Friday, May 31, 2013

The Looking Glass

(I wrote this post this past weekend - on the evening of my little guy's birthday. It was a beautiful day - but a difficult evening for me. Not because of anything to do with him or anyone. But because of my own battle with anxiety and depression (original post here). Then I hesitated to share it because of my love for him. What if he reads this someday? Will he worry that his mommy wasn't happy on his birthday? Will that hurt him? Will he feel less important somehow? Maybe I should post about his birthday party first then share this later. Then last night happened. A horrible night of what I can only fathom was some intense side effects from one of the anxiety medications I'm taking. I'm not sure which one. I'm not even sure that's what it was. But I've never felt so out-of-my-head. It's wasn't a panic attack. It wasn't a dream. It was something new. And it scared me and angered me at the same time. So here I am again. Not through this tunnel yet. Questioning myself. Knowing others are questioning. "why not stop the meds?" "do you really need them?" "medications can't be the answer" "isn't there a better way?" Honestly...I don't know. What I do know is 5 months ago I was unable to function. Unable to eat. Unable to drive, cook, work, do laundry, or rock my little boy to sleep. Unable to think. Now I can.What I do know is I am still doing everything. Everything. From prayer and meditation to therapists and counselors, from meds and doctors to lifestyle changes and a new way of thinking. What I do know is I am improving. But I'm still here. Still trying. Still waiting. And I need to share this with you.)

Hello world.

Today my little miracle turned 4 years old.
Today my mind was filled with the wonder at his existence.
Today my heart was filled with love for a piece of myself that I'm convinced is better than my whole self will ever be.
Today my soul was full of gratitude to God for a gift I could never have imagined.
For not only has He sent His Son to die for me, and save me from my sin, but then He sent me my son, to save my life all over again.

And through all the happy times, and all I have to to be thankful for.
And through all the difficult times and all I've had to be afraid of.
And through all the heartbreaking times and all I've had broken inside me.
He remains the One to gave it all to me...and the One who watches over me and holds me when it is taken away.

Today is my little boy's birthday.
If ever there was a day to feel happy - it's today right?
But amid the excitement and joy ... my heart kept crying out within me.

Hello world. I am in pain. And I hate it.

"What?" you say? "On such a happy day how can you feel anything but love? I know birthday parties can be stressful but just relax! It's all fine! You're not really hurting. It's just (stress/hormones/satan). Let's go out for ice cream*."

And maybe I would.
But if ice cream could fill the hole that gnaws and grows in my heart, we'd all be a whole lot happier. And probably a whole lot fatter. 
But I digress.

To anyone who has ever suffered from depression, panic or anxiety disorder. You know what I'm saying. And I'm so sorry you do. It's not a road I'd choose to be walking and I know you feel the same.

To anyone who hasn't...the difficult truth is you don't know what I'm saying.
You don't understand it.
You can't understand it.
You may think you do. You may know an acquaintance/sibling/mother/child/neighbor who claims to have suffered from it. But you don't really know.
You may sympathize. You may judge.
You may reach out. You may look away.
Some of you may research and read about what mental illness is all about.
Some of you will choose to remain ignorant.
And I wish I could say the only person you're hurting by doing that is you...

...but that's not true.

You're hurting those who are suffering in earnest - and you don't even realize it. 
You're hurting my friends.
You're hurting my sisters
And you're hurting me.

By believing that this monster that has eaten it's way into our lives is not "real".
Or that it can be easily controlled or defeated.
That it's all in our head. It's a mental game that can be beat simply by doing something different. Making a change - a decision - to beat it.
And it's just weakness or drama on our part by not getting past it.
Your false judgments along with your innocent misunderstandings hurt us.

How do I know?
Because I've been on both sides of this looking glass.

I've been the one to think "if they just didn't stress out so easily" or "if they didn't try to do so much" or "if they just had their priorities in check" then life would be easier. They need to chill out.

I've been the one to criticize saying "life's tough people, wear a helmet" or question their faith thinking "they just need to let go of all of this and realize God's in control."

I've been the one to sympathize saying "things will calm down soon - life's full of ups and downs. You'll be fine. I get it. We've all been there." then forget about them, or worse, wonder judgmentally if "they are just doing this for attention."

God knows I've been that person.
To strangers. To friends. To family.

Not always being cruel but certainly not always being understanding. How could I when I'm always thinking to myself - why all the drama? Why all the tears? Why all the disappearances and emotional break downs? Why do they do this to themselves?

Did you hear that? 
That was the sound of my heart cracking open just a bit more at the verbalization of my own misunderstandings, my mistakes, my shortcomings.

How dare I assume I knew "better"? That I knew what was really going on. That I knew what they needed. I knew what they were feeling without even asking. That I'd "been there done that". 
We all have pain right? We all have anxieties right? We all have stress right? 
We're all the same...really??

No. Not really.
You are not me. I am not my neighbor. And my neighbor is not her mother.
We are all individuals.
We are all God's children.
We are all created in His image.
We have commonalities. Similarities. Shared experiences.
But we are in no way - all the same.

