Friends and parents: I need your help.
Here’s a quickie…
Since T was born I’ve thought a lot about love. What new parent doesn’t? I’ve written about it before, but it drives me bonkers when existing parents tell expectant parents that they don’t know what love is until they have a child. That sentiment insults me so much. I feel like it trivializes the kind of love you feel in your life before parenthood. And those who choose to remain childless? Does this mean they go through their lives never really experiencing love? What an ignorant and insulting thought!
And yet the love a parent has for a child is a powerful thing. I maintain that I do not love T more than I love Z. And I don’t want to love T more. Part of it is self preservation. In 20 years T is going to be out of my daily life. But, God willing, Z will still be in it. I don’t want to forget our relationship, or put it on the backburner because our relationship is my every single day for forever.
But back to the love for a child—here is my theory for what it is worth; the love you feel for a baby is the easiest love in the world. Parenting is hard work, but loving that little creature is so effortless it is insane. My love for Z is unbelievably difficult in comparison. We need to work on it all the time. In fact, it became so hard a few years ago we almost abandoned it. I know T will drive me crazy over the years, but I don’t see it ever getting harder to love him. Who knows, maybe I’ll be completely wrong. I’ll have to remember to revisit it in a decade…
Yup, loving him is the easiest thing in the world.
This morning my mother left town, that coupled with the fact that T and I are sick and my hormones are all over the place has made me very blue. Kind of nervous makingly blue. And it has me thinking about my pesky agoraphobia, which has slowly gotten worse since the move to Syracuse.
It isn’t a problem for me to have people over to my house. Over the last year I’ve made one good friend here in sunny Syracuse (hey-one friend a year is really good for me) and most of the time we hang out at my place. Occasionally I will head over to her place, which is doable because it is less than two blocks away. And very occasionally I will take a walk with her and her kids. Luckily we have discussed the agoraphobia, so she understands where my crazy behavior is coming from. She has invited us over to her place for a lovely cook out for friends on Easter, when Z was out of town she invited me over for dinner, two days after T’s birthday (which she gamely attended with her kids) she invited us to her son’s 5th birthday. T and Z attended Easter and the birthday party; I attended none of the above. For Easter and the party I was sick, but even if I wasn’t I don’t think I would have made it. Just thinking about social events where I don’t know people makes my stomach cramp up in fear.
And to be crystal clear this woman is my friend. I thoroughly enjoy her company, the company of her kids and her husband.
I feel so guilty that I can’t seem to reciprocate friendship when it requires me to leave the house. When we lived in Rhode Island and I was in charge of supporting us financially the agoraphobia became more manageable than it had been for years. In order to pay rent I had to go to work. So I went. I even made it to the vast majority of meetings I was required to attend at the regional office, although I made excuses in my head to get out of them up until the moment I got in the car every single time. And getting to work made it easier for me to make it to social events. I had a couple of friends. We socialized. I even went to a lot of Z’s grad school events. And art school events are trying even to those without agoraphobia.
But there isn’t an imperative that requires me to leave the house any more. And the longer I stay home the harder it gets to leave. I need structure. I need a reason to leave, but it is so easy to ignore that. We love our house. We love our yard. I am happy for the most part. And that is what scares me the most. Being happy to indulge in my agoraphobia is not acceptable. I’m just not sure how to do anything about it.
Three nights ago I woke up in the middle of the night scratching my legs. I can’t fall back asleep unless I pee, so I dragged myself to the bathroom and when I was done I glanced in the mirror. I had swollen bug bites all over my arms. On closer inspection they were all over my legs as well. I was itchy all over and starting to panic. For the next hour I researched bed bugs online and when I developed a plan of action I went back to bed. Z was stirring so I showed him the bites. He said he didn’t have any and promptly fell back asleep. He had to get up a few hours later to get on a plane so he wasn’t around for my manic cleaning session the next morning.
We are not tidy people. When it comes to cleaning I seem to move dirt around rather than eliminate it. My mother is a talented cleaner and I wish a tiny part of her cleaning genes were passed on to me. But instead I got her self proclaimed crappy hair. But I was so horrified about the bed bugs that I went into crazy cleaning overdrive. While T napped I got started on 5 loads of laundry and I vacuumed the mattress on all sides, pulled it off the base of the bed, and cleaned the wooden frame. I didn’t see a trace of bed bugs anywhere and after my hour of research on the computer I knew exactly what to look for.
That evening I got T down for the night without incident and ordered takeout from my favorite place. Turns out there was a NCIS marathon on TV (NCIS is my shameful guilty pleasure), Z might have been gone but it was turning into a pretty darn good night. Except I was getting more bug bites. And I was having an allergic reaction again. I was freaking out-there must be bed bugs in the sofa. I went to bed slathered in anti itch cream. And the bites and reactions got worse. A lot worse. I had the lights on and desperately searched for bugs yet I saw nothing. I felt like I was going crazy. When I woke the next morning the bites and rash were gone.
I spent a long time vacuuming the sofa in the morning. Again, no sign of bugs. The idea of spider bites had been floated by several people I called in a panic. And then later in the afternoon a friend came over and I told her the story. She very surely said it was clearly an anxiety reaction. I very surely said I didn’t think so. My anxiety is pretty damn reliable. It has manifested itself in the same ways for more than 20 years. I just don’t randomly get new manifestations. But a few hours later Z floated the same theory over the phone. So I thought about it. There really weren’t any bugs at all. What the hell was going on?
As soon as I had T down for the night it started again. And it was by far the most severe outbreak. I googled anxiety rash and found pictures of hives. They looked exactly like my reactions. I tried my best to relax so the itching and marks would go away, but no luck. It spread all over my body, I think knowing what it was made it worse. Finally I took some Benadryl and was able to sleep through the night. In the morning the marks were again gone.
Zeke is home tonight. I’m curious to see if the hives come back. If so I’m going to have to call the doctor. And this is definitely going to be the number one topic at therapy this week. The thing is I don’t like being in the house alone overnight. I get scared. I had been dreading Z’s trip since we figured out he needed to make it without us. But despite the dread I thought I was handling it really well. I thought I was totally fine.
There is a big part of me that doesn’t believe that mental illness is real. I should be able to pull myself up by my boot straps. I had a privileged and charmed upbringing. People like me are so lucky they don’t deserve to have mental illness. The shame I feel about my condition only ends up feeding it. Then every once in a while something like this happens. And I am floored by how powerful the brain is. My brain is actually making my body have a physical reaction. Without my permission. It is amazing and horrifying and embarrassing all at the same time. A few nights ago I didn’t think there would be anything more embarrassing than having bed bugs, but turns out being bat shit crazy wins every time.