Monday, February 29, 2016

Where Were You 4 Years Ago? Where Will You Be 4 Years From Now?

Ah, leap year.

It comes along only every four years. Well, not exactly...it skips every 100, except every 500...and by the way, do you ever wonder how the hell people figured stuff like that out? I do.

I'm constantly fascinated by how intelligent humans can be.

Can.

Not always are.

Those are two different things, but I digress.

We're here to talk about leap year. This morning, I reflected on just how much has changed in my life in these past four years, how different I was back then as compared to now.

Vastly is an understatement. 

I was very much in the thick of things as far as my personal crises go. I hadn't yet started to develop full blown PTSD though, because I was absolutely in the place where I was still actively surviving the traumas.

God, I was in such a bad place.

Shudder.

I look back now, re-read some of the things I wrote in the blogs that you all don't get to see, and my words haunt the very wellness of my being. I see them as both a celebration of how far I've traveled and a cautionary tale of how awful life can become in a short time.

I didn't think I'd ever have another child four years ago. I wasn't sure where I would be on any given day. I wasn't sure that my marriage would last. I wasn't sure that my sanity would remain intact.

I was juggling everything. Trying to work on me, trying to fix my marriage, trying to help my mother, trying to parent my kids, trying to write, trying trying trying trying.

Failing abundantly at almost everything.

If you'd have sat me down back then and asked me where I'd be in four years, I can promise you that if I'd conjured up some reasonably accurate version of today, it would have been an outlier. A fantasy. Perhaps, even a bit delusional.

Things really were that bad.

And here I am.

Now.

My mother is gone now. Though I did the best I could to help her, it was never enough because it could never be enough. She left even though I didn't want her to. She shut me out. And then she died. I have long since given up trying to imagine ways that things might have gone differently for her, for us, because there's no point in torturing myself. I miss her. I missed her long before she died. My heart ached for a long time, wishing for a world where I could be the child and she could be the parent, but it doesn't anymore. Perhaps that is because time both hardens us and opens our eyes to what reality was, as opposed to the romanticized versions we wish had existed. When I made all those videos two weeks ago now, I heard her laugh in mine and I knew that in her own way, she was still here.

My emotional well-being, my mental health, my stability is light years better than it was the last time we visited February 29th. I was clinging to my last threads of sanity, ones that had been stretched to their maximums so many times and then stretched more back then. I was an emotional disaster. Perhaps the PTSD had finally started to settle in, to make itself at home. I was a loose cannon. I lashed out. I cried. I broke down in my car on almost a daily basis. I hated my reality and almost everything in it and about it. I questioned why all this had to be happening to me. I never got those answers. Now, I've come out on the other side. I've let go of the burdens that were never mine. I forgave those who hurt me. I went through tons of therapy, after first admitting I needed it. I'm taking better care of me, in large part because I have no other choice. My health suffered greatly.  I've said before that this version of me might flinch a bit now, might be covered in scars, but she's a lot stronger than she's ever been.

My marriage is better than it has ever been, and I can say that without hesitation or reservation. Four years ago, we were two lost people who knew almost nothing about what we wanted in this world. Fortunately, the only thing we did both know is that we wanted to try and figure that out together. I say nothing about marriage flippantly. It is hard. It is work. It hurts like hell sometimes. We are better people individually now, and only because of that truth are we better together now.

My kids. They're different too. We slayed some dragons in these four years. We confronted some ugly things, realized some great mistakes we'd made as parents. We learned. They've grown, and we've grown with them. We don't pretend to have any of this figured out. We communicate better than we ever did before, and we teach them to do the same with us and with one another. They'd go to the ends of the earth for one another, I think. There is, of course, the matter of the baby. The one that I didn't ever think I'd have the chance to meet. He's here, and I know now that he was always a part of us. He was always here.

My writing. Hmm. I write less often these days, but when I do write, it's always deliberate. It wasn't like that before. Writing kept my head just above water on too many days to count, and for that I will forever be grateful. I've grown to embrace this as a part of who I am. Though I often say that I won't let anything define me, if there is anything that does in fact define me, it's this. I am a writer. I crave it. I need it. I require it to sustain my very existence.

Four years ago, I was a mess. A complete and utter mess. No need to sugarcoat that truth. I've come so far, more than I would have imagined possible.

Four years from now, I have no idea where I'll be. I stopped trying to control the future long ago. I have been taught, repeatedly, that plans mean little in the eyes of time. Goals are wonderful, but flexibility is necessary. I have no idea even who I'll be in four years. I think she'll look a bit like me today. She'll be older, wiser, grayer. She'll have a few more lines, a few more stories to tell. I can't wait to meet her.

What about you all? Where were you four years ago? Where do you see yourself four years from now?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Homemade Laundry Detergent DIY Instructions

A few years ago now, I started to make my own laundry detergent. Several people in my household have eczema, which is aggravated by most commercially available detergents. It is much cheaper to make it yourself at home and doesn't take long at all.

I do laundry for 7 people, one of which is a baby in cloth diapers.I am quite literally always doing laundry. Every day. I usually make a batch of detergent once a month.

I've been using the homemade detergent for the diapers as well since the brand I used to use switched to a liquid formula - instant rashes as a result. I had to strip all the diapers and start over.

I phased out fabric softener quite a long time ago, and would recommend that you all do the same thing right now if you haven't already. I know it makes the clothes smell nice and all that, but it's not the best thing in the world for you and can actually make your towels less absorbent and make stains and dinginess worse in clothes. I use dryer balls instead.



