We Will Figure That Out When We Get There

If I had a dollar for every time I said that, we would have so many fewer things to figure out when we get there.

I have been thinking about this a lot over the last month. It has been more than a month since my last post. Allow me to explain…

My best friend was sick. Not, like, a little sick, but really sick. It started as a cold that would not quit. She was diagnosed with various issues that seemed to be related to a cold. Bronchitis, laryngitis, a pulled muscle from the cough. And you know what? They would not quit either. She saw specialists. They told her it was anxiety. “It’s probably panic attacks.” My best friend does not have anxiety. She has had panic attacks. She knew it was not panic attacks. “Maybe it’s heartburn.” She saw a cardiologist who essentially told her she was too young to have any real issues, but if it would make her feel better, he would run tests. It was not serious enough to rush anything. Two weeks’ wait was fine. The next day, I drove to her house to spend the night with her while her husband was away. She wailed in pain while I held her baby and felt helplessness. Three days after meeting with that cardiologist, she had heart surgery. She gave her stent a name. That stent saved her life. It deserves a name.

If I could have put into words my feelings about it when it happened three weeks ago, I would have waxed poetic about a life spared. I would have praised God above, the universe around us, and medical professionals who finally hear a young woman when she says, “This isn’t normal. Something’s wrong.” I had so many feelings. Relief, joy, gratitude. I love her very much. I need her very much. I could have lost her, but I did not. We did not.

Before she saw that cardiologist who brushed her off due to her young age, she told me she feared that she would die. She told me that she feared that she would have to give up so much about her life that she loved. She told me that she was scared. And I thought, “We’ll figure it out when we get there.”

Sunshine was sick. She first became sick on the second Sunday in December. I took her to see The Nutcracker at a nearby college. We go every December. When intermission ended, she asked me if we had to stay for the second half of the play. I was surprised. She loves the ballet. She said, “I don’t feel like myself.” We did stay for the remainder of the performance. When we arrived home, however, she put herself to bed. It was 4:30 PM. She would not leave the bed for dinner. That night, she threw up in bed. She was sick for most of the next day, but that dissipated as the day progressed. She went to school the following day. She had a cold, but her belly was fine. No one else was affected.

A week later, she threw up in bed again. She spent the next day at home, but she was fine. She returned to school. At 2:00 that next day, her school called me. Sunshine needed to be picked up. She did not have a fever, but she had thrown up in the classroom. She was not permitted to return to school the next day. Saint Daddy took her to the doctor that night. The doctor suspected a lingering virus from the week before. Again, no one else was sick. She had no fever, but she was lethargic and nauseous and, occasionally, vomiting. She spent the entire day after the one when I picked her up at school in her bed. I could not get her to open her eyes long enough to eat a few bites of food.

I was scared. I was scared about all of the things that can cause nausea and lethargy without a fever or being contagious.

Saint Daddy swears up and down that this is not true, but he is a bit of an alarmist when it comes to medical stuff. He swears this because his mom is a much more extreme alarmist. She is a nurse and she sometimes diagnoses our children via Facebook posts. Shortly after Grumpy’s stitches episode, she babysat the kids while Saint Daddy and I went for lunch to celebrate our anniversary. She said she noticed that Grumpy tripped a lot and wondered if we ever considered the possibility that he might have cerebral palsy.

I truly appreciate her concern. She loves our babies and worries about them. But she is definitely an alarmist.

Saint Daddy does not consider himself to be an alarmist because he is not that extreme. But as I sat there watching Sunshine sleep, unable to rouse her, crying and praying, Saint Daddy came to me with theories. “Maybe we need to have her tested for the serious stuff.” Maybe it’s a tapeworm, maybe it’s another parasite, maybe she has… The last one is one I cannot even put into writing. It is too much.

What will we do?

We will figure that out when we get there.

That night, as I put Sleepy into his crib, he vomited all over their bedroom floor, his crib, and himself. I did not think I would ever celebrate a vomiting one year old, but there I was thrilled.

If Sunshine is contagious, Sunshine has a virus. We will never have to figure that out. Praise God. Amen.

Sunshine’s issues did not end there. Her cold remained. She felt periodic nausea over the following two weeks. We believe that Grumpy and Sleepy did as well, based on their appetites, but they could not tell us themselves.

That is when Sunshine began limping. She could not step over the baby gates anymore. Her leg hurt.

We took her to the doctor. “Maybe it’s the virus. Sometimes viruses in children can affect their hip joints.” The same virus that began three weeks ago? When do we worry that it might be something more? “Call us if it is still bad in two days.” She continued to cry out in pain and to limp around the house. She did not run around. She barely stood up at all. Two days passed. My mind went crazy places. I called my sister and she said the thing I was thinking. She did not say it, just as I would not write it, but we both thought it.

