Bombarded

First things first: you people will never know (no matter how hard I try to tell you) what you have done for me this week. I want to respond to all your comments individually, but being emotionally overwhelmed. . .well, we’ll see.

In any case, many, many thanks. This being-separated-from-Jacob-and-Abbie is one of the most painful things I have ever experienced and your love and support is one of the things that keeps me from climbing under the bed and waiting there for death via dust bunny asphyxiation.

If I was a different kind of person, I would have come home from dropping Carter off at school this morning and said to myself, Self, there is a lot to day today and this house is very messy. I’m going to sort the laundry and, after I get a load started in the washer, I’ll clean the kitchen. When the kitchen is clean, I’m going to return some phone calls and after that, I’ll take a break and decide what to do next.

But I’m not a different kind of person; I’m a me kind of person and when I came home from dropping Carter off at school this morning I said to myself, Self, this house is a fucking disaster and I’m behind of everything so I better damn well get busy with something and I should start with those phone calls because my God, how can I expect people not to hate me when I don’t ever call them back but wait I should get some laundry started first or no, that’s not right, I should deal with the kitchen because how the hell can a person stand to live in a house with such a dirty kitchen but if I do the kitchen I should try to figure out what that stink in the refrigerator is but before I do that I really should start the laundry because, wait, does Carter have any clean underwear oh, my God did he go commando this morning and what kind of mother am I and I haven’t written a blog post in, I dunno, maybe three days so I should probably go upstairs and do that now but how can I even think about writing when there are so many other things to do and I think one of the dogs peed in the dining room so I should go get the tools and fix the gate to keep them out of there but if I was a halfway decent person who even deserved to own dogs I would have trained them not to pee in there a long time ago and I wonder how many emails I need to answer oh shit do you remember that blogger who recently said she answers every email she gets from her readers and how I thought, oh, I want to be that kind of blogger and who am I kidding I suck way too much to ever manage something like that and oh, no, I forgot I need to make those appointments for the kids and that one for myself and I should start thinking about what to write for the First Things First series and I haven’t seen Grammy since last week which figures since I’m the world’s shittiest granddaughter and I wonder what’s on TV?

At which point one of two things happens. Either I crawl into the couch with the remote control (or screw around on Twitter, or do something equally non-productive) or I buzz around trying to do everything. In either case, I accomplish nothing, which means I get further behind, which means that the following day, when I come home from dropping Carter off at school, I’m right back where I started.

When my sister and I were little girls, we fought all the time – that kind of constant, pick pick pick sibling arguing that kids seem, almost, to enjoy, but that drives parents to distraction. When we really got going my mom would sigh and say, “You girls make me tired.”

I feel that way about my brain. It makes me tired.

Under Siege

My head hurts.

Actually, I have pain from my forehead, up and around the back of my head, down into my neck, and spreading across my shoulders and down to my back.

Why? Because I don’t like my kid much these days, and that’s a shitty way to be feeling.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve wished that, if my kid had to have a disability, he could have gotten one that didn’t make him so damn unlikeable, I’d be able to buy myself a new car.

That right there is a shitload of nickels, my friends. Too bad my personal nickel dispenser has fallen asleep at the switch.

We wake up in the morning and he immediately starts acting like an asshole. There’s a fight over whether or not he will take his medicine; over how long it takes to properly brush one’s teeth (I am annoyingly devoted to the notion that 8.2 seconds is not long enough to keep his teeth in his head.), and over whether or not he can wear this or that favorite shirt for the fourth day in a row.

Most days he asks me, “Can I have cookies for breakfast?” Or he asks for ice cream, or pretzels, or something we don’t have. It’s like a dance and as much as I want to sit out, I’m pulled to my feet to take the all-to-familiar steps.

“No.”

“Fine, I won’t eat anything.”

“Your choice, but if your medicine makes you barf, you’re not staying home from school.” One of the medicines he takes causes Carter to throw up if he swallows it on an empty stomach. He managed to stay home several times before I figured out that he was playing me by pretending to eat breakfast.

“FINE! I’ll drink some stupid fucking milk. Can I take cookies for lunch?”

“You can take two.”

