Thursday, May 18, 2017

A letter to my son.

Today is your 6th birthday!  That means that I have now had the pleasure of being your Mom for five whole years.  I wanted to sit down and write you a letter on this day because although you have heard your story a million times throughout your life, I don’t think I have ever told it directly to you.  I never want to forget what these last five years have been like for me and I want you to know exactly how special and what a miracle you are.  I know you wont read this letter today and possibly not even for a few years but this letter is from me to you and will be given to you as soon as you can read it for yourself and when I’m sure you will understand the content.   Your story is only five years old so far, but it is extraordinary.  Easy E, here is your story.

Every single detail to your story is a little different than all the rest.  For beginners, I was surprised when I found out I was pregnant for you.  I was always planning to have more children but just not so soon!  When I did find out I was pregnant for you, I took seven tests.  Why so many?  Every other test I took had a different result, four were negative and three were positive.  I had no idea what was happening and if this was real or not!  Little did I know this was only the first of the “Adventures with Easy!”  When we finally got the blood test results that did show you were in fact on your way, we were not just surprised- we were ecstatic!  Our little family was growing.  When I was just 19 weeks pregnant for you, Mom and Dad went to a Kid Rock concert that you must not have enjoyed because it put me right into labor.  I didn’t go to the doctor right away but the next morning I had a bad feeling that the contractions I was feeling were real.  Sadly, I was right.  At less than half way through your pregnancy I was ordered to strict bedrest, weekly progesterone shots and stress tests and steroid shots for your lungs on four different occasions.  I was admitted to the hospital in early labor at least five times and even spent my 30th Birthday in Hurley trying to keep you safe.  This was a really hard time for us because Carter and Paige were only one and three years old and I wasn’t able to care for them at all from my bed or the hospital.  I knew in my heart that you needed me to follow doctors orders and I did everything in my power to keep you safe inside of me for as long as possible.  While you were growing inside me, we spent a lot of time alone as Daddy took care of your siblings.  I talked to you all the time and I feel like we made some “deals” about you doing your part and me doing mine.  I was bonded and connected to you well before I ever saw your face.  I knew you and my instinct that you knew me was confirmed later (and I’ll tell you how later in this letter.)

Before the storm...
There were so many trips to Hurley with contractions and labor but we were so fortunate that by the Grace of God we made it to 36 weeks.  At this point, you were so low and ready to come out that I was in excruciating pain that couldn’t be tolerated without medication and your heart rate was starting to show some signs of decelerations during the ever present contractions.  The decision was made that I could get out of bed and deliver you.  The morning you were to be born was full of gratitude and relief that you had “made it.”  You were supposed to be a decent size, we were out of the major danger zones where we didn’t think you would need support to breathe.  Your sister was also born at 36 weeks with no complications so in our hearts and minds- we knew you were good to go!  Oh , Easton, how I wish that could have been true for you.  The labor for you was so quick and the delivery even quicker.  It was only a few hours from start to finish.   As soon as you were born, all the weight of the world was lifted.  I was so happy you had arrived safely after months of fear.  I loved you so much.  When you are first born, the nurses give you scores on how healthy you are.  Yours were perfect.  It was one magic moment after the next.  All of our family was there and after I held you, I let them all pass you around and see for themselves what a perfect miracle you were.  After only about 30 minutes, I heard you making this little noise.  Everyone in the room thought it sounded like you were cooing and was talking about how sweet it was.  I instantly knew that you were not OK.  I knew right then and there in that moment with your little sounds that my world was about to rock.  I begged the nurses to come in and look at you.  They thought you were OK.  I told them you weren’t.  The NICU doctors were present for your birth and cleared you but I made them come back.  Easton, I knew you were sick.  I knew you needed help.  I was never more sure about anything in my life even though nobody really believed me.  I wasn’t able to leave the room to go with you but I made Daddy follow you.  He called me from the NICU and said that you were doing OK and that you were just born too fast.  Everyone was so relieved.  Except me.  I didn’t believe them.  There was something in my gut that told me you were not even close to OK and they just didn’t know it yet.  I knew you.  Nobody else did.  As the night  went on everyone told me to rest.  I couldn’t.  I kept walking from my room to the NICU even when they told me not to.  Everytime I walked in the NICU- you were worse.  You went from breathing fast, to a nasal canula to bipap, to a Ventilator in less than 12 hours.  Easton, this is where things get hard for Mommy to tell you about.  I did not know what a ventilator was for.  I didn’t know that it can be a temporary relief for you. I thought that when a human being went on a ventilator- they didn’t come off unless they died.  When they told me they were putting you on a ventilator- I thought that you were not going to survive.  A name you have heard many times and will continue to hear for the rest of your life is Roberta.  Roberta was your nurse that day.  When she realized what I thought, she came and pulled Mommy up off the bathroom floor and put you in my arms for the first time since you were born.  She knew you were not stable but she also knew that I needed you and I think you needed me at that moment.  I think I was able to hold you for about one minute- but in that moment, I gave you all the support and will and fight I had to give and I begged you to FIGHT!  Buddy, that was the last time I held you for almost three weeks.  You were so sick.  They had to move all the other babies to another room and they put up these privacy walls so that there was no extra stimulation.  I couldn’t even speak around you.  You could sometimes tolerate the nurses and doctors speaking softly around you but every time I spoke or attempted to touch you- your little body went crazy.  This is when I knew for sure that you knew me.  You knew your Mommy even in a drug induced coma.  You knew my touch was different from anyone elses and the very sound of my voice was enough to break you through all those heavy meds.  As painful and devastating as it was to not hold you or touch you or speak to you- I feel like my silent presence a few feet away gave you courage and fight.  Everytime I left the room which was rare, I did whisper to you “fight the good fight, buddy.” 
Bi Pap
Nasal Canula

