Guest Post: Remembering the Importance of Self

This guest post is written by Tracy Bradley, massage therapist on sabbatical, in Arkansas.

Find more guest posts here. Enjoy! 


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Self-care, The Plan:

  • Journal everyday
  • 5 minute meditation daily
  • Start sun salutations
  • Read for pleasure daily
  • Go outside with the kids
  • Long baths
  • Special treats

Self-care, What Really Happened:

I joined the group when Amber started the 100 Days of Self-Care Challenge. I’ve been so focused on my family that I let my needs go. What a great opportunity to turn inward and slowly start a habit or two soley for my well-being! I’ve always “written” so journaling seemed like the easy start. Yoga is enjoyable, therefore Sun Salutations seemed the comfortable start. I LOVE to read great books but busy-ness and social media have edged books to the side. A challenge seemed the perfect nudge to change a few things.

My journal received three dreadful, melancholy entries. I still haven’t done a single SS. Reading is a success, although sometimes it’s only for 5 minutes a day. No baths. No meditation. No treats. I literally could not do the things that should have been so easy.

I didn’t realize I was one level above rock bottom. Postpartum Depression and Anxiety had taken over my person. Taking 5 minutes to jot down a few words felt like a knife ripping through my head. The only thoughts I could think to write were terrible. So I skipped it. Yoga would have felt amazing if only I could have moved to the floor. Crippling anxiety prevented me from leaving the house most days. Isolation was comfortable until it began to hurt.

Self-Care, The New Plan

I reached out to my healthcare provider who is also a close relative. I unloaded my thoughts and symptoms into her small exam room. She was understanding. She listened. She asked questions. She answered about a million questions from me. We discussed options and decided to try a medication. I was ready for it. (I know medication isn’t for everyone, but this is my personal story.) I left relieved, optimistic, and terrified of horrible side effects. I realized how low I’d gotten. My family was suffering, but more importantly, I was suffering.

My new self-care habit is taking one pill per day. At the conclusion of the trial period I am overjoyed to say I feel human again! In addition to taking my meds, I do other self-care things. I leave the house for fun now. I haven’t been writing, but I’ve been contacting friends and family. We meet for fun things now and I don’t have paralyzing anxiety about it. There are almost no words to express my relief.

Self-care is important, but it can look different for different people. While some may balk at the idea of an hour with a book, that scenario excites me. Running for any reason other than escape is torture for me! However, there are thousands of people who pound their stress into the pavement. Our unique ways to care for ourselves are good. We just need to remember how important “self” is and take action and take care.

 

If you are struggling with PPD, anxiety or depression, please do not hesitate to seek help. Reach out to your healthcare provider or call Postpartum Support International at 800-944-4773.

The Sweetest Gift.

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Yoga session with my boys. Classic: Chewy right there with me and Kiko giving me his opinion.

It hasn’t been terribly long without our boys, Kiko and Chewy. They were a pair. Chewy may have left us first, but our boys were always “Kiko and Chewy.” Like salt and pepper, they were a set.

Now, I won’t get into all the mush about “the hard” since we had to let them go a short time ago. Our hearts are healing, even if a few pieces are missing.

This is actually happy story. 

Chewy was laid to rest, but with the timing of everything (like the frozen ground) we could not do that with Kiko. Hats off to the peeps who handle that sort of thing. They sent us a paw print and a tuft of fur along with his cedar box.

More than a month ago, I came across a website that makes actual gemstones from the ashes or hair of our loved ones…. something we could easily do for Kiko, but not for Chewy. This was problematic.

For weeks, I wondered where Chewy could’ve been that we haven’t cleaned yet so I could get a little bit of his fur and then it hit me like a freight train. 

About five years ago, I had a classmate in massage school that spun her own yarn. Since my boys blew their coats at least twice a year – in amounts that could build another dog or two – I offered her some fur and she accepted. Two large (full!) ziplock bags later, she had plenty of material to work with. And that was the last I heard of it.

I held my breath as I sent her a message hoping she was a little like me with a few unfinished projects lying around. 

She was quick to respond that, in fact, she did have some and she would gladly mail it out to me. She wouldn’t accept payment for shipping, even though I would’ve paid double. Triple even.