How will I live?

We will figure that out when we get there.

Sometimes, I feel like Saint Daddy thinks I do not care the right amount about certain things. I think he wants me to worry about things in the same way that he does. I know he knows that I spiral. When my best friend told me she was afraid that she might die, I told her that I refused to think about that. I could not think about that. I could not imagine that as a possibility. I would spiral. I would lose my footing. I need her to be okay because she is such a monumental part of my life. I needed to think about that only if it would actually happen, not just in case it would. The same is true of Sunshine. I needed to pray for both of them. I needed to do what I could do. I needed to drive to her house and spend the night. I needed to make Sunshine chicken soup and spoon-feed it to her as she laid down with her eyes closed. But I needed to not think of the things that could happen.

I am great at the worst case scenario. If you are ever looking for someone to tell you what the absolute worst outcome could potentially be, I promise to be that person for you. Trust me. I have imagined some horrendous outcomes to completely innocuous situations.

The last thing that I need in these situations is for someone to remind me that there are things that could go wrong. I can do that myself.

With that in mind, if I can somehow shut down that part of me that will focus on every negative outcome imaginable, I want to do that. When I manage to do that, I say, “We’ll figure that out when we get there.”

Five years ago, when I was nine months pregnant with Sunshine, I planned a major event at work. It took me nearly six months of concentrated effort. I made phone calls, organized teams, and formulated plans. It was a massive undertaking.

Whenever my second-in-command asked me very specific questions, I tried to answer them to the best of my ability, but sometimes I said, “We’ll figure that out when we get there.”

it was my way of telling her that I believed our preparation would lead to a smooth event, even if I had not ironed out every single wrinkle in the fabric table coverings. The following year, as we planned our final event together before we both moved on to different ventures, she said our motto would always be “We’ll figure that out when we get there.” Ultimately, I believe that hard work and planning can lead to it all “working out” in my favor.

I have to believe that way so I do not obsess over the details. Sometimes, I get lost in the details. My anxiety makes me get lost in the details. My anxiety tells me that I need to think about every little detail. My anxiety tells me that I need to be in control. Over time, i have been able to tell myself that I do not have to be in control. It is a coping mechanism to say these words and give myself time to deal with what will come my way.

These situations are not the end of this either.

How will we handle twins? What will we do with the dog when we go on vacation? How will we get there? What if the boys do not walk before fifteen months? What if the car breaks down? What if? What if? What if?

We will figure that out when we get there.

I promise.

Friendship Should Not Be a Chore

Someone recently told me that no healthy friendship ends dramatically.

Looking back, I can pinpoint a few of my friendships that did end dramatically, and with the clear eyes of someone removed from those situations, I can see how right she was when she said those words.

Friendships change. They fade. People change. And some of our relationships are entirely dependent on the person that we were when they took place. I had plenty of friends in high school and undergrad who are little more than Facebook friendships to me now. I think of them fondly, I am glad I knew them, but we are not truly friends anymore.

That is okay. We had our places in each other’s lives, and now, we have moved on to new things.

Have you ever thought about how much you know about people you now know nothing about? Do you think about all of the birthdays you can remember? The favorite colors? The future plans?

Sometimes, I wish I could shred some of that information. I wish I could throw it away. I wish I never thought of it. And, inevitably, those things I wish I could forget are the pieces of information that I gained from the friendships that ended dramatically.

One such friendship was the one I shared with my best friend in the world from the end of seventh through ninth grade. We were inseparable. We shared a bed during sleepovers and spent the summers together every day. One day early during sophomore year, she was mad at me and, without realizing how close I stood to her, she told someone I did not even know how horrible of a person I was turning out to be. When I called her on it, she proceeded to work on turning people against me. Very high school.

When it was all over a year later, I was better off without her. And the people who stayed around were the ones who led me to Saint Daddy’s arms. But I remember her birthday, her favorite color, and that she wanted to name a son Bastian. Years later, she made the news for committing a heinous crime, and that last fact haunted me for months.

It was not a healthy friendship. That is why it ended so dramatically.

I was friends with someone else, someone whose friendship defined my life while it lasted. She asked more of me than I was willing to give, but I gave it anyway to see her happy. It strained my other relationships. It strained me. I had many sleepless nights as our friendship progressed. She manipulated my feelings and gaslighted me. If she was upset, I could be doing more to fix it. If I was upset, there was nothing she could do, she said. Sometimes, she ignored me entirely for a day or two and then apologized with a gift. Looking back, I can see it for the abusive relationship that it was, but at the time, I was committed to maintaining it. I was not happy.

