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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

 

 

 

“Just always be waiting for me”

My Mom was in my dream last night. We were cooking dinner together in a large white kitchen. She had on a yellow apron, which was her favorite color, and it felt like she wasn’t gone. I was so happy to be with her, and we were talking and laughing as we put something together and into the oven. I’m not even sure what it was we were making, but clearly that’s not the point. When my Mom passed away, for the first weeks, and months, even, sleep could not come fast enough because I would see her almost every night. As time went on, she visited me less and less so the occasional night when she does enter my dreams it’s extra a special.

I feel that dreams are much more than just pictures we see at night while we sleep. Sure, some of the crazy out of this world dreams probably mean nothing, but for the rest of those dreams, they are messages and have meanings.

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I have had vivid dreams since I was a small child, and I can remember most of them from about age 5 on. I used to keep a journal of them when I was younger, which I am sad I did not keep. My husband became accustomed very quickly in our marriage that every morning I would roll over and say “Want to hear what I dreamed about?!”. He’s a pretty patient guy to sit and listen to my dreams.

I have studied dreams because it fascinates me how complex my dreams are, and I wanted to know what things symbolized. For instance, once I saw Jurassic Park at the age of 8 it quickly became, (and still is), one of my most favorite movies. The T-rex, however, became a prominent terrifying presence in some of my scariest dreams. Being chased by a tyrannosaurus in a dream, represents your fears of becoming not needed, or not useful. When I was 8, my group of friends drastically changed, and for an 8-year-old who had been with the same friends since kindergarten, it was a big deal for me, and I was manifesting my emotions into my dreams. To this day, if I have a dream of being chased by the t-rex I will wake up in a cold sweat. Those things are scary guys!

Another example, is a bear. I have had recurring nightmares of being chased or killed by bears ever since I first went to my church’s girls camp when I was 12 in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of New Jersey. It’s probably from the horrifying experiences we had every year without fail, of the black bears who roamed the mountains. Any of my fellow camp mates can attest to this as well. The presence of a bear chasing you in a dream represents you running from something in your life that causes you fear. This makes total sense to me because this was the year my Mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Clearly, I had a lot of things I was fearful of and had no control over.

I could go on and on. I have so many examples and crazy dreams I could write about, but it would take up so many pages! Ask me about it sometime – I would love to talk about my dreams!

Another thing I truly believe about dreams is that they can be messages or calls to action in our lives.

I started the search for my Birth Mom because of a dream. In 2006 I started to have a series of dreams about her. In the first and very vivid one, I was watching what was going on with her from a distance. I had no idea what she looked like so in my dream she was a blurry figure with shoulder length light brown hair. She was looking for something, and asking people around her if they had seen it. I quickly realized that the “it” she was searching for was my sister and I. When I woke up that morning, the dream kept running through my head over and over. I called my sister in Utah, (we lived in Dallas at the time), and told her about it. We decided that we were ready to try to find her. A few months later I had yet another dream about her. In this one, I was driving my car through a small town I had never seen before looking for my birth mom. I parked my car and started asking some locals who were gathered in the main part of town if they had seen my birth mom, although I didn’t know her name. They told me I was the “spittin’ image” of Jennifer, and surely I was one of her girls. Just a few months after that, my sister and I found her. It was fate, and another story for another post. When I told her about my dreams, and how I dreamt her name was Jennifer, (which it’s not by the way), she told me that in the hospital when she had my sister and I, she had named me Jennifer.

Chills right? Yeah, me too.

I have written before about my miscarriage I suffered in September of 2015. It wrecked me emotionally and I was a mess for weeks. About two months after, I had an incredible dream. In it, I was in a vast, white landscape that seemed to have no end. I was dressed in white, as was everyone else around me. I wasn’t scared or worried about where I was, in fact, I felt very at peace. I realized I was in the after life. Not necessarily Heaven per se, but some sort of post mortal life. As I searched the faces of the people milling around me, I locked eyes with a man probably no older than me. He was tall with dark hair and dark eyes. When we saw one another, we realized we knew each other. We embraced one another and shed tears of happiness. I told him it was so good to see him, and he said the same to me. I asked him where my Mom was and he said matter-of-factly that she was busy “working”. I was fine with this answer, because I was so happy to be with this man who I knew. He asked if he could show me around, and I said of course. He told me that in this place we were, I could think of any place in the world or history and we would go there. I thought of Shanghai, China and instantly we were transported there. We were in a market, and I could smell, touch, and taste everything as if i was really there. This was definitely one of the most vivid dreams ever. Never in my life have I been to China, but in that dream I was really there. After we explored the market for a while, we went back to the white place. He proceeded to show me some specific places in the afterlife, but I cannot for the life of me remember what he showed me. Maybe there is a reason for that? Who knows. We talked for a long time, and then he told me it was time for me to go. I didn’t want to, and began to cry. I did not want my time with him to be over, but he tearfully told me that he was good, and not to be sad.

