my pregnancy story

I remember the moment I found out that I was pregnant. I showed my husband the positive sign on the pregnancy test, and we both started to cry. We sunk down to the floor, hugging one another, and knowing that this was the start of something wonderful. It was the start of my pregnancy story, but I had no idea what was to come.

Events were about to unfold at the same time as my pregnancy. Little did I know that, like parenting, nothing would ever be the same again….

MY PREGNANCY STORY

I mentioned HERE that I found out that my husband started abusing alcohol during my first trimester. He was terrified that I would have a miscarriage. An occasional drink turned into two which quickly turned into him pouring alcohol into iced tea bottles during the weekend. When I finally discovered what was happening, I asked him to leave. 

I remember sinking down to the floor, but this time, it was not a moment of overwhelming joy. It was a feeling of complete and utter helplessness. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I now had a responsibility to protect this baby.

My husband stopped drinking alcohol, and I thought the worst was over. Unfortunately, his addiction turned to sleeping pills. I discovered that my prescription sleep medicine was missing pills, to which he always had excuses. He told me that he  tripped while bringing them home and they fell down the drain. I was told the pharmacist must have given me less pills, and I was told that the TSA workers must have taken them when we went on a plane. No, I did not believe any of his stories. However, I knew little about addiction and did not understand what was happening.

All I knew was that I wanted him to stop taking them. I felt angry and betrayed that he kept lying to me and wouldn’t admit that he was using them. He would stop for a little while (during which time he was getting prescriptions from doctors or asking his parents to give him pills), and then start with mine again.

My husband also lost his job while I was in the end of my first trimester of pregnancy.

He never used anything while at work, but it still didn’t help our circumstances. I was struggling to figure out what was going on with my husband on top of him no longer having employment. We were currently living in a place that had no space for a crib, and we needed a bigger apartment. It was terrifying. I knew all the stress wasn’t good for the baby. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel calm under all of these incredibly stressful circumstances.

Fast forward a few months and we found a three-bedroom rental in a two-family house.  The rent was similar because it was an older home, but we were still struggling financially. I unpacked boxes as quickly as I could, wanting to feel some sense of stability and normalcy in my life.

A few weeks later, I started breaking out in hives. They were all over my back. Big, red hives. I had no idea what was causing them, and I would wake up covered in them. I went to a dermatologist, who informed me that the likely cause was an allergic reaction to (wait for it…) bedbugs.

HOW COULD THIS BE HAPPENING?

BEDBUGS?! I couldn’t believe my ears. How did I get bedbugs? I was a clean freak. He explained that bed bugs aren’t an indication of how clean your house is, and I could have gotten them from anyone or anything. They could have come from the moving truck, from a person’s item of clothing, or even from the fabric on a seat (movie theaters are a breeding ground for them, especially in New York). I inspected my house, particularly my bed, as they often are on mattress tags or near the bed.

I can’t even begin to articulate how itchy I felt in the car ride home. The last place I wanted to go was back to my house, which was supposed to be my haven amidst all the chaos in my life. I silently said a prayer as my husband inspected our bedroom.

To my horror of horrors, he found one bed bug on the mattress tag.

We immediately contacted our landlord, Ted, who informed us that we must have brought them into our home. When we asked if it could have been there beforehand, he scoffed at the mere suggestion and basically hung up on us.

We proceeded to find an exterminator who said he would not spray the house himself, but he would purchase the necessary chemicals for us. Every inch of the house had to be sprayed because we did not know the extent of the infestation. In terrible cases, they could be everywhere. We were also told that every item of fabric that we owned needed to be washed and dried at extremely high temperatures. Bedding, stuffed animals, and clothing (basically anything) were bagged and methodically cleaned.

I could not stay where the chemicals were sprayed due to my pregnancy. As a result, I lived elsewhere for a week to allow the spray to do its job. My husband basically saturated the house in those chemicals, and then did it again for good measure.

He inspected everywhere. When he opened up the old cable box (which was used by the prior tenants, as we had a different cable company install their own equipment when we moved in), he found a few bed bugs. There was nothing found in my cable box, which means they had to have been there before we moved there. After further inquiry, we discovered that the prior tenants had thrown out their mattress a few months before they moved.

We realized that the prior tenants must have had the bed bugs.

The house wasn’t occupied for a few months, but bed bugs can survive for awhile without eating (a not-so-fun-fact that I learned through this process). My guess is that most of them were on their old mattress, and some of them were in the cable box.  

We told our landlord what we had discovered. He went from being outraged to volunteering to waive a month’s rent. This didn’t help much, as the cost of all of the pesticides, dry cleaning, plus the horror we endured far outnumbered a month’s rent. I went to bed each night terrified to sleep, as bed bugs will bite in the middle of the night. My stuffed animals from childhood were destroyed, as they were not meant to be put in a high temperature dryer. I had my clothing in a portable clothing rack in the kitchen because I was fearful of putting my clothing back in the bedroom.

I was in my third trimester, and I was a mess.

my pregnancy story

My husband still didn’t have a job, I was constantly examining myself for any bug bites, and I had no idea if my husband was sober. My life was a tornado, and I had a child on the way. I was terrified, and I felt completely alone.

Luckily, there weren’t many bed bugs after the prior tenants left, and my husband successfully got rid of them. The knowledge I learned about this topic is one I would never forget, however much I wanted to erase it from my brain. I still cringe whenever I hear someone say, “Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

My husband found a job right before I had my daughter, so that concern was rectified. Unfortunately, his struggle with addiction is one that outlasted my pregnancy. I am so proud of his sobriety for the last five years, but it is still a big part of my pregnancy story, and one in which look back on with sadness. I wish things could have been different, but there are some things in life in which we simply don’t have a say. What I can control is how I handled myself during my pregnancy, and I am proud of that. 

I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl on August 3rd, 2012.

My pregnancy, with all of its horrors and pain, still allowed me to bring a beautiful soul into this world. Although my story is filled with hardships, it is one that I tell with my head held high. I went through a series of traumatic events during a time where I wish I could have been on cloud nine. Although it wasn’t one in which fairy tales are born, it showed me that I am far stronger than I realized. I was going to need that inner strength to raise my daughter and to get through my husband’s struggles. I learned that I had no idea where life was going to take me, but that I would be okay no matter what life (or cable boxes) threw my way.

Emotional Abuse

I started this blog to discuss the journey of motherhood. Additionally, I wanted a platform to address taboo topics to facilitate awareness and change.

I have discussed in other posts that I am a survivor of childhood psychological and emotional abuse. Even if you haven’t been abused, we all have experienced some sort of trauma, collectively and individually.

Helping childhood emotional abuse survivors share their story

Why? It isn’t something about my life that I openly broadcast (until now), but when I have shared it with a select few, the response I typically get is… nothing. People feel uncomfortable, so they say nothing at all and change the topic.

This is NOT the way to go. It takes a lot of courage for abuse survivors to tell their story. Before they tell it to you, they first have to accept it themselves. That is terrifying. For many people, what happened to them brings great guilt and shame. This truth applies to any type of trauma. Somehow we feel it is our fault because facing the painful reality that we were helpless and someone did something terrible to us is incredibly difficult to accept.

Even when we accept what happened, we are terrified that others will see us differently. We feel ashamed of our experience and fearful that others will shame us.

I know that there are no ill intentions when all I hear is the sound of silence. I know many of you are stunned and simply don’t know what to say. You don’t mean to make the person that opened up to you feel alone. However, silence will do just that. Emotional Abuse

If someone tells you their story, they are choosing to let you in to the most painful parts of their soul. They are sharing their vulnerability, their horror, and their pain. 

Telling them it could have been worse or comparing a person’s pain to another is not the way to go. Every person’s pain deserves to be acknowledged and validated. What survivors of any type of trauma need more than anything is support and love. 

HOW TO RESPOND WHEN A TRAUMA IS REVEALED

If an abuse survivor trusts you enough to tell you their story, it is important to respond with words and not silence.  Therefore, here are some things you can say when a trauma is shared with you:

(1) What happened was not okay

Tell them that it was awful, terrible, horrible and that you can’t imagine their pain. 

(2) If they are receptive, offer a hug

Sometimes hugs can express the sentiments you aren’t able to articulate.

(3) Tell them it wasn’t their fault, and that they didn’t deserve what happened to them.

This one is huge.

(4) Acknowledge abuse survivors’ bravery in telling their story

Let them know you feel honored that they chose to share it with you. As uncomfortable as you may feel hearing their story, the person telling it is feeling that way tenfold.