Friendship should not be a chore.

That is the other thing that person mentioned in our conversation. Friendship should not be a chore.

I do not know why some of us choose to stay in toxic friendships. I can only speak for myself.

I have mentioned before that my anxiety makes me cling to this notion that everything is perfect, even when it is not. Walking away from a friendship is providing evidence that I could not make a relationship work. Having a friendship end is providing evidence that I was not loved enough.

My anxiety rages against both of those ideas.

I cannot be a failure. I cannot be a failure. I cannot be a failure.

Losing a friendship appears to me as failure.

As with many thoughts that my anxiety brings to the forefront, this idea is a little ridiculous. Continuing to love toxic people does not save me. And sometimes, I have to be the one saved. Saint Daddy has saved me.

In both of these relationships, he was the light at the end of the tunnel. The first one because that lost friendship led to the ones that took me into Saint Daddy’s arms. In the second, he was there the entire time, watching me foolishly put her ahead of everything else until he told me it was time to stop. And I did. For him. I am grateful for him asking me to stop it. He saved me. He usually does.

How do you know a friendship is toxic?

Does one of you get inordinately jealous if the other one has other friends? I do not mean something simple like, “Man, I wish I was going out with you tonight instead of staying home.” More like, “I can’t believe you told someone else that completely mundane part of your day and didn’t even mention it to me. I thought I was your best friend!” That is obsessive, and it is unhealthy.

Does one of you demand that attention be on them instead of any other person? This is for long periods of time and also for small periods. If you are at your niece’s birthday party, for instance, and you keep getting texts about how you should not be ignoring your friend, that is unhealthy. Walk away.

Does one of you expect emotional support and validation while consistently diminishing the feelings of the other? If every time one of you says you are having a tough time the other one mentions how her life is harder, that is unhealthy. We all have terrible things going on in our lives, and friends can acknowledge the suffering of each other while still knowing that they are hurting themselves.

Pain is not a competition.

Does one of you seem to disappear when the other needs support? If your kids are sick or work is hard or money is tight, does your friend tell you that sucks and then ignore you until they need something themselves? That is unhealthy. It is similar to the previous paragraph, but it deserves emphasis. Caring goes both ways.

I am an anxious person. I am incredibly introspective. I notice little things. I internalize.

If one of you turns to the other and says that they felt belittled or hurt by the behavior of the other, does the other person brush it off as irrational? Do they provide excuses instead of acknowledging the hurt. If they do, the relationship is unhealthy.

I am not perfect. I may very well have been the toxic person in a relationship or two over the years. I try not to be.

Jane Austen wrote: “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it’s not in my nature.”

I like to believe that I live up to that ideal. I love completely when I can. I am loyal to a fault sometimes (it is how I end up holding on to toxic relationships). My anxiety makes me desire perfection and positive reception at all times (again, sometimes to a fault).

But there is no shame in leaving a toxic friendship. If it is the right thing for your mental health… If your friendship does feel like a chore… Walk away.

It is okay to take care of yourself. It is okay to take care of myself.

Think of it this way: If you had a friend who was in a relationship where they were constantly being hurt, what advice would you give them?

Be your own friend. Take your own advice.

Let go of the toxicity in your life.

This is like an open letter from someone who has been there.

I cannot allow my anxiety to put me into situations that contribute to the further deterioration of my mental health. I cannot lose my spirit in pursuit of someone else.

What do I have?

Saint Daddy is my heart and soul. He is my first and my last. He is my solid ground. He is so much more than my best friend. He understands every little piece of me.

My best friend hears my silence. She validates my feelings. She supports me endlessly. She is family that I have chosen for myself.

My BFFL is a constant. She is like a sister to me. She gives me stellar professional advice and a reliable sounding board.

I have my babies, my sisters, my mom. I have some of the best colleagues in the world.

I am letting go of the toxic and surrounding myself with people who are good and loving.

If you are putting up with toxicity, I challenge you to do the same.

We Are All Jerks Sometimes

I can be a real jerk sometimes.

At least, that is how I see me.

I know it about myself.

There are so many situations that cause me anxiety, and when I feel anxious, I look down, I avoid eye contact, I become short, and I try to hurry my way through the experience. It appears rude. It is always uncomfortable.

Yes, I can be a real jerk sometimes.

Saint Daddy somehow sees beyond that. I do not know how. Maybe it is because he can be a real jerk sometimes too, and I see passed that. Maybe every relationship is just two people who can find a way to see passed the jerk in their partner.

It is not that I need to be in my comfort zone at all times. It is merely a matter of emotional safety. I need teammates.

I talk about it that way too. “Thanks for being on my team.”

