Harry Potter and the Overwhelming Anxiety Disorder

Hey, wanna hear something I’ve been really ashamed about?

In the fall I bit off more than I could chew school-wise. My independent study project was to write an article including literature review and pilot study, ready for submission to academic journals. The three graduate courses I’ve taken have been fantastic, but I am not ready to conduct a literature review, do a pilot study, and craft an article ready for peer review.

Mid November I withdrew from the course. And felt like the biggest loser on the planet. When I fail the anxiety convinces me that I will never succeed at anything ever again. That I am lazy and pathetic and a burden to my family. That the faculty in the department I would like to eventually matriculate into will think I am a waste of time who doesn’t live up to commitments. That if I don’t eventually write about it I am trying to trick people into thinking I am much more together than is the case.

It was a bad fall for anxiety. Every fall is a bad fall for anxiety. But the way that I fell apart the week after Thanksgiving showed both me and Z that I’d been handling it really well. Funny how completely falling apart will do that.

I hated myself. I hate myself. I was sure all my friends hated me. When I was in public, especially at the crowded grocery store I felt everyone’s eyes on me, felt their pity and disgust. I cried. A lot. At bedtime I started rereading the Harry Potter Series. And more times than not a Harry Potter movie was playing on the TV in our house.

The uptick in Harry Potter activity is a dead giveaway that I am unwell. Over the last month while making dinner I’ve broken down in tears again and again. Z will hold me and stroke my hair and murmur, “Do you want to watch Harry Potter and cuddle after the boys are in bed?” And I will nod and cry even harder, relieved that he is there to take care of me and ashamed that I need the care at all.

The next three months are the worst for me each year. After the holidays winter in Syracuse drags on forever. Feeling this shitty right at the start is pretty terrifying. I’ve started avoiding mirrors. Convinced that I look like a man, and much older than my age. Questioning my staunch no makeup stance. Worrying that when people meet me they pity Z for being married to someone so plain. I’ve been unable to bite back disparaging comments about myself when among friends, clearly making them uncomfortable.

I want to disappear, but my body feels huge and ungainly. It takes up too much space wherever I am. My body swells, making my fingers clumsy, filling in my windpipe, cutting off the air to my lungs and making me feel lightheaded.

I know. You know. You know all this. I’ve told you before.

Why do I write the same blog post every few months? Because this is chronic mental illness. It’s not fun to read about. It is certainly a drag to have to read about over and over. But a lot of people live this way and are too ashamed to talk about it. That sucks most of all.

So in the words of Professor Quirrell, “TROLL in the dungeon! Thought you ought to know….”

the wand chooses the wizard

This fall we gave my nephew the first two HP books for his birthday. My sister is reading them to him, the series is new to both of them and my sister is enjoying as much as G is. For Christmas I made him a Gryffindor scarf and Z made him a wand.

harry potter legos

Sadly, HP legos haven’t been made for several years. Our friends got ahold of a box and give them to us. T and I had so much fun putting it together.

goodbye grandma and grandpa

My Mom texted me this the other day. She took it as my parents were pulling out of our drive after their Thanksgiving visit.

 

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No Good, Very Bad Day

My hands smell faintly of shit.

Let me back up a bit. T was warm when we put him to bed last night. This morning he clearly had a fever, how high I didn’t know because the damn thermometer only gave a reading of 97 or 98. He also had a sore throat.

I have vowed to be the kind of Mom who sends her kid to school unless the need for an ambulance is involved. On the 4th day of kindergarten I broke that vow. C had his three year well visit today at 10, so I brought sick T along for the ride.

sick t

In the doc’s parking lot. He was passed out at 9:45am. And no, I have no idea what is going on with his tongue.

Let’s just say that getting a nearly catatonic kid plus a kid having a tantrum on the scale to grab their weights was quite the workout for the nurse and me. It was also loud enough for the occupants of the waiting room down the hall and around the corner to have a blow by blow of events, which I’m sure they appreciated. Because they got to feel good that their children were not embarrassing them in public.

T doesn’t have strep. And I’m really bummed. Not because I’m a raging asshole. (Oh who am I kidding, I am a raging asshole, but that part comes later in the post) If he had strep the antibiotics would ensure that he would feel better tomorrow. And that he could go to the birthday party he was looking forward to. Along with his first swimming lesson since he was about one. Instead I can’t do anything to help him. He is going to feel like total garbage for the next several days.

I’m sure C will catch it in time to miss his first day of school preschool on Monday. Speaking of C, he has rocketed up the growth chart from the 3% in weight one year ago all the way up to 5% today. This kid is so painfully thin that I’m scared people will think I’m starving him. If we manage to get him up to double digits in weight by the time he gets there in age perhaps I’ll stop obsessing that Child Protective Services is going to show up at my door demanding that I prove I’m giving him three square meals a day.

