On Being at Odds With That Which Has Made You Whole

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I never planned on having children, so the fact that I have 3 almost feels like I’ve been punked by one of those “never say never” situations. I remember being 18 in the women’s underwear section of Target with my mother and sister, arguing with my mother that I didn’t “owe” her any grandchildren. I had absolutely nothing to do with the physical event that led to my conception; that was purely her choice and I was determined then that mine would be absolutely no biological children. I preferred adoption, if I decided to have children at all. The aspiring world changer in me, freshly graduated from high school, had her sights set on joining the Peace Corp and from there, who knew where life would take me. I wanted to be free as a bird, on the front lines of a cause, making my voice heard, putting my hands to work for others, advancing justice while rocking out to Prince. Children? Pfffft. Continue reading

I’m Here…Just Consumed By Life

Sorry I haven’t stopped by here since May 20th. Life’s been pretty consuming as of late, and I’m not as good about writing my way through periods like this as I was a year ago. Things are busy busy busy and I’ll be honest-sitting down to write has proved to be more difficult than I would like it to be. The words are there, waiting to be given life, the stories are stacked up on shelves in my brain, the desire is there, but it all just becomes a jumbled mess when I sit down to type or even write in my journal.

Part of it is because my brain is so scattered, thanks to my disorder and my recent hypomanic episodes and cycling. Part of it is because I become to preoccupied by my compulsions to clean, organize, and rearrange everything in our apartment. Part of it is because I’m fatigued and the energy I do have is poured into being  pregnant, mama, wife, housekeeper, cook, errand runner…the desire to create or give anything back to myself lingers quietly in folds of my heart, but never finds its way to execution. My mind is scattered and my hands feel inadequate, empty, unable to form the words or images that are mixed in the chaos.

Part of it is because I’ve become completely immersed in a new parenting approach with Alex and in implementing new routines and techniques I hope make like easier for him…and for all of us, really. I’m seeing how different and significant some of his needs are and in a lot of ways re-learning this whole parenting thing. From how I discipline, to the words and tone I use when speaking to him, to even how much pressure I apply when I touch or hug him, my whole posture towards parenting and mothering him has changed. Most of my days are consumed with being engaged with him in ways I wasn’t before. Learning about sensory processing disorder, autism, and what we’re learning from his therapists since April has given me new ways to engage and interact with him  that are different from how I did before. It’s been quite the learning curve-there’s so much more to be aware of these days! I’m more watchful, taking note of the slightest change in attitude or behavior (positive or negative), more apprehensive and mindful about how changes in routine, however slight, will impact him from moment to moment. In some ways I feel like I’m on high alert from the time he wakes up until he finally falls asleep after I’ve put him back in his bed and given him a deep pressure squeeze for the fifth or sixth time. I’ve had to become much more patient, learning to move at his pace, and how to move him along faster in a way that he can understand when we’re short on time. I’ve found that all of this has taken an energy that I, especially being pregnant, barely have the reserves for. The simplest things from washing his hands to getting dressed to helping desensitize his facial muscles before his speech therapy sessions is all a process; exhausting and consuming, but one I’m committed to helping all of us navigate and learn as best we can.

Part of it is because I’m committed to being well during this pregnancy and am forcing myself to focus on self-care. This becomes increasingly difficult when pregnancy is kicking my ass, particularly when migraines attack, and my blood pressure is low. The migraines have been pretty frequent this pregnancy; during a good week I only get one, during my worst I’ve had them for 4 days straight. Functioning when I’m a wreck physically feels impossible, but I somehow get through making sure the kids have what they need for the day and that’s about it. Aside from eating and taking my medications, taking care of myself takes a backseat and I have to fight to make things like taking a shower, combing my hair, getting in any kind of exercise or leisure activity a priority. Overall I’m doing better on the self-care front than I have in the past, especially during my last pregnancy.

