Tag Archives: depression

Not Your Average Soccer Mom

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I’m not your average soccer mom, mainly because my kids don’t do soccer.  My nine year old does karate, and he recently brought home a trumpet which I have vowed will not make me crazy at all.

Is there such a thing as a karate and trumpet mom?

Emily is almost five (oh man how it hurts to say that, as opposed to saying she is four and a half) and she thinks she would like to do dance.  But being the crunchy and neurotic freak that I am, I am too scared to sign her up for any old dance class, because I am fairly certain it will give her the same self-loathing and body issues that I had as a dancer for about 20 years before succumbing to a pudgy middle age of motherhood and sedentary work.

So I haven’t signed her up for anything yet because I can’t bear to think that the joy she feels for moving her body will ever be squashed or warped into something it shouldn’t be.

And I can’t lie to you.  The trumpet is in fact driving me crazy.

It’s a slip shod style of motherhood I try to embrace, and for which I cannot find a label.  It also bears zero resemblance to the perfect mother I thought I was before squeezing these two critters out of my now unrecognizable lady bits.

Meanwhile, I can’t decide if we should spend a third night eating leftovers so they don’t go to waste, or if I should cook up the tortellini Trader Joe made for me. . .  It’s humid here and I really do not feel like cooking, so I’m thinking it will be leftovers for me and the hubs and Lunchables or English Muffin pizzas for the kids.

Yes.  I feed my kids Lunchables.

And also yes, I make them separate dinners than what I make for me and the hubs.  I know, I know.  I’m breaking all kinds of “rules” here, but as a working mom, I would rather we all sit down and enjoy each other’s company than endure tantrums at dinner time.

Also, we don’t always eat dinner together, even when we are all home together.  But usually we are all eating at a vaguely similar time, just in different rooms.  We call it parallel eating.  I like to think of it as an ingenious parenting hack as opposed to a ginormous parenting fail.

Although it still makes me nervous.

But it doesn’t take much to make me nervous.  I’ve been prone to anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember.  Add to my already neurotic disposition that I am a social worker, and you can pretty much guarantee that I’ve diagnosed everyone in my family with just about anything possible.

A lot of people don’t get it.

Like my perfect Coworker who grew up in an intact family and has probably never worried about the sky falling in her life.  She made a crack that she had never met someone as anxious as me.  I think she meant it in a tender and friendly way, but do you know what it did?

If you guessed that the comment made me more anxious about being anxious in front of people, then you win the cookie.  But it is a keebler elf cookie.  I do not have time to make cookies from scratch.

One of the biggest compliments I ever got in my life was when a colleague said, “I always forget that you are actually anxious, because you always seem to have it all together.”

I try to channel this compliment on my darker days, and it makes me feel quite ravishing, but in a photoshopped kind of way, because if one thing is for certain it is this:  I do not have it all together.  Not by a long shot.  And it makes me crazy.

It makes me cringe when I hear mommy labels passed around. . .  Tiger Mom.  Helicopter Mom.  Bad Mom.  Attachment Mom.  Drill Sergeant Mom.

I mean, is anyone really just one label?

Sometimes I wish I could be just one label.  It would be so much easier.

I suppose that the label “Good Enough Mom” comes close enough to describing me, but like Dorothy said to the Wizzard, “I’m afraid there isn’t a label for me in that bag of yours.”  I’m paraphrasing.  We actually have not watched the Wizzard of Oz in recent years because it terrifies my daughter and then none of us sleep for weeks.

Oh, and apparently “Wizard” only has one “Z”.  Who knew?

Probably that Drill Sergeant Mom.  She knows everything.  (Cue exaggerated eye roll.)

How about “Mixed Bag of Contradictions Intense Love and Inconsistent Energy”?  Is that a title worthy of me?

I love my kids.  Hopefully that counts for something, if not everything.  And hopefully we will all laugh about all the times I’ve yelled and stomped off because I am so frigging overwhelmed by how much I love them and by how much pressure I am under from all conceivable angles to get it all right.  Motherhood.  Marriage.  Work.  Laundry.

And no I don’t sort my laundry.

And I think I’ve decided to do the leftovers.  I don’t feel like cooking and we have karate tonight after all.

Still with me?  Congratulations.  You have just taken a hike through the meandering mind of an overwhelmed working mom whose life feels almost perpetually in a state of careening chaos, if not lurking danger.

In short, I don’t really know who I am, other than to say I’m not your average soccer mom.

Or rather, that I’m not a soccer mom at all.

