Anxiety: My Silent Stalker

Since the previous post I wrote titled:” The Light Inside My Darkness” , which describes my recent struggles with anxiety, a great number of people reached out to me. Some I know well, some I haven’t spoken to in years, and some were complete strangers. Many of them told me I was so brave for talking about a subject many don’t like to talk about, while others thanked me for talking about something they suffer from too. I guess I didn’t expect the impact of my words to help so many people. It was unexpected but extremely humbling. I in no way think of myself as an advocate for anxiety and panic attacks, but if I am helping people feel better about their own struggles, I will continue to discuss my own personal battle.

Warning Signs

Anxiety is something that I believe has always been present with me, but has gone through phases of being better or worse. The earliest memory I can recall was when I was around a year old. I was crawling down the hallway upstairs in the Pennsylvania home I grew up in. I can remember the carpet under my hands and knees. I came to the top of the stairs and paused for a moment, debating if I should go down or not. Apparently I decided I could do it, because the next thing I knew, I was tumbling all the way down. Just a few weeks or months later, I grabbed onto my mom’s curling iron cord and pulled it down from her bathroom counter and onto the top of my left hand. I still have a burn mark from it. I believe, that these two events that are seemingly inconsequential started my anxiety. The world became full of dangers that I never knew existed, and to such a young child it was scary.

When I was a toddler, I developed extreme separation anxiety. When my mom would take me to department stores, grocery stores, or any large place with lots of people, the moment I would lose sight of her I would freak out.  I can remember a few of those times. I really had no logical reason to think my mom would just leave me there, but I was beyond reasonable thinking.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Fast forward to 1997 when I was in sixth grade. This was the year my mom was diagnosed with her cancer. Sixth grade in itself was just a hard year for me. I mean, middle school was not fun in general, but for me, it was rough. I was a complete dork. Glasses, no sense of style, and zero confidence. So the added stress and emotions of my mom being diagnosed with terminal cancer just exacerbated everything.

Over the next year or so, my mom was pretty much in a hospital. My dad was still working a full-time job, and would eventually have a nervous breakdown. So, my sister and I instead of being normal twelve-year-olds would come home from school and do laundry, cook dinner or clean the house. Our family had many guardian angels who helped us during this time, but it was not everyday.  We were responsible for things that most kids our ages weren’t doing. I’m not saying we never did fun things with our friends, or would go out, because we did. But for a majority of the time, we were basically forced to grow up and act like adults. It was a lot of responsibility and stress, and it would eventually break me down.

My OCD and anxiety started during this time. I became acutely aware of disease, and anything having to do with germs and sickness would make me panic. I always had hand sanitizer, and started to compulsively wash my hands until they bled. I was also always convinced something was wrong with me. If I got a bruise on my leg suddenly I had Leukemia, or a cough was pneumonia. For a period of time I was wholly convinced that I was going blind and even made someone take me to an eye doctor. My husband has forbidden me from using WebMD because this terrible habit will raise its ugly head if I look up the symptoms for me or my children.

I also became very cognizant of death. My mom was constantly on her deathbed which was so traumatizing for me.  There was even a night where they told us to say goodbye to her, because the doctors were convinced she would not make it until the morning. I cried so much that night when I went home that I made myself sick. My dad spent the night at the hospital, and when he came home in the morning he told us mom was still with us. Thankfully, like I have said before in other posts, my mom lived until 2015. She was a fighter. The idea of death stirred in me an anxiety that I am still dealing with: separation from loved ones. It all stems from the separation anxiety I dealt with as a child, but it manifests itself in me having the tell people I love them every time I say goodbye. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the phone or in person. I was constantly afraid when I said goodbye to my mom that it would be for the last time, so I started telling everyone I loved them every time we parted ways. This is something I still do to this day, but I don’t think it’s bad to make sure everyone I love knows that I love them.

Just Breathe

Quite a few people have asked me advice on how I deal with my anxiety. I tell them all that everyone is different, but I am still happy to share the things that have helped me. I have compiled a short list of some methods that have been very beneficial for me.

