Approaching 40

I’m quickly approaching my 40th year on earth. It’s conjuring up so many feelings within me, hence the need for me to write them all out.

For the past 10ish years, I haven’t celebrated my birthday; I’ve celebrated the anniversary of my 29th birthday. As in, I didn’t celebrate my 35th birthday, I acknowledged the 6th anniversary of my 29th birthday. See? Sounds so much better. At least in my mind it does. Plus, this statement would typically make someone laugh when I told them how “old” I am, and humor is always a solid distraction. Win-win.

Some are quick to say that age ain’t nothing but a number. It seems the older we get, the more we try to make this statement true. The lovely Aaliyah (may she rest in peace) had a hit song with this assertion – at the age of 14. Age may be a number, literally, but I call bullshit on it being only a number. If that were true, I wouldn’t be calculating which anniversary I’m celebrating each year. Nice try. But nope.

In all seriousness, approaching 40 feels different to me than any other birthday/anniversary I’ve celebrated.

I’m not feeling the “typical” feelings of getting older. There isn’t much of a mid-life crisis or the need to “find myself.” I did plenty of that during my college years. For me, it’s seems to be more about approaching a major milestone in my life that is providing me with the opportunity to reflect on my life. Sort of an existential inventory.

What I seem to be feeling in general is a curious cocktail of swirling emotions. There seem to be three main themes at play ~

1. The older I get, the more distance I have from my past. This is amazingly liberating. I have now lived longer outside of my childhood than I did within it. This is a powerful realization. Several people dread getting older since they are no longer young, they are farther away from childhood. Yet for me, the farther away I am from most aspects of my childhood, the better. In a way, my sense of humor is stronger and I am able to be sillier now than I was back then. In some ways, I feel more like a 13 year old now, than I did when I was actually 13.  I’m so much less self-conscious now. That feels so insanely freeing.

2. I continuously am in awe of how long I have survived. How long I have thrived. I’ve faced many hardships and challenges in my life. There are several times when my life was in danger. And yet I survived. I’m here, I’m thriving, I’m living a beautiful life that I created for myself. This is a huge accomplishment for me. A quote that eloquently speaks to this – “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” ~Unknown.

3. While I am well aware that I am (almost) 40, I truly don’t feel 40. And not just in an “age ain’t nothin’ but a number” way. More in the way that I feel fully alive today. Fully present in my body and within the world around me. I feel more able to appreciate all the little things in life, to truly smell the roses and lilacs and hyacinths. I feel more confident in my own skin. More self-assured. I’m happier and stronger and more accepting of the world around me. Forty truly does feel fabulous.

This year, I plan to celebrate my 40th Birthday. No arbitrary anniversaries. No hiding behind some pseudo-humor. Nope. I may continue to color the (ever multiplying) gray hairs on my head, but I will also more fully embrace my goofy side. Luckily, my Mia will always help me out with that.

Life Force of Water

My whole life, I’ve had a strong connection to water. I’m a water sign (Scorpio) and I grew up on the Jersey Shore, so many of my formative years were spent near and in the ocean.

Water sparks all 5 of my senses. The sound of the waves crashing or the gurgling of a pond. The visual beauty and serenity of the waves. The deep blues. The feel of rushing water on my skin. How I will always instinctively gain my bearings at the shore line as the waves crash over my legs. The smell of the salt air or the refreshing scent of clear spring water. The crisp, cool taste of water as I drink it throughout the day. The way the salty water from the ocean lingers on my lips for hours after I’ve emerged from the ocean.

I crave water. Just the sight of water, even as an image, can instantly calm me. It is equally an invigorating and soothing life force. 

Last summer, I had a new experience with water. There are a few creeks and ponds near where I live. I’ve enjoyed watching the rush of the water in a creek, over rocks, and around trees. The stillness of a pond, knowing the rustle of life that exists just below the surface, is awe-inspiring. Yet, in this new moment, I decided to take off my shoes and expose more of my senses to the rushing water of the creek I was visually connected with. 