All of this focus on concentration on these other areas of my life leave little for my writing here and painting….advocating even. I had all of these plans for my creative pursuits this year but the mental and creative bandwidth I need to execute them isn’t what I’d like it to be. For some reason I can’t seem to find space for those two to fit in my life as of late and this does sadden me. Frustrates me. Leaves me to wonder how I’ll fit them in when there are THREE children to give my time and attention to. I’m hoping I can find a way….I’m in awe of those who’ve found a way to balance and navigate it all.

At any rate, while I find it hard to write and paint these days, I have found it easy to keep up with vlogging-probably because I can just do it on my phone while I’m on the go and have a few minutes alone. So I think that’s just what I’m going to have to do for now because it’s the one thing that I can keep up with that fits in best with everything else. It’s the one thing I feel I can keep up with right now on this front. I’m hoping to write here during the summer, but know that if you don’t see me here, you’ll be able to find me on my YouTube channel, addyeBeesWorld, where I’ll mostly be sharing the nitty-gritty of navigating bipolar disorder while being a pregnant mama. Feel free to watch and subscribe-I’ve done videos for weeks 15, 16, and 17 so far (I tell you what we’re having in my second video for week 16!) And of course, I’ll always be on Twitter :) (@addyeB)

So that’s where I’ve been, what I’ve been up to, what’s going on. I’m still here…I’m just consumed is all.

Maybe I just need to Lean In…anyone have Sheryl Sandberg’s number?

My Hard Truth

Before I spill my guts here today I want to make sure you understand something from the very beginning: What I’m going to talk about speaks solely to MY experience as a mother who’s lived with antenatal depression and PPD and who has a child with developmental delays and is on the autism spectrum. I can’t speak for other women and their experience or how their illness-treated or untreated-may or may not have had an impact on their child’s development. I’m choosing to share this because honestly? I’m having a hard time processing it on my own. I don’t have a therapist to talk with about it right now, and keeping it all to myself is only allowing shame to breed ugly thoughts and emotions; thoughts and emotions I definitely don’t need right now considering I have a family to take care of, am currently off of 2 of my meds until my 2nd trimester, and I have a new baby growing within me. This is how things have played out for us-I’m in no way claiming this is how it will play out for others.

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11 months ago, I wrote a post about Alex’s 2yr well visit and how his pediatrician at the time had expressed his opinion that the developmental delays we were concerned about were linked (at least in part) to my untreated antenatal depression, PPD & anxiety. You can read it here; doing so will give you more context.

When I wrote that post I was hurt, wracked with guilt and defensive. I was confused-I didn’t know what to make of what he had said and I honestly didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to believe it because I was afraid to. Allowing myself to acknowledge he may have been right would’ve just ripped the band aid off of the wound I had worked like hell in therapy to stop bleeding.

But like I mentioned in my post last year, I had read the studies, the articles, what the experts had to say about untreated depression in mothers and it’s effects on their children. I had read the stats about low birth weight and premature labor and caught my breath every time, knowing how small he was, how I’d gone into labor 3 weeks early-but I secretly hoped he wouldn’t “fit” the others about developmental struggles. (Again, links to some of those studies and articles are in the post linked above.) The knowledge pulled and gnawed at me every time I struggled to engage with Alex. The shifts in mood, the struggles to get him to do simple things like eat, wash his hands, or even just accept hugs and kisses from Bertski and I without withdrawing first. Every time I watched him shut down around people, or scream in terror when approached by children on the playground, my insides, my heart twisted. When he stopped eating nearly everything and would only touch hard, rough textured food….when we were told by early intervention he was delayed at least 25% in speech and possibly more in other developmental areas….as I watched his symptoms become more pronounced over the course of the past 11 months, my mama gut begged me to turn a deaf ear to fear and just face reality, listen to what it was trying to tell me. I wasn’t going to be able to help Alex if I didn’t. I wasn’t going to be able to be the mother he needed me to be if I didn’t.

