Truth Bomb: When you want to "Live, Laugh, Love" But...

Live.  Laugh. Love.  Seems simple, right? Well, I'm sure for some people it is.  It sounds lovely.  Its a goal to aspire to, for sure.  But if you live with anxiety, its damn near impossible.  I just thought I would share some of my struggles with letting go and trying to live a "normal" life dealing with anxiety.  

Most people don't really know what it is, so heres how I see it.  Basically, anxiety is the desire to do something but with overwhelming feelings of uneasiness and worry.  Doesn't seem that bad, right? Everyone has moments of anxiety.  But some of us just battle this dragon daily. Trying new things? Nope. Going someplace where you don't know anyone? Nope. Talking to new people? AHHH!!! People with anxiety play over and over in their heads what they have said, how they said it, and if they said it in. way that made no sense at all. We hear what you said and we worry maybe you don't like us, we worry we may come off like we don't like you.  We're human, so of course we don't communicate perfectly all of the time and it kills us. We will stress out that we have said all the wrong things. So see what I mean? Trying to be happy is a legit daily struggle.  Anxiety pushes people away.  It isolates you.  It causes you to look like a complete asshole, but you're really just afraid to open up and be vulnerable in any and all situations.  It's not that we don't want real human interaction, but people with anxiety are afraid of what happens next. What happens if we catch feelings? Now what? What happens if we don't know whats going to happen? Seems crazy.  And it is. It feels like crazy. Its awful, but I think people need to understand the DESIRE to want to be different and easy going and not nervous is there.  We just need a little help calming our brains down a bit to loosen up and live a little.  

I don't know about most people, but I know where mine comes from.  Emotional Trauma.  I'd say finding out my husband was cheating on me for half of our three year marriage was the beginning of the anxious feelings.  Then, just to pile on to that, a chaotic relationship coupled with pregnancy and my partners struggle with his own depression and self medication during the scariest time of our lives probably didn't help ease my anxiety at all.  After I had my son I just knew I had that overwhelming sense of fear of the unknown.  Well, anyone with kids knows nothing is easy, everything is chaos and everything is terrifying for the first time.  Just to add to all of those "Mommy Anxiety" I had a horrible break-up, and the feelings of utter relationship failure and fear of being alone and a single-mother basically just broke me.  I felt like a shell of a person.  On the outside everything was smiles and sunshine, but on the inside it feels a lot like drowning but with no one holding you under.  Think, being stuck in a rip tide in the ocean. You're just swimming along and all of a sudden your bathing suit is being shoved up your ass and a boob is out and you're sucking in water by the gallon and you only have yourself to blame for all of it because you know you shouldn't have swam out so far with all of the red flags waving in the wind.  

The living part is hard, but doable.  I've worked on getting to know myself but it's still not enough.  The trauma is still there.  The anxiety still takes hold of me some days and steers the crazy train.  Not everyday, not every decision, but some and it sucks.  I'm not the best at making new "mom friends", taking my son to places with new people or crowds it tough, but I do it for him. He shouldn't live a sheltered life because I'm afraid of what is going to happen or might happen or probably won't happen but its just there I'm my head nagging me that it might happen.   And honestly once I do try something new it feels good and empowering and I make the effort to do it again and again and each time it gets easier. Its not that people with anxiety can't live happy, healthy, productive lives.  We just struggle with an inner dialogue that we are pretty sure no one else can relate to.  We can be happy.  We can chill the F*&% out and enjoy life.  But its difficult, thats all we need you to understand.  

The laughing part is easy, but it also masks the anxiety.  Its tricky like that.  I can laugh about it.  I can laugh about myself and I can always just make everything a joke.  Its one of my coping mechanisms.  If I make a joke of it, and laugh about it or how ridiculous I am being, it seems to ease other people and makes me break down some of my own walls and break that guarded cycle of always trying to protect myself from people getting too close.  Letting people in is ok if we are laughing. Under the jokes just know a part of me is screaming "just go back home to your couch and the Golden Girls marathon!!"  But if I'm there and we're cry-laughing about something totally hilarious that means I'm invested. I'm not fighting the urges to isolate and I'm enjoying the moments with you.  That's huge for me.  Know that.  

