Dear Momma

“You wanna make God laugh? Tell him your plans for motherhood.”

I’ve never claimed to have it all together because, who am I kidding, that’ll never happen. Life is all about changes and weathering the seasons so if you’re alive, living it out, and, given the fact if you have children and they’re growing, it would make sense that you probably should be too? Right. So here’s what I know about that ‘growth’ part, the parts of me that have some of my shit together.

Whatever stage or season of life you’re in, there will be a preconceived motion of the way things ‘should’ go. That usually entails a set of unwritten and written rules about the dos and don’ts as the main course and a list of criticisms for each as side dishes; some hard to swallow and some difficult to even chew. Some that might sound great but unfortunately they just won’t work for you. 

If you live for these motherhood rule books and they’ve worked for you, great!

But for you, who, like me have struggled with people pleasing most of my existence and have driven myself to very low self-esteem over feeling incompetent and unworthy, I’m here to tell you, stop that shit. There’s a better way.

I guess somewhere between my separation with my ex-husband and finding the man of my dreams (and those are just clear-cut defining moments personally), I figured out that listening to myself, my gut, my instincts, served me better than all the other crap people tried to make me believe. The minute (more like weeks, months) I let go of that “baggage” that clouded my own voice, I suddenly felt like a better human, and in turn, a better mother. I felt free! I didn’t beat myself up as much and although I struggled with negative emotions about being a single mom and raising Noah ‘properly’ (whatever the fuck that meant), I knew that motherhood didn’t come with a manual and treating it as such would lead me into a place that wasn’t healthy for me nor my kid. Motherhood is hard enough. So the only real motherly advice I can give to anyone, whether you’re a mother or father is :

Do what works for YOU [and your kid(s), if you’re lucky enough to bear any]. If you are in good shape, mentally especially, your babies will benefit from it more than you can even imagine. Know that you are unique and different and so are your littles, so do yourself and them some justice… don’t just follow what works for everyone else because it just might not be the right fit for you.

I once thought that I needed to be in good physical shape to be able to “keep up” with my growing baby. While that is also true, I quickly learned that more importantly, it was my emotional and mental health that needed to be in the best shape it could be for me to “keep up” with motherhood: the good, the bad, and the holy-shit-what-the-hell-is-this-and-where-do-I-cancel-my-subscription? Yea I said it. There will be times during the course of this beautiful journey of motherhood where you will wonder if you’re any good at this and upon learning that you’re fine, it just must be their genes, you’ll just want to throw the whole kid away. Don’t! Not only are they custom and you can’t get another just like it (I may or may not have tried), I can assure you that in two seconds they’ll be right back to showing you that only YOU are that special to be entrusted with their lives and practically the same moment where it all seems too daunting, too difficult, and just too hard, is the same moment that the divine power of a mother’s love will take over and figure it out. 

That easy yet that hard to do. 

Momma, you have a gut (like me, probably literally too). Use it. 

Work on YOU. 

For you. 

Go for it…Do what’s best for YOU.

For you. 

You don’t know all the answers and NEWSFLASH! You don’t need them. You need your gut and some faith. And probably a shitload of caffeine and some therapy too. But man, that faith part…

That faith part takes care of the bulk of it. 

It was through faith that I got through the tough years of figuring out how I was going to show Noah what family meant after divorce and outside of a traditional married mom and dad scenario. 

It was through faith that I rebuild myself as a ‘present’ individual above all else. 

It was through faith that I moved on to love again and not only redefine what true love meant for me, but also trust another individual to love, nurture and help me raise MY baby. 

It was through faith that I was able to carry out the joys and woes of my second pregnancy while not having it “all together” (like at all).

And it was through faith that I have been able to weather the season of nurturing a “new” family while still figuring out being a mom of 2 (while trying really hard not to mess up the first kid).

And that’s what it comes down to- 

Being. 

Everyday waking up and being. 

Some days are so good you’ll want to write a parenting book, I swear. 

Some days you wanna dig a hole and crawl into it and wonder how God could possibly entrust you with small humans of your own. (NEWSFLASH #2, just the fact that He did matters…like A LOT.)

And some days, you just are. You do the bare minimum to keep everyone alive and fed. But then you’ll do bedtime routine and your kid will say or do something so adorable, you’ll thank God over and over and over for them and for restoring your faith. 

Whether you believe in God or not, know that SOMETHING conspired for you to be in charge of those children’s lives and there is no one better fit for them.

