Climbing Out of the Darkness

I used to feel shame. Now, I just know that I am being brave.

Just like the thousands of other mothers across the country who are participating in this year's PostPartum Progress Climb Out of the Darkness walk on June 18. I'll be climbing with my dear friend, Susan Petcher, in Boston. Eliana will be coming with me. I couldn't be more excited.

Only recently, and thanks to Susan's gentle prodding, I shared my own experience with postpartum depression. Not on my blog, I think, because I needed to share it elsewhere first, but I did share. Baby steps. Shaky, tentative baby steps. This is a big thing, this self-identifying as a survivor of postpartum depression. In a world where so many shy away from labels not already attached to jam jars, stepping up and saying I EXPERIENCED THIS...it's a big thing. It's a brave thing. 

I'm being brave. I know that now. So many mothers before me are leading the way. Postpartum Progress founder, Kathryn Stone, is leading the way. I'm grateful for this.

The thing about mental illness is that so many of us say that there is no shame...but there is. There shouldn't be...but there is. I'm no less a mother now than I was before sharing my experience. But it's almost easier for me to say these words now than it was for me to push for help when Eliana was a tiny baby and I sat up nights crying, convinced that the only safe place to break down was in the dark. I wish I had been braver, stronger...but it is what it is and I focus on today and the power of a community of warrior moms advocating for awareness, education, and services. 

I'm working with a therapist. Things aren't exactly roses right now inside of my head. ADHD, depression, anxiety...it's all still a very real part of my reality. So much so, in fact, that I'm now on crunch time to raise funds for the climb! I'll be back tomorrow with an update and a few items in my etsy shop that I am posting specifically to raise funds for my team, but for now, here's the link to my crowdrise page.  

How will your donation help? 

  • $10 helps Postpartum Progress keep current (and continue to grow) our referral list of more than 400 specialist providers in maternal mental health.
  • $20 Provides one set of free patient education materials, including Hugs Cards and our New Mom Checklist for Maternal Mental Health Help, to a clinician or other provider who serves pregnant and new moms.
  • http://postpartumprogress.org/tools/awareness-materials-order-form/
  • $30 Provides an entire year of support via the Postpartum Progress Private Forum to a mother who otherwise has no access to support groups
  • $50 Provides one mother with Daily Hope. Postpartum Progress’ daily email service created to provide messages of support and encouragement for moms with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, for a full year. 
  • $150 Provides a culturally relevant, medically correct translation of our patient education and support materials into another language. 
  • $200 Provides for one week of our award-winning educational website PostpartumProgress.com, reaching a minimum of 30,00 page views.

A little goes a long way and more goes even farther. Every step of the way, you are making a difference for a mother in need of services.

My name is Pauline Campos, and I am a survivor or postpartum depression. 

No shame in that. Not anymore. 

 

Full Stop: Tales of an ADHD Adult in Maine

This is one of those times where I am wondering if I should be saying what I am about to say because people may talk and and all that jazz, but I'm writing it anyway because stigma is bullshit and not talking about it only adds to the shame so many of us deal with when it comes to mental health issues. It's one thing to tell someone we love to be proud of themselves for talking about the hard stuff, publicly or not, and quite another to believe of and for ourselves. 

I stopped writing here and talking about mental health and body image issues and even the funny stuff a while back. I know why, and the short story is that I need to verify that the jar of fucks I've got is empty again. For a while, it wasn't. And that sucked. 

Let me give you the cliff notes version: I am a life-long recovering bulimic, will always have body image issues, and have severe ADHD with anxiety and depression wrapped up in that pretty little package. This is reality. It's as real a part of my identity as are my kinky curls and my fear of spiders. Please don't tell me that labels are bad because to me labels are roadmaps helping me navigate the unfamiliar terrain that comes with each new day. I like my labels. Labels are answers to questions I didn't know I had for far too long. 

ADHD. Anxiety. Depression. Bulimia. Recovery. Me. That's the nutshell. My anxiety and depression are controlled, for the most part, when my ADHD is controlled. All hell breaks loose when that first domino falls. That's me knowing myself. Plain and simple. 

Moving on...

Here's the deal. I'm here. But I'm not. I'm unmedicated and have been for a very long time. My therapist asked why I'm not on medication when she says I should be, and then confirmed its very hard to get treated as an ADHD adult in the state of Maine. This makes me sort of sad I sucked at chemistry in high school while highlighting a very probable cause for why Maine is in the running for Meth House Capital of America, necessity being the mother of invention, and all that. 

