Running While Anxious

Before joining the masses at the start of the half marathon last October I took half of a benzo. To run 13.1 miles in a crowd of other people I had to take a controlled substance that works as a sedative. I also took 3 or 4 Imodium, can’t remember which.

I have an anxiety disorder and IBS. The benzos are prescribed to me by a medical professional and I use them responsibly. The way I pop Imodium like candy is probably worse for my body. But I’m not interesting in shitting myself. Again.

The benzo brought my anxiety to a manageable level and I was able to run the damn race. But it pisses me off that I needed it. After more than two decades I’m still angry that I have an anxiety disorder. Angry and really embarrassed. And then angry that I am embarrassed.

Nearly half way through another training program for a half marathon in March, and I am discouraged. It has been weeks since I’ve completed the distance assigned for a long run. The weather hasn’t been cooperating. I suck at the treadmill under regular circumstances, but I simply don’t have it in me to do 12 miles on one.

At some point along the way I have started to tie my emotional well being and self worth to running. If I don’t do what the running app on my phone tells me to do it means the anxiety is winning and that I suck ass. Running still provides me with many more positives than it does negatives. This fall it helped me function through some intense anxiety. It has made me feel easier in my body. My self confidence has improved a bit. I have more energy.

Like all good things in my life the anxiety tells me not to trust it. Slowly running has become an adversary. If I reach my running goals, well good for me. But if I fail that is a victory for the anxiety. When the anxiety is in control I want to give up. I want to fail to provide irrefutable evidence that I am worthless and pathetic.

Well fuck that noise. Fuck it.

I have this friend who is a fantastic person. She is funny and good company. She is smart and interesting and successful. She is the kind of person that others want to be more like. In conversation she casually mentioned that she has great self confidence. A couple of minutes later I really digested what she said. And I wanted to ask her how that works. I wanted to know what it is like to look in the mirror and think the person who is looking back at you rocks. I want that so badly. But the conversation had shifted, the moment had passed.

My anxiety tells me if I think anything good about myself I am vain and self absorbed. But my friend is not vain and self absorbed. That is not what confidence means no matter what that bitch anxiety has been whispering in my ear for more than 20 years.

Last week I signed up for the Empire State Marathon. On the eve of my 37th birthday I made a resolution to run a marathon before I turn 40. October 18th is the day I try to meet that goal. And if I don’t do it that day? I still have exactly one year and two months to make it happen.

Anxiety is not going to take running from me. I am fighting back.

frozen water

Only managed 8 of the 12 I was supposed to do yesterday. It was so cold my water started to freeze.

yaktrax

Wearing Yaktrax means avoiding the treadmill for another day.

running pasta

My sisters-in-law gave me running pasta for my birthday. It made dinner a lot of fun.

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Drop Off

“So remember, I’m not going help…”

He cut me off. “I know, I know, Mom. I am going to put my stuff in my cubby myself. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy!”

Easy-peasy lemon squeezy is something his most excellent kindergarten teacher says.

T has changed so much in the short time he has been in kindergarten. He is growing into his own person. It is messy and exciting and wonderful and sort of heartbreaking. I looked over at him this morning while I was strapping his brother into the car seat. His hair was swept up under his winter hat which was framing his face. I saw the baby, the hilarious and bald baby, that he used to be. Man, I miss that baby. I looked at his face and start to laugh. He looked back at me and laughed himself.

“What?”

I smiled. And sighed. And suddenly was blinking back tears. “Nothing. I love you.”

We looked at each other and started laughing again.

I’m pretty much the definition of over-sharer. I know, understatement of the year. But many of the moments involving T that crack me up, or teach me something, or drive me up the wall are starting to seem like his stories. He should get to choose to share them or not. He isn’t going to disappear from the blog altogether, but I’m going to do something very hard for me and try to have some actual discretion when it comes to him.

At the beginning of November I told T we would work towards me dropping him off at school in the morning rather than coming in with him to get him settled. His teacher said he was ready. He panicked.

We decided we would take the month to slowly get used to the big step and have him ready by December. December came and I was no closer to dropping him off. Even though it meant C was late to school every day. Even though T’s teacher said he was ready. Even though I knew deep down that T was ready. Because it turns out I was not ready. I like walking him into the building and having the opportunity to check in with his teacher. I like feeling involved with his school life. I don’t want to let my boy go. When I think of dropping him off outside…it is another 10 minutes of his day that I’ve lost. I feel left behind.

I feel left behind. And when I realized that it became very clear that it was time to make the drop off happen. I can’t keep him close because it hurts me too much to let him go. It would be a different story if he needed me for a while longer, but he doesn’t. I’m holding him back. My job is to let him go. It is the best job I’ll ever have. And the hardest. I cannot tie my happiness to him. It isn’t fair to either of us.

