Thursday, August 25, 2011

Even Negative Attention is Attention

I sunk. I think I hit a harder bottom this time than I ever had before. My family and friends could see that I wasn't happy, but I have been through this before. They know I am strong. They know that when I really need something, I will ask for it.  But I didn't ask. I just stared at all the common sense problems I could see, and I got angry. OH. SO. ANGRY. Why should I have to ask? Why don't they do this on their own? Seriously. How many adults are here?  Why am I doing everything?  Why are they criticizing me? Why isn't anything

good enough

You know why?  Because I pushed them out of my way. "Yes, I need help. No, you can't do that I need it my way. Yes, do the laundry, please! Oh... you put that in the dryer? UGH..." 

It's hard to recover when you can't see the help you are getting. It's hard to recover when you are filling yourself with your perception of others expectations. I let it go, I let it grow out of control. And it resulted in the fiery wrath. I was ready to run.

What scared me this time, just before the breaking point, was that I lost sight of what was important. I have never wanted to run from my kids. EVER. But this time it felt like the ultimate punishment for those who couldn't see what was wrong.  They thought it should be easy. They think it's fun and games raising kids. My kids are strong, I've taught them well. I knew they could manage without me here. I knew that even just a few days of teaching those who couldn't see... would MAKE them appreciate me.

I would take a quick trip to the store, the best version of 'me-time' I could get. I would grab what I needed and be ready to leave, then I would wander through the store. I'd finally force myself to pay for what I picked up and I'd head to the van. I'd stare at the steering wheel, wishing I had somewhere (anywhere) else to go. I didn't want to come home.  I wasn't ready to face what was waiting. Kids crying, dishes waiting, messes everywhere. More and more signs of what I didn't do.

And I hated to admit that I was failing. I was. I was spending more time crying than laughing. I was frozen. I wanted to be happy, I keep chasing that dream, but I couldn't get moving.  Many days I couldn't even shower and dress. I lived in PJ's and stared at the things that needed to be done. I'd hyperfocus on work. Instead of feeling good about what I was doing, I was chasing my tail. I was behind, so I'd focus until I hit my needed hours and then crash again. At one point, I even messed up an entire project. Just before my vacation time, I did a whole project and it was crap. Sincerely crap. Something that would have needed to be redone entirely, not just bits and pieces, the whole darn thing.  Thankfully, while I was away, it was done. It was done well by someone else, with no looking back.

It hurt to admit it. It was awful. Up until then, I could at least give myself the credit that I did my job and I did it well. But then what? I worried about getting fired. How do I explain that?  I fell on work as an excuse, but my work was garbage. 

So there it was. I had a hubby I couldn't talk to, a job I sucked at, a mother who was constantly on my tail about something I didn't do right (if at all), and 3 kids who seemed to be purposely misbehaving when I was weakest.  

But my kids were not misbehaving. They were behaving like kids. Things get spilled, things get broken. It happens. The work they created for me was all I could see.

My hubby didn't hate me, he just didn't know what to say. He didn't understand because I never explained it.

And my mom, well, yes, she's picky. But she didn't intend to criticize, she could see what I wasn't doing. She was trying to push me forward and I just took it as complaining. 

I do feel better now. It's still a long road, but I'm headed the right way. I am trying. I'm also not trying AS HARD. Hyper focus hurts. It hurts my family because I'm not paying attention to what really matters and it hurts me. I spent the day scrubbing the bathrooms, when all that needed to be done was sweeping a floor. Instead of doing what needed to be done, I was doing everything possible to avoid doing it. Almost like I was looking for attention.

Just like kids, even negative attention is attention.

No more.  No more excuses. I'm using a timer again to prevent the hyper focus habit. When I go overboard, I sacrifice quality.  I'm not diving into new routines, school will start and change it all anyway. I'm taking each day as it comes. I'm not filling my life with lists and to-do's. I can see what needs to be done and I will do that.  When I have a list, I constantly pick the most abstract ways to avoid doing the simple things that drive me crazy...

By believing that everyone else thought I was a failure, I failed. I failed myself. I gave up.  My hubby deserves a wife who is not anticipating his next complaint, my mom deserves a daughter who recognizes the things SHE does for me too. She helps me a lot. Without her my house would be a disaster.  And my kids deserve a mom who is not thinking of 55 things she thinks she has to do while she's playing with them.

I failed myself. I stood in the way of my own peace of mind. I believed the mean things that I thought everyone was saying. I stopped trying. No one should ever stop trying. I couldn't 'do it all' so I didn't do anything. And I got lost in the process.

I'll be telling you more about the changes I've made, the few things I need to keep working on and how I'm pulling my socks back up and getting back into life.  

