for my mental health that I’m keeping up with it… in moderation of course.

 

So why is shopping at THRIFT stores any different from standard stores?

 

It’s the focus it requires. The stock at second hand stores rely 100% on donations. There’s never a guarantee that you’ll find what you’re looking for, but you also never know when you’ll find a hidden gem. It’s exciting!

 

When searching through a rack I look at each piece of clothing individually.

First level of focus: Do I like this item?

Second level: Is it in my size?

Third level: What’s the price?

Bonus level: Is it on sale?

 

That bonus level is my favorite part. Every Wednesday at the Salvation army is “family day,” where almost all clothes and shoes are half off. Every other day one specific colored tag is half off. It’s an amazing way to save money, but it also adds the level of thought that keeps me in a meditative state.

 

Yes, you read that right. Thrift shopping for me is a meditative experience. My creative brain is searching for items that appeal to me, and simultaneously my logical brain is doing the math of my running total, the discount on sale items, and withdrawing those prices from my budget.

 

When I find an item that hits all four points (appealing, my size, price, sale) my brain releases a small dose of happiness endorphins. I found my gem, and I have a second of joy with my dopamine. The logic and math keeps my OCD list making at bay, and while I shop I’m able to shelf my anxieties. The whole experience for me is very relaxing and enjoyable.

 

Obviously with Bipolar disorder and addictive behavior there’s a risk of getting into financial trouble when using shopping as a coping mechanism. The way I control this is setting a cash budget ahead of time, and leaving the debit card in the car. This creates a physical, tangible boundary and makes it exciting to get my math exactly right to make the most of my budget! I buy things we really need. For example, Arielle has made a habit of losing every single winter coat we’ve bought her this school year. It’s been a blessing to find her coats for a buck or two so we aren’t devastated when they’re lost.

 

As with anything, being open about my habits and feelings has guided my success. My husband is always asking questions and trying to understand my mental health- this habit is easy to talk about because I’m proud of the bargains and gems I retrieve!

 

With the right boundaries, thrift shopping can do wonders for mindfulness. I even spent Black Friday – the single most stressful day of the year – circulating Salvation Armies with my mom. It was the most relaxing day I could have asked for.. Of course, the wonderful company certainly made it better.

 

This is just another example of how many different therapies and treatments are out there. You have options, and you do not have to suffer. Help is out there. Get creative, get educated, get healthy.

 

With healthy hearts (and fabulous second-hand wardrobes,)

Kate and the Kids.

 

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Sometimes asking for help is the bravest move you can make. You don’t have to go at it alone.

Everyone wants to know how I lost my weight. The number one thing i contribute to my weight loss is getting my mental health under control.

 

People who struggle have asked me where to start, what was the biggest help in that department? The number one thing i contribute to getting my mental health under control is my amazing support system.

 

I’ve struggled for many years with my mental health issues, but went over 20 years undiagnosed and treated. After I had my first child in 2010, it was suspected I had postpartum depression and I got short term help for a few months. I continued on for 7 years on my own, untreated. There were manic highs, extreme lows, panic attacks, total meltdowns and explosions of rage. There are so many mistakes I wish I could take back, things that could have been avoided if I had help- but they can’t be undone. I work everyday to make things better, and make sure I try my best to prevent future mistakes.

 

I’m currently watching someone I care about struggle with similar issues. As a family, we offer help but there also has to be a willingness to accept help. I can totally relate. I felt there was a huge stigma with bipolar disorder that I shamefully hid my condition and denied treatment. Things won’t get  better until you accept help.

 

I’m extremely blessed to have my husband. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but for someone who has never dealt with mental disorders he certainly has done everything in his power to help. He was the first person to look me in the eye and say, “I love you. I love you so much that I can tell you what’s going on isn’t right, and this is outside my realm of helpfulness. WE need to get some professional help. WE need to get better.”

 

I can honestly tell you that it didn’t go well the first time this was brought up. I had a total meltdown, feeling broken and like a burden. I thought I was sabotaging my marriage and my family, and I didn’t want to admit those things could be my fault.

 

He just kept being there. He’d wrap me up in a hug when the rage or anxiety were too much, he would literally hold me down until I could calm down, even when I hated it. He saved me so many times from being destructive or even harmful to myself. He asked questions, he reminded me time and time again how much he loved me, and he kept coming back to getting help.

 

When I did accept help, there was an immediate burden lifted. Just accepting that I was going to try to make things better flipped a light on in a very dark room.

 

It’s been over 2 years of therapy now, and I never thought I’d come so far. It was his push that got me going, and he’s been steadily fueling the process the entire time. He’s come to therapy sessions with me, asked questions and been involved in my treatment. He researches and understands my medication. He supports holistic tools and has come home with weighted blankets, a UV SADD light, a vibrating mindfulness stuffed animal, essential oils, and my favorite- halo top ice cream. He even follows a Reddit thread about spouses of bipolar patients. He’s learned to recognize my symptoms, and has the ability to pull me out of OCD cycling and panic attacks. He is absolutely amazing, and I wouldn’t have had any treatment at all without him.

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He’s not the only one who’s stepped up to support me. My sister suffers from anxiety, and has other untreated bipolar loved ones. She understands. She admires my willingness to accept help and never stops telling me how proud she is of me. Her empathy extends so much further than words can explain. She listens, she asks questions, she’s always trying to understand more, but does it in a way that does not pass judgement. She takes the kids when I need a break, or lets me come to her house so she and her husband can snuggle my sadness away. She researches my treatments, like EMDR. She tried things with me, like using jigsaw puzzles to meditate. She perpetuates my success.

