Shady’s back 

I’m back, bitches!

New name, new social media handles, same brand of crazy. 

I got married this month! 

My sister got engaged this month!

(So far) I’m happy this month!

Generally being emotional is what compels me to write, however, I’ve determined that happiness is a hindrance to my written endeavours. I normally identify as indifferently content, but lately I have been genuinely happy. I think. Maybe I’m not the textbook definition of happiness, but it’s my own brand, and I’m comfortable with it. 

Happiness can be terrifying to Eeyore’s like me. We’re so sure that there’s a storm cloud looming over our parade – we can’t properly enjoy what is going on around us. So positive are we that we will do something unworthy of this happiness that we retreat into the dark caverns of our minds to punish ourselves for ever thinking that we deserve better than what we normally allow ourselves. 

This month, I have felt happiness without guilt. I felt beautiful, loved, and deserving. If this is the only 31 days in my life that I feel this gloriously happy, I will be OK with that. I will be OK because I’ll know that, on some level, I am capable of joy, and I have been lucky enough to experience it. 

Ad Hominem

For the first time in my life I am choosing not to attend a Remembrance Day service, and I have received a lot of flak because of this decision. I would like now to explain  myself, in the hopes that for those of you who have judged me may understand what I am thinking and feeling. 

I have never missed a service. I have sat with dignitaries, laid wreaths alongside veterans, marched in parades, and cried while holding photos of my loved ones. I have drank with légionnaires, and argued with my husband over wearing his uniform. I have held hands with  strangers, shaken hands with people who served alongside my grandfather, and argued with people who celebrate Christmas before commemorating Remembrance Day. 

Each year I put on the equivalent of my Sunday best, do my makeup, pin poppies on my  daughters, and carry a photo of my husband and my uncle, to the service at the legislative grounds. I have gone in every kind of weather imaginable, and have tried my best to present the façade of the strong, elegant, cornerstone of the military family that is the military spouse. It is exhausting, and this year I am too tired to carry on. 

This year I will sit on the couch with my daughters, and the photos of our loved ones, and we will watch the Ottawa service on tv. If I feel like crying, I will cry. I will hug my babies and we will talk about our loved ones, their daddy, and why this day matters to us above all else. We will talk about all of the mom’s and dad’s of my children’s friends who are currently deployed or away for various reasons, and we will count every one of our blessings, made possible by all of these heroes. I won’t put on makeup, I will not present myself as anything that strangers or friends expect me to be. I will watch the service from the comfort of my home, where I am free to feel and express myself without feeling as though I have to “keep it together” for the sake of those around me. 

After the service, we are going for a walk. Maybe we will go to the park, or perhaps the lagoon. From there we can see where their daddy works when he is alongside, and we will count the days until he is home, together. This year I am not doing this for anyone but my family. For too long I have placed too much importance on  appearances, and trust me, keeping them up on a day like today is more exhausting than running a marathon. 

After a decade of being a military wife, and a lifetime of being a military family member, I think I have earned the right to observe this day in a way that is healthy for both me and my girls. My love has missed countless birthdays, holidays, moments that cannot be recreated – including the birth of one of our daughters. He will spend the next year away from us, and I will be strong while I wipe the tears away from my daughters’ eyes, check their homework, take them to lacrosse, doctors appointments, and read them emails from their daddy. I spend 364 days of the year being strong, today I would like, even if only for a few hours, to let my guard down, and feel what I try to avoid the rest of the year. 

So no, I’m not going to a service today, and if you disagree with my decision, I respect your opinion. I am not a bad wife, I am a tired one. If you don’t agree that I deserve to observe how I choose, I suggest you reread this post, or any of my posts, until you feel empathy for what I have to do to survive. If that doesn’t work, I will politely ask you to mind your own damned business – but I’ll only be polite once. 

The Maker Makes

I have three daughters, aged 7, 4, and 10 months. As my beautiful ladies grow older and develop their own interests and personalities, I find that I’m discovering parts of myself in them. My biggest fear for them is that I will pass my poisons onto them, and not recognise that I’ve done it. 

When I was a child and even a teenager, not many people subscribed to the idea of childhood depression. Many people, my mother and father included, believed that the brain wasn’t capable of mental illness until after the age of 18, and also that “teenage angst” was a choice – not a symptom of mental stress. 

After discussing my youth in-depth with my psychiatrist and councillor, we mutually determined that I have been suffering from anxiety since childhood, major depressive disorder since my mid to late teens, and bipolar disorder stemming from around the same time. Looking back at those times in my life I can quite clearly see the signs and symptoms, which of course, seem obvious in retrospect. 

Now, as a mother in this new mental illness enlightened age, I worry for my girls- my eldest especially. Certified gifted, I was told that I may experience behavioural problems with her, and was giving a few books about “coping” with the gifted child. My amazing, hilarious, friendly, little L has trouble getting out of bed, especially if her dad is sailing. Prone to fits of rage, sometimes physically attacking me, sometimes not being able to eat. Happiness countered immediately with sadness, coupled with anger and obsession. 

