Vacation 2014 – Part 2

There is something absolutely INCREDIBLE about this place. It’s like….you are so far away from EVERYTHING that everything that is pressing on you or weighing heavy on you starts to fade into the background and you can just “be present” in the beauty of it all.

I love it here

It doesn’t even seem like much from this picture (it was SO HAZY from the forest fires further in Washington)……how about this one…..

The Sky Before the Storm

We had either just had a storm or were just about to have a storm blow through when I took this picture.

We’ve been coming to this particular lake since the year we got married….and have only missed 2 maybe 3 years. I really, REALLY didn’t want to come this year. I’ve just been so worn down with my life and the lives of those that I’m responsible for. Each day feels like it requires super human effort (that I don’t have to give), and I know that I have people who wonder why I’m not visiting or doing coffee – and to be completely honest……I’m just surviving each day…..barely!

I was SO exhausted and packing up for the lake just about did me in. It took about 3-4 days of early nights and (I’m so incredibly thankful to my boys) not-too-early mornings for me to feel like I was actually unwinding and relaxing.

Seeing as we weren’t quite set up, (we arrived a lot later than intended) we had a lovely breakfast of cereal and crazy….pretty much a normal breakfast for us. Note Jon and Jeremy’s sweaters…..in true ADHD form, both of them managed to forget to pack a sweatshirt or coat, but ever so fortunately….Xani was able to help both of them out. Nice Ugly Christmas Sweater, Jon!!!!!

First Morning

(Siah pipes up completely randomly, as he is known to do: “Milk comes from plants, Judah……right Mom?” I had to laugh because that’s all they know – soy and almond milk)

Somethings are more important that others….and coffee and clean teeth rank pretty high in my books.

Camp Mornings

This was the first time we have brought Zeus up to a community camp ground and he tends to be a bit of a nut job when other dogs are around….he just wants to play and play and play and play….so he was a bit unhappy that he was tied down and that we kept shushing him everytime a “friend” walked by.

Sad to be tied down

In Jeremy’s perfect world, he would be either Survivor Man or Cody Lundin. I asked him to put on shoes at one point and he informed me that he planned to be shoeless for the entire time we were up there as he needed to work on his calluses so he would have tough feet. At one point, he was practicing making feathersticks.

Working on Fiddlesticks

This was my attempt at a featherstick….not too shabby for a first time, eh?

My attempt at a Fiddlestick

We settled in to “camp life” fairly quickly. Jon and Jer took the chainsaw and headed out to find some deadfall so we could have AMAZING fires. At least we had this guy to look over our campsite and keep watch over us.

Chainsaw Carving

this was Jon’s first attempt at chainsaw art

Judah’s mantra for the entire 11 days was, “CAN HE BE MINE?” It didn’t matter if it was a frog, a fish, a mouse, a beetle or this particular grub/maggot thingy….He was found hiding in a piece of wood after Jon split it up…I found it to be equally fascinating and disgusting.

Gross and Fascinating

This was a very different vacation for us. Geli was at Camp Goodtimes Teen Camp for the first week, and Xandra and Jeremy slept during the day…..they never sleep during the day. It was so amazing to see them get some extra rest. I’ll admit that I was a bit worried that Jer might be getting sick, but nope…..just tired and needing a nap. The fresh air and outdoor activities seem to really agree with every one of us.

Resting....away from it all

It’s so fun to see my babies growing up. There is such an age difference between the three older kids and the two younger ones. And the two little boys are becoming such great friends as they grow a bit bigger and older. Jeremy actually remarked that he was a bit jealous of the fact that the two boys had each other, and that Geli and Xani had each other and that he was stuck in the middle alone.

I Love Him So....

The two littlest boys are becoming bigger, little boys and while they are not babies….they will always be my babies. Although I will admit that they are a lot easier to care for now that they are a bit older. I am definitely thankful to be beyond the baby stage. I love that I can snuggle all the babies in my life and give them back and get a good night sleep. HA!

Siah worked ALL DAY and a part of the next day and finally managed to chop through a tough waterlogged piece of wood……with a hatchet. Not an easy task, but he was so determined. He was so proud when it actually chopped through….he asked me to take a picture of him and his log. Note the bare feet…..we are ALL about safety!!!

Woodsman

Judah…..well…..he is just my sweet boy and I love him so. I really don’t need any reason to post pictures of him.

Love him so....

Part 1 here

Part 3 and a bazillion more photos coming soon.

What does THAT even mean?

I mentioned that I felt depressed about my life yesterday.

