I’ve never met a strong person with an easy past

I have had one hell of a week.  One hell of a few weeks actually …or a few months or years… depending on when you want to start counting.

Yesterday I drove past a church and the sign said, “I’ve never met a strong person with an easy past.”  I thought… wow, that is very true.   I internalized that for a moment and realized that I feel that I am stronger than I’ve ever been before, yet I feel so defeated.  It was an interesting thing to contemplate.

So why have things been increasingly hard this week?  I’ll tell you.  I used to work for a company that does senior care.  Wow!  What a rewarding job that is… seriously.  I got to “meet” some of the sweetest seniors and had some of the greatest conversations.  I had excellent coworkers and felt very rewarded in what I was doing.  However, there were things that also stuck out to me that weren’t quite right. I won’t go into those details here because they’re personal and they will be dealt with but just trust that though I found a wonderful industry, I needed a better company.

I decided to put out applications and was delighted to hear from a seemingly wonderful company that was voted top 100 places to work last year!  I was so excited to advance my career with this company and continue to work out my passion of helping seniors, the disabled, etc.  Of course, before I applied for these positions I checked with the HR at my company to make sure there was nothing preventing me from doing so… and they said I was good to go.  I wasn’t good to go.  In my paperwork was a non-compete.  I have no recollection of signing it and am certain I didn’t know the extent of what it meant but that’s neither here nor there.  Long story short, my previous position stopped me from stepping into my new role.  She smiled as she handed me the document.

I consulted a lawyer and she told me that in NC it would be a very difficult, costly process to fight them.  And for whatever reason, I didn’t have it in me to fight them.  I felt that even though I’d been so wronged by these people trying to make an example of me… that the universe would work it all out in some way.

I’ve heard things here and there about them and I feel that they’re reaping what they’ve sowed I guess.. but more importantly… I’ve seen such generosity from others.  I saw my psychiatrist this week and had a wonderful talk with her.  I told her that everything felt like shit… things were shit and I felt like shit and …those were my exact words really.  She let me get them all out and she reassured me.  I really got connected with my psychiatrist after the birth of my daughter and what a blessing that was.  She genuinely cares about my well-being and is there for me through every stage.  I’ve raved about her this week because when you find a business that is truly wonderful, run by people that are genuine and pure in their intentions… it should be celebrated.

My daughter’s daycare reached out to me as well and told me they were willing to half her tuition for the next several months until I could find a job. WOW!  This is a very wonderful school and I believe it has a waiting list! She did not have to offer something so generous… but she did.  She told me that we were a good family and my daughter was a great kid.  She wanted to help out as MUCH as she could.

I’ve also had so many friends reach out to me during this time. I mean, seriously guys… Phone calls, texts, lunches… I have been so blessed with the connections I’ve made and the people I’ve come to know and love.  When shit sucks… I have friends all over the world sending me those good vibes, praying for me and checking on me.  I love you guys!

With that being said, even with the love and support and the very-necessary-perfectly-timed-generous-gestures… there are hard times.  There are really difficult times.  I cried the other night until I couldn’t cry anymore and then I fell asleep.  I woke up at 3 am and cried some more.  My 22 month old rolled over (co-sleeping for the win!) and in the silence of the middle of the night I heard the SWEETEST sound.  She said, “mommy.”  I looked at her and said, “hey baby… i’m sorry, go to sleep.”  She said, “mommy sick?”  I said… “no baby, just sad.  Mommy is okay. ”  She then sat up and said, “Mommy, let me hold you.”  My little perfect girl.  She held me and I couldn’t help but cry harder.  My baby is such a caretaker with a gentle, sweet, caring spirit and she knew what her mama needed.  So blessed.

This morning, my son didn’t want to go to school.  He told me there would be a fire drill… that school was cancelled, etc.  I took him there and told him I would ask the teacher if there was going to be a fire drill and if there was going to be one I would stay with him for as long as I was able to.  I got to the school and was surprised there was no fire drill.   I told him this and he stood there panicking.  He started pacing, digging at his arms and tearing up.  I sat there and held him and talked with him.  He then told his teacher that “mommy needs to work here.”  My heart fell into my stomach.  I realized that my sweet, perceptive, beautiful little boy was worried about my situation.  He had been worried about it all week and was trying to fix it.  I’d thought I’d been careful about discussing anything in depth with him… and explained everything “kid friendly,” but he is such a sweet soul.  Our souls are so connected I know he feels when things aren’t quite right.  My heart broke into a billion pieces as I had to walk away and let his teacher help him cope/breathe/relax and adapt.  I knew it was the best thing but I sat there in the car crying and staring at the rain beating the windshield for 45 minutes… frozen.  I couldn’t leave… but I knew I probably shouldn’t stay and all I wanted to do was tell these people that they’d ruined everything… and now my kids?!

