Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Guest Post: The Kim Chronicles Part 1

As promised, my friend Kim of This Little House is journeying with me to the land of healthy and wholesome. She has graciously agreed to share her story with us.

Kim is not just a bloggy buddy but a real life friend whom I've had the great pleasure of getting to know better these last few years. She is a true girlfriend-- honest, real, profound, hilarious and a very good cheerleader of those blessed enough to be near and dear to her heart.

Due to the length of her story, we decided it was better to post in installments.

So grab a cup of tea (or coffee if you must :) and pull up a chair.

Here is Part One of The Kim Chronicles...

Before I begin my story, here is a snapshot of what my diet has looked like for most of my life.

• Skim, store brand, milk
• Margarine
• White Flour
• Table salt
• Refined sugar
• Sweet n low
• Fat Free coffee creamer
• Coffee
• Processed Cheese
• Reduced fat Breads
• Bagels
• Honey Nut Cheerios
• Oatmeal
• Fruit and Veggies (not organic)
• Chicken, ground beef, pork and a teeny bit of fish (not organic)
• Coffee, big time!
• Cookies, brownies, and Ice cream

This isn't everything I ate, but I think it provides a good picture.
Now, here is my story. **********************************************************************************
When I sit back and try to pinpoint when I began feeling depressed, I have to go back many, many years. With difficulty, I struggle to remember a time when I didn't feel a little depressed or anxious from time to time. I know I felt that way in high school, and middle school and the later part of elementary school. However, before fourth grade, I don't recall feeling this way.

Fourth grade stands out because that was the year my family moved to a new town. I was devastated. It took me such a long time to adjust, make new friends, and fit in. It was during this time that I began to feel depressed and anxious. It was also the summer after fourth grade that I began to menstruate. I was 9.

To my parents and friends, I don't think I appeared depressed or anxious. Especially not when I was young. Then in high school, my moodiness was just chalked up to hormones and the stress that CAN BE the high school experience. I was a cheerleader, involved in drama and singing, ran track and maintained a low B average all the way through high school. I was a pretty good kid. I rarely got into trouble and tried to do the right thing. However, I was constantly in fear. Fear of letting my parents down, my teachers down, my friends down, not being good enough, pretty enough, popular enough; fear controlled my life. My close group of friends were all very outgoing, smart, confident, funny girls. I didn't always feel like I fit in, but I tried not to let it show. My primary objective was to be liked.

College was the same way. Depression and anxiety were a major part of my life. Chronic dieting and a poor self image were also a big part of who I was. Again, I'm sure if you asked my friends and family what they thought of me back then, they would describe an outgoing, friendly, health conscious person who cared about others. Inside though, I was very insecure, unsure of myself and my decisions, and battling with the fear of letting others down.

After college, I got married and we moved to Coeur d'Alene, Idano to start our lives together. As exciting as that was, it was also very stressful. I found it incredibly difficult to make new friends and relied heavily upon my sister-in-law, who lived in the town we moved to, for support and friendship. I felt isolated and unsure of who I was. During the long, cold, snowy winters I was depressed and gained weight. Then spring would come and I'd be ecstatic and diet and exercise to lose the 10 pounds or so that I had gained.

I was told I had "seasonal depression" and my doctor offered to prescribe an anti anxiety medicine. I decided not to take him up on that. I had always been opposed to taking medication and felt that I needed to just muscle my way through it. Besides, as long as I could exercise regularly, I was fine. I also didn't see myself as depressed. It's funny because when I think back on those years now, I think of them as some of the best years of my life. I tend to gloss over and forget this struggle that was going on in the background.

During our second year in Idaho, we decided to have a baby. We got pregnant easily, and my pregnancy went well. Nine months later I delivered an 8lb 14 oz bouncing baby girl. It was a wonderful time. And yet, it was also during this time that my depression and anxiety became more than I could handle. My darling girl was colicky, and had a huge appetite. As she grew, she developed a very serious disposition and suffered from chronic ear infections throughout her first year of life. Lack of sleep, maintaining a full time work schedule, and taking care of a fussy baby was taking it's toll on me.

To regain some sense of control, I exercised a lot, ate an extremely low fat, bland diet, took diet pills and did all I could to get back to my pre-pregnancy body. My husband and I also started attending church during this time. As wonderful as that was, it was also stressful for me because I was forced to meet new people. I was again the "new girl" and on the outside looking in. It was terrifying. Thankfully, I had one good friend who went to that church. I depended on her for support. I hated not being more in control of my situation, but I was frozen by the fear of rejection. Irrational as it was, it was very real to me at the time.

I did my best not to let on that I was struggling. I volunteered at church, my husband and I went on retreats with the young married's group, I even did a class on how to be more organized (which I felt completely unqualified to do). We eventually made friends and felt as though Couer d'Alene was home. Then after almost 5 years, my parents moved to Portland, OR and we felt God telling us that the time had come to live closer to family. So, in just 2 months time, we packed up our belongings, put our house on the market and moved to Portland.

