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Long time, no see!

Hi everyone! It’s been a long, long time since I last wrote in this blog.

What’s kept me away?
• I started school and became a full-time student (I made honors last semester!)
• Willow and I left the shelter and moved into our own apartment.
• Willow turned TWO.
• I’ve been taking on more responsibilities at work and I’ve been working hard in school.

There are a lot of days that I’ve been happy and hopeful and staying afloat with a lot going on.

There have also been a lot of days that I’m busy all day. When I wake up early and stay up late and I’m exhausted and stressed. And that has been hard.

But I’m also staying afloat, in fact I’m doing well, too. Not all the time, of course, but still, I’m not giving up. If this were a few years ago, normally in a time like this, I wouldn’t be ok. I’d run at the slightest feeling of defeat, self-destruct then hide away.
At a time like this, I would be doing the worst I’d ever done, again.

But, I’m not. I’ve been doing better than I remember being for a long time. And I’m so grateful for that. I feel like I have found who I always was underneath the things that glued me to the floor.

Every so often though, I feel scared. Scared because I know I have so much at stake, and because I know I have come so far.
I wonder, sometimes, why am I ok? I wonder not if but when I will fail?
Then I remember the same things that scare me also help me be ok. They motivate me, support me and remind me to keep working. I think about the things that make me want to be ok.

I think about Willow, about being able to do more than just function, about being hopeful for our future, about school and my job, and I think about peer support. I think about the things I went through, the journey of shifting between the fine lines of patient and peer. About getting to speak with people who I understand, people who are struggling through high school with depression or anxiety or while fighting with their family every night. I think about how much peer support and the opportunity to use my story to better empathize with others, which have helped me be ok in times like this.

And I even though sometimes I feel scared, anxious, or doubtful – I feel good about continuing to move forward. I don’t feel tempted to stop, or give up, I feel excited to see what comes next; that fills me and keeps me going forward through fear and doubt.

World Breastfeeding Week

This Week is World Breastfeeding Week.

Breastfeeding has been a major part of my life for the last 17 months. Since the day Willow was born, and to this day, I have breastfed her.

Whenever, wherever, and for whatever reason, I have responded to my beautiful child’s wants and needs in the most natural and intuitive way physically possible; by breastfeeding.

This journey has taught me many invaluable lessons about both myself and my relationship with my daughter.
Becoming a mother is a transformation. It’s a journey, and my own transformation is something I have talked about many times on my blog.

Before Willow was born, when asked how I was going to feed her (formula or breastfeeding) I said I would breastfeed, and thinking back I don’t remember why exactly, other than it seemed the only option- at that time primarily for financial reasons.
As I learned more and more about what my journey would entail and about why people breastfeed I began to realize that I was truly making the best decision for both myself and my daughter.

The beginning was hard. It was more than hard.

Willow had a really bad latch. I was tired, depressed, lonely, in an un-supportive and abusive relationship, and essentially alone. Willow wanted to eat over and over again. And for long stretches of time. It seemed as soon as she finished she was hungry all over again.
I was not myself, my body did not belong to me, and I was so so unbelievably exhausted.
I cried a lot.
I fell asleep sitting up at night, holding willow and would wake up terrified but thankful she was still in my arms, nursing.
I left Willow latched even when it hurt (mistake) because I just wanted her to eat and fall asleep.
I made many mistakes, and was confused about so much.

I had so much room to grow and learn but often felt so hopeless and alone, I would just blindly go forward, unknowing of what laid ahead.
But I wasn’t alone.
I joined Facebook groups. I talked to friends of mine who breastfed, or wish they did. People commended me, they validated me, and one person in particular (who was with me from early in my pregnancy, there when my daughter was born, and after) who educated me and supported me consistently and oftentimes when I needed it more than anything else.
And I kept going, even though there were times I felt desperate to stop, perhaps for just a day, or a moment, or a night- to share the vast responsibility of growing, birthing, and feeding this small amazing person who brought me to my knees and changed my life.

Then, incredibly, and like many other aspects of motherhood, it got easier. Not immediately, and not overnight, but slowly and surely and then suddenly. Suddenly, breastfeeding was the easiest part of motherhood.

Suddenly, my confidence in myself and my ability as a woman and a mother was incredibly affirmed and increased. I am amazing, I made it through long enough to reach a place of ease in something I once considered giving up.
I set goals, and wandered through, eyes closed and arms outstretched. Even when I fell into pits, and found my way out. And when giving up was an option I kept going.

I remember, hoping, wishing, to make it, to not give up. Reasoning that I would make it to at least 6 weeks, then at least 3 months.
And then, it was just a part of our life. An amazing, incredible, and valuable part of our life.
Now, at seventeen months strong, I can say with confidence that we are going as long as my daughter finds comfort and need in breastfeeding – even if its years and years from now.
And I will never feel shame for lifting my shirt in public to feed and comfort my child.

And one day, she wont need or want to nurse. But that day is not today, and I hope that it is not tomorrow. But if it is, and when it is, I will be there, holding her hand, and we will forever have the bond that began in my womb and continues to grow every single day.

Stress

Stress.

I have been stressed.
Not every day, and not all the time.
If my stress were a rock, I would be small but very dense and very heavy.
Small, rigid, bumpy, sharp, molten lava.
Bouncing around in my pocket all the time.
Some days it feels so heavy that my hips hurt and my gait is off.
Some days I forget it’s there until I bump my leg against something and the rock digs it’s raged corner into my thigh.
And then I feel like falling over.
But I can’t- and so then I become sad- no, angry.
Hot and heavy, scared and tired. My chest gets tight and my breath becomes hot and thick. So that it weighs down my chest, and constricts my lungs.
I feel suddenly as though I am drowning.

And then I lose it.

Maybe for a moment, because someone needs something from me.
But how dare they need me, don’t they know there is molten lava in my pocket?
Of course, they don’t know, it’s too small to see.
Although, maybe they notice it ripping a hole in my pants, and they ask me if I’m ok, with a certain sincerity that rips my heart from my chest and makes my knees heavy. And then I just want to cry.
And then it becomes an ocean.
An ocean with huge waves and I’m stuck in quicksand being pummeled by huge gusts of cold, salty water.
And my eyes are red and burning, and I cannot see.
My lungs are full of salt and water, so I cannot breathe.
My mouth is full of sand and seaweed, so I have no words to say.
And I’m too scared to figure out how to move.
So like a deer in headlights, I let myself get hit by a car.
And I see it coming but cannot move or speak.

I am alone in a crowd.

A crowd of people who feel the same way as me.
But its all a big secret, and so together we all feel alone.
Then one day I find a word- or all the words. And I find someone to tell.
Maybe they are the right person; they give me goggles, so I can see through the waves. And give me a snorkel, so I can breathe. They show me my feet and tell me how to pull myself from the thick, sticky sand.
And they cannot stay with me the whole time, but maybe they can sit with me on the shore while I catch my breath.
And then the sun can begin to rise, and the mist may clear and life begins to feel ok again.

But it always seems to cycle.

