Why Can’t I Breathe?

For the first 3 months postpartum, every morning when I opened my eyes I was consumed by fear and sadness. I was scared that I would have to go through another entirely new day full of the unexpected. Would my son cry a lot today? Would he feed okay? Would he want to be held for most of the day? There were too many unknowns and I had no idea what to expect. It was unfamiliar territory and it made me feel very vulnerable. Waking up in the morning was a challenge, and I hated it. I would wake up and have a panic attack. And if I am completely transparent, I wasn’t a single mom, I had a lot of support, but there was something in my head that kept telling me I wasn’t good enough. That I was somehow going to mess this all up. That my son would need something, and I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to help him. I just wanted him to be okay, and because of this, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect. I felt I had to be perfect, so that he would happy.

I became a very anxious person. I never understood the power anxiety could have over a person until I experienced it myself, and boy was it an awful feeling.

But when he turned 3 months, its like something changed in our relationship. Its like we started to connect. Perhaps it’s because I started to speak to people about my struggle. But for the first time, I felt like I was actually starting to bond with my son. When we locked eyes, I felt like I could take care of him.

Make no mistake, I was still very very far from feeling confident in my parenting skills, but I was starting to build a support system to help me through some of my concerns.

I also stopped Googling for “help”. Whenever I wanted to understand a behavior my son’s exuded,  or a solution to help him with a struggle like gas, I would Google. I found that Google left me confused and it stressed me out. There were so many solutions, I became overwhelmed. So, with the guidance of a doctor, I decided to stop.    

Best. Decision. Ever.

When I started to slowly trust my own instincts and to reach out to people I knew, instead of a comment wall, I started to feel more confident in my own skills. If a solution didn’t work, I could reach out to the people who initially guided me and say “hey that didn’t work, got another idea?”. The open dialogue helped me work through my anxiety.

I still suffer from anxiety today – but I feel like I have the tools to work through it, and with time, I hope that I can overcome it.

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My Girl Squad

When people think of a group of girls, they often associate them with “cat fights”, “being bitchy” or the movie “mean girls”. But when I hit my lowest point, I found myself being uplifted by some truly exceptional women. The more I opened up about my negative self-reflection, the more determined these women became to rally around me to provide me with the support I didn’t realize I needed.

It was a strange feeling.

When it comes to my emotions, I have a history of being more introverted. I don’t really engage in friendships and I like to keep my circle very small. I have acquaintances, but not friends. Yes there is a difference.

But in this instance, I knew I needed help. I had to expand outside my regular circle. If people reached out to me and asked me how I was doing, I told them the truth. I told them I was struggling. Those who didn’t want to support me brushed over the topic, and those who wanted to help constantly checked in on me. I was okay with either. If you didn’t want to help me, I appreciated the indirect honesty. But, if you did, god bless you, you have no idea how much solace I found in our conversations.

I appreciated the advice and I appreciated the support. I truly felt like they were my pillars when I couldn’t stand on my own. I also appreciated the people who were around me who didn’t necessarily have the life experiences to guide me, but were around to just be around. To step in when I felt like I was going to have a mental breakdown. To fill in the gaps where I felt I was weak.

My girl squad was and has been my greatest blessing throughout this experience. I started to understand the importance of expanding my circle and investing my time and energy in relationships that I may have otherwise overlooked.

PostPartum Depression – Yes I did the Ugly Kim Kardashian Cry?

Sitting in the doctor’s office, I felt nervous. I started to think, why did the CAS lady think I had postpartum depression? I did a quick google search, “symptoms of postpartum depression”.

  1. Depressed mood (subjective or observed); be irritable mood in children and adolescents, most of the day; YES – My husband would agree that I wasn’t a pleasure to be around.
  2. Loss of interest or pleasure, most of the day – YES – I was sad for about 75% of the day.
  3. Change in weight or appetite. – YES – I had lost weight, I just had a baby. But other than that I was eating okay.
  4. Insomnia or hypersomnia; – YES – Oh I definitely had hypersomnia. I wanted to sleep every chance I got. Some would argue that this was a side effect of being a new mom. But I didn’t feel physically exhausted. I felt mentally exhausted all of the time.
  5. Psychomotor retardation or agitation (observed); NO?- I wasn’t sure what this point meant, someone else would need to confirm this one for me
  6. Loss of energy or fatigue; – YES – I was very tired.
  7. Worthlessness or guilt; – YES – I had a really bad case of mom guilt. I didn’t get to feed my child, I didn’t want to hold him for too long after he was born.
  8. Impaired concentration or indecisiveness; – YES – I could not make a decision. Normally, I have a very decisive person. I made decisions very quickly. But lately, I would get overwhelmed and confused very quickly.
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation or attempt. – NO – I didn’t have these thoughts, but I did want to run away and hide under a mountain of blankets.