So I did, and I started talking to Bertski about it a few months ago. He expressed that he had been watching Alex and having the same thoughts about his behavior and development and what had possibly caused him to develop the way he had. We agreed that in addition to my illness being untreated for so long possibly being a factor, the instability of our relationship during Alex’s first two years was likely a factor as well. It was a tough set of conversations…thinking about them still makes me cringe. But I’m glad we had them because it enabled us to move forward in seeking help. We knew Alex needed more help than we could give him and WE as his parents needed help parenting him. His issues had started to become beyond us and the daily struggle of trying to navigate them was overwhelmingly frustrating and discouraging.

His 3 year visit was two weeks ago, with a new pediatrician here in Austin. We told her everything, with her interjecting a question or two every now and then. She listened attentively until we finished spilling our parental guts out to her. She was quiet for a few minutes and then started to give her thoughts: “It’s obvious he’s very smart-I can see that for myself in just the short time he’s been in here. But from my brief observation and what you’ve told me I would go ahead and say he’s definitely on the autism spectrum. My initial guess would be high functioning but he does have significant speech and socialization deficiencies. Further evaluations will give us more information. The good news is we’re catching it now-early intervention is crucial. We’ll get him into various therapies and by kindergarten I’m confident he’ll fit in just fine with other kids in a regular classroom environment. He’ll catch up, he’ll excel. I’m sure even within just 6 months we’ll see significant improvement.”

We walked out of that appointment with an answer, with hope even, but also with some sadness. A heaviness rested on us for the remainder of the day. Even though we had been preparing ourselves to potentially hear such a diagnosis for Alex, the reality of it still hit us pretty hard. I can’t speak for Bertski, but I know for me, the guilt was excruciating that day. I called and talked with the pediatrician about it some more, explaining my illness and how it impacted my ability to bond and interact with him during my pregnancy and his first year and a half. I expressed to her what my difficulties had been and she didn’t shame me for them:

“Based off of the research, your history, and where he is developmentally, I’d say it is highly likely that there’s an association. Being depressed and not having effective treatment can definitely have the kind of impact on a child’s development and behavior like we’re seeing in Alex. But you don’t have to blame yourself for it. You’re helping him now-he’s older and you’re recovered and managing your Bipolar as best you can-that’s what’s important. Yes, this happened, but it’s ok, you’re getting him help just like you sought help. It’s not your fault, Mrs. Nieves.”

No, being depressed during my pregnancy and struggling with PPD and anxiety the first 2 years of Alex’s life wasn’t my fault.

I would even go as far as to say that not being treated for so long wasn’t my fault either-there was so much I just didn’t know, and when I did express what I was enduring to those around me and my OB, I was told it was all “normal,”…given time, I’d be “fine.”

You know, they say we can only do better when we know better. Given my circumstances, I know I did my best and when I couldn’t, I fought to.

I don’t think I failed Alex. I do think my illness failed both of us-it robbed us of having a strong start and that’s what hurts me the most when I think about how it’s impacted him.

But I’m learning now how to use the hurt to lay a new foundation for us to build upon. I’m learning how to advocate for him and learn all I can to help him like I’ve done with myself and my illness. Alex has started ABA therapy and is already showing progress. He has upcoming evaluations with speech therapist to work on improving his language and an occupational therapist to help with his autistic and sensory related struggles.

(sigh)

Accepting that there’s possibly an association between my illness during pregnancy and Alex’s development struggles is a hard truth to stare in the face y’all. I know it’s not everyone’s truth, but it’s MY truth and I’m working hard once again to process it, heal from it, ditch the guilt over it, and move on now that I know where he’s at. I’m not sharing this to say that what’s true for me and Alex is true for all moms with untreated antenatal depression & PPD. It’s not at all. But I am sharing it to say that you know those effects they talk about in those studies? I’m watching my son live with them. It DOES happen. It’s in the minority, but it does happen-I wish it was talked about more-not to shame anyone, but to help women understand that they don’t have to BE ashamed that this happens. Does that make sense? I hope it does.

