Collaborate: to work, one with another; cooperate

I am tired. Tired of the mental health awareness campaigns. Mental health awareness month. Mental health warriors and ambassadors (which I am for the “Still I Run” community) Tired of it all. Because really what is the point of it all? Are we doing any good?

I have struggled with anxiety for, well lets face it, all of my life. I didn’t know what it was till my 20’s and even then I am not sure I understood it. I spent the next 20+ years researching and learning based on my own experiences. I saw multiple therapist, most of whom helped me solve the problem of the week. I persisted till I found a therapist who really taught me how to change. You can read more about her here.

Basiclly I had to fight for myself. I ask for help ALL the time. I ask for supporters and thank God people are there for me. There was a version of me that wanted to blame everyone else. Or at least something else for the way things were but my therapist called BS

Now I have a daughter going through some tough stuff. Even though her dad and I are currently supporting this 29 year old she blames us. We have ruined her life because when we retrieved her from a jail in Georgia we brought her here instead of taking another couple days off from work and driving her to a friends in North Carolina. I mean really what the fuck kind of parents are we? Yes you read sarcasm and bitterness into that sentence. I am tired. REALLY REALLY TIRED OF NO COLLABORATION.

She sees a therapist, so there is someone who has some idea of where she falls in the readiness for change cycle. There is somebody who has an idea of what her dad and I could potentially be doing better, or different. There is this somebody who has some idea of what we might be doing wrong.

Since I understand that her therapist can’t talk to us I do email her and let her know how we are doing. Twice she has graciously contacted us and met with us for half an hour. Both times were fairly helpful. However we are overwhelmed! We are so confused! We really could use some input as to where she’s at.

Thankfully we have a therapist who we meet with that helps us navigate the situation. The dilemma there is that this therapist knows the trauma continuum but she doesn’t know exactly where our daughter is on the continuum. So every time we meet with her we take a stab in the dark….. try some things, sometimes they work sometimes they don’t, then we have to go back and try some different things.

This is incredibly exhausting. Especially since we know there is someone who could better guide us but for whatever reason that doesn’t happen.

I propose a collaborative effort. I understand that our daughter needs someone that she can talk to that she doesn’t share with us. Great! She meets with her therapist and we don’t. Meanwhile another therapist in that office should meet with us and then collaborate between them what is best for our daughter.

Honestly if this were cancer that’s the way it be done. There is a nurse navigator, who helps the cancer patient navigate all the different doctors they need to see and coordinate information. WHY. please tell me why there is not a more collaborative effort to help adult children dealing with mental health.

You would think if we were doing something really wrong the best thing to do would be to educate us what to do better. We’ve already learned some things we’ve done wrong and tried to change them. And learning new things takes time. We’re not going to be perfect at this right away but it would be great if somebody came along side of us and guided us.

I don’t know I could be wrong but I think everybody’s aware that mental health is a problem. I don’t think we’re aware of how to collaboratively work to help each other. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals are increasingly recommending couple- and family-based treatment programs. 

“Families and friends can be important advocates to help loved ones get through those hard, early stages of having a mental illness. They can help their loved one find out what treatment is best for them. They can also be key in letting professionals know what’s going on, filling in parts of the picture that the person who’s ill may not be well enough to describe on their own. This might also include helping a partner adhere to a treatment plan developed with the therapist to control anxiety responses in situations when the therapist is not present.” Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

I simply do not understand why her therapist has not recommended some sort of family therapy? This should be the first line of defense. If you find the family is not willing to be supportive well then that is another problem all together. We have begged for help and we are still shut out.

I will be so pissed if we lose our daughter again because we were shut out of partnering in her treatment. I blame the system! We are asking for help helping her. What more can we do. ……..I am so tired 😫

Never Ever Will I Give Up

There are some battles that seem so obvious and others that seem so deceptive.
The battle for 1st place, you run hard-and-fast.
The battle to overcome anxiety, so multi fauceted. A sneaky little battle that holds such awful weaponry against you.

Look at the difference in my pace between my 1st race and my 2nd race. That’s anxiety! It takes your breath away, it steals every fucking ounce of energy out of your body.
I absolutely kid you not when I tell you that there was a point just before 3 miles into the 2nd race that I was SO close giving up. Those of you who know me know that 3 miles is nothing, there’s no reason I should have been battling anxiety.

Anxiety gives you no reason, it doesn’t even give you a heads up it’s coming, it holds NOTHING back in it’s war against you!!

