The VA Mental HealthCare System is Failing Me…and My Baby.

The pregnancy test flashed a positive sign on a Wednesday.

Two days later, a Friday, I was sitting in front of the nurse practitioner at the Cedar Park VA Outpatient Clinic, waiting patiently for the lab to confirm what EPT had already told me. When the confirmation came, there was a congratulations, a D.O.D standard “Guide to Pregnancy” book placed in my lap, and instructions from my primary care doc to stop all of my medications immediately. No Clonazepam, no Fluoxetine (Prozac) and no Lamictal. I left the clinic with these words and a promise from the nurse practitioner: “I’m going to see Dr. A once she’s done with her current patient and find out what she recommends, ok? She’ll be able to give you the proper guidance on what to do about your medications, being that she’s your psychiatrist. I’ll call you as soon as I speak with her.”

Friday afternoon came and went. No phone call.

Sunday afternoon came and I had already started to notice my mood shifting and withdrawals setting in.

Monday morning: I called and was put on hold. Left a voicemail. Called two hours later, left yet another voicemail with the nurse for the my primary care doc. Called back and tried to leave a voicemail for my psychiatrist and was unable to-the phone just rang without an answer. “She’s in the office, ma’am, how about I take the message for you?” said the vet volunteer working the front desk. Ok. Left the message. Checked my phone obsessively for the rest of the day-nothing.

Tuesday morning: Called back-left more messages. Nothing.

I spent the rest of that week freaking out from med withdrawal and anxiety over what to do. Fed up with the lack of response on the VA front, Bertski and I decided that finding outside, non-VA care was the way to go, even if we had to pay out-of-pocket until I was verified as a dependent under his insurance at work. A recommendation from a friend led me to Austin Area OBGYN and my new OB. I made an appointment, and even though it was weeks away, I was able to speak to a nurse about my medications. Within an hour I had more informed guidance: “Dr. S says you can continue to take the Prozac, but not the Clonazepam. He says that while Lamictal is relatively safe to take during pregnancy, he would prefer you to try to stay off of it until the end of your first trimester-the incident of a birth defect like cleft palate forming with Lamictal is very, very low, but he always advises staying off of it the first 12 weeks just to be even more cautious. HOWEVER if you feel yourself start to struggle and you feel you need to start taking it sooner, just let us know, and we can work with that, ok? Come in for lab work tomorrow so we can see how far along you are, ok, honey?”

I don’t think I’ve ever breathed a larger sigh of relief than I did when I hung up the phone with her. Later that day, when I checked my mailbox, there was a “CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR PREGNANCY!” package from the Women’s VA Health Clinic in Temple. (Note: all of the VA outpatient clinics & hospitals in Central TX are all spread out-there’s one in Austin, Cedar Park, Temple, Waco and Bryan College Station.) There was nothing from my primary care doc or psych in Cedar Park, and I still had not received a phone call returning my messages as promised 7 days prior. I threw the package in the trash, completely disgusted.

That next Monday it came-an appointment card from the clinic in Cedar Park telling me I had an upcoming appointment with my psych. I laughed-it wasn’t the first time this had happened-her just scheduling an appointment instead of actually returning my messages, but I thought being pregnant would have warranted her actually making the effort to call me. (What’s faster-a phone call or the mail? The mail, OBVIOUSLY!)

I went into that appointment on March 28th ready to give her the benefit of the doubt. I left vowing to no longer allow her to be in charge of my care.

Um…why didn’t you call me back? I’ve been waiting to find out what to do.

“I did call you-I didn’t get an answer.”

Um…no you didn’t-I don’t have any voicemail from you and I’ve watched my phone like a hawk waiting to hear from you.

“Well, I called, if you didn’t get it, that’s not my problem. Anyway, in my opinion, someone in your condition getting pregnant is just irresponsible.”

What?

“I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t be on any medication-you need to give your baby the best & healthiest start possible. Taking medication in my opinion is causing your baby harm.”

What if I have an episode during the pregnancy? What about postpartum psychosis? My OB said Lamictal and Prozac are safe!

“Well, I don’t agree with that. All of the research says otherwise…these are things you should have considered before getting pregnant.”

WHAT research? Everything I’ve read and what Dr. S has told me is the complete opposite of what you’re saying. The incidence of the birth defects associated with these two meds is very low, I’ve read this myself…there are women with epilepsy who take Lamictal at much higher doses-

“So are you just going to go with what he’s saying? Fine. Do you need psychotherapy? Individual therapy isn’t available through the VA here, but I can see if the social worker here at this location is available-I doubt it though-she doesn’t do therapy.”