Anyhow, the recipe for the laundry detergent is pretty straightforward and simple. I make a powdered detergent, though I know many people who prefer to make it in a liquid form.

Homemade Laundry Detergent
- 2 cups Borax
- 2 cups Washing Soda 
- 1 bar of laundry soap, grated
- 1-2 scoops of Oxiclean if desired

I grate the soap bar first, then add 1 cup each of the borax and washing soda to a large glass jar. I mix in half of the Oxiclean and half of the grated soap, then repeat until all ingredients are in the jar and fully combined. I have a tablespoon scoop that I use for the detergent and generally use 1-2 tbsp per load.

The washing soda and borax make 2-3 batches of detergent each. I usually use Fels Naptha or Ivory soap, but have used Zote on occasion. Fels Naptha and Ivory are harder and make smaller pieces, Zote has a softer consistency and will make your resulting detergent batch bigger. I've noticed no difference in the cleaning efficiency of either, and neither of them irritates the eczema sufferers in the house.

If you are having a hard time locating the ingredients, check the whole length of the laundry aisle. Look on the top shelf and the very bottom.

Using the Oxiclean is totally optional. I add it because I use the same detergent for the diapers now as the rest of the clothes. When washing diapers, I wash the load twice. First in a cold water rinse, no soap. The second wash in hot, add an extra scoop of detergent and use two rinse cycles. This is the part where I have to tell you that you should check with the diaper manufacturer to see what they recommend using. And this is the part where I tell you that the homemade stuff works better for us and doesn't cause rashes.

When washing delicates, I throw in a little baking soda. A bit of vinegar can help remove odors and help soften fabrics when added to the final rinse cycle.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What Do You Tell a 13 Year Old Girl Who Knows Everything?

Dear Freckles,

You've been asking me for a few weeks now if I wrote your birthday letter yet. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.

Not yet.

I try to write these as close to your actual birthdays as possible, so I'm doing it now as I sit here on the eve of your day. Just before you asked, again today, if I'd written your letter yet, you asked another question. One that I couldn't answer off the top of my head.

You wanted to know what time you were born.

I knew that it was in the afternoon, I knew that it was a Sunday. I knew that we'd been to the hospital the night before having left a wedding in which your brother was the ring bearer. We walked in to triage, him still in his tuxedo.

They'd told me then that I could walk laps around the hospital, or I could go home and try to get some rest. I knew I wasn't sleeping either way, so it didn't matter much to me. I knew you'd be here soon. Late the next morning, after your uncle had driven down to take care of your brother, we left for the hospital again, knowing that when we came back home we'd live in a world with not just one child but two.

You came into the world that day at 4:10p.m. I dug out your baby book to check. I know you how you are with needing specifics.

You're thirteen now. Officially a teenager.

It doesn't even seem possible.

Some days I look at you and I still see the little girl with the long golden ponytails running around in circles.

Some days I look at you and see glimpses of the woman you are becoming.


Most of the time, I see both versions of you, simultaneously, all tied up in the same person.

13.

I guess this means that you get to order from the adult menu now. I guess. Gosh.

You are still perfectly content to be trapped between childhood and adolescence in every way that doesn't involve menus, though, and I'm perfectly okay with that.


You aren't in a hurry to grow up, but then you never have been. You have always been my cautious one, though that probably comes as a surprise to most of the people who know you. Who you show to the world is often such a different person than who you are on the inside.

You come by that honestly, but I know that you know that.

I know you know.

I know.

You're almost as tall as I am anymore. I'm waiting for the morning when you wake up just beyond my height. I know it's coming, and sooner rather than later. I know that you'll remind me of it daily for a while once it happens.


So many changes are coming, whether you want them to or not. I know that even though there are days you urge that clock to run faster, most of the time you want it to slow down a bit.

At some point this year, you started emailing me. There are days that the only real interaction we have, you and I, aside from grunting and sighing, are those emails. Please never stop sending them, emojis and all. I'll be busy doing whatever else it is that I am doing, and know that when there's a message sitting in my inbox from you, it's a glance into your life in one of the most genuine forms. You make me laugh. God, do you make me laugh.

You've taken some steps, done some things that were scary this year, taken some chances, put yourself out there into an unfamiliar world. I can't even begin to tell you how proud I am of you in those moments, because I know more than anyone else just how hard it is for you.

You do it anyway.

And whenever you take those risks, know that I'll be over here, far enough away to give you space but close enough that you'll always be able to find me, cheering you on.

I'll be doing jazz hands and making crazy faces at you...but you knew that already.

I love you, baby girl.

Stay funny, stay weird, stay you.

Happy birthday.

Love,
Mom

p.s. math homework is still the worst.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Eating Disorders: what they are, what they are like, what helps, what doesn't help

What Eating Disorders Are Like For Me
I want to preface what I am about to write with the following disclaimer: the only experience I can attest to in this department is the one I've lived personally. I will be sharing information about other disorders as well, but anything I write about my experience pertains only to me. There is a large variety in the type and severity of eating disorders, as well as the underlying root causes of them.

There is a misconception that eating disorders only affect women and young girls, but the reality is that men and young boys can suffer as well. Men are less likely to seek treatment. It is estimated that 24 million people in this country suffer from eating disorders.

I've written in the past about how when the anxiety rises up in my world, when things start to spin out of control and I feel like I can't manage anything, my default is to stop eating.

I just stop.

The only way that I can explain it is that when I can't control anything else in my life, at least I can control what I put into my body and what I do with my body. It's deeply rooted in anxiety for me personally, connected to a lifetime of being overweight, of always feeling like I was the one that didn't fit in.


