writing

Writing Fire

Current writing mood... 

Sometimes when I sit to write or paint, nothing comes and I'm left staring at a heap of dry bones. But then there are times when the Muse arrives and she flies past me in a rush, like a passing train, the force of her entrance pushing me back on my heels. I'm then left to chase after her; doing my best to keep her pace, sync my rhythm to hers and attune my ears and hands to what she's unearthing. In she sweeps, bringing words that sit in my heart, at the tips of my fingers and on my tongue, burning hot. She'll invite me to close my eyes and trust my hands as they move across the canvas, ignited by the burn of inspiration. The heat of her presence becomes comforting the more I yield to it, the more I allow it to burn away what no longer serves and what still needs refining. When she goes to depart the bones are no longer just a lifeless pile of brittleness in a heap at my feet. They are instead alive and dancing across my keyboard or across a page, brush or palette knife keeping the beat like a metronome. 

 

"Now I see fire,

Inside the mountain, 

I see fire, 

burning the trees, and 

I see fire, 

hollowing souls, 

I see fire, 

blood in the breeze...

and I hope that you'll remember me."

Ed Sheeran from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug soundtrack

Here's a Little Story

Easter, 1984, age 2 An excerpt from an old art journal I was writing in at age 20. 

"Here's a little story about three people: a mother, a father, and their daughter. The daughter loved them both dearly, but the mother didn't love the father, so in return the father refused to love the daughter. The pain and bitterness that rooted its way around the chambers of his heart were too great to break free of. Hate grew exponentially in his heart and flowed from his lips and out of his fingertips as easy as the wind on a Fall day.  He thought their daughter would hurt him the way her mother had, and he couldn't bring himself to face that kind of pain again; ruining their daughter's life became his method of coping and healing instead. He ruined their daughter's life the way her mother had ruined his...or at least he tried to. He couldn't though, despite his attempts, because although she was broken and her eyes never seemed to be rid of tears, she triumphed by forgiving both her mother and her father. She forgave them for the mistakes they made in their youthful haste to play grown ups. She chose to forgive because she loved them in spite of the history they had written for each other. She forgave them because if it wasn't for them, she wouldn't be here and she wouldn't know of a God who redeems all and loved her when they could not. So she won. She lived. She loved. Because love conquers all. "

June 29, 2002: A Beginning

June 29, 2002: A Beginning

To this day there is only one other person who knows the exact whys and hows of that season and what had been happening over the two year time period that finally forced me to leave. That person was my closest confidant and more importantly, believed me when I told her what was happening. She was the only one who ever has. I didn't always do right by her as a friend, I couldn't I was too much of a mess mentally and emotionally, but I'm grateful for what she gave me: a place to stay, friendship, an escape through writing and art journaling...an identity. It was she who first told me I that really, I was an artist and was born to create. A poet. A wordsmith who's words bore power. When I had told her that I was afraid to write because writing had always been dangerous for me, that my words unfiltered and raw on the page pushed others to silence my voice and invalidate my sense of being upon discovery, she gave me an alias: Nicole Paul. My middle name + my favorite apostle.

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10 Beautiful, Amazing, Breathtaking Experiences I Want to Have With My Art This Year

"List ten beautiful, amazing, breathtaking experiences you want to have THIS YEAR with your art," my friend and story coach Elora wrote on the wall of our writing community's Facebook group last Monday. As I watched the women in our group start to brave the vulnerability that comes with speaking your desires and dreams out loud and post their lists of ten, I sat with my heart pounding and wrestling itself, hands frozen over the keys, barely breathing.

"I'll be back. I have to think about this...I can't answer this yet." That was my response.

I couldn't answer right away because I was too afraid and unsure of how big I should dream for the next 12 months. To break through fear's paralysis, I pulled out the Life Menu I hadcreated at Lime Retreats last month and looked over the things I had written, at the light words that had emerged as themes on that list.

