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.)

NEDA Awareness Week: Let's Talk Ideas

It's National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and because I'm on a roll this week with the Not Funny Words on the Blog theme (trigger warning on that one, y'all) I'm back and I'm here to tell more stories. Maybe they are new to you. Maybe they aren't. If you have been reading Aspiring Mama for more than, say, the last four weeks, (or following me on twitter, instagram, Facebook, or google +) chances are you've seen at least one update pertaining to body image or self image. Trust me when I say that every time I talk up self-worth, the motivation stems from my own internal dialogue and the constant effort it takes to talk myself down from the very slippery slope that separates a bad day from a full-fledged bulimic slide. I'm including the full text of one post and links to previous posts relating to eating disorder issues here, here, here that may speak to you or to someone you know.

This year's NEDA theme for the week is I Had No Idea.

Well, now you do. So let's keep the conversation going, shall we?

 

 On Random Thoughts & Raising Girls

Because raising girls is hard, y'all. Consider your own childhood the prequel.

 

* I once worked in a strip club as a (fully clothed) waitress. While there, I learned that most of the dancers making the big bucks only pretended to get drunk on the $12 mocktail containing only cranberry & orange juice because it made the guys paying for the drink feel like he was going to get somewhere, that the two-and-a-half minute average pole dance on stage was just the right amount of time to scan the crowd for the sucker who would be an easy mark for the $20 lap dance, and that lap dance time was exactly when they composed their grocery lists in their heads because doing the same old thing gets tedious, ya know?

Other highlights included the realization that I could make $300 in tips just from charging $12 for a cup of fruit juice with a tiny umbrella in it and that sometimes the naked girls dancing got pissy if the clothed ones serving drinks got more attention than they did. But the best lesson of all was that sometimes it’s the stereotype exploiting itself that has the upper hand. No one expects to be outwitted by the chick shaking her boobs in the face of a man who isn’t aware he was marked as prey the moment he handed his baseball cap to the bodyguard. It isn’t, after all, just about shaking what your mama gave you. It’s about knowing how to use it.

* I’m Catholic with an asterix, thereby indicating a footnote in tiny print at the bottom of the page. In the interest of time, I’ll just get to the point and tell you that I have always described myself as Mexican-Catholic because it’s exactly not the same as Catholic Catholic. Most Mexican-Catholics that I know are first and second-generation Americans, believe in God and make the sign of the cross whenever an ambulance passes by or they drive by a cemetery, and only go to church for Easter, weddings, funerals, baptisms, and First Communions. We grew up saying the Our Father in Spanish but have probably forgotten most of it by now, truly believe in God and Heaven and that our deceased loved ones will come to watch over us even if we don’t celebrate El Dia de los Muertos, and roll our eyes skyward while forcing ourselves to remain silent when our elder Tias and Tios start going on about things like gays and black people and how white people don’t know how to raise their children while they themselves are preparing a bottle of Pepsi for the four-year-old sitting in the stroller in nothing but a diaper.

We drive past a church on the way to school every day. We’ve only been inside four time in the four years we have been in Tucson. And without being told, Buttercup knows that the day we go to church is the day she gets to wear a pretty dress and hunt for Easter eggs in the courtyard.

* I cried when the ultrasound tech told me I was having a girl. This is not an exaggeration. I had been hoping and praying for a boy and not because of the reasons you might think. Cultural chauvinism and machismo had nothing to do with my tears. Instead, I was bawling while The Husband tried not to laugh too loud and the tech holding the wand on the goop on my bump stood there, silent and utterly confused. But she’s perfectly healthy, she eventually managed to say because It’s a Girl wasn’t usually followed by tears cried by a nearly hysterical pregnant woman who seemed perfectly sane when she had walked in for her ultrasound.

It’s not that, I sobbed. It’s just that…she’s going to eventually turn into a bitchy teenager who hates me and drives me to the closest wine bottle with a bendy straw. I barely made it through my teens the first time.

That’s when The Husband jumped in with The Mother’s Curse and Payback’s a bitch and I just nodded, wondering if maybe God was, in His own Divine Way, giving me the finger.