I thought I might take a moment to clarify what exactly that looks like, feels like and means to me.

I ran into someone yesterday who had read yesterday’s post and gently asked me how I was doing. I threw something back at them saying that I was ok and that I was just keeping on, keeping on.

Anxiety speaking here: I’m not sure if they were expecting me to be a huge mess of tears, or if they were thinking that I’d be fragile, or really off, or shaken, or…..maybe they were thinking none of the above and that’s just the anxiety saying that they were “thinking” or “expecting” something.

Regardless, it got me thinking….because I’ve written posts before and had people very cautiously approach me wanting to cancel a get-together that was planned because it might be too much for me, or talking to me as if I couldn’t handle things and they were not wanting to upset my delicate balance.

I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate people’s care and concern……NO! Actually, it’s exactly the opposite. I feel so cared for and supported and loved, when people care enough to step outside of the emotional distance that we, as humans, like to hold ourselves to and try to bridge over into my problems and stresses. It’s HUGE and I’m so grateful.

On one hand, I don’t like to appear weak, on the other hand, I don’t like to be needy, but so often I am both weak and needy……..and I’m recognizing that having a “community” or a “family” that can help to lift you up and carry you when you feel exhausted or worn down, is an incredible, INCREDIBLE thing.

When I share about feeling depressed about my life…….I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m in a tough place and I don’t have a clear vision as to how to move from this difficult place into a better place. I don’t like NOT KNOWING……..I like to have a plan, to be in control, to be working towards a goal, to be able to make things better……

There are somethings in my life that I cannot change. I cannot remove the emotional or physical marks that cancer has left on every person in my family. I cannot remove the anxiety that all 5 of my children seem to deal with in varying degrees, from severe and debilitating to mild. I cannot change the fact that autism is a very real, exhausting and difficult neurological disorder that we deal with, as an entire family, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I cannot change the fact that ADHD has impacted 4 of my family members intimately and the trickle down effect of that disorder effects the rest of us.

I can’t “just fix” those things. They are here. They are real. They require HUGE amounts of effort mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. They affect each interpersonal relationship within my immediate family and many outside of my family.

There are moments when “the reality” of my life seems WAY. TOO. REAL…….and my options are to keep on keeping on….or give up.

I cannot give up.

I mean, I could. That was something that my counselor said to me at one point. I could give up. I could check out. I could run away or end up in a hospital somewhere…..unable to “handle” things and that it was my choice to carry on.

I think she was trying to tell me that I “held power” in my situation and that many people did/do check out and that I was doing well, in the fact that I still had the ability to CHOOSE to carry on.

I think I get what she was saying and yet……oh there is always a yet or a but, isn’t there……..I don’t feel that giving up is an option. Yes, somedays, it’s all I can do to just get up and get dressed and put my make up on……

That’s my thing…..my gimmick…..the one thing that signals to me that the show must go on….if I get up and get dressed in real clothes (not pyjama wanna-be’s) and do my hair and make up……..then I accomplish so much more. Very rarely, do I ever, stay in pyjamas and not do my hair and make up. I get “ZILCH” done on those days and I simply cannot afford to not accomplish things……

The 2.5 years of cancer treatment was brutal. It taxed me to my extreme limits as a person, and definitely as a parent. I am still not recovered from the toll that it took on me.

I find that I feel a bit like I am a hollow egg (Humpty Dumpty, if you will). I have a very thin and fragile shell and as long as things don’t shake me or bump me, I exert every bit of energy that I have to hold my broken and cracked self together. One little bump and the precariously balanced pieces start to fall. I fall apart……

Jeremy has a bad Autistic day……….BUMP!
Geli has an emotional day relating back to cancer crap………BUMP!
Josiah has an ADHD frustration flip out…….BUMP!
Judah is 3 (enough said)………BUMP!
Xani experiences extreme anxiety for unexplained reasons…….BUMP!

So many bumps……so much energy expended trying to keep all the pieces in place…..so many pieces falling…..so little left at the end of the day.

I can’t make these things go away, and so I must learn how to live and carry on and continue with pieces of myself broken and fallen apart.

Some of it will get better….or at the very least different, with time. Some of it will never go away, but the kids will grow up and learn coping skills. And my hope, my prayer, is that I do a good enough job of training these amazing blessings of mine how to deal with life’s challenges with grace and dignity; and how to keep on keeping on even when you are unsure of how to proceed and what the best course of action is…..

But………

………sometimes, the enormity of my job weighs heavy on me. Sometimes, I’m unsure how to best help these ones I love so dearly. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have the emotional or physical strength to deal with “even one more issue”(…and there is always “one more issue”). And then I feel discouraged…….

