Notes to Self

September 17, 2015

The baggage I carry

I mean this literally…the number of bags I carry each day is pissing me off. I feel like a mule.

 

Each school and workday morning I pack four lunches; one for each of my two children, one for me and one for my husband. That’s 3 bags I have to carry (I take the kids to school on my way to work). Then I have a purse. I downgraded from a backpack to a relatively large messenger bag. That makes 4 bags. Sometimes my eldest want to bring toys to school so she needs her backpack. Of course then my youngest wants his backpack as well. Guess who ends up carrying them? We’re up to 6 bags. On occasion, I go to the grocery store before I pick up the kids so I will either have the empty reusable (and insulated) grocery bags to take to the car in the morning and/or (if they are already in the car) I have a few bags of groceries to bring into the house ALONG WITH the kids (I can’t leave them in the house alone and it would take a good 30 minutes or more to permit them to return outside so I can make a second trip, once you add on all the playtime, dawdling on the stairs, etc. That can bring the total up to 8 or 12. But that’s not all. Some days I either have to carry my son or end up bending down with the 8-12 bags to pick him up because he’s too busy playing and won’t just walk into the house so I can put down all of these bags. The kicker is that I wonder why I am so annoyed by the time I actually get into the house and struggle to walk around my kids or their shoes (which my daughter takes off as soon as she gets into the door and then leaves in the middle of the floor) or the meowing cat to peel the bags off of my body and use the bathroom.

 

Yesterday was show and tell for my daughter’s class. I suggested that she bring the pop-up tent my kids had been playing with for the last few days. Of course that meant that I had to carry this awkward item, in addition to all the bags and my son. Great idea! Anyway. Last night I propped the tent against the car and apparently forgot it because it was leaning against the stairs of the daycare this morning. My kids saw it and were very upset. I planned to bring the tent to the car after I dropped off the kids but my daughter wanted to retrieve the tent immediately. So, carrying the two lunch bags and watching my son so he doesn’t run into the street or get hit by a car coming out of the driveway, I also then had to take the tent from my daughter, chase down my son and pick him up so I could put the damned tent into the car. As I began losing my temper and becoming overwhelmed with anxiety/frustration, I heard myself complaining mumbling something like “this is why I wasn’t going to take it until later”. I looked up and caught a glimpse of a man sitting in a car watching us. I felt awful. What he must think of me and my parenting. How terrible that must look to everyone and how absolutely wretched it must be for my children to experience. And for what? The inconvenience of too many things to carry?

 

Sure, that seems like a simple thing. Oh – what’s the problem…it’s a few bags! But it isn’t that simply and we shouldn’t downplay these kinds of situations. If it were one day, here and there of too many things then it may not be cause for a blog post. But every day (weekends are not much different because I have the diaper bag, extra clothes, water, food, toys…..) of carrying and struggling is just too much for me to handle. I strap the lunch bags and my purse across my body so they don’t fall off my arm but then they strangle me and fall forward when I bend down. I am weak and sometimes feel as though the muscles in my shoulders are ripping from the weight. It’s very painful. And I look around and don’t see ANYONE with as many bags as I have. Sure; there are other folks who pack their kids lunch but the bags are small and don’t even have straps. Because I pack so many things in my kids’ lunch bags (two fruits, a hot meal, yogurt, vege’s, etc), I purchased larger lunch bags. I didn’t realize how large they actually were, but I wanted to make sure there was enough room for all the Tupperware and the ice-packs. And they have pockets for miscellaneous things (hair clips, vitamins, extra clothes, etc). So from the start I created this enlarged baggage. But it’s form fits function….right?