This move wasn't as dramatic because we were moving someplace where we already new some people. We had friends who lived here, in addition to my parents, so the risk was minimal. Even still, the first year, was terribly stressful. We were living in a tiny apartment, paying rent and paying our house payment because our home in Idaho didn't sell. It took over 6 months for our home to sell. I know in today's market that isn't very long, but back in 2000 it seemed like forever.
I was still a chronic dieter. Trying to cut calories, reduce my fat, exercise more and eat less was a way of life for me. I was irritable, stressed out, my skin looked terrible, my hair was thin. My husband and I both look back at this first year in Portland as the most difficult year in our marriage. Our daughter was 2 1/2 and extremely strong willed. She was in trouble at day care all the time, and driving us crazy at home. We had a difficult time finding a new church home, so during the first year we were church shopping. Trying someplace new out every few weeks. I'm pretty friendly and outgoing, but this was still difficult for me.

A year later, we had sold our Idaho house, purchased a new home in the Portland area, found our new church and were settling in. I was dancing in a professional clog dancing group with my mom and 3 other women and having the time of my life. I was fit, but still dieting, and taking metabolism boosters, cutting fat and calories as much as possible. During this time, we were also trying to get pregnant again. It took us five years to get pregnant. I had 1 miscarriage, and was on Clomid for a total of 6 months. We eventually were able to get pregnant through the use of injectibles and IUI. Throughout this ordeal, I went through periods of feeling hopeful and excited, to feeling completely inadequate as a woman, wife and mother. The medications I took effected me physically and emotionally. Each month that ended without me being pregnant caused a cycle of depression, followed by the anxiety of waiting through another month of medicine and tests. This went on and on. Finally, we got that + sign on the pregnancy test! We were so happy. Our daughter was going to have a sibling! Happy, happy, happy.

I was 10 weeks pregnant when we went on a weekend family camping trip with my parents, their friends, and my brother and his wife. It was a fun weekend. We played games, played in the water, the men all went fishing, my oldest got to ride a jet ski with her Aunt and Uncle. It was great.

As we were driving home, we all stopped at a rest stop before heading our separate ways. We said our last goodbyes to everyone, hopped in the car and headed home. I only got to say a quick goodbye to my dad because he was busy with the trailer, so he called us on the way home from his cell phone. He and I laughed and talked about the fun weekend. We played the alphabet game that we used to play during road trips when I was a kid. It was nice. I told him I loved him and he told me he loved me, and we said goodbye.

The next day was Monday. After work, I was laying on my bed trying to cool off. It was late June and the first of many hot days was upon us. The phone rang and I let my husband get it. He quickly handed me the phone with a puzzled look on his face. He said it was someone calling from my grandpa's house saying there was a medical emergency. I immediately thought something had happened to my grandpa. He was dying from cancer.

However, the voice on the phone said that my Dad had had a medical emergency and I needed to come right away. I was confused and in a daze and said I would be right there. My husband helped me with my shoes and I began the 20 minute drive to my grandpa's house. As I drove I prayed and I was filled with an increasing sense of urgency. I drove way too fast, and tried to remember to breathe.

As I approached my grandparents neighborhood, I could see the glow of red lights even before I turned the corner. There was an ambulance, a fire truck and cars scattered everywhere. I screeched to a halt and got out of the car. As I turned to walk toward the house, a paramedic came quickly up to me, put her hands on my shoulders and told me that my dad had died.

What followed were days, weeks and months of visitors, crying, sleepless nights, trying to take care of my mom, myself, my husband, my daughter, my growing baby and trying to figure out what a normal life was without the presence of my dad.

Were depression and anxiety a part of my life during this period? You bet they were. It got so bad that I considered going on antidepressant/anti anxiety medication while I was pregnant. Again, I opted not to for fear of the affect on the baby and the fact that I would feel like a failure if I had to take medication.

After I had my second daughter I struggled with nursing, mourning my dad. I had post partum depression. I eventually did begin taking Lexapro for anxiety. It seemed to help, but after a few months I went off of it. The side effects were too much for me and my husband.
As time passed, I was able to regain some of my coping skills and was able to truly enjoy my new baby girl and my oldest daughter. We bought a new house, moved, and were just getting settled in when we received a surprise. We were expecting again.

We were shocked. This was not planned. It took us a little while to adjust to the news. Gradually we became happy and excited about our newest child coming into the world. We knew that this was just what God wanted for us. Our 3rd daughter was born 18 months after our 2nd daughter. Two under two. Pretty exciting.

Also, pretty stressful. Since that time, my husband and I have struggled in our marriage. There was a lot of tension between us and communication had broken down to the extent that we only spoke when it was about the kids or out of necessity. We didn't fight much, we just coexisted. I was very unhappy and would nag him and snip at him and the kids. There were good times too, but it felt like they didn't make up for all of the tension.

I figured that this was just a season in our marriage that we would have to get through and that once the kids got older we would be fine. However, as time went on, God placed in my heart a sense of urgency and an awareness that I needed to wake up and pay attention to my spouse and my kids.

This Little House

For Part 2 of Kim's story, click here.

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