relationships

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

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.

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.

Love in the Time of PPOCD

Finding support and the unconditional love of a significant other when you are suffering from a mental illness can be difficult. My darling friend Lebogang Xolo is here today to talk about how she found love and support in her partner during her battle with PPOCD, (Postpartum OCD). Please show her some love and support y'all.  When I was a teenager I stumbled upon a movie called "A Beautiful Mind."  This is one movie that made a huge impact in my life, and I knew from then what true love is supposed to be like.  The last scene, where Alicia Nash (Jennifer Connelly) is still standing by John Forbes Nash (Russell Crowe)’s side, even in old age, through a mental illness, still leaves me in tears to this day.   Nevertheless, I was young and naïve.  As much as I grew up in a very stable and loving home (I was raised by my aunt and uncle) I never knew who my biological father (I now made peace with it).  Subconsciously I felt rejected, abandoned; I started searching for love in all the wrong places.  I said “Yes” to the first man who proposed.

To say this was an unhealthy relationship is an understatement.  And as Oprah put it “The signs are always there, we just chose to ignore them”.  A year of marriage and a beautiful princess later, I decided to walk out, with absolutely nothing but my daughter.  It was hard, really hard, but something deep inside me told me I’m enough, I deserve better, I deserve to be loved. I cried, studied ‘The Secret’, bargained with God, and cried some more.  I crawled, I walked, I ran, I flew, I grew stronger, and I healed.  Two years later, I made space in the closet for my future husband (that’s the power of ‘the secret’ positive thinking). I then looked up to God and my everyday prayer went something like this: Dear God Thank you for saving my life, for giving me the strength to survive such a painful divorce.  I think I’ve met enough rebound guys and well, I’ve had my fun and am ready to move on.  I am ready to meet the one you chose for me, but please please make sure that he loves my daughter just as much as he loves me or more if possible.

A couple of weeks later, he came into my life.  Just when I least expected it.  At 27 I got the same butterflies as I did at 16.  I remember telling God “If you just make him say hello to me, I’ll never ask for anything else, I promise.” He did more than that; he told me that I’m beautiful.  He was so different, so secure in himself.  A year later he quit his job and moved all across the world for me.  I knew he was the one the day he asked my daughter permission to marry me.  At 4years of age, she helped him chose the ring.  She held the ring as he proposed.

Fast forward 2 years later we have a beautiful son.  And with his birth was a start of horrific PPOCD.  When I thought I was losing my mind, my husband told me everything will be ok.  He held my hand and never missed a single doctor’s appointment.  He reminded me to take my meds, assured me that he loves me more now than he ever did and treated me the same way as he did when we met.

And so my mind goes back goes back to the movie I adored as a teenager….. A tale of love so unconditional, so strong and so pure…. Love that sticks with you no matter your past, your baggage, your illness or imperfections.  And my heart is full of gratitude, for having been blessed with such love.

When The Shame Monster Attacks, Remember That You are Enough

My word for this year is LOVE. In all caps. Not sure why it has to be in all capital letters but I do know that when it came to me, that's how I saw it in my mind; in big, bold, gigantic letters, all capitalized. It seems only fitting that LOVE is my word for 2012. It's also the word God woke me up with on my 29th birthday AND is in the verse I'm meditating on this year.

"He has brought me to his banquet hall, And his banner over me is love."

(Song of Solomon 2:4)

It's only the second month of the year and I'm already pondering and learning a lot about what love is...as well as what it isn't.

Yesterday was a perfect example of what love is not.

Love does not produce or induce shame.

If someone is attempting to shame you or if you feel ashamed of who you are or what you struggle with, that person is not loving you they way they should and you deserve.

I repeat that person is NOT loving you the way they should and you deserve.

Shame and love don't go together....at all.

I had an interaction yesterday that left me reeling and full of unhealthy emotions. I felt unworthy, unlovable, incapable...and full of shame about something I only partially have control over.

My ability to be a good, healthy mother to my son was questioned and even thrown in my face as if to say, "You're a good mom sometimes BUT because of your mental illness, I'm not 100% sure you can do this."  As if to imply that despite all the work I've done to find the right diagnosis and medication, and despite my progress in therapy, NONE of that is enough to overcome the fact that I live with a mental illness. NONE of that overcomes the fact that this person saw the worst parts of me for 2 years....

