Welcome!

I’m Wrae and I am delighted to be here.

Please check out the “Learn More About Me” page 🙂

I am 35, and I’ve always loved writing. I’ve done some journaling, some poetry. I am on wattpad, and if you want that information, I’ll be glad to share it. This blog came pretty much out of nowhere but sometimes that’s the best thing.

I will be putting up a statement for legal reasons about what I will not tolerate on this blog, but in general, I’m pretty laid back. For sheer example, this welcome post is today’s post.

Guests are always welcome, I hope everyone enjoys what they read and leave having learned something or at least gotten a different point of view. As Jewel once said, “I’d rather see the world from another angle.”

I will have posts up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I also have book reviews once monthly on Wednesdays.

Happy reading!

Wrae

RA and Me Part Two

I shared the story of the beginning of my journey with RA in RA and Me

I’m back for part two. I went back to my rheumatologist in March. It’s a new one because the original married and moved, but the one I got in her place is so incredibly nice.

The Official Check-In

I got a new set of X-rays and labs done to check my joints and various levels in my blood. Those X-rays showed slight inflammatory damage in both hips, but all the other joints are good.

The labs came back great. My liver, which gets a daily beating thanks to the meds I’m on, is back to normal functioning.

I’ve been sober for over two years, so this is fantastic news. However, I’m seronegative for RA, so one of the few ways that my rheumatologist can see anything is through X-rays.

If I happen to have a lot of inflammation when I see her, she can feel it or see an elevated white blood cell count in my labs.

I attempted sulfasalazine (an anti-inflammatory) for a month, but had a delayed allergic reaction. It turns out my sister (who has lupus) is also allergic to sulfur-based medications, but I didn’t know this until after I got sick.

My liver enzymes shot up and I spent a week mostly in bed. I lost a few pounds because I couldn’t eat. I had a full body rash, which was not attractive. I even had to push back my batch writing for that week.

I ended up in the ER for severe right side pain and that wasn’t fun. It turned out I had a stomach bug on top of this mess.

My rheumatologist immediately took me off this medication and I’m never touching a sulfur-based medication again. Yikes.

The Daily Grind

I have issues every day. Some days, it is a struggle to get out of bed. I am either too tired, in a lot of pain, or both. Some days, I feel great and can tackle lots of things.

Over Spring Break, I went with the kids to a silo in a nearby park, which contains 120 steps.

No problem. I walked up, down, and went home. I didn’t do much for the rest of the day.

The next day, we went to Bernheim Forest to see the Giants. They are large wooden structures, but this required lots of walking. We walked a bit over three miles. I was tired when we got home, and my right knee and hip had hurt a bit off and on.

Giant pic

Kids and I at Bernheim Forest, Spring Break 2019

I spent the next day in bed. I was exhausted. Everything hurt and I kept dozing off. I didn’t do much besides showering. Even so, I don’t let this hold me back. I have to live my life and do things.

My immune system is garbage but at least I won’t get malaria. Plaquenil has taken care of that. However, if you’re sick, I’ll probably catch whatever it is. Don’t even look my way…just kidding.

There’s still a lot that I want and need to do. Life doesn’t stop when you get a diagnosis such as rheumatoid arthritis. It changes and some days are tough, but I am not stopping.

My grandfather managed to live a full life despite his medical issues, one being RA. That’s my goal. I want to do fun activities with my kids, yoga, and other things. I just have to take breaks and otherwise care for myself. I have to listen to my body.

I’m trying to see this diagnosis in the best way I can. I have a lot of support, a great sense of humor and a good rheumatologist. Next up is a local walk for autism awareness.

It’s Not Always Easy

I took Julian and Lily with me to the March appointment- there was no school due to the teachers protesting in Frankfort. They were a little bored, but I think they may understand a little more what is going on.

When you’re a kid, it’s hard to see a parent in a lot of pain and/or tired a lot. This is even worse when you don’t get why. They have been a bit more understanding since then, so I guess it paid off.