And soon again, I’m drowning.
Or maybe not always, but often enough that my knees are bruised and my elbows are scraped from falling again and again.
But I feel ok for just long enough to catch my breath.
And one day, I hope, I will have my goggles and snorkel with me always- and I won’t need someone to bring it to me. My legs will be strong enough to carry my small, heavy rock. My thigh will be calloused enough so that when my molten lava hits it, I do not fall over.
Until then, I feel happy to know there are lifeguards on the shore, and that some days my rock sits quietly in my pocket and I’m able to forget that it’s there.

And there are other things that make me feel strong and steady and very happy.

Like Willow.
And I’m not always perfect, and sometimes she throws my rock in my face and I melt into the ground and grow into a monster. And when the rock shrinks back into my pocket I feel so sad and guilty.
But I can hug her and say sorry.
She always seems to forgive me for being imperfect. And I’m learning how to forgive myself.
She seems to feed me a steady stream of light and love, which gives me strength and makes me feel safe and happy.

And I tell myself again and again,
“I will be ok, I will be ok”.

Willow Moon, my sun my moon  and my stars.

Today, I Was Triggered

Today I was triggered.

It happened early in the day. I woke up tired, so tired. But I was happy, I was ok.
I looked out of my bedroom window. My small bedroom inside of a shelter, where I sleep alone with my daughter.
It wasn’t raining, just wet, it was dim and the air looked wet. It looked so comfortable.
I blinked, not a normal quick blink, the type that lasts years and years and sends images of memories running through your head. I was in Redding, waking up for school, living with my mom and my brother.
And for a moment, without quite realizing it, I became sad, so sad.
My eyes got heavy, and my mind became wet with thoughts and feelings.

Then, in the shower, with soap all over my body, the water pressure slowed gradually until nothing came out. I stood there for a few moments, trying to wash the soap off myself with the final, cold drips falling from the pipes.
Willow smiled up at me and reached to be picked up.

While we were getting ready Willow began to cry. She whined, and reached, and yelled a few times. She wanted something, but I didn’t know what it was.
I made a conscious effort to keep hold of my patience and not become upset with her. We both just felt a lot and needed a moment.
So we sat in bed, half dressed, and read a few books and had some quiet time.
By the time we were ready, we both felt a little better.

Then, leaving a few minutes later than I intended, I stepped outside.
Again, I was triggered.

The air was filled with a smell and a feeling and a look that filled me with a feeling of memory.
Someone came from behind me and hit me in the back with a bag of feelings and thoughts and half-memories.

Nostalgia.

The memories weren’t whole; they were feelings that were happy and sad, and thoughts that were too fuzzy to really be thoughts. No actual memories came. It was a feeling of memory.
As I walked, I felt somber.
I was also really content. The air smelled so good, and I felt very mindful. I enjoyed the foggy air, and I felt calm and able to observe everything around me.

Suddenly, I would feel sad, or have an intense longing for something, although I wasn’t sure what for exactly.
I would look at a building, one I see every day, and it was as if I had just noticed it was there. Suddenly, I would be clubbed with this feeling of memory.
I saw the water through the buildings and felt a strong urge to wander.
I felt no urgency or sense of time, almost as if I had been suspended into my own universe, within the outside world but separated by a strong sense of awareness.
Or something like that.

As I continued to walk, I thought about how I felt, I wrote about it in my head.
My contentedness grew into a subtle happiness. I felt so calm.

The wind blew my hair over my eyes and nose. The smell of shampoo filled my nostrils.

Again this wave hit me.
No actual memories.
But the bodily sensation of being somewhere I wasn’t.
The nostalgia.
A vague mixture of happiness and sadness.
And many thoughts I couldn’t quite place or identify.

Today I was triggered.
And I’ve never quite handled it so well, and I’m so glad I was.

Spring is almost here! To celebrate, here is Willow destroying nature. (P.S. I do not pick flowers or disturb nature, someone gave this to us)

Uncomfortable, For Now.

**I posted this blog on March 23rd, and accidentally deleted it while editing** Repost**
March 23rd, 2018

I hate where I live.

Yesterday, as a group, we were told that we would be on lockdown. For three weeks. Three weeks trapped in the house, being punished for the actions of the other women I live with.
I feel angry, so incredibly angry.
And I want to scream and be juvenile; I feel the strong urge to act out, show them how stupid and senseless this is.
But I am trying so very hard to resist this urge.
I am reminding myself that what is most important, is my daughter, and her wellbeing. I am going to remind myself that she will not realize how unhappy I am unless I show her. But I am struggling.

I live in a shelter, and I am constantly being judged based on the assumption that I have wound up here by some wrong-doing I have committed.
In reality, I came here as a result of domestic violence.

I lived in my own apartment, paid my bills, and had a savings account.
And then my relationship changed. Or maybe it didn’t really change, maybe I just woke up one day.
My awakening happened so gradually that I rejected each sign that I should leave.
And when I tried to look at it, it was only for a moment.

Slowly, the savings account disappeared. My belongings were taken or broken. I was convinced that my friends and family were horrible and no good for me. And I was no good, too.
I was promiscuous, crazy, a druggie. I flirted with everyone I spoke with. Said too much, was so embarrassing and stupid. Dramatic. I was so lucky to be loved by him and would never be loved by anyone else. I was so hard to love, I wasn’t too likeable. He was special for putting up with me.
And sometimes, I was a good mom, I tried my best, even though I was usually still bad. I was good company sometimes.
I believed it all, and never questioned it.

He handed me a mask, and I taped it to my face without any thought. At some point, I forgot it was just a mask.
Then I realized I was unhappy, and as I realized one thing was off, it all suddenly came slamming down in front of me.

And then something scary happened.
It wasn’t the first time.
But it pushed me out, I had been looking for a good excuse to leave anyways, but this was a reason to run.
And so I did.

I looked back a lot at first.
And now, months later, I feel happy. I’m feel proud. I am beginning to feel like myself again.
I still see him, talk to him, I still think of him as my friend, sometimes I think maybe I love him. Sometimes I hate him, so much. But things feel weirdly normal, and I am ok.

I cannot wait to leave this place, this dark angry place. This shelter is hard to be at.
But I remember that nothing lasts forever.

I remember staying up late at night, crying, laying next my sleeping baby because I felt so trapped. And I wanted to escape, and get out but I didn’t know how and I didn’t even know if I had the right to feel that way. And then, slowly but suddenly, I did. I set my intention, and I left. And I know that nothing lasts forever, and that is especially true for things that are painful and uncomfortable.

Life is not supposed to be good always.

And it is not bad always, and it won’t be. One day soon, Willow and I will wake up in our own bed, in our own home and we will be happy and comfortable and at peace.

(My beautiful Bear a few months ago around Christmas)

Flight

My chest is tight.
I am screaming out loud to a room full of people, and no one is listening.
My eyes are wet with tears. I am crying out for help. I am getting nothing from the people surrounding me. No response. No sign of help.

My vision is blurring. I am desperately searching for a focus point, but I am having trouble finding one. Fight or Flight is kicking in. Flight is going to win. Flight always wins. I have to get out of here.

This is a panic attack from the inside. These are the feelings that take over my body. I lose control. Everything I had been working so hard toward slips away from me. I am no longer in control of me.

It is terrifying.

***

I was humbled to be invited to be a speaker on the panel at Norwalk High School’s showing of Angst, a film that explores anxiety, its causes, and its effects. I was asked to provide a description of my reactions to the film, as well as invited to answer questions from the crowd. 

