Just so you know 

I just spent the last ten minutes writing and deleting attempts at a witty intro, but they were all crap. So I’m just going to cut to the chase today. 

I’m depressed. 

Wait, weren’t you already? 

Yeah. 

But aren’t you on meds to stop that? 

Yes and no. 

Huh?? 

Yeah, I’m on antidepressants. No, it doesn’t make it all go away. If there was such a pill, you can bet your butt I’d be popping those little suckers by the handful. 

The joy of clinical depression is that it’s never really gone. Yeah, meds can help. So can therapy. So can exercise, diet, and other more holistic treatments. But it’ll never be gone completely. 

Think of it this way, a person with diabetes likely takes some sort of medication to help control it, right? But if they eat a shit-ton of sugar, that little pill isn’t going to keep them from going into a diabetic coma. They’re still going to feel the effects of their illness. They can still have relapses. 

Same here. 

The tricky thing about depression is that there aren’t always triggers. It would make sense that if something traumatic happened in the life of a person with depression, they’d be more likely to have a depressive episode. Just like anyone would, but perhaps to a greater degree. But what about the times when everything is essentially honkey dory? Why then? 

No fucking clue. 

Take me for example, right now. Nothing is particularly stressful or awful in my life. I’ve been exercising and meditating more. I’ve been eliminating more damaging foods from my diet. For all intents and purposes, I should be doing well. 

Only I’m not. I’m in bed right now, forcing myself to write this. Because do you know what the alternative is? Staring at the wall. That’s my favorite coping mechanism. Shut down, stare off, wait it out. 

Just like every person and every illness is different, every coping strategy is different, too. Whenever I’m in the deep end of an episode, just barely bobbing above water, I find it easiest to just detach from the world. Go deep into my head, and ignore everything. Just let go and feel nothing. 

And just to be clear, it’s not that I like being like this or managing this way it’s that I have to. My brain tells me to do it, and I’m powerless to question it. 

Think about a nine-months-pregnant woman. She drops something on the floor, and bends over at the waist to pick it up. Do you think she’s going to reach it? Yeah, definitely not. It’s not that she doesn’t want to, it’s that her body is making it so that she just can’t. 

It’s the sane thing for me. I don’t want to feel void of emotion. I don’t want to ignore everyone and tune out the world. It’s that my brain just won’t have it any other way. And all I can do is ride those waves until I reach shore. It won’t last forever, but when I’m wrapped up in it, all I can do is hang on. 

And I know it’s probably hard for others to understand this, to believe that seemingly normal, happy people might be walking around feeling like this, but it’s true. We’re so good at pretending. We can put the smile on our faces, nod our heads in agreement, feign interest and attentiveness, all awhile feeling nothing. 

I think one of the misconceptions about depression is that if you’re not stuck in bed in the dark for days at a time, you’re not depressed. That if you can still wake up in the morning, you’re really quite fine. But that’s a fallacy. 

I have what’s called high functioning depression. So I look like everyone else even when I don’t feel like everyone else. I can get up in the morning, rally, get the kids ready for the day, even spend the whole day playing super mom, only to crash later. 

I look like any other tired mom out there. But really, inside, my brain is alternating between numbness and screaming for it all to stop. I’m exhausted, but to the point where emotions would cost me a breakdown by how much energy I feel they suck out of me. My joints ache (Yes, depression has physical symptoms as well). Light is too bright. I’m nauseated. My head hurts. My muscles are constantly tensed. I’m restless and can’t sleep, even though I desperately want to. And at the slightest provocation, I will lose my shit entirely because dealing with all of these things at once is just too much. 

And I keep all of this inside, compartmentalized. And I wait for it all to blow over. Because it will. That’s the good thing about my illness: it rarely overstays its welcome. And yes, the meds help with that. 

So if there’s someone in your life that you know lives with mental illness, even if it’s someone who seemingly has it all under control, ask them how they’re doing. Ask them if there’s anything you can do for them. They will likely tell you no, they’re fine, they’ve got it under control. And maybe they do. That’s fine. It’s just nice to let us know that we’re seen. That you know. That you understand. That you’re there just in case. 

Advertisements

Yoga in My Undies

For the last two months, I’ve been participating in Instagram yoga challenges. For those who don’t know what they are, it comes down to this: some yogi on IG hosts a challenge–that is, they post a flyer detailing the concept behind joining (heart openers, body positivity, using blocks and straps, etc), what poses will be the focus of each day, how many days in the challenge, who the other hosts and sponsors are, and what prizes there will be. Then, they send it out to the IG world, and other yogis or people wanting to dabble in yoga will repost it, follow the hosts, and post their pics of the poses each day with perhaps a caption with their reflection. And then others who are following or searching for yoga will see your posts, like them, comment on them, reach out to you, whatever.

