It’s My Story – And, I love it.

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It’s always exciting to me when a chapter of my life is drawing to an end. The older I get, the more I am able to look-back on each chapter with pride and contentment. Perhaps this is because so much of my early chapters were filled with struggle, heartache and pain and as I get further away from them, filling my book with more adventures and happy moments, there are simply more memories from which to choose than there once was.
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I am also more excited than I used to be at the start of a new chapter. When I was younger, so much of my life was a blank page and I didn’t understand or fully appreciate the wonder of that.
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I recall when I was in my early 20’s, reflecting on my life and waiting for it to begin. In my mid-20’s, thinking I had experienced so much and yet, still thinking that I was still just waiting for when life would really start for me. At that time, I had only lived a small handful of chapters.
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Even though I somehow, at least on an intellectual level, knew that this was life, that it had begun, I didn’t feel it and I was still waiting.
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I used to meditate on the idea and try to will my whole being to a great epiphany of in-the-moment realization that this was life and it was wondrous. Then, one day, without me even noticing, it just happened.
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I can look-back on so much of my life and see these clear chapters, separations, moments of endings and new beginnings, of loss, of gain, of growth of retreat.
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And it’s all glorious.
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Now, more than when I was young, I revel at those blank pages. I am excited to think what stories, adventures, sites, smells, sounds and memories are going to fill these pages. I have a deeper appreciation for what it means to really be able to “look-back” and reflect on things.
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Natasha Bedingfield sings a song called “Unwritten” that has just started playing in my head as I am writing this:
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Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten.
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One day, years from now, I will be looking-back on this new chapter after it has been finished and I have moved-on to a new one, maybe even several new ones, and I will see the flashes of happy Christmases, sorrows and loss, moments of silliness, mistakes made, feelings of pride as well as accomplishment and, what I’m most looking-forward to, memories that are, heavily, steeped in love.
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I will be changed then, as I am now from the 20 year old me that was so eager for life to start.
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But, one thing will always remain – this is my story.
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And, I love it.
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252 Core Beliefs

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I wanted to check-in. It has been a really rough few months for me and I have been stress-eating, emotional-eating and exhausted-eating far more than I would have liked.

And, while I did gain some weight, I also want to acknowledge that I have managed to maintain my weight within a 5 lbs range fairly well.

Despite the setbacks and many, many, many poor decisions, I still found myself making good choices as well. Sure, I just ate half a pizza…but, I’m going to get up and get all 10,000 steps in plus an extra 500 just to prove to myself that all is not lost. Yes, I had nothing but peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for breakfast, but I will have my green smoothie for lunch.

One thing that continues to be a working point for me is how I tell myself: ‘Life is tough. You’ve been through a lot. This week has been hell. You deserve_________’ and then fill-in the blank with whatever nasty food item is in my mind at the moment: Chocolate, chips, pizza, French fries…

So, I “treat” myself and then I feel even worse.

What?

Wasn’t that supposed to make me feel better?

I am still in the process of learning what a real “treat” is and trying to change my way of thinking about this. This idea of “taking care of myself” is something that I’m really trying to comprehend. What does it mean to take care of myself?

How do I take care of myself when the flood of thoughts and emotions that they bring with them, leave me feeling unworthy?

This is all wrapped-up in the idea of ‘self-worth’ to me. I should want the best for myself, so why do I continually, do the opposite?

When I was doing my trauma counselling, one of the things I learned was about “core beliefs”. Here is a great article about them:

http://rosspsychology.com/1/post/2011/06/cognitive-therapy-101-core-beliefs.html

I have a core belief system that is made-up of, pretty much, every negative belief listed on that website. This means that the following lists are things I believe about myself and am telling myself, pretty much, every second of the day:

I’m not good enough
·         I can’t get anything right
·         I’m stupid
·         I’m inferior
·         I’m nothing
·         I’m worthless
·         I’m insignificant
·         I’m a bad person
·         I’m unattractive (ugly, fat, etc.)
·         I’m useless
·         I’m a failure
·         I don’t deserve anything good
·         There’s something wrong with me
·         I’ve done things wrong
·         I’m abnormal

I’m not lovable
·         I’m unacceptable
·         I’m always left out
·         I don’t matter
·         I’m not wanted
·         I’m alone
·         I’m unwelcome
·         I don’t fit in anywhere
·         I’m uninteresting
·         Nobody loves me
·         Nobody wants me
·         I’m unlikeable
·         I’m bound to be rejected

