Notes to Self

May 25, 2017

Shoulder tap that anxiety tantrum

Filed under: Healing, Take a deep breath, Them vs. Me, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — me2self @ 4:34 pm

I haven’t been to therapy in perhaps a year. I haven’t written on this blog for a long time as well. I have been busy with daily routine, and busy trying to ignore what makes me miserable.

I am happy to admit that I have made some progress over the past months…catching myself soon after I enter a anxiety tantrum (you know, when you get all upset, angry, frustrated, annoyed and just pissed off miserable and you don’t know why)…. I’ve had fewer of these (or so I think; I really should check with my husband). My therapist once told me that what I needed was someone to tap me on the shoulder and tell me I have headed down this path, so I can stop myself and backup. I tried to get my husband to do this, but 1) that isn’t fair to him and 2) he doesn’t necessarily know when I am on that path. So it is up to me.

It seems that this should be an easy thing to do…when I find myself enraged, annoyed, or have swirling thoughts in my head, I need to stop and backup. But that’s the key…FINDING your self. These anxiety tantrums are like having a blindfold over your sense of self-awareness. You simply lose sight of the bigger picture and get lost in these minute details of things that you think are life altering and/or catastrophic.

Hmmm…self-awareness. Like realizing that the thing you are being anxious about is directly related to the horrible things your mother would say to you on a daily basis (Or the things that you now say to yourself because why stop the negativity after all these years?) and not really a problem in a normal world or frame of mind.

I am certain that most anxiety is all about the tug between feeling that we are not living up to the standards put forth and knowing that these standards that are unreasonable, unattainable, and irrational. We are functioning at the mercy of the lessons we learned as children and/or by our current understanding of what “society” expects of us, and our gut reactions to them. The opposition and confrontation of these two sides happen subconsciously. We, then, need to have a shoulder tap to come to a place of self-awareness, backup out of that situation and stop the two sides from fighting – to stop the anxiety tantrum.

But how?

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July 23, 2014

Trying to cope

After nearly a year, my husband recently became employed. Hip-hip hooray, right?

No good deed goes unpunished (I really am trying to work on my optimism here)….his employment has left me alone with both kids for 4 out of 7 nights (for bed time) and one full weekend day. Not my idea of ideal.

Initially it was REALLY tough to juggle the two kids and I had a lot of self-induced pressure and I failed miserably at keeping my cool. Tears were rampant.

Then we sort of figured it out and now it’s anybody’s guess as to how the evening will go. Regardless if there are tears or smiles, I am not coping well.

 

Here’s an example:

I am still breastfeeding and the baby nurses to sleep. He’s at the age where he’s easily distracted and his sister is the highlight of his life (ergo when she makes noise he pays attention). Last night I nursed him four times and he still didn’t fall asleep. This took 1.5+hours. I was spent. I was done. I didn’t want to nurse ANYMORE. On top of it, my 3 yr old was tired of being quiet (or relatively) and alone and it was getting way past her bedtime so I just became more and more enraged. I was fully aware that there was some vague, instinctual, negative message that I was telling myself but I couldn’t quite hear it and I couldn’t get past it. I just worked myself into tears and a fit of rage (which I could only partially hide). Finally the three of us laid in the bed and soon the baby stopped crying and fell asleep. Meanwhile I was stuck on my back with a kid laying on both arms and a full bladder. I just laid there thinking how poorly I had done that evening (let’s not even go into the park visit we did early that evening) and how I had to stop and the more I thought about it the more guilt I felt, the more I beat myself up and the more angry I became. Just beside myself with frustration and anxiety. So I decided it was time to make time for therapy.

That being said there have been a few (maybe 3?) nights where the baby falls asleep no problem and I get to read a few books to my daughter before she goes to bed at a decent time.

I am still not in contact with my family (although they still send emails every now and again, but nothing of note). I continue to uncover fundamental problems in my life that all go back to them (I am past blame, just amazed at how simple the cause and effect is when the consequences have become so difficult to tease apart). I see how my daughter is becoming as easily frustrated as I am and I cannot handle that I have taught her that. I have failed her; and that’s the truth. I don’t know if I can undo it but this will first require that I fix myself.

 

I remember having several conversations about parenting and folks saying that you just had to be good enough. I think about that and wonder if the good outweighs the bad. Does my daughter feel loved more than she feels hurt? Does she laugh more than she cries? I don’t know. I feel like she is sad and feels unloved and I hurt because of this. And I have no objective way to evaluate her emotional health.