The loving part is the hardest.  It seems impossible, but I want it so badly. Not just any kind of love but the kind of love that challenges me to be better, do better and to not run away to the couch and the Golden Girls.  It's easy to love my son. But, real talk, I am a total "smother mother" but that's a whole different Blog Post.  Love for him comes from somewhere thats is untouched by any other person.  It comes from an unconditional connection to someone who I made and who makes me want more out of life.  It's the other love that scary and terrifying and constantly feel uneasy and unsure of myself and if I am capable of being complete again.  You see, after all that has happened to me a piece of me heart went missing and anxiety filled it.  Replacing that with the unconditional love of another feels like uncharted territory.  I've never had that before.  There's always been conditions, stipulations, requirements for me to be something.  The perfect wife or the rescuer, the caretaker or the one who holds it all together.  Really loving someone isn't placing conditions on them.  It's just the opposite.  It's loving who they are, good, bad, or ugly...and with me there feels like a lot more bad and ugly than good sometimes.  That's what pushes people away.  Anxiety can make all of the good emotions mix with all of the nervousness and when someone special takes your heart in their hands it feels like someone has put a lid on a bottle and shaken it up.  Those emotions are all over the place. The  thing that was holding you together all of this time, CONTROL, is suddenly out the window and your left just out there and exposed.  Don't get me wrong, thats a good thing.  Thats what life is about.  Finding that is what we all want. It just seems harder for me.  I'm trying.  All I can do is try.  Try to be open, to share those feelings or fear, try to remember that not everyone wants to hurt me, and try to put those feelings of worry and dormant hurt into the baggage and leave them at the door and walk through the threshold of a new life with new feelings of love that can replace the negative. As much as you may think that you've done that, that you've conquered that ...its not until you're really faced with reality that you can say "ok, let's do this." Its not that I'm not ready for love, a relationship or deep feelings for someone. I am.  I know I can do it and I know the person who lets me is the right one for me.  It's going to hurt, and be messy and be hard sometimes but if I don't let that happen then the anxiety wins...and I'm not a loser.  I don't like to let something like that beat me.  I won't let it.  I just have to trust and the right one will trust that I'm trusting them with it all.  

If we breakdown in front of you, thats because we finally feel like its all coming to a head and instead of sweeping those feelings under the rug we are letting them out.  We probably will communicate poorly during this because emotions aren't easily verbalized at this point.  Its just a all vomiting out and we're powerless to it all because we have stopped holding on with such a tight grip.  Its not a bad thing.  Its actually good. We won't do this for just anyone, we just don't show our cards like that.  It's ok.  Just be patient, when we can get let it out it just means we're closer and closer to leaving it all behind and giving you the whole person we want to be.   It's something we can't help feeling.  It's a part of us, and as much as I don't want it, its there and we're trying my best to deal with it all.  

It's so hard to put into words the way anxiety and emotional trauma can affect someone.  I hope this paints a picture of what it's like.  Not just for me but for the people who love me and are in my life.  They need to know it's not them.

I am swimming away from the rip tide, I've pulled my swim suit from my ass, and I am keeping my head above water... and to all of those people who love me as I am, you are my life preserver.

Post Pulse Parenting and How We are Orlando Strong

  June 12, 2016. A day our family will never forget.  The day marks our country's worst mass shooting in US history at Pulse nightclub.  49 lives lost.  Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends coworkers and family to many. It has been a month.

I won't focus on the shooter.  I won't focus on the horror of what it felt like to wake up at 4 am and see the scenes playing out on television and social media.  I won't focus on how incredibly lost and lonely and desperately heartbroken I felt lying next to my 3 year old and seeing what was happening.  I'll focus here on how I chose to handle my emotions and parenting, because for us and our family we had to keep going.

That's a major theme in my life and something my mom and I say to each other constantly...keep going.  Meaning, whenever we feel overwhelmed and buried by life's emotions and circumstances we just keep going.  Head down, tunnel vision, laser focus on our jobs as parents.  That's my sole responsibility in life.  Being a great mother to my son.

