Category Archives: Introspection

Panic

You are alone in a room full of people. Yes, alone. You’re like that fly on the wall. You feel smaller. You are smaller. Or maybe you were always small. In this moment you are no longer human. You are insignificant. Your eyes dart from human to human. Your presence annoys them. Distracts them. The weight of their thoughts consumes you. Crushes you until you are breathless.
 
Out of breath, you cannot speak. The undertow of thoughts swallows you whole. Your body is floating. The wave carries you to the cloud that blankets your sight and suffocates your mind. You feel nothing but pure panic. No thought. No word. Nothing. You are nothing. You are sure they hear your heart pounding – no, screaming.
 
You are left weak, sweating, exhausted. A human approaches. Your eyes meet. Tunnel vision subsides, and you realize – you too – are human. Your feet are, in fact, on the ground. Your shirt is stained from perspiration, but practically no one notices. Practically. You catch your breath. You flip the switch. You are back on earth.
 
You just had a panic attack.
 
And you survived.
 
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Had a request from a reader to share exactly what I experience during a panic attack. I hope this sheds some light on my struggle.
 
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**Featured image taken for Righno Boutique, LLC photo shoot — See MORE!

What are you fighting for?

Can you answer the question – What are you fighting for – without hesitation? When prompted this question just a day ago, I hesitated and felt tears swell up behind my eyes as a large lump collected in my throat. What an intense, loaded question. What am I fighting for in my life?
 
Let me back track for a moment… this question came about during a highly anticipated phone call with a complete stranger located halfway across the world. Perhaps I will explain in a later blog post how this situation came about. But for now, that bit of information is highly relevant because as most of my readers know, I am a ball of nerves on every day ending in –y. Therefore, a phone call with a stranger was not the easiest task for me to complete, let alone think clearly through and answer intelligently to any questions all the while. Thus, the perfect storm for emotions to swallow me up and spit me out.
 
Back to the question – What are you fighting for?
 
As I paused to think, the only courage I could muster up was to say, “independence.” I was so nervous at that moment that I’m not exactly sure of her response. After coming down from the clouds and shedding my blanket of anxiety, I was able to explain to her the significance of my answer: independence as an individual – a desire to pursue my passions, finish my education, continue writing. Simply to take time, for me.
 
Her next question: “Then why haven’t you gone back to school –thus furthered this path?” I felt the tears come back. A total rush of emotions prevented sound from escaping.
This lovely stranger sensed hesitation and prompted some answers. She kindly said:
  • Are you afraid that you can’t do it?
  • Are you worried about giving up time with Lucas? Or lastly,
  • Do you not know exactly what you want to do with your life?
I had to laugh and asked her, “Can I answer all of the above?”
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What the hell was I thinking answering independence? I’ve been stuck on my subconscious answer since speaking with the lovely stranger. Yes, I’ve talked about my dreams and aspirations on this blog before, but I can’t help but wonder if a little voice inside me was screaming independence instead of calmly answering, independence. As an adult, I have all the freedom in the world to do as I please, but something is holding me back. I wonder sometimes if the only thing holding me back, is me?
 
Sometimes our sixth sense, that gut feeling we all have deep down inside, screams so loudly – but too often our minds get in the way and muffle the cry. The mind tells us change is foreign; change is scary; beware of change! What would happen if we quieted the mind, if only for a moment, and let the sixth sense sing its song?
 
I woke up this morning and felt the urge to write. My mind emphatically interjected and reminded me, “Child is awake, get breakfast ready, don’t forget to go to the store, and DON’T forget the list.”
 
Instead, I listened to the song within… and I wrote it down. After vehemently denying my mind’s attempt to list off my motherly duties and deciding instead to tap into my inner poet, I was left with one final thought…

 “I get so excited when thoughts flow from hand to pen; from pen to paper. Although transient, for that moment in time I am reassured of something bigger, something far greater than myself.”

