On Being Mighty

Image courtesy of Nicole Howard

Image courtesy of Nicole Howard

Things have been tough lately. The short story is that I have ADHD, anxiety, and clinical depression and have been entirely unmedicated for the last year. The long story is every blog post I never published, every project that fell through my fingers because I couldn't hold tight enough, and every blank stare from me to anybody who asked why I wasn't writing the funny stuff anymore. 

You know how everybody says that there is no shame in mental illness? That we need to smash the stigma? I agree on the second point, but the first is a tricky one. The truer statement, I think, is that there should be no shame in mental illness. But there is. Hence the stigma. Which we need to smash. 

It's kind of circular, really.

Anyway, I got clearheaded enough this week to figure out that while not being medicated works for some, it does not work for me. I have an entire year of experience behind me now. It's a shitty year. The years before that when I was medicated? Pretty awesome. The years before those years when I was not? Also shitty. 

I see a pattern.

Because Monday is a holiday, I am making calls on Tuesday to try and find a doctor in northern Maine familiar with adult ADHD and comorbid conditions. For now, I want to share one wonderful thing that helped break through the fog. Well, two wonderful things, actually. 

I'm a writing coach when I'm not playing on the internet, and one of my brilliant clients deserves a major shout out. Her name is Nicole Howard and we met last year at the Be Blogalicious conference. I was speaking on an incredible panel with incredible women and Nicole happened be in the audience and liked something that I said and asked me later if I was coaching. I wasn't at the time, but I told her that I'd been thinking about it and needed to set a few things in place and would reach out when I was ready. Spoiler alert: I was not ready for six months, because I was afraid. Because really, who the hell am I to think I am qualified to coach anyone on anything when I can't even remember silly things like where I put my keys or to feed my kid until she threatens to forage for food in the forest (which is not an idle threat, seeing as how the forest is literally just outside the front door). And then I stopped being afraid when I realized that this is exactly why I am not a coach for people who lose their keys all the time or for work at home moms who never have enough time to cook Pinterest-worthy meals while trying to meet deadlines and pay bills. 

That they sometimes forget to pay. 

Yeah, I'd suck at those kinds of coaching. But I'm good at this kind of coaching. I'm good at helping writers get past that mental block telling them that the fear of judgement matters more than the need to share their stories. I am good at helping a writer brain-vomit the rough edges of the story buried within and telling them Good Job But You Can Do Better. I am good at helping smooth out the rough edges and rearranging the puzzle pieces without taking away from the writer's voice. It's their diamond. I just help it shine. 

That's what I do. But there's something my clients do for me. I learn something from each person I work with and for that, I am grateful. Nicole reminded me that my dream isn't going to make itself come true when she told me that one of her bucket list goals was to be published on The Mighty. This, my friends, was coming from a women waiting to see her first byline. I told her that we would work to make this happen. I also decided to submit to The Mighty for myself (then I promptly forgot about it, which really, is probably the best thing that can happen to a writer after hitting send). When my email inbox told me that my essay had been published, I was confused until I realized what I was looking at. The essay was one I needed to see right then, and so it became kind of a meta thing in which Not Depressed Me was reminding Depressed Me of all the good in my life (written while medicated on actual pills and not The Great Outdoors, just so we are clear). And then I was beside myself when Nicole messaged me to tell with a link to her own essay, published the very same day, on the Mighty.

I will not lie. I got teary. I did A Thing that helped another person do A Thing that they wanted to do so very badly with their entire heart. My client did A Thing that made me so very, very proud. 

But that thing that I did? The essay on The Mighty? I thank Nicole for that. That's the thing thing that she did for me. Life is too short to live afraid. 

 

BabyFat 2.0 (I'm Here)

Once upon a time, I used to log in on this little ol' blog of mine just to share something funny or blow off some steam or remind you (me) why you're (I'm) beautiful. And then Facebook happened and I started sharing my little bits there which eventually led to a lotta bits not being shared over here and then, eventually, I stopped showing up. Here. In my own space. I need to work on changing that. 

