Day Four

It’s day four of antibiotics and steroids. I keep waiting to wake up and feel like a million bucks, but the bucks aren’t coming. Still self-isolating while I wait for my Covid-19 test results. Jackson and Jerimiah aren’t exhibiting any symptoms which is good, but I’m still worried. We hoped for results today, but that was being optimistic of us. Jerimiah said he had a “white man moment” assuming that we’d get the results back at the earliest point mentioned. He’s funny, and overthinks sometimes like I do, but honestly it’s all probably just backlogged here. Meanwhile, my symptoms haven’t slowed, and I’ve developed some new ones. I’m playing this game of trying to think up reasons for the symptoms, like maybe my muscles ache because I slept wrong, or maybe I couldn’t taste my food because my nose is stuffy. Things like that.

I have two modes in most crisis situations: I either overreact immediately or, because I know that is a possibility, I under-react (is that a word?) as a means to combat the craziness that tries to sneak in. I felt myself wanting to overreact on Friday when no doctor would see me in person, so I’ve been mitigating that with this fun game of, “Chill, girl. You’re good. This is all just a funny, little mix up.” Ugh. It’s stressful. Stress! Maybe that’s what is causing the constant headache and joint pain!

So there you go. Day four of symptoms that I don’t usually have, that align pretty closely to the symptoms of a global pandemic I’ve spent the last four months actively striving to keep away from, in the middle of my husband’s birthday week. I slept alone in our bed last night, we decided Jerimiah should move to the couch. He’s not all the way down in the guest wing in the basement, not yet. I won’t let him. That’s too final. For now, just the couch. Tomorrow, who knows.

Hope you’re all staying safe, and wearing your GD masks!

M.

Warning: I’m Mad

A few sessions ago Patsy and I were discussing the way children of alcoholics turn out. There are three ways that children of alcoholics combat what they see. Let’s say there are three siblings. As they age one of them will become self-indulgent and most likely repeat the behavior they saw as children. So they themselves will become an addict of some kind. Find a way to numb the pain. Then there is the martyr. The one who feels like they have to take care of all the people and all the things and it is the way they deal with their childhood. Then there is the functioning adult. The one who escapes it all, seemingly unscathed (usually with plenty of mental illness) but who can see it all, and them all, for who they are. This lines up perfectly with my family. Guess which one Patsy says I am: The Functional Adult! I know, I know, I was just as shocked as you are. Here’s the thing though, that word “martyr” kept popping up in my brain. Because I don’t always feel like a functioning adult and when I don’t, I feel like a martyr. And I’m really fucking tired of feeling that way, but I think I’ve been programed to feel that way. I think all women have.

Before you ask, no I have not read Untamed by Glennon Doyle, per my last post, but I do want to and I know she talks about this because I have heard her talk about the book on her Insta stories and I’m ordering the book today and it’s now catapulted to the top of my reading list. But this word “martyr” and I go way back. Way, way back. Back to the day I chose to end my pregnancy in 2011 because my daughter was “incompatible with life.” Since I made that decision I have always felt part murderer, part martyr. But what I didn’t see, or realize until Patsy told me about this whole idea, is that that word and I actually go back even further than that. Way, way back.

When I was a little girl I would not tell my mom, for example, that my friend was having a birthday party because I knew I couldn’t afford to bring a present. So instead I would stay home, call my other friends after and ask all about it. I would feel this rage fill up inside of me, but I had nowhere for it to go. Or on Friday nights I would sit at home alone all night and wait for my mom to come back after the bars closed at 2am, just to make sure I unlocked the door for her (because she never could, she was too drunk), make sure she got into pajamas, had some bread and milk so she didn’t vomit, and then fall asleep. That’s a thing 10-year-old Missy did. And 10-year-old Missy was trained to do that. Not intentionally, but still, trained to do. The next day I wasn’t allowed to talk about it with others. I wasn’t allowed to ask questions, or laugh at my mom for falling down the steps, or bring it up at all to anyone else, because that isn’t what good girls do. And that’s when this whole thing with this word and I started. And I think it happens, nay, I know it happens, to all little girls in different ways.

