It’s currently 6:18pm. It’s still light out, and miraculously not raining. Spring has been slow in coming. I’m answering emails from the comfort of the couch, glass of wine in hand. All I can hear is screaming kids on the trampoline.
It’s blissful, in its own weird way.
I love this time of year if simply for the fact that the kids just instantly drop everything the minute they come in the door to go back outside (I mean this, literally. Daily, I trip over backpacks and shoes when I come in the door and have to yell “PICK YOUR STUFF UP!”)
Neck breaking hazards aside, it’s liberating. No one asks for TV or whines about boredom. The backyard collects extra kids for trampoline time but just as quickly empties when a game of street-wide manhunt starts.
Every once in a while it goes eerily quiet… it takes me a few moments to notice the change. If I peer over the deck railing, it’s usually to find that the boys have scattered, and there are a few girls sitting on the trampoline, quietly talking about who knows what. I retreat as I don’t want to intrude whatever little world they’ve created.
It’s evenings like this that make me appreciate, even more than usual, the community that is created by small town living.
A few weeks ago, Jay and I had a standard parent conference with one of the kids’ teachers. When it was done, Jay left ahead of me and the teacher pulled me aside.
(If you’re new here, Jay is the father to my 3 insane children).
Awkwardly, she broached the topic of our family life: “Are you?… I, um. I heard that you aren’t together anymore? Is this true?”
I confirmed, that yes, she was correct. She looked baffled for a minute and then said that she was surprised to hear this because we seemed to get along well and that the kids are doing well. Then she kind of congratulated me and I left, now the one feeling a little awkward.
Did she just congratulate me on not being a bitch?
People get divorced all the time. I get it. Did I think I’d ever get divorced? No, of course not. You don’t get married expecting it not to be permanent. At least, I didn’t. I fully expected to emulate my parents, married for a billion years.
Yet, here we are!
The kids are currently on their way to California for March break without me. They’ll be getting some quality Dad time, doing things his way without my interference and hovering.
But! Guess what? I’m flying down as a surprise to join them and spend a few days all together.
Fear not, I’m not ruining my own surprise. My kids don’t read this. They don’t even know what a dumb blog is, anyway. Maybe one day they’ll find it and be sooooo embarrassed, mooooom.
We’re going to spend a few days over spring break doing kid and family stuff. Together.
And you know what? I’m super excited.
Has life been as I planned it? Hell no. Is it easy? Also, no. Since we separated, I’ve experienced, in various forms: rage, anger, sadness, frustration, elation, joy, disbelief, and every single emotion in between. It continues to be a terrifying roller coaster.
But now, in its current iteration, our family ‘format’ works. Is that to say it’s perfect?
Of course not.
Does it change all the time?
Do we know what we’re doing?
Nope, not really. Isn’t that what parenting is, anyway? Winging it?
Do people judge me/us and question what we’re doing?
And so what.
I’m really good at being self deprecating, but this is one of those times that I can say how proud I am of how far we’ve come.
Our kids are happy, healthy. Normal. They love us, we love them. We’re in this together, like it or not. There’s days where we like it, days we don’t.
A year ago, I wrote a post about how I came to admit to myself – and others, by virtue of pressing “publish” – that I struggled with depression. It was scary but also really liberating. It was like I was forcing myself to walk the talk, to prove that there wasn’t stigma around the issue of mental health.
Fast forward 365 days. Once again, it’s “Bell Let’s talk” day in Canada. In some ways, very little has changed. In others, everything has changed.
A friend suggested that perhaps I write a follow-up, detailing how I came to tackle my situation. It took a while, but here we are.
I don’t know that one ever truly overcomes or gets “cured” of the twin towers of depression and anxiety. Rather, for myself, it is an evolving process of managing my symptoms and triggers, and figuring out what works for me. Maybe time will tell?
Of course, there are days when I feel unstoppable. Those as so fun. Partner those with days when I feel like I can’t get out of my own way and I think that’s a pretty accurate description of the roller coaster I pilot.
You know what I think that makes me? Perfectly normal.
The most critical piece in getting myself to where I am today has been to surround myself with people who make me feel safe.
I don’t think I’ve ever typed such a corny sentence, but voila. It’s my truth.
I don’t need to constantly talk about my feeeeeelings, but knowing that those upon whom I rely are there to listen if I need them is critical. Sometimes, it’s as simple as knowing that they’ll respond when I send that text that simply says “fuuuuuuuuuuuck…”. You know what I mean.
Seeking medical help (and continuing with it, still) was the best decision I could have made for myself – and for my kids. The next best decision was coming clean, as it were. Because no longer am I hiding behind a facade and suddenly, not only have I gained more people upon whom I can rely for help, I became someone that others could come to talk to.
And so, I listen. Because, I think that’s the other part of “Let’s talk”.
Here’s what I wrote last year.
I will never forget the day that I knew I needed to ask for help.
My life, as I knew it, was crumbling around me. My mother was dying. My marriage was falling apart. I didn’t know which way was up and was barely going through the motions. I was faking it in almost every aspect of my life. I was pretending I was fine.
