Feeding the Beast

    Feeding the beast. No, I’m not referring to any of my 3 boys (although it is an accurate description). The beast I’m referring to is anxiety. It’s depression. It’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s Beast with a capital “B.” 

    I have always had feelings of extreme worry, ever since I can remember. I used to joke around that I was a “worry warrior.” Worrying was something that I couldn’t help but to do. Even though I am an optimist, a glass-half-full kind of person , I automatically think of the worst-case scenario and worry myself sick over it. One of the boys is sleeping more than usual? It must be cancer. I can’t get ahold of Momma? She must have fallen and can’t get to the phone and is hurt badly. That is how my mind works. I hate it. 

  After I had Joshua, I knew something was wrong with me. Well, more than normal. I lost interest in things I used to love doing. I had problems sleeping, even though Josh was a great sleeper right from the start. I would feel panicked when I thought about going somewhere, but lonely and isolated when I stayed home. I began to think that I was a horrible person, a terrible wife and mother. I demanded perfection of myself. The house always had to be immaculately cleaned. I spent hours every day making sure it was spotless. If I didn’t live up to my expectations, I felt like a failure. I started thinking that it would be better for my family if I were no longer here to be a burden to them. I wanted to leave, because I honestly felt that my kids and husband deserved better than me.  I struggled with all of this silently and alone for three months.  Finally, I reached out for help. 

   I didn’t want to admit to anyone how I was feeling. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. What kind of mother was I, that I couldn’t bond with my new baby? After an appointment with my doctor, I was set up to see the therapist that same day. She talked with me and, after two hours and many tears in my part, diagnosed me with acute post-partum depression, social and general anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I was started in some medication and follow-up appointments with the therapist. That evening, when my husband got home, I told him everything that had happened and my diagnosis. I was expecting him to be supportive and encouraging, but instead, he was angry. He thought I was lying about my feelings and told me he didn’t think I needed a shrink or medicine to help me feel better. I felt ashamed and embarrassed, but continued to take my meds and kept my appointments. 

  My therapist helped me learn coping skills to help with the depression and anxiety, which helped keep my OCD in check. I told Mark that I needed his help, too. I needed him to understand that this was not just a “feeling” that I could just “get over.” It was a disease. One that literally took over every aspect of my being. Slowly, with the love and support of my husband, my friends, and my family, I started to feel better. I didn’t feel crazy all the time. I started to beat my disorders. 

  The funny thing about anxiety and depression is that one day, you can be feeling right as rain. Normal, even. The next, you are right back at the bottom of the abyss, clutching to any shred of sanity you might have left. It doesn’t manifest itself in the same way to everyone. For me, I have high-functioning depression, so even though I am having extreme lows, I still function much like anyone else would on a daily basis. I’m very good at putting on a brave face when I’m dying inside. For me, anxiety isn’t rocking back and forth. It’s automatically assuming the worst will happen and worrying about it. It’s wanting to be around people, but alone at the same time. It’s being irrationally angry over nothing. It’s feelings of extreme guilt when I lash out. Anxiety is feeling absolutely exhausted, but not able to sleep because your mind won’t shut off. It’s feeling like you aren’t good enough. It’s the obsessive thoughts (hello, OCD) that won’t stop. It’s a vicious cycle of anxiety and depression.

  I struggle with it, everyday, and I’m trying to be the best mom and wife I can be. I try to stay busy, because if my mind is busy then there’s no room for the depression and anxiety. I wear myself out trying to stay sane everyday. Because of the anxiety, my reality is skewed. I have to ask Mark or my mom (people I trust the most) if something is as bad as I think it is, or if it’s my anxiety causing me to overreact. I have feelings of paranoia that go with the anxiety. I apologize to my kids and my husband every single day, for things I say or do, that I don’t mean.  

  There’s still such a stigma attached to mental disorders, which makes people feel embarrassed or ashamed if they are struggling. It’s been almost 3 years since my diagnosis, and while most days I am doing much better, I still have to fight it. There is no “cure” for anxiety. No cure for depression. It’s an ongoing battle. I’ll be doing just fine for a month or two, then out of the blue, WHAM! It hits me again, hard, and I have to claw my way back up to normalcy. 

