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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Starting Over


The last 6 months have been a serious trial of my inner strength and faith. I have found myself in a place where I lost all my worldly titles, most of them unexpectedly; not a Mrs. anymore, no more job title, not a girlfriend, not anything. So who am I?

In the time that I spent trying to mourn and let go of all those things I ‘was’, I began to question my self worth. I lost sight of the wide open possibilities of a brand new future and let worry and fear take over. I started losing my faith that the Universe has and always will provide. 

The panic started taking over and I was rushing to apply for any job available, out of fear. Well, I have been on this path a long time and my spiritual guides know me very well; we have a close and constant relationship and they knew they had to stop me. They had to slow me down and get me to focus on my real self...the one with no titles. Oh boy, did they do it with style - as always. 

The Universe literally punched me in the eye.

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Periorbital cellulitis looks and feels like you have been hit in the eye with nothing short of a very hard fist, or quite possibly a lead pipe. Pain, swelling, yuckiness and lack of an eye patch kept me from going out of the house and being on the computer much for a couple of days. I rested, I meditated, I stopped panicking, I thought about my life and what I really needed to be happy. None of it included titles. 

Then I came across this video on Upworthy.com:

His words were so poignant to my current situation (not the gas part); exactly what I needed to hear. It is time to make a new me without the concern of worldly titles and what differentiates me from others. The new me will only be concerned with what I can do to help others in the way that I was gifted. The Universe will provide. My faith is strong, I can get through these trying times. 

I am free of all prisons now. Time to spread my wings and fly.

But, what does that really mean? How can I make that a reality? 

Turns out that sometimes we put ourselves in those prisons to make the world a little smaller and a little safer feeling. The big wide open spaces can be scary. Too many possibilities can be overwhelming. It is easy to get paralyzed like a deer in the headlights; unable to make a move in any direction. 

How does someone get past the anxiety and know which way to go when finally freed?

That’s a really good fucking question. 

It is easy to succumb to the fear and rush to find a new title to keep the safety of the walls up. It’s easy to sit at home and avoid the search and the possibilities. It is not easy to narrow down the field to one opportunity that feels right and take the leap of faith required to make it happen.  

Everything happens for a reason. All things come in their right time. God provides. 

Those are a lot harder to believe in when everything collapses around you. It is difficult to keep the faith when the next opportunity hasn’t appeared yet. My guides knew that I would not consciously choose this route, I would stay in my safe little prison while hoping the next door would open for me in there. So, they kicked my ass and dragged me out of my safety zone. 

Life does that sometimes; we lose relationships, loved ones, jobs, property. It hurts and it brings us to our knees for a while. 

That is where we find the answers and the strength to move forward again...on our knees, broken and battered, unable to cry anymore. That’s when the quiet takes over. In the quiet, over the rubble of our expectations and lost dreams, the Divine speaks. It’s a small quiet voice at first, but the feeling of unconditional love that accompanies it is not small. It is an immense love that washes and soothes the recent wounds of life. If we accept it, allow it to take over and keep listening, it will heal those wounds. 

Whatever god or goddess you believe in or even if you believe in nothing at all, that love is there for you. For all of us, strictly because it is the natural state of the human soul. All the rest of this is just a distraction from it. The titles, things, busy work and money mean nothing to the soul. 

As the Dalai Llama said, helping others is the way to happiness. Making the real question for the future, ‘What gifts have you been blessed with that you can use to help others?’ 

When everyone has answered that and acted on it, the doors will open wide and a new sense of safety in freedom will be achieved for each of us. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Special People



I am a special needs person. 

It's not my fault, I didn't ask to be this way. Most of the time no one would ever know. I pride myself on keeping it together, but I have no guilt or shame for being who I am. 

Sometimes I need quiet and dark to avoid over stimulation. Other times I need a lot of stimulation - visual and audio - to help me stay focused. No, I cannot tell you exactly when I will need these things. Advance notice is not a luxury I was given. 

What I was given is a quick mind, sometimes too quick even for myself to keep up. And a sensitive soul, if I seem distant it is because I can't always protect myself from your feelings. I absorb the pain of others and it is difficult to describe and even more difficult to handle. It has taken me 20 years of study and work to understand these things about myself and to learn coping skills. I'm still not 'normal'...whatever that is...but I can function in society and have caring relationships with people. 

Remember when you are meeting someone new or working with someone 'difficult', that it may be their struggle too and don't judge too harshly. 