I recognize that this all sounds very self-centered. Like you’re just looking for a way to exercise your vanity under the guise of exercising your body. And sure, for some, it may very well be. And to be honest, a little vanity is ok. And feeling good about other people appreciating you is perfectly normal and healthy.

But for most of the participants, I’ll wager, the biggest draw is the yoga. The feeling of accomplishment. The sense of community. The support in your endeavor. The feeling of growth. The belief that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. Something important.

And I recognize that in our current societal climate, there is so much to think about and worry about that I imagine some who will read this will find it very silly or arrogant of me to say that doing yoga is important. That posting pictures of oneself online is important. And I respect their opinion. But I also think they’re dead wrong.

And here’s why:

Everyone is living their own life, full of hopes, fears, worries, issues, joys, frailties, and strengths. You never really know what anyone else is going through or feeling. You never know what personal hell they may be living in. We can see them from the outside, and possibly judge them, thinking we know how easy or hard their life might be just by how they carry themselves externally. But that’s such a falsehood, and a dangerous practice, judging others.

And trust me, this is coming from someone who is guilty of doing this many times. And guilty of it even up to very recently.

I’m not going to spend time and words explaining myself or apologizing for it. It is what it is. And I’m sure I will again cast judgement at some point. I’m not infallible, even if my intentions are true.

I will explain, however, how participating in these challenges have helped me see how wrong it was of me to judge myself and others, and that I was really judging others because of how I felt about myself. They say that bullies tear others down because of how they feel about themselves. I can absolutely agree because I know that because I found myself coming up short in so many ways, I projected my feelings onto others.

I used to look at other people, people with bodies that the mainstream would consider not just healthy, but ideal–thin, tall, beautiful–and automatically assume they were workout addicts, or starved themselves, or were too concerned with their appearance. I would see mothers who wore no evidence of having carried a child in their perfectly toned abdomens and think that they must have had tiny babies, or gone right back to crunches right after they gave birth.

I was jealous. I was hurt. I lashed out at them in my mind because I felt they were better than me. And not that they did anything to make me think that. I forced those feelings onto myself. They did nothing wrong by being who they were. And it made me feel like utter shit.

These feelings continued even into my beginning yoga challenges on IG. To anyone who knows anything about yoga or the yoga community (mostly in the U.S), will likely agree that it’s a very homogeneous group of people who are often the face of modern yoga practice. They’re young, white, thin, super fit, and female. They’re basically supermodels in yoga pants and downward dog. And these are the images I was at first inundated with as I began my IG yoga journey. So, at first I really struggled to feel included.

And as I struggled with feeling out of place, and that I didn’t belong in this exclusive club, I found myself having an internal struggle every day about whether or not to do my daily poses or just give up. For anyone who knows me, I struggle with self-doubt and perfectionism (as the icing on my mental illness cake), and so it was very natural and easy for me to convince myself that it wouldn’t be a big deal if I didn’t participate one day, or if I gave up on a challenge before it was over. It took a lot for me to keep going.

But as I kept going, something truly magical happened. I found myself actually a part of the thing I first felt shunned me. When I was sick in bed for three days and couldn’t do yoga, not only did my mind crave for my body to be up moving, flowing through the poses; but, so many people left me comments wishing me well, and telling me they hoped to see me back at it, posting pictures soon.

Me, someone who is relatively a newbie to yoga even though I’ve been practicing on and off for 7 years. I’ve never made it more than a couple months at a time consistently. I’ve always started hard and fizzled out. These people who I didn’t even actually know were not just holding me accountable, but were holding out their hands to me, propping me up, and encouraging me to keep going.

And sure, they were just words. And there’s so much in our word that needs actions, not just more words. But for someone who knows that the power of words can sometimes be stronger than any force out there, I knew that what these literal strangers were offering me was more meaningful than what it appeared as on the surface. And it was then that I swore to give back to this community that was helping to heal me.

Which leads me to a very specific IG yoga challenge. It was a challenge that promotes body positivity and respect for yourself and others. It also happened to be one that challenged its participants to capture and post their yoga poses while they were in their undies.

It was so worrisome for me at first. I was absolutely terrified that I was going to get a string of comments telling me to put my chubby self back in my clothes and never show off my nearly nude body to the public again. I thought people would ask me how I dared to think others wanted to see that. That I had no business baring myself until/if I was so much thinner and fitter.

