Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Getting rear ended on the freeway

I've always prided myself in being a safe driver, in paying attention to everyone around me and having avoided many accidents by being aware of what's going on around me.

I've always been worried about being rear ended on the freeway, especially in southern california where traffic can get quite heavy. I have a little routine every time traffic slows considerably to help lower my chances of being hit.

I put my hazard lights on so it draws extra attention to my car and I watch carefully in front of me while keeping an eye on my rear view mirror in case I need to pull onto the shoulder to avoid getting hit.

So last night when I was driving with my 2 children from San Diego to Los Angeles for an overnight trip, I followed my routine as traffic slowed- sped up- and slowed again.

About 30-40 miles from home, traffic slowed once again.

Out of habit, I put on my hazards and looked up into my rearview mirror.

I noticed the silver lexus behind me was slowing down, I breathed a sigh of relief. . .

But then, I noticed an orange BMW M6 flying up behind him- before I could even fully comprehend the information- that he wasn't slowing down- that he was going to hit the car behind me- that I was about to not only WITNESS an accident, but be INVOLVED in it-

I heard and felt everything smash around me. I'm not sure if I closed my eyes, but I know everything went black and the last thing I remember was turning my head to see my children screaming in the back seat.

It was a moment of true horror. I'm in a car accident. I tried to protect my children, I did everything I could to avoid this. I don't want this to happen. It's happening anyway. I cannot stop it. My kids are being hurt. I am being hurt. And there is nothing I can do to make it stop.

I have never felt so helpless in my life.

A left over soft drink sprayed all over us and for a split second, I thought it was blood.

Once we stopped sliding down the freeway and I could see clearly again I checked both kids for blood and assessed where the warm liquid was coming from. They were both terrified and screaming/crying at the top of their lungs.

After confirming that the kids were ok- no blood, no obvious broken bones, I started looking around me.

I looked ahead and confirmed that we had been catapulted into the car in front of us. My immediate thought was that my car must be totally destroyed.

The next order of events is a bit blurry. I remember that because I was still partially in the #3 and #4 lane on the freeway and noticed my car was still running- I decided to let off the clutch and see if I could get on to the shoulder.

My car slowly inched forward and out of the way of oncoming traffic.

My hazard lights were still flashing and several people ran to my car to check on us.

I didn't call 911 because I knew that by now probably 100 other people had already called. So I called Adam and explained that I was just rear ended, the car was likely totalled, but that the kids were OK. He asked where I was and we ended the call with his assurance, "I'm on my way."

I didn't know how or when he'd get there since I was in our only car, but I just focused on the kids and how I could help them/protect them from further trauma.

Then I got Mercedes out of the car so I could hold her. I picked her up and squeezed her and assured her- you're ok!

She was so upset and kept asking why the other cars didn't stop, and was really sad to see our car all beat up.

Next I unbuckled Bradshaw who also was wailing in terror. I checked both their bodies again for injuries and then we sat on the side of the road and cuddled together.

My next thought was to pull out my phone and start taking pictures.

Then I pointed to the orange BMW and said "Who was driving that?"

A man in a striped shirt raised his hand and said, "I was."

Calmly and cooly I said- "I'd like your insurance information right now."

I took a picture of his card. He looked very remorseful and tried to tell Mercedes it was ok and "not to cry."

I then talked to the gentleman who was in the silver lexus behind me. He was insistent that he had seen my hazard lights and stopped with an appropriate distance. "I know," I told him, "I watched the whole thing." I pointed to the orange BMW and said "It was all his fault. He didn't even slow down."

The driver of the BMW looked guilty, mortified, horrified etc. I think he saw my kids too and was realizing how close he came to hurting us or ending our lives. And also seeing the impact of the accident on the kids and myself consoling them. I just stared right back at him.

Next was an entourage of tow trucks, firetrucks, CHP, and paramedics swarming the area. It was crazy seeing how quickly and efficiently they dealt with the situation. They were all very friendly, kind, and helpful.

I was so relieved that we survived without any major injuries.

But my head was spinning. The whole situation was so random. One person wasn't watching what was happening around them. *I* was and even had gone above an beyond to draw everyone's attention to what was happening. I tried to watch behind me so I could move out of the way- none of it was enough.

Had I been a few cars ahead? a few cars behind? Had I been on the right side of the freeway instead of the left side?