We aren't trying to be hard to connect with or talk to. Some of us, like myself, feel more comfortable behind a keyboard or a microphone than face to face. Some prefer to be behind musical instruments, computers, cameras or whatever it is that makes them feel safe and allows them to communicate with the world. Every day we are out there trying is a victory. 

Not all invisible illnesses even have a name yet, let's be patient with each other.

Very few people with these types of special needs can understand these things for themselves, let alone have the capability of explaining it to others. I cannot speak for everyone with special needs, but I hope that my words will help bring understanding to those that are 'normal'. 

If you listen to our music, our work, our special ways of communicating, you will see we have been trying to say this all along...reaching out to the world the only way we know how.




Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Life's Work




In a dusty stack of notebooks, folders, binders, sketch pads and notes scribbled on scraps of paper, reaching up to my thigh, exists my life’s work. It doesn’t look like much. It’s not in any particular order or catalogued in any way. Within the weathered, yellowing pages lie great things; things of magic, spirituality, healing, nature, miracles and mysteries. Twenty years of study, research and experience in a pile on my living room floor: A pile that has survived every move, every trip across country, every huge life event of my entire adulthood. 

Somewhere in that conglomeration lies my schooling as a Clinical Hypnotherapist, as a Reiki Master and all the notes from every class taken in metaphysics and Eastern philosophies. It also holds my thoughts, my dreams, my fears, my failures, my memories and my prayers. 

There are other people’s stories in there too; like the client who came to me with back pain that didn’t respond to any physical treatment, only for us to learn he had a parasitic alligator spirit attached to his back! 

There are always surprises when you open yourself up to the invisible realms of this life. Once a miracle has been witnessed, it cannot be unseen. Once a demon’s breath has been felt on your skin, there is no turning back to non-belief. It’s all there, all the parts to many, many good pieces that I must write. I was compelled to write it all down, keep it all and wait until the time was right, until I was ready; until the world was ready to listen. 

Now, it is time I dive in and find each and every gem buried in that dust, polish it and bring it out to be seen. There is a scent on the air, a hint that winter is coming and bringing with it a great deal of snow. What better time to surround myself with words and the past, while creating a future? 

With much work, luck, prayers and support, I hope to make a living with this weirdly curious brain and love of words with which I was blessed. I encourage you to embrace the gifts you were given and follow your dreams as well...it is about damn time we stop being cogs for the system and become the beacons of light we are meant to be.


Friday, October 25, 2013

In Between



In between those moments I have described to you in the last two blog posts, there are times of reflection on what I have done with my life, despite the things inside my head and body with which I have to deal. How much I have accomplished isn't that impressive unless you know the illness and what it does, all of the hurdles and obstacles I had to overcome.

I think of all the other women out there going through the same things and managing to get out that door almost every day, able to make the most of that good half of their lives, able to hold down a job, raise children and maybe even have healthy relationships.

We all have days like my yesterday, days where we have to give in to the need to stay safe and take care of ourselves like we would a sick loved one. We must do this to care for our bodies and minds or everything gets much worse.

Yet there is guilt.

Our internal guilt that we are weak or defective in some way, that we don't measure up to everyone's expectations.

Then there is the external guilt we get from all sides; employers, family, friends, doctors and the media. Sometimes the worst can be women who are blessed to suffer from normal PMS. They judge us, often to our faces.

They say things like, 'So, I had cramps yesterday and I went to work.' or, 'Take a midol.'

If it were just cramps I would be dancing on the rooftops! Seriously. They have no idea how lucky they are and that does not give them the right to judge us or think less of us and our abilities. Would they tell someone going through chemotherapy for cancer, 'So, I had the flu last week and I went to work.'?

Nope, I didn't think so.

Why should we feel guilty for a medical condition? Is it because it only affects women?

Yes. Yes it is.

Both men and women are conditioned to believe that a woman's emotions are a disability, a defect, a hinderance to being dependable and valuable. It is a subtle conditioning, not normally blatant and spelled out. It is the telling of a girl that she is overreacting when she cries over hurt feelings. It is the dismissal of a woman's witness testimony because she is too emotional to be trusted. It is the refusal to see the harassment and oppression the women in the workplace go through because they are 'always complaining about something'.

But why? Who decided that emotions and ability are mutually exclusive?

Isn't there a chance, just a small chance, that people who are unable to understand and communicate their feelings are the ones that are defective?

Rather than punish those who are in touch with their inner selves as well as their outer selves, they should learn from them. Imagine what the world could be like if everyone took the feelings of themselves and others into consideration before making decisions. It is compassion, empathy and understanding that we all need.

