The Last Day

You guys, this is the last day.

I did it!

I’m actually genuinely super impressed with myself, because almost every single day this month I was able to generate original content, and some of it was actually kind maybe good-ish.

And, the fact that I was actually able to write about my daily life without too much trouble, means – wait for it – that I actually have a life! Actually!

Before, when I had tiny babies and was largely housebound and unable to string words together to make coherent thoughts, let alone get pants on my ass, I didn’t feel like I had much to say. It was the same shit, different day. Literally. At least now, my kids are growing and changing rapidly and I’m running to catch up and I have some time to myself to collect my thoughts. We’re also able to go to better and more interesting places, have more lively conversations.

In short, life is getting more interesting. And I’m thankful.

I hope, for those of you who stopped to read this thing, that you enjoyed it. I hope it was amusing at the very least, and at the most I hope it made you laugh, made you think, and made you get to know me better and want to be my very best friend. I like warm hugs.

Also, THANK YOU. If I didn’t care about anyone reading my stuff, I’d write in a private diary. So thanks for stopping by; I really appreciate it.

Now I am off to decorate my house for Christmas and then redo everything my kids try to decorate. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. Stay warm. Stay sassy.

Stay psycho.

 


nanopoblano2019

We could all use more rainbows

I’ve been reading the blog Raising My Rainbow for a long time now, and if you’ve never checked it out, please do, because it’s as fabulous as it is heartbreaking and informative.

It’s written by a mom who is raising a gender nonconforming kid in Southern California. These people are such an inspiration! They practice what it means to be kind, inclusive, and advocates for LGBTQ folks.

Recently, I read a post where CJ, the author’s son, wrote his own version of the Three Little Pigs. It was so fabulous that I had to share it. (That, and I’m running on empty in terms of my own blog posting ideas.)

The Three Little Pigs Reimagined

Please enjoy!


nanopoblano2019

The Boat

Note: Today I tried a writing exercise where you use a photo prompt and write a short story as close to 100 words as possible. It will become immediately obvious that I used the photo as very loose inspiration. Enjoy.

They had been at it all day and had only gotten a few bites.

Henry reeled in his line to check the hook. As he suspected, the bait had been nibbled away. Swearing under his breath, he reached into the jar for another wriggling nightcrawler.

“Maybe we need to try somewhere else?” Sarah suggested, but floated it as a hesitant question. She came on these trips more for the peace and quiet, but now Henry’s darkening mood was beginning to scare her.

“We’ve already tried all the damn coves in this fucking place,” Henry grumbled.

Suddenly the boat felt dangerously small as he put down his pole and yanked hard on the motor’s pull chord.


nanopoblano2019

 

 

Blog On.

At the risk of annoying y’all, I’m posting twice today.

That’s right – TWICE.

WordPress just informed me that it is my blogiversary! Eight years ago today I began an adventure into writing for an audience. It’s been fun and challenging and a learning experience that I plan to continue in some form for years to come.

To all those who actually read this thing- thank you. To those who comment- THANK YOU!

Blog on, my friends.

Blog on.

Welcome to November

Ok, you guys, get ready.

I’m doing that November Bloggy thing again. That thing whose name I can never remember. It’s the bloggy version of write-a-novel-during-the-month-of-november thingy. Only I’m not writing a novel. I’m more of a non-fiction girl, myself. Unless it’s something really super compelling, like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter.

And another thing. Why does this shindig have to happen during November? Like, almost any other month would be better. I’m usually way too busy trying to get ready for the holidays, buying shit that makes me poor and eating crap that blocks me up.

What about January? Now that would be nice. The holidays are over, it’s the dead of winter. Nothing happens. It’s a new beginning. Etc! Maybe I’ll start the movement.

As for now, I’m still a sucker who is bent to the will of peer pressure, for better or worse.