I’m not here to scare anyone or have you think that you and your child are in the same boat as we are. Definitely not. But I am here to say that if you ARE in the same boat we are-It’s ok. It’s not your fault. Illness may have robbed you and your child of a strong start, but don’t let guilt rob you of anything else. I know it hurts like hell, and you feel like you could’ve done more, but you did your best with what you had and don’t let shame deceive you into thinking otherwise. You’re still an amazing mama to your child. You’re not a bad mother. Our children will be okay because they have us and they have others to help them get to where they need to be.

If your child is showing signs of delays-don’t let shame keep you from getting help. Ask for evaluations and resources. Talk to their doctor and ask about Early Intervention. Be open. Be honest. Be their advocate just as you’ve been for yourself.

I hope this made sense. It’s late and I’ve had a rather emotional day. Also? I could REALLY use a friend in this particular boat.

I Actually Wrote This with a Pen…In a Journal.

This year I said I would get back to journaling, art journaling like I used to when I was 19…20…21…22…before I became a terrified single mom whose only existence revolved around one word: SURVIVE. So….I signed up for Chookooloonks “create.2013″ e-course and have been doing the prompts delivered to my inbox every morning, in addition to writing two pages of whatever’s sitting around in my brain. This is what I wrote last night after word vomiting my mania on Twitter. 

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Moving…everything is hurried, frenzied, congested like commuters getting off the subway train in a rush to make it to some meeting at some corporate job they hate feeling so restricted in. By everything I mean my thoughts, my words, emotions in conflict with each other; they slam into one another pressing themselves against the walls of my mind and against my tongue. The pressure that comes with attempting restraint always proves to be a force I can’t reckon with, and they come spilling out, tumbling over each other and onto the people I interact with daily:

My fiance

My friends

My Twitter feed

I would say the “friends” on Facebook too, but I officially broke it off with my dealer Zuckerberg a few weeks ago in attempt to kick my 4 1/2 year habit; a habit that went from being a job requirement to becoming my sounding board and my lifeline. It became the what I barely had in my “real” life-support, understanding, acceptance, help, community. But after 4 years and it’s no longer a lifeline and I need to extricate myself from it. Social media addiction is a real disease…or at least that’s what WebMd told me. It also told me this zit on my face is really a rare disease not even that House guy on TV has heard of and I’m going to die within a week. Thank God it’s not a real doctor…

The only people who aren’t affected are my kids. Sometimes they see Mommie less patient with a sharper tongue and a low tolerance, but what parent doesn’t have these moments, right? When it comes to restraining the symptoms of my illness I do my best to stuff them WAY. DOWN. into the deeper parts of me and quickly sit on top of them as you would a trunk or luggage case overpacked and bulging against its zippers. I try to take the less destructive parts of it and use them to my-our-advantage. I allow it to explode just enough so it amplifies the best parts of me that enable me to love and nurture my boys to my fullest capacity, doing things that my very BOY boys like to do:

Yell…

Run around the house giggling and laughing until I’m begging air to please come back into my lungs…

Jump on the couch…

Watch cartoons….

Eat peanut butter and jelly and PopTarts and have breakfast for dinner…

Trains….

Lego Star Wars and Kung Fu Panda on Xbox….

Shooting my imaginary hot pink laser gun at the red berries on the trees we pass by every day on our walk back from school…

Singing and dancing on the sidewalk caring less about the cars driving past us and more about taking the time to create a memory I hope they hold on to when life doesn’t treat them so nice and they need to be reminded that they are loved beyond measure and matter to someone….to ME.

Was that a run on sentence? Not sure because grammar rules go out the window when your thoughts spill out of you faster than you can type, leaving you with no choice but to chase after them….panting….yelling “WAIT-slow down, you’re going too fast, I can’t maintain this speed.”

Do they listen? No….never. Not in this state. Even if I manage to keep it together on the outside so no one can see the chaos dancing gleefully behind my eyes, my thoughts always find a way to betray me and find their voice in the words I speak….

