Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Battle with Food, Depression, and Finding Balance.

I have experienced more life in the past 2 years than I have in my entire 32 years on this earth. I have learned so much about myself and how I want to spend the rest of my life walking this earth.  Below is a short list of things I have learned that are important to me and who I am today and who I want to be in the future.  I am going to take a few things from this list and elaborate on them later in this post but first I want to share these life changing lessons.

1. I am breathing and that is a reason to smile.
2. Pain is bearable and there is nothing to be scared of. Therefore...
3. I am fearless
4. I love so much deeper than the average person because I have no fear
5. My ability to recognize someone else's pain and to nurture them is INCREDIBLE
6. I will never save a space for someone in my life that brings me down. Not even for a second. 
7. Food should be used as fuel for our bodies but it is VERY important to ENJOY what you are fueling your body with. (being able to acknowledge the difference between eating for enjoyment and eating to soothe pain was huge for me) 
8. Giving to others and not expecting anything in return is THEEEEEE most rewarding thing we can do as humans
9. Being vulnerable draws in human connection ( I blogged about this one here)
10. Finding balance between work, play, loving yourself, eating, exercising, and family is #1. Without balance I fall apart, which means I must include all of the above in my every day life...NO EXCEPTIONS. 
11. Being active and sweating each day is a MAJOR part of my happiness ( I will never stop)
12. I believe life will be grand because I trust myself to make it that way. 
13. My faith in everything keeps growing stronger 
For the remainder of this post I want to share my battle with # 7 on my list.  FOOD!!!!  Believe it or not, it is one of the most important tools to help battle grief. I never knew food played such an incredible role in our emotional well being.  It affects our moods, our brains, our activity levels, how we treat others, whether we sleep well, and most importantly our feelings. In the beginning of my 2 year struggle(Jul-Sept '12) I didn't think twice about eating.  I had just had my daughter and soon lost her, so food was the last thing on my mind.  I would go through my days so preoccupied with the sadness that food was only important when my body told me I was hungry.  I wasn't overeating or under eating, I was just surviving and eating intuitively(listening to my body's hunger signals). Prior to that I was always a healthy eater but not one of those organic healthy eaters.  I liked to eat salads and low calorie meals. I would also meal replace with the things I loved, if I was in the mood for them so I wouldn't overeat. (ex: ice cream, cheese curls, gummy candy, etc.) I was also very active and always into sports.  There was never a time when I wasn't sweating my butt off at a field, court, or gym, even throughout my adult years.  When I started working out again post pregnancy/loss(Oct. '12) I got introduced to the primal (paleo) lifestyle.  I read a couple of books about it and I was hooked.  I was ready for a distraction. This way of life intrigued me because it's focus was on how processed foods could lead to depression and how we as Americans are all addicted to sugar. 

Number 1: I was a confessed sugar addict so to read stories about how sugar was poison to our bodies completely freaked me out and made me want to change. 

Number 2:  I had just experienced probably the toughest thing I will ever go through, so why not make it easier on myself and NOT take those slippery steps and risk falling into a depression. (which I had a 99% chance of doing anyway but I was determined not to) 

After seeing Micah pass I just wanted to be as healthy as possible.  I didn't want anymore heartache in my life. I wanted to take every precaution so that I could one day have healthy children and have the family I've always wanted.  Being healthy became my new passion/obsession.  

About 7 months later I had dropped all of my baby/grief weight and then some(about 40lbs). By June 2013 I was the lowest I had ever been in my entire young adult life. I was around 130 lbs and feeling AMAZING.  I was only working out 3-4x/wk and eating just the way my trainers told me to. I was counting my macros in my "lose it" app and I was fueling my body just the way the books said. My skin was clear, I was sleeping so well, I loved how my clothes were fitting, I was waking up every day excited to go to work but the only problem was I wasn't ENJOYING the food. I would eat and feel great but the process of eating lost it's enjoyment.  I didn't feel like I could go out with friends and enjoy life because, what restaurants in NJ had organic meats and vegetables? If I lived in California, that would be a whole different story.  I went there for spring break and I remember driving about 10 miles and not seeing 1 fast food place, instead every corner had an organic juice bar or restaurant.   It was awesome but that wasn't my reality.  I wanted to live and still feel like I had the freedom to eat like everyone else but I was torn because I also loved how I felt.  I wasn't depressed, I woke up every day loving myself, feeling great in my own skin for the first time in my entire life and to accomplish that feeling in one of the worst years of my life was SO REWARDING.  I had come to a cross roads with my new passion.  Did I really want to be THIS healthy and not enjoy life? Was having this perfect body more important than making memories with friends and family? Life is short and I was starting to feel like my priorities were all out of whack. (meanwhile I am still grieving through all of this) I NEEDED TO FIND BALANCE but I didn't know it at the time, my focus was just on feeling good and looking good. I felt like if I looked good and felt good then my reality would go away.  It could be as if I was never pregnant and never experienced losing my baby. I wasn't addressing the real issues. 

