My Mental Illness

I fear my mental illness, and often that fear makes it hard for me to cope with it. 

On Sunday, I woke up feeling a little off. I brushed it off and got dressed and ready to go to church with my family. We were scheduled to serve in the kid’s area that morning. I signed my kids into their classes and headed up the stairs to find a seat in the auditorium. As I was walking to the stairs, I felt the shift. I sat in my chair and tried to brush the feeling of panic away. This is where I needed and wanted to be. I had commitments, and I needed to be okay. Heat flooded my body; my legs became weak; the beautiful music became a noise that felt so overwhelming. I decided to escape and find a quiet space to calm my nerves and pull myself together. 

Once I was alone, I started working on controlling my breathing and calming my mind. It began to work, but in an instant, panic overcame my mind, and I could not control the fear. My heart began to race, my arms and legs started shaking uncontrollably, and I had to lay on the floor in the bathroom because every time I tried to stand, I would lose my vision. The instant adrenaline that rushes through your body, telling you to run, flee, find safety feels overwhelmingly powerful when there is nothing to escape from. I realized that I left my phone with my husband, which only made me feel trapped. The feeling of being trapped and unable to escape only fuels the panic.  

The fear is indescribable and makes no sense to a person who has not experienced it. It’s lonely, it’s terrifying, it’s isolating. It feels as though your body has been set on fire; invisible arms are around your neck choking you that you are unable to break free from all while you are in chains and unable to escape. Your enemy can sneak up on you and debilitate you in moments. There is no warning; there is no time to prepare. You have been placed on the frontlines of a war with no weapons and no army to protect you. That is a panic attack. 

This battle usually takes time for me to recover from. It isn’t a come and go type of deal. I have to put a lot of work in to improve and get back to normal. Commitments don’t always get honored; leftovers are usually for dinner, and I am out of service. Shame and guilt are waiting at my doorstep for me to open the door. Sometimes I pretend not to be home, but I usually end up inviting them in. They quickly become un-welcomed guests that I don’t ask to leave. So, they stay, and I become a prisoner in my own home until I take control and show them to the door. 

Mental illness is like the best-kept secret. It lives inside of you and is unknown to the ones around you. It cannot be seen or heard. It’s a secret that no one knows you are carrying. Mental illness has no description, no specific face, no labels. It can be the wealthy, the successful, the hippie, the planner, or the one that appears to be just fine. 

I am learning to not fear this disease; I am learning that I don’t have to hide it, I am learning how to cope with it, I am learning when to push ahead and when to take a break, and I am learning that it is nothing to be ashamed of. 

My mental illness does not define me.

My mental illness does not control me. 

My mental illness does not make me less of a person. 

If anything, it has taught me how to fight, how to persevere, to endure, and to overcome. It has humbled me and given me more compassion for the ones around me that struggle with their demons that I do not understand. 

My mental illness how taught me that it really is okay to be different.

7 Ways to Support a New Mother

Welcoming a new baby into the world is an exciting and thrilling moment for many. The Grandparents are ready to get their hands on their newest grandchild, friends are dying to hear every moment of your birth story, and almost everyone you know is asking to stop by the hospital or your home to pay you a visit. They promise it will be short, sometimes they come with gifts, but honestly you sometimes wish that you could just lock your door and hide away with your new addition for a while. Becoming a new mother is one of the best moments of your life, but it can also come with a flood of emotions, lots of tears, and little sleep.

When I became a mother for the first time I felt all of those exciting emotions. After 10 long months of growing this baby, it was finally time to meet him and hold him close to my heart. However, I also felt overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the amount of people inside of my hospital room, overwhelmed by the amounts of advice I was given, and tired…so very, very tired. 

Everyone wants to be helpful to a new mother right after she has given birth and has joined the new motherhood club. Here are a few ways that you can show support to your friend, daughter, or co-worker after she has welcomed her new bundle of joy.

