Wednesday, August 3, 2016

If I could call you

I loved talking to you on the phone. I loved your voice. Your giggle. Your sarcastic tone.

I loved all the stupid and silly names you used to call me. I think my favorite was "freak." You never spoke it with malice. I could picture your head shake to go with it. And "seester." That was a great one, especially when you'd sign my birthday cards with it.

My memories are growing fainter over time. It's a bit harder to conjure up that voice. That laugh. The laugh that used to make you turn purple.

During the dark times over the last few years, and there have been so very many, I have so badly wanted to call you. I have wanted to ask your opinion, seek your advice. You always listened. You never judged. I was never afraid to tell you all my feelings.

Being parents of girls was something we shared. But we never really got a chance to support each other in all the challenging times that come with pre-teen and teenage parenting. You were gone too soon for that. It makes me feel cheated, because you would have been the perfect voice of reason when I felt so down on myself, when I just didn't know what else to do to help my daughter. You would have talked me down from the ledge. You would have been my sanity.

I'd like to think I would have been the same to you.

But we never got that chance, did we?

There were so many times when we were there for each other, however, when we told each other things that we just couldn't say to anyone else. I hold those memories close and dear. The words that were spoken will stay with me, our "secrets" safe. A sisterly bond that will never break.

Every year, during this week, I go through all the emotions of the grief cycle over and over again. Except denial. It was the first emotion I experienced when I heard the news and it was a tough one to shake. But I understand reality now. There's no denying the past seven years. But the anger, the bitterness, and depression...those come and go. I wish I could say that it has gotten easier. I suppose in some ways it has. But there are the days when it is all encompassing, when it's all I can think about. There are days when I can't go thirty minutes without fresh tears sliding down my cheeks. I try to hold them back, but it's impossible. Today is one of those days.

Imagine if I could just call you.

I see the bickering around me in the world, in my community, and among my friends and I want to shake them. I want them to stop and to appreciate what is around them. I want them to appreciate who is in their lives. "What if they are gone tomorrow?" I want to say. They always think there is a tomorrow. But we know better, don't we?

I can think of little else than how much I miss you. There is absolutely no one who can take your place, who can truly comfort me. My heart is absolutely broken. Parts of it have been stitched back together, but it's a tenuous repair. The stitches are strained, some have burst and need to be repaired. I always hope each repair will hold up a bit better than the previous.

Today the stitches burst. I will try to repair them tomorrow.

But for today, I mourn.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In the Heat of Summer

It's hot out there.

It's DAMN hot out there.

5:30 am, 80 degrees, 90% humidity, off-the-charts oppressive. Not a surprise (this is my 10th summer here after all) but it still sucks every single time.

I am trying to push through the discomfort as best as I can. I have started to complete much longer weekend runs with my triathlon group, and although I slow it way down and take a couple walking breaks, I'm getting through them. I continue my mid-week evening hill workout, typically in 95+ degree temps, but those, too, are getting to be quite difficult. I'm wearing my heartrate monitor and have not overtaxed myself yet, but it sometimes feels like death.

My hydration is a struggle this summer. I'm not sure what is different, but I am having trouble feeling sufficiently hydrated. I need to change some things because this concerns me. For an endurance athlete in a Texas summer, hydration is everything.

With it being summer, I really had no idea if my fitness (read: SPEED) was even close to being up to par going into marathon training. I think my intervals runs have been pretty decent considering the weather conditions, but the short relay I had this past weekend was a good judge of where I'm at. It's not great, but it's actually not as bad as I thought. It was a 5K 2-person relay, so only 1.55 miles each. But it started at 10:00am, in 86 degree heat, and by 1.55 miles they really meant 1.68 miles. So sweet of them.

What I really thought I could run was 8:15 pace. What I hoped I could run was 8:00 pace. What I actually ran was 7:44 pace. The only time I looked at my pace was 6 minutes into the run and then I just tried to hold it for as long as possible. My second mile was 15 seconds per mile faster than Mile 1, even though I totally thought I was falling apart (seriously, that last 10th of a mile lasted 30 minutes I swear). My partner, Drew (freaking youngster) ran 6:08 pace so we managed to run 3.35 miles in 23:17 for first place in our division. It was Drew's first medal since high school, although he's come so close in a couple of his triathlons this year. It was a medal I was hoping we'd get, but was cautiously optimistic about. What a great surprise to pull it off!