I called my husband over and over and over and tried to get him to talk me down but then I called my former employer.  I wanted to tell her what this was causing… that the loss in income was the LEAST of my worries at the moment… all I cared about was making my child feel secure.  I wanted to say that what’s “Business” to you… is someone’s life… but I’ve said it all before.  Some people don’t change.  Nothing I say or do will make them feel any remorse for what they’ve put us through… but regardless, it shouldn’t matter anyway.

I am trying to stay calm, focused, and pure.  My heart aches but I’ve utilized many resources.  I’ve called my parents, my friends, my husband, my psychiatrist, the crisis hotline, etc.  I’ve tried to find inspiration in little moments and encouragement in everyday things that maybe I wouldn’t have noticed before.  I do find that so much negative makes you really, really appreciate and see the positive.  It becomes quite clear and in focus.  It was always there and is always there but sometimes you have to go through some things to really see it.

I am blessed beyond measure.  I’ve always been taken care of and I always will be.  My children are pure, beautiful, caring, kind, amazing humans.  My husband and I are doing a FANTASTIC job of raising beautiful, loving people.  I can say that honestly and therefore I have everything.  I have a lot of work to do.  I have to start with what is most important and work my way out.  I need to protect my kids and help heal their hearts and minds… focus on finding a new job and calming myself.   Each day I have to remind myself that it IS worth it… and that I am worth it.  Practicing self compassion is not something I am good at doing.  I am the first to beat myself up when it all goes to shit… but hey… maybe now is the time to work on it even more.

This post is long and I don’t even know where it started… but I had to write it.  I don’t even know if I’ll re-read it.  I just hope that if you read it… you practice kindness.  It makes a huge difference.

 

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Two O one eight.

Hey everyone! Wow it has been a minute right?  Geez.  That working life is NO joke.  I get up at 6:30, shower, feed the babies breakfast, pack lunches, grab a coffee, drop the baby off at daycare and go to work.  What a crazy 5 months it has been.

I am currently transitioning to a new job… that is a whole post in itself… but definitely for another time.

One thing I realized after going back to work is that… I enjoy socializing with adults!  Even though I am quite childish haha… I really enjoyed getting to know my coworkers and catching up on some adult conversation.  I missed my kiddos but realized that they are THRIVING in their school/daycares.  They get to run and play and socialize and it really just worked out quite wonderfully.

With that being said, 2018 has started out a bit dicey… so I’m going to take a moment to post a about my resolutions:

1- Meditate daily.  This is so important guys.  I really failed with the meditation deal in 2017 and it is 1000% necessary.  I put on a few sleep meditations when putting my son to sleep last night, and though it didn’t work for a 4 year old who was very stir crazy from being inside due to snow/below freezing temps for 1 week, it was very relaxing and I noticed it kept him much calmer while going to sleep!

2- Medication.  I am seeing my doctor tomorrow and hoping to get on a better medication.  I have been so thankful to Prozac for all of its OCD help but I believe there may be another drug out there that can help me out a little more.  I tried tapering off for a bit but it was unsuccessful.  This does not mean I am a failure.  This means that just like any other illness, I have to work at treating it.

3- Cooking.  I need to cook more!  This past weekend I made a delicious GRAIN FREE, banana/chocolate chip bread and Shepherd’s pie!  They were both pretty good! Oh yeah, and I made pork chops!  I have had so much anxiety recently and cooking has been a good way to channel that little bit of crazy.

4- Water.  I feel like there have been times in my life I was the ultimate spokesperson for water, however, recently I’ve not been as wonderful at hydrating!! I purchased a water bottle from amazon that helps me remember to drink water every hour and I hope to keep it up!  Water is so essential!

5- Spend less money.  I am a Target, Amazon, Starbucks addict.  Last year I wanted to do a post called a “SAT” out… where I boycott Target, Amazon and Starbucks for my own health and wellness lol… but I was too weak!  I hope that I can do this soon… however, I equate this to having a food addiction almost.  I mean, you can’t stop cold turkey because you still need things like… toilet paper, or medications.  It is hard!  I have set a limit for starbucks though…and hope I can keep at it.  I am dangerously close to it so far though …so …things aren’t looking swell.  Its okay!