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I re-read notes I've been jotting down as I read my way through Desire Map and reminded myself how I want to feel as I go about my life as a writer, artist, advocate, and mother. I sat in my living room after tucking the boys in their beds and meditated on new horizons as I stared at this painting above our TV.

New HorizonsI had my answer by the end of the week, but I didn't sit down and write them out until yesterday. In the end, I decided dreaming big and wild with some wouldn't hurt anything. Writing them out, however was another, scarier matter. My hands shook and Doubt shouted all kinds of not so nice things as I wrote out each one in my art journal. Afterwards I jumped on the computer, pulled up Facebook and wrote my response on the group thread:

"Ok. Here goes:

1. Finish writing my memoir.

2. Launch Kintsukuroi Women's website/blog and self-publish the KW anthology for women of color living with mental illness. 3. Hold an art show or exhibit my work at a local street fair.

4. Paint 100 canvases.

5. Have a post published either on Brain Child Mag, Mamalode, HuffPo, or ONE.org, Oprah.com, Bipolar Hope Magazine, or some other website/publication I enjoy reading.

6. Enhance what I offer in my Etsy shop or find a more comprehensive selling platform that affords me the chance to offer more of my artwork on products and make a bit more money.

7. Pitch a conference idea for creatives/writers/artists to BlogHer or some other media entity.

8. Become fully rooted in my identity as a writer, artist and activist.

9. Lead an art journaling or painting class w/a humanitarian organization in Africa, South America, or Asia that empowers girls and women. Help them find the beauty in brokenness through artistic expression.

10. Begin writing a web series pilot that focuses on a black woman navigating mental illness and motherhood and pitch it to Issa Rae's creative content startup."

There they are. Ten beautiful, amazing, breathtaking experiences I want to have with my art & words between now and the end of December 2015. I want to inspire, empower, connect to and equip others as well as create art that provokes, moves, and enlightens myself and others in some way, on some level.

Will they happen? Who knows. Perhaps some will, others perhaps not, but what if it's less about accomplishing all ten and more about learning to dream and live intently, driven by "goals with soul" as Danielle LaPorte describes it in Desire Map. As long as I'm focused on the WHY I want to do those things and find ways that allow me to live the Why out loud, I don't think it'll matter so much if any of these exact things happen as I wrote them out...and that's completely ok.

It's less about exactness and completion and more about embodiment and purposeful living, for me.

Here's to THAT in the coming months.

Four Years...A Look Back

I quickly scanned through my inbox this morning on my phone while getting dressed. My eyes rested on an email from LinkedIn, notifying me that people were congratulating me on a work anniversary. Puzzled, I logged into the site to see what work I was being congratulated for, considering I don't have motherhood listed on my LinkedIn profile as my full-time gig. Oh. That.

I've been writing in this space for the past four years. Well, actually a little more than four years, closer to four and a half-my first actual post here was in March 2010. I wrote one or two posts after that, but it wasn't until November 2010 that I said, "I'm going to really make this a home for my words," and became intentional about utilizing this space to write out my thoughts and share my life.

Four years. So much has happened in my life since I made that first post (Truth vs. Circumstance), and I've chronicled most of it here with you. I started this space in part because I wanted to do just that-chronicle my life. I wanted to create a space where I could leave behind a legacy, a story for my boys to read when they're older and want to know about who I am as a person and a woman-not just their mother. I wanted to share my experiences with mental illness and abuse so others feel less alone and empowered to find beauty in their brokeness. I also just wanted to create a safe space where I could come and think and be completely A'Driane-as raw and honest and ME as I want to be...unmuted and free. Growing up, I wrote in journals, but my father always found them and took them away, threatening to use my words against me in some way. I was never given any agency as a child or teen nor the freedom to let my voice speak. So I wanted a space no one in my life could touch unless I allowed them to. So I came here and determined this would be a space I could process and find my way through my life.