I’ll be trying to blog everyday for this month, but that doesn’t mean that every (or any) post will be brilliant or polished. I’m sure some days will just be stream-of-consciousness-what-day-is-it delightfulness.

So, I hope you’re on board to read what I have to say. And comment. Could you comment please? It makes the whole blogging experience so much more fun, to start a conversation.

For right now, I’m just going to set some goals for this month. I’m going to try my hardest to be more present this month, and to actually enjoy the holidays and not get caught up in the stress and worry that (for me) comes with trying to research and buy and wrap and ship gifts for Christmas. I’m going to let myself off the hook and remind myself that not everything has to look perfect or feel magical and we don’t have to go to every. friggin. caroling/lights/card making/sugar chugging little activity. Sometimes the best things are staying home, drinking hot chocolate and watching movies.

I already feel like I’m rambling, so this month is off to a GREAT START, good god.

Hold on tight, dear readers. Welcome to November.

nanopoblano2019

My favorite part of the day

Today’s my birthday, y’all. And you know what that means – I insist on some me time so I can wax poetic on my blog about another year gone.

Another year older, wiser, more tired. It’s also been a year a bit more hopeful than recent history. My kids are getting older and more independent (read: less dependent on mommy for every goddamn little thing), which is very much appreciated. We’re all creeping out of the baby stage, and while that makes a part of me kinda sad, it makes a larger part of me sigh with relief. We’ve got potty training on the horizon for the little one, and while that process will probably be a brisk walk through hell, I am giddy with excitement when I think about life on the other side. I simply won’t know what to do with myself.

Along those lines, in the fall my oldest will start kindergarten and my youngest will start preschool. That means I get some time to nap, clean the house, poop alone, and start the process of maybe eventually going back to work.

I think my brain just exploded.

And now I’m going to leave you with a little window into my day. It’s a story that’s been bouncing around in my head for a few weeks and I’ve been meaning to get it down in writing.

__________________________________________

One of my favorite parts of the day is when we read to the kids right before they go to bed.

My son has always settled down to be read to, but my daughter has only started sitting still for books in the past 6 months or so, and it’s glorious. Even so, she’s still demanding to help turn the pages, interjecting every 5 seconds with “waat hap-pen?!” but I’m not complaining.

Getting ready for bed is usually chaos. Screaming, streaking, wiggling. Diapers, pajamas, teeth brushing.

Each child gets to pick a book.

We sit perpendicular on my son’s twin bed, resting our backs against the wall. We use a body pillow for support that my husband first bought me when we were living in Boston, as a surrogate for his own body once he left to take a job in California. How time flies.

My son sits to the far left, then daddy, then my daughter, then me. Always the same.

We have a desk light on low. Daddy and I do all the voices. I specialize in Princess Sparkle, supersonic jets, and the Minosaur. Daddy’s really good at Old Bear and witches and farmers.

About halfway through the first book, without fail, the cat skulks into the room and jumps up on the bed, demanding my lap. Her furry body warms mine. My daughter reaches over to pet her back or poke her in the ear.

Snapshot: for about 10 minutes each day, or entire family is calm and snuggling and…together. All focused on the same thing for a brief moment before we say our goodnights and iloveyous, lay them in their beds, turn out the lights, and shut their doors.

Sometimes my son wordlessly reaches for my hand.

Sometimes my daughter rests her head against my torso.

Sometimes the cat purrs.

Sometimes my partner and I exchange a glance above our kids’ heads.

Always it’s my favorite time of day.

Always.

The 2018 Annual Attitude of Gratitude: Bloggers Flood The Internet With Happiness & Positivity!

I am doing my friend Dawn’s New Years gratitude exercise this year! Please do it with me! Go check out her blog post explaining how it’s done.

url

Basically, I set a timer for 15 minutes and wrote down everything I could think of that made me happy and/or that I am grateful for. I like the list I came up with! Enjoy.

