Remember to Breathe, Mama. You Got This.

Talk about exhaustion!

Sometimes I surprise myself at how much I can do, my endurance really freaks me out. But that’s an awesome gift we’re blessed with as moms/parents. Just when we think we’re dead tired and can’t go any further, we muster up this hidden reserve and power through the struggles; blood, sweat and tears.

Yesterday I made choices; not really good ones, that kinda of set me up for failure today, but I didn’t let it get me down. Instead of writing a blog last night, my mom told me to relax. So, I dyed my hair, painted my nails, pumped so Ivy could be bottle fed while I took a shower and finish some laundry (never ending) and my nails. Granted I screwed up my nails and took everything off and said screw it and just put a protective gel coating on. It was late. Then the baby got hungry again around midnight, while I was watching SNL and ended up staying up until 1:30am. Ugggghhhh. Why did I do that? I had an alarm set for 5am to get up, have breakfast and prepare for today’s 5K…and Ivy had other plans, her gut was empty and her lungs loudly let me know at 4:25am.

Exhausted, but I still got up and started my day, because there was no reason to nap for 15 minutes after she was done–I just stayed up. I made sure to eat a fat, protein-y, carb-y hearty diet for breakfast. How I survived the morning on one cup of coffee, IDK. I was motivated.

We got to LLUBMC at 7am exactly, checked in, pinned my number on and walked around the booths taking pictures of everything. Everyone was so kind and the deluxe samples they gave up were bomb! They even gave out a bunch of really expensive 5-Hour Energy shots, but I’m nursing and didn’t want a hyped up baby with a crazy irregular heart-rate, so they sit, in a ziploc, in the pantry now. It was nice carpooling with my Sister-in-law and her two boys, my mom joined us and even Derrick, who has to work today from 1pm to 2am tomorrow. I am proud of him.

(Side note: I am currently watching the BBMA and wow, Drake’s performance is on fire! Literally.)

It took us about an hour to walk the little over 3 miles for the 5K–and I was bummed when I started over-heating and got a bad headache. I was baby-wearing the baby in a carrier and carrying a 15 pound knapsack with water bottles, a diaper changing kit, snacks, sunscreen, chapstick, my wallet, my Nikon and iPhone. So I burned double calories; walking WHILE baring weights. At least I was evenly distributed with Ivy and the backpack. Kept my back straight. And after the marathon, we were treated with lunch; of a healthy Avocado, Black Bean and Brown Rice Wheat Wrap, an Apple and a White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie. And loads of ice water.

We decided to sit away from the crowds, behind the Behavorial Health Center, so we could nurse our kiddos in peace–but we weren’t hidden from prying eyes, lol. The kiddos that are housed upstairs in LLUBMC were at their windows, waving to us and trying to show us handwritten signs from their windows, but they were too far and too high up to read them, so we just waved and smiled.

And as I sit there, staring at the building where I spent nearly a month after I birthed Savannah; for Postpartum Psychosis and Suicidal Ideation, I had some triggering flashbacks, but I was able to ground myself with my CBT Anxiety Reduction Exercises. But I saw them again; in my mind’s eye: the hundreds of little demon faces in the carpet, laughing at me loudly, as the Head Orderly, Pam, did my Intake Interview. I was strapped to a bed; by the wrists and ankles and waist and I was numb, but the tears were streaming. All I could think about was downing the bottle of SSRI’s I was prescribed by my OB. Missing my newborn daughter was killing me; and you’d hear my wails echoing down the hall about how I just wanted to hold her and nurse her, but I couldn’t because of the medication, so I wanted to die. I was never more confused about my life and my role in it, than I was right then. Missing Thanksgiving with my family, and going home weeks later, a medicated zombie; newly on anti-psychotics and mood-stabilizers and anti-depressants and anxiety/agitation reducing medications.

I lasted a year on those medications before I experienced another severe manic episode and decided to quit taking all my medications because I “thought” I was “cured” of my mental illness, because I felt FANFUCKINGTASTIC. I began drinking and smoking and acting out impulsively and dangerously. December 19, 2013, I got so drunk I began to self-harm, right in my living room, in the middle of the night, while my family slept mere feet away. I don’t even remember messaging a friend on Facebook to tell them, sobbingly, what I had been doing and just as I passed out on the couch, a drunk, bloody mess, there’s a bang on the front door. It was the Police. My friend did a welfare check and I was detained, driven to the E.R., strapped to a bed again, examined, given a tetanus shot and shipped off to LLBMC once again, via ambulance. I was struggling to find a balance. I lost my way. All those years of self-harm sobriety, down the drain.

And I still struggle with stability and wellness today, every day. But I work my ass off to be more aware of myself. I LISTEN to my body, my moods, my emotions and watch for the ebbs and flows. I’ve matured over the years of changing insurances, doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, specialists and clinics. I’ve become more attune. I still worry. I still get paranoid and question ALL of my acts, thoughts and choices. But I’m aware. And I was most definitely triggered PTSD-wise with this pregnancy because I was OVERLY anxious about Postpartum Psychosis happening again, that I threw myself into Antepartum Depression and I even wrote a suicide note to my husband. Triggers are terrifying, but I am much more aware of them now.

So, even though I KNEW today’s 5K was taking place at a place I hope I never have to go to again, I KNEW it was my duty; not only for advocacy and awareness, but for my mental health peace of mind. And I did. I was a finisher. I finished. I wasn’t the fastest. But I sure as hell wasn’t last. And I didn’t breakdown. I didn’t let my triggers overwhelm me. Rather, I remembered Pam, and how she prayed with me, prayed over me and as a grandmother, she’s the one who convinced me that me being there, in LLUBMC, was THE healthiest and safest thing I could do for my (newborn Savannah) daughter at the time. True, I might not have been able to breastfeed her, and I wasn’t able to hold her for a few weeks and I was so worried about not bounding with her…But Pam reminded me constantly that she was home, with a loving Dad, Derrick and loving siblings’ Evelyn, Maverick and Olivia and that they were definitely talking to her about me and keeping my scent on and near her at all times–and she was right, Derrick NEVER washed the sheets on our bed, nor my clothes during those weeks, just so Savannah would recognize my smell when I returned home. And she didn’t shy away from me; she loved on me as soon as I got back to her.

It’s a love-hate relationship with my Schizoaffective Disorder (Bipolar Disorder Type One + Schizophrenia), my severe depression and anxiety, my Borderline Personality Disorder, my experiences with CPTSD/PTSD and OCD; because my mental illness plays A LOT into my stubbornness and even though I sometimes idealize suicide or long for the comfort of self-harm, I am a right-fighter and I will fight and fight and go against the grain, just to keep myself around for my kids and myself, because the fear of survivor’s guilt TERRIFIES me. So I speak up. Before I didn’t. I’d fight the urges alone and sometimes I’d fail. But not anymore. I am a medicated mother for mental illness, but I am making survival-hood a priority for SO many reasons.

And that is why I was so determined to participate today–to look my fears in the face and tell them, they don’t control me anymore. I may not have this parenting thing down pat, but I am a helluva fighter and I’ll keep fighting, with the tenacity of a Cancer-survivor. It’s THAT important to me. So I’ll keep taking the medications. I’ll keep my appointments. I’ll keep finding ways to rest and relax and ease my mind, even if it’s 30 seconds–one simple exercise, the CBT Anxiety Reducing Exercise:

5. Find 5 different things around you and describe them.

4. Notice 4 different sounds and really hear them.

3. Look for 3 smells to bring you back to the present.

2. Search for 2 different types of textures to touch to focus your mind.

1. Take 1 deep breath every 10 seconds until you’re relaxed.

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