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*written July 2013
I did something amazing. I was in Boston to meet a friend and I went home. I went back to the place it all started, where I experienced so much pain. I knew I was ready. I knew I needed to do it alone. I’ve struggled so much to retrieve memories of my youth that were not traumatic – I couldn’t find images, feelings, laughter from so many years while I felt imprisoned behind the gated doors and windows. I was scared to meet up with that sad little girl crying on the stoop, but I went. I marched right up the street from the station. I took a picture of my old school and remembered Molly asking my why Malik always looked up my skirt in the coat room in Kindergarten (I replied, “I think it’s because I can read.”) I remembered running down the street to Caroline’s house where her mom made cookies and we were allowed to lick the bowl. I remembered roller skating the day Ronald Reagan was shot. I took a picture of the Mackie school yard where I smoked my first cigarette behind a dumpster. I got a little scared as I approached the block my old house was on – I walked on the far side of the street and pondered it from there for a few minutes. I knew I was strong enough. I knew I was ready. That little girl wasn’t crying anymore. Alison Meridith can go f*ck herself – I *do* have friends. People *do* like me. I’m happy. I’m healing. I’m intact. I’m integrated. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been… so why was I so scared of an old brick house with bars on the door and windows?

I took a deep breath and wandered down the block. I realized just how busy the street was where I used to run across four lanes of traffic to get my mother’s newspaper three blocks down. I don’t remember how old I was, but I know the Sunday Globe was almost too heavy for me to carry. I remember it was scary. Nearly as scary as crossing the same street to catch the T to school in first grade – my mother never got up in the morning, so I usually missed the school bus and had to get there on the city bus. Those places were so big… I used to be so small. There was a lovely little shop on the corner – a building I remember burning in an apparent arson when I was a girl – so I thought I’d find something to mark the occasion. I discovered a sweet card intended for a newborn, and I realized that is what this day was – a rebirth. I decided to mark the occasion with a gift to myself and bought the card and a cheap bangle bracelet. I steeled myself for the next step and walked back up the block to my old house.

The magnolia my mother planted the year I was born has grown almost to the third floor. The bars were still there but there was the sweetest little dog asleep in the dining room window who perked right up as I stood there to take a picture. I was weeping the most cleansing tears. The little girl wasn’t there anymore. She’s happy now. She’s healing. She’s whole. I felt like an honest to god grownup, ready to move on and live life without that sad little girl hanging off my skirt. I scanned the house looking for traces of my old world when a young man came out of the house to smoke on the stoop. I had a lovely conversation with him about the house that belongs to his family now. I don’t know if he noticed the tears behind my glasses and sweat.

I called my boyfriend and texted my therapist to let them know what I had done. It felt amazing. I was released. I was liberated. I am free.

I wept all the way back to Copley Square then proceeded to recount the experience to a dear friend I spent the day with. We went into my old church and chatted with the receptionist before going into the sanctuary to say a prayer of thanks. I’m not really a praying kind of girl, but this day was extraordinary, and that church was as much my home as any other place – I found real sanctuary there for many years. My gratitude fills me. My liberation is like this incredible gift I never dreamed I’d receive although I write that with the knowledge that this is no gift. This was hard-fought and hard-won. I busted my ass to get this far. I worked like a beast to battle demons and ghosts, misunderstanding, sanctimony, judgement, rejection, loss… I won.

I know I’m not done yet. I have plenty of work left to do and there will be ups and downs for sure, but I’ve made tremendous strides and I’m pretty freaking proud of how far I’ve come.

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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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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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I had a good mom moment last night…  My 16 year old has been struggling in Biology.  He could hardly contain his excitement as he brought me his latest quiz to show me his grade – he scored a 99!  I congratulated him and said (jokingly) “go put it on the fridge!”  He did and I smiled.  Later, I saw he had updated his Facebook status to:

“Slim feels awesome because his mom told him to put his biology quiz on the fridge!”