I was surprised at how many times I had checked the “yes” box, but I was relieved to learn that I wasn’t alone.

Perhaps having child protective services called was a blessing in disguise?

When the doctor finally made his way into the examination room, I felt a lot more comfortable in speaking with him. I was very candid about how I was feeling, and for the first time, I had a full-on meltdown. Yes I’ll admit it, I did the ugly Kim Kardashian cry.  

I was a mess, and I needed help.

But I have a great doctor. He assured me that having postpartum depression is more common than people think, and that there are so many people who aren’t diagnosed. Contrary to popular belief, you can be diagnosed with postpartum depression up to 3 years after having a baby. Yes, you read that correctly – THREE YEARS!

I was shocked.

Feeling five or more out of symptoms listed above nearly everyday in the same 2-week period is a flag to get help, and boy did I need the help!

My doctor referred me to a psychiatric and social worker – and just like that I was officially in the system.  

I’m Pregnant!

Sorry I have been so MIA from posting, but I’M PREGNANT!

Yes that may sound all fine and dandy but one thing I can tell you for certain, the movies and television lie! Being pregnant isn’t fun at all. I just finished my first trimester, and I feel like a deflated soccer ball! Let me tell you what being pregnant is really like!

  1. Morning Sickness! HA! Try all day sickness. Dicletin is supposed to be the hero drug to help with the Nausea, so naturally it doesn’t work for me. I need something stronger. God forbid I forget to take a dose on time, because, that’s right, you guessed it, the toilet becomes my best friend! None of my actual friends had morning sickness. In fact, they felt perfectly normal. So naturally I hate them all! And that leads me to point number two.
  2. Uncontrollable Hormones. I have no control over my emotions, I can be laughing one minute and crying a river the next.
  3. The insane sense of smell. I hate the smell of my car and have to fight the urge to put my head outside the car window while driving. I don’t car if I look like a dog! The smell of anything sweet makes me want to throw up!
  4. Everything freaking hurts! Muscles you didn’t know existed hurt. Your entire body feels tense. Forget sitting comfortably! You know that space above your belly? You probably don’t, but it pains for no reason! So you find yourself stretching in weird directions, hoping the people around you don’t look at you like you’re a freak!
  5. Sleep? What is sleep? I’m lucky if I can find a comfortable position to fall asleep and pray I don’t wake up with bedsores!
  6. Working a full-time job? The jokes on you, you feel awful but you have to act like a sane person around people. God forbid they find out how crazy you really are! And going back to point number two, I have to work extra hard not to have an emotional breakdown. (Yes I’ve already had two)
  7. Your clothes don’t fit! Maybe this is because I popped early, but my pants don’t fit, so its tights and leggings 24/7. But let’s be honest, most of the time I can’t even be bothered to get dressed. I feel so awful that I’m lucky if my outfit even makes sense!

Yes I know what you’re going to say…getting pregnant is a blessing, not everyone is fortunate enough and you are right! It is a blessing but what I didn’t mentally prepare for were all of the changes that my body would go through. The naive part of me thought this would be a walk in the park. After all, women have had babies for hundreds of years. These are my realities of being pregnant! I just have to remind myself this is only for 9 months. 3 done…6 more to go!

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The Little Train That Could….Maybe.

Six months ago, I started a new role at work and to say the role is challenging is an understatement. Every day feels like an uphill battle and up until last week, I felt that I was up for the challenge.

