Friday, September 25, 2015

How Running Saved My Life

I'm a runner.

If you know me, you probably just laughed a little bit. And you probably laughed a little bit because a runner can't be fat. And me? Well I might be a few pounds overweight. But wanna know something? Being overweight does not mean you can't run. And running saved my life.

It started a couple years ago. A close friend of mine had started running and she made it seem so easy! She would just get up, run a few miles, and get on with her life. Well. I could certainly do that. Then, in January 2014, that same friend told me about a weight loss challenge she was joining and invited me to participate with her. This was exactly what I needed! I jumped at the chance and the next week the challenge started. I wanted to do well. I wanted to lose weight and be healthier, prettier, and thinner. I bought a treadmill. And woke up the next day and started running. I ran 4-5 days a week during that challenge. I felt strong. And each week at weigh in I would slowly see the weight melt off. Like, super slowly. But I was getting healthier. I felt better. I felt like how I wished I'd felt my entire life.

I didn't win the challenge (my friend did though - go her!) but I fell in love with running. And when the challenge ended, that's when my love turned unconditional. Within weeks of the challenge ending I found out I was pregnant (thank you weight loss), but I didn't want that to hold me back. I had been overweight my whole life and I didn't want pregnancy to negate all the hard work I had put in. I kept running, I kept working out and I kept eating right, until morning sickness took over and I lost all lung capacity. So I took a few months off and didn't run again until getting the OK from my doctor after P was born (and yes, I am going to brag about how I only gained 12 pounds my entire pregnancy because dammit, do you know how hard it is to watch every thing you eat when you are pregnant? It was hard work and I am damn proud of it. Brag over). I was already deep into my depression at this point, but I knew that running could help me.

I had just started anti-depressants, but needed them to work quicker. I couldn't wait 30 days for the full effects. When was the last time I was really happy? What was I doing? Running!! Hubs would come home on his lunch break and I would hand him the baby and go running on my treadmill and damn, I felt great! As I was running I would feel so happy, so fulfilled, so me and normal again. I really felt like I had this mothering thing under control because while I was running, I really had my shit together. But then Hubs' lunch break would end and I would be sitting there again, sweaty and hungry and holding this tiny baby that made me cry for no reason. And as quickly as those feelings of being super mom had come, they would leave.

Running gave me hope. I was depressed, I was as low as I could possibly get, but then I would have these moments of happiness. Those moments only happened when I was running. So I was capable of being happy again and feeling normal and being me and knowing I could get my shit together. There were days of sadness, but there were moments of happiness hidden in between the glimpses of darkness.

I don't run anymore to lose weight, although it is a bonus. I run because it makes me happy. I run because I feel strong. I run because I feel like I am accomplishing something that myself (and many others) didn't think I could. I run because I want to challenge myself to be a better person. I run so I can fit into smaller jeans. I run because I freaking want to and I freaking like it. So you can go ahead and chuckle all you want when you look at me and think this is what a runner shouldn't look like, and you can tell me running is too hard or you don't understand it, and that's okay. I don't run for you anyways.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Success Disguised as a Failure

I try to be strong. I'm a mom. And I'm a supporter. I aid women overcoming perinatal mood disorders in an online support group; I take on their struggles and feelings and doubts and reassure them relief is near and recovery is possible. I preach it all day long to anyone willing to listen. But I have bad days too. Lately, I've had a lot. And after awhile it gets really hard to disguise them. My true colors are shining through. And I hate it.

How can I support all these other women when there are times I barely am holding my own shit together? How can I tell them it gets better when I am in fear that I myself am relapsing? How can I assure you that you will eventually feel like yourself again when I'm not entirely sure which role I should play anymore?

I still consider myself recovered as I find joy in each day, absolutely adore my daughter, I eat regular meals (at one point I stopped eating altogether), I sleep all night every night (usually), I look forward to things, I laugh with friends and mean it, and most of all am living a medicated free life (this is by far a huge accomplishment). I am recovered. But since I was a child I have always been plagued by the What Ifs. And I often think of the poem WhatIf by Shel Silverstein, a favorite of mine as a kid, and the part that goes:

Last night, while I lay thinking here,
Some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
And pranced and partied all night long
And sang their same old Whatif song.

Unfortunately, that WhatIf bug has been hanging out So I appear a little needier. I'm a bit more irritated, more easily annoyed, a little more on edge....