 

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My mom doesn’t always understand mental health, but she supports my journey to getting healthier. She’s a nurse, and she’s seen many patients abuse their diagnosis. She’s skeptical that a lot of mental health patients are incorrectly or over diagnosed, and she proceeds with caution. She also has not had much exposure to bipolar disorder. One person in our family was diagnosed with BPD many years ago. This person also had many other diagnosis, but the family used bipolar as an umbrella statement to describe all of her erratic behavior. The story I remember hearing as a child went like this:

 

My mother and my grandmother showed up at this woman’s house to pick her up for a lunch date. They arrived to find this woman dangling her infant out of a second story window. In panic, the two rushed to help. The woman explained that she smelled poisonous gas, and was sure they would all die. She had the baby out of the window so she could breathe. There was no gas smell, everything was okay. A person with ‘normal’ mental health would have exited the home instead of dangling the baby out a window. From what I know now, behavior like this was driven out of something other than bipolar disorder. Most likely a type of psychosis. However, this is the kind of behavior that my family associated with BPD. It brought shame to accepting my own diagnosis, and for a long time I did not share my struggle with my family.

 

My mom has come around. Sharing the steps that I’m taking to improve myself has really opened her mind to understanding. She even watches my daughter so I can attend my therapy sessions. She’s always there to take the kids if I’m wound up. She supports me through feelings, even when she doesn’t say the words. Her actions are there. She is involved with my life, and my children. She makes herself available to help when she can. She tries her best to understand, and I’ve never heard her use a negative tone during my entire journey.

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My children each have their own struggles, and have had help with their mental health issues respectively. My son has anxiety, and has a tough time with sensitivity- he cries so easily. My oldest struggles socially, and sometimes with frustration issues. They’re both familiar with coping techniques and terms like “mindfulness.” I don’t find it necessary to give them the specifics of my diagnosis or symptoms. I sometimes use words like ‘overwhelmed,’ ‘nervous,’ frustrated.’ They get it, they’ve even been there. My son is 8 now, and can recognize when I have an OCD attack, even though he doesn’t know what it’s called. When he sees my head shaking, he likes to ask me a question to try to break me out of my own thoughts. He loves telling jokes, telling me he loves me, talking about his day, asking about our schedule for the weekend- anything to get me talking to him instead of being alone with my own thoughts. He also attends a lunch group with the school counselor where he learns about mindfulness, regulating emotions, and coping mechanisms. It’s great that he’s getting help with his own anxiety, but it also makes him feel like a little superhero when he can use these techniques on me. He is a little superhero, my hero.

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I’ve had a HUGE outreach on social media. I have an incredible support net within my own family, but I now know that my web stretches much further, even across the country in some cases. I have just over 18,000 followers on instagram alone, and everyday I have messages of support in my inbox. After Christmas I posted about how EMDR changed my holiday, and the reaction from family absolutely melted my heart. There are strangers in support groups with kind words and advice, there are blogs and podcast that I follow who are on similar journeys. Support comes in so many different forms.

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There is one person who is most important. I support myself. Accepting that things are not okay is the first step. Opening your mind to options is next. Asking for, or accepting help is the big one. The most daunting is following through: actually scheduling and attending appointments, finding supportive people that you can be honest with, not being ashamed of your disorder. Find things that make you feel good. For me, blogging has been so helpful. A huge burden is lifted every time I can get words off my chest, out of my brain and into writing. It’s a way to organize and process my feelings, whether my followers read it or not. (although I hope you are!) I’m currently working on mindfulness and meditation. One of the biggest hurdles has been learning to triage my issues. What is actually important for me to tackle, and what little things are dragging me down today? What are the things I can not change, and have to accept? Where can I move on?

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As you can see, support comes in many forms. Each person in my life has shown love and joined my journey in different ways. Each brings something unique to the table. Having a support system is the number one key to my success. Being able to talk it out, and blog about things makes me feel so much better, but it’s the returned feedback that really pushes me forward. There is a difference between blogging for attention, venting your problems and blogging for support. I hope my story and my struggles inspire people to reach out for help. I hope you know that you are not alone. There are always people who want to help you, even if they are strangers. My inbox is always open to anyone who needs to talk.

 

Once you accept that you have a problem, and you’re interested in getting help it can be overwhelming about where to start. Most people don’t know what options are out there, what they can do for themselves or what people can do for you. Find out. Get educated. Research online, ask your doctor, ask a good friend. Build a support net, and then expand your web. You are worth it.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

OCD and jouska – finding meditation tailored to fit you.


Jouska is a term to describe compulsively rehearsing hypothetical conversations in your head. It also takes up about 90% of the space in my brain.



Not everyone who has OCD is a compulsive cleaner. I have a friend who’s compulsions make her unplug everything in her room any time she leaves the house. She even has to reset her alarm clock daily. Personally, Part of my OCD is fixating on previous conversations and rehearsing ones that I may have in the future. I obsessively fill my mind with list, scripts, planning, and retrospect bias.



So you’re probably thinking “everyone does this.” I would agree with you. Everyone tries to think of something to say before they talk to someone cute. Everyone’s had a “why did I just say that” moment. Jouska goes a little further.



I still beat myself up over an awkward response to a compliment way back in my figure skating days. A high school girl that I really admired complimented my new haircut. I had a hard time even looking up from the ice skate I was tying, and the locker room started to warp. I awkwardly responded that I didn’t deserve her compliment, and my hair didn’t look nice on me. I stumbled out of the locker room and onto the ice, not able to control my arms and legs during my dissociative episode. This was fifteen years ago, and I think about it daily. Being awkward sucks. Being awkward in front of someone you really admire, even aspire to be- that’s just crushing.



