The 30’s Sort

I sat on a park bench with an old friend, smoking a cigarette and staring at the mountains in the distance. A lot of things had changed in both of our lives since the first time we met in 2005. We’d both since quit smoking, moved homes, changed partners, had kids, made new friends and gotten new hobbies… We were different people, and yet still the very same.  Sharing an old bad habit that we both loved back in our day was a comforting walk down memory lane for us both, even with the risk of cancer. After we brushed our teeth and remembered why we gave up smoking in the first place, I got to thinking about how odd it was that I was in BC visiting with friends who were in my life for such a brief period of time, and who I hadn’t even seen in 6 years! I’d certainly let go of friendships that were much longer, so what was so special about these friends? When I asked my friend what she thought, she said that maybe it was because when we met we were all going through some really big changes in our lives, some really hard and confusing times and that those things bonded us. They say that the stress of disaster brings people together. For me, this makes perfect sense. When we met I was lost, depressed and felt like a total failure at life in general. I was a walking train wreck. Our program was 5 days a week, and we spent entire days together in class, studying or hanging out at a greasy bar called Smilin’ Jack’s. (FYI: I like to say I named my son after Jack Johnson, but really it’s secretly because I loved this bar!) The friendship we shared got us through our tough times. We laughed and cried, ate a lot of Swiss Chalet and drank a TON of boxed wine. We survived together.

 

This last reunion has me thinking about things we hold on to, and things we toss. The importance of both holding on, and letting go. This has been focus for me these past few years. When I turned 30 I decided that without a doubt, I was going to figure out how to make myself a happier person. Except, I didn’t actually know how to do that, or where to even start. I guess I didn’t even know what that even meant, but man, I was determined. I figured that the best way to start a big task, especially one you weren’t really sure how to accomplish, was to take a tally of what you had VS what you’d need to get to the end goal. I started there. Operation Sort Through the Shit. Weed out the bad, keep the good. What makes me happy, what doesn’t.   I have spent the last 4 years of my life sorting things into piles to keep, and piles to throw away, and I’ve done a pretty good job at it. I had no idea that this sorting was actually related to the goal of being happier. I was pretty sure I was just wasting time.

 

When I got back from my reunion trip, I realized how different I was as a person. How this time, I wasn’t going to these friends to cry about how lost or sad I was. I’m not sad or mad or unhappy anymore. Not at all. It was a real struggle to find things to be pissed off about, which I guess made me realize that maybe, just maybe, I’m starting to get my shit together. It’s a miraculous discovery for me really, to see that although it feels like I’m standing still, not getting anything of value accomplished, that maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m actually moving forward with my life. That all the time I’ve put into thinking about the people and things that are important to me, has helped me to figure out where I’m going with what I’ve got. I haven’t been idle at all. I have been doing “The 30’s Sort.” What to keep. What to throw away. The best part is, that the sort has actually helped me to be happier. Much happier. That of course was my original goal!

 

If I were to write a list of things I’m keeping and things I’m throwing away it would go something like this:

 

Keep:

  1. My husband. The person who has stood by me for years. He isn’t without fault, nor is he perfect, but he’s perfect for me.
  2. My kids – obvious reasons here. They’re my heart.
  3. My people – I won’t say family here, because as I’ve learned, family has nothing to do with blood relations. I’ve learned in tremendously hard ways who to count as my people. Included are the humans who love, support and accept me for who I am. They are the people who I know I can count on, and who can always count on me in return.
  4. My friends – All of them. I’ve learned that we need all sorts of friends in our lives. From our besties from birth all the way to the girlfriends we see every few years. Friendships have been a saving grace in my life.
  5. My values and beliefs – I change my mind often, but I never alter my core beliefs about what is right and wrong. If I believe something isn’t right, I’ll always say so, no matter who I offend. I know it’s sometimes easier to brush things off, but if I’ve learned one thing about myself, it’s that I’m just not that woman. If you hurt me, my family or my friends or if you are being a jackass in general, I will say something. Always.
  6. My gut instincts – I’m Keeping those, as I believe everyone should. The only times I’ve ever had issues with people or in situations, it is because I didn’t follow my instincts. I know what’s best for me. I trust myself the most.

 

Things to Toss:

 

  1. Self doubt – I’m done thinking I can’t. So done, I won’t even elaborate on this one anymore. Enough said.
  2. Worries about my body image – I’ve spent years hating everything about my body. Starving it, abusing it, crying over it. What a waste of time. I will continue to be healthy, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to pass up beers with my friends, dinners out, chocolate when I’m PMSing… I’m not perfect, and I don’t want to be. In fact, no one is! I have been stick thin and I was miserable. I’d rather be happy. Thanks but no thanks unrealistic body images.
  3. Worries that I’m not achieving enough – Time to throw out all of the unrealistic notions of what I should be accomplishing and on what timeline. Every time I’ve ever done things that I thought other people wanted me to do, I’ve ended up miserable. I don’t have to be a doctor or a mad scientist (that would be fun though) to have value. Right now I’m at home, taking care of my family and helping my husband with his business, and that’s enough. I don’t plan on doing this the rest of my life, but right now, this is where I’m at, and I’m good with that. My time will come.
  4. Blame – I’m done passing off my own short-comings on others. I’ve made and continue to make choices in life. No one is to blame for where I am, who I am or what I’m doing in my life. It’s always easier to blame someone else, but I choose what to accept and what to change. I am responsible for how my life turns out.
  5. People who are assholes: I guess there are better ways to say this, but this is the way that best suits me. I’m seriously done with assholes. The catty, gossipy women, the ungrateful, the arrogant, the inconsiderate, the jealous and the spiteful. Be gone! Instead of being angry and raving mad over the assholes of the world, I’m letting them go. I just don’t have that kind of time anymore. If I can’t handle even talking to you because you’re such an asshole, I won’t and I’m not sorry about it.