I've written my way through postpartum depression and anxiety, my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, the ups and downs of my relationship with my husband who back in 2010 was just my boyfriend and co-parent. I've posted dance videos here, written about the soul work I did in therapy in 2011-2012. I graduated from one college and attended another for 2 semesters. I left the Church. My faith evolved to something completely different than what it was when I created this space. I've had two children since I began writing here; Alex is the same age as this space. I had my first psychiatric hospitalization. I moved to a brand new city. Brennan started school. Alex was diagnosed with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. I got married in the Texas Hill Country surrounded by family and friends. Austin was born. I stopped attending school and became a stay at home mother. I've completely rebuilt my life.

Writing my way through the highs and lows lead to my finding my voice as a mental health advocate. Two years ago, I attended a panel at BlogHer 12 that featured other women who blogged openly and willingly about "the issues." I walked out of that session with their words burning hot in my heart and shortly after began giving my thoughts on various social issues based on my lived experience, reawakening if you will, a deep passion for activism I've had since I was a kid. I've lead a team in a worldwide fundraiser and awareness initiative for Postpartum Progress and am a contributing editor to Postpartum Progress' blog. I'm currently working on a development project that will help Postpartum Progress diversify its outreach and engage mothers of color. I had the honor of helping in the initial planning of their upcoming Warrior Mom conference. I spoke at BlogHer's HealthMinder Day in 2013 on a panel about mental health and sharing in the online space. This year I was selected as a Voice of the Year and given the additional honor of reading my piece, "America's Not Here For Us" at the keynote reception...and received a standing ovation I left the stage too quickly to see, I've been told :) Upworthy picked up the video of me reading that piece and featured it on its site. I've been featured on BlogHer. I've been Freshly Pressed, and had the joy of hanging with the Automattic Team in the Wordpress booth at BlogHer. I've become a visual artist, opening a shop on Etsy to share my paintings. I've taken eCourses from amazing artists and creatives. I attended Lime Retreats with the phenomenal Karen Walrond aka Chookooloonks.

None of that compares the community I've found here though and in other spaces online over the last four years. Blogging here has brought the most incredible people into my life, some of whom have become my closest friends, my tribe. I've danced to Prince with some of my sHeroes. The Warrior Moms and the PPDChat communities are my sisters. I've been challenged, encouraged, loved on, lifted, and empowered by the people blogging has brought into my world. I've grown and changed in ways I wasn't expecting. I am the person I am typing these words because of my online community, because of YOU. You've celebrated with me, you've cried with me, you've danced with me, you've laughed and clowned with me, you've mentored me, you've hugged me when you saw me in person, you've said, "hey girl, I know you, come here, it's so good to finally meet you!" at conferences, you sent me gifts when I got married and love letters and rainbow colored flowers when I got home from the psych ward. You've befriended me and you've entertained all I've shared with you in the last 4 years. You've given me life and allowed me to share mine with you. I could go on, because there's so much more but I'd be here til the morning typing it all out, sharing memories...I'll just save those for future posts :)

I'm blown away by all that's happened since I sat down and typed the words "Butterfly Confessions" into the domain box and signed up for a Wordpress account. I honestly don't know what's next, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't wanted to walk away from this space from time to time over the last 4 years....but I keep coming back because this is home, this is my safe space, and I'd miss it too much to abandon it completely. So...I don't know where I'm going from here, but for right now I'm content with just being grateful for all this space and blogging have given to me. Thank you for reading.

Dancing in the Light During the Seasons When Darkness Abounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want to keep dancing in the light.

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

I want to keep dancing in the light.

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

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

For them.

For me.

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

Selah.