You are their first “home”. 

You are their first life experience. 

You are their first hello and first love. 

If you EVER thought about changing the world, just a little bit, start with your own babies, whether they are fresh outta the womb or grown (they’ll always be your babies). 

As cliché as it sounds, there is no greater gift, no greater joy, no greater pride, and no greater motivation than to have your own little human be a loving, good human. 

But Momma, it starts with YOU.

I promise, no one ever goes back and says, “damn, I should’ve read the baby books”.

No one.

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Stigma

When I looked up the definition of ‘stigma‘, I came across the following:

“In Greek and Latin, a stigma was a mark or brand, especially one that marked a slave. A stigma marked a person as inferior…When stigma began to be used in English, it usually meant the kind of mark or stain you can’t actually see.”

I’ve known a few people in my lifetime to have battled with their mental health, including myself. Without going into much detail I’m here to tell you that now more than ever, it is our duty as a society to 

BE KIND.

I’m sure you’ve seen the phrase somewhere that says, “be kind; someone is fighting a battle you know nothing about”. The truth is is that sometimes you can tell when someone is going through it but it’s not always the case; you can’t  always see those battles because some of us have gotten really good at faking it till we make it and wearing masks of all colors, shapes and sizes. 

That is why the details are irrelevant. 

A battle is a battle. 

No matter how small or how big it might seem, 

No matter if that battle has a name or not. 

A battle is a battle.

Be kind anyway.

“I need love because people need to have love.” -my very smart 6-year old

It doesn’t matter whether your condition is considered mild or severe or you’re just experiencing symptoms, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with seeking help. Professional help. A therapist. A psychiatrist. A psychologist. Call “the help” what you wanna call it.

If you went to your general health doctor and after running some tests they find your heart needed some attention, would that doctor try to fix it? No. (I mean, I sure hope not). Where would they send you? Your behind would be referred to a cardiologist. My point is, your mental health is no different homie and it’s also your responsibility to take care of it just as much as the rest of your body. Whomever says any different is a fool. Period. End of story. 

But it isn’t. 

I remember when I started being open about my going to therapy and the looks I would get. I got the “oh! Really? Why?” Or the heavy nod and smile and pat on the shoulder accompanied by the very visibly insincere “good for you”. I even had someone tell me once, “I don’t think it’s necessary for you to go.” I had another ask me in the most disapproving tone, “you still go to that?” I’m not sure if they ever realized how foolish their comments were or how, at that very moment, because of who they were to me, I felt ashamed. I found myself giving explanations I had no business giving. I knew what I needed and I went for it. No shame there. I refuse to be a slave to someone’s opinion. That shit is for damn sure not good for my mental health.

The stigma that mental health carries is overwhelming. For some reason, taking care of your mental health automatically deems you “crazy” or “damaged” to some people (sometimes it’s those closest to you) and it is far, far, far, far, farrrrr from the truth. For some reason, people have become comfortable with only certain conditions while others are still viewed with shame and fear. The funny looks, the insensitive comments, and the ridicule has to stop. The stigma of mental illness is so fucking wack. That you or someone you love is fighting a battle no one can see and you gotta keep it on the hush-hush because of what people might think is WACK! 

But it won’t get better …

unless we speak up;

unless we get educated.

What I am NOT implying is that you go and spill out your business to any random Joe. I am a firm believer in keeping your circle small and tight and being mindful of individuals who, for lack of better words, are not as “woke”-yet. But should you ever get the opportunity to share your struggle with another soul who needs to hear they are not alone, isolated, damaged or defective, or share your experience to enlighten someone on their lack of information or disapproval of mental health care, nor shame, nor guilt, nor embarrassment deserve space in that conversation. 

To you, who are fighting: 

Trust. 

Though sadness, 

Through despair; 

Through confusion… 

There is happiness. 

There is peace. 

There is clarity. 

On the other side. 

#BreakTheStigma

Healing•Part 1

Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose.  – Michele Rosenthal

I’m still healing.