I don’t know where I’ll go from here…but I’m currently working on a few plans. I’ve stressed and stressed about the what when and how of my next move, but I have faith that good things will come, as long as I’m open to them. In the meantime, I just need a little more sorting to make space for different experiences and opportunities… It won’t be long now!

 

 

 

 

Ho Ho Hold ON!

Merry belated Christmas! So…how was it? Did you survive? If you’re reading this, I’m sure you did. I’m barely hanging on. I still have 12 more days left of Christmas Break and already I’m close to snapping. If I thought having 3 tiny little kids was bad, I clearly didn’t understand the pure hell that would happen to me at 8, 6 and 4. Constant bickering. Constant fighting. Constant insanity. Why God? Why do you hate me?

Christmas went by without a glitch, unless of course you think being blamed for a tiny dog’s “head trauma” isn’t all that bad. Yeah, that happened. Of course I’m used to being blamed for things WAY beyond my control. I’ve become accustomed to saying WTF silently to myself. That’s a lie. I say it WAY out loud! But honestly, I love Christmas. I decorated in mid-november (because apparently it’s disrespectful to decorate until after Remembrance Day – I can barely keep up with  proper holiday etiquette and anyone who wants to call me on it…I DARE YOU!), yet now at December 28th I’m ready to throw the christmas tree into a fiery pit of hell. Really. I’m done. I’m done with the constant demands that come with this supposedly cheerful time of year. I’m done pretending to be loving and accepting. I am not. I’m done with cooking for people who tell me it’s not good enough. I’m done buying presents for people who really don’t give a flying fart about the time I put in, fighting and hyperventilating in the mall bathrooms so I can give the “perfect” gift to people who couldn’t possibly care less. I’m done with Christmas. I’m moving on…

That’s not to say that next year, come November 1st, I won’t be all…

christmas

But this is besides the point. The point is… wait, I have no point. I’m just writing this to justify the $$ spent on my automatic webpage renewal. Really though, we did have a great Christmas. 18 for dinner on Christmas Day. Food and presents and my father explaining (in detail) how to cook a salmon in the dishwasher. Really… There is nothing more I could have asked for… Except maybe gift certificates for therapy. Those always come in handy around here.

As for the New Year… I’m back to class…accounting classes. Mathematics of Finance…Financial Accounting… I’m freaking out! But we’ll see how it goes… If this fails I’ll just run away with the circus. Oh shit. I’m already here.

As of right now, it’s just me because Nick has the man flu. This is a whole other blog post…man flu and why men are not nearly as superior as they may thing they are. Honestly. I get the flu and I nap for an hour and get up and get ‘er done. Nick gets the flu and everything is shut down for 7-10 days. True story. I hope he recovers before I get the urge to hold the pillow over his face a little too long. Oh shit… shouldn’t say that! See previous post about why we had to get a king sized bed. It has SAVED our marriage! But man flu…it’s a marriage killer. 🙂

Wishing you all the best in the New Year! May you all find your people, your place and all that makes you truly happy! Cheers!!

christmas12

-My People. Not in a cheesy way. Hell, most of the time they make me want to report to the nearest insane asylum. But they are my family. My home. My everything.

 

 

Testing, Testing, 1,2,3 – Does This Thing Still Work?

This past weekend someone at a party asked me if I was still writing my blog. Earlier this week, I got an automatic website renewal reminding me that I actually had a blog. I kinda forgot I guess. It’s been 7 months since I last posted anything. I don’t know why. It’s not like all of the sudden I have nothing to say (impossible for me). It’s just that I got a little distracted…again.

So, I guess this is just a post to say I’m not done with this blog yet (They charged my visa so I’ll be here for the next year at least 🙂 ). I’m just really shitty at keeping this thing up, and most of the time I’m not witty and clever enough to keep other people entertained. Most of the time the things I really want to say about my life are best kept to my small circle of mom friends who aren’t afraid to hear what a bottle of wine and I think about say, a class field trip to the outdoor education centre with over 20 kindergarteners. Some things are best kept between understanding friends…

But I digress… The last 7 months…right…

Summer came and went. We had lots of parties with friends, I survived camping…we did the usual summer stuff. Fall came and Amelia, my youngest started school. I cried for a week. Now, I only cry when the buses are cancelled.

