Songs for Moms!

So did I mention my first legit album was released?!

I write songs about what I’m going through as a way to cope. So naturally, the past few years I’ve written about motherhood. I feel like I’ve summarized motherhood pretty thoroughly in these songs, and I hope that mothers everywhere can relate with the messages in them and feel hope or at least know that someone out there gets it. Motherhood is tough. And wonderful. And so tough.

The album has 8 songs all about mama-ing. I was originally gonna do like, 3… then I thought why not 5…. then I went ahead and did as many as I could because I want these songs out there for other moms,  even if that means they won’t be elaborately arranged. And since I’m a mom with very limited time and resources, I did the best I could with what I had, and that means these songs are simple. It’s basically just me and the piano mostly. But the heart of these songs is in the lyrics, so I hope you listen.

Thanks to all the support I’ve received these past few days. And now that this project is out there, I can finally take time to learn the Ukulele that’s been sitting in my closet since Christmas :)

 

 

So, I stopped SSRI’s.

Yep. After 8 or so years of taking various antidepressants, I got tired of the trial and error of it all. I got tired of being told to just “up the dosage” or “add Wellbutrin” or just “give it time.” So after consulting my doctor, he gave me the go-ahead. I was on Prozac and Wellbutrin so he had me just stop Prozac (cause the half life is almost a month, and i hadn’t been taking it more than a few months) and I tapered off the Wellbutrin.

And honestly, the first few weeks felt pretty good! I started researching what I could do to help myself with anxiety naturally.

Then, around day 25, the withdrawals started. Cause that’s how long it took Prozac to leave my body completely.

Holy. Crap.

It has not been fun, to say the least. Migraines. Bloating. Extreme irritability. Extreme agitation. I gained 10 lbs and lost all motivation to exercise. Anxiety and panic attacks like I haven’t had in YEARS. I’ve felt horrible guilt, thinking maybe this was selfish of me; my kids shouldn’t have to see me like this.

At one point while I was bawling on the floor of my closet, I told Mark in my best impression of a toddler who lost her balloon “I want my meds back!”

However! I’m starting to see a light at the end of this confusing tunnel.

I’ve been studying The Diet Cure and The Mood Cure. According to these books, I’ve got some serious chemical deficiencies in my brain, particularly serotonin and endorphin levels. So I’ve been taking lots of amino acids and herbs and things have been steadily improving (with the occasional anxiety attack). I’m also experimenting with cutting out gluten and dairy in hopes that it may help any other imbalances or allergies making things worse go away. I’m also about to visit an endocrinologist to check out my thyroid, adrenals, and sex hormones to see if there are any links to my exhaustion, agitation, miscarriages, weight gain, etc.

This isn’t easy. I miss the days of popping my “happy pill” and going about my merry way.

However, strangely enough, I’m starting to see this challenging period of my life as a blessing.

I’m finding myself feeling the spirit more, because I’m more emotionally sensitive. I feel a lot more, and that includes feeling the spirit.

I’m relying on my Heavenly Father more. I’ve been reminded again and again that I can’t do this without the help of my Savior, and I’m finding myself on my knees asking for His help instead of just handing it all with my “happy pill.”

I’m also learning A LOT about the human body, about health, about food and diet and herbs and different things that can help. The more I learn about my own body and what I can do to help myself, the more I believe this is the right thing for me.

I’m starting to get back into exercising. I’m eating a lot better, working on my music a lot more for therapy, and taking supplements that really do seem to be helping. I’m doing all I can, and relying on Christ to help with the rest.

I’ve had a lot of people reach out with their own stories of anxiety and depression and SSRI use. Please continue to reach out! I love connecting with others who are dealing with similar challenges and as I learn more, I hope to be able to share more information so that others can hopefully heal their own mental illnesses, too (or at least manage them better).

Here’s to being happy without the happy pill! Or at least trying! Ha.

Listening to the Wrong Voices.

A friend of mine randomly told me she had been thinking about my “music career.” Which was funny to me, because I don’t really have one. But nonetheless, she told me that she had been thinking about me and my music and told me I should post more cover songs and try to collaborate with other people to try to get more of a “following.”

