Self-Love Saturday

Self-Love Saturday: Developing & Maintaining Confidence...Keep Your Head Up!

Having confidence in myself has been a life long struggle for me. No surprise considering how abusive my childhood and teen years were.

The environment I lived in just wasn't conducive for a healthy dose of self-confidence to be grown and cultivated.

One way this has impacted me as an adult is that I walk with my head down and have a hard time looking people in the eye.  Even if my head happens to be up as I'm walking around my campus or down the street, it goes down as soon as I see someone approaching...it sinks lower and lower the closer they get until they pass me by.

I didn't even take notice of this habit until about a year ago. A friend of mine who's a therapist pointed it out and suggested I work on changing it. Breaking out of old habits to develop new ones isn't easy, but I've found that walking with my head up has become easier as I've gotten more comfortable with who I am over the past few months.

This week I realized I was starting to slip back into my old habit, and since it's not reflective of  how I'm feeling about myself these days, I made a concentrated effort to ensure I walked with my head held high and looked others in the eye with a smile as I went to and fro on campus, at Brennan's daycare, walking down the street, running in the park....and guess what? It felt good and gave me even more confidence each time I did.

Like I always say, this self-love and acceptance journey isn't easy, but I'm learning the rewards are so worth having and keeping in my life.

If you're like me and need help walking with your head up in  spite of how you feel or what's going on in your life, may I suggest singing and dancing to this song?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmrOB_q3tjo]

It's been on repeat in my head and on my iPod for the past two weeks....and it definitely helps :)

So what about you? Do you have a habit good or bad that reflects how you feel about yourself? What do you think it says about you and how you feel about yourself? How do you cultivate confidence in yourself and even your kids? 

A Makeover

It's amazing what a haircut can do for your spirits and self-image. There's something about getting the right stylist, one who does an incredible consult, listens to what you want done, and brings your thoughts and desires, spoken and unspoken, to reality....all while taking the time to chat and speak words of wisdom and life into you as they do so.

It's been stirring in my gut for 3-4 weeks to cut my hair. My intuition had been telling me since my birthday back in December it was time for a change and to embrace something new....so I tried accomplishing that with more hair color, more bright, bold hues...but it still wasn't enough and I knew it. I knew I needed something more and finally decided to make the chop.

I knew it was time because I could see that it wasn't as healthy as it used to be. It was starting break off and just feel lifeless...heavy even. It wasn't until this week when I realized why: I was still carrying around the baggage from the past two years...my rocky relationship and break up, my depression during and after pregnancy, my spiritual ups and downs, my struggle with motherhood, my struggle to untangle myself from and overcome my abusive past....I've been carrying all of that around with me since the last big chop I did in July 2009 and my gut told me this week it's time to let it allllll go.

Cutting off the dead weight of the past two years is just another step in the process of getting free this year (see Dance Party Friday: Get Free Edition) and I'm do glad I went for it.

I woke up feeling bogged down by heaviness and am going to sleep feeling like a new me, a fresh and renewed A'Driane. Lighter, healthier, stronger, ready to face what's coming next.

I feel like ME. I'm finally feeling cozy in my own skin and in who I am. And that's the best feeling in the world y'all.

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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...

Self-Love Saturday: A Dose of Euphoria to Mask the Pain

It's self love Saturday. It was a good day. I started off feeling rather good about myself.

I laughed and played with the boys.

I danced. A lot. To my favorite songs.

I spent the day helping my ex run errands (you'll find out why during Tuesday's post).

We shopped for necessities.

It's self love Saturday. It was a rather great day.

It's funny how just shopping for what you need can lead you to toeing the line that borders euphoria....

Well....

I didn't just toe it today...I stepped right over and into it with glee in my heart.

I wish the glee were authentic...

It wasn't until an hour ago that I realized it was just my soul's way of protecting me from the pain that's eating at me like cancer. It shielded me long enough so I could have a pretty awesome day.

And even though I've cycled into a low, I'll take the euphoria that shields me any day....

Because this pain...

Having to deal with the hell that is sexual abuse.....the flashbacks, the hurt, the shame, the ripping off of bandages that close unhealed wounds....