It might seem early to start worrying about letting him go, but if I don’t start now it will be impossible when he is grown. If the idea of letting the kid walk to the door of his school, without crossing a street, with me watching him the whole time is tearing my heart out how is going to feel when he is ready to go to college? I need to get used to him growing up and away and into himself. Because it will happen in a million tiny steps between now and when he is a man.

So we started the work on Tuesday. I told him he needed to get his stuff settled without me, but I’d stand nearby. It didn’t work. He told me he couldn’t do it and begged for help. We talked more about it Tuesday night. He did better on Wednesday. I thought we would struggle for a few more weeks, but this morning he was all “easy-peasy lemon squeezy”!

He didn’t struggle this morning. I did.

skinny jeans

I mean, look at him! He is an honest to god kid!

floris hoodie

Hamming it up in a hoodie I wore to kindergarten at Floris Elementary a million years ago.

inside the lego table

Brothers in the lego table. Not allowed anymore. Because it is now falling apart, probably because the boys were sitting it in….

Navigating Early Intervention

“Do you know how lucky we are?” Z asked me as we drove toward the school where we would receive the results from C’s Early Intervention Evaluation. “Seven highly trained adults. Seven. Gave him their full attention for two and a half hours this morning.”

“I know. I know you are right. I know.”

“We are so lucky, so privileged to have access to this kind of help for him.”

“Yes. We are.”

I had told him I was sick to my stomach over getting the results of the evaluation. We spent the morning sitting behind a two way mirror observing his test while answering hundreds of questions about him.

We watched the meltdown he had an hour into the test. They redirected him and got him back on track. We watched as he was able to focus. We watched him eat his snack and get back to testing and we watched him fade until he was asked if he was all done. “All done.” he replied firmly.

Midway through the process one of the evaluators came into the observation room and mentioned Sensory Issues and I froze as dread crept up my spine. After she left I found myself standing and delivering a wild and nonsensical monologue to another woman in the room that touched on over-diagnosis and over-medication of ADHD (not even the reason we were there) and how if you look at any kid long enough you start to see something wrong with them.

Before the outburst I’d told myself I’d stay cool. We were doing what was best for C and that is what mattered. This whole thing was not a value judgment on him or on our parenting.

And yet, suddenly I was the parent who did not want to hear it.

Looking back on the last year I realized I never wanted to hear it. Every time I explained to someone that C received speech therapy I would casually explain that he had terrible ear infections and health problems when his speech should have been developing. I’d slip in that he tested normal in all other areas. Except I’m realizing now I wasn’t casual at all. I’m sure that I seemed oblivious and petty and desperate.

The emotions aren’t new. The fear, guilt, defensiveness, and worry. How could I not be able to teach my kid to meet developmental milestones? What is wrong with my parenting? Is this my fault? And there is a stigma for services. How the hell do I get over my own embarrassment so I can teach C he has nothing to be ashamed of?

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In New York the Early Intervention provider switches from the state for two year olds to the local school system for three year olds. So another set of standardized tests are performed. During the week leading up to the test he was observed in his preschool classroom. Wednesday a Professor from SU and two of her graduate students spent an hour and a half in our home watching C play and asking me tons of questions. Thursday he had a three hour block, just him and the testers. He didn’t make it to three hours. After two and a half little man was so exhausted he napped for nearly three hours in the afternoon.

This process is important. But man, it is overwhelming both for him and for Z and me. Watching your not-quite-three year old be put through a multi-hour standardized test sucks even if there are some play breaks. By the end it just felt unfair and cruel.

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Z and I sat at the head of a conference table, surrounded by the seven professionals who tested our boy and listened to the results. Most of which were in the normal range. But there were new concerns about coping when he becomes frustrated. The only area he scored below normal was the emotional piece, the area he’d had the highest score in the fall.

In the past year his speech has exploded. We were shocked to find he scored average and slightly above average in the two speech components. His clarity is poor enough that we think the school system will grant continued service and we hope they do. He is not at the same level with his peers concerning speech no matter what the tests say. A year later we have learned Early Intervention works. It works. His therapist has been amazing with him. His improvement is due to many factors, but she is one of the most significant.

During the meeting it was clear I was struggling. When his low emotional score was disclosed I couldn’t help myself, I asked what I’d done wrong. How could he have improved so much in one section while falling behind in another?

One of the kind evaluators pointed out that these areas of development do not progress in a straight line. There are fits and starts.

Hopefully C will continue the speech therapy. It is up to us to decide what to do about the other piece. Do we want to see how he does for a year without extra services? Do we want to just deal with this now?

Z and I are on the same page. We want what is best for our beautiful and wonderful and loving boy. I was sure he’d qualify for speech and nothing else. I know my kid. I know him.

