Notes to Self

March 9, 2015

How normal is my abnormal?

Yes; it’s been a really long time since my last post. I am just too damned busy. While I haven’t been writing in this blog, I am still going to therapy so progress is still being made. I have often wanted to post; even came up with the title and started writing it in my head, but just couldn’t get the carved out time to sit and type. How lucky I feel to be doing this now!

 

So, to the point: yesterday was an awful day. I was alone with the kids. I started the day exhausted (my now 1.5 yr old is constantly waking throughout the night and screaming until you rock him back to sleep). The weather was to be nice so I wanted to take the kids to the park. My daughter wanted to ride her bike. OK. Before my husband went to work I unloaded some stuff from the trunk and got the bike and pump for my daughter and then shoveled out a push-trike for my son (it was buried under many feet of snow). A few frustrating hours later we got into the car. Toddler fell asleep quickly so we drove for a bit – went to a drive thru coffee shop (I could barely keep my eyes open). The “awful” of yesterday started here. The shop didn’t have the cake pop my daughter wanted and she didn’t want anything else they did have. As soon as I drove onto the highway she starts screaming that she wanted this or that. Oh how hungry she was and now what was she going to do? (Of course she didn’t want to eat before we left the house and also didn’t want to eat any of the food I brought with me). As she continues to scream and cry the toddler then starts crying. Such fun. Soon she calms down and we get to the park. I ask again if she will eat something but she declines. Then we have to fight over her outerwear; too cold for the minimal vest she wants to wear but I let her get out of the car and find out for herself. As I unload the bike and trike my son falls and hits his head (not hard but keep this in mind for later). So, finally everyone is properly dressed and we are ready to go. The coffee I so desperately need still hasn’t made its way into my bloodstream, but continues to spill out everywhere else (oh what fun). I have to navigate a kid on a push trike, a 4 year old and a bike (with my coffee) through the parking lot and across a patch of ice, slush and water. My daughter finally gets on her bike and three seconds later is screaming to get off. The wind is too strong and she is scared. I realize that she is also hungry and feeling weak. Tears and screams and I declare we are going home. Daughter wants ice-cream from the shoppe. I say no (she hasn’t had anything decent to eat all day and I am not filling them with ice-cream). More tears and screams. And no, you’re not watching anymore TV either (after several hours in the morning it was too much). Silence on the way home.

Get home and ask her to pick what she wants to eat. She chooses frozen pizza. I make it. Neither kid will eat it. Chicken nuggets it is. At this point I have totally shut down. I am withdrawn and unavailable to my kids. No emotion (other than some annoyance). My daughter asks me if I am frustrated. I tell her to let it go and take opportunities to tell her it’s not her fault. Nuggets are done. The toddler just wants to use the nugget to suck on ketchup. Eventually he eats some. Need to change his clothes. Done eating and they go play. I start cooking. Amazingly the two kids play together without me and they are having fun. So I am cooking and I think all I have to do is pretend I don’t love my kids – then they’ll play together (instead of fighting) and I can do chores. I think that’s absolutely pathetic, ridiculous and it makes me feel totally useless and unloved. Then I start feeling selfish and childish and shouldn’t I just grow up. They asked for ice-cream; I gave them an ice-cram pop. They ate silently. My daughter even wiped off my son’s face. I finish cooking (I imagine that the kids won’t eat it anyway so wasn’t that a total waste of time). I sit down with them. My daughter offers me a hug. I start crying (just tearing)- she starts crying/tearing. I again remind her it’s not her fault (within context of a conversation).

 

Not wanting to play with them I turn on the TV. I can’t bring myself to open back up. I can’t initiate interaction without feeling like I would be a big fake. I literally feel turned off, as if a switch was thrown and I don’t know how to flip it back on. On top of the event itself, I am dealing with guilt. Guilt over losing my patience and getting snippy. Guilt that I let myself get like this again. Guilt that I ruined the day. Guilt that my kids have to suffer me. So the inward hatred gets worse. I just stare.

