Author: Lillian

I'm a wordy, nerdy wannabe. I'm a proud mama of two adult children and the child still living at home. I also have four, fabulous grandchildren. I write about my life and how it's affected by mental illness. Sometimes, I write poetry or even short fiction. Often, I write "stream of consciousness" musings. Mostly, I write what's on my mind and in my heart. Formerly writing under pseudonym: Kina Diaz DeLeon

Conflicted: April 2021 NaPoWriMo Day five

Exhausted
Brain dead
Thinking and walking through molasses

Overwhelmed
Mixed emotions
Scattered thoughts, discombobulated

Anxious
Breaking down
So much to push through and fight

Fearful
Poor health
Self-care to care for others

Hopeful
Fingers crossed
Aspirations may soon be met

Loved
Generations together
Smiles and laughter ‘midst the angst

I decided not to use a prompt today. I just ended my work week after about two weeks off. Weekend graveyards is a tough schedule and I seldom get 3-4 hours of sleep between shifts. So, my brain couldn’t process the complexity of the prompt.

My laptop gave up the ghost and won’t turn on. So, my writing will now be done using the phone app. *sigh*

My posts will probably be shorter.

Renovating: April 2021 NaPoWriMo, Day four

Visit @SpaceLiminalBot on Twitter to see more liminal spaces.

Today’s prompt on NaPoWriMo.net was to choose a photo of a liminal space from @SpaceLiminalBot on Twitter and write about it.

Confession, I had no idea what liminal meant. When I looked it up I learned that it’s about the ambiguity of being in a transitional state. Neither here, nor there, but somehow occupying the borders of both spaces. Now that I know what it means, I can honestly say that it’s the story of my life.

From childhood forward
My mind active and yearning
Voracious, needy

Guidance lost too soon
Bottled grief. I was unmoored
‘Tween loss and anger

A runaway teen
Trauma and disappointment
New life comes forth

On the road again
No peace, no rest, nowhere home
Life saved from cruel death

Back where I started
Family ties bind and gag
Beginning again

In my element
Learning and aching to grow
Success! Feeling hope

Upward and onward
Fast forward to my limit
Falling and spinning

A life not taken
Ungrounded, always a risk
Begets a new life

I spent decades lost
Throwing away loved ones
Relationships burned

Scrabbling from the pit
Trapped in a cocoon of mind
My health overwhelmed

Hard recovery
Love’s faith in community
Investing in me

Beginning again
Not alone but supported
Still renovating

Transitions: April 2021 NaPoWriMo, Day three

I love you, in a sweet, soft, sigh
From the mouth that once
Pierced my heart
With painful words of hate

Embraced in arms
Firm with soothing assurance
Used to pound fists
Of punishment on my back

Eyes warm with love
Their gaze brightly meeting mine
Used to glare in anger
Over nothing I understood

Soft lips kiss my cheek
In tender sentiment
Had cursed me
In angst and turmoil

Intelligence and curiosity
Shine in the beauty of
My neurodivergent
Tweenager


You may have thought this was describing the cycles of an abusive relationship, at first.

You’re not wrong. But, there’s a lot more to it than that.

In this case, the “abuser” was my child. My brilliant, creative, and inquisitive child, who happens to have an autistic brain.

There was a time before the identification of the autism, when I was struggling so hard, as a mom…mostly due to my mental health and relationship problems with her father.

I have attachment disorder due to the emotional neglect I experienced from infancy onward. Nursing her until she weaned herself was one of the most challenging choices I ever made. Especially since her “period of PURPLE crying” lasted the first five months of her life. She was essentially inconsolable. I was the only one who could hold or soothe her, even a little bit…much to her father’s angst and anger.

Then, one day I was no longer the preferred parent.

The first time she called me a bitch she was two.

Fast forward to her fifth birthday when all hell broke loose between her sister and father. That event was this camel’s straw and I left, taking her with me three days later.

For the past seven years we have been in almost constant conflict. Yelling, name calling, hitting, kicking, scratching, and biting. multiple meltdowns a day. There were days I hated being her parent.

Anger, frustration, guilt, and helplessness were my constant states of mind. My spirit felt defeated.

