Thank you J!…

I was six, she was four.  We met through a mutual friend whose age fell between us.  Quickly, we became Besties or whatever the 1980s equivalent was.  I was the older sister she didn’t have and she was the younger sister I didn’t have.  We played with Cabbage Patch Kids, Baby Dolls, Doll Houses and Lego.  There were many sleepovers and secrets.  We were family.

Until we weren’t.  There were big fights between us (I take complete blame), between our mothers, and then a move.  She left the comforts of NY and myself and moved to the sunny south of the country when I was about 12, she 10.  Although we weren’t talking, I missed her deeply.  I became alone, sad, and broken.  I made other friends through the years, but it just wasn’t the same.  I think this might be the earliest Depression I really had, but this episode went undiagnosed.

Then one day I received a cryptic message on Prodigy (old school AOL) from someone who knew me in NY.  I was fifteen at the time.  She called herself Jade and expressed her love of giraffes. Through many discussions I realized it was her, she found me!  I was overjoyed.  A piece of my broken heart returned. Over the next few years we wrote many letters, exchanged pictures, told each other secrets again.

And then, during Spring Break one year in college, we met at Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs).  We both were so excited and happy.  The great thing, it was like nothing ever happened. Since that trip, we have been in eachother’s weddings, shared the births of our children and have tried to see eachother at least once every two years.

Jokingly, out of the blue, after planning our Disney trip for this year, J decided we should call it our 30th Friendiversary!  I took this and ran with it.  30 years.  We have been friends for 30 years!  Last week we met on Sunday at Animal Kingdom, Monday at Epcot and Friday at Epcot.  Seeing her, her husband and her boys was the highlight of my trip.  Whenever we see eachother we just pick up where we left off.  Leaving her on Friday was tough and for more than the reason of not knowing when I would see her again.

J did something that trip, something she didn’t even know she did, and I am eternally grateful for.

Suffering from Depression and Anxiety, fraternal twins whose biggest characteristic is lying, isn’t easy and although I have been doing very well since admitting compassion for my Inner Bitch, I still get doubts every now and then.  I tend to feel that I am constantly being judged on my parenting and on the shear fact of if I should even be allowed to parent.  Crazy, yes?  Depression and Anxiety lie a lot.  I tend to think that my friends would never leave their child for a play date with Sophia because of how delusional and mentally broken I became early 2015.  I tend to think that is the person they see.  I know, still ridiculous, but I believe this.

Now, of course, being in Disney, this was not a play date situation.  We were in Epcot the last day in line for Spaceship Earth deciding who would go with who.  J’s oldest, who is 3 1/2, wanted to ride with Sophia.  J agreed as long as I was in the car with them.  For the length of this ride, a few minutes, she trusted him with me knowing my full history.  It was a confidence I needed, a person who really believed I was fully capable at not only keeping and eye on and parenting my child but also keeping an eye on hers.

I was six and she was four and 30 years later going from playing house with dolls to having our own children, we are still Besties.  We care for each other and our families.  We love each other.  And, we trust each other.  Thank you J!  Thank you for trusting me and helping me see, that I am a good parent and a good person!  Love you and miss you! My younger sister!

EMDR, The Room, & My Inner Bitch…

How many of us can admit that we are our own worst enemy?  That we judge ourselves more than we judge others?  That we self-loathe, self hate, self deteriorate?  Everyone who suffers from Depression can answer these questions with a blunt, “ME, I do!”  This part that harshly judges me, I’ve dubbed my Inner Bitch and she has been in control of me for so long.

While recently battling my demons that were deeply buried from my Postpartum Depression and Anxiety days, my EMDR therapist has also been trying to tackle a plethora of Blocking Beliefs I have.  I am proud to say I have been able to reprogram myself to remove many of them including the belief that I don’t deserve to get better.  The biggest one I have been tackling lately has been, “It has been so long, I don’t think I will ever get better!”.  Oh, this is a biggie and guess who keeps beating it into my brain… yes, my Inner Bitch.  It is now sixteen months and while there is massive improvement with my thoughts, there is still a bit more to go.

My therapist had discussed when I first started EMDR several grounding exercises we would do at the end of each session to help me relax and get calm (these 2 words aren’t in my vocabulary).  The one he first used was the Container Exercise.  In this exercise, you are supposed to think of a container, anything you could put something in, place whatever was discussed in that session in there, cover it and (hopefully) forget about it until next week.  Well this seemingly easy exercise took a turn for me.  I had the perfect ‘Container’.  The Room of Requirement from Harry Potter.   Only problem is he didn’t tell me to NOT place myself in this room, just to place the memory.  I am stuck in this Room.  I had written about this in a past post:  Room Of Requirement – Part 1 .  This post is dated December 11, 2015.  I am still not able to step out of this Room.  I am stuck.  My feet are glued down to the stone floors with a muck-like substance.  Stuck in this room and on Month 5.

