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Tomatoes, Traffic Jams, and Anxiety

      I hate tomatoes and liverwurst. They're gross and I have no problem admitting it. I also hate scrubbing my bathtub. I hate cold weather and icy roads. I hate being late. I hate really long commercial breaks. I hate road construction and, now, even the color orange. I hate my kids' math homework. I hate my scale. I hate multi-lanes roundabouts – they freak me out and should be illegal. I hate heavy metal music. I hate spiders. I hate itchy tags in my clothing. And I hate shaving my legs.

     These are my socially acceptable hates. These are the “safe topics” that come up in casual conversations with people I meet throughout my week. These are the things that normal people can relate to – the things that give us the smallest sense of connection with one another. Oh, your neighborhood is blocked off for construction, too? Weeellll, let me tell you about MY street! Right? You could have that conversation with your grandmother, your neighbor, or the person in line behind you at the bank. Safe topics.

     So, while I was at the doctor's office last week, my PCP asked me the list of questions he always asks: Do you smoke? No. Are you still taking the same birth control? Yes. Is Patrick still your emergency contact? Yes. Have you been under any stress lately? Not really.

     Not really? Not really?? My mind screamed at my mouth as the vicious lie slipped out. On what planet are you NOT REALLY stressed out?? So, I tried to backpedal a little bit.

     “I mean, I have stress… and I sometimes feel anxious. But, you know, not like crazy or anything. Just a little more stressed than some other people.”

     Yeah. That cleared it up. I mean, what was I afraid of? That he would find me crazy? That I would start rambling on like a fool about all the things that make me lose my mind on a daily basis? That I would begin sobbing uncontrollably in the doctor's office and that he would feel so uncomfortable that he'd ask his nurse to take over so he could make a quiet escape? That he would have me committed?

     In a word, Yes.

     And the fact that the things I have to say are not part of the socially acceptable hates. They're not the things that an average person can relate to. Not the things that the average person wants to spend time thinking about because, quite frankly, they're depressing. If I walked out into the street right now, I could find at least 10 people willing to talk to me about the weather. (Ok, that number falls kind of flat if you think I live in a big city… to clear things up, 10 people would be like 95% of the people, so…. Yeah. Basically everyone would talk to me about the weather.)

     What I needed to say to my doctor was my list of non-socially acceptable hates.

     I hate mental illness. I hate that it's waiting at my door when I first wake up and that it lives in my home all year long. I hate that I can't fix my kids and that I get angry at them hourly for this. I hate that every other Sunday I have to return a child that I love so deeply, so fiercely, to his biological dad's house. I hate that he sobs, hyperventilates, and fights tooth and nail when the hours arrives for him to leave. I hate that I watch the life leave that same toddler's eyes as he gives up the fight, knowing that he's going back whether he wants to or not (and he never wants to). I hate that he screamed and pointed to me, telling his dad's girlfriend that he wanted me and not her… “I want THAT Mama, NOT YOU!” I hate that every other Sunday becomes the new worst day of my life and that it requires several days of a mourning period to readjust to life again without him. I hate that my husband and I don't get to see each other more, and that when we do, quite often we argue. I hate that we pay our bills from our savings account too regularly. I hate that I've been having anxiety attacks more and more often, not being able to catch my breath or stop my heart from racing. I hate that I'm supposed to help others when I feel like a hurricane is constantly blowing inside of me.

     Have you been under any stress lately? Not really.

     I hate that anxiety is so hard to talk about! That it makes me feel weak and useless and like a failure. And that my doctor may prescribe me medicine and brush off all my symptoms as “womanly” or “psycho-somatic”. And that he may be right.

     Shivonne, why would you post something so negative? So much hate and bad feelings going on here! I'm sorry if I've brought anyone down tonight. But quite honestly, I didn't have it in me to talk about the weather. 

     Friends, if you know of someone that is just really going through it right now, someone that's facing anxiety or depression, do me a favor. Make it a safe topic. Don't let that person go on and on about tomatoes or traffic jams. You don't have to personally know what their situation feels like to care. You don't have to understand to love.