On the days I can’t do much, I try my hardest to make things as easy as I can on them. I might ask them to help with laundry or other smaller chores, but that’s it. They are used to this because of the migraines, but it doesn’t make it easier.

I move slowly and the boys jokingly call me a turtle. I just tell them that the turtle can’t make dinner if she moves too fast and they get quiet pretty quickly.

Having RA is not easy but I choose to find a way to get through it, even on the bad days.

Are you a parent with a chronic condition? How do you handle it?

Custody Battles: Ways to Smooth the Path

I’m a child of divorce. I may or may not have mentioned this before. My parents split when I was 10 and the divorce was final after I turned 11. It’s not a pretty story, but my mom easily got custody. There wasn’t a battle because my dad (at the time) wasn’t fit to have custody.

I didn’t have to hear my parents fight over splitting time or who was going to have my sister and I over the summers. We lived with our mom and I was the only one that went to visit our dad every other weekend.

I stopped that once I hit high school, because, you know, boys, friends and roller skating. I had my priorities straight at that point, and hanging out with my dad in the cornfields of Southern Indiana was not on the list.

I am not kidding. My dad and former stepmom bought a house outside of a small town and the neighborhood was so new that there was nothing next to it except cornfields.

I didn’t really like the area- when your dad’s black, your stepmom is white and the nearby town is known for its dislike of interracial marriages, it’s hard to like.

I may have escaped this battle, but many kids don’t.

Paperwork

Moving Into A New Way of Parenting

Everyone has a different situation in which they have to decide custody, and many need to go to court to make sure things go okay. If you can work things out without having getting the courts involved, that’s the best scenario for everyone.

Many people around you may want to give you advice on how to proceed, but only you and your co-parent know what is best. I give you these tips, courtesy of Parents.com to give a starting point.

Making things easier for everyone:

  • Do not speak badly about the other parent around your child. This can be extremely difficult in some cases, but it’s important that your child(ren) doesn’t hear the mean things you have to say about their other parent. They still love them, no matter what may be going on. They may internalize what they hear- if you can’t stand certain things about your ex, and your child shares that trait, they may think you don’t like them either. This can cause a lot of emotional damage.
  • Do not drag your child into adult issues. Kids already have a lot going on in their minds during a family split. They do not need added pressure to choose between a parent (the worst thing you can do if you ask me), have to worry about money, housing or other adult- related issues. If you need help sorting things out, please take it to someone you trust and/or a therapist.
  • Keep realistic schedules in mind. Look at the factors that may impact your time with your child, and try to make adjustments where you can. It may not be possible to spend as much time as you are used to with your child. This is hard to think about, but trying to make everything go your way can be hurtful in the end. Be flexible and open to change as your child(ren) grow and needs change.
  • Find a good way to communicate with your ex. There are websites, apps and other ways to communicate that don’t require seeing each other. You can talk through texting, email or even use Google Calendar to help keep schedules straight. Your lawyer can recommend good communication paths.
  • Let your child have a voice. My brother and sister in law recently divorced and because they were able to work things out among themselves, plus letting their kids (who are 10 and 13) have input on the custody part, they did not have to set foot inside a courtroom. The kids didn’t get everything they wanted, but they did get to pick the day of the week that they see their non-custodial parent, holiday visits (somewhat) and other things. I thought this was great and so far, it’s worked. If your child isn’t old enough for this option, this may have to wait.

Special Circumstances Require More Thought

If you have a child with special needs, there may need to be more paperwork and planning. I did a 5-part series with Bonnie Price last year, one part of which can be found here

This series details how to handle divorce in this circumstance because it is a reality. Parenting will put a lot of strain on a marriage- throw in special needs and the chances of divorce go up even more. It’s a thought-provoking series.

This situation may be the first time that you and/or your ex have even thought of long term planning for your child, depending on their needs.

For example, I hadn’t thought very far into the future for Julian’s needs until I was looking into a divorce. He is higher functioning, but he still may need assistance when he’s older. It happens to the best of us. My marriage obviously improved, but I have been looking into the future, so that is one of many lessons I took away from that experience.

