Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Curious Consequence

Nearly a year ago, I took a "Long Walk." That's what some of my friends requested I call my attempted suicide.

I walked close to 15 miles from my house toward the Salt Lake, determined to float in 40 degree water until I felt the sleep of the cold.

I wasn't dressed for the weather - on purpose. I walked as fast as I could to get there before anyone could catch me on the main roads. I knew no one would have a clue where to look for me, and I was right. As soon as I hit the lake bed, I crossed as far from the causeway as possible so I couldn't be seen from the road, and kept the same pace through the sand as I tried to find the water.

Of course, I never found it. When I finally reached the wet sticky mud of the actual shore, my shoes squelched through the stench as the lake itself receded from me. Finally I yelled at the heavens, feeling betrayed that what had felt like the right and only choice was being taken from me, and headed toward the causeway so I could walk home.  

I can't describe the distance. Even now I look back and wonder how in the world I did it. Sheer determination, I guess.

I didn't realize how much I hurt until the guy who drove me to the gates let me out of his truck so I could wait for my husband. Walking to the other side of the gate to stand under the light pole took sheer force of will. I was determined not to let that man or his wife see what kind of shape I was in.

When I got home, after sleeping and freezing for I don't know how long, wow. I had to have help walking. I couldn't support my own weight for the first couple of days. I limped around, my hips and legs bundles of misery as I tried to function. I can't remember how long it took for slowly crossing from my room to the kitchen to feel doable.


Walking sounds so simple, so every day. People run and walk 15 miles easy for marathons all the time. 

Before the walk, I loved to do cardio. Kickboxing, treadmill, fun upbeat video exercises like P90x and TaeBo, I would do it all. I had a gym membership and I LOVED going at any time of day. It was something I could do that was wonderful, freeing, and felt good. Stuff I could never do while pregnant.

Now it's stuff I cannot do anymore.

It's been 363 days, and walking the mile to work still hurts my feet. Sprinting from the girls shirts to the phone in the fitting room - what, 20 feet? - to answer the phone makes my groin muscles ache for 3-4 days.

I walk to work because it's good for me. The fresh air is great for my mental health, whether it's rainy, snowy, overwhelmingly hot, or perfect outside, the walk is *always* beneficial. Especially on my bad days.

So mentally, the walking is great.

Physically, not so much.  I can tell I'm converting some fat to muscle because I need to wear a belt with my pants now. (Whoo Hoo!)  But the pain that accompanies the wimpy exercise is something that confuses me.

It's not nearly as unbearable as the pain that accompanied my last three pregnancies, don't get me wrong. THAT pain made getting out of bed, getting up from chairs, walking, riding in a car, pretty much any kind of movement, make me cry. Oh it was excruciating torture.  

However, when *not* pregnant, my body was pretty much willing to do anything. 

Now, dangit, it feels like my body will never forgive me for what I put it through. 

By now I should have recovered from the exhaustion and the muscle strain. Yet after a few hours at work it's hard to walk after I get home, and yes, I have awesome shoes.

I don't understand. I assume it's an inconvenience for surviving. No, that's wrong. It's a side-effect of the attempted suicide. The surviving part includes this additional issue on a day-to-day basis. It's worth it for the survival part, though. 

I still walk to work. I still love my job. I endure the pain because it's common enough that it's background noise while I'm working. 

At home, it takes a few hours before my feet stop yelling at me, but I've gotten used to it.

I may never know the biological reason for the weirdness. I wish I could understand the science behind the muscle changes and my body not functioning even after twelve months. 

I feel like it wouldn't bother me so much if I knew the why I haven't healed as well as I thought I would. 

It's sad that the idea of hiking to Timpanogos Cave with my kids sounds too hard. So does visiting the zoo, the aviary, DisneyParkOfChoice, etc. My current reality is Let me stay home, please, please, please.

Consequences. Sometimes they make zero sense.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Thoughts On Self Image

I looked in the mirror after my shower today and realized that I liked who I saw.

