Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A parent's worst nightmare

I couldn't watch the video.  I started to, but I just couldn't listen to the girl.  I couldn't bear to hear her say, "depression and anxiety are just fancy words for selfish."  I didn't want to witness where she was going since I had already read the news reports about where it ended.

I can't read the commentaries from the masses on twitter, even those that wish to be thoughtful and supportive and kind.

There is much I want to say, so I will just lay it out in all its unprettiness.

Dear Girl who Committed Suicide,

I wish you hadn't done it; I really, really wish you hadn't done it.

But I understand why you did.  I hope in the beyond, wherever you stand, hopefully with peace draped around you like warm flannel, you understand why you did.  I hope you can see that what you were feeling was terribly real and painful and biting, but what you were thinking and saying was completely off the mark.  Depression and anxiety were not your fault.  As much as suicide seemed a way for you to take control over the sadness and pain, you never had control over it at all.  The sickness of your mind killed you.

I hope death has blessed you with the ability to see with a wisdom that life would have made you wait 20 or more years to hold tenderly in your arms.  I don't think there is regret in the beyond, only a full and complete understanding.  I hope that you see now that things probably would have improved.  I know that when one's brain is sick, as sick as mine has been and as sick as yours was, you don't see everything as clearly as things actually are.

But perhaps if you had not killed yourself now, you wouldn't have made it 20 years.  Perhaps your sickness may have made the exact same choice for you five years from now....or ten years.  Waiting would have given you a little more time....to make sure that things wouldn't maybe, possibly, potentially, turn around.  Hope is hard....no, impossible, to find when your brain is sick.
I hope light surrounds you now.  I hope you can shine some of that light on your family.

In the fullness of the hereafter, I know you understand the crippling pain that has been left by your decision.  As a mom, my worst nightmare is that any of my children would commit suicide.  A terminal physical illness, an accidental drug overdose, a flipped car after speeding...all of these things would cause me terrible grief, but for my child to lose all hope and abandon the gift of life is simply unbearable.  I don't say this to be cruel because infinite wisdom is yours now.  You understand without guilt and fear and pain.

There will be much chatter about your suicide.  There will be much talk of "getting people the help they need" and "looking for signs" and "find someone to talk to," and all those other things people say when they can't wrap their heads around something.

I'm sorry your pain was so great.
I'm sorry the things that have worked for others, to help them regain some ability to control their minds, hadn't worked for you.
I'm sorry it takes going through the awfulness of mental illness to know just how deep in the sludge you were stuck.
I'm sorry a lifeline didn't come through.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Momentarily sucking the marrow out of life

I am very much down on the concept of trying to savor every minute with my children.  I read articles and blogs in which mothers (it's always mothers) should drop whatever it is they are doing and just enjoy their children.  

I call bullshit on this nonsense.  

Because me feeling guilty every second of the day because I'm not savoring every instant of my kids' childhoods is more exhausting than if I were actually savoring every second of their existence.  

I am going to go about the business of ignoring each of my children's every single solitary utterance and listening to my instincts that seem to jerk me into paying attention when it seems I really and truly need to pay attention.  

I am going to get done what needs to be done and when one of my children is on a roll of awesomeness.....THEN I am going to pay attention because nature is telling me at that moment, "Hey Lady, pay attention!" 

M happens to be on an awesome streak....saying really amusing things, being especially cute (although he is often still a complete douche nozzle when he throws a fit because I got him a glass instead of letting him pick a plastic cup, which I would have done had he relied on speech to say, "Mommy, I want to get my own cup," instead of attempting a failed mind-meld with me to parley his cup preferences). 

Signs of awesomeness:

*The other night, he saw my copy of The Old Man and the Sea in the bathroom.  He said to me, "I saw dat movie at Nana & Pa's.  But da man had a hat."  

(I'm not sure what impressed me most---that he was able to connect the visual of the book jacket with the movie without being able to read the words on the cover or that he was able to focus his eyes on the television in the midst of the sugar coma that ensues whenever he visits my parents' house.)

*When I watched a bit of Jimmy Fallon & Stevie Nicks, he walked over and asked me, 'Is dis da cowbells?" (Although I fail mightily as a mother at times, I did well by showing him the SNL Blue Oyster Cult skit.)

