50 Shades of Fabulous

I know I haven’t posted anything in awhile. An intense semester and a little writing/blogging crisis are to blame and I apologize for the lack of posts….BUT today I return to ‘Confessions with a gift for you, a special guest post from a woman I have an immense amount of love & respect for. Lauren Hale is the founder & moderator of #PPDChat on Twitter & Facebook, shares her PPD story over at My Postpartum Voice, AND writes for The Good Men Project. When I asked her to describe herself in one word, she responded with “Fierce.” I couldn’t agree more.  I LOVE this post, and I think you will as well. Please welcome her and show her some love!

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Today has been a grey day. Sure it’s spring, leaves have sprung, birds are chirping, the cicadas are…well, we won’t talk about the cicadas because that leads to dark places best left unvisited.

Last week was a whirlwind of writing. Three political pieces, wait, four, one not so serious, and a snarky piece about Facebook and organ donation. On top of that, there was #PPDChat to host both on Twitter and On The Air, support requests to field, friendships to maintain, therapist visit, date, meals, and somewhere in there, sleep.

This past weekend I slept. A lot. Almost a full day, actually. I figured my body needed it –kinda like hitting a reset button– showing instead of telling me to slow down.

It’s okay to slow down and listen to the ebb and flow of life. If we keep tilting ahead at full speed, eventually you’ll collapse, much like I did this past weekend. Everyone preaches about balance and figuring out what’s right for you. While that’s true, often times life tosses a left turn where there should be a right and BAM. You’re upended and left spinning toward a vortex again just trying to keep everything grounded.

Ever seen a whirling dervish? Yeah. That.

Life will come at you fast and hard. If there’s one thing I have learned over the past few years, life is not what happens to you. It’s how YOU happen to life.

Realizing most of your issues spring from worry, concern, or otherwise unnecessary emotions in regard to the actual situation is a huge weight off your shoulders. There are a few questions which should soothe the anxiety beast when/if it arises:

1) Does this situation directly affect me?
2) Is there anything I can do to directly affect or improve this situation?
3) Is immediate action required or are my hands tied until a later time?
4) How much does this situation really affect my life?

Taking a deep breath and going through those four questions has helped me deal with several situations which could have possibly gone south very quickly. Instead, I analyzed them and often realized that no, there wasn’t anything I could do nor did the situation directly affect me. In situations where it does and immediate action is required, take a deep breath, do your best, and put it behind you. Easier said than done, I know, but with practice, each new challenge becomes easier because you’ve been cultivating confidence in your ability to deal with the hard, making you even more fabulous with each experience.

You, and your fabulous may not mesh with someone else’s version of fabulous. But isn’t that what makes the world interesting and awesome? That we are all a different shade of fabulous and then some? If we were all the same shade of fabulous, we would be stuck in a grey world.

Me, I’m working on my 50 shades of fabulous every day. I can’t wait to rock them all.

Self-Love Saturday: Celebrate Uniqueness & Embrace Your Superpower

image credit: The Giant Bomb

“Mommie I really like your hair, with all the colors…It has my favorite color in it, green. That’s my favorite. Green & orange. You have those, right there and right there, right?” Awww thank you Bren Bren. Green is your … Continue reading

Dance Party Friday: Stronger Edition

This illness won’t get you…You are too strong…tomorrow holds the promise of a new day.”

My friend Kim’s words rang in my ears as I fell asleep last night, and were the first words that I heard as I awoke this morning.

The past 3 weeks have been a roller coaster ride with more loops than I’d like, some throwing my mental health off track, others reminding me of how fragile life is, as several of my friends and even my mother are facing serious health & life issues….and yet still others have forced me to face painfully abusive memories I’d rather forget, but can’t because working through them is the only way I’ll heal and be able to eventually forgive.

But….

You are too strong….this life needs you

I woke up with these words pushing me out of bed and on my feet. I looked around at my apartment, at the mess that accumulates during my lows, and these words directed each step I took as I set to cleaning it all up.

