The Ups and Downs of Losing 90 Pounds

You guys, I have lost 90 pounds, and that is pretty amazing. I am really proud of myself most of the time, but here’s a story of something that happened the other day:

“Something’s wrong with the mirror,” I said.

“Nope,” Drew replied. “That’s really what you look like now.” I remained skeptical. I thought I couldn’t possibly look like this…like someone who is not a fat person.

End of Story.

So I shouldn’t be having thoughts like these in my little story, right? They defy logic. I have objectively lost 90 pounds, and I recognize this, rationally.

The scale tells me so.

The fact that I am going through pants sizes faster than Trump offends people on Twitter tells me so.

The compliments I get all the time tell me so, and much of the time, I believe it.

But sometimes, on occasion, I don’t quite believe it. Even when I look in the mirror and see the progress, I think it’s lying.

You guys, losing weight is hard for me. I mean, you know it’s hard; everyone knows that. It’s easy to gain and hard to lose, especially the older you get. Sticking to a healthy eating and exercise routine is hard.

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But losing weight isn’t just hard for those reasons. I mean losing weight is hard for my brain to accept. Sometimes my brain just can’t seem to catch up with my body and be excited about it all the time.

Here’s the thing…for nearly 15 years I have considered myself a fat person. At my heaviest (last December), I’m pretty sure anyone would have considered me a fat person. I believe the medical term is “morbidly obese.”

Like, you’re going to die of a fat-related disease if you don’t get your act together, Nash.

Today when I step on the scale, I see a number I haven’t seen in a very long time. I am wearing a pants size I haven’t worn in a very long time (and they still keep falling down, dammit!)

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Many days, I look in the mirror and feel really good about what I see.

I can see my feet when I look down and a year ago, I couldn’t.

I don’t worry if the seat belt is going to fit me on an airplane anymore. Once, it didn’t, and it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.

 

So, anyway, it’s not like I look in the mirror and still see myself the way I looked last year. I don’t have a warped image of what I look like.

It’s just that when I look in the mirror, sometimes I really can’t believe it’s me. It’s so hard to rectify my perception of myself as a fat person with the person I see in the mirror now.

I wore my fat like armor, and now that most of it has been stripped away, I am out there in the open. It’s a little disconcerting.

When I was bigger, I felt so small. Invisible sometimes, and that was what I wanted at the time.

Now that I’m smaller, I’ve decided not to play small anymore. My personality is starting to shine again and I’m me, REALLY me. Not someone hiding behind a wall of extra weight. My armor is gone and, while sometimes that is confusing to my brain, I know deep down I’m doing it. I’m coming out of that comfort zone and letting myself be awesome again.

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Coming out of that comfort zone is a challenge…but there’s so much to be gained from it (even as I continue to lose). Because I am awesome, and I am accomplishing amazing things and I intend to continue.

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Oh, and one last thing. You guys, even my bras are too big.

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#thestruggleisreal

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On “cherishing every moment” (Alternate title: Yes, I know someday I’ll wake up and there won’t be anyone to take to practice anymore.)

Can we just talk about this?

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Because I feel like I can’t be the only one who is tired of being told–absurdly–to “cherish every moment.”

This may just be a matter of semantics, but even so…no. Just nopety-nope to this message and the horse it rode in on.

Because I am certain the moment that I spent cleaning the dog’s diarrhea out of my brand new carpet–or any memory that involves my children and vomit– will never be “precious” in my memory.

I am also sure that there is no way for me to “enjoy” any moment when my kids talk back or just generally act like jerks, which even the most lovely of children (and, let’s face it, adults) tend to do from time to time.

I humbly submit that–despite what this well-intentioned inspirational quote wants you to believe–not every moment in life is meant to be enjoyed.

Every moment is meant to be experienced and lived. But not necessarily enjoyed. Not necessarily catalogued as “precious.”

And why the hell would we even want it to be?

Sometimes life is boring. Sometimes life is a total shit show. Sometimes it is sad, terrifying, absurd, embarrassing, mundane or miserable.