Last week, I was thrust outside my comfort zone as I attended a week of intense training at our company’s headquarters. And boy was the training tough. I felt both mentally exhausted from the amount of information being dumped on me and physically exhausted from the time difference. Having health issues, traveling is very tough for me. But the information overload was tougher. As a flew home at the end of what can only be described as one of the most exhausting week of my life, I made a conscious decision to do my best and become the ‘little train that could’.

That thought quickly evaporated on Monday morning as I sat at my desk. Conquered, yes I mean conquered and not consumed, with fears and insecurities, I did my best to try and tackle the obstacles put in front of me. I was close to the end of the day, when a colleague called me and shouted at me. “What do you want from me?” he shouted down the other end of the receiver. I was shocked. This is my colleague, not a customer. He is someone who is meant to be on my team. I was trying to work on a request for his customer, and needed more information to help fight for his ask. Keep in mind I am new to role, so my ask may have been ‘stupid’, but my mind and effort was in the right place. I was extremely hurt by his reaction, and asked him to adjust his tone, which he did not. Needless to say, I got off that call as quickly as possible.

After collecting my thoughts, I sent him an IM that read:

“I apologize if you feel that my work is inadequate, but I am 6 months in role
and am doing my best. It is not okay for you to shout at me. I am trying my
best to find a resolution for an ask that came through you.
Going forward, it may be best for you to please send all of your asks through the account managers. Thank you.”

I hope I handled the issue correctly. I will be the first person to admit that I am having a hard time in the role, but I also continue to try and push through my insecurities and do my best. I don’t pretend to know more than I do, and am constantly reaching out for help. I want to get better in this role, but it is very hard to when you have colleague shouting at you. It is extremely demotivating and it makes me very sad.

Maybe this role isn’t for me….

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What #InternationalWomensDay Means to Me

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and at the risk of sounding like a nerd, I have a confession. International Women’s Day is my favorite day of the year. I am a feminist, and believe in #girllove , but as I sit and reflect on all of the strong female influences in my life, I also feel enormous amounts of gratitude towards the men in my life.

I have been very fortunate in my life. I grew up in a household where my father treated all of his children the same, irrespective of their gender. He instilled a ‘why not me’ mind set in each of his children, and that led us each to achieve great success in our lives. He worked very hard for us to have the lives we have today. Even when he became severely ill, he pushed himself to provide for our family. It was a difficult time, but my mother was a great source of strength. She stepped in and ensured that we didn’t miss our after-school activities. That there was a meal on the table every single evening. I think I get my work ethic from her. She is a machine. To this day, I am convinced that she’s attached to a rechargeable battery pack. Even at the age of sixty, she can run laps around me. To this day, I have not met anyone with the same stamina as her.

My parents are a great team, and the person I am today is a result of their hard work.

I also have an exceptional partner, who is constantly pushing me to achieve more. He doesn’t believe in glass ceiling, and has a lot of confidence in me. He also doesn’t believe in gender specific roles, which I find annoying, especially when it comes to me having to cut the grass!  I love the smell of freshly cut grass, and apparently that is reason enough for me to have to cut it. But I have no problem with sitting outside and reading a book while he cuts it. We often joke that he is more of a feminist than I am, and deep down, I think we both know it’s true. He is often disappointed in the media because he doesn’t like the way women are portrayed. He has concerns about  the impact the media will have our younger cousins, nieces and nephews, and how they perceive themselves and females. He is definitely vocal about these concerns.

Lastly, I work for an exceptional multi-national corporation that doesn’t believe in glass ceilings. In our company the VP, General Manager and two regional sales managers are females. To see women occupy these roles is very motivating. These are women who have had to manage the work life balance and have made great strides in a male dominated industry.  I also have an exceptional team lead, who I would consider a feminist. He motivates me and has helped me immensely with my career. Even when I feel that I won’t excel, he reminds me to have confidence and do my best. He’s taught me that my best is good enough, but I need to learn to walk before I can run. He’s also taught me that learning is a process, it’s not an end state. These are very valuable lessons that I can apply in both my professional and personal life.

Reflecting on international women’s day, I am reminded that this day is not only about the exceptional women in our lives, but the exceptional men who propel women’s rights forward. I am the person I am today because of the lessons I have learned from both genders.

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Truth & Lies

Words. Chains. Shackles. Suffocate.

