Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Wine Tastes Better...

I can't believe I ordered the 6 ounces
and not the 9
What does it mean when the glass of wine taste so much better when it's served to you in a restaurant where you're having sushi alone, than it does when you're at home surrounded by your family?

What does it mean when you drive away from home and you feel yourself breathing more deeply? 
You suddenly feel lighter, like a weight has been lifted?  


What does it mean when you’re driving home after a weekend away and the closer you get to home, you’re overcome with a sense of dread? 


What does it mean when leave yoga class feeling renewed and relaxed but when you get in your car, you can’t seem to make yourself drive home? 


When you finally make it home, you sit in your car in the garage, for a few extra minutes in an attempt to extend the peace for just a few moments more. 
You’re feeling all zen and you don’t want it to end. (Notice my cool rhyme? I should be a rapper.)  
You find yourself cowering...hiding, praying that no one comes to open the door to see why you’re just sitting in the car. 
When my son Kendal, lived at home you could best believe he would be in the garage trying to open the car door to start with the talking and the questions.
You don’t go inside where the people are because you don’t want to feel the energy of anyone who doesn’t align with your own sense of peace.  
You don’t want to hear any requests to give up any piece of yourself. 


What does all of this mean? 


Does it mean your body is trying to tell you something? 
Are you listening? 
Is your soul is begging for peace? 

Peace has come to mean solitude. 
People are often equivalent to a drain of energy. 


Maybe it means that your life is whispering,
maybe even screaming…
Something needs to change.  


Things have changed. 
The boys are adults. 
They don’t need me in the same ways. And yet, they still look to me as their biggest resource. 
I am trying to sit in the back seat and just let them drive, but I really want to get out of the car altogether. 
It’s time. And yet, it isn’t. 
They are autistic. 
The average 20 and 23-year-old doesn't have a clue about what they want to do with their lives. 
My boys are still figuring out what they want to be when they grow up. 
They are still figuring out finances, saving, driving, and basic independent living skills.  
As much as I may want them to, they don't operate on my arbitrary timelines. 
I have to constantly navigate between leaving them alone to make their own choices and nudging them forward.


I have more freedom than I’ve had since they were born. And yet, I am still so saturated by the experience of being a mother.
What can I say? 
I got drunk on motherhood.
I overdid it. 
There were too many years of no boundaries.
I literally felt everything they were going through. 
There were no lines between their emotional needs and my own.

Too much of anything is not healthy.  
Now, it's like my body and mind is in a state of rebellion.
I feel it physically in my stomach and in my chest when I hear myself saying yes to something that I absolutely know I don't want to do.
I can't do it anymore.
I don't want to do all of the things and take care of all of the people.
I don't want to cook.
I don't want to go to the grocery store. 
(Well, I never wanted to go to the grocery store.)
I don’t want to be everyone’s everything anymore.

I do a fair amount of beating myself up for these feelings.  
But I keep showing up, doing the work through therapy, reading, journaling, listening to podcasts. 
I am treating my mental health like it's a full-time job. I'm getting a degree in self-care. 
I realize that I am allowed to have these feelings and love my family at the same time. 
I am allowed to love myself and make what I want a priority. 

It’s okay to want to love my family from a distance sometimes.
Like from a small apartment on the beach. 
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. 
I felt so much fonder last weekend when I was in Houston with my girlfriend. And my family was not.

The boys need me less, my mother needs me more. I have all kinds of ambivalent feelings about that. Especially, since her need for me is elective. 


Recently, I heard her say, “My daughter is my everything.”

A lot of people would be thrilled to hear those words come from their mother. 
The words hit me like a ton of bricks.
I have been everything to my children for so long.
I have been her world for the last 10 years during one of the most stressful periods of my life.
For years it was like thinking and decision making for at least three people at a time, four if I include my husband. 
He was busy working. He didn't have time for small things like what we should have for dinner. 

I am energy depleted.
I'm trying to restore myself and at the same time avoid energy drains.

