postaday2011

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]

Manic Mondays (On Tuesdays): Hypersexuality, Faith, & Womanhood pt. 1

Confession: This is the probably the hardest series of posts I've ever written here on 'Confessions, because it deals with a personal and often 'taboo' subject in Christian culture. But I believe in the power of transparency, and I realize that this is part of owning my story and having honest dialogue with others, so that's why I'm writing about this particular subject. Not sure how many parts there will be  this series, but I hope that this proves to be a healthy exploration for myself and whoever finds themselves in reading these posts. Bipolar Disorder: When Sexuality Is in Overdrive - Bipolar Disorder Center - Everyday Health.

I read this article today while taking a break from doing my project on the book of Philemon. I'm in the middle of finals week and the end of the semester, (hence my absence from the blogging world) but I knew after reading this, I had to stop and write about it...

...or rather about my experience with hypersexuality as a woman trying to manage BP.  About being a Christian who struggles severely with this symptom of BP and what how I believe it impacts my walk with God...

About a year ago, I started noticing that I was having very sexual dreams, which was out of the norm for me. While sex isn't something I dream about normally, that's not what bothered me about the dreams. What bothered me was that I was constantly dreaming about having sex with women, which was definitely something I had NEVER done before. I also started noticing that I would have days (possibly a couple of weeks...or a month even) where all I would think about is having sex.

Now, let me say this. (Again, I'm being transparent here, so understand my disclosure serves a purpose) I lost my virginity at 16 and didn't have sex again until I was 20-when I met my next boyfriend. While I enjoy sex, I'm not the type to have "friends with benefits," one night stands, or even casual sex with strangers or people I don't know very well. I tried having a casual sex relationship once and I hated it. (and it didn't last very long). The only other person I "casually" had sex with was my ex...but I had known him for over a year. We were friends....and then we were dating...and the sex? It just happened. In other words, if I'm sharing my cookie jar with you, it's because I know you, I trust you, and we're in a monogamous relationship.... and even then, depending on how my spiritual health is, sex might not even happen under those circumstances.Sex and being intimate with someone I care about is awesome, but I've never been the type who felt like I had to have it regularly if I was single. I had more of a "take it or leave it" attitude concerning sex...if I was taking it, I thoroughly enjoyed it with my significant other...if I was single and leaving it, I was perfectly okay with that.

So while I enjoy it and I don't mind exploring my sexuality, I've never been a slave to it...or felt like I was at the mercy of my desires....until I started having dreams about trysts with women (and liking it) and found myself getting into these moods where it's all I seemed to think and fantasize about.

These moods would always catch me off guard because after having Alex and starting Zoloft, I had noticed that my sex drive or desire for it had dropped significantly, which is pretty normal after pushing a bowling ball-sized object out of your vagina and starting an anti-depressant. I would have days or even a couple of months where I wouldn't even think about it, or it didn't feel like a need that just had to be satisfied...and then I would find myself  waking up with my hands down my pajamas....dreaming about random sexual encounters with total strangers....and wanting to jump on top of my ex every time I thought of or saw him.

If you're reading this and you're a woman, I'm sure you know how um...aroused you can get as you draw closer to your period, right?  (yep, I went there and said the p-word-go ahead, you can squirm a little more, it's ok) Well imagine those feelings multiplied by, oh I don't know, maybe a thousand or so and you'll get a picture of how I would feel in these moods. They would totally consume me, I felt like some kind of pervert or sex addict. It was so bad sometimes that even my ex would look at me and be like, "uh...yea...NO!" and would ask if I was okay. You know it's bad when you're so overwhelmed with needing to have sex that it decreases your partner's desire for it.  Yea....ouch.

One of the frustrating things about feeling so sexual was that no matter how much I had, it never satisfied the need, it only intensified it. I even took to pleasing myself which while I've known other women who do it and it's not  a big deal, it was for me because it was something I had never done. These feelings weren't just about trying to explore my sexuality or what I "liked." It was literally like a wildfire just burning out of control. I tried everything to uh...satisfy it, squash it, ignore it. It literally became a highly agitating state to be in, and I didn't really understand what was going on....

The even more frustrating part about my hypersexual feelings was the fact that because I'm an unmarried Christian, I felt endless amounts of guilt about what I was experiencing. And the shame. Oh the shame that would consume me and still does at times was all encompassing. I felt...dirty. Full of lust. A lustful, sinful woman who just couldn't control herself. I didn't know how to talk to anyone about it, let alone God. I felt guilty for wanting sex as much as I did, guilty for having it as much as I was, guilty for pleasuring myself (masturbation is a no no in Christian culture, apparently), guilty for just any and everything about sex. It was awful and the guilt and shame I felt only fueled my depressive moods, tying me down in the gravity wells these moods placed me in.

During these states my mind would swirl with racing thoughts: Was I just consumed with lust? What was wrong with me? Was God disgusted with me? Angry with me? Did He understand? I would stand at the altar at the end of service, begging God to help me stop compromising, asking for forgiveness and desiring to be and do better. Then a few days would pass or maybe a week or two and I'd find myself right back in the same state: hot, bothered, and full of this urge I lacked the ability to control...

Since my diagnosis in July, I've learned so much about BP and its symptoms I feel less guilt and shame because I know (for the most part) what's causing it. Learning that it's a symptom of my disorder and not necessarily a reflection of my character has brought me to a place of acceptance about it. I still wrestle with what to do about these feelings when they arrive and become overwhelmingly intense, but I don't beat myself up over having them anymore...

My questions to God these days are more about management and how to maintain celibacy until marriage. I'm rather frank with Him about it and I believe He's far more understanding about it than I originally gave Him credit for.