All of this is stuff I’ve always kind of known, but I just haven’t done anything about it. I told Mark about our conversation and he was like “Erica, that’s the exact same stuff I’ve been telling you for years. You just need to start putting yourself out there.”

I thought about it for a few minutes, then told him I felt like I wasn’t ready, and that people wouldn’t care. “Who wants to watch a chubby twenty-something mom sing cover songs? Maybe when I lose 40 lbs or something.”

He then proceeded to tell me that more people could relate to me that way. That I didn’t have to be this perfect version of myself to feel like I could put myself in front of an audience.

That’s when it occurred to me that these voices in my head have been seriously messing me up.

The past few years, I have repeatedly listened to these voices in my head telling me that no one would want to watch or listen to me because I’m not some young barely twenty skinny perfect person. That for me to be confident enough to put myself out there, I needed to whiten my teeth, get a decent hair cut, get some color on my skin, lose 40 lbs, get hernia surgery, lose the lazy eye… the list goes on. I haven’t been updating my website pictures because I’ve been telling myself that once I reach all those qualifications, I can get some pictures of myself taken so I can freshen up my website.

I have been wasting way WAY too much time worrying about what other people think of me. And worrying that people won’t accept or like me as I am.

But I’m done wasting time. I don’t want my daughter to feel like she can’t accomplish her goals and dreams because she isn’t some ideal version of perfection we assume everyone cares about. We are all beautiful, individual, unique people, and we ALL have something to offer the world. People relate with imperfection. People feel comfortable around other people who are imperfect because it gives them permission to love themselves as they are, too.

So I’m going to start trying my best to just be me, and to accept myself as I currently am. I’ll always be striving for better, but it’s a constant journey, and I can’t just sit around letting my life and dreams go by because I haven’t reached the destination yet.

So, hi. I’m Erica. I weigh more than I should, have stretch marks all over the place, an umbilical hernia that makes me look like I have a weird lump under my shirt, right on top of my pregnant-looking belly because my core muscles are shot from kids and just years of not having core strength in general. I have feet that are stupid wide, a lazy eye, a scar on my chin, and pasty skin. I have a short waist and shelf hips and overly dry hands from hand washing because I have OCD and generalized anxiety disorder. I’m codependent. I’m kind of weird. I’m a mess in all kinds of ways.

But I’m also awesome. I’m friendly, compassionate, and loving. I’m a decent singer/pianist and a pretty awesome songwriter if I do say so myself. I’m a good mom, and a good wife, and a good friend. And I hope as I start this journey of self-love, that the list of things I love about myself gets much larger than the paragraph of my imperfections.

Now I’m gonna go try to sleep while I can before my monster toddler wakes up 4 times in the middle of the night.

Dangerous Questions.

[This post was originally written several months ago. But I finally logged into my website after ignoring it for months and found this draft and it made me laugh. So here it is.]

Yesterday [a few months ago]  I asked Mark a dangerous question.

“Does my hair look ok, Mark?”

I’m in this weird in-between stage of having an actual hair style and growing it out. It’s awkward. So I pulled the front sides of my hair back and twisted it into a messy little bun, and used a few bobby pins to keep it in place. There, I thought. A fun little messy half-bun that will cover some of the awkwardness.

Mark’s response, “The sides are ok, but the back looks bad. It looks weird.”

It really wasn’t fair of me. I shouldn’t ask unless I want his honest opinion.

“Why is it weird? What’s so terrible about it?”

“It looks like a little kid did it. It just looks bad.”

“It can’t look that bad.”

“It does.”

“Sheesh, you could sugar coat it a little.”

I proceeded to fume for about 20 minutes while we kept getting ready for church. I ended up going back upstairs right before leaving and speed-straightening my hair so I could get by wearing it down.

By the time we were in the car Mark finally noticed the grump all over my face.

“Wait, you’re mad at me? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I’m fine.”

“I know that’s not true. Just tell me.”

“I’m fine. I don’t wanna talk about it. Just let it go, Mark.”

“Oh, so there’s an “It” to let go of.”

Fast-forward a few minutes to me finally explaining my frustration.

“I just don’t understand how it could even have been that horrible. Like, it was supposed to look a little messy.”

