Yesteryear

Last year, I took my kids to Dallas for Spring Break. David couldn’t go because of work, so the three of us drove up to spend the week at my parents’, stopping at every Buc-ees along the way.

While we were there, the news starting to report more and more cases of the virus we kept hearing about. Cases were multiplying and spreading across the U.S. at an astounding rate. Cases were even reported in Corpus Christi, which is a bit more remote than the bigger cities.

I got the email that my kids’ preschool was closing for a week, and I started to panic. I didn’t want to stay in Dallas any longer, so we cut our trip short and again made the seven-hour drive home. This time we didn’t stop at Buc-ees.

The following week with all of us home was not so bad. We played, went to the beach and watched movies. Then the school emailed again saying that school would again be closed the following week. And the one after that. The teachers starting sending out packets for the kids to complete each week, but they didn’t get done, not without yelling and crying on both our parts.

I started to realize that our lives weren’t going to go back to “normal.” And I started to worry about my mental health, always precarious but now even more so because I had virtually no breaks from my kids. Eli’s sleeping pattern changed and he started waking up at 5 a.m. every morning, further compounding my stress and anxiety.

I finally gave up on the packets and starting teaching them what I could. We played more outside and watched more movies. We baked a lot. We survived.

Last Saturday I received my second vaccine and contemplated the past year. Even though my mental health has taken a hit, I survived. Not just survived but thrived in some ways. For one thing, I started blogging once a week, then twice a week. People started commenting on how much my blog has helped them or how I was brave. I was even asked to join State Rep. Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Task Force and spoke at a symposium about my experience with suicide. I also had a mental health series published in the local paper. I became more confident and have evolved into a version of myself that I’m pretty proud of. A more authentic, more fearless version.

I’m also able to go longer between ECT treatments, which has been my ultimate goal. I did gain 26 pounds in the past year, and sometimes that really bothers me, but I coped the best I could. If I come away from this only having gained weight, then I am considerably lucky, and I’m grateful.

I often joke that the pandemic is an introvert’s dream — socializing has never been my thing. But there’s really nothing funny about what we’ve been through. The past year has been gut-wrenching, difficult to say the least and heartbreaking for those who have struggled with COVID or lost a loved one. I’d like to believe that now more people are getting vaccinated, we’re closer to the end, but I just don’t know. I’m afraid to hope, but at the same time, I just can’t help but hope. Being optimistic is newly acquired, too.

So many of us will not come out of this nightmare unscathed. Millions will continue to struggle with their mental health, not to mention grief or financial ruin. I don’t mean to sound tone-deaf in writing about the positives I’ve gained this past year. I acknowledge and deeply sympathize for those who are struggling, whose lives are indelibly changed.

It’s only been a year, but there has been enough heartbreak for a lifetime. If you are experiencing any fraction of that I’m so sorry, I pray that this year will be a vast improvement.

One can only hope.

Where Does the Time Go?

Today I got an email saying that Kindergarten graduation pictures were next week. This stopped me in my tracks, and I couldn’t help but tear up. My daughter has been going there since she was 2. She’s now 6. Everyone tells you when you have kids to slow down and enjoy it because it goes by fast, and it’s cliche but true.

I remember not even wanting to take Isla to JCC, because I had her at a different day care, but David insisted because he went there. I just didn’t want to change my routine, but God, am I glad I did. I found a home at JCC. The teachers and directors were so nice, and I met amazing mom friends. I even joined the PTO and ran the book fair for two years, which I both dreaded and loved. I’m also on the board.

I love that the kids are learning about Jewish traditions, holidays and culture. I love the diversity and inclusion taught by the school. I love everything about it except for the fact that it doesn’t go all the way up until college.

My kids are so blessed to be there, and I’ll still be around because Eli has two more years. But it just tugs at my heart that Isla will be graduating and leaving this place we both cherish. Isla made her first best friend there. She learned her ABCs and now she’s learning how to read, write and how to do fractions.

The JCC has always been there for our family, a home away from home. They’ve been accommodating and so caring toward Isla and Eli. I can’t say enough good things about the J. And I’m so proud that my kids have followed in their dad’s footsteps.