Okay, so there is my small update.  I am still around and still very much interested in maintaining this blog!  However, things have been SO busy.  Maybe meditation will help me with my blog goals!

What goals have you set for yourself in 2018?  <3.

My heart hurts

I feel such a deep sadness in my soul on a regular basis over Jack’s possible autism.  I carry around guilt that I somehow made it happen.  I worry, I obsess, I cry, I don’t eat, I grind my teeth.  I’ve been in a state of loneliness in a way.  I’ve tried to shut it out.  I’ve tried to shut down from my life in a way and escape.  I can feel myself hiding from it all.  I hide for a little while.  I shut it all out… then I’m more alone but nothing has changed.  Things are still the same.

Fighting back tears I’m going to be completely honest.

-When I ask Jack what he wants for Christmas and his reply is, “nothing,” my heart breaks.
-When he plays the same thing over and over again, never deviating from the play or adding to it…I feel anxious.
-When he has to cover his ears to say a simple hello to someone his own age– I beg for him to just “stop it” on the inside.
-Every time I make an excuse for him, telling others that he is “shy.” I feel guilty.
-I feel like… somehow, I am less than, because I am convinced I did this to him.
-I spend moments of each day thinking this can’t possibly be real.  I analyze every moment in the past 4 years.
-I feel immense guilt that I would ever feel let down by him or disappointed.  That I would hate autism so much when it could very likely be a major part of his life.
-What hurts the most is not being able to fix it for him.  I fix things, it is what I do.  I can’t fix this and it makes me feel like a failure.

I really needed to say those things.  Maybe saying them has changed your entire perception of me.  Maybe you think I’m a terrible mother and person.  I spend a lot of each day thinking the same thing.  I feel like it is important to say my truths though.  I feel like it is important to say that this is NOT easy, that I am SCARED and I am SAD and I am aching in several moments of every single day.  I am angry.  There were no signs of anything like this.  He was a typical baby.  I’m also mad because I was reassured time and time again by everyone that this was not autism.  His pediatrician felt like I was crazy for even thinking it.  Autism hurts.

Now that I’ve said these things you must know a few other things.

-My son is hilarious. He made his first pun at 2 years old.
-My son learned to tie is shoe at 4 years old and now goes around the classroom helping his peers tie their shoes.
-My son leaned over and whispered, “Good morning Claire” to his sister this morning and then kissed her on the lips.
-My son tells me often and out of nowhere that he loves me.
-My baby hugs me.
-My son is happy I am his mother and comforted in my arms.
-Every single day, despite the heartache that this possible diagnosis has brought, I feel SO blessed that I was chosen to be his mom.  I want him EXACTLY the way he is. (However, if I could take away some of his anxiety I would in a heartbeat.)

I have learned a multitude of things in the past 2 years.  I have grown, I have come to terms with a lot and I’ve realized that things rarely turn out the way you think or hope that they will.  I’m learning to go with the flow.

This will never be easy, but nothing worth something ever is.  He is everything, so the ups will feel much higher and the downs will feel heart wrenching…but he is worth it.  He is perfect.

I can’t say it but I have to.

I have a couple of different drafts in this blog of posts that I’ve started and never finished.  I’ve been trying to keep up with things and post them chronologically but …tonight I’m just going to write from my heart.  There is something that I can’t say and something that I can’t see and something that hurts so badly to think about …so maybe if I write the words I’ll get used to them.

My son (likely) has autism.  I know I’ve referenced it here several times… but I never really believe it.  I don’t want it to be real.  Is that awful?  I love my son so much and I love his quirks and his brains and his humor and his smile and everything about him but I don’t ever want anything to be hard for him.  I don’t want to think about the possibility of special classrooms, accommodations, a lifetime of IEP meetings, regression, diet, therapy, etc.  I don’t want it to be real.

And also…did I do this?  I cannot accept that my son may have this disorder that they don’t even know what it is or how you get it or anything about it.  Did I cause this?  Is it because I hovered too much when he was little …is it because I have OCD and made him this way?  Is it the food I ate?  Was it the vaccinations or is it his diet?  WHAT IS IT?

