A purpose…

I’ve been floundering when it comes to my purpose lately. Yes, taking care of two beautiful children and our home is a job in and of itself, but I’ve been feeling something missing. Something I do for myself.

I started praying about it.

When intrusive thoughts are a part of your daily existence, I think hearing God’s voice gets a little difficult. So as I was driving one night (without the kids, which is a rarity) I put on Christian music and just asked God for guidance. I knew He had a plan for me, but I could not for the life of me discern what it was.

One thing that came out loud and clear was a command:

“Use My name.”

Thinking about it, I realize that though God is such a large part of my life and my identity, I am remiss when it comes to talking about Him on my blog.

I think because I’m afraid of offending people. We live in a world where we don’t want to offend others, and while I find that to be a good thing, it also keeps me from sharing what I know to be the truth. That my life, my children’s lives, and my saving grace is all in the hands of my Lord and Savior.

So, where do I go from here?

I’m not sure.

I know I’m being called to live my life as an example of faith. Maybe my example is only meant for my immediate family, and not meant for a larger audience. I’m not sure. I do know, however, that:

“no one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light.” -Lk 11:33

So, I guess I’ll end with the following thought: I’m probably going to talk more about God. I do this, not to judge others, but to lift people up. I know that I am as worthy of judgment as anyone else, and it is not my place to condemn. I also know that there is a divine, incontrovertible truth. The last thing I want to do is preach or make someone uncomfortable, but I also know that I cannot be an authentic voice without invoking His name.

Peace be with you,

Kate

Life is good.

Yesterday, I had an appointment with the psychiatric nurse practitioner that prescribes my medications. It went really well.

She mentioned how nice it was for her to see someone with OCD for whom treatment was working, because it’s not something she sees often.

I feel so blessed.

Yes, some of the side effects of my medications are a little annoying. I could do without the weight gain that persists in spite of regular workouts and nutrisystem.* I could also do without the way my hormones are screwed up and I could really do without the drowsiness. Getting me out of bed these days requires a LOT of effort.

All in all, though, had you told me six months ago that my biggest problems would be a need for bigger pants and sloth-like movements in the morning, I would have hugged you. Really, I would have.

Six months ago tomorrow, I entered inpatient psychiatric treatment, completely terrified.

I was convinced that I was dangerous.

I was convinced my family was better off without me.

I was convinced that my life, as it was in that moment was not worth living.

I knew I needed a change, but was scared nothing would help.

I became convinced that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in and out of hospitals, safely locked away from the rest of the world.

Today, I am convinced that I am an amazing wife and mother.

I am convinced that my husband and children are damn lucky to have me.

I am convinced that my life is full of meaning and a beautiful, God-given purpose.

I am so thankful. Thankful for all of the brilliant psychiatric professionals who gave me back my life and gave my family the person they loved again. Thankful for my wonderful, devoted, loving family that never wavered in their support. Thankful for a God who loves me and saw me through the most tumultuous time in my life. Thankful for the friends who looked after Luke and my kids, and everyone who kept me in prayer.

When I think of the multitude of people who had my back, I am brought to tears of joy.

When I think of the thousands of tiny ways my life is better now, I want to tell every person I meet.

When I think of all the people out there still struggling with OCD, I want to say it can get better. It did for me. It’s hard to take your life back from this disorder, but if you put in the work and get the right help, you can do it.

Six months ago, I had written myself off.

Today, I am back in charge of my own life.

I am so blessed.

If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, I strongly recommend contacting the phenomenal professionals at Rogers Memorial Hospital. “Life. Worth. Living” is their motto. That’s exactly what they gave me.

*I have since given up on that diet. 3 months without results is long enough.

Impostor Syndrome…

I apologize for not having written in awhile, I’ve been struggling with the feeling that I’m not really a blogger and I don’t really have anything worthwhile to say.

The rational part of me knows this isn’t true. I mean, I don’t need to have anything earth-shattering to say, this blog is my truth, (or in some cases, half-truth, as I’m not quite 100% comfortable sharing those dark corners of my life) and obviously, I must have something worthwhile to say if I’ve been chosen as a contributor for MKE Moms Blog, but still, impostor syndrome is hitting me a little hard these days.

Last night, the blog hosted our first get-together, a photo shoot (eek!) and bierklasse and it was great to get to meet all of the other moms. It got uncomfortable, however, when the little voice of self-doubt started chirping in my head.

“these women are all so amazing. You’re not really one of them.”

“they have such better things to say than you do.”

“they chose you on the one really good post you’ve had but you can’t keep up that quality with every post.”

“you’re not good enough.”

“you’re an impostor.”