            There were so many scary days but I want to tell you about the scariest day of our life.  The day I witnessed

a miracle- YOU.  Easton, you were three days old.  You were on a ventilator and then they moved you to a high frequency ventilator which shook your little body as it breathed for you.  The settings were maxed out and they were pumping every drug they could into you.  It wasn’t enough.  Nothing was working.  Your little body was giving up.  You were gray.  You were limp and there were probably 15 people working in perfect unison around your tiny body.  They were fighting so hard for you.  They called a helicopter to come take you to another hospital because they thought you would need  something called ECMO- a heart/lung bypass machine.  I stood watching you and praying so hard.  I begged God to save you and I begged you to not leave me.  One doctor turned around and told me that you were leaving this hospital but that you would not survive the flight to the next one.  They told me you weren’t going to survive, Easy.  I don’t have the words to tell you what that meant or felt like.  There aren’t any words that can do that justice.  I made a couple phone calls and your whole family showed up in the waiting room within minutes to be there when you left us.  Then it happened.  The limp baby whose SAT’s kept dropping despite all the drugs and being bagged for so long, the one who was awaiting transport- became stable.  Not super stable by any means.  Your o2 popped up into the 70’s again and you sort of stabilized.  So much so that they didn’t want to transport you because they knew you couldn’t handle the stress.  They wanted to put you back on the conventional vent, fill you up with maximum steroids and basically sit still and wait.  I was staring at everyone in that rooms face.  I could see the shock.  Nobody had many words for us.  They had hugs for me and a lot of tears in their eyes.  I knew what just happened.  I knew you had just fought the fight of your life. 
Too many drugs.
Willing my strength into you
Paralyzed baby:(
            The rest of your stay in that NICU was more of the same.  You had so many terrible days and very few good ones for so long.  They did not give up on you and neither did I.  I sat and stared at you all day, every day.  Rooting you on from afar because Lord knows I couldn’t touch you.  I know you knew I was there.  I know you knew I wasn’t giving up.  Day after day it was a roller coaster.  You were never really OK but you weren’t as bad as that dreaded day 3.  After about 3 weeks of that, you slowly started to turn the corner.  You opened your brown eyes.  You let me touch you and eventually, you were placed in my arms again.  We made all kinds of deals again on that day.  I thanked you for fighting and I told you all the things we were going to do with this life you fought to have.  All you had to do was keep fighting and I would carry you through.  Me and you, baby.
That poor chest!
Getting closer to home.
            Exactly one month later, on your due date- you came home!  This was dramatic of course as well.  Your airway was floppy from being intubated so many times and you only failed your car seat test FOUR times!  We finally got the OK and I had to ride in the back and try to keep your head straight so your airway was open.  So stressful you were!  We had home health care come a couple times a week and every single time you were right on the line for needing supplemental oxygen at home.  Have no fear, you prevailed as always and we skipped that!  Thankfully.  Soon we got another surprise.  You screamed all day.  Literally 23 hours a day.  You see, when you were in the hospital you had some narcotics running in your IV’s all day long.  These were to keep you calm, still and not in pain.  Your poor little body started to really like them and then you had withdraw symptoms once you were home and without.  Here is the good news.  I told you I had made a lot of deals with you when you were in the hospital.  One of them was to not ever wish you to be silent.  On a ventilator, you could cry but it was silent and I swear it’s the worst thing to watch, a silent cry.  I wanted so badly to hear you scream.  And, scream you did.  For months on end.  All the time.  I’ve never been very patient but I will tell you that I never lost my patience.  God knew I needed them and gifted my endless patience and gratitude.  My son, you screamed in my face for months and I did nothing but love you harder!
FINALLY meeting!
            There were many other complications such as failure to thrive, muscle weakness on the left side and pneumonia 5 times and RSV 3 times all in the first 9 months.  We did occupational therapy, physical t

herapy and saw the Neurologist regularly.  You were admitted into the hospital for respiratory support three times during those first nine months but guess what- you were on track and walked before your first birthday!  You are the biggest inspiration of fight I’ve ever witnessed.  I’m so proud of you.
            We started a charity called Team Easton Gives Back and held the first event around your first birthday.  We knew that you were with us to make a difference and we weren’t about to let your fight go without serving a purpose.  To date, we have raised over $100,000 for Hurley NICU and Pediatrics in your name.  You are leaving a legacy, young man and I cannot imagine where this world will take you.  This year you were selected to be the Speedway Sponsor for the Children’s Miracle Network and you will continue to raise awareness.    Six years old and already a role model.
            Before I close this letter, I want to tell you about you as a little boy.  You are exuberant.  You are literally full of life.  Every day at school is “great!”  Every gift you receive is “The best one ever!”  Every time you are sick or in the hospital, you find the bright side.  “At least I’m only here 5 days instead of 6!”  You are tolerant of your crappy lungs.  You push them by being an active young boy but you recognize when they need a break and you give them one.  You are not held back by them.  If you find something you cant keep up with, you simply find something new.  You are full of stories and always surprising us when “Jesus sits on your shoulder.”  We take our cues from you and we know you are here with purpose.  You are a breath of fresh air and you teach me so many lessons in this world.  I truly believe you are happy to be alive and you know somewhere deep inside your soul- that you were given an extra shot.  Easton Edward, you changed everything and I love you more than anything in this world.  Keep fighting that good fight, baby.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Good Stuff

