life

On Being at Odds With That Which Has Made You Whole

On Being at Odds With That Which Has Made You Whole

I never planned on having children, so the fact that I have 3 almost feels like I've been punked by one of those "never say never" situations. I remember being 18 in the women's underwear section of Target with my mother and sister, arguing with my mother that I didn't "owe" her any grandchildren. I had absolutely nothing to do with the physical event that led to my conception; that was purely her choice and I was determined then that mine would be absolutely no biological children. I preferred adoption, if I decided to have children at all. The aspiring world changer in me, freshly graduated from high school, had her sights set on joining the Peace Corp and from there, who knew where life would take me. I wanted to be free as a bird, on the front lines of a cause, making my voice heard, putting my hands to work for others, advancing justice while rocking out to Prince. Children? Pfffft.

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Dancing in the Light During the Seasons When Darkness Abounds

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Confession: My greatest fear is that I will lose my life to suicide.

I don't say that to be melodramatic, I simply state it as a fact. As a person living with bipolar disorder, it is a fear that silently stalks me, always watching for a misstep to expose a weakness it can take advantage of, a crack it can slide itself into. Once inside it starts searching for the gaps serotonin has been unable to fill, settling into each one, and methodically goes to work on eroding my mind's defenses.

Sometimes the process is slow, my mental erosion, building up to a collapse. Others it is swift and jarring, flinging me from the light of life into a plunging darkness that swallows my soul instantly. And then there are times when it's an excavation of my insides, a scooping and hollowing out of my personhood designed to leave me as nothing more than an outward shell of a woman.

When I was 13, years of abuse at the hands of my father gave birth to a despair that swiftly engulfed me one Saturday afternoon while my belly was empty from hunger and my father was out on a golf outing. That time it was pills. It was an amateurish and desperate attempt at escaping the hell I lived in that lead me to a drugged sleep but not death.

At 20 it found me after a series of rapid changes over a short amount of time and the hormonal shift that comes with miscarriage. Becoming an airman, being stationed at my first base, the dissolving of a tech school relationship that had left me pregnant and then suddenly not, surrounded by people I did not know, working a job that wasn't what I had envisioned or hoped for when I swore an oath to protect and serve my country, being estranged from my family...it found me in my dorm room and I went to work at my next shift, telling my supervisor I couldn't arm up and that instead, I needed to be taken to the mental health clinic on base to be seen.

It started feverishly raking its claws on the walls of my mind daily just shy of Alex's first birthday. I was constantly triggered by anxiety and depression, guilt over not being the mother I thought my kids deserved, feelings of overwhelm when he would scream inconsolably, and my thoughts dancing with sudden desires to just leave and never come back. I started seeing a therapist who specialized in treated women with postpartum mood disorders like PPD and its grasp on my mind unclenched just enough for light to enter in again.

In July 2011 I woke up on a Monday, found it staring me steadfastly in the eyes and just knew: I wouldn't make it past the next two weeks alive if I didn't get help. Even with the help I had been getting, my symptoms had been getting worse. I was dancing with what I know now was hypomania and plummeting into gravity wells of depression hourly. It was constant and unrelenting, its devouring and feasting on my mind. It's appetite was insatiable and if I wasn't crying from the burn depression's cold grip had around my heart, I was screaming from the rage flashing through me...if I wasn't bounding off the Earth from the energy vibrating through my body and bursting out of my fingertips, I was pressing my sweating, anxious body into the coolness of my bathroom floor, praying each inhalation would quell the panic trying to claw it's way out of my skin. My mind was too loud, full of thoughts that spun and splintered into chaos at a pace that often left me nauseated. Two days later,  I found a sitter for Brennan, put myself on a bus with Alex wrapped to my chest in the Moby, and walked into the VA Behavioral Health Clinic in Philadelphia, with whispers of death roaring in my ears. The intake psych diagnosed me with rapid cycling bipolar disorder type 2 & OCD and put me on a mood stabilizer. Within a week it kicked in and I embarked on a new treatment journey for an illness that I could more accurately name.

Treatment has helped, and while other times it just shows up to flirt, every Fall has become hunting season. Suicide is the predator, my life and sanity the prey. No matter how well I've been taking care of myself and compliant in treatment, it hunts me down, licking its chops as it circles me, watching...waiting.

Two years ago I had to go inpatient to stay safe from its advances. I slowly paced the halls of the VA Mental Health psychiatric ward in Waco in my green, floppy, foam sock shoes desperately wanting to go home to my boys and my life but at the same time stay hidden, monitored by those who whose job it was to not let Death have me. "Do you really want to die?" the doctor had asked me. No. I didn't. I just wanted relief and couldn't find it in living with a mind designed to self-destruct...fray at the edges...unravel...erode...become my enemy.

It's found me again as I'm nearing one year postpartum. It's been a year that's come with it's difficulties as I've adjusted to mothering three while living with this illness, but joy has found me at various points throughout, grabbing my hand and saying, "dance with me, Addye. Be free."

This is the freest I've ever felt in my almost 32 years of living and yet here I am again staring at the whites of Suicide's eyes and searching desperately for a gun to shoot it with...

I want to keep dancing in the light.

But my marriage is barely breathing as my husband and I scour the landscape for a path that brings us back to each other. Each of my sons has An Issue that demands every ounce of my mental capacity daily that leaves me exhausted and specialized attention that is straining our finances. Writing here has brought some success this year, but exposure saw my inboxes become inundated with vitriol from those who'd rather the Other stay silent. I look at my baby as he screams and cries like babies do and brace myself against the panic that floods my system. Images I'd rather not see flash through my mind, unwarranted and unwanted. Overwhelm asks me repeatedly throughout the day if I'm done and my breath is labored when I whisper "No." Worry fills me. Depression courts me. Anxiety ravages my insides, ripping me open, exposing where my heart and resolve are weak.

I want to keep dancing in the light.