Is too much to bear at the moment. My therapist...she told me this might happen...that opening the box would illicit Pandora and all of her buried emotions...

It's self love Saturday. I had a really good day....until a few hours ago when I realized how unprotected and alone I felt....when I realized that the only way to be made whole and to allow love, real love into my heart and life is to endure the pain of the past so I don't reject my future.

It's self love Saturday...it was a rather splendid day....

Until I got that phone call...

(please remind me to be kind to myself)

Self-Love Saturday: In Pictures

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Tea before therapy....

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Mani....

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Pedi....(FINALLY)

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Some inspiration on how to "embrace my different kind of beauty."

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Snuggling on the couch with a sweet friend....(tasty too!)

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And that is how I've spent my Saturday, taking care of myself and allowing someone to treat me to some much needed pampering.

I needed it today. Therapy was long and intense because we started exhuming my experience with sexual abuse...and all of the emotions I hadn't allowed myself to feel about it. It was brutal...but it was worth it because it's time I processed it so I can be healed...move closer to be whole...

Wholehearted living...living and no longer just surviving...and learning to love myself through all of it. Those are the goals.

What about you? Do you have any goals or desires in the self-love department? Were you kind to yourself today?

Self Love Saturday: Thank you, 2011. You've Taught Me Well

Well...here we are. My last post and last Self-Love Saturday of the year. I woke up at 3:00 this morning because it felt like my heart was going to explode from all the gratitude that's currently surging through it. A couple of months ago, I wrote a SLS post about focusing on the good things, and that's exactly what I had been doing before I went to sleep last night: meditating on all the good and all I've learned in 2011. I said yesterday that it was a painful year, but I've come out of the pain a more wholehearted person than I was before encountering it. I've learned an incredible amount about myself, motherhood, blogging, faith, and just people in general.

I think it's only fitting that I spend the last day of the year and my last Self-Love Saturday celebrating the good and allowing this surge of gratitude I feel just take over. Resolutions, goals, and aspirations for the New Year can only be built upon the foundation we've laid during the previous one...and I'd like to think that I'm going into 2012 with a strong one!

SO. What brings about this swell of gratitude?  Well in 2011 I....

  •  graduated with an Associates in Liberal Arts & Communications in May
  •  received treatment for my PPD & Anxiety
  •  was accepted to a 4 year University (in 2010 I was rejected from 2)
  •  found Postpartum Progress
  •  found an overwhelmingly amazing community of women & bloggers I consider my friends (Hello #PPDChat Army & Band Back Together!)
  •  accepted Wordpress' "Post a Day" Challenge-I didn't write every single day all the time, but I came pretty close!
  • MOVED OUT OF NEW JERSEY!
  • survived my first semester at PBU
  • accomplished 4 things off of my Life List
  • Saw my cousin perform a tribute to Prince in NYC
  • was introduced to Brene Brown's work, the concepts of owning your story, and wholehearted living
  • was diagnosed with rapid cycling  Bipolar Disorder II....which led me down the right path to effective treatment and medications. I'm not as close to managing it as I'd like, but I'm FAR better than I was just 6 months ago.
  • finally found a psychiatrist and therapists who I love and work well with
  • received my first kiss from Alex
  • laugh more
  • cry less
  • am able to actually play with my boys instead of being afraid or unable to be around them
  • established a solid support group of friends online & "in real life"
  • started Dance Party Fridays and the journey toward self-acceptance & healthy body image
  • Fell in love with YOGA!
  • Learned that I adore all things colorfully bright & bold
  • bought my ticket to my FIRST EVER blogging conference, BlogHer12 in NYC. (CAN'T WAIT!!!!)
  • found out that I'm more of a science geek than I thought (Thank you Dr. Gossard!)
  • started painting
  • Fell in love with pastels & sketching
  • Signed up for NaNoWriMo and OWNED IT....knocking out 50,000 words of my first book :)
  • talked with Katherine Stone, Karen Walrond, and Joy Tanksley- 3 women I admire immensely!
  • had my "busiest" blogging day ever: August 26, 2011 with 145 views!
  • was recognized as one of the top 20 Writers on Postpartum Depression by Postpartum Progress & community
  • was nominated for WeGoHealth's "Best Kept Secret Health Activist" Award! (EEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMG! OMG! OMG! I'm so honored-I don't even care if I win, seriously..such a great list of nominees!)

and that's just scratching surface! So many good and wonderful things have happened in spite of the difficult places I found myself in, and if I had been in those difficult places, I wouldn't have met all of you!