Parent and child

How Do We Make This Work?

This information comes from Help Guide

Co-parenting can be stressful but it’s better for everyone involved if both parents can get along, even if only for the kids.

Communication is KEY. Tips to make it effective:

  • Try not to demand things from your ex. This can set a negative tone for the situation that you need help with. Making requests may be an easier way to set the tone for getting assistance.
  • Show restraint. This might take some time, depending on the situation you may be in. It can be hard to hold back the anger, pain and other feelings that come up. Try some calming techniques, deep breaths, using communication that you don’t have to see your ex to communicate. This may help.
  • Keep the conversation focused on the kids. The two of you may not want to know about the other’s lives, and it might become counter-productive. Keeping the conversations between you solely about the kid(s) will help from things going badly.
  • Stay open. Things will change and both parties need to remember this. Rigidity will not help anyone involved. Compromise will go a long way in co-parenting.
  • Listen. Try to hear your ex’s side of things and try to solve things together. Even if you don’t agree, you can at least acknowledge their view. Listening can help during intense situations.

Families form and change in different ways. The best ending for divorce (with kids involved) is that the parents are able to work together to make sure life stays as stable as possible.

Sometimes, this doesn’t happen and courts have to get involved. This isn’t a failure, but a different way to solve things. Life after divorce is not an easy path for anyone, especially not kids.

Do you have experience with custody battles? How did it work out?

The Road to Authenticity

I have written a lot about being yourself and being vulnerable, no matter how hard it may be. I’ve struggled a lot with accepting myself, flaws and all. It wasn’t until I met Jake that I realized that being me is the best thing to be. It took knowing him to realize that Being You is a SuperPower.

There is No Carbon Copy

The definitions of authenticity vary by who you ask and what you read, but the official definition from Webster’s is: real or genuine: not copied or false. : true and accurate. : made to be or look just like an original.

I’ll take that. I’m definitely an original, there isn’t another person who looks like me, except for maybe Julian. He comes pretty close. My personality can’t be copied, and I don’t have the ability to be false or “fake”.

I spent a few years hiding my true feelings pain, anger, sadness and hiding my personality. I felt it was necessary because it wasn’t helping the situation I was in. I wasn’t being appreciated for who I was- I was being torn down no matter what I did, no matter what I said.

I felt like I wasn’t the person I was supposed to be anymore. I simply stopped being me, but I wasn’t happy that way. I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to be. Instead, I became guarded, anxious, and quiet. Anyone who knows me at all knows that is not in my DNA.

I’ve been loud since I was able to talk, except for a very bad strep throat/laryngitis episode in eighth grade and post-thyroid surgery in 2017. I was unable to talk above a whisper for a couple of weeks during both times and that was not fun. I felt as if I was sinking to the bottom of the ocean without a lifesaver. I was drowning with no one to save me.

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I was saved- and I am forever grateful to Jake. I don’t think he ever realized what he did for me. I was told he died knowing how much I cared for him, and that has helped me immensely.

He once told me that he wanted me to be myself as much as possible around him and that opened the floodgates. I needed to be myself again, in a safe space, with someone who cared about me.

I can’t say this was the right way to do it. He understood me in a way few people have. Slowly, I allowed him to see my feelings and thoughts, and not once did he use them against me. He knew what it was like to be hurt deeply, and while other things occurred between us that wasn’t so great, he didn’t go too far in this way.

Carefully Stepping Forward

After Jake’s death, I re-examined my life in a lot of ways. One of those ways was whether to stay with Matthew. In that decision, I also had to think about letting him back in again. I would have to be vulnerable with him, let him see the strong person I had become.

He would have to see that I had regained my self-respect, and was working on regaining my self-esteem and self-worth. This meant that things would have to change between us and if he couldn’t accept it, our marriage was done. I wouldn’t stay for him to hurt me as he had in the past.

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I had to also admit where I had been wrong. I’d broken a few rules of marriage- it’s somewhat of a miracle that Matthew still speaks to me, much less stayed.