We got home and ate our lunch. The boys finished first and T collapsed back on the couch while I gave both boys a marshmallow, a bribe for making it through the flu shot at the doc’s. And yes, the doc gave the all clear for T to get the vaccine. He’s fever was only 100.5. And yes, the nurse and I had to hold T down together while he thrashed and screamed in anticipation of the shot. And yes, I cried a little.

IMG_8216

Poor sick kid couldn’t bring himself to eat the marshmallow.

I settled back at the table to bolt the rest of my lunch before taking C up for his nap. Two minutes later C walked into the room and proclaimed, “I pooped!”

I whipped around. There was poop on his thigh and leg. There was poop hanging off his butt. There was poop all over both his hands. In what feels like slow motion I watched him put one hand and then the other in his mouth.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I screamed. But it was too late.

“DO NOT MOVE!” I’d scared the hell out of him. He wasn’t moving, but he was also weeping.

I carried him to the bathroom by his shoulders. He tried to reach out for me and it was like a demon with a voice several octaves below mine has possessed me. “DO NOT TOUCH ME!”

He cried harder.

I used baby wipes to get the chucks and streaks of poop off of him. The crying continued. I was focused on not puking, therefore I was unable to provide comfort.

We awkwardly climbed the stairs with me holding his wrists. I used an obscene amount of soap all over him, washing his hands about six times. I finally thought they no longer smelled like shit.

When I got him in bed for his nap I notice his hands still smell like shit. As do mine.

He sniffled and asked to go downstairs to pick out a toy that he could sleep with. In perhaps my worst parenting moment of the year I tell him that he can only have a toy to nap with when he figures out how to poop in the potty. Ah, there is the part where I’m a raging asshole!

It would be fair to call him potty trained when it comes to pee. He wears underwear whenever he is awake. The pee accidents are few and far between and usually my fault for not reminding him to go. And here is where my denial of a toy is even more assholic. Please, feel free to judge my shitty parenting. He is scared to poop in the potty.

I have no idea how to get past his fear. I feel bad for him. Most days I have more patience with the shit accidents. But I am so fucking sick of it. I am sick of cleaning crap off the floor, off his body, I’m sick of the ground in shit in his underwear. I’ve actually thrown several pairs away because I cannot face trying not to puke in the utility sink while I scrub.

Help me friends. Help me. How do I convince him that he doesn’t need to be scared of pooping in the toilet? Also, if you know a trick for getting the smell of shit off of C and my hands I’d love to hear it!

c cupcake

I love him. I feel terrible for losing patience with him. I want him to shit in the fucking toilet.

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.

 

 

Zoo at the Zoo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

t in k hat

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

cadbury creme egg

This beautiful kid can destroy a Cadbury Creme Egg.

Wednesday

Unplowed roads meant the boys didn’t go to school this morning.

They both have colds.

My throat started hurting by noon.

Walked over a mile in a snowstorm to school.

Classes were cancelled shortly thereafter, but we didn’t know that in our class so we stayed til the end.

I slipped and fell on the way home.

The plow came while I was gone and blocked our driveway so I shoveled it out so Z could pull in.

C had pooped during his nap and taken his diaper off. The sitter did a great job dealing with the mess, way above her pay grade. But I found crusted poop on the floor of his room and he simply smelled like feces.

I cleaned up the shit and gave him a bath.

T gagged on leftovers from two nights ago. Two nights ago when he cleaned his plate and told me I made good food.

This was not a fun day.

So I was really looking forward to the one cadbury creme egg  left on the counter after dinner.

I earned that damn egg.

Also, it would seem that I ate that damn egg yesterday.

Fuck. FUCK. FUUUUUUUCK.

I really wanted that creme egg.

stroll in the snow

After my delightful stroll in the snow.

star wars stickers

The boys playing with Star Wars stickers this morning. T is obviously Spider-Man.

Kids Being Kids Part 2

The afternoon following T’s haircut I posted this on facebook: Quote of the day from T, “Um…I forgot to tell ya. I’m not a fan of short hair.” Oh dear. I told him he can grow it back if he wants….

After a bit of digging it became clear that he wasn’t a fan of short hair because someone told him his hair looked ugly.

Listen, it would be easy for me to be mad and defensive that T’s feelings were bruised. I love my kids so fiercely that anytime they are hurt I see red, it is a biological response.

I let myself have that pang of anger. And then I let it go.

