Slow it Down

Is it just me, or is May like the new December? It’s one of those crazy months where your schedule is packed-out like a Taylor Swift concert. Between baseball tournaments, ballet recitals, musical performances, awards banquets, field days, end-of-year parties and graduations, it’s hard to find time to breathe. Yes, these are joyful occasions; priceless moments for the memory book. I’ve cried at pretty much every single sweet event. But, the insanity of May-cember can tend to add a few extra gray hairs.

I think I’ve been ready for summer for about the whole month of May. I function so much better in the slower months of summer. If you know me, you know I am a slow human being. In fact, this is probably my husband’s least favorite thing about me. He is like the energizer bunny; I’ve grown accustomed to being 10 steps behind him in almost every situation. One could beg to differ that his impatience is a match for my slowness, (now, don’t you just know that God put us together to learn a little thing called tolerance?) but the older I get, the more I appreciate this trait. What’s wrong with stopping to smell the roses? And the gardenias, magnolias, lavender, honeysuckles…

I do enjoy life in the slow lane. Except when the world wants you to go fast. 

Which is what May is to me. Fast-paced and jam-packed and just plain emotional. Things are ending, beginning…changing. All of a sudden, Jack is done with Kindergarten. My baby girl is four. I started off the year pulling my hair out trying to potty train that iron-willed girl, and now she is so independent sometimes she forgets to tell me she’s pooped. And don’t you know, parents of young children, you are nosy about their poops.

Today was the day my May-cember wave finally crested. We had Jack’s field day and end-of-the-year party today, which was actually really fun. I do love participating in all that fun stuff. As a former teacher, I do miss that fun, crazy time with the kiddos. But 5 hours in the blazing, humid Georgia sun with screaming children and a tear-jerking Kindergarten slide-show is just about enough to do you in. We headed home with strict orders for everyone to rest. Until, a friend invites us to the pool. How nice does the pool sound on this 88 degree day? Maybe just for a quick swim? But don’t forget, quick is not in my vocabulary.

After that 2 1/2 hour shin-dig, I remember that I have to eventually feed my children, so we hike home, sun-baked, chlorinated and low on fuel. Allie is whining because she’s scraped her toe in the pool, so we are moving at a snail’s pace (that mind you, is too slow even for me) and she is begging me to carry her, at which I look at her like she’s crazy since I have two bags and three pool noodles in my arms already. But how sweet that our kids think we are super heros like that.

We make it home, and knowing I have to focus my ADHD brain on dinner prep, I stick an iPad in front of the kids and try to proceed. Allie’s iPad, however, is having connection issues and she’s asking for help and again, I give her a crazy look since I have two raw chicken breasts in my hands and clearly I am in no position to put my fingers on an electronic device. “Go find your dad” is my solution. Off she goes.

I really wish I liked cooking. I actually don’t mind it when I can do it slowly, without distractions. Which I haven’t had in about 7 years.  But the whole following-directions and timing thing is a bit overwhelming for me, and my husband knows I turn into a crazy person and it’s best to leave mommy alone during the meal-making window. But alas, the kids are still needy and hungry, the trash is overflowing, and I have made the mistake of not pouring a glass of wine before the maddening dinner creating. I’m sunburned, tired, hungry and irritated. If I hear “mommy” one more time, I just might crack. You win, May-cember. 

Then I remember my meds. I am weaning off of my anti-depressant (with the hopes to try something new) and clearly this has not helped my current mood. Switching/weaning medications has never been a smooth process for me. There are withdrawl symptoms involved and when you have anxiety, these symptoms can throw you into a panic. I am more experienced and educated in what to expect, so I have learned to give myself plenty of grace during this process, but it’s still no picnic. I have actually been feeling okay, and my short temper this evening could simply be from the day’s events, but it’s worth a thought. Luckily, I remembered to brief my husband of this change so he could brace himself for whatever version of his wife was about to emerge. That sweet man, who is clearly scared by my tone of voice by now, offers to put the kids to bed. How fast can I pour my wine and hop in the bubble bath? No slowing down there.

