The Day I Called Suicide Prevention Hotline.

JUNE 2017…..

I stood in our hallway staring blankly past the new gray paint that covered the walls.  We had recently painted over the old, dank, butterscotch-colored paint and given our hallway a much needed face lift. The light grey really seemed to brighten up our home…..

Except for that day.

There was no brightness.  No glimmer of hope. No future that seemed better and brighter. It felt like I had spent the entire week in a big pit, working tirelessly to get out of it….  But the more I tried to scale the walls, the more slippery and difficult it became – as if every attempt to climb was met with more rocks and debris breaking off the sides, until there was nothing left to grasp.  Just smooth, slick, muddy walls…..and me.  Sitting at the bottom, with my head hung, and my hope buried.

So there I stood. In my home. Expressionless and defeated.

I could hear my husband in the bedroom, and the baby somewhere in the house crying; a sound that ignited feelings of guilt and shame, because his constant crying was evidence that I was an incompetent mother.  If I was a better mom, he wouldn’t cry so often (or so I thought).  The tears started to pour relentlessly as I tried my best to silence any violent cries that might alarm my kids or my husband.  I walked lifelessly to the bedroom and asked Tyson for the car keys.

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay”?  He asked displaying intense concern.

“Yeah, I just really need to get away for a little bit.  Be alone.  Clear my head”.

He (hesitantly) handed me the keys, and I forced a little smile in his direction to reassure him that I was going to be just fine and everything was okay.  As I approached the front door to leave, I saw my 7 year old sitting on the rug, watching the blades on our ceiling fan spin.  He turned to look at me with the sweetest, most innocent smile….and my heart broke into a million little pieces.

Because – in that moment – feelings of failing my son and raging shame washed over me. As I looked at that beautiful smile, all I could think were things like:

“I feel so bad that he has a terrible mother like me.”
“He deserves so much better than what I can give him.”

“I am so sorry I’m your mom…..”

And with a new set of frustrated tears, I rushed out the door and took off in the car.

I had been through difficult times before.  Times where I felt hopeless and lost.  Times where I wondered if the emotional suffering would ever end, or if I was just cursed to experience lifelong bouts of sadness and despondency.

But this…this was different.  It was relentless, it was torturing, and completely unavailing.

As I drove, I kept thinking – sometimes yelling out loud – how I couldn’t do this anymore.  I couldn’t live this life and be the person my kids and my husband need and deserve.  I had let everyone down. And I KNEW deep down that their lives would be so much better and happier if I was gone. Maybe then, someone better and more capable could take care of them…..

In that moment, I really, truly believed that.  And it scared me.  It scared me so much, because – in my frenzied state of mind – I desired a way out so badly.  I just wanted to end the emotional and mental torment, and I was convinced that, ultimately, it would be the best thing for everyone.

And, I thought of how I would do it…

That’s when knew I needed to call someone immediately.  But…. I wasn’t sure who.

I didn’t want to call a family member or friend, because I didn’t want to put them through emotional distress too…. and have to face them at every get together with an unpleasant memory hanging over our heads for the unforeseeable future.

Same with my husband.  I didn’t want to scare him, and I was worried I might say something I’d regret.

I knew I needed to talk to a professional, but I hadn’t been to therapy in years and didn’t have any therapists information.

That’s when the thought came to me to call suicide prevention hotline.  Although I’ve never considered myself suicidal, I knew that the thoughts invading my mind were dangerous, and I had lost a significant desire to live…..

So, with my voice breaking and tears still streaming down my cheeks, I asked Google to call the number to Suicide Prevention Hotline.  I pulled the car over and held my breath as I waited for someone to pick up.

“Hello?”  said a friendly voice.  It was a woman, and she sounded relatively young.

I sat there choking on my cries, unable to spit any kind of sentence out. How do I even start this conversation?

“Hi”.  I said a little weakly.

“Hi”, she replied in a gentle, yet reaffirming tone.  It kind of reminded me of how an adult would approach a child who is lost and trying to find their parent.  You don’t want to scare the child away, so you interact with them carefully and calmly to let them to know you can help them and they can trust you.

“What’s going on?” she asked again in the same tone.

“I’m….just…..really having a hard time right now.” still crying as much as ever.

“Okay.  Can you tell me what you’re having a hard time with?”

“I just….I can’t think straight.  I’m a terrible mom, I’m a terrible wife, and I feel like my family would be so much better off without me. I don’t know how I can possibly wake up and do this all over again tomorrow, and I just keep replaying those thoughts in my head….. and I didn’t know who else to call. I’m sorry….maybe I shouldn’t have.”

“I’m glad you called.  This was the right place to call.  I am a counselor and have my degree in psychology. I volunteer here at the call center twice a week, because I WANT to help people like you.  There is no place I’d rather be or nothing I’d rather be doing than talking to you right now”.

“Okay”. I said, feeling a little more relaxed.

“So, tell me why you think you’re such a terrible person”?

