Look at the night and it don’t seem so lonely

forgive my neil diamond lyrics as the title of this post– i am currently in a messenger debate with a friend over whether or not Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond is a good song.  guess what? it is.  a chorus of the bopbopboppppp makes it 100.  don’t @ me.  (is that what the kids say these days?)

on to more pressing matters– i am on a leave of absence from work.  there– plain and simple… no dancing around it- i’ll just put it out there.  life has been increasingly stressful over the past few months– i’ve made difficult decisions i wholeheartedly felt were the right thing… only to have them blow up in my face.  i’ve listened to the hurtful words from some and believed them.  i internalized them… they took control.

i looked at my social media feeds from the days leading up to my “breakdown,” and i could see it coming.  –tweets about feeling like i was unraveling…  guzzling coffee because i couldn’t feed my kids fast food dinner again… or be late on a work assignment.  the hits at work hit hard and broke me down–  the messy house, the exhaustion, the tantrums from the threenager, the meetings at school for my five year old– those became harder to handle.  i was losing strength.

i think… though i can’t be totally sure…. that i basically stopped my OCD medication without meaning to.  the deeper i got into the madness… the more i kept telling myself… “oh you’ve already taken it– don’t take it again… you’ll OD” …or “you can’t be sure– you don’t want serotonin syndrome– best to just skip it tonight…” — eventually i couldn’t determine the days i’d had it or hadn’t had it… i was lying about taking it regularly… though i kept telling myself that i wasn’t lying– i was just being protective.

i am not functional without Prozac.  i have come to terms with it– it is the life i live.  when the postpartum from my daughter became too much to bear– and i felt i couldn’t hold her in my arms because she deserved better than the piece of shit mother she was given… i had to get help.  for months, my life after her birth was the darkest time in my life.  i found the energy to make it to my psychiatrist even when i couldn’t get out of the car.  the office coordinator met me outside, sat down on the ground and talked me through an unbearable moment.  together, my psychiatrist and my therapist…. saved me. they’ve both seen me in my darkest moments.

a few weeks ago the darkness was creeping in again.  some of the most hurtful words of my life were said– lies were told– i stood my ground… at least i tried.  i stood my ground until i couldn’t stand any longer.  i texted my therapist– “i’m not feeling like myself… it’s all too much… everyone deserves better than me…i can’t do it anymore.”  She wanted to see me– I refused.  I needed to finish work that day.  I had to show the world I was okay.

I left work a few hours early and then went home and crumbled.  i impulsively cut my hair because– why the hell not?  i wanted to be different… look different– not be who i am.  things got darker… &  hours later i started vomiting and nearly fainted.  i realized i hadn’t really eaten or drank much all day.  –after some sleep, some water and some more vomiting…i fell asleep on my couch.

the next day i texted my psychiatrist.  i have my psych’s number for emergencies only.  i’ve used it maybe twice in all of the years i’ve been seeing her.  she told me to come in immediately.  my blood pressure was very high– my pulse was very high… and i was inconsolable.  she called my husband to discuss a care plan and i fell backward into the chair collapsing on the arms and relying on them to hold me upright.  i stared out the window and wondered how i was here… again.

when she came back the plan was decided.  i was out of work for 2 weeks at least– with regular check ins for my vitals and mental state.  my appointment tomorrow will determine if i am fit enough to return to work.

every single day of my leave- i have desperately tried to relax… it was hard at first.  my brain was on steroids– i was worried… terrified, anxious, crazy.  i listened to my doctor– i took my medication and things started to become a little more manageable.  i slept… a lot.  mental exhaustion is very real.  i’ve been exhausted for months.  i got a completely new haircut– i attended meetings at my son’s school… i prayed– i watched trash TV– i read …i saw friends i haven’t seen in months.  these moments have felt really good.  i’ve felt more myself– and as a result, i’ve had real moments of being present with my children and enjoying them in these amazing stages in their lives.  i’ve had the complete support of my husband who comes through for me time and time again.  i don’t deserve him but God blessed me with him and he’s rescued me more times than i can count.

