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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

 

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