Hear me: I'm not trying to justify my behavior, so Christians don't crucify me. I'm also not trying to use this symptom of my disorder as an excuse to just be all "A'Driane Gone Wild." But I am trying to manage, understand and walk this issue out in a way that is spiritually healthy and doesn't "taint" my relationship with God.

I'm also trying to be more open and honest about this issue, which is something I don't think enough of us Christians do...

I'll talk about this and more about my faith, hypersexuality and how they impact me next week. Until then....any thoughts? Feel free to share...

To Those Who Served Past & Present

I know it's 11/11/11 and that has all you nerdy number freaks all in a tizzy....

But in the midst of your quirky revelry, please don't forget to pause before your numerology induced orgasm and pay respects to those who have served to protect us both past and present.

Don't forget to say thank you and send a thought, prayer, a word of encouragement or strength to those who sacrifice their lives so we can go ape over such dates as 11/11/11 in peace.

Don't forget about the Veteran who served in wars past so you could enjoy this day.

Whether you agree with every war or operation our country has engaged in shouldn't matter.

What should matter is that someone made the decision to put on a uniform and serve our country so we might enjoy freedoms others don't.

Our country isn't without it's weakness and faults, but our Veterans are definitely one of our greatest strengths.

Every Tuesday I go to the VA Medical Center in Philadelphia and see hundreds of them, from wars past and the one we just ended,

seeking care and medication for injuries that are both seen and unseen.

My heart aches and breaks for them every time I set foot inside the doors of the hospital.

Looking in their faces and seeing their needs, my own visit to the Mental Health clinic seems trivial, and I feel helpless sometimes, knowing their needs are so great.

But I don't allow that feeling to keep me from smiling at every single one of them, spending a few moments with each one that crosses my path, saying hello and giving a "HOOAH" or "Semper Fi"....

Don't forget about our Vets. Remember those still serving worldwide.

Please pray for my best friend Bria. She's currently on deployment in Afghanistan. (I miss you!) We've been friends for nearly 7 years.

To all those who have served, to those still serving day in and day out, to my former USAF Security Forces troops, to my tech school teammates ("TEAM 8, HOOAH!") and to my basic training ladies,

THANK YOU FOR CHOOSING TO SERVE AND SACRIFICE.

HAPPY VETERAN'S DAY.

 

 

Dance Party Friday: Theme Music Edition

Theme songs. Every one has one. I have several. They are the ones that resonate and connect with me more than others, the ones that seem to define and give voice to a moment, situation, circumstance, or emotion in my life I can't quite seem to articulate with words. Tightrope by Janelle Monae is a part of the soundtrack of my life. She's mixed in there somewhere between Prince, Nirvana, Hillsong United, dc Talk, Shelia E and an incredibly long list of other artists who make music that defines pieces of me. I've written about my love for this song before, and the lessons it's taught me over on James & Jax's blog, and when I think about what my life is like trying to manage Bipolar Disorder, I can't help but find myself singing and shuffling my feet to this very song.

So...whether I'm high, low or somewhere in between, I'm gonna keep tippin on my tightrope. Motherhood. School. Faith. Bipolar Disorder. Medication. Therapy. LIFE...I gotta keep my balance and keep dancing my way through....

Now....this video y'all. It's so far from perfect it's not even funny. I first recorded a dance to this last week, but every time I went to save it, my software kept crashing on me. When I recorded it today (like 8 times) I just couldn't get it right. I have to be honest and say I'm pretty embarrassed and frustrated by this....I want to do better quality stuff, but the techie in me must be burnt out because I can't figure this one out y'all. Maybe I need a better webcam, better software, a new laptop (goodbye Dell, hello Macbook!) or I don't know a better ME, but....something's up. I wasn't going to post this, but my amazingly supportive friend flooded my facebook with demands that I post it and "give the people what they want." (her exact words, I promise) So...here it is. I hope at the very least it gets ya to boogie because forget me, the SONG itself is pure FIRE.

Shuffle and toe tap away my friends :) Enjoy your weekend. Start it off dancing :)

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/31934510]

you can also find my other DPF videos here, here, and here

PSU: Mediocrity at it's Finest (Worst)

Hundreds of  students at Penn State took to the streets to protest the ousting of legendary football coach Joe Paterno. I've read numerous comments on Facebook and news articles where people are crying foul and saying he doesn't deserve to be the scapegoat for the crimes of others.

Having been born in San Antonio, and having lived in a state where football is God, coaches are Jesus, and players & staff are a host of heavenly angels who are worshiped by a culture that fuels the adoration, I understand how something like this can be devastating to a college community like Penn State.

But what I don't understand and refuse to be okay with is the fact that students took to the streets to defend a man who felt his only obligation to 10 year old children was to report it to campus officials-those in his chain of command.  I don't understand the urge to tip over news vans and weep with sorrow for someone who thought that doing what was "legally right" according to the state of Pennsylvania, was enough. I don't understand the comments of "this is so unfair to his legacy" . What good is a legacy of wins, if you fail to stand up and fight for others who cannot? You can win all the football games you want, but if you lack the fortitude and values to do what is MORALLY right, then you are nothing but a loser in my eyes, legacy or no legacy.

This whole thing sickens me. The response to it sickens me. Frightens me. Triggers me almost. What kind of society have we become when we DEFEND those who choose to do what they feel is only "legally" right. Would he have done the same had it been his 10 year old grandchild? Would his morals be spurred into action then? If it were your sister, friend, relative, brother....would you still say that doing what's "legally" right is enough?

