self-love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things I Like About Me

Just Be Enough has an awesome series going on right now that focuses on things we like about ourselves. Since I'm on a self-love journey, I figured this would be a perfect writing prompt for me to do. 

As you know from my Self-Love Saturday posts here on 'Confessions, I haven't and don't always like myself....but I'm slowly learning how to by

  • Changing my expectations of myself
  • Paying attention to what makes me feel like...well ME
  • Being kind to myself
So here is my list of what I like about myself at this point in my self-love journey....
  1. I LOVE COLOR! GIMME COLOR!
  2. I LOVE  to dance.
  3. I'm goofy and silly. Laughing is my favorite thing to do.
  4. I enjoy laughing at things that would make a 12 year old boy giggle.
  5. I'm a veteran. While I didn't enjoy being a cop, I did really enjoy serving my country alongside some pretty awesome people.
  6. I'm a painter
  7. I'm a writer
  8. I like my eyes....they are a really soft, light brown color.
  9. I enjoy bright eyeshadows (go back and take a look at #1)
  10. I have rainbow hair
  11. I am a good mother to my children. Oh it has taken me SO LONG and lots of therapy to be able to say/realize this.
  12. I'm a Prince fan
  13. I'm passionate
  14. I enjoy helping people
  15. I'm a fast learner and enjoy learning
  16. I enjoy cooking and baking....I make a mean veggie lasagna!
  17. I'm a bible geek
  18. I'm adventurous....despite my fears and anxieties
What do you like about yourself?  Link up and share!

A Makeover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dance Party Friday: Stronger Edition

"This illness won't get you...You are too strong...tomorrow holds the promise of a new day." My friend Kim's words rang in my ears as I fell asleep last night, and were the first words that I heard as I awoke this morning.

The past 3 weeks have been a roller coaster ride with more loops than I'd like, some throwing my mental health off track, others reminding me of how fragile life is, as several of my friends and even my mother are facing serious health & life issues....and yet still others have forced me to face painfully abusive memories I'd rather forget, but can't because working through them is the only way I'll heal and be able to eventually forgive.

But....

You are too strong....this life needs you

I woke up with these words pushing me out of bed and on my feet. I looked around at my apartment, at the mess that accumulates during my lows, and these words directed each step I took as I set to cleaning it all up.

This illness won't get you....You are too strong....this life needs you

I repeated them, over and over while taking a shower, combing my hair, painting my nails, eating breakfast, watching cartoons with my sick kiddo....until I finally felt strong, strong enough to keep fighting and keep moving.

A friend of mine told me on Facebook this week that she doesn't understand how I can continue to hold onto a belief in God when I've been through so much hell in my life. She then asked me a rather poignant and difficult question: why does God allow bad things to happen?

Not wanting to give a cookie cutter answer full of Christianese, I waited and directed the question at God: "Why do you allow bad things to happen? Why do you allow us to suffer if you love us so much? Why God? Why have I had to endure so much pain, so many rough circumstances? Why do I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle with this illness and everything else? I'm tired God. I'm just tired."

I spent the week telling God that I'm tired of being beat down and broken, but woke up this morning with Kim's words guiding me and an answer...or at least some kind of theory.

You might not like or agree with my theory and that's ok....but y'all I think we experience brokenness and pain in our lives as a reminder that we are human. We like to think we're invincible but the truth is we aren't.  What if we went through life never experiencing loss, pain, hurt, rejection, or a part of us that malfunctions and needs fixing? If we didn't experience these things, I don't think we would know or understand and value things like LOVE....we wouldn't know how to be vulnerable, which would render us incapable of empathy and compassion for others.  We wouldn't know how to care for one another, and be there for each other, and be able to bear one another up in times of need. Pain and brokenness....no one wants to endure or experience either, but without them as the fertilizer, seeds of courage, hope, love, empathy, and strength wouldn't grow in us and we would be nothing more than calloused, cold, stagnant beings.

