Suck City

When does life stop feeling like high school?

Kindergarten drop off and pick up are quickly becoming my least favorite times of the day. T has been doing much better. We have the timing down to a science. So what is the problem? Standing in a group of adults. Some who I know casually, some who I should know but don’t, some who were at T’s preschool. My tongue swells and fills my mouth. My limbs get heavy and clumsy. I can’t make eye contact with anyone. I’m 15 years old and I just want to disappear. Why do the skinny, blond, beautiful Moms look so skinny and blond and beautiful? Why do I want to look skinny and blond and beautiful? My friend arrives and my blood pressure lowers. She is also skinny and blond and beautiful, but I forgive her for those transgressions because she is a swell human.

I feel 15 years old. Except I’m 37. Really, why do I want to look skinny and blond and beautiful?

The reality is I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m healthy. This year I can’t wait to get my cholesterol checked because I’m consistently running 20+ miles per week. I feel more at ease in my body than I ever had before. I should feel terrific. Yesterday I had to go buy new jeans because my daily ones are too big. From the parking lot of Old Navy I sent a gleeful text to a friend who would get my joy and not judge me for being superficial. So why do I see an ogre when I look at myself?

The bitch is back. And she is quite chatty these days.

She perches on my shoulder after my shower and whispers a litany of complaints as we peer into the mirror, her voice laced with disgust. The forehead wrinkles, the upper arm flab, the stretch marks surrounding my belly button, the lank and thinning hair (I do love my IUD, but like the pill it has made me shed hair in a frightening way. Should even out soon, but damn. Makes me feel like shit now.), the tree trunk legs, the sagging breasts, the masculine face, the blackheads around my nose, the developing jowls, the moles and beauty marks and freckles that are everywhere.

I dress and leave the bathroom ashamed and embarrassed.

Every social interaction is scrutinized. I want to seek out everyone I have spoken to during any given day so I can apologize. For my nervous chatter, for not enquiring about their lives, for being rude and self involved.

I have school work to do. A plumber to call. Dentist appointments to make. Grocery shopping. Cleaning. A training program to complete. That half marathon is a month from today. I have to drop off the boys and pick them up and make sure they are settled in school and happy. I have to make lunches and make dinners.

But the anxiety, that stupid bitch, is a 200 pound weight sitting on my chest. She replays everything I’ve fucked up that day in a loop. I can’t get away from her cruelty. I can’t get away from myself. I can’t help but wonder why my friends are my friends. I believe with all my heart that anyone who comes in contact with me pities me. I can’t stop obsessing about how physically repulsive I am. I can’t escape the shame of wishing I was beautiful. Me! A feminist who values brains and tells her sons what people look like on the outside doesn’t matter! I want to be skinny and blond and beautiful.

I’ve written this post again and again in the four and a half years I’ve blogged. I’ve written that I’m bored with this post. I’m bored with all of it. The anxiety. The fixation on how I look. The distress in social situations.

My anxiety disorder is cyclical. Right now is a hard time. In a few weeks or months the bitch will quiet and I will get some peace. Until she comes back.

These days the anxiety hurts as much as it always did. But the agoraphobia isn’t winning. Preschool and kindergarten drop off ensure I get out of the house twice a day. Swim lessons are Tuesday, soccer Saturday morning. And there are four runs a week. Because that half marathon is looming large. We go to dinners at our friends’ homes. We have friends over for cook outs. The damn school work will somehow get done. Life is bursting with activity and while the anxiety might cripple my self esteem and well-being it is not crippling my ability to function anymore.

I am doing a better job of living, really living with mental illness than I ever have before. Because the boys need me and Z loves me and because I want better for myself. Even on days I feel like I don’t deserve it.

House is still a mess, though. If I’m going to be honest, it is pretty much a mess when the bitch takes a vacation as well….

typical tuesday

A typical Tuesday night at our house. Friends just kept walking by so we called them back for a quick hang out and drink. Even with the bitch whispering sweet nothings in my ear, I know I’m lucky to have this support system.

kitty hoynes

Z was traveling for most of the week. C was so happy to see him again.

soccer

This kid. Soccer player. He was awesome, even in the rain and cold.

Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb

A couple of days ago my friend made a facebook group for people trying to run/jog/walk 1000 miles in 2014 and then posted a status update about it asking friends to let her know if they wanted in. There is no way on god’s green earth that I am making it to 1000 miles this year. My jogging has been a solo endeavor. It actually needs to be a solo endeavor. I’m an introvert with a severe anxiety disorder. The thought of jogging with another human makes me want to puke.

