What gives you balance in your everyday life? For me, it's a myriad of things, some simple and some complex. The labyrinth of my brain is often soothed by simply walking outside and looking at the glory of the sun or my garden or a cool winter night and a breath of fresh air, but sometimes there are days that as someone who suffers from a certain amount anxiousness or "worry gut" from time to time, it requires so much more. When I started this post, it was simply going to be about a bracelet that I recently ordered from an adorable little shop on Etsy called Free Spirited Momma. As I began to write, I started thinking about what actually gives my life Zen. When I began this website, I always knew that I needed it as a therapeutic outlet and that I wanted to share some things with people that were very important to me but also make me feel very exposed and vulnerable at the same time. When I say that I suffer from a certain amount of "anxiety", I don't know that I can actually put the label of anxiety on what I have experienced. Truthfully, I have never experienced anything like it in my life, and so often I feel like that label gets slapped on so many people and it often becomes a crutch on which we lean, to keep us from having to dig deep and identify what it is that we are feeling, and why. I am warning you in advance, that when I call myself a "writer", I do so in my head more than on this website. I do not possess a degree in Writing, English, or Literature. Hell, I don't have a degree at all, but what I can offer is my experiences in life so far and try to shed some light on some things I feel pretty well versed on. There are going to be elements of this post that are all over the place, and to be honest, if Grammarly doesn't catch my mistakes, I'm at risk of run on sentences and misplaced commas. Sometimes when I'm very passionate about something or I have a lot to say, my mind goes faster than my fingers, so bear with me. When I had Frances who is now 2-1/2, it was a complete whirlwind of a delivery. Our midwife didn't show in time for her to enter earthside, and it was my first experience with natural childbirth and having not planned on things happening in such a quick fashion, it felt very much out of control. After she came into the world, I was felt so wonderful. It was definitely a different experience from what I have been privy with the previous two. I felt as though I could immediately get up and shower and nurse and do all of the things I needed to. I literally felt like superwoman. People came to visit and I sat "crisscross applesauce" on the bed and everyone seemed pretty amazed that I was so energetic. Like anyone being doted on by family, I was soaking it all in. Here I was with my 3rd child and felt better than ever, and I had all these wonderful people coming to help me celebrate my accomplishment and see the fruits of my labor. Literally. I struggled a bit nursing, but I was doing ok and the next day I was all set to go home. After being home for a day or two, the struggle to nurse became more difficult, and I truly had very little to no support to stay the course, and I began to supplement. It crushed me, to be honest, but I had many people telling me that I wasn't a failure and I powered through. Three days after bringing my little bundle of perfection home, It was getting dark and Shane being the amazing man he is, suggested I go relax in the tub for a bit. I couldn't at the time think of anything I needed more, so I took his advice. Up to that point, I still felt very good. I had some regret over the breast feeding issue, but I didn't feel as though it were lingering on my mind. I turned on the warm bath and about 5 minutes into my bath, something happened. When I tell you that something happened, I mean it was as though a light switch had been flipped. I began to hear things differently. The running of the bath water became like that of a heavy waterfall ringing in my ears, and I was getting tunnel vision. I was sitting in a warm bath but I felt very cold and I wondered if I was about to faint. About that time, Shane came in to ask me if I needed a towel because this is a problem I have always had. I always forget the damn towel. When he walked in, I could tell by the look on his face that he didn't think I looked like myself. I told him I didn't feel right but was having a hard time elaborating on that fact. The only way I could explain it was that I felt unsafe. To say it out loud or in this case to type it out for the world to read is still very upsetting. The word "unsafe" meant so many things. Shane was so confused and knelt down by the tub and asked me what I needed him to do. I had no fucking idea because I myself had no idea what was going on. I decided to get out of the bath because the room seemed to be closing in on me. Like a zombie, I walked into the living room and there was my new precious baby girl, my son, and my big girl, and I felt nothing. Just like the light switch I had felt just moments ago in the bath, my emotions were gone. I felt nothing. Shane held Frances for a while and when he offered to hand her to me, I told him I didn't think I could hold her. What kind of monster was I? I grew and gave birth to this precious human being, and I didn't want to hold her. I wanted to want to hold her, but I literally felt nothing. I went to my bedroom and I laid down and hoped that maybe this very foreign episode would disappear. It didn't. I almost instantly became not just nauseated by the smell of food, but I couldn't even sit in the room and watch anyone else eat. Everyone would eat dinner and I would hold Frances with a bottle in another room, and I felt so weakened in my mind, that I hoped she wouldn't move because I didn't know if I could catch her. Luckily I had wonderful neighbors (you know who you are) that brought dinner for us, otherwise, Shane would have been taking care of all of the children as well as feeding them. Unfortunately, everytime someone would bring food or even just stop by, I would cry....and cry....and cry. On a couple of occasions, I was met with the sweet sideways glance and reassuring words. "Oh Jessica, you are having some baby blues". I wanted to believe them, but the truth was, that I couldn't be left alone with my own children because I wasn't sure that I could care for them. It never crossed my mind that I would injure them in any way, but I just didn't know if I would do anything other than sit in that same "crisscross applesauce" fashion and glance off into the distance. By day 5, I realized