I'm A big advocate of natural remedies, but sometimes it's not enough. You can't tell a depressed person to try harder at not being sad any more than you can tell a person with cancer to walk it off and stop being such a fucking pansy. And I can't make my brain work the same way a non-ADHD brain works just because I want it to. (And trust me...I really, really want it to.) Thankfully, my therapist pays attention and has recommended a psych evaluation with the hopes that said evaluating doctor recognizes what she has. Doctors are gun-shy about prescribing any controlled medications with tight state regulations, which makes me jealous of my ADHD friends living Not in Maine, but there is still hope with this route. This means that I can only dream about being able to stop a panic attack in its tracks until I get a new prescription for anxiety medication, and that sucks. 

The thing about ADHD is it's not just a punchline. It's not just forgetting things. It's not just being flighty and late for everything. The doctor who diagnosed me, who also has ADHD, told me that the condition is very similar to bipolar in that we have ups and downs, but on a much lesser extreme.  My up is creativity and short bursts of focus and the ability to not only put the laundry in the washer, but to take it out, load the dryer, fold, and put it away. My down is depression and sensory overload and Full Stop. I can't focus so the little things pile up and the pile doesn't stay little for very long and then it's big and bigger and biggest and because I can't focus on any one thing, I don't do any of it. And that sucks.

I'm not blogging. I'm barely writing. I can't stay focused. I don't have many friends up here. It takes everything to do the smallest thing and I'm weeks and months behind myself on everything. I'm adding supplements and working out and avoiding alcohol and sugar and everything I can find I'm supposed to do outside of medication and it's helping... but it's not enough. It hasn't been for a year now. 

If I owe you something, I'm trying to get it done. If I promised you something, I intend to follow through. I'm just everywhere right now instead of able to focus on the things I'm supposed to get done. I'm really trying. I may be behind. But I haven't forgotten. 

So. That's what's up. 

(Also yes, I'm wearing a jacket. It's 31 degrees and snowing in May. Because Mother Nature can't get her fucking mood stabilizers up here, probably.)

(Also also my hair is fabulous. But thanks for saying so, anyway.)

(Also squared, I just looked. My jar of fucks is, indeed, empty. This is good. Fucks (read: the noun form) always fuck (read: slang verb form) a good essay.))

That hair, though...

That hair, though...

That Time I Compared Santa to Chocolate

  Photo by Pauline Campos

My sink is full of dirty dishes. The house is not Santa Spotless as is my usual. I have tons of gifts still to send out and even more missing from under my tree. I lost our magic Santa key so I told the child I texted Santa the code to the lockbox we save for dog sitter. I didn't bake one christmas cookie. I only sent out 15 christmas cards. My usual is 50. It's hard work dragging your ass out of bed when there's no other place you'd rather be, what with missing friends and autoimmune hell running the show.( I got an answer, by the way: psoriasis. The rest of that story will have to wait for another post another day.) But it's work that must be done when you're not the star of a one woman show. And my costars demand Christmas cheer and holiday magic. This is good, because I am doing Christmas even though I'd rather be binge watching bad movies and eating too much ice cream. Pretty sure that depressive, self-indulgent luxury is one every person who agrees to cohabitation loses as soon as Yours  becomes Ours. I'm even telling myself the cluttered mess of a house and the dirty dishes are progress because Instead of staying up until 4 am to scrub the house clean just so I could say I did,  I'm leaving them as they are.

Photo by Pauline Campos

My plans include wrapping a forgotten gift, writing a tiny goodbye note from her Christmas elf in sparkly gel pen in teeny tiny writing, and climbing into bed with The Husband and the child who was too excited to sleep, because Obviously Mom, Who Can Sleep On A Night Like This? She can, Obviously and Thankyouverymuch, tucked up between heartbeats that sandwich her own. Its the only sound loud enough, I think, to soothe her into an instant dream.

Photo by Pauline Campos

The dishes can wait. I've got sleepy hugs waiting. This is progress. Santa, like chocolate, understands.

First Star I See Tonight...

"Do you know why I'm sad?" I asked her when she looked t me with those eyes of hers.  "No, mama," she said. "I just want to love you." I had plans today. Lists and To-Do's are part of my every day. Without a list filled with items one would expect to see of a freelance writer and mother, the utterly mundane fills the majority of the space. Even if I spaz and never get to the important stuff, I can at least feel like I got something done because sometime anything is better than nothing.

