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My Happy Place

I went to Bikram today for the first time in ages. In fact, I think I’ve been a total of twice since I became pregnant with the boy (in 2011). However, even though it’s been about four years since I’ve been and even another year or so before then since I’ve been regularly, it still felt just like coming home.

I was so nervous before – worried about everything from the way I look in my yoga pants to passing out or throwing up in class. The latter didn’t happen and though I didn’t look the way I did the last time I went to class, right when I entered that room and looked at myself in the mirror, all the judgement escaped. I realized that those are the only times I ever feel that way. I’m always so hard on myself, constantly critical. Until, that is, I’m standing in front of a huge mirror with myriad other people in various levels of undress. It’s a bit odd, but I seriously just found my people.

Now, however, I have a headache and I’m really sore.

I can’t wait to keep going and I can’t wait to start feeling that sense of peace within myself outside of the yoga studio and for longer amounts of time. I desperately long for it. Though I feel slightly trepidatious, I also feel pretty excited.

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To Add Insult to Injury

I’m so tired, I laughed out loud at this after googling “insomnia”…

Now I can’t sleep! For the first two months of my newborn daughter’s life, I was falling asleep everywhere (as most mothers of a newborn and a toddler are, I’m sure): in the rocker nursing, on the sofa watching Monsters, Inc, on the futon reading the boy a story, occasionally in bed and again, every night, at least twice, in the rocker nursing. Now, insomnia has joined the already amazing party of depression, anxiety and stress. Welcome, old friend.

My nine week old baby (today) slept six and a half hours in a row last night. That should be cause for celebration. I should feel like the most well-rested, happy mom that ever was. Instead, it took me about an hour of that to fall asleep and then I woke up about five times for about ten minutes or so each and then, when she did finally wake up at 4:15, I couldn’t fall back asleep.

FOUR FIFTEEN IN THE MORNING.

Just letting that sink in. I nursed her for about 45 minutes and got caught up with the world (cough. Facebook.), then lay in bed for what seemed like an infinity pondering every conceivable thing I could possibly have on my mind for half an hour until finally, like a grown up, I got up.

This is the first time I have ever gotten up when I had insomnia. Usually I stay in bed hating myself – thinking about how amazing it is that when I open my eyes, my whole body feels like lead and all I want to do most in the world is close them so that I, the most tired person ever, can go to sleep, yet when I close my eyes, I’m solving world hunger and mapping out my whole life for the next ten years and really I should get up and write this down before it’s all gone (Hint: it’s all gone.).

I settled for tea and toast and reading a bit.

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Postpartum

I really didn’t think postpartum depression would be an issue for me – mainly because I’m already depressed. How could you have two forms of depression? Well, it turns out, you can. Postpartum, it seems, is much more physical. Or perhaps that’s just because it’s anxiety? Really, I don’t even know how to write about this because I don’t even know how to feel about it. Frankly, I don’t understand how to even feel it, let alone analyze or describe it. It’s new, and different. And with my history of depression and anxiety, I wasn’t expecting that. I was completely sidelined.

People keep saying to me that I’m just being too hard on myself and expecting perfection and having two kids is supposed to be hard. I know that it is. But, even though the boy is in Kita, I still can’t seem to function. Even though the girl sleeps pretty well at night, I still don’t seem rested and up to the task of caring for them. My nerves are on edge. Just a little whine or cry sets me off and I am horrified to find myself thinking about shaking her or throwing her or punching him or just leaving them on the train platform and walking away. Now, scary as that may sound (and believe me, it scares me), I know that I’m still “together” enough not to actually do those things. But it is still pretty scary. And horrible. I look at their little faces and my heart breaks because I love them so much that I just can’t.

I wake up and try to prepare myself to have a good day. After all, I’m pretty lucky. My husband takes the wild child to school every morning so that I can sleep in with the baby. I have a cleaner that comes once a week. My husband will also pick up the slack in the evenings: he makes dinner, he cleans the kitchen, and takes over caring for the boy. Literally ALL I have to do is get out of the house around midday to pick up the boy, get home, put him down for a nap and put on a movie when he wakes up (or better yet, actually play with him, but that’s another level entirely). That’s it. I should be able to handle that. And some days I can. Occasionally I can even do it without breaking down and crying.

But most days, she doesn’t cooperate. Or he doesn’t. She would usually fall asleep on the way to pick him up – Great! Then, there is something about his school that wakes her up. Always. So I try to put his coat on and get him out the door as quickly as possible so that the movement of the stroller/carrier (I’m willing to try anything) will lull her back to sleep quickly so that I can give some attention to poor little boy who I love so much I start crying just thinking about it. However, said beautiful little boy rarely cooperated. He would lag. He would stop to look at sticks. He would try and run in puddles. It would be raining and of course he won’t carry his umbrella or keep his hood up. It would end in her screaming and then him screaming as well, seemingly trying to match her in volume, all to get my attention.