“That’s stupid. I’m taking the whole bag and you can’t stop me!”

“Two or none, you choose.”

“FINE! You’re a stupid fucking bitch asshole!”

“Go to your room until you’re ready to use your skills.” Use your skills is code for get your shit together. No, in fact, it’s code for a set of things he’s learned to do to regulate his emotions; sometimes he’s pretty good at using his skills, and sometimes he’s absolutely unwilling.

These days, he’s almost always unwilling.

On his way out of the living room and toward the stairs, he may or may not try to hit me. If he does try, I may or may not lose my as-yet-inadequately-caffeinated patience and yell at him. As he stomps up the stairs, he shouts one word per step: I. HATE. YOU. I. HATE. YOU. As he stomps, I may or may not think about my first marriage, and how this all feels awfully familiar in some ways.

From my perch on the couch, I can hear him upstairs chanting to himself, “My mom is a stupid fucking asshole asshole asshole. No cookies for me because Mom is an asshole.” Stomp stomp stomp. I sip my coffee and hope that I remembered to lock my bedroom and office doors, in case he starts feeling more destructive than usual.

I just want to make the boy some breakfast and drink my coffee while he eats. The dogs stare at me longingly from the other side of the sun room doors but I won’t let them in until after Carter has gone to school.

Eventually, he comes downstairs and apologizes for the way he was talking. He hugs me. I ask, “Do you know what you need to do next?”

“I have to eat something and take my stupid asshole medicine.”

“Yes, you need some breakfast. Do you want cereal or a smoothie?”

He may or may not start in about the cookies again. I may or may not lose my still-inadequately-caffeinated patience and yell at him. We may or may not also have noise and drama over shoes or other articles of clothing; lunch (into which I never manage to put quite the right things); face and hand washing; putting breakfast dishes away; and missing items like his agenda or water bottle.

By the time we’re ready to walk out the door and get into the car at 8:05 am, I’m having an existential crisis.

Every. fucking. day.

And this? This is, relatively speaking, pretty good. Or not good, but a long way from what we know as bad. He’s not suicidal; he’s functioning well at school. He has only the mildest of psychotic symptoms.

I can’t believe that what I’m living right now is what passes for “pretty good.” I can’t believe this is my life.

After I pick Carter up from school, we do battle about a different set of issues. He’s a little less angry in the afternoons, but a whole lot more hyper. He often has appointments after school, and he gets angry that we can’t go straight home. That wouldn’t be so bad except that, if we do go straight home, he’s still not happy.

I try to force some kind of positive interaction – anything to alter the mood, or at least remind us both for a moment that we love each other. Sometimes I am successful; often he is so determinedly miserable that I am unable to breach his emotional hull.

My head still hurts, and I don’t have a way to end this post. There is no tidy closing, no hopeful Scarlett here to say, “…after all, tomorrow is another day!”

Tomorrow is another day. Another day to fight and struggle. Another day to read articles written by people with way too much influence who say that pediatric mental illness is not real. Another day to call Carter’s psychiatrist in hopes that we can make a tiny chemical adjustment and improve things. Another day to see Carter’s psychologist and try to learn something new that will make life a little more bearable. Another day to try to do all my living during the hours when Carter is at school and after he goes to sleep, because when he is home and awake, I am under siege.

Another day to drink too much coffee and swallow too much aspirin and try try try to control my feelings because Carter is incapable of controlling his.

Another day.

I want my nickels, dammit.

The Mother I Was, the Mother I Am, and the Mother I Wish I Could Be

Brian and Carter have gone to bed, closing out a day that I’d just as soon have skipped. There was yelling today. Also some stomping on the stairs, several episodes door slamming, and, of course, the requisite cursing.

I wish I could say that all the bad behavior belonged to the small person who has good reasons for being unable to manage his feelings, but sadly, no. Brian and I took turns getting down in the dirt and acting like jerks, too.

There were always days like this, days when parenting seemed like a shit job that for which I was simultaneously over-and-under qualified.

Then Carter came and I was, suddenly, out of my depth in almost every minute.

