Happy half-yearversary

Total Gratitude Tuesday: Volume XXVI

Haha – Tuesday again and my Roman numeral game is still strong!

Volume XXVI means I’ve been doing this for half a year now. Half a year! How is that even possible? I’m surprised for two reasons. First, I’m not known for my stick-to-itiveness. I have a tendency to start a lot of things and finish very few. Part of the reason is that I’m a perfectionist and things rarely turn out perfectly, as we all know. That can be disastrous for someone who thinks that anything less than the best is just not good enough. Also, I have a tendency to get distracted by the next shiny, sparkly thing and move on. And the second reason this is all a big surprise is that when I started blogging, I immediately immersed myself in the “grow your list” culture that exists around blogging, where the focus is numbers, numbers, numbers. And if I had continued that mindset and focused solely on numbers, I’d have considered myself a failure by this point. But that all seemed pretty inauthentic to me, and I chose to go my own path with it and here I am, six months later, and still loving what I’m doing. So woohoo – here’s to the half-year anniversary of Total Gratitude Tuesdays!

happy 6 months

Now on to this week’s gratitude list:

Easter was peaceful and quiet and all but one of the kids were here, so it was pretty near perfect. Yes, I still do Easter baskets for my grown kids but now they’re gift bags and mostly filled with money and a little candy. I’m of the opinion that you’re never too old to have fun!

My three grown kids spent Friday night coloring Easter eggs and playing with the magnetic letters you see above on our refrigerator. I’m not even going to lie – that was the absolute best part of my week. I love that my kids get along so well, and I love that no matter how old they get, they still love to play together. Now, the Easter eggs were decorated with Public Enemy lyrics and Illuminati memes and I can’t post photos of most of the words they made on the refrigerator, but that’s all part of what I love about them. They’re such fun, quirky weirdos and they always make me laugh. Here’s a photo of them playing with the letters. I wish I had recorded them laughing and goofing off. It’s my favorite sound in the world.

kids

And Saturday night, my husband and I had a date night and went to go see Boyz II Men in concert. They’re still just as amazing as they were 25 years ago when they first started. I don’t think there’s ever going to be anything that tops 80s and 90s R & B music. The music was perfect, my date was perfect, and since the show was at a casino, I played the slots and won $50! (If you couldn’t guess, I’m not really a “high roller’ type.) And I was lucky enough to have my extremely talented daughter do my hair and makeup before we left, so even though I had a big bruise on my face (long story involving a windstorm, a car door and me being incredibly uncoordinated), I felt super glamorous! It really was a perfect night!

chelle makeup

First time with fake lashes and I *love* them!

If you happened to read my post last week about spring cleaning, you’ll know I’ve been doing a bit of it – inside and out. And part of what I’ve been doing is weeding out my social media follows, my email contacts and the like. Like I said, when I first started blogging, I followed a lot of social media and marketing gurus and hoarded every bit of info I could find to help me figure out how to grow my blog. The problem is that a lot of it felt really inauthentic and phony to me. So now, I’ve made a pact with myself that I won’t join any more Facebook groups, follow any more “gurus” or sign up for any new newsletters until I read through what I have already collected, or unless it’s something that’s going to help ME grow, rather than help my blog or business grow. I think it’s easy to tell the difference between something that’s going to help me on a spiritual level vs. something that’s going to help with marketing if I listen closely. And this week I found someone who spoke to me on a purely soul level. His name is Sean Stephenson –  you may have already heard of him, but if not, I bet you will soon (well duh, you’re reading this so now you have heard of him!). Sean is a public speaker who absolutely radiates positivity and love and joy and all the good things in life. Check him out on Facebook here . His joy and passion for living are infectious! I’m glad that our paths have crossed.

And yes, my spring cleaning has been going well. I’m starting to feel some of my old energy and creativity coming back and I’m full of hope and determination for where life’s going to take me next. I hope you are, too!

Much love. – Mama Bear

how are you going to (1)

Spring Cleaning – Inside and Out

I bet I’m not the only one with a full-blown case of Spring Fever right now, am I?

goodbye winter

I get this way every year. We get a day or two of warm weather, sunshine and breezes and I’ve got the windows flung open, tank tops and shorts on, hair pulled up, ready to do battle with all the winter clutter and grime. And that usually includes some serious internal deep cleaning, too.

