Picking Up My Keys

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When I came home bone tired and emotional from Climb Out of the Darkness 2014 on Saturday, my husband met me at the door, wrapped his arms around me and held me tight. As I let myself sink into the … Continue reading

I’m Back Out in the World-Join Me

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Just over 4 years ago I was at the lowest point in my life, convinced that it was no longer worth living. Today, thanks to Postpartum Progress and a support system that includes other survivors as my closest friends & … Continue reading

Metamorphic

 

I’ve spent the last 6-8 weeks riding waves of emotions that have turned me inside out, exposing my inner seams. Some are frayed, some are unraveling, some are loosening, others are bursting, but yet still others somehow remain stitched tightly woven together, holding me back from completely spilling out and over onto everything I touch. I’m frustrated. I’m relieved. I am both angst and peace. I am joy and stress bounding and striding in rhythm with the same heartbeat. My blood pumps feverishly hot through my veins, but my thoughts drag along in the cold sludge of my brain. Yesterday I was yes and breaking open, arching my back and thrusting my chest in the sunlight of all things new. Today I am no and folding inward, shrinking back, giving life to fear with the doubts that flow from my lips in ragged whispers. I can’t go back to where and who I was, yet I’m slipping and fumbling with each step forward and into the me and life awaiting embodiment. I am tiptoeing my way along the cusp of my greatest triumphs and current failures, looking for a break along the way to press myself in and abide. Sometimes this what breaking through is-navigating the time in between as it refines you for your life’s work and purpose. This is my metamorphic moment. 

#liberatedlinesopen #wedontedit

Blue Light

I’m currently taking an eCourse called Liberated Lines. I jumped at the chance to take it because not only do I love Alisha’s work (I’m a new and HUGE fan), I’m also trying to find my poetic voice again. It’s been years since I’ve written poetry, and since my goal for 2014 is to embody who I am as a writer and artist, this course is the perfect chance to jump back in, head first. I’m feeling all wobbly and rusty, but also very good to be working these creative muscles again.

 

Here’s today’s entry, quick and dirty, just speaking what came to mind…

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“This is no ordinary love”, it whispers softly as it dances its faceted blues in the sunlight. I pause and let this truth wash away the stress & toil of marriage that collects from time to time like the grit & grime that collects under one’s fingernails. As it does, I feel my shoulders slowly sink back into their foundation and as the tension recedes like the tide, I open. To him. To us. To impromptu rendezvous and lunchtime mojitos. To connecting in the midday amidst the grind of daily living and earning to provide. I unfurl and soften as I watch the blue dance in the light. I open and let my heart stand naked and unashamed to the one who loves me like none other. #liberatedlinesopen”

Feel free to follow the #libertatedlinesopen tag on Instagram to read what words we unearth over the next 4 weeks!

7 Minutes

We were given this for a journaling prompt in my writing & creativity class, Story 201 tonight. One quote, 7 minutes. This is what came out. 

“Remember the deep root of your being.” (The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom, Christine Valters Painter) 

Go back and unearth what was buried. 

Dig. 

Dig. 

Shove heaps of earth off to each side.

Dig. 

Dig. 

Until it’s in your view.

Excavate it. 

Open it. 

Breathe it in. 

See it for yourself again with fresh eyes. 

Behold. 

Recognize it as who you are. 

Who you’ve always been underneath it all. 

Go back.

Unearth what was buried. 

Unearth yourself. 

 

Moving Toward the Sun

I’ve been in a depressive episode for nearly 8 weeks. The decline has been gradual. There have been good days scattered throughout, but I’ve been edgy, tense, fatigued….my mind has been too loud some days, eerily silent during others. I’ve been crying off and on in my bathroom to hide my breaking from my kids…in my car as I drive from one errand to the next. I’ve had to shift to auto-pilot to just get through hard moments, root myself in detachment to keep from getting swallowed up by the stress. I’ve spent the last two weeks cycling rapidly between hypomania (marked mostly by agitation and a mind packed with too many thoughts), and a dragging depression that swallows me up and sends me into its belly for a few moments then spits me back out into the sun and air where I can breathe again. And then everything’s still and quiet…I feel “normal” and then the cycle repeats itself hourly, daily, weekly….and so it’s been for nearly 2 months now. Rinse. Settle. Repeat.

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I’m still in that critical postpartum window. I just weaned nearly a month ago. My body and hormones are in flux and adjusting as a result. I hate it.