Be quiet. Be sweet. Say thank you and hello. Hug your relatives. Offer your assistance. Always be helpful. Don’t tell your business to strangers (something my family still attempts to make me feel guilty about for doing).

These little girls grow up to become women who are partners, and mothers, and daughters, and friends, and members of the community. And they are active. Active to the point of having breakdowns because they do too much. Give too freely. Don’t talk openly about their problems. We actually want to be viewed as martyrs, because that’s how we are supposed to be. We want people to look at us and go, “Oh poor Missy, she has so much on her plate.” We think that means we are doing what we are supposed to do as women. Meanwhile, we are suffering. We start to take less care of ourselves. We start to skip doing things we want to do, we start to give more and more to people who now expect it. If we are lucky we have partners, like mine, who try to tell us to stop. Show us what we are doing. Tell us to take care of ourselves. But we don’t listen. We are programmed to know what is best for us. What is best for everyone.

We hide behind lies. We hide behind PTAs, room-parent responsibilities, we hide behind “hectic” jobs, behind “challenging” children, or ailing parents, or partners who don’t know how to do their own laundry. Guess what, they are adults, they can learn to do their own fucking laundry! We hide behind “projects.” We hide behind “my time management skills are not great.” You’re an adult. Learn better time management. We hide. It’s all just excuses, and we as women nod at each other and say we understand. Because we do, we are trained to. We hide and do all the things for all the people, then when there is a little bit of time for us we squander it by faking a headache to get alone time. Or crying in the shower (raising my hand here). Or, or, or…

I’m done with that shit, y’all. Done. And I’m done coddling family and friends who are okay playing the martyrs too. I love y’all, but if you can’t stand up to people, say things like, “No, I need this time for myself.” Or “Hey, cook your own dinner, clean your own laundry, let someone else worry about the thing” and take care of yourself first, I can’t help you.

I have yet, in my life, to meet a woman who does all the things for all the people, who keeps herself feeling well, and who keeps herself happy by doing what makes her happy with regularity and doesn’t drink a ton. Or doesn’t have to hide in her closet from time to time, or who is told she can’t share her truths with the masses, so she holds it all in until the first chance she gets to spew all the things to her best friend because she has no other way to let it all out. I haven’t met her. She doesn’t exist.

Listen, I know this is hard for some of you to read. It was hard for me to process. I kept thinking of people in my life who seem to have it all together and then I would be like, “Ope, wait, she hates her husband,” or “Hold on now, she has a secret gambling addiction,” or “She thinks she is a horrible mother” or “Now I remember, she’s the one who lost her shit at the PTA meeting.” We are all flawed, every single one of us. And most of the flaws come from deep, deep family shit from way, way back in our childhood. Our alcoholic parents. Our absent parents. Our abusive parents. And most of us are repeating that cycle, just in a different way. We are repeating the cycle of making ourselves feel less than. And our children are watching. Jesus, they are watching. That’s the biggest problem, children are always watching. We were watching as children, that’s how we got here. We were watching, and listening, and learning, and repeating. So ask yourself this, just this one thing today: When my children look at me what do they see? I hope what you think they see, and what you want them to see line up.

Stand up for yourselves, ladies. Reclaim your time. Take care of yourselves.

I’ll be here, trying to sort this all out.

M.

Here’s Some Good News

It’s been a damn week, hasn’t it?! It has. It has. That’s why when I received good news the other day I was shocked, and then happy for a second, and then sad again. It’s a hard time to feel happy. It feels selfish to feel happy right now. It feels selfish and inconsiderate. I mean look around, people! There’s no damn toilet paper! I’ve been trying really hard to keep my life in perspective. This life, this sad, upside-down life. I’ve been focusing on the helpers, as Mr. Rogers wanted us to. I’ve been looking for good news in strange places, which I should be accustomed to now, but I am still not. It feels like for every bit of good news, a stack of bad news is thrown at me. It’s like I don’t want the good news anymore, because I know what will happen next. But the good news came this week, without an apology, and hit me square in the face. It reminded me, more than anything, that the show must go on.