We have had a few BIG BUMPS recently. Ones that I’d love to share, but it’s just not the right time…….and the added pressure and stress weighs very heavy and makes “coping” that much more difficult. And so here is where I am at today……..

I’m dressed. I have my make-up on and my hair done(sorts of, if a messy pony tail counts…). The kids are off to school, except for Geli – who is still feeling sick (Thanks to Xani for bringing home a stinking bug from New York) and Judah. I’m needing to make a list and see what I can actually get done today. I know I have a mountain (probably 8 large loads) of laundry to fold, sort and put away. I know the main floor is a disaster and the kitchen needs to get put right. If I can accomplish any (not all, but ANY……) of that before the kids come home; as well as planning dinner for Angelica’s 17th Birthday (which is today) I will consider today a success. I have LOW standards…..

So, my “feelings of depression” are an exhaustion, a feeling of uncertainty and brief moments of hopelessness, a sense of constant pressure and chaos, an insecurity of my abilities to adequately parent these amazing children who have been presented with striking challenges to overcome……it’s a little bit of acknowledging a desire for some easy days, yet not wanting to stay in a place of discontent with my life, because that helps no one. It’s a tough place. At times it’s a wonderful place…..but right now, it’s mostly a tough place.

It won’t stay that way forever. I know that I’ll feel stronger and stronger again….I always do, but it is tough.

I would encourage you to look around you and encourage each other…..it doesn’t matter whether you are a single parent by choice or by circumstance, or whether you have special needs children or a child with a long term or chronic illness, whether you have a difficult or challenging child(ren) or need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, whether you or your loved ones struggle with any kind of mental illness or disability, or whether you seem to have a fairly smooth go of things at the moment……

Be Kind.
Be Compassionate.
Be Loving.
Be Encouraging.
Be Understanding.
Be Gracious.
Be Merciful.
Be Caring.

Understand that everyone is doing their best, and while “our bests” may differ depending on our circumstances and experiences and abilities……..be gentle with each other. Your care and support may make the difference in someones life today.

The Ups and Downs of Life

I’ve been struggling lately.

And I’m feeling really worn down.

Which is crazy frustrating cause I’m pretty much doing all the right things…….sort of.

I’m exercising more than I ever have in my entire life…..all put together. I’m eating well (except for the last 3 days). I’m regularly taking my anti-anxiety meds. I could maybe get a little more sleep, but 7 hours a night isn’t too bad. The sun has been out (should probably be out in it more.) I’ve got tons of seedlings started for my garden, and dirt all piled up ready to go. So many good things…….

And yet, I wish I felt stronger…..more powerful, more capable, more in control….

Instead, I’m walking around feeling……weary, defeated, uncertain…..

It doesn’t feel good.

There are things that I think I should be proud of, accomplishments that are a good thing……I’ve lost over 15 pounds. I literally ran myself down a size in my running tights. (my last run in them was a horrible run because I literally had to hold them up the entire run cause they wouldn’t stay up and the extra roomy fabric caused some extreme chaffing in some sensitive areas……ahem!!) I also ran/walked 100 km’s in March. That’s kind of mind blowing to me because…..well I’ve never done that before. The highest km’s I had done in a month when I was running before was April 2013 and I managed a whopping 46 kms. So I more than doubled it. And today, I ran for 25 mins, no walking, no stopping. 35 mins in total with a 5 mins walking warm up and a 5 min walking cool down. That’s all good right. I even managed to pound out 4.5km in that 35 mins. So it’s not like I’m sprinting, but I kept up a steady pace……..

I’m just………I dunno. Today I actually felt depressed about my life. I don’t think I’ve felt like this since about 3/4 of the way through Angelica’s cancer treatment.

I posted a comment on Facebook the other night…..

Sometimes I think about the people who seem to have it all together and how everything seems to really work for them…..then I wonder if somebody might be thinking that about me and then I laugh and laugh and laugh – ’cause seriously?…….and then maybe, I cry. #sometimeslifesastruggle #onefootinfrontoftheother

……I was thinking about how it’s seemed like a tough run for us for the past…..well, it’s been a long time. Nathaniel died in Jan 2007 and there has been a lot of tragedy since then and there was quite a bit of stress in our lives (for differing reasons) before then. It’s not that there’s not been good. There has been so much good, but the tough stuff wears on you.

I got some varied responses and to be honest, I struggled with actually posting it, and re-wrote it a few times before settling on that wording. I was concerned how people might take it. I wasn’t whining and those who know me…..I think they “heard” my voice in those words.

