Secrets, Shame and Growth

Some days (well, many days) I worry that I’ve lost myself.  Or maybe I am just finding myself because I never really had a strong sense of self, not until relatively recently.

Growing up, I was told how to be and how I should be.  A strong student. A wife with a career, but not a career that would ever get in the way of family.  A wife with a husband from the same ethnic community, to preserve the culture and raise children in the same faith.  To be smart, but not too smart as to threaten the husband.  To never, ever get divorced.  To have brilliant little children to parade around for the approval of others, like I was.

It has taken me many, many years to fully appreciate how stifling this was.  I am not angry however – I understand that my parents (my mother in particular) grew up in a certain culture at a certain time in history and with all that baggage, they did the best they could with what they had.

They did better than many in their community – at least they didn’t hire a hit man to take out any of my boyfriends.  Of course, it’s not as if they knew about many of them…but still.  They turned a blind eye to the few shenanigans I engaged in, so long as my marks remained strong.

I grew up to become a pleaser, to no one’s surprise.  And please I did for many years.  When I knew I couldn’t please, I lied in order to please. Give the people what they want, I thought.  It was just easier that way.

I’ve shed this instinct in so many ways.  Shame is a dangerous emotion. But I’m not 100% there.  I am a work in progress.

***

I had a lover for awhile.  Long after my divorce, not while I was married. He was my secret and I was his.  He was at the tail end of a dying relationship and I was in a very active, post-divorce dating phase.  If the timing had worked out differently, we might have ended up together but…we didn’t.  I recognize now that in so many ways he would not have been a good choice.  Still, however I am sad.

I try to figure out this sadness.  Maybe I am sad because he was one of my first truly independent decisions- even if it was a bad one.  Maybe it is because he understood so many elements of my reality.  Maybe it was his intense passion.

***

I really worried once upon a time about my secrets being made public. About the world seeing that I’ve made some bad choices.  I used to fret and worry because this would be The Worst Thing Ever.

But, I have come to realize that there is a heaviness that comes with the keeping of secrets.  A sense of privacy is healthy, but shame and debilitating fear are not.

***

And now I have made some very conventional choices that my mother, in her current state, is unable to appreciate.  It is ironic, that I am living in the kind of house she wanted for me, with the kind of person she wanted for me.  I finally made some ‘good’ choices – but choices for me this time.

***

I don’t know where I and this life where go.  I know that the only certainty is change.

***

None of this is distressing to me.  If anything, I see only possibility ahead.

Meeting

Our school meeting went…surprisingly well.  The VP spoke to my daughter like she was a human being, and made her feel like she is part of the decision about how to manage her phone use at school.

She’s happy with the result.  Whether it is helpful remains to be seen – but I know that her buying in is more than half the battle.

So the solution is this:  When a teacher sees her using her phone inappropriately, they will casually walk by and place a hand on her desk. A non-verbal cue, so that she doesn’t feel singled out.  Her job then will be to put it away.

The final thought left with her this meeting was that she has control over what happens next.  If it goes well, then there will be no need to change anything.  If not, she knows that things will escalate.  But, whether or not they escalate is up to her.

It’s a compromise between her phone being a tool to cope with anxiety, and it being a hindrance to schoolwork.

Fingers crossed.

Therapy day

The best thing that happened to me today happened on my way into therapy.  I parked my car outside the hospital, and went to the machine to pay for parking.  Just as I was about to stick my coins in, a woman leaving the lot waved to me from her car.  I walked over, she smiled as she handed her all-day pass to me.

There is kindness.

The rest of my day was not so heartening.  We had a two hour all-staff meeting at work.  I hate these meetings.  They happen a few times a year, and they’re supposed to be an opportunity to meet new staff, and find out what is going on in each section.

My section has been grossly understaffed until a few weeks ago, when they finally filled a position that had been vacant for a year.  A year in which I had to wear many hats- or I should say, all of the hats.  I wore all of the hats, covering three positions in total, while all the while management’s expectations remained high.  I felt like I was being set up to fail.  Even though I think I fucking performed miracles daily, I constantly felt like I was saying no more than yes, and looking like I was underperforming, which I know, is ridiculous.

In comes in new team member.  She is great, I really like her, but the thing is, she has way less experience than me.  She is constantly coming to me for advice, which she willingly takes (it could be worse that way, I know).  She is grateful, I know that.