Someone in the crowd asked a question that went something like this:

what advice would you give parents with children who are battling an anxiety disorder?

My immediate thoughts came together and I responded with my go-to response, which is generally the following: Parents who are looking to help their children fight the good fight, I would encourage you to explore all options before deciding to medicate your child. I understand that when a doctor you trust tells you to put your child on any kind of medication, you listen to them. You want the best for your children. Who wouldn’t?

I stand by this. As an adult who was medicated as a child and is now dealing with the lifelong consequences of a decision that wasn’t mine in the first place, I want parents to be able to find the information that they need and the skills that they need to be able to provide the best care and support for their children.

As I was thinking about this question after the discussion was over (and for most of today, because, you know… anxiety), I would like to add more to my answer.

Parents, I encourage you to talk to your children. Speak to them with a real voice, and speak to them with intent to listen. And then listen, really REALLY listen to what your child has to say to you. Encourage your child to speak his or her mind. Make “talking about your feelings” a regular topic of conversation. (“How is your noggin doing today?” is a good way to get started if you are stuck. Thanks for that, Matthew.)

As an adult living with an anxiety disorder, I have mastered the art of wearing different costumes in different situations. I wear several costumes- including (but not limited to): Miss Tangredi-teacher of fifth graders, Olivia the Ballerina-fearless while dancing, Sunny’s Mom-the hired help assigned to feeding my cat…. the list goes on and on.

These costumes are my protective gear. My armor. They are what I wrap myself in to protect myself from harm that the outside world brings. I imagine most children living with an anxiety disorder have their own costumes that they wear. As children, we are not taught how to use language to describe the anxiety disorder we are living with. Most of us don’t even realize there is a problem. For a long time, I thought everyone was terrified of elevators. Why wouldn’t they be?

Encourage your children to build their own armor. Help them build it. Learn and teach them coping skills. Teach them to ask for help when they need it. Create an environment that makes your child feel safe. Ask them questions that make them feel valuable and important. Make sure your child knows that their feelings are valid- that THEY are valid.

Fighting with time

Willows’ Birthday Week

February 21, 2018

Every night, since the day Willow was born, I have nursed her to sleep. For almost 1 year, no matter where we were, what we did, or what was going on, chest to chest, we would lay down together and willow would nurse until she fell asleep.
Tonight, Willow fell asleep without nursing. We laid in bed together, calm, tired and peaceful. Willows cheek on my chest. We looked at each other and spoke softly and touched each other’s faces and smiled for almost 30 minutes until Willow fell asleep.
These small moments of independence are incredible. In that, they are painfully difficult to experience and simultaneously exciting and wonderful and amazing to witness.
This beautiful small person is doing what all small people do; which is to grow up and change at an alarming rate.
And I am left only one option, which is to hold on to a rope which is constantly running through my hands, knowing one day I will have no choice but to let go of it.

February 22, 2018

Willow will be one on Monday. I am filled with this gut-wrenching feeling.
Although I am incredibly happy and excited, I am filled with sadness and guilt.
I look at her, and she looks exactly the same as the day I lay in a hospital bed in New Haven, and a wet naked newborn was placed on my chest. But then, I blink. And suddenly, she’s not an infant, not a baby, she’s a young girl. I see her face and the world behind her bright eyes. Her fierce spirit shines through and pierces my heart.
I feel like throwing up. I look back at pictures of her months ago and suddenly realize that she has changed so much, and so quickly.
It feels as though all these changes have happened slowly yet suddenly; somehow each time I turn my head she changes, yet most days it’s so subtle that I don’t realize it’s happening. Then one day I’m looking at my newborn baby, but she’s not really a newborn; she’s almost a toddler, and I fall to pieces wondering how time has flown past me without even realizing it.
And I cannot get time back- when it leaves me it’s gone forever. My baby is both the youngest she’ll ever be again and the oldest she’s ever been. Each moment I’m suspended in this incredible fight with time. Watching my child grow, joyfully as I am in awe of what a beautiful little person she is. And fearfully, as it is constant and fast and terrifying.

Guilt sets in as I ask myself,
Am I taking it all in? Am I really appreciating this relatively small amount of time I have with Willow? Or am I constantly rushing? Ignoring life and constantly finishing ‘tasks’. While my focus on what matters blurs and I hone in on things that sneak into my vision; drudging forward, while pushing aside small moments that may slip through my hands like water flows surely through a stream?

Thankfully, I have one thing that returns power to my shaking hands.
That is, that I know of time. I know of time, and it’s constant flow, I know of the pain it will cause if I handle it incorrectly.
And I have power. Power to change the way I look at life, change the way I prioritize everything that “matters”. I will hold my mistakes tightly- I won’t let them slip pass me, with the intention of self-love. No, I will carry them in my pockets, and pull them out when I need a reminder of who I want to be and what is truly important. And someday when they become dead weight, I may let them go.

And to my beautiful girl, for whom my heart beats,
You are the most important thing in my life. The love I feel for you is strong enough to cause my heart pain. I know that may sound silly and odd, but one day you may understand. Happy Birthday, Willow Moon.

The week before your birthday

Willows Birthday Week

February 21, 2018
Every night, since the day Willow was born, I have nursed her to sleep. For almost 1 year, no matter where we were, what we did, or what was going on, chest to chest, we would lay down together and willow would nurse until she fell asleep.
Tonight, Willow fell asleep without nursing. We laid in bed together, calm, tired and peaceful. Willows cheek on my chest. We looked at each other and spoke softly and touched each other’s faces and smiled for almost 30 minutes until Willow fell asleep.
These small moments of independence are incredible. In that, they are painfully difficult to experience and simultaneously exciting and wonderful and amazing to witness.
This beautiful small person is doing what all small people do; which is to grow up and change at an alarming rate.
And I am left only one option, which is to hold on to a rope which is constantly running through my hands, knowing one day I will have no choice but to let go of it.

February 22, 2018
Willow will be one on Monday. I am filled with this gut-wrenching feeling.
I am so happy and excited, but so incredibly sad and guilty.
I look at her, and she looks exactly the same as the day I lay in a hospital bed in New Haven, and a wet naked newborn was placed on my chest. But then, I blink. And suddenly, she’s not an infant, not a baby, she’s a young girl. I see her face and the world behind her bright eyes. Her fierce spirit shines through and pierces my heart.
I feel like throwing up. I look back at pictures of her months ago and suddenly realize that she has changed so much, and so quickly.
It feels as though all these changes have happened slowly yet suddenly; somehow each time I turn my head she changes, yet most days it’s so subtle that I don’t realize it’s happening. Then one day I’m looking at my newborn baby, but she’s not really a newborn; she’s almost a toddler, and I fall to pieces wondering how time has flown past me without even realizing it.
And I cannot get time back- when it leaves me it’s gone forever. My baby is both the youngest she’ll ever be again and the oldest she’s ever been. Each moment I’m suspended in this incredible fight with time. Watching my child grow, joyfully as I am in awe of what a beautiful little person she is. And fearfully, as it is constant and fast and terrifying.
Guilt sets in as I ask myself,
Am I taking it all in? Am I really appreciating this relatively small amount of time I have with Willow? Or am I constantly rushing? Ignoring life and constantly finishing ‘tasks’. While my focus on what matters blurs and I hone in on things that sneak into my vision; drudging forward, while pushing aside small moments that may slip through my hands like water flows surely through a stream?