Seriously. Every single one of you who take the time to read about my life here on 'Confessions has made an impact on my life this year, and I'm just thankful and appreciative that you stop by here. All of your comments have helped me get through the hard stuff, and it means the world to me.  Life gets busy, trust me, I know...so the fact that you take the time to read and comment is incredible to me.

To all the bloggers I've met this year: you are the most beautiful & strong women I've ever met in my 29 years. Thank you for embracing me, laughing with me, sending me hugs over WiFi, dancing with me, and sharing writing space with me! Thank you Jaime & Susan for gracing 'Confessions with your awesome insight and writing skills by guest posting (and for "hanging out" with me on Google +!)....and thank you Kim, Lauren, & Katherine for walking with me during some of my darkest moments and helping me fight.

To my ex: We aren't together and as hard as that has been to accept before, I do now and I know it's for the best. We are both healthier for it. Thank you for continuing to be a friend to me, in a capacity that is healthiest for you.

So...there you have it folks. Thank you 2011. You've taught me well and I am grateful for what you brought my way these 12 months. I'm happy to say I feel strong enough to embrace what's on the horizon in 2012...I have a feeling it's going to be good, y'all. So take some time and think about the good things today...and spend the last day of the year being kind to yourself...

WE MADE IT!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

you know you want to....go ahead....Dance with me!

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/28127940]

Self-Love Saturday: Paying Attention is Everything

"Is there anything else you can suggest I do to find out what goes in my Box? I mean, how will I really know it belongs there? How will I know it's really....ME?"

"Well, I really think the best thing you can do is to just really start to pay attention to yourself when you're in a situation. What kinds of things catch your eye in the store, or when you're surfing the net? What do you find yourself reading? What lifts you out of a low mood? What kinds of things stabilize you? When you encounter such things or are in certain situations, try to take a step back and pay attention to how you feel.  Try to notice the kind of physical and emotional response you're having to what stimulates and depresses you...notice even, where you feel these particular emotions. Are they in your heart? In your stomach? Yea...I think you just have to start really paying attention. Your body will tell you, you just have to listen." 

 That's a snippet of the conversation I had with my VA therapist on Tuesday. Since my focus the past month or so has been on finding out what goes in my Box of All Things A'Driane, I took her response to heart and really tried to focus this week on doing just what she said: pay attention & listen.

Between Tuesday afternoon and Tuesday I learned that......

  • While I want to be a counselor/therapist and help people one on one, advocating for groups of people, learning about people & their experiences, and helping certain populations of people is a passion of mine. The population I want to advocate for the most?  Women-women who are mothers, women veterans, women who have been abused, and women who live & struggle with mental illness. I fit into every one of those categories, so it only makes sense that I would feel impassioned to help those in these areas, right?
  • I have a heart for abuse victims and their rights. The PSU controversy this week left me in a stew of emotions, mostly anger and a yearning to take action in some way so their rights and their voice could be heard. Again, considering my experience with sexual abuse & molestation, it makes perfect sense.
  • I'm not a one dimensional person and have to be around people who are as diverse as I am.
  • I'm a creative person, so that means I'm an expressive person. I like to express myself through my hair (hence the fro and wild colors) and through what I wear. I like wearing clothing that speaks to who I am and my personality. I recognized this when I first colored my hair a few weeks ago, but also this evening when I saw this shirt and my heart nearly exploded in joy:
Very much "me", no?
  • Watching my sons be just who they are, expressing who they are gives me a warm and fuzzy in my heart and a nod of agreement in my gut that I'm doing the right thing as a parent. I wasn't allowed to talk much less be myself growing up, so to recognize that allowing my kids to do something I wasn't helped me see what kind of parent I am and want to strive to be.
So...on my quest to find out what goes in my Box of All Things A'Driane, I've started paying attention: to my thoughts, to my emotions, to how I respond inwardly to what's going on around me. I can honestly say doing so even for just the past 4-5 days has really started to give me a clearer picture of who I am and how I can "feed" my inner self....It's helping me see my inner moxie and even teaching me how to treat myself, which I think is pretty comforting and awesome.
Speaking of treating oneself, since it's Self-Love Saturday, I thought I'd share a couple of things that speak to showing yourself some kindness. The first is a clip from one of my FAVORITE shows, Parks & Recreation.....
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcwxHkXAdmM]
And the second is just a song that makes me feel good. It's addicting, it makes me twirl around and sing at the top of my lungs and it just puts me in a good space...enjoy. And if you haven't done so already, there's still time to "Treat Yo Self" today, so find a way to do so, ok? Make it a "good life" in any and every way you can....
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZhQOvvV45w]