This illness won’t get you….You are too strong….this life needs you

I repeated them, over and over while taking a shower, combing my hair, painting my nails, eating breakfast, watching cartoons with my sick kiddo….until I finally felt strong, strong enough to keep fighting and keep moving.

A friend of mine told me on Facebook this week that she doesn’t understand how I can continue to hold onto a belief in God when I’ve been through so much hell in my life. She then asked me a rather poignant and difficult question: why does God allow bad things to happen?

Not wanting to give a cookie cutter answer full of Christianese, I waited and directed the question at God: “Why do you allow bad things to happen? Why do you allow us to suffer if you love us so much? Why God? Why have I had to endure so much pain, so many rough circumstances? Why do I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle with this illness and everything else? I’m tired God. I’m just tired.”

I spent the week telling God that I’m tired of being beat down and broken, but woke up this morning with Kim’s words guiding me and an answer…or at least some kind of theory.

You might not like or agree with my theory and that’s ok….but y’all I think we experience brokenness and pain in our lives as a reminder that we are human. We like to think we’re invincible but the truth is we aren’t.  What if we went through life never experiencing loss, pain, hurt, rejection, or a part of us that malfunctions and needs fixing? If we didn’t experience these things, I don’t think we would know or understand and value things like LOVE….we wouldn’t know how to be vulnerable, which would render us incapable of empathy and compassion for others.  We wouldn’t know how to care for one another, and be there for each other, and be able to bear one another up in times of need. Pain and brokenness….no one wants to endure or experience either, but without them as the fertilizer, seeds of courage, hope, love, empathy, and strength wouldn’t grow in us and we would be nothing more than calloused, cold, stagnant beings.

So we experience things that challenge us…that break us…that remind us that life is fragile and to not take it for granted, no matter what hand we’ve been dealt. We only get one hand in this poker game y’all. That’s it. Just one hand and one set of chips is all we get to bet with. It’s up to us how we handle what we’re dealt.

So no…I don’t like the fact that my meds aren’t working and I need yet again to keep searching for the right cocktail. I don’t like that I have to live with a condition that renders me incapable of wanting to live at times. I don’t think it’s fair that I had to endure abuse at the hands of men who were supposed to protect me. I hate that I have to struggle my way through life….

But guess what? I’m too strong, only because I’ve endured these things and am still here today, writing this to you. I’m strong. Only because I have been hurt and broken. I am strong because I have known pain and am learning  to use it as the bridge to vulnerability and wholehearted living.

I am too strong. This illness will not get me. My painful past will not keep me trapped and tangled. I won’t let it. Instead I’ll use it; to help others, to encourage and inspire, to empower those who have been through the same to overcome and choose to keep living. I’ve had bad things happen to me, but I’ll let them teach me how to treat and love my boys and others I encounter in this life.

I don’t know what you’re facing, or what you’ve had to endure in this life. But I do know that if you’re enduring it, if you’re surviving it, then I know for a fact that you are a stronger person because you experienced it. I know from first hand experience that if you spend all your time asking why, the pain will only intensify and breed more pain. Choose to use what you’ve been through to help someone else-let it teach you how to live wholeheartedly.

The hurt and pain won’t last forever. As Kim told me last night….it’s always darkest right before the dawn. So stand up. Dance your way through the rain drops. Your’e stronger than you think.

note: my video isn’t perfect..I just couldn’t get the syncing right for some reason today. so I apologize for my crappy editing skills. I hope you still enjoy it anyway. 

Self-Love Saturday: Make a Self-Love Contract

While cleaning up the disaster zone known as my bedroom this week, I came across a notebook I hadn’t seen in a while. Curious as to what was in it, I started flipping through it and came across several entries from during & after my pregnancy with Alex.  I was blown away by reading what I had written during those times and it’s very clear to me now that I definitely had some antenatal depression, which is something I wish I had the courage back then to recognize and seek treatment for. Perhaps if I had, my experience with PPD & anxiety would have been drastically different. But it wasn’t and that’s ok because I’ve learned valuable things from it, I’ve met valuable people from it, and I’m able to help others by sharing my experience, so hey at least it served a purpose right?

