Running While Female

Today was the first long run of the first week of my first training for a half marathon. Five easy miles. Although five miles are never easy for me.

About 4 blocks from my house a guy on a bike wearing hard core racing spandex passed me. I smiled and gave a little wave. Because I smile and wave at everyone I pass, it just seems to be good exercising manners. His face lit up, he flashed me a huge grin. A couple of blocks later I’d forgotten about it.

Just gone the mile mark and I was trying to tell myself four more wouldn’t be so bad. A movement on my right caught my eye. I looked over into the smiling face of the guy from the bike suddenly running beside me. I did not smile back. It was around 9:45 am on a Sunday morning. There were plenty of people around, kids and parents on the playground at the top of the park, a young man taking shots at the basketball court, people walking dogs. And I was scared.

The guy was very fit, not struggling with the slow 11 minute pace the way I was. He stayed beside me or a few steps back. At the corner I sped up and made a right around him. For a little while I though he’d stopped following me. But he had not. Sometimes he was 30 feet behind, sometimes he was right next to me. I have no idea where he left the bike. As we circled around the park again he come up on my left, putting me between him and the curb and making me feel even more boxed in.

I wanted to tell him he was scaring me. I wanted to not give a shit that he was following me. I wanted to be brave. I wanted to call my husband. I wanted my wedding ring to increase in size, protecting me from…what? A guy taking a jog? I wanted to ignore the voice in my head saying my safety was threatened. I mean what was the guy really doing? Maybe he was just out for slow run. I wanted to not wonder if my smile and wave were too friendly back while he was on his bike.

But I did. I worried I had been flirting with him. Even though I knew I had not. I worried that my biker shorts and tank top were inappropriate. Even though they were not. I worried that I was being a weak, shrill woman who was making it all up. Even though I was not.

Who knew what his intentions were? I do not think he was going to hurt me. But he was making me uncomfortable and my reaction of tension and discomfort were clear.

Halfway along the side of the park there is a fire hydrant. I usually circle around it and return to the intersection where I hit two miles. I slowed until he was right next to me. And I quickly made the turn. About three quarters of a mile after he first pulled next to me he left me alone. I scanned my surroundings obsessively for another three quarters of a mile until I couldn’t help myself. I stopped with my back to a couple of trees in some shade and called my husband.

I felt like an idiot. A hysterical idiot. My husband and the boys were at a flea market and he asked if he should come pick me up. I didn’t know. I was scared to go home, scared he was still watching me. Scared in broad daylight surrounded by people. I decided to keep on going.

At four miles my husband called to tell me he was there in the car and he’d drive beside me home. I thanked him and waved him off. I finished the five miles. I did not see the man again.

About a month ago, after the Washington Post op-ed by George Will decrying sexual violence against women on college campuses as overblown, creating an atmosphere of victimhood as a prized and privileged status, the internet blew up with reactions that were all over the place. The ones that stuck with me were those written by women who agreed with Will.  I read responses from women who questioned why college girls always thought they were going to be raped. Women asked why did those girls think they would be so special that someone would want to sexually assault them. Women asked why other women were so hysterical.

The 2012 CDC finding that nearly one in five women will be raped in her lifetime? The statistic is nearly the same as a study commissioned by the Justice Department* in 2007 during the Bush administration. It is not a statistic conjured by a liberal administration or harpy feminists to further their agenda. It is real.

Women fear rape for many reasons. I do not  fear assault because I think I am special or desirable or that every guy is  inherently bad and a potential rapist. Sexual assault is a crime of violence and control, not desire. I have been taught for most of my life that women ask for it through their every action. I have been taught that if I am assaulted no one will believe me. The comments by women in response to Will’s article support that. When someone larger and stronger than me gets in my personal space I get scared.

So what the hell happened this morning?

I don’t think I was ever in real danger. Still, I changed my plans to run along the partially secluded path around a stream across from the park after the second mile. I don’t think the man’s intentions were bad. But he surely knew he was making me uncomfortable and he did not stop.

The bottom line is I am ashamed. For not telling him he was scaring me. For not demanding that he leave me alone. For letting my worry that I would offend him get in the way. For even questioning if I’d been flirting or if I was dressed wrong or if I was asking for it in any way. For feeling small and worthless. For still having dread in the pit of my stomach hours later. For already fearing Tuesday’s run.

I’m ashamed for feeling ashamed.

I expect more from myself. But I also expect more from that man, from any man.

photo (44)

I was not doing anything wrong this morning.