I left that office shaking from the anger surging within me. That was it. Bertski and I agreed that day to no longer have anything to do with her-I’d try to find a private psychiatrist or have my care transferred to a new one at the Austin clinic. Her misinformation and lack of knowledge just wasn’t acceptable, and besides-it wasn’t the first time I’d had problems with her lack of communication and dismissive attitude. It’s what played a significant role in my being hospitalized back in October. Fed up with her neglect and lack of professionalism? Yeah, understatement if there ever was one.

I’ve spent the 6 weeks since then struggling to manage my symptoms while dealing with the yuck of the first trimester, Alex’s autism and SPD diagnosis and entrance into therapy, searching for a therapist who accepts our insurance (or has an affordable self-pay option), and pushing myself to hold on until the 12 week mark, which is tomorrow. I’ve also been working with the women’s health outreach specialist to get a new psych through the VA, at the Austin clinic. They’re so backed up, she put in the consult 6 weeks ago, and it’s still pending. (She was, however able to secure the authorization necessary to have the VA cover my prenatal care and delivery so I don’t have to pay out-of-pocket or use Bertski’s insurance which only covers a certain amount-so at least that’s a win.)

I called the VA pharmacy in Waco to have my Lamictal and Prozac refilled today (since I only have a 10 day supply left of both) ONLY to find out that they’ve been discontinued thanks to Dr. A. DISCONTINUED. She discontinued my medications and did so without informing me. No correspondence, no phone call, no explanation. NOTHING.

Needless to say I’m enraged. Even more so than I was before because instead of just jeopardizing MY health, she’s jeopardizing that of the baby’s and that has me wanting to FIGHT. Fight for my right to better treatment, and fight because, well, WHO THE FUCK IS SHE TO DO THIS TO A PATIENT?! Maybe it’s just me but I don’t see how any of this is ethical.

I’ve spent the morning making phone calls to file complaints and to even try to get ahold of her and the director of the clinic to no avail. She’s not answering her phone (of course) and the director is on vacation until May 17th. The women’s health specialist is aware of what’s going on and assured me she’s going to do something to “fix” things, but honestly, I don’t even TRUST anything VA related anymore. This infuriates me because as those of you who have been reading here since 2011 know, my psych at the VA hospital in Philadelphia was AMAZING, as was the mental health clinic and psychotherapy services there.

I’m a 100% service connected disabled veteran. I’m pregnant. I have a mood disorder. I shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of treatment. I shouldn’t be scouring Austin looking for a therapist because the VA here doesn’t offer separate, individualized psychotherapy therapy for women in my situation. (Or women period-When I discharged from the hospital in October, I was told repeatedly that they just have general support groups-nothing specialized or one on one for women.) I also know that I can’t be the only woman vet in the Central TX region who has had to deal with this pathetic system and its inadequacies. But outside of reporting her, what else can I do? I don’t just want her reported, I WANT HER AND OTHER VA DOCTORS HERE INFORMED. Informed on medications and treatment for women with mood disorders during pregnancy. Trained. Educated. I want better for my fellow women vets. Since moving here I have encountered nothing but poor treatment and bureaucracy. The Central TX VA Healthcare System has done nothing but inhibit my ability to have consistent, quality, and effective mental health care.

What can I do y’all? How do I fight this so that they stop failing myself and others?

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Update: I spoke with the women’s health outreach specialist, and she informed me that my meds were discontinued because the VA doesn’t want to assume any liability if something happens to the baby as a result of my being on psychiatric medications. Per the Chief Medical Director of the Women’s Health Clinic in Temple, TX: “The VA can’t assume responsibility for anything that may happen as a result of her staying on these medications during her pregnancy. Our psychiatrists are not experts in this area whereas a private obstetrician is. If he says these medications are safe for her to take during her pregnancy and he will write her a prescription for them, then she can bring that prescription to the VA pharmacy in Austin and we can fill them that way. If something were to happen, then this private OB is the one responsible, not the VA. Unfortunately this is what we have to do in situations such as this.”