 

But the issue isn’t really about the bags. Sure; it’s not easy and not fun and no one would voluntarily do what I do (well, actually, mothers do voluntarily do what I do – I just haven’t met any like me and with a similar number of bags!). The issue is my perception of the situation and of me and my performance as a mother and a woman. When it comes down to it I feel like, and believe that I look like, complete chaos; a “hot mess” as some would say. I feel silly. Lame. Pathetic and clumsy. There is something inherently wrong with me that creates this situation, and many more like it, and makes me feel completely isolated and like a total failure. There is a better way to do this and I am not capable of figuring that out. Here’s another fundamental belief; one of a few songs that get sung over and over in my head without me realizing it until it’s too late. They cloud my judgement, fill me with anxiety and make me say and do things I instantly regret. I may realize I am in this state but not until I am too far gone. I don’t know how to stop it. I don’t know how to calm down and pour water on the fire. I thought about getting a really tight bracelet with “CTFD” written on it….perhaps it would be so tight that I could never ignore it and I would have a constant reminder to calm the fuck down. But I didn’t think it would be workplace appropriate, and wasn’t sure it would work – feared it would actually make me more anxious.

 

So. How to start “fixing” this? Medication. I have an appointment with a psychiatrist to see about some medication for my anxiety. I haven’t been to therapy in a while (too much going on in my life that demands my time) but I plan to return soon. I wanted to start medication several months ago but couldn’t get an appointment. Funny….mental health practitioners can’t give appointments for 1-2 months. Somehow that seems contrary to the purpose of the care. But I digress. I am hoping with all my might that medication will help lessen the reaction and I can stop myself before it’s too late; that I’ll stop becoming my anxiety and exploding inside and out. It’s all about behavior modification. But without a trainer following me around I need help.

 

I cannot stop carrying so many bags but hopefully I can stop doing so with so much baggage (and yes, I am now referring to baggage in the figurative sense! LOL!). What baggage do you carry with you every day?

September 10, 2014

I surrender

This morning I felt so defeated. I got in the car to drive the kids to daycare and I said to myself “I fucking surrender”. A moment earlier, when my daughter whined about wanting a different book to take to school (after she whined about wanting her dolls that were left in the house and I returned to the house to fetch them, brushing my hair for the first time since showering as I walked back to the house), I took the wrong book from her hands, threw it on the car floor and plopped the book she wanted into her lap. I felt like such a winner. I am an awesome mom.

 

I am so tired; absolutely exhausted. Not just from this cold I’ve been fighting for two weeks (I don’t take medication while breastfeeding), or from still waking 3-4 times a night to nurse the baby, or from taking care of the two kids on my own, or from a full-time job, or from cooking, cleaning and all the other shit I have to do. But also from feeling so damned lonely. And from fighting with myself about everything.

 

The mornings are insane. We all wake up late and have less than an hour to when we should be heading out the door. But of course this isn’t feasible so when it’s after 8 and I know that I will be late to work and unable to find a parking spot, I get really ticked off. I am constantly forgetting things, I never have food to take (and when was the last time I ate a vegetable?)….. I seem to carry a minimum of five bags (and a kid) and I just feel like my entire life is one big chaotic mess. There are some mornings I don’t get to shower.

 

I realized that I feel like my husband doesn’t match my level of effort toward childcare, house maintenance and just overall getting stuff done. And this angers me. I feel betrayed. Unloved. Unsupported and sometimes like a sucker. But then I wonder how much of this is me being unrealistic in my expectations (both for myself and for my husband) and how much is appropriate (this is the fighting I referred to earlier). So I get even more angry from being so unsure of things. It is clear to both of us that our priorities are different. For example, I want a clean, neat house that doesn’t piss me off (operative component is that I am not pissed off by the state of my house, not necessarily that it isn’t messy). He doesn’t care that much about that facet right now. He doesn’t get annoyed like I do (although there are times it frustrates him as well). So I battle with all of these things and push him away and get angry at him at the same time. Yes, I blame him. Not sure why. I don’t know what he does with his time; I just know that isn’t what I want him to be doing with it. (you should be shaking your head or laughing at me right now).

 

The layers of guilt and pressure and fighting just go on and on. When my 3.5 yr old screams in frustration the moment something doesn’t go her way (e.g., trying to take off her shoe), I know that’s my fault. I know I have failed her. I know that if I can’t fix myself I won’t be able to undo this damage and she will have a really tough life. But this morning I felt like I just can’t keep fighting. I am spent. I don’t see a light at the end of this pitch black and seemingly never ending tunnel. I just see more and more and more that needs to be done and I feel alone in facing it. I feel defeated. Like no matter what I do, I will always lose. I will always fail and there is always a better way to do it; I just can’t.