Our emotions do not make us weak. Caring about others does not take away our power. It makes us stronger, more whole and more able to relate to others, which equates to skills that could be useful in any boardroom or political arena. It means we are trusting and honest because we are open and honest about our inner most feelings. It means we can be trusted and counted on to help a person in need.

Those of us with PMDD often have no control over outbursts of emotion. We can be sitting back inside our own heads yelling at ourselves to stop talking, stop crying, stop yelling, whatever it is, but we can't. At that point in time we are not running the show, someone else is at the controls and there is nothing we can do about it. We don't want to do those things. We try everything in our power to avoid it, including canceling our plans and avoiding interaction.

Many times the feelings we experience are so real to us that we can't distinguish them from actuality. The sense that friends, family and coworkers are talking about us and plotting something to harm us in some way, emotionally or physically, can become so real that we become angry or untrusting or seriously afraid. The threat may not be real but our feelings are. The Boogie Man may not be real, but try telling that to the crying 6 year old in your bed at 2am. We need reassurance that our fragile selves are safe just like you would comfort a child with nightmares.

No person, male or female, healthy or suffering, young or old, should ever be discounted because of their feelings. And those feelings should never be dismissed. Not all wounds show bruises and bleeding but that does not lessen the pain.

If we respect the emotions of the people around us perhaps more and more people will feel free to express their feelings. Perhaps the stigma of being emotional and the divide between the genders can be lessened, eventually erased.

Ok, now let me climb down off my soap box and let's all join hands as we sing kumbaya followed by a tearful rendition of We Are The World.

Ready....Go!



Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Door


The door.

An unassuming object most people take for granted.

They walk out that door like it is nothing at all, like it is not the barrier between them and all the terrible possibilities out there.

Most of the time I feel the same but not when certain things flare up in my head. Not when the PMDD is taking hold of my logic and reason and strangling the life out of it. Not today.

It started off slowly today, woke up feeling fine, sent the boy to school and then started thinking about things I needed to do today. Help a friend, run by the store, the school carnival tonight; all went from commitments I had made to traps that had been laid to inflict psychological torture on me. My heart started racing, head spinning and thoughts swirled of all the scary, dangerous things that could happen if I went out there. Out there into the unknown.

I could be in an accident on the way.

Now when a normal person has that thought it is just that, a thought. A string of words with meaning that symbolize a fear of a possibility. They can choose to focus on that thought or let it go.

That is not what this is.

With PMDD that thought is a vivid, sensory filled experience of being in an accident. I experience a moment of the emotional trauma, of the shock and pain, and the terror that occurs in that accident. Adrenaline surges, heart races, cortisol is pumped into my system and I begin to feel sick. Shaking, weak, fighting the visions of my own blood on the windshield, I go as far away from that door as I can.

Looking at it somehow brings the thoughts faster. My very existence is threatened if I touch that handle.

I retreat to my room where I take the clothes I had just put on back off and put on my biggest, fluffiest robe. After texting my friend to cancel plans and deciding that maybe one roll of toilet paper will last another day, I climb back into bed. Back where I am safe.

The thoughts fade, the anxiety softens and the exhaustion from the adrenaline rush sets in. Despite having only been awake for two hours after a ten hour sleep, I drift away. I drift to a place where my illness doesn't exist and things in my head are peaceful.

After a few hours my body just won't let me stay there, I have to wake. Having lost most of the day to this incident I feel defeated and unmotivated to try again. So, I sit here. I try to make myself busy.

And try to not look at that door until I absolutely have to face it.



Monday, September 30, 2013

Half a Life


The pain is unbearable, yet somehow we bear it. 

Our bodies fight with themselves and we are the war torn battlegrounds. 

After some time with this illness you start to notice things that are not part of the medical diagnosis, assorted unestablished symptoms that happen every cycle. The patterns emerge. Dots connect and you talk to other sufferers who confirm your theory, often never having realized the connection until you mentioned it. 

We are discovering our own disorder, blazing trails and pissing off doctors as a whole to try and get the medical field to take us seriously. In an attempt to get them to find a reason and a cure that does not involve removal of major organs. As of yet my doctors have been unwilling to address my concerns that PMDD involves an auto immune factor. 

I don’t need a doctor to confirm that every month as the hormones shift at ovulation I get sick. Not just the list of mood issues and extreme pms symptoms, but inflamed sinuses, excess fluid in my ears, sneezing, itchy eyes, sore throat, patches of eczema, slightly elevated temperature, body aches, muscle soreness, joint pain and stiffness. Allergy medicine has provided some relief, confirming the histamine part of the reaction. 