I so clearly wasn’t fine. I was down to 100 pounds. I wasn’t sleeping. I couldn’t eat. I was barely present, I couldn’t focus and was operating in a fog, seized by anxiety.
I was scared, sad, and I felt almost paralyzed. Of course, I had a few close friends in whom I confided (to a degree), but those nights, alone at 3:00am, when my mind was spinning, it was a dark and ugly place to be.
My whole life, I’d always tried to power through the emotional stuff, driven by the motto of “this too shall pass.” Stiff upper lip, and all that, right?
But that day, as I sat at my desk unable to type because my hands were shaking so hard, operating on 3 hours sleep, I knew then that this had to stop. I called my doctor, and walked through her door 15 minutes later.
She knew immediately upon seeing me that I needed help. She was gentle but firm. She asked me what I felt were prying but necessary questions. She drew me out, listened to my halting speech, and by doing so gave me that tiny little bit of confidence, that little push I needed to take those first steps towards getting help and getting well. I needed someone to take control, to give me a plan, to confirm that no, I wasn’t losing it completely.
‘Cause it sure as hell felt like I was.
Fast forward to today.
I am healthy, mentally AND physically. I am SO much better.
I’ve learned to read the signs of when things are starting to slide. I know when to ask for help, and from whom. My treatment is, and will always be, ongoing. I don’t feel shame in this; rather, there’s a sense of power that comes with knowing that I was brave enough to take this on.
Today, in Canada, it’s #Bellletstalk day. The goal of this campaign is to invite others to join the conversation and end the stigma around mental health.
By sharing my story, I hope that in some way, you know it’s ok to share yours.
It never fails. I cross the final finish line of the season and envision the endless days of rest and relaxation that await me… No structure! Do what I want, when I want! Eat what I want! (wait… I do that anyway).
And those first 48 hours are just magical… I enjoy doing nothing. I don’t check training peaks, I don’t get sweaty. I read, I eat. I pretend I don’t like exercise.
And then, slowly but surely, the restlessness kicks in. Runs get scheduled, we go for rides. I start to troll my favourite websites for races I can sign up for. Sure, I can go out and “do stuff” but my type-A personality (disorder) misses the structure, the planning, the goals and those little green/yellow/red boxes that taunt me and motivate me.
Coach liz and I joke that we have an illness. Maybe we do. But it’s one with good side effects, I think.
This year’s off season started before I went to Maui for the Xterra… that race was done on a wing and a prayer. So while, by all appearances, it may seem like I didn’t stop, I’ve been left to my own devices for *just* long enough.
Long enough that I asked if we could get back to the checking the little green boxes 1 week earlier than planned. I couldn’t help it.
I’m oddly excited for what 2018 may bring. New goals, new races, same great people.
Anyone want to go for a ride?
Off season, Day 1
Day 1 lunch.
“rest and relaxation”
Toss up between ride + sit here.
Day 1 with the gang!
Determined to ride outdoors as much as possible this year!
You know how, when you’re driving, and a squirrel runs out in front of your car, freezes, dashes this way and that? And at the last second it somehow manages to survive and doesn’t get squished and returns safely to the ditch?
That is a terrible analogy, but I feel like I was the squirrel and September was the car barreling down on me.
I may have hesitated, but hey, I survived and am now happily back in my ditch!
Last month was busy but oh so fun. That said, I am definitely a creature of routine, so it’s great to be home to my little mountain bubble and slow down a little. Also, September was birthday month, celebrated the best way I know how: sweating with friends.
My little brother got married! Family weddings are fun (granted, I’ve only been to 2, 3 if you count my own, so I’ve little to compare it to).
If it’s a good one, you leave the night with some funny stories, sore feet and a new family member.
Working the Invictus Games may rank up there as one of my favourite events to be a part of. Hideous yellow shirts notwithstanding, the athletes and volunteers are just so great. No prima donnas, just kind and hardworking people. I got to reconnect with old colleagues and see athletes I met in 2016.
Also, I’ve not been called “ma’am” this frequently since the last Invictus Games. For that reason alone, I’m not cut out to be in the military.
Trouble makers are my fave
33C, yellow, welcome to day 1
I won’t tell you who he’s looking at
With all that’s going on in the world… hurricanes, shootings, and a completely incompetent leader south of the border, I’m ever so grateful to live in my little mountain bubble. Maybe it’s a false sense of security that comes with living in a small town, surrounded by people you trust and rely on, but it felt so damn good to come home and bear hug my people.
I struggle with the sense of helplessness that comes with watching everything that is happening in the US. It makes my blood boil and yet, there is literally not one thing I can do about it, besides ignore it. Which I can’t do. Yet.
Home is where my heart is
Is it still panic training when there’s 2.5 weeks left to race day? I’m going to go with YES. Working sport and endurance events is terrible for one’s fitness (no sleep and fueled by sugar, for starters). So I am definitely playing catch up. I got a roll down slot to the Xterra World Championships, and I currently feel like I’ll be throwing down a wicked battle for last place.
I’m packing the SPF 100, and the sherpa position is still open. Any takers?
It’s been 5 years since we were at your side as you drew your last breath.