I was more saying that sometimes I might think that there are those who seem to have it all together or seem like they have a fairly “normal” or “less stressful” life, but no one knows what is really going on, behind the scenes, unless they actually know them and have been given insight into the inner workings of their lives. I’ve had people comment to me that I seem to have it all together or that I can handle SO much……or that certain things don’t seem to faze me.

What I know is that my life is not perfect. It’s not easy and if for some weird and strange reason, I “seem” to have it all together……that’s totally not the reality.

I really,Really, REALLY do NOT have it all together.

And if it could possibly appear that I might have it all together…….. then my view of someone else having it all together may be completely off, as well. Everyone lives life…..and life has a tendency to be messy and real. And sometimes you just gotta laugh, and sometimes….it’s just too hard to laugh and well…..well, then you might cry. And that’s ok too.

Regardless, I hate feeling like this.
I hate feeling………”less than….”
I hate feeling overwhelmed.
I hate feeling like I’m drowning…..it’s that feeling that things are just piling up on top of you and you can never get enough done to just stay caught up; let alone ever getting ahead…….I hate that feeling.

I don’t want to feel like this, but probably the hardest thing for me right now is that I’m not sure how to “change” or “fix” this; and that’s tough.

I just keep reminding myself that season’s change and this one will too.

What do you do when you are feeling a bit down or overwhelmed? Any suggestions?

I am Winning! Day 26 – Tuesday March 11

I’m sitting at my kitchen table, a million lego pieces on the floor around me thanks to 2 little boys who eat, sleep and breathe lego.

I have so many thoughts swarming around my head. I feel like I’m trying to herd a cloud of flies. I can’t seem to grasp one or get them to neatly line up so I can process through them. I’m not sure if I’m subconsciously avoiding dealing with “them” or if I just get so few opportunities to sit and think……..and now there are just too many……

I mentioned that I have a Dr’s appt on Thursday. It’s the yearly appointment of joy and fun, if you are a woman. And, it just happens to work out that it will be 4 weeks/28 days since I started this journey. So, I will get up on Thursday and take my measurements. I’m unsure whether I want to step on my scale at home or just do it at the Dr’s office.

I mentioned that I’m scared of the number.

It’s true! And so incredibly stupid.

It’s been so freeing not knowing the number. And yet, I still mull it over and over in my head, way more often than I’d like. My thoughts go something like this……

If I’ve lost 10 pounds, that’s awesome.

Yah, but your eating has been impecable…..surely you’ve lost more than 10 pounds.

But you’ve seen yourself in the mirror….you’ve got a LONG way to go.

But you’re doing SO good.

Yah, but it’s not fast enough and you are running like crazy.

I know but I don’t want to be disappointed. I don’t want to set myself up for a blow.

Is it a disappointment if you’ve lost weight and gotten stronger?

No, but what if I’ve not lost hardly any weight because I gained muscle?

I don’t want to be over 200 pounds. I hate that number.

And on and on and on……..

None of that is positive. It’s not helping me.

I know that I’m fitting in clothes differently. I feel better. I can actually see my cheekbones. I feel less exhausted and crazy(anxiety is less….sort of, I guess). I’m sleeping better. I’m accomplishing more (I think). And yet, I’m still on this stupid merry-go-round.

There is less of it. So, I guess that’s a positive.

I’ve probably upped my distance in running/walking too fast. The difference is…..I feel so much better when I’m exercising. I seem to hit the “high” after 35 minutes. And it feels SO GOOD!

BUT……my knees are tired and one is a little swollen. It’s funny because it doesn’t really hurt, but it feels……weak? Maybe that’s the best word for it. So, I’m going to back off a little because I don’t want to actually damage it. But as soon as I think about backing off…I start to feel a little panicky because I don’t want to gain weight back and I don’t want to feel anxious again.

Ha! Again with the “having anxiety” about having anxiety.

At least I can recognize this and laugh at myself. Even though it’s no laughing matter. Anxiety sucks. If you’ve never really dealt with it on a constant day to day basis….count yourself blessed. It’s as wearing as long term physical pain. It’s soul crushing.

I don’t want to think like this. I don’t want to be like this. And yet, even in my weakness, there is a positive side. I’d like to think that I have a certain amount of understanding and compassion for others who may be experiencing anxiety or other mental health issues. If you haven’t really experienced long term anxiety, it can be difficult to really comprehend.

My least favorite “helpful” suggestion is, “Just stop thinking like that!”

