Changes

We have recently moved for the 9th time in about 12 years.

It’s been a chaotic few weeks with packing and unpacking, and then for good measure we threw in a dog CCL surgery!

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He leads a rough life. Obviously.

We are loving the new digs and the ocean of cardboard boxes is slowly diminishing.  San Diego doesn’t get winter weather, although you’d not know it based on the winter jackets and Ugg boots in abundance any day that is below 70 degrees. There have been a few overcast and even rainy days that have induced me to make some yummy soups in my fabulous new kitchen. I actually have room for all of my kitchen gadgets and I missed my coffee mug selection more than I had realized!

Internal things have been changing  in addition to our physical location. This post has been sitting in my mind, and the drafts folder, for a couple of months. A few years ago, I  arrogantly posted a meme about exercise being equal to medication for the treatment of mild depression. It was a platitude photo with little concrete research behind it. I regret posting it because I now know better. For years I’ve used exercise as a way to combat depression. And it kind of works – for a while. But it’s not the only way or even the best way to combat depression for many people; myself included. (I’ve also used retail “therapy”, and of course alcohol. What I’ve come to learn is that drinking with depression/anxiety is like pouring kerosene on a fire. It makes everything significantly worse.)

There’s definitely a stigma around the subject of mental health and seeking help – but it shouldn’t be. Knowing this intellectually for other people is one thing. Getting my head around it for myself is another thing all together. My psychiatrist explained a couple of things. “We use what works, until it no longer works.” For as long as I can remember I’ve been a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” kind of person. “We can often point to life circumstances as reasons as to why we feel what we feel, which is why the average span from onset of symptoms to getting help is 10 years.” Oddly enough, this blew my mind when really it shouldn’t have because I should’ve sought help years ago. When you see a therapist or psychiatrist, they take in your history – a sort of timeline of your life snapshot. I don’t think most people look at life like that, but it was enlightening because patterns emerged of depression, low moods, unexplained or irrational thoughts and behaviors, etc. Laid out in that way, it was not only surprising I didn’t recognize the pattern before, but confirmed the statistic that people just don’t get help – for many reasons.

Depression is more than just being sad. We all get sad. It’s part of the ebb and flow of feelings. But actual clinical depression is much more and can have different causes. It also presents in more ways than simply low mood. Depression can come out as anger and irritability, irrationality, physical aches and pains, fatigue, and restlessness to name a few.

  • Biological differences. People with depression appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain, but may eventually help pinpoint causes.
  • Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that likely play a role in depression. Recent research indicates that changes in the function and effect of these neurotransmitters and how they interact with neurocircuits involved in maintaining mood stability may play a significant role in depression and its treatment.
  • Hormones. Changes in the body’s balance of hormones may be involved in causing or triggering depression. Hormone changes can result with pregnancy and during the weeks or months after delivery (postpartum) and from thyroid problems, menopause or a number of other conditions.
  • Inherited traits. Depression is more common in people whose blood relatives also have this condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing depression.

– Courtesy of Mayo Clinic

As part of my treatment, I now take an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication. It was like seeing in black and white and then after a few weeks, the color came back. Technically speaking, more neurotransmitters are firing and working properly in the brain. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. In other words, I didn’t know how bad I felt because it was normal. That’s what depression does – it’s a slow creeper that you don’t see coming. I was no longer jumping at every little noise. I didn’t feel panicky at the irrational thought spirals about awful things happening to the kids. I wasn’t having panic attacks in a store and feeling like I couldn’t breathe walking with a group of people picking up our kids from school. I wasn’t irrationally irritated by the sound of my kids saying, “Mom…” Having depression and anxiety is exhausting.

I *may* have told my doctor that he would have to pry my medication out of my cold dead hands – I feel like myself for the first time in a long time. He laughed and shared that I wasn’t the first patient to have that reaction. “Medication helps a person with depression let more of their personality shine through.”

I’ve returned to exercising, although not at my previous “running marathons” pace. I’ve missed the endorphins and the mind-clearing adrenaline of a great workout. I will get there again, but there’s less frenzy and anxiety about it now. I’m doing it because moving feels good. I’m walking the dogs because I love them and spending time with them makes me happy. I’m running on the beach because I can and the sand helps cushion my injured ankle/tendons. I’m riding bikes with the kids up insane hills because we can do hard things, it feels amazing, and as Hannah says, “the steep downhills are FUN!”