Yes, socks. Because I AM dressed everyday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's Dark At The Bottom

Have you ever suffered from depression?  Many people get the blues now and then, mood swings are normal. But have you ever sat at the bottom of a well, looking up trying to see daylight?  The walls of the well are lined with all the things you have to do everyday and you just can't climb out?

I'm not talking about going to work, or trying to renovate your home, either. I mean EVERY part of your day. You have to force yourself to put your feet on the floor. You walk around like a zombie. You reach for your coffee and it helps you stay awake, but eventually it doesn't even taste like anything.  The simple things, like brushing your teeth are chores you have to write down to remember.

Maybe you have a day or two that are sluggish. Lazy even. You ignore a simple job like picking a towel off the floor.  Everyone gets this way sometimes. You scrape through the day doing absolutely nothing more than you HAVE to do. If you are a parent, you can get your kids through their day. They are dressed, bathed, fed, well looked after. You even take part in active play with them. You listen to their dreams and their fears.  You wake up the next day and know that it was a dry spell, just a slump, and you jump back into reality.  You can't be depressed, really.... look how much you can do in a day!

What if you woke up and realized that you didn't know what day it was? What if your eyes burned because you are crying in your sleep, when you thought that sleep was your only escape? What if you had a week of this?  What if no one seemed interested in you? What if there was no one there to be interested?

Maybe you're angry?  You're not depressed. You are furious!  Surely everyone can see that you have way to much on your plate. Why isn't this common sense to them? It's all obvious to you, so why can't they see what is holding you down?  Why has it been 6 months since anyone did anything for you??? 

Months?  What?  When did a bad day turn into months?  Do you remember the last time you felt good?  Do you know who you are? What made you smile? Where are your friends? Why is your spouse seeming so cranky?  What do you mean I've been standing here for 45 minutes?  I just came in here a minute ago to do the dishes!

Depression sneaks up on you. Sometimes you can feel the fall. Sometimes you know it's coming, but usually by the time you recognize it, you are already sliding. I'm not one to say that if you survive a bad depression you will be happy for the rest of your life. It's going to be a threat. But getting help and getting through it means that you will be stronger next time. And each time you tread through it you will have more clues, more tools and more support.

We never asked to be depressed. And we don't ask for help.  Who wants to hear "oh, you're feeling sad? You should have called me!" A) depression doesn't always mean sadness, and B) if you can't even put socks on, making a call is pretty unlikely.  And what would you say?  "Hi, I'm feeling kind of weird. I don't know what it is. I'm frustrated" or angry, achy, sleepy, hungry.... there are so many different ways that depression can show.  And you surely don't want to sound like you are searching for sympathy.  Of course, this is if you actually KNOW that you are feeling depressed.

If you don't know, things can get ugly. Even if you do know, you may not have the strength to get up.

But help is out there... don't be afraid to ask. You can see the sunshine again, you just might need someone to show you where it is.

Take some small steps. Write down the basics if you need to. Yes, I have had a list that said
"Put your feet on the floor, get some clothes for the day, go shower, brush your teeth. Dress. EAT."
And I still had days go by that I couldn't do that whole list. I could meet other's demands or needs, but I couldn't get me dressed?  And I certainly did NOT enjoy one minute of doing everything for everyone else.

But I'm working harder now.  I opened up the flood gates. It started poorly, I was screaming and crying at the others here. But I let out every mean horrible thought I'd had recently. I dumped it all out, I talked and cried until I was just empty. I honestly had nothing to say to anyone.
I scared them.
I scared me.

Then, after I ran out of things to scream... I was able to look up and see that those people are still there. They acknowledge my points, not just ignore them. And what the ??? They hug me?

They help me. They talk to me. They open up and let me know that I'm not alone.

Much of this climb up is my own. This is an internal fight, no one can do it for me.  But I can reach out when I feel weak. My perception of life at the moment, is not reality. Or, rather, it was not. It is cognitive distortions that rule my world. I've asked for help, less judgement and more support. But most importantly, I've admitted that I can't do everything.

I can feel better. I will feel better. And the big projects that are unfinished and haunting my thoughts ... can wait. Small steps. Each day is a new day.

Today, I am dressed. I am rested. I have eaten. I have worked. I have taken care of me, not just my kids. There are toys on the floor, but they are not going to hurt anyone. The small things that I've accomplished today are huge. They are big steps towards being healthy. If nothing else gets done today, I'm okay.

Just because I was able to do everything before, doesn't mean I have to do everything now. My kids are growing. My Angel Baby is 3 now, out of a crib and not napping. This is a big change. My days are busier. I don't have to do everything I did before. Because life changes. And if I don't change with it, I can not get better. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Past Does Not Define Me

I obsess over the details in my life.  I am constantly revisiting events afterwards trying to figure out what I could have or maybe should have done differently. Learning to let yesterday go, like watching a cloud float by, is not easy.  It is often necessary, but for someone like me,  normallly very difficult.  I have thought extensively about some bigger events in my life and realize that these are things that have happened that do not really affect me today, unless I think about them and choose to allow them to take over.

