You Do Not Have Permission

I woke up feeling a heaviness in my chest.  
Dates are major triggers for me. Often I feel it physically first. I don’t even need to look at the calendar to know a significant date is approaching. 
I forced myself out of bed and got started on my day pushing the heaviness aside as much as I could. 

Later that day I read the devastating news that Chrissy Teigen and John Legend’s baby died. My heavy heart shattered for them. How unfair that another family is experiencing this. How I wish I could protect all the babies in wombs so no other family would have to know the excruciating pain that runs deep when your baby dies. I took a moment for them. Silently offering support from across the continent. 

Later in the day I started seeing stories that made my blood boil. There were people out there who had the audacity to tell this couple that they shouldn’t be sharing such personal news. They shouldn’t be sharing because it’s disturbing, it’s too sad, people don’t want to know about dead babies, people don’t want to see or hear that these things happen, people don’t want to see people crying because their baby died, that they should keep their grief to themselves. 
Are you fucking kidding me, was the first thing I thought. How dare people tell a family how they should grieve or share news of their baby’s death.
I did some digging because I just couldn’t believe that people could be so selfish and ignorant. Sure enough it was true. Then it dawned on me that I shouldn’t be so surprised – this happened to me too.  I’ve been told I shouldn’t share my journey. I’ve been told to get over my grief. I’ve been told I’m selfish when I put my grief ahead of other things. I’ve been told to bury my feelings and move on. I’ve been told not to talk about it, to keep it quiet because people don’t want to hear about such depressing things. I’ve always kept it to myself because it only affected me, but hearing it happen to someone else set off a defensive instinct in me. I can’t protect Chrissy and John and all the other families in our loss community from these comments. I can stand up today and plead with you to understand the added layer of pain these comments cause. 
Please, please do not ever tell someone to get over it or not to share just because you don’t like it. If you see something on social media you don’t like just keep scrolling. It’s actually that simple. 
If you feel like one of these comments wants to come out, shut your mouth, stop typing. 
You do not have permission to tell someone how to grieve. 

Once again because this is important. 
You. Do. Not. Have. Permission. To. Tell. Someone. How. To. Grieve. 

Sending love and peace to Chrissy and John and anyone else missing their baby. 

And

I’ve never been great at controlling or managing my reactions to the actions of those around me. One minor action from someone can ruin an entire day. A larger infraction can set off a downward spiral that may take weeks to recover from. I’ve never really understood why I let this happen, even when I’ve come to recognize it happening. It has taken a long time to understand that how I feel has a lot to do with the environment around me. I let things that are out of my control take control of my emotions. Learning this about myself has set me on a path of learning how to retrain my brain. I need to learn how I can stop the bad from taking over my life.
One thing I’ve come across recently is the idea of ‘and’ statements or ‘yes, and’.
These types of statements give me the ability to acknowledge and accept the negative of a situation while also reminding myself of the positive.
It seems so simple, but when your brain is wired to focus on the bad it’s not easy to put into practice. I’ve been working hard at it the last week or so and it’s making a difference. Melissa’s birthday is always an incredibly difficult time, both leading up to and the weeks after. Last year I spiraled so far out of control I ended up in the darkest season I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t come out of it until 7 or 8 months later. This year I was determined to not let that happen. This year I decided to let the good overcome the bad.

On Melissa’s birthday I can double over from the pain of grief AND I can celebrate her the way she deserves.

I can be sad she’s not here to celebrate with us AND I can be happy watching her sisters pick out a stuffy for her.

I can be disappointed by the inaction of those I wish I could count on AND be grateful and thankful for the incredible people who do reach out to recognize Melissa’s birthday.

I can feel angry AND I can feel love.
I can be full of grief AND full of love.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other. After all, grief is love and it’s important to acknowledge both.
Every negative emotion I can overcome is a step in the right direction. One step at a time.

I can’t control what others do AND I don’t have to let that control me.

Melissas 5th Birthday

SOS

Rattlesnake Point
Photo Credit: Me!

I’ll never let you in.
I’ll give you glimpses, but you’ll never really know more than what’s on the surface.
I’m good at hiding and I’m good at lying.
I lie to myself all the time so it’s easy to lie to you, too. It’s so much easier than telling the truth.
It’s not that I don’t want to let you in.
It’s that letting you in means being honest with myself and sometimes that’s too painful or scary to deal with.
It’s not that I want to lie.
It’s that when I’ve told the truth in the past it was met with silence or judgement.
It’s a terrible feeling to finally muster up the courage to ask for help and be let down.
It’s hard asking for help. It’s harder asking for help when you don’t know what you need.

And so it’s easier to hide.

