b a r e

writing is healing. ask me anything.

Tag: daughter

hang on

And just like that I’m there again. No sleep last night. And my sanity has unraveled today. Faking it so my daughter doesn’t see. Can’t breath. Can’t find calm. No energy, no appetite, but no rest. Heart pounding, pounding, pounding. I can’t take it. I don’t want to be here. To be. Gotta hang on. Hang on. Gotta remember this is temporary. It has to be.

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What do you wish you could do over that is part of your illness experience?

Where did it begin? With the pregnancy itself? With finding out it was a girl? With knowing the OB was wrong, that she was in fact still breech. With stubbornly deciding to have a version? With accepting the doctor’s declaration that we weren’t leaving the hospital that day? How could I have changed that? How could I have convinced myself to forgo the natural birth I wanted so badly. To accept it wasn’t going to happen – accept that without trying to do something – and come to terms with a c-section. And mourn the loss of my desire, wish, decision. And prepare for surgery. Surgery. Being sliced open on a table while my arms are tied down. Naked and exposed to a room full of strangers with knives. Helpless. A vessel for a child. A container. Scooped out, wiped down, stapled back together. Then wheeled away. Agony. How do you fix this scenario? Where do you make me a human being in this equation. When do I matter. Not just my flesh, my stats, my numbers. But my humanity. How do you alter a medical situation when once you’re in it you are part of the machine. A business that wants to check off its lists and bill you for it. Don’t interrupt, what you say doesn’t matter, worse, it’s an intrusion. Just let them do their job! Stop asking for things. You’re getting what they planned on giving you, what’s in the budget. Do your time, let us do whatever we want to do to you, when we want to do it, and then get out. Your 4 days are done. Outside in the world of concrete and blistering sun. Figure it out, because you’ve reached the end of our help. Goodbye.

unwelcome passenger

There you are again. The unwelcome, familiar passenger. Sitting on my chest. Heavy. Unshakable. I can’t breath. Gulping air in but cannot fill my lungs. When I carry you around, you get in the way of everything. I no longer directly touch anything I come in contact with. Everything is a few feet away farther. Just out of reach. Distorted by your interference. When I hug my child. When I hug my husband. When I watch tv. When I eat a meal. When I talk to someone. You make it hard to hear. You make it hard to pay attention, to stay focused. I start to talk and you get in the way, what was I saying, what were the words I was looking for. You’re blocking them. A wall in between me and everything else. If I move fast, can I get around – no, you’re already there. And so I’m not quite myself, not quite inside my body. Because my body is such an uncomfortable place to be. When I’m touched, I don’t feel anything. When I’m spoken to, it’s from miles away. I’m in limbo, not quite anywhere. I’m a balloon, floating further and further away.

My sister / My daughter – Part 1 of a series

Dear Sister,

I am so, so, so, so sorry. There are no words that can possibly ever come close to describe how sorry I am. Our mom says we were monsters. I was a monster. I expertly studied and executed what our father demonstrated. When it came time to engage, the lever that controls all emotion was pulled down to the off position. I was calculating, cruel and efficient. I analyzed your weak spots and sliced with precision. I was good at it. I enjoyed it, the skill and expertise. I did not think about the consequences. I acted, concluded, then went back to whatever I was working on before. I was actually surprised, and somewhat annoyed, by how long it took you to “get back to normal.” I had no idea what I was doing to you. I didn’t actually understand you. I never bothered to try. I only knew my boundaries, and operated with those in every situation. It took years of confusion, of making people uncomfortable, and of offending people, before it suddenly dawned on me that other people have different boundaries.

But that’s not what this writing piece is about. This is about two girls trying to establish order after the tyrant was exiled. Two strong and stubborn leaders fighting for dominance and control. Two rulers angry over the non-compliance of the other. We were children (she 10, me 12) taking on adult roles, using the tools our parents taught us. And those tools were violent and sadistic.

This is about accepting responsibility for my actions. This is about guilt, and figuring out how to release it. I was awful. But I was a child.

This is about reframing. I have happily looked down on my sister as an example of all the things I have overcome and decided not to be – victim, martyr, high on justified anger and anxiety, drama seeking, pathetic. But it’s not that simple. She is a strong, capable human being who is using different tools to survive. And truthfully, at this point, after over 5 years of little to no contact, she’s a stranger. Think about how much I’ve changed in the last 5 years, I am a completely different person. She is too. It has been so easy to make her the bad guy. It’s so easy to make people the bad guys. And so much more complicated to see them as they really are, complex creatures worthy of love and respect.

