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I am a person who lives with mental illness. Depression and Anxiety have been a part of my life since middle school. When I was growing up as the daughter of a first generation American, my Lutheran church basement lady heritage taught me to work hard and just keep going. I learned to stuff my emotions into the metaphorical suitcase with food. In my family food is love and culture and belonging and it was also the only way I knew to treat my mental illness, until I learned a better way.
One passion where I’ve always found joy was music. I classically trained and sang with an opera company in Italy. I married my college sweetheart and we lived in St. Paul while I taught music in North Minneapolis. 10 years later we decided we were ready to have a child. At our 20 week ultrasound we were surprised to find we were expecting spontaneous identical twin girls. The pregnancy became a whirlwind of Twin to twin transfusion syndrome and gestational diabetes. 9 short weeks later they were born when I almost lost my life and both of them to HELLP syndrome, a sudden and lethal version of preeclampsia. Zoe Isabelle was born 3 pounds 7 oz and Kaylee Rose a feisty 2 pounds 12.5 oz.
After delivery I learned to care for micro-premie twins while recovering from surgery and illnesses. I brought home -6 week old babies (34 weeks gestation) and we all kept learning and growing. I was on FMLA from my job at a non-profit that supports adults with disabilities, Opportunity Partners. I loved my work but was told that Kaylee and Zoe were too fragile to go to daycare so I tried to quit. Instead they made me their first remote staff person and I work there still, now as a training administrator and curriculum designer, 12 years later.
It isn’t easy raising twins. Managing developmental delays and illnesses. Working with birth to 3 school services and doctors aplenty. We got diagnoses for Autism (and later ADHD too) and I knew that I needed to be stronger for them and myself. I started to finally come up for air when they went to school full time. I wasn’t going to be able to be the kind of mom I wanted to be if I didn’t take care of myself.
I started by talking with my primary care doctor and getting pharmacological support for my mental illnesses. She referred me to therapy and I picked up a new diagnosis of PTSD from the trauma I had been through. I started to unpack my emotions, learn to sit with them, take time to care for myself, eat food to nourish rather than stuff. It wasn’t fast and recovery isn’t a straight line.
When I had lost about 50 pounds, I started to add activity to support my wellness. I joined the YMCA and took a yoga flow class 4 – 5 days a week. My yoga instructor took a different job so I tried another class that happened to be offered at the same time: Oula. Right away the music and community clicked with me. I continued to get healthier, ultimately losing 100 pounds, through a combination of physical activity, nutrition, and protecting my mental health.
Last year when I learned that Lori and Sandy had found a new home at the Warehouse, I was thrilled to dance with them again. The community that has been built around the Warehouse welcomed our dance moves right in. I feel supported to “move my beautiful body” as Lori often says in a way that feels good. We work through some tough stuff as we dance it out. If you ever want a little extra noise please come sing, shout, hoot, and holler with us. My favorite Oula song that speaks to that community is Symphony:
Was solo singing on my own
Now I can’t find the key without you
Thank you for including me and our dance fitness community into the Warehouse. We make beautiful music together!
Mental Illness is hard. Know that you are not alone. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is just a call or text away at 988