I guess I can say that in a literal sense too; I’m 7-months postpartum and I swear sometimes that c-section scar bothers, a lot! I wasn’t prepared for the numbness or the loss of feeling right above that scar. Sometimes I run my hands through that mom pouch, pinch it, and I feel nothing. To a doctor, I’m healed but the scar and that numbness is a vivid reminder of the trauma my body went through (one which I never want to experience again honestly). However, daily, when Elie-Grace wakes up-and for you folks that haven’t yet met my ray of sunshine, she is SOOO fucking happy all the time-when she wakes up, I don’t think about the trauma; I would even say I’d go through it all over again if I had to. She is so happy, she is mine, and above all, she has defied my old mentality that I would never WANT to raise a little girl (maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to tell you why). She is beautiful in every way and there is so much hope that comes along with her growing up.

That’s the thing about trauma though…

It creates things you don’t choose;

It turns your world upside down;

It makes you feel and act in so many different ways.

Yet knowing how to handle it, can lead to things so inexplicably powerful and beautiful that you may find yourself being thankful for it.

Psychological trauma, depending on what age it occurs, can affect the developing brain and changes the way we respond to life’s situations. Inadvertently, it’s no wonder trauma survivors experience a series of negative feelings towards themselves and life altogether, posing a risk to themselves and others. They engage in behaviors that are physically and/or emotionally unhealthy.

I can go on and on just from experience but I’d like to focus on shedding light on hope in healing. Yes, hope that things CAN change if you allow yourself to begin to heal, one day at a time.

Being that this is part 1, I want to start with this:

Your ability to heal from any traumatic or devastating experience is up to YOU. It is YOUR choice. And whether or not you believe in a higher power, you must surrender the idea that time heals all wounds. Time may put a bandaid, some gauze and tape, or even a cast maybe but wounds don’t just heal with this one factor. Homie, you gotta put in the work. Healing is a decision you have to make every day. Healing is messy and tiring and some days you won’t wanna do it because it seems like you’re turning your world upside down again. Can I be real for a sec? After walking out after my 45 minute sessions, sometimes I’d cry cause I felt worse than when I went in! I would think “what the f___? Why am I doing this to myself?” I remember some days not wanting to go to therapy but then realizing those sessions became the sessions that I needed the most. I remember having so many “aha” moments days, weeks, even months later. In the four years of visiting her,  I was able to uncover major stuff that was compromising my own healing process and after a while, she would call me out on my own bullshit. Because nobody talks about the avoidance that happens in the years after the trauma happens and I’m here to tell you that the longer you keep avoiding it, the bigger the mess is gonna be when shit hits the fan. And should you make that decision to just freaking handle it and tackle it head on, you’ll find yourself living a life open to possibilities you didn’t imagine could happen to you and experiencing things beyond your wildest dreams. Yea, I know, cliché but it’s the God-honest truth.

Healing isn’t meant to be pretty though. Healing is just… a lot.

A lot of letting go.

A lot of crying it out.

A lot of forgiveness (for yourself and others).

A lot of self-awareness.

And a whole lot of responsibility from you and your decision to avoid it and remain with a mentality that has caused you to harm yourself and others.

I’ll share a personal experience from this past weekend that if it weren’t for this healing shit I’m talking about, it wouldn’t have been possible, especially if it were up to me.

A few years ago, I remember seeing a picture of Jlo, Arod, and Marc Anthony with all their kids and thinking to myself… “That’s GOALS!” I also remember thinking “wow, I can’t imagine what it would take to get to that place that that would even be possible.”

This past Saturday was my son’s 6th birthday. A little backstory: His father and I have been through it. I was 19 when we met and 22 when we were married. We ended our 8-year relationship when Noah was 2 and I filed for divorce a year later. 8 years of my life. 8 years in which I had allowed myself to become a person I didn’t recognize. It was the hardest decision I’ve had to make but the only thing I knew and was absolutely sure of was that my marriage wasn’t what I wanted to model for my son. After separating let’s just say I was a hot mess to say the least.  But of course, I didn’t want to stay that way. So I made the decision to own my shit. It took me a few years but I’ve come pretty far. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m still healing. And while society told me it was almost impossible for me to get along with my ex-spouse, let alone his partner and that we must always remain separate in family affairs, I wished for something different. I envisioned family days where we would all go somewhere together and Noah, my Noah wouldn’t have to feel different or that he was lacking. Fast forward, my ex and I have moved on with our respective partners, have our own families and as far as co-parenting, some days are easier than others but we manage having a respectful relationship. Despite our past, this weekend we shared food, drinks, laughs, and conversations in honor of our son’s birthday. And guess what? I was able to get not 1, but 3 pictures of our own non-traditional version of a family and it was everything I wished hoped for. We even had our first family outing the next day. No signs of resentment, no drama, just love and family. My point is that the healing that had to happen for this to even be fathomable was hard and painful and messy…very,very messy. But it was so worth Noah’s happiness and my own. Then it was over and I couldn’t help but feel grateful for all the shit I had endured in and out of that experience of a failed marriage because this is what it was suppose to get me to. 

