Tuesday, November 3, 2015

AthHalf 2015...Completion and Healing

I ran.
I pushed.
I finished.

2:13:59

I conquered because I needed to.
Amazingly supportive husband.
Beautiful children cheering me on.
I am so fortunate.

I am strong.
I am healthy.
I put me first and accomplished what I needed to.

My little family is my world.
I have enough. I am enough.

We will overcome this.
We will exceed expectation.
We will persevere.

I am mama strong.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

I'm still running, some days that has to be enough

I don't give myself credit enough for the things I accomplish. For victories small or large.
No. I am far better at picking a part all of my failings (as I call them).
In fact, failure is my go to word.
Pretty harsh for a mama runner PhD.
And yet it's the one word I cannot shake.

F-A-I-L-U-R-E

So, where did failure come from? I didn't start out a failure. In fact I was a pretty good kid, mostly straight A's, rule follower, blah blah blah. Then after busting my ass for four years I missed the IB diploma by one point. Then I was refused entry into every military branch (but apparently if I had lied about taking anti-depressants as a teenager I could have enlisted).
I shrugged it all off, hell I was going to Emory University.
I was still something.

And then I wasn't. Once there I became lost in a sea of "top" students, and I was barely average...sinking in big lectures designed to each us that not every one goes to med school.
I had my first big ME breakdown (as in not related to previous familial issues).
If you think I just couldn't hack it, you would be right.
Neither could the beautiful young woman who took her life that year at Emory.
Pressure don't play.

So I left. First time I had ever quit anything. And so began my journey into failure.
It gets better, but first it got a whole helluva lot worse.

Apparently you can't be a failure until you STOP trying all together.

Which I did...for two years. Yes, for two whole years I will allow myself the title of failure.

And then one day I wasn't. I found my feet again. I put one foot in front of the other and I was no longer failing. I listened to that inner voice telling me to get up and keep going.
I was not meant to be a failure.
My story contained a very notable semicolon.

I have two graduate degrees, a sexy/brilliant/loves-me-to-the-moon-and-beyond spouse, two phenomenal kiddos, and I am now on to 10 miles in my half-marathon training.

I am definitely not failing anyone, especially not myself.

Run strong. Be RAD.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Hill running and life lessons

Coach has amped up my half marathon training recently. So I ran hills...with a stroller. 
You're thinking the downhill would be easier and faster, I'm thinking you've never run hills. 
Uphill is brutal, downhill is a race to catch up without slamming your feet into the ground trying to slow down or over striding. Hill running is about balance.  Too fast and you are eating pavement, too slow and you are crushing your feet, knees, etc. Balance. It was a short run and it was brutal. You work hard for running gains, you work hard for life goals. For some reason I felt like telling my son about hill running so the first 5 minutes I talked about how to run hills. Quick short steps up, longer strides down...but not too long. 
My hill running mantra has always been "what goes up must come down." This translates into it's not always difficult, it will get easier. Every runner has a hill mantra. 
Or else they walk hills. :)

Then I went on a brief tangent about how life is like hill running, some of the best life lessons are hills. And it is true. Sometimes you are coasting on an easy flat. Then you hit some small hills, little inclines that challenge you. And one day...bam...that hill. You know the one. The grade is so steep you literally feel like you aren't moving anymore. 
Yea, I know. Almost too obvious for a life analogy. I thought grad school was THAT hill for me.
I knew nothing. 
That was just a speed hump.
No.
Now is THAT hill.
Right effing now.
And apparently I haven't been training for hills lately.

I told my therapist I felt lost in session number 2. But it's more like I feel like I am busting my ass to stay still. Running THAT hill and going nowhere. No forward motion happening. He told me to write until I didn't feel that way. I wrote one sentence and realized that lost feeling, that inner silence, that not moving sensation...it's me taking a break.

Wait for it.

Yes. I haven't taken a real break to think about what I want out of life in who knows how long. I've just been going. Coasting from one opportunity to another. But this last time I ignored the inner voice that's been guiding up those hills and along the flats. I made a pragmatic decision. And I was wrong.
Gasp.
Doesn't happen often, but when it does...akin to running barefoot on pavement.
Really bad idea.
So, with the support of my husband I undid that decision. And I was left with silence.

Silent hill climbs are insanely terrifying.

