Wrinkle Cream and Lounge Wear

What a year this has been. Holy freaking cow.

I like to blog and take stock of my life on my birthdays, but this year I don’t even know where to start.

I usually get a massage on my birthday, but that didn’t happen. (There is a part of me that just wants to say fuck it and go do whatever I wanna do, but the rule follower part of me won’t allow that fantasy to become a reality.) Even though holy crap I could really use one because I can literally feel the weight of junk that’s been collecting and that I’ve been dragging around with me. After said massage, I usually go and sit in a Starbucks where I drink coffee without kids and I blog and read. As I type this, I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot of a park overlooking a river. I have my Starbucks and I just inhaled a birthday donut. At least it’s quiet and there are zero kids in the vicinity.

Usually, my birthday evokes feelings around my long-ago cancer diagnosis. This year, I have some (because how can I not), but mostly I’m struck by how covid/the pandemic/quarantining has shoved my cancer history to the back burner. Comparatively, it’s made my cancer feel more like a distant memory than ever before. Not sure how I feel about that.

It’s been exactly a year since I’ve had a date night out with my husband. I haven’t seen my parents in 15 months. I haven’t seen my brother for even longer. I can’t count how many face masks I own now. It’s good to acknowledge loss and take time to grieve, and I do that from time to time, but….how do I keep doing that when the trauma isn’t over? And this is me, who’s specifically trained to help heal trauma.

I often wonder how time and perspective will shape how I feel about this experience, this season in my life. How will I remember it? What stories will I tell? How and when will this all end? How will this shape how I live the rest of my life?

I’ve realized that it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Or content, at least. In a time when I’ve been stuck at home and can’t have nice things, it’s been the little things that have gotten me through. Kickball with my kids. Watching disaster movies with my husband. Reading really good books late into the night.

At the same time, I feel like it also doesn’t take much to trigger my anxiety. I anticipate having to retrain myself what safety feels like once this is “over” and we decide we can be social again. (Notice I didn’t say “normal,” because life won’t go back to the way it was before. In many ways, we’re forever changed.) About 3 years ago I went back to therapy for severe postpartum anxiety and in many ways I feel like the progress I made then has been shredded by covid. Covid is my anxiety’s best friend. Fuck you both.

I’m getting to the point where I am craving human contact and mentally crumbling under the cumulative weight of this crisis. Two of my peers lost their fathers recently, one to covid and one not, but both can’t grieve the way they want. I still don’t know anybody personally who’s died from covid but it’s getting closer and closer to home. It’s unsettling and I don’t like it.

I’m getting so sick of my family. I love them, but we’re always together. I have no opportunity to miss them. It’s a blessing and a curse because I wouldn’t have it any other way, but sweet baby jesus I’m ready to travel and go to the movies and hug my friends and have more personal space. I have never wanted a shot in the arm so badly in my entire life. I still have hope, of course, but what I need is some relief.

I know that many can identify with me that this year of deprivation has lit a fire under my desire to get my adult life started as soon as this is over. Life is short, and I want to go back to work. I want to see the world. I want my kids to build lives of their own, apart from me. I realize this will all happen in good time, but right here, right now, we can’t do it and I’m getting tired of waiting.

This morning, instead of a massage, I bought wrinkle cream and lounge wear on the internet.

So. I’m weary, I’m anxious, I’m hopeful, and now, I’m 38.

Here I Am

This is going to be one of those stream-of-consciousness posts because I haven’t blogged in forever, I really feel the urge to write and create, but I have no idea what I want to say. So here I am, with some ALONE TIME at Starbucks, and I’m just going to write and see what comes out.

starbucks

Traditionally, this should have happened on my birthday. I usually run away on the anniversary of my birth so I can be alone and write, but this year my birthday landed on a Saturday and so my partner and I decided to take advantage and hire a babysitter (for the second time ever) to get away together and it was glorious. Seriously, the day was pretty close to perfect. A quick recap:

  • Woke up before the kids and went to yoga
  • Upon getting ready for yoga, found roses and VooDoo Donuts left out for me!!!
  • Came home from yoga, had coffee and donuts with the family
  • Got ready and gleefully left the kids with the babysitter
  • Got surprised (I knew we were going somewhere, just didn’t know where) with sushi in Portland, followed by a movie (Ladybird)
  • Yummy takeout for dinner
  • After putting the kids to bed, I watched the last episode of Handmaid’s Tale (!!!!) while soaking alone in my tub
  • The cherry on top? Anxiety did not get in the way of my enjoyment that day. Serious win for me.

So all of a sudden I’m 35.  (aaaaand made it to 15 years cancer free. Huzzah!)

I am pretty much where I thought I might be in life except that I didn’t plan on Oregon and I didn’t plan on staying home with the kids, but here I am.

I also didn’t plan on being a nervous wreck as a mom, now that I think about it.

I’ve been meaning to blog about my continued adventures with anxiety and my efforts to prevent it and treat it. About 4 weeks ago I went in for my medication evaluation and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was already nervous, because 1) new experience, 2) driving to a new place, and 3) psych meds kinda freak me out.