Sometimes I make it through the mundane. I brush my teeth. I workout. I shower. I get out of bed before breakfast becomes lunch and lunch pushes dinner into the bedtime.

And I delete as I move through my day, only to replace the item just deleted with four more reasons I'm never going to catch up with myself. If you're new here, I'm severely ADHD, which can be easily confused with bipolar disorder. I swing up and down with highs and lows, only to a lesser extreme, than a bipolar person. For me, depression has been an on and off and off an on part of my entire memory.

Today, between fielding calls from my mother in Michigan about her basement flooding and learning of Robin Williams' apparent suicide, I stopped moving forward.My kid and I ended the day with her reading to me from a fairy poetry as we snuggled in her bed. She had no idea why Mama was crying, but she didn't need to know and she didn't even ask. All she asked was for me to get into her bed because she wanted to love me.

My heart hurts. People will talk. They will guess and discuss and no one will walk away knowing more than they did when we learned Robin Williams has died of an apparent ssuicide. Some will say he took the easy way out. That he was a coward. That he was selfish for hurting those he left behind. None of this is true. His family and friends are lost in grief. The world will mourn the loss of a genius who made us laugh to distract himself from his own pain. The only lesson is that sometimes even the brightest stars aren't capable of recognizing the very light that keeps the darkness at bay for the rest of us.

When I was in college, I was hell-bent on destroying myself for a bit. I was promiscuous. I was bulimic, anorexic, extremely depressed and was up all night and slept through almost all of my classes for an entire semester. My friends tried to help, but I hadn't hit bottom yet in my emotional well. Until I did. With an entire bottle of Advil or Tylenol or whatever it was sitting on the desk in my dorm room. But then I got scared because sleeping and ignoring the sun is not the same as never having the chance to try again. Death is permanent. And I got scared.

Luckily, my boyfriend at the time was a nursing student and he got me to the ER, I drank charcoal, lied when I was asked if I was still feeling like hurting myself (because wanting to and following through are two different things), and was sent home.

Suicide is steeped in stigma and misunderstanding. Those who keep their pain so secret that a suicide attempt shocks even their closest confidants are the ones who the judgmental will refer to as selfish for not thinking of the loved ones left behind. Remarks will be made about if how they'd really been looking for something other than the easy way out, counseling probably would have been a fantastic idea.

And then we sit and wonder why so many suffer in silence when the answer is staring us straight in the face: it's not that not one single suicidal person has ever felt the need to call out for help. I was one of them. The problem, my friends, is that when we're so down that we honestly think we are doing the world a favor by ridding you of our presence, you tell us to cheer up, snap out of it, and expect the despair trapped inside of our heads to instantly be replaced with rainbows and unicorns.

That's not the way it works, but we know you don't understand. So we smile and nod and try to act like everything is okay because it's supposed to be. We have friends and family who love us or a great job or just graduated as valedictorian from high school. We're not supposed to feel like going to sleep and never waking up is a solution. For those of you who do not understand, I am glad. The kind of despair that led Robin Williams to his tragic end is not is by no means the fault of the depressed, nor is it a choice to be made. Depression just is.

And that fucking sucks.

Robin Williams' death has everyone talking. And a huge part of this conversation needs to focus on more than the often-mentioned connection between creativity and depression. My friend and suicide prevention advocate, Cristi Comes from Motherhood Unadorned, reminded me when she said that while she understands the media coverage surrounding Robin's death, the conversation simply cannot be dropped. Every fourteen minutes, we lose a loved one or a friend to suicide. To honor their memories  and keep the conversation going - I invite you to submit their name(s) here by emailing me at aspiringmama@gmail or tweeting me with your message at @pauline_campos. As soon as I am able, I will add a linky.

Don't Stop Talking.

1. Libano Castro, Father. 139-2002. Submitted by Joy Castro

2.  Martin Aguero, Friend. Submittted by Claudia M. Elizondo

3. Matthew Cox, Friend. Submitted by Christopher Ortleib

4. Wendy, aunt. submitted by Aubrey Ortega

5. Jeremy, friend. Submitted by Aubrey Ortega

Hug your loved ones. Hug yourself. Reach out, please, for help, before you try. Call the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 . If you need to connect or just talk, I'm here. Tweet me. Email me. Aspiringmama@gmail.com.