Of course, I started questioning all of this right around Micah's 1st  birthday(July 13, 2013). Talk about bad timing, I was on the verge of spiraling out of control. The upcoming emotions I was about to feel along with the pizza, cake, and ice cream I was about to eat was the deadliest combination. I had signed up to do a mud run on Micah's birthday so of course the plan was to devour food afterwards and splurge because it was such a HUGE day filled with so many different emotions. I had been so cool and steady for the past 7 months, that I was bound to break.  I wasn't completely addressing the grief.  I was keeping myself distracted with staying on track with my health and fitness goals.  Once I allowed the sugar and processed foods back into my life all hell broke loose. I finally let go of my goals and the sadness poured itself back into my life. I then became addicted to sugar again and it was worse than ever because my body had been without it for sooooooo long.  I found myself crying every single day.  I had such highs and lows. My goals were SHOT, I was coming to terms with the fact that I DID have a baby and she is no longer here, I am no longer with Bill (my best friend), my body was starting to change, WHAT THE HECK was I supposed to do with all of those feelings during the summer time with NOTHING to distract me?   The food absolutely caused this and made my grief that much worse.  Depression had set in.

My body was freaking out.  My hormones were out of control. I was craving sugar like you wouldn't believe.  I couldn't stop thinking about food. It was uncontrollable.  I eventually lost my menstrual cycle because of my stress levels. I just LOST IT ALL. Everything I had worked for was gone.  I thought I was this strong girl who could overcome anything because of how I handled my first year post loss but I felt so defeated, embarrassed, ashamed, and just DEPRESSED.  Boom!!! There I said it.  My goal was to never be depressed and now I was the epitome of a depressed women who lost her child.  I felt weak.  January '14 rolls around and life just wasn't getting any better.  I had put on 15 lbs, back to my pre-pregnancy weight which was unacceptable, winter had set in and we were having snow day after snow day and I was just feeling like I couldn't do it anymore.  I broke down and decided to get a little help with an anti-depressant.  I was now on the birth control pill(to help get my period back) and an anti-depressant.  Who was I? I have never been someone to take medicine so for me this was a big deal.  I stayed on both meds for about 8 months.  In those 8 months I started to eat better, I started dating someone, I had never stopped working out but I did start to look at working out as a punishment, so that become another mental struggle.  Throughout those 8 months I was determined to find a way to get my PERFECT body back. I was so fixated on how I felt when I was at my lowest back in June '13.  I was so happy but yet I wasn't living.  I then began to search for balance.  I researched as much as I could and tweaked my macros (carbs, fats, and proteins) a million different ways trying to find the best way to lose weight, FEEL GOOD, enjoy the food, and keep it off.   I did drop a few pounds but then I went through another tough break up in Jul '14 which in turn caused another cycle of SUMMER DEPRESSION.  

FYI... I now look forward to winter because I freaking dread my summers.  Again...WHO AM I?  I never thought I'd ever say I dread summer.  Another indicator that I am still in a deep depression. 

Fast forward to October 2014.  I am back to work, I began blogging again, I have sat down and processed everything I've been through. I am dealing with my grief every day,  I am no longer focusing on my body or food because I now see that was a coping mechanism.  My new focus is on finding BALANCE.  Once I stopped the obsession with comparing myself to that body I had a year ago I began living again. I stopped taking all meds this past October and I finally got my menstrual cycle back after not having it for a year and 3 months...Yay for me! I just finished reading a book called "Intuitive Eating" which has SAVED my life.  I highly recommend it for anyone who has ever set a weight loss goal.  It's MIND BLOWING how much that book has completely changed my mindset.  I will never diet again and I will eat whatever I want whenever I want and I already HAVE the body of my dreams.  The size of that body does not matter one bit because I am blessed with a functioning body.  AMEN!!!!! 

How I eat/live now: 
1. I still meal prep because that is what makes me happy
2. If an opportunity arises to go out to eat I jump at the chance unless I am trying to save money
3. I still try and JERF(just eat real food) 3 out of my 5 meals in a day
4. I do NOT count macros or calories
5. I listen to my body's hunger signals
6. I still try to balance my carbs pre and post workout because I know how to fuel my body now
7. I workout to feel good and I only do workouts that I WANT to do
8. I no longer do cheat meals, re feed days, or splurges. If I am craving something I eat it but it doesn't mean I eat TONS of it.  Moderation is key. Even if that means eating processed food every day, I will do it in moderation as long as I still feel okay after eating it. 
9. I pay attention to my feelings and acknowledge them.  I no longer soothe them with distractions.  
10. I am a balancing act and I love it. 