And these parts of life are good. They are not “precious” or “enjoyable” but they are good because they are part of the package…part of the “full experience” of life. And without the full experience, well, you haven’t had the full experience. (Should I find a way to say “full experience” again?)

If every moment is joyful, then no moments are joyful. Because without experiencing anger, frustration, fear, sadness, or pain, how can we really experience joy?

And in parenting, the same holds true. If I am not occasionally/sometimes/possibly frequently annoyed or frustrated by my kids and the hard and often mind-numbingly boring work of parenting, then can I really say I’ve had the full experience of parenting?

Can I really feel the joy of the amazing moments if I haven’t endured the not-so-amazing ones?

I would argue no.

But in this parenting landscape, I am so often commanded to CHERISH EVERY MOMENT.

To suck up each wonder-tastic second of being a parent because it defines my entire existence and someday I will be a barren and sad empty-nester with only shattered dreams and memories of what it was like when my home was bustling with activity and schedules and cleats on the floor for me to trip over and American Girl brushes left out that can seriously cut a bitch and I will be WOEFULLY SAD and FULL OF REGRET that I did not soak in the orgasmic joy of having those needle-like bristles sear the bottom of my foot in pain because my children will be grown up and my life will basically be over and there will be no more implements of torture  precious doll hair brushes laying around on my living room floor.

Oh, did I say too much in one stream of consciousness paragraph just then? Oops. (Insert embarrassed face emoji.)

But anyway. We all know this pressure is out there. The pressure to be delightfully blissfully present at every magical instant with your children or possibly be labeled the literal worst parent ever.

If you’re the mother at the park looking at your phone, you’re probably being judged.

If you’re the father on the computer saying no to going outside with your kids to play ball, you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re the harried parent yelling at your kid to STOP WANDERING AROUND THE YARD AND GET IN THE CAR BECAUSE WE’RE ALREADY LATE, you’re obviously not cherishing and embracing your child’s sense of wonder and you are definitely the worst. (And if you’ve seen the harried parent I just described, please stop spying on me. It’s creepy.)

Listen, I get it.

I get the core of what these messages that bombard us daily are trying to tell us: childhood is short. It goes by in a flash. It will be over before you know it, etc, etc.

And this message is 100000% true. I am stunned on a daily basis at how old my kids are. When I see pictures of them from even 2 or 3 years ago, they are totally different people even though I am certain I took that photo, like, five minutes ago.

Yes, it goes way too fast. The time is, indeed, short.

Before I know it, in 2 and a half years that will surely pass faster than I can ever imagine, my son will be graduating high school, and meanwhile I’m still trying to reconcile myself with the fact that he is not ten years old anymore.

But..but…

The fleeting nature of their childhoods still does not mean every moment is one to be enjoyed, and I am sick of having this message shoved down my throat…as though I should feel guilty when I don’t spend every waking moment staring meaningfully and lovingly at my children.

I don’t.

There have been multiple times when I–GASP!!–scrolled through Facebook on my  phone while absently saying, “Mmmmhmmmmm…” while my daughter recounted for me in excruciatingly unnecessary detail the plot of the latest book she was reading.

In moments when my kids bicker incessantly, sniping at each other in a way that makes my blood boil, I yell at them and even tell them to get out of the room I am in. In fact, that just happened as I was writing this. I told them to “Shoo!”

I did not cherish that particular moment in the least. Even though they won’t be young forever. Even though the time is so fleeting and precious.

Somebody call DCF. I am clearly an unfit parent.

Oh wait, no.

I am a human being who feels frustration and boredom and anger and sadness, not a robot only containing joy and moment-cherishing software.

You may be surprised to learn that I do not derive indescribable joy from watching them do the same trick on the tire swing for the 20th time.

People…I have been utterly bored at the elementary school band concert. (I know. I’m a monster.)

Final confession: every moment of my children’s existence does not fill me with contentment and joy. Because I’m a human and this is real life and kids can be maddening and tiresome and frustrating.

But here’s the heart of it: their existence is a wonder to me, even when they are annoying or anger-inducing.

I love those kids so fiercely and completely, even when I’m shooing them out of my face because they’re driving me nuts.