Most of you know I'm on the other side of that looking glass now.
I came crashing through it a few weeks before Christmas and much to my dismay I'm pretty certain this is where I have to stay. There's no way to the other side of the mirror now. It's broken - I've seen the other side - and I can't fix it anymore than I can rewind the clock.
I am where I am. God has brought me here for a reason and I don't say that lightly - I mean it. I know He has purpose for me and as long as I am seeking Him, He will lead me - even when I can't see where we are going. And while the bigger wounds from my crash into the glass have been treated and cared for. While doctors have monitored and amended and redesigned my care plan. While God is healing in His time and I cling to His promises. And while I'm seeing pieces of my old self more and more in the reflection of this broken mirror....I need you all to know something.

I am still picking splinters of glass out of my body.

I still remember every bit of what it felt like to be so physically ill I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, couldn't think, couldn't cry. I still have days when I'm not sure what I'm going to do or how I'm going to do it.
I still have moments when I talk to God so hard and so long that the tears - oh those blessed tears FINALLY come and I feel relief. It's odd how tears are a curse when you can't stop crying for months on end, until you've been numbed to your own emotions and suddenly tears are a blessing. I can tell you that numbness, for me, is so much scarier than crying.

I need you to know - I still have pain.
Pain so deep that it makes me question who I am and why am I doing this to myself?
Here I am on the other side of that looking glass asking myself that very same question.
How very telling.

And I will tell you right now. Anxiety, depression, panic attacks - are real illness.
You can make the illness harder.
You can make it last longer by ignoring it until it finally crushes you. Or you can fuel it in a negative way enough that it will consume you. Or you can choose to recognize it - face it head on - and seek the attention needed to heal this illness.
But you can't make this up.
Who would ever choose to live this way?
This isn't just the occasional case of the blues, or a fight with your spouse, or an emotional week.
This is a daily fight for your sanity and your health. Your ability to cope. Your desire to keep going.

I am not doing this to myself.
Friends - you are not doing this to yourselves any more than the woman with thyroid disorder (um yep - that's me again) or the man with high cholesterol or the young girl with an eating disorder are doing those things to themselves.

Those are real problems.
Those are treatable problems.
But those are not always preventable, nor predictable, nor self-inflicted problems.
Sometimes illness is just illness.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

That's the diagnosis they've given me to explain the last 5 months (or longer if you talk to my therapist) of my life.
And honestly - I hate it. I didn't want it. I want to be ok! I want to be happy!
Every bone in my body, every fiber of my being, every logical thought in my mind tells me - you don't want this. Push it away. Fight it off. Make it stop. You're stronger than this.
If you've been reading my blog you know - I want another baby. I want to grow and serve and do MORE! Not fall apart into nothing.
I don't want this.
I didn't ask for this.
I'm not ok with this.

So somewhere between "that's a really stupid diagnosis" and "oh thank goodness I'm not crazy!" I have tried to find peace. 
It's one day at a time. 
It's one step up and two steps back.
It's a roller coaster...and I hate roller coasters.

But if you understand nothing else from my (potentially stream-of-conscious-style) writing please understand this.

This is a real illness.

Not merely physical - though some of the physical symptoms include muscle tension, dizziness, chills, sweaty hands/feet, heart palpitations, dry mouth, numbness in the hands/feet, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and the inability to be calm and still. (btw - I can check all those boxes)

It's not merely mental/emotional - though feelings of panic, fear, uneasiness, nightmares, problems sleeping, repeated thoughts, obsessive thoughts, flashbacks, crippling fear and severe anxiety are common symptoms.

It's a life-effecting, game-changing, mind-bending, heart-wrenching illness that I for one cannot wait to beat. I pray to God that it is His will I will be healed. That this is not like Paul's "thorn in the flesh" and I must content myself with it because He knows how much it's broken me thus far.
It has not torn me away from Him.
But at times I feel my very being is tearing itself in half.

Mental illness gets the short end of the stick. It's unfairly named as "mental" as if your physical body is somehow unaffected. And for some horrible reason it's developed a reputation for being a "made-up" illness. We are desensitized with with such words as "crazy" and "unstable" and confuse a true medical imbalance with someone who is "lacking in faith," a "control-freak" or "just a worrier."

If there is anyone out there who is more of a skeptic than I am, we've never met.
I am all about reason. Finding answers. Making sense of everything. I drive my family crazy questioning everything. Not believing it until I can see it for myself. (Doubting Thomas anyone?)
And that has been God's theme of the last 5 years of my life. He is truly refining me with fire - showing me that I am NOT always going to be able to find a reason, or an answer, or a solution.
That I can be wrong.
That I can be weak.
That I am vulnerable to lose what I most want to control.
Even myself.

But if living these trials has taught me anything it's that God can use anything for His purpose. He can turn even our greatest pain into a mysterious blessing that gives life to something worthy and beautiful.

This was hard to write.
I almost didn't write it because I felt awful for sharing something so difficult on the birthday of my sweetest blessing.
But if I pretend that I'm only suffering on bad days - that's not helping anyone.
Not me. 
Not others who are beating themselves up for feeling sad during happy times.
Not those who don't understand that this is not circumstantial or controllable.
The reality of mental illness isn't pretty or easily compartmentalized or convenient.
The reality is that even when everything is okay - this illness tells you it's not.