Your food choices affect your EVERY DAY life. You have a choice to feel good.  Life is too short to be miserable every single day.  Appreciate what your body can do instead of making exercise  a punishment to look a certain way. DO NOT eat past satiation just to soothe something that deserves YOUR attention immediately. Address those feelings because you are worthy of happiness.   Fuel your body with REAL FOOD and you will feel good.   I have found BALANCE and I know it will be work for the rest of my life but my happiness is worth it. 

I heart BALANCE!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Love of My Life

I've talked about Micah being the love of my love many times and how I am so lucky to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.  It is such a strange concept and some days I feel completely different about it.  One minute the pain is awful and I think, " I hate this and I want it gone" but then the next minute I think about Micah never being here and that's just wrong to think or even say out loud. Every day is SOOO different but the tough days are definitely fewer and far between. Today is one of those tough days. More like a tough few hours.  I try not to let it last all day.  So here is what I'm feeling today...

Feeling that deep internal love for someone that you created is ...well...just....the most powerful thing a human can feel.  On the reverse side of things it is also the most painful thing to feel when we lose that precious miracle.  We dreamt of a future for them, we wanted to give them everything we never had. We lost all of those hopes and dreams for who they might become, we lost the chance to hear them laugh or see them smile, we will never know what they would have been like as a child, a teenager, and an adult.  The pain of that kind of loss can't be measured on a scale of 1 to 10.  It can't even be put into words.  It is a deep cut into your soul and dulls everything around it leaving you lifeless.  The pain I feel RIGHT NOW is unbearable, it makes me not care about anything in my life.  Everything is meaningless, it's hopeless, I'm hopeless, the world just doesn't matter anymore.  How can the pain be so bad if not worse 2 years later?(perfect example of why you should never put a timeline on someone's grieving process-click here to read about that) Who gives a crap about working out, eating healthy, making money, buying clothes, decorating houses, spending time with other people's kids, listening to other people's problems?  Every second of every day I want to be doing something different than what I am actually doing. I want to be hugging and kissing MY baby. I want to be raising her to be the most amazing human ever. There isn't a minute that goes by that I don't think about doing that.  I find myself crying on my couch and wanting desperately to reach for comfort from someone. Maybe text my sisters, or my best friend, or even Bill? But none of that sounds appealing but yet I still just want to be held.  What else can I do?  I can't breathe.  I can't move.  I'm shaking. I'm alone. How do you cope with this? I know what I want and what I need but I can't have it, at least not for a really long time.  I want the love of my life back.  I want to breathe again.  I want Micah.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Being Vulnerable = Being Connected

One of the items on my dream board is to always share my story.  I included that because I have come to realize that it is a CRUCIAL piece to my healing process.  For about 6 months, I wanted to forget my story and erase my past.  That was probably one of the deadliest thoughts I could have ever had.  It was the grief talking. I wanted to run away and start all over.  After I came to and realized my story is apart of me and who I am, all kinds of doors opened.  I found myself talking about Micah more and talking about my grief, which in turn made me feel alive. I found that spark inside myself again. By the way, those doors didn't open by themselves either.  I put myself out there, I shared my vulnerability, I shared my anger, and in return I unlocked every door that was keeping me trapped in that dark room I like to call HELL.  The minute I stopped sharing my story I turned that key, locked myself in that room and STOPPED living.  I have no doubt that so many other parents are doing the exact same thing.  I am writing this now in hopes that ONE grieving parent will read this and have the strength to set themselves free.

Our children are our entire lives.  They are why we wake up every morning, they give us strength to get through the tough days, they keep us grounded and make us realize that any insignificant life issues we face will slowly fade away when we walk through that door and see their smiling face running towards us screaming " Mommy" or "Daddy." Those are the moments we live for.  As grieving parents we need to hold onto those moments and keep talking about them. As long as we do that, they will always be here and we are the ones that have to keep their spirit strong. If we don't then who will?