so what is the point of this post?  i don’t know.  i just felt the need to write it.  i felt the need to let you know that my thanksgiving turkey and stuffing were delicious and my carrot cake turned out beautifully and was well received… my kids actually smiled in their school pictures– they’re SO smart and the lights of my life… and my husband and i are incredibly in love and he’s perfect… and every other fucking thing that everyone puts on social media.  i let you guys know that all the time if you follow my newsfeed.  but you know what– it’s not all gravy (see what i did there?) all the time.  the turkey may be good but the traveling is taxing.  the kids smiled in their pictures but bitched me out over not making hot dogs for dinner… or threw a tantrum over not getting to eat fruit snacks after school when i barely held it together that day at work.  my husband is my love– but sometimes he pisses me the hell off …and some moments i’m a whole lot to handle for him.  sometimes i call him an asshole and he really hates it– sometimes he treats me like a 3rd child and i scream at him for it.  and sometimes– i smile at you at work and tell you things are fine… i’m just tired.. –but sometimes… things are not fine.  it’s too much …and this time– it caught up with me.

i’m still struggling.  i’m still hurting- and truth be told, i’m terrified to go back to work.  i still don’t feel 100% and keep having crying spells and fits of feeling like a complete failure.  –but i’m better.  i got help.  i’ve had so many texts and calls and visits from good friends who know my heart.  their support- their own strength… their love– continues to help me through this hard time.  God I’ve needed it.  I’ve needed every kind word.. every heartfelt concern… every positive message.  It is SO important to tell the ones you love that you love them.  they NEED to know.  they need to know what you mean to them.  sometimes – they need to know that others see the true person they are when they’re telling themselves that the lies they’ve heard  and the words they’ve suffered from may actually be the truth.

through it all, the people i respect the most have supported me and loved me.  the people that matter– know my heart and love me even if i haven’t felt “normal.”  i am so grateful.

prayers for a positive psychiatric check up tomorrow and strength for the weeks to come.  <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.

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.

Quick Tip Tuesday: Get up and move


Today’s tip is about mental health, again.  (Is anyone noticing a trend? lol)  Things have been hard, I haven’t been shy about admitting that… and I haven’t even tried to hide how hard they’ve actually been.   If I didn’t have kids I would no doubt be in my bed, under the covers until my stomach growling forces me to wake up… where I would no doubt drink something rather than eat to calm my stomach and spend the rest of my day zoning out in front of the TV or Internet.

BUT… I am a mom– and as HARD as it is to push that natural inclination away, get up when the kids get up and get out of bed… that is what I have to do.  That is what I WANT to do… its just hard to get there.  Its easy to move one foot in front of the other but its really hard to keep going sometimes.  I get stuck in my head and it is hard to be present for them.  As hard as it is, I keep doing it each day and I’m thankful for my littles because they give me that motivation that I need.  Doing it for them..helps me too.

Kids don’t sit still.  They don’t wait for you to feel like doing anything…they very much operate on their own timeline.  So… I wake up and make them breakfast, change diapers, get them dressed, and try desperately to figure out SOMETHING for us to do that day.  Whether its read a few books for circle time, drive around while on a Starbucks run, go to the park, or meet up with a friend– doing something is important.

So my quick tip today is, in a way, faking it until you make it.  When you can’t find it inside of yourself to keep on going for you… you can do it for your kids.  I’ve said it before, children are such beautiful, bright blessings.   When I get up and do things for my kids, I get more energy to do things for myself, our home, my husband.  When making my daughter’s breakfast I can tidy up in the kitchen for a few minutes, I can take a walk around the neighborhood because my kids need to get out.  As a result, I am walking and exerting energy.  I’m getting some stress out and moving forward, physically and mentally.

