Notes to Self

April 22, 2014

The mirror of the mind

I saw a picture of myself that was taken just a few days ago. I had no idea I looked so horrifyingly wretched.

I gained weight during my last pregnancy and haven’t lost any of it yet. So on top of the 40-50 extra pounds I was already carrying, I now have 30 more. I’m enormous. And hideous. I’m disgustingly fat.

When I was in college the eating disorder I struggled with all my life finally manifested in full blown bulimia. As I attempted to recover, I learned a lot about myself and my life’s battle with weight. In the years to follow, as I struggled to recover (stop purging), I gained a lot of weight but I also gained a valuable perspective- I had always thought I was fat yet now I really was. I looked back on pictures and couldn’t believe how ugly I thought I was compared to what I had become.

How we see ourselves is always with this ever changing mirror, distorted by the emotionally of our current psychological state. For many years I thought I was fatter than I actually was. Now I don’t realize how fat I am (that’s not to say I don’t think I’m fat, just that I didn’t realize the severity of the situation). In the past, all I thought about was my weight, how my clothes fit and what I imagined everyone was thinking about me and my weight. Now, I don’t think about me at all. I hope that my clothes are clean and not too raged. Most days I get dressed in the dark or out of laundry baskets – “sure, this will work” is my dress code.

I used to stand in front of the mirror and comment to myself how this or that was unfortunate and I recall reading how folks with body image distortions only see individual parts of their bodies and can’t see it as a unit. So the thighs may look big but in reality they fit the body as a whole. I have no concept of how I appear to other people. I don’t even know how I appear to myself. I stopped looking in the mirror. I don’t want to. I don’t want to see the wrinkles, grey hair and cellulite. When I do happen to catch my reflection the reaction is always a generalized, demoralizing, self-bashing qualification of my worth as a human being. But that’s not the point of this post.

What I find interesting is that since I became a mother, and maybe more so since I cut my family out of my life, I see my image as more than the reflection in the mirror. I see myself in the way my daughter looks at me. I see myself in the way that my new mom friends value me. And I see myself in the really big smile that my son gives me whenever his eyes meet mine.

Even though I am aware of my pathetic physical shape, and realize that my lack of any sort of personal time whatsoever is temporary, I am glad to have this realization that my weight is no longer the only way in which I define myself. It is a big part of my mental health, even in my current state of denial and avoidance. But lying in bed, cuddling my daughter and reading her a book – I realized she doesn’t care (right now) how I look…she cares how I love her.

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April 7, 2014

Giggles in the kitchen

I had a moment yesterday. It was lovely and sweet and had a big impact on me. And I thought I would share something positive.

 

My daughter likes to help us cook. She is actually quite good at cracking eggs! Yesterday I was making a pizza and she wanted to help (she says “I need the ladder!”, which is the step ladder). I was spreading the dough and she was eating mozzarella, and then she wanted to help spread the dough. After she touched it and found out it had oil on it she made a silly noise and we both laughed.

 

And then it occurred to me –  this little moment in time was bigger than I realized.

These are the happy moments that build memories and propensities and help her grow up happy and feeling loved.

These giggles were some maybe she would recall in fondness one day as she stood over the stove making pizza for her family. “My mother and I always made pizza together” she would tell her child(ren) as they ate mozzarella and squealed at oily dough.

I am filled with joy that I was able to live in that moment.

My cup runneth over.

April 4, 2014

Afraid to talk or have nothing to say?

Silence is difficult to deal with.

You wonder – is the person not talking because they don’t know what to say or do they not care to participate or are they actively shutting you out completely?

When you finally get the nerve to open a difficult conversation (albeit at maybe not the most appropriate time), it is a hard pill to swallow when the other person says nothing.

So, you know that wall of defense that may have only been a 12 foot fence? Consider my heart now surrounded by the Great Wall of China.

 

I have been thinking lately about how lonely I am. I lack a sense of true connection with anyone right now. Sometimes I want to pick up the phone or reach out for a hug and I can’t think of who would be on the receiving end.

 

I am at a loss in terms of my relationship with my husband. Not sure what to do to get back on the right terms. There isn’t a heck of a lot of time to talk and we are both tired and depressed. He says he’s afraid to say anything because anything he says will make it worse. But not saying anything makes me feel like he doesn’t care. We can’t move forward if we can’t talk.

 

Any advice is welcome.

March 24, 2014

Why can’t I ever just…

This morning I finally got up (sort of) on time and hopped in the shower while my toddler was sleeping and the baby was content (enough). My husband was awake so I wasn’t worried. And then I heard the crying…

Shortly after my daughter was born I joined a gym to go swimming. I used to swim competitively and I really needed exercise and some time out of the house. After all, babies can’t always have their mommy’s, right (or so everyone continuously told me)? The last night I went swimming (which was only the first few times that I went) I recall being in the water and thinking how wonderful this was and how I felt like I had come home again. I was enjoying the feel of the water, the smell of the chlorine and the fatigue that slowly overcame my (out of shape) muscles. And then I got home.