I thought my inner voice, my mantra chanter, my guide got pissed off and left me.
Nope.
She had done her job. So she sat back and savored the quiet. And the moment I quit typing and put pen to paper I realized this wasn't a flat I was coasting, this was it. This was THAT hill. The one that would break me before I finished it. But ultimately, leave me stronger than I could ever imagine.

So don't mind me. I'm not 'just' a mama.
I am mama.
I’m a mama with unfulfilled potentials.
I’m a mother running PhD.
I'm rad.
I'm not lost at all.
I am right where I am meant to be right now.

About ten minutes after my talk on our run, after cruising in silence for a bit, my son randomly pipes up
"Don't give up, mama."
No worries little man, I didn't.
Taking this damn hill one effing step at a time.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Therapist "Dating" 101

Finding a new therapist always makes me think of speed dating.  Probably because it is typically within a matter of minutes that I have determined the destiny of our relationship.  No, I am not overly sensitive or judgmental, I simply know the type of personalities I am going to mesh with in therapy (and life, for that matter).  More importantly, if I start to feel more educated than them, it's terminal.

Therapist/client relationships are essential for results.  And in my span of therapists, since I start up therapy again every few years, I have only had two great ones so far.  Just two.  
One male and one female.  Each of those relationships were concluded when I moved away.  
Both evolved over the course of my sessions, both provided immense beneficial results.  
One was a PhD, one was not (I am not an education elitist ALL the time).
Both set some pretty high standards for future therapists. 

My latest venture into therapy I ended up in this guy's office by default, literally.  I sought out his female partner because her areas of expertise seemed to fit my needs.  Since she was booked she pushed me off on him.  I went with it because he had some specialties that I thought might make it work.  Wrong.  For starters he was late, and after he finally came out to the waiting room (that was void of any human life or instructions on what to do) he handed me paperwork to complete.  Needless to say our session did not actually begin until about 10 minutes past my appointment time.  And he ended the session promptly 50 minutes after my appointment time. 
Major fail, dude.  
Way to make me feel like a paycheck for the vacation you took the VERY NEXT WEEK. 
Oh yes, no follow up appointment with the new client for the following week.  No.  He had his vacation scheduled then.  Why did he even book the first appointment?  Sigh.  I won't elaborate on any additional specifics as to why we didn't mesh, but it was truly disappointing.  If I didn't still have to pay for the session I probably would have left sooner.

Back to the drawing board. 
I am fortunate to still have insurance through August, but I loathe therapist "dating."  

The real issue is:  I don't like bullshit.  I don't want to start a first session sitting on a couch rehashing my past with some ass that makes way more than they should per hour.  We can get to my past eventually, let's start with the here and now.  The reason I came in to begin with, ya know?  
The hard part.
When the past rears it's ugly head we can address it then. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Insert today's session with therapist #2...15 minutes in, "What do you want?" 
Cue instant tears.

15 fucking minutes.  No bullshit.

Damn, looks like I found a match after all.  

**Looking for a therapist in your part of the world?  I found mine through Psychology Today.  
  

Thursday, July 2, 2015

What is failure?

You know when you start off with a question like 'What is failure?' you are headed for murky waters.  I met with my new therapist this week, and all the 'getting to know you' questions stirred up a lot of shit for me.  As they always do.  This has been on my mind for a minute.  The truth behind what it feels like to leave my job, despite the poor fit that it and the location was for both me and my family.  It's not pretty, and as I begin sifting through my past to further understand my journey to here I am left with this overwhelming sensation of déjà vu.

You think I am so brave, I walked away with my head held high.  I am bold.  I am a rebel, turning my back on academia to pursue my passions.

You have no idea.

I am nothing.

This façade is for me, a theatrical attempt to not drown in the depths of my failure.  I failed not only myself but my family.  I dragged them to a place we could not thrive.  So much change, so little opportunity.  Lovely people, a phenomenal baby, some life lessons sprinkled in...and here we are, so far below where we started.

And it is ALL. MY. FAULT.

I try desperately to focus on the beautiful little girl born in KY, and the amazing women that taught me all about true community.  I try to see the silver linings and not focus on how my son does not have a playroom or a yard to play in.  Or how or where we could send him to a few days of school this fall? So many questions, and I cannot even begin to answer them. 
I am too wrapped up in failing.