It’s hard to deal with. 

I have my own emotional shitstorm to battle with every day, sometimes trying to deal with her is too much for me. I check out, lock myself in my head, and hope that the kids will engage autopilot before I crash the plane. But they deserve better. L needs my compassion, my understanding, my experience, but most days I’m just too tired to give it to her. We do battle on a daily basis. It’s hard on all of us. No matter what, I always try to validate her feelings. She is entitled to feel. Whether I agree with her or not, she gets to tell/yell her thoughts to me. I don’t know if it helps or hurts, but at this point I feel like she’s constantly on the cusp of exploding, but it seems like the yelling and stomping keeps her from diving over the edge  

I’ve read the books, the blogs, the listicles, the forums, and the truth is: I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing when it comes to my girls’ mental health. I have no clue. I barely have a grip on my own mental health, how am I supposed to be responsible for that of these precious beings? I’m terrified daily that I’m causing permanent emotional damage, or passing on my mental instabilities (or both). On the other hand, I don’t want to see symptoms in them that aren’t there. We all know what tricks the mind can play to spike our anxiety and send us spiralling. For now I’ll keep reading, keep fighting, keep cuddling, keep trying, keep failing. I owe them my best, even if some days my best is merely existing through the day. 

I need so desperately to protect them, but I can’t save them from themselves. Or, maybe I can. I wish someone had tried to save me.  

10,000 Maniacs

How many times in your life have you felt out of control? I’m not talking party animal, too drunk to function, throw up in the Arby’s bathroom, I’m talking about your brain operating so fast that you can’t make heads or tails of anything that you’re thinking. For some people, bipolar is a mixture of depression and mania. I am one of those people. I have experienced depression as well as manic depression, or a mixed-state, but never true mania without the depressive undertones. You would think that being a mixture of manic and depressive could lead to a balance of sorts, because one should even out the other. This however, is not the case. Manic depression is terrifying because your wheels are turning at an incomprehensible speed, and you are powerless to stop them. The thoughts and feelings I have are almost never productive or helpful, and it is in these times that I hate myself the most. 

Some of the symptoms of being manic in my case are excessive sweating, the inability to sit still or focus on one task at a time, spending too much money, insomnia, no appetite, and delusions.

I am about to be  very explicit with my experiences in the hopes that it better explains what I am going through. I want my transparency to help those who are suffering without knowing the root of the problems they face, and the caregivers who feel helpless. If any of these thoughts, feelings, or behaviours sound familiar to you, talk to me. If you know someone who suffers from these symptoms, love them. Don’t punish them for the things that they cannot control, and certainly don’t make them feel ashamed to come forward. Sometimes just being able to say one’s thoughts out loud can save someone’s life. If you can’t be someone to lean on, I strongly suggest you get off of the crazy train at the next stop.

 When I am feeling only depressed, I am tired constantly. I eat too much, and doing anything feels like too much energy. I wear the same clothes, I don’t shower, I feel pathetic. When I am feeling manic depression, I have a lot of energy. I clean, I cook, I put makeup on. On the outside I function mostly well. On the inside, I can’t control my thoughts or emotions. The hate that I feel for myself while depressed is amplified exponentially by mania. My inner monologue screams at me. It tells me that I am useless, that I am not a good mom, a terrible spouse, and that my family would be better off without me. It is during these times that thoughts of suicide crowd my brain, and because i can’t get my thoughts in order, it starts to seem like a good idea. I project my own feelings of self-loathing onto my loved ones, and assume that they are tired of me, tired of having to care for me, tired of having to constantly clean up my messes. Those feelings are my own, and it’s wrong for me to assume that others feel about me the way I feel about myself. One part of me knows and acknowledges this, but the rational part of me has trouble overpowering the yelling that is constantly going on in my head. 

When I am manic depressive I act impulsively. I lavish my loved ones with gifts and money in the hopes that they will continue to love me, in the hopes that they can see a value in the things I give them, because I can’t see the value in just being myself. I am so sure that everyone hates me, and I’m afraid that if I dont’t shower them with gifts that they will give up on me. They will wish me dead just as I do. 

The pinwheel spins so fast that all of the colours blur together and become gray. It slows down long enough for me to see the blue thoughts, the ones that tell me that I’m worthless, incapable of normalcy, inadequate. It speeds up again and I’m left to dwell on the thoughts that came to the forefrunt during the small slow-down. I feel like a car without a driver, a brick on the accelerator. I can see where I am headed but cannot stop myself from getting there. I say and do things that hurt people, but because I can’t explain myself. The result is anger and frustration from the people who I love. I am not an easy person to live with, and I know that I put strain on my friends and family. What they don’t realise is that it causes me pain, too. I don’t want to hurt them or anyone, and as a result we are all stuck in a vicious cycle of me hurting myself emotionally as well as hurting everyone else.