 

 

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?

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....

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...

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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 :)

Self-Love Saturday: Streaking My Way Back to the Box

It's Self-Love Saturday so guess what we're going to talk about today?

Streaking.

Have you ever gone streaking?  Before today I never had. Yep, that's right, I'm going streaking...actually at this moment I am streaking. It's already done, so I can't go back. Where am I streaking to?  The box. My box. Let me explain...

Aside from an insane amount of schoolwork & midterms to get through this week, in the back of my mind, I've been pondering some things.  Nearly three months after my break up, a move, a diagnosis, and starting my next round of educational pursuits, I find myself asking: " Ok....now what? Where do I go from here?" I'm looking at my new surroundings, the new people I'm meeting, the school I'm attending, my degree program, my boys & myself, and I find myself wondering how I navigate this new terrain, and even wonder if I know where I'm going. I have a map to guide me, but parts of it are missing...or rather, parts of ME are missing & I need to get them back in order to complete my journey.

Parts of me are missing...M.I.A....hidden.....lost....buried under the tangled webs of other's opinions & expectations. Smothered even, under layers of guilt, shame, sadness, and anger over things I've done and things that have been done to me. Parts of me are missing. Important parts. Vital parts. Parts that make me who I am, parts that complete the picture, complete ME.

My therapist must have been reading my mind. When I walked into her office on Tuesday & we started chatting, she asked me if I had "the boxes." Huh? Boxes? What boxes woman? She reached in her desk and pulled out sheets of paper that had several boxes with word in them....the first box looked like this:

The other boxes had lots of stars, arrows, more words, & more lines, like this one:

And then the final one looked like this:

As I sat there staring at the piece of paper with boxes on it, she gently said to me," A'Driane, do you know what happened to your original box?"

Ummm...no.

"You see, inside the first box is everything that is important to us, what we value, what makes us who we are...it's US. And we place a boundary around those things.  But sometimes, as you can see from the second picture, when we are involved in friendships & relationships with significant others or family members, that boundary line gets distorted and moved."

Ok, I get that...but how do they get moved And where did the extra boxes or lines come from?

"Our boundary lines shift as we interact with those in our lives. The shifting is sometimes necessary but it can get ugly and become unhealthy very quickly if not shifted for the right reasons. You see, the more you do something that you don't want to do, the more you do things that make who YOU are at the core uncomfortable, the more you compromise yourself for someone else & their feelings & comfort, the more your own boundaries shift, and the further away from the box you get. Make sense?"

I think so...so what I've been doing most of my life and in my relationships...and family is shifting my boundaries around in an attempt to get validation, love, acceptance, or anything like that?

"Yes. How do you feel knowing that?"

Well it explains why I'm angry with people....angry with my ex...matter of fact with all the men in my life except my boys.

"Do you think it explains anything else?"

It explains why I don't have a box anymore...or if I do, it's buried under all this other crap I've been doing & what I've been basing my life off of.  I've been compromising myself thinking doing so would make  a person change or make people change their opinion of me, but....

"But?"

