My Dear Addye, With All My Love, Susan

Hello, dear readers of Butterfly Confessions. Lauren of My Postpartum Voice here. I’ve recruited some of Addye’s friends to write posts for her blog while Addye babymoons with hear new little one. This letter is the first guest post and it’s written by the fabulous Susan of Learned Happiness. If you’d like to submit a guest post to be published while Addye is babymooning, email me at mypostpartumvoice (@) gmail with “For Butterfly Confessions” in the subject line!

Without further ado, I present Susan’s lovely words for Addye…..

 

My Dear Addye,

You and I have been friends for 3 years, now.  And in that time, I have watched you transform into a wholehearted woman.  You took chances with your life and made huge leaps of faith – faith in yourself more than any one person.  You have learned to be honest with yourself about who you are and who you want to be.  Your integrity has been hard-fought and is well-deserved.  You honor me with your friendship.

You said when you married Bert and took his name that it was the beginning of a new life – one written by you and you alone.  One that speaks to all you hold sacred and points to a fulfilling life with your family.  And this baby?  Is a part of that new life.  I can see it in your eyes – in the way you look at him and hold him.  I have experienced the hope brought by a new baby birthed in joy and a sense of calm.  It renews the spirit.  And I couldn’t have wished a better birth experience for you.

SusanQuoteRemember that no matter how good your birth (or how much you love that amazing tiny man), having a newborn is a special kind of torture.  The nights are long and the days are even longer.  And no matter how happy you are, it’s okay to be exhausted.  It’s okay to be emotional.  And it’s okay to still need help.  This is not a test of your spirit.  You are not being graded on how gracefully you weather the fourth trimester.  There will be beautiful moments and there will be unbearable ones.  And your tribe?  Will be standing beside you for both.

I hope with all of my heart that the darkness you fear is blotted out by your joy.  But if it’s not, if it all becomes too much, you are armed and you are never alone.

With all my love,
Susan

My Life Isn’t Always So Heavy. Sometimes It’s Full of Near Marriages & Tear Gas Too.

Today I’m supposed to be telling you about the time I nearly died during a military exercise in the Nevada desert.

Me+5 cans of tear gas+gas mask fail=the fires of brimstone & damnation taking up residence in my body.

It’s a good story, but before I share it with you, I have to explain why I am.

I told my friend Susan about it and she almost died from laughter. Death by laughter is a much better way to go than death by tear gas, in case you were wondering.

Anyway she didn’t really almost die laughing (duh, it’s called exaggeration) but she did have tears in her eyes, and after she composed herself she reminded me of something-I don’t talk about the other parts of my life here very often, if at all.

I’ve spent the majority of this blog’s life telling you about my struggles with mental illness, motherhood, & low self-esteem. I’ve touched a little on social issues & religion too, but the only “light” thing I’ve shared here are my Napoleon Dynamite-esque dance skills. (New here? Check the “Dance” tab up top)

I realized there’s so much about myself and my life that I haven’t shared with you, especially the parts that aren’t so heavy. Example: I used to show dogs (think Westminster type dog shows) when I was 8 years old. Also? I was pretty damn good at it too. See? I haven’t divulged that kind of info and I feel like it would be nice to do so.

So moving forward, I’m going to try and be more open not just about the heaviness of in my life, but the lighter, funnier, interesting experiences I’ve had as well. The stupid mistakes I’ve made,(like dating a guy I met on a greyhound bus on its way to Jacksonville, Florida…after almost marrying this OTHER guy I had moved to Florida for…all while I was 7 months pregnant. Yea. that.) stories from my Air Force days (like the time the government thought it was ok to let me be qualified to use seven different deadly weapons) and other random stuff from my “pre mom, pre mental illness takeover” days. Maybe I’ll even throw in some high school stuff so you can see how giant of a dork I was. (And still am)

I don’t share enough about the other parts of my life or the experiences I’ve had outside of being a mom & a manic depressive, and I’d like to thank Susan for pointing this out to me. You should thank her too because some of these stories will be TMZ-worthy. I can hear your inner gossip hound licking its chops in anticipation.

First up will be the tear gas story. I’ll try to have it up by tomorrow or over the weekend at the latest. I have to talk to some of the people who were there with me to refresh my memory on some of the details. (Inhaling tear gas causes black outs & mild amnesia)

Get ready to (hopefully) laugh your ass off at my expense. There WILL be talk about loss of bodily functions & the expelling of bodily fluids. You’ve been warned.

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?

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.

Love in the Time of PPOCD

Finding support and the unconditional love of a significant other when you are suffering from a mental illness can be difficult. My darling friend Lebogang Xolo is here today to talk about how she found love and support in her partner during her battle with PPOCD, (Postpartum OCD). Please show her some love and support y’all. 

When I was a teenager I stumbled upon a movie called “A Beautiful Mind.”  This is one movie that made a huge impact in my life, and I knew from then what true love is supposed to be like.  The last scene, where Alicia Nash (Jennifer Connelly) is still standing by John Forbes Nash (Russell Crowe)’s side, even in old age, through a mental illness, still leaves me in tears to this day.   Nevertheless, I was young and naïve.  As much as I grew up in a very stable and loving home (I was raised by my aunt and uncle) I never knew who my biological father (I now made peace with it).  Subconsciously I felt rejected, abandoned; I started searching for love in all the wrong places.  I said “Yes” to the first man who proposed.