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Listen to that inner voice and sing your song. Fight for it, and it will set you free.
“When we feel responsible, concerned, and committed, we begin to feel deep emotion and great courage.”
– 14th Dalai Lama

Love Yourself

If you haven’t read What I Know Now – Letters to My Younger Self, read it. Then read it again. Then share it with a friend.
What would you tell your younger self? Look at your life at this exact moment. In retrospect, would you tell a naive you to take another path? Or would you tell ‘yourself’ to buckle up, hold on tight and enjoy the ride? This is your chance to inspire, yourself.
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Ki,
It has been a trying twenty three years thus far. You’ve graduated high school, proven yourself worthy of academic scholarships by Hanover’s standards, oh and how could I forget you birthed an enormous child, created a new life in Midwest America, and you have fervently driven yourself into madness trying to answer the questions in your heart that most people don’t answer in a lifetime.
To you, sixteen-year-old Ki, first and foremost you are beautiful. You don’t know that now, I’m not sure you ever will… but try every day to believe it in your heart. Second, you are brilliant. Maybe not by most “normal people’s standards,” but your creativity is rare, unique, passionate. You are not Edgar Allan Poe, but follow his lead. Having role models is key. You know that gut feeling you have now as you sit in English class? Hold on to that. Hold on tight, Kiley. It is OKAY to feel something special when you write. It is OKAY to be a thinker; to be a dreamer. It is OKAY to share your thoughts. Share with everyone. Share your talents. Build your confidence now because I can tell you from experience that the longer you wait, the more you will struggle expressing what you know to be true.
STOP with the fake smile. It is OKAY to be real with people. Being real does not mean showing everyone what they want to see; saying everything others want to hear. Being real is where your life begins, not ends. It is not the end of the world to cry and show people that you are only human.
STOP giving away your love with such ease. People will take advantage of your love. I’m telling you now that the greatest love you will ever know is not far off in the future. His love is beautiful. His love is new. His love is pure.
Have confidence that you will make the right decisions for you. Your path will be different than most your age, but wonderfully adventurous (if you enjoy not sleeping for the rest of your life). If you haven’t caught on already, you will be a young mother. Can you believe it? You will be someone’s role model; someone’s biggest influence for the rest of his life. Have the confidence to know you are a careful listener, a lifelong teacher, an amazing mother.
Lastly, enjoy the short-lived experience that is college.
Your days of:
  • Living for yourself
  • Zero responsibility (except good grades and occasionally dragging your ass out of bed to show up to class) and
  • Building friendships that will last long after your impulsive exit from Hanover (yes, impulsive)
…..will feel like the blink of an eye.
Kiley, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. If you don’t love yourself, no one else truly can. If you could only read this, at sixteen, oh how different you – I – would be.
Love,
Yourself

20 Somethings

Unfortunately I am – at times – an immature 20-something, so I’d like to share a quote that is the inspiration behind this blog post (sarcastically, of course).

 
“I miss being the age when I thought I’d have my shit together by the time I was the age I am now.”
 
 
I can’t help but share my thoughts on today’s 20-somethings:
 
Let’s start with the obvious: I am not your typical “20-something” by society’s standards. I haven’t graduated from college, yet. I’m not looking for my dream job, yet. I’m not living for myself while enjoying every spontaneous moment, ever. I don’t know the feeling of complete self sufficiency, loving my ‘9 to 5,’ and meeting with friends weekly at a downtown bar to discuss the single life. However, is anyone really living up to that glorious post-college dream that we assume will fall into place immediately following the four years of papers, exams, and binge drinking that is college?
 
Most of the amazing 20-somethings in my life are college grads (or soon to be), and I cannot help but notice that life, as we had all dreamt it would be, is not quite falling into place as we had planned. Living a sheltered life for the past few years as a stay at home momma, I assumed everyone was embracing life, loving his/her job, sticking with the plan, being what society expects of us 20-somethings. The more I come out of my shell and allow my friends back into my daily life, I see that my questions, my fears, my struggles as a mother are very similar to those of my fellow 20-something friends. Sure, we do not fully understand each other on a day-to-day level, but our uncertainty in this world, as individuals – is very much the same.
 
Don’t we all ask similar questions of ourselves?
 
Surface level questions – Will I find my dream job and never have to ‘work’ another day in my life? Will I be able to live the lifestyle I desire and still pay the bills each month? Will I find a partner and get married? Have kids? If so, what age? Am I ready for anything that serious?
 