 *Study found through this Slate article.

Last Days of School

A year ago I watched the mother of one of T’s classmates struggle with the reality that her child was leaving the comfort of our extraordinary preschool and moving on to kindergarten. The transition proved painful for both mother and child. I sympathized with my friend, but I did not understand her sadness. In fact, I told her it simply wouldn’t be a big deal for T and me. She had the grace not to tell me I was full of shit.

Five years into this parenting gig and I still feel a twinge of annoyance when a more experienced parent tells me how my family will feel or act during an upcoming phase of development. “We are different” I think, “They don’t know us. We are special.” At the same time I cannot resist breaking it down for parents with kids younger than mine. I hear myself explaining what is coming and I hate myself for being that person. Especially as I see the look on the face of whatever friend I’m speaking to. I can see what is running through their head, “We are different. She doesn’t know us. We are special.”

At the beginning of last week I dropped the boys off at school and on my way out found this in T’s mailbox:

photo (41)

Last fall we were asked to fill the paper with words that described who we hoped T would be as an adult.

photo (42)

That hair. I miss that crazy hair so much.

Friday was the final day of school. During the week laminated photos that decorated the boys’ classrooms trickled home with them. But the little poster of our hopes for T was the first. I lifted it out of the mailbox and suddenly my throat was burning and tears flooded my eyes. I made it to the car before the ugly crying began.

That friend of mine? I emailed her and confessed I was wrong last year. Both T and I were struggling with his upcoming transition to kindergarten. I asked for advice on how she got through it.

A year ago I was so excited for the following fall I couldn’t see straight. T would have the same teachers that he adored. C would be going to school as well. He threw a fit every single day of spring semester when we dropped T off because he wanted to stay. And the fact that I was going to have a couple of hours a day to myself helped tremendously. Our small transition included the loved and familiar for T, exactly what C needed developmentally, and a fucking break for me. Life was great. Transitions were great. Why would kindergarten be any different?

Oh, pompous, naive, foolish Karen. When will you get over yourself and start actually listening to the more experienced parents?

The unknown is hard for both T and me. Watching his anxiety rise as he realized he wouldn’t be able to bring his much loved teachers with him to elementary school was heartbreaking. His fear is real and I ache for him. I’m also kind of furious that he is growing up. His delicious little boy body is getting harder and harder to lift. His limbs dangle everywhere when he crawls into my lap. The last five years have been the fastest of my life and I know time will only continue to fly by with more speed. Even if I didn’t believe it the first time a well meaning, experienced parent told me.

walking away from preschool

T walking away from preschool for the last time on Friday. Again, I was able to save the ugly crying for the car. Victory.

preschool T

The boys attend (Um, I mean C attends and T attended…sniffle) a laboratory school on the SU campus. Undergrads and grad students work with the children each semester. The assignments include these lovely bound books made for each child that tracks development over the semester. Here are the covers of T’s 6 books.

toddler room C

And C’s first two.

Don’t Read the Comments

The last week has been really weird. Awesome. Overwhelming. Scary. Cool. Annoyingly Navel Gaze-y.

Through a friend of a friend of a friend of mine from high school my last post was put up on the Huffington Post on Tuesday. My friends on facebook were amazing about sharing it. After a couple of days it had a more than 1000 likes and 200 shares. It was crazy. It was definitely the widest audience any post of mine has ever received.

And then last night A Mighty Girl shared the post on their facebook page. Suddenly the piece had 15 thousand likes and more than 1700 shares on facebook.

Let’s be honest here. People don’t blog because they want their words to go into a vacuum. We want to be read. I’ve been very happy with my teeny tiny and very kind readership over the last 4 years. But I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t wondered what it would be like to have a post read by a shitload of people, if I hadn’t hoped for it.

It would be disingenuous to pretend it isn’t a head rush of an ego boost. Turns out the reality is also deeply unnerving. I do not have a thick skin. And I read the comments.

For some reason the ones that hurt the most were those that thought I’d made the interaction up. You guys know honesty is my deal. I’m a lot of shitty things, but liar is not one of them.

Hey, these problems are pretty good ones to have. The bottom line is I’m thrilled this has happened. Next to that joy is also some trepidation. I can’t explain to strangers that I really love my kids and try to be a good mom. They only see the little slice I’ve given them. And if I don’t explain myself clearly enough in that slice it is my own damn fault.

