Burst Bubbles

Inspired by a fellow blogger who was taking a Facebook break, as a family we attempted to take a social media break while on vacation the last week and a half. Movies and music were allowed, and texts to make plans.  Unfortunately, I failed and did post to Instagram and Facebook. I only see my family once a year, yet I sat in the same room ignoring them to read crap online? No, I can do better. So last night I deleted the social media apps from my phone. I digress. 

On our 14 hour drive home, no tech was still in effect when R (12 years old) needed her phone charged. I noticed messages coming in asking if she was still there. Upon further questioning, we learned that she had decided to text in secret, hoping we wouldn’t catch her. Bad idea, because now she was to be without her phone even longer.

But this morning, I saw she had multiple messages from my cousin (and Godmother)’s stepson. He is 17, and always been irritating. He visited us with his parents this past weekend and seemed to have hit it off with R, who was engaged in all sorts of discussions with him. Evidently they exchanged cell numbers. But due to the unsettling feeling I’ve had ever since he met R 5 years ago, I decided to do something I rarely do, and read her texts.

I scrolled up to see his messages telling her how hot he thinks she is. I scrolled more and saw him expressing desire to have her move in with him, or him to move cross country near us to “help with your homework”. I scrolled again and saw he sent a screenshot to show her that he’d set his phone’s background to be a photo of her. In case we’ve forgotten, even if only by marriage, this is her cousin. Equally important: she is 12 and he is 17.

I screenshot the messages and sent them to my cousin, who was concerned and mortified. I went in to talk with R, prefacing the discussion as I always do, with “you’re not in trouble!”. I explained boundaries and social mores to her. As it became clear to her that I was explaining why this cousin was out of line, she started sobbing and said she’s felt uncomfortable around him “ever since he tried to french kiss me when I was 7!”

I kept it together as she told me of him, 12 at the time, ushering her aside in the basement full of cousins playing. How he told her “come on, R, I kissed when I was in 2nd grade” and then grabbed her. She pushed him, said no, and walked away. This is the first I’ve heard of it.

I’m not sure if that’s because she didn’t fully understand what was wrong until I began talking to her today. But I spent some years working in Child Protective Services, and I’ve heard and seen some horrible things. I know this could have been far worse. But this close call is a bit much for me.

I tried to spin this and say that, well, at least we had a talk and she learned from this. At least all we are walking away from is a yucky feeling and not so much more. Yet I’m filled with anxiety and dread as I wait for her Mom to pick her up today, because I will have to explain this. I was trusted to keep her safe and as far as I’m concerned, I didn’t. 

I know (I think) that it’s impossible to keep kids in a bubble. I’ve always struggled with the balance of protecting them from harm and letting them learn their own lessons. I see today how little control I have, especially as they get older. I seriously doubt my parenting ability because I just can’t stomach this stress of knowing I can’t protect them forever. 

 I never knew there was this much heartbreak in parenting. 

Where am I? 

I haven’t written in awhile. I’ve been busy, I’ve been doing absolutely nothing. 

I quit my medications. The Albilify and the Wellbutrin and the Xanax and all the other ones whose names I can’t remember. It didn’t make sense; I kept getting worse. I thought about how when I was committed, it was while on my highest dose of medications. I thought about how the 120 pound weight gain started when I started Abilify, and hadn’t stopped. I thought about my successful career, my awards from work while I waited for my monthly disability payment to hit the bank account. Where did I go? 

I also educated myself, something I hadn’t done when it came to my mental health. I read this book, and I recommend it to anyone who is considering long term use of anti-depressants. I’m not going to write a book report, but it was enlightening and terrifying at the same time. 

I stopped writing because I felt it didn’t matter. I don’t matter. What does it matter what I have to say, what I feel?

When I was a child, I would lay in bed at night after I completed my one hour prayer ritual. And I would imagine getting a mop and dropping it into my skull, washing my brain. Washing away all my obsessions and worries, clearing away the sadness for something better. 

I want to be something better. 

