I remember my first group therapy session quite well. It was more of a social gathering at a local community centre with other families who lost an immediate family member. They split us into two groups; all the adults went to a separate room while the ‘kids’ stayed behind. I say ‘kids’ because there was no specific age range, I was roughly twelve years old at the time, yet there were both older and younger people surrounding me.
We all gathered in a circle, and each took turns speaking about our loved ones. The thought of me talking in front of strangers was making me anxious. Still, as we went through the different stories, my anxiety lessened. Knowing that others went through something similar seemed to make my grief manageable. When it came time for me to speak, I wasn’t as ‘squeaky’ as I usually was in situations – I still cried as I reminisced about my mother, but it was a lot softer than usual.

I made a friend that day, who turned out to be so much more. Her name was Jennifer, and she lost her father. We were able to talk openly, and it was welcomed. I was still unable to open up to my adoptive father fully. Little to our surprise, both of our parents hit it off and started dating. When that relationship failed, we lost contact almost immediately. It was a hard blow, especially since I was beginning to consider her like a sister and I never fully understood what happened. Of course, thanks to social media, we recently reconnected, and it was if we never stopped talking. I can’t wait for her to meet my little one once we’re out of this pandemic.

When I look back on the group therapy sessions, she’s the first thing that comes to mind. Of course, the therapy aspect was helpful, but finding someone else who was going through the same thing was priceless.

I’m honoured to say that over the last few weeks, I’ve partnered with Pay What You Can Group Therapy.
Their mission is almost identical to mine, to support others seeking mental health care. The concept is simple – it’s free group therapy that is monitored by licensed professionals. If you enjoyed and/or found value in any of the sessions, they ask you pay what you can!
It’s been a pleasure working with the team, and I hope that you all can take advantage of FREE group therapy starting tonight, July 21st.

 

This has been one hell of a week for me, and even though I mentioned this would not be a mom-centred blog, I am breaking my rule this one time to go over how my anxiety shaped my experience of labour and bringing home my baby.

On Wednesday early morning (12:40 am to be exact), my water broke. I wasn’t sure at the time and I called my husband from downstairs to make sure that I wasn’t just peeing myself again (oh yes, the lovely late stages of pregnancy were terrific on my bladder) It wasn’t until I moved around slightly that my curious trickle turned into a full-on gush and the panic started to come full force. THIS IS HAPPENING. Immediately I felt my first contraction and went upstairs to lie down to time it out: 1 hour apart, lasting 1 minute. I wasn’t in active labour just yet, but my anxiety was flaring up with the usual physical symptoms: overheating, rapid heartbeat & dizziness. I did not feel safe at home and thought it would be best to go to the hospital. We packed up the car and went straight there, where I was closely monitored before being admitted.

I told my husband to go home and sleep, so one of us could at least be coherent when it came closer to being admitted – he was relieved. I spent the next four hours lying in bed, trying to get some sleep but the contractions were getting debilitating. Trying to walk around to ease the pain and move things along were not an option for me, and I already felt as if I were a failure. I cried in the darkened room, waiting for a nurse to come so I could ask for some pain medication. The O.B. on call came to see me about it and mentioned I could get some morphine, but I had to wait until my contractions were 5 minutes apart. It was roughly 6 am at this point, and I knew I was getting close to that time frame. I called my husband to let him know I was scared and I needed him, he told me everything would be OK and to try to calm myself down; he would be there as soon as possible. He arrived, and I instantly felt better, I always do. The pain was getting worse, and several hours went by – I was getting impatient. Around 9 am, I was finally admitted to the hospital; however, I was not dilated. Due to specific procedures that I had back in 2008, I was running into complications that would need to be addressed. The plan that we set at 6 am had now changed; however, I was able to receive an epidural early to help ease the pain. After 7 hours of my anxious mind racing through this pain, I welcomed it. I’m happy that my husband was coherent because it knocked me out, and he was able to fill out all the necessary paperwork.

As I crept in and out of sleep, so did my husband. The nurses came in to check on me as often as they could, but our little one was still taking her precious time getting ready to make her grand entrance. My heart was pounding, remembering what doctors told me years previous that if I were to have a child, I might run into issues. The medication that they administered around noon to speed things up was taking its time, and we spent the next 8 hours waiting impatiently. Nurses needed to come in more often to help out; when I was awake, my mind would race with worry over the length of time that it was taking and I was starting to get more nervous and scared as the time approached for me to push out a tiny human. When I was stuck at 8 cm for several hours, I started to cry out of frustration; I just wanted her to be out of me! That’s when one of the nurses suggested I put this peanut looking ball between my legs, which essentially helps dilate you to where you need to be.