My thoughts of my family being better off without me, running away to help them,  or committing suicide as a way to put an end to their embarassment from having a crazy wife and mother are unfounded in the real world. The rational part of my brain knows that my children need a mother, and that I am thinking about a permanent solution to a temproary problem. I don’t want to die. I want to live free of pain and confusion. Even though that will never be a reality for me, I have to remember that I can make them feel better by trying my best to be a good mom. Removing myself from them doesn’t solve anything, and will cause a permanent hurt that I will never be able to take away. 

Being manic is a very selfish state to live in. The problems that I have inside consume me, and I can’t see a way out. It is truly terrifying to not know what you are capable of. I feel very self-involved, but I’m afraid of what will happen if I let myself stop thinking about it for even a moment. So far, the fear of myself is what has kept me going. 

Two years ago I got into our family vehicle during the only snow storm that we had that year. I jumped on the highway, and I spun my vehicle into the rock face as fast as I could. After I hit I tried to drive away again, even though the front end of my vehicle was gone. It was only after I was in the ambulance and on the way to the hospital that I realised that I had never intended to make it home. I hated myself so much, I was angry that I didn’t die in the hospital a few months earlier when I was sick. I was a shell of myself, filled with hate and anger and disgust. The only thing that could get rid of those feelings was to stop feeling all together. I got home after being checked out in the hospital, and a new hatred filled me. A hate that was fueled by my willingness to leave my family. I looked at my children and wondered how I could be so selfish, how I could think that they would be better off with a dead mother. I felt disgusting and unworthy of love. One thing that I have leraned from that experience is that suicide is not based on anyone other than yourself, but it’s not selfish. You are trying to put an end to their pain, you feel as though you are giving them a chance at a better life if you remove yourself from it. In my case, I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, I was trying to free them. 

Being manic depressive is a constant emotional rollercoaster that can’t be easily explained. It’s like being asked to explain the feeling of vomitting – you can’t listen to an explanation and picture the feeling – you have to experience it. I truly hope that no one I love ever has to know exactly how I’m feeling, but I do hope that if they read this they understand that I never, ever, intend to hurt them, and that I am always trying to act in their best interests. I also want them to know that I am always going to seek help when I know that I am losing control, and that I will, to the best of my ability, shield them from the trouble that my instability can cause. I know that my actions always affect my loved ones, and I am doing everything I can to minimise the blast zone.

Do you know someone who is eperiencing or has experienced anything that I have described? Don’t know how to treat them, act around them, or care for them? Here are a few ideas on how you can engage them in a positive way.

If they don’t want to be touched, don’t touch them. Sometimes being manic can heighten the senses, sometimes to the point of touch being extremely uncomfortable. Always ask before embracing.

Don’t force them to engage. Ask how they are feeling, ask if they need to talk, but don’t pressure or guilt them into talking if they can’t. One thing that bipolar people are good at is deception. If they can’t sort themseves out they will tell you what YOU need to hear, getting you off of their case so they can go back to fighting silently for their lives.

Don’t. Get. Angry. If your loved one opens up to you and is honest with the thoughts and feelings that they are having, don’t react negatively. The first time that you do will be the last time they trust you with their demons.

We don’t come with a ‘fragile’ sticker, so please don’t label us. I know that this is a difficult one, because it’s hard to know what will set someone off. I get that, I don’t know what will set me off, either. Just be patient, and know that we don’t do it on purpose. No one likes being handled with kid gloves. 

Know when you’ve had enough. There is no shame in recognising that you aren’t able to be someone’s nurse-maid for the rest of your life. We know that we are hard to deal with, and the unpredictability of our emotions is taxing on everyone. Have the courage and the decency to say if you can’t do it anymore. It won’t be easy, but if it’s what’s best for all parties, so be it. YOUR mental health should alays be your number one priority.

Most importantly, love and be loved. Let the people you love know how much you do, make sure that they feel it. Gifts don’t equate to experiences…something I’m trying to learn. Everyone has good days and bad, just remember that every new day is a new chance for forgiveness, kindness, and the pursuit of living a full and happy life with someone who is wired a little bit differently from yourself. 

The Codependency Conundrum: Part Two 

I would first like to make an amendment to my previous post about home: home is not a house or a city, home is who you leave your heart with. 

The more people you truly love, the more pieces of your heart find homes in the pockets of those people. The more people you truly love, the more fragmented you become. When you can no longer spare a single sliver of your heart, you start to feel homesick for all of the people who complete you. 

My own heart is split a few different ways, with special places for my children, my husband, my brothers (T and A), and my sister. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t love other people, these are just examples of the biggest pieces of me that I have unconditionally given away. I have realised recently that I have become so fragmented that I am homesick. All of the different pieces of my heart are pulling me towards them, but I am not able to be with all of them at the same time. The puzzle that is my love for these people can never be put together and completed thanks to circumstance and geography. How can I continue to survive when I am not my whole self? Perpetually distracted by all of the places I’m not, bogged down with the knowledge that I can’t be of any help to anyone that doesn’t live in my house, I am feeling exhausted. I have no energy to be friendly and communicative with people whom I am only acquainted with; offering friendship feels like a betrayal to the ones I can’t be physically present with. 

