The Road to Being Kind to Yourself

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My Story. How I became me. What shaped me into me. What hurt me. What healed me. What hardened me. What softened me. What taught me compassion. What taught me sympathy and empathy, and the difference between the two. What taught me to follow my gut instinct, my mama instinct. How I learned to be open. How I learned to be vulnerable. How I learned to be a safe space for someone in need. How I learned to separate my own issues and create a space in life for those that I love so that I can continually be there for those that I love without letting my stressors, pressures, and hurt seep into theirs. How I learned to assist in effectively carrying someone’s burdens WITH them, instead of FOR them.

This is my story.

It began when I was a new mom. My first pregnancy was a textbook pregnancy. Nothing too hard. Nothing too crazy, just a normal good old pregnancy. Delivery was long but again, no complications or anything to make it too concerning. I remember snuggling my brand new son that first night in the hospital and feeling…off. Which I thought was pretty typical, considering that I just went through labor and everything. I slept maybe a whole 2 hours that night. Between nurses coming and going and tossing all night long I was so exhausted the next morning. I mentioned it to my OB when she was doing rounds and getting my discharge papers ready, and she told me to get some rest and to call into the office in a couple days if I felt like I wasn’t getting any better. My son was in the NICU after he was born due to fluid in his lungs. There was a week between my discharge and his discharge and that gave me a couple nights to go home and get some good sleep at night but the restlessness and the hard time falling asleep still stuck around. I promised myself that if I wasn’t feeling better by the time that he came home I was going to call into my doctor to follow up on it.

Six weeks. I waited six weeks. I suffered for six weeks. The depression came and went in waves. One minute I would feel fine. The next minute I would be in hysterics on the floor crying and feeling like I was being swallowed by a big black hole. The frustrating thing was that I didn’t know WHY. Everyone would ask me what was wrong, and ask how they could help. Was I too tired? Was it the baby blues? Was I hungry? Was I stressed out? And all I could say was “ I don’t know”. At my six week check up with my OB I remember going into the office, sitting on the exam table and waiting for my OB to come in. When she came in she asked how I was doing and I remember just this huge wave of darkness roll over and the tears that started rolling down my cheeks. My OB took my son (who was crying in his car seat at the time) out to the nurses at the nurses station and then she came back in and we talked. She let me pour out everything I was feeling and then we discussed a plan of action, which involved medications. I wish I could say that it was easy and that the first medication we tried was perfect, but it wasn’t. I struggled for a couple months trying to adjust to side effects, fighting through bad reactions but eventually with time it got better. I also was actively going through therapy and counseling for Post-Partum Depression. Time went on and the depression faded, I would have off days but at least now I had the tools to cope with it when it did.

My daughter was born on a hot August afternoon. She came into the world perfectly quiet and her delivery was so much easier and quicker than her brother’s. I took it as a good sign that maybe things would go just a little bit smoother this time. Unfortunately they didn’t. This time around I had my first experience with anxiety. Paralyzing and debilitating anxiety that shook me to my core. If she didn’t finish the last ounce of her bottle it would destroy me for the rest of the day. Everything was the end of the world and my common sense and logical reasoning went out the window. There was one specific night that I can remember like it was yesterday. I hadn’t slept solid for a couple days and I was running on a couple 20 minute cat naps. My husband at the time was out of town for work. I had finally gotten my daughter and son down for bed and I remember taking a Xanax in hopes that I could calm down enough to get some sleep. After taking one I remember dumping the whole bottle of pills in my hand. I remember the weight of them in my hand and I remember having the thought that I could just take the whole bottle and then I wouldn’t have to deal with so many struggles and I would finally be at peace. For a minute that thought alone carried so much peace, so much relief and I wanted nothing more than to do it. I wanted nothing more than to just be done. To just feel relief and peace again. I wanted to just forget it all, drop all responsibilities. I wanted to walk away from all the judgements, all the friendships I had lost, all the sleepless nights, all of the weight that felt so heavy.