Metamorphic

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I've spent the last 6-8 weeks riding waves of emotions that have turned me inside out, exposing my inner seams. Some are frayed, some are unraveling, some are loosening, others are bursting, but yet still others somehow remain stitched tightly woven together, holding me back from completely spilling out and over onto everything I touch. I'm frustrated. I'm relieved. I am both angst and peace. I am joy and stress bounding and striding in rhythm with the same heartbeat. My blood pumps feverishly hot through my veins, but my thoughts drag along in the cold sludge of my brain. Yesterday I was yes and breaking open, arching my back and thrusting my chest in the sunlight of all things new. Today I am no and folding inward, shrinking back, giving life to fear with the doubts that flow from my lips in ragged whispers. I can't go back to where and who I was, yet I'm slipping and fumbling with each step forward and into the me and life awaiting embodiment. I am tiptoeing my way along the cusp of my greatest triumphs and current failures, looking for a break along the way to press myself in and abide. Sometimes this what breaking through is-navigating the time in between as it refines you for your life's work and purpose. This is my metamorphic moment. 

#liberatedlinesopen #wedontedit

Blue Light

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

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

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

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

7 Minutes

We were given this for a journaling prompt in my writing & creativity class, Story 201 tonight. One quote, 7 minutes. This is what came out. 

"Remember the deep root of your being." (The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom, Christine Valters Painter) 

Go back and unearth what was buried. 

Dig. 

Dig. 

Shove heaps of earth off to each side.

Dig. 

Dig. 

Until it’s in your view.

Excavate it. 

Open it. 

Breathe it in. 

See it for yourself again with fresh eyes. 

Behold. 

Recognize it as who you are. 

Who you’ve always been underneath it all. 

Go back.

Unearth what was buried. 

Unearth yourself. 

 

Moving Toward the Sun

I've been in a depressive episode for nearly 8 weeks. The decline has been gradual. There have been good days scattered throughout, but I've been edgy, tense, fatigued....my mind has been too loud some days, eerily silent during others. I've been crying off and on in my bathroom to hide my breaking from my kids...in my car as I drive from one errand to the next. I've had to shift to auto-pilot to just get through hard moments, root myself in detachment to keep from getting swallowed up by the stress. I've spent the last two weeks cycling rapidly between hypomania (marked mostly by agitation and a mind packed with too many thoughts), and a dragging depression that swallows me up and sends me into its belly for a few moments then spits me back out into the sun and air where I can breathe again. And then everything's still and quiet...I feel "normal" and then the cycle repeats itself hourly, daily, weekly....and so it's been for nearly 2 months now. Rinse. Settle. Repeat.

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I'm still in that critical postpartum window. I just weaned nearly a month ago. My body and hormones are in flux and adjusting as a result. I hate it.

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Stress is both motivating and crippling for me. I can handle 10 things going on all at once with ease. It's once the 11th shows up demanding my attention that my mind starts to split and scatter off into darker corners. I think about my life these days and chide myself with all kinds of "should" statements for feeling and being overwhelmed by all I manage on a day-to-day basis: baby is teething & raging,  middle child with special needs, oldest was just diagnosed with ADHD and his enthusiasm for school has waned significantly, trying to overhaul our home and parenting lifestyles to accommodate and support their needs (like increasing structure and making our home more sensory friendly), supporting my husband while he deals with stress at work. New therapy schedules, trips to the pediatrician, and comprehensive psychometric testing have dominated our lives over the past month. Up ahead there is more testing to be done, and meetings with the school district to discuss accommodations for Brennan and evaluations and placement for Alex who is gearing up for preK this fall...

It's not all stressful. I'm involved in birthing great projects. I'm taking my mom's advice on avoiding burnout by feeding my spirit so I don't fall prey to losing myself, you know? I've joined writing & art communities online,  I'm painting at 11pm, I've signed up for retreats and writing eCourses, done a couple of write-ins with groups, and I've done a juice cleanse to try to reset my body and mind. I'm re-reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown as well as books on painting, sensory processing disorder, creativity, and feminism. I'm trying to find my way here still, in this space as far as my writing is concerned. I'm trying to learn how to embody all the parts of myself that have come alive over the past few years-artist, writer, advocate-in the midst of the daily demands on my person and time as a mother and wife. I'm trying to bloom where I'm planted. At 31, it's still a stumbling process though.