First off, I didn’t like the Psych Nurse Practitioner much. She seemed dismissive, she lectured me, and she wasn’t all that sensitive or empathetic. Ugh.

She asked me to go over the history of my presenting issues, and I did so very briefly. She then started to problem solve at me: “Have you tried this? Or This?”

I bristled. I explained that I had a therapist, I’ve talked about my anxiety ad nauseum, that I’ve been dealing with this for an entire year, and that medication was my very last resort. Yes, I’ve tried everything. I could go on for hours about all the things I’ve tried. Now I’m here for meds.

I understand she needed to make sure I wasn’t just med-seeking, but I really didn’t feel like wasting time going over every little detail of my coping regimen, let alone with someone with whom I wasn’t really jiving.

After a lecture about how important sleep is (yes, honey, that’s why I’m here), she went over some med options and I was surprised when she recommended a beta blocker. Her logic was that since anxiety really is my primary issue, let’s make my autonomic nervous system calm the fuck down by lowering my blood pressure. She also chose this med because I mentioned having fairly frequent migraines and it’s supposed to prevent those. Ok, sounds good.

And then I started having anxiety about taking the damn meds.

I worried about how they’d make me feel. How bad were the side effects? Would I have to try something else? How long and arduous would this journey through the medication worm hole be?

Enough time has gone by, that I can confidently say…there are mixed results. I definitely feel a decrease in my daily anxiety. My quality of sleep has gone up.

But. I’ve been dizzy. Nauseated. I’ve had 4 migraines in 4 weeks, waaaay more than normal (W.T.F.). I’ve been so.COLD. And sometimes I just feel…off. Like my heart is beating too slow. I dunno.

At the moment the NP and I have agreed to try a half dose before moving on to something else. So far, that seems better, but not all the way better. Better enough? I don’t know. And don’t worry, my BP continues to be normal.

Trying another tactic, I’ve also made an appointment with a Naturopath to see about preventing my anxiety, headaches, fatigue, etc. I bet you all these things might – just might – be connected, since they all live inside my one body and all.

So I feel like I’m trying all the things.

What surprised me is that I seem to be having a hard time celebrating the small victories, or even recognizing them at all.  I was bitching to a friend about the side effects I was experiencing that I had completely forgotten that my anxiety had indeed significantly decreased until she asked me.

I had to think about it. “Yeah…it’s better. Huh.”

“That’s great!”

“Yeah, I guess it is.”

Ugh. What is this?! It just feels like I’m always fighting some battle. Something’s always in the way. My therapist reminded me that not all of my anxiety is going to evaporate. That some anxiety, some of the time, is normal.

Oh yeah.

Seriously, I forgot.

I’ve been trying hard to turn my negative thought processes around. I’ve been paying extra attention to those professional mom bloggers we see in our Facebook feeds that post stuff about giving ourselves a break and cutting out the mom-shaming bullshit. All of that is so much easier said than done, but I’m working on it.

One example that really spoke to me: we can be hot messes and be good moms. That they exist together. Because boy howdy, I feel like both. I can be both.

I fear this post has gone on too long. It’s meandering, but it’s where I am.

 

The Cranky Mommy Waddle

My son just turned two.

TWO.

He’s active.

He’s kinda like a time bomb, actually, and if I don’t get him outside burning off steam, he’s going to explode yucky kid goo all over the walls of my house.

And so we walk to the park.

Well, I waddle.

I can’t move very fast anymore.  Moving hurts me.  And while it’s great that there are several parks within a few blocks of my house, my kid still insists on running away from me, often into the street.

Jesus ouch goes my fast waddle.

I’m told this is a common problem (the running into the street…but I guess also the waddle.  but I was originally referring only to the running).  So why can’t parents with brains design human parks like they design dog parks?  Toddlers and dogs ain’t that much different, folks.  Fence them in.  Mommy’s tired of running.  And by running I mean waddle-shuffling.

And another thing.  Plant some damn trees.  I know this is Oregon, but occasionally we have this thing called sunlight.

I have delicate skin that’s constantly being sucked dry by my greedy fetus.  And my pregnant body is already 1002 degrees.  Mama needs the shade.

And while you’re at it, add in a little Starbucks booth.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just big enough for a sexy college dropout barista and that whoosh-whoosh machine that makes the foam.

Cuz sleep is getting harder to come by and we all know this is only going to get worse.  I need to stay just conscious enough while I’m resting my eyes in the shade so that I can take my dog-child back home after he’s burned off a sufficient amount of evil.

See you tomorrow, fellow park-goers.

 

Happy Belated Halloween

You guys know how much I love Halloween.

And so I couldn’t let it go by without concocting some sort of costume for myself, babydaddy, and nearly 3 month old little duck.

If I had my act together a nanny and tons of sleep, time, and money I would have made Brian be a sexy pilot (because he already is one), I’d be a sexy flight attendant (because I aspire to be one), and Little Duck would have been a sack of peanuts.

Maybe next year.  I’ll just have to stop feeding Dylan to make sure he’s still tiny and able to fit in said peanut sack.