Looking at the creek, I could see the movement of the water. I could see hints of the various rocks and depth changes on the creek floor. But the sight did not and could not prepare me for the physical experience.

The instant my foot submerged in the cool water, my spirit shifted. The world around me seemed to disappear and my entire focus was on the water around my feet. It was intensely invigorating. The water was shallow, only reached my mid-calf at its deepest point, yet the sensations coursed through me with power and determination. The energy of the water made me feel as if all of me were immersed. 

I have been in shallow water many times. All the other times were in a calm, protected ocean or bay setting. The clear water of the Caribbean shore line that is as still as a pond for many yards out. Standing in that water, in the same depth, felt completely different. That water is warm and soothing. The sand under my toes is soft and silky. There is a stillness and serenity in that clear, blue-green water. 

This creek water was vastly different. Cool and crisp with a surging energy. I could feel the authority and the grace of the creek all at once, even in the shallowness of it. The rocks and gravelly sand shocked my toes and feet to be cautious. I realized quickly that I had to engage my entire body to steady myself. To balance among the rocks and the quick changes in depth, along with the steady rush of the water.

The movement of the water was surprisingly strong and deliberate. The intense energy surging around me.  Yet still remaining graceful, subtle, and contained. It was an inspiring combination. Force with deliberate intention and patience. It was a new energy I had never experienced before. Natural, raw, and serene all at once. Not fake or. Real. 

All of my senses became hyper focused on being fully present within this energy of this creek. I became engrossed in the creek and its surroundings, yet still only the lower portion of my legs remained under water. The entire ecosystem consumed me as I consumed it. I needed to be one with every aspect. Know where to go and how to get there. Determine which rocks seemed more inviting than others. Use muscles I haven’t before. Know my limits and my strength. Be able to trust myself to fully let go and become one with this new experience. 

It was incredibly grounding and humbling. Instinctual and existential. Life-affirming. My mind was operating through my 5 senses only. I wasn’t relying on intellectualizing the situation. There were no complicated emotions influencing my next move. I wasn’t processing or planning or forming opinions or operating based on my mood.  I was fully present with only my raw instincts as my guide.

I somehow had to lose myself and find myself all at once. 

It was an incredibly powerful moment for me. I was able to channel that energy into my being. Now when I need some serenity, I can close my eyes and vividly remember the sensation of my feet in a creek. And I become a little more alive all over again.

7 Things I’m Shaking Off in 2015

Okay, this title alone was one I never thought I’d write. Let alone this whole piece. It’s kitschy, a little cliche, a kind of “every blogger does a ‘top 47 things list’ and I do not want to be like all other bloggers” piece, and it references a Taylor Swift song, for fucks sake.

Yet, as I climb off my high horse, acknowledge that this T Swift song ain’t all that bad, and also admit that I love lists to the point of obsession, I realize this is the EXACT piece I need to write to kick off the new year. Plus, there really are some key things in my life that I must say “let it go” to – yup another reference to a song I secretly adore. Haters gonna hate.

2015 beckons an emotional cleanse. Shovel the bullshit off my lawn. Brush the nonsense off my shoulders. More cliches? I think we all get the point. Here is a brief list of that which I will excitedly shake off this year, in a spastic rhythmic dance (in the privacy of my own home, of course).

1. Endless (judgmental) questions about our choice to have one child. I’ve been writing about all the adventures that come along with having an only child for a few years now. A sort of anthropological study of how others react to the fact that our little family does not fit those of the masses. Apparently, we’ve seemed to have broken some social code that dictates having one child is not acceptable. Regardless of the reasons behind the decision. I will make more of an effort to simply say “we are one and done and proud of it”. End of story. Of course, if the questions persist, as they do sometimes, I may have to say “perhaps we are unable to have more children, but honestly, that is none of your damn business.” Guess it’ll depend on my mood and coffee intake (or lack thereof) on how I’ll answer those relentless and judgmental questions. But for the most part, make every effort to shake them off.