Posted as part of the WordPress Daily Prompt

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The Life On His Back

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He hunches down the city street,
bent over in the sumer heat
by the weight of a green, ripstop bag, about the size and weight of my
nine year old child.
Gait awkward, hair gray,
skin creased and clothes unclean.
I gaze at him from the haven of my car, where I am stopped in traffic,
and realize that’s his life
on his back.

A light changes, and
I drive on, annoyed that
I feel but do not feel
that weight.

When Mama Isn’t Happy, Nobody Is Happy

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Kwan Yin with a baby

I’m stressed.

I got home late from work after a cluster fuck of a day.

Sorry I said the eff word, but there was no other way around it.

My last client had some complex and very dangerous stuff going on, and it would not have been ethical even in the best of times to say, “Gee I’m sorry but I need to get home to my own family now.  Good luck with everything you are going through.”

Like, I could have been sued for that shit.  And people could have been in serious danger.  Like life or death kind of stuff.

Sometimes it is really hard to have to put other families before my own.

It is especially hard at 5:25 pm when I was supposed to be home already and am stuck at work trying to convince someone that they actually want to make a safe choice.  And because of the nature of my work, I can’t really tell you any more than that.

So that stresses me out too.

Because I then get home and can’t really talk to anyone about what just happened and why I’m late.  Because ethics.  Always with these ethics.

I thought I had planned a super sweet dinner for the family with a rotisserie chicken and potatoes and stuffing and all that shit.

Sorry I said the ess word.  But there was even a vegetable, even though it was smothered in a cheese sauce.  And I had visions of eating ice cream on the porch after.

One big happy family.

All I really wanted was to sit down and have dinner together as a family, but apparently this is an unrealistic expectation.

My son refused to come out of his room because he just learned he has five weeks where he will be attending summer camp this summer instead of being on an eternal weekend for 10 weeks.

And my daughter has pronounced what a “bad mama” I am because I am already making three different meals tonight (leftover mac and cheese for the boy, leftover spaghetti for her, chicken dinner for me and the hubs) and I wouldn’t make fresh mac and cheese for her too.

My husband was quiet and sullen, trying to cajole the kids and me into all being nice on a path of least resistance.  I’ve tried and tried to tell him that the Path of Least Resistance is not the best way to raise children or “be” in a family, but he don’t care.

Whatever.

And deep down, I am still stressing about if someone else’s family will be safe tonight and if I did enough before leaving work.

Fuck.  It.  All.

Again, my apologies for the eff word.

Did I mention I am also in the throes of rampant and savage PMS?

Yeah.

So I’m unhappy.  And I’m disappointed, a little angry, and pretty frustrated that I can never fucking “nail” anything as a working mom.

Really, my feelings are just hurt.

So, no one else in the family is happy, because I’m not happy.

I’ve taken away TV.  And dessert.  No ice cream on the porch.

And as I stomp off to walk the dog and then change out of my work clothes, it strikes me what a monumental responsibility it is being a mom and trying to keep everyone happy while simultaneously implementing appropriate rules and consequences, and also balancing my career and setting up the coffee for the next morning.

Whatever I am feeling seems to trickle down, one way or another, onto the rest of the family.  Sometimes it feels like if I am not if super-chipper-robot-mode, then we are all fucked.

It seems really hard to have an authentic feeling without either going over the top and ruining everyone’s day, or retreating to a cave of solitude and ruining everyone’s day.

And happiness?  WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?

Most of the time I am an anxious mess trying to keep all the balls in the air, and the genuinely good moments I share with the family are few and far between and savored dearly.

In my office, I would preach emotional regulation and self care.

In my reality, if I can find the 25 minutes to write this post before I pass out in front of Netflix, then I can chalk it up to self care for the week.

Look, I realize my experience is not unique.

This is the life for which we sign up as working moms.  I don’t really think any of us could have possibly predicted what a gut busting marathon working motherhood, or just plain motherhood, truly is.  People try to tell us.  Very well-meaning people try to tell us how difficult it is, how tired we will be, and how quickly it goes by.  But no matter if we listen to them or not, we can never truly predict the reality.

It begs the question, if we had known, would we have done it?

Furthermore, what the hell are we supposed to do with this complex blend of exhaustion, frustration, anger, and confusion?  How are we supposed to express it–  how are we allowed to express it–  without upsetting the family apple cart.

Because anything we feel, the rest of the house is going to feel.

We didn’t know that either, but that’s just the way it works.

We are the emotional barometers in the home.  We set the tone and temperature for how it will be.