 

I feel like I am not bonding well with either of my children. I feel sad and lonely. I feel hopeless and helpless (and did I mention that I hate my job due to recent changes in org structure, etc?). I struggle to smile and find a happy thought. I’d rather sit in silence in the car than try to make my child smile. I am worried I’ll just make her cry.

 

I feel like all I do is tell her no or not now. “Mommy do you want to paint with me?” ; “Mommy do you want to make a craft with me?”; Mommy do you want to play with me?” and all I can say is I do but right now I have to…..(pack their bottles/lunch….nurse the baby…get dinner together….play with the baby and walk him around….whatever). It really hurts me. It really makes me sad and then it makes me angry because all I can think is that this child is sad and lonely and feels unloved.

 

So I feel like a constant failure. Like nothing I do works. And I am not capable of making it work. I don’t care that taking care of two kids at once is difficult – that means nothing to each individual child who is left without quality time.

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 30, 2013

because She said so

Saying it aloud makes it seem silly, obvious, as if I should have always known. But the complexities of the mind, the way we learn and the way every little experience has the potential to influence how our personalities develop…I didn’t realize it.

So yesterday when I finally made the connection, the impact was profound. I think it will take time to really understand, and then to change.

I believe beyond all doubt that I am a fat, ugly, disgusting whore who is incapable of being feminine or sophisticated; I am nothing but a bum and will always look like one, despite what I am wearing. I am a failure as a woman, which means I am a failure as a human.

I have lived my life in jeans and t-shirts, rarely venturing out of my comfort zone (and having great anxiety when I did). I’d avoid situations where dressing up was necessary. I never wore makeup. Never cared about my hair or nails. I did the bare minimum.

I avoided mirrors, would run out of bathrooms if another came in and I was trying to redo my pathetic hairstyle (barett, half way up). I felt I had no right to look and even less right to attempt to appear feminine.

I never had many friends. I constantly compared myself to other girls/women, telling myself how unworthy I was of their presence and friendship, and how less of a girl/woman I was because I didn’t dress nicely, do my hair, wear makeup, get my nails done or wear pretty shoes. I was not as worthy of a human being because I was not a good enough female. After all, I was used and no one wants a used person (yes, that is what my mother said to me when I was 13 years old after a very manipulative, abusive 16 year old boy took advantage of me).

I believe all this to be true because She said so.

That is the only reason.

It was an “ah-ha” moment laden with pain. My body cringed as my mind tried to make sense of the simple truth. Because She said so. I could almost see the words come out of her mouth and pave the neuronal pathways that caused the morning tears and tantrums as I went through my wardrobe desperately trying to find something to wear that would take away the negative thoughts and feelings. Day after day the struggle to hide behind cotton and somehow cognitively ignore my own body.  “It’s bad enough you look like a tramp but now you have to dress like a hobo too!” she said one day. Every time I got my hair cut, with a new do, she’d say “oh, well I would have done something different, but if you like it.” Miss Manners was always turning over in her grave at my existence. I stopped going shopping (clothes) with my mother when I was in the 6th grade or so – after she pulled out some frilly shirt (for the hundredth) and I replied “do you really think I would like that?”. It was clear she didn’t know me, didn’t approve of me and wanted me to be something else.  The messages of “I do not approve of you and you are not good enough” came from all directions in various forms. The eye rolls when I came down the stairs. This ’tisk’ when I got a little dirty (as a child mind you).

It was all there, all the information I needed to realize that no, there is and was nothing inherently wrong with me that makes me less of a human or woman. Stop hating yourself and thinking you are undeserving of anything but abuse. Stop trying to fix yourself or deny yourself fundamental love and appreciation for the individual you are.

I look at pictures of myself from when I was a child/adolescent and feel such great, deep sadness. As if I see my potential dying. As if I could have been great but it was lost and I am doomed to being….me. I hate that feeling. I hate thinking that I am nothing but a shell of a person who was wonderful.

And to think that I believe all this to be true simply because She said so.

I don’t know how long it will take me to fully appreciate this realization. I am still in shock. I do know that it is the beginning of brighter days ahead. I just need to figure out how to let all of her words go; how to dust off the little girl that needed love, encouragement and support, and emerge the person I am, that I have always been and will finally love.

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.

In War, inside

I remember the day I was listening to the radio and a song by The Who resonated most amazingly; “I don’t need to be forgiven”.

I have been searching for the fundamental (irrational?) thought that will lead me to victory. Maybe there isn’t one, but I am finding one that is very influential: while I do not believe I did anything wrong, I have not forgiven myself.

April 16, 2013

A portrait of resistance

It occurred to me yesterday that I have been slowly uncovering all these varying coping mechanisms or ways that my parents shaped my thought processes but I don’t really have a general idea of what a picture of me would look like.