How many times have I nearly been in the same situation? How many times have I seen other cars nearly be in the same situation?

Totally, utterly random.

After being checked out at the hospital, our neighbor drove us home (after she kindly gave Adam a ride to us in the first place.) It was scary being in the car and looking around at all the cars around us and feeling like we were seconds away from another random accident. One idiot. One wrong move. Boom. It could all be over.

Last night I laid awake replaying everything in my mind over and over. Thinking about how much worse it could have been. Contemplating the randomness of it. Contemplating the fact that many other accidents probably happened simultaneously on the planet and that the occupants many not have walked away like we all did.

I could have died. My kids could have died. We could have been badly hurt. And I couldn't stop it. Once the collision began, our lives were solely in the hands of our seat belts, car seat, and the structure of the car. There was nothing I could do but wait until it was over and hope that our safety measures would save us.

And in that moment, I was so thankful that they did. Thankful that cars are required to meet certain safety standards. Thankful that seat belts exist and that we were wearing them. Thankful for my sons 5 point harness. Thankful that my car handled the impact EXACTLY as it was designed to.

So very, very thankful. These things saved us. If any small thing had randomly been different, this story could have ended differently. And I'm sure for others who were in auto accidents yesterday, it did.

This is my reminder that I only live once and to make each day count.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Life on a Boat. . . the story of DESTINY

I know most of you have followed at least part of our boat story on Facebook. . . so here's a more clear run down of what happened and how it all came together. . .

So lets rewind a ways.

I can't remember when the first "We should live on a boat!" conversation happened between Adam and I. . . perhaps it was back when we lived in the midwest. . . certainly it happened when we lived in Nor Cal.

For a better run down of WHY. . . please read Why I want to live on a boat?!

So here goes:

We started looking at boats in February, more so just casually/for fun. We checked out a potential boat near Santa Barbara and did some live aboard investigation there as well. Unfortunately the boat turned out to be a piece of crap, so we moved on.

Once we finally left our place in Sacramento, we took advantage of my part time work to casually check out some more water craft in the area. We had applied for financing, been pre approved, and only looked at what was in our price range but we didn't really find anything that would REALLY work to LIVE on full time. . .

Then Adam found the ad for "Destiny"

A 1969 flybridge diesel power 50 ft yacht.

Her price was too good to be true, but we figured we just HAD to see her and find out why the price was so low.

So down to San Diego we went.

As soon as we stepped on board, we felt at home. All of us could imagine life on her. . . our 5 year old loved exploring and pointing out all the fun she could have and where her potential room would be. . .

Turns out the diesel engine was originally a military engine, the exact same one Adam trained on when he was in the Army. . .

She'd been sitting for 3 years and definitely was going to need some work. Lots of cleaning, maintenance, etc. But it was clear she was worth the price and the effort to get her fixed up. The owner was an attorney in Arizona that just wanted to sell her and be done with it, we were told.

We told the broker we wanted to put in an offer- they instructed us on where to go from there. We did everything they told us to. . .

A few days later we went back to make sure everything was squared away. . . that's when we found out a CASH buyer had just put in an offer and the broker hadn't submitted our offer to the owner yet. We were pretty unhappy with the broker but they assured us they would submit both offers at the same time and let the owner decide which one he was going to take.

We went home, bummed. We felt certain the cash buyer would be the one to take Destiny away.

After talking with our family, we decided Destiny was worth some bold action.

So we googled her owner, and contacted him directly.

We pleaded our case, telling him that we wanted Destiny to be our home, that she was our dream, and begged him to take our (increased) offer. Of course, included a family picture too.

The next day, he wrote back telling us we had persuaded him to accept our offer. That he loved Destiny and it was important to him that she go to the right person. . . he was relieved Adam was a mechanic due to the work needed to be done and felt happy that she was going to be our home.

We could hardly believe it all! We were thrilled!

However before our bank would finalize financing, we needed to have the boat professionally surveyed. This cost about $700 cash out of pocket, but was well worth it. The surveyor inspected every aspect of Destiny and gave us a 60 page report of every single detail about her and the work she needed. He included a quote of her worth being nearly triple the amount we were asking the bank for.

However, the underwriter demanded to see the entire survey, not just the estimated worth. He didn't even read through the entire thing, a few pages in and he decided it was too risky to finance.