Thankfully, I have one thing that returns power to my shaking hands.
That is, that I know of time. I know of time, and it’s constant flow, I know of the pain it will cause if I handle it incorrectly.
And I have power. Power to change the way I look at life, change the way I prioritize everything that “matters”. I will hold my mistakes tightly- I won’t let them slip pass me, with the intention of self-love. No, I will carry them in my pockets, and pull them out when I need a reminder of who I want to be and what is truly important. And someday when they become dead weight, I may let them go.

And to my beautiful girl, for whom my heart beats,
You are the most important thing in my life. The love I feel for you is strong enough to cause my heart pain. I know that may sound silly and odd, but one day you may understand. Happy Birthday, Willow Moon.

Stages of life

This week I have been thinking a lot about the different stages in my life.

Luz posted something on the forum about changing your expectations of yourself, and reaching goals you may have never thought yourself capable of. She talked about what her life used to look like, and how she once did not believe she was capable of achieving “normalcy”.
That made me think a lot about my past; where I’ve come from, where I’ve gone, where I’m at now. And most importantly, how I got there, and here. What did it take to go through each age and stage of my life? Where did I go (both good and bad) that I never imagined myself going? How did it change me?

Then today something else happened that hurled me years and years into my past.

I met someone- well didn’t meet, more met again. When I introduced myself she instantly remembered me- we were roommates and friends in the hospital together when I was 12.

That was over ten years ago, and the first time (of over 15) I was put in a psychiatric hospital.
At that point in my life, it was one of the most profound experiences I’d ever had. So much happened in those 7 months (it was technically 3 separate stays, but with only a few days of being discharged in between) that shaped and transformed me.

I cannot help but find myself entombed in thoughts and memories. Reminiscing about a time in my life that was both incredibly painful, scary, and difficult; but also comfortable, safe, and sometimes even very happy. These memories are similar to falling in a rose bush. I’m surrounded by beautiful flowers, and covered in wounds. I feel a small light in my stomach, but enclosed within a deep pit full of sadness.

And then I begin to think about what happened after I left the hospital.

From there my life fell apart.
From there my journey with mental illness began; and has not ended since.
And from there I grew and changed in many ways- both good and bad.

From memories of my first hospitalization, come painful memories of all that ensued afterward; essentially my entire family falling apart both separately and together over a period of 5 years.
What each tragedy encompassed.
How it felt, and I don’t just remember the feeling, I experience it.

I am once again a 14 year old girl stuffing 200 pills down her throat.

Then, I am 16 years old, saying “no” to a 24 year old man, who was too high to listen.
I am 17 years old and waking up from a coma after a suicide attempt I don’t remember making, because all the seizures that resulted from it damaged my memory.
Again and again I am experiencing the traumas I left behind years ago.

And it’s like being beaten with a bat.
I cannot catch my breath enough to beg for it to stop.

Where am I in time and how do I find my way back here?

How do I accept all that’s happened and the place I’m at now when all I want to do I reject it and bury my mind in a deep pit of sand?

It’s so strange how things continue to change at such a rapid pace. It’s all the time and we have no say as to whether or not it happens. Against our will we are under a constant transformation that will only cease to exist when we do.

How do I swallow the fact that I once wanted to die?
That many times I tried to kill myself?
That I hurt myself every day for years?
How do I move forward knowing at one time in my life I would cry thinking about how much I hated myself?
And that at one time I was a teenager and watching my life crumble before me; terrified and powerless.

I ask how do I do this because really, it wasn’t that long ago. And really, I’m still the same person.

Except now I have a daughter and life and set of responsibilities that I was never supposed to have.  I was never supposed to be here. I don’t think I ever planned on being 22.
Yet against my own will, transformations occurred. And somehow, without my knowledge or consent, I began to get better.

What about the times that that old, familiar dark place seems most comfortable?

It’s funny how small things can begin large, unmanageable spirals. Like hearing a song, or smelling something vaguely familiar. And how simple things, like writing this blog post can begin to bring me back into realignment- even if it’s without my consent or intent.

I come back to a place of normalcy where I remember that sadness is not safety. And that I’m no longer a child, and no longer without control or power.

And most importantly, I am responsible for a little girl. Who needs me and wants me. And it’s my job to be there for her, and be good to her. And I promise to her, and myself, and the entire universe that I will not fail her and I will always try as hard as I can to be what she needs.

Trying to be perfect in an imperfect world

I am a perfectionist.

 

Many people may believe that perfectionism is a good quality to have. Yet those who live with unrealistic standards and crippling anxiety understand the plight of someone who sets standards they cannot possibly reach, and the sorrow of the continuous failure and disappointment they must deal with when they believe everything must always be perfect. This is what it feels like to be a perfectionist…

When I was a little girl, I had so many ideas about what my life was supposed to be like. I thought everything had to be perfect; especially me. I had a carefully arranged and thoroughly thought out plan of what perfect was. When things deviated from that, I fell apart.
As I got older, it became harder and harder to live up to the expectations I had created for myself. People rarely lived up to my ideals. Slowly, this began to break me.
It was strange, the way I fell apart; in many ways, my demise was self-created. Yet, even with a sense of recognition, I could not stop myself. It was a cycle that I had made with my own two hands, stepped in willingly, but could not find the strength to jump out of. My brain had begun to betray me at a young age and has not stopped since.

I remember being in Elementary school, and deciding quite concretely what it took to be ‘successful’, which was synonymous with being ‘good enough’.

I had to get good grades, which meant I had to get all A’s because being good enough wasn’t good enough and in order to succeed, I had to be the best. When I graduated High School with my perfect grades, I had to go to college. But not just college; I had to go to Harvard. I had to follow the expectations I had set, and thrive within the pressure cooker I had built around myself. If I faltered in even small ways, it was a massive, unforgivable failure on my part. And worse than failure was being a disappointment, which was, by all means, the absolute worst thing I could do.

Unfortunately, the world did not follow the standards I expected it to, and I felt powerless to change it. I could not stop my mom from dropping me off to school late every single day, yet I still cried like a baby and yelled that I would never go to college if I couldn’t get to second grade on time. People would put things back in the ‘wrong’ place, and I would crumble. I, like everyone in the world, would lose control constantly. Yet, unlike the rest of my peers, I seemed unable to swallow this and move forward without first falling to the floor in a puddle of tears, or hitting my head against a wall, or screaming and screaming until my little lungs cracked and burned.
As I got older, I began to reason that if things were imperfect, out of my control, or lower than my standards, that rather than accepting the loss of control and disappointment, I would willingly fail. Willingly handing over my power was easier than having it fall from my grip, despite my efforts.

Now, I am no longer a little girl.

I still struggle with the expectation of perfection I unconsciously set for myself. Yet, consciously I fight the notion and try to set new standards.
If I ever spoke to Willow the way I used to speak to myself, my heart would shatter into a million pieces. If she ever spoke to or thought of herself in the way I used to think of myself, I don’t believe I could carry the sadness that would veil my heart. So instead of teaching her to love herself, I will learn how to love myself. She will watch her mom be kind and forgiving to herself, see how she accepts the ebbs and flows of life, and witness her open her palms to the universe to receive what is handed to her. And with time, she too will do the same.

perfectionist

My mom and me in my Great Aunts’ house in Jacksonville, FL.