But I didn’t. Not one single comment. Honest.

I did, however, receive many many positives remarks on how strong I was, how flexible, how balanced. How I rocked the shit out of a pose. Or that I was an inspiration for putting myself out there when someone else was too afraid. Me! A fucking inspiration! Knocked the wind out of me in a good way. Because I just saw me as some chick fumbling her way through learning new poses, building strength, and trying to find peace within herself. But the direct messages and comments kept coming through that others were willing to try yoga for the first time or yoga in their undies because I did. Because they saw something in me. Something I still couldn’t see, of course. But something that spoke to them, and moved them. And I’d be lying if I said their words didn’t make me so fucking proud of myself.

Because, you know what, I know what it’s like to not find yourself represented in mass culture. And trust me, being white, I know that there are plenty of people who find themselves far more underrepresented than I am. But being 5’2” and over 150 lbs., with DD boobs, thick thighs, and a pretty sizable rear end, no one was going to be walking down runways looking like me. And most women who are my size and shape are trying to do something about it.

So to have so many people say that because my body wasn’t “perfect” and I  was still willing to show it anyway and now they’re going to do the same, I really felt honored. Because I felt what I was doing was nothing extraordinary. But to someone else, someone who may be having an even harder time than me with body image or fear, I WAS doing something extraordinary. And if it was the catalyst they needed to jump off that metaphorical cliff into sharing themselves with the world, I am so happy to have been a part of that.

So that brings me to now. I am participating in 8 challenges right now, with more to start up in the next couple days (some ending during in that time as well). I spend easily an hour or more practicing, photographing, posting, commenting, reaching out, responding. It’s become a pretty serious hobby for me. But in the maybe 20-30 minutes of practice I’ve done every day, I am feeling so many changes in myself. Obviously the change in my physical self. I’m toning up, tightening up, though not really losing weight. But I also need to do my yoga. I need to move. I need to push my body. Te feel like I’m doing something for myself. And also, shockingly for this introvert, I’m really enjoying “meeting” all these new people, and connecting to others. It’s really been helping with my mental health as well.

Because of the overwhelming positive response of my yoga in my undies, I’ve been doing nothing but yoga in my undies. Though this may change in the winter because I’m cold enough as it is in my clothes. For now, I post nothing but me, my poses, and my skivvies. And I will continue to do so for as long as it seems valuable and helpful to others with plans to reach even more people some day by hosting my own challenge.

I’m beginning to see that some cellulite or stomach rolls aren’t the end of the world, they aren’t the deciding factor of my worth. And if my lack of shame continues to inspire others to push themselves outside of their place of self-hate or insecurities or fear, I think it’s just as important as anything else people are doing for others. Because doing something for mental health is truly one of the most worthy causes there is, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Namaste

 

A Whole Fucking Decade

My baby is ten.

Let me repeat that. My baby, my first-born, my little chubby-cheeked, sassy-pants little girl is TEN.

Fucking double digits. Ten. A decade.

No longer very chubby-cheeked. More beautiful and grown up than I could imagine. Definitely still sassy, but also moving into puberty-fueled moodiness with spontaneous ups and downs.

I have been a parent for an entire decade. Which, I realize to all of the parents out there who have been-there-doing-that for much longer than I have probably scoff and think to themselves that ten ain’t nothing. But for me, it’s definitely a big deal. As so many people my age are just having babies now or have toddlers, having a child tiptoeing the precipice to teenage-hood is remarkable, and marvelous, and fucking terrifying, and rewarding. It seems like this past year, more than any other, she has morphed into someone so like us and so apart from us. And I realize I likely say this every year, so please allow me this redundancy. Because I got to see her each day before my eyes, all day, growing, changing, learning. I got to see her unraveling this puzzle that is her place in life. It has been nothing short of spectacular, and I’m so thankful to be there with her so closely to guide her and just be there for her when her emotions were just too much for her. I hadn’t gotten such a front row seat since she was a baby.

And honestly, that time is so far gone now that I only really have bits and pieces of those memories still in an easily accessible place in my brain.

Time is so damn cruel, how it takes what it wants and leaves whatever it pleases. Like, even ten years later, I can still remember feeling anticipation of her being born. I used to sit in her room, rock in the rocking chair we’d bought, rub my belly, tight and smooth from stretching, and just look at her baby clothes and diapers so neatly folded and stacked. And I would just think about holding her. How it would be to finally have her out of me and in the world. I swear, I can feel her rolling around in me even now. I can close my eyes, and I can be back there. So acutely, so otherworldly. But I can’t remember all of the little things she’d say funny as she was learning to speak. And I can’t remember what her favorite dinner was when she was 5. And I can’t remember what made her scared or automatically giggle when she was 3. I can’t remember it all.