My sweet boy finds one thing and he obsesses.  The routine changes and he can’t handle the deviation from the norm.  He cries.  He panics.  He’s lost in there and he can’t really get out.  He is trapped inside of a chaotic brain and sometimes I can’t get to him.  There are no mommy kisses that make this better.  There are no comforting words.  There is NOTHING I can do to fix this and it kills me.  I am his mother.   I made him… I grew him…I delivered him and I nursed him.  He is my perfect little boy and he is struggling.  Why can’t I help him?

I’ve never been one to censor myself and I don’t plan to start now.  I am sad.  I’m scared.  Autism is terrifying to me.  It is a whole world of unknowns and I am paralyzed with fear.  I feel sad often that he may never be the carefree person I’d prayed he would be.  I feel completely depressed often because I fear he will struggle like I struggled.  Adolescence will be hard and things will be that much more challenging.  I also fear that he will be made fun of.  The thought is almost too much to handle.  My middle school years were awful.  I was teased for my clothes and for my skin color.  I’m terrified someone will call him the R word.  The thought actually makes me physically sick.

In the first few years of his life I felt SO much pride in the fact that he was such a happy kid.  Everyone commented on how happy of a baby he was.  I reassured myself that a child this happy could only continue to be that way.  I made myself feel better by thinking he likely got his father’s genes and he wouldn’t struggle with mental health issues like I have and do.  Lately, he hasn’t seemed as happy as often.  His fears are real, his emotions fluctuate often and intensely.  He gets stuck in his head and he obsesses… a lot.  All I can tell myself is that this may be forever.

If you want to know what autism (or having a child with mental health issues) is like look at pictures of my husband and I before Jack’s developmental delay diagnosis vs. now.  Together we’ve lost 45-50 lb between the both of us.  The books on our shelves that once had anything from the Beatles biography to Shakespeare’s sonnets have been replaced with whole 30 cookbooks (because we’re trying to go gluten and casein free) and healing autism/recovering children books.  Our browser histories are full of ASD screening quizzes and ASD/OCD blogs.  Our Amazon cart is full of inulin/fiber supplements, fish oil and probiotics.   Our thoughts are consumed with this potential diagnosis and we spend every waking minute making sure he is okay or will be okay.  We cry … a lot.  We argue… a lot.  We sleep… too little.

If you want me to paint a more intimate picture– Facebook showed me my memories today and I got to see one from 3 years ago.  My husband snapped a photo of me and my son at the playground on a slide.  His hands are in the air and he is SO happy.  He doesn’t have a care in the world.  He is with his parents and he is safe and happy and healthy.  As for me,  I have the biggest smile on my face.  A genuine, appreciative, grateful smile that stretches from ear to ear.  You can see how full my heart is in it.  It was a moment of pure joy.  I saw the photo and I ran to the bathroom at work and I cried in the stall.  The photo reminded me that there was once a time before all of this.  A time when this little boy didn’t suffer at all.  A time when we didn’t have any reason to worry about anything (though I did, often, and for no reason.)  A time that seemed hard then but was a breeze compared to now.  The photo was bittersweet and my reaction was strong.

I am writing all of this for everyone to read because the fact is, this sucks.  I’m sad.  I’m hurt. I’m sick.  I’m scared. I’m angry.  I’m jealous.  I’m struggling.  My son is suffering and I’m living each day disappointed in myself for not being able to make it better.

I feel guilty because it could be worse. I know it could be much worse.  I hate that I Feel so many things. I hate that I am consumed by this …word.   However, even having said all of this and feeling so many different emotions every single minute… one thing stays the same.  I love Jack with every single bit of me.  He is my heart and he is my love.  I will never stop fighting for him and trying to make everything easier for him.  I am so grateful to God for giving me this precious, amazing, beautiful, perfect little boy.  He has some issues, but we all do.  Every negative thing I feel about autism is out of fear for him.  I hurt when he hurts.  I cry when he cries.  I want him to be happy. I want life to be easy.  I want him to throw his hands in the air again because he’s happy and carefree.  And I want to be right there with him doing the same.