Something else I came across that was rather interesting and rather inspiring was a sort of contract I had written out to myself. I’m not sure exactly when I wrote it, but reading it brought tears to my eyes, because it was full of love and compassion to myself, something that was missing a lot during the past 2 years.

So, since I was inspired by what I read, I thought I’d share it with you and encourage you to make up your own Self-Love Contract/Goal sheet. I updated some of it, especially the parts about beating depression since I now have a new diagnosis.

addyeB’s Self-Love Contract

I, A’Driane Nicole Dudley,  agree to do the following:

  • Believe that I am an awesome person.
  • Believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who loves me tremendously
  • Believe that I am a good woman, even with all of my flaws & imperfections
  • Will be confident in my abilities as a woman, mother, Christian, student, writer, dancer, etc
  • Believe that I am beautiful. Really.
  • Battle stigmas surrounding mental illness
  • Take my medications everyday
  • Attend every therapy appointment unless an emergency occurs
  • Read God’ word everyday, even if it’s just one line!
  • Talk to God daily
  • Smile at least once a day
  • Be colorful-from my hair, to my clothes & accessories, to how I decorate my house…I will live in COLOR
  • Will allow myself to make mistakes & give myself room to learn from them
  • Be a strong, loving & nurturing mother for my boys without smothering them or inhibiting them from being who they are.
  • Attain my degree in social work, a masters in counseling, and a certification in DANCE movement therapy
  • LOVE myself
  • Be KIND to myself
  • Share my stories with others. Live wholehearted. Be vulnerable. Be open. Reach out. Advocate for others & myself.
  • “Recover” from Bipolar Disorder through compliance, exercise, nutrition, a structured routine, and coping strategies.
  • Dance at least 2-3 times a week.
  • Love my muffin topped, overstretched, tiger striped belly…because I’m a real woman and this belly housed my incredible boys. I will appreciate my body for what’s it’s gone through and given me.
  • I will paint-even thought I have no idea what I’m doing. HA!
  • Yoga…lots of yoga. Only doing exercises that work with my body not against it.
So that’s my contract. It’s not set in stone and is open to adjustments, additions, etc as time goes one. It’s kinda like my life list, but it’s a LOVE list. To me, and for me. To print out and put up where I can see it every day and remind myself to LOVE….ME.
Do you have a list like this? Would you do one? What would you put on it? Feel free to share!
p.s. A few months ago I wrote a SLS post about dying my hair and living my life in color…can I tell you that that decision was the BEST one I’ve made like, EVER? It’s been such a freeing experience y’all. For years I wanted to dye my hair and express my creativity in that fashion but either couldn’t or was too afraid of other’s opinions…now? Look at me :) This is truly what it feels like to live outside the corners of your mind…

Yea you can call me Rainbow Bright...

Self-Love Saturday: My Box is Full of Color

Remember a few weeks back when I posted about the journey I’m on to make it back to my Box?

remember this?

In that post, I talked about how I most of my life, what’s been in that box has been dictated by other’s, their needs, and how THEY wanted my box constructed. I mentioned that I’m not 100% sure what goes in my Box but I was starting to find out by streaking my way towards it….

COLOR!!!!!!!

Well, guess what? Dying my hair funky colors has helped me identify at least one thing that goes in my Box, one attribute that makes me, well, ME. If you really know me, it’s probably not a huge surprise, but

COLOR…

BRIGHT…

BOLD…

BEAUTIFUL…

LOUD…

Color belongs in my life. It’s at the core of what makes me A’Driane. Lots & loads of color. Gobs of it, probably so much that people would label me tacky, but I don’t care anymore, I’VE GOTTA HAVE COLOR! From how I decorate my living space, to how I wear my hair, to the clothes I wear, they must have color…When it comes to fashion I’m forgoing all sorts of rules from here on out and am just wearing as many colors as possible, whatever feels and looks good. From bold eyeshadows to headbands, to scarves, to the rubber bands I place in my hair……..