I can remember what her face looked like when she slept. She looks exactly the same even now. The way she stretches and pouts out her lips and squinches her eyes shut. It’s uncanny how she looks like she’s 1 again.

I can remember what she smelled like when I rocked her to sleep when she was 3, having to guess what animal she was every night before she’d let me put her in her bed. I don’t know if there’s something scientific behind it, but I think every person has a distinctive scent because her head still smells the same.

I can remember how her whole self loved me more than anything. How she would sweet talk her way into making me stay in her room with her while she fell asleep. Or how she would convince me to let her out of bed to have a snack and a snuggle just because she wanted to be near me.

And I’m thankful that I can remember those things because there have been many moments in the last year when I swore my daughter couldn’t stand to be near me. When she’d get so mad at me that she couldn’t even look at me. When it would break my heart to send her to her room or take away privileges. And she would look at me with such contempt. And I had to tap into those memories until she would calm down, and then snuggle up to me like nothing had ever happened.

Yes, I know there’s so much more of this (and worse) to come. Please, spare this mom that reminder. I’m already struggling enough to get through this acceptance of her no longer being a little kid. My eyes are spilling over with tears enough while writing this.

But don’t you write these every year? Yes.

And don’t you cry every year? Yes.

I cry because I’m naturally very sentimental and sensitive. But this year I’m crying because I realize just how important these reflections have become to me. I started out writing them for my kids. So that when they’re adults, they can see snapshots of who they were as kids, and how much they were adored. But now I realize that they’re becoming time capsules for me. Because I can’t always hold on to every little memory on my own. My brain has no choice but to file some things in the back where they’re not easy to get to. But when I read these reflections, it’s almost like I can go back in time and be there at any of their ages.

And now that Lily is 10, and spending less time snuggling up to me and more time doing her own thing, I really need these reminders that underneath it all, she’s still my little girl.

And don’t get me wrong, I love how she’s growing up and don’t want to stifle her. I love how she’s taken her illustrations from the paper to art apps on the IPad all on her own. She draws and writes her own comic books. She is clever and witty, and can hold her own when coming up with puns and jokes. She’s become much more aware of her self-image, loving accessories and playing with makeup and trying to look like a little lady. All awhile still loving to be goofy, using Snapchat to make her face into a bee or using the IPad to make her face distorted with the fish eye lens.

She’s still such a kid. She still plays with her Beanie Boos, sometimes recording them and splicing the videos together, adding sound effects and transitions. She plays in our giant sandbox, creating prisons and adventures for Ollie’s G.I. Joes. She snuggles her stuffed animals at night; needs to sniff her pink blanket sometimes; doesn’t want to do chores; hates taking a shower and needs to be reminded to wear deodorant or comb her hair (other kids do need those reminders too, right?). She’s obsessed with Pokemon, Star Wars, and Pusheen cats. She’ll yell at her brother and tell him to leave her alone one minute, and then be on the couch snuggled up with him watching Netflix the next. You know, average kid stuff.

Which I think balances out all of the times when she has conversations with me about topics that should be beyond her age, like politics or human rights. Or when she so astutely observes adults being hypocrites. Or when she calls me or Josh out on something, effectively putting us in our places. Because while she may only be ten, she’s already ten. She’s silly, and talkative, while still being mature and pensive. And that girl reads like nobody’s business. So when she asks to read our National Geographic magazines and then wants to talk about gender roles or female genital mutilation, and she does so in such a respectful, wise-beyond-her-years ways, I sit in awe of her. Because my daughter, who has been on this earth just a fraction of the time as some, can see without any doubt or hesitation, things that others still fight against or refuse to acknowledge. And that makes me so fucking proud to be her “mom-mom”.

So, ultimately, I guess we’re really a part of two worlds with her now. One in which she still comes to my room to get me if she has a bad dream (or if she’s sleepwalking and wants to tell me something weird while still unconscious), and the other in which she chooses her own clothes and is only 4 inches shorter than me. And though she’s almost as tall as me, that crazy girl still tries to get me to pick her up and hold her at least once a day. I told you, she’s silly. 🙂

So, Lily-Boo, a very happy and momentous double-digit birthday to you. I am so proud of who you’ve become, and honestly look forward to each coming day straddling these two worlds with you, even the bad ones when you can’t stand to be in the same room as me. Because even when you’re mad, your pouty face reminds me of your toddler years when I thought those fights were bad. And no matter how mad we may get at each other, there is love there that nothing can break. You’re who made me a mother and who continues to challenge me into being a better mother, and I’m eternally grateful for you in my life. Because without you, I wouldn’t be constantly striving to be a better, more patient, and considerate human. You mean so much more to me than you can possibly realize.