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I'm searching for my flow amidst the rhythms, rocking and swaying as the ebb and flow of my life's current carries me throughout my days. But the stress of everything gets triggering and I find myself cycling with the ebb and flow as a result sometimes. That's when my knees buckle and my head spins. My chest constricts and my brain starts to feel like it's suffocating. My grip gets weak. Fatigue sets in and my steps forward get heavy. Taking care of myself gets harder, and usually becomes the last checked off item on my must do list-if it's checked off at all. I end each day feeling as though I have no safe place to come up for air and just process my thoughts, fears, and anxiety...I end most days feeling unsettled and bottled up, stuffed to capacity and as I close my eyes to sleep I've found myself starting to pray like Jabez, asking God or whoever is listening for an increase in capacity...in ability...in might...

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My hair is pink again with some blue added for extra fun. My hair and color are always my first lines of defense against the disorder of my brain chemistry and mood.

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I visited my psychiatrist last week at the VA. This is another area that I can't seem to find solid footing. We've lived here for nearly two years and I'm on my 3rd psychiatrist. Obtaining talk therapy has been a fail. The appointment scheduling system here is confusing and useless to me because I have very little say in what days and times fit into my schedule that's already inundated with the kid's school and therapies. I've had to fight to get treated, and I'm constantly having to say "but if you read this and go here, research and experts agree that....". I feel lost in a system that I'm constantly told is for me to use and that I should trust. But the bureaucracy I face with nearly every interaction chips away at that trust. I have no confidence in my mental health care these days, in the professionals assigned to my care. And yet, at my appointment last week, I sat in front of her desk and allowed myself to become undone. Completely and unapologetically. I unloaded nearly 24 months of thoughts and stress right there in her office in 20 minutes while my smiling baby squirmed and cooed in my arms. She listened to every word. Asked some questions that dug a little deeper. Apologized for all the trouble with the system I've had and for not really hearing me 6 weeks ago when I told her my anxiety was becoming a problem. She admitted that lack of knowledge about medications while breastfeeding restricted her ability to really give me what I was needing. We decided now that I'm no longer pregnant and breastfeeding we could get more aggressive with my meds again-go back to finding a more therapeutic dose. So over the next two months I'll be doing that-going up on lamictal and prozac and trying out an additional med for anxiety. I started the increase yesterday. I'm hoping by the end of the week my brain and mood will start to grab ahold and adjust accordingly.

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I've struggled today to pick everything back up and keep walking. To push past and through. To square my shoulders and lift my chin. To turn a deaf ear to the tape playing in my head that has all kinds of lies and frenzied talk on a loop.

But I'm doing it-picking up and pushing. I'm moving forward. Slowly. The sun is shining outside despite the cold front that's moved through. I'm working my way out into the sun, breathing in deep as I go.

A Prompt Response

 

One of the writing communities I'm a part of holds weekly write-ins via video conference. While I've been a member of this community since early last year, tonight was my first time participating in one as it was happening. By the time I joined the conference, everyone was reading their responses to the first prompt "When do you feel heard?", and blowing. my. mind. like. WHOA.

We were given 30 minutes for our 2nd prompt and here's what I finally word vomited after wanting to throw my paper, pen, and laptop out my back door. 

Prompt: "Show Me Your Brave"

I hold them in the palm of my hand never knowing if they'll be enough to keep me through the next 24 hours. I stare at them intently, as if my gaze alone can make it so that they do. I tilt my head back, close my eyes, and pause as this unknowing whispers my own doubts back to me, louder than the why I must in spite of. It's in this nanosecond of a moment that fear always roars its loudest, reminding me of what exists within, and its capacity for destruction. I feel the darkness, I smell the fire, I hear the frantic call of madness, the hollow wail of despair and I wonder if 150mg is enough for 24 more hours. My hands shake as I swallow each one and bring the cup to my lips to further assist them on their way down. 

It's the only way to find out. 

