Page 15 (Pages 8-14 we’re just nonsense)

Pages 8-14 involved fighting off a cold, pure exhaustion and a brain trying to do so many things that I was completely overwhelmed and unable to get coherent thoughts I was willing to share on paper. But I have not forgotten about my commitment to write every day. What I wrote was just not what I wanted to share. 😉

Page 15:

This is one of my favorite photos from my wedding in 2007, when my husband and I were walking towards our future – a partnership and a team. A new chapter for two people who had experienced a lot of pain in life. I framed it today as I was swapping out photos as part of my post holiday clean up. And while I knew our wedding was beautiful – it’s hard not to see beauty in Hana, Maui, these thoughts filled my head: I wasn’t as thin as I wanted to be; my dress made my back side look bigger than I wanted; I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the next two weeks in the Tahitian Islands in a bikini.

I’d been doing Boot Camp for a solid year plus and felt the best I had in years. But I couldn’t look at myself without seeing flaws. I still can’t. It’s a constant struggle to like seeing pictures of myself on social media or from vacations.

So today I am focusing on this photo, which was all about the now and the future simultaneously. I’ll work on giving myself grace. I give it to others freely. I need to give it to myself too.

(But that back and those shoulders are part of my 2019 fitness goals – isn’t it funny how we look back at the time we thought we weren’t as thin, fit, whatever enough, and now we think we would love to look or be just like that?)

Page 7

The boys went back to school today. My husband is working from home, still recovering from surgery.

My garage is still a disaster. I’m convinced our Christmas Trees will be up until April, and my hands look like they actually belong to a crusty old crab fisherman on the Bering Sea, and I can’t even believe I’m posting pics of them here, but they don’t even look human and hurt like hell. Even typing makes me want to cry. I’m sleeping in gloves and slathered in cream but – come on – they are so bad. Once every few years they get this bad – whether it’s the dry cold here in recent weeks or the wrapping and unwrapping or a thousand things, who knows. But here are crusty old fisherman hands.

Ahhhh, so feminine and dainty. Forget that I started biting my nails again which is the worst habit to have and one I’m REALLY working on – anxiety does it no favors – but seriously. Those gnarly hands don’t fit my precious personality. 😉

Oh, and I’m achy and stuffy and my throat is killing me. So praying I don’t go down for the count. Although sleeping for 5 days does sound pretty great right now.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be a better page.

Page 6 – it’s a post not a piece

For those of you who have subscribed to this blog – I think there’s 3 (!!!) of you, I want you to know I appreciate you so much and am apologizing now for filling your inbox with email notifications for things like this.

Today is Epiphany/Little Christmas/Three Kings Day. In our house it’s the official end of the Christmas holiday season. It’s a time for family dinner and appreciation for all the gifts of the season.

It’s also Women’s Little Christmas, an Irish tradition still celebrated in parts of Ireland and a tradition that frankly needs to be adopted here in the States. Women’s Little Christmas is the day where the men took over the chores and housework and gave the women of the house the day off. It goes back to the belief of years ago that men didn’t do any of the housekeeping or meal preparation. They did not engage in what my grandfather so lovingly called “skirt work.” Also, families were large and mothers had many more children to care for than we see today. So, on Women’s Little Christmas they were free to put their feet up and relax or get together with girlfriends at the pub or elsewhere to enjoy a day without household and childcare worries.

Clearly, we did not celebrate Women’s Little Christmas at our house.

Yes, part of that is because my husband is recovering from shoulder surgery and only has the use of one arm. And the other reason is because I had to get started on de-Christmasing my house (while trying to get the kids ready for their first day back at school tomorrow and prepare our Epiphany dinner).

No, there was no Women’s Little Christmas in our house. 😉

Now, what you see is only half the boxes. The other ones are behind me as I take the pictures. Also not pictured above are the boxes in the house and the 2 full size trees still decorated that need to be undressed.

Please note the “feckin eejit” sign next to the tree which makes me laugh every time I come downstairs to the home office. The sign originally was there to lend humor to my day when I was practicing law. Because let’s be honest, I needed a good laugh during the day, especially in my last years of practice.

Anyway, back to the point. No writing today. No Women’s Little Christmas. BUT, a lovely Epiphany Dinner and a huge mess that could easily attract casting directors from the show Hoarders.

Page 5

I really wanted to finish two pieces I’ve been working on today. I didn’t.

I really wanted to post something meaningful to me, that might also be meaningful to you, when I finally sat down an hour ago to write.

But I’m not. I’m exhausted. Since my son’s severe concussion 4 years ago lots of things have been a challenge. After he regained his language skills and his anxiety improved, the two remaining issues still remained eating and sleep.

Today, they reared their ugly heads in major ways, and I became the mom I really don’t like to be. Impatient, snappy and just over it. Over the issues. And then I feel awful because none of this is his fault and I’m his mother and I should never be anything but his greatest advocate and protector.