It’s been about 4,492,800 minutes since Carter was born and I think I’ve felt lost, overwhelmed, and/or afraid during at least 4,492,350 of those minutes.

Before Carter came, we taught our kids not to use what we called “rude words.” The list of rude words included all the usuals — fuck, shit, damn, bitch, ass, and all racial/homophobic/gender slurs —plus stupid and hate. Nobody used any of those words in our house unless the kids were asleep (except the slurs; nobody uses those, ever).

Now, it’s a rare and wonderful day when Carter doesn’t call me a fucking asshole or a stupid shit head. He can stomp up the stairs, scream I hate you, and slam his bedroom door with enough drama to put any hormone-flooded fifteen-year-old to shame.

With Jacob, Abbie, and Spencer, I carefully, methodically, taught them to identify their feelings and name them. When they were tiny, I started with the four simplest: mad, sad, scared, happy. As they grew, I added more nuanced emotions: lonely, disappointed, excited. They learned to speak their own feelings and even to identify the feelings of others. One of my proudest moments was when Jacob, about 5 at the time, said, “I think you’re mad, Mommy. Is that why you’re yelling? Are you mad?” (Proud of him; not so much proud of my own yelling self.)

Now, when I name Carter’s feelings, I only escalate the situation. “Quit saying I’m angry you stupid fucking bitch!” In the moment when he says that, I hate myself for the anger that thumps in my chest.

I love him. Dear God, how I love him, my boy, my heart, my lovely and precious child. But in that moment, I can see my hand rising, feel the sting as it connects with his face. Redness and swelling and bruises.

I have never, but the wanting…God forgive me because the wanting feels like doing, and my brain knows it’s not the same but my heart is confused.

Our house was full of angry words this weekend. We added a new medicine two months ago and it worked — Carter’s agitation and anxiety (the things that drive much of his fury) decreased significantly. The medicine also made him fatigued and nauseous and caused him to have a migraine nearly everyday, so of course we had to stop.

And now I’m a stupid fucking bitch again.

Every smallest anxiety feels like life-or-death to Carter. This morning, unable to find one of his shoes, he wailed and hyperventilated as if there was a hungry, salivating tiger loose in the house. The sounds of his fear startle me, cause my blood pressure to rise, and then I am filled with anger.

And then I feel ashamed. Because I am angry at a little boy with a serious illness. I am angry at symptoms, like being angry at a child with the flu for sneezing or being angry at a child with cancer for growing a tumor.

I took him to school this morning. He cried all the way there as if the plan was to drop him into a piranha-infested river instead of at the school he loves. When he was screaming at the door, “Mommy, no! I can’t do it! I need you!”, all I could think was, “Six hours. Get that kid’s ass through that door and into the school and I’ll have six hours of freedom.”

I was far, far (far!) from the ideal mother before Carter joined us, but I was never so utterly devoid of compassion for any of my children.

I don’t know how to find it again when he bucks and struggles against me the way he does.

Four hours now. Four hours to reset myself. Four hours to find a well of patience and compassion inside me before I have to pick him up from school. This is the worst kind of counting the minutes, when I am dreading being with my own child.

This is not the mother I wanted to be.

Happier and Healthier: Creating a Peaceful Environment

Wow. Alright, based on my email inbox and a few comments, it seems I need to clear a few things up.

I love you all for being concerned. Really and truly, I do. This is meant to reassure, not scold, so please hear it in the manner in which it is intended!

Expressing my feelings is part of the healing process for me. I have spent most of my life hiding my strongest feelings and that has done nothing but make me more and more isolated, and more and more depressed. If these posts are a cry for help, it is only the help that comes from being heard. I don’t expect any of you to fix anything for me; in fact, advice is one of the things that I don’t want.

Be reassured by this: I am under the care of a psychiatrist; I am actively looking for a new therapist; Brian is well aware of my emotional state and if I need a higher level of care he will make sure that I get it; and I have my extended family and some wonderfully supportive friends who will step in and help me in any way they can should I need that.

Writing these posts, making them public, and the wonderful comments and emails that some of you write, are among the most healing experiences I have ever had. Truly, when you say, “I hear you,” or, “I have felt that, too,” I am warmed all over.