It's something that I've done since I was a teenager, something that peaked when I was around 14. When I was in the worst place with it, I was exercising obsessively as well, usually three times a day, writing down every single thing I did and for how long. I weighed myself multiple times a day. There were days that all I ate was a few pieces of lettuce.

It didn't take too long for me to start doing damage to myself physically. I'd lost weight, sure, but since I was starting from a place of being overweight, no one was ever concerned. In fact, I was often congratulated about it. Boys paid more attention to me. Family and friends told me how good I was looking, which just reinforced the negative self talk in my head about how disgusting I was to begin with.

I started having chronic headaches, so frequently that my doctor ran all kinds of tests on me. He was concerned it was a brain tumor. He also congratulated me on the weight loss, never putting the two together.

I fainted in church one Sunday morning after the whole world starting spinning, and only when that happened did I realize just how much I was hurting myself.

I was still fat, by the way.

I joke, in my self deprecating way, that I suck at being anorexic. It's a commonly held belief that the only people who are anorexic are thin. I'm proof that you can be fat and still be anorexic. Breaking the mold, I am.

It's something that has reared its ugly head more than a few times since those days. As soon as I start to lose control of anything else, I find myself spacing meals out further and further, strangely comforted by the grumbling in my stomach.

As an adult, I confronted my issues head on many years ago, and I know that the first thing I need to do when I start leaning towards this path again is to talk about it. I need to say, out loud, that I'm doing it again. I hold myself accountable because I have to.

Types of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are one of the most misunderstood areas of mental health. While the issues and symptoms presented and perceived from the outside are physical in nature, the causes are not. The root of disordered eating is mental, and not always clearly understood. For some people the root may be in depression, for others in anxiety, for others in OCD. The treatment of eating disorders requires a solid understanding of the situation of each individual.

Anorexia is characterized by restriction of food intake, obsession with weight loss and may include habitual weighing of one's self as well as prolonged periods of exercise. Those suffering may go to severe extremes to lose weight, seem perpetually concerned with losing more. The conventional wisdom says that anorexics are always thin, but I take issue with that part of the definition.

Bulimia is characterized by periods of binge eating followed by purging the stomach contents through forced vomiting. People dealing with bulimia have negative self images heavily tied to weight, and are more likely to be at or above what is considered a healthy weight.

Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by recurring periods of binge eating, often very quickly and in very large quantities, followed by immediate feelings of shame. Those suffering feel like they can't control themselves and regulate food intake.

Night Eating Disorders are when a person who eats a normal amount, or perhaps even less than ideal amounts of food during the day, then binge eats at night. They often wake at night, unable to go back to sleep until they eat again. There is also a subtype where the person is actually sleepwalking and not consciously aware of the eating.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is not in itself an eating disorder, but a subtype of anxiety that is frequently associated with eating disorders. Those suffering obsess about their physical appearance in an unhealthy manner, often with a distorted view of how they actually appear. For example, a very slender woman might look in the mirror and feel as though she is looking at a morbidly obese woman.

There are other eating disorders having to do with compulsions to eat things that are not food such as pica, but I am not very familiar with them personally. Thankfully, they are quite rare.

Things That Can Help With Eating Disorders
Ideally, the treatment of eating disorders is interdisciplinary in nature, with a cohesive team of providers that may include psychiatrists, psychologists, therapist, nutritionists and doctors. 

Medical Care - Eating disorders are widely considered the most deadly mental health condition. As many as 5% of those suffering will die as a result, whether through malnutrition, organ failure, or substance abuse. Those suffering are also at an increased risk for suicide. How treatable these conditions will be correlates pretty directly with how early in the development they are caught and diagnosed. There are medications that can treat the underlying issues leading to the eating disorder itself (such as anxiety or depression). Depending on the severity of the disorder, a medical doctor may order blood tests to check for organ function and other indicators of damage. Inpatient care may be necessary in some cases.

Therapy - In individual or group settings, therapy to address the underlying issues leading to disordered eating is often the most important component of treatment.

Family/Home Centered Care - The constant nature of eating disorders means that the person suffering truly needs to be surrounded by people who understand the condition and are vigilant about looking for indicators that the disorder may be worsening. This is especially important for parents dealing with eating disorders in children.  For reasons that aren't yet fully understood, eating disorders often run in families as well.

Support of Friends and Family - As simple as it sounds, telling the person suffering that you are concerned for their health and safety and that you love them makes a huge difference. Having people who understand the roots of the disorder and do not blame the person suffering are a tremendous asset in the fight.

Things That Do Not Help With Eating Disorders
Hell, most of these are just good tips in general. We should all do this stuff, regardless of whether we are dealing with an eating disorder personally or with someone we love...because the reality is that someone might be suffering in silence, and you might be planting seeds of body image issues in children.

  • Focusing on their weight. They're already totally focused on that, and don't need other people obsessing about it too.
  • Micromanaging their food intake. It's tempting to want to know exactly what they are eating and when, but that can actually make things worse, not better.
  • Mocking them for being thin or fat. Just don't. How about as a society, we just stop judging people based on appearances in general?
  • Taunting them, saying "just eat something". Also not helpful.
  • Blaming them. Saying they just need to get over it. 
  • Shaming them about their condition. Shaming anyone for anything doesn't make a situation better, and can often make things worse.
  • Don't talk about how you tried this great diet and lost weight or know about someone who lost a bunch of weight. 
  • Don't tell them they need supplements or oils or whatever you're selling. 
  • Don't try to minimize their condition or act like it's normal. For example, routinely skipping breakfast because you are busy doesn't mean you "get" what anorexia is like.
  • Don't comment on weight loss or gain, even in regards to celebrities. It's all putting subconscious issues in their head.
  • Don't tell them they are too thin or too fat to wear certain clothing. 
  • Watch how you speak about yourself as well, particularly around children.
Recovery is possible. Healing is possible. 
For me, I know that anorexia will always be a part of who I am. It will probably always be something lurking in the shadows, waiting for an opportune time to show up again. I have to be vigilant. 