So we experience things that challenge us...that break us...that remind us that life is fragile and to not take it for granted, no matter what hand we've been dealt. We only get one hand in this poker game y'all. That's it. Just one hand and one set of chips is all we get to bet with. It's up to us how we handle what we're dealt.

So no...I don't like the fact that my meds aren't working and I need yet again to keep searching for the right cocktail. I don't like that I have to live with a condition that renders me incapable of wanting to live at times. I don't think it's fair that I had to endure abuse at the hands of men who were supposed to protect me. I hate that I have to struggle my way through life....

But guess what? I'm too strong, only because I've endured these things and am still here today, writing this to you. I'm strong. Only because I have been hurt and broken. I am strong because I have known pain and am learning  to use it as the bridge to vulnerability and wholehearted living.

I am too strong. This illness will not get me. My painful past will not keep me trapped and tangled. I won't let it. Instead I'll use it; to help others, to encourage and inspire, to empower those who have been through the same to overcome and choose to keep living. I've had bad things happen to me, but I'll let them teach me how to treat and love my boys and others I encounter in this life.

I don't know what you're facing, or what you've had to endure in this life. But I do know that if you're enduring it, if you're surviving it, then I know for a fact that you are a stronger person because you experienced it. I know from first hand experience that if you spend all your time asking why, the pain will only intensify and breed more pain. Choose to use what you've been through to help someone else-let it teach you how to live wholeheartedly.

The hurt and pain won't last forever. As Kim told me last night....it's always darkest right before the dawn. So stand up. Dance your way through the rain drops. Your'e stronger than you think.

note: my video isn't perfect..I just couldn't get the syncing right for some reason today. so I apologize for my crappy editing skills. I hope you still enjoy it anyway. 

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/35775673]

Self-Love Saturday: Make a Self-Love Contract

While cleaning up the disaster zone known as my bedroom this week, I came across a notebook I hadn't seen in a while. Curious as to what was in it, I started flipping through it and came across several entries from during & after my pregnancy with Alex.  I was blown away by reading what I had written during those times and it's very clear to me now that I definitely had some antenatal depression, which is something I wish I had the courage back then to recognize and seek treatment for. Perhaps if I had, my experience with PPD & anxiety would have been drastically different. But it wasn't and that's ok because I've learned valuable things from it, I've met valuable people from it, and I'm able to help others by sharing my experience, so hey at least it served a purpose right? Something else I came across that was rather interesting and rather inspiring was a sort of contract I had written out to myself. I'm not sure exactly when I wrote it, but reading it brought tears to my eyes, because it was full of love and compassion to myself, something that was missing a lot during the past 2 years.

So, since I was inspired by what I read, I thought I'd share it with you and encourage you to make up your own Self-Love Contract/Goal sheet. I updated some of it, especially the parts about beating depression since I now have a new diagnosis.

addyeB's Self-Love Contract

I, A'Driane Nicole Dudley,  agree to do the following:

  • Believe that I am an awesome person.
  • Believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who loves me tremendously
  • Believe that I am a good woman, even with all of my flaws & imperfections
  • Will be confident in my abilities as a woman, mother, Christian, student, writer, dancer, etc
  • Believe that I am beautiful. Really.
  • Battle stigmas surrounding mental illness
  • Take my medications everyday
  • Attend every therapy appointment unless an emergency occurs
  • Read God' word everyday, even if it's just one line!
  • Talk to God daily
  • Smile at least once a day
  • Be colorful-from my hair, to my clothes & accessories, to how I decorate my house...I will live in COLOR
  • Will allow myself to make mistakes & give myself room to learn from them
  • Be a strong, loving & nurturing mother for my boys without smothering them or inhibiting them from being who they are.
  • Attain my degree in social work, a masters in counseling, and a certification in DANCE movement therapy
  • LOVE myself
  • Be KIND to myself
  • Share my stories with others. Live wholehearted. Be vulnerable. Be open. Reach out. Advocate for others & myself.
  • "Recover" from Bipolar Disorder through compliance, exercise, nutrition, a structured routine, and coping strategies.
  • Dance at least 2-3 times a week.
  • Love my muffin topped, overstretched, tiger striped belly...because I'm a real woman and this belly housed my incredible boys. I will appreciate my body for what's it's gone through and given me.
  • I will paint-even thought I have no idea what I'm doing. HA!
  • Yoga...lots of yoga. Only doing exercises that work with my body not against it.
So that's my contract. It's not set in stone and is open to adjustments, additions, etc as time goes one. It's kinda like my life list, but it's a LOVE list. To me, and for me. To print out and put up where I can see it every day and remind myself to LOVE....ME.
Do you have a list like this? Would you do one? What would you put on it? Feel free to share!
p.s. A few months ago I wrote a SLS post about dying my hair and living my life in color...can I tell you that that decision was the BEST one I've made like, EVER? It's been such a freeing experience y'all. For years I wanted to dye my hair and express my creativity in that fashion but either couldn't or was too afraid of other's opinions...now? Look at me :) This is truly what it feels like to live outside the corners of your mind...