Then pandemic. I got my first real job in nearly 8 years. Then distance learning. I changed my shift to weekend grayards so I could support her school. Going back to middle school was something you couldn’t have paid me to do. Thanks to COVID-19 I did it for free.

Then Winter Break…two weeks of not having to login. I stopped fighting her. It was destroying us.

I decided that waiting for f2f school to start again was the thing to do. We aren’t the only family or special needs family not being able to make it work.

We started having conversations…mostly about her art and online activities with her preferred programs. We also discussed as many aspects of LGBTQ+ gender identities and sexual orientations as I am familiar with and researched others. Overall, things starting getting better with us. She’s much less combative and exponentially more affectionate, both verbally and physically.

“Mommy, I think quarantine has been good for us.”

Rising from beneath: April 2021 NaPoWriMo, Day two

Today’s prompt is inspired by Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” It’s based on our own personal journeys. What might our experiences be if we took a different path?

No matter how many times I wanted or tried to veer from the path I was on, I wasn’t able to. Having travelled this far, I realize I don’t want to have taken a route other than the one I’ve been on.

Why?

People. My children and my grandchildren might not exist. Or, if they did, they wouldn’t be who they are. I wouldn’t have or know the people in my life, not the way they are now.

My life has always been challenging and full of stress. It’s made who I am. There’s more work to be done. I like who I’m becoming.

Rising from Beneath

I was told I could be anything I wanted…
But I wasn’t taught how and
I never met anyone who was.

I was told that if I had knowledge I would have power.
Helplessness was all I knew…
despite my accumulated information

I was told, “Aim high! Shoot for the stars.”
From my depths my aim was as high as other’s low.
I shot just to see the stars.

Years of climbing, fighting, struggling
Always landing back in the hole
Anchored by the trauma of my past.

Cycles of poverty and neglect,
Generations repeating the past.
Lord, let me be the last.

Breaking through, crawling out
Eyes blinded by daylight
Skin scorched by the sun.

Someone (not Churchill) admonished one and all,
“if you’re going through hell, keep going. It’s no place to stop.”
no longer energized, yet, here I am…still going.

I think it’s a good fight. It’s been a hard one.
Redemption, restoration, rebuilding
Self and relationships once lost.

Constantly feeling weak and lost
Continually infused with life’s breath,
Molded by refining love.

But wait, there’s more…so much more
Five decades to grow up.
Here’s hoping for another 3-5.

New battles rise up,
New fears to face.
The war against self goes on.

More to see, more to be.
My future resides with me.
My path lives in me.

NaPoWriMo 2021

Many of you may know that this month is NaPoWriMo month, National Poetry Writing Month. I was reminded of it this is very day, when I went to read the blog post of someone who started following me today. Thank you for joining me, Brenda! You can find Brenda and her NaPoWriMo contribution for today, The Dragon and the Fairies, just click the link.

Some of you may have seen some of my poetry in my past blog entries. Although I haven’t written any poetry in I don’t know how long. I miss it. I miss it a lot.

I was first introduced to writing poetry in middle school. I was a TAG student. For those of you who do not know what that is, TAG stands for Talented and Gifted…not something I saw myself as then.

Anyway, we had a term on poetry. My least favorite teacher, who normally taught social studies, wound up teaching us to write poetry for that term. We had to create a book of our own original poetry.

My book had two wooden covers with the pages of poetry bound in between them with yarn, I believe. I had hand drawn a unicorn or something like that on the cover of the book I don’t remember any of the poems and I no longer have the book. However I can see what the book look like in my mind’s eye. I didn’t think it was that good. And I never really thought of it again.

Many years later I found poetry again as part of my college career. I took an intro to poetry class and that’s when I fell in love with it. I loved the different forms of poetry how it could be visually artistic as well as the beautiful imagery created by the words themselves.

One author whose work spoke to me and which I resonated with on a fundamental level was Sylvia Plath. This is the first poem of hers I remember reading:

Metaphors
I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house.
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

I immediately knew what these metaphors represented. If you don’t know or if you would like a brief analysis of the poem, please click the link in the title.