I have recovered. I know that relief is possible and recovery is too. I know these things. I have felt these things. I AM these things. So why on Earth would I feel like I am taking steps backwards? I have been thinking about this for a couple weeks now in silence for fear that I have relapsed. For fear that I need to go back to the doctor. And I have honestly been waiting for Hubs to tell me he's had enough and to go back and tell the doctor I'm not better, but he hasn't. Because now that I've been thinking about it these last couple weeks, I realize that I am not relapsing. I am still learning. I don't fully understand PPD, so I continue to educate myself, and it is through that education I am re-living those early times of P's life. I remember those feelings so vividly it feels as though they could have happened yesterday. I think it's important to remember those feelings if I ever want to help someone else. 

I am human, afterall, who has life experiences and feelings and recovery means not forgetting that. If I forget, if I don't stay relevant, then my advice and support to those currently experiencing PPD/A/P will become robotic. My words will be monotone and my heart won't be in it anymore and if my heart isn't in it anymore, well then, that torture I experienced and that misery I felt would have all been for nothing.

 So yes, I might be a little irritable some days. I might get annoyed by the way you tap the steering wheel when you drive or the way you're chewing your food, but it's those WhatIfs...they're there, and we're working on finding them a new home, but if you could just bare with me for a moment while I try to get my shit together and work through it, I promise I'll do something good with it. I promise to keep moving forward and to keep helping others. I'm only human. I need a bad day here and there. And I promise that if you let me have one, I'll let you have one too.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The New Guide to Mamahood

#1 Have mama friends (if you're not sure exactly what this means, see previous post). You need mama friends, but the best part is they need you too. When that baby pukes in your hair right after you finally styled it for the first time in weeks, your mama friends will feel the pain with you. And if you pump 8 ounces of breastmilk in a single session, your mama friends are so ecstatic for you that you would think they were the ones accomplishing this feat. Yes, you need mama friends. Go get some.

#2 Always have a bottle of wine on hand, in case of emergencies. So after that baby pukes in your freshly styled hair and you end up wearing a pony tail all day, which is then too tight and gives you a headache so you end up sick at work and unable to drink your coffee until 4 p.m. when you suddenly realize you've had no coffee at all today (dear God, the horror), and you get home and the dishes have piled up and your crockpot dinner burned....oh yes mama, open that bottle of wine! The only thing that will make that day worse is to have to go back out the door to the liquor store and deal with the general population to get that bottle of wine. So save yourself the trouble and just always have a few bottles on hand.

#3 Tell your mama friends everything. Tell them the funny shit. The sad shit. The embarrassing shit. They're not going to judge you. They are going to embrace you. They will be brutally honest with you because they had two hours of sleep last night and a baby hanging off their boob the last 3 days; they don't have time to be nice to you. They will laugh with you and encourage you. Do not fear their judgement, for it barely, if ever, exists.

#4 Cut your hair. Or don't. But if you want to, do it. You gotta feel good about yourself, be happy, feel confident. Do what you gotta do it and just do it. And if you regret it? Refer to rule #3. 

#5 Stop enjoying every moment because not every moment is enjoyable. I really hate when people tell me to love every minute with P. Sorry, but I don't. I don't love when she pulls my hair out and screams and kicks me in the stomach. I don't love the car rides where shes wailing in the backseat for 45 minutes. I don't care for the nights she wakes up 3,017 times just to say hello. I don't find peace in her screaming because I clipped a nail too short. I am not happy when I am stressing over the fact she stopped taking a bottle from me. So no, I will not enjoy every moment and you should feel ashamed for making me feel like I should. Dear parents, you're allowed to not enjoy every damn minute of your time with your children.

#6 Be selfish. Sometimes. You deserve time for you too. You deserve to treat yourself and feel good about. Don't let anyone guilt you because you went out dancing for the first time in two years, or the fact you spent $60 on coloring your hair, or that $40 Express sweater you've been eyeing all you girl, and do it well!

#7 Don't take shit from anyone. Really, who the hell has time for that? Sorry people of the world, but I do not have time to deal with your crap. I have enough crap of my own to deal with. Unless you're one of those mama's.....I can squeeze you into my day anytime.

#8 Embrace mommyhood. Don't be ashamed that you can't do the things you used to or that you prefer the Cartwheel app over Instagram now. Don't let anyone make you feel bad that 10 p.m. is late and past your bed time (ahem, rule #7), because you're the one getting up with a baby the next morning, not them. Be whatever mommy you want. Breastfeed, formula feed, wear your baby, don't wear your baby, baptize, don't baptize, let your baby teethe on a shoe, or not. But whatever methods you choose to raise your children with, embrace them. Embrace the new you. Embrace the early bed time and quiet weekend evenings. Embrace the mom car.