People I love will leave me
·         I will be abandoned if I love or care for something/someone
·         I am uninteresting (and people will leave me because of it)
·         I’m unimportant
·         If I assert myself, people will leave me
·         I’m not as good as other people
·         My partner is no longer interested in me
·         I’m bound to be rejected/abandoned/alone

I’m helpless/powerless
·         I’m out of control
·         I must have control to be okay
·         I’m weak
·         I’m vulnerable
·         I’m trapped
·         I’m needy
·         I do not measure up to others
·         I’m unsuccessful
·         I can’t achieve
·         I can’t change
·         I can’t handle anything
·         There’s no way out
·          I am trapped and can’t escape
·         If I experience emotions, I will lose control
·         I can’t do it
·         I’m always number two
·         I finish last
·         I can’t stand up for myself
·         I’m a loser
·         I can’t say ‘no’

I have to do everything perfectly
·         If I make a mistake, it means I’m careless/a failure/etc.
·         I’ve done something wrong
·         It’s not okay to ask for help
·         I have to do everything myself
·         If I don’t do it, no one will
·         I’m responsible for everyone and everything
·         If I care enough, I can fix him/her/this
·         I can’t trust or rely on another person
·         If I trust people, they may hurt me (and I won’t survive)
·         People will betray me
·         People are untrustworthy
·         My needs are not important
·         I shouldn’t spend time taking care of myself
·         When I see that others need help, I have to help them
·         I’m not a worthwhile person
·         I’m only worthwhile if I’m helping other people
·         If I express negative feelings in a relationship, terrible things will happen
·         I have to make people happy
·         It’s my fault

To those who do not experience these for themselves, these might seem like a list of someone who sounds like “Eeyore” and just feels sorry for themselves. But, if these lists resonate with you the way they do for me, please know that you are not being unreasonable, and you are not being ridiculous.

These are core beliefs I learned as the result of multiple childhood traumas, as well as trauma experienced throughout my adolescence, as a teenager, a young adult and finally with the birth of my son.

As my counsellor and I were trying to figure-out what my main “core belief” was, she asked me: “What is it that’s beneath all of this that makes you have the negative thought?” and I was surprised at my answer: “That I’m not worthy.”

For most of my life I have operated under a core belief that I am not worthy. I am not worthy of love, respect, friendship, hope, support…I am not worthy of anything good. It is why I have, genuinely, been surprised when I do well at job interviews, pass a test or someone gives me a gift (I still cry at the thought of what my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas 2 years ago). I am not worthy.

This negative core belief has been the biggest barrier to weight loss, the ability to form and maintain healthy habits and is fundamental in understanding why it is so difficult for me to make positive, healthy changes even when I know what’s good for me and what is not.

Negative thoughts fit into the negative core belief, so they keep feeding it and affirming its validity. Positive thoughts or interactions do not fit into the negative core belief, so kind of bounce-off and are lost. My counsellor explained to me the need to create a new core belief and to be mindful of feeding all those positives to it so that, eventually, the negative core belief is starved and disappears and the positive, healthy, core belief remains as the one that provides the foundation for my life and my daily, moment-by-moment, interactions.

She drew a cool diagram for me on the whiteboard in her office—I’ve tried to duplicate it, in case that helps get the idea across (but I’m a horrible diagram drawer):

IMG_20170308_100159347

 

How does this all fit in with the idea of “treats”?

Here is an example of one of many mental exchanges that take place in my brain on a daily basis:

‘I’d like a treat—I know something like an apple would be a really good thing to have. It will be sweet, provide nutrition, give me a pick-me-up, and keep me within my health and wellness goals. But, that’s too much work, I’m not really worth that effort. I may as well just have this chocolate because nobody really cares about me anyway. It doesn’t really matter how I do, nobody is going to notice. If I’m not here, nobody would mind. I’m just not worthy of that effort. I may as well just eat that chocolate and forget about it.’

Here is an example of the mental shift I am attempting to make- the mental exchange I’d like to have happen in my head:

‘I’d like a treat. An apple would be an excellent treat. It will be sweet, provide nutrition, give me a pick-me-up and keep me within my health and wellness goals. It’s the best option for me and I deserve the best.’

