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Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

I’ve been stewing for a week about the most bizarre baby shower conversation I’ve ever heard. There was the usual thoughtful advice for the expectant mom, a few hair-raising stories of difficult births, and delightful anecdotes of early parenting. But then there was the chick who hates her kid.

Let me back up. I always tell new and expectant mothers something I believe no one else will ever tell them, but should. There will come a time (even many times) when you will ache to throw your infant child out the window. It’s true. It’s awful. You’ll be so tired and overwhelmed and stressed and sad and helpless… you’ll want it to stop. But you don’t. You put the baby to bed and close the door. You run the vacuum or take a shower so you don’t have to hear the cries just for a minute. Sometimes you’ll have the strength to keep rocking, walking, patting, nursing – whatever works. Most of the time you’ll do that. But at least once, I believe every new mother will have that awful moment where she just doesn’t feel like she can do it.

I’ve had so many people thank me for those words, more who told me they wish they’d heard that sooner. It isn’t easy to talk about the ugly parts of parenting. The judgement is already crippling, so there you don’t exactly find people begging you to talk about feeling inadequate.

So, here I am telling my dear old friend that she may experience this awful moment and another woman exclaims that she has it every day – for the past decade.

Sure threw me for a loop. She went on to describe a child with multiple disabilities, on the autism spectrum with serious behavioral problems and learning delays.

Wow, that can be hard. Sounds like my kid.

Except I *love* being a mother. She *hates* it. She went on to say how awful it is being a parent, how she wishes every day that she had never had a child, how she’d give him away if she could… Maybe she was having a truly terrible time with her child. Maybe he is extraordinarily awful. I don’t know. I don’t know the boy. I barely know her. Her story sure struck a chord with me…

I was a child who believed that my mother hated me. I still am. This has been a lifetime struggle, trying to understand how I could have been such an evil, defective child that didn’t deserve my own mother’s love. I have some intellectual understanding that I am not evil. I can logically conclude that my mother is the one who is flawed or injured or disturbed to be incapable of loving her daughter – or perhaps it was a choice, she certainly had love to spare for my brother. Who knows. Bottom line is that it cut a deep wound in my soul that continues to fester and ooze even as I work every day to heal my childhood wounds.

That’s my story, not hers. But what happens to a woman that she can’t find love in her heart for her child? I keep thinking about “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” and how struck I was about the coldness of that mother and how my heart aches for what that child is fighting against.

I don’t have the answers. I have compassion for them. The children – my heart aches for how lost they must feel, how broken and confused. My heart aches with confusion for the mothers – do they get to feel the joy? Do they ever have those exquisite moments when their eyes well up with tears and pride for the amazing creatures they raise?

I had one of those this morning. My boy was home from  college and telling me he had forgotten how much he hated doing dishes – as he wiped his hands after doing the dishes. Without having been asked… It was a tiny thing, but it made me so happy to think of him becoming a man willing to take on crappy jobs simply because they need to be done.

I read an amazing post this morning over at Mad In America, http://www.madinamerica.com/2012/12/a-challenge-to-i-am-adam-lanzas-mother/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-challenge-to-i-am-adam-lanzas-mother in response to “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother.” She doesn’t just talk about the complicated feelings of reaction to Liza Long’s post, but the extremely complicated situation those of us who become trapped in the box of mental illness – and have escaped. I’m so very grateful for her words and validation.

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I suppose everyone is reeling, trying to wrap their brains around the massacre in Connecticut – I almost typed “Tragedy at Sandy Hook” like the neon graphic television headline. I’m sick and freaking tired of murder and mayhem having their own theme music and logos.

Everyone has identified with this horrific act – everyone who has children, knows children, was a child… what can you do? How do you process something of this magnitude with a healthy heart and brain? What if you’re already struggling to get through the day with mental illness? What if your minute to minute existence during the stress of the holidays and children’s vacation is focused on just. getting. by…

I’m furious about the attention Asperger’s is getting in the media coverage and social discussion of this act of rage and misery. I feel like Asperger’s has as much to do with it as him being male, entitled, human, American… Dammit. I’ve spent the last 14 years raising a child with Asperger’s and almost 20 years supporting the efforts of my best friend doing the same with her boy. Yes, it is extremely difficult. Yes, there is a wide range of symptoms. Yes, there were moments when both of us felt exhausted, overwhelmed and feared for our children’s future. Yes. Some days it was awful. Some days it was wonderful. Just like with any child.