(5) Ask them what you can do to support them on their healing journey

DO NOT tell them what you think they should do. The needs of each survivor will vary, so please don’t ask them this question unless you are prepared to follow through with their response. For some, that may mean knowing that they can bring it up again, as they see fit. For others, they may not want to discuss it again. No matter what they decide, tell them you will be there for them.

(6) If you know someone who has experienced some form of trauma, please don’t be afraid to bring the topic up to them

Let that person know that you care, and you are sorry for what they endured. Don’t push them to talk about it if they don’t want to, but acting like you don’t know about their trauma is just as painful as saying nothing.

the importance of awareness

With events going on in the world today, I have learned more than ever about the importance of awareness. Awareness comes in many forms; those who need awareness that what they endured was indeed traumatic, and awareness of others to acknowledge and support an abuse survivor or someone else’s trauma.

Complacency will not allow for change, and there is so much change that needs to take place. I hope that this post brings some form of awareness to each of you, and that it allows us to take one step closer to a world of change.

What is your story? If you are willing to give a voice to your pain, I promise to listen.

what is a highly sensitive person

If I had a dime for every time I labeled myself or was described as “incredibly sensitive,” I’d be rich. In fact, I spent my entire life feeling like I was viewing the world through a very different lens than others. Now I know that there is a term to describe my sensitivity, known as a highly sensitive person (HSP). Unsure of what that means? Look no further. This post delves into the characteristics of the highly sensitive person and specific forms of self-care for HSPs.

What is a highly sensitive person?

Highly sensitive person was first researched in 1991 by psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron. HSP describes a personality trait that affects 15-20% of the population. Also known as Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS), this term describes those with increased central nervous system sensitivity.  This sensitivity can be physical, emotional, and social.  As a result, people with this type of personality process information very deeply and have an increased awareness to stimuli in their environment (highlysensitiverefuge.com, 2019) .

It is important to note that HSP is NOT considered a disorder or diagnosis. Sensitivity is a personality trait, and HSPs experience sensitivity more than the average person. Although Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) may have overlapping symptoms with HSP, they are not interchangeable (verywellmind.com, 2020).

How do I know if I’m an HSP?

Dr. Aron came up with a self-test, “Are you highly sensitive?”  There are 27 statements, and if more than 14 of them are true, then you are likely a highly sensitive person. There is a separate test for children. This includes 23 statements, and if 13 or more of those statements are true (mostly true or was once true for a long period of time), then it is likely your child is highly sensitive. You can access both tests here.

It should be noted that with all personality tests, there is nothing that can definitively determine HSP. As with all personality tests, these are meant to give you a deeper understanding of yourself and/or your child (hsperson.com, 1996).

According to Dr. Aron, there are 4 aspects of high sensitivity, which almost every HSP will have, known as D.O.E.S. (sharonselby.com, 2020):

(1) Depth of processing

HSPs often take time to think things over. They are conscientious and thorough, reflecting on their experiences and giving detailed answers. I overanalyze situations and encounters with others. I do this when trying to figure out solutions to problems, and also when reflecting on what was said to me and what I said to others.

(2) Overstimulation

HSPs experience over arousal/ overstimulation due to some or all of their five senses. Examples of this can be feeling overwhelmed due to noises, large crowds, and/or new places. I can trace this back to when I was a child, complaining to my mother that the kids on the bus were too noisy. I would feel overwhelmed by loud noises and sounds. As an adult, I still get overwhelmed due to sensory overload, and large crowds and changes are very stressful.

(3) Emotional reactivity and empathy

HSPs are emotionally reactive to both positive and negative situations and experiences. They feel more and are deeply moved by the world around them. This can mean avoiding violence on TV, crying at commercials, and empathizing with other people’s feelings.

This aspect of HSP resonated with me the most. I feel EVERYTHING, good and bad. I appreciate every kind gesture and word, and am often moved to tears. The beauty of the world touches my heart. That sensitivity applies to negatives as well. I literally run from the room when I hear the music for ASPCA. I have cried hysterically at images of suffering. I cry at every single movie I have ever watched (this can be happy tears and/or sad tears), and I cry at too many commercials and songs to count. Although not all HSPs are empaths (which is different than having empathy, which HSPs possess greatly), I am both an HSP and an empath. This means that I can sense what others are feeling, and I feel their feelings too.

(4) Sensing the subtle

This can be subtle changes in a room such as lighting, or it can mean picking up on a person’s intricacies. HSPs are perceptive, and children like this are often considered wise beyond their years. I have an incredibly strong sense of smell and hearing, and often pick up on smells and sounds that others don’t notice. Additionally, I’ve always noticed subtleties with people, which can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on the situation.

If you’d like to read more about Dr. Aron’s work on HSP, there are several books she has written (click the links below):

 

 

3- The Highly Sensitive Parent

self-care tips and strategies for the Highly Sensitive Person

Being a highly sensitive person means that you are compassionate, thoughtful, and empathetic. You feel and care deeply. Those are all wonderful things. However, it is easy for an HSP to get overwhelmed and stressed.  As a result, practicing self-care for HSPs is non-negotiable. Here are specific forms of self-care for HSPs. (willfrolicforfood, 2017):

(1) Sleep

Everyone needs sleep, but HSPs are more sensitive to the negative effects of lack of sleep. Therefore, making sure to get enough sleep is helpful for HSPs in navigating an already overstimulating world (psychologytoday.com, 2011).

(2) Setting boundaries

Again, boundaries are necessary for everyone. However, HSPs must be extra careful to set boundaries with others, as well as ourselves. We must say no to pressures that make us feel overwhelmed and understand that it is necessary to set those limits.

(3) Avoid stressors

Situations will cause us to feel overwhelmed and/or overstimulated. Therefore, we must be aware of our stressors (such as large crowds, scary movies, certain people), and do our best to avoid them. This can also mean lowering lights in the room or wearing noise canceling headphones.

self-care tips for HSPs

(4) Incorporate calmness into your routine

Set up small chunks of time during your day where you can recharge and soothe your senses. Whether that means taking a ten-minute break in your office or going into a room and locking the door, try to find a place where you feel safe. Use that time to decompress. That can mean reading a book, dimming the lights (if possible), meditating, doing breathing exercises, or laying your head on a pillow. Additionally, make sure you have a space in your home where you can go to that feel comforting. Have an area (or several, if possible) designated for you to relax.

(5) Prepare in advance

Although not all HSPs are introverts, it is very emotionally and physically draining to feel so deeply. Therefore, if you know that you are going to have a stressful or hectic day, incorporate time around those encounters for you to decompress.

(6) Open communication

We cannot expect people to be mind readers. Therefore, we must be honest with others about our sensitivities. If someone says something that hurts your feelings, be honest about it. HSPs take things to heart, so clearing the air is necessary to our emotional well-being. It’s also important to be honest with those around us about our needs, such as requiring alone time each day and staying away from loud areas.

(7) Eat small meals throughout the day

HSPs are often more prone to feeling hangry (angry plus hungry). Therefore, make sure to have well-balanced meals and snacks every few hours to maintain blood sugar levels. I am hypoglycemic, so it is crucial for me to eat small meals every few hours so that my blood sugar levels don’t drop. When I’m busy and I skip a meal, my body and mind pay the price for it.

(8) Keep a journal

I’ve spoken about my love of journaling for both kids and adults. Writing down feelings is especially helpful for HSPs. It is a great outlet for our emotions, and it provides us with a safe space to put our feelings into words and explore our thoughts. Awareness of our sensitivities is crucial, and journaling helps us to be more self-aware.

(9) Be your biggest cheerleader

HSPs are often perfectionists, and we try our best at everything we do. Failure can be extra difficult for HSPs. Therefore, we must be intentional with our thoughts and make sure to celebrate and take pride in our efforts and accomplishments, big or small.

(10) Limit phone usage

The stimulation from phone calls and screen time can be very overwhelming and draining for HSPs. Therefore, put your phone on “do not disturb” when you are doing other activities or need to decompress. Take time away from social media as needed and screen your phone calls to avoid unsolicited callers.

(11) Embrace your feelings

Yes, the world is a more intense place for HSPs. However, we see and feel beauty more deeply too. Rather than fighting our sensitivity, embrace the benefits it has to offer. Respect and validate your own feelings. Remind yourself that although others may not feel the same way, that does not make our perceptions any less valid. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling. I often feel better after a good cry (or two, or even three), so let your feelings out!