 

Life is passing by and I am struggling with what has often been referred to as “sweating the small stuff”. My therapist commented that I was worrying about the superficial things (like a messy house) but have the big, important things covered (like feeding my kids healthy foods) – note that this morning I was also steaming and pureeing broccoli for the baby…because there just wasn’t enough to do I thought I would add one more task…………….

 

So today I haven’t done much work and don’t really care to. I find everything rather pointless. I ate a bunch of cookies (and of course feel sick to my stomach). I will become progressively more annoyed as the day goes on and I will probably go to bed thoroughly annoyed, not sleep well and then do another day of this shit. Again and again and again. I just give up. I can’t give anymore than I already am and I am running out of steam. I don’t know what to do.

August 31, 2013

The hidden

I’ve read about how parents can react poorly, or inappropriately to their children when something they say or do triggers an old memory or feeling. I never doubted it but just experienced it.

Let me say that it was powerful and very surprising.

I am the youngest of three children and was, in most ways, my fathers favorite. When I was young, I was always helping him, following him around, going on errands with him. I desperately wanted his love and approval, which wasn’t so easy to get or have.

Even though I usually felt saddened and hurt by our interactions (dad let me help but only until I wasn’t doing it right or perfectly), I kept trying. I always felt that I couldn’t please him and that I wasn’t good enough; in short, I felt like a failure.

Today we purchased a new grill. My husband was putting it together and it was a hot and incredibly humid day. There were a ton of Mosquitos and he couldn’t find the bug spray (I was napping with our toddler). Needless to say he was very frustrated.

So when my daughter woke and wanted to “help”, it didn’t go over so well. I tried to find things for her to do so she wasn’t in his way (e.g., putting screws into holes and taking his tools), but it didn’t really go so well. Then I tried to take her to the store and she pitched a fit (didn’t want mommy to leave but wanted to stay and help daddy). When I took her inside and tried to explain at daddy needed to work by himself (note she was already crying), she responded with such hurt and sadness.

When I saw this on her face, I began crying myself. I couldn’t help it. All she wanted was to help her daddy. I was amazed at how sad I felt for this little girl and how this was the exact thing I was always so afraid of happening….that she would feel the way I felt. She saw me crying and the sadness on my face, which I half purposely didn’t hide from her (would she know that I empathized with her?), but she didn’t say anything. Eventually she calmed down and we went back outside- i was determined to find ways she could help. Then there was a second episode where he lost his patience, and I lost my ability to control the tears. She crawled away and sulked. He soon apologized and she seemed to be ok, but I wasn’t.

I went inside to bawl. I can’t figure out if I am/was more sad for myself or for her. In therapy we have been using imagery (“going back on memory lane) to have my adult self show my little girl-self some compassion (so I’d stop blaming myself). Maybe my reaction was similar to this exercise.

Regardless, I am amazed at the psyche and how quickly and strongly emotions can be released. My daughter is fine and there doesn’t appear to be any damage to her relationship with her beloved daddy.

I, on the other hand, am still very upset.

July 16, 2013

Obligation

I haven’t spoken to my family for four or so months now.

Within weeks I noticed how much happier of a person I was. I am still finding ways where I am “healing” and am becoming a different person. For example, whenever my husband was in a bad mood I always assumed it was my fault and that he was resenting me and would eventually leave me. I would then try to make him feel better, which ultimately angered him (like everyone, he just wanted to be left alone!). But the other day, when he was tired and cranky, I didn’t blame myself. I didn’t try to fix it and I didn’t think he was going to leave me. I just recognized that he was in a bad mood and that was that. When I realized this change I was floored…first, I never realized that I was doing this and, second, never imagined the link between how my family treated me, how I interpreted their treatment of me and how I applied the effects to every little aspect of my life.

I have received a few emails (“thinking about you…”) and calls (they never leave messages) but I don’t respond. I have nothing to say.

However an email I received (well, was copied on) the other day threw me for a short loop. Evidently my mother required surgery and, based on the little bit of information I received, I can only surmise that she has some form of cancer (pre or very early stage). I had to stop and really think about how I was going to respond. How does illness and death change a relationship, and should it?