I’m sure that this was a hard decision for him, but it was his to make, and I am delighted that he did. We had to do a lot of work to stay together and even now it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a lot better than where we were before 2013.

This process set off an intense internal battle. I didn’t want to try this- what if I stayed, let him see me this way and I got hurt all over again? There was no way I could handle this. There was no way I wanted to see how that would end.

I didn’t even want to take the chance. I had already decided to stay, but I was still very guarded. I talked to my therapist extensively about this fear- it was a justified fear, considering Matthew’s past abuse. I made a list of the things that I was afraid of Matthew seeing from me:

  • Crying
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness/that he had said or done something to hurt me
  • Being overwhelmed (this was one of the biggest issues in the past)
  • Being open about my feelings, then him using them against me

I had changed and I wasn’t about to go backward. I was happy being myself again.

The Turtle-Like Process

With the help of my therapist, I did let Matthew see who I had become. I figured that if I stayed, I may as well let him see who I had become. It was a slow process because I still had terrible memories in my mind. I’m well aware of the fact that they will be with me for a long time. I took small steps because that’s all I could handle.

I think Matthew got a bit frustrated, but I was dealing with a lot. In a way, it was his own fault- he was the one who hurt me, so he would have to wait for me to heal. I reminded him more than once that it wasn’t an overnight process and that I needed time. I did have slips, in which I would shut down entirely, stopped talking to him when I should have talked more. This caused arguments and didn’t go well.

Being honest with yourself is not always pretty. You have to look really deep inside, at all the things you’ve done, good or bad. At that point, it’s time to hold yourself accountable for the screwups, apologize to those you’ve hurt (or at least try), and try to move forward.

Most importantly, try to forgive yourself. This part can be hard- it was very hard for me to forgive myself for hurting Matthew and the damage that I caused to our marriage.

It’s not easy to become authentic, especially around the person who broke you. It takes a lot of adjustment on both sides. The changes are real- it may not turn out the way you hope. Many hide behind fear of not being liked or loved like I did. That fear does fade away. I can’t say when it does, but it will as you change. I am much happier being me and not hiding.

I do have times in which I tend to hide my sadness a bit, but many others do so. That is something to be worked on. It is refreshing to just be myself- even my sense of humor has improved, and I’ve always been funny. I don’t hold a lot back, and most of the people around me appreciate this. I know I do.

Have you tried being more authentic? Do you think it would make you happier? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Pic courtesy of Pinterest

The Words Left Unsaid

Regret is a terrible thing. I’ve lived with it and even with therapy, the feelings stick.

You can work through the feelings, but the situation itself remains.

Hands

So Close But Yet So Far

What hurts the most

Is being so close

Having so much to say

And watching you walk away” –

What Hurts the Most”, Rascal Flatts

It can be difficult to express your feelings with someone that you care about, for a variety of reasons. Fear is a beast that can keep you from doing what you need to the most.

What if I say how I really feel?

Does this change everything?

Will he/she freak out?

The closer you get to say these things, the bigger the questions get.

The Words Left Behind

I wanted so badly to tell Jake that I loved him, along with years’ worth of other things. “I love you” just happened to be at the top of the list.

I just didn’t. I was afraid.

I knew he cared a lot about me- but love? I couldn’t tell. He wasn’t a fan of commitment and I was aware that he had other women in his life, so I really struggled with the idea of saying this.

Things were about to change between us as it was- when he died, I was a week from filing for a divorce. I didn’t know what would happen next, but I was worried that putting too much on him emotionally would push him away.

We hung out a week before his death and there was one moment that I felt it was finally okay, and for some reason, I told myself, “Nah, next time. This isn’t it.”

There wasn’t a next time.

The next time I saw Jake besides work was his visitation.

Sad

Dealing With the Leftovers

I realized that I wouldn’t be able to tell him how I felt. This crushed me. I would never know how he really felt about me.

While sitting with Jordan at the visitation, I asked him if he thought Jake died knowing how much I cared about him.