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Stress is both motivating and crippling for me. I can handle 10 things going on all at once with ease. It’s once the 11th shows up demanding my attention that my mind starts to split and scatter off into darker corners. I think about my life these days and chide myself with all kinds of “should” statements for feeling and being overwhelmed by all I manage on a day-to-day basis: baby is teething & raging,  middle child with special needs, oldest was just diagnosed with ADHD and his enthusiasm for school has waned significantly, trying to overhaul our home and parenting lifestyles to accommodate and support their needs (like increasing structure and making our home more sensory friendly), supporting my husband while he deals with stress at work. New therapy schedules, trips to the pediatrician, and comprehensive psychometric testing have dominated our lives over the past month. Up ahead there is more testing to be done, and meetings with the school district to discuss accommodations for Brennan and evaluations and placement for Alex who is gearing up for preK this fall…

It’s not all stressful. I’m involved in birthing great projects. I’m taking my mom’s advice on avoiding burnout by feeding my spirit so I don’t fall prey to losing myself, you know? I’ve joined writing & art communities online,  I’m painting at 11pm, I’ve signed up for retreats and writing eCourses, done a couple of write-ins with groups, and I’ve done a juice cleanse to try to reset my body and mind. I’m re-reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown as well as books on painting, sensory processing disorder, creativity, and feminism. I’m trying to find my way here still, in this space as far as my writing is concerned. I’m trying to learn how to embody all the parts of myself that have come alive over the past few years-artist, writer, advocate-in the midst of the daily demands on my person and time as a mother and wife. I’m trying to bloom where I’m planted. At 31, it’s still a stumbling process though.

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I’m searching for my flow amidst the rhythms, rocking and swaying as the ebb and flow of my life’s current carries me throughout my days. But the stress of everything gets triggering and I find myself cycling with the ebb and flow as a result sometimes. That’s when my knees buckle and my head spins. My chest constricts and my brain starts to feel like it’s suffocating. My grip gets weak. Fatigue sets in and my steps forward get heavy. Taking care of myself gets harder, and usually becomes the last checked off item on my must do list-if it’s checked off at all. I end each day feeling as though I have no safe place to come up for air and just process my thoughts, fears, and anxiety…I end most days feeling unsettled and bottled up, stuffed to capacity and as I close my eyes to sleep I’ve found myself starting to pray like Jabez, asking God or whoever is listening for an increase in capacity…in ability…in might…

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My hair is pink again with some blue added for extra fun. My hair and color are always my first lines of defense against the disorder of my brain chemistry and mood.

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I visited my psychiatrist last week at the VA. This is another area that I can’t seem to find solid footing. We’ve lived here for nearly two years and I’m on my 3rd psychiatrist. Obtaining talk therapy has been a fail. The appointment scheduling system here is confusing and useless to me because I have very little say in what days and times fit into my schedule that’s already inundated with the kid’s school and therapies. I’ve had to fight to get treated, and I’m constantly having to say “but if you read this and go here, research and experts agree that….”. I feel lost in a system that I’m constantly told is for me to use and that I should trust. But the bureaucracy I face with nearly every interaction chips away at that trust. I have no confidence in my mental health care these days, in the professionals assigned to my care. And yet, at my appointment last week, I sat in front of her desk and allowed myself to become undone. Completely and unapologetically. I unloaded nearly 24 months of thoughts and stress right there in her office in 20 minutes while my smiling baby squirmed and cooed in my arms. She listened to every word. Asked some questions that dug a little deeper. Apologized for all the trouble with the system I’ve had and for not really hearing me 6 weeks ago when I told her my anxiety was becoming a problem. She admitted that lack of knowledge about medications while breastfeeding restricted her ability to really give me what I was needing. We decided now that I’m no longer pregnant and breastfeeding we could get more aggressive with my meds again-go back to finding a more therapeutic dose. So over the next two months I’ll be doing that-going up on lamictal and prozac and trying out an additional med for anxiety. I started the increase yesterday. I’m hoping by the end of the week my brain and mood will start to grab ahold and adjust accordingly.

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I’ve struggled today to pick everything back up and keep walking. To push past and through. To square my shoulders and lift my chin. To turn a deaf ear to the tape playing in my head that has all kinds of lies and frenzied talk on a loop.

But I’m doing it-picking up and pushing. I’m moving forward. Slowly. The sun is shining outside despite the cold front that’s moved through. I’m working my way out into the sun, breathing in deep as I go.

Real Talk: I’m F—ing Sick of Suicide and Mental Illness Killing Our People

I just need to get this out because it’s burning hot in my bones like fire, my soul wants to just scream and wail but it can’t because doing so will terrify my children.

I’ve been thinking all day about how we’ve lost another person, another woman of color to suicide and mental illness. The more I’ve thought about how we lost Karyn Washington to suicide, the angrier I get. I’m talking SEETHING. I’m talking a white-hot, blinding rage that just wants to go tearing through things as it travails in mourning. I’m talking a rage that causes my teeth to ache from a clenched jaw and gnashing.