My past may be part of what made me who I am, but it is no sign of who I am NOW.  I am a survivor. Acknowledging my space in this world as my own is making it easier to deal with today.  I may feel crazy. I may feel like I'm always behind the 8 ball and struggling with minute details of life as a WAHM.  But things have been hard before, and I survived. Things were not always in my control and I survived. I am exceptionally sensitive to negativity. It can easily consume me, even if it has nothing directly to do with my own life. If someone hurts, I hurt with them.  But I am a survivor, and I will get through this stage of my life too.  

I am a child of divorce. My parents divorced when I was very young.  I am not defined by their relationship, I am still a successful adult, despite what many people say happens to children of divorce. I survived.

I am a child of alcoholism. I have lived with domestic abuse related to alcoholism, as my mother lived with an abuser for several years. I have watched my mother sink her life into alcohol too. I know that her choices are not my responsibility and even if I disagree with them I understand that this is her choice to make.  I have seen the bottle destroy many special things, and moments. I choose not to live my life that way. I survived.

I am a mother of a special needs child. You know what?  He was special before. I do nothing different now than I did before, I just have a little more support along the way.  I did nothing to 'cause' this diagnosis, and I can do nothing to take it away.  He is still the same boy he has always been. It was hard getting to this point and truly understanding that overall this didn't change my life. I was always there helping him and I will always be there.  I had bad news, but I survived.

I am a wife who has struggled with thoughts of divorce, faced the risks and realities of affairs and infidelity, battled good times and bad. Every day we learn a new way to communicate, a new piece of the puzzle becomes clear. Every day we try to make tomorrow better. Together, we have survived.

I have lost a job. I have worked for a company that went bankrupt. I have had to go to a food bank to feed my family. I have dealt with creditors calling non-stop. I have dealt with my trucker being laid off, at CHRISTMAS. I've suffered severe depression. I've lost friends and family to disease, I have also lost friends to silly differences. I have had bouts of insomnia. I have been bullied. I have been fat. I have been teased. I have even been stalked.

Through every one of those events in my life, when I thought the world was just absolutely going to end for me, even when occasionally I wished and prayed that the earth would stop, open up and just swallow me whole.... I survived.

No, my past does not define me. It proves to me that I am strong. I can do this. I can be whatever I want to be.  No matter how bad a situation feels, it is NOT the end of the world. 

It is simply a new beginning.

And I will survive.

Monday, August 8, 2011

All About Growing Up

I have been writing a lot lately, maybe not here but I definitely have been writing. I've been working through some parts of my personal history, revisiting times in my life that were hard or hurtful.  I've spent a lot of time thinking about my junior high (grades 7-9) experiences.

The writing started off on the negative sides of school. Bullying, and the likes. But as I look deeply now, many of those things seem so small. I was teased, for sure, but there was never any physical threat. The main group of students that were hard on me were all nice when it was a one on one situation.  It was hard for me to understand why anyone would let others tell them who they could like or not. This one group was about 20 students, all of which treated me well one on one.  When I flipped out at lunch one day and called them on it as a group, they all just simply stopped talking to me at all. I suppose this was a blessing, the polite conversations stopped but so did the rude remarks. (I tend to bite my tongue until I just can't take it. So when I speak my mind, EVERYBODY has to hear it)

The parts of me that were most criticized, were things I couldn't control. My clothes, hair, money and other stupid things.  We didn't have the money to buy new flashy expensive clothes, so I wore what was comfortable and when I got something new, I just loved it no matter where it came from. My discount department store new stuff was so much better than their hundred+ dollar shirts.

I've been digging a bit deeper into personality traits, and analyzing some of my own thoughts and actions as I get older. I've come to realize that my need to be a better person has always been there. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind at that teenage time, I knew that "they" were dumb. I knew that there were more important things in life that clothes and money. I knew that the friends I kept were friends because they were supportive and caring, not because they shopped where I shopped. I hoped that some of 'those people' would wake up and see that they were focusing on the wrong things in life.

I always felt ignored, lost in a sea of people I could never compete with. But truthfully, I never wanted to. I hated the thought of what would happen to me if I did fit in with them. Maybe I would wear the same things or could afford the same things, but I really don't think I would have.  I never begged my mother to buy me that brand name sweatshirt so they would leave me alone. I was tearful and afraid, yes, but never ever trying to become them.

I had an image float through my mind last night. It was me, back in that school, back with those people. Standing well dressed for half the price in the hallways where people used to brush by me without notice.  I had thought, years ago, that no one liked me. I had decided, years ago, that I hated all of them. It was easier for me to control this situation. They didn't like me because I didn't want them to.