Cat-Topia

Greetings, from Cat-Topia. You may wonder if that’s an exotic island in the Bahamas. No. That’s Cat Island. This is Cat-Topia, the local humane society’s room full of the (allegedly) more friendly cats that are waiting to be adopted (8 today). C insists on visiting every day. Yesterday I wanted to lie and say Cat-Topia was closed but I couldn’t think of a good enough reason. The cats had a seminar to attend? They needed their yearly? No, my ideas weren’t very good. Also, I didn’t want to explain to a 7 year old what a yearly is. 

I don’t know much about cats, other than that I need to be extra nice to them ever since I accidentally murdered one. We got a training on being “cat companions” by a dude who looked to me like he was in 10th grade, which means he’s probably 27. The next day we came and as I moved the ironically named cat, Angel, into a play room for R (who spends 90% of the time there applying hand sanitizer because she heard someone say “feline leukemia” and she evidently doesn’t know science) cut me deep with one of his claws. As the 10th grader poured alcohol on my hand, he noted that “it’s not that likely you’d get a blood infection” which made me feel reassured and then validated in my position that the kids should have chosen any other position at the facility. 

Based on C’s attempt at making a more welcoming couch in Cat-Topia, she will totally be a cat interior designer.

  

I’m going to need to bring the Go-Pro next time so we can film a pilot to float HGTV.

If I Only Knew

What’s that song, bless the broken road that led me straight to you? So be it. Yet I find myself reflecting lately as I’m 5 years into my relationship with my husband. 

Around this time 11 years ago, I stood in front of a guy at a concert who lived 4.5 hours away from me. I remember being so surprised that someone as attractive as him would have interest in me. That’s about as memorable as he got.

He told me about his high school girlfriend and how he never wanted to experience a heart wrenching breakup like that again. I talked about the end of a 2 year high school relationship, and I agreed. This should have been the first red flag. We weren’t even “official” yet already made an unspoken agreement that neither of us would make the other one hurt by leaving. 

Weeks later we were exclusively dating. I cut ties with an online friend-with-benefits who lived not only 2 hours away (noticing a trend?) but also in another country.  I saw this new boyfriend maybe once a month, although we talked all the time (it felt like, back then). A few months later he proclaimed his love when signing off, and saying “love you, bye”. I replied with “huh what?” And he said “well, I guess that means I love you.” Hashtag romance, amiright? 

I remember we’d been “together” for about a year when we went on a trip. On the drive, I envisioned a life without him. The guilt swallowed me whole and we had to pull into a mall parking lot for me to have a panic attack. That day I counted how many times he told me he loved me, because it was driving me nuts. He said it 22 times that day. 

Don’t let yourself think that brought me to my senses. An overwhelming fear of being alone and complete lack of self esteem instead lead me to accept a proposal from him. Even this was practical in nature, since we’d be moving halfway across the country together and I decided that in order to live together and share resources, we should be engaged. Ugh, why? Continuing the tale of romance, he gave me the ring in the parking garage of a casino in Windsor. 

Let’s skip the details of my rise in anxiety requiring medication once I became engaged to this man. My maid of honor was preparing her speech for my wedding and she asked me how I knew this guy was “the one”. I had a long period of silence before I decided the right answer was that I had thought I didn’t want to kiss anyone else after I kissed him. But this wasn’t true.  Only a few months before getting engaged, I had gotten totally wasted at a concert and was thisclose to a huge make out session with an older, random attractive hipster. And those moments weren’t uncommon.

But we got married. And it took about a year before I started drinking coffee for breakfast, smoking for lunch and having gin for dinner. And the man I had a crush on for 3 years was not my husband. And the man I had a crush on for 3 years knew he loved me and I knew I needed him more than anything else. So I walked away from the marriage I was never really in. He screamed and he got in my face and he blocked me into my bedroom for 90 minutes to tell me what a bitch I was. He called me to say I couldn’t come home because he had girls over. But I didn’t care. For the first time in a long time, I was happy. And as quick as it may have seemed, I was married, to that crush, for real, all in, 8 months after my divorce. When you truly love someone it’s hard to wait. 