(12) Make your home a source of comfort

Whether it’s limiting background noises such as the TV in your house, playing soft music, or reducing clutter, make sure that your house is a place that promotes calm rather than another stimulant. I know that a clean house is a must-have for me, as walking around and seeing a mess makes me very flustered. I also found cleaning products that have scents that are soothing rather than over-stimulating.

(13) Be one with nature

HSPs appreciate the beauty of even the smallest things, and nature is no exception. Make sure to take time to go outside. Whether it is taking a walk or finding a spot among trees, find an outdoor area that calms your mind.

(14) Move your body

Yoga, Pilates, or any form of exercise is important to decompress and elevate your mood. Stretching is another great form of relaxation and will boost your spirits.

(15) Embrace your senses

Find out what smells bring comfort to you and incorporate them into your life. That can mean essential oils, scented candles, playing instrumental music, wearing soft fabrics, self-message, or taking baths.

(16) Be creative

HSPs are often creative, so take the time to explore your creative side. Whether it is drawing, painting, writing, etc.,  it’s important to express yourself. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself “good” at it, as long as it brings you contentment.

 

 

Being a highly sensitive person can be challenging. However, I have learned that my sensitivity is a strength. Caring and feeling deeply isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it is wonderful. However, HSPs need to be aware of how we are affected by our surroundings and make necessary accommodations to prioritize our mental health and self-care. Above all, we must be kind to ourselves and know how to comfort ourselves when we feel stressed. To all of the HSPs out there, I celebrate each and every one of you. The world is a kinder, more compassionate place because you are in it. 

favorite memories of my husband and daughter

This past week was a very special week for me. My husband and I celebrated 12 years of marriage on August 2nd, and my daughter’s 9th (!) birthday was on August 3rd. In honor of these events, I’d like to take a stroll down memory lane. These are a few of my favorite memories with my husband and daughter.

Favorite Memories with my Husband

Our first date, our engagement, and our wedding are definitely on the top of the list. However, I’ve already discussed those in length in a prior post, so I won’t list them again. Here are some other favorite memories that always put a smile on my face:

(1) The first time we exchanged “I love you”

We went to a club with some friends, and I took Matt’s advice to take a shot after having a Long Island Iced Tea. For those of you that don’t drink much, do NOT combine different types of alcohol. Also, a Long Island Iced Tea is very strong, especially for someone who up until then only drank a few sips of wine/fruity drinks socially. I remember dancing quite enthusiastically on the dance floor, and repeatedly saying, “I’m not drunk, I’m not drunk, I’m not drunk.” I remember everything that happened and didn’t vomit or get a hangover, so perhaps I wasn’t drunk? That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it, folks.

After being a dancing queen late into the night, we took a cab back to Matt’s apartment in Manhattan.

I was feeling very dizzy, so he carried me to the bed so I could get some sleep. After he gently placed me on the bed, I looked at him and said, “It’s okay, Matt. You don’t have to say it. I know that you love me.” Did I mention we were only dating for three weeks at this point? Liquid courage/a very limited filter is a powerful thing.

To my surprise, he seemed taken a back for only a few seconds and responded, “You’re right. I do love you.” Well, that made my highly tipsy/perhaps drunk self very happy. I told him I loved him as well, and I went to bed with a very big smile on my face.

Like everything else in our relationship, we had our own unique set of circumstances that prompted a faster than normal progression. I knew I was going to marry him after our first date, so isn’t it possible to know 21 days after meeting someone that you love them? I’d like to think that with love, anything is possible. It may not have been the most romantic way of exchanging those magical three words, but I wouldn’t change a thing. However, I never took drinking advice from him again. 😉

(2) Living in Manhattan

Some of my favorite memories with my husband took place while we were in Manhattan. Matt lived in a studio apartment on West 97th Street and Central Park West. It was a nice sized apartment given that it was a studio and its location. When I officially moved in, figuring out where to put my clothes resembled a game of Tetris. There were only two closets, one for coats and one for clothing. He had a dresser that I took over, but until this day, I have no idea how I even managed to get a shirt into his already cramped closet space. Where did we keep our towels? Where did I keep my shoes? Somehow, we made it work.

I actually loved the times I had with him in that apartment. It was small, but it was where we merged our lives together. The entire experience of living in Manhattan with him was wonderful. We had many picnics in Central Park, had an array of restaurant options in different neighborhoods, and the sweet doorman would greet me each time I entered. I remember making many a terrible meal as I tried to learn how to cook.  I had no cooking experience as I knew it was time for dinner growing up when the smoke alarms went off. No joke. I remember Matt putting a smile on his face and eating/choking down the food I prepared. Most of all, I remember feeling like I was home.

(3) The trips we took before we had Brielle

These are some of my favorite memories. It wasn’t about where we went; it was about going somewhere new and relaxing with my favorite person. We wore ridiculous hats in the Dominican Republic, we ran away from drug dealers in Jamaica (they were persistent!), and I gasped at chocolate fountains in San Francisco. We would sit on the balcony and hold hands in silence. No words were said, because everything that needed to be said was done so in those moments.

(4) Our apartment in Kings Highway

From 2008-2010 we lived in an apartment in Kings Highway (in Brooklyn). It had a flat roof with a staircase that led to it. We would often climb up the stairs and sit on the rooftop. One of my favorite memories with my husband was on July 4th. We went to the roof and sat there while watching the fireworks. For some reason nobody else ever ventured there, so it was very romantic and our own private viewing party.

(5) Our overnight getaways

Once we had Brielle, it was very difficult to have extended periods of time that were just the two of us. One of my favorite memories with my husband was the first time we went away for the night. We went to Manhattan where we ate at a beautiful restaurant and then went to a place that had AMAZING desserts. Afterwards, we walked around before heading back to the hotel. We have only gotten the night to ourselves two other times, and each time I missed Brielle, but enjoyed every second of our time together.

(6) Our day trip to Athens 

In September, we drove to Athens while my dad was visiting from NY. We had the whole day to ourselves. We went to the University of Georgia and walked around the campus. It was a beautiful day, and we explored the area. We took pictures, tried some local coffee (it was good!), and just enjoyed each other’s company.

I could give dozens of my favorite memories with my husband, but these are a mere glimpse of some of them. Although we don’t always see eye-to-eye, I still light up every time I have the chance to spend quality time with him. He still will put on music and ask me to slow dance, and he still looks down at me with the biggest smile (he’s 10 inches taller than me so there’s a lot of me looking up and him looking down).  I’m often sad on our anniversary knowing that our daughter is getting one year older the next day, but I appreciate and cherish all of the wonderful times we’ve shared together.

Some of my Favorite Memories with My Daughter

As a mom, all my memories with my daughter are bittersweet. They are reminders of things that touched my heart deeply, but also reminders of things that have passed. I can close my eyes and play them in my mind like it was yesterday. I have more favorite memories of my daughter than I can count. It has been a privilege watching my daughter grow into the amazing girl she is today, but each of these memories make me both smile and cry:

(1) Brielle’s first word

Brielle was nine months old, and I handed her to Matt so I could make dinner. I was cutting at the kitchen counter when Brielle leaned towards me, arms outstretched and said, “Mama!” I basically leaped through the air, grabbed her, and hugged her with all my might as tears streamed down my face. The look she gave me and the magic of her first word being my name is something that I will never, ever forget. Without a doubt, it is one of my favorite memories with my daughter.

memories with my daughter

(2) You missed it!

Determined to record the first time Brielle sat up, I followed Brielle around with a video camera basically attached to me.  I would hold out the video camera, ready to press the record button each time it looked like she was about to sit up.

One afternoon I lay Brielle down right next to me in the hallway. I had to take clothes out of the washing machine and put them into the drier (the washing machine and drier were in a hallway closet). I looked away for no more than thirty seconds. She was lying down when I reached into the washing machine. When I looked back at her she was sitting up at me with an innocent expression on her face. I couldn’t believe I missed this milestone the one time I wasn’t watching her. At the time I was so disappointed and frustrated, but now I find it funny (while still crying that she’s no longer a baby). In true Brielle fashion, she did things her own way in her own time.

(3) Brielle started twerking before it was a thing

She was about 18 months old and loved this song called, “The Ice Cream Song.” The first time I played it, she danced by sticking out her rear and moving it up and down. I thought it was hilarious and called them “tushie shakes.” This soon became her go-to way of dancing when she wasn’t shifting her weight from one foot to the other (my husband’s signature/only dance move). I have a video of my daughter dancing this way while visiting my in-laws.

(4) My daughter’s ten minutes of fame

Brielle took ballet lessons when she was three. I volunteered at the recital, waiting with her class and trying to keep them occupied until it was their turn. There was a very large audience, and it was her first time performing. When it was her group’s turn, I told Brielle that she may not see me sitting there, but I would be watching her and was super proud of her. She did a great job, as did all the other girls.