I. am. ANGRY.

I. am. MOURNING.

 

I. am. HEARTBROKEN.

I didn’t know her, but I didn’t have to. She was my sister, a fellow woman of color, a writer, a voice, a human being dedicated to uplifting her people. And she is gone. Suicide came and took her from us and I’m here grieving like she was my own daughter gone from me.

I’m fed up with the stigma that permeates minority communities and takes the lives of our people-as if we already don’t have enough fucking things that are killing and destroying us. I’m enraged at the lack of resources available to us. Our people are living and suffering from all types of ‘hood trauma all across this country, and have been for decades, centuries, even and our mental health isn’t taken seriously and addressed.

Our people are left for dead and to waste away in their minds.

Our churches-the cornerstones in our communities don’t adequately address mental illness-we keep perpetuating this “I’m too blessed to be stressed” bootstrappin bullshit that’s basically the equivalent to handing us a razor to slice our wrists open with.

Black men are conditioned to believe they have to be hard, and in reality, it’s true-they MUST be and live hard because society views them as inhuman and unworthy of even being able to walk to the corner store or listen to music in their cars in peace.

Black women are conditioned to bear a resilient silence-our mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, and grandmothers have to be so strong for everyone else without a not so much of an utterance as to how such a burden is eroding at our thought life and well-being.

I’m disgusted that the mental health advocate community has a major diversity problem. I’m tired of POC not being seen and heard on mental health platforms like our white counterparts. I’m tired of seeing awareness campaigns full of nothing but white faces, and quality treatment facilities and practices in the white neighborhoods, with even sliding scale fees only white people can afford.

I’m tired of hearing our people say that therapy and medication “are for white people.” I’m tired of our mamas not knowing what perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are and how they can manifest over the first year of their baby’s life-ON TOP of all the other shit they’re dealing with that can contribute to depression, PTSD, and anxiety. I’m tired of our mamas not knowing the risk factors for developing such disorders during and following pregnancy-especially when previous trauma and violence are the top risk factors.

My heart bleeds for the Karyns. The Miriams. The Ebony Wilkersons. The Don Cornelius’. The Lee Thompson Youngs. My heart rages for them, and I wonder when their mental health will become a priority. When will the psychiatrist or licensed social worker graduating from school decide to go set up shop where our people live and listen to their stories. Educate us. Chip away at the stigma that has become a death sentence?

Who will help us? People of color, when will we speak up about our own struggles with mental illness and light the way for our own? Can it be today?

Please tell me we can start today. I can’t bear the pain of losing any more of you to this selfish son of bitch.

If you are struggling today and having thoughts of suicide, please DO NOT hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433) or 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) . 

Sprung

I’m sitting outside as I’m typing this. The air has begun to cool, and a soft breeze is sweeping past me as I sit on our front step. The sky is clear, the sun is lazily retreating to its home, the trees are freshly green, and I’m smiling as I remember the bluebonnets we passed earlier while driving to the mall.

Spring is here. In Austin such gorgeous weather and comfortable temps only last a few weeks before Summer comes in all hot and sweating from head to toe, heat emanating from its core. It’ll be 110 degrees out soon, but today there was a slow, delicious ride up to 81, and the sun-kissed my skin instead of scorching it. Glory.

The baby is inside sleeping soundly after a rough day of teething, cocooned cozily in his favorite blanket. I can hear the older two coming undone as they laugh to Tom & Jerry’s classic antics. I paused from cleaning and prepping for the week ahead to just come out here and sit with my thoughts for a moment…and breathe…and soak in the emerging energy of the new season springing forth.

Mentally, I can feel the depression that’s been slowly creeping up on me retreating a bit, giving me room to breathe in a bit deeper. This weekend had its stressful and triggering moments with the baby (his crying becomes intense and piercing quickly), but overall our weekend was peaceful.

Brennan had his second soccer game and I watched in awe from the sidelines as he came to life in ways I’ve only seen when he’s singing, dancing, or his mind is a flight with creativity. I caught myself nodding in recognition as I watched him bound up and down the field-he feels free when he runs, just like I do. I can see it in the way his body stretches out and how effortlessly he embodies motion in each stride. He’s clumsy when it comes to trying to get his hands and arms to do something like catch a ball, but he’s fluid with his legs and feet-just like me. It caught me by surprise when he asked to sign up for soccer a couple of months back, but watching him on the field yesterday, I saw why he did-he’s a natural and he loves the exertion and excitement.

Alex was all about his trains this weekend. His favorite the past two days has been Henry and Henry has been pulling all the cargo and tinders behind him at home, at the mall, in the van, at the soccer field. Alex was also all about being barefoot. He’s been on a sock strike and extended it this weekend to footwear while playing out front and riding around in the car. Come to think of it, he even went without pants at one point yesterday, choosing to continue playing on the front step in nothing but his favorite Batman tee and underwear. Watching him run chase his trains and toy motorcycles in minimal clothing as they raced down the sidewalk in front of our apartment gave me the giggles. I remember feeling peace envelop my heart as I recognized how comfortable he felt in his environment, and considering how defensive and overwhelmed the world around him can cause him to be at times, I relished seeing his body at ease and freely allowing him to be, well, Alex the Great.