 

Look what you made me do


There is something that I haven’t been completely open with in when writing in this blog.  Its not that I haven’t gotten around to writing about it… or that I’ve tried to hide it necessarily… but it is something that I’ve struggled dealing with and accepting.  So here it goes…

My perfect, hilarious, beautiful, quirky, intelligent, blessing of a child, Jack, may be on the autism spectrum.  I’m sharing this information now because I’ve begun to realize how much this affects my life, my son’s life, my family, etc.  I will elaborate more in future posts because if there is anything I hope to convey more than anything else is …I love him EXACTLY the way he is.  Every bit of him is perfect to me.  He will always be perfect to me.  I’ve struggled with expressing it here because the idea of autism physically hurt me. It hurt me because I didn’t want him to suffer at all.  I didn’t want life to be hard for him.  I didn’t want him to miss out on opportunities.  As the days go on I’m starting to realize that autism doesn’t have to mean that Jack’s life will be any less fulfilling than anyone else’s.  It doesn’t have to mean the worst.  And the reason I say that he “may” have autism is because, well, honestly he acts exactly like I did as a kid.  We are very similar in many ways that hurt me because I know the challenges I faced when I was younger.  Whether he is or he isn’t… right now, we are chugging along and he is happy.  He is in school, he tells jokes and laughs, he loves his sister and is making friends.  I am so proud of him.

The reason I’m writing all of this out today is because there was something that happened this week that upset me deeply and without understanding the challenges we face you may not understand why the comments were so upsetting.

When I was a kid I was very shy, much like Jack.  I had friends but I was only comfortable in small groups.  I was nervous about talking to boys or anyone I decided was “cooler than me.”  I could determine who was “cooler than me,” at a very young age also.  I remember it happening as early as when I was 5 or so.  Jack struggles talking with children his own age.  We’re working on it but it is not something that comes naturally to him.  As for me, as I grew older I would pretend like I was a famous. Being famous would mean that everyone would just have to like me and I wouldn’t have to figure out how to make them like me.  Obviously, the desire to be famous has faded drastically with time but the love of music I developed many years ago when I would sing pop songs in my room for hours at a time has not.  It was therapeutic then and it is therapeutic now.  It was something that was my own and it helped me get through a lot of hard times.

When I got pregnant I prayed my children would not be like me.  I prayed they wouldn’t overthink things… or worry or obsess.  I prayed they would be confident and outgoing.  Though my kids are not exactly like I am, they do suffer from some of the things that I have suffered with.  At 4 years old, Jack is such a deep thinker.  He’s hyper aware… and so perceptive.  He also struggles with expressing himself and having real conversations at times.  A lot of this is because he is …4.  But some of this is because the words just don’t come to him.   I find it hard to know what he’s thinking sometimes or how he is feeling all the time.  Any way I can connect with him each day makes my heart so full.  It lets me know that my boy is in there.  Even if he’s hidden behind lots of chaotic thoughts, fears and obsessions… he’s there.  I can get to him and he can get to me.  We can find each other.  I’ve found many of these connections take place with music.

Recently, Taylor Swift released, “Look What You Made Me Do.”  I turned it on in the car and, on our way to my parent’s house, I turned to Jack in the back seat and sang the entire song to him.  Complete with sassy faces and dance moves hahah.  He loved it.  He tried to sing it back.  He danced.  We were connecting.  In a moment, we were both care free and happy.  When you’re a worrier, a constant over thinker, plagued with mental issues… you don’t have many moments of peace.  So, seeing my son smile, dance, laugh and perform… for me and with me- was a really beautiful thing to see.  We sing and dance to other pop songs too. Britney, Beyoncé, Spice girls… you name it.  When Jack was a baby Jeremy and I harmonized “Ghetto Superstar,” and it made him stop crying!  Pop music, for Jack, is solace in a very busy, hectic life.

Music is amazing.  It is healing and therapeutic.  It’s hard for my dad to hold a conversation with Jack at times but when he’s in my dad’s car and he turns on the Bluegrass, Jack slaps his knee and bobs his head to the beat.  He takes interest in it and he loves it.

At night, when I’m lying down with my sweet boy to get him to sleep I sometimes sing “Down In The River To Pray.”  One night, Jack turned to me and softly said, “Mommy, I like this song.”  Again, a connection.  My heart felt so full and my eyes teared up.  My boy was calm, happy and enjoying the moment.

So, getting to the point of this entire post.  Someone criticized my son’s knowledge of pop music the other day.  “Why does he even know who Taylor Swift is?” He shouldn’t know who the Spice girls are.”  “You don’t want your kids dressing like ho’s.”  “Let him be a kid.”