As a doctor once said to me, ‘I don’t understand it, your seasonal allergies are not seasonal.’ 

Nope, they are cyclical and always in the luteal phase (the time from ovulation to menses). I am allergic to my own hormones. This can be the only conclusion after 15 years of tracking and 26 of dealing with it. It does appear to progress with age. This pattern seems to indicate that it is my own progesterone my body is treating like an invading allergen. Unfortunately stopping your own hormones is not easily done and can be risky. Surgery is not an option, I am quite attached to my ovaries and I plan to keep them right where they are. That leaves me treating the symptoms and unable to find a real solution.

As I sit here typing this my fingers are stiff and swollen at the second knuckle. It is difficult to make a fist when two weeks ago my fingers were as flexible and limber as ever. The searing pain makes me pause periodically as I perform daily tasks that are easy for me at other times. I drop and break things because my normal grip has left me for two weeks. Same thing in my toes this month, every step is excruciating no matter the shoes or surface. My knees are creaking and popping like the floor in an old house. Wrists, elbows, shoulders, spine; you name it and it is crackling and aching.

In a few days it will all go away leaving me feeling like my young bodied self. 

And then it will come back. 

Half able, half disabled. Saddled with pain 50% of the time. Living half a life.

There must be an answer out there somewhere. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Bigger Bitch



When I awoke this morning it was a normal day, I felt like my normal self. Within two hours what had passed for normalcy faded in the face of criticism and judgment. And all of it from someone that I can’t just punch in the mouth like they deserve. It is coming from HER. She is the bitch... the illness, the voice of self-doubt, the one that tells me how much everyone hates me and how worthless I am. The arch villain to my super self, otherwise known as PMDD. 

So I sit low in my desk chair trying to not draw attention to myself, like the small, scared girl I have become. There is a mean, angry, judgmental authority figure standing over my shoulder berating me, no matter what I do, no matter where I go. I feel so beaten down and broken, so battered, a heavy weight on my shoulders.

What do you do when the abuse you suffer is generated in your own brain? There are no shelters to escape to, no safe places to be had. Like the typical victim, I try to find ways to placate her, to distract her, to take the focus off of me…but she is relentless.

So I sit quietly, waiting. Waiting for the storm to pass. Waiting for the silence of my own mind to return. Waiting to feel safe again. There are no more tears to cry for my battered self-esteem. Wishing I could curl up and hold my knees to my chest and rock myself to sleep, just to try and get away. 

But I can’t give in. 

People rely on me. I have to be the best I can be, the one that always comes through. I have to survive this day professionally and personally.

So, ‘Fuck you.’ I say. ‘Fuck you for lying to me and trying to break my confidence. Now excuse me while I turn up the music, have a donut and get shit done, bitch.’ 

Why? Because fuck this illness. Because sometimes the only way to deal with her is to be the bigger bitch, to remember this is my head, my life, my rules. Today I chose to take that challenge and shove it in her face and succeed despite her barrage of negativity. 

Today it worked.

Here’s hoping tomorrow is a better day and that we can all be the bigger bitch when necessary. 


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Suicidal Ideation


Suicidal ideation is a hell of a thing.

I have a good life. I am happy the majority of the time. Things are stressful, but not in a detrimental way. I am not feeling depressed beyond usual PMDD symptoms. Nothing has really happened to push my buttons more than usual.

So why am I having to fight past the image and urge of taking the scissors from my desk and driving them into my wrist and ripping them to the bend of the elbow down to the bone? I'm just sitting at my desk, doing the best I can to get the job done and it happens. I can't stop it or turn it off. All I can do is try to distract myself and focus on other things and let it dance around the periphery of my vision and mind. Headphones cranked up to ten, in depth, detailed work with numbers and it was still there, eating at me, wanting me to think about it...what it would feel like, what it would look like, how that much blood would smell and the heat it would give off. The little push in my mind telling me I would like it, like the pain and then the end of the pain, that my arms would look better ripped open. And behind it this huge, wracking sob that is welling up from somewhere and can never seem to find it's way to the surface. It has it's tides, but is never really gone and never really ready to materialize.

Now, you can see my quandary...why on earth would any part of my brain, hormonal or not, ever want to mess up this piece of artwork I get to walk around in every day?! Shit, that's crazy talk. If for no other reason than vanity, I would never consider it! Then you go deeper and I love myself. Yeah, I said it... I am fucking awesome. Plus I am a good mom and I like to think I bring a little joy and a change of perspective into the world. Then there is also the whole enjoying life and loving my child, friends and family part that makes it even crazier.