And they know they are fiercely loved, every minute.

Even when I’m looking at my phone.

Even when I’m watching TV.

Even when I’m working or reading or talking to my husband or going out with a friend or writing or ignoring them because I’m doing any of these things.

The messages telling us that we should feel guilty or that we are not doing parenting right unless we are cherishing every moment can shove it, because what they really should be saying is love them every moment (even when they are at their worst).

Here’s the thing…no matter what you do, the time is going to fly.

Whether you spend every second staring at them or not, you are going to turn around one day and find that they are gawky teenagers with braces who are taller than you, have full mustaches, and can do a dead-on ironic Trump impression. (That last bit might be a little specific to me, but you take my point.)

You are going to miss things, no matter what.

They are going to keep growing, no matter what.

These little bits of advice to “enjoy every minute” are just our flawed human way of trying to hang on. To romanticize parenthood in such a way that we might stop it from slipping so quickly through our fingers.

But still, it slips.

The time passes. Childhood passes. Life passes.

Some moments–rare ones–are gorgeous and perfect and some are mediocre at best. Others are genuinely awful. We won’t enjoy and cherish every kind, and that’s okay.

We can only do our best to be present in these moments no matter which variety they are. (We won’t even be able to do that every time, and that’s okay too.)

Someday I will wake up and not have anyone to drive to practice.

There will be no overflowing closets full of clothes, shoes and toys to demand someone clean up this instant.

My living room floor will be devoid of hazardous doll accessories and there will be no one staring zombie-like at a video game screen instead of doing homework or chores.

Yes, this will be sad. But that’s life, and life is sometimes sad.

But the good news is no matter how old my kids get, no matter how quickly their childhoods pass, they will always know that they are and have been fiercely loved every minute.

And so I will have done my job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Business Trips, Mom Guilt, and Airplane Bathrooms

I’m writing this on a plane home from a work trip to Phoenix. The guy in front of me has graciously reclined his seat so my computer is tilted at an unnatural angle and I can barely see what I am typing. My seat is located directly next to the bathroom and I swear everyone that goes in there is inexplicably flushing twice.

But I can’t complain too much because the middle seat in my row is empty and I love when that happens. It’s a nice place to put my phone, glasses and water bottle so I don’t have to keep awkwardly reaching under my seat to haul these things in and out of my backpack.

I also can’t complain because my trip was amazing.

I had never been to Arizona and I didn’t expect to love it there (snakes and such) but I did. It had a beauty I had never experienced before and the resort where I stayed for my company’s annual conference was absolutely gorgeous.

(Someone just double flushed again and now she is blowing her nose, in case you were wondering.)

I was also a speaker at the conference and I think I did all right. My initial comments—introducing myself and explaining just why in the hell I had the background to be considered an “expert” in content marketing—were a bit of a disaster. My hands were obviously shaking as I held the mike and my voice was noticeably trembly and high-pitched. As I realized how trembly my voice and hands were, I got even more trembly and high pitched, which was awesome.

It didn’t help that I was the first one to introduce myself, that I actually hate introducing myself in any detail besides my name, and having my boss and a ton of my colleagues in the room watching made the stakes even higher, at least for me.

But as the talk ramped up, I relaxed and got into my zone. The shakiness stopped and, as I watched the audience taking fervent notes as I talked, I became more confident that I was, indeed, an expert (of sorts) with some good information to share with them.

When it was over, the moderator (our Marketing Director) told me she hadn’t realized how much of the presentation she had placed on me but I handled it well, and my boss sent me a text congratulating me on “leading” the panel. I had several members of the audience come seek me out after the presentation and later in the day to let me know how much they enjoyed my talk and even asked a few more questions one on one.

In the end, I was proud of how I did.

Besides my presentation, I had great dinners every night with my colleagues and some awesome clients. I enjoyed the beautiful weather and the camaraderie of our team throughout the course of the conference.

