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.

 

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.

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!

Missed Day

The whole time we were away visiting family over the holidays I didn’t miss a single jog. Timed my rest days as travel days, made it happen no matter what. Five days a week I was out there. And I had some big breakthroughs. Both my parents and in laws live in very hilly neighborhoods. The hills kicked my ass, but they also helped push me over the edge and under a 10 minute mile. Consistently. I’ve been chasing that goal since I did it once in October and it feels pretty damn terrific. One day I even jogged both miles under 10 minutes.

Now on to the next goal. Hopefully by spring I’ll get closer to breaking 9 minutes.

Because of obligations today, our first day home, I didn’t have a two hour window to get myself and the kids to the Y for a jog. The only time I had childcare coverage to go for a jog in our neighborhood the temp was 2 F with a windchill of god knows what, and call me a baby but I couldn’t hack it. I know it is a really small thing to complain about, but I’m pissed. I’m pissed that after two pretty difficult weeks of making the jog happen no matter what I failed on the first day home.

Of course it is bigger than than. I’m scared if I give myself permission to miss one day I’ll give myself permission to miss lots of days. I’m scared that the jogging is the only thing that is holding me together. My anxiety was pretty bad on the trip, traveling is always rough for me. The anxiety is under control when I stick to a routine. The chaos of figuring out sleeping arrangements for our growing families and siblings, the different routines all our kids adhere to in regular life tossed away, the decades of family…stuff. Well, frankly I’m historically a mess the week before we see family, during, and the week after.

(At this point I’d like to make clear that the travel is more than worth it. T is finally old enough to have meaningful relationships with the oldest cousins on each side of the family, and it is an indescribable joy to watch him and AG or him and G have fun with each other. Also all of our siblings are also playing the compromise game when it comes to the needs of their kids and they play it with an enormous amount of grace.)

This trip I felt like the jogging was a lifeline. It was a release and time just for me. It tempered the anxiety. Whenever I find anything that works against the evil bitch that rules my existence I clutch it in a death hold–yoga, pills, therapy, Z, jogging. Intellectually I know that I’m in there as well. I’m doing the work to get out from under her as she tries to suffocate me.

As we were pulling out of Z’s parent’s neighborhood yesterday morning I asked Z if he remembered a long car trip we took with his Mom and sister. He and I were probably recently married. It was well over a decade ago. Before we even left the boundaries of Winston-Salem I had to have them stop at a friends house so I could have horrific anxiety diarrhea (please, consider the humiliation of THAT little house call) and then right after we hit the highway I made my mother in law pull to the side of the road so I could scramble into the woods for another round. As Z and I (yup, he came with me) emerged some time later I saw a cop car pulling away-you are never supposed to stop on the side of a highway. I hated myself. It was an awful way to live. And it was absolutely normal for me. When I look back on that now I can queasily laugh at what a literal shit-show I was.

Sometimes the IBS is still terrible, but mostly I’m in a better place. I’ve done years of therapy, tried every drug under the sun, learned to trust that Z really does love me and doesn’t just stay with me out of obligation and pity.

The grip that I have on this life feels so fucking tenuous. Yes, I’ve done the work. Yes, I’m a mostly functioning member of society. But those who have suffered from a major depressive episode are statistically more likely to suffer from another. I mean dude, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I have the capacity to be actually fucking insane. The worst of it could come roaring back and there would be nothing I could ultimately do to stop it. Sure, we’d recognize the signs now. I have help already in place, I might not bottom out in such a spectacularly ruinous way. None of that means it won’t come back. I can’t prevent it. Z can’t prevent it. My shrink can’t. The love I have for my boys can’t. It is my most overwhelming fear.

Jogging has become a life preserver to me. I miss a day and in my addled mind I am a step away from a major psychotic episode. Um, how much better am I really? Don’t answer that. You better bet your ass I’m making it to the Y tomorrow, though.

last jog of vacation

The final jog of vacation.

leonard cousins

All the Leonard cousins.

cordano cousins

All the Cordano cousins.

skateboard

T was pretty excited about his Christmas skateboard.

Pacifier

This is my fault. I still think of C as a baby and it is a major disservice to him. He will always be my baby, T will also always be my baby. But C is the youngest, the last one. Accepting that he is growing up means accepting it is time to start letting go tiny bit by tiny bit, a torturous process I’m guessing I’ll wrestle with for the rest of my life.

