Prompted: Is Minimalism Something for You?

I don't practice true minimalism, or maybe extreme minimalism. I don't have a capsule wardrobe or anything like that.

But I am getting much better at letting things go.

Part of this is just practice. Hubby and I moved five times in a six year period. We ended up with a rule that if we had not opened a box since the last move, it automatically got tossed. Trash or donate, either way, we got rid of it. The only exceptions were thing we glanced at and went "OH I'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR THAT!"

So, that helped.

Plus we inherited some things and it really made us think...what is it that Babycakes would relaly care about later? You can't really know, and there are some things that our family members have saved for us that, um, we just aren't crazy about. So I don't to just hang on to stuff for years just in case.

Sometimes, this has bitten me in the butt. There are some things that we couldn't use at the time so I tossed. Now, I wish I had those things. But when I sit back and really think of it, I still agree that it was better to let it go instead of dragging it around- both physically and mentally.

For the most part, things can be replaced. What matters is the story. And if you toss something you love, or your family member loved? Replace it, and add to that story. "My grandma had one of these platters, it was yellow instead of blue. But I loved making cookies with her and putting them on here to sit out." That's still your story.

Plus, when I simplify what I have in my life, I can actually use those things. I recently reorganized my kitchen and spare/junk closet. Last year for Babycake's birthday, I was so frazzled. And part of that was because I couldn't find items that I thought I had- stuff like party platters or punch bowls. I only use these things 1-2 times a year but I don't want to have to buy new ones each year. Once I cleared out some stuff, there was actually room to put all the party stuff together and I could see and access everything*.

So I'm not a complete minimalist. I hold on to entirely too many gift bags and tissue paper. But...I'm making strides in really being thoughtful about what I have in my home and life. And it's definitely beneficial. Again, it's ridiculous how putting forth so little effort has made such a giant effect on my mental health. Part of it is just practicality, and some of it is this weird since of pride that I got over my intimidation and just did it.

*a big part of Marie Kondo's philosophy involves being able to see what you have, and it's been super helpful for me personally.

How My Anxiety Presented

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

There are times when I wonder how in the world I lasted two years with postpartum anxiety and depression. If I am being fair to myself, I can think of several reasons...but it always feels weird.

  However, the thing I come back to again and again is the idea that my feelings did not line up with what I thought anxiety was. 

I knew I didn't feel good, but I didn't know if a) it was bad enough to say "I need help," and b) what it was.

 I thought anxiety was out of control thoughts about bad things happening. I thought anxiety was not being able to breath. I thought anxiety was not wanting to do things or be around people.

But I never really had panic attacks. I had periods where my heart raced...but not to the point where I couldn't breath. Not to the point where I actually had to stop what I was was just noticeable. I could always breath.

It was more that I felt...weary. My life was just too much.

And I was so upset with myself because it was a life I wanted. 

Also, because it happened after I had a baby...I had a really difficult time knowing what was fair to feel after this momentous life change and where the line into "seriously ill" was.

Baby blues is phrase we hear, and postpartum depression. But the first is usually seen as just sad, and what I heard over and over is that it was sadness over not being pregnant and therefore more separation between the mother and new baby. I never felt this...I was so happy to have my body back ( pregnancy makes fundamental changes that do not go away). While I was pregnant, it was simply a part of the process...I wanted the baby, to see her independent self and get to know her.

On the other hand, postpartum depression is usually talked about only in terms of wanting to hurt yourself or your baby. And again, I didn't have this.

I just had crippling self-doubt.

I thought I wasn't a good mom. I thought no one believed I was a good mom, even though I was trying so hard. I thought my baby didn't like me. I was trying to hard to put on the happy mom face but it felt fake, and that felt like shit because what kind of mom isn't immediately bonded with her child?!?! (hint- the kind with postpartum anxiety and/or depression!)

Everything felt so damn hard, and I was just waiting for something terrible to happen. 

I didn't know what it was, but it just felt like I was waiting for everyone to realize how bad I was at everything.

According to my husband, none of this showed. At least not in a way he recognized either. I wish I had seen this picture before I let things go so far, because it hits all of my personal anxiety cues.

See, because I felt so insecure and worthless and my anxiety was largely based on my believed personal faults, I was killing myself to overcome those.

Because day-to-day life had become so exhausting, I tried to shape it into something halfway manageable by sheer force of will and desperation.

I became hyper focused on making sure everything went exactly like it should all the time. Helpful hint- this is pretty freakin' dumb when you have a baby. I worried about the worse possible outcomes of every situation. I over-planned everything. I became disappointed in myself if my child cried or if I snapped at her or if I got a low A on my test.