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The 4th Of July In All It's Crazy Glory

            Holidays in our house are bonkers with a capital ‘B’. If you have a child, you’re nodding your head in agreement. If you have more than one child, you are still shaking from the amounts of coffee you drank to keep yourself standing until bedtime tonight. And if you have children with any sort of mental health diagnosis, you are most likely sitting in a corner coloring on the wall with markers and putting Cheerios up your nose. I know this because you have just endured a weekend of so much crazy that your brain has simply gone on vacation.

          Bubye, See ya later, Ciao.

          I, too, have regressed back to childhood for the day and have quite literally lost the will to go on as an adult. It was, in a nutshell, one of the craziest weekends of my life. There was no prep work needed like for Christmas or birthdays, there was no traveling out of state, no packing and unpacking of luggage. So why was this weekend so Bonkers (remember, capital ‘B’)? Because holidays, no matter what they entail, cause the people in my house to feel BIG feelings and act on these big feelings with all their might.

          There’s heightened anticipation, unrealistic expectations, always wanting more, More, MORE, struggles to cope with schedule changes, and, oh, let’s not forget about the sugar - the copious amounts of sugar and caffeinated beverages that are poured onto our children and their fragile little nervous systems from morning till night, keeping them up for hours past bedtime. Not that they would be able to sleep anyways, since fireworks are a nightly ritual for the entire 4th of July weekend apparently.

          My kids, for as far as they’ve come, they still have such a hard time just relaxing and having fun. The husband and I have answered no fewer than 50,000 questions this weekend. Questions about times, activities, who will be there, how do we get there, what will we eat, will it be time for bed when we get home, will they be allowed juice for the day, will the other kids like them, how long will the fireworks last, will the fireworks be loud, will bugs crawl on the blanket while we’re watching the fireworks, will we there be time to play the tablet when we get home, will we hold their coats/sweatshirts/sunglasses/flags/water bottles/shoes/bubbles/headbands/corndogs/napkins, etc., etc., etc.!

          Here’s an idea, kids. Pull your bottom lips up over the top of your heads and then swallow. For the love of all that is good and holy, can we just relax and have fun like all the other children? The adults will be the adults and we will take care of all the things that need attending to. All you have to do is play!

          Anyone else’s children end up in tears when they’re given money to spend at the Festival? If your kids are extra crunchy like mine, the answer is yes. Because they want to spend every last cent, but they can’t find anything worthy of using the money on, yet they want ALL the things they see. Even when the lovely booth owners bartered with my children, lowering the prices to a more affordable 7- and 9-year old range, my kids STILL walked away shaking their heads in disappointment - the stress of spending money simply too great for them.

          And then there’s the toddler. Dear, sweet Jesus. It was as if the Tantrum Monster had bitten him while he slept and turned my precious little boy into the Incredible Hulk, wreaking havoc and destruction on the world around him. He ran into people, jumped on expensive furniture, threw toys, dumped food all over, chucked rocks, hit, kicked, screamed, threw himself down, and all-out defied every little rule set before him. He was a human wrecking ball.

          So many fits, so few naps.

          I may have lost my mind and yelled a little this weekend. (Like what I did there? I made it sound like that was something out of the norm, and that yelling was all I did. Smooth, huh?) What I mean to say is, I DID lose my mind and I screamed, smacked, barked, and stomped my feet in all our rage this weekend. At all of them. And then, I scared them. I stood there and just started to cry. All these eyes just looked at me. They had expected groundings and executions, not befuddled tears and heaving sobs.

          I cried because I just couldn’t do holidays anymore. I couldn’t do tantrums, I couldn’t do repeating myself a trillion times, I couldn’t do reminders to flush toilets or change underwear daily or pick up their toys. I couldn’t do good Mommy things but I also couldn’t do mean Mommy things. I just couldn’t do ANY thing else but cry.

         It’s the worst feeling because I hate yelling at them. I hate scolding and feeling like I’m constantly showing them all the things they do wrong when I just want to be a normal family, enjoying a festive occasion, laughing and smiling and hugging and NOT doing all the crying.

