top ten list

Top 10 things that make me happy when life happens…..

10) Coloring: I love coloring, especially in all of the coloring books that have come out lately with the “coloring book craze.” I am by no means the best color-er in the world, but I find it very relaxing. It helps take my mind off all of the stressful things that are going on, even if it only for a short period of time.

9)Being at a baseball game and keeping score: There is just something so fun to me about keeping score at a baseball game. Generally I keep score for the Chicago Cubs games we go to, but it is fun for me. It helps me pay attention to the game, and it is a good bonding experience for me and Jon (my fiancee). He is always there to answer my questions, no matter how silly, and we have a great time.

8) Being outside and feeling the sun hit my skin: It is completely free and one of the most simple things, but feeling the warm sun on my skin gives me a feeling of contentment. It helps me realize I am still alive and have something to be grateful for. I like that in the summer my skin goes from a pale white to a light brown color and brings out my freckles even more.

7) Watching Tyler perform in band and Jordan play sports:  Watching the kids practice and eventually perform is so gratifying for me. Seeing all the hard work they put into either the sport they play, or the performance for band and then to watch it all come together is amazing. To see the transformation from the beginning of the season to the end, and their growth as a player make me one happy momma.

6) When waves hit the beach (in any body of water):  Whether we are in Chicago at Lake Michigan, or here at home in Ohio at the Ohio River, hearing the waves come to the shore is my absolute favorite sound in the world. It gives me such a sense of peace. I could honestly sit there and listen to that sound for hours. It also helps me forget about my stress for a short amount of time.

5) Going to a concert:  Going to a music concert is also one of my favorite past times. I have seen bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Skillet, Papa Roach, Twenty One Pilots, and In This Moment. When I am there I can just feel my body pulse with the music and the beats flow through me. I love seeing the energy the bands put into their music and feeling the energy of the crowds.

4) Seeing animals in nature: When we go to the park by our house and see the baby ducks in spring/summer is high on my list! We also have 3 baby deer by our house this year. Watching these animals interact with each other, and watching how the mamma’s take care of them and protect them warms my heart. It just helps me realize how small I am in this big world.

3) My work and knowing I help people:  I am a Pharmacy Technician, and even though most people think that all we do is count pills, there is so much more to it than that. We help out Pharmacists help our patients stay healthy and be compliant with their medications. As someone on a few medicines, I can tell you when I take my meds the way I am supposed to, I feel so much better. And I work for a company that gives us a little freedom in pricing and so we can make a difference to our patients that way as well. I feel good about my job when I go home every day, and I look forward to going in and seeing the people I work with.

2)  My dogs:  I have 5 dogs at home, and they are all rescues. They are all loud and rambunctious and are so happy to see me when I get home at the end of the day. No matter how bad of a day I am having, knowing my dogs are there and will be excited to see me when I get home helps make it a little easier. And of course, I do have a favorite, because he is the only dog that is “my” dog. All the other’s belong to my mom or the kids. His name is Buster, and he is a big shepherd/lab mix and he can read my moods almost as well as Jon can. he is my big cuddle bug and I love him almost as much as the kids.

1) Spending time with the kids and Jon: Being with my family is the biggest thing that makes me happy. I am unconditionally loved by Jon and I have never felt like that before in my life. We have been together for 11 years, and every day I find another reason to fall even more in love with him. And the kids mean the world to me. I love being their mom. Watching them grow from the little boys they were, to the teenagers they are now, and to the men they will become is something that brings me immense joy. And getting to share in things such as taking them to the zoo or aquarium, helping with homework, watching their personalities grow, watching Tyler perform in marching band, watching Jordan play football or basketball, and even just cooking them breakfast are all things that make my life worth living.

mental health

Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

What is PTSD? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health issue that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event. Examples of these are combat, war, sexual assault, death of a loved one, car accidents, or natural disasters. There are many symptoms of PTSD that are categorized into 3 main groups. Re-experiencing symptoms include things like flashbacks, nightmares, and frightening thoughts. Avoidance symptoms include feeling emotionally numb, staying away from places or events that are reminders of the event, or losing interest in activities that were enjoyable before the incident. Lastly, Hyper-arousal symptoms include being easily startled, feeling on edge or tense, having difficulty sleeping, and angry outbursts. Other signs of having PTSD is depression and anxiety, and can cause a multitude of problems. Marriage problems, increased risk of suicide, and sleeping problems are some of the biggest.