Now I’m clean, cozy and horizontal. My sweet children are tucked in and dreaming. Things have finally slowed down. But I wouldn’t appreciate this moment so much had the day been any different. It was exhausting and crazy, but it was my crazy. We made memories and said good-byes and laughed and cried. We pouted and whined and kissed and hugged and said good night. Today was a good day.

“Today is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” – Psalms 118:24

One of Jack’s teachers showed us a clip of her son graduating high school today:

“Don’t blink, parents!” she exclaimed.

And then I sat and cried through that sweet slideshow of my baby boy.

We can’t slow down our days. Time marches on and change will inevitably come. We can try to enjoy the present as much as possible, even when it irritates us to no end. One day we will look up and the world will be different. We will wish we could go back and just slow down. Savor every sweet moment.  That last wave of May will crash onto the shores of summer and slowly disappear, soaking in each little memory. I hope you welcome summer and its promise of slowing down. As for me, I was made for summer. But inevitably, the waves of life will come again. How I choose to ride them, however, that is up to me. 

The Happy List – Week 1

Okay, so I lied. I am not ready to post on the Hierarchy of Fears. I have been constantly swallowed up by the laundry and other ill-timed nightly chores (deciding to clean my oven at 9pm…what?!) when I should’ve been working on my research, so it’s just not gonna happen folks. Instead, I’m going to introduce you to a more light-hearted topic I call my Happy List. 

When you are in a constant ninja-battle against the monsters of anxiety and depression, sometimes it’s hard to find happiness in your day. In an attempt to celebrate the little moments of joy, I am going to compile a weekly list of the top 10 things that have made me happy during the week. This will also serve as a reminder of what to be grateful for as I trudge through life. I know I make it sound like I am in a constant state of despair when you read some of my posts, but that’s really not true (although I’ve had my fair share of dark days).  I’m generally a happy person, and I’m at pretty good place right now.  Even despite the anxiety ninja-battles. The Happy List is random and in no particular order (much like my life, ironically), but I find these little moments of happiness are what matter most. So, here you go.

The Happy List – Week 1

1. My new patio table (that replaced my old one that shattered into a million pieces).  Dear dining al fresco: we’re back!

2. Drinking coffee (half-caff of course!) out of my Mexican Mug of Happiness. Yes, that’s what I call it. I picked this little beauty up on a recent trip to Cabo with my hubby.  If only I could’ve brought back the chips and salsa. 


3. My new laptop! Aka, my new “boyfriend”.  Finally! We are still figuring each other out. But I like him, a lot. 

4. Listening to old Dave Matthews Band albums.  Boy, does that take me back to a carefree time. “Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (insert fiddle jam here). 

5. Lemon-ginger mojitos. Yummmmm.

6. Coloring with Allie in her My Little Pony coloring books, and drawing pictures with Jack. What is it about a rainbow assortment of washable markers? I do declare. 

7. Caprese salad everyday for lunch with fresh basil from the garden.  Soon to have home-grown tomatoes added.  And those fresh mozzarella cheese balls…oh my heavens. Did I mention how happy food makes me?

8. Watching my daughter absolutely loving her swim lessons (I hated them. Her teacher is a miracle worker.). Hearing her confident little voice yell, “I did it!”. Music to my ears. 


9. Chaise lounges. Yes, please. 

10. Words of affirmation and hugs of encouragement. Bucket, filled. 

All right, first list complete! I encourage you to make your own list.  There are so many little things we have to be thankful for.  Don’t let the moments pass you by. Oh, I have to add a bonus round…while doing laundry tonight (waiting on the oven to self-clean, of course), I found $40 in my hubby’s shorts pocket!! Thank you, laundry fairy! #jackpot #mostmoneyivemadeallmonth #winning (I realize these are not actual working hashtags. But they make me happy. So there.)




Krystal Clear

Yes, that’s a guy dressed up as a Krystal’s burger. More on  him later.

Despite the appreciation and love I felt over this past Mother’s Day weekend, my a-hole brain decided he missed me. He was ever so quiet, tip-toeing around in the shadows, but I saw him. That sneaky little thing. Some of those old doubts that I thought were gone and done with, made their way back into my head. The “what if” statements were becoming louder.