If we had known, would we have been crazy enough to reproduce?

It is also the path I chose when I became a clinical social worker.  And little optimist that I was, I had no fucking clue what all that meant.  It is the same path any working mom choses when they become a doctor or lawyer or supervisor or whatever where you have to put the needs of others front and center.  This was all well and good before I had kids…  but now?  It is almost unbearable.

Things fall apart.  Tantrums happen.  Doors slam and you are told what a poo poo head you are because you only have two hands.  Work spills over into home just as home spills into work.  Balls drop.  Some nights you don’t sleep.

In the end, I sort of stomped off to my corner of my room to implement a time out for myself.  It was all I could do.  I started writing this post.

And both of my kids came up to check on me.  They couched their concern in questions about other stuff, or random fun facts about their day, but I could tell that they were checking in with me, making sure I was okay, much as I check in on them and make sure they are okay.  They weren’t nervous or upset.  Their anger with me was all over and done. They were allowing me to have my feeling, but offering me a little connection, a peace offering of sorts.

I didn’t totally grasp this at the time, but later it hit me.  I’ve modeled enough emotional regulation for them–  maybe just enough—  that they get it.  They respected that I needed space, and they gave it to me, but also let me know that they were okay and present.  They knew I was upset and were modeling back for me what I have tried to model for them.

That’s kind of cool.

It sort of tempers the responsibility of keeping my shit together–  maybe just enough —  to see it reflected back to me in my kids.

So maybe I nailed that. And maybe we can all have ice cream together on the porch and be a perfect family on another night.

Sitting in the Wound in My Mourning Apparel

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Here’s the thing:  Grief is not a one-size-fits-all kind of outfit.

It looks a little different on everyone.

I don’t wear it well.

I don’t know that any of us find it particularly flattering.  I mean, they don’t call it “ugly crying” because it looks incredible.

For me, grief looks edgy, quiet, irritated, isolated, obsessive, and exhausted.  It finds me drifting from room to room without a purpose, craving my bed and greasy meat, and playing too much Candy Crush.  Grief makes my back and head hurt.

Think PMS with more dysregulated moods and crying.

I feel flattened. I feel like I’m dragging myself around, just trying not to lose my shit, then losing it anyway.

It’s hard to tend to my kids, but I do.  It’s hard to brush my hair, but I do.  It’s hard not to eat only gummy bears and wine, but I don’t.  I manage to sneak some pizza and sweet and sour chicken in.  It’s too hard to get my shit together and cook, so I’ve ordered out and I’m going to be cool with that.

People used to wear specific clothes, usually black, for a year- or longer!- after the death of a loved one, or black arm bands, to signal that they were in mourning.

Let that sink in- a year or longer.

And these clothes allowed others to recognize the vulnerable phase of grief, and cued them to empathize with the bereaved.

I don’t think my leopard-print leggings and dog-hair-covered hoodie are imparting the same message.

Now we get a weekend of services, maybe five days of bereavement leave from work if it was immediate family, and are expected to get on with our lives.

If you grieve for longer than that there is an unspoken theory that there is something wrong with you.  Quick!  Get back to posting pictures on Facebook that make life look perfect!  Nothing to see here.  Move along.  Nothing to see. . .

People also love the notion that there are stages of grief and we march through them in a linear fashion.  Let’s keep it rhythmic, tidy.

This is not to say there is no regard for dying, death and grief these days.  Hospice and other support groups and counselors certainly offer empathy and understanding.

I read something the other day that compared grief to an inner wound in which we must sit, and feel it, experience the pain completely.  The writer suggested that we must tend to this psychic wound as we would to an external injury.

It is the creating of this space and time in which to sit in my wound that I am finding so tricky.

I’m not quite sure what to make of my grief about Patty’s death.

Or of my grief regarding it.

When I learned she died it was shocking.  Initially, it seemed that the fact I hadn’t seen her in person in years would soften the blow.

But it didn’t.

It really made it worse.

For weeks I’d been thinking about calling her.  When I switched jobs, I worked in a new part of the city that took me past her office on my commute every day.  I’d drive past and think, hey remember that time we went out to lunch a few years back?  Has it really been that long?  Gosh, I have to call Patty!  

But I never did.

I missed my chance.  

That’s the resounding thought, pealing like chapel bells in my head; that I missed my chance to reconnect with this person who was so special to me, a person who took one of my secrets to her grave.

That’s the wound in which I am trying to sit, in leopard-print leggings, in between making mac n cheese and going to work and walking the dog and doling out napkins and squashing sibling skirmishes.