I’m scared to write another post. This note doesn’t feel real because it is just an extension of the last one. I’m scared the last post was a fluke. I’m scared I’ll be influenced by the larger audience, scared my writing will change because I’m trying to reach more people.

This is what I’ve wanted. This is really cool. I also sort of fear I bit off more than I can chew.

I know the endless self promotion is gross, but tomorrow morning at 10:35EST I’ll be doing an interview about the piece on HuffPost Live. Did I mention how surreal this has been?

In other good news (Why do I feel so guilty about all the good news? Oh yeah, because I’m crazy) that academic conference I was terrified of presenting at? It happened on Thursday. The panel I was on could not have gone better. And I only had horrifying diarrhea once during the whole trip. That actually might be the absolute best piece of news of this crazy damn week!

freaks geeks

Z’s Father’s Day present. Hand lettered by Syracuse artist Cayetano.

z and e play

Last weekend Z and our dear friend E rocking out at Art on the Porches.

leonard cousins farmers market

E and G are visiting for the week. Leonard cousin time!

The Bitch is Back

At three miles and change my throat felt full and I dry heaved a little. Home was over a mile away. I’d run almost two and a half miles away from the house to force myself into doing 5. It was a punishment run to make up for a shitty performance the day before. And instead of finishing I had a long, slow walk of shame back to the house. The best thing that can be said is I didn’t cry.

Earlier this week another mom in C’s preschool class who is an accomplished runner and I were chatting because we were both geared up for a run. I told her I was doing speed work. “By yourself?” she asked. “Yup.” I replied. “Wow.” she said, clearly impressed.

I felt like a total fraud. Here is what I wanted to blurt out: “I get so anxious when I’m doing a challenging workout that I don’t sleep well the night before and have hideous diarrhea up until the moment I actually get out the door. Yes, I have performance anxiety without an audience. If I actually had to do speed work in front of other humans I would probably shit out an organ.”

I’ve been working on not saying the crap that would make near strangers horrifically uncomfortable. Pat on the back, Karen. Instead of that word vomit, my tongue was bitten and I vaguely mumbled something.

The October Half Marathon? I’m not going to be doing those 13.1 miles in a vacuum. In fact, one of my best friends in the world signed up so we could tackle it for the first time together. She and her family came up from Brooklyn to spend the weekend with us and help us celebrate Z’s birthday on Saturday night.

On Sunday we went for a run together. I was so anxious I almost shit out an organ beforehand. I was so anxious I was running about a minute slower than usual. I’ve been assured by many that running with a partner is great fun. You get to chat and the time flies by. Um, right. I huff and puff with such vigor that I was unable to string more than three words together. Man, I was disappointed in myself. I felt awful for my friend who wasn’t getting much of a workout at all. It was humiliating.

Thankfully my friend loves me no matter what. She knows about the anxiety. As usual, she was nothing but kind to me. That bitch anxiety did not have A’s lovely manners. She told me I was an embarrassing, pathetic mess. She lied and said that A was regretting signing up for the half with me. She told me no matter how great life was right now that she would dog me for the rest of my life.

Unfortunately that part is true. Life is going well for our family, we are in a good place. But I am overwhelmed and ashamed of how my anxiety colors everything. Leaving the house is still hard every day. Why do we have cook outs in our backyard? So it’s guaranteed I’ll attend. Our friends have been so accommodating about letting us host, but I still feel terrible about it.

Z has a work fundraising event on Thursday. I’m already spun up about what an awkward fool I’ll be there. Yesterday my friend’s family and ours went to the Zoo. I managed to have a pretty bad anxiety event there. Last week I had to cancel my therapy appointment due to a babysitting snafu. I’m sick to my stomach over the makeup appointment on Wednesday because I feel so guilty about canceling and I just don’t want to face my therapist’s disappointment. And let’s not get started on the nausea I feel when remembering the panel I’m on at my first academic conference in June.

How ridiculous is all of that? What a staggering waste of time.

That’s what an anxiety disorder is. A sickening waste of time that makes you feel like a failure and a disappointment.

But here’s the thing. I will not let this fucking thing own me. I will not. Tomorrow is a rest day, but I will be back out there running on Wednesday. And Thursday. And Friday. I will go to Z’s work event on Thursday. I’ll drag my ass to therapy on Wednesday. And even if it takes all the Imodium on the eastern seaboard I will be a part of the fucking panel at the conference. Goddammit, I am doing a half marathon in October.