I deserve to eat better than pizza, French fries, chocolate and chips. These are “junk” foods and I am not “junk”.

So, as I pick myself up and dust myself off for what feels like the umpteenth time, this is mantra for the moment:

I deserve better.

This positive thought is something I will keep repeating and using to fill that new core belief that “I am worthwhile” or “I am worthy”. And, as I keep filling-up the new belief, I hope that the old belief gets smaller and those thoughts become less in quantity as well as frequency until they, eventually, become a dull buzz in the background and perhaps even disappear forever.

Until then, I will just keep reminding myself that I DESERVE BETTER!

Confessions of a Facebook “Creeper”

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I admit it. I search for people all the time who aren’t my friends on Facebook. Usually, this happens during bouts of nostalgia when I find myself thinking about the people with whom I grew-up and wondering where they are, what they are doing, what they look like and how happy they appear.

I want to compare where I am, what I’m doing, what I look like and how happy I am with my childhood friends. I am always relieved and slightly joyous when I see that there has been weight gain, wrinkles, weariness…good. It’s not just me.

There are many people with whom I wish I had kept more regular contact. People with whom I am no longer “friends” – not even on Facebook. Sometimes I creep these people to see what life is like for them. I did this yesterday and spent a considerable amount of time looking at a few childhood friends and I was genuinely glad to see how happy they appeared. I was pleased that they had experienced adventures, travel, fun, love and beauty.

I considered sending a few friend requests, but got lost in thoughts of how it would be perceived by these people. I suffered from depression for most of my time in high school. This was before depression was really understood, talked about or treated. But, the biggest casualty of my depression was my social life. I withdrew from all of my friends and lost most of those relationships. One of the biggest hangers-on of this time period is embarrassment. I feel embarrassed all the time about how I was and I assume that people remember me in a negative light.

I was moody, judgmental, shy, confused, lonely and lost.

During these years my FB posts would have be the kind that you just get tired of seeing so you block the person so you don’t get the constant drone of negative status updates in your feed.

When I think about these years I am always overwhelmed with sadness for the many memories I have about stupid things I did as a result of my state of mind. I’ve been working on forgiving myself, and giving that girl a chance to heal and find acceptance; strangely, creeping on Facebook kind of helps with this. I’ve managed to ‘rekindle’ a few of these lost relationships and they have been extremely meaningful to me. Every time I send a request to a long, lost, friend and then we message back and forth a bit, and eventually just start to share life through the regular news feed, it helps normalize what feels like an extremely polarizing time for me.

I wish I could sit down with all of my old friends and have an open discussion about those years, explain what was going on in my world, express my regret for how I may have treated them, share my sorrow for all the lost time and then make-up for some of that time and move-forward as friends again.

My mind is full of many happy memories with them. I remember hours and hours of time spent together, laughing, talking about boys, playing stupid games, sleepovers, doing makeup, playing sports, passing notes in school…I see snapshots in my mind of us together on hammocks, acting cool at school dances, playing flag football, flirting and silly things like stuffing our shirts with balloons. The memories are full and rich.

But, then there are years where the memories are filled with pictures of school dances, football games, pep rallies and lunches filled with all these faces growing and enjoying life—but mine is not with them. These memories haunt me like shadows. Life was happening all around me, but I wasn’t in it.

So, I creep on facebook. I try to fill-in some of the gaps. I reach-out. I rekindle. I make progress.

I am so thankful for those friends with whom I’ve managed to reconnect because, the truth is, the folks with whom I grew-up really do mean a lot to me. They were the people that helped shape me into who I am today. They were my original cheerleaders, challengers and role-models. They were my squad, my family, my community. They exist in my memory as a deep and vast resource of life, joy, sorrow, lessons-learned, new experiences, comfort and friendship and I am so thankful for the ability to creep into their lives now and get a little piece of what once was.

I’m Back…

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I took a break from writing for a little bit. I was going-through treatment for non-recovery PTSD and the idea of trying to write on top of everything was a bit overwhelming to me. I was worried that everything I would write would be trauma-focused and that’s not really the point of what I’m trying to do here.

Now that I’ve completed the 10 weeks of treatment, plus a little down-time I gave myself, I’m good to go again. I will write about my experience with PTSD and treatment, etc. But, it will just unravel naturally, as I feel the urge to write about it.

I’m excited to be back to writing and cannot wait to get back into regular practice.

