pexels-photo-89517

Invisible Warrior

Every single day of my son’s life, I have thought about him dying. Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, I wonder if I will find him in his room, the life already gone from his body. Other times, my mind will be free for a while, until I put face lotion in my hands and notice that the blob of moisturizer resembles a number. In an instant, a little voice inside my head tells me that number is representative of the age at which my son will die. Sometimes I rummage around in the kitchen cabinets, searching for a specific coffee mug, because that same little voice has told me if I don’t use it, my son will die. Other times we will be eating at a restaurant, and I will imagine him choking on whatever morsel he has ordered for himself to enjoy. I can see his face turning blue in my mind’s eye. I push food around my plate and try to will the thought away.

Some days are better than others. Some days I only experience one instance of this type of horrifying intrusive thinking. Other times my days are fraught with them. My mind is under siege by an onslaught of terrifying images, fit for a tear-jerking Lifetime movie, or sometimes a horror film.

I have Anxiety & Obsessive Compulsive disorders, and intrusive thinking is symptomatic of both. There are a couple of things to note about Intrusive Thinking, that may not be apparent for someone who has never experienced them.

The first is that they are completely out of my control. I don’t choose these thoughts any more than you chose your eye color. I didn’t ask for them, and I don’t indulge them. I have a variety of techniques that I’ve learned in therapy which help me to clear them, but they (so far) have never disappeared entirely.

The second thing is that they are every bit as horrific as they sound. I love my son deeply, and my anxiety disorder is centered squarely on the debilitating fear that I will lose him. These intrusive thoughts are representative of my mind obsessing over all the ways that it could happen, in a terribly misguided effort toprevent it. The Intrusive Thoughts are the “Obsessive” part of my OCD. The things they drive me to do (use certain coffee mugs, rewrite lotion numbers on my hand) are the “Compulsions”. The brain is sometimes the most inelegant of organs, and OCD isn’t all flicking light switches and counting things. It can look very different.

The third, and final thing, to point out about Intrusive Thoughts, is that they are invisible. If you saw me at a restaurant, I appear to be just a lady sitting at a table with her beautiful family, enjoying a meal. You might judge me for seeming uptight. You might overhear some of our conversation and think I sound like a real paranoid control freak. You might say something to your friends along the lines of “Oh, great, she’s one of those moms.” You might label me as intense, paranoid, controlling. You might identify me as strict, or overbearing, or bitchy. The label you most likely would not give me, however, is the one that would be the most accurate… ill.

My mental illness isn’t something you can see. Aside from the medication I take every day, the mental work I do to battle my illness is also invisible to you. You might not realize that I had to wage war on my own mind, just to be able to leave the house today, just to get this meal with my family.

So, be careful with the labels you attach to people, or the assumptions you might make about them. So many illnesses are invisible to the majority of us. You never know who might secretly be a Warrior, fighting battles on the inside, while living life on the outside.

Warrior Mom Conference, 2016 – Atlanta, Georgia

WMC Speaker Badge 250

Alrighty, it’s been made public by Postpartum Progress now, so I am finally free to announce what I have been positively giddy to announce to you guys – I AM SPEAKING AT THE WARRIOR MOM CONFERENCE!!!!!!!

Remember waaaayyyy back in December when I announced my not-so-secret Secret Wish for 2016? It was then that I shared that I was applying for a speaker slot at Postpartum Progress’ 2nd Annual Warrior Mom Conference. It was a total whim, to be honest. It’s no secret that I am a total Postpartum Progress fan-girl, and I wanted to attend the conference no matter what, but I love speaking to moms. I really do. That might sound strange coming from someone who battles an anxiety disorder, but I feel at home on a stage talking to my tribe, and Mothers, well… they are my tribe. Especially Warrior Moms. I had an idea to explore and give a talk about the unique way that Mothers experience the Impostor Phenomenon (something I’m calling being a Mompostor), and I’m thrilled to be getting to do just that. I’ll be discussing what it feels like to be a Mompostor, what contributes to and perpetuates the phenomenon, and how to stop questioning your authenticity and worth, both as a mother and as a person.

So, my not-so-secret Secret Wish for 2016, is happening and I am beyond excited for the opportunity!

The conference is already sold out, BUT there is a waiting list if you’re interested in attending! If you’ve already snagged a ticket and you’re going, let me know! I’d love to look out for you there!

As we march towards the second half of 2016, I hope that your own secret wishes are being fulfilled, but most of all I just hope that you are wishing, because dreams and wishes are the ether into which our lives take flight.