It hurts when a friend or loved one who's been close enough to see you at your worst, and in your most vulnerable moments, uses that knowledge to attack, shooting you with hollow round bullets instead of love, understanding and grace.

But as bad as that shit hurts and tears your insides apart, it's nothing compared to the Shame Monster who is stirred awake by such destruction and devours you whole.

That's what happened to me yesterday. The Shame Monster came to eat me alive and because I was already reeling from pain, I let him.

But after having two conversations with supportive and loving people in my life, who know about my weaknesses and struggles, I was able to remember one thing

I AM ENOUGH

That one sentence, that one declaration was enough to shrink the Shame Monster to the size of an gnat and become something I could easily swat away.

I am enough.

I don't have to hustle for worthiness.

I don't have to compromise who I am to prove otherwise.

I don't have to work for grace or love because they are already freely and unconditionally given to me from God and the REAL friends & family in my life.

I don't have to overcompensate or prove myself to anyone.

I am enough.

Period.

And that is something I'm learning about love, loving myself, and how others should love and treat me.

We can't change other people or how they treat us most of the time. But we can change and even choose how we respond and react to them and even situations that arise and try to make us feel less than.

We can choose to respond to ourselves with love, remembering that we already are enough, which in turn chokes out shame before it can even erupt and overtake us.

And? I am a damn good mother. Yes I had PPD. Yes I live with anxiety. Yes I am Bipolar.  But I'm a damn good mama because I do what it takes to attain and maintain my health. And that....is enough. End of story

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.

The "Race" to Marry: Interracial Marriages Increase, Yet Black Women Remain Single. How We Really Feel About Interracial Love. | Strollerderby

The "Race" to Marry: Interracial Marriages Increase, Yet Black Women Remain Single. How We Really Feel About Interracial Love. | Strollerderby. I read this and it pretty much seems to validate something I've been noticing and experiencing lately.  You see, I've been conducting a little experiment. About 6 weeks ago, after a conversation I had with 3 wonderful ladies I like to call my sHeroes & Unicorns crew, I signed myself up for a few dating sites: eHarmony, Match, & Chemistry. I've been out of the dating game for a few years so I thought it might be interesting to take a "peek" to see what the dating pool was like these days. Call it somewhat of a last ditch effort before I abstained from dating & relationships altogether.

MAN have I gotten a RUDE awakening. Now, to be completely honest, I expected it to be rough. I'm a Christian woman with 2 kids and a full-time student.Those are huge hurdles to clear and I understand why. What I wasn't expecting, however, was a fourth variable in this little experiment to weigh more than the others.  The variable I had considered to be a molehill turned out to be mountain no one seemingly wants to climb.

The variable? My race. Being African-American. Black. A black woman.

Now, I'm a pretty diverse person. I've dated men from various backgrounds, races, and what have you, so it's possible my idealism and naivete did me a disservice here. But then again, this isn't the 1950's or even the 1990's for that matter-it's 2011. The fact that my race would be an issue in the dating world just shocks me.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that men of other races aren't open to dating outside of their race-the opposite is actually quite true from what I've seen and what I've experienced. But what my little experiment and this article have opened my eyes to is the fact that my being another race isn't the issue-my being a part of a certain race in particular is. It appears as though men don't want to date black women. At all. To take it even further, black men don't even want to date black women. I know, you're thinking to yourself, "yea right, stop exaggerating, how can you even make that assumption?!" My answer is that I can make it because of what I've come up against not just from dating sites that ask men to list their preferences when it comes to their "ideal" match's race, but also from the experiences of other black women who have run into the same issue (for years) on the dating scene. (my sHeroes & Unicorns crew to be exact)

For the past 6 weeks, these dating sites have been flooding my inbox with "matches". The problem? Roughly 95% of them don't list black women on their "racial preference" list. I listed "no preference" on mine, but when I check out what race they "prefer" their ideal match to be? Here's what I see:

About His Ideal Match: White/Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic/Latino or Spanish origin, Middle Eastern, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaska Native, Other  

White. Asian. Hispanic/Latino. Middle Eastern. Indian. No matter what the man's ethnic background is, what you see above is what he's saying is his "ideal match" in terms of race. Even black men have the same listed on their profiles.