This isn't the first time.  It keeps reminding me of when I was 19.  When I walked away from Emory University and into the arms of one shitty excuse for a human being. I failed myself so badly then. And when I got out of that they called me brave too.  
I am beginning to think they do not know what bravery really is.  
Failures aren't brave, they are just surviving. 

To say this latest journey has humbled me would be an understatement.

I don't even know where to begin to pick up the pieces.

Maybe 20 year old me can come give me a pep talk.  She survived her failure, maybe I can survive mine.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Asking for help

Curled into a fetal position, incapable of even willing myself to sit up. Repeating my children's names over and over, just to remind myself that I must endure.
It doesn't even hurt.
I am numb.

I hear them cry, daddy is in charge and one is tired and the other is needing cuddles.
Mommy cannot cuddle, she is too busy holding herself.

I knew these few weeks would be hard. I knew that I was pushing myself too much without taking the time for self care. So it's not surprising that I find myself here. Balled up in my numbness.
Still willing myself just to sit up.

I manage to open my eyes. The tears abated a while ago, the numbness persists. I feel empty. I feel lost. I feel like I am continuing to fail. Taking care of everyone but me, losing myself a little more each day. I am fighting a losing battle. The comforts of "home" lost in our transition from Kentucky to Georgia. I blame myself for all of this.
I see my pain reflected in my son's frustration. His tears are my tears.
I know.

I beg for help, and then I realize why I am home. To be helped.

I am at least sitting up now. Baby steps.
Maybe tomorrow will be easier.
Maybe tomorrow I will run again.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Are your ears on?

I read a post recently about why women are more stressed out than men. It included suggestions on how the two genders could eradicate the inevitable escalation that typically occurs when men just "don't get it" or make the fatal mistake of responding "calm down." The article was written by a clinical psychologist, so please don't get your panties in a wad thinking I am wasting your time quoting some random blogger with no backing other than their glorified opinion.

But then again, here you are reading mine....so... ;)

Anyway, the validation of emotions struck home for me. More than anything I loathe being told I am overly emotional, or that someone else doesn't feel that way. Fabulous, since I was stating how I feel I can totally see why it matters that you don't feel or think the same way.
Um, no.
In that moment you have the option to sympathize and listen, thus connecting on a more human level.
I am not asking for you to agree or be my therapist, just for you to hear that I am expressing verbally how I feel.  What ends up happening when you respond with an explanation of how you don't feel/think that way is that I translate what you said in my head as I should not feel/think that way either. Whether intended or not, that's how it is received.

Clearly we should live in a world of automatons that all think and feel exactly the same way. Why are you telling me this? I am sharing a vulnerability of mine and you are swatting it down. Maybe you are actually thinking you should feel the same way, I don't know.
I simply feel invalidated.

Now let us for a moment further transition this to how it affects someone not fully capable of processing their emotions, whether due to depression or anxiety or some other reason (maybe developmentally they aren't there yet, any parents of toddlers?). The emotionally charged mind now feels inferior.

How would someone take such an assessment of themselves? Perhaps they would agree with being incapable of controlling how they feel or how they are analyzing certain situations. This might lead to thoughts that being irritated by something so irrational means weakness. Strong people don't lose control.
Only the weak cry.

Wrong.

You see it does not matter how you interpret it; which is not to say you don't matter, of course you do.
When I am sharing with someone how I feel all I really want is for them to listen.
Typically ANYONE yelling how they feel or crying is only asking to be heard.

My latest attempt at not being a yelling parent is to turn listening into something fun. I will ask my two year old if his ears are on, he even goes so far as to pretend to turn his ear knobs.  It's pretty darn cute, and is occasionally effective. But it is not only toddlers who need reminding to turn their ears on sometimes.

Are yours on?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The silent pain

On the days that you least expect it, that's when the silent yet numbing pain attacks. It starts with crying. The uncontrolled tears simply falling. The harder you try to stop them, the faster they come. You see the reflection of this numbing pain in your children. They act out, they seek you, they cry and whine. They are unsettled by your discomfort. This makes the pain worse. Now you are stuck in a cycle, forever spinning the wrong way.

