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Next Life, NO Kids: February 2015

February 12, 2015

I Don't Like What I See

After my youngest was born, I suffered with horrifying and debilitating postpartum depression, OCD, and Agoraphobia. The not so holy trinity. 

I woke up every morning feeling defeated and I went to bed every night feeling like a failure. I hated my life, and I hated being a mother, but I couldn’t tell anyone. I was way too tough. I had made my way through so much shit, and had used those experiences to help support others. I was the supporter. I sure as hell wasn't going to admit my losing battle with sadness.

No fucking way. 

I knew I had the tools to fix the way I was feeling; I just had to dig deeper. Looking back, it’s clear I was struggling to admit, even to myself, the amount of pain I was actually in. There might be worse things than knowing how strong you are, and feeling weak, but during those months it was the worst.

Next Life, NO Kids - I Don't Like What I See #Mommitment

It was as if I was a prisoner in my own mind, searching relentlessly for the key to let myself out, and refusing to believe I hadn’t just dropped it somewhere - like between the couch cushions. 

I spent the first few months suffering in silence; making excuses for why I couldn’t show up for plans made. Of course I was still making plans! I’ve always been a social butterfly, and didn’t want to set off any alarm bells. Besides, I was FINE.
Next Life, NO Kids - I Don't Like What I See #Mommitment
The days were long, and resistance to taking medication for the depression led me to Google. Google led me to the world of honest blogging. I found one about dealing with depression in motherhood, and another hilarious blog about motherhood and the acceptability of imperfection. 

I couldn’t believe the honesty; the way the words struck a chord deep inside me, and quieted the voice whispering, “You’re the only one. No one will understand. You’re broken. You’re fucked.” 

I reached out to thank both bloggers, and I was shocked when they responded. They both told me that my connection (and others like it) was the reason and motivation behind their courageous honesty.

I felt inspired for the first time in what felt like forever. 

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I have journals and notebooks galore, full of bad poetry and angst, lining bins in my basement. Writing has always allowed me process, and supplied information about the emotions I may not even know I’m feeling until I read it back.

So I started a blog. 

I only knew one other person who blogged, and she might have been the only one who didn’t offer a condescending chuckle when I announced the news. I didn’t care though, because I knew I needed it. I needed to connect and I needed to feel useful again. 

It started as a humor blog – a “mommy blog.” I bitched about my children, vented, and invited people into the conversations occurring daily between my ears. Blogging made the days go by faster, and allowed me to step far enough away from my insanity to actually laugh again. I'm so grateful that none of those posts ever went viral. Having witnessed the torturous negative attention, judgment, and hate directed at fellow mommy bloggers, I thank God every day that none of my ridiculous ranting was targeted. I was still so fragile, and lost, and terrified. I know without a doubt if I had received comments about what a terrible mother I was, it would have ended badly. It would have fueled my self-hatred - my fears that my kids were better off without me.

I would have killed myself.

Through my writing process, I’ve learned so much about myself and my life's purpose. Blogging here about getting sober sparked the birth of the Sober Mommies community, and sent my life in a whole new, glorious direction. Some of my most valued lessons have been through making mistakes, and some have been through listening to and watching others. I have also learned a lot, through observation, about the person I don’t want to be. 

I’ve been swinging on an ever-expanding pendulum that has allowed me to experience different levels of comfort, try them on, change my mind, and start swinging again.  I don’t imagine change for others looks much different. I’ve tried to be gentle with myself throughout the process, because I’m human, but I've definitely kicked my own ass a few times for ignoring a gut feeling. 

It became clear to me recently that I have embraced and invited much negativity and noise into my life. I didn't realize what it was at the time, because my ego was all, "Everyone else is doing it. Don't you want people to like you????" 

Obviously, I do.

Starting and promoting #Mommitment and asking people to join me by committing to intentional kindness has opened my eyes. Making the commitment has caused me to look around and take stock of exactly what I'm doing here. 

I have become a follower. I have always been outspoken when it comes to "the under dog," injustice, and/or unfairness whenever I could, and yet until recently, I have kept quiet about things I didn’t feel comfortable with. I didn't speak up because I didn't want to "rock the boat," miss out on future opportunities, or burn bridges that I may want to cross someday. I justified my silence, and let others confirm I was doing the right thing if I ever wanted to "make it as a writer."

