Welcome to Boringville

I’ve been taking a trip to Boringville the last week or two. The weather has gotten colder and my daily activities have been reduced to scheduling doctor appointments around my daughter’s bus schedule.

On the good side, I started a new medication that has really helped with my anxiety. I was feeling like a bubbling cauldron of panic that would rise up and burn everyone around me at the slightest provocation. And all the provocation seems to come from one small 5 year old. So I am feeling calmer and hopefully my interactions with my child won’t be so eruptive.

On the bad side, if there is a bad side to being calm, I feel like I’ve become very boring. All I really want to do is get my errands run, keep up with my housework and read some books. Gives a gal a lot to talk about, doesn’t it? I have no knowledge of current pop culture as I don’t watch TV. I have no real knowledge of current events, because I don’t watch the news or read anything other than the local paper. I’ve simplified my life to the point that I can enjoy my daily life and my family. There’s nothing outside the realm of my family life that I worry about anymore, or really concern myself with. My simple life has made me feel calm and secure. Peaceful, if you will. But also pretty boring.

Was being depressed and anxious what gave me a personality? God, I hope not. But I do feel a little more bland. My inner drama queen has quieted. She made me dramatic and funny and gave me something to say. And she also made me worry and panic and feel generally miserable. So I’ll take the blandness and keep my seat on the train to Boringville. It’s nice to not have my panties in a twist about everything in life.

What Not to Say

It’s a rainy day here in Maine. It’s also the only day this week that I don’t have something going on. So I’m hanging out in my jammies, doing laundry and watching movies with my little guy while I sit on a tennis ball. (It’s supposed to massage your muscles. So far it just hurts.) I picked up my Kindle while re-watching Wreck-It Ralph for the second time in 2 days to browse my Facebook newsfeed. And I saw a post of a friend of a friend who was letting everyone know that she had just lost her baby.

I clicked on her status post and read each of the 50+ comments written there. I can’t explain why, but maybe it was some morbid need to see what her loved ones had to say about this devastating moment in her life. And then I got upset for her. Because some people just say the absolute wrong things. You can’t blame these women either, because they haven’t gone through the experience. They are trying to be loving and supportive. But they still say things that can almost demean what their friend is going through.

So if you have a friend who has recently experienced a miscarriage, these are, in my opinion, some things NOT to say:

You already have 2 beautiful children. This may be true, but it isn’t comforting. I don’t care how many children a woman has, she will still deeply mourn the baby she has lost. A friend shared with me that her husband’s grandmother had 14 children and had one miscarriage. Only a couple of years ago that grandmother shared that she still hadn’t gotten over the loss of that one child. She still mourned some 50+ years later. And what about the women who miscarry that don’t have any children? Does that mean they are entitled to feel more grief? Grief is grief, whether other people think we’re entitled to it or not. Please don’t try to demean the depth of a woman’s grief by reminding her she already has other children. Because for me, it made me feel like I was being told that I shouldn’t be too upset about my loss because I had already attained the ultimate goal of a woman: I had already experienced motherhood. It made me feel guilty that I had children when some women couldn’t and I should get over my grief more quickly so as not to possibly offend the women miscarrying who didn’t have any children yet.

Everything happens for a reason. This is a tough one. Partly because I believed it when I kept losing baby after baby. I wanted to believe there was a reason. I had to believe there was a reason. And I couldn’t figure out what that reason could possibly be. I became so fixated on trying to determine why I was miscarrying that I couldn’t allow myself to complete the stages of grief. I thought if I could figure it out I could fix it and get pregnant again and finally have that elusive third baby I kept wishing for. I really struggled with my faith during this. Because I kept hearing about how God has a plan for me and knows what’s right for me and blah, blah, blah. I listened to this and tried so hard to embrace it, to take comfort in that thought. I had friends and family praying for me and with me and that support really meant a lot. But I asked myself a lot of ugly questions. Like, is this some kind of message? If so, what’s the message? Am I not being a good enough mother to the kids I already have? Am I sick with some hidden illness I’m going to discover is the culprit behind my losses? Am I supposed to experience this so that I can write about it, so that I can help other women get through it too? I had my fourth miscarriage at the end of April this year. I was still grieving my other three and was so overwhelmed. Then, a few months later someone said something to me that enabled me to finally let go and start to heal. She said, “We want to believe there is a reason for everything bad that happens in our life, but the reality is, sometimes things happen for no reason at all. They just happen.” And there you have it. Shit happens and it doesn’t have to mean a damn thing.