I've served in the USAF, so I know all about chain of command.  It was drilled into me. But what was also drilled into me was to notify the POLICE if I knew a crime had been committed. POLICE first-THEN notify my chain of command. "Integrity in all we do" didn't just mean I should stop at going to my chain of command.

Out of all the students protesting and boohooing, I can tell you who isn't out there up in arms over this: students who have experienced sexual abuse and molestation.  I can guarantee you they aren't out there tipping over news vans. I can give this guarantee because I am a victim of sexual abuse and molestation and there is NO WAY I would be standing behind this kind of neglect. I know what it's like for someone to not fully acknowledge what's being done to you and how you wish someone would have the courage to speak up and say what you can't. I know what it's like to want those who are supposed to protect you, fight the battle you can't and either refuse to, or only go but so far.

Everyone who failed to fully report what they knew should be held accountable for their actions, period. To support a man who failed his position as head coach, a leader in the  PSU community, and as a member of our society as a whole, I find completely reprehensible and disrespectful to the victims who suffered because of his gross neglect.

I hope all of you who are up in arms over his dismissal never witness or learn of a crime committed to me or anyone I know....because you've made it quite obvious that you wouldn't go all the way or do all that you could to protect me.....or anyone else for that matter.

Only doing what is "legally right" is mediocrity at it's finest.

How proud are you now?

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, abused, and or molested, please do what is morally right and call  the  National Sexual Assault Hotline @ 1-800-656-4673. Have the courage and decency to speak up. 

Jana from "Jana's Thinking Place" wrote an excellent piece about the PSU student riots. You can read it here: Open Letter To PSU Students - jana's thinking place | jana's thinking place.

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...

O

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 :)

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'Driane....it'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.

You & Me: Carrot, Egg, or Coffee Bean?

Handling Adversity, Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean? A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots. In the second, she placed eggs and the last one, she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied. She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted they got soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, “What’s the point, mom?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity–the boiling water–but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

“Which one are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

Think of this: Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like a coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate to another level?

How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

~ Author Unknown

I found this posted on Exceptional Living's Facebook page and after the week & therapy sessions I had, I found this very appropriate to share & reflect upon today. 

So what are you? Carrot, Egg, or Coffee Bean?

I've been trying with all my might to break the cycle in my family & in my subcultures (African Amercian & Christian) and be a Coffee Bean.....more on this in the next post....

Facebook Group for Bipolar Mamas

So. Today (Friday) was better. Way better than yesterday. Still felt low, and pretty awful, but it was better. I had class today and was able to hang with two friends who "get it"...who understand what its like to be in a dark place and how sometimes, you just need someone to be there with you so you don't feel alone. So that helped-significantly. I also joined a closed Bipolar Depression Group on Facebook. Everyone there is warm, friendly, and have a lot of helpful info if you need it...or if you just need to say "hey I'm cycling right now and I don't think I'll make it," you can. No judgement. No repercussions. No wagging fingers. Just support. Love. A place where you can safely unload your thoughts and emotions. Just making one post there today helped me tremendously, because I was surrounded by people who know what its like to have to deal with this madenning existence we find ourselves living. So. All day today I've been thinking: what can I do to cope? How can I get through this? How can I deal with some of the isolation I feel? Here's one of the things I hate the most about "being bipolar": it feels so isolating. Its hard to know who to talk to, who you can "let in" when you're going through an episode, a cycle, and just having a bad day. It's a frustrating experience for me because my family knows about my diagnosis, but do nothing to help. No phone calls, no emails, no "hey are you ok?" "Do you need help/anything?" Nothing. No one offers to take the kids so I can have a break. I have to call and ask and it MIGHT happen. My church? I don't even want to go there or it will just make me angry...suffice it it say that support from that "family" has been minimal to non-existent as well. I guess, in everyone's defense, perhaps they don't know what to do or how to help. They don't know what to say or even understand. Or they're tired of dealing with "my issues." That's the impression I get from those around me who I used to lean on for support. Even my ex-at my lowest points he's begged me to let him in and help me only to turn around weeks or months later to tell me he can't do "this" anymore-I'm too much, my needs are too overwhelming and he just doesn't have it in him to deal with it anymore. I understand that to agree, but I know it must be beyond tough to "deal" with someone's "issues." I get its hard for people...hard for them to even understand. I get that. But at the same time, it hurts ya'll. Having to go through this without the support of those "closest" to me has been devastating to me. A lot of my anger is rooted in that pain...so I keep people around me at a distance. They don't reach out and I don't either. No one gets in, and for the 2 who have...there's only but so much I tell them. My socialization skills suck these days. Why? Because I don't trust people. I've learned that unless they have been where you are and know what it's like, people can only handle but so much. I've had to start accepting the fact that I'm not going to find the support and love from the people I want and need it from (family, church, my ex) because they just aren't equipped to give it. They don't have it. At all. And I'm realizing only certain kinds of people do...So I've been forced to seek support elsewhere, find safe places I can find it and be embraced...and just let it all out, especially during those moments when I'm at my darkest, lowest places, and need to reach out. This blog is one of them...therapy has been another...Twitter has become the place where I can be totally honest and its ok. There's an Army of support there and I can't tell you how much I love them.

So when I started thinking about how bad I felt yesterday and how isolating and lonely it felt, because I couldn't pick up the phone and call someone other than my psych to talk...I got angry...but this time it motivated me to action-constructive action. I joined the FB group, I started looking for resources I could use to help myself deal with this madness...and I thought about other women, other moms who might be in the same boat and who just might need a safe place to go to...a place that's always there when family, friends, psychs and therapists aren't available to walk you through the tough moments-the frustrating moments-the painful moments-the ones where you need to put your racing thoughts out there just to get them out of your mind and move the weight of them off of your chest. A place where you can find other people who "get it"-and will just listen, offer encouragement, hope, ((hugs)), etc. A place where you can find resources and helpful information...