His delayed speech has made it easier for the baby charade to continue. It’s been an excuse for so much. How can we transition him to a big boy bed if we can’t have a conversation with him? How can we potty train him? How can I wean him when he is so comforted by breastfeeding? How will he understand when we take the pacifier away? The truth is he understands language. I simply do not give him enough credit. It isn’t fair to him.

Last January we explained to him that he could only have the pacifier at night. Sometime over the spring he started taking two pacifiers to bed-one in his mouth, one to hold. And he’d switch back and forth between the two as he settled. Sometimes he’d lose them overnight and cry until we got them for him, but it was occasional-a small price to pay for a good night’s sleep. A couple of weeks ago he started losing the pacifiers more often. And more often. And more often. Suddenly Z and I have found ourselves up half a dozen times a night. We are at our wits’ end.

I need to be on a daily maintenance med for anxiety. Not only for my mental health, but for the health of the entire family. It isn’t fair to Z and the boys that the anxiety has been so acute lately. It puts a strain on everyone. I need to wean him in order to start the drugs. I’m still struggling with the letting go.

Parenting is triage so much of the time. It is easier to get up in the middle of the night every once in a while to pop a pacifier into his mouth than it is to deal with the struggle of taking the pacifier away. Until the day you wake up and realize you are getting up six times a night. A monster exists. And you created it by taking the path of least resistance.

So the time has come for us to do the hard work. Yesterday when C got up we asked if he was a big boy. He nodded. We told him big boys don’t need pacifiers. We suggested that we give all his pacifiers to our friend who is expecting a baby soon. We talked about it on and off all morning. I put him down for nap without one. It was terrible. He wept. I cried because when he hurts I hurt.

And then he slept for three and a half hours.

Last night it was another struggle, but he went down without a pacifier again. He did wake at 4am. And dude was up for the day. So this is going to take some work, this no pacifier deal, but we are facing it. We are back to making choices rather than letting the whims of a two year old dictate our behavior. He needs us to parent a hell of a lot more than he needs us to fetch his pacifier.

And in a few weeks I will wean him. The goal is for him to be done with the boob by the time we embark on our annual winter sojourn down south to see family. A friend was kind enough to come by yesterday to talk to me about how she weaned her daughter. She had great advice. And she listened, really listened to me. Which was a huge kindness. The talk made me feel armed with information. It reminded me that weaning him isn’t going to ruin his life. Kind of embarrassing that I needed that reminder, but I’ve gotten myself ridiculously spun up over this.

In other news, C’s speech therapy is going swimmingly. He has picked up a few words after about a month of sessions and both he and T love his therapist. He is working hard to overcome the communication issue. Z and I are working hard on letting him become a big boy.

bumblebee c

My littlest man rocking his brother’s Bumblebee costume.

family cuddles

The fam. Last night we cuddled on the sofa and watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

still running

The only social media my Dad follows is Instagram. He digs the pictures my sister and I post of our kiddos. Yesterday we were chatting and he asked me if I was still jogging. “Five days a week.” I told him. He wanted to know why I wasn’t posting pictures anymore. I told him I thought they were boring. And he told me it was the way he knew I was still doing it. He and my Mom have been wonderful cheerleaders during my foray into exercising. He asked for another picture. Guess he needs evidence. I’m in love with the top I’m wearing, by the by. Super comfortable and great for chilly days with the high neck and thumb slits so it goes over the hands.

Radio Silence

It’s been a shit week. Started off with T informing me I was fat. There was a stressful and involved homework assignment I left to the last minute. A terrible therapy session. Yesterday I wrote 700 words about the it. But they were the wrong words. I deleted the post. Found out that someone I loved a very long time ago lost a person close to him, a person I rather adored. C got another cold. The hot water heater broke rather dramatically to the tune of nearly a grand. The boys went on a sleeping strike. Z and I haven’t spent time together in, oh, I don’t know how long. The anxiety has been…..constant.

sad C

C in this moment=how I’ve felt all week.

Many other people experienced real tragedy over the last few days. I’m just being a whiney brat. But it is why I haven’t been writing.

