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Tug of War

July 18, 2014 at 4:51 pm

This morning I woke up before my husband and kids. I usually do. In that hour or two until they wake I usually try to go back to sleep. Sometimes I beg God to let me fall back to sleep. Sometimes I do. But usually I just lie there and pray… for my husband, for my kids, for all the people who are praying for me. I pray for strength, for endurance, for shields of light, for miracles. Some days I get up, and I feel almost normal. Those are gifts.

This morning I awoke with a heavy heart, with fear, with despair, with bitterness (PMS probably has something to do with it). And I cried and cried until it got really snotty and messy. I am so weary. I am so tired of fighting for my life. This tug of war, pulling me apart, stretching my soul to its breaking pointI don’t know how much more I can take.

The darkness whispers, “Life’s just too hard. What’s the point? It’s just going to get harder. It’s not worth this agony. Why prolong the misery any more?”

My husband, my parents, my sister, my friendsthey hold my hand, they hug me, they tell me, “You’re going to get through this. It won’t always be like this. You will feel happy again.” I make them promise me.  A few nights ago, as we were all getting situated in our beds to sleep, my three-year-old said, out of the blue, in the most serious and tender voice, “You’re going to be alright, Mom.” 

Weep

July 16, 2014 at 6:49 pm

IMG_1222Nearly every day for the past few weeks I have had a meltdown. This is when I weep, usually to a supportive family member, for an hour (or two or three). This morning was a doozy. It almost sounded like I was in labor. My husband was my doula. For I don’t know how long, I sat on my parents’ bed (my husband stood in front of me), and I rested my head on his stomach, letting myself sob and sniffle and make sounds, so many tears gushing from my eyes.

But I’ve started noticing something about these meltdowns: I usually feel better afterward. This shouldn’t be a surprise, I suppose. I learned at some point in the past few years that tears really can actually create a measurable shift in a person’s mood and physiology.

In a Psychology Today article, Judith Orloff, MD explains:

After studying the composition of tears, Dr. Frey found that emotional tears shed [stress] hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress. Additional studies also suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural pain killer and “feel-good” hormones” (Source).

It is healthy to cry. Crying is good for us.

A Soft Place to Land

July 15, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Every day for the past few weeks I’ve had vomit on my mind. And, strangely enough, this has brought comfort to me. I’ll explain.

A few weeks ago, my friend Emily showed up at my dad’s house (where I’m currently staying) with her furry companion, Howie. We sat on my dad’s front porch and talked for a long time. Emily has known darkness and despair. She has survived heart-wrenching losses and trials. She gets it. So she listened with an empathy and compassion few possess. Her sincere love and physical companionship were a bright spot in my darkness.

While we talked, she told me a story from her recent trip to Oxford, England. The night before she was to return to the states, the nice couple who had been hosting her wanted to take her to a nice dinner. They had Indian food. Later that night, just before collapsing into sleep, Emily said a quick prayer, asking God that everything for her return trip the next day would go smoothly. (She had been worried about making a few of her connecting flights.) Then she fell asleep.

But there is beauty in it

July 10, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Yesterday my mom, sister, and husband helped me with a project. It is a binder full of all of the cards, emails, and messages of encouragement I have received from my people in the past few months, some of whom I’ve known for years and some of whom I haven’t yet met in this life. It also has uplifting quotes, scriptures, and pictures from Pinterest. I plan to add more and more to it as I receive them.

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Stuck

July 9, 2014 at 3:42 pm

A few winters ago, I grew kale in my garden. In AZ, certain crops can be grown during the winter, and kale is one of them. Anyway, as the kale grew, it soon attracted aphids. By the time spring came around, there wasn’t a kale leaf without hundreds of aphids on its underside. If there’s one thing aphids know how to do well, it’s reproduce.

Last Sunday, I learned something new about aphids. A man I know had been in a class with a bug-expert. And this bug expert explained that aphids give birth to live young, but sometimes the babies get stuck on their way out, and when this happens, a group of other aphids will gather around and help the mother get the baby aphid out. I’m not terribly fond of aphids, but this little bit of information made me smile (which is rare these days).

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One Foot in Front of the Other

July 4, 2014 at 4:09 pm

This morning we got up extra early. I hadn’t slept well, and I didn’t really want to get up, but I did.

Every year for several years my husband and occasionally myself and other family members have run a race called the Freedom Run for the 4th of July. This was the first year that my oldest daughter had signed up for the 5k with her dad. My second-oldest daughter wanted to do the one-mile, so (several months ago) I agreed to do it with her.

But last night I was dreading it. Sleep is precious to me these days, and I wasn’t sure if I even had the strength to go that one mile. But I knew how excited my daughter was. And I knew I couldn’t let her down.