That's why I'm here right now. To share something I almost shared on Facebook. I totally get a cookie after I hit publish because I'm here right now. I'm here to tell you some of the biggest news of my literary career to date. I'm here to tell you that my publisher is closing. My book, along with every other book by every other author, will be pulled from circulation on May 31. 

But it's okay. The news broke a few weeks ago. I don't have time to speculate what went wrong or how things could have been different. Things just are, and that's that. I spent the better part of May freaking the hell out and pretty much convinced that the world was over. Dealing with this during one of my worst depressive phases really didn't help matters at all. And then I got my head out of my ass (sort of) and teamed up with a few incredible people to make sure the book I poured six years of myself into doesn't just quietly disappear. 

Sneak peek of the back cover! 

Sneak peek of the back cover! 

 

I'm here to tell you that BabyFat will be back. I'm here to tell you that BabyFat is being self-published and I am so fucking thrilled at all the possibilities and opportunities now available to me because I'm the one driving this boat. The Bloggess and her incredible blurb are still on that incredible front cover by Michelle Fairbanks of Fresh Design BC. I'm here to tell you that I'm calling the shots now and I'm getting BabyFat into bookstores and busting my ass for bookclubs and working on press releases for the media. I'm here to tell you that I'll be approaching hospitals and OB offices and honoring my efforts put into this book with equal efforts in promoting it and that the cover is new and improved and that it turns out Scary Mommy blurbed BabyFat twice and that the blurb in my email from 2010 is the one being used on the new cover because it's fucking perfect and I love it oh so very much and I hope that you do, too. 

I'm here.

 

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.

 

Man V. Food Star, Adam Richman, Tells Woman to Kill Herself

This would be the first domino to fall. 'Maybe he just didn't know." The Husband said to me. "No one can blame him for... Oh wait. Never mind."

As soon as he got home from work, I told The Husband to go online and Google the name of one of our favorite Travel Channel hosts. We're kind of on the crazy-strict side of what television shows we allow Eliana to watch, what with all the crap on TV these days, but we seem to have hit a consensus on our TV-happy place with many shows on the Travel Channel, including host Adam Richman and his show, Man V. Food. While we can't eat most of the food he consumed on the air (we are gluten-free due to Celiac and allergies), we still watch. Richman's energy is infectious, making him a natural in front of the camera.

Very recently, I saw Richman featured in a commercial and stopped dead in my tracks. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Richman, who had filled out during his time traveling the country in search of various restaurant food challenges, looked a different person entirely, having shed some 60-pounds. A Men's Health article describes the weight loss as "taking control over his own body." I don't know Richman, but I was proud of him, and I told The Husband as much. I couldn't wait for his new show to air.

"This is bad," The Husband said, glancing away from the computer monitor. "He didn't just burn a bridge here. He blew the damned thing up."

I nodded. I can't see anything good coming when a television personality tells a woman to kill herself in response to her comments regarding the #thinspiration hash-tag used by Richman in a post celebrating a too-big suit. Richman was understandably unaware of the dangerous connotations associated with the tag. It seems harmless enough -- take inspiration and add the "th" at the front of the word and show the world that eating right and getting active does, in fact, work. (I'll save the Thinness and Health conversation for another day). I get why he used it, honestly, I do. But the fact remains that the term is laden with dangerous undertones; it's the tag used by the eating disordered in pro-anorexia ad bulimia forums to cheer each other on. So an instagram follower commented on the post and asked him to please refrain from using again. If I'd seen it, I admit I would have done the same.

Remember, this is cute and cheerful, seemingly lovable Adam Richman we're talking about here. Who knew he was a Complete and Total Asshole?

Richman's responses (which have since been deleted) , however, may have been his undoing, already resulting in his new show being pulled "indefinitely" by the Travel Channel.

 

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 Cunt. Go draw a bath and grab a razor blade. I doubt anyone will miss you.