There are many times I wish I was still on the other side of the looking glass. 
Blissfully ignorant of what it's like to experience any trials : miscarriage, the heartbreak of losing a baby, the fear of what your unborn child's disabilities will mean for your family, the longing of wanting to be pregnant for 2 years with no success, the helplessness of anxiety and the hopelessness of it's sidekick depression.

But on the other hand...if the looking glass was still perfectly intact, I would still be looking vainly at my own reflection. Unaware, unable to relate to anyone other than myself. Focused on the image before me and all I wanted see. How I thought life should be.

So even though it hurts like shattered glass through my heart, I'd rather be looking to God to help me pick up the pieces and see through His eyes, than spend my life gazing mindlessly at my own reflection.

Because no matter what I see in the mirror - it's still me. The way He made me. The way He is molding me daily to be. Not perfect. But somehow perfected in His love.

Thank you.
Thank you for caring enough to read this.
And if you are so inclined - you can use this link to learn more about what's affecting so many - most of whom are still suffering in silence for the fear of being misunderstood, perceived as weak, or feeling guilty for the pain they feel - even though it is out of their control.

*It should be noted that I have a "super" wonderful birthday boy post on it's way. :) He had an awesome birthday - best yet in fact - and I am so blessed to be his momma. It should also be noted that I wrote this and was later invited out to ice cream by my sweet siblings before I posted. Ironic and totally coincidental guys. So don't think I was trying to say anything. ;) I love you. And I love ice cream.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Parental Parallel

While my most recent posts have allowed readers insight into my own struggles and stresses - my personal weaknesses and worries - there is another in this household who is no stranger to anxiety. He has asked to remain anonymous in this post, so for this purpose he is wearing a mask.

This young man suffers numerous anxieties a day as he encounters the various roadblocks, injustices, and hardships of being a 3 year old. So I have decided to share with you just 30 of the reasons this 3 year old might be upset with me on any given morning. And I must warn you, it is truly heartbreaking...according to him.
  1. He doesn't want to wake up.
  2. He wants to watch a show.
  3. He doesn't want to watch that show.
  4. He can't tell me what show he wants to watch. I'm supposed to know.
  5. He can't hear the show, he needs the "memote" to make it "bigger"
  6. He wants chocolate waffles...5 mintues ago.
  7. He wants chocolate milk.
  8. There's not enough chocolate in his milk.
  9. He dropped a piece of waffle on the floor. And it's dirty.
  10. *Clover kicked her poop out of her cage onto the floor.
  11. He wants to pick it up and give it back to her and I won't let him.
  12. He wants to rock. 
  13. Not in that rocking chair. In the other one.
  14. He wasn't finished with his breakfast and I took it away. 
  15. He wants real clothes.
  16. He doesn't want that shirt. He wants  a super hero shirt.
  17. Not the batman shirt.
  18. Not the superman shirt.
  19. He wants the iron man shirt.
  20. He doesn't own an iron man shirt.
  21. He wants to wear a mask to school. 
  22. He doesn't want to comb his hair because then he has to take off his mask.
  23. It's time to go to school and he wants to play at home.
  24. I made him get in the car.
  25. He wants to listen to High School Musical 3.
  26. He doesn't want me to dance.
  27. He doesn't want me to sing.
  28. He doesn't want me to lip-sync.
  29. He doesn't want me to look at him in the rearview mirror.
  30. We've arrived at school. He doesn't want to leave me. He suddenly forgets how incompetent of a human being I have been thus far and wants nothing more than to be by my side. We part ways.
And that my friends. Is what true anxiety looks like. And he can't even take a xantax. Poor kid. 

Don't you just feel so sorry for him? I wish there was something I could do to make life happier for the little fella. But alas. It's his burden to bear.

*For those of you who haven't met Clover...

She also wishes to remain anonymous. So out of respect, I'm afraid I can't tell you which one she is. But she is happy to be a new part of our family.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Unspoken : Baby Talk

Just a note :) **As a follow up to my last post about my recent battles with anxiety - thank you so much for your sweet encouragement. What beautiful friends and family I have. I am doing my best to  live one day at a time and so far I am thankful for how much better I am feeling. I know it's a long journey. And I am getting lots of help! And by no means do I think I'm "all better now." But God is with me. There is joy in my days. There is purpose in my life. And there is hope above all else. So thank you.**

*Warning: This post is extremely wordy. In fact there are NO adorable pictures of my son or ANY pictures for that matter, (gasp!) I know. It's horribly disappointing. Some of you may just bail right now. But I hope you don't. And I promise to make it up to you soon. He's just getting cuter you guys. I kid you not. So just you wait. :)*

Similar to my last post, there are many things that have inspired me to write this - both recent and ongoing - but at the heart of it all is this : I want to be real. I want to grow. I want to reach out. I want to live fully and honestly and happily. And this is one way I feel I can do that.

Ok here goes.