I woke up, and the morning light was streaming in the windows. I laid there for a few minutes going over the very real dream I had just had.  A thought suddenly overcame me, tears welled up in my eyes, and my chest burned telling me it was true. I belive the young man in my dream was my child that I had lost just a few months before. My son was visiting me to let me know that he was okay and that he loved me. Remembering how long and emotional our reunion was only further solidifies that for me. I cannot wait until the day we do get to meet again, but for now, I know that he’s in a good place waiting for me.

Whether you are religious or not, dreams are something we all have. They can explain a lot of what’s going on with us internally, and are really very fascinating to explore the meanings of. Give it a try sometime! You won’t be disappointed.

 

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

 

 

Timeout!

As I placed my unruly toddler into timeout today for the third or fourth time, (frankly, I have lost count), it made me think about the purpose of a timeout. For kids, a timeout is when we exile them into a corner, on a stool, wherever as long as they are separated from everyone and everything so they can think about what they did wrong.

When I was a kid, the preferred spot for timeout was to sit in front of an enormous framed replica of the Constitution of the United States. It’s a wonder I don’t have the whole thing memorized with how many times I ended up there!

My kids, usually end up on a stool.

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This is my toddler. He hates timeout with the fire of a thousand suns. But, he’s usually quick to say sorry for what he did, which is good. My husband and I realized that we were letting him get away with way more than our oldest two. Maybe it’s because he’s the baby, or that he’s our caboose kid, or that he’s just so stinking cute, but about a year ago we started doing timeout with him hardcore to break him of a lot of the bad habits we as parents let get out of hand.

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This is my daughter when she was about eighteen-months-old. This is also about the age she decided naps were for the birds, so timeout stool hangs became the norm for quite a while. My daughter is nothing if not fiery and opinionated. It will be so good when she is an adult, but she tries me more than my two boys combined.

I think that timeout help us as parents keep our sanity as well. Breaking up the chaos for a spell helps sort of reset everyone, not just the kids. Once my kids are being unruly and ridiculous I tend to let my anger get the best of me, and often find myself regretting what I screamed at my children. Ending it all with apologies and hugs doesn’t hurt either. Hugs and kisses from my kids are what keeps me going some days.

Timeouts are essential in the development of children, (according to the science of Heather). I believe that if we just let kids get away with whatever they wanted, they would grow up to be horrible adults. If they got away with everything with no consequences as a child, what’s to stop them as an adult? Who wants to deal with a selfish, unruly, irresponsible, insensitive, just plain mean adult? Hmm, come to think of it, there are many adults that it makes me wonder: “Did they not get timeouts as a child?”  I’m sure you all could add up a list of those adults yourself!

Silly rabbit, timeouts are not just for kids! Adults need timeouts too! I love a good timeout for me. It could be anything as small as a bath after the kids have gone to bed, five minutes of quiet, or getting to take a NAP. I mean, a nap alone is worth a million bucks, but they are very rare these days for me. My mommy friends and I try to do GNO (girls night out) at least once a month, and my husband and I go on dates as often as we can get babysitters. It’s good for us to get one on one time without the kids to reconnect with each other on a romantic level and not just co-parenting partners when we are with the kids.

Timeout is not specifically just for parents either. Work, school, dating, family, friends, bills, just life itself is stressful. Taking some time to yourself, or with friends is essential for a healthy balanced life. Set some time aside every week, or month if you have to and go do what you love. I personally look forward to my time at the gym six days a week. For me, running and lifting with my headphones on and music blaring is a daily escape and makes me so much happier.

So, do yourself a favor, and find what makes you happy and do it! Travel, hike, run, paint, draw, write, box, cook, just find something that you love to do and make it a priority to take a timeout to do it. It will make you a much happier, healthier version of you if you take the time to reset yourself.

For now, I am going to remove my toddler from timeout. Again.

xoxo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette