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Posts Tagged ‘PTSD’

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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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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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My heart aches, bleeds with grief for the senseless loss of life and innocence. I’ve been reeling all day, torn between wanting to avoid the horror of the news and wanting to be prepared to discuss it with my own children. And then there’s that magnetic draw to become engulfed in the news, to try to glean some sense from the madness… because it is all about madness, right? That’s where I get mad.

First they trot out the reporters with half-confirmed fact-like information, then come the psychologists to talk about the crazy. If the massacre happens abroad it’s a terrorist, but if it happens here in the US it must be a crazy person. There must be some diagnosis to explain this horrific crime. Except when there isn’t. Or when the mental illness is a result of trauma, abuse, bullying or just lousy parenting. Or when a human being perfectly capable of making choices makes some terrible, terrible choices.

Choice. Ay, there’s the rub. Mentally ill people make safe choices every day. Victims of child abuse choose not to abuse their own children. Children exposed to domestic violence grow up to choose not to abuse their own spouse.

It burns my ass when the media wants to paint the picture of a killer as someone who is mentally ill, because whether that person is or is not mentally ill should not paint the mentally ill as killers.

The vast majority of mass murderers in the USA are young, white men of privilege, yet the vast majority of young, white men of privilege live a lifetime without killing anyone.

Sigh. My heart aches. Sad times.

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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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Or when your mom is broke, depressed and overwhelmed.

I really wanted to come back to this blog in triumph. I planned to detail all the terrific progress I’ve made in the past couple years. I’ve become active daily, lost over 60 pounds, dealt with some chronic health concerns I’d avoided for years and continue to manage my depression and anxiety without medication. I continue to strive to be more mindful and have found that acceptance is my single greatest tool in recognizing what I’m feeling and avoiding wallowing in those emotions… sometimes. On the good days. When things are better.

Problem is things aren’t better right now. Right now I’m struggling to remember the progress I’ve made because it feels like it is always the same bullshit, year after year. I’m still broke, living on a paltry income from disability and the exceedingly rare child support check. I’m teetering on the edge of foreclosure, being sued by my ex, my head gaskets are leaking in my Subaru and I’m miles away from a catastrophic engine failure that I can’t afford to repair. My therapist is away until late next week.

Waaahhh… yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone has problems.  Sometimes I just need to rant.

What about the bright side? I shower more. I like myself better. I feel better about my body. My health has improved by leaps and bounds, my blood pressure is normal, I have fewer headaches and colds. I climb the 5 flights of stairs to therapy without having to stop anymore. My dog is happier getting more exercise. I was able to send my brilliant son away to college 1,000 miles away… it was hard, but I did it and I’m so very proud of him. My younger son is thriving socially and has found his niche performing in theater. I have gained some ground in my financial chaos, working with a case manager to get on top of the paperwork. I’ve been a tireless advocate for myself to get child support collected by the state – even if that office is finding me pretty tiresome. But I’m tired.

I’m tired of being poor. I’m tired of not being ready to work. I’m ever so freaking tired of people assuming I’m just being lazy and feeling like I have to justify my disability. I’m tired of giving my kids underwear for Christmas because it is all I can afford…

I’m grateful that my kids are awesome and will behave as though they are the greatest boxers ever.

I’m tired of people telling me how to solve my problems. Tired of folks thinking it is just a matter of making a phone call or filling out some paperwork – people who don’t understand just how daunting and overwhelming such seemingly benign tasks can become to someone in my position. I’m so exhausted with people being tired of me. People heaving a big sigh and trying to be understanding but feeling like it is really just a question of me being lazy or sorry for myself.

They don’t know. They’re not here when I make a list, set an alarm, vow to accomplish a task only to find my self literally turning in circles trying to figure out where to start and collapsing in tears that I can’t just take care of these simple things everyone else seems to do without thinking. They don’t know what it is like to obsess about an issue until every waking thought is consumed with the agony and fear of not being able to cope with it. They don’t know how I shake to my very core with panic. They don’t know, but they feel so free to judge. They feel so confident in their conviction that it should be just. that. easy.

I’m better. I’m so much better than I was. I’m building relationships, isolating less, successfully advocating for children in my volunteer work, being more present and available to my children and friends… I’ve been taking care of so many things I’ve avoided in the past. I’ve been taking care of me.

The holidays suck. Right now is hard, brutal even, but I’ll be better soon. I know that I have to strength to come out of this low and keep moving forward. I know that the anger and fear will not consume me. I have resources I haven’t been able to access in years. I’m stronger now, even if I’m so very, very weak today.

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