No, I’m not pregnant.
I know the title had the word "baby" in it but no - I'm not pregnant.
For some, that sentence might carry as fairly neutral or dismissive tone as I’m sure many of you read it. For others, it might have a humorous ring to it like “No I’m not pregnant! Can you imagine?!” or even bring a sigh of relief to some. But for others – it brings slightly different feelings. Feelings of longing, frustration, sadness, or real pain. And if you could feel the twisting of my gut just typing those words – you would know where I fall in those categories.

If you could feel the way I catch my breath and my stomach lurches when I see a baby shower invitation, or ultrasound picture or cutesy photo on facebook announcing that someone else is going to be welcoming a baby into their lives – you would know how deeply I want that for myself.  If you could see me read one of the many emails I receive about scheduling a maternity or newborn photography session and see my eyes burn with tears and feel my heart race– you would know how sometimes my love of photography intertwines with my own personal hurt so much it makes me dizzy.
If you could hear my thoughts, read my heart, feel what I feel … you’d know.
Yes. I want another baby.

I want another baby so much that I will probably put Jet in footie pajamas till he’s 15 unless I get one. He's in one now. I kid you not. I’m grasping at his last bits of babyhood so fiercely that I may very likely lose my mind at his 4th birthday next month. My baby is growing up so wonderfully…but so fast.

I want another baby so much that I’m pretty certain it’s a big part of what pushed my recent anxiety attacks into the nightmare they became. That no matter how I tried to not want it so much., to just live and let live. To just be thankful for what I have been given and focus on all the wonderful things I can do in my life.
I still want another baby so much it hurts.

It’s not that I begrudge anyone else their babies – please! Such a beautiful blessing to be given. I love when my friends and family become mommies. Babies are to be celebrated and cherished. I love being an Aunt and hope to have more nieces and nephews to come. I want you to have your babies. God bless your heart if you think your baby makes me sad. Not at all sweet mommas. 
If I shed a tear it’s not for you, it’s for me.
I don’t want your baby. I want my own.

We want to grow our family and have wanted this for 2 years now.

Did most of you know this?
 Probably not.
It’s extremely personal.
Just like my previous post on anxiety – it’s not something we generally like to talk about. Even with our spouses it can be difficult to open up about. It’s not something to you dive into over a quick cup of coffee with a friend nor would it be polite dinner conversation. It’s kinda heavy. It’s certainly serious. And it’s way too emotional for the everyday chat with the neighbors or even sometimes with your own family. But just like my battle with anxiety – I know that I am not alone in these feelings. I can feel it. I can see it. And now…my heart is aching not only for myself, but for the others, some of them very dear to me.

There are many women I know (friends, family, even acquaintances) with whom I have discovered common ground in these areas that I would have otherwise never known  - because we don’t usually talk about these things. Who wants to?
Infant loss.
When you have lived through something I just listed above– just hearing about it is like the sting of a band-aid being ripped off a wound that never seems to heal. Talking about it can be like pouring salt in that wound. But keeping it inside – for me - that has to have been the worst pain of all.

I know all pain is relative.
Everyone is different. Every circumstance is different. Everyone feels, copes, processes, and handles things different. But somewhere in all those differences there has to be some commonality.
Whether you have struggled to get pregnant for 6 months or 6 years.
Whether you have had 1 miscarriage or 5.
Whether you have lost a child at birth or just too soon into their lives.
Whether you have no kids…or 2 kids…or 4…when you want a baby - you want a baby. The desire to be a mother is one of the strongest, deepest most compelling feelings we as women can have. There is certainly nothing else like it for me. The pain, the confusion, the anger, the frustration, the fear, the heartbreak of the above situations may manifest itself differently in each person. And it may differ in one individual from one experience to the next. But at the core I can’t help but feel like the hurt is somehow the same.

Before we had Jet, we lost our first baby early on in the pregnancy in a miscarriage. And I will be the first to tell you that it ripped. my. heart. out. I had never felt a pain like that before. I’d heard of it happening. I’d had friends who I’d seen go through it. I felt as if I could sympathize. It was sad, but there was always that strength you witnessed in their actions and words that consoled you into thinking “it’s all gonna be ok.” But nothing could have prepared me for fear that gripped me at those first drops of blood, nor the stabbing in my heart when I learned I was in fact losing the baby. My baby. My baby I’d dreamed about since I played with baby dolls. My baby I’d already bought little white Auburn booties for to surprise Daddy the night I told him. My baby that I loved with all my being the instant that magical Clear Blue digital pregnancy test in the Starbucks restroom said “pregnant”. My baby who I’d excitedly told my family and coworkers about within 48hrs. My baby! Whom I’d only known about for 4 days but felt as if I’d been a mother always…was suddenly gone. Only a few days to fall in love so hard – to see your life changing before your eyes in a beautiful flash – and having it harshly taken away truly felt as if a part of me were dying as well. Like I said. I know everyone is different. But for me, this was the first time my heart was truly broken. I felt emptier than I’d ever felt before. My baby was gone. And I questioned God’s plan for me, and how this could possibly have been the right thing to happen. Will I ever know what it’s like to have 2, or 3, or 4 miscarriages? I don’t know. I pray not.
 And when I think of the mothers who have gone 5, 6, 10. 14, 20 weeks, full term and beyond their first years and lost their babies. My heart cannot fathom the feeling.