So I tighten my grip as my mind cycles from one extreme to the next. I expand my ribs out as far as my bones and skin will allow and I drink in the morning air as I take Alex to school. I concentrate on the laughs bubbling up and spilling out of my infant son and use it to anchor me to the present. I respond when Brennan asks me if I know that lions are the only big cats that live in packs, and beg him to tell me more so I can marvel at how much information his brain clamors to hold. I take their pictures on my phone and use them to dig in and root deeper when the darkness pulls at me. I paint my lips with my favorite shade of purple lipstick because it makes my heart beat a little faster and my hips sway with power and allure when I walk. I text my friends. I use the internet to distract. I read the words of others, press my hands in paint, go away for a weekend retreat to hold onto myself. I call my psychiatrist and resolve to hold on until December 9th when I can sit in her office and say "help me."

And I come here. Today. To find my way back after struggling to see Why My Words Matter in the hopes that it will help me remember why my life does.

For them.

For me.

I'm here to dance in the light even in the seasons when it can't be found.

Selah.

Blue Light

I'm currently taking an eCourse called Liberated Lines. I jumped at the chance to take it because not only do I love Alisha's work (I'm a new and HUGE fan), I'm also trying to find my poetic voice again. It's been years since I've written poetry, and since my goal for 2014 is to embody who I am as a writer and artist, this course is the perfect chance to jump back in, head first. I'm feeling all wobbly and rusty, but also very good to be working these creative muscles again.  

Here's today's entry, quick and dirty, just speaking what came to mind...

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"This is no ordinary love", it whispers softly as it dances its faceted blues in the sunlight. I pause and let this truth wash away the stress & toil of marriage that collects from time to time like the grit & grime that collects under one's fingernails. As it does, I feel my shoulders slowly sink back into their foundation and as the tension recedes like the tide, I open. To him. To us. To impromptu rendezvous and lunchtime mojitos. To connecting in the midday amidst the grind of daily living and earning to provide. I unfurl and soften as I watch the blue dance in the light. I open and let my heart stand naked and unashamed to the one who loves me like none other. #liberatedlinesopen"

Feel free to follow the #libertatedlinesopen tag on Instagram to read what words we unearth over the next 4 weeks!

My Dear Addye, With All My Love, Susan

Hello, dear readers of Butterfly Confessions. Lauren of My Postpartum Voice here. I've recruited some of Addye's friends to write posts for her blog while Addye babymoons with hear new little one. This letter is the first guest post and it's written by the fabulous Susan of Learned Happiness. If you'd like to submit a guest post to be published while Addye is babymooning, email me at mypostpartumvoice (@) gmail with "For Butterfly Confessions" in the subject line! Without further ado, I present Susan's lovely words for Addye.....

 

My Dear Addye,

You and I have been friends for 3 years, now.  And in that time, I have watched you transform into a wholehearted woman.  You took chances with your life and made huge leaps of faith - faith in yourself more than any one person.  You have learned to be honest with yourself about who you are and who you want to be.  Your integrity has been hard-fought and is well-deserved.  You honor me with your friendship.

You said when you married Bert and took his name that it was the beginning of a new life - one written by you and you alone.  One that speaks to all you hold sacred and points to a fulfilling life with your family.  And this baby?  Is a part of that new life.  I can see it in your eyes - in the way you look at him and hold him.  I have experienced the hope brought by a new baby birthed in joy and a sense of calm.  It renews the spirit.  And I couldn't have wished a better birth experience for you.

SusanQuoteRemember that no matter how good your birth (or how much you love that amazing tiny man), having a newborn is a special kind of torture.  The nights are long and the days are even longer.  And no matter how happy you are, it's okay to be exhausted.  It's okay to be emotional.  And it's okay to still need help.  This is not a test of your spirit.  You are not being graded on how gracefully you weather the fourth trimester.  There will be beautiful moments and there will be unbearable ones.  And your tribe?  Will be standing beside you for both.

I hope with all of my heart that the darkness you fear is blotted out by your joy.  But if it's not, if it all becomes too much, you are armed and you are never alone.

With all my love, Susan

Confessing

I'm approaching week 38. Still contracting. Still not progressing much. As of Wednesday, after 15hrs of contractions? 1 1/2 cm and 50%. I startled my OB with my exclamation of "FUCK!" as he finished my cervical exam. Distraction has been my focus-anything to take my mind off my body, and keep edginess away. Last night's distraction wwas season 2 of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. This morning's was scrubbing the grout between the tiles in kitchen til they were white. I found the rhythmic motion and sound of the scrubbing brush and soapy floor sparkling in the sunlight from the kitchen windows soothing as I went about it.

Bertski came back from the run I practically pushed him out the door to take, and we took the boys for a bike riding lesson on their newly acquired bikes at the middle school track down the street. They rode, they ran, I sat and soaked in the sun before making way around the track as Busta Rhymes & Talib Kweli blared through my headphones.

Just now, while laying here listening to my family snore the afternoon away, confessed these words via text to a dear friend who's worried about how quiet I've been lately:

"I keep telling myself once I have the baby I'll feel sane again. And not this anxious desperate person with thoughts that are too loud & too fast and who wants out of her body. I think that's half the reason why I want to have him already. I haven't felt like myself much of this pregnancy and that unnerves me. "

I know it's normal for women to feel like they're going mad with the waiting and anticipation of baby's arrival and from the physical strain of the final weeks. I do. But I don't like it. It's unsettling. My mind can't take it, it's not wired to handle such things very well without help. (Meds, YAY!) I'm also an impatient person by nature and while my pain threshold is relatively high, being in pain and under physical stress daily is triggering for me mentally & emotionally.

I just want it to be over and have him in my arms and my own physical space back. I want my hormones adjusted, my mind off the hamster wheel and fully engaged with living and learning as a mother of three. I want newborn snuggles and laughter and to not be consumed with the obsessive, compelling need to have everything in its "right" place internally and externally, from my house to the cluttered corners of my mind. I want to feel like myself more often and be consumed with the goodness that's taking up residence in life as the year prepares to close. I want to be present, not lost traipsing the corridors of my mind waiting for them to empty so I can breathe freely again.