Then it hit me, like a rush of emotions, I am still the same person now. I never really 'hated' them, but I sure didn't want to be around them. I wanted more for myself, I was better than that. I could see what was important when they couldn't.

I am still the same person. I am still very selective when it comes to making friends. I have a hard to reaching out. I have a hard time opening up. But when I do, it's often a rush of everything. I have friends who know everything about me. I have a limited number of 'acquaintances' and a lot of people I just don't even want to try to know.  I hesitate to trust anyone. I calculate the number of ways things can go wrong. I worry about telling the whole story to anyone, just in case they judge me for it or find a way to use it against me.

When I open up, when I finally feel trust and respect for someone, I am fully prepared to share everything. I always strive to be more than I am. I try every day to find a better way to do things. And I shelter myself from people who have their own agendas. 

The pain that I felt in Junior High, wasn't caused by other kids, it was my own personal protection program.  I'm extremely grateful everyday that I didn't fit in. I wasn't like them then, and I'm not like them now.  The dark side of me enjoys that several of those girls didn't finish high school because they became mommies, and it loves that the skinny girls are all bigger than me now. (And I've had three kids!!)

I'm not a 'fashionista.' I'm hardly 'girly' except when I'm playing dressup with my little Angel Baby.  I don't have high material needs.  I focus on the things that are important. Like making sure the needs of my family are met and building strong children. 

When I was 13, 14, 15, I thought I was losing my mind. But I think...
I just may have had it all right then too.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Marriage Matters - To My Husband

Being a truckers wife, well, it isn't much fun.  You either have a man who is always out of town and comes home to sleep and get his clothes clean, or you have a trucker who is home most nights, but often exhausted.  Many days being married to a trucker feels like not being married at all.

Of course, my darling trucker has not ALWAYS been a trucker. This is the first time in all the years I've known him that he had a job he loved. Even when he hates it.  When I met him in 1996, he had a suspended license. I'd love to take credit for pushing him in the right direction to clean it up, but it had nothing to do with me.  I simply encouraged him to find his passions.

That's what marriage is about, really. Supporting your spouse even when you think they are wrong. 
Pushing them to greatness, not bullying them into hiding.
My trucker is very spontaneous, I am a planner. I need everything to just be perfectly organized. We compliment each other. He makes a sudden choice to go away, I make sure we have everything we need. It is very hard for me to just get up and go at a moments notice, particularly since we had kids. It is also very hard for him to understand why it takes me so long to get us packed. But we make it work. And by the time we hit the road, we've moved past the stress of the trip (read: quit screaming at each other) and can enjoy vacation. He is happy knowing we are free from the daily grind, I feel happy knowing that if my kid trips in poison ivy while getting eaten up by mosquitos because he's throwing up in the bush and he has an asthma attack... I'm covered.  Well, maybe not so extreme but ... who am I kidding, I need it this way. I am a paranoid mama.

Marriage is work. I know that my mom and my dad had tried to explain what it takes to keep a marriage alive. Especially since theirs ended in divorce. I don't want to ever deal with divorce. It will be an absolute worst case scenario if it did occur. Each time we struggle through a tough patch together, we end up feeling a bit closer, a bit stronger and a lot more united. We can not predict every bump in the road, but we can still move forward together.
Often, this little fact is forgotten at the time, but we have survived some pretty crappy situations and I'm sure the worst has not passed us by yet.

So, even when things are good, we work. We make time as often as we can. Our kids are getting bigger and it's getting a little easier to find a sitter for all three. With his weird trucker hours, I rarely go to bed at the same time as he does. So, if the Angel Baby is in bed, I can leave the boys playing for awhile and go sit with him for 20 minutes to talk about those things we don't want to discuss around the kids.

We hit rock bottom now and then, try something new to work on and keep moving. It's when we forget to talk regularly, or just don't talk at all, that the problems hit. When your marriage is weakest, that's when disaster hits.  The Murphy's Law of marriage!
I read. A LOT. He doesn't. But after this many years, he has tested some audio books and is willing to talk about what I have read, so I'm okay with that. As long as we are still finding new ways to be more together, I am okay with the reading. I was lucky enough to win a copy of Project: Happily Ever After from Alisa Bowman. I may not have been in the moments of trying to plan my truckers death or writing his eulogy at the time I received it, but let me tell you, when I started reading her blogs about marriage I think I was there. (I will be sharing more about this book soon, so watch for it.) .

Friendships require a lot of give and take. Marriage is the most important friendship you will ever have.  You have to be friends, raise children if you have them, share financial stress and planning. It is a personal business.  As long as there is something to look forward to, it's worth putting in the effort. 

I have been in the mindset of "for-the-kids" and it does nothing for the kids. My whole life revolves around my children. But I am starting to see what so many others have, I need to work on the marriage more than parenting.  After all, the trucker will still be here when the kids move away. At least, I want him to be.