2. Feeling guilty for being a working mom. I’ve been super proud of being a working mom. I feel it makes me a healthier person (both physically and emotionally), and a stronger mom to Mia. I savor my adult time, and I am beyond proud of my chosen profession. Plus, I feel I am setting a positive example to Mia. Of course, there are those moments when she clearly lets me know that she misses me during the day. I am not able to volunteer at her school very often. Other moms in her class can. She doesn’t hesitate to remind me of that. Every field trip she asks if I can go. Sometimes I can, most often I can’t. Sometimes she understands, sometimes she cries. It stings. Yet this is the best choice for me, for our family, for Mia. It is also financially imperative that I work, so in that context, it’s not a choice. I shall let go of the guilt. And maybe just buy Mia more stuff to compensate. Yeah, that’s the healthy alternative (this is sarcasm, in case you didn’t realize).

3. A cluttered house (okay, fine, messy). I’m an organized person. Some may say I’m a bit OCD. I attempt to keep my home spotless 90% of the time. Well, that standard has slipped significantly in recent years. Of course no one knows this but my immediate family since I scramble relentlessly to clean every inch of my home in the hours (okay, fine, days) prior to us having company. But if it’s only us, the clutter can get a little out of control. Ain’t nobody got time to keep up a spotless house 24/7. And it’s okay. Really. I can convince myself of this. Soon. The year just started.

4. Pointless self-criticism. Oh lawd, this is a big one. I’ve been my own worst critic since, well, forever. I need to learn to better accept me for me. Be confident in who I am. Laugh at my flaws and let my quirks flourish. One way I’ve already started embracing myself fully is by allowing more pictures of myself to be taken. I used to shy away from the camera. Incredibly self-conscious, never wanting to see what I really looked like, and when I did, I’d pick apart every aspect of myself. Stuff no one else would see but me. It was exhausting. Now I’m posing for pictures. I’m taking selfies. And the best part? I’m really liking what I’m seeing. Shocking! I see myself through clear, realistic eyes; not my altered, super critical eyes. Progress. I’ll keep going in 2015.

5. Mia being her own person, with her own style and strong personality. This one, hopefully, won’t be too difficult. I adore our quirky girl’s style and outgoing personality. She does her own thing, her own way, and is often the leader of her friends. She is not self conscious at all (unlike her highly self-critical mom). She’ll pick out an outfit that I may gasp at (mismatch socks, always, and other questionably quasi-matching pieces). But I allow her to embrace her own style. I celebrate it, most of the time. There are moments I wonder if she’ll be made fun of. There are events we go to that I know other kids and adults are looking at her, possibly judging her, and most likely me, as her mom, for letting her out of the house like that. That’s what I need to shake off. Not Mia’s choice of self expression, but my concern about what others will think of her. If she stays as strong, independent, creative, and fierce as she is now, she’ll be able to shake off any comments without any hesitation. I have a lot to learn from her.

6. Complaining about petty shit, or First World Problems. Seriously. Given the life I have today, there is absolutely no reason for me to complain about anything. Yes, I’ve had plenty of struggles and my past is littered with dark clouds, yet I am coping with all of that stress. I am dealing. I am living. The life I have now is quite extraordinary. All of my basic needs are met, and exceedingly so. I provide for my family, in excess. We are healthy, stable, and prospering. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I am at the top of the pyramid. This is a small space that most people are not ever able to achieve. Many struggle with basic necessities on a daily basis. I can never lose sight of that. Never take what I have for granted. So when my Wi-Fi slows down for a few minutes, as I sit in my warm, heated home, with my belly full from fresh foods, I vow to not curse the internet for not loading Beyonce’s latest video quick enough (yeah, I like her too. And what?!).