When I got the news, I had just parked 3 blocks away, was extremely sore (post workout) and was trotting down the sidewalk in heels. The whole situation compounded into an adult style tantrum. Once I finally got back inside, I knew I had to lock myself in the bathroom and soak in a hot bath before I snapped at someone or let my disappointment get the better of me.

While I soaked in the bath, letting the disappointment and frustration run it's course, Adam decided to contact the owner and make one last desperate plea.

He asked if there was any way the owner himself would be willing to finance us. He said he was embarrassed to ask, but because Destiny needed so much work, there was no way we could get her financed. And we loved her so much, we just had to try every last option before giving up.

Again, he wrote back.

He said he was capable of financing us, but his wife had serious reservations. A few e-mails were exchanged, then he announced he was driving the california the next day to meet with us.

So we swallowed our pride and met Destiny's owner.

We sat on her flybridge and deck. . . He told us about all the work she needed and asked us why we were crazy enough to want her AND want to live on her.

I told him about our lives and what lead up to the decision.

Then he asked what the terms of our loan would have been if we had been financed after all. After finding out, he went for a walk to talk to his wife about it all.

When he returned he told us he would finance us for the same terms as our loan (Except at 4% interest, not 14.9% meaning out loan would be 6 years not 10). We talked the rough details of it out and then walked into the brokers office.

I thought the broker might just piss himself. The last thing he was expecting was Destiny's owner to walk in alongside us to tell him he was going to finance us and to sell the boat to us.

And so a few days later we met again, finalized the paperwork, and just like that Destiny was all ours. We hold her title and her previous owner is essentially our "bank". He was sad to hand her over to us, but after grabbing a few personal possessions, he gave me a hug and told us to "Enjoy and Have fun".

THEN as if he hadn't done enough already, he paid the current Marina she was at for the rest of the month, giving us 10 days to get her running to take to the Marina we planned to live at. (Originally we only had 24 hours to get her out of there or we had to pay the Marina a $900 deposit and $900 slip fee). We would not be able to have her towed to the new Marina, because they require you bring the vessel from it's own power.

And so the last few weeks have been spent making Destiny a powerful vessel again and our new home. Everything has come together nicely! Adam has spent long days plumbing, wiring, mechanic-ing, and handy man-ing while I've been vacuuming, bleaching, scrubbing, cleaning, and organizing. It's been the best time of our lives.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Why do I want to live on a boat?!

I can't answer this question easily so I'm devoting a blog to it:

First of all, this is something that has crossed our minds over the years. We have researched, talked to people who live aboard, visited marinas, looked at boatloads of boats, talked to our insurance company, watched youtube videos, gathered information in any way we possibly can to figure out if this is feasible and if it's worth it. We have researched apartments in the area and put together spreadsheets comparing costs and pro and cons. We really, truly, have done some serious soul searching on the subject and some serious research.

So here's why I want to live on a boat:

1. It's affordable

This is housing that we would own and be able to afford on my income alone. It would be cheaper than what we were paying in Sacramento! Considering the higher cost of living in San Diego, that's pretty phenomenal.

2. It's close to the beach

Need I say more? Being actually in the ocean? 

3. It's quiet

Most marinas have a very low liveaboard capacity. So 90% of our neighbors would only be there on the weekends. Not to mention any time we wanted to get away we could literally drive our home to the middle of nowhere. No noisy neighbors with whom we share walls. . . need I say more?

4. It's minimalist

Over the years and through my various trials I have thought extensively about what is important to me in life.

What I've realized is I have cultivated an appreciation for the earth and nature. I love the sunshine and I love the ocean.

When you own a home you have to take care of it, the lawn, replace things every so many years... And it's a lot of work to maintain. I don't want to spend my days and time with my family mowing the lawn or replacing windows or spring cleaning. I want to be OUTDOORS enjoying nature... I want to read books, I want to engage in lively discussions with my family and spend time together.

All I need? Is a place to sleep and eat. Some privacy for the kids and for us. Access to the GREAT OUTDOORS where the kids can play.

Here's some pics of our (potential) future home:

Here she is!

Kitchen table
Kitchen area, plenty of storage. The bathroom is also located in this area, but not pictured.

3 burner stove top, mini oven with plenty of room to bake- pretty much anything except a full sized turkey! Nice big sink and 2 mini fridges with separate freezer compartments. 