It’s easier to pretend I am all the help I need. After all, I should be in charge of taking care of myself and giving myself what I need, right? Well, sort of. I’ve come to realize that yes, I should be in charge of taking care of myself, but that doesn’t mean doing it all alone.
Being in charge of myself means…
Recognizing the signs and symptoms that I’m not ok.
Learning and understanding the coping strategies that work for me.
Finding ways to ask for help that don’t feel like I’m actually asking for help.
Asking for help in a way that works for me. For me, asking for help can look like scheduling alone time, ordering take out for dinner, a physically distanced walk with a friend, a break from work, a country road drive with the music turned up loud.

Being in charge of myself means being more proactive in caring for myself in the hopes that one day I won’t need to lie to myself anymore.
Any maybe one day I won’t need to lie to you anymore either.

Noise

The noise.
I can’t take the noise.
Everything is SO damn loud.
The rage inside me builds. I can feel it rising to the top. It takes all of my energy to keep it from exploding. I am not strong enough to keep it in and it explodes from the very bottom of my lungs anyway. It doesn’t make the noise go away. Everything is still too damn loud. Nothing makes the noise go away because so much of the noise is in my head.

On that day it became too much.
It was a beautiful summer day and I was working from home.
I couldn’t concentrate. I tried to distract myself, but nothing was working. Nothing had been working for weeks. I went outside to take a break. It didn’t help.
Suddenly I was overwhelmed with a feeling of desperation I’d never felt before. I desperately needed to escape the noise. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I was looking for an answer to a question I didn’t know how to ask.
I was losing myself.
The noise was winning.
Everything went quiet and dark. I stood frozen in time believing the answer before me. It was quiet – the quiet I had so desperately been searching for.
In that moment all I wanted was to escape into quiet.

I was interrupted by something wet touching my hand. I looked down and there was my dog, Odin, nudging my hand with his nose. He gave it a lick when I looked at him. He looked up at me and nodded to the house as if he was telling me to go inside. We spent the rest of the day cuddled up on the couch.

In that moment I finally understood that I couldn’t get through any of this trying to be strong and taking all this on by myself.
It was still weeks before I told anyone about this and weeks more before I could bring myself to book an appointment with my therapist. I wasn’t even planning on telling her what happened. I was scared of what it would mean. I was scared of asking for help, from my therapist.
We did talk about it and surprise, surprise, it helped. Talking about it out loud helped, a lot. As much as it helped, at first it didn’t make my journey easier.
It was really frustrating.
Depression hit really hard.
Going to work took everything out of me.
In the months that followed I didn’t leave my house for much else.
In that time I did what I needed to take care of myself. I leaned on the supports I trusted the most. I didn’t always get the help I needed, but verbally saying “I need help” is still so hard. It took a while but day by day I eventually started feeling a little better. I started recognizing the early signs that I need a break before everything becomes too much and I shut down. It’s a work in progress. What works today may not work tomorrow. What “taking a break” means looks different depending on my symptoms. I’ve started to be a little more open and honest about my mental health. It helps knowing I have people on my side.
It helps knowing I have a dog on my side. A dog who is, perhaps a little more intuitive than I ever gave him credit for.

I hope to never again feel the way I did on that day and that is what motivates me to take better care of my mental health.

I will forever be grateful to the boy who gave me his paw and reminded me that help is there, even when I don’t feel like it is.

Odin-Picture

Hand in My Pocket

Hand in my Pocket

Standing in the wading pool at the water park with The Peanut is when it hit me. I’ve struggled with the idea for a long time. Playing in the water with her and watching other parents with babies strapped to them was the moment I realized I’ve moved past it. I like the way things are. I like that my kids are becoming more and more independent. I like that they’re getting big enough to do more things with them. Suddenly the thought of adding a baby into the mix just didn’t sit right with me. It was the first time I actually felt like I’m “done”.

I had always wondered what it would be like to experience that thought. I didn’t think I ever would. For a long time I’ve been stuck in this place where I know it doesn’t make sense to have another baby, but I think about it often and feel that yearning for one more. It’s a battle of brain and heart. Heart is slowly getting on board with brain.

So what did that moment feel like?

Relieving… The Peanut wasn’t an easy baby. I’m quick to forget the struggle to get her to gain weight, the unpleasantness of a baby that threw up all day and all night, that she didn’t sleep much until she was 9 months.

Sad… Despite the challenges I loved being home with my babies. I loved watching them grow and change so quickly and come into their own personalities. I also loved the snuggles! Not much beats a baby snuggle.

Excited… Continuing to watch my little people become bigger people is just amazing. They’ve both hit some big milestones this year and I love how much more we can do with them. They are less reliant on me, which is kind of nice. As they become more independent I’m excited to get some of my independence back.

Guilty… Because I’m a mom and having independence comes at a price. I’m working on giving myself permission to not feel guilty, it’s a long journey.