I’ve always been there for my family. Done everything I could (above what was needed). I can’t think of anything that needs to be said or done or what would be worth reopening communication. I feel settled in my relationship with all of them, to the extent that until they change, I have nothing to say. I don’t have regret. Death is only a problem for the living. I don’t have to resolve anything with her from my perspective. I think people go to ill and dying relatives with which they severed ties because they need closure or resoluation for something. I don’t.

But the legacy obligation (haven’t you heard that blood is thicker than water and family is all you’ll ever really have?) made me initially take pause and wonder if I should change my approach. But as I worked it all out, I realized that the culture with which I grew up…do it because it’s family and that’s all you’ll ever have…I’m done with that. How I respond to them and how I treat myself as a consequence of the interactions are two very different things. Until I can stop beating myself up for every little thing, I don’t think I can be with them. They destroy me.

All of this change I am encountering – it is powerful stuff. As powerful as all the damage that was done. I am proud of myself for finally being true to me; standing up for myself and my well-being. These are enormous, positive changes that are making me a better person and better wife and mother.

March 25, 2013

Deaf minds, lose tongues

Life has been unusually demanding lately. Work got incredibly stressful after my boss was fired and time just seems to be less and less. I barely have a moment to breath let along write in a blog. But now I will take the time to unload an enormous weight.

About a month ago my family staged what I (somewhat mockingly) call interventions. They wanted to complain about how they aren’t vital to my daughter’s life. They don’t like how she treats them (i.e., that she doesn’t run to them, cuddle with them, always give them lots of smiles and giggles, sit on their laps and just think that they are the most wonderful grandparents and aunts that a child could ever have!) and how they just want her to love them. And, by the way, it is all my fault.

These “meetings” happened over a meal (there were two separate ones). Sometime into the meal I stopped eating and could no longer look at my food. Later I realized I had gone into “flight or fight” mode. Yes, in conversation with my family my primitive self-preservation mechanisms kicked into full gear. Not really all that surprising when I think about it, but disturbing nonetheless.

There are endless defenses I could give to their claims of my and my daughter’s wrong doings (e.g., you are a stranger because you never make time to see her, I don’t trust you with my child because you are selfish and manipulative, etc), but it really doesn’t matter.

Last week I received another ridiculous email from one of my sisters, telling me again how unacceptable the situation is. She copied the entire family. She used phrases like: ” [my daughter] does not look at me, runs from me, and has no interest in interacting with me unless I’m holding something she wants. The fact that you don’t try to change that behavior is also worrisome.” which only made it clear that my sister not only doesn’t understand one iota of a child’s behavior or needs, but is also a child herself. I am so tired of hearing my family complain about how my daughter doesn’t act the way they think she should act, doesn’t love them as much as they want her to and they don’t have the kind of relationship with her as other grandparents and aunts they know. Again, there are endless defenses I could give to their claims of my and my daughter’s wrong doings, but it really doesn’t matter.

So I responded to the ridiculous email in a manner I have never ever done before; with anger and “right back at you” blame. I said things like: “Your assessment of [my daughter] and our actions as parents is based on ignorance, selfishness and impatience. You make demands on [my daughter] and never question whether a baby or toddler can (or the important question is should they) meet demands. Despite my trying to explain this to you, you still demand. There is no instant gratification in this situation. [my daughter] is acting as she should at this age.  You adapt to her.  The two year old does not adapt to your needs.  They have yet to develop the skills to adapt to you.  If you stopped to think about it, I did encourage [my daughter] to interact with you. Using playdoh was a means to engage you two. It worked. You two were playing together. Did you not appreciate this or how much [my daughter] loved the animal you made her? She wouldn’t let go of it. Keep in mind that you complained a lot about how gross it was and made it clear how much you didn’t want to play with it. You almost seemed to resent having to do it. I picked up on that; do you think [my daughter] did?”

Her response was “Let me know when you’re ready to talk in a productive fashion”.

Nothing I said was heard; not one character imparted an ounce of doubt in her preconceived notions. I received additional responses with similar sentiments (we are not happy and you aren’t doing anything to make us happy!) from other members of my family. Lose tongues.

That’s why nothing I said or can/could say really matters.

My words fell on deaf minds.