But it hasn't...it hasn't gotten me anywhere but....but feeling trapped inside all these boxes I created by ignoring my own....and being angry, hurt, & disappointed about it. Feeling lonely because of it...

(sigh)

(silence)

"I think you know what you need to do, don't you?"

Yep. Gotta go back to the box.

My original box. The one that houses all things A'Driane & who God made her to be. Good, bad, whatever, it's all there. And I've got to stop shifting my boundaries in a way that's detrimental to my well being. That's not self-love, not at all.

At the beginning of the year, I didn't make any resolutions. Instead I chose one word: COMMITMENT. That one word has been my quiet focus all year-even during my lowest moments. God told me that He will give me beauty for the truckloads of ashes I have in my life (Isaiah 61:3) but only if I would be committed to Him sweep them up & carry them away. It hasn't been easy-it's been pure hell to be honest. But even during my lowest & darkest moments, He would remind me of His promise, my word, & I would keep going.

Today I solidified that commitment by going streaking. I've always been a woman who loves to express herself through her hair. So it only makes sense that I would finally put blue streaks in my hair. Why blue? Because a group of bloggers have been going blue since last month to raise awareness for mental health & suicide prevention, and I am proud of and have been emboldened by their efforts. Because I know what it's like to live with a mental illness. Because I  want to help those who have suffered trauma, abuse, & mental illness like depression or bipolar disorder. I'm going to school for counseling, and I want to be a dance movement therapist who helps people heal & cope through movement & dance. I'm committed to ensuring my mental health is where it needs to be & to helping others do the same.

I also put purple/pink streaks behind the blue ones. To remind me & to show others that there's always hope, there's always LIFE, there's always LOVE, there's always joy behind the blue-we just have to work to see it...to live it...to be it.  The purple/pink also symbolize my commitment to self-love, owning my story, & living a wholehearted lifestyle. I know I can, and I believe that the past 3 months I've gotten the tools I need to live it.

But in order to do that, I've got to get back to the box. To what makes A'Driane, A'Driane.  So I can find the parts of me I've put away on shelves & wipe the dust of abuse, of mental illness, of mistakes, of pain, of anger, of LIFE away. So He can make me whole.

I'm streaking my way back to my box, but what about you? Is there a part of you lying in storage or up on a shelf somewhere? Something you put away because life shifted your boundaries & you never shifted them back? Do you feel trapped by all the boxes you see around you now...do you wonder what happened to yours? If so I would encourage you to take some time to reflect and take inventory...if you're missing some parts of yourself, I'm sure you can find them again-you just have to go back to your box.

Self-Love Saturday: Focusing on the Good Things

I don't know what it is about Friday nights. We just don't get along. Nearly every Friday night since I've said I was going to start doing "Self-Love Saturdays" some craptastic event happens where I find myself struggling to either not fall into the gravity well of depression, negativity or miry yuckiness, OR I fall in and am struggling to climb out. It's like once I put it out there, the universe or elements thereof decided to throw everything my way to see if I will stick with it.

Last Friday night was no exception. It tried my patience, I had a mild panic attack, and it ended on a pretty awful & frustrating note.  Today, I woke up to find Depression sitting at the foot of my bed asking if I wanted to hang out. I didn't answer, but that didn't keep him from following me around, clutching my ankles, making it difficult to be motivated to move. I've spent my day emotionally eating everything in sight, chocolate cupcakes included and although I have a mountain of homework to do, I can't concentrate on it. Oh & I went to therapy today. Met with a "Christian" counselor up at my school's counseling center. I'm not sure how it went to be honest. I say that because I spent the whole session snotting up tissues, hiccuping, & babbling through tears that wouldn't stop spilling over my eyelids. So..I don't know how that went....