What are you hiding?

I peel. I peel off the skin on my cuticles. I peel off the skin around the sides of my fingers. I find an uneven spot and dig in and pull strips of skin away. Sometimes it’s little pieces at a time. Sometimes it’s a big chunk of skin. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t peel. Over the years my fingertips have lost more and more sensitivity. Most of the time it doesn’t bleed. But when it does, it’s time to stop, those are my rules. I peel when I’m stressed. I peel when I’m bored. I peel when I’m watching tv, when I’m taking a shower, when I’m in the car driving. Sometimes it’s intentional. I’m inspecting my fingers to find spots that need to be peeled. Most of the time I don’t even realize I started doing it until it starts hurting. I get in a trance. Fingers feeling a long other fingers searching for uneven surfaces. My fingers are on autopilot, alien ants working industriously with no apparent leader. I peel to try and create smoothness, which is the exact opposite result I always get. I peel to escape the present. The tactile experience is soothing, comforting. So is the pain. It’s never too painful, it’s just the right amount of soreness, a welcome sensation to focus on, to disappear from the now. Once I start, I can’t stop until I’m done. But what is done when there is always more uneven spots that need to be peeled. I find a place in my mind that is good enough, and force myself to focus on something else. I need to stop. But I don’t want to. I don’t know how to stop. I won’t let myself stop. I’ve never told any of my doctors about it. Intentionally not peeling creates an intense level of anxiety and the inability to focus on anything else. I’m not ready to stop. But I have to, I must. My child is peeling too. She learned it from me. The guilt I feel is crushing. I tell her to stop. What a hypocrite I am. But I also tell her to stop me if I’m doing it. I do my best not to do it in front of her. I’ve made that a new rule, and I’m struggling to follow it. Even just writing about this makes the urge so strong. Here I go again.

Mold

Fear is the mold of the mind. It lives under the surface, dormant, waiting. Then one day there is a leak. It awakes with a flourish, expanding and spreading quickly. It eats up all that is around it, distorting and devastating. As it spreads it blackens what was once white and pristine. Darkness expanding, engulfing. It suffocates, greedily taking up all the space it can. It grows and covers rational thought and logic. It has the power to kill.

I am surrounded by the mold fear. It’s growing in our downstairs bathroom, around the window in my daughter’s room, on the window in our bedroom, and in my blood in frighteningly high amounts. If I could be objective, I would say it’s beautiful. Flowery circles expanding in patterns, hypnotic to look at. It’s devious in its decoration. Knowing that I’m breathing it in, that my child is breathing it in, makes it almost impossible to breath. I am strangled by the knowledge that this harming me, harming us. I am strangled by my fear. It is crushing me. Every limb is tense. The moment I wake the hot adrenaline spreads across my body, my heart beating hard. The white anxiety spreading down my arms and legs. The ball of fire crushing my chest. I can’t even take a deep breath to relax – the air itself is toxic to me. The fear, the mold, surrounds me, fills ever bit of air around me. I feel so trapped in this house, in this bed, in this body, in this fear.

have a mother’s day

I am deeply ambivalent about today’s hallmark holiday. Even with this beautiful girl sitting in front of me so full of life and love, I am flipping through the list of ways I have hurt her or failed her. Thank goodness she’s so resilient. But mostly, thank goodness I’m not my mom. She showed me over and over that I was worthless and undeserving of respect. She chose everyone and everything over me. She took my childish worship for granted. She whines that she loves me, she misses me, but her “love” is limited and unhealthy. And it hurts. Sure, you miss me now, now that you’re old and lonely. Her neediness makes me angry. What about when I needed you. Yes you feel guilt for so many of your choices. But I remember your face when you first made those decisions. Completely unapologetic, proud even. Ugh, stop, I don’t want to waste my time dredging up the ugliness again. I forgave you long ago, not that you’re off the hook, but that I chose to not carry around my resentment anymore. I set it down, and decided to accept you just as you are, limited, selfish, OCD, and not welcome in my life except when I feel like I can handle your immaturity and disconnectedness. And I decided to look at my current life with relief and gratitude. This is Motherhood 2.0 – my turn. I get to create a new mother/daughter relationship. In this version, the mother is present for her daughter, listens to her, treats her like a complete human being and shows her she believes in her. This time when the mother makes mistakes, she admits them and apologizes for them, and doesn’t make excuses and doesn’t laugh about the pain she’s caused. This time the daughter is able to ask for her needs and get them met. This time the daughter knows how much she’s loved both in actions and words, over and over. And this time the daughter has a very loving and supportive and fun and safe father who would never harm her, never torture her, not in a zillion years. I am so lucky and so grateful for my family. We are imperfect. But we are good people. Sometimes I forget that I’m part of the good. Sometimes it’s helpful for me to look back at the bad, and see how much I am not that, not by a long shot. Then I can go through my list of successes instead – and realize that I am a part of making my child’s life good.