I grew up surrounded by people, yet I often felt alone. My two older sisters had each other. My two younger brothers had each other. And me? I had myself. Quintessential middle child.

It was okay most of the time, but I knew it was discussed. I knew my sisters talked about ways to leave the house without taking me with them. I knew I was not particularly wanted with the older girls. They had a friend who was in my grade but my sister’s age. I went with my sisters to her house, a few blocks away from home. When I arrived, the friend said I was “too young” to play with them. My sisters did not defend me, and I walked home, acutely aware of the sting of rejection.

Growing up, I often felt teamless.

As an adult, my older sisters are assuredly on my team. No outsider would be allowed to tell them to not pick me.

I know it is not the case for everyone, but there is something about my siblings. We live our own lives in very different ways, but we are always on each other’s teams.

That is not what this post is about, though. This post is about me being a jerk. Because I am sometimes.

When I first met my in-laws at the tender age of sixteen, I was in full jerk mode. (As were they, but that is another story for another day.) I was anxious. I did not know what to say. I was short and weirdly sarcastic. I was a jerk.

That is what my anxiety makes of me.

I am thoroughly convinced that, based solely on those early interactions, my mother in law decided not to like me until Sunshine was born. I felt like a part of her hoped that I would one day disappear, a part she might not have acknowledged but was definitely there. Sunshine changed things because Sunshine was tangible evidence of the roots that Saint Daddy and I had grown.

The thing about my jerk status is that, once I feel comfortable, I am a friend worth having. I am loyal, loving, and supportive. I am giving and kind and helpful. I love deeply and without fail. I would do anything for those who are truly my friends. I would do anything for my teammates.

This is my apology for being a jerk sometimes. I am. I know I am. I crawl inside myself and let my mind tell me who to be and how to act and that person I become is not friendly or open or relaxed. I am not my best self.

This is my apology for seeming standoffish.

In the third grade, a fellow student apologized for throwing his pencil across the room. He had done it before; he would do it again.

Our teacher told him, “You’re only truly sorry if you’re going to try not to do it again.”

I am sorry, and I am trying.

But it is difficult.

So if you catch me being a jerk, know that I know I am doing it. Know that as it is happening, I wish it was not. Know that there is a battle within me at times. Know that sometimes I win and sometimes I lose, but I am trying.

After all, I think we can all be jerks sometimes.

Have You Found Your Thing?

When Sunshine was less than a year old, a coworker stopped me in the hallway to comment on how quickly I had lost weight.

“I cannot believe how good you look for having an infant. I never looked that good again after having kids. But look at you!”

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ve been running again.”

She said, and I will never forget this comment, “I just don’t see how you can do it. You’re away from her all day. Don’t you think you should be spending that time with her instead?”

She had taken off from work when her children were little, she said. You cannot get that time back with them, she said. Maybe you should reconsider, she said. You have your whole life to get fit again, she said.

But for me, running is not just about fitness.

I was never fit growing up. I was the pudgy one of my parents’ older children. I was not athletic. I wore the same sizes as my older sister until we hit puberty, and then, I was a size or two larger. I did not enjoy sweating or being outside or sunshine. I was a homebody through and through.  In undergrad, I put on the freshman twenty-five without any issues. I loved food and sitting around watching reruns while I drank a Coke and ate salt and vinegar potato chips or graham crackers smothered in gobs of creamy Jif.

There was no shame in my emotional eating game.

I did not become active until sophomore year. I had a horrendous roommate, and the rec center on campus gave me somewhere to go. I worked out and discovered cottage cheese and egg white omelets and portion control.

Saint Daddy and I did not see each other for six weeks that spring because of how our spring breaks lined up and he did not have a car and I could not drive. He called me one afternoon, wanting to see my new room after I had finally convinced res life to let me move out of that situation, and when he walked into my room with a cherry gelati from Rita’s in his hand and his roommate trailing behind him, he thought I had given up eating altogether.

I did not. I was eating well and working out. Food was still delicious, but it was more fresh fruit than processed carbs.

My fitness level fluctuated a lot over the next few years.

I took up running about a year after Saint Daddy and I got married. My doctor prescribed me an antidepressant and told me that I should limit my caffeine intake and take up exercise and see if the combination of the three helped curtail my daily panic attacks. He said, “The trick with exercise is to find something that works for you. That something is not what works for everyone. But you have to find your thing and love it. Then it’ll become part of your life.”

One day, I had off from work and Saint Daddy did not. I put on my sneakers, a pair of New Balance that my dad had gotten me during a BOGO event four years before that day, and walked to the park near our home. I ran two laps on the path around the park, and I went home.

