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Sep 15, 2017

Mental Health: What I've Learned in Nine Months


In my personal life, this year could easily be defined as the Year of Positive Mental Health.

I am in a constant state of learning, growing, stumbling and falling, but overall, I believe I am stepping out of the fog a better, more in-tune-with-myself person.

And no, I didn't spend the past nine months meditating on a cliff, chatting with grasshoppers and taking a sabbatical.  This is real life. I still have to put in the work, each and every day.

So I spent a lot of time focusing inward, on how life affects me and how I react to it.

During the extremely desperate, foggy days after my miscarriage, I met with a therapist.
And of all the stuff we would chat about, one phrase stood out to me:

"Your focus should be the family you chose."

And as soon as I started putting that idea to work, everything sort of...settled out.
Not without heart-ache and tears and sacrifices and failures, of course.

But my priorities shifted.

The grief from my miscarriage has moved away from my every waking thought. Every now and then it would bubble to the surface as a milestone approached. Things like the would-be baby shower and my due date were very significant.

At the beginning of my grief, I would be angry. So angry that this happened. So angry that life was unfair. I launched that venom onto Mark. He was the helpless victim watching his wife crumble and cry hysterically. I was completely inconsolable because I had no idea how to make it better.

I learned to sit with my grief instead of combating it. The healing would never come if I fought it with rage. Our marriage would suffer because of it.

I would speak in very simple sentences when I started to get flustered.

"I'm sad."
"I feel the anger rising again."
"I need some time to let this happen."

I would give myself a time-out, sit on the ledge of the tub and just cry as hard as I needed to into a hand towel.

The grief would stay with me for a while, and then it would leave. And when it left I felt lighter and could function again in the normal world.

Anxiety crept in when facing troubles in my immediate family. My natural instinct is to fix it. To act as the therapist. To make things better. To be the glue that holds my family together.

But guess what. My marriage suffered. The family I chose would be put on the back-burner.  I would take on that therapist role with my family, only to leave completely exhausted and beyond frustrated, and I would spew more anger and venom onto Mark.

Again, not cool.

So I cut ties.

I backed away from birthdays and holidays.
I declined pleas for help.
I said no to requests to fix us.

As much as that hurt, I knew in my heart I had to hold my ground.

For myself. For my mental health. For my marriage.

The last thing I ever wanted to do was shun my family.

But our gatherings were filled with nothing but gloom and doom.

Mark and I carried the conversations and kept gatherings up-beat. But it was exhausting acting as the dog and pony show. When you watch people just stare blankly at you, and you wonder if they are even listening in the first place, it takes a toll on your self-worth and your patience.

My relationship with my family was simply to dump their filled-to-the-brim problems onto me.
I tried to carry it, but it got too heavy.

Coming from an extremely emotional family, I always thought it was odd that we would get together at birthdays and cry over the sappy cards. The sappier and the more dramatic, the better.

I started to dread my own birthday, knowing I had to spend a portion of it crying with my family.
I just want things to be more light-hearted and fun...is that too much to ask?

It hurt my heart to constantly have what Mark and I refer to as death bed conversations, with my father.

You know, the dramatic, end-of-life statements that haunt you in your sleep?

"You are my whole world."
"This is all I have. I will die soon, you know. You need to help fix this."
"Please, PLEASE help us."

It's too much for a daughter, a woman with her own life, her own family, to handle.
Life is not that dramatic day in and day out, but I can only assume that is the kind of stuff you start to imagine when you don't really do anything with your brain and your hands each day. You sort of become a hypochondriac, always imagining the worse. I'm not sure how to function with that type of daily anxiety.

So, yes, my relationship is strained with my family. And I may have blocked a few numbers at times.
But the anxiety and frustrations I had towards them would start the second a text message or phone call came in, and I needed to focus on a smoother, less hectic life now, and moving forward.

So I stopped it. Dead in its tracks.

I will check in every so often, but don't let the conversation stray too far from the basics. I have to keep reminding myself I am not a therapist and I am not in charge of other people's happiness.

Perhaps at some point we will chip away at this wall we built, but for now, my focus is my marriage and my own mental state.

So what about our social life?
That too was adjusted.