Putting Me First

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Ok, so writing is a bit challenging at the moment with everything that is going on. I’m in week 4 of my Cognitive Processing Therapy for my diagnosed Non-Recovery PTSD. This is EXHAUSTING. And there is a substantial amount of homework involved that really drains me.

Also, I have started a new job and, in the words of a co-worker at the moment, “it’s Oscar season!”
I’m planning the organizations largest event. Not only is it, typically, the largest event but, apparently, I’m very good at my job and have almost doubled the numbers from last year.

And then, I am continuing to work on the lifestyle and mindset changes necessary to become the healthier me I desire to be.

Also, of course, I am a Mother and a wife.

But, I’ve been doing really good at trying to take care of myself in the midst of all of this. I have made huge strides forward. I was recently very sick, and still have a bit of a cough and some sinus yuckies, and I didn’t binge-out on comfort foods. True, I didn’t totally neglect myself either, but I was mindful through it all.

And, for a while, I had stopped doing my mini-workouts during my workday. But, I realized how unfair that was on me. I had stopped taking breaks at work and was even eating my lunch at my desk, while working.

I could feel how the lack of these breaks was, actually, draining my energy and making me less effective in my work. So now, I am back to focusing on taking 2 breaks during my workday to get active. I climb the stairs, go for a walk or close my door and do some yoga or a 7 minute workout (the App).

I have refocused on trying to ensure that I am eating more veggies and fruit during the day as well. It all makes such a huge difference.

There are a few more changes I am trying to make for my personal well-being. One of them is to do some kind of household chore every day so that it doesn’t all become too much at once. If I do a bit every day, I should be able to stay on top of it and it will decrease my stress. Bonus- It’s added energy being spent. Like free exercise.

I want to be in bed, eyes closed, by 10:30pm. I have this persistent eye-twitch lately that’s driving me nuts. I know that it is the result of way too many nights awake past 11:30pm.

And, ultimately, I’d love to have more tv/video/game-free time. More still and quiet time. Even if this looks like 30 minutes of yoga before bed. Which is also a thing I want to make a “staple” of my day-to-day. At least, a little, yoga. It feels so good to stretch-out.

Part of “putting me first” is actually letting-go of part of me. I have a tendency to want to do everything, and have everything, absolutely perfect. I have had to work on letting-go of this desire and allowing things to be done “good enough” or not at all, so I could do some self-care.

I’m not that great at putting myself first, but I am learning to find some times when I allow myself to become the priority. Even if just for 10 minutes. I really believe this is helping me, my marriage, my work-life and my family be much healthier, happier and well-rounded.

251.5 Celebrating a HUGE Victory

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After a particularly exhausting therapy session (for non-recovery PTSD), I left the Psychologist’s office feeling torn-apart, raw, vulnerable and extremely exhausted.

‘I just want to eat my feelings away’ I thought to myself as visions of French fries and deep fried wontons from my favourite Chinese delivery place danced in my head.

I pictured all the yumminess that I could stuff in my face to avoid how I was feeling and dull the pain. I could feel myself start to salivate. The crunch of the wontons mixed with that tangy sweetness of sweet & sour sauce. The hot, salty warmth of a perfectly fried potato…

Then, from somewhere inside of me, this other voice spoke-up and said ‘We need to stop doing that. We need to stop ‘eating our feelings’.”

And then the most incredible thing happened. I listened.

This is the first time I can recall, since I’ve been aware of those thoughts and my food addiction (using food to dull negative thoughts/feelings) that I had been able to say ‘no’ to the pull to make myself feel better with food.

This is monumental. It is HUGE.

It is what I’ve been working-towards, and writing about over and over again, but it’s the first time I have had such a clear, obvious, perfect, undeniable victory.

In the past, I would justify ordering- ‘I’ll just have the fries and a few wontons…’ ‘I deserve this, I’m working through a lot, it’s the least I can do for myself..’ ‘People eat this stuff all the time, why can’t I?’

Why can’t I?

Because, unlike most people, I’m not just eating it because it tastes good, I am eating it to dull something that is going on in my life. I’m eating it to escape. Food is to me as alcohol is to an alcoholic, or drugs are to an addict. I use food to escape. I use food to feel better. I use food to dull the pain/thoughts/fear, etc.

And so, on this day I made a conscious decision NOT to use food that way. I went home and ate a normal dinner with my family. Since then, I have had other victories, making the choice to not eat something because I was aware I only wanted to eat it so I would feel better.