*Yesterday in the car, he requested "Da Back of da bar" song.  I had no earthly idea what song he wanted so he attempted to clarify by saying, "Da Panda" song.  It took a moment, but the light came on:  He wanted to hear Kesha's "C'Mon."  A close listening to the second verse indeed featured the line, "Write our names on the wall at the back of the bar."  He has watched and danced to this song on Just Dance 2014 with his siblings, and apparently this 1 line stuck out more than the 1,000 times she sings the refrain.

*This week I worked on digging yet another trench for a French Drain in our backyard.  After asking first if he could get muddy, to which I replied, "Well of course!" he had a time (from which the seat of his pants will never recover).  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Elysium, Grapes of Wrath and the Supreme Court

Last weekend I finished reading The Grapes of Wrath, and I watched Elysium.
This weekend I have been reading about the Supreme Court's decision regarding campaign contributions.

The past, the present and the imagined future.  The disenfranchised remain held down by the rich who are, by the fact of their richness, powerful.

As I read The Grapes of Wrath, it pained me to think of the families, the Okies, who lived through the 1930s in California.  The mothers whose children died of starvation.  The complete loss of everything they knew, everything they had, their entire way of life.  It was much more profound to me than the visual in Elysium of poverty and disease and rampant degradation.  I could imagine in my mind's eye the slow disintegration of the Joad family, of their pride, their dignity.  Perhaps Matt Damon's horse-teeth distracted me a bit from feeling more than I did at his plight....although I certainly got the theme.

The novel was despair, and the increasing role of the feminine to fight poverty as best it could under dire circumstances.  The film was aggressive, masculine destruction of the rich.  Intellectually, I can appreciate the value of both.

And then there is the here and now.  The rich continuing to manipulate elections, while the ever-shrinking middle class and the poor are waylaid.

I would like to send a copy of both the novel and the film to Justice Roberts, although I doubt he would understand the significance of either.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

The default

Now I can recognize when I'm having irrational thoughts, which I couldn't do before therapy, although sometimes it takes me awhile to see them for what they are.

Still, even when I see them, even though I know the skills of CBT and I'm medicated, I can't make these anxiety-inducing thoughts go away.  They ping in my brain over and over again, which is extremely annoying and the source of additional anxiety.

So I call my GP and say, "I'm experiencing such-and-such, and can I come in because it is almost assuredly nothing but I'm having trouble talking myself down."  Because they know me, know my OCD and GAD, they say come on it.  Doesn't hurt to check you out.

That is where I'm headed today.

I fell down the steps on Dec 27, and my tailbone still hurts.  Although every "medical" website says healing should take place after 4 weeks, it seems the actual discomfort of a bruised or broken tailbone can take years to go away.....if it ever does fully.

I can handle that.

But this past week, my brain took it upon itself to remember that my two students' mother, who lost her battle with cancer in January at the age of 45, had lung cancer that spread to her tailbone.
So even though rationally I know there is an actual legitimate reason for my tailbone hurting (the fall), even though I know the chances of me having tailbone cancer (that sounds so completely ridiculous) are way less than me being killed on my way to the GP this afternoon, even though I know that my body is taking ever longer to recover from injuries as I age, even though I know that because the boys have been waking me up from sleep more often lately which makes panic even harder to manage, none of this matters to the default setting of my brain----the anxious, catastrophic, highly irrational side.

I hate the default setting.  It makes me feel stupid.

Eleanor Roosevelt had it almost right.  The rub is when the thing making you feel inferior is your own brain.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Yes, I know I'm a shit

There is one reason and one reason only that I enjoy March Madness, and it is the fun of mocking sports fanatics on Facebook.

It brings me an endless amount of pleasure to gently prod people's insanity over men in shorts bouncing balls.  I tend to not have any interest in any kind of team competition.  I don't go ga-ga over the Olympics or school academic teams, either.

I know I carry on about my own obsessions on Facebook at times, like my frustration over snow days, and I'm sure that drives my friends nuts.  It tires them to read one.more.whine about listening to my kids scream at each other for 8 hours or how snow days fuck with their routines. Of course, snow days only occur once or twice a year normally.  This one year has been an exception.

For those of us who don't follow basketball, we have to put up with the salivations of our sports-following friends every.single.spring.

I try to keep my posts witty and light because I really don't intend to insult anyone.

I am merely a person on the fringes of basketball-obsessed society who really and truly doesn't understand any of it.

I'm not as smart, funny or acerbic as Dorothy Parker, but I imagine she was hated for her commentary too.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Things falling apart

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

William Butler Yeats wrote this poem about life after WWI, and as I learned from reading Kevin Smokler's book Practical Classics, the phrase and idea of "things falling apart" has been the subject of much art, literature and music since this poem was published.  