When I walked in the door my daughter was screaming crying and my husband was sitting on the couch looking completely spent and helpless. I can still feel the shock. I thought here I was thinking all was well and enjoying my time in the water and all the while the two of them were absolutely miserable. I felt guilty and frustrated at the same time. So that was the last time I left my little girl at night, that is until I was in the hospital when my second child was born (she was 2.5 yrs old).

Many times over the course of the first year or so of my daughters life I would be in the shower (getting ready for work) and thinking all was well, until I turned off the water and heard the crying. Soon I would always hear crying and got in the habit of shutting of the water int he middle of my shower to figure out if it was my imagination or was she actually crying. Regardless of whether or not she was crying, I would rush out of the shower, rush to get dressed and end up being overcome by the time I actually left for work. I had spent the morning nursing and pumping, packing bottles and lunches. I was tired! But my husband was able to have over one hour of personal time in the morning. I always thought that this wasn’t fair and the less personal time I had, the more angry I became over it (and this is the point of this post…keep reading).

 

This morning while I showered (and note that I hadn’t showered since Friday morning), I was in the middle of loving the hot water when I heard the knock on the bathroom door (which I only closed to avoid waking my daughter) and then the pouting. Oh crap I thought, this is terrific. I even thought I heard the baby crying so in the middle of brushing my teeth (yes, I do this in the shower to save time) I turned off the water. Yes little girl, I will be out soon! I shouted. But still she whimpered, sitting on the floor outside of the bathroom.  Great I thought and I turned the water back on – back to RUSH RUSH RUSH RUSH. And then I said to myself why can’t I ever just –

 

And then it hit me.

 

All this time I have been thinking that the fact that my children cry when I am not around, or when I am trying to do something (like go to the bathroom or make some seriously needed caffeine, I mean coffee) means that I have somehow failed.

 

Ah yes, that old chant. You are a failure, everything you do you don’t do right. People are miserable because of you.

 

I never thought your babies want their mommy because you have bonded so well with them and you breastfeed so of course they want you to hold them. Of course they miss you when you are gone.

 

Nope. I just think that I am a rotten mom and an even worse wife. This morning I thought how much my husband must hate me because I left him with this mess of crying kids. I should have done better, I should have made it easier for him and there were things I could have and should have done (that is if I were capable of knowing what the right thing is) so that everyone woke up with smiles and were happy, happy, happy.

 

Seriously? Even Mary Poppins can’t do that.

 

As for my jealous (ok, anger) toward my husband who gets to spend time clipping his nails every morning (I do this only when they start to dig into adjacent toes…keeping them trimmed is just a waste of precious time I don’t have)- it’s just self-loathing turned outward. I don’t do it right and I am a failure and terrible mom, which is why I don’t get any personal time but look at him all free and clear. No stress, no worry. I hate him (I really don’t – I truly love my husband, even when we are fighting). Why doesn’t he do the same for me? Why oh why can’t I feel free from the constant stress of worrying whether or not I am screwing up my kids and making them hate me and feel as unloved and as worthless as my parents made me feel – all because I want to make some damned coffee or sit without someone or something hanging on me for 10 f’in minutes.

 

And how exactly is that his problem?

 

So the theme of my current rehabilitation has changed from figuring (identifying) all the ways my parents taught me to hate myself and how it has manifested in my life, to figuring out how all that shit has fucked up my marriage. You don’t know what you don’t know. So help me know. I don’t think I am solely to blame for all our marital issues, but I also think that I have been difficult to be with for nearly 17 years and don’t you think he has developed some defense mechanisms and ways to tune me out just so he could survive? Like the other night when the baby was up crying and I didn’t want to get back in the habit of nursing him all night (he finally sleeps and only wakes 2 times!!!!) so my husband was trying to put him back to sleep – I said do you want to try a pacifier? I had one in my hand but instead my husband got up, brought the crying baby into the room where my toddler was sleeping to fetch the pacifier from the crib. Then I went in and said forget it, I’ll just nurse him. That must have been fun for him. (and there’s another lesson in this but I don’t have time to write about it right now). I realized that I have always said “do you want to…” when I really meant “would you please…”.  So last night when I wanted my husband to go to the basement and get the blankets from the drying I said wanna go get the blankets and then quickly corrected myself saying would you mind getting the blankets from the dryer.

 

It’s a small step, but a step. I wonder if he recognized it.

 

As for my lack of personal time and the effect any personal time has on my children…it is temporary. It will pass. And I need to see it as them wanting to be with me and not me being punished for not doing things right. I am a good mom and I show my kids love and respect and by wanting me to be with them they are telling me they feel the love and want more.

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.

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?

 

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.