 

And I haven’t anything else to say to them.  In a challenging enough time in my life I do not have the desire to surround myself with such negativity and selfishness. I cannot and will not subject my daughter to the demands of ignorance and close mindedness.

I wasn’t proud of myself for sending a harsh response but felt I needed to assert myself and make it clear that they are tiring out my patience. The only thing they are accomplishing is pushing me farther and farther away. The more they demand the less I will be a part of their lives. And when I do remove myself (and my family) from their lives, be certain that I will be accused of being selfish and childish and they will wonder why can’t I just be who they demand I be?

December 30, 2012

Do as I do, child

I just read possibly the most influential two paragraphs that I will ever read as a parent.

For a few months now (maybe longer), I have been aware of, although trying desperately to ignore, the frustration my daughter sometimes exhibits and how it is so similar to the tantrums I have thrown. I believe that I have already taught her one of the most negative attributes of my personality. I recognize that toddlers get frustrated, and that throwing things or knocking them over is a basic response to frustration. Maybe it is just me imagining the worst (after all, aren’t I responsible for all negativity in my family?), but it has made me aware that this child is already a sponge.

Therapy has really been helping me – the realizations I have made have resulted in far less stress and frustration (which we figured out recently may also be from constant low grade anxiety). But I do still have my moments where the fact that the couch on which my toddler is trying to climb is covered with toys and blankets, (and isn’t it awful how I can’t keep the house organized and clean because I am such a terrible mother and wife) so I am left with no choice but to clean it off in a few sweeps, sending everything to the floor. Do as I do, child.

When my daughter gets frustrated (usually because her fine motor skills are limiting her in her play), I try to talk her through it, keeping my voice low and calm. Sometimes it works, but you can’t expect toddlers not to express their frustration!

The book suggested that parents ask their children, or a family member if the child isn’t old enough, what was the most positive lesson taught by example and what was the most negative. Then, the author suggested parents to look to their own childhood.

Being a full-time working mom, I find that after doing the basic necessities and spending as much time with my daughter and husband as I can (and don’t forget the cat!), I haven’t much time for other things. There are a lot of things I would like to do to help take better care of myself, but I don’t. I think about how it would set a wonderful example for her to see mommy putting her needs ahead of dishes or the like, and also that I feel I am important enough to make sure I do what is needed to be healthy (like exercise and eat well) and look nice (I haven’t had a hair cut in 6 or more months!). But I don’t.

I wonder if I will ever have the motivation (as I was typing that word, motivation, I wondered if it really should have been self-love) to take care of myself and set a good example for my daughter. I do everything I can to show her every moment how much I love her, how proud I am of her and what a wonderful little girl she is. But I just can’t do the same for myself. Do as I do, child.

I think I got this ridiculous “selflessness” from my father. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how absurd his behavior is. He’ll eat the garbage food (whether it is over processed carbs or nearly rotten veges or fruit) because that is good enough for him, he doesn’t mind. Meanwhile he’s obese and can’t walk well. I never had good role models for taking care of myself and as much as I want to be that for my daughter, I just don’t know how.

It is a strange type of self-punishment to not take care of myself. As if I am not worthy. Or it won’t matter because I will always be fat and ugly so why bother. And what’s worse…if I try and fail (not sure what would qualify as failing) then it serves me right for trying to be something that I’m not (this really relates to my wardrobe, hair style and makeup…trying to be more feminine, professional and just overall nicely presented).

So I do the bare minimum and close my eyes around mirrors. I try not to have pictures taken of me but I certainly don’t look at them if I do. I often wonder if it is apparent that I have little respect for myself. I wonder if that’s why I have only a few friends.

Although I started this post a few days ago, it will be the second I posted today. So I can’t help but feel that I am ending up with more “stuck” places than places of resolution and relief.

In weight loss, the saying is that you didn’t gain it overnight so don’t expect it to come off so quickly. I wonder what do they say regarding therapy?

Could it be that simple?

I am having a hard time dealing with…life today. I am so completely frustration and annoyed. I am crying and throwing things. I just can’t deal.