I started to think I needed some help because we couldn't keep doing this. I couldn't eat, I had lost 25 lbs in 5 days from not eating or drinking, I had terrible mastitis from not nursing and Shane was completely scared to death. I sat on the side of my bed on day 5 and I said to him "I had it all. I had everything I wanted with 2 healthy happy children and you, and I have ruined it all." I knew that I wasn't going to be able to pull out of whatever it was that was going on in my mind, and I began to realize that I was seeing the new baby as the reason for the feeling of doom. That was the first moment in days that I realized that there must be something skewed in my reality because there was no way in the world that this new piece of perfection in our life could be the reason I felt so dreadful. I was able to get an appointment with my midwife to discuss what we felt like the issue was. Lucky for me, I couldn't have asked for a more understanding individual. She was so open and honest with me and made me feel like it wasn't crazy for me to feel the way I felt. It wasn't baby blues at all. I was experiencing something a bit more harsh than that. Sometimes when you feel so out of control during the birth of a child and then a sudden euphoria of the emotions following, it can throw your thinking process into a serious whirlwind. My brain was going a little haywire to begin with from such a violent birth experience, and then when I was so vulnerable, I became unable to nourish my body properly which further exacerbated the problem. To sum it up, my nerves were so screwed up and I needed some help to find my way out of the darkness and back to being the mother I was before. My midwife explained to me that I had several options. I could try medication, therapy, or a more natural approach, but without a doubt, I was going to have to nourish my body, or nothing was going to get better. This would go down in history, as the first time ever in my life that I would need to be told that eating was essential. I slowly came out of the woods and into the light. It took a few days for me to be able to comfortably leave home and take my children and feel ok, but as I did small tasks, I gained more and more confidence. My biggest regret with the first two weeks of Frances's life is that I truly feel like I wasn't able to bond with her. Rest assured, I have bonded with her 10 fold since then, and even though the first days of an infants life isn't something you can get back, it isn't something I dwell on. If the universe allows, I will have a lifetime to show her my love. I will never hide what happened from her because I want her to know that if there is a time in her life that she feels she is drowning, I am here with a lifeline. There were no support groups available in my area for postpartum issues. I have a wonderful family, and everyone was there for me, however, when you are in the place like the one I was in, you need someone that has been there and can tell you, there is light at the end of that tunnel. You need a group of people, a doula, a midwife, a friend who has experienced it first hand to be more than words but be the example that you aren't crazy and you aren't alone. There is such a huge spectrum of things that can go askew both during and after pregnancy that can cause you to feel a sudden onset of what some would consider anxiety. As I said for me, I didn't feel anxious or nervous. I just felt this impending doom and it happened suddenly. Nothing led up to it or was the icing on the cake of what seemed like a meltdown waiting to happen. I am certainly not a doctor and I have been told by a few, that anxiety isn't something you always see coming, and it can come in many forms. I think for me, the biggest struggle was knowing that I had to give something over to someone else to control for a while, in that I didn't have the option to just "nut up" and put mind over matter. I can tell you now, that I am great. I have created for myself an outlet in the way of a garden with both vegetables and herbs where I can go and plant my feet solidly in the Earth and feel safe. It's where I go to feel what is real and what isn't. I wish I could say that the imbalance that I felt that day never happened again, but it did. About 2 years ago, I had one that hit pretty hard and unexpectedly after what was, until then, shaping up to be a lovely day. The difference was that I was equipped with some fantastic support in the form of what I would call an angel. She isn't local to me anymore, but all it took was a phone call, and it was a complete game changer. She knew exactly where I was coming from and was going through something similar at the time, and she was a bit ahead of the curve as far as solutions, and she gave me so much hope for being able to come out ahead of this thing. As it turns out, I can, and did come out of it and relatively fast. Sometimes it's so much easier to go to someone who isn't so immediate to your life, or at least for me it was. I added the photograph below because it was a very important moment for me and for Frances. It was Christmas Eve and she was 1 month old. I sat there having finished playing "santa" with Shane, and in that moment I realized that I was ok. I still had everything I ever wanted and I hadn't ruined anything at all. Today I enjoy life and everything it brings. I have come to a crossroads in my life where I realize that I don't have to be anything other than me. My entire life I have always been a bit odd and was so afraid to embrace that part of me for fear of what that would mean for those around me. Then I woke up one day and I said: "fuck this". I can't keep doing what looks right, and instead, I'm going to be in charge of me and do what feels right instead. I think for me, the biggest things was how it would impact my children. I can tell you first hand, that my children respect me more for this growth and the confidence it has given me, and while I don't need their approval, it is my job to be an example of forward free thinking so that I can empower them to be who they are born to be. Am I everyone's cup of tea? That's an emphatic NO, but what I am is a strong, confident, badass mom that is passing on this strength to my roots. So what exactly brings Zen to my life now? Light, essential oils, meditation, the moon, a fantastic book, my husband's strength, smudging, and the knowledge that what I am is enough for both myself and for those around me. I hope that knowing others survive this, help you to find your Zen. Peace, Love, and Light.