1. Congratulate her! I absolutely loved receiving all of the Facebook messages/text messages from friends. I was unable to check my phone for a while, but once I got the hang of breastfeeding and both my husband and baby were sleeping quietly beside me – I loved scrolling through my phone and reading the messages of congratulations. I was so proud of my baby and I was honored that so many other people were just as happy and excited as I was. But I was very glad that I received those congratulations over text rather than had several people lined up at my door while I was recovering.

2. Prepare her home for her return. My mother and mother-in-law cleaned my house while I was in the hospital. They put clean sheets on the bed and filled the house with flowers. I was so relieved to come home to a clean house and laundry put away. I felt like I could rest and just enjoy spending time with my baby while I recovered.

3. Seasoned Mother’s – don’t be afraid to drop of a few items on the doorstep that you know that a new mother will need, but she doesn’t know yet that she will need. Numbing sprays, sitz baths, doughnut pillows, nipple creams. When I was a new mother I had no idea that I needed to stock up on these items before giving birth. Who knew that numbing spray would be such a gift from God after giving birth?

4. Keep your visits short and sweet. A new mother is often still trying to figure out a schedule for herself and new baby. Breastfeeding can be stressful in the beginning – I never stick around when it is time for baby to eat. I want my friend to feel as relaxed as possible during that time. I also want to give her the freedom and time to connect with her baby. A new mother is sleep deprived and it can be hard entertaining guests for very long. See her, love on her and that precious baby, and then let her take a nap!

5. It is hard for some mothers to ask for exactly what they need or want. Don’t be afraid to offer your services. Excuse her from the room to take a nap, hold the baby while she takes a shower, run a few errands for new mom. Let her know that it takes a village and during this time of recovery and healing – you are at her service!

6. Be her shoulder to cry on. Baby blues are real and very hard for a new mother to share with the people around her. She has waited so long for this baby and may feel guilty for crying tears of sadness and overwhelmed that she doesn’t fully understand. Make her feel comfortable, share your own experiences with baby blues. Validate her and let her know that she is not alone.

7. Be the gate keeper of your own tongue. During this time a new mother is often given a lot of tips, advice, and stories. Ask yourself if what you are sharing is positive and relevant advice to the situation. Maybe don’t tell her that she is never going to sleep again or that your baby was a perfect sleeper and never cried. Just encourage new momma and remind her that she is doing great.

It is important to acknowledge that everyone is different and what will work for one person will not always work for the next. I loved having friends bring me and meal and stop by to eat with me and hold my baby. I enjoyed the close friends who came to the hospital to visit me – but what I needed during that time may not be what another momma will need. Don’t be afraid to ask!  Love on that new momma and just be available to her. 

The Grieving Mother on Mother’s Day

I could dread this day like the plague. I could put on my Sunday best dress and smile like the perfect mother raising the perfect family. I could post a Bible verse and remember to thank God for my two toddlers. I could do a lot of things on this day, but I am choosing to allow myself to grieve.

On October 15, 2018 I miscarried our precious baby at eight weeks. I named him Haven and he was due to be born on Mother’s Day weekend. The little soul growing within me, the one that I wrapped my arms around at night, would never be in my arms earth side. Every daydream that I had about this little one would forever be just that – a dream.

A few months later on New Year’s Eve we were happy to find out that we were pregnant. Once again I was able to celebrate the life growing inside of me and I could not wait to share our rainbow baby with the world. Only, a few weeks later, I found out this baby had implanted in my Fallopian tube and I would have no choice but to terminate the pregnancy. After an emergency surgery I would wake up and once again feel the heaviness of an empty womb.

The emotions were unnatural. When your baby is no longer growing inside of you that means they should be growing outside of you. They should be healthy. They should be thriving. They should be here in my arms – but for me, it just meant it was the end. Two lives that I loved, two lives that I created, two lives that were so uniquely a part of me were now gone.

So on this day I will grieve because it is okay to grieve. I will remember the two babies that never made it in my arms. I will celebrate their precious lives, even though they were all too short. I will hold my two miracle babies close and take in every moment with them. I will cry into my husband’s shoulder. I will laugh with family. But I will allow myself this time on this day and know that others will understand my sadness.