  1. My husband
  2. my children
  3. their silliness and laughter
  4. a warm bed
  5. my health
  6. anti-anxiety medication
  7. my naturopath
  8. therapy
  9. warm, sunny weather
  10. the ability to travel
  11. coffee
  12. my mom’s homemade fudge
  13. a full night’s sleep
  14. captivating, original movies
  15. books that inspire me
  16. michelle obama
  17. ellen degeneres
  18. making plants grow
  19. music that makes me want to sing and dance
  20. snow
  21. my son going to preschool
  22. babysitters
  23. grandparents
  24. my MOMS Club friends!
  25. my home
  26. a satisfying home-cooked meal
  27. feeling safe, secure, supported
  28. having events on the calendar to look forward to
  29. baking for my kids
  30. receiving artwork from my kids
  31. hearing my kids spontaneously say “I love you”
  32. seeing my kids play together
  33. knowing that my husband has my back, no matter what
  34. a well organized playroom, kitchen, closet…..okay household
  35. breakfast food
  36. being in nature
  37. writing blog posts
  38. being able to talk to friends who are far away like no time has passed
  39. social media…for mini-breaks during the day and a way to feel connected to others
  40. my new harry potter slippers
  41. my new hot/cold neck wrap
  42. the absence of migraines
  43. high-quality hand cream
  44. this chapstick that tastes and smells like vanilla
  45. fun earrings!
  46. any day I have the time and energy to do my hair/makeup/jewelry
  47. finding myself after slowly emerging from the baby stage of parenting
  48. watching my kids grow and change
  49. the time and space to exercise my creativity and be in flow
  50. looking forward to my youngest entering preschool when I’ll gain more crucial time to myself
  51. aaaaaand my 15 minutes is up!

 

I was thinking the other day, and I want to say that 2018 is the first year that’s felt better for me than the previous year since…2012. Seriously, I’ve had a very tumultuous life the last 6 years. A whole lot of excitement, change, stress, challenges, anxiety…sleep deprivation. I’m tired, but I’m hopeful. I hope 2019 is even better. If I have anything to say about it, it will be.

Happy New Year, everyone! I’m thankful for everyone who reads this.

Cheers!

Melissa

 

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Quick anxiety update: it’s flare-up time. (Relapse time? Outbreak time? Really unsure what terms to use here, and I’m the mental health expert. Better get on that.)

I’m on my second week of dealing with early morning anxiety…..again. It goes like this: something will wake me up early in the morning. Take your pick – husband, cat, bladder. Neighbors. Traffic. Kids, but very rarely. Go figure. And then something sparks this burning fire in my chest that I can’t extinguish in order to get back to sleep. So I toss and turn in anguish and waste 1-2 hours when I desperately need sleep, but can’t get it. Lastly, my kids wake up, and then it’s all over. The anxiety slowly fades and is replaced by exhaustion as the day goes on. Makes me fantasize about going full Walden.

I’m hopeful to report that I think I’m getting better at squashing this more quickly. The past few mornings I’ve actually been able to get back to sleep and wake up for the day not feeling like such a zombie. It’s this magical combination of self-talk, physical relaxation techniques, and distracting myself by thinking about something – anything – not about me, my body, sleep, or the present moment.

(Update: I started this post yesterday, and this morning I actually slept all the way through the morning and woke up naturally and feeling rested. So there’s hope!)

Now I’m going to outline things that help me – specifically, things whose helpfulness I tend to forget – to fight this anxiety monster that creeps into my bed (or tries to) each morning. This is not meant to be preachy or self-helpy, but it’s rather to help…me. Because, just like depression, anxiety lies. It lies to me and it makes me forget what normal and healthy feels like. It makes me forget what coping skills actually work and it lies to me about there being joy in the world, and that it’s within my reach.