DUDE. What the H. E. Double Hockey Sticks is going on?! Wait, let me calm down. I don't want to come across as angry or upset,because that might fuel the stereotype about black women and why we are not considered valuable, desirable, or "ideal." Don't want to be the "angry black woman", but really?! In 2011, black women, not just women in general, have that bad of a stigma attached to us? Why? I'm sorry, maybe you can clue me in, because I don't understand. Maybe I don't understand because I don't fit the stereotypes. I never have.

I'm a black woman. With kids. I expect that to be a lot to handle and expect that to keep men away. I get it-"baggage" isn't "ideal". But because I'm an American black woman, I'm disqualified because you think we all act like the women you see on "Basketball Wives" or other "reality" shows?  I'm not a "baby mama drama" type-never have been. I'm passionate and yes I get angry, but who doesn't?  I like music of all kinds, hiking, going to different places and trying new things, I rock an Afro because I find it more liberating, and I consider myself to be a pretty eclectic, well-rounded woman. So why am I not dateable? What makes me less than "ideal"? My skin color? Stereotypes, misconceptions, and generalizations about my race and species as a whole? Really? So men assume that all black women are the same?

I've talked to my ex (who is Puerto Rican) about it, and he pretty much validated what men think about black women overall. He's told me about plenty of conversations he's had with men of different races who share the same perspective: black women are too difficult to be with. We are too much, too angry, too proud, too catty, too controlling, all about the money, not supportive, etc, etc. I've read numerous studies, articles, blogs & such about this issue and have found that it has been a hot one for a couple of years now.

Needless to say I'm pretty disheartened by this. It saddens & frustrates me. It saddens and frustrates other black women I know who don't reinforce or fit the stereotypes that are out there and seem to dominate culture's definition of who we are. It is so outlandish to me that it's that big of an issue, and that out of every other race & ethnicity, we are deemed "unacceptable." It angers me because I think black culture as a whole is feeding the wrong machine, and prioritizing the wrong things. Our culture is failing us-miserably.  And it angers me that black women are letting this happen, that black women are complaining about black men dating "white women" and other races (I'm talking to you Jill Scott-be sure to click and read through some of the comments-appalling all around!) instead of stepping it up & putting our best foot forward, generating more positive images & perceptions instead of negativity.

As a black woman who dates a man regardless of color, what am I to make of this? As a black woman who watches those closest to me struggle with trying to move around the same obstacle, I wonder what this does to our identity & self-image?

What do you think? Have you encountered this in your experience? What do you think the problem is?

Pluses & Minuses

The Plus I read an article (click here) yesterday that lifted my spirits and hope significantly.

Although suffering from a mood disorder like Bipolar can be excruciating, even when being managed by medication & therapies, those who suffer from it have awesome traits & qualities to them that the illness seems to enhance rather than diminish. At least according to this study anyway.

I mean, do I think I'm less of a person now that I know what I've been and am suffering from? Well, if I'm to be totally honest, I was starting to think so. Starting to believe that despite what God or anyone else said, this illness made me ugly and undesirable. I mean, I'm just coming off of a break-up with someone who saw me at my worst for 2 years. I've seen myself at my worst for 2, 2 1/2 half years. And I think, when you get a diagnosis & you start researching & looking back at how you've been behaving....clarity & understanding come, but so do the party crashers Guilt & Shame.  And they play your life on a big huge, sky-sized projector in your mind, stirring up your emotions and telling you how awful you are. And you start to believe it because....well....look at you. They say hindsight is 20/20 but OUCH. Really?