Do all of these feelings that seem to be intertwined with my actual home, mean that I am not happy here? 


Well, home is supposed to be your refuge ...your place of solace. 


Home is my place of work...neverending work. 
Perpetual needs of others to be met.
It’s the place where I worry the most. 
It’s the place where I am constantly figuring out all of the things.
Home might be peaceful.
It might not. 
Things can erupt at any given moment.
That has been the case for years. 
The amygdala of my brain is constantly on alert.
P.T.S.D. is in full effect. 
It’s exhausting constantly being on standby for an explosion or an interruption.  


There are other energies that live here. 
They do not always align together. 
They definitely don’t always align with mine. 


Is this why I like being away from home more and more?

I can control the energy when it’s just me to think about.  


Home is a place where I cringe when I hear my name. 
Someone wants something from me.
I am a creative spirit with focus issues. 
Home is not always the place where I can create. 
I create here when I can, but there are little zaps of resentment when my energy is sidetracked. 
My whole life has been sidetracked. 
I'm ready to get on course. 
To stop living by accident, in a state of reaction to the needs of my family.


I’m a mother, a wife, a caregiver to my mother. 
But I didn’t sign up for this latest shift. 
This is overtime.  
It's like extended, sequestered jury duty. They won't let me go home ...to my place of peace.  

When the boys were children, I literally gave them everything I had without thinking twice. 
Autism and depression made their happiness elusive. 
I tried my best to make up for that anyway that I possibly could.  


I will never forget the day I picked Kendal up from school in the fourth grade. 
He was sad. He was crying because his friends were sitting around together being goofy and laughing together. 
He didn’t understand what was funny. 
He just wanted to laugh like everyone else.
He used to laugh together with his friends in the first grade. 
By the third grade, they were secretly laughing at him because of his constant impersonation of Sonic the Hedgehog (which was very good by the way).
By the fourth grade, he found no reason to laugh. 
All he could feel was difference. 


“Let’s go get some ice cream,” I would say, as he cried in my arms.  
“Tonight we will have whatever you want for dinner.” 
Just an ounce of happiness. 
Is that too much to ask for a nine-year-old child? 
I am a mother, still. 
I am a caregiver. 
I give care to others.
I am an empath.
I feel all things deeply.
My family has watched me give and give and give, over so many years. 
They have come to expect it.
It’s a shock to them that suddenly I realize that I can no longer live without boundaries.


Saying yes all time wasn't healthy for any of us.
Saying yes makes people in your care have more expectations and entitlement.
Saying yes without thinking left me empty. 
I forgot how to say yes to myself. 
I forgot that I am a self.
  
When you are a giver, people are naturally inclined to take what you offer.  
They don’t concern themselves with what you have leftover to give to yourself.
That my dear love is up to you.
There will be no elaborate ceremony where you will be given permission to take care of you. 
This is a gift you give to yourself.

I make the choice to take care of me every day.
I chose to listen to my voice and not allow it to be drowned out by others.  
My happiness is not a destination. 
It is a journey…
and I have a closet full of the most comfortable shoes.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Brain Shut-down



My brain shut down for a week. I mean like, out-of-order, out-to-lunch. Restart button is not going to cut it. There would be no figuring, calculating, writing, thinking or fixing of anyone’s anything for seven complete days. 

The summer virus from hell, or maybe it was heaven-sent, showed up out of nowhere. The first symptoms were chills, then a low-grade fever, along with a dry cough. Headaches, body aches, and general brain-numbness. A basic lack of ability to think clearly or with any degree of complexity.

The wonderful side-effect of all of that non-thinking was the inability to worry and constantly problem-solve as my brain always does, even when I’m trying to sleep. My brain doesn't shut off. That button is defective. You push the button at bedtime. It may work. It might not. It may work for a while and then suddenly turn back on at three o'clock in the morning. 