I proceeded to tell her all the things I did wrong.  I didn’t give my kids enough meaningful attention.  I couldn’t keep a schedule.  I wished I could cook more healthy, organic meals. I couldn’t keep up with the laundry.  The dishes weren’t done and dinner made by the time my husband came home from work. I’m not organized and projects never get finished. I didn’t graduate college, and here I was, a stay at home mom, and doing a lousy job at that.

I was a failure.

She listened to me spill my guts.  She was so patient, and finally, after I had rambled off my perceived imperfections for about 10 minutes, she said;

“You don’t have to do or be any of those things to be worthy of your family’s love.  They don’t need you to be successful or a gourmet chef or a college graduate – they just need YOU.  You don’t have to live up to any expectations to be of worth.  You just need to exist.  To be here on this earth, breathing.  The fact that you’re here gives you great worth.  And that worth doesn’t change because of what you have or haven’t accomplished.  All your family needs and will ever need is your presence and your love.”

Her words really resonated with me, because I had always lived my life believing that I earned and kept people’s love by living up to expectations….or because of my talents and accomplishments.  I based all my worth on everyone else’s approval, and when I couldn’t be all the things I believed would secure love and worth, I fell to a place of complete and utter despair and disconnect.

With the two recent suicides of celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, there seems to be more open dialogue surrounding suicide.  A lot of people are scratching their heads, asking;  “But didn’t they have it all? Money. Fame.  The love of millions, and the love of their families….”

But, you see, suicide doesn’t come from a place where there’s lack of love. It doesn’t happen because an individual feels unloved….  It comes from a place of feeling unworthy and undeserving of people’s love.

Love.  The strongest, most powerful and connecting human emotion one will ever experience.  So when someone feels unworthy of love – or they think they’re not adequately reciprocating that love – OR they think they’ve failed the people around them, then….what’s the point? What else is there to live for? Constant doubt, feelings of unworthiness, and feelings of shame create the perfect habitat for darkness and hopelessness.  Fear, shame, guilt….. Some people are more resilient to these emotions, while others let it eat away at their very core. It gets to a point where it is unbearable.  Excruciating, almost.  And that, for many, can become the birthplace of suicide.

So what can we do? This article shares a very helpful perspective on this woman’s experience and thoughts on suicide.  I would urge you all to read it!

Also, please please please please read or download Brene’ Brown’s book titled “Men, Women, and Worthiness.”  It talks a lot about shame and how deeply it affects our thoughts, actions, and feelings of self worth.  You can download it on Audible, HERE

worthiness

Be vigilant and proactive with your mental health.

Take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Give help when you’re able.  Recognize the times you are barely able to keep your head above water and don’t feel guilty for saying no when you have to.  Likewise, take advantage of the times you ARE able to help others and give of yourself freely, without expectation.  I promise this will enhance your recognition of your self worth.

Learn and practice empathy.

This is something mentioned in Brene’ Brown’s book.  Empathy is very different from sympathy.  Empathy allows us to fully understand one’s emotions and circumstances, rather than feel sorry for them from a distance.  Brene’ mentions that you don’t have to have been through the exact same experience to have empathy for another person – you just need to know the feelings and emotions.  We’ve all experienced some kind of sadness, despair, self-doubt, loss…. use that to bring yourself to the level and understanding of the person who is suffering (it’s important not to pretend or say you know EXACTLY what they’re going through), but rather, be present with them in their grief.

Separate individuals from their actions. 

Sometimes the two become so intertwined, we end up believing that we ARE what we do or say – good or bad. People need to know that they are loved for who they are – not for what they’ve done, or the social or economical status they’ve achieved.  Love your children, your family, and your friends no matter what path they take, and remember to remind them of their worth.  The way we speak to one another has a huge impact on one’s perception of self worth.  Example;  “Wow, you’re so stupid, I can’t believe you did that….”  Versus   “Wow.  That was a really stupid thing to do….” The first sentence emphasizes self and identity and breeds shame, while the second sentence emphasizes action and instigates guilt – which isn’t harmful like shame and can motivate change.  Really pay attention to how you talk to the people you love, AND how you talk to yourself!!! *Read more about guilt vs shame in the book ^^^

Lastly…..Just be kind.

Kindness is so simple, yet it’s effects are so immeasurable.  It can change everything.  Reacting with anger, resentment, bitterness, and sarcasm may make you feel better temporarily, but the domino effect from those actions could be catastrophic and irreparable.  Be kind to those you don’t think deserve it.  You never really know their whole story.  Maybe the rough looking young man who cut you off in the grocery line is trying to stay sober, but the withdrawl is hard and his emotions are heightened. Be patient.  Or maybe the teenager yelling foul language at the pool goes home to an emotionally abusive home. 

Or you never know….maybe the young mother who’s children are throwing raging fits at the grocery store spent hours on the phone with suicide prevention hotline the night before…..  