And suddenly I'm inside my own head. I'm a college sophomore student home for the Christmas break holiday. I haven't told my parents I'm on the brink of failing out. My friend and sorority sisters are tired of my drama and antics and if they haven't already was hands of me, they are about to. I know this because of the letter I'm holding in my hands. My mother said it arrived with the mail earlier that same day, which mean it was sent from campus and intended for me to read alone and without  chance to respond. The words on the paper are blurry because I'm crying too hard to focus, and yet, I've somehow managed to keep the letter from getting wet as I sit in the tub, cocooned up to my neck by the weight of the piping hot water.

I had been 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.

"If you really wanted to kill yourself you'd be dead and if you really had an eating disorder, you'd be a hell of a lot smaller than you are right now. All you are is a drama queen looking for attention."

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. Not too much time passed before I found myself with a letter sent to me by a "friend" and "sister" from the sorority I used to belong to.

With the letter in one hand, I kept reading those words over and over. I had the razor in my other. Maybe she was right. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. Maybe I was still eating to much. How many calories did one apple have? And one slice of cheese? That's all I allowed myself every day. Anything over that, I punished myself by purging until my throat was raw and I was empty again. Maybe I shouldn't have gone to the hospital and just waited to disappear.

Or maybe not.

Maybe she's wrong, I thought. Maybe I'm here right now because I got pissed off about being labeled and misjudged and knew I had to put the razor down if I was going to do any good in writing, sharing all of my experiences, and showing this bitch just exactly who she was dealing with.

I survived because I was told I wouldn't. I kept going because someone told me to stop living. Anger and stubbornness are what set the razor back where it belonged in the tub. Growth and the desire to help those who are currently where I've been are why I'm writing the words you see here. Fuck Adam Richman and his close-minded vitriol. Fuck suicide and eating disorders and self-hate. Fuck all of it and Richman's "apology." Because words can't be taken back, especially once they've been given shape and weight after having been written.

Cunt. Go draw a bath and grab a razor blade. I doubt anyone will miss you.

Richman showed his true colors in this exchange and may have ended his television career in one fell swoop. I wonder if he's even begun to grasp the severity of the situation or if he's still convinced he did no wrong here. But then, I guess it doesn't really matter, does it? What does is speaking up and speaking out in an effort to reach those depressed enough to harm themselves and letting them know that someone gets it. That someone understands. That someone cares and will, without a doubt, miss them -- sopleasestayalive.

Maybe Richman just didn't know. Maybe he just didn't care. Either way, the rest of us who do care are going to keep trying to pick up the broken pieces left  in Richman's wake. I'm not fooling myself into thinking anything written on the subject at hand is going to change his mind, nor do I believe any and all apologies on his part are actually sincere. Instead, it's time to focus on the silver lining.

#eyesontheprize #victory #anythingispossible.

Yes, Mr Richman, anything is possible. There are those of us who will continue to speak up in the hopes of helping the eating disordered recover and remind the suicidal that they do matter to those who need and love them. Feel free to sit this one out, Richman. We're doing just fine without you.

Find out the warning signs of suicide and how to get help:

If you're thinking about suicide or know someone who is, get help now. Not sure what signs to look for if you're concerned about a friend? Here's a list of warning signs from the You Matter Lifeline website:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24-hour hotline. Dial

1-800-799-4TTY (4889) for those with hearing or speech impaired with TTY equipment.

Braver (Together)

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Let’s talk about Being Brave.

Not with a sword, but with our voices. Maybe we use a pen. Maybe we click, clack away on a keyboard, looking up only every now and then at the words born onto the white screen before us. Maybe we are Brave with our voices or a maybe it’s with a paintbrush.

We are Brave when we share our truth with others. We are Braver Still when we know we are not alone.

Jenn Marshall calls it Finding Our Brave. I call it Writing Without a Filter. Whatever you call it, the premise is the same, whether we write about our personal struggles with bipolar or eating disorders or sexuality, we are brave when we share that which others can connect with and know they are not alone.