“It looked bad! I thought you’d want to know!”

“It did not look THAT bad!”

“I was hoping to save you from embarrassment. If I hadn’t said something, other people would have, or would at least be thinking it.”

“Are you serious? People care THAT much about my hair?”

“Look, you just don’t have much practice. It’s not your fault.”

“The only reason you care is cause you’re a design snob!”

“That’s not it. It looked weird, and I thought you would want to know!”

“So basically I just suck.”

“HOW did you even get to that? Just cause you don’t know how to do hair it doesn’t mean you suck!”

“WHATEVER.”

Fast-forward past my silent treatment to like 20 mins later when I realized how dumb the whole thing was an apologizing for freaking out.

Moral of the story?

Don’t throw your husband into an inescapable trap. The poor guy.

Also, someone teach me how to do my hair.

Balancing Perfection.

I’ve been dealing with an inner battle for a while.

I always want to be better. I want to improve myself. I want to be more in shape. I want my house to be organized. I want to do meal-planning or at least figure out a way to not have to scramble to figure out dinner while starving children hang on my ankles. I want to do so much.

But I’m limited. I’m a mom to two young children. One of them is hitting the obnoxious stage of childhood and the other is getting exponentially curious and explorative. By the end of the day I’d much rather binge-eat popcorn and watch Netflix than work out or go to bed at a decent hour. It’s exhausting to do this day in, day out. No sick days, no vacation days, just days filled with whining and crying and breaking up fights and yelling at them over and over again after vowing not to yell anymore, concluded with me in this zombie-like state where I literally “just can’t even.”

When I share my experiences, I often hear things like “Give yourself a break,” “Motherhood is chaos, you’re doing great,” “Don’t put too much on your plate, this is all that matters right now,” “Messy house, happy kids,” and other such advice. But internally, I’m not so sure those are the right answers.

There has to be some kind of balance between being realistic and still striving for greatness.

I see “mom boss ladies” and women who seem to have/do it all, and wonder why that isn’t me. Why can’t I handle working AND being a mom? Why can’t I be a saleslady or something from home? Why can’t I make myself get up early? Why can’t I be consistent, like these other moms who get it all done?

But then my head fills up with excuses. I need sleep to handle my life. I don’t want to workout because I’m too exhausted. I can’t do things other people do because of my anxiety/OCD. All my mom friends struggle like me, so this is normal.

But is it? Where do we draw the line between setting our expectations realistically, and justifying our unproductive, inconsistent, sometimes lazy behavior?

I’ve been told I put too much pressure on myself, but maybe I don’t put enough. I don’t think I’ve ever really pushed myself. I never felt any pressure to push myself growing up, and now I feel like I’m stuck in this rut. I want to believe I’m capable of anything like all those inspirational pinterest quotes say, but believing the general idea is possible and really believing in YOU… it’s tricky.

Maybe we shouldn’t give ourselves an easy way out. Give ourselves credit for what we do right, sure. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up because we aren’t perfect. But I don’t think we’re supposed to just throw our hands up and surrender to our faults and failures. The whole point of this life is to improve and progress, isn’t it?

Motherhood is tough. And some days it takes all I have to just make it to bedtime. But I bet I’d enjoy this stage of my life more if I stopped making excuses and filling my own head with negative ” i can’t do this cause blah blah” and rather prayed for strength to improve. Prayed for an attitude change. For some alone time. For some perspective. Prayed for grace to help fill in the gaps where I’m not quite getting it right.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. It’s just been on my mind.

This talk from last October’s LDS General Conference came to mind as I was thinking of all this, so if anyone is struggling with balancing perfection like I have been, take a listen.

 

Consistency.

Did you know it’s hard to do things when you have kids?

I can’t seem to be consistent about anything. The MuTu System, my music, this blog, the laundry, meal planning, anything. My life is a sporadic mess of dirty diapers and coughing kids and laundry that needs put away (or moved from the washer to the dryer… or re-washing said laundry because I forgot to move it and now it smells like stale something or other).