2 steps up to the "master bedroom" which is quite roomy, includes a  huge closet, lots of drawers. This would double as a "living room" during day hours. 
We can even put our sleep number bed in this queen size nook!

Couch and more storage. . . 
Helm and more storage

2 steps down to the V-Berth- plenty of storage, bunk beds. . . at the bottom of the steps there's a room with a full mirror/vanity/sink and a separate shower. Cozy  but plenty of room!

So yes, maybe we are crazy, but we are seriously considering making this our home. The marina would provide:

Fitness center
Self Storage
Mail box rental
Swimming pool
Play Park
Picnic areas
Free wifi
(and much much more, all of our needs would be well taken care of). 

Considering that right now we are sharing a room with the kids, this would provide a luxurious amount of privacy for us and the kids. 

Compared to the price of purchasing a house or condo, this is about 1/3 the monthly cost (perhaps less!!!). 

We would have full comprehensive insurance as this would be our HOME. It costs about $75/mo. 

Our "house payment" would be around $200/mo for 10 years. That's right, this beautiful home is only $20,000 to own outright. 

I realize the kids won't have tons of room to play. What I like about this is that it will FORCE us to go outside and play in NATURE. 

I realize I won't have lots of room for my clothing/accessory addiction. What I like about this is it will FORCE me to reduce the amount of things I have and stop me from buying more (or at least, make me get rid of stuff when I do want something new). Do I really need 10 pairs of shorts? No. 1 is enough. Really. I may have to do laundry more frequently but I will have FAR LESS of it to contend with. 

I realize the kitchen isn't as spacious as what we consider "normal". What I like about this is it will force us to downsize to bare minimals. 4 plates, 4 cups, 4 sets of cutlery. Do we REALLY need more than that? If (big if) anyone comes to visit us, we will keep a stash of paper and plastic. This will also cut down on the amount of dishes needing washing since we won't have a dishwasher :-)

When we moved our of our last apartment, I realized just how much crap we don't even USE. It's just THERE. Taking up space- space we pay for! And what a headache it was getting it all moved out! What I realized it how little I used my "stuff" and that it was a waste of my money, my time, and my space. I really thought about WHAT DO I REALLY "need" to live?

Do I want to spend my time off catching up on chores? Washing the 10 loads of clothes I have? Washing all the excess dishes I have? cleaning up and organizing all my useless things?

No. I want to go out for a bike ride, a hike, lay on the beach. . . spend time alone, or with my family. Enjoy the earth. Enjoy life. 

So, now you know why I want to live on a boat. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mental Health Part Two

During my battle with postpartum depression this last year and dealing with various situations/stressors, I learned that I suffer many symptoms of codependency. If you click the link you can familiarize yourself with codependency and related issues.

In my journey to personal independence and also leaving religion, I did develop some healthier thought patterns and coping skills. However, certain beliefs had been so ingrained in me that it took my entering into a deep battle with depression to truly accept my issues and learn how to deal with them in a healthy manner.

In this post I want to address how religion can cause or create codependency issues in a person. Note I say CAN cause- this is because not every religious person becomes codependent. However, there are certain aspects of religion that can definitely build an environment where such issues can thrive- and so I will outline these:

The belief that "I am not good"

Having this belief creates self esteem issues and makes it difficult to thrive and function in relationships and life in general. Any negative situation or interaction with others seems to reinforce this belief and elicit emotional reactions that often exceed normality. It is painful to believe that you are not good. And whenever it's reinforced, the pain swells. You allow others to treat you in abusive ways (I deserved this, I caused this because I am so bad), you have little to no boundaries, communicating your needs/desires is very difficult (my needs/desires don't matter because I am bad- why communicate them? I do not deserve to have my needs/desires met anyway). . . All of this makes it extremely difficult to navigate relationships and friendships in a healthy manner.

I grew up believing I was a sinner. I believed that I was destined for hell and that the only reason I would not be going to hell (a place of torture and eternal flames), was because at 6 years old I asked Jesus to save me. Like most children, I was curious about life and death and what happens when you die. I don't know of any child that, after being informed that they are hell bound, would not immediately do whatever they could to get out of going to hell. Of course I wanted Jesus to save me from an eternity of burning flames, gnashing of teeth, etc. Who wouldn't?!