I was constantly hungry, but couldn’t think of anything healthy to eat. There was no energy or awareness to call and coordinate doctors, attorney’s and elder-care agencies to work on the current situation with my mom. Her lack of mobility and inability to climb the stairs to take a shower would simply have to wait. 

As a writer, I feel the incessant need to write. Especially, if there is some quiet time available. Nope! My brain wasn’t having it. Thoughts would come and then go before I could get them down on paper. 

I tried my normal witty banter on social media. Every status was dumb and more boring than the last. I found myself whining about the details of being sick. And then I realized how much I hate when people do that. No one really gives a shit about your coughing fit and the fact that you can’t seem to wake up. No one needs an announcement about your naps and headaches. 

So, I would find myself posting and then when the fever would break and I got some nutrition into my body, I would come to my senses and delete the posts. I did this over and over again. 

I discovered that I don't simply love social media, I love my own narcissistic banter on social media. I love the parts I control. I love my clever friends and fellow-positive thinkers, people who are honest and funny. I pretty much hate the parts I can't control. Like all of the political posts and posts about criminals. Can't scroll past that crap fast enough.

I am so generous, I spared all of my friends the selfies I took of myself looking pathetic, in bed with an unwashed face and hair that hadn’t been washed or combed in days. There were many thoughts of shaving my head during this seven-day period. Thankfully, I didn't have enough energy to follow through.

The point is that my body and mind took a break to get the rest that it needed. It didn’t wait for me to agree to the deal. It just bogarted! 

bogart -according to google...
bo·gart
/ˈbōɡärt/

verb INFORMAL•US
  1. selfishly appropriate or keep (something, especially a lit marijuana cigarette).
    "don't bogart that joint, my friend"

Not that I know anything about marijuana. That's all Google.

My body took what it wanted, stopped and looked at me like, 
'Yeah. What you gonna do? Nothing! Lay your ass back down and go to sleep! These people and their problems will still be here ready to suck your blood next week when I’ve had enough rest. Thank you very much.'

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Rescuing Myself


Do you ever walk around thinking...Boy, my attitude sucks? I wish I could change it.


No matter how much inner dialogue you have with yourself, it doesn’t change. You walk around feeling slighted, taken advantage of, angry. You end up lashing out at people you love knowing damn well that isn’t going to change anything.

This whole therapy, self-awareness, self-love and care thing is great. Until you realize that your biggest problem is you. You’re allowing negative thoughts and feelings to rule your life. You’re angry because you’re not getting what you want from others but then you realize, you’ve been looking in the wrong place. You should be looking in the mirror.  


The last time I wrote here, I talked about my latest challenge with my mother’s declining mobility. I was experiencing all kinds of emotions and feelings about my new increase in job duties. I was overwhelmed, and I still am but I'm moving through it anyway. I was feeling like I was being knocked back down just as I was trying to get up. I was angry because the freedom that I thought was in reach after raising these intense children, has been pushed back.


In the past few weeks, I have re-evaluated the situation and my attitude about it. Through journaling, I remembered that the only person I can control is myself. I’ve gone from feeling pissed off, tired and angry and I'm arriving at acceptance. 


My mother is almost 80-years-old. Her health, mental and physical is what it is. As much as I want her to snap out of it and have more of a, "I can do this" attitude. I can't control that. 

I can want someone to come and help me with what feels like an overwhelming task. But, I am the only person I’m in charge of. 


This isn’t my first challenge in life and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I’ve had some pretty big obstacles to overcome when it came to raising and advocating for two children with autism. Somehow, I always worked through the challenges and made things happen. I never accepted the words, “No. We can’t do that.” 

Yes, of course, you can. You just have to think outside of the box. There’s always a way. 


I have never let roadblocks stand in my way. And by roadblocks, I mostly mean other people who do not care about the outcome of my situation as much as I do. Sometimes, roadblocks are arbitrary rules that are set up that make you want to just give up and not ask for what you need. Giving up is not in my DNA. 