I want to run. Not away to escape, but toward. To freedom. To the woman waiting for me on the other side of this. She's fully enjoying the season that's ahead and I'm desperate to join her.

But it I have to wait and somehow make patience my virtue until it's time.

My body shakes with the hope that it's soon. Very soon.

Giving Me LIFE!

Thanks to the invasion and conquering of my body that is the first trimester, I've been feeling like death lately. Fevers, allergies, nasal congestion, round ligament pain, hellacious back and pelvic pain, all day morning sickness, lack of quality sleep yet bone aching fatigue....you name it, my body has been tortured with it the last 8 weeks. We're not even going to talk about what only being on one medication (an anti-depressant that triggers some good ol' rapid cycling between hypomania and depression) has done to my mental state these past weeks. Or maybe we will, but not today, simply because I only have enough energy to type a paragraph or two and then I'm going to go back to being The Blob. What we WILL talk about is the music that's been rescusitating me when my mind and body tap out. Music really IS therapy, and in my case it's been my life support the past two weeks especially.

First up we have Mr. Timberlake...I mean, do I have to say anymore? If you haven't let the groove get in you lately, I highly recommend purchasing The 20/20 experience, closing your windows & curtains, and dancing til your feet fall off.  Even my zombie ass has been shaking it-there have been days I wouldn't have been able to gather the energy to brush my teeth or feed myself had I not put on "Let the Groove Get In," "Mirrors", "Spaceship Coupe" or "Tunnel Vision."

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I have this thing for Marc Anthony-not because he's physically attractive but because when the man opens his mouth the most beautiful sounds come out. The man can sing, period. His salsa albums are staples in my music collection, so when I found out HE'S BACK WITH A NEW SALSA ALBUM-his first in 10 years, I nearly broke my fingers trying to download his new single on iTunes. This song? GIVES ME LIFE. Gives my hips life too, too much in fact, because after dancing to this, the pain is unbearable-but so. damn. worth it.  Listen for yourself....

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And finally, THE SONG that has just been KILLING me not so softly every time I hear it is the latest from Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu. First of all: Monae. Badu. Are you freaking KIDDING ME? I'm still in shock that two of my favorite female artists (who are bad ass on their own individually) collaborated on a track together. And unlike LL Cool J & Brad Paisley or Beyonce & Andre 3000, these two have crafted a funk/rock hybrid that's a f---king masterpiece. From the lyrics (especially Monae's rap at the end!) to the music itself, it's just an incredible piece of work, and a welcome relief from the oversexed R&B/hip-hop/pop nonsense that's dominating the airwaves right now.  And the video? Pfffft. S-I-C-K. I dare you not to shake or twerk something to this....but for the love of all that's holy, PLEASE don't record a video of you doing so-the world doesn't need yet ANOTHER video of a female (or male) twerking it in booty shorts. Leave the webcam off :)

Anyway, enjoy the epic-nes that is "Q.U.E.E.N." Pure art & pop genius. WERK IT.

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What music is giving YOU life these days?

 

Turkey Baby!

First, some snaps from Alex's post bath photo-shoot...

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And secondly, I'm pretty sure my heart grew 2-3 sizes thanks to all the love pouring in it while these moments were captured. Which, if you ask me, is just the kind of expansion my mama heart needed seeing as though a new resident is moving in...

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Looks like I'll be having more than just turkey for Thanksgiving this year, y'all :)

My Life Isn't Always So Heavy. Sometimes It's Full of Near Marriages & Tear Gas Too.

Today I'm supposed to be telling you about the time I nearly died during a military exercise in the Nevada desert. Me+5 cans of tear gas+gas mask fail=the fires of brimstone & damnation taking up residence in my body.

It's a good story, but before I share it with you, I have to explain why I am.

I told my friend Susan about it and she almost died from laughter. Death by laughter is a much better way to go than death by tear gas, in case you were wondering.

Anyway she didn't really almost die laughing (duh, it's called exaggeration) but she did have tears in her eyes, and after she composed herself she reminded me of something-I don't talk about the other parts of my life here very often, if at all.

I've spent the majority of this blog's life telling you about my struggles with mental illness, motherhood, & low self-esteem. I've touched a little on social issues & religion too, but the only "light" thing I've shared here are my Napoleon Dynamite-esque dance skills. (New here? Check the "Dance" tab up top)

I realized there's so much about myself and my life that I haven't shared with you, especially the parts that aren't so heavy. Example: I used to show dogs (think Westminster type dog shows) when I was 8 years old. Also? I was pretty damn good at it too. See? I haven't divulged that kind of info and I feel like it would be nice to do so.

So moving forward, I'm going to try and be more open not just about the heaviness of in my life, but the lighter, funnier, interesting experiences I've had as well. The stupid mistakes I've made,(like dating a guy I met on a greyhound bus on its way to Jacksonville, Florida...after almost marrying this OTHER guy I had moved to Florida for...all while I was 7 months pregnant. Yea. that.) stories from my Air Force days (like the time the government thought it was ok to let me be qualified to use seven different deadly weapons) and other random stuff from my "pre mom, pre mental illness takeover" days. Maybe I'll even throw in some high school stuff so you can see how giant of a dork I was. (And still am)

I don't share enough about the other parts of my life or the experiences I've had outside of being a mom & a manic depressive, and I'd like to thank Susan for pointing this out to me. You should thank her too because some of these stories will be TMZ-worthy. I can hear your inner gossip hound licking its chops in anticipation.

First up will be the tear gas story. I'll try to have it up by tomorrow or over the weekend at the latest. I have to talk to some of the people who were there with me to refresh my memory on some of the details. (Inhaling tear gas causes black outs & mild amnesia)

Get ready to (hopefully) laugh your ass off at my expense. There WILL be talk about loss of bodily functions & the expelling of bodily fluids. You've been warned.

Change Really Is Constant

Maybe I was being naive, but I thought once we moved here to Austin and got settled in, we'd be done with Mr. Change.  I mean after going through so much of it the last 8 months, and all of it permanently altering our lives, I thought our season was over once we moved into our apartment. I was wrong. Dead wrong. I forgot that change is fluid, always there, weaving its way throughout our lives daily. It doesn't matter if it's life changing or something we wouldn't think twice about or deem trivial, change is a constant companion in our journey through life.