**GRIN**

He’s a big, hairy teenager, but he’s still my little boy – I have to remember that 🙂

On a more sour note, I’m in a bit of a pickle about therapy.  Starting July 1, my insurance will only allow 18 therapy sessions per year.  My therapist wants to change our appointments to once a week (currently twice a week) starting then to stretch the time out.  I’m so confused about it all.  Part of me wants to throw in the towel right now.  I feel like it is pointless to continue now if I’m going to get stuck with no therapy come fall when my depression usually gets worse.  How can I spend the winter with no support?  I feel like I’ve come so far and now we’re just going to have to stop – at whatever point I’m at in 18 weeks.  Alternately, I’d like to keep going twice a week to try to get as much EMDR in as we can and have more time in the fall to adjust before winter hits… I just don’t know what to do.  My therapist is looking into what the options are, if there is a possibility of petitioning to continue with additional sessions if the situation warrants it.  She said she’d fight to keep me there as long as I need it.  I just feel so hopeless.  It took me so long to build a trusting relationship with her and I feel like I’ve come so far in a year – now they expect me to just stop?  It doesn’t make any sense – Even a year of therapy can’t cost as much as a hospitalization!  I understand the idea of keeping costs down, but realistically, I’m in crisis just dealing with the news – what am I going to do when I have to give up my primary support and assistance?  It took me 38 years to get this fucked up, now I’m supposed to fix it in 18 sessions???  I’ve been struggling the past few weeks as so many things have been dredged up in therapy and I’ve fought to stuff them back down – this really feels like a setback.

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I have been in a bit of a fog the past few days.  I think I just ended up shutting down after addressing the child sexual abuse in therapy.  I fought with myself about whether it was true or not (I know it is true – these weren’t new memories, just the first time I’ve processed them as the painful experiences they really were).  The propaganda campaign is too strong.  I couldn’t fight it, so my mind responded by shutting down.  We were supposed to do another EMDR session on Thursday, but I thought it best not to.  I didn’t want to be upset this weekend.  Today is my younger son’s school play.  He is excited, he has a great part and I’m sure it will be terrific.

But I don’t want to go.

I get so overwhelmed in crowds – especially school functions where I feel like everyone is judging me.  I will go.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  The hard part is that it marks a difficult anniversary.  Last year, after my son’s play, I went home and fell apart.  I had a psychotic break and ended up in the psych hospital for two weeks.  I remember sitting in the school gym, alone in the back on the bleachers.  I was shaking.  I was terrified that someone would talk to me and I didn’t think I could handle it.  I raced out as soon as the play was over.  I didn’t even take the time to tell my son what a wonderful job he did.  I was a wreck.  I can’t keep punishing myself for it – I mean, I was psychotic.  I was hallucinating and paranoid and utterly out of my mind.  It wasn’t something I could control and I did the right thing by seeking help before I hurt myself.

That said, today is going to be hard.

I *know* that it isn’t going to happen again.  I know that I’m in a completely different place today than I was a year ago.  I’m stronger, healthier and more focused.  It has been weeks since I spent a day in bed or even slept during the day.  I’m okay.  I can handle this.  My dad is coming.  I know it’ll be hard for him too.  He just lost his dog and I’m sure he’s worried that people will bring it up and he might fall apart.

I can do this.  It is rainy and cold today.  I’ll get in the shower and put on clean clothes, and I’ll go.  And it will be okay.

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Which is the best reason not to mow your lawn.  However, your neighbors may not agree.  My lawn is currently sporting a look similar to the spiky haircut I gave my Barbie in second grade… I didn’t watch my twelve year old mow it, but I suspect he didn’t follow a pattern, but just aimed for the spots that looked tallest and didn’t notice how much he missed.  He got high praise for his efforts, and I enjoy a quiet smile when I look out the window.  His brother, of course, thinks this is emblematic of how easy his little brother’s life is and how he Never Has To Do Anything… At sixteen, he is meticulous in his mowing, but he had his bad haircut moments too 🙂

I’m still reeling.  I’ve been busy with kids this weekend which is good.  I spent time with my friends 2 and 8 year olds, riding bikes down to the beach and playing at the playground.  My body aches with all the physical activity, but it is a pleasant soreness.  I just keep looking at the kids and thinking how small and innocent they are and that is how it should be.  I’m so hurt and sad that my innocence was taken from me.  Looking back, I see that my mother really laid the ground work for it.  With her scrubbing me and telling me I stunk, it was clear from my earliest memories that *down there* is a place where bad things happen.  The abuse by those boys served to confirm it.  Girl parts are dirty, smelly places where bad things happen.