For this year, I decided to go easy.  The D-man would be the cutest Pumpkin Spice Latte in the whole world and Brian and I were baristas.  It fit because Dylan is sweet, expensive, and we made him with love.  And extra foam.

First I looked on the Starbucks website to see if I could buy the green aprons that the employees wear, but I needed an employee number in order to do so.  Nards.  So I went to Amazon and tried looking there, and found some for like $60 soooo I decided to make my own.  I just bought green aprons and ironed on the patches that I found on Amazon.  I also found the cute iron-on Starbucks logo that went on Dylan’s plain white onesie.  I glued a real Starbucks sleeve (I’m authentic, y’all) to some ribbon and tied it around Dylan’s cute waist.  I drew the drink option boxes and such on the back of the onesie freehand.  My friend helped me sew the foam for around his neck, and my mom made the pumpkin hat.

Boom.

 

Happy belated Halloween, y’alls.

Delay of Gratification

I have tremendous amounts of willpower.  Clinicians and researchers call this “delay of gratification,” and it has been studied in young folks and correlated to certain behaviors as adolescents and adults.

When I was little, I remember being given Oreo cookies and eating them the same way every time.  You can tell a lot about a person by the way they eat their Oreos.  For me, I would twist the two cookies apart and then look to see which cookie had more frosting on it.  Then, I would eat the cookie with the least amount of frosting on it, saving the delicious frosting-covered deliciousness for last.

As a child, my Halloween candy would last until Christmas.  My Christmas candy would last until Valentine’s Day.  Hell, I still have some Valentine’s candy from this year in my pantry that I haven’t yet eaten.

These behaviors just came naturally to me.  As soon as I could understand the concept of “saving the best for last,” I did just that.  Somehow, I also correlate my wanting to clean up and liking rules and structure with being able to wait for things I really wanted, or even making myself wait for them.  In other words, I think my ability to delay gratification was helped by me being (and continuing to be) a little OCD.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to get dirty when the time is right, but after playing in the mud with my brother in the backyard, I would come inside and hold out my hands to my mother: “Need da wag, Mommy, need da wag!”  Translation: I needed a rag.  Out, out damn spot!

I still do these behaviors to this day, and I probably won’t ever stop.

I think about coffee and sugary drinks on a daily basis.  I fantasize about them.  Usually when I am trapped at work and want to leave, my fantasy includes sitting on a magical beach where sand can’t get in my crack and sun can’t harm my skin cells, and in one hand is a good book, and in the other is a bottomless grande caramel frappuccino from Starbucks.

But do I drink Starbucks everyday?  No, despite passing one every single time I drive to and from work.

Last story before the fun research part: My clinical internship during my master’s program was in a rural area and I worked with survivors of trauma.  Every day, I had to drive past a Dairy Queen that was within walking distance of my office.  Like I said before, I crave sugar on a daily basis, and I often turn to sweets when I am stressed.  For 9 long months I forced myself to not stop at that Dairy Queen.  It haunted me.  It called to me.

Finally, on the last day of my internship, I walked to DQ and got a blizzard.  Man, did that taste goooood.  Delay of gratification, FTW!!

So how do they test kids to see if they naturally perform this behavior?  It’s quite hilarious to watch.  First, they sit the kid down at a table in a room where they are being secretly videotaped.  The researcher puts a marshmallow down on the table and explains that the researcher is going to leave for a few minutes, and that the kid can have the marshmallow now, but that if the kid wants to wait to eat the marshmallow, and if the marshmallow is still there when the researcher gets back, then the kid can then have TWO marshmallows!

So then the researcher leaves the room and we watch.

Some kids eat that marshmallow so fast and never look back.  Some kids sit and wait patiently for the researcher to get back, because damnit, they want TWO marshmallows!  The interesting ones to watch are the kids who desperately want to wait and get their two marshmallows, and so they employ every tactic they can think of to cheat, avoid, or distract themselves.

Cheat – some kids will take tiny pieces off the marshmallow, or lick it, in hopes the researcher won’t notice and they can get their cake and eat it, too.

Avoid – some kids will turn their back on the marshmallow, or some even played under the table.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Distract themselves – some would use the marshmallow as a toy and play with it.  Some even tortured themselves by pretending to eat it…poor souls.

So what does this mean for behavior later in life?

Well, studies have shown that kids with an ability to delay gratification (meaning they have ‘impulse control’) are less likely to use drugs and break the law as adolescents and adults.  In my case, I wonder if it’s positively correlated with being crazy OCD?

Check out two videos I found and watch the kids squirm….

This last video also had some hilarious kid-coping-skills-moments, but I stopped watching after the speaker went in a religious direction with the analysis.  To each his own.

So, my Psychos, which kind of kid were you?!  Would you have eaten the marshmallow right away?  Would you have cheated?  Would you have waited patiently?

You say it’s your birthday…

This gallery contains 9 photos.

…well it’s my birthday, too, yeah! Holy crap, I am 29.  How the frick did that happen? Let’s launch into a 9 year birthday review, since my world basically ended and I was reborn the day after my 20th birthday, been cancer free ever since! 21 It was extremely important to me that my 21st … Continue reading