Happy birthday, Pookie. I hope it’s everything you’ve been counting down on your calendar for and more. You’re an amazing, unique, beautiful soul, and you deserve the world. I love you.

The Birds Saved Me

Two years this May is my anniversary, if you will, of being diagnosed with major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression. At the time, I hadn’t realized it was mental health awareness month and how fitting it was that I was finally going to see someone about this problem I’d had, hid, and endured for far too long. And even in going to see my primary care health professional, I had gone in with the mindset that it must have been just stress and anxiety that was plaguing me. But after spewing my guts out to her, and sobbing for a good half an hour, she made me gently realize that no one was supposed to feel as awful as I was for as long as I had been. And thus began my journey into accepting my, and now advocating for mental health awareness.

I can’t speak for every person suffering from some sort of mental health issue. Every person, and every issue is so very different. But I can say with 100% certainty that what I can say for every person dealing with a mental illness is that there isn’t nearly enough information, awareness, and understanding about the struggles so many people with mental illnesses face each day. And I can also say that this needs to end.

And the best way for this to awareness to grow is by those of us living with or loving people with mental illnesses to speak up about their experiences. Because maybe, if one more person can see that they’re not alone in the way they’re feeling, that they’re not broken or hopeless, and that there are people who care about them and will support them, then that’s one more person to get help and then share their experiences so even more can benefit.

While I know I’ve shared bits and pieces of my story before, there’s always more. So, here’s a little bit you perhaps didn’t know before.

*************************************************************************************

Many people who are close to me know that I love birds. I love having my feeders out and full each day so that I can watch the wild backyard birds in my neighborhood congregate and eat. I know each species that comes frequently, what their calls are, their habits, their mating patterns. I watch for my favorites, and am worried about them when the weather takes a nasty turn. I revel in seeing the babies each spring and summer, and am heartbroken when I find one that has smashed against our dining room window and didn’t make it. I’ve downloaded apps, bought books, joined groups, and researched websites all to learn as much as I possibly can about these amazing animals. And they are. I know this now having studied them for two years. But I didn’t always know this or care at all to learn about them.

If you’ve known me longer than two years, you might wonder when I suddenly became so obsessed with birds. My daughter certainly did, and asked me as such not long ago. “Why are you so into birds all of a sudden?” I think was the exact phrasing. And my answer was this: they saved me.

Two years ago, before I was ready or capable of admitting I was depressed, but was in the deep, dark hole of it, I found myself learning how to mentally check out. I would stare into nowhere, almost like an out of body experience because it was so much nicer than to be present with my feelings. Being numb to everyone and everything was far more desirable than feeling angry, desolate, useless, and out of control. So, I would leave my body where it was, and allow my mind to cozy up into a fuzzy blanket, and ignore the world.

It was during this time, early spring, that when I would check out during meals, I would turn my head and gaze toward the window and stare outside. Well, I imagine you needn’t be a birder to know that many birds start migrating back into our area during this time. And so, as I was trying to check out, a flash of color or a song would catch my eye or ears, and pull me back in. It began happening so frequently that eventually I simply couldn’t ignore it anymore. There they were, flitting here and there, dragging dried grass for their nests, or showing off to attract a mate. And always, always looking for food.

It was at that time as well that my dad put out a couple of simple feeders, and began filling them with seed. And still I would watch. I’d watch and see how different birds preferred different seeds. How some were ground feeders, while others preferred to eat while perched. Some were aggressive, and scared the other birds away, while others waited patiently until most all the other birds flew off, and then picked at the remains.

I watched and watched, and as I watched, I found myself being inside of myself for longer and longer periods of time. And the more I was aware of my emotions, the more I started realizing that I couldn’t continue to live this way. It was either I find help or I lose everything by permanently shutting myself off from everyone else. Everyone I loved. Luckily for me, I was able to recognize that, and did get help.

So, when I say that the birds saved me, it’s not because of some profound realization I had about them, or some meaningful connection I made between us. They saved me because their presence caused me to slowly creep out of the grayness of my mind and thus forced me to recognize that how I was living was unhealthy. I was able to begin a path of recovery, which to be honest, I don’t think will ever end. There is a distinct difference between major depressive disorder and situational depression, and therefore different treatments, which is a topic for another day. But part of the treatment I found was in connecting with something outside of my immediate bubble. And in doing that, finding that perhaps I wasn’t too far gone yet that I couldn’t be brought back. It allowed me to be cognizant enough of my own needs that I was still able to recognize that how I was feeling and how I was acting was not healthy, and so changed all that.