Beauteous fractals
Above and beyond the call
Winter’s final wail

The first prompt from the national poetry writing month website for this April, was to write about a piece of art. Now, I don’t have access to a whole lot of art. I’m not a fan of looking at famous art online. I don’t believe it gives it justice. This image is an original painting on a 4×6 canvas by a friend of mine. She did this basically uncommissioned. She’s an amazing artist. Not only did she do this on commission, she did five others at the same time. The most amazing thing about this piece of artwork is that she created it while her home had been without electricity for a week. You can see some of her other art at

The reason it had been without electricity for a week was the same reason why I actually commissioned the piece from her. The electricity was out due to a major snowstorm in Portland that took place in February. I like to call it the Valentine’s Day Snowpocalypse of 2021.

I had to work that weekend. I was on foot and having to take public transportation. And it snowed and iced over enough that the buses stopped running as did the trains. Since I am an essential worker, I had to be at work regardless of the weather. the only way I got there and back home for a couple of days was due to my supervisor and his four wheel drive vehicle. After that weekend I wanted to do something special to think my supervisor and to commemorate the events we had all lived through. That’s why I asked her to do a piece of art.

Confession of a type 2 diabetic sugar addict

My IG confession

Confession: I’m a Type 2 diabetic who is addicted to sugar & carbs, in all forms… especially soda.

I (semi-deliberately, because mental health issues) misplaced my glucometer and haven’t taken my blood sugar levels for months…after having an a1c of over 12.

I just found my meter and poked my finger. The result? 402.

For those not familiar with the meaning and significance of the terms and numbers:
Glucometer is a portable piece of equipment a person uses to measure their blood sugar in the moment. Three times a person might take a measurement is upon waking, after an 8-12 hour “fast.” This is what I did this morning. The goal is under 200. Immediately before a meal, two hours after a meal, and before bed are other common testing times.

A1C is a blood test taken in the doctor’s office that measures the degree of sugar in the blood stream over the previous 90 days. A 5-5.5 indicates pre-diabetes. A 6 is diabetic.

I have a lot of work to do.

Right now, my first goal is to kick the soda. The measurable goal is to get my fasting blood sugar under 200.

I’ve been drinking more water. I’ve been trying sparkling water… it’s a taste I’m not sure I’ll ever acquire. Sugar substitutes are a non-starter and fruit juices are still sugars.

I’m literally addicted to soda as much as anyone can be addicted to drugs and alcohol. I haven’t been able to say, “no,” when offered. I haven’t been able to leave it alone if it’s around.

I think I need a soda sober buddy. No joke.

Trying to care for me

In the five years between these two photos:
I stopped being employed;
I left a two decade toxic relationship;
I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, diabetes, bipolar disorder, and cPTSD;
My youngest child was identified as experiencing High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder;
Two grandchildren were born;
Relationships with my two adult children have been restored and improved; and I’m navigating the ongoing process of co-parenting with the ex.

I guess, my adult daughter could be right about vampire DNA 😂
02/24/2021 – In the four years since the above collage photo, I’ve become grandma to two more grandchildren (4 GRANDKIDS! 😲 🤯); Fought time and time again to stabilize from hypomania & depression; worked my @$$ off to get employment ready; completed two vocational programs simultaneously; and became employed during a pandemic…all in the midst of chronic turmoil and drama.

The smile hides depression and self-loathing…a severe lack of self-esteem and sense of futility. The hair and angle of the pic hide the double chin and side padding of obesity. You can’t see the fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, type 2 diabetes, PTSD, Bipolar 2 Disorder, and Binge Eating Disorder. Yet, I look healthier and happier than ever before… according to an FB friend.

I wrote about being functionally depressed and nothing has really changed. I still pretty much only venture forth from my dwelling are occasional grocery shopping trips and to to work. My ADLs (Activities of daily living) are sporadic – personal hygiene is taken care of whenever I have to leave the apartment or I feel too disgusted by myself. Nutrition is not a frequent thing…I may or may not eat 2 Baked Lays single serve bags of chips for breakfast or dinner. One thing has improved – I’m not waking up gasping, choking and feeling like I may have had a heart attack because I’m using my C-pap machine to deal with the sleep apnea again.

Despite the depression, I did a thing and I took a risk. I applied for a Full-time position within the organization I am currently employed with. It’s a Peer Support position, which I completed my training, with flying colors, just as the COVID shutdown started last year. I just emailed the department that manages such things to ensure my application has been received. It has been received and submitted to the hiring manager.