  • Breathing- This is a key one for me. Often when I’m spiraling into full-blown panic mode I am breathing fast. I have to slow my breathing down and take long drawn out breaths, and then count to five when I am exhaling. Just physically stopping and concentrating on your breath can snap you out of your panic mode, and it slows your heart rate as well.
  • A Change of Location- What I mean by this one is that you need to physically change where you are in that moment. Oftentimes, if I am inside and feel the panic racing in, I go outside. Fresh air for some reason helps calm me down, and I feel so stuffy inside and get claustrophobic so the fresh air definitely helps ease that feeling. If you cannot physically change your location, say when you’re on an airplane for example,  see the next one.
  • Grounding- Grounding methods have been a game changer for me especially when I am in a situation where I cannot go outside. Last fall I was boarding a plane from Chicago to Salt Lake City. I’m usually okay on flights but as soon as I stepped into this plane my heart started racing. It was a TINY plane which had two seats on each side of the aisle. I sat down in my seat and tried to talk the panic away but it didn’t work. Instantly I needed to flee, so I ran up to the front of the plane and stood with the flight attendant bawling my eyes out by the still open door as people boarded the plane so I could feel the fresh air. She consoled me and even started to cry herself because she felt so bad for me. I considered getting off the plane, but had a conversation with myself that pretty much said “You will need to board a plane either way. Might as well do it now and get it over with.” So, I sat back down in my seat with the air on me at full blast and my music on in my headphones. I was still on the edge of panic the entire flight, but I kept doing grounding exercises and it helped me get through my flight. So, what is a grounding exercise you ask? Simple. You basically need to use your five senses. You find five things around you that you can see,four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and finally one thing you can taste. It helps you to focus on the environment you are in, and bring you back down from the edge.
  • Music- This one for me has always been an escape. When I got my first walkman, (yes, I’m old), I would sit in my room for hours sometimes listening to music and just going into my own little world. It helped me to escape the harsh reality while my mom was sick when I was in middle school, and has been a huge help to me in many other events or times in my life. I’m a huge believer in driving with the music turned up and singing at the top of your lungs too. Music just heals your soul.
  • Find an outlet- This one can be anything really. Whether it’s a sport, hobby, game, prayer, reading books, crafting, scrapbooking, photography your options are limitless. And the great thing is, you can have more than one! For me, working out is one of my most important outlets. I am a much happier person when I take the time to workout. I also enjoy doing classes at the gym which motivates me more when someone is yelling at me what to do. I also love to play city league sports, and have played in several softball leagues, and do a women’s volleyball league twice a year. But whatever works for you, do it!
  • Having a Person- You know, your “phone a friend” lifeline.  I myself have multiple people who I know I can call if I find myself running for mayor of panic town, and I know they will answer their phones and will understand what’s going on. I trust these people and love them so I feel completely comfortable to be able to call them when I am at my absolute craziest. I think it’s important to have people you can turn to because anxiety is terrifying when you are trying to handle it by yourself. Believe me, I know. Another important thing is to educate your “person” or “persons” so they understand what anxiety really is. My husband for example, who is obviously my main “person”, has never experienced anxiety or panic attacks, so I have made sure to have him educate himself by reading many articles so that he can someone grasp an understanding of what exactly I am going through, as well as know how to correctly respond to me when I am in that state.
  • Getting it Out- Honestly, sometimes the best thing for me is to just let it out. I mean crying, and just let those emotions out instead of trying to hold them in. Sometimes just having a good five minute cry helps the panic subside much quicker than trying to hold it in for me. A release of those pent up emotions can really relieve your anxiety.

I could go on, but these are just a few examples of the things that have worked for me. I have also started medication and am scheduled for my first therapy session next week, (I was supposed to go two weeks ago but because I have no insurance they kept giving me the run around and now I am FINALLY going. But that’s another story!) but these things are what I believe at this time. Not everyone needs medication or therapy.

This Too Shall Pass

The mind is such a fascinating thing. It can really sabotage us though, and I feel like that’s what mine was doing to me when my anxiety was at its worst just a few months ago. But the good thing is, that with the right help and techniques, it WILL pass. During a particurlarly bad panic attack I had my face buried in my husbands chest sobbing, and he was rubbing my back and telling me to breathe, and he said “Don’t worry this is going to pass.” So, now when I do have anxiety attacks, (honestly they have been few and far between since my medication), I say to myself in my head over and over while I breathe slowly: “This will pass. This will pass.” and it really does help me.

The panic is always there, and probably always will be. Anxiety is my silent stalker. I decided, however, that I was no longer going to let it rule my life. It’s a real battle some days, but it’s a choice I am not going back on.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw BrunetteIMG_5781

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Be Brave My Darlings: An Open Letter for My Littles

My darlings,

As I am writing this letter to you, the three of you are playing a game in the front room together. The sound of infectious giggling is filling the house; a sound that always brings me so much joy. It is a precious sound I wish I could bottle up, and open when the days are hard. I know that one day you will all be grown and gone, and the sound of your laughter will be greatly missed.

Your happiness means everything to me. I have tried to keep your lives enriched with fun activities, new adventures, and so much love. I know I am not perfect. Far From it. I just hope that even when I struggle, you understand one day that I always tried my best and can be forgiven when I failed spectacularly.

I have tried to protect you and keep you safe. The “Momma Bear” instincts are a very real thing. Even when you were just fluttering in my belly my desire to protect you would burn so strongly inside me. When you were newborns, I worried about illness and SIDS. When you were a few months I worried about you choking on small items since every object was chewed on. When you were a year or so, I worried constantly about bumps and bruises when you took your first steps, and had to child proof the house like Fort Knox because every nook and cranny was explored. It honestly goes on and on, and with each new stage comes new dangers and worries for a mom. Unfortunately, I cannot protect you from everything. This reality for me has been such a hard one to come to terms with.

The world we live in is becoming a scarier and more dangerous place. There are so many evils facing us now that I could have never imagined would be commonplace and on the news everyday. As horrifying as it is, these dangers are very real, and even now on American soil. In our cities and hometowns. I never in my life thought that white supremacists would be walking so proudly in the streets of my country openly promoting their sickening message and beliefs of hatred. It makes me physically ill to think that people can be so hateful towards other human beings.

