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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 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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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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I have had my eye on it for a few weeks, sitting at the end of a nearby driveway with a for sale sign on it.  I have stopped to look at it, but there was no price marked and I was afraid they might want more than I could afford.  It is a real peach of a bike… a vintage 3 speed Huffy, classic 80’s metallic teal with barely any rust and brand new tires…  Best of all, it is very sturdy and has a broad seat with springs that can handle my ample backside 🙂  Anyway, it was a steal at $35 and he even adjusted the seat height for me.  Problem is, I haven’t been on a bike in oh, let’s see, 20, maybe 25 years?  They say you never forget, so I hopped on and after a wobbly start, I was off.  I rode around my friend’s driveway for a while, gaining confidence on the gravel as I dodged the potholes and larger rocks.  Eventually, I worked my way up to go out on the road, on the pavement… I could FLY!  It was so much fun – much sweatier and wobblier than I had hoped, but so much fun.  I didn’t ride long, but afterwards I felt like my knees were going to just bend backwards and I’m sore all over tonight.  Further proof of just how out of shape and overweight I have become.  I am trying to remind myself that every little bit matters, and this is 10 times more activity than I had yesterday, or in weeks, even…  In breaking body image news – I squeezed into a bathing suit on Sunday and even briefly took off my cover-up to swim for a while at the lake…

I’ve really been backsliding… I wouldn’t say it is full-blown depression, because I am actually pretty busy and getting out of the house, but when it comes to my treatment I’ve really stalled.  I’m going through the motions of the every day all the while I’m in chaos inside.  I did finally do another EMDR session Tuesday (oh, and I’ve got 2 appts/wk until August now) but it didn’t go very well.  I feel very detached and afraid I’m doing it wrong, messing it up.  We did address some feelings of shame and inadequacy, but I was pretty distant from all of it.  Tomorrow I’m supposed to take some paperwork to my session and sit down to get it done because part of the depression and feelings of shame is that I have this growing pile of stuff relating to my mortgage and finances that I HAVE to deal with – like months ago…  I’m also hoping to complete the application for a volunteer position I’d like to be considered for.  I want to train to be a special advocate for abused children who are involved with the courts and child protective services.  It is something I learned about when I was a court advocate for victims of domestic violence and really wanted to do back then, but didn’t have the time.  My therapist keeps suggesting that I do some volunteer work, so I remembered how much I wanted to be involved in this.  I recognize that there is a concern it might be triggering and cause me difficulty, but I think that is outweighed by the  therapeutic value of giving children a voice.  I never had a voice as a child.  Mine wasn’t a case that ever would have had the authorities involved (regardless of the reality of the situation, I know how the system works and with my parents’ education and social status and the extent my mother had gone to to establish me as a liar – they never would have found jeopardy).  I feel like it would be such a tremendous thing to give my voice to a kid who is ensnared in a system so full of seemingly arbitrary rules and procedures.  If I could make just one child’s voice heard, even if the outcome is negative, to let one child feel like someone is really on their side and will help their voice be heard… it seems like a pretty wonderful thing.  I want to do it.

So, my plan is to drop my son off early at driver’s ed and then take my bike to a trail nearby and take a short ride before driving to my appointment.   It is supposed to be hot, but it will be early in the day, so hopefully I won’t be a complete sweathog when I get there… 🙂

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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 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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