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I hesitated in sharing this part of my life because it’s not comfortable to need help. Who doesn’t like to feel like they have all their shit together?  Growth and change are rarely easy and often uncomfortable but to not do so would be worse. My hope is that sharing my experience might encourage someone who needs it to seek help. I’m grateful for a handful of friends that were open and brave enough to share their own struggles, which in turn gave me the courage to get help for myself.

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Resilience

We always say it’s not going to happen. We’ll be there for each other, even after they move. Or we move. Or we both are flung to opposite sides of the world.

And we swear, “This time. This time will be different. This time we’ll really stay in touch.”

Military friends are a special breed.

Ever so slowly, life happens. New friends slip in to our lives, boots on the ground, in the current duty station, in your every day life friends. While they open our hearts again, it becomes more challenging to keep up with kids and day-to-day stuff and maintain all those long distance friendships. They seem to get lost somewhere in the everydayness of our new home, among new friends. And we get lost in the memories of their new place.

The calls are replaced with texts. Texts start out frequent, but slowly fade to weekly occurrences, check-ins. More and more of the detail of their daily lives are missed and so it goes. Then it’s merely pictures on social media. Those pictures of their new life without you in it, those are so bittersweet.

They sting just a little. And once again you remind yourself that it’s all part of the process. This breaking of hearts. Sometimes it’s a wonder that we do this not only once, but many times over and over, risking, grieving, and being open again.

As we got up this morning from air mattresses on the empty floor, the moving truck having left the day prior, Hannah quietly asked, “Mom, can we do the ‘Why I love moving, by Hannah’ thing?”

We do this ritual in our family where I say, ‘I love Hannah because, by Mommy’ and then list out all the reasons and things I love about her. Eric and I even did this practice before the kids were born. Items on the list include big things, but also very specific things, and current milestones etc. It’s a tangible way to say “I love you. I see you. Just as you are.”

As she asked to do this and apply it to moving, I was struck by how resilient and strong she really is. This has been a tough week for the little emotional heartbeat of our family. She loves fiercely, and her heart breaks with the same passion. She listed her positives of moving – we all did. Hannah reminded us that while the sky may be overcast – the sun still shines, regardless of whether we can see it or not.

Kids are so dang resilient.

Hearts are resilient.

Tender hearts that are open enough to get broken, repeatedly, are among the strongest ones.

Fair winds and following seas, Corpus Christi!

Ready

To say I hate bugs would be an understatement. I’ve dealt with cane spiders (the size of my hand!), centipedes, and B52 bomber cockroaches in Hawaii, large and small spiders that crawl up the bath drain in Washington, water moccasins and fire ants in Florida and of course the beloved scorpions, mutant mosquitoes, crickets, wolf spiders and of course roaches here in Texas. Bugs are a part of life. And big ones are a part of life the closer to the equator we live.

I had bailed on our bike ride, not going near as far as we usually go, basically going as fast as I dared pushed them on their poor little legs. I sat in the tub as the tears came down my cheeks after having stripped off my workout clothes is a frenzied panic while the dogs watched, curious at my odd behavior. I looked down at my skin now covered in bites that were quickly becoming large welts as I frantically scraped my nails across my skin. Mosquitoes had swarmed me. Even in the breeze the insects clung to my skin, undeterred in their bloody mission. I really hate bugs. Like I probably have a phobia or something. I let the tears fall as I realized I was just mostly pissed off. Sometimes emotions just come up like that.

86 mosquito welts bring up the fact that I’m irritated.

I’m not in the place I want to be.

But here I am. I will continue to be here for a while longer, then I will leave, grateful for the light at the end of…

the school year

Corpus

humidity

Texas

deployment

the south

all the bugs

…the tunnel.

PCS Like a Four Year Old

I wrote this post a few weeks ago as a submission to another blog. They have passed, so I am posting it here.

Sitting in the Navy Lodge smack dab in the midst of house hunting in our new duty station, it would be so easy to have a pity party. I want to have that party. I want to roll around in the “Ugh, not again!” and the “Oh my goodness we have so much STUFF!” I want to cry because we’ve left everything familiar, just when it was getting familiar (AGAIN). But I have little ones who are watching and gauging just how to process this life-upheaval, so I can’t stay at the party for long.

We all handle a duty station transfer differently, but I’d love to experience it like my 4-year-old. This is what a military move looks like to her:

The Pool

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Hotel stops along the way are all about the pool! Does this hotel have a pool? Can we pleeeeease get a hotel with a pool tonight? When will we be going swimming? Can we swim tonight and tomorrow before we leave? Please, please, please?! You’d think she was part mermaid or something. Perhaps being born in Hawaii has something to do with it…

Sleeping Whenever, Where Ever You Are

 

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A nice air-conditioned ride, just enough road noise to dull the senses, a full tummy and a well-timed potty stop all coincide for the perfect nap! Swimming goggles are optional.