That bitch anxiety might be with me for the rest of my life. But I will not let her destroy me. I will not.

a and k post run

Still managed a smile at the end of the jog o shame.

sad and lovely elephant

Sad and lovely elephant we got to touch at the zoo. Her name is Siri.

luke fights palpatine

Luke Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine battling in the Death Star.

 

 

Who You Are

“So how do you feel?”

“Better. Good. I mean, I still cry a half dozen times a day…”

“What makes you cry?”

“Oh, you know. News stories. Stuff I read on the web. Every single time I watch Frozen.”

“But that is just who you are.”

It was a throwaway comment on the part of my therapist. At the moment I didn’t realize how much it would affect me. “That is just who you are.” The new medication is going well. And yet I am still who I am. What a tremendous relief.

One of the reasons the mentally ill are loathe to try drugs is because they don’t want to become someone else. They don’t avoid drugs because they think that their crazy defines them, or makes them unique, or gets them attention which are the reasons a lot of people assume are behind drug reticence. It is because they don’t want to lose who they have been at their core for their entire lives. I don’t want to lose who I am. It’s not like I’m so fabulous. But I’ve been me for 37 years. I’m used to myself.

With the right drug/s (and yes, finding the right drug/s can be a mighty struggle) you are still yourself. Just a functioning version of yourself.

Yesterday this post about a mother’s internal struggle with medicating her 10 year old who needed help showed up in my facebook feed. My heart ached for the anonymous author and for her son. As someone who needs drugs to function and sometimes to survive, as someone who worries I have passed my anxiety along to one of my sweet sons, I viscerally empathize with her.

At the same time I felt sick to my stomach by the time I finished the piece. I felt embarrassed and defensive and angry and hurt.

How do you give your child a controlled substance, addictive drugs, and act like it’s a normal thing to do?” she asks. She writes with brutal honesty about her struggle and I admire the hell out of her for it. But that question made me feel small and broken. I take an addictive controlled substance. I have every day for over a year. It is normal for me. I mean, what the fuck is normal anyway?

This mother. She is thoughtful, she is doing whatever needs to be done. “But on the other hand, how do you not try everything in your power to help your child who struggles every day of his life with demons you cannot beat down through sheer force of will and all the therapy money can buy?

Part of what hurts so deeply about the piece is she nailed it. All of it. How frightening and awful mental disorders can be. The fact that resorting to drugs makes you feel like a failure.

Psychotropic medication is a land mine of a topic. Controversy surrounding the over medication and diagnosis of kids with ADHD or adults with depression is well documented. And anecdotally who among those of us who went to college in the 90s or 00s didn’t know a dozen people who were given prozac at health services? The issue is real and a concern, but that isn’t what I’m talking about here.

I have mild asthma. When I occasionally have an asthma attack I use my inhaler and my attack stops. Every night I take a pill for my asthma/allergies. It effectively prevents attacks from happening the vast majority of the time. In fact, it is so effective that I started to believe I was taking it unnecessarily and let my prescription lapse. Two nights later I woke gasping for breath in the middle of an attack.

Brain drugs don’t work that way. Each brain responds differently to the type of drug, the amount, the time of day taken. And many drugs are prescribed off label, which means not for the use they were approved for originally. We just don’t know as much about the brain as we know about asthma.

Beyond the clusterfuck of finding the right drug is the fact that even if you have struggled with mental illness for years you have the nagging thought that you aren’t really unwell. You are just lazy and a coward. Progress is being made, but the idea that you should pull yourself up by your bootstraps and simply stop being sad or anxious or manic is prevalent in our society. Self loathing goes right along with many mental illnesses and it is hard not to buy into that, hard not to believe that you are making it all up.

And then there is the “what did I do wrong?” or “this is my fault” component.

During my lifetime I hope we get to the point where being treated with drugs for a mental illness is destigmatized and perceived as “normal” as using an inhaler for asthma. I hope it for the mother who wrote about her son, I hope it for that boy who is struggling, I hope it for myself.

mothers day

My sweet T and me on Mother’s Day.

c cow

Z took the boys to a big truck event at a local park yesterday.

t truck

T looks like a different kid with his short hair.

2 and 4

Two and Four for a little while longer. 2 wouldn’t look at the camera and 4 is doing all sorts of poses for the camera these days.