We plan to have two other families over for a New Year’s Eve dinner (with their children) and I have been cleaning and reorganizing the house or nearly 3 days (this includes setting up new toy organizers and moving a table to the attic). And I still have to do the basic cleaning (bathroom, stove, vacuum, etc). I take time off of work to clean…forget just relaxing and, oh maybe getting a hair cut!

I can’t believe my anger. I can’t handle the chaos and the mess and the shit everywhere so you can’t fucking get to a jacket (which is laying on the floor) without first moving three other jackets, a backpack, a few newspapers, maybe some empty boxes from a shipment, etc, etc. You can’t prepare dinner on the counter because there are too many unwashed dishes and tupperware containers. Yeah, the wine glasses from when Sandy hit are STILL SITTING THERE.

My daughter wouldn’t take a nap today. She ran around all morning. Today she didn’t want to nap and I had no patience for it so I put her in her crib and told her to take a nap. Forty-five later (and tears from the both of us) I took her out. She said she was hungry. Now she is asleep and I can’t do much because she is on the couch with my husband instead of in her crib.

So I am standing at the sink, tears streaming from the overwhelming anxiety (apparently I suffer from chronic low-level anxiety) and trying desperately to figure out why I get so upset when the house is messy and why I can’t control myself right now. I want to scream and hit things and smash them to bits I am so fucking frustrated.

And then it occurs to me. In all that I have been learning about my parents and how I grew up – that I acted only in ways that would minimize their distain for me and maybe keep them loving me for a day longer – I recalled how angry my mother would get when there were dishes piled up or the table got covered with crap (forget about when she tried to vacuum and we were watching TV). Oh, the screaming and “I can’t do it all!”; “I don’t get paid to be your mother”…. we were frozen with no clue as to how to respond, or what to do. I think we usually helped clean (in silence). I remember feeling completely responsible for the mess – I was such a messy, no good child. I didn’t clean up after myself and was lazy. I was eight.

 

So when I realized that I may be displaying similar behavior’s that my daughter would adapt, I felt a huge sadness come over me. All I want is to fix this, fix me. I can’t go on with these episodes.

 

I am so worried about what these other families will think – that we live in complete disorder and filth! They will think how terrible and pathetic I am. How lazy and disgusting. I can’t let them go to the second floor because one bedroom is filled with “I don’t know where else to put this right now” crap, our bedroom has unfolded clothes in baskets on the floor and the bathroom needs a good cleaning. Yes, that is what they will think.

 

I still don’t know how to make this anger stop or how to get rid of the anxiety (that overwhelming feeling that I must be doing something other than what I am doing and, if I don’t, then the world will stop).  I feel helpless and a little hopeless.

 

Like my daughter says: “I stuck”.

December 21, 2012

Where you end and I begin

According to my therapist, when children are young there is not much separation between them and their primary caregiver(s) (i.e. parents) – they see themselves and their world through their parents. It is the job of the parents to reflect back a positive image of the child (so the child sees their self in a positive way) and as time goes on, the parent must allow the child to develop into an individual – to separate from the parent. This involves allowing the child to differ in opinion and “rebel”; to be unhappy with decisions made by the parents and to voice such opposition. However, the key is for the parent(s) is to maintain love for and acceptance of that child no matter what (you know, unconditional love).

 

Evidently, many parents fail at this. Instead of viewing their child as a separate, discrete individual, they see the child as an extension of themselves. And they expect the child to act accordingly. My therapist likened it to how one might expect an arm to move as you tell it to and imagine how upset you would be if this arm went left when you told it to go right. How dare it not do as you instructed!

 

In my quest to figure out WHY I have the thought processes and behaviors that I do, I am trying to understand the connection between my parents parenting and my current mental state. I do not feel that I can change until I understand why, to the extent that I can.

I am struggling to draw connections between the parenting I received and the thoughts I now have to change. I imagine there is a flow chart that can be drawn – some way to schematically show the if/than arguments.