So the toddler heads up the stairs and I must follow (a favorite game is to go up and down, up and down…on the plus side, my daughter, who did the same thing. was really good at the stairs!). My daughter runs up to be with us, yelling that she’s angry with me for leaving her alone. The two kids play on the bed. The toddler spits up a bit but it gets in my daughter’s hair. Yeah – now I need to figure out how to bathe her and deal with him. Eventually I have to put him in his crib so I can wash her hair. He does nothing but scream and cry. Ok. Now everyone’s washed and dressed. They play some more and he spits up a bit more (not on her) – third change of clothes. Takes some time to calm him down but eventually he falls asleep. I told my daughter (who is now watching TV) that I was going upstairs to get my son to go to sleep and that she wasn’t to call me unless she saw fire; I wasn’t coming back down until he was asleep (she has a habit of calling me for every little thing and it ends up taking 3 times as  long to get my son to sleep). Fine – done – he’s asleep. I return downstairs and she tells me she didn’t see fire and didn’t call me. My heart breaks a little.

We sit there as I try to offer some love. Try to cuddle her. Watch TV. Finally my husband comes home and my daughter tells him all about the awful day (in snippets that aren’t cohesive): she said no to ice-cream and I didn’t see fire and then she came downstairs again (I thought it was interesting that my daughter referred to me as “she” and not “mommy”). Then the remainder of the night was all around frustration. Everyone annoyed and tired. Everyone being cranky. What a wretched day.

 

So, today I woke tired and unhappy to have to get up. The toddler was cranky too (daycare called to say he is hitting and they think he should move to the next class). My daughter seemed to remember the pain I caused her the day before. Dropped the kids off at school and the toddler didn’t care that I was leaving. Gave his sister a sweet kiss and long hug. When it came time for me to leave my daughter clung to me. Eventually we both start crying. I didn’t want to let go either. I wanted her to know how sorry I was and how sad it made me to know that I made her sad. But I didn’t know how to apologize again. I didn’t know how to apologize for being a shitty mom and a selfish person. How can I say I am sorry that I am so pathetic?

 

Today I am trying to make sense of this. Trying to figure out what went wrong, why and how I can stop it from happening again. I get annoyed that things don’t go smoothly; perfectly. That my daughter didn’t have her food and that I didn’t then have anything that she wanted to eat. That I was on the highway and couldn’t stop. That somehow any other mom would have done this morning better and no one would be crying and everyone would be having fun. I am the reason my kids’ life sucks. I am incapable of being a good mom and I am failing, and failing them. So from there, on to the fight about clothes and that my son fell (which, had me thinking later that he had a concussion b/c of the spit up, which wasn’t a lot and his crankiness), the spilling coffee and trying to do too much with only two hands. I think the internal message to myself is that there must be something I am not realizing – there is a better way to do this and I just don’t know what it is. I am inherently a failure and I am pathetic. My kids will grow up unhappy and hate me and really I don’t deserve to be their mom. Frustration descends as I tell myself how much I suck. I feel trapped and helpless. Now trying to maneuver the push-trike, the bike and the kid back over the slush, ice and water…and then there’s a guy who seems to be telling me I am in his way – I ‘m not sure what he’s doing but it’s adding to my frustration (or is it anxiety??). I am aware that I have fallen into this again. I am aware that it is happening but I feel like it is too late. Like I have gone too far and the feeling of failing (that I let it happen again) is consuming me. I am consumed by guilt and hatred (for myself) and a feeling of helplessness.

 

I have to wonder how much of the first part of yesterday is normal. Do other kids cry and scream when the shoppe doesn’t have what they want? Was I stupid to take the kids with the bikes to the park? Was the coffee just too much? What is normal, what did I do that was abnormal or silly to even attempt? Shouldn’t I be able to do it all? Doesn’t everyone else? What’s wrong with me? My therapist and I have talked about the fact that while I may realize how unrealistic my expectations are or how irrational my thought process is, the emotional piece is on autopilot and I have the emotional reaction and can’t stop it. He says that the more I am aware of the reaction and sort of talk it down, then the less it will occur. I am not sure that the state of “less” is happening, although I really have no data to support it one way or the other. All I know is that I feel awful – guilty and sad and so so sorry for making my kids’ day full of sadness. I grew up sad and I don’t want that for them. I just can’ seem to change this reactive state.