I was a walking shadow of myself for weeks. There were of course ups and downs. God let me work through pain then took it away and brought me peace. I was healing…slowly. 
Too slow it seemed most times.
 Then one day something changed. I found out I was pregnant again. God gave me my second baby. The baby whom I found out about after a quick 6am stop at Walgreens and practically running into the bathroom of the elementary school I was teaching at to take the test. The baby I kept secret from everyone but family as long as I could. The baby I was equally excited and terrified about for weeks. The baby I prayed non-stop would be my baby. My baby to have in my arms. My baby to help heal the hurt. And for almost 20 weeks, he was. He was my precious, perfect baby boy.

Then many of you know what happened next.
 After some bloodwork came back abnormal, we were sent to a perinatologist to check everything out. Everything was “probably fine”. We just have to be sure.
And that’s when I lost a baby for the 2nd time. That’s when the doctors told me that the beautiful, perfect, angel boy growing inside me had a severe form of neuro-tube defect and would most likely be incompatible with life. That’s when they told me about my option to abort so I wouldn’t have to carry him just to watch him die. That’s when my still fragile heart burst into a thousand little pieces and fell in the form of endless tears from my eyes. I cried till there were no tears left. I cried until my heart physically hurt within me. I cried until I was numb. Out of breath. Out of tears. Out of thoughts. Then I would stop, rest, and then cry some more.
I knew I couldn’t abort my baby.
My baby who was still alive and moving inside me.
Dear God I can’t do that to him.
But I didn’t know how I would ever survive carrying him 4 more months knowing I would have to say goodbye. Or at best – see him on life support or in a comatose state – severely handicapped for whatever short life he lived. I was so broken I was certain I would never be whole again. I prayed right then to God that no one, no mother, would ever have to feel this pain I was in. I prayed that He would just take me and my baby right then and there - to heaven – where we could be together whole and perfect without living another day of this nightmare. But many mothers have lived this pain before me and many have gone on to feel this pain since. And God didn’t take me then. But nor did He take my baby. Instead, He gave us a miracle. A miracle in the form of a second appointment that gave us a new hope – a diagnosis that our son had Spina Bifida – that he may never walk, would be developmentally delayed, would have bladder and bowel problems his whole life and perhaps a string of other issues – but that he was going to live.

That miracle – is our Jet.
My sweet Jet Montgomery Penny born in the beautiful month of May and who will turn 4 years old in a matter of weeks. The funniest, cutest, wildest, sweetest part of our lives. A dream born out of what threatened to be the worst nightmare of my life. My baby.

Being Jet’s mommy has been one of the most profound and rewarding experiences of my life, and this love is more beautiful than I could have ever known.
So of course, I want to do it all over again. J

We’ve always planned to have more children. And we were able to get pregnant so quickly the first 2 times that it seemed like having more was only a matter of when we wanted more. It’s up to us right? So let’s wait till Jet’s 2 and then get pregnant again. Oh how God must have smiled knowingly and shook His head at us. His poor children still thinking they’re in control  - not relying on His plan but trusting in their own understanding of “how it should happen.” Little did we know…just because you’ve had a baby doesn’t mean you’re a baby factory. And boy was that a hard lesson for this momma heart to learn. After a few months of “see what happens” we slid into “ok lets maybe pay a little attention to timing” then shaking our heads in confusion started asking doctors for tips on increasing our chances and what we should do to get pregnant. Mostly we heard “you’re both so young. No worries, it will happen” or “the average time it takes for couples to conceive is 9 months to a year – just wait,” or my personal favorite “oh just stop thinking about it and it will happen.”

Now if you’ll just hold onto my heart and brain for a bit while I go live in a world free of baby ads, baby clothes, and actual babies, I’ll go “not think about” it a while.

Ok so maybe that’s dramatic.
There are certainly days – even weeks – where I feel like I’m “not thinking about it.” In fact, with my recent battle with anxiety and how awful I’ve felt and all the medications I’ve been trying I’m certainly not on baby-watch right now. Deep down I know what’s good for me and my family – and getting pregnant right now would not be that thing. But with so many reminders (including one monthly reminder that screams in your face “no baby in there again this time sucker!”) It’s honestly pretty much impossible not to think about it. Yes I’ve heard the stories of so-and-so who gave up on getting pregnant then was suddenly expecting twins or the Mr and Mrs who decided to finally adopt then found out within weeks they were expecting. I know. It happens. They “stopped thinking about it” and it happened. Or so it seems.
But I’m telling you.
You can’t make yourself stop thinking about it.

All you can do is try to think about other things and make those your focus. Being a mommy to the awesome little boy I have. Being a wife to my husband. Being a friend to those who need me. Being a servant of God and sharing His love with others. Did God put me here solely to have kids? I’m pretty sure that answer is “no”. So what else could I, should I be thinking about? Not that I think we should feel guilty or beat ourselves up for wanting things in life like healthy relationships, marriage, children and good jobs that we truly love. Those are blessings God has given us and He created us to want them. But He didn’t create us to stress or obsess about these things. And as difficult as it is for any of us, most especially me, to not think and worry and plan and take the responsibility for mine and other’s happiness on my shoulders – my shoulders are not nearly big enough.