  1. Sleep

The biggest one by far. If I don’t get enough sleep I have very little motivation to face the day. The sleep that anxiety steals from me in the mornings sets up my entire day to be complete rubbish and it’s really hard to get back on track. That makes naps vital on some days (when I can get them), and I’ve been working very hard to get to bed at a time that ensures I’ve allowed for at least 8 hours of sleep. Even though I don’t always get it, I have to carve out room for it. Have to.

2. Exercise

I’m not a person who really enjoys exercising, per se, but this week I’ve been feeling the urge to move my body. I tend to get that feeling when I’m super angry, or when I’m jumping-out-of-my-skin-anxious. I’ve realized that when I exercise, I don’t have room for the jitters. I actually get real-time relief. That’s why I made sure I got out there and ran from zombies, even in this smokey heat wave we’re having. It felt so. good.

3. Music

I’ve written about this before, but the act of singing, like really singing, is so stress relieving and this is one that I forget about all the time. So if you see me running (from zombies) and I suddenly stop to belt out a well-timed lyric and bust a move, then you know what’s going on.

4. Laughter

This usually means social contact, but sometimes a really, really good show or standup routine will fit the bill here. I recently watched Iliza Schlesinger: Elder Millennial on Netflix, and man it was exactly what I needed. I might just watch it again. Also, The Bloggess is the reason I started blogging in the first place, and I realized that I was no longer getting her updates for some reason. That has been remedied.

5. Taking time to get out of my head and space out

Having kids all day everyday, this often takes the form of me being on my phone. This usually comes with a lot of guilt, but I’m trying to tell it to fuck off. As long as the kids are safe and cared for, I am taking lots and lots of tiny micro breaks throughout the day just so I can slip the phone back into my pocket and be present for 20 more minutes when I previously thought I couldn’t. I kinda felt like I needed permission to do this, and only realized that after my therapist had given it to me unsolicited.

6. Having something to look forward to

It has been a godsend to join my local chapter of MOMS Club and automatically have events lined up for me on my calendar each month. It sounds so mundane, but it keeps me going. I’m constantly looking forward to the next thing, and being able to feel excited anticipation is a powerful enemy of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

There you have it. These are the main coping skills that I often forget are available to me.

Side note: while writing this over the course of two days, I have been interrupted a total of eleventy billion times. Another antidote to anxiety is being able to get into a flow state, and in order to do that you need to cultivate calm and stillness. Yeeeeeah. This is one reason why it’s SO HARD for me to put myself to bed at a reasonable time, because stillness only happens WHEN PEOPLE ARE UNCONSCIOUS. My point: I reeeeeally miss flow states. Please tell them to come back and visit.

 

Here I Am

This is going to be one of those stream-of-consciousness posts because I haven’t blogged in forever, I really feel the urge to write and create, but I have no idea what I want to say. So here I am, with some ALONE TIME at Starbucks, and I’m just going to write and see what comes out.

starbucks

Traditionally, this should have happened on my birthday. I usually run away on the anniversary of my birth so I can be alone and write, but this year my birthday landed on a Saturday and so my partner and I decided to take advantage and hire a babysitter (for the second time ever) to get away together and it was glorious. Seriously, the day was pretty close to perfect. A quick recap:

  • Woke up before the kids and went to yoga
  • Upon getting ready for yoga, found roses and VooDoo Donuts left out for me!!!
  • Came home from yoga, had coffee and donuts with the family
  • Got ready and gleefully left the kids with the babysitter
  • Got surprised (I knew we were going somewhere, just didn’t know where) with sushi in Portland, followed by a movie (Ladybird)
  • Yummy takeout for dinner
  • After putting the kids to bed, I watched the last episode of Handmaid’s Tale (!!!!) while soaking alone in my tub
  • The cherry on top? Anxiety did not get in the way of my enjoyment that day. Serious win for me.

So all of a sudden I’m 35.  (aaaaand made it to 15 years cancer free. Huzzah!)

I am pretty much where I thought I might be in life except that I didn’t plan on Oregon and I didn’t plan on staying home with the kids, but here I am.