But, tonight I was just done. He was the baby and toddler that ate everything. He loved all food and it was so easy to cook and go out. The day after his fall that all changed. Sure he had gone through the normal toddler I don’t like that anymore period, but he still liked a wide variety of food. But after his fall, for now 4 years he has eaten plain pasta, preferably penne or rigatoni, broccoli, avocado, sometimes raspberries or strawberries but only if they are perfect, cucumber and full fat Irish milk – which I have to lie about when we are at home in the States and luckily he hasn’t caught on to yet. But he only believes my fib if it’s whole, organic, grass fed milk. Otherwise he refuses.

For 4 years I have been packing him the same lunch and the same dinner. And believe me, I’ve pulled the “you eat what I make or you don’t eat” – and he won’t eat. And he won’t eat even the next day. Honestly he’s the hunger striker you want should you even need to protest in such a way. We’ve talked to specialists and since what he eats is actually good stuff, they have all told us not to worry. But I do. Because going out and traveling and all the things we love to do becomes a huge pain in the tush. And he’s starting to even refuse the above sometimes. So today, I’m just exhausted from it.

And then, his sleep. He won’t go to sleep on his own. And he hasn’t since the concussion. And because he was going through so much in the months (and even years) after the fall, I just did what he wanted and needed. Stories, kisses and staying in bed with him until he fell asleep. And sometimes that would take 15 minutes and sometimes it would (and does) take 3 hours. So many nights I will pass out with him, still in clothes I wore in the day, contacts in, and I then wake up at 3 am and my back is killing me and I can’t go back to sleep. And I realize that the dinner dishes are still in the sink because dinner ran late and I needed to get the kids to bed, and I haven’t done the things I wanted to do that night. So then I toss and then until the alarm goes off at 6:30 – which really should be 6 but (especially on those days), I’m not a morning person.

And tonight, I just lost my ever loving mind when after 2 plus hours he wasn’t asleep, wasn’t going to go to sleep because there were 9000 sirens going off (we live across from the fire and police station) and it was raining and he heard the radio talk about flash flood warnings. I just lost my mind. So angry about the nights I give up and the things I don’t get done, and not even sure if it’s now just habit or control or actually because of his anxiety and if it is what a horrible mother I am for being angry about it.

So, I haven’t written what I’ve wanted but I have had a good cry and calmed down a bit.

I generally avoid parenting advice like the plague, but if any of you have any insight or ideas or things to try, I’m all ears.

Goodnight all. Here’s to brighter skies tomorrow.

Page 4 – when the universe laughs

Today was not the second to last day of winter break for my kids day I had planned.

I had PLANNED on taking our kids down to my parents’ house (they live about an hour – on a good LA traffic day – south of us). We desperately need a change of scenery. My husband had pretty intense shoulder surgery on the 21st, right before Christmas, and he’s pretty limited on what he can do so we have been homebodies these last few weeks. But the boys wanted to see their Gaga and Papa and I wanted to see them too, so a day down South was planned.

So of course, nothing went according to plan. We have the world’s best work dog who we adopted when she was just shy of 4 months old and she will be 2 in February. She has been a joy and a challenge all at once. Friends have asked me to create an Instagram page devoted to just her antics. I’ve lost count of the number of shoes she has destroyed, stuffed animals she has murdered, papers she had shredded (I left my students’ papers out one day after grading them and she tore and ate 95% of them. I had to tell my students the dog literally – the most overused word but appropriate here – ate their homework).

Anyway, she woke up vomiting and had this really large and bizarre blood red hot spot that she wouldn’t stop scratching. So of course we wondered what she ate and called the vet, who was able to buy a Polynesian Island because of the money we have spent on this little rascal (she ate a bee at 6 months old and required 2 emergency hospital visits just as a start). So trip to my parents’ place delayed by a few hours.

So, the vet determined she didn’t eat anything but likely was having another allergic reaction to who knows what (her breed is known for their sensitive skin) and gave her a shot to relieve the itching and IV fluids to replace what she lost vomiting.

So, I left with the dog, who was sporting a hump of fluid on her back, and a 3 day supply of prescription dog food.

On the way back from the vet, not one, not two, but 3 lights appear on my car, one indicating an emergency engine issue. Usually, despite knowing it’s not the best thing to do, I gamble with the service lights. Especially if it’s just the basic service due light. But, since I would have the boys with me and would be driving an hour on one of California’s busiest freeways, I opted to drop the dog and then take the car in immediately.

After another hour and a half, the car had been serviced, I was told nothing was wrong and the emergency light was a glitch and I was on my way. Now it was after 2 pm and the time when the freeway shifts. An hour drive could quickly turn to two plus if I wasn’t on the road right away.

Called my mom, scrapped the plan, went home and told the boys who were immediately and completely pissed off at me for ruining their day (because mine had been so, so fun thus far).

So I did laundry. And organized my kitchen. Took a few more Christmas decorations down. And then, around dinner time the dog started freaking out. Jumping on me and barking and acting like she needed to go out. So I’d take her out, nothing would happen, we’d come back and it would start all over.

