Tag Archives: before I break

out here on my own

by Jennifer, fasten her seatbelt

It’s been four months since my last post…

Sometimes I wonder where I’ve been
Who I am 
Do I fit in. 
Make believin’ is hard alone,
Out here on my own.
On a darkened stage one afternoon, Coco Hernandez (Irene Cara) sang what was deep within her heart as Bruno Martelli (Lee Curreri) listened intently.  The movie Fame premiered in 1980 – I was 15 years old and destined to be a brilliant actress – for god’s sake… I had already been cast in a supporting, ensemble role in a high school production!
We’re always provin’ who we are 
Always reachin’ for the risin’ star 
To guide me far
And shine me home
Out here on my own.

Needless to say, thirty odd years later I am not a brilliant actress -that dream faded along with the popularity of the movie Fame (but wouldn’t it just be a hoot if I was?).  I am a wife, mother, artist and ‘accidental advocate’.  I have a wonderful and caring family, and though I am not alone, the song ‘Out Here On My Own’ seems as relevant to me today as it did in 1980, yet in such different way.  So, how exactly does this fit together?  Lack of posts?  The movie Fame?  Out Here On My Own?

Mid-Summer I posted this image:
It was meant to be followed up immediately by this post.
Apparently that didn’t happen, as it’s now the end of August and I’m just writing this.
When I’m down and feelin’ blue 
I close my eyes so I can be with you
Oh, baby, be strong for me
Baby, belong to me
Help me through
Help me need you. 

When the girls were younger, my husband and I had made the joint decision that I would stay home with them.  It’s been equally rewarding and challenging as many of you know.  However, as their needs grew, I felt my own identity slipping away.

And then it hit like a ton of bricks.  For about the past four months – I’ve been feeling lost.  I find myself becoming more withdrawn as each day passes.  I’m sure we all feel like this at times – a bit lost.  With so many things to take care of, I find at times I take care of nothing.  We are mothers, wives, providers, educators, advocates and problems-solvers… but sometimes I wonder:  Who am I?  It sounds so simple, and I should be able to answer.  Who. Am. I?

Until the morning sun appears 
Making light of all my fears 
I dry the tears
I’ve never shown
Out here on my own.

The exterior me shows strength and confidence.  Yet the interior is slowly ripping herself apart.

S.    L.     O.     W.     L.     Y.

We’re talking a five to six year tear here.  Corresponding with???  You betcha – our diagnosis.  You see, I think there has always been a little part of me (2%? 5%? 10%?) that has been living in denial.  Who knows the actual percentage, but it gets pretty loud every now and then.  And then I think to myself, by admitting that this percentage even exists, what does that say about me?  That I don’t support my daughter?  That I don’t accept her for who she is?  Emma’s a gem – I love her fully and completely.  Sometimes, it’s hard though -it’s really, really hard.  The play dates, the birthday parties, the sleepovers… all those ‘typical’ activities she sees her younger sister partaking in, but she never gets asked to partake in.  But everyone’s so ‘friendly’ to Emma, right?  There’s a BIG difference between being ‘friendly’ and being a ‘friend’.  The hardest thing you will ever do as a parent, will be to watch the things you have absolutely no control over take place.

When I’m down and feelin’ blue 
I close my eyes so I can be with you
Oh, baby, be strong for me
Baby, belong to me
Help me through
Help me need you. 

As I work through this song – ‘Out Here On My Own’, I ask myself:  Who is Coco/Irene asking ‘Baby, be strong for me, baby belong to me.  Help me through, help me need you’? My only answer can be:  HERSELF.  She will find it within herself to get through, to be strong, to be who she needs to be – to be the best she can be – for herself.  I need to be strong for myself, so I’m able to be strong for my daughters.  I need to know who I am, so my daughters will be able to know who they are…

Sometimes I wonder where I’ve been 
Who I am 
Do I fit in
I may not win
But I can’t be thrown
Out here on my own
On my own.