I also didn’t plan on being a nervous wreck as a mom, now that I think about it.

I’ve been meaning to blog about my continued adventures with anxiety and my efforts to prevent it and treat it. About 4 weeks ago I went in for my medication evaluation and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was already nervous, because 1) new experience, 2) driving to a new place, and 3) psych meds kinda freak me out.

First off, I didn’t like the Psych Nurse Practitioner much. She seemed dismissive, she lectured me, and she wasn’t all that sensitive or empathetic. Ugh.

She asked me to go over the history of my presenting issues, and I did so very briefly. She then started to problem solve at me: “Have you tried this? Or This?”

I bristled. I explained that I had a therapist, I’ve talked about my anxiety ad nauseum, that I’ve been dealing with this for an entire year, and that medication was my very last resort. Yes, I’ve tried everything. I could go on for hours about all the things I’ve tried. Now I’m here for meds.

I understand she needed to make sure I wasn’t just med-seeking, but I really didn’t feel like wasting time going over every little detail of my coping regimen, let alone with someone with whom I wasn’t really jiving.

After a lecture about how important sleep is (yes, honey, that’s why I’m here), she went over some med options and I was surprised when she recommended a beta blocker. Her logic was that since anxiety really is my primary issue, let’s make my autonomic nervous system calm the fuck down by lowering my blood pressure. She also chose this med because I mentioned having fairly frequent migraines and it’s supposed to prevent those. Ok, sounds good.

And then I started having anxiety about taking the damn meds.

I worried about how they’d make me feel. How bad were the side effects? Would I have to try something else? How long and arduous would this journey through the medication worm hole be?

Enough time has gone by, that I can confidently say…there are mixed results. I definitely feel a decrease in my daily anxiety. My quality of sleep has gone up.

But. I’ve been dizzy. Nauseated. I’ve had 4 migraines in 4 weeks, waaaay more than normal (W.T.F.). I’ve been so.COLD. And sometimes I just feel…off. Like my heart is beating too slow. I dunno.

At the moment the NP and I have agreed to try a half dose before moving on to something else. So far, that seems better, but not all the way better. Better enough? I don’t know. And don’t worry, my BP continues to be normal.

Trying another tactic, I’ve also made an appointment with a Naturopath to see about preventing my anxiety, headaches, fatigue, etc. I bet you all these things might – just might – be connected, since they all live inside my one body and all.

So I feel like I’m trying all the things.

What surprised me is that I seem to be having a hard time celebrating the small victories, or even recognizing them at all.  I was bitching to a friend about the side effects I was experiencing that I had completely forgotten that my anxiety had indeed significantly decreased until she asked me.

I had to think about it. “Yeah…it’s better. Huh.”

“That’s great!”

“Yeah, I guess it is.”

Ugh. What is this?! It just feels like I’m always fighting some battle. Something’s always in the way. My therapist reminded me that not all of my anxiety is going to evaporate. That some anxiety, some of the time, is normal.

Oh yeah.

Seriously, I forgot.

I’ve been trying hard to turn my negative thought processes around. I’ve been paying extra attention to those professional mom bloggers we see in our Facebook feeds that post stuff about giving ourselves a break and cutting out the mom-shaming bullshit. All of that is so much easier said than done, but I’m working on it.

One example that really spoke to me: we can be hot messes and be good moms. That they exist together. Because boy howdy, I feel like both. I can be both.

I fear this post has gone on too long. It’s meandering, but it’s where I am.

 

Dramatic. Irrational. Crazy.

My last blog post turned out to be really cathartic to write. I expected that it would be, just not to the extent that it was.

I woke up the next morning and temporarily forgot about the post. Then I picked up my phone and saw the dozen or so alerts about it and went oh yeah.

As I laid there in bed before getting up for the day, I started to read the comments- some public, some private – and tears started streaming down my face. They were good tears. I cried several more times that day, and it was all good. It was like I had been carrying a weight around with me for months and I finally set it down, only I didn’t start to feel lighter until the morning after.