What I have managed to be consistent in is losing my mind lately. Between Amy’s stomach bug triggering my emetophobia (and Jacob’s hacking cough making me think he’s constantly on the verge of puking himself), and Jacob’s new found independence and strong will, and Amy cutting 27 teeth at one time, and the holidays coming up bringing all sorts of stress (and fun, but you know it’s stressful!), it’s been hard to keep up.

I have spent a ton of time on my knees lately, basically begging God to just help me get by. Help me survive the day. Help me stop yelling at Jake; my throat hurts and he just laughs at me. Help him to freaking poop in the potty already.

And you know what? God listens.

He hasn’t magically made Jake poop in the potty, but he does calm my nerves and help me see him for the sweet little boy he is. He inspires friends to bring me food, or take Amy to the zoo, or just check in and talk with me. He reminds me that although there are so many things I wish I could do other than what I’m doing right now, this is what is most important right now.

And you know what? Life is pretty darn great. We are relatively healthy. We have been safe and protected despite hurricanes from hell. We have the gospel in our lives. And I’m officially down 70 lbs since I had Amy a little over a year ago. So that’s positive. Now if I could just be consistent with the MuTu System so I wouldn’t look pregnant despite my weight loss. Ha.

Now imma get these kids to bed and take the heck out of a bubble bath.

My life revolves around yellow.

So, if you know me, you know I love yellow. I think it started with my obsession with rubber ducks, but now its evolved into a general love for the color and all its happy, positive vibes. And I’m picky about my yellow. I don’t do mustard or citron. It has to be creamy, dreamy yellow.

My son has picked this up. I didn’t brain-wash him into the obsession, but he just loves all things yellow.

Between that and his obsession with cars, we have a yellow car issue we’re dealing with.

We own every yellow hot wheel car ever made, I think. We also own just about every hot wheel car that has traces of yellow on it (for when we can’t locate a pure yellow one on the rack). My son can spot a yellow car ANYWHERE. I’ve been coerced into taking many a detour just so we can drive past the yellow cars in our neighborhood.

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Heaven help any kid who tries to “share” his yellow cars. Heaven help any kid who wants to use the yellow car at the San Antonio Do-Seum. This kid has a problem.

I kind of hope he never grows out of it. Though I’m definitely not buying him a yellow car when he’s 16.

….Who am I kidding. I’d totally be down with that. I’d probably trade my mini-van for his sweet yellow ride.

Mutu System, in case you were wondering…

I recently started a new program called The Mutu System. “MuTu” is short for “Mummy Tummy.” They say “mummy” cause the founder is from the UK. It also means that in all the videos you get to listen to that awesome British accent.

“Mummy Tummy” is referring to a problem a lot of moms have– that pooch that doesn’t go away after you have the baby. Sometimes it’s extreme, called diastasis recti, when the ab muscles separate and can’t hold in your core. I’m somewhere in the middle– I don’t have a bad ab separation, but I have a small hernia above my belly button, have zero core strength, and my belly juts out because of it, making me look like I’m still pregnant. So when I found this program, I knew it was heaven-sent.

I have not been perfect. In fact, I plan on re-starting tomorrow. Between going on a road trip (and then recovering from said road trip) it just hasn’t happened. But from what I’ve done so far, I can already tell it’s going to help me so much.

It’s not so much a work-out program as it is a life-style change. It teaches you about eating clean, giving your body fuel it needs to heal from having babies, and teaches the science behind why our bodies don’t just whip back into shape after babies. It’s all about going back to basics– walking and standing correctly so your core doesn’t have excess pressure, hip and back pain, etc. We are supposed to “ditch the heels” and wear minimalist footwear so our feet can move freely like they’re supposed to (did you know athletic shoes have heels?! I never thought about it before!). And the exercises (which I haven’t even gotten to yet, cause life got crazy) are low impact, high intensity exercises that make “every work-out a core work-out” without hurting your recovering body.

I love that it’s a program specifically designed for post-partum mamas. I love that it isn’t just about sweaty, want-to-die exercise. I love that it isn’t a diet, but rather guidelines to help you eat cleaner. And I LOVE that it isn’t a sales-pitch thing. It’s not a pyramid scheme or level-marketing whatever. No one is pressuring you to buy any special magical protein shakes or anything. It’s just a product that works, that is for sale, straight up. And to me, it was worth the investment (even though I may have cheated and found it on Ebay for cheaper).