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A Letter to the New Momma

I see you, Momma. I see how utterly exhausted you are pushing the shopping cart through the store, struggling to keep your toddler from throwing a tantrum or your baby from crying. I see you and I smile. I know right now you feel like everyone is watching you and judging you because of how your children are acting. Don’t pay any attention to people. Keep on being the best mommy you can be. One day, you will look at other new moms pushing their babies through the store, struggling to keep sane, and you will smile too. This phase passes so quickly, and believe it or not, you’ll miss the chaos of small children. You will miss holding your babies at 1:00 in the morning, rocking them gently back to sleep. You will miss how a simple kiss makes them feel better. You will miss having toys everywhere and never being able to keep the house completely clean for more than five minutes. It may seem overwhelming and exhausting right now, but this too shall pass.
  Rejoice in these small moments, because before you are ready, your babies will be independent toddlers and preschoolers. Before you are ready, they will no longer want to cuddle with you before bed. Before you are ready, your silly singing will embarrass them rather than make them smile and giggle. Before you are ready,  your baby will grow up. Don’t rush things. Enjoy the late nights, the chaos of shopping with a little. Enjoy how unconditionally your child loves you, how pure and strong that love is. Enjoy every moment.

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These are the Moments

It’s 12:17 a.m. and my almost 3 year old just went to sleep. After fighting him for hours, he finally gave up. As much as I get aggravated at him for refusing to sleep and throwing tantrums, I know I’m going to miss moments like these when he’s older. I’m going to miss the way that my two boys’ faces light up when they see me first thing  in the morning. I’m going to miss their matching pajamas. I’m going to miss their sweet snuggles, their “I love you, Mommy’s, their eagerness to “help” with little things. I’m going to miss the late nights, getting soaked giving the boys a bath, the chaos of toys strewn around the house. I know that before I am ready, they will be too big for cuddles with Momma. They will be heading off to school, making friends, having their own lives independent of mine. There will be a time when I will read them their last bedtime story, kiss their last boo-boo, scare away the last monster, and tuck them in for the last time. I know I won’t realize that it will be the last time until it happens. So, for now, I relish these moments, this slightly controlled chaos of raising two boys under three years old.

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A Letter to my Son

My dear, sweet boy, I’m sitting here, holding you, watching your little eyes dance behind your lids as you dream. I feel overwhelmingly blessed to have you, and your brother, as my children. You inspire me. How can someone so small teach me so much about life? It should be me, teaching you. Your zeal for life is beautiful; the way you light up when a butterfly flutters by, the way your musical  laughter floats through the air, the way your curiosity is endless. You remind me that life is more than being responsible and being serious. You remind me to giggle, to dance like a lunatic, to be silly. How can you be so small, yet still so big? You are growing up before my eyes, whether I am ready for it or not. Stay small. Stay you. I am so very proud of the independent little boy you are growing up to be. Stay with me forever. Your growing independence reminds me that you will soon leave me. First, to go to school, then to go on dates, then to start a family of your own. It will happen in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t seem like you should be almost three years old now.  Your little body is relaxed in my arms. You still trust in me to protect you. Your soul is pure, happy, and beautiful. Don’t ever change. Please, stay my sweet little boy for as long as you can. You are still filled with wonder and awe and a light that fills me with pure joy. You are so wise, little one. You know that sometimes, all we really need is a hug, just to let us know that we aren’t alone. You are loved. You are wise. You are important. You are a blessing. You are my favorite part of the day. You make me smile. You make me laugh. You make me cry. You make me worried and anxious and tired. You, my sweet boy, make me a mommy. I love you more than you know. I love you so much, it feels like I may burst into a thousand pieces. I love you.

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No T.A.R.D.I.S. Needed

When I was younger, I wanted nothing more than to grow up.  It seemed as though time drug by sluggishly.  The older I get, however, the quicker time seems to speed by me.  I wish now that I could slow things down and have more time to enjoy things.  I wake up early, and before I know it, there is only 30 minutes before my husband gets home from work. Then it’s dinner, bathtime, cuddles, and bedtime.  Hours quickly turn into days, days into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years.  I blink my eyes and it’s a different life.