Words are not coming easily today.  I need to get dressed and get to therapy.  The sky is gray and it looks like rain, so I didn’t leave early to spend some time walking on the waterfront as I usually do.  I’ve been catching up on blogs and drinking too much coffee, trying to sort out what I want to deal with in today’s session.  I think we need to take some time to process the last EMDR session before doing another one.  I’m really struggling with the voices that say I’ve made it all up and that none of this really happened.  That just doesn’t jive with the power of that wave of emotion that came over me in my last session.  I just saw the image of C’s strange wrinkly boy part and the sadness welled up like a wave and filled me like I’ve never experienced.  When I connect the emotion with the event, it seems so strange how disconnected I’ve been for so long.  When I recognize how young I was and how wrong those things were, I feel so strange having written it all off as something that just happens or something that all kids do.  Granted, kids of the same age will play doctor and so forth, but these boys were between 4 and 8 years older than me.  They were teenagers with men’s bodies – they had no business using a child the way they did.  It continued for a while – that summer at least – with my brother and his friend.  I thought for so long that it was my fault for wanting to play with the big kids.  I never really understood that I was a victim.

I wonder sometimes if I should just let the grass grow.  I don’t spend any time out there.  I only mow it for the neighbors – well, for the people who drive by, my neighbors are all dead since I live next to a cemetery.  I’ve been cutting myself off all these years to try to be appropriate, to not offend, to fit in.  I’ve stifled thoughts and memories in order to be a good girl.  What if I stopped cutting myself off?  What if I let all this out and deal with it?  If I let the grass grow tall and strong in my heart, will it kill off the weeds?  Am I strong enough to find out?

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This is a really tough process.  I’ve spent the past  few days ruminating.  I haven’t gone to bed, but I have withdrawn for hours at a time playing sudoku.  I’m struggling so much with fighting the feeling that I’m being dramatic – I’m exaggerating – maybe I’m even making it all up.  I know I’m not.  I can’t be.  I smelled the soap sitting there in my therapist’s office and it was such a powerful, visceral sensation.  The propaganda campaign is working overtime to suppress and minimize what I’m feeling and remembering.  I visited with an old friend over the weekend who has also experienced child sexual abuse and distanced herself from it much like I have.  She bought up a particularly gruesome experience very nonchalantly and I said – what if someone said that had happened to your daughter…?  She said she would want to kill the person.  She’s right.  If I step back and imagine these events happening to someone else, or to my own children, I am outraged!  I understand having a shitty day as a mom.  I understand yelling or over reacting and feeling guilty about it.  What I don’t understand is a sustained pattern of cruel words and behavior.  I don’t understand consciously, actively causing my own child pain.  I just couldn’t do it.  So, even though my rational mind says I should be thinking how could she do that to me?  Instead I’m thinking what was wrong with me that I deserved to be treated that way.  How did I make her do that.  That was part of her litany – asking why I made her so angry.

I’m scared of this process – the EMDR.  I’m surprised at the memories it has dredged up – memories that I have mostly been aware of on some level, but have never thought of in the context of how they hurt me.  It is just my life.  It is just how things were.  I never questioned it.  When I told my dad, he wasn’t surprised.  They split up when I was around three, but he said I wasn’t telling him anything he didn’t already know.  I don’t know if that means he knew how she treated me, if I told him, or if he just recognizes how crazy she is.  I don’t really feel comfortable talking to him about it.  He is my rock.  I would be utterly alone in the world if I had to direct some of the blame on him.  I don’t think I can handle that.

I need to go to therapy today.  I’m bringing my mother’s letter to my father.  I’m so tired and confused.  I’m functioning, more or less – I’m not depressed, just thoughtful.  I know this takes time to process.  The boys spent the weekend at my dad’s so I had some quiet alone time.  I sat on the porch with the dog and cat in the sunshine.  It was nice.  I have to get motivated to hit the road – off I go.

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