So, it was confusing. I had imagined it to be more of a moment of clarity, like I would just wake up one day and say “yeah, I’m done” and know that I truly felt it and truly meant it.

With a piece of my heart missing I will always feel like someone is missing and I’m learning to be ok with that. It’s ok to make peace with the decision to not have more babies and at the same time it’s ok to give myself permission to wonder from time to time what it would be like to have just one more…

*I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other one is giving a peace sign.

 

*Hand in My Pocket by Alanis Morissette
Check it out on YouTube !

Four

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Photo by Ian Parker on Unsplash

Four should be so much more.

Four shouldn’t be another year of wondering and what ifs.

Four shouldn’t be a reminder of the moments we are missing out on.

There will be no last day of daycare picture.

No first day of kindergarten picture.

No backpack full of supplies waiting at the door.

There won’t be a graduating class shirt hanging in your closet waiting for your handprint.

I won’t have to decide what package of first school pictures to buy.

No first report card to pour over.

I won’t be complaining about the lunches I’d have to make every day.

No sports or activities to plan our lives around.

There will be no celebrating you learning to write your name.

No celebrating the first book you could read on your own.

No hurrah for passing JK.

No summer camps to book.

No school friend birthday party to plan.

Four is cruel.

Step by Step

I did it! I hit a milestone!
It felt so good to hear. It felt so good to be around a group of supportive people who cheered me on. I felt proud of myself, momentarily. It didn’t take long before I had to fend off the negative comments. I should be my biggest cheerleader, but I’m much better at tearing myself down than building myself up.

Not long after hitting this milestone I was out hiking with my family. The Boss took some photos along the way. She took the one included in this post. She loves taking pictures of the beautiful flowers. I love watching her take in the beauty in the world that surrounds her.

As we were getting ready to hike back we were chatting about the steps it would take to get back to the truck. She made a song out of it and sang it most of the way back.

“Every single step you take gets you closer to what you want
So if you want something just take a step and you’re on your way”

Emily's Song
Photo and words by: The Boss

Wow. I had to stop for a second and listen to what she was singing. She had no idea how much I needed to hear those words. Maybe she did, she seems to have a knack for this sort of thing. Something about those words resonated deep within my soul.
I sat with that little song for a while and it got me thinking about the way I beat myself down instead of celebrating myself.
Despite hitting that milestone I was upset with myself that it took so long. I told myself I wasn’t trying hard enough. I made myself believe I didn’t deserve to be celebrated. What the fuck kind of reaction is that? Certainly not the kind I would have to anyone else.

“Take a step and you’re on your way”
She’s right. Every single step forward I take is progress and that should be celebrated. Every step I take that helps me deserves to be recognized. And if I can’t recognize and acknowledge that why should anyone else?

I hit another milestone last week. I took my own advice and gave myself permission to celebrate the win. The people at my group were so happy for me and cheered once again. These are strangers I see once a week and they were genuinely happy for me. This time I was too. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy. That voice tried taking over again, I have a long road to self-love.
But the difference this time is that when that voice tried piping up I politely told it to take a hike.

This is 35

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My Birthday Cake!

Something about turning 35 didn’t sit right. In the weeks leading up to my birthday I wrestled with feelings of getting older, feeling older, and realizing that I would soon be closer to 40 than 30. For the record, I don’t think 40 is old and that is not what this is about.

For the first time in my life I had a weird feeling about hitting the next number. I hadn’t felt that before. I’ve always felt like your age is just a part of you, in no way does it define you, and so it’s never bothered me – I’ve certainly never had negative feelings about the number on my cake.

I was excited to turn 30! EXCITED!

Why wasn’t I excited to turn 35?

Maybe it’s because there I sensed it wasn’t going to be much fun being 35.

The day of my birthday I forgot my tea on the counter (my fault for drinking tea 😉 ) and left my keys in the lock in the front door. I almost drove away with them IN THE DOOR! Too bad I didn’t realize my tea was on the counter until I was almost on the highway and it was too late. Since then I have forgot my coffee more often than remembered it. Oops. At least I haven’t left the keys in the door again.

I spent most of the last month sick or taking care of a sick kid. We were doing SO good this winter and then the house turned into a germ-factory and it’s been one sickness after another since. I know I’ve been sick the most, thanks 35 year old immune system!

Between sick days and snow days it feels like I haven’t even been at work. I have, just mostly at home. Having the flexibility to work from home is a bonus when these crazy times hit, but it doesn’t make it easier to get work done. Most of the days were harder than they were easier. It was a busy month running between offices and that didn’t help. I didn’t feel grounded. I didn’t feel in control. I have breathed and talked myself out of more than one potential panic attack. I was losing control of work and home. Why wouldn’t those damn germs just die? If they would die and I was healthy again I would regain control!