Then this morning, as I non-chalantly merged onto the the freeway to practice, I wasn’t feeling it. There was fear, but no adrenaline. There was a job to do, but not as much inspiration or motivation. I simply felt blah, with an undertone of over-all dread. Still, I had to practice, so I settled in for a drive.

When I first started practicing my highway driving, it was scary as hell. My anticipatory anxiety and adrenaline were through the roof. However, this made my accomplishments seem even bigger. The joy was greater. The pride was overflowing. Now, I am in a different place. A place of maintaining, of work; of just plain commitment.

I have always struggled with this. As a creative, deep-thinker, I am very driven by inspiration and emotional rewards. When I’m “not feeling it”, I struggle. When you have depression/anxiety, you really struggle to feel it sometimes. It can be the most beautiful, sunny day, and all you feel is rain. So, you have to dig deep. Which is not easy by any means.

I’ve always struggled in setting reasonable goals for myself. You  need to be somewhat organized to submit a goal, something my ping-pong ball, ADHD brain is not (and yes, this low-energy girl really is diagnosed ADHD). I’m lucky if I can make a grocery list and remember to look at it. But this weekend, I remembered something important about goals.

I ran a 5K with some friends this weekend, and although I love to run, I am a sporadic runner at best. I don’t normally care about my distance and am even less aware of my time. But as I was running this race with hundreds of other people, I found myself becoming motivated to pass the people around me. They become short, attainable goals. I’d go for the guy 5 feet away, then 10 feet, then I’d try to outpace the girl next to me. These small goals propelled me all the way to the finish. My friends applauded me on my time, which turned out to be pretty good! All thanks to these small, motivational goals that helped me along the way.

This is a great way to approach managing your anxiety. You will not overcome it all in a day. As stubborn as I am, this is not easy to accept.  I pride myself on my patience with most things in life, but I am not a patient learner. You should see me try to learn a new sport. Let’s just say I save all the curse words for those special times. Not pretty.

Yes, I did get on the highway and drive for many fear-laden miles, but I was hard on myself for not feeling the same sense of joy and accomplishment. The smaller the goal, the more likely you are to reach it. And if you don’t, you pick yourself up and try again tomorrow. If you do meet your goal, by golly, celebrate it! You should celebrate  the fact that you got out of bed today, dag nab it! But what was I doing? Beating myself up because I didn’t achieve my goal with joy. I had forgotten that there is joy in simply reaching a goal at all.

I shared my running epiphany with my husband the other night and his little business-oriented mind lit up. “You made a SMART goal!” Why thanks, dear hubby, for thinking I’m so smart. But then he explained that it’s an acronym that helps make sure you’ve created a manageable goal.







Sounds pretty organized, right? Or you can just settle for small goals,  if memorizing an acronym makes you even more anxious. But good to know, my love.  This is why my husband runs a company and I do not.

Back to my current state; this is the grunt-work, the maintenance, the commitment phase. It’s like getting up to workout when you don’t feel like it. It’s doing your homework when you want to go out and play.  It’s getting out of bed when you really don’t want to. This is the hard stuff.

Which brings me back to the Krystal man.

This morning on my uninspired (but successful! Goal reached=credit given!) drive, I made it up I-75 north to the city of Emerson. It’s a new, sports training development area, and there was a new Krystal’s restaurant opening up. Hence the dancing mini-cheeseburger on the side of the road. He was really busting a move, let me tell you. And guess what? That silly, dancing cheeseburger just plain made me laugh. I snapped a picture and praised him for a job well done. He wasn’t just doing his job well, he was doing his job with joy. He just as well could’ve stood there and waved. But he was dancing up a storm.

You see, the Krystal man showed me what I really needed to see at that moment; that we all have a job to do. It may not be something we enjoy. It might be hard. You might have to dress up as a cheeseburger and dance on the side of the road. But you get out there and do it.

Work will not always bring us joy. But there is joy in work. We can also do our work with joy. We can’t expect it to be a given. We have to dig deep for it sometimes.