Today wasn’t so bad. Found out a friend from a million years ago sent a scoby to me. Sometime next week I should be trying to figure out how to brew my own kombucha. Was the room mother for T’s class and had fun with my boy. Except when he told two gals that the tree he was playing under was “No girls allowed”. Yes, I might have performed an impromptu monologue straight out of a women’s issues class. But other than that heartbreak it was delightful.

bumblebee

T’s Halloween costume arrived in the mail this afternoon. He is rocking this look. One of the cooler parts of parenthood? Six months ago I had no idea who Bumblebee was. Personally I still don’t give a shit about him, but because T adores him he has sort of crept into my heart a little.

photo (20)

After a trip to Target to score Mommy more crazy lady drugs and the boys some more play doh (What? I don’t make my own play doh? I know! Call Child Protective Services!) I decided I was pretty much done with the week. Z wasn’t home for dinner. So we got take out, I told the boys we would pretend it was a picnic, cracked open a bottle of cider, and I threw in a Harry Potter Movie. T was pissed I made him take off the Bumblebee costume. But I was not born yesterday. And no, we don’t have a flatscreen TV. I realize we might be the only people on the planet. Someday I hope we join those living in the 21st century.

friday night

So there you have it. Rough week. Better Friday. Hey next week? Can we be friends?

August in Pictures

charlie tattoos z

We started the month with a trip to Baltimore so Z could get his 40th birthday tattoo.

Z finished the boat treehouse. It’s pretty damn awesome.

fondant transformers

T turned 4 on August 13th. He asked for a Transformers cake.

chowing down

Chowing down.

kate visit

A dear friend visited. T couldn’t get enough of her.

best tshirt ever

She brought me the coolest shirt in the history of the universe.

brunswick stew

Z decided we had to make Brunswick stew over a fire in the backyard.

backyard party

The boys had a joint birthday party on a perfect late summer day.

transformer pinata

The Transformer piñata was a hit.

cupcakes harry potter ninja turtel

So were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and Harry Potter cupcakes.

petting cow

We make it to the New York State Fair where the boys got to touch a beautiful cow.

T first roller coaster

T rode his first roller coaster.

ice cream at the fair

C indulged in some ice cream.

first day of school 2013

And yesterday Z had his first day of school.

I meant to write about all this stuff. This month has been filled with crazy and fun events, and it isn’t over yet. I have my first day of school today and C turns two on the 31st.

It has also been incredibly overwhelming. So my anxiety has gotten worse.

I meant to write about Baltimore, but I had an ugly anxiety episode at the hotel. I wanted to write about T’s birthday, his well visit at the pediatrician’s where he was such a grown up kid, I was proud of him. But I tormented myself over the damn fondant transformers. They kept falling apart, the proportions were wrong. I had to swallow my pride at making edible decorations and use toothpicks and superglue to get them to work. I wanted to write about our friend’s visit, our adventure with outdoor cooking. I went to bed early every night she was here. After getting the stew going I took meds and slept for several hours in the afternoon to escape the anxiety attack that was happening. And the boys party! I wanted to write about that. Evidently C said a sentence while Z and I were inside trying to calm T who had been stung by a bee. He was hysterical for an hour. Finally, as he cuddled on the sofa with Z, he said, “I’m just so embarrassed.” That child breaks my heart and cracks me up at the same time. But I spent much of the party inside, sure people weren’t having a good time, feeling paralyzed and dumb. At the state fair we walked by an exhibition of high school wrestlers. T was transfixed. He turned to me and said, “That is going to be me someday.” Oh man, I wanted to write about that. Last year at the fair I had a severe anxiety attack in front of the butter sculpture. It was awful, also admittedly really funny. I wasn’t sure I was going go this year until the last second-returning to the scene of an anxiety attack basically guarantees I’ll have another. I medicated before and during. I had some uncomfortable moments, but made it through.