So now in my early years I have this foundation: I deserve to go to hell. Therefore I am not good. I am a sinner. I am bad. Even though I have not murdered someone, my small sins are just as great in God's eyes. Therefore, I am just as bad as a murderer. I am evil. I have a sin nature. Anything good about me is only through the grace of God and ONLY because I have accepted his gift of salvation.

These beliefs lead me to feel like I deserved anything bad that happened to me. If anyone treated me poorly or "life handed me lemons" it was something I deserved. And anytime something happened that reinforced these very painful beliefs, I reacted very strongly to it. Any criticism, any altercation, any less than positive interaction with another human being would send me reeling. I didn't know it at the time, but I felt angry because I did NOT like having these terrible thoughts about myself seemingly validated by others. No one would! Living in a world where you feel- and believe- that you are a terrible person, born sinner, hell worthy etc can turn into the following beliefs: I am unlovable, I am inadequate, I am disgusting.

Over my teen years it became my habit to think these types of thoughts about myself whenever I was involved in any sort of negative situation or had received criticism. They were overwhelming. Although becoming an adult and gaining maturity helped, I had built a habit of going to this dark place where I would pummel myself with these thoughts and beliefs. To this day, it takes a good deal of strength to avoid slipping back into this place whenever I face difficult situations.

The belief that pride is evil

As a Christian I came to believe that pride was very bad. Even taking credit for something good you had done was "prideful". When someone complimented me- it was uncomfortable because I had to find a way to direct the compliment to God instead. Anything good that I did was solely because Jesus saved me and would use me for good. This created a lot of room for the "I am bad" belief to grow and thrive.

It also made me look at others who were "prideful" with resentment and bitterness. Anyone who believed they were good at anything or who took personal credit for any talent or did not deflect compliments to the Lord- was someone I found difficult to get along with (so. . . a majority of the human race!)

A good Christian should always direct glory and praise to God, no matter what.

Part of this was that "Others always come first" and general attitude of self sacrifice. My comfort, my well being did not matter. If I was truly humble, I would always put the needs of others ahead of my own. My needs were never more important that God or the needs of others.

The belief that if I live the *right* way, God will bless my life

This is a tough one. Many times Christians will say that God doesn't care about performance and that "good works" aren't important. That your salvation isn't dependent on your good deeds.

However it seems- the amount of "blessings" you receive is in fact dependent on how you live.

I thought that "blessings" included:

A healthy marriage
A good job
Financial stability
Basic needs met
Good friendships

Pretty much all of those ideal things in life that every human being desires. I thought I needed to live a certain way to get them. If I honored the Lord, he would bless me. If I did not honor the lord or follow his principles (or "guidelines") for life- bad and SCARY things would happen to me:

Broken relationships
Financial struggles
A "shattered" life
The list goes on. . . 

It seems to vary from denomination to denomination on what exactly it means to live the "Christian" life. But one thing was clear to me- living the way God wanted me to live meant life would be GOOD. . . I would receive blessings from him. If I did NOT live how God wanted me to- if I did NOT follow his commandments- the devil would have full access to wreak havoc on my life.

Here are the things I thought I was supposed to do:

Honor and obey my parents until I was married (Then honor and obey my husband)
Not listen to any music with a syncopated (rock or DEVIL) beat
Attend church multiple times per week
Dress modestly
Save my virginity, first kiss, any orgasm for marriage 
Read my bible daily- the earlier in the day the better
Serve others as much as I could 
Stay away from entertainment that glorified sin (sex outside of marriage or any "worldly" principles)
Avoid sin at all costs! (This could be anything from lying to being "lazy"- unproductive in any way, shape, or form)

The list goes on. The list varies depending on which brand of Christianity you subscribe to, but there is typically some sort of list. And I thought being a christian means you DESIRE these things.


Needless to say, these three core beliefs made it difficult for me to maintain good mental health and engage in healthy relationships. It made it difficult for me to accept criticism or feedback without overreacting. It made it very easy for me to become depressed and stressed.

I understand that not everyone experiences the same effect from being a Christian. But this is how it affected ME.

Even after I had walked away from Christianity, I still held to some very damaging core beliefs. Beliefs that would flare up when life got difficult:

I am not good.
I deserve this. 
I did something that caused this. 