When you can’t carry on, do it anyway.  The fact is, we all can give just a little bit more.  Sometimes you need your sweet, innocent babies to show you that you do have it in you.  They have absolutely no idea how much they’ve changed my life for the better.  I struggle.  I’m not perfect and am not even close… but I’m just a little better because they are my babies.  I’m thankful that they are wild, energetic, healthy children.  I have to keep up the energy to keep up with them… and even in the darkest times, I’m always happy to do it.

5 steps to getting your anxiety and other mental health issues under control

Have you been dealing with a lot of anxiety lately?  I have.  Truthfully, I’ve been dealing with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder since I was a young child.  I didn’t always know that was what I was dealing with, but it has become obvious in the past few years that I’ve been dealing with mental health issues for a long time.  I mean, how many 4 year olds do you know that refuse to sit in Santa’s lap because he wasn’t wearing his gloves?  Yep.  That was me.  I was that 4 year old.  Even at 4, the obsessive compulsive disorder was there and it was gearing up for a long ride.  I am 31 and still suffer with crippling anxiety and OCD.  However, because I am 31 and have been working on it since I was 18 years old… I’ve developed quite a few strategies for making it. And yes, I said making it… because for a while you just have to make it.  Once you start making it… you work toward other goals like living a happy and fulfilling life.  Goals we’re all working at!

  1. Therapy.  I cannot stress the importance of therapy.  Therapy has saved me time and time again.   However, I also cannot stress enough that the important thing is finding a therapist that you mesh well with.   I’ve had several over the years and some were not a good fit.  I currently have a phenomenal therapist that has helped me through the hardest times and has helped me see my own worth.  She has been a true Godsend.  Find a therapist that is there for you and not because it is a job.  Find a therapist that you trust and are comfortable with.  You can start searching here.  (Make sure you read reviews and talk to them ahead of time about what insurance they accept!)
  2. Medication.  This one may get me a lot of backlash and that is fine.  I have tried over and over and over again to tackle my issues without medication.  I’ve told myself I didn’t need it.  I’ve told myself that I’m better off without it.  The truth is, I can’t really function.  I am a miserable wife and mother.  I am an obsessive ball of crazy that can’t see past my own eyeballs.  I only see everything inside of my head.  I’m not present.  I’m not well.  I started seeing a psychiatrist (which is important, I have issues with general practitioners prescribing these and then not adequately following up)  and started Prozac several years ago and the change it has made in my life is unbelievable.  I am more level, I have fewer obsessive and anxious spells and am able to see more clearly.  When I miss doses and really get off track, it is obvious.  This drug has helped me and I am thankful for it.   I think medication can be really helpful, especially with therapy.
  3. Self-Help Reading.  Mental health is something you need to work at like a subject in school.  For some people, they just “get it.”  They don’t have to work at it as much as some of us… but for me, mental health is like math.  I’m always having to really work at it to try to figure it out.  Thankfully there are excellent resources out there that really help.  I recommend the following books:  Self Esteem: How to Heal Addictive ThinkingFeeling GoodFull Catastrophe Living.  These books have helped me in the hardest of times.  I’ve read and re-read them and they are amazing resources.  Very beneficial.
  4. Mindfulness Meditation.  Meditation may feel silly at first but the results speak for themselves.  I’ve had random meditation apps on my phone that didn’t do much for me, but then my therapist recommended the Insight Timer app.  This app really changed the way I viewed meditation.  I could feel the changes in my body.  I remember the first time I really got lost in the meditation.  I suddenly had this awareness of every move– Every small move in my body.  I was so calm and in tune with myself.  Studies have even shown that meditation changes the brain after a period of weeks.  Seriously! Really about it here.
  5. Support System.  Finding a support system is very important in treating debilitating anxiety and other issues.  Explaining your feelings and thoughts to a trusted individual whether it be a spouse, friend, parent, etc. is very important.  They may not fully “get it” but they will know that it is something you’re working on.  Let them know how to help you.  It isn’t always easy or fun, but it is necessary.  My husband has learned so much about my issues and can even tell when they’re coming on.  He knows how to help me and reminds me to take my medication.