Thing is, the rest of the office sees her as some sort of messiah, as if nothing was happening while that position was vacant.  UM, HELLO? And now I am invisible.  People are going to her, not responding to my emails, and worst of all, attributing credit for some great things happening on our team to her.  They don’t realize that this work didn’t come from nowhere.  It was months of my planning and implementation and ironing out glitches.

That all said, it is not about my ego.  I’m not looking for glory, just credit where credit is due, and more importantly, recognition that I did pretty fucking well considering I was doing three jobs on my own.

So yes, I am bitter.

And in the background simmers my anxiety about my daughter and what this school meeting tomorrow will bring.  I know it is going to get worse with her before it gets better.  I am tired of people saying to me, “You just have to do it- take her phone away.”  Well, duh.  I will do what I have to do- that doesn’t mean I don’t know what that will look like- the yelling, the meltdowns (hers *and* mine), the refusal to go to school, the hours I will have to miss from work, the alcohol I will feel compelled to consume to give me a bit of relief at the end of the day.  She is a kid who will resist and defy and argue and protest just to wear. me. down. at a time that I have so many other things wearing me down.

So with all that and more, I got myself to therapy for session 2 with A.  I just sort of went on and all over the place with the many sources of my stress and anxiety, to the point of breathlessness.  My mother, my ex-husband and his years of infidelity, blending families, my old house which isn’t selling, the trauma of anonymous cyberharassment.  And more.  I think she was a bit stunned.

I pondered out loud that the universe is trying to tell me something, but that I couldn’t figure out what it is.

I’m trying to recognize that there isn’t much I can do about the various sources of shit being flung at me.  We all get it at some point in our lives. It is how we react that matters.  How we cope.  What I can have a teensy bit of control over is how I replenish and take care of myself – which right now consists of alcohol and hours lost to playing 1010.

She said, start with 10 minutes a day.  Read a favourite book.  Or listen to music.  Or go for a walk.

I will have to mull that one over.  I don’t even know what feels good anymore.  I just know that what I am currently doing is not getting me into a better place.

Didn’t didn’t done

Never did ride my bike today.  I set myself up, big time.  The boy missed his bus, he ran back home in a panic, off I sent him, back to the bus stop to wait for the next one.  By the time I got my lunch together (and blogged) it was already 8:45.  Too late.

I need to be out of the house by 8:00 a.m. to really do that.

Then I thought, it’s okay.  I’ll get on the spin bike when I get home.  But, just before I left the office, an email from the girl’s school.  She’s having problems staying off her phone in class.  A meeting is scheduled for later this week to come up with a “solution.”

Drama ensued when I got home from work.  I don’t understand her anxiety and what she needs to cope (chatting with her friends online, apparently).

I do understand anxiety.  Big time.  She doesn’t see (or want to see) that her ‘anxiety’ became more of a problem when she got a phone.  I don’t doubt it is part of her constellation- but I hate also feeling like I am being played because really, she just would rather chat with her friends that do school work.

I am weary.  This is only the third week of school.

I feel like I am never going to get back to a world where I have time to take care of myself.  To exercise a few times week.  Maybe get a pedicure, or go out with a friend.  Instead self-care has become about making it through the day so that I can escape with some Netflix and wine before bed.  I know this isn’t right.

I go back to therapy today after a long absence.  I don’t know where to start with A.  We’d only had one session before she went off on vacation. I only have to focus on getting there I guess, for now.

Ok.  Time to get off my butt and moving.  The day is beginning.

I can do this.

I am fed up with how I feel and look.

I have gained 40 lb in two years and I am not happy about it.  It was nesting into new relationship, stress galore caused by my ex-h’s drama, Seroquel, and too much wine to either numb (during the week) or celebrate (at the end of the week).

I am trying to not be all-or-nothing in my thinking.  This is always a set-up for failure with me.  Intellectually, I know it is all about small changes that add up.  Lifestyle.  Blah blah blah.  I know it will help with keeping depression and anxiety at bay.  I am doing alright, but I could be doing better in the mood department and it is time to take next steps beyond meds and therapy.

So, today I’m riding my bike to work.  It won’t be pretty.  But I just have to get there and then get home.  And I know how my brain works.  Once I’m on it and going I will love it.

Here I go.  I can do this.

Month Three & Randomness

I am three months in to blended-family-land.  It really is a whole other world. While he and I have spent many longer extended periods of time alone, throwing kids into the mix- especially with each other- adds a whole other dimension.