Two days later, I did it again. But I did it faster. Without even trying. I thought, “I wonder how fast I could do that…” Two days later, I did it as fast as I could. I impressed myself. I did not know how far I had run, but I knew I had run.

Shortly thereafter, I looked up a Couch to 5K program, and set out to impress myself some more.

I did give up caffeine. I have been caffeine free since 2010, no easy feat for a full-time working mom with multiples. If I have more caffeine than the amount in a small cup of decaf coffee, I suffer from heart palpitations, chest pains, and nausea. Another doctor said it is an intolerance. Sometimes, I call it an allergy because people understand that term better.

And I ran.

I have been running since 2010. I am pretty good at it. I cannot run very fast. I cannot run very far. But I run with heart. That is what makes me good at it. I am a runner. The kind of runner that gets irritated by the term “jogger.”  I have been properly fitted. I have opinions on running brands. I actually use the treadmill in my basement. I rarely miss a run.

When Sunshine was born in 2013, I went back to running.

It was not only to get my body back. It was to get myself back.

When I run, my only competition is the person I thought I was. The person I thought I was did not run at all or could only run for a quarter of a mile at a time or could not run better than a twelve minute mile or did not have the endurance for a 5K. She certainly could not run a half marathon.

But I am not the person that I thought I was.

And running has helped my mental health immensely. Because I am constantly beating that person that I thought I was, I know that I am strong and capable.

Is it perfect? No. I run three times a week. I used to run four times a week. But I still have panic attacks. I still wake up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts. We still sit on the aisle at the theater. I still hate driving. Running does not cure my anxiety.

But it helps me to remember that I am the one in control of it.

I often think about that conversation with my former coworker. I have since switched jobs. I have moved on. I will likely never see her again. We are not friends on any social media platforms.

But I think of her. I think of what she represents.

This is my love letter mommas everywhere.

Find your thing.

Run or dance or draw or take bubble baths or go out for a drink with your friends.

Find your thing that helps you feel like a person. Find your thing that allows you to feel strong and capable and brilliant. Find your thing that helps you to see the good in yourself and in the world.

No one asks Saint Daddy how he can stand to be away from our children for an hour or two each week so that he can go to the gym. No one wonders how he manages to stay in shape or read or write or tutor or sleep or eat.

Mommas of the world are not required to explain to anyone why they need time for themselves.

That coworker was right. Sunshine was only a baby for a little bit. She is very much a kid now. But giving up my thirty minutes of sanity three times a week was not going to slow down that time. It was also not going to make me a better mother.

I believed then, and I believe now, that I am a better mother because I know what my thing is. I am more present when I am with my children than I would be otherwise. I feel happier because I have taken care of me. Running is how I take care of me.

Never let naysayers tell you that you should not have something for yourself just because you have babies. You do not deserve that guilt or that anxiety.

And for me, comments like that do fuel my anxiety. Now, I can look back and see that giant grain of salt. But in the moment, with my infant at home and me missing her dreadfully all day, I allowed that thought to consume me. It was unfair of her to make something simple into something so sinister. Saint Daddy understood. I understood. Sunshine was thriving. That was all that mattered.

And, mommas and daddies, taking that time for you does not make you any less of a loving parent. If anything, it makes you that much more capable of being exactly what your children need.

Have you found your thing?

Turns Out… There’s Not All That Much To Complain About

Social media causes me so many conflicting emotions.

I actually met some of my closest friends there. When I lived hours from my family, I used it to share my life quickly and effectively. I announced my second pregnancy to groups of my cousins via Facebook Messenger so that their first time learning about it would not be when I posted a public announcement. My extended family is close and having my cousins find out that I was carrying twins at the same time as the girl who sat behind me in freshman comp would not have been very fair to our relationships.

Social media allows connections that can overcome great distances.

I am glad it exists. Truly.

I am also glad it did not exist when I was a teenager. I am so happy that my Timehop cannot show me what fifteen year old me was up to. No one needs to see that. And fifteen year old me would never have understood the responsibility that comes with social media. Fifteen year old me would not believe that the internet never forgets, that screenshots last, and that not everyone who smiles is your friend. In this case, not every like is a positive connection.

But the thing with social media is… Well… It sucks.

Like… It really, really, really sucks.

It especially sucks because of my anxiety. Social media is not good for my anxiety.

There are two reasons for this. I am aware of them. I know what they are.

The first is the one I talk about more. When I deal with exceptionally high levels of anxiety, the keep me awake at night for days on end kind of anxiety, I log out of Facebook. Sometimes, if my anxiety has consumed me too much, I deactivate altogether.

