More tears to shed

Today I had my second therapy session. I didn’t really feel like going. I’ve been doing well lately and felt like I wouldn’t have much to talk about. But I went…and words poured out of my mouth and tears flowed from my eyes. I sobbed. I did NOT anticipate that or realize I had painful emotions that close to the surface.

We were talking about all the ways I try to control my environment as a reaction to my intense anxiety and feeling like the world is no longer safe or predictable. Some of these ways are intense and interfere with my life (like the extent to which I try to control exposure to germs for myself and my kids). But as we explored these tendencies, with some thoughtfully placed questions, my therapist elicited a strong grief reaction in me. And I started talking about Charlie.

The reality is, since Cami came, I haven’t felt free to grieve Charlie. Maybe it unconsciously feels like my time-line for grieving him expired and I now have a new baby, so…HOORAY! (?) Or that’s the expectation I think others have for me? I even have the thought that Charlie must be moving on as well…and I feel guilty if I distract him with my sadness.

However, I think more connected and accurate is my grief and anxiety.  I have such intense anxiety about losing Cami that I haven’t felt I could grieve Charlie because to grieve, is to remember how painful it is and that intensifies my already-overwhelming anxiety. Anxiety feels horrible so I’ve done everything I can to avoid it or minimize it…and that includes disconnecting myself from my grief.

But today I realized I still have tears to shed for him. My grief is not done…or as my therapist described, “not yet metabolized.” And all my efforts to avoid those feelings of sadness through my hyper-vigilance and control in my life are not working. And they’re not helpful.

Coming to understand these processes, cleared my vision and I was able to access my sadness in a painful but refreshing and needed way. I was able to feel how much still miss him. Deeply.

In two weeks we will pass Charlie’s two year angelversary. Though I have come very far in my journey and happiness has graced my life again, there is still sadness and pain that needs to be felt. And I will let myself cry for my Mister Mister. IMG_3050

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Toward “wellness”

Instead of New Year’s resolutions, I try to pick a theme for each year. Last year’s theme was Connected and I spent the year trying to reconnect to myself and more deeply connect within other relationships around me and with my Heavenly Father. I feel I largely met that goal and am satisfied with my efforts.

This year my theme is Wellness. With this theme as my guide, I want to work toward feeling more emotionally/physically/spiritually healthy.

I’ve been doing a variety of things to try to move toward this value of Wellness in my life.

First thing I did in January was to decrease the amount of processed foods I consume. This has actually been easier than I thought it would be. Now, I haven’t eliminated all processed foods. For example, I still consume copious amounts of chocolate…but at least it’s dark chocolate, which is less processed and has fewer additives and sugar. I’ve also simply tried to increase my fiber and eat more fruits and veggies.

I’m not on any kind of diet…trust me…you won’t meet many people more anti-diet than me. For years my moral stance against dieting meant complete acceptance of all foods available to consume. I called this intuitive eating. And I considered myself largely healthy. I continue to believe wholeheartedly in intuitive eating but I learned that not all foods are created equal. I’ve been learning more about nutrition, mostly through NPR episodes, documentaries and Michael Pollan books.  I am by no means an expert on food but I was blown away to learn how much the food I ate regularly had unnecessary additives and preservatives (SUGAR) and what those products have been doing to my body! As I have been learning more about processed foods, I wanted to see if I could become even more healthy by largely eliminating those products from my diet.

At first the results were unremarkable. I didn’t feel this sudden well-spring of health where I sported Birkenstocks and practiced daily yoga. In fact I felt really really tired. Really really. I was pretty disappointed but decided to continue the experiment. Now into my third month I have to say I AM noticing some positive results. Nothing spectacular or revolutionary but I’m feeling pretty good! I no longer crave highly processed or heavy foods and my body feels a lot healthier. Yesterday, I bought Hailee some Reese’s chocolate peanut butter eggs and I ate two of them. I found I didn’t like them! This shocked me because peanut butter and chocolate are my FAVORITE. Three months ago I would’ve consumed over 1/2 the bag in one sitting before sharing with Hailee. Now, when I eat french fries I feel yucky. Not psychologically yucky, physically yucky. I like being in this place where I crave my daily breakfast of oatmeal, walnuts. blueberries and maple syrup and my afternoon snack of apples and almond butter. Nom Nom! Of course I’m eating other meals and snacks throughout my day (I’m a hungry nursing mom!) but I have truly fallen in love with these two daily staples and appreciate how satisfied and good they make me feel.