Just don't close your eyes to your own light.

 

Stop Blaming the Media

I'm a little on the crazed side with deadlines and trying to keep up with life in general. In an effort to pretend I'm not going insane, I am posting one of my most popular entries here on Aspiring Mama. The following was originally published in MArch of 2013. Sadly, the topic is just as pertinant today as it was the day I wrote it.  

A friend recently sent me a link to an article on Ed Bites regarding the author’s thoughts on the media and eating disorders. The article, to be published in Emirates Woman magazine, is well-written, thought-provoking, and importantly (to me, anyway) written from personal experience.

The author, Carrie Arnold, recounts her own experience as an anorexic in treatment. When handed a sheet of stickers and a stack of magazines as a project for a body image group. The stickers were to be used by the patients to label the images of models and celebrities either with a smiley face promoting a healthy body image or a frowny face pointing the finger of blame at the image (and by default, the media as a whole), for promoting eating disorders.

Says Arnold on her blog, Ed Bites: {the latest tasty tidbits in eating disorder science}:

“I was no stranger to advertising. No one really is. But I knew that most ads were digitally altered and that bodies – real bodies – didn’t look a thing like what was portrayed on the pages of glossy magazines. Weighing roughly half of what I currently do, what I did know was that I was terrified of food and eating. Consuming more than the bare minimum of calories left me feeling dirty, and I felt oddly compelled to purge the extra calories via exercise or other methods. 

“Although I couldn’t see it in the mirror, I knew, on some level, that I had long since passed even the most whacked-out culture’s definition of ‘thin’. I didn’t want to look like a model – I’m a geek, not a fashionista. I wasn’t attractive, all sallow-skinned and bony, and I didn’t care. Starving myself was the only way that I could turn down the cacophony in my head. The less I ate and the less I weighed, the quieter my anxious thoughts got. Fashion never crossed my mind.”

And I get that. I’m a self-described life-long recovering bulimic. I was hiding in my parents’ pantry at the age of seven binge eating long before I knew the term and condition was one recognized by medical professionals and at the age of 15, took a news special on a woman treating teens with eating disorders as a “how to”. I was home alone and had been eating mindlessly all evening. At 5’6”, I was curvy but athletically built, wore a size 10, played varsity tennis, and thought I was fat. Random attempts to “become” anorexic had failed horribly and only proved to my warped sense of thinking that I had no self control. Binging, I learned that night, was what I had been doing most of my life, which only served to stuff down and quiet the chaos in my mind.

The answer I had been looking for

Purging was the release I had been looking for. As a first generation Mexican-American, I grew up observing the fine art of Not Acknowledging the Obvious like brides pregnant months before their wedding dates were to take place and family happily ignoring the fact that the premature baby born healthy and adorably chubby. Alcoholics weren’t alcoholics if they didn’t go to meetings and as long as I remembered to not throw up oranges in the shower, I didn’t have to avoid eye contact with my parents after they found the evidence i had forgotten about on the drain.

As Arnold points out in her article, it is very easy to see how the media and the models and celebrities portrayed take the brunt of the blame for “causing” eating disorders. Everything is photo-shopped. Headlines boast the Secrets to a Perfect Body and tell us How to Lose 20 Pounds by Labor Day in issues released just weeks before the actual holiday. And every Hollywood mom seems to either be under contract to drop the baby weight in six weeks, pose in a bikini, and show us how we can do it, too, or become the newest spokesperson for whichever major weight loss program hands them the biggest contract to sign. The message seems loud and clear: Perfection is at the finish line and you better work your ass off to get there before you have the right to feel good about yourself.

 

But is the media at fault?

Yes.

And No.

As Arnold says, compliments from strangers on how skinny she was may have given her a temporary boost, but they didn’t fuel the need to continue with her disordered behavior. I can relate to that, too. I never once looked at a magazine or a celebrity and thought myself less. My mindset was obviously disordered to begin with. If the media did cause eating disorders, every single person watching the same news special I did would suddenly have jumped off the deep end and embraced anorexia and/or bulimia just like I did.

“So what’s the big deal? Why does it matter what causes eating disorders? For one, it affects who we think are at risk and how quickly they are diagnosed… If we think eating disorders are the preserve of vain women, we are less likely to view them as requiring treatment and more likely to blame the victim. No, we can’t just snap out of it and, although normalising nutrition is crucial, eating a cheeseburger won’t cure us.”— Ann Arnold, Ed Bites. 

