I have been silent on my blog for nearly two weeks. I needed to retreat and find my words and voice to articulate my swirling feelings. What is happening Ferguson is NOT okay. I wonder how I can change people’s opinions by my posts on Facebook. I had to delete comments when the topic went off the rails. As the member of the majority, I want to continue the conversation on our white privilege. It is time to stop making excuses and sit with the discomfort.
I struggle with my part in perpetuating the systemic racism that is present in the corporate sector. I used to help manage a call center, and I interviewed candidates on a regular basis. One of the unofficial rules was to discount a candidate if they used “axe” instead of “ask”. I felt that pit in my stomach because I knew that this practice was not right. It discriminated against the Black candidates who applied for these position. Ferguson brought this to the forefront of my thoughts again. I realized that all of my former colleagues , including the Black supervisors, went along with this. My past experience factors into the passion that I feel in speaking up now. Back then I did not feel like I had the power to speak out. In the words of Kelly Wickham, “When systemic poverty or sexism or racism is at play, call it out as unacceptable.” I need to put my white privilege to good use and call out when a situation is not acceptable. That is what I am doing now. This cycle will continue unless we call it out. It is NOT okay to shoot an unarmed black young man. Black lives matter. Brown lives matter. We all matter. We all need the right to a criminal justice system that protects every one of us, regardless of race, color, ethnicity or religion. How we can claim to be the land of the free and the home of the brave when we are enslaving our minority communities in jails and poverty? When the silent majority does not dare speak up for fear of upsetting the balance of power that is so heavily weighted in our direction? We are perpetuating racism through our deafening silence and our refusal to have those honest conversations, not just online but in our homes, our schools, our churches and our communities.
The past two weeks have weighed on me heavily. I have not found the words yet to articulate my thoughts and feelings. The hate and lack of compassion I see on Facebook has triggered my anxiety. When my anxiety and irritation rises to the boiling point, I sweat it out in a workout. I needed to get out all these emotions that cloud my words. My long run was five miles. I ran without my phone. I listened to my breath and heard the rhythm of my feet pounding the pavement. My mind is starting to clear. I can rise above the swirling emotions and focus. I am ready to raise my voice and own my truth.
My journey of health and fitness begins a bit differently than most. I did not gain a lot of weight while pregnant with Skeeter. Since I had gestational diabetes, I monitored everything I ate. I gained twenty-one pounds with her. I also lost all of the baby weight very quickly – too quickly. Nearly thirty pounds came off of my frame due to severe postpartum anxiety. I could not sit still, and I was nursing. I was burning more calories than I consumed.
Once I finally sought treatment for my postpartum depression and my postpartum anxiety, I began to regain my appetite. I started feeling mentally healthier, and I turned to food at times to cope with the stress. I still did not feel much energy to go out and exercise on a consistent basis. Coping with the morning routine and wrangling my two girls while tending to my own mental health took precedence. I also started to realize the need for mending my relationship with my husband. He had borne the brunt of my anger, my frustration, my tears, my anxiety, and my depression. He took care of the entire family tirelessly.
After a year in recovery, I was feeling so much better. I hated the way I looked. I did not feel comfortable or confident in my skin. I had evolved so much internally, but I felt like my exterior did not match all the changes that I had made on the interior. I had taken control of my own mental health, but in the process I had neglected my physical health. I had gained all of the weight back and then some. I was at my heaviest weight.
I began to work out again, and I joined the fitness center at my work. My endurance improved, and I felt stronger. I was not seeing the results I wanted. I realized that it was time to tackle my eating habits. I found a group of like-minded friends who helped keep me motivated at work and online. I finally found my tribe of health and fitness folks who remind me to stay on track and stay motivated. Exercise resets my day and my mood. It is my go to for self-care. I feel confident in how I look. I feel fantastic inside and out. I still struggle with self-doubt and anxiety, but I know how to talk back to those feelings. Sometimes all I need is a kick boxing workout to fight those demons that live in my head. I remind myself to keep my chin up and keep fighting.
An offhanded joke about being barefoot and in the kitchen left me feeling full of rage and irritation. I bristled at the barb about being barefoot and pregnant. I blurted out that pregnancy was very difficult for me. I recognized the rage that was threatening to boil over my veneer of carefully posed self-control. I made my way out of the now stifling kitchen outside to sit in a chair and just breathe.
Why did I get so triggered by this lame attempt at a joke? One of the main reasons is that I think of myself as a feminist. I bristle against the stereotype of a woman barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. It speaks of a reality that is not mine at all. Both my husband and I work outside of the house full-time. He is the primary cook in our family due to his work schedule and fantastic culinary skills.
I am not dismissing the role of stay at home moms at all. In fact the majority of the SAHMs I know are not in their homes, barefoot and pregnant. It dismisses the very real contribution of all women to keeping the household running through scheduling, maintaining and balancing budgets, cleaning the house and feeding the family. Many of these women are fantastic volunteers who singlehandedly keep our schools and other non-profit organizations running smoothly. I know many SAHM in the blogosphere who are changing lives with their advocacy and commitment to raising awareness of issues like special needs, postpartum mood disorders, suicide prevention, and mental health awareness.