I reveled in the solitude of my hotel room, with a huge king bed just for me and its own balcony looking out over some beautiful scenery of cacti, palm trees, and a pond with a bridge over it. I spent some time reading a book out there, slowly drinking my coffee…which I bought at the coffee shop that served Starbucks coffee and was only about 100 steps away from my room. (Bonus!)

(This just in—the person in front of me with their seat reclined is actually a woman in her 20s wearing a hoodie. I know this because she just went to the bathroom, and, in case you were wondering, she only flushed once. She has now kindly un-reclined her seat and I can see my computer screen clearly now.)

But guys, I didn’t write this blog to tell you about my lovely trip to AZ. (Well, I kind of did but there’s more.)

I wrote this blog mostly to tell you about how, as a mom and wife, I was sometimes guilt-ridden at leaving my family behind. My daughter didn’t help as, on the rare occasion I was able to call home at a decent hour given the three hour time difference and my busy conference schedule, she would say in a mournful voice, “Mommy I miss you sooooooo much.” (Cue knife to the heart)

I knew I was leaving my husband with a packed schedule that included ushering for me at church on Sunday, bringing Emma to her audition for Annie, waiting around for the furnace guy, taking Cooper to the doctor for a shot, and attending a cross country meet and a back to school Open House.

Because he has no flexibility at work, Drew had to take two days off to do all these things.

Then I was asked to stay an extra night in Phoenix following the closing of the conference to attend a “meeting of the minds” with some of our company leaders. I was honored to be invited and felt it was important for me to go.

I knew this was adding even more stress to my family because my husband would have to go in late to get Emma on the bus (after being off for two days) and Cooper would have to skip cross country practice to get her off the bus.

It has been extremely difficult for me to balance my enjoyment of my trip and my guilt at putting this additional stress on my family while I was gone.

I have often though that guilt is a useless emotion because all it does is steal joy, but this is easier said than put into practice, isn’t it?

But to me the statement still rings true, because what has this mom guilt served to do, anyway? In those guilty moments, all that happened was a diminishing of my enjoyment of a really great trip I took without my family.

It has been hard for me to grapple with this—I ENJOYED A TRIP WITHOUT MY FAMILY—and to me it goes back to the balancing act that women seem to face on a daily basis. I say this not to diminish the role that men play in day to day family life, but to point out my personal observation that women more often struggle with the guilt factor.

(Side note: another double flusher and I think I have figured out that most people seem to be flushing before and after they use the toilet. Mystery solved.)

It should be okay for me to go home and tell my family what a great time I had, but I will probably downplay that and instead focus on how much I missed them.

Don’t get me wrong, I did miss them tons and there were so many beautiful things to see that I wished at times they were there with me. But there were also plenty of moments when I was glad to be able to focus on work and enjoying my colleagues and a beautiful place without having to family multi-task.

I wore nicer clothes. I did my makeup full on and didn’t have to rush doing my hair or jump in and out of the shower because Drew was waiting to brush his teeth or hair and our bathroom is possibly the size of a shoebox.

I found the security checkpoint at the airport much less stressful than I usually do because I didn’t have to worry about being THAT FAMILY who holds up other travelers because the kids and all the stuff and the explaining to Emma that it’s ok to walk through the metal detector, because I swear I will be coming through right behind her.

I am enjoying this flight, the quiet and solitude to be able to write this blog uninterrupted. (Except, of course, for the constant stream of bathroom-goers.)

I am enjoying the time to myself and trying very hard to not feel guilty about that. (I am not always succeeding. Obvi.)

Because aren’t women always supposed to put their families first, often at the expense of themselves? I feel this pressure often and struggle with opportunities like this one to focus on me, on my career, and just the sheer joy of having some time to myself.

Time when I don’t have to worry about who’s done their homework, who has or has not brushed their teeth or hair, who is about to miss the bus if they don’t HURRY UP RIGHT NOW, or what activities are on the family calendar and how I am going to balance them with my work schedule.

It was like a vacation just for me. And I deserve to enjoy that.

Ultimately, I think the lesson here for me is that it’s ok to take time for myself guilt-free, even three days of stimulating and inspiring work in a beautiful resort setting with lots of great people and good food…and that I thoroughly enjoyed all these things even without my family.