I play out conversations in my head over and over in preparation of attending a social event. Planning and rehearsing bring out severe frustration if someone does not respond the way I anticipated, and my rehearsal does not go as planned. I feel like this is still in the realm of normal. I cross the line into jouska when I can’t sleep all night because I have to go to the grocery store the next day, and I’m wondering what the cashier will say to me.



My jouska is worst when I’m alone with my own thoughts- I zone out when driving, showering, having quiet time, trying to fall asleep, and during monotonous tasks. Everything around me becomes white noise as I obsessively make lists in my head, remember and rehearse.



I try everyday to have a healthier mind. I see my therapist, I try my coping skills, do my yoga,  etc. Yet somehow still, I’ll feel mike gently rest his hand on my thigh to draw me back to real life when the jouska takes over. I’m not talking now and then, but several times each trip we make in the car. I don’t even realize I’m gone until mike physically touches me to ground me back into the present moment. He realizes I’m drowning in my own mind before I even can, and throws me a life preserver every time. ( I wouldn’t survive this life without his support- I really did find my 1 in a million. )



So what do I do about it?



Meditation for me has always been unsuccessful. As soon as my mind enters a peaceful state the obsessive list making sets in. There are so many benefits to meditation that I really, really want to make it work.



On Friday my therapist gave me an article about how building jigsaw puzzles stimulate the brain almost identically to meditation. Getting a piece in the right spot releases short bursts of dopamine for happiness. The light focus puzzle building requires keeps you mindful, and in the moment. I shared the article with mike after my session, and an hour later he came home with four puzzles.



God love that man.


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The article inspired me to research other types of meditation that may avoid jouska. The thing that jumped out at me most was candle meditation, where watching a candle flicker and burn induces mindfulness and calming.



Mike ended up having to work tonight. I was disappointed he wouldn’t be around to puzzle with me, but it gave me an opportunity to try candle meditation.



I put the kids to bed, got on my comfy clothes, and headed for the home gym. I first stretched out with my yoga strap (my bad disc has really been acting up) and got myself comfortable on the mat. I lowered the lights, put on shavasana radio, and lit a candle.
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So how did it go? I was able to zone out for a few seconds at a time. I loved watching the flame flicker, and I celebrated small bursts of happiness when the flame synced up to part of the song as if they were dancing. This is the closest I’ve ever come to meditation, and I’ll definitely be adding this method to my nightly routine. I feel much more relaxed already, and I’m looking forward to resting for recovering instead of sleeping to escape. The this meditation thing could really help me out here.

 

Trying new things is an essential part of better wellness. For our bodies we try new food or exercise. For our social health we make new friends, and try new places. For our finances we try different stores, sales, and coupons. Mental health is no different. There are infinite possibilities. If you’re not feeling right, get help. Maybe that means calling a professional for a session. Maybe it’s just starting by making time for yourself. Maybe it’s just a workout, or a meditative session. There is no right or wrong way to feel better. Do what works for you. Don’t know where to start? Try Pinterest! They make it super easy to discover yoga poses, alternative meditation, new trauma therapies, even recipes to make your body feel better. The options are endless. You don’t have to suffer. Help yourself.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

What if you simply devoted this year to loving yourself more?

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Inc.com surveyed 2,000 people to find out the most popular resolutions for 2019.

Here they are:

 

  1. Diet or eat healthier (71%)

    2. Exercise more (65%)

    3. Lose weight (54%)

    4. Save more and spend less (32%)

    5. Learn a new skill or hobby (26%)

    6. Quit smoking (21%)

    7. Read more (17%)

    8. Find another job (16%)

    9. Drink less alcohol (15%)

    10. Spend more time with family and friends (13%)

 

It’s been said that 80% of resolutions fail by February, and only 8% of all people achieve their resolution within the year. Resolutions fail. Starting a resolution according to the date on the calendar is asking for failure. To make major changes, you need to be in the right place mentally, emotionally, and physically. Those things don’t automatically click into place because the calendar turns to January 1st.

 

I’d like to nominate a new idea for 2019. Instead of a resolution, make a dedication. Every single item on that list is a piece of a healthy person, so why settle on one piece? Make a dedication to love your whole self more. Choices made out of love are always more successful and powerful than decisions made out of negativity. Eat healthy because you love your body, and you’d like to nourish it- don’t punish it for being fat. Save money because you love yourself enough to create a safety net in case of emergencies- don’t restrict yourself because you feel you’re not worth a treat.  Spend more time with friends and family because their relationships make you happy, not because you’re obligated. Success starts with your own mentality.

 

Loving yourself does not mean you have to be content with the way things are, and it doesn’t restrict your ability to change for the better. You can love yourself on every step of the journey, not just when you reach your destination. Accept yourself and let the positivity fuel change. Look at the adjustments you wish to make as “I deserve to do this FOR myself” instead of “I have to do this TO myself.” You’ll find that self love will lift your spirits, give you positive energy, and make your goals seem much more realistic. Find support on your journey, but still be your own biggest cheerleader. Love yourself.

 

Love yourself the way that you are today, and try make changes in the “I deserve” mindset. One of my favorite examples of this method came up in my binge eating support group. A woman described when a family member offered her a dessert at a party. When she responded “I can’t eat that on my diet” the family member pressed her to accept the treat. They told her to enjoy herself, as it was a party. The woman made eye contact and spoke again, “I’m sorry, I WILL NOT eat that.” Phrasing got her point across. She WOULD NOT eat that because she deserved to make a healthy decision. The words “I can’t” tells others that the diet is deciding on your behalf, and can possibly be bargained with.