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

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

I laughed and played with the boys.

I danced. A lot. To my favorite songs.

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

We shopped for necessities.

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

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

Well....

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

I wish the glee were authentic...

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

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

Because this pain...

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

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

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

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

Until I got that phone call...

(please remind me to be kind to myself)

Self-Love Saturday: In Pictures

New colors in the 'do... 20120107-184528.jpg

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Tea before therapy....

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Mani....

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Pedi....(FINALLY)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dance Party Fridays: Song Suggestions

I want to apologize for not having a dance video for you today.... If you read yesterday's post,  then I'm sure you can understand why I'm taking a break today.

BUT

That doesn't mean there won't be one next week...and the week after...and the week after that...

In fact, I have a lot of nifty things I'm working on for Dance Party Fridays this year and I'm really excited!

  • Guest Dancers
  • Linky tool so you can link up your own dance video
  • Dancing contests w/giveaways and a chance to be featured here on 'Confessions
  • a monthly "dance party" hangout on Google +

Next week I'll be dancing to "Moves like Jagger" for Imperfect Momma over at Really? I'm a Mom?....

It's highly probable my two BFFs Tori & Kelsey will be joining me for a little Risky Business a couple of weeks after that...

The always fabulous Joy Tanksley and I will be dancing together...(YAY!) Seriously y'all...she's GOOD!

And I'm already working on concept ideas for "Shake it Out," , and "Raise it Up" by the lovely Florence & The Machine....(think scarves & ribbbons...lots of color!)

So that gives you a glimpse into what I'm planning for the year...But I need your help, friends. I need to know what you want to see! I'm taking any and all song suggestions, ideas, you name it, I want your feedback. I'm even open to doing dance video dedications...know someone who could use a smile, laugh, or some inspiration to get their body groovin? Leave me a comment here or email me your request at bconfessions(at)gmail(dot)com. And if you're a new reader and have never seen a DPF? Well head over to the Tag cloud or categories list & watch :)

I'm serious. I'm looking for all kinds of songs, any genre. As long as I can move my body to it, it doesn't have heavy profanity, isn't hateful, and is inspiring or groovalicious in some way....IT'S ON.

So bring it dear readers. Hit me with your best shot ( Hey, another song idea!)

and now....for some "dance biscuts"

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrUJ5PLLxLQ]

and because I'm obsessed with So You Think You Can Dance, I thought I'd show a couple of my favorites from hip hop choreographers NappyTabs, a husband & wife team :)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oxfpjbn5YNQ]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yZYOghQYG0]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2UCUD6lFFo]

(I WISH I had their skills, UGH! Fab. So fab.)