These were all aspect of my personality that existed before I gave birth*.

But they became unhealthy.

Instead of just having high expectations for myself, I expected perfection.

Instead of being prepared, I became obsessed with identifying all potential outcomes and obtaining all required tools for survival (and yes, it felt like survival).

Instead of being organized, I became dependent on control.

Instead of having moments of insecurity, recognizing it, and making peace with myself...I listened to that little voice that pointed out every flaw and internalized it as truth.

And those were hard distinctions to make at the time. 

I didn't know how far was too far, how bad was too bad, and how to identify all these things.

So...I guess my point of writing this is to say, not everything presents the same way. Just because you know or have heard about some mental health issues does not mean you know it all...and you definitely can't always be trusted to figure it out in yourself.

 None of us can. It's hard to see the ivory tower when you're inside it...and it's hard to realize you're in the dungeon when your eyes have started to adjust to the darkness.

I have a freakin' degree in Psychology, y'all. I am a military spouse. I have very close family members who suffer with this stuff. But they suffer in their own way, for their own reasons. What was a balm for one person was a trigger for me, and vice versa.

I wish we talked about it more. I wish we talked about it before it became unmanageable, because maybe then we would spot it in the early stages. I wish we were honest about the many different ways we are all suffering.

Because no, I didn't loose my life. I didn't become addicted to harmful substances.

But I did suffer. And I did cause emotional harm, however unintentionally. And I do wonder if I will ever trust certain people fully because of the tricks my own mind played on me that I haven't completely recovered from.

After medication, honesty with my loved ones, and an ongoing mental renovation I feel much better than I did six months ago.

It's much more stable with less dramatic swings now. Things don't feel as heavy...and if they do, I have moments of pride for lifting them up and throwing them out of the way rather than feeling like it was luck I survived.

But it took failing at foster care to make me realize exactly how tenuous a grasp on my sanity I had...and that's something I can't completely come to peace with.  Our foster boys didn't deserve that, and neither did Hubs or Babycakes. I let pride and anxiety and confusion drag a lot of innocent people onto an emotional roller coaster. And I'm not mad at myself for it...but it will never be a good thing. It will never be something I can be proud of. It will always be a practice in forgiveness and faith and thoughtfulness to think of that time in my life.

Don't wait that long. Educate yourself. Check in with your loved ones. Look past the surface. Know all the signs, for yourself and others. And about it. Let's be honest and real and slow to judge.

*I specify this because I think it was this life change plus the hormonal changes that really caused my anxiety to become unhealthy...not my child. It's a weird distinction but very important one.

Currently Consuming

Currently, I am...

listening to:
26 Cents by The Wilkinsons 
(from my I Love Tomatoes playlist which all country female artists)

Eclipse gum 
(well, chewing, but you get the picture)


A lot of black

Restless due to sunshine- after nearly a month of clouds, I want to be outside in the sunshine & not at my desk!

to move

to keep this energy till Babycakes goes to bed so I can use it to tidy the house

that sometimes it's nice to not overthink things

the fact that I may actually be learning to pause...and even be okay with it

Trouble Writing about the Good

Am I the only one who finds it harder to write when I'm happy?

It's always been like this. As a kid, I couldn't keep a diary because I only wanted to write when I was really sad or angry. So going back and looking at diaries would give the impression that I was the most miserable child on the planet, and who wants that version of themselves out there?

And it's not that I only had bad times. It's that I only want to write during bad times. During good times, I like to coast. I like to just sit back and enjoy it and not draw too much attention to it.

I had a great weekend this weekend, and a few good weeks since that day of random depression a few weeks ago. But when deciding what to write, the topic that most grabbed my attention was to go more in-depth about how my anxiety presents itself and why it took me so long to figure out what it actually was.

Or to rant about how Walmart has sent me the wrong size bed for Babycakes TWICE and the ensuing frustration that I'm trying to just let go of because really, what's the point? Getting my blood pressure up won't make the right size magically appear.
Or I did think about writing a post with random advice or insights regarding parenting, but I don't know how well that connects with everyone and if the maybe 3 people who actually read my blog consistently want to read about parenting crap.

I don't know if it's my personal bubble of the world or the state of American culture in general but snarkiness and cynicism and weariness seem to be the accepted forms of communication.

I'm not there, and I'm trying really hard not to be, actually.

On that flip side of anxiety, I sort of wanted to write a post about how despite my postpartum issues I have totally become the happy-lovey-I-will-stab-your-fucking-eyes-out-if-you-look-at-her-wrong-protective mama bear. But again...people don't always like that much cheese, and it's so much harder to clearly and appealingly share a pure and good feeling than a purely ragey one (for me).

Am I the only one?