My mind is so busy. It's like a highway with a car driving the wrong way coming straight at you, and I'm that car. The crazy one going the wrong way. Don't get me wrong, it's been a lot busier in past years but that's about how it feels today. The medicated me is still the car coming straight at you- the wrong way. You know what? I'm borderline to partially OK with it. Here's why: it means it's still me. I'm not overmedicated roaming around life in a fog or high with my head in the clouds and not a care in the world. I'm still basically a wrecking ball but with the ability to think and take control of my feelings and decide what to do with them versus them deciding what to do with me. It's basically a win. Sorta. Well, for me- huge win.
Life is constantly changing around me. The people I interact with, the places I go, the activities I engage in. It's almost like an adventure- God only knows what I'm up to next. I feel like lately I'm figuring some stuff out. Let's not get carried away- there's about a lifetime times 12 left of the things I'll never come close to figuring out but that being said- here's some of what I'm noticing. Lets hope I can explain it....
Allow me to start by saying that I feel like
Money is imperative. I like it. I want a lot of it. It's necessary for living and let's be honest here- I want a lot of things. I do. I like to have a lot and I want a lot. I'm a tad spoiled and sadly (I think) I don't really know any other way. Here's where it gets interesting: I'm finding that all the things that are feeding my soul and filling my cup are .... wait for it....FREE!. They cost me nothing and I make nothing. They are FREE in every sense of the word. Here's what I mean:
Team Easton Gives Back. This is about raising money to give back. An act of gratitude and attempting to do the right thing. I make not one single cent. I actually donate a lot of my time and money to make it happen. It's stressful to pull off, more work than you can imagine and yet, when it's all over and that total comes in- there is no better feeling. My heart wants to explode. I'm honored, proud and so incredibly grateful to see a community and friends come together to help give back. It makes me feel good.
Volunteering in the NICU. It's 16 hours a month. I make not a cent. I hold, love, connect and bond with newborn babies that would be sitting alone in an isolette or crib if I wasn't there at that moment. I have no idea why their own Mom isn't present and it's not my business- but I will be that substitute Mom and love as hard as I can for the time I have to give. It fills me up. It makes me feel good.
Serving on Hurley Foundation Board. I do not make a single penny. I believe in Hurley Medical Center. I believe in what they stand for, their standard of care, their mission and all those humans that work inside that establishment. I believe in them. Serving on the Board allows me to be involved in that Team. It allows me to be a part of decision making and brainstorming and executing. It makes me feel like I have a voice. It involves me with people I respect and guess what? It makes me feel good.
Kids activities. Showing up to watch my sons and daughter play sports isn't exactly like a trip to Somerset. It's better. Sure, it's annoying being a chauffeur day in and day out running to practices and having no time for much else. But, man. To sit in the stands and watch your kids put themselves out there for everyone to see is so exciting. When they score a goal and look in the stands to make sure you are proud, or when they nail their dance at the competition and your the only face in the crowd they see, or when they even have a rough game and they look at you to make sure they are ok... this is where it's at. Those feelings I get from just being their person out in the crowd- it fills me up. It reminds me of my purpose. And, it makes me feel good.
Fitness. This one is a little iffy on costing anything because I do pay a trainer. However, what I get from it is not about that. When I have that hour a day of pushing myself to my absolute physical limit, when I don't think I can do one more rep or increase the weight and I look directly into (one of the 50,000) mirrors and into my own eyes- the determination and fire I see in myself... is priceless. And, take a guess? It makes me feel so good.
I want to make sure you all know that I really own like to carry a Louis Vuitton purse. I only shop in boutique stores or lululemon. I've got an addiction to No Bull shoes and my finger nails must have fresh shellac. Often. Here's what I'm trying to say. I like all those "things" but I promise you with all my heart that none of those "things" actually fill me up. They make me feel good in the moment but you better believe they aren't what I think about when my head hits the pillow. And that's where all the truths live- with your head on your pillow at night. We can all try to be things we aren't or fill ourselves up in the wrong ways- but when your head hits the pillow- truth lives. Always.
Try it out. I don't think I'm insane, I know it. However, I think I'm on to something. What if we all tried to be better people? What if we all worked on filling our own cups instead of emptying them on life? I challenge you to sign up for one thing today- that serves one purpose: to make you feel good and that you get no monetary reimbursement for.
Let's just all try.
Fill 'em up!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Back to the NICU...

Hi friends.  I know I always say I am going to get better about coming to this computer and writing my guts out, but then I get distracted and busy and living this crazy life- so lets just drop that expectation and leave it as I'll show up when I do.  You know, on my own time-like with everything else.

Lots has been happening.  Some good.  Some sad.  Big changes and small changes.  Some I am ready to share, others I'm still holding on to.  There is one thing in particular that I need to talk about:

Many of you saw my posts about my NICU volunteering last week and were so gracious and kind and loving with support.  It always amazes me to see how many people are on my team in life.  I need to write about this whole experience because I am forcing everyone I come in contact with to hear about it so clearly it needs to come out.   Let me start from the top with this because many don't know the extent of the WHY behind my volunteering.  If you know me or have read this blog in the last five years, you know that Hurley Medical Center's NICU team, along with the Man upstairs, saved my son.  They didn't just save him one time.  They saved him over and over and over again, day after day, until he didn't need saving anymore.  As a Mother, who never left that baby's side, watching in horror- I know that it is a Miracle that Easton Clark is alive today.  By "Miracle" I mean that all the right hands, and all the right decisions, and all the right brains and all of the refusal to give up on the staff's end and the Will to live on Eastons's end along with all the answered prayers brought that baby back from the brink of death time and time again.  I could not just take that baby home and not forever leave a piece of my heart inside that Intensive Care Unit.  The lowest of lows and the highest of highs took place behind those doors.  "Thank you" was not even close to appropriate for what they had done.  As I cared for my little miracle baby, I couldn't look at him without seeing the faces of the people that helped him survive.  I had to do something.  I had to give back.  Creating and executing "Team Easton Gives Back" has been an amazing experience.  We've raised over $100,000 and we are not done yet.  Handing over the checks to help keep the Unit up to date and provide education for the staff is wonderful but something still was missing for me.  You see, I hadn't healed from my trauma behind those doors.  I LOVE everybody that works inside that NICU but I couldn't even walk through the doors.  The air was too thick, the walls were caving in, the doors that were locked didn't seem like they would open and I simply couldn't get past those feelings.  Sure, I could go the rest of my life and never go back to that place again since I'm done having kids but thats not who I am.  I don't want fear to hold me back or to win in my life.  I like to challenge the hard things but this was one that I just couldn't do.  When the NICU Cuddler program was announced- I decided that day that it was my opportunity.  It was my chance to give back in a non-monetary way.  It was a chance at healing myself and helping others- all in the same moments.  I told my girlfriend who works there that I was signing up.  She said to me, "That's great but if you can't even walk through the doors, how are you going to do this?" You know what my autopilot answer was?  "I'm don't know but I'm gonna rise up and walk right in there."  And, I did.  