Tis the Season...For Love & Light to Win

Confession: I was supposed to write this post yesterday, but I got caught up in

  • Wrapping gifts I didn't buy until Thursday
  • Sleeping
  • making HOMEMADE PopTarts for the-boys-who-won't-eat-anything.
  • Sleeping
  • Wiping yards of snot from Alex's nose
  • Cleaning
  • Trying to keep my emotions in check
  • Having theological debates on FB with legalists who claimed my heart ain't in the right place if my behind isn't in CHURCH on Christmas morning.
  • Having a dance/rock & roll/headbanging party complete with air guitar and fist pumping

It was a busy day, but the best one I've had since Monday night...when Alex spiked a fever of 103 that stayed til Wednesday WHILE suffering through an ear infection and lung congestion.  I hated this week and the way it made my life just ooze out of me. I'm so tired it feels like I've been pummeled with Chuck Norris' fists.  The stress of it  triggered my BP which led to mood swings and a mental nosedive into a low. We won't even talk about the side of holiday blues that edged it's way onto the plate as well. (Me+ Holidays=Depression)

But I will talk about the fact that when  I woke up yesterday, I felt strength I hadn't felt all week. It pulled me out of bed and helped me face the day...and Christmas.  It helped me quietly shake off the stress of the week and live free. I was able to laugh and enjoy the shenanigans that come with parenthood.  The reality of how different life is this Christmas still lingered, but I was able to avoid it's gaze and focus on the good stuff....

...like LOVE. That strength I felt when I woke up? It was love. I could feel it emanate from deep in the center of my heart and start to spread itself to every corner, every dark place inside of me. I read somewhere this week that Christmas originated out of a week long festival or celebratory season of light's victory over darkness. You know, the winter solstice stuff. While I choose to take this time of the year to celebrate the birth of my Savior, I can totally relate to celebrating light's beating the crap outta darkness. Who wouldn't? Yesterday that's what I felt: God's love for me shining bright and pushing back the darkness I had found myself in all week long.  It enabled me to take care of myself yesterday (on Self-Love Saturday) , something I'd been unable to do all week.

Wherever your source of love & light comes from, I really hope it finds you and fights for you when you need it to this holiday season. The holidays are rough to get through, especially if you've lost a loved one, are living with an illness (mental or otherwise), or have a loved one who is. Take heart. Focus on love. Let it triumph over the darkness you're in. Allow it to lift and support you so you can TAKE CARE OF YOU....which will guarantee you can take care of those in need and those around you.

Spending Christmas single, and with my boys in two different houses definitely isn't my ideal way to celebrate....but at least I still have love to rejoice over, right? From God, from my children, from my friends and other family members....I still have love.

And that?

Is enough. My prayer is that it's enough for you as well.

I've been playing these two songs since yesterday, and they are definitely two of my favorites....

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXe8PFKsOIc]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCunuL58odQ]

MERRY CHRISTMAS y'all.

Self-Love Saturday: Paying Attention is Everything

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Self-Love Saturday: Focusing on the Good Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweatpant Crotch

Last week, I was watching this video my friend Susan  posted on her blog of her baby moving around in her belly. I know that sounds very alien-ish and icky, but it was absolutely adorable! It made my empty uterus feel the hollow yearnings of being pregnant and I started to feel the pangs of "Awwww, I miss being pre-" I hadn't even got the sentence out of my mouth before Alex let out a wail mid-sleep and my right ovary tied itself in a boy scout knot...I took that as God snapping me back to reality & I left la la land immediately!

When we chatted a couple of days later, we talked about.....SWEAT PANTS! I mean we talked about other things, but we talked at length about sweatpants. About how awesome they are...how comfortable & warm they are...how easy they are to just slide on your body-there's no tugging, inching, heaving & holding of breath to get them up & over your hips, or any of that craziness you have to go through when you want to rock a pair of jeans (let's not even MENTION skinny jeans OK?!) Try sliding a pair of jeans on over hips that have birthed children...go head. I'll wait.....

Now, when you're able to pick yourself up off the floor & catch your breath, slide them back off somehow and slide into a pair of sweatpants. See & FEEL the difference?