We are all suffering somehow.  Lift each other up.  Be less judgmental. Help carry eachother’s burdens, be kind and positive, and reach out to someone for the same when you can’t do it all yourself.  We all have SO. MUCH. Worth. The gift and influence of YOU, is great.  It is powerful, it is needed, and it far-reaching. The world is, and will always be, a better place with you in it.

Heart Shawnee

Mother's Day copy

 

 

What I’ve Learned So Far: Living With Extras

Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month?

Yeah, me neither.

I found out last week when one of my friends posted it on Facebook, and I thought; “Shooooooooooot. Guess I’m going to have to step it up this month.”  I wouldn’t be anything short of hypocritical if I didn’t, because….. I’m pretty much as mental as they come 😂

I put the “mental” in mental health, son.

HOLLA at your girl!!

Okay, but in all seriousness, I’ve been trying desperately for months to write another post tracking my mental health journey…. all the struggles, victories and progress that’s taken place since I first started this blog.  I actually have 4 unfinished drafts just chillin in my file, waiting for their big moment that may or may not come.  For one reason or another (anxiety), I haven’t been able to say what I want to say (anxiety)….. Or maybe, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say (anxiety), or how to frame it all so it flowed nicely (anxiety, anxiety, anxiety….) I guess that’s just one of the ‘perks’ to being a perfectionist AND having ADD at the same time.  OR MAYBE it’s the ol’ anxiety doing what it does best….. #youolddog #thestruggleisreal

So, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ve resolved to push past all my lameness and start writing and speaking openly again about mental health and how it has affected my life.  AND I’ll be sharing things that have helped me cope and learn to live a happy life despite it!

Yay For Extras!

Now, I think I’ve mentioned before that I have lived (live, presently) with multiple mental illnesses.  Except, I don’t really refer to them as ‘illnesses’ anymore.  I call them my ‘extras’.

Yeah, that’s right. I have extras. 💪

When I think of them as extras, rather than illnesses, I don’t feel as much of a negative connotation surrounding (my) mental health. This also helps me as I reflect upon the end of a particularly hard day to think about how my extras contributed both negatively and positively.   I feel a lighter, more accepting feeling… kind of like… telling all my issues to bring it in for a group hug, and saying, “Okay, I’ve spent most of my life trying to get rid of you.  Instead, let’s see what I can do with you….”   Then we all give each other a metaphorical high-five…… at which point I realize I really am crazy.

Just kidding.  About that last sentence anyway – I swear I’m not alone in my kitchen giving air high fives to my anxiety, depression, and ocd.

So I’ve decided to break the extras down into 1 per post – rather than try to cram all this awesomeness into one insanely long smorgasbord of MH (mental health) information. I’ll try to post each week discussing a different ‘Extra’ or MH issue.  Woohoo!  It’s your lucky month, people!

So, without further adieu, I will begin first with

……..*drum roll please*………

Anxiety

Bet you didn’t see that one coming 😂😉

Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S. affecting nearly 40 MILLION Americans!  And that’s just adults!  Another estimated 3% of children ages 3-17 suffer with anxiety as well.  It can range from mild to severe and can completely alter one’s ability to function normally.  It can also have serious repercussions if left undiagnosed and untreated (poor performance in school or work, strained relationships, substance abuse, self harm etc).

This was one of the first disorders I developed, and the earliest I remember struggling with it is 8 years old.  I specifically remember it starting after watching a scary show at my grandma’s house.  Some of my older, cooler cousins were watching “Are you afraid of the dark?” on Nickelodeon, and I thought it was a good idea for me to watch it too.  Often times there is a trigger tucked away in the minds of people who have a predisposition to anxiety and ocd.  And I think the images in that show were my trigger.  That was the beginning.  The image of that scary ghost man that showed up anytime the letter Q was present. That’s all it took to trigger that part of my brain that was prone to OCD and Anxiety (the two are often intertwined, and I’ll write more about the ocd later, and focus on the anxiety bit for this post).  Like any kid who sees or hears something scary, I had nightmares and couldn’t sleep.  Except, it wasn’t just that night, or that week, or that month.  It went on for months.

And months.

And when the freaky Q guy stopped scaring me, something else was there to take his place.

So these months turned into years.  Years of dreading the night.  Years of small panic attacks every time the sun would start to set.  Years of sleepless nights – wide awake for what seemed like hours….envisioning these terrible, scary things. However, I will say that there were times of reprieve during this phase.  I didn’t seem to be as affected during the fall and winter months, whereas I would have frequent episodes during the spring and summer months.  And even though the light of the morning brought a welcome respite from the night and the creatures of my imagination…. a whole other set of fears were waking up with me to accompany the day.

I WOULD ALWAYS WORRY.

