Living naturally, most of the time.

Identifying the good

It seems a little surprising that I’m feeling so calm on such a full day. It sure feels different to be trying to figure out why instead of figuring out why I don’t feel well, which is a lot more common! I woke this morning with a sore throat and tight chest thinking, “Oh, maybe it’s not the house or outdoor allergens that have been making the kids cough; maybe they did have a virus and it finally caught up with me.” So I dosed up with some remedies. Maybe they somehow had a calming effect. I didn’t feel sick, exactly, so I didn’t nix any of my plans, which included: attending the Grand Opening of Ease Yoga & Cafe, which I had written about on my website, Mindful Healthy Life sitting in on part of a Whole Woman workshop for posture and pelvic health catching at least some of the Total Wellness Summit led by Dr. Sakilba Mines, who I worked with over a decade ago before my Graves’ disease went into remission and before she had her own wellness center, The Institute of Multidimensional Medicine. In fact, I was totally calm on the drives between each of the three locations and again on the way home. I didn’t get bothered by any traffic. I didn’t feel in a huge rush. Maybe knowing I couldn’t do any of the events justice sort of let me off the hook! Maybe I like finally having GPS talk to me on my phone so driving in the District was no mystery. And I got to listen to NPR, some of Weekend Edition, This American Life, and Studio 360. That always helps. Maybe I just felt happy that my husband was taking the kids for the day and I knew they would not miss me much when they were at my son’s baseball game and then at lunch at District Taco. Maybe it’s because my normally taciturn (in text and in life) hubby actually gave me some good intel, including that my son’s team won 4-0 and that lunch worked out well despite it being crowded. And he added as a fifth (!) text, “How’s my baby mama?” Yes, I’m sure those texts helped, as did all the good and mindful breathing we did in the Whole Woman workshop. But there was something even at the start of the day. It was a lack of overwhelm. A lack of conflict. A missing crisis of confidence.   I knew I wanted to go to...

Family legacy ambivalence

Welcome to the April 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family History This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, lore, and wisdom about family history. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. *** As my son gets older, I hear him sounding like a mini-me, making up songs with kooky words, singing out loud about adding 28 plus 6 while he figures perimeter on his math homework. It can be a delight to see your child reminding you of yourself. Other times it can be embarrassing. It can also be anxiety-producing. What worries me most is when he takes things too deeply to heart, and I worry he will follow in his parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps of holding on to hurts. With such a strong history of depression, and having lost my brother to suicide, it’s hard not to feel some anxiety about my intense little guy’s emotional well-being. In January 2009, I had a piece published in the Journal of Attachment Parenting International (before it became Attached Family magazine) in an issue about “healing childhood wounds.” I talked about my parenting choices and some of the holistic health choices that I pursued first with myself to heal from a thyroid disorder and regain my fertility and then with my son to try to undo some patterns of thinking I’d grown up with. It was really important to see my son growing up with a sense of optimism and not dread or depression. Sharing the piece with my mom was its own kind of healing. Then, a few months after the 2010 birth of my daughter, my health declined. I’m still trying to figure out what all went awry so profoundly and how to address it, but at a minimum it’s safe to say that I was pretty severely adrenally fatigued and that my leaky gut had caused big problems. It’s taken a lot of time and energy these past four years. Then my mother’s health declined, and after I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I decided I needed to spend time with my mom on my own, without my kids. So I flew out on Valentine’s Day 2014 and again in November. We had some great talks, and I learned a lot both times. One thing I’ve come to realize is that I am or have been turning into both my...

Life after antidepressants

Antidepressants saved my life at least once and might have saved my brother’s if he’d sought help instead of taking his life. Saturday, November 22 is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. This is the story of why I am grateful I had medication and how and why I hope to avoid it for the rest of my life. It was early 2001 when my mom begged me to see someone and my then-boyfriend told me he “didn’t want to live like this.” My first year of teaching high school had been beyond rough. I cried every morning in the shower and struggled to get any sleep before I had to wake at 5 a.m. It took a lot of effort to figure  out my medical benefits and make some appointments, but there seemed no other way. The doctor I found through my health insurance plan listened to me and noted that sometimes patterns we’ve learned in our family are as much a part of the issue as chemistry. I didn’t disagree, but I just knew something had to change. He joked drily after he got back from his supply closet to see which brand he had a starting sample of: “Here’s your vitamin P.” Once the medication had been in my system for a week or two, the difference was dramatic. It was like I’d put on glasses for the first time. “You mean everyone can see individual leaves and not just a green blur? You mean it’s possible that people are not criticizing me all the time? People actually walk through life feeling like smiling?” This was good stuff. It was a new way of living, this thinking positive thoughts without trying! I took my time getting to know the new me. My doctor supported my plan to stay on medication through my wedding (now that my relationship had turned around), keep up my talk therapy, and wean off the happy pills in preparation for conception after I stopped taking the birth control pill. We’d had two good years together, me and Paxil, but I had learned new skills and was ready to be done. I tapered my dose gently, but still, during those last few days of taking only a crumb and then nothing, the brain zaps and vertigo freaked me out and convinced me I wouldn’t touch the stuff again. I didn’t want something like that in my body again. But then, several months later with a new diagnosis of Graves’ Disease, autoimmune hyperthyroidism, and...