“I think he knew. He really cared about you.”

Jordan has no idea how much that has helped heal my heart. I had a hard time figuring out how Jake truly felt about me sometimes and this has always stayed in my heart.

His words helped me come to terms with not fully knowing how Jake felt about me, along with therapy.

But how would I deal with what I didn’t get to say?

I wrote.

Of course. It’s the main way I deal with things.

I wrote in an online journal, in a letter from, like I was talking to Jake as I wrote. This helped immensely through my grief process.

Letting Go of the Words

How do you let go of the things you don’t get to say?

A few tips:

  • Just say it. Saying three small words would have saved me a lot of heartbreak. I could have gotten hurt afterward but at least I wouldn’t have the regret. I’ve often said on social media to not hold back and say how you feel.
  • Don’t hold it inside. If something happens and you are truly unable to tell the person what you need to, don’t hang onto it. This might set you up for emotional distress.
  • Write a letter and then destroy it. This can help you get the feelings and thoughts out, then you can let them go (safely)
  • Talk to someone. Verbally expressing your feelings can be extremely helpful, whether this is a friend, family member or even a therapist.
  • Distract. Sometimes our brains like to mess with us – either with “what-if” thoughts or replaying the situation repeatedly. Finding a good distraction, like music, cleaning, or even a funny movie can help.

We can’t fully avoid things we regret, as much as we would like to. We can, however, try our best to deal with it in a healthy way. This can also help with words left unsaid.

Men and Mental Health

As kids, most boys were told not to cry. They were told to be tough, to be “real men”, and those men didn’t cry and show emotions. They hid their feelings, no matter the cost.

This piece of advice has had terrible consequences, leading to high substance abuse rates, violence against women and children (among others) and other issues. When you can’t let out your feelings in a healthy way, it tends to come out badly. It also leads to higher rates of depression, anxiety and lack of self-care.

Why Men Don’t Seek Help

Everyone needs to take care of themselves, physically and mentally. This is a well-known fact. Men have a harder time acknowledging this because of the stigma they face in doing so. This will be covered in a later post, so stay tuned, but here are a few examples of what many men fear when going for help:

  • Being labeled as “weak”, “sick”, or any number of labels.
  • Having to be vulnerable. I can say from personal experience that starting therapy is rough. You are opening up with some of your worst demons to someone you just met..many men (and women) are not having it.
  • Being judged by those who know that they are getting help.

This information is in The Stigma of Mental Illness

Untreated mental illness can also lead to suicide, which has a higher rate in men, and men usually use more lethal means.

This fact breaks my heart each time I read it. Suicide in itself is heartbreaking and has far-reaching consequences.

As a mom, I’m teaching my kids that it’s okay to cry. My sons know it’s okay to have emotions. In light of numerous teen suicides in the news and those that I have lost to suicide personally, I feel a huge responsibility to watch out for my kids’ mental health. It’s HARD to be a kid these days.

Cameron started taking daily naps when he started middle school, and at first, I thought it was a phase. Then I worried about his heart because his SVT is pretty severe and can tire him out easily.

He told me that he felt fine, that school was just tiring him out. My next question was if anything was bothering him, and thankfully, he said no. Cameron is a pretty chill kid, but you never know.

Julian is pretty quiet, but he knows where Mom is if he needs to talk. So does Lily, but she is NOT the quiet type. The point of this is, please talk to your kids, no matter how rough it may be. Just check in.

What can we do for the men in our lives?

  • Check in with them. Especially if something major has happened to them recently- a death in the family, job loss, etc.
  • Be gentle. Most men facing a mental health issue don’t want to be forced into talking. Matthew’s parents divorced a few years ago, and there was a lot of drama involved. He’s not a huge talker, so I had to let him talk about it at his own pace.
  • Encourage him through whatever he does, if anything. If he decides to seek help, he needs to know you’re behind him 100%.

Of course, if things are going downhill quickly, please seek immediate help. You can go to the nearest ER or call 911.
Resources:

AFSP

Psychology Today

NAMI