Some of the changes we've experienced since moving here were planned, well-thought out and goals we set for ourselves. When we talked about moving here back in April, we sat down and talked about what kind of changes in our lifestyle we wanted to make. For example, we wanted to get back into being more active and doing the kinds of recreational activities we enjoy-running, hiking, being outside, exercising, yoga, taking the boys on bike rides, all of us learning how to swim, etc.

I'm happy to report that we've done that. We joined the YMCA in September and we're addicted to it. The kids love going to the child watch play area and basketball courts, Brennan's going to do track this winter, and both are being signed up for swimming lessons. I'm addicted to the rowing machine, Bertski to the strength training and BOTH of us are addicted to the running trail just across the street. People-I can leave my kids in the child watch at the Y and go run on the 3 mile trail that loops around Lady Bird Lake.  IT'S FREAKING GORGEOUS . What I love the most about it is that you see all kinds of people out there walking or running, whether they are in amazing shape, young, old, or trying to get into better shape. There's such a huge focus on health here in Austin-you can see and feel it. It's really been one of the best parts about our move. Being active is super easy in this city and we're in love with it.

Some of the other changes that have happened have been surprising, incredible, and disappointingly difficult to deal with.

The surprising? Brennan being in school. Why? Well for one, he's in school. Kindergarten. My baby boy has grown into an incredibly intelligent and dynamic 5-year-old BOY who goes to school. I knew when we moved here that he'd be going. But in the chaos of moving, it was just some intangible theory in the back of my mind. When it came time to walk him to his classroom I was a wreck. Bertski even teared up.

Something we didn't know when we moved into our neighborhood was that we moved into the one with the best elementary school in the city. A huge part of why it's so good is because it has access to money (it's an affluent area, so the parents who are in the PTA pour a lot of money into the school-and they fundraise LIKE CRAZY.) which means they have access to a wealth of resources that other schools do not. Brennan goes to music, art, PE, spanish, and other "specials" offered during his school day in addition to his regular curriculum. His teacher rocks, keeps us well-informed of what's going on week to week, and to say that Brennan is thriving there is an understatement. His mind has literally exploded with knowledge and he comes home every single day with a huge grin on his face as he tells us about what he learned.

That's the incredible part. The surprising part? Kindergarten is a LOT of work, yo. We haven't even gotten to the homework stage and I'm already terrified of the next 12 years. There are projects to do, (which is a first for us because I'm craft challenged) Teacher Appreciation lunches to bring food for, library volunteering to do, car lines to wait in (pause for a breath) school carnivals to attend and donate to, booths to work at said carnival, online resources to practice on, apps to download, music performances to go to.... are you getting what I'm saying? Trying to remember what's due when, and all of the other details has been more overwhelming than I'd like to admit. I wasn't expecting it to be this tough of a learning curve. But overall? It's good. We'll get through it.

Our lives overall are good. It's been an incredible experience to have something that was just a dream and a plan become tangible and just plain awesome when you start to live it out. We've been so fortunate.

The really disappointing part? Well there are two. One-while Austin is a progressive city, the VA system here is not unfortunately. Actually it's f*cking awful. I've never been to a place where they don't have operators to answer the phones whether it be at a clinic, hospital, or whatever. It's so frustrating when you're in crisis and trying to get ahold of someone and a) no one answers the damn phone b) your new psychiatrist treats you like you're inconveniencing them and doesn't listen you, and c) you get the run around when it comes to treatment options or question the lack thereof. (ex: they don't offer individual counseling. WTF?!)

More on that later, but the last disappointing change is that today Bertski started a new job and I'm a little sad about that. A lot of sad. Even though he spent a lot of time during the day previously working remote for his old client, he was still here and I found a lot of strength and comfort in that. The boys loved it, he loved it, I found relief in it and loved the routine we had developed. He already told me that this new contract is going to involve a lot of late nights, impossible to meet deadlines, and frenzy we've experienced with his previous contracts. That worries me, because it tires and stresses him out. He has less time to spend with us and on his side A.I. projects. In the past when he has a contract like this, any routine we've developed dissipates and we just kind of let things go. I'm hoping that as tough as this new contract will be, we'll still be able to adapt ourselves to it and maintain what's been working so well for us since moving here.

Whether it's good or bad, large or small change is and will remain constant. I'm going to try to remember this and focus on learning to be even more adaptable to it as I move through these new stages of my life.

Yes, I'm Scared of the Dark. Terrified, Really.

I have a lot of fears. Well, maybe not a lot, but at least two or three that seize my body with terror & fill my mind with awful images & scenarios whenever I think of them.

Like drowning.

The thought of not being able to draw in a breath without choking on water & being submerged in a body of water petrifies me.

And snakes...my toes curled up & my heart nearly flew out of my chest just typing that s-word...so I think it's best we just move right along to my final fear:

I'm terrified of the dark.

Yes, I'm 29 years old and I'm afraid of the dark-have been since I was a kid. Even as grown woman & mother of two kids, a small part of me is always convinced something will emerge from it to "get me," even though my rational mind knows this isn't the case.

But that's the thing about fears, right? They aren't always rational, are they? (Follow me, I'm trying to go somewhere, I promise.)

I think what scares me the most about darkness is that it places everything it covers into The Land of the Unknown...what was sure & recognizable in the light becomes shadowy, fuzzy & unclear in the dark. For a control freak like myself, I'm sure you can imagine why this freaks me out. I wish I could tell you that I don't stay awake some nights wondering if the shadow in the closet is really from the ironing board that I KNOW is there...or from some horrific figment of my imagination it's put there to f-- with me. Seriously, I wish I could but I can't. I don't do it much when I'm with someone else but if I'm by myself? Forget it. I'm cowering under the covers trying not to think about how unsafe I feel...Sometimes, just to shut up & shut down the fears screaming in my mind I have to actually get up, turn on a light, and go physically touch objects around the room I'm in...just for reassurance.