So joining a running club or finding an informal crew to go out with isn’t really an option for me. I like being alone. People have explained to me that they chat on their runs with friends and it cracks me up. I’m gasping for breath the whole time. I cannot imagine carrying on a conversation.

All of that said, I know next to nothing about training. The idea of an online community of actual runners appealed to me-I could learn a thing or two. I wanted in.

Yesterday I was poking some fun at my slow running times and another person in the group suggested speedwork to increase my pace. I had to google it. I also was introduced to the fabulous word fartlek (Thanks, Kelly). Obviously the highlight of my day.

I found an article explaining speedwork for beginners and I decided to do it this morning. You want to know one of the most stupid and ridiculous things about an anticipatory anxiety disorder? I was so nervous to try intervals, so uncomfortable about stepping outside my established jogging routine, so frightened to try something new that I had the shits all morning. Like full on IBS diarrhea. The boys were almost late to school because I had to run back to the bathroom for the 12th time.

It is so embarrassing to admit how incapacitated I am by doing new things. Even after all these years of living with anxiety I am still deeply shamed by how hard it is to engage in normal activities. Before every class I take I feel sick to my stomach. My brain is generating a list of possible excuses to get me out of going until the moment I step into the classroom. We went to a birthday party this weekend at a gymnastic place. As soon as T joined the group he ran off to an area he wasn’t allowed to go to, one of the instructors telling him to stop. I yelled at him and immediately felt like a parenting pariah.  I blinked back tears as I stood there with the other parents, unable to make eye contact. Next month through my class I have the opportunity to attended two days of the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN in New York City. It is a huge deal. And I am so scared that I simply cannot bear to think about it other than to hope I am hospitalized with a non-life threatening illness so I don’t have to go.

But.

The classes have been fantastic for me. I am hoping to become a matriculated grad student. I have new career goals. My self confidence has been positively impacted. T and C had an amazing time at the party. I’m glad I got to see it. We are going to start T on gymnastics classes there next month. What a bizarre stroke of luck that I have a professor who is on the board of the largest Right to Food NGO in the world! Who gets to do this shit as a part of class?

So yes, my fear and discomfort when faced with normal life is suffocating. But the difference between the me of three years ago and me now is I am fucking doing stuff anyway. I am putting myself in situations that are uncomfortable because the long term payoff is worth it. Was the fear and discomfort any less three years ago when I was struggling to engage? Nope. It was not. I’m going to have it no matter what choices I make. So why not fucking try to enjoy life? Why not make sure that I get to see my boys’ faces light up with joy as they ran around with a pack of kids and have the best time they’d ever had at a birthday party? Why not GO TO THE UNITED FUCKING NATIONS?

Why not run intervals for the first time?

Because there is a difference between facing fears and being a fucking moron.

The roads were not very clear here in Syracuse this morning. Actually worse today than yesterday because we are in the city where alternate side of the street parking means today’s driveable part of the road wasn’t really plowed well at 9:30am. The side with cars on it was pretty damn clear, though. So I wore my amazing and trusty yaktrax. And found about a .2 mile stretch of flat blacktop. And realized when I got home that I hurt my foot. Yaktrax are magic. I can jog in snow without slipping at all. But trying to sprint in them? Let’s just say that I’m a fucking idiot.

Being an idiot is really the easiest way to get hurt while jogging. As soon as I hit the road I knew it was dumb to try speedwork. But I didn’t want to wuss out. Thankfully tomorrow is my rest day. We’ll see how the foot feels on Thursday….

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P.S. I called the doc’s yesterday. Have an appointment for March 10th. Kinda proud of myself.

C jumps

C is missing the fear impulse. It was so cool to see him flying through the air.

hat hair

Short hair = amazing hat head.

swing

The swing actually resting on the snow.

1998

Last Thursday a phone call in which I actually had to hear the person on the other line chased me into my father’s office. A house filled with four boys all four years old or younger is never a quiet house. Unless something is terribly wrong. The photos behind his desk took me on a stroll down memory lane until the one below stopped me cold.

k z 1998

Rockefeller Center, December 1998.

Took me a second to be sure it was from 1998, but my long hair was the giveaway. The spring of my senior year of college I chopped it at chin level. The details aren’t clear-was my best friend T visiting? Did she take the picture? What else did we do that day?

1998. Bile rose in my throat as I considered myself as an almost-22 year old. Z and I had been dating for 6 months or so. We already had decided we would be getting married. I looked at that girl, that child and felt disgust at her stupidity. Who the hell did I think I was? Where did I get off thinking I knew how to be a partner in a marriage? I didn’t even know how to take care of myself.