Even as I write this I feel the guilt dissipating, and I will arrive home happy to see the people I love dearly. Because I did miss them, but it’s ok that I didn’t miss them every minute.

Another important lesson I’ve learned is that tons of people use the bathroom on an airplane and many of them are double-flushers, and generally speaking I’d probably prefer not to sit next to the bathroom again. So there’s that, too.

Time to Rise.

A year ago today I wrote this.

What a difference a year makes.

Since early on in my healing process, I created a mantra: “First the letting go, then the rising up.”

I knew I would have to let go of anger and sadness and hurt and self-pity before I could become the person I was truly meant to be.

At the time I had no idea how long this would take.

Last fall, I felt like I had let go of so much, and it was time to rise. To give myself a daily reminder of this, I decided to get some ink:

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The juxtaposition of these two tattoos is what I love most.

The let go tattoo is softer and more soothing to me. Sometimes, when I feel like I am holding on to something I shouldn’t, I actually blow on my arm, picturing dandelion fluff dancing in the breeze, reminding myself to let it go, just let it float away.

In contrast, the phoenix is bold and fiery, reminding me to bring the badass and become all I was meant to be. Every time I look at it I feel a surge of strength and power.

When I got these tattoos, I felt like I was ready to rise. But that process turned out to be almost as slow as the letting go. I’ve found that I’m often going back and forth between the two. Sometimes I have felt like I am not strong enough to rise, and I have wondered if I ever would be.

But lately…lately I know that I am strong enough. I am on fire and rising from the ashes, my friends.

I have lost 80lbs since January and I feel fantastic.

I went back to the gym in early 2017, and at first I knew that just showing up was enough. I didn’t work as hard as I could; I needed to be easier on myself and take one thing at a time, one workout at a time.

These last few weeks, though, I felt a difference deep down in my gut–the old fire in the belly–and I knew that it was time to get my ass moving and stop jerking around.

I talked to my coach and friend and asked her not to go easy on me, to call me out if I was dogging it. I wanted to start pushing myself again.

It was time to rise.

Today, I’m not as physically strong as I used to be, but I will be soon. I’ve started working so hard again and I know I’ll get there. I’m already increasing my pushups, lifting heavier, moving faster, and generally feeling awesome.

I’ve been more present for my family and friends, even if I’m feeling down in the dumps.

I’m killing it at work in a new role that I love.

I’m funny again (sometimes).

Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments. We all do. But I have finally gotten to that point where I know I am strong and I know what I’ve overcome, and the daily challenges I might face now are nothing compared to that.

Someday, I may have to face even bigger challenges. That is just how life goes. If and when that day comes, I will get through it as I’ve gotten through this.

But for now, on this day, at this moment, I feel myself rising up. Rising far beyond the past that I’ve let go of. The past that will no longer drag me down.

I’m excited about what’s next, and excited to maybe soon write about something besides what I’ve gone through. Because I’ve gone THROUGH it and I’m on the other side.

Maybe I’ll write again tomorrow or maybe it will be another few months. Who knows?

Maybe I’ll write about how big my kids are and how I feel like the time is slipping away from me so quickly (my son is a sophomore in high school…how the hell did that happen?!?).

Maybe I’ll write about some crazy embarrassing thing that I did (again).

Maybe I’ll write about love or joy or kindness. Or all of these things.

So many possibilities now that I’ve let go.

First the letting go, then the rising up.

Time to rise.

 

 

May 11, 2017

Well, it’s May 11. The second year anniversary since The Day.

And I have to say, I feel pretty great.

I have done it, friends. I have scratched and crawled and screamed and cried myself to the other side and it took me two years, but I did it.

That’s not to say that there won’t be moments of sadness. Sometimes, I miss the people I’ve had to excise from my life, but I know that my life is better without them in it. It’s a paradox, to be sure, but I know my decisions are the right ones.

There are moments when I still panic a little, like when I come home and the house is silent and I worry that something terrible has happened to the kids. (The reality is that Cooper is playing video games and Emma is watching TV on the iPad, just FYI.) But I still have those moments–echoes of my own childhood laced with fear of something terrible happening to me. Now I have moments where I fear it for my own children, but those moments are fleeting.