Connection is why we are here on earth.  We are neurobiologically wired to seek connection with other humans.  Connection gives us purpose and meaning to our lives.  Shame is the fear of disconnection.  No one wants to talk about it and the more you don't talk about it the more you HAVE IT.  The shame a grieving parent feels is excruciating.  It's not the shame you are thinking of. (ie: an alcoholic might feel shame for the choices they've made in the past). I can't speak for everyone grieving but I feel ashamed of the fact that I am an outcast.  I feel like a freak some days.  I don't feel connected. I feel ashamed of most of my emotions because I'm not sure if they are normal.(whatever normal is anyway)  We feel like if people find out about our shame we won't be worthy of connection. We feel like we are doomed.  The idea of being "seen" is terrifying but in order to reconnect with humans again we have to be SEEN.  Being seen means being vulnerable.

I've learned there is nothing to feel ashamed of.  It is completely normal to be vulnerable and to feel weak because LOOK at all we've lost.  We lost our lives essentially.  We lost that spark that was lit when our children were born. We lost those special moments to look forward to.  We don't have those smiles and hugs to share at the end of every day.  But if we don't open up and expose ourselves then we will never be able to connect with the world again and we will never FEEL again.  We have to break out of that dark room by sharing our story.  We are responsible for keeping our spirits alive along with the spirits of our children.  In doing so, we just might help change the lives of EVERYONE around us and how awesome would that be to know that lives all around us are changing for the better because of OUR son or daughter's legacy.  That right there is called CONNECTING, INSPIRING, EMPOWERING, and most of all LIVING. Let's make our short time here on earth the very best it can be. We can't let the darkness suck us in.

I know for a fact that Micah has changed hundreds of lives.  Last Wednesday(Oct. 15th) was "Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day." That will be a day I will never forget.   I stepped out of my way for a moment and allowed myself to be vulnerable. I didn't hide from the world and light my own candle in the sad darkness I had been living in.  I took a risk and invited all of my friends and family(hundreds of people) on social media to join me in the celebration on that special day.  The amount of people that participated in the "wave of light at 7pm" in memory of Micah and many other angels was INCREDIBLE.  My phone was blowing up all night, through the night, and into the morning.  I felt like Micah was alive again.  I felt like I had just given birth to her and everyone was congratulating me.  I was bringing her to life again and it felt so good.  I can't even explain the feelings that flooded my body.  I LET MYSELF BE SEEN!  I wasn't afraid.  I realized in that moment that I am so grateful to be able to experience such deep, passionate connection and LOVE.  Some people walk this earth and never experience this GREAT LOVE.  This is why being vulnerable and sharing your story will change YOUR life and the lives of everyone around you. It is why we are here on this earth.  Don't be scared to feel again.  I know it is a risk but I have told myself over and over again that I would never trade my story for the world. Would you trade yours?  Micah and I are theeeeee most powerful act of love that I will ever experience. I want the world to see it = I want to CHANGE THE WORLD!

Some pics from Oct. 15th

My great friend Alyssa and her husband Dennis were there to light a candle with me along with my mom and my other angel momma friend, Bethann(not pictured). 

These are some posts from my family lighting their candles for Micah! 

My sister Holly's 4 kids:

My brother's daughters: 
Kasey - 10

My brother Dave and his girlfriend Stacy lighting their candle all the way from Arizona while on a work/vacay trip. 

My sister Julie lit her candle along side Micah's handprints <3

I want to give a HUGE thank you to everyone that posted, emailed, or texted pics of their beautifully lit candles in memory of Micah.  I am so grateful for all of you taking the time to share your love.  I feel connected with the world again, I feel like I have a purpose and I have my vulnerability to thank for that.  Even if you have never lost a child, you can benefit from exposing yourself to other humans.  The minute we start sharing is the minute we start living.

Happy Sunday =)


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tips on How to Talk to a Grieving Parent

"I've been surprised by people's genuine kindness and empathy as much as I've been repeatedly shocked and disappointed by their lack of it."

This is a quote from a recent article that I read, which was written by a mother, Samantha Hayward, who had also lost her child.  She wrote the article in hopes to help educate our society on how to address grieving parents.  The subject is so taboo and there is clearly not enough literature on how to handle the topic or talk to a parent that is suffering the horrific loss of his/her child.  I'm assuming that it is not talked about because others do not want to open that door for fear of what lies behind it.  The pain is something they never ever want to feel or even want to try to think about.  It's as if they FEAR the FEAR.  This article really made me feel like I wasn't alone.  Samantha made me see that there are so many other parents going through exactly what I'm feeling. (annnnnnnnd it makes me so sad to even type that sentence because that just means so many other children have left this earth way too soon...UGHHHH Why? Why do children have to die?  It is not okay.) 