So like I said, I've been feeling some type of way about myself the past weeks. Trying to keep a stiff upper lip and smile through the tears & fears, but hating myself on the inside, hating that I felt like this is what will be defining my life. But then I read about this study that essentially said, "Hey, being bipolar ain't so bad-you actually have some rad traits", and that allowed God to break through the fog I've been in, grab my face in His hands and say, "SEE?! I told you. Do you have to learn to deal with and manage this? Yes. But girl, I still made you. I still love you. And NOTHING can separate you from My love. Not a circumstance, a mistake you've made, and definitely not being bipolar. I know it's hard, but lean on me, take your meds, go to therapy, and stop letting this define you. Not like this. It doesn't have to. Take it, and use it for something positive. You may struggle with this, but you are not this."

(and just in case you're wondering, yes, God really does talk to me like this. I don't know how He finds a way to edge in between my racing thoughts sometimes but He does. And when I can quiet my mind long enough to listen? Man.)

Reading that article for me was a plus. I needed to read it. To remind myself of who A'Driane is. Not just bipolar A'Driane. But A'Driane in all her totality. The beautiful and the ugly.

Speaking of the ugly, that brings me to The Minus.

The article talks about how Bipolar folks tend to be highly creative individuals. For me, this is heartwarming because not only do I write, but I've always wanted to be a dancer. And to a degree I am. I'm not technically trained, but I am planning on taking some classes so I can become a dance movement therapist....but I'll touch more on that in another post. Anyway, when I hear music, especially a song that speaks to me, or chords & melodies that move me, I see movement, I see choreography. I can't always replicate the moves I see in my mind, but I try. And then there are times when I watch a video of a dance and it nails whatever I'm dealing with right on the head. When I saw the following video a couple of seasons back, I was moved by it because for me, it represented my struggle with depression. Now, watching it again today, it's a vivid representation of the relationship a sufferer has with any kind of disorder. If I could choreograph a piece that visually captured how it feels to be depressed & suffer from being Bipolar, especially a rapid cycling version of it,  this would be it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_48OKZqYzHM]

The article I mentioned & linked to at the beginning of the post was posted on a Facebook page called Lithium & Lamictal. Feel free to "like" it and read the owners blog as well.

Three Strikes....And I'm Out

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pOjcAiMZO4]

3 Fridays ago I watched my relationship implode. AGAIN. I watched the man I had been trying to build a family & life (AND HAD JUST MOVED IN ) with implode and say things that gave me a clear indication of what he thought of me....and our relationship. After nearly 3 months of arguments, backpedaling, & eye-opening revelations about his feelings for me and this relationship, I had been watching....waiting even, for the fall out.He kept saying he didn't want to break up, but something in me wasn't convinced. I didn't want to believe it was coming, but that Friday morning I realized with a sickening feeling that it was happening again: We were breaking up. Again. After we said we wouldn't. After he said we were going to-HE WANTED TO- get married. After he said that we were going to get some things in order and then we would take that step. After Brennan had started calling him "dad". After I had moved in with him. After we had made these plans together, as a family. After he said don't worry, we'll get through this, he knows it's not easy, but it will be ok.  He had said just a few weeks prior that he wasn't happy, and that freaked me out, but I still held on to hope, thinking that we just needed to make it through this transition. Once the move was over, once we were settled in, he'd realize that this was doable. Once our finances stabilized and he felt more in control of his life, this wouldn't feel so overwhelming....

Overwhelming....that's what he had told me a month ago-my needs & emotional issues, & "stuff" had been too overwhelming the past 2 years.  "But I've grown so much and have made so much progress....and you aren't easy to deal with either," I had said, incredulous at what was coming out of his mouth. No...no we couldn't be back here again. We were past this weren't we? We had worked so hard to be past all of this. But a conversation with a friend had started raising his doubts and planting red flags....pile on outside stress and a few arguments between us, and there we were. Right back where we had worked so hard to travel away from.

That Friday, I knew it was over. I knew it because I realized that no matter what I do, how much I change, or how much growth I have, it's never going to matter. No amount of proving or progess on my part was going to overcome his fears, his doubts, his feelings, his frustration with not living the type of life he wanted. I realized then that it wasn't even about our differences anymore-that wasn't what was killing us. I realized that I was stuck in a cycle and a relationship with someone who's ideas about what a real relationship is are, to be frank, in fantasy land.