Because as we were having our conversation I could imagine another family in that very moment having a similar discussion about something T said that hurt one of his classmates feelings. And I bet that those parents were seeing red and thinking all sorts of terrible things about my boy.

Kids are mean. Because they are trying to figure out what they can get away with. Because the concept of “social niceties” are way beyond their comprehension. Because they didn’t get enough sleep the night before or they are adjusting to a new sibling or they are having a growth spurt.

I’m more interested in talking to T about how he felt when his feelings were hurt than worrying about the other kid. I want him to remember how he felt the next time he decides to say something mean to anyone else. And people are going to be mean to him for the rest of his life. The sooner he develops some tools to deal with it the better.

We talked about how the person that said his hair was ugly might not have even meant it. S/he might have been having a bad day, or s/he might have been confused that T looked so different, or s/he might have not liked that T was getting a bunch of attention. We talked about how we need to feel bad for someone who is being mean because they are often unhappy themselves. We talked about how important it is not to be mean to people. And by “we talked” I mean I talked at him. Remember, dude is 4. We will probably have the same conversation a million times before it even begins to sink in.

T and this kid seem to bring out the worst in each other. I’ve watched them interact and been shaken by T’s behavior. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned to Z that at least they won’t be going to kindergarten together. Z pointed out that there will always be that kid in T’s class. Even if it isn’t the same kid. Hell, T will be the that kid for someone else’s family. Zeke was right.

And I was really ashamed of myself for wanting the easy way out.

Shouldn’t we face dealing with the realities of how kids treat each other (and again, T is culpable. His behavior in this relationship has been unacceptable at times) rather than hoping the problem will go away when the kids don’t spend time together anymore?

Smart parent friends: how have you handled this with your kids? Seems like I am lucky enough to know a ton of people with compassionate and loving children. How did you parents do it? You guys are my fucking heros, by the way.

short haired boys

All my boys watching a movie.

big kid legos

Does he look older with the short hair? Or does he look younger? I can’t seem to make up my mind.

hotel view

The view from our hotel patio last week. Man, do I miss being warm.

The Bitch Loves Vacation

Anxiety disorders don’t just melt away when you go on vacation. My bitch climbed uninvited into the rental car when we left my parent’s house. Evidently she also booked a seat on the flight down to Miami. She snuggled into the king size bed in our hotel room, pushing her way past me to settle in next to Z for the night.

It was pretty naive to think she’d stay at my folk’s house.

Z finished with his work event at 3pm this afternoon. He has been looking forward to checking out the Ai Weiwei exhibit at the Perez for weeks and he was pretty close to the museum already. The traffic in Miami is fierce. Four and a half years of Syracuse living has made us soft. Instead of killing an hour and a half by coming to pick me up just to drive back across town he suggested I take a cab.

I begged off because there was school work I needed to attend to that was time sensitive. Which was the truth. But I was also relieved I had an excuse.

After he enjoyed the exhibit he called to see if I’d cab it out there for dinner-there were some restaurants on the water. And the one thing I’ve said I want to do here was make it to the beach, just to look out at the Atlantic for a bit. I couldn’t do it. My stomach was clenched, the fear made my mouth taste bitter. I just couldn’t.

What is it like? How does it feel to be able to move around in this world without fear? To not worry that your bowels will betray you? To drive in traffic without feeling panic at being surrounded by so many people?

Am I going to spoil every vacation for the rest of my life? Am I going to teach my boys that fear is natural? Am I ever going to relax and fucking enjoy myself?

That’s not quite fair. Wednesday was my day. Mostly because I didn’t leave the hotel room much. Z had a work event and was gone from before I woke until 5:30pm. I slept in. I fucked around on the computer. I goddamn ran the fastest mile of my life (8:35) and finished three miles in under 30 minutes for the first time. I fucked around on the computer. I napped. We went out for dinner at an excellent sushi joint. It was perfection. Except for the drive to the sushi joint. That was tense. But otherwise the day was glorious.

Tomorrow is our only day together. We are going to go look at the ocean and eat good food and nap. I am telling that bitch to back the fuck off and let me have a day with my husband. Here’s hoping she is in a listening mood….

fam hot tub

Family hot tub time during our last day at my folk’s. Holy shit, do I miss those boys. I have needed a break and am grateful for it, but I cannot wait to squeeze them tight on Sunday morning.

coconut

Z brought a coconut he found on the ground into the room.

fastest mile

After several weeks of struggling in the freezing cold and wind, after several weeks of tackling many hills doing a dead flat run in 60 degree weather basically guaranteed I’d beat any previous personal record. But I didn’t expect to beat my mile record by almost a full minute! Think I can now officially stop calling myself a jogger and start calling myself a runner.