After crying a whole lot and processing that article, I decided to take Samantha’s 10 tips and modify them to fit me and my personal opinions on the topic. She talks a lot about the things people would say or not say and how they both could hurt her feelings and ultimately lead to the end of some relationships.  We all know that NO ONE intends to say the wrong thing to a grieving parent, but sometimes it may be better to say nothing at all.  I understand that knowing when to say something, when not to, and what to say in this situation can be quite confusing.  So, here are a few tips to help you decide whether to bite your lip or when and how to show the perfect amount of affection to a loved one who is grieving the loss of a child. 

My tips: 

1. Please stop with the comments about how lucky I am to even have gotten pregnant in the first place. Of course it was a blessing, believe me I know what kind of miracle it is to conceive, carry, and give birth to a healthy baby, but must you throw it in my face that I "should" be feeling grateful when I just had to make a decision on whether to bury or to cremate my first and only baby?  Also, for parents that have other children, I am sure that it hurts just the same when someone says how lucky you are to have your other children to come home to, as if that makes it easier to deal with such a loss.

2. There are still some times that I just need to take a day off from work and hide from the world, which I just did a couple weeks ago.  Please don't assume that I've thrown in the towel or I've lost my mind because "it's been 2 years now  and I shouldn't be calling out of work” or even WORSE, be so thoughtless to wonder "what's wrong?"  Good LORD I would love to rage at someone when they ask me that!  Like, are you serious?!  My kid is dead, gone, like no longer on this earth and you are wondering why I'm crying or why I can't come to work?   The ignorance blows my mind sometimes.  So please don't assume that because two years have gone by that I should be "better" at dealing with my grief.  I'm anticipating that I will still need some mental health days 5 years down the road and there is nothing wrong with that so please be aware that your loved ones have the freedom to grieve whenever and however they need to. It does not mean they've gone off the deep end.  It's normal. 

3. Grieving for a child lasts a lifetime.  If you are wondering when your friend or loved one who has lost a child will eventually stop grieving, STOP RIGHT THERE.  There is no such time.  It is FOREVER and please recognize that and tell them they are allowed to grieve to the end of time or until they are able to see and hug their child again. (I recently told my hair dresser my story and one of the first things she said to me was that exact line about "grieving until the end of time."  I just had to hug her when she said that because she made me feel incredible. I felt free from judgment as soon as she said that. THANKS AGAIN ELAINE.

4. The loss of a child can destroy a relationship instantly.  Bill and I split 8 months after Micah had passed, and it was so incredibly hard to adjust to that new life.  The thought of not being with the two most important humans in my life, for the rest of my life, was so UNBELIEVABLE.  I felt like someone just took a bulldozer to my perfectly framed home that I had spent months/years building, and not to mention, I was about to decorate the shit out of that house with love, laughter, memories, and so much more.  POOF! GONE! Even though relationships end, it doesn't mean that all ties must be severed.  I mean how could you NOT talk to the ONE person on this earth that went through something so horrific with you. It's kind of like when someone saves your life, and you are forever connected to that person because in that scary moment he/she was by your side in your most vulnerable moments. Same thing happens when two parents lose a child, especially when they both hold their baby as she takes her last breath.  It is a bond so tight that no one, not even God could break.  Bill and I will always be there for each other. PERIOD.  So please stop with the weird looks or the assumptions that Bill and I are getting back together or maybe the thoughts that one of us is leading the other one on. STOP.  We are not getting back together and we CAN text, call, and see each other as much as we would like.  We understand each other’s pain, and we want to grieve together some days.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

5. Acknowledging Micah's birthday or the anniversary of her death the first year she was gone was incredibly heartwarming and touching, but when you don't bother to acknowledge it year after year ( in my case the 2nd year) it is completely gut wrenching.  It makes me feel like I should get used to nobody acknowledging the fact that I did spend 9 months pregnant, I did go through a long inducing process to end up having a c-section, I did have a beautiful daughter, and I did spend hours upon hours at CHOP taking care of my baby. That all HAPPENED and I'll be damned if I don't honor her life every single year.  This is one of those cases that saying something is much better than not!!  Acknowledging and celebrating my child on her birthday is essentially what every parent would hope for.

6. Feeling left out.  I do notice when I don't get invited to certain dinner dates, events, or outings.  Don't think that I haven't noticed the few people that dwindled away and couldn't handle the work it might take to stay along for the bumpy ride with me.  I understand it is WORK to be friends with me now, I am not always a walk in the park, but I also don't deserve to be pushed aside because you are tired of my grief.  Really???  Is your life so hard and busy that you can't make time for me anymore?  Don't try and be friendly in the future because it's obvious what kind of friend you are.  One not worth having.  Good friendships are just as important as a marriage.  For better or worse.  They take work, effort and do not sustain themselves.  If that seems like too much for you, then see you later…

7. Please don't say "I want the old Michelle back."  Believe me, I want the old Michelle back, too, but that will NEVER happen and coming from anyone else, but me, sounds like a complete insult.  It's as if I am currently not cutting it for your high standards, and if the old Michelle isn't coming back, then I guess you won't be hanging around any longer. My entire world got flipped upside down and left in a million pieces.  Therefore, it is going to take me some time to put everything back into NEW SPOTS.  At the same time,  try not to forget that in the midst of all of that, I am grieving TWO losses: my daughter's life and my own, because I no longer recognize who I see in the mirror each day.  