Why is this an important subject to me you ask? On November 14th, 2005 around 6 AM I woke up to my now ex-husband screaming to come quick, our 4 month old daughter Aryssa wasn’t breathing. Immediately I called 911 and the ambulance was there within minutes. I couldn’t think straight, I lost all knowledge of the CPR I had been trained in for most of my life…my baby girl was laying there lifeless. Within 2 minutes we were in the back of the ambulance and they were giving her so much epinephrine, and doing all they could could to get her to breath and find a pulse. We made it to Children’s hospital, where the nurses and doctors who took over were fantastic. They kept giving her epinephrine and chest compressions  to no avail. Finally, the nurse and the social worker came over and asked me the hardest question no parent should ever have to answer. “Would you like us to keep trying, or would you like us to stop the life saving efforts?” There had been no pule and no breathing for about 20 minutes, so I asked, if she goes on monitors, will she ever wake up? And they did not know the answer to that question and they didn’t know if she woke up if she would have brain functions. So I asked them to stop…The hardest decision I have ever made in my entire life.

After that all I remember is that they let me hold my baby for hours in a private grieving room. I couldn’t bring myself to let her go. I sat there in the rocking chair just crying and crying, willing her to wake up so we could all just go home and pretend this never happened. But that never happened, and eventually the nurse came and took my baby girl away.

So what happened in the night to make her stop breathing?? My ex husband fell asleep with her in his lap in a reclining chair and she suffocated between his leg and the arm of the chair. But if you read the official report, it says SIDS. But that issue is a post for another time. That day  was just the beginning of a very long and hard road I am still battling with now 12 years later.

For the first few years after, I just went through my life like a zombie. I survived because I have 2 boys who needed me. When Aryssa died, I had just turned 22. Still a baby myself in so many ways. Needless to say, I divorced my husband. So I was on my own with 2 boys, and all of my emotional baggage. I had to push my feelings back for the longest time because we were poor, and I was working my butt off just to get by. To make sure my boys had what they needed and a roof over their head. I put myself through school and became a pharmacy technician.

So about 5 years ago, after I graduated and and found a steady job is when all my feelings and emotions and all that pent up anger and hate started to really surface. I have always had the nightmares and issues sleeping since then. I am afraid of what could happen to my boys in the middle of the night. I am “that mom” that is super over protective and always had to know where my kids were, who they are with, and so on. I worry too much, and I am usually visibly tense. Most days, I don’t want to do anything. All I want to do is sleep, and not get out of bed. I don’t have friends really. I have acquaintances and  the parents of my kids friends, but I really don’t have any super close friends with that I go out and do things with. I honestly don’t feel the need or want to connect with other people. I am afraid of the hurt and sometimes it feels like too much effort… how sad is that? I get angry, very quickly.. ask my kids, they will tell you. Sometimes I scream at the most asinine things, and lose my temper for no reason at all sometimes.

For the longest time, I thought most of this was normal, or half the time I didn’t realize what I was feeling. So when my life got to an almost comfortable point, it all came rushing out. And it was taking a serious toll on my health. I was smoking more than a pack a day, I was seriously drinking for a while, and I just didn’t care about much. So I found a doctor once I had insurance and could afford it. Right off the bat, I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, severe depression, anxiety, was overweight, and diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). But I found a great doctor who has helped me quit smoking, so I am off the blood pressure meds, and I am slowly getting my weight and cholesterol under control. I am on 2 different anti depressants, and most days they help. It helps take the edge off the anger and  feelings of hopelessness.

I have also started seeing a therapist recently. I had tried in the past, but all they wanted to do was give me drugs, and not listen to all I had to say. So for the longest time, I was hesitant to try again. But I have found a good balance between my doctor and therapist. But it is not a cure all. According to my therapist, I have almost all the signs of PTSD and I am just not sure I want to bring that up to my doctor. I don’t want it to be another label on my medical chart. But at the same time, it may open some doors to help me get some things that may be beneficial for me.

Most days, it is a struggle to get out of bed and go to work. To make sure Tyler gets to band, and Jordan gets to football, or basketball, or to where he needs to be. I have a really hard time focusing on my work sometimes and if you were to talk to me sometimes, you would think I am clueless. I have such a hard time thinking of simple words, or putting thoughts and sentences together. So when that happens, I take a break, step away from my desk, and pull myself together. At the end of the day, I do a good job and the kids are happy (as happy as teenage boys can be anyways). But unfortunately, living with PTSD is something I will have to suffer with the rest of my life. There are 2 quotes I have though, that I think sum up my feelings.

“When a parent dies, you lose your past; when a child dies, you lose your future.”–Anonymous

“A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. But.. there is no word for a parent who loses a child, that’s how awful the loss is!–Neugeboren 1976