I don’t know what the point of all this is, my writing it down. What I do know is that it’s jumbled and erratic, nonsensical even. Hello, welcome to a mind hijacked by mania. I guess I should be technical and say “hypomania” but if you ask me, mania is mania and when you’re experiencing it, you don’t feel a textbook distinction. You feel your grasp on your mind and energy weakening and your willpower caving to mania’s seductive allure. You can’t see that it’s deceiving. You don’t realize it distorts your vision and perception of yourself and the world around you. It’s “fun” I guess at first, but always leads to agitation, uneasiness, restlessness, and paranoia eventually…at least for me. In the midst of its chaos I can always hear a small part of me whispering “this is temporary-it will end, so prepare yourself.” It does, it does indeed end, but not until you’ve (I’ve?) lost control of your (my?) mind and it’s racing at a dangerous speed the human brain isn’t designed to handle and it sends you (me, definitely)flying off a cliff…..soaring…then free falling to the ground below, a ground that is unforgiving and jars you (again, ME) back to reality. It’s painful really, like smacking your (my) face into asphalt.

Ok, maybe that was a dramatic description but I don’t find it to be an exaggeration….

Do any of the metaphors I used in an attempt to paint a picture of my manic thoughts make sense? I’m guessing not…I’m not as good at describing and tying thoughts together in a cohesive way like I used to be….you know when I prided myself on proper grammar and “technical” writing. But this isn’t a research paper I’m turning in for a grade, so it doesn’t really matter does it? So go f—yourself grammar police. Go nitpick someone else’s sentence structure.

I can’t sleep. I need to, but of course my inability to control my compulsions during these episodes has me checking Twitter on my phone every 45 seconds and letting my crazy come out in 140 character sprints. I always regret this later, feeling ashamed of letting people see this side of me. I’ve tried staying away, but you know, OCD goes hand in hand with my mania and I suck at saying no. At restraint. Obviously. I try to use Twitter as a means to distract me from what I’m experiencing…but I always end of being swept away in the excitement and euphoria, especially when something great happens (like getting my engagement ring and wedding band! Yep, that happened tonight. The sales lady cried when he put it on my finger. So did we in the van later on the way home.), and I let them speak for me. Then I come down from the high just enough to realize I was Socialite Sally-you know the person at the party who’s had too much to drink and can’t shut up?-and I feel foolish for making an ass out of myself.  When I go back to college I’m going to ditch social work and just major in being bipolar and minor in embarrassment.

Do I have anything else to say? My hand hurts. I should really scrawl my words more on paper than across a computer screen. I’ve missed this, the feel of paper, the smell of ink as it emanates from its tip, forever encapsulating my words on the page in front of me. I guess posting my words digitally is permanent too, but it doesn’t feel the same, it’s not as….personal? Is that the word? Not sure, but  that’s as close as I’m going to get at this point.

My heart feels like it’s about to burst. This clonazepam hasn’t kicked in yet. It usually does. Maybe I’m building a tolerance to it. Which sucks because that means eventually, maybe next week, maybe 10 years from now I’ll have to be on a bigger dose and it’ll stop working.

I should post this, even though I said I’m going to take a break from the blog. I still intend to….I just keep finding things I want to share. I have to force myself to wait and just write them down elsewhere because I do indeed need a break to focus on other things….like actually writing on paper.

I’m going to post this…because I feel obligated to, that whole transparency thing. People should know this is what it’s like, at least what it’s like for me, being bipolar, being manic. More importantly if I share it there then maybe someone who needs to remember that they aren’t alone will come across it, find themselves in my words, and be able to feel less hopeless…because they aren’t alone…

So that’s it then. That’s all I’ve got. 5 pages of erratic nonsense.

I’ll take it…it’s my life after all.