But His are.

When I was a little girl. I would say “when I grow up I want to be a mommy…then a ballerina.” Now. I share that not only to show the incredibly poor planning on my part, but to show you where my heart has always been. I wanted to be a mommy. I love my own momma so much. I wanted to be just like her. Still do. Many would say I’ve succeeded. So much so that we often show up dressed alike at the gym or church or each other’s houses without meaning to. I promise. Some have questioned the legitimacy this phenomena but as much as I love my mother – what 28 year old girl on earth would purposely dress as twins with their mom?

So to have experienced a miscarriage first, then think I’m going to lose my 2nd baby at birth, then to want more children and have to wait much longer than I ever, ever, planned. This has been a struggle for me. I know 2 years for some may seem short. I guess relatively it is. I know I already have a child. I know there are others with no children who have tried 5 times as long with no success. I know that. 

But this is my life.
My heart.
My longings.
And no one can tell me that one person’s pain isn’t equal to another’s.

That one person’s suffering in one area is somehow “less” difficult because of the circumstances. Logically – yes it would seem that having a child is better than no children. I 100% agree. My boy is beyond precious to me. But does having him make me want another baby less? No. If anything it makes me want another baby more. For once I felt the love of a mother…when I first dreamed it….then got my first a glimpse of it…then finally held my dream in my arms….my desire if anything grew stronger. I love him more everyday. So how could I ever compare the loss of a child at 2 weeks, 2 years or 22 years old? I can’t. We can’t. We can only know what we’ve personally experienced. What we’ve felt. What we’ve lived. So in my mind, there is no ranking the heartaches of motherhood. Whether you have no children. Whether you’ve never been pregnant, or you’ve had a miscarriage, or you suffered the loss of a child already born to you. The pain is incomparable. And to try and compare our sadness or experiences to others in that way is only harmful. Unless you do so in order to keep perspective in your own life. Such as realizing that while so many may seem to “have it easier than you”, there are just as many who you might find have it much more difficult.

There’s that saying “if we all threw our problems in a box with the rest of the world’s problems, we’d all pick our own right back up.” Life isn’t always what we plan. In fact in my experience it’s rarely what I planned. And I’m pretty sure God is doing that on purpose. Not because He gets a kick out of it (although He might, just a little). But because He loves me, and He knows me, and He’s trying to bring me closer to Him, despite my arrogant insistence that I have the best plan ever and I can do it on my own if only He’d listen to me more.


So I write this for me. To really search my heart and my feelings – to reevaluate my relationships and my goals – to focus on my place in the world right now and my role in God’s family plan.
And I write this for you. The mothers who are blessed with children. The mothers who have lost children. The mothers who have known the pain, heartbreak and fear that I have in one way or another. And the mothers who are still yet to be. You are all in my heart.
So there you have it.
Another piece of me.
A big piece.
A very current, ever-changing, still-unsolved, daily-learning, one-step-at-a-time piece of my life. I’m not asking for answers or tips or even encouragement (although of course I would never turn any act of kindness away). I simply wanted to share it. For many reasons, but mostly because this is on my mind and has been for some time. This is who I am. This is what God has placed on my heart and after years of keeping it one-on-one with Him and a few close friends I feel the need to reach out. Maybe this is your life. Whether it be in some small part or perhaps almost identical. Or maybe you simply know someone whom this applies to.

Or better yet – you don’t.
You’ve never experienced this. You’re at a stage of life where this hasn’t touched you yet. Or you’ve made personal decisions that have kept these particulars struggles from reaching you.

But here you are.
And I’m sharing this with you.
The question is…why?

Maybe it’s so your eyes will be opened to someone who needs encouragement. Maybe it’s because you or someone who know will go through something like this someday. And now you’ll know you’re not alone. Maybe it’s only to remind us think twice before complaining too much about children or pregnancy to someone who may be hurting – wishing your problems were theirs. Maybe it’s to make us think before asking those seemingly harmless questions like “when are you two going to start having kids?” or “when are you going to have another baby?”
Because while the answer for some may be just as simple as “oh maybe someday!” or “we’re not ready quite yet but we want to!”
For many the answers are hard to voice. Because the answers literally hurt to say aloud.

“We’ve been trying to have a baby. But nothing yet. We’re still waiting.”
“We’ve been told we don’t have a good chance at getting pregnant naturally. We don’t know our next move.”
“We will never be able to have children for medical reasons.”
“We were just pregnant a few months ago and just lost the baby.”
“We’ve been pregnant 4 times and no one knew because I miscarried early each time.”

Such harmless happy questions…with a very real potential to hurt.
I don’t say that to cause anyone to feel guilty, or defensive or hurt. I too have asked those questions in the past. We are human. We can’t expect each other to be sensitive to every single other person’s personal struggles. But  awareness is power…awareness can strengthen, empower and heal…awareness is a gift., should we choose to receive it with a open heart.
So I’m opening mine to you.