 

Don’t look at your goals as a restriction, but a conscious decision. It isn’t a matter of can or can’t,  but will or will not allow – because YOU and only YOU can decide what’s right for your body.

 

80% of resolutions fail by February. I genuinely wonder what the numbers will look like if we scrap the resolutions and instead make a dedication to loving ourselves. Will 80% of people decide they don’t love themselves by February? It seems to me that our dedication has a much higher possibility of success than a resolution.

 

I’m sick of staring into the dressing room mirror and hating myself. I’m not going to tell myself I’m not good enough, and I’m not going to punish my body. I’m not going to make a short term resolution to diet. I’m making a lifestyle change.. For LIFE. I am good enough, I love myself. My body does not deserve punishment, it deserves to be celebrated for what it CAN do. It deserves to be worked, stretched, and built up. It deserves healthy nourishment as fuel. And that girl in the mirror? She is NOT hated. She is loved. She is doing amazing things, and I support her 100%.

 

I’m going into 2019 with the dedication of loving myself more, and making it happen for the long haul. I want people to join me on my marathon instead of giving up after a sprint. I want you to love yourself. I want you to make changes for yourself out of recognition that you have the potential to be more, not because you feel that you fall short. I want you to love yourself more. Can you devote 2019 to yourself? You can. I’m cheering for you.

Happy New Year.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids

It’s okay to not respond.

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One of the most frustrating things in the world is “being left on read.” It’s been meme’d, joked about, and always vented about. It’s frustrating to be on the receiving end, but it IS okay to read a volatile message and not respond… After all if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing.

 

I was once told that an argument is not started by the first person to speak, but the second. The first person is addressing a feeling, a situation. The second person decides how that translates going forward. Do you respond negatively? Do you engage in a disagreement? Do you fight back? That’s how an argument is started. Do you apologize? Do you validate their feelings? Do you diffuse their anger? That’s how avoiding an argument is attempted.

 

There’s a third option: do not engage at all.

 

When tempers and emotions run high people don’t always hear words, they hear tone. It doesn’t matter what you say to make things right if someone is hurt badly enough. It’s okay to use your judgement and determine that there needs to be a ‘cooling off’ period before you can work things out. Striking when the kettle is hot induces burns. It’s okay to let the kettle blow off some steam and cool down before you try to pour your tea.

 

Unfortunately, I’m living this today. Someone I care very much about it upset with me. I feel strongly she has misdirected anger, but she clearly feels differently. When I opened her very angry facebook message last night, I simply bid her goodnight and turned my phone off. I’ve been unplugged since. I’ve focused on resting, spending time with my children and getting work done for Kate and the Kids. It’s not only the angry party who needs to calm down. It’s the second person to speak. In this situation, that will be me. I decide if this is going to be an argument. My reaction sets the tone for our road of fixing our issue. I need the time to cool off as much as she does. I like to take this time to walk away from the issue and come back to it with fresh eyes. When I return, I can tackle the problem more objectively.

 

I’m not sure yet how this will play out, and I doubt I’ll ever post the resolution. The specifics are private and irrelevant. The best I can do is work on myself, and try to respond in a way that will make things better and not worse.

 

No matter how things go, I will not waver on my belief that it is okay to walk away. It’s okay to say nothing, to take a break without explanation. In the moment it’s absolutely frustrating, but I’d rather have my mind race with terrible words until they turn not so terrible. Once those terrible words are actually spoken, they can’t be taken back. It’s better to let them diffuse in your brain than say something you’ll regret later.

 

Of course I’m wondering what kind of hell is waiting in my inbox. Who knows what I’ll walk into when I do turn my phone back on. I’m seriously considering just clearing the conversation without reading any of it and starting fresh. Right now, I just have the image of Spongebob and Flatts during their fight- Flatts swinging and punching, wearing himself out while the sponge just painlessly absorbs the blows. I’d rather have my inbox absorb the blows than my spirit.

 

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It’s okay to not engage. It’s okay to let people tucker themselves out with their own anger before you work on resolving an issue. You have to make yourself a priority. You can’t control other people or what they say. You can only control your own words and actions. You have to decide what environment will bring out the best you, even if that environment isn’t the one you’re currently in.

 

I pray that your arguments are few and far between, but if you do encounter an issue that you put your own mental health first. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t fix a problem if you’re still broken. Take time to get yourself together first.

 

Fingers crossed that this issue is left in 2018, either way I’m holding my head high and going into 2019 with my best, most positive self.

 

Happy New Year, may this year find you healthier than ever- mind, body and soul.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Why I didn’t wait until January 1st to start making changes

Every year we all hear the same things. “I’m going to start going to the gym more.” “I’m going to quit smoking.” “I’m going to manage my finances better.”

 

Those are all GREAT things! You absolutely should create goals, and start taking steps to reach them. But why wait until the New Year? I promise I’m not being a hypocrite- this is actually something I believe in! Like in 2015 when I made the decision to eat healthier even through the holidays, continuing on after.

 

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There’s no better time to make a change than right now. It doesn’t have to be a new year, or a Monday, or even first thing in the morning. This moment, the very moment that you’re living in is a perfect time to  start making changes.

 

The problem with waiting until a certain date on the calendar is the adoption of the “last meal” mentality. It’s smoking the rest of the pack, gorging on all the food you’ll miss, insane spending. Why start the New Year in the negative? It makes the change even harder, and it’s easier to feel like your goals are unattainable and quit sooner.

 

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Today is a great day to make a change. Even if you’ve eaten an unhealthy breakfast, or had a cigarette. You can stop. Right now, right this second. YOU can make the decision that enough is enough.. And trust me, your body has no idea what day it is on the calendar.

