Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Avoider, Protector, Fixer

Hi. My name is Karen. I am a recovering, hovering, control freak, bubble creating, autism mom.

I can't do this anymore. I mean seriously. I'm losing it. For real. This is not a drill.

A couple of weekends ago, I went to visit my best friend at her home in Houston. The invitation came right on time because earlier that week, I had been plotting a getaway. I was thinking about telling my kids that I was going to a mental hospital so they would leave me alone.

I know crazy, right? Desperate times...

I didn't really want to go to the looney bin. I just wanted a freakin' break. Like, not one phone call or text message from anybody about anything.

That weekend while I was away, I tried my best to stay off social media and actually, away from my phone altogether. I needed to totally relax and decompress.

To occupy myself in quiet moments, like when I went to the nail salon, alone,  I decided to finish the book "Love Warrior" by Glennon Doyle Melton. I had started it months ago but you know, I allowed life to get in the way, so I had a couple of chapters left. I turned right to a passage that basically said this.

It hit me right then and there, I have to stop trying to fix everything. Unhappiness, pain, challenges are all a part of their journey. It will make them who they are supposed to be. I am not God. I have no power to change anything.  They are eighteen and twenty-one-years-old. At this point, I am simply supposed to be here to let them know that I love them.  I'm here to listen, but not fix their problems. I have laid the proper foundation. The rest is up to them.

Besides, they are far beyond the listening to me phase. They have moved well into the blaming me for everything phase.

The ability to protect them is an illusion. They are young adults. I can not change the trajectory of their lives. I can not stop them from making mistakes. I'm in a no-win situation here. I do, however, have something to lose, like apparently, my mind.

So here's what I decided to do on my road to recovery...

First step:
  • Ask for help
Let go of control over everything and give their father a bigger role.

I'm mentally exhausted from years of trying to control everything when it comes to everyone in this family.

My husband works hard at his job. He is in charge of our finances. He's a black man, in Corporate America, who has to work extra hard just to stay on the field with his peers. Black people only make up 4% of his company's entire employee base. Although he loves his job and is an admitted workaholic, his work and the primary responsibility for our finances is a big source of stress.

I admit it. I have shut my husband out of a lot of the parenting of these boys. One, because of my own need for control.  And two, because of the stress from his job, I felt like he didn't have the energy or the patience to deal with our high needs, emotionally intensive, children. His interactions with them could become explosive in a heartbeat, especially when he felt like he was trying to protect me.

I was always on hyper-alert, trying to prevent things from escalating.  As result, I created a black hole for myself. I have taken on everything in order to keep as much peace in the family as I possibly could. I've been the circus master, the referee and the peacekeeper at the expense of my sanity.

I can't do it anymore. My body and my mind have been trying to tell me this for the longest. The depression and anxiety were so bad, I finally had to listen.

Second step:
  • Turn over the role as payee and manager of our son's finances:  
I admit I am more of a pushover and that was not teaching him a damn thing about financial responsibility.  My husband is "hardline." He is no-nonsense and excellent at budgeting and financial matters. There will be no emotion in his decisions, as it should be. Having his father managing his money will cut down on the power struggles between the two of us. The result will be less stress for everyone.

My husband sent this message to our son a few days ago.

"You can't get over on your dad. I am going to teach you how to be a real man. How to take care of your responsibilities. How to make smart decisions. How to manage your money. How to protect your money. All you have to do is listen to your father and not every person you meet at the gym and on the internet!"

Hercules! Hercules! In my mama Klump voice. 

And guess what? So far, there have been no issues or complaints. I am super thrilled with my husband and I swear I'm going to try my best to stay out of it.
Well, as much as humanly possible.

Third Step:
  • Create and stick to clear cut boundaries
Red had been bulldozing all over the boundaries I previously set, regarding our phone calls. He would call multiple times a day and sometimes end up screaming at me about his problems and of course blaming me. Never listening when I talk --just talking right over me. Even when I didn't answer his calls, he would text relentlessly.

I was buying into the whole his-world-is-falling-apart, bullshit.  Accepting his calls has not prevented any disasters from happening. I can not control the everyday madness of his life. He has to learn to clean up his own messes and use other resources besides me.

What I have been doing is increasing my own anxiety. I am realizing this has to stop before I seriously have a nervous breakdown.  I was always on edge waiting for the bomb to drop. It finally hit me, I can not stop any of the bombs from dropping.

We set a clear schedule for phone calls.  I will accept a call from him at the time he designated each day. Any calls outside of that time will be ignored. In fact, if he continues calling outside of the designated time, or starts calling around on our house phone, or his grandmother's phone, I will not speak to him at all on that day.

Fourth Step:
  • Create less availability and more "Me" time. 
Despite the objections (mostly from my mother) the first step on this list was going away for the weekend and refusing to accept any calls.

Blue and my mom were here with Dad and they had no choice but to deal with him or use other resources. You can bet this meant them all doing more for themselves.

I also have Yoga penned in on my schedule during which time, my phone is off.

As a result of these little changes, I am already starting to feel better. My anxiety and depression are not completely gone, but it's not as persistent. Yoga seems to help immensely. Turns out that most of the time, I forget to take deep breaths. No wonder I feel so tense?
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I'm a hoot. 

My husband? I don't know if I've ever loved him more than I do today.  He is stepping up to the plate big time and somehow he seems less emotional when dealing with the boys. In fact, he and Blue have been hanging out and talking a lot more together.

I think he could see just how close to the edge I was getting. He has been trying to get me to step back for a long time. I just couldn't do it without his help.

Now, of course, all of these things are easier said than done. A life time of bad habits will not completely change overnight. I am however, determined to create some space between me and my adult children.  It is beyond time for them to fly. And I need to spread my wings too.