And that’s when I noticed it. This sagging goiter like mass hanging from her belly. There was still fluid in her hump on her back, but a lot had dissipated and I wondered if the saline had traveled, even though that had never happened with our previous dog. So we called the vet, texted her pictures, and were told that it likely was the saline traveling, even though she’d never seen anything like this before (of course). She told us that it shouldn’t hurt but was likely causing the dog anxiety because she has this out of nowhere flapping goiter hanging from her belly. So now, I’m on goiter watch with a dog who is on a dose of Benadryl to not only help with the itching but to hopefully calm her the %**% down.

I haven’t showered, I think I might be wearing the same clothes I had on yesterday and I made my favorite dip so I could eat appetizers for dinner. Oh, and I ate vodka soaked gummy bears for dessert. Because they were there.

I made plans. Universe didn’t care.

That’s all I have. So welcome to the “I can’t believe I subscribed to Kate’s blog just to read such drivel and waste non refundable minutes of my life” portion of the program. I’m hoping the piece I intended to post today will be ready tomorrow.

(But I still took the time to write. And that’s the whole point for me. But I’m sorry this wasn’t the post I intended)

Page 3 – Epiphany

I posted earlier this week that in our house, the holiday season isn’t officially over until Epiphany, or Three King’s Day, on January 6.

It’s how I was raised, and, to me, it’s just the way you do it. When I see people taking trees and decorations down the second Christmas is over, it always makes me sad, even though I know that everyone does holidays in a different way.

I usually get a little blue when January 7 rolls around and it’s time to pack things up. My mom always tells people that ever since I was a baby, I’ve had a horrible time taking Christmas down – she used to have to let me pick a decoration or ornament that I would keep on my shelf all year.

So I am known as the Christmas lady and friends and family make fun of my obsession with lights and their proper placement on trees and houses, and the fact that it looks like Santa and Jesus vomited all over my house during the Christmas season. One of my twin sons inherited my holiday gene and is equally as obsessed with decorating and Christmas movies and the best trees. It’s why he thought he had died and gone to Heaven when we surprised him and his brother with a trip to New York City the week after Thanksgiving. Truly, it was amazing to watch him soak up that holiday magic. He also gets sad about the end of the season. I know he will grow up following “the tree stays up until Epiphany” way of thinking, while his brother will likely lean towards the rip it all down the day after. Yin and Yang those two.

So, it was a completely foreign feeling when I woke up today WANTING to take all the decorations down. And then I asked my holiday loving son how he felt about it and HE said that he wanted the tree to stay up but wanted to start putting other stuff away (and the reality is that my son likely wants it all down so he can start decorating for Valentine’s Day because he saw it on display at the grocery store, but that’s neither here nor there).

What was happening to us? My husband made it known that he did NOT support this idea (I’m lucky I found a man who loves the holidays as much as I do), and so I let it go. Sort of.

But I wondered why this year, of all my years on Earth, was the year I was ready to de-holiday my house.

Epiphany.

Epiphany. e·piph·a·ny

/əˈpifənē/

noun

1. the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).

• the festival commemorating the Epiphany on January 6.

• a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being

• a moment of sudden revelation or insight.

Now, I’ve always focused on the first part of the meaning – the culmination of the 12 Days of Christmas and the arrival of the Magi to the Christ Child. And that has always been important.

But THIS year, it seems Epiphany has taken on a bit of a different meaning. A moment of sudden revelation or insight.

A moment of sudden revelation or insight.

I’ve spent the better part of the last two years battling depression. At times I wondered if I would ever crawl out from under it. Parts of me kept getting shoved deeper and deeper, until I didn’t even recognize myself sometimes. My goals, my dreams, my passions, my interests all seemed to disappear. My writing seemed to be the one buried the deepest. Except for a sudden urge here or there, I wasn’t writing. At all. I wasn’t setting goals. I was stagnant. I don’t do well with stagnant. But there I was in this vicious cycle of trying to be “happy” and productive, but feeling like crap most of the time.

Mentally, I’m doing so much better – thanks to my family who knew I needed help and supported me, and to my psychiatrist and the wonder of modern medicine. Slowly the fog has lifted. The “me” I want to be is showing herself more and more. But over the last several months I’ve struggled with still feeling stuck, and then experiencing intense anxiety because of that feeling, and then being paralyzed by the anxiety. The vicious cycle of my anxiety/depression.

Until this past week. It’s as if I woke up on Christmas and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future had all paid a visit and set me back on the path I want and need.

I wanted to write. I wanted to grow and share my business. I wanted to show my children the world. I wanted to have adventures with my husband. I wanted to get serious about living abroad – for a few years or forever. I wanted to manifest my dreams for myself and my family into reality.

A moment of sudden revelation or insight.

The thought of the New Year didn’t seem like a daunting chore destined for disappointment. It made me want to get started – RIGHT NOW – on making it a year to remember – for all the good and right and joyful reasons.

And with that came the sudden desire to pack up the decorations, have a clean, uncluttered slate in our home and get to work.

But because I’m also a girl heavily married to tradition, I compromised. I took down all the garland, lights and bows on our stair railings. It made my son and I feel good, and kept my husband happy.