And the anxiety is different than it was before, because now I can own it. I can name it when it happens, briefly feel the feeling, acknowledge it, and then let it go. It is so freeing.

You guys, I FEEL JOY. I never thought it would be so exciting to be able to say that. I laugh for real. I recognize how good life is and how lucky I am to be living this life.

I am happy.

I am okay. I am fantastic, even.

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I have to compare what has happened to me over the last year as the feeling you get when you’ve been in extreme physical pain and then suddenly it is gone. Like the moment the epidural takes effect during labor.

Or, when you are having a gall bladder attack and it’s so bad you have to go to the emergency room and when they finally, finally push the morphine and your whole body relaxes and you can’t stop thanking the nurse for making your life so much better. (Why yes, that is a true story and I am thankful to say that the offending gall bladder with its godforsaken gallstones is getting removed next week.)

If you’ve had an experience like this, you know the sheer exhilaration that comes with NOT being in pain anymore. The joy that comes with just feeling normal again. That is how I’ve been feeling. Normal, like a real person living her life, not a sad zombie stumbling through her days listlessly. And it is amazing.

I am so very grateful to be back on the shore with the people I love instead of drowning in the murky depths, or trying to swim in against the current.

I am so very grateful to no longer be thinking about my past every waking moment. To have it haunting and torturing me. To feel like it was the only thing I could talk or write about. I have made peace with it, and it is no longer my present…it is only the past.

A year ago, I couldn’t wait to go into therapy and verbally vomit all the bitterness inside of me. I had so much to say and get out of my soul that I thought I would never be able to stop talking about it.

These days, I may spend a half hour trying to figure out what I am going to talk to my therapist about in my next appointment. My gall bladder? My annoyance that my son plays too many video games? My daughter’s seeming inability to clean up after herself? These things are so trivial, so I mostly talk about the kids and my husband and how proud I am that they are my family, my rocks, the loves of my life.

And I’m proud of what I’ve overcome. Dealing with these kinds of issues is not for the faint of heart, and it would have been so much easier for me to drown it all in alcohol, drugs, or whatever other unhealthy coping mechanism I could find. I could have kept using food as my comfort source, as I have done for most of my life.

But I just had a gut feeling that there was something better on the other side that would be worth the pain and the grueling work.

AND THERE IS.

There is love and happiness and laughter and joy and friendship, and I am so very grateful for all of it.

I am grateful for the people who have stood by me through this, who have helped pull me out, and who have loved me through it.

Life is good.

Chug, chug, chug.

You guys, I’m good. Not great, not fantastic, not awesome…yet. But I’m working.

I can see that people have been peeking at my Facebook page–I can only guess they are looking for a new post and I have wanted to write so many times but haven’t been sure if I have much to say besides telling you that I’m chugging along. I feel better every day.

Well, maybe not every day but most days.

I’m working out again with all my friends over at Tuff Girl, and I love it. I mean, I hate it while I’m doing it because who really LIKES grueling workouts while they’re panting and sweating but afterwards I feel great. I always have a better day on the days I work out.

Showing up at the gym was a real hurdle for me. I’ve predictably gained a ton of weight (as if I needed to gain even more) and that makes everything harder in my workouts. I was scared to go back, afraid people would judge me and wonder how I could have let myself go so badly.

Instead I found love, acceptance and encouragement from friends and people who care about me. For this, I am incredibly grateful.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will likely have to be medicated for awhile, and this is not a failure. It is simply me being smart and using all the tools available to me to feel better and be the best version of myself I can be right now. It is a sign of strength, not weakness, to recognize that this is part of the help I need to keep feeling better every day.

And I need a lot of help, guys. I mean, don’t we all? Why is there such a stigma about saying, “I can’t do this alone. I need help.”?

There shouldn’t be. We should all be able to be the perfectly imperfect humans we are, recognizing our strengths and weaknesses and being able to freely ask for help when we are weak, and freely give our help when others need it.

