Anxiety Vignettes: #3

Z stayed downstairs and had a quesadilla when I went to bed last night. He came upstairs 20 minutes later. I was still up, reading in bed.

Me, “Hey.”

Z, “Hey.”

Me, “Do you know how I know I’m really anxious?”

Z, “How?”

Me, “I’ve decided that you left the stove on after making your quesadilla.”

Z, “Huh. I didn’t leave the stove on.”

Me, “I know.”

Long pause.

Me, “But I really think you left it on.”

Z, “Wow. It must take a lot of energy to be as crazy as you are.”

Me, “Dude. I said I knew it was the anxiety. I am acknowledging it is the anxiety. I know deep down that you didn’t leave the stove on. I’m just upset that you left the stove on.”

Z, “If you are so upset about it you can go down and check.”

Me, “Well, since you are the one that left it on I really think you should go check.”

Z, “I cannot handle how insane you are.”

Me, “I cannot handle how you left the stove on.”

He read for a while and I read for a while.

Z, “Shit.”

Me, “What?”

Z, “I forgot to put the whites in the dryer.”

Me, “Oh….that probably shouldn’t wait until the morning.”

Z, “I know. I’m going down.”

Me, “Will you just pop your head around the corner in the kitchen and check that the stove is off?”

 my guy

Alligator beard.

sick t 2

T had a stomach bug on Halloween and he missed the parade at school.

typical c

This captures exactly who C is right now.

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.

photo (31)

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.

photo (32)

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

Back in the Saddle

If you’ve been kind enough to read here for a long time you’ve basically read this before. If you are my friend you have heard this before. I’m bored with this subject even before I begin writing…

The anxiety is really bad.

I’m having a hard time.

I hate myself.

I’m ashamed that I need drugs to function as a human being.

I feel like a bad example for my boys.

I feel guilty for occupying space in this world.

Someone as privileged as I am does not deserve to have a mental illness.

I’m trying a new drug.

Are you yawning yet?

I’m not doing very well. But the flipside is I’m kind of fine.

I’m taking care of the boys. I’m keeping up with my schoolwork. I make dinner. We host gatherings at our place regularly. When Z was part of a demonstration with Kronos Quartet I went and then went out to dinner with them all. I sat next to David Harrington and made small talk. I went to a fucking conference at the UN. I spent an evening with one of my best friends in the world and laughed and talked and felt….happy. Ok, so the jogging hasn’t been going well for about a month and a half. Last week I was only out once and this week twice. But god fucking damn it is March 23rd and right now it is 21 degrees with a biting wind. There was an inch of fresh snow on the roads this morning. And twice this week I took my kids to the doc’s (strep) instead of going for my jog. Life happens. And this weather is…well come on.

It would be easy to just wallow in how awful this disorder makes me feel without giving myself credit for progress. But I’m a Mom now, I cannot afford to be that self indulgent. I have worked hard and I am fighting back. It would be easy to stay in the place where I just hate myself and berate myself. Self loathing is one of the most comfortable states of being for me. I believe it with my whole heart, I’ve had years of practice.

This anxiety disorder isn’t something that I can fix or cure. It’s as much a part of me as my brown hair and freakishly pale and moley skin. That doesn’t mean I give up. In fact, I don’t give up anymore. I am in a really bad place, but I am fucking getting shit done. Do I cry a twenty times a day? Yup. Do I go to Z and tell him I can’t I can’t I can’t do it? Yup. Do I spend evenings after Z comes home in bed sure that I have strep myself, or a stomach bug, or cancer? All the time.

Do I finish my readings for class? I do. Do I turn in work late? I do not. Do I pay our bills? Mostly on time even! Do I make sure my boys feel loved and cared for? You bet your ass I do.

Things are not great. Z has to bear the brunt of it and I feel awful, guilty, ashamed. But I am also getting shit done.

The anxiety disorder didn’t just happened to me one day. It’s something that has always been. T has recently learned to say “Excuse me” after he burps or farts. I remember learning the same thing when I was his age. I also remember feeling terrible guilt and dread about all the times I burped and farted before I knew about the excuse me thing. After my parents tucked me in at night I would whisper “Excuse me” over and over and over to make up for those times I didn’t. I thought something terrible would happen unless I made up for my unknowing rudeness.

So it is a chronic condition. It kicks my ass over and over and over. It’s been kicking my ass since I was a little girl. And now I’m kicking ass right back.

The drug thing is the hardest part right now. Historically trying new drugs increases my anxiety. Ironic, huh? SSRIs, the class of drug most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression list increased anxiety as a common side effect. That’s how crazy people meds work. It is a guessing game and what is supposed to help you can make you much much worse. Abilify might have augmented the SSRI you were taking beautifully. It made me think I was losing my mind.