My missed chance is my wound.

Funny thing is, I know Patty would not want me to sit in this wound.  She would hate to think people were having protracted grief and missing out on the budding lilac bushes and sparkling spring mornings filled with bird song.

I can hear her voice.  I can hear her voice!  She says, Hey beautiful doll.  It’s okay.  She says it in that matter-of-fact way, her voice calm and even, tinged with a smile.

At the funereal I offered my tearful condolences to her beloved husband.  He remembered being at my wedding with Patty nearly a decade ago, which might have been the last time I saw him.  I let him know that Patty helped me celebrate a lot of joy in my life.  “She loved you, Charlotte,” he said and wrapped his big arms around me.

I felt unworthy of that gift.  There I was, crying on someone who needed my comfort and support, and he was offering me that precious gift of Patty’s love.

Fucking love, man.

It doesn’t die.

When my wound heals, I’d like to be able to accept that gift of love that  connects us all regardless of distance, time, and even death.

(UN) Balance(d) Beam

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Did I become sick because I was lacking balance in my life?

Or, did I feel so unbalanced because I was festering a cold?

Who knows?

Maybe it was Mercury Retrograde, or a full moon, or daylight savings, or the change in seasons that made me feel so overwhelmed and inept at life.

I went home from work early on one day, and then stayed home the entire day the next.  Truthfully, I didn’t feel that sick.  Sure I was stuffy and my throat was sore, but I could have powered through that.  It was more the listless, nervy ache deep in my bones, and the total lack of energy to do anything other than beach myself on the couch and watch six episodes of House, MD.

You guys wanna laugh at something?

I actually had myself convinced that it wasn’t just a cold.  The body aches made me terribly anxious.  So, of course the logical progression of events was to assume I had pancreatic cancer.

Full stop.

That’s the thing about having an anxious brain.

And it’s also the thing about being/feeling unbalanced.  It’s like walking on a ridiculously high balance beam.  Plus you’re scared of heights so it gives you vertigo, in addition to just the usual trying to move forward on a narrow rail.

You make these leaps that are really awkward and unseemly and terrifying.  It’s terrifying first because you think you are literally dying and you try to imagine saying your goodbyes to everyone, and then it is terrifying because you can’t believe your brain would do that to you.

That’s also where watching a marathon of House, MD is not such a great plan.  (But!  But, Hugh Laurie!  His blue eyes totally ease the pain!)

So, we all have a good laugh about what an anxious freak I am.  Because, really, what else can we do?

It helps to sit on the couch and chant, It’s just a virus.  It helps to remind myself that there is no history of cancer in my incredibly healthy family, and that I am young and fit (sort of not really) and that it’s just a virus.

The moment passes, and we look back and laugh at it.

But the truth is that it is hard and exhausting and yes, terrifying, to live inside an anxious brain.  Most people just don’t get it, and that makes the anxiety feel worse because I feel like I stick out like an Umpah Loompah with bright orange skin and bright green hair and flashing, neon signs pointing at me that says, “Hey, look at this freak.”

It takes a lot of effort to own my anxiety and to stand up a bit straighter (when I really just want to give into gravity and fall the fuck down), and be mindful and present and here and fucking now.

Can you believe that some people are actually just in the moment without having to expend all their energy being there?  I find it really hard to believe.  And I don’t really know what it is like, because my brain is usually racing around like a frightened mouse, scampering here and there trying to guess at and then approximate what is really real.

Thankfully, I can usually get to Pancreatic Cancer Is Not Your Reality in a relatively discreet amount of time, without too much noticeable flailing around on the balance beam.

Then I stand there, muscles clenched, and slowly let out my breath.  Sometimes I take a very confident step forward.  Sometimes I just stand there and catch my breath.  But not for long because then the kids come home and just because I’m not feeling well doesn’t mean dinner and baths don’t still need to get made and taken.

That’s the thing about living in an anxious brain as a mom–  I don’t always get the time and space I need to process what’s going on.  Sometimes it just gets shoved down and shut away like socks in an overflowing drawer–  not quite out of sight or out of mind.  There is always something just beneath the surface, ready to spill out.

And don’t even get me started about how anxiety regarding my kids can take over even the worst fear of pancreatic cancer in less than an instant.  Zombie apocalypse ain’t got nothin’ on the freaky crap wandering around in my brain.  I mean it.  Really.  Don’t get me started on it.

I’m feeling better.

My sick/well time from work was worth it, despite the additional anxiety that using it causes.