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Me, in my favorite hat

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My anxiety due to the high standards I constantly set for myself peaked in my freshman year of High School

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My beautiful daughter, who is and will always be perfect simply for being herself

Guilt, Anxiety, and Fear: Motherhood

When I wake up it starts.

I probably didn’t sleep very well- or maybe I did and I wanted to sleep longer.
I probably got woken up a few times last night to nurse you back to sleep. There were probably a few times you were restless and tossed and turned while you tried to get comfortable.

Guilt;
I remember being woken up over and over again, exhaustion, panic because I know I’m tired and need so much more sleep than I will get. Frustrated because I so desperately want to sleep as peacefully as I imagine you do. Anger because I cannot and anticipation of how exhausted I will feel in the morning.

Fear of never being able to sleep again.

Dread;
I dread waking up in this place, putting you in daycare, being alive and monotonously going through the day.

Collapsing into a puddle, I break, I lose my patience. I’m not fully awake and not fully human. Maybe I harshly say,
“stop.”
Or angrily beg you to go back to sleep. Or worse, maybe I just lay there, don’t look at you or talk to you, just sit in a heaping puddle of uncomfortable emotions.

When I wake up, probably a little while before you did, a realization comes to me as I see how beautiful and peaceful you are. I realize the impatience that took over me hours earlier.

I’m a terrible mother- a terrible person, in fact.

I lost my patience. I scared you, upset you, and damaged you. An intense wave of sadness covers me and I feel desperate to go backward in time. A pit grows in my stomach as I know I cannot do that and must only go forwards. I want to hold you, I want to cry, I want to be perfect for you and I want to be happy with you always.

Regret, fear, dread, anger, exhaustion, guilt, sadness.
Over and over again, every day.

I wonder what I am doing wrong. There are many, many things I know; many mistakes. I wonder how much they are damaging you, and in what ways.
I want to fix them all- be perfect and wonderful and exactly what you need and want. But when I try to think of my wrong-doings I cannot pinpoint them all.
It’s looking for hay in a haystack- it’s all there and it’s all the same, and it’s all wrong. I can hardly do anything right for you. Maybe I do what I believe is good, but soon I will find it is, in fact, wrong. I have hurt or damaged you in some unknown, and therefore gigantic, way. Worst of all, I cannot take any of it back.

Paralyzed with fear but continuously pushed forward by the current of life.
I’m stuck in a riptide.

But my love for you grows each day. It’s a painful love that fills me simultaneously with joy, and a deep despair and fear.
I wonder about all the things I must prevent. All the possibilities. So much can go wrong. So many scary, seemingly unpreventable things swirling around us in this world. I want to protect you but fear I cannot.

I feel out of control.

But then a beautiful day happens.
You grab my checks with two soft, warm hands and look into my eyes.
Or you crawl to me, laugh, kiss me.
You let me hold you and hug you and you hold me back.
And for a moment, my fears melt away, so that I’m standing in a deep puddle, soaking wet but dripping dry. We stand alone in the dark for a moment, and my brain gives me time to love you in peace.

I realize that these moments can grow. That if I make myself a farmer and equip myself with fertilizer and pesticides and gain the knowledge to grow a garden that we can be happy. I can rake out sadness and anxiety to make room for big, bright, beautiful happiness.

I will call myself a farmer and you will be my seeds, my water, and my sun.

To those who helped me

Having anxiety feels like I’m swimming. I’m in a giant ocean, and my body is heavy and exhausted. I’m doggy paddling and struggling to keep my head up at all times. I keep swallowing water, and going under, but somehow I don’t drown. Somehow I’m able to keep going. There are moments when big waves swell up and carry me where I need to go, with little effort on my part. Sometimes I get to dry land and lay there, exhausted, and rest until I’m able to swim once again.
Having anxiety with a baby is like when you were a kid in the pool, barely swimming yourself, when your friend suddenly grabs hold of your shoulders for stability and pulls you under. Its a terrifying moment, and you can’t yell for help without swallowing water.
Being angry, and overwhelmed, and tired, and hungry are normal. They’re parts of everybody’s life. When you have a child, sometimes you feel like a child, too. On the verge of a meltdown, with no way of calmly expressing your feelings or needs, feeling like they don’t matter, anyways. And you have to push away what you’re going through because it’s not your child’s fault, and they need you, and if you were to break, who would be there for them? But sometimes it feels like I need my mom. Sometimes it feels like I want to sit and cry because its almost 6 pm and I barely ate, and I’m tired, and life is too much in this moment. And I want my mom to hold me and tell me she understands and loves me.
Being a mom feels lonely sometimes. It feels like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders and I’m the only one who can hold it, and if I were to put it down something terrible would happen.
Sometimes I feel guilty. So guilty I feel like I cannot sit with my feelings or thoughts without breaking.
Sometimes I feel angry and I don’t know why.
Sometimes I feel stuck; so stuck. And so angry that I feel stuck, and guilty that I’m angry, and lonely because I must be the only person going through this and everyone else must be handling their lives and their feelings so much better than I am.
And then I remember, this is not the first time in my life I felt as though I was drowning.

Right before my family reached a climax of suffering, and we all broke, and then somehow, although not perfectly, rebuilt each of our lives seperately; we moved. We moved from our house in Redding that we had lived in since I was 8, to an apartment in New Canaan. I was 16. The suffering that we as a family experienced both induvidually and seperatley increased rapidly, and would not stop or slow down. I was so scared. And sad and angry and confused.
I described this feeling as being in the middle of a big ocean. I was on a rickety raft that was barely afloat. Holes kept popping up and threatening to drown us, somehow I stuffed whatever I had into these holes and kept us alive. I kept calling out for help. Screaming frantically with tears streaming down my face; but it felt like no one could hear me. Like those nightmares when you’re yelling, but nothing comes out. Sometimes a boat or Island would pass and I would scream and wave my arms for help. Most of the times we would pass by unnoticed- sometimes a life jacket would be thrown, just missing us, and we would float away.
I remeber one time the police got called. We were all fighting. 211 came. We were referred to see a counselour in Stamford. His name was Larry.
Immediately he recognized the suffering and dysfunction we had all learned to cope with. He spoke to my brother and I as though he knew we were drowning, but also knew we were too afraid to ask for help- or maybe too beaten down by life to expect it. My brother clung to him- I pushed him. He told us he understood what we were experiencing- all of it- even the hideous anger I had learned to greet the world with. He didn’t hate me for it, even though I hated myself for it.
We were at an odd age, where the state allows you to refuse help, and I did exactly that. He could not force me to take the life jacket he was offering. So I didn’t, even though I had hoped for it, and I don’t really know why I did that. Maybe I thought it was littered with holes, or filled with sand. Often I told myself my suffering wasn’t that bad. I remember not wanting to get my mom in trouble, or tear our family apart. So I became big and strong enough to push him away.
I wouldn’t go to school. He came to my house one day. He told me he wanted to help me. I told him I didn’t need or want any help. He said that he knew me, he knew that when I said no, I didn’t mean no, that sometimes I was too afraid to say yes. I told him he didn’t know anything about me, and that that wasn’t true; even though I was shocked by how true it was, and by how much he must have truly understood me. In my head I was begging him to help me, to disregard everything that came out of my lying, terrified mouth.