So even on the blah days, I hope you still get out there and do the work. Practice panicking with purpose. Give yourself credit for the little things. Start achieving those small goals. Start your day with a big ole’ spoonful of grace. And when things get really hard, you’d better put on that cheeseburger suit and dance your pants off.

The Darkest Day (A Love Letter to my Medication)

I promise that my blog won’t be this intense and heavy all the time! But I feel like I cannot truly move forward without sharing this story with you. If it helps one person with their decision, than it was worth it.

This is pretty much the story of why I decided to start taking antidepressants. I know some of you probably just got on them without thinking about it, which is fine and dandy. But I am an overthinker and an overanalizer, and this was a tough decision for me. It scares me to think about where I would be had I made a different choice. So I don’t really go there. But if you or someone you love is struggling with treatment options, this may be a good read. I’m going to start a series called My Toolbox (coming soon!) with all sorts of helpful tools for helping manage your panic disorder. But I do need to get the medication part out of the way first.

I have numerous favorite books that have helped me through all of this, but some of them spend quite a bit of time disproving the idea that anxiety/depression medications even work. They stress that you can be cured without medication. By all means, you can, and if you can, more power to you! But please don’t put pressure on yourself if you are a complete failure without them. I tried so hard not to take medication, to the point where I almost broke. Sometimes you just have to give in already.

So back to my story. I had my first big panic attack, and many others in the years following. 7 years to be exact (with the exception of my first pregnancy, when I was totally symptom-free) before starting medication. Wow, writing that out makes me realize how long I actually suffered.  I wasn’t miserable all of the time, but when it was bad, I didn’t have the tools to help me in the right ways, so it just steadily got worse.

I was a preschool teacher for most of those years, and I can remember  days when I could barely drive to work. I would try to take different routes that wouldn’t trigger the panic, but there are only so many ways you can go. Little did I know, the avoidance was just feeding the panic. I was just winging it. I would panic in silence while reading a book to the class. I would panic during meetings and conferences, but nobody could tell.  I burried it deep inside and carried on with my perma-smile. I remember my jaw being constantly sore from the stress taking its toll. I would wake up at night with my teeth just chattering with anxiety.

I finally mentioned some of these things to a coworker, and I’ll never forget what she told me, that the other day she had to just “get up and run out of the room.” She was having a panic attack. I think this was the first person that I had really ever talked to about it, outside of my best friend and my spouse. She went to her doctor and he started her on Lexapro. I got his number and booked an appointment as soon as humanly possible.

I went to see this doctor, who talked to me for all of five minutes before giving me a sample pack of Lexapro. Although I was excited, something still didn’t sit right. Was this the right decision? How can he diagnose me so quickly?Does this guy even know what he’s doing?

I went home and took one pill. I remember tying my shoes and all of a sudden feeling like everything was in fast-forward. I started to freak out. Now I know a little trick called weaning on and off medication to help lesson their negative effects. Something Doctor What’s-His-Face forgot to mention during our short encounter. So I started calling people. My husband, my family, a friend or two. Most of them shared the same thought:

“You are the happiest person I know. You do not need to be on medication.”

So that was it. I believed in them more than myself. I decided to ditch the medication route and start talk therapy.

But then I got pregnant, and I felt great. Anxious, but in a good way. I was so overwhelmed with love and purpose for the little life inside me, that most of my fears melted away. I had a great pregnancy, and delivered a beautiful, healthy baby boy.

For the first few months of motherhood, I was in the total baby-euphoria stage. Sure, it was a total life change, and not a walk in the park by any means, but I was still so fufilled in my new role. My sweet Jack filled the gaping hole of love and acceptance I had yearned for my whole life. My bucket was full.

But as happy as I was, slowly things started to settle in. I went back to work when Jack was 8 weeks. I was juggling parenting, working, breastfeeding and pumping, lack of sleep, and the realization that I was totally committed to being a parent forever.  All things I expected, sure, but you can never be fully prepared for the challenges this new reality brings. Before I knew it, my a-hole brain started emerging from the shadows. Sometimes I wish he would just announce himself with some grand gesture instead of slowly creeping back in. He would be so much easier to recognize. But he is just sneaky and mean like that. That a-hole.