I am proud of my kids for being as resilient as they are.  As fun and nimble as they are.  As intelligent and questioning and independent.  Things that I always knew, but see with an even clearer lens now that there are others in the fray.

His daughter is easy going, with a sense of fun and gentleness that reminds me of him.  His son is like him in that while he can talk to people when he has to, he is at the heart an introvert.  But there are other things that I see, that grate on me, that are everything I have heard about his mother.  He is particular, in the way only a first born boy treated like a prince can be.  He must have the last word.  He is entitled and unwilling to entertain the feelings of others.  He’s going to be my biggest challenge.

The house is slowly, slowly being detangled from chaos.  I miss the simplicity of my old house, where I had, after five years of being, achieved the perfect just-so balance of my physical world.  The utter relaxation of having hours in front of me where I didn’t have to account to anyone.  There is very little alone time these days.

Yet, I love him and he loves me in a way that is completely unlike anything I have ever experienced.  He makes me a better person.  He is kind and ethical and considerate.  He would lay across tracks for me and makes me feel safe.

***

In other news, I am hating my job.  Not the job, exactly, but working full-time. Four days would be saner, three days…all the better.  I am trying to think of ways to make this possible.  I miss the things in my life I used to have more time for.  Puttering.  Writing.  Projects at home.  Cooking in a slower, less frantic way.  And, oh, the garden.

***

The kids are both at a new school this year.  Grade nine and ten.  So far, so good.  She has made a friend – I am hopeful.  Last year she was a social outcast.  I know that having even one friend will help.  It is a fresh start.

***

So many things.  I am tired of feeling rushed and depleted and not having the time to take care of myself.  I want to lose weight and dye my hair and seize that high I used to get when I worked out four times a week.  I had that two years ago, but why does it feel so unattainable right now?

***

It occurred to me the other day that I haven’t had a period this calendar year. Maybe that explains my moods…not depressed exactly, just…uninspired. And I am constantly hot.  I feel like I need to shower twice a day just to be barely presentable.

***

As nonsensical as my ramblings are this cool, humid night, I am glad I have put them onto my screen.  My fingers are feeling more limber.  This is a start.  My space in a house where no space is completely my own.

***

I miss the feeling of my cat purring, narrow-eyed on my belly as I lie on the sofa or in bed.

She knows things are different now.

Farewell, old house

Tonight is my last night in the home I’ve lived in for the last 14 years.  I moved into it with a husband and a six month old, me at home with the kids full-time and I leave as a divorced single working mother of two teenagers.

This house has seen a lot.  My silent witness.  I’ve had times so terrible that I have looked at the walls, the furniture, the lighting in the room and thought that this house could never be a place that I could feel joy again.  But, time and time again, my house proved me wrong.  Joy followed sorrow, and then sorrow followed joy.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

I am grateful to this house for having been a happy gathering place, both for myself and my children.  It’s door has been open and welcoming to many.  My porch has set the scene for many a languid evening with a glass of wine, me watching the world go by.

It’s been also a great comfort to me.  When my marriage ended, it became my sanctuary.   It’s funny that even when things were good between ex-h and I, it never felt like our house- but nor was it fully mine alone.  The first night he left, I was giddy with relief, and I cleaned and purged and reorganized into the wee hours, finally so happy to be able to breathe and make my environment mine, and no longer a place of conflict.

We move on though to new adventures.  Blending families will be a challenge, no doubt.  So many have done it, yet there are no owners manuals, no how-to’s or best practices.

Farewell, old house, my trusted companion– I’ll miss you and be forever grateful.

And…in other news…

I had an appointment with my pdoc the other day.  The last time I’d seen her I was in high stress, high parenting crisis mode.  We talked about supports, therapy, etc.  And she asked to see me in a month.

I’m not in crisis anymore–I don’t even think I’m depressed.  But, there’s an annoying low-level of anxiety that flares up in certain contexts, like work (where I’m working in a no-win, understaffed situation which management barely gives lip service too), and of course, when my daughter isn’t doing well.  It is said that you’re only as happy as your least happy child when you’re a parent, and I think that rings true.

It is awful to say, but she does trigger me.  It triggers anxiety and guilt and even despair at times.  At the end of it all, it exhausts me and it takes all my effort to just get the basics done.

So pdoc and I discussed this.  I used to have so much motivation.  I was the one who Got Things Done.  That feels like a lifetime ago.  It’s weird because in my head I feel that there are things I want to do, but then there’s a break in the circuit of actually getting started.