You grab something to hold on to, anything that will ground you. Desperate to hold yourself amidst reality so the irrational thinking will cease, or at the very least go silent. You try and try to reorient yourself. The numbness spreads, physically overtaking your entire body until it feels like a tangible entity. A force you are no longer capable of fighting or fending off. More tears.
How did this happen?
Wasn't today a good day?
You had an amazing solo run yesterday, you accomplished so many tasks, everyone is 90% healthy again.
You felt so in control only hours earlier.
So strong.

Now everyone is tense and upset.
And you blame yourself.
You want to make it all better, but the stupid tears keep falling and the pain makes it impossible to do anything.

You want to run. Just leave it all behind. But then what? 
The pain is still there and now you are causing more pain with your absence.

You cling to yourself. You keep repeating that it will pass.
You cry.
You cry some more.
You cry until arms embrace you and tell you that it is hard, but we will find a way together.

And if there are no arms right now, here are mine. Wide open.
Don't be alone with your silent pain. 
Just cry with me.
Rage with me.
Just be.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My first running post

And here we are, four posts in, finally talking about running.  I suppose it would have been better to begin with a positive running experience, but I prefer to keep it real.  I never said running was a cure, or even always positive. Shit, sometimes it is really negative.

If Cheryl Strayed hiked the PCT to escape her problems, I run out my door to escape mine. But you can't escape them, eventually they will land even harder right on your damn stubborn head.
And then what?

And then you really face them.

Because they are YOUR problems.

We can wake up in a fine mood and then we spill milk everywhere. Of course it's chocolate milk and of course it goes everywhere. No big deal, right?

Wrong. BFD.

And that's when I lost it. I lost it over spilled milk, milk that  I  spilled. It was downhill from there. My hair trigger activated, I was an angry disaster ready to blow. Crawling the walls to get out, begging to hit the pavement. Certain that I could pound the fury out of me. Fast forward to toddler begging to go too, a shoe tantrum, and finally getting out the door even more frustrated. Almost turning back because that beautiful boy keeps yelling at me to play I spy. And then .80 of a mile in needing to go pee pee...which happened behind a building because it of course it is Memorial day and everything is closed.

Sigh.

I've cried a lot. I've been beating myself up. Why can't I be stronger, more patient? I love my son so very much. And yet I keep losing my ability to hold on to what little sanity I have left. My run actually amped up my anxiety. Because I told you there is no cure, only self care and symptom management. And I have not been doing either.

I can lay out all of my carefully constructed excuses. None matter. I am not taking care of myself.

You wanted to read how I run and manage my depression beautifully. How I am so great at getting myself to therapy consistently. How I don't allow the ebb and flow to overtake me until it is too late and I am swallowed up by another downward spiral. Happy ending coated in glitter and rainbows.

I  love glitter, but reality isn't always so sparkly.  Each day is a new battle.  Each day I am running.

I think it should start becoming clear that I don't always run in my awesome running shoes.  Sometimes I just run to the bedroom or bathroom, anywhere to hide.  Wishing I didn't have to come out and face the fact that I still have to be ok somehow.  I still have to be mommy.  I still have to be a wife.  I still have to breathe in and out.

I think today will be one of those days I just breathe in and out.  That is today's success story.  Maybe tomorrow we can try running outside again.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Bad days happen

Today was a hard day. As a parent, as a spouse, as an adult. It sucked. I was pooped on, literally gushing onto my hands in my lap and onto the couch. I've been tending a sick baby for days now. Oh and now the toddler is feverish. Today was hard.

What's worse is that it started out hard because it was a bad day for me. I woke up a wreck. My mental well being warped. It was a rough morning that turned into a difficult day spotted with moments of pure awesomeness. How I wish I could focus on those moments and not relive all of the bad ones over and over and over.

Just don't dwell on them and you won't feel so bad.
We all have those days, it's ok.
If you would only stop being so negative you would feel better.

Sound familiar?

Well I say to hell with that.
It's ok to not be ok. More importantly it is ok to have a bad day.

They don't know, they have no clue. How could they? You want mindreaders? Go find a circus. This is reality. Unless they have lived it, felt it, survived it...they don't know. I don't really think I can ever come to terms with this. How can people not know what it is to have depression? How can they not understand the inability to control your emotional and psychological interpretations of every minute detail?