So I’m making a call out to you-

You who have made every excuse to not deal with the shit that’s destroying you, your family, your relationships and god knows what else.

You who have convinced yourself that you’re FINE just the way you are.

You who have perhaps have got everything you want out of life but still feel like it’s not enough and something is missing.

You who maybe are at an AGE where you think, I’ve lived with this already for x amount of years, what’s the point in addressing it now?

It’s time to start the healing process.

Just start. 

New chapters are waiting on it.

Freedom • Part 2

The last 4 years have been a whirlwind of change- change in lifestyle, relationships, and internal change. Not all change is brought about traumatic or big events and I want to talk about the times in everyday life that have left me short of breathe, feeling confused, lost, and scared even but gave presented me with the opportunity to learn from them. Everyone has triggers. What may be a trigger for me, may not be for you (and vice versa) and therefore, it’s important to understand that very small things or events can be triggers to flipping out at something seemingly insignificant.

Lucky for me, I have the tools that I acquired through therapy that have made me a thinker, even waaaay after the fact. These tools force me to reflect. After allowing myself to feel everything and see certain things unfold, I’m able to come to a mental and emotional state that allows me to process things at least semi-rationally and bring me to a place of that peace that surpasses human understanding, a place that I can sit in a little grace (for myself), a place I can think through what I’m feeling and why I’m really feeling what I’m feeling, and ultimately communicate, even if that means with myself. It’s also important to understand that you are responsible for YOU and it is crucial that you are able to treat yourself gently after moments of trigger… Forgive yourself a little and give yourself a little grace.

So here’s how it goes for me:

One of the things I’ve learned that works for me is to allow myself to feel what I feel-no matter how wrong or how ugly it feels at the time. I get it out of my system! I recognize it doesn’t belong there. What I don’t allow anymore is for all that to inflict any pain on anyone else. Then, as those feelings leave, I begin to dig as to why I feel that way in order to learn how to proceed with the situation or just simply let it go if the situation warrants the need for that.

Let me tell you about one of those nights. I became angry at a family member; I mean like, really fucking mad, the kind of mad that penetrates your heart and makes you want to scream and cry (Which I most certainly did). I let myself feel it. I let myself be mad. I let myself be hurt. I let myself say all the raw things. However, what I did afterwards is what makes all the difference in how clear headed I was just hours later- first, I slept on it. Fun fact: sleep helps restore the brain by flushing out toxins that build up while you’re awake. Plus, if you know me, I love me some sleep and quote frankly, the situation had left me so emotionally exhausted, that it was needed. And when I did (awake), I thought about WHY I was so hurt and where the fuck it all came from (because quite honestly, no one deserves that much damn energy out of you). I came to a some life relevant conclusions…

I am a recovering control freak because I care too much. I’ve learned to manage it by sorting out what’s worth caring about and what’s not but when it comes down to it, it’s an innate feeling (the need to care about everything) that has ruled my life for ages. As a result, I even want to control the way others see things and the way others feel. Any living thing with even the lowest possible intelligence would know that that is IMPOSSIBLE!

However, I was able to pinpoint the trigger that prior, I had no idea was the cause of my angry reaction. After sleeping on it and waking up with a refreshed brain, I was now able to put it into words.

You can’t control what others do.

You can’t control what others think.

You can’t control what they feel.

You will go crazy if you even try.

What they do and allow themselves to go through has NOTHING to do with you and EVERYTHING to do with their own shit they have going on.

And when you finally get that through your head,

Let freedom ring!

The nitty gritty fact is that people act out of loneliness, heartache, resentment, their sense judgment on a person or situation or simply, their own trigger. (Much of what I felt even when I became triggered, was a combination of those things too). But someone’s inability to take responsibility for their own life and decisions because they are comfortable in that shit is really selfish and can really cause pain. If you’re not careful, you can really do some damage by acting out those feelings when they are too raw to even identify what they could become. If you think that you may be this type of person, first and foremost, know that you are more than capable. I encourage you to find the chain aka, the trauma, that’s holding you back and, above all else, deal with that shit. Seek help because at the end of the day, you’ll end up more sad, more alone and causing more damage to yourself and, if you’re lucky, those that depend on you (your own children). God, THEY deserve a better you!