I’m also reaching out or responding to opportunities to connect with people I’m connected to through my faith community. I’m participating in a book study of Rich Villodas, The Deeply Formed Life. I participate in our weekly Zoom service. Right now we’re discussing how it might look when we start meeting again, since some of our faith family isn’t able to engage and participate often unless it’s remotely. I submitted some ideas, which were favorably received.

Partially because of the diabetes, I’ve decided to join a couple of my friends on a menu planning journey next month. I’m in no way prepared. The logistics of my life are chaotic and kind of overwhelming. So, I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to make it a complete success. However, I reminded myself “progress not perfection.” That made my inner perfectionist cringe in horror.

To that end, I decided to focus on breakfast. Simple, quick, easy diabetic friendly breakfasts I can prep primarily in the microwave. The first recipe I found was Breakfast Burrito in a Jar on Diabetic Foodie. Since I don’t have jars, I followed the link to the next breakfast, Mexican Microwave Scramble.

Between the Depression, Hypothyroidism, and fibromyalgia, as well as circumstances in my life, I’m really fatigued & low energy. I’m not sure how I’m still functioning at all. I just know that no matter how close I come, giving up isn’t an option.

How are you doing? For real, sometime sharing helps.

Functional Depression

We’ve had a winter snow and ice storm for the past few days. Not necessarily as severe as many other parts of our country and throughout the world…places where the residents ridicule and demean us for not being prepared and whining about a little bit of snow, which shut down our city, to the point where mass transit was cancelled and cab service was several hours late. Normally, this kind of thing would cause people to isolate and get cabin fever…but, pandemic. We were already there.

This also happened over Valentine’s Day weekend. Just another weekend for me. Except, as an essential worker in the mental health field, I still had to report for my graveyard shifts. Fortunately my supervisor has a 4WD SUV and transported me to and from for a couple of shifts. I went to work and fought against fatigue and sleepiness. I seldom sleep well during the days on my night shift weekends. I have an apartment full of people, including four littles six and under. Plus, insomnia. I’m usually awake within two to three hours after laying down.

I love my family, but, the relationship tensions of eight people, a dog, and a cat occupying a two bedroom, 1 bath apartment are inescapable. Between the pandemic and the exorbitant rise in housing costs, I have no idea when my adult daughter’s family of six will be able to get into their own space. It’s challenging to parent my 12 year old daughter with an autistic brain, in a small bedroom that we share, when she wants nothing to do with the nieces and nephew. Their sleep schedule is completely off center from ours. I can’t access the kitchen when I wake up early or get home from work because people are sleeping in the living room, right next to the kitchen. Additionally, my grandkids (and their parents, lol) are kind of like locusts. If they can see it, it’s fair game. So, it can be challenging keeping food for my youngest daughter and myself available when we need it.

So, I ordered a mini-fridge and microwave for my room. Basically I’m turning a small (miniscule) bedroom into a dorm room shared by me and my youngest. A couple of weeks ago, I spent 10-12 hours cleaning and organizing the room. Now, I need to do more in order to make room for the new appliances. I honestly don’t feel up to it, but, the appliances are supposed to be here in the next four or five days. Which means I don’t really have a choice.

Pandemic. Essential Worker. Underhoused. Family tension. Parenting struggles.

Even though I have the support of my faith community, I don’t feel connected to anyone particularly, though I know they would do whatever they could to help me out if I needed it.

I’m feeling isolated and alone in the midst of the chaos.

I’m battling my mental health issues. I’m struggling with physical health issues. My self-esteem is in the crapper…hating myself because of ingrained fatphobia.

Reading all the Valentine’s Day challenges – the love stories of the friends near and far on Facebook, is becoming more bitter than sweet.

My head feels like it’s going to explode. My chest is tight and it’s hard to breathe. My eyes won’t stop leaking and my sinuses are getting stuffed.

I don’t understand why I feel so isolated and unloveable. Listening to Justin Bieber croon how fucking lonely life is, just really resonates.

