Can’t bring myself to write about current events today. For a good idea of what I’m thinking, see Shakespeare’s Sister. Half the time she writes what’s in my head anyway. The other half of the time Jon Stewart does a fantastic job of articulating my concerns. Today, it’s time I update about what’s going on with me.
*long pause for thinking*
For the last few weeks I’ve been overwhelmed by externals – politics and slaughter and the long-awaited installment in the HP series.
I’ve also been overwhelmed by internals. Last night it finally hit me why I was so damned tired. I’ve been spending so much energy just trying not to explode, trying not to crawl right out of my skin, that there’s not much energy left to give to my family. It’s heartbreaking. It’s exhausting. I’m so damned sick of it.
I can’t put my finger on when the downhill slide started. Rocks on the hill of my not-so-stable mind were already starting to crumble down back in late May, during the whole water debacle. Mid-June the hillside itself started to rumble. I called my therapist for an appointment. I got one – for two weeks later.
The frightening feeling of numb disconnection from my family got worse. There have been times over the last few months when I have seen strangers in my bed, not the well-loved faces of my husband and daughter. There have been times over the last few months when I could not remember my own name.
My mind, usually pretty sharp, has become scattered and stalled. While it’s going a hundred miles an hour, it’s careening off corners and sometimes floating completely, blank.
I sent an email to the Samaritans (email@example.com). They were very helpful. I went to a bipolar support group meeting. I had my first full-on anxiety attack, loaded by the stress of flooded streets and a very loud vehicle, then triggered by watching the woman at the gas station change the numbers from 2.17 to 2.25. By the time I got home five minutes later, I was convinced that an energy Armageddon was upon us, we were about to enter into another Great Depression, Brian and I would both lose our jobs, it was too late in the season to start a vegetable garden, and I didn’t know how I was going to feed my daughter or where we were going to live when they foreclosed on the house. Images of starving children, and of my own sweet demonic Duckie frail and sick, decimated by hunger, would not go away.
I talked with Brian some that night. I went to a Whiskey Sisters rehearsal and came down a bit off the episode. Voices of reason prevailed.
Finally I got to see Brent. We talked about possibilities for medication. A s a stop-gap measure, he suggested I take some time away, maybe alone, maybe not, depending on how safe I felt being alone. We made an appointment for two weeks later, and I set up an appointment with the nurse practitioner, to get down to business about medication.
Another anxiety attack a few days later, this time at the grocery store. I had wrestled with the grocery list all day, struggling for clarity and focus. Then I forgot to get a snack at work beforehand – big mistake. The automatic doors opened and I felt like I was being sucked into a cool, unreal world of too many choices. I remember feeling that way a few times before, when walking into a grocery store cranked me right up to mania. Thing is, mania doesn’t feel very good anymore and more often than not results in intense anxiety. I picked up some trail mix at the store and was some better by the time I picked up Duckie and had to deal with her usual freak-out at going-home time.
I went to see Carrington last weekend to read the new HP and hang out. It was a nice break. When I got home, Duckie was asleep on the couch. Brian went to play (music) with some friends of his, and I stole another hour of relaxation while Duckie slept. We had a great time when she woke up. I made dinner and – surprise, surprise – she ate it. We went through bathtime and bedtime well, for the most part.
By Monday night it had all gone to shit again. Brian was sick and Duckie was – well, clingy doesn’t quite describe the desperation with which she attached herself to my leg. If this is the consequence of any escape I get, I’m not entirely sure it’s worth it.
I know that children grow in spurts, and their development progresses that way, too. It’s not a little-by-little thing sometimes. Duckie’s overwhelmed by her own discoveries, infuriated by her limits, and confused by the things that lurk just outside them – articulation being one of them, using the toilet being another.
I’m having a hard time with this. I’ve spoken with other moms, the ones whose opinions and experience I respect and admire. They have also struggled with this – with the difficulty of being the Bad Guy. I don’t want to be the Bad Guy. I don’t want to set limits. Screw limits. Hell, at this point I don’t even want to be adult – Never Never Land seems like a much better place to be than sitting at this desk in the fishbowl, counting my hours until I go pick up my daughter and be the Bad Guy again.
My own mother went through this, even to her last year. When she left my dad, she thought that I was mad at her – and she didn’t want to be the Bad Guy. “You always think of me as the Bad Guy!” she would say to me. I protested (in this case, completely honestly) that whatever choices she made as far as her marriage were up to her, and if she couldn’t be happy in her marriage with my father that she owed it to herself to end it, for everyone’s sake. I think this may have stunned her temporarily.
I don’t want to be the Bad Guy, either. Sometimes it’s because I’m afraid my daughter won’t love me if I am. I spent years pissed off at my mother – but looking back on it, I was angry because there were very few limits set early on, so when she tried to set limits later, it was way too late, and I was too old to learn to listen.
Sometimes it’s because I’m afraid of becoming old and stick-like, hard, dry, brittle. I don’t want to grow a corn cob up my ass as a result of being a mom. I don’t want to squash the child inside me in order to be a mom. And maybe part of the problem is that I don’t remember much of what it was like to be a kid. I remember what it was like to be a small adult, an adolescent, a teenager. Much of that I can remember with stunning, painful clarity. But I don’t remember childhood much. So now I’m missing it, mourning the lack of those memories. Maybe trying to live a childhood through my daughter, and having some self-referential anger towards myself as a mom now, as my daughter goes through it. Ain’t that some twisted shit.
I wonder what happened to my imagination. I used to have a wild one, when I was a kid, or so they tell me. I wonder what happened me, to that kid who used to dress up and put on plays with her friends. Maybe I got lost in my books, in other peoples’ dreams, in my parents’ dramas, in my own drive to be smarter and know more. I’d like to say I miss that weird kid, but I don’t remember knowing her much at all.
Duckie got a copy of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh last May, when we went to the beach. It’s a beautiful edition, with a sky-blue cover and gold leaf on the pages. We started to read it on the way home but Duckie wasn’t terribly interested. I was, though – fascinated and kind of scared by the enormity of parenthood, that I would be one of the people to read her this book, and others –Dr. Seuss, Peter Pan, some Harry Potter later on.
Then it occurred to me that I don’t remember Winnie-the-Pooh. I vaguely remember cartoons, stuffed bears, all the peripheries, but I don’t remember really reading the book. Which is patently ridiculous – I remember reading The Omen, why can’t I remember reading Winnie? Did I just skip it? Did I lose out on that lovely book somehow? I’ll read it now, for sure, but I’m still kind of confused about the whole thing.
So that’s what’s happening with me. A lot of stress emotionally and mentally. Otherwise (HA! as if there’s an Otherwise) the basics are taken care of. We have food, we have jobs, our cars are functioning for the most part (windows and air conditioning notwithstanding), and we have each other.
Sometimes when I get sad and upset, Duckie kisses me on the knee and says “Mommy!” Like she’s saying, “Geez, snap out of it, woman. Can’t you see I’m here to love and that’s all that matters?”