I implore you

I am a bit of a fitness/overall health nut…most days.

I too, like everyone else, am human and have days where the rules or guidelines I happily adhere to normally, go out the window. Whether it is work, my social circle, my fur babies, my man, my real(ish) babies or my super busy family, I am a pretty on the go person. Sometimes this means slipping up due to lack of carved out time to prepare what’s required.

I really do have a hard time sitting still though, so as a coping mechanism, it is my own damn fault that I am so busy. I try to have something planned for my day the night before – even if that is a ‘me day’ where I barely do anything with anyone else and soak up my own time with a hike or some other adventure.

Everyone knows deep down that staying active and eating nutrition-filled foods, in well balanced portions, is one of the hardest yet most rewarding ways of staying healthy. And when you start doing it consistently it becomes second nature and your body actually rejects the crappy, processed stuff and sitting still for too long and you suffer side effects like headaches and tummy troubles when you do indulge.

If you’ve ever been turned-on about something, I hope you understand that I speak from a place of passion and genuine love for this lifestyle I’ve pursued. I just want others to realize what I have come to understand about the body’s natural capabilities – no matter how limited that still may be for me in comparison to what is truly possible. Like I said, I suffer off days and harder days and days where the fastest thing is the first thing I eat because I am stressed, or have gone too long without eating, or have an insatiable craving that I just need to itch…the point is I am human too and far, far, far from perfect. So, so far.

I have a few favourite motivators for why I work out and am conscious about what I ingest – maybe they’ll kick your butt into gear, or maybe they’ll remind you why you get up and do what you do every day to stay healthy and motivated to workout/stay active. Either way, the intent is to inspire just one person to make a small change for the better and I will be the happiest girl in the entire world if that is accomplished.

1. It kinda kicks butt to be able to kick butt: I really do get a giddy high when I accomplish something regarding my health. It could be getting a handle on wheel, crow or a headstand in yoga, or running the side hills of McLennan Park in Kitchener at a faster pace each time.

Had writers block while writing this blog...so this happened for a change in perspective

Had writers block while writing this blog…so this happened for a change in perspective

Running a half-marathon or hiking steeper hills without struggle. Or, it could be the realization that I can mentally control certain parts of my brain when pushing myself through a challenging kilometer or workout set – this ability filters into everyday situations too. I feel more confident in my body’s physical abilities now more than I ever have in my life – and I can’t even imagine how that will feel when I’m 40, 50 and beyond. I love the look on Michael’s face when I clamp my legs around him on the couch a-la-monkey cling and he winces because I’m strong. Or when he trusts me to load our canoe with him because he knows I won’t drop it awkwardly resulting in injury of person or the vehicle. It really kicks butt to be a fit-chick.

2. Having a shit-ton of energy also kicks butt: Really – being up for anything because I have the energy is a huge plus for me. Needing to explore and create and exert energy physically is part of keeping me sane. Normally this might be hard on top of working 50-60 hours per week while balancing every other responsibility. Lucky for me, the circle of exertion and creation of energy is an amazing natural phenomena. PLUS, energy keeps you HAPPY and that’s good for every one, especially Michael – just ask Elle Woods.

Seriously though, if I am free and not ill and you ask me to go for a run, workout, grab a yoga class, hit up a concert after a long day of work, meet you for a beer, catch sunrise on a Saturday morning, play cards, grab dinner/lunch/breakfast/any food, any time, I am usually down.

That leads me to my next point:

3. FOOD: The majority of people really don’t know how FOOD is supposed to taste. I mean veggies – both raw and cooked, fruit, nuts, legumes, lean meat and seafood (if it’s your flavour – there is a huge movement that part of me wants to explore of vegan-ism…but I’ll save that post for another day), real fresh, filtered spring-fed water. Real, from the earth food. We live in a society that desires convenience over effort and with that comes the easy out – the microwave this, the packaged/prepared that, the greasy processed burger…you get the point. Yum, right? No. Not even close to what your food could and is supposed to taste like. On top of the DELICIOUSNESS of the whole foods, add in the perks of moving your buns and you get my most favourite reason for working out EVER – eating. I love food. Like a lot. Like there are only a handful of things that I enjoy more than eating – none of which are SFW enough to mention here. I eat to nourish my body so I enjoy the simplicity that it’s become, however this also means that I get hungry a lot and get to eat A LOT to fuel me and that’s pretty kick-ass.

4. Gettin’ down: I won’t elaborate as I know some of our readers blush easy (not to mention my mom is an avid reader…hi mom), but the increase in stamina, interest and desire when it comes to intimate things – working out and eating right do incredible things for your sex life! The added confidence when you feel good about your body and have the energy…need I say more? Seriously, try it out and thank me later.

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For me it’s all three, but this is funny

5. Life in your years, years in your life: The two go hand-in-hand perfectly when you are in control of your nutrition and exercise regime. If you add in an all around lifestyle geared to being health-conscious, the chances you’ll have a better life and longer one, increase tremendously. I truly believe with the right lifestyle, nutrition, meditation/prayer life and diet, an insane amount of the diseases that we are plagued with can be cured. Our lifestyles and diets are killing us – it’s a fact, not just my opinion. Google ‘Lifestyle Disease’ and see the numerous medical publications regarding the study. The more educated you become, the easier the choices become too.