Next year, Isla will start a new adventure at Windsor Park, the gifted and talented school, and I know she’ll do great because everyday for the past four years JCC as prepared her.

And not just academically.

Success in Mediocrity

All the writing I did about Isla’s gifted and talented scores got me thinking about the idea of success and what that means for me.

When I was younger (high school-ish), I would’ve told you being successful was having a good job, being well-off and married. I thought my parents were successful, which they are, so I intended on emulating their lifestyle. But when I did go out into the “real world” after college, I couldn’t hang. I got a job hundreds of miles away, working as a reporter to a mid-size daily newspaper, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. I missed my family, and even though I made friends, it was still so hard. My depression worsened for one, probably from being away from home and stress of my first job. I got in trouble a lot for calling in sick (either depression or migraines), and I ended up quitting just short of a year. I quit journalism too, even though I thought being a journalist was my calling. I felt like a loser, and I was really anxious and embarrassed about the whole thing.

I eventually got a new job where I could use my writing skills, but I still mourned the idea of not being a journalist.

I never found another job that made me feel as good as writing for a newspaper did. After a few years of working various jobs, I stopped working all together so I could get healthy enough to have a baby. People judged me for not working, but to be completely honest, it felt amazing to get that pressure off me. I did become healthier and had two beautiful babies within two years. I still haven’t gone back to work, and I like it that way.

When people ask me what I do for a living, and I say stay-at-home mom, it sometimes stings but I think that’s because society has conditioned us to believe that success only lies in one’s occupation. And for a lot of people, that’s true. But not I. It never occurred to me back then that that a job is just a job — it’s not who you are. And just because I don’t have one (that pays) doesn’t make me less of a person.

But it’s not about a job, house, how much money you have, etc. For me, it’s about happiness and being fulfilled. I was never the brightest, thinnest, most athletic, most ambitious person. I’m not even sure I’ve been the best at anything, and I say that not fishing for compliments but to proclaim that I might be mediocre in many ways but I’m also exceptional in others. I celebrate the fact that my life doesn’t have to parallel my parents’ or anyone else’s. I celebrate my strengths, even though they may not match others’. God made me the way I am for a reason. And you, too.

Success should look different for everyone, because we’re not all the same. We don’t have to be. We don’t have to join the rat race, either. All those “flaws” I thought I had before aren’t flaws at all, and I should celebrate them because they make me, me. I don’t get paid, but I write everyday and blog about a topic that I’m very passionate about. It makes me happy, and hopefully, I’m helping others in the process.

I will remember this about my kids as they grow up and try to figure out life as they know it. And I’ll support them, no matter what success means to them. Just like my parents did with me.

What Makes Night Within Us May Leave Stars

Earlier today, I was writing a piece for my kids’ preschool, and I wrote something that I’ve never really discussed before, at least here on my blog.

I talked about how my depression and anxiety weren’t that bad until I had children. That it wasn’t lost on me that after I had kids my brain changed drastically and my depression worsened. But at the same time, my heart opened and I felt love that I’ve never felt. Sure, I experienced pain that I’ve never felt before too, but oh my god, the happiness and love that I feel when I’m with my kids is so amazing and just indescribable. It was some weird trade-off, I guess. And I’m here for it.

I also talked about how Isla sometimes is anxious. It isn’t surprising given my history with anxiety but it sure is painful to see her struggling or in a panicked state. She could just be an anxious child or she could just have common, every day 6-year-old worries. She’s too young to diagnose, and I hope she doesn’t have an anxiety disorder at all. Eli, either. Of course, I don’t want my kids to go through what I’ve been through. But just in case, I’m ready for it. I know how to navigate mental illness, believe me, and I so wish that I had the knowledge and resources when I was 12 that I do now. Early intervention is so important.

