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.

 

 

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A Horror Story

Friends, I cannot sugar coat this. Just need to come out and say it. C took a dump on my pillow this evening.

While I’m sure he was just looking for a soft place for his shit to land, I can’t help but take it a little personally.

C spends much of his time naked from the waist down these days. We are potty training. Or he is potty training. He doesn’t really want Z and me involved. He pees on the floor. Panics. Cries. Runs to the bathroom. When he is wearing a pull up he pees. Shouts, “I poop! I poop!” while standing there bow-legged. Cries. Takes off his pants and pull ups and runs to the bathroom. We have hardwood floors throughout the entire house. Peeing on them isn’t a huge deal to clean up. It is part of potty training. We are cool with it.

Bottom line: progress is being made. He has only actually peed on the pot a handful of times, but he willingly goes to the bathroom himself about a dozen times a day. He sits there. Shouts, “I peed!” Wipes his balls with a square of toilet paper (yeah, not sure what that is about). Flushes the toilet. Except for the fact that we are wasting a horrifying amount of water, and he is completely delusional about actually peeing, things are going well.

Cut to tonight. The fam got home from a stroll to our friends’ house to drop off a food container. C ran inside. I started weeding. T and Z collected helicopter seeds from our maple tree into Z’s hat and took turns climbing into the treehouse and throwing them on each other’s heads.

C really likes to do his own thing. T ran towards the house and told us C was watching TV. Not ideal while the rest of us were enjoying being outside, but whatever.

And here is why you never “whatever” when a two and a half year old is involved. We came inside and the TV was off. C wasn’t on the first floor. Ominously his pull up and pants were on the floor of the downstairs bathroom. We headed upstairs as C sauntered out of Z and my bedroom. “I pooped!” he crowed.

Being he confuses poop and pee on the regular I wasn’t alarmed. Just annoyed that I’d be cleaning pee in my bedroom. Z was ahead of me and I heard, “Oh man. Charlie! Oh no.” I picked up the pace. Two turds. Two. Glistening on my pillowcase. C with some unnecessary bravado, “I pooped!”

After bathing the boys I noticed some shit on my pants and on my hands. Still not sure where and when the point of transfer was. Just washed my hands throughly, threw the jeans in the washing machine, and felt thoroughly defeated by life. And by poop.

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This is the face of a woman who has spent too much time cleaning poop.

tiny hiney

Moments later he peed all over the porch.

happy t

One of his teachers sent this to Z. He was proud of the magnet bundle he made. I’m proud because he didn’t poop on any of my belongings today.

 

Fun Run

Years ago a friend who was moving back to her small hometown from Brooklyn said to us, “I’m a city mouse or a country mouse, not a suburb mouse.” For some reason it really stuck with me.

The suburbs were where I was raised and my childhood was pretty great. But as an adult I’ve found I’m a city mouse. Period. In fact, since moving to Manhattan in 1998 I’ve only lived in cities – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Providence, Syracuse. When we moved to Syracuse Z wanted to live on a big piece of land with a barn in the middle of nowhere. I had visions of being snowbound with a newborn and no chance of making friends. I mean, it is hard enough for someone with an anxiety disorder and a side of agoraphobic tendencies to meet people without throwing a remote location into the mix. If there wasn’t a small business district I could walk to it would be all over for me.

Every place has its pro and cons, city living is no different. But Syracuse has been pretty ideal for our family. We have the privacy of a single family home with a lovely yard, there are close parks, a library just 2 blocks away, several restaurants and coffee shops nearby, hell there is a live music venue. And we are surrounded by friends. If Z and I sit on the porch after putting the boys to bed within a couple of minutes someone we know will walk by.

It’s idyllic (right, Jeff?), but not perfect. There is crime — folks in the neighborhood have had break ins and cars stolen. We have had several alarming run ins with drunk college students that made me feel pretty unsafe. We get tons of folks trying to sell stuff — religion, natural gas, politics, floor cleaners, knocking on our door. For the snowiest city in America the street plowing sucks compared to the ‘burbs. Alternate side of the street parking is a pain in the ass to begin with, ours bizarrely switches over at 6pm.

It’s not perfect. The bottom line is the pros heavily outweigh the cons. We love it here.

There is a University Neighborhood Preservation Association that arranged a neighborhood kids fun run at a local park this morning. They plan on doing it annually, this year was the maiden run. The small kids (mostly with parent accompaniment) did half a mile and older kids did a 3K. T has been making noises about going running with me, when I saw the email last week this seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

We got to the park in time to snag a t-shirt and number for T. He told me he didn’t want to run with me so I let him stand up front and moved back and to the side a bit. He took off like a bat out of hell. I caught up to him about a 10th of a mile in. And we ran together. He started to slow just as we reached the half way point but I told him it would be awesome to say he’d run a quarter of a mile so he kept on going. He did walk a few steps several times on the back quarter, but dude ran most of it. He even seemed to be trying to keep pace with a family a bit ahead of us. He ran across the finish line and got his medal. I was absolutely bursting with joy and pride.