When it was over, the audience clapped loudly. Brielle smiled along with the other kids. However, when it was time for the kids to exit the stage, my daughter remained, still smiling, and still soaking up the applause. The audience began to laugh, which only encouraged her to continue to bow and smile. Matt and I had to rush to the stage and basically force her off of it. A star was born.

favorite memories with my husband

(5) Is she giving us the finger?

Brielle will shake off falling from her scooter or getting major scrapes when she is enjoying an activity, but a paper cut is a different story. When she was four years old she got a papercut while reading. It didn’t bleed, and I reassured her that she’d be fine. We had to go in the car, and I strapped her into her car seat. She continued to complain about her papercut, and held it up to demonstrate the injury. Did I mention the papercut was on her middle finger?

She held her finger up the entire car ride. I thought ignoring it might make her stop, but she’d only stick it in my face even more. She spent forty-five minutes flipping the bird. For some odd reason, her papercuts are often on her middle finger. Until this day, she will give me the finger when it happens. Perhaps it’s time to tell her what that means?

(6) It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Peeawaka

Brielle went through a phase where she was obsessed with Play-Doh. However, what she particularly loved was a girl on iPad who played with Play-Doh. I have always limited her screen time, but when she was allowed to watch, she was fascinated with “Peeawaka.” I have no idea if that was her actual name or if Brielle made it up. She would watch these videos and then sit down with her Play-Doh and want to “play Peeawaka.”

Brielle would reenact the entire video, word for word. She would take out the same Play-Doh set as the girl, get comfortable, and say, “Hey guys, it’s me Peeawaka and today we are going to play with…” I would often watch her with fascination as she would replicate every enunciation, every movement, every syllable of this girl’s video. She watched other videos prior and after, but this was the only one she reenacted. When she stopped watching Peeawaka, sadly her love for Play-Doh faded along with it. However, I will always remember her Peeawaka renditions, and I miss them greatly.

 

 

As a mom to a now 9-year-old daughter, I cannot fathom where the time went.

The saying that the days are long, but the years are short is so very true. I remember every laugh, every tear, every time her hand reached out for mine. I have 9 years of favorite memories with my daughter that all are etched into my mind and my soul. It was nearly impossible to narrow down my favorite memories with my daughter to six. I cannot turn back the hands of time, but I find comfort in knowing that these memories will always live on in my mind and in my heart.

 

 

challenges of parenting a child with adhd

Parenting is no easy task. As the parent of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), I have gone through my share of parenting challenges. Although there is always more to learn when parenting a child with ADHD,   I have learned many lessons along the way. This post discusses strategies and tips to help children with ADHD. I hope you find these suggestions useful in your parenting journey:

parenting tips for children with adhd

 

(1) Be open and honest with your child about their struggles so there is no shame associated with it.

Children need compassion, empathy, and support.  In order to ensure that, open lines of communication are crucial. My daughter, Brielle, is aware  of her challenges, which include focusing and  impulsivity. However, she understands that who she is as a person is what defines her. While struggles are important to address, it is just as important to emphasize your child’s strengths and skills.

(2) Limit screen time

I understand we all need a break. There are times that we put our kids on the iPad or TV so we don’t lose our minds. However, kids tend to be so enthralled with the stimulation from the screen that it often becomes a huge battle to take it away from them . Children with ADHD become hyper-focused on what fascinates them, and the transition from screen time to no screen time is incredibly hard for them (additutemag.com, 2021 ) . My daughter acts possessed after I take away the iPad. On the weekends, I allow her to pick between the iPad or TV for thirty minutes each time. I set a timer on her iPad that goes off in thirty minutes. I then give her ten-minute and five-minute reminders.

(3) Discuss strategies in advance that your child can use for emotional regulation  

I created a “calming corner” for my daughter that is comprised of a bean bag chair, a weighted blanker, squeeze ball and some books. Make a chart of different options/tools your child can use, and place it in various locations throughout the house that are easily accessible. Encourage your child to use the tools when needed.

(4) Stay calm

I know how hard that is, believe me! However, if we want our children with ADHD to learn strategies to emotionally regulate themselves, we have to model how we emotionally regulate ourselves. Teach your child to identify their emotions by labeling your emotions. Let your child know that you need to use one of your calming tools, such as taking a time out or doing some deep breathing.

(5) Advocate for your child

As I discussed in 6 strategies and tips for parenting a special needs child , it is important that you are on the same page as your child’s teacher and school.  Make sure that your child has a 504 plan or an IEP (individualized education program).Strategies need to be implemented in the school as well as the home to set your child up for success. It is also necessary to communicate with your child’s teacher on a regular basis.

(6) Educate yourself about ADHD

Join support groups. Read literature about ADHD. Speak to your child’s pediatrician, psychologist, and any other related professionals. Knowledge is power, and knowledge will allow you to make informed decisions about what is best for your child. Have an open mind, and be willing to explore different options. If medication is suggested, find out about all possible side effects and be in constant communication with the psychiatrist. There is no shame in your child needing medication, but make sure you are well-informed before choosing any option.

(7)Make sure your child has a comprehensive evaluation so you are in the best position to help your child.

ADHD can accompany other issues such as executive functioning delays, processing issues, anxiety , or autism. A complete evaluation will give you pertinent information to better support your child. 

(8) There is no one-size-fits-all solution

Be humble enough to seek help and gather information from others, but also trust your own intuition. Nobody knows your child better than you.

(9) Take time for yourself

We love our children so much that we often take our own well-being for granted. You are in a better position to support your child when you aren’t pouring from an empty cup. In order to properly care for your child, you need to love and  care  for yourself. Make sure to implement a self-care routine daily. 

(10) Mistakes are inevitable

Parenting is a challenge with any child, and children with ADHD require extra support. There will be times where you will say or do the wrong thing. Own up to your mistakes. Set a good example that flaws are part of life, but we can learn and grow from them.

challenges of parenting a child with adhd

the biggest takeaway of parenting a special needs child

As parents, we have a responsibility to support our children, advocate for them, and love them for who they are, not the labels they have. Teach your children to accept themselves and to love all parts of themselves.

Be your child’s biggest cheerleader and fan. Try to instill in them that although some things are challenging for them, they are capable and wonderful just as they are. Parenting a child with ADHD is challenging. As in all aspects of life, some days will be easier, and some days will be incredibly challenging. The journey of parenting is a bumpy road, but I feel blessed to be along for the ride with my daughter.

the 4 fs of fear and stress

Fear and stress are emotions that shape our perception of the world. Whether we grew up often feeling afraid or felt only the occasional nervousness, we can all vividly recount a time in our childhood where we were truly frightened. Throughout our childhood, the circumstances that caused us to feel fear or stress resulted in responses to that exposure. Even if you didn’t grow up abused, each of us encountered situations that impacted our way of reacting. We learned to protect ourselves through our responses to those traumas (big or small). There are 4 fear and stress-based responses, known as the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress. These responses shape your reactions in adulthood.

What are the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress?

These responses are evolutionary and primitive, allowing both animals and humans to survive danger and keep us safe. Any of the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress can be used depending on the situation/threat. A person may also use more than one in a given situation:

Fight

This type of response can be physical fighting as well as using your voice to protect yourself. Examples include attacking, yelling, or attempting to frighten the source of danger. This response can also be seen when trying to control another person or arguing and/or defending yourself.

Flight

This can mean physically leaving a situation that causes fear, or it can be done by mentally checking out. Tuning out stressful situations, changing the subject, or avoiding things that cause fear or stress are other examples. It may also be shown by not getting emotionally close to others or constantly move from place to place. Any attempt to run away in an attempt to protect oneself is an example of flight. (pete-walker.com, 2018)

the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress

Freeze

Freezing may be literal in that we physically stop moving when we feel threatened. It can also be shown by an inability to speak or continue doing an activity. This can include disconnecting from your pain, prolonged sleep or daydreaming, and/or zoning out in front of the TV. This response can also cause isolation from others.

Fawn

This type of response is seeking safety from the person who is making them feel threatened. This can be seen by someone who has little or no boundaries, goes out of their way to please others, and is overly accommodating. Attempts are made to avoid conflict with the perceived threat. This type of response is often a learned response due to a caregiver who is toxic or abusive. The child learns that some form of safety is achieved by accommodating and pleasing that person (betterhelp.com, 2021).

what happens to your body during an involuntary stress response?