What’s left to be said since you died that I haven’t said before?
God, September is hard.
As soon as the calendar flips, I find myself constantly thinking back to your last days with us. Spending time with you in hospice. Sitting outside with A and N, trying to make sense of it all. Waiting. Not knowing what to expect but still, knowing you were lost to us. It was such a surreal experience.
I still miss you every single day. Is it possible that I miss you more now than I did when we first lost you? Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a minute of your guidance, even if that guidance is a simple reminder to just get on with it. I quietly envy my friends who have close relationships with their mums.
You know when kids fall, and they are totally fine until they see their moms and then they burst into tears? Sometimes, I wish you were still here simply so that I could have that luxury when I most need it. To pick up the phone and burst into tears with no preamble.
I know that the memory of you has faded for the kids. They were so little when you died. But we talk about Omi often enough that they’ve created their own little memory bank. Real or imagined, it doesn’t matter. You are still a presence in their lives, and I’ll continue to add to their memory bank as much as I can. I wish I’d taken more pictures, written more down, captured more memories.
If you were alive today, I’d like to think that you’d be proud of the mother I am to 3 strong-willed children. I’d like to think you’d still be scolding me for the silly things I do. I’d like to think of you with your grandchildren, teaching them the things that I can’t.
“The race where my inner Race Director died a little”
“Baku Julie Miller Invitational”
I should explain, first.
I’m in Baku, Azerbaijan (a former Soviet republic north of Iran) as a part of Baku 2017, a small multi-sport games for this region.
I’m here for a month.
It’s going to be a long month.
Before coming, I found out online that there was a half marathon happening while I was here and quickly figured out that some colleagues were also planning to run. Excellent, I thought.
Try as I might, I couldn’t find previous results online, or much information in general. No matter, it will work out. Right?
Online registration involved putting in my passport number.
No, thanks. In person sounds good.
This registration process may be why I can’t find results from 2016:
I was handed them my $30 (or so), they handed me a sticker, instructions in Azeri and sent me on my way.
No plastic bags
No folding chairs or tables
Also: buses will follow the runners en route should they wish to stop and take transport to the finish line.
We meet and walk to the start line, which happens to be barely organized chaos and a sea of people. Almost no one speaks English.
We are dressed as runners (shorts, tees, runners. Pretty standard stuff). Wouldn’t you know, this put us in the minority, surrounded as we were by jeans, leather jackets and completely inappropriate running footwear all ’round.
We head towards the start arch, with a vague sense of which direction we should be facing.
Pretty soon, we’re in a crush of people — personal space, be dammed – and the police are gesturing us to move backwards more. There’s nowhere to go, we can only laugh and try not to touch people inappropriately.
We stick out.
The start line and time were merely suggestions
With 5 minutes to go (by my watch), suddenly it appears that we are off and the jeans and leather jacket brigade are off and flying. We’re talking full, zigzag, sprint to… where exactly?
Since there were no course markings, no barricades, and, the best yet, no timing mats or timing chips, it would appear that so long as you made it across the line at the stadium, doesn’t matter how you get there, CONGRATULATIONS!
I saw the first person pull the pin at 1.98km in.
There was a roughly 5km out and back section. I was pretty lonely out there, just trucking along and minding my own business. From what I could see, there were maybe 35 people ahead of me, total. I couldn’t spot any women (I tried).
The men in this group didn’t appreciate me passing. I’d run by, they’d surge. I’d run by again (having maintained pace), they’d surge again and then eventually give up. Over and over. So that was… interesting.
As we rejoined the course at the start of the out and back, suddenly the pack got way larger once again. With men in cargo pants and Keds. Who weren’t sweating.
What?! Where did you guys come from?
I suppose that out and back maybe wasn’t mandatory?
And on and on it went. I’d come upon people running in dress shoes, casual outfits, from seemingly nowhere. Or, you know, subways.
I crossed the line and was given a little card that said “12”. I assume this means I was the 12th woman. No matter that I only ever laid eyes on 2 women ahead of me. Cool, cool.
I signed my name on a piece of paper, was handed a water bottle and shooed away. Literally.
I wandered around the finish area looking for food and more water, and got to cheer on Marco and Kara as they crossed the line together. We searched in vain for bathrooms, walked another 2kms or so for Marco’s gear. Listened to yammering in Azeri. Could have purchased a carpet, chose not to.
As you do, in race expos.
In the end, we got medals.
Actually, scratch that. We have to go get our medal between May 5-9, passports in hand.
I’m not talking easy-breezy. I’m talking old-man-hold-on-to-the-building windy. Unpleasant, hurt your ears windy.
If I’d done my research before coming, I’d have known that Baku is also known as the “City of Wind”.
One of the first things I noticed here was the abundance of little old ladies, sweeping. Sweep, sweep, sweep. With no real sense of purpose. Just sweep, sweep, sweep.
Most peculiar, is that they seem to sweep on the windiest of days. It appears really they are just swirling stuff around. The other day, when it was so windy that I literally had to lean into the gale to walk, they were everywhere.
The last 2 days have been calm. The little old ladies with their brooms? Nowhere to be found.