That’s the thing. I made it through this month. And had some pretty damn terrific times as well. It isn’t all good or all bad. Last week I told my therapist that my rather naive hope had been that as I engaged more in life the anxiety would start to recede. That isn’t the case, she sits right next to me all the time. I understand now that she is never going to go away. I have to live with her. My therapist agreed. She pointed out that all the stuff I’d talked about doing for several years-taking a class, traveling with Z, doing more with the boys- it was all finally happening. I can avoid life and have an anxiety disorder and it will be painful and difficult. Or I can live life and have an anxiety disorder and it will be painful and difficult. But it will also be wonderful and fulfilling. The best I can do is choose to live. To take pictures of the good moments that might also be filled with doubt and fear and self loathing. To accept that it is complicated, that I have a husband who understands and will support me, that I have two terrific kids, that the anxiety disorder is never going away. But that doesn’t mean she wins.

Mole

“I don’t know if you noticed, but I have a mole on my check.” My hand self consciously drifted up to my face, my middle finger hovering over the offending mark. I don’t remember why I brought it up, don’t remember where we were or exactly when it was. But I was talking to my boyfriend and we’d been together for probably more than a year, which is forever to a kid in college.  It was the mid 90s and I don’t remember any specifics from the conversation except for what he said in return. “Oh, I noticed the first time I met you. And then I had to consider if I wanted to date you or not.” Ok, so I remember something else. I remember the shock of feeling like I’d been slapped, the burning and swelling in the back of my throat as I tried not to cry, the emptiness in the pit of my stomach, the worthlessness.

He confirmed my fears-I was a charity case, I was lucky when someone decided to look past my monstrous physicality to date me. All very hyperbolic, but I wasn’t just an insecure young woman, I was careening towards a mental breakdown and diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.

I hate the mole. I’ve hated it for a really long time.

We had to be back from our trip by the 28th because I had my yearly appointment with the dermatologist, or as I referred to it on Facebook my annual step-on-a-paper-naked-so-the-doc-can-shine-a-light-all-over-my-body humiliation/skin cancer screening. I was talking to my Mom about it a few weeks ago and she reminded me to ask them if the mole on my cheek was safe. I told her I asked every single year because I hate it so much, hoping that they’d tell me it must come off. But every time I am told that it is perfectly benign, that I’ll never have to have it removed. My hand drifted up to my face to worry the mole again, it’s a well ingrained response at this point. As I touched it myself I confided to her that when T and I chat he loves to reach over and play with it. I told her how awful it makes me feel and how I wish he’d stop.

“Well, find out how much it costs to get it removed.” she said.

I jumped right down her throat. Accused her of hating it so much that she wanted it gone, which was completely unfair. She explained that certainly wasn’t the case, but it was clear that I had a pretty big issue with it and if it would make me happy to get rid of it we could make that happen. She was being extremely decent, and not just about this. She was awesome the whole time Z was gone.

I told Z about the conversation when we facetimed that night-he was still in Japan. Of course he knows the history with the mole. I was shocked by his response. “No. NO! You cannot remove the mole. It is part of you. You can’t do it. I love it because it is part of your face.”

We work really hard not to say, “No.” to each other. We talk things out, we respect each others personal space. He was angry and I wasn’t sure why.

At the appointment on Friday I asked the question anyway. And surprisingly it’s under $200 to get it removed. I casually reported that news to Z when I came home. His was just as upset with the idea as he was the first time I brought it up. After a few hours I was able to tell him why his reaction hurt me. It was my body, my face. If I wanted to change it it was my choice. I wanted his opinion, I respected his thoughts, but ultimately it is up to me.

The problem is that anything having to do with my physicality is still fraught between the two of us. We have worked through so much in our relationship, but the self image stuff was so damaging to both of us it has sort of been easier to ignore. During my breakdown I used to think when anyone paid me a compliment that they were actually making fun of me. They pitied me, they thought I was stupid, and if they took the time to say something nice they were actively being cruel. I was very sick. I mean, obviously. Sick and narcissistic. Yup, even if you hate yourself you can be a narcissist if you believe that people are spending all their time thinking about you.

We don’t talk about how I look. Z doesn’t even want to offer a suggestion on what color nail polish I should get for a pedicure. He rarely tells me I look nice. Because he doesn’t want to have a fight about how I think he is making fun of me. Now, I’m nowhere near as bad off as I used to be, but I still don’t have self-confidence. I still look in the mirror and see an ogre. If he were to compliment me I surely wouldn’t say, “Thank you,” rather I would deflect. These are all problems, obviously there is a reason I’m still in therapy. All I can say is it’s on the list and I will be working on it.

