Reclaiming My 2017

2017 has been a tough year.

I feel like I’ve been saying that every year since…2013, which…sucks. It makes me feel bad. It worries me, along the lines of, Is this my life now? (meaning: life=tough)

I want to talk about my challenges here, partly so I can continue to process them, and also so I can let people know about what’s been going on in my internal world all this time. I’d like to be able to talk about the hard stuff with people I see in person on a regular basis, but having screaming kids running around is not the easiest way to begin the conversation.

I’ve always been a fairly anxious person. I’ve inherited it, I’ve found ways to cope with it, I’ve found ways to power through it, and I’ve accepted it as a part of my life (but not who I am).

But.

This year, I’ve been the most anxious (and occasionally depressed) I’ve ever been and it’s been largely unbearable.

As I look back through pictures that were taken of me over the past year, many of my smiles have been pasted on over massive amounts of anxiety, worry, and irritability. A general inability to calm the fuck down and enjoy any moment of what is happening in front of me.

The tulip festival. A Mother’s Day tea. Playdates. Storytimes. Trips to California.

I remember talking to a friend in early summer and telling her how I had experienced some depression after having my first kid, but that it started to get better after about six months (as did the weather). At that point, it was passed the six month mark (which I realize is totally arbitrary) after having my second kid, and I told her that my symptoms weren’t going away- they were getting worse. It worried me. Actually, it scared the hell outta me.

I remember coming home from a Mother’s Day tea, where my kids were just in the other room from me, being cared for by teenagers I had just met. I sat there rigid, sweating, mind racing. I ate and drank and made conversation and tried SO HARD to enjoy the kid-free time. But it was too much (what was it, I ask myself). I burst into uncontrollable sobs to my husband when I got home. It was all just too hard. Everything felt wrong.

I knew I needed to get back into therapy, but I felt so overwhelmed on a daily basis that I didn’t have the time or the energy to start looking for a therapist. I emailed one of my therapist friends who lives clear across the country late one night to confess to her exactly how much of a shit time I was having. She did an amazing thing and researched therapists in my area and sent me a list of three to check out. It was a godsend.

I started therapy in June, and it was slow-going at first. Of course, therapists make THE WORST clients and I imagine I’m no exception. I want therapy to work and I want it to work YESTERDAY. I overthink everything. I start critiquing her choice of decor and start mentally taking notes for when I eventually go back to work. Mainly, I just wanted to dive in and get to the hard stuff asap so I could feel some freaking relief.

Since then, my anxiety has ebbed and flowed. For a few weeks in September, right after my oldest started going to school for the first time, I thought I had this beat. And then it came back full force for no apparent reason and it’s interfering with my sleep, which has been devastating. For the longest time, I blamed it on the cat and her early morning howling. Everyone around me heard about it. Well, we worked around the cat issue, and wouldn’t you know, it’s not the damn cat. It’s just plain irrational, raging-fire-in-my-chest anxiety. How mortifying.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me, at least recently, was that I had a panic attack. And it was in front of my kids. It scared me to death and I just can’t live like that. I won’t have my kids growing up being worried about their mom falling apart like that. What a horribly embarrassing and terrifying experience, as any of you who have had one surely knows.

I have held out this long against trying medication as an option, but after that, I swallowed what little pride I had left and called my health insurance and made an appointment for a med eval for January. I surrender.

I read some research that said if people are given some sort of escape button that promises a bad experience will immediately end if pushed, they are more likely and able to endure said experience. Case in point, I’ve had clients before who got anti-anxiety meds only to carry them around in their purses and never actually take them. Maybe an escape button is all I need? We’ll see…

I feel held captive by this monster, this thing. I’m desperately trying not to be in constant fear of it, nor constantly battling it. I’m exhausted. I don’t have time for this shit. What saddens me most – THE MOST – is the thought that I’m so incredibly preoccupied, terrified, irritable, utterly exhausted, that I’ll look back on my kids’ young lives and realize…I missed it.

Somehow, I must reclaim my life. (Ugh, that sounds so dramatic, written with tears rolling down my face.) Because this isn’t me, and this isn’t how I want to live. It’s not the mother I want to be, or the wife, or the friend, etc. This motherfucker is trying to rob me blind and I won’t let him. Kicking and screaming.

Me writing this, and putting this out there for people to read, is partly how I fight. Because anxiety wants me to stay silent. Anxiety wants me to shut myself in and cower in fear. Anxiety doesn’t want me to feel joy.

Well…fuck you.

Advertisements

My mood swings have mood swings

I got nothin today, folks. Not a real post, at least. (I often start out a post saying this, and then end up writing a post. This is now a post.)

Sometimes (most of the time) I feel like my husband and I are just scrambling to try and keep this household and our family running somewhat smoothly. We are stretched, our energy is so limited, and if something goes wrong – speaking for myself – I get overwhelmed very, very quickly. Today was one of those days where shit went wrong, but, miraculously, quality good times were also had. No wonder I feel like I have mood swings. My mood swings have mood swings.