So. There you have it. The VA has practically rid themselves of me during my pregnancy due to my having a psychiatric condition and I’m suddenly a liability concern. Question: WHY aren’t VA psychiatrists educated in reproductive psychiatry when women veterans comprise at least 10% of the veteran population and have children and are suffering from mental health issues like PTSD, Military Sexual Trauma, Depression, Anxiety, and others as a result of their fighting in combat and service?

Now what?

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Update #2: Several of YOU helped me flood The Department of Veteran Affairs twitter feed, sharing my angry tweets and this post with them and others like the local Fox News station here and even Rachel Maddow! At 5:29pm I received this response from their Twitter account: “@addyeB Dismayed by what happened. I’ll make sure the patient advocate in Austin hears about this.” Not sure if this will actually lead to effective action, but I’ll keep putting on the pressure until it does. If you’d like to help me apply that pressure directly to this patient advocate at the Austin clinic, comment here or email me! bconfessions at gmail dot com. Thank you for supporting me through this!

Dance Party Friday: IT’S MY 30TH BIRTHDAY! Edition

Who’s that little Ms. Sassy Pants? Ignore my father’s ashy knee. It was the 80′s-ashy was like blue eyeliner & teased hair-it was “in.”

Tomorrow, December 1st, is my birthday. I will officially be 30 years old at 7:20pm. (I think. When I called my mom to verify this information, it was 11pm EST and she was asleep. So for now, let’s just go with this, mmkay?)

I’ve spent this whole week thinking about this post and what I want to say about turning 30. It means a lot to me for pretty significant reasons, the most important being the fact that I’VE BEEN ALIVE FOR 30 YEARS. Seriously. Between my father telling me everyday he was going to kill me from ages 12-17 (and trying to on numerous occasions), and my own suicide attempts, I consider it a blessing that I’m still here to celebrate such a major turning point in my life and that it’s the first birthday where I’m free from so much of the shit that’s plagued me since I was a child. I may still be repairing the damage my father and other family members caused, but I’m happy to say I’m not buried under or blocked by it anymore.

Imagine being trapped in a building that’s collapsed itself upon you and you have to fight, climb, and dig your way through the rubble to get out and get the help you need. That’s what the first 29 years of my life have felt like and I’ve spent them pushing every broken piece of concrete and other debris off of me. Some of the trauma and injuries I sustained through it all have only recently begun to heal within the last 3 years through therapy and a lot of honest self-reflection. Others, I’ve come to realize, are more nuanced and difficult to treat, requiring lifelong medical treatment and therapy to maintain stability and improved mental health.

But, nonetheless, I’ve broken through it all, and here I am, my eyes squinting from the brightest sunlight I’ve ever seen. In front of me is the rest of my life with it’s arms open wide waiting for an embrace. Lying within that embrace are my sons, the love of my life (he really is!), and friends I’ll be able to laugh and reminisce with when I’m all wrinkly and have a glorious grey afro; one I’ll trick my grandkids and great grandkids into combing for me because I want to spend time I have left with them…and because by then my hands won’t be able to rake a comb through said glorious grey afro and will need someone to do it for me. I’ll pay them for their labor don’t worry. I think kisses and sugary treats will be a proper payment for services.

Ok somehow I just went from talking about being 30 to being 95 and manipulating future generations that may or may not actually be alive. Ahem…where was I?

I survived the last 29 years but I’m really looking forward to actually LIVING the next 30. Exploring, building, growing, pursuing creative endeavors (lots of writing and painting!) giving back, helping others, mental stability…these are the things I’m ready to give my full attention to as I enter this next decade of my life.

I’ll finish sharing the rest of my thoughts on turning 30 over the weekend. (Don’t hold me to it though, I’ll be drinking pitchers of margaritas and partying till I pass out at 9pm all weekend, so I’ll try, but no promises, mmkay?)

Speaking of partying…I have a little gift for you. It’s been awhile since I’ve done this, and I’m a tad rusty, but since I plan on dancing my ass off on my birthday (even if it’s just in my underwear in my living room) I figured, why not invite you to join me? Have fun shuffling and please-DO laugh at my Napoleon Dynamite dance moves and at lack of coordination in this one-it’s hard at this age to drop it like it’s hot in skinny jeans. (I also blame procreation. For some reason your ability to twerk it like the club hoochies  and work it like Janet Jackson diminishes with each child you push out of you.) I used to be able to do stuff like this….

 

Now I just throw my body around erratically. I thought about not publishing this, but then I saw this video, and said shooooooooooot. If other people can destroy the Interwebs with their malarkey, a little huffing and puffing from me ain’t gonna hurt nobody, now is it?