Last night I created what I'm hoping will be such a place. I created a group on Facebook for moms with Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar Mamas. It's a closed group-only members see what's posted. Whether there are 5 people or 100 who are members, I don't care. I just want mamas to be able to have at least one other place where they can talk about what's going on, with other women and mamas who understand because they're struggling and coping too.

I'm not an expert...I'm not "recovered"....I'm not a professional...I don't have the answers...but I'm hoping this is a place where we can help each other at least find some ideas...some routes to answers. I'm hoping its a place that helps us whether our illness is manageable and "under control" or beating us down and making our lives hell. Being a mama and being bipolar is no joke-no one should have to go through it alone, without support. I'm hoping this place can offer that at least on some level so we know we aren't alone and that we are awesome mamas in spite of what we're dealing with.

So...if you would like to join, if you know someone who could use such a place, know of any professionals even who would like to help offer suggestions or resources to members, please let me know-either here, in a DM on Twitter, an email (bconfessions at gmail dot com), or in a message on Facebook. Please help me spread the word...and please don't be ashamed or afraid to reach out if you need help.

Confession: Falling Off & Getting Back On The Wagon

SO....I have some things to confess. I spent last week in a full blown episode of  (hypo?) mania & didn't even realize it until last night when I was laying in bed crying my eyes out, wondering why the heck I was feeling so low. I had felt so great earlier yesterday morning...but by midday the grey cloud of depression was hovering over my head, raining on my little euphoric parade.... Ahhhh euphoria. (Sigh) You know...I didn't even realize how high I had been until I had already crash landed back on Earth-or rather my couch...immobilized. Stuck. Heavy. Sleepy. Edgy. Here's the thing I've learned out being in a state of euphoria after this recent episode: it blinds you to the warning signs, the signals, the indicators that are flashing bright red, hoping you'll notice their warnings. And even if you're able to see the warnings, euphoria hits the mute button on the sounds of the sirens...they go from shrill to dull. Your inclination to care, your motivation to heed the signals loses it's edge, and before you know it you're rationalizing it away, allowing yourself to believe the lie that it's not happening-you're ok, it's no big deal, you're fine, you're just a little excited & happy & that's ok-you deserve to be happy for once don't you? Don't you?!

I should have paid attention. I should have fought harder to hold on to the edge I've gained the past 4-5 weeks. But I didn't. Instead I allowed myself to take a break from fighting.....

It started the week I was sick with the Plague. That's when I stopped fighting, mostly because I felt like pure hell & needed to get better. Problem is, I got better physically, but I started slipping in other areas. School took a hit-I missed some assignments & barely caught up. I started feeling anti-social & withdrew from people. My ex and I had an argument that led to him saying some things that crossed the line and hurt me deeply. He apologized the next day, but the damage was done-I spent last weekend struggling to cope-emotionally eating, drinking too much Moscato, & just trying to numb the hurt. Then last Monday when I got my refund from school, my excitement over being able to pay bills I was backed up on & buy some necessities for my apartment tipped me over the edge & into full blown euphoria.

Having money...getting paid...being able to pay bills, buy groceries, not having to worry about finances for a few weeks...it gives me a high I don't really get from other things. Now I will say this: I'm pretty responsible with money in the respect that I pay my bills, especially the ones that are necessary to live-rent, daycare, groceries, etc-but I'm very irresponsible with what I have left over. I can't save.  And unlike other people, I don't spend it on Gucci bags, expensive electronics, clothes for myself....I spend it on little things that add up to big amounts. Instead of spending $15o at the grocery store, I'll spend $300. Seeing my cabinets & fridge full, knowing that we have food to eat gives me a high.  A simple furniture purchase might be a necessity, but the exhilaration I feel is more than the normal person would feel. I don't spend just to spend most of the time. Getting my nails done to feel better, buying the boys clothes they may need, going out to eat or buying something for my apartment....those are the things that make my spending habits a problem. Going to Wal-mart or Target can be a major problem when I'm in a state of euphoria.  The compulsion to buy even necessities becomes too strong, my resistance to impulses is weakened...telling myself, "I don't need this," or "I can get this later," is something I've only recently been able to start doing. When I don't have money to spend, I'm fine. But when I have it, and my basic bills are paid? Forget it. My mind races with ways it can be spend-literally.  Saving? (sigh) It's a skill I used to be somewhat good at & now I just flat out suck.

So like I said, last week, having that money....I paid what I needed to, I followed my "how to spend my refund check" list to the tee. But once it was all over, I found myself wanting to keep feeding the high because it felt so good, I felt so good, I felt capable, not unworthy or unwanted like the argument with my ex & stress had me feeling.  The euphoria had me feeling fantastic, but underneath it was the ugly undercurrent of emotions that were pushing me further & further away from the progress I had worked so hard to gain. I skipped my meds a few days this week. Big mistake. Stupid mistake. I kept telling myself I'd take them & then I'd get so caught up in the boys, in midterm semester assignments, in catching up, in the euphoric bliss & forget.

I messed up. I fell off the wagon last week. And my crash back to reality began Saturday night. I passed out on my couch unexpectedly after getting my hair done. Sunday morning I still felt good, but the cloud was back...by midday it was hovering over me, darkening my mood & by evening I had fallen back into the gravity well of a depressive mood.  I cycled this past week. I cycled & didn't pay attention until it was too late to care or resist.