No, I don’t do any fasts or cleanses. Are you kidding me?!? Spring cleaning does NOT mean spending a week in the bathroom pleading for an old priest and a young priest.  No siree, Bob. I just mean that I usually do the kind of re-evaluation and contemplation that most people do on New Year’s Eve when they’re making their resolutions. And then I put that into action. The reason it takes me until Spring to do that is I generally do not have the energy or motivation to do so in the dead of an Ohio winter. (It’s that whole hibernation thing, y’know.)

So right now, the urge to pull EVERYTHING out of my closets and start tossing the old is really strong. But even stronger is the urge to get rid of all the mental and emotional clutter that simply isn’t working for me. I think it’s time to let the sunshine and fresh air breeze through my whole life and spark some renewal and regrowth.

So here’s what I’ve decided: for every physical thing I clean up and declutter around my house, I’m going to find one aspect of my life that needs the same attention and treatment. I’ve already started going through my inbox and my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds and unsubscribing to anything that was an impulse” follow” or sign-up, anyone whose posts I typically hide, or any page I’ve liked that doesn’t really contribute to my growth or at the very  least entertainment in some significant way. (But never underestimate the value of a cute otter video or kitten picture when you’re feeling down. Those are keepers.) Instead of just deleting emails from companies I’m not interested in, I’ve started unsubscribing from their sites. It takes a second now, but it’s a whole lot less mess in the future!

I’ve made a pact with myself: I’m not signing up for any new webinars, meetings, workshops or anything else until I go through and use the stuff I’ve already downloaded and/or signed up for. I have a really bad habit of collecting information because I’m afraid I’ll never find it if I don’t act on it the moment I see it. And as a result, my life over the last few months has grown more and more overwhelming by the day as my attention is drawn in 1,000 different directions. It’s time to find some focus and eliminate some distractions.

I’m cutting way back on Netflix time. It’s too easy to just turn something on and think, “Oh, I’ll just let this play for background noise while I work”, but I need to face facts: I’m not someone that deals with distraction well, so I need to eliminate it as much as I can. I’m also making it a habit to only check e-mail twice a day, as that’s just one more interruption that I’ve allowed to suck up a lot of my free time.

And as much as I despise routine and schedules, I’m forcing myself to finally adopt one – somewhat. I have a tendency to get involved in a project and lose all track of time and space and then 3 hours later realize I’ve wasted half the day on one thing. It’s especially bad for me when I’m working on genealogy research because those little green leaves on Ancestry are like crack. You’re always just one little click away from discovering the Holy Grail of your family tree. Except you’re not. EVER. It’s an endless search and that’s the entire point! Quite honestly, most of the work I do is like that. So from here on out, I’m blocking out my day into incremental segments of time with breaks in between. And I’m going to set up a timer so that I stick to my schedule.

I’m taking a mental broom and sweeping out feelings and hang-ups that no longer serve me. There’s no way to move forward into who I’m meant to be if I hang onto old grievances, grudges and doubts. I am letting go, lovingly, of relationships that are toxic for me. I know that some folks are best loved from afar, or you risk being cut to shreds on their broken pieces. I have learned throughout my life how to be compassionate to others, but turning that on myself has been a far more difficult lesson to learn. But at the end of the day what keeps me stuck is me. Plain and simple. So I am letting go of my attachment to the things and feelings that just don’t work for me anymore.

And then there’s the health thing. I make all kinds of promises to myself to eat better, get more exercise and then beat myself up when I don’t stick to it. I’ve already gotten halfway there by deciding I’m never going to diet again. That does nothing but make me obsess about eating and generally just backfires and makes me gain more anyway. And I’m sticking with my gym schedule because it makes me feel good. But I’m trying to throw in some extra activity every day to give me a little boost – maybe a walk after dinner or some yoga. And I’m going to try to keep eating better – more whole foods, less junk and just more of what makes me feel better. Because in the end, that’s what it’s all about for me – feeling better. Not hitting a number on the scale or a certain dress size – just feeling better.