Or the color that adorns my fingers and Barney Rubble toes…

O

hard to see, but they are neon orange!

I”ve just gotta have color. From my dishes  to my couch, to my lamps to my bed sheets, my apartment is full of splashes of it. I’ve spent years trying to downplay and even stay away from such boldness because those around me gave me the impression that it was inappropriate for a person my age. “Living out loud” and self-expression is for teenagers & kids, not for mothers approaching their thirties…..but I’m foregoing those thoughts and ideals because they aren’t mine. They aren’t me. Dressing in normal colors and living in clean, modern, sophisticated living spaces might be for some people and that is totally ok. For me though?

Give me color or give me death is the motto I’m adopting.

I wasn’t allowed to express myself growing up, and so I thought the need to do so through what I wore or how I styled my hair was just a phase I needed to get out my system. But the more I’ve been thinking about it, and about my personality, I know it’s something more and I’m finally in a place of acceptance about it.

Being surrounded by and wearing bold, brightly hued, rich & warm colors is a coping strategy for me as well. It creates an environment for me and my boys that breathes health and life, creativity and  expression. I’m hoping that surrounding us with a spectrum of color blinds the dragon of BP so it stays deep in it’s cave. I’m learning fast that mental illnesses like BP are genetic, and being as though schizophrenia and depression run in at least one side of my family, (and I strongly suspect BP runs on the other side) I want to give the boys as healthy of an environment as possible. One that breeds creativity, love & warmth. I want my boys to have that. I want them to look at me and always know that self-expression is okay. Living out loud is okay. Passion is okay. Creativity and thought are awesome and worth pursuing wholeheartedly. Splashing our lives with color is a way to do that.

So, on this Self-Love Saturday, I refreshed my blue & pink streaks in the ol’ Afro, and even added some more. I went through my closet and tossed out every drab, grey item I could find. I promised myself that from here on out, only color goes in the closet and on my body.

We only live once y’all. We only get one shot to do this thing called life. I’m determined to live mine as wholehearted and colorful as possible, Bipolar and all :)

AfroMama & Always Colorful (taken w/my ClassicINSTA iPhone app!)

Self-Love Saturday: Color Me WholeHearted

Table Talk Tuesday: College Mama pt 2

Last week I posted about my then upcoming Weekend of Welcome at my university & my concerns about how immersed I felt I could or should be because I’m older & a mama.

Well, my ex agreed to stay at my place and watch both boys so I could attend all the festivities I wanted. (I know, even though he’s my ex, he’s awesome) So I attended various events last Thursday-Saturday. The mandatory ones were tedious & boring, my academic meeting was informative & gave me the dose of reality I needed (I’m going after a dual degree program), & some of the fun festivities were pretty rad.

Thursday night,  I wrestled over mattresses Steal the Bacon style with people 10 years my junior, got rained on repeatedly, & leap frogged the entire length of a soccer field during a crazy long relay race. My thighs started cussing me out halfway and were dead by the time I low-crawled over the finish line. (My team came in third place-GO BLUE! AUGUSTIVUS WOOOOHOOO! PBU! PBU!)

Friday there were more meetings and I was still barely able to move from the night before. When it came time to go home, I stayed home with the boys instead of going back out for that evening’s social activities. Besides, Irene was on her way, so I had to prepare, grocery shop, you know, do Mama stuff.  Speaking of Irene, I should have listened to my gut Saturday morning when it told me to stay home instead of go to Philly with the rest of my incoming class. It was just a bad idea. Irene started pre-gaming in our area with lots of rain that left us all soaking wet….which pissed me off. Plus I’ve been to center city plenty enough this summer-I was less than enthused to be staring at the Liberty Bell & slogging my way to Reading Terminal dripping wet. The icing on the cake and perhaps the biggest indicator that I should have stayed home was the fact that I was in a reflective state of mind. Not really anti-social, but just withdrawn. I wanted to read & stew in my own thoughts….not really what I needed to be Socialite Sally for the day.