So now I’m crying for a stranger who is going through something horrible. A woman who will probably hide her grief during the day so that she doesn’t upset those 2 beautiful kids she has and who will sob into her pillow when she goes to sleep. If she were my friend, what I would say to her is this: My heart is breaking for you. I love you and am here for you if you ever need anything. Let yourself cry. Your kids will be okay.

Be there for your friend. Don’t try to say things to make her feel better. She needs to cry. She needs to get all those emotions out. Let her know she can do that with you. Give her a hug and don’t let her go right away. Make her feel loved and supported just by your presence, even if it’s just on the phone.

And now I’ll get off my soapbox and go back to sitting on my tennis ball.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I am almost home free. Mike is on vacation as of 4 o’clock on Friday evening. I just have to make it until then.

The good things this week: 1) I applied for a part-time job with Scholastic and have an interview on Tuesday. The building is about 5 minutes from my house. If I take the job, I will be working for the man again, which I haven’t done since getting out of the Navy at the end of 2005. I thought it would be good to get me out of the house and away from all things domestic and mother-like for a few days a week. 2) I have been night-training my son since the beginning of last week. He has been potty-trained for almost a year and a half, but I have been lazy about trying to train him to hold it overnight. I hate washing sheets every day. But today was day 3 of waking up dry. And he slept from 7:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. this morning. I may get to go back to washing his sheets every week (or two).

ImageThe bad things this week: 1) Caylie’s night-time wanderings have my anxiety level at defcon 5 and I haven’t been sleeping well because of it. I keep getting up and checking the kids, checking the locks on the doors and roaming the house, searching for signs that she’s been out of her room. The extra anxiety and sleep deprivation has left me feeling depressed. There’s nothing like parenthood to make a person feel helpless. And I feel like nothing I do works anymore so let’s add a little bit of hopelessness in there too. 2) My creativity is at an all time low. I feel boring and unoriginal and have nothing to say that doesn’t sound like I’m bitching.

The ugly things this week: 1) The words coming out of my mouth when my daughter pisses me off make me go into a room and cry about it later. I feel like a horrible parent. 2) I left the kids alone in the kitchen with finger paints. It’s quiet. I’m thinking we’ll be having bath time very early today.

Insane in the Membrane

Today has been one of those days. Actually, this whole week has been one of those weeks. My daughter is driving me out of my mind. She has been since birth. I’m convinced its her life’s purpose and I’m living out my penance for some long-forgotten wrong-doing.

A month or two ago, my family was hanging at my brother’s house with his family and we were discussing my daughter. My brother was talking about how he felt lucky because his kids were such good babies. Someone made a joke about my daughter and my brother said, “I’m surprised she’s still alive! I’ve never seen a baby like that!” Of course we all laughed because she was, truly, a very difficult, constantly crying, never sleeping baby. And that baby has grown into a very defiant, constantly crying, never sleeping little girl. My brother’s joke, though, made me feel validated. Because sometimes my husband and I can’t believe we made it through the first year of her life.

At the end of May, I saw a headline that caught my eye: Man Arrested For Putting Baby in a Freezer. A sad story, but its not the first of its kind. And the saddest part is that even though I think it was a horrible crime and I would never condone it, I understood what was going on in that man’s head. Maybe just a little. Because parenting a high-needs child can literally drive you mad. Being sleep deprived, grubby from your lack of time to shower, hungry for more than a handful of something out of a box while you walk and rock your baby across the room and then listening to the piercing, shrieking cries of your baby – the never ending, blood pressure-raising cries… it can make you temporarily insane. I know it. I’ve felt it.

I’m still feeling it from time to time. I’m not the only one. My husband came into our room last evening where I was hiding from my children resting and said to me, “can we give her up for adoption?” We weren’t laughing this time. I cried. I can’t cope with my own child and it makes me feel like a failure. I know I’m not a failure, but it still makes me feel like one. On Monday, I am taking Caylie to see a Behavior Specialist. We have been waiting for a year to see this woman. When I approached my pediatrician almost 2 years ago about the behaviors that are making us batty, she sent us to a sleep specialist. (Did I mention my kid still can’t sleep through the night? Yeah, she’ll be 6 this winter.) Then, when that didn’t help, we were referred to a Behavior Specialist who had a year long wait list. I don’t know what this will accomplish, but I pray to God that something changes.

