14322540_10207520917796605_4023911305888679218_n

The Anniversary, An Unexpected Adventure

14322540_10207520917796605_4023911305888679218_n

Dear Clara,

One year ago today, you were taken from my body.

One year ago today, I said the first of many goodbyes to you. I just can’t seem to stop saying goodbye to you, so often are you on my mind.

The last two weeks have been really hard. Like, trudging through quicksand, next level hard. And it’s no wonder. After all, last Labor Day weekend, we found out that you were a girl. Our first daughter, our sweet Clara. Three days later, we got the call that something appeared to be amiss. One week after that, we found ourselves in the office of a specialist, listening to a diagnosis that felt like it must surely be meant for someone else.

Five days later, you were gone.

It all happened so fast.

A fellow Warrior Mom has been reading a book called The Body Keeps the Score, by Dr.Bessel van der Kolk, which discusses the way that traumatic experiences literally reshape our brain, creating a physical record and replay function of the trauma, over which we have little control. It’s a book I intend to read very soon, but even without having read it, I am able to see just why the last couple of weeks have been so hard.

My body remembers.

My body remembers so well, that I spent the last two weeks fretting myself right into a case of bronchitis which landed me in the ER receiving a breathing treatment and a bag of fluids.

I made it to this day, though, and out of respect for the pain and my own grieving process, I decided to take today off of work. I’d be alone, well except for Milo Dog, and would be able to feel my feelings and let my heart guide me towards what activities would serve me best. Perhaps I would knit and send up a heartbeat for you with every turn of the needles. Perhaps I would take a walk in the woods and listen for you in the leaves, rustling crisply as they give over their supple green to the slowly encroaching Autumn hues and textures. Perhaps I would work on clearing the garden for Fall, pushing my hands into the earth and reminding myself of the oneness of it all, you included.

Parenthood had other ideas.

Silas was up half the night complaining of an earache and a headache. Milo needed to have a behavioral evaluation at a local boarder, so that we can board him for a wedding this weekend, and so my “Self-care Day” slowly turned into something else entirely.

First, I took Silas to the doctor this morning. Thankfully the ear ache is not an infection. Just fluid, likely caused by allergies. So we’re going to stick to the Children’s Claritin and try to make it through the rest of ragweed season without anything turning infected.

Milo’s behavioral visit was fine. We’re going to set him up to spend a full day there sometime this week, just so he can really get acquainted with the place before we leave him for an overnight.

By the time Silas and I left the dog boarder, it was lunch time. Since we had Milo with us, I decided to drive over to St. Charles (a little town on the Fox River that Daddy and I both love) and grab some lunch on a dog-friendly patio.

I ordered a beer. +5 self care points?

While we were waiting for our food, Silas informed me that he needed to pee. Just to recap, Silas is 4, cannot take himself to the bathroom, and we were on a patio with a 70lb velcro dog who does not enjoy being left alone.

I told Silas he needed to hold it. He said he could not.

I texted Daddy to see if he had any ideas. He did not.

Then Silas asked me, in the sweetest voice possible, if he could just pee in his pants.

I picked my heart back up off the pavement, slammed it back into my chest and mustered up the courage to ask our waitress if she would mind sitting with our dog for a few minutes while I took Silas to the bathroom. She very sweetly agreed, so I gave her a handful of treats for him and raced off to the bathroom, grateful for her kindness.

We returned to the table and as we waited for our order, I reflected on the way my day was turning out. Not bad, of course. It hasn’t been a bad day by any means. It’s just been so opposite the somber, introspective, grief stricken day that I had imagined it would be. By contrast, it’s been a day filled with so much life. From lingering bronchitis, to thankfully uneventful pediatrician visits, to dog boarders.  From inconvenient potty requests, to kind strangers, to a craft beer enjoyed under the shade of a towering oak tree, a dog snoozing at my feet and Silas zooming cars around the table top. It has been a wonderful, lively day.

There is, of course, a part of me who hurts immeasurably because you aren’t here to enjoy these days. However, as I sat on that patio, watching the dappled sunlight dance through the oak tree and smelling the first hint of dried leaves on the breeze, it felt as though you were telling me something about what today was really for.

Today wasn’t a day for grief. Today was a day for life. Crazy, messy, silly, happy, LIFE.

I left the waitress a hefty tip, along with a note, explaining how her small kindness had meant the world to a random Mom on a sad day. I then threw nap time windows to the wind, and we decided to visit Daddy at work, since it was just down the street. Why the heck not. Silas is napping now (late, and probably not for very long), and I’m sitting in the library, the room that was to be yours. Really, it is yours, I think it might always be. I’m overcome with the kind of peace and relaxation that only seems to find me in this room, and I’m finally doing something I had planned to do today. I’m writing. The words are just very different than what I expected them to be.

On a day which I expected to think only of death, you filled my heart and mind with appreciation for life, be it mundane or exemplary, or some spectacular mix of both.

Thank you for still teaching me, my Little Moon. I hope you always will.

We are all thinking of you, today and every day, and Mommy loves you, my darling girl.

I love you so very, very much.

Mommy

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