If you or someone you love is suffering, there is help out there. Here are some resources for more information.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Anxiety: what it is, what it's like, what helps, what doesn't help

What Anxiety Is Like For Me
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of worrying about things; big things, little things, important things, irrational things. All the things. It's something that has always been a part of who I am, as ingrained in my identity as my eye color.

It's something that has caused more than its fair share of problems in my life, something that other people have often misunderstood, and something that I've wished away more times that I could possibly even begin to explain.

It's never gone away.


I worry about literally everything. I go through every situation and over-analyze it, and I have to take each catastrophic possibility and run them out to completion in my head so that I feel like I'm prepared to deal with what might happen, even if the actual likelihood of ever dealing with that is minuscule.

I worry about worrying.

I worry about talking to people, I worry that I'm going to make an ass out of myself. I worry about whether they will like me or hate me or be intimidated by me or think I'm insane. I worry about the things I might say and what people will think of me for saying them. I worry about what I'm wearing and how I look and how I feel. I worry about doing things and I worry about not doing things. I. Worry. About. Everything.

I run a dialogue in my head constantly about everything. I rehearse any anticipated conversation in my head, then I replay the conversation after it happens on a loop, judging myself for every aspect of whatever I said or didn't say or wish I'd said or regret saying.

I worry about knowing where the bathroom is everywhere I go. I worry about being too far away from whatever. I worry about running out of gas. I worry about my phone ringing. I worry about having to actually talk to people. I worry about needing to actually listen to voicemail because it means that I might have to talk to a person.

Totally not even kidding, but I disconnected my land line four years ago because I was having panic attacks every time the phone rang.

This isn't normal. None of this is normal.

A certain degree of anxiety is normal, necessary and actually healthy. Episodic worry and fear is a good thing. Apprehension about things that might be dangerous to us is an excellent survival tactic. When it becomes more than that, though, is where we run into problems.

The dictionary definition of anxiety is a straightforward one: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

The medical definition takes the ordinary definition and runs with it, much like those of us with anxiety disorders do: a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.

Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety can show up in many different forms, in varying degrees of severity. I live with most forms of anxiety personally.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is when you are worried frequently, often when there is little reason to be legitimately concerned. You expect the worst to happen in every possible situation, even anticipate it. It can be short term or life long.

Panic Disorder is when you have sudden feelings of terror, manifesting in physical symptoms that can feel like you can't breathe or are having a heart attack. Racing heartbeat is common. Attacks are also referred to as anxiety attacks.

Phobias are specific fears that you may have to situations, items or things. The level of your fear is not considered equivalent to the actual threat posed, and can interfere with daily functions.

Social Anxiety Disorder is when you have fears or worry about social situations, fears of being laughed at or ridiculed or that you will embarrass yourself. It can actually result in behaviors leading to that.

There are other related conditions as well.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is when a you have uncontrollable recurring thoughts and/or behaviors that you feel compelled to complete. It tends to be chronic. Women who suffer post partum depression with intrusive thoughts have a form of OCD. 

Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome (PTSD) is when exposure to a trauma leaves you with long lasting consequences. I will be discussing PTSD separately in its own post. 

Things That Can Help With Anxiety
In dealing with anxiety, it is important to understand that every person is different. What works for one might not work for another. As long as it works for you, that is all that matters. 

Medical Treatments - Medications can definitely help treat many forms of anxiety. Some physicians will opt to try short-acting medications to alleviate symptoms when they occur while others will recommend a daily medication designed to help constantly. Sometimes a combination of the two will be used. Some medications may only need to be taken for a short period, others may be a life long proposition. What works best for you will depend entirely on your individual situation, as well as the other medications you may be taking and other conditions you may be dealing with. It may not be necessary to use medication. It may be necessary. Please do not think that either using or not using medication means anything about your individual ability to cope with your conditions. We don't routinely tell people with diabetes that they should try not to use insulin because it's a sign of weakness, do we? Same applies here. I promise.

Therapy - Many people with anxiety disorders can benefit greatly from therapy. Some sub-types of anxiety are more treatable than others in terms of the management of symptoms. Often just knowing that you aren't alone in dealing with your issues helps tremendously. Treatment of phobias is frequently done with leveled exposure to the item or situation feared, to increase the individual's tolerance, especially in situations when the phobia is interfering with daily functioning. Cognitive therapy has to do with how you think about the anxiety, behavioral therapy addressed your responses in situations where the anxiety is triggered. Specific types of therapies may be used for specific types of anxiety. I highly recommend seeking out professionals with experience in your sub-type. 

Hypnosis - Hypnosis can be used to address the subconscious fears and worries that lead to anxiety in some people.

Exercise and Relaxation - Both exercise and relaxation techniques can help deal with anxiety. Exercise because of the release of endorphins and physical motion, relaxation because of the deep breathing techniques and centering. Both activities help to make you more mindful of yourself, of your surroundings and can help to dispel the anxieties you might be feeling. For me personally, yoga makes a huge difference.