It was just a virus.

I’m feeling better.

In Which My Blog BFF Learns I Am NOT a 47 Year Old, Male, Serial Killer (and Other Neat Surprises)

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Jen confessed she had been anxious to meet me.  And that her family had been anxious about her meeting me too.

In truth, I was a little anxious also.  And not just because I’m almost always anxious about everything (some people think it’s charming, I swear), but also because I’ve never met anyone from the blogosphere in real life before.

She had suggested a place on the water in the southern part of our state for us to meet for coffee or tea or coconut water, which was eventually what I chose because I’d been drinking green tea all day and was extra jittery.  It was a great choice and not just because it was super convenient for me to hop over to after having my annual physical, but also because it was beautiful, sunny, and breezy.

I got there first and scarfed down a pesto, turkey wrap.  I had purposely starved myself all day because of the annual exam, and not wanting to weigh even a half pound extra.  Because I’m crazy like that.  (Note to self:  Work a little harder on that self acceptance shit and eat a sandwich).

When Jen arrived, we did the nervous peeking at each other, and then embraced warmly like long lost friends.  I prayed to the heavens and muses that I did not have pesto in my teeth because I had planned on doing a lot of smiling.

And pesto or no, a lot of smiling I did.

I think Jen, from the amazing blog Chopping Potatoes, was immediately put at east to see I was, in fact, merely a plump 41 year old mommy blogger, and not the 47 year old, male ax murderer her family and anxiety had maybe suggested I was.

But just in case there was even a shred of doubt left in her adorable, curly head, I pointed out that male serial killers don’t usually spend quit as much time as I do writing about breastfeeding.

Or maybe they do. I don’t know.

Either way, we had a good laugh.

Then we set about trying to remember when exactly we “met” each other online.  She started her blog in January of 2012 and I started mine only seven months later in July of 2012.

One of the greatest things I’ve found in blogging is a sense of community as moms, that even as quirky moms with “issues” we are not alone.  Jen’s blog does this in a way that is graceful, articulate, warm, and well researched (wink-wink, Jen!) as she writes about perinatal anxiety and depression, maternal mental health in general, and all the other nuts and bolts of mommy blogdom.

We shared about our families and I even showed her photos of my children, which for privacy reasons I never share on my blog.  It was a leap of faith that just felt right.

Jen and I discovered that we have led oddly parallel lives for decades, since we were small.  We actually grew up within minutes and miles of one another, then lived in the same neighborhood for a time as adults–  how awesome is that?!  We went to the same college, and may have even passed one another in the dining hall at one point or another.

We talked about this era we are living in of “highlight reels” on social media, and how it can make us feel so envious and strange and pressured.  When we talked about children and behavior (and our reactions as moms to our children’s behavior), I felt kinship, but also relief that I am not the only mom out there who has primal, monkey children in the car or Target.

We were able to share in our sense of “Is life really this hard?” and talk about what it is like to live with anxiety while striving to do our Type A best as moms.

We talked about our blogs, of course, and shared the stories behind birthing them, how and when and why we post, and where we find inspiration.  It tried, albeit ineptly, to explain why I am an in-the-closet blogger to my family and most of my friends.  And she shared about her writer’s group.

We were also able to relate deeply to one another on the subject of maternal depression and anxiety, which is a special thing over which to bond with someone.  Not everyone understands the shame, guilt, and despair that goes along with maternal depression.  But when you meet someone who has been there, and gets it, it just feels like arms are opened and the universe winks and says, “It’s okay.  I got you.”

Plus, it’s not every day you can engage in a conversation with someone about intrusive thoughts and turn it into a bantering competition about who has the weirder thoughts that plague them.  And laugh about it.

The universe does indeed work in funky ways.  Which is awesome.  I felt perfectly at home next to Jen, and was my regular, neurotic self, which was a relief.  And that is how I know a person is a true friend–  when I am totally at ease saying whatever thing comes out of my lips.

Jen brought me a lollipop from a Warrior Mom conference she’d been to earlier this summer.  She had invited me to go, and as much as I would have loved to, I had to work.  But she brought me back a little treat and saved it for me for weeks until we were finally able to meet up.

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It was worth the wait.

Someone gave me a picture frame once that said, “A friend is a gift you give yourself.”  That’s exactly how I felt after meeting up with Jen.

Jen, thank you for all you are doing to normalize and empathize with women who struggle with stuff.  You are amazing and I’m so honored to be your neighbor and your friend.  Until we meet again. . .

