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.

Buyers Remorse

In six days the 5K happens. As of yesterday I have only run 5K twice in my entire life. I don’t really know the course. But I have seen the course markers on one part of it-they are orange. I don’t know how to register the day of. I still haven’t arranged a babysitter. I have a rather severe anxiety disorder and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. What the fuck was I thinking when I signed up for this thing?

Yesterday morning I set out to make sure jogging for 3.1 miles wasn’t a bizarre fluke but something I could actually make myself do on purpose. The first time I tricked myself. Ran 2.25 miles and made a last second decision to keep on going. Yesterday it was much harder to start knowing I had almost an extra mile before stopping. If that makes sense. In fact, the whole jog was harder mentally. But I did it. Actually, I did it a minute faster than the first time.

Unfortunately I also had diarrhea for about 20 minutes before I went. Hardcore anxiety diarrhea. The kind where I’m sitting on the pot and my anxiety is telling me I’m getting way too big for my britches by thinking I can do a 5K race. The kind where she tells me I shouldn’t open myself up to embarrassment by doing the race.

Sometimes I get so fucking tired of fighting her. Sometimes I want to collapse under the weight of her incessant criticism. Sometimes I believe her, I think my efforts to live a normal life are a joke, that everyone who crosses my path is filled with pity and repulsion, I should just give up a battle I will never win.

These days the main topic in therapy is accepting that the anxiety isn’t going to go away. Ever. There is no magic cure, I must learn to live with the bitch who is most certainly not moving out of my brain. Most days I feel proud that I’m engaging in life despite the anxiety, but I also get overwhelmed that fighting her is required to complete the most straightforward tasks. I want going apple picking with friends to be a no brainer. Instead it requires a benzo, three imodium, and I’m sure I’m going to bail right up until the last moment we get into the car. That stupid fight is never going to go away. The fear I feel whenever the car pulls away from our home with me in it is permanent.

The trick is to remind myself that the fight is worth it. We had a terrific time picking apples and pumpkins yesterday. The payoff is worth the fear. How else am I going to get the opportunity to have an apple fritter sundae for lunch?

Doing the 5K is also worth it. I am proving to myself that I can do hard things. The me of a year ago would have never believed I could do this. I’ve surprised myself and my family and three months and one week after stumbling into this exercise thing I am doing my first race.

Do you want to know the whole truth? I hate this truth. Because the exercise thing is good. It is healthy for me, I am doing something to take care of myself. But the truth is the exercise has become winning a game of solitaire before I sleep. I believe it is the only thing keeping me together emotionally and if I stop my life will fall apart. So my anxiety is telling me I can’t do a 5K at the same time she is telling me if I stop exercising I will not be able to go to class or do my homework or take the boys to school or grocery shop or get to my shrink appointments or do laundry or leave the house or get out of bed.

For years I’ve been told that exercise is as good as drugs when it comes to fighting mental illness. For years I couldn’t convince myself to just do it. And now I am. I exercise five days a week. So what happens if I stop? It stands to reason (in my completely unreasonable mind) that my life will fall apart. The binding that is holding me together is jogging five days a week. It doesn’t matter that I’ve only been doing it for three months, suddenly it is the most important thing I do.

Friends, I know. This all sounds ridiculous. Am I actively courting drama? Why can’t I enjoy that I’m doing something good for myself? What the fuck is my problem? Why can’t I just decide not to be anxious? Believe me, I ask these questions constantly. I know how good my life is and how lucky I am. The mental illness seems like it should be totally surmountable. I still wonder if it is even real. My shrink asks if my asthma is real whenever I start down that line of questioning. Listen, I’m pretty damn open about living with mental illness. And yet I still don’t understand why I can’t quite seem to pull myself up by my bootstraps.

I am living with mental illness. I am managing it and am participating in life more than I have since…..really since I became an adult. Z is proud of me and I’m proud of myself. But it still demoralizing some days. I still fantasize about getting better or simply giving up.

It’s the boys who keep me going. They deserve a functioning Mother.

I’m going to run the damn race on Sunday. Even if I have to take a million imodium to get me there. I’m going to keep exercising. I’m going to keep fighting the anxiety. And in case you’ve had enough of this crap-fair warning I’m going to keep writing about it all.

non vanity shot

On instagram I dubbed this the opposite of vanity shot. Bought running tights. Felt naked wearing them. Also, I look like humpty dumpty around the middle and my friend hilariously pointed out it looks like I have a penis head. Bottom line is this if I can go out into public looking like this you can totally do it, too. You can also make fun of me. Because seriously, I look ridiculous.

C picks pumpkin

C picked out his pumpkin yesterday.

wheelbarrow boys

Boys in wheelbarrows.

friends

I’m a lucky duck to have this crew as friends.