I have always managed to get what my children needed from every doctor, therapist, teacher and school administrator. I showed up like a dog with a bone until the boy’s educational and psychological needs were met.


In the current challenge of figuring out my mother’s next phase, and advocating for her needs, I will do as I have always done. I will work it out and I won’t wait for anyone else to make it happen. 

I remember the last time Mom was in the hospital and they were trying to figure out where her sudden confusion was coming from. Her sodium level was low. That explained some of it, but I knew there was more to it. I would not leave the hospital until I got a Psych consult. That led to us finding a doctor who could help her. The consult got us a referral for my mom to be seen sooner, rather than later.  


In the quest to change my attitude about my current situation, I thought about something I read a while ago. I don't think this is the original quote I read, but this is basically the sentiment.


No one is coming to rescue you from yourself: your inner demons, your lack of confidence, your dissatisfaction with yourself and your life. Only self-love and good decisions will rescue you. – Jenni Young 

I am here to rescue myself.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Juggling

One thing you should know about me is that my writing, mind, and life, are all a bit all over the map. Scattered. Like you never know what's coming next. 


If you read this post through to the end, you will see what I mean. Then again, one thing I love about having my own blog is that I don't have to follow any stinkin rules. I hate rules. I know they are sometimes necessary, but I don't have to like them.
Okay. Here we go...


Over the weekend I felt a little bit of Summer Sadness starting to hang around like an uninvited cloud on an otherwise sunny day. (You can search my blog with the word "summer." There are years of triggering experiences that I've written about.)
I’ve been working like it's a paying job to offset depression of any kind over the past year.  Job duties include:

  • spending a lot more time on self-care 
  • going to therapy regularly
  • putting myself on the top of my list (whereas I don't think I was even on it before)  
  • practicing yoga regularly 
  • saying NO to the things that I don't want to do and don't have to do
  • traveling whenever possible (I have to be out of sight to get a day off from these folks)


With all of this effort, I should be happy, right? 


Well, I am happier than I was a year ago. It is important to note and celebrate progress. I want the Universe to know that I appreciate and want more of it. If I don't stop to give myself a little applause, who will? 


I have pep talks with myself and sometimes with my girlfriend, and fellow mama blogger, Love Becca . I am determined to feel happier, free and thankful, but happiness is not a final destination for me. It's a choice that I work towards every day.  I have to work to feel the way I want to feel instead of just going along with the way life's circumstances make me feel.

One thing that definitely helped my happy meter earlier this month, was one of the best trips of my entire life. For our 25th Wedding Anniversary, we went to Negril, Jamaica. It was incredible! We stayed in this little boutique property called the Rock House. We had a small little private villa (more like an individual cottage). For five heavenly days, the Carribean Sea was our front yard. 


Waking up every, single day to this view, watching the sunsets, swimming and snorkeling in that clear, aqua, blue, water was to die for. As in, I could die tomorrow, and I would be happy that at least I had that experience. 
I think I said the same thing when I went to South France two years ago and put my feet in the Mediterranean, but whatever…

The trip to Jamaica was both purposeful and intentional. There were other family happenings that were also important going on at the same time, like both of my niece's graduations in California. I had to make a decision. I hated to miss them, but I chose to prioritize what was most important to me and what would make me happiest.  Prioritizing my happiness is something that I've neglected for a long time. The years of hiding behind fear and doing things just to make others happy are over. 


There’s nothing I love more than an ocean, total relaxation, and being away from my daily obligations. So that's what I chose. Besides, how often do people make it together for 25 years? Only the craziest people do. The occasion deserved a major celebration. 


Oh, and by the way, the bonus is this is the first trip where I did not receive one-single-phone call from any of my inmates, patients, I mean, family members. This is huge progress because, in the past, some piece of their world would almost always feel like it was falling apart if I was away. 


The vacation is over, and just like my children, I am never ready for the party to end. I’m back home. Back to life. Back to reality. 