blog

We renovated part of our barn into the company’s new shop and our offices. We completed some more renovations at the house as well, which lasted forever and almost drove me over the edge. Nick and I took a trip to Ireland where I found a love for Guinness and sheep, and learned that I am prone to car sickness. Good times…

cliffs

Now it’s December and Christmas is in full-swing at our house. Our calendar is full and already I’m looking forward to January so things can slow down again. I can’t complain though, because although it’s so obnoxious to say, we are truly blessed. I know, I just gagged a little as I wrote that. But really, I’m trying to keep myself focused on how much I love Christmas and not on how angry I get by the crowds, the rude shoppers, the greedy sticky candy-cane covered children…oh and that elf. That ELF ON THE FREAKIN’ SHELF! I’m done with him already. At night Nick and I plot ways to get rid of him for good. We’re planning on putting just his hat in our cat’s litter box and telling the kids that Hammer ate him.

blog5

Better start saving for the kids’ therapy bills…

Aside from that, we just keep on keepin’ on… Hopefully it won’t be 7 months until my next post.

Cheers!!

print3-2

 

 

The “Real Me” Revealed

There was a time when I believed I would one day return to the person I was before I had my three kids. I believed wholeheartedly that one day I’d wake up, get dressed in real adult clothes again, and shake my mom-ponytail free. That I’d wake up and somehow be the same woman I was prior to having my children. I believed that one day, I’d be the “real me” again. After almost 8 years, I know one thing. The person I once was, will never reappear. For the first time ever… I’m relieved and excited to know that.

These past few months, perhaps even well over a year now, have been insanely busy for me. I haven’t had a chance to write anything about it, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it. Almost everyday I’ve thought about the things I have to say about my life as a mom, how it has changed me. The early years of motherhood were very dark days for me. Exhaustion, isolation and extreme depression made for years of struggle. I made the best of it, did what I had to do, but remember very clearly thinking, “when will I ever be myself again?” The truth is, I wasn’t myself even prior to having kids. I don’t think I ever had a chance to even know who I actually was before popping out 3 kids in 4 years. I was so young. So naive. SO OUT TO LUNCH! So my dreams of one day returning to the person I was at 26, when I had my first child? SO NOT GOING TO HAPPEN… and THANK GOD FOR THAT!!

I turned 30 just before New Years, 2013. I don’t believe in resolutions, but I wrote one anyway. I wrote and posted on my Facebook wall, “My new years resolution is to start making the changes I always chicken-out of making. Time to stop trying to fit in where I don’t, be something I’m not, and follow along instead of leading.” These past few days, as I’ve been driving around on my countless errands I’ve thought about this one sentence. Over and over. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is perhaps the first (and probably last) resolution I’ve ever proclaimed and ACTUALLY kept. Writing those words on my Facebook wall, where, let’s get serious…no one gives a crap,  was the FIRST and BEST step I made for myself. Shortly after I wrote this, I trained and ran a marathon, I gave up on a lot of people I needed to leave behind…I accepted myself for who I was. I didn’t even know I was doing it. It just happened. In the past 3 years I can tell you, I’ve kept that resolution. Through and through. I haven’t wavered for one second.

As a result, I’ve become a better mom, and a better person all around. I’ve let go of so many things that held me back in my younger years. All the caring about people and things that didn’t matter…gone. It didn’t happen overnight. In fact, I didn’t even recognize any change until just recently. I had spent countless years caring and doing things that didn’t matter. Worrying about what people thought. Trying to control situations I had no right to. If something went wrong, I’d spend an eternity worrying about what I could have/should have done to fix it. After I wrote that one sentence, that resolution, I started to stop doing those things. Instead of worrying about how other people felt, I worried about how it impacted my life. I learned I cannot be in charge of other people’s feelings or actions. That saying no, was something I could and should do on a frequent basis. That trying to be everything to everyone is a massive, time-consuming mistake, and one I wasn’t making time for anymore. Letting go of so much of what I thought I had to be, so many hours trying to fit in where I clearly didn’t… It made my life so much better. It has opened doors to a ton of new friends. New experiences. A much better world. A much better me.

Long ago I cried to my husband about how unhappy I was with where I was in life. I cried about all of my failings, all of the let-downs of my life. I searched for a person or thing to blame. He said one thing to me, a thing that has stuck with me since the day he said it. He said, “If you want something, you have to take it. No one is going to give you what you want in life. You have to take it for yourself.” I thought he was insane, but have come to realize that there is nothing more true in life. As a result, I’ve thought about what I want for myself and for my family, and every choice I’ve made has been entirely about getting to where I want us to be.

I have felt much elation and complete panic about my youngest daughter heading off to school in September. This moment was supposed to be the beginning of getting back to “me.” I told myself I’d have a plan. I thought I had a really good one, and then as it came closer, things changed, I changed. It didn’t fit anymore. I spent nights awake thinking about what my next plan would be. It came, and went just the same. I ended up getting completely sidetracked by a family situation regarding my niece so that has taken up so much of my mind-space in this past year.  As a family we’ve struggled to keep up. To make the right choices. To do what we believe is right in the face of complete insanity. It’s caused stress. It’s caused strain in our marriage and family. It has been hard. Regardless, somehow we’ve managed to keep it together. I’ve learned that sometimes you can only do so much before you have to tap out and take a detour back. That you can’t save the world. That you can’t fight to the bitter end, because you can’t win.  That sometimes you lose, and it’s wrong, and you move on. That sometimes the risk is too great on your own family. That sometimes you just give in, and it’s totally OK to do that. That sometimes your plans are derailed and you just wait until the smoke clears and you can get yourself back on track.

