#Truth

Some truths are easy and fun. We’re not dealing with those today, because those aren’t the ones that cause us trouble.

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All the time, I see these posts on Facebook that tell us to Live your truth! Find your truth! Speak your truth!

It always makes me think Why not just say “Live, Find, Speak The Truth”?

Truth is Truth—verifiable, supported by facts, actual. In a sense, the quality of Truth is one size fits all.

We can be in denial, or fear, or have strong opinions about the Truth in our lives. We can wish the Truth away, act like it never happened or try to misrepresent the Truth in our words and actions.

But none of that changes the Truth. It’s still there, squatting powerfully in the corner of our hearts, driving us to reach for anger, fear, shame. Another drink. Another bowl of ice cream.

That truth can be hard. Scary hard. Especially when it tells us that we are our own worst enemy.

Or that our lives are not going to go how we thought.

Or that a dream is not going to come true.

Or that we have experienced a pain from which it will take years to recover.

None of those things create “my truth” or “your truth”. They create the Truth. And isn’t there a kind of beauty and consolation in knowing it’s a shared Truth? Because these things happen to everyone. Which is how, in God’s wisdom, these hard truths can give us new life.

A life of recovery. A life of surviving. A life of new beginnings. A life of triumph.

Truth is not darkness. Truth is coming out of the darkness into the light.

It’s not complicated and oppressive. It’s simple and straightforward.

Even hard truths can be known, tolerated, understood. The moment we accept these hard truths in our lives, we can begin to move on from them. We can heal. We seek forgiveness. We can forgive.

And I just know, because God is good, that the more we stand on Truth, the less hard Truth there will be.

So whatever we are eating, drinking, smoking, snorting, hitting, stealing and lying about, it’s not the Truth. If it’s keeping us in the darkness, it’s not the Truth. It’s shame or anger or fear of the truth. It’s what we are letting ourselves accept, or take responsibility for. It’s how we wish it were all different. But it’s not the Truth.

The Truth is somewhere else, bathed in Light. If we seek it, we’ll be in the Light too.

P31 OBS Blog Hop

Resolution Revolution~ Jen

It’s January and the TV and radio are full of ads for gyms and diets. I know that’s normal, but it’s grinding on me this year. Because even though Dana and I have been in the gym for almost a year, I have gained 15 lbs.

I know, I know, we’re not supposed to talk about actual lbs. We’re supposed to use euphemisms like “I ate a few too many Christmas cookies” or “It’s true what they say, eggnog goes right to your waist!”

But there’s no euphemism for “My synthetic thyroid hormone meds are jacked up.”

In case you didn’t know what your thyroid does, it regulates things like metabolism. Synthetic hormones have come a long way, but they can’t replace an organ. For whatever reason, my “normal” dose of hormones, which had done the job for over a year, stopped about six months ago and sent me into hypothyroid territory. My hair started to thin and I gained a fast nine pounds. My doctor upped my meds, which lowered my levels a bit, and made my hair thicken up, but I added another six pounds. So he upped them again. I’ve been at this level for three weeks now, and while my head is full of little tufts of baby hair when I pull it all back into a ponytail, the scale has not budged.

I am trying not to freak out. I keep hitting the gym and tracking what I eat on My Fitness Pal. But I have never weighed this much in my life. After Kate was born I worked really hard to lose an extra 15 pounds and I stayed there in the years between her and Annie. Now my clothes either don’t fit or don’t look right. I don’t look in the mirror. I don’t want to take pictures.

It’s enough to derail my determination to celebrate the wins.

Then yesterday I was driving along, listening to Air1.com on the radio and Brenda was talking about why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. She had read somewhere that it’s because most of our resolutions are about ourselves. Losing weight, climbing a mountain, traveling somewhere exotic, eating better food, exercising—while none of these resolutions are bad, they are all self-serving. And since most of us drop them within days or weeks, they aren’t making us any happier, either.