The first time I saw a swastika I was six years old. I was in first grade, and during our art class, a boy tricked me into drawing one onto our art tables that were covered with brown paper. When our teacher saw it she freaked out, because, swastika. I had no clue what this symbol was and was confused and upset why I was in trouble for drawing it. My teacher quickly realizing that I didn’t know what this symbol stood for, decided to call my mom to tell her about it. That night, my mom had a discussion with me. She explained to me that this symbol became the emblem of one of the most hateful and evil groups of people in history – the Nazis. I had never heard of the Nazis before, but would soon understand they were bad guys from the Indiana Jones movies that became favorites of mine. I just could not understand why they could hate people so much because of their religion or their genetics. It broke my little six-year-old heart.

My first real education about the Nazis was during our World War II studies in eighth grade. Towards the end of the semester, we took a field trip to Washington D.C. and went to the National Holocaust Museum. As is the norm with any field trip, we were all psyched to be on buses and with our friends. Even on the elevator up to the top floor where the museum starts, we were still busily chatting with one another. As the metal doors opened, however, we were stunned to silence. I’m pretty sure no one really spoke until we all exited the museum.

In 2015, your father and I took a trip to Europe. While in Munich, Germany we made it a priority to go to Dachau and see the site of the first concentration camp during WWII. It was a very heavy day for us. I had a pit in my stomach that stayed with me hours after we left and headed back to Munich. I was so glad we took the time to go, and I suggest that anyone who is in the vicinity of one of the sites of any concentration camp should go. It needs to be seen and future generations need to be educated so we do not allow history to be repeated. The atrocities that occurred are unspeakable, and being there in the actual location of these crimes against humanity was extremely harrowing.

We spent a few hours there. I took my time, taking care to even tread lightly on the ground. Your father and I maybe spoke a handful of words to one another while we were there. Speaking seemed disrespectful. When I entered the gas chamber I was instantly overcome with the horror of that room. I had been alone when I entered, but was not once I stepped inside. The brick walls were no longer silent, and the things I heard and felt will never leave me.

I do not tell you these things to horrify or scare you. I tell them so that you are aware that these evils happened. Human beings did this to other human beings. Hatred and killing happens everyday, even here in the U.S. Racism is still prevalent in our country. Hate crimes are prevalent in our country. Hate is something that probably will never go away, and peace, may never be a concept our world will fully know again.

There is, however hope. That hope is you, my children. You, and your future children, and every generation to come. I want to teach you so many things while I can, but one of the most important things is to be decent human beings. To just be a nice human. To be the good in this world that is filled with increasing hate. There is more good in this world than evil, and if we educate ourselves and stand up to evil we have a fighting chance.

I want to make some things very clear. Pay attention.

  •    You must never stand by and watch. Doing nothing is as bad as doing the evil itself. Please, don’t be afraid. Some of the most beautiful and rewarding things happen on the other side of fear. Evil wins if fear resides.
  •   I will NEVER be proud of any child of mine if they are involved with, support, or condone any sort of hate. I even hate the word hate. Hate will never be allowed in our home for any person. I forbid discrimination or the mistreatment of any person because of the color of their skin, who they choose to love, who they choose to worship, (or not worship), where they live, their financial situation, what they look like, or what they are good or not good at. It’s absolutely unacceptable and this will never chage. Ever.
  • You are not defined by your mistakes. Despite what people and the world may tell you, you have SO much worth. More than you will ever know. Please, do not forget this. Mistakes will happen, it’s a part of life. The hard but most important step will be to overcome these mistakes and become stronger because of it. I believe in all of you with all my heart.

Perhaps the most important one of all: you will ALWAYS be loved. Always. Don’t be afraid to come to your father or I when things are overwhelming, scary, falling apart, confusing, or hurting. Don’t be upset if we get angry. Our initial reactions to situations may not be how we truly feel. We are not perfect either, so just try to remember that. Despite whatever happens, our love will always remain. That will never change.

Being your mother has been the most challenging and most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life. I am grateful for you three every single day. Sometimes I sit and marvel watching you. I cannot believe that these three different, beautiful little children are all a part of me. I see the good in all of you, because you are good. Hate is not born, it’s taught. Hold onto the good, and never let go. I hope that I can teach you these things while I can so that you can spread a little good in this world. It needs it, and it needs you.

Be brave my darlings.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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Five Minutes

Five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time. Or does it? To a woman, saying she will be ready in five minutes really means about an hour or so (and we are sorry not sorry about it!) To a kid, five minutes in time-out can feel like a life sentence, but if it’s five more minutes to play then it’s not nearly long enoughIt’s funny how time can be so insignificant at times and monumental at others.

