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2021 Life Update (Blogging, Family, Lessons Learned)

Wow! it has been so long since I last posted here. Over two months, to be exact. 

There has been so much that has happened in my life, but with all of the craziness going on in the world, it always seemed too trivial to post. With 2022 just a couple of days away, I thought I’d do a life update and fill you in on where I have been since my last post and what I will be sharing in the new year.

Honestly, I’m thrilled to be back. I realized that blogging is a big part of who I am – especially the personal connections I make through sharing my story. If you’re new to ValleyMom.ca, I am thrilled to welcome you to this little slice of cyberspace. 

A Little Recap

I Went Back to school

I was just three courses shy of completing a Bachelor of Journalism back in my mid-20s but dropped out of school when a newspaper hired me full-time as a reporter. Reporting jobs were (and still are) extremely rare to come by, so I jumped at the opportunity, deciding to complete my degree down the road. You know how the story goes. Life got in the way. We had babies, bought a house, and there was just never enough time (or money) to go back. When I finally decided to do so last year, I discovered that many of my courses had expired. Can you believe that? All that time, all that money –  gone. Since I had a new goal in mind – to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming an elementary school teacher, I forged ahead anyway and switched to the path of a BA in General Studies. I pursued journalism instead of teaching back in the first place because I was terrified of the math prerequisite. I have struggled with math my entire life – I was in all the easy classes and had no faith I could complete the course. However, I decided it was now or never during the pandemic, so I enrolled in university teachers’ math. Was it hard? YES! I cried; I emailed the teacher a LOT and thoroughly planned to fail the course and retake it the next semester. But guess what? I kept going, one class, one quiz at a time, and ended up with an A in the class. I bawled like a baby when that grade appeared on my transcript. Next to childbirth, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But I did it and showed my girls they can do hard things. This past semester I took three classes while working 21 hours and volunteering in a classroom one day a week and ended up getting an A+ in each class –  a far cry from the grades I received in high school (I barely graduated) or when I was partying my ass off in my twenties. I ended up with a GPA of 4.33!!! Crazy.

I Volunteered

To get into PDP, you need in-classroom experience. Since September, I’ve been volunteering in my old elementary school and have loved every single second of being with these incredible grade 3, 4 kids, and teachers. I’ve had the opportunity to help students with academics, participate in morning meetings, and attend staff meetings. I’ve even been able to plan and teach two lessons to the class – one of which was about embracing your differences, which I centered around the book A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon. Such a great book!

Shannon uses humor to help readers grasp the idea of peer pressure and being true to themselves. His book inspired me to teach an interdisciplinary lesson about identity development theory. I asked the students to think about what makes them unique, which sparked great conversation. As the questions and comments moved towards accepting their differences, they wrote about what makes them unique and drew a self-portrait. They were encouraged to adorn them with facets of their personality and interests; some drew hockey sticks and ice cream while others used patterns and shapes. Mid-lesson, a student became upset when she couldn’t get her drawing of eyes to match. This provided the perfect teaching opportunity to remind her that perfection doesn’t exist. I revealed my little eye twitch, which sparked lots of laughter. By the end, we had a wall full of vibrant portraits that were beautiful and diverse – proof that variety truly is the spice of life, and being different is a gift to be celebrated.

Mental Health

Truthfully, going to school full time while working 21 hours a week, volunteering a full day a week, and being a mom/wife is HARD. Pepper in some natural disasters, skyrocketing COVID numbers, a health scare with our dog that cost us $2,000 (a month before Christmas) and mix in a hearty dose of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and you have a recipe for disaster. My hairdresser and I noticed my hair was starting to fall out faster than normal and I developed a raging stress rash of hives that covered my entire neck for a month.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I struggle off and on with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