In this case, I felt like a bystander empath watching how someone’s inability to take responsibility for their actions can cause pain for those around them both now and in the future (should they never deal with what’s really going on and their irresponsibility never fade). It caused me straight up rage to see how one person could actually affect so many and not SEE if for themselves because I literally felt their pain and wanted to change that myself. Furthermore, in an age where personal development can be almost considered a trend and our social media is saturated with videos and quotes and motivational speakers crying out for us to wake up, I couldn’t wrap my head around how this person couldn’t use any of that to see or do something about the current and also the potential damage they can cause to themselves and others by just simply not taking any responsibility for ANYTHING and proceeding to place blame and cry victim. Which brings me to my final point…

You have to do some digging. You have to do some internal research. And for a moment, at least a couple of times in your life, you have to look at your life with a microscope and take a damn minute to analyze WHY.

Why am I stuck in this hamster wheel?

Why am I always involved in some kind of drama?

Why are things not going well?

Why am I constantly upset or dissatisfied with my life?

And, very importantly,

What’s the crap I’m not dealing with thats spilling all over my life?

You have to learn to be relentless in the search for WHY so that you can break FREE. You MUST make a conscious effort to get out of the muck you’ve been in simply because you neglected the need to own your OWN shit. Otherwise, you’ll never experience life at your full potential; and what a sad thing that would be- for the world to miss out on someone so rare such as you.

Freedom • Part 1

 

freedom \ ˈfrē-dəm \ noun 

quality or state of being free such as

:absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action

:the quality of being frank, open, or outspoken

-Merriam-Webster.com

In honor of being frank, I will openly admit that I wasn’t always 100% “real”; I wasn’t real with myself, let alone others. My reality was severely distorted by everyone else’s idea of who I should be, what I should do, how I should act and speak. But let’s be clear. Whether I saw it before or not, I had a choice and for years, I chose to remain there. 

And it cost me-

It cost me my childhood, my adolescence, and the early years of adulthood. 

It wasn’t until I sought the t word (therapy) that I realized that I had no idea who I really was or what I really wanted. It caused me emotional pain, depression, and anxiety. 

But it was within those sessions and times of self-reflection that I was able to pinpoint traumatic times in my life that were sure to wreak havoc on life as I knew it, especially in my close relationships. 

I’d like to think that I am a better person because of it, but I can tell you that at the age of 30, there are times when I mourn the loss of those years. And no, I don’t mourn them because I’ve lost them (I never want to go back there) but because to this day, it takes a shitload of self-awareness to not go back to old habits-mental habits, emotional habits. Can I be real? Sometimes I miss them. Sometimes I wish to go back because being free somehow feels like too much control for little ol’ me. In my little box, I was contained, I was told right from wrong and decisions were made for me without consent. It took little to no effort from me because all I had to do was go along with it. And you know what? Life was less complicated (or so I thought) because unless I dared to think “what if…”, it was easy to live in a never ending cycle of settling in hopes that if everyone around me was happy, so would I. 

And that’s a thick-ass heavy chain to break. 

There’s a meme going around that says “getting your shit together requires a level of honesty you can’t even imagine.” Yea… no kidding. The days that I’ve decided to get my shit together is because I’ve owed it to myself, my two beautiful kids, and my amazing partner to own my shit and point the finger at myself rather than to cast blame on anyone else. 

So here’s the tricky thing about freedom; most people use it as what it is NOT. 

It is NOT an “I don’t give a f___” attitude and “I’m just going to do whatever I want because I can” attitude. That’s reckless and selfish and darn right irresponsible. 

Freedom is powerful, invigorating, and life-altering. Freedom is the ability to be your true, authentic self. 

Freedom is being unapologetic for doing what’s best for YOU.

Freedom allows you to BE. 

Freedom welcomes your people, to love you and choose you for who you are and choose to be in your corner in your valleys just as much as the hills.

Freedom makes seasonal friends, family, and situations disperse.  

(Disclaimer: If anyone were to get hurt emotionally during your process of becoming free, let it be because they were holding you back somehow and they’re not entirely happy with letting you go.) 

Freedom breaks all chains. 

Reflect: What chains are holding me back from being 100% free? 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. 

#BreakTheStigma