A Glimpse of What Could Have Been

When my youngest son Memphis was born he was a seemingly healthy baby weighing in at 9 lbs 6 oz, (he was a whopper!). I hate hospitals so was overjoyed when they told me we could leave the next morning. Unfortunately, that next morning Memphis failed his heart test. They initially told me to not worry, (yeah right. Me WORRY? Never.), sometimes it happens, and they would immediately run another heart test. Much to my dismay, a while later they told me he once again failed it, and would require an echocardiogram. I was starting to get nervous, and joined the heart specialist over the course of an hour as they did a full ultrasound of my newborn son’s heart. That hour seemed to stretch out forever. Memphis was quite uncomfortable and was tired of being poked and prodded and was crying uncontrollably. The nurse kept giving him little syringes full of sugar water but it would only make him happy for a few minutes and he would start yowling again. I wanted so badly to hold him but was not able to. I kept wishing and hoping for the ultrasound to be over, but time would not yield to my pleas. Soon enough though, my baby was once again in my arms. The doctors told me that there was nothing wrong with his heart, which was great news, but he had started to labor in his breathing and was turning blue. Before I knew it, they were whisking my baby off to the NICU to be monitored, and four hours later, they determined he was born with pneumonia. We were so thankful that he had something that would be easily fixed, but so heartbroken to leave our baby in the NICU for a week. One of the worst feelings ever was leaving the hospital with no baby. I was heavily sedated to even be able to do so.

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For the next 8 days I went back to the hospital as many times a day as I could to be with my sweet baby. When I was at home I was constantly pumping and also bringing as much bottled breast milk with me as I could for Memphis. I had never visited a NICU before so it was all very foreign to me. Every time one enters, they must first go through a washing station that consisted of large metal sinks. Above each sink was a digital timer which when you pushed the foot pedal underneath would start at five minutes and countdown. That was how long you were required to scrub your hands before being able to enter.

Five minutes never felt so long in my entire life. Those red digital numbers seemed to go slower and slower as if mocking me. I would go through this process so many times a day and by the time I was even able to come back to the hospital I was aching so badly to see Memphis that those five minutes were torture.

I’ll be honest, I did some very deep soul searching during those five minute scrubs. It forced me to stand still and painfully revisit the events that had occurred with our family and our brand new baby. The importance of minutes and just how valuable and precious they are became very clear to me. Jess and I for a frightening time thought we were going to lose our son, and it’s a feeling I won’t ever forget. We were lucky enough to be able to still have him, and it helped me to start appreciating every moment I had with all of my children, and all of my family for that matter.

Frozen in Time

Not two days ago I was vacuuming out my minivan at the local car wash. As I was picking up garbage I looked inside the pocket on the backside of the driver seat and saw the back of a Kodak photo. I pulled it out and to my surprise it was a snapshot of my parents that I don’t think I have ever seen before. The weirdest thing is I have no idea how this photo came to be in my van, but I know I was meant to see it when I did.

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Instantly, I was taken back in time. Judging by the outfits, I would say this was from the early 90’s. This was before my mom was diagnosed with cancer in 1997. She was so beautiful in this picture, and so happy. The cancer changed her physically and emotionally over her 18 year battle. She was never really the same person.

I found myself wishing so badly to go back in time to this. I would even take five minutes with her before she got sick, and taken some mental pictures of her when she was her healthy self because those fragile memories that I have of her are fading. I mean, we had no way to know what was going to happen, but when she was diagnosed the cancer forced us all to take a step back and treasure the moments we had left.

Time Lost

Cancer is a thief. It steals time. It made the years that were supposed to be my mom’s best painful 24 hours a day. She fought to stay alive, and she fought hard. My mother was an extremely stubborn woman, and she refused to die until she was good and ready.  Initially when she was diagnosed in 1997, she was terminal with stage 4 multiple myeloma (bone marrow) cancer. For almost an entire year she stayed in a hospital. The doctors did not expect her to live, but she surprised them all and did. She told us that she was determined to see Aly and I graduate high school. She entered her first of several remissions in 2000, which lasted until after we graduated and went to our freshman year of college.

She then told us she was determined to see all her children married. My brother was married in 2001, I was married in 2005, and my sister was married in 2013. Despite have her second bone marrow transplant and nearly dying in 2008, Mom lived to see all her children married like she said. She was so stubborn, that woman.  It’s one of the things I loved most about her.

Her health dramatically decreased from 2013-2015. In October of 2014 they told us once again that she was terminal. But after 18 years of the constant pain, and the long list of health issues that arose from the chemo treatments, radiation, and cancer itself, Mom decided she would stop treatments. None of us could blame her at that point, but that does not mean it wasn’t heartbreaking knowing the end was near.

On Tuesday February 17, 2015 around 6:00 PM we gathered around a hospital bed where she lay dying. They had turned off her pace maker and we were watching the monitors as her heart rate and breathing were slowing. My sister Aly, my brother Rob and I were all by the bedside. My sister whispered :

“Mom, it’s okay to go now.”

My brother and I both chimed in too saying it was okay, and in a few moments she was gone.

Her time on this earth was shortened, but she held on as stubbornly as she could to get every last moment she could with her family.

Time Found

Time is a funny thing. Some days we constantly check our clocks just wishing for the day to speed up, and other days we feel like the days are dragging on. Time is best spent doing things we love, and with the people we love. For those loved ones we have lost, we can find them in those moments of happiness because they do not want us to sit around and be sad missing them. They want us living and enjoying every moment.