The weight isn’t completely gone, and I’m not sure it ever will be, because I’m human. But it sure feels better. I’ve had conversations and little how are yous and coffee dates with friends that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t written that post. It broke the ice that was floating on top of my ocean of anxiety that wouldn’t have been broken otherwise.

I’m very glad I wrote it. And since it worked so well, I’m going to keep doing it. What did one of my friends say? (I went and found it.) She said, “Putting it out there seems to somehow take away a little of the power.” She’s right, it does. I’m taking the power back.

So, onto another aspect of my anxiety: health and mortality.

As many of you know, I had ovarian cancer at age 19. Initially, I was incorrectly diagnosed with IBS, because who thinks a 19-year-old with bloating and constipation has cancer? No one. I was in college and living on my own, cooking for myself for the first time (if you could call what I was doing “cooking”) and so it made sense. I was eating crap and full of stress! Not to worry.

But what happens when the worst diagnosis possible actually comes true? To be fair, it wasn’t the worst possible because my life was never threatened. However, the c-word is fucking scary, shocking, and not at all what was expected.

What resulted after surgery was several things: 1) depression because my life had been put on hold- I had had to take the semester off from college and move away from friends and back in with my parents, and 2) anxiety because I was given a recurrence rate of 30% (THIRTY. PERCENT.) where the only available treatment was more surgery.

Time passed. I had cancer checkups every three months with normal results. I volunteered, got a summer job, went back to school, moved out. My life resumed and I moved forward.

But.

The anxiety never really went away. For ten years, in the back of my mind I wondered, worried if I was going to be able to have kids. But I also worried every time I got sick.

Was it the flu? OR WAS IT PNEUMONIA?!

Was I just constipated? OR HAS MY CANCER COME BACK?!

Do I need glasses? OR DO I HAVE GLAUCOMA?!

Am I just anxious and hopped-up on coffee? OR DO I HAVE DANGEROUSLY HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?

Am I having a panic attack? OR AM I DYING FROM A HEART ATTACK?!

All this may look super dramatic, but it’s my truth. (And anxiety is just that- DRAMATIC. Irrational. Crazy.) Of course you try not to expect the worst, and most times, it’s not the worst, but it happened to me. That one time, the worst actually happened and it has fucked me up ever since. If it happened once, who’s to say it won’t happen again?

The icing on the cake is that now that I’m a mom, this anxiety extends to my kids. I worry when they get sick. I have a hard time deciding when to freak out and when to be cool because my freak out meter is extremely warped.

Take this one step further and I worry about dying and leaving my kids. This isn’t always a conscious worry, but it’s more a general mortality fear that’s always at the back of my brain. This fear is normal. But what isn’t normal is when my anxiety takes it and runs a marathon with it.

Because I analyze everything to the point of exhaustion, I quickly realized that what led to my recent panic attack was a perfect storm of mortality triggers. Observe:

  1. Several weeks prior, a family member my age had a serious and shocking heart attack.
  2. I was reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book about her husband’s sudden, untimely death and how she was left to cope raising two young kids by herself (one of my worst nightmares).
  3. A few hours prior, I found out an old friend’s brother unexpectedly died.
  4. A few minutes prior, I was experiencing heartburn which my anxiety mistook as chest pains.

don’t panic!

Right then and there, I thought some of my worst fears were coming true, and it took me a minute to convince myself otherwise and calm the fuck down.

Writing this, unpacking it, and breaking it down really helps me. I need to understand this beast so I can kill it. (Or at least trap it and tame it?) This issue is next on the growing list of things I plan to tackle in therapy, but since therapy is only once a week, I figured I’d get a jump start.

Does anyone else out there feel this way about health/illness/motherhood/mortality?

Is anyone else out there fighting to keep their anxiety in check?

I see you [anxiety]. I see you and I’m onto you.