It has sunk in that I will never have the completeness that I need. My ideal of having everyone at arms distance is not ever going to happen. We all have roots planted, and to uproot the gardens of others to be happy in my own is something that I can’t do. Experiencing brief glimpses of complete happiness is my only option, and if I’m being completely honest, I’m not dealing with it well. Some of the people who I hold most dear are struggling as we speak, and I am powerless to help them. We can talk and text and Skype until our collective thumbs fall off, but nothing can replace the feeling of just being with someone when you need to be. Sitting in silence together, hugging, playing a game, pretending everything is fine…all things that cannot be experienced electronically. Turning inward is the only thing that consoles me when I feel helpless. Snuggling my girls obviously fills my heart in a way that nothing else can, but they are all getting tired of being smothered by me. I am thoroughly acquainted with my rock as well as my hard place, and neither of them are interested in losing me to a solution that I haven’t found yet. 

So here I am. 

Siphoning happiness from where I can, constantly running on fumes. Doomed to eat my emotional soup for the foreseeable future.  It goes down bitter. 

The moral of this story is, I’m a whiner who is tired of not getting everything that she wants. I delude myself into thinking that I am more important to others than I really am in an attempt to justify my self-inflicted loneliness and wanderlust. Sad with what I have. I don’t know how to change this part of me, but perhaps I am beyond repair. 

Viking’s Valour

Here it is, my first post of the new year. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time that I’ve actually felt like writing. I still don’t feel like it, but her we are. I have been avoiding my blog for a few reasons, mostly because I haven’t been able to feel cheerful in some time, and who wants to read a post in which I report that nothing has changed? I had a lot of great things happen to me in the past year, but it’s not in me to be the person that only focusses on the good. I dwell on anger and sadness, it’s what helps me relate to humanity. Pain makes me feel human.
On Christmas day, my dog collapsed while we were on our family walk, and could not get up. He didn’t seem like he was upset or was in pain, so we waited for him to get up to finish the walk to home. After finally realising that he couldn’t get up by himself, a friend picked him up with his car and brought him to the house. (we were less than a block away)
After a day of pretending that he was just tired, and a night of panicking, on the morning of the 26th, I took him to the emergency animal hospital. I was separated from him for most of the day, which was very stressful for me. I was so worried, but the office was so busy that it took us a few hours to be seen. Because of his size and his inability to use his back legs, they made a bed for him in the back office, and were monitoring his vital signs. Every now and then a nurse would come and tell me that he was doing good, looking happy, he didn’t seem like he was under too much stress. Thankfully M stayed with me, in spite of her allergies, and helped me maintain my sanity while I waited. Even though I wanted to be with my boy, I was also a little bit happy that I was still waiting, because if I hadn’t seen the doctor, no one could give me bad news.
When the doctor finally came I was full of cautious optimism. Perhaps he had a pinched nerve, maybe a pulled muscle, maybe he was faking it because he had a flair for the dramatic (true story). Things went downhill so quickly that there were points that I struggled to stay breathing. After blood test analysis, it was determined that he had cancer in his blood, and it was so advanced that there were tumours in his hip and surrounding his heart. They could operate on the hip, but it wouldn’t do him any good. He had a week left at most, and according to the doctor, we were ‘lucky’ that he collapsed when he did, otherwise he probably would have died at home. I went in expecting to spend a few hundred bucks on treatment and medication, maybe he wold have an overnight stay at the hospital. It was then that I realised that I would be leaving without my dog. My boy. My Murphy, my Viking’s Valour, at the age of 7 human-years, was going to die that day – and I had to be the one to sign the form and say yes; I authorise you to take my dog’s life. I had his life in my hands, and I had to make the choice that was right for him, not the choice that was easiest for me. The doctor was so kind to me, I can’t imagine having to tell someone that they are about to lose their pet. He wasn’t a pet, he was my boy. My best friend, my biggest source of emotional support, and my foot warmer. He was one year less two days older than my oldest daughter, and we have had him since he was born. He loved my kids and they loved him. He was almost always a good boy. Never rowdy, never too loud, and only sometimes would he get into the garbage. (he had a thing for diapers and coffee grounds). In the end he was calm and ready; I was a total mess. We laid with him on the blanket while the vet first put him to sleep, and then euthanised him. As I felt his breathing stop I felt a piece of my soul die. I really did. i am forever altered by the loss of him, and although I know that it will get easier to live without him, I will never be the same. One of the lights in my heart has burnt out, and nothing can reignite it.