Bertski is home on vacation from work for the next week, which I’m relieved about. He’s been moving slowly throughout his days, soaking in his free time. He signed up for the Statesman Cap 10k next week, which will make it his second year in a row running it. I’m excited for him. Running is his life next to coding and robotics. He NEEDS to run like I need to paint and write and have a good living room dance party. He woke up today in the mood to listen to hip-hop-both old and new. The first part of our morning was spent with Tupac, Public Enemy, J. Cole,  & Nas-it was glorious. I’m so relieved I married a fellow music junkie.

I’m shipping paint this coming week. I took down the three pieces going to new homes, and felt my heart sob a bit as I started prepping them. Saying goodbye to my work is always bittersweet. I’m humbled and honored others want it to grace their spaces, but also torn over having to let them go and never see them on my walls again. I’m going to miss stopping during my day and looking at them, reflecting on the thoughts and emotions each one invokes. It’s ok. I will make more. Letting go of them frees up space in and around me to make more. Besides, hoarding it all for myself in our tiny space is silly.

I’ve weaned the baby. He’s now on a dairy and soy free formula and is enjoying his slow foray into solids, eagerly gobbling up rice cereal. Despite the fussiness in the afternoons, he’s been incredibly happy; discovering his feet, babbling to his brothers as he watches them run and play, and laughing. His laugh releases something in me every time I hear it, and before I realize it, I’m laughing along with him and nibbling on his cheeks as he smiles. Even with the hard moments, this boy has been bliss. We are all madly in love with him, it’s disgusting to see us fall all over ourselves fawning over him, eating him up. He is delicious. Goodness.

Inhale.

Exhale.

This breeze is everything. There’s an uplifting energy to it, and as I skim back over what I’ve written as I’ve sat in its midst, I see I’ve written exactly what that energy feels like several times: FREE.

This weekend has been freeing for my little family in a variety of ways. Invigoratingly so.

Spring has sprung and so have we.

Inhale.

Exhale.

New season. New week.

Time to go back in.

Reset

The scale groaned under my weight as I stood on it a few moments ago. The blue light highlighted the digital readout & what I had a feeling I’d see: 200.8lbs.

I weigh 200.8lbs. That’s 17lbs more than what I weighed when I gave birth, and it’s the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life.

I guess I should admit here that I’m
incredibly envious of women who lose weight from breastfeeding. I don’t. I’ve breastfed three children for 4 months each and have never dropped a pound during. Instead my appetite has always increased far more than it ever did during pregnancy and so does my weight. Every. Time.

I think weighing so much wouldn’t be hitting my psyche and body image so hard if the rest of my body wasn’t so much of a wreck from this pregnancy.

My pelvis is still broken. My pubis symphysis is still the size of the Grand Canyon. About a month after delivering I started experiencing moderate symptoms of prolapse-my OB says I’m at a grade 2 and if no improvement has been made between 4-6 months postpartum, he’ll recommend surgery & other measures to try and alleviate my symptoms. It’s a complete disaster down there, unlike anything I experienced my previous two postpartum periods. These are the kinds of things I wish they talked about in child birthing classes & books when they espouse the benefits of vaginal delivery. Sure, vaginal delivery is considered the ideal compared to having a C-Section, but it does come with at a price-one far greater and more demoralizing than tearing & swelling. I’m pretty angry at the fact that pelvic organ/vaginal/uterine prolapse isn’t talked about, but that’s a soapbox I’ll get on another night…

ANYWAY…

At first, I attempted to get through running and some yoga despite my pelvic issues. But once the prolapse started, running became a no go and yoga went from bearable to painful during most positions and stretches. Walking, lifting and carrying anything over 5lbs makes my back scream, thighs ache, and lower abdominal area curse me out. I’m hoping when I see my OB this week he can give me some guidance on what kind of low impact exercise I can do that won’t cause further damage or undo any correcting that might be done at some point.

To help the prolapse one thing I must do is shed some of this weight. To shed the weight I need to move more, somehow, and I have to stop stress eating. My OB also suggested that weaning (when I was ready) would probably help. Well, as of today the baby is now weaned-for a few reasons, but this is definitely one of them.

200.8lbs. Grade 2 prolapse with painful symptoms daily. Fatigue. Stress. Pelvis problems. Have I mentioned my bald spots? Postpartum hair loss is quite sexy.

I thank God and Nature for endowing my body with the ability to bear the strain of nurturing and birthing life, but I’m also tired of feeling and being so wrecked by it.

It’s time for a reset.