 

*to learn more about The Story Unfolding & Story Sessions writing community, click here*

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

I'm Here...Just Consumed By Life

Sorry I haven't stopped by here since May 20th. Life's been pretty consuming as of late, and I'm not as good about writing my way through periods like this as I was a year ago. Things are busy busy busy and I'll be honest-sitting down to write has proved to be more difficult than I would like it to be. The words are there, waiting to be given life, the stories are stacked up on shelves in my brain, the desire is there, but it all just becomes a jumbled mess when I sit down to type or even write in my journal. Part of it is because my brain is so scattered, thanks to my disorder and my recent hypomanic episodes and cycling. Part of it is because I become to preoccupied by my compulsions to clean, organize, and rearrange everything in our apartment. Part of it is because I'm fatigued and the energy I do have is poured into being  pregnant, mama, wife, housekeeper, cook, errand runner...the desire to create or give anything back to myself lingers quietly in folds of my heart, but never finds its way to execution. My mind is scattered and my hands feel inadequate, empty, unable to form the words or images that are mixed in the chaos.

Part of it is because I've become completely immersed in a new parenting approach with Alex and in implementing new routines and techniques I hope make like easier for him...and for all of us, really. I'm seeing how different and significant some of his needs are and in a lot of ways re-learning this whole parenting thing. From how I discipline, to the words and tone I use when speaking to him, to even how much pressure I apply when I touch or hug him, my whole posture towards parenting and mothering him has changed. Most of my days are consumed with being engaged with him in ways I wasn't before. Learning about sensory processing disorder, autism, and what we're learning from his therapists since April has given me new ways to engage and interact with him  that are different from how I did before. It's been quite the learning curve-there's so much more to be aware of these days! I'm more watchful, taking note of the slightest change in attitude or behavior (positive or negative), more apprehensive and mindful about how changes in routine, however slight, will impact him from moment to moment. In some ways I feel like I'm on high alert from the time he wakes up until he finally falls asleep after I've put him back in his bed and given him a deep pressure squeeze for the fifth or sixth time. I've had to become much more patient, learning to move at his pace, and how to move him along faster in a way that he can understand when we're short on time. I've found that all of this has taken an energy that I, especially being pregnant, barely have the reserves for. The simplest things from washing his hands to getting dressed to helping desensitize his facial muscles before his speech therapy sessions is all a process; exhausting and consuming, but one I'm committed to helping all of us navigate and learn as best we can.

Part of it is because I'm committed to being well during this pregnancy and am forcing myself to focus on self-care. This becomes increasingly difficult when pregnancy is kicking my ass, particularly when migraines attack, and my blood pressure is low. The migraines have been pretty frequent this pregnancy; during a good week I only get one, during my worst I've had them for 4 days straight. Functioning when I'm a wreck physically feels impossible, but I somehow get through making sure the kids have what they need for the day and that's about it. Aside from eating and taking my medications, taking care of myself takes a backseat and I have to fight to make things like taking a shower, combing my hair, getting in any kind of exercise or leisure activity a priority. Overall I'm doing better on the self-care front than I have in the past, especially during my last pregnancy.

All of this focus on concentration on these other areas of my life leave little for my writing here and painting....advocating even. I had all of these plans for my creative pursuits this year but the mental and creative bandwidth I need to execute them isn't what I'd like it to be. For some reason I can't seem to find space for those two to fit in my life as of late and this does sadden me. Frustrates me. Leaves me to wonder how I'll fit them in when there are THREE children to give my time and attention to. I'm hoping I can find a way....I'm in awe of those who've found a way to balance and navigate it all.

At any rate, while I find it hard to write and paint these days, I have found it easy to keep up with vlogging-probably because I can just do it on my phone while I'm on the go and have a few minutes alone. So I think that's just what I'm going to have to do for now because it's the one thing that I can keep up with that fits in best with everything else. It's the one thing I feel I can keep up with right now on this front. I'm hoping to write here during the summer, but know that if you don't see me here, you'll be able to find me on my YouTube channel, addyeBeesWorld, where I'll mostly be sharing the nitty-gritty of navigating bipolar disorder while being a pregnant mama. Feel free to watch and subscribe-I've done videos for weeks 15, 16, and 17 so far (I tell you what we're having in my second video for week 16!) And of course, I'll always be on Twitter :) (@addyeB)

So that's where I've been, what I've been up to, what's going on. I'm still here...I'm just consumed is all.