But resolutions to serve others? Could be we’re much better at keeping those.

It got me thinking—I could fixate on the scale and my weight. I could live or die by the numbers every morning and let my days and sense of self-worth be dictated by whether the numbers go up or down.

Or. I could let it go. I could accept that my meds are off right now, and may never get right. I can feel thankful that this weight gain means I am alive and beat my cancer. I can stay on my eating plan and stay in the gym and be the healthiest heavy version of myself that I can be.

And. I can make a different kind of resolution this year, one that doesn’t serve myself. I will volunteer or donate or advocate for others.  I have to look around, because this idea just came to me yesterday, but I already know there’s no downside. Think of others before myself? Give some of my time, treasure or talent to help? Show my kids how to walk the talk? Yes, yes and yes.

I think this is part of learning to Be, too. Do less. But be grateful. Be giving. Be humble.

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Be ~ Jen

Multi-tasking is bad for us, right? Big bad. Stress-us-out-and-give-us-cancer bad.

We try to make multi-tasking into a badge of honor, but that’s crap. All it does is place our need for validation in one 90 mile an hour basket.

This used to be my life, when I was a teaching, mothering, wifeing, friending, volunteering fool. I could teach the children, answer email, shop for shoes, plan vacation, grade papers and mentor colleagues all before lunch. Then I came home and worked out, answered texts, baked cookies for the bake sale, helped the kids with homework, did the laundry and cooked dinner. My life looked like this:

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Check me out. Man, you either got on board my crazy train or got run over. C’est la vie.

Then I one day I told Shea “Sure, I’ll have another baby, if I can stay home.” He called my bluff and two years later, I was a stay at home mom with a newborn. I hadn’t quite considered all the consequences:

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Some people may see those gaps as an opportunity for rest.  But the Master Multi-Tasker has no idea what rest is. To me, those huge gaps look like wasted space. Just having a newborn was for rookies. I would have a newborn and serve on the PTL and a corporate board and turn laundry into an insane art form. I would blog and post on Facebook three times a day and monitor the weather and traffic for all my close friends and family.

Do I have to say that this level of go is not sustainable? For anyone? Something will give. In my case, two somethings before I paid attention.

I was doing too much. Way, way too much. I was trying to be all things to all people. I didn’t want to let anyone down—not my husband, not my kids, not my students, not my colleagues, not my bosses, not my neighbors, not my family, not my kid’s school, not my church, not anyone.

You think that list is crazy?

What does yours look like?

We do too much. And in order to do too much, we multi-task. That means we do none of it well, because we’re moving too fast to really have a care. There’s no time for care! We say yes to everyone on that list, and then we short change them all, because that’s the only way to do it. We train ourselves to believe that rest is sloth, and we forget how to be. Still.

Then we are diagnosed with anxiety disorders and get cancer and divorces and we turn around one day and our kids are grown and we cannot for the life of us account for the years.

What if we just didn’t. Didn’t try to be all things to all people. Didn’t say yes. Didn’t try to balance our lives so that all things are equal. Yeah, that’s right. All the things in our life are not equal. The boss does not deserve the same time and attention as the spouse or the kids.

And what if we just be. Be the one who learned to say no. Be the one who cut some things out, like team parent or coaching or that committee at work. Be the one who made room for rest who took our charts, cleared them out and made some space. And then, instead of filling the space right back up, did this:

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We can do less, but do it wider, slower, better. We can take only the things we need, the things that make our lives lovely and amazing, and fill them up and out. Maybe–probably–we would feel less hollow, guilty and not enough. Instead, we could have more space and feel more fulfilled.

The thing I loved the most about this Christmas season was the ground swell of voices talking about less and slower. We can carry that momentum into 2014 and into all parts of our lives.

Do less. Be more. Happy New Year!

Let It Ride ~ Jen

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I was raised to believe that everything is a game. You’re either winning, or you’re losing. There was nothing wrong with the philosophy in itself—my parents wanted us to do our best.