8. Please include me in mommy convos! Do not be afraid to ask me or include me in conversations about my pregnancy, birth story or things Micah did as a baby.  I constantly hear other mothers sharing their stories with their other "mother" friends and for some reason, I am never included in those conversations, even though I am sitting right there. It hurts so much when I am left out of those conversations. It makes me feel like I am NO LONGER A MOM, which is not the case.  Those conversations are definitely triggers for me.  I've learned to barge in and say, "well Micah used to do that too," and I honestly get so many different reactions.  It is not weird to talk about someone who has passed.  You make it weird when you react like a moron and can't keep the convo going. My advice to someone who is in those conversations and is thinking "should I ask? No, maybe she is having a bad day?" You can always say "Do you mind me asking about Micah?" That right there could turn a bad day into the best day of the week for me!

 I hope that I gave you all some helpful tools to take with you so that you can one day pull a grieving friend under your wing and say all of the right things.

Please don't fear us, as we do not bite!  We might bark a bit, but we WON'T if you make an effort to be kind and considerate. We CANNOT do this alone, and we NEED your love and support, whether you believe it or not.  Your words matter, A LOT =)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dream Board

Grief can really steer your brain away from reality. You become obsessed with pain and you feel like happiness does not exist in the world.  You see others smile and you think they are lying to themselves because the world couldn't possibly be that great for everyone else and not you.  You are smothered with thoughts of guilt, thoughts of what if I had done this, thoughts that are just not realistic.  You become consumed by these, as I like to call them, poisonous thoughts.  They grow and grow and grow and before you know it you are a tree covered in poison ivy and you can't breathe.  Grief is inevitable in life. We will all experience it at one point or another.  No loss is greater than the other.  Loss is loss. Hurt is hurt. We are all human and we all feel pain, some more than others. It's just how the dice gets rolled. One thing I didn't understand about my loss or think would ever happen was how much it could incapacitate me and my daily functions.  I've come to learn what my "triggers" are and things I should not partake in if it's going to leave me spiraling out of control.  It took me a really long time to learn what those triggers were but once I closed in on them I was able to prevent a lot of unnecessary heartache.  Like I said above grief can take you down a very very DARK path and it is scary.  You feel suffocated, trapped, smothered, hopeless, cheated, and most of all UNLOVED and ALONE. The thoughts that follow those feelings are so deep and entangled it is almost impossible to just stop thinking them.  You can't distract your brain from them like you would if you were suffering from a rough break up or the loss of your job.  The thoughts are your REALity even though they are so FAR from what you would normally find yourself thinking about. They become your daily focus and now it is completely clear why I couldn't even shower some days.

I'm sure you are all wondering" the heck do you get out of that hell?" If you are grieving the loss of a loved one my only advice is to start small and do simple simple tasks around the house. Some days you will just go back to bed but others you might make big strides and end up taking those small tasks a step further.  Before you know it you are at target talking with a friend you hadn't seen in a couple months and also buying a shit ton of stuff you don't need or you are outside going for run.  Just like the poison ivy grows and grows, the same thing happens in reverse, you take one positive step and you find yourself at the top of a hill looking down at everything you accomplished. You feel empowered and you want to do it again the next day.  The trick is to not look up at that hill thinking it isn't doable.  Don't look up just keep looking down and focus on moving your feet.

I am currently in that positive spiral effect right now.  I never thought I'd blog again but I took that first step and let my feelings out and now look at me go...I'm letting the feelings flow through my fingers as I type each week.  It's so therapeutic that EVERYONE grieving should type their feelings.  We can type a whole lot faster than we can write and it feels like we are ridding our minds of these thoughts and feelings faster than we ever could before. I am climbing that hill each day and it doesn't feel like a daunting task anymore.  I am back to teaching, working out like usual but not obsessing about it(that could be another whole post in itself, maybe another day), meeting up with friends to catch up on their lives(even though those days can set me back because I end up rehashing my recent weeks but it still feels good to speak to humans), and finally I am LIVING and thinking normal everyday thoughts again.  The grief will never consume me AGAIN!  I refuse to let it.  I have worked way too hard to dig myself out of that poison ivy, I want to feel free EVERY day and so the uphill battle continues.  My life will never be easy but I have to remember the set of tools I've learned along the way in order to live my life as healthy as possible.