The first part that happened in training was the tour.  I was scared to death the whole drive there.  Once I got there, I was greeted by a familiar face and immediately thought I might be OK.  The doors opened and (thank you, God) there were so many more familiar faces.  Lots of hugs and I genuinely felt myself becoming OK in those first few moments.  There are a couple spots that I am going to tell you that I will NOT EVER visit.  First, the X-ray room.  Allow me to give you a visual.  This room is an interior room.  No windows.  Shaped like a rectangle.  Insanely small.  Zero ventilation and Im not 100% sure but I really feel as though they turn off all vents and suck all the air out of that space- I could be wrong but I don't think so.  There are two computers.  They use these two screens to pull up images of your baby.  In my case, they were used to show me Easton's horrific lungs.  In this room I was told that I should pray.  Thats about it.  Thats about as much hope as they had.  Prayers.  Inside this room, I learned just how sick my boy was and I learned that they didn't really think he would make it.  I wish it ended there.  Day in and day out, I was taken into this room to be shown just how much my son was NOT improving.  It was dreadful.  So, needless to say- I see no reason to revisit that space.  The second spot is the parent overnight room.  This is where we stayed for many, many nights.  This is where I was supposed to "rest."   It has a shower, a refrigerator, a TV, a couch that turns into a bed.  The deepest sobs and the scariest conversations happened inside that room.  I know where the cracks in the walls are.  I know where all the outlets are.  I know exactly what every part of that room looks like.  I was very grateful for that space, however I know my heart isn't ready to see it again.  Every space in the NICU has a memory attached to it.  I'm working through that but let me tell you about my first day!

We must remember that the NICU has to be a judgement free zone.  We all know I'm judging but we are going to pretend I'm not.  Its a tough place.  I think its one of the most important places in the world.  Here's why:  If you don't make it out of the NICU- then you don't even get a shot at life.  This place is only for newborns.  These babies are fresh out of the womb and they have never seen the light of day.  These babies are full of opportunity- just waiting.  So, my first day.  As I walked in and scanned the area looking for a baby that was alone and to be held- my mind was getting carried away with my own memories.  I had to refocus and remember why I was there.  I held a few babies but there is one in particular I'm going to tell you about.  It was a little girl with the sweetest name.  She was all alone in her crib.  She was four days old.  Every time I walked by her she was awake but she wasn't crying.  After passing her twice, I decided I had to hold her.  This is where the no judging comes in.  When I had my two older kids that were healthy- I was so selfish with them.  Family and friends all wanted to hold them at four days old and I just wanted to hold them myself.  I often used the excuse that I had to feed them just to steal them away.  I felt they were growing and changing every second and I didn't want to miss it. Here I was, holding someone else baby at four days old.  I don't know a thing about this baby other than the fact that she was in a crib alone at four days old.  I feel it should be like a law of life that you are being held and loved at four days.  As I held her I found myself wondering where in the hell her Mother was and if she had a Dad.  I wondered what was going to happen to her after she was discharged.  I wondered if she was even going home to a family.  And then I stopped.  I turned it off.  I just loved her.  I don't know this baby and I sat with her for almost an hour and poured as much love as I could into her.  I decided in those moments of my brain wandering and judging that I wasn't focusing on her.  I have no idea what a baby can feel or realize at that age but I do know that I loved her as hard as I could for as long as I could.  Her little body was so relaxed in my arms and I hated to put her down to go get my own kids off the school bus.  I don't know if she will be there next week.  I will probably never see her again in my life but I won't ever forget her.  I can't wait to go back.  I learned my biggest lesson on day one.  I'm only there to love.  And, thats exactly what I intend to do.  My heart is back inside the NICU, this time - on the other side.  I'm so grateful for the opportunity.  Truly so grateful.

I have some other cool news…  
Children's Miracle Networks #1 National sponsor is Speedway.  Each year they have a child represent the CMN.  This year, Easton was asked to be it!  Sometime this summer you will begin to see his cute little face wherever you go!  He is over the moon excited to start seeing his face plastered around town and we are so excited for the opportunity to represent the Children's Miracle Network.  Such an honor!

Thanks for listening!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

1 year.

January 25, 2016.
This picture.  Hard to look at.  I remember taking this picture.  What I didn't know was that it was four days before my whole world would be shaken up and I would walk out the door and leave my family behind.  I didn't know that in four days I would finally have become so broken that I could no longer stand on my own two feet.  Here is the scene:  It was about 3:30pm.  My kids would be off the bus in an hour and I had been in that exact spot since they left 7 hours earlier.  I became fiercely overwhelmed with even the idea of their presence.  I wanted to see them so badly.  I wanted to hold them more than anything.  I needed them.  The problem was, I couldn't let them see me.  I COULD NOT stop crying long enough to eat dinner with them.  I COULD NOT make my voice sound ok when they would bust through the door to tell me about their day and I sure as hell could not rise up and care for them.  I was losing my fight…temporarily, and I knew it.   I remember thinking that I am going to take a picture of this life because one day- I wasn't going to live like this anymore. I knew that every time I looked in the mirror and stared into my own eyes, I could see the pain so vividly.  I also knew somewhere, deep in my soul, that I'd rise and I wanted to remember the pain of the fall.  This picture is a reminder of how far I've come on some pretty hard days.  It will forever remain right in my phone as a reminder of just how far I've begun to rise. 