I wish I could.

I’m not sure if it has to do with a crazy imagination or what, but just recently I was standing in the shower and my mind flashed to a picture of me slipping, hitting my head on the temperature dial, splitting my head open and dying. In one second, I went from doing a mundane task of getting clean, to a flash of panic.

I don’t want to die. I’m actually quite satisfied with where I am at right now. I don’t want to think thoughts like this. That thought or picture flashed through my head, followed by a wave of anxiety and my immediate next thoughts were, That’s the anxiety. Why does my brain do this? I don’t want to see that picture. I don’t want to feel this anxiety. The panic that washes over you in an instant, like water flowing from the shower.

I didn’t ask to feel that. I don’t want to feel that. Even though I can recognize that it’s “anxiety”, that doesn’t mean that I can just dismiss the whole experience. I’m left exhausted by the surge of panic. Even if it was only for a moment. Even if I know it’s not real, and that there is little to no chance of “that” actually happening……the experience is still wearing. I want it to just stop. If I never had a thought like that again…..I would be thrilled.

But I can use my experiences to understand and show compassion and to teach….so that when my son comes to me asking if the mark on his face could possibly be cancer. Even though, his next comment is that he knows it most likely isn’t and that its probably just the anxiety speaking…..

I can know that I’m helping him to differentiate between the anxiety and reality. I can also understand that he’s emotionally exhausted and has little reserves to “hold himself together”. I can “get” that he’s not wanting to feel or think like this.

It makes this whole situation a little easier to deal with.

But believe me….if I could just stop this…..I would.

If you don’t deal with anxiety, maybe the next time someone shares an anxious moment with you….instead of encouraging them to “just stop it”, you could just listen……and say something encouraging like, “That’s tough. It’s got to be hard fighting against that or feeling like that.” It’s amazing how encouraging validation is. It’s not saying that being anxious or stressed is okay. It’s just acknowledging that the person is experiencing stress on the mind and body; and that they are fighting against it. It’s incredible to hear someone say, “Keep going! I’m standing here with you, beside you. Even if I’m unsure what to do….I’m here!

If you do deal with anxiety, keep fighting. Every day is a fight. Every day you fight….you are winning!

You are winning!

I am winning!

Day 15 – February 28

Today feels like a good day. I woke up at 6:15…..stayed in bed until 7:15am, BUT….I made the choice to do that because the older kids are home today; and except for breakfast and getting dressed….Siah was all ready and packed to go to school (Yay for evening prep). So, I had time……

It’s been 2 weeks since I started this “journey” and it’s been filled with ups and downs. There have been a lot of downs, but I keep attempting to focus on the ups.

I’ve seen a pattern that I hope to break. I managed to make it out of my “fat” jeans and into my “regular” jeans…..this was a fabulous feeling, BUT…….I noticed that as soon as I reached that milestone, I wanted to quit.

Yup!

I have no idea what my weight is right now, but I know that I’m no where near an optimal weight/size/shape/fitness level. And so I choose to carry on.

I know that this has happened in the past….I’ve reached this place and figured that it was good enough and that it gave me a reason to give up. I say give up, because while I am comfortable eating this way (closer to Whole30 than paleo), it’s not easy. It requires effort and discipline. It requires not inhaling a bowl (or 3) of Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms. It requires planning ahead to have lunch and snacks. It requires making dinner instead of eating out. It requires going out for a walk/run even when I don’t want to because I’m tired or it’s snowy or it’s raining…..or I really just don’t want to. It requires a recognition that all my choices have consequences, when a part of me just wants to “do/eat whatever I want” without having to deal with the consequences.

That’s really what it comes down to……one of the things I talk the most to my kids about…..

CHOICES and CONSEQUENCES

Now, I did make a choice. It was actually a conscious choice. I chose to not monitor my food choices for a while because I was exhausted and so worn out. I knew that the consequences would be weight gain and a general feeling of physical, mental and emotional “blergh”. I needed to not feel like I was trying (and failing) to control every aspect of my life. And so I just ignored that area of my life….until I felt pretty horrid and was at the point where I could no longer fit into my “biggest” clothes.

And here I am…..wanting change.

When I was on my walk/run last night, that word was on a loop in my head.

CHANGE

I’m typically resistant to change. I like safe. I like routine. I like knowing what to expect.

Basically it all comes down to fear and control.

Again with the fear and control. ARG!

But………… I feel like this is a year of change for me.

I’m not out to force change onto myself, but I’m willing to allow change to happen and to do what I can and what I need to do to encourage that “change” to happen.