Crazy, right? Weird, right? Yes I know. Stupid? Probably...but as I lay here in my bed typing this and trying to tell myself I'm not going to wake up with some stranger laying next to or on me, and that the boys & I are VERY safe, I'm realizing that my fear of the dark is really just a fear of uncertainty. I hate not knowing. Ambiguity and I are not friends. Not being able to see & know everything around me leaves me in a very unsettled place emotionally...which disrupts me mentally, and manifests itself physically into agitation, irritability, paranoia, and crippling anxiety. I even get intrusive thoughts sometimes. My mind smells any hint of fear & just takes off in about 20 different directions, all of which lead to something horrific happening. If I can't see or know everything there is about something, a person, or where I have to go, I'm a wreck and not too pleasant to be around. This is one of the reasons I hate getting lost. Can't. Stand it.

And it's one of the reasons why even though growing up a military brat acquainted me with change & taught me the importance of adjusting & adapting to it, I'm not very good at embracing it like I should be. I know, you're thinking to yourself "The chick who changes her hair color every time she blinks is afraid of change? What the hell?" But seriously, while I may not be afraid of changing how I look, I am terrified of how change impacts my life in other areas.

I like change...There are times my restless and adventurous little soul yearns for it...but then when it shows up ready to deliver I promptly begin to freak the hell out. I know-I don't get the contradiction either, trust me.

So even though I was dying to pack up & move across the country...am giddy at the thought of marrying the nerd of my life...am relieved to be taking a break from work & school and looking forward to just being MOM....here I am, laying in a hotel room in Austin, TX, (IN THE DARK!) absolutely paralyzed by my fear of the uncertain...of what's unknown...imagine Usain Bolt running around at record speed inside my head waving 500 "what if?" flags stirring up a fear tornado. That's my mind right now.

A fear tornado. I'm dead smack in the center staring wide eyed at all my fears & questions swirling furiously around me.

What happens if Bertski doesn't come back from PA next week because his train derails and crashes and I'm forced to be here by myself? How would we survive & live without him?

What if someone breaks in here or attacks us while he's gone? How would I defend us?

What if he changes his mind & doesn't want to marry me?

What if he hates it here?

What if I hate it here? And the boys? What if this was a mistake?

We haven't found a place yet-what if we don't? How long can we stay here at the hotel? Will they kick us out? Where will we go?

What if by choosing to "just" be Mom, I lose the other parts of me that make me...ME? What will happen to my passions, my goals, my ambition? What if I don't go back to school & I regret it? Will my children think less of me if I don't have a degree? Will I be setting the bar too low for them if I don't go back?

Can we survive off of just one income?

What if the boys get sick or need to go to the doctor? Or me? Or Bertski? We don't have health insurance...

What if I'm not strong enough to handle all of this change & I sink into an episode or my illness rages out of control again?

I could go on...but I'll stop the list there. I know some of these fears are irrational, slightly silly & maybe even stupid-I know this, I do. But there are others that are valid & real and they're the ones that cause me the most unease. I'm incredibly happy we moved. Grateful for the people we've met here & the connections we've made despite being states away from family & friends who have supported us for years. Thrilled that I'm doing this with the man I love dearly and my boys...

But I'm also scared shitless over the unknowns of this venture, of everything that sits in the dark, and restricts my vision of the future. We've executed a plan that brought us here, but large amounts of that plan have been rooted in uncertainty & our desire to just stick together & "make it happen"until we're settled.

I'm afraid of the dark, because not being able to see what's in front of me leaves me feeling very unsettled...uneasy...uncomfortable. I'm trying to take it all in stride & just learn to be okay with not knowing. I'm trying to embrace the nuances of change without trying to control it too much. It's not easy, but I'm trying.

Well there you have it. I told you some of my fears, what are yours?

And Then My Heart Exploded & All I Could Do was Cry

I want to say this in a way that's eloquent & inspirational. I want to use all the right words, and craft this into a beautiful piece of writing, that carries the weight of my thoughts & emotions, and helps you fully grasp how much this moment means to me....and even though they don't know it yet, to my boys. But I can't. Words are failing me. There are only tears....sobs, actually, as I lay here in the boy's empty room, eyes closed, heart bursting with gratitude...

...and love. For the first time in my 29 years of living I feel loved and whole instead of unworthy & broken. I feel peace where there used to be agony, and joy seeping through the cracks of my deepest sorrows.

12 months ago I was obsessed with death. I spent my waking moments torn between not wanting to leave my boys without their mother & wanting to rid them of the one who felt like she had failed them.

I'm glad to say, a year later, I'm not in that place, and I'm not looking to find relief in death. I've found it instead in 200mg of Lamictal, .25mg of Xanax, and 2mg of Pimozide, taken at 10am, every single day...and in a diagnosis that's forced me to make myself and my well being a priority-a first for me.

It's been a year full of growth & healing thanks to therapy.

If you would've told me last year I'd be right here, laying on the floor, free from nearly all the shit I've been carrying since childhood, I would've just smiled politely, said thanks, and walked away not believing a word of it.

But here I am. Loved and whole. Healed and stronger than before. Embracing life instead of plotting to escape it...focused on LIVING it instead of just existing & surviving it.

My boys have their mother, their parents back together, and they have each other...a far cry from what they had just a year ago.

So I'm just laying here, in my almost empty apartment, marveling at how far we've come...excited for the new beginning that lies ahead...Tears streaming down my face as I whisper "thank you" over & over again, my heart exploding in joy each time.

I've come full circle.

Sometimes Life Happens so Fast You Can Barely Process it All

So. I haven't been here nearly as often as I wanted to this summer.

My goals for the summer included wanting to paint & write every day, even if it was just a little.

But things don't always go according to plan, no matter how good our intentions are.

Life doesn't always happen the way we plan or expect, right?

My life, our lives this summer have been consumed by change...transition.

From preparing for our move to Austin in just 13 days, to buying our first space shuttle (we refuse to call it a minivan) to family members getting sick, to me just becoming engrossed in just LIVING life, everything has happened so fast, I can barely process it all.