I bought a double stroller. That solved the problem with him, yet she still wakes up and cries and then he cries. And then I cry. On the train. In public. In the rain.

Often, she falls asleep again before we get home and I put him to bed fine and honestly, the rest of the day could proceed well. But it doesn’t. Because that in and of itself is enough to completely destroy me. I’m shattered for the rest of the day. So that when, during our movie (AKA my minimal parenting time), she wakes up and I have to feed her, I sob when he looks at her and moves slightly away. Then of course, he starts crying and saying, “Stop, mommy. Stop. It’s OK. Stop, mommy.”, which just makes me cry all the more.

Those are good days. When she sleeps. When it isn’t raining or snowing so much that taking her out isn’t just ridiculous.

I’m so tired. My body feels slack, like there is nothing holding my shoulders up above my back and head up on my neck. I have actually body aches like flu symptoms and searing headaches.The instant the baby cries, I start having a panic attack. Yet I try my best to smile at my boy and tell him it’ll be fine and that his baby sister just cries sometimes and that that is OK. And it is in that trying that I lose it. It is somehow that trying that is too much for my heart.

Apparently my husband, who doesn’t understand at all and who is getting more and more frustrated with me and with whom I have resorted to communicating with in either passive aggressive or defensive snaps and snarls, was worried enough to call my mom. So she flew out. Which helps, in that I now have time to sit here and drink tea and write this while someone else tries to put my two beautiful children to sleep. And I’m eating much better. But I’m still crying. And I the baby crying or fussing still makes me so anxious, my stomach hurts. And my little boy’s face still breaks my heart.

I have called my midwife and emailed a therapist. I am going to call my doctor tomorrow, but I don’t have a lot of hope that this will be cleared up. And I really worry about what it’s doing to my marriage.

But then, I worry about everything.

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Progress, of a Sort…

I have not followed through with the Abundant Mama Rise & Shine Challenge, regarding which I think I already acknowledged that it would take me much longer than ten days. Perhaps if I were the sort of person who didn’t need some (very nice, I’m sure) lady online telling me how to be a better person/mother, I would be fine within the confines of those days – Hell, maybe I’d even beat her ten days and double down on some of the challenges. However, I am what I am. Part of me accepting this challenge for myself is figuring out how to (finally) accept that, and not just with half-joking regret, but in full and complete understand and empathy of my own struggle and my own dance through life.

That said, I am still fully planning on completing the challenge; it, along with many other things in my life, has made me realize that there is a whole lot of stuff that I need to let go of in order to “rise and shine” at any time of the day. There were some rituals in one of the emails (I don’t even know what day I’m on anymore, but does it really matter?) that got me thinking of intention and how I intend to live my life. I realized, I don’t. I think about shoulds quite a bit: even this blog started out as a should. In fact, I don’t really live. I am alive, of course: I breathe, I laugh, I cry, I love, I feel, I embrace, I fear. But I don’t actually live. And to be honest, I fear far too much.

On days like today – a Thursday, where my beautiful little boy is happily looked after by other people, I wake feeling wonderful, filled with my plans for the day, which are usually a mixture of yoga/blogging/me time, cleaning, and relaxing/doing nothing. I lay in bed reading for sometimes up to an hour (depending on how hungry this little girl gets) and then I get up and make myself breakfast (a prospect made far less enjoyable now that I am gluten and dairy free) and while I eat, I put on the TV. Then I’m hooked and I don’t stop. Suddenly, it’s 2:00 in the afternoon and I haven’t showered or brushed my teeth or barely moved from the sofa. All I’ve done is watch TV and play games on my phone. Today is different, obviously, as it’s currently 12:30 and I’ve already tidied the living room, cleaned the kitchen, done the laundry, read and had breakfast and lunch. Woo-hoo! Go, me!