What’s my Brave?

I’ll be honest. I’m only halfway home when it comes to fully embracing it. But that’s the beauty of Being Brave. For each of us, Bravery means different things and we are each defining the term for ourselves every time we sit down to share a new Something Personal about ourselves.

Me? I’m a life-long recovering bulimic with compulsive eating tendencies. I’m ADHD and sometimes will do circus tricks if you give me coffee when my brain is moving faster than my medication can work. I have anxiety issues that tend to spike when my ADHD is in high gear and suffer from dermitillomania. That last one is a fancy word for the OCD scab-picking condition I didn’t know wasn’t just a stupid habit I couldn’t break until last year. I’ve suffered from depression, attempted suicide, and founded a website to help myself while helping others learn that nurturing our self-worth and self-image is the key to recovery for many of the demons we deal with daily.

Am I fixed? Hell no. Am I on my way? Today I am. I’ll let you know about tomorrow when it gets here.

How do I manage to Be Brave and share these words with the world? Because I have to. Because I want to. Because I need to.

Because I had to find my Own Brave on my journey and wish I could have known people like Jennifer Marshall when I was looking for someone else to Be Brave with me. I just wanted someone to relate to.

Together, we can be Braver, and isn’t that the point?

 

** This piece was recently published on I Am Ballsy. (Because, yeah, I am.)

Oversexualization & Our Daughters: Refusing to Feed the Demand

What do you see here? I'd love to know, because I see a problem.

This rather adorable outfit is from Jelly the Pug and, last week, was available on Zulily. I'm fine with the outfit. It's cute and perfectly age-appropriate, so don't think I fell off the deep end. It's the decidedly "adult" pose that prompted me to pull out the soapbox, y'all. This one, and the images like it, caught my attention and suddenly, the word "oversecualization" begin chanting itself in a loop inside my head.

When I images like this one, I see little girls and headlines about the dangers of over-sexualization and body image issues and

eating disorders and, sadly enough, I see complacency. We can't be shocked if we expect it now, can we?

When Suri Cruise stepped out in high heels for the first time in 2009, the world brought out the voice of judgement. And we judged. We are so very good at that, aren't we? (Don't try to argue with me on this one because I'm sure the 7,200,000 results that popped up for Katie judged Suri in heels" will prove otherwise). In fact, I'm judging right now.

Not surprisingly, sales for high heels for little girls jumped and designers scrambled to provide more for the masses. A quick search shows this pair by Michael Kors.

 

The black pumps and that teeny tiny heel make me nervous just thinking about my daughter breaking an ankle while trying to walk in them. But when compared to the snazzy little number available recently on Zulily, the first shoe is downright tame.

I should point out that I'm not out to vilify Zulily -- or any other singular source -- for promoting the sexualization of young children, but I am now wondering if I should allow my 6-year-old to browse the site with me. She's more apt to wear clothing she helps to pick out, but I don't feel like having to explain why there is no way in hell I'm ordering her a pair of hot pink stilettos that look like they belong to a very tiny stripper No offense to the stripper, mind you. Maybe I can't stop the world from playing strip-tease with our kids, but I can limit what my own daughter is exposed to.

I realize there are people who will think I'm overreacting. That my daughter will "see it anyway" on television or in movies or in magazines and I'm wasting my time trying to shield her from all I think she doesn't need to see right now. They will say it's not that big a deal and that little girls just want to dress like their moms and gush about how cute their kids look strutting their stuff in hot pink stilettos and say I'm too strict and need to lighten up. They will tell me that they may have had their own misgivings about buying their 8-year-old that string bikini for the neighbor's pool party because all the other girls have them and not wanting them to feel left out, so they did it anyway.