I would worry that my mom was going to die.  I was worried that I was going to die.  Worried that ANYBODY I KNEW was going to die.  If my mom was out running errands and I heard sirens somewhere in the distance, I thought for sure she had gotten in a car accident and died.   I frequently thought I had some terminal illness or disease, like Cancer or AIDS (how would I even get AIDS??!), or even leprosy.  I was frequently in a state of worry and fear.  Total, irrational fears.

Like AIDS. And Leprosy.

At one point it got so bad that I started to feel a displacement from reality.  Like I was living in a dream and nothing was real….I was just part of some weird mundane dream, and I just tried to go about my business like normal.  That lasted for about a week, and I was 9 or 10 at the time.

Luckily, around 6th grade things started to shift, and the severity, intensity, and frequency of my anxiety started to decrease .  I was less scared and worried, and I stopped having those weird out of body experiences.  YASSSS!!!

Buuuuuut, a few years later it came back.


Anxiety as a young adult vs Anxiety as a child

Some of the anxiety I experienced as a teenager looked a lot like what I went through as a child: The constant fear of death, the fear of becoming ill, or the fear of leaving my home overnight. As a teen I began to worry over seemingly insignificant things (something I did or said earlier in the day and how it was interpreted by others). I was (still can be) completely indecisive, because I was worried I would make the wrong decision or end up not liking my choice.  I’d get this sick feeling to my stomach anytime I had to make a decision…. and that sick feeling usually wouldn’t go away until the event had passed and everything turned out okay.  I began to have small panic attacks anytime I was late to class and had to enter the classroom after everyone was already seated. Bleh, the woooorst. AND I would have panic attacks anytime I felt confined or constricted in an area.  Also, the worst.

Between the anxiety and the developing ocd, my parents decided to put me on medication, and that seemed to lift some of the burden of these magical extras 🙂

So, in full transparency, I have been on medication for anxiety (and ocd and depression…. one pill fits all, I guess) for 17 years.  Since I was 15.


So what does anxiety look like for a 32 year old mom?

A lot the same, and totally different all at the same time. Let me explain:  The things I worried about as a child and teenager have become less intense and less debilitating as they once were.  There’s a few factors I think can take credit for that; 1. The right combination and dose of medication.  2. The learning and experience that comes with age and time.  I still worry about death, probably more than I should, but I’m usually able to let those thoughts pass by quickly, rather than work myself into a nauseated, sobbing blob of pathetic-ness.  I still worry about people’s perception of me, but I’m giving that rope more and more slack all the time, and becoming more comfortable with who I am. I still struggle to commit to attending an activity or go on trips, because I feel safer at home and find comfort in my routine.  I actually love being with people, so the decision of whether or not to go somewhere is a real catch 22 for me and ends up being more complicated than it should be….. the desire to have fun and socialize, but the fear of the unknown as I leave my comfortable routine…. and that knot in my stomach…which doesn’t go away until; a) I get to wherever it is I’m going  OR   b) I stay home.  Even then I’ll wonder if I made the right choice ha ha!  It’s a suuuuper fun way to live, and I highly recommend it…

But not really

Live your life with abandon, people!!!  

Braveheart GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I also still get panic attacks every now and then (probably once or twice a year).  *If you’ve never had a panic attack, let me catch you up to speed.  Just imagine feeling really, really nervous about something for a long period of time.  And that nervousness gets more and more intense until you feel like you’re having a hard time breathing. Your breaths become quicker and more shallow, and you start to feel like there’s a weight on your chest that’s making you struggle for breath.  Sometimes it can feel like you’re having a heart attack and you’re convinced you’re going to die because you LITERALLY can’t breathe. 

*You are now up to speed.*   

So, now let’s talk about what’s different about my anxiety as a mom vs a teen and child….

  1. The way it manifests itself.

It translates as anger and irritability, because so many things feel out of my control.  People with anxiety necessitate control with everything inside their bubble.  If we’re in control, we feel safe.  If we feel safe, we’re at peace.

The problem is, kids bring so much unpredictability to every day life.  Weird, right?  3 rambunctious, free-spirited, filthy, audacious, highly emotional and reactive little boys.  I swear I’m adding lines daily to an already crowded forehead.  The Lord definitely had a sense of humor when he sent me these 3 special spirits……Especially that last, very special, spirit…..

 

     2. I procrastinate.  A lot.

I’ll admit, some of my procrastination is due to the fact that old habits die hard lol.  But a lot of times I will put things off until I absolutely HAVE to address them, because the idea of starting a task is so intimidating and gives me a lot of anxiety!  Even seemingly small tasks… “Where do I start?  Am I doing it right?  What if I can’t get it done?  What if I start it and the baby interrupts me and it remains unfinished for months?  What if I mess up….”

     3.  KIDS.

 Mary Poppins Gif

Aside from the residual flow of dirt, stink, noise, and missing shoes and socks (they can remember something I said a year ago, but not where the shoes are they took off 10 minutes prior…),  aside from all that, I constantly worry that I’m messing up. Am I giving them enough love and connection to keep them from being addicts later on in life?  Are they going to get cancer because we don’t eat organic and they eat things with read food dye?