I’ve been able to turn my body at my waist and been able to lift my feet with tendrils of muck attached to them.  That’s about it.

Two weeks ago, my therapist had me once again staring into this room.  Eyes closed, I could see out of the corner of my left eye the sunshine from the Gothic window opening.  In front of me was an old wooden shelf unit, nicked from years of wear and tear and covered with a nice layer of dust and cobwebs.

“I’m staring at something straight in front of me at eye level.  I can’t make out what it is, it is too covered in dust.”

“Okay, just go with that,” he said.  This phrase is constant throughout our sessions.

Out of nowhere, Sophia, at her present age, appeared between the bookcase and myself.  She’s smiling up at me but I am too focused on what is on the shelf behind her.

“What do you think this means?” my therapist asks with a newborn smile on his face.

I don’t want to admit what it means, but with each round of EMDR we do that I don’t admit the truth, Sophia’s smile slowly turns into a huge frown.  At last, “Sophia represents the present.  She is upset with me that I am so focused on what is behind her, and not in the present.”

“Ah, that is very interesting.  Out of curiosity, let’s try this… do you think this Room of Requirement could be a metaphor for something else?”

I instantly knew and presented the answer at this week’s session, “The Room is a metaphor for my brain.  The items within are memories.”  This puts a smile on my therapist’s face.  Apparently, now we are getting somewhere.  When we started the first round of EMDR I was once back in this room battling with my brain, yelling at it to let me out of this Room already.  I was done, exhausted, so tired from the last 16 months.  Desperation was setting in.  I saw myself fall to the floor of the Room almost in the fetal position.

“Do you notice anything else?”

I held the Tappers in my hands, closed my eyes and saw myself on the floor like a wilted flower.  I was crying.  I no longer cared so strongly about what was on that damn shelf.  I cared about me.  I cared about how drained I was.  I cared about how sad I was.  I cared about how sickly I looked.  I cared about my pain.

My therapist asked me what I saw or felt and my response was:

“I seemed to have developed compassion for my Inner Bitch.”

The days since this session (it was last Monday), I have seemed to turn a corner.  This revelation has made me happy and content.  I have had enough of my Inner Bitch and realize that she was the one stuck in this Room, the one I left crying on the floor exhausted.  Now that she is weakened, I can take back control.  I can become the beast I once was, the beautiful self-confident inspirational Warrior and I can’t wait.


I used to be strong.  I was strong physically.  I was strong mentally.  I was strong emotionally.  When I was all these things I was Super Stephanie, a woman who exuded self confidence, who inspired people to become the best versions of themselves because I, I was the best version of myself.  I was a beast!  Then I broke.  My pieces shattered all around me plaguing each step I took because if I stepped on a shard of myself, I would break into more pieces.  The more pieces, the harder to put back together.  I’ve been here before, more than a handful of times and have recovered to become Super Stephanie time and time again within six months or so.  Now, almost a year and a half later, Super Stephanie is still lost in some black hole deep in my head as just little shards remain.

I read and admittedly save a lot of inspirational quotes about strength and mental illness.  I do this to believe that I do have some strength left in me.  Quotes like these swirl through my mind, my kindle, my phone…



Strength… do you know how hard it is to believe you’re strong when all you feel is weak?  I am flat out exhausted with these last sixteen months of battling my Anxiety and Depression with some mild PTSD thrown in there.  I’m tired.  I’m at times empty.  But, I am still here, because like the mantra above with the lion, being strong is the only choice I have.

Over the last few days, I have been a mental and emotional mess going from extreme anxiety that had my hands in tight fists, heart pounding and hyperventilating, to being a void crying and trying to keep my eyes open because it was only two in the afternoon.  Using the roller coaster metaphor, I was up and down the whole weekend.  There may have been some corkscrews in there.  Last night, I had an epiphany as to why this may be happening (aside from other stressors in my life which are an issue)…

Sixteen months!  Sixteen months of being so mentally strong, that it drained me of all physical and emotional strength.  I admit it. I am upset with myself.  Packing for my family’s vacation next week irked me.  Half my summer clothes didn’t fit.  I had gained weight.  I knew this.  I can keep blaming my medication, which majority of them do cause weight gain, but I also know it is the absence of Strong Stephanie. Strong Stephanie did 5 workouts a week, 45 minutes or more, burning at least 400 calories each workout.  Exercise was my high, it was my best working antidepressant.  It was my only antidepressant.  Sapped Stephanie is lucky if she walks at lunch 3/week and hikes once on the weekend.  I am physically on empty and lack motivation to even start because I am so impatient, I want results now.