          But I cry because I know they can’t help it, really. I know little man is acting out because he sees all sorts of things he shouldn’t during the time he’s away from us and he feels all sorts of things he shouldn’t – rejection and abandonment that we have to leave him after each visit, separation anxiety even when we leave the room to go to the bathroom, fear that every time we get in the car he has to go back, stress over sleeping and missing out on the limited time he has with us before he returns to his biological dad.

          How can you scold that and feel good about yourself? Especially when each tantrum is followed up by a sloppy kiss and an, “Aw, I just love you, Mama!” seconds after he hits you?

          Guys, this is why I’m crazy.  I told you, markers and Cheerios, in the corner. The roller coaster of emotions from all those small people and all those missed naps… The poor baby, he just road along in a stroller, tried to grab at the fireworks in the sky, and chewed (then promptly spit out) all the new foods I put in front of him this weekend. But his tiny little face was just the poster of the napless child… he looked confused and exhausted and ready to collapse the entire weekend. He just wanted his normal Mama time, complete with cuddles and rocking and playing with toys, doing his puzzles, and reading his books. In fact, he gave me I Love You, Stinky Face to read 4 times in a row… that means nothing to you, I know, but to me, it means he needed a break from chaos. It’s his markers and Cheerios.

          So after a late night of fireworks anticipation, fear of fireworks, and disappointment that fireworks were not all they had hoped for and more, I decided to let everyone sleep in. Obviously that meant that the littles were up at 6am. (Score.) The morning was filled with kisses and hugs and sweet, gentle words… until it was time to get ready to bring my toddler back home. And then came the hitting. Naturally, the screaming and throwing followed. I literally had to chase him through the yard while holding baby and slipping in the wet grass, just to get him into the mini-van. (Don’t worry, my neighbors know about the Bonkers thing already.)

          We drove him home. He kept asking me to turn around and go back to my house. He asked if we could run away. He said please. He meant it.

          As we pulled into his driveway, the tears began to flow freely from all of the kids. Isaac clung to me as his dad told him to stop being a baby. I set him down and he clawed my legs trying to keep his grasp, screaming until he could no longer breathe. I kissed him, told him I loved him, and reminded him that we’d see him soon. I tried not to look back as I walked away, but he was throwing his whole little body onto the screen door and screaming my name.

          It was more than I could handle. I turned and blew him a kiss as I choked on all the emotions that I was trying to keep from pouring out of my eyes. I wanted him to see me be brave. I wanted my other kids to see me be brave. I wanted to believe that I could be brave. I got in the car and a song came on the radio that brought the tears that I fought to keep in. I drove from the house and turned up the music to stop the screams from following me. And once my eyes were mostly dry, I let my gaze slip to the rearview mirror. My oldest’s eyes met mine.

          He gave me a knowing smile and nodded his head.

          My kids… they aren’t great for holidays. But they know. They feel the big feelings, too. They’re there to nod their heads and smile when they see bravery crumbling. They may not know how to meet new kids on the playground, but they help the little ones climb the stairs to the slide and chase a stray one that makes a run for the road. They get clingy and ask a billion questions and have unrealistic expectations, but they love.

All of us at the morning picnic... Isaac, naturally, wearing Sissy's sparkly shoes. 

All of us at the morning picnic... Isaac, naturally, wearing Sissy's sparkly shoes. 

Taylor and Wyatt watching the runners for the 10K.

Taylor and Wyatt watching the runners for the 10K.

Face-painting... some of us sat better for the make-up artist than others.

Face-painting... some of us sat better for the make-up artist than others.

The Littles and Big Sissy

The Littles and Big Sissy

Enjoying some time on the historic train car

Enjoying some time on the historic train car

My little Beauty and her butterfly

My little Beauty and her butterfly

Little Man enjoying his first gyro and trying to stay awake.

Little Man enjoying his first gyro and trying to stay awake.

Chubby legs and electronics... whatever helps you unwind.  Happy 4th of July, everyone.

Chubby legs and electronics... whatever helps you unwind.