I'm weird about dates.  Anniversaries of things- good or bad.  Yesterday I felt sick all day.  I'm never sick but yet somehow my whole body ached.  I felt like I was coming down with every illness possible and even though I forced myself to go watch kids sports- thats about all I had to give yesterday.  It also occurred to me what the date was and as I woke up feeling fine today- I know that the anticipation of how today would feel, actually physically took me over.  It is also zero surprise to me that my little Easton, who has been absolutely awesome for over a year- woke up with a fever.  January 29th is  a day now.  It's one that will always have something surrounding it.  

Today its been one year since I boarded that plane all alone and flew to an unknown place in the middle of the night in a state I had never been to  and admitted myself to a program I had only heard of days before.  Today its been one year since my kids got off the bus and I met them at the couch to tell them that I was leaving them for 30 days and I broke their hearts in half.  Today its been one year since I made one of the biggest decisions of my life.  Today marks one year that I decided to take care of myself.  Today is a one year anniversary of ending the private battle that quite possibly could have taken my life.  Today, I no longer feel that I won't survive.  Today, I'm positive I will.

When I arrived in Tucson, Arizona at the Cottonwood De Tucson Treatment center, I told them I was depressed and a little anxious.  I went there and I wanted drugs.  Any drugs they had to make me feel better and send me home.  I wanted something to stop the tears and the pain on my heart- now.  They did nothing.  Not the first day, not the second day, not the third day.  My fight or flight response kicked in and I decided I should leave since they were going to do NOTHING about my crying.   In reality, they were just observing.  To give a little background of what this place was like, I think its important to share that people were there for all different reasons.  We had alcoholics, drug addicts, suicidal people who fortunately had not succeeded in their attempts.  We had wild criminals sent directly from prison and we had Mom's who had just buried their children.  There were people who were depressed and there were people with horribly abusive pasts.  I thought some of these people were so unlike me.  It wasn't until the only chair open for lunch was with the man that had been sent straight here from his 7 year stint in federal prison.  With my makeup free, tear stained, sad self, I took my tray over and sat down.  He looked at me and my eyes looked up and met his.  They were wild eyes but they also had a sadness- I won't forget them.  Next, he asked ME how I was.  He told me about his children and his wife and the stories about why he was in prison.  He told me how afraid he was about doing a life now.  He didn't have a drivers license or a house or a job or really any way to get any of that since most of his adult life was in and out of prison.  On top of that he was addicted to drugs that he somehow had been getting in prison all those years and they were sending him "home" in a few days but he had no idea what address to give the cab.  I learned something right then and there.  We are all the same.  I was not a criminal and addicted to drugs and homeless, BUT I had the exact same type of fear and loneliness and pain as this man.   It was the same for every person in that center that came and went throughout my 30 days.  Its like they say, "Pain demands to be felt," and we all had pain.  What we did with the pain that we carried varied greatly from person to person but we were all there as a result of our pain.  In my eyes- we were all equally the same.

Monday morning FINALLY rolled around and I met my therapist that would be my point person for my stay.  Within the first 5 minutes of meeting her alone in her office she said to me a couple of things I won't forget.  The first was that she said my whole demeanor including my eyes, posture, voice told her that my "cup was empty." She told me that a very important lesson to learn in life was that you cannot give from an empty cup.  I say that to myself daily.  She also said that behind those sad eyes that she could see a spark and in my voice, every so often, an energy snuck through that told her- I was going to be fine.  When she said those things to me, I just cried some more.  All along, Ive known that I'm a fighter.  I will battle my way through anything and part of me had thought I'd lost that but to hear her say that she could still see it, without even really knowing me- gave me all the hope in the world.  I was still in there. 

Next stop was the Psychiatrist.  Finally the man that would give me the drugs to make me feel better.  I sat in his office, crying as usual and told him just how depressed I was.  I gave him my 20 year eating disorder history, my current job that I worked, my family history.  I told him about my kids and the battle we had been through with Easton.  I told him all the things that I am a part of and do and that somehow I am depressed and can't get up anymore.  He didn't say a word.  He looked at me and watched me so intently.  He took some notes, he shook his head and then he said- "I'd like you to come with me and I'd like to give you a little medication to help you calm down and breathe for a moment."  I followed him and took the pill.  As I sat back down, it only took a few minutes to feel my shoulders release just a little and move down away from my ears.  I felt my leg that was kicking so wildly, slow down.  I felt my hands unclinch in my lap and I took a breath that actually didn't hurt. As we sat in his office,  he very matter of factly said to me- depression is not your major issue.  You have more energy leaving your body in this moment alone that anyone would think possible.  Your anxiety is your problem.  I assured him that I laid in bed all day or curled up in a ball on my floor and sobbed all day so I was pretty sure I knew what my problem was.  He politely disagreed and told me his plan.   He referred to my anxiety as a light switch with a dimmer. My switch was all the way up and stuck there.  He wanted to help me bring it down just a bit but not to dim my light at all.  He explained to me exactly what he thought was happening and I actually agreed.  Anxiety is the highest energy expenditure.  My anxiety being so high was sending me into multiple attacks a day.  Those attacks were exhausting and depleting my body and sending me into bed.  Being in bed doing nothing made my feel so bad and my anxiety so high that I would go into another series of attacks as soon as my body recouped some energy.  Again and again and again.  There was no win.  There was no resolve.  There was anxiety and pain and crying.  I was stuck.  He prescribed some medications that we were able to tweak almost daily because I was inpatient.  I attended all the groups, went to all the classes, did all my homework and worked this program with all I had.  Day after day I came out with no makeup and my hair pulled back.  Then one day I wore lip gloss.  Then one day lipgloss and mascara.  One day I actually opened my mouth and spoke to people without being spoken to.  And then one day, I smiled.  A real smile because something actually made me feel ok.  The process of finding my way back to some light wasn't just solved with mediation.  It was hard work.  It was reliving and experiencing hard things and meeting things head on and that you'd prefer to avoid.  It was a journey through darkness and into all the light.