On this day we happened to be planning on celebrating a big milestone for Boo. He was 100% diaper and pull up free! It felt like a victory.  A long, arduous journey that ended in what should have been a celebratory romp through Disney as a reward for a job well done.  I couldn't help the tears running down my face.  I couldn't help but feel the unrelenting sadness as the body count kept rising. I couldn't help but be real and raw in those moments.  He asked why I was upset.  He knows me.  He's my person, the one I spend all of my time with, the one who spent 9 months inside of me...he is a part of me, so he knew.  Knowing that at this age death and evil are concepts little ones just can't understand, nor should they, I chose to say that I was "OK." But like I said, he knew.  We underestimate kids this age.  They see and feel more than we know or choose to recognize. He asked again and through my tears I said, "I'm sad because something bad happened to people because someone made bad choices." He got it.  But I also assured him,"it's ok to be sad sometimes and it's ok to cry sometimes," and that today we would still have a great day with Gramma at Disney.  And with that I packed up all of my emotions and put them in the "needs attention later" pile and went about a day at the Mouse House.  He was happy and so for that I was happy.

Disney felt like a dazed dreamland of mindless happiness.  I felt the numbness settling in while we rode some rides, sought relief from the heat and ate Mickey shaped cream bars.  But on the car ride home I knew what I needed to do.  I knew I needed to focus on raising my son through the fear and anger and let him see what I had already been seeing.  I saw a community coming together in a time of crisis and pain.  I saw straight allies supporting LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I saw people showing their love and support on social media and through memorial sites.  I saw Orlando come together like never before.  And we would be part of that coming together.

Boo has the fortunate circumstance of having not only a bad ass momma (brush my shoulder off) but an amazingly talented and supportive daddy with a career in theater and close friends from all walks of life. This brought us closer together as parents. We knew we would see tough parenting moments in his life time, but we had no idea it would be like this and not so close to home.  Two single parents searching to unify our message and show everyone we stand side by side in raising a child who is solicitous about the welfare of others.   Volunteer centers were inundated with water, food, toiletries...but not children's items.  I'm a Mom! That's what I think of first...what do the children need?  How can we help the kids that have been left victimized by this? Gathering dollar store children's items and dropping them off at a donation site allowed Boo to be involved on a level he could understand and relate to. "Sharing with people who have nothing makes them feel good and happy and important and so that's what we're going to do." Hanging onto his Dad's leg bashfully as they delivered toys and coloring books and a giant stuffed Nemo, waving at volunteers, and just his presence making people smile a little bit through tears and sweat and exhaustion.  It felt like I was showing him through action that this is how you become involved, even if you're  3.

Our "modern family" chose to participate in a candlelight vigil at Lake Eola honoring the 49 victims and supporting the LGBTQ community and Orlando as a whole.  We chose to do so because we all wanted him to se what coming together means, what it looks like, smells like, feels like, sounds like.  The reality was that being there with him was overwhelmingly profound for us.  I can't speak for everyone but I was proud to have my child with me that night.  He saw all kinds of people supporting each other for no other reason than LOVE and sense of community.  For peace and to show solidarity as ONE people.  Isn't that what we want? Isn't that who we want them to be?  Good, honest, kind, loving, respectful and to stand up for their convictions?  To know that no matter who you love, you deserve love?  That's what I want for myself let alone my own child.  I don't know who he will end up being as an adult, but my hope for him that he feels safe to be the person he chooses to be and to be that person with his head held high.  By the way, the whole time we were at the vigil he thought it was a Pride event (which he is not a stranger to) and waved his glow stick and enjoyed the free rainbow Mickey sticker and lots of hugs from friends. As his parents I think we felt like we offered some service by showing people who were feeling devalued and hurt that we knew they were important and that we vowed to raise our kid to know that people, all people, are important and should be loved.image

During times like this it's hard to know what to say to your children.  Too much or too little.  I wish we could have done more.  I myself felt depressed  for some time, thinking I could have or should have done more.  But this is what I have to offer the world.  Being a Mom.  There's no handbook explaining how to deal with this kind of hate and crazy for adults let alone our children. And I'm still struggling with what to say or how to say it.  I don't want to shelter him, but I also don't want him to live in fear or to feel defeated in times when all feels lost.   All I know is that children respond to action, so be active in how we raise these little guys.  Show them that compassion and kindness is the center of how your family chooses to live and they too will show the world that love back.



W & B and our modern family

#OrlandoStrong #OrlandoUnited #OneLove