I’m sitting here trying to complete what can only be described as the tedious task of writing this blog post and suddenly I feel as though I can’t breathe. Why won’t the words leave my mind and find their way to the blank page in front of me? I’m struggling to find the words to explain my emotions. I feel trapped. Words are floating sporadically around my mind. They don’t make any sense. What is bothering me? Why can’t I just speak my mind?

Am I afraid of the raw honesty of my thoughts? Am I being pessimistic. Perhaps it’s the latter. I feel frustrated.

Recently, I’ve had people lie directly to me and it’s been a very disheartening experience. I value words. They allow people to connect and build a sense of community. When people misuse words to withhold the truth, they create invisible barriers that otherwise wouldn’t exist. I don’t understand why people isolate themselves or others. The whole situation can be avoided with a dose of honesty. I don’t think that is too much to ask.

Maybe people lie to create barriers? Maybe they subconsciously lie because they want to break ties with people, because after all, lies are daggers. You can sew the wounds, but the stitches will always be visible.  You can’t hide what is on display. No amount of makeup will ever cover them up.

Maybe the truth is simply that people lie. Perhaps they lie because they are too weak to stand up for themselves. Or maybe they lie because they are human, and a human’s innate nature is to look out for themselves first. They lack any regard for the person they are lying to.

It’s disappointing when you invest yourself in relationships, only to learn that they weren’t worth the investment. That the people you overlooked were more worthy of your time. They valued you and instead, you elected to waste your time with people who weren’t deserving of it.

We live in a narcissistic world, where people are starting to look out for number one first. I’m not sure when we went from living as a community to only thinking of ourselves. But I’m done with it. I would rather spend my time with people who are think like me, and value people the way I do. Who chose not to lie just because it is convenient.

2017, people are going to see a very different version of me. I’m learning from their example and if they don’t like it, there are more than a billion other people on the planet, we’re not lacking for people we can have relationships with.

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One In A Billion

The world, people say its overpopulated, but if that’s true why can’t I find a single soul that I feel connected with?  I walk through each day with my vulnerabilities on full display, hoping for a single connection. However, as the day’s pass, I can feel the vulnerabilities shedding away and being replaced by loneliness and sadness. Why does no one see the hurt that’s in my heart.

Life is passing by quickly, and I understand that each of us have our own trials and tribulations that we need to overcome, but what happened to connecting with those around us on a human level and having real relationships? Each one of us is preoccupied by our own daily struggles, but in the process we are losing the ability to connect with each other. We’re becoming lonely and lost souls. We’re floating through life trying to find someone who will understand our souls, but we’re not putting in that effort with others. In the process of becoming fixated on our own emotions, have we lost the ability to empathize with the people around us? Are these relationships of the past?

I try to stay positive, and share my fears with people. I want people to see my weaknesses. I don’t view my weaknesses as a hindrance to me. In fact, I view them as my strengths. They allow me to connect with people on the human level. I am not perfect, and neither is my life, and I am okay to say that. We all have our pain points, and obstacles that we need to overcome, after all, life isn’t perfect. And it shouldn’t be.

Life is about growing, and even if you don’t find the connections with people that you are looking for, you need to try and understand why. Is there something in your own behavior pattern that is preventing you from connecting?

In a world filled with billions of people, surely there is one soulmate for everyone. Whether it be a friend, sibling, spouse, parent or friend, they exist. We need to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves and enjoy the growing pains of life. Share our hardships. Listen to those around us, and hear their life experiences. They have been put in our lives for a reason, and we need to understand their purpose.

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How am I feeling today you ask?

I’m feeling very sad and disappointed with the state of the world today. I’m disappointed in my southern neighbor electing someone who is ignorant to the state of the world. I am upset that those negative emotions are creeping into Canada. I am so tired of the hate, and the division between people. And I am frustrated that people are having to re-fight for rights that were already established.

When did we start to go backwards?

I feel as though there is a huge void in my heart, and I don’t see it being filled anytime soon. For the past week and a half, I have been feeling very empty, and for the first time in a long time, I’ve lost hope. Gandhi says to be the change you want to see in the world, and while I am not a fan of Gandhi, I am trying to stay positive and project positivity. But, I am struggling. I am fighting hard to hold back tears every day. I feel very hollow, but I am trying with everything in me to not project negativity.