I’m told that everyone has these kinds of feelings from time to time, but OCD makes it more frightening. OCD plays that track on a loop and if you’re not on guard, will convince you that it’s true.

It’s not true.

My voice matters, and so does yours.

So, to try and get OCD to pipe the heck down, I’m going to post this. Unedited, quickly written, and possibly boring to everyone who isn’t me, but at least I’m not letting OCD rob me of my voice today.

Words have power #endthestigma

So tonight, my husband and I were talking about what was going on in presidential politics (don’t worry, I won’t endorse or slam anyone, this blog is not meant to be political) when my husband said:

“If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be thinking of voting for (insert candidate name here) I would’ve checked myself in to a mental institution.”

My husband, who loves me more than I can say, obviously meant nothing by it, but this casual joke was not lost on me.

After all, I checked myself into a psychiatric hospital less than five months ago.

I’m not upset with my husband, truly, but I challenged his words right away. You see, I consider him one of my greatest allies, but someone who does not know him the way I do might hear those words and think that being a patient in a psychiatric facility is shameful.

(It is not.)

I’m even more conscious of the fact that our children might one day need to check themselves in somewhere (damn genetics) and I don’t want them to live in a world where jokes about a place that can be life-changing, if not life-saving are commonplace.

So tonight, friends, a plea.

Challenge stigmatizing speech when you hear it.

Even if the person didn’t mean anything by it.

Even if it’s a joke.

Even if it’s in passing.

Even if you’re tired of having the argument.

We need to end the stigma that surrounds mental health issues.

 

 

 

*Dearest bunny, I know you didn’t mean anything by it, but I was inspired after our exchange. I love you and I know you’d never want to stigmatize anyone. Please don’t beat yourself up tonight.

Why I wrote for a month

If I manage to post again tomorrow, I will have written every day for the entire month of February…

…yes, February is the shortest month, but it’s still a month, so it counts.

…and there were 29 days this year, so there.

For some, this might have seemed like a silly goal.

For me, however, it was therapy.

You see, it’s really hard for me to finish posts. I rehearse, revise, reread, and revise some more.

When it comes time to hit that magical “publish” button, my palms start to sweat, my eyes flick back over the text, and a lump forms in my throat. My fingers twitch, my mouth gets dry, my chest feels heavy.

What if it’s grammatically incorrect? What if someone thinks I’m a bad writer? What if I said something that makes someone think I’m a bad mother? a bad wife? a bad sister/daughter/friend? What if someone has really negative feedback and I can’t handle hearing it?

For me, writing in a public forum is a huge leap of faith. It’s sending my thoughts, fears, obsessions, and hopes out into this giant chasm and hoping that there isn’t snark hiding somewhere in the wings.

Forcing myself to publish every day forced me to edit less and challenge my anxiety. It was kind of like one big, long extended exposure, and it really helped me to get out of my shell. So now, as February turns to March, I’m looking for my next month-long challenge.

What would you challenge yourself to if you had to do it for a month?

Asymptomatic

Today was one of those days that was so good I wondered if maybe my OCD diagnosis wasn’t real. Like maybe I just exaggerated my symptoms and I’m really neurotypical. That’s how good today was.

I mean, I know my diagnosis is real. BELIEVE me. Some very brilliant mental health professionals established that and reading the DSM makes that beyond apparent.

“Recurrent and persistent thoughts…that are experienced at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.”

CHECK.

“The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts…or to neutralize them with some other thought or action…”

CHECK.

“Repetitive behaviors (e.g. hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (e.g. praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession…”

Oh my goodness, CHECK.

“The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing anxiety or distress, or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent, or are clearly excessive.”

Yes. Yes. Yes. Check.

I could go on, but I think you get the point…

Today, however, I was, for all intents and purposes, asymptomatic.

No compulsions. No intrusive thoughts.

It was wonderful.

I know better than to think I am cured. There’s no cure for OCD.

I know I need to keep up with my exposures and continue taking my medication as prescribed. I know that the hard work we’ve put in and the right combination of meds are what is responsible for this amazing, relaxing, obsession-free day. I’m not silly enough to think I can just stop working now.

Right now, I’m just enjoying it. My next obsession is surely waiting in the wings, but this respite, however brief, has been lovely and has given me the motivation I need to stay the course. If I could feel like this more often, my life would be pretty darn swell.

(Of course, even with the OCD, I’m still pretty blessed…)

Fellow battlers, I wish you a day like mine. It’s amazing, and you deserve it.

Obsessions about safety.

So, we’ve been very fortunate that my husband hasn’t had to travel much at all since our daughter was born. That’s about to change.