* I am a body image/healthy self-image/happiness activist who is and most likely always will be broken. I am not standing here looking down from my soapbox telling you that the three keys to happiness and life’s successes are (insert bullshit here). Instead, I am a mostly no-longer-practicing-eating-disordered-behavior-mother-to-a-five-year-old-daughter and I love her with all of my soul. I am imperfect and vain about my eyes, my lips, my curves. I am self-conscious about the size of my ass and always sucking in the muffin top. I tell my daughter that we eat and exercise to be healthy and strong and that our bodies perfect and made exactly as they are meant to be and that what other people think isn’t of any importance, not now and not ever. I am the mother who corrects strangers when they call her big because she stands taller than most kids her age because I stood taller than most kids my age because that word got stuck in my head and manifested itself into bulimia, and I’ll be damned if history is going to repeat itself. So I am the mother who smiles and says Why yes, she is tall for her age, isn’t she? And then I change the subject and wonder how much good I’m actually doing.

That’s when I remind myself that I’m trying. And all I can do is to put the oxygen mask on myself first before taking the time to assist any children or elderly people who may need help with their own. To make a difference for her and anyone else on this analogical airplane inside of my head, I need to take care of me first.

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.

What's Your Brave?

 

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.

Maybe that's why the This is My Brave kickstarter project has hit home with me. I've backed the project and I'm here to support it and yes, I'm asking you to support it, too. Jenn and her team have already surpassed their original goal of $6,500 for the live This is My Brave show and have gone for a stretch goal of $10,000. Every little bit helps. Every little bit matters.

We need each other to make This is My Brave a reality. Together, we can be Braver, and isn't that the point?

 

...Sincerely, 30something & Premenopausal in Maine

 

 

This is one of those times where I really have no fucking clue how to begin. So I'll start there. Because it's honest. And because I'm still trying to buy the time to figure out  a way to explain the last 15 years in something that doesn't rival The Canterbury Tales in length and words that needs a dictionary for translation into modern English.

Anyone who has been reading my blog  and/or Girl Body  Pride regularly will know I have openly spoken about ADHD, eating disorders, body image issues, food allergies, and a host of other ailments that leave people wondering how one individual can be this fucked up. If you follow me on instagram or pinterest, you'll have seen my on again/off again allergy rash pictures that turned my face and neck into a burning pink chin beard no amount of make up is ever going to hide.

Eliana, now six, came to us with the help of fertility treatments and I still consider her a miracle baby with all of the issues that, individually, could have kept me from ever giving birth. The pregnancy itself was a nightmare. I was on bed rest at five months, suffered from debilitating and full-term hyperemis gravidarum (which is akin to being forced to survive your worst college hangover on a tilt-o-whirl for nine straight months), and was induced early due to pre-eclampsia. My blood pressure was 200/100 when I was just a hair shy of the 37 weeks at which a pregnancy is considered full term. My midwife didn't pull any punches when she told me the baby and I could die if I had done anything other than nod my head stupidly and get to the hospital.

It's important to note the linear here, because all the Before and Since I Was Pregnant issues -- every single one -- can be linked back to progesterone deficiency individually, which is significant. Even more so is the fact that my list of combined symptoms is nearly identical to those Google searches were kicking back while The Husband and I did our research. It's what we do when mainstream medicine waves me off with a dismissive hand and orders to eat less and exercise more because my fat ass obviously isn't trying hard enough. Not that he needs another reason to rub in the fact that he was right (again), The Husband single-highhandedly proved a case for the testing that resulted in my insulin resistance, hypothyroid, and PCOS diagnoses. Every instance had a contrite doctor apologizing profusely for being an overconfident asshole who hadn't bothered treating the patient because the symptoms and the charts are what they know.

You'd think me telling them something was being missed because I still felt "off" would account for something, but y0u'd be wrong. It's not like I know my body or anything.