The words cut deep.  I thought to myself that this sort of thing happens… ALL the time.  People are so quick to throw their judgments at others.  They don’t think about what others are going through.  The person who said these things compared me to another mother.  They implied that this other person was raising their kid’s right when I was raising mine poorly.  Maybe they didn’t think through what they were saying.  Maybe they stand by it.  I don’t know… and I don’t care really.  I’ve never written anything more true than what I am about to write:

I absolutely adore my son.  I will do ANYTHING to help him.  ANYTHING.  I will constantly look for ways to connect with him, console him, heal him, make him laugh, keep him healthy and keep him safe.  I don’t care if it makes me look like the worst person or mother in existence.  If it is helping my son…I don’t care what anyone thinks.  The same goes for my daughter.  No one knows my children better than I know my children.  No one knows our struggles, our day to day lives, our family… more than us.

If pop music, hell, any music… makes my son smile– we’ll listen to it all day.  If a Taylor Swift song gives him a few carefree, fun minutes… we’ll listen to Taylor Swift.  I have sat in my room for hours practicing to Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton, Dixie Chicks, Janis Joplin, Gwen Stefani, Joni Mitchell, Alison Krauss, etc. etc. etc.  As recently as a few months ago I spent an entire night with one of my best friends doing NOTHING but singing for hours on end.  It was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time.

So… to those of you that want to judge me… or anyone else.  Just don’t.  Keep it to yourself.  The way I raise my children may not be your style… but it is what works for us.  The 3 minutes we get to perform our favorite songs… is 3 minutes we’re connecting, smiling, loving and feeling peace.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and motherhood


Recently I read an article from themighty.com.  It was a wonderful article that I wish I’d read many years ago.  It talked about an aspect of Obsessive-compulsive disorder that is not often thought about when one thinks of OCD.  Obsessive-compulsive disorder to many people is someone who cleans incessantly or washes their hands one too many times.  It is much more than that.

My OCD started when I was a child.  I went undiagnosed for many years.  I knew I struggled with a variety of things but this was my “normal.”  One thing that plagued my early years was persistent worrying.  I worried every time it stormed that there would be a tornado and my family would die.   I worried that something would happen to my parents and I would be all alone.  I worried that if I talked to someone I would be rejected.  Sure, everyone worries about things like this every now and then but I was very young.

One experience that comes to mind that really triggered my OCD was my dad choking when I was about 7 years old.   I remember it very vividly.  The panic and the horror were embedded into my memory.  My dad recovered but I didn’t.  I made rules for myself when it came to eating.  I decided that I couldn’t eat hard things, or any food I’d read in my parents Reader’s Digest magazine that was considered a “top” choking food.  (carrots, nuts, hot dogs, etc).  As a child it was easy to get away with not eating very much.  I felt like if I could stick to a list of “safe foods,” then I could prevent choking.

As time went on this need to prevent choking intensified.  I had a larger list of foods I “couldn’t eat.”  The foods I did eat were chewed a million times.  I chewed my food until it was a liquid and then I swished it between my teeth to make sure there were no large parts that would choke me.  This caused me to eat very slowly.  I was embarrassed at how I ate and would often fill my mouth with food and then excuse myself to go to the bathroom and spit it in the toilet.  Eventually, being made fun of by my peers at the lunch table wasn’t worth it and I would just have water or juice for lunch.

Looking back on my childhood I can recall many moments that showed aspects of a slowly intensifying mental illness.  A family member passed away in a car accident and I thought it was my fault.  I thought that somehow I’d willed it so.  Though this was impossible, I confessed it to my mother like I was in a court room.  I sobbed and told her it was me…I did it.  She assured me I didn’t, but the guilt still felt so real.

My mom recorded in my baby book that I refused to sit with Santa at 4 years old because “he wasn’t wearing his gloves.”  I can only imagine it was because of my OCD.  My OCD has taken on many forms over the years, each one unique and debilitating.  It had become so much of my life that I didn’t even realize it was the culprit of so much of my anguish.  I didn’t even consider it.  I saw multiple psychiatrists and therapists whose diagnoses varied from bipolar disorder to depression to panic disorder, etc.  None of them mentioned the possibility of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

However, in college I realized that I felt a lot of anxiety if the gas pump didn’t stop on a number divisible by 5.  I felt a lot of anxiety if I didn’t complete a thought before the stop light turned green.  I replayed images in my head over and over and over again because I couldn’t stop them.  I checked and rechecked everything.  I started to become obsessed with everything medical.  I decided my lymph nodes were too large and measured them multiple times a day.  I would ask friends to feel them and measure them for me.  I took my temperature hundreds of times a day and I would google symptoms for various illnesses because I had to.  If I didn’t, I would get the illness and it would be my fault.