Probably.

Am I teaching them how to be strong, yet kind? To develop their interests and talents, but still have balance?  Am I teaching them how to work hard, but allowing room for a magical childhood at the same time?  Have I messed them up forever because I’ve used my ‘Batman’ voice for the 5th time today??!!

It’s possible

Now, these are all typical fears shared by mother’s everywhere.  The difference is; those with true anxiety disorder think about these things non-stop. Day in, day out, and it affects our moods and attitudes, because there’s always this constant fear looming over us.  Whereas those who do not suffer from anxiety disorder only have bouts of worry here and there and are able to move past it fairly quickly.

You lucky dogs, you.

Rocking Horse Final copy

 

I’ve HAD to teach myself to try and let go of the things I can’t control – otherwise I’m not giving the best parts of myself to my kids and my husband. I’m not really present or really happy when my thoughts are preoccupied with worry.  I’ve noticed a big change in my connection with my kids the days I actively try to let go of the fear and the worry that fogs my mind so frequently. I’m focusing more on their smiles and laughter, the dirt on their faces and the brightness in their eyes and how much beauty surrounds me in that present moment. 

THAT beats the pants off riding the rocking horse.

It’s definitely a process, and some days and weeks are harder than others, but the more I practice it, the easier it becomes.

What has helped me so far?

  1. Becoming more self aware by practicing mindfulness.

Basically mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique (Google search definition).  I am a complete novice at this, and truthfully I’ve just applied techniques I’ve picked up here and there…but the things I’ve learned and practiced seem to be helping, I hope to take a class on it soon!

If you know little about the practice of mindfulness, and want to learn more  HERE  might be a good place to start!!

2.  Listening to motivational, informational, and inspirational podcasts during my “Free Time” (exercising, folding laundry, doing dishes etc.)

This has really opened my realm of understanding and the way I view the world.  I can’t recommend it enough!  Some of my favorites are:

  1. Ted Radio Hour
  2. Inspirational Living Hour by livinghour.org
  3. Invisibilia

*Leave a comment if you’re interested in my favorite episodes from each one of the podcasts listed above!!*

 

3.  Using my Anxiety to initiate change

You know that list I mentioned of all the possible ways I could screw up my kids forever?  Well, turns out, my anxiety actually benefits me for this particular situation.  I’m so worried about my mental illne….uh, extras, negatively impacting their lives, that I try harder and make more of a conscious effort to chill out have more of a normal mindset.  You know, because they’ll undisputedly be alcoholics who spend their lives in and out of prison if I don’t lol

The Bottom Line 

Out of the 40 million people who suffer from anxiety, only 36% seek and receive treatment for it.  Which is really sad, because this disorder is highly treatable!  Please, whether it’s therapy, medication, or meditation, find what works for you and make it a priority!  Put your mental health first and live the happiest version of your life!

Even if you feel broken – which you’re not – just remember….

Broken Crayons final

Also, if you’re a parent and you suspect your child suffers from anxiety, DO NOT hesitate to seek help for them.  I’ve heard too many times where parents won’t take their children in for a diagnosis for this or that, because they don’t want to ‘Label’ their children, or they think it will hinder their growth and progress. This could not be further from the truth!  You will be doing them the biggest favor of their lives…. Diagnosis aren’t made to give your child a ‘label’ or an ‘excuse’… their purpose is to allow your child to receive the best treatment possible by teaching coping skills and tailoring treatment to a child’s specific needs.

I can’t imagine you would deny your child insulin if he was diabetic….  why deny him a chance at a more normal life if he suffers from a (or multiple) mental health disorder(s)?

That’s just tragic.

The stigma needs to end.

Like, yesterday.

Mental illness is real, and it is affecting more and more Americans every year. And it’s not going to go away by turning a blind eye to it.  We need more people to step up. Open up and speak honestly about the reality of mental illness. We need to become more educated, more accepting, less fearful, less judgemental, and more proactive.

Otherwise, millions of people will remain silent sufferers in the dark, when – with help and proper treatment – they could be living a more beautiful, meaningful, and happy life.

A life full of color……

A life full of extra.

Heart Shawnee

*Please visit these two websites for more helpful information concerning anxiety. You can find them here: https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics#   AND  here:  https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/anxiety-disorders.html

 

 

 

Maternity Photo Shoot

Maternity photos.

*Shudders*

Listen, I’m not judging you if you’re one of them.  The few elite who can take beautiful, half naked glamour shots at 8 months pregnant as if you’re not peeing your pants every hour and don’t have stretch marks plastered from your thighs all the way up to your neck.  It’s fine.

I look at these women and think, “What’s the deal? Why aren’t they wearing their husband’s sweat pants and painting shirts like the rest of us?”

And why do they look so happy?! I mean, did the photographer tell a super funny joke before snapping the shot?  Did someone just offer them free ice cream for a year?  I just can’t think of any other reason these people look so comfortable and content.