So, that's why I've been silent here. I've tried writing the words, my desire has been to document the nuances of this new season in our lives, but...the words haven't found me yet.

I'm hoping they will soon, but for now just know that I haven't forgotten about this space.

I'll be back...

Oh yea. I'm on my way to BlogHer. More than the conference itself I'm happy to finally meet those who have become friends over the past year, Jaime, Susan, and others.

So I'll fill you in on my experience there as well as everything else when I get back. Hopefully.

Painting: Trying Something New & Falling in Love with Jackson Pollock

Painted last week. It was the perfect remedy for the migraine pounding in my head, and a much needed stress reliever from the week's frustrations & fatigue.

I painted three in a span of about 4 hours.

I find it hard to do just one....once I'm inspired I have to keep going until it runs out. It usually takes 2-4 small canvases for it to dissipate, leaving me exhausted and wanting to sleep.

The first one I painted was for a friend. She asked me months ago to paint a depiction of life before & after salvation. I honestly find it hard to paint something when it's someone else's idea-I usually just do it "in the moment," -it's not something I force-so it took me a long time and a lot of quiet reflecting to figure out how to do it. I kept waiting for inspiration or some thought to spark a sense of direction, and it didn't come until last week.

As I was laying in bed praying for my migraine to subside, a verse from 1 Peter chapter 4 came to me. It talks about love covering a multitude of sins. My mind immediately started thinking about redemption & salvation. To me, they both represent love-the love that drove Jesus to the cross to sacrifice himself for humanity. As I reflected on this, I started to see colors-I saw a strip of black being covered up with all kinds of bright colors, which I took to represent life, and red & white interspersed among them-In Christianity, red represents Jesus' blood and there's a verse in the Bible that talk's about his blood washing us "white as snow" when we receive salvation & are therefore redeemed.

Finally having my inspiration, I swallowed an excedrin, made the boys lunch, laid Alex down for a nap, and settled myself in my room with my paints and brushes spread out around me. I got to work, first painting half the canvas black. Once that was done, I sat for a few minutes wondering how I was going to take the image of the colors I had in my head and transfer it to the canvas in front of me. It was then I thought I'd try something I hadn't tried before-splattering the paint.

It's something I've seen on other paintings, but never knew how to create that look myself. Not really knowing what I was doing I just started by putting paint on the brush, dipping it in water & just flicking the brush at the canvas.

Splat. Dip. Splat. Dip. Splat.

Realizing it how fun & simple it was, I just started literally throwing paint at the canvas, covering myself & the wall in front of me in the process. I did this for about half an hour, stopping to pick different colors, watch the paint float & glide down the canvas, cover more spots, and about halfway through I stopped to take this

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Still not feeling "done" I kept going until finally I had this

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I put that one to the side and feeling inspired by what I had just done, I grabbed another canvas. No particular thought or meaning in mind, I just saw an arrangement of colors and slowly transferred what I saw in my mind to on the canvas.

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As soon as I finished, another arrangement of colors came to mind and again, I grabbed yet another canvas and produced this

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I really enjoyed painting like this. It was fun, and somehow very liberating. I posted these in Instagram, and my friend Lindsay mentioned an artist I'd never heard of before, Jackson Pollock. (my Art History game is better than it used to be thanks to 2 Lit & Art classes, but I still have a lot to learn)

Intrigued, a Google search led to about two hours of reading about him, abstract expressionism, his works, and falling in love with his "all-over" style of painting. His paintings? Gorgeous layers of colors twisting & turning in all directions. Needless to say, I'm now a fan :)

"On the floor I am more at ease, I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around in it, work from the four sides and be literally `in' the painting." -- Jackson Pollock, 1947.

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20120707-081825.jpg (Full Fathom Five, 1947, photo credit: WebMuseum Paris)

20120707-082037.jpg (Number 8, 1949, photo credit, WebMuseum Paris)

Pausing to Readjust

I had a lot of plans for today, this first official day of summer vacation. Bertski started his new job today, so it's my first day home with the boys all. by. my. self.

I gotta say, it's been a relief and a huge comfort having Bertski home to help with the boys the past 4 weeks....Fun, even.

But now it's just me....and the rambunctious, rowdy, raucous energy that encapsulates 2 & 5 year olds. It bounces off the walls, off the couch and off of our dining room chairs as squeals of delight and laughter burst from their little bodies...As loud as it gets and as chaotic as they can be, their shenanigans prove an effective way to quiet the noise and chaos in my own mind.

Last summer, the thought of being home by myself with them was overwhelming and my anxiety was through the roof. This summer, though, I find myself feeling much different. I've moved from beyond the grip of PPD, and no longer feel as disconnected & detached from them as I used to. Incorporating new meds and increasing the dosage on others has left me feeling about 75% better than I was 3-4 weeks ago.

I could feel a twinge of depression about an hour ago, and instead of being swept away by it, I felt mentally strong enough (thanks to my meds) to pause and figure out what it was stemming from.

Expectations. I had a lot of plans for today which led me to expect a fun-filled, productive day with the boys. I had a lot of expectations for today and for this summer because I want for it so much to not be like last year. I expected to start off our first day trying to make up for all the time I've lost from being too sick or too busy with school to really engage & just play with them.

I wanted to prove to myself I could take care of us, and handle being home without freaking out or being overwhelmed. I wanted to get up early, go for my morning walk/jog, make breakfast, take the boys out, and have them do more than just watch Nick Jr. or game on the XBox and iPad. I wanted to cook & have a hot meal on the table when Bertski gets home. I wanted to do yoga and write...

I had all of these fabulous "I'm going to be Wonder Woman today," plans but I'll be lucky if I can do more than move from the corner of the couch I currently occupy. My laptop is dead so any writing I do either has to wait or be done from my phone, with one hand. While doing a downward facing dog last week during my oh so glorious yoga routine, I strained some tendons & ligaments in my left arm and pulled a muscle in my chest. In other words I can't move the left side of my upper body unless I want to die from pain or I've ingested a Motrin the size of my head. (Which is why, for the first time ever, I wish I had what they call a "peanut" head) Even turning my neck is painful. Docs orders? Rest for two weeks, follow up with an orthopedist. Oh & have I mentioned Brennan's ringworm? Yea. That.