He knew I had little motivation to do anything, much less go to school, he said he would believe that I didn’t need help if I went to school every day that week. We both knew that was as likely as one of us hitting the lottery. But I said I would. I asked if he would leave me alone if I went to school every day that week, and believe that I was fine. He said he would.
For some reason I went to school every day that week. It was the first time in years.
I never saw him again.
It’s something I’ve felt regret, guilt, shame, and sadness about many days since then.
In the past two or so years, I’ve thought about Larry many days. I’ve wanted to call him. To thank him and apologize, and tell him about my life now, and cry to him about how everything fell apart shortly after he left. But tell him that I was ok, that we were all ok, and he was right.
But I have never been able to do it. I don’t know why.
On Thursday, I found out that Larry died last year.
I was immediately filled with guilt. Guilt for pushing him away when all he wanted was to help me and my brother, to understand us, and give us what we needed. And sadness, a lot of sadness. Because I would never be able to thank him, or more importantly, to apologize for my anger and fear.
I sat outside a little after finding this out and closed my eyes, I allowed my head to become filled with sadness. I tried to connect my spirit with the universe to send him a message. Tell him what I would have over the phone, not with words, but with my love and energy.
If I could speak to you right now, Larry, I would only be able to thank you. You pulled me out of the depths of the ocean, and brought me to dry land. I only jumped back into the waters because it had become my home. Larry, you showed me what was, and what could have been; you accepted my anger, and reminded me I deserved to be taken care of.
You took part in a life-long task many amazing people have attempted; which is to heal me.
I’m so much better now, and I’m still trying to go further every day. I have a beautiful daughter, and I will be so much better than our moms were to us.
Thank you. S.I.P.

There are many people who come into our lives for both short and long periods. I’m reminded constantly, that its not the quantity of time these people are with us, but the quality. Death and regret remind us to be calm and be slow. To say thank you and I love you and I’m glad that you’re here.

Sad girl; strong mom

When I was a kid, there was a lot of uncertainty in my life.
One day things would be amazing; hopeful, happy, and calm. Suddenly, without warning or clear cause, things would dramatically change. Whether it was my family’s financial situation, my moms mood or pain, or my own mental wellness- there was no stable branch for me or my brother to lean on; if there was, the continuance of that stability was always unknown.
I think we both learned at an early age, that it was our expectations which caused the greatest disappointment, and our disappointment that caused the greatest pain.
I remember when I was about 7, my mom got sick. I remember it like a dream; I know there is a vivid memory somewhere deep within my subconscious, but I cannot assess it, so when I try to retrieve it, it’s choppy and blurred. Regardless, I remember feeling as though nothing was wrong, and then suddenly everything was. I remember a lot of confusion. I was scared, and I missed my mom; I remember confusion and fear mostly. She was taken to a hospital. We had no family, and my mom had very few friends, most of whom she barley talked to. So for a week or so, I went to our closest family friends house. They lived in the city, we used to go to school together. It was fun to be there, it felt like a long sleepover. Then after a short time, they had to go on vacation. From there, we had various babysitters who stayed with us and watched my brother and I. Most of them we didn’t know as well as we should have, some of them we barely knew. That is one of my first “black-hole” memories. When I think of that time I feel a deep pit, that extends from my heart to my stomach and makes me close my eyes for a moment. Its hard to think about.
When she came home a long time later, I had turned 8, and she had turned very, very sad. She had more than one back surgery while she was gone, gotten a severe staph infection, and began to suffer from chronic, debilitating pain. She was so different.
I had barley seen her that entire time. I was so happy she was with us again, but she was so different.
We had babysitters stay with us because she was too sad and in too much pain to fulfill her duties as our mother. She had her own black hole.
She wore a brace, and took a lot of medication that made her sleepy. When it wore off, it made her very sick and uncomfortable. She yelled a lot, and was hardly happy, it felt. I took on a new role. I don’t remember if I decided to take on the role, or whether it was shoved into my arms and was simply too burdensome to place down. Regardless, my job suddenly became to make her better. I don’t think I knew exactly what that role entailed or how I would fulfill it. I began desperately trying to pull happiness from her, take away her pain, make our world happy and light.
I, of course, failed over and over again. I became a failure. Yet, I could not stop myself from delving into this role each day. Although each failure brought new and more intense sadness upon me, this was a disappointment I could not seem to walk away from.
Even as a teenager, angry and solemn and horrendously resentful against my mother and life, I continued to step into my heavy shoes each day and walk into fire. I laid down each night, still burning, and woke up to once again be the fixer.
Although I no longer live with my mom, and I’m no longer a confused child or angry teenager, I find myself fighting the pain it created each day.

I don’t know how to be a good mom. Most days I wake up and try to wing it, or go with what feels natural and right. I feel sure that I’m failing once more each day. And yet, like I did as a child, I continue to throw myself into a role I’m quite uncertain of how to fulfill.
I pray to the universe, or whatever I believe in, that I don’t fail Willow. My heart is so heavy at times and my head full of thoughts and fears and hopes and dreams.
I know for certain there are many ways to be a good mother; to raise Willow to be a strong person and healthy adult. I’m quite sure as well, there are even more ways to fail her.
I wish I could read a book, take a class, or swallow a pill that would turn me into the mother and person I wish I were.
I guess the only way to become that person is to continue to do what I’m doing; wake up each day and dive into the flames. Although I know there are things I ought to leave behind as I move forward, perhaps I will shed them naturally, and evolve organically into the person I’d like to be.
I hope that as each day ends I become a stronger, happier, and better mother and woman; and that one day Willow remembers her childhood will happiness and love.
Until then, I will continue to walk through flames for her.