It’s been two migrations and eight seasons since the birds unknowingly filled a void in me that no one knew was there. And they continue to be a salve for me on days when everything still feels wrong.

I love my family. I love my friends. And I cannot express my sincerest gratitude for those who have expressed their care and understanding to me. My love for all of you is immeasurable. But these birds…they are really the ones I owe everything too. Because they don’t even really know I exist, they ask for nothing, they require nothing from me. They don’t want to solve my problems or feel inadequate if their attempts at making me happy fall flat. They simply are. And in their being, I can just be with them. And thankfully, those who love me best know this, and know now to just leave me be with my birds when they see that look in my eyes. Because they know that I’ve found my way of coping. And their love for me respects this therapy of sorts.

Because it is therapy. It may not be exactly conventional or backed in some scientific study, but it’s good for my mind and soul nonetheless. And I firmly believe that whatever it takes, so long as one’s choice of coping or therapy does not inflict further harm on themselves or others, then so be it. We all need different things, and respond different ways. And there’s no right way to live with mental illness.

You do you, my boy

Looking back at my birthday reflection from last year, my words now feel so ironic. I remarked on how Ollie was an ever-steady personality, that change hadn’t come much over the last year. And now I think about his year 5-6 and see how it was THE year of change for him. Beautiful, hard, deeply important change. He had some major battles, and his success was hard-fought and deservedly won, and I couldn’t be prouder of him for who he has become.

As was evident in his last birthday essay, Ollie struggled a bit with leaving me at school for some of the year while in Pre-K. He worried I wouldn’t come back or that he would be left alone forever. By early spring, I thought that issue had nipped itself in the bud; but, almost right after his 5th birthday, his anxiety came rushing back unexpectedly and with a fierce vengeance.

It seemed so startling at first because it was almost like over night he went from being reluctantly happy to see me go, to him being completely distraught all over again. Everyone in his life wracked their brains trying to figure out what was eating at him, but no one could pinpoint one single thing. Was it the first death in our family that made him ask me what would happen if I died? Was it his body finally realizing it couldn’t keep up with the pace of school and causing him to become overly sensitive? Was it something he’d seen on tv, something someone said, something we couldn’t imagine? Was it none of the above?

It was emotionally exhausting trying to figure out why he was suddenly clinging to me and sobbing when I tried to go anywhere without him, whether it be to school or just to the grocery store while he stayed home with grandma. It was so unlike him and it worried me to no end.

Finally, I took him to the doctor who suggested he see a psychologist. And after waiting almost a month to get him in, that he did. We spent our summer seeing his psychologist about once every 10 days. And eventually it began to make a difference. He started becoming less and less fearful, better and better with leaving me. And as tiresome as it was to maintain unflinching patience with him when I just needed to go to the store for 30 minutes, I think it ultimately helped a bit.

Until it didn’t anymore.

Until one day out of the blue he began again to act as though I would leave him forever. With no provocation, other than our push for him to be more independent. We saw he could and so we encouraged him to continue to do so. But he pushed back. And I feared he’d never get better.

Until he did.

And not because he saw the psychologist more often or because we tried more therapies. Because in truth, I was so tired of going to the psychologist about once every week just to see him show the same behaviors day in and day out that I finally made the decision to stop taking him. And maybe it’s not the type of thing that’s recommended because we didn’t phase him out, we just stopped. But it’s what we ultimately decided to do.

But you know what, after we just stopped, and told him we stopped because we saw he had gotten so much better and thought he didn’t need to go anymore, he really did get even better. It was almost as if he needed to believe that he had it in him to do whatever he needed to do. That it wasn’t that someone had to be there telling him how to manage himself, he could do it all on his own.

And I really think this was a turning point for him. This  was back in September, almost halfway through his year 5, and only a few weeks into our new homeschooling lifestyle that this happened. But after that point, instead of him assuming he needed to be taught everything or shown  or assisted in doing everything, he suddenly began believing he could do anything. And he began creating his own learning experiences and his own projects. And it felt, to me at least, that he was suddenly on his way. Just like it seemed that overnight he curled into himself and began feeling afraid and insecure, overnight he sprang from that mindset and went back to being his true self again.