Which…all means that I walked out of her office with a prescription for Wellbutrin.  I’ve been on it before.  It helped.  I know all about dopamine and what it does (woohoo!  let’s PARTY!) and I hope it gives me some motivation back, because fuck knows I have a lot to do in the next while.

Detachment, Depletion, and Subjugation

(How’s that for a light and fluffy title?)

There’s a certain conversation I’ve had with many of the professionals involved in my daughter’s care.  She has struggles, of course.  Right now, school and studying are front and centre as we head into exam time.

While she’s extremely bright (like over 95th percentile bright in her psych ed testing) she struggles with the typical things that many people with ASD and/or ADHD struggle with- executive functioning, organization, working through things slowly and methodically, dealing with frustration when things aren’t easy.  It drives her nuts when I say this, but she really does have the potential to do so well.  She interprets this as pressure.

Thing is, she doesn’t because, at the end of the day, she really doesn’t care.  I have to cajole and humour and convince.  She resists.  Then we devolve into yelling, frustration on both ends, and when it’s really bad, tears.  The bottom line, as her psychologist Dr. B has told me so many times…is that I can’t make her care.  It will happen when she wants it to happen. She will reap both the rewards and the consequences of her actions.

Dr. B is always quick to remind me as well that she’s not just a kid with ASD,  she is a typical, defiant almost-15 year old girl and well who is wont to disagree with her parents at every possible opportunity.  Like it is for sport.  Because that’s what almost-15 year olds do.

Better to let her fail now, and understand what that means now, rather than later, Dr B tells me.  My head knows this is right.  But it goes against what I want for her as my child.  I want my child to be happy, successful, capable, fulfilled.

Then I catch myself–all those sentences up there begin with I.  It’s all about me.  This is where I wonder if I am projecting.  If I want her success to be my definition of success.  Then I think about her holding down a job, having to pay bills, meeting her basic needs–and I start to get anxious. And then between the two of us, our collective anxiety spirals up and up until one or both of us has a meltdown of some kind.  This is never pretty.

So the only thing I can realistically counsel myself to do is detach, detach, detach.  Caring while not investing my very being into it, letting her lead her own way, with positive, gentle support and guidance from me in the background.  Remembering that my job is to create a healthy environment to facilitate her own good decision making, give her the right tools–and then remembering that it is up to her at the end of it all to pick up those tools and use them.

***

Too much focus and anxiety over her well-being also has done me harm. It has been a rough two years.  Ex-h’s drama did a number on me, then realizing that he is a narcissist has totally reframed how I deal with him now, and what our relationship was about.  It took me a long time to figure out the latter, and I’m still stunned (and a bit disappointed in myself) that it took me that long to figure him out.

It is time for me to step back and engage in some serious self-care.  I’ve been good at it at various points in my life, but at some point something has always derailed me.  I can’t afford to let that happen any more.  I can’t subjugate my needs to the changing tides of others.

Tomorrow June 1, is day one.  I am going to start by doing something good for me every single day.  I don’t know what it’ll be, big or small, but I have to feel like I am enriching myself in some way.

I’m also starting a new meds tweak – my pdoc has added Wellbutrin.  She thinks it might help with my lack of energy and motivation.  I sure hope so. I am tired of being tired, always being in a rush but walking through mud at the same time.

Wish me luck, oh internets…

How to pop a blood vessel

I sometimes have moments where I think, it can’t get any crazier or scarier or more stressful.  Then, without fail, I’m proven wrong.

I’m doing my best to keep the anxiety at bay.  The man helps me in this way immensely, but when he’s not around, it creeps up again.

I am stressed/anxious about many, many things right now.  The prospect of child support and/or alimony coming to a halt.  The Boy wanting to live at one house because he is tired of dragging his possessions around and having to keep track of what is wear.  The Girl sucking up all the energy in the room, day in and day out, not leaving space for anyone else’s needs to be met.  My mother being 89 and me waiting for the phone call that will change everything.  Moving.  Buying a house and blending a family, selling another.  A job where I am working three jobs at once and slowly losing. my. mind.

If I hear another person tell me that all I have to do is prioritize, say no, make things simple I am going to pop a blood vessel.

I need something good, something unexpected to happen.

I need to really, really believe that this too, all of it, shall pass.

I need to just be, instead of always doing.