You see, for most of my life I had trained myself to believe that I was horrible and evil. That I deserved punishment (hell). And that I could control situations in my life through specified behaviors and actions directly from the bible. Of course I cannot deny that our behaviors and actions can cause and affect results in our lives (both good and bad). However I have found that they are usually directly related not obscure (example: I didn't read my bible enough which is why my husband and I aren't getting along verses My husband and I are not getting along because we cannot communicate and meet each others needs).

Here's some other things I have learned:

You cannot control life circumstances. No matter how good you behave, life happens.

You can only love others as much as you love yourself.

If I take care of myself, I can take better care of others.

My needs are important and it's important that I communicate them in every relationship (work, friendship, intimate, etc).

If my needs are met, I am better able to meet the needs of others in my life.

I do not deserve to be treated poorly.

Humans are individuals and this is beautiful!

I can feel good about my talents and abilities and realize they are MINE and mine alone.

I can enjoy the talents and abilities of others and compliment THEM directly.

It is NOT bad for others to believe good things about themselves and receive compliments.

As a result, it's made me a better person, friend, wife, mother, employee, manager, sister, daughter. I am healthier. I can cope with life easier. I can enjoy life so much more. 

No matter how difficult it gets, life is still good. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mental Health part one

This is my story about mental health. About my own mental health. About how my view of mental health was changed through my experiences. . . it's scary to share this, but if it is of any benefit to you I would greatly appreciate a comment or personal message. 

Thank you!


I feel like just uttering these words induces eye rolls and scoffs.

Mental health. 

If it's something you struggle with, you must be weak. 

You don't need medication, you just need an attitude adjustment. 

If you were spiritually healthy, it wouldn't be a problem. 

If you pray more, connect with God more, read your Bible more. . . You'll be fine. 

Therapy is for sissies, I can talk to my friends about my problems. 

She's so out of whack, I hope she's on medication. 

He goes to group therapy for ____! What a sissy!

Where did this stigma come from?

When did it become a sign of strength to "deal with it on your own" ?

As science progresses, we learn more and more about how our brains work. How our minds work. How the way they work can be affected.

I experienced this firsthand while breastfeeding my second child. Most people know that breast feeding produces "feel good" reactions in the brain. Bonding, happiness, all that good stuff. Something else can happen, it's called:

Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex

D-MER for short. Basically, it's caused when dopamine levels crash at the beginning of breast milk let down.

The best way I can describe it is this:

Imagine every negative feeling you have ever felt: Sadness, anxiety, loneliness, embarrassment, panic, fear. . .

I would feel all of those in a sudden wave, then my milk let down would occur. In fact, in the beginning days of breast feeding when your milk supply hasn't quite adjusted to your newborns needs, it was the tell tale way I could know if I was about to have a let down when I wasn't actually nursing my baby. I would feel that wave of negative feelings hit me like a wall, then taper off as the milk began to flow.

It made it difficult to pick up my son and nurse him. Partly because he was tongue tied and this made his latch incredibly painful already, but every time he would begin to suck and trigger a let down that wall of emotions would hit me.

And so, I learned how emotions can be fabricated in the brain. How things being out of balance can cause feelings for no apparent reason.

I learned that while it is normal to feel negative emotions from time to time, they can become overwhelming and unmanageable. And it might be something you have little to no control over.

Thankfully I was able to treat my D-MER with vitamins, supplements, and some lifestyle changes. Sometimes it still happens, but no where near as bad as when my milk first came in.

However, another problem crept up on me which I had hoped to ward off. I had hoped to ward it off because I dealt with it before.

Postpartum depression.

The reason I know I had it after the birth of my first child is because I remember how horrible I felt. I also remember lying on the questionnaire at my doctors office during my postpartum check ups. Why did I lie? Because at the time I was still very religious. I still believed that secular "medicine" was no cure for spiritual problems. I was afraid that accepting secular help would be dangerous and compromise my spiritual well being. I figured I could deal with it on my own.

And I did. I dealt with it on my own. As an immature, naive,  young wife and mother it was a truly horrible experience. Being married to an equally naive, immature, young man did not make it any easier. Not only were we both broken young adults with a severe lack of healthy relationship skills trying to find our way into parenthood but we had this big ugly issue that neither of us knew how to deal with. My postpartum depression.

So many ugly things happened between us that year. Our lives completely fell apart.