Show Us Your Books Link-Up: March 2019

Ugh, how is it March already? January was the longest month eveeeeeeeer and now it's already March. Maybe I'm extra confused because after about a month of rain and cold, it suddenly became sunny and over 70 degrees.

This was a great month for books in the sense that I finally got two of the books I'd been waiting on for literal months!

This book is not a surprise to anyone. Sometimes I read a well-loved book and think it's overrated...but I actually really loved this one. It reminded me a bit of To Kill a Mockingbird, just with the sense of race and outsider-ness. Maybe also Bitterroot Landing, in the abandoned-abused-but somehow hopeful way. And afterward there were things that made me go "Hmmm maybe this could have been done better, or now that I think about it I'm not sure about this." But I don't care. It was a great read and story and pulled me in.

I read this in bits and pieces. Partly due to time, and partially due to heavy feelings. I loved reading the first part of the book. Obama is an incredible woman and her story felt very forthright and genuine. Hearing the stories from inside the White House was when it got really difficult. Because...I felt genuine care for the country and respect for the diversity of America and humanity in general that I cannot fathom ever coming from a member of the current First Family. So I would get super inspired and proud and then remember what came after the Obamas and get super bummed out again. And then read more and get inspired by her and then come back down. It's a great book, I'm so glad I read it, but it was more emotional than I expected.

This was a good read. Multiple perspectives and interwoven relationships are currently my thing. This follows a group of women from college to slightly further in life. Some things seem super dramatic, but I appreciate the conversation. It got kind of crappy reads on Goodreads that made me wonder if something was wrong with me that I liked it so much, haha. But I did. Not because I liked all the characters, just kept my interest and I could see good and bad about all the situations.

This is being presented as a duology that's more of a companion to the His Fair Assassin trilogy than a follow-up...and I don't know why. It shares a main character with the trilogy, plus many side characters. It begins almost immediately after HFA ends. READ HIS FAIR ASSASSIN TRILOGY FIRST. That small issue aside, I loved it (because I loved HFA). I'm ready to gobble up the next book (the second in this "duology") already. And my complaint is only because HFA freakin' RULES and this attitude of "Oh it's not a big deal" is silly. Read it all!
Okay now when I go to Goodreads to link to the HFA series, it lists Courting Darkness as Book #4 but also as a separate series. I can't keep up...but read them all. 

What have you been reading? 
Link-up & let us know!
Life According to Steph

Feeling Depressed

I think I'm depressed today.

Or something. I don't know. I Not just blah, but truly unwell. It feels like it hit kind of sudden, but thinking of it maybe it's been a slow build that just finally hit today when I realized I feel like bursting into tears at my desk for no discernible reason.

 It's to the point where I am thinking of going home early so I can hide in my bed for an hour or two. Maybe stop by for a pint of ice cream on the way too.

This is the first time in a few months I've felt this bad.

And no clue what sparked it. I'm not physically sick. The weather has been crap lately- cold and/or raining for weeks. I can't even count the memes about NC rain. Hank from Vlogbrothers was visiting his parents who live in NC and ended up talking about how wet it is. Babycakes yelled "It's not dark anymore" the one morning last week that we saw the sun rise, since every other day the clouds had obscured it.

Babycakes is with her grandparents, so Hubs and I had a wonderfully lazy weekend (he's been sick so we took it super easy).

I have an IUD so I rarely get periods, but I thought maybe I was having PMS symptoms...but this is further down than that.

I missed one day of taking my anti-anxiety meds over the maybe this is a delayed crash? Although it feels drastic for that (and also, if that's it, then stopping them cold-turkey must truly be a fucking awful thing to do).

I've actually worked out more this week than normal, so my social and physical needs should be in a good place.

I'm at work. I'm being productive. I ate a decent amount for lunch, although smaller than normal. I'm drinking my water. I'm not a harm to myself or others.

There's no reason, I guess, is my point. There are possible triggers, but I'm not sure if they are actual triggers or if they feel like triggers because I'm already feeling down and therefore magnifying them (such as- discussing whether or not to have another kid some day, feeling like I want to potentially get a new job because I don't know that I have growth potential at my current one, reading Michelle Obama's book and feeling sad because of the differences in 44 & 45). All of these things have good sides, but they have bad, and I am not sure if those things are creating my mood or just existing along side it. Or maybe both.

The overall point is that I'm not feeling good, or even okay. I'm feeling shitty, guys.

And...I guess I'm writing about it because I don't really know what else to do. And I want to remember this in case it happens.

Becomes happens. For no discernable reason. And I'm sure a good day will happen again, and I won't know exactly why that occurs either. Such is the human brain, and heart, and spirit.