Here's the other thing I've learned about euphoria, cycling, & just living with this crazy beast: It's VITALLY important you have at least one person on the outside who can tell you (in love) what they see happening, what they see you doing. Someone who cares about you, but who is objective & can tell you the truth when you need it. For me, that person this past week was my ex. When I called him crying last night & feeling like crap, he confirmed for me what I had already started to realize: "Addy I've been so worried about you this week, because you've just seemed so high...and talkative....and....and a little manic...and then yesterday I could hear in your voice you were starting to dip...what happened? What are you feeling? What's wrong? Let's talk about it. I"m sorry...I think our fight helped trigger it, and I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry you've been struggling-talk to me. Have you been taking your meds? Have you been drinking too much?"

(Sigh) That's the kind of person you need in your life, and I'm glad I have him. We may not be together, we may fight, we may not see eye to eye, but I know that he cares about me and he wants me to be ok, because he can be that person for me when I really need it.  I'm also grateful for my neighbor who saw that I was upset late last night & stayed up talking to me, trying to help me smile & laugh. I need more people like that in my life.

I fell off the wagon. Today I'm trying to get back on. It's not easy. But I made a commitment to improving my mental health and despite this step back, I'm determined to regain the ground I lost. That's how recovery is sometimes: you take 2 steps forward & take one back. It sucks, but the point is to keep going in spite of the set backs. That's what I'm trying to do today.

I'm not perfect. I try but I fail sometimes ya'll. I have to do better, but I can admit when I don't. Writing this, and admitting these things were hard for me today...but I've gotta face the music.

So I'm off to go to the park & run. Gotta get back up & continue to streak my way back to the box. Here's to making it.

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.

Dance Party Friday: Everyday LOVE Edition

Can we take a moment and just exhale?

Go ahead-breathe in very deep, all the way down to your core....hold it....and REEEELLLLEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASE.

Feel any better? I do. I can speak for myself & say that it's been quite a week, so taking a few moments for self-care just now makes me feel so good!

How was your week? Was it uneventful? Hectic? Overwhelming? Troubling? Too much? Awesome?

Mine? I've spent mine in the trenches, waging war against the Plague that invaded my house. Somehow Brennan is the only one who has managed to escape unscathed (so far). Alex not only had a cold but he was also teething on top it. I went to bed late Monday night with a pretty high fever & was told at the ER on Tuesday that I had strep throat & tonsillitis. Eh, can I get a side order of DEATH with my illness please? Thanks. Thank God for my ex-he was a lifesaver this week, taking care of me, cleaning my apartment, nagging me about my meds, and taking care of the boys. I wouldn't have stayed above water mentally had he not been here, let me tell you.

So I've been eating penicillin like tic-tacs and am feeling way better finally...despite the STYE I have on my left eye. (the rhyming was so unintentional, I promise you) This week my body has failed me miserably, but I'm alive, so I'm grateful :)

Since I'm under the weather, dancing this week is totally out of the question. I don't want to push it. I took a walk yesterday for some fresh air, and while I LOVED it, it wore me out & killed my back. SO, no dancing this week. But that's perfectly ok, because I still have something for you to enjoy (hopefully).

This week was a lot to handle, not just because I was sick, but because I watched someone get swallowed whole by despair. I watched someone stand on the edge of their life, of their sanity, and who was ready to step off. They didn't want to live anymore, they were weary of being under Bipolar's oppressive thumb, and honestly, I DON'T BLAME THEM. Living with a mental illness, especially one like bipolar disorder is far from easy. Just doing what it takes to make it manageable is not for the faint of heart. It literally feels like you're constantly swinging back & forth between life & death, and the intensity of what you feel.....I can't put into words how unbearable it is. For me, it got so bad that I spent a Friday night slicing into my wrist with a piece of glass just to let it out. ( still so grateful for The Band, who let me write that!)

So watching someone else be on the edge and understanding how hopeless you can feel in that state was terrifying. I've never met this person but I didn't want to imagine what it would be like to not have them in my life-even if it was just online or through a blog post. I watched someone else acknowledge that they aren't doing well either and that they are in a fragile state, that they needed help. And my heart broke for them this week. I thought about Strong Start Day & all of the moms out there who are struggling but aren't getting the real help they need for various reasons: shame, stigma, judgement, lack of insurance, resources or finances. And my heart broke for them. And I felt helpless. I asked God, "what can I do? How can I do something tangible to help?" The answer I got back was simple: "LOVE. LOVE THEM. In every & any way you can. Show them you love them."

So this video is about that. It's me trying to encourage anyone who needs it to hold on to love. When I think about where I was a year ago, when I just look back over my life & all I've been through, LOVE is what has kept me. God's love & the love of people He's placed in my life. LOVE is what makes an impact, what changes things, what leaves an indelible mark, what brings a person back from the edge....it's brought me back time & again. I'd be dead & gone without it!

LOVE has been on my mind for the past couple of weeks and I'll talk more about it & why in another post, but for now, just know that I'm being challenged to have everything I do for others & myself rooted in LOVE.

LOVE carries. LOVE heals.LOVE lifts. LOVE inspires. LOVE completes. LOVE strengthens. LOVE never fails us. Hold on to it with everything you have. I am. It's not easy, but I'm learning how to.....everyday.

It's Mental Health Awareness Week. This is for those of us battling, struggling with, recovering from, & triumphing over the parts of us that have malfunctioned. Keep holding on, keep kicking @$!, keep fighting....use LOVE as your weapon.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/30204143]

Strong Start Day 2011: How Postpartum Progress Saved My Life

As I write this, I'm laying  in bed, a feverish mess, trying to win the war against The Plague that has invaded my body: strep throat & tonsillitis. So far, it's had the advantage, but my atomic Penicillin bombs are starting to turn the tide my way.