Trying, Trying, Trying To #BeReal

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“That I would be good, even if I gained ten pounds.”  —  Alanis Morrissette.

Last night I read a post on Sister Wives Speak that could not have been more timely.

It was about a movement they are trying to start where women post real photos of themselves, unedited, unashamed, to celebrate their own personal beauty.

Whether it is with make up, with natural lighting, with fancy clothes, or in sweats.  Whether it is after the gym, or while feeling sad, or when just sitting around channel surfing.  We have been challenged to #BeReal.

At first I thought, I could NEVER do that!

Firstly because I do not post personal photos of myself or my family on my blog or Twitter (PS, you can find me @Momasteblog  just saying’).

Second, I did not consider posting a “real” photo of myself because I am in, shall we say, a state of lacking confidence at the moment. I’ve gained about 8-10 pounds this summer.

I’m not sure if I am bloated from the heat, if it is the gelato, stress creating belly fat, or my aging metabolism slowing down.  Whatever it is, it sure is making it hard for me to feel good and loving towards myself.  And feeling icky about myself makes me feel like a failure at self acceptance.  And that sense of failure makes me want to go hide and eat more gelato.

Round and round we go.

So, fuck all that. Challenge accepted.

This morning I put on a dress in which I felt beautiful last summer, minus 8-10 pounds. I adore the color and it is super cool and comfortable, but I’ve not been wearing it this summer because it makes me feel exposed and chubby.

I stood in front of my closet, waffling (mmmmmm….  waffles……) about putting it on.

Then I stood in front of the mirror and told myself I would wear this dress and fucking rock the shit out of it.

So here it is.

Here is me being #BeReal.

  
And YES, those are snotty nose, tongue, finger streaks from my precious daughter on the mirror, who for some reason loves to paint on my full length mirror in her spit.  Could I have wiped them off for you, sure.  But would that have been as “real”?  (Hah!  I’ll take any excuse to get out of cleaning first thing in the morning! Plus they hide my cellulite a little…)

I considered the photo and thought, I should have posed differently or I should have stood at a different angle.  But I did not retake the photo.  It wasn’t even that hard to leave it at the first shot, but it felt amazing!

Off I drove to work feeling like a badass, in the best way you can possibly feel like a badass. Liberated!  Confident!  Rebellious!

I was reminded of the health and strength of my body.  I reminded myself that my body has grown two amazing children from scratch, nourished them of my own miraculous DNA.  My body birthed a nine and a half pound baby in three pushes.  My body is the place where my children feel safest, comforted, content.  They haven’t a clue that I am 8-10 pounds heavier this summer.

It was a pretty cool exercise to #BeReal because it totally shifted my focus from feeling hyper-aware of that 8-10 pounds, to being gently aware of what a Righteous Babe I still am.  And at the end of the day, if I am super focused on a number on a scale, it does not lead to overall health and well-being.

What are your thoughts on the movement?  What do you look like when you are real? 

As an aside, you should check out the Sister Wives (not to be confused with the train wreck poly fam on the TLC reality show). These ladies (and sometimes a gentleman or two) have created an amazing site geared towards helping people process and accept the “Big Uglies” in their lives.  They also were gracious enough to publish a post I produced in January, in which I told for the first time the most difficult story of my life.

Holding On Through Rogue Waves of Despair and Other Stuff

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I read or heard that suicide peaks in the spring and summer.

The theory was that people hold on and keep their depression under wraps in the winter, because there is a hope and belief that things will get so much better come the kinder climes of spring and summer.

And then when it doesn’t, they attempt.

Since I’m in the field, I get a ton of facts and stats fired at me on the reg, so I can not for the life of me remember where I saw or heard this nugget of info.  It might not even be true.  It is possible I heard it on NPR, but it is also possible I totally made it up or saw it on an episode of South Park.

I’m pondering it, regardless of its source or verity.

Not because I’m suicidal, but because I kind of understand it.

So far this summer has sucked.

My children are out of sorts and no matter what kind of fun and enriching things I present to them, they fight with each other to the point of tears and tantrums.

My highly sensitive son had to transition to a summer camp about which he is not particularly pleased, and for which we are paying a shit ton of money we do not have.

My Spousal unit and I have been at odds with one another.  The weather hasn’t been great.  My knee hurts.  The list goes on.

I’m not into astrology, but everything just feels so out of sync, rocky, sea-sickening, that it seems there must be some greater universal force at play.  Something in retrograde or something.

You know I had a pretty rough winter.  There was blizzard after blizzard drama at work, and I had a near death experience in a parking lot.