When you’re living with anxiety/depression/OCD, etc… it can be hard to know where to begin when getting help.  Sometimes its hard to see beyond your own thoughts.  It is hard to get out of bed… it is hard to be a good parent or spouse.  It helps to know that others have been through it and you’re not alone.  If you’re struggling with what to do next or how to help yourself, please just take these few steps first.  One of my favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes comes to mind,

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”  

You don’t have to set any huge goals at first.  You don’t have to fault yourself or tell yourself you have to be cured immediately, just do what you can to get through each day and then each day will become easier.  You will get through this and things will start to fall into place.  But to get to where you want to be in life, you must help yourself first!

 

 

Let him be three.

Parenting is hard.  I think I’ve written that sentence more in this blog than any other sentence… but its true.  Kids are wild, they get sick, they are demanding, they don’t sleep, they throw tantrums, etc etc.  They’re tiny little terrors and completely worth every bit of crazy they put you through.  I love my own kids so much I can’t even attempt to describe it here.  They are my life.  However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that parenting them is difficult.  At my best, I feel like I’m only doing an okay job.  That feeling is worse when you’re approached by an outsider about their behavior.

Recently my son started his second year of preschool.  He was so excited to go back.  He loves school.  He comes home and tells us about his day and sings the song they teach him. Being that he enjoys it so much, I was pretty shocked when his teacher approached me one afternoon and asked, “does he always flap his hands?”  I was caught off guard and said “well, yeah.  He always has.  He mostly does it when he’s excited or running.”  She then continued on to ask me “does he have any other obsessive behaviors?”  I was becoming pretty irritated at this point.  She was asking me a ton of questions, in the presence of my child, with no context. Long story short, after only having my son in her class for one week… she had determined that something was wrong with him.  She was concerned about his “parallel playing, hand flapping, obsessive behavior of closing the bathroom door when other children were in there, not listening, etc.”  She recommended having a specialist come in to observe his behavior.

Being the overly paranoid, OCD, stress-case of a mother that I am, I cried all weekend.  I’d only ever seen my son as the perfect little 3 year old that he is.  His hand flapping, which I had noticed over the years, seemed pretty normal to me.  He is growing and learning so much every single day and absorbing everything.  Its a coping mechanism.  I equated it to my obsessive need to lick my lips the ENTIRE time I am shopping at Target.  I don’t know why it happens, but I know that it makes me feel better about being in a crowded store.  I’d noticed that my son is cautious.  I know that he takes a while to warm up.  He will talk to a kid after he gets to know them, in an environment that he feels comfortable.  No, I didn’t know that he slams the door every time a child goes to the bathroom… but I do know that we close the door when we go to relieve ourselves and well… most people do.  And of course he doesn’t listen.  He’s 3 years old.  He has been on this Earth for 3 years.  There is a whole lot left to learn.  He is a CHILD.

Despite knowing these things — I still found myself telling my son to put his hands by his side.  I told him not to flap his hands.  I tried to MAKE him talk to children… almost feeling depressed/irritated when he wouldn’t.  I wanted to scream.  In a few ignorant statements, this teacher caused me to go from seeing my son as a bright, beautiful, perfect little 3 year old to a child that was flawed, socially challenged, with a possible real problem.  I am not perfect.  I had a few moments of confusion and panic, but eventually I realized that I didn’t like the way I felt around my son anymore.  I was seeing his personality as a flaw rather than how I’d seen it just days before– which was unique and beautiful.  Nothing had changed with him.  His mannerisms and behaviors were still the same.  So why did I feel this way?  I was allowing someone’s  quick judgments to cloud my own judgment and perception.  I was allowing the joy I felt about and with my child to be taken.  I wasn’t going to allow it anymore.

Next week we will have a screening done for my son.   He will go to a “special school” to play and professionals will watch and judge him.  I will listen to what they have to say but I won’t take it to heart.  I know my child.  I know his personality.  I know he is cautious, a bit anxious, incredibly smart, hilarious, sweet and wild haha.  I know he has a one-track mind like his dad did at his age.  I know he has trouble approaching groups like I did.  I know that no matter what, I will help him, love him and cherish him every step of the way.