I do not announce this. I just go. My best friend and oldest sister are usually the first to notice. I do not do it to get anyone’s attention. In fact, with few exceptions, I would prefer not to be contacted about it. Deleting Facebook seems like such a show of my inability to keep it together. I do not need anyone to know I am falling apart. I would tell them if I wanted to.

And why?

Social media, especially Facebook, is crammed with so much negativity. Some people simply love to complain. It seems to be all that they do online. While I am glad that they feel they have an outlet for their thoughts, when mine are spiraling, I cannot handle theirs too. I am in Facebook groups that have a steady stream of complaint threads. I ignore them because I cannot be weighed down with all that is wrong in the world.

I absorb a lot of what I read. I am deeply affected by it. Too much personal negativity becomes my own personal negativity.

And it is not only personal negativity, but news article after news article comes up on my newsfeed filled with the worst that the world has to offer. It seems that people are most likely to share articles about children being raped or beaten or murdered than anything else. I do not understand the compulsion to share that horror with the world. I know it happens. I do not need to know it happened again. I want to hold my babies and cry and promise them that I will do whatever I can to make sure that they are not one of those stories that people share because they feel compelled to share the ugliest side of the world day in and day out.

When I am already anxious, when my world is spinning out of control, these stories affect me so much more.

The first reason I hate social media is the negativity.

When I leave and my sister or my best friend notices and reaches out to me, I always say, “I needed a break from the negativity. I am trying to remain positive. Facebook does not help. Maybe in a week.”

But there is another thing. Something that I talked about with a colleague last week.

She recently recommended that I follow a particular account on Instagram. The account was that of a woman rocking her role in a similar position as mine. Like… Rocking it.

I followed her and then another like her and then a third and suddenly, I was knee-deep in follow requests for people who figured I was also sharing how I rock at what I do.

And I do rock at what I do. I am passionate about it. That is half the rocking.

But I do not post much about work on Instagram. Only occasionally. As I do here.

I made a separate account for these follows and follow requests. I began sharing how I rock too.

Last week, I was speaking with that original coworker, and I told her about the separate account.

“I figured that I could keep it all in one place as well as share what I’m doing too. I don’t need these random people seeing all the pictures of my kids, but I love what I’m seeing. Also, having a separate account lets me choose not to see their posts when I’m feeling down about myself.”

Because we all know that social media is filled with hyper-inflation of the ego. While some people breathe negativity, others only share their 110% moments.

The fact of the matter is that not every moment could be 110% for anyone. It is impossible. The truth is that we all have ups and downs and in-betweens, but social media is not really a true depiction of that.

I have mental illness. What that means for me is that I can know something is true, but I cannot make myself feel that truth.

Feeling the truth is what I struggle with.

So even though those rockstar Instagram accounts are filled with brilliance and wonder, I know that those account owners are not like that at every moment of every day.

But I cannot feel that knowledge when my anxiety is rising.

I need to be able to avoid people who are too awesome when I feel like my life is in shambles. It is too difficult not to compare lives, especially when I cannot feel the truth of its being unrealistic.

So what is someone to do when she loves social media because of the way it connects her to her friends, her family, and people who rock at what she does every day but who also has a mental illness that causes her to dwell so much on her negativity that she cannot even begin to handle the negativity or exuberance of others?

(Wow… That was one sentence. Crazy!)

What does she do?

She shuts it down.

She picks up a journal. She does better for herself.

When my anxiety is out of control, I need to think about what is positive in my own life. I need to let go of my own negativity. Social media will not help me do that.

I have a gratitude journal. I recently picked it back up again after a very long hiatus.

I keep my gratitude journal next to my bed. Every night before bed, the last thing that I do before laying down is write in my gratitude journal a short list of things that I am thankful for from that day.

Sometimes, there is repetition between days. I am almost always happy for quiet time spent with Saint Daddy after Sunshine, Grumpy, and Sleepy finally go to sleep at night. Sometimes, I feel gratitude for something large, like the fact that I come home to my family every night. Sometimes, it is something small, like that someone held the door open for me on my way into work that morning.

I use it to forget the negative that happened. At the end of the day, I do not want my final thoughts to be of the guy who cut me off or that Sleepy peed out of his diaper during his nap again. I want to think of the happy parts of my day.

It is not foolproof. Nothing I do is going to cure my mental illness. I know that. I understand it. But my gratitude journal helps me do something important. It helps me to remember that, even when it is really bad, there is something beautiful in every day.

Since I began my journal again, I have been falling asleep more quickly. I am telling my brain to let go of self-doubt and to focus on what went well each day.

It helps me see my days in a positive light and to remember that it is not always bad.

There is not really all that much to complain about.

The Case of the Missing Library Book

I hate feeling like a nuisance.

My brain regularly tells me that I am a nuisance to people, and I go out of my way to not actually be one.