I’m not an expert on child development. I *am* an expert on the development of my children… I’ve been here every step of the way. I’ve fought teachers, special ed directors and doctors to get thorough testing. I’ve been a passionate (sometimes miserable bitch) advocate for getting my boys’ needs met in school. It is no easy task.

High intelligence is a bit of a curse when it comes to mental disorders. A smart parent who did my research, I challenged professionals to have at least as much information as I was able to discover. That challenge was rarely met with enthusiasm.

Smart children with ADHD and Asperger’s are expected to just muddle through – their intelligence should give them greater insight, their capacity to process information quickly should make up for the fact that they are literally banging their head on the desk in frustration doing their homework. I can’t describe how many times I’ve slapped my own head to keep from punching a teacher or administrator who couldn’t understand that I refused to accept a child pulling his hair out to get his homework done just because he was getting A’s… Seriously. It is not acceptable. I’ve gone through weeks of fear, afraid to leave him alone because the depression and self-loathing was so acute I thought he’d take his own life. The bullying never stopped. The judgement, the hatred, the sheer meanness of children boggles the mind and breaks the heart. It very nearly broke my child.

I don’t have the answers, but I know that early intervention works. I’ve seen children with similar symptoms as toddlers turn out very, very differently. Working with children in preschool, giving them tools to understand their reactions, to be aware of how they respond to sensory input. To love them. Every day. To love them and let them know that their brain is an amazing and unique creature that allows them the gift of understanding things others may never perceive. Their brain frustrates and confuses them, but it is the same brain that allows them to master complex problems at lightning speed.

I understand that Anarchist Soccer Mom needed to identify with Adam Lanza’s Mom. I appreciate what she wrote about her fear and helplessness. I know just how insane her days can be. I’m also deeply saddened at how distant and cold her descriptions are – how the situation has pushed her to harden her heart.

I know one thing. We need to be patient with one another. I need everyone to be patient with me. This shit is crazy and hard and hurtful and stressful and scary. It’s been a long freaking weekend. May there be more sanity forthcoming this week.

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It is so far beyond fucked up when you find yourself talking to an abuser – someone who tortured your mind and body – and find yourself remembering why you loved him to begin with. What chaos and turmoil twists my strained brain right now. He hurt me so much. He changed the entire course of my life with his actions. He hurt my body and made me hate it so much more than I ever had. His smell rises up off an innocent lover and makes me loathe and fear him through no fault of his own. And yet his voice, his kindness, his unexpected understanding sends me reeling and spinning and gasping for air. It isn’t the pain, the fear, the terror, the tears. It is the working together, the dancing on the lawn, the singing “leather and lace,” the building things together, with eachother, for each other… He used to make me laugh and laugh and laugh. He used to make me cry. He was so cruel. Heartless. Cold. Drunk. Angry. Terrifying. And yet I loved him. He doesn’t understand why I would avoid his calls. He doesn’t understand the fear.

 

The fear is remembering that I loved him.

The terror is that I could love him still.

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Perspective. When I’m feeling low it is hard to remember how much lower I’ve been. Reading my old posts, I’m really stunned to see how far I’ve come in the past few years. I get out of bed – every day. Most days I even put on pants! The anxiety is bad, but the pain is ever so much less. I still face the reality and struggle, but the tools I have available to me know are well-maintained and easy to access compared to the jumbled bunch of rusty and worn tools scattered throughout my life before. I wrote this in April 2010… The depression I feel today is like a cakewalk comparatively.

“So how can I wake up the next day with a huge weight on my chest?  How can I have such trouble opening my eyes against the glaring light.  Why is it so hard to lift my arms to put on my robe?  How is it that the very air has become shards of glass, shredding my lungs?”

https://lifeisterminal.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/it-only-hurts-when-i-breathe/

I was reading my old posts, weeping and nodding at how acute it felt to go through all that and relive it in the writing. I had a wonderful moment the other night that puts my parenting doubts in fun perspective.

I asked my 14 year old son, “Am I a good mom?”

He didn’t miss a beat, replying instantly, “Yes! What kind of question is that? Of course. I mean, look at me!”

 

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To my best friend’s children, I am “Auntie”.  After taking the boys to the playground several times a few weeks ago, apparently I’ve been associated with that place.  Now, when anyone says “Auntie” at my friend’s house, her two year old looks up, eyes wide and hopeful and exclaims “paygwound!”  He is presently parading around my living room with a Nerf sword as long as he is tall and I am remembering just how much more energy toddlers require.  I remember calling my friend when my boys were small.  I’d call her in the morning and she’d still be asleep.  She’d smile and laugh and tell me “someday your kids will be big enough to get their own breakfast and you can sleep in again!”  Now I’m the one with older kids and she has a second round of little ones waking her up at the ass-crack of dawn.