I can never thank you enough for that.

One of the things I struggle with (all the time, but even more when I am depressed) is a sort of paralysis born of feeling overwhelmed. I have a hard time seeing the parts and can only see the whole.

If I look at a room and there are dirty dishes, laundry, general clutter, dust, and a dirty floor, I see all of that at once and have a difficult time breaking it up into manageable pieces. If the whole house is a mess (as tends to happen when one is depressed) I don’t know where to start, so I do nothing.

This may seem like a housework issue, but it’s not. Or it is, but only nominally. This is about feeling hopeless and helpless, about making choices and setting standards instead of constantly struggling but getting nowhere.

So yesterday, inspired and encouraged by the wonderful feedback I got after yesterday’s post, I decided to work on cleaning up my office. I want one room that looks nice, to give me a feeling of accomplishment, and my office is the only room I don’t share with anyone, so other people won’t mess it up.

I started with the surface of the desk. Not even that, but one portion. My desk is actually a buffet table and our old kitchen table, so I started with the buffet table. That wasn’t too difficult, so I moved on to the kitchen table. I picked away at it; it took me a long time, and I felt overwhelmed even with this small task.

But I got it done! Carter is thrilled. There is an old kitchen chair across the table from my desk chair and Carter likes to sit there and color or do puzzles when I’m at my desk.

I even swept the floor and cleared off my reading chair, which made Lolly happy.

I feel pretty great about all I accomplished. It ain’t much, but it’s more than I did yesterday, and sitting here this evening, in tidy surroundings, makes me feel more peaceful.

My goal for tomorrow is to box up all the diet books in this house and get rid of them. Those things are poison for me and I don’t have to keep things that hurt me in my house. I’m ashamed to admit that I have two shelves full of diet books, but I can’t change what I did in the past. I can only learn to do something new.

Namaste, my friends.

The Sound of the Darkness


Depression is a wily motherfucker. She’ll use whatever she sees to gouge me right in the soul, to suck the life out of me and make me too tired to fight her.

She sees the overflowing laundry hamper and says, “My God, if you can’t even keep up with the laundry, what good are you?”

She looks at the kids’ empty beds and tells me, “You can make all the excuses you want, but they left because you’re a lousy mother and a sad excuse for a human being.”

Depression watches me say “no” to Carter and when he gets angry, depression says, “Eventually, he’ll reject you too. Just make him the damn sandwich (or drive him to his friend’s house, or buy him a toy, or let him have another cookie) if you want to keep him.”

Depression looks in the refrigerator with me and says, “Why bother looking for something healthy? No matter what you do today, eventually you’ll eat a box of cookies and you’ll be fat and unhealthy forever.”

She sees me looking around the house, trying to decide if I should clean the kitchen or vacuum the living room, and tells me, “You think anything you do will make a difference? You’re a slob and everybody knows it. You might as well give up.”

Depression hears the kind things that people say to me and answers, “Oh, please, they don’t even know you. If they really knew you, they would never be so nice.”

She hammers away at me, pounding on the inside of my skull, until I might as well be stapled to the couch. My eyelids are heavy and my patience is short.

I act in ways that depression tells me to act.

I don’t eat healthy foods because I don’t deserve to eat in ways that make me feel good.

Because I don’t deserve to feel good.

I don’t wear pretty clothes or blow dry my hair because who is going to look at me? If I don’t try to look nice, at least I haven’t wasted my effort on something useless.

I want to believe that I am enough. I want to do something different than this. I want to live my whole life, not this tiny sliver I have allowed myself, but I don’t know how to begin.

I don’t know how to have faith that any change I make will be more than just this moment, this day, this week.

I am so, so tired. Tired of myself and tired of the constant struggle.

Tired, so tired, of the noise inside my skull, this relentless heckling that is so much meaner than any real person I have ever met.

Although, much as I am meaner to myself than any other person has ever been, I am very good at surrounding myself with people who are more willing to judge me than to love me.

Medicine helps some; therapy has helped a little. There comes a point, though, at which nothing can help me if I don’t believe that change is possible.

I sort of believe that change is possible, but I don’t know how to start believing it where it matters, down in my guts.