But I'm not crazy. I know when those thoughts hit what I need to do to ignore them and that they are not me. It doesn't happen every month, usually just after a lot of stress. I have never wavered and even made a move toward it. But yet I still have to deal with the thoughts. I have to get through my day while watching a tiny movie of my own violent suicide from my own perspective. Imagine that for a second.

How would you deal with that while having to lead your every day life?

I can't give you a solid answer of how I do it. A lot of it is mind over matter, I have trained myself to think around it and stay busy. I practice reminding myself how good my life is and how happy I was yesterday, and probably will be tomorrow.  Focus on the positives, don't give in. I fight it like I would fight someone who was trying to do those things to me with their own hands, and 'She' is. That PMDD bitch takes lives all the time and we rarely ever know it was her. Sylvia Plath is one example, diagnosed from her diaries long after she took her own life. That won't happen to me, or any other sufferers if I have anything to say about it.

Suicidal ideation is a shitbag of a symptom to get, but if you have it that does not mean you are suicidal or will be. There are lots of ways to find help, not just medical doctors and medication. Meditation, great books about self hypnosis and controlling the mind, alternative therapies, religion....whatever resonates with you and helps is the key. We all need help sometimes.

Today I did.





Saturday, January 26, 2013

How I Got Here


40 years ago today a young woman went into labor during a snowstorm in a small farmhouse in the corn fields of southern Illinois. Her husband being at work she called the man I knew as 'Uncle Larry', my grandfather's little brother. He drove her through the snow to the nearest hospital where she gave birth to a baby girl at 4:50pm.

That farmhouse is still there, still in the family. That young woman is buried down the road. I believe Uncle Larry is too.

I am that baby girl. And today I am pondering the 40 years of my life and how I got here.

The first two years of my life were spent in that little house, no running water, no indoor toilet. But I was in diapers, so not my problem.

My dad was accustomed to the hard life of living on the farm. He had spent a lot of his life overseas on military bases in Germany, Iraq, etc. but they had settled back in the family homestead when he was still young enough to adapt.

My mother, however, was living a life she had never even imagined existed. She had been born in Chicago, raised in military households. She lived in Japan as a young girl and had a nanny that would teach her Japanese and make her fish head soup. She attended a boarding school in Paris where she spent the afternoons sneaking out to the cafe with her friends, drinking wine and flirting with French boys. She graduated from school in South Carolina where she was a cheerleader and a dancer. A life of travel, education and culture. A life most of the residents of our tiny farming community couldn't even imagine. She had no idea what she was agreeing to when she said yes to my father and they started their married life.

The isolation was too much for her. She had made a few friends but she was stuck home alone with a baby and hard work to get the chores done. To make things easier for her they decided to move into town.

They bought a big, brick, 100 year old 'fixer upper'. That house was my home. It was huge, dark, spooky and haunted...but I loved it. My parents broke their backs renovating that place themselves, sanding down all the hardwood floors by hand and refinishing them alone was hell. The work was so worth it though, to see the old house shine.

When I was very young I started an interesting dichotomy of education at home. My dad taught me about nature, survival, the stars, gardening, cars, hunting, fishing and even sewing. All the things that shaped my practical self and my day to day natural side.

My mom taught me to speak properly and fight the country slang that was being spoken all around us. I walked with books on my head and practiced my enunciation. I learned to walk one foot in front of the other with my shoulders back. She introduced me to theater, art, different kinds of music and literature. She encouraged me to attend the churches and temples of all my friends and seek information and knowledge in those places, to question authority when my gut told me to.

In the early 1970's these were very foreign concepts to a great majority of middle America. She and I both experienced a distancing of our peers because we were different than the other women and girls, or rather because we showed our differences. I am sure there were more of us who just played the role to make life easier. I fought through it and came out stronger, hell, I was half country and raised there. She wasn't as lucky. It was too hard for her to try and fit in and still be herself. Even the 80s were hard for progressive women in the midwest. It was getting better, but we were still a little different.

Now that I know we both suffered from PMDD, it makes more sense. Feeling different or abnormal or not a part of the pack is common with the illness. And from my experience, women with PMDD seem to be strong and independent and free thinkers as a general rule. Maybe that is a good side effect of suffering, how we cope.