I recently created a "dream board" in order to force myself to focus on everything I want from this one life I have. I am trying to keep the positivity flowing and it honestly makes me feel so good to look at it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  I have complete faith that I will make all of the things on my board HAPPEN and happen SOON!  I refuse to sit back and wait.  I will have everything I want and more because I deserve it and I want to the be the person to reward MYSELF.  A good friend keeps reminding me that " GOOD THINGS ARE GOING TO HAPPEN" and I get excited every time she writes me those words.  BRING IT ON! I'm ready.

My dream board list: 
1. Travel the world
2. SOULMATE (One day, someone will walk into your life and make you see why it never worked out with anyone else) 
3. Wedding of my dreams (Get married under a beautifully lit tree with a massive heart(representing Micah's presence) on the trunk)
4. Rocks = BALANCE (doing everything in my life in moderation and not obsessing over ANYTHING)
5. LOVE ME in every shape, every emotion, EVERY DAY (love yourself first and everything else will fall into place)
6. Power over my thoughts ( Once you become consciously aware of just how powerful your thoughts are, you will realize everything in your life is exactly how YOU allow it to be)
7. A beautiful loving FAMILY
8. ALWAYS SHARE MY STORY (never stop talking about Micah with others including strangers)
9. Declaration of Intention ( This year I will "find balance." I will let go of the "anger" and embrace the "grief."  I will honor "my daughter" and love my "self."  I will stand up and share my "heart" with the world. 
10. JERF (Just Eat Real Food) - Real food= nourishing, sustainable, and delicious/ Healthy living is why I'm smiling/Happy taking care of my body/ Working out gives me Energy
11. ALWAYS GIVE (giving is the antidote to emptiness)

I hope I've inspired you all to create your own board because we ALL deserve to reward ourselves with EVERYTHING we want in this ONE life we get.  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Life Doesn't Come With an Eraser

This quote struck a nerve with me last night as I laid in the bath tub after a killer leg workout with my best friend, Brittni.  I read these words over and over again and suddenly something changed. My mind was so clear and my body immediately felt such RELIEF. I had been trying to erase everything that has happened in the past 2 years: the birth of my daughter, the days taking care of her at CHOP, the long nights without her, kissing her little cheeks goodbye, all of the therapy sessions where I was constantly searching for ways to cope, the breakup between Bill and I, the grief we both share that will forever bond us, the short bursts of happiness that didn't last and tricked me into thinking I was finally starting to be happy, losing all of my baby/grief weight to only put some of it back on every time her birthday and anniversary come around, a recent relationship that knocked my socks off and then ended in such heartbreak,  renting out my condo and moving home because hospital bills and paying a mortgage alone again after 8 years was detrimental to me financially, I JUST WANTED TO ERASE IT ALL!!!!
But last night it was crystal clear.  All of those things do define me and have molded me in to who I am.  I had been searching and searching for who this new Michelle would be but I wasn't acknowledging my past.  I wasn't embracing it and accepting my reality.  I was running from it and trying to create this whole new better life.  Then when things wouldn't go my way in the process I would immediately be crushed because my plans of this new fabulous existence without hurt would then be filled with more loss and more hurt.  Talk about setting unrealistic expectations.  I was doing it all wrong. But if I didn't do it wrong I would have never learned how to do it right.  There is no right way for EVERYONE. Everyone grieves differently but I hope this post reaches someone on the level that, that quote reached me.  Words can be said a million times but until you process them in a way that fits your needs, you will never fully understand the true meaning of them.  I finally understand what it means when someone says "your past molds you into the person you are today."  It sounds so simple to understand but when your past is full of SO many losses you can't possible think that they should be the things that define you or make you better.  Who wants to remember the back to back losses they've experienced in such a short period of time??? I don't... but guess what?  I have to in order to LIVE in the NOW.  IT IS WHO I AM and it is a part of my journey in this world.  Starting now, I am no longer thinking that I am Michelle Thornton, the 32 yr old teacher/designer with a bright future and a blank past.  I am now Michelle Thornton, a loving mother, an incredible athlete, a dedicated coach, a hard worker, an emotionally equipped individual who can deal with any situation coming her way, a proud woman who will always acknowledge her amazing daughter that has passed, 1st team All American field hockey player, a national champion, an academic All American, (I've been blind to my other accomplishments because of grief getting in the way) and most of all I have become the most amazing teacher through all of this.  I have the opportunity to reach such a big audience because of my loss.  People admire me for still waking up in the morning and putting a smile on my face. They want to learn more about me and who I am because I AM still standing and I've made it. My audience ranges from students, colleagues, friends, family and even strangers.  I find myself educating people about grief, love, nutrition, fitness, life, home design, whatever. It's incredible to have so many people that love me and want to LISTEN.   I am able to touch so many lives and I am blessed.  I had lost sight of the fact that Micah gave me that special power.  Thanks Micah Girl, you have saved me once again. Gosh...what a legacy I will leave one day all because of my daughter.   