I gave up. I gave up because I realized that nothing I could ever do was going to contribute to his happiness. Not my efforts to get healthy, not my losing weight so he'd be physically attracted to me again, not my continued efforts to establish myself & career,  not anything. Nothing. I've been fighting a battle I was never going to win. Every time I think our relationship is in a certain place, he lets me know it's somewhere else, a place that's too unstable...too bad....to unsettling....too uncomfortable for him to handle.

But what about me? What about my discomfort? I struggle with believing that it ever really mattered. I've been dealing with being uncomfortable too.

He asked me if I thought I was victimized somehow by this. No. Because I know that the past 2 years haven't been easy and I haven't been easy to deal with. But I also feel that I tried beyond my best to keep striving to make things and myself better. I know that I've grown in leaps & bounds. But because he said things (unprovoked or pressured) about marriage and building a life together and having confidence & faith in this relationship I do feel like I've been strung along to a degree. And so I feel ashamed. Embarrassed. Confused.  I don't know what to think about this anymore. About him anymore. I don't trust him. Our friendship has taken a serious hit, which I didn't think would be possible-our friendship has always pulled us through our difficult times. But...I don't know. Angry. I am very angry. Angry because I feel like while he wanted a guarantee that he was going to be marrying a "happy person", he could never give me one that he was going to stick around and commit. Angry because I feel as though he's penalizing me for not being "happy" enough but not doing the one thing that would solve what he sees as the problem. Security. Less ambiguity. Do the honorable thing. I've given him everything I could. I sincerely don't understand why it wasn't enough. Even with his shortcomings, he was enough for me. Angry because now Brennan thinks of him as a father, and he treats him like he's his son, so now that we aren't together, what becomes of that bond, that relationship?  Brennan isn't biologically his, so he can say all day that he wants to be part of Bren's life, but how do I, as his mother, trust that? And I'm angry at myself most of all because I stayed. Because I fought for it. Because I went against everyone's advice, and now I just look-and feel-pretty stupid. Foolish.

If you can't deal with me or stick it out with me when I'm at my worst...then you don't deserve to be with me when I'm at my best. And I will be better, and become my best. 

So this is strike three....and I'm out. Out of faith, out of hope. But I have my boys. And I have my life. And I'm going to an amazing school to pursue a degree that I know is my passion. And I'm working on getting my mental health in the shape it needs to be in.  So although the clouds in my sky are heavy laden with pain, I do see their silver linings.

I can do this. We will be ok. Starting over wasn't what I anticipated or even wanted, but, well, it's what has to be done. So here's to starting over..."but this time as I and not as we."

Here's to making it. One step at a time.

ps. This is all I will ever have to say or write about this. I didn't want to write about it but I realized I had to get it out. So I could move on. This is in no way meant to bash or trash him. He's a great man and I'll always love him. This is just my way of releasing what I need to say. So there you go. Next....

Which Wolf Are You Feeding?

An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life… He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil—he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego.

The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”

They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win, Grandfather?”

The Elder simply replied, “The one you feed.”

via a heavy heart to carry..

Happy (?) Anniversary

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ont38UNlDco]

Two years ago today, I went on a casual date. Just for fun. Just to get out. That date changed my life, changed our lives in a way we weren't expecting. We have a son together, we've broken up 3 times, we're best friends, he's been a father to Brennan. We love each other, but the past two years have been painful for both of us....taken us to the limits of what we thought we could handle and then shoved us violently past even that.

I don't know what's going to come of us....where we will be next July 10th....for now, we're just...."a break-neck, train wreck, that's all we have....for better or worse I am tethered to you....it's a beautiful knot we just can't undo."