 

My parents were never happy with what I did, how I behaved or dressed or talked. I was never what they wanted me to be  – regardless of the situation or conditions. I was always lacking something – I didn’t get all A’s or the haircut was nice but my mother would have preferred something different. Of course these are the stereotypical things that parents say – that most folks discuss in therapy. But taken together, over a lifetime, and mixed with other major traumatic events in my life (which I believe were inevitable consequences of circumstance), I am left with this:

1) I do not trust my own judgement, which causes anger and frustration (the death spiral)

2) I do not think I am worthy of love or have any right to ask someone to do something for me (I build walls and don’t let people in; I have no pride)

3) I am not, and never will be or could be, feminine, pretty or sexy (I never look in mirror’s and go through mental hell when I have to wear anything but jeans)

4) No matter what I do, try to do or want to do, I will fail (I have no hobbies or goals in life and no sense of accomplishment)

 

Up until a year or so ago everything I did was done to make my parents and sisters happy. For example, even after I moved out I would mow the lawn, rake and shovel. I would sometimes send my husband (much to his significant dismay). I listened to complaints and ran errands and let them blow me off for someone (or something) else (and never said a peep). I did it because it made them happy and that meant I was good and maybe they would love me. I beamed whenever I was told how helpful I am! This would make me want to do more.

But I am now realizing how much of my actions (or lack thereof) were done just to take care of their mental health. I won’t argue or speak up for myself because that angered them. I won’t tell them my opinion or not go along with their plans because that angers them. I will stay close to home so I can take care of you, even if I hate this damned state. I will put up with the hurt and criticism, judgement and insults – because you are family and, as you have always told me, all I have to count on in this world is my family. When no one else will be there, you will. I view myself according to how I think my family would view me and the decision I am about to or have just made. And since their view of me is/was never favorable (unless I had just done something for them and in accordance with their preferences), then all I think is that I have and will fail.

 

Action will correct my thought processes. My therapist says I need to stand up for myself and confront them when they say or do something I don’t like or when they ask of me something I do not wish to do. When asked why I don’t do this I said it is because it’s not worth the hassle. When I have spoken up I just get questioned more “well don’t you think that ___” or “why do you think that ____”. It’s tiring and I don’t want to deal with it.

So here’s another “cause” – they don’t listen and they don’t pay attention. The last time I went clothes shopping with my mother I was in the 6th grade. She pulled some awful, ruffled shirt off the rack and I replied (rather loudly) “do you really think that is something I would like?”. And that was that.  With all of the choices I have made with my daughter – they still question and criticize. They have not heard me or paid any attention such that they would understand and appreciate that all my decisions are based on what is in the best interest of my daughter, rather than what I do or do not want or what they expect. No, I will not wake her up from her nap so we can be on time for appetizers. No, we will not stay past her bedtime; she gets cranky and unhappy. We will go home so she can sleep.

Last night I was talking with my mother and she started lecturing in a very disapproving tone. I fell silent (as I have been doing – and then I just say I have to go and hang up). But then I thought about it and decided to “confront” her (and by the way, I should mention that confrontation scare the hell out of me – with anyone – my heart pounds, my voice quivers).  So I told her what I thought and she just kept challenging me and I realized that I didn’t know how to stop it. What did I need to say to get her to stop talking? My life isn’t your business unless I make it your business. And if you don’t like something it isn’t your natural right to tell me so.

I am seeing clearly how I have become what I am. The logic is unfolding and the consequences come forth as if challenging me to refute their existence.

Self-doubt; you are a product of not having been heard or given the opportunity to safely make mistakes. No, it would not have been tragic if the skirt I was trying to make didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. I would have learned something from it. I would have tried again and become more skilled. Except I just gave up. Lost interest in trying anything since I would only fail.

 

Overall I am hopeful for my recovery. While I see there is a lot of active, in the moment work to do; I think I can change.

I need to change. I am tired of being negative and self-hating.

My daughter needs me to change. I need me to change.

I don’t feel that I have really worked through all of this information such that I feel clarity. But I am getting closer. This has helped.

Inch by inch, row by row…..

August 8, 2012

If you eat shit, then that’s all you’ll spit out

My husband said that to me last week. Not sure what that statement means to anyone else, but it resonated with me (and he said it with understanding and concern for me – it wasn’t a shot).

We were “fighting” for a while. Well, I guess I was fighting him.

With all of the debates on whether or not love at first sight exists, or is valid, I can tell you that when my husband and I met we knew we would be together for the rest of our lives. It was clear to everyone around us as well. We clicked and we have so much in common. Our differences are what makes our relationship stronger and the similarities in our personalities often make us at odds. Seems a little backwards right? But we work. We work really well.