He’s going to be hitting the road (or the air, if we’re being accurate) more frequently in the coming months and I have really been struggling with how far is too far when it comes to our home and safety.

We live in one of the safest communities in the entire country. (Literally. I’ve looked up crime statistics.)

We have a dog.

We have a deadbolt and a chain on the door.

I have my trusty softball bat.

I’m still insisting upon a security system.

Actually, what I really want is a German Shepherd that’s trained to take down armed intruders (Yes, they do exist) but I’m settling for the security system.

…with motion detectors.

…and a panic button.

You see, the thought, the obsession that arises whenever I think about my husband traveling is this:

I can run with one kid. I can’t run with two. Someone’s going to break in and I’m going to have to decide who to save. I’m going to have to choose between my babies.

I know this is OCD being mean again.

I want to challenge the thought.

I want to tell the disorder to shove it.

I can’t. Not tonight. OCD wins this round.

I’ll try again tomorrow.

 

How do you find the line between being proactive about safety and excessive worry or hypervigilance?

Expanding the circle…

Tonight, I’m feeling really jittery.

I’m so excited to join the team at MKE Moms Blog, but my facebook page was immediately flooded with friend requests from other contributors.

You see, I’m neurotic when it comes to social media.

Facebook is the only place where I post my children’s real names and photos of their faces.

Before this sudden explosion, I had 124 facebook friends.

36 of those people are related to me.

2 are my children’s godparents.

29 are friends that were close enough to merit an invitation to our wedding.

5 are the spouses of people who were at our wedding.

5 are our neighbors.

12 are moms from my church group.

1 is our parish priest.

Basically, what I’m saying is if you don’t receive a Christmas card from us, you and I are not Facebook friends.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve added ten people to my friends list.

TEN people.

Ten people I’ve never met before.

I’m obsessing. I don’t know these women and the unknown—even in very friendly human form—is scary. Instead of letting me enjoy the possibility of new friends, OCD keeps telling me that I have made myself and my children vulnerable to ten women who I have never met. Horror scenarios fill my brain. Panic ensues.

OCD is mean.

 

**side note: to members of the team, really, it’s not you. My rational brain knows you’re not a threat. My OCD brain can make ANYTHING scary. I look forward to meeting you soon!

A new forum…

So, today, I found out that I was chosen to be a contributor for the MKE Moms Blog. This, for me, is amazing because the current contributors are people I consider to be great writers and amazing women, and I’m humbled to have been chosen.

This also means that I need to write a biography blurb…

I never know exactly what to say about myself when asked. I fear I’m constantly over- or under- selling myself and am either far too brief or entirely too loquacious. (Or both, if that’s possible…)

Thankfully, I’ve been given some parameters. The blurb should be about 100 words in length, so that helps.

But what do I say?

What would YOU say if you only had 100 words to describe yourself?

What question would you want answered about someone if you were trying to get a sense of them?

Help me out here, dear friends… I’m overthinking this.

 

 

…I’m also failing miserably on my perfectionism ban here, as I’m not supposed to revise things over and over again. Sigh.

 

 

 

Transition time…

One of the biggest things I miss from my days of working was my commute home.

Back when I was still teaching, I lived five minutes away from school. This was immensely helpful when I was in a hurry to get to work (still an hour and a half before the first bell) in the mornings, but in the evenings, after a particularly difficult day, I would start driving in the opposite direction along Lake Michigan and let myself unwind.

I miss having a way to downshift.

There’s no downshifting in my life. I hit the ground running when I wake up, and don’t stop until nap time. Usually, I work right through nap time (because otherwise my house would be a complete disaster rather than the charming mess it is most days…) and I don’t stop until either my husband gets home or the kids fall asleep, whichever of those comes first.

I miss having that quiet time.

I miss having a journey to divide my work life from my home life.

Now, home is my job, so there’s no division between work and home.

It’s incredibly rewarding and I’m so thankful we can afford for me to stay home, but sometimes I miss just being able to shift to something different once in awhile. Like when I would get sick of grading papers, I would start lesson planning for a little bit, just to give my mind something new to work on. I was still working, I was just mixing things up a bit.

I don’t know how to mix things up at home. I have to be mommy 24/7, because my littles are too little to be left without supervision while I go do something else, even if it is for them.

I know this time is limited.

I know we’ll have a point in time when I’m begging my children for just a little bit of their time.

But for now, not having a little bit of time to shift gears is starting to wear on me.

I think that’s why I blog a little. It lets me downshift a little before I pour myself into bed. It’s a sorely needed release.

Still, I need to find another, productive way of shifting down in the evenings.

I’ll let you know if I find one.