When you perceive a situation as stressful or fearful, the physiological stress response begins in the part of the brain that is responsible for perceiving fear, known as the amygdala. The amygdala interprets images and sounds around you, and when it gets triggered, it sends a signal to the hypothalamus, which then stimulates the autonomic nervous system (ANS).

The ANS is comprised of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system controls the fight or flight response, and the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the freeze and fawn response. The parasympathetic nervous system also triggers the response that enables your body to go back to its normal state after the danger has passed ( health.harvard.edu, 2019).

When your ANS is stimulated, your adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol. These two hormones are immediately released, and they may affect your heart rate, breathing, vision, hearing, blood thickening, skin temperature, and/or lowering your feeling of pain. This is done to protect you from the oncoming threat. The specific physiological reaction depends on how you respond to stress, which varies. It is also possible to shift between F responses during the same situation. These reactions are something that happen instantaneously and often without our awareness.

These physiological reactions are triggered by a psychological fear.

These psychological fears or stresses are conditioned from your childhood, and they were triggered when you were first exposed to something that you perceived as stressful and/or fearful. These triggers will vary from person to person.  Your response may be due to a similar situation or something that is associated with a negative experience from your past. When faced with these perceived threats, your brain thinks you are danger (health.harvard.edu, 2019).

The 4 Fs of Fear and Stress are responses meant to protect you. Many people will use each of them at some point based on which is most appropriate to the situation. However, some depend on only one or two of the 4 Fs of fear due to chronic anxiety and/or repeated trauma (pete-walker.com, 2018).  As a result, the autonomic nervous system gets dysregulated. Even when the danger is gone, the person often gets stuck in survival mode and is quick to use their go-to fear and stress response(s). These responses become overused, and the brain gets conditioned to respond to situations that are not threatening.

Are The 4 Fs of Fear and Stress Something We Can Control and Get Rid Of?

The 4 Fs of Fear and Stress happen faster than our conscious thoughts. It is an automatic and physiological reaction. However, it is a learned reaction, meaning that we can gain insight into the types of responses we have, how they affect our body, and whether or not those reactions are truly needed depending on the circumstances.

We can recognize that although these responses helped us in our past, they are not serving us now. We can learn ways to cope with an overactive fear and stress response. As a result, the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress can be used when they are necessary, as opposed to constantly.

How can we overcome the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress Response if it is being overused?

(1) Seek professional help

A mental health professional can help you to deal with your past trauma(s) and anxiety. They can work with you to manage your overuse of the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress.

(2) Breathing exercises

Learning how to regulate your breathing can be helpful because your breathing gets altered when you are experiencing the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress. Some breathing exercises to regulate your breathing are:

  • Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly.
  • Belly breathing- instead of breathing from your chest, let your belly rise when you inhale and lower when you exhale
  • progressive relaxation exercises- this is one of my favorites and I’ve discussed it in several of my posts. Working your way from one end of your body to the to the other, inhale while contracting/tensing the body part, hold the contraction and your breath, then exhale and let the body part relax.

(3) Exercise

This is a simple and effective way to calm the nervous system. It lowers the energy created in the body and it is a simple and quick thing to do when your heart rate goes up. Even a few minutes of jumping or running in place will get your heart rate up and help you! It also releases endorphins, which make you feel happier. An added bonus is that incorporating exercise into your routine is good for your physical well-being.

(4) Get curious about what you are experiencing

Once you have learned to calm your body down using the skills above, you can start practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a technique where we observe (as opposed to judging) how we feel and where we feel it in our body. It allows us to focus on the present. Mindfulness is helpful because you learn how your body experiences the 4Fs of Fear and Stress, as well as the accompanying emotions and thoughts. Your body automatically reacts, but when you recognize the physiological reactions that take place, it is easier to take a step back. With practice, you can notice the thoughts and emotions that occur with it and decide what to do (such as recognizing how you are feeling, but letting it go), as opposed to acting on auto-pilot.

We do not have to believe and act on every thought we have.

Learning to notice your automatic physiological response and not act on it is not an easy thing to do. It takes a lot of practice as well as understanding that change will not happen overnight (drsoph.com, 2020).

A great mindfulness exercise is known as RAIN. It comes from Judson Brewer, a psychologist who specializes in anxiety (westmichiganwoman.com, 2020):

  • Recognize/Relax- recognize what you are experiencing in your body and any thoughts or feelings
  • Accept/Allow- Hold space for what you are experiencing instead of running away from it or judging yourself for it
  • Investigate: Go deeper and explore those experiences- where am I feeling this in my body, what other thoughts am I having
  • Note/Not Attach- Understand that you are having these feelings and experiences, but they do not define you. Thoughts and feelings will come and go.

(5) Remind yourself that you are safe

When you are better equipped at recognizing how your body feels in response to the 4Fs of Fear and Stress, you can remind yourself that even though you don’t feel safe, you actually are not in any real danger.

(6) Practice these techniques when you are not feeling triggered

Incorporate these strategies into your daily routine so that you are comfortable with them. This, in turn, will allow you to better recognize your physiological reactions when you feel triggered.

(7) Grounding techniques

There are many that I discussed here, but a common one is the 5,4,3,2,1, which uses all of your senses to help you focus on the present moment. For example, you can notice 5 things you see, then 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can hear, and 1 thing you can taste. Focus on your surroundings intensely so you can pick up on sensations you may not normally realize.

(8) Social Support

It is important to have healthy social relationships. This will help you to feel more supported and secure, which makes you feel less triggered.

(9) Strategies for the overuse of each specific F of Fear Response (pete-walker.com, 2018)

Note– For any of the F responses, the above strategies, therapy, and a growth mindset are integral in managing their overuse. Below is what you can do additionally based on the overuse of one of the F responses: 

Fight– educate yourself on how this type of F response can be harmful rather than helpful (through self-help and/or professional help). If your body is constantly in fight mode, it can result in controlling behavior and frequently being defensive and angry. Try finding a healthier outlet for those tendencies such as supporting causes and defending people who you care about. Pay attention to your physiological responses and start working on taking a break when you feel the fight response.

Flight– if this is your specific F response, you are often a workaholic and/or always on the go. Perfectionism is common, as well as anxiety and over-planning. Meditation is helpful to learn how to stay in the moment.  Working on how to gradually shorten the amount of time you flee is also helpful. 

Freeze– this is the most difficult F response to treat because this type is typically reluctant to seek professional help. Additionally, they are often in denial about their tendency to disassociate. It may be helpful to use timers and calendars as reminders to get things done (oomm.live, 2019).  

Fawnboundaries are especially helpful for this type of response. It’s also necessary to start recognizing and prioritizing your own emotions and thoughts (mindbodygreen.com, 2020). Therapy is also beneficial in helping such an individual develop a sense of self and practice assertiveness.

Takeaway about the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress

These responses are our brain’s way of protecting us from fear, danger, and stress, which are controlled by our autonomic nervous system. They are automatic, often appearing before any conscious choice becomes involved. They are meant to keep us safe, and each one has its place and purpose. Even if you are stuck in a dominant or hybrid type, the most important thing is to give yourself compassion and love as you gain a deeper awareness of the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress.

 

cycle of codependency

Codependency is a huge buzzword nowadays. Everywhere you turn there are people preaching about how to break the cycle of codependency.

I agree that codependency isn’t healthy. That said, it is so easy to fall into that cycle, and it is difficult to overcome.

For many, codependency was normal for us growing up. If you had a parent that you took care of (as opposed to the other way around), you learned that your happiness and safety were dependent on the other person’s happiness. There were no boundaries, and your feelings were ignored or minimized. You were made to feel guilty for trying to prioritize your well-being. Furthermore, you learned that your well-being and sense of self were completely contingent on the well-being of someone else. When that person was happy, you felt loved and needed. By default, if the adult was upset or unavailable (emotionally or physically) to you, you felt worthless and unloved.

caught in a cycle of codependency

cycle of codependency

I grew up having the belief system that it was my job to make my mother happy. I listened to her marital and life problems, tried to cheer her up, and felt good about myself when I felt she needed me. When she had nothing to do with me, I felt like a complete failure as a daughter and as a person. I tried to do everything possible to get her love and approval. As a result, I made myself completely available to her. I was so available that I spent two hours of my honeymoon trying to calm her down due to her recent breakup. Her feelings were always prioritized over mine, and I felt it was my job to make sure she was okay.

She relied on me to comfort her and be there for her, and I relied on her positive opinion of me to feel valued and loved. We were the definition of codependency.

