By Marla Ticknor
In December of 2007, my husband got offered a job in Spokane, Washington that was too good to pass up. I was a Realtor in Arizona at the time so I put the house up for sale and the next weekend we got a great offer. We also found out that same weekend that I was pregnant with our very first child. The process began for our new little family to move from big city, sunny Arizona to a new life in a smaller city with four seasons, where I knew no one.
The moving transition went smooth & we knew we were meant to live here & start this new life. We had always hoped & planned that I would be able to stay at home should we have children. When we moved to Spokane, the transition made it possible & it did make the most sense. I wouldn’t know where to start or who to trust to watch our babies in a new city if I had to work. Pregnancy & birth went well & we were blessed with a healthy little girl, Grace Kay, in August 2008. I had no idea what I was doing as a Mom. I had really never been around babies much & they intimidated me tremendously. I felt like I lacked the nurturing instinct I saw so many other Moms had. I didn’t have much emotional support & wasn’t great at reaching out so I Googled a lot, actually, a ton. My mind was filling with all these opinions of what I should be doing & the kind of Mom I should be. The beginning of guilt, fear & depression was setting in. I found a little solace & normalcy in a Mommy & Me play date group & I joined the YMCA. Little Grace hated the Y. They would have to come get me after 15 minutes of being there. I tried daily for 2 weeks & she didn’t get much better. We bought a treadmill & I resorted to walking on it promptly at 1pm when she went down for her nap. I lost a good 25 pounds & was feeling a little better about myself. Time came for us to think about another child & it didn’t take long before little Olivia Ruth was born, March of 2011.
Once Olivia was born, I was struggling terribly with feeling ‘stuck’ at home. I also gained all that 25# back and then some. By the way, I was already about 30# overweight before having children thanks to our very active social & eating out lifestyle. Here I was feeling stuck now with 2 needy children & feeling fat & helpless on top of it. I was irritable daily. I lost my temper frequently over ridiculous things. Sometimes I hid in my closet & cried thinking it would be better if I wasn’t around. I would beat myself up constantly for not feeling nurturing, for not being a better Mom, for not being able to enjoy my kids. I hated myself. I would go into screaming fits over needing to take care of one of the kids’ needs, primarily my oldest who suffered the most. She was turning 3 & was throwing tantrums just like her Mom was. I didn’t know how to handle myself, let alone this crazy child! She was neglected emotionally in ways I hope we are able to laugh about once she’s older, but it still hurts. I was ugly; I can’t believe I lacked the empathy to pull it together.
One night my husband sat me down. He was firm. I knew it was hard for him. He courageously assured me he loves me but “you need help.” Worst words I ever heard. “YOU NEED HELP” You see, my Mom was diagnosed bi-polar from the time I was 2 years old. I saw extreme depression & extreme, abnormal manic episodes. By the time I was 12 years old, I felt I was emotionally starting to take care of her. I ran away & became a flight attendant at 19 years old, even though I had never even flown on an airplane before. I ran away from the drama, from the guilt of not being able to take care of or ‘help’ her, or my Dad for that matter. Mostly I ran away & lived a fun, adventurous life to avoid my deep fear that I would end up like her. But hearing “YOU NEED HELP” was like sending a huge message “You are becoming your Mom” I cried a river when I sat with the Nurse Practitioner. It was also so hard for me to just be there having to ask for help, I’m super prideful in that area. But I thank God for her to this day for being so supportive & encouraging. She assured me it’s common, all the hormones after pregnancy, lack of support & family around to help. My deep dark secret pain & fears of getting my mother’s illness were also adding to the stress. I was put on anti –depressants & slowly began a new journey.
I had to re-create myself. I was 38 with a baby & a toddler. I wanted so badly to be fit & feel good by the time I turned 40. I found a gym with an amazing childcare both girls loved. Olivia was around 13 months old at the time. I think I used the full 2 hours childcare allowed & would do whatever classes or equipment I could to just ‘get away.’ I was starting to feel better just having a place to blow off steam every morning. I treated my gym time like my job. I lost friends & social life because the gym became my focus. I came up with 3 F’s I focused on to help my personal growth & re-created self: Faith, Family & Fitness. I went to Bible studies & breathed in as much of the Good News I could. I’d soak in it. I became like a soul on fire with my Faith & my Fitness. The 2 worlds seemingly merged as I’d take on running challenges & weight gains & be learning these Bible verses that kept fueling my new passions: “1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” I was in my own zone, didn’t worry about anyone other than my family, & I knew I was already winning the prize. I was seeing & feeling results emotionally, physically & spiritually. I was on the right track.
I apparently was supposed to wean off the anti depressants slowly but I quit them cold turkey. It bugged me that I had to take medicine. While other friends on them seemed to be having issues weaning off them, I was doing great & started to feel more emotionally balanced. I attribute this to the consistent exercise & the focus on building my faith.
It’s been over 5 years that I have been living this lifestyle. Our girl’s are 9 and 6 now. I still focus daily on those 3 F’s that got me through it. I thought about adding a 4th F: Friends, but God has provided me even greater joy in that area. You see, because of my consistency to this routine, I have made both new friends at the gym & created a credibility that intrigues others to join me. It is so exciting to see their growth as well. I didn’t need to add that 4th F because it was already there in the process & it continues to this day.
Through places like my favorite gym, I am challenged to do exercises I didn’t think I could do. I remember 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us not a spirit of fear, but one of power, love & self control” And simultaneously with overcoming the challenging exercises, God has also helped me overcome my fear of getting my mother’s illness through persistent self care & a grace & patience for myself I never had before. I cry more now out of compassion than out of anger or depression. I use any stored up anger for slamming the sledgehammer down on a tire or pushing myself extra hard during a workout. I get up, I show up & I work hard when I’m there. I’m a Phoenix that rose from the ashes of post partum depression but more pivotal than that, I stopped running away from a deeper fear of depression & told it to get the hell out of my life!
The journey will always continue & I will always evolve. I am careful not to Google for help or read articles on parenting or things I ‘should’ be doing. I surround myself with positive people and influences because Proverbs 27:17 “As Iron Sharpens Iron, so one person sharpens another.” If I want to grow & continue to re-train my brain out of that darkness, I need to surround myself with those that can influence me in that same direction, as well.
Keep in mind, my story doesn’t mean my kids don’t still drive me nuts or my past fears don’t still occasionally creep back in; however, I have found a healthier way to consistently cope with my emotions & re-train those negative thoughts. We will all still have bad days, of course, but all we can do is, get up, do our best, ask for help when needed, and most importantly, forgive ourselves if we screw it all up. If we’re lucky, God will give us another day to try again!