Good things have happened this year, so I will end on a high note. Most importantly, baby H was born this year! She is a magical little person and we as a family are so lucky to have her. Every day with my three girls is wonderful, especially during these few weeks of sadness. They have been able to help me through the darkest of days, and as always, I am eternally indebted to them for keeping me alive.
This year has given me new relationships, some unexpected and some long overdue! I look forward to growing with these new found treasures, and one goal for the year that I have is to better connect with the people that truly mean something to me – and not just via social media. I have spent so much time isolating myself, but the grief of losing Murphy has helped me reach out to people that I had forgotten how much I care about.
The girls have continued with their 100 acts of kindness project, I will make a separate post in the coming days about their progress!
Christmas brought us lots of treasures, including (for me) a signed copy of Col. Chris Hadfield’s new book, a new Nintendo 3DS to replace my old one that the kids broke, and a Jawbone Up24 band to help me step up my fitness game. New Year’s eve was spent with good friends, lots of food, and a bottle of wine to myself. I am continuing to work with Speak Up!, and was in YVR over the weekend to work on a project, and will return mid-month for a wellness fair. I find my time with them very fulfilling, and I am determined to not let my interest or commitment peter out, as so often is the case for me.
I have also decided that my 30th birthday will bring travel with friends. I have finally found the people who I want to travel with, and feel like by the time I reach 30 I will not only have enough money, but also have less anxiety over leaving the girls and Big Daddy. I still have a few years to hammer out all of the details, but I’ve decided that this year is going to be a year of change for me. No resolutions, just an overall life goal of making better decisions, committing to things that I say I am interested in, and making conscious behavioural changes that will benefit myself and my family. It is an ongoing process that will last the rest of my life, I will not put an end date on it by calling it a resolution.
Its finally time to say out with the old me, and in with the new. Im really ready, and I look forward to transforming myself in front of this blog, and I trust that my reader(s) will hold me accountable for the promises I make.

The year ended on a low note, but I have never felt more encouraged to be a better version of myself, and not just on the outside – on the inside, too. My pity party is over. Is anyone else making big changes to their lives? If you feel comfortable, please share your plans with me. We can all learn a lot from each other!

Cheers to a new year of adventure.

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Baby Haych

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Big Daddy and I with Murphy when he was a wee pup

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Christmas morning

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Olive Me

I am enough.

I won’t change, maybe I can – but I won’t; and no one should expect me to. There are a lot of things about me that can be frustrating, confusing, downright maddening, but those things are all pieces of who I am. You are also made up of myriad things, and maybe some of those things are harder to deal with than others; but I have chosen to. 

l love you, so it’s settled. You are enough.

I’m not a peaceful person. I’m  temperamental, angry, linear, intelligent, obnoxious, and I swear too much; but I am enough. If I were to lose you after having loved you so long I would never love anything again; my soul would curdle like milk. You are enough for me. Slit my throat and kick sand in my face; you will always be the only enough I need. 

There are a handful of people who love me for me, and if you cease to be one of them, everyone else will count for nothing. You are the good inside of me – you are the reason that I am OK with just being enough. I don’t seek validation from anyone else. I’m an abandoned, dark-haired gypsy and you are my Catherine. That’s all there is  to it. Together, we are enough.

I will be in your corner until the day I die. After I die, I will come back as a ghost and haunt your corner. There is no getting rid of me, we are bonded for life; and nothing on my end can ever change that.

You are the only person I haven’t given birth to whom I love unconditionally. Truly. unabashedly. You have loved me through the times in which I am not capable of loving myself. You save me from poor decisions, from over doses, from violence, from  dark alleys, and poorly tied ropes around my neck. I owe you a life-debt. I will protect you always.

You and me kiddo, this is it. I’m soppy over you, and I truly hope that i am, in fact, enough.

From The Archives: ELEUTHEROMANIA

*This post originally appeared on my Blogspot in July*

ELEUTHEROMANIA is an intense desire for freedom, or a break from your usual routine.