The problem is that I am a natural born meateater. I have a hard time turning it off. So I suck at losing. Or being wrong, which in my head for so long was the same thing.

Because I don’t like being wrong, or losing, I made sure that I knew what I was talking about. Shea will tell you that I am not often wrong. And that he owes me $110 million for all the times he’s said “I bet you a million dollars I’m right” and lost. Even Gabriel is in to me for about $30 million.

Lately I have really been thinking about this need to win. I read some books by a man who says—among other brilliant things—that our cultural obsession with winning in this country traps us in a very basic existence.  Specifically, that we can never be the Christians Christ calls us to be if we are constantly ordering ourselves as above or below everyone in our lives.

We only need to orient ourselves in terms of one thing, really. Our relationship with God.

In percolating on this, I realized I need a whole new perspective. I had no idea how many times in a day I order myself in the hierarchy. I do it so naturally, it’s almost unconscious. Just yesterday, I had this conversation in my head: “I’m wearing yoga pants to pick up the kids. Again. I wore yoga pants to pick up the kids Tuesday. If I wear them today, what will the other moms think? But so-and-so wears yoga pants every day, and the same ones, I’m pretty sure. I’m not as bad as that.”

And do you know as I was typing that, I thought in my head “Well, at least I just thought it. So-and-So would have said it out loud to everyone and asked if that made her a bad mom. I’m not like that.”

Well.

Natural born meateater. It’s going to take a minute to replace the motherboard.

My goal this month is to let it ride. To shake it off. To be quiet and watch. To not need to be the one who knows or does or handles it. To not keep score. To not always try to hold the high ground, where I just find myself alone and under siege anyway. To let Shea win some of his money back.

I am going to try out the idea that I don’t have to have a say. I don’t have to have a point of view. I don’t have to have an explanation or an answer. I don’t have to take every person’s idea in and sort it immediately into a pile of “brilliant”, “stupid”, “ridiculous”, “intriguing” or “foolish”. I can just let it be, since it usually has nothing to do with me, and trust that God is doing His work.

Folks who know me really well know that I will need a lot of support to make this happen. A lot of prayerful support. Maybe even a miracle. I’d be grateful if you could remember me in your thoughts.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Postpartum Anxiety: It’s Not Your Fault. You Will be Ok. ~ Jen

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This post comes with a warning. May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. I am going to talk about some dark moments after the birth of my third baby. If you are feeling sad or scared today, you might not want to read this.  If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

This is the most important thing I have ever written. And I am asking you to share it with everyone you know.

Last year, after the birth of my third baby, I had postpartum anxiety/OCD, bad enough that I needed intervention, meds and therapy. It started in my third trimester, but leveled me at four months postpartum, which is prime time for this kind of thing.

Annie hit a growth spurt and wanted to eat every two hours. At first, I was able to fall back asleep at night. Then one night, I didn’t. It happened again the next night, and the next.

After a few days, Annie settled down. I did not.

It was like a switch had been flipped and locked to “ON”. She would go down at 8 and sleep until midnight or 1. I watched her, heart pounding, thoughts racing, songs playing over and over in my head.

I just knew that the moment I fell asleep, she would wake up.

I started having 10 pm meltdowns, pacing and sobbing. I’d eventually tire myself out, and sleep for a while.

I felt like a mirror that had dropped and cracked into a thousand lines.

My primary care doctor was hesitant to prescribe anything because I was nursing. The pediatrician said she would really prefer me to “Try a hot bath and a warm cup of tea”.

Her complacency lulled my husband Shea, but I knew I was in trouble. It was hard to ask for help in the first place, and it seemed that no one was listening. I felt so alone.

Then this day happened:

I had not slept more than two hours together for a week, and the previous night, not at all. I was in a place where the fear of not sleeping actually powered me through the day. It was the third day of Shea’s new job, so even though he was worried, he had to go. My parents were in Europe. My girlfriends were here, but I had lost the ability to communicate.

