PTSD

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

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.

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.

What does it really mean to be emotionally healthy?

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

I’ve been in and out of various forms of therapy since pre-adolescence. I’ve been doing it pretty consistently for the past seven years. Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to reach a point of being emotionally healthy.

The PTSD has had deep and lasting impacts on both my brain structure and neurochemistry. Bipolar II Disorder means that my brain structure and neurochemistry were already atypical. Both impact emotional health and affect my capacity for instinctively choosing emotionally healthy behavior.

Ten months ago my faith community stood beside me and supported me in my mental health recovery journey. They chose to pay for me to go through trauma recovery therapy, so I could better deal with the myriad of intense psychological and emotional stressors in my life. Past trauma is something I’ve been minimizing, avoiding, and denying most of my life. Dusting it off, picking it up, looking it in the eye, and examining it is not even close to easy. What is easy is distancing and distracting myself, even as I try to face it.

Last week I had a Telehealth appointment, which turned into an audio only appointment because of my dying phone. Since there’s no unoccupied space in my apartment and the sanctuary of a vehicle no longer exists, I walked to a coffee shop that has a large, covered, outdoor seating area. It also happens to be the socially distanced gathering place for the neighborhood dog owners and their dogs to hang out. I sat as far away as I could so as to be heard by my therapist and not heard by the community of strangers. Fun times.

I was telling her what happened the night I dropped my phone. I had gone over to my friends’ house, where I had been living from March – November, to pick up Christmas gifts for my grandkids. While I was there, the woman who had been my first friend from a DBT group I had been part of in 2018/2019, absented herself and had no interaction with me. Her wife indicated that I could try to communicate with her, but I would probably be unsuccessful. The wife is now my primary friend.

I have a lot of sad and mad feelings about this relationship break. However, when I was discussing what happened that night with my therapist, my brain fixated on the broken phone, as if that was the source of my difficult emotions. I was completely aware that’s what I was doing, but couldn’t seem to stop it. So, I said out loud that my brain was wanting to focus more on the phone than the lost friendship.

We discussed that for a bit. We drilled down some and identified some roots in prior relationships with important women in my life, starting with my mother, that ended in rejection and abandonment. Still a lot to unpack there, but both my therapist and I recognize that I’m stretched to capacity to address more trauma at this point. With that agreement in place, the question becomes, “what direction do we go and what do we work on?”

Since I’ve made some significantly bad decisions in the past several months which were decidedly co-dependent, avoidant, and risky and the outcomes of these decisions have increased the emotional, physical, and financial stress on me, thus maxing out my capacity for doing the more in depth trauma work, I figure I need to work on making emotionally healthy choices when faced with situations where my trauma responses have been triggered. I think that’s the only way to clear the path for me to do the deeper work.

My therapist suggested that my lack of emotionally healthy response is more likely rooted in the fact that I’ve never been around emotionally healthy people making emotionally healthy choices and that, while it may be possible for me to come to an understanding of what it means to be emotionally healthy, I may continually deal with an inability to operate with that same understanding. To which I responded that is why I said learning the behavior that comes from being emotionally healthy can be learned, even when the emotions aren’t healthy.

I think of it like reverse engineering good emotional health. Learning to act “as if” I am an emotionally healthy person, might enable me to become an emotionally healthy person.

I think I just found my focus for this year.

2021, the year I become an emotionally healthy responder.

Legacy

‘Round and ‘round she goes
Freewheeling and spinning
Bouncing from thought to thought
From one thing to another

Up is down, down is up
Good is bad, bad is good
Riding the exhilarating waves
Crawling through the dark valleys

Always looking to be “fixed”
Always wanting a “fixer”
Needing control
Living in chaos
Dying in love

Her life is mine, as well
My children can attest
I fought like mad
Lashing out, relentlessly

Life on the edge
The art of the con
The good apprentice
Crumpled and abandoned

Obsessive plans
Frenzied achievement
Burned out
Crashed hard

Time and again
Rinse and repeat
Cycles within cycles
Antagonist and victim

The mind forgets
The body remembers
In the midst of anger
In the midst of turmoil
Conflicted life