I may have won the battle that day. I finished and I finished with a fairly decent time. Yet I have not won the war, I will not give up fighting the war.

If you are someone who has faced anxiety you get this…..if you haven’t I hope that you will have patience and grace when someone in your life is fighting this war.

#stillirun #mentalhealthawareness #stilliruncommunity #stillirunambassador2022 #mentalhealthmatters #mentalhealthwarrior


Suffering ceases to be suffering when it finds meaning.
This is why I love sharing my journey of anxiety with you. When I hear back from you how I’m not alone, and you were helped in some small way by a post of mine, that is exactly when my anxiety has a purpose and is so much less uncomfortable!

I The rain held me off a little bit this morning but still a beautiful (steamy) morning for my BRick workout. (25 mile bike, 5.5 mile run)

#stillirun #mentalhealthawareness #stilliruncommunity #stillirunambassador2022 #mentalhealthmatters #mentalhealthwarrior

Nature Explains Life

Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better. Albert Einstein

Today as my friend and I walked the woods and considered the complexities of our world right now, lamenting not knowing where we belong. It became clear….. We belong anywhere we are in God’s creation. In nature it is so perfect, so orderly, each member has its own responsibilities and it collaborates with other members of nature. The male and female species procreate, and adapt to the changing landscape. There is life and death, struggling and thriving. Most of all there is harmony among the differences.

Thank you nature for helping me understand ❤️❤️ Thank you God for bringing Renee into my life to share the struggle and celebrate the joys.

Two Choices

You have two choices,
to control your mind or
to let your mind control you.
Paulo Coelho

This is not always as simple as it sounds. Yet it is a choice one has to make.
This morning I headed out to do my weekly hill repeats and sprints on my bike. After the 3rd hill I had so many negative thoughts in my mind that were filling me with unnecessary fear. I so badly wanted to turn around and go home but I reached out to two people who helped me change the story.

Tonight I got to walk in nature with this lovely group of ladies who always get my mind on all that is good, and pure and lovely.

Moral of the story is that often the choice to control my mind starts with a decision to call someone for help. To be vulnerable, to be willing to say I don’t have it together. To be less (sometimes WAY less) than perfect.

#stillirun #mentalhealthawareness #stilliruncommunity #stillirunambassador2022 #mentalhealthmatters #mentalhealthwarrior

Riverbank Run Race Recap

The mind rules the body. I used to say this frequently when I was teaching cycle class at our local YMCA. Henry Ford said “whether you think you can or you think you can’t….your right” your success in any endeavor lies largely in what’s in your head.

My race results definitely reflected what was in my head.

February I had 2 half marathons that I felt great and did well. Then early March on a easy 2 mile warm up run I felt something snap in my glute. For the next 2 weeks I could barely walk and took a fair amount of ibuprofen ( If you know me I have to be in significant pain to take any meds. I definitely hate putting chemicals in my body) when the pain moved to a manageable level I worked with a PT and was able to start running again the first part of April. I had to start with a one mile run walk. So at this point Riverbank really wasn’t even on my radar. Yet three years ago, the last time I could run that race I had managed to run it in under two hours and was in the two-hour club for this race. (For those of you are unaware that just gives you some extra perks of having your own private room with private bathrooms, food, private gear check ect.)

As my body quickly responded to training I was able to ramp up my mileage quicker than anticipated. I ran the SheRuns 10K just 2 weeks prior and felt great, with a good pace.

Yet going into Riverbank my head wasn’t in a great space as far as confidence in my ability to do the whole 15.5 and no idea what pace to run. I simply wasn’t trained well enough for it and there was no way I could know confidently what I could do on that day.

Obstacle number 2 is my head about racing in general. Because of the anxiety I struggle with I always need someone there as a safety net. Pre pandemic as I’d gotten stronger mentally I wasn’t needing that as much but we’re not there now. The pandemic has definitely set me back but that’s OK I’m coming back. Jeff has always been my number one race support. Our lives have taken some twists and turns and I wasn’t 100% sure what race day looked like. However this year my friends that I trained with were all running it so I just told myself I would run with them. Another friend who I had just gotten to know, we’d actually really only ever seen each other in person once, asked to ride down with me. This was perfect that I at least had someone going down with me but she is a way different pace than me so I wouldn’t see her on the course

Obstacle number 3 HEAT! I’m not a huge fan of hot summer running, I generally do more duathalons in the summer to give me a break from strictly running. The weather prediction for race day was ridiculously unseasonably warm. I left this get in my head all week.