I may never be that carefree 26 year old again and I’m glad for that. These past 8 years have taught me a lot. These 8 years have taught me more than I could ever write in one place.

Simply put, I’ve learned what years of sleep deprivation does to your mind. I’ve learned how to clean up every sort of bodily function without gagging but most importantly… I’ve learned what it feels like to love another person more than you love yourself. I can’t regret my kids, or the havoc they wreaked on my life in their baby years. Without them, I wouldn’t be the “me” I have been searching years for.

IMG_3242

 

 

 

 

 

Days Like This

I cried today. It was a long drawn-out, I’m raging mad at the world cry. Filled with anger, sadness and disappointment. I haven’t cried like that in well over a year, and maybe it was a long time coming. I could feel it coming on yesterday when I had a nice long rant via text to my sister. She always knows how to cheer me up with her very dry sense of humour. I ranted and  she made sure I felt better by telling me and sending me very random pictures of things that enrage her. Our conversation went from very serious, to us laughing and cracking jokes about drug smuggling, Mexican jails and finally how somedays we wish we could wear Burkas. She is awesome. Her last text to me:

“Only problem is that you can’t drink as a Muslim. BUT… The Burka is roomy enough to fit a box-o-wine and your mouth is covered so no one will see the straw.”

I was feeling 100% better and grateful to have such an amazing friend and sister who totally gets me. Even reading that now, I smile. My little sister is now funnier than me, and I LOVE it!

But all that aside, today I still feel the same way I felt yesterday. Pissed off at no one and everyone at the same time. About two weeks ago I answered my phone while doing housework. I wasn’t expecting any calls, and especially not that one. In the end, I went to pick a small child up from a place no little human should ever be sitting and waiting. It was a situation I wasn’t prepared for, but I did what I think anyone should and would do if they got the same call. Millie now has a friend who is close in age to play with, and I’m stuck in the middle of a pretty complicated and upsetting situation.

My crying today stemmed from all of this. All of the chaos that comes with “doing the right thing.” That’s what’s making me so mad. Hearing over and over again how I’m doing something so great. How it’s “the right thing to do.” How I “have to do, what I have to do.” It enrages me and in the most selfish way. I cried today because I don’t know if I can do the right thing. I don’t know if I want to. It’s not the child, that’s not it at all. It’s the whole process. It’s the adults in the situation. It’s having to deal with people and things that make no sense. I’m now stuck dealing with people I want nothing to do with, and I’m mad about it. It’s the upheaval of all that I’ve worked so hard to have. Peaceful living. No chaos.

I feel guilty for feeling this way. I really do. I know that I’m doing what I should, but today I felt like I needed to have a child-like hissy-fit about it. As I sat there pouting I remembered one thing that my aunt said to me a few years back. We were at the hospital visiting my mother who was just coming out surgery. I was terrified that my mom was going to die. It was a horrible, horrible feeling. My Aunt and I walked out of the hospital together and I told her that I didn’t think I could do this. Implying that I didn’t want to be brave and strong and deal with how horrible the situation was. She just looked at me, and with the most calm and rational voice, said: “Yes you can. You really don’t have any other choice.” It’s a very simplistic and realistic phrase that I think sums up this situation as well. In fact, I have repeated that phrase to myself in a few other situations I’ve been in. So, I need to suck it up, and get on with it. I know this.

But that’s not happening today. Today I’m going to be really really mad about the situation. About how unfair it is to me and my family. But most importantly, today I’m raging mad for the little kid who has to go through all of this. The little person who can’t understand what’s happening, who doesn’t have a choice or a voice or any way to protect herself. Today I am mad for her.

Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow I’ll be a grown-up again.

My Spark of Madness

Depression. Long before the sad news of Robin Williams’ suicide, I was thinking of writing a post about this very issue. Partly because recently a few people in my life have opened up about their own battle with depression. People who I would never have guessed could ever struggle in such a way. I can relate to the things they tell me, the feelings they express and the sadness I hear in their voices. I understand it so well, because I too have lived it.

I’m a very open person. I don’t shy away from conversations about uncomfortable or “taboo” topics. However, depression and mental health issues are still somewhat mum for me. I don’t go into much detail about my own experiences because I still feel as if I will be judged. In fact, I know I will be. I’ve felt the sting of gossip surrounding the issue, and because of that I have spent a great deal of time trying to disassociate myself with any and all labels that come with this socially stigmatized disease. But all the denial aside, I can never ever escape the reality that is my own personal struggle with anxiety and depression.