Enjoy. Leave a comment if you actually got up and danced with me! (You should. It’s my birthday and guess what?! This post is under a thousand words. Totally worth celebrating! Now get off your sass and shake something dammit.)

The Hardest Self-Care

Today I’m so thrilled to have my dear friend Charity from Giggles and Grimaces stopping by ‘Confessions.  We “met” on Twitter via the #PPDChat Army and she is part of the circle of support I lean on when the days are bleak. She always has an encouraging word, wisdom to share, and can SEW HER OWN CLOTH DIAPERS. Simply put, she rocks and it’s my pleasure to have her share her heart with you……Please show her some much needed and support today with love and comments!

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My Dearest Patrice,

I recently embarked on my hardest self care ever…I am weaning you from breastfeeding so the doctor and I can get more aggressive with my depression treatment.

I have been struggling since you were born.  I’ve journaled much of my journey on my blog, www.gigglesandgrimaces.com.  Suffice it to say, the doctor in the behavioural health hospital wanted me to wean you at 15 weeks old.  I absolutely refused.  I found a doctor willing to treat me even though I was nursing you.

Mommy has tried to get better.  Really tried.  I’ve been hospitalized, been on numerous medications and doses and you have tolerated it all.  We have pushed the envelope and you have thrived.

But the time has come…

I have been seeing this doctor since December.  He has been willing to work with me, but he understandably has reservations about my medications with nursing you.  And what we can do is not working.

You are now 19 months old and are only nursing once or twice a day.  And mommy is not getting better.  Today, as I sat on the bathroom floor at work crying, I realized the doctor and I have to do something different.  He understands why I want to nurse you, I understand his concerns about increasing and changing my medication and what it could do to you.

Sweetie, I will miss nursing you.  I have nursed babies a combined 4 years and 10 months of my life.  I have been pregnant any time in between that when I was not nursing.  I cannot imagine next week when you do not nurse at all. And there is no new baby growing in my belly and heart.  I will miss you signing thank you and patting my face when you finish nursing.

I feel like my soul is being ripped out as I ponder this decision, but then I realize that soul is tattered, torn and disheveled and it’s only hope of getting whole and healthy lies on the other side of you nursing.

My dear Patrice, it is time for us to walk forward hand-in-hand, without nursing, as mother and daughter, no longer mother and nursling.  I pray you never understand depression, but that you will grow to understand how much mommy loved you to keep nursing and how much mommy loves you to stop nursing.

Love forever,

Mama

Circle of Moms Top 25 Blogs on Postpartum Depression: Why I Want to Be Listed Among the Awesome

 I was winding up a relaxing catch up session with my cousin Addye D. late yesterday afternoon, when I happened to check my email and received the shock of a lifetime:

Your blog Butterfly Confessions has been nominated to the Top 25 Postpartum Depression Blogs by Moms – 2012 list on Circle of Moms!

The parts I highlighted in bold were the only words I initially saw and the overwhelming shock that came with understanding what they meant led me to immediately close the email. After a few moments I passed the phone to my cousin and friend Stephanie and just sat there with my hand over my mouth in stupefied gratitude and shock.

When the shock had ebbed enough away for me to recover I re-opened the email, read it through, followed the links  attached and was blown away when I saw the other moms who’d also been nominated…moms I knew. Mamas I had met only a year ago through their courage and transparent words on my computer screen…mamas who embraced me, encouraged me, talked with me, and walked with me through one of the darkest periods of my life. Mamas who became friends, confidants and some of my biggest supporters, mamas who comprise a fabulous army known as the #PPDChat Army on Twitter & Facebook.  I was listed among these incredible women?! Again, I was overwhelmed with emotion and had to back away from the computer to process it all.

I couldn’t sleep last night because after my initial shock and emotions about being nominated subsided, there came the desire to want to be listed, to indeed be one of the 25 who make the list. After that came guilt and the thoughts that tried to rob me of the joy of this accomplishment: “Should I want to win?” “What is this some kind of popularity contest? Is this why you write? To win things, to make lists, to be recognized and applauded? A’Driane get a grip, girl! Stop being so vain,” the guilt laced thoughts screamed at me.

But this morning when I woke up, I didn’t feel anymore guilt because I understand why I want to be listed among these incredible women and I don’t think my reasons and desire make me a shallow, glory seeking hound.