As for his teacher, and everyone else for that matter– I think its important to remember that kids should be kids. A 3 year old should be a 3 year old.  If they slam a door to get a reaction, this shouldn’t be immediately considered an obsessive behavior.  I encourage everyone to stop finding fault in others. I am not naïve to the fact that there are potential disorders that kids could have that need special attention.  However, there are also quirks and behaviors that are typical for a 3 year old.  We need to have common sense.  As for my child, no teacher should have determined that my son had special needs after only knowing him and having him in a classroom for 1 week.  If it turns out that he needs special attention, that’s fine.  But for now, he needs to be 3.  He needs to play, learn social norms, learn how to approach and talk to others.  He deserves the time and our patience to figure this world out.

(I wrote this 6 months ago.  My goal is to incorporate more posts from my previous blog into the blog I have now… –Now that I am coming to terms with many things involving my children and am willing to share them with those I know, and those I don’t.  I read this tonight and still stand by it 100 percent. 6 months later my son is still as wonderful and amazing as he was then.  He struggles with things… but don’t we all?  Also, I hear his teacher has retired- and future toddlers are better because of it. ha!)

Quick Tip Tuesday: Keep it real

My tip this (almost) Thursday… is to keep it real.  Weird right?  This isn’t really a tip is it?  Well, I’m not really in the mood for a tip.  Lately, I’ve been tired.  I’ve been really beaten down by life and things have just been hard.  I sat around tonight wondering what my tip could be this week and all I could really think about is how I’m feeling right now.  Specifically, how there is no tip that anyone can give me to make things easier necessarily.  So… I decided to just come to the blog with how I feel.  So… my tip is keeping it real.

If I’m being very real… rather than post a tip, I wanted to come here and tell you guys that I’m extra exhausted right now but I can’t do anything but obsessively clean my house.  (Wow! What a work in progress that is… I could work for a year and not be done most likely)  All I can think about is how I want to organize things or what needs to be cleaned next.  I don’t know why …but its the only thing I feel like I have control of at the moment.  I’m also sad for my husband… who is sad, obviously.  I’m sad when my son realizes each day that granddaddy is indeed still in heaven.  I’m stressed beyond belief… and I’m having trouble managing it.

Tonight, I texted my doctor to tell her that I couldn’t remember if I’d taken my medication, and feared I may have taken it twice.  Though I knew this would not be a problem, I compulsively had to text her.  And call the pharmacist.  And my mom.  And my husband.  This panic and paranoia landed me a 9 am trip to her office tomorrow morning.  When things feel out of control I start to spin out of control.  It is my reality.  I have dealt with it for many, many years.  Thankfully, I have amazing healthcare providers that can see it and know when to step in and check on things.

Overall, I think we’re doing a pretty damn good job of handling the absolute insanity that has come our way this year.  My kids are happy.  I get out of bed every morning.  We sometimes make it to story time.  We drive around… we talk, we play and we laugh.  So, even though I have very hard moments, I’m still happy and I’m still blessed.  And I’m not just writing that so that this happy mommy blog post has a happy little ending.  I mean it.  I’m lucky to have my kids, my husband, our home and so much love.

Maybe next week I’ll come at you with a new tip… a real one.  But for now, this is all I’ve got.  <3.

When it rains, it pours

Wow, what a week.  What a month… What a year.  What a …2 years.  This is a rough… rough time in our lives.  Is it okay if I put it all out there?

2016 was extremely difficult for us.  I couldn’t wait for the new year.  I hoped and prayed that the new year would bring with it a rebirth of sorts.  I needed everything negative to be behind me… I needed to move on.   My son started 2016 with lots of illnesses he got from preschool (fun!) and I was a stress case the entire time.   Then in March I had my beautiful daughter.   She is absolutely the most beautiful, wonderful thing to come out of 2016.  She was a healthy 8 lb 10 oz.  I was in love.