So I got up. And we got ready. And we went to the race.

We arrived just as the one-mile race was beginning, so we rushed to the start. And for a mile, I ran (very slowly) with my daughter out ahead of me, saying, “Come on, Mom. You can do it!” Over and over.

I couldn’t help thinking how fitting it was. It was hard, and I didn’t really want to do it, but it was the light and strength of my daughter that kept me putting one foot in front of the other.

Waiting for Light

July 1, 2014 at 4:20 pm

I’m not sure where to begin.

Two years ago (2012), around this time of year, I first became acquainted with anxiety and depression like nothing I had ever experienced before. After a few months of enduring and trying a variety of natural remedies, I turned to medication. It was a couple of months of crawling through hell while I waited for the medication to help. But eventually it did. And I felt like myself again.

We thought the medication would only be a temporary thing. I slowly (slowly) weaned down over the course of last year. I took my last dose at the beginning of March of this year (2014). March I felt fine. I thought, “That was easy.” April I started slipping. May I plunged back into that dark and anxious hell I never wanted to crawl through ever again.

We made an emergency trip to my dad and stepmom’s house at the end of May so I could have extra support while I tried to get well again. All of May and for two weeks of June I tried more natural remedies (they could fill a whole other blogpost and probably will someday). I really wanted to believe I could get better without meds. When I started getting suicidal, we knew it was time. Miraculously, I was able to get an appointment with a well-respected psychiatrist on June 13. I started back on my meds the next day.

The Space Between

May 12, 2014 at 10:37 pm


 
 

Late Friday night, a friend was helping me through a mini crisis. Just before we said good-bye, she told me something I didn’t want to believe.

I have known for a long time that a sort of “Anxiety Girl” was in my brain, sending me frequent fear-filled text messages. But my friend suggested that I also have a “Bliss Girl” on the other end of the spectrum, and that swinging between the two wasn’t good for me. I was confused in that moment how Bliss Girl could possibly be a problem… what could be bad about bliss? But we said our good-byes, and I went to bed.

Mental Health Update

May 9, 2014 at 10:06 pm

I wish I could tell you that I feel better than ever. I wish I could be a lighthouse all the time, radiating joy and love and hope to everyone around me. But I’m not gonna lie… this past month was rough. And this past week was rougher.

It’s hard not to wonder if the reason it was rough is because I weaned off my medication. In moments of desperation, I find myself thinking I made a mistake… that I shouldn’t have stopped taking it.

But in moments of clarity, I think… Well, you still had hard times even when you were taking the medication. The past couple of months were stressful with the crazy job-hunt and all the illness. You weren’t getting enough sleep. You weren’t getting out much. You weren’t meditating. You weren’t eating enough. You got depleted. Just give yourself a break while you catch up.

So I’ve had anxiety (and some depression) off and on this week. It has fluctuated. Some days were horrendous (that day when I cried to a whole bunch of people on the phone). Some days were so-so, and some were good, hallelujah.

Magnesium for Tics and Tourette Syndrome

April 15, 2014 at 6:15 am

When the blinking started, we knew something was definitely going on.

I’m not talking about ordinary blinking. I’m talking about excessive blinking, sometimes extremely excessive. If you’ve ever seen a kid with a blinking tic, you know what I’m talking about. Approximately two years ago, my second daughter began exhibiting tics. IMG_0707_2Since then, we have seen a variety of tics come and go (both vocal and motor).

Kidshealth.org describes tics this way: “A tic is a sudden, repetitive movement or sound that can be difficult to control. Tics that involve movements are called motor tics and those that are sounds are called vocal tics.” Tics usually become worse when children are under stress. This is definitely true for my daughter. When my daughter began experiencing tics, my mind quickly jumped to Tourette syndrome, but having tics does not necessarily mean you have Tourette syndrome.

I watch my daughter carefully every day. I notice when a new tic emerges. I notice when an old tic disappears. I notice when the tics escalate and when they subside. We have learned that certain things exacerbate her tics: stress, lack of sleep, food additives (artificial colors, etc.). If certain things can exacerbate her tics, it seems logical to me that the tics are her body’s way of calling for help. It also seems logical to me that something inside of her is out of balance. My daughter would like her “habits” (as she calls them) to stop, and by golly I’m going to do everything I can to bring about her desire.

My Chill Pills

March 31, 2014 at 12:20 am

This coming Tuesday (yes, April Fool’s day) is a special day. It’s the fifth anniversary of my son’s arrival earthside. See my favorite pics from his beautiful birth HERE. Happy sigh… but that’s not really what this post is about.

