I met with my daughter’s newest Developmental Disabilities Service Coordinator yesterday. She’s not someone just collecting a government paycheck. She really cares. She spent a lot of time giving my attention-seeking child the attention she needed. She spent even more time listening to my story. I’m really glad she’s our new liason to accessing the services my daughter needs.
That being said, the thing that always happens whenever I’m talking to someone who shows caring interest in me, my life, and my circumstances, happened. I broke down and started crying. I’d just been discussing the wish list for the things in my daughter’s room. A list that includes a bed of her own. A bed.
Yes, my eight year old child doesn’t have a bed of her own. Not that she would use it. She’s co-slept since infancy. Her autism and sensory issues have made it easier to just let her continue to share the bed with me. However, having a real bed of her own has never actually been an option. A couple of very used, hand-me-over, hand-me-down twin bunk mattresses, stacked on top of each other in a falling apart, hand-me-down, hand-me-over slatted bedframe that the slats kept falling out of doesn’t really count in my book.
When I started crying, the woman sat forward and cocked her head to the side, with a look of confused concern on her face. “What…?”
“I just want to be able to provide for my child.”
“You ARE providing for her.”
“I mean, on my own, not having to rely on outside assistance.”
I went on to talk about the fact that I’m 47, living in section 8 housing, unemployed and not looking because I mentally and physically can’t hold down a job. Not only can I not hold a job, I also won’t ever be in a position to finish my education and get the degrees I need to do the kind of work I’m really interested in and have the intellectual and experiential qualifications for.
Basically, I was in tears, again, because I was having an emotional flashback. Apparently, I’ve been in an emotional flashback cycle ever since DJT was elected POTUS . . . probably before.
All the things about me and the conditions of my current life:
– Physical health: obesity, diabetes, hypothyroidism = Metabolic Syndrome
– Mental health: Bipolar Disorder, Depression, PTSD
– Financial health: government subsidized housing, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aka Food Stamps, financially dependent on the ex, who covers basic expenses and our child’s needs
– Relational/Social health: almost no face-to-face relationships with friends and family that aren’t within the context of weekly worship and teaching services
– Basic identity: female, half-Mexican, middle-aged, single-mother, former teen mom
Plus all the things in my history:
– Sexual abuse/incest
– Unstable home/constant moving. For example, I attended three different schools in two different states, in between living in three different states when I was 11 years old.
– Undiagnosed, mentally ill mother who committed suicide when I was 12
– Four years living with/”raised” by substance affected family in toxic relationships
– Emotional and mental abuse/trauma from 16-19 by my first child’s father
– 18+ years in toxic, co-dependent relationship with a man who is psycho-socially impaired, with impulse control, and anger issues because, as it turns out, he has the same autism spectrum disorder my daughter has, but has never been diagnosed or treated.
All of these things, plus the daily emotional and physical battles which go hand in hand with parenting, amplified with parenting a child on the autism spectrum, have combined to trigger a self-perpetuating cycle of depression and dissotiation for more than three months.
The tears were coming from a place of intense shame, hopelessness, and self-loathing. They were coming from deep and profound grief from all the losses in my life that I couldn’t feel because of the dissociative coping that began in early childhood. They were coming from an overwhelming sense of lonliness and isolation. They were coming from a sense of helplessness and powerlessness.
I know that I am a strong, intelligent, compassionate, capable, and loving woman, mother, grandmother, and friend. I know that my size, my physical or mental health, my past, or my present circumstances don’t define me and aren’t my identity. I know that I am loved and that I have a father, protector, and provider in the God of the Universe. I know all of these things.
But, knowledge doesn’t erase what’s in the heart and it doesn’t override the altered neurobiology that is my brain on PTSD.
So, when I’m face to face with someone who cares and is interested in who I am, how I’m doing, and what I’m experiencing, I cry.