Love to you all.

why-i-climb

Why I Climb

why-i-climb

Next Saturday, June 18th, I will join over 3,000 people across the world (for real, y’all, there’s even a climb in Israel!) to shed light on Maternal Mental Illness by Climbing Out of the Darkness. The majority of these people are women, many joined by their families and loved ones, and they are survivors. They are Warriors. They are My Tribe. We may come from different backgrounds and different places, and many of us speak different languages, but there is one tongue with which we are all familiar, and it is the devastating fear and isolation of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. We have all experienced Maternal Mental Illness, and while our personal stories, diagnosis and recoveries look different, a single thread knits us together. We are forever woven into each others lives.

We each have our own reasons for climbing, and I thought I’d take a moment to share with you what will be driving each step I take on June 18, and indeed what drives many of the steps I take every single day of the year.

I climb because Postpartum Progress saved my life. Helping them continue their work is the least that I can do.

I climb because my fellow Warrior Moms need for me to squeeze their hand and know that I am here with them, still.

I climb because my children need to know how strong their Mama really is. They need to know that I fought for them. They need to know that Mama doesn’t go down without a fight. They need to know that my battle with mental illness is neither their fault, nor is it representative of my feelings for them, or my worth as a mother.

I climb because my husband needs to know that there is fight left in me. He, who has seen me in my worst, most desperate state, needs to be reminded that the woman he married is still here, still vibrant, still ferociously living.

I climb because the public needs to know that we exist. Women, across the world, need better access to mental health care. They need legislators on their side. They need doctors on their side. They need humans on their side. Women need to be warned about PPMDs. They need to be screened, every single one of them. They need to be prepared. They need support from the people and representatives who are responsible for putting healthcare systems in place, and those representatives need to hear us demand that support.

I climb because there are women who have lost their lives to Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. I climb to remember them. I climb to honor them. I climb to grieve them.

I climb because there are women who need our help. There are women out there, right now, who are battling Maternal Mental Illness and have not yet been diagnosed. Or perhaps they know or suspect what they’re dealing with, but are too afraid or stigmatized to receive the proper treatment. They need us. They need us to climb out of the darkness and shout from the highest peaks that we see them, we can help them, and they are not alone. They need us to reach down into the darkness, and pull them out.

For these reasons and more, I Climb.

If you’re interested in joining a climb near you, head over here to see where the closest one is. If there isn’t one nearby, why not host one yourself?! You CAN do it!

If you can’t climb, but you still want to help, I’d be eternally grateful if you’d donate to my fundraiser.

However you choose to show your support, know that I am grateful to you for it. I say all the time that Postpartum Progress saved my life, and they did, but so did you, and anyone else in the history of forever who has supported their mission. I owe my life to you. Thank you.

Now, let’s go save some more lives.

healthy-vegetables-restaurant-nature

Appreciating A Rainstorm

healthy-vegetables-restaurant-nature.jpg

Today is a wet day. A rainy, misty, soggy, wet day, and I’m thrilled about it. I am not generally someone who likes rainstorms. Unless it’s night time and then I love them because I sleep like a baby.

Wait. Sidebar, you guys. Whoever came up with that saying “sleep like a baby”? Clearly that person never actually MET a baby, amiright?!

Anyways-rain. Like I was saying, I’m not someone who generally likes the rain, but I am a gardener. This is my second year with a vegetable garden and when you have a vegetable garden planted, a rainstorm is like Mother Nature taking over part of your to-do list. I worked today, so it’s not like the rain was impeding any outdoor activity I had planned or anything like that. Instead, it was simply a favor from Mama Nature. No watering can for me tonight!

This morning, as I walked into the office with a co-worker/friend, he was grumbling about the rain. I explained all of this to him and finished by saying “It’s funny how having a garden changes the way you see a rainstorm.” before promptly entering a full on introspective zone out. You see, as these words were escaping my mouth, it occurred to me that the same principle could be applied to how we feel about our mental health and personal growth.

If your mind is your garden, what then would it mean to appreciate a rainstorm?

Just sit with that for a little bit. I have been sitting with it all day and it’s still unfolding for me.

I honestly don’t have anything else to say today. I’m just going to continue meditating on this idea while I cook dinner and then take my family out to the pet store to buy dog supplies because, oh yeah – we adopted a dog and he comes home on Friday!!! (Pictures, I promise.)

So, there you have it friends. A short little post today with some food for thought. Let’s think about it together. I’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections on this idea. Hit me up either here or over on Facebook!

If your mind is your garden, what then would it mean to appreciate a rainstorm?

Peace and love (and vegetables) to you,

Kelly

pexels-photo-80277

April Love – Day 30, Dear [Yourself]

pexels-photo-80277

This April, I am participating in Susannah Conway’s April Love, a month of love letters. Using her predetermined prompts, I’ll be writing a love letter to an aspect of my life every day (well, maybe) in the month of April. Thanks for tagging along!