I don’t know how to make it up to my kids. How to undo the damage I have done. Will they hold it against me? Will they remember? Do they hate me already? These precious years that I can never get back and I am wasting them on silly frustrations.

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May 9, 2014

It just has to stop

I hate that phrase…with a Passion.

 

My mother always said that. As if saying it would magically make it happen and as if it was never her fault or her responsibility to change it. I recall watching her go through her tantrums and realizing one day that I  had stopped caring. I think it was somewhere around the time she said “I don’t get paid to be a mother”.

My father is a hoarder. It took us (me and my siblings) quite a while (into adulthood) to realize it. My mother is one but to a lesser extent. I think she just liked stuff and never had anywhere to put it because my father took up all the free space. But growing up our house always had stuff around. You could never find a pen, there was never counter or table space and we never learned the value or importance of keeping things tidy. My mom used to threaten to throw our stuff away if we didn’t clean up our room.

So of course we all developed anxiety over clutter. I can’t handle chaotic places either. Once I went to a mall near Christmas time and almost exploded. For years I would get upset and cry over my unorganized nature but only recently realized the etiology. My life is cluttered, disorganized and chaotic, as evidenced by my messy home, car and head (yes, my psyche is included in this list) because (as my mother used to say) I am a horrible, rotten, disgusting person who is lazy and ungrateful.

I can see the scowl on her face and hear my mother’s voice as I write these words: Rotten Children. My sisters told me that once my mother threatened to drive us all off of a cliff. Yes; she had trouble dealing with stress. I guess she suffers from similar pathologies as I do. But that’s why I cut them out of my life – so I could heal and so that they wouldn’t teach the same to my children. Legacy broken folks.

 

HOWEVER, lately the stress has just been so great that I find myself in bouts of tears and anxiety (frustration) and muttering these words: it just has to stop. As I trip over crap on the floor (if you have two children you know what I am talking about!), as I struggle to find counter space to make my son’s bottles and as I just sit and look around at all the chaos. I shake my head, fight back tears and think “it just has to stop”.
This morning as I pondered this in the shower (one of my only times to think clearly as I find some relaxation in hot showers) I also thought that I have been dealing with stress, much like a line backer, and waiting for something to give (related to yesterday’s post). I am fully expecting something to change and all the pieces hanging above my head will fall perfectly back into place. No harm, no foul. I feel like I am in a dream and waiting to wake up. And this is a problem because there is no dream (or nightmare!) and nothing will put it all peacefully back together. We are screwed and I have to face it.

I guess I need to find a way to take responsibility and control and realize that the “it” is me. Lemons out of lemonade simply means not dwelling in the negativity and sadness. Finding someway to make it work regardless, and in spite of.

No magic will happen here and this is a life lesson I need to execute. It just has to stop being the same way it has been for years – I have to change the way I respond and stop reacting.

So, take a deep breath, count and remember what’s important.

February 23, 2014

6 of one, and you’ll kill yourself over the other dozen

My baby wakes three times a night to nurse. And he’s really consistent with the times at which he wakes! I am exhausted!

Last night we somehow skipped the 1am feeding and I got to sleep from 11pm to 4am!! Woohoo!

Now you’d think I would just be happy and move on.

Nope, not me. Here’s the problem.

I breastfeed so, if you don’t know, it’s a supply and demand type situation. When he reduces his demand, my supply decreases.

I usually pump in the morning and get 6-8 oz which is all extra milk. This goes to the freezer supply that I am obsessively creating (in case I dry up early or have to take medication, etc). Because we missed that feeding, I pumped less milk this morning. And if he continues to sleep that well, I will get less and less.

So on one hand I finally got some really good sleep and wasn’t I absolutely ecstatic when I woke up! But leave it to me to beat myself up because of the flip side….

Isn’t it funny how are never happy when one thing happens because of the change that happens on the other side. You get a new job but then there’s the stress of performing well. It goes on and on. I can never just be happy with my current place; always stressing and worrying about what is and isn’t or what should and shouldn’t be.