The lows:

  • The weather suuuuucked today. Non-stop rain made me want to stay in bed.
  • Our furnace broke today, so our house is effing cold. I can’t stand being cold.
  • I want to strangle my cat, or at least forcibly remove her vocal chords. She wakes me up, wakes our kids up, and anyone who disturbs my sleep who is not one of my kids is DEAD TO ME.

The highs:

  • Met a friend for breakfast and found THREE friends waiting for me at breakfast. It was a very lovely time out.
  • Snotty wet kisses from mah babes.
  • The boyman coming home from work in the middle of the day to troubleshoot the furnace issue.
  • Laughed til I peed borrowed diet coke about bible references and street names for drugs. (You had to be there.) We got matching shirts, we’re gonna study, and we’ll be back next time to kick ass and take names, PDX Trivia! Should my callsign be Turnip or Scalene?

Tomorrow is a new day, with its own highs and lows.


NaBloPoMo Day 15

Invisibility Cloak

It’s been really hard trying to adjust to life in Oregon.

People have been telling me that it’ll take time.  Like, 2 or 3 years.  You know, to find friends and get used to the rain.

Well, it’s been 3.75 years and I’m still waiting.  Waiting to feel…adjusted.

I’ve moved before and it hasn’t felt like this.  So I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out what is different about this time and this place.

Many things are different: this move is permanent, with no end date in sight.  I didn’t move here for a reason of my own, meaning that we moved here because of my husband’s job and not because of work or school for me.  We don’t have any family close, not anywhere in state.  I moved here 8 weeks pregnant and have been largely housebound raising kids ever since.  The weather suuuuuucks.

But all this I’d been over in my mind, again and again, and nothing felt heavy enough to be such a roadblock.  Perhaps all of them put together is what is blocking my road?

Of course, there’s more.  My life is pretty unrecognizable from what it was 4 years ago.  I was working full time, not yet married, not yet a mom (of two).  I had friends and family.  Hobbies.  A brain.  A life.

Now I feel like I am getting somewhere – that along with grieving the loss of my homeland (via the move), I am grieving the loss of my identity.  Before, I was a therapist.  A partner.  Active, creative, thoughtful.  Productive.  Energetic.  Mobile.  Free.

I look at the clothes hanging in my closet, and I don’t recognize the woman who wore those clothes.  She’s not me, but I kind of remember her, the way one remembers a grandmother who died when you were a child.  I deeply miss her.

I feel like becoming a capitol M-O-M has wiped out any identity I had that doesn’t pertain to my relationship with my kids.  People no longer ask about me, they ask about the kids.  Or they ask about how I am in relation to the kids, as a mom, and not as a person.  (Because moms aren’t people, you guys.)

Edit: To be fair, my momfriends very much DO genuinely ask how I am doing.  It’s just that most often, I’m unable to answer honestly or with much gory detail because of the circumstances (read: kids running around trying to kill themselves).

Make no mistake, I’ve definitely been making an effort to integrate myself into my new life.  This introvert and homebody has forced herself to join a moms club, get to library story times, and go to various playgroups.  I’ve made friends and enjoyed some of what Oregon has to offer.

What finally hit me was something my good friend said to me recently.  I was bitching about how being a mom gets in the way of making good quality friendships because even when my momfriends and I can get together we’re still always chasing after our kids and can’t have a decent conversation.  I can’t remember how the conversation went, but I think I said that my momfriends and I mostly talk about our kids because that’s what we have in common, but we don’t share who we are as people.  And she pointed out that none of the people I am meeting and trying to forge relationships with in Oregon knew me before I had kids.  I just read back what I typed, and I can see how that may not sound so earth-shattering, but it definitely felt that way to me.  Besides my husband and this particular friend, zero people in Oregon knew who I was before children.  There’s been essentially no carryover from my old life to the new one, in every way possible.  Ugh.

As I take this thought and play the tape through in my mind, I’m seeing another layer of difficulty in trying to make new friends: not only do we lack the logistical opportunities as moms, but I am working blind.  I don’t even know who this new me is yet, and no one here knew the old me, and in that sense I feel completely invisible – swallowed up by my children (and then pooped out for me to clean up).

From Blogtown to PDX

There’s now been three times I have met someone in person after first getting to know her over the internet, and all three have been fabulous experiences.

The first I met in high school via a Hanson website (!) and we’ve since traveled across the country to visit each other, including being bridesmaids in each other’s weddings.  We are a match made in Hanson history.  Mmmbop, girl.

The second was Dawn from Tales From the Motherland; I wrote about it here.  I hope Dawn and I will be seeing more of each other!

The third happened a few weeks ago now.  You guys, I got to meet Jen from Sips of Jen and Tonic!

Since moving to the Portland (OR) area, I asked Jen if she maybe wanted to meet up.  This was a step for me, since it’s hard for me to put myself out there, but I am so glad I did.

Our little meeting was superfun, and I think my blog-crush turned into a real life one.  Jen’s writing has entertained me for several years now; her blog is so good that, when she posts, I read.  It’s made me laugh so hard in the past that the milk I drank came out my nose as butter.  Seriously, I still need to pick her brain about her writing process because it’s so off the wall and hilariously punchy that I wonder if she just thinks like that all day or if she hires lab mice to feed her speed pills every few minutes.  (You know, the mice would run up her arms and shoulders and then reach her mouth from there.  Speed comes in pill form, right?)