This Mother’s Day will look a little different this year, but I am so proud of the mother that I have become.

I have become a better mother because I am proudly flawed.

I have become a better mother because I am broken, but I am healing.

I have become a better mother because I now love like there is no tomorrow.

I have become a better mother because I no longer care about the perfect image.

I am a better mother because I am celebrated daily by my loving husband and children.

I am a better mother because I know how to not be okay.

I am a better mother because I trust in the promise of life after death.

I am a better mother because of the three I never held.

This Mother’s Day will hold memories of loss from this past year. It is also the first Mother’s Day in two years that we will not be participating in the baby dedication at our church. Instead – we will be remembering our children in a new way. We are going to plant a tree for the the ones we lost: Grace and Haven – surrounded by the people who love them. You are still so loved. I can picture them sitting in the arms of the Lord and my daddy in heaven. I cannot love them here, but I know they will be waiting for me in heaven.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mommies who will be mourning the babies they never got to hold. Celebrate the beautiful lives that you created and that are celebrating you from afar. Allow yourself to grieve, but allow yourself to be celebrated.

May you all be honored as a Mother on this Mother’s Day.

Today, somewhat is enough

Today the house work somewhat got done and, for today, that was good enough. 

After making a fun Saturday morning breakfast of waffles and fruit, the dishes are rinsed but still in the sink. Today, instead of prioritizing the breakfast dishes, we played outside as a family. The kitchen is clean after a long day, somewhat, but that’s good enough.

It’s the beginning of the weekend and work is on pause, but the life of a parent continues.The yard work is first on the To-Do list with two in tow. The leaves are raked but the grass is being put on hold for the rest of the day.  Instead, I will be joining my two toddlers as they play with the water hose.  Today, the yard work is finished, somewhat, but that’s good enough. 

Tonight, we were supposed to do the grocery shopping and take the car to be cleaned. Somehow, too many things ended up on the To-Do list. Instead of cramming in just one more thing I am accepting that what needed to get done got done, and the rest can wait. Because my sanity means more to me than a gourmet meal, chicken fingers are on the menu for tonight, but that’s good enough.

The laundry is folded but remains on top of the dresser waiting to be put away. The laundry got done today, somewhat, but that’s good enough. 

The previously clean bathroom is now… not.  Covered in today’s activities—the wet clothes from our water games piled in the floor, the muddy foot prints made by tiny toes—a room that was done is now undone. But my kids tiny sun-kissed faces are covered all smiles. Today they made a memory and that is worth the extended To-Do list. The bathroom may now be undone, but it’s good enough. 

Our household floors are covered in what tracked in from the outside along with today’s lunch. It could use a good mopping but instead it will just be swept. Instead, mommy and daddy are going to prioritize each other and get in a little quality time under the covers with a movie and a glass of wine. Today, the floors are clean, somewhat, but that is just fine. Today, it’ll be good enough. 

It is almost the end to my husbands weekend and he is ready to spend a evening kicking his feet up and getting some much needed rest but he understands my inability to relax when things go undone. So, instead of resting he puts my needs above his own. My husband is rested, somewhat, but to him that’s good enough. 

It is Monday morning and we are feeling the rush of the new week.  My husband is up at 5:30 getting ready for work and giving babies their bottles, putting them back to bed so I can get a few hours extra sleep. When the children and I get up and start breakfast I notice a note on the side of the counter with the word Bride written on the front. Before my husband rushed out for work he took a few moments to say good morning and that he loves me in a letter.  It wasn’t a date night, but to me it was enough. 

As parents sometimes we do just enough but, sometimes, that’s enough!

The Day That my Son Kung Fu-ed Me

Recently my son started watching Kung Fu Panda the TV series on Amazon. I’ve never bothered to watch an episode with him because I genuinely hate Kung Fu Panda. I know, mom fail. I typically don’t allow my kids to watch something unless I’ve seen it first but, we’ll blame Aunt BeBe for this one.