I took my kids to the mall. My phone rang, but I ignored it. I sat at the playground, holding the baby, thinking that my kids were the only ones who loved me. They were all I needed.

On the way home, I thought about driving right on through and disappearing. That would show everyone who was against me, which was clearly everyone.

But then a jolt of fear ran through me that even if I ran, I would still not sleep.

I thought I cannot live like this.

Then I thought I cannot leave my babies alone.

And far, far, far away from this being a reason to live, I suddenly understood how it is that a woman kills her children before she kills herself.

She cannot live like this anymore. And she will not leave her babies alone.

It never went beyond that flash of understanding. But the fact that the path from here to there looked like level ground was terrifying.

I came home, said a prayer and sent an email to my friends. One of them said “Call your OB”. Dr. Selinger told me to come immediately. She held the baby. She gave me a prescription for Zoloft, assured me that it is ok for nursing moms and told me to call Postpartum Support International (PSI). She said none of this was my fault, and I was going to be ok.

The first lady I spoke to at PSI spent 45 minutes on the phone with me while I sobbed, telling me none of this was my fault, and I was going to be ok.

One of their therapists called me on a Saturday—she talked to me for an hour, told me that none of this was my fault, and I was going to be ok.

She gave me the name of a counselor skilled at handling post partum issues. Lisa returned my phone call that same day, Saturday. She too told me none of this was my fault, and I was going to be ok.

Lisa is trained to deal with postpartum issues. She helped me see how much my family history of anxiety and OCD, and my thyroid issues, played a role in what happened to me. It really wasn’t my fault.

And now I am ok. I am more than ok.  If I ruled the world, everyone would take Zoloft. I didn’t realize how much of my life was affected by anxiety until it eased.

Shea went into counseling as well—something suggested by the folks at PSI, where they have an entire section dedicated to helping the husbands. What we went through was traumatic, and our marriage and trust in each other needed some healing.

I really believe that after calling your OB/GYN, PSI is the most important phone call a mother, husband or family member can make. They will help you. They helped my cousin, in Canada. She called because she knew I was not right, but she didn’t know what to do. They told her what she could do. This organization is phenomenal. They are saving lives.

I’m not ashamed that I was broken, or of those very dark and scary feelings I had. No one should be ashamed.

May is Postpartum Depression/Anxiety Awareness Month.  Postpartum depression and anxiety affects over a million women a year, almost 20% of those who get pregnant. It can happen to anyone, across cultural, socio-economic and educational demographics.

If a pregnant or post-partum woman tells you that she is hurting or sick, listen to her. She is asking for help AND warning you. Don’t hope that she will help herself. She probably can’t.

Not all counselors are created equal. PSI can find you someone skilled at handling PPD/PPA. I believe this is really important. Lisa knew how to help me.

If it is happening to you or someone you love, call this number: 1.800.944.4773 (US and Canada).

Visit this website: www.postpartum.net.

Email support@postpartum.net

Tell your OB/GYN.

It’s not your fault.

You will be ok.

<div align="center"><a href="http://postpartum.net/Join-Us/Maternal-Mental-Health-Awareness-Month-Blog-Hop.aspx" title="PSI Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month Blog Hop"><img src="http://unexpectedblessing.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/psi-blog-hop-badge.png?w=104" alt="PSI Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month Blog Hop" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

We Are Not Alone ~ Guest Post

My friend and I had our babies five weeks apart. Three years later, I was driving home from work when she called to tell me that her son had been diagnosed with Autism. In the two years since diagnosis, they have walked the path of grief, acceptance and advocacy. They are so brave.

One day she told me she was done with people who didn’t get it, were in denial or tried to change the topic. “This is our reality. There’s no more question. If people can’t handle it, I can’t handle them.”  It was a hard moment. But she was telling me to get in her space. The journey had changed from diagnosis to treatment and there was work to be done. 