Based on a belief system that was engrained into many of us, we believe as adults that our partner’s well-being and happiness is our responsibility. After all, that is all we know and were taught from a young age. As a result, it was only natural that my cycle of codependency with my mother translated into a codependent relationship with my spouse.

MY SPOUSE AND I WERE MUTUALLY DEPENDENT ON ONE ANOTHER

 

When my husband started heavily drinking and then taking pills, I felt like it was my job to make him sober. I believed that it was up to me to figure out how to make him stop. When my efforts failed, I felt like a complete failure. Taking care of my husband and making him get clean was my responsibility. I believed I was a terrible wife unless he stopped using.

My value as a person was completely defined by the well-being of those I loved. I thought it was my role as a wife and mother to completely devote myself and my happiness to them. This way of thinking made it so that other people were responsible for my own feelings of security and safety. This helped to perpetuate my cycle of codependency in my relationships. When the roller coaster of my husband’s addiction took me for a ride, my feelings of self-worth plummeted or soared with it. It became my obsession to save my husband.

At a certain point I reached my own rock bottom. I saw how vicious the emotional cycle was of trying to make him better/save him. I realized that focusing all my efforts on him was a distraction so that I didn’t have to heal my own wounds and trauma. If I was focusing on someone/something that was out of my control, I didn’t have to fix what I had control over- myself.

how to break the cycle of codependency

I finally realized that my happiness was my responsibility, and I learned a lot about the codependency cycle. It was both terrifying and empowering to know that my happiness was my job, just as others are responsible for their own well-being and happiness. The book Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie was extremely helpful and enlightening. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it on your path to ending codependency.

It was up to my husband to get clean, and I couldn’t make him do that. I could support him and love him, but I could not fix him. Accepting that and focusing on myself was how I would break the cycle of codependency.  

I also established clear boundaries with my daughter. I’ve instilled in her that her job is to learn from her mistakes and take responsibility for her actions. I do not want her to feel responsible for others. My daughter knows that the decisions my husband and I make are our responsibility. It is our job to take care of our child, not the other way around.

Another thing I reinforced is that it is imperative and healthy to feel and share your feelings with those you love and trust.

I remind her that I can offer support or advice, but I cannot make her feel better. I don’t discuss my adult problems with her, but I am open about my feelings and model tools that I use to feel better. 

When my daughter tries to get involved and tell me and my husband what to do, I remind her that she has control over her actions and not others. I explain that she should focus on being the best version of herself, as it is also each of our individual responsibility to do so.

being interdependent instead of codependent

interdependent instead of codependent What I now strive for is interdependency. It is empowering to not allow others to make me feel whole and valued. I can be vulnerable and supportive with my husband, but ultimately, I control and am responsible for how I feel. My relationships are still valued, but I also value myself separately from my role as a wife and a mother.

The biggest hurdle for me was giving myself the space I needed to feel whatever I was feeling. I felt that I had to justify my feelings to my husband in order for my feelings to be valid. It is a work-in-progress to accept that my feelings are valid regardless of what he or anyone else thinks.

It took a lot of trial and error for me to apply my interdependence into all aspects of my marriage. Breaking the codependency cycle means reminding myself everyday to focus on myself and to give myself the love and care that I craved so desperately from others.

self-growth and mutual support is the key to happiness

I learned the importance of each of us being responsible for our own growth, while supporting and encouraging each other. Sure, there are things that I wish my husband would do differently. It is not my job to change him or to fix him. He is not a project or a little boy. He deserves to be treated as a man who can make his own choices. I have set clear boundaries of what I cannot except. My husband is aware of my boundaries. My choices are to accept and love him as he is or walk away if any issue is a deal breaker.

I am the happiest I have been in a long time because I am now the source of my well-being. I am not a princess waiting to be rescued, nor am I a martyr trying to save everyone to the detriment of myself. Instead, I am focused on working on myself, and looking inward for love and compassion. That, in turn, allows me to be the best wife, mother, and person I can be.

struggling with an eating disorder

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words shall never harm me…” but they do. They sting and linger. The harshest ones repeating over and over in our minds until they make us, define us.  This guest post was written by my sister, Kari, about her struggle with an eating disorder:

I was the girl teased for what I had always tried to cover – a birthmark on my nose and forehead. I was different, I was ugly, I was flawed. If someone loved me, then maybe I could learn to love myself. Any time a guy showed interest in me, I was blind to everything other than his acceptance. Everything he did was okay, nothing was a deal breaker, nothing was worth not having his love.

I married young. I had just turned 22, more than a year since my parents divorced. My sister and I watched them fight our entire lives. The dissolution of their marriage hit me harder than I expected. When it happened, I felt broken. Alone. I wanted a family, stability, happiness.

my struggle with an eating disorder

For my 21st birthday, I let my boyfriend of almost 2 years know my desire to wed. He was almost 7 years older than me, and when we met, I was in awe of him and the various things he had experienced in his life. It didn’t matter to me that he would go out every night after work to bars when I was underage and couldn’t go. It didn’t matter to me that he chose video games instead of me. He liked me, loved me, found me adorable – his 6’ frame towering over my 5’ one. I used my size to my advantage, just as I had watched my 4’11” 90lb mother do to my father.

There were several warning signs prior to the wedding, and I ignored them all. “You found someone who loves you, no marriage is perfect,” I would tell myself. As I walked down the aisle, I felt beautiful, an unfamiliar and foreign feeling. “This is my happily ever after,” I thought, secure with the decision to marry him.

That night we returned to our apartment to pack for our honeymoon the next day. I expected him to sweep me off my feet, carry me to our bed, to want and desire me. After he placed the luggage by the door, he walked to his computer and turned it on, settling into his gaming chair.

I no longer felt beautiful. I was insignificant, discarded, lonely.

Loneliness was part of this new chapter of my life. I couldn’t go back and undo my marriage. Our lives and families were now intertwined. I felt trapped, desolate, miserable. I didn’t understand why he didn’t want to be home with me. The same man who had captivated me was slowly destroying me, yet I had no idea how to tell him.

During this time, my sister was planning her wedding. We had gone to look at dresses for her and the bridesmaids. When we were measured, I learned I was a size bigger than her. I’ll never know what caused it, but suddenly, I needed to be smaller. Maybe it was because I saw how much my soon-to-be brother in law loved my sister. Maybe it was because I equated being small and cute with being loved.

Perhaps I was looking for anything to overshadow my loneliness.

That night I weighed myself. I was 109 pounds. More than 10 pounds heavier than my sister. So I researched how to lose weight and decided to restrict my calories. I began to write down everything I ate, cutting out 100 calories at first, then 200, 500. I began to look forward to the time alone, not having to worry about eating with my husband. Each night I’d go to bed hungry but satisfied, finding happiness in making my caloric goal.

counting calories

I’d get lost in plans for the day’s meals. All day I’d revise the planned meals, finding substitutions and saving calories. It consumed me. I didn’t have time to feel sorry for myself and my marriage. Every morning I’d get on the scale and weigh myself, shocked by how quickly the pounds were dropping. The more I’d lose, the more I wanted to lose.

My friends and coworkers started noticing the sudden weight loss.

I welcomed the attention, but isolated myself more, making excuses for not wanting to see anyone. I waited for my husband to notice. He didn’t. I restricted more and more until I was eating no more than 500 calories a day. Never a fan of exercise, I’d walk to work and home again- an hour walk each way, making detours to lengthen the trip and burn additional calories.

I had dropped almost 20 pounds before my husband finally said something. My clothes no longer fit, my hair fell out and thinned. I was weak and tired all the time; however, I finally had his attention. He commented on how little I was. He said I needed to put meat on my bones again, but it wasn’t enough for me. I couldn’t gain weight now. Since I lost weight so quickly from barely eating, I thought I’d gain it all back just as quickly.

I was irrational, I was obsessed, I was taking control of my life by controlling every morsel I ate. I was struggling with an eating disorder.

Anorexia consumed my life. I never hated myself more. I refused to look in mirrors because I knew my clothes hung from my gaunt limbs. My male coworkers began to tease me, perhaps thinking it was all in jest about my appearance. All the things said to me in my youth were repeating themselves. Flawed, ugly, different.

I needed to eat. I couldn’t. It was a vicious cycle. My mother intervened, furious at my husband for standing by while I withered away. I felt like I was a burden to him and my mother. I stopped seeing my family. All day I wouldn’t eat so when he was home I’d eat, pretending I was getting better by snacking on a sugar free popsicle, knowing he would never check that it was only 15 calories.