My two half marathons are coming up in October and I am technically training for them, upping my weekly miles, trying to add another weekly run. I would like to have two good races, but I really need these temperatures to give me some mercy. Not likely to happen anytime soon. July in Texas after all.

On the bright side, it feels really good to only be focusing on one discipline this summer. I think when late winter/early spring rolls around I'm going to be ready to (literally) get my feet wet again and compete in triathlons. My mind has so much trouble focusing right now that it's a blessing I made the tough decision I did to sit the triathlon season out.

I might even admit that when I'm watching my team compete and I see them racking up podium spots, I actually do miss it. Triathlons are definitely something special.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Musings

I was a mess last week. You wouldn't have necessarily known it if you were around me, but inside I was a mess. My thoughts were jumbled and all over the place and I couldn't concentrate on too many things.

First, I am feeling a bit lost about my physical well being. This time last year I was in the middle of a good triathlon season and I was having fun. I had a pretty decent, consistent schedule and I saw progress. It was good for me.

This year, I'm feeling a lot of guilt for NOT having a triathlon season. How dumb is that? I know in my heart that I simply can't concentrate on a rigorous schedule like that. It would just put more stress and guilt on me if I kept having to miss workouts, and I don't want to be away from my daughter that much when I know she does better when I'm at home with her.

So because of this, my motivation is lacking. I am frustrated by this. I want to feel differently. I still take care of myself....I run, I go to the gym, I get on my bike when I can. But it's not a priority and it's usually the first thing that I let go of when I'm overwhelmed emotionally. I don't like this at all. It's not me, and it's not making me feel comfortable.

On a brighter note, however, I do officially start marathon training next month and that will be a more structured schedule, with mileage goals that I will need to hit. I am hoping this is what will help me come out of this funk. This funk is the pits and I'm tired of it. I feel lost and need that extra hand, but it's no where to be found. There's no hand to pull me up and out of this right now. I see others all around me in the midst of their training schedules and I feel like I'm on the other side, watching them through a dirty window.

All those thoughts were right up at the forefront of my mind last week. And then there's my kid.

You see, I had to take my daughter to a psychiatrist on Thursday, so in the days leading up to it I was in a perpetual state of anxiety. Would she freak out going to the appointment, would she cry and not be able to stop, would she be unable to speak in the appointment, and worst of all....WHAT WOULD BE HER DIAGNOSIS?

I am so worried about her. With psychotherapy she's been doing better overall. Her episodes are fewer, but not gone. They'll never be totally gone, but slowly it appears she's learning to manage them better. But when she can't, it hurts me so deeply as a parent. I can't even describe the feelings.

We got through the 75 minute appointment and I think it was successful. I am not going to go into great detail because I need to keep some of it private. We do not have a definitive diagnosis, but we have some ideas, we have something we can look at in more detail, we have a clearer path. I liked the psychiatrist. His main concern is making sure we are going to function as a family and we are all going to be in agreement at whatever treatment path we choose. Unfortunately, this appointment is not a one-and-done kind of deal, and we will be seeing him one or two more times to hash out our path. He wants us all in agreement. He wants to think more about what he sees as my daughter's main challenges. She will continue to see her psychotherapist three or four times per month.

I am scared of treatment. While I know she is gaining coping tools through therapy, her brain just isn't wired in the same way as a normally functioning child and there is only so much we can do without looking at medication (hence....the need for psychiatry). I am terrified of this. Absolutely terrified.

Medication is helping me, as it helps so many people who have chemical imbalances. But when you're talking about a child, it's a scary endeavour. The psychiatrist wants to be sure we have all the information we need to make a decision together, so my husband and I will be seeing him without my daughter in a couple weeks. I hope our path becomes even clearer then.

I want my girl to be happy and balanced. I want her to have confidence in her abilities. I want her to feel good about herself, to be able to handle stressors in a healthy way, rather than getting angry and shutting down. I want her to be successful at school and to enjoy what she's learning. I hesitate to say "I want her to be normal," however, because I don't think there's a clear cut definition for "normal." She and I have a different kind of normal we live with, but we can both find a way to contentment. It just may be different than the majority of people out there.


Friday, May 13, 2016

RUNNING!!! Yes, I'm still running...a little

I have a feeling this is going to be a weird year for me.

I'm not planning to do any triathlons.

I don't have another race until October.

I'm kind of feeling like a lazy piece of crap.