Voila! My spring cleaning plan. I’m excited and determined to put this new-found energy to use in the best way possible – growth. (And yes, I’m also going to get my house cleaned up.) So here’s my question for you (well, actually two):

 

how are you going to (1)

 

If you are, or think you are, and would like some ideas on where to start, click here to download my Spring Cleaning Affirmation! Print it out and post it on your refrigerator, in your planner, on your mirror – anywhere you need a reminder of why it’s important to get rid of all the clutter and junk in your life. And hey – I expect you to report back and tell me how it’s going. I want to hear what you’re letting go of and how it’s changing your life. Let’s do this!

spring cleaning affirmation

Click on the photo to download and print your Spring Cleaning Affirmation! 

Much love. – Mama Bear

ignite

Total Gratitude Tuesday: Volume XXV

First of all, with the news of another terrorist attack, this time in Brussels, the response online has been typical. Most people worldwide offering prayers and support, but with a vocal few being less helpful and choosing to use this time to try to instill fear and division . I have to give credit to the people of Brussels who have been opening their hearts and homes to total strangers who might be stranded in the city, and who have shown strength and determination in the face of such brutal violence. The Muslim community organized quickly to donate blood, many people standing in lines for hours to do so. It’s hard sometimes to remember when you see such horrific things happening that the vast majority of people in the world are good, and it’s frustrating to watch so many people suffering and feel there’s nothing you can do to help. If you’re caught feeling that way yourself, Bustle posted a great article today outlining how to help the people in Brussels, no matter where you live. You can find the article here. Tonight, nous sommes Bruxelles.

And now for the things I’m grateful for this week…

I read a lot of books. And I mean a lot of books. Every once in awhile, I read one that causes some kind of internal shift in me and I realize that I’m never going to look at things in the same way again. Right now, the book that’s causing that kind of awakening is “Goddesses Never Age” by Christiane Northup. I just began reading it but already I’m blown away. The entire premise is that our experience with aging is likely to depend greatly upon our general attitudes toward aging. In other words, if we expect to act or feel a certain way as we age, we’re more likely to see those thoughts become reality. But if we keep a young mind and a young spirit, then we stay young. I’ve always felt there was a real connection between aging and staying active. I think we’ve all known people who never seemed to look or act their chronological age, but once they retired or became inactive for whatever reason, became a whole different person and appeared to age quickly. Evidently research supports that fact – activity and a youthful mindset can have a profound effect on how we age. And conversely, if you expect your health and mental alertness to start to decline once you reach a certain age, it seems to become a self-fulfilling prophecy! I love reading about the connection between our minds and bodies and I hope that our medical community continues to evolve to understand the connection and treat patients with that knowledge in mind.

goddesses never age

Click on the photo to order the book from Amazon. 

Saturday night was big fun here – I had my makeup done by my daughter. She’s a cosmetologist and is expanding her services and will soon be offering makeup and nails and guess who gets to play guinea pig? I absolutely love it! First of all, it gave me a reason to haul out my beauty stash but it reminded me so much of getting ready for school dances, when my best friend and I would do each other’s hair and makeup. (Well, mostly it was her doing my hair and makeup because I never had much talent for it.) I think that beauty services are vastly underrated. Imagine knowing that every day when you go into work, you’re going to do something that’s going to make someone feel more beautiful. How amazing would that be? And I love watching my kids’ talents grow and love to watch them learning and trying new things. I never get tired of that. And I’m pretty proud of the job she did with my make-up. I’m normally a bit afraid of trying a cat eye, but she did it beautifully. Next time we’ll be doing false lashes!

makeup

 

And finally, I’m once again reminded of what a good decision it was for me to join Keep Collective as a designer. Every once in awhile I have a moment of doubt because things aren’t moving along as quickly as I think they should, but that’s only because I am a perfectionist. But over the last week, I’ve had two separate times when I was called upon to help a customer put together the perfect gift for their kids. So I put on my Keeper of the day, grabbed my laptop, some catalogs and my sample case and ran out the door feeling like Superwoman. I sat for a few minutes and put together some really gorgeous looks and figured out exactly what the customer wanted and then helped her place an order. All very simple things, but for someone who’s rather introverted, these are BIG things. And it’s made me feel great to help someone out, but also because it’s giving me the confidence to know that I can make this happen for myself. I don’t have to settle for a job that I don’t want; I can work from home and have the flexibility of schedule that I want and meet new people and have a job that makes me feel good and makes me want to get up, put makeup on and go out and kick some ass! It’s basically the way I feel about writing this blog. At the end of the day, I’m satisfied with what I’m doing and I can see that I’m headed in the right direction to make my goals and dreams come true. Who could ask for anything more?