Mark and I used to be the ones to host constant, large groups of people at our house. We threw the loud parties and drank a million beers, and came up with the best party music, and entertained everyone and their mom, literally.

And that's definitely still fun here and there.

But I guess at some point along the way, I found myself loving more one-on-one time with people. I am more empathetic to other families lives and want to know more than our drunken conversations could have ever revealed. Everyone knows about my life because I write about it on in the internet. But I know very little about others. I am working to change that.

Summer was nothing short of magical. Life was dictated by the weather. We said no to events if there was a better use of our time. And said yes more often to different things that piqued our interest.

I slowed down a lot.

With my workouts, and my intensity to keep up with every little thing, day in and day out.
I let go of the reigns in a lot of aspects of my life. I don't have to be in charge of EVERYTHING (even if I CAN do it better) :)
I stopped jumping to my phone the second it rang.
I sat and watched the wildlife around my home more.
I stepped back from social media a lot.

Life is still moving forward.
We have made plans and taken some leaps I didn't anticipate taking in recent months.
I faced some fears head on and am still breathing on the other side.

Regarding the family I chose; our little two person + two animal family.
I am learning to find peace in both potential outcomes with its growth.

For so many years I thought growing our family was an ends to means with my happiness. I wanted the baby so my parents could have a grandchild. I wanted the baby to be happy. To be fulfilled. To feel complete. To be my whole world.

If I didn't have a baby my life would be without meaning, without true happiness.

And then I realized that is exactly the kind of dramatic death bed chatter that came from my poor mental health with my family.

A child is a blessing, no doubt. If we ever do conceive and have our own earth-side baby to raise, that will be a miracle I will never take for granted.

I would still love for that dream to become a reality. But, I now know that if it never happens, Mark and I will still have each other. This little family that we chose to be our own is what will always make me the happiest. Anything additional is just the cherry on an already awesome cake.

I'm hopeful that we can close the next few months in 2017 on a happier, healthier, content note, with our feet planted firmly on the ground, side by side.

It feels good to be back to blogging. More to come, folks. XO

Sep 8, 2017

Making The Family I Chose My Priority

Happy September, folks.

I'm happy to be back to writing on a consistent basis.
I felt an overwhelming urge to step back a lot from social media, from my computer, from my phone, and from all the nonsense that comes with likes and follows and subscriptions and junk.

Sometimes it's good for the soul to cut ties for one reason or another, and boy have I had more than enough reasons this year.

We wrapped up the summer last weekend with husband's birthday complete with a little Labor Day fiesta, and I couldn't be more content with the transition.

You see, I have been on quite the journey over the last 8-ish months.

Nothing anyone else could really see, for that matter.
We haven't traveled.
No, I'm not pregnant.

It's more in how I feel.
How I am positioning myself with and for others.
How I am as a person.
A growth spurt...if you will.

Let's back-track a bit.

I have always felt that I handled difficult situations with ease. Grace under pressure.
I have always been the rock for many, many people in my life.

And because logistics and planning and care and fixing things came so naturally to me, for whatever reason, it only seemed logical that I spread the wealth, especially since my family was literally begging me for help.

I now see my thought process was silly, but justifiable....I don't have any kids of my own to dole out the love and care and therapy and know-it-all and life lessons to...so I guess I should just do it for everyone else.

A lot of people, specifically, most of my immediate family members, stepped all over the love and support I offered.

My family took advantage of me.
And it made me bitter.

Because of this, I started developing anxiety whenever my phone would ring.
That anxiety spread to family gatherings, and family events, and anything that involved them.
I would sit and be furious, re-hashing events that were long gone.
I was furious that this was happening.
I was furious that I continued to let it happen.
That I was being used.

Because the only time my phone would ring was when someone needed something from me.

And you want to know what ended up happening?

I had a break down.

I became extremely ill for over a month with vision and neurological issues that most doctors couldn't figure out. Countless trips to the doctor, an MRI, and many pills later, and the conclusion was a sinus infection of epic proportions mixed with an overwhelming amount of stress and anxiety.

In a nutshell, it was debilitating. Although I looked relatively fine from the outside, inside I was scared shitless, wondering if this crazy-feeling was going to be my new normal. I had panic attacks while driving and in the middle of the night, my vision doubled if I looked too far into the distance, I couldn't focus on busy patterns and it generally felt like I was high all the time.