I don't mind saying that for the first time in my life, I think my breasts are beautiful. I am not overly blessed in this department, but I as I studied myself I realized that they are not horrible looking.

Sure, there are a few stretchmarks from six pregnancies and nursing six babies, but their shape, size, and the way they hang is perfect for me. I discovered one is larger than the other. Yay child #5 only wanting the left side. They are soft, creamy colored, and with the added weight I have put on due to medication and a few years of sedentary life, I actually have cleavage when I wear a bra.

This may seem as TMI to a lot of you, but it's groundbreaking for me. Body image is a big deal.

It's one thing to be able to determine the state of my mental health if I can look at myself in the mirror and like the person I see or not. That usually has nothing to do with my overall physique, but what I see when I look in my eyes.

But to be able to look at my body as is, stretch marks, lumpy I've-had-six-kids rolls on my stomach that will never go away without elective surgery, thicker arms and thighs than I ever imagined I would have, and accepting it, thinking it's beautiful and mine, is a first for me.

When the first mood stabilizer, Risperdal, had me gaining weight and tipped me over the 200 lb mark, I didn't ever want to look at an outfit in the mirror again. Even after I changed meds, I've pretty much stabilized between 205-215 no matter how much walking, kickboxing, trips to the gym, etc that I do.

And for the first time in a very long time, I feel like I not only can live with it, I can feel good in my skin.

When I say a very long time, I mean in probably 42 years. Well, ok, there were times when I was in starvation mode, working two jobs, sleeping 3-5 hours a night for 2 years, and barely having time to catch one meal a day that I could fit into some super cute outfits and felt like I matched what the world sees and expects.

Of course, when that ended, my body said, "FOOD!!  Save it up for the next time she stops eating!!"

Also, given the fact that I am fairly close to 5'9", the extra fifty pounds could look much worse. Lets be real here, on my mom, who is 5 feet tall, fifty pounds would *really* show.

I wish, very much, that when I was younger and had that fit body, the teenage health and vibrance of life in my 20's that I had been just as comfortable in my skin. There's something freeing, something that shines from within when there is that comfort.

Only now do I feel that for real. Yes, I have cellulite. Some days I comment on it, because it's simply a fact that it's there. And because of that, not every piece of clothing is going to look good on my shape. And sometimes I will and do get exasperated at something that looked so good on the hanger not looking good when I put it on.

This is simply a fact, and that's something that I can't always be happy about. But that doesn't mean I feel like I'm ugly or unlovable.

I think that's the most important bit. I think that somewhere along the way, I've decided that yes, I'm lovable. Just as I am.

Perhaps this has to start on the inside. When the bad days are bad and those evil demons of depression are telling me that I'm horrible and worthless, it starts with my thoughts. I feel like my soul is twisted out of shape, a disgusting waste of energy that shouldn't be a smudge on anyone else's existence.

I know that distorts what I see in the mirror. It's like a dark overlay, causing me to hate what I see on the outside because I can't love what is on the inside.

That being said, I didn't suffer from clinical depression when I was younger. I had NO idea what it was like until after my son was born and I had post-partum.

I knew that my grandparents loved me, and I knew that God loved me. That was always a given for me, and somehow that was some stable rock that has stuck somewhere in my brain and has never budged. It's the tiny granite core of the sea-bed that makes up my emotions, self-image, and view of the world.

Yet attached to that core is the fear that they will stop loving me if I make too many mistakes. If I turn out not as perfect as they had hoped. I am fallible; I have certainly not lived the life of a saint, and I have a great many regrets.

For once in my life, for real, I have discovered that people love me no matter what. Perhaps not all people. But my true friends, my brothers, my sister, my mother. No matter what. And maybe that's helped me realize that it's okay for me to love me, too.