 

Zoo at the Zoo

Couple of weeks ago I was taking one of those time wasting “what are you?” quizzes that have been all over facebook recently. A handful of questions and it tells you what color you are. Z was reading over my shoulder. As the curser hovered across the choices he’d say, “Oh come on. Obviously you’d nap if you got a free day to yourself!” or “Go to a party or spend a night alone? Please. Alone every time.” My biggest concern was that I’d get orange (for newer readers I have an orange-phobia), but nope. I got black. The description was something like “you are in a bad place, but it is temporary”. It’s a stupid online test that clearly has a problem with introverts. It isn’t real in any way. But it made me feel pretty awful.

Life has gotten better this spring. The seasonal affective disorder that colors the first months of the year has lifted. I’m on new meds that (fingers and toes crossed) seem to actually be working. School is over and I met my deadlines. I’ve been managing my anxiety through expectations-the trip to New York and the UN was hard. I knew it was going to be hard going in and was ready for it.

When we pulled into the Zoo parking lot this morning there they were. Six full sized school buses with a river of children pouring out of them. The parking lot was crowded with their parent’s cars. As we wound through the congested pathway towards the entrance my heart climbed out of my chest and into my throat. By the time we got to the octopus display my throat was squeezing shut, doing its best to crush my heart. My pulse raced, I was lightheaded, my eyes burned and filled with tears.

Our zoo is usually empty when it opens. I assumed it would be today. The crowds caught me off guard and triggered the first full on panic attack I’ve had in ages.

The funny thing is I’d been doing so well lately that the stupid voice in my head has piped up with her opinion. She seems to think there has never really been anything wrong with me. My mental illness is an excuse in my head to be lazy. I don’t really have trouble leaving the house or dealing with large groups. It’s a lie I tell to get out of stuff. Because I’m a terrible person.

This morning I was reminded that I really cannot handle crowds, especially when I’m not expecting them. Of course the voice just changed her tactics. She told me it was pathetic that I couldn’t deal with a couple of buses worth of kids. I kind of agree with her.

When C started crying in front of the octopus tank I was ready to grab the boys and get the hell out of there. Instead we stayed for more than an hour. I’m not saying I will win any mom of the year awards for that hour. I was short with the boys. The damn tingling in my arm that accompanies the lightheadedness never went away. I fought tears until we were safely back in the car. But the boys did get to run around a bit. And I didn’t give in to this stupid disorder.

t in k hat

He pulled the hat right off my head. Yup, it’s still chilly here in Syracuse.

cadbury creme egg

This beautiful kid can destroy a Cadbury Creme Egg.

Mom Hypocrisy

“Have you received the packet in the mail yet?” C’s speech therapist asked me. When kids in Early Intervention turn three they are re-evaluated not only to assess if they still qualify for services, but because care shifts from the state to the school district.

“Nope.” I replied, “The case worker said she wasn’t submitting it till the end of the month.”

“Ok. So when the time comes I suggest you ask that a teacher be part of the team performing the actual evaluation. You are allowed to do that.”

“Oh….Ok….”

“A teacher will be able to figure out if there are behavioral issues that qualify for services.”

I froze. And then I blinked back tears. And then I plastered a stupid grin on my face.

“Oh….Um…Do you think his behavioral issues aren’t typical?” This conversation happened after I unloaded on her about how incredibly difficult he has been in the last week.

“I’m not sure, that really isn’t my area. Why don’t you talk to the special ed teacher in his classroom at school?”

It was hard to make the call to Early Intervention late last summer. Hard to admit I couldn’t teach my kid to talk. Hard to admit he was behind his peers. Hard to get over my own prejudices about what it means to have a kid in Early Intervention. But C’s struggles with speech were not about me. The best option for him was to get him help.

It has been amazing. I am in love with Early Intervention. His speech therapist is absolutely amazing. We adore her and she has helped C so much. Dude is rocking the three word sentences. He initiates conversation. His Star Wars related vocabulary is bizarrely gigantic. Hell, he barely squeaked by to qualify for six more months of therapy when he was re-evaluated last month.

His issues tested as strictly communication based. All the professionals think he is late to talk due to his health problems and the ear infections that took place the winter he was about 18 months old. I was secretly relieved. He isn’t unintelligent. In all other areas he tests as a typical child including emotional life and relationships. We identified a problem and we got our kid help. Was it hard to take that step? Fuck yeah. But the reasons behind his delay were reassuring and made the whole situation easier to accept. And he is responding so well to the speech therapy–the proof was right there when he crawled into our bed a few mornings ago and said to me, “Mommy! Wake up!”

Well, I’m an asshole.

The reasons behind his delay were reassuring and made the whole situation easier to accept?