So, I’m in a pattern of self-sabotage with my health, which feeds into the self-esteem issues. I feel hopeless about making the changes I need to in my current circumstances…and I’ve basically given up trying. I shower and dress when I need to go to work. I eat bags of chips and drink soda for breakfast some days. Despite the type two diabetes, I can’t stop with the soda and carbs. I see the 150 extra lbs I’m carrying on my body and feel self-disgust and think, “of course no one is going to love you like this.” I want to hide and not be seen by people.

But, I still go to work. Sometimes I go to the grocery store. But, that’s all. That’s really where most people are at during the pandemic. The thing is, that was my life pre-pandemic, except for weekly excursions to church. The loneliness and isolation are exhausting. I have no energy left to love and care for myself.

I really need to get and stay on-track with my meds.

Health Scare

01/13/2021

You can’t tell from my picture above, but I have sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, out of whack cholesterol, am 150-175 lbs overweight, half Hispanic, and over 50. It seems my blood pressure, which has always been really good, is on the rise and that I probably have what is the very earliest stages of fatty liver syndrome. Apparently, all these factors make me a really great candidate for a heart attack.

When my state went into the “Stay Home, Save Lives” protocols last year…aka quarantine, I was staying with friends. Even though I had my own apartment, I stayed with friends from mid-March through early November. Why? Because a lot of things, but, mostly because I love my family and I’ve worked very damn hard to be able to have a relationship with my adult children that reflects how important family is to me.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2019 my adult daughter’s family became homeless…a few months after she found out she was pregnant with baby number four and had a series of jobs that fell through shortly after she started them. There was remnant rental debt, which had been accrued when she had left her previous apartment to share a house that she genuinely thought and expected to be a safe and stable place to raise her family.

It turned out to not be either safe or stable.

So, her family wound up coming to stay with me and my youngest daughter – who experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum and is in active puberty.

Eight human beings and assorted animals in a small, 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment.

Yikes!

I was finishing up two vocational training programs: Mental Health Peer Wellness Specialist and H & R Block Income Tax Course. The second was to be a “survival/bridge” job until I could get the state certifications and a position for the first. So, I was working face-to-face with the public when the pandemic began. There were three kids under six and an unborn. I couldn’t/didn’t want to risk their health, but I absolutely needed to keep working. So, I stayed with my friends who I would visit on the weekends to give us all a little respite and space.

One of those friends started the year with a stroke in January and blood clots in her lungs in February/March. I wanted to be available for her and her wife, as well. So, it worked. Then, for a couple of good reasons, I left the tax job…I’m really not the one you want going over your finances. I can barely manage my own. It took me another month to find a job in the mental health field that I was qualified for. The pandemic basically ended, for however long, my goal of doing peer work…social distancing and all that.

Four days before starting my new position, my fourth grandchild was born…and her mama nearly died. That was towards the end of April. By the end of May, my friend had two heart attacks within two weeks of each other. The thought that my daughter or that my friend could have died during any of these events weighed heavily on my heart and mind.

In the midst of all of this, I was both consciously and unconsciously “letting my health go.” I’ve felt overwhelmed and out of control. Not having or being in my own space, determining what food comes in, etc. is difficult when health management is primarily about nutrition. There’s a negative feedback loop/cycle that those of us experiencing mental health diagnoses can fall into regarding our physical health. The two are inextricably intertwined. What’s good for my mental health is good for my physical health. What’s bad for my physical health is bad for my mental health. However, like all things in life, it’s not that clear, cut, and dried.

We made it through summer, then, Distance Learning.

My 11 year old child on the “higher functioning” end of the Autism Spectrum was expected to start middle school, doing online classes with the General Education kids, using Zoom to attend four alternating classes, four days a week; Advisory five days a week; and two “specials” a week…as well as expected to do Applied Learning (Independent Study) an additional eight hours a week.

So, I changed my work schedule and dropped my three day shifts for three weekend graveyard shifts. Doing this wound up really messing with my ability to get and stay on track with all my meds. Then, the behavior issues with my kiddo wound up disrupting the household of my friend who’d had all the health events. She didn’t handle seeing and hearing how out of control and physically aggressive my kid could be. It didn’t end well and by the end of the first week of November, I found myself moving back into my apartment.