Maybe I just need to Lean In...anyone have Sheryl Sandberg's number?

The Surprises Keep on Coming....

I mentioned in one of last week's posts that I submitted two pieces for BlogHer's Voices of the Year and explained why. I submitted them knowing full well that I had no plans of attending the conference this year (or desire to); as I explained in that post, I was submitting them just because I felt like taking a leap forward and opening myself up to opportunity, really. On the same day I submitted those pieces, I found a surprise greeting me in my inbox at the end of the day-an unexpected opportunity. It was an email from Shannon (@mrlady), BlogHer's conference programming manager, and I couldn't peel my eyes off of the subject line:

photo-3

When I was finally able to read the rest of the email, I put the phone down and immediately started pacing back and forth in my living room, my mind flooded with thoughts....

Me? 

Whoa. 

What?

ME?

I'm small potatoes...how'd I get on the radar for something like this? What about [insert name here] or [insert name here]? THEY should be the ones doing this....

How will I get there? 

I'm not a speaker....

What will I say?

I'm not worthy of this...there are SO many others who I know deserve this and are better advocates and have bigger platforms than me. 

What will Bertski say? 

Of course when I called him, he left no room for doubt-I was going to accept the invite and we would use this opportunity to take the boys on a family vacation. He's so damn supportive, especially when he knows I'll talk myself out of something great like this.

I hung up, emailed Shannon back, and yesterday I officially accepted my speaker's invitation to BlogHer's HealthMinder Day. I'm being afforded the chance to do what I do here on the blog-talk about mental health and what it's like to share my experiences with it with all of you-the rewarding, the hard, the reasons why I continue to do it, etc.

I'm excited. I'm humbled. I'm honored. I'm scared shitless. I've never spoken to a room full of strangers on this level, EVER. I don't feel worthy, especially when I consider what amazing writers and bloggers my co-panelists are, AND when I think of the other amazing writers and women who blog about mental health and deserve an opportunity to share in a forum such as this.

I don't feel worthy of it, but I know that it's the right opportunity for me to say yes to-does that make sense? It feels authentic to the kind of writer I am, and what this space is...I don't feel worthy of it, but at the same time I realize that playing small when opportunities such as these present themselves to you serves no one, least of all yourself, so I'm choosing to be grateful and enjoy every part of this. Besides, when I asked Kelly (@mochamomma) if she had any advice and told her how nervous I was, she had this to say: "Remember why you write. Speak your truth. Drop the fucking mic." Pretty much the kick in the ass I needed to step into the moment and accept the gig. Yep.

Do I hope to gain anything out of this? Sure-I hope to gain connection-connection with others in a healthy, constructive and empathetic dialogue about sharing our experiences with mental illness and wellness. I want to encourage others to share their mental health related stories and I want to also be encouraged to keep doing the same-Lord knows I've almost nuked this space at least once a week since the new year began.

So....I'm going to BlogHer this year! As a speaker for HealthMinder day! I'll be here-Will I see you there? I hope so-go register and then let me know you're coming so we can meet up :)

Also, moral of this story: Always leave a little room for opportunity-you never know what it has waiting for you.

Also, also: Marriage. Baby. Speaking gig. 2013 better stop blowing my mind with all of these surprises.

Let's talk about mental health in the online space, shall we?

HEY YOU: Don't Drink the VOTY Kool-Aid

I gots some thangs to say.....forgive me if this just kinda tumbles out, I'm not in the mood to filter much today. Here we go: Yesterday I listened to a heart whisper and submitted two pieces for BlogHer's 2013 Voices of the Year, one visual, one written.