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to visit with two very dear girlfriends (both whom are living in different states now).  They’re friends from college – you know the kind… the ones who have known you since you were just finding your feet.  The kind of friends you don’t have to ‘edit’ yourself around, because they’ve already seen you at your best and worst.  We went to art school together, so trust me… there were plenty of ‘worst’ times!  We shared so much in school:  laughter, tears, inspiration!  I miss those ladies.  Seeing them – albeit separately – enabled me to find some of those small pieces of myself again… to begin to answer the question Who I am.

I am an artist.  I am a wife.  I am a mother.  I am an advocate.
I am a gardener.  I am a photographer.  I am an avid reader.  I am strong.
‘To reach your destination… First you must begin your journey’.

As I mentioned to a friend earlier today:  It’s time to take off the dirty old robe and toss it away.  It’s time to start this new journey, to rediscover who I am – to be reacquainted with these different aspects of myself.  In order to ‘reach my destination’ Fasten Her Seatbelt may change a bit, for not only will this be about Emma’s journey, but mine as well.

Title Inspiration:
Irene Cara:  Out Here On My Own

**********

Jennifer lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls: Frannie (9), Emma (10), and Isabella (22). She is an artist, fine jeweler and educator. Emma was diagnosed with an ASD at age 4 and Frannie was diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia at age 6.

With Emma fast approaching adolescence, Jennifer found there was not much information available for ‘girls, autism and adolescence’, thus ‘Fasten Her Seatbelt’ was born. Using ‘Fasten Her Seatbelt as a vehicle to re-account life experiences both pas and present, Jennifer hopes to connect with other parents on the same journey. So, hop on in and join her as she travels the world of adolescence on the spectrum.

This post was originally published HERE and used with permission.

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My Way Back From Depression

by Kathy, kissing the frog

Last week, I was out of my little white happy pill.  The pharmacist had to call my doctor, and I knew they would play phone tag all week.  I’ve been out of my Lexapro before, and I knew what was going to happen…

One morning, I wake up feeling sad for no apparent reason.  A sadness that has nothing to do with any tragedy I’ve experienced.  I’m never sure why I am feeling sad, but I sink into it.  It lays over the top of me for a day or so, until it worms its way deep into my heart and mind, festering, slowly turning into anger and despair over every. little. thing.

Anger at all the things I can’t seem to control.

And then it resides there, refusing to leave, affecting my every thought, every action.

My patience with my sons quickly wears thin.  I snap at the smallest mistake, yell over the tiniest indiscretions.  I take out my anger and feelings of worthlessness on them, innocent victims incapable of fighting back.  I scream and yell and say regrettable things that I know I will never be able to reverse.  

I yell at my four year old to ‘Hurry up!!’ We are late for preschool again.  We are always late.  Why can’t I ever be on time for anything?

The baby is getting into everything, and I yank him away making him cry.

With every angry reaction I think,  ‘I’m a horrible mother.  This is how they will remember me.’ This plunges me further into my pit of self-pity and negativity.  I can’t believe how quickly I have descended this time.

When Hubby asks me about my day, I don’t even want to talk or even let him look at me and see the sadness and anger in my eyes.  I am ashamed of myself.

My head is jumbled.  I can’t think.  I can’t remember anything.  I can’t organize my thoughts.

I haven’t written my weekly post for Her View From Home, and I can’t think what to write.  I write sentences that make no sense and then delete them in a frustrated and angry tirade.  I know I should write a new blog post, too.  But why should I?  No one reads it anyway.  Every e-mail I get from other blogs I subscribe to makes me angry and depressed.  Why does this blog have so many followers?  Why did everyone comment on this post when no one comments on mine?  It defeats me.  I think, ‘I am stupid to think that I can write, that I have talent, that I have anything to say that anyone wants to hear.’  I resign to just give up writing altogether, thinking only of the pieces that have been rejected.

‘I am a miserable failure at everything.’

I don’t return phone calls, I ignore e-mails and texts and messages on Facebook.  I don’t feel like subjecting anyone to my negativity.  At my son’s soccer game, I set up my chair far away from all the other parents.  I can’t be social.  My friend Katie walks by and asks how my day is going.  Near tears, I tell her, ‘Not good,’  and when she gives me a tight hug, I bristle.  I’m angry with myself for letting people see me like this.  Seeing me weak and ungraceful.