I just kept saying yes as people pushed their way into our lives, begging us to sort their shit out for them. And because I guess we felt like we had our head's on straight, we obliged.

But we were never met with equality.
I'm not one to need some sort of trophy for doing normal work. Far from it.
I just wanted to be treated as an equal part of the family.
I wanted people to work with me and love me and talk with me like we were on the same team.

I wanted the people I was helping to say something crazy like, "How are YOU doing? What's new? Hey! You wanna get together?" Without some ulterior motive meant to scheme me in some way. To manipulate me. To unload their bullshit. To make me feel awful.

I didn't get what I wanted.
I took the hit for this, have learned a great deal, and am moving forward.

That's what makes a noble person.
To try and make it better than before.
To learn from your mistakes and all that shit.

Mark and I have always wanted the best for everyone.
And that is God's honest truth.
We want everyone to enjoy life as best as they possibly can, and if that means sacrificing, or working harder, or changing things up to get there, then guess what? We fully support that.
Do all that good shit and report back.
We are happy to hear about and embrace the good you are doing in your own life.

So we always helped out when we could, because, like I said, some stuff just comes easier to us.
Everyone shines at something.

But it got to the point that I clearly remember repeating, "I have given you every possible option imaginable to dig your self out of this. You have all the tools. All the resources. All you have to is apply them as needed and follow-through. It's ultimately up to you."

I washed my hands of the effort and walked away.
I learned over the last eight months that none of that really matters, anyways.
Family is only family if they are there for you. Equally.

They sucked my giving well dry.
And it's now up to me to fill it with goodness again and dole it out sparingly.

The family I chose is more important than the family I came from.
If family is hurting you, it's okay to step back and re-evaluate your involvement with them.

Will it always be like this?
I'd like to say no, but that part isn't up to me.

What is up to me is how I react to shitty situations, how I choose to live my life, and what I allow in it. And through trial and error, it's getting easier.

Easier for me to say no and not feel guilty.
Easier for me to focus on my life and my prospects and my husband and our home.
Easier for me to understand that I am not a bad person for saying no.

Life is simple and beautiful and complex and mundane and chaotic all at the same time.
And it's going to fucking pass me right by if I don't pump the breaks and realize all this time spent running in circles has gotten me nowhere.

So that's the journey I have been on.
To place the right things at the top of my life list, and let the rest fade away.


Welcome Back. I'm happy to be here. XO

Sep 1, 2017

I'm Back, and I have a Lot to Say


Hi.

Good to see everyone back here in my little corner of the internet.
I, like most people people in the Midwest, went a little crazy trying to soak up our (brief ) summer.
The leaves are already starting to change, and a little piece of my dies inside knowing I have to start wearing more layers and seeing less sunlight.

Don't get me wrong, I like fall. I love Halloween and the fact that it's not the dead of winter just yet.

But I LOVE summer. I love everything that comes with the heat, the low maintenance hair and make-up, the easy summer clothes, time by and in bodies of water, music and margaritas.

I was busy with life and because everyone was in a similar situation, was low on inspiration to write.

But I also had a lot of other stuff going on as well.

See....this year has been different for me.
I boldly remember declaring I was morphing into a different person after our miscarriage.
I could feel it in my bones. Something had shifted.
Life....the good and the bad, basically stayed the same.
But my mind and my perception on how to live life had changed.

I have thought long and hard about what I want to write about on this blog, and I realized I was sort of skimming over a large chunk of my life.

Because it wasn't pretty.

I have decided to start sharing more, diving into the some of the uglier parts, to sort of level the playing field, and bring awareness to other issues that normal people tend to face.

I suppose this post is more of a disclaimer. That what I'll be sharing from time to time, should not be judged or looked down upon. You, my readers, are no better than me, and I most definitely am not better than anyone else. I will be talking very frankly, as I do in real life, about things that affected me in recent years, both good and bad.

Everyone is going through something in their life.
Sometimes life is grand, and sometimes it takes the wind right out of your sail.
This is my story, and I'm happy to let everyone in.

Welcome back. I'm happy you're here. XO