What we’re really saying – Will I have to settle and work at a job I hate in order to pay the bills, or be passionate about my life’s work and sacrifice elsewhere? Does it have to be one or the other? Am I living in the right city? Should I have traveled more? Should I be selfish now before settling down? Should I use my ’20-something’ pass and live it up while I can? Why does everyone say the 20s are the best time of our lives, when all we know is we wake up every day with questions in our minds and doubts in our hearts? At what point do we say screw you, society; I will not live to your standards? Does anyone have the guts to see the fork in the road and go straight?
 
Are the 20s really all that they’re chalked up to be? Perhaps we are blinded not by society, but by ourselves…
Is it simply our minds working overtime that drives us into insanity, thus preventing us from embracing this youthful, naïve stage of life?
 
20-somethings, I think it is time we love the questions in our hearts.
“….have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer….”

To Want

Have you ever thought about not wanting, just for a second? Have you ever thought about what would happen if you asked about the world, instead of just asking for it? Who do you think you are? Who do you think I am? Why would you think you have any idea of what you want? Most nights you still go to bed confused, angry at yourself. When are you going to start considering the possibility that you are exactly who you want to be?
 –-Paraphrased from Charles Yu’s – Sorry Please Thank You
 
I came across these questions a few months ago. Up until that point in my life, I can honestly say I always assumed my life would be more – I needed to do more, be more, give more, love more, ask more, live more. More, more, more. But at what point does more melt into enough? Is there a finite ending?
 
Is life about continuously asking these questions of ourselves while filling our days with compulsive activity, only to avoid the real issues? Is the real issue ourselves? Are we the answer? I am told I want to be a certain type of person…. And yet I have never considered that who I am, at this very second, is exactly who I need to be, want to be, ought to be…
 
Who tells us we should do better? Know better? Be better? Who are they? Who are those people? At what point do we stop asking those questions and accept that who we are at this very second is exactly who the world needs us to be?
 
It’s an interesting spectacle – living with a child. He does not know anything but his own life. He does not covet, does not envy, does not fear. He is exactly who he needs to be. He is exactly what the world expects of him.  He is exactly what I need him to be. So at what point can we live like a child and expect nothing more of ourselves than who we are in that exact moment? Is that ever achievable?
 
Some answer no; I answer yes.
 
“An adult is one who has lost the grace, the freshness, the innocence of the child, who is no longer capable of feeling pure joy, who makes everything complicated, who spreads suffering everywhere, who is afraid of being happy, and who, because it is easier to bear, has gone back to sleep. The wise man is a happy child.” – Arnaud Desjardins
 
Sometimes, when all we have are questions, the simplest answer is to wake up. Be awake in this present moment – Love those who are right in front of us – Taste the kiss that is offered and gone in a heartbeat’s second – Breathe the air for a moment longer.
 
Be exactly who you are in exactly this moment.
 
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How do you know?

Most days I wake up and I just know. Some days, I’m really good at fooling myself. I am greeted every morning by the sweetest little face I’ve ever seen and think to myself, “Today can be a really good day… that face will make it all better.” Lucas and I make breakfast, run around and sing, but something’s just not right. I remind myself, “Stay positive Ki, it is only 9AM.” We get dressed and finish the morning routine, and I’m more certain of it now: it’s clear. After the sweet, innocent snugglyness of a newly awoken Lucas wears off and the terrible-twoness sneaks in, there’s no fooling myself anymore… it’s going to be a fever day.
How do you know it’s a fever day?
It’s really difficult for me to explain to people the difference between being in a bad mood (and being able to come out of it) vs. being clinically depressed. Let’s face it, I’m not a doctor and don’t try to recite the fancy terms that go along with the laundry-list of symptomatic feelings linked to depression. Rather, I just like to tell it how it is. I’ll be honest, I’m not ecstatic about using the term “clinically depressed” because it is a very limiting title. I do not believe I’m limited exclusively to depression, or anxiety, or OCD, or (fill in the blank) … I experience symptoms from all of the above.
 