All in all I’m glad I was able to partake in pretty much everything. It gave me the chance to meet people & myself the chance to exercise some gut following. I automatically started to see what would work for me, what I could be involved in, & what I couldn’t. I learned that when it comes to something like this, it’s always best to follow your instincts-I know mine will tell me where to navigate to as I move forward this year.

Speaking of moving forward, let’s skip over Irene & just stop at yesterday: my first day of classes. It was hectic, it was usual first day stuff, it was even surprising-some of the classes I thought would be heavy hitters & require hundreds of hours of writing this semester actually aren’t. I was able to tie up loose ends around campus (like parking passes & financial aid)…but here’s the thing. It all felt like a blur. Like it wasn’t really happening. By the time I got home and fed the boys dinner, I couldn’t even remember how I had managed to do so. It was only then that I realized my heart was pounding and that my thoughts were racing-had been all day. That I had been moving (and probably speaking at) the speed of light. The frantic pace and anticipation that came with the first day of classes had raised my anxiety to a certain level & I hadn’t even realized it, because I felt so great the whole day. (Which, sound a tad like the euphoric feelings of mania, does it not?) And even though my body was tired, my mind was wired & in a very weird space, a little panicky, but I don’t even think I can articulate it actually. I just know that I didn’t feel right. I could also tell immediately that I wasn’t going to be able to sleep. But that’s just what I did. I put the boys to bed and then forced myself to sleep….at 6:30.

This morning I woke up and realized that I’m a little scared about what it’s going to take to tackle this semester. It’s going to take me being on my A game, and I know I’m not. Not mentally. I’m still trying to get there. Medication is starting to help, and I start therapy next Tuesday….but trying to manage college life, motherhood, life in general, AND trying to get a manageable hold on a mood disorder (meds, exercise, therapy, etc)? MAN. That’s alot. And I didn’t even mention blogging…..

Can I do it. I believe I can. But the question, is how? I think my therapist will be able to help me develop some strategies (she’s a cognitive behavioral therapist), but do you have any suggestions on how I can approach this? How do you balance it all & stay afloat? Especially you readers who do or have battled a mental illness, how did you take care of everything but also manage to take care of yourself at the same time? Any advice you can offer a mama?

 

What Janelle Monae Taught Me About Motherhood & Mood Disorders

It’s Saturday. The day I’ve dedicated to being Self-Love Saturday. I’m supposed to focus on loving and accepting some part of ME today. And I’m going to try. But I have to confess and say it’s going to be a hard one today. It’s my ex’s birthday and it’s his first official weekend with our son…the first of a totally new way of living our lives, with custody arrangements. The reminder of this drives the knife of reality over our separation painfully deeper into the wound that still bleeding…at least on my end. So, SLS is going to be a toughie today.

BUT maybe that’s part of the point? Maybe there’s something here, in this, that I need to work my way through. Gotta deal with and move through it….And nothing reminds me of this more so than singing the lyrics to “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae.  “Whether I’m high or low, whether I’m high or low, I’ve to tip on the tightrope…..”

That’s how I was feeling last night, and this morning as I wake up-Iike I’m struggling to keep my balance on the tightrope I’m walking. But Ms. Monae and her song have surprisingly taught me some things about walking on the tightropes in my life, especially the one regarding getting through motherhood with a mood disorder….and I’m blogging about it over on James & Jax today! YAY! That I am extremely excited about & feel very lucky that she’s allowed me to share some confessions over in her space of the blogosphere. As I’ve mentioned before I love talking with Jaime and her blog is one of my top 3 faves. S

Simply put, she rocks, so please pay her a visit today. You can check out my post and her insightful writing. Go head….you know you want to…click here

You can also check out her post from last Saturday’s SLS here as well.

I hear my rowdy boys waking up so that’s my cue to get breakfast going. I’m off to make pancakes! I’ll be back later ya’ll…..

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.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

“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?