Strangely, though, I miss my kids needing me more.  There was never any question about being bored or not knowing what to do.  Each moment required me to do something.  I had to keep the house clean for their safety, I had to prepare endless meals, snacks and drinks, I was constantly doing laundry or changing someone and if they were sleeping, there was a long list of things I had to accomplish before they woke.  Now I sit, lost in my thoughts and confusion.  Wasting the day clicking and reading and plaing games on the computer – sometimes curled up with a book.  They occupy themselves and I only prepare meals once or twice a day.  I need to be busier.  I just don’t know what to do.

Lately I’ve been craving extremes.  I want to feel something big.  I’ve worked overtime the past few weeks to suppress the intensity of feeling released by the EMDR.  I’ve been angry about my fears with therapy possibly ending and overwhelmed about finances and car repairs.  I can’t let myself be really angry, though.  There was something that felt so dangerous and vulnerable about how I cried that day that terrified me.  My therapists office has shifted into the category of places where Bad Things Happen.  I’ve been irritable and sullen.  My body is sore and tired all the time.  I’m being pretty productive, but almost on auto-pilot.  I feel like somethings gotta give.  I’m going to explode or implode.  I feel like I just need to keep it together until my little one goes to camp and his brother goes to his grandfather’s, then maybe I can let my hair down.  Maybe I can find some way to let loose.  I don’ know.  I feel reckless and dangerous.  I feel tired and scared.  I feel lost and confused.  But I keep on keepin on.  I’ve got to put on a bra and take the kids to the beach.

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Something has happened since I started EMDR.  I’ve always felt different sides of me experiencing different things and struggle to balance them.  That experience is not to say that I have different “parts”, simply that *I* am experiencing conflicting things in my brain, all of which is most definitely *me*.  Lately I’ve been doing well.  I’ve been getting out of the house, walking, doing things with the kids, planning for the future.  This is a good thing.  Lately I’ve been doing poorly.  I’ve been obsessing over memories, feeling self-destructive, binge-eating, feeling hopeless and hating myself.  Lately I’ve been improving.  I’ve been feeling stronger, standing straighter, feeling saner.  Lately I’ve been in crisis.  I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, needing help, feeling chaotic and needing support.

The trouble is that I used to feel these things simultaneously and struggle with the conflict.  Now I am feeling these things simultaneously, but it is as if they exist separately.  It doesn’t feel like me.  It feels like me, but not me.  It feels like a division is growing between the feelings and the separation is growing between what is going well and what is going badly.  The feelings of wellness seem to be thriving and growing stronger.  The feelings of crisis seem to be thriving and growing stronger.  I am so confused.

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I feel like I’m on the verge of something dangerous.  I’m so conflicted about the possibility of my therapy ending that a huge part of me just wants to throw in the towel now.  My therapist said she wouldn’t leave me in the lurch – she said she’d take me on as a pro-bono client if we couldn’t get approved for additional sessions.  I am grateful for that, but I still feel so much uncertainty about it.  Maybe I’m just scared because things got tough and this is an easy out?  I am scared.  I’m scared to continue, I’m scared to stop, I’m scared to move.

I saw an old friend last night.  We were best friends in high school and I haven’t seen him in nearly ten years.  The last time I saw him was in the weeks surrounding the death of my foster mother (who was also a very dear friend and mother-figure to him).  We keep in touch on facebook, but it is all very superficial.  I feel like he is someone who really knows me.  Someone who knew me before I became all the different characters I’ve played in my life.  Someone who knows the person I”d like to rediscover.

We met at the bar, because his visit was short and he was under a lot of pressure to visit too many people, so he just said to everyone – meet me at the bar Wednesday night if you want to see me.  I was agonizing about whether to go or not.  I loathe social interactions in general, and showing up at the local bar felt like a LOT of pressure for me.  I worried that there would be people there I don’t get along with – people I used to know who never really liked me and vice versa…  I drank a beer before I left home and put on some eyeliner and mascara for armor and steeled myself for the worst.  I couldn’t bring myself to pull in the parking lot.  I drove past and parked at the drugstore for a few minutes while I made up my mind to go back.  Eventually, I did.  I’m glad I did.  The first ones there were his aunt and cousins and a friend from high school that I didn’t hate.  I knew most of them from childhood, so it was more comfortable than I had feared.  His mom and more cousins came in and I was buffered by people that felt like family, so it was ok.  His Ma was asking who one girl was and I replied “you know her, one of the twins with the dad who was principal and smacked the kids around?”   Oops.  I have a pretty big voice.  Everyone shushed me, and if the girl overheard, she had the grace not to acknowledge it.  It was a pretty big deal back in the day – he ended up being prosecuted for it years later but when we were in school it was the norm.