Back to the themes of my pathologies…it’s never good enough, I am never good enough. That’s what it boils down to. Self- imposed, Ludicrous standards. And that is exhausting.

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!

November 14, 2012

It’s like Laundry all over again (or is that Déjà vu?)

Some may say that the common cold is the most humorous (or ironic?) plight of the human race; something so simple yet so debilitating (takes me nearly 4 weeks to get over a cold!).

I, however, think it is laundry. Each time you do it you swear you just did it!

Wash, dry, iron, fold, hang, wear; wash, dry, iron, fold, hang, wear…!

Note how it is called Laundry until it’s clean…then it’s referred to as clothes (I have to do the laundry as opposed to put the clothes in the dryer)!

Before we bought a house (we lived in an apartment complex), we would load up the laundry every two weeks and go to the laundromat. Many hours later we returned home with our clothes to hang or put in drawers. It was an all day event. We established routines and traditions – earlier morning laundry meant Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwiches from the deli. Later in the day laundry meant pizzeria food on the way home. Sometimes we would hop into a store in the strip mall for some miscellaneous item we needed. Sometimes we read or played travel games. I often remarked at how much I was looking forward to never ever coming back to a laundromat. I swore I wouldn’t spend an entire day doing the laundry!

I think our fundamental internal struggles are a lot like laundry, each with its own cyclical pattern. We design routines around them. We create habits to deal with them.

Anger, sadness, fear, regret; anger, sadness, fear, regret…

Every few years I seem to have to drudge up the major, traumatic events in my life that helped shape my psychoses. I’ve found a new therapist, decided to try once again to deal with them once and for all or something triggered the cycle.

Sometimes the start of Fall is the trigger. The smell, the colors and the chill. A lot happened in the Fall months.

I wash, dry, iron, fold and try to put away the emotions. Somehow I think the more I entertain the cycle the more residue there is left behind.

However, somewhere underneath these memories, I still exist.

How focused I have become on the memories and residues. How far removed I have become from the complete picture.

It’s like when you have a body image disorder and you look in the mirror – all you see are the fat thighs or the wide hips. You never see your entire self; just the parts you’ve decided are the worst.

I am not the sum of my worst moments.

I am not a remnant of my potential.

I am not held together by residue from mistakes made.

But after spending 5 hours washing and drying laundry and folding and packing up the clothes, one is left wondering how else could that time have been spent?

What if I didn’t spend my energy on anger, sadness, fear and regret? What if Fall just meant another day with different weather?

It has been nearly 24 years of dealing with particular internal struggles and I am left stating at the washing machine wondering when I can stop.

July 16, 2012

Do you Death Spiral?

That’s what my husband calls it; a Death Spiral.

I start with one issue/obstacle/event and just pile on more and more until I end up in angry tears, blaming myself for ‘everything’ that is wrong and am unable to connect with the world around me. The trigger could be something as simple as running out of tissues or it could be a comment someone made (or what I inferred the person was really saying). Then I pile on the immediate (somewhat superficial) issues (e.g., messy house) and then get into the thick of it (e.g., I am a terrible mother because I cannot keep this house clean enough). As I go deeper and deeper I get more and more frustrated and angry. I withdraw and shut down. My cup runneth over with self-blame and criticisms. I can’t interact with my family and I sit trying desperately to keep it together enough that I don’t pitch a fit. I can’t find a way out.

Then comes the post-Death Spiral guilt.

I am doing it again and my daughter is picking up on my anger and frustration and now she is getting cranky and is a little nervous. I am teaching her to be angry and frustrated. I said I wouldn’t do this again but her I am – I am such a failure!

So I retreat (leave my daughter with my husband). I hide. Put a pillow over my head and hope the fighting stops. Cry a little. Scream a few times (into a pillow of course).

Then I hear my daughter crying – she wants her mommy. It’s not her fault I can’t deal with life. She needs me. So I go to her.

I try to put on a happy face and most of the time I succeed (she transforms me!). Or she will take a nap and give me some breathing time. My husband will sometimes talk me through (and out of) it. Eventually it dissipates. Sometimes I am left with defensive resentment, sometimes it helps clear the air. But I never feel resolved, just pacified.