BUT. Even though the pendulum has swung me a little left of the middle, and Depression has shown up for a visit, I'm trying not to let him unpack his bags and get cozy. It's taking all of my energy, but I'm trying to just relax, absorb everything that's going on with me emotionally & just....BE.  And focus on the GOOD things that have been going on in my life. There's a scripture that came to me about an hour ago as I sat here at the desk vegging out on Twitter:

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phillipians 4:8

It pretty much reminded me that it's ok to feel crappy on a day that I've designated to show myself some love & acceptance. That's part of loving yourself right? To accept the good & the bad and allow yourself the space to feel & sort through things? To allow yourself to just BE? I think it is.  I've come to accept that I'm not going to be all rainbows & sunshine every Saturday, but I've also determined to not let it get the best of me. I'm learning how to balance the emotions & listen to what my gut is trying to tell me. I"m allowing myself to feel, and when you're trying to untangle the stickiness of past trauma or recent hurts, feeling is part of that process-you can't escape it. Especially if you're on medication-for me meds have started to stabilize me, but that means since I'm not preoccupied with swinging back & forth between raging, intense emotions, I'm finally starting to see what's around me. The dust in my life is settling & I'm seeing tons of boxes that need unpacking. Each one that I unpack in an attempt to recover & live a healthier life mentally & emotionally is going to expose me to facing some things that I haven't before....or revisit some tangles I thought I had processed and unraveled.  Staring these issues face to face may cause me to feel some pain, may invite Depression or Anxiety to stop by for a visit, but that doesn't mean I have to let them stay-or let their voices ring louder than the Truth. I may not be able to keep them from coming over during this season of my life but I can definitely ensure they don't stay for very long or get to cozy in my space.

So today I'm doing that by choosing to do like the scripture says and focus on the good things. That doesn't mean I"m ignoring the negative or painful feelings I'm having. I'm acknowledging them,but I'm keeping them in their proper context and space-making a conscious choice to meditate on my successes & the tiniest of victories enables me to do that.

What are my "good" things? Well for one can I just say that being on medication is FINALLY working?! I haven't been swinging through the bipolar jungle like Tarzan for the past few weeks. It hasn't been easy, but the rage, the uncontrollable mood swings, the sweaty anxious moments & panic attacks? Cut down significantly since I adjusted my meds last month. YAY!

I made it through my first month of school! It was crazy, overwhelming, & financially painful, but I made it! And I did it all while still seeing my therapist & psych at the VA, AND taking my meds EVERYDAY. YAY! I struggled, but I also recognized when I needed a break & gave myself one. I acknowledged my limits & still kept trekking along.

I have finally started to get over my ex and have let go of some old dreams & desires to embrace new ones. YAY! I've been listening to my instincts and trusting my own judgement when I make decisions-turns out I'm not as bad at it as I used to be or as I thought I was.

And the best part? I've finally bonded with Alex. I mean REALLY bonded. Bonded as in he comes up to me and gives me hugs, holds my legs, laughs & giggles when we play, I actually WANT to play with him....we've developed this closeness in the past 4-5 weeks that wasn't there before.  It took me 17mos, but I have officially fallen in love & feel connected with my son. All of my worries about whether or not I had "ruined" him or our relationship because of my PPD, anxiety, & bipolar madness have disappeared. All of that frustration & agony I felt this summer, when I said it felt like I was stumbling in the dark? Gone. God has flipped on the light switch & all I can see is the love & beauty is placed in my life through my boys.

Speaking of beauty, last thing. I've mentioned before that I've struggled with my self-esteem my whole life & it's taken a severe hit since having Alex. As you know, I've been working on that, and guess what happened?  This week, when the Plague was starting to release it's grip on me, I took a picture:

 When I looked at it, guess what I saw? BEAUTY. No makeup. Frizzy hair. Unwashed face. Swollen eyelid. Funky breath :) I was so glad to feel healthy again that I snapped this picture to celebrate & I captured a snap of myself full of joy & beauty. I mean, I actually SAW it. I wish I could articulate it. It was as if I had a blindfold on, or blurry contacts or something and all of a sudden they just fell away & I could see the real me. Flaws & all, but beautiful none the less. That's not being vain is it? I hope not. It's okay to say "I'm beautiful" with out being conceited, right? I hope so. Because that's how I feel & what I see when I look at myself now. And when I buy a pair of Spanx next week-WATCH OUT! I'm bringing sexy back ya'll....or at least my confidence! :)

Ya'll God & His love are lifting & carrying me through this...it always has. I can't tell you how grateful I am for it, for Him & how comforting it is to know that despite what I'm going through or what I feel, His love is there, like a banner over me, guiding me through the rubble. So that's why I'm choosing to focus on the good things. I know He'll help me manage the yucky stuff if I just keep my mind stayed to the right & not the left. :)

So those are my thoughts for today. Acknowledge the bad, but focus on the good. Meditate on what's good. Celebrate the smallest of victories or otherwise insignificant moments. Embrace YOU. Just BE. And continue to love yourself through the process.