My obsessive-compulsive disorder turned my life into a mere existence, rather than actual living.  I spent multiple hours a day checking, rechecking, obsessing, thinking, preventing, acting on my compulsions.  Sometimes, it became too much and I would break.  Thankfully, I’ve had the support of an amazing therapist, psychiatrist, family and husband.  I am on medication and I am living my life.  I still struggle sometimes, but I am happy.

One reason I decided to write about my struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder is because of the article I referenced above.  For one, the article makes me feel less alone in the world.  I feel stronger having read it.  I feel like someone that is not a horrible person but someone who is afflicted with a mental illness.  I have a disability.  I have OCD.  I can admit it and I can deal with it and I can live with it.

Secondly, I referenced the article because there were many comments on the piece stating that they didn’t understand why people will mental illnesses continued to reproduce.  Some felt that it just made sense to stop having children if you were just going to pass these debilitating issues on to your kids.  I read the comments and suddenly I was flooded with all of this guilt that I’d been working on for the past 4 years.

You see, I’m a mother of 2.  I have two perfect children that are my everything.  My children are a true blessing.  I know most mothers feel this way about their kids, but I consider myself to be especially lucky. I’m lucky that there was plan bigger than myself for my life.  After I got married, I wrote in red lipstick on my mirror, “Don’t have children.  They will be like you.  Don’t be selfish.”  Shortly after I wrote these words… I was pregnant.  I cried and I feared having a child that had to live like I’d lived but he was coming regardless.

I had my son and he is now 4.  Unfortunately, he is showing signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Fortunately, I get to be his mother and he is my son.  I’ve been able to recognize his issues and tackle them early on.  He is in play therapy, he receives special services, he is encouraged, adored, advocated for and loved immensely.  He is happy.  I’ve been told over and over again by everyone that meets him how genuinely happy of a kid he is.  These words comfort me more than anyone knows.  If my boy is happy, then we are doing something right.  And the really amazing thing is that helping him isn’t a one way street.  He has helped me just as much.  I’ve exposed myself to many of my own fears so that I could appear strong for my son and alleviate his worry.  In many of these situations, I’ve gotten over my own issues.  He has helped me in major ways and he is only 4!

Having a child when you have a mental illness is not selfish.  If I neglected him, refused to acknowledge his issues or my own because I didn’t want to deal with them or admit they were there…that would be selfish.  I choose to help him, advocate for him, work hard for him, guide him, talk with him, get him services, laugh with him and love him forever.  I choose to continue to help myself and show myself some compassion.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a disability but it doesn’t have to define my life.  I can be a good mother with OCD and I can have a happy child with OCD.  We will get through it together.

Why maternity leave in the US sucks


I really want to talk about maternity leave (or lack thereof) in this country.  I know, basically every mom you know has probably complained about this at some point or another but there is a good reason for that–  BECAUSE maternity leave in this country SUCKS.

Let me tell you a story about myself.  I was 27, pregnant with my first kid and everything hurt.  My child was 8 lb and still flipping around in there at 39 weeks+… warping my stomach into crazy shapes that horrified even my crunchiest, pregnancy loving friends.  I hurt like hell.   I cried about having to get up from the couch to go pee because of my round ligament pain.  My feet were swollen, I couldn’t stop snoring, my heart was palpitating– I was done.  I was 50 pounds heavier, my hair was suddenly kinky, my nose looked like it ate another nose and my son still didn’t come out until 41 weeks and that was after some intense begging.

Labor was exhausting.  (I am not lying when I tell you that it lasted for a solid week)  I vomited for days, I hurt, I cried, I had to go to the hospital and be put on “medicated rest” and then I still had to be induced days later after everything just… stopped.) I pushed for nearly 2 hours and he finally made it to the other side.  He left behind an episiotomy and poop water… but he was here.  I’d done it.  I’d given birth and now I could rest.  HA!

I can honestly say I don’t remember the first week of his life.  I was SO sleep deprived, hungry, exhausted, irritated, hormonal.  I couldn’t go up the stairs because it hurt too much.  My blood pressure sky rocketed and my postpartum anxiety and OCD set in.  I had to have follow up after follow up to monitor my blood pressure– all while trying to learn to breastfeed, change diapers, soothe him, bathe him, etc.  It was not a marathon in that I could pace myself, it was a sprint.  A fast pace that I had to keep up with for weeks.  He cried, I cried, we cried… I was so, so tired.

