Numb, in shock and finally acceptance. Like many mental health advocates, the news of Robin Williams hit close to home for me. Suicide touched my life when I was in high school when a dear friend of mine committed suicide. I tried to blog about this earlier, but my brain could not wrap itself around forming words for the many emotions that a suicide brings up in me.
I remember the feeling of helplessness. How could someone who was so loved and so kind feel like she was all alone? I knew in my heart that this struggle ran deeper than just normal teenage stress. If I could go back in time, I would talk to my friend more. I would help her pull down that facade of being the strong, smart and in charge one. I would tell her what I now know to be true. Asking for help is not weak. The strongest among us have struggled with some large demons, and those struggles have refined our characters. Asking for help is the strongest thing that you can do when you are struggling.
Many of my blogging friends in the mental health community have struggled with suicide and suicidal ideations. These amazing men and women are true survivors. They have fought those thoughts, and they have come out on the other side. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for sharing your stories. Suicide carries so much stigma and shame. It is time that we stop whispering about it behind closed doors and talk about it openly.
There is hope. It gets better. If you are struggling, please call the national crisis hotline at anytime.
Friday, August 29th marked the end of an era. It was our last day at our beloved daycare. We had been there since my sweet Munch was just three months old. The teachers, the directors, and the other families had become our family. I know that those friendships and those teachers have shaped my daughters’ lives in ways that I am just beginning to understand. Those amazing women took care of my babies, and we were leaving our nest to spread our wings at elementary school. The education that the girls received was phenomenal. Our decision to have both girls at elementary school together was two-fold: time and money. We saved a bit on daycare costs by having both girls in the same childcare. We only have one pick up and one drop off now! That has given my husband, myself, and our girls at least a half hour back to our hectic days. It was so bittersweet to leave our daycare behind. I cried when I picked up the girls for the last time. Like so many moments of their childhood, my sense of loss overwhelmed me. God bless our amazing teachers! We will be back to visit!
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.