At this juncture in my life, turning 40 and coming to the 20th anniversary of her death, I can finally look back past the hurt and the failures and see the amazing woman that she was. I am who I am today because she sacrificed a form of happiness to teach me how to be different, to be an explorer, to leave the common comfort zone and fight conformity.

Oh, and good posture, can't thank her enough for that!





Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wrong Role


For a good long portion of my life I thought what I wanted was for someone to take care of me. To make up for the care I felt I didn't get as a child. I thought I wanted to get married and be a homemaker and mother and have a husband to watch over me and help me. I really believed that would fill the void, fix the problem, make me better.

As it turns out, that is not what I needed at all. I needed to learn to take care of myself. Only I can know exactly what I need at any given time, and only I can provide it. My upbringing didn't break my spirit and make me fragile. It didn't make me 'need' a man to be complete. It taught me to stand strong and take care of myself. The hardship forged me into steel, it made me invincible.

When I tried to take that strong self and put it in a submissive/co-dependent wife character, I ended up in the 'mother' role. Instead of being cared for I became the Matriarch. And of course my husband responded by rebelling against my authority and being the 'child' in the relationship. It was destined to fail from the beginning because I was not being myself. I was not being strong and independent. I was trying to be what I thought a wife was supposed to be without having a good role model to follow.

I, myself, destroyed that relationship from the beginning by changing, allowing myself to be changed and expecting him to follow suit.

It has taken years for me to see my role in the breakdown of that marriage. To see that his faults may have been big and his betrayals bigger but I was the one that set us up for failure. I let the idea of marriage change me. I let my true self be stuffed down so I could play wife.

Then our son was born. A switch was flipped in my mind and soul. All of a sudden I saw that I had been 'parenting' my husband out of a need to be a mother. I also saw that was holding him back and ruining his chances at being a real man. I knew that my son needed it more and I had to stop. So i did.

And that was the beginning of the end. He had become accustomed to the roles we played and was not ready to change. He rebelled even more intensely, attention seeking behavior, acting out. All the things a teenage boy would do if his mother started ignoring him.

It was horrible for me, I was hurt and trying focus on raising a baby, but I never thought about how it must have hurt him.

Yes, our relationship was dysfunctional and wrong in so many ways but it was what he was used to for 10 years and I all of a sudden took it away. I didn't have the energy to 'raise' him anymore, to focus all my attention on his behavior when I had a baby to care for. Despite how awful his reactions were, how childish, how hurtful...I am partially responsible for it. I expected him to have the same reaction to having a child that I did, to automatically grow up and accept that the baby comes first. I was greatly disappointed, but not everyone can make such a big step so suddenly. My expectations were unrealistic in this case because I had not allowed him to grow up for the entirety of our relationship by being the 'adult' the whole time. I had helped to stunt his emotional growth.

When I held that little (ha! 9lbs is not little!) cherub in my arms I knew what I was put on this earth to do and it was not to be a wife. I was born to love and care for this special little human. To guide and teach him. I quit my job because there was no way I could hand him over to a daycare and go on about my business. That forced my husband into the 'adult' role and he didn't like it. I tried to be the dutiful housewife, I kept the house spotless, planted a garden, raised our child, cooked every meal from scratch and put every bit of my energy into it. I expected him to respond in kind but it just drove him further into rebellion.

We fought. A lot. He drank. A lot. I withdrew. A lot. But our son never witnessed any of it and never suffered. I protected him like a true mama bear and kept his love for his daddy safe.

It will be five years since we separated this year. It has been the best thing that could have happened for all of us. I have spent the last four years getting to know myself, who I am and what I want. Our son is an amazing, well-adjusted kid that has two parents that love him very much. His dad is still readjusting and learning to do everything for himself for the first time, but he loves his boy and is there for him.

I have been in a long distance relationship with an amazing man for two years now. I occasionally struggle with the urge to be a 'wife' but then I remind myself that I am not suited for that kind of role, it brings out the worst in me.

I am a terrific mother and one hell of a girlfriend, that's good enough for me.

This man encourages me to make my own decisions, do things for myself, be strong and independent and enjoy my life. He is a strong, independent man that takes care of all of his stuff himself. He doesn't 'need' me. He wants me. He has taught me how to feel the same about him. I honestly don't 'need' him for anything, but I love him and want to spend time with him. He is a good role model for my boy and they enjoy their time together. I am a better person because of him.

We have to learn what we really need instead of what we think we need or are told we need. Many of you are probably the best wives and husbands that have ever existed. That is just not my starring role in this life. Mine is more like a one-woman show with a few guest appearances.

Truth is, I never much liked sharing the stage anyway.