Then, the postpartum depression and anxiety really escalated and became unmanageable.  I’d never felt so unlike myself.  I had this beautiful angel of a baby and I couldn’t enjoy her because of a million different irrational fears.  I was out of my mind.  The stress hurt.  I found my therapist and went back to my psychiatrist and I got medication to get things under control.

Fast forward to May and my son had a reaction to penicillin and had to go to the emergency room via ambulance with a very high fever.  He developed erythema multiforme.  His rash looked worse than any google images out there.  I was terrified.  I thought I would fall apart.  However, he recovered and things carried on as usual.


In July, my daughter had two bouts of intense vomiting after eating baby cereal.  The second time we were at my parents for the 4th of July holiday and my daughter woke up 2 hours after ingesting the oatmeal screaming.  She screamed and screamed until she got a bottle, which she promptly vomited all over her aunt.  She then became very lethargic and floppy. I called 911 and my 4 month old was carried via ambulance to the emergency room.  After hours of tests, failed IVs and blood draws… we were sent home.  I consulted her pediatrician that reassured me it was probably just a sensitivity and told me to avoid oats.  I knew it my heart it was more.  I took her to a pediatric gastroenterologist and then a pediatric allergist.  We found out our sweet girl had FPIES.


I cried my eyes out in the allergist’s office.  I wondered if it was my fault.  Maybe it was all the cookies I ate when I was pregnant.  Maybe it was not being able to breastfeed.  Why had I been so selfish to have postpartum anxiety and DMER.  ?  I told myself that I should have fought harder to break through the mental anguish.  I should have eaten better.  I should have been better for her.  The doctor assured me over and over again that this was not my fault.  I would tell myself for a long time that it was.

After this experience we went about our lives as normal and made the decision to hold off on solids for my daughter for a few months.  In those few months we were preparing for my son to start his second year of preschool.  I was nervous that he would get so sick again, but I knew I couldn’t keep him in a bubble forever!  So… In September he started his second year of preschool.


By the end of his first week his teacher came to me with concerns.  This part of the story is probably going to be the absolute hardest to write– but I’ll try.  Long story short, she had concerns that Jack was developmentally delayed.  (I had concerns that she was an idiot — but that had nothing to do with Jack.  That is a whole other story. ) So… we were referred to a service provided through the local school system to have an evaluation for our son.  We took my son to an office downtown and he sat with a clinical psychologist for a while… and I thought he did a great job.  Of course, the evaluation showed that he needed an assessment.  The assessment determined that he had a developmental delay.  I am pretty sure that, had I consented, he would have been diagnosed with autism right there.  I did not consent though… for reasons that I will get to in another post.  In fact, for more detailed information about all of this feel free to visit my previous blog, The Glimmer.


The months that followed were incredibly difficult.  My husband and I spent many nights in bed crying… wondering, researching, asking ourselves how this was possible… etc.  I felt like the ultimate failure of a mother.  Was this my fault?  Is it because I ate poorly, allowed him to have junk food every now and then, let him play on the ipad?  I couldn’t stop with the questions.  Every therapy session was devoted to this.  Through the mental turmoil, Jack was acting out at school.  He was being punished, yelled at, ganged up on and treated awfully by his teacher and the other people at the school.  I had panic attacks after dropping him off in the mornings.  Finally, we made the decision to withdraw him from that toxic place.  My beautiful baby had been treated so badly by ignorant, awful people and I didn’t realize it because they were the ones telling me he was a bad child with all of his problems.  Everyone was telling me something was “wrong” with my child.