The first time I was treated for depression I was in my early twenties. I remember being told that lots of people battle with the same issues, and with treatment, the symptoms pass like a storm cloud, leaving things “normal” again. That was partly true, but mostly complete nonsense. That was not a good description of depression at all. If I could describe my own depression, I would compare it to the tides of the ocean. It comes in and it goes out. When it’s gone I wait for it to return again. Even though it has been quite some time since I felt the firm grip of depression’s utter despair, I still worry about the day it rears its ugly face again. I often worry that one morning I’ll wake up, and the world will be as it was in my darkest days. This is the terrifying reality of living with depression.

I know all too well what happens when the tide rolls back in. When the depression symptoms return. I have lived through complete hell, hiding everything as best I could. I’ve self medicated, distracted myself, obsessed over and ignored the issue. I know what it feels like to be bounced from medication to medication, therapist to therapist, with no relief. I know what it feels like to struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I know the voice that tells you that there is no reason to live. I’ve been to the bottom, and I fear going back every single day.

My worst bouts of depression happened in the fog of the 4 years I spent either being pregnant, or caring for a newborn. But the truth is, I’ve always dealt with depression regardless of whether or not my body was making or recovering from making a human. Sometimes it’s bad. Most of the time, it’s not. I’d like to say that it was purely postpartum. That all of those bad times are behind me. But considering the fact that I’ve dealt with some form of depression for as long as I can remember, I’d say that this is something that I’ll undoubtedly deal with for the rest of my life. This realization is new to me. In fact, I spent at least 10 years of my life denying there was a problem. I always had an excuse. It was always just big changes in my life, hormones, the weather… anything but the chemical imbalance in my brain. I didn’t want to associate myself with an affliction that is seen as a flaw in character. But not anymore.

What I’ve learned is that there are so many people out there suffering. They carry an illness that no one can see, but one that is as real as any cancer diagnosis. They don’t tell their friends, family or neighbours that they are sick. Partly because they are told that it isn’t a real illness at all. They feel ashamed that they feel the way they do. They feel like they need to just suck it up and put a smile on. They sit silently waiting for it to go away, often in vain. Thinking of these people walking around, struggling to hide their invisible wounds makes me cry. It reminds me of where I was, and where I could very well find myself again.

While I’m sure many would argue that writing about my “dirty laundry” is only asking for trouble, I don’t see it that way at all. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have suffered too. There is nothing wrong with me as a person because of it either. It doesn’t mean I’m not a good mother, wife or friend. It doesn’t mean I’m some sort of liability or risk to society. It doesn’t mean I’m crazy, or stupid or unreliable. I’m definitely not weak. I’m not any of those things. What I am is a normal 30-something year old woman. I have a family and a very full and for the most part, happy life. I have good days, and bad days just like everyone else. In the past I’ve been very sick. I will probably face it again. Hopefully not as badly.

Depression has many faces. Mine is one of them. I’m not be afraid to say that anymore.

Taking Care of Me

I’m a runner. I run after my kids, I run after the dog, and I run after our recycling that blows all over the road. I also run for a hobby. When I started I could barely walk on the treadmill without feeling like I’d pass out. Eventually I got better.

I remember training and running my first 10 km. I worked really hard, and I was slow as hell, but I did it and I was proud. I remember catching my first glimpse of the elite athletes who had ventured to that race, to compete against each other to win. They took my breath away. The man who won the 10 km that year had one leg. I’m not sure what his story was, but I was instantly inspired by him. I knew I’d never win a race like that, or any race ever, but I still wanted to compete.

After that race I went on to compete in a couple half marathons and finally, I got up enough courage to stand at the start line of a full marathon. It took me 5 years to get there, but I did it. I spent years prior to that day running to prove something to others, to prove to myself that I could, to punish myself at times, to work out my crazies, to escape anxiety. I ran for a million reasons, and none of them were the right ones.

On my 30th birthday my younger sister forwarded me an email that scared the living shit out of me. She had signed me up for a marathon. She did it because she heard me talk about how much I wanted to complete one. She also did it, I think, because she believed I could. She was the only one at the time. I know I sure didn’t think it was a very realistic goal. I had 3 little kids. I had a job. I had major responsibilities at home. I was just bouncing back from the birth of my third child, and years of struggling with depression. I had a zillion excuses why I couldn’t do it. My sister didn’t care. She said I would, and I started to believe she was right.

I printed out my plan of action. I posted it on the fridge. Every day for 6 months I crossed numbers off a chart. I spent my Sundays away from my family. While they were enjoying a leisurely morning, I was out running. I ran for hours. I dedicated a lot of time to my goal.  A lot of people asked me if I was running to raise money for something. I wasn’t. I read a lot of stories about people who dedicated their races to past or present loved ones. That wasn’t the case for me either. I was running that race for me, and only me. I started to feel bad about it. I started to feel like maybe it was a very selfish thing to do. I was spending countless hours focused solely on myself. It was all about me. I felt like I was wrong for making it so. I believed that because I was a mom, I couldn’t possibly take this much time for myself. I had 3 kids and a husband. It was supposed to be all about them right? Wrong.

Get your crackers folks, it’s about to get super cheesy.