The other reason is that pregnancy was not sunshine and rainbows for me. I had gestational diabetes which made my pregnancies high risk. I struggled with undiagnosed antenatal depression and anxiety throughout my pregnancy with Skeeter. Sciatica was a constant companion. I felt very little joy during my pregnancy; all I felt was irritability, anxiety, and panic. I was not myself at all. My husband and I had made the decision that my pregnancy with Skeeter would be my last. So making a joke about me being pregnant triggered a visceral reaction of rage within me. I did not know how to tell anyone how I felt during my pregnancy. All I knew was that I was not okay, but I had to hold it together for my husband and my sweet Munch. What kind of a mom feels like that when she’s pregnant with a very much wanted child? So please, please jokes about having another are not okay. No one of us can truly know what types of struggles a couple is having: infertility, postpartum mood disorders, financial struggles. So if someone asks me again, I will try to reply graciously and firmly. Not one more. Our family is complete.
I am sitting with my planner, a copy of my 10k training program, and the PiYo program. I am loving PiYo for the strength and flexibility. I am running four times a week as part of my 10k program. Traditional strength training would cause my legs to fatigue too much so I’m sticking to yoga classes twice a week and PiYo six days a week. Hence the need for a consolidated exercise schedule.
So what is PiYo? It’s a low impact but high intensity workout that combines Pilates and yoga inspired moved. It is developed by Chalene Johnson of Turbofire and Turbo Jam. So far I am loving this workout. I am feeling more flexible and strong. All I am using is simply my body weight. As someone who practices yoga regularly, this workout challenges me. I am still modifying some of the moves in order to not overdo it. This workout is ideal for anyone who wants to improve their strength and flexibility.
I love Chalene’s no nonsense approach. She makes me laugh, and she makes me think. Some exercise DVDs are so cheesy that I am unable to stay focused. I end up giving up on the program. This one is definitely a keeper. It is perfect for folks who are training for races, both running and cycling. PiYo is self-care for the body that is so tight.
Two weeks ago I participated in #ppdchat on Twitter. I do not always go now, but I wanted to know how I could help. The topic was minority mental health awareness week.
This discussion was enlightening and uncomfortable. I know how fortunate I am and that I had access to resources that others in my local community do not. This discussion forced me to look at how many more resources were available to me because of where I lived. I did not fear any retaliation from speaking up and disclosing my condition to my employer. I became anxious when I asked for an accommodation to work from home. I considered the fact that I might not receive the accommodation initially, but my therapist and I had a back-up plan to obtain the necessary documentation from my therapist that this accommodation was necessary for my recovery. What about the mama who cannot afford the luxury of working from home? What about the mama who only gets help when she is in extreme crisis? What about the mama who just pushes through every single day because she is the sole breadwinner and she cannot afford to lose her job? How can a working mama afford to take time off of work to get to therapy? What about the mama who cannot afford to see a therapist? What about the mama who finally finds a therapist that she likes, but they cannot accept her insurance? What about the mama who does not have insurance?
I had a lightning bulb moment when Rachana talked about the subtle nuances of cultural norms. “And in my culture we’re supposed to brave everything with a gentle smile, never complaining.” Social media like Twitter and Facebook only offer the written word which means that nonverbal cues are absent from these conversations. Significant cultural cues can be missed. Emoticons cannot replace the face to face connection. We need the voices of all Warrior Moms.
When I asked A’Driane what I could do, she responded with pointing women towards support groups, both online and face to face. Sometimes all a struggling mama needs to hear and know is that she is not alone. She needs a hand to hold on to and to guide her to the available local resources. The Warrior Mom community is well-connected in terms of resources. Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders do not discriminate. It can happen to any mom; therefore, all moms need to be aware of the signs and symptoms. All partners, significant others, family and friends of a new mom need to educate themselves. This is a community health issue.
It all comes down to this. Everyone’s voice matters. Everyone’s story is unique. Everyone needs a chance to share their story. Every time we share our stories, we never know who may need our voice or who we are giving permission to speak. So to all my fellow Warrior Mamas, we need the details of your story. It is those details that matter, and the details make other mamas feel less alone.
You are welcome for that ear worm. I have been running and running these past two weeks. I am planning to run a 10K in the fall, and I needed to start increasing my overall miles per week as well as the days that I am running. One of my former coworkers and I meet at least twice a week to go running. I head out of my house, rubbing sleep from my eyes. I thank my lucky stars that she has gorgeous red hair that stands out. I can barely make out her silhouette in the early morning light until she flags me down.
On Friday mornings, I run with another group of local moms. These women kick my ass every week. They run faster than I do, so it helps my endurance and my pace. Plus we run our town’s 8K route which is four miles of hills with only the final mile being downhill. I love getting up that early in the morning and starting my day out with physical activity. I am not a morning person at all, but I am choosing to get up early to get in my workout. I am a wimp when it comes to running in the heat. So I would rather run before work than run the trails during the highest time of the day at work.
Initially running appealed to me because it helped me meditate and ease my anxiety. Now I have fallen in love with the social aspect of it. I have met so many like-minded people who are into health and fitness. I enjoy chatting with the other moms on how they fit in their workouts. Plus we run by the gorgeous Lake Michigan lakefront which is so gorgeous. I still marvel at how much running has changed my overall health, mentally and physically.