I ask myself ‘Why do I want that?’ and if the answer sounds like ‘to feel better’ than it’s a red-light (a no-go). However, if the answer is: ‘because I really would like a piece of chocolate right now’, than it’s a green-light because there is no emotion involved.

Having a food addiction is different to other addictions. We don’t HAVE to drink alcohol to survive. We don’t HAVE to consume narcotics, etc. to survive. But, we do HAVE to eat to survive. We need food. Therefore, as an addiction, it’s not something that one can avoid. I have to eat.

That’s why I’ve been working-on teaching myself to be more mindful of ‘why’ I want to eat. Do I want to eat that because I’m hungry, or because it will taste good? Or, do I want to eat that to make myself feel better, dull the senses, escape, etc?
I’m feeling pretty stoked about that massive victory and excited at the idea that I might, actually, be able to start getting some power over all of this. Feeling that I have the strength within me to conquer these things is really inspiring and I hope to just keep pushing-forward and becoming more reliant on myself and less reliant on food when things are tough.

253 The Vacation I Never Wanted that Won’t Go Away

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I went on vacation recently. This came after a few very stressful months at work that included a job change. I had planned on staying “on track” during vacation, I didn’t plan on taking a vacation from my healthy habits. I was doing another monthly challenge with some friends and I was determined to come-out as a winner.

I didn’t.

And, I went on VACATION. I ate cake, fast food, chips, chocolate, treats, etc. and I stopped working out.

Oh, and I stopped writing.

Obviously.

I don’t know what it is about vacations, but when I arrived at my parent’s house I was EXHAUSTED.
I spent most of my time, when not looking after my son, or doing something with my family, too exhausted to think, let alone move.

This exhaustion and vacation lifestyle has remained even after we returned home. We’ve been home for 2 weeks, as of tomorrow, and I haven’t been eating normally or exercising.

Having said that, I have been trying to be mindful of what I’m eating and how much (as I was on vacation) and I have done a lot of walking.

But, yesterday I was thinking about this vacation that I never wanted from my healthy habits and how it seemed to refuse to go away and realized that I just needed to take the power back and tell it that it was over between us.

So, today I did just that.

I’m busy at work, lots of adjustments to the new position, things to learn, stuff to sort-out and tidy-up, etc. We have a huge event on October 4th for which I am responsible and the list goes on…

My little alarm popped-up on my screen saying: “STAIRS!!! Or 7 min w/o!!!” reminding me to either climb the stairs in the building or do a 7-minute workout, yoga, or something to get up and move.

For the past 3 weeks of work, I have been snoozing these alarms endlessly and not taking the time to do my workouts.

I decided today that I wasn’t going to let this happen anymore. I hit “snooze” one more time (because I like the satisfaction of clicking “Done” once I’ve actually done it and not before), grabbed my keys and headed to the stairs.

I huffed and puffed up 8 flights. Got to the top, did 22 push-ups and a few stretches, and then headed back down to my office.
And I feel spectacular.

I am already making plans to ensure that my afternoon exercise break also happens today.

So, bye-bye vacation. It’s been grand, but it’s over now.

Oh, and ‘Hello, Everyone!’ I’ve missed ya.

250.4 My Life in Lbs

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I am getting excitingly close to leaving the 50’s and entering the 40’s.

I decided to take a look at my weight loss to date and figured-out that I am getting close to a 50 lb landmark.

It depends on which number I choose to look at, which is complicated a bit by the pregnancy/birth of my son.

Here’s my chart from Lose It:

Chart

 

My son was born October 17, 2013 and while still pregnant I had last weighed-in at 315 lbs.

After he was born, I got down to 283.5 on November 14th, 2013, but as you can see it went up from there for a while.

There’s a weird spike to 295 on March 25, 2014, but since there’s a previous mark that is 292.6 on January 2, 2014, I choose to pick an average there of 293 and just say that on January 1, 2014 I was 293 lbs.

With that little explanation, here’s a quick synopsis:

Jan. 1, 2014  (293 lbs) to Jan. 1, 2015 (280 lbs) = 13 lbs lost

Jan. 1, 2015 (280 lbs) to Jan. 1, 2016 (276 lbs) = 4 lbs lost

Jan. 1, 2016 (276 lbs) to Aug. 10, 2016 (250.4 lbs) = 25.6 lbs lost

Total lbs lost = 42.6

Getting so close to 50 lbs down.