So why take time to write a blog post in this condition? Why not just veg out watching TV or just lie here letting every medication known to man knock me out? The reason is simple:

It's Strong Start Day 2011. It's October 5, 2011, a day where more babies are born than any other day of the year, and Postpartum Progress is asking for our help. Who is Postpartum Progress? In official terms it's the most widely-read blog on postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth.  It's also a non-profit organization, Postpartum Progress Inc dedicated to raising awareness & improving support & services for women who suffer from PPD & other perinatal mood & anxiety disorders.

In my own unofficial terms, it's a safe haven founded by a woman with unbelievable compassion, Katherine Stone. It's a place that provides answers, insight, and a community of women & mothers just like you & me. It's a place where you can ditch perfection & be free of judgement....and the icy glares of stigmas.

For me, it was everything I mentioned above but far more. It was a lifeline for me. Here's my story:  In January and February of this year, I hit rock bottom. No, scratch that-I descended into the 7th circle of hell and was swallowed whole by despair. I didn't want to live. I hated myself. Hated the monster of a mother I had become. I had gotten to the end of my rope & realized I had nothing left. I didn't understand why I was feeling this way. I didn't understand why no matter how much I prayed, went to church, took my Zoloft, exercised or talked to my doctor, I wasn't....ME. I was me but I was the worst aspects of me I didn't know existed. I have battled depression since I was 13 and was diagnosed with generalized anxiety in my early 20's while in the military, but I had NEVER felt like this. I spent my pregnancy with Alex totally depressed-there were days I physically couldn't move. I was also experiencing anxiety but didn't recognize it as such-it was so severe there would be times all I could hear was my racing heart pounding in my ears. I was obsessed with cleaning & organizing things-if things were out of place, if a baseboard was dirty I couldn't rest until it was fixed. My ex told me I was obsessive-I told him I was "nesting" and to mind his business-this was all a perfectly normal part of pregnancy, wasn't it? Wasn't it?! When Alex was born, my first night in the hospital was a disaster, but I figured it was still normal-I had just spent the previous 5 days in active labor & had finally pushed him out of my body for Pete's sake.

I should have listened to my instincts-or my ex's observations about my behavior. Instead I watched as anxiety, uncontrollable rage, irritability, crying fits, and other symptoms of PPD & PPA take over my life for the next 10 months. I talked to my doctor and was put on Zoloft-but I was just told that it was all no big deal-once my hormones settled I'd be ok. I tried talking about it with people from church and even a couple of therapists paid for by my state insurance-I was told repeatedly that there was nothing wrong with me, that everything I was experiencing was a result of my being a single mother raising two kids, going to school, dealing with a tough relationship, blah blah blah. The Zoloft didn't help. Well, I'll put it this way: I wasn't sad. What I was instead was constantly swinging between anger, rage, & guilt. I was living on the edge, the slightest, most trivial thing making me want to scream or crawl out of my skin. But everyone kept telling me there was nothing wrong with me while my gut kept telling me there was. I was so confused....and tired.

Then in January of this year I finally started my deep descent into hell. Into not wanting to live. Into hating myself. Hating my kids. Resenting my ex. Into being swallowed alive by guilt, fear, loneliness, shame, more anger, disappointment, & hopelessness. By February I was thinking of ways to kill myself. I remember laying in bed one night feeling heavy. Heavy as in a two ton boulder was laying on my chest. I thought about my kids. What would happen to them if I overdosed on Zoloft or released the tension & pain I was feeling by cutting myself and couldn't stop. I picked up the phone and called my ex. Told him I wanted to die and I needed help. He made me promise to let him get me some help. I did. The next day we were both surfing the web & making calls. While I was surfing the web looking for postpartum depression treatment & resources, I came across Postpartum Progress. I cried and yelled and felt relief flooding my mind as I read the articles posted there, read the comments posted by women who were describing exactly what I had been feeling for the past year, year and a half. I read about the symptoms of PPD, PPA & other perinatal mood disorders in "Plain Mama English" and found my symptoms laid out in black & white on the screen in front of me. I learned that mamas who have a previous history of depression, anxiety or childhood trauma are more at risk for developing symptoms like mine during pregnancy & after giving birth. I found a place called the "Postpartum Stress Center" and called to set up an appointment. I posted a couple of comments on the site describing my emotional state & symptoms, asking for some kind of validation. Any kind. Katherine emailed me. Encouraged me. Empathized with me. Embraced me. Pushed me to seek help. That day and her emailed changed my life.

In the months that followed my symptoms worsened, but I was able to talk them out in therapy at the Center.There I received answers, encouragement, & coping strategies. I started pushing my doctors for answers, for better treatment options. I jumped back on Twitter and found #PPDChat, Lauren Hale, Jaime, Susan, Erica, Cristi, and an ARMY of other mamas who I could lean on, gain advice & insight from, & share my experiences with. I found blog after blog written by women who wrote about their experiences, their challenges and so much more. I found Kimberly whose post about her diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder 2 made me ask myself some hard questions, evaluate my worsening symptoms & finally gave me the courage to go to the hospital in July for more aggressive treatment & help....and I got a new diagnosis: rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder 2.

I shared all of that to say that in a nutshell, Postpartum Progress & Katherine Stone's advocacy saved my life. Saved Brennan & Alex's life. It opened my eyes to the reality of women's mental health and educated me in a way talking to my doctor never had. It helped me find the support I so desperately needed.