At the next soccer game of the day, my friend Heather sets up camp next to me and babbles happily in her enviable way.   I wonder if she can tell; does she know how I am feeling?  She has said that she needs to run every day.  It is her sanity.  What is my sanity?  Why is my sanity a pill?

At baseball games later that day, I get a rush of joy seeing my six year old make a good hit and run to first base.  My heart warms watching my four year old play for the first time, seeing his short legs run the bases and follow directions and laugh happily.

On Sunday, Hubby asks me to help plant annuals in the flower garden.  The hard work satisfies me for an afternoon.  I’m unsure whether it is because I am learning more about something I’ve always wanted to know or that Hubby and I are working side-by-side on a project, but it brings me temporary reprieve.

But later, I want to be alone with my thoughts, away from everyone.  I know this is dangerous.  I’ve been alone with my thoughts too many times in my life.  Alone with the thoughts that tell me I am worthless, I’m a bad mother and a terrible wife.  I can’t cook or write or take care of my house or maintain friendships.  I’ll never be able to run a race or write a book or complete a goal.  These were the same thoughts that plunged me into a scary darkness three times in my life.

Once in high school when I was so paralyzed by feelings of inadequacy that I stayed in my room wallowing in misery, sure that I was so far beneath everyone else that perhaps I shouldn’t even exist.

Next, after I graduated from college and couldn’t find a job.  I hated substitute teaching, so I stopped answering the phone at all.  I stopped getting dressed in the morning and stayed on the couch all day.

And when I desperately wanted a baby after I was married, and everyone but me seemed to be getting pregnant.  I stopped talking to my friends and avoided social situations.  I remember crying to Hubby, begging him to let me stay home from his high school fund raiser because we would be seated at the same table as someone who was pregnant, and I didn’t want to stare at her swollen belly all night.

Hubby would often come home from work, and finding me in tears and on the couch would say to me, “You sat home and thought all day, didn’t you?”

It feels like the cartoon image of the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other. It’s the classic battle between light and dark, which both reside in all of us.  But in someone who suffers from depression, the dark mostly wins.  That little devil tells me awful things about myself, and I believe him.

In my twenties, my doctor suggested I see a therapist.  I carried around the name and number for about a year before I threw it away.  It was just another thing that made me feel inadequate, that proved I was a failure.  I always thought it was something I had to live with.  It wasn’t that bad, was it?

But as I look back, it was.  It did paralyze me, it does keep me from doing the things I want to do – mainly loving my family and friends and pursuing my dreams.

Monday, I picked up the pills, and took two right away.  Slowly my head cleared, but I was still screaming at my sons and deleting every blog update from my e-mail.  I got back on my pattern of taking five milligrams every other day.  Any more makes me feel like a fuzzy-headed zombie; any less isn’t quite enough.

I have found time to use my treadmill a bit each day this week, and when I am tired, I have gone to bed before exhaustion hits.

This morning, I gave gentle reminders about backpacks and glasses and dressing for preschool and laughed when Baby E took the dirty clothes out of the washing machine.  I feel like my sanity is slowly returning and lightness and calm are winning once again over darkness and anger.  I feel like I am returning to the person I want to be, that I know I am in my heart and in my beautiful mind.

I have three, maybe four posts I want to write, and I am reading all my favorite blogs again for inspiration.  The words are forming themselves in my head, and I can’t type quickly enough.

I do hate that this sanity and clarity comes from a pill, but I thank God I can recognize this.  I thank God that I can recognize when my mind is jumbled and crazy and the darkness is winning.  I thank God for giving me a situation that forced the introduction of the medication.  I thank God that I will never be a Susan Smith-type mom who does the unthinkable to her children because she didn’t realize that she needed help or refused to seek it.

I vow to never let my prescription lapse again.  I vow to not care if society thinks I am weak or lazy for taking antidepressants.  I vow to never think that they are the only answer for these dark feelings.  I vow to take them for as long as I need them, for myself and for my family.

Most importantly, I vow to be honest about my use of them for other women who might think as I used to  – that they just have to deal with that devil character on their shoulder telling them awful things about themselves and believing it.  I vow to talk about it because if I had known anyone else felt this same way long ago, things might have been different.  Different as they are now.  Better.