 

Combine mindfulness and your goals, and you’re on the road to success! Just know, I’m rooting for you. We all are.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Days of rest are the best kind of productive.

I’ll keep today’s post short and sweet, today we had a lazy day.

I caught up on e-mails and bird box memes.

We snacked and snuggled.

Our well rested bodies are looking forward to making tomorrow perfect. Mental health days are necessary and beneficial. Just because you didn’t leave the house doesn’t mean you weren’t productive. Our lazy day gave us the opportunity to bond and recharge. We’re feeling healthier than ever.

Enjoy your weekend, and get some rest.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Sometimes the family we make for ourselves is more important than the family we were given through blood.

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Recently I was bragging about my beautiful sister, and how excited I am that she is about to be a mother. Someone overheard my conversation, and stopped us to specify that she wasn’t my actual sister. Today I stood next to that same beautiful woman during her ultrasound, and I’ll be damned if that baby on the screen isn’t my actual niece.

 

Let’s switch gears temporarily. When I met my husband, we each had a child of our own. That means Arielle is my stepdaughter, and Jacen is his stepson. It also means that Anna is a half sibling to both kids. (Lost yet? Modern family trees get a little crazy.) Jacen and Arielle share no blood, nor do Arielle and I, nor Mike and Jacen. Does this mean we are not actually family? Of course it doesn’t, and it would never be socially acceptable for someone to publicly announce otherwise.

 

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So why is there a need to specify that she is not my actual sister? We share no blood, but we are certainly family. There are people who share my blood who never met my children. My sister has attended every birthday party, soccer game, talent show, Disney World trip and fundraiser right by my side. She remembers their birth weights, appointment dates and favorite characters better than I do. Jacen has never spent one second of life with his birth father, and yet she can’t imagine one second of her life without Jacen.

 

She is my sister, not by blood but by heart. Most of the people my children call family are not biologically related. At last count, Arielle had six women she called her grandmother. Explain that to a geneticist.

 

I’m not here to argue, I’m not here to shame. I’m not here to vent or defend our relationship. I’m here to brag.

 

That one little interruption in my conversation didn’t knock me off the rails- it didn’t even slow me down. My love and pride for my family outshines any outsider’s speculation. It always will.

 

I consider myself extremely lucky, for I’ve been able to hand select the members of my family. I’m not obligated to keep them in my life due to genes, I choose to keep them in my life because they deserve to be there. We’ve already mentioned my amazing sister, so let’s keep going with her. She’s been in my life since we were 10 years old. I’ve bounced every major life decision off her because I truly value her insight. We know everything about each other. We’ve supported each other through all of life’s changes, and have included each other in every single milestone. She’s seen my best and my worst. She’s told me the truth when she’s disagreed with me, but loved me even if I didn’t listen. Even when I’ve pushed her away she’s fought her way back. We won’t ever give up on each other, and we’ll never lose each other.

 

I’ve known her husband for almost as long. Years before he married my sister (years before they were even dating) my children called him their uncle. My son was just under a year old when I needed a sitter during a Taylor Swift concert. Nik was 19, and I don’t think he’d ever been alone with  a baby before. That didn’t stop him from volunteering to stay home with my kid. Not only did he tackle diapers and bottles, he even drove us to the concert AND braved horrifying stadium traffic to pick us up after. He stepped out of his comfort zone so I could have a good time. He didn’t ask to be an uncle at 19. He could have easily spent the night with his friends, free of responsibility. He didn’t. He chose us, he gave that night up for me. That’s the kind of person I recruit to be a member of my family.

 

In two days Arielle will have her 10th birthday party. There will be three people in attendance who share her DNA. Over 70% of her guests are family by heart. I am her family by heart. We do not feel the need to specify step, half, adopted or “actual” – we are just family. We are a happy, loving, very fortunate family. We care for each other without obligation. We make conscious decisions to stay together. We can’t take each other for granted because there’s no biological net to fall back on. To me, that’s the truest love there is. Love that’s created and not assigned. Love that bonds very different hearts under one family. Love that blends.

 

With happy hearts,

Kate and the kids.

… and every member of our FAMILY.

 

My sneaky chef, 2 ingredient cake recipe (semi-homemade)

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Ready for the easiest cake ever? This recipe used only 2 ingredients and is under 160 calories a slice (depending on the boxed cake mix you choose.) The best part? It cost me less than $5 to make!

 

1 box cake mix + 2 cups unsweetened applesauce.

bake as directed on box.

done.

 

Is your mind blown yet? It should be. I typically make this recipe with the sugar free Pillsbury mix. I use the golden cake, unsweetened sauce, fresh berries and sugar free cool whip. I like to add a chocolate drizzle or shavings just for decoration. It’s an amazingly moist, refreshing, light dessert.

 

This weekend is Arielle’s birthday party, and she’s chosen to make her cupcakes with applesauce and chocolate cake mix. The plan is to fill the cupcakes with oreo pudding mousse (instant Oreo pudding mix + 2 cups heavy whipping cream instead of milk.) We’ll top with cool whip and crushed Oreo cookies. This recipe is not low sugar, but is lower in fat & cholesterol and has added fiber from the applesauce.

 

I only recently switched to the applesauce method. Previously I had used the weight watchers soda cake recipe, which consists of the box cake mix + 12 oz diet soda. When I first started weight watchers I absolutely loved this recipe. I’d used diet sprite, diet orange, and even root beer. For a long time this was my go-to, until after 2 years of clean eating I started to detect a bitter, artificial taste. I still have friends and family who enjoy this style cake without detecting the artificial sweeteners. It’s definitely a personal preference.