Lost momentum
Lost joy
Lost hope
Lost self
Unmoored

Immovable mountains
Crashing and clashing
Awakened in conflict
Change begun

Spiritual awakening
Fortuitous convergence
Extraordinary and mundane
Unforeseen support
Asked, offered, given

Long and winding
Road of an epic journey
My strength is my weakness
Renewed and redeemed
Bridging the past and the present

From mother to daughter
Connecting the generations
A new future written
Shaped by what was
Walking into what will be

UBC 4/20 Day 15: Trauma Muscles

Many people are experiencing various waves of emotions about what’s going on in the world today: panic, fear, anger, sadness, etc.. These are all normal responses to the global threat and common traumatic experience. However, if those feelings get too intense and pervasive, it can become debilitating and make it difficult to function. Then, there’s also dissociation – that feeling of being disconnected from emotions surrounding these events…kind of like compartmentalizing thoughts and action separate from emotional response. In my personal experience, that kind of thing I’ve learned as an automatic coping mechanism, which is an automatic response to trauma, a symptom of my PTSD. For me, dissociating has enabled me to get through periods of life when I was experiencing things which would have triggered overwhelmingly immobilizing emotions.

The thing is, we get really good at what we practice, right? In my life, I’ve bounced from trauma to trauma to trauma and dissociating, disconnecting from my emotions to the point where it became my way of life. I got so good at it, that, not only did I not consciously experience the “negative” emotions, I was also disconnected from the “positive” ones. It’s important to realize that emotions are neither negative or positive. Emotions are instinctive tools which tell us something about ourselves and the world around us. If we don’t learn how to read and understand our emotions in any given situation, then, whatever action we take as a result of the emotions we experience can have negative consequences.

Another word for practice is “exercise.” The more we exercise dissociation, the stronger our ability to ignore, push down, and function in spite of our emotions becomes. Suffice it to say, I have very strong dissociation muscles. They developed into a form of brute strength. But, brute strength only gets you so far. In order for it to be useful and constructive, that brute strength must be shaped, sculpted, and toned. In other words, training is needed.

I had a lifetime of developing the brute strength of dissociation to contain and manage my emotions until they started leaking around the edges and creating some truly negative and destructive consequences. I’ve now spent over six years training to hone and reshape how I handle my emotions. Dissociation is still my automatic “go to” response to intense emotion. However, it’s now mitigated by things I’ve been learning. Specifically, DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) has been very instrumental in teaching me how to harness and use the strength of dissociation in constructive ways. All while I continue to train and learn new methods and ways to mitigate it.

Which brings me to the present time of stress and trauma we are all going through as individuals, families, communities, a nation, and the global collective.

In the past month, I have experienced the feelings and had the thoughts of many, if not most, people in the world around me. I have seen two distinctive responses to those thoughts and feelings: acknowledgment and acceptance of the world as it is now, or fear or denial about how bad things are or will get. The first response gets things done and keeps one moving forward, facing and learning to overcome these new challenges. The second response results in stagnation and, possibly, regression.

I believe my well-developed “trauma muscles” and the training they’ve been getting from therapy, DBT, and spiritual growth is what has enabled me to address the issue and effectively deal with issue of being unemployed. It is also the thing which has helped me to continue my healing and growth process in my mental health.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that trauma is the best training tool for learning how to deal with and manage emotions. It isn’t. Trauma changes us and derails our path to who we had the potential to be. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s not. It impacts our relationships and our ability effectively and constructively function in the world. But, with training and healing work, I believe that the strength we gain from surviving trauma, can become powerful and impact our lives and the lives of others in amazing ways.

UBC4/20 Day 14: Parenting from afar

At the beginning of this month’s challenge, I mentioned my youngest daughter, but, I haven’t said much about her. Since I’m having some big feels regarding her and my relationship with her, I figured I’d talk through it here. If nothing else, I’ll get some more Emotion Color Wheel practice in. I’m feeling sadness and love. Sadness about her not being with me and love simply because she’s my daughter.