Now, don't get me wrong. I like fashion. I like to dress a certain way. I have style. It's a nerdy, bohemian, tomboy kind of style but it's a style...one that I'm comfortable with. I like wearing makeup, especially brightly hued eye shadows...but let's keep it real here people.

I LOVE SWEAT PANTS.

Period. Jeans are cool, but look if I happen to be in Wal-Mart or Target and I see sweats on sale for $6-8, I'm buying 10 pair easily. In different colors. I REALLY enjoy wearing male sweats because some less-than-bright crayon in the box decided women's sweats should be form-fitting. NO THEY SHOULDN'T! That defeats the purpose! Sweatpants can be sexy just as they are, IF you wear them appropriately. And I do. So does Susan. In fact, it was the video she posted that made her realize that she's been wearing them alot lately....AND LOVING IT. We also both realized that in the video was a perfectly aimed shot of her....sweatpant crotch. HAHA

From that moment an idea was born. We decided to try something.  As mothers, as women, there's this pressure to always look put together, like you can do & be all. We all know that's not the case. But I bet nearly all of our Facebook, Twitter, professionally designed blogs & About Me head shots don't give a complete picture of who we are. I'm guilty of it! I'll admit to only taking pictures when I think I look presentable. But let's be honest. I have two kids under age 5 and I'm a full-time college student. I spend the majority of my time picking cheerios up off the floor, buried in homework, and chasing after my kids. And I do it in sweats and comfortable sneakers, chucks or puma's preferably. I admire Mamas who can strut around in the latest fashions and the young girls I see coming to class looking like they H&M threw up on them. But as for this mama? I'm all about the sweats, baby, especially with fall lowering the temps & winter just around the corner!

So Susan and I are starting a revolution. All you have to do to partake is throw on your favorite pair of comfy sweats, snap a pic & post it. Tweet it, Facebook it, blog it, instagram it, whatever. Just snap away and feel liberated & supported knowing there are at least 2 other women out in the world who are letting it all hang out there with you. You aren't alone. You are beautiful no matter what you wear. You are gorgeous & sexy. Own it regardless of your attire.

I've posted my #Sweatpantcrotch snaps....head over to Susan's place to view hers & read her post...then go dig in your drawer or reach up to the top of your closet shelf, grab your sweats & show them some love...they've missed you.

Let the revolution to ditch perfection & embrace acceptance begin!

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.

Dance Party Friday: Baby I'm a (Imperfect) Star

This was a tough week for me. Not as tough as previous ones, but tough. I started my semester this week and although I was excited about diving into this new chapter of my life, I underestimated the impact it would have on me mentally, emotionally & even physically. In my mind I was thinking that since this was something good, something positive, something fulfilling even, that I wouldn't experience any type of anxiety; at least not the type that leaves me a hot, sweaty, shaking mess. Boy was I wrong... All day Monday I could feel that I was talking faster than normal, but I couldn't really stop myself. Classes were great but by the time I picked up the boys, got us home & dinner was settling in our bellies, I couldn't for the life of me figure out how I had done any of it. The whole day felt like a blur and by the time I got the boys down for bed, my thoughts were racing, heart was pounding, I was shaking...I was a wreck, even though emotionally I felt good. I was such a wreck I had to force myself to go to bed. Tuesday, I was still a mess, totally debilitated by it, unable to concentrate or focus, couldn't think, felt edgy....it wasn't until I took some advice from my #PPDChat mamas & forced myself to boggie for 20 minutes that I started to feel clearer mentally and actually feel the anxiety finally subside.

When I went to record this yesterday, I didn't feel like it, but I made myself. When I went to edit it, I stressed myself out because I couldn't get the timing quite right, no matter how hard I tried. The perfectionist in me reared her ugly head and I actually considered not posting a video at all today.

What made me change my mind? Realizing that much like life & our own humanity, recovery of any type isn't perfect and doesn't always go according to our carefully laid out plan. You can go to therapy, exercise, take your meds, cross all your t's & dot every i, but sometimes, things just don't go as they should. Sometimes they still end up messy. Sometimes despite all the preventative maintenance we do we still break down and have a bad day...a bad week...or maybe even a bad month.