Make It An Epic “Adventure”

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“Camping at a KOA along the way?! No problem! I’m so up for that Mom! I love the tent! I will run around like a crazy person with my brother while you and dad try not to scream while putting it up!”

Stairs (and other ‘inconveniences’)

IMG_6648And I quote, “This is the best day ever!” as she was lugging up our toiletry case up stairs in a hotel that had multiple floors with no elevator. (Seriously?! Why are hotels with multiple floors built without elevators!?)

Throughout this transition, she has never once worried about where we will stay, how house hunting will go, or what life will be like when we get ‘there’. She’s in the moment, enjoying what comes her way. Instead of her watching me, gauging my reactions to life’s upheavals, perhaps I should take a cue from her:

1. Enjoy the ride

2. Take what comes, even if I don’t like it or think it’s inconvenient and make the best of it.

3. Get up each morning excited about what ‘adventure’ may await.

4. Sleep like the dead.

5. Swim every chance you get!

What a PCS Move Feels Like

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A PCS move, or military transfer, is a common thread for us active duty folks. Moving every 2-3 years for many of us, is simply part of the deal. There are those few lucky ones that may get to stay in one place for a couple of tours consecutively, but that isn’t how it goes all the time. We’ve bounced around the country for over a decade and are just about to move into our 8th home. (I still hope for orders to Italy or England, but by the sound of my husband’s laughter, it’s not a very likely possibility!)

This particular move has been drawn out the longest. All together, we’ll have lived out of our suitcases for 50 days. It’s quite a time to be nomads, particularly if you are a natural homebody like myself. We of course market the journey as an adventure to our minions, and in some ways, it really is. All the “life is what you make it”, “bloom where you’re planted”, and “home is where the navy sends us” platitudes apply. I believe these things about 95% of the time. I consider ourselves fortunate to have lived in the places we have and have met incredible friends along the way.

That remaining 5%? Yeah, that’s where I’m at now. The anticipation, the waiting for the household goods to arrive, the dream of sleeping in my own bed again (in sheets washed in my own washer) are the thoughts currently occupying my mind. That 5% is the yuckiness, the blahs. The sick of eating out. The “I can’t wait for our first home cooked meal!” and bringing back the familiar routines. The limbo phase. The vacation is over, the novelty has run it’s course. I’m ready.

So what does a PCS transfer feel like? It’s like holding your breath as you travel place to place, keeping it all together, making it an adventure, until it’s time to set up the new nest. And finally, finally being able to exhale.

I’m ready to put away the suitcases. I’m ready to breathe again.

Fist Pumps!

I love days where you just want to pump your fist and say, “YEAH! It was a good day!” Today? Meh. We were all crabby today. The novelty of being in the same room (same car) with the same people for 5 weeks has worn off. Having space in our new joint will be a good thing, for all of us!

Having a few things on the agenda for the day, we started out with swim lesson number 2. The kids are doing great, becoming more comfortable in the water. Hannah is getting better and putting her face in the water and blowing bubbles. Jacob hollers at the instructor that he’s “NEVER DOING THAT AGAIN!” but then ends up going under water again. She’s amazing at pushing to the edge of his comfort zone, but then backing off and giving him something to do that builds his confidence again. She’s very gifted with kiddos. Unfortunately, the lesson got cut just a tad short as the thunderstorms rolled in.

Overall breakdown:

Hannah: Happy in the water.
Jacob: Crabby at the instructor, but his desire to learn is overcoming his disdain for her. Also dislikes being told to get out of the pool. Who cares if there’s lightening?
Me: I’m just happy that I’m not the bad guy! Yay!

From there we went to Target to pick up a couple things and an air mattress. (Jake’s popped from taking one too many jumps.) Target is always a good time and I found a lycra swim cap and goggles so I can swim some laps on the really hot days instead of running. (Running in this humidity feels like running into a hair dryer on the hottest setting. No bueno for this chick.) Note: If you have curly/large hair, lycra caps are SO the way to go! They don’t pull/snag/stick to your hair! And they are easier to put on!

Overall breakdown:

Hannah: Flibbertygibbet self. Happy to be. Although slow to buckle up and get into/out of the car.
Eric: Mildly irritated that Hannah is in her own world. He cannot comprehend why it takes her so long to get buckled every time we get into/out of the car.
Jacob: Happy to have his iPad back. Slightly irritated that the A/C doesn’t blow cold air as fast as he’d like.
Me: Sad I can’t be in Target solo. Happily dreaming of swimming laps at the pool in new goggles and swim cap. Solo, of course.