Yesterday, I had to be a nuisance.

Sunshine is doing really well at school. She loves going and she is learning so much already. She has been able to identify letters for a couple of years, but her ability to recognize letter sounds has exploded in the last month. Her teacher is going awesome things with her already.

She is a little overwhelmed by the long days. Sunshine’s only experience outside of our home were 2.5 hour days of preschool, three days a week, the year she was three. We allowed her a mental health day on Friday to reset and recharge. Kids need mental health days too.

But Sunshine has been flustered by one thing. She has not been permitted to take out a library book since the very first day that they visited the library.

Sunshine was really excited about library class. I took her to the public library for the first time when she was barely three and it became a regular event for us that summer.

When she climbed into her carseat at the end of that school day, she told me all about library. They got a tour, she picked a book, and she brought it home.

“I picked the Grinch, but they must’ve known I already have it, so they gave me a cat book instead. I like cats too.”

That’s wonderful, baby. You love cats! And you don’t need the Grinch book. We already have it.

That night, I read her library book with her. In it, a cat named Chester goes to the library and learns how to properly care for the books. I found it an apt choice for her first book from her school’s library.

After reading the book, I told Sunshine to put it in her backpack so that it was ready for the next day she had library class.

I saw that book in her bag every morning when I put her lunch into it and every afternoon when I checked her take-home folder. That was the case until library day rolled around again.

Then the book disappeared, but Sunshine did not have a new book.

Didn’t you want a new book today?

“They wouldn’t let me get a new book because I didn’t bring back my first one. It must’ve been lost.”

Did you take it out of your backpack sometime today?

“I gave it to the aide. She must’ve lost it. I couldn’t get a book.”

Sunshine’s disappointment was evident. She loves books. She loves libraries. And I know she could not have loved watching her new friends select books when she could not.

I told her that I was sure it would be figured out before next library day. Maybe the aide set it in the wrong pile. She had plenty of books at home.

I try to project a calm outlook about these sorts of things. I do not want to overreact, especially in front of Sunshine or her brothers.

It’ll be fine, baby. They’ll figure it out.

But on the next library day, Sunshine still did not come home with a book. This is when I talked to Saint Daddy about it.

It doesn’t make any sense, I said. She carried that book back and forth to school for two weeks. What do they mean that she never returned it?

“I’ll email her teacher.”

Here is where my nuisance idea comes in. Teachers are busy. I know how busy they are. They have hundreds of things to deal with every day. They make countless decisions. They are responsible for so much every single moment of their day. There is so much to think about. Their jobs are difficult.

The last thing I would want to do is give Sunshine’s teacher one more thing to think about.

But on the same token, Sunshine did return her book. She did not deserve to be punished for not doing so.

Thank you.

Sunshine’s teacher said that she had borrowed How the Grinch Stole Christmas and never returned it.

I picked Sunshine up from school a few days later, and her teacher met me in the office to discuss the case of the missing library book.

I told her that Sunshine had mentioned thinking she had borrowed “the Grinch,” but that the school must have known she already owned it and sent her home with another book instead. She did not bring home “the Grinch.”

Her teacher offered to email all of the parents to see if maybe their child accidentally brought home Sunshine’s book.

A week passed.

The librarian sent an email to Saint Daddy and me. Sunshine owes this book.

Saint Daddy said I would explain what I believed happened.

I became a little flustered. I felt like a nuisance. It is one book. Should I just offer to pay for it so Sunshine can get books again? Is that the right thing to do? But what if another kid does have Sunshine’s book? Can it be located?

I told the story, a little more briefly than I did above. I hit send.

My cheeks flushed.

I know this probably seems like such a small thing to become so agitated over. I sent that email at the end of my lunch hour, and when I went to my next meeting, someone asked me if I was having a bad day.

No. Not really. I was just nervous. What if I was accused of lying? What if what I said made no sense? What if it does not help? What if Sunshine never takes home another library book from school again? What if the mistakes of adults result in punishing my child?

I needed closure for that event.

With anxiety, even small things can incite large responses. And the best way for my responses to end quickly is closure. The wait for that closure is filled with a million what-ifs. Waiting means my brain begins to wander. My waiting brain has too much of an opportunity to destroy me.

I needed a response. I needed it quickly. I needed Saint Daddy to say something to me.

By the end of my meeting, the librarian let me know that the book Sunshine brought home was on the shelf. She said she knew who checked it out and that she would check with his family to see if they had Sunshine’s book. However, she was clearing Sunshine’s account. Sunshine would definitely be coming home with a book on her next library day.

Even now, writing this, more than twenty-four hours after it happened, I am realizing how minor this whole event was. It was a non-event. Emailing about this issue was entirely appropriate.