But I’ll be honest, I’ve never looked more forward to January 7 and packing the holidays away until next year. And I look forward to seeing how our lives have changed between now and then. Because from the bottom of my soul and my whole heart, I know it’s going to be better than the last few years. Dare I say it’s even going to be wonderful.

Yes, I do dare. It’s going to be wonderful.

Page 2

*** I swear this was written on Day 2, even though I crashed putting the kids to bed (lovely sore back after being crammed in the twin bed with my son and dog) and woke up at 1:30 am on Day 3 and am now posting at 2:20 am.

Day 2.

I honestly don’t have any idea what to write. Of course I want all my words to be profound and for people to be touched by them, but I’ve never actually followed through on my commitment to write daily since my first husband died by suicide in 2002. I’m worried that nothing I write will be touching or relatable – so the negative voice inside me says to just forget it. But I won’t let myself down anymore by denying myself the outlet that has always made me feel the most myself.

Before my husband died, I journaled – daily – so words were always there for me, but something shifted when my husband died. I think, on top of it being grief that kept me from writing, it was also self punishment. Writing always brought me comfort. For whatever reason, in the wake of the suicide, I didn’t feel I deserved that comfort. I blamed myself for my husband being alone in his final days. I blamed myself for his death. So of course it made sense to inflict something painful on myself – withholding the one thing that brought me comfort, helped me sort through my feelings and helped me make sense of things.

So, with that said, I’m greasing the wheels and hoping this daily commitment will help the words come again. And will help me LET the words come- without worrying about them being perfect or life altering or Nobel or Pulitzer Prize worthy (but that certainly would be nice, wouldn’t it?).

So today, this is what I have. And that has to be enough. For now at least.

Thanks for reading and keeping me accountable.

Page 1

I’m not gonna lie.  I was happy to kick 2018 to the curb.  The very best thing of 2018 was taking our kids to CT and NYC to spend time with family and show them one of my absolute favorite places on Earth.  The place where my soul feels truly alive.  The only others that make me truly feel that way are Amsterdam and Ireland. But really, 2018 was just a year that seemed to continue the shitshow of events in our lives that culminated with me battling depression and raising my hands to the universe and shaking my fists with “enough already.  ENOUGH.” 

So, 2018 is in its rightful place of yesterday.  Today I’m focused on today and what a brand new page of a 365 page book really means.  I’m going to write a good one.  I’m promising myself that.  

Somewhere along the way I lost my spunk and gumption. Two things I’ve always loved the most about myself.  If you told me I couldn’t do something, I made damn well sure you saw that I could. I made goals. I surpassed them. I didn’t limit myself.  I believed in myself.  Somewhere along the way in the last 7 years, I lost that.  It could have been the lawsuit that pretty much destroyed my career – because it pretty much destroyed me – in ways I didn’t even realize until recently.  It could have been the loss of my father in law and all that came after.  Perhaps it was my husband’s health issues and all the surgeries that came along with them. Maybe it was my son’s concussion.  Or my other son’s endocrine issues.  The deaths in my circle of family and friends. My depression.  My depression.   Likely it was a perfect storm of all of these things – constantly trying to keep the plates spinning with a smile on my face but a spirit that was broken.  

I miss my spirit and my gumption. I’m determined to get them back.  I’m no longer going to live in fear of what might happen or what people think.  Fear has driven so much of my life the last few years.  I wrote several years ago about the other F word – fear.  I haven’t followed my words from that piece.  I’ve let others get in my space and my head when they have no right to be there. I’ve led myself to believe that I was no longer good at the things I’m good at.  And while I’ve grown in a lot of ways – being present for one – especially with my kids – I still have a lot of growing to do.  

So, I made a promise to myself that I will not break this year.  I’m going to write more.  I’m going to post here every day.  Some days it might just be a line. Some days a summary of my thoughts that day.  Maybe a longer piece here and there.  But I’m going to write. And I hope that if I start to break this promise to myself, you will call me out on it. 

I’m going to read more and Netflix binge less.  I used to read several books a week – I have shelves of books in my home and all of them tell a story – their own and where I was in my journey when I read them. I miss reading. So, I joined a book group and I’m going to read. I’m determined to make my sons, who at 7 haven’t yet found what they love to read, into readers as well.  Open to any and all tips in that regard.  

I’m going to work my skincare business that I started as a side business to give me supplemental income and time to write (I have made the promise to myself to write more for years – I’m tired of not giving myself that gift).   I’m not teaching full time and without my law practice one of the hardest adjustments I’ve had to make is not having my own stream of income. Yes, I’m married and I have my husband’s income, but it’s different.  I’ve never been this fully dependent on anyone (well since I was a kid and dependent on my parents) – and I admit I miss having my own income. Not only because it allowed me to not think about spending money on mani-pedis or a splurge at a clothing or kitchen or book store, but because I enjoyed taking that stress of being the “sole provider” off my husband.  I’m busier as a stay at home mom than I was when I had my law practice – just in different ways. The goal of joining some friends with my side business was to be present and earn income. It also gives me a sense of community because I’m surrounded by the best women I know.  But I also felt like a failure.  Lawyer to skincare? Again, worried about what other people would think.  Not about what I need or how I feel.  So, this year I go all in. I stop apologizing for choices I’ve made. 