But I still love running. It's my first love.

The husband and I celebrated our 17th anniversary (I know it's creepy just how young I was when I got married...I mean, sheesh, I'm only 28 *lies*). Most couples would plan a nice dinner out without kids, but us? Nope, we ran a trail race together. Greg had never done a trail race before, although he's run Lake Georgetown Goodwater Trail with me several times. The Wildflower Trail Half Marathon was in Bastrop State Park. (Correction: I totally forgot about Ragnar Trail Hill Country!!!)



It ended up being a beautiful day, and although I just felt a bit sluggish and really thirsty the whole time I totally enjoyed being out there, especially with Greg....despite the fact that for the first seven miles he kept getting really far ahead of me. I do love spending time with him in races....he's a good pacer and keeps the conversation going when I'm too tired to speak. It's our quality time together with nature.

I did much better than I thought I was doing in the race. I felt sluggish and walked most of the inclines, as I usually do in trail racing. The deep sand was a bit annoying as it took way too much energy to get through. But overall the trail was really great, not too technical, and to be able to see how much the park has improved since it was destroyed in an enormous wildfire five years ago was pretty spectacular.

Our sunrise


The race was a three loop course, so by the third loop basically we were experts. I wanted each of my loops to be about equal in time, but my first one ended up being a few minutes faster than loops 2 and 3. My splits were about 43, 47, and 47 minutes. With as tired as I was getting in the last loop I'm surprised I didn't slow down from loop 2. We finished in 2 hours, 17 minutes. And yes, it was a short course. I can't run trail half marathons THAT fast. 








I placed 75 out of 212 total finishers and 32 out of 129 women. Not bad considering I didn't kill myself during the race. I'm usually pretty far back in results in trail racing. Pleasant surprise to have held my own during this race. My friend Kalynn was 2nd overall women and was 21 minutes faster than me...so basically she's not human.



So now what's up....

It's almost summertime and the temps have started to rise. Because I'm not technically starting marathon training for 2 more months, I'm taking it easy on the distance running front. My "long" run will only be about 6 miles instead of the usual 10+. My mileage will be relatively low. I will continue to focus on core and leg strength to prepare for the higher mileage of marathon training. My training plan for Louisiana Marathon is my most ambitious yet and I want to be prepared.

I'm signed up for one October half marathon, the Oktoberfest Half in College Station on October 16. I will be in California the weekend before and discovered that the City to Sea Half is that weekend, so I do plan to register for that race as well. That means two half marathons on consecutive weekends. One will be fast, one will not, but I haven't decided which will be which. My PR is 1:51:36 and I still think that is out of reach this year. HOWEVER....you never know. A sub-2 hour half will be just fine.

It's a pretty light racing season and I'm happy about that. Very little pressure on myself, time to continue to build a strong foundation for endurance. I'll have the right mental outlook for a marathon PR in January. Did I mention that badass friend of mine, Kalynn, will be running it with me? Of course if she hasn't gotten her BQ yet I will refuse to allow her to pace me. She WILL get that BQ come hell or high water and I'm not about to hold her back!

There are a lot of personal stressors in our life, and some days are better than others. But the stress is ever present. We as a family have been challenged more now than any other year. To have a few things to help with stress relief is always good, but not overburdening myself with expectations is vital right now. I know a lot of my training buddies want me to race more, but it's just not going to happen right now. I will miss it, but there is always next year. I hope to God we have been able to reduce the stress significantly by then.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Instincts

I suppose this blog post is going to be a bit of a PSA. If it sounds preachy, I'm sorry. If I sound angry, I guess I kind of am a little bit.

If you feel like something is not right with either you or your children, physically or mentally, listen to your instincts and get help.

One of two things will happen...either you can rule out anything major OR you can find out your gut was right and take the steps to make things better. Just get help.

If your friends or loved ones express concern about anything with their family, BE SUPPORTIVE.

Don't tell them it's just a phase.

Don't tell them to look on the bright side.

And whatever you do, don't laugh it off.

Their fears may be completely justified.

Obviously, I speak from experience. My family's mental health journey continues to evolve and take turns that will take all of my strength and attention. My parenting instincts were right in thinking that "this just isn't normal behavior," even at puberty. Yes, there is drama, yes there is disrespect, yes there are tears. The issues of a pre-teen or teenager are very real and very difficult, different than toddler or elementary age problems, but typically problems on a bigger scale....this is all true. But I know what's normal and what is not normal.

