Finding Life at the End of the Comfort Zone


On our refrigerator, there is a simple black square magnet with white words in English sprawled across it. This magnet blends in with our refrigerator, making the words even more noticeable as it rests at the top of the freezer door, right in the center. What are these words?

They say this:

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~Neale Donald Walsch~

J purchased it for me on a dreary Sunday last winter during a visit to a local art museum. Of all the colorful things in the gift shop, the simplest thing, devoid of any true colour, caught my eye.

Why?

Because the words spoke to me. They challenged me to push myself further than I was comfortable. For the first time in weeks, I felt hope. When we bought the magnet, it was not too long after Sandy roared through our area, leaving me more traumatized than I wanted to admit.

Over the past year, I have pushed myself past my comfort zone. I auditioned in NYC for Listen to Your Mother (and am auditioning again this year, only for Northern New Jersey), I joined an in-person mom’s group, and I am back to pushing myself again after a setback with former neighbors which left me afraid to set foot outside by myself, even after we moved.

Within the past month, I started going back to the gym, I’ve ventured to various places by myself, and I plan to start walking around the neighborhood once it’s not covered under a ton of snow and the temperature won’t turn me into an instant popsicle. Oh, and I am learning how to drive in the snow. Slowly. Don’t laugh, most of my driving years were spent in the deep south where it does not snow often. Yes, I am a Jersey girl and perfectly capable of tolerating the cold but that doesn’t mean I know how to drive in the snow. It’s not that difficult to do, I’m realizing.

I owe this diving out of myself to the courage in asking for help.

I made a phone call back in December to our nurse practitioner to follow up with her about the situation with the neighbors. I saw her back in August due to extreme anxiety because of the situation – anxiety which left me afraid to open the blinds, turn on lights, or do anything beyond sit on the couch and watch TV for nearly 5 days straight. My sleep even suffered and my appetite vanished. I refused to leave the condo, in fact, unless J was with me. I needed help. In August, she prescribed something for anxiety. It worked and got me through the remainder of our time there as well as through our move.

But my prescription ran out.

We were happier at our new place. It was quiet, no screaming children at 11pm, no neighbors calling us names, no trapped in a dark condo. Instead, there was peace, quiet, and a lot of sunshine as all the blinds were opened and the light poured in from every possibly window. I still found myself triggered by certain situations and sounds despite the new tranquil environment. Shell-shocked from the former residence.

Then J was suddenly let go from his job and we faced losing our brand new place. With some careful maneuvering and help from family and a few wonderful friends, as well as some well-timed freelance work,  we managed to hang on. He found a job, and has been working steadily. I am still trying to  get freelance work going but haven’t lost hope.

While he was unemployed, I was the rock. I did not panic, I held fast and trusted that he would get a job. Once he did, I unraveled – fast. I was wildly unprepared for the roller coaster exit.

J sat me down one night and quietly shared his observances – that he was worried about me, I wasn’t myself. He suggested I call our NP. I struggled with the suggestion. I made it so far without medication. So far. Through a divorce, through the struggle of job-hunting and never hearing anything back, then through Sandy. All of this by myself. I was not sure I wanted to take a pill to get by again. I couldn’t. Could I?

Finally, after realizing every possible option but taking medication had been explored yet I  was still struggling, I made that call in December. We talked about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), situational issues, and what medications had worked for me before. I talked quickly, fighting the urge to just hang up. She was wonderful and very non-threatening, telling me that she would call in the script and I could pick it up if I chose to but did not need to feel beholden to it.

I picked it up the next day.

It has been almost 6 weeks and I have picked up a refill.

The medication is helping quite a bit. I am focusing, I am laughing, and I feel more like me.

Going back on a medication felt like defeat. It felt as if I was calling it in, giving up. But I know that I tried everything I possibly could before making that call. Making that call? WAY outside my comfort zone. It is the most uncomfortable thing possible to call your doctor to tell him/her that you are not emotionally stable. Yet, if it were a broken bone, I would have rushed to the ER. Stigma is a pervasive bastard – I hate it.

Every morning now, I swallow hope, in the form of a small white pill.

One day, perhaps I will get to a point where I will simply hold hope in my heart and mind, not in my stomach or blood stream.

But for now, that is where my hope lies, intermingling with my stomach acid and my blood cells flowing through my veins.

I’m okay with that because I know it is without a doubt, what I need to be the best me I can be right now.

#PPDChat Topic 11.4.13: Developing Self-Care Strategies


ppdchat-11-4-13

With the holidays rapidly approaching, it is time to revisit the topic of self-care. As women, we so very often forget to mother the most important person in our lives – ourselves. If we do not take the time to refill our souls and our bodies, we are useless to those around us. Self-care is not selfish, it is selfless for it allows us to give others more when we are giving from full capacity. Just as it is impossible to pour a glass of water from an empty pitcher it is difficult to pour ourselves into others if we are empty.

Go check out this worksheet and rate your level of self-care. What areas are lacking? Where are you thriving? Then I want to challenge you to doing what the worksheet says at the top – commit to improving at least ONE thing from each section every week. Baby steps matter and with the busy holiday season right around the corner, it is important we all remember to give the gift of ourselves to ourselves. While the small things are not at all a FIX for your issues, they matter and they add up over time.

It is also important to remember to care for ourselves during the winter months, particularly if we struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Having moved back north where there is less sunshine during the winter, I am finding this a challenge. Feel free to jump in and share any strategies you may have to combat this common issue as well as discuss the challenge struggling with SAD in addition to PPD may bring.