I ran my first marathon for the little girl inside me. When other runners were dedicating their race to their sick or passed loved ones, I was dedicating my race to the little me. Throughout my long journey through the depths of hell (a.k.a. depression), I learned that a lot of my issues were a result of my childhood. Now, I’m not getting all blame-game on my parents. I don’t need to re-hash my childhood, explore my “daddy issues” here, or anything like that. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with me, the little girl that didn’t ever feel like she was good enough. The little girl who felt left out, unloved, unworthy. In therapy (oh god, please say I’m not one of those “my therapist says..” people), I spent a great deal of time remembering the little me. Talking about her, and about the girl and young woman I was before I ended up in that office. It was pretty horrible work. I hated it. I resisted it with everything I had. I can’t tell you how many times I rolled my eyes at my therapist. I fought her almost every step of the way, but somehow she got through to me. At the beginning of it all, she told me to find a picture of myself when I was a little girl. I laughed at her (maybe even to her face, I don’t remember), but I did it. I was in a very desperate position. I was willing to try anything. As we worked on all those shitty, horrible feelings that surfaced I was reminded over and over again to take care of that little girl. To remember her and keep remembering her. The picture that I found of little me was on my mirror for 10 months straight. It stayed there until the day I travelled to run my race. I’ve never, ever told anyone this. I didn’t tell my sister, my mother, my husband. No one. In fact, I’ve never ever discussed the things that I went through in those 10 months of therapy. I don’t think I ever will.  I told no one, but I took that picture with me, and put it in the belt I was wearing on race day. I had decided that I was running that race for the little me in the picture. I was running to prove to myself that I could do anything I set my mind and heart to. I ran that race to prove that I was in fact, good enough, kind enough, pretty enough, smart enough. To prove once and for all that I was enough. I carried the picture of little me 42.2 km across that finish line. When I reached the end I said in a whisper (because I was tired as hell), “You always were, and always will be. You are enough.” And then I scarfed down 2 cheese strings and chugged as much water as I could before finding my way to my family.

As parents we are told that we shouldn’t take time for ourselves. That our whole life should be about our kids. I don’t believe that is so. I learned through running (among other things) that I need to take time for me. We all need to take care of ourselves, because sometimes no one else will. When I’m up and running at the crack of dawn each morning, I’m taking time to do something I love. It makes me a happier, healthier person. I’m taking care of me because I know that if I can’t take care of myself, there’s no way I’ll ever be able to take care of my kids.

I’ve found the right reason to run. I run because I love it. It makes me feel happy and proud to be me. It’s how I work through things, how I re-charge and relax. It’s how I take care of me.

Image

After the Storm

I’ve had a lot of time to think recently. I spend the majority of my days driving (we won’t get into that), and when I’m not belting out songs along with the radio, I’m usually thinking “How the hell did I get here? Why am I driving a laundry van around, concerned about what I’m going to feed my kids for dinner and when I’ll have time to get to the bank?” I wonder how in 9 years I went from a lost girl, to a lost-again and then found wife, mom and woman.

I got married when I was 21. I’m not going to lie about it, I regretted that decision for a few years. I spent a great deal of time in the early stages of our marriage totally hating it. I hated it so much, I found a way to get out of it as soon as I could.  I was not ready to get married. I had no concept of what marriage was. In fact, the night before I got married, I laid on the bathroom floor of my hotel room crying. I had no idea why. I didn’t know that I was afraid. I didn’t know what to do. When DH and and I got married, I had absolutely no idea how hard it would be. I was a kid. How could I? I left months after we got married, moved away to go back to school, and lived with one of my friends from university. I totally bailed on my husband. I felt guilty, but I also felt normal again. All of my friends were either still in school, or were just starting out on their own. They didn’t have mortgages, husbands or real responsibilities. I was jealous. I felt like I had made a mistake. After a year away, I missed my best friend. Although I had gone away, we still talked and he was still very much my husband. We did have to keep up appearances, prove that we were fine, and all was well with the newlyweds. I’m pretty sure we weren’t fooling anyone though. I actually can’t believe how great he was during this time. I will say, that if he had done the same to me, I don’t know if I would have stuck around. I’m thankful he did. I’m very grateful that somehow we found our way to “happily married.” It took us almost 3 years. We were both too young and totally different people than we are today. We grew into our marriage. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Through all of that, and then years of struggling with depression, it’s a wonder that we’re still standing. I’m sure there are many people who are totally shocked that we’re still married. I’m so proud of us though. We pushed through, when a lot of others wouldn’t have. I have come to terms with a lot of the hurts we inflicted on each other. They’ve made us stronger as people, and as a couple. I’m happy and proud to say that I married the right person, at the wrong time. I don’t regret it anymore. In fact, I’m so damn happy that it happened. It was worth it, and I’ll always fight to protect it.

That said, I feel like we are two survivors after a tornado has ripped through our trailer park. We’ve made it through the storm that comes with getting married young, having 3 babies in 4 years, and building a business to sustain us. But now what? Where do we go from here? How do we pick up the pieces, and move into the next stage of our life? I don’t think there is an answer. We look around us, and see the people who stuck by us, and we celebrate them. We celebrate our kids, because they gave us a reason to keep pushing through. We celebrate the life that we have created together. Maybe we’re going to leave those pieces for awhile, and just enjoy the rainbow that comes after the storm.