I want to be listed because number one, it help me remember on the rough days that  my transparency means something, that it’s more than just me sitting here spilling my guts on the internet. Practicing transparency is no easy task and it is by no means for the faint at heart. It takes courage to own your story, out loud, in black and white for the world to read and think what they may of it. You know how many people disparagingly told me I shouldn’t do this? That I shouldn’t share these kinds of details about my life? Do you know that no one in my family openly talks about depression or mental illness though it has affected several of us? I don’t do this solely for awards or to be applauded, or even to try and get thousands of page views. I do it because I want to change the dialogue about mental illness, especially among women and mothers. I do it because I want to be a voice, a person who helps others embrace their humanity by vocalizing mine.

I also want to be listed because black women suffer from postpartum depression too, as well as other minorities. It’s no secret that mental illness is a taboo subject among the black community and that the stigmas surrounding it are deeply entrenched, almost impermeable. But I’m trying to change that, and while you may think I’m pulling a race card here, I’m really not. Facts are facts. Blacks, Latinos, Asians and other races & cultures don’t talk about mental health and perinatal mood disorders. And if they aren’t talking about it, that means they aren’t seeking treatment if they are suffering. There needs to be more awareness, more open, shame-free dialogue and more healthy, strong starts for mothers of color and their children. Part of why I’m fighting my way through college right now is so I can become a licensed clinical social worker & therapist to make this happen on a professional level, advocating and pushing for effectual change. Women of color need better resources both online and in their communities. I want to be an online resource they can come to for support and an encouraging virtual bear hug when they need it. I just want to do my part, and being listed in a community that boasts over 6 million moms can maybe help these women of color find what they need.

So do I want to be listed among the awesome? Do I want you to vote for me? Do I feel guilty or shameful about asking you to? Yes, yes, and no, I don’t. Don’t think of it as voting for me, a person. When you cast your vote for me and the other mamas listed think of it as helping to erase the shame and stigma surrounding mental illness. Think of it as helping to give mamas and their kiddos a strong, healthy start. Don’t we all deserve that?

Speaking of the awesome, DUDE-PLEASE check out all the blogs listed and VOTE for them! I’ve been voting for everyone :) Why?  Every single one of these mamas has shown so much courage and strength by giving in to vulnerability and letting you see their struggles and triumphs. Reward their wholeheartedness and leave them encouraging comments, let them know you support what they’re doing and that it’s not in vain.  To see the list of blogs nominated and to vote you can click on the badge to the right under “Honored!” or click this link: http://www.circleofmoms.com/top25/top-postpartum-depression-mom-blogs-2012 Voting lasts until February 21, 2012 and you can vote for your favorites once a day every day :)

Congrats to all the mamas who have been nominated!!!!!!!!!

And God…you continue to amaze me. Thank you for being so faithful and just plain AWESOME.

A Moment of Complete Honesty

Well folks, here’s the deal. My meds aren’t working. At all. And while I’m tired of riding the medicinal merry-go-round to find the right cocktail, I know it may continue to be awhile before I do. So, I have to resort to some drastic measures to manage my BP until I do….which means I have to enact a more regimented lifestyle and adhere to a pretty strict daily routine. It’s the only thing I can think of at this point because I’ve tried everything else.

I have so much riding on this semester of school; starting and finishing strong is crucial this go ’round and I’m terrified I’m losing all the ground I’ve covered thus far.

Moving closer to recovery and manageability by finding the right meds and implementing a more aggressive treatment plan is also incredibly crucial at this point y’all.

Why? Because I am not well. I can barely sit still long enough to type this…my mind has been scattered and all over the place for weeks now and I’m barely hanging on at this point. My grip on this is weakening and I’m pretty scared about it.

The general and social anxiety alone is crippling me.

I’m going to try to keep writing here…but forgive me in advance if future posts are all over the place, or if I just can’t write as much as before.  But I’m going to try.

Just wanted to give you all a heads up……..it feels like I am completely losing my mind. Seriously.

 

 

Self-Love Saturday: Accepting What I See (Body Image) pt1

I look tired don't I? I am..had a loooong day

I have a love/hate relationship with my glasses. Things between my glasses and I have been complicated since I first started wearing them in kindergarten. See, there are pros & cons to this relationship.