I just wanted to share what it is I’m doing for anyone interested. I am not getting paid to write this, I’m not trying to sell anything, I just want to share it cause so far, I’m loving it.

https://mutusystem.com/

Socially Acceptable Triple-Chin?

So, my sister and I have this game we play. Every time we FaceTime each other, we have a contest of who has the most chins or ugliest face when the other answers. I usually win, lets be honest.

And as I was playing with my son tonight, I found myself making “silly faces” at him, resulting in him cracking up.

But as I was contorting my face into all kinds of horrific, it occurred to me that maybe that is not something to be super proud of….

Like. When most people are told to make a silly face for the camera, they do this:

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And then there’s me…

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And lets not forget this gem from my college years.. my infamous rendition of “Chet,” a simple lumberjack who is just really excited about the all-you-can-eat buffet.

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I think I’m basically Lindsey Lohan in Mean Girls in that scene where she actually dresses up as a terrifying zombie ex-wife, missing the memo that Halloween was an excuse to dress skanky. I definitely missed a memo somewhere.

Why am I sharing this information? Why am I admitting to the fact that I can contort my face into such hideousness I could make children cry if I wanted to?

Mostly cause it’s late. And I should be sleeping.

 

Being Happy…. When you’re not.

I’m a big believer in happiness. I’m all about it. I love being happy, making others happy, and finding ways to be happy.

I read a book a while back that basically changed my life. I think it was called “You Can Choose to be Happy.” I think I lent it to someone else cause I can’t find it anywhere, but it’s okay because the principles it taught me are basically ingrained in me now.

I don’t think I had understood that concept before… that we can literally DECIDE to be happy. It was a game changer! I remember being offended by someone at a store or in a parking lot or something, and letting it bother me for a while, and then all of the sudden realizing, Hey! That person doesn’t give a crap about this! They probably aren’t giving it a second thought! So why the heck am I wasting time being irritated or angry or insecure when I don’t have to?! 

Thinking that way gave me freedom like I’d never known. I was no longer hostage to my feelings, no longer so reactive. I started letting things go! It was amazing.

I remember reading in The Book of Mormon about Nephi and his brothers Laman and Lemuel and noticing how they went through a LOT of the same trials–having to leave their home, going back and forth across the wilderness, facing hunger, sickness, etc… and yet those brothers all reacted SO differently. Nephi kept positive and happy and overcame his trials, while Laman and Lemuel threw fits and were depressed and angry and basically stupid about the whole situation. And it hit me– we CAN be happy even through trials! We can CHOOSE to lift our heads up, have faith that we will pull through, and make the most of it. We can also choose to hate our lives, but we will go through trials either way, so why not make it a little easier on ourselves?

HOWEVER, I realized something recently.

It’s a lot easier to be happy…. when life is awesome. Duh?

The past few weeks I have been a bit of a monster. I’ve been grumpy, mildly resentful, and have just had a poor attitude. Why, you ask?

Because SOMEONE, who shall remain nameless, likes to keep me up in the wee hours of the night.

And I do not do well on little sleep. I’m basically a big baby about it.

But last night I slept GLORIOUSLY. Like, I have been in such a good mood all day. That kind of sleep. The kind where you just float on clouds as you gently wake to sunlight and just… it’s just so good.

And now that I’m human again, it occurred to me how hypocritical I’ve been. I’m all about preaching CHOOSING TO BE HAPPY, but when my circumstances were less than ideal recently, I was not happy. I didn’t want to be. I almost couldn’t be. My nerves were shot, my patience was gone, and it was just hard.

So, I’m re-committing to happiness. Cause looking back, I could have been happier. I would have still been tired, gotten mastitis, had a messy house, but I could have been happy and kinder to my family.

I wrote a song about this topic called “Yellow” like, forever ago. I plan on recording it very soon and sharing it. But SOMEONE, who shall remain nameless, wants me to hold her all the time, so that will happen when it happens.

Until then, here’s to being happy, and lets all try to be our best, happiest selves, even on no sleep! 😉