Don't worry. We'll get there. We're on our way.

Self-Love Saturday: Accepting What I See (Body Image) pt1

I have a love/hate relationship with my glasses. Things between my glasses and I have been complicated since I first started wearing them in kindergarten. See, there are pros & cons to this relationship.

The Pros : I'm a geek. A nerdy gal. I enjoy being so. I'm a writer, I create, I've grown to loving the ability to pick out a pair of specs that reflect different aspects of my personality....well at least nowadays. Back when I first started wearing them in 1989, they weren't so uh...stylish. Whose glad times have changed and so have the fashions in the eye wear department? THIS NERD.  :) But let's be real, the most important pro of all is the fact that I can FREAKIN SEE. How blind am I? Let's just say I'm grateful for the guy who has to sand down my lenses at the lab-he always does a phenomenal job and I can see all the way to Jupiter!

The Cons

My glasses are always outrageously expensive because my eyes don't like me and are shaped like grains of rice. My astigmatism in both eyes is severe and gets worse every year apparently. The other con? They let me FREAKIN SEE. Everything.

Why on earth do I count that as a con? Simple: without my glasses on, the vision I have of myself is never complete, and for someone who struggles in the self-esteem department, there's an unexpected comfort that comes from that. Not wearing my glasses allows me to not see the physical things about myself I don't like. At least not in telescopic, 3D fashion. It's like editing a photo, you know where you can use photoshop tools to blur out or cover up what you don't want seen? Not wearing my specs is like that for me.

So it goes like this. I get ready to go somewhere or just you know wash my face if I'm staying home for the day. When I'm done, I look at myself in the mirror...sometimes I may have a little (mineral) makeup, most days I don't, but I'll look and give myself an assessment. You know...how I think I look on a scale of "OMG UGH-oooooh girl, you look FIERCE!" It usually falls somewhere in the middle...most days. But then I grab my specs, look at myself again, and all I can see are all the things I don't like about myself, everything that I think is a physical imperfection glaringly staring right back at me. In plain sight. However I was initially feeling about my looks usually slides a few pegs down the scale at that point....

With my glasses I have a more realistic view of how I look....but my body image and self-esteem pretty much suck. Always has since I was a little girl. I'm sure talk therapy would reveal the root of it is steeped in daddy issues. He never validated me, he always pointed out what he thought was wrong with me physically, was always trying to change how I looked, he controlled how my hair was done & what clothes I wore. To this day I have a complex about my feet because this man took me shopping for sandals and embarrassingly laughed at me when I tried on a pair-I was 11. I thought the entire store could hear him describe my "ugly feet" that weren't "sandal feet". I've since grown to accept how my feet look, but I have insecurities about them still. Getting a pedicure is like torture, I can't take the anxiety about what Sally thinks of my toes.

But anyway, my point is this. For years, especially the past year, I've been hating the way I

look. I mean HATE. I look in the mirror and man, I just see a body that resembles nothing the one I had at 21. Or even before my last pregnancy. My breasts, my girls, they sag. Forget eye of the tiger, I've got his stripes. Have a slew of stretch marks too. I look like my dad, so I see his features. I'm at the highest weight I've ever been in (175-181 range), so my face is round and puffier than I'm used to. I just don't like what I look like. Hated putting my glasses on & having what I hate stare back at & taunt me.

That is until today. All day today I thought about acceptance. About what it means to accept my body...what having a healthy body image means. I generated a lot of thoughts about it, but to start I'll just say that I made  a decision today to just accept what I see.

Just accept it. Face it. Embrace it. Whether I like it or not. Just accept everything about me

that I think keeps me from being beautiful or desirable. I made a vow today to love my body and everything about it no matter what state it's in.