Nothing is wrong with my child.  Nothing.  He is exactly the way God made him.  He is beautiful, bright, hilarious, brilliant and perfect.  He loves phones… a lot.  He flaps his hands when he is excited.  He jumps up and down … a lot.  His best friend is his sister.  He adores her.  He strikes up random conversations with strangers on the street– shakes their hands and says, “hello, how are you?”  –He cannot talk to a child.  He can’t say hello to them or acknowledge their presence.  I don’t know why…and he can’t tell me.  These are facts… and these are things we’re figuring out as the days go by.  These are the things that go around and around in my head on a loop.  I lost many months of seeing all of the wonderful in my son and instead focused on the things that supported the fact that “something was wrong with him.”   I will never forgive myself for that… or the people that were persistent in telling me that something was “wrong” with him.  Even if there is a delay, or there is autism… or whatever the hell is going on… nothing is wrong with him.  Everything is right.  He is my love.


As my husband and I dealt with this new reality… we started the new year with putting Jack in a new school and all was well.  His new school was amazing!  His teachers were perfect.  God sent them straight to us.  I prayed about it, I asked for an answer and God delivered.  His teachers truly loved him.  They appreciated the beautiful person that he is.  He never got in trouble one day at school.  He started making art again.  He had progress with students in the classroom.  It was a true blessing.  He started working with an itinerant teacher and she was so supportive and helped him immensely.  He started play therapy and he loves it!  I am so grateful for these resources.  We stopped focusing on what was “wrong” with Jack and helped him with anything he struggled with.  He has overcome SO many fears this year and grown so much.  We are so proud of him.

2017 was looking up and then my husband’s father got sick.  He had complications with diabetes and was in the hospital in March.  He recovered but had to have his leg amputated.  Fortunately we got to spend a lot of time with him in the past few months.  Our family went most weekends to help out and visit with him.  We were very grateful and he pulled through everything and got better.  Then, on May 15 we got a devastating call.  He was very sick again and in the ICU.  We rushed to the hospital and seeing him like that was so painful.  I immediately felt regret for every argument we’d ever gotten in (we had a few misunderstandings… we’re both stubborn and hard headed haha).  The next few weeks were a true rollercoaster.  There were moments of hope and then moments of being let down.  It was like this over and over.  Finally, on June 2 he left us and we have missed him every moment since.


One thing you should know about my father-in-law is that he helped me get a transcription job at his company– this was amazing for having kids.  I could keep the kids and work from home.  This saved on daycare.  Though it was extremely stressful and hard to deal with at times… it was essential for us financially.  There were moments during this job that I struggled with working home alone.  I hate being alone.  It is torture for me to be alone.  I can’t focus, I start to fear things… I struggle.  This affected my work several times over the years but I persisted.  I’d recently grown to appreciate the work nights after the kids were in bed.  I could zone out and think of something other than how hard things had been.  Well, the company my father in law and I worked for is full of drama.  No need to get into any of it here…but the people are less than kind and it has been difficult to be employed there.  However, when I was let go via email this past Thursday I was upset.

We have two kids.   Both with “special needs.”  Formula is expensive.  Therapy is expensive.  Appointments are expensive.  Everything… is expensive.  Though, I didn’t make much money the money I made was essential.  So… here we are.  Still grieving the loss of my father in law and then let go by the company he devoted many years of his life to in the same week as his memorial service.  It adds insult to injury is the expression I think.  I’ve been there for 6 years… and now I am here… trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up… and I’m scared.  I’m lost… and I’m scared.

I’m stressed out.  These are the biggest events in the past 2 years and I feel… a little beaten down by them.  To put it mildly.

Now that I’ve gotten it all out there- I do want to share a few things that have helped me get through the madness:

–Having Claire with no epidural.  I felt strong and amazing.  I had a goal and I did it.
–Trusting my mama gut so many times and being right.
–Advocating for my kids.
–Getting over my own fears because I needed to be strong for Jack.  We have gotten over fears together.
–The love shared in difficult situations.  There are no better hugs than the hugs from my husband when he knows I need one.  He holds me like he’ll never let me go.  These hugs keep me going.  They help me breathe.
–Friends.  Oh God, how would I have made it this year without my friends?  They text everyday, they send cards, come to birthday parties, have a drink, make me laugh, come to my rescue, watch my kids, etc etc.
–Family.  My parents have really stepped in and helped me immensely in the past few years.  My in-laws have helped us.  We would NOT be okay without this help.  Our families are true blessings.
–Tickle fights.  I’ve noticed that in the past few months, all four of us have gotten in the floor several times and laughed for so long it hurts.  These moments are so special.  Our phones are away, the TV is off… and we’re just enjoying each other.  It is euphoric.  It is pure joy shared among 4 people that love each other so much.  I thank God every single time for these moments.  They are amazing.