If you’ll remember a few weeks ago I had to get a vaccine because I was applying to an MFA program that required my proof of MMR, but I couldn’t find my proof. Well I applied, then I stressed and stressed for weeks about whether or not I would get into the program. It is the only MFA program I have ever applied to, my first one, and I know people who have been turned down several times before they get in, or who only get into their second or third choice school, so I was scared. Then just like that, I wasn’t anymore, because Coronavirus hit and I had more important shit to worry about.

Then this week I found out that I was accepted into the program. And I was all yay! for a second, then came the “You can’t be happy about this right now” feeling, and I was down again. I know as far as news goes, good news these days, it’s just a little blip on the map, but it did feel good for those few seconds. Then the day I found out I spent all night unable to sleep Googling how kids with asthma fare when/if they get Covid-19. It’s not good. Hmpf.

I have two things to say today. Number one, yay me. And yay you. Because you might be waiting on important answers to important questions concerning your life this week and if the news is good, you should celebrate! And if the news is bad, remember that it isn’t the end of the world. Remember to keep your life in perspective. I know it’s hard when you are out of toilet paper, but please, please, try to remember that there are people out there who are really struggling. And if you are one of those people, man, I wish I could send you everything you need. I wish I could reach out and hug you. And I know hearing that this will pass is not helpful right now, so I’ll suggest this instead: What lessons can you take from the spot you are in right now? How will this help you grow as a person? As a community member? I’m sure there are lessons. There are always lessons.

As always I’m here (virtually, anyway) if you wanna talk. I’m around (inside my house or walking the neighborhood). I’ll listen. I’ll be sad with you. I’ll be happy with you (even if it does feel weird right now). Because we do still need to take care of ourselves, physically yes, but mentally and spiritually also.

So go forth and celebrate the little victories today. You did all the laundry?! Look at you! You cleaned out that linen closet?! Holy cow, you’re getting it done! You finally realized this is serious and started social distancing?! I always had faith in you, friend.

Be safe and sane.

M.

PS… The mascot at my new school is an Owl, so I mean, how cool is that?! Sure, a llama would have been way more cool, but you get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit!

Pulling Weeds

There’s something so satisfying about pulling weeds from the garden, or the flower bed, or from in between the cracks of cement, the places weeds like, but are always unwanted. I reach my hand down, deep down into the dirt and I grab a handful of the green, prickly leaves and I spin them all up in my hand together. Then with a twist and a flick of the wrist the roots spring up. If they are a particularly difficult weed, they may take a tug or two, but when they finally break, and if you listen close enough, you can hear a little popping sound when the root releases. I love that sound. I love the feeling of accomplishment, the way you are left with a clear, new space to see what you actually want to see, need to see. It’s the beginning of a clearing up of sorts. It’s the same way I feel after coming out of the fog of depression.

It’s never the same, this popping, clearing, new beginning. It’s always dependent on what I’ve been sad about, what time of the year it is, how my medicine has held up, how my therapist has held up, how my support system has held me up. It’s never the same, but it’s always sort of the same.

This time, for instance, I have wanted to spend all my time working on art projects, cleaning up old, rusty treasure I find at thrift stores. This time I have taken myself into the art of turning trash into treasure and it has helped immensely. Last time, though, it was just binge-watching Netflix shows about women in prison. It’s a system, trust me. This time I have been coming in, and going back out again. In and out, in and out. The fog lifts for a few days, then pulls me back in. It’s been the world that has done it to me this time. And the time of the year.