*Let’s just take a break for a sec and acknowledge that I understand that the purpose of these photos is to capture the love a mother has for her unborn child and to celebrate the miracle of life.  It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m not trying to disrespect that.*

HOWEVER….

When I’m 8 or 9 months pregnant, I walk as if I’ve been riding a horse for 5 days straight.  I’m ornery, swollen, and lucky to have brushed my hair once that day.  Every movement is precarious and a gamble on whether or not I’m going to have an accident at any given moment.  I wear my husband’s over sized t-shirts and gym shorts, because Homegirl can’t fit into any of her clothes anymore.  AND I AM NOT going to lay down $200 for a handful of clothes I’ll only be wearing for a few short months.  Also, regular clothes are uncomfortable.  I prefer no pants.

Mmmmmkay.

So last year, 2 days before I delivered my 3rd son, I decided to do an impromptu photo shoot. I was at a park with my family – my brother and sister in law were visiting from Kentucky, and he always brings his nice camera along to capture all the memories.  He was gracious enough to agree to be my photographer on such short notice, and I must say….he really captured the essence of my pregnant beauty.

I did a side by side comparison of typical maternity photos with my pregnancy photos, and I have one thing to say about these……

Nailed it!!!

 

 

{WINDBLOWN}

Them Me Wind copy

 

 {APPLE}

Them Me Apple copy

 

{SWING}

Them Me Swing copy

 

 

{TREE}

Them Me Tree copy

 

{FLOWERS}

Them Me Flowers2

I hope you enjoyed these as much as we did 😂  We were the only ones at the park laughing hysterically while on-lookers acted confused…. or tried to look away and keep their distance, afraid they might catch the weird.

I regret nothing.

You’re Stronger Than You Think

Strong 2

This past week has been a weird one for me.  I’ve been trying to find my groove with this whole social media thing….Trying to stay true to myself, yet taking it personally at the same time when people unfollow me (recovering people pleaser and perfectionist here).  Anxiety’s been really high, self-confidence a little low, and I’ve let discouragement get the best of me. So…. I guess you could say it’s been a real PAARRTAAAAY up in here!!! 🎉🤸

In my quest to figure out how to maintain a successful Instgram profile, I began browsing other Instagram accounts that had content similar to mine (mental health awareness, personal growth, improvement, motivation).  As I was doing this, I came across a woman’s profile that caught my eye.  I started looking through her pictures, and I noticed her most recent post was a list of how she decides what she’s going to discuss or post next.  Number 1 on that list was; “Wait until I have conquered or mastered a specific struggle before talking about it with other people” (not verbatim, but you get the gist)  Basically, until you’ve walked away triumphant, you can’t really be qualified to give advice to other people concerning said subject.

Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet or not…. but that is definitely NOT what’s going on up in here 😂 So I thought to myself; “Shoooooot. That’s the exact opposite of what I’ve been doing…..”

This totally got me second guessing myself, because I completely understand what she’s saying….

A math teacher can’t teach if he doesn’t know how to find the square root of…. whatever (I hate math).  An employee can’t train the newbie if it’s also his first day on the job.  Likewise, individuals who struggle with an addiction, or bad habit, or disability, need the help of those who’ve been through the same and walked away victorious to teach them.  They know EXACTLY what is needed to win the fight, and there’s a lot of guidance and inspiration that hails from a victor’s perspective.  Success stories.  Beacons of hope for the hearts and eyes of those still waging the war…. Yes, we need those people.

But guess what?

We need you too.

We need the voices of the soldiers.  The ones who are still fighting and finding their way – the warriors who get up every day and try again and again and again, despite every ‘fail’ and setback they encounter.

YOU have a lot to offer.  Your perspective is unique, it is invaluable, and it is needed equally to the triumphant.

It took me almost a year to start this blog.  Do you know why? Partly because I was scared of spilling the mental illness beans… you know, worrying about what people might think of me and all that jazz.  But MOSTLY I was just waiting…..waiting until I got “better” to start writing about any of these issues because I wanted more than anything to do it from the Victor’s perspective. I thought I wouldn’t be able to help people otherwise. I’d be a total hypocrite trying to inspire people when I could hardly inspire myself.

After a year of waiting, I realized that I might be old and gray – or dead – before reaching “completely better” status.  Kind of hard to write a blog without a pulse, so…………….  and it’s amusing that, after 20 something years of suffering from these disorders, I thought somehow I’d magically be cured of it after ONE year without LEGIT intervention 😂👏   #cute #goodoneshawn

But this amazing thing happened once I ditched the notion that I needed a full recovery in order to be useful and allowed myself to be vulnerable….

People starting reaching out to me.

They reached out to me with support, with love, with encouragement…. and they reached out to me with stories of their own personal battles and challenges.  Some trials mirrored my own, while others took a different form.  It didn’t matter though – the feelings of hurt, hopelessness, heartache, pain – those are all universal. And as we share our experience and struggles with those around us, we create a habitat for compassion, support, love, and healing.