Instead I could feel that I needed a break because I was breaking. I finally took a break and crashed. Thanks to a migraine I slept for an entire day! Nothing makes you take a break like a migraine. Then I got sick again and then my car went haywire on the highway. Being stranded on the side of the road was a perfectly awful way to end the month and a perfect metaphor for the month. The car had been making a noise and I said I needed to take it to the mechanic and had planned to call that day, but I pushed away the warning signs and boy did that bite me on the ass!

I had a bit of a chuckle on the side of the road when I realized the similarities between me and my car. The chuckle may have sounded more like sobs to someone else, but there was a chuckle in the somewhere…

 

So I think my negative feelings towards turning 35 was more of a sense of what was coming. It was a shitty month. A lot went wrong. I was a wreck emotionally and physically. It seemed like nothing could go right and I was stuck in such a negative place it felt impossible to see the light. It would be so easy to only focus on those things but now that I’ve come out of it rather unscathed, albeit with a lighter wallet, I feel ok about it all. Not great, but ok. Every moment I felt like I couldn’t go on, I somehow did. I didn’t always find the light, but sometimes it found me. And now that I reflect back on the month there are so many more positive things that come to memory. And that is how I keep going.

It turns out maybe I’m not the pessimist I always thought I was.
Or maybe the mindfulness training is paying off!

Patience and Grace

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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas is here! There’s really no comparison for the joy and good feelings the holiday season brings out in people. I’ve noticed it more so than ever this year. Maybe because I’m paying more attention to it, or maybe because people are jollier than ever, maybe because I’m trying to be more positive, who knows. Either way, I love it. Closing a shitty year on a more positive note is welcomed with open arms.
2018 sucked and I spent way too much time letting the darkness win.

As Christmas has approached I’ve found it easier to find the light. This is the first Christmas since Melissa died that I haven’t been filled with dread. I am more happy than sad. I have been able to enjoy our celebrations without an overwhelming heavy feeling.
Grief is still there and I’ve broken down a few times, but that was inevitable. Grief doesn’t give you a holiday. Instead it usually crashes down harder than ever during the moments that should be happiest. Sometimes it’s hard to predict when, where and how hard grief will hit.

Maybe for you it hasn’t hit and you’re wondering when it will. Maybe it hit harder than you were expecting and you don’t know how to handle it.
However you’re dealing, grieving, or not, I see you. I get you. My wish for you this Christmas season is a wish for patience and grace:

I wish you patience as your grief comes and goes, sometimes without warning.
I wish you patience in understanding that it won’t always be this hard.
I wish you patience with those who may say or do the wrong thing, or do nothing at all.

I wish you grace for the moments when you want to fall apart but instead choose to keep it all together.
I wish for grace for those around you when you choose to fall apart instead of keeping it all together.
I wish grace for those around you who don’t understand grief and won’t know what to say or do.
I wish you grace for the moments you just can’t handle.

If you are missing a piece of your heart this year please take care of yourself and know that however you’re dealing or not dealing is ok.
If someone you know is missing a piece of their heart, letting them know you’re thinking of them is the greatest gift you can give! And it’s free!

*The echoes and silence, patience and grace
And all of these moments I’ll never replace
Fear of my heart absence of faith
All I want, is to be home
All I want, is to be home
People I’ve loved, have no regrets
Some might remember, some might forget
Some of them livin’, some of them dead
All I want, is to be home

*Home by Foo Fighters
Check it out on YouTube – It’s not from their official site, but it’s a great video that captures the raw emotion this song evokes.

The Middle

Lately I’ve been seeing heart shapes in strange places – chicken nuggets, rocks, clouds, puddles, wood chips. It’s getting a little weird.
It probably means nothing.
I’m probably searching for these hearts.
That’s what I thought until last week when I came across this heart in the path while walking the dog.

Heart
Photo Credit: Me!

I stopped in my tracks.
When I saw this heart in the path I felt like I was supposed to be seeing these shapes. I wasn’t looking for them, they were looking for me.
Now that butterfly season has passed I can’t help but feel that this is Melissa reaching out to me. At a time when she knows my heart has been heavier than usual, she’s been trying to get my attention. I think this is her way of reminding me she is still with me and sending her love. A comfort I didn’t realize I needed until I felt it when I saw that heart in the pavement.

Whatever the reason for all the hearts, I’m thankful for the moment of reflection they brought. I was overdue to take a look inside and reflect on what’s been weighing me down, what I can and cannot control, what I can do to help myself. I was overdue to take stock of all the love I have in my life.
Sometimes I feel so stuck and it seems like the scary part of the ride will never end.
Sometimes I need a reminder that everything will be all right.
So, Melissa, thanks for the reminder and thanks for the hearts ❤

*Live right now
Just be yourself
It doesn’t matter if that’s good enough for someone else

It just takes some time
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be all right
*The Middle by Jimmy Eat World
Check it out on YouTube!