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“Share-My-Story” Series: Anne

“Share-My-Story” Series: Anne

I am the epitome of a “people person.” All through my single years, I felt enlivened after spending an evening at a party or dinner with friends. I ate up the laughter and applause from audiences any time I’d perform in community theater shows. I loved seeing new places and meeting new people. I was energetic, goofy, and thoroughly enjoyed making people laugh. 

Fast forward to my first son’s 1st birthday: my husband and I bought a birthday cake and a pregnancy test at the grocery store. It was positive. We were elated! 

But with the birth of my second son came a dark cloud. I wasn’t adjusting to two kids like I’d hoped. I wasn’t bonding with the baby like I wanted. Nothing was right. I was so, so, so stressed trying to juggle a newborn and a one-year-old. If I wasn’t stressing over them while they were awake, I was sobbing to myself in the middle of the night, hounded by the intrusive thoughts of their death or my husband’s death. But I didn’t feel depressed. I wasn’t sad or full of despair. So this couldn’t be post partum depression, right? All I knew was I used to be such a happy person. I was a happy person, so what was this???

 Because now I was always livid. My emotions constantly hovered just below boiling point. I was angry. I was screaming. I wanted so badly to punch a hole in every wall. This compounded with insomnia and a newborn who would not. stop. crying. I was losing it almost daily and freaking out and literally screaming at my 22 month-old toddler who could barely talk in sentences, let alone comprehend that Mommy was upset. Inevitably I’d crumble into a heap of guilty tears, hugging him and saying “I’m sorry,” over and over. When my baby was four months old, I finally texted my husband, saying I didn’t recognize myself and needed to go to therapy.  After doing some research, I chose a therapist who specialized in maternal mental health. She knew exactly what was happening.

 It was postpartum rage, and I was drowning in it. Considered to be under the umbrella of postpartum depression, but more rare, articles addressing the disorder only just started popping up online within the last few years (I know because they weren’t there four years ago when I was googling like crazy why I felt crazy). Over the next 10 months of therapy, I started to gain crucial insight, including how to recognize triggers, how to cope and deal with rage outbursts,  the value of self care, and how to maintain my identity outside of Mother as a “people-person.” As much as I loved my healthy bright boys, I felt so lonely. For some reason it was so much harder to make friends, close friends now that I was a mom. I needed people.

My husband was incredibly supportive and said we should set up our schedules and finances so I could take weekend trips here and there to re-energize myself. I also desperately ached for a creative outlet since performing wasn’t really doable at the time, and signed up for a Beginning Photography night class at a local college. 

I began taking short trips to visit old friends who lived in other states and on one occasion, I scored killer plane tickets and enjoyed a whirlwind “Mama Spring Break” trip to Greece with an old friend from college. (I highly don’t suggest a quick turn around trip to the other side of the world but also, it was wild and amazing and exhauuuusting and incredible and I cherish it dearly). Traveling had been a deep passion of mine and it felt so good to be doing it again! Most of all to be traveling with a friend. Both of us were mamas. But for those few days in Greece, we were wide-eyed, excited college kids again, ready to tackle the map and see it all!

 Nothing bonds two people like experiencing a foreign country together. You could end up having the worst time or an awful Airbnb, or get lost in a city and not know the language or run out of money ooooor you stumble on the most amazing, charming, cobblestoned seaside town in the history of ever and there’s just no explaining it to anyone else. Either way, doing it alongside a dear friend makes it pure adventure and you’re forever connected in that experience. In between site seeing and over meals, we poured our hearts out to each other about our frustrations and excitements, about our business dreams, about how surreal and amazing it was to be there, about how much fun we had way back when when we were roommates in London, about how amazing our babies are, about how amazing our husbands are, what it’s like to be older with so many more responsibilities and unknowns. We were connecting as mothers and friends. And it was so very healing. 

Inevitably, each time I’m away, I always have a very definitive moment where something happens, a feeling strikes my heart, and I always have the thought, “I’m ready to go back now. I miss my kids so much it hurts.” That short time away where I’m able to connect with another woman who totally gets it is therapeutic in every way and I’m so much better prepared to tackle motherhood once I return. I’m literally aching for it. But most importantly, when I’m in the throes of day to day life, I realize simple connections like a phone call or a Marco Polo message buoy me up and help me to keep going and stay sane. 

