Playground confessions

4036587818_808fece881_bBrandon Christopher Warren via Compfight cc

I don't know what it is about me that makes me want to tell people my life story when I first meet them. Sometimes I wonder why I'm so open, why I wear my emotions on my sleeve, why I have such a strong sense of trust in people I may have just met.

Why do I think my life is so important that everyone I meet needs to know about it?

Take yesterday afternoon for example. Vivian woke up from her nap a complete disaster, so upset that I dared come in her room to get her before she had fully woken up. After fifteen minutes of a terrible-two's-almost-three tantrum, I was finally able to calm her down and convince both kids to let me push them in the double stroller to the playground.

Let's talk about who got the better deal here for a moment. They got to enjoy a tasty snack of a cherry-vanilla cereal bar and a generous handful of sweet red grapes, along with a beverage of chilled water fresh from the fridge in their water bottles filled to the brim by yours truly, while I had the luxury of pushing them for thirty minutes in 85-degree, muggy heat to the playground.

I was happy to do it though. I've made a commitment to myself to be more active in September (and beyond, but I'm taking it one month at a time). My new therapist says I need to schedule self-care into my day or else I will end up neglecting myself and I know this is true. I've felt it lately. I can definitely tell a difference in my mood, my parenting, and my overall enjoyment in life when I take time to do things for myself each day.

So pushing the kids to the playground and back home is my way of having some time for myself (great exercise and fresh air) while also allowing them to burn off some energy.

The bonus was meeting a really cool mom and her two kids who were the only other people there when we arrived.

I didn't expect to strike up a conversation with her. When we got there... she was talking on her phone. But as our kids began to interact she wrapped up her call and a few minutes later I found myself asking her the customary playground ice-breaker among moms:

"How old are your kids?"

Her son, a year older than mine, jumped right into my son's imaginary fire-fighter rescue scene, while we pushed our daughters (also close in age) on the baby swings as we chatted. I asked her if her son had started Kindergarten this week and she admitted he was actually repeating it since he had some issues focusing last year. I told her how my husband and I had decided to hold Owen back a year since he was so close to the cut-off for enrollment. "He just needs another year to mature a little bit more," I said and she nodded sympathetically.

Then she revealed that she and her husband suspect that their son may have ADHD and they had consulted a child psychiatrist this summer and he had recommended trying meds, but she wants to see how he does this year. Maybe it's a maturity thing. But she also mentioned his lack of awareness of personal space which he demonstrated a few minutes earlier when he playfully tugged at Owen's arm to get him to follow him over to the slides.

Owen didn't seem bothered by it, although the mom said sometimes her son can be aggressive with other kids. It was at that moment I had to bite my tongue.

Just listen, I told myself. And so I did. And I'm glad I made that choice.

But at the same time I felt a connection to this wonderful stranger I had just met and I wanted to tell her that there is nothing wrong with mental illness, and if he does have ADHD it does not define him and there are treatments that can and will help. I wanted to tell her that it's going to be okay and that she will get through this.

I can't help it. The advocate in me always wants to speak up.

But I didn't this time because I sensed from the way she was telling me all this about her son that she got it. She's on my side. And in that moment it was such a joy to simply watch our kids play pretend together on the playground.

Her husband called and I noticed it was already five-thirty and I still had a half-hour walk home. We had been talking for forty-five minutes like good friends and I hated to have to say goodbye.

My kids reluctantly made their way down the slides one last time before walking over to hop into the stroller. As I walked over to buckle Vivi, my new friend's son ran up beside me and took my hand. Looking up at me he asked in the sweetest voice, "But why does he have to go?"

It melted my heart.

His mom and I looked at each other and smiled. We both said how it was getting close to dinner time but maybe they'd see each other at the playground again sometime.

A part of me wishes I would have asked for her email address and maybe we could have set up another playdate. But for some reason I didn't and now I'll just hope we'll run into that lovely family again in the future at one of our local playgrounds.

Because I'd love the chance to tell her my story. I'd love the chance to tell her why I'm passionate about mental health advocacy and most of all because I'd love to just watch our kids have fun pretending to be fire-fighters again.

