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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

3 comments:

  1. I read your blog posts often and always want to comment but never do. Not sure why but I feel compelled to write something today.

    Last April I suffered a miscarriage at 9 weeks (after my second embryo transfer) with the D&C procedure taking place on our 2 year wedding anniversary. To say that I was depressed is putting it lightly. I had a hard time recovering from it and found myself drinking wine all the time to cope. I don't think there was one day from April-July that I didn't indulge in something. It did take a toll on my marriage because my husband did not know how to fix me or how to make me less sad. He begged me to stop but I just couldn't. He also forced us to take a break from our last transfer until at least July so that we could heal. I did not want to, but I agreed. I knew it was the right thing, but I had a hard time coming to terms with it. And of course he was right. It was what we needed - to enjoy most of summer (Summer starts early in Austin, TX) and learn to be happy again without fertility treatments looming over us.

    Some of the blog posts you had written about how difficult the miscarriage was and how the grief was so consuming really resonated with me because I knew exactly what you were going through. I'm glad you are coming out of it and taking all the steps to move forward.

    We did our last transfer that July and it actually worked. One year later on our 3rd wedding anniversary, my baby turned one month old. One year after that dreadful D&C. It still gives me the chills thinking about how a year ago I was falling apart and exactly one year later I was experiencing the complete opposite - total happiness.

    My point is, I know where you are coming from and how badly that hurts but taking the time to find yourself again and true happiness is so essential in this process. I have similar issues with my family too - mainly my mom and I am trying to work that out and not always be her 'rescuer'. This blog post definitely makes me realize more of what I need to do.

    It sounds like you have made all the right decisions in getting to a healthy state of mind to be able to move forward in this journey.

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  2. I am loving the one on one time with you guys - keep it coming. Great post Tia <3

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