This took me a long time to learn. I am finally reaching a point where I can start to give something back to the people that have propped me up during my dark times. A point where I could maybe do the propping for them if they need it.

I’ve also poignantly felt the passing of time, and I am trying not to feel as though I am losing this time, trying not to regret the dark months when I felt like I was missing out on my life.

Instead, I am realizing that these dark months were an important part of my life, like a painfully tight chrysalis that I had to break out of to bring me to the next phase. I am not sure I’m ready to fly yet, though. I’m just now pushing my way out and feeling the sun on my face.

And where will I fly to once I’m ready? I’m not sure yet, but I am thinking hard about it.

You see, I lost a dear friend recently to breast cancer. She lived with stage four breast cancer for three and a half years before it claimed her life, and she lived more in those three and a half years than I have in my whole 42 (okay, nearly 43) years of life. (If you want to read about her amazing adventures, you can read some of her blog.)

We had some intense conversations about life and depression and dark thoughts that sometimes came into our heads. She battled the dark thoughts so hard and lived the hell out of the time she had. She was a huge inspiration to me and I think of her often when I imagine what kind of living I want to do next. What kind of adventures I would like to have with the time I have on this earth.

She had a favorite quote:

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This is my one precious life. What I have gone through has been difficult, but my life goes on, and it IS a beautiful and precious life. How can I live it well? What do I want to do with it next?

For now, I want to love hard, most especially love the people who have stood next to me through these hard times, the people who have helped me keep going, the people who have held me up and sometimes dragged me to places I didn’t want to go to keep me moving forward, up and out.

For now, I want to feel happiness, and though it may sound funny, this is something I have to work at. It’s hard work, but I am determined to recognize and be present in the moments that are joyful and not let them pass me by. I appreciate them so much more now.

For now, I will keep chugging along and deciding what my next adventure will be. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

(P.S. If you are one of the people peeking at my FB page for a new post, did you know you can sign up to get new blog posts right into your email inbox? Look for the email signup on the upper right hand side of the blog page, sign up, and then you’ll know as soon as a new post comes out.)

 

Dubious return…but showing up.

So about three months ago I took a Facebook hiatus. I mean, the hiatus was from a lot more than Facebook, but FB became sort of representative of me stepping away from life because I was so NOT FINE. (The post I just linked to was written on June 7 and up for a short time before I unpublished it. Being “out there” with my not fine-ness was just not something I was capable of at the time.)

Three days after that, June 10, I went out of work on medical leave.

I was in bad shape, guys. But more on that later.

Yesterday I decided to return to Facebook and just see. I’m feeling so much better and so I thought I could be virtually social as I start to be social IRL again.

As I scrolled through my feed I saw a post that hit me so hard I questioned my return and almost immediately deactivated my account. Again.

The post was a gut-wrenching one from an amazing friend who lost her brother to suicide years ago, and she was telling her story about losing him in honor of Suicide Prevention Week (happening this week, of which I was not aware).

Friends, I don’t know how to tell you this in the right way, but I was there. I was in that place of “suicidal ideation,” as they call it, and I teetered on the brink of executing a plan. I have been medicated since mid-July and the full bottle of Clonazepam above my kitchen sink beckoned to me, bidding me come, take me all in and just fall into the abyss.

You see, despair is a liar. It tells you things that are not true or even logical, but in the throes of severe depression, you believe them. You believe you are worth more to your family dead than alive. You believe that in your current state, you are not fit to be called “Mom” by anyone and should end yourself to save the kids. You believe that yes, they would be sad for awhile, but eventually  your husband would find love again and your children would heal because they are better off without such a broken excuse for a parent in the first place.

I believed all of these things. I believed them as I fantasized about swallowing the entire bottle’s worth and just drifting off…as Hamlet said, to sleep, perchance to dream, and this time without the nightmares that plagued me nightly so that not even sleep was a respite from my pain.

Part of this downward spiral had to do with a medication, and I somehow managed to convey to my husband how serious my condition was. The thoughts I was having. What I was contemplating. I saw his terror and then saw him bravely battle through it as he got me in to see my doctor the same day and say to her WE NEED HELP.