 

In between the two methods, I used the soda cake recipe with seltzer water. I did find this was less artificial tasting, but can be dry. So far the apple method is my favorite.

 

My first go with the applesauce  was actually a box mix for coffee cake. I added peeled, chopped apple to the mix and topped with sliced almonds. I served muffin-style with no frosting, and it was a huge hit at our party! My grandmother now begs me to bring this cake to every family gathering.

 

There are infinite ways to dress up this simple cake. For a simple, quick, and healthy alternative you definitely can’t beat this recipe!

(cost of ingredients at Walmart – cake mix $1.29, unsweetened applesauce $1.98, sugar free cool whip $1.69 = total of $4.96)

 

If you try this recipe, please let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear your semi-homemade shortcuts in the comments.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

My sneaky chef tip!

Two out of three of my children will eat just about anything- including their veggies, but we are always looking to increase our fiber intake.

There is an epidemic where many families today rely on prepackaged or fast food. These products are high in sodium and preservatives that have dehydrating properties. It can take a toll on a GI tract.

Everyone knows the importance of eating your veggies. Our minds immediately go for the essential vitamins and minerals they provide, but don’t forget about fiber content!

A few months ago we touched base with a pediatric nutritionist. We were hoping for advice on managing Jacen’s Ehlers-Danlos symptoms. After the visit, we started using cafeteria style plates to provide Jacen with a visual on the appropriate portions of a balanced meal. We make a point of including a fruit, veggie, protein and whole grain into each meal.

Even after following the nutritionist’s advice, Jacen struggles with his terrible GI issues. I like to hide extra fiber into sauces by popping some cooked produce into my ninja blender. I think the key to success is making sure the produce is cooked to a soft state, almost over cooked and soggy.

Last night I blended mushrooms, cauliflower and onion into spaghetti sauce. It went unnoticed by any of the kids! It’s also great for the adults in the family since the addition of produce reduces fat and calories per portion.

We have even done this is in cheese sauces. Arielle is extremely picky and requests macaroni and cheese almost every night. It was easy to incorporate the blended produce into the sauce while making baked Mac and cheese. When topped with breadcrumbs, it’s impossible to detect.

I love sneaky chef tips! If you have any of your own I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

How EMDR saved my Christmas.

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I was first introduced to EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) about a year ago by a new therapist. It took me about 3 months of talk therapy before I felt ready to try EMDR.

 

At first, some think the therapy sounds similar to hypnosis. It isn’t. It uses lateral eye movement to get the two sides of your brain working at once. You can go back to a memory, replay it, and desensitize yourself from it. ** It is NOT changing the memory ** It’s only reprocessing, similar to exposure therapy. When you replay it a few times you can spend more time on bringing closure to your feelings, and hopefully be able to let go of the trauma.

 

Christmas for me always brings on tremendous stress and frequent breakdowns. I take on too much, force happiness and get upset when things fail to meet my expectations. Most years I max out our calendar and our budget. We are exhausted and cranky, and end up taking it out on eachother.. And by WE i mean the whole family- kids included. Reprocessing Christmas took many, many sessions. I started months ago in hopes of having a better holiday season.

 

My issues with Christmas are widespread, and have gone on for many years. For the purpose of this post I’ll zero in on one specific thing we processed- the one thing I believe saved my Christmas most.

 

All year the one thing I worry about most is spending Christmas Eve with my husband’s family. Seven years ago when I met my husband I was extremely overweight, unemployed, and a young unwed mother. My self confidence was at a zero. My husband on the other hand was a god in my eyes. He is so smart, so caring, so responsible and absolutely the greatest man I’d ever met. Before I was even introduced to any part of his family I felt like a disappointment. I imagined they’d spent Michael’s entire life witnessing how amazing he was and picturing a perfect wife as a match for him. I wholeheartedly believed I would be a let down.

 

This manifested in so many negative ways for me. First, I felt my physical appearance was a huge turn off, so I’d go over the top trying to make myself look better. I’d cake on the makeup and eyelashes, pull my shapewear so tight I couldn’t breathe and spend hours on my hair. I’d often make us late by trying on a thousand outfits that I hated until I eventually broke down to tears. This was always followed by refusal to go with him, a giant fight, and finally him dragging me out of the house against my will. I always felt so ugly, so low, so inadequate.

 

When I got to the party, I’d be ashamed of myself. Most of the time I felt out of place and over done from all of my over the top preparations. I’d feel dirty and messy from crying in the car and making a mess of my makeup. I couldn’t maintain eye contact or a conversation. I was so awkward I could barely muster a full sentence. My inability to speak made me feel even worse about myself because I was worried I’d come off stupid, or maybe snobby.

The worst of all was what my therapist calls “dissociative body movement.” Basically, I had extreme vertigo. I was so anxious that hallways appeared warped. I had a hard time with depth perception. Stairs were terrifying and I was overly cautious about my footing. I wasn’t able to eat or drink because I could not control my hands properly. If I reached for a cracker my hand would end up way off to the right, not anywhere close to food. If someone handed me a drink I’d practically slap the cup with my inability to judge how far the cup was from me, and immediately panic that I would spill or drop the entire thing. For years I did not, could not eat or drink with his family.

 

I would spend the entire night so consumed with my own anxieties that their conversations would turn to white noise, and my own thoughts took the forefront. This meant if someone did speak to me, I had no idea what they’d said. There’s no way to recover from that, except with deathly awkwardness. I’d cling tight to my husband and hope for the best.

 

How did EMDR change any of this for me?

 

The first step is identifying the negative cognition. For me it was simply “I am not good enough, I’m not worthy of love.”  The goal would be “I am worthy of their love, my true self IS good enough.”

