The Fierce Fund

California

Have a story of a time you were Fierce? Want to help Clever Girls Collective support women and girls to be Fierce? Visit www.clevergirlscollective.com/fiercefund to learn more about this girl-power project and vote for the Fierce Fund Grant Winner!

I’m adding another little break to the Halloween countdown going on the blog today to talk about something a little different. Being fierce! The Fierce Fund was created after Clever Girls Co-Founder Sheila Bernus Dowd, was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. Not only did Shelia kick cancer’s butt, she did it while still working at Clever Girls, and carrying on with the rest of her busy life! This week, some of us ‘Clever Girls’ are posting about a time when we were fierce to bring awareness to our Traveling Blue Wig project! Search #fiercefund on Twitter to find more stories about being fierce!

When I was selected to blog about a time I was fierce, I wasn’t sure what I had to bring to the table, especially since this whole project began because of a woman dealing with breast cancer. I mean, that’s pretty heavy, right? I almost wrote about putting our lives on pause and moving to California for a few months (that has turned into 18 months and counting), because I had to give up the idea of planning and knowing what was happening next and just embrace what life was handing me each day. I scrapped that because people move to a new country all the time and then I almost wrote about homeschooling because I hadn’t intended to homeschool and then this move happened and I started with a child in 1st grade and a child in 6th grade and one about to start pre-K and now we’re almost two years into it. But guys? You know all about that stuff already and I can give you more than that. I like to keep it light and fun around here so I don’t bring it up, but here goes.

After I had Wee One #3 I slowly started developing postpartum anxiety, the lesser known, (and lesser supported) sister of postpartum depression. Everyone knows about PPD, our doctors all ask us endless questions at the 6 week checkup to make sure we’re doing well, but no one talks about the anxiety. I have always been a very, very chill person. I mean, I know I go about a zillion miles a minute and I’m always busy and you know, probably a little intense with all the coffee and multitasking, but when it comes to freaking out, or worrying (about anything), I just didn’t. So when I started panicking about every. little. thing. I knew something was up, but honestly it didn’t hit me right away.

Our first day home from the hospital, I felt really excited. Christmas Eve excited, even. My husband was hyped too, so I didn’t think it was weird. A week later, I was still roller coaster pumped and while he was obviously happy to have a new baby he wasn’t jumping the couch about it. My excitement slowly turned into worry and I would get really freaked out about stuff that I knew to be non issues. We had a hearing test at 1 month, and from the time she was a week old until the morning of her appointment, I was filled with dread about her having a hearing problem. Dread. My baseline is way, way calmer than that normally. The year before she was born, our oldest had a growth hormone deficiency test and I was moderately concerned. No dread then. That feeling you get when you lose sight of your child for a second? The way the pit of your stomach drops? I was feeling that every day! Shortly after the hearing test, I started having random physical symptoms and went to my doctor 3 times for various (imaginary) ailments before my doctor suggested that I might have an anxiety problem. My bestie, Talea, had some history with this so I texted here when I was having an anxiety attack and she totally relieved me, she came over and we talked, I felt less crazy (but still pretty crazy) and this whole time she’s been there and made me feel less crazy. The physical symptoms were weird like tingly hands and feet, or I’d feel light headed or like I couldn’t get a deep breath. She helped me either ignore or otherwise take the fear out of some symptoms, which made my life so much easier to live and then my doctor did a complete physical and I was fine. Perfectly healthy, nothing to fret about, all the physical things going on that I thought were unrelated issues are all just anxiety. I decided not to take anything for it, because even though it was so, so weird I felt it was manageable. My bestie was amazing at dealing with the random-hour texts about a tingly foot or tight chest or insomnia or whatever, and having someone I could count on that also totally understood what I was going through made it even more manageable.

The anxiety lasted about a year at the same level of intensity and it. sucked. It was manageable because I knew I was fine and that kept me from running back to my doctor all the time. I didn’t want to wait this out at home, hiding even though some days I really wanted to. I still ran around Toronto and took them to all the fairs and dinosaur exhibits and library activities and karate and gymnastics and the Y and and and….I put one foot in front of the other and just did it. At the time I was just doing what I had to do, and because I didn’t want to just ‘get through’ it, I tried to slow down and really step into the moment. I never thought in the middle of that, that I was being ‘fierce’. I had a wonderful support network of friends and family that all were there for me in different ways and I have no doubt that I needed every single encouraging person in my life to rally and they totally did. Thanks guys. 🙂

Then it got a whole lot better, I kept declaring myself ‘70% better’ and after a little under a year of that, I felt even better and that’s where I was until we moved here. The adventure to get down here from Central Ontario was pretty high strung, I think that’s to be expected on a trip like that, and once we found a place and got settled, I felt totally and completely chill. I have been fluctuating between feeling better and aaaalmost feeling better since we have settled into a full life and busy routine here. When I look back to that first year, I’d happily take almost feeling better forever than ever feeling the days-long dread again. I see now that while living under the great Piglet Cloud of Anxiety, making school lunches, running around Toronto with three kids under 8, making adventures for the kids on the regular and keeping up with chores were all fierce, even if (maybe especially since) I didn’t know it at the time.

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