The switch has been flipped, I've turned attention back to me, and I don’t like what I see - how I've allowed other people's ideas and opinions to affect my focus and cloud my judgment. I lowered my standards at some point; to fit in and try to appear way cooler than I am. 

I’m so not cool…as in trendy. I used to love that about me.  I do love that about me.

At some point it started to matter more to me how others see me than how I view myself. I haven't been completely true to myself, and what I know is right. I've compromised and made sacrifices to be "in" with certain people I thought I wanted to be like. I forgot that who I am is enough, and that those who don't agree aren't my problem. I'm trying to get back on track, but still feeling the pull of negativity; even though I know it's not the path I want to be on. 

Next Life, NO Kids - I Don't Like What I See #Mommitment

Since I got sober 15 years ago, my willingness to change has been motivated by all sorts of self-induced, intolerable pain. The amazing part is that through the years my threshold for that kind of pain has lowered tremendously. I know I don't have to let myself fall as quickly or hit as hard as I used to. I can make changes NOW. I don't have to wait until I feel worse. 

I had to get to this place emotionally to remember why I started writing in the first place. It wasn’t for fame, fortune, or even attention. 

I just didn't want to wish I was dead anymore. 

I didn’t even know if anyone would ever read my words, but have been forever changed and humbled by the connections made by releasing them into the universe. Because I have been honest about my struggles here, I have had the pleasure of receiving thankful emails like the one I sent to those honest bloggers years ago. They have meant the absolute world to me. I have had the incredible opportunity to speak for other women like me; who may not feel comfortable, ready, or able to voice their truth - our truth.

Those connections are the reason I write, along with my love of it. I'll most likely never "make it big," or be on the couch across from Ellen, and that's okay.

I just want to look in the mirror and like what I see.






Click here and join The Mom Movement and make a commitment to try and show compassion instead of judgment.

Next Life, NO Kids


Whether you love what you just read or hated everything about it, let's connect and talk about it! I'm always open to honest feedback. Come be social with me!

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February 02, 2015

There Is No Loyalty at the Cool Kids' Table

I've been blogging about mom shaming for years, along with the Judgment Game and dangers of cyber-bullying. Last week I read about a mother who became the focus of debate and ridicule after blogging about her personal, religiously inspired decision to stop wearing yoga pants. 

Yes, that's right... YOGA PANTS. 

I decided another blog post wasn’t going to cut it this time. I decided the “if you don’t want people to attack you, don’t blog about it” reasoning behind such an attack is a cop out. I decided change starts with me, and that I’m no longer willing to look the other way in hopes things get better.  I decided I’d rather take the kind stance than the popular one. I remembered where my loyalty lies.

I've always wanted to be one of the "cool kids." I've gone to absurd lengths to get approval from others. I was a pretty awkward kid, and I spent a lot of time pretending to be the opposite of Me. I wanted to be you. I wanted perfectly straight teeth and silky hair, and what I got was buck teeth and an afro. I wanted to be thin and look all sorts of cute in tight rolled jeans and a sweater, but I was chubby and never felt "cute" in anything. I've spent years comparing my insides to your outsides, and trying to hide all of the reasons I was different so you wouldn't judge me. I was teased and bullied in elementary through junior high school, and I wanted nothing more than to disappear some days. I tried my best to blend and even fit in, but apparently I wasn't very good at it.


The first time I thought about killing myself I was thirteen years old. I had had my share of disappointments at that point, and I remember waking up many days feeling broken and praying no one would notice. I had physically moved away from an abusive and often traumatizing home life, and the plan was a "fresh start," but at times it felt like a simple change of scenery. I think it was the first week at my new school that I adopted a nickname I still can't say out loud thirteen years later. I heard it every day, walking down the halls, from kids I'd never met. I felt like everyone hated me all the time, and I often tried to work up the courage to end my life.


I made a few friends, but don't remember trusting anyone enough to tell them how I felt. My parents made me see a head shrinker who put me on medication, but it didn't really help me feel any less broken or afraid.