However, the former is all too familiar. If it isn’t a Tuesday or a Thursday, the instant that little boy’s head hits his pillow and I say, “Sweet dreams” and walk out of his room for his nap, the TV goes on and my phone or iPad comes out. Numb. I am numbing myself. From what, I’m not entirely sure, because my life is pretty awesome. Sure, we live in a country where things are difficult and we don’t want to be here and there are a lot of things I struggle with here. Sure, I have a very independent, outspoken, stubborn toddler and am also currently growing a baby. But those problems in and of themselves are pretty great problems to have. I know this. I am grateful for this. Daily. And yet…

I’ve been doing it for so long, I have no idea how to stop. Ever since I stopped doing drugs, I’ve been doing it with food and TV (which, let me tell you, leads to a far more coherent me, but is much less fun). That means since high school. I’ve not been fully living my life since high school. That’s over half my life (Eek! I’m old!). I’ve had moments, of course, some lasting months even, but something always happened to shatter that bubble and bring me back into my reality. I don’t want that anymore. I know, and have always been aware, that my depression means that I’ll always have days where I question, where I fear too much, where I cry for no reason and every reason, where I feel absolutely useless and heartbroken over everything and nothing. I know that, and I’m okay with that. Right now, though, it’s too close to the surface. It’s too much of a reality. My lack of living has allowed me to become that person always. I am defined by my depression, by my fears. I don’t want that anymore.

I want to change my reality. I want those days just to be those days – where maybe I don’t get the house cleaned that day, maybe I have to get takeout for dinner and maybe I need to lay on the sofa and read an entire book to escape whatever it is I’m feeling. But I want to wake the following day without it holding me back from returning to my reality. I want to go back to yoga, go back to smiling and meaning it, go back to whatever glorious future I will have with my amazing children and husband. I don’t want to be held back by this fear any longer.

How does one change their reality? I suppose it’s a combination of a lot of little changes – a lot of little moments that take a lot of will power to make different choices. In search of more answers, I’ve downloaded an audiobook by Pema Chödrön, hoping that just be surrounding myself with uplifting ideas and sounds, versus the TV, it will become easier and easier to make those different choices in the little things, and perhaps the bigger things will become that much clearer as I go along.

Now, back to this challenge, which obviously plays a key part in my new reality. I’ve worked through a bit of my ideal mornings and what I want to get from my nights – I have my nightly checklist (which I need to transfer to my notebook because while I love the ease of writing my journal/blog online, I am not a person who functions online: I still have a wall calendar and an actual paper to do list) and I’m still working on my bigger rituals and also on IMPLEMENTING these things, as that is key… and I, obviously, have yet to do that.

To encourage my intentional mornings (beyond the bigger picture of figuring out how to start living and change my reality), I need to actually plan for the little moments because, let’s face it, I am NOT a morning person and as I have a husband who is and a two-year old who most definitely is, I can’t imagine myself getting up hours before them in order to accommodate my desire to do yoga, have a long, lovely shower, linger over breakfast and coffee with a good book and then also get all the cleaning, laundry, etc done in order to set myself up for the day. When would I have to wake up? 3:00 AM? Not going to happen.

So, what can I really do in the mornings? Well, I’ve been thinking that the most important thing is banning electronics for the first hour or so. The instant I wake up, I turn on my phone, check my email and Facebook. Seriously. Who do I think I am? Out of the maybe twelve emails I get every morning, maybe one of them is actually for me and even that is never urgent. And Facebook? Ugh. So. Wake up and wake up. Perhaps I should get a coffee machine and have it go off in the morning so I can have coffee – decaf, though, because I’m pregnant and get jittery if I drink coffee before I eat anything. Or perhaps I should train myself to jump in the shower. I’m not sure yet, but I know I need to get up and USE that time, otherwise any time I give myself will fall directly into the Internet void, and that’s is a routine that NO ONE wants.

What I would like is to be ready (physically: face-washed, tea/coffee in hand, dressed) when the boy wakes. That way when he is up, I can put my energy into him and his day and what we are going to do together. So, I suppose, that is as simple as it is: I need to get up, pull some clothes on, wash my face and make some tea or coffee. Perhaps this would be a good time to listen to my audiobooks for the present and in future, when I’m further along in my progress, to do some yoga/meditation (those things are fine to do with tea in hand, right?!?!).

So, my task for the day: copy my nightly check-list and my morning goals into my notebook. Yes, it does seem simple enough for me to remember to wash my face in the morning without having to write it in my notebook and keep that notebook by the side of my bed. As I said, if I were that type of person…

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One Glorious Week

Those of you that suffer with depression, anxiety, or any of the various energy-sucking diseases that seem to be running rampant nowadays will understand me when I say that I’ve never felt “normal”. Those of you that don’t will quickly respond with: “There’s no such thing as normal”, which is particularly annoying because in this case, there truly is. And now I know for sure because I’ve felt it. For one wonderful week, I was normal.

It occurred around 2 or 3 weeks after I started taking my thyroid medication and took me completely by surprise. We were back home from over a month of holidays – most of that spent in California and the rest in England and as you can imagine, it took all of us, but mostly the boy, quite some time to recover.