I looked at myself and saw everything that has happened in the last 15 years-September 11th, my mental breakdown, the near loss of our marriage, clawing our way back, moving to Providence and trying to figure out an identity that didn’t include living in New York, getting pregnant, moving to Syracuse, T, the miscarriage, C. I looked at myself and was repulsed by that girl who had no idea what the future held.

Then I looked at Z.

And thought, “Damn, he was hot.”

I could look at him and simply feel nostalgia. Why does remembering who I used to be cause me such blinding anger? Why do I have no compassion for my former self?

I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think I’m the only one. I think a lot of us are unkind to the young women we used to be. Why do we do it? What does it achieve?

Am I really angry at the girl I used to be because she did not predict a catastrophic terrorist attack that surprised the entire nation? Am I mad at her because she was unaware that she suffered from a mental illness?

Because that is ridiculous. And unhelpful. And frankly, really very unkind.

So I tried to let go of my feelings about baby me. I tried to look at the picture and remember the heady days of our early courtship. We were in love, we were having fun, we were enjoying the hell out of being young. What the hell is wrong with all that? I remembered it was Thursday. I looked at the two kids in love and I snapped a picture with my phone for instagram– #TBT, baby.

Hey friends? I think you should be nicer to yourselves as well.

cordano leonard family

Our family 15 years later. Hopefully when I look at this in another 15 years it will be with much more kindness.

new years cousins

Cousins watching crazy folks go down the waterslide on January first.

Under the Influence. Of Anxiety.

T shouting, “Mom! C is eating play doh!” Me shouting right back, “I. Am. Pooping! I cannot do anything about it right now!”

That moment perfectly captures the feel of the last two days.

My hormones are not in a happy place. Could be the first month on a new birth control pill. Could be the weaning. Could be freaking-out-about-my-class anxiety. Or we-are-broke anxiety. Or our-annual-Christmas-trip-to-see-family-is-going-to-involve-just-as-many-miles-in-under-two-weeks anxiety. Or I-have-an-anxiety-disorder anxiety.

My boobs. They still have milk. After some googling this morning I’ve learned that extended nursers can take up to a year to stop producing small amounts of milk. UP TO A YEAR! I’m certainly not engorged. Not in real pain. They just feel a little full, a little achey. Like they have a job to do.

I want to move on. Like C has moved on. I can actually sit on the nursing rocker with him in my arms and sing him to sleep at nap time. He doesn’t even ask to nurse anymore. As I hold him I’m grateful. One of my biggest fears in weaning him was I wouldn’t be able to cuddle with him because he would want to nurse.

How do I move on when my damn boobs are betraying me? Constantly reminding me that I want to be nursing him.

So I’ve been a crank. No patience for Z or the boys. Anxiety and anger bubbling close to the surface.

Last night Z and I decided that T needed to clean up the legos on the floor of his room before he went to bed. I told him that they should be put away by the time I got his cup of ice water or he’d lose his story. He grumpily got on the floor and started tossing them into the bin. He was still there and still working when I got back upstairs. So I didn’t take away his story. I sat and helped him.

Bedtime proceeded as usual. We got into bed and read a book. He turned off his light, took a sip of water, got into bed. I started singing to him. Halfway through Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer he put his hand over my mouth and said, “No more songs. Just cuddles.”

Ok. Pretty damn rude, but I don’t love the singing portion of events myself. We cuddled.

T, “After tonight I never want you to do my bedtime again. Never. Ever. You are never allowed to do my bedtime. Forever.”

Um, what the fuck?

Here’s the thing. He really hurt my feelings. And it isn’t like I haven’t admitted worse about myself here, but I’m deeply ashamed of how I felt. When someone hurts my feelings my initial impulse is to hurt them worse. I wanted to lash out at T. Make him feel like shit. I wanted him to lie awake after I left for the night, eaten up with guilt for being so nasty.

Dear god, I am an asshole.

Thankfully I was able to stop myself from being cruel to my four year old son. I was able pause and really think about how I wanted to deal with my hurt.

In the pause he told me he was upset that he didn’t get to hide under the bed.

Oh.

You see, when I get his ice water he hides. In his mind his hiding place is a mystery to me. But he always goes under his bed. I pretend to prowl around the room looking for him. And eventually I crouch down and yell, “BOO!” He screams with delight.

He loves it. What I should have known is he depends on it. Because he is as much a creature of habit as I am. Cleaning up the legos fucked with the program and he was furious.

I offered to let him hide. After a couple of minutes I whipped my head under the bed and yelled, “BOO!” On cue, he screamed with delight.