How to talk to depressed people

Memory assistance is one of the best things about blogging. I was looking everywhere for a piece I knew I’d started on what to say and not say to someone who is depressed. When I logged in to update the blog after a nearly season-long hiatus, there was the draft, from July 20, 2014. I’m happy to say that I’m feeling a little more, well, happy, but much of this still rings true. Many people I know have struggled with depression, but there are some who just clearly have never known what it means to be in a hole and seriously believe you will never get out of it. It’s really not just a bad mood or the desire to rope people into your drama. It’s feeling like there is nothing you can do but feel bad. I get the power of affirmations and community and all that, but when someone in the grips of depression has been sitting alone unable to conjure up that kind of wisdom or the belief in it, there are some helpful and not-so-helpful ways to approach the situation.   Things you should never say to a depressed person: “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Duh, the problem is that the only thing that feels easy when you’re depressed is to be hard on yourself. “Give yourself some credit!” Um, if I could, I wouldn’t be depressed. Or maybe it’s that I feel like a drag to the person or people I really would like credit from, so it’s kinda hard to up and give it to myself when I’m feeling bad. If you don’t live with me or constitute the people I answer to every day, I probably believe that you just don’t know how bad I suck. “Take the long view.” For some depressed people, right now hurts so bad that any other reality seems impossible. To even suggest the future is rubbing your normalcy in the depressed person’s face. “If I could think about some future happiness, I wouldn’t be so damn depressed!” In my case, the long view is all I’ve ever taken. Not knowing how to live in the moment is part of the problem, and so is the worry that I will never feel better physically, which means feeling stuck mentally. If the future looks bleak, striving for it doesn’t feel fun. “You just have your head up your ass.” Well, that may be true. It kinda stinks up here. Maybe there are some people for whom this...

Special Needs Mommy

You know that kid who’s always a handful at a playdate? The one who needs an extra eye at a birthday party? The one who can’t handle surprises, or who needs lots of support through transitions? The one who can’t tolerate the smell at the farm field trip no matter how many times the teacher assures that it just takes some getting used to. The one who hasn’t been through Child Find or gotten an IEP but about whom everybody would agree that there are some special needs? That child is me. I am that high maintenance mommy. You might argue that I’ve been an adult for over 20 years and that I ought to have really grown out of this by now. On the contrary, I grew into it until I was nearly 31 and started making diet and lifestyle changes. It’s only been 10 years since then, and there is still a lot to undo. As I’ve been reminded lately, I can be feeling calm and centered one day, but things quickly get ugly things when I run out of two or more ingredients in the complicated cocktail that is my prescription for balanced living. My liver is so tired I can’t turn to any of the short-term fixes other people might, including sugar, caffeine, chocolate or alcohol, much less antidepressants. I’m sure that pills saved my life in the past, but they are just not an option for a body that can’t tolerate eating anything out of a box without consequence or walking into a public bathroom when it’s being cleaned or hugging a friend who wears perfume. So instead of heading to the pharmacy every month, this is what I need on a regular basis to stay stable: a super clean diet almost exclusively homemade (free of gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and sugar for sure. The jury is still out about grains, greens high in oxalic acid, occasional fruit, nuts, and eggs) uninterrupted sleep, starting before 10 p.m. time before my kids get up to do yoga and/or exercise at least a little time alone to write, work, process and clean a house whose clutter is at least off to the side a routine that has some level of consistency an environment free of mold, synthetic perfumes and chemicals some kind of thought-provoking and/or soul uplifting input like music, NPR, or quality film or TV meaningful interactions with other people and a sense of contribution some kind of supportive health modality each week or two time to...

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