Willow and I on Thanksgiving, Willow on Thanksgiving, and me when I was six

Letting go of the past and looking forward to the future

It was another hard week. It moved slowly yet quickly, and I struggled to catch up with myself almost every step of the way.
I met with my psychiatrist on Tuesday. We talked about starting medication again. It was a continuance of an ongoing conversation; one I will probably never stop having with my providers.
When I got pregnant I was taking a handful of different medications. Each did something different, and supposedly they held hands and worked together to safely guide me through my days. I didn’t really know how they made me feel. It was hard to tell if they helped or not, and which ones worked: or if only one worked and the rest simply hid behind one another. When I decided to keep Willow it was clear that I had to come off of all my medications.
So, for the first time in nearly ten years I was raw. I had had periods of not being medicated in the past, but these were short-lived and unsupervised.
Being pregnant and un-medicated was Hell. Not just for me, but for everyone around me. When I reached a peak of suffering, I ‘gave in’. I know, really, I was only doing what was best for me and Willow; the stress I was under was worse than what any medication could have probably done to her. The relief I felt from only a little bit of Zoloft was almost miraculous. For the first time in almost 7 months, I finally began to enjoy my pregnancy.
After giving birth, I was on a cloud; I was incredible, strong, and resilient, I was a powerful woman, and needed nothing. I was in awe of my perfect, precious baby. Seeing her in person made her seem so much more fragile. How could I take medication while breastfeeding, not knowing the potential risk? Besides, I felt amazing. So once again, I stopped taking my medication because I thought it was what was best for my daughter. Almost nine months later, I am still not taking any medication.
But I wonder sometimes. Is this really the right thing? I know I could feel better than I do, that taking a small dose of something would probably lift me up a little, relieve me of some of my anxiety; of the obsessive thoughts and worrying I have about Willow. But what would it do to her? Her brain is still developing-what would messing with her serotonin levels do to her? Once I start down that road of thoughts- I have to shut myself down. Instantly, I begin to worry, to panic. I get a headache and my eyes feel heavy. The unknown is too much for me. Maybe the stress I feel every day is worse for Willow than an antidepressant creeping into my breastmilk. Maybe it’s fine. But what about the vast grey area of the unknown? The area where I’m falling and falling, and reaching for something to grab hold of- but can never quite grasp? That space is too frightening for me. As scary as life is sometimes for me right now, that area is much more terrifying. So my doctor and I decided that right now I’m ok without medication, I’m not as good as I can be, but I’m ok. I’m in a place where having control over whether or not I take the medication is ok. And that feels good to know. Still, some days I’m unsure.
Am I being the best mom I can be? Am I damaging my amazing daughter? How much of my anxiety is she picking up on, and what is it doing to her?

Yesterday, I cried in front of a stranger. I didn’t mean to; The tears had been building for a few minutes- but I kept catching them. Snatching them and stuffing them down as quickly as I could. But as I sat in front of a guidance counselor at NCC, talking about school, and time, and energy; things I don’t currently have enough of; I could do little to hold back my intense sadness. I cried for a moment, then moved on; embarrassed of how crazy and out of control I must have looked to her. I knew she was probably judging me. Thinking about what a poor, uneducated, helpless young mother I must be. My poor child.

As I sat in the cold waiting for my bus, with Willow sleeping on my chest, my sadness grew. I thought of my life. The life I had before my pregnancy, and the life I was supposed to live; or at least the one I expected to live. Not the part of succumbing to my mental illness, but the fantasy and hope I had, that one day, I would get better. I imagined going to school, having some fun, making money. Building myself up so that one day, I would be able to grow up and have a family. Then I thought about how none of that was possible anymore, at least not how I had wished it would be.

I couldn’t sit in a dorm room with my peers and do homework, and smoke weed, and go to class; couldn’t save up for silly vacations or go on road trips; I had to rush back “home” to make my 6 o’clock curfew. I had to give my daughter a bath and put her to bed; take community college courses one by one, while working, and raising Willow. I have to throw aside my selfish wants and needs and drudge forward for the well-being of my child.

In that moment, I regretted becoming a mother. Not because I hate it, or because I don’t love Willow with every force within me; but because I wasn’t ready for motherhood. And I had to sit with the sadness of knowing I had committed to a life-long task I wasn’t prepared to take on. Knowing that I can’t turn back, or press pause, or share the weight of Willows life with anyone but myself. And again, I cried. In front of many strangers. Except this time I couldn’t wonder what they must have been thinking because I was too full of sorrow.

When I got on the bus I called my brother. He and I went through Hell and back with one another. The Hell I’m referring to is our childhood. But he had a separate burden to bear. One that I had the privilege of ignoring. That burden was watching me self-destruct. Nonetheless, he never once left my side; even though I accused him of doing so many times, even though I tried to push him away and lock him out, and even though at many times, I was a horrible sister.
He made me feel better. Not just because he spoke in an Australian accent and made fun of Trump. He and I are proof that even the most traumatic and damaging childhoods do not have to ruin a person. That despite prolonged suffering, a hurt child can still grow into an intelligent and kind adult.
And that reminded me of another thing, although I’m “not where I (want) to be, (at least) I’m not where I used to be” (Joyce Meyer). In the past years, I have grown tremendously. I remember in my adolescence, one of my best friends told me, in a very serious but loving way, that she felt certain one day I would kill myself. That was not the last time somebody told me they were prepared to mourn my death. And I knew, too, that one day I would die, and I felt certain it would be by suicide.
That girl is no longer me, I know she still lives deeply inside, sad, and scared, but she no longer greets me in the mirror. I have made progress in my life I would have never imagined possible, and come to a place I dreamed of several years ago. So while I know where I want to go, and know there is a long way to go until I get there, I find peace in the knowledge that I can look back and see the tremendous mountain I have managed to make it up. I know that it won’t be long before I can look down again, and bask at the progress I made. That will make me a better woman, and a better mother. And although my life won’t ever be perfect, it can be good, and I won’t stop until it is.

Willow Bear thanks you for reading this week!

Good momentum leading to bad days

Do you ever feel like the more you go, the easier it gets?
Until suddenly you realize you’ve built so much momentum that you’re rolling down a hill full speed and can’t stop. Suddenly, you hit a tree, or a wall. And you sit there exhausted, hurt, and dazed. Suddenly, a bunch of debris comes tumbling down the hill and smothers you.

And for a while, you just lay there, underneath it all, unable to bring yourself back up.

But leaves and branches fall from the tree, more debris comes down the hill.

You tell yourself,

“it’s ok”

You’ll take care of it all when you’re able to pick yourself back up.

Then suddenly you’re ten feet deep, and you have no clue how you’ll get yourself out. And the thought of getting yourself out is so overwhelming, that it takes all your energy to even consider getting up.

By some feat, you end up getting up and out. You clean up some of the pile, and the less imposing parts get swept aside. You start back down the hill, and the cycle continues.

Is there a way to stop that cycle? To slow yourself down? Breathe a little more everyday? Be a little more productive? Some how stay on top of your tasks, and your child’s tasks, and your wants and needs, as well as your family’s, and have fun, and eat well, and sleep 8 hours, and go for walks, and plan for your future, and so on and so fourth? Is that possible? Or do you simply gain momentum, moving forward amazingly in one area, or a couple areas of your life, while sneakily neglecting the less pressing parts of your life. Until suddenly, it all catches up with you, and you get knocked over.

I had a hard day today. Nothing in particular happened, or was wrong. A couple of small scratches on top of an old wound and suddenly it’s infected.

I’m worried about my brother. I’m always worried about my mom. I’m mad at Willow’s dad. I hate where I live. I wish I could make more money, go to school, and be the perfect mother. I have about 7 trash bags of clean laundry sitting in my closet that I need to fold and put away. The next 2 days are going to be very busy- and so is most of next week. I have about ten things on my mind that I need to remember. But I know I’ll forget them. I can’t write them down; if I write them down, it’s another to-do list to add to my 20 or so existing to-do lists. I was short with Willow today, all day, because I was so stressed out, and I’m mad at myself for that. It’s the holidays and I’m wondering how I can have a happy thanksgiving and Christmas with my daughter and make it back to the shelter for my 9pm curfew. There are are lot of things about where I live that I dislike and disagree with, and I feel helpless to change them; and angry about that. Willows dad has to move from our old apartment at the end of this month. And even though it’s a new beginning for all of us in a way, I’m heartbroken over the symbolic permanence of the end of our family.

And more and more.