Loving me includes loving the lumps and rolls and imperfections that come with aging, motherhood, and the quirks that make up my body.  It's pretty darn cool to feel this way. :)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Another Thing on Fear

I know. I know, I know, I know that what other people think shouldn't matter.

I am having a hard time with that currently.

Ok, so you know I'm religious. My morals and values include a certain dress code and expectations of modesty.

Not all of my children agree with or live to these values and expectations. I may be a tad disappointed about that, but they are their own selves and perfectly capable of making their own life decisions. I certainly don't hold them to whatever grand expectations are out there. I certainly don't live up to them all the time myself.

My family is also very religious. Now, I love my family. LOVE them. They are generous, loving, and have always been there for me when I've needed help emotionally, financially, physically, or whatever.

So I am having some fear issues.

I do not expect nor want anyone to give me a fix-it for this. I just need to express it.

The first big thing that is causing a bit of a rift is that my daughter is marrying a non-member of our faith. And I will fight to the death against anyone who judges her or gives either her or him crap about it. He is awesome, he is the best for her, and they both bring out the best in each other. Not only that, but they are talking responsibly about their future, practicing compromise already, and just being great together.

A couple of family members have already tried to give her a... guilt trip? lecture? about all the things she'll miss out on. And I totally went mamma bear on them and let them know to leave her alone about her decisions.

Well, now I'm feeling self-conscious because her perfect, wonderful, make-her-feel-like-a-princess wedding dress is sleeveless. It shows off her perfect arms and shoulders from her athleticism, and oh my goodness is she beautiful in it.

My fear is that my family is going to think I am an awful mother and haven't raised my children according to my standards.

I know that's a dumb fear. Of course I have. I have *also* raised my kids with the knowledge that they can make their own choices. I don't want them to make choices I'd make. In fact, half the time I wish that I hadn't made the choices I made at their age.

I know that it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. It's her wedding, it can be however she wants it. Either my family supports her, or they don't. It's just painful. The very thought that they might not support her is painful.

This is me borrowing a jack, of course. But I know without a doubt that I'm going to get an earful from my mother. There's nothing I can do about that. It's just going to happen. I'm prepared to deal with that. I am worried that my daughters and I will have to form a protective barrier for my daughter on her wedding day so no one makes her feel awful about her choices.

Anyway, there's my fear. Perhaps with some guilt mixed in for feeling like a failure. Don't tell me how to fix it. I'll just have to work through it. I have no control over others, I can only control myself. And somehow it will all work out. I dont' know how, but it will.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Work and Anxiety

Back in September when I was first hired, I didn't tell them about my mental illness. It was a personal test for myself to see if I could, in fact, handle a job.

I took a xanex every time I worked for the first week or so. I don't remember. But eventually it became necessary only once a month or even less than that.

Then came the day when there was a child throwing a complete and total tantrum. His mother just ignored it and continued shopping. Screaming, yelling, crying, loud loud loud. I broke down, freaked out, and my manager had me sit in the office until I calmed down - and the lady had *finally* left the store.

Not long after that, my xanex kicked in and I was ok the rest of my shift.

Since then, most of the people I work with now know about my anxiety. Amazingly enough, there are at least three other people there with the same issue. They each handle it in different ways. Me, I prefer the safety of the fitting room cave. Others prefer the register or they feel claustrophobic and freak out in fitting room.

With the stressors in my life and the ups and downs with the bi-polar, naturally there are going to be some days that are better than others.

Thursday there were a bunch of teenagers trying on dresses, a couple of moms with little kids, and some adult friends, all in the echoing fitting room. Oh my Holy LOUD. I thought I was going to lose it and start crying. The shakes started, and I was having a hard time breathing.

I called on the radio and asked if there was anyone on the sales floor that I could trade with for a few minutes, until all the loud was out. Immediately one of my co-workers came and took over for me and I went and helped finish the area she was recovering.

I didn't have to ask more than once, I didn't have to explain myself, it was just taken care of.

So far as I know, that has happened for every co-worker that has had an issue with their anxiety flaring.