The rage still flairs from time to time to be honest. It But I know how to cope with it now, and know it’s ok to step away for a moment. Remember: Momming is hard! Do it with a friend, take breaks, and look at the scenery when you can!

Yoga Retreat 2020: Logan, UT

Yoga Retreat 2020: Logan, UT

It is the nature of women to look at our hearts, minds, and physical appearance and only see the flaws. We examine the pieces of us that we consider to be imperfect or broken and focus on them so much that we ultimately view ourselves as less valuable. At the Yoga Retreat we learned that although we all have weaknesses and have faced hardships in our lives we are indeed, not broken. It is natural that we feel pain, worry, heartache, fear, insecurity, and all the negative emotions that pass through our hearts and minds. They are a part of life and feeling them is not indicative of being broken.

The Wind Caves

We had a total of 16 women on the retreat and stayed in a beautiful brick laden AirBnB in North Logan. We kicked off the retreat with a 4 mile hike to The Wind Caves. The sun was shining, the women were brave, and the views were spectacular! After settling in at the house we enjoyed a delicious and healthy dinner prepared by Chef Lindsey followed by a workshop taught by Niki Olsen, a licensed therapist. We learned tools used in Mind and Body Bridging, a therapeutic approach that helps women understand that their pain and emotions have a powerful effect on their physicality. She taught us that we can, with practice, lessen that effect. Doing so can leave us feeling more powerful and in control of our emotions and negative thoughts leaving our bodies and minds relaxed and available to connect with those around us and feel joy in our lives. We finished the night off with an outdoor yoga session with Jasmine and cleared our minds with peaceful meditation as we watched the sun set over the beautiful Cache Valley.

On day two we prepared our minds and bodies for the day with early morning yoga under the clear blue sky. In this session we learned about the meaning of chakras and offered gratitude to our powerful bodies and the gift they truly are. We followed it up with a 3.5 mile hike up Richards Hollow where we stopped and had lunch at the bottom of a waterfall, giving us the opportunity to chat and connect with one another. Upon returning we were treated with a follow-up workshop with Niki, furthering our skills in bridging the gap between our bodies and minds. After another delicious meal from the chef we enjoyed a sunset yoga session and finished off the night with chatting, connecting and a lot of laughter!

Get Out There Girl retreats are intended to empower women. The Yoga Retreat did just that!  Women from all walks of life made lifelong friendships through adventure, pushing ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally. We spent time together crying, laughing, and most of all learning that we are not broken after all and that none of our so-called “flaws” have anything to do with our value as women. We also learned that we have an indelible power to manage our negative thoughts and utilize them as fuel to bring improvement, peace and joy to all aspects of our lives.

Share-My-Story Series: Ember

Share-My-Story Series: Ember

Life isn’t easy for anyone. No one gets a free pass for escaping life’s hard trials. Ember has been through a lot and has learned to choose self-compassion as she battles things that are out of her control. I look up to Ember and love her attitude. Something that she didn’t mention in her story is how she has been crushing her goals and keeping her commitments to herself. Self-compassion is motivating in the best way possible. Thank you for sharing Ember!

Ember’s Story:

As a busy mom of 5 kids over the span of 10 years, I was accustomed to being tired. As the symptoms started piling up, I knew something was wrong. The overwhelming fatigue, hair falling out, unexplained weight gain, anxiety, migraine headaches and depression were starting to dictate my everyday life. I set out on a quest to find out what was wrong. A few months later I found myself face to face with a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Disease (an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid).

It was a hard blow to me as an active mom, a dancer and an overall healthy woman who enjoys getting out and doing things with my kids and friends. As I searched for answers from medical professionals and started on my healing journey, I realized I needed to be gentle with myself through the whole process.

Ember skiing at Sundance

Once I was able to find answers and work through my medical issues, I embarked on a personal development journey to dig deep and rekindle the fire within me. I really focused on who I really was and accepting every part of me. I was able to manage my thoughts and have a more fulfilling life. I started choosing joy more often.

Then last summer I attended a “Get Out There Girl” Yoga retreat. The retreat was a culmination of many things for me. It was a peaceful getaway where I could just be me. It was a wonderful time to connect with Mother Nature and feel at peace. A safe place to connect with amazing women and learn from their life experiences. It was an awakening for my inner self as we did our Yoga practice each morning and evening. Next came the self-compassion workshop taught by Lisa Goff and it was just what I needed to hear and was a real culmination of my personal development journey. It felt like the last piece of the puzzle fell into place for me.