Seriously? Who the fuck do I think I am?

Turns out I’m ok with early intervention when he only needs it for communication. The mere suggestion that there might be behavior issues freaked me out, horrified me, embarrassed me.

Not my kid. My kid is normal.

The next morning I asked the special ed teacher about C’s behavior. Turns out she and the lead teacher had been talking about it that very day. C is hitting. C is scratching (that morning T went to class with two wicked welts slashed across his neck care of his little brother).

Fuck.

The special ed teacher feels it is linked to the frustration that has accompanied his communication issues. He can’t ask for his turn fast enough when he is with his peers. He can’t speak up for himself before the conversation has moved forward.

The thoughts running through my head make me even more ashamed. I can’t bear to have my kid be a hitter. I can’t wrap my mind around having a kid with behavioral problems. Didn’t I always swear my kids would be respectful and well behaved? Me! Me! Me!

This is not about me. Duh. Obviously. DO YOU HEAR THAT KAREN?

This is not about me. This is about C and what he needs. This is about following through with our beliefs. Since C has been in early intervention I have self righteously said many times that if parents know their kid is behind developmentally or behaviorally they are making a costly mistake by not getting them help. Service are free for god’s sake. Who cares about labels, just get your kid help.

Who cares about labels? Evidently I do.

C deserves better.

Perhaps I should climb off my high horse.

Yes, we will make sure C is tested for behavioral issues. It is the right thing to do for him. But I will have that fake and rather alarming smile plastered to my face the whole time.

The team surrounding C both in school and in services is extraordinary. He is so lucky to be in a situation in which so many qualified and compassionate professionals have his best interests at heart. I am grateful to each one of them. And I could learn so much from them.

This early intervention thing is still surrounded with stigma. There is the worry that if you were a better parent your kid wouldn’t need them. Entering services is an admission that your family is not perfect. We look at the other families that do appear to be perfect, but we have no idea what goes on in their homes. That they might be looking at other families just as enviously as we look at them. And we can’t remember that perfection does not exist. The pressure our generation puts on itself to be perfect at this parenting gig is toxic.

Once again I find myself lacking as a Mom. Once again I vow to try and do better, to be the mother that my boy deserves. Jesus fucking christ this is hard. But those two boys of mine, they are worth every single moment.

c hugs yoda

He has so much love in him. We are going to keep working with him to get him on track with communication, and if he gets help from the school system for behavioral issues we will embrace it. His needs are what matters.

the other one

The other one. When T was sick with strep last week he and I were hard core cuddling on the sofa. He looked at me and said, “I think our family is perfect.” He was right. We might not be perfect in the textbook sense. But we are perfect for us. I wouldn’t trade my boys for anyone. And I still feel lucky to be married to Z. Perfect for us. The new definition of perfect.

Empire Half

When it comes to doing things that scare the living shit out of me I often need to sneak up on myself. Otherwise I wouldn’t take the plunge. Signing up for a half marathon was not on this morning’s agenda. One of the other Moms in C’s classroom at school is a runner. She’s relatively new to the sport, but she’s already done a marathon and a bunch of halves. A few weeks ago she suggested I do a half near Albany for my first try. Today I told her I was considering signing up for it. “Oh, that’s already full.” she told me. “You should sign up for the Empire State Half Marathon. It’s in Syracuse in October.” “Is it pretty flat?” I asked. I mean, let’s get real. I’m slow and 13.1 miles is going to be a mighty struggle for me. Hills and 13.1 miles would be an impossibility. She assured me there was only one big hill.

So I told myself not to think about it. I drove home on autopilot, pulled out my wallet, got on the website and signed up. I’m excited. I’m terrified. Thankfully October feels really far away.

When it comes to doing things that scare the living shit out of me I need to announce them as soon as I commit. That way I can’t talk myself out of whatever I’m doing without looking like a quitter. Shortly after writing a FB status update stating that October 19th is the day I do my first half marathon my wonderful friend A signed up as well. I’d been bugging her to visit this year, and now we are going to have an insane adventure together. Knowing she is going to be there makes the idea of the race less scary.

This past weekend my friend did her first 25K race. She has been a big inspiration for me when it comes to this whole running deal. The last time I saw her in person was less than I year ago and I told her I admired the hell out of her and simply couldn’t imagine ever doing what she did. A few weeks later I bought my first pair of running shoes and somehow made myself do it. A year ago I wouldn’t have believed I could get up on a Monday morning and jog more than three miles without stopping. It wouldn’t occur to me that a goal of 13.1 miles was a possibility. Somehow my friend’s support from a couple of hundred miles away has been a huge factor in helping me realize I can do this. She gleefully commented that she can’t wait for how much more I’m going to talk about poop when I start running longer distances. I responded that I didn’t think it was possible for me to talk about poop more than I already do.