Moi sans toi.. Ça n’existe pas!
My life as a Navy wife
Every military spouse has their own unique story. We all have a lot of the same challenges to overcome, and we all find different ways to overcome them. Here is a brief version of my challenges as a military wife, and why somedays I consider growing a moustache and assuming a new identity.
My military spouse career started almost 10 years ago. I already had a good idea of what the life was like, thanks to various family members serving in various branches and countries. We had our first daughter, and for the first 18 months, I was pretty sure that I had everything figured out. I was at the top of my game, going to school, looking after my kid, being supportive of my husband.
Now, three postings and (almost) three kids later, I am waving a white flag from my fox hole.
My oldest daughter, now six, is gifted – with an exceptionally high IQ, and the ability to rationalise thoughts that should be too complex for her age. After she was tested I read several books on how to help her, but there is no book on how to deal with the gifted child of a military member. During his first major deployment on this coast I learned that children like her can develop depression at an early age. It took several months to accurately diagnose what was wrong with her, and the stress of her not eating, barely moving, trying to quit her life, was very hard to handle. (Understatement)
I went to every professional I could to discuss why she ceased to function as a human child. I blamed myself entirely for not being able to kiss her emotional boo-boo’s. Why wasn’t I good enough to make her feel better? Finding out about the cyclical depression she suffers from was a huge step for all of us, though the knowledge didn’t make our day to day any easier.
Our second child was introduced in 2011, while my husband was on a course for his trade. Giving birth without him was surprisingly easy for me, because I knew I had no choice. What was hard was driving myself home from the hospital, and going back to business as usual with kid 1. I celebrated my birthday (2 days after she was born) by taking myself to Costco and buying a slab cake. I ate most of it. My husband’s first view of our daughter was via a text message that my mother sent him. I count myself lucky that I am always the one with the kids, because I have no idea what it feels like to miss out on these milestones. I’m sure it is a guilt that he will harbour for his whole life.
My primary job is to assuage him of that guilt. Be a constant reminder that he is our hero, and is always doing what is best for our family. 97% of the time I believe this to be true. The other 3% I wish he were at home more often so I could shower by myself.
We are now expecting our 3rd child, and a few weeks ago he was called away on less than 48 hours notice. While I am good at last minute planning, my children are not. This sail has been confusing and frustrating for both of them. I try daily to keep them engaged with activities. Take them to see friends, plan movie nights, to to events, but as a pregnant lady and cardiac patient, I need breaks. Between depression, PTSD, and a heart that will never function like it used to, (thanks to it stopping and then having a mild infarction when I came back to life), I am not the 10/10 mother that I wish I could be. (5/10 on a good day).
It’s a vicious cycle. I have fun, I slow down, I feel guilty, I exert myself, I have fun, I slow down, I feel guilty. I feel weak, and some days want nothing more than to lay down and hide while my kids destroy the house.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, it’s not an option. With a spouse who isn’t home, I don’t get to take the day off. As much as I feel sorry for myself, I can’t make my kids suffer. Although on days like today, a pillow over my face doesn’t seem like a bad idea….
As I mentioned earlier, I live with a gifted child – now two gifted children (Kid 2 was also tested). These two beauties that I love and cherish and blah blah blah can be ASSHOLES, and I say that in the most loving way possible.
Both girls deal with their dad being gone through anger. Kid 1 will tell me she hates me, tell me how much better life is when he’s home, how she wishes that I was gone instead of him. She knows that these things hurt me, and I’ve recognised that at the tender age of 6, she is a major manipulator. When I don’t bend to her I feel guilty. I know that she loves me, I should be more kind when she has these outbursts. When I do give in, I know that I’m enabling her to continue to treat me this way.Vicious cycle.
Kid 2 has found her voice and her fists. She kicks and punches and screams at the top of her lungs, and it’s getting harder and harder to dodge her blows. (Maintaining agility with beluga belly is not my strong suit).
Today after a particularly rousing screaming session that lasted from the park to our house, she grabbed a wrench out of the tool bag and threw it at me when I told her she was on time out. The first thing I thought was, ‘time to put the fucking tool bag away.’ 
On top of dealing with my charming kidlets who are currently in the process of planning my murder, I have a house to maintain. This is where I fall short. I have several friends who are also military spouses, and their houses seem infinitely more cared for than mine. It drives me batty, but most days I don’t have the energy for entertaining the kids and doing housework. It’s one or the other. Today I was up at 0700 doing the dishes and trying to clean up, while kid 2 sat on the floor cutting paper and scattering it.
On days like today, I put my kids to bed early, and daydream of the day when I finally have the balls to pack up my shit and run away. Make no mistake – I love my family – but when I am feeling stressed I yearn for a life with no responsibility. Laying on a beach in Europe, gently and consistently buzzed, sounds so appealing, and the psychosis inside of me has me convinced that I would feel very little guilt.
Are there flaws in my plan? Absolutely. We don’t make enough money for me to run away. I could get a flight, but I wouldn’t take the food out of my children’s mouths to fund my own sick fancy.
Also, the thought of knowing that I could never return prevents me from doing anything irrational. I would eventually get bored and want to come home, but I know in my heart that I would not be welcomed back – which is totally reasonable and understandable. I know the feeling of being abandoned by a parent, and just as I would never forgive my father if the opportunity presented itself, I would not expect my girls or my husband to ever forgive me.
So I plan little vacations in my head, picture going to fabulous places, imagine not speaking to anyone for days at a time, I read books in the middle of the night, and I remember that the little shits who want to murder me are also the best things that have ever happened to me, and they are the glue that bonds me to my amazing husband while he is away.
He is under an immeasurable amount of stress while he is away, worried that he’s left me at home with a broken lawn mower, broken washing machine, and children who pine for him. He deserves to know that I am working my hardest to keep things stable while he’s away. That is my biggest job as a wife. Keeping a home that is deserving of his daily sacrifice. He has given up being with us so that I can be at home, getting hit with wrenches. When he is home is a super dad, and I fade nicely into the background – free to do what I want. So should I complain while he’s away that it’s hard to parent? Whether I should or shouldn’t, it’s hard not to. Staying positive when I talk to him can be very hard. Choosing what to omit or gloss over so that he isn’t worried can be difficult, and sometimes I break down and tell him that I’m useless without his help and guidance.
Afterward I apologise, pull myself together, and remind myself that we live a very good life, and counting my blessings is just as easy as whining about my shortcomings.
The point of my story is this: my life as a Navy wife is a roller coaster of holding myself together and completely falling apart. Vicious cycle. Would I trade it for anything? Never. I’m proud of how far we’ve come, and I know that my kids won’t always be monsters. It’s all about perspective. Other women’s houses may seem cleaner, their children better adjusted, but I don’t ride their roller coaster, and I cannot stand in judgement or jealousy of any family that works as hard as we do.
If my children are still throwing punches when they turn 12, I will definitely consider the running away plan, but I’ll take my husband with me. He deserves the break, too.