The last 2 weeks have been interesting for me. It’s eye opening to see that I do things to sabotage myself so that I can stay in a “comfortable” place. And yet that’s part of the lie….that the place I am in is comfortable….cause it’s not. And who said that life is supposed to be comfortable, anyway?

One of the “downs” of the past 2 weeks have been anxiety.

I haven’t been walking around in a 24/7 panic attack, and in fact, I’ve felt pretty stable most of the time.

I have noticed that I must be feeling worse than I realize because the desire to “escape” has been intense at times. I’ve wanted something to “take the edge off”. I’ve noticed that there have been a few more times than I’d like where I’ve wanted a glass (or 3) of wine; or to take a few Ativan just so I could escape from the pressure. I’ve noticed this particularly at the end of the day, and definitely on weekends. I’ve also noticed that when confronted with certain situations, my anxiety goes from what has seemed like “non-existent” to full on panic.

For example, Jon called me the other day when I was picking the girls up from school. My initial thought, when I heard that he was not at work but on his way home (it was earlier than his quitting time – but I had forgotten that he had a dental appt), was that something terrible had happened. He couldn’t explain himself fast enough and I could feel “worse-case-scenario-girl” kicking into overdrive.

And, Geli messaged me the other day from school…..I totally forget about what….I just remember “the forbidding feeling of doom“. I quickly cut her off to clarify that everything was ok and that she wasn’t about to “drop a bomb” on me.

I hate that aspect of my brain. I have a Dr’s Appt on March 13 and I’ll be talking with him about meds and whether or not we need to tweak things. I feel pretty good most of the time but those “flare ups” and the “desire to escape” bother me.

On a positive note….I feel a lot stronger, in regards to walking/running, than I did 2 weeks ago. I don’t feel like I’m going to die before I finish, HA!. Which is a good thing, right? I’m going further, faster than I did two weeks ago. I’m definitely not where I was when I stopped running last year, but I have the memory, both physical and mental, of what I am capable of and that has me excited for both attaining and surpassing where I was. I’ve restarted the C25K program because I figure that it can’t hurt…..and even with that…..I see differences from where I was to where I am.

Last night, I just turned the running app on and hit play without looking at exactly what the walk/run info was….I just followed the prompts, instead of anticipating them. It felt a lot easier. Just going with it. Instead of anticipating the “tough” times and counting down every second…….I just let go of all that “control” and trusted that I could do it.

I let go of the control and put aside fear and……..it felt great. Even better, I was over a minute faster per km than my previous run/walk.

I’m excited for where I’m going and trying even harder to be content with where I am at.

It’s a process. I’m in process. It’s ok. I’m ok. I’ll be ok.

How are you doing? I’d love to hear what’s happening in your life….the good, the bad, the ugly…..it’s all ok.

Day 4 – February 17

Yesterday was a bit of a hard day for me.

It was an “at home” day and I find that unless I am super busy, then the “noise” seems to be louder on those days. It’s like there is too much time to “think” about things.

My biggest worry – my health…….every little ache or pain seems intensified. I spend a HUGE amount of effort talking “reality” to myself. The “cancer fear” seems huge. I hate it. I hate that Geli was sick for a while before we knew and by the time we found out….she was really sick. So, little things swirl around inside of my head and become huge things.

I know it’s anxiety.

I hate it.

The exchange goes something like this….

That feels “off”….hmmm, that’s weird. I remember feeling that before. I wonder if it’s serious.

Of course it’s not, that just the anxiety talking.

But how much do I discount, and what if I discount something serious because I think it’s just anxiety.

Ok, so now you are having anxiety about having anxiety….that’s messed up.

I know. I’m fine……………right?

Of course you are. Remember, you brought it up the last time you were at the Dr and he explained it.

I know, but we can’t see “inside” of me and what if……

What are the “what if’s” going to do to help you?

……………Nothing….I know………, but this is just so hard.

I wish I could just turn my brain off.

And this goes on and on….

Except that when I am busy…..I can entirely forget that there had even been an issue…that is, until I remember, AGAIN….at which point, it cycles around again.

It’s messed up.

So I go to bed and wake up the next morning and……….I’m fine. And then I have a busy day and……….I’m fine. And then I have another tough day………..and in reality, I’m still fine.

Which is why I (mostly) believe that I AM FINE.

I’m thinking I might need to go back to my trauma counselor and have a session dealing with this……..