A couple of hours later T and I had the following conversation. It might not be about running, but Kelly this one is for you:

The boys are on antibiotics. Which means the boys have diarrhea. In the middle of the day they get yogurt and applesauce doctored with probiotic powder, but even still the meds upset their bellies. Both of their parents have wicked IBS, they never had a chance in terms of tummy troubles.

This afternoon T was giving me a particularly satisfying hug when I asked him if he pooped at school today. He nodded his head. “Diarrhea or solid?” I asked. “Solid!” he gleefully replied. “Really?” He could hear the excitement in my voice. “Well….it was solid in the middle. Kind of liquid at the beginning and end. It was poop-arrhea.”

It is certain that poop-arrhea will become part of our family’s vocabulary. I mean, it is a magnificent word.

So brace yourself for more jogging talk. More poop talk. And please wish me luck!

C poops

Caught this guy behind the curtain. He hides when nature calls. I asked if he was pooping. “Noooooo!” he shouted. He was lying.

me and my boys

Me and my boys.

Back in the Saddle

If you’ve been kind enough to read here for a long time you’ve basically read this before. If you are my friend you have heard this before. I’m bored with this subject even before I begin writing…

The anxiety is really bad.

I’m having a hard time.

I hate myself.

I’m ashamed that I need drugs to function as a human being.

I feel like a bad example for my boys.

I feel guilty for occupying space in this world.

Someone as privileged as I am does not deserve to have a mental illness.

I’m trying a new drug.

Are you yawning yet?

I’m not doing very well. But the flipside is I’m kind of fine.

I’m taking care of the boys. I’m keeping up with my schoolwork. I make dinner. We host gatherings at our place regularly. When Z was part of a demonstration with Kronos Quartet I went and then went out to dinner with them all. I sat next to David Harrington and made small talk. I went to a fucking conference at the UN. I spent an evening with one of my best friends in the world and laughed and talked and felt….happy. Ok, so the jogging hasn’t been going well for about a month and a half. Last week I was only out once and this week twice. But god fucking damn it is March 23rd and right now it is 21 degrees with a biting wind. There was an inch of fresh snow on the roads this morning. And twice this week I took my kids to the doc’s (strep) instead of going for my jog. Life happens. And this weather is…well come on.

It would be easy to just wallow in how awful this disorder makes me feel without giving myself credit for progress. But I’m a Mom now, I cannot afford to be that self indulgent. I have worked hard and I am fighting back. It would be easy to stay in the place where I just hate myself and berate myself. Self loathing is one of the most comfortable states of being for me. I believe it with my whole heart, I’ve had years of practice.

This anxiety disorder isn’t something that I can fix or cure. It’s as much a part of me as my brown hair and freakishly pale and moley skin. That doesn’t mean I give up. In fact, I don’t give up anymore. I am in a really bad place, but I am fucking getting shit done. Do I cry a twenty times a day? Yup. Do I go to Z and tell him I can’t I can’t I can’t do it? Yup. Do I spend evenings after Z comes home in bed sure that I have strep myself, or a stomach bug, or cancer? All the time.

Do I finish my readings for class? I do. Do I turn in work late? I do not. Do I pay our bills? Mostly on time even! Do I make sure my boys feel loved and cared for? You bet your ass I do.

Things are not great. Z has to bear the brunt of it and I feel awful, guilty, ashamed. But I am also getting shit done.

The anxiety disorder didn’t just happened to me one day. It’s something that has always been. T has recently learned to say “Excuse me” after he burps or farts. I remember learning the same thing when I was his age. I also remember feeling terrible guilt and dread about all the times I burped and farted before I knew about the excuse me thing. After my parents tucked me in at night I would whisper “Excuse me” over and over and over to make up for those times I didn’t. I thought something terrible would happen unless I made up for my unknowing rudeness.

So it is a chronic condition. It kicks my ass over and over and over. It’s been kicking my ass since I was a little girl. And now I’m kicking ass right back.