Wednesday Can Suck It & My Bipolar Life v.5

Afro Barbie

Today has been a struggle, the hardest I’ve had since leaving the hospital. My mind is loud and overcrowded again. Paranoia is creeping in again whispering it’s lies. I’m trying to ignore the urge to disconnect from everything. The depression … Continue reading

Yes, I’m Scared of the Dark. Terrified, Really.

I have a lot of fears.

Well, maybe not a lot, but at least two or three that seize my body with terror & fill my mind with awful images & scenarios whenever I think of them.

Like drowning.

The thought of not being able to draw in a breath without choking on water & being submerged in a body of water petrifies me.

And snakes…my toes curled up & my heart nearly flew out of my chest just typing that s-word…so I think it’s best we just move right along to my final fear:

I’m terrified of the dark.

Yes, I’m 29 years old and I’m afraid of the dark-have been since I was a kid. Even as grown woman & mother of two kids, a small part of me is always convinced something will emerge from it to “get me,” even though my rational mind knows this isn’t the case.

But that’s the thing about fears, right? They aren’t always rational, are they? (Follow me, I’m trying to go somewhere, I promise.)

I think what scares me the most about darkness is that it places everything it covers into The Land of the Unknown…what was sure & recognizable in the light becomes shadowy, fuzzy & unclear in the dark. For a control freak like myself, I’m sure you can imagine why this freaks me out. I wish I could tell you that I don’t stay awake some nights wondering if the shadow in the closet is really from the ironing board that I KNOW is there…or from some horrific figment of my imagination it’s put there to f– with me. Seriously, I wish I could but I can’t. I don’t do it much when I’m with someone else but if I’m by myself? Forget it. I’m cowering under the covers trying not to think about how unsafe I feel…Sometimes, just to shut up & shut down the fears screaming in my mind I have to actually get up, turn on a light, and go physically touch objects around the room I’m in…just for reassurance.

Crazy, right? Weird, right? Yes I know. Stupid? Probably…but as I lay here in my bed typing this and trying to tell myself I’m not going to wake up with some stranger laying next to or on me, and that the boys & I are VERY safe, I’m realizing that my fear of the dark is really just a fear of uncertainty. I hate not knowing. Ambiguity and I are not friends. Not being able to see & know everything around me leaves me in a very unsettled place emotionally…which disrupts me mentally, and manifests itself physically into agitation, irritability, paranoia, and crippling anxiety. I even get intrusive thoughts sometimes. My mind smells any hint of fear & just takes off in about 20 different directions, all of which lead to something horrific happening. If I can’t see or know everything there is about something, a person, or where I have to go, I’m a wreck and not too pleasant to be around. This is one of the reasons I hate getting lost. Can’t. Stand it.

And it’s one of the reasons why even though growing up a military brat acquainted me with change & taught me the importance of adjusting & adapting to it, I’m not very good at embracing it like I should be. I know, you’re thinking to yourself “The chick who changes her hair color every time she blinks is afraid of change? What the hell?” But seriously, while I may not be afraid of changing how I look, I am terrified of how change impacts my life in other areas.

I like change…There are times my restless and adventurous little soul yearns for it…but then when it shows up ready to deliver I promptly begin to freak the hell out. I know-I don’t get the contradiction either, trust me.

So even though I was dying to pack up & move across the country…am giddy at the thought of marrying the nerd of my life…am relieved to be taking a break from work & school and looking forward to just being MOM….here I am, laying in a hotel room in Austin, TX, (IN THE DARK!) absolutely paralyzed by my fear of the uncertain…of what’s unknown…imagine Usain Bolt running around at record speed inside my head waving 500 “what if?” flags stirring up a fear tornado. That’s my mind right now.

A fear tornado. I’m dead smack in the center staring wide eyed at all my fears & questions swirling furiously around me.

What happens if Bertski doesn’t come back from PA next week because his train derails and crashes and I’m forced to be here by myself? How would we survive & live without him?

What if someone breaks in here or attacks us while he’s gone? How would I defend us?