We cover for each other, management doesn't resent it, and after it's calmed down, we go on with the work.

I don't regret not telling them up front about my issues and why I was looking for a job. I didn't know if they'd hire me if I wasn't sure I could hold a job.

While there are days that I don't want to go to work, don't think I can handle it, or just don't think I can crawl out of bed, I have to admit that it is an immense relief that my co-workers know.

People aren't nearly as judgemental as I assumed they would be. At least not in my workplace. Reasonable Accomodation is what they call it. I call it basic good humanity and I am grateful for it.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Importance of Feedback

I write. I'm an artist. I footzone. I am an unrepentant creative spirit.

I earned a degree in Illustration, and am a couple classes shy of finishing a degree in Graphic Design.

I honestly and truly believe that I do these things well. Oh boy do I have my fears of failure, but it does not mean I believe I suck at the things I love. I can certainly do better and wow is there room for improvement, but I was blessed with talent and it would be disrespectful to my *self* to say otherwise.

One of the reasons that I have the confidence that I can be successful at these endeavors is because of the feedback I receive.

Yes, I know this sounds vain, but let me explain the difference between good feedback and bad feedback. Also, I would like to address how a person handles feedback and constructive criticism.

Firstly, in order to refine and improve, you have to be able to see the flaws and the areas to improve. As a rule, the creator is usually blind to many of these things. While it is true that artists are their worst critic, sometimes it is difficult to step outside of themselves and see the whole.

Due to this, it is vital to hear feedback from an outside source. Preferably from someone who knows what they are talking about.

Constructive criticism is NOT going to be 100% positive. If the writing, the portrait, the design or the artwork is a rough draft, a tight color comp, or something you may have thought finished, that feedback may not even be 50% positive.

In order to take the suggestions, ideas, and bluntness, be emotionally prepared to hear things like, "This doesn't work for me and here's why."  "Do you have any other ideas or layouts that you might want to try because...?" or "This seems completely out of character, why did this person make that choice?" "The pacing here is very slow. I became bored and skimmed to the end of the chapter." Or "I really love how you did this, but it doesn't fit with how you did this."

KNOW you aren't going hear things that will proclaim you as a faultless god in your endeavor.

**Put on your emotional armor, have a notebook handy, and realize that the people you trusted to view this baby are not attacking YOU.

** Write down all of the suggestions and take notes on ideas. Things they say may inspire you while you're listening.

** Ask questions after they are done.


There will be feedback you feel is completely ludicrous. You'll hear stuff from folks who don't understand what you're trying to say. They'll try to change it to the way 'they'd" have done it or what they think you should be doing. Be polite, listen, and disregard what you don't agree with. Think very consciously about what they are saying before you throw it out, because sometimes it can spark a brilliant idea.

In that same vein, valuable positive feedback will tell you what you did great and WHY it is great. The most important thing is understanding what works and why it works so you can put that in your file of workable techniques.

Bad feedback attacks you personally. Disregard it. Seriously. It sounds a lot like, "What were you thinking??" "This is dumb, what a waste of time." "You kind of suck at this."

Bad feedback is vague. "I don't like it." "Oh, this is great!"

I'm sure it's possible to improve without hearing from outside sources, but it will take a lot longer.

If you are pursuing writing or any kind of artistic field, please, PLEASE, be open to honest feedback. It is the most frustrating thing in the world to tell someone why you feel a, b, or c isn't functioning as well as it could, and have them get defensive, angry, and attack. Don't be that person. Just don't.

Defensiveness makes your critique group walk on egg shells around you, simply supplying your wanted platitudes. That's a waste of your time and theirs. OR, they ostracize you. That sucks, too. Defensiveness will never help you improve. Ever.

If someone says, "That's not something I would ever read/buy/commission," take it for what they mean. It's something THAT PERSON isn't interested in. It doesn't mean it's worthless; it means they are not in your audience. There is no convincing them they will love what you're doing, and no point in getting hurt over it. Simply acknowledge their position and move on.