So what would I say to myself looking back?

Love yourself. Learn to be strong enough to be alone. Know you are a person of value. Know that it matters that he doesn’t make you laugh. Know that it matters that you don’t want to have sex with him. Like, ever. Even when you’re really drunk, even though you think getting really drunk will help. Your love should grow, not fade with time. You shouldn’t want to spend all your time with everyone but him. 

If I had any idea I could experience a love like I do now, I probably wouldn’t have ended up with that love.  I wouldn’t have stuck around the Midwest for a guy who wasn’t worth my time. And as painful as it is to look back and see the girl I was, I’d go through it all again to get to my husband. 

Now I’m an elitist convinced that no one has felt love like I have. I cry when I think that there may be a day on this earth that I’m on it and my husband isn’t.

I think if someone were to ask me now how you know you’ve found “the one” , I’d say you just know. That there’s no doubt and there’s no mistaking it. The words I have for my husband are so sacred I wouldn’t put them anywhere for anyone else to see. And even when it’s not easy you know without a doubt that it’s so, so worth it. So worth it. 

Tweenage Mutants 

I have been dreading the teen years since I came into these girls lives 6 years ago. If I only knew then that I should have started drinking in preparation for these tween years…

Although a shorter duration of time than the teen years, tweens could arguably be just as dangerous to a parent’s mental health as a full fledged teenager. 

I recall being about 12 and bitching about someone hiding the pizza box when my Mom pulled it out of the fridge, where it had been sitting at my eye level the entire time. This is now my life every day, except I’m the one slowly and exasperatedly pulling the metaphorical box from the fridge. 

Where are the sand which bags? Allow me to give such a detailed description that even without the blessing of working retinas, 99% of the world, including those who don’t speak English, could find them.

Our tween thinks she’s a full fledged teen. But in actuality, she’s significantly behind when it comes to maturity. She’s precocious, which makes people treat her older than what she is, and consequently causes her to believe she is too. She’ll argue with anyone- teachers, adults, even me once for 15 minutes, claiming that an airplane was actually a star. I finally shouted that I took college astronomy so I knew that a star with 3 bright red flashing lights was just not a star. 

Our tween is convinced that everyone has a crush on her, which is the complete opposite of how I ever was. Did Tyler make fun of a drawing you did? He likes you. Jacob gave you a spoon at lunch? It’s basically official. Miles briefly saw you in a hallway and slightly nodded his head? Let’s just go ahead and change that Instagram bio to say “taken”. 

Our tween is inconsistent with the messages she sends us. One day she walked around in her winter coat and hat, inside our house, for 3 hours. When I took her to practice last night in 19 degree Fahrenheit  weather, she tried to wear only a paper thin sport pullover from Target. I’m lost.

Our tween likes to “make jokes” that aren’t jokes. 

Me: “Please brush your teeth.”

Tween: “Yeah, I can do that not right now.”

Me:  ::blank stare, fire burning in my eyes::

Tween:  “Just kidding.”

Me: “It’s only a joke if everyone laughs, it’s not a joke when you actually mean it.”

Tween: ::death glare, stomps off::

We are just trying to determine what’s hormones and what’s her, what’s normal and what’s crossing our boundaries, what will bring tears and what will cause a sudden screaming fit. Hummus in your lunch? Throw that silverware in the sink, girl. Have to wear a coat in 22 degree weather? Huff and puff and blow our house down. Your sister wants a hug? Cue desperate sigh of irritation. 

But please excuse me, as I need to stop by our local bike shop to pick up one of those camelback’s so I can load it with red wine and just suck on that puppy all day long. Then we will be cool. Or bae. Or on fleek. Or whatever. 

Let’s get personal

I read a blog today about how depression can be funny. I loved it, because I’m depressed. I wondered, was she secretly recording me in my home and then blogging about it? Because this was so me. I started thinking, maybe blogging could be a good outlet for my depression. Don’t the same 3 people get sick and tired of hearing about how sick and tired I’ve been for like, 18 years? Maybe my days actually are kind of funny and I’m missing it as I walk around under a storm cloud. 