So given our rather messy history it is even stranger that he would object so strongly to my desire to remove the mole. And when we talked he calmed down and told me of course it was my body and my decision. But he explained that when he was saying, “No” what he was telling me was he loves me exactly as I am and he doesn’t want me to change anything. He was telling me that he accepts me. He was telling me that my perceived imperfections aren’t necessarily imperfections to everyone. He was telling me he didn’t want that old boyfriend’s reaction that has festered in my head for more than 15 years to cause me to change who I am.

What a fucking tremendous gift. How lucky am I to have a husband who knows all of my physical and emotional imperfections and loves me anyway? How amazing is it that I’ve gotten so much better that I believe him when he says these things to me? Perhaps I should be focusing on that shit, rather than a stupid mole. A task that would be made much easier if T would keep his greasy little paws off of it…

mole

Here it is in all its unfiltered glory. Honestly, I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do.

matching tattoos

The boy and I got matching Star Wars Tattoos. We are with the Rebel Alliance in case you were wondering.

My first Instagram video. Also featuring my mole. Z and our friend C were planning the treehouse they will be building in our yard this summer. I’m looking on. We’re all drinking. It’s raining. Normal summer night at our house. Man, we love that porch.

Therapy After Therapy

Our babysitter pointed out that I keep threatening to have her over so Z and I can go on a date and it never happens. She was scheduled for late Wednesday afternoon and offered to stay longer than we needed so Z and I could grab dinner out. I was all set to tell her thanks, but no thanks. But I paused for a minute and thought about it. There were leftovers in the fridge for the boys’ dinner. Z and I don’t spend nearly enough time alone. He is leaving in about a month for a month. Why wouldn’t I say yes?

So after therapy we drove back home, ditched the cars in the driveway, and I linked my arm through his as we moseyed over to the self-proclaimed “Gastropub” that opened around the corner last fall. The restaurant was nearly empty which is perfect for someone with agoraphobic tendencies. And there is a big part of the problem. I’d make it more of a priority to go out with Z if going out wasn’t so damned hard for me.

A few weeks ago my parents, sister, and I gathered in the lobby of our hotel before getting in the car to head to my Uncle’s funeral. It ended up being a wonderful day full of love and family and hard goodbyes and gratefulness. As we were getting ready to head out the door I turned to my sister and said, “What is it like not being scared to go to an event?” She encouraged me and pointed out how great it was going to be to see everyone. But I was actually asking the question seriously. What is it like to not feel shackled by fear? Because every time I leave the house I wonder for at least a moment about how I can get out of whatever I’m doing. Even if it is something I enjoy. Before every class I have an excuse email composed in my head for my teacher. I have to force myself out the door and ignore the voice in my head that tells me I’m going to humiliate myself by participating in life.

Of course the vast majority of the time I end up enjoying what I’ve been dreading. I don’t humiliate myself. I feel glad I’ve engaged. Even when the experience outside the safety of my home is just sort of ok I’m proud of myself for doing it. Until I stop and realize that being proud of yourself for going to the grocery store is pathetic.

I’m embarrassed that the anticipatory anxiety disorder has made me into such a fearful person. I hate that I torture myself after every human interaction, sure that the person doesn’t like me, or that I said something offensive. And during a time when our marriage has taken a necessary backseat to getting through the overwhelming task of dealing with two toddler aged sons I despise that the disorder makes me even less likely to fight for time with Z.

During our meal we talked about having a quick date after every therapy session. “It’s like therapy after therapy.” Z said. Yup. And every bit as valuable as well as excellent motivation in terms of facing my fears about leaving the house.

Tomorrow morning Z and I are driving to New York. I am so excited for the trip. I am so scared of the trip. I hate that I want to bail on something I know is going to be incredible. But I’m fucking doing it. Even if it takes a truckload of imodium and lorazepam I am getting in that car. How is that for romance?

k and t haircut

When T and I got our hair cut a few weeks ago I showed this picture to Z. “Is that the woman who cuts your hair?” he asked. “Um, no Zeke….it’s me.” He insists it looks nothing like me. I fear that after nearly 15 years together he wouldn’t be able to pick me out of a lineup.

naked snacks

Naked snack time!

t and the princesses

He is obsessed with Disney Princesses right now.