Now that I’m in a better place, I can say that every terrible thing I’ve felt and gone through has been worth it. It’s so worth it if I can be with and enjoy my kids. The meds, the psychiatric hospital, the panic attacks, ECTs, suicidal thoughts — it’s all worth it. Maybe it’s easy to say this while I’m not experiencing a depressive episode. But it needs to be said, I feel. I need to express just how grateful I am for my family, especially my kids and how they’ve shaped my life. Yes, my life would be dramatically different had I not had kids, but screw that idea of “what could have been.” My life, despite my illnesses, is so good. And again, I’m so thankful. And if I have to endure hell sometimes, so be it. Every depressive episode or panic attack only makes me stronger. My kids will see that, and it’s OK that they see me suffer and cope. They’ll see my resilience and perseverance.

And maybe that’s why I had to go through all that I did — to help one of my children go through the same. If that’s the case, it’s been more than worth it, and I’d do it all again. As a parent, I’ll always want to help my kids (read more here) and even remove all the roadblocks in their life, but I know it doesn’t work like that. But I can help. I’ll always be there.

Maybe my kids are just fine and I’m making too much out of nothing. Maybe I’m supposed to be blogging about my experiences to help others. If that’s the case, if I’ve helped even one person, it’s all been worth it.

It’s all been worth it, no matter what the case. I’m a better person for what I’ve been through, and all I want to do is make someone, anyone, feel that they are not alone. That their feelings are valid. That they are worthy and important.

And even though my brain tells me the opposite, I’d like to believe all that, too.

Maybe if I say, “It’s all been worth it” enough I’ll believe it. Maybe I can believe that I’m worth it.

It’s all been worth it.

And I’m worth it, too.

Gifted and Talented

I’d like to preface this post but saying that logically I know that things will work out the way they’re supposed to. I’m just stressed and venting.

Last month, my daughter, who is in Kindergarten, took a test to determine if she qualified for the school district’s gifted and talented program. All Kindergarteners can take the two-part test. The G/T school here is amazing and is always being recognized district and state wide. My husband went to that school when he was younger, as he is very gifted and a legit genius. It’s a great opportunity for my daughter.

I have not been stressing about the test, because I just assumed she’d get in. She’s very bright, and her teachers agree that she is gifted and would benefit from the G/T program. It’s my husband who has no chill when it comes to the test. But now, I too have no chill.

Last week, we got the scores back from the first part of the test. Her scores qualify her to take the second part of the test, but they were lower than we and her teachers expected. She received 7 out of 15 points, which is in the 91st percentile.

My husband and I are definitely proud of her, but there was a nagging feeling inside of me — anxiety. Her friends scored much higher, and I know I’m not supposed to compare, but I started to freak out. The elementary school she would go to if she doesn’t get into the G/T program is not great. I started worrying that David and I didn’t do enough in preparing her for the test, even though her preschool is famous for preparing them. All this doubt clouded my mind.

I felt like a failure as a parent and that I was also letting my husband down for not helping our daughter more. I have to remember that my success as a parent isn’t contingent on whether she passed some test.

The thing is — I know my daughter is gifted. She’s gifted with the kindest heart — last year she collected toothbrushes and toothpaste for the local homeless shelter because she was worried that the homeless couldn’t afford to brush their teeth. She collected more than 1,000 toothbrushes. She also donated all her piggy bank money to her preschool after she heard my husband and I talk about raising money for a new building. She’s 6 years old. Her compassion and empathy for others is a true gift and is something that can never be quantified on a test. And I’m so proud of her for that.

There are so many other qualities that I’m proud of and none of that is diminished by her test scores. But I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t be disappointed if she didn’t get into the G/T program.

I have made a concerted effort to not talk about the test in front of her or put any pressure on her whatsoever. Because it is a lot of pressure! For parents, too. I remember years ago when one of my mom friends heard that her daughter didn’t make it into the G/T program. Her mom was crying she was so upset and in front of her daughter, no less. While I understand the sadness, I will not cry or show disappointment in front of Isla. My job is to prepare her as much as possible and support her as much as possible — whatever that may look like.

I obviously want what’s best for her, and even if I think this program is the best, it just might not be. And that’s OK. I celebrate her for her heart, compassion, kindness, intelligence, unconditional love for the Olive Garden, and so much more. It is a joy, and privilege, to watch her grow up.

And I will remember that even after we get the test scores.