We found Z and C and were chatting with friends when T turned to me, “Mom? I need to talk to the lady with the medals again!” “Oh, ok.” We set off to find her. I was a bit distracted and didn’t ask him why he needed to speak to her. I was assuming he was unhappy with the color of the ribbon that the medal was on.

He approached her and said, “Excuse me. Can I have a medal for my little brother?” All that joy and pride I felt when he finished a few minutes earlier? It was nothing compared to how I felt at that moment. I do not think I have ever been more proud of my son.

I explained to him that we only paid for him to race and we couldn’t take another medal. The lady fished around in her jacket pocket and pulled out a bag full of toy medals, probably from Party City. She said they got them for younger siblings and she handed one to C who had wandered over.

This morning was wonderful. It was the exact reason this whole exhausting, frustrating roller coaster of a ride called parenthood is worth it.

pre race

Pre race. All the kiddos got number 1.

http://web.stagram.com/p/723443296559264241_28315859

Race action! YouTube won’t upload my video and though I have been called a computer savant (lies) I can’t figure out to embed a video from instagram. Or why the video restarts weirdly at the end. Sorry to make seeing the video one more step. These dang computer boxes scare the hell out of me with their high falutin’ ways and their…what do ya call it? Technology.

post race

We facetimed with my folks while the boys were in the tub tonight. My father asked T how far the race was. “50 miles!” he shouted. I laughed so hard. It probably did feel like 50 miles to him.

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.

 

When Motherhood Can Bite Me

C is nearing 3. The age when T actually grew horns. T’s 4th year has been so great it has sort of erased some of the horror of his 3rd year from our memory. But the fog is lifting and we are starting to remember how rough T was. Um, yeah, we actually decided that we weren’t going to have a third kid when T was three.

The whole terrible twos thing is a joke. At least for our kids. Three is a fucking beast of an age. I get it that sucks for the kid as well. Three year olds are desperately trying to assert their independence while scrabbling for a modicum of control over their lives. They are told no all day long. They are expected to start behaving themselves at preschool and in public. So they rebel.

C was exhausted after school. So he refused to nap. Therefore he was an absolute delight at Wegmans. By which I mean he was a raging asshole to the woman who checked us out and was trying really hard to be nice to him. T had a T-ball game tonight. Z is in Baltimore overnight so I was flying solo. Naturally I got us lost on the way to the game. Naturally C screamed, “NO! NO! NO!” every time I asked him to do something or tried to prevent him from doing stuff he shouldn’t have been doing. Let me tell you, that kid can scream. If I picked him up he’d scratch at my face or hit me.

We are doing a fantastic job raising our little gentlemen.

Actually, it’s pretty humiliating. I feel like everyone must think I’m the shittiest mom in the world when he throws tantrums in public. Sometimes I am scared to take him places he is such a loose cannon.

The game mercifully ended and we headed home. C was drinking a juice box, his newest fascination. T doesn’t like juice boxes so we don’t have them hanging around. Now, let’s be real. I shouldn’t have trusted him to have the box in the car. Sure enough and with T’s encouragement I caught him spraying juice everywhere.

Finally we were back home, the juice got cleaned up, I called Z so he could say goodnight to the boys. I sank into the sofa, not really paying attention to what C was doing.

I felt an explosion of pain on the side of my face.

C climbed on the arm of the sofa, turned around, and basically trust falled the back of his skull into my cheekbone.

So here is what I learned about motherhood today. Sometimes you are so mad at your kid you have trouble looking them in the face. Sometimes you are embarrassed because you know tomorrow morning you are going to have a prominent shiner that you will have to explain to the world. Sometimes you are fed up and exhausted and want to scream, “FUCK YOU CHILDREN! FUCK YOU! PUT YOURSELVES TO BED GOD DAMN IT! I’M GOING TO THE BAR FOR A DRINK OR SIX!”

And I’m a little ashamed to admit how hard this was for me. With difficulty I didn’t scream at him. Instead I bathed him, read to him, sang to him, and cuddled with him. I wanted to just dump C in his room and walk away. But I explained why I was upset that he hurt me (and I understand he was not actively trying to bust up my face, he probably thought he’d fall in my lap). Then we did stories and songs and cuddles like usual. Did I have to fake it? Um, yes. Did I want to be vindictive and deny him his routine? Um, yes. My face really hurt and the day was really shitty.

What I learned tonight is when you are alone with the kids it doesn’t matter what happens. You have to keep it together and be a mom. Now, you wise folks probably figured that out ages ago. I’m slow. And selfish. But I did it tonight. I didn’t do it gracefully. There might have been some serious muttering under my breath.

But I did it. Maybe I don’t get a gold star today. At least I didn’t fail.

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My cheekbone doesn’t usually look like you could use it to cut glass.

IMG_1963

This is what T was doing in Baltimore. Pretty fucking amazing.

IMG_1962

Process shot. And Pain shot. I’d never have enough courage to do ribs. My dude is hard core.