The drug thing is the hardest part right now. Historically trying new drugs increases my anxiety. Ironic, huh? SSRIs, the class of drug most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression list increased anxiety as a common side effect. That’s how crazy people meds work. It is a guessing game and what is supposed to help you can make you much much worse. Abilify might have augmented the SSRI you were taking beautifully. It made me think I was losing my mind.

I was supposed to try a new drug after last winter’s experiment didn’t work. There was excuse after excuse-C wasn’t weaned, we were traveling, the fall is a really stressful time, the winter is a really stressful time, the spring is a really stressful time. Well, I put my big girl pants back on. New class of drugs, increased anxiety not a common side effect. In scary side effect world there just might be a rash that lands me in the hospital. I know one person who has taken this drug. After a couple of months that person’s hair started to fall out in clumps. But if this one works bald and crazy might be better than a nutjob with a full head of hair. And my Mom told me she’d buy me a wig.

The drug crapshoot began three days ago. If it doesn’t work we will figure something else out. Because even though I’m not doing alright I’m doing alright.

cheese

This little stinker. When he saw me grab my phone he shouted, “Cheese!”

hiding

My poor guy was hiding in the closet because he didn’t want to take his medicine after we got home from the doc’s office. I feel him. That violently pink “bubble gum” stuff smells disgusting.

boys better

Enough meds in both boys so they are no longer contagious or in pain. Strep sucks.

un pass

My UN pass!

Toy Section

We were at Target and had some time to kill while the pharmacy filled a prescription. Naturally T asked to go to the toy section. As we walked to the aisle with the Transformers I noticed the family already there. The father was a mountain of a man, physically intimidating. The mother was his opposite, a tiny slip of a woman with a hard face. Not kind judgements, but I’m trying to tell this story honestly. There was a baby in the shopping cart and a boy between the age of my kids walking around. The boy was being downright nasty to his parents and the Dad was getting angry. Frankly, the Dad was scaring me a little.

I turned the cart and headed for the lego aisle instead. The family made me uneasy. Again, not very kind. I was making a snap judgement, an unfair judgement, a judgement I try to prevent T from making when he looks at strangers.

The boys were having a blast looking at the Star Wars legos. I was having a pretty big internal struggle over avoiding the other family. The kid and the Dad were audibly bickering, but suddenly the father erupted. His shouting was so violent that my heart started pounding and I had goosebumps on my arms. “I AM SICK OF YOUR FUCKING SHIT. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT.”

T looked at me questioningly. I was frozen to the spot. I wasn’t a little scared anymore, I was terrified. If this man would talk to his three year old that way he might rip the head off a stranger who suggested he should tone it down.

T knew something was wrong, he looked at me for help and all I could do was stare blankly at him.

Listen, I know on this blog I swear like a sailor. But the truth is I try not to swear in front of the kids. I nag Z not to swear in front of them either. It isn’t cute to me when a kid says fuck or shit. Call me old fashioned, call me a raging hypocrite, but I don’t want my kids talking like that. And I try not to swear in anger. I try not to yell, “Fuck you!” at Z when we fight. To me swear words are fun, screaming them at someone equals loss of control loss and poisonous vitriol. I certainly have gone there in my life, more than I’d care to admit, but over the last nearly 16 years I’ve been with Z I try my damndest not to.

The poor kid being yelled at. I felt sick for him. What three year old deserves to be spoken to that way? Of course he was being a brat when I saw him earlier. He was clearly modeling behavior.

Z and I yell at the boys. Lately T has gotten a bit mouthy with me. Is it because I yell at him? Am I creating a monster? How different am I from that Dad? Is it just a slippery slope? How can I judge that man when I engage in a toned down version of the same behavior? Do I think I’m a better parent because I don’t yell in public or swear or lose total control? Is he actually more honest than I am?

The yelling stopped and I heard the family move away. I suggested T follow me in the opposite direction as I pushed C in our cart. Eventually we made our way back so T could salivate over his beloved Transformers. But I felt uncomfortable, ashamed, dirty even for the rest of our trip. Should I have spoken up for the poor kid? Who is going to protect him? What should I have said to T? He looked to me for answers and I gave him nothing. How dare I judge the family in the first place? How dare I feel momentarily vindicated in that judgement when the man freaked out?

Smart friends, what would you have done? What do you do when your kid is exposed to behavior you find abhorrent? What should I have done?

The most important task I have as a parent is to teach the boys to be decent humans. Yesterday I felt like a failure, a fraud.

chocolate drool

How about a funny picture to lighten things up? How about some post-dessert chocolate drool from my sweet mess of a boy?