What if he changes his mind & doesn’t want to marry me?

What if he hates it here?

What if I hate it here? And the boys? What if this was a mistake?

We haven’t found a place yet-what if we don’t? How long can we stay here at the hotel? Will they kick us out? Where will we go?

What if by choosing to “just” be Mom, I lose the other parts of me that make me…ME? What will happen to my passions, my goals, my ambition? What if I don’t go back to school & I regret it? Will my children think less of me if I don’t have a degree? Will I be setting the bar too low for them if I don’t go back?

Can we survive off of just one income?

What if the boys get sick or need to go to the doctor? Or me? Or Bertski? We don’t have health insurance…

What if I’m not strong enough to handle all of this change & I sink into an episode or my illness rages out of control again?

I could go on…but I’ll stop the list there. I know some of these fears are irrational, slightly silly & maybe even stupid-I know this, I do. But there are others that are valid & real and they’re the ones that cause me the most unease. I’m incredibly happy we moved. Grateful for the people we’ve met here & the connections we’ve made despite being states away from family & friends who have supported us for years. Thrilled that I’m doing this with the man I love dearly and my boys…

But I’m also scared shitless over the unknowns of this venture, of everything that sits in the dark, and restricts my vision of the future. We’ve executed a plan that brought us here, but large amounts of that plan have been rooted in uncertainty & our desire to just stick together & “make it happen”until we’re settled.

I’m afraid of the dark, because not being able to see what’s in front of me leaves me feeling very unsettled…uneasy…uncomfortable. I’m trying to take it all in stride & just learn to be okay with not knowing. I’m trying to embrace the nuances of change without trying to control it too much. It’s not easy, but I’m trying.

Well there you have it. I told you some of my fears, what are yours?

Changing Seasons & New Beginnings

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” -Charles Darwin

Change. The past 6 months of 2012 have all been about change.

We left for Austin Tuesday night. Excited & full of adrenaline over FINALLY being able to enter this new season of our lives, we drove close to 900 miles.

We made it all the way to Nashville without any major meltdowns from the kids, or heavy traffic. We found a pretty decent hotel to rest in for the night, giving the boys their first hotel experience. They LOVED it, jumping on the beds, begging to ride the elevators repeatedly, explore the lobby & pick up swag from the gift shop.

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Changes. New beginnings.

When Bertski & I sat down to talk over pancakes & coffee on that cloudy Thursday back in April, we talked a lot about change, and realized we shared a desire for it and a sense that it was on the way. We both felt stagnant…stuck…tapped out and feeling like we needed a change of scenery.

Since I had just visited Austin and fallen in love with it, and it’s a place Bertski’s always wanted to visit, it seemed like the most logical choice for a fresh start & a good city for us to raise the boys in, with its laid back vibe being a welcome respite from the fast & frantic grind of the northeast.

With the decision to relocate came other major decisions.

We traded in both cars & purchased our first minivan, a symbol of our commitment to being & building a family. It was also a symbol of the end of Bertski’s batchelorhood….something he embraced with open arms & a bottle of Merlot. :)

We both made a commitment to live our lives again instead of just survive them. The roller coaster & trials of the past 3 years took a heavy toll on us and had us both living in survival mode, forcing us to abandon things we’re passionate about. For Bertski that’s pursuing a career in neuroscience, artificial intelligence & robotics; thus scaling back on his work in the IT sector.