"Who are We Fooling" Lyrics

Navigating Consequences & Faith

I believe wholeheartedly in the power of transparency, but there are times when even I shrink from wanting to talk about something. After a lot of thought, some back & forth pros vs. cons discussions with myself and of course God, I finally decided to that if my blog is called "butterfly confessions" it wouldn't really be fair of me to not divulge a crucial change that has occurred in my life. I can't gloss it over or act as though it's not going to have an impact on myself or my future writing, because it is. So....here we go. I'm a Christian. I love God and Jesus Christ is my Lord & Savior. But look, here's the truth: I don't have it altogether. I don't have all the answers. There's alot that I don't understand. I have doubts. I have fears & anxieties. I fall short of His standards every day-several times a day. Sometimes I'm more concerned about my own selfish desires & what I want more than I am about what He wants for me & my life. That's just the truth. Do I desire to do the right thing & live a life that's pleasing to Him? Yes, very, very much. But I'd be lying if I said I do, all the time, everyday. I'm an imperfect being-that's not an excuse, it's simply a fact. There are things that I, even as a Christian, struggle with. And when I give in to my own selfish desires instead of turning away from temptation, when I let my flesh overpower me, I sin. And those sins always have consequence(s) that have to be lived through & dealt with.

2 years ago this summer I gave in to some selfish desires that led to sinning & some consequences that myself, my boyfriend, & my oldest son have had to live with ever since. I wasn't married. I had sex. I got pregnant. I had another child. Out of wedlock. A pretty much normal occurrence these days, but not very Christianly, eh? Yea, I know. The guilt I felt over it rocked my relationship with my boyfriend, myself & with God. The shame & guilt over what I had done pretty much kept me from enjoying much of my pregnancy-I tried. I desperately wanted to. I eventually came to a place where I realized that while God may not have been please with me, He forgave me. But I still struggled with the guilt. And shame. And judgement. Not from God but from people. And it depressed me. That, along with health issues, & the challenges one would expect from two different people with two different lives having to learn how to merge & grow together into one, into a family, ravaged my relationship. To say it's been a roller coaster ride is putting it mildly....

A little over a year ago, I wrote about one challenge in particular that I was struggling with: moving in together or continuing to live in two separate places. Marriage was something that was talked about, but we weren't even close to, so that wasn't an option. Having the baby meant I wouldn't be in school, which meant no GI Bill benefits to pay my bills. Living in two separate places would put a strain on our finances, especially with him being the only one working....but I felt I couldn't compromise...and neither did he.....long story short, we broke up and were stuck with two leases for another year. Two rents, two car payments, daycare for two kids, two utilities payments....yea, everything has been double for the past year. Once I went back to school I was able to start carrying more of the financial weight, but a year later we're both pretty much broke. We've made it through the year, but the strain of dual living arrangements has destroyed us financially.

So back in April, after I had gotten accepted to my school of choice & was jubilant over my upcoming graduation, we were faced with the same question: were we going to live together or not?  After breaking & making up for the second time, we had pretty much decided that this, our family, was what we were going to make work, regardless of our differences or circumstances. No more running. No more walking away. No more giving up. We have kids we're raising, my boyfriend is the closest thing to a father my oldest son has had the past 2 years, & despite our growing pains, we are best friends. We just are. And while we are in a much better place than we were even just 6 months ago, and marriage is definitely part of the plan, it's not happening tomorrow...so the question became whether or not we wanted to go through another year of like the one we just had. The honest answer & conclusion we came to is no. Even if we wanted to, we can't. Our circumstances just don't give us the room to. It's not feasible, financially especially. So again, I was faced with truth versus my circumstances. Compromising. As I've said before I've learned some lessons about compromising. Hindsight is always 20/20, so looking back I can say that it's best not to compromise when it comes to issues such as this at all. But once you've made the compromise that leads to a sin that yields it's consequences, what do you do then?

I've thought long & hard about this for months. Prayed about it. And the conclusion I've come to is that all you can do is navigate the waters as best you can. Would it be better to never get in the boat in the first place? Yes. Should I have not put myself in this position? Yes. But I did, and part of being an adult is accepting responsibility for your actions, and that's what I've been trying to do for the past two years.  Be responsible. Live right. Please God. I don't always hit it right on all three counts. But I've been navigating the seas of consequence the best I can and begging God for mercy & grace as I ride through each tidal wave. And when I made the decision to move in with my boyfriend, I did it with a prayerful heart. A heart begging for a sign, or a door to open, or a way to avoid this. But....there was no sign, no doors opened & the waves that lay before me proved  unavoidable. So I'm doing what I have to do, especially for my sons, until the season comes when I can do something different. That's all I've got folks.