Things were getting pretty bad and I could barely even see it. I did finally start talk therapy, but my claustrophobia had gotten so bad that I couldn’t even make it up to the office for my sessions. I remember the terror I felt in the elevator, the hallway, and in the waiting room. I felt like I was gasping for air, the walls closing in, so anxious to escape.  Sweet Wendy would meet me downstairs in a restaurant nearby instead. We had some great talks, uncovered some past issues that couldve contributed to my anxiety; she even gave me some desensitization techniques. But our goal was to fight this without medication. I was insistant that I didn’t need it.

I had my big panic attack on the highway during this time. This propelled me towards rock bottom. Even though I had a sweet, happy baby that I loved to the moon and back, I was deeply saddened that he had a mother with these issues. My most important job as a mother was to keep my child safe and happy, and I felt like my fear was putting him at risk. Such a helpless, helpless feeling. The sadness became depression. I didn’t even know this until later, looking back. Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand, and usually one is a precursor to the other. In this case my anxiety had led to my depression.

I started having trouble sleeping I was so anxious. I had terrible, horrific nightmares. I’m still shocked at how bad these dreams were. All symptoms of my anxious state of mind. I could barely drive to work without being in a constant state of panic, and having my precious child in the car with me constantly only magnified my hopelessness. At one point, I was standing up teaching a lesson to my class, and I almost fainted. I was at my breaking point.

I woke up one morning after a bad night of awful dreams and little sleep, and I felt like I was on pins and needles. I was jumping out of my skin with fear. I had to wake up at 4:30am to feed Jack and then get ready for work. I’ll never forget walking into the bathroom, turning on the light, and looking in the mirror. I didn’t recognize myself. I know people say this casually all the time, but this was the scariest, darkest moment of my life. It was like I was looking at a different person. This was not me.  I then had the most life-changing thought I’ve ever had: This person has to go. 

I’m not sure if this counts as a suicidal tendency, and it pains me to even write down those words. I genuinely love my life and the people in it. I love being a mother, a spouse, a daughter, a friend and a good-hearted person. That person in the mirror, however, that person wasn’t any of those things. That person wasn’t me.   I knew at that moment that I needed serious help. I needed to change my life ASAP.

My counselor got me an appointment with a psychologist the next day. She started me on Zoloft and gave me Xanax to “nibble on” in case the Zoloft caused more anxiety, which it did at first. I do remember going back into that fast-forward feeling, and I had some tightness in my chest. But for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t scared. I drove to work without worrying about it. I started sleeping again with no nightmares. Slowly life started getting back on track. The medication was helping me. It was what I needed at the time.

I know medication is controversial. You hear about Big Pharma, doctors getting paid off to write prescriptions, people giving ADHD medication to 2-year-olds. I know this is an abused and very subjective issue. There are risks and benefits associated with anything you do in life. Your circumstances may not lead you down the same road. Everyone has a different story. I’m just sharing my particular story of why I’m thankful that the medication was there when I needed it.

Starting medication for anxiety or depression isn’t something to take lightly. I’m glad I went to someone who was a trained expert, but I also wish I wouldn’t have waited so long. But, to quote one of my favorite songs by the Indigo Girls:

“With every lesson learned a line upon your beautiful face.”

I learned many great lessons on that bumpy ride. I’m learning more and more everyday. It’s a beautiful thing.

If you feel like starting medication is necessary to your healing process, do your research. Be your own advocate. Be vocal with your doctors about what’s working and what’s not. If they don’t listen, find another one who will. If I could give my two cents about picking a medication, find one that’s easy to wean on and off of. Also be patient. You may have to try on a few different medications before you find the one that works best for you.

True, I dislike being dependent on my medicine, and there are withdrawls issues if I switch or forget to take it. I will get off of it one day. But for now, I know I’m doing the best I can, and I am in a good place.  A humble, joyful, grateful place.

If you didn’t hear anything else in this story, hear this: don’t wait until you are staring back at a stranger. Love who you are enough to get the help you need. Do not sit back and suffer in silence. You are worth more than that. Don’t let your fears distort your own reflection. You deserve to wake up, look into the mirror and love who you see.