The Deal With Dads // Father’s Day Post

Today is Father’s Day, so let’s talk about it: what’s the deal with dads? To start, I know that for some, this day of celebration is triggering and painful. Some may have lost their dads, while others never had a father figure in their life to begin with. That being said, here is my story with my dad and how far we’ve come.

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Growing up, my dad wasn’t exactly around. Being a second generation Greek, he was taught to be the man of the family. He hustled, overworked, and came home to his family exhausted for dinner each night. Working at several different law firms while I was little, he left a lot of the parenting to my mom – which she gladly took on. Don’t get me wrong, I had a very happy childhood, but I didn’t always get to see my father as much as I would like.

It wasn’t until I was 19 years old that my entire worldview came crashing down. It isn’t until something traumatic happens with your family that you start to see your parents in a new light. The summer going into my sophomore year of college, my parents sat my sister – who was 23 at the time – and I down to tell us that my dad would be moving out. My parents were getting divorced. 

I had listened to my parents fight for the last year before I got this news, but I was still shocked. I had been naive for so long and it took an event like this for me to realize my parents aren’t perfect – they’re flawed.

Young, immature, and unable to handle my anxiety properly, I hit a wall. For over a year, I couldn’t even be in the same room as my father. Assuming that all the fault was on him, my intense feelings could not be contained. Whenever he entered the room, I could feel my anger boiling over. He ripped apart my family. 

It took some time, but my father and I found each other again. I don’t remember a specific day, or month that we started our relationship again but this time it was different. We both grew up. We had gone through so much as people and it has brought us together. Whether it was a road trip picking me up from my college in San Francisco and driving back home to San Diego together, or our now ritual breakfast and a movie, he’s my best friend.

It took struggling through some of the worst, life-altering events to bring us closer than we really ever have been. Since my parents split, my dad realized his own anger issues, and it made him not only a more understanding person, but an emotional one. I had never seen that side of him before. My father and I have the same brain, as he says, and I think that might be why it’s so easy to talk to him and tell him any negative thought or high anxiety issue I may be struggling with: he’s gone through it too. 

More recently, I’ve gone through a breakup and one of the only things getting me through it – other than therapy – is the support of loved ones. When I’m not spending time with myself, or friends, I do the usual breakfast with dad. The first corned beef hash and eggs of that weekend ended in me sobbing in the middle of the deli. When I looked up and apologized, feeling the slight shame of crying in public so intensely, my dad just took my hand and said, “It’s okay. You’re okay – let it out.” I don’t think I’ve ever loved him more than in that moment. While all I had was fear about my ex-boyfriend leaving me because of my anxiety or mental health, I feel incredibly grateful that those thoughts have never once entered my mind with my dad. He will never leave, he will never give up or think I’m a burden. 

We don’t always get it right, fights happen but in the end we never say goodnight without an I love you. While I hope for the right match in a man in the future, I don’t know that I’ll ever find someone like my father. Like a bull in a China shop, he storms through life but it’s in the quiet moments I’ve realized that loud exterior is masked by a human with depths of patience, understanding, humor, and unconditional love for someone who doesn’t always feel good enough. Thank you for making me feel enough, Dad. You don’t know how much you do.

 

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Do you have an inspiring story with your father? Share it in the comments! 

Cassiopeia // Thriving In The Face of Motherhood & Anxiety

When I set out to create this blog, I really wanted to cover topics that I might not fully have knowledge in. While I have an understanding of anxiety and mental health when it comes to my own journey and therapy, there are certain aspects I cannot speak to. This is where guest authors come in.

I am beyond grateful to my coworker and friend, Cassiopeia Guthrie (aka the creative blogger behind Free Hands Full Heart) for sharing her story on becoming a mother while navigating her own mental health. Filled with eloquence in each word she types, Cassiopeia has a magical way of making everyone feel warm, welcome and that they are enough.

Read Cassiopeia’s journey on finding her way as a new mom while teaching herself patience in her guest blog post below.