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, we are pleased to welcome her to our blog.

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Aaron

I am a 39 year-old married mother of a 4 ½ year old son with autism. He is my only child.

The first question people ask when they hear my son has autism: “Is he like mildly or severely autistic?” They need a label. I have been asked, “Is he like rain man? Does he sit in the corner and rock? Or is he just a little odd?” Maybe knowing the severity of the autism determines the kind of support they will give? Maybe the response determines how they are going to feel about my son’s autism?

The question of severity is almost always awkward for me. What do I say? How much detail do I give? Should I tell them my son uses echolalia (the involuntary and immediate repetition of words or sounds made by other people)? Do I say he uses scripts from his favorite TV shows to communicate? Do I share that he didn’t sleep more then 2-3 hours in the first 2½ years of his life and that his receptive/expressive language is at a 2 year-old level? What would you say if it were your child?

Should I say he is moderately to severely autistic? My son has been assessed by multiple neurologists, psychologists, ABA therapists, ABA supervisors, two primary physicians, OT therapists, PT therapists, special education teachers and speech therapists. Not a single one of these highly trained professionals can or will answer the question of severity, so how can I answer it?

The reaction to the “label” or description of symptoms will indicate how the rest of the conversation will go.  Keep in mind I am talking about colleagues, friends and even family members. Some people make me feel loved and supported, while others leave me feeling isolated, frustrated and alone.

The following are some comments I HATE to hear the most:

  • God only gives you what you can handle.” OK, but this is not helpful when your heart is broken and every day feels like a struggle.
  • “There’s a reason for everything.” I am a very spiritual person and I do feel there is a plan. However the comment feels lazy and makes the other person feel better.
  • “Your son is so lucky to have you.” I can’t pinpoint why this one hurts, but it does. Maybe it’s because I am the lucky one? No matter how hard this journey gets, my heart overflows with love and gratitude for my beautiful baby boy.
  • “There are so many therapies now and things you can do for those kids. He’s going to be fine.” These words minimize the whole experience in one swoop.
  • “Oh that’s no big deal, my kid does that.” UGH. No, your kid doesn’t do that. I want to say “Really? When you ask your child the most basic of questions, do they have the ABILITY to answer you? Are they 4 ½ years old and still in a diaper? Are you able to take them to a family party without your child going into an anxious frenzy that requires two days of recovery? Do they echo back everything you say?” I could go on and on. When someone says, “Eh, my kid does that” my heart drops. The subtext of the comment is, “Yeah, what you’re saying is no big deal. Stop whining. I don’t want to hear it. You’re a drama queen. Get over it.”

And sometimes people say beautiful things, but if it’s delivered with a “just stop whining” implication, then the words hurt.

When people make comments that sting, I remind myself people do the best they can. However, that person and their poorly thought out comments create a palpable distance. I slink away from the relationship. I realize it is my job to make that person feel better about my child’s disability. And trust me, I don’t have the time to make you feel better about my child’s struggle. At one time I did and said anything to make other people feel better about the autism, but now I have no time for that nonsense.

Here is a list of things I find most helpful:

  • “We love you and we are here for you.” Coupled with a hug, I LOVE this one!
  •  “Is there anything I can do to help or make things easier?”
  •  “That sucks!” A heart-felt “That sucks” does wonders.
  • “This must be hard.” YES it is, and your acknowledgement of the challenge means the world to me.
  • “It sounds like you guys are doing a good job.” Please know this means so much because every single day I worry I am not doing enough or more so, that I am not enough.
  • “I can’t imagine how hard that must be.” Thank you for being honest, because the truth is that unless you live with a child who has special needs you do not know what the experience is like. Your honesty is refreshing.

The most loving, helpful responses are from people who communicate to us they are simply willing to be a witness to our family’s journey and struggle.

They don’t look away because it’s too painful. They have a willingness to sit with the pain we are feeling.

They put their arms around us and tell us we are not alone.

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