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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

 

 

 

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Table Rock | Boise, Idaho

Perhaps one of the most iconic spots in the Boise area is that of Table Rock. It’s easy to see why once you’re standing at the top with a beautiful panoramic view of Treasure Valley,  as well as the Owyhee Mountain range. The 60 foot high white cross that adorns the summit of the butte is equally loved and hated by native Boiseans. The area itself is sacred ground of the Northern Shoshone tribe, who apparently used the butte and surrounding caves for ceremonial purposes. Apparently, it’s a sore spot why nothing is there to preserve or respect the Shoshone tribe, and instead the white cross stands tall.  IMG_4693IMG_4697IMG_4694

The cross actually stands on private land, owned by the Junior Chamber of Commerce, (Jaycees), who purchased the land in a very shady auction which the general public was not even made aware of. So, the cross itself has a pretty turbulent and controversial history. BUT, controversy aside, it still is extremely cool to hike to the top and explore the surrounding caves. It’s become quite the graffiti mecca, and there is always new artwork to admire.

You can either start from the bottom where the trail starts by the old Idaho State Penitentiary, (which is also highly recommended to go and see!) The littles and I started at the bottom of the trail, but only made it about half a mile and had to turn back. It didn’t help that it was 96 degrees out when we started. So, we got back in the car and decided to drive to the top of the bluff instead. It ended up working out much better for us, and we were able to explore all the little caves and crevices.

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clearly, they were thrilled to hike up. You can see the cross that’s blurry in the top right corner. We had a ways to go.

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Even the artwork on the electrical buildings on the hike up from the parking lot are impressive! The details on them are phenomenal.

Once we sat on the summit for a few minutes and took in the gorgeous panoramic views, we hiked down to the caves right below that encircle the entire bluff. Memphis is really into Batman right now, so he kept exclaiming “I found a Batman cave Momma!” Too cute.

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Table Rock is a must see on my list of things to do in Boise! If you’re in the area, definitely go! Me and my littles had a great time exploring it and maybe one day we can go back and actually hike up to the top instead of drive.

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XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

For Her.

Today my 6-year-old daughter asked me if she looked fat in what she was wearing. I was dumbfounded that she would even be worried about something like that at her age. After a brief moment of shock I of course told her she looked great in what she had on, and to also remember that every body is different, and every body is beautiful.

To be honest, it made me a little sad to think that she is already concerned with her weight. Her unwavering stubbornness in wanting to dress herself since she was 2 1/2 years old, and absolutely detesting having her hair brushed and styled, was the extent of it so far as I knew concerning her looks. The fact that her weight is something she was thinking about made my Momma heart ache just a little bit.  Remembering my own experience, I was at least 11 before it even registered to me about what size I was.

The more I thought about it last night, the more anxiety I felt for my daughter and the struggles she will have to go through. My experience as a teenager was rough, as it was for most kids my age. It seems today though, that middle school aged kids just completely skip over the awkward phase. Boy, if I could have a time machine I would LOVE to go back and just skip right on over my horrifically awkward middle school years. They were not fun. I was bullied, and I hated myself most days. But you know what? I got through it, and it made me a stronger individual and taught me so much about people in general. I feel like I am a much more empathetic person because of the bullying and teasing I went through.

During my senior year of high school, a friend of mine who I had known since 6th grade asked me if I had moved there in high school. I laughed, and just said “Yup!” and prayed he would not look back at our middle school yearbook. Thankfully I could just laugh it off by then, as I had come into my own by freshman year and had a lot more style and confidence.

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I mean look at me, I was just awkward. Thankfully I had my braces off in fifth grade so I dodged a bullet there, but why on earth did I pick the BIGGEST glasses in the store? I literally have no logical answer for that.  I had no sense of style. Part of this awkward phase was because my Mom was terminally ill all through my middle school years, so I didn’t have her there to teach me things like how to do my makeup or my hair. I’m definitely not blaming her at all, but it’s a huge part of why I was so lost when it came to anything to do with beauty.

It doesn’t seem right that girls are suddenly grown up at the ripe ages of 8, 9, and 10. Why are parents today so obsessed with making our daughters into these little adults so young? Media in general is to blame big time. This social media obsessed generation has access at their fingertips to countless portals of information, photos, gossip, fashion, and news. It has changed our once innocent kids into little adults at a younger age. My kids have accidentally seen or heard things from their friends or via commercials and ads no matter how hard I try to protect them from it, that I had NO clue about until I was well into middle school.

Girls from a young age are being pressured to be sexy and be so much more grown up than they really are. Young girls and women are bombarded with the message that they need to be sexualized to get anywhere in life.  It has become a common theme when it comes to anything in entertainment these days. There are horrendous celebrities that are so commonplace now, and so influential to young girls. It just makes me sick. I will never let my daughter think that Kylie Jenner for example, is what she needs to be or look like. I want to teach her that being intelligent, educated, modest, kind, and healthy will make her beautiful inside AND out.

A while ago, a viral photo went around Facebook of a meme showing what my generation dressed like when we were little (think: side ponytails, stirrup leggings, and puff paint shirts) compared to what little girls dress like now (think: high fashion adult wear in mini sizes). It was meant to be funny, but the more I thought about it, the humor was lost for me. There is so much pressure nowadays for our little girls to be dressing like these little fashionistas, when in reality, they probably could care less.

My daughter for instance, would rather be in a tank top or t-shirt and leggings any day over something fancy. I can’t even get her to wear jeans! Getting her dressed up for special events or even church on Sunday turns into a HUGE debate. I tell you what, my daughter will rule the debate team one day! If she was given the choice between something considered “high fashion” or covered in glitter and fun characters that she loves, she would pick the glitter hands down. So why would I try to force her to be someone she doesn’t want to be? I won’t.

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So for my daughter, I will try my very best to continue to teach her to not be afraid to be herself. The pressures she will face as she gets older are ten times what I had to go through. I am afraid for her, but if she is as stubborn and sure of herself as she is right now at the age of 6, I have a good feeling she will be able to navigate herself through the awkward stages just like I did.

I always make sure I am never negative about my own body. She has often asked me about my stretch marks and stretched out skin on my stomach from having my three kids. I have never said anything negative to her about them, (even if I do to myself), and make sure I tell her they are from having her and her brothers and I am so grateful for them because it means I have my kids.

My husband too, is a huge influence on what my daughter thinks of beauty. He doesn’t hesitate to tell me I am beautiful in front of them, even if I am super sweaty and have just come from the gym with no makeup on. We always kiss and hug one another in front of the kids. Kids hearing their parents say “I love you” to one another is so meaningful. Seeing a good solid relationship, and seeing how a man should treat a woman is very beneficial for their young minds. It sets a standard for them of what a good relationship looks like. I want my boys to know how to treat women with respect, and I want my daughter to know what kind of relationship she deserves to have in the future.

Even though I am not perfect, all I can do is continue to be a good example to her. I want to be the woman she strives to be when she grows up. For now, I will let her continue to be herself, and just be a kid.

xoxo

Heather

The Raw Brunette