Much love. – Mama Bear

 

onward-and-upward

Total Gratitude Tuesday: Volume XXIV

Here it is Tuesday again, and it’s Primary Tuesday in Ohio! I hope you all got out and voted.

And speaking of voting, one of the things I’m grateful for this week was having the chance to take 2 of our kids to a political rally this weekend. I’m proud that my kids are politically active, and I’m glad they’re the kind of kids who were happy to spend their Sunday afternoon with us at a rally. I also think it’s important to balance a lot of the negative with some positive information. It was a long day but we had fun together, even though we had to stand in the rain for a bit of it!

bernie rally

Red, white and blue ponchos? Check!

I’m also extremely grateful for the support of my friends, family and readers. To be sure, I’m always grateful for that support, but never more so than last week when I wrote an incredibly personal and painful post about trauma that I’ve endured. It was nerve-wracking to talk about openly, but I received an outpouring of love and support and I’m very grateful for it. The road to healing is long and difficult but it’s much easier when you know you aren’t alone. So for all of you that read, commented, and messaged me – thank you so much!

And I am thankful for having some free time lately so that I can spend it reading and researching and learning all that I can about some new changes I’d like to make with this blog. You can look forward to some physical changes, but also some new additions, like downloads and freebies! It’s nice to feel that I have a game plan and a direction that I want to go. There’s a lot to learn but it’s been an exciting journey so far. I look forward to where I’m headed next!

And finally, I’m thankful that my beloved Kentucky Wildcats won their conference title and now are moving on to the NCAA tournaments (although not in the position most of us think they deserved but that’s all right). Here’s hoping they do well in the tournament!

And that’s it for this week! Stay tuned for lots of exciting new stuff!

Much love. – Mama Bear

onward-and-upward

photo from happysomeone.com

 

The wound is the placewhere the light enters you.

Til It Happens To You

This post has been lying buried on the dashboard of this blog for months. It’s lain buried in me for decades. So many times I’ve tried to summon the courage to post it and just couldn’t do it. There’s always that voice in the back of my mind that tells me that no one’s going to believe me, or that it’ll just get shit stirred up unnecessarily, or that in some way, it’s my fault so I don’t have any right to tell the story. And to be honest, I’m an incredibly private person anyway. I can’t stand the thought of anyone feeling sorry for me, especially about something like this.

Then I watched the Oscars. And this happened.

I sat through the entire performance with silent tears streaming down my face. And when “the 50” joined Lady Gaga on stage, something shifted in me. Here are these brave women and men, standing in front of millions of viewers, taking a stand for themselves, for one another and for the rest of us. For ME.

Because it happened to me. First when I was too young to even know what “it” was, then again when I was old enough but too terrified to tell and convinced that because it had happened again, it had to be something about me that was causing it. And then again when an acquaintance deliberately mistook a quiet “no” repeated over and over again for a “yes”. That time I was sure it was my fault because I should’ve known better than to even talk to him, much less let him in my room.

I think in my own way, I tried to tell. I acted out violently, angrily for a lot of years. I was doing dangerous, stupid things but I suppose it’s easy enough to mistake that for teenage rebellion, and who could blame me? I had enough other shit going on in my life that I had every right to be angry about. I am pretty sure my parents suspected something was wrong because my Dad took the only steps he could to keep me out of harm’s way but it wasn’t enough. While he was keeping one wolf at bay there was another waiting in the shadows.

