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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Liberating and Anomalous

Every smile you see from me, there is work that goes into making it happen. Sometimes when I look back at pictures, I can’t believe how many smiles I’ve managed over the years.
When I say my smiles take work, I mean therapy. I mean a concerted effort. I mean juggling responsibility and obligations to the adult humans in my life. I mean deflecting incessant phone calls long enough to actually enjoy an adult activity, without stopping to save the world. 
What's your superpower?  

Everything these two sons of mine need from me is urgent and according to them, should be my first priority. My smiles and happiness are not on their list of important things in life. I have to be vigilant to make them a priority in my own life. For a long time, I forgot to do that.

So, if you see me out on a date with my husband, traveling or having a cocktail with my girlfriends, you can bet your ass, it took a lot of work to make it happen.

I’m working intently to not be depressed this summer. I have written about my Summer Sadness many times over the years. Going to therapy is often the highlight of my week. (How sad is that?) It may be the only day that another human actually sees me, hears me and validates my thoughts, feelings, and desire for happiness.  

When you spend most of your time around crazy, needy, people you can start to doubt that you are entitled to happiness and self-fulfillment.  My children always have one issue or another problem. They repeatedly tell me 'everything is my fault.' I know it isn't true. Or is it?  After a while, I start to wonder what is fact and what is fiction?

(Please don't be offended by me calling my family members crazy and needy. I consider myself to be every bit as crazy as they are. My husband would probably also describe me as needy, or at the very least, uniquely high-maintenance. Or be offended. That's okay too.)

Summer is often a trigger for my depression for a number of reasons. The number one reason one being the Texas heat. This third week of July the temperatures will hover over the hundred-degree mark every single day. I got a serious attitude when I read the forecast a couple of days ago. I started cursing inside my head. I do that a lot. This sun is intense like no sun I’ve ever felt anywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sun. I would just prefer it to come along with an ocean breeze, not mosquitos.

In Texas, during the summer if you are shopping or running errands when you come back to your car you will feel like you have been assaulted. You will want to run home to your air-conditioned house, and vow never to leave again until the fall. Except in my case, you have to leave the house. I can’t spend too much concentrated time in my own home with my family. I love them. I also need space from them. I take care of them. It is a big part of my job in life. If I want real time-off ...home is not the most opportune place to get it.

This summer the boys are 19 and 22. They are both working. This is Blue’s second try at having a job. Kendal now works full-time however, he is going through a transition to another city, living with his brother. Apparently, his part-time job is calling to argue about anything and everything. Our conversations may start out pleasant, but they can go left pretty quickly. It’s almost like he still needs this fix of someone to argue with every day. Oppositional Defiance much?  

The thing we talk about most is his plans for the future. The conversation is the same one we've been having for over a year. Sometimes, he takes a different route to get to the same destination, but we always end up at the point of frustration. I can't tell you how much I look forward to it every.single.day.

Holding the boundary on his phone calls is an energy drain. I set the boundary of only one-call a-day, in the evening when he gets home from work. He works overtime to cross that boundary. It is exhausting. But hey! At least he’s not popping into my house for these extended conversations, and by conversations, I mean circular arguments that don't go anywhere. So there's that.

This summer, I continue letting go, trying not be weighed down by every factor in the boy's lives of which I have no control. They are making progress. In my head, I know that I have to accept their rate of growth and the adult choices that they are making or not making. That doesn’t stop my heart from wanting more for them.  I mean honestly, what good does it do to worry about all of these things I have no control over?

Well, whoever said that anxiety is rational?

Just let them wing it, right? How can I leave everything up to them when they are facing challenges that most people don't have to face? They are autistic adults who have trouble with executive functioning. Depression and anxiety and feeling overwhelmed is also a factor. Anxiety alone can completely shut your entire system down. I don't care how smart you are.  I'm not autistic, but I believe I do have issues with ADHD and anxiety. There are times that I feel incapacitated by fear. I've had a lot of years to work through it and find ways to compensate for it. Their adult lives are only just beginning.

Blue is growing but at the pace of a turtle race. If I just sit back and continue to watch him flail, the longer he will be here in my house. And literally, the more money we as his parents will spend supporting him and his education. We have to come up with an exit plan. The biggest growth we saw in his brother was once he moved out of this house I am their comfort zone. I think close proximity to me stunts their growth. I think with Blue there will need to be a gentle push out of the nest. Otherwise, home is a comfort zone that he may never want to leave. The funny thing is, he doesn't really want to be here anyway. It's all a big, fat, frustrating, catch 22.

How does autism factor into all of this? What part is just stubbornness? What part is the typical behavior of a young adult who just doesn't have everything figured out? 

Because he is still at home sometimes it feels like I am still very much in the throes of raising an adult-sized, strong-willed child. I know it’s supposed to be all about natural consequences at this point, but when the natural-consequences affect me, I tend to want to avoid that.  For instance, if he doesn’t take medicine regularly; he ends up having a meltdown here at home, I feel the pain of that meltdown and then my blood pressure goes up. I remind him in order to save myself. I’ve been so on edge for so long. My body is conditioned to stress. There are times when I feel like I've forgotten how to breathe. I'm so used to holding my breath, waiting for something to happen. I actually forget to exhale. I have to make a conscious effort to do so.

I’m looking for peace wherever I can find it. Yoga helps. I wish I could live in the yoga studio. Only there are no cocktails there.

It’s not good for inner peace to have a stubborn, young adult in your house. He wants to be independent, but he’s not. He is frustrated by that. I am frustrated by that. He asks for help and for advice only to follow up by doing whatever he wants to do anyway.

I’m fighting hard to find myself again. I’m setting boundaries, as they continue to push back hard against them. I work diligently at exercising purposeful self-care and self-love. I’m finally doing some of the things in life that I enjoy. I’m doing things that are just for me more than I have since these boys were born. This takes some getting used to for everyone. They are so used to having me available at any given second. 
The transition to adulthood feels like it’s by far the hardest part of raising them so far. Watching them wade into the deep social quagmire of High school was difficult emotionally. Coaching them through the anger, depression, loneliness and intense desire to be accepted was excruciating. Somehow, the weight of their adult choices feels heavier to me. I know I shouldn't be carrying that weight. But I am their mother. I don't think we ever stop worrying or wanting the best for them. Maybe the weight feels heavier because I know that I am no longer in control. 

 I confess... I love to be in control. I think most people with anxiety have an excessive need to be in control, even over things in which we have no jurisdiction. That's not an easy thing to admit, but I am flawed --a constant work in progress. Letting go is the right thing to do. It's what they need and deserve.

I can not jump in and wave my magic-fix-it-wand like I did when they were still in high-school.  They need help and guidance, but most of that will now come from sources other than me.  Making adult life choices is up to them at this point.  

This time in our lives is liberating and anomalous at the same time.  I'm letting go, but it's not a straight path. It feels foreign to not be in control anymore.  It’s a constant challenge between what to do for them and yet,  stay out of their way.  I’m more of a consultant than a parent.  I can’t make them do anything. I can only help them find the resources so that they have the best chance at helping themselves. 

I’m letting go and they are screaming, "Leave me alone! But can you talk to me twenty times a day?" "Can I have some money?" And, "I don’t need your help!" sometimes comes within the same breath. 

I know will get there. I'm kind of in a hurry. I want my freedom back. I got things to do.