One thing is for sure, on those days where I catch myself wishing for time to speed up I have to stop and remember how precious every moment is. Be it an hour, a month, ten years, or five minutes.

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XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Mediocre Momness

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Back to school! It’s such a joyous time for Moms and Dads across the country. I remember when I was little Staples came out with a commercial that was forever my Mom’s favorite. It had the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” playing and the Mom was riding on top of the shopping cart sailing down the aisles just celebrating whilst filling said cart with back to school supplies. Her children were walking slowly behind her looking very unhappy. I totally get now why that was one of my Mom’s favorite commercials. Don’t get me wrong I love summer. However, once August rolls around, I am ready for structure and schedules again because the kids are getting restless and unruly. I also love the time I have to get things done while the kids are at school. This year, Memphis is the only one home with me since Shay is in first grade and it’s her first year going to all day school. I am loving the one-on-one time I am getting with him.

There is one thing that without fail always happens though once school rolls around again. I call it the back to school blues. It has absolutely nothing to do with my kids, and everything to do with me.

Forever Trying

One thing I will never be is the perfect mom, but I am no quitter. I try my hardest to make my kids lives fun and structured and healthy, but like I said, I’m not perfect. Despite me trying so hard to not worry about being perfect, there are moms everywhere who constantly make me feel guilty about it. It’s basically impossible to not compare myself to other moms. They seem to be everywhere – the Pinterest moms. I call them that because they seem like those picture perfect moms that are all over Pinterest. They cook extravagant meals, look like a movie star at 7 am with full make up on and dressed to the nines, they never yell at their kids, they are always doing fun activities, and their houses are always spotless. They’re basically like stepford wives.

Then there’s me. I always hit snooze on my alarm in the morning. I’m constantly in a state of tiredness. I should go to bed earlier, but I revel in my alone time at night once the kids are in bed that I end up staying up WAY too late binge watching on Netflix and Hulu. I’m also perpetually late to everything school related. It’s a skill. No matter how far in advance I plan, I almost never get a seat in the auditorium and am forced to stand while my toddler throws a fit and I’m so sweaty by the end of the concert or assembly that it seems like so much work to have even made the effort. Which speaking of sweaty, I’m usually in my workout clothes and unshowered. I mean, if I’m given the choice of working out or showering I pick the workout out every time. Cleanliness is overrated right? That’s what I keep telling myself. I almost never get a chance to shower. So yes, I may show up to the school functions smelling like B.O. with four days worth of  unshowered hair that’s 95% dry shampoo, and three-day old makeup making me look like a sick raccoon. But at least I made the effort to go right?

Now I am in no way saying that these Pinterest perfect moms are bad. I actually WISH I could be more like them! But try as I might I just keep falling very very short. It’s actually quite exhausting trying to keep up with them.

A Not so Subtle Revelation

Last night (Sunday), it was time for bed. As per usual, my kids rioted. It’s like they think that school was only for one week, and then that was it. So the fact that they had to go to bed early on a Sunday night was appalling. The usual way my oldest son acts out now is to say terrible things to me. He kept telling me over and over last night as we got ready for bed that I was a “bad” mom. I was also called “unfair”, “not cool”, “the meanest”, and “the dumbest” during his rant. I’m used to it now, so it didn’t faze me and yes, he still went to bed. There’s one thing this mom doesn’t cave on, and it’s bedtime. It’s a sacred time for me when the kids are all in their beds and I can just sit down and relax.

Once the kids were finally all in their beds I flopped down on my couch to queue up Netflix. I felt a little deflated from the battle that just went on upstairs, and I reflected on the things my son had said to me just moments before. The old me would have been really sad that he had said those things to me; I might have cried and had my feelings hurt by it. But not this time.

“I’m not a bad mom, I’m not even a terrible mom,” I said to myself, “I’m a GREAT mom!”

I felt rejuvenated. This realization gave me a new sense of self. I AM a great mom. My kids have great lives. They have a home, food, clothes, and toys. Most of all they are LOVED and KNOW it. I mean, I do some pretty cool stuff too like take my kids on fun adventures, read books to them in different voices, randomly break into song, have dance parties, and can tell every fart or poop joke in the book. But there is no denying I am a screw-up. But I am also a pretty awesome mom because I am such a loveable screw-up. I mean, my kids should be thanking me for being so relatable and down to earth.

Sorry Not Sorry

I quickly realized once my oldest son was in kindergarten, that I would not be able to make it to every event at the school. He was upset I couldn’t volunteer in his class, or come to all their class parties. It killed me, but having two other small kids at home and a husband with crazy hours meant I was not going to be able to. I stressed out about it for a few days, and was wondering if I was going to “break” my child by seeming to be unsupportive, but I soon realized that was ridiculous.