I would not say I am afraid of not being healthy, but I definitely do not take my abilities or my health for granted – I know first hand those things can change at the blink of an eye, and if you don’t take advantage while you can I feel like you might be wasting a bit of your life. It is a definite motivating factor for me and probably an all around driver for the lifestyle changes I am slowly making.

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What are your main motivators for keeping active and eating right? I’m always looking for motivation and my inspiration comes from you too.

I’d like to leave you with this: if you’re considering working on you, stumbling through or are well on your way, I implore you – keep working on you. I promise you won’t regret it.

~ Toni

How I’m doing

It’s been quite a few months since I came out as suffering from a postpartum mood disorder (PPMD/PPD) and I was thinking it might be a good idea to let you know how I’m doing.

I am doing really, really well.

In terms of the PPMD/PPD, I’m completely recovered. I don’t have a foggy brain anymore, I’m not anxious and overwhelmed anymore, I’m not flying off the handle with blind rage anymore. I’m controlled. I’m confident in my parenting. I’m taking care of myself. And I am actually thriving as a person, instead of drowning.

I am doing really, really well.

Of course, there was no magic pill or instant cure, there was no lightbulb moment that changed everything, but there was hard work and lots of help. And I wanted to share with you what fueled my success this time.

I stayed medicated. This is controversial, in that I was medicated all throughout my pregnancy with Isaac and even bumped my medication up at the end of my pregnancy. It’s controversial because it means Isaac went through withdrawal when he was born and was at a tiny (read: minuscule) risk for birth defects. But the risk of me committing suicide or hurting myself or my babies or landing myself into a mental hospital were all severely high if I had stopped taking my medication. I have been medicated since after Lillian was born and still am to this day. Will I be medicated for the rest of my life? I have no idea, but at this point it’s working and that’s all that matters.

I asked for help. It’s tough admitting you don’t have it all together. It’s even harder when you did have it together at the beginning and now it’s starting to crumble months after your baby is born. Especially because up until my confession in February, I had been the poster girl for what to do when you have a history of mental illness and you want more children. I encapsulated my placenta and took it as prescribed (no, really). I stayed medicated. I put supports in place for the first six weeks after birth to ensure I healed properly from my scheduled C-section. I got rest. I didn’t act like a hero. My house fell into even further disarray and I was okay with it. I did everything RIGHTAnd yet, everything still fell apart. Asking for help was eating humble pie and accepting that even though we do everything the way we’re “supposed to,” things can still fall spectacularly apart. But I did it. I asked for help. I called my therapist and got an appointment that week. I was told by Toni and Jacqui that I would be getting help from Toni, and I accepted it. Let the leaning and the healing begin.

I remembered what I had learned. I joked when I got to therapy that I was going for my PhD in PPD…that I had been here twice before, that this was my third time, and by the time this was done I would be set for life. Full of PPD knowledge. You know, it turned out to be true. I remembered what I needed to do. I remembered the importance of self-care and how vital it was to my past recovery. I remembered that sleep was a key component to getting through the day in one piece. I remembered that I had to take things one excruciating step at a time, not rush through or jump from step 1 to step 74398574. I remembered that it was a journey full of peaks and valleys. I remembered that the Julia that I remembered from before babies, before the first two rounds of PPD, before the miscarriage, before this moment would come back, that she wasn’t lost for good, that she still existed. And I remembered I had to trust the process, not jump ship just because it wasn’t working. My therapist told me that this would be my shortest journey through PPD. The first round was seven months with no help. The second round was five months with medication and therapy. This round was just shy of four months. She was right. My quickest yet. PhD in the BAG!

I exercised my tushy off. No, literally. I’m 30 pounds lighter than when I started this journey. Exercising, whether bootcamp with my sisters, hiking at ridiculous o’clock, or finding my zen in running, became an integral part of my recovery. It’s no wonder – exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy; happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.

Or maybe it’s something more like this (although I will argue that the above is COMPLETELY valid):

Exercise-is-better-than-antidepressants

I feel it when I don’t exercise – the anxiety, the irritability, the brain that won’t shut up, the anger that’s bubbling far too close to the surface. And I feel it when I do – the power that exists in me, the calm that comes from achieving something so simple yet hard, the brain break because all I can do is concentrate on my breathing when I run alone, or the friend/sister-therapy that comes from running with others. It is the thing that is gluing me together. It has replaced chocolate and mindless eating. It has replaced napping and hiding. It is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Period.

I am kind to myself. There are bad days. There are days when I feel like I’m not a great mom…or maybe not even a good mom. There are days when I feel like there’s no way I’ll ever be able to accomplish all the things I need to do…days when Isaac is screaming and Lillian is pooping on the floor and Sophie is late for school and we haven’t even left yet. These are the days I practice being kind to myself, not shaming myself. I don’t berate me for not having it all together (i.e. no poop, no screaming, on time school kid). I don’t sit there and fume and fight with the babies who only dig their heels in more when you rush them. I don’t let it ruin the whole day. I accept my fate in that moment (we are going to be late). I remind myself that no one is dying, that this is by far not the worst situation, that I’m normal and this is nuts and it’s hard because it’s hard, not because I’m failing.