I love this graph because it reflects a journey that hasn’t been easy, but I look it and see that I have never given-up. I look at it and I see hard work, perseverance, lessons learned, changes made, struggles, victories, tears of joy, tears of shame and, most beautifully, the creation and birth of my son.

To look at this chart is to see my life-the spikes represent times when life was difficult, dark times when I struggled to get out of bed in the morning and to eat anything other than toast, chips, chocolate and cookies. You can see times when the clouds seem to have parted and I go ‘great guns’ and drop a bit, only to rebound and hit another spike.

But, the general trend has been downwards and recently, the trend is pretty impressive. I have, clearly, learned a lot through my journey.

This morning I am feeling encouraged. I feel strengthened and validated in my pursuit of health.
I am not perfect. But, when I look at my life in lbs, I see a warrior who refuses to be defeated and is constantly honing her skills as she levels up and prepares to, once and for all, take down the big boss.

251.4 I’ll Have a Diet Pepsi, Please

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I did it! Ha.

Below the 252 mark. And, this was after going-through my cycle-slumps. I am excited because I see so much progress in my mindset and my capability to get-through the rough patches with less damage to my health and well-being.

I have entered another 4 week challenge. This time there is $$ involved, so a little extra incentive to meet my goals.

Having said that, after 1 week of having “Pop” as my bad habit I was trying to break, I have decided to switch to another bad habit. If I did fail and have a pop I  found myself saying “well, I’ve already lost the points, I may as well drink as much pop as possible to make it worth my while”.

Not helpful.

This way, if I decide to have a pop on a Friday evening as a treat at the end of the week, I can just have one and will not have to ‘make it worthwhile’ by drinking a lot more than I would have without that mentality of making the loss of points worth it.

Diet pop.

Ugh. It’s totally my arch nemesis.

Some of you may be wondering why I make such a big deal out of it. I mean, it’s not like I even drink it every day. Even if I did, it was just one can/day. So, what’s the big deal?

3 things:

  • It really seems to kill my gut
  • There are certain foods I like to eat with the pop. I don’t like drinking pop on its own. To me, it goes with certain things. Thinking about it right now, I would LOVE to sit down with 4 pieces of toast and a nice, cold, diet pop. Toast with marg&Nutella, toast with marg&Jam, Toast with marg&honey and either toast with pb&j or toast with just marg…That’s a lot of calories to consume just to enjoy a pop.
  • The artificial sweetener, etc. in pop makes me crave more sweets. Sugar consumption breeds sugar consumption and since artificial sweeteners not only taste sweeter than refined sugar, but have added chemicals that cause reactions in the brain, they breed even MORE sugar cravings. What starts off as an innocent diet pop craving once, leads to one/day, leads to a couple plus a small bag of chips, which leads to a few more, a big bag of chips and a bag of aero bubbles…..you get the picture.

I want to become a person who does not drink pop at all. Full stop.

If I declare, here and now, to the world that I don’t drink pop, do you think it will stick?

Can the random, weirdness, of the internet keep me accountable to never again consuming pop?

Is that an unrealistic goal at this point?

It can be tough to know which ‘demons’ to work on at any given time. I have found that the best way to do this is to really listen to my instincts and trust myself.

And, if I’ve learned anything, it is that the very fact that I’m asking those questions is a signal that I’m just not ready to make that much of a commitment to ditch the soda.

Because, at the end of the day, I am doing a great job and taking that 100% away feels like a punishment right now. When I make the decision, I want it to come from a positive place of empowerment, not weakness, just like all the other changes that have stuck have been. I think that’s why they have been successful.

So, I’ll have a Diet Pepsi, please.

 

At the moment I’m focusing on the following:

Exercise Daily: 7 minute workout, 10, 0000 steps, and either: extra walk, yoga/stretch or stair climbing

3 Servs Veggies/Day

3L water/daily

@ least 10 minutes of meditation time before bed. This can be writing, reading, yoga, stretching, playing guitar, walking…anything that makes me slow down, unplug and breathe.

Sticking to my calorie goals

And decreasing negativity.