Thankfully in that moment I had someone I could reach out to. Someone I knew I could trust. Someone I knew wouldn’t judge. And someone I knew would drop what she was doing and come to me. So I text her and said “I need you.” to which she responded with “Comin’ at ya.” which meant she was on her way. She held me while I sobbed and cried and let go of everything I was carrying and let go of everything I was holding in. She stayed the night with me, even though she had an early morning shift followed by a late night class. But she wouldn’t let me argue it with her, she was staying the night until I felt that I was strong enough to STAY;

The days were long, the nights were hard. I was trying to get myself on an anti anxiety medication but I really struggled with the side effects and how they made me feel. I was doing weekly check-ins with my therapist, I was making sure to make time for myself even if it meant just wandering Target for an hour on my Friday nights. I was trying. I had found a desire to live, a desire to want to thrive. And doing all of this while also juggling the day to day with a 2 year old and a brand new baby. But I did it, I don’t know that I did it perfectly, but I did it.

In 2016 I lost the light in my life to an unexplained death that no one still has an answer for. It hurts every day and I miss Liezle something fierce and most days I would give anything to be able to see her again, even if it was just for an hour or two. She helped me through one of the darkest times in my life. She held me in a moment that I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through. She checked in on me frequently despite what else she had going on in her life. She loved my kids as if they were her own. We had met her during my sons time in the NICU and she was such a support, such a light, and such an amazing friend in a time that I really needed her. But more importantly, she was an amazing human being. She was kind, she was forgiving, and she would do anything for the family and friends in her life. I admired her bravery because I knew that she had other demons she was dealing with herself and I knew that she had other things in her life that weighed heavy on her. Her death was hard on me, not having an answer to why she passed away was hard on me, and not having her in my day-to-day life is still really hard on me. With that being said though, she’s the reason that I wanted to change, she’s the reason that I push to be a stronger person, she’s the reason that I choose to love and be a safe place for those around me, she’s the reason that I chose to live and I will continue to push through because of her.

Now onto the uphill climb. Life has been everything short of a struggle for me in the last ten years. Between a marriage that I couldn’t trust my spouse, post-partum depression, losing the one person I loved more then life itself, losing friendship after friendship, a divorce, hoping alcohol would get me through it, losing another friendship that meant the world to me, and now the every day fight of being a single mother and somehow making ends meet; here I am. Here I am, stronger then I have ever been before, pushing my way through things that I never would of made it through 10 years ago.

If there is any advice that I would give to my younger self it would be to kinder to myself. Ive always been the type of person who loved surprising people with birthday treats, I loved taking meals to families with new babies, or stopping by and chatting with a friend who I knew was struggling but man was I mean to myself. I was so hard on myself. I held myself to this high impossible standard that I was never going to reach. I felt like a failure because my “newborn phase” with both of my kids wasn’t picture perfect. I felt like a failure because I didn’t feel a connection with my kids until they were 6 months old. If I could do it again I would tell myself to be kinder, to be softer, and to show myself a little compassion. A little understanding. Allow myself the space to be human, to know that mistakes would happen and that moments of frustration and struggle were ok.

After pulling out of the darkness of my PPD, I started sharing. At first just in small posts, then lengthy posts, then eventually I got to the point of sharing my in depth story through a Non-Profit called The Emily Effect. While I enjoy sharing the good days and the happy days on social media I also think it is so important to be real, to be honest, to be raw. It is so hard that first time and its so hard sometimes admitting that things weren’t perfect today. With it comes so many blessings though, over the years I have seen it come back to me time and time again. I live for that warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that I helped someone, knowing that I supported someone, knowing that I gave someone hope, I gave someone reason to STAY; knowing that I was a safe place for someone. Even more so if that someone is one of my kids, their my greatest blessing in my life and I try ever so hard to show them and guide them on what it’s like to be a good person and spread kindness to everyone around them. Typically we don’t know when someone is struggling, it can be such an easy thing to force a smile, pretend were doing ok and not let someone in, but it takes a strong human to be real, to say “Im not ok, will you sit with me?”, to let someone in when you don’t want to. And it takes an even stronger human to say “I’m here for you, I got you.” I want to be that human, I want to be that person who helps lift up those around me and who lives to see the world become a better place.

And that’s what I live my life for every day.

Submitted by Randie.

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