MY INSTINCTS WERE RIGHT.

The journey to professional help began two years ago, when I had to quit my job to focus on helping our daughter, but it hasn't been a consistent journey. After a few months of counseling sessions, I believed that perhaps we could deal with the issues that my daughter faced and we discontinued counseling. Over the next year-plus, things continued to get worse and worse until we finally had to face the reality that we needed serious professional help for her. Over the last 10 weeks she has been in psychotherapy. But even then, we knew it went even beyond this.

WE WERE RIGHT. The journey continues on a new path and it will be something that she has to deal with potentially for her entire life. 

Considering my own mental health struggles I guess I should not be surprised by this. But I am angry and frustrated.

We have been told by those around us that "she's a girl," "she's a pre-teen," and they are "difficult" at that age. That she will outgrow this. Or to "just wait...it gets even worse!" followed by a laugh or two. Probably all true statements, but it completely invalidates our concern and need for support.

My husband and I have doubted ourselves so many times over the last two years. Thank God we walked into the psychologist's office and were told that this is not normal and she was there to help us and our daughter. She validated every single thought we've had and has been there to help us make sense of it all.

We begin today processing everything we believe to now be true, to finding a new path, and to helping our daughter (and our son, who struggles dealing with our household issues on a daily basis) to lead a happy and balanced life.

I am so angry about all of this. I am so frustrated that we were dealt this bad hand in life. I'm feeling very sorry for myself. I'm trying to let go of those selfish feelings, but for now they are real.

If you have a friend or family member going through a very real and very scary struggle, be supportive.

Be patient.

Be forgiving.

If you have not dealt with mental health struggles in your immediate family then you can't truly know what it means. If you do not have children of your own, then you can't know what this is like. I would never presume to know how it is to live with something I have no first-hand knowledge of. I know I've done it, however, and for that I'm sorry. But what you can do is be a listening ear if someone needs it. People always need a friend. If you have "the greatest kids ever," embrace just how lucky you are.

I know that in the face of all of this, my husband and I need to take care of ourselves as well. The stress is very overwhelming at times and we need our outlets for that stress. I take medication for my anxiety, and I use exercise to help cope. I will always need that. But I'm also cutting myself a lot of slack by resting as much as I can. I'm looking forward to a summer spent in my backyard, enjoying what we've built and created and using it for stress therapy. I wish I could just run away from all of it sometimes but parents don't get that choice. We must face what's given to us head on.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Success and Looking Ahead

Thank you, baby Jesus, for a great relay last weekend. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

A short summary of the awesomeness....I committed to 9:30 pace and I actually ran 9:00 pace across my three legs and 14.61 miles. And it didn't feel like I was running any faster than 9:30 pace the entire time. And I didn't fall apart. And nothing hurt!! And I could've run another leg if my team had needed me.




DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS???

I am officially off of the injured list. I have rehabilitated successfully. I am well on my way to future awesomeness.

Of course, I still have to be smart and continue my strength training and make sure my body stays in balance, and I have to increase my mileage and speed slowly, and I can't be stupid about any of it.

BUT HOLY MOTHER OF FABULOUS!!

So what is one of the first things that I do? I register for another race, of course.

My husband (who hasn't run more than 6 miles at a time in forever) and I are going to run the Wildflower Trail Half Marathon on May 7 in Bastrop. I have wanted to do another trail race for quite awhile (I haven't done one since 2013). I also wanted to introduce my husband to the greatness of trail racing. Originally we were going to register for a 10K later on in May on a much more technical trail, but since I had such a great experience at the relay of course I had to aim much bigger than that. My poor husband. It's a good thing I'm much slower than him so adding so much distance onto what he's actually trained for won't really kill him.

I have also already written my training plan for my next marathon....NINE MONTHS AWAY. I decided since first, I had been injured, and second, it will be two years since my last marathon, that I would write up a six month plan. Normally I would only focus on it for four months but I want to be sure I get enough base miles in over the summer before I focus more on volume, speed, and efficiency in the fall.

What's my goal?

A FREAKING PERSONAL BEST, DAMMIT.

As for triathlon season....I really have no idea about that right now. I'm getting back in the water and I'm going on rides, but I'm not planning any actual triathlons this season quite yet. Sometimes it's good to change focus.

I'm just so glad I'm feeling so much better.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Keep on Truckin'

Some days are good. Some days suck.