I submitted them because one of my words for this year is "pursue," and when it comes to my writing and art, my intention this year is to pursue opportunities for them to be showcased. Why? Why the hell not? I write and paint for myself first and foremost and will always do so even if I have zero readers and the world thinks my art is a travesty, BUT I'm also a storyteller who believes in the power of sharing your experiences with others. Writing and painting save me from the parts of myself that thanks to illness are hell-bent on destroying me-and so does sharing about my life through the written word and visual art. Sharing my stories here and through paint are my way of giving back-I hope that at some point, what I share and convey in what I create helps someone on some level, in some area of life be it motherhood, mental illness, abuse, or just life in general.

I also submitted because hey, who doesn't like to connect with others and be heard? And who says it's wrong to be proud of what you've created? What's wrong with just going for it, JUST BECAUSE you never know what will become of it? YOLO! Am I right?

I said all of that to say that I didn't submit my pieces because I think other people will find them moving and valuable, worthy of attention. I shared them because I FIND THEM VALUABLE, MOVING, AND WORTHY. Maybe if my piece on being bipolar and a mother is selected, maybe another mom who was just diagnosed will find it and find some comfort-or find a way to contact me so she can find someone to talk to or ask questions. Maybe if my piece is selected people will stop believing people with an illness like bipolar disorder are incapable of being quality parents and raising healthy kids. But if I had decided to NOT submit that piece, then the chances of that happening are significantly reduced considering how "small" I am in the blogosphere. So I saw an opportunity to be an advocate, be a storyteller, honor MYSELF for owning my story, and took advantage of it-Like Nike, I just did it. Insecure, vulnerable, and all, dammit I sat my ass down, read through my stuff and submitted.

Maybe for you, it's not about any of this. Maybe you just want your work to be heard, be seen, be validated, be recognized. Maybe you wrote some funny shit and you want others to recognize you're the next Richard Pryor or Sarah Silverman. That's OK. It really is. Go ahead-submit! Honor your work. Pat yourself on the back, man. Be proud.

For those of you who are discouraged by this whole VOTY thing, hear me: STOP WAITING FOR OTHERS TO VALIDATE YOU AND YOUR WORK AND VALIDATE YOURSELF. STOP DRINKING THE DAMN VOTY KOOL-AID. I'm watching so many of you flog yourselves and doubt your self-worth and value as a blogger, writer, and fucking human being because no one is nominating your work. I get why it's a downer, and trust me, I think the voting aspect of the process is asinine and I know that's what's discouraging so many of you from submitting. But I learned a couple of years ago that sometimes you can't wait for others to celebrate and honor you, you've got to do it yourself, fuck everyone else. THROW YOUR OWN DAMN PARTY. Stop waiting for an invite. NO ONE will take pride in you or what you're putting out there if you don't.

96 of the pieces that will be selected as VOTY will be selected by the committee-guess what? They are reading each and every piece submitted whether it has 500 votes or 0. So even if you're small potatoes like myself, your work will still be seen. Shouldn't that matter more than some damn votes? Even if your piece isn't selected, you never know who will become a fan of your work just because they were on the committee and read your piece. You don't know what kind of opportunities could come out of this. And even if nothing comes out of it, shit, pour a drink and cheer yourself for having the balls to do something so many people wouldn't.

I know when you're a small fry in the blog/writing arena it's easy to get intimidated and feel left out because those with bigger platforms are being nominated, called out, read, and recognized-and recognizing their own peers. But hear me: SMALL DOES NOT EQUAL INSIGNIFICANT  and is in no way an indication of the value and worth of your work and your story.

So STOP DRINKING THE VOTY KOOL-AID. Submit something if it's on your heart to do so. (Heart whispers are meant to be listened to-unless it's telling you to go kill someone. If that's the case, get a new fucking heart ASAP.) Go find a favorite piece from someone you read and submit it to honor them-if they're a fellow small fry, I can guarantee you it will make their day and probably encourage them to keep writing, sharing, owning their story.

So. What are you still doing here reading this? GO. Bye!

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.