It is awful to spend a morning learning that your child, your heart, your love, hell — your job is struggling in an area and you were completely oblivious. The doubt has crept in, if I didn’t know this about him what else am I missing? Does he deserve better than me? Is this the ultimate stay at home mom job evaluation and did I just fail?

Z was right when we drove to the meeting. We are so lucky. C is so lucky. Yes, these services are free. But the process is involved. We have the resources to send our boys to a preschool that made us aware of Early Intervention and helped guide us through it. How many parents out there don’t have the resources or time or knowledge to discover that this is an option? How many parents are so busy working to provide a home and enough food for their child that they don’t know there is an issue with the kid until he or she reaches kindergarten? How to we help get these resources into the hands of families that need them every bit as much as we do?

I don’t know. But I do know that I need to be grateful. I must stop wallowing about how hard this is for me. It is a waste of time to obsess over my failings as a mother. C needs help. Z and I will make sure that he gets it.

beautiful c

This boy. He’s going to be more than fine. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.

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.

Hair Cut

While we were away T told me he didn’t like it that people thought he was a girl all the time. I told him people weren’t trying to be mean. Humans look lots of different ways and make different choices, but it would be fair to say that the majority of girls have longer hair and the majority of boys have shorter hair. So people get confused. I told him I loved his hair, loved long hair on boys. But it was his hair and his decision. He told me he didn’t like that people thought he was a girl, but he still wanted long hair. It didn’t bother him so much.

My heart ached. He was navigating some tricky waters. And I wondered if the day was coming when he would ask to have it cut off.

After his bath tonight I announced I would be trimming a couple of inches from his hair. The split ends were out of control, it was a snarled mess. I showed him my handiwork in the mirror after I was done. He grabbed a curl off of the towel he was standing on.

“Can you cut it short?”

My breath caught in my throat. I was having a hard time dealing with the two inches on the bathroom floor. We went to talk to his Daddy who was reading stories to C. And we agreed that it was T’s choice.

I cut his hair short.

As soon as he saw it he said he wanted to grow it back. I told him he could do what he wanted-it was his hair. But later he said he liked it and didn’t want it long again.

I’m glad Z and I had no idea this would be the day of the big cut. It was like pulling a bandaid off fast. There was no time to mourn the loss of those crazy long curls that were such a big part of his persona.

As we cuddled at bedtime T confided he was worried that his teacher wouldn’t like his hair. I told him he was just the same with long hair or short hair. What mattered was his heart. And he has a good heart. His teacher likes him for who he is inside, not what he looks like.

I hope he heard me.

We are keeping the curls. Z took the paint off an old altiods tin and they will live inside it. Z’s eyes welled with tears as he showed me the tin. Mine did when I looked at the towel covered with curls.

T needs to assert his independence. He needs ownership over how he presents himself to the world.

Z and I need to let go a little. Let him make his choices.

It’s a little thing, his hair. It’s a little thing. In this moment it is hard to remember that-hard to not let it be everything. Hard to not imagine him growing into a man, asserting his independence more and more. Hard to not imagine the pain of every little thing as Z and I learn to let go more and more.

We love him so much. He is ours for such a short time. He is only 4, barely a kid at all. But he is his own person. And that is right.

Sometimes the stuff that is most right is also the most difficult.

goodbye crazy haired boy

Before.

short hair t

After.

curls on the floor

Scene of the crime.

Resolution

Saturday was supposed to be my long run. It was 9 degrees when I got up, the forecasted high was 18. Z suggested I wait until the afternoon and I had no trouble agreeing with him. Problem was the snow began by the time it was a balmy 14 degrees and I was ready to go.

pre Saturday

Suited up.

It was stupid and dangerous and terrifying and slow. I did 2.3 miles yelling at myself the whole way that if I got hit by a car it would be my own damn fault. That bitch Anxiety was back. She told me if I didn’t run something terrible would happen. The sane part of me told myself if I did run something terrible might happen. Crazy won.

post Saturday

And I was a fucking mess by the time I finished.

Over the weekend one of my smartest friends told me if I increased the the incline a bit on the treadmill that I’d get closer to my natural stride. I took her advice to the Y on Monday (thanks J) and managed to jog two very slow miles. Damn, is it hard to jog on a treadmill. But they were safe and snow free miles.

SU does a great job keeping the campus plowed, so today I tried South Campus for the jog. It was early enough that the roads were still a mess. I basically chased snowplows, or they chased me. It was 10 degrees and snowing. It felt good to be out there even if one of the miles was more than 12 minutes. Running in snow is like running in sand. It is a whole body workout.

Jogging in winter. I’m figuring it out. I want to figure it out. Mostly I’m biding my time till spring. But I’m sticking with this thing even if it scares me to say it.