My moods tanked, but I managed to keep my shit together because I was so looking forward to flowers, the beach, relaxing with my family, maybe taking up kayaking.  And none of that happy crap has come to pass, and my mood is still pretty rough.

The fact that shit hasn’t magically improved with the weather makes it feel like an extra wave of desolation is crashing down on me, plunging me underwater where my limbs flail helplessly and I my skin is burned by the sand and rocks.

It’s a disappointing blend of emotions I can’t quite name with enough accuracy.

It also makes me feel guilty I am not taking more pleasure in the gardens and butterflies, birds and bunnies.

I’m also pondering suicide because we recently had another child complete the act of killing themselves in the community where I work.

It is the second child to die from suicide that I know since January, and while I was not close to or the primary clinician for either kid, it leaves a lingering stain on the psyche, and creates a hyper-vigalence about the day-to-day of our already emotionally taxing profession.

Surgeons get used to losing patients on the table, or so I am led to believe from Grey’s Anatomy.  But I’m not sure if suicide is something that anyone in any walk of life anywhere really comes to grip with, especially when it is someone so young with their whole life ahead of them.

When I was in high school, I was a distracted and mediocre student at best.  I vividly remember feeling like the entire world was coming to a crashing halt because I was failing math.  Depression lapped at my toes, caught my ankles in her icy grip, and tried her best to drag me under.

But I never could have taken such a drastic step.

I do not mean that in a judgmental way.  I also am not attempting to compare my foolish first-world issues with another person’s true tragedy.  It’s just all swirling around up there in the wavy whorls of my grey stuff.  My brain simply has no understanding of the depths of despair a person must feel to end it all.  It doesn’t compute.  But it also isn’t my story. . .  It is their’s.

I took the first child’s suicide much more personally, for a messy combination of reasons which I’m not at liberty to get into.  I am kind of just sitting with this most recent one, trying to decide how it will affect me, my life, my practice.

I say I’m just sitting with it, not really reacting to it or feeling that same level of grief, shock, and horror, but am I?  I had an awful week.  I’ve lost my temper at home about 20 times.  I’ve been sullen, sulky, withdrawn, and argumentative.  I’ve overreacted to mundane events.

Is it coincidental my emotions are peaking?  Is there a subconscious trauma drifting up and being displaced onto my family like a rogue wave?

Either way, I guess being aware is important because through awareness I can come to a deeper understanding about stuff. . .  or so it is said.

Elephant Journal published a piece about a guy who had learned to transform difficult emotions using a mindfulness technique developed by Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.

The paraphrased gist of it is to become super present with whatever emotion you are experiencing, breathe with it, and visualize the actual emotions.  Then, whatever you visualize (for example earlier this week when I was fighting with my husband and did this technique, it was a pile of broken glass…), you imagine wrapping up in a blanket and holding it to your chest, as you would a baby.

With all the tenderness you would give a tiny baby, you tell the emotion that you recognize it is with you, and you will hold it safely with compassion until it is ready to go.

By practicing this, I’ve found myself softening to the difficult crap I’ve been feeling.  The trick is remembering to do it.

So, to all my crappy feelings about this summer, my sense of inadequacy as a mom because of my children’s behavior, my irritation with my husband, my compassion fatigue at work, my disappointment, and my sadness–

I know you are here.

You are like a soggy towel,

left in the bottom of a bag after an exhausting day at the beach.  

You are prickly with sand, and you stink a little bit.  

But I know you are here, and I will wrap you up and hold you,

and rock with you against my chest. . .

. . .  until we are ready to let go of one another.

Baby Mine– Overcoming the Trauma of Dumbo

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The Disney movie, Dumbo, scarred me for life.

Long story short:  I must have seen it for the first time when I was about four years old.  My parents had divorced.  It was not amicable and I watched my mother suffer horrible emotional turmoil as a result. It made me feel unsafe, and is probably a big part of how my head got permanently wired for anxiety.

I’m not shaming or blaming.  It is what it is.

That’s all I’m going to say about that.

So, Dumbo.

There was a network in the early 80s that showed a Disney movie every Sunday night.  It was a big deal to stay up late and watch it.  And so it was I witnessed the trauma that was Dumbo.

OMG.  That scene where the mouse takes Dumbo to see his mom who is all chained up an a circus wagon.