I'm 35 now. I was 12 when I started my period and missed a few days of school each month because it was just that bad. Heavy. Horrible. Cramps that kept me in bed because standing up meant throwing up. I gained 50 pounds in six months when I was 21, going from a healthy and athletic size 10 and 150 pounds to Hello, Lane Bryant and trying to pretend I didn't weigh more than my 6'1'' husband. That's the same year I had a nine-month long period and found out I was hypothyroid (after insisting on a test because the doctors didn't think I needed it, of course). Since then, I've added insomnia, night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, and a miles-long list of food allergens including wheat, gluten, grains, soy, all dairy and egg products and byproducts to the list of reasons I pray Eliana inherited her daddy's superhero penchant for health.

I have leaked breast milk from my left breast since I was a high school teenager and eventually learned the microadenoma -- a small tumor on my pituitary gland -- was producing enough prolactin to make my body think it's continuously pregnant. Can you say Irony Much?

I've dealt with monthly rash flare ups so severe they once covered my entire body and were so painful I couldn't get dressed, high blood pressure tied to my hormonal fluctuations and allergic reactions, and debilitating PMS nausea that is eerily similar to the hyperemisis I experienced while pregnant. Just yesterday I used the phrase "two and one" in a coded conversation with a new doctor to refer to the two unconfirmed miscarriages and one full term pregnancy to my name because Eliana was in the room, listening to our every word. And I've watched, horrified, as I lost clumps of my shoulder-length hair in the shower so thick that the hair itself actually kept the water from draining. And I've said "fuck it", when I had so little left that my only choices were to buy really expensive wigs or just grab the scissors and chop and shape and chop some more until I found the pixie cut.

I needed that. I needed to feel like I had some control left.

Doctors weren't listening to me because I didn't fit in one neat little box. And when they did, they didn't know what to do or what to look for. The fact that all of my symptoms were directly tied to my cycle had one specialist recommend a hysterectomy just six months after I had my daughter. His diagnosis? Autoimmune progesterone dermatitis. Translation? The doctor thought I was allergic to my own progesterone hormone. The diagnosis was given a boost when we tried for another round of fertility treatments and I broke out in hives and promptly lost most of my hair. But no one wants to take the hit for a hysterectomy on a 30-something-year-old woman. Doctors hedged and passed me on from one specialist to the next in the hopes that someone else would just do it, already. But no one ever did. And I finally got tired enough of all of the bullshit to pony up the cash for a naturopath and my salvation.

We were still living Arizona when I met Dr. Nicole and Dr. Justin at Modern Elixir. The Taylors fixed me, you guys. They diagnosed my ADHD, sent me to my nurse practitioner for an epi pen after they diagnosed me with my Worst Dinner Guest Ever list of food allergies missed by every doctor that came before them, and, most importantly, they didn't stop at the symptoms.

They went for the cause.

It was Dr. Nicole who first brought up the fact that she believed I wasn't allergic to my progesterone, but rather, deficient and in need of major supplementation. It took a bit of convincing -- and a lot of research to verify I had reacted to the medical preservative in the progesterone used during the botched fertility treatments and not to the progesterone itself -- but she did it. And it only took a about 2 days of progesterone supplementation to realize it was working.

My rash cleared up. My bloating went away. My never-ending appetite finally ended. My crazy food sensitivities lessened just enough to make me feel normal. It was amazing.

I'm still working on getting myself on track. There's so much to figure out and so much to come to terms with.

What I can say now is that I'm thankful for my husband for disregarding what I once took as gospel and looking for answers. I'm grateful to the doctors who listened to me and treated me as an individual. And I find myself staring at my daughter more often now, totally in awe of the fact that she's here and that she's perfect.

I'm also pissed off that all of the signs were ignored for so long because I was too young for the symptoms to "make sense". I'm pissed that I had to go "alternative" because "mainstream" means I'm the fat chick who is to blame for Not Exercising Enough and Please See Us Again in Six Weeks. And I'm pissed that I'm now dealing with fallout of a domino effect 15 years in the making.

But I have my answer. And with it comes validation, peace of mind, a clear direction on how to proceed, and a renewed determination to trust myself and my instincts always. That person in the white coat looking at my chart and making educated guesses is just practicing, after all.

 

Not So Fine Print: I'm not a medical professional and I don't play one online. This is an account of my personal experience and is not meant as a replacement for medical advice. If you suspect a hormonal imbalance, please contact your physician.