Hindsight is 20/20....Cathartic...and Painful

I've been finishing up my 50,000 word count for NaNoWriMo this weekend. I'm about 4,000 words shy of this goal and this process has been.....cathartic....revealing, even. I thought when I did this, 50,000 words & 175 pages would be enough to contain "my story." However, it seems the more I go back and remember, the more I reflect, the more words that I type, just when I think I have nothing left to say.....more comes to the surface, overflowing and spilling onto the screen in front of me and even down my cheeks.... Because I've been thinking  a lot about my life over the past 10 years while writing, I found myself digging through my storage bins and poring over the stacks of journals I've kept since I was 19.

While reading through one of them, I came across an entry I wrote when Brennan was about 4 months old. Tears, a steady stream of them came winding down my face as I read the words of a new mother who was struggling to take care of an infant all on her own. Then came the memories....flashbacks of crying, screaming, anger, intense pain....I remembered the first 6 months of Brennan's life like they were yesterday, and knowing what I know about PPD and PPA now, I reflect on these memories and see myself, at 24, being consumed by these disorders and not even recognizing it.

In April of this year, when I finally sought and found treatment for my PPD & PPA after Alex's 1st birthday, I remember the therapist asking me if I suffered with PPD after having Brennan.

"Honestly? I don't remember...I...I'm not sure. I..I know I was sad and angry and some other things, but honestly I was just too consumed with trying to survive to even think about if I was depressed. I mean, it was just me. I was newly separated from the military and his father wasn't doing anything to help me. I didn't have a job. My unemployment was hardly meeting my expenses, and I was living with friends. If I ever considered myself depressed, I just attributed it to all of that and being a new mother. Everyone told me being a single parent was going to be tough...I...I just assumed feeling the way I felt was just part of the package."

Looking back, knowing what I know now, having been educated to the signs, risk factors, and various symptoms of PPD & PPA, and reading these words, I see it. I see me struggling through them while trying to raise my first born. And that pains me. It tears me up because not knowing what to look for, not having someone there to push me to get help put me in some very dark places those first 2 years.  The dark places I found myself wandering in during my pregnancy and after Alex's birth would have made much more sense had I been able to recognize them 3 years prior.

Reading the entries in that journal was painful as were the memories that found there way back to the forefront of my mind. (sigh) least I know now, right?

Here's one of the entries I found:

There it is again

a malicious intent to harm

that’s come and gone before

I’m able to acknowledge it’s existence;

the only evidence of its surfacing,

a tiny, fragmented piece of your innocence

that’s fallen to the floor

along with expectations I’ve fallen short of.


this wasn’t supposed to happen.

Where are the loving thoughts?

What happened to the sunshine?

When did it get so dark in here?

Who put out the warmth,

Who rewrote this fairytale,

because this isn’t the ending I expected.

The novelty…..

Its worn off….how can that be?

Its origin is a mystery to me….

You’re supposed to be everything I wanted.

We’re supposed to be happy.

But now you’re crying,

and I’m trying to escape the guilt that’s

chasing after me.

I’m so sorry.

I never meant for this to happen.

But how do I tell you that?

How do I show you that I really do love you,

my sanity just caved under the pressure

and I slipped before I could catch myself.

Maybe I can find redemption somewhere in

your eyes….

perhaps you’ll forget this mistake.


I pray to God you will.


Forgive me…for I know not what I do.

NaNoWriMo, Life Lists, & Coffee Beans

Man things have been CRAZY 'round here the past month, especially the last 2 weeks. Alot of it I've written about but haven't published because...well, considering where I've been mentally the past few weeks, let's just say alot of what I wrote was dark, angry, painful...hopeless...and even though I'm all about transparency, it's not always easy to hit the "publish" button. Suffice it to say that I'm not ready to share those posts yet....and when I am, I still might make them password protected so only certain folk can see them... Other things I haven't written about but will in another post hopefully later this week/weekend. A few things have changed for me in terms of school, I've had some breakthroughs in therapy, I've had some crazy racial incidents occur which have me at odds with Bucks County, PA, and some other good stuff has happened...but like I said I'll get to that in other post.

My last post dealt with a story about Carrots, Eggs, & Coffee Beans. At the end of it I mentioned that I am trying, with all of my might, to be a coffee bean and change the property of the hot water I'm in, break out of the mold, so to speak.

When I went to therapy two Saturdays ago, I spent most of it like I had the previous ones: bawling my eyes out and lamenting the fact that I feel robbed of  a normal, healthy life & existence. I had been telling my therapist how painful it is to realize that my illness (Bipolar Disorder) was brought about (for the most part) through no fault of my own. From what I've been learning through reading and just reflecting about my life & my family, genetics, environment, and exposure created the DNA for this disorder to exist and manifest in my life. Looking back I can see that while I may have started struggling severely with depression and anxiety as a teen, I've at least had anxiety since I was a child...probably between Alex & Brennan's age. Generalized anxiety? Intrusive thoughts? Panic attacks? PTSD? Living in fear? Chronic worrying?  Abuse, neglect, and other circumstances were the the breeding grounds for all of those and the set the stage for what I'm living and struggling my way through now. And it hurts. It angers me. It makes me angry with my parents, with my family, it makes me isolate myself from them even more than I already have. Their inability to own the parts they played in creating this mess of my life both infuriates and saddens me. The parts I played in creating this mess of my life infuriates and saddens me as well....but at least I can acknowledge that I'm also to blame for some of this-they cannot and probably never will. And that hurts me ya'll. Not as much as it did when I first started to realize it a few weeks ago, but it's still there like a dull ache.