And then, my sweet girl got sick, then I got sick and I forgot all about it. Until yesterday.

I received a package from an address I didn’t recognize. (Truthfully, I thought I ordered something from Etsy in one of my middle-of-the-night-should-be-sleeping shopping sessions. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the lack of sleep version of drunk dialing.)

A sob caught in my throat when I realized that package contained the two original bags of fur. Each labeled with their names. Apparently, I was so fixated on these bags I didn’t realize there was a third bag. My husband handed it to me.

It was a woven scarf made of fur.

I held it, assuming it was my boys, and tears welled up. It was then I noticed the bright yellow envelope. Upon opening it, I revealed a cute card with two dogs in the back of a pickup truck.

Inside it read:IMG_9515

Amber,

May your memories of Chewy & Kiko be forever happy!   ❤

(The scarf is Chewy.)

In an instant, I felt like he was given back to me. I can’t explain it really. Losing them both was hard, but losing Chewy was almost unbearable. Maybe it was suddenness of it or his lack of ailments/issues or maybe it was because he was mine. 

By some twist of fate, I gave a woman some fur and she gave it back to me years later when I needed it. For that, I’ll be forever grateful.

Today didn’t go as planned. Take two.

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This morning’s silence was deafening. Last night was the kind of nightmare that brought about puffy eyes, kept morning breath at bay (that requires sleep) and delivered a raw punch of reality.

That reality: Kiko, our almost 13-year-old pup, was nearing the end of his journey.

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It’s safe to say, my husband and I cut our parenting teeth on this guy – almost 13 years ago.

Kiko was a love right out of the gate. Such a typical husky in so many ways. And so not, in so many others. He was picked from a litter of rambunctious pups, all yapping that we should pick them.

“That one,” my then boyfriend said.

“The one with the big belly – the one not jumping all over the fence?”

“Yep. He’s the one.”

“Um. What if he’s sick?”

“No. He’s ours.”

And boy was he ever ours. 

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Like Chewy, he was every bit a part of this family. A big part. To the kids, he was as permanent as their parents. We’ve never lived anywhere without him.

Kiko was the original Husky of Shenanigans.  (Sky took up the slack just after Chewy left us, but Kiko was king.)

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In fact, Kiko has a series of children’s books written from his perspective. Each tale a little more unbelievable than the last, but even better: they are all true. From locking my pregnant-self out of the house, 2AM porcupine run-ins, and drawing a local crowd with his rooftop antics.

He definitely had character. 

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When we were all much younger, it was not uncommon for my husband to pat his chest and Kiko would dash across the yard. At full sprint, he would leap into his arms and be held like a baby. Seriously, I’ve never met a more charismatic dog. Or a bigger baby.

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Kiko was our own personal weatherman. If there was snow coming, he’d let us know well before it showed up. To him, snow was delicious.

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The coat blowouts deserve their own picture. Nothing less than a rake, 4 hands and shop vac would do.

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Last night was the kind experience I wouldn’t like to revisit anytime soon. It was filled with pacing, sobs and laying on the cold frozen ground while he let us hold him. It was filled with pain. And a lot of it.

At one point, we got Kiko in the house where we spent hours full of worry and effort to get him comfortable. Not long later, maybe 5AM, our 6-year-old found us in the basement. After a mini-kid-rated briefing, she sat with us. She pat him and said plainly, “he doesn’t feel the same.”

She was right. He didn’t. 

It was the same feeling I experienced when we had to let Chewy go, less than 6 months ago. I witnessed him leaving us firsthand. This time it wasn’t so fast. The process was slow, like he was seeping away so we wouldn’t feel the sudden shudder. We knew it was time.

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Somehow he made it through the night. We had the kids give him some lovin’s before leaving – under the impression that, “Kiko is sick and we’ll see how today goes.”

The sun illuminated a path to the bus as the kids got on and I made the appointment. They couldn’t be present for this and we weren’t about to send them to school with that kind of information.

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Kiko. Just moments before his final sleep. RIP. 2003-2016

By the time the appointment was over, the illuminated sun had dimmed to dark clouds. With emptiness in our hearts, we drove home. The road blurred with tears.

Rest easy, Ki-Ki.