Go Outside - One of the easiest things I can do to help myself is to make sure that I get outside frequently enough. Traveling to and from the car in day to day activities probably isn't enough - I know it isn't enough for me. My anxiety is always worse when I've spent too much time indoors. Vitamin D exposure is beneficial in many ways. If you live in an area with limited sunlight, especially in the winter, Vitamin D supplements might be a good idea. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can absolutely make anxiety worse. 

Eating Well - This always seems to be the solution that people share on social media for all the ails the world. I'm not going to tell you even for one second that eating a kale smoothie will fix you, but I can promise you that eating a poor diet will definitely make you feel worse. If you're consuming a lot of empty calories, nutrient poor carbs, refined grains and sugar, you're going to feel worse. If you're not hydrated, you're going to feel worse. Taking care of your body is a part of taking care of your mind. 

Working Through the Fears - For me personally, my anxiety always gets worse when I try to ignore it. Instead, what does actually work is to let the worst case scenarios in my head run to their conclusions in the most expedient manner so that I can come up with a game plan and get on with whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing. 

Things That DO NOT Help with Anxiety
This isn't going to be an all-inclusive list because it would be impossible to mention everything that people do and say that make things worse, but here is my best effort...

  • Saying there is nothing to worry about. Just because you aren't worried or just because my worry is irrational doesn't mean it isn't real.
  • Saying that I need to get over it. I can't. I literally can't. If I could, don't you think I would?
  • Saying that my fears are silly. To me, they aren't. Actually, they're pretty disabling.
  • Saying that I should calm down. Duh. I want to.
  • Saying that I should only worry about the big things. To me, they're all big things.
  • Saying that everything will be okay. It might not. Maybe I thought that before and things weren't okay. 
  • Saying that everyone stresses out sometimes. This isn't the same type of thing. I'm not worried about something specific episodically. I worry about everything all the time.
  • Saying that my feelings hurt you somehow. I promise my issues aren't about you. Please don't put guilt on top of it all, because then I'm just going to worry about that too. Plus, I'll know that I can't rely on you for help when I need it.
  • Saying that I need to take my meds. Or have a drink. Or whatever. Maybe I'm taking meds. Maybe I'm not. Maybe I'm not drinking for a reason. Maybe drinking won't help and will only make things worse.
  • Saying that I should really be worried about ______. Insert literally anything in the world that people say I should be worrying about here. Humans can multitask and be concerned about more than one thing in the world at a time anyway, and minimizing my concerns won't help. 
  • Saying I just need to suck it up. Nah. Just don't do that.
  • Saying that I need to use this oil or supplement or whatever you are selling. Please don't try to profit from my issues. Kthanksbye.
How to Help Someone with Anxiety
I know that I can be difficult to deal with sometimes. There are ways that people can help, though. I thank those who stand by me. THANK YOU.
  • We don't let it define us, please don't define us by it.
  • Be patient. Sometimes it takes us a bit longer to work up the nerve to do something.
  • We're usually overprepared for catastrophe. That comes in handy sometimes, I promise.
  • If we get overwhelmed, let us have a break. Yes, we're hiding in the bathroom or in the hallway. It's okay.
  • Please don't point out that our fears are irrational. We know.
  • Celebrate when we conquer a fear. It's a huge deal.
  • Sometimes we just need to know you're there.
  • Sometimes we need someone who understands.
  • Sometimes we need reassurance.
  • We don't do change well. Change scares us more than it scares you.
  • We don't do what we do on purpose to hurt other people, and we hate when that happens.
  • We are used to people bailing on us. When they stick by us, we value them so much. SO MUCH.
There are some specific tips I'd like to talk about for dealing with kids who have anxiety. Often, though not always, anxiety can be passed down from parent to child. In those cases (as is the case in my house), I'm pretty well conditioned to recognize and help deal with it in my kids. If you aren't used to it, but have a child dealing with it, here are some points to consider.
  • Get down to their level. Literally. Breathe with them. I've often had to model my patterned breathing with them when the anxiety gets bad. 
  • Do not minimize their fears. To them, everything is big and scary.
  • They look to you for guidance and help, don't ignore their fears.
  • Talk through the fears. What are they afraid of? Why? Is there some way to address it? Break it down into manageable portions. Slay the dragons one at a time.
  • Talk about how often worrying is a good thing. It keeps us safe.
  • Don't tell them their fears are silly. They'll stop telling you what they're afraid of.
  • Allow more time for transitions.
  • Realize that even small changes take a huge adjustment.
  • Celebrate overcoming fears. HUGE celebration. 
  • Exercise and relaxation are just as important for kids as adults. Yoga is a wonderful mindfulness activity for kids with anxiety. 
  • Have set times daily or weekly to talk about worries, what went well, what didn't.
  • Make sure you don't overreact to their anxieties. You don't want to feed the fears or punish them for things they can't control.
  • If necessary, seek out a therapist who treats children with anxiety. It may be necessary to consider medication as well. 
If you have specific questions or would like more information about something I didn't cover, please let me know. Deep breaths, everyone. We got this.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Thank You, Harper Lee

When I was a little girl, my Uncle used to take me for extended visits. Back then, I idolized him with great wonder and impression. He was a public defender in those days, one who fought vigorously for the rights of the accused. I'd sit on the benches behind the tables designated for the attorneys and just watch him, fully immersed in every word that he said.

The people in the courtroom always hung on his words, urged to the edges of their seats.

He never asked if his clients were guilty. He preferred not to know, I think.