Looking forward to chatting about the importance of self-care during the fall & winter months at 1pm ET & 830pm ET. See you on Twitter!

Whatever Wednesday: Embracing Life


Life is capable of handing you some extremely sour lemons. They crop up when we least expect them to and carry the ability to completely ruin our day.

But life is also capable of throwing some really sweet fruit your way too. Like ripe juicy strawberries on a summer day. You know the kind… the ones that make you sigh and sink down into your chair when you take that first bite. You don’t even realize there’s juice rolling down your chin because you’re hopelessly lost in Strawberry Blissville.

I know it can seem like all life is tossing you is sour lemons. I’ve been there more than once. But I’ve also had those super sweet strawberries. Learn to enjoy them while they’re around regardless of the stains they may leave on your heart. There is no larger sour lemon than missing out on a handful of joy simply because you were too worried about the what if’s and the consequences.

Live life. Don’t judge it. Don’t wait for it. Don’t miss it, regret it, shun it, or critique it. Live. Embrace your joy. Embrace the pain. But live no matter what. We deserve nothing less.

Sharing the Journey with Jamie


Meet Jamie. She’s due in June with her second child. Her first brush with Postpartum Depression started during her pregnancy. Jamie felt depressed, upset and confused. Not feeling ready to be a parent, she even felt resentful when the baby moved. She even cried at her first ultrasound – proof that she was indeed pregnant.

Things went from difficult to worse after her first daughter was born. Jamie “cried constantly, was moody, and felt worthless and suicidal at times.” She finally sought help at six months postpartum. It took some time but Jamie was able to deal with the ups and downs of motherhood without wanting to pack her bags and run.

And now, I’m excited to let Jamie speak about her experience in her words. By the way, Jamie blogs too. She found me via 5 Minutes for Mom’s Ultimate Blog Party. You can keep up with her at Melody of a Mom.

Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do when you’re not being a mother or a wife? What fascinates you?

I was a scrapbooker long before I started having kids. My bookshelves hold probably 15 12×12 completed scrapbooks, four of which are full of pictures from my daughter’s first two years of life. Aside from scrapbooking, I enjoy almost anything that has to do with crafting.

After my daughter goes to bed you can find me reading or writing. I am working on a novel (which I hopefully will complete by the time I’m 30!) and I write songs which I hope to have published someday.

What was your first pregnancy like? Was it what you expected? If not, what happened?

My small amount of knowledge about what pregnancy would be like came from TLC’s A Baby Story and the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” So I guess you could say I had no expectations when my pregnancy started, and I was able to take things as they came.

Postpartum Depression can sneak up on the best of us and knock us flat on our backs. Tell us about your experience.

I would say that my postpartum depression started before I even had my daughter (I call it pre-partum depression). There were intermittent periods of time when the prospect of birthing the baby I was carrying seemed depressing and confining, like some kind of cage I was trapped in. One day I’d be excited about all the pink clothes my baby would wear, and the next day I would wish I wasn’t having a baby at all.

After I had my daughter, the depression was severe and constant. I felt like I wasn’t bonding with her…I knew she had needs and I met those needs, but as far as “falling in love,” that just wasn’t happening.

Much of the time I wanted to pack my bags and leave everything behind. I cried a lot, lashed out at my husband and family, and felt very down.

When did you finally seek treatment for your PPD? What made you realize you needed help?

I knew what I was feeling wasn’t healthy, but it took my dad calling me out before I finally went to a doctor to talk about my PPD. One day, after some incident which I can’t remember, my dad said something to the effect of, “Why are you so negative all the time?” I’m not sure why, but that was the moment I decided to try to get some help.

Name three things that made you laugh today.

My daughter and her friend played “Ring Around the Rosie” over and over and over. When they were done, they were so dizzy they fell down all over again!

My best friend just called me on the phone and called me “Stinky Pete.” She’s random, but she always makes me laugh.

Whenever my daughter catches me looking at my belly in the mirror, she says, “Mommy, you’re pregmint.” That never ceases to make me laugh.

What role did family play in your recovery from PPD?

My husband is incredibly supportive. He picked up my slack when I felt like I couldn’t do what needed to be done for our daughter.

How did your husband handle your journey down PPD lane?

He was great. He never made me feel crazy…he supported me as best as he could even though he didn’t understand what I was going through.

You’re currently pregnant with your second child. Do you think things will be different this time? Why? What are you doing to be pro-active this time around?

As soon as I give birth, I am planning on getting back on the same anti-depressants I was on before I was pregnant. Unfortunately this means I won’t be breast feeding, but it does mean I will be able to function normally during my baby’s first weeks, whereas with my daughter I felt like I was just in a depressed daze.

What do you find the most challenging about motherhood? The least?

The most challenging thing about motherhood is making those daily choices in how/when to discipline and wondering how those choices are going to affect my daughter long term.

The easiest thing about motherhood is loving my child unconditionally. Though it took me longer than most mothers to bond with my baby, she is so special to me now. Nothing she could ever do would change the way I feel about her. It’s the same kind of love that God feels for his children, I believe.

Last but not least, what advice would you give an expectant mother (new or experienced) about PMD’s?

It’s better to ask a doctor if what you’re experiencing is normal than to spend any amount of time detached from your newborn. PPD is hard to deal with, but it is fairly easy to get under control once a mother realizes she needs help.