“Having a child changes everything” is an understatement. “Nothing can prepare you for the changes that will occur” is not.

I recently found myself struggling to find footing. I guess that I was finally getting used to not nursing and not waking every 2-3 hours but had not yet found a new rhythm. I felt like I came up for a breath and didn’t recognize the world around me. And for a bit of a control freak, that wasn’t cool (note that I most likely am not admitting to how much of a control freak I am – I like to think I am more reasonable than I must actually be). So I freaked out. And when my husband said something that hit a very large button I freaked out more. I shut down and pushed him away. I was so defensive that I actually didn’t even feel sad. I didn’t feel anything, just numb. And this scared me because I had been clinically depressed for years and this feeling was too familiar. So I forced myself to think and write about it and finally broke down in tears.

We talked. We “argued”. We came to a…calm.

I have written about the negative thoughts that are all too routine. My husband had no idea of just how routine they were. I mentioned our relationship because he is the one person in my life (ever) that I trust (as much as I can trust, which now that I think about it may negate the prior clause). For all of the games we have to play in our lives – at work, with family members, etc – I always felt safe with him. I never worried about what I said or really how I said it. I figured he did the same. I figured he knew nothing I ever said was to be mean or hurtful, spiteful or malicious. I have issues with memory and for years have been forgetting words and losing my train of thought. I will start to say something and completely forget what I was saying. I forget simple words like spoon. And when this happens I just stare blankly trying desperately to recall what I was saying and thinking. He finds this very frustrating. I don’t know what to do about it.

I never realized just how difficult I can be. I never realized that much of what I thought wasn’t an issue for him really is an issue.  Apparently how I say things is much different than how I think I say things. I get it and I need to change.

So when I described some of the things I say to myself, about myself, my husband was shocked. And with all of his wisdom he said to me that in order to fix things between the two of us I had to fix things within me.

If you eat shit, then that’s all you will spit out.

I realize that while I am no longer fighting him, we are not resolved in this communication issue. I am still a bit defensive and that’s something I need to work on – trusting that he loves me.

I never saw so clearly how my thoughts and feelings about myself can affect others and my relationship with them. I am grateful that he painted such a clear picture. I am thankful that I saw it.

July 12, 2012

If it had been different, about what would we now be talking?

I was fortunate to be able to have a late breakfast with a friend this morning. We have known each other since the 6th grade and are, what I consider kindred spirits. We lost touch during college and then she moved to another country, etc. etc. But she is in town for a bit and after many years of not communicating we recently reconnected (thanks to Facebook by the way) and are talking as if we hadn’t skipped a beat. The really nice thing is that there has never been judgement or jealousy or any of the other emotions that are often in female relationships and that poison the waters of friendship; the awkward, strained things that prohibit one from being totally honest and open. We are certainly totally honest and open with each other. Except when we feel rejected by the other person, which is not only one of both of our fundamental fears but also (I think) the reason we lost touch. Now that I think about this fact, I chuckle that our similarities are the things that sent us apart!

We are both mothers and we are now finding that we struggle with the same fears and obstacles regarding our own children (e.g., what type of mothers we are, want to be and don’t want to be). We also both struggle with similar issues in our marriages (e.g., how our emotional issues affect our marriages). And we have had similar issues with our parents that has left us with similar, fundamental obstacles we have yet to overcome (e.g., lack of self-love).

We both fully agree that if a child feels unconditionally loved then the child is on the road to a healthy self-image. We both agree that we try every day to help our children feel as loved, cherished and appreciated as humanly possible. So maybe one day they won’t have the doubt and self-loathing she and I endure(d).

Finally I looked at my friend and said – if things had been different, if we had received the nurturing we believe is fundamental to a healthy self-image, then about what would we now be talking instead of discussing our fears and mother/wife problems?

“Yeah” was all she said as she shook her head and thought about what I just said.

What struck me was the expression on my friends face – it was a look of hope and yearning.

After all our years of fighting ourselves, is it possible we can find peace?

Then we could talk about the weather or the price of bread…

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