I love my daughters. I love my grandkids. I value the dad of my grandkids. I tolerate the dog and the cat. However, I really can’t stand living with ANY of them. There’s a super busy and demanding nine month old, a threenager, a five year old supersonic bouncy ball, a six year old happy, gregarious, dance monkey, and an irascible, 12 year old lazy, iPad/My Hero Academia addict with her days and nights reversed. They almost have us outnumbered 2:1 and I don’t think there’s any moment of complete silence in the entire space.

Essentially, my chronic insomnia has gone into overdrive and somewhere, there’s a painting that shows deep, dark lines, sagging, sallow, wrinkled skin and yellowed, bloodshot eyes, with white wisps of hair sticking out of an otherwise bald head that’s showing all the signs you aren’t seeing here of how unwell I actually am. That’s a better explanation for how I look at my age, with my issues than the one my oldest daughter has…that I’m secretly a vampire.

Anyway, all of this led up to me waking up from a sleep, which didn’t feel that deep or that long, choking and gasping, barely able to breath, and coughing so hard I had an incontinent moment. It took what felt like forever for me to catch my breath. I felt completely enervated and incapable of doing more than walk to and from the bathroom for the rest of the day. I also wound up with a severe headache that the Excedrin Migraine generally knocks right out, but didn’t really touch. I felt achy and mildly nauseated the rest of the day. Since I often feel these things due to the fibromyalgia (which I forgot to mention above) I didn’t really think too much about it. I was kind of too out of it to think about anything, really.

The next day, I started thinking about what had happened and started doing some research. It seems that the symptoms I just experienced could have been nothing other than a momentary reaction to an apnea event…OR they could be symptoms of a “silent heart attack.” It would seem that is a much more common thing women experience than men. The only way to know for sure is to have the doctor run some tests to see if there’s any damage. So, I sent an electronic message to my doctor.

We’ll see what happens next. I’ll keep you posted.

De’ja’ vu all over again: Recreating the past

Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

Parenting is hard. Parenting a child with special needs is hard. Parenting a girl in active adolescence is hard. Parenting from a place of trauma is hard. Parenting an adolescent girl with special needs when all aspects are points of trauma in your history, is beyond hard.

I feel like I’m constantly falling down, constantly lacking, and constantly failing . . . even though I know I’m doing my best. I know I’m a better parent now than I was seven years ago. I’m a better parent now than when my oldest daughter was the age my youngest daughter is now, 12. I’m a better parent than my mother was able to be when I was 12. But, I still don’t feel like I’m a good parent or the parent my child needs and deserves.

The reality is that I am really struggling. I love my child but I don’t like her. I love her so much and want so much good for her, but I find myself resenting her for things she has no control over. I’m so proud of her and amazed by the things she does and how strong and determined to be herself she is. At the same time, I am so incredibly ANGRY at how her strength and determination flatten and steamroll the people around her . . . like me and her nieces and nephew. I love her but I hate being her mother.

That’s awful. I know it is. But, it’s also my truth. It’s a convoluted truth rooted in the trauma, rejection, and abandonment issues between my mother and myself when I was 12 years old. Issues that I will never be able to work with her on because she died . . . committed suicide . . . when I was 12.

My little girl isn’t so little anymore. She turned 12 at the beginning of December. She’s taller than me . . . mostly because, like many children on the Autism Spectrum, she’s a “toe walker.” She travels on her tiptoes. Walking with her feet flat from heel to toe is like an impossibility for her. There was no physical reason for it and we put her through physical and occupational therapy to try to prevent any negative effects from the toe walking. To no avail. Now it’s reaching the point of discomfort and pain for her to not walk on her toes.

I wish I could let her be herself, with her idiosyncracies and quirks, without feeling so beyond frustrated and annoyed. She absolutely refuses to do anything or engage with anyone other than her preferred activities and people who she wants to be around. I feel powerless, especially in light of the societal expectations, rules, and norms regarding parenting and education, especially with children who have special needs. The thing is she doesn’t appear or seem to be autistic to most people. Even her medical evaluation team had difficulty coming to agreement regarding her autism. She’s lived in emotionally traumatic circumstances since conception. So, there are behaviors and reactions that stem from the autism and there are behaviors and reactions that are rooted in her trauma exposure history. Stir in pubescent hormones, in the middle of a pandemic that has everyone acting off and dealing with various types and degrees of trauma, and I have my very own Katie Kaboom.