I was reading an article last night about how to teach our defiant children healthy obedience and it just made me depressed. Because everything about parenting requires the parents to be the ones who change all their behaviors in order to get the kind of behaviors they want from their child. I’m exhausted. I just don’t have the energy or even the desire at this point to put my nose to the grindstone and “re-train” my kid in how to behave. Or how to sleep. Or how to control her emotions. Or how to pick up on social cues. Someone save me! Where’s Superman when you need him? I’m going to go dress up like Lois Lane and hang out outside. Hopefully he’ll come fly me away for the weekend. (I’ll take either Henry Cavil or Tom Welling, I’m not that picky.)

A Letter to my 9 year-old Self

I woke up this morning to a broken microwave. Normally, I would just go out and buy a new one, but I just bought that microwave in April. I called the manufacturer’s warranty customer service line, described what’s wrong and was told to return it and get a new one. Ya think? The nice girl at the Target service desk told me that if I brought the microwave in without the box (since it was trashed) and I had the receipt, they would exchange it.

This prompted a mad search for a receipt from April. I dug through the little trash can in the office. No receipt. Then I searched my purse. No receipt. A lightbulb went on over my head. My spring purse! (I have a little pocketbook problem in which I like to have one for each season.) So into the master bedroom closet I went. Once upon a time, I was a Thirty-One consultant so I have a plethora of purses stashed in my closet. I started to go through the massive piles of pocketbooks. One of my bad habits when changing out my purse is that I leave all the papers and junk in my purses when I switch to a new one. What started as a simple search for a receipt became a full-blown trip down memory lane complete with an empty trash bag (I was multi-tasking) and a closet that looked like it had vomited all over my bedroom floor.

I found all kinds of stuff, including receipts – some dated as far back as 2007. But no receipt from April for my new microwave. Instead, I found a letter I wrote 3 years ago. To my 9 year-old self. I don’t even remember writing it, so it kind of freaked me out to see yellow-lined notebook paper with my handwriting that started, “Dear Tammy.” (Notice by my use of my old nickname just how long I’ve known myself.)

(Note: Wondering why I wrote to my 9 year-old self? When I was 9, my mother tried to commit suicide. It was then that she was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.)

“Dear Tammy, 

I was thinking about you today. It’s about time that I wrote to you. I’ve put it off for years because what should I say to a 9 year-old who is going through the things that you are? First thing: you will survive this. You are a survivor. You don’t feel the strength you possess, but it’s there inside of you. That strength will lift you up and keep your feet moving ahead even when you don’t want to.

The things you dream of are possibilities just waiting for you. Remember why Cinderella is your favorite Disney movie? Because “dreams are a wish your heart makes” and wishes can come true. If you make them. Wishes may not be granted by a wand-toting fairy godmother, or just magically happen for you, but know that you can have or do anything that you dream. You have the capability, the drive, the brains. Stop doubting yourself. It’s okay to love yourself. It’s also okay to forgive.

Your family loves you. Life is confusing right now – scary. But you will never be alone; you only feel that way now. Adults make mistakes, Tam. I know it’s hard to believe, but even as infallible as adults seem – as parents seem – they can and will make mistakes. But those mistakes belong to them, not you. The consequences will affect you, but they are not because of you. Keep that in your heart, Tammy.

When you are feeling scared and alone, angry and confused, remember that you are loved. The things you dream about will come true. You will make a wonderful life for yourself. You will love your life.

Thinking of you with love,

Tamara, your 34 year-old self”

Wow. That kinda made me cry. Who knew my 34 year-old self was so introspective and eloquent. This letter was my coolest find of the day. That and the 5 dollar bill in an old birthday card.

If you could write a letter to a younger version of yourself, what do you think you’d say? What age of your former self would you pick?

When Someone You Love is Toxic

I cannot shut my brain off. With all the stuff I’ve been doing and thinking about, I still have my mom on my mind.