You look like a lobster, but I still love you. 

Image

Happy Jack vs. Sad Jack

The other day Jack and I were doing laundry together. I was trying to teach him to fold his underwear, and he was enlightening me with his vast knowledge of Lightning McQueen and car racing. I decided it was a good time to ask him a few simple but important questions. Asking Jack anything is usually opening yourself up to being completely confused and eventually becoming very irritated. He jumps from one topic to the next, dances, sings and is even known to throw in some ninja-kicks when you give him the chance to talk. He cracks me up, but sometimes he says really profound things without even trying. We started a discussion on feelings. We listed different feelings and he acted them all out for me. When he was done playing charades I said “OK, now what makes you happy Jack?” Jack listed a ton of things. He named his friends, going to their houses, them visiting our house, going to daycare, his daycare lady, the boat, the beach, ice cream, candy, Batman. I actually had to stop him. He was filled with excitement, talking about all the things he loves. Then I asked him “Ok, now what makes you sad?” He looked at me and had no clue what I was asking. I didn’t want to put words in his mouth, so we went through what sad meant again. Still, he struggled. Then he listed three things. 1. When it rains, because he doesn’t like thunder. 2. When slides at the park are too big for him to go down. 3. Going to the beach and thinking a shark will bite his leg off.  I didn’t know what to say to this kid. As I was thinking of the perfect thing, he quickly jumped up and down a few times and said “Can we get a piggy Mom? Pleeeease??” Obviously Jack had moved on from our conversation. He ran out of the room. Our time was up. Jack is a busy kid. He doesn’t have time to waste on sadness.

I didn’t really put much thought into the conversation for a few days. I laughed, because who lists a possible shark attack as one of the things that make them sad? Just this morning I was replying to an email from one of the people who contacted me after my PPD post, and I was thinking about depression, and sadness in general. I thought back to my conversation with Jack. The things that make my 3 year old sad, are things that he is afraid of. He’s afraid of thunderstorms, getting hurt on a slide, and possibly having his leg eaten by a shark. His fears are of things he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand that thunder isn’t meant to be scary, that he probably won’t get hurt on the slide, and that in fact, there aren’t any leg-eating sharks in Weller’s Bay.

I started to think about my own happy vs. sad list. I can list many things that make me happy. I can also list just as many (and maybe even more) things that make me sad. When I started to think about specific things, I realized that my own sad list was filled with things I fear. I am sad (or mad, which I’ve learned is pretty much the same thing for me) when people treat me badly, because I am afraid that these people do not like me, don’t accept me, and so on. I am sad when innocent children get sick or die, because I do not understand why it happens. There is no way to justify children dying. Now all of this isn’t that profound, I’m aware of that, but I started to think that if I could just understand or accept a few of my fears, maybe my sad list could shrink to be as small as Jack’s. Totally unrealistic, I know. He’s 3. He doesn’t have anything to worry about. He doesn’t deal with any of the adult stresses in life. If he’s at the playground and someone pushes him down, he lets out a scream and then gets on with it. He starts climbing another ladder, and I don’t think he ever thinks about it again. He’s forgotten within minutes, even seconds. That’s why his sad list is so short. He doesn’t ever focus on anything that makes him sad. He believes that he is great. We tell him everyday. He knows that we love him and that he is special. He never questions that. He accepts that what we tell him is fact and it is. I worry about the day when he starts to question those things. When people hurt him and tell him the opposite of what he hears now. I wonder if we will have filled him up with enough confidence to know that he IS all those good things we told him. I worry a lot about my kids and their confidence. I think of how they will deal with bullying and hurtful things that people say and do to them. Sometimes people are real assholes, and although I hate the idea of my kids knowing that, it’s a lesson they’ll have to learn and accept. I’m not going to worry about it now though, because so far my kids all have long happy lists, and short sad ones.

It’s crazy what you can learn in a 10 minute conversation with a 3 year old. Jack reminded me to keep it simple. To stop focusing on the sad, and get excited over my happy list. Maybe I’ll bust out a few ninja-kicks now, Jack-style.

Picture time… Happy Jack and his big sister Natalie (she made his happy list).

Image

How the hell did we get here, and why are we in this hand basket?