I also am aware that the constant finger pointing is how we deal as a society instead of taking a moment to consider our own responsibility when controversies become headlines and we see our daughters adopting our body image issues as their own. We would rather blame Hollywood, the magazines with emaciated and photo-shopped models,  the fancy designers who tell us why Unrealistic Ideals are the new black, and the retailers for providing us with yet another choice we are aware we would have been better off without then admit we contributed to the demand for the supply.

All of this is okay with me. You will either agree with me or feel sorry for my kid. This is entirely your prerogative. You can buy the take your preschooler to see The 300 at the movie theater and tell them to just shut up when they ask you why that lady has her boobies out and that man just got his head chopped off loud enough for the rest of us to hear. This is your right and I'm not going to tell you how to parent your children. I am, however, going to do what I feel is right for my own daughter and her well-being.

I'm going to continue to say no. Whether or not retailers like Zulily or designers like Michael Kors bother to take responsibility for their part in the oversexualization of our little girls, I still have that power. The rest of her friends can jump off that bridge my own mother always talked about while mine has the biggest I Hate You Mom! meltdown known to man. She can tell me that I am ruining her life and all her friends get to do wear bikinis and listen to Justin Bieber and don't have to wait for their parents to pre-screen movies before they can watch them, and I will wait for her to stop screaming at me before I tell her the answer is still no because I can't undo today when tomorrow gets here. The damage would already be done.

This is not an exaggeration. In 2007, the American Psychological Association's Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls released a report suggesting that young girls are are affected in many areas of development as a result.

 

Sexualization has a broad array of devastating effects on youth, both male and female, and ramifications that extend throughout our society. Exposure to sexual images of girls has been linked to multiple mental health problems including girls’ low self-esteem, symptoms of depression, and eating disorders. Sexualization is also linked to girls’ increasing engagement in risky sexual behavior such as having unprotected sex and using drugs and alcohol, which impairs decision-making (APA, 2007).

 

This is what Suri Cruise in her high heels and shows like Toddlers & Tiaras and sexily-posed little girls modeling clothes for little girls have done (and continue to do) to us and our children. What we say to them - and what we let them see onscreen - will stay with them. Do we want that? Are we happy where we are?

I have already spoken with quite a few mothers who had the same knee-jerk reaction to the too-sexy child models as I did. I know you aren't happy with any of this. Maybe we make noise and spark a discussion or three. The important thing is that we show our daughters that we are here when they need us and again when they don't.  And that's a start.

Waffles for Breakfast

It’s impossible to always put yourself first…

but poisonous to always put yourself last.

Those words are by my friend, Jenni Chiu. I found them tonight and I'm sharing them with you now, partly because they need to be shared.

Mostly because I needed the reminder myself.

I'm in a weird place right now. I'm not even sure of the words to use to describe it, which doesn't happen very often. All I know is I keep hoping that tomorrow the veil I can't shake will have lifted. I want to see the sun again and feel it on my face.

I want to stop being the reason The Husband worries.

I want to stop being tired all the time and remember what it feels like to revel in my once-regular workout routine because I know it makes me feel good.

What I don't want is for Christmas to be a giant farce wrapped in pretty paper, because right now, that's what it's turning out to be. The Christmas cards went out. The gifts are under the tree. Santa's ready. I know Christmas morning will be magical for her. Her magic is my own.  But I want my own groove back.

When I wake up to find my daughter quietly playing in her room, her breakfast dishes in the sink, and the opened cereal box on the kitchen counter because she knows Mama needed sleep, I vow to sleep like normal people do and wake (like normal people do) with (or even before) my child. I'll start tomorrow. Then I'll start the next day. And then it's 3:30 a.m. and I've accomplished nothing. I climb into bed, drawing myself close to the warmth of my husband's body, and fall asleep before I can worry about everything I still have left to do.

She asked for waffles the other day. I made them for lunch. But I know it's not the same.

I'm going to be 36 soon. The new year is almost upon us. There's a promise in every tomorrow. I know all of these things. I just don't feel them right now. Maybe it's something in the water. Or maybe I'm seeing so many friends writing about how they are pulling themselves through this holiday season just barely because so many of my friends are writers now and this is just how we process. I'm not sure. What I do know is I see myself in their words. Maybe you see yourself in mine.