You may not know me. But to everyone who reads this, I hope that God will reveal His plan to you as He has revealed it to me. Usually slowly. Often times blurrily. Sometimes all mixed up like a jigsaw puzzle that I still can’t understand. But on occasion as beautifully, perfectly and purposefully as only He can do. And when that happens, it will all, everything, be clear. And may we all be so blessed as to someday see God’s wisdom, love, and perfect plan come together … even amid the most unwanted, incomprehensible, unplanned moments of our lives.

 Nothing is "a given" in this life. We aren't promised anything - not marriage or children or a house or a job or anything. Our only Hope is in the Lord and returning to Him someday. That's the goal folks. And though it's often hard to keep my eyes on that...I will be the first to admit I need to keep trying harder.

Lord help me as I press “publish” on this thing. Please understand this is all just my heart. I do not claim to have any answers much less all of them. I just wanted to share. I hope my words will encourage and not injure, protect and not provoke, heal and not hurt.

God bless you all…and goodnight.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Unspoken : Open Heart

It's been a while. In fact, for several reasons I feel like I need to reintroduce myself to you all. Many of you know me. Some of you know me well. A few of you know me very well. And those few know I've never really had trouble expressing my feelings.  I like to talk. Like... a lot. I used leave the hair dresser feeling like the biggest self-absorbed ninny because I would talk her ear off and forget to ask her anything about her life.  Sometimes that still happens. But I'm trying to talk less, and listen more.
I like to share my experiences. I open up pretty well. Just ask my husband who from day one has met my wordy-0verly-analytical way of communicating non-stop with his unequivocal deer-in-the-headlight eyes and almost instant headache. Apparently there's only so much a 15 year old guy can absorb at one time. (And apparently it's a slow growth progress cause at 28 there's not much more wiggle room. ;) 
I, on the other hand, haven't slowed down talking. Thinking. Wondering. Planning.

 I have opinions that's for sure. And ways I think things should be done. And I share them. More cautiously and conscientiously  than I did at 12 or 15 or 18 years old. But it's still a growth process. I've been told I'm good with words. Expressing feelings and inner thoughts that echo that of many others who read them. I like to write. I love to help. There's nothing like feeling needed.
But by no means do I feel like I have all the answers. 
Maybe I used to think so.
But then the tests starting getting really hard. 

Living with what you might call "type A" personality - I like to be in charge.
I feel safest when I'm doing what needs to be done, myself.  If I know I'm right...I'm right. If I'm not sure I won't even risk it because to be wrong would be...well, not good. I can't be vulnerable like that. It's just that hard.
I'm naturally competitive. So much so that I avoid competition at all costs because it affects me so much to do poorly. 
I'm a worrier. 
I second-guess everything. 
I examine and re-examine a situation so much that I forget what I was originally hoping to accomplish. 
I can't multitask very well.  
I'm not naturally easy-going. I try very hard to be that way as a mom and adult. But it's not without effort. And if you have try hard to make it look like you're not trying...doesn't that defeat the purpose?

Why am I telling you all this?

Because friends. I've been through some rough times lately. And I realized that while I seemed to have no trouble writing about generic worries and fears, or the simple ups and downs of being a mom, or how much I adore my precious angel-boy and the joy he brings to our lives.

I've yet to actually write about who I am. My whole self.
And it's time you all knew.
I have faults. I have fears. I have failures.

Shocked? About 6 of you are shaking your heads laughing "not surprised in the least." And chances are you're related to me. So thanks.
But to others of you who have no doubt been drawn into the illusion that I have it all together. Don't let my graceful demeanor, adorable style and witty charm fool you. ;) (ok. now even I'm laughing.)
But the truth is, my life is nothing like the incredibly cute pin boards I've designed on Pinterest. Nor is it made up only of the pretty pictures I take and funny lines I quote from my son.

You see. I've put a filter up.
In many ways, I've photoshopped my life.
What you see is what I'm comfortable with you seeing. It's my life...but enhanced. Minus any unsightly blemishes. Leaving only a charming piece of chalk laying around the driveway to give the illusion that even our messes are artsy and cute.

('s cute. You should see my laundry room.)

Are you still breathing? 
Stay with me.

 I know, I know. I'm sorry to deceive you. I know you though I woke up every morning completely refreshed, my hair perfectly coiffed and open my window to join the birds in song...but that's simply not true. I usually brush my teeth first. KIDDING! I never brush my teeth. (again - kidding. Humor is obviously an avoidance tactic of mine.)

But although it's not all a sham (I do have a crazy obsession with holidays and decorate my house for each occasion. I do love to plan great parties. And I do have an adorable son whom I love to take pictures of. ;)) A lot of what you see is just what I want you to see.

(Why of course have fresh roses at my kitchen sink at all times. Doesn't everybody?)

And the thing is... I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one doing it. We live in a pinterest-etsy-DIY-world.
(if you have no idea what any of those things are...we need to talk.) We see everyone else's lives, jobs, families, houses, gardens, crafts, clothes, passions,  hobbies, causes as greater than our own. There's always someone succeeding where we've failed. Someone enjoying what we fear. Someone doing things better than us.