I will end this post with something my close friend Alyssa said to me the other day in a text. She said, 
"Funny how the people you think YOU will take care of in life really end up taking care of you in many ways!" When I had Micah the thought had never crossed my mind that she would EVER take care of me buuuuuuuuut she does..... EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It breaks my heart and scares the crap out of me that I was in such a dark place and wanted to erase such a beautiful blessing in my life. But what matters now is that I recognize those feelings and I never want to feel them again.  I am equipped and ready to deal with life.  I am not wishing for an easy road anymore, I want every challenge to come my way so I can prove, to no one else but myself, that I can DO IT and do it in a way that best suits ME! 

Life doesn't come with an eraser my friends so I will make sure from here on out that I write in permanent ink to ALWAYS REMEMBER where I came from.  

 I heart Micah 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Two Years Post Loss

Well, it's been 2 years since Micah has passed and I just haven't had the courage to make a single post. This page has been the furthest thing from my mind but it's time I release these bottled up emotions.  So here we go...brace yourselves.  

It's been a very dark 2 years with some bright and sunny short-lived days.  I've just wanted to hide in my cave and not let anyone in because it always ends in disappointment.  I, for sure, feel doomed.   I was naive to think that my life would be easy after being dealt such a shitty hand.  It is such a mind f#$* to battle this kind of grief along with trying to live life.  It feels like I'm screaming in a crowded room for help and no one even blinks.  They aren't blinking because they don't care, they just are so incapable of understanding the magnitude of the hurt. The feeling that no one can make this pain stop is something I just can't understand.  For real.... I can't understand how it can't be fixed.  My brain honestly really struggles with this.  In my 32 years on this planet any pain I ever had has always subsided or ended with time, whether it was physical pain from smashing my legs with a killer workout in the gym or the pain after a break up or even the pain after losing a family member. The "deep" pain always ends or dulls at some point.  The pain I feel now is like nothing I could ever explain and it is for sure getting worse.  It's something that blows physical agony out of the water.  This hurt has turned me into someone I don't even recognize anymore.  I AM ANGRY and I am so sick of being me.  I want out NOW.  I want a fresh new life with new memories and new beginnings. My skin crawls with any thoughts about Micah that swarm my brain.  I used to be a soft, caring, happy, beautiful, lively girl who wanted nothing more than to make people happy with my kind words and sweet gestures.  How can I focus on being that person when I'm itching to get out of my own skin every minute of every day.  Because I can't just step out of my skin and become someone completely different the anger grows.  It gets even worse when someone tries to tell me to get out and do certain things to jump start my happiness again.  How dare you!  As if you have any idea what's right for me or what I battle on a daily basis.  God, Micah, and I all have to laugh when those moments happen because it is so absurd.  My situation is so deep and complex that even my therapist can't give me a solution or tips on how to deal/cope.  And by the way, it's probably not a good idea to ask someone who is grieving if they are "talking to someone."  It's none of your business and NO, a therapist cannot wave a magical wand that will make it all disappear so that you don't have to worry about us going off the deep end.  That can still happen by the way. Sorry for the sarcasm but I did tell you I was angry.  You care and we appreciate that, we do, but it's complicated. PERIOD.  

I wish things were different but they aren't and this is my reality.  I'm not going to be sorry for doing what I need to do in order to keep myself alive and kicking because that's exactly what it comes down to.  It's SURVIVAL at this point and no one could have ever warned me about how bad this would be.  You all just gasped and covered your mouths when you heard about Micah because the unimaginable feelings of losing a child were so frightening that not a word could have been said.  I GET IT NOW!  I was oblivious the first year, so naive to what really happened.  I actually stare at myself in the mirror multiple times a week and say "yes, you were pregnant, holy shit you had a baby and she's DEAD, GONE, it wasn't a dream!"  The struggle is real my friends, but the one constant thing blaring loud in bright neon lights out for all the world to see is how much I LOVE that little girl.  LOVE IS POWERFUL and PAINFUL!  

I forever heart Micah.