I know that.

However, anxiety often means putting more stock into an event than it deserves. Anxiety means that I think other people think about me in the same obsessive way I think about myself or in the exact opposite way.

Saint Daddy recently told me that I sometimes operate in extremes.

That is true. I do.

That is my anxiety. That is what anxiety does for me.

I do not imagine that it works exactly the same way for everyone, but that is how anxiety affects me.

I have begun working on my awareness of that. I am trying to find my equilibrium. I am trying to remind myself that sending an email is not that big of a deal. Not in the grand scheme of things.

I am glad that Saint Daddy and I solved the case of the Missing library book.

Sunshine deserves a library day. It was worth being a little bit of a nuisance to do that for her.

Taking Care of Me

I took the day off from work today. I took a sick day. I was sick. I have been sick. I have been sick for a few weeks now, and I have powered through because mental illness and physical illness are not the same.

When you suffer from mental illness, you are supposed to get up every day and power through anyway.

Mental illness is not stay home from work illness.

Mental illness is pretend you are okay and go about your life as if everything is fine illness.

On Monday, I realized that I was too sick to keep doing that and I was not going to get better if I did not take a break sometime soon. Today, I took a break. I stayed home from work. I took a sick day. Not because I was vomiting or feverish or diarrheal or even stuffed up.

I stayed home because my soul is tired. I needed to sleep until after six and not feel compelled to respond to my email. I needed to be permitted to read and to enjoy silence.

I hate that our society is so results focused that we have lost sight of people.

Our treatment of mental illness as an inappropriate use of a sick day is one such example of that.

Today, I slept until nearly 7:00. I needed it. I had three nights in a row of middle of the night anxiety. Middle of the night anxiety is some of the worst anxiety I ever experience. I roll over in the middle of the night, and suddenly, my brain is awake. My back seizes up with tension. I feel those knife stabs of heat that radiate throughout my spinal column. And my brain tells me a hundred terrible things. It reminds me of things I forgot, things I need to do, things that I can do nothing about in the middle of the night. My brain is not kind to me in the middle of the night.

Three nights of that was enough.

I took a sick day.

And last night, I slept. According to my Fitbit, which tracks my sleep on good nights and bad, I slept three total hours more last night than any of the three preceding nights.

I slept until 7.

I rolled over, hearing Sunshine in the dining room talking to Saint Daddy, wondering why I was not awake yet.

Normally, I would have jumped right on Facebook, but I uninstalled it during that last sleepless night. Instead, I checked Timehop and got out of bed.

I did Sunshine’s hair for school and scrambled with Saint Daddy to pack her lunch, a usual morning task for me and one that Saint Daddy and I let slip our minds today.

Once Sunshine left for school, I took out my laptop and did one hour of work. A day off for my mental health would be poorly served if I did not use it to take things off my schedule for work. Work is one of my biggest stressors right now. It is 75% of my to-do list. Not doing anything for work today would have put me nowhere closer to clearing up that list of things I forgot and things I have to do.

One hour of work.

I retrieved Sleepy and Grumpy from their cribs, gave them their morning “guk” (Grumpy’s word for milk), and continued my work.

When the hour was up, I put my laptop away and made today about me.

I played with my sons, whom I see too little of during the work week and cannot focus on enough when Sunshine is around. I started a new book (We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach), which I have recently borrowed from my library’s ebook catalog. I took a bath, enjoying how the warm water relaxed muscles that have known far too much tension lately.

Basically, I worked a little on work but I worked a lot on me.

Today, I took a sick day because I was sick. I needed today.

But I also know that my bosses might not see it that way.

On my way to pick up Sunshine from school this afternoon, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. It was too early for them to be there, but I worried that I could potentially run into someone higher up at work. I imagined the scenario playing out.

“Aren’t you sick today?”

I am sick.

You look fine now. Are you feeling better?” A little condescending.

Yes and no. I’ve been sick for weeks. I’ve been sick like this before. I’ll be sick like this again. My illness is not physical. It’s all in my head. But it’s real. It is very real. It causes physical symptoms. And the treatment is time and focus and perseverance. Going to work would not have made me better and not being better is not helping me be the best me. I’m sure you understand. And if you don’t. If you truly don’t, then you are one of the lucky ones.

Because people with mental illness do understand. I know you do.

I have not been the best me the last few weeks. When I am not my best me, I do not know how to be the kind of wife and mother that my family deserves.

Today I took a sick day to treat an illness that cannot be seen. My face is not pale, my flesh is not warm, my skin is not clammy. I am not vomiting or coughing.

But I am sick.

And today, I took care of me.