I am responsible for my actions and he is responsible for his- together we made such a mess of our lives that we very nearly parted ways and signed divorce papers.

We went to counseling, but in my self righteousness and fear of all things secular, I refused to go to a recommended therapist and instead we went to see a religious counselor. It was a nightmare and completely unhelpful. Absolutely the worst waste of money we have ever spent.

Somehow, someway, we grew and learned together. It took me 2 years to feel mostly normal and able to feel happiness again, to function as a normal human being.

Fast forward to 2013. I'm due with my second child. I've been faithful in maintaining good health and doing everything I can to make sure I fight off postpartum depression.

This time when questioned, I admitted that I had dealt with it before. I told the medical staff that I was hoping to prevent it through exercise and maintaining good health. They were supportive and kind.

After my son was born I talked to a social worker. We devised a plan with my husband of what to do should I begin to struggle. We talked about my high anxiety during my pregnancy and how that could carry over into postpartum anxiety.

It was all fine and dandy, the only thing I didn't realize is that unrelated stress can trigger postpartum depression. Being already at risk, all that was needed was a push in the right direction and I found myself tumbling down. . . down. . . down.

To a dark ugly place. A place I've been before, but I was too immature, young, and naive to realize it's not good or normal to be in that place- that it's OK to talk about it- and to ask for help.

In this deep dark place I feel all sorts of horrible things. That I am worthless. That no one loves me. That I am alone. That I am damaged and unlovable. That I am a bad person. I'm nothing but a giant fuck up. Everyone would be better off without me. Life is too painful. I don't want to keep going.

This time I knew better. I knew prayer wasn't going to save me. I knew reading my bible wasn't going to save me. I knew I needed help. But I was still so scared. So I carefully shared these feelings with people I was close with.

One of my dear friends immediately recommended that I contact my OB. Even though these feelings were seemingly triggered by unrelated stress, there were still symptoms of postpartum depression.

Well my friend was right. A trip to my OB and a recommended therapist confirmed it, I would be battling postpartum depression all over again. You see, outside stress (be it financial, relationship, work) can indeed trigger postpartum depression.

It's been 4 months now since I began therapy to improve my mental health. A combined effort of medication and talk therapy- two of the things I had once thought were useless and for sissies.

Talk therapy I was convinced wouldn't work. We'd tried it before and it was useless. I was even more afraid of trying medication. Before starting it, I determined to wake up early every morning and work out for an hour to see if exercise could do it's job of statistically treating depression as well as medication.

Needless to say I found myself desperate enough to actually try both.

I cannot speak enough of how much it has helped me to seek treatment. In 4 months I have made more progress than I did in 2 years battling these issues out on my own. I could not be more grateful for the support of my dear friends, my spouse, my OB, and my therapist.

I'm also thankful for my experience with D-MER. Because that was really what convinced me first hand how hormone imbalance can create- or magnify- feelings to be overwhelming. I witnessed first hand how my brain could create feelings completely outside of my control. With this knowledge I was able to forgive myself for "not being strong enough" to deal with my problems on my own. I was able to see how biological mental health can be.

And now I'm brave enough to share my story because I hope it might change your perspective. In closing, I would like to add a video that I found extremely helpful in allowing myself to seek treatment for mental health. I hope it benefits you in your own mental health or in awareness of your loved one's mental health:

In part two I hope to write about my husband's experience with PTSD and then both of our experiences in supporting a spouse as they suffer with a mental health issue. If you know someone who is struggling with any of these issues, please give them a hug from me. 

Thank you

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Do atheists celebrate Christmas?

I've seen this question pop up a few times so I would like to address it.

To be clear, I don't really identify as an atheist per say, but I am close with several atheists although I myself am undecided. That being said, here's my answer to "Do atheists celebrate Christmas?"

As a non-christian (something I definitely am) married to an atheist (which he definitely is) we still celebrate Christmas.

In fact, my atheist husband is super excited about Christmas and has been blasting Christmas music since November 1st. All kinds of Christmas music, yes, even the religious songs.

You see, we still appreciate the tradition of christmas. We appreciate the "story" of christmas. We just believe it's only that- a story. Mankind has been entertained by fictional stories since. . . well. . . forever. Just because we believe the story is fiction doesn't mean we can't enjoy the myth and the tradition of the season.