As I got older, worked in the field myself, knew more and more attorneys, I realized that his general rule of not inquiring about guilt or innocence was far more common than most people might understand.

Sometimes it's better not to know the truth, though. Instead, resolve ourselves to do all that we can to ensure that the trial process itself was fair and just; that each person was given the full protection of the law.

My Uncle is precisely one third of the reason that I went to law school myself. I've never told him that before. I probably should.

The second reason had to do with my personal frustrations with the legal system, having seen how it could be manipulated, how it didn't favor those who needed the most help.

The third reason had to do with a character in a book.

Atticus Finch.


I've written before of my relationship with the story and with the character of Atticus Finch. I haven't ever written about just how much he reminded me of my Uncle, nor of how much my Uncle reminded me of him.

I've written of how that relationship changed and evolved as my worldview changed and evolved. I've written about how I wasn't particularly surprised when the second book that wasn't actually the second book, but a prior draft that was never intended to be released publicly, revealed Atticus to be different than the idealized individual we'd so wanted him to be. 

He'd done his duty in defending his client, not by choice, but by obligation.

He wasn't some crusader for equality, he wasn't even interested much in the life of the man he was arguing to save. He was himself deeply flawed and biased.

Aren't we all, though?

Perhaps our flaws come in other shapes and sizes than his did, perhaps we won't be revealed to have been racists decades from now in a manuscript never intended to be made public. Perhaps.

But, I promise you one thing: we are all deeply flawed individuals.

That doesn't, by the way, mean that we can't also do good in this world. It doesn't mean that we can't inspire others. It doesn't mean that we are rendered incapable of fighting for that which we believe in. It doesn't even mean that we are less able to advocate for others, regardless of our personal opinions of them.

It means that we can be all those things and more, wrapped in the deeply flawed souls we occupy.

Atticus wasn't perfect, but there is one person who knew that all along.

Harper Lee.

She knew that he was human. She knew that he was biased. She knew that he did his job anyway. She knew, and she wrote the second draft, the one so many have clung to as the only acceptable version of him. She morphed him into the person we came to be familiar with, not knowing that we'd ever get to meet the real him someday.

She refused to write a sequel.

I can't say that I blame her.

She didn't want To Set A Watchman released, and I can't say that I blame her for that either.

What she did, for me and for countless others in this world, was inspire us to look at the legal system as a place where even the most flawed people can still seek justice.

We all just weren't privy to that truth until recently.

Thank you, Ms. Lee.

Thank you.

The 24 Hour Mental Health Project - PPD, ADHD, PTSD and Anxiety

There have been a few times in the past where I have tried to explain what it is like to live with some of the conditions I live with. Individually, they are somewhat easier to explain I suppose, but in combination, they are far more complicated.

As a mental health advocate, I feel like I have a responsibility to do as much as I can to change the way we view mental health issues in this country, to change the dialogue surrounding them. The first, biggest hurdle to overcome has to do with the stigma associated with these conditions.


I came up with an idea to chronicle everything going on in my head for 24 hours. A literal day in the life of someone with postpartum depression, ADHD, PTSD and anxiety. I have to warn you that like 75% of what you are about to read is the result of the ADHD, which tends to hit hard at night especially...

Here goes nothing.

3:43 wake up to feed baby,  “In the Night” by The Weeknd playing in my head, realize I need to start leaving ringer on phone because of doula client, so many things I need to cover at the next meeting, I hope I don't screw this up, need to pump more because only have two bottles saved, god I hate pumping, this pump doesn't work anyway not sure wth is wrong with it. Twirl earrings.


3:49 switch sides, “Downtown” playing in head, which becomes “Uptown Funk” almost immediately. Start worrying about insomnia kicking in after he nurses. So tired, need sleep. Should I do this project? What will people think? Do I care? If I have a bad day with the thoughts about the baby should I be honest because what if people think I'm actually going to hurt him. God. Why did I even bring this up? It will help someone. Maybe right? This is stupid. I need to pee but he's eating and I don't want to get up. Want to go back to sleep tonight, not be up for hours again. Feet are hot. Should write this down. Will open docs, take notes. When he is done, don't need him up all night too.


3:55 he's done and snoring. Roll over, take notes. Stupid screen...you know they say nighttime phone use is so bad now. This is just tonight so I can take notes. Hopefully. Since I'm up, check notifications. Don't want to keep arguing with blog commenter. Ugh. Ignore pending comment. Again. Need to delete files because memory is full. Should upload video to YouTube first but not now. Need to sleep. Try to sleep. Hey, Bruno Mars, singing in my head. Now the dog is snoring. Name doc “24hrs” and realize this is going to be long. Why did I do this?


4:02 read comments on video. Shit. I did it now. Guess I have to follow through with it. Stomach gurgle. Hungry. Self it's 4am shut up. Go to sleep, you have to get up soon.


4:19 still awake. Baby holding my hand in his sleep, he's always done this. Keeps me grounded. Perspective. I need to seriously delete files so I can make a video when I wake up that will be easier. I think. But do I get up and shower first no that wouldn't be real. The Weeknd is really good. "In the night", again in my brain. Why can't it stop so I can go to sleep? I need aluminum foil. Shit. What else did she say I need to get? Dammit. Need to make a list and go to the store. Maybe not the best idea during this project lol. MAKE ALL THE LISTS. Twirl earrings. How many piercings should I do on the other side? Really need to let these heal first. What if they get infected? I don't want them to get infected. Yawn. I'm yawning now. Go to sleep. But I'm thirsty. Try to drink without spilling. God this autocorrect sucks in docs it should know me by now dammit. Go to sleep.