Karen’s Haircut Shop

You know those weeks when you’ve left a power point presentation till the night before? When your kids are seemingly possessed by the devil? When your clothes dryer breaks and homeownership suddenly doesn’t seem so cool? When your kid’s rash keeps getting more and more alarming but you need to ignore it until you have a bit more free time? (We went to the doc’s yesterday–it’s papular acrodermatitis, the doc printed out pages from a rash book otherwise I wouldn’t remember. And the bottom line is that while it looks alarming it isn’t hurting him or contagious) When you attempt fartleks for the first time and realize you aren’t actually in very good shape even though you’ve been jogging for almost a year? (Although how fucking awesome is it that there is a running term called fartlek?)

Well it has been one of those weeks.

And last night I did this to my child.

bad haircut

I cut his hair, felt like it looked ok (I’m blaming exhaustion and a shitty week for that astonishing lack of good judgment), and sent him to bed. Seriously. This was not in the middle of the cut. This what was the original end of the cut. When he got up this morning I saw what I’d done.

fixed kind of

Ok. So I don’t have skills with a pair of scissors. But I do have a heart somewhere deep down and went much shorter than I was planning. Look. I didn’t want to cut his hair at all. I was trying to trick him into growing it long again. But Z brought him home from T-ball on Tuesday night with a head of wet hair. From sweat. I still resisted, but Z shamed me into putting my poor child’s personal comfort over my desired aesthetics. Yes, the boys are lucky to have one sane parent.

not so bad

Then I did this guy. Comparatively not too bad!

post fartleks

Post fartleks. Feeling the pain big time.

Mother’s Day

Special occasions delight me. I love celebrating. I relish picking out the perfect present for a loved one, love making an elaborate cake for the birthdays of people in my life, and let’s be honest–I love getting presents myself.

Mother’s Day is difficult for many people and for many reasons. Like all holidays in our society of excess it is shoved down our throats, placing demands on us rather than fostering sincere appreciation.

If we avoided celebrating everything that caused sadness and hurt in others there would be nothing left to celebrate. I feel for my friends and family who dread this holiday. I want to be able to take their pain away. But I’ve decided not to feel guilty about enjoying it myself.

On this day I’m not looking for flowers and jewelry and a meal at a fancy restaurant. If that stuff is your jam, I hope you got it! To each his own.

But Mother’s Day reminds me to think about my own Mom. My appreciation for her has exploded since I’ve become a Mom myself. I understand her so much better. She has been more than I could have imagined as a Grandma. I love watching her with my boys. Mother’s Day reminds me to look at my big boy who will be headed to kindergarten in the fall and remember the tiny peanut he was, how he gave me the gift of motherhood, one of the most extraordinary gifts I will ever receive. Mother’s Day reminds me that Z decided he wanted to have kids with me, even after it became clear that I was a crazy person. Mother’s Day reminds me of the joy mothering a second baby because you know you can do it. My love for C has a confidence in it because I’ve been to this rodeo before. Mother’s Day reminds me of the twins I miscarried, they will always be a part of me and they will always be loved. It isn’t that I don’t think about those things all the time, but a day set aside to really give them attention is a gift.

Let’s get real, Z also makes sure I get to sleep in.

This year Z asked what I wanted to do with the day and I told him the only thing I really wanted to do was get a long run in.

The other thing I do on all holidays is reflect on the last year. I think about how different we all were just 365 days ago. And on last Mother’s Day if you told me that I’d ask for the time to complete a 5 mile run in exactly one year I would have said, “You. Are. Fucking. Insane.”

And yet, here we are.

Today’s run was a mess. I haven’t done 5 miles for a few months. I haven’t made it out 5 times a week for about that long. The winter was so frigid and snowy, I got a sinus infection and the flu, schoolwork was overwhelming. These are simply excuses, but they are the truth. This week I did 4 runs and really listened to my body. Ramping up milage too fast can cause injury and I do not want to mess up and get hurt before the half marathon this October. I was sore and hurting so on the 5th day I did yoga. Today marks the start of a new week and I’d had two days of rest. I was doing 5 miles, damn it.

I did them. The slowest 5 I’ve ever done. It was sunny and in the 60s and I didn’t bring water. The new shorts with the built in bicycle pant thingies road up and I got fierce chafe on my thigh chub. I wanted to walk half way into the second mile. But I told myself I’d fix those problems next time. I told myself to keep on going. I told myself I can do hard things. And I did them.

The fact that they were ugly miles made them even more valuable to me. Because they perfectly illustrate what I’ve learned this year. I’ve learned I actually can to hard things. I’ve learned endurance. I’ve learned I’m stronger than I thought. I’ve learned to make impossible goals. And then figure out how to reach them.

Next Sunday T and I are going to do a 1/2 mile fun run at a local park. I’m proud that he is interested in running and excited we can do it together.

I couldn’t have run 1/2 a mile last mothers day. This year I can do it with ease. Day to day it is hard to see the changes we make in our lives. But what a difference a year makes.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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A shaky, dehydrated mess. But a PROUD shaky, dehydrated mess.

mother day presents

My Mother’s Day presents. By which I mean T & C’s Mother’s Day presents.  Now I know why T was so excited to give them to me.

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My Mama loving her girls on the boardwalk down the shore.