I haven’t talked to my mom in almost three weeks. When we spoke last, I told her that I never wanted to talk to her again. I told her to never call my house. I told her she was toxic to me and that I couldn’t deal with her anymore. Now I’m feeling guilty. I’m not going to get into what she said to me during one of her more disturbing delusions, but it was bad. And I snapped.

I feel justified in being angry with her. I also feel justified in having the pity party I’ve thrown for myself. That justification doesn’t make me feel any less guilty though. My husband wonders why I continued to have a relationship with my mom after I moved out of the house at 18. And my answer to that is why I am feeling guilty for cutting her off now: she can’t help that she’s mentally ill. She didn’t choose to swing a pendulum between depression and crazed delusions. She didn’t choose to have an illness that has a social stigma attached to it, that requires her to take heavy duty drugs with long term health consequences. She can’t help that when her medication levels aren’t perfectly balanced she thinks horrible thoughts and spews them all over the people around her. This is why I have a relationship with my mom despite the pain it sometimes causes me.

For a long time, our roles have been reversed. I have been the parent, offering advice and consolation and helping make decisions. I have been the voice of reason when she’s upset about something childish or when she’s being irresponsible. I have kept my own problems to myself so that she doesn’t have more to worry about. When I was going through miscarriage after miscarriage, struggling with the despair and worry and struggles with my faith, I kept my mouth shut. Because I learned a long time ago that when I share those things with my mom, she ends up getting so worked up, so distraught, that I find myself comforting her when I am the one that wants and needs to be comforted. But I still hold out for those rare moments when she is the parent. When she says something I need to hear or shares a legitimate memory with me about my childhood and what she did to calm the storm of my personality.

Deborah and Tamara

The only picture I have of my mom and me as a child. She had labelled the back: “Tammy and Mother, January 5, 1976.”

The other reason I have a relationship with my mom is that I love her. I can’t help it. She may be crazy, but she was a good mother too. She was loving and affectionate. She shared her love of art with us. She made brownies/cookies/cakes with us and let us lick the spoon or beater. She taught me how to make a daisy chain so I could wear a crown. She kept us well-fed and our house clean and homey.

I don’t truly want to cut my mom from my life. But I have needed this break from her. I’m surprised that she has respected my boundaries. She used to call me everyday, sometimes multiple times per day and has still managed to respect my wishes and not call once. I keep thinking about how I would feel if the last words she ever heard me say were the ugly ones that came out of my mouth in anger and disgust. Can I live with that? I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can live with the toxicity of our relationship right now either. I have so many emotions to work through about her. Talking to her brings them all up like a piece of bad fish and I’ll vomit my negative emotions all over the place. The place I share with my children and husband. And that’s not fair to them.

What do you do when someone you love is toxic? Do you hope the good of the relationship outweighs the bad? Do you make the allowance that you are willing to suffer for the possibility that the relationship will be worth it? Or do you end that relationship and gather up all the good memories to live off of forever? Is it even possible to end a mother/daughter relationship? I don’t think you can. But I haven’t really tried. Not really. I’m still not sure that I want to. Maybe that makes me a masochist. Or maybe just idealistic. I’m certainly conflicted.

Hide and Seek

As a woman, or a mother, have you ever just wanted to run and hide? I’m reading a book that asked me the question: have you ever felt like just walking away? Yes. I have.

I haven’t written in a while. Partly because I didn’t have anything new to say, but mostly because I just wanted to hide for a while. Keep my mouth shut and my emotions close. My writing may have stopped, but life never did. That’s the way of a mother’s life. Things never slow down or stop moving along. Kids grow, learn new things, astound you with new abilities, make new friends, start playing sports and mom just jogs along behind, trying to keep up. Well, that’s what I’ve been doing, jogging along trying to keep up and letting that run fill up all my days and thoughts.

It’s a new year and I’m hoping for a new beginning, both for me and my writing. My family has some new things going on. We have become a gluten free household after discovering a gluten sensitivity last year. And we have started going to church as a family. This may not sound like much, but I feel like they are huge steps with long-term benefits for all of us.

I rang in the New Year, not with a resolution, but with hope. I hope, this year, to be a better me, physically, mentally and spiritually. I have hope for a healthier, more joyful year. And I hope that I will feel able to write about it and to share it with you.

Do you make a resolution each year? What did you decide on this year? What do you hope for?