Changing our focus

No, we can’t snap out of it. Eating a cheeseburger won’t cure an anorexic and learning the definition of self control won’t suddenly help a bulimic figure out how to diet. Similarly, a society hell-bent on proving a market exists for glossy magazine covers of photo-shopped and over-sexed female celebrities and models is doing nothing more than giving the media reason to continue on the current path. If this shit sells, you can bet your ass it’s going to be printed. And while I firmly believe that the media is at least responsible for fueling body image issues in both susceptible children, teens, women and men, I can’t say the media has the power to turn a non-disordered person into an eating disordered mess.

Yes, the media plays a role in how we as a society have come to define beauty in ourselves and others. And as Arnold notes, printing celebrities and their own eating disordered struggles in the “style” section of their publications only trivialize the issue and reinforce the myth that eating disorders are a choice. That, my friends, is complete and utter bullshit.

So who do we blame?

No one, Everyone. Ourselves. Our mothers. The doctor who sent in a nutritionist with a pamphlet on the food pyramid when I was 16 and settled on telling her I couldn’t stick to a diet because I choked on the word “bulimia.”

“The girl thinks she has an eating disorder because she can’t stick to a diet,” I heard her say to the nutritionist in the hallway. “Send her home with this. I’ve got to get back to work.”

Okay, fine. That doctor I actually do blame for choosing to dismiss a cry for help. But is blaming her, or The Biggest Loser, going to help those already suffering? No. It’s not.

Does that mean the media is off the hook?

Not by any means. The media might not be the reason those of us unfortunate enough to have our brains wired in such a way that disordered eating behaviors actually make sense, but there have been plenty of times I have been written about my own good days being ruined by checkout lane headlines telling me I have no right to feel good about myself until I’ve managed to get my ass into the same bikini I wore before I got pregnant almost six years ago.

I’ll give The Powers that Be a pass on my disorder. But I’m holding the media responsible for perpetuating a false ideal of perfection, creating an environment in which our daughters (and sons) are learning to hate their bodies while they should still be playing with their imaginary friends, and reinforcing the belief that self-worth is based on a number on a scale. Eating disordered or not, that line of bullshit is the reason so many of us think happiness isn’t a right we deserve, but one we earn when the scale, the salesgirl, and Other People say we have.

I’m not good with that. I truly believe that until we learn to accept and love ourselves as just the way we are right now, none of us is going to find anything other than a skinner version of ourselves who happens to still hate who we are and what we see in the mirror.

Your job begins now

This is where you take responsibility, my friends.

If you felt good until you picked up that copy of whatever glossy magazine it was that gave you a complex and suddenly had you reaching for a bag of chips out of despair, stop buying, reading, or watching what is obviously a trigger for you. The stories might still sell. The stars might still be selling weight loss programs post-baby because we have turned yesterday’s A-listers into today’s headline just so we can talk about what they’ve gained and how quickly they’ve lost it. Turn your focus inward and focus on changing what you can (how you feel about and perceive your self and body image) and just ignore the rest because it’s not going away anytime soon. We live in a body-conscious time where numbers are given more value than self-perception and worth.

If you need help for an eating disorder or body image issues, seek it out. NOW. If you feel comfortable, share your story and let others know it’s okay to do the same. I applaud Arnold for doing so.

So where does that leave us?

Shut out the noise. Fix the mess inside your head. Then let the rest fall into place.

Get Ready for #BodyThanks

 

Are you ready for the #BodyThanks twitter party?

Tonight is the night and August McLaughlin and I are so excited to start off the holiday season with an evening dedicated to supporting each other and honoring all that we are.

Click here for party details and be sure to register by adding your twitter handle/URL on the linky to be eligible for prizes!

Spread the word, share the link, and let’s get #BodyThanks trending together. The holidays are difficult on those with body image, self-esteem, and eating disordered thinking (both active & recovering). Share the #BodyThanks love and we can join each other in a kick-ass show of support. Simply copy and paste this link to tweet, Facebook, pin, tumble, & Google + the #BodyThanks event for all it’s worth!