I met my husband, the gentlest man I’ve ever known, and it still took me almost 10 years of marriage before I was able to tell him, and then only in bits and pieces. He knows it all now and you’d think the fact that he loves me just the same and has never seen me as damaged would be enough to make me brave, but it never was. See, I compounded the abuse with enough self-destructive behavior that it all got knotted up together as one big festering wound. Because all of my other relationships with men had been so toxic, and because I allowed them to treat me as nothing more than a possession or a toy, I was convinced it was ALL my fault. Because I’d lashed out and raged and done things for which I was ashamed, it had to be my fault. Had to be my shame. Because I had blocked out some of the minor details about each incident over time, I even doubted my own sanity. Was I making shit up? What kind of awful person would accuse someone of sexual abuse and not be able to remember every single horrifying moment? (I had no idea that’s how your mind tries to protect you.) And when I finally worked up the nerve to tell a family member, I told the wrong one. So I thought, “Fuck it. I’m done trying to tell this story.”

But some things don’t stay buried, no matter how hard you try. Every once in awhile I’d see one of the wolves out in public, or some story on the news or movie or TV show would trigger something for me and I’d feel that the house of cards I had built for myself was going to come down around my ears. I tried to run from it for so long but no matter how far you run, when you feel like what happened to you is your fault, there’s no escape. I felt like no matter what I did, somehow everyone that looked at me could see right through me and see that I was bad and damaged and dirty and broken. I went through therapy with countless counselors, said all the right things, heard all the right responses, but never felt any better. At one point, I had a nervous breakdown, but was still convinced it was all my own fault. I sometimes met other women and recognized something in them that looked hauntingly familiar. I think I could see in them the scared little animal that I felt like I was inside, or I’d recognize a particular reaction to stress and think “Oh, they’re like me!”. You’d think at that point I would have tried to reach out in solidarity or at the very least realize that if it had happened to all these other beautiful souls through no fault of their own, then maybe I wasn’t at fault, either. And statistically, nearly every woman (and a lot of men) that you meet has had some experience with shame because of everything from unwanted sexual attention and catcalling to molestation to rape. So why the hell did I feel so alone?

So why now? Why, when it’s still so painful and difficult for me to come out of the shadows and talk about what happened to me? I guess because I hear that question far too often when other victims of rape or abuse come forward. “Why wait? Why did it take so long? Why didn’t she say something or call the police back then?”. I know the answers to all of those questions. It’s because it’s the nature of sexual abuse to make you doubt yourself, to make you blame yourself. If your abuser doesn’t convince you that no one will believe you, then it’s your own mind playing tricks on you or conversations you hear where people discuss what a victim was wearing or whether or not she was drunk…y’know, was she asking for it somehow? Never mind that there’s no way in hell a 5-year-old child can “ask for it”, and that none of it has anything to do with sexual attraction or even sex. It’s about power. And I’m tired of feeling powerless. I’m tired of hiding. I’m tired of feeling like a victim and staying quiet because the notion of people feeling sorry for me makes my skin crawl and the idea that someone would doubt me makes me sick to my stomach. I’m tired of carrying a burden that isn’t mine to carry. And I’m hoping that maybe by coming out and saying, “Yeah, it happened to me, too” even on this tiny little blog with a few dozen readers, maybe one person might realize that they don’t need to carry the burden, either. That they aren’t bad or dirty. That they deserve better than feeling like a hunted animal. Most of all that they aren’t alone.

In the end, I tend to look at these parts of my life the way that I look at everything else. As horrible as it all was, it’s part of my life and my history. I don’t know how it might have shaped who I am today. I have a feeling it’s made me more empathetic and caring. It’s definitely made me stronger. And in spite of some really awful, painful times in my life, I’ve also known more wondrous blessings than any one person could ever hope to have. I have never given up and I never will. And honestly, I’m happy and I’m whole. Those parts of me that I thought were broken were just chipped in a few spots. The people that hurt me will have to live with the shame of what they’ve done for the rest of their lives.

I won’t.

Much love. – Mama Bear

 

 

 

poor carson

Total Gratitude Tuesday: Volume XXIII

It’s Tuesday again! I’m a tad late tonight because I was out enjoying our wonderful Spring weather!

And speaking of beautiful weather – that’s the first thing I am grateful for this week. We had a true spring day today – 69 degrees, sunny and breezy – and it made me truly believe that winter’s coming to an end. Let me just tell you I don’t know how they do it in Winterfell (if you’re not a “Game of Thrones” fan…well, I dunno what to say…) because it would drive me literally insane. Like batshit Jack-Torrence-getting-stuck-in-the-hedge-maze crazy. There are lots of places I’d love to live in the world (Canada comes to mind immediately) but wow – I am done with winter, and if your predominate climate is a wintry one? Well, that’s a hard pass from me, sorry. I get such a huge surge of energy and happiness when the weather starts to turn warmer and we get more sunshine. I don’t even mind the rain and the allergies! And I actually kind of love spring cleaning. Yeah, I know – I’m a weirdo.

brace yourselves

HA! You didn’t expect that, did you?