But it is not just the physical strength I desire, I want the trifecta, I want all three.  Once I am physically strong, my mental health will improve which in turn will improve my emotional health, the latter has been going through roller coaster after roller coaster.  Once I am Strong, I can wean of the medications.  I am just so confused on where to start.  The Anxiety within me plays Pong with hundreds of exercise ideas but has me shaking at which one to choose (Gym, Boot Camp, Zumba…). EMDR therapy has my mentality and emotions jumping once a week but training them to be stronger. How do I help the physical side?  How do I get my ass into gear?  How do I do this and still get my required 8 hours of sleep because of the Lunesta I take?

How do I bring Strong Stephanie back?

How do I become the strongest, best, inspirational version of myself?

Not One Smile…

For the last month or two during EMDR therapy, my therapist has tried very hard to penetrate the rock-like protection I keep around my postpartum memories.  These memories were so deeply buried that the strongest jackhammer wasn’t getting to them.  We had made brief success by making me realize I need to have compassion for my Postpartum self and I am beginning to, but the more hurting, the more raw, the more emotional memories, were still very much deeply buried.

It was in one such session, I did slip out that I had never grieved over that time period.  I never grieved for myself or for Sophia.  I never let myself unravel for never getting a typical postpartum period.  I never lamented the lack of love I had for my baby.  Ultimately, my deeply buried memories were rising to the surface themselves, my therapist the grave digger exhuming them.  When discovering this, he told me to take some time at home, alone, with pictures during that first year and let the mourning begin.  Because I have been so busy, this did not occur until yesterday.

I arose yesterday already feeling different.  A few days of happiness, or I should say contentment, for me are usually followed by a few Anxiety-filled days or, in this case, Depression-filled days.  I was off.  Irritability crept in early followed by sadness, anger, hypervigilence and the worst, emptiness.  I faked any idea of normality yesterday.  Since I had some spare time, I figured I would create a graphic to use for the upcoming Climb Out Of The Darkness for Postpartum Progress to try to ignite donations, using myself as the victim.  I sat at my laptop and opened the file under Pictures labeled “Sophia Faye”.  I then proceeded to open the folders labeled “2006” and “2007”.  With each picture I glanced at, my eyes welled up with tears until finally they exploded.

For the first year of Sophia’s life, there is not one picture of me with her where I am smiling.  Not one smile…

The pictures start two months after her birth.  I have no pictures of her and I those first two months except for the day she was born.  Because of the Postpartum Depression and Anxiety rapidly increasing in those first two months, pictures were the farthest thing from my mind.  But because of this, I have no way of remembering her first Halloween, nor her first Thanksgiving.  All I remember during those 2 months is how many times I had to visit my therapist and psychiatrist and ultimately how I ended up in the short term psychiatric ward at the hospital.  I wish I could remember her coos, her smiles caused by gas, just her.

After these first two months, there are sporadic photos of me holding Sophia.  As I held her, looking into my eyes, you can see how drugged up I was, how emotionless I was.  My fake smile was more like a smirk.  I was acting the part of mother and I was doing horribly bad at it.  Over the next few months, the druggie face starts to fade and the smirk becomes slightly fuller trying really hard to be a smile, but it isn’t.  My eyes, instead of looking like an addict, look blank and empty.  I am tempting the photographer to see the real me while attempting to cover it up.

Months and months, still not one smile, one REAL smile.

It wasn’t until I came across a photo from September 2007, 11 months after Sophia was born, where my eyes were happy.  They sparkled, twinkled, danced, while I held my daughter.  Eleven months I spent tragically suffering from no emotion, from a type of death, from crippling postpartum illnesses. I stared at this photo in more detail.  Still mostly a smirk on my face, but it slightly resembled a smile.  There was some emotion behind it.  I was not a zombie anymore.  I was not a robot anymore. I was human again.

Eleven months I spent living a hell where my brain was playing the devil.  Eleven months I spent acting out motherly duties to take care of my daughter but not remembering or even caring about any of it.  Eleven months I spent looking at my daughter wondering why I was her mother instead of someone “normal”, she deserved so much more.

These pictures, these memories, were buried for many reasons deep within myself.  They are hard to process.  Not loving your child and being able to see it on your own face is something I wish no mother ever has to go through.  I lost that time when Sophia was just beginning to discover the world around her.  I can’t get it back and I will never have that opportunity again.  For this I mourn, I grieve, I ache.

Eleven months, and not one smile.