Let me just start with this – if you’re reading this and suspect someone you love is going through something that you don’t quite understand (or necessarily agree with – because I acknowledge some people believe depression can be cured by pulling up your big girl panties and getting through the day, HA) here are a few tips to help clue you in…
 
How she/he is dressed – I mentioned in an earlier post a recent panic attack I experienced at a mall. I expressed my conflicting emotions about a hat I was wearing at the time of the attack – the feeling that I was hiding behind it. Often times if I am struggling, I cling to tangible items that I feel will hide who I am – I.E. hats, jewelry, baggy sweatshirts, scarves – anything to divert attention from the person I am. I steer clear of fitted clothing (that may bring unwanted attention) and wear less makeup. So remember, if your loved one displays drastic differences in appearance from day to day, it may be a red flag.
 
Excessive crying – If your loved one is a woman, this may be a normal occurrence especially during “that time of the month.” (haha, okay now let’s get serious) For me, however, this can be a dead giveaway that the day is going to be paired with speed bumps… or more appropriately, mountains.
 
Fears & Obsessive behavior – Does your loved one express irrational fears about the world around him/her? Ex. – Fear of leaving the house, avoidance of specific places that in reality pose little threat of danger. Or perhaps you notice repetitive actions such as excessive cleaning or checking… all of these examples can be serious signs of anxiety. Here is a great summary of everyday anxiety vs. an anxiety disorder.
 
Irritability  If you call your loved one and he/she gets upset that you called at 12:04PM instead of 12:05PM, then perhaps he/she is having a rough go that day (yes, this is an actual example). On days when my fiancé comes home from work, exhausted and hungry, and I start bitching that the dog needs to go to the vet before I even utter “Hello, how was your day?” – it probably hasn’t been one of my better days. Make sure to really listen to what your loved one is saying… if he/she is stressing over minuscule tasks, is quick to argue, or is making rude comments out of the blue, try to take a step back and empathize with that person. It is easy to be offended and argue back; it is beneficial to observe and take notes.
 
The first step in helping someone is understanding his/her behavior. Like anything else, you have to KNOW before you DO.
 
**This list of ‘clues’ only skims the surface of signs of mental health disorders. In no way am I saying if you experience these, you have a problem… but these CAN be serious signs that should not be overlooked. It is better to be annoyingly observant of your loved one than to accept his/her actions as quirks and ignore the severity of what the signs could really mean.

For Lucas

Are we defined by what we do or who we are? I like to think we are defined by who we are – our love for others, our personalities, our thoughts, hopes, dreams, and fears… but let’s be honest, in a society where “actions speak louder than words,” does ‘doing’ override ‘being’?
 
As sad as it may seem to others, I ponder this question every day of my life – well, since the day Lucas was born (So, for the last 2.5 years). Am I defined by my accomplishments and actions as a mother, or by me – Kiley? Family and friends closest to me say I am kind-hearted, intelligent, funny, stubborn; but others might say I’m a good mother (or in past years, a hard worker; a great student). Let’s face it, when you meet someone, common ice-breakers might include – “What do you DO for a living?” “Where did you GO to college?” “What did you DO over the holidays?” – We rarely ask character questions like “Would you say you have an even-temperament?”…. “Are you the anxious type?”
 
Thus, my internal battle… daily. I often talk about my anxiety in public places as though it’s the places that cause my attacks. In actuality, it’s the people. I have an overwhelming fear of people. Or more specifically – their questions. “What do you do?” “Why did you leave Hanover College?” “When are you going back to school?” “Are you looking for a job?” “What do you and Lucas do every day?” The culmination of these questions is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and bam! The downward spiral begins:
 
Does anyone care about my feelings? About who I am? Do you want to know what it’s like to move away from family, friends, familiarity – all for the good of a new family? Or perhaps what it’s like to be six months pregnant and still have yet to be accepted by insurance in order to receive prenatal care – want to know what that was like? Or how about battling postpartum depression on top of my year-round ‘blues,’ that’s always a fun topic of conversation; I’m sure I could enlighten you — That was two years ago, I have plenty more where that came from!
 
Some days I’m screaming inside.
 