And yippee skippee! I won a contest! Before you say anything (Yeah, I hear you out there haters. I know I was bragging on my Sephora shopping spree a couple of weeks ago), I actually worked for this one. I’ve been following the Uncustomary blog for some time now, and the owner (Mary) ran a “Month of Self Love” challenge in February. Every day we had a self-love challenge and had to post something to do with it on social media. And I’m proud to say I completed every task! That’s highly unusual for me because I’m great at starting things, but not so great at the follow through sometimes. But anyway, at the end of the month, Mary chose one of the participants based on their participation in the challenge and gave them a chance to enroll in her “Self-Love: The Key to Happiness” e-course for the crazy low price of $7! And that participant was lil’ ol’ me! I’ve already begun the course and I absolutely love it! If you’re ever looking for ways to get stronger in the practice of self-love, I highly recommend Mary’s blog, and the course as well. She’s an absolute dynamo with a real talent for getting her readers’ energy up and encouraging them to love themselves. I’m so glad I found her blog. I love finding people who have endeavored to make self-love and positivity a part of their daily lives and want to share their insights with the world. Check out her free e-course on gratitude (click on the photo below and it’ll getcha there lickety-split!)

7 steps to a life of gratitude

Now, many of you know that my “cubs” are mostly grown but thankfully, they still enjoy animated movies so we all went to see “Zootopia” this weekend. If you haven’t seen it, I cannot recommend it enough. It has the same kind of emotional depth as “Inside Out” but this one tackles the thorny problem of diversity, stereotypes, and co-existence between “predators and prey” but it still feels positive and light-hearted, too. (Okay, I may have teared up once or twice.) All of the issues were handled masterfully and I really hope that it manages to get the message through to adults and children that we are more alike than we are different, no matter what we look like on the outside. If you’re the type who listens to critics, it has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. Check out this trailer:

And finally, while this may seem like a trivial thing, I am grateful for six seasons of perhaps the most perfect television show I have ever watched, “Downton Abbey”. And equally grateful that the finale was so beautifully done. I have always been so fascinated with things like manners and customs and costumes and the tiny details of life, particularly in an historical setting. I have always felt that I was born in the wrong time. As crazy and carefree as I am in my own life (and given my taste for four-letter words) it might seem a bit surprising, but I do appreciate things like etiquette and manners. I will miss my one hour escape from modern life every week. What a glorious escape it was!

poor carson

Poor Carson. What’s a butler to do?

I hope you have a magical week!

Much love. – Mama Bear

meds

Yes, I’m Off My Meds – Here’s Why

meds

First of all, let me be clear. I am NOT anti-medication, nor am I advocating that anyone else stop taking theirs. Nothing I say here is meant as medical advice and I’m definitely not a medical professional.

But yes, I am off my medications. It’s really not that big a deal at this point in my life; All I was taking was the lowest clinical dosage of bupropion, anyway – far from the cocktail of meds I’ve been on in the past. But I’ve been on bupropion for over 10 years and I finally felt like it was time.

I’ve been on psych meds since I was in my early 20s and I’ve never really liked being on them. It’s not because I view the need for meds as a weakness (I don’t and never have), and it’s not because I don’t feel I’ve needed help from time to time (I definitely have). And when I felt there was a need for me to be on them, or that I was deriving some benefit from taking them, I took them. But over the last several years I’ve been seriously questioning just what the benefits were for me, and I finally came to the conclusion that there just weren’t enough to justify it anymore.

I think the final straw came after watching a documentary about the pharmaceutical industry and its relationship with consumers and the FDA. It really opened my eyes to not only my own history with psych meds, but the way they’re marketed and how they’re used. One segment in particular stuck with me. A young man, who happens to be a doctor, told a story of a time when his elderly mother went to her physician after suffering the loss of her husband and partner of 40+ years. Her doctor asked how she was feeling and she said that she was sad (obviously). The doctor proceeded to ask her if she’d like to be put on any medications. She was puzzled and simply responded that she was sad because she’d lost her husband and asked if the doctor didn’t think that was a normal response to the loss.