Race Day Recap

My running group made their own plans for getting down there and they stuck together, so I was kind of on my own before the race. The 2 hour club room was great but I didn’t know a soul up there and it felt very unnerving. This is where I wish a friend had stuck with me. Too much time alone before the race for my brain to start to squirrel.

My running group and I ran into each other walking to the start line. One of them had agreed to start a little further up with me but there seemed to be a bit of confusion between the whole group. Not a big deal but for someone who likes to know what to expect there was a lot of confusion.

We got started running and by this point I lost control of confidence. I felt like I was starting from a deficit and I couldn’t get my breathing together.

About mile 3 I saw Jeff on the bike and he took off before he saw me clearly thinking I was in my normal pace group and I wasn’t. I gave him a call on the phone and he said he’d wait for me up by the zoo.

I was really struggling on the hills on Butterworth. Simply because my anxiety was so high I couldn’t get my breathing regulated. Every time I’d stop to walk my running group kept getting further ahead of me. Then I would be even more out of breath as I caught up with them. This was about the time I really started to spiral. I realized that if I dropped back no one was going to notice I was gone. I either had to keep up with them or go it alone. Alone was where all the negative thoughts had space to grow because there was no one to talk to.

As we were coming down veterans memorial I got talking with one of the pacers with the 9 minute mile group. I think her name was Hannah and if she ever reads this or if anyone knows her I’d love to talk to her again. She was a blessing! We got talking about trauma and she was a trauma informed therapist which really got me distracted off me and onto other stuff going on in my life. This was a double edged sword as the other stuff going on in my life is quite painful and difficult to deal with. It did however keep me distracted for a good amount of time.

My final breaking point was as we came to the end of Johnson park. I knew that the turn meant I was on my way back away from what I felt was safety. I stopped and got a quick hug from one of my friend’s mom and in an instant my running group was gone. I haven’t asked yet but I wonder how long it took before they even noticed I wasn’t there or if they ever thought anything of it. This is where I completely lost it. I looked up they were gone, there was no one….. I was either going home or I was going it alone.

After I looked at my Garmin and my finish time I can now see I stood there for 20 minutes. I cried, we hugged, everyone was very encouraging. I had sort of decided to start walking to their car and give up when I called Jeff on his bike. He was so amazing he said he would get to me one way or another and ride back with me.

And he did! Just talking to him along the way was so helpful and so distracting. And just knowing that he wasn’t going to leave me was all I needed.

We came up behind my friend Jane at about mile 13.5 to 14 and she was really struggling. She asked us to stay with her and obviously I was not going to say no when that was exactly the thing I needed. So I walked to mile 15 with her and then asked if she minded if I run in the last half mile. She was really afraid to be alone as well and she asked Jeff to stay with her on his bike. He was so kind and stayed with her to the end. (She ended up in the med tent, as did many at the end of the race)

I am really proud of myself for finishing although I couldn’t have done it without Jeff’s support.

I feel so sad for people who struggle with mental health that don’t have that safe person. Right now we’re going through some really difficult stuff with our daughter and I’m beginning to realize that we weren’t being very good safe people for her. I’m so glad someone educated us on how to be better safe people for her. Yet it was INCREDIBLY HARD to find someone to help us. Mental health injuries don’t show up on the outside. They’re not like a cut you can see or like cancer that gets lots of support.

Things that seem like they should be simple to most people are hard for us. This is the mistake I made with our daughter. I assumed that she could do things that her broken brain couldn’t. Because on the outside she looked like any other 29 year old who just for lack of better words “needed to pull her big girl panties up and get s*** done” If that thought has crossed your mind with somebody I encourage you to dig in a little deeper. Maybe it is somebody who just needs to grow up or maybe it’s somebody whose brain is broken and they need a little extra support.

Riverbank 2022 is in the books. It will certainly be one to remember, or maybe not lol In the grand scheme of life it’s one race. Even if I’d quit I wouldn’t be too disappointed. It’s actually been rather good to feel those feelings. Feelings of winning are great but feelings of losing are also good to feel sometimes. They remind me that I can. I’m OK no matter what, There’s always a new day, there’s always another chance to try.

We Can Do Better

I am a little angry today. Anger as I have said before is a signal, but is it today? I am angry we could not find help this past year when our daughter was a victim of a severe trauma. (for her protection I will not name the trauma, but it doesn’t matter, trauma is trauma.) I am frustrated that six months later a small town in Georgia didn’t know what to do with her so they hospitalized her then jailed her.

