Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

What do you do all day?

Let me tell you about my average day. I am a stay at home parent. I hum and sing happy songs while dancing and twirling all day long because I have nothing else to do. I am always so well rested and can do whatever I want. When the kids need me I gleefully oblige to all their needs with pleasure, even when I am in the middle of something important. My hair is all done up, my make-up perfect and I always smell so sweet. Everyone should be so lucky to have it as easy as this.  1950-housewife

On a regular basis I hear things similar to the following:

You’re at home? What do you do all day?

It must be nice to relax all day.

How can you be stressed? You can do whatever you want.

Maybe you should get a part-time job, it would get you out of the house. Blank is hiring you should apply.

Must be nice to sleep in everyday.

All she does is go on bike rides and play dates.

She is a stay at home mom, she doesn’t do anything.

I would be so bored at home, it’s not for me but it’s ok for you.

Should one more person make a derogatory comment about stay at home parents or imply how good we have it, I just might snap. Stay at home parents get a bad rap. I have been on both sides and both have pros and cons. Look, are we not all on the same side here? There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing to stay home and work there or work outside the home.

battle over working momsBeing a stay at home parent is one of the toughest but most rewarding jobs there is. It is the equivalent to holding three full-time jobs at the same time in different fields. It has taken me two years to be comfortable even saying that I am a stay at home mom without adding what I use to do or want to do or anything else in the title. I run my business from home which has been rough as I have less time now than I did when I was working outside the home.  Please let me have the benefit of the doubt and trust I am doing the right thing by being at home. Don’t judge me. Don’t assume you know what I do or don’t do on a daily basis. Please don’t tell me I have all day to do what I want. Please stop sending me referrals for jobs and handing out career advice. This is not meant to be seen as a complaint; rather a set of facts and reality.

Let me give you the 411 on what it is really like:

wahm-Multi-taskingI am a stay at home parent. I am at work 24/7 and never get a day off. I have time shower every two to three days. My uniform is old t-shirts and ratty track pants coupled with my hiking or my rubber boots depending in the weather. I have one jacket. When I am sick, I still need to work and bring my A game because my bosses depend on me for everything. I am not afforded sick days. My time is consumed with questions, interruptions, training, educating, correcting, disciplining and crying.  Not to mention the usual tasks i.e. cooking, cleaning, laundry, paying bills, dealing with everything and anything that has to do with the kids, cars or house. I rarely receive any recognition for a job well done – or even a job done. My breaks are limited and overtime is mandatory every day. I need to be flexible and able to switch gears on a dime and I am always on alert. The pay sucks and I will never get a raise. My bosses are brash, full of attitude and have high expectations. But they are also the sweetest, funniest, most loving people in my life.  I have learned so much in the last two years that I would not trade this experience for anything. My girls trust me with everything and in return I have been able to show them all of me. The good and the bad, and they still love me regardless. The pros outweigh the cons for our family for a variety of reasons. We won’t be able to renovate, there will not be a vacation (unless it’s free!!), and I can’t shop for me and treat myself to new shoes or a cute purse.  No more spas or pedicures. I cut down on my hair appointments and no more colored hair. My husband and I go to the movies separately or bring one child because it is too costly for all of us to go at once. No more restaurant dinners, impromptu road trips. This year I spent my birthday money on swimming lessons for the kids. Christmas gifts will be sparse this year, and we still have the same old small fake tree with an eclectic mix of old and older ornaments and I would not have it any other way.

Finally if you can’t at least open your mind to the idea that being at home with kids is a real and a tough job, I would appreciate if you could keep your trap shut and walk away.

Thank you.

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Me + You = Two.

Life’s Lessons.

In my younger years, like many other twenty something’s, I thought I knew everything I needed to.  I was set. Good job that I loved, nice apartment in a great city, awesome friends, car to drive, money in my pocket, college diploma, professional designation, weekend parties and Sunday(and Monday) hangovers. It was great. Ahhhh the memories. At that time in my life I was also strongly opinionated, a bit closed minded, emotionally shut down, maybe a tad pretentious and was wearing a large chip on my shoulder. Never the less, I was on top of the world.

A colleague of mine suffered from migraines. She had to take medication, everyday, and even leave work early. If she felt an episode coming on, we had to turn off the radio, turn off all the lights and she dimmed all the computers in the office. Honestly, I thought: “For a headache; take a few ibuprofen or naproxen with a big glass of water and get over it”.  This colleague, let’s call her Jane, talked about some of her “triggers” such as chocolate, cheese, the barometric pressure, stress, lack of sleep…blah blah. I never really gave her my full attention. She went on and on about twitching and auras and sensitivities and how these migraines were diminishing her quality of life. I secretly thought she was making it up.  Seriously, how bad can a headache really be? I had no sympathy for Jane. None, not even a little. While she tended to her headache – or “migraine” as she called it, I plowed through my work and would do some of her work if there was absolutely nothing else I could do. Back then, I had no idea and didn’t even try to learn how bad her migraines really were.

