A Perfect Storm (Mama Musings approaching the close of Year 1)

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The weather in my city has been really intense and stormy lately, and in perfect form, so has my life in some ways.  But in a different way because I am enjoying so much joy and light and love as I culminate my FIRST. YEAR. OF. MOTHERHOOD.  Wow!  To say that motherhood is hard work is insufficient.  For me it has been an intense, demanding, and worthwhile decision to prioritize in and sacrifice for the wellbeing of my child- without limit.  So we are having fun and I am exhausted as shit, most of the time.  I get frustrated, lonely, irritable and all of that but everyday I am inspired and impressed with my son and myself.  Interestingly, life keeps happening so I have all kinds of new milestones in my personal and professional life and new challenges and difficulties to learn and grow through.  So recently, when things got deep for our family, I wrote a poem about it.  It is right on time as I chart the open territory before for me as a new mother, improve my self-care practice, live more fully in my gifts and create a life that I love for me and for our family.  Here it goes:

 

It’s like I’m in this perfect storm…

And I like storms

Love comes softly like the rain yet floods the river

And my life is perfect right now

And at once stormy and unpredictable

And I don’t know how to manage it

All my dreams are coming though

Love is all around me and oh so much goodness

And so is the pain… I can’t evade the darkness even when I try to pull away

This is the work

I don’t like it, but I’m really good at it

I am here to love and to care for others

But I need this care and love too

I must have it, no question at all

Even if I have to take it for myself

Give it to myself

Give to myself first…I guess this is the only way to survive

The best way to thrive

The hurt is not my own

I feel the hurt of my brother, my sister, my children, and my nation

Far too deeply

So deeply that I don’t want to feel anything at all anymore

And I push it down, down, down until it’s bubbling up and overflowing

Then I remember to let it out, let it breathe

And it’s always better, then

How to navigate a storm

I know how to do this; perhaps it’s a gift

Even though it doesn’t feel that way.

For now just enjoying the calm, actively, intently and fully present

The storm will come again, and again and again…

And it will pass away, again and again and again.

Washing us clean and ushering a fresh new start each time

So I will rest in the calm, frolic and play… but I will also dance in the rain and receive the intense power of the storm.

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Crashing Waves

Like many other beach lovers, I realize that the ocean is home for me. So now I make sure that I get to the ocean as often as possible. I’ve traveled to many beaches at different times of the year and have begun to learn the many nuances of the sea. In early spring the water is brisk and refreshing, while in summertime the ocean is cool and fairly calm and the waves bounce around playfully. In September, everyone rushes to the beach for Labor Day weekend to say the final goodbyes to summer. The water is very warm and inviting, but waves are crashing high in anticipation of the imminent winds of the autumn season.

This weekend the waves were especially tall and intense, coming in fast and cresting over into foamy bubbles at the shore. And like any homecoming visit, I couldn’t wait to get out there and frolic around with my “friends.” So I played with the waves, crashing and splashing and jumping around. I probably looked about five, rather than thirty-five years old! It was so exhilarating that I briefly pondered becoming a surfer to become more at one with the waves and stand straight on top of them. So there I was jumping and floating like those around me, some with boogie boards, and one or two kids with actual surf boards. These waves were really extraordinary, some one or two feet above my head. It was just amazing. I swallowed more than a little bit of salt water and got knocked down a few times. One wipeout flipped me complete upside down under the water and it was just wonderful! When I first entered the water I had on a pair of hoops that are usually secure in the water and beach friendly during other times in the year; but not this time. After the first two or three waves with I came up one earring missing, so I gave the other one up and counted the gold-colored circles as an offering to Yemoja, goddess of the sea.

Unlike past beach visits, I was experiencing a spiritual block so my first day at the beach didn’t yield much inspiration or deep reflection. I tried to focus but came up with nothing. I didn’t have any rituals to do, things I wanted to cleanse, or divine aspirations and dreams to affirm. I was experiencing soul congestion I guess. At present I am grappling with and needing to heal some upheavals that occurred in my professional life and with my mental health, both of which began about a year and a half ago. Though some time has passed, those two areas are sites of recurring issues and difficulties that seem to keep coming up in my life.