We talked about hospitalization but I knew that would make me worse. The presence of people I loved was what was keeping me alive, by a hair. The doctor’s first order was a medication change (from Zoloft to Abilify, for those to whom it is of interest) and the second and third orders were to hide all medications and never leave me alone until we saw how the new meds might help. My doctor looked me right in the eye and wouldn’t let me look away when she said, “Suicide ALWAYS ruins the lives of the loved ones. It never fixes anything.” I flinched.

Drew took a day off work, showing me so much radical acceptance and love that I wished so fervently I could feel in my heart. But even though I was too dead inside to feel anything at all, he stayed by my side.

A dear friend came and “babysat” me for a day with no judgments or expectations. Just love and good company on my couch with the TV on all day. I was too far gone to even be embarrassed that she had to be there to make sure I didn’t hurt myself, even though I can now say I know that with this friend, there was no need for embarrassment at all.

I felt somewhat better in a matter of days so we came off high alert. I didn’t fantasize about swallowing the pills anymore but I did have moments of such deep despair that my only release was forcibly purging anything I’d eaten. One day, that wasn’t enough and I desperately raked at my forearms and hands with my fingernails.

The scratches have finally healed.

Through all this, I was 100% honest with my husband and it is what has saved me. Honesty. The ability to step forward and say, even though the medication change has made a huge difference, I need help. I need MORE help. I need so much more help or I am literally going to die. I made a promise to tell him on days when I purged, to have him sit with me while I cried and he held an ice pack on the scratches on my arms to keep them from raising up into welts.

Three months ago when I left work, I simply could not function anymore. I had played my role for over a year–hey everyone! Look at me, healing from my trauma and working my little fanny off!

What I was really doing was drowning myself in work as a numbing practice and ignoring sign after sign from my body that I was NOT OKAY. Insomnia. Panic attacks. Chronic diarrhea. Horrible headaches. Permanent dark circles under my eyes. Strange aches and pains that had me believing I was dying…but that I still tried to ignore.

On June 9, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t focus on work calls. I could hear people’s voices but couldn’t tell you what they were talking about. I would stare at my computer for hours, trying to figure out what I was supposed to be working on. And for those of you that know me well, you know this is so completely out of character.

In late July, once my doctors stabilized me after the medication issues that caused my suicidal downward spiral, I had the courage to say, I still need more help.

I entered an intensive outpatient program through Yale and am entering my fourth and final week in this program where I have learned so much, first and foremost that I am not alone. I have learned about mindfulness and self-validation, and I have learned how to use real coping skills that work for me as an adult…because the ones I developed as a kid, when I just had to survive, were so unhealthy and obviously don’t work for me anymore. I did what I had to do then, and I am doing what I have to do to be healthy for me and for my family now.

After all this, I have not and will not deactivate my FB account again. At least, not because of my friend’s post and the emotions it stirred up in me.

I’ll stay on FB because I have decided to return to my life and be present. I may not be awesome, hell I may not even be functional all the time, but I am going to start showing up…for friends, for family, for this blog, and, soon enough, for work.

Right now, that’s the best I can do is show up and be 100% honest. And since it is Suicide Prevention Week, I ask you to think about me in whatever context you’ve known me before and ask yourself if you ever would have considered me a person who would be suicidal. I’m guessing most answers would be “nope, never.”

I do love my life, but guys, this shit is real.

It is like a monster tearing at your heart and whispering evil things in your ear to make you believe you don’t belong in the world. And in those moments, I believed.

Today, I know I belong in the world. What the future holds for me, I can’t be sure but for today, I want to be a voice for those without one to say, suicide is real, even for people you think are fine. Even for people you think are doing great, sometimes especially those people.

Awareness is so important, and the sister of the friend I mentioned earlier is fundraising on behalf of The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you are so inclined to donate to this worthy cause, you can find her page here.

As for me, I’m here. Present. Not perfect, not healed, still medicated, still struggling, but here–willing to share my not-fine-ness, and so very grateful to be able to show up for my life.