Ember at Gunlock Reservoir

I realized that I needed to be kinder to myself through the process of getting back to feeling more like myself. I needed to approach this stage of life with compassion and give myself space and time to heal. And also to allow myself to feel and process all the emotions that came along with it. I had been being gentle with myself, but this concept of self-compassion really opened my eyes and empowered me in a whole new way. It has been a wonderful gift that has helped me start feeling great again — both physically and mentally. Best of all, self-compassion is such an integrated part of my life and will continue to help me embrace every stage of life that comes my way.

Ember and her husband at Lower Calk Creek Falls

You can follow Ember on Instagram @emerge_empowered.

Share-My-Story Series: Brittany L.

Share-My-Story Series: Brittany L.

Brittany’s story:

Hi! I’m Brittany Long! I was raised in Tennessee with my 9 siblings, by my amazing parents. I moved out west to go to college and met my husband a couple of years later. In fact, Brittany was my neighbor at the time! So, I’ve known her for about the same time as my hubby! My hubby and I have been out west ever since. Going on 15 years of marriage and 4 children later we are still alive and well.

I say alive and well, because August 30, 2016, I was diagnosed with AML, a rare form of leukemia. I was sent directly to the LDS hospital in Salt Lake City where I stayed 32 days and had extreme Chemo. While there my doctors realized I had a very low chance of survival unless I received a bone marrow transplant. Thankfully I have so many siblings, because 4 of them were full matches. The doctors chose my brother LeGrand to be my donor. I was sent home for 3 weeks while they prepped for my transplant. Then I was sent back to the hospital for another 28 day stay while I recovered from my transplant. I could go on and on to explain my full story, but this is just a quick explanation to give you somewhat of an idea of what happened almost 4 years ago. During that time, and for months after, I had to give in to allowing people to help me and my family. I had to swallow my pride and allow others to help raise my 4 children for me, bring meals and clean my house because I couldn’t physically do it myself. My amazing mom would come to take care of us, and stay for a month at a time with a few weeks break, and then come right back. When I finally looked at myself as others saw me I was finally able to have self compassion and fully lay back and focus on myself and getting better.

Brittany and her mom during one of her hospital stays

I am now in remission and doing amazing! Fast forward about a year and a half later and my wonderful mom was diagnosed with Gallbladder cancer. You’ve never heard of it? Neither had we! It’s a very rare cancer and is mainly found after getting your gallbladder removed, it’s also in the same family as pancreatic cancer. After her diagnosis I was able to fly to TN quite a few times to be with her. My family and I just “knew” she’d be a miracle just like me! But, sadly, she ended up dying 4 months after being diagnosed. This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with in my life. I would’ve had cancer over and over myself, if it meant not losing my mom. She was my best friend and seriously, a mom others envied.

Brittany and her mom

I have always loved being around people, in fact, I had more visitors come to the hospital than any of the nurses had ever seen! And that’s because I welcomed visitors, I welcomed them to join along in my journey. But, after Momma died, I closed myself off. I found myself having social anxiety. I couldn’t put myself out there. When I went out with friends, all I thought about was getting home and into a safe environment where I didn’t have to open myself up.

I started seeing advertisements for Brittany’s GOTG retreats. I longed to go on them but had anxiety thinking about it. I finally got the courage up enough to go on the Cowgirl Retreat…because…HORSES!! I was so nervous, but I was going to do it. But, sadly the plans fell through for me. Finally Britt advertised a day retreat, only a day! If I could do anything, I could get through only a day! So, I signed up, I went, and can I just say….it was exactly what I needed!!!

Other women talked to me, shared their stories and welcomed hearing my own. We went on a beautiful hike, had an amazing yoga session, a yummy lunch and a wonderful speaker who spoke on sharing your “unimaginable”!! It felt like it was planned for me. With other people sharing their unimaginables, somehow I felt comfortable sharing mine. There wasn’t one moment where I wanted to go home, where I felt anxious or judged. It was exactly what I’ve been longing for. I felt uplifted and stronger for going. I can’t wait for another retreat! It gave me the strength and courage I needed to know that I can get out there again and continue to be around others, because honestly, making connections with others is what gets me through this bumpy road we call life!

Motherhood Martydom

Motherhood Martydom

One night when my fourth baby was still not sleeping through the night I got irritable. I expressed my frustrations to my husband listing out all the things I HAD to do because I was a mom and had no choice.