 

Supply & Demand: Return of Kings, Dating Girls with Eating Disorders, & My Response

Warning: This post -- and the links contained within -- contain possible triggers for those with eating disorders and body image issues. For that reason, I am purposefully placing the image associated with the original piece I'm commenting on below the fold. It's been 48 hours since I first learned about the much-talked about Return of Kings post entitled Five Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder. Highlights include nuggets of wisdom like She's a Cheap Date and She's Fragile and Vulnerable. I won't lie; I read it three times. Not because I wanted to, mind you, but because the first two reads were almost blind. Like a gawker driving by a bad car accident, I couldn't take my eyes away from that they had just seen. My eyes had kept locking on the image of a woman in a little read dress and stilettos, hunched over a toilet with her fingers in her mouth, ready to force a purge.

Since it's publication last week, the site's publisher has issued a response to the resulting backlash. I'll give you a spoiler here and tell you now that the non-apology is almost worse than the original post, but (sadly) that is to be expected. ROK does not endorse eating disorders, they say. Rather (and this is the part where ROK pats themselves on their collective backs for their good graces) they proudly boasts their encouragement of America's single men not to "pass" on eating disordered women just because they have an illness.

Well, shit. Why didn't they say so in the first place? Silly people...we over-reacted!  Stigma = bad. Seeking out and preying upon the fragile emotional state of a woman in crisis = good!

I call bullshit.

But before anyone assumes I'm calling out the ROK site for piss-poor justifying the publishing of 5 Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder, let me make one thing perfectly clear: Every single one of you 134k who liked this piece on Facebook get an equal share of the blame for providing the market.

Just like the media can't take the all of the blame for causing eating disorders, ROK cannot (and should not) be the sole focus of your outrage for trivializing them. While every one of the 5 reasons makes me cringe for fear of their impact on actively eating disordered women (and men) reading them, we must remember that without the demand, the supply eventually fades away.

Let me put it this way:

* Glossy magazines and emaciated models, headlines shaming celebs for gaining weight and praising them for their unrealistic thinness, and Hollywood approved diet pills and crazy fad diets...all of these topics (and more) are on a never-ending loop that keeps being re-written because we keep buying them.

Conclusion? We are part of the problem.

* ROK and 5 Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder is disturbing (at best) and triggering (at worst). And while ROK's very existence makes me wish the internet came with a giant mute button, the site is incredibly popular with a loyal fan base that has given them the platform to continue publishing pro-fat shaming writings and stories like the one we all happen to be talking about now.

Conclusion: We are part of the problem.

People like this, y'all. And I don't just mean those who may have liked or otherwise shared the post in order to share in the outrage. I mean LIKED as in By Golly, That's Brilliant! That, my friends, is a very sad commentary reflecting right back on today's society. Then again, so is the fact that ROK received death threats because of 5 Reasons and its publication. To those of you who thought that little gem was the way to go, don't help. Just sit down, shut up, and let the rest of us finish this fight because you're not doing us any favors.

I'll be honest; when I sat down to write this my intention had been to list all the ways 5 Reasons is hurtful, harmful, and even dangerous. I was going to tell you about my failed attempts at anorexia (except for that one time I made it 4 months on just one apple and a single slice of cheese every day), but Rita Arens did an incredible job discussing anorexia and why ROK crossed the line in this BlogHer piece. As a woman who would most likely be singled out by ROK as a Fatty with No Self Control should they see this post, I was prepared to speak about Bulimia, binging and purging, and the emotional ship-wreck I was during that time period that guys I was dating hadn't realized was part of the package.

That's what I was going to do, but then I sat down to write and this is what happened.

If you've suffered through or are currently dealing with an eating disorder, the world is not made up entirely of assholes. There are plenty of us good-hearted souls who are here to help. Rita listed her email in her BlogHer post encouraging readers to reach out should the need help.

I'm here, too.

Aspiringmama@gmail.com.

 

 

Congrats to This is My Brave!

We did it. You did it.

I really don't give a damn how cheesy I sound because I am thrilled to announce that This is My Brave just ended a successful kickstarter campaign to produce a live performance of the same title. The focus is ending the stigma of mental illness and that, my friends, is a cause I'm all about supporting.

Check out their Thank You video here...

...and from me to you?

Thank you for making This is My Brave a reality. It's not my project. But that doesn't matter.

What does is the community, support, and joint voices working together.

That, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

 

AspiringMama on ADHD Awareness Month

 

It's ADHD Awareness Month.

Seeing as how I was diagnosed just last year (which explained the first 34 years of my life) I can't ignore an opportunity to well, make you more aware about ADHD. Because that's how this stuff works.