She has severe PTSD. Why do we call it PTSD? ( I’ll tell you why but that’s a whole another blog post ) Why does it have to be called a disorder? It is the body’s normal reaction to trauma. It’s not a disorder it’s normal. It would happen to any of us if we were victims of trauma. Why not PTSG? Post traumatic stress growth. With the right therapies and treatment many people grow stronger after their trauma. They become supporters of others who have experienced trauma.

Finding a therapist was nearly impossible but then when we did find someone she didn’t really give us any direction. For a few months I sat paralyzed not knowing what to do. Then I started doing my own research and reading everything I could about what happens to someone after trauma.

What makes me so angry is that not a single person told me any of what I’m now learning about the brain after trauma. Why?! Why couldn’t someone tell us what to expect? We clearly have a lot of research on what happens to someone after trauma. We were told over and over again that because she is an adult there really is no help for us. Yet one of the most effective things someone can do to help a person who’s been through trauma is to make a meaningful connection. How do we make a meaningful connection when we don’t have any tools to understand that her brain is shut down, it is not reasoning or making logical decisions.

One in Five people in America deals with some sort of mental health issue. We medicate but we do not educate. We do a horrible job of educating. That is a problem, because for each person dealing with a mental health issue there are at least one but more likely 4-5 loved ones who have no idea how to support their person. They don’t know the dialog to use with them or what are reasonable expectations for their loved one.

There should be help for loved ones of victims (or someone with mental health challenges) Unfortunately most of them turn to substances that will alleviate the pain for them. For me this took the focus off my daughter’s trauma and put it on her addiction. Wrong, I missed seeing that her addiction was just a tool for her pain. The pain that was compounded by the fact that I didn’t understand and she needed to be understood more than anything. At least this is what I’m gathering from the research I’m doing. Six months ago if a therapist had walked alongside of us and helped us understand we would be in a way different spot now but nobody did and now we may lose her again.

Yesterday somebody said to me that I was a good mom because I am trying so hard to learn and get help for me, because after her trauma her parents didn’t try to understand. I don’t know her parents but I would venture to say that her parents just didn’t know where to turn. There’s no big treatment center for trauma like there is for cancer. If we heard someone yelling to us from the water “help I’m drowning” we would immediately send a lifeline. Why is there no lifeline for someone with mental health issues? I guess part of it is that it doesn’t look the same for everybody. Somebody drowning in the water is just obviously drowning in the water but somebody drowning in mental health issues doesn’t always look like they’re drowning in mental health issues.  In fact they’re generally pretty good at making it look like they are not. Sometimes it just looks like they’re being stubborn or obstinate, when really they are terrified and paralyzed by their fear.  Unable to express that fear they act angry.

We can do better! We have to do better at not only helping those with challenges but helping those who love them understand and make a meaningful connection with them. We have to educate! We have to educate the individual with the challenge but more importantly we need to educate society and the loved ones. We absolutely know trauma, anxiety and depression result in a fundamental reorganization of the way the mind and the brain manages perceptions. It changes not only how we think and what we think about but also our very capacity to think. The pre frontal cortex, the reasoning part of our brain fails to make some connections. Understanding cause-and-effect is compromised, sequencing is difficult. So we ask the person experiencing these challenges to make the call for help. If we as their supporters understood their needs better we could help without them having to ask.

I will continue to fight for me, I am a one in the five

I will continue to fight for her

I will continue to fight for you and your loved one

Rediscovering KymPossible

I spent so many years trying to find Kym. The Kym who believed in possibilities and the Kym who achieved possibilities. And then I lost her. Not forever, not completely, but enough of her that she seemed unrecognizable to me. I don’t hate her, but I don’t love her. I want more for her. So I set out to rediscover her.

This photo was taken after several years of anxiety that kept me from driving much like now. This is at the top of the Manitou Incline in Colorado Springs. I posted a picture of it on Facebook with the caption “to all my friends who were there for me when I couldn’t drive to the local grocery store I made it to Colorado and to the top of the Manitou Incline.”
I will arrive at the top of my mountain again. Life is just going from one challenge to the next.

Its been a challenge for sure, but I am trying to focus on the wins. There’s really nothing bad about my life, it’s just unfamiliar right now. Its uncomfortable and not what I had hoped for. I guess that’s what makes it unsettling to me. Anxiety causes the prefrontal cortex (the reasoning/analytical part of our brain) to work sub optimally. Therefore I often feel like I’m just in a fog, not myself.