This is what I have so far:

I am a judgmental person (to myself as much as, or more than, to others) because I was always criticized and I learned to be critical.

I have this idea of how the world should work and if people don’t fit my schema then I get angry; much like how my parents and sisters got angry if I didn’t act the way they wanted me to.

I have anxiety, probably because I was never allowed to have my feelings, show anger or voice my disagreement with decisions made without regard to me.

I believe that I will always fail at everything I do, because nothing I did was good enough or the way they wanted it.

I believe I am unworthy of unconditional love and I am only as good (or loved) as what I can do for people, because I was not good, and did not deserve support and encouragement if I strayed from their idea of who and what I should be. The more I did for them, in the way in which they wanted it done, the better a person I was and the more loved I was (and by the way, this is still going on – I was recently kicked off the will because they felt they couldn’t rely on me any longer. A few years ago they kicked my sister off for similar reasons.).

Hmmm, I can’t think of any others right now, although I know there are more.

So I asked my therapist, if I feel like I will always fail at everything that I attempt, why do I try? What makes me have initiative and drive? What makes me continue to take chances and try new things and put myself out there? Why didn’t I just settle for something safe?

His only response was that people often have this core that is resistant. It survives and continues on regardless.

So, instead of painting a picture of my faults, here’s a picture of my resistance:

I have been married to a wonderful man for almost nine years; we have been in love for sixteen (we dated 7 years before getting married).

I have a beautiful, happy, healthy little girl who knows she is loved.

I have a few really good friends and am making more.

I have a job in which I am respected, relied upon and am really good at what I do. I will be promoted soon.

Even though I don’t like what I see in the mirror, I know it’s a superficial disgust and that the person standing there is really a beautiful, kind, loving, intelligent and wonderful person.

Even though I think about the time I spent sad and broken and how that may have kept me from being more than I am now, I also remember the moments that I shined and stepped out of my shell to be truly magnificent.

Despite the lack of consideration, respect and care that my family showed me, I am a caring person who considers other peoples feelings and gives everyone the benefit of the doubt (at least once because I’m not a fool!).

I am not who they are.

I am not who they want me to be.

I am me.

I survived and I resisted.

My picture of resistance is colorful and blooming everyday. It’s made of tears, fear, anxiety and sorrow but it smells like love and joy (and it tastes like coffee).

How about yours?

 

April 15, 2013

A year’s worth of work

Today I realized that it has been almost one year since I returned to therapy. I was surprised by this information, although not in a bad way – just seems like the time went by quickly (but doesn’t it always!).

However the more important bit of information is how this years worth of work was put into action yesterday. And I am quite proud of myself!

My mother stopped by for a visit yesterday, unannounced. I believe this is what you call an ambush.

She walked in demanding to know why I have cut everyone out of our lives. I am not joking – from the moment she entered the room she said “what is going on” – and she wanted the truth, mind you.

She continued to tell me how everyone is so pained and no one understands what’s going on with me and why would I do this to them (note the assignment of victimization here).

I told her that I was busy today and I didn’t want to discuss it right now. I told her that showing up, unannounced to have this conversation was selfish.
She told me that she figured it was the only way I would talk. I told her that didn’t make it right.

Despite my telling her I didn’t want to talk she continued to press. She continued to demand that I do as she commands.

I told her that no one hears or listens to what I say. She said she heard me and she was listening. Yet she pressed on and demanded me to respond. (So she basically admitted to ignoring me, evidently without it registering in her selfish brain that she did so).

Finally, when she said something that really got me really angry I stood up and told her it was time to leave.

I was filled with anxiety and had to breath deep and quickly for a little while. I was a little shaky from the confrontation.

But I had stood up for myself in a way I don’t think I have ever done before. I stated my position and stuck with it. I didn’t cave to her demands. I didn’t give in because that was what they wanted.

I recognized the conditions of this event almost as soon as it started. I saw it for what it was, factually, and didn’t get tied up emotionally.

This wasn’t someone who cared about me or my family. This was someone who cared about her.

I wasn’t being approached out of concern for me, I was being approached out of selfishness and self-centeredness.

It was a good moment for me, to assert myself, protect myself and finally, after so many years, not give up myself to meet their demands.

I think this tells me more than I can hear right now – the promise it holds and the potential for growth.

I think I am closer than I realize to looking in the mirror without disgust.

I think I joked in an earlier post about how long does it take to overcome, likening it to losing weight.

I don’t think I have “overcome” completely, but in this tiny amount of time (and really, one year is so small) I have made huge strides and I can’t tell you how proud of myself I am!

Yeah me!

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

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”.

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