For myself, while I thought my passion was for school & pursuing a degree in counseling & a certification in dance movement therapy, I started realizing this year that what I truly have a passion for is helping people and writing…being creative in general. I also realized that while I enjoy academics, the stress & pressure of a full-time course load were just too much for me, mostly because of my illness. This year I found college very triggering for me. I had two severe manic episodes and 3 pretty dark depressions that had me contemplating suicide. Sure I was growing & my mind was expanding, which I loved, but it was starting to take a toll on my mental health & ability to be engaged with the boys. I wanted to quit but was scared doing so meant I was failing myself & more importantly, the boys. Besides, if I wasn’t in school, what would I do? My disability from the VA wouldn’t be enough to live on…As a single parent I couldn’t afford not to work, but without a degree my chances of getting a good enough job with benefits able to sustain us was slim…and while Medicaid & food stamps were a huge help, I didn’t want to have to rely on them as our only means of being able to make it from month to month. But then Bertski & I got back together and suddenly I wasn’t on my own anymore…and then something my social work professor said during class one day helped me make my decision. “Some of you,” he said, ” will get your degrees, your credentials & be great social workers, counselors, and be able to make a significant difference in people’s lives. But some of you won’t have to have the degree & credentials to do that-your life experience and desire to serve & help others will be enough to make as much of an impact.” That hit me hard, and I spent the rest of that class realizing what he said was true. I decided that day that I was taking a break from school.

I’ve decided instead to do something I haven’t been able to in 6 years: stay home with the boys…and pursue my desires to focus on writing & volunteering. If I’m going to be out of the house I’d like to spend my time volunteering at a crisis center, working a suicide prevention hotline, mediating a support group for others with BP, or helping veterans. I’d like to finish my book, explore my love for painting, and get back into dancing. I also want to give myself time to have more periods of stability & fewer manic & depressive episodes.

So…I feel as though I spent my 20′s gaining my independence (military), becoming a mother, healing from my abuse, and finding myself…now that I’m turning 30 in a few months, I just want to take some time to take care of & enjoy the person who’s emerged from the ashes of the past few years…and enjoy my family.

We both know that making these changes include a certain amount of risk and that it won’t be easy starting over and changing our approach to life…choosing to live life instead of just surviving it (especially in a new city) is a huge leap of faith for us, but a choice we’re hoping brings us a lot of reward.

I’ll post later this week/weekend about what makes me nervous & even a little fearful about all of these changes…until then, tell me about the last BIG change or transition you & your family made.

And Then My Heart Exploded & All I Could Do was Cry

I want to say this in a way that’s eloquent & inspirational. I want to use all the right words, and craft this into a beautiful piece of writing, that carries the weight of my thoughts & emotions, and helps you fully grasp how much this moment means to me….and even though they don’t know it yet, to my boys.

But I can’t. Words are failing me. There are only tears….sobs, actually, as I lay here in the boy’s empty room, eyes closed, heart bursting with gratitude…

…and love. For the first time in my 29 years of living I feel loved and whole instead of unworthy & broken. I feel peace where there used to be agony, and joy seeping through the cracks of my deepest sorrows.

12 months ago I was obsessed with death. I spent my waking moments torn between not wanting to leave my boys without their mother & wanting to rid them of the one who felt like she had failed them.

I’m glad to say, a year later, I’m not in that place, and I’m not looking to find relief in death. I’ve found it instead in 200mg of Lamictal, .25mg of Xanax, and 2mg of Pimozide, taken at 10am, every single day…and in a diagnosis that’s forced me to make myself and my well being a priority-a first for me.

It’s been a year full of growth & healing thanks to therapy.

If you would’ve told me last year I’d be right here, laying on the floor, free from nearly all the shit I’ve been carrying since childhood, I would’ve just smiled politely, said thanks, and walked away not believing a word of it.

But here I am. Loved and whole. Healed and stronger than before. Embracing life instead of plotting to escape it…focused on LIVING it instead of just existing & surviving it.

My boys have their mother, their parents back together, and they have each other…a far cry from what they had just a year ago.

So I’m just laying here, in my almost empty apartment, marveling at how far we’ve come…excited for the new beginning that lies ahead…Tears streaming down my face as I whisper “thank you” over & over again, my heart exploding in joy each time.

I’ve come full circle.

Things I’m Afraid to Tell You

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I was invited to write this post by a group of bloggers who are participating in a series of posts called “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You”. The TIATTY movement was inspired by a post from Jess Constable of Make … Continue reading