ALSO READ: I DIDN’T KNOW I WAS SUFFERING FROM ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION

For those lucky not to know what that feels like, I’ll paint you a picture. Imagine you’re at the top of a roller coaster and are about to go down the hill. There’s that flip-flop feeling in your stomach that starts to dissipate as you get closer to the end of the ride. For myself, that feeling is permanent. It turns out that if you’re exposed to chronic stress as a child, that flight or fight sensation is permanently triggered. As a result, one always feels they are in danger. For me, a lot is in regards to driving and being in social situations. In regards to the latter, there’s a chronic feeling of not being good enough, that everyone is upset with me or hates me, that I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, productive enough. It goes on and on, so there’s a constant need for approval. Sound familiar? It’s an awful headspace to be stuck in, but it’s also common to not even realize you’re in the thick of it. I went off my anti-anxiety medication back in the spring of 2021 as I was feeling pretty good. I figured, heck, I’m sober and in better shape than I’ve ever been in, I got this! However, once the days became shorter, the news became even more grim, and my stress increased, I crashed. I was a weepy, exhausted-to-the-bone, anxious, shedding, spotted mess. Even then, I didn’t’ want to go back on meds because it was so hard to get off them.

But wait…

Now and then, something magical happens through the blog via DM. Some brave soul shares that my honesty has hit home, and we strike up a candid conversation. One of these beautiful people messaged me recently in some karmic connection. I was feeling down and defeated and was contemplating whether it was time to go back on my medication. At that exact moment, I heard a *ping.*A woman messaged that one of my posts about mental health and the decision to go on anti-depressants changed her life – that she feels like a different human. I told her that the roles had reversed, and she was now repaying the favor. I knew right then and there what I had to do. 

My doctor prescribed Effexor, which is a pretty intense anti-depressant, but effective. The side effects were rough the first couple of weeks, but it’s been about six weeks, and I feel incredible. Sometimes I try to make myself feel anxious, but it’s like the chemical in my brain neutralizes any irrational thoughts, so I’m always content. I realized now that my brain doesn’t produce enough Seretonin, which is super common, and there is no shame in taking medication for it.

On a Lighter Note

This past week, I have been indulging in the quiet and lack of plans or responsibilities. I’ve been wearing nothing but PJ bottoms, my new Snuggie, and have been getting my house organized while listening to my favorite true-crime podcast Morbid. Okay, I’ve become a wee bit obsessed with this podcast, and Jason gets creeped out every time he enters a room, and I’m listening to gruesome tales about serial killers. I’ve also been binging old episodes of OG Teen Mom – I think I was a teen mom in a past life because I can’t get enough. 

Other than that, we’ve been playing lots of board games, watching movies (you have to watch Don’t Look Up on Netflix), and the incredible new series on Crave that pays homage to my favorite era (the 90s) called Yellow Jackets. 

What’s Next?

I’m feeling refreshed physically, mentally, and spiritually. I’m not going to make any trite New Years’ resolutions or claim 2022 as my year because I think we all know how that horror story goes. If I’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that plans can change in an instant, everything is temporary, it’s never too late to pursue your dreams, family is everything, and that self-care is critical. 

I have registered for just two classes that start next week, submitted my PDP application, and will continue volunteering in the classroom.

At 40, my life has changed drastically since I started this blog. But I also recognize many of you have changed and aged along with me. I’ll be blogging about this new era of my life, sharing the trials and triumphs of being a mom to tweens while going back to school as a ‘mature’ student among twenty-somethings. And, of course, we’ll stay true to our roots and continue to highlight what’s happening in the Fraser Valley.

Thank you so much for your continued support of my blog. Please do follow me on my social media platforms, Instagram and Facebook. Let’s catch up. I’d love to hear what you have been up to in the comments. 

One of Vancouver’s top Mom Bloggers, Kristyl Clark is a work-at-home mom of two little Valley girls proving there is nothing bland about the burbs. Her adventurous family seems to always be out on some sort of crazy quest, from helicopter rides and wild river rafting, to top-secret paranormal investigations and living the high-life sampling the fine wines and foods of the Fraser Valley region. The ValleyMom.ca blog inspires her loyal fanbase through the trials and tribulations of suburban family living, guiding readers to local hotspots and hidden gems in her Canadian backyard

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