So, its been a year.  A lot more happened in that stay and a ton has happened since Ive gotten home.  I still don't know exactly how I got to that position but I am committed to staying out of it.  I take meds now that I was always against, I never miss an appointment and I still talk to my therapist whenever I need her.  I'm learning to try to just be me.  No matter what that looks like- to be authentically who I feel I am.  I'm making big changes and slow changes and trying to find what makes me happy at the same time that I take care of my family.  I'm learning that you can do both.  You don't have to give yourself up completely because you  have children.  In fact it should be the opposite.  I want to show them that I am not perfect and I don't do things like everyone else- but I show up every day anyway.  That is exactly what I want for them.  I teach them that nobody likes perfect, we like real.  

I take none of what has occurred in my life lightly.  I'm constantly working to better myself and hopefully create a reaction to help other better themselves as well.  Here are some personal changes I have made and some exciting plans I have for my future.

*  I chose happiness over money. And, Nope- I don't think they are synonymous.  I quit my job and gave up a lot of money to have more time to give to my kids.  I didn't want to be grumpy and rushed at the beginning and end of every day anymore and I didn't want to go to a job that my heart wasn't in.  Yes, I miss having extra money but what I don't miss- is all the reasons I gave it up.  I did some

thing different and I'm ok with that.

* I've given back to the NICU in so many ways and Hurley Medical Center as a whole.  I serve on the Foundation Board and a related committee.  I show up anytime they ask Easton to be a part of something and I've raised over $100k for them.  What I haven't done… is figure out how to be OK inside the doors of the actual Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  I used to visit when he was young and then I just stopped because I swear to you that the air is too thick.  I have my own personal trauma inside those walls.  I watched my son almost die for so many days in there.  The machines that saved his life, the monitors that constantly beep always haunt me.  I'm going to fix it.  I've signed up to start volunteering my time to hold babies for three hours a week inside those walls.  Babies who are not fortunate enough for whatever reason to have parents that stayed around the clock like I did.  I am going to give back in a way that isn't monetary and help to bring myself back around to full gratitude instead of fear and to love on babies in need.  I'm terrified for day one and I couldn't be more excited to confront my fear and provide love all at once.  You guys, this is what its all about.

*  Fitness. Let me explain this obsession.  Its all about the mental toughness.  I started out always liking to lift weights.  I had many personal trainers over the years.  Then I ventured into crossfit for 4 years.  I never played sports or was competitive but something about how hard this was- kept me going.  I loved the challenge of your body always wanting to quit but my mind never letting me.  I thought it was a great way to distract from the world and to have personal goals to set that didn't include anyone but me.  I still love CrossFit but have taken a break to try something new.  I am back to being trained by a trainer 5 days a week.  I wanted to put on muscle and was having a hard time doing that with all the cardio involved in Crossfit.  I was in shape for sure, but always so thin.  My body has changed so much in the last 3 months and of course I am all in.  Just like with everything I do- I go all the way or not at all.  I follow a ridiculous diet of SEVEN meals a day and I spend just as much time bitching about that as I do actually eating it.  I'm never going to be 100% satisfied with my body or how I look but that is the part of the chase I love.  Its not a race to win- its like a race for life.  Most of the girls that train with my trainer compete in fitness shows.  I joined but said "Not a chance of a show," for multiple reasons.  I can't walk in heels and I particularly don't want to learn in those clear, high ones.   I don't feel like butt tape is something I want to experience and getting waxed- I'm just not ready for that kind of pain.  However, the more I think about it and the better shape I get in, my mind does tend to think about being 36 years old, in a skimpy suit on a stage and actually winning. Hmmm, it kinda checks a cool box in life that many don't have the discipline to do.  I get asked by lots of people if I will ever do it and I'll tell you the truth.  It's a maybe.   

*  I come from successful people.  I have good role models in that sense.  This is a huge part of the reason that I worked in the family business for 16 years.  Its what I thought I had to do.  Its where I thought my spot was.  Here is what I realized.  I'm different.  I don't act like everyone else and I don't want the same exact things as someone else.  You know what I do love.  Fitness.  Workout Clothes.  Sharing and talking about things I love.  I decided to become a Personal Trainer and am currently studying for the exam to become certified.  I want a job that I can still be at all my kids stuff.  I don't want it to take away from all the reasons I left my job but its something I love and I want really badly to kick peoples asses and show them how much tougher they are than they believe…because that is truly what the gym is to me.  Its all about what you've got to give!   I've wanted to open a gym my whole life and make it just how I want it.  All a representation of how my brain works and what I find motivating and awesome.  Its something I have always wanted to do but never thought possible. I can picture the entire layout in my head. Baby, I'm gonna find a way.  Just watch.

As I finish writing this, a whole year later, I actually feel OK.  I thought I would feel worse today but I don't.  I know one thing for sure- you never ever know what your next year will look like.  What I do know- is I'm tough enough for the ride.

My wish for all of you is that you have the fight and courage that I have found.  The best thing I have ever learned is that I don't have to walk the line.  I don't have to do what is expected and I am OK anyway.  Everyone else's approval of me is just that- what you really need at night when your head hit the pillow- is approval of yourself.  Go fill your cups!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017- I'm here.

2017, I made it to you.  Barely.  But, I made it.  I've seen so many people reflect on their previous year and their hopes and dreams for the coming year.  Some were sad, some were awesome, some were over the top and some were just OK.  I've been thinking about my year all day.  2016 started very rough as I had to leave my family and surrender myself to a treatment facility for my Anxiety and Depression that took over my life.  January 29, 2016 was the actual day I gave up…or so I thought.  I actually wasn't giving up at all by getting treatment, I was really rising up but I just didn't know it. If you think about it, this means that 2015 sucked quite a lot too because I spent the latter half of that year in tears hidden in my bed.  So, to put it mildly- shit has been hard!  For too long.