I’m pretty sure Jen and I talked about all the things that ever were.  Awkward stages of making friends in your 20s and 30s, jobs, Portlandia, blogging, reality TV.  She even laughed at my Zoolander reference!  I felt like she really got where I was coming from, especially because she is also a Californian who moved to Oregon.  OMG.  Thank you, Jen, for letting me rant about all the things wrong about Oregon that make me feel like a fish out of water.  I remember reading your blog in the not so distant past and thinking these elitist Californian thoughts whenever you made reference to Oregonian things…and now I’m right there with you.  …Go Ducks?

So.  If you hadn’t had the pleasure of imbibing, I implore you to partake in some Sips of Jen and TonicThis post of hers stood out in my memory as a particularly hilarious one, probably because, like me, she is not shy when it comes to blogging about the important things (poop).  But she has many other good ones.  Like this one.  (And then I re-read it and realized it has a similar theme…so apparently my taste is very narrow-minded.  Go find your own favorite post because I give up because they are all good.)

And now for the obligatory picture:

Bonus - If you look closely, you can see the gentle curve of my butt in the background.  You're welcome.

Bonus – If you look closely, you can see the gentle curve of my butt in the background. You’re welcome.

Thanks for the fun time, Jen!

Hope you see you again soon, fellow CA—>OR.

Radio H-O-M-E

I was inspired by Emily and Ashley‘s prompt about radio, because people, when I was little, I made the radio.

That’s right.

It was actually in elementary school with my friend also named Emily.  She introduced me to this fun activity we called H-O-M-E.  You know those boom boxes where you could record your voice onto a sweet cassette tape?  Well, we took one of those and created our own radio station, complete with original songs, audio murder mystery stories, and commercials.

Our radio station changed depending on the location we were recording from.  If we were at Emily’s house, we’d say, “Hello, this is Melissa and Emily coming to you live from 1234 Smart Court, H-O-M-E!”   Change of address meant change of the station.  We knew our listeners could keep up.

I loved this game so much that I brought up the idea with two other friends on separate occasions and I now have many cassette tapes gathering dust in my childhood closet with awesome H-O-M-E radio recordings.

At one point we used Emily’s keyboard to create background music for our various audio entertainment.  Emily and I recorded original songs we wrote about pollution and how bad it is and how we wanted to save the monkeys in the rainforest.  My friend Leah and I did commercials for a fictional store called Fit It Right, where they guaranteed that your clothes would…fit correctly, no matter your size.

Most of the commercials were just recorded on the fly and if we messed up or got a case of the giggles, we’d just rewind and tape back over it.  But with my friend Megan, we put together and scripted an entire murder mystery tale that would probably get us sued by the people who wrote Clue if it ever goes viral.  We had backstories and physical descriptions for an entire wealthy family, complete with maids and cooks.  We foreshadowed and we dropped hints and we used really bad French accents.  No spoilers as to who the killer really was…but I wouldn’t eat the stew if I were you!

I also went solo for my blue period in radio.  I recorded myself singing My Girl (remember that movie with Anna and Macaulay?!) and quotes from movies or shows I’d heard and didn’t quite understand, but knew enough to know that they were cool.

What’s your sign, baby?

The Hollywood sign!

My most treasured radio show was when I interviewed each member of my family.  And by interviewed, I mean I told my family members exactly what I wanted them to say.  I must have been about 8 or 9 years old, and my grandparents were visiting from Wisconsin, which was a big deal.  Both of them have since passed away, and so I really love that I still have a piece of them on tape.

I listened to this interview so much over the years that it’s been cemented in my mind.  First, I recorded all my scripted parts alone in my room, and then I would run downstairs and tell each person what to say, and the pattern would continue.  Here’s the transcript of what I remember:

Hello, and my name is Melissa ___ _____.  (I always introduced myself with my full name, middle and last.)

Today we’re going to meet the members of my family!

First, we’re going to talk to my Dad, and he loves watching football on TV.  Hi, Dad, what are you doing?

Dad: I’m watching football and they just scored a touchdowwwnnn! (My Dad said this with the appropriate amount of fake enthusiasm.)

Next, we’re going to talk to my Mom, and she loves to cook.  Hi, Mom, what are you doing?

Mom: I’m making a casserole.

Next, we’re going to talk to my little brother who loves playing video games just like I do.  Hi, Brian, what are you doing?

Brian: I just got to the 3rd level in Nintendo!!  (It took some expert levels of coercion to get him to say this on tape, but it was worth it.)

Next, we’re going to talk to my grandpa, and he loves to play golf.  Hi, Grandpa, what are you doing?

Grandpa:  And you know what?  I was playing golf and I just got a hole in one, whooooo-ppeeeeee!  (He went off-script for this one, but I’ll forgive him.)

Last, we’re going to talk to my grandma, and she loves to knit.  Hi, grandma, what are you doing?

Grandma: I’m knitting some mittens.   (Those four words never sounded so sweet.)

——

So that’s all I got.  Thanks for reading me remember my journalistic roots.