The science behind neuroplasticity is super fascinating and I love reading about it but I’m very visual. The picture below is of the process I use and believe is the most successful way to rewire unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. (Excuse my lack of artistic skills 😁) I describe it in more detail after.

SAFE SPOT: As you can see the small circle in the center is safe for me. Safe is different for everybody. Safe for me is with somebody who can help distract me from the anxiety but I talk to lots of people who safe for them is to not be with anybody, to be left alone.

UNSAFE/UNFAMILIAR: The spot where I’m going to have anxiety is the big circle. There was a big push in the nineties for “exposure therapy.” You just had to do the thing that you were afraid of. That never worked for me and here’s why. When I’m out there doing that unsafe thing I am literally white knuckling it. The anxiety is at a 10. So all I’m doing is creating a fear neuropathway.

Think of it kind of like the Grand Canyon. It was carved out over time. Those grooves were worn by repetition. So if I am having intense fear as I’m doing something that is the groove that’s going to be built. Fear will be what I feel every time I repeat that action.

SLIGHTLY UNSAFE/UNFAMILIAR: However if I do something just slightly outside of my safe spot. Something that is a little uncomfortable and I manage the fear/anxiety then I have developed a confidence neuropathway. If I do that again and again then my safe circle has grown. That becomes no longer unfamiliar and it feels safe.

Each time I grow that safe circle it gets closer and closer to that big circle that felt really unsafe. EVERY uncomfortable thing we do helps us. If we avoid being uncomfortable then the things that are comfortable become smaller and smaller. And the things that are uncomfortable become bigger and bigger. We are less equipped to do “uncomfortable “

A few blog posts back I mentioned that I set out to create a marathon training plan for my mental health. I replaced the running mileage with driving challenges. So I started with driving short distances and usually with a safety net of someone that I could call if I needed help. From there I gradually went without help and now I have increased the distance I go from my safe spot.

I’m still early in my training plan but I’m already seeing some good wins. Like any marathon training plan I anticipate there will be tougher days and some setbacks. I’ll be prepared for those and I won’t give up just like I wouldn’t if I was training for a race.

It’s a little bit funny….. this past weekend I ran a pretty difficult half marathon. It was around 6゚ when I started with 25 mph winds on very icy back country roads. I’m proud of my 2nd place overall finish but I’m more proud of the fact that I drove to our local Costco which is 5 miles from my house the day before 😆 Only someone who struggles with anxiety can understand that craziness.

If you are struggling with anxiety, my suggestions are:

1. Start, it is the hardest part, but you must start. You can be uncomfortable for the short moment of starting or you can remain uncomfortable for the rest of your life with anxiety.

2. SMALL steps: Sometimes when we have anxiety and we do those small things we feel stupid. At least I do, I start to beat myself up for not being able to do the bigger things.

3. Celebrate your wins. This is critical to building that neuropathy! Write them down, tell your supporters about them.

4. Have equal measures grace for yourself and grit. There are some days that you will just need to step back and some days you will need to push forward. Be kind to yourself on the days it’s just not the day and dig deep on the days you might need a little push.

This is My Story, This is my Song

I honestly don’t even know where to begin writing this or even if I should. But as I’m processing my life and retraining my brain to accept it, I feel like I need to share what it was. And really I’ve been pretty vocal about how I think it’s important for people to share the good, the bad, the ugly. So here it is, at least a good chunk of it.

My childhood was fairly normal, at least as normal as I know, white middle class life.  I would say with a fair amount of certainty that I was born anxious, it is in my genes. However in my adulthood and after years of therapy I’ve discovered that there were some things in my childhood that grew that anxiety. I was also born driven, (maybe that’s a first born thing). My parents certainly gave me opportunities to use that drive although I can’t say that I used it productively 😬