Here is what I do know:  I know that I've changed.  Thats it, thats all I know.

I got lost.  Somewhere along my journey I either forgot who I was or I fell into a place where I became what I thought I should be.  We all know that I am no stranger to treatment centers having been admitted at least 20 times for an Eating Disorder from the ages of 12-23.  But, this treatment was for something completely different.  Sometimes I think it was actually treatment for all the treatment.  My reasons for being there were completely different yet entirely the same.  What I mean is, I wasn't starving myself in terms of nutrition but I think I may have been starving my soul.  My true self.  Me, as I am meant to be.  Both are equally destructive and harmful.  I know this may sound confusing but let me just spew my thoughts and see if it makes sense to both you reading- and to myself.  

I was always a worrier and always a pleaser.  I did the things I was supposed to do. I did what was asked of me, I wasn't argumentative, I got good grades, I went to college, I worked in the family business.   What is interesting is that I did all these things while starving myself nearly to death.  I wasn't going to take out any frustrations or struggles on anyone else so I did it to myself.  The ironic part is that it hurt a lot of people.  Not their physical body like mine, but emotional torture and fear.  So, as  I was being this perfect girl who fell into line, I was also rebelling like hell in the only way I knew how.   I was actually being me but sort of in an undercover way.  Years went on and I bought my first house and I got married and had the children I'd always dreamed of…exactly two years apart - just as the plan was to be.  My pregnancies were complicated and then there was the experience of almost losing my son.  I coped with those struggles by focusing on my kids.  All the heartache and pain was for someone other than me, so I was able to put myself completely aside and focus on my family.

Several more years went on and I created a charity to give back,  I continued to work and upgrade my home every few years.  I busied my self with the kids and signed them up for any and all activities possible.  Anything to push all focus off of me.  This worked.  Super well, in fact.  For a long time. But, guess what?  You cannot hide from yourself forever.  I've written before that I heard that pain demands to be felt and this is exactly what I mean.  You see, all those things that I really felt inside my soul:  all those thoughts that were darker than they should be, and all the fear of being who I really am- they eventually fought their way out.  And, there I was.  Still me.

A few years ago I started realizing that I actually didn't want to work in the family business.  I realized that it was a position that allowed me to be an involved parent and to not miss school parties and allowed me to be home when they were sick.  It gave me the time off when all of my pregnancies went crazy and I never had to fear losing my job.  It was good financial security and it was everything that maybe everyone else would dream of.  I heard for years how "lucky" I was and how I "had it made."  I listened to all that and did actually know I was very fortunate however, it didn't make me happy.  I questioned my judgement that if I was "lucky" enough to have this "perfect" scenario and I wasn't happy with it- then something must be wrong with me.  I'm screwed up or I'm ungrateful.  All negatives pointing to me when in reality- it simply just wasn't my dream.  It wasn't the career I thought up and started from the ground up and built and nurtured to its success.  It was my Mom's.  And, she's wildly successful and I admire her greatly…but that doesn't mean that I had to be a part of it.  I just didn't know that last part.  

The reason I tell the story about my job is because I think those feelings of questioning my own judgement and trusting my true self started when I realized that I didn't like my job.  Quitting that job was an incredibly challenging situation for me.  It was about to be the first bold move I made…that was maybe going to go against what was expected of me.  It was the first big move I made for me.

When I look at 2015 and 2016, I actually lost a lot.  I lost my sense of safety and security and I mean that in every possible way you can imagine.  I lost trust in everything and everyone and most of the people did nothing to lose it.  I became a recluse and pulled myself away from most situations.  I had so much going on internally that I simply couldn't take pressure from any other person or place.  I needed to kind of ride things out and see if I could become me again.  Actually me, not the "me" everyone knew.  I've learned a lot through therapy over the years and I think the combination of the therapists I worked with in Arizona and my current therapist- I've been a whole lot more "me" lately.  Everyone thinks I have this tough girl attitude and rough exterior and maybe I do.  However, I believe its more of a shield of self preservation.  Of protecting what I think and what I want and not allowing anyone to decide for me or to make expectations that maybe I don't even want to meet.  I'm protecting myself from losing myself.  Again.

I've come a long way in 2016 and I've got so much further to go.  I need to let go of so much and I need to hold onto a lot at the same time.  Its a complicated and messy picture and I am positive I'll very sloppily move my way through.  Here is the best part.  I actually have some goals.  I have plans.  I have things that I want to make happen.  Interests I want to fulfill.  Plans that are made up of things that make me happy.  Not the fall in line and do what I should plans, but things Lindsay wants to do.  Its been a long time since I have cared enough to want to make plans and goals and this year I did it all in my head without even realizing it.  My friends, thats a win.

My goals aren't classic like to- "Be more successful   Be a better Mom.  Be better at a specific sport or hobby."  My actual goal is to not lose me- and that single goal will allow all the others to happen.

2017 will be bumpy and to be fair, Im always a little scared.  I'm ok with it.   Im in a much better place than I've been in years and I am looking forward to seeing what roads I travel next.  I'm going to try very hard to trust myself.   Praise the Lord, there is hope!

"The Comeback Is Always Stronger Than The Setback."  I believe.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Trust your gut!

I waited a minute to post this blog because I didn't want to place it in the middle of all the hate and anger on social media.  Is this Election over?  Can we all stop yelling at each other  and hating on everyone who doesn't think the same as us?  Most importantly, can Good Morning America go back to talking about other things I find far more interesting than those two individuals and can "This is Us" PLEASE stop being cancelled for debates and election coverage.  I like very few things on TV and I like that and I swear to God- its the only show that is cancelled almost every week!   Hopefully we can all rise up and move forward today just like we did yesterday and the day before and tomorrow.  I do not believe the world is going to end this week and therefore we better all keep plunging ahead.