Just before we left for our holiday, I had hit a low point. I realized that I’d been unhappy for far too long. That I’d held parts of myself back from my husband for far too long. That I’d been uncomfortable about sex and my past for far too long. That I was sick of constantly thinking about how fat I felt. That my negativity was adversely affecting me, my husband, our relationship and worst of all, my son. Of course, I’d had these moments before, where I’m fed up, or, as I always jokingly say, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired”. It’s never very funny, though.

The good news was I was going home and home is where my therapists are. I don’t mean that I have multiple head doctors (though I have), I mean all my alternative therapy peeps, or my “hippie doctors”. I have my acupuncturist, my chiropractor, my cranial sacral therapist, my homeopath and many more. Best of all, my mother had made a few appointments for me with someone new – a musculo-skeletal therapist (basically, a glorified massage therapist). Apparently, this woman had some sort of psychic abilities. And despite the fact that I really dislike people with my name, I decided to give it a go.

The moment I walked into her room, I could tell she wanted to say something and was holding back, unsure of what my reaction would be, as we’d never met. It took her about 5 minutes to say it. Basically, she told me that my whole body was so stressed out trying to protect my soft little innards, that she wasn’t sure she’d even be able to work on me. Then she asked me what the sex thing was about, if I’d been molested, abused, what. I admit I was taken aback. In all my years (and years and years) of therapy (both “real” and with all my various hippie doctors), I’ve never talked about my issues with sex. In fact, until I met my husband, I’d never really even let my mind go there. But as we talked, I realized that yes, I do have major issues… but more on that later. I’m talking about the good stuff now.

Anyway, suffice it to say, I was impressed. Not only did we talk about the sex thing, but she confronted me about my negativity. She told me that if I treated my child the way that I treat myself, he would be taken away from me. She said that if I don’t make a change, it is going to destroy my marriage. I knew she was right. I was sobbing: scared and yet somehow lighter from the realization.

I haven’t really dealt with that yet. I’m still pretty negative. I still think about how fat I am practically every second of every day. I still am far too judgmental of myself and my husband (the poor man). BUT, another important thing that she said was that if I get on a proper dose of thyroid medication, most of this stuff will sort of take care of itself, or at least be that much easier for me to deal with. That was the biggest thing she told me, that I have Hashimoto’s Disease – I’m still figuring out what that means. Worst thing? I should go gluten free. Best thing? It’s an answer. An answer to everything.

I started taking the medication after being properly diagnosed by a “real” doctor. Of course, I started on the lowest dosage and then waited until I got home to Germany to deal with all the testing and figuring out my proper dosage with my doctor here (mostly because it’s free). I didn’t notice anything for about three weeks, though it was hard to say because I was on holiday, then we were traveling, then I had jetlag (and the boy will grab at ANY excuse not to sleep), etc etc. So basically, I had no clue how I felt. Then it hit me. One day, I woke up early, having already been woken up about three times in the night by a crying baby who just wants to play, and felt fine. Even in my best days, I’ve never just felt okay in the morning. Even if I sleep for 10 hours. Even if I wake up to no alarm. Even if I’m brought french toast in bed. I despise mornings (and judging from my experience of them, they feel the same way about me).

Imagine my shock when I wake up at 6:30 and just pop out of bed. Oh what a beautiful morning, and all that jazz. But it doesn’t stop there. I go for a run. In the rain. I eat healthy all day – without even thinking about it! Just because it feels good. This continues all week. I run three times. I do my 30 Day Shred video three times. I am gluten and sugar free all week. I am on my phone less and playing with my son more. I happily ignore little comments my husband makes that mean nothing, but would normally make me cry and cause a fight. On Saturday morning, after going out the night before and drinking a bit, I wake up and a single negative thought flits into my head, the guilty one that I always have when I sleep in, or go out, or drink… Or do anything, really (guilt and I are real close). And here’s where it gets real – I ignore it. I acknowledge that I’ve had the thought. I accept it. I sigh. I let it go. AND I STILL FEEL HAPPY.

This is something therapists, my mom, my friends, everyone has been telling me to do my entire life. When therapists say “just look at the thought and let it go”, I always nodded my head, thinking, what the hell are they talking about? I just didn’t understand how. I couldn’t fathom having any sort of control over thoughts like that. And then it just happened. All by itself.

Glorious.

But, like anything too good to be true, the week came to an end and, it turns out, I am not on the proper dosage of my thyroid medication because I came down again. And it hasn’t been good since. But now I have a goal. And even better, I know it’s doable. I know I can be normal.

Boy am I grateful for that glorified massage therapist.