And my mind won’t let up.

I keep trying to remind myself to release these difficult emotions into the universe. To allow my higher power to take some of the weight off my shoulders. But I resist letting go of these thoughts and feelings; I hold on tightly to my anxiety and stress. Why? I don’t know.

I close my eyes, take a deep breath in and out. It’s a relieving breath, that makes me realize I haven’t done that nearly enough today. I open my hands, palms up, to the sky, and allow my mouth to relax and lips to curl into a soft smile (thank you, DBT).

Today wasn’t all bad. I had a small win with my bank (they reimbursed me an overdraft fee). Then I celebrated by getting subway since I was technically $40.00 richer (not really, but I let myself pretend). I talked on the phone with my twin brother, which I do not do nearly enough. He made me laugh, and forget about being angry. I got my laundry done (even though I didn’t fold it or put it away). Willow took a nap in her crib for about 15 minutes; which was incredible considering it’s happened only a handful of times in her 8 months of life. I felt loved by willow. I ate Halloween candy.

I guess what I need is, is to have these days.

Days where everything is hard and stressful and I barley make it through. The kind of day where, when your mom asks you how it went, all you can do is cry.

Sometimes all I can do is open my palms and allow them to come. Sit through the hard days, weeks, and months. Do what I can to survive, and be ok with just surviving.

I can give myself permission to struggle and get behind, and stay behind for a while.

And know that when I’m able, I’ll stand up, pick up the pieces around me little by little, and move forward once more.

I need to keep enjoying my small wins, and finding happiness where it finds me.

I must remember that although it may feel like forever, it’s only for right now.


And this, too shall pass.

This too shall pass

Yesterday Willow turned 8 months old.
It’s hard to believe I have been a mom for almost a year.
Part of me feels as though I have been doing this for nearly a decade. Another half of me feels as though it was only a few weeks ago that I was holding my newborn daughter.

I remember when my daughter was born. Not as vividly as I thought I would recall it; I imagined years later, remembering the color hair tie I wore and the exact emotions I felt as my screaming, naked baby was placed on my chest.
But I remember it.

I remember saying,
“Fuck, fuck, fuck”
in pain- in front of my boyfriends mom, who never heard me swear before. I wanted to apologize, but was too shocked by the pain of labor to actually do it. I remember as I got closer to pushing, the strength of my instincts. I was too focused to doubt myself, so like a dancer preforming a routine I knew by heart, I followed my body’s commands. I went from bed, to ball, to shower, to toilet in a matter of minutes. I groaned, I leaned, I ignored all the noises and people around me. I went inside myself and flowed through the motions of labor.

Then I remember fear.
While I sat up in bed, with my knees by my cheeks, I felt terrified.
The pain I was feeling was more intense and unavoidable than anything I had ever experienced in my life. I knew, that even though I was feeling a pain more intense than I had ever experienced, I could not stop. I could not back out, nor did I want to.
I remember telling my amazing midwife,
“I can’t do this, I can’t do this”
She was calm, confident, and fearless when she told me,
“Yes you can. You’re safe. You’re doing an amazing job”.
Being told I was safe was exactly what I need to hear. I was terrified of the pain I was feeling. It was so intense it felt as though it could kill me. With eyes closed and arms out, I had been flung into a foreign place. I could not see where I was, nor did I know where to go; but I had to find my way through.
I let go of my fear and hesitancy as I listened to my body and ignored my brain. I continued pushing through a level of pain that I’ve never felt before, and through that experienced a new, greater level of pain. I pushed and pushed , with eyes closed tight running forward, I continued, unsure but faithful.
Then a nurse told me that I could reach down and feel my babies head if I wanted to. I put my hand between my legs and and felt my daughters hair.
With new determination, I was sure of what I was doing.
Suddenly, as quickly as it began, it was over.
As my midwife held up my daughter at all I could say was,
“Oh my God, oh my God”.

I had done it. I looked my fear, doubts, and hesitation in its eyes, and continued forward with open willingness.
Giving birth filled me with an ecstasy and pride I had never experienced.
I had known going in to the hospital that millions of women before me had accomplished childbirth. I knew I wanted to have a natural birth. I knew that one way or another, I would have my daughter.
Regardless of this knowledge, of my attempted preparation, I was filled with intense doubt and fear.

I learned, from giving birth many things about myself.

I learned the power of intentions; and that I can do anything I set my mind to.
I learned that discomfort and pain won’t kill you- despite your fears it may. That if you can harness the strength to sit with it- to go through it, not around- that it will end.
I learned about love- real love- and that I had never experienced it before meeting my daughter.
And I finally began to understand the importance of loving myself.

I hope that I will continue to love myself more each day. That I will learn that I want to change for myself, because I love myself; not just because I want to be a good mom.
And I hope that one day soon- I will be the woman I want my daughter to be.
And the woman I want to be.

For now, I will sit with the discomfort of not being in the place I wish I were in.
I will sit with the discomfort of living in a shelter, being employed part time and very poor, and of not having a degree.
I will sit with the discomfort of being a work in progress.

I will continue to move forward, through the pain and sadness of not having the life I want for my daughter, not yet.
I will go through this pain- and during that time learn a great deal more about myself and my life.

And one day soon, Willow and I will be ok.

To the Moon and back

My name is Eliza, I am 22 years old and have a 7-month-old daughter, named Willow.
My life is certainly different in almost every way than I had once imagined it might be. Struggling with mental illness throughout high school, my focus was blurred and my vision of myself and the world seemed an abysmal tomb of hopeless sorrow and pain. After a very proud graduation, 6 years in the making, I thought I had begun to creep from the shadows and began to feel ‘normal’. This feeling of normalcy was a great relief, although it was short lived. I soon found myself overwhelmed with a full-time schedule at college and work, coupled with a life that continued to rush past me at speeds I could not keep up with, despite my efforts. I turned inward, and reached for drugs, alcohol, and self harm to give me relief from life, which seemed to berate and beat me until I was left laying in the dirt, begging for mercy. A deep sadness and resentment towards the world and everyone in it filled my being. Finally, I could no longer stand it and sought help. After 45 days of detox and rehab, I emerged, beaten and wary- but grateful for both my life and sobriety.
Soon after coming home, I met someone, and quickly rushed into a relationship. We officially started dating in April of 2016. By July 6th, 2016 I was 7 weeks pregnant. Feeling I could not face the thought of abortion, I decided I would have my baby. Looking back, its a decision I made quickly, and without brutal honesty with either myself or my boyfriend. Nonetheless, I committed, and though many urged me to terminate my pregnancy, I continued to move forward- sure I was making the right decision. Nine months later, on February 26th, I gave birth to a beautiful, 8 pound 6 oz, girl, Willow Moon. After less than five minutes of crying, she laid silently on my chest and took in the world for hours.
Five months later, my relationship with her dad had been crumbling for what felt like years. How long it actually took, I don’t remember, all I remember are the feelings. Sadness and anger. Suddenly, I was forced to decide to leave or stay in a situation were I feared for our safety at times, and our happiness constantly. Willow Moon and I took what we could, and left quickly. We now live together in less than 100 square feet at a shelter for pregnant women and mothers. And battling life together, we try to be brave and learn what we can from each other. This is our journey to the Moon and back.