Somehow I found the strength to look at myself, disgusted by the absence of my once slender, but curvy frame. Something inside of me surrendered, and I wanted to be me again. I got dressed and went to get pizza, something I had avoided for months. I ate 3 slices. and I felt good. The worst was behind me. Or so I thought.

Addiction isn’t something we control.

I controlled what I ate until the addiction took over and I was anorexic. There was nothing else to me, no traits, no personality.

everyone deserves love

Like any addiction, this will always be a part of me. I may be able to eat now, but I still know the nutrition facts to every food I eat. There is not one moment where I don’t reconsider eating or try to find a way out of eating at a restaurant. It took a few more years and struggling with another eating disorder, but I have finally found my true happily ever after.

My name is Kari. I am different. I am flawed. No, I am not ugly. I deserve love. I am loved….and if someone ever tries to make me feel different, well, as they say, “sticks and stones will break some bones…”
how i met my husband

This upcoming August, my husband and I will celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary.  We have been together for almost 14 years. I’ve shared many personal posts before, but this one is different. I’d like to tell you a love story about how I met my husband…..

I had to kiss a lot of frogs before I MET MY HUSBAND 

I was single for about two years prior to meeting Matt and using a Jewish dating service called Jdate to meet men. In my master’s degree program, there were only women. I went on online dates, LOTS of them. I basically dated everyone in the tri-state area. Sometimes I went on one or two dates with some of the men before deciding we weren’t a good match, and others I dated for about a month. None of them amounted to anything substantial. After I reached my quota of bad dates, I would go off Jdate for months at a time.

I was once again contemplating going off Jdate when a man sent me a message. His profile picture was in poor lighting, and he was wearing a multicolored striped shirt with a very loud tie. I had dated online long enough to know that if a guy is hiding in his picture, it’s never a good sign. On top of that, he kept bragging about how wonderful he was and how he was waiting for the perfect woman. Bad profile picture + arrogant= loud warning bells.

I had a rule that I would only meet men on my turf (Brooklyn) for the first date. I once had a guy drive for two hours to meet me. This guy told me he worked in Manhattan, and if I wanted to meet, I’d have to travel to him.

I don’t know how this conversation turned into me consenting to take the bus and train to Manhattan to meet him. It is one of the great mysteries in my life. Was it divine intervention or did I have temporary insanity? One will never know for sure.

my love story: how i met my husband

All I know is that on October 25, 2007 at approximately 6pm, I stood in front of an H&M waiting to meet this guy. I remember cursing myself out in my head for agreeing to this until I saw a man walking towards me smiling. With that one look, my love story began.

The best way to explain it is that I felt like time stopped at that moment. It was a feeling I had never experienced. I think I stopped breathing as I looked at this guy and knew instantly that my life was about to change forever.

He gave me a hug, and we went to a restaurant to eat. The food was terrible, but the conversation more than made up for it. He was extremely attractive, but more importantly, he was smart, funny, witty, and down to earth; nothing like how he came across in his messages.

i knew i WOULD MARRY HIM

I excused myself, and I joked with him that if I didn’t come back in ten minutes, that I had probably climbed out the bathroom window. Then I walked to the bathroom, took out my phone, and told my mom that I had met my husband. I was going to marry this man I had just met named Matthew.

He suggested that we go bowling, but the bowling alley was only taking reservations. We decided to go to Central Park instead, and we walked over to the Belvedere Castle. It was where we had our first kiss. Afterwards we sat on a park bench and talked for hours.

It was getting late, so he hailed me a cab. He told me to text him when I got home to ensure I arrived safely. I was in a haze the entire ride home.

We were pretty much inseparable after our first date, and it was only three weeks later that he told me he loved me.  As silly as it might seem, I felt that way too. 

OUR FIRST VACATION WAS FILLED WITH MONO

Within a few months we planned a weekend getaway upstate.  The evening that we arrived at the hotel, Matt started feeling unwell. By the next morning he had a high fever, and we immediately returned home. Bloodwork was drawn, and the tests revealed that he had mono.  We were told that adults who get mono can get very severe symptoms, and Matt proved to be no exception.

The poor guy was so weak that he could barely move.  He was unable to work and had to go on short term disability. Subsequent symptoms included a severe case of strep throat, fatigue, and nausea. I remember one day when we had to rush him to the emergency room because he broke out in hives all over his legs. They informed him it that he had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics he was taking.

When we got back to his apartment, I put calamine lotion on his legs to help with the itchiness. He then stood up and asked me to dance. He put on David Gray’s “This Year’s “Love”, which became our song. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, we were together, so we were happy.

Although I technically lived in Brooklyn, I was constantly taking the train back to Manhattan to take care of Matt. He couldn’t take care of himself and lived alone, and so I became his caregiver. I cooked, cleaned, and tried to make him as comfortable as possible. I did all this while going to graduate school in Brooklyn, and I hadn’t known him for very long, but there was never an option in my head to not be there for him.

After a month of taking care of him (and only a few months into our relationship), we decided that it made sense for me to officially live with him since I was there all the time anyway. I think it was the first time that mono resulted in speeding up a relationship.

fate brought us together and love has kept us together

After a year of dating, Matt took me to our favorite Italian restaurant and ordered some wine. I am not a big drinker, so I was tipsy by the second glass. It was a beautiful night, so I suggested going to Central Park which was nearby. He then took me to the spot at the castle where we had our first kiss. He took out his iPod, played our song, and asked me to dance. Suddenly, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. It was magical. It was so magical that we almost forgot that I spent the entire walk there talking about the high divorce rate. I don’t know how that topic even came up, and I blame it all on the alcohol.

We were married on August 2, 2012. We had planned an outdoor wedding, but to my horror the skies opened up that morning and didn’t stop. Although the wedding didn’t go as I planned, the sun did come out during the reception, and we were able to go outside. Despite the anger I felt about the rain, our wedding was magical.  I wouldn’t change a thing about our love story.

Our wedding was very symbolic of marriage. Whatever your dreams of marriage might be, life will inevitably get in the way. I learned that although our love story is beautiful, what makes our love memorable is that we navigate life’s roadblocks together

It still amazes me that somehow, against all odds, a guy I never would have met under any normal circumstances became the man I now call my husband.  That’s the beauty of life. It may throw curveballs (as well as mono and rainstorms) at you, but sometimes it also throws you a home run.

things you should not hide from your kids

We hide things from our kids. Each and every one of us does this. We do this for a variety of reasons, and our intentions are usually good. We want to protect our kids, we may feel certain topics are inappropriate, or we ourselves are doing something that contradicts what we tell our kids. Despite our hearts being in the right place, the very things we hide from our kids are sometimes what would help them navigate through life. For each of these suggestions, it is important to be mindful of the age, language, and the extent of information we share with our kids. There is a line between exposing our kids to the realities of the world and putting adult problems on their shoulders. With that in mind, these are the 14 surprising things you should not hide from your kids:

(1) Making mistakes

Oops, I’ve done it again. I said a bad word, forgot to call my friend back, misspelled a word in a professional email, or a myriad of a million other things. As tempting as it may be to gloss over it and go about your business, showing your children that you aren’t wonder woman (or superman) is actually a good thing.

You are going to mess up. All of the time. You are going to make mistakes repeatedly throughout life, and so will your kids. Despite our best intentions, we are never going to get everything right. What we can do, however, is show our kids that making mistakes is natural, inevitable, and okay.

The next time you make a mistake, you should not hide it from your kids. Let your kids know that you did your best, but that mistakes will still happen. Show them that being disappointed or frustrated is totally okay, but that nobody is perfect. This shows your kids how to handle their own mistakes.

There are also mistakes we’ve made in the past. Don’t be afraid to share the lessons you had to learn the hard way. Perhaps they won’t make the same choices if they are given the opportunity to learn from the error of your ways.

(2) Healthy conflict

I want you to have a disagreement in front of your kids. Yes, you read that correctly. I know many of us go to great lengths to curtail our conflicts with others. I’m certainly not suggesting you have heated arguments or conversations that are of adult topics while your kids watch. However, showing your kids how to respectfully manage a difference of opinion with your spouse, friend, family member, etc. is actually to their benefit.

If you never expose your kids to any disagreements, then how are they going to have the tools to manage conflict when they are older? Additionally, how will they know if conflict is healthy or unhealthy unless we model for them the proper way to resolve differences?

Show your kids how to listen to another person and work together to compromise. Model empathy, validation, and compassion. Set an example for how you should be treated by others, and how you should treat others. It is a lesson that they will take with them for the rest of their lives.