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

A link to my favourite poem about war-time: And Death Shall Have No Dominion, by Dylan Thomas

Some of my family went to the cemetery where my granddad is buried and put their poppies on his memorial tree. Had I been home, I would have done the same.
Some of my family went to the cemetery where my granddad is buried and put their poppies on his memorial tree. Had I been home, I would have done the same.
The high-browns of the Mountie who stood guard at the Cenotaph today. This is where my daughters and I placed our poppies.
The high-browns of the Mountie who stood guard at the Cenotaph today. This is where my daughters and I placed our poppies.

My Remembrance Day started a few days ago, when I asked my husband to have his uniform dry-cleaned for the service. Each year we argue over whether or not he is going to wear it, and each year he pitches a fit; but I always prevail, and he wears it to the service. This year, he didn’t, and it threw everything off for me. I tried to explain why it was important to me, but I am not always great at expressing myself when it matters. Both of our families are rich in military history, and when he wears his uniform he is a visual representation of everyone that I have loved who has served. I can’t be with them to hug them and see that they are still here (for the ones that are in fact, still here), but I can be with him and see his uniform as a representation of everyone else. That’s the best that I can explain it. Maybe I should have explained it that way to him. My mama compares my marriage to that of her parents quite a lot, and this situation reminded her of them at this time of year. Every year my grandmother would argue with my granddad about wearing his uniform, and every year he would stubbornly say no. I understand that a lot of our members choose not to wear their uniforms because they don’t wish to draw attention to themselves, but I feel like for one day a year they deserve it, and the rest of us deserve it too. We need to feel that they know how much we appreciate them. Selfish? Maybe. Don’t care. I want my pride in him to be validated by a sea of civilians who respect and admire the sacrifices he makes that others cannot. He works hard and deserves his one day of accolades, n’est pas?

Remembrance Day is emotional for me for various reasons. The most obvious being that my husband is an active member. (See: paragraph 1). The next reason is my granddad. He died in 1978 when my mother was just 11 years old. Before the war he was a farmer, and during the war he sent money home to his father to help out. When he returned from war after storming the beaches of Normandy, being shot twice, watching his friends and brothers die in front of him, he came home to nothing. The farm was gone, the money was gone. A resilient man, he worked at the CN Rail yard until his death. Every year we mourn his loss on his birthday, death-day, and Remembrance Day. It is a day of great sadness as well as pride – pride in his exemplary service and dedication to his family, and sadness that I never had the chance to meet him, ask him questions, have him brush my hair. He loved children, and even though he would be well into his 90’s now, I know that he would have loved to meet all of us, and I often think of what it would be like to have a granddad, and my girls have a great-granddad. They are lacking in grandparents on my side of the family.

He instilled in my mother and her siblings an honourable sense of familial responsibility, and they have handled their jobs as matriarchs and patriarch of our family quite gallantly. They in turn have passed that on to my generation. Pride in family, hard work, and respect for the past. We are all descendants of him, and us living our best lives is a tribute to him, and to his service as a young man.

The other soldier for whom I pray on this day is my father’s brother, the bravest man I have ever known. He served in the American Armed Forces for as long as I’ve known him and much prior (we met in 1997ish), and had an incredible career. Each Remembrance Day in which he was deployed – which was most of them – I would attend the service feeling sick to my stomach. Before the days of Skype or Facebook I would go months without hearing from him, and the terror of not knowing if he was safe or not caused me more sleepless nights than any kid needed. I’m not complaining, he deserved my worry. I would cry for him through the moments of silence, shakily sing the hymns (still crying), clutching a book of photos of him that I have amassed over the years. My worry for him didn’t fade on the days that weren’t marked for remembrance, but November 11th amplified it exponentially. He finally retired after my second daughter was born, and the Remembrance Day after his last tour overseas I cried with relief that he was finally safe forever. I am closer to him than I am my own father, and the thought of losing him still sends my stomach into a horror-spiral. He is the one hero I have had in my life, and I am so  grateful that he is safe. If I weren’t blonde I would definitely have grey hair from worry!!