This election actually made me think about something:  Control.  Control is something we all desperately grasp onto.  Whether it be something as important as having our vote as a means to try and control the Election or whether it be to control what people are going to do and say.  I grew up knowing that I could not control my surroundings.  I couldn't control things in my house, in my school and honestly in my own life.  This led me down a very rough path of destructive behaviors because that lack of control- was intolerable to me.  I needed control of something.  Since I couldn't control outside influences- I controlled my eating.  I could control that.  In a big and scary place- I taught myself from a young age that I could in fact find something to satisfy that need to control.  Something to put that anxiety into and into a place that was all about me.

Here is an example:  If you have children- you have learned that you cannot control another human on a whole other level.  This is supposed to be your dependent.  This is your child.  Do you really think you can make them sleep at 3AM if they just don't feel like it?  Nope.  Have you ever tried to get your child to stop screaming in a public place by bribing them with everything in the Universe?  Did they stop?  Probs not.  Mine never did.  How about the weather?  Cannot control the weather.  I actually feel connected to the Sun Gods and feel I can worship them well- but sometimes it still rains on my parade.  Its the way of life.   There are in fact things we just can not control, no matter how bad we feel we need to.

 People cannot control people.  We cannot control circumstances.  We can take action and try to sway things or prevent things from happening but at the end of the day- we can really only control our own actions and reactions- and if I'm being honest here, I cannot always control myself.  I definitely have a way I would like to react or handle things but a lot of times my mouth is not connected to my brain in the exact moment and I just say what I think without the filter process.  Here is another thing we can't control:  feelings.  This one is hard.  This one is the worst for me.  I come across to many people as cold and unapproachable and whatever- I get it.  However, that is not really the case.  I'm empathetic to a fault. Whenever someone is in a situation that I observe to be hard or scary or sad, I immediately try to place myself in their shoes.  I want to try on that suffering or fear and see how I make sense of it.  Obviously- I'm not like "Hey, give me a minute to react to you while I attempt to take a stroll in your shoes," but it happens on its own.  It gives me a new perspective on situations and usually helps me come up with better words to offer.  That works out well when its someone else.  How about when its me?  How about when I actually have to feel and dissect and react to my own feelings?  How about when I know they aren't what they should be? How about when I want them to change?  Yeah- so this is a different story all together.  I'm working through some stuff right now.  I have mixed feelings on situations that are hard to get through. I want to feel a certain way and do certain things and its really hard.  My heart and mind are often not in the same body.  Like they could not be more disconnected.  Throw my gut in there and we are practically in three different continents.  Here is what I am learning to trust.  My brain is annoying.  It needs to be tossed out of the equation all together because it likes to mix things up and spin them and complicate them and just make a mess.  So brain- out.  My heart likes to lead me.   I'm more sensitive than you think and it leads me to places I can get stuck in.  My heart is big.  Its giant and I think it barely fits inside my body because it often beats so hard that I think it might break out.  So my heart- its good.  BUT, it also gets me stuck.  The gut….bingo.  My gut doesn't lie.  Its the FIRST thing I try to feel when dealing with Easton and any health situation.  Its what tells me I can handle him at home, its what tells me he needs to be hospitalized and its what tells me when its safe to sleep and when I need to be awake to watch him.  The gut doesn't lie.  My gut is also what I need to look at with feelings.  My heart gets mushy, my brain is always a bad spot but there is a feeling in my gut that either tells me I'm right or I'm wrong.   The tricky part is I usually have to try the wrong before I get to the right.  But, eventually there is a place where it settles and I know just what to do.

The way I see it is that feelings and control go hand in hand.  We often feel a certain way and don't want to so we need to control it or can't and then hell breaks loose.  We start comin' out hot just like a boss trying to tell someone this or that or start changing things.  Usually, nine times out of ten, I bet that lands you right back where you started.  Its just a really hard thing.  For me, its all about figuring out what the controllables are and dealing with those.  Making myself understand the things I can't control and focus that energy somewhere else.  This often is just too hard for me.  A person with severe anxiety can't just say "Oh, OK.  That's out of my control…no biggie."  No way.  Someone like me needs to find an outlet of control.  This is where my fitness comes in.  My obsession with fitness doesn't hurt anyone.  It is all about me.  It only takes one out of twenty four hours and its something better for me to think about.  I look forward to that hour and I give it everything I got.  I put an entire days worth of energy into it and am now focusing on a meal plan that is fueling that workout so that I can actually see results of my effort.  This is what I mean:  I feel out of control in so many areas.  I picked an area I can control and I let my mind run with that.  It gives me a landing spot to come back to and it doesn't affect anyone else in my world.  Its a win-win.  Fitness isn't who I am, its simply what I do as an outlet and tool to carry me through.  And, hopefully I come out of it as a really jacked mother of three and if not- it was a hell of a lot better than crying on my floor, right?   Winning.

Thanksgiving is coming up.  If you have read this blog or met me in person- you know its my nemesis. Worst day of the year.  Here is my normal schpeal…Yes, I am thankful for a lot.  I do not need one day to tell people and I never will.  That day doesn't have a good track record with me and last year was the absolute icing on the cake as it began my decline of where I spent the evening locked in my bathroom on the floor crying and really didn't emerge from my house unless it was to go to the gym.  Not a good place to be.  This year- I am really hoping it feels different.  I'm for sure not celebrating Thanksgiving on the actual day.  I'll make sure my kids think a random day next week is the actual day and I'll make sure they have Turkey and stuffing and rolls and whatever else you are supposed to have and I will also promise you that not one single bite will be taken.  They will hate it and yell and not eat.  I'll make them express some gratitude in their life and then we are all going to move on and let that holiday go…  Don't judge.  Its not our best day.  However, we do Christmas REALLY well. We make up for our lack of Thanksgiving cheer and we go all out for the Christmas Season!

I certainly hope your Holiday season has you excited and not stressed.  They are just days, like all the other ones and the good new is we may have no control over them but they end every 24 hours!

 Trust your gut!