Last, I’m going to continue to be present – with my children, my husband and the other people I love and enjoy.  That is the one thing I did pretty well this year.  I put the phone down and really talked to my kids.  And listened. And played.  Time goes so fast.  There have been so many events and distractions in our boys’ first years on Earth – and sometimes I feel like  I’ve missed so much because of them – that I want to drink up this time when they still actually want to be with me and share with me. 

So, write more, read more, stop apologizing for my choices, focus on my business, be present for my family and myself  and find that spirit and gumption again. 

Year 2019. Let’s link arms and chase our dreams together. Today I can say I know I deserve that.  

So, here’s to all of us who shoveled all that shit so we could finally find the pony. 

What are your goals or dreams for this year? I’d love to hear them. 

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey.  Happy New Year.  Happy New Me and You.  

The Demon of Depression

Things are about to get real.  Terrifyingly real.  I’ve written about suicide, grief, infertility, pregnancy loss, rape and my struggles with my weight.  But this has been the hardest thing I have ever written.  It’s amazing how you can think you have done the hardest thing and then BAM! life shows you there are plenty of hard things to process.  So, this is terrifying to write.  But, I knew that I had to.  Being who I am, it didn’t seem right to stay silent anymore.

Recently I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder.  Major depressive disorder.   I know, it took me by surprise too.  I have been an advocate for mental health and speaking out and removing the stigma and coming out of the shadows, yet I couldn’t be, and didn’t want to be, open about what has been going on with me.

When I lost my first husband to suicide in 2002, my life was devastated.  I had some really, really hard days, weeks, years.  I had days where I cried all day.  I had days where I didn’t want to get out of bed.  But, having never dealt with depression before (anxiety, yes, but not depression), I truly didn’t (and still don’t) believe I was depressed.  I was suffering from grief.   Life altering grief.  Unless you have also been punched in the gut by life altering grief, it’s hard to understand what it does to you physically and emotionally.  Grief is what was making me want to stay in my pajamas all day and watch mindless TV.  Grief is why I couldn’t eat or I binged on ice cream.  Grief was normal.  And with time, it got better.  I always knew I would carry my grief forever, and I do carry it with me to this day.  It was manageable.  I was working.  Training for a marathon.  Seeing friends and family.  It was HARD.  But it was grief, and not clinical depression. I am very clear on that.

Fast forward to 2009  after  remarrying and  working and managing a successful solo law practice and living a life I never imagined I would have, the rug was again pulled out from under me when I couldn’t get pregnant.  So began our journey with infertility.  Blood tests and ultrasounds and IUIs and failed pregnancy tests and then IVF and a pregnancy.   Hallelujah.  Then, 10 weeks in being told the pregnancy wasn’t viable and waiting another week for a miscarriage that didn’t come and a D&C two days before my birthday, which also fell on Mother’s Day that year. Yes, that was a lovely timing by the universe. Grief.  Questioning the universe.  Not wanting to leave the house.  Crying so much I thought the tears would never stop.  Wondering if I could ever even undergo another procedure.  Maybe I wasn’t meant to be a mom.  Maybe my husband and I should just spend our years traveling and seeing the world.   Deciding that because we still had embryos available for IVF, that we wouldn’t stop until those were gone.

Becoming pregnant with twin boys and feeling like everything I had gone through was worth it just to see those two little fluttering bleeps on the ultrasound monitor.  Loving every second (after I stopped vomiting and getting the most horrific migraines I have ever experienced during the first trimester) of my pregnancy.  Feeling them flip and turn and kick and watching my huge alien belly move in bed at night as they both decided to stay awake from 2 am – 7 am and keep me awake with them.  Delivering them both April 30, 2011 and  looking at both of them and knowing that yes, I was meant to be a mother.

Then, when the boys were just two week old, while trying to survive on little to no sleep and struggling with breast-feeding and realizing that as much as I loved babies and was a star babysitter in my youth, motherhood was a whole different level, I was served with a multi million dollar lawsuit.  Everything I had worked for – professionally and personally – was at risk of being destroyed – all because of a bitter ex client.

At 8 weeks post partum, I was exhausted beyond belief, so exhausted I was convinced the breast pump was speaking to me at night, and I was  still bleeding heavily and due to sleep deprivation and stress, didn’t even realize how NOT normal that was.  My husband drove the babies and I to the doctor, where another ultrasound showed I had retained placenta, growing in my uterus, tricking my body into thinking it was still pregnant.  So, all the emotions I was feeling – all the tears I had shed – all the feelings of being totally overwhelmed – well, they sort of seemed to have a medical answer.  So, a D&C was performed and I was sent home  – with my husband, my twin babies, one with severe reflux, and a multi million dollar lawsuit hanging over my head (11 million to be exact).