Accept me. Own me. Embrace me.  So, to show my commitment and to officially sign my pledge if you will, I took some pictures. To show that I'm no longer hiding behind blurry vision or despising myself.  As you can see I've, posted them among these words...

Here's to the conclusion of another Self-Love Saturday and me striving to see myself through a healthier, wholesome lens.

I'd like to thank Shape of A Mother for helping me take this step....

What lens do you view your physical self through? What do you think distorts or sharpens it? Feel free to share below....

Self-Love Saturday: Forgiveness pt 1

As I mentioned in my earlier post today, my Saturday got off to a rough start. My hellish Friday night had left me feeling very vulnerable. But instead of letting what had triggered me last night throw me for a wild, painful loop today, I just looked my pain in the eye and just accepted things for what they are. That doesn't mean I like the way they are. I don't like the fact that my relationship is over and I have to deal with weekend visitations, impending custody mediations...or that I had to watch Brennan struggle with trying to understand why his brother was leaving with my ex and he was not. Reminding him of how things are and explaining to him, that no, that isn't is father, but yes, he does still love him destroyed me on the inside. Watching his shoulders sink and eyes droop with a sadness, hurt, and disappointment I haven't seen in him before made my insides hurt and stomach turn.

I struggled in the first moments after they left with how to comfort or console my boy. I was afterall fighting my way through my own turmoil, trying to maintain my cool and act like this was totally normal. Trying to not let how much of a failure I feel as a parent, as a mother, as a woman, even be on display. But, after a few fumbling, awkward moments I reached out and just held him. Told him I loved him. Asked him how he felt. Listened to him try to express how he feels about something he's still struggling to grasp mentally. Let him cry. And I cried silently with him, holding him tightly, reassuring him and even myself that this won't be easy, but it will be ok, even if I don't know how.

And he looked at me, smiled, wiped his eyes, and asked to play the Wii. Of course I let him!

In the moments after that, as I watched him play, I felt a nudge. It was God. Urging me to just let it go-the guilt, the shame, the feelings of anger and resentment toward myself and my ex, feeling like a failure-He urged me to just release it all and forgive myself. So I went to my room, put my face in a pillow and had an ugly cry. You know the kind where you're face is all contorted, a thick sludge of salty snot is everywhere and your chest is sucking itself in like you're dry heaving? Yea. The ugly cry aint pretty. But I had it.

And then I got up. Took a shower. Got dressed. Shook my untwisted fro out. Put on a geeky-chic shirt. Some mascara and lip gloss. Did some surfing in the Twittersphere. Slid on my shoes. Grabbed my keys. Took Brennan's hand, and forgave myself. Told myself I'm doing beyond the best that I can with what I have, and then set out to take advantage of something we rarely have these days: time to ourselves. Just mommie and Brennan.

We nom-nommed on Chipotle, his favorite. He showed me how to get to another level on his Leapster Explorer. We argued in Wal-Mart. Our hearts ached when my ex sent us a pic of Alex. In the car we belted out the lyrics to a Fresh Beat Band song like we were on The Voice. He yelled at me for playing a Brooke Fraser song 8 times. He forgave me when we played another round of SuperHero Squad on the Wii and watched We're Back and The Wiggles on dvd.

And now? He's sticking his toes in my face to smell, because my taking a whiff and saying "ewwwwww stinky feet!" is something that he's loved since he was 4 months old. Only problem is now he's older so his feet really do stink, OMG. My boy is becoming, well, a boy.

So that was my Saturday. And me starting to tackle the long list of things I need to forgive myself for. Here's to tackling more and learning to love myself through the process.

Is there something you should forgive yourself for but haven't? What's stopping you?

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?

Self-Love Saturday: Words of Wisdom from Maya Angelou

“I don't know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, 'well, if I'd known better I'd have done better,' that's all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, 'I'm sorry,' and then you say to yourself, 'I'm sorry.' If we all hold on to the mistake, we can't see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can't see what we're capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one's own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that's rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don't have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.”-Maya Angelou