I’ve never seen myself as a strong person.  Especially because of my depression and anxiety. I’ve always felt that, since I’ve struggled with these things for so long, somehow that made me weak…or a little broken.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized for the first time – like REALLY realized – that that wasn’t true. I’ve been reflecting upon my life up to this point, and I’m starting to understand that I am so much stronger than I’ve given myself credit for.  I get up every single day, and I keep trying.  Even after my darkest nights or hardest trials….I find a way to keep going.  I struggle, I stumble, I fall, I fail…. I have successes and setbacks. But I’m here, and I’m not going down without a fight.  Even if I live my entire life not having completely rid myself of mental illness, I will live every.single.day doing the best I can.

And that makes me freaking strong. 💪

So, no.  You don’t HAVE to wait until you’ve defeated the bad, the hurt, and the ugly to feel like you’re making a difference. Everyone’s story is unique and special. Your timeline isn’t going to be linear to the people’s around you. And that’s okay!  Because of that, you have a whole HECK of a lot to offer.

So….

To the person whose marriage fell apart, when that wasn’t part of the plan…..

To the single parents busting their butt for their kids….

To the women who are facing the devastation of infertility…..

To the mom who feels like her world is crumbling and she’s failing her children…

To those battling physical limitations or disease….

To the husband who lost his job…..

To the parents raising a special needs child….

To the parents who lost a son or daughter….

To the girl being bullied at school….

And to the person who wonders if the world would be better place without them…

You. Are. Strong.

Despite the obstacles, the fog, and the pain… you still get up.  Everyday.  You do the best you know how, and you keep trying.

And that makes you victorious.

Heart Shawnee

 

 

 

This wasn’t the plan…..

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The other day I found myself stopped in my tracks. I stood there staring wide-eyed in disbelief as my 5 year old kept wailing in despair to ‘please just have fruit snacks for breakfast’ (it was dinner time).  The lights in the living room were flickering on and off, because my 7 year old (who loves to watch ceiling fans) was flipping the switch up and down repeatedly while sporadically and psychotically screaming “STOP IT!!!” to his crying brother.  And my 1 year old – who had just thrown the tantrum of the century 5 minutes earlier because I wouldn’t let him eat rocks – was refusing to eat the wholesome cooked goodness I placed before him, as if it were poison.

And I thought to myself;  “This….. is my life.”

And it’s a far cry from what I had in mind.

I grew up helping babysit and playing with my 20+ nieces and nephews. I was a nanny for 2 different families. One of which had 5 kids ages 2-12, and I walked away from that unscathed!!! So, naturally, I thought I was some kind of seasoned veteran who was going to slay this whole motherhood thing.  *Brush off shoulders*.

And then the Universe laughed at me.  That girl’s getting pretty cocky… better do something about that.

That must have been what happened, because there is little to no resemblance between my reality and what I had pictured in my mind.  Even pregnancy!  What a train wreck…

I knew women got sick when they were pregnant, but it was just morning sickness and it totally goes away after, like, a few weeks, right? And the rest of the pregnancy is all sunshine and roses, and you look adorable with your cute baby bump and that imminent pregnant ‘glow’.

Wehehehelllll. Sick I got.  So sick.  And 9 months later, I WAS STILL SICK!! But somehow, miraculously, I still managed to gain 45 pounds.  Seems fair.  So, instead of this adorable little mom-to-be who hadn’t gained an ounce anywhere else other than her bump – who smiled endlessly because being pregnant was like, THE BEST THING EVER – I was this vomitting, incontinent, whale-ogre, whose husband sincerely complimented her one day when he noticed she brushed her hair.  “You look so pretty!  Did you brush your hair today?”  True story.

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But that’s okay, right?  Because once the baby gets here, all this discomfort and ugly will be behind me.

*Universe* Muahahahaha

How is it that, with 4 older sisters and a mother who bore NINE CHILDREN, I was completely oblivious to the joyous after math of delivering a baby?

Didn’t they just come out and you’re done?  Wait…..the placenta doesn’t stay in there?  You want me to birth that out too?  Gross.  Yeah, I guess it’s okay if you stick your needle down there and give it a little stich-a-roo.  Didn’t know I was going to tear, but it’s fine…

And sure, the young male intern can watch.

Is it normal to still be bleeding this much, and why am I afraid to poop?

I still look pregnant….WHY DO I STILL LOOK PREGNANT???!!

To be fair, this is nobody’s fault but my own.  Most women do their research.  They’re prepared.  They paid attention in biology class.  I just said, “Let’s have a baby!”, and hoped for the best.

And why, for the love, did no one bother to tell me that breastfeeding actually feels like someone is running a serrated knife over a third degree burn wound?  ‘Oh, that’s normal – your nipples will adjust in 6 weeks and it won’t be painful anymore….’