Mama Jumbo had attacked a bunch of circus-goers for mocking her big-earred baby and was locked up for being vicious and violent.  Honestly, she was just doing what any devoted mama does to protect their young, and don’t even get me started on the atrocities of keeping elephants in the circus.  That’s another post for another day…

The mommy elephant swings her bereft baby on her trunk, singing that song. Baby mine, don’t you cry.  Baby mine, dry your eyes.  Seriously.  It wrecked me.  I never liked the movie, Dumbo and I don’t think I ever watched it again.  That song burned into my brain and triggered insecurity and sorrow if ever I heard it.

Flash forward 36 years.

My three and a half year old daughter is in dance class and that song plays as they flutter and frolic across the floor.  Emily sings it over and over again for the rest of the day.

A few weeks later, we find Dumbo while flipping around Netflix looking for something to watch for Family Fun Night.  It is Emily’s turn to pick, and she picks Dumbo.  The whole time we are watching it, I am watching her.  I gage her reactions, which are surprisingly nonchalant.  The movie ends and she gets on with her life.

This non-reaction to something that disturbed me my entire life fascinates me!

Emily has asked for the “Baby Mine” song so many times, I downloaded it to my phone.  She asks to listen to it every night before bed, while I sit rocking her.  Then she toddles off to her little bed and dreams sweet dreams without a care in the world.

How can this be?  That something so emotionally scarring to me, not only doesn’t cause her any distress, but actually brings her a sense of joy and peace?

The child-therapist in me pats myself on the back for forming a secure attachment with my kid.

And just like that, Dumbo no longer freaks me out.

Interesting. . .

Musing on Aching Ovaries, Weaning, and the End of the School Year

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It helped more than you can imagine that you took the time to read my incredibly neurotic last post about wacky mid-life hormones.  And to those of you who commented to let me know you are in a similar boat–  well, you just rock.  Sometimes I guess bemoaning my aching ovaries has its place.

So thanks for that love and support.

I had another thought that made me wonder. . .

. . .  as my journey towards weaning continues with Emily, how is that affecting my hormones, and how is that affect on my hormones affecting my emotional/physical state?  My three and a half year old daughter continues to nurse one or two times per day, usually.  Sometimes she goes a couple days without nursing, and I’ve been practicing the whole “don’t ask, don’t refuse” thing.

Breastfeeding is all about hormones.  I’ve noticed that there are times when the oxytocin rush from breastfeeding is more effective than a dose of Zoloft.  But then there are other times when it makes me want to claw off my skin.  So, I wonder if my hormones could be additionally out of whack, not so much because I am going into perimenopause (which I don’t really think I am yet), but because my body is just confused from this whole march towards weaning?

Do any of you know anything about that?

Today was also Jack’s last day of second grade.  He’s had a great year, mainly because he had a phenomenal teacher who really supported and inspired him.  We have had no tantrums about school or homework, and more importantly none of the somatic complaints that he was voicing last year.  I’ve felt so blessed that he’s had this safe space to be in during the day, and I really think it has allowed him to grow and learn emotionally, intellectually, and behaviorally.

That said, I sort of dread the summer.

Jack and I both have a hard time with change.  It really rocks our boat in a big way and can lead to anxiety and anger.  I totally understand where he is coming from in this regard because I am really right there with him.  This year, he is doing some summer day camp about which none of us are particularly thrilled.  I’m praying there will be nice kids there, attentive staff, and that Jack will not be miserable all summer because of it.

This morning I sort of broke down and cried.  I was just so overwhelmed and sad about not being there for my kids as much as I want to be, as much as they NEED me to be.  It is really, really hard.

My husband took this job in February with the expectation I would be able to cut my hours at work.  This has not come to pass as I cannot leave my program in the lurch with no staff, and financially we are still digging out of a pretty deep hole.  So, we are both at our limits and have not really been available to each other.

So, this morning when my daughter wanted to look at books instead of put on her shoes, everything just crashed around me and out came the tears.  I pulled it together pretty quickly, and Emily’s hug was like magic.  I got the kids out the door and felt a surge of pride watching my little-big-boy march into the playground for his last day of school.

So, it’s not all bad.

And you all are still here.

So, it’s not all bad.

One random final thought:

When Jack was a newborn and I was struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety, my husband would take our colicky little son and walk him around the house.  The Spouse would sing this chant that I believe is from Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.

It went, “I have arrived, I am home, in the here and in the now.  I am solid, I am free.  In the infinite I dwell.”

This little chant came to me today and gave me comfort.

So, yeah, I am home with my achey, breaky ovaries, my mommy guilt, and my anticipatory anxiety about the summer.

In the infinite we dwell.

Momaste.  xoxoxo.