So, here is a list I’ve compiled for all you other moms out there who struggle like me feeling like such an imperfect mom. This particular list is things that do NOT make you a bad mom:

  • Not attending all events at school. (yes, they’re cute, but do we REALLY need a celebratory concert for America in the middle of February?!)
  • Not getting up and making a gourmet breakfast. Sorry kids, mommy is not and never will be a morning person. Sometimes I sleep right through my alarm. Eggo waffles are perfectly acceptable on such mornings.
  • Showing up to school looking like the conductor of the hot mess express. Yep, I have done this too many times to count! Just last week on the first day of school I slept through my alarm and ended up driving Calvin and Shay while wearing NO shoes and a grubby t-shirt and sweats I threw on. I fully embrace the hot mess that I am 80% of the time, but I do clean up pretty nicely too!
  • Not making healthy gourmet dinners every night. So to start off, I have picky eaters, and it’s hard! Even if i made the effort to cook a super healthy meal, no one would eat it. So yes, sometimes I do cook them and force them to eat it and they all usually cry. But most of the time, I give in and let them choose one thing they want to eat, (like mac n cheese), as long as they will eat one vegetable or a salad with it. My kids also take vitamins everyday, and are very active. So, I feel like as long as we can find a happy medium that they will be okay.
  • Not being their friend. Sometimes, this is such a hard one. But kids need to be loved and part of it is discipline. I refuse to let my kids grow up to be terrible adults, so discipline is necessary so they know what they can and cannot do.
  • Not having a clean house. Yeah, this one I am guilty of hardcore. Currently the laundry pile in my bedroom that needs to be put away is as tall as my bed, and I keep expecting it to grow legs and walk away. The table I am currently working at on my laptop in my kitchen is covered in crumbs and various toys that have accumulated over the weekend that I still haven’t cleaned off. But the toilets are clean! That in my book is a win.

I could go on and on with this list. Just know that you do NOT need to be a perfect stepford wives mom to be a GOOD mom. If you are that way, then good for you! You’re a good mom too and we applaud you! But for the rest of moms out there like me who struggle daily, just remember that perfect isn’t possible.

No, I’m by no means a perfect mom. I am, however, the perfectly unperfect mom for my kids. I try my very best and I think that’s what any of us can do. So if that makes me a mediocre mom, and not the Pinterest mom, so be it. I am happy with my mediocre momness.

 

Xoxo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Total Solar Eclipse 2017| Rexburg, Idaho

We just got back from one of the most amazing weekends EVER. The total solar eclipse occurred on Monday August 21, 2017. My in laws just so happen to live in Rexburg, Idaho which was in the zone of totality, but also close to Idaho Falls which is one of the places that NASA declared as the best to view the eclipse.

Despite the news for months saying that there would be horrendous crowds of people migrating to Idaho Falls and Rexburg Idaho for the eclipse, our family headed up there too. I questioned my sanity a few times while preparing for our trip because of said stories on the news, and the preparations in case crowds got too rowdy or some catastrophic event like a wild fire was to happen. So, in order to avoid the crowds in, I drove up on Thursday the 17 and headed to my in-laws who just so happen to live in Rexburg, and in the zone of totality.

With a few extra days to spare, my kids enjoyed every moment of time spent with their grandparents on the farm. This included four-wheeler rides to help water the cow, running through the neighbors yard that was flooded for watering, four-wheeler rides just because, throwing rocks and racing sticks in the canal, feeding the goats, harvesting and shucking corn, pulling vegetables from the garden to have fresh for dinner, petting and feeding the neighbors horses, playing in the sprinklers and the ditch, having rides in Grandpa’s bucket of the tractor, roasting weenies and desserts in the fire pit, playing board games, and reading books with Grandma.

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It’s pretty safe to say that every time we visit Rexburg, it’s like Disneyland for my kids! They would all pass out at night from pure exhaustion (which is what this Momma loves!). I am so grateful for my good relationship with my in-laws that I can go visit without my husband and still have such a wonderful time.

On Saturday, everyone else showed up for the eclipse! Sherri and Rick joined us from Vancouver, WA, and my Grandparents came from Midway, Utah. My Uncle Brad and my cousin Matthew also came but not until late Sunday night from Park City. It was such a special weekend too, because my in-laws were able to meet my birth mom Sherri and some of her family!

It was incredible for me to sit back and watch as two families I loved came together. Sunday Rick and Sherri scoped out the perfect spot for us to watch the eclipse the next day. Jess and I made a big dinner for everyone that night which we ate outside, and the day was ended playing some rowdy card games very late into the night.

The next morning we were all up early; anxious for the coming event. After breakfast those of us who wanted to go watch from the spot Rick found caravanned over. It took us about 15 minutes, and we were up on the eastern hills above Rexburg. We had a perfect view of the Menan Butte to the West from where we were, and we were nestled right at the edge of a golden wheat field.

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It really was the perfect spot. We could eventually see the shadow of the moon coming from the West. It was INSANE.

Once the eclipse began around 10:15 AM we had our various glasses and other viewing devices at the ready. The kids were pretty worried about going blind so we also brought a strainer which we projected the various stages of the eclipse onto a brown paper bag. It was actually really pretty!