That was, until I started having them myself. Oh ya, good old Karma got me again. I had had bad headaches in the past. I recall having an aura – although I didn’t realize that what it was at the time, I just thought I was going blind.

Shortly after I returned to work from my first maternity leave, we bought a new van. Looking back, a lot had happened from that Wednesday I called the dealer until the Saturday we picked it up. Wednesday night we went in and signed the papers for the van – never test drove it, never looked at it, picked the color and price and signed where needed. Thursday afternoon, my husband was rushed to the hospital by ambulance as the doctors thought the scar from the hernia repair he had done in June had opened and was strangulated, cutting off circulation to the bowel …which happens to be life threatening. Turns out, it did rip open, but was not strangulated, thank god.  We waited in the ER at the city hospital for about 9 hours before he could go home. The surgeon told us to wait by the phone and he would call us to advise when he could repair it. I would be less than a week and definitely before Christmas. The tear was still urgent and needed surgery to be fixed. Oh yeah did I mention this all went down in December about 2 weeks before Christmas??

Friday night I went solo to my work Christmas party. I was exhausted, but was not missing this event. I had just been promoted and wanted to show I was a committed employee, even after hours.

Then finally on Saturday my husband and I went to sign the final deal and pick up the van. I wasn’t feeling too great. I had no idea what the sales person said. I could not sit still. I felt very nauseous. I was not hung over – I didn’t even drink the night before. My focus was off, even when wearing my glasses. I was sweating and shivering at the same time. Noises became louder, lights became brighter. I ate a granola bar to help. I drank water, milk, apple juice, coffee. Nothing helped. By the time we got to my parents to pick up our daughter the right side of my face felt like pins and needles. I was frantically searching my purse for the medication I was taking for depression. I thought maybe I had forgotten to take it and was starting withdrawal. Dizziness set in, and then retching and vomiting so bad, so much that bile came up. My face looked like I had taken a red pen and scribbled all over it because so many capillaries had burst from the force of the vomiting. I overheard my dad say “she has buyer’s remorse”; my mom “she is just over tired”; my husband “I don’t know, maybe too much to drink last night”.

It was none of those. It was my first full-fledged body shocking, mind altering and serious migraine.  I took copious amounts of Tylenol 3, anti-nausea medication and ibuprofen. It helped me pass out for a few hours. I woke up with an absolutely horrendous skull splitting headache. It hurt me to move, even slightly. Any miniscule amount of light was blinding. The sound of the bedroom door opening felt like it was shattering my ear drums. Simply put it was fucked up.

Now, I think about Jane and how I made an assumption about how she felt. I think about her pain, reality and loneliness from her experienced from her persistent migraines. My god, I thought she was just slacking. What a wake-up call.  Like so many others, I am now the Jane in this story. I get a lot of well intentioned advice from people trying to help me with my mental illness. I also get a lot of rolled eyes, a lot of “oops sorry – we thought you would be too tied to come” explanations, a lot of blank staring and most heart breaking so much misunderstanding.

I could never know exactly how Jane felt. I am not her. Now, I empathize with her. I understand her perspective and I have done a lot of reading about migraines. People, even those closest to my heart, will never know exactly how living mental illness has changed my life. Or how it feels to intellectually understand and comprehend what I should feel or why I should not be afraid of the dark, or that I am not the voices in the mind, or how mental illness is a definition, not a sentence. I know I am not a victim anymore, I am a survivor. Emotionally, my brain doesn’t get it. Emotionally my brain is broken. Emotionally I am on a roller coaster. My emotional brain does not connect with my intellectual brain. After trying to fix this on my own and with patchwork for more than half of my life, both sides finally snapped and inevitably led to my 2010 meltdown.

I need medication – a few medications – every single day to remain level. As my body changes, the medication needs adjusting and tweaking every few months. The drugs are not a quick fix. They take a while to work, and there is no magic pill or cocktail to take. The medication is not a cure. The drugs are not something to be afraid of. The drugs saved my life and saved me from myself. It is not perfect. It is better than not being on them. I still cry. I can still create. I can still laugh. I still feel. I feel like my normal, at least some of the time.  Drugs were not enough for me. I also have been participating in a few other forms of treatment and therapy. Keep watching the blog; more to come on those.

For now, my message is simple. Mental Illness is personal. It manifests, presents and affects each and every person who has it differently. Why? The universe did not make any two persons the same. Every single one of us on this globe has experienced life personally and differently. Because you are you and I am me.