This week, despite the good that was happening to me, in spite of my having followed my wellness plan, Anxiety still reared it's ugly head. Hypomania still stopped by & hung around for a couple of hours. I had two bad days. Had some bad moments. But I realized that having these moments of weakness isn't a reflection of our character or who we are as a person. If anything, I'm coming to realize that actually embracing the imperfection in ourselves & in our lives is what actually strengthens, heals, & gets us further down life's path. If you're like me and you're wrestling or battling with something in your life, take heart and give yourself a break. Don't let a bad moment or a funky couple of days make you give up on your recovery. Embrace what makes you imperfect & realize that sometimes despite your best efforts, something may go wrong. Instead of letting it discourage you like I almost did, or underestimating it like I did, just grab it by the horns & drag it along with you. Don't let it stop you from moving or believing in yourself. Imperfection doesn't dim the brightness within us, it enhances it-if we allow it to in a positive way.

So that's what this Dance Party Friday is about, what this video symbolizes for me. It's silly and goofy, and totally imperfect and so am I. But baby, I'm still a star :)

Alright enough with the Oprah talk-it's "dancey dance time." :)

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/28482825]

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

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

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

The Cons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dance Party Friday: Square Biz Edition

Ok. So. Inspired by a chat with one of my amazing Twitter mamas (@momgosomething) I thought to myself, "Self, what makes you feel good?" Music. Dancing. "Wouldn't it be nifty if you could have a dance party with other people online, people like @momgosomething, who loves to crank up the volume and dance in her kitchen as much as you do?" Wow. Yes. Yes it would. I mean people have #Wineparties & Twitter chats, & GNO's on Twitter. Why not have a dance party? On a Friday. Just because it something that makes me feel good. Gets me moving, gets my heart pumping, makes me feel ALIVE and forget about the daily grind I'm in. Makes me forget that I struggle in the mental health dept,and makes me feel free.  Feel joy. Feel good about myself, reminds me that yes, there is a funny, silly goofball of a geek inside who. just. has. to. dance. Why not use dance as therapy? (I am after all planning on becoming a dance movement therapist) Use it as a tool to help me shed some insecurities about myself ? Use it to learn how to love & accept myself in whatever state I'm in or weight I'm at ? Plus they say exercise is a good way to battle depression & other mood disorders. It's a proven coping method.

So. Yes. I've decided to dance. Every Friday, I will post a new video of myself getting down with the get down & groovin to my fave tunes. Any song, any genre, anything that strikes my fancy I will be shaking my fanny to. And you, my dear readers will get to see it. See me make a fool of myself but see me really go after this self-love thing with a vengeance.

But I don't just want you to be a spectator. I want you to participate. They say that if you want to see real change and want to make a real impact then throw down a challenge. So here is my challenge to you: Dance with me. Let's find a way to Skype, Facebook Video Chat, or hangout on Google + and just DANCE. We can pick a song, maybe two and just have a dance party together, in good fun, just to let loose at the end of the week. If you want to send me a video of yourself getting your groove on & want to post it, email me a link: bconfessions (@) gmail (dot) com.

Below is my first video. Don't worry, I'm buying a better webcam, so I'm working on the video quality. And I was super nervous so forgive the deer in headlights serious looks I have at times. Just me fighting the urge to quit and go vomit in the toilet HAHAHAHAAAAA. I'm serious.  Enjoy!

http://www.vimeo.com/28127940

I'd really love to thank Kimberly for inspiring me & giving me the courage to post this. You should really read her blog (see how her name's in pink? click on it!) Her owning her story and sharing her experiences helped save my life. Seriously. And I also want to thank Joy Tanksley for giving me the push as well to run with this idea. Not only is her blog awesome, but she posts videos of her boogie-ing too! Check it out.......and then, make urself some room where ever you are & just dance baby. :)

http://vimeo.com/26590850

Happy Friday!