 

We first started with my low self confidence about my appearance. 25 years of being obese gave me plenty of ammunition to deal with. I had to go back and reprocess bullying, like when my “friends” shoved pillows up their shirts and pretended to be me. Before processing it made me feel that the people close to me did not accept me, for at the time I believed they were close friends. I had to go back to the wedding where I broke a chair in front of a table full of my co-workers. That was feelings of embarrassment and shame in front of people I cared about. I went back to holidays as a child where family members would comment about the amount of food on my plate, days where I felt the floor shaking when I walked, and the times the stairs would loudly creak under my massive body.

 

One of the strongest sensations that came up during reprocessing was my hyper body awareness, specifically how large I always felt in comparison to the room. I took up too much space, I told myself it was wasted space. I would feel vast distance between my shoulders, like my back was a giant billboard blocking everyone’s view from across the room. I would feel my neck and chin tingle, like when I was thinking about my double chin as someone tried to have a conversation with me.

 

The emotions that came up were shame, embarrassment and guilt. We replayed these memories over and over. It sucked. It sucked at first, when I cried again. When my face was hot and red, just like the first time they’d happened. My forehead would sweat and I’d be out of breath EXACTLY like the original memory.. But then we’d replay it, and it was slightly less awful. We’d talk about it, and replay it again. It was even less awful. Replay. Talk. Replay. Talk.

 

In the end, the past started to seem extremely distant and insignificant. It was almost like a movie I’d seen long ago. I could remember the general theme but the specifics didn’t punch me in the gut anymore.

 

At their worst, these memories weighed on me so heavily that I once described it as walking through water in cement shoes. They slowed me down and kept me in the past when I really wanted to be in the present. After I found closure, the weight was lifted. I could hold my head a little higher and felt it easier to move forward.

 

We reintroduced my new feelings into talk therapy, where we set goals for the coming holiday season. I took on less, scheduled less, and tried to go with the flow. I had specific goals for Christmas Eve.

 

  1. No eyelashes, light makeup.
  2. No more than 20 minutes on my hair.
  3. Clothing I was comfortable in.
  4. Flat shoes.
  5. Initiate a conversation.
  6. Eat one thing discreetly. If I’m able to control my hand, eat one thing during a conversation when someone else can see me.

 

Even weeks leading up to the party, I talked about these goals with my husband, sister and therapist. I had so much support, and being able to verbalize my goals reinforced how important they were to me.

 

I’m proud to say I pulled it off.

 

Christmas Eve morning I got up and showered. I put on a sweater, comfortable leggings and flat boots. I blew out my hair in less than 10 minutes, and ran a curling iron just for texture. About 13 minutes in total. I put on mascara only. We went to our morning obligations, and when we got home I fought the urge to shower again or change my clothes. I even took a nap without stressing out about how it affected my appearance. 12 hours and several stops later, we got to his family’s party. Right off the bat I felt better. The stairs were strait instead of something out of a Tim Burton movie. I had two things left on my checklist- speak and eat.

 

I jumped the gun a bit on the speaking when I awkwardly blurted out a compliment on a cousin’s sweater but I somehow managed to recover. That one compliment ended up breaking the dam, and I was able to speak freely all night with his entire family. I felt happy, and like I was part of the family instead of an outsider. When the living room died down a bit I reached for a cracker and ended up grazing the one next to it. “Fuck. Get it together, Catherine.” I took both and gave one to Anna. I moved from a chair to the couch, and realized my vertigo had come back. “Noooo, you were doing so well! What happened?” What happened. The thought of food over the cracker triggered my fat awareness. I was off kilter again. What would my therapist tell me to do? I put my feet firmly on the floor, side by side. I squared my body off and tried to ground myself.

 

At that moment my nephew tried on his Aunt’s high heeled boots and walked around. He was silly, and funny. It made me smile. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Anna reaching for the chips, I blocked her drooly hand and got one for her.

 

Wait, I picked up a chip? I picked up the chip  I was ACTUALLY reaching for? Whoa.

 

I had done it, I had touched food and not fallen apart. I got brave. I actually made a plate for the first time ever.. Mostly grapes and crackers in case I dropped it. Later in the night I gave myself a pep talk and headed over to the dessert table. I tried a new cookie (Hermits, OMG, hermits. My new addiction.) At first bite I was in love. I consciously did not take a second bite. I walked over to my mother in law and held out the cookie. “What are these? They’re amazing!” She looked up and started telling me about hermit cookies. As she spoke I was internally cheering myself on, and took a second bite as the conversation continued.

 

There was a firework show in my chest. I did it! I did it! I DID IT!!!!!

 

I had such an amazing time that I was sad when the night drew to an end. I heard myself tell people (too many times) that I was excited to see them the following day, and that I was looking forward to spending the entire holiday with them instead of rushing out early.

 

At the end of the night it did not feel like I had spent the night with my husband’s family. I had spent the night with MY family. It was the first Christmas in seven years where I did not cry or have a break down. It was the first one ever that I was happy and confident. (Christmas day I was even brave enough to ask to hold his cousin’s baby. Let that sink in for a second. The night before I couldn’t reach for a cracker, the next day I asked to hold an infant.)

 

EMDR saved my holiday. It bettered my relationship with my family, and even kicked off this morning on a positive note. I feel great, and I’m looking forward to telling my therapist all about it at our session on Friday.