We're mothers. We're women. We're tired but don't want to be.

We're doing what needs to be done for others. We're wishing we didn't feel guilty for even considering that we must also do what we want for ourselves.

We push ourselves relentlessly because we've learned to balance the weight of the world on our shoulders and don't know how to deal with the sense of lightness that comes when anyone else tries to lift it because that is what we would do for those that we love. The problem is that we don't know how to handle taking the time we need for ourselves to just breathe and do for ourselves before we find ourselves running on empty.

Does This Straight Jacket Make My Ass Look Big?

I asked for writing prompts on twitter. Now I have to fess up about facing my greatest fear.

Not an easy assignment.

Let me start with the happiest moment in my life. And  I don't mean the kind of happy that comes with holding your child for the first time. Or the kind that follows being pronounced Mr. and Mrs. and dancing the first night of the rest of your life away with family and friends. Those kinds of happy come because of what has been given...life, new beginnings, promises for the future.

The Happy I am referring to is the kind that just is. There's no reason, no cause. The kind that has you smiling at your neighbors and helping kind old ladies cross the street just because you are in that good of a mood. Forget tomorrow...the sun is shining today and it's downright blinding in its glory in this very moment. You are happy to be alive, to be who you are. You are happy to just fucking be.

I had one of those moments when I was 21. I was sitting on my mother's front porch, trying to make sense of a strange sensation. It's hard to describe that moment, even for me. I just remember sitting there, enjoying the soft breeze, as I sat and pondered what exactly it was that was going on inside of me.

I wasn't sad. I wasn't anxious. I wasn't obsessing over calories or the last food binge and how many times I would have to throw up to make up for what I had stuffed down. I was past that. And?

I was just happy. Simply, inexplicably, and beautifully happy with me and my life.

It wasn't a normal thing for me to feel. After waking many a morning as a small child in tears and no way of expressing the overwhelming sadness that was covering me, after 6 years of fighting bulimia and finally also being diagnosed as clinically depressed and anxious, after 2 years of adjusting Prozac levels and taking my pill like a good little trooper, I was finally able to feel what I had never been able to feel spontaneously.

Happiness.

I'm remembering that moment because I haven't felt that way since. Or maybe I have. Maybe I will. Yesterday, Last week. Tomorrow. It's easy to forget the happy from five minutes ago when depression comes in and steals your thunder.

Sure, I've had many reasons to be happy. My loving Husband. My beautiful daughter. Friends who get me. Puppies. Sunsets. New shoes. Good hair days. Leftovers that taste better the next day. Hugs. Date nights. Sleeping in. Posting a new blog that I know will make people laugh. Kisses from Buttercup. I love you's from The Husband.

But very bit of happiness has come as a result of what preceded it. Not because I am. Which really? Makes for a sad irony as it generates more sadness for understanding that I'm missing out on The Happy that should be there, be here, inside my head.

I stopped taking Prozac years ago. I was in a good place. I thought I had it all together. I figured if I had overcome the eating disorder I was golden on the depression front, too. And with encouragement from well meaning family members who believed I didn't need a pill to create happy because happy was already present, I weaned myself off and never looked back. Not out loud, anyway.

My therapist from my teens told me I was the most highly functioning depressed person she had ever counseled. As long as I am busy, as long as I don't have time to think about the missing bits in my head, I can pull off a pretty good Happiness Front. You see smiles. You hear laughter. You read snark. And sometimes I can believe it myself.

But like all things left to fester, it builds into something that begins to blemish the very image you created. I've hit my breaking point and it's time to admit what I have been trying to avoid.

My greatest fear? That I am not enough for myself. That I am not enough for my daughter or husband. That I am not whole without happiness manufactured through a pill.

How did I face that fear?

I made a call.

I asked for help.