5:02 seriously go to sleep. Go the fuck to sleep. At what point do I just give up and get out of bed?


6:45 turn off alarm. Must have eventually fallen asleep.


6:52 Start hoping husband will take home schoolers to supplement because pants are dumb and I might have to talk to people. Write stuff down. Wonder what the hell I was dreaming about the power Rangers for. Again. Three days in a row now that I've been the yellow ranger.


7:17 older kids off to school, dog laying on me. Need to get little kids up. Regretting this commitment to this project. Posted the comment that I ignored last night but I'm done responding. Not doing circular arguments today.


7:19 looked at the on this day fb stuff. Why why why do I do that? Miss my parents. Deleted what I can on phone to make videos. Videos are dumb.

7:25 turned on tv. Anti smoking commercial, grrr. Hey guess what killed your Dad at7aminthefuckingmorning, here's another reminder. Oprah loves bread and money and maybe if she can't ever lose weight with her vast fortune and all the help, some of us are just destined to be overweight soooo. I'm hungry. And fat. Go make a kale smoothie, kelly. Your body will thank you. Fine. God.

7:45 make smoothie, change kefir, did you feed the dog, did you take your medicine, is your lunch packed, do you have a water bottle, have a good day, i love you.

7:55 quiet. husband took homeschoolers. make and delete two videos. make third video and upload it before i watch and delete it. i hate videos.




8-9 obsess about videos. watch and rewatch them over and over and over again, mock self. laugh a little. i am funny, so there's that.

9:05 start writing post. come up with catchy title just in case this becomes a thing. realize that i should probably write something about each of the conditions i live with separately because this is probably going to read like a giant clusterfuck of a mess but oh well, this is what it's like for me every day.

9:26 i should wash the dishes. i should exercise before the baby gets up, but i won't have time to shower before he gets up probably. gross. i need to do laundry too and windows. good god the windows are disgusting, but there's no point cleaning them because the kids will just touch them again. need to make a list for the grocery store.

9:43 doorbell rings. WHY is the doorbell ringing? No one is supposed to come over. I hate salespeople. It had better not be some religious solicitation because I just won't answer the door. What if it's a serial killer and I'm dead and the baby is left upstairs sleeping and no one finds out until I don't show up to pick the kids up from school? peeks around corner and sees Fedex truck. Guy standing on porch. Goddammit I have to open the door because something needs signed for. Shit. Try to make small talk. Dog loves the stranger. Okay now stop talking and go away. No really, go away.

9:45 baby is up. Go get him out of the crib, walk past stairs. Vision of throwing him down them. (At this point, I am coming back to explain instrusive thoughts. It's a form of PPD tied closely to OCD in which the mother's brain envisions ways to harm the child. I have never and will never act on the visions, I cannot control them, and this stair vision has played out so many times that I'm well conditioned to ignore it. I am not, I repeat I am not, a threat to my child). Going to make a video about this and the Fedex dude. Because I can probably explain it better that way.


10:31 these videos take forever to upload. Life should move at the speed of my adhd brain, with 47 tabs open all the time dammit.

11:49 took the grain out of the fridge an hour ago to make bread so now I really need to go make bread. baby is having his thursday nursing fest. all we've done for an hour now. tick tock, baby. (just kidding, stay little forever)


12:00 Halfway done. Whew. This is kicking my ass a little bit. A lot. The grains are sitting on the stove mocking me, and I still haven't made a grocery list. I don't even know what I am going to make for dinner now because I missed the window to start the beans. Fuck. Even when I write the menu for the day in three different places, I still forget to start the stupid beans half of the time. Guess I'll be winging it. Trying to write and upload videos and play with the baby who wants to read all the books right now while sitting in a box.

12:04 watched the last video I posted and OMG I need to speak better. why am I making videos? Why haven't I taken a shower yet? having some irrational thoughts about the dog hurting the baby. the dog is napping. why, brain? why? THE DOG IS ASLEEP.

12:13 oh, hello PTSD. random memory trigger. breathe. where did that even come from? the fuck. heart is racing a little. going into a youtube song vortex. goddammit.

12:19 talking about the doorbell thing makes me think about the phone. disconnected the house land line four years ago because i couldn't deal with the anxiety every time it rang. every.single.time. i literally do not have a landline because of anxiety.

12:31 baby just went down for a nap. little weepy over this whole project idea.

12:43 just realized that today is the five year anniversary of my dad's funeral. and i'm doing this today. coincidence? maybe. i think he'd be proud of me. maybe a little bit worried about me, but still proud.




1:07 did afternoon update video. going to find something to keep my brain occupied. need to shower. will probably cry in there.

1:29 still sitting here. can't will myself to get up and do the stuff yet. need to get up. hey, self. maybe don't listen to jeff buckley right now.

2:00 full blown procrastination mode. still haven't done the dishes. put the grains back in the fridge because fuck it not today. i can wait like 20 more minutes to shower if i really have to wait. which i don't but i probably will. obviously, i'm not getting shit done today.

2:09 it's really windy. i hate the wind. just generally, but especially when it's unseasonably warm wind in february, probably because of the association with my dad's death and all the other shit that was going on at the time. i don't want to go outside at all, but i need to go pick up the kids. soon. i need to go. i'd rather just sit here. or sleep. i'm also deliberately avoiding reading anything on the news, any of the trending stories on facebook, haven't turned the tv on at all since the smoking ad and fat Oprah this morning. i know that today is going to be hard enough without adding to it. though mindless background noise might actually be a good thing. i can feel the anxiety getting worse. my stomach is in knots. and i have to go interact with humans today since freckles has a concert. at least it will be dark. i'm pathetic.