Dear Kelly,

Of all the things you might benefit from hearing, one thing stands out the most.

Everything will be okay.

Anxiety makes you crave reassurance. Even impossible reassurances that no one could possibly give. You know who CAN offer a standing reassurance though? You. You can choose it. I’m not saying that things will always be perfectly fine. Sometimes they will be less than great. Shit happens of course, but when it does…

Everything will be okay. 

You are strong. You are resilient. You have been through terrible stuff and come out better than when you went in. You are working every day at getting better. Recovery from mental illness is not a straight line. You will have down days.

Everything will be okay.

Take each day at a time. Use your metaphorical tool box. Admit when you need help. Ask for help. Ask for hugs. Ask for chocolate.

Everything will be okay.

Everything will be great.

I love you.

Kelly

sky-ditch-eye-hole

April Love, Day 26 – Heart

sky-ditch-eye-hole.jpg

This April, I am participating in Susannah Conway’s April Love, a month of love letters. Using her predetermined prompts, I’ll be writing a love letter to an aspect of my life every day (well, maybe) in the month of April. Thanks for tagging along!

Dear Heart,

You are amazing.

Physically, you are the center of my life force. You keep things moving and I’ve never been more grateful to you for that than I am right now. I have never been more aware of you than I am right now, in the days since suffering a panic attack so severe that it had me convinced that I was having an actual heart attack. As if that wasn’t enough, getting fitted for a heart monitor just days later to explore the cause of some palpitations I’ve been feeling (and brushing off) for several months. I am tuned in to you now. I am respecting you. I am doing my best to nourish and care for you.

From an abstract perspective, you are a force to be reckoned with. You are a warrior. You have carried the weight of loss and heartache. You have borne the burden of sorrow and pain and yet, you help me to respond with love. Always, with love. Your capacity for such great and constant love in spite of pain and grief, or indeed perhaps because of it, is simply incredible. You teach me so much.

You are searching. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe everyone feels this way after loss, but I seem to constantly be aware of an emptiness within you. A hole that you are seeking to fill. Is it Clara’s spot? I honestly don’t know. This emptiness doesn’t cause me pain, per say. It doesn’t lend itself to any sensation of discomfort. Perhaps the best way to describe its affect would be to say that it drives me. It’s as if my heart is looking for the final flower to complete a perfect arrangement. I am, truthfully, not sure what it is that you need, but I recognize your need for something.

I will stay open.

I will listen to you.

I promise.

With love, always –

Kelly

 

pexels-photo-29789

April Love, Day 24 – Truth

pexels-photo-29789

Dear Truth,

When I was a little girl, and life hurt too much, I hid from you. My creative mind found solace and relief in fantasy. I read books, wrote songs, wrote poetry. I used words, both mine and those of other people, to escape. Even to this day, my favorite books are the ones that are as far from my daily “truth” as possible. I love fantasy and sci-fi. I love period drama and historical fiction. Much like the little girl who was desperately trying to escape the pain of her own truth, I still love placing myself in someone else’s truth.

The difference is that, even though I still like to escape it from time to time, I now appreciate my own truth. I honor it. When something happens in my life which makes me uncomfortable or causes me pain, I don’t step back from it. I don’t throw my hands up in the air, assume an expression of disgust, and say “Oh, what is THAT?! Who does THAT  belong to?!” I’ve learned that some of my most incredible moments of personal growth, and some of the most powerful connections that I’ve made with other people, have come from owning the messy parts of my life. They have come from boldly owning the messiest parts of my truth.

A funny thing happens too, when you decide to stop pushing away the mess and instead you invite it in for a cuppa. It doesn’t seem so bad. Love is funny like that. When you start to live lovingly, most especially towards yourself, the sharp edges of things seem to soften. Choosing to own your whole truth, even the icky parts, is like choosing to love or at least appreciate it and truly, if you love something, it will change the way it impacts you.

Today, which happens to be my 31st birthday, seems a fitting day to reflect on all the love I have for my truth. I am sitting here at my dining room table, the only one awake in my household, with a cup of coffee and my laptop. The morning sun is warm on my skin, as it pours in through the dining room window. It promises a beautiful day full of truths that will be easy to love. Truths about family, truths about aging, truths about health and happiness and bikes and flowers.

So, my truth, you are one hell of a story to tell. I’m so glad that I get to be the one that tells you. In regards to the low points… well, they’ve hurt. Some of them continue to hurt, even after years have passed. Like ripples on the surface of a still pond, I think they will hurt for a while. These days, however, I’m not hiding from them. Every ripple brings a lesson, and I’m counting them as they pass. Counting them,  learning from them, and wrapping my arms tightly around this beautiful, messy truth of mine.

Love,

Kelly