Z Awesomeness Day

As we were preparing for the drinks/dinner/award presentation/basketball game yesterday afternoon I started to get a migraine. Because duh. I was dressing up a bit, putting on lip gloss for the very first time this calendar year, and getting ready to socialize with strangers in public. I very carefully didn’t think about what was actually going down on Monday night in the days leading up to it because I knew I’d freak out if I did.

I told myself I was not going to fuck this up for Z. I took my migraine meds which meant I might be a bit stupid and stoned at the dinner, but that was a hell of a lot better than being in horrific pain. The babysitter arrived, my folks were ready to go, Z came home and started hustling us out of the house.  It was a whirlwind, I didn’t have time to have an anxiety attack. By the time we got to the venue for drinks and dinner I realized I forgot to take Imodium. And somehow I was fine. Yes folks, I did not shit my pants. We got there at 4:30 and got home at about 9:30. It was 5 hours of doing stuff that usually scares the hell out of me. And not only did I do it without embarrassing Z, I actually enjoyed myself. Pretty fucking neat.

So yes, there were drinks and pictures and a dinner.

Z with Gianfranco Zaccai who established the Continuum + Arthur Pulos Award.
Two deans, the former recipient of the award, Continuum employees who are also SU alums and the photographer snapping away!
And then we walked over to the Dome. Our seats were right down front, which was pretty cool. 
The Chancellor of SU strolled by and said hi to the gang as they were waiting to take the Court. She knows who Z is! How fucking cool it that?
Z accepting the award. He didn’t drop it! 
Yup, we are watching a basketball game. Yup, the amount of orange really freaked me out. But! The chairs we sat on were blue. Major relief. 
I didn’t manage to take a picture of my folks, but it was awesome that they came all the way from Georgia to celebrate with us. They are hella proud of Z as well. Listen, it was totally a weird night. But it was pretty cool as well. Watching your spouse being recognized for totally rocking at his job is pretty spectacular. He deserves to have people fuss over him. I am damn proud. 
And see? It was worn off by the time we got to the game, but the lipgloss did happen. 

What Do Z and SU Basketball Have In Common?

“We have to have a serious discussion.”
“Uh oh,” I said, “About what.”
“On Monday night we are going to a basketball game. It’s a big game. There are going to be like 30,000 people there.”
“Wait, you said 20,000. You just increased it by 50%. But it’s ok. I’ll bring a chill pill.”
“Karen. They all are going to be wearing orange.”
“Jesus christ. Am I going to have to touch any of them?”
“Well, you might bump up against some of them.”
“Ok, ok. I’ll deal. So what color is Notre Dame? You know, so I don’t offend anyone by wearing their color.”
“How the hell should I know?”
“We should google it.”

Z and I are not sports fans. So why are we going to a basketball game on Monday night? Why are my folks flying in to town today to attend the game with us even though they hate the winter and swore they’d never visit in the snow? Ok, I’m going to brag about Z yet again. Sorry, can’t help it. He’s awesome.

Last year he was nominated for the Continuum + Arthur Pulos Award for innovation in interdisciplinary design education by the Dean of the School of Information Studies. And he got it. How cool is that? It was announced last fall, but the powers that be decided that there’d actually be a little ceremony right before the Syracuse vs. Notre Dame basketball game. There’s also going to be a lunch on Monday. And cocktails. And a dinner. And then the presentation. And then the game itself.

So Monday is celebrate Z’s awesomeness day. I don’t give a shit if I have to be near people wearing orange. Ok, that’s not totally true. It’s going to make my skin crawl. Have I talked about the orange thing here before? I hate it. The color, the flavor, the everything. Z was doing freelance work for SU with the hope of parlaying it into a full time job when I was first pregnant with T and we lived in Providence. He actively hid the orange thing from me for months. When the job prospect started to look really good he sat me down one night and told me we needed to talk. I was hormonal his seriousness scared the shit out of me. That is when he told me SU’s color was orange. I was so relieved that I told him I didn’t care. He said that I didn’t understand. The mascot was the Orangeman. Thankfully this all happened at a really vulnerable time for me–I wanted Z to get a job with benefits so I didn’t have to worry about being a first time mom and the family breadwinner. So I just dealt with it. And it’s a good thing I did. Syracuse rocks and Z has thrived here. So my chill pill and I will stoically deal with being surrounded by the color I despise.

He isn’t crazy about this post. I’m embarrassing him a bit. And while I usually cool it if I’m writing about something that makes him uncomfortable I can’t help it this time. I’m too proud of him. And the basketball game thing is just too weird. 

Every morning they guys do pre-work inside-the-jacket hugs.
Seriously, very proud. Very very proud.
Stacking blocks has become a favorite pastime.