And now the rest of the story…

I had my first daughter at the age of 25. I was married, had a job, a house and a dog. It’s what you do next, right? I read every book on pregnancy, and could tell you everything you ever wanted to know about heart burn, constipation and all the other disgusting things that happen to women when they are making a human. I didn’t once think about reading materials that might prepare me for taking care of the actual baby. When I had Natalie, I was ridiculously unprepared and totally clueless. You’d think that with 40 weeks notice, I would have planned something other than cute bedding and outfits. Little did we know, our life was never ever going to be the same. We left the hospital as parents. People assured me this was a good thing. I wasn’t convinced. After months of crying, puking and piles of disgusting diapers, I was at my wits end. I was filled with sadness, anxiety, and a bit of anger that I had been given the “evil” baby. Surely, it was her. Everyone else loved their babies. Why was I convinced that mine was Rosemary’s Baby? I brushed all these things off of course, because who really talks about this stuff anyway? I had no control over any aspect of my life. My tiny dictator was in control, and I just figured that was what it was like to be a parent. Since I had no clue about emotional health after baby, I didn’t once think that maybe the way I felt wasn’t normal. I didn’t know how to fix the problem, because I wasn’t sure I had one. Instead I focused on the things I knew how to fix. I chose weight loss as my number one priority. I started running and eating real food. I felt great. I figured this meant that I was right, there was nothing wrong, and all the bad days were behind me. Time for baby number two. During the early months of my pregnancy with Jack, things were rapidly changing in my husband’s life. We disagreed on a pretty important decision he was making, and I took it personally, very personally. Things got worse between us, and I got more self-destructive. Instinctively I turned to the things I could control. Eating, running and cleaning my house. I believed that if I could control these things I would feel better. During the final months of my pregnancy with Jack, letters were sent from my midwife to my doctor regarding “suspected eating disorders and OCD.” I had an ultrasound days before Jack arrived to ensure that he was OK, as I hadn’t gained sufficient weight. I was very, very sick, but I wasn’t ready to admit that at the time. After Jack was born (healthy and happy), things went from bad to worse. I suffered severe panic attacks, was unable to think about anything but cleaning my floors and eating as little as possible, while running until I dropped. The morning after Jack was born, I was on my hands and knees polishing my wood floors. I was obsessed with keeping them perfect. Day 5, I was on my treadmill attempting to run. It didn’t work out and I thought I was going to have to go to the hospital afterwards. So obviously, things had spun out of control. I am stubborn as hell, and I don’t care that people are telling me that I’m suffering post-partum depression and need medication. In my head, what I need to do to fix this is exercise more, eat less and continue on. That’s how I fixed everything before. I don’t need help, and I sure as hell don’t need to see a doctor. Looking back, I feel sad for that poor woman. At the time I got nothing but people talking about me, questioning my abilities as a mother and downright being assholes to me. Instead of being helpful, people were being hurtful. So, I kept on, and on and on. I started to become extremely fearful of almost everyone and everything. At night I’d sprint in terror from our bedroom to the kitchen to warm a bottle for Jack, sure that there was someone outside watching me. I had a serious problem, a husband who was sick and tired of it, and basically no one who understood what was going on. Eventually I went and saw a few doctors, a few therapists and even a naturopathic doctor to try to fix the problem. I refused to take medication and refused to admit that I was wrong. I had given up. Months passed and finally I got a referral to see a doctor in Kingston regarding the depression that was destroying my life. Again, this was the wrong place for me. I spoke with a few of the doctors there for less than an hour, and in that time I was given the diagnosis of EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), OCD and possible Bi-Polar.  Now let me tell you this, when a doctor talks to you for an hour and then brings up lithium, you need to run your ass out the door. I am so thankful that no matter how “off” I was, I wasn’t stupid enough to accept that.

Surprise! I’m pregnant again. I’m good with this. I am escaping the symptoms because I’m caught up in trying not to vomit 25 times a day. I’m eating healthy, I’m not feeling sad or bad at all. At this point I’m sure that it has passed. In my mind, I’ve done my time, and now everything is fine.  My little girl is born, and surprisingly I STILL  feel fine. Six weeks later, I can feel it coming again. This time, I don’t hesitate to start my search for help again. I have 3 kids under the age of 5, now is NOT the time to be sick.  I start seeing a therapist in the area, who specializes in Post-Partum Depression. This woman changed my life. In all the years of hell, not one doctor or therapist even came close to doing what this woman did for me. She taught me to save myself. I trusted her, and I followed her directions and somehow after 10 months of work, I made it to the other side.  She told me that I wasn’t insane, but just a woman who had three babies in four years, who had been suffering from PPD the whole entire time.  I wasn’t bad or wrong or anything but a normal woman.  I was in the right place and I was ready to put this to rest.

What does this have to do with my kids? Everything. I am the centre of their world. For a long, long time I was very fragmented. During the first few years of their lives, they lived with someone who could barely take care of herself, let alone them. They saw and heard things that they shouldn’t have. I do feel very bad about those things and I always wonder what kind of repercussions those few years will have on them. But I’m not making room for guilt anymore. It was what it was, and it is what it is now.  Yesterday I had a parent teacher conference with Natalie’s teacher. Aside from the “Natalie is doing great,” one thing stuck out for me.  One sentence. “Natalie is just a good person.” That right there means everything in the world to me. That’s what I want for my kids. I don’t care if they become self-made millionaires, or find the cure for cancer. I care about whether or not they are good humans. Maybe my struggle with depression will not hurt them, but teach them to be better people. I overheard Natalie tell her brother that it is wrong to laugh when someone is crying.  I’m proud that she knows that, and is willing to stand up and say something. I’m also proud to say that she more than likely learned this from me. This glimpse into how it all began, how I had a rough start to this whole motherhood journey, is a very good way to introduce my family. We’re loud, crazy and a bit offensive at times, but we are damn good people, even in our darkest days.

Ok, I promise we’ll move on to lighter, more humorous posts. I just had to get that out there.