Besides nutrition, I am getting back into exercise. This last weekend I ran my first 5k in over…a year and a half? And it felt awesome!

IMG_4262It was a local 5k called The Leprechaun Lope that took place at the state capitol. It was a blast to don some face paint and a green tutu, people watch, and collect “gold” coins that little leprechauns threw along the trail.

IMG_4255This was the first of numerous races I hope to run this year. I’m running another 5k this Saturday. In May I’m going to run the 10k for Charlie again, and in June I’m going to run the Ragnar Wasatch Back for the first time! And then, to add to the insanity, Chad and I are thinking we’ll train for the Disney World Half Marathon. Am I crazy? I sort of hate running but am super excited about all these races and I’ll probably add a couple more! I love working toward goals and I thrive on the energy and excitement and fun of race day.

Beyond physical health, I’m also working on my emotional health. I will admit I think I have a bit of postpartum depression mixed into the grief/anxiety/and trauma reminders in my daily life. While this depression hasn’t become debilitating, it has definitely impacted my quality of life and my relationships. So this week I initiated my own therapy.

I think this move was probably over due but I’m grateful I’m starting now. I was surprised how nervous I felt sitting on the couch instead of in the therapist’s chair! I am hopeful the experience will help me resolve some issues, work through painful emotions, make important decisions, improve my communication in relationships, and feel more content and happy in my life!

I am also trying to do more self-care things, like read good books, journal, and re-engage my hobbies (like cooking, quilting, and scrapbooking).

The spiritual part of my wellness goal has been harder. I feel spiritually fatigued and I’m not exactly sure what to do about it. But I feel a lot of support from family and friends around this so I’m staying afloat. I’m also open to ideas around this if anyone has any.

Finally, I’m committed to proactively seek opportunities for fun. Since losing Charlie two years ago, our life has been largely (not completely) devoid of fun. My trip to Boston reminded me that fun is possible for me, for us, and I think it’s time to engender more of it in our life. We are starting with a scavenger hunt a la Amazing Race style in downtown SLC in a couple weeks!

As I move toward Wellness, I know it will require dedication, vigilance, and also flexibility, moderation, and continued evaluation. But for the first time since losing Charlie, the journey ahead seems to hold promise, light, fulfillment, contentment, fun, and well…wellness.

Biting into 8 months!

IMG_4237Gotta love Hailee’s feet photo bombing Cami’s 8 month photo shot. Anyway, I feel like this month is a big month for Cami. She seems to be reaching multiple milestones at once. She cut her first two teeth and loves gnawing fruit, especially oranges. Besides some general increased fussiness and snotting, Cami seemed to navigate the experience of sharp teeth cutting through her tender gums quite well.

Cami also began crawling! It’s a bit of an army crawl at this point but she certainly knows how to get from point A to point B.

IMG_4020 IMG_4026She also loves holding very important “Ssss” conversations. Cami makes the cutest “Ssss” spitting sound and waits for you to say it back and then the conversations proceeds with a lot of “Ssss” and huge smiles. She really knows how much we love her “Ssss” because she greets us ALL the time with it and an expectant big smile. It truly is her way of saying “hello.”

IMG_4239Cami has also begun to take the majority of her naps in her crib. This feels like a big personal milestone for ME as I am facing my anxiety about her stomach sleeping. Especially when, in spite of my efforts to keep her on her back, Cami does this:

IMG_4242And then proceeds to have the best naps of her life. If Cami sleeps on her back she will wake up after only 30 minutes, guaranteed. If she sleeps on her stomach, we can count on upwards of an hour nap or so. I hate it when she sleeps on her tummy but there’s really not much I can do about it! And if she sleeps better that way, who am I to say no? And if we don’t start extending her naps beyond 30 minutes, there will be no end in sight for her four-nap-a-day schedule. Yup…that’s right, most days Cami still takes 4 naps when by this age she should only be taking two, maybe three.