Today, on my way home from work, I saw a man’s car stopped on the side of the road. About 20 people drove past him. I also contemplated driving past, but I stopped. To be honest, I thought it was a girl. The person had long blond hair that fell to their shoulders, but when they spoke and I realized that it was a young man in his late teens or early 20s. He said thanks for stopping, but we were both equally clued out as to how to fix his car. He said it was his clutch and that he needed brake oil. I’m not sure if that’s what he needed, but I drove to the gas station to get the oil. For those of you who are a bit panicked right now, relax, I didn’t take him in the car with me, he was still a stranger. I took his number and called him when I got to the gas station to confirm that I picked up the right oil. I brought the oil back to where his car was stopped and gave it to him. He asked me how much the oil cost, and I told him to ‘pay it forward’. To which he responded, ‘I do that too’. For a split second, we both smiled, faith in humanity restored, and I walked back to my car. As I drove down the road to turn my car around, I thought, ‘what if that’s not what he needs, and I just left him?’. Fortunately, by the time I drove past him, another man, from a line of 30 cars had pulled over to help him and I was genuinely happy that another individual stopped to offer a helping hand, it gave me a bit of hope.

With this experience, I could feel that hole inside me fill a little. I left the interaction feeling a little more healed. Not fully healed, but enough to help me genuinely smile for the first time in over a week.

In that moment, we didn’t see each other’s backgrounds, economic status or level of education. We saw each other as people, helping each other.

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Thank You 2016!

Two Thousand And Sixteen. The words seem so insignificant on paper, yet as I say the numbers out loud, I can feel a paper weight being dropped on my heart. How do I begin to describe the year I’ve hard? As I try to find the right words, I feel confined to the words of the Oxford dictionary. Why can’t language be like light? Infinite.

Two Thousand And Sixteen. Thank you. As I sit here trying to grasp for words that would do my year justice, I feel overwhelmed with emotions of gratitude. This year was tough. Filled with loss and great sadness, but for some reason my mind floats to the happy memories.

This past year, we lost a monarch in my husband’s family. We spent many months going back and forth between work, home and the hospital. While the loss was significant, my memories constantly float to hospital memories that make me smile. I will always remember the look on her face when I entered her hospital room on a day that I said I was busy at work and wouldn’t be able to make it. She was so happy, and for anyone that knew her, she didn’t show much emotion.

My maternal grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, the doctors caught the cancer in time and were able to remove it. She underwent radiation treatment shortly after that. Although she gets tired easily and is often in pain, she is still as feisty as ever. You think I have a sharp tongue, wait till you meet my grandmother.

My lung condition also relapsed. This news was a bit tough for me to digest. I had worked so hard to try to prevent this from happening, but it just goes to show, you can’t control everything in your life. Sometimes you just have to accept the cards that you are dealt, even if they are terrible. I remember laying in the emergency room bed, trying not to cry, thinking “please don’t be a relapse”. My condition is rare and easy to misdiagnose. Prior to my diagnosis, I spent many months in and out of hospital with doctors telling me I was having muscle spasms. So when the doctor came to my bed and told me I was good to go home because I was having a muscle spasm I almost started laughing. Muscle Spasm? I asked to see my blood work and x-rays.

The pulmonologist, Dr. Wayneinder Anand, who originally diagnosed me with this rare disease and was one of my biggest blessings of 2015 also ended up being one of my biggest blessings of 2016. Prior to releasing me from his care, he taught me how to read my blood work and x-rays to identify if I was relapsing. So when I saw the results, I knew what was happening. Had he not taken the time to teach me how to read my reports, I would have continued to suffocate and not understood what was happening. My health care would have been in the hands of others. Dr. Wayneinder Anand gave me the knowledge to identify when I was having an issue, and the steps I needed to take to self-stabilize, until I was in the care of another pulmonologist.

When I reflect on Two Thousand and Sixteen I can’t help but smile. This year was filled with trials and errors, laughter, sadness and happiness, but it made me stronger. This year taught me how to be grateful for the life I have. It taught me to make the conscious decision to be optimistic and happy every day. Because when you change your perspective, you change your life.

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