This coming Tuesday is also a special day because it marks one month medication-free (!) for me. I think I have spent every day of the past month waiting for the crash, wondering if today will be the day that all of the darkness and fear will come rushing back. But it hasn’t. Each day that I move forward in peace feels like a huge triumph. Make no mistake, I am (and always will be) utterly grateful for the medication that helped save my life. But I am also equally and utterly grateful for the tools I have implemented to help me heal and move forward without medication.

I have written before about some of those tools (see “5 Tips for Managing Anxiety” and “Relief” for more info), but I wanted to devote a full post to one of the tools that has been the most recent breakthrough for me: Probiotics.

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DIY Patio Make-over Project

March 26, 2014 at 7:42 pm

I’m too excited not to share this. A few years ago, our neighbors across the street moved and gave us their patio furniture. The furniture was in great shape, sturdy, and nice, but the cushion covers were kind of thrashed and starting to shred.

We looked into buying replacement cushions, but… um… $30+ a piece! $200+ for the whole set? Yikes! Time to break out my sewing skills. Thank you, Grandma and Mom, for those skills! A few months later, I got some groovy 70′s drapes from Goodwill with the intention of using them to recover the cushions.

Liberate the Captives

March 25, 2014 at 6:55 pm

As I was meditating this morning, my mind was turned to the captives, most especially the girls. It is estimated that at least 20 million people are currently in bondage worldwide, many of them in sexual slavery. I’ve written about sex trafficking before. Human trafficking is now the fastest growing organized crime. It crushes me to think about the millions of children being sexually exploited around the world.

Image Source

Image Source

Growing up, I never imagined I’d have to worry about my daughters being forced into slavery. I really don’t want to teach my daughters that the world is a dangerous place. I want them to feel safe and confident. But I also know too much about sex trafficking to delude myself into thinking my daughters couldn’t become victims in the blink of an eye. I just can’t stomach the thought of what could happen to them.

My oldest daughter is approaching the most vulnerable time frame for child sex trafficking… 11, 12, 13. We’ve received notices more than once about sex offenders living in our neighborhood and attempted child abductions not too far away. I probably err on the side of over-protective when it comes to (not) letting my kids walk places without an adult. I only let them walk home from school because I can see the school from my house.

Modeling Empathy

March 10, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Back in 2010, a study of nearly 14,000 American college students indicated that “college students today are 40 percent less empathetic than those of 30 years ago, with the numbers plunging primarily after 2000″ (Source). I started college in 1999, so this downward trend began in my generation. What can we expect to be the consequences of this lack of empathy? “Low empathy is associated with criminal behavior, violence, sexual offenses, aggression when drunk and other antisocial behaviors” (Source). Not a pretty sight. This probably helps explain why I rarely watch/read the news anymore. So can we halt this trend toward empathy-lack?

As a first-time mom, a friend of mine invited me to attend an event for moms and kids. I don’t remember much about it. I think we rotated through different rooms with a variety of crafts and games and activities. The one thing that has stuck with me (after ten years) was a presentation about the importance of empathy. The woman encouraged us to respond to our children’s distress or tantrums first with empathy. She explained that we all have an innate need to feel understood, including and especially children. She encouraged us, when our children would cry about something upsetting to them, to acknowledging their big feelings, speak aloud our understanding of why they would be upset, match their tone of voice and facial expression and then gradually bring it down to a calmer one. For whatever reason, this advice about empathy felt profound and life-changing, and it sunk deep into my heart and mind.

Mother-Daughter Book Recommendations

March 3, 2014 at 12:24 am

Last night I finished another book with my two older daughters (ages 8 and 10). My husband and I take turns reading to them at night (different books). After finishing the Chronicles of Narnia with them, my husband moved on to the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I married a fantasy fan. I, on the other hand, have been sharing books with strong, brave young females as their main characters. The last three we have read have been really different from each other, but all such wonderful books.

I thought I’d share a few thoughts about each of them here in case you’re looking for some mother-daughter reading material.

81b3VP92QjLRonia, the Robber’s Daughter, by Astrid Lindgren

I got this book for my second daughter for Christmas. We started reading it together Christmas night. When it began with a woman in labor on the very first page, I was sold. Especially when I saw these words:

“The fact was that Lovis liked to sing while she was having her baby. It made things easier, she insisted, and the baby would probably be all the jollier if it arrived on earth to the sound of a song.”

If I ever give birth again, I’m totally singing my baby out (see why HERE). This book is masterfully written. A beautiful coming-of-age story with strong themes of friendship, family, and forgiveness. It’s the kind of book where you feel like crying when it ends because you’ve grown to love the characters so much.

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