Saturday, September 16, 2017

Being Social

I’ve changed. The experience of motherhood, marriage and moving away from Los Angeles, where I grew up has made me a completely.different.person.  There are subtle traces of the girl I once was, but they aren’t clearly visible. 

I was the most social person you could ever meet. My phone was always ringing with an invitation for lunch, dinner or some other social gathering. 

I had friends from the neighborhood I grew up in, friends from school, friends through mutual friends and various places that I worked. I’m talking good, quality, friends who stuck with me through the different stages of life. I am blessed to say, most of them are still with me even if it’s from a distance.  When we see each other, it’s like no time has passed.  I treasure my friends, each of them adds a unique experience to my life. 

I still enjoy being social, jut not that often. I am selective with my time and who I choose to spend it with. Let’s face it, I don’t have a hell of a lot of social time available. My local friends are sparse, few and far between with the closest of them all —miles away in Houston.

More than anyone’s company these days, I enjoy my own. I love the quiet, my own thoughts, doing exactly what I want to do, not compromising with anyone. That’s because my every day is one big compromise after another. 

I spend my days having conversations that I don’t necessarily want to have. I try to minimize the number of conversations with Kendal. Our goal is one phone call a day, but sometimes he comes over …and it’s on. Talk, talk, talk rinse and repeat. And I mean repeat the same mindless words over and over again. He worries out loud and likes my undivided attention while doing so. 

Blue, my 18-year-old son, likes to process all social situations with me. It doesn't matter what else I'm doing. He wants my opinion. That is until my opinion doesn’t really agree with his or until things blow up in his life.  Then I can be properly blamed for everything that goes wrong.  He says to me everything he doesn’t get to say to his friends because then they wouldn’t like him anymore. The problem with that, is sometimes I end up not liking him. I love him always, but like…not so much when he's exploding on me.  

No matter how matter-of-factly I think, this is not about me. He’s upset and can’t manage his anger. This is a part of autism. Humanly, it’s directed towards me and it feels like it’s about me.  I end up absorbing a lot of negative energy and it’s draining. 

I love my husband and sometimes, I enjoy talking to him, especially when we are alone. He is the best part of my life. I love him unconditionally. But in the day to day, I don’t always want to talk. I’m spent.  And he can be like the kids with over-communication.

Maybe being a writer, makes me prone to want to communicate that way. In order to write, you have to spend a lot of quiet time with your thoughts. I love when I can work through my feelings and say what I want to say without interruption and quite frankly, without feedback and opinions. 

And then there is my mother —her feelings are hurt when I don’t feel like talking to her.  I love her and enjoy her company (mostly) but you know how mothers can be with all of that lovely unsolicited advice. Now that her mind seems to be doing well, she’s always adding to my “to-do list.” *Insert eye-roll here.  Honestly, most of the time it's not about her that I don’t feel like talking. It’s about my head being full of thoughts, worries and unsolved problems. Sometimes, I need silence just to process everything that’s going on in my life. 

The adults in my house say that I’m not very nice. I’m grumpy -always in a mood. 

You're damn right I'm grumpy! I have every right to be. Try being all things to four other people, two of whom have exceptionally high needs,  all the time, and see how grumpy YOU are! 

Last night was a family dinner to celebrate Kendal’s 22nd birthday.  I honestly did not want to go. It was my husband's idea and at first, I thought they were going to have a guy's night out.  Then he invited my mom so I felt obligated to do the right thing as a mother and go. *another eye-roll here.  To be honest, I didn't particularly want to celebrate his birthday since he barely acknowledges mine or my mother's birthday. He knows better than that. I always asked for a hand-written note or a handmade card when he was growing up. It's not about the gift, but the acknowledgment.  I'm a grown-up so off we went to a family birthday dinner.

Sadly, our quirky autism family does better with one on one situations than we do as a whole unit.  It's like, each ingredient of the casserole is great by itself or perhaps combined with one other ingredient, but when you put them all together in a dish, it's a disaster.

I didn’t want to listen to them all talk —at once. It’s not fun —everyone competing for the mic,  the debating, the constant correction, the talking to Kendal with condescension (my mom and my husband). I try really hard not to talk to him that way. When I talk to him, I try my best to treat him with dignity.  The key word is —try. I’m not always successful because he can wear through my last nerve. My few little patience are shot.  However, I think I am the best listener in his life, so he talks to me the most.

It may not be right, but I carried him in my uterus and I spend more time and energy with him than anyone else on earth. I've earned the right to lose my patience with him.  I just hate when other people do it. It may not be politically correct for me to feel this way about his father and my own mother.  It may not be fair, but it is what it is. I like what I like, and I don't like what I don't like. 

Anyways, I say all of that to say, that the girl who was once the most social person you could meet —who was the one out of my family of five siblings, who was the glue that held them all together, who made sure that we got together frequently for family dinners and parties now,  can hardly stomach having dinner with my own immediate family. How is this my reality? 

Yes. I've changed. I'm not as social as I once was.

It's a difficult thing to admit.  A simple dinner with my immediate family makes me want to pull my own hair out. But hey, these are my confessions... 

I did survive dinner although I was thoroughly irritated by my husband by the end of the night. I won't get into the details of that. Insert eye-roll here. 