Today, this organization needs OUR help. They need help to achieve the work that mamas everywhere so desperately need. Every mom wants to be a good mom, and they need our help & support to ensure mothers everywhere have a Strong Start. Please donate. If you are unable to donate, please email your friends, family, co-workers & neighbors, facebook them, tweet them, whatever it takes, & ask them to donate and spread the word. Raise awareness. Reach out today and do something tangible for someone else.

Right now there's a mama out there who is just where I was at the beginning of this year. Right now, there's a mama out there who is either unaware that help is available or is struggling to find it because of insurance or financial reasons-like I was. Please take a moment and do what you can to support this cause.

It helped save our lives & helped me win the fight.

I know it can help save others.

Dance Party Friday: It's a Family Affair Edition

IT'S FRIIIIIIIDAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!! YIPPPPPPEEEEEEEE! Forgive me, but it's been quite a week, so I had to get that out of my system. What's that? Why has it been "quite a week," you say? Well....

  • Migraines. ALL WEEK.
  • Rain. ALL WEEK.
  • Tired. ALL WEEK.
  • HOMEWORK. Mountains of it. ALL WEEK.
  • Boys being boys. ALL WEEK. (I woke up on Wednesday morning to BOTH of them AND their room being COVERED in baby powder...which I have yet to finish cleaning up)
  • My fridge kept going out. ALL WEEK. But, due to the awesome sauce and generosity of some of my new PBU friends, we were able to survive off of dry goods and the groceries they bought us to replace all the spoiled stuff. HALLELUJAH!
  • Did I mention migraines and homework already?
  • Sick toddler
  • The 4yr old did this:

    Soooooo. Can you see why I'm happy it's the END of the week?! I don't know how I actually managed to record this yesterday, but I did, and I have a special guest with me today: meet Mr. Brennan. He is 4 1/2. He enjoys the Superhero Squad, any electronic device, the drums, music, and can tell you what a trapezoid is. (I don't even know that) He also LOVES to dance (who knew? wonder what side of the gene pool he got that from?) and he LOVES the songs we danced to yesterday.

    Recording with a 4 year old who is preoccupied with themselves on the giant monitor on mommy's desk isn't easy, but hey, I just went with the flow. Again, they aren't perfect, but after the kind of week I've had people, life just never is :) And the best way I know to deal with it is to just get my body moving. So without further ado....here are our Dance Party Friday selections for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy :)

    [vimeo http://vimeo.com/29807331]

    [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/29804979]

    Check out my other Dance Party posts: Square Biz Edition & Baby I'm a (Imperfect) Star

Quotes & Theme Music

BREAKING NEWS: "Dance Party Fridays" & "Self-Love Saturdays" will be returning this coming week! I was told last night by a very amazing friend that I needed to end my little hiatus and get back to shaking my groove thang & my blogging format, and I agreed. I'm ready to get back on the horse and continue the ride. Juggling blogging, school, LIFE, motherhood & mental health shenanigans won't be easy, but hey, that's why I can blog about it all here, right? Right. So yes. Get ready, cause I've got some pretty cool songs lined up to dance to! Until then, here's a quote to inspire you & me to keep digging deep, shedding our tangles, owning our stories & SPEAKING OUT:

‎"I have learned now that while those who speak about one's miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more." - C.S. Lewis

 

And a video to help me keep my head up & sing as I continue to get over my break up. Co-parenting with an ex who you still haven't gotten over is no easy feat, people. But I'm doing it. I've been taking the pain of it in stride this month...or rather in dancing :) They say "time heals all wounds," so here's my theme song as October approaches.....

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUe3oVlxLSA]

 

Why Having Kids Makes the Brain Damage Worthwhile

Scene: Driving home from an evening at the Philadelphia Art Museum with my friend & fellow students. I drop said friend off on campus and then head back to my apartment. The following conversation with Brennan transpires, who by the way has been talking nonstop about The SuperHero Squad, Sesame Place, and school the. whole. ride. home. Matter of fact it was similar to that scene from Family Guy: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNkp4QF3we8]

Um. yea. THAT. It was just like that. It's moments like those that make me think I'm suffering from what Bill Cosby calls "brain damage." But then this happened:

Brennan: "Mom! Mom! MOMMIE! Mo-"

Me: "YEEES Honey Bunnie!" (new nickname that I just made up-couldn't think of something else.)

Brennan: "You called me a HONEY BUNNIE! Who's a HONEY BUNNIE?!" (giggling erupts)

Me: "You, Brennan-you're my Hunnie Bunnie!"

Brennan: "Me?! (thinks for a few seconds) YEP. That's right. I'M YOUR HONEY BUNNIE!"

Me: "Yep. You sure are."

Brennan: "MOM!'"

Me: "WHAT?!!!!"

Brennan: " You're my MAMA HONEY BUNNIE!!!!!!!!!"

*stunned silence as my heart melts while sitting at the red light*

Me: " Yes I am sweetie. I love you Bren Bren."

Brennan: "I love you too, Mommie HONEY BUNNIE!" (more giggles)

And that, my friends is what makes the brain damage worthwhile. Gets me every time, when I least expect it.

Excuse me while I mop my melted heart from up off the floor.......