But today I was picking weeds. Pulling them up by their leaves, listening for the pop, waiting for the clearing. Today I felt the sun on my shoulders and the warm winds of late summer on my back. Today I felt rested and happy, so things were different. But tomorrow, who knows. Or the day after that. Or the day after that…

I’ve started looking out at to the garden more, thinking about my life. My roots, my dirt, my blooming flowers, and my even larger blooming weeds. I can’t help but take stock on some days. How grateful I am for what I have! How grateful and full I feel sometimes. But only sometimes.

I know there is a chemical off in my brain. I know there are reasons that I think how I do, and act how I do. I know there is something that triggers for me, the good days, the bad days, the big, wonderful days, and I am working on getting them all right. All aligned for the better. But even on those days, when I’m picking weeds just to hear the pop, I know there will be a day coming down the line where I will want to plant more flowers, move about in the world with others, and love myself a little more. Here’s to more of those days, friends.

As always, take care of others, but also take care of yourself.

M.

Tattered

That word has been on my mind. Tattered. But not in the sense that you think. I haven’t been thinking of tattered clothes; worn out socks, hip jeans made to look abused. I’ve been thinking of what a tattered person looks like. A tattered life. A tattered mind. A tattered soul. The OED says tatter is from Middle English, slashed scraps of cloth. Being in poor condition. Yeah, I feel that some days.

I struggle with mental health issues. I have been diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety. I take pills to cope. I reject common ways of decompressing my stress. I don’t work out when I’m having a panic attack, or do yoga, even though I know it helps. I don’t meditate or focus on my breath. I don’t count to ten or repeat a word over and over until the feeling goes away.

I eat. I cry. I hide in my bathroom, or under my blankets, or in the closet with the door closed until the feeling of panic, willed by brain receptors not firing correctly, passes. If I’m in the car, I turn the radio up loud and I sing, oblivious to anyone watching. If I’m somewhere with people, in a situation I can’t get out of, I shut down. Unless there is wine, then I drink.

I’ve learned these coping mechanisms through trial and error, because these problems aren’t new. I don’t read self-help books. I feel a stigma with doing that. I don’t routinely visit a therapist, I always feel worse when I’m there. I don’t even take some of my medicine regularly. I almost forget it’s there when I really need it. In short, I have some work to do, but it’s on me. And that’s the problem.

I have no problem putting others’ needs in front of my own. My son is P1. I worry about his health, his sleep, his school work, his friends. I worry that he’s getting a cough. I worry about his mental health. Then there’s my husband. Is he happy or just content? I worry about my dog. Why does he bark that way? Does he need outside? Should I take him to the vet for this behavior? Then there’s my mom. My family. My friends. Then, there’s me. By the time I get down to me I shrug and say, “I’ll be alright.” Cause, I will. I always have been. But even as I say this, I know this way of thinking takes a toll.

It has taken a toll, on a lot of us.

The curious thing is, back before I was a mommy, way back, before I was even a wife, just loosely hanging on as an “adult” I never worried about any of this. I never worried about worrying about myself. Even when myself was all I really had to worry over. God, that doesn’t make sense, I know. In more ways than one, but that’s the best way I can say it. Back when I could focus on myself, and not feel guilty about it, I didn’t know enough to know that my mental health was abnormal. I’ve always been this way, I thought this was normal. Then I started to meet people who didn’t wake up crying at 2 am because they realized death was inevitable and how could I actually stop feeling this weight press down on my chest?! And I was like, hmpf, that’s weird.

I dunno. I guess I am having a down day today. We all do sometimes. And then it all sort of adds up. So consider this mindless chatter, this relentless cloud of sadness that sort of hangs around me. Consider it, I don’t know, a reminder. Check in on your people. Call your mom. Send a handwritten card to someone you care about. If you feel up to it. But try to put your feelings and emotions and mental health first for a change. Then see how the rest falls around you. I hear if you can master it, it is remarkable. Meanwhile, put on some new sweatpants. Take a shower. Wash your hair and don’t blow dry it. Get out of the tattered place and back into the sunshine.

M.