By the age of 19 I was living in my own apartment, had broken up with my boyfriend of 3 years and was having fun dating and hanging with friends. This was when I met #29 (I recently saw someone refer to their ex by a number and I kind of like this idea. So if you read my last post “George” is now #29 😄)  I remember the 1st day he started working at the factory I worked at. There weren’t that many guys working there so every girl of course had an eye on him.  I had a couple of guys that I was dating and was enjoying the freedom I was now experiencing after having been with the same guy for 3 years. So though #29 caught my eye, I didn’t anticipate getting to know him.  One day he left his lunch in the break room and I brought it back to him, this was our 1st time talking. Then I don’t remember how it all came to be but I just remember he started coming to the local park with us after work to hang out. He had a fiancé that he was living with and we all just became friends. This was in the fall of 1984. By Spring of 1985 he invited me to his apartments St Patrick’s day party.  I am fairly certain that was the night I lost my heart to him. His relationship with his fiancée had started to unravel but we kept the evening very neutral as he was technically still committed to her (she as I understand it was already cheating on him with a friend of his).  By fall of 1984 we were dating and we took a trip down to Florida together. On that trip I asked him if he wanted to move in with me when we got back. There was a small part of me that had some reservations about that. He had already displayed a little jealousy. I found this suffocating but I loved him and felt once he realized how much I loved him he would know there was no reason to be jealous.  That Christmas he asked me to marry him and in August of 1986 we were married. Surely now he would know there was no reason to be jealous, I chose him to be with for the rest of my life.

He wasn’t convinced, he was sure that I was going to leave him or cheat on him. So the arguing began. It wasn’t always, it wasn’t even more than half of the time.  We bought a house, made it our home, invited friends over, we had a nice life.  I wasn’t equipped to deal with my feelings either so I too had angry outbursts. At that time I think we both drank enough that we could mitigate the tension. 

Four years later our oldest daughter was born. It was Bliss!  In an instant I realized what my true passion in life was. I loved being a mom, I loved being home with our daughter and taking care of our home and taking care of my husband.  But two years later I had my first major panic attack.  Looking back I had these many times as a kid but just didn’t recognize what it was. This one was brutal, we were driving to Grand Haven and I couldn’t get there. This started a two year spiral of not been able to manage my anxiety attacks.  I finally found a therapist, Dr Harder, who taught me through cognitive behavior therapy how to manage the panic attacks.

As I got emotionally healthier my relationship with #29 got rockier.  I was pregnant with our second child when we decided to split for a few months. I loved #29 more than words could express. Being away from him just didn’t feel right. We reconciled just before daughter number two was born.  We sold our house in the city and moved to the suburbs.

I loved our life in our second house.  I became very involved in the school system, our neighborhood was amazing and I just thrived in our community.  Meanwhile our relationship was in this constant cycle of  honeymoon phase/things are going really well, tension starts to build, shit hits the fan, circle back to honeymoon phase/things are going really well. Round and round.  We’ve gone through multiple therapists by that time and we talk over and over again about what would make things better. #29 wanted more land, and I am desperate to do anything that will make life less stressful.   By this time I feel like I am constantly waiting for the ball to drop. When is the next time a blow up is gonna happen?  We decide to sell the house and find a home in the country. There are so many times that I see God’s hand in our journey.   This is one of those huge God moments where the house that we find is just perfect. 

By this time we’ve had our 3rd daughter and we move into our house in the country. This is gonna be it, we’ve moved away from all distractions, it will be just us and our love for each other. And it is pretty blissful and perfect for a couple of years. Yet I feel like a caged bird. I am isolated from any sort of community, the kids friends are a drive away, I have given up all friendships in an attempt to avoid any arguments about where I am going, who I am going with etc.  And at this point I have started to lie about things I’ve done, money I’ve spent. It just wasn’t worth the interrogation, however I see the error in this. I now see how that fuels the distrust.

I had spent the whole decade of the nineties and well into the early 2000’s managing my anxiety through holistic cognitive behavioral therapy and wine.  Most of my family let me know that they thought this was crazy.  There was a plethora of new anti anxiety drugs that would make my life better. Why would I not take them?  My answer to that then and to this day is a subject for a whole another blog. But it wasn’t for me. Nevertheless my anxiety had spiraled to the point where I couldn’t leave home.  I couldn’t drive to the grocery store without a complete panic attack and I’d have to call someone to come get me. I literally was a caged bird, caged by my own thoughts.

Fall of 2006 I knew I had to get control of my life. I couldn’t stand living out in the country, I couldn’t stand how exhausting our marriage was.  Every Saturday we’d have a conversation at the kitchen counter about how to fix it. By noon we’d walk away from each other, no resolution and half the Saturday gone.  Finally I asked to move back to Jenison.  The school district we were in had not worked out and our kids were being driven back to their old school everyday. #29 put the house up for sale for thousands more than it was worth. We were heading into that recession and nobody was going to buy the house for what he was asking.

Six weeks before Spring break of 2007 I declared to #29 that if he did not put the house for sale at a sellable price range that I was moving out with the girls spring break.  He did not and we did. I found us a duplex back in Jenison and spring break of 2007 we moved into it.