I was reading a novel and got the idea to think of these pains as storms that continually wear away at a lighthouse. The author implied that storms would keep coming across the seasons and that after so many storms lighthouse might need to be rebuilt a time or two after sustaining significant damage. Acceptance. Restoration. I like this metaphor; I like storms… and I like thinking of myself as lighthouse (guess myself esteem is still intact). But the waves that came crashing my way ever 20 to 30 seconds today, made so much more sense. They occurred because they were supposed to; they were fast and full of power and force. But they were so much fun if you weren’t afraid and dared to enjoy them. The ocean water wasn’t deep at all, the sun was shining and there were lots of people around. Like in life, you didn’t know when the next wave was coming or how soon it would crest or how high it would be. You didn’t know if they next one coming might knock you on your ass, but if it did you enjoyed it, got up and got ready to see what the next wave would be like. Some of the waves weren’t as forceful, but their height seemed scary until you realized you could float right on top of it. These high and crashing waves don’t trouble the sea all the time, just in certain seasons. You don’t have to be an expert swimmer, or really know how to swim at all. You just need to be able to jump as high as you can and be able to float a little bit.

If you’ve never been wave jumping then none of this will make sense. But I left the beach today with some peace about the rapid rearrangements that seem to be occurring everyday when I go to work, the disappointment of dreams deferred, and the ebbing highs and lows of my mental health and wellness. What if, as I did in the ocean, I had fun as these forceful waves seemingly slapped me around and tossed me about? What if I realized that the general conditions of my surroundings hadn’t changed or become life threatening and instead decided to jump and play in the ups and downs? That seems pretty unconventional to me, but I think I’ll try it. Summer is over, the fall winds are approaching and eventually winter will follow. I’m deciding that winter blues can’t be my story this year so I will need to try new things. This time I’m gonna try splashing around in the waves, floating and squealing and having fun even if I’m feeling knocked around a bit. At the end of this life I want my story to be that I loved well, gave freely, and enjoyed myself. The first two I do alright right with, but its time that I practice pleasure as a principle. It’s time that I commit to living and having fun along the way.
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I feel sooooo alone, but really I’m not.

More than a few of us have had to navigate mental health challenges to include: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and the full spectrum of such conditions. Part of me imagines that our brains and our bodies align to manifest the outward experience of living in an angst driven society that de-centers gentleness and ease with oneself and with the process of life.

It is fairly easy to dismiss, misunderstand, and diminish the experience of mental illness and brain disease if you have no previous experience or awareness of it in your own life. Sometimes I have hesitated to share my joy and wellness, in fear that my hardship won’t be taken seriously. It’s crazy, but I fear that others might miss the overwhelming emotional, physical, and spiritual pain one has to cross over from moment to moment and breath to breath until healing is complete. I have found it difficult to navigate this pain of indescribable nature that has no visible manifestations nor obvious symptoms. The pain doesn’t always go away when I talk about. It is partially a physical turmoil and needs a physical response; a release of some sort.

Along the healing road, I have found that it REALLY helps to be understood, remembered, and considered with warmth and compassionate care.

Here is a collection of creative illustrations that make wonderfully clear the struggles many of us have had within our mental health experience (whether clinically diagnosed or not). I am in a healing place now and yet I have felt many of these sentiments at one time or another as I found my truth about my mental health experience.

At this juncture, I can praise and celebrate my experience with anxiety and depression not just because of the strength I’ve gain and the healthy life practice I am cultivating but also for the gift I can be to others. Whether through inspiration , compassion, or direct assistance I can offer a hand in healing to others. This swells my heart in a way that I can’t explain. And what is more exciting is that EACH of us has the capacity and power to do this and to be a light for one another in this world.

So while I often feel alone, I really am not. I am always loved, I am always protected, I am always comforted when I still myself, breathe , and reconnect with my spiritual power. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but I am always gonna try.

I am NOT gonna give up.

that’s a fact; and that’s my bottom line. 🙂

Below are diagrams/ creative expressions I made to share with others about my own healing and recovery process.

What anxiety can feel like:

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What it can feel like to go on or come off meds:

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What I have gained from the experience so far:

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I hope this is helpful to someone along the same journey or one who desires to support a loved one toward optimal mental health.

Update: Check out the comics mentioned above (21 Comics that Capture the Frustration of Depression):  http://www.buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/comics-that-capture-the-frustrations-of-depression

Post a comment about which ones caught your attention or made an impression?  Mine are 3,9,16,19, and 20.  I like 4, 5,6, and 21 as well.