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Happy Birthday to Me

While I am writing this, it is not only pouring down rain, it is storming. I mean a full-on thunder, lightening, dark grey sky sort of storm. I should be happily cuddled up watching Harry Potter (I don’t care how many times I watch those movies, whenever the weather turns stormy, it’s like the first time all over again). Instead, I am staring at the computer, which never makes me happy or grateful. I am reading horrible drama-filled posts on Baby Center (Yes, I know. I should get a life. Thank you.), playing Candy Crush and once again, eating cheese in my pajamas. Seriously, do I have a protein deficiency or something (or is cheese just awesome – note to self: I am very grateful for cheese)??

I don’t know why I’ve been so negative lately. My husband took me out to dinner on Saturday for my birthday (his sister is visiting and stayed home to watch the wild one, who was a very good boy) and instead of being grateful (Damn it! Missed opportunity!), we got in an argument on the way home which basically boils down to me feeling angry at him and down on myself but most of all, confused and overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed by my sadness and negativity, if that makes sense. I’m overwhelmed at the amount of things there are to do and overwhelmed by how difficult even the simplest thing is because we don’t speak the language of the country in which we live. I’m confused about whether or not my husband is being a jerk or I’m just being über sensitive.

It seems that not a day goes by without some little argument with him. Are they serious? Not really. But are they troubling? Yes. I told him on Saturday that I was thinking about counseling. Of course, he thinks that is something that the Americans invented just to be more self-involved nancies.

I am worried, though, because the last time I felt angry like this was because I was severely depressed. We lived in Barcelona and I wanted to leave. I was done with it there, I wanted to be home with my family and friends and I couldn’t because I didn’t want to leave this man that I was dating. I loved him and wanted to give us a chance. I’m very grateful that I did, because now we are married with an amazing little boy. However, we didn’t move home. We moved to Germany. And here I am again, three years later, desperately wanting to be home with my family and friends.

We are in the process of finding out what it takes to get us home (well, to my home) – but of course moving countries without a job and a plan in place at the other end is stupid, so it is going to take some time. But in the meantime, how do I deal with this huge amount of negativity that is just crushing me? How do I hold on for another year?

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Why rainy day gratitude?

I have been trying to find a journaling/blogging/writing style that will result in my being: A, an excellent (and quite possibly published) author and B, a happy, successful and, while we’re at it, thin individual. As you will note, this is my first post on this blog (that I started months ago). So far? Not published. Not successful. Not thin. Sigh.

In 2011, I tried listing three things I was grateful for every day, in the hopes that I would magically turn into one of those people who wakes up every morning beaming sunshine instead of wanting to punch my morning-person husband in the face. I think I made it about 66 days or so, which is pretty damn good, in my opinion. I still, however, want to punch my husband in the face in the mornings (or more so now, my 1 year old child – which I’ve heard is an even bigger no-no). I also noticed a pattern; A slightly disturbing one, if I’m being honest. I would say, generously speaking, at least 60% of the things I was grateful for were food or food related. hmm… Not really helpful for that whole “thin” thing, for starters.

Now, was I grateful in the “Thank you, Lord for this food which nourishes my body and gives me energy to take on my day with zest and joyful intention”? No. It was more like “Yay, pizza!”. Don’t get me wrong. I love me some pizza and am truly grateful for the Domino’s man that brings it to me on Pizza Fridays (Yeah, that’s how we roll around here). But there’s something seriously wrong when your husband takes you on a weekend trip to the glorious city of Milan to see the spectacular Tori Amos in concert and all you can write about is the freakin pasta (mmmm…. pasta).

So, what’s my problem? Well, my issue with the Milan trip is that I was 2 months pregnant and terribly nauseated the entire time (and let me tell you, that bus ride from the Milan airport into the city center is NOTHING to be grateful for). My issue currently is that I live in a country where I don’t have many friends, I don’t speak the language and it rains. A lot. My “bigger picture” issue is that I have battled depression and anxiety for most of my life. (And, after all, what’s the best way to deal with a social anxiety disorder? Why, move to a country where you know no one, don’t speak the language and have to deal with new and horrible situations every day. In the rain. Of course. SMH.)

Am I here, then, in this blog, going to try to rectify all that by again trying to make grandios declarations of my gratitude for all to bask in how wonderful I’ve dealt with this ridiculous situation I’ve put myself in? No. Here, I am going to be real (finally). Sans “shoulds” and “should nots”. I’m going to acknowledge the striving towards true gratitude I have always had, but I’m also going to allow for the rainy days, even if they come weeks in a row (which they do – seriously, this country sucks).

I am also NOT going to feel bad for being extremely happy and grateful about pizza.