So here I am, with Whitney Houston's version of "I'm Every Woman," blasting in my head, stuck on the couch, my plans to tackle our first day of summer useless. No exercising. No yoga. Limited writing. Tired from pain & meds. A bouncy mattress, graham crackers, and Nick Jr. have been keeping the boys busy while I just sit here and watch to make sure they don't kill each other. I did make the pot of pinto beans I wanted but learned cooking with one arm just isn't a good idea....not if you don't want your kids to find you passed out in the kitchen from pain.

Plans. Expectations. I had a laundry list of them today, thinking that accomplishing them all would ensure I'd be a "better mom" & woman than I have been in the past. So when I realized I was going to have to lay all of them aside, I started to get down on myself. The negative self-talk and guilt tape started to play in my mind...anxiety kicked in and set the "worst case scenario" snowball in motion. As my mind started to spiral into OCD mode and my emotions took a dive, I felt myself pause, just for a second, and I remembered something I learned in therapy:

"Change your expectations. Work within your limits, use what you DO have...Choose kindness. Be compassionate with yourself."

That one second, filled to the brim of that crucial thought, was enough to stop depression in its tracks.

I changed the tape. Laughed at how ridiculous I must have looked as I hustled my way around the kitchen, thinking that home cooked food would cement my worthiness to my family. We may not be crafting and doing some of the activities I wanted but we've had a blast this morning singing Fresh Beat Band songs, getting angry at Dora (she sucks as a pirate), and watching these two bounce around and wrestle is downright hilarious.

Taking that brief pause allowed me to readjust and reframe. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough to keep me from slipping over the edge. Expectations are tricky-give them too much power and they can set you up for failure. That hasn't been easy to remember but I'm learning managing them in a healthy way makes a huge difference in how I see and treat myself.

My plans for today and the first two weeks of summer got tossed out the window, but I'm okay with that for once. We'll figure it out and on the days I can't, I'm perfectly fine with lounging around the apartment bra-less, in sweats, tapping my toes to "I'm Every Woman," like I am right now. All that matters is that I'm here, being present and trying to enjoy the moments as they come. Sounds pretty productive if you really think about it :)

I Will Bloom Where I'm Planted

A couple of summers ago, Bertski & I took the boys to the Grounds for Sculpture garden up in Hamilton, New Jersey. It's an expansive garden full of lush vegetation, intriguing contemporary art, and some amazingly creative sculptures. Camera in hand, I was inspired to snap away while Bertski & Brennan ran around exploring and Alex slept in the stroller. I took close to a thousand pictures that day, so many different aspects of the garden captured my attention. My favorite part of the whole trip is evidenced by the large number of pictures I took of a pond in the corner of the garden....it was full of  some of the prettiest flowers I had ever seen, I couldn't take my eyes (or my camera) off of them. They were tall, with long, strong-looking and thick stems that seemed to push them straight up out of the water and above the surface...boldly standing out from the lily pads and thrushes that surrounded them. Their petals seemed to unfurl as they bent themselves back and curved their way up toward the sun, leaving their innermost part, their circular seed pods, exposed to the sun, wind, and eyes of the world around them.

I'm quite illiterate when it comes to plants & flowers, so I had no idea what they were until I did a google search later that night. I had no idea that what I learned about lotus flowers that night would wake me up two years later, shouting at me to pay attention to an important life lesson.

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You see lotus flowers are gorgeous. As they stretch themselves up and over the water, your eyes gaze upon the beauty and unique design of each one-whether they're in full blossom or just starting to open up. What you don't see, are the conditions they grow in. Lotus flowers are admired and loved because they can grow in the darkest and harshest of conditions and survive. Despite having to grow in a less than ideal environment, these flowers thrive and bloom where they are planted.

Bloom where you are planted....

I woke up with that thought and this information about lotus flowers shouting in my head this morning. As I laid there trying to understand why today of all days this was on my mind, it occurred to me that it's June 1st.

A new month. New season. 6 months until a new year arrives (can you believe it?! ) and 5 months until I turn the dreaded 30.

Or do I have to dread turning 30? Let's go over this again: new month, new season, half of the year left, and 5 months away from having lived 30 years on this Earth.

30 years. Of pain. Of abuse. Of brokenness. Of not knowing or understanding who I am, of living my life under the rule and control of others and their expectations, their standards. Of living my life based on the opinions of others, trying like hell to please them because I thought I needed their approval. Of having my life dictated by circumstance instead of choice.

30 years. Of heartache. Of shame. Of disappointment. Of misplaced guilt. Of misguided decisions. Of regret. Of loss. Of hating myself. Of wishing I could be like the women I secretly envy. Of compromise. Of insecurity. Of lacking confidence and believing the words of those who said I'd die or they'd kill me before I made it to becoming anything of worth and value. Of illness. Of excuses.

30 years. As I laid in my bed this morning I made a choice.

"I will not spend the next 30 years of my life like I have the first. I won't spend the next 5 months like I have. No I won't.

I've been through a lot of things in my first 29 years of living. I've had to see and endure things no one should, and yet I'm still here, I didn't have it as bad as others. People have looked at my history and expected me to be a drug addict, an alcoholic, or dead. My psychiatrist says the fact that I only have a mental illness as a result of my genetics and trauma is something to be grateful for....and as illogical as it sounds, she's right and I am. It's not ideal, and I don't like it, but in the grand scheme of things, I could be far worse off than I actually am and that's nothing but a testament to how graceful God truly is.

30 years. I can't change how the first 29 1/2 years of my life have gone. I can't do anything about the darkness I've had to live in, or change the fact that I have to live with a darkness from an illness that threatens my well being daily.