I’ve been thinking about jogging a lot. How if I’m going at a slow pace I feel like I can just keep on going forever. How I haven’t stopped to walk since the first time I did 5 miles on November 16th. I learned when I feel like I can’t go on now to just slow down a bit. I’m figuring out these little tricks. Coming up with a training routine on my own that changes things up, speed, hills, medium run, long run.

It is still hard. I have to force myself out of the door. I get disappointed when the snow or the treadmill affects my time in such a major way. I beat myself up when I have a bad run. But I’m going to try and stay healthy. I’m going to keep at it.

I’ve been thinking about jogging and time and my birthday and the fact that I’m 37 on Wednesday and that 40 nearly has me surrounded. A year ago right now I couldn’t jog for two blocks. Now I can go for 5.3 miles. This time of year is naturally a time for reflection. Every year I turn to Z and ask what he thinks we will be doing and where we will be in a year.  Life is full of surprises, wonderful and heartbreaking. This year I am focusing on the good- I learned that the impossible is possible. I learned no matter how many times I swore up and down that I could never exercise regularly that it was a big lie. I can make myself do hard stuff.

The other night we were sitting on the sofa after dinner. “I’ve been having a tiny little thought.” I told Z. “Hmm?” he replied. “Now, I get that this is crazy. But what if I were to try and run a marathon before I turned 40?”

Z looked at me like I was an injured bird he found on the sidewalk. He clearly didn’t want to spook me. “I think that is an excellent idea.” he said very soothingly. “I think you can do it.” He paused, terrified he was going to say the wrong thing. “Maybe this summer you could do a half marathon first and then do a full one.”

“Um. Totally. I’d have to start with a half.” He was visibly relieved that I wasn’t going to try and force my way through 26.2 miles in March.

Starting tomorrow I have three years. Before December 18th of 2016 I will run a marathon. There. I’m being bold and outrageous and reckless. I will run a marathon. And you can hold me to it.

bye daddy

Waving goodbye to Daddy on a snowy morning.

snow boat treehouse

The boat treehouse looked lovely dressed up in snow this morning.

Tender

C is napping. And I am sitting here with tears running down my face. I think I just nursed him for the last time.

My relationship with nursing has been deeply personal. Because I fell in love with nursing, because it was an “easy in” to the overwhelming business of becoming a mother for me does not mean that I think breastfeeding equals motherhood. Or that nursing mothers are better mothers. Or that breastfeeding is the only right choice.

Breastfeeding was the right choice for our family.

It was also a privilege. I am a stay at home Mother with a shit-ton of support. I got to see lactation consultants. When I needed to have a troublesome mole removed that was located next to my nipple my Mom bought me a hospital grade pump. I am beyond lucky, it is important to recognize that.

C just turned 26 months old a couple of days ago. I reached my goal of nursing him until he was two. It is time to let go.

But somehow nursing has become a crutch for me. In so many ways I feel like I’ve let C down as his Mother. I feel like if I was a better Mom I would have noticed during the exact moment he should have been learning to speak and done something about it back then. Parenting a two year old who cannot effectively communicate has been so frustrating for all of us. Nursing him feels like the only thing I’m doing right some days. Taking away that safety net, those few moments when I can hold him and do something tangible for him, terrifies me. I do not know how to be his mother without the boob. In the two short years C has been on this planet I have made an infinite number of mistakes with him. How can I give up the one thing I know I’m doing right?

Today marks one of the many days when I let go a little. Let my son grow up a tiny bit. Take a step into uncharted territory.

I know that he is going to be fine.

I still worry I’m not enough for him. I still worry I have no idea what I’m doing. The pain of parenting still takes my breath away. But jesus fucking christ, it is worth it.

photo (27)

My sweet son reached up and held onto my face as we cuddled and watched the tube a few weeks ago.

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He woke from his nap a few minutes ago angry as hell, which is unusual. I held him close. “Mama!” he cried and he poked my chest. Which is how he asks to nurse. I’ve kept him to breastfeeding three time a day for the last month or so, no more nursing on demand. And he hasn’t asked to nurse after his nap in ages. Of course he would today. I started to sob. He sobbed alongside me. I told him no, that we weren’t going to nurse. I told him I loved him. I held him closer. “Help!” he wept as he continued to poke my chest, “Help! Help! Help!”

Are you fucking kidding me? I mean, I can’t make this shit up.

It was unbelievably wrenching. I sat on the stairs with him and we both shook with great wails and held each other. Eventually my wails turned to laughter. Because it was all so ridiculous. And then I asked him if he wanted ham or cheese or raisins or water. He finally took the bait with the water and now he is happily eating raisins while humming the Star Wars theme.

Yes, he has a few words now. Dada, Mama, help, ball, cat, more, arm. The speech therapy is working. In fact, we have a makeup session in a bit.

IMG_1003

C on the day he was born. I can see a glimpse of who he will become in this picture.