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Around 11:30 is when the full totality was upon us. We all watched with anticipation as the shadow was bearing down on us from the west. It was moving 2000 MPH! That is SO fast! When the last sliver of light from the sun was covered, we were suddenly in nighttime darkness! We could see stars around us, and even venus! The temperature also dramatically dropped within minutes and we were all shivering.

I wish I could accurately describe how gorgeous the total eclipse was. There was light emanating around the moon in a blueish hue, and I commented that I felt like we were watching a planet be created. It was such a breathtaking sight, and me and several others in our group were moved to tears. It was definitely a life changing event, and I am so grateful I got to witness it with my husband and children. All three of my littles kept commenting after how beautiful it was. Even little Memphis proclaimed: “Mommy that was bootiful!”

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Papa making sure his glasses worked

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Memphis got the hang of them pretty quick!

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My cousin Matthew and my Uncle Brad watching on with Papa

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My Grandma, Sherri, Rick, Papa, Brad, and Matthew

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pretty stylin!

 

If any of you have plans to go and see the next total eclipse in 2024, GO! We are already planning our trip. See ya there!

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XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Portland Tourists

Finally! My last post about our trip to Portland over a month ago. Life has been super crazy lately and now that the kids and I are back in Utah I haven’t seemed to have much time to write.

Our final two days were spent being tourists and we loved it!

First stop: VooDoo Doughnut! If you haven’t been you NEED to. They have so many delicious and unique doughnuts to choose from. Like sprinkles,(which Memphis chose) to the famous “cock n balls” for those who like a good laugh and have a huge appetite (it’s enormous!). The line was about a ten minute wait, but from what I hear that’s short! We enjoyed every delicious bite! Memphis like I said got sprinkles, Shay got an iconic VooDoo guy, Calvin got a VooDoo Bubble which tasted like bubblegum, and Jess got a Portland Creme. I had a great time taking nibbles off of all of them.

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The rest of the day we spent perusing the famous “Saturday Market” which is Saturday and Sunday mornings. I didn’t take any photos of the market because I was too excited looking at all the amazing booths! I did manage to get a picture of the famous “Mr. Statue”.

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On our final morning and afternoon we once again drove into the gorgeous Columbia Gorge. But this time we went along the historic scenic highway. It was much curvier but had such beautiful views! Our first stop was the Vista House. It sits atop the Gorge and has absolutely breathtaking views. The building itself is historic and had a museum in the basement but it was so unbearably hot that day and there was literally no airflow down there so we decided to skip it. Usually it’s quite windy up there so we lucked out that day!

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From there we made our way to Multnomah Falls. It’s one of the most photographed and well known waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge.  It was super crowded so we only hiked up to the first bridge instead of going all the way up.

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Our last stop was Horsetail Falls. It was much less crowded so we stayed here for a while and the kids had fun tossing rocks into the water.

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With that, we had to say goodbye to Rick and Sherri and head back to Boise. It was such a fun trip! The Pacific Northwest is absolutely gorgeous and so cannot wait to plan another trip!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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The Light Inside My Darkness

I’ll be the first to admit that I hate asking for help. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and defeated. I’m pretty stubborn, so the thought of even asking for help is usually out of the question for me. A few weeks ago I came to a crossroads where I was desperately needing help, and was scared to give in to it. I was determined to figure out how to help myself on my own, but I kept slipping into a deeper into darkness and it was terrifying. I was cognizant of the fact that outside help was necessary for me.

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

Much like Alice, I too went down a hole. Instead of going on an adventure with rabbits and the Queen of Hearts, however, mine led me to nothing but darkness and demons I couldn’t make go away. I have always struggled with anxiety, and have had bouts of depression throughout my life. Over the past 6 months or so, my sanity seemed to be slowly ebbing from me one panic attack at a time. It got so bad about two weeks ago, that I literally felt detached from my own body. I was living in a full on panic zone 24/7. If you have seen the show ‘Stranger Things’ (who else is so excited for the new season in October?!) it felt sort of like the “Upside Down”. I felt fuzzy, and just completely disconnected from everyone and everything around me. My sweet oldest son Calvin became very aware that something was happening to me. He would recognize the symptoms of my panic attacks happening, and would run to me and put his arms around me. He would actually comfort me until the panic subsided. He’s so sweet, and I don’t know what I ever did to deserve such a tender-hearted boy.

I tried everything to help ease my anxiety. Essential oils did nothing, meditation- nothing, breathing- nada, grounding excercises- nope. All these things that usually work for my occasional panic attacks were completely useless. I basically had to drug myself to even sleep at night because for some reason that’s when the panic would be the worst. I was exhausted, and finally could admit I needed to seek outside help.

Doctors Orders

I sat in the examination room of my general doctor, who I have known for almost ten years. He was asking me questions about my general anxiety and where I thought it could be coming from. All the while, my three children, (whom I had no choice but to bring with me), were fighting and being horrendously obnoxious. My eyes were filling with tears and I desperately wanted to scream at my kids to just let Mommy talk to the damn doctor for five minutes in peace. When my doctor asked me if I found myself yelling at my kids a lot, I actually started laughing despite wanting to sob! Uh, yeah. I yell at them, kind of want to RIGHT freaking now.  He actually informed me that a short fuse is a sign of depression and anxiety! Something that I didn’t even think of, but when I told Jess that later, he said “Yeah, I have noticed the past few months that you will blow up pretty easily. More so than usual.” Oops! At least I have a reason for it, and I’m really not just the meanest mom on the planet.