August 1, 2012

Silence isn’t always Golden

Filed under: Them vs. Me, Whatever — Tags: , , — me2self @ 1:23 pm

Sometimes staying silent isn’t the best policy.

When you don’t know what to say or how to articulate what you are feeling (or not even really sure what it is you are feeling), then silence is your only option.

But-

It lengthens gaps.

It tears down bridges.

It makes everything grey and tasteless.

July 11, 2012

Something to ponder

This morning a coworker shared the following quote with me (source may be Francois de La Rochefoucauld):

One forgives to the degree one loves

At first it seems like a nice, sweet statement. You can hear yourself saying “awww, that’s nice”.

But then you think about someone you haven’t forgiven or something you haven’t forgiven someone for. And it is no longer sweet. It is a painful and sad statement.

And if you then think of someone you have forgiven, and you realize how much you love them compared to the person you haven’t forgiven it gets even sadder.

After thinking about this a little bit more I thought that maybe the use of the word “love” was too general.

Isn’t trust a factor? Or is trust just part of Love?

What about intent (or perceived intent)? Or is that part of trust?

Maybe the person intentionally hurt you or they weren’t sorry, never would be and would most likely do it again? Maybe this was a repeat offense, and prior attempts to resolve the issue were ignored…

I talk a lot about my parents or rather my relationship with them, and, for a 36 year old, I realize this may be odd to most readers. I can imagine folk saying Grow up already! Cut the cord! Get over it!

But my siblings and I still live a few miles from them and we all still get together frequently. Which means that I still deal not only with the surface bullshit (which gets very overwhelming) but also the long-standing wounds that I have yet to resolve for myself. And because these issues still affect my daily life it is hard to simply move on (thus my re-entry into Therapy).

I never forgave my parents, I just moved on. I ignore a lot and when I can’t ignore I scream to my husband about it/them. I vow never to be like them. I pray that I am not already.

So I stopped this morning and thought about this – that maybe I don’t really love them. Maybe they don’t really love me. Maybe it is a matter of fact relationship; parent and child. We are just fulfilling an obligation.

I call my parents a few times a week, which I now do out of a sense of obligation. I don’t enjoy talking with them (other than the opportunity to go on and on about my daughter – although I usually then get a mix of lectures and judgments and silent guilt that they don’t see her often enough…). I usually hang up and am completely frustrated and irritated. Sometimes angry and sometimes very sad.

So why do I do it? Based on the quote at the beginning of this post it isn’t because I love them.

It is so interesting how we hang on to things – to people even – and never really think about it.

July 9, 2012

Did she see what I see?

This morning I was on the treadmill (after 2 weeks off) and enjoying the expenditure of energy and the music. Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” came on and I started thinking of my daughter. I thought how one day some boy will sing this to her and someone will love her tremendously. This made me smile.

When I was pregnant I wondered what this little girl was going to be like, look like, sound like, walk like and be like. I couldn’t wait to meet her! I am now realizing that each day is a ‘new her’, as she develops and grows we see more and more of her personality come through.

Sometimes I just stare at her and see pure innocence and raw potential. I see joy, wonder and curiosity. I see beauty and peace. I see an amazing little girl of whom I am so proud and I truly enjoy each day with her (don’t get me wrong – I also sometimes wish I could just sit with my cat and a cup of coffee!).

So this all made me wonder what did my mother see when she looked at me? Did she beam with pride, love, adoration and amazement? Or did she not notice the first time I put my toes in my mouth or when I figured out how that toy worked? I am the youngest of several children so then I thought maybe she was too busy. So then I wondered what did she see when she looked at my eldest sibling?

My mother is not a very sensitive person and it was a hard childhood for all of us. She wasn’t terribly affectionate and I don’t think our feelings ever came first. Yes, she did the best that she could. That’s pretty much all that we can do and all that we can expect. (although sometimes this sounds like a cop out or excuse).

I guess I feel a little sad for her, and for all of us, that maybe she wasn’t able to notice or appreciate the beauty that encompasses, and is embodied by a child and, most especially by YOUR child. I feel sad for the little girls that weren’t adored by their mother.

Since becoming a mother I have found that my reaction to the treatment of children and the cries that I hear has changed tremendously. What used to make me angry now completely sickens me. Conversely, what used to make me simply smile now makes me beam ear to ear.

I used to say that you could judge a person’s character based on the way they treated animals. I haven’t figured out what it means about a person based on how they treat a child (well, their child), but I know that it takes an enormous amount of patience and selflessness. You must be able to step outside of yourself and evaluate each situation objectively.

Believe me I have had my moments of tears and utter frustration and I know there will be more to come. I will do the best that I can do and hope that when my daughter  has a child she never wonders if I looked at her with pride, love, adoration and amazement – she will know that I did (and then some).

Here’s to my brown-eyed girl. May you always know and feel how much I love you!

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