(3) Resolving problems

If your kids have witnessed a more intense conversation, what should you do? Many times we will stop in the middle of the argument and take it elsewhere, or put a pin in it and finish after kids are asleep. The problem is that once that bell is rang, it cannot be unrung. Your kids have seen and heard something that they will not forget. We cannot turn back the hands of time, but we can do our best to make it a teachable experience. Do not hide resolution from your kids.

Although I am NOT advocating your kids witnessing explosive tempers, if your kids do witness a heated conversation, let them see how you resolve it. That means expressing your feelings in a respectful way, apologizing, and kind words, hugs and/or expressions of love.

There will be times in life when we don’t calmly express our discontentment with another person. Our children need to know the importance of taking ownership of our actions, asking forgiveness, and working to repair our relationships.

(4) Apologizing when you are wrong

I grew up with a mom who felt that because she was my mother, she did not have to apologize. She feels that kids should always apologize, but parents should not. I think that is a load of crap, to put it bluntly.

Apologies are something that anyone of any age should express. It is an acknowledgment of wrongdoing, intentional or otherwise. Let your kids see you apologize to those you have wronged, whether it is a neighbor, a friend, etc. Apologize to your kids if you have done something wrong to them.  This models for your kids the importance of taking responsibility for your actions, and teaches them to admit when they are wrong.

(5) Managing finances

Again, this is something many of us do in private. We discuss our finances away from our kids in an effort to protect them, and/or because we feel it isn’t their business. While I do agree that your kids do not need to know all aspects of your finances, managing finances is something you should not hide from your kids.

Let your kids see how you create with a budget. Teach them about the importance of paying your bills on time. Discuss with them what a credit card is, and how it shouldn’t be used to buy more than you can afford. Explain what interest is and how it works. Navigate them through the importance of savings and setting aside money for the future. How do we expect our kids to navigate bills, loans, etc. if they are not given the knowledge to do so? As long as you tailor it to the age and level of the child, finances can and should be discussed.

(6) When you are emotionally struggling

I’ve discussed this in numerous posts, and I keep mentioning this for a reason. I’ve witnessed so many parents who feel they need to hide their feelings of sadness, anger, grief, or any other negative emotion from their kids. They put on a happy face, and act as if they are fine no matter what the circumstances.

I know you mean well and are trying to protect your kids. You don’t want them to worry about you. However, it is okay to not be okay. It is imperative that your kids see that life is not a bed of roses. If you do not show your kids that life is full of disappointment and an array of positive and negative emotions, then they will not be equipped to handle their own difficult emotions.

The next time you are struggling, teach your kids the importance of acknowledging your feelings. Label your emotion, show them that it is necessary to accept how you are feeling without judgment, and then model how you cope with your feelings (for example, doing yoga, taking a few minutes to yourself, writing in your journal).

I’m not suggesting you share your life’s problems with your child. However, letting your child know that you are feeling anxious about an upcoming meeting and need a few minutes to do some deep breathing helps your child learn that feelings are nothing to run away from.

(7) Prioritizing yourself

I want you to make your happiness and needs a non-negotiable. That doesn’t mean ignoring their well-being or not parenting them. However, I want your kids to see that you  take time for yourself  and your well-being.

Implement a self-care routine daily. Take time to do something that brings you joy, whether it is reading a book, taking a hot bath, or lying on the couch and doing absolutely nothing. Make sure your kids are somewhere safe and then focus on you.

Part of prioritizing yourself is setting boundaries. Do not hide from your kids that you say no to something that isn’t in your best interest. Teach your kids to never apologize for setting boundaries and expressing your needs to others.

Demonstrating the importance of prioritizing yourself shows your children that their well-being is their responsibility. It also teaches them that their own self-care should be prioritized as well. We cannot be the best versions of ourselves if we neglect ourselves on behalf of everyone around us. That only causes burnout, emotional, physical, and psychological duress, and resentment. Openly take care of yourself and encourage your children to do the same.

(8) Asking for help

Many of us see asking for help as a sign of weakness. Our society promotes a mentality of us being able to do it all, no matter the cost to our well-being. On the contrary, I believe asking for help is a sign of great strength. It is being vulnerable and humbling ourselves to the reality that we all need others. Asking for help is something you should not hide from your kids, whether it means getting professional help or asking your spouse to help out more. Encourage your kids to be honest about their struggles, feelings, and needs. Teach them to reach out and ask for help if they need it. We want our kids to try their best, but we also don’t want them to feel they are failures if they need assistance from others, whether that means getting tutoring or coming to you with their emotional struggles.

(9) Seeing us fail

Just as mistakes are par for the course, so is failure. We are not going to succeed at everything, no matter how hard we may try. Teaching our kids how to deal with failure is necessary for the hurdles they will face in life. If we hide our failures from our kids, then they will not be prepared for the failures they will inevitably face. Let your kids know when you have failed, and be honest about how it makes you feel. Let them know that all we can do is try our best, and that the rest is out of our hands. It is important for our kids to know that we cannot have success unless we also have failure.

things you should not hide from your kids

(10) Resilience

Just as it is important to not hide failure from our kids, it is also important to show our kids the importance of resilience. Life will knock us down innumerable times, and we must keep getting back up again.

I wrote a children’s book, and I have been querying agents for awhile now. I have gotten rejection letter after rejection letter. My daughter asked me why I keep trying, and my response is that I will keep querying until I get an agent. I may never get an agent, but I can keep giving it my all. I want my daughter to know that she should always believe in herself, and that she needs to keep fighting no matter what life throws her way.  

(11) Eating junk food

I am a huge junk food lover. In the early years of my daughter’s life, I would wait until she was asleep to eat my chocolate. However, I realized that there is no need to hide this from her. Instead, I want to teach her the importance of eating in moderation. She can absolutely have sweets, just as I do. She also sees me eating healthy foods and exercising. I want her to have a healthy relationship with food; therefore, I model healthy eating habits and show her that eating junk food in moderation is perfectly okay.

(12) Puberty and sex

My daughter is 8, and I have been very open with her about what is is like when I get my period. She understands that changes will happen to her body in a few years.

If children ask questions, answer them honestly. Give more or less detail depending on the age and development of the child. For example, you can explain that adults use a razor to get rid of hair on their legs, face, underarms, etc. The important thing is to encourage your children to come to you with any questions they have. 

As your child gets older, explain puberty and sex. Let them know how their bodies will change and how it will feel. Discuss the importance of not being afraid to say no, birth control, and that they can come to you with any questions. It is necessary to discuss sex so that they understand the responsibilities that come with having sex, and the importance of having safe sex. Knowledge is power, and you want your kids to have as much information as possible. 

(13) Death

We all will eventually lose someone that we love. However, death is something that we should not hide from our kids. The extent of the conversation should vary based on age and development, but even young children should have the opportunity to ask questions and be able to understand the concept of loss on some level. Just as it is important to teach kids that difficult emotions are part of life, they need reassurance that feeling grief is normal and healthy.

When my husband’s grandfather passed away two years ago, it was the first time my daughter dealt with death. She saw me and my husband cry, and we explained to her that her Great-Grandfather had died. We discussed how she felt about it, and I answered any questions that she had. I told her that there is no right or wrong way to feel and experience loss, and I reassured her that she could continue to come to me with any questions or feelings.  I reminded her that we keep him alive in our minds and our hearts by thinking about him and talking about him.

(14) Prejudice

We live in a world where discrimination and violence take place. Children are naturally curious, and they ask about differences out of pure observation, as opposed to contempt.

I remember the first time my daughter met a person of color. She looked at him and asked him why his skin was a different color than hers. He explained that people are a variety of colors, and that those differences are what make the world special. My daughter nodded, her eyes big, and then she gave him a hug.

When my daughter saw a man in a wheelchair for the first time, she asked me what it was and why he was using it. The man saw her looking at him and asking. My first thought was that her questions were making him uncomfortable. It took me a few seconds to realize that wasn’t true. I was the one who was uncomfortable.

Differences are not something that we should hide from our kids. I realized that if I shied away from her questions, it was sending her a message that others that are different than us are to be avoided. Worse, it could portray those differences as something to be disliked or feared. It is important to talk to our children about prejudice and that it is not okay to mistreat others who look or act differently than we do. We need to stop ignorance and promote change by encouraging open dialogue with our children.

 

 

The suggestions above are by no means easy to show our kids. It is very understandable why we hide these things from them. However, it is often the most uncomfortable topics that lend themselves to the greatest life lessons. However, when we stop hiding things from our children, we allow them to have a better understanding of the world and be better equipped to handle whatever life throws their way.