We’re going to get through all of these things… and we’re going to do it together.  I’m going to be okay. I’m going to try… and fight… and grow and change and learn.  I’m going to pray that things start looking up.  Lately, I’ve been focusing on the negative because it seems there has been nothing but negative… but I need to change my outlook.  Prayers are appreciated.

Have any of you gone through a difficult season in life?  How did you cope?

<3.

 

Parenting with an anxiety disorder

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[Another cross-post from my other blog.  In previous posts I’ve linked to this blog but feel I’d rather keep it more private.  I decided to post this as I am going through a lot of anxiety issues with my son at the moment and with myself.  I have suffered with anxiety for a long time and felt it more intensely when pregnant and in the postpartum months.  More specific content to Mommy Is Exhausted coming soon.  In the meantime– here is a post I wrote in 2015.  A snapshot of my pregnancy with my second child.  This post was also featured on The Mighty.

I tucked my 2.5 year old into bed last night, I softly sung the words of rock and bye baby to him while cuddled up to him so tight.  I rubbed his hair… I kissed his rosy cheeks.  After some pillow talk he fell asleep.  I held him closer.  I looked at him.  So innocent, so sweet.  Listening to him breathe in an out, I whispered into his ear… “I’m so sorry for being me.”

Earlier in the day he had jumped into the front seat of my car while I was trying to get him inside from preschool.  He was pretending to drive the car.  I was so stressed.  It was cold, I am so pregnant, I just wanted to get him inside so I could sit down.  I didn’t want to stand in the cold.  He laid on the horn.  I looked around to make sure no one was disturbed by this and I yelled at him.

“Mommy said no!”

“Stop!”

I felt my anger building.  I threw down all of the stuff I had in my hands and I pulled him out of the car.  He threw a fit in the middle of the road.  I hated this moment.  I hated that he wouldn’t listen.  I hated that I couldn’t stand to be out there any longer and I hated mostly that I couldn’t “enjoy the moment.” A moment that he was enjoying so much.

Anxiety robs you of so many precious moments.

So what is there to be anxious about in this moment?  Well, its not necessarily one trigger in one moment… it is the anxiety that builds all day, every single day.

You grow tired.  You physically hurt.  You cry.  You obsess.  You struggle with simple decisions that others wouldn’t think twice about.  You wake up every morning wishing it were bed time.  You count the days until it is the weekend when you can have some help.   You cry because you hate feeling that way.  You feel guilt.  You have a wonderful husband, a beautiful child and one on the way.  You have a steady job, a home.  You live comfortably.  You are blessed.

You are ungrateful? That’s what you will tell yourself.  Reality? You are plagued by your own mind.

Anxiety robs you of peace of mind.

There is never a moment in one day that you feel at ease.  You will check everything 100 times.  You will look for potential dangers and you will fix them.  You will worry about 10 minutes from now and 10 hours from now and 10 years from now in 1 minute.  Your mind will race and you will be completely exhausted.  You are a problem solver in your mind.  If you don’t fix it all RIGHT now, it wont get done and something terrible will happen and it will be your fault.  When someone, anyone, breaks your train of thought… you will lash out at them.  Don’t they see how important it is that you figure EVERYTHING out RIGHT NOW?

Unfortunately it might be that sweet, innocent, rosy cheeked 2 year old asking for more milk, or trying to jump on you for attention.  You love him so much and you’re trying to solve any potential problem… for him.  All he wants is a glass of milk and a hug.

Why is this so hard?