My life as a military wife has been a roller coaster that I keep paying to ride. I love my life, and I am so unfathomably proud of my husband. The time that he goes away is hard on my soul, because I worry about his physical and mental well-being, but I am normally good at coping with keeping our home running while he is away. I owe him that. I take good care of our girls, I pay our bills, I get on with our lives. I don’t have crying fits, I don’t need breaks from my children, I operate in survival mode so that he doesn’t have to worry about us. As strong as I can be through deployments and training, I still cry when I hear songs that remind me of him, and my insomnia gets worse when I think about him being so far away, and some nights I shake with fear from the knowledge that I am the only one protecting our house; but I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. I am so proud of how far my family has come, and it is because of the man who gives up his family time to protect us globally. He has missed birthdays, holidays, and was away for the birth of our second daughter. As hard as it was for me, I can’t imagine how it felt for him. I am so grateful to him that I don’t miss out on any milestones, although I regret that it is at the expense of him experiencing things first-hand.

I gave him a very hard time today for not wearing his uniform – I had hurt feelings and chose to take it out on him, even though ultimately it’s not up to me whether he wears his spiffy’s or not. I don’t regret cajoling him, but I hope he knows that I love him past all of the stars, and am so proud of him that sometimes I fear my chest will burst. Our daughters are proud of him whether he’s in uniform or not – he is their super hero every day. Their eyes sparkle when they think of him, and I hope that they will continue to accept and understand our lives as they grow older.

At the end of today we took some nice family photos, and I popped several Advil for the migraine that I get every year on this day. We ended our solemn day with smiles and full hearts, happy that another year of safety for our loved ones has passed. Not every year will be happy ones for us, it’s a hazard of the life that we live, but for now I will focus on the good. Everyone we know is safe, my girls are learning to respect the past and enjoy their history, and I have one day where everyone else has my husband on the same pedestal that I do.

Postpartum Depression? Never heard of it.

Thursday October 9th, 2014, I gave birth to my third and final child. A daughter, a perfect mix in looks of her two older sisters and the final puzzle piece that completes my heart. As the excitement of visitors, gifts, and warm wishes dies down, I will receive a different kind of guest. Tomorrow a psychologist from Social Services will come to my home to ask me if i plan to commit suicide, or feel the urge to harm my family. I am ready for the visit, as unpleasant as I find the prospect of having a stranger come into my home and interview me about my mental health – I know it’s necessary, and I don’t begrudge them coming to check. After all, I could be the one that slips through the cracks and hurts myself, or worse, someone I love.

Postpartum depression is something that, oddly enough, I have never experienced. After each of my pregnancies I have experienced the happiest phases of my life – like a not quite manic version of postpartum euphoria. ‘The baby pinks’, as opposed to ‘the baby blues’, is very real, and like the blues, it goes away. The first few months after my children are born I am radiant, thoughtful, active, and genuinely happy. I take care of everyone like I was born for it. I float happily through 3 am feedings, I am not affected by endless crying, I even make friends more easily.

Now that I am properly medicated I am hoping that this pink phase isn’t as extreme as it was with the other two – although it feels like I will be doing her a disservice by not being as doting as I was with the other girls. The pinks are frightening because the inevitable come-down is devastating, and not just to me. I go from beaming angel of motherly excellency to the catatonic, stinky, angry, person that I normally am. I go back to not eating properly, not sleeping, and not brushing my hair.

I don’t understand any of it. Some have told me that I do better at the beginning because I feel like I have a purpose again; but do I not have a purpose to begin with? I am already a mother, saying that I have ‘new meaning’ makes me feel as though I didn’t love my older children as much. (I am fully aware that that is not the intent of the statement). I love all of my girls so much (understatement), why can’t I constantly be in the pink? Will I ever have enough to satisfy me enough to be happy with my every day routine? Fortunately for me, this is the last time that I will be enduring this unique form of mental illness – but I am scared of what is to come. Am I destined to a life of indifference and complacency?

Wake up, medicate, just get by, repeat.

My girls deserve a pink mom, and so does my husband. I have signed up to do volunteer work at my oldest daughter’s school in the hopes that I feel valuable for a longer period of time. I am determined to keep writing, to leave the house every day – even just for a walk around the neighbourhood. I want to fight back, and I want to succeed. I can be permanently pink, but it’s going to take a helluva lot of work – work that the cloudy part of me doesn’t feel interested in participating in. Be prepared for my struggle, I will document it here in the hopes that if you have any advice, you offer it up.

Even though The baby blues/pinks can go away with treatment and time, it is still a very serious and very real form of mental illness, and I think we can all benefit from keeping a dialogue and educating everyone on the risks and dangers of postpartum psychosis. As a community, we shall let no one else slip through the cracks. No more mothers harming themselves or their precious families. Support and understanding is something that we all need, but these women especially, need to know that we are here for them. I am here for you. When I reach my downward fall from motherly grace, I hope that some of you can be here for me.