That's why I have no problem with nativity scenes, Christmas hymns, talk of a savior etc. To me, it's just fiction. I realize it's much more than that to some people- that's their personal choice and belief and I respect that 100%.

However, because I don't believe it's *truth* does that mean I am not allowed to celebrate?

Not to mention, the Christmas holiday is so much more than celebrating the arrival of a savior. It's evolved into time spent being generous to others, time spent with family, a reminder to show those in our lives that we appreciate them and love them. I think it's wonderful to have a tradition where we celebrate the goodness in each other.

Are there atheists who don't celebrate Christmas? I'm sure. I've also met CHRISTIANS who don't celebrate Christmas. It's a personal choice for each individual to make regardless of whether they believe the nativity story is truth or fiction.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Happy Holidays VS Merry Christmas

It's that time of year.

Where people rant about the use of "Happy Holidays" verses "Merry Christmas"

I want to start out by saying, if you are offended when someone warmly wishes you a "Merry Christmas" you might want to take a step back and and think about why you are offended. If you don't celebrate Christmas, if you hate Christmas, if you think Christmas is evil. . . I still don't see why you would be angry that someone said something NICE to you. I think these people must be extremely rare as I have NEVER encountered one. Due to my type of employment, I have encountered many, many people. None of them have ever been offended by being wished "Merry Christmas!"

That being said, the potential of "offense" has never been expressed to me as the reason why many businesses have adopted the use of "Happy Holidays" instead. I haven't researched extensively, so I'm just sharing my own personal perspective on the issue.

Now what I HAVE seen, is people become offended by the use of "Happy Holidays!"

I've seen dozens of Facebook posts and daily have conversations that include statements like "I'm not going with any of this stupid PC crap. . . so I say Merry Christmas!!!!"

Personally, if someone wishes me well I will never take it negatively. If I'm wished a happy Hanukkah, happy Kwanzaa, happy Christmas, or whatever warm wish someone chooses to use- why on earth would I take that poorly? It would be silly. Even if I don't celebrate whatever holiday that may be, someone taking the time to say something nice to me is always appreciated.

However it seems there are those who would find it offensive if I wished them "happy holiday!"

Now, what if my motive behind this isn't to avoid "offending" anyone, but merely to include the fact that there are different holidays celebrated by different religions and nationalities and I would like to recognize them all with one greeting, offered in a warm and friendly manner?


Why is it bad for me to choose to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas!" ?

I've wished many people Merry Christmas for years. None of them have ever been offended.

However, I'm a bit worried to use "Happy Holidays!" due to all the negativity surrounding that greeting by many people during this time of year.

I suppose someone could be offended that my use of "Merry Christmas!" doesn't include the other various holidays and that I'm elevating one holiday over another. Again, I feel this is silly. If Christmas is the holiday I celebrate and if I don't know which one you celebrate, why would anyone be mad that I send them a warm wish representing the holiday I personally celebrate?

This doesn't make sense. Again, if someone wished me "Happy Hanukkah!" I would smile and say "You too!"

I could be wrong, but to me, "Happy Holidays!" is NOT about negating Christmas. . . but rather about including ALL the holidays that ALL people celebrate this time of year. . . it's about being inclusive to EVERYONE-

It's about not EXCLUDING any holiday, or some feeble attempt to "not offend" anyone. 

But apparently that's a bad thing?

It's BAD to include the various holidays that people of different religions and beliefs celebrate?

I have yet to see anyone complain about "Merry Christmas" being offensive. I have not seen one Facebook post or heard one comment from anyone- ever- about this phrase being used on them as a negative thing.

Even now, being non religious and being around more non religious, or religions other than christianity than I ever have before in my life- I have yet to meet a person who would be offended if anyone wished them a "Merry Christmas!"

So I wonder. . . where did this originate?

And I'm curious if anyone else has noticed that in the absence of offense at "Merry Christmas!" There seems to be an overwhelming amount of people who get bent out of shape over "Happy Holidays!"?

If anyone takes the time to send a warm wish your way, regardless of what holiday it is- appreciate it for what it's worth.

Even if it's "Happy Holidays!"

And so my friends, no matter what holiday you celebrate or even if you don't celebrate any- I hope you enjoy this time. If you're with family or by yourself, I hope you are happy and well and enjoying yourself. I hope you are able to see the best of whatever situation you are in, to love yourself and love those around you.