I remember dealing with a very mild form of this before Geli was sick, but it’s been just stupid intense since Geli was diagnosed with cancer………

Other than the anxiety….it was a fairly good day. Yesterday morning, getting out of bed at 6:45am really helped with the insanity of the morning situation. It felt like a really calm morning….which is odd ’cause we don’t have too many of those.

We even had a Team Meeting between Jeremy’s two schools and it went fabulously. He really is doing well. it’s not easy. It’s never easy, but it’s nice to hear that he’s doing well, as opposed to hearing that there is something wrong. I’ve had way too many of those meetings. I will be thrilled if I never have another one, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

Do you struggle with anxiety? Any tips on dealing with the intruding thoughts? Have you found a way to “turn it off”?

Let’s Talk About Mental Health Issues……

I’m frustrated with the whole concept of guilt and Mental Health.

I, in no way, have all the answers; and on most days I question whether I have any answers. What I do know is that I deal with anxiety and have for as long as I can remember. My mom says that I was fearless as a child and so, I’m not exactly sure what happened, because I don’t really have any concrete memories where I wasn’t dealing with anxiety.

At least 3 of my kids deal with some level of anxiety and Jeremy is also dealing with ADHD, Executive Function Disorder, Learning Disability and Autism. All of those fall under the “Mental Health” umbrella. They all have areas of “Brain Disfunction.” In my mind, that means there are areas where the brain is not functioning in a Neuro-typical way. I do understand that there are many who don’t want autism classified as a mental health disorder because it is usually thought of as being a genetically predetermined disorder, and there is a certain amount of “shame” associated with mental illness or mental disorders.

I choose to think differently about the whole concept of Mental Health.

I deal with any physical health issues for myself or my children in a completely non-guilty manner. If myself or one of the kids has a cold, or a broken bone or some other physical ailment, I don’t feel guilty taking them in to see our Family Dr or a specialist, if needed. Why then, if myself or one of the kids are dealing with Mental Health Issues, should it be any different?

In my mind, it shouldn’t be any different at all.

If my car needs a tune up. I get it done. If my house needs a hose for the water tank, we get it done. If our clothes are in need of repair or replacement, then I take care of it. Why do we take care of our physical bodies and our belongings, but hesitate when it comes to mental and emotional issues.

We, often, hesitate to talk about it openly and freely. Sometimes we hesitate to even admit it to ourselves. It’s a tricky subject and not one that everyone understands or even cares to try to understand, but Mental Health and Mental Illness are not going anywhere.

I’m trying to raise my kids to understand that Mental Health is as important as Physical Health. It’s important to take care of your mental/emotional state; and it’s important to take care of your physical state.

If I needed insulin because my body never produced it, or it produced a very small amount……would that make me “less” in some way. Would it mean that I was broken and not as valuable or worthy as someone else who didn’t need insulin shots? So what if I need extra seratonin in my brain, for either a while or even forever……I don’t see how the two are different. What if genetically, I don’t produce as much as you do? Or what if I experienced some traumatic event in my life and the stress has negatively affected my body in such a way that I needed some help, in the form of seratonin or any other mental health drug…….why is that any different than needing insulin or any other drug.

I don’t see that it is.

In my family, there seems to be a huge history of anxiety and depression. I have also experienced a stillbirth, 4 pregnancy losses and cancer, as well as dealing with a child/children with special needs. So whether it’s genetically predispositioned or because of some life trauma…..I don’t know.

What I do know, is that being on medicine has helped “ME.” I’m not advocating that everyone needs to be on meds. Because if you can deal with your mental health issues through counselling and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy….then awesome….but by doing that, you are still “taking care of” your mental health.

For the first time in my life, that I can remember, I feel like the inside of me matches the outside of me. It’s crazy hard to explain, but I will try. I’ve had many people not believe or understand that I was anxious (as a teen or young adult) because I seemed so confident and in control. I think that must be where my kids get it from. They seem to hold themselves (mostly) together when they are at school or church or “out” and then when they get home, they feel comfortable enough to “fall apart”.

I don’t know that I did a lot of “falling apart” but I did use “control” as a method of dealing with how “out of control” I felt. I felt that I needed to control my situations, the people around me and myself in order to feel safe. It got to the point where my “control issues” were hurting my relationships. And yet, I didn’t understand “why” I felt the need to “control” everything. I just knew that I felt safer when I knew exactly what to expect.