Drowning

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My clothes are heavy and dragging me down as they dance in the water. My hair is thrashing around, wildly, like it’s moving to an African drum beat. When my hair finally breaks apart, I am able to look up and see the sun above the water, hot and heavy, and becoming increasingly distant as it seems to be pushing me down into the depths of the sea. I take a deep, inner, breath and propel my arm upwards in an attempt to pull my head to the surface, but instead of doing so, I find myself gripping my newborn baby’s ankle and pulling him beneath the water with me. Suddenly, it’s as though a mountain has attached itself to my legs and as the sun continues to push me down, I am plummeted to the belly of the sea, dragging my child with me.

We are gone.

This was the nightmare that haunted me for months after my son’s birth. I would wake-up gasping for air, soaking wet and sobbing.

To this day, I can’t think about this without the surge of an upcoming panic attack. I stop as I write, close my eyes, practice my box breathing. I become aware of the sensations around me. I hear people talking in the hallway. I can feel my fingers resting on the keyboard in front of me. I smell a mixture of my morning mocha and my perfume. The aftertaste of my last mouthful of mocha is bitter on my tongue.

When I first mentioned the struggles I was having to my doctor, and told her about the nightmares, she said ‘It sounds like you might have some PTSD from birth trauma’ and that was that.

The first 4 months of my son’s life were a living hell for me. I felt like I was constantly in a war zone, battling for not only my survival, but his as well. This was made worse by the fact that I often felt like I was the biggest threat to my son’s safety, which meant that I was also fighting a war against myself all the time. I used to say: ‘It’s you and me, kid. You and me against the world.’ I felt like nobody got it. Nobody understood, or cared, about how dark it was for us. How much we had to fight to survive.

This added trauma on-top of trauma. I’ve started therapy to help me work through this. The other day my therapist asked ‘What things remind you of the event?’

What things remind me of the event?

Pretty much every aspect of my life is a reminder of the event, because ‘the event’ (my son’s birth), literally changed everything in my world. Everywhere I look there are reminders of him, every thought inside my head circles back to him, every emotion finds itself linked to him…I am surrounded by triggers.

But, I’m learning that there are certain environmental factors that bring me right back to the trauma and leave me swirling quickly out of control. Feeling trapped and feeling hot are major triggers for me.

I have identified a few, regular, times when this happens which means I am able to prepare and plan for them and when I am in the situation, can practice calming techniques to stave-off a full-blown panic attack.

But, there are still moments when I am caught by surprise.

This happened while camping last weekend. My son was exhausted, and so was I. We both like routine. He has always, naturally, been a ‘routine’ child and has always loved daytime naps. While camping, we were both thrown out of routine, and neither of us had slept well the previous night – I had, about, 2.5 hours sleep and while he slept longer, it was very disturbed. So, we needed a nap.

We were lying in our tent and it was HOT. I lay there, sweating bullets, trying to calm him and soothe him to sleep, despite the fact that he was also drenched in sweat. He kept looking-up at me with these pleading eyes to help him feel better. I felt helpless. Powerless.

I could feel the surge of a panic attack approaching.

Box breathing. Box breathing.

What can you feel? What can you hear? What can you see?

What can you see?

I looked above me to the top of the tent and saw that the sun was directly over us and I suddenly felt like an ant under a magnifying glass.

The panic was rising.

I looked up again and I saw the sun above the water, pushing me downwards.

I couldn’t breathe.

I’m trapped. We’re trapped. We’re going to die. I can’t breathe. I’m going to lose it. We’re being tortured to death. I have to get out of here. We’re under attack.

I grabbed my car keys, my son, and said to those around me “We’re going for a drive…” I’m sure I said some other things, not even sure what, or what was happening, or who heard me, or where anyone else even was.

All I could see was that my son and I were being tortured and I was getting us the hell out of there before we drowned to death.

It was everything that I had felt for the first 4 months of his life compressed into a few minutes. I have had experiences and moments like this every day since my son was born. Sometimes they are super intense, like it was that day camping. At other times, it is a small surge that I am able to overcome with grounding techniques.

But, every time it happens, it brings the trauma back to the surface and seems to add another layer on to it.

I am reminded of the line from the West Wing where the trauma specialist explains to Josh that the goal is to allow him to remember the event without reliving it.

I cannot wait for the moment when I can think about the day my son was born and smile at how incredible it was to hold him for the very first time, without feeling like I’m under attack and that I’m going to drown and bring him down with me.

To remember the beauty without reliving the trauma.