All I have ever wanted was to be happy; but I have to fight for it, and I always will.  The more I fight, the more I learn.  The more I learn, the better I get.  If that means I need some medicinal assistance, then so be it. That little white pill and I will just keep knocking that devil right off my shoulder.

**********

Kathy is a former elementary school teacher who now stays home with her most important students, her four sons.  She began writing after she lost her oldest son at age six to cancer and as an outlet to dealing with another son’s ADHD and anxiety issues.  At her blog, kissing the frog, she writes about what really happens after all your dreams come true.  You can also find her weekly column at www.HerViewFromHome.com .

This post was originally published HERE and used with permission.

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Before I Break

by Nikki

A different, earlier version of me may (would) have considered this past 24 hours to be selfish, a waste of money, and worthy of mounds of guilt. Fortunately, she’s gone – hopefully forever – and in her place is the 40 year old me that understands the value of taking a break before *I* break.

It has been building for a while. There were the normal stresses of the holidays, followed by seeing those extra holiday/winter pounds every time I look in the mirror. And my kids got head lice right around Christmas. I know what you’re thinking. And you’re right. Lice is gross and it’s a lot of work. But, really, I can handle all of that. And then in the middle of January I fell. Broke my shoulder. Yes, it was one of those icy days here in Vermont. But that wasn’t a factor. I fell in my kitchen – tripped over the damn vacuum cleaner cord and crashed into my cabinets. At that moment the real stress began.

I am a single mom. I have 4 kids. I own my own home. And, oh yeah, I am strong-willed and fiercely independent. I didn’t want to ask for help but I had to. Actually, strike that. I didn’t have to ask for help, I had to *accept* help. My mom moved in for a few days without me having to ask. My best friend spent that first, horrendous night with me when I was brutally sick from the meds (and likely from hitting my head) even after I insisted I was fine alone. Other friends made meals and transported my kids and stopped to fill my pellet stove. Without me having to ask. So, yeah, my friends and family rock. But the accepting is very difficult for me. It makes me anxious.

Then there were endless basketball games and homework and kids fighting and the less-than-pleasant, not at all easy to work with ex-husband. And just for the fun of it, life decided to pile on. My daughter hurt her knee and needs physical therapy twice a week, 25 minutes away. My son got sick and we’re still trying to figure it out. The past couple of weeks have been full of doctor appointments, tests with specialists, an ER visit, lots and lots of missed school, and that constant, aching, deep-in-your-bones worry when something is wrong with your child and it may be serious.

Three nights ago I was a wreck. Overtired, anxious, grumpy. My kids were fighting and I felt like I may burst. I texted a friend and said “I don’t want to be a mother tonight.”. This was bad. I put the kids to bed early, sat on my couch, and cried.

I opened my laptop and I booked myself a deluxe oceanfront room right on the beach in Maine. My happy place. I knew that I needed to get away in order to keep myself from running away.

After checking in yesterday I put on extra layers and immediately started walking on the beach. The waves were loud, the wind was furious, and I just let it all go. I stood on the beach alone and I cried the ugly cry. I thought about all of the things that have been making me anxious and I cried for every single one of them. And then I stopped. I gave my anxiety to the waves. The ocean gives me strength, it gives me perspective.

This night away does not erase all of my troubles. They will still be there when I return home later today. But it does buoy me (forgive the sea-related pun). It has allowed me to just be me for a while. I have cried, I have read and slept and treated myself to a seafood dinner and watched The Hangover on cable. I have sat in the over-sized chair for long periods of time just staring at the waves. I have recharged.

Tomorrow it all starts again. The normal everyday rigors of life. And maybe some not-so-normal ones too. But because I valued myself and my sanity enough to escape for a while, I will fight the fight with renewed energy. I will be able to be a better mom to my kids this week because I was good to myself first.

**********

Nikki is a work-at-home single mom with four kids, ranging in age from teenager to first grader. When life threw her a curve ball, she hit back hard and with a vengeance. She believes that life is what you make of it: you can either sit at home and watch the Oscars in your pajamas or buy a fancy dress at the thrift store and party in style. She has dedicated the last 14 years to creating a better life for her children, and now knows it’s time to create that better life for herself as well.

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