Cocktail Parties & Trying to Stay the Course

Nearly everyone experiences depression & anxiety at some point in their lives. For some it only lasts for a short time and it goes away. Some people develop great ways to manage & cope on their own or through some kind of therapy or counseling. Other people, like myself, experience depression, PTSD, anxiety or both combined & mixed up in a mutated mashup of hormones & chemical imbalances, and it doesn't go away. Counseling helps. Possibly some form of therapy is beneficial. Exercise and eating well enhance the journey to recovery and support of loved ones & friends is crucial. But even with all of that, for some, part of the recovery process requires even more assistance in the form of medication. I'm one of those people. I've come to finally accept that even if I work the other parts of "the plan" I STILL need medication to help the part of my being that is malfunctioning function. When I first started taking them back in July 2010, I struggled & wrestled with that decision for the next 12 months.  Some of my wrestling & unease stemmed from the regular stigmas that are associated with having to take medication for a mental illness. Taking meds for a physical illness is one thing-people encourage it.  Take it for a malfunction of your brain & body chemistry and all of a sudden folks start looking at you out of the corner of their eyes, or sizing you up, questioning everything they thought they knew about you. All of a sudden you're less capable of executing sound judgement & making rational decisions. Start taking meds and you become.....different. At least to some people-I'm speaking in general terms here.

My rocky road to acceptance also came from grappling with my faith about it. I tried to pray it away-the depression & anxiety. Maybe I wasn't being "Christian" enough. Maybe I was too sinful.  I quoted Philippians 4:6, " Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;"  several times a day, especially when I would feel my body break out into a full sweat at the slightest trigger....Alex crying, bathtime, doctor's appointments, phone calls with my client, Brennan being a 4yr old, driving through a busy intersection or heavy traffice....Name the trigger I was fanning it with that verse. I laid myself on the altar on Sundays, even took the "just pull yourself up by your bootstraps" approach and you know what? I kept getting worse. So I stopped fighting it and realized back in July of this year that yes, I have to take medication. I just do. And I'm finally in a place where God's given me peace about it because I know He doesn't have an issue with it. Do I believe God will heal me and make my life with bipolar disorder type 2 manageable? Yes, yes I do. But I believe that adding meds to the recovery & management plan is part of how He's going to do it.

Descriptions of my meds & directions on how & when to take them

 

 

 

 

 

So. I take medication. I started with Zoloft....that didn't go so well. It took away some of the sadness, but did nothing to calm the rage, irritability, anxiety, & even suicidal thoughts & ideations I was having. My mood swings were beyond severe. I was switched to an anxiety med, Lexapro. Didn't really make a dent. By the time I took myself to the hospital in July I was afraid I was going to really end it because I was in such dire need of symptom relief.

I was put on Lamictal and given Clonezepam for immediate relief and boy was it immediate! When I saw my psychiatrist two weeks later, I felt like I was finding something that was going to work. She agreed, so I stayed on Clonezapem but was weaned off of the Lamictal, just to see how I managed. Next visit I explained that I was starting to feel edgy again and couldn't sleep before 2am-I was cycling through hypomania. We switched to Lorazepam, added a sleeping aid, and an anti-depressant, Fluvoxamine.

The sleeping pills worked well-as long as I went to bed very shortly after I took it. A month

later, I feel like on one hand the meds are working because my moods don't swing as much. The rage & irritability is gone. Anxiety is there,but it's bearable. But on the other hand I've been VERY tired. I've even noticed that I either feel overwhelmed or indifferent, almost apathetic. I've also been feeling sad & wanting to sleep constantly. So when I talked to my psych today, we both agreed that taking the anti-anxiety med as frequently as I had been was probably too much-and that the dosage for my anti-depressant was too little. So we knocked one down a bit and boosted the other.

Yesterday a friend of mine said, "I don't know how you do it. I wouldn't have the patience to sit through trying different ones to see what worked."  Hearing that made me realize two things: 1) For those of us who need it, taking meds is like going shopping. Whether you're buying clothes, shoes, a car, or a house, you often have to try on or test drive several before you find what fits, what feels comfortable. The search for the right place to call home can be a tedious and frustrating one, and it's the same with medication. Finding the cocktail that does the hokey pokey the best with your body chemistry isn't easy, but it takes time and necessitates some patience & commitment on your part.

Patience. Commitment. Discipline. Execution. Kindness. Forgiveness. All of these need to be a part of your thinking and habits when it comes to living with an illness that requires meds to help you function. At least that's what I'm learning, cause I don't know about you, but I want to function! I have a life to live man! Who has time to just exist and be overtaken by something? Life is hard enough on it's own without our bodies getting all wacky on us. So if you're on meds, give yourself a pat on the back, be proud, and hold your head high. Meds are just help. That's it. Don't we need all the help we can get in this life?

So my cocktail has been switched up again, but I'm determined to stick it out til I find what vibes best with my hormones...my brain...my body...ME. Oh and realization #2 I had? I'm so freakin proud of myself for having the patience, kindness, forgiveness, discipline & execution I have so far with this. So proud. It feels wonderful to listen to my body & to be aware of what's going on with it. My journey to recovery & manageability isn't perfect, but I'm still trekking along, picking up resources & nourishment along the way :)  Your journey to find the cocktail you need won't be perfect either, but I just wanted to share my story to encourage you to stay the course. You can do it. I'm living proof it's being done.

Be encouraged!

A Brief Manifesto

"Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself" - Harvey Fierstein. Move from being a victim to a victor. Own your story and share it. Be authentic, live wholehearted. Do not allow your circumstances or pain from the past or present define you. Don't let a mood disorder define who you are. Define yourself in truth, in God's truth...come to know who He says you are and let that be the foundation upon which you build your identity, let it become the lens through which you see yourself. Your beautiful, worthy, and loved self.

I challenge you to read these words and whatever else comes to your heart in front of a mirror, looking yourself directly in the eye as you say each word. I did. Difficult but empowering to say the least....if you do it, feel free to share how you felt and the impact, if any this had on you.