Every morning I attempted to look absolutely perfect before leaving the house for school, as to not give anyone another reason to point out that I was still ugly and fat. I tried to apply make up to hide my acne, which only had kids pointing out that my face was orange and discolored.


You get the point. It was awful.


The summer before high school started, I "became a woman," and lost forty pounds. My face cleared up considerably, and even my hair tamed itself a bit. My parents sent me off to a co-ed 4H camp far away from anyone who knew I was a loser, and I got to see what it was like to be a "cool kid" for the very first time in my life.


IT. WAS. AWESOME.


I learned a lot that summer, like how it felt to be "adored" by a boy and watch him fumble all over himself to impress. How good it felt to be told I was prettier than other girls and have them jealous of me. I also learned how very capable I was of being a mean girl.


I remember how powerful I felt the first time I made another girl feel like the girls at school had made me feel. I remember how much it started to feel like something I wanted more of. I remember making a commitment to NEVER feel like that broken, pathetic little loser EVER AGAIN.


When I returned to school as a freshman, I was a new Julie. My miraculous makeover was a shock to many who hadn't seen me since the last day of 8th grade. Some tried to talk to me as if we'd just met - as if I might have forgotten their cruelty. I made it very clear those days were over.


That was the year I started fighting the world with my fists.

 
I found friendship in like-minded girls who hadn't attended my junior high school, and we created our own cool-kids table. We talked shit and excluded others, and hiding became so much easier for me. I found that mocking people was a great way to get laughs while also deflecting attention away from my own insecurities. I found alcohol that year, and together we conquered my fears of inadequacy with all sorts of inappropriate behavior. 

I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know that I was still that scared little girl. I thought the power was real.


Then I got pregnant my junior year, and members of my tribe began whispering about me in the hallway. I dropped out months later and got my GED. After my daughter was born, many of those friendships had completely disintegrated along with much of the faux self-esteem I had acquired through them.  


The problem with relationships built in mutual dislike, is they're not based in anything powerful enough to sustain them. As soon as I became the butt of the joke, it was easier for my "friends" to join in than defend me. No one wants to be on the receiving end of a bully-fest. 

There's no loyalty at "The Cool Kids' table."

The idea of "cool kids" and bullying doesn't end in high school.  We adapt. I carried mean girl mentality until I was almost 30. I looked for weaknesses in others who challenged me, and became a master in the art of deflecting attention from my defects. I believed if my intention was not to be hurtful, your feelings were not my responsibility. I was still seeking fake power to feel better about who I wasn't. 

I'm not sure what changed, but I did. Maybe it was all the therapy; maybe the debilitating agony of postpartum depression with my youngest - the reminder of what shattered vulnerability feels like. Perhaps it was the number of teens committing suicide in this country weekly due to bullying. I don't know what shifted my thoughts, but I'm grateful.  

I stopped hating myself for what others might think, and gained confidence to share my truth instead of hiding it. In turn, I have built beautiful friendships based in honesty and mutual respect. I have found my voice. 

If it had not been for bloggers like Allison Hart, bravely writing about their struggles, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I don’t know if I’d be right now. They inspired me, and the bravery to speak so openly here.

Mom bashing has become a cultural norm in our society, and it feels dirty. The fact that so many of us have to watch how our truths are delivered to avoid public online scrutiny makes me uncomfortable. The probability that there are other moms feeling broken and vulnerable while reading the judgment breaks my heart. What are we fighting about? Diapers? Feeding our kids? Does how another mother raises her kids really affect us so much that we’d wish her harm or deny her support she might need? 

It’s time for change. We need to end the cycle of bullying. Our kids are watching. It starts with us.

If you agree, please join us by clicking this picture and signing the petition to put an end to the motivation behind "Mom Wars." 



Make a commitment to be kind to moms regardless of differing beliefs. #Mommitment
 
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Next Life, NO Kids
 


  photo credit: Melissa-Brewer



 
Whether you love what you just read or hated everything about it, let's connect and talk about it! I'm always open to honest feedback. Come be social with me!

Find me on Facebook, Twitter, or on my Facebook Page!

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