At the age of 16, I was misdiagnosed as clinically depressed and put on Prozac. I didn't know to question the diagnosis, or that the constant anxiety and racing thoughts that prompted me to keep asking for higher doses of my medication (that, quite obviously, didn't actually do anything for me) meant something was off. What has always stuck with me, however, is what the therapist said when she sent me off to the psychiatrist for further evaluation: "You are the most highly functioning clinically depressed person I have ever worked with."

Turns out I didn't fit the label because the label didn't fit me. ADHD is a complex brain-based pshyciatric disorder that has so many nuances that it's easilyu confused with other conditions and just as easily dismissed by those who don't understand it. I joke a lot about the squirrel and shiny things because there is truth in how scattered I am, and there's humor in that truth which is just as important to me to hold on to as it is to set the record straight on ADHD and the adults dealing with it.

We're forgetful

Well, DUH. Yes, we're forgetful because we have ADHD. It's all in the name, folks: Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Becoming easily distracted, failing to follow through on projects, forgetting to pay bills on time, or even having difficulty keeping track of conversations are all signs of ADHD. None of these mean we are lazy or stupid or self-centered or even selfish and irresponsible. Just as a person suffering from depression can't just flip a switch and be happy, ADHD means we can't just suddenly decide to get our shit together just because we want to (and trust me, we do want to. In fact, we usually think we're doing a fantastic job of getting our shit together until a spouse or a friend or the credit card company reminds us with a late payment call or a frantic YOU BURNED THE EGGS YOU WERE TRYING TO HARD BOIL AGAIN that we are cute when we think we did something right.)

Right now I'm hoping a very pretty watch The Husband bought be recently magically shows up in my house because the last memory involves me taking care of housework or yardwork and thinking how I shouldn't be wearing the watch. So I took it off and put it somewhere with the intention of putting it away when I finished my work. For all I know, it's buried under a pile of leaves in the front yard. Not a good thing, y'all.

That being said? It's typically our short-term memory that get us in trouble with things like, you know, life. I might not know where I set my keys five minutes ago but I can name every teacher I had in order by grade from kindergarten to high school and tell you the design on the T-shirt I was wearing when my mother stood me before my father and asked him if he thought his 8-year-old needed a bra.

For the record, it was a pink tee with a glitter-lined, red, white, and blue arrow next to the words THIS END UP.

Exactly.

We are ONLY forgetful

Wrong.

ADHD is often an umbrella under which many other traits and issues tend to fall. Issues like poor self-image, depression, anxiety, learning disorders, executive function issues, distress tolerance, insomnia, bipolar disorder, and even bulimia (as cited in the book Fast Minds: How to Thirve if You Have ADHD or Think You Might) are often associated with ADHD. These and other diagnoses can be co-morbid with a person's ADHD or be simply be manifestations of an individual's ADHD. For me, that means that my aniety nd depression are controlled when my ADHD medication is at the right level. It's different in every case, so don't think it's a One Size Fits All Label.

It's not.

We also tend to hyper-focus during any activity that we may truly enjoy. For me that means I kick ass on deadlines (which, interestingly, is a common ADHD trait -- we tend to shine when our asses are put to the fire) and tend to get engrossed in things like crafting projects. Hell, I even wrote an entire manuscript and revised it three times to convince my agent I was made of awesome.

The flip-side is that hyper-focusing tends to leave other people in our lives feeling a tad bit neglected possibly, maybe. I won't lie... I've been known to put Sex with The Husband on my To Do list because that's how I roll, you guys. It works, by the way.

You're welcome.

We're disorganized

Obviously. Or we wouldn't be losing track of the bills we meant to pay when they showed up in the mail an hour ago. My workspace is a cluttered mess I keep meaning to make sense of until I get distracted by something else I need to do right this hot minute.

But? Disorganized doesn't mean hopeless. We tend to thrive in high-stress situations and usually are pretty good at multi-tasking. That's why I rocked busy nights while working as a waitress and thrived on the deadline rush while filing stories in the newsroom for cranky editors. ADHD is our super power.

I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on this blog. But I am an adult with ADHD who tend to hyper-focus while researching things like ADHD and hyper-focusing so I'm fairly certain I sounded slightly intelligent in this post. Either way, you can't sue me because I told you I'm not a professional. You can, however, take solace in knowing you aren't the only one if you're the one with ADHD or take a moment to better understand the people you love.

I promise you we remember that kind of thing.