Running with the Wind


Yesterday I reluctantly pulled on my running shoes, tied them up, and left my husband with the kids for a thirty minute jog. My mind was telling me to just skip it, given that the temperature had plummeted from seventy degrees earlier in the day to forty-five at 7pm when I finally made it out the front door. But it felt good to be moving after all the sugar and heavy food from Easter Sunday.

My phone provided music while I trotted along, my legs still sore from my first jog of the spring two days before. Now that the weather is changing I just want to be outside again. Too much time passed without us being able to go out due to snow, rain, or plain frigid temperatures. The air smells different when spring emerges. Trees and flowers perfume the breeze, along with the fresh mulch that neighbors spread to make everything look fresh. My favorite is the scent of hyacinth at this time of year. I slowed my pace when I ran past a house seemingly anchored in them, taking in the heady fragrance.

The wind was fierce, slapping my face with its icy coldness. But the extra oxygen I sucked in from the air flowing at me propelled me forward and it was as if I ran faster. My bad knee held out thanks to the patella strap I had pulled tight around my knee cap. The rest of my body got a thrill from being on my old route. I didn't do the whole loop, but it was enough to remind me of last year's jogging nights. Made me long for the strength I felt back then when I was running almost every day. I'll get there. One step at a time.

Yesterday my second post for's Word of Mom Blog went live. Please head over and check it out if you have time! :)

Exercise - finding the right balance

Living with bipolar disorder I find that I constantly have to find a balance with everything. From my diet to my sleep to the amount of exercise I get on a daily basis, all these things affect my mood and have to be carefully monitored to keep me "in the middle" as my Dad describes it. I'm like my own personal see-saw, and the goal each day is to make sure that it stays as close to horizontal as possible. In a future post I'll get into sleep, but for this one I wanted to focus on exercise because it is at the forefront of my mind lately. I decided that I wanted to lose my squishy mid-section - leftover from having two bouncing babies who grew inside me - and in order to do it I thought I'd train to run a 5k. I've never been very good at running, but it seems like such a great exercise to do when trying to lose a little bit of weight. Also, I felt it would be a good goal to say that I accomplished.

I recruited one of my best friends to join me and I began training using an online training tracking website called It is so motivating for me to use the site to track my progress and so far I've done a really good job of keeping up with the program I found online: The Cool Running Couch-to-5-k training program. You basically jog/walk on increasing intervals for six weeks until week seven when you're jogging 2.5 miles at a time. I am really excited about it.

This morning during my jog/walk, I realized that it felt really good and that when my timer beeped that the two minutes were up and it was time to walk, I felt as though I could actually continue jogging. Pretty good sign, right? Hopefully the program will work for me and I'll be able to jog the entire 3.1 miles for the race in October.

What I need to be careful about with exercise is that sometimes it can catapult me into a hypomanic state. I've discussed it with my psychiatrist and we came up with techniques to help me recognize the mood lift and how to make sure it doesn't go too high that it leads to mania. For me I have found that sticking to about 30-45 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, done in the morning or early afternoon, is the best way for me to keep my mood at a good level. When I exercise I feel strong and it also helps me to watch my diet more closely because after putting in all that effort to burn calories, I usually don't want to negate it then.

Yoga and pilates have also been other forms of exercise which I have enjoyed tremendously. When I was first diagnosed and was having trouble sleeping, my parents gave me a yoga DVD for Christmas that year. It's called zYoga and was a tremendous help to me in dealing with my insomnia. The woman in the video is so calming and has such a relaxing voice, it became a wonderful sleep ritual for me. I practiced prenatal pilates when I was pregnant with my daughter last year and I truly believe that the class helped me to recover so quickly and easily from childbirth that I would recommend it to any pregnant woman looking for a prental exercise class. It became more and more challenging as the weeks went on, but I found that I gained only 24 pounds with that pregnancy compared to the 43 I gained with my first pregnancy when I did not exercise.

There have been numerous studies on the benefits of exercise for people struggling with mood disorders. If you can find even ten or fifteen minutes a day to walk outside, I am sure that you will quickly feel the benefits and will continue to notice them if you commit to it.

Given today's busy lifestyles, how do you find time to exercise on a daily or weekly basis? Do you think it helps you to manage your moods?