I know this isn't the "Christian" way to do things. I know this isn't considered Godly. I know this isn't ideal or traditional, I know people will have their opinions & judgments about me "shacking up" with my boyfriend. I'm not sitting here pretending like I don't know these things, or like I'm comfortable with this or like this is how I want my life to be. I'm not even going to act like I think God is okay with this. I honestly don't know the answer to that question. I've asked. But I've also asked for understanding. For mercy. I want to be married. But I don't want to force someone into marrying me-what's the good in that? That's not healthy. I truly believe that it will happen when it's supposed to....so until then...I keep navigating. I keep putting up what boundaries I can (like being celibate) & not allowing guilt or shame about my situation to keep me from drawing back from Him.  I keep praying with each step I take that I'm using this experience to grow, learn, & lean heavily on Him...trust in Him....ground myself in Him so that I give in to my own desires less & bend toward His more. And I honestly wouldn't be in this relationship if I didn't believe I wasn't supposed to be-I've struggled & prayed over that too. And well....I'm here.

I'm not asking Him to "bless mess". My prayer instead is that when I make mistakes, mistakes that break me, that He will help me wade through the mess those sins create, building me back up in the process. No more shame. No more condemnation. No more guilt. Just more navigating....and giving myself to the building process :)

?

I know I'm supposed to be writing everyday, but....it's like I've lost my voice....no, it's more like I've been sucker punched and have had the breath knocked out of me....it's returning slowly...very slowly...I can't seem to calm my mind down enough to write like I want to. I don't want to sound crazy...but I feel crazy...I don't want to sound like a woman scorned....but that's how I feel....I don't want to be angry....but I am....I don't want to sound sad...but I am...I don't want to ask questions...but I have a ton....I want to sound hopeful....but I don't have hope. My hope was taken advantage of...and so it's gone. I don't have hope....not in him...not anymore....I was lied to....I was deceived....I was betrayed....I can forgive someone leaving me....but to forgive someone lying to me  is going to take some time....and God's help....so....for now....I just haven't settled on any words to really dig into how I feel and what I've been experiencing this week. Pain? yes. Shock? yes. Disbelief? yes. The only positive emotions I've felt this week is love-from God and those who have shown their support for me this week....and peace-given out in just big enough doses, given at just the right moments to help me sleep for a few hours at a time....and to keep me from losing my mind....so....until the words come....

The End

My relationship ended for a second time Saturday night. Only this time it ended quietly-no blow up, no mean, nasty barbs traded this time. It ended with a simple argument mixed with a tablespoon of frustration from both parties...and when I woke up Sunday morning he was gone. No good bye, nothing-just silence. I sent a text Sunday after church telling him of a renewed committment to a particular part of my faith, and he responded by informing me he was "taking a step back" from this relationship.The first time we broke up, I didn't know what to think. This time, my gut told me it was over-there would be no stepping forward- and I needed to get to work picking up the pieces of my life ASAP. This time, there's a certain finality I wasn't expecting. It's over.

I spent last night sobbing hysterically on my floor...crying as I bathed my two boys and put them to bed-their curiously concerned faces begging to know why mommy was upset...crying as I walked around my apartment trying to clean up and keep the tsunami of pain in my heart at bay. Crying in my bed after I just gave up and let the first waves of sickening pain engulf me, swallowing me in a despair that left me gasping for air-and praying to God to send me a dose of peace big enough to satiate the appetite of the ravenous beast that was ripping and tearing my heart apart. Sounds dramatic...I know. I wish that's all it was. I wish I was exaggerating. I wish it hadn't felt like that. I wish last night had never happened. I wish none of this had. But wishful thinking is just that. I have to deal with reality instead.

I wish I could put into words how tired I am of pain. Pain. Pain from my own crappy decisions and pain from others and theirs. Pain. I mess up, I'm not perfect, but I try. I try and work hard, even when I don't want to, to just hang in there and tough it out. Even when I have nothing left, I still try. And its never good enough, its just never enough. Giving, compromising even to the detriment of myself and my relationship with God (HUGE mistake-lesson learned), sacrificing, hell sacrificing even my body- so someone else could have a child-a beautiful child-and all I get in return...is pain. I'm so sick of PAIN.

p.s. I still love him.