2:14 go shower. seriously, just go get it over with. you need to get it done and get the baby up, fed and dressed and be out the door in 21 minutes. i'm so tired. and i need to drink water. get up. jesus, kelly, get up.

2:20 crying in the shower, check.


2:30 staring at myself naked in the mirror after shower. Nit picking. Overanalyzing. Stepped on scale and hated myself even though the number is going down. It shouldn't matter. It shouldn't matter. I know this and still...

2:37 get baby up from his nap. he's doing the shaky thing he does when he transitions from sleeping to waking and it always freaks me out. i know it's fine because two of the other kids did this and outgrew it and i know it isn't a big deal, but i always want to make sure. do not google this. do not google this. do not google this.

2:38 stairs again. fuck you stairs.

2:50 take a selfie while waiting for the oldest. prove to myself that i'm okay even if i feel like a goddamn hot mess.


3:07 sitting in parking lot. Just had to take my contacts out because my eyes are jacked from crying. Only have sunglasses and have to go inside to sign kids out. Awesome. 9 hours left.

3:30 the one who worries about all the things is in the car after school worrying about all the things. i'll probably screw something up today, so try not to do that.

4:00 feed baby. worry about whether my milk supply is good enough since he's still cluster feeding at 16 months old. KNOW THAT HE'S FINE and whythefuck am i still worrying about this. why.

4:15 put older kids in charge of baby for a little bit, go hide upstairs and make video. face all broken out, probably stress. looks awful in the video. suck it up and deal, kelly.



4:30 mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom what are you doing?

5:08 start making dinner. need to make sure it is done in time to get to the concert on time, no actually we need to make sure that we get there early because the one who worries is already worrying and i need to not make this worse.


5:44 carpal tunnel acting up. Fabulous. Stress. Make dinner.


6:09 husband home. He brought me flowers. I almost lost it. I know he's been watching these videos all day, wondering why I am doing this to myself. It's a valid question. God, I love him. I can't even imagine what he puts up with at times living with me.




6:52 concert, people, hiding. Feel weird.


7:20 baby bored waiting for concert. Husband takes him. Grateful. Can't sit still, but can't get up because I'm saving seats.


8:04 can't focus on the music at the concert because the people next to me are talking. All the shiny things. There are too many people in here and I'm fidgeting. It's windy and rainy outside and delicious. I could just go stand out there and scream into the storm for a little while, but I'm here. Inside. Screaming inside. Silently.

8:14 there is one trumpet that is shinier than the other ones. music teacher got a new tattoo and it's all i can focus on. it looks really pretty from far away but i can't tell what it is.


8:37 it's over and we're in the car. yay.

8:50 frozen yogurt place with the kids. i sit with the baby so i won't obsess over what they choose. these places gross me out. i don't want any. i don't want any. i don't want any. it's fine. it's fiiiiiiine. guy who works there is flirting with my daughter. little boy has his molar cut through the gums. seriously, right now kid? blood everywhere. awesome. we are those people.

9:15 feed baby. thank you sweet baby jesus for oxytocin. all the oxytocin.


9:36 kids in bed. Finally have quiet again. Not sure how today went. Kinda isolated on Thursday as is, more so today. Little less adhd than normal, little less ppd than normal, anxiety about average. Ptsd Meh. It's always there in the back of my mind. Don't think it will ever completely go away.


That's the thing. This is every day and Today was mellow.


Thinking maybe I should write about coping mechanisms. Like how to live with this shit,  except today was a pretty terrible example since I really didn't accomplish anything.


Got an email about new job. Way stressed about that. It is supposed to be fun and maybe at some point I'll get there, but I have to get through the anxiety of it all. Almost glad I was bumped to being a sub initially because I'm just not in the mindset to start with my own gig yet. Cop out. That's a cop out.


Fuckmywholelifeisacopout.


Self deprecation, 101. Except not the super funny kind. The real kind where I feel pretty worthless.


I have a lot of shit to wade through.


Some days I swan dive and rock the butterfly.


Some days I'm barely doggy paddling to the other side just before drowning.


Maybe I'll feel better about this project tomorrow. Maybe.


Right now I think it was a terrible idea.


9:47 I'm overanalyzing this. That's my jam. Not sure what I thought this would be like. Funnier maybe? Less holyshitthisisconstant. I swear I'm funny. Usually. It's a coping mechanism. Ack.


Some people have mentioned wanting to do this project too. Maybe it will become a thing. It's hard though, I won't lie especially since there are like 400 additional anxiety things I didn't even have a chance to include today like when I burped silently and was convinced that everyone at the concert could smell it or when the lady next to me touched my leg when she sat down and it got weird or when I think obsessively about which streets to take for carpool or when I hear a noise from the wind outside and am certain something catastrophic is happening but it's just wind. Or when or when or when.


Also now realizing I may have had ptsd after miscarriage, that I probably had it, definitely ramped up anxiety afterwards during each pregnancy after that. Not sure if that would be classified as ppda or not. Guess categories don't really matter all that much. Hearing phantom babies crying in the middle of the night for months can't be normal, right? Freaking out constantly about whether the baby is still alive isn't normal, either. Dammit. I wasn't supposed to be digging up old shit from the past today.

10:02 start to make video, abandon that idea. go to bed instead. now, go the fuck to sleep kelly. seriously. go to sleep. save the world tomorrow.

I did sleep.


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