My gaffe wasn’t quite as bad as his cousin K’s… my friend, K and I went out to smoke a cigarette and ran into one of their distant cousins that he didn’t immediately recognize.  He was in his twenties, very gaunt, pretty grungy and missing most of his teeth.  They went through the obligatory “oh, you’re so-and-so’s boy” and figured it out before too long.  Then K pipes up “what happened to your teeth?”  In these parts, there are a lot of skinny young people with no teeth… methamphetamine abuse is rampant.  Alternately, you see people who have suddenly gained 80lbs… those are the ones who are on methadone for the prescription opiate abuse that was lately replaced with meth as the drug of choice.  My friend was mortified.  I just laughed… I mean, hey, it is their family… if you can’t be up front with your own kin, then what?

I drank two more beers and was feeling pretty good.  We told embarrassing stories from yesteryear and had some laughs.  My friend asked me to come hang out as his motel room for a while, confessing that I was the one he really wanted to see anyway.  It was strange.  I always used to be the one with my shit together – he was the basket case.  He was always drinking or smoking too much, getting his heart broken and crashing his car.  I was always the one picking up the pieces and making things right.  Now he has a steady job, gets along well with his family and has a great house and two dogs and two cats.  He couldn’t understand how things had gotten so bad for me.   We had no secrets back then, so he has always known about the abuse, but the way we talked about it then, it was normal.  It was just par for the course that shitty things had happened to us.  He said that looking back he could see I used to have disproportionate reactions to things – it all makes more sense to him now with the understanding of PTSD.  He used to get such a kick out of my exaggerated startle response and laughed his ass off surprising me and making me shriek.

What puzzled him is that I looked so normal.  He said that just looking at me he would never know that anything was wrong.  I think that is pretty significant – I mean, I’ve worked a lifetime to behave as if every thing is okay… I’m a pro at it.  He couldn’t understand that the evening going “well” for me meant that I spent it sitting on my hands with my heart pounding out of my chest.  That I agonized over every word that came out of my mouth and beat myself up, second-guessing every turn of phrase.  He couldn’t see how my stomach lurched whenever I caught anyone’s eye or how I panicked when someone spoke to me – so consumed with fear of responding appropriately that I barely caught everything they said.

And that’s when things are going *WELL*.  I didn’t run screaming from the room.  I didn’t burst out sobbing.  I didn’t scream at anyone or let slip any of the colorful adjectives I was using to describe them in my mind.  I didn’t vomit, fart or shit myself, so the evening was a success.

Today I’m paying the price.  Three beers, three cigarettes and staying out until 11 might as well have been a three day bender…  I had to get up early and get my son to his first driver’s ed class and take the truck to the garage.  The good news is that the repair was $150 less than expected.  The bad news is that the tires are worn down to the wires, it needs an alignment, most of the undercarriage looks like flaky pastry because the rust is so bad, the brakes are shot, the brake lines are rusted, the vacuum hose is broken, the oxygen sensor wire has been chewed by a mouse and there is a hole in the floor big enough to pass a hand through…  Oh, and it probably won’t pass inspection.

**BAD WORD**

So, I’m panicked and overwhelmed and nervous and agitated and hung over and tired and angry and frustrated and confused and annoyed and just plain wiped out.  And I don’t know what to do.

I should be grateful that my mechanic is a sweet, honest man (and my ex) who genuinely cares about my safety and well-being.  I should be happy that the old heap is all paid for and even runs at all.  I should be thrilled that he made my son’s day by offering to sell him a 1984 VW for $100.  I am actually excited about the idea of him having the old car to work on and rebuild.  It will be a great learning experience for him and the car is old and simple enough for him to do the work himself.  He’ll be that much more inclined to take care of it and feel good about it if he does it himself.  I am less excited about the colossal task of cleaning out the garage to make room for the car…

I think things will be okay.  I think I’ll get it figured out.  I think I need a good night’s sleep.

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