When the moment finally arrived at 8:40 pm, my heart sank, I was unsure how I would feel at this moment, and every emotion possible seemed to course through my body. All lights went on, and I noticed I was placed perfectly under a reflection of what was going on. If I kept looking up, I would be able to see it ALL. The nurse started to explain to me how to push, and I immediately thought I would somehow screw this up. I did my first push and couldn’t hold my breath long enough. I started to cry, again, thinking that this would take longer than usual and already felt like a failure. My husband and I already made a plan beforehand to play music during this process, so he put on my favourite album “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd. When the music started to play, I got emotional once again thinking to myself – Holy shit I’m about to be a mom. I’ve been preparing myself for this moment for MONTHS, but honestly, nothing can prepare you for that overwhelming sensation.

The song ‘Us & Them’ holds a lot of meaning for both my husband and me.

* It was the song that we listened to on our first visit to B.C., staying up late on our hotel room balcony basking in a moderate snowfall that was gorgeous.

* It was the song that we found an instrumental version of so I could walk down the aisle to marry him.

* It was the song that unintentionally played during our Gender Reveal party when I sliced our cake open sharing that we would be welcoming a girl

so, when it started to loom in the background after 30+ minutes of pushing, I told myself this is going to be the last couple of pushes, she WILL be born to this song. I put so much effort into these pushes that my husband needed to put ice chips on my forehead, which quickly trickled down the side of my face from the immense heat. The nurses cheering me on in the background as the last push brought her out into this world, 42 minutes later. Yes, I saw everything in that reflection. EVERYTHING.

The song ended, and I heard her cry, up to this moment I was so worried that I wouldn’t love her or want to hold her but as soon as I listened to that cry all I wanted to was calm her down. My body rushed with so much love for this little human being that I was overcome with joy and relief. I held her without interaction from anyone else and knew at this moment that I would never want to go through pregnancy again. Her though, she was worth it. We named her Eve Lilly, a name we picked out months prior but wanted to ensure she ‘looked’ like the name.

It wasn’t long before I was wheeled into my semi-private room with her in an adjoining bassinet. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her and kept saying, “I made this.” My husband asked if I wanted him to stay the night and even though a part of me did, I said he could go home. I wanted to spend my first moments with Eve together and try to bond over breastfeeding. The nurses tried to help, but it was extremely difficult for both of us, instead of being anxious over this, I told myself that plans never go the way we want them to. I asked the nurses for supplements, and they made me feel incredibly guilty for doing so, I didn’t care. All I did care about was that she was fed and happy.

My anxiety was levelling out, and I just wanted to be home, I was tired, sore and swollen that I couldn’t even put my shoes on! Being pregnant and giving birth has given me a new perspective on what matters and what doesn’t. I made some big decisions during this time, one of them being that I don’t think I can go through this process again for my mental health. After going through months of depression on top of my anxiety was trying. I don’t think that’s selfish of me in the slightest, regardless of what others think. I grew up as an only child and i’m somewhat normal 😉

I want to apologize to my readers for being so distant these last few weeks; I’ve been working tirelessly on getting my first novel out before my daughter makes her grand entrance.

Keeping busy has distracted me from my depression, and I’m thankful for that small amount of effort.

I still anxiously debate if making my story public is the right thing to do, my trauma has and always will make me feel like I’m not worthy of a voice. Luckily, I’ve never been one to go with the flow, and it’s with great pleasure that I can announce that I am now a published author

For those of you who have anxiously waited, you can find my book on Amazon here:

U.S.:
eBook
Paperback

Canada:
eBook
Paperback

 

It’s the first of October, and that usually means that I need to prepare myself for the upcoming winter months. Autumn is my favorite season, and even though I plan to live in its present, the foreboding season of winter still lingers in the back of my head. I never understood or could quite express how I felt during these months until one of my aunts mentioned that she was “Seasonally Affected.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder (or, the most spot-on acronym: SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to a change in season and usually shows up around autumn and continues into the long, cold winter months. It can drain your energy and make you moody, but other symptoms can pop up as winter progresses:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day
  • Losing interest in any activities you once enjoyed
  • Having extremely low energy to do simple tasks
  • Experiencing problems falling or staying asleep/oversleeping
  • Noticing changes in your appetite or weight (swaying in either direction)
  • Feeling agitated and sluggish
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling: Hopeless, guilty, worthless, unloved
  • Social withdrawal from family/friends
  • Frequent thoughts of suicide or death

My doctor did not diagnose me with SAD, but I do take it seriously. Seasonal Affective Disorder is diagnosed more often in women than in men, and due to my family’s history of depression, I make sure that my symptoms don’t get worse or lead to problems.