Now, lately I’ve noticed that my son has started playfully punching people like he was boxing–though in a very uncoordinated, two-year-old style–so it took me a while to figure out what he was doing. I guess the Kung Fu Panda has pretty poor technique? Whatever the case, my husband and I could not figure out where he’d picked it up since neither of us have ever play-fought with him beyond tickling and simple wrestling. Maybe he learned it from his cousin or in Sunday school? At first I wasn’t too worried about it. It’s a stage, right? Every little boy play fights.

At lunch one Sunday, after church with friends, I’m trying to discretely (though probably unsuccessfully) tell my child to get himself together and behave at lunch. He starts play-punching me and giggling, which ended up with his bowl of fruit in my face. The bowl then crashed down onto the table and the play punching continued. I kept whispering into my sons ear to listen and obey, and that’s when I realized that my son was Kung Fu-ing me!

I lost my patience with my little boy who was just innocently Kung Fu-ing his friends. I am not sure what Kung Fu Panda is teaching my child other than to throw a poor punch, but for now Liam has been told that Kung Fu Panda went bye-bye and I’m not sure when he will return. It’s entirely possible that Mr. Panda lost the big fight and decided to take a vacation and re-think his life decisions. Maybe Panda decided he’d rather be a lawyer or a doctor… or a noodle chef?

While boys will be boys, for now I want to keep my little boy innocent and out of trouble. I know boys wrestle, play cowboys and indians or army, eat worms, and occasionally throw punches (real and fake) but, I think I’d like to hold off on that stage for just a little longer. I hope he will be happy to just eat worms and finger paint. I’m not ready for him to get kicked out of Sunday school for Kung Fu-ing his teachers or the other kids.

I’m still learning as a new mother. What do I need to protect them from? What should I allow them to be exposed to? Truthfully, I don’t always know the right choice so I simply make one and see how it goes. Sometimes it’s the right one and sometimes you wonder, but either way you just have to learn as you go and grow through experience. I have learned to watch shows with my child and be more aware of what he is learning from what he sees. When he’s older I can explain the difference between Kung Fu and hitting. But for now we don’t hit. Period.

PCOS and Hemorrhagic Cysts

Yesterday morning as we were packing to head home from our vacation a felt I sudden pain in my lower stomach. It came on so quickly and the pain continued to get worse. After blacking out several times we decided to go to the ER
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I have a hemorrhagic cyst on my ovary and one cyst ruptured-which was the reason for the sudden pain. I have had several cysts burst but nothing that ever felt that painful. On Monday I will speak to my doctor about hopefully removing the cyst when I have my laparoscopic surgery in May to remove the endometriosis.
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To say I am feeling a little defeated is a understatement. PCOS and endometriosis is a hard disease to live with. It effects your fertility, you are often having to manage pain, and not much can be done about it. .
The past six months have triggered my anxiety. I feel like something bad is always right around the corner. But I am resting in the promise that God is bigger. I am being tested, I am being challenged, I am being stretched to thin-But not even this is bigger than God.
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Thankful for my family who love and support me, thankful for my team of amazing doctors, thankful for my friends and family who continue to walk with me.
This journey has continued to show me the miracles that my two babies really are. Nothing is impossible for the Lord, nothing is bigger than Him. In this life we will have troubles-but what amazing gifts he gives us along the way.

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Check On Your Friends

Check on your friends who just had a new baby
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Check on your friends who are entering into college
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Check on your friends who struggle with mental illness
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Check on your friends who are working longer hours at work
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Check on your friends who smile
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Check on your friends who have a lot on their plate
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Check on your friends who you haven’t spoken to in a while
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Check on your friends going through a break-up
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Check on your friends who lost a loved on
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Check on your friends-period.
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Send a meal over, send a quick text, lend a helping hand, offer a word of encouragement, give your time and attention-But check on each other. We need each other.