Happy 4th of July, everyone.

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A Kitchen Set and Jesus

     Some might say that I’ve always been rather…particular. And they wouldn’t be wrong. I like to do things a certain way, to keep things organized and clean. When I married my hairy Italian, I noticed that he does not have a certain way of doing things - there is no compulsion to clean or organize. To be frank, he is Clutter and Crumbs on two legs. For many years, the very sight of sandwich crumbs on the counter would send me over the edge.

     And then we had kids.

     Now, I find myself living with Clutter and Crumbs, Breaks-A-Lot, Queen Dirty Clothes, Captain Chaos, and Sir Chucks-Everything. Do you want to know what I found on my kitchen counter the other day? No, not sandwich crumbs. Poop. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. I don’t know who. But someone put a quarter size poop chunk next to my sink. It looked like chocolate. (I didn’t taste it, against all impulses begging me to lick it up before someone else claimed it!)

     Not only is their poop on my counter, but there’s mud on my walls (every wall, to be exact), matchbox cars scattered across all the floors, crumbs, crusted/sour milk spills, boogers, jelly, ink, toothpaste, urine, sand from the sandbox, and a plethora of unidentified stains and crunchies giving our furniture the “textured” look you see on ceilings or on 1970’s wallpaper.

     Let me tell you, if sandwich crumbs set me on edge, do you have any idea what stepping in urine while wearing socks does to a particular person like myself? I have literally found myself shaking with frustration. Shaking. Sometimes there are no words that will come out. Just tremors and some dampness around my eyes.

     I wonder if this is how Jesus felt when he realized he’d chosen 12 rather flawed individuals to surround himself with for the duration of his ministry? I wonder if Simon Peter left the fish bones all over the boat floor, or if John pulled the same dirty robe out of his hamper each day to wear to the synagogue? Judas could’ve been breaking everything while James ran amok and Thomas just sat in the corner throwing everything he could get his hands on.

     Ok, so maybe their flaws were a bit different… but I’m guessing Jesus got pretty miffed at them for their ridiculous doubting and lying and cheating and questioning. I wonder, did Christ get to the point where he shook like me? In his human state and in an attempt not to smack them upside their heads, did he shake with frustration?

     Guys, these are the questions I have for my Lord when I get to Heaven. That, and why does poop have to look so much like chocolate…. You know, the deep things.

     Anyways, because these kids are practically giving me seizures these days, I’ve had to find some coping strategies to help me continue that strive for sanity:

1)      I organize the toy bins after everyone goes to sleep. Why? Who the heck knows. The bins will be in disarray the second little feet hit the floors in the morning, but I seem to rest better knowing that the bins are, for the moment, sorted.

 

2)      I throw their things into the yard. Why? Because I’m passive aggressive and Jesus hasn’t taken this particular wheel yet. And because it feels amazing. If you’ve been asked to clean it and don’t, then it is up to you to find it on our 40-acres come daylight. I don’t truly care which way this one falls most days, but throwing things is great therapy….. Oh my gosh, I just realized. The baby gets it from me! (Mind. Blown.)

 

3)      I clean the kitchen set and organize it like a real kitchen. Why? Because cleaning is my therapy. (No, I am not playing, I am coping!) And because it’s the only kitchen that I can manage to keep clean these days! So, I put all the non-perishable items in the shopping cart, the perishable items (plastic perishables??) in the bin like it’s a deep freezer, and the beverages and condiments go in the fridge.

 

But yesterday I opened the refrigerator door (the fake refrigerator door) and found a cell phone (a fake cell phone) and I literally bellowed, “Who in the WORLD puts a cell phone in the fridge??” before realizing that I had completely lost my marbles.

Moving on… I then organize the plates (stacking them in size order), cups, bowls, and silverware. I rearrange the tea pot, coffee pot, skillets, and pot holders. And then, for the final step, I pick out food items that would go together in a casserole or roast and put them in the slow cooker on the stove.

 I don’t know why. But it makes me happy.

I wonder if Jesus had a kitchen set to help him unwind?

 Another question for the Big Guy.

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