I was supposed to try a new drug after last winter’s experiment didn’t work. There was excuse after excuse-C wasn’t weaned, we were traveling, the fall is a really stressful time, the winter is a really stressful time, the spring is a really stressful time. Well, I put my big girl pants back on. New class of drugs, increased anxiety not a common side effect. In scary side effect world there just might be a rash that lands me in the hospital. I know one person who has taken this drug. After a couple of months that person’s hair started to fall out in clumps. But if this one works bald and crazy might be better than a nutjob with a full head of hair. And my Mom told me she’d buy me a wig.

The drug crapshoot began three days ago. If it doesn’t work we will figure something else out. Because even though I’m not doing alright I’m doing alright.

cheese

This little stinker. When he saw me grab my phone he shouted, “Cheese!”

hiding

My poor guy was hiding in the closet because he didn’t want to take his medicine after we got home from the doc’s office. I feel him. That violently pink “bubble gum” stuff smells disgusting.

boys better

Enough meds in both boys so they are no longer contagious or in pain. Strep sucks.

un pass

My UN pass!

The One That Got Away

New York doesn’t have a heart. She will forget you the minute you leave her. Turns out you loved her more than she ever loved you. She immediately traded you in for a younger model, one without a family. Or a model who has made it financially in a way you never will. Or a model who is just more fucking tenacious than you are, a model who won’t give up and leave just because living with her is hard.

I have had two great loves in my life. Z and New York. For years I was married to both of them, but Z grew to despise the third wheel in our marriage. Hell, he and I grew to despise each other as well. My love for the city was the only constant in our lives. It would have made sense to give up on our marriage. It was a shambles. But somehow we decided to choose each other. Which meant there was no longer room for the city. I passionately loved her, but she wasn’t good for me anymore.

We moved away 8 years ago. My husband has a heart. He loves me back. He doesn’t seem interested in trading me in for a younger model. I made the right choice.

That doesn’t mean I don’t mourn my other love. Or wonder what might have been.

I was in New York for a few days to attend a conference at the UN. Thursday night I splurged on a cab to Brooklyn. The drive down Atlantic Avenue felt like a slap in the face. For every veterinary clinic sign that greeted me like an old friend there was a new clothing store, or real estate office, or yoga place that I didn’t recognize. Hank’s Saloon was still there, placating me a little. But then the behemoth that is the Barclays Center loomed over the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic, completely disorienting me.  This was no longer my city. I am not a New Yorker anymore.

If we had stayed the changes would have felt organic, unnoticeable. On the way back to Brooklyn yesterday afternoon I stopped at Nha Trang, a Vietnamese hole in the wall in Chinatown. Z took me there for the first time in the summer of 1998. You want cheap, fast, delicious food? It’s your place. The wait staff was mainly the same as it was 16 summers ago, and 12 summers ago, and 8 summers ago.  I felt a goofy grin take over my face when the elder statesman of the waiters came to take my order. But the grin faltered when I realized one side of his face was a little slack. He must have had a stroke. He didn’t remember me, but he was delighted that I knew how to eat the spring rolls properly, wrapped in half of a lettuce leaf with a cucumber slice and a mint leaf tucked inside. He might have been the one that showed me and Z how do to it back in the 90s. I wanted to hug him when I left. Of course I ignored that impulse and swallowed back tears as I hustled to the subway.

Me heart was pulled in new directions. As I road the 5 train downtown I didn’t try to catch or avoid the eye of the cute guy in the same car. Anyone who has lived in the city knows exactly what I’m talking about. I swear the subway system runs on hormones and the flirtations of strangers. But the cute guy didn’t hold my attention. The three year old boy seated next to me did. He absentmindedly leaned into me and hooked his little leg around my own. His small but solid bulk comforted me. When the train pulled into Union Square I didn’t want to get off. I could have sat next to him for hours.

I missed my boys. The piercing pain of being away from them took my breath away. Don’t I always beg for a break? Isn’t getting away for a few days good for me and them? Of course, but Z and I were away for 5 days in January. I guess I need time off less frequently than I assumed.

I missed my boys, all three of them. But something magical happens to me in the city. My anxiety might have been in the stratosphere leading up to the trip, but once I stepped into the city I relaxed. There is nowhere in the world where I feel more at ease. Since the first time I visited the city as a high-schooler it felt like the center of the world and exactly where I wanted to be. If we moved back she would be mine again in a matter of months. And part of me is hers, part of me will always be hers.

nha trang

The place setting hasn’t changed at Nha Trang since I’ve been going there.

gwb

Amtraking it home. Riding under the GWB.

Hudson

An icy Hudson River.

A big thank you to my dear friends A and M for opening their home to me. Do you know what was even better than being in New York? Having a night to laugh with A. I miss the hell out of her. But she is the kind of friend that is simply too good to let slip away. I’ll be calling her for advice decades from now. M ain’t so bad himself.

Butt Burn

We are in the middle of a late season cold snap. Temps fell well below freezing on Monday and according to the 7 day forecast we have at least another week before we reach that magic 32F. It’s winter, it’s Syracuse, it’s cold. This isn’t a shocker. But our resistance is worn down. We aren’t asking for much, we know where we live. We don’t expect 60F in late February. We would be happy with 32F. You wouldn’t hear a peep from us till April.