But I can make a choice to grow above and beyond the environment I was forced to grow in up until this point. I can choose to live above and beyond the dark, murky waters of the last 29 1/2 years. I can choose to let go and push past. I can decide to stand tall like a lotus flower and bloom for others to see. I can choose to use the environment I've grown in to reveal what lies within my innermost parts-a woman with an authentic, compassionate, and whole heart to connect with others who are hurting and struggling to make it out of their own dark waters.

Yes. I can choose to let it all go and break forth and embark upon the next 30 years with fresh determination to live my life and not just survive it.

Today I'm choosing to bloom right where I've been planted. My beauty may have been broken by what happened beneath the surface, but my hope is that it brings something out of me that encourages and inspires others to reach toward the sun, like I am.

MADE: I Want to be a Roller Derby Girl

It's been a rough 2-3 weeks. Things have been pretty heavy, and of course, that means things here on the blog have been heavy. I'm kinda weary of writing about the heavy things in my life, so today I thought it would be nice to take a break from that and spend my time writing about something else...something completely random...

Like....

Like....hmmm....OH!

Did you ever watch that show on MTV called "Made"?  The one where they take high school kids & young college kids and help them accomplish some secret desire of theirs?  No?  Here's a refresher:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoPM7NGxx90]

MTV would come to your hometown and help you be "made" into something that your friends & family wouldn't expect, something you've always wanted to be but hadn't told anyone. For example, if you were a 10 grader who was into the goth scene,  but had a secret desire to be a beauty pageant queen, MTV would hook you up with a coach who was a beauty pageant veteran and they would "train" you for 30 days. At the end of the 30 days, you would compete in a beauty pageant to see how well you could do and really find out what it was like to be in one.

I used to watch this show religiously. Over the years, I watched nerdy guys be "made" into rappers, goth girls "made" into cheerleaders, non athletic kids "made" into volleyball players or skateboarders, shy guys "made" confident enough to ask out their dream girl,etc. What I enjoyed about the most was watching the growing process these kids would go through as they trained during those 30 days. It was always pretty inspiring to me, especially because you could see they really benefited from the experience and boosted their confidence in themselves. I know it was kinda corny, and maybe some of it was scripted (who knows) but I actually really liked it.

I even sent in a submission video when they had a casting call once, but I can't remember what I wanted to be. (and NO I don't a copy of the video!)

If I were to send one in now, I  know EXACTLY what I would want to be made into-I even think I put in on my Life List. Are you ready for this?

A Roller Derby Girl.

" I wanna be confident! I wanna be fearless! I wanna be a badass skater chic! I wanna be MADE into a Roller Derby Girl."

That would be the voice over  intro to my episode. Like it?

Why Roller Derby?  Watch and learn:

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

Seriously. Who wouldn't WANT to do this?  To take all of your frustrations, inhibitions, stress and whatever else and leave it all on the track? And get to tackle and hip check a few people in the process?

The only other sport I could really see myself being able to do this with would be football...but since I'm not a man, and they only seem to let women in lingerie play in leagues, I'd rather whip it around a track on a pair of skates and get my adrenaline-I-want-to-body-slam-someone-fix this way.

So I secretly want to be a Roller Derby Girl. Have a slick alias that's full of badass, "I am WOMAN hear me roar"-ness. What kind of name would I give myself? Hell if I know, but I'm sure after learning the ropes of Roller Derby I could find something that suits my personality on the track.

So what's stopping me from throwing on a pair of skates, attending a derby bootcamp, and trying out for a team?

I don't know how to roller skate.

You know those people you see at the rink who never leave the wall? The ones who crash into the wall instead of using their brakes? The ones who weeble and wobble until they bust their tail and clock themselves or someone else in the head with their skates?

That's me. I'm one of those people.

For years I've envied the people who fly around the rink dancing, beebopping, crisscrossing, spinning and weaving their way through the skater traffic that's peppered with kids and klutz's like me.  I've always tried to stay out of their way, secretly wishing I could dance-skate my way to my favorite grooves like they did.

(sigh)

But alas, when it comes to coordination, God didn't see fit to grant me the ability to be groovalicious or even graceful on wheels.

Not being able to be sure of myself on a set of wheels seriously undermines my confidence as well, which only makes me even more of a dunce on skates.

I can be a badass on my own two feet, but on skates? I think I'll just leave that to the professionals and the women who can whip it like no one's business.

So....as much as I would LOVE to be a Roller Derby Girl, I think I'll just settle for trying to cheer on the league here in Philly (shout out to the Philly Roller Girls! KICK SOME ASS THIS SUMMER! )and of course catching some matches when I move to Austin-the birthplace of Roller Derby Revival.

I won't get "made" into a Roller Derby Girl...but I do plan on being one hell of a fan :)

Would you ever try Roller Derby? What would your name be? What should mine be?

Vlog: My Bipolar Life 1-3

"My recovery from manic depression has been an evolution, not a sudden miracle."

-Patty Duke

My psychiatrist has been telling me since I was diagnosed last July that  for me, a person with Bipolar Disorder, recovery means stability, having less episodes, and being in control of my illness. She says while there was no cure for this illness,  it's possible to find stability and live a healthy life...it's just going to take some hard work and patience on my part.

I believed her back then and I still want to believe her now. One of the hardest parts of this journey has been trying to find the right cocktail of medicines. I thought  once I found that in March things would get easier. I think that's why I've been so disappointed lately-my latest round of medication has helped significantly...but I'm still struggling and recognizing new symptoms that I need to learn how to manage.  The setbacks have been hard to live with...there are days I'm overwhelmed and just want to give up.

I thought instead of writing about some of the things I've been struggling with lately, I'd talk about them in a video. It was WAY harder than I thought, and pretty emotional-totally wasn't expecting that.

So forgive the tears...I apologize up front if my thoughts seem disjointed. My mind has been a wreck lately, all over the place. I talk about this in the video as well as my struggle to connect with others, and some fears I have.

I had to break it up into three parts...forgive the poor editing. (I recorded it on my phone)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dq-tFJZPiTo]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QH9ip5R9TA]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-xL8wtv5_8]