But they can't.
Not because they don't love you, not because they don't want to.
It is simply impossible unless you have been in that dark place. Pushed by feelings that impose upon those blissful moments.

Maybe that is why I am writing this. Because you need to know that not everyone will be able to understand or offer support. Of course they care. That's not what you need though.
I know.
I am living it with you.
It's ok if today is a bad day.
Tomorrow might be better, or not.
But you keep going, keep moving.
Or in my case, you keep running.

So cry with me. Scream if you must.
It's fucking hard to live like this.
Ask for a hug.
Ask for someone to hold your hand.
I promise you they don't need to understand to be able to do that for you. They are human.
And hey, you are only human too.

At least we survived the bad day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Unless...

If you came back for some autobiographical purging be forewarned, I am operating under the assumption that we are already well acquainted. At this point you already know my deep dark secret. So let's leave the past in the past. Therapy often begins with a recounting of all the shit we have been through, and I always find this part silly. I know where my demons come from, I determined that about 5 therapists ago. It's not relevant. What I want to know is how to kick their asses out of my head, or at least how to slap a muzzle on them. Granted, the past will slip in from time to time. Please don't expect it or ask for it. It is mine to share or not.

So since we are so in the know about each other it should come as no surprise when I tell you that I am a TED talk addict. And that having my own TED talk may be a daydream of mine. Similar to the beauty queen that practices her crown acceptance speech, I daydream about the badass TED talk I will give. No, I do not know my topic yet, but I assure you it WILL be epic.  A lot of my defining life moments have been inspired by a TED talk. The latest inspiration came from a talk about failing to obtain a great career. Watch it...then meet me back here and we can chat about how I have lived in fear of success my whole life. I mean it. Watch it.

So? Feel inspired yet? No? Let me guess...at least one of those excuses hit home, right? I know. I've used every damn one of them. But here I am all the same. Admitting my flaws to the world, watching TED talks, writing for me. What a selfish jerk of a mom and wife. I mean seriously. I have mountains of student loan debt, a PhD in neuroscience. What the hell am I doing?

Dreaming. Living out my passion. Being exceptionally grateful for a life partner that encourages me every step of the way.

You see, the truth is I hate the word unless. Unless what? I feel like Marty McFly after someone calls him chicken. And a good job, well what difference will that make? And are people really so fantastic when they are wasting talent slaving away over some job or another? Losing themselves to a quota? Not even sure what they are working for at the end of each day?

Hell no.

Greatness comes from risk taking. Jumping off the proverbial cliff.
Head first with no parachute.

Welcome to my cliff. Don't get comfy. It's a non stop and very awkward ride. And please do not make the mistake of believing for a second that I'm not scared, I'm terrified.

Yet as my little Japanese character tattoo suggests, or at least I am hoping it does, strength and courage are entertwined. What I mean to say is, courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it.

What are YOU afraid of?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What makes me RAD

I guess the first step is to acknowledge the problem. A little bit like an addiction, ignoring the glaring beast will get you maimed or killed. Ok, so now you have accepted that it is really and truly there. Now what? After decades of ignoring and confronting I can only say that true acceptance only comes to those that are ready. No amount of growing up or education will facilitate the arrival of this moment. You simply must be ready.

Well fuck, I guess it's time to be ready.

I have depression. I am not depressed, it does not define me. I have depression like I have blue eyes and freckles. It is simply one small, albeit often ridiculously annoying, component of who I am. I am fairly certain I have had depression a lot longer than I would like to admit, but it's true regardless. I've fought this beast head to head for some time, and sometimes I pretend it's not really there. I have tried to define its existence, usually by naming a cause or rationale for its presence. But it doesn't matter. 
I have depression.

So what, lots of people have depression. Lots of people take journeys to understanding and embracing all of themselves. This is true, yet my journey has led me to places you may not know about. To ways of living with depression, instead of against depression. 
Because let's face it, there is not a cure. 
I promise you. 
And the evidence suggests there never will be.  I would know, I have spent a long time studying psychology and neuroscience. But this doesn't mean we throw in the towel. 

We need to redefine depression. It is not a disability until we let it become one. I am not going to give you a solution, I am going to tell you to go out and find your own. Without shame. Without fear. Because you must learn to live with who you are, all of yourself. Depression AND freckles.

Are you running against depression? Are you brave enough to admit you are RAD?