We all feel defensive about our babies. It's the nature of being a creative. The trick is to recognize the emotion, admit it to yourself, and tell it to shut up until you are alone. Vent it all you want at the wall, at a friend, or in a diary. When you're calm, look at your notes and get to work.

Boom, growth.

That's the importance of feedback.

The biggest reason that I believe my story is worth finishing is because of the comments and criticism of my critique group. They are complete strangers - er, they were to begin with. I have pages and pages of constructive criticism that I need to address for the re-write. Yet the positive feedback from strangers and from some very picky readers that I know - who I trust to give me honest and blunt feedback - is extremely encouraging.

Don't get me wrong, I will need a content editor when I feel confident in the draft. I will definitely need a line-editor, since my ability to type a coherent sentence or use correct words is obviously impaired now. Um, also my love of commas and apostraphes.

I have designed my daughters' graduation announcements and their wedding invitations. I've done High School musical programs, designed logos, and portraits. In *EVERY* project I have asked for and expected feedback.

I've worked with printers and professional designers on several of these projects. Their input was invaluable and certainly not always ego boosting.

I do not expect nor wish to be coddled.

I want to grow as much as possible. I expect every artist does. Accepting criticism is imperative to this.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Red Heads are Real

There have been a gazillion writing posts and blogs and tantrums from editors about red-headed characters.

Stop with the red-heads they say.

They're uber rare, they say.

No one knows that many red-heads, so stop writing them, they say.

Pfffft, I say.

I say I'm entitled to write red-headed characters. I have a right to write them!!  Let me tell you why.

My grandparents have eight living children, three boys and five girls. Of those five girls, four of them are red-heads, my mother being one of them.

All three of my brothers were born with bright red hair. It fell out, of course, and grew in as that super white toe-headed cute stuff everyone loves.

I have several cousins with red hair. (I can't count them as I don't know the exact number. I have 80+ cousins, so YOU can count them if you want.)

All right, all right, yeah, so of my five girls, only one has red hair. That's a smaller number, sure. And people have been asking me since my daughter was two if I dyed her hair. TWO!  Who dyes a kid's hair at the age of two????  Can I help it that she was born with a beautiful color of auburn??  I wish I had that kind of control over genetics, I'd be rich.

Now lets talk about the hubster's family.

His grandmother and her twin were red-heads. Grandma had three girls; two of them are red-heads.

The hubster was a very bright red-head until his teen years when it darkened to a dishwatery blond. His beard is still red. Of his four sisters, two are red-heads.

The gal across the street from me is a red-head.  Even my best friend's mother-in-law is red!

Come on, that is NOT rare.

Therefore, if I want to write about a red head, I damn well will. So there.

It's when I write about a blond or a brunette that I feel like I'm writing something a little more exotic.

I don't care what the statistics say. I think this freaking out over the number of red-headed characters is batty.

Red hair is real, and I have the family to prove it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I Wish I Could Protect My Children From The Yuck

I wish that there was some way to protect my children from difficult pregnancies and even more difficult recoveries.

Well, honestly, I wish there were a way to protect them from all things harmful. Of course, that would prevent their own growth and learning. How can they gain strength if they don't learn to climb over, dig under, or move around obstacles, right? But oh it's hard to watch.

My oldest is now struggling with Post-Partum depression. As I am open about my feelings and experiences, so is she. 

I want to link to her post. I didn't know how to share my post-partum experience when I was having it. I made a lot of excuses for it at the time. I didn't honestly know how to cope, and I was unmedicated. My older children had to take on much of the parenting responsibility and my attitude about it was not helpful.

And now my daughter is having that same struggle. It is heartbreaking to share these thoughts and feelings together over the phone. It is comforting to find someone who truly understands, but it is also so very difficult to have to struggle through it.

Here is her post:  Too Honest For Comfort