I might argue that this stanza could be an analogy for the implosion of a marriage. 

I am reading the novel What Alice Forgot, which is about a woman who falls, hits her head and forgets 10 years of her life, including the fact that she is in the midst of a divorce.  Gwyneth and Chris announced their split.  A friend of mine told me this week she and her husband are breaking up.

So, of course, my mind is on marriage and "conscious uncoupling" (whatever the heck that means).

The funny thing about this much-made-fun-of phraseology by Paltrow is that it is the exact opposite of what happens in a marriage that makes things fall apart.  While D and I are as happily married as two people can be who have lived with each other day in and day out for 16 years, when I think about our rough patch almost 2 years ago, it was due, in some measure, to unconsciously being married.

Being married, especially after multiple children come into the picture, becomes like driving in one's car to work.  You arrive but you haven't the foggiest how you got there.  It is an automatic that requires little to no effort on your brain's consciousness to make it happen.  I think the same thing happens in marriage.  Suddenly you've been married a dozen years and have no clue how it happened, where the time went, and how you got to be the person you are right at this moment.  It is, essentially, unconscious coupling.

Some people say marriage should be easy, while others say marriage takes a lot of hard work.  I wonder if marriage was easier to swallow and endure when life, and therefore marriage, was cut short due to disease, starvation and the perils of childbirth.  Perhaps this is why so many people I know who have divorced or needed marriage counseling do so around the 14-18 year mark.  Nature is wanting someone to kick off, but modern life makes us just keep.on.going.

Plus, a focus on survival tends to make one not terribly interested in or aware of happiness.  Happiness is a luxury we can afford these days, and sometimes happiness does not coincide with the rigors of marriage.  And when I say rigors, I mean dullness, monotony, and annoyances.

I am always saddened when marriages end, even if they should end, even if they started out on the least solid of footing.  It is a death.  Even when there is relief that the marriage is over, as there would be if a loved one had been gravely ill and in terrific pain, there is grief at the loss of something you had, a way in which you lived, an identity that had been with you for many years.
Marriage is much like parenting, or at least the rigors of marriage become very similar to the rigors of parenting once you become a parent.  Insert the word "marriage" and this clip pretty well sums it up.

Like with parenting, I used to feel pretty smug about marriage.  There is nothing like raising an actual child (or children) to force one to eat tremendous amounts of crow, and there is nothing like living through a rough patch to knock one for a bit of a loop.  My experience has helped me understand better what it might be like for a couple that isn't just going through a temporary blip but has years of prickliness and fighting and resentment built up and cannot find a way to reconcile.  A couple that has long lost the ability to like each other.

That has to be a special ring of hell unto itself.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This is science

Today has been a true stay-at-home day, which is something I both need and hate.

A day of not running any errands tends to be very productive, as I get all sorts of little things of little consequence to anyone else done (like putting EOBs in the healthcare binder or scrubbing the drains).  But around mid-day, I also start to go a little bonkers, especially since M begins to tire.  At four years old, though, he is tired enough to be whiney and needy, but not tired enough to actually nap.

I am long past being the stay-at-home mom who tries with great abandon to "do things" with my child.  With N, I was forever doing projects that would stimulate her brain.....arts, crafts, playing grocery store with her fake food.  I was smug about how she didn't really need preschool because we did lots of things at home to help her learn.  And that was true, even if it was smug.

Child #3 needs preschool.  I have never taught M his letters, numbers, done arts and crafts or anything with any pre-planning or sincere concentration.  There is too much laundry and cooking and other stuff to do.  When I feed him marshmallows (which the first child didn't eat until she was 6 or something), I do ask him to count them, so I'm not completely useless.

I did have a moment, though, today when I realized that me being a mostly preoccupied stay-at-home mom on my true stay-at-home days is not such a bad thing.  I don't need to go all Pinterest-y on myself  and be the same kind of mom I was when I just had a singleton.

As I was piddling around, M grabbed his dinosaur and bug toys, parked himself at the dining room window and started playing in the sunshine.  He called me over to look at their shadows, a game he plays regularly.  I watch and give him suggestions on how if he turns the figure this way and that way, its shadow looks bigger, longer, more detailed, etc.

This is preschool science.
He is learning.
I am hanging back, watching him, moving between what I have to do and being present with him for the few minutes that my brain can stand it before I get bored with this preschool fun.

And that is good enough.