When I’m here, it feels like I am constantly problem-solving. It's like every day I am working on a million-piece puzzle, trying to put the pieces together, but somehow, the puzzle only expands. Like it’s seriously growing from the exterior as I work on the interior. If I pay attention to the exterior, the interior is suddenly missing more pieces.

Even when I am not actively sitting down at the table working on the puzzle, I am still trying to solve it in my head, all day, every day, and sometimes even when I’m sleeping. 


The really sad thing is that these are not actually my problems. They are other people's problems that affect me because I help manage the lives of other adults. 


Recently, caring for my mother has picked up the pace in a big way. Her mobility, mental health, and general attitude towards life have been taking a downward spiral. I have been working to put things in place to keep her afloat. I set up occupational and physical home-health therapy for her. We even hired a part-time personal attendant to help us at home so that I don't completely lose it. And yet, as the therapists continue to measure additional physical strength, her mental strength appears to be defeating the purpose. 


A lot of it feels like her choice to give up (which really pisses me off). Like, if everyone would just do everything for her, she wouldn't have to put forth so much effort.  Depression and anxiety have this tricky way of making you feel like you can't do anything and you don't want to do things. The thing is, you have to be willing to fight the urge to shut down or you're screwed. She's screwed. Which ultimately, means I'm screwed because she is right in the center of my house with a constant list of perpetual needs. 


Figuring out what’s next in her life feels like a monumental task that I am currently handling, alone. Yes. She also has a son who lives in California (looks directly into the camera with the wtf face). So far everything is on me. 

WTF Face
I was just beginning to taste what a bit of freedom is like for the first time since becoming a mother. And my motherhood experience was not a simple gig. A therapist once equated my experience raising my three boys, two with special needs, equivalent to raising six children. 

Years of compounded, ongoing, response to stress has made the amygdala in my brain hyper-reactive. My brain is subconsciously always on guard for fight or flight. I've been diagnosed with PTSD.  I have very little patience left and my stress response is dysregulated, which means I may have a tendency to overreact to stressful situations. 


It’s not pretty to admit but, I can't help but feel resentful about what's happening with my mom. Sometimes, I'm even angry. Especially, because I have already taken care of her for ten of the most difficult years of my life. She came to live with me temporarily, while I was knee deep raising the boys through adolescence and transition to adulthood. Life was so crazy, I hardly had time to think about what would be a better situation for my mother. I was a little too busy just trying to survive and keep my children alive. 


Now, I'm treading water, trying to maintain my own happiness and mental health, while watching my mother decline. It is depressing to watch. I can’t help but observe some of her behaviors and health issues and wonder about my own mortality and my own mental health as I continue to age. 


I have this trumped up challenge with my mom and I’m not even done with boys yet. We all know parenting is never really over, and autism increases the probability of a job extension. 


Every once in a while, one of my adult children will still throw a major curveball to remind me that I'm not done yet... 


(Like last week when one of them fell for a major league scam. He lost a substantial amount of money. I could write a whole blog about that, but the pieces of that story still have to be put back together.)  


There was no time to stop and allow myself to get bogged down by this curveball. At the same time, it triggered feelings of a lifetime of always waiting for another ball to drop. Hyper-vigilance, PTSD. 

The hits just keep on coming, and I keep going. I juggle the balls while dodging other balls to avoid getting hit in the face. 


Last week I found myself Googling “caregiver burnout” because one of my doctors mentioned it to me. I scored pretty high. 


Melinda Smith, M.A. wrote about the signs of  caregiver burnout on Help Guide.org


  • You have much less energy than you once had
  • You’re constantly exhausted, even after sleeping or taking a break
  • You neglect your own needs, either because you’re too busy or you don’t care anymore
  • Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction
  • You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available
  • You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caring for

Check, check, check! 


I 'm trying not to give in to depression, but I’m swimming upstream. 


And that’s another thing...after Jamaica I realize, I could really use some swim lessons. 


Inhale…
Exhale…
Namaste