7. Allowing idiots to ruin my day. I’ve prided myself on not letting the nonsense of others to effect me. Well, okay, sometimes it effects me, but for the most part, I can let snide comments or passive aggressive non-verbals bounce off of me. The opinions of others, more specifically, those others who are not important to me, are not what I value. So I shake them off. I will do an even better job of this in 2015. Not allow idiots to take me out of my zone. Laugh it off and keep it moving.

This is what I am striving for in the new year. Not quite ready to commit to the term “resolutions” as that creates too high of an expectation. Which, if I don’t fully live up to what I have listed, I get caught up in #4, and my relentless vortex of meaningless self-criticism will give me a migraine. So I will shake it all off instead. Channel some of Mia’s extraordinary self-confidence and independent thinking. Let it all go.

Happy New Year!

The Unending Search for Hope

SkyThis picture was taken this morning near my home. Yesterday, we had severe thunderstorms. Heavy rain, thunder, lightning, and gusty winds for the vast majority of the day and night. The skies were in turmoil and full of intense energy. This morning, however, the sky is back to its equilibrium. Blue, serene, calm, full of light, wispy white clouds dotting the expanse of blue canvas.

I stood for a moment under this calm sky, contemplating what it had looked and felt like yesterday. Complete chaotic explosion of energy. Now all was calm and beautiful. It was hard to reconcile this in my mind.

And yet, this is the usual cycle of nature and life. Of energy flow. Of growth and death and disarray and calm. Ebb and flow. After every burst of commotion, a moment of calm cleanses the surroundings.

Standing under this glorious sky, I contemplated my own sense of ebb and flow. I pride myself for my undying sense of hope. At the same time, I struggle with chaotic energy bursts. I vacillate between the serenity of my hopeful worldview and the negative energy that sometimes creeps into my psyche, often as the result of a particular stressor or trigger. Most often, I am able to push through a challenge and find hope rather quickly. Yet lately my sense of hope is being overshadowed by stronger feelings of distress.

If you follow my blog, you’ve most likely seen the pattern of more intense pieces lately. Suicide is Not a Choice, My Journey of Acceptance, a Poem about Melancholy … rather heavy material, indeed. Yes, each of these pieces is sprinkled with glimmers of hope. It’s difficult for me to write any words without at least a few of them being hopeful in nature. For these recent pieces, however, adding in words of hope has proven more difficult.

Even as I write this piece, I am actively searching for inspiration that will spark my usual strong sense of hope. I have a wealth of resources that I access on a daily basis – writings, quotes, pictures, self-reflection, nature, social media outlets, friends, colleagues, articles … yet none of it seems to be having the positive impact that I expect. Usually something inspires me to reframe my thinking from despair to optimism. Now, it’s not coming as easily. My search continues without much improvement in my overall outlook.

I do believe hope prevails. I do believe that there is enough beauty in the world to take the pain away. I do believe all of this.

I just don’t feel it with my heart and soul at this moment.

So maybe the search is unwarranted, right at this moment. Maybe I need to be present in my feelings of discomfort and confusion. Allow myself to feel the pain and go through it completely. Perhaps my expectation of finding the hope again right now is premature and unrealistic. This particular episode of discomfort maybe needs to be just a little longer than usual. Right now maybe patience is more warranted. Sitting with the discomfort. Allowing the energy to move as it needs to, not as I would like it to.

Gazing out at the vast sky was incredibly helpful this morning. While I was still struggling with my discomfort and internal chaos, the serenity around me felt comforting. The consistency of the ebb and flow of nature was exactly what I needed to see.

I will make an effort to be present in all the glorious examples of life around me. The brilliant blue sky, the magical night sky and Super Moon, flowering trees, steadily running water through a nearby creek. I may continue to feel the internal confusion a little longer, yet if I’m patient and allow myself to go through my own process of energy flow, the hope will come back. I truly believe that.

Suicide is Not a Choice

By now we’ve all heard the devastating news that Robin Williams has died from suicide. Such a tragic end to a comedic genius.