 

It took many years for me to discover EMDR. I wasted so much time on talk therapy that I felt counseling was ineffective. I changed therapist time and time again without finding the right fit. I can not say this enough- you do not have to suffer. If you feel therapy is ineffective, you have not found the right therapy. There are infinite options out there- even more than just EMDR. Keep going, keep trying. KEEP GETTING HELP. You are worthy of receiving care. You are worthy of memorable holidays. You are worthy of being part of a family. You are worthy of love.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Your presence is a present. Be in the moment, and enjoy your holiday.

This was my first holiday in seven years that did not include tears or a mental break down. Battling mental health is so much work, but enjoying a holiday with my family for the first time makes every second worth it. We had the merriest of Christmases. I hope yours was blessed as well. 💕🎄

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Moms don’t sleep, they worry with their eyes closed. – Maintaining mental health in a blended family during the holidays.

Today is only Christmas Eve, but we have been Christmasing for days and we’ll continue for days after the 25th. Christmas in a blended family home is celebrated many times, in many places, with many different people.

Last night my husband and I prepared for Santa’s first visit. We had already spent the day cooking, then hosting a Christmas with our mothers and my sister. We came home, put three over excited children to bed, lugged two carloads of gifts into the house and buckled down to make some holiday magic happen.

Mike had to build three toy chests. I stuffed the stockings and wrapped what wouldn’t fit. As the clock ticked later and later into the night, exhaustion, frustration and irritability kicked in. I had to dig deep, and pull out some of those therapy skills to hold it together. When I finally got into bed I was overcome with the dread of doing this all over agin the next night.

Then I woke up this morning. I first opened my eyes in a silent house. I was afraid to get out of bed and wake the kids, so I just laid there and thought about our day. My heart melted when I realized that there was a reason for the craziness. At first glance, I see multiple trips, lots of time in the car, and a whole lot of stress- then it dawned on me that the reason we go through all of this is because so many people love us! How lucky are we?

How lucky are we that Santa comes twice? That Mike and I get two mornings of gift opening. Two nights of eves, snuggling up and watching Christmas movies. Two mornings of thankful hugs and kisses. Having to make a trillion stops and visits just means that we are loved by many- an absolute blessing.

Christmas is stressful. It’s even more stressful trying to coordinate the craziness with sliding custody agreements, but it’s totally worth it. There’s a reason they call step children “bonus” kids.

Lucky for us, the bitter years are (for the most part) behind us. We are in a holiday routine that reduces the stress on both the kids AND us parents. Extended family members don’t always understand. They want us to push to have Arielle on Christmas Day, but it just isn’t for us. This is. This works.

So now that things run mostly smooth, here’s my advice for blended families-

1. Be patient. Two households and two sets of parents can be quite a lot on a kid. The last thing we want is for a child to feel like they’re in the middle of a tug of war game.

2. Be flexible. As in everything, there is a give and take. Everyone has holiday traditions that are important. Having a rigid schedule may mean that your shared child will miss an important tradition in the other home. Think about the child’s best interest, and their entitlement to cherished memories. This is where I’d like throw some of my favorite words from Jurassic Park, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Don’t take your child just because you can. Stop and think about their wants and needs, and what you SHOULD do.

3. Make new traditions. For us, Santa comes on the 23rd and the 24th. It’s different. It makes my kids feel special that they get a trip from Santa on night most don’t. That night of the 23rd has a different energy. It’s magical, it’s personalized. They don’t take it for granted, but it makes them feel so special. For me, it completely makes up for not having her on Christmas Day. I may even think it’s better!

4. Remember the reason for the season. Spending time with your loved ones is most important, and it really doesn’t matter what the number on the calendar is. Make everyday special, memorable, and loving.

If you’re a member of a blended family, I’d love to hear what traditions make your season special! Let me know in the comments.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

In a panic over holiday desserts? Trying bringing this easy, 2 ingredient, sugar free treat!

ingredients:

box sugar free chocolate instant pudding mix

Heavy whipping cream.

Directions:

Make pudding as directed on box, substituting the heavy cream for the milk. Pudding will be thick, like a mousse.

I’m a separate container, whip cream as directed on carton. Add sugar substitute if desired (I prefer mine unsweetened.)

Bam! Sugar free dessert ready in minutes. Since the whipping cream replaces the usual milk, dessert will be much thicker and should stand on its own. This looks absolutely beautiful layered in a parfait glass, and is delicious with added fruit or nuts. There’s so much you can do, without guilt!

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Put down the cinnamon rolls and back away slowly!

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Photo by João Jesus on Pexels.com

Is there anything better than waking up to the smell of cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning? For those of us susceptible to keto-flu, yes. Get the aroma and that warm, fuzzy, comforting feeling without refined sugar! Try my amazing apple cinnamon oatmeal recipe!

Ingredients:

2 Apples
1 cup Steel-cut oats
2 packets stevia
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tbsp Butter
1 1/2 cups Milk
1 1/2 cups Water


Directions:


Peel, core and cut the apples
Overnight, Slow Cooker, Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oatmeal. Delicious, nutritious, and ready
Coat the slow cooker with cooking spray.- Or better yet use a disposable crockpot liner (i never use my crockpot without one!)

Pile everything in the crockpot and give it a stir.

Set it to cook on low for 7 hours


Go to bed, and wake up to the sweet smell of cinnamon and apples on christmas morning!
We like to top ours with lite cool whip, granola, sugar free maple syrup and nuts. The longer I do keto, the less I like sweet things so I’ve been mixing my oatmeal with plain greek yogurt. Added protein and it cuts the sweetness.
Enjoy your breakfast, and if you do indulge in cinnamon rolls make sure you savor a bite for me! Remember that health is about balance, and you are allowed to enjoy yourself- especially on holidays! Wishing you and yours happiness, health, and a very Merry Christmas.
With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.