But first, with the good. I'm well on my way to recovery physically. I played it very smart and slowly built up my mileage without adding any speed, typically running three times per week. Once I was comfortable with 6 miles, I started adding interval training but still not running all out. I think it's been a very good plan. This past weekend I ran nearly 11 miles, albeit a very easy pace with a speed up only in the last two or three miles, and I was happy to find that there was absolutely no soreness from it. Even with yard work for a few hours later in the day, my legs held up just fine.  The strength training I've been fairly consistent at during recovery has helped tremendously in my recovery, and it's making me feel better overall.

I'm far from at my peak. I do miss the days of not having any trouble running 9 minute pace on long runs. I miss running 8:45 pace for a half marathon race. I miss the long LONG runs of marathon training. But I'll get there soon, with a continued build up of distance and speed and strength. I registered for The Louisiana Marathon in January and I'm looking at it as my ultimate comeback race. It's actually the only race I have on my calendar besides this coming weekend's Texas Independence Relay. It remains to be seen if I add anything else. In all honesty, having no pressure on myself has been a pretty great thing.

As for the relay this coming weekend....I went back and forth for weeks on whether or not I was really going to participate. It takes a lot physically and mentally to do a team 200 mile relay and with all the other stresses in my life, in addition to injury rehab, I just wasn't sure it would be good for me. But I stuck it out and I'm doing it. It will be my team's 7th year in a row of participating. I am sad I had to commit to such a slow pace, the slowest I will have run in all 7 years. But I'm doing it.

With running aside, however, life is still a bit of a crapshoot.

My daughter has been in therapy for 6 weeks now. Overall, is has been helping her (thank God) but there are still so many unknowns and a few curveballs have been thrown at her dad and me. When it's a bad day, it's a really really bad day. Thankfully the bad days are far fewer, but I still get completely knocked down emotionally on the bad days. As a matter of fact, right now I'm completely exhausted and am finding it very difficult to find my Monday Motivation. Hence, a blog post!

My son is doing okay. He's a full-on teenager now, complete with the emotions and growing pains involved in that. He's slowly finding his motivation with school despite his struggles with ADHD. He has his hiccups and I hear from teachers occasionally. He has moments of speaking before he thinks and I have to remind him of compassion and sensitivity and how important it is to display that as often as possible. I worry about how he's feeling on the inside, although he tells me he's okay. But I still worry that he's keeping something inside, or that he's hurting and won't discuss it. I suppose the best thing I can do is to make sure he always knows I'm his biggest fan and I am there for him.

I'm trying to let go of the debilitating feeling that this is not how my life was supposed to turn out. I had a pretty good childhood, and although I always knew I was different than a lot of kids and struggled to fit in sometimes, I was motivated to succeed and I held tightly to those things I could control. Emotionally I was sometimes quite a wreck, but I've come to terms with a lot of that now that I understand it more. But I never had the difficulties my own children have. I knew how to focus, I didn't get in trouble at school, and did not have frequent, raging fits at home. My kids are not so lucky. Raising them is far more difficult than I ever could have imagined it would be. Yes, I'm fully aware that parenting is the hardest thing a person will ever do in their lives. But the struggle with my kids goes well beyond that. I envisioned lots of travel, lots of family time, a successful school career, and lots of smiles. It's hard to let that fantasy go and to find the alternatives that suit my kids' struggles better. I'm still hoping we get more travel in (my kids do not fly), and I'm hoping that the steps we are making now will still translate to success in school (my oldest goes to high school next year and he knows what the stakes are).

Oh, and everything is STILL BREAKING at my house. This past week it was the second A/C unit and the repair bill was a doozy. When the cost of everything that has broken or gone wrong (pet illnesses were bad, too) adds up to more than what I paid for my last new car, you know it's been a bad 12 months. There's only so much even a decent and secure salary can cover without it really starting to hurt. My stomach is constantly in knots wondering what else is going to go wrong and how much it will cost.

(Side note: my backyard does look pretty wonderful, however, and yes my husband and I are continuing to do ALL the new landscaping ourselves. I have a feeling it's going to be my oasis for many years to come, and thank God for that because I need an oasis!)

It will probably be good for me to let all of this go for a few days while I embark on the relay this weekend. Physically it will tire me out, but emotionally it will be good to only have to focus on myself.

Meanwhile, one day at a time....I keep on truckin'....