The reality is that when you’ve lost all sense of yourself, you can never be comfortable in what you do. It no longer becomes a question of if others define us by what we do vs. who we are; but rather how do YOU define yourself? I will never be comfortable in my mothering abilities if I am not comfortable with Kiley, as a person. I will never feel accomplished if I have no confidence in who I am, with or without Lucas. I am an individual first – mother second.
 
Sometimes we have to let go of our fears. Every day I question going back to school because I know it will take time away from being the best mom to Lucas. How lucky I am to wake up with him every day and put him to bed every night. However, my desire to be a student again and fulfill MY dreams is the next step in Kiley’s path. Nourishing my soul will only benefit Lucas that much more. It’s so easy to forget the ‘self’ when caring for the center of my world.
 
How do I define myself? Intelligent, yet stubbornly naïve. Caring, loving, sarcastic. My drive is apparent: next step, apply to school. I am hopeful. I have dreams for myself. Now’s the time to follow through with actions, for Lucas… for myself.

Cabin Fever

I’m not a numbers girl, but I do know that 40 million Americans (age 18+) suffer from anxiety-related disorders ADAA. I’ll admit, I am among those 40 million. I battle with anxiety and depression on a daily basis. Now, this blog is not a ‘woe is me, here’s my sob story’ blog, but my reality is that most days it’s a struggle to leave my cozy lair and venture among the masses. I experience frequent panic attacks in the most common of places – malls, the grocery store, even the library…
Here’s what a recent panic attack of mine was like: I calmed myself down after a miserably failed trip to ONE store in the mall and jotted down a few feelings I experienced. It’s okay to laugh.. it’s a tad pathetically comical.
 
“Not sure where exactly it’s located in the mall. By the food court? No, closer to Macy’s. The light’s green, freak. You’ll find it. Why is this such a big deal? Ugh, I forgot about parking. Great, no open spots, as usual. (Heart starts beating faster) I’m going to cry. I knew this was a bad idea. Just go inside. One store, and then you’re done.
As I enter the mall, I know everyone is staring at me. Maybe it’s because I’m wearing a hat. It screams, ‘I’m hiding, don’t look at me!’ I should have worn a messy bun. God dammit. My heart is going to jump out of my chest. Remember, one stop and you’re done. Kinda like Walmart’s ‘One stop shop’ slogan. Do they even use that anymore? Who knows? Who cares? Focus. Bridal gift and then get the hell out of here.”
 
So what does this have to do with day to day activities with my son? Let’s recap…
 
1 panicky adult + 1 overly curious toddler = a daily choice to rise above mental illness.
Sadly, I plan my activities around my moods. Positive side? On the days I’m plagued by my fever, I am aware that it’s necessary to stick with activities in and around the home — or in extremely familiar places. On fever free days, we conquer the world!! Or, just, a new playground…
 
**If you/someone you know is struggling, here’s how to take action against anxiety&depression.
 
Click here for more PANIC as experienced by Momma Ki–

Nice to meet ‘ya

I’m a self-proclaimed

Anxiety-ridden perfectionist. Therefore, being a stay-at-home momma I feel the need to always teach, explore, and create with my 2-year-old son…

The problem
It’s nearly impossible to feel like I’ve done enough with him each and every day. I always have a way of talking down to myself… “I should have read him a few more books before bedtime – He didn’t technically learn anything new today – We should have played outside, it was so nice out – We haven’t done arts&crafts in a while” ….I think you get the picture…
 
The truth
Okay, so we don’t visit a new part of the city every day or get new library books weekly. Hell, some days we don’t even get fully dressed until noon! My goal is to be realistic with myself. In my eyes, I’ll never be a good enough mommy, BUT I will try every day for my little man. Us mommies can be really tough on ourselves – our image, our abilities as parents, and fighting off the urge to take care of everyone else first. All self-critiquing aside, the best part about being a momma is the little guy with whom I share every single day…
 
My goal
To share my fun ideas and struggles along the way (because let’s be honest – every day is NOT a perfectly planned picnic or a brightly colored scrapbook… Lord, don’t even get me started on ‘Scrapbooking with a perfectionist’). The best days are the ones we never plan. Enjoy my unplanned (and sometimes planned) activities!
 
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See revised mission of this blog! – Here