My husband went back to work after that first week and I felt like I would collapse.  I didn’t know how anyone could do this, especially someone who felt so physically drained and mentally exhausted.  I called his pediatrician one day because he wouldn’t stop crying.  I told myself I was a terrible mother…I questioned everything.  I cried with him. These were the first weeks of our lives together and I was a mess.

Let me elaborate for a minute on this, and this could get too real for some people so just skip this if you want– but the postpartum time… blows.  I was terrified to poop because my “down there area” was cut all to hell.  I didn’t even know how bad the cut was, I didn’t ask and I was too afraid to look.  I bled so much I questioned how much blood was actually inside of me and okay to lose.  My body lost 20 pounds instantly and then plateaued at a full 30 pounds higher than my pre-pregnancy weight.  I was really confused by the person staring back at me in the mirror.  It was a real adjustment.  An adjustment on top of the adjustment of birthing a child and going from a family of 2 to a family of 3 in a matter of minutes.

Sounds like a lot right?  It was.  It is.  My story is not unique.  It is actually pretty typical from what I’ve seen.  You know what else is typical?  Going back to work after 6 weeks.  I birthed my son in May and was back to work in June.  I remember seeing my son smile (like really smile, not gas smile) for the first time when I was preparing to go back to work.  It was this  beautiful moment where I finally felt like he knew me as his mom, a moment I’d been needing and waiting for.  And there I was… getting ready to go back to work.  I felt immense guilt and anger.

I felt this with such intensity, but get this- I worked from home!  I was the mom that other work moms envied.  I could keep my son AND work from home, therefore never missing a moment.  I could do it all.  Right?  No.  I couldn’t.  My work was always late, I was always torn between devoting every second to my son which I knew in my heart was the right thing, or getting a pay check.  I tried really hard to do it all.  I tried to sit down to my transcription job and type chart notes while a screaming baby was balancing on my knees trying to latch to my boob.  I tried to pump the other boob while my son was nursing.  I was literally trying to do 3 things at once.  Three really important things.  Guess what– didn’t work.  I pumped nothing because I was BEYOND stressed.  I’m assuming my son was getting nothing either because he screamed and I was …stressed.  My work didn’t get done because I was …stressed.   Oh and, I was still bleeding, my postpartum OCD and anxiety were still raging, and I was drained.

So to put it simply, why are things like this?  Why are women expected to go back to work only 6 weeks after birthing a child?  You actually grow another life inside of your uterus.  You push this big, beautiful new life out of a tiny opening and then you don’t sleep for MONTHS.  However, you’re expected to come back to work, good as new after only …6 weeks?  (8 weeks for a C-section)  You need to dedicate yourself fully to your work as you did a year ago before your life changed so dramatically.  It’s bullshit.  Excuse the language, but that’s all I can really describe it as…bullshit.

As a new mother I needed support.  Emotional support.  I needed to check in with my doctors frequently.  I needed sleep.  I needed to cherish the moments with my new baby rather than stare at a calendar each day counting down to when I would have to leave him.  I needed TIME.  I needed time to adjust.  I needed time to process and breathe.  I needed to be a mom.

Unfortunately, in this country, we are enormously undervalued as new mothers.  It is sad.  It is sad for each new mom and sad for the babies.  Babies need their mother’s full attention.  They need peace and calm (as much as can be had at that time) without the added stress of having to go back to work so soon.  Doesn’t that make sense?  I feel like I’m stating very obvious things.  I know that you can have up to 12 weeks, but sometimes that isn’t even long enough– and unfortunately not all of us have that option.

For more information on maternity leave policies around the world, read this.  It will give you more specific information without my saltiness and anger ha.

Seriously though, we have a real problem here.  It may seem like complaining but this is a very important issue.  The maternal mortality rate in the US is on the RISE.  Women are dying.  In this technologically advanced, intelligent, educated country…the death rate for women post pregnancy is rising.  That shouldn’t be happening.  We need to develop a better maternal leave policy and give new mothers the help that they need.  Be it financially, physically or mentally.  Motherhood is one of the most important things many of us will ever do…we should have more than 6 weeks (or 8 or 12) to get used to it.