Life is hard. Not because we're doing it wrong, just because it's hard.

Glennon Doyle Melton (Way-back-play-back because I LOVE this quote so much.)

I have a village. There is no supporting cast as important as the village that helps you raise your babies. It is the thing that we turn to when we have a question, want perspective, or need an ear to just listen and then respond with, “I get it. You’re not alone.” In one of my earliest therapy sessions, my counselor said that I needed to create a village for myself, that without it I would be eternally lost. And she’s right. My village is HUGE and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Shout-outs go to The Mothers, both Ben’s and mine, for loving us and our babies, for providing second homes and soft places to land when things get out of hand, for hugging and listening and never judging. Props over to my sisters, my soulmates, the people that God saw fit to put in my permanent family, especially my nanny Toni, my dopelanger-in-spirit Jacqui, and Kim, my sister-in-broken-brainedness. To my dear broken brain friends, both past and present, thank you for never letting me feel crazy…but rather, helping me feel normal. To my kindred spirit Laura, for crafting with me, praying for me, and listening to me – love you! And to the ladies of the drop-off brigade – Heather, Bethany, Andrea, Michele, and Danika – without you holding Lillian’s hands, being second moms to Sophie, sharing in the school experience, this anxiety-ridden gal would have no friends at school. Thank you thank you thank you.

I have Ben. Beyond the village, you also need a good man in a storm. Ben is that good man. He watched me sob on the couch as I worried they would take away our babies and lock me up when I confessed to the third bout of PPD. He held me and told me we’d do whatever it took to get better. He never left me, even when I was being an asshole to him (PPD brings out the worst in people). He never blamed me, even though I felt like every crappy moment was my fault (I own the brain, ergo…). He has never stopped loving me, even when I made it impossible for him to love me. He let me run. He gave me time to regroup. He’s taken 50% of the night feeds since the 7-week mark. He is awesome. And to top it all off – he’s a great dad to our crazy kids. To the moms who are fighting this alone, I don’t know how you’re doing it. You are my heroes, because this is hard and hellish with a partner…without one, you must be made of steel or something. Seriously. I bow to you.

To the moms who are still fighting – don’t lose hope. I got my PhD. I survived my third round. I’m a confident, well-adjusted (most days) mom of three kids. I am still here, better, stronger, more vivid than I was before, and you will be too. Promise.

Babies and Mama

~ Julia

 

Strength in defeat

I’m calling uncle.

I’m waving the white flag.

I’m giving in.

But let me be clear – I’m not giving up.

I’ve been struggling for the past couple of weeks. More than the usual struggle of three-kids-under-five. More than the usual infant-induced-sleep-deprivation struggle. More than the let’s-strap-a-15-pound-baby-on-you-and-drag-a-25-pound-preschooler-in-a-sled-for-forty-minutes-in-the-cold-twice-a-day struggle.

It’s the struggle of postpartum anxiety, depression, and the one that we hate to name, cringe to admit, are scared to talk about (because it’s scary before, after, and when it happens) rage.

The signs have been there for a little bit, but I’m reaching the point where the bad days, bad moments, bad hours are starting to blob together, where there’s little reprieve and few good, solid, confident moments.

My spirit isn’t bouncing back so easy, as if it’s as stretched out as my four-times-pregnant-three-times-c-sectioned belly. It is faltering, falling, slamming into the ground and taking forever to get back up. It needs some rest, some love, some care, and a break.

But that’s the trouble with the postpartum period. It’s filled to the brim with to-do tasks, with obligations, with needs that aren’t yours but are necessary to meet. It’s not an empty chasm ripe with opportunity for healing and restoration. Oh, if only it were.

So, I’m doing what I know is right and good and helpful.

I’ve called my therapist. She’s lovely. I’m looking forward to working with her on this, even though I’m SO angry I’m here again.

I’m asking for help. I even pulled a sister-favour from Jacqueline and Toni on Toni’s birthday.

I’m working on rest and quiet. These things are a rare commodity for any parent of young children. Young children do not, as a rule, sleep well or long, and are the loudest, most high energy creatures. Ever.

I’m going to up the exercising, because as we all know from Elle: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”

And I’m admitting it out loud, because I know there are so many moms out there struggling, or who have struggled, or who don’t know what is happening to them, who are praying for an answer or a miracle. I’m letting you know I’m with you, in the trenches, again, fighting, again, for what should rightfully be ours ‘naturally’. And it’s okay that we’re here. And it’s normal. And there’s hope. And we can do this.

Promise.

Because not only have I suffered through this twice, I’ve also beat the crap out of it twice.

So bring it on, postpartum mood disorders. Bring. It. On.

I’m ready to kick your ass again. After this nap.

Never giving up

~ Julia