Picture Perfect? My Messy Beautiful

Ok…so maybe just maybe I drank the Kool-Aid and have become a Momastery groupie. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve listened to Glennon’s book Carry on Warrior during my morning commute, and there were many a morning I reached work either crying or laughing. If I’ve talked to you over the past couple of days you’ve probably heard me rave about her honest, inspiring and hopeful story.


NEVER has a book touched me so deeply. Perhaps that’s because her life is very similar to my own. Maybe not the addict and arrest part {sorry spoiler alert}, but the others…I’m sure you can figure out which ones.


So, when Glennon put a call out on her blog to ask us {the Kool-Aid drinkers} to help her promote the paperback version of Carry On Warrior by sharing  our Messy, Beautiful stories, I jumped at the chance.


So are you ready? This is my Messy Beautiful …


Messy Beautiful Project


It stares at me from the shelf in our living room every day. Four smiling faces perfectly captured with a camera click. Visitors and Christmas card receivers have commented on how perfect the photo looks. “It’s like the one that comes in picture frames at the store,” said a friend.


I smile politely, and exhale.


That damn photo.


Easton Family 2012


It resembles so much more than just a family.


There’s a story in it.


A painful, healing, heart wrenching story.


On the day that photo was taken, I’ll admit I was tightly wound.


Family photo day does that to a mama who just wants everyone to not freakout and smile when the camera is in front of them. However, all this pressure causes the mama to freakout herself turning her into a raging photo-nazi.


I was channeling my photo-nazi that day.


Since no one in my family likes their picture taken except me {I’m a narcissist}. I felt the need to make sure we looked presentable, which in my mind means no shirts with writing, including Hawkeye t-shirts, and some semblance of color coordination. This would be an achievable goal until you add the clashing of the redhead and the fact that it was fall and 90 degrees…yes 90…our wardrobe choices were limited.


I spent the morning braving the mall and returned home to find pants that didn’t fit the little one. Shirts that didn’t fit the big one and my husband looked at his shirt rolled his eyes and walked away.


At which point my blood was boiling. Plus I still needed to decide what to wear. After dumping the laundry basket on the floor, and choosing a shirt that smelled like a smidge of sweat mixed with laundry detergent I was ready.


The photos went well, as evidenced by our smiling faces.


However, I could have posed for photos all day {you know because I’m a narcissist}.


Everyone else had a mean case of the hangries.


Instead of going home I made the brilliant decision to go out to eat.


Yeah, that did not end well, and it set all our tempers off like a wildfire in a prairie.


Eventually, we ate.




We made it home.




I said “fine” a gazillion times while my eyes bore holes into my husband’s head.


Things were not fine.


They hadn’t been fine for a while.


We were struggling all of us, and that day of trying to be perfect just threw us all over the edge.


See that little redheaded one in the photo…yeah he has constant PMS {preschool moody syndrome} which manifests itself most often at Target. In front of a crowd of shoppers he will just drop mid-sentence and start flailing his arms and legs, screaming for popcorn. If I pick him up during this time, he will resemble a wild animal, biting, kicking, spitting and pinching.


At that point I just leave him lying on the ground, nudging him out of the way of carts and passerby who look at me with disapproving eyes. You know because I’m THE worst mom EVER!


Then there’s the big guy {not the seven year old} the tall one who decided to marry a crazy lady. Yep, I’m certifiably crazy. I even have the medical record with the six stays in psych to prove it.


When you marry a crazy lady, you run the risk of actually thinking you are crazy too, which leads to all sorts of crazy in the household.


One minute I’m the…ahem…perfect wife. The next I’m crazy lady. I attribute this to generations of crazy that have seeped into my body, handed down to me by grandparents and my father who also had his fair share of hospital stays.


I have an unofficial diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.


What does that mean? Well, basically have you seen the movie “Girl Interrupted” with Angelina Jolie? That’s me. I didn’t see the movie, perhaps because I live it every day.


The definition of BPD is …

Borderline personality disorder is a condition in which people have long-term patterns of unstable or turbulent emotions, such as feelings about themselves and others.

People with BPD are often uncertain about their identity. As a result, their interests and values may change rapidly.

People with BPD also tend to see things in terms of extremes, such as either all good or all bad. Their views of other people may change quickly. A person who is looked up to one day may be looked down on the next day. These suddenly shifting feelings often lead to intense and unstable relationships.

Other symptoms of BPD include:

Fear of being abandoned

Feelings of emptiness and boredom

Frequent displays of inappropriate anger

Impulsiveness with money, substance abuse, sexual relationships, binge eating, or shoplifting

 Intolerance of being alone

Repeated crises and acts of self-injury, such as wrist cutting or overdosing


Yep that’s me. Through a specialized BPD class at the University of Iowa Hospital, I received counseling. I’m not “cured” as one NEVER is with mental illness, but I can cope. I don’t take meds, because in reality it doesn’t help, and with my past history of suicide attempts the doctor won’t allow it.


So, each day I work through it. I use tools I learned to help me through stressful situations. It’s kind of like in the Hunger Games when Peeta asks over and over “Real or Not Real.”


Yes, I’m comparing my life to the Hunger Games.


Living with crazy for 11 years {almost 12} and being subjected to this “I love you, but I hate you” syndrome has taken its toll. We are both weary and tired. He walks on eggshells so as not to wake the crazy in my head, and I try my damnedest to just be cool. It’s a stressful situation that is made worse by the fact that my eldest son has been passed the genetic short-end of the stick too.


He suffers from ADHD, ODD and presumably my same behavioral disorder.


His brain isn’t wired the same as other kids. It’s especially hard when I see my friend’s children, the smiles on their faces, the love they have in their heart, the carefree way they play and just enjoy themselves. I wish this everyday for our family.


But that is not the hand we’ve been dealt. Instead we worry during every school day, playdate or social situation. Even a family photo shoot could turn into a minefield of insults and violent outbursts. My worry has weighed me down, like a bag of rocks.


We walk a fine line with him too.


Our new normal is a life filled with medications and therapy appointments. When I asked the therapists if he will ever be able to go without his medications or therapy, they shake their heads no, and so my worry will be infinite.


I often have horrible nightmares that my son could hurt himself or someone else. He’s only seven, but with a family history of mental illness and being a white male, and with a theorized diagnosis of a personality disorder, statistics show the odds are not in his favor.


We brace ourselves everyday for the craziness that may occur.


So on picture day when we were stretched to our limits like a rubberband we just couldn’t stretch any longer and we broke.


Words were said, doors were slammed, hearts were bruised and priorities were reassessed.


There were two ways it could have gone that night, as I sat there tears streaming down my face. I could have just thrown my hands in the air and gave up, walked right out that door without looking back.


But thankfully I didn’t.


I fought hard for our beautiful, messy, crazy and f-ing hard life, and held on tightly.


There was no way I was EVER letting go.


A couple weeks later after the dust had settled and life had resumed to its usual craziness, I received the proofs from our photo shoot. I pondered whether to even order prints, because each time I thought about that day my palms would sweat and my stomach would turn.


Then I looked at the photos. There were REAL smiles, laughter, and joy captured in every frame. I grinned remembering on that day I didn’t let go, and neither did he.


We were in this together no matter what life throws our way.


There was nowhere I’d rather be than with these people.


They know my crazy and I know theirs.


We accept each other just the way we are, imperfections and all.


Oh, and I will never schedule another family photo shoot as long as live.


You’re welcome honey.


This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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