If you feel you may have one or more of these symptoms in the following months, don’t let it go unnoticed. It’s normal to have a few days when you’re not feeling 100%, but if you experience any symptom for weeks at a time and undoubtedly cannot get motivated to do any of the normal activities you usually do, I highly suggest you see a doctor.

Click here If you would like to read more on Seasonal Affective Disorder or wondering about diagnosis and treatment

My heart breaks.

Mental health is not a joke, and we should not look down on it. We need less judgment and more compassion. More check in’s and fewer shares of one meme “suicide hotline.” I urge you to check in on all of your friends, correctly.

In a week, we lost two celebrities to suicide, but there are many others that we’ll never hear about who did the same. Trying to place yourself in both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain shoes are hard. They both genuinely believed that their children would be better off without them – Can you imagine how much pain they were in to think that?

We lose, roughly, 2160 people a day to suicide and it’s heartbreaking to keep seeing these rates go up. When we want to reach out to someone we need to stop looking down on them. From your wealthiest to your poorest friends, we all struggle with life. Instead of judging each other on which platform they stand – why don’t we encourage and lift others up? Where have we failed as a society to lack such empathy?

While undoubtedly chemical antidepressants have some value and should remain on the table, we need to radically expand the menu of options for people who are depressed and anxious to deal with the grave, underlying reasons why we feel this way.

For those that are struggling with depression – I urge you to hold on. If you’re depressed, if you’re anxious, you’re not crazy. You matter. You’re loved. This is not your fault. You won’t be able to cure this on your own, but, there is hope. Your presence on this earth makes a difference whether you see it or not.

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20 years ago I lost my mother to a long battle of cancer. From the age of three to eleven I had to understand what exactly was happening to her and didn’t fully grasp it until I saw an episode of Charlie Brown called “Why, Charlie Brown, Why?”.why charlie brown why

When I approached my mother after the show tears welled up as I asked “do you have cancer?” the room fell silent as she nodded yes. I tried my best to be hopeful, knowing that within the episode the character survived her cancer. My mother beat it once; there was no reason for me to believe it couldn’t happen again.

Not long afterward she passed away. I remember being angry for the longest time – I didn’t know how to access my emotions properly and became reclusive as the depression sank in. I felt so incredibly alone even though I lived with my adoptive father. We never had the best relationship, and we handled our grief entirely differently. He went through the five stages of grief within a year whereas I was stuck in the fourth stage, depression, for too long. It probably didn’t help that I had other stressors in life and I would always think that if only she would still be here, things would have gone differently.

Recently I read “The Subtle Art of not giving a F*ck,” and a chapter on grief hit me hard. How I reacted to my mother’s death was my own choice.

Pain of one sort or another is inevitable for all of us, but we get to choose what it means to and for us.

It was my choice to wallow in my grief, and I know now that it wasn’t healthy for me. I didn’t choose how my life unfolded, but I was capable of choosing HOW to live with it. It took a long time to accept that my mother wouldn’t physically be around anymore. I would always think about my life adventures that she would miss out on – graduations, marriage, kids, etc. Sometimes I would have to stay home from work on this date just to make sure I wouldn’t show my “ugly cry” to others.

20 years later and this date still brings a tear to my eye. I don’t think my sadness will ever entirely go away, but I can make a choice – to celebrate the woman that she was and all of the positive influences that she brought to me. Her unconditional love made my heart full, and I cannot wait to share that once I have kids.

In the past couple of months, I inherited some pieces of vinyl from my Aunt that belonged to my mother. She signed the cover of her Beatles and Supremes LP’s, and I’m so thankful to call them a part of my collection. As well, My husband came home with Candy Buttons during Christmas. I was elated to tell him that it was my mother’s favorite. I’ve been saving it for a special occasion, and I know today is that day.IMG_3160

I will be spending the remainder of the day unplugged from social media and just focusing on how much my mother meant to me.

If you have any wonderful memories of Reesa Stein, please leave them in the comments