To say this was an unhealthy relationship is an understatement.  And as Oprah put it “The signs are always there, we just chose to ignore them”.  A year of marriage and a beautiful princess later, I decided to walk out, with absolutely nothing but my daughter.  It was hard, really hard, but something deep inside me told me I’m enough, I deserve better, I deserve to be loved.
I cried, studied ‘The Secret’, bargained with God, and cried some more.  I crawled, I walked, I ran, I flew, I grew stronger, and I healed.  Two years later, I made space in the closet for my future husband (that’s the power of ‘the secret’ positive thinking). I then looked up to God and my everyday prayer went something like this:
Dear God
Thank you for saving my life, for giving me the strength to survive such a painful divorce.  I think I’ve met enough rebound guys and well, I’ve had my fun and am ready to move on.  I am ready to meet the one you chose for me, but please please make sure that he loves my daughter just as much as he loves me or more if possible.

A couple of weeks later, he came into my life.  Just when I least expected it.  At 27 I got the same butterflies as I did at 16.  I remember telling God “If you just make him say hello to me, I’ll never ask for anything else, I promise.” He did more than that; he told me that I’m beautiful.  He was so different, so secure in himself.  A year later he quit his job and moved all across the world for me.  I knew he was the one the day he asked my daughter permission to marry me.  At 4years of age, she helped him chose the ring.  She held the ring as he proposed.

Fast forward 2 years later we have a beautiful son.  And with his birth was a start of horrific PPOCD.  When I thought I was losing my mind, my husband told me everything will be ok.  He held my hand and never missed a single doctor’s appointment.  He reminded me to take my meds, assured me that he loves me more now than he ever did and treated me the same way as he did when we met.

And so my mind goes back goes back to the movie I adored as a teenager….. A tale of love so unconditional, so strong and so pure…. Love that sticks with you no matter your past, your baggage, your illness or imperfections.  And my heart is full of gratitude, for having been blessed with such love.

When The Shame Monster Attacks, Remember That You are Enough

My word for this year is LOVE. In all caps. Not sure why it has to be in all capital letters but I do know that when it came to me, that’s how I saw it in my mind; in big, bold, gigantic letters, all capitalized.

It seems only fitting that LOVE is my word for 2012. It’s also the word God woke me up with on my 29th birthday AND is in the verse I’m meditating on this year.

“He has brought me to his banquet hall,
And his banner over me is love.”

(Song of Solomon 2:4)

It’s only the second month of the year and I’m already pondering and learning a lot about what love is…as well as what it isn’t.

Yesterday was a perfect example of what love is not.

Love does not produce or induce shame.

If someone is attempting to shame you or if you feel ashamed of who you are or what you struggle with, that person is not loving you they way they should and you deserve.

I repeat that person is NOT loving you the way they should and you deserve.

Shame and love don’t go together….at all.

I had an interaction yesterday that left me reeling and full of unhealthy emotions. I felt unworthy, unlovable, incapable…and full of shame about something I only partially have control over.

My ability to be a good, healthy mother to my son was questioned and even thrown in my face as if to say, “You’re a good mom sometimes BUT because of your mental illness, I’m not 100% sure you can do this.”  As if to imply that despite all the work I’ve done to find the right diagnosis and medication, and despite my progress in therapy, NONE of that is enough to overcome the fact that I live with a mental illness. NONE of that overcomes the fact that this person saw the worst parts of me for 2 years….

It hurts when a friend or loved one who’s been close enough to see you at your worst, and in your most vulnerable moments, uses that knowledge to attack, shooting you with hollow round bullets instead of love, understanding and grace.

But as bad as that shit hurts and tears your insides apart, it’s nothing compared to the Shame Monster who is stirred awake by such destruction and devours you whole.

That’s what happened to me yesterday. The Shame Monster came to eat me alive and because I was already reeling from pain, I let him.

But after having two conversations with supportive and loving people in my life, who know about my weaknesses and struggles, I was able to remember one thing

I AM ENOUGH

That one sentence, that one declaration was enough to shrink the Shame Monster to the size of an gnat and become something I could easily swat away.

I am enough.

I don’t have to hustle for worthiness.

I don’t have to compromise who I am to prove otherwise.

I don’t have to work for grace or love because they are already freely and unconditionally given to me from God and the REAL friends & family in my life.

I don’t have to overcompensate or prove myself to anyone.

I am enough.

Period.

And that is something I’m learning about love, loving myself, and how others should love and treat me.

We can’t change other people or how they treat us most of the time. But we can change and even choose how we respond and react to them and even situations that arise and try to make us feel less than.

We can choose to respond to ourselves with love, remembering that we already are enough, which in turn chokes out shame before it can even erupt and overtake us.

And? I am a damn good mother. Yes I had PPD. Yes I live with anxiety. Yes I am Bipolar.  But I’m a damn good mama because I do what it takes to attain and maintain my health. And that….is enough. End of story