My sister summed this up last week to me in an e-mail:

When you don’t have mental illness, you don’t get it so I need to tell you that I won’t try to get it.  It’s very frustrating as a loved one to see you as a victim.  I’m hopeful for you:)” – Sarah Payne – used by permission.

If you are concerned for someone who has a mental illness, or if a loved one of yours suffers and you do not know how to help them. Know this: you cannot fix them. You cannot change them. What you can do is educate yourself. Get the help of a professional. Listen and be a friend – even when it gets really tough and it does. Give them a hug, and tell them you love them, without conditions. Even if the person doesn’t believe you at the time, do it anyway. Do it over and over again. I promise those are the best gifts you can give to a person suffering with mental illness.

Keep in mind, a person who is struggling with mental illness will not likely be able to provide support to you about how your life as an observer has changed. It is so hard to know someone is hurting and not be able to make it all better. Get help, talk to your doctor, therapist, best friend, someone you trust, another person you know openly dealing with mental illness, inquire about the counselling services provided by your employer or your school. Call the nearest centre for mental health listed in the phone book.

I don’t want to hear – we don’t know what to do. Or what should I do?

I cannot accept that anymore. Reach out, keep reaching and reaching until you find the right hand or hands that reach back. There is no one who can help you effectively until you admit you need help and you begin to help yourself.

Please see the resource section of my blog for information on where to go, where to read, get information and educate yourself on the realities of mental health.

Your eyes do not need to be open to see, your mind does.

My Illness

The Basics

I have no shame or embarrassment anymore about having and living with mental illness. The topic of mental health seems to be one of the last taboo’s of our society and yet the reality is more than one third of our population suffers from mental illness. Most never speak out, seek treatment or even acknowledge that something is off in their thoughts, moods and over all mental health.

I had no idea I had mental illness. Hard to believe, I know. Three medical labels, a team of emotional and mental wellness professionals and never once did I even consider the fact I suffered from mental illness. I was sent to an out- patient program called “journey to wellness”, and it was there I realized that I wasn’t just a person struggling with major depression, anxiety and PTSD; I was also a person living with Mental Illness. I actually asked the facilitator what she meant when she referred to us as having mental illness. Mental Illness is a broad umbrella term used by professionals that includes most if not all mental illness including but not limited to bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder,  all anxiety, clinical depression, major depressive episodes and mood disorders.

At first when referring to my illness I would always either put mental illness in quotes or call myself crazy sarcastically. It really wasn’t until my youngest sister Sarah mentioned to me that when I did those things it gave the impression I was making fun of it.

She was right. Old habits die hard – especially when you don’t want them to. I didn’t want to be stigmatised, I didn’t want to be attached to the label of Mental Illness. I was ashamed, felt like a failure and weak for not being able to handle this and “just get over it” as I was told many times by many family and friends. I also knew being ignorant and not being taken seriously was not what I wanted. So I changed, and owned it.

Mental Illness does not go away. There is no cure or quick fix. Once recognized and diagnosed, a lot of mental illnesses can be managed through treatment such as medication and talk therapy. Sounds simple, but it isn’t. Even with regular treatment lapses are a real possibility and personally I have had more than a few.  I am always battling my emotions, trying to manage them or figure them out. Consider the idea of consciously trying to change your thought process and perceptions constantlyThis involves learning to change the tapes in our mind that have always been there. Self talk is something we all do but not something that can be changed overnight. It is an on-going process, day in and day out and it takes a lot of energy and focus. Even after 18 months I still need to work on this every single day.

My reality is I will re-lapse in and out of depression for the rest of my life. I deal with anxiety each day. Some days are good, and others are nothing less than torture. Sometimes I shake and shiver so intensely I can’t button my coat or even hold a glass of water. At its worst, I can’t bear to leave the house, or even my room. Sounds silly – but the feeling is overwhelming. Just thinking about it now makes me want to vomit, that is how overpowering it is. I have medication to help however it is highly addictive. I only take it when absolutely necessary. More than three days in a row and I have with drawl when I don’t keep taking it.  In the last 18 months I have had three bouts of dependency and therefore three withdrawal periods. One also included other prescribed medication and was the worst lasting just over 7 weeks. The anxiety is tied into having PTSD. I now know some triggers but they still unexpectedly present themselves to me. Random smells, sounds and sights have all sent me into unexpected and unexplained panic and cold sweats.

Revealing my story, thoughts and experiences on here will hopefully help someone. Help them know they are not alone, or help someone understand what living with mental illness is like. Check back often as I will periodically post snippets of my life and journey.

If you think you might be suffering – please get help. Please check my resource page for information on how to get started in your journey to wellness.

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