And so two Saturdays ago, I was hysterically babbling  explaining this to my therapist, and asking her what the hell I was supposed to do with this...this...pain, this anger, this resentment, this...STUFF that had erupted like Mt. St Helens within me. "IT'S NOT FAIR! IT'S NOT FAIR FOR ME TO BE THE ONLY ONE LEFT TRYING TO PUT ALL THESE PIECES TOGETHER!' I screamed at asked her. "I WAS JUST A CHILD! WHY DOESN'T ANYONE GET THAT? WHY DO THEY ACT LIKE IT'S ALL MY FAULT THAT I'M LIKE THIS?! F---!" After a few years moments of silence she looked me dead in the eye and said, "This is not your fault. You need to know that. No matter what mistakes you've made as an adult that may have contributed to this, understand that this is not your fault. You couldn't control this. And the ones who could have at least tried their best to prevent it didn't. They failed you as parents. As family members. They didn't protect you, they didn't get you the help you needed. They subjected to you years of abuse and even sexual abuse. They can't own it because that would mean they would have to acknowledge what they've done and they can't. So they leave you to deal with it and deflect it all on you."

"Ok...I get that. I could try to wrap my mind around that and accept it. But what do I do? Why is this so hard? Why is it so damn hard for me to just SURVIVE, let alone LIVE? Why do I feel like I've been fighting my whole life just to claw out some meager existence? This is insane! Who would want to live with this? Seriously? I'm going on autopilot because anything else is just too damn hard...I'm tired."

What she said next hit me like an artillery round to the temple: " A''s hard because you're doing something that no one in your family has made strides to do. First of all, you're seeking help. REAL help for what you're facing. You're not hiding behind faith, you're not hoping that prayer makes it all better, you're getting professional help. You're accepting a part of you and doing everything you can to not let it destroy you or make you "check out" on life. You're breaking patterns, you're refusing to recycle the garbage that's been dumped on you...Mental illness runs in your family on both sides and you're the first one to really seek help and medication and treatment.... and guess what? Breaking out of something like this, of anything really, is hard, hard work. It's like breaking ground for a new building-you have to break up and overturn what's there so you can lay down a foundation to build upon. That's what you're doing. You're breaking out and you're breaking ground-so you and your boys can have a better life. So your boys will have a better chance of fighting this than you did. You're different. Doing something different is always a struggle. But you have to keep going, because as much as it hurts, and as lonely as it is, the reward is going to far outweigh the cost. Promise me you're going to hang in there and keep fighting...."

And this ladies and gentlemen is the exact moment when I knew I had found the right person to work through this stuff with. She got "it," she got me....She understood...and she reminded me of something I had forgotten. Ever since I was a little girl, I've always said to myself, to God, I'll do things differently. I won't do what was done to me, I won't repeat what I had to go through. When I was pregnant with Brennan, I reiterated that promise, telling God I'd keep Brennan if He would just help me not recycle the garbage, if He would help me break the generational patterns from BOTH sides of my family. Until two Saturdays ago, I didn't fully understand what that promise meant. Now I do.

It means I'm a coffee bean. I've been in hot, boiling water my whole life, surrounded by circumstances and situations that were less than ideal and bred a lot of pain and dysfunction in my life and the lives of those around me. I could be a carrot and get soft, weak, mushy...or I could be an egg and let what I've been through harden me...I've seen examples of both of these in my family and in people I've met. But I've also met coffee beans-people who take what they've been through and allow it to change them in a way that changes the environment around them, breaking out and creating something new, something that smells amazing, something that can be useful. And I'm one of them. I understand so much more now that I really understand that I am a coffee bean.

So, with that knowledge I'm tackling the first item on my Life List: Write Book #1. I'm writing about my childhood, my mental and sexual abuse, how that has impacted me, and set the stage for now having to live a life with a beast of a disorder. I'm writing about my experience living with Generalized anxiety and how it led to my experience with Postpartum Anxiety & depression as well. I"m writing about how I'm trying to balance faith, motherhood, & mental illness. Why? Because I want to destroy the stigmas surrounding mental illness in the Christian & African American cultures. I want my voice, my story to be out there so someone else can know that they aren't crazy and that they aren't alone. I don't care about money or anything like that-I care about helping people. I care about removing shame & empathizing with others. So I'm writing my first book.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo's 30 day writing challenge and will be spending the entire month writing. The goal is 50,000 words, 175 pages of unedited, raw content. I'm not writing a fiction piece so I probably won't submit it (I'm considered a Nano Rebel) but I'm still using this challenge as a guideline to get the bulk of my story (or at least a huge chunk of it) out.  Not sure what I'm going to do with it once it's written in terms of structure or publication, but I'll cross those bridges when I come to them in December. For now, for November, the goal is to just write it out....write out everything that's coming to the surface as a result of (finally) being medicated and in therapy.

I started tonight, and got my first 5 pages and 1100 words done....even had one of those clarifying Oprah "aha!' moments while writing them out....

Here's to the next 170.