If the truth be told, I’m probably as much of a Katie Kaboom as my daughter is . . . or at least I feel like I’m on the verge of exploding with her a lot of the time. There’s this surreal sense of loss of control and imminent danger creating a sense of fear of myself and what I’m capable of.

The last memory I have of an interaction between me and my mother lingers on the edges of my consiousness most of thetime when I’m around her.

I had recently turned 12. It was late June or early July, I think. We were living in an old adobe group of single story apartment buildings that had been built to use as military barracks in the 1940’s. Adobe buildings surrounded by asphalt. No trees. No grass. No shade. It was unrelenteningly sunny. The air was still and stuffy. My mom was working as a night janitor with her brother and his wife, who lived in the building catty-corner from ours. While cleaning may have been her job, it wasn’t something that was a priority in our apartment. We were a couple of clutterbugs. So my mom was embarrased for people to see the condition of our apartment. All the doors were shut tight and windows shuttered and covered so no one could see in.

I was hot. The heat was draining and I had no energy to do anything. I just wanted to breathe and I felt like I was suffocating in the stuffy heat of the closed apartment. I didn’t want to go out in the shadeless parking lot/driveway that surrounded the apartments. We had only lived here for three or four, maybe five months. I didn’t have any friends and didn’t have anywhere I could go. I was restless and listless at the same time. I decided to stand in the doorway, with my face pressed against the doorframe on the right, the door pressed against my left cheek, my stocky body filling the area between the door and it’s frame. Nothing visible from the outside.

She was embarrased, exhausted, and overwhelmed . . . I know and recognize this now, but at that time I only thought she was being controlling and unreasonable. It felt like what I needed and wanted didn’t matter to her, even a little bit. She was yelling at me, trying to get me to close the door. I was yelling back, telling her how no one could see inside. I don’t know how long it went on. Not long, I’m sure, but, it felt like it stretched on for a long time, each of us getting angrier and louder. I can’t remember specific words. But, it wouldn’t surprise me if I had called her names or cussed at her.

Suddenly my head was jerked back by my hair and the next thing I remember is that I’m laid out across the sofa and she was sitting on my legs, preventing me from moving. I was yelling at her and trying to kick her off of my legs. Finally, I was able to sit up, bend forward, and I bit her on her thigh as hard as I could until she got up.

I don’t really know what happened after she got up. I know my uncle burst through the door a short while later to check on me. He had seen me standing at the door, then disappear suddenly before the door closed. He was condemning and critical of her. She was crying. Sometime after that, she signed guardianship of me over to him and moved back down to Texas. A few weeks later we got the news that she had committed suicide.

When I’m dealing with my daughter and she’s refusing to do things like, take a shower, let me brush her hair, login to classes, do homework, or anything that isn’t playing Minecraft or drawing on her iPad I feel a rush of overwhelming feelings swirling around: anger, resentment, frustration, shame, sadness, hopelessness, helplessness. Then she starts laying on the insults and declarations of how horrible of a parent I am and how she loves her dad more than he loves me. If I attempt to remove her iPad, she lashes out at me physically – hitting, kicking, scratching, biting.

The roles appear to be switched with me as the mother. But, on a visceral level I don’t feel any more in control or that I matter than I did as a kid going through what I went through with my mom.

Maybe there’s a clue in that. Maybe it’s a hint that she wasn’t feeling in control or that she mattered. We don’t feel in control or that we matter so we do things that are about taking control and power from someone else, not because we want to feel powerful, but because we want to matter and if we don’t feel like we matter, we don’t feel safe. If I don’t matter to those who matter to me, then I don’t feel that my needs can get met. I’m supposed to meet her needs. It’s not her job to meet my needs. It’s not right or fair of me to resent her for this.

Is the resentment about her or is it about resenting that the person whose job it was to meed my needs and who I was supposed to matter too, oppressed and suppressed me instead of take care of me?

I know now that my mother experienced undiagnosed and untreated mental illness – likely Bipolar I with schizopherenic tendencies. She couldn’t help it and it wasn’t her fault. This knowledge and understanding gives framework and context, but, it doesn’t change the feelings and the child who needed protection and nurture still didn’t get protection and nurture. I struggle to protect and nurture myself and I struggle to provide that for my child.