I fought the lawsuit and it was a thorn in my side and a dark cloud over our home for two years.  The first two years my sons spent on this Earth.  I missed so much.  Moments I will never get back.  Moments where I was dealing with my lawyers or totally distracted.  I thank the Good Lord every day that we had our very own Mary Poppins with us during that time.  She was the magic and love and presence that our children needed.  When mama was just stressed to the maximum.  Everything about my career was being examined.  Everything I did was being analyzed.  My entire career was on the line.  I was mad.  I was mad at the person suing me; I was mad at the attorney who took the case; I was mad at the people I worked with.  It took me a long time to realize just how much that lawsuit destroyed me.  Destroyed my belief in the universe keeping a balance.  Destroyed my belief in the field that I had been enmeshed with for over a decade.  It made me question everything.  But throughout, I knew that I did nothing wrong.  I knew that my ethics and integrity in my field, if anything, were more of a hindrance in terms of referrals and other things, but in the long run would speak for themselves.  I had an attorney who knew that this was incredibly wrong.  She knew the pressure I was under, and she fought hard for me.  The way I always fought for my clients.  After two year and buckets of tears and missed moments, a Judge found the lawsuit completely without merit and it was dismissed.  Vindication.  And relief.  But, I was a completely different person and my career would never be the same.

With the lawsuit dismissed, I could refocus on our precious boys and my husband who was having some health issues.  Life could get back to normal.  We could breathe again.  Until we couldn’t.

A few short weeks after the lawsuit was dismissed, a dear friend who was family, not by blood but by love and affection, died by suicide.  And we were shattered.  So again, our sweet boys had parents who were either crying or distracted.  We didn’t think our hearts could break any more.  Until they did.

About 7 weeks after we said goodbye to our dear friend, we had to say goodbye to my father in law, who died suddenly and unexpectedly.  My husband lost his two best friends within weeks of each other.  Sometimes I don’t even know how we were mildly functional.  The truth is that with two year old twin boys we had to be.  They deserved as normal a life as possible.

 

The last almost 5 years have been a complete blur – and what has occurred during that time – sometimes I don’t believe it myself.  In a nutshell, my husband endured over 12 surgeries in a 3 year period – the first a spinal fusion – I actually created this blog and wrote my very first piece in the hospital waiting room – typing instead of emotionally eating during that 9 hour procedure.  That surgery unfortunately caused a three month loss of his voice.  3 year old twins who can’t read and a husband who couldn’t speak.  Then, one of my sons took a freak fall down the stairs at my sister’s house and suffered a moderate concussion, which became severe when on day 3 he lost virtually all his language skills.  Changed his life in ways I am still discovering.  My other son dealt for two years with chronic strep until we finally decided to go ahead with the surgery to remove his tonsils when he was just 4. My career was in the toilet.  We moved to a new neighborhood, which in Los Angeles terms is the equivalent of moving to Siberia – Angelenos get very tied to their geography and having to cross large intersections or freeways mean you won’t see your friends as often.  We had to put our beloved 16 year old dog down.  All the unresolved grief of all the years before came surging back as we cried buckets of tears for our sweet Roxy the Wonder Dog.   The boys started kindergarten. We all tried to make new friends.  I fantasized about moving to Ireland daily.

When the boy were about two, shortly after the deaths of our friend and my father in law, I hit a pretty low point. Crying a lot.  Zero patience.  It’s hard to be raising two year old twin boys with zero patience.  I wasn’t sleeping.   At the time, I was sure it was unchecked post partum, and I started making sure I was taking care of myself – running, exercising, and even seeing a therapist again.  Luckily, I have never had any shame in seeing a therapist.  Frankly, if we were ever considering making anything compulsory in this country, I would vote for therapy.  And my therapist acknowledged how much stress there was in my life and what I had been dealing with and told me to put on my oxygen mask first.  So I did, and for a while I started to feel better.  It passed.  So yes, definitely post partum, now controlled and explained and processed.

Fast forward to the last almost two years.  If I am being really honest with myself, the foundation started to shake and crumble when we decided to change neighborhoods before the boys started kindergarten. So much had happened since my father in law’s death.  It shook so many things to the core.  Deep grief alters life – I know this.  Yet, it still knocked me totally off balance watching life unfold in those years after.   I was anxious.  All the time.  People irritated me on a level that they didn’t before.  My boys would engage in normal, age appropriate shenanigans and I would be SO IRRITATED.  I yelled.  Then I felt guilty for yelling.  I was convinced I was the worst mother on the planet.  My husband and I argued over the DUMBEST things.  I gained more weight.  I stopped exercising.  I engaged in zero self care.  Because, honestly, I didn’t think I deserved it.  My career was in the toilet. I was trying to work, but honestly I couldn’t sustain a career in the field.  It’s a book for another day, but the lawsuit just showed me way too much.  Things I couldn’t stuff into the trunk and lock up.  As a result,  I could no longer support myself.  My husband wasn’t even asking me to support myself – he just wanted me to be happy – but the fact I was no longer bringing home 6 figures seriously destroyed my self esteem.  I couldn’t pay for nights out, or the groceries or even for clothes for the kids on my own anymore.  I used to save for retirement and vacations and then it was nothing.  I couldn’t just say we were going to Disneyland for the day and not think twice about it.  And, I realize, to many, these are luxuries and it sounds like I am whining.  But it was hard to not have that means to support myself and my family anymore.  When my first husband died, he left me an avalanche of financial mess to dig through.  And I did.  I worked my ass off and paid off the debt he left and made a life and career for myself.  And I swore that even if I remarried, I would NEVER be dependent on another person again, because my life taught me you just never know.  But there I was.  My credit shot (so many people don’t understand how a lawsuit, even one that is dismissed, can destroy your credit), my income a pittance of what it was, and completely miserable.  In my career.  As a wife.  As a mom.   Completely miserable.  And guilt ridden.  I waited years for these babies and I wasn’t even happy as a mother?  How dare I?