What’s held me back is other people. The Internet is a breeding ground for trolls and others who hurt so bad they need to use what you’ve shared about yourself to hurt you more than they do. And this blog isn’t even under my real name. You’d have to spend a decent amount of time if you wanted to find out who I was in real, actual, life. I think.

The real question is, why do I care so much about what other people who don’t know me have to say? I guess I wonder if they can think those things about me, maybe there’s a sliver of truth in them somewhere and I really am whatever they say I am. 

Something somewhat like what I totally fear has already happened in my life.  An “entertainer” (quotes used to mock this person being considered entertainment, not to imply they are a stripper or something) my husband worked with put me on blast on his “entertaining” show and his Twitter followers jumped in on personally attacking me for a thing that the “entertainer” actually made up.

So I got to see the Twitter alerts popping up on our family desktop over and over while I edited my son’s autism program data sheet that day. Man, what a field day those assholes would have with that information about my kid. And no, I don’t think I’m actually all the things they said I was, because most of them were comments that didn’t even make sense and didn’t necessarily use full words. And again, they were based on a made up story. But guess what? It still hurt. I still ended up crying despite trying my hardest not to. 

Maybe I was just sad that people could be so horrible to each other. But if something from a total lie could bug me that much, what would I feel if someone took my own words and used them to criticize me? I hope I never know but I doubt that will happen. Someday, someone will take my well intentioned joke and tell me what a horrible mother/stepmother/wife/daughter/human I must be. 

I’ll try to remember that what they say, says more about them than me. 

Open letter to my body

Listen, I owe you an apology.

Since the age of 7 I’ve said a lot of horrible things about you. Instead of appreciating how my heart beats or how my lungs deeply breathe in fresh air, I lamented the way my thighs looked. I pinched my skin and said it was fat. I wished to be in any body but my own.

Then I became more cruel. I would starve you for a few days, feeling triumphant and strong. And when I felt weak because I ate something wrong, I would scratch my throat with my toothbrush to rid you of the bad food.

Then I stopped worrying for awhile, but I didn’t feed you what you needed. Junk food and potatoes, breadsticks and pasta. I still hated you but I didn’t know how to change you. I decided I was weak.

Then I thought I found strength in nutrition when I learned about calories. That quickly slid into more behaviors that only worked to destroy and confuse you. I ate 800 calories, I worked out for 2 hours. I took triple laxative doses. I still thought you weren’t good enough.

I continued to look in the mirror with disgust, and dissect all the things wrong with you. I was never thin enough. And I fell back into my unhealthy ways. I gained weight and lost it and gained it back too many times to count.

I married a man who took you when I didn’t want him to. He complimented me as I walked away from the bathroom I had thrown my dinner back into. And I finally found a glimmer of self worth, and I walked away. But not before smoking cigarettes incessantly, and drinking gin for dinner. And after he was gone, I ate one meal a day and snacked on coffee, caffeine and cigarettes.

I met a man who loved me and you unconditionally. And you tried to remind me how amazing you could be. You started to grow life, while I only focused on how I was growing. Then my brain started to fail me and my serotonin left me and I wanted to leave you too. I made plans, I wrote goodbyes.

And I continued to hate you. But I’m here say I am sorry.

I want to right my wrongs.

I want to learn the right way to eat. I want to delve deep into why I eat for comfort and why I never am able to say that you are beautiful.

I want to say thank you for never failing me while I repeatedly failed you. I’m asking for help, so I can learn how to take care of you. I want to live a full life and I want to love you.

I’m sorry I never appreciated my legs that used to run 6 miles, the arms that used to swim 4,000 yards. The eyes that see my son’s big brown eyes and the ears that hear him say “I love you”. I never appreciated how you were home to a healthy, wonderful and beautiful baby boy. I never showed you respect and I allowed others to do the same.

But I want to make it right. I will love you, and I will nourish you, and I will push you to be stronger and better.

I’m sorry.

-Hadley