Ahhhh….. I felt such relief. My anxiety went from a 10 to a 4 and we all settled into our new life.  Even though there was a lot of anger and hurt feelings I still loved # 29. He truly is a lovely person, kind, hard working, caring, so many wonderful qualities. I agreed not to date anyone for 2 years and to leave the door open for reconciliation. Over the next 3 years we spent a lot of time together and I saw him make many changes.  He finally sold that house in the country and when he had no place to move I let him move in to our duplex. Almost instantly his control started up again.

By 2011 I had to get out. He wouldn’t leave and I could no longer take the suffocation. By this time my oldest daughter had gotten married and it was just the two girls and I. For the next year we couch surfed.  We lived in one person’s basement for the first 6 months, that another persons apartment for several months and then we got our own two bedroom apartment. The girls each had their own room and I slept on the couch.

I felt like a horrible mother. I had moved them so many times and now we were financially struggling in this two bedroom apartment. I wanted so badly for them to have a “normal life.”  And since I really did love #29 a year later we all moved back in together. I know… you thinking WTF? Yep

We spent one year in an apartment and then we bought a house. I remember the day moving into the house, #29 was in another one of his moods and I knew I was making a huge mistake.  One night after being there about a year at the dinner table #29 was interrogating me because I’d had coffee with a male business coach. I was working on building my training business. After #29 left the table my youngest asked why we came back to this?  I responded that I wanted her to have her own room and a home. To which she said “so we traded peace for having a bedroom” gah…this was like a knife in my heart. Yep, unfortunately that is what we had done.

New Year’s Eve 2014, we are at a friends house. #29’s jealousy has shown up again, he is making nasty digs at me.  Our friend asked him if he wants another beer, he says do you want one of those “dirty blondes?” (its a beer). #29 looks at me and says “no, I already have one of those”.  That was it. As we drove home that night I informed him that Monday I would be filing for divorce.  I did and unfortunately on his birthday September 3rd 2015 our divorce was final.

2016 was a good year.  I gave myself some time, I dated a couple of guys, nothing serious. By 2018 I was spending time with number #29 again. This time it seemed ideal. I had my own life and my own place and when he started to get in his dark moods I could just send him home.  Yet as I crept further into my fifties  I reflected more and more on how I didn’t want to end my life living alone. I am a collaborator, I love companionship. Aside from the fact that I very much love #29 I also enjoy his companionship.  We love so many of the same things. He’s my best race support. I always say that I do so well at races because he is a great race coach/support.  We both love the beach, we love Grand Haven, we love biking together, and we love tacos. Be that as it may, the dark moody, petulant #29 was still there. That old familiar cycle…..happy phase/tension phase/outburst phase. Its so fucking exhausting. 

The Tuesday before this Christmas I’m driving out to pick up the turkey with my oldest daughter. I hand her the phone and say “Hey text your dad and ask if he needs any help with gifts”.  Last year our middle daughter had a very traumatic year and is living with him, as well as this fall his mom fell ill with covid and has not been doing well. I just wanted to help ease some stress in his life. Five text messages come in rapid fire…accusing me of …umm I am not sure what, men propositioning me? One message says “you have not changed” then the F bombs start flying. My head is spinning, my daughter is like, “should I be reading these?…….I respond with “where is this coming from. TWO days later I get a response. The response is more craziness and THEN…….”I am sorry, I am just really stressed”

What is wrong with me that I allow this shit in my life? A dear friend once said to me “you can’t tell the heart who to love” She’s so right, but I have to love myself enough to say NO to this constant cycle.

So this is how I find myself single again at 56. I think I have finally reached the end of my rope. I can not find a way to ever trust #29 again. All I have ever wanted is to be trusted. In our 35 years together I never once cheated on him, never loved anyone else.

Covid set me back in terms of anxiety, but I have been fighting my way back. This makes a breakup even harder. I can do hard things. So much has happened this past year. The trauma our middle daughter experienced I still can not share publicly, that has ripped my heart. Watching my youngest struggle through college in these covid times, she never got to experience college in normal times. My oldest getting covid, ex MIL getting covid and is still struggling. Sophia has been the diamond in the dust this year….my sweet little grand daughter.

I am sure I am going to come out of this stronger, wiser and happier than I can currently imagine. I don’t have any real words of wisdom in this post. My heart is so broken. I am a work in progress.