I did believe that I was a good person and yet a part of me didn’t believe that. I believed I was a good friend and yet the insecurity and anxieties held me back from actually “being a good friend.” I thought I could do things like “sing” and yet I could never put myself fully “out there” because I couldn’t possibly be good enough and what if I made a mistake…..what would people think of me. I know that lots of people deal with a certain amount of insecurity and I don’t know that I can fully explain just how it felt inside of me. But imagine if you thought you were good enough but then you weren’t really sure if you could believe yourself…..and if you were so unsure then maybe you really weren’t good enough. Throw in some perfection issues which meant that you couldn’t or wouldn’t do ANYTHING you weren’t absolutely certain that you could do with 100% accuracy and confidence………and that pretty much left you not doing much at all. You wanted to do “stuff” but unless you could control the situation and knew exactly what to to expect and exactly what people’s reactions would be and exactly what the outcome would be……….which having all of that fall into place for any specific event, was pretty much an impossibility and if it did…..you came across so confident that no one would ever guess that you were dealing with insecurity and anxiety……and throw on top of that whole mess, that you never wanted to come across as anything less than confident and so you were exhausted all the time just trying to hold yourself together so that you could come across “PERFECTLY” because anything less than perfection was failure and “FAILURE” was never acceptable and basically you have a perfect recipe for disaster.

Knowing what I went through as a teenager/adult, and then when I finally figured out that I was dealing with “anxiety”, feeling so relieved and yet angry and grieved over all the lost time………I am strongly advocating for my children’s Mental Health when necessary.

I look back at my teenage years when I didn’t feel strong enough or worthy enough or acceptable enough to do things like, go to college or university. I figured that I was good at looking after kids and so rather than do things I was interested in, like music or teaching or even in the medical field….I took whatever jobs fell into my lap, got married and had kids. I was too scared to do anything else.

I love my husband. I love my kids. I’m not unhappy with my life, and yet…..I could have done things differently. I’ve shared this with people before and I usually hear something like, “We all feel insecure and regretful of the things we wish we had done but didn’t do.” This is different. I’m talking about life crippling anxiety. Like there where things I wanted to do and yet was SO scared to do them that even the thought of doing it stressed me out, and so I did what felt safe.

I’ve lived my entire life, up until now…..only doing things that felt safe……and that doesn’t seem like a huge list of things, especially compared to things that I have dreamed about doing over the years.

I’ve accomplished a fair amount in my 38 years but I’ve dreamed of accomplishing so much more. I’ve just discarded those dreams because I wasn’t good enough, or people would think I was stupid for wanting to do those things. I believed the lie that others could do it better than me and I shouldn’t even try in case I failed. Because failing is one of the worst things ever. I believed that. I’ve believed that for so many years and I hate it.

This is why I’m a HUGE advocate for my kids and their mental health. I’ve pushed my kids beyond every “limitation” that I’ve had that has held me back. I’ve explained why I’m pushing them into uncomfortable situations. I’ve had them ask for things from adults/teachers/doctors/etc. when they felt uncomfortable doing so. Discomfort isn’t a bad thing. Failing isn’t a bad thing. It just means that you tried and for whatever reason it didn’t work out, this time……..and that’s ok.

Never try, never win
never get a break
You miss a hundred percent of the
shots you never take

Hedley came out with this song and it’s been HUGE for me……

I’m a lot more open now. I say “yes”, when everything in me wants to say “no”, because “NO” is safe. I don’t mean that I say yes to everything. I’m still in recovery mode from the 2.5 years of cancer treatment and the havoc that wreaked on me. But, I will honestly assess my stress level, versus just saying “NO” because I’m scared. I ask myself if I’m allowing anxiety to hold me back from saying yes to something that I might actually want to do and even be good at. I try to be honest with myself about what I can do and what I can’t do, and to not view everything through the lenses of anxiety. I will even tell others that any hesitation they might sense from me is anxiety and I’m not willing to allow it to control or rule my life any longer.

Does this mean that all my days are good, confident days…..NOPE! Not at all. And when I’m having a particularly bad day – as far as anxiety goes – I am gentle with myself and honest with both myself and others as to how I am doing. Because I know that tomorrow is a new day and most likely I won’t feel the same. I have stronger days and weaker days, but now I know that I am “fighting” anxiety and that it’s not me……I’m not bad.

I am enough. I am good enough. I am strong enough. I am confident enough. I am enough.

I want my kids to believe that they are good enough and can do whatever they want. I want them to “go for” the things they want and so I advocate for them and I encourage them to advocate on their own behalf. We talk about strategies for dealing with “issues” and “insecurities” and “anxieties”. We use medication as an aid, if necessary, and we do it all without guilt. There is no guilt or shame in needing help…….whether its physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.

I am enough!
They are enough!
You are enough!