I’m not qualified to judge whether or not an individual needs medication. But I do wonder at the statistics. A 2011 report from the National Center for Health Statistics stated that antidepressant use among teens and adults rose nearly 400% between 1988-1994 and 2005-2008. And less than 1/3 of Americans who were prescribed an antidepressant had seen a mental health professional within the past year. The implication is that we’re getting the meds in greater numbers and we’re getting them without getting additional mental health treatment. And frighteningly enough, our kids are also getting medicated at higher rates than ever, even though there are dire warnings against giving children and teenagers antidepressants because of the risk of suicidal ideation and behavior.

I don’t really think that the problem is the meds. I think the problem is we’re handed meds as a solution, when they’re only a treatment. Popping a pill is not going to help anyone deal with a traumatic childhood, a shitty marriage, an unfulfilling job, or a stressful  life. But if you’re like most people, your insurance is more than happy to pick up the costs of your psych meds, but good luck getting them to cover anything but a few visits to a mental health care professional. And at upwards of $100 per visit, those costs might just put decent mental health care out of most people’s reach. So the solution for most of us is to go to our doctor, talk about how we’re feeling, get a prescription and hope for the best.

That just wasn’t enough for me. And it didn’t work. I counted, and I think I’ve been on about 17 different psych meds over the last 23 years. Part of that is because I was misdiagnosed as bipolar, which REALLY adds a lot of fun to the mix when you’re talking about meds. Some of the meds were antidepressants, some were anti-anxiolytic, some were anti-convulsants, and some were anti-psychotics. Yeah. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? The really fun part is that a lot of that was experimental on the part of the medical community. They call if “off-label prescribing” meaning it’s been approved by the FDA for some other reason, NOT for the reason they’re giving it to you. So no, I don’t have convulsions nor have I ever been psychotic, but when Drug A doesn’t work, why not try the hard stuff? And none of it made a profound difference on my psyche, but some of the meds made my hair fall out, some made me lethargic, a great many of them made me gain a lot of weight, and some gave me tremors and made me incredibly forgetful. The side effects on psych meds read like a horror novel.

I finally rebelled a few years ago and stopped trying to get anyone to listen to me when I said that I didn’t think the bipolar diagnosis was correct. I actually had a psychiatrist tell me that the diagnosis didn’t matter if the meds worked. That in spite of the fact that I was telling him quite clearly that the medicine DIDN’T work and yeah, I’m weird but I think proper diagnoses actually matter. You wouldn’t say that to a heart patient that you were trying to give insulin to, would you? Abilify (an anti-psychotic) was the last straw for me with the bipolar meds. After being on it for a couple of weeks, I couldn’t sit still for more than 10 minutes and I was so jumpy an anxious I couldn’t function. I went off it and stopped seeing that particular psychiatrist. I was still afraid to go off the meds completely, so I’ve stayed on the bupropion for the last few years even though I never really saw much improvement in my depression while I was on it. But it didn’t give me horrific side effects, so I didn’t worry about it too much.

Then slowly, over the last year or two, I began to realize something. Perhaps there is no magic pill for me. I started to pay attention to patterns and what I noticed was that there were specific actions I could take to help myself feel better. It wasn’t that they made the depression disappear; but it was at least manageable. And the knowledge that there was something that I could do to help myself was so empowering. And I began to realize that there have been things that have happened in my life that have given me legitimate reason to be sorrowful and to grieve and to be depressed. Hell, if I weren’t sad about some of them, then there’s definitely something wrong with me! I stopped trying to run away from the pain and came to the realization that it wasn’t going to kill me to sit with it and try to find a way to cope with it. There’s no medication on earth that’s going to make me stop missing my dad, or my grandma or my mom. There’s no pill that’s going to make up for what I suffered as a child. I am always going to have wounds that no amount of medication will heal. So what do I do?