Every year, over 39,000 people die from suicide. Friends, neighbors, family members, veterans, celebrities … Suicide does not discriminate. Those 39,000 people were most certainly a diverse snapshot of everyone in America. Of course, the vast majority of those suicides go unnoticed, unless they affect us personally. Sadly, it takes the suicide of a huge public figure to bring attention to this heartbreaking issue.

Those of us who are familiar with the demons of mental illness and mental health issues are sad and angry and scared. The reality of suicide has claimed yet another victim. This could be any one of us.

This most recent loss to suicide highlights the power mental health issues can have on our minds. The deceptive, insidious power these illnesses can have on our thoughts, and potentially, on our behaviors.

Because of this power, suicide cannot be viewed as a choice. Mental illness tricks our brains. Our illness can tell us things that are not true, things we would not listen to or believe if we were not struggling with self-doubt, lethargy, and intense loneliness, among many other complicated emotions that mental illness causes. The demons that can consume our minds and our hearts, making us believe we are not worth the air that we are breathing.

At the height of my struggle with Post Partum Depression, I had intense thoughts of suicide (suicidal ideation). I felt so alone, so helpless and hopeless, so desperate for relief, that the thought of ending my life seemed like a decent option. My mind amplified these thoughts. Because of my PPD, and other mental health issues I’ve struggled with, my brain is injured. It isn’t working to its full capacity and instead has a shadow of fear and doubt cast over it. Back then, the shadow was consuming. My mind and thoughts and beliefs were dark. Light could barely break through, and when it did, it was swallowed.

These lyrics from one of my favorite songs “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls captures this struggle poetically:

Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable
And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear

Because of the hunger of my darkness, my thoughts of suicide also escalated to plans and a few fleeting attempts. The majority of the time I remember thinking that it would be so easy. So easy to just go to sleep and not wake up. So easy to veer into oncoming traffic. My mind almost seemed to comfort me with these options. I was feeling so lost and was in so much emotional turmoil, that ANY form of relief was welcomed. Death, my illness was telling me, was the ultimate form of relief. That was not a choice I was thinking of making; it was seemingly my only option.

I’m shaking as I type this as I have not openly shared these details of my story yet. When I remember this time, I’m filled with despair. Thankfully, I am healthier now and I can also have a sense of fear and anger at these thoughts. I am also incredibly compassionate of them. Of who I was then. Of the struggling new mom who was in so much pain. Who was led to believe that death could help by an insidious illness that countless other moms struggle with every day. I am grateful I was able to escape the clutching darkness. My heart hurts for those who were not able to escape.

I must always take care of myself, of my injured brain. My illness has not been “cured”, nor will it ever be. Even today, I have thoughts of driving into traffic. These are known as “intrusive thoughts”, and they are a symptom of my illness that I will live with for the rest of my life. These thoughts are much less frequent and they are much less intense when they come, but they do still come. And they scare me every time they appear. Most often they come when I least expect it. When I’m happy and feeling confident and healthy. Then BAM, a dark, unwelcomed thought telling me that my life isn’t worth living anymore. I have strong self-care skills that I activate immediately to banish the thought. But it’s still an unnerving experience.

PPD, along with other forms of depression and mood disorders, are such powerful and deceptive diseases. They infect our brains and create thoughts and beliefs that would otherwise not exist. Thoughts of suicide. Beliefs that death is the best form of relief. These are not choices. They are overpowering and persuasive shadows that can consume so many of us.

With this tragic loss, we can rally our collective hope. Use our sadness and anger to fight harder against the deceptive voices of depression. Raise awareness and share knowledge. Support each other more. As much as my heart breaks with the reality of suicide, it has been warmed with the amazing support among those who know this struggle all too well.

24-hour National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)


My Journey of Acceptance

“Until lions start writing down their own stories, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.” ~ African Proverb

Accepting all aspects of my life is difficult. Mental Illness and Trauma. They are real, present parts of my life. They are hard to acknowledge and accept.