I celebrate that my son has made it through 22 years of life without being physically harmed by his mother.

I still love my husband and I still have my sense of humor. 
Happy Birthday my complicated boy. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Mental Health for Mom

I’m 52 years-old. Some days I wake up thinking, I would sell my house and all my earthly possessions just to pay someone to come and take over this mom gig for me. I'm sure someone else could do a better job. 

Well ...I wouldn't sell my bed. I love my bed. 
Or my down pillows. 
I would also keep my mala bead collection, and my laptop, and maybe my phone and well...I don't know, but mostly everything else, I would sell.

My last child just graduated from high school. My two older boys are both out of the house, slowly moving along with their lives. My 21-year-old has autism and mood dysregulation disorder. He will probably always be high maintenance and need help with managing his life, but at least he is working. He keeps a job, and right now he has two. Maybe, just maybe I will get lucky and some day he will find a lovely woman to marry and finish raising him. I am done. Mostly. Only he hasn't finished growing up. 

I must have been delusional to believe that this stage of my life would be a time of celebration and freedom. Maybe not total freedom, but at least more freedom. I finished raising children. I can finally have a life, right? I can build my web site, write my book, launch my t-shirt design business, travel with my husband, travel alone, and maybe never come back. 

Maybe I could finally feel a sense of purpose beyond the care, feeding, and therapy of other ungrateful humans. 

Only none of that freedom has happened. And it doesn’t feel like it’s close to happening.  

The 18-year-old also has autism, mood dysregulation and a ton of anxiety. He is not launching as expected. He is brilliant and has all of the potential in the world. However, right now he is a nervous, anxiety-ridden, self-sabotaging, bundle of hot mess. We’ve been putting him through all kinds of thousands of dollars in therapy. Our goal is to get him to the point of being able to somewhat regulate his emotions. 

Between transition from high school into adulthood, starting community college, friends moving away for college, and other social situations, it turns out that this is not a straight shot. It doesn't matter how high his S.A.T. score is if he can't manage the responsibility of college life. 

One would think this would be an exciting time for a young adult, but for someone who doesn’t deal well with change, it is an onslaught of, gigantic, scary looking, changes and challenges. 

When his anxiety is high, it sometimes turns in to anger and it's not cute when you're a big old 18-year-old boy. I happen to be the safe person that gets to see and feel the brunt of that frustration. 

So last week, I found myself in the office of a Psychiatrist. Talk about depressing. I’ve been in Psychiatrist's offices many times before --for other people. 

I never liked Psychiatrists or the process of dealing with psychotropic medication for mental health. When your back is against the wall, and someone you care for about is not mentally healthy, you do what the hell you have to do, just like you would if they had any other illness. 

I’ve been on anti-anxiety medication for a while. It was prescribed by my Primary Care doctor. She had the nerve to move away in January to take care of her own parents. Damn her for having a life. I loved that woman. 

She left me with a script that by May, was no longer doing the job of keeping my anxiety in check.

Years, months, days and countless minutes of hyper-vigilance, living in this stressful, chaotic, war zone I call home, has conditioned my body to be on alert for something bad to happen even when there isn't anything major going on. It's the infamous, waiting for the next shoe to drop. PTSD from hundreds, if not thousands of meltdowns, fights and phone calls with a bomb on the other end of it. I get butterflies in my stomach and my heart starts racing every time the phone rings or any time voices get raised above a certain level in this house.  

I tried all summer long to avoid taking the step of seeing a Psychiatrist. I’m in therapy. I tried walking. I did yoga. I transferred some of my responsibility as Payee and Problem Solving Consultant for Kendal, to his father. These things helped, but there was still lingering depression and relentless anxiety. Every time, I felt like I made a step in the right direction, something would happen to knock me on my ass again. 

I can’t tell you why it is that we as moms, put ourselves last on the list in too many ways to count. When something is wrong with one of my kids, I’m in a doctor’s office in a heartbeat. 

Over the summer, my arthritic knee was killing me. It took months before I finally gave in to go see a doctor. When my anxiety and depression was flaring, I tried all kinds of band-aids before I gave in and visited a Psychiatrist. It kind of felt like admitting weakness. Like, I just can’t handle my life. 

I asked myself, is this anxiety organic? Is it something I’ve always had, or is it just situational? Yes. I have been living under stressful, circumstances for a long time. It was getting to a point, where I felt somewhat incapacitated in growth and forward movement in any area of my life. Like the faster I go, the behinder I seem to get. 

Having to see a Psychiatrist made me feel even more depressed. I wallowed for a few days after the visit --not moving ahead with her suggested line of treatment. Until I realized, it was a necessary step for my own mental health. Just like with my boys, I have to use every possible tool in the toolbox. Otherwise, I may find myself in a position where I can't take care of anyone.

When you visit a mental health professional, they always ask, "Do you have any thoughts of hurting yourself or others?" Hah! That's a trick question. I think of knocking these boys silly all the time. I have no thought of harming myself tho. I have too much shit to do.

My name is Karen. I needed mental health treatment and I chose to get help. I hope that you will too if you need it. 
Don't let the stigma stop you from getting healthy. Take care of you.