(Why yes these are homemade donuts. Really? No people...Not really.)

I recently read something on facebook (which by the way is the king of destruction where self esteem and reality are concerned. But it's the way we keep up with so many we know and love so we keep going back.)

"Stop comparing your life's outtakes to someone else's highlight reel."
Ouch and Amen.
Comparison is an ugly business.
And often times we're completely wrong about our assessments of others anyway.

But on the flip-side there's good old perspective.
Someone is always hurting in ways we haven't been through. Someone is always struggling with things we've yet to experience. Some is always feeling more pain, more fear, more grief and more worry than we have ever known.

And that perspective isn't mean to diminish our own struggles or make light of what pain or fear we do have. But it's mean to keep us grounded. Keep us going. Keep us looking to serve and help others rather than over-focusing on ourselves.

Perspective gives us permission to connect to others who have it better, the same, or worse than us in different areas. Perspective gives us balance.

I've said it before. But it still rings true.
We need to stop believing in the illusion that we are in control.
And that despite how scary that may seem...our lives are actually in better Hands than ours.

I've recently endured a pretty tough battle with Anxiety.
If  you have fought Anxiety before you understand why it needs a capital letter. Anxiety is serious stuff. It's sneaky, strong, deceptive and violent.
It comes when you least expect it and shakes you until you begin to doubt things will every be okay again. There are many forms of Anxiety. And it will attack different people in different ways. For me, it grabbed me with such force and such speed that it was like being hit by a bus. (Ok...not that I've actually ever been hit by a bus...but I'm pretty sure this was close.) And while I've seen Anxiety's face in my family, friends and even in my self off and on since my youth - this time Anxiety was different. It knocked the breath out of me. It threw me down and took away the strength, hope, faith, and  happiness I was trying to cling to. It made me physically ill. Unable to do anything. Eating. Sleeping. Breathing. Nothing was easy. I had not felt this broken in a long time. And certainly not so spontaneously or for so long. I am stubborn. I'm a fighter. I have always able to pick myself up and keep going. Until 3 months ago.

I don't think I can ever fully put into words the heartache, helplessness, anger and desperation I experienced during those months. I had help. My family and friends were there for me. I did everything anyone told me to do. I saw doctors. Set up appointments with a counselor. Took medications. Even found a psychiatrist. And each and every one of them is amazing. Each are capable and caring and considerate. And I did everything they said. I tried so hard. And still weeks would go by and I was still suffering. It was so frustrating and heartbreaking to me. I felt angry that I was doing everything I was told! Everything in my power! Praying with all of my being! And I still wasn't well.
"It's a process." "Not all meds work the same for everyone." "Just give it time." "Let's try a new medication." "Read this book. "Ok now let's increase your dosage." "I want to see you again in 2 weeks." "Let's try something different."
And on, and on, and on it seemed to go.

Sure I started having better days. I was able to drive again. Able to eat again. Able to smile at my son and be his mommy the way I hadn't been able to for weeks.

But operating at 70% of yourself - even if it's an improvement - is maddening.

Every week has gotten better. There's been setbacks. I talk about it a little to family and close friends to keep sane. But it's not something you just put up on facebook "Hey folks! I've finally lost my mind and 3 medications in I'm still not well! So if you see me with no makeup and sweats at the grocery store - that's a good thing. It means I left the house."

I've wanted to write about this. And so many other things. And I hope that I will. Because not only is it therapeutic for me to write about my son, our journey with SB, my life as a mommy, my fears and my hopes - it's a way to open up my heart to yours. And maybe - just maybe - one of you will breathe a deep sigh of relieve and say "I am not alone."

There's this nice southern mom who seemed to have it all together and then went crazy over Christmas. Yep. I'm right here.

With all I've been through, with all God has shown me, with all the good advice I've been given and all the lessons I've learned - I wish I could say I never worry. That I'm content at all times. That I've finally reached a place where I have the faith and trust to let it all go and just be!
That I know what I'm doing, where I'm going ], and what I will find when I get there.

But I can't.

As a guest at "Life's Birthday Party" I've enjoyed myself immensely. I've been given amazing gifts and been blessed with family and friends to celebrate them with. But I'll be the first to say,  I've been blindfolded and spun around enough times to admit I have no earthly idea where that stupid donkey is, in fact I'm quite nauseous, and I would most likely hurt someone if I tried to blindly venture forth with that sharp pin for the sake of pride or competition's sake.

So here I am. Happily laying my needle down until someone let's me take this blindfold off. Until then, I'll keep trying to do the only thing we can do when surrounded by dark. Move slowly, ask for help, wait for guidance,, and keep looking for the light.

So thank you.
For allowing me to open my heart to you.
For letting me say what has gone unsaid for too long.
And for believing as long as you did that my life is as adorable as a room full of baby animals.
Because the reality is - a room full of baby animals gets messy really fast.
And that's ok.
Because who doesn't love baby animals?

(The answer to that question is no one. Everyone loves baby animals.)

Author's Note:
*no new photos were taken in the making of this blog post. And I'm ok with that.* :)

Popular Posts

Related Posts with Thumbnails