And because I overthink everything, I’ve been trying to figure out what it was exactly that allowed this to happen. And the more I think and the more I read and the more I embrace this new way of living we’ve chosen, the more I realize that what it was that changed him was simply time. Time to simply grow up.

Now what I’m about to say may not be an opinion that sits well with everyone. And I mean this in no way to be judgmental. But it’s something I’ve come to believe very deeply over the last year since I began researching homeschooling. And now that I’ve seen my own children benefit from this way of life, I absolutely believe it to be truth. At the very least, our truth.

Kids are little for such a precious short time. And we in America seem to value achievement and competition so much that we impose these things on our youngest people and in a way that can , and often does, create irrevocable harm to them. We push them into schools, for many of them, not long after they’ve become potty-trained. We’ve traded daycare for preschool. School. For babies. We take away their time to play, experiment, discover, be free and push them to “learn”, to read, to write, to achieve more and more, outdo their peers. We take away nap time and story time and time to be messy and fall and hurt themselves for the “safety” of a room with tiny chairs and tables that they’re asked to spend most of their day at, sitting, doing as their told. And then we wonder why children act out or “fall behind” or any of the myriad other complaints we have about our children in schools these days. We impose unnatural circumstances and behaviors on our children and then fail to see why they don’t thrive.

And trust me, I’m no better than anyone else who has put their child into schools. I too pushed for them to read better and more when I saw they naturally could sooner than most. I felt pride when their teachers told me they were well-behaved or had good grades. Because that is what I was conditioned to believe.

But now, getting off my soapbox. I can see so damn clearly now that what Ollie needed more than anything else this past year was just time to mature. Time to be 5, to be barely more than a baby. Time to grow at his pace and at his comfort level. Time for him to take his own risks when he chose. To learn more about himself and his world when he was ready. When HE was ready.

And now he is ready. Now he’s back to being his silly, joyful, curious little self. It was heartbreaking seeing my usually happy, confident little boy reduced to fear, sadness, uncertainty, and involuntary tics, and thinking there was nothing we could do. And it feels so amazing now to know that the only thing he really needed was nothing. Nothing but us to be there, to love him, to believe in him, and to let him do what he needed to do when he needed to do it.

And now he’s ever the more not my baby boy. He’s grown so tall, and seemingly over night grown into a little man’s body with no more chubs hanging around his tummy or thighs. He’s strong, and sharp, and beautiful. He’s still got his smile that warms your soul, and a penetrating, knowing look, like his father, that bores into your core.

And he still has a sense of adventure, and to be honest, recklessness. He can’t quite decide if he wants to drive submarines when he grows up, or be an astronaut. He wants to build rockets, and discover new species of fish deep in the ocean. Of course, he might also like to be a veterinarian or a locksmith like his dad. And he wants to have kids someday but only if he doesn’t have to get married. And he still doesn’t care if Barbies are “for girls” or not. He loves Linda, his Barbie, and he’ll be damned if you try to make him feel otherwise.

And I’ll be damned if anyone, including myself, ever tries to make him feel, or act, or do anything he doesn’t feel ready for ever again. He trusts me with every ounce of his being to be the person who knows him the best and has nothing but his best interest at heart. And I will never let him down again.

And so, my Bubba-Boy, my heart, my love., a very happy 6th birthday to you. Even though I can’t quite wrap my head around you being 6 already, I will not wallow in sadness over 6 years gone because I know you have so many more to go. And I plan on seeing you though all of them as your biggest fan and greatest support. You continue to build your towers and then crash them down. You peg off your Beanie Boos with your nerf guns and then dress Linda up in her finest. You continue to feel the pride you deserve in reading aloud to us those silly adventures of Elephant and Piggie. You continue to run amok with your friends (real, honest to goodness friends), and challenge yourself to be your most authentic you. You are a beautiful force to be reckoned with, with a spirit and soul to rival no other.

Get your fill of Cheez-its and whatever other junk food your heart desires today because it’s your day. I love you, little buddy. Here’s to another year of you.

I’m not a poet, and we all need one 

What does one say on a day like this? On a day when nothing else seems amiss.

 
The puffs of white still pour out of cars as people drive off to work.

The chickadees still sing their dee-dee-dee from the trees.

My cats still lounge by the heater, leisurely giving themselves baths.

The sun has risen and set,

And we’re all still here.

 

And yet there’s a shift,
A crack,

A fissure,

A change.
Everything is the same and yet it isn’t.

Everyone is the same, even though we’ll never be the same again.

And I can’t find the words we all need to hear.