Well, I do everything I can and everything that works. I exercise, I try to eat well (and sometimes I even succeed), I read lots of books on the subjects that will help me – trauma, abuse, depression, anger, parenting, happiness – you name it. I write. I get plenty of sleep. I am kind to myself. And I fight every goddamn day to stay well and to chase off the negative voices that play in my head (no, not real voices – just that negative “demon voice” that’s always ready to tell you you’re not good enough). I remind myself that my thoughts and feelings don’t have any real power and they are transient things; they’re not going to stay around forever. And I did all this before I went off the meds, and now that it’s been two weeks, I’m doing all the same things and I feel good. Not great, but good. It’s a lot of work but it is so worthwhile.

So yeah, the 20+ year journey with meds wasn’t a pleasant one for me. It was painful and disappointing but like any experience in life, it taught me a lot. And the biggest lesson I learned was that I have to do the work. No pill is going to do it for me. And in many ways, I got really lucky that the side effects weren’t permanent (except the weight but we’ll see how that works out). At the very least, I know that I have the skills to make my life better and that has made a tremendous difference for me. And the moral of this story is – take the meds if you need them, but educate yourself about whatever you’re taking. And definitely, whether you’re on meds or not, get the help and support you need and take good care of yourself because you’re worth it.

Much love. – Mama Bear

spring

Total Gratitude Tuesday: Volume XXII

It’s Total Gratitude Tuesday again! Welcome back!

It’s been a long week, full of ups and downs but still I’m grateful. It seems like Spring might finally be on the way. (But this is Ohio, so that can change at any minute.) I’m definitely not a winter person; I need sunshine and lots of it. I’m sure we still have a snowstorm or two in the wings but for right now, I can see an end in sight.

spring

Friday night, I had the opportunity to work a benefit to help a family achieve their goal of bringing their adoptive daughter home from China. My sister-in-law, Lori, organized the whole benefit. I feel really blessed to have her in my life, and I’m sure anyone that knows her feels the same way. She has a huge heart and is always the first one to lend a hand when someone needs help – whether it’s a friend, family member or complete stranger.

lori frost bush

Here’s Lori doing her thing setting up the prize table.

And like I said, the week was full of ups and downs, including some out-of-left-field drama that felt like a kick in the teeth for a minute or two. Then I settled down and remembered what I’ve had to remind myself of so many times – you cannot love people enough to make them whole. You can’t love them enough to make them treat you right. You can’t fix broken people who have no interest in getting better or fixing those broken parts but instead just cut and slash everyone around them with their broken edges. Sometimes it’s just not worth trying. And I’ve reached a point in my life where I’ve learned a thing or two and I’ve finally realized that toxic people are not going to change, and it’s not worth sacrificing my happiness and peace of mind by keeping them in my life. And it’s not going to kill me to lose someone that was never really invested in creating a healthy relationship with me anyway. So yeah, I can forgive the snake for biting me (cuz that is what snakes do), but I’m not about trying to pick it up for a hug again.

life is too short

And on that note, I am done being a free therapist. I realize it’s a job that I hired myself to do; no one else did. It’s always been my nature to want to give advice and support when I think it’s needed. But I am letting go of the need to help or fix people. I spend far too much time on it and it’s not healthy for me. I have come to realize that I have a particular way of doing things and approaching problems and that doesn’t work for everyone. It has helped me tremendously, and I’m going to keep on keeping on in my own personal growth, but I can’t help anyone else. And I am not obligated to do so. The only person I’m obligated to take care of is me. Oh, and my cubs. And Papa Bear. But they don’t need fixing, as they are pretty freakin’ awesome.

And speaking of the cubs, I’m thrilled to report that my daughter has found a job working at a wonderful salon here in town. I went up and got my color touched up and my  hair done last Thursday and once again, I was completely amazed at the magic my little girl can do with some hair color and a curling iron! There’s nothing like seeing your kids really in their element and kicking ass at life.

my hair

For some reason, we never remember to take “before” photos but trust me when I say this was a magical transformation. 

So I guess if there’s a theme for this week, it’s that I’m grateful for revelations, even when they’re painful. I’m grateful that life is always a learning experience. I’m grateful that I’m still here and able to learn these lessons and I’m grateful to have a platform to share them in this blog. And also, I’m grateful for the people in my life who make a difference in the lives of others.

Hope you’re having a beautiful week!

Much love. – Mama Bear