*Universe* Make it 3 months…..

Then punish her for persevering by making the all of her babies allergic to everything she eats. 

Hilarious.

MOTHERHOOD

Bens didn’t cry one time in the hospital, but I think he was just saving up all his strength so he could do it endlessly at home.  He had reflux and allergies to milk and soy, so he was pretty uncomfortable.  However, beyond that, we noticed from a very young age that something else was off.

At six weeks he wasn’t smiling like most babies do, but I was told it could take up to 2 months.  2 months came, and he still wasn’t responding to us with a smile, so I became a little concerned.  Finally close to 3 months, he started giving us a teeny tiny bit of something, but you really had to work for it.  I had 2 siblings and a close friend who all had babies within weeks of Bens, and theirs were all so interactive at this point! His pediatrician assured us that as long as we saw SOME smiles and interaction, there was nothing to worry about.  And I guess, in a way, she was right; worrying wasn’t going to change who Bens was.  We noticed he was responding erratically to noises; Sirens, thunder, parades, gunshots (recreational target shooting), so we put some sound reducing ear covers on him and adapted. We didn’t quite understand the freak out episodes at the the park when another toddler would approach him, but maybe it was just a phase?? Regardless, things seemed to be going okay for him at the moment. We decided to get pregnant again so our kids would be 2 years apart and Bens would have a little buddy – because…. that’s what you do right?  And SURELY I wouldn’t be as sick this time around – how cruel would that be?!

Well. I bet you can guess how that went.  Although, this time around I only threw up for the first 7 months and gained 25 pounds instead of 50, so…..I guess you could say the universe cut me a little slack this time. #blessed

So our little Tan Man came, and the whole process wasn’t a big shock, and I was prepared to feel the pain of a thousand fiery nipple darts, and blah blah blah, I’d done this before, so it’s going to be great. Two months later we got a diagnosis on B.

Autism.

Are you guys seeing a theme here?  I had all these expectations of what motherhood would look like, and I repeatedly found that my reality paralleled very little of those expectations.

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Now, I want to take a second and make sure everyone is aware that I recognize my blessings.  B’s Autism is not severe – he is very high functioning. Everyone in my family is physically healthy (for the most part). We have a home, reliable vehicles, friends and family who love us, and a job that supports us.  I understand that people all around the globe have it far worse than I do, and I’m not trying to throw a pity party here.  However, I want to illuminate the fact that I (along with many other people) found myself living this completely different and slightly more difficult reality…..and I wasn’t prepared for any of it.

I didn’t know I was going to have to take up a sudden interest in ceiling fans and pretend endlessly to eat up every bit of information my son yearns to tell me about CEILING FANS.  I didn’t think I’d still be pulling up my 2nd grader’s pants in the bathroom, because there is no force strong enough to make him unplug his ears while he’s in a public restroom – because the toilets are just too loud.

I wasn’t expecting to be sick the entire time with all my pregnancies.  And who would have guessed that all three of my children would have food allergies and colic – progressively worse with each one? My easy(er) happy middle child up and decided to be emotionally out of control – to the point where it’s concerning.  Didn’t see that one coming.

Above all, I was NOT anticipating that my depression and anxiety would become more intense as a mother….and I sure as hell didn’t think I’d be grappling with an eating disorder at this stage in my life.  I was also astonished by how profusely I could swear and how enraged I could feel, but, hey!  I guess I’m just full of all sorts of fun surprises 🙂

*Important to me to note, that the swearing is under my breath, inside my mind, or behind closed doors. And the enragement is contained and disguised by a forced smile and deep breaths while World War III ensues inside.*

So here I found myself, stuck.  Unable to let go of that ‘picture perfect’ life I had envisioned for my husband and myself.  Then, about a month ago, I read an article that changed my perspective on things, and my focus started to shift a little. I realized I was spending way too much time dwelling on the ‘Should have been’ and the slight injustice of it all, rather than accepting my reality and moving onward and upward. And, in order to do that, I needed to fully let go of my previous expectations and adapt to the norm.

And that’s a hard thing for me to do, but I’m trying…..

I want to share this short story that illustrates what it’s like to realize that your current situation looks nothing like the plans you had for yourself.  The woman who wrote this was describing what it’s like to have a child with special needs – but I feel like it’s applicable to anyone who finds their life took a complete detour from the route they had mapped out for themselves.

Welcome to Holland

If your life is a complete 180 from what you had planned, I hope you can still find the beauty in the detour – because it exists. And if you can train yourself to focus on that beauty (and your blessings) – even in it’s smallest form- you’ll notice a subtle change.  The bitter will slowly relinquish it’s place in your heart as appreciation begins to set up camp.   You’ll be surprised at how strong you really are. You’ll adapt, you’ll learn, and you’ll grow.

And who knows – maybe you’ll even learn to love this new revised version of your story.

Heart Shawnee

*You can read the previously mentioned article on expectations HERE. *