The Pros : I’m a geek. A nerdy gal. I enjoy being so. I’m a writer, I create, I’ve grown to loving the ability to pick out a pair of specs that reflect different aspects of my personality….well at least nowadays. Back when I first started wearing them in 1989, they weren’t so uh…stylish. Whose glad times have changed and so have the fashions in the eye wear department? THIS NERD.  :) But let’s be real, the most important pro of all is the fact that I can FREAKIN SEE. How blind am I? Let’s just say I’m grateful for the guy who has to sand down my lenses at the lab-he always does a phenomenal job and I can see all the way to Jupiter!

Yep...pretty tired...and sweaty. It's the anxiety LOL

The Cons

My glasses are always outrageously expensive because my eyes don’t like me and are shaped like grains of rice. My astigmatism in both eyes is severe and gets worse every year apparently. The other con? They let me FREAKIN SEE. Everything.

Why on earth do I count that as a con? Simple: without my glasses on, the vision I have of myself is never complete, and for someone who struggles in the self-esteem department, there’s an unexpected comfort that comes from that. Not wearing my glasses allows me to not see the physical things about myself I don’t like. At least not in telescopic, 3D fashion. It’s like editing a photo, you know where you can use photoshop tools to blur out or cover up what you don’t want seen? Not wearing my specs is like that for me.

So it goes like this. I get ready to go somewhere or just you know wash my face if I’m staying home for the day. When I’m done, I look at myself in the mirror…sometimes I may have a little (mineral) makeup, most days I don’t, but I’ll look and give myself an assessment. You know…how I think I look on a scale of “OMG UGH-oooooh girl, you look FIERCE!” It usually falls somewhere in the middle…most days. But then I grab my specs, look at myself again, and all I can see are all the things I don’t like about myself, everything that I think is a physical imperfection glaringly staring right back at me. In plain sight. However I was initially feeling about my looks usually slides a few pegs down the scale at that point….

I know, I know...I need a pedicure....Want to give me one?

With my glasses I have a more realistic view of how I look….but my body image and self-esteem pretty much suck. Always has since I was a little girl. I’m sure talk therapy would reveal the root of it is steeped in daddy issues. He never validated me, he always pointed out what he thought was wrong with me physically, was always trying to change how I looked, he controlled how my hair was done & what clothes I wore. To this day I have a complex about my feet because this man took me shopping for sandals and embarrassingly laughed at me when I tried on a pair-I was 11. I thought the entire store could hear him describe my “ugly feet” that weren’t “sandal feet”. I’ve since grown to accept how my feet look, but I have insecurities about them still. Getting a pedicure is like torture, I can’t take the anxiety about what Sally thinks of my toes.

But anyway, my point is this. For years, especially the past year, I’ve been hating the way I

I walk around sucking this in all day when I'm in public....I know...I know. I guess I like to torture myself?

look. I mean HATE. I look in the mirror and man, I just see a body that resembles nothing the one I had at 21. Or even before my last pregnancy. My breasts, my girls, they sag. Forget eye of the tiger, I’ve got his stripes. Have a slew of stretch marks too. I look like my dad, so I see his features. I’m at the highest weight I’ve ever been in (175-181 range), so my face is round and puffier than I’m used to. I just don’t like what I look like. Hated putting my glasses on & having what I hate stare back at & taunt me.

That is until today. All day today I thought about acceptance. About what it means to accept my body…what having a healthy body image means. I generated a lot of thoughts about it, but to start I’ll just say that I made  a decision today to just accept what I see.

Just accept it. Face it. Embrace it. Whether I like it or not. Just accept everything about me

that I think keeps me from being beautiful or desirable. I made a vow today to love my body and everything about it no matter what state it’s in.

Accept me. Own me. Embrace me.  So, to show my commitment and to officially sign my pledge if you will, I took some pictures. To show that I’m no longer hiding behind blurry vision or despising myself.  As you can see I’ve, posted them among these words…

Instagram filters rock...

Here’s to the conclusion of another Self-Love Saturday and me striving to see myself through a healthier, wholesome lens.

I’d like to thank Shape of A Mother for helping me take this step….

What lens do you view your physical self through? What do you think distorts or sharpens it? Feel free to share below….