Unplugging 

Sometimes I think back to years past when no one had cell phones, and especially not internet access in the palms of their hands, and I wonder what the hell we did with ourselves. Then again, I also think these pieces of pint-sized technology are the worst thing to happen to us as people. Ironic, considering I’m typing this on my iPhone right now. 

But hear me out. Yes, it’s amazing and incredibly helpful sometimes to have the world and all its wonders at our fingertips. But what that also means is that often times we’re so wrapped up in it that we miss what’s going on right in front of our faces. And we often forget that what other people are doing or saying mostly has no bearing on our own lives. 

But we continue to make ourselves apart of it, even knowing this. Why? I don’t have an answer to this myself. All I know is how I can now see it affects me. And that is this: it’s unhealthy. 

And I’m not talking about potential cancers and tumors from putting my phone up against the side of my head or in my bra (hey, sometimes I don’t have pockets, ok?). I’m not talking about how it may affect our eyesight or how it can cause insomnia. I’m not even talking about how being on our phones more means we’re moving less, which in turn means we’re gaining more weight. Even though, yes, those are all issues people worry about. 

What makes these expensive pieces of plastic and metal most unhealthy, for me at least, is how much they affect my mental health. How addictive they’ve become. How obsessive they make me. How much anxiety they produce. And anyone who knows me knows I don’t need anymore of this shit in my life. 

And yes, I know it’s my fault. I didn’t actually need to buy a smartphone. And I don’t actually need to visit the myriad apps, websites, and social media outlets that I do on a daily basis. No one actually forced me to do these things. So I’m not looking to place blame on anyone else but myself. 

And considering I know that I have anxiety and depression, and often worry unnecessarily about things others probably don’t even think about; and, considering I feel everything so much more strongly–especially sadness, worry, and inequality–you’d think I would know better than to allow myself to get hooked on the internet. But even though I do know better, I don’t stop it. I’m fairly sure no heroin junkie plans on getting hooked. It just happens. After a series of increasingly destructive behaviors, it just happens. 

And so I think it happens to us all. But I can only speak of myself with absolute certainty. I can say with this resoluteness that I need to let it all go. The social media has to stop for me. For now? For forever? I don’t really know. I only know that I can’t keep on like this. 

And that is so fucking nerve wrecking for me. I wish you could feel my pulse as I write this. 

What if I miss something? 

What if someone tries to send me an important message, and I don’t see it in time?

Won’t someone possibly get upset if I don’t like or comment on something they’ve posted? 

Will anyone even know I’m absent?

Those are just some of my worries. Some irrational. Some not. And really just some of the worries and thoughts I have about “unplugging” myself. 

But, see, the thing is that since this election, I’ve been trying to keep up on everything politics related. It’s my duty as an American, and one that cares even more so. But the more I read and watch, the worse I feel. And the worse I feel, the more I carry this over into what is my actual life. And I’m just sick of letting these things clog up my thoughts and suck up my time. I just can’t do it anymore. 

And I know that right now is not the best time to give up, that it’s a time to purposefully be aware. But I can’t. 

I’m just not that brave, not that committed. I am that scared. And I am that worried. And I am feeling that hopeless and helpless. I’m just not feeling like a social justice crusader. I’m feeling that a lot of days it takes every bit of my concentration and effort merely to keep my small little piece of the world still functioning. And right now it feels like I can’t give any more. 

So I hate to be a whiner. And I hate to defer to someone else, but I think I need to let the fighters keep fighting, and let myself slink into the background. Because, truthfully, we can’t all be all things all of the time. And right now I know that looking at these things day in and day out is giving me such intense anxiety and making me teeter dangerously close to the edge of a depressive relapse that I have no choice but to back off. I can’t breathe anymore, and I have to save myself. Selfish or not, it’s what I need to do. 

I need to surround myself with kitties and books and my kids’ smiles. And I’m not going to allow myself to feel guilty because of it. 

I admire you, fighters. I admire you so much. And I respect you beyond words. And many days I wish I was you. But I’m not. And that’s just got to be ok. 

So on the eve of a historical inauguration, I think I’m bidding social media adieu for now. For how long I do not know. I imagine not forever. But long enough to rewire my brain and refocus my needs and priorities. And long enough to reevaluate how best to spend my time. 

And hopefully that means reading more books instead of heartsickening news articles. And writing more of my long overdue book instead of comments to and about people who will never see things my way. And hopefully being more present when my kids are doing something or saying something instead of having the back of my mind wondering what’s going on in my newsfeed. 

And hopefully it means making my way back to social media in a healthier mindset and with a more balanced approach to being a part of this part of our world. 

I will have tonight be my last hurrah for now, and start anew in the morning.

Deep breath.