We cuddled again after he crawled back into bed. “T. Listen. When you say things like you never want me to put you to bed you really hurt my feelings. You need to apologize to me. Because I seriously felt terrible when you said that. But no matter what I love you very much. And I will always love you. If you are upset about something you need to explain that to me rather than being mean. Remember what Daddy and I said on our walk today? Just don’t be mean. That is the number one lesson we want you to learn in life. Don’t be mean.”

Sometimes it has been a shitty couple of days. But when it matters you rally and are not a despicable asshole to your young son. Yet another swift kick to the balls, Anxiety. I win.

heartbreaker

My heartbreaker. Kid needs routine. I need to remember that.

nose picker

Digging for treasure.

middle finger

Ah. Yes. This. Well, it is only fair to talk about the real crap jogging days if I’m going to celebrate the awesome days. I’ve broken 10 minutes doing a mile once well over a month ago. Tried to do it again on Thursday and today. Thursday my time was 10:01. Today? 10:00. When you try as hard as you can, when you push yourself and it just isn’t good enough, man, it fucking blows.

Sucker Punch

T waltzed into the bathroom as I emerged from the shower. I hid my annoyance at the intrusion and half listened as he chatted in my direction. Suddenly he bellowed, “I HAVE TO POOP!” “Kay, go ahead.”

He continued talking as he took care of business and I continued my morning routine. Eventually he hollered, “I’M DONE!” No idea why he needs to proclaim his plumbing issues at the top of his voice, but there you have it.

“Great!” I replied, kind of pissed that I have to feign enthusiasm as I wipe someone else’s ass. He assumed the position and grasped my naked thigh for balance. I noticed he was staring at it. When I finished he looked up at my face and said, “You are really fat.”

“Listen you fucking asshole. You come into my shower time which by itself is enormously irritating, you fill the bathroom with the horrid smell of your shit, and then you zero in on the thing I’m more self conscious about than any other and go right for the kill? FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU, YOU NASTY LITTLE SHIT!”

Ok.

I didn’t say that.

But I really wanted to.

I took a breath. “Wow. Wow, T. You really hurt my feelings. I’m very upset. It is incredibly mean to call someone fat. You really made me feel terrible. It is unkind to comment on anyone’s weight. You shouldn’t call someone fat. You shouldn’t call someone skinny. It just really isn’t any of your business. Any by the way, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what a person looks like or how big or small they are. What matters is who a person is on the inside.”

He considered me. “Well, aren’t you fat?”

I stood there. Damp and naked and vulnerable. I wanted to cry. Of course he does not understand that my self image is garbage. He doesn’t know that when I look in the mirror I see someone who is morbidly obese. He can’t comprehend mental illness. “Yes!” I want to shout, “Yes, I am fat and disgusting and an embarrassment! You nailed it, my son! You should be as ashamed of me as I am of myself!” And the anxiety, that bitch, she whispered in my ear that technically my BMI is in the overweight category. I’ve got another 10 pounds or so to go before I really can be considered “normal weight”. Wouldn’t it be the most genuine and honest to tell him I am fat?

I stood there and decided to not unload my insecurities on my four year old who wasn’t actually trying to be an asshole. Who was just calling ’em like he saw ’em. Who was learning about new concepts and trying them out in conversation. Who was being a completely normal kid.

“No.” I said. “I’m not fat. I’m not skinny. I’m in the middle. But like I said, size doesn’t matter.”

“Oh. Well, I’m in the middle, too.”

“Great. Now go downstairs.”

It isn’t like I haven’t been waiting for this day basically since he was born. I mean, there was no chance he’d call me skinny when he eventually learned about body types. So now it has happened. It stung like hell. Being a parent is suspiciously like being a grown up. I didn’t lash out, I didn’t wallow. I tried to teach him. I told him what I believe. Unless I am considering my own body. When I look at myself I become the meanest of mean girls. But today for the sake of my son I quieted that horrible bitch inside me, for a moment I tried to cut myself some slack.

It sucked. But life sucks sometimes. And I guess if he is going to call anyone fat I’d rather it be me. I don’t want him to contribute to anyone else’s body image baggage. And hopefully he won’t. Hopefully he saw my hurt and he’ll make different choices in the future.

Jesus fucking christ, parenting. Some days you ask for an awful lot.

t lion

This is a good kid. He is trying to figure the world out. Which is impossible to do without stepping on some toes. But his heart is in the right place. I’m proud of him. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.

blanket assault

Cousin chaos. Just after the photo was taken T tackled his Aunt Kelsey with the blanket. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.

red light

Z got a red glass window somewhere and propped it in front of a window in his shop. For a few amazing minutes in the late afternoon this happens.