After checking my thyroid, and determining it was normal, he prescribed an antidepressant for me to take daily to prevent the feelings of anxiety, as well as Xanax to take if I happened to have a sudden panic attack. He used asthmatics as an example to explain it to me. They take a daily inhaler which prevents the attacks, but have an emergency inhaler as well in case there’s a sudden asthma attack. It made total sense to me. I have never been super excited to be medicated; I have tried antidepressants for small amounts of time when I had postpartum depression, but I hated how I felt on them. He assured me that the one he prescribed was a different type, and wouldn’t make me tired or feel loopy. At this point, I was willing to try anything to feel normal again.

Since that day, I have slowly gotten back to myself. I am no longer fuzzy, or disconnected, and am happy to report I have only had two attacks, which is SO much better than 10-12 a day!

Crawling Back Out of the Hole

Medication is not my end game. I have nothing against it, and anyone who needs it shouldn’t feel bad in the slightest. It’s a personal choice, and I want to be able to one day not have to rely on it. For now, it’s working for me, and that’s great. Ultimately, I need to determine the underlying causes of what is creating this incredible anxiety and stress for me.

My doctor suggested seeing a therapist. The thought hadn’t occurred to me that therapy would be an option, but he told me it’s one the most successful treatments for people with panic disorders like me. To be fair, the past five years or so have been an incredible roller coaster ride.

I’ve mentioned before that my mom passed away in 2015, which in itself was, and still is traumatic. When you lose someone you love, your entire life changes. You have to learn how to live without that person, and you yourself become a different person because of it. My whole world felt blown to bits, and I know I have changed. Two years later, it’s still a struggle for me to live without my mom. I miss her, and I know the pain of her loss is something I will have for the rest of my life.

The week my mom was diagnosed as terminal and literally given weeks to months to live, three of my closest friends all turned their backs on me. That hurtful loss of three women who I thought I would be friends with for life, coupled with the devastating news about my mom was unbearably painful. At a time when I needed them the most, they decided I was “out” of their group. It might sound silly to some people to be so upset about the loss of friends, but I am such an openly loving person. I feel things very deeply, even pain. My husband often tells me one of the things he loves most about me is how deeply rooted I get with the people I love. I’m fully committed to my loved ones, friends and family, so the loss of three at once was pretty devastating. Those friendships have not been mended, and probably never will be at this point, but I still have love for them in my heart. I also believe that things happen as they should, so I’m content at this point to accept that.

My miscarriage came six months after my mom passed away. I have an entire post about it here if you’d like to read about it.

I also had to watch as my twin sister suffered through a volatile marriage for almost 4 years. Her husband was a closeted alcoholic who decided to show his true self after they were wed. He was incredibly abusive and a very toxic person to be around. It killed me inside to not be able to help my sister, but she needed to leave because she was ready, not because I was. I was constantly in fear of her safety, and would stay up many nights crying myself to sleep with worry for her. They are now divorced and she is living the life she should have been all these years. I am so grateful that she is safe now.

And if all that wasn’t enough, for almost three years, my husband was involved in a legal battle with his former partners in a business. It got ugly. REALLY ugly. It was long and drawn out, and the true colors of people who we thought were kind and honest came out. It was disappointing to see how ugly and selfish these people really are. If anyone has been in any kind of legal battle, then you know it is exhausting. Thankfully its over now, but boy was it stressful.

So, it’s pretty obvious my mental state has been drastically affected by all this stress! I think any normal person would crack from it all. I actually am sort of excited at the thought of being able to just unload everything on a neutral party. A loved one said it to me perfectly: “I think moms with small children really know the value of having one person really listen to you.” AMEN!

There was a time where I was pretty hopeless and feeling like I would never be able to pull myself out of the dark place I was in. But the good news is that I’m going to be okay. I still have a way to go in terms of fully getting better, and I know I will still have hard days. Thankfully I have a great support system and lots of people who love me so I am no longer afraid of the dark.

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Am I broken? No. Human, yes, but not broken. Mental disorders, and mental illnesses are something that not a lot of people like to talk about. It’s uncomfortable for some, and others are too embarrassed to talk about what’s going on. I was just afraid to admit I needed help. I literally felt like I was going insane, and I would ask Jess at least once a day “Am I crazy?” to which he would always reply “No.” People with mental illnesses and disorders are NOT crazy. It’s like any other illness. You wouldn’t ask a person with cancer to just “snap out of it” or just “don’t have cancer” much to the way you wouldn’t say similar things to someone with depression.

I like to keep the dialogue open about mental health, because so many people feel like they’re alone in the struggles they have. You are most definitely NOT alone. Please, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. I am so glad I did.

 

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Photo Credit: Alejandro Araos