Now let me pause and tell you about my husband for a second. My husband is more rational than emotional. Like 97% rational and 3% emotional. He is such a good husband and human. He balances out my 97% emotional and 3% rational.

That night he looked at me and said, “Brittany, stop playing the martyr.”

I was shocked and hurt and honestly pissed off. Here I was sacrificing myself for the family we created and he was calling me a martyr! After I cooled off I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind. Was I a martyr? Were there things I was “sacrificing” that weren’t completely necessary? After taking an honest look at myself I discovered that Ben was in part right. There were things I was taking upon myself because I thought I had to in order to be a good mom. Things that if I was being honest would be fine without my “sacrifice”.

After this realization I stopped using the mom excuse as often. Sure I still use it because being a mom means putting other people first. But now when I can, I do something for myself. I let my husband pick up my slack or I let it go undone. No more martyr Brittany. I choose to stay at home and be my children’s care giver and I’ve also chosen to stop using excuses to put myself last.

This doesn’t mean that I am the first to sit down and eat dinner while my kids fend for themselves. What it does mean is that I make sure I also eat dinner at the table like everyone else. I deserve to live my life fully and not just watch my family live theirs.

The past two years of living my life fully has been amazing. I am no longer a martyr. When an opportunity to do something for myself comes up I take an honest look at my life and my situation and if I can pull it off I do it! I am happier and more willing to do things for my family because I trust that my needs will also get met. I have more of me to give because I am investing in myself.

A martyr is a person who is killed because of their beliefs. Don’t let motherhood be your martyrdom. Don’t forget who you are because you are a mom.

Life is meant to be enjoyed, not just endured. Live your life. I promise it’s better when you do.

To All The Moms

To All The Moms

To all you mom’s who have ever thought that being a mom was both the best and the hardest thing you have ever done. This is for you.

When the nights are long and the sleep isn’t happening because someone needs you.

When your husband says he’ll be home late again and you desperately needed backup.

When the only people you converse with are toddlers and incapable of completing a logical thought.

When you start calling it the “potty” instead of the “bathroom”.

When all you want is to be validated.

When you think you are legit going crazy.

When you carry a baby inside your body for nine months and then knock on death’s door to get them out. Then don’t sleep for another 12 months while you wake up to feed them out of your once attractive boob every two hours.

When you have been thrown up on, pooped on and peed on too many times to count.

When you have been told you are the worst mother ever and you are ruining your child’s life.

When you yell at your kids one minute and then want to snuggle them the next.

When you can’t wait for a night out and then talk about your kids the entire time you are away.

When your biggest worry is whether you are failing as a mom.

When you watch kids shows more than adult shows.

When the plans that you’ve had for months get cancelled because a little one got sick.

When your bed suddenly gets much smaller because someone had a bad dream and needs to sleep with you.

When you realize that sleeping in isn’t going to happen until retirement. Kids don’t know what Saturday or daylight savings is!

When you daydream of free time.

When you enjoy things like grocery shopping and ironing if you can do them alone.

When every single thing revolves around your children.

When you wish you could be sick instead of your little one.

When you worry all day whether your child is being bullied at school or making friends.

When you want to take all the hard things away from your kids so they don’t have to struggle but you know it’s vital that they do.

When you live a tormented life because you are constantly running through every bad thing that could happen in your head so that you are prepared for it and can save your kids.

When you wonder if anyone notices everything that you do each day.

When you realize that you don’t ever get “off of work”.

When your happiness is tied to the little humans you created.

When you look through pictures of your kids after they go to bed.

When you sneak in to look at your sleeping babies one more time before going to bed yourself.

When you cry because you feel like you failed.

When you pray that God will make up for your weaknesses and your kids will turn out alright.

When you recognize yourself in your child.

When your child tells you they love you.

When you sing a bedtime song and they rest their head on your shoulder.

When they ask you to kiss a boo-boo and it makes it all better.

When they tell you about a hard situation they handled beautifully.

When they look in the mirror and smile back at who they see.

When they turn another year older and you can’t fathom how it happened so fast.

When you are proud of who they are becoming and can’t believe that they came from you.

When your child smiles and all your troubles go away.

When your child’s laugh is your favorite sound in the world.

When you pray each night that God will bless you with another day to live the life he has given you

When there is nothing else in the world you would rather do than all of these things, you are a mom.

I see you. I thank you. I love you.