 

Sure, I was great at pretending.  I smiled and I showed up and I played the role of a lifetime. Social media showed a completely different life than the one I was living.   I’d like to thank the Academy………..

 

But I cried whenever I shut myself in the bathroom.  I looked at social media feeds of friends and their supposed perfection of marriage and motherhood and career and fitness and travel and I felt completely less than.  People saw it.  My family noticed it.  They saw how I withdrew.  Didn’t answer the phone.  Was distant.  Never wanted to go to in depth with anything.  Here and there I would reach out to my therapist and psychiatrist friends and ask for referrals or their opinions.  But the truth is, I felt deep shame.  Shame that I couldn’t pick myself up by bootstraps like I had been able to do my entire life and fix things.  Improve things.  I worried what people would think of me.  I worried about losing credibility in the advocacy world.  I know.  It’s not rational.  But it’s how I felt.

For over a year, I’ve known I needed help.  I’ve known I was depressed.  I tried homeopathic herbs.  I tried walking.  I tried praying.  I tried taking 15 minutes after school drop off and meditating (and never was successful at quieting my head).  Until it simply didn’t work anymore, and I knew that if I wanted to get back to the woman I wanted to be for myself and my husband and my kids, especially our kids, I needed to get my shit together and ask for some help.  Some serious help.

The funny thing is, I have co-facilitated grief groups a survivor of suicide loss for over 15 years.  I have seen when group just isn’t enough support for someone. I have had ZERO problem talking to them about seeking additional help.   I have told countless people there is NO SHAME in asking for professional help.  NO SHAME in taking medication.   Yet, there I was.   Afraid to ask.  Afraid to look weak.  Afraid to look like a person dealing with a mental health issue.  Afraid of all those things and feeling like a huge hypocrite.

If you came to me today and said “Kate, I am really struggling.  I don’t know what to do, but I know I need help.  I feel like I am slipping into the abyss” I would take your hands and hug you and tell you that we will find help together.  But I couldn’t do it for myself.

And then, one day, I was so low, that I was truly and legitimately scared.  I finally knew what it meant to be depressed.  I realized what people meant when they  said they couldn’t muster the energy for basic things.  Sure, I got the kids fed and to school.  And on a majority of days, when I wasn’t volunteering or teaching or pretending that life was awesome, I came home and while pretending to work at a new venture I wanted SO DESPERATELY to be successful, I crawled into bed and set the alarm for 30 minutes before school pickup so I could throw clean clothes on and add some mascara and lipstick to my face so I wouldn’t look how I felt.  I knew that exercise would help but I couldn’t even muster the energy to walk a around the block.  My husband would come home to huge messes and laundry piles  and mail piles and piles of piles and dishes in the sink (a total and utter deviation from my previous Type A, everything has its place personality), nothing prepared for dinner, and ask me how I was, knowing the answer, but seeing if today was the day I would finally say it.

Finally, I did.  When the kids were finally in bed, I broke down and cried and told him how I didn’t feel any worth anymore.  I felt like a horrible wife and a horrible mother and I had no passion for anything, and I couldn’t see a way to dig myself out.  That the only thing keeping me alive was knowing how devastating suicide is to those left behind.

So we asked for a referral from our therapist.  I actually called him.  I set an appointment and I cried the entire hour and a half I met with him.  He was kind and considerate and told me that we would get through it.  He told me that everybody has a breaking point and I had been through a lot over the years.  He told me it was ok to be angry.  It was ok to be sad.  He asked me what I wanted.  I wanted to have the drive and the dreams to make our dreams a reality.  I wanted to be a better wife and mom. I wanted to look in the mirror and love the person I saw looking back at me.   I wanted to be the girl that didn’t make goals but surpassed them.  Most of all, I wanted to believe in myself again.  The worst part of all of this is that depression has stolen my belief in myself.  He told me I probably need medication to get me through the hardest part.  He asked me if I would be ok with that.  I told him I would.

So, I left his office with a prescription for an anti depressant and an appointment scheduled for two weeks later.  For the first time in a very long time, I felt hopeful.  Hopeful that I would get back to me.  Hopeful that my husband would start to see the woman he fell in love with – the woman with big dreams and the drive to make them a reality.  Hopeful that my children would grow up with memories of a happy and joyful and present mama who made amazing memories with them and for them.  Hopeful that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

After 15 plus years in the mental health advocacy community, I have talked a lot about what I have seen depression do to  my late husband and friends and family.  I have read and researched a lot and have talked a lot about what it might mean to be depressed.