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I see it in your eyes and your posture. The moment you come up to me, I can see that you are struggling. I see it in the way you react as your baby gently calls to you. He might just be dreaming, might be readjusting his body in the cradle of your arms, might just be mewling softly to let you know that he’s almost ready to eat, but it’s like you’ve been burned. Your breath speeds up, your eyes dart from side to side, your shoulders tense. Your thoughts are racing; I can tell you’re worried. “Am I doing this right?” you wonder. Or you think, with certainty, that you are not. Maybe sometimes, in the wee hours of the morning, you wander the halls, babe in arms, pondering things that make no sense, like banging your exhausted head into a wall or a door to help to stay awake. But then, in others, you sit staring at her wondering: “Will she wake up?” I have been in your shoes.

When my oldest son was just 4 days old, an earthquake rocked our world. Coming in at 7.2, it was the largest earthquake to have hit the region in 18 years. As my little guy slept in his rocking seat that Easter Sunday, I recall the ceiling fan beginning to shake violently above us all. Without thinking, I grabbed him and ran outside to the driveway and sobbed as the world continued to roll and shake around us for over a minute. It was the first moment I realized that I was not fully in control and that I had a small person who needed me, completely and utterly. I was terrified of failing him.

Six days later, we found ourselves in Children’s Hospital to have his little heart looked at. A couple of days after that, I cried at a La Leche League meeting, completely overwhelmed, wondering if I’d ever be able to take a shower or do dishes again. When we struggled with breastfeeding, I drove all over the county seeking support groups. But when we left our house, I wondered if I’d turned off the oven or locked the door. I stressed about other drivers on the road, certain that our lives were in danger all of the time. I was inexplicably exhausted, and yet struggled with sleep. I wore a smile, but it was false; insecurity echoed in empty chambers of my mind.

I want you to know that I understand. I know that you may internally be questioning your decision to become a mother while, with every breath, you claim that you are overjoyed by it. You may feel unable to focus and concentrate, disconnected, overwhelmed. You may sit listlessly, or be unable to find the drive to eat. You may look at your baby like a stranger or an obligation. You may not be able to find the words you used to have at your very eloquent disposal. You may not care about brushing your hair, washing your face, or going outside. I just want you to know that you are not alone. You are worthy of love. And there are resources for you.

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I found my way into motherhood intentionally, and yet those first months were an incredible challenge. I felt isolated, helpless, and at times incapable of being the strong mother I’d always imagined. I attended workshops, classes, doctors appointments, and therapy. I worked hard to find my sense of self and to bond with my child. Although I returned to work full time when my son was only 4 months old, being the mother I wanted to be took constant attention and sacrifice, but it also took something more: it took community. That’s why I was honored when Erica asked me to guest blog on my experiences as a mother and postpartum care provider; I know exactly what made the difference when I was in those dark early days. It was human connection.

What made the difference for me was connecting with support groups… connecting with other mothers. It was gathering tools for my toolbox like babywearing, nursing lying down, and not being afraid to ask for help. It was creating experiences that my baby and I could enjoy together, whether taking classes or simply getting some fresh air. It was learning patience: not with others, or with my baby, or with my circumstances, but with myself. It was in finding the bits of sunshine in every day, the love for spending time in fresh air at the park with other mothers, the cups of tea in the evenings that soothed my soul, the quiet moments tucked in hot showers that helped me find the deeply buried pieces of shiny me that were hidden under the layers of motherhood. It was a reintroduction: the woman that I once was coming to terms with the experience that I had now. And it was a catalyst for growth, change, and support as I would eventually embark on a new adventure: providing love and care to other new families as a babywearing educator.

And this is why we are here now, you and I.  You, with your tired, anxious eyes. Me, with a soul that aches to take you in and mother you, anxiety level at a 10 and all.

And, at the end of the day, I just want you to know that it’s okay to reach out. We are here as a resource for you. It’s going to be alright.

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A special note: you are not alone. If you feel that you are struggling with challenges related to postpartum emotional health, know that this happens to 1 in 7 of us, and it can even happen to dads, too. Please do not hesitate to call the Postpartum Health Alliance Warmline (619-254-0023), visit the website to learn about where you can go for help, or email me directly. I am happy to help anytime.

 

Want to read more from Cassiopeia? Head to this original blog post on Free Hands Full Hearts for mental health musings from this momma!