Teachers

I have had many great teachers in my life. Some have been in the classroom. My junior year high school English teacher inspired my love of literature. My college comparative literature professor-turned-adviser did as well. But most of the significantly impacting teachers in my life never held a credential. One high school friend of mine that walks slowly, saunters, taught me to slow down. Other high school friends taught me to appreciate diversity in perspectives. To accept people as they are and learn from what they have experienced. The students I taught over the course of 6 years taught me empathy and compassion. My husband taught me that relationships don’t need to be dramatic to be full of love and meaning. A dear friend of mine has taught me to recognize the light inside me, and how warm and beautiful it is, when I long believed it extinguished. That possibility always exists, we just need to turn our head in another direction to see it. That the universe wants to bring me my greatest good and is always full of abundance. From my fellow outpatient and after-care friends I have learned that we may be suffering alone, but we are not alone. That we may feel broken, but that sharing our brokenness heals us all.

And finally, my daughter. Through her I am learning every single day.

I have learned what it means to love so intensely I feel like my body can not contain it. I have learned that I can handle other people’s bodily fluids at 3 AM. I have learned that I can push myself beyond the limits of exhaustion and survive (it’s not a pretty picture though). I continue to revisit the lesson of patience. Over and over. I’m still working on that one. I’m still learning how to not react when my buttons are pushed. I struggle with that lesson. I have learned how to be present, even during the 100th game of princesses. And last but not least, I am learning forgiveness, for the mistakes I’m making along the way because I’m doing the best I can.

not my mother

This burning anger. She’s keeping me waiting again. She doesn’t respect me. She is actively insulting me with her behavior. She’s pissing me off! It’s not my mom, this time. It’s my 5 1/2 year old child. She’s driving me crazy…being developmentally appropriate. I have mapped my childhood years of neglect and rage onto my baby. How do I stop? How do I not get pissed when she stalls or procrastinates or ignores me or refuses to do what I tell her to? I try to remind myself, “she’s 5, she’s only 5.” That helps, a little. But I still have this timer in my head, this schedule. I feel like I’m always failing to follow it, to keep up with it. My husband gently suggested allowing more flexibility into the schedule. “We don’t have to eat right at 6pm.” He’s right. My schedule times are kind of arbitrary. Self-imposed requirements. I picked them, so I can adjust them. What happened to my ability to be flexible? I had it when I was teaching. “Overprepare, but be flexible,” was my motto. But with my child I just want to get through each item on the checklist. Check it off, move to the next item, efficient. Except that it’s not working. I’m not enjoying any of the to-do’s. And I’m sure she can tell, sense it. How do people enjoy these lather, rinse, repeat duties? I guess maybe they can recognize how fleeting this is in the long run. Before I know it, I won’t get to nag her to get in the bath already. I won’t get to cradle and rock her in her towel afterwards. She’ll be showering all on her own. Before I know it, I won’t be arguing with her at bedtime over which books to read and which songs to sing. She’ll wave to me, “goodnight,” and head upstairs on her own. She’s only this sweet, adorable age for a little while. This is what I need to remember. Also, she’s not my mother.

white knuckling

I’m holding it together. But only just.

The words are back – the liars. They’re telling me, I’m telling me, that I’m a failure as a parent. I’m so mean to my little girl. That voice, I cut her open with contempt. All she wants is a mother’s love. I’m her mother. But I forget. Just do what you’re supposed to do. What I want you to. Obey. But she’s 5. She’s supposed to be her own person. And I crush her. She bounces back. But what damage have I done. What scar tissue am I generating under that beautiful, soft skin.

How        do        I        stop.

Please let this be hormones – this depth of this suffering crying guilt.

Does this mean I’ve failed. That I need to go back onto antidepressants.

I’m so tired. The mantra of my life.

Door slams shut inside. Feel nothing feel nothing feel nothing. Maybe if I hold really still, this will go away.