Now, I know exactly how it feels.  I understand the darkness on a level I never have before.  In an odd way, I feel closer to the loved ones we have lost to suicide, because I now understand how our brains can trick us into thinking that is an option.  Now I understand how important it is that I be honest with myself, my family, my friends and all of you, so that I might be able to help you understand that this is more than “get on with it” or “just be happy” or any one of the other platitudes we throw at those suffering in a way we don’t understand.

My name is Kate and I have just been diagnosed with major depressive disorder.  It’s something I have.  Not something I am.  I will let this be a defining moment in my life experience, and I will learn from it and hopefully be able to help others with my own experience and understanding. I am lucky that I have the support of my spouse, my family and my friends.  I am grateful for that.  So very grateful.

But most of all, I am hopeful.  And that feels so very good.

 

 

 

 

 

The Eighteenth of May 

15 years ago today I had the very last conversation I would ever have with my late husband. It was intense. There were things that were said that I wish I could take back (and I’m pretty sure he’d say the same). But it also ended with both of us telling each other we loved each other. But it’s a conversation that haunts me still. Even 15 years later. It’s the voice inside my head so much of the time. Reminding me to not let words said in anger and frustration linger.
At the time, I had no idea or even inkling that my husband was planning his death. But he clearly had been. It was evidenced in the money he compiled, the letters he wrote, the post its he left in certain places reminding me of things. Evident in the careful steps he took to duct tape vents in our townhouse. Evident in the trunk he carried down to the garage so he could be surrounded by all our most important items in our treasure box. It still pains me to think about that.

So every year I wake up on May 18, or more accurately, I go to bed at about 1:30 am May 18th and wake up at 6:30 the same day and all these thoughts flood my morning. Sure, this morning my brain was also filled with packing snacks and lunches and getting the kids to school. Making sure I didn’t forget anything that was needed for Open House later tonight. Last minute lecture prep for my class at UCLA.

I’m no longer paralyzed by May 18th. But it does still stop me in my tracks. That last conversation does still replay in my brain.
It’s an odd few days as well. While my last call with my late husband was May 18th, I didn’t receive the call he was dead until May 20th. This was after I asked a dear friend to please check on him since I was in California. I feel a lot of responsibility for sending our friend into that. Finding him. Having to make the initial calls to law enforcement and me.

So, in a way, it’s like this death occurred over several days. And every year, my body tells me when those days are coming. Cellular memory is powerful.
One thing my late husband and I shared was a love of music. And we both had very eclectic taste. Anything and everything. So much of that music brought comfort in the days following his death. Much of it brought deeper insight and knowledge into some of the burdens he carried.

The album Euphoria Morning by Chris Cornell was a favorite in the last years of his life. “When I’m Down” was often played. While I always thought it was a beautiful song, I didn’t really pay attention to the lyrics until I was left alone to really hear them.

When I was going to bed last night, news of Chris Cornell’s untimely death was breaking. And I just couldn’t face it or process it so I didn’t. I went to bed knowing I would have to face it today.

The lyrics have been running in my head on a loop. Again, new meanings I didn’t hear before. And all I can say to those of you who have never heard it, look it up. It’s beautiful. One of his very best.

May is a shitty month. I’ve said it before. I’ve written about it. It hurts in ways other months don’t. So much loss. So much grief.

But, in the same moments of remembering pain, I was reminded of two birthdays that also happen to be on May 18th.

A dear friend from childhood who has become even closer as we navigate having twin boys and health issues and work and life together. She is worth celebrating.

And, today, the child of a client from my very first days as a reproductive law attorney turns Sweet 16.  She started out life being born way too early and weighed barely a pound. She was born to a gestational carrier in California, thousands of miles away from where her parents, and later she, would call home.  Her mother lived at the hospital for months. I started to stop at the hospital on my way home from work to support this warrior mama and her little one, who was covered in tubes and leads and fit in the palm of my hand. She and her mama were my very most important clients. They gave me purpose at a time that was a little wonky with wedding planning and an impending move and not knowing if the field of reproductive law was for me.
A friendship grew in those months of hospital visits and bad cafeteria dinners, and we have kept in touch all these years since. They have watched my life fall apart and watched me put it back together again. I have watched a tiny preemie baby grow into a beautiful, smart, talented young woman. A fighter, indeed. She didn’t give two shits about her odds and neither did her parents. They knew after all they had been through to even get to that point, she would not just survive, but thrive.

So amidst the pain, I’m remembering the love and life in my life. The people who are so worth celebrating on this day that also brings tears.

Without sadness, there can be no joy.

May 18th taught me that.

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If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs assistance/ help, PLEASE call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to be connected to a trained counselor.

Or, text HOME to 741741 for text support 24/7. 
You are NOT alone. This world needs you. Your story matters and it is not finished.