These are real illnesses and I experience them on a daily basis, both emotionally and physically. My brain is altered, so I see the world in a unique way. My memory and concentration are far from sharp. I am always in a state of high alert, regardless of any real threat. My sleep can be affected by nightmares, often coming without warning. My stomach is tight the majority of the time. My breathing is quick and shallow in its “normal” state, so I constantly have to make a conscious effort to breathe deeply at all times. My muscles ache, I get headaches easily.

These are some of the main symptoms I experience. Thankfully I have strong self-care skills (and even stronger medications) that provide relief. Yet, like with any chronic illness, I need to be on point with my symptom management to keep it under control and prevent more intense episodes.

How do I explain my illness? I’ve accomplished a lot in my life, so expectations are high for me – the ones I set for myself and the ones set forth with my job and other “adult” ventures. When I can’t perform at the level people expect, I’m questioned.  But it’s not me – it’s my illness. I just wish there was a way for this to make sense to others. Because right now, my experience is not something easily explained. If I ask for help, I’m seen as weak. If I say I’m stressed, I can’t handle it. Like I’m making this a choice. Believe me – it is not a choice at all.

Maybe it is my fault. I did accomplish way more than is typical for people like me, with similar histories. I have a masters degree from an Ivy League university. I have a demanding, high level career. My relationships with my husband and daughter are stable and loving. Many of my fellow survivors continue to live in chaos, with continuous abuse, trauma, and substance use. I have severe and persistent mental illness. Like many survivors. But I guess since I’m not homeless or violent, it’s not viewed the same. And I fully acknowledge these vital differences. I am truly blessed to not struggle with poverty or an addiction or violence.  For reasons that are truly beyond me, I was able to create a high functioning life among the chaos I have endured. Odds say I should be much more similar to the the clients I treat. Odds say I most likely could have successfully committed suicide by now. How I managed to not just survive, but thrive, is a mystery and a miracle.

So maybe it is my fault.

Since I don’t “look” mentally ill, people don’t expect me to be struggling at all. I get it – there are days I forget my struggles until they pop up in my memory, triggered by some random event. I’m functioning. I’m thriving. I’m integrating my life and living healthy and happy. That is the goal for anyone in recovery. I’m doing it.

I’m also always going to be reminded of my illness, of my syndrome. I must always practice self-care, as a means of dealing directly with my ever-present symptoms, and also as a means of preventing them from getting too overwhelming. Like exercise, the moment you stop, get too complacent, that’s when the results stop.

The moment I laugh and seem more myself, I’m thought to be “cured.” I wish it were that easy. It’s a struggle of understanding, for everyone in my life, including myself. I am becoming my authentic self. This includes being humorous, serious, emotional, relaxed, silly, dynamic. I can be all of these things at once. I may be struggling with a present trigger, yet I may turn to humor to help me relieve the anxiety. This can be confusing to myself, and certainly to others. Yet it’s all part of me being authentic, and integrating all the complex sides of myself and my recovery into a daily life that makes me happy.

I need to be consistent. Diligent. On point all the time. It’s exhausting and hard to accept. For me and for others. My journey of self-discovery and acceptance is life long. I am blessed to be on this amazing journey.

More thoughts on this difficult journey of recovery and acceptance:



The Cheat Sheet


Melancholy – A Poem

Rain drops

Slide along the window

Where sunshine once shone through

Warmth and light abundant

Now gray and damp and somber


Flowers closing

To the wind and gray of today

Not dying, not yet

Waiting, eager

For the sun to nourish again


Clouds gather

Block the sun

The light is still there

But darker, less promising


Darkness throughout

Consuming, engulfing darkness

No shadows cast in any direction

No streams of light trying to break through

Just black

Thick, insistent, heavy emptiness


Is this temporary or just reality now?

Hope says the sun will shine

The rain and clouds will move along

The flowers will burst open again

The shadows will dance among the light

Tomorrow, soon

Just like they did yesterday


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