Self-Love Saturday: I Love Who I Am But I Can Be Better

Today I’m SUPER EXCITED for 2 reasons. One: This is my first post in a new series I’m doing here on ‘Confessions called “Self-Love Saturdays” where I share my journey to learn how to love myself through thick & thin, for better or for worse. I want to have a better relationship with ME and I’ll be exploring topics that cover body image, self-esteem, self-improvement….you get the idea. My hope is to also share insights from other bloggers who talk about these subjects on a professional or personal level and that brings me to reason for excitement number Two:

See that beautiful Mama up there? Her name is Jaime and her blog James & Jax is one of my top three FAVORITE blogs to read, hands down. Even though we haven’t met in person yet, she is fast becoming an IRL friend: She’s a Prince fan, a writer, & loves PB sandwiches with bananas & honey just as much as I do, so how could we not?

I’m honored that she wanted to grace ‘Confessions with her awesomeness. I could probably spend an entire paragraph gushing about how much I love reading her stuff & how the writer in me digs her writing style, but I don’t want to seem like a stalker so….do yourself a favor & don’t take my word for it-read her post here, go visit her blog, and chat with her on FacebookTwitter. Read the 411 below, & show her some love ya’ll :)

Meet James: I’m a first-time mom, making my way through breastfeeding, co-sleeping, my version of attachment parenting, PPD, working full-time, and still trying to figure out who I am now that becoming a mother has totally rocked my world. Want to know more about me? Read this or thisMeet Jax: My son, Jax, is turning 2 this month, the day after me (no, I’m not telling you my age!). His current obsessions are Yo Gabba Gabba, balloons, “nummies,” and pizza. And he doesn’t sleep well. Sigh.

James & Jax is a parenting blog, but more than that, it aims to present my belief that we’re all in this together. What I mean is that by sharing my personal experiences while raising my son, I hope that those reading feel less alone and lonely, and more like “Wow, I went through that, too!”  It is my ultimate goal that reading my blog feels like chatting with your high school girlfriend over a glass of wine, now that we’re both moms.

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“Growth itself contains the germ of happiness.”

Pearl Buck said that, and I believe she was right! I love all things self-help, I must admit. I’m on a lifelong quest for self-improvement. It’s not that I think I am a bad person with lots of room for improvement. I think I’m a (mostly) fabulous person, but all people, fabulous or not, have limitless growth potential. Because it is my birth month, during which I always try to reflect on the past year and the year ahead, I’ve devoted the month of August to becoming a better me.

To help with my goal, I’ve signed up for the 30-Day Be a Better Me challenge on The Personal Excellence Blog. I’m slowly working my way through the 30 days a little behind the rest of the gang (at last check, there were over a thousand of us participating), but speed is not the mission. The mission, as I determined on Day 1 of the challenge, is to weed out the traits I consider my worst so that I can become a better wife, friend, mother, daughter, sister, and so on:

  • Negativity
  • Anger
  • Impatience.

Those are my 3 worst traits–which I’ve now told the entire internet about. Yikes. Yet telling the internet is the best way to hold myself accountable, so there’s that.

As someone who’s recovered from postpartum depression, I now realize the value of self-care and self-love. There is an analogy common among those who have suffered from PPD: Self-care is the oxygen mask you put on when the plane’s going down. And just as the flight attendant instructs, you must place your own mask on before helping others (even children). Because if you’re not well, you can’t care for others. As a mother, this is hard to do–that pesky momma guilt is quick as lightning when it strikes. But self-care and motherhood MUST go hand in hand. You cannot love your babies to your fullest capability if you do not love yourself, for they are part of you!

So my current take on self-care is this 30-day challenge. By spending a half hour to an hour each day this month to work on improving myself, I am proving that I care about and love myself and I am thus being a positive role model to my son.

The last thing in the world I want for my son, Jax, is a mother who is negative, angers too easily, and is impatient. No, scratch that, the last thing I want for Jax is to be negative, angry, and impatient himself because he learned it from me. And I don’t really want that for any of my loved ones, either.

I have to defend myself for a second, lest you get the wrong idea. I’m not outwardly negative, angry, and impatient 100% of the time. Not even 50% of the time! But that 10% of the time is enough, and I don’t like how it makes me feel. I don’t want to carry my anger with me and hold grudges. I don’t want to immediately think of the 10,000 cons (or dangers) of any situation, even good ones. And I don’t want to rush through my (and my son’s) life. I would much rather feel how I do that other 90% of the time–happy, calm, at peace and enjoying my life, even the quirky stuff. Life is too short to not live as my ideal self!

For me, this August will be a month of self-reflection, self-love, and self-care. And come September, I will be changed. Maybe the transformation will be subtle, but as I mentioned, it’s not a race and self-improvement is a lifelong journey.

Won’t you join me?