On top of the cold it seems I’ve developed a bit ‘o the minor depression. It’s been a decade since the void and nothingness of major depression nearly smothered the life out of me. I pray to any and every god that I will never experience anything near to it again. These days I still feel. I feel everything. The feeling hurts. Even the love for my wonderful little boys is the kind that pierces me with pain. Some days joy is mixed in as well. Some days I can’t get there. But I’m grateful for the feeling, for the frequent tears that are constantly threatening. Feeling is infinitely better than nothing.

It’s cold and I’m sad. Which means I spend the majority of my time hunkered down on the heat register next to our fireplace. After a while of sitting directly on the heat it becomes too much and I move around giving my butt a break and warming my legs and hands. I also like to see how much I can bear. It’s a relief to feel too hot. Who cares if my butt hurts a bit?

Our thermostat is set to drop down for the night at 10pm. The register grows cold and I head to our bedroom which holds onto the heat much longer. Last night I was grabbing some water in the kitchen when I noticed my butt felt weird. I grabbed my cheek and felt a rather large bump.

“Z?” I called. “Can you come and look at this?”

He joined me in the kitchen and I pulled down my drawers.

There was a long pause.

“Oh Karen…….Your ass…….oh man.”

“What?” I shrilly demanded, panic rising in my throat. “What’s wrong?”

He started laughing. “It is red. I mean bright red. And the pattern of the register is deeply imprinted. Here, give me your phone. I’ll take a picture and show you.”

I handed it over as body shaking and uncontrollable giggles erupted out of me. I could barely hold still for the picture.

Sweet Mary. The picture. Suddenly my laughter was so out of control I was crying. My ass was scary red. And the rather art deco-ish pattern was ridiculous. I was branding myself with a heat register.

Listen, being I do still posses a small shred of decency the picture was immediately deleted. See? There are lines that I won’t cross. But I’m a little bummed not to share it with you. It really was fucking hysterical.

This morning Z told me if I got cold I should sit on the sofa with a blanket. “Oh yes,” I told him. “Absolutely.”

Guess where I am as I write this post.

The red butt is worth it. Haven’t laughed like that in a while. And man, it felt good. Really good.

heat register

If you need me I’ll be here.

boys do it too

They are only allowed to have brief sits.

bathroom window

Outside our bathroom window last week.

Confession

You know how my whole schtick is to be as honest as possible no matter what? I haven’t been honest. With you, with myself.

Let’s back up a bit. Winter sucks for my anxiety disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) gets sprinkled on top of my regular sundae of crazy. The fact that Syracuse has more overcast days annually than Seattle does not help.

This past week has been particularly unpleasant. I got a pretty brutal cold. Which led to not jogging for 4 days, the longest break I’ve taken since the jogging odyssey began last July. Z and I had a fight so ugly it necessitated an extra couples therapy appointment.

[Yes. Z and I fight. Our relationship is not perfect, nowhere near. We hurt each other, we disappoint each other. We calm down and try to figure out how to do better.]

I put my foot in my mouth epicly. C fell down and gave himself a bloody nose. T and C had an altercation so violent C’s nose was left bloody again. A manageable and forecasted snow storm hit us, but Syracuse has decided not to keep up with plowing this year so the boys unnecessarily missed a day of school because I couldn’t get my car off of our street. C fell out of bed AND HIT HIS NOSE AGAIN!

When a whole bunch of not great stuff happens, especially at the times my crazy is more…present the self loathing starts to take over. I feel worthless and useless, unfit as a mother and wife. I feel fat and ugly. I’m sure I disgust those around me, I certainly disgust myself. It is hard not to cry, hard to get out of bed, hard not to listen to the bitch who whispers, “I hate you, I hate you” on a nonstop loop in my head.

So the thing I haven’t been honest about has been festering in my mind. It has become the thing I think about constantly, turning it over and over in my head reminds me how weak and useless and stupid I actually am.

Just over a year ago I had a bad pap smear. It was scary, but I followed directions and had a colposcopy. That pretty much sucked. And it turned out I have HPV. The cool thing is the virus can clear itself so six months later when I had another pap I didn’t have HPV anymore.

In early December I got a call from my gynecologist reminding me about my annual visit that week. I panicked. And told the nice woman who called that I had a scheduling conflict, but I’d call back the following week.

I never called back.

Things aren’t going so well with me. I cannot deal with HPV coming back. Or another colposcopy. Or the thought of cervical cancer. I know I’m being stupid. I know I’m being irresponsible. But I can’t seem to force myself to make the phone call. I am really scared.

This week I came clean to Z. And now I’m coming clean to you. I mean, if you’ve been stupid about something you are scared of I get it. But I think you are strong enough to face it. You just need a little encouragement. I need a little encouragement as well. Monday is my day, I can feel it. I will call the doc on Monday. Pap smear, here I come.

my valentine

T made me a Valentine. It isn’t all bad around here.

sleepy boy C

This poor kid’s nose has been through the wringer this week.

Syracuse winter

Normal Syracuse morning.

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.