I know it is just a matter of time until the next Death Spiral occurs. I need to stop them from happening. I don’t know how.

I realize it is happening. I realize it is crap that I do it. But once it starts….

I realize the flawed premise(s) upon which these Death Spirals are initiated. But I still believe there is some truth to them!

My therapist says I need to examine the facts surrounding each thought, determine if I really believe them and then go from there.

Obviously I am neither capable of doing this once the spiral starts nor capable of recognizing it before the spiral starts.

So now what?

I am worried that if I stop being so hard on myself I will become more of a failure than I already think I am (and then it will be true!). Note I say think because when I look closely I am relatively successful. Other than some challenges (e.g., my weight), I have accomplished a good deal (and don’t think too highly of myself!). Lower your standards and expectations and you will become what you fear. Does that even make sense?

I am a big fan of trying to answer the question “why”. I feel that if I understand from where an emotion/thought originates then I have a better chance at coming to terms with the situation. (yes, back to my parents). I recall getting to a point in my childhood where I couldn’t figure out why I was always wrong. It seemed as thought my parents were always telling me that what I did, thought or said was incorrect or not good enough, that I was making the same mistakes over and over and that I wasn’t paying close enough attention or giving it a good enough effort. But I didn’t agree and I never understood. I always looked for a reason as to why my parents thought I was so “bad”, and I guess I eventually just figured it was innate and out of my control. As a result (in hindsight of course) is my constant fear of being wrong and my tendency to admit my faults without hesitation (I will just offer up my short comings so no one can point them out to me later).

Which full circles back to my fundamental negative muse. I am failure.

Looks like I need more therapy.

June 19, 2012

Therapy Week 4: What my parents taught me

Filed under: I asked "Why", Them vs. Me, Therapy, Why must you insist on.... — Tags: — me2self @ 12:42 pm

It is amazing how the more you look at something the less appealing it becomes.

Take a quick glance and it isn’t all that bad. Keep uncovering the layers and it’s a pile of shit.

I finally figured out that my internal mantra goes something like this:

Whatever I do is not good enough.

I’ve done it wrong.

I always do it wrong.

I have failed.

I will always fail.

Therefore I am no good and I, as a failure, deserve nothing.

Ergo I am not worthy of anything.

This, I believe, is my fundamental negative thought. I no longer have to actually say it to myself, I realized it has become so second nature that all I have to do is sigh and it encompasses all the dialog.

I realized how often my parents criticized me, told me what I was attempting to do wouldn’t work, that I didn’t approach it properly and I don’t think things through. How I didn’t know enough to accomplish that task or how since I didn’t ask for help I would have to go it alone (and of course end up with nothing of consequence because I wasn’t doing it their way). My way or the highway. Phrases like “you always____”; “you never learn”; “why must you insist on ____”; “tell my why you ___”; “you know what your problem is _____”; and “I don’t understand why you must ____”.

My parents didn’t teach me to be proud of myself or to believe in my potential. They taught me I don’t have any.

My parents didn’t teach me that goals are something positive and rewarding when achieved. They taught me I will never be good at anything so why bother.

My parents didn’t teach me self-respect or that I am beautiful inside and out. They taught me that I am only as good as my worst mistake.

At the ripe age of 36, I am left with more self-hatred for being so fucking stupid and believing the things they were telling me. But then, as my husband likes to say, we all do the best we can with what we have at the time. I guess an 8 year old doesn’t have much with which to work. Not sure that really means a lot to me right now – maybe some day I can also shrug and say those words and not feel the anger and sadness in the pit of my stomach.

So what’s next?

Mindfulness.

My daughter’s eyes look like ice-cream

Filed under: Whatever, Why must you insist on.... — Tags: , , — me2self @ 12:21 pm

In an earlier post I suggested that I ought to just look into my daughter’s eyes and decide if that {insert name of “junk food”} was more appealing.

Apparently my daughter’s eyes look like ice-cream because I have failed miserably to not eat it.

But today is a new day.

Pass the carrots and hummus.

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