We stopped by the new house (which is near the Target! YES!) to check on progress. Looks like we should be moving in next week! Yahoo! Every time we go and check things out, it fuels the anticipation. (Or the impatience.) I cannot WAIT to live in this space.

Finally, we rounded out the day with a “Dive-In” at the base pool. We loved our local drive-in back in Whidbey. Sadly there are no drive-ins here, but the base pool opens up occasionally for an evening kid movie on a giant screen while we swim! It’s awesome! And the bonus was the kiddos got to practice their swim skills waiting for the Lego Movie to start!

While splashing and swimming around, Jacob thinks its fun to “kick off” of us. It would be fine, except we are given no warning. No heads up, nothing but a swift kick in the gut. Or the leg. Or other places. It was getting painful. One kick too many, stern words, etc., a meltdown ensued. Jacob and I both gave each other space for about 3 minutes. I played with Hannah on the other side and Eric hung out with Jacob. A moment later, Jacob swims up and says, “I’m ready to do the apology thing.”

Okay.

What followed was something that I have been working on with both kiddos, but I’ve had to lead them through it with them essentially repeating what I say. It’s a 4-part apology that teaches more than just saying “magic words” to get done with being in trouble:

*I’m sorry for…
*It was wrong because…
*In the future I will…
*Will you forgive me?

Jacob did it by himself. He apologized using all 4 components. No prompting. (I checked with Eric – he didn’t prompt at all!) It was purely Jacob’s initiative. He was thoughtful and logical with his reasoning. I was beyond astounded.

Overall breakdown:

Eric and Hannah: Swimming happily, waiting for the movie to start
Jacob: Apologizing to me. Of his own volition. Not necessarily enjoying it, but doing it without anger.
Me: Blubbering mess, fist pumping the day.

Welcome to My Nightmare

I took the minions to the base pool yesterday. It was sunny and wonderful and hot! The pool felt amazing!

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This kiddie pool was HUGE! The kids loved it!

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They even have a little tube slide that shoots them into the big pool. (You’ll forgive the lack of pictures as I was playing “catcher’ when they came flying down!) We swam the length of the pool, went down the slide, and floated, played motor boat, blew bubbles, and all the water fun we could come up with. Then they suggested “Humpty Dumpty”.  This is where they sit on the side of the pool and we sing, “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great faaaaaaal!” and you pop the minion from the side and splash them down into the water. Okay. So off to the side I go, while they swim to the stairs leading out of the pool to sit on the side. I went to reach up to Hannah and I am nose to nose with a cockroach in the pool gutter.

I, of course, let out some kind of freakish terror-filled guttural moan followed by a scream to which the lifeguard looked at me questioningly. While running backward (read: stumbling and trying not to drown) in the water, I pointed and mouthed the word ‘cockroach’ as I pointed to the side of the pool where it walked along the edge, completely unfazed by my horror and outright panic.

The lady lifeguard took matters into her own hands. Well, she called someone over to take matters into someone’s hands. This big lifeguard dude came over, snapping on a surgical latex glove. He laid on the concrete, draped his burley arm over the side and karate-chopped the vermin. He then deftly scooped up the carcass, and carried it to it’s final resting place. While overwhelmed with gratitude, I may have clapped. I’m sure he thought I was a lunatic. My relief outweighed any sense of cool I had left.

I realize we live in Texas. I realize that bugs, like cockroaches, thrive in warmer climates. I also know that “everything is bigger in Texas”. The bugs are no exception.  I was stumbling in the dark to make some coffee this morning, I flipped on the microwave light to see a roach scurry across the kitchenette stove top. Again with the shudder, the moans, the general freakout as I hopped barefoot back on to the bed and scrambled to my phone to type a hasty text to Eric who had already left this morning: IMG_6892

I went to the front desk. As she said she would let housekeeping know, I think she was trying not to laugh at me.  I don’t care. You think I’m a pansy, a wimp, whatever who can’t deal with bugs? Okay. Yup. That’s me. Sue me. Just come kill my bugs first.

As I type this, I am cowering and trembling with dread sitting on the bed with the kiddos waiting for housekeeping to arrive. It’s been about an hour. I refuse to go back into the kitchen. I think I’ll be throwing on a ball cap and taking the kids OUT for breakfast. And perhaps lunch. This must be what it felt like for ocean swimmers after seeing Jaws.

I think I’m gonna need more than a bigger boat.