I recently have started watching Doctor Who (the newer version) and I find it amazing that the T.A.R.D.I.S. (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space) can transport you anywhere, at any time. You could, if you pleased, go back to when Earth was created.  You could also venture into the future and see the Earth being destroyed.  I have often wondered where and when I would go in time if I could.  Would I go back to the 1920’s and see my grandparents meet, fall in love, and get married?  Would I go back into Biblical times to see firsthand the stories that are talked about in the Bible? Dare I travel into my future, to see what fate awaits me?  I have come to the conclusion that I am perfectly happy here, in the present.

I don’t need a time machine to go back to my past, or see the future.  I have kids.  I often find myself travelling to yesteryear while playing with my oldest son.  I am reminded of the many times my parents played with me.  I am reminded of the wonderful memories we shared.  I hope that I can make wonderful memories for my kids to look back on with nostalgia when they become parents one day.  As for the future? Again, I need only to look at my children.  I don’t know for certain what the future holds for them other than that I know that they will always be loved.  Even long after I am gone, I will still love my babies.  I hope that they will know that.  Our children are the future.  Right now, they are small, they are still learning.  Right now, their imaginations rule their lives.  Right now, they haven’t been broken by the world and it’s infinite “no’s” and “you can’t’s”.  Right now, they are full of wonder and awe and unlimited possibilities.  My sons could become doctors or astronauts.  They could find the cure to cancer, to Alzheimer’s, to other horrible diseases.  They could be famous politicians or athletes. They could become CEOs or be great inventors.  They could become fathers one day, and lead a simple life.  They could, through their hard work and love, inspire others, including their children.

You see, when you have kids, you can simultaneously live in the past, present, and the future.  No T.A.R.D.I.S. needed.

Looking back

  When I was a teenager, I thought I knew everything. I thought that my parents were lame and didn’t get  how things were in today’s world. Then I got married and moved out. I started to see that maybe my parents weren’t so clueless after all. A couple years later, we moved and had our first baby. Again, my parents were suddenly making more sense. Now, after having a second baby, I can see just how much my parents do know. They DO get it. Instead of fighting against them and thinking I know everything, now I go to them for advice (it’s usually really good advice!) and I listen to them when they tell me something. My parents love me and still want what’s best for me, but also know that I’m an adult and they can’t make decisions for me anymore. In the last 6 years, I have learned a lot, but I realize that I have so much more to learn.

Here are a few of the things that I have learned over the years:

1. Just because you are 18, it doesn’t make you an adult.
  Yes, technically and lawfully, you become an “adult” at 18 years old. However, being an adult is more than having the ability to move out or vote. Being an adult means taking care of business first. Pay your bills, go to work, put gas in your car. Do these things before you blow that money on games or clothes or going out with friends. It means that you take responsibility for yourself. When I was 19, I got married and moved out. I went straight from being with my parents to being married and on our own. I learned that just because I could do something didn’t mean that I should do it. Ice cream and candy is not a good breakfast. Your moms were right on that one.

2. Fairy tales are fiction. That stuff doesn’t happen in real life.
  Like I mentioned before, I got married at a young age. My husband and I met in high school when I was 15 and he was 17, and we have been together ever since. When we got engaged, I was a typical 18 year old, and all I wanted was my perfect fairy tale life. I thought that Mark and I would get married in a beautiful ceremony, with me being a princess bride, live in our own house, and nothing would go wrong and we wouldn’t fight because we were so in love. We planned our wedding for a year, and yes, it was a beautiful ceremony and I wore a beautiful dress, but that’s about where my fairy tale ended. Within a few days of getting married, I had to take off work for nearly two months because of health problems. Six weeks after the wedding, I had major surgery. I had never had to deal with my own medical bills or insurance before. Little did I know that my insurance at the time had already reached the maximum benefits for the year and wouldn’t pay for the surgery. When money got tight, Mark and  I argued. Fairy tales are not real. Real life is that stuff happens. Stuff happens that you aren’t expecting. You have to face those obstacles head on as an adult. It isn’t fun. If you are lucky, like me, you will have a great support system as an adult.