Its been several weeks since I wrote this post and I am still not sure there is a good reason why, other than for my own record. Is there any point in publishing it, I don’t know 😕 So if you are reading this, thanks for gently joining me on my road to rediscovering myself.

Manage Your Expectations

So much writing lately but very little posting it publicly. I feel like a lot of it’s been just a dump of my feelings and not of value to anyone else. I try to share stuff on here that brings us both (you the reader and me) to a new level of awareness. This week I came to an awareness that I need to manage my expectations and I suspect I’m not alone in that.

We’ve been living in this altered state of life for almost 2 years now and it’s hard not to expect my 2019 self to show up. And for heaven’s sake don’t get me wrong my 2019 self wasn’t anywhere near perfect either. But she did things that my 2022 self wants to do but isn’t quite there.

As I was sitting with my ex mother in law at a nursing home this week she was frustrated trying to do some exercises. Just 3 months ago she was an 85 year old rock star, Queen of her world. She lived alone, was very active, very involved in church and many other activities. Then she got covid and had a stroke. Last time I saw her she couldn’t even get herself out of bed, now she gets out of bed and makes her way to a chair so there’s been progress. But for her this is frustrating. She’s used to getting up, walking the dog, doing her devotions making breakfast all without skipping a beat. Now just the walk from the bed to her chair gets her out of breath. I see it as, yeah!! you’re getting up and you’re walking to your chair! This is far from her expectation. She needs to manage her expectations.

It’s so much easier to see that in someone else but it’s relevant to my life too. I also need to manage my expectations and stop beating myself up for not being my 2019 self.

One of the big areas I’m struggling in is getting out and mountain biking. I used to ride the trails every weekend in the winter. Now panic attacks that have surfaced strike me hard in the woods. Not only that but I have lost my riding partner so I have to find someone new to ride with. Those of you who struggle with any amount of anxiety know that we anxious people love familiarity. This is hard and I am somewhat paralyzed.

I keep expecting to just head out to Luton Park one weekend and sail through the loops. Instead I find myself stuggling to drive to Costco. Or go to an appointment by myself.

So this week I took to google sheets and created a Mental Health Marathon training plan. Instead of running 1-2 miles the first week, I am driving. I have linked it to things I enjoy. So I have 3 different Starbucks that I’ll be driving to each progressively further from my house. Hysterical right!? But it’ll work because little-by-little I’ll start doing the things I enjoy again.

Last night I wanted to go snow showing and couldn’t find anyone to join me. I was tempted to go to the closest easiest park (well actually my 1st choice was to put on a pair of sweatpants and sit down with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book) but instead I decided to drive just a little further out, and do these small loops. The first loop went great and I was so proud of myself so I looped back in for a second loop. I got as far in that loop as I could and started to feel my breathing get shallower and I started to focus on how I felt scared. That deep ingrained neuropathway that says “what if I have a panic attack out here all by myself.” got louder and louder but I worked through it. I got to that end of that loop and did one more loop. Week one of my mental health marathon training plan! I have started to wear down a new groove in my brain.

Patience! I have been that girl, I just want to be there again now, yet I have to manage my expectations. I have to scale back to week 1, day 1 of my training plan and take it slowly. Celebrate each week as I did in the beginning of training for an athletic event.

Mental health needs to be seen as an athletic event not a medical event. It isn’t like a broken bone that you just fix and it’s fixed for good. It’s like training for an event and you get to the event and then there’s the next event on the horizon. And even within that training plan you get to mile 13 on your training schedule and then the next week you cut back to 10 miles. Some runs feel like the wind is at your back the whole way and then there are some that the wind is in your face the whole way, You question why you are doing this, but you persevere through and finish.

This is a mental health journey! It’s a journey of discovery.

When you’re training for a marathon you’re discovering more about yourself and what you are capable of doing and what things trip you up. Facing your mental health challenges are the same way. You discover who you are, It’s a journey of self awareness. Look, every 3 to 5 years we’re discovering a new version of ourselves anyway, right? Think about it, especially if you have kids, every 3 to 5 years brings a new season of life. It’s a new event to prepare for, adapt our lives for.

I want to be present in the season I’m in. I want to cheer for myself just like I did for my mother in law.

When I sign up for a race I am both excited and terrified, so it should be with facing this mental health challenge. I have been terrified, now it’s time to be excited.

I am excited and terrified. I am going to manage my expectation. I am going to cheer for myself every little step of the way. And when I arrive at this event I will remember THIS. IS LIFE.