I am still hyper-vigilant around naptime!!! We got a video monitor and my favorite part about it is the resolution is good enough that I can see and hear her breathe. Pair that with a Snuza and I don’t feel super anxious. In fact I’ve begun to get stuff done in my brief 30 minute mommy-breaks!

In the next couple days/weeks we will transition Cami to the crib at night as well, as she is outgrowing her bouncy chair. That is going to be the BIGGEST milestone (for me) as it’ll be another level of exposure therapy. But I think I’m getting close to being ready and I think Cami is definitely ready.

As we pass 8 months with our rainbow baby in arms, I just feel a lot of continued gratitude for the opportunity to nuzzle her, smell her, talk to her, and love on her everyday. IMG_4037

Success

I love walking into a hotel room and smelling the stale air and feeling the scratchy bathroom towels. To me, these sensations are the promise to memories to be made and adventures to be had. I feel like it’s cliche because it seems like everyone likes to travel, but for me, travel really does it for me! I love the comfort of routine but I really thrive on adventure. But losing Charlie while on a vacation almost completely eradicated my desire for travel and adventure and replaced it with fear.

IMG_4217But this last week I took a very brave step, and flew to Boston for the American Group Psychotherapy Association annual conference. I left Cami and Hailee in the care of Chad and my mother-in-law and met up in Boston with friends from work and graduate school. This trip was the first I’ve taken since we have had Cami in our arms and leaving her felt so wrong. But it also felt so necessary.

I needed to learn that Cami will be fine without me. And I needed to learn that I can be fine without her. And while it felt somewhat bittersweet to see her on Face-Time and observe that she looked just as happy in my absence as in my presence, that gave me continued to permission to enjoy my trip.

And I did enjoy my trip! It was just what I needed. AGPA is a truly unique experience. At AGPA phrases like, “I feel really connected to you right now,” and “I really resonate with what you are saying and feel a lot of caring for you,” are ubiquitous every hour in every workshop and seminar. The whole spectrum of emotions are felt and expressed at this conference as attendees are encouraged to be authentic and dis-inhibited to accentuate their own experience and training and facilitate an intense group experience. So complete strangers are shedding tears together, or fighting with one another, grieving together, or even admitting attractions to each other (yes boundaries can be blurry here so it’s important to maintain your own, as others will not do it for you). It’s a very powerful and meaningful experience…and maybe you’ll just have to take my word on that as I read over how I explained it and realize it sounds quite hokey and bizarre. But I believe passionately in the power of group psychotherapy because I see it in the groups I run and I experience it personally at these annual conferences.

I roomed with a good friend from graduate school who I only get to see once a year, as we now live across the nation from each other. Another graduate school acquaintance joined us and after a couple days together she quickly transitioned from acquaintance to friend.

IMG_4219Because AGPA is a place of connection, I found I was able to do some healing personal grief work. I connected with others who have lost loved ones  and we cried together. I also felt free to do grief work as I was away from Cami. With Cami, grieving Charlie feels…messy. It’s been tangled up more with anxiety, trauma reminders, and gratitude for the amazing gift of another baby. But at AGPA, I felt I was able to connect to my grief without it feeling messy or threatening and though the connections and grief expression only happened for brief moments, it felt very healing and connective.

So the conference itself felt like much-needed personal therapy. Beyond the conference, my friends and colleagues and I had a great time sharing meaningful conversations, wandering around historical Boston sites, eating good food, and dancing…yes dancing! AGPA hosts a dance each year and with some persuasion, my trouser and sweater wearing colleagues demonstrated some impressive and comical dance moves!

My heart felt genuinely happy for those few days. It was a very welcome breath of fresh air. Now I am home and back to my routine of oatmeal breakfasts and reservoir hikes and feeding Cami sweet potatoes and watching Hailee jump on her trampoline. My Boston trip was definitely a success and I look forward to the possibility of more trips! Soon!