3. Your mom and dad had rules for a reason.
  Some of the rules are for obvious reasons. Don’t skateboard on the frozen pond. Duh. You’ll probably fall in (and yes, we did try this as kids) and catch pneumonia. Some rules seemingly don’t have a use. My mom was constantly on to me to keep my room cleaned up. I didn’t see why it should bother her. She didn’t live in there. I see now that she was trying to prepare me for adulthood. She pushed me to do my best at everything I did, because she knew that one day, I would have to push myself. I hated that my parents wouldn’t let me wear mini skirts, short shorts, or anything else my peers thought were cute. I didn’t understand at 12 years old why they wouldn’t let me just fit in.  After I started high school and met my future husband, and in turn, his family, I am so thankful that they instilled a sense of modesty in me. My husband and his family have told me several times that they are thankful that I didn’t go showing off everything and that they respected me for it.

4. You don’t know how strong you are until you have no choice.
  This is one of those hard life lessons that you just have to learn through experience. As I stated before, life happens. Its not always easy, and it’s definitely not fair. For example, in the five and a half years since we got married, Mark and I have had to deal with major health problems, surgeries, losing jobs, filing bankruptcy, moving, miscarriages, foreclosing on our first house, suicides, losing very close friends and loved ones, two children with different health problems, and just the day-to-day stresses of being married and having kids. When facing life, it’s okay to get discouraged. Its okay to feel overwhelmed or disappointed. You have a choice in these situations, though. You can either wallow in self-pity or you can find a strength deep inside of you to carry on. The first choice is easiest. Carrying on, when your world is in chaos and crashing down around you is hard. Once you find that strength and use it, you will be better for it.

5. Family is everything.
     Family are the only people who will always have your back. Be nice to them. Your brothers and sisters won’t always be there to tease you, and believe it or not, you’ll miss it. Be there for your family in both good and bad times. Be there for the small things as well as the bigger things. They need your support just as much (and sometimes more than) as you need theirs. Remember: Blood is thicker than water.

6. Save the drama.
   Ugh. I wish I could go back in time and smack myself for being sucked into so much useless and unnecessary drama. Seriously, it’s not worth your time to Be involved in drama. Who cares if your ex’s best friend’s sister is dating your best friends ex? Who cares if that girl over there sleeps around? Keep things to yourself and stop gossiping. I promise you’ll be happier.

Mom Guilt

  We’ve all been there. Those days where nothing is going right and the kids are acting out, not taking naps, refusing to eat, or throwing fits. Those days where you let the kids watch TV more than you should just so you can have 5 minutes without some form of chaos. Those days where the two-and-a-half year old pours craft paint all over the floor and ruins their clothes and makes footprints all through the house. Those days where you snap at the kids, possibly causing them to cry. These are the days filled with Mom Guilt.
   Mom Guilt usually hits me hard and heavy as I’m cuddling the kids at bedtime. I feel horrible for putting other things first. I should have stopped doing the dishes for a few moments to read the story to my toddler. I should have played cars with him instead of turning on Scooby-Doo. Instead of snapping at my toddler for making a mess or getting into things, I should have taken a “mommy time-out.” I should have cherished those small moments throughout the day with my children instead of plowing along with everything else.
  I feel my heart melting as I cuddle my 6 month old, watching him sleep peacefully in my arms after his feeding. I know that he is not going to stay little for long. Before I am ready for it, he will be walking, talking, and getting into all kinds of toddler mischief with his brother. I want to hold on to every precious moment with them, but I realize this after the day has already ended. My children are two of the biggest blessings in my life, and I often take them for granted. It’s days that are filled with Mom Guilt that make me realize just how special they are and how lucky I am that they are MINE. 
  One of the best things about Mom Guilt? It makes you aware of what you need to change. Tomorrow is a brand new day. All of the hurt feelings, temper tantrums, and messes are gone. My kids wake up each morning with open hearts and love me more than I deserve. I am so thankful for our tomorrows

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