Digging deeper, I realize my sadness a lot of things: distressed, melancholic, shameful, and hopeless. Exploring that more reveals that I feel agonized and hurt, depressed and sorrowful, regretful and guilty, anguished and powerless. That’s a lot of sadness that’s heavy on my heart. I’ll get to the whys in a little bit. But first, I want to explore the love more. There’s tenderness and longing. Those expand out to compassionate and caring, affectionate and sentimental. That love is all twisted and intertwined in the sadness.

The love is actually buried under the sadness in a lot of ways and I think that’s all tied to my childhood trauma and the mother wounds I carry. I know I have attachment issues. It’s very, very difficult for me to be physically affectionate. I don’t enjoy snuggling, hugging, and close physical contact with anyone. I never have. Please don’t hold my hand for more than a few seconds. I can give hugs, but, please don’t hug me. Don’t get me wrong. I love being with people and interacting with them, but, not in a physically close way. This social distancing thing and communicating via Zoom, Messenger, FB Groups, and texts are all fine for me. Much easier for me than being in a roomful of people.

But, I digress.

I’ve known about my attachment issues for a very long time. I’ve been acutely aware of it since my youngest daughter was born, a little over 11 years ago.
I decided to breastfeed. Great for her health and good for us financially. Except, that’s the only thing she would do if she wasn’t screaming or crying. She howled for 45 minutes after she was born and didn’t really stop for the next five months. She was constantly on a breast. Clinging to me. Burrowed against me. I wore her in a wrap around me because it was the only way I could get anything done. It was like being pregnant, only carrying the child on the outside of my body. My life was centered around her need to feed and have that comfort.

I hated it, but forced myself to do it because I wanted to give her that opportunity for attachment to me in ways I hadn’t been given with my mother and had been unable to give with my older children. So, I also decided to let her self-wean. Only, she didn’t really. She nursed until she was almost three. By then I had to cut her off. It took her a couple of years to stop asking for it. Part of the reason I let her nurse so long was because her dad, who she was very attached to, was a truck driver and took a long-haul over the road job and was gone weeks at a time. Then, after an incident between him and my teenage daughter, I moved out and got my own place for a couple of years, thereby limiting their ability to be with each other. So, nursing was the primary touch point for comfort and a sense of safety and stability I could give her…even though I hated it.

Her dad and I stayed separated for a couple of years, but, were still enmeshed with each other and I wound up letting him move in with me. By the time a year had gone by, I was either in an emotionally hyper-reactive state or in a near catatonic dissociated state in order to manage the depression without knowing I was also trying to manage PTSD and Bipolar Disorder (II) and not receiving treatment for it. Things came to a head on her fifth birthday and I took her and left three days later. I have not gotten back together with him, but, because of her and her issues, he’s still too much a part of my life and I continued to be psychologically and financially enmeshed with him.
It turned out that our little girl is on the autism spectrum. It’s hard to tell because she’s what’s considered high-functioning. That label implies that she’s less impacted by the spectrum issues because she’s highly verbal and more social than children on the spectrum are often characterized as being. I don’t think she’s less impacted. I think she’s impacted differently and I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to get her the identifications, diagnoses, services, and supports she needs.

Over the past six years, her dad and I have “co-parented.” In our case that means he got to have her with him on weekends, school breaks, and holidays, while paying for her needs and wants, providing my phone, and paying for electricity & internet. So, functionally, I was operating as single parent. I was the one to deal with all of the agencies, organizations, medical facilities, and educational systems. I was also the one who bore the brunt of her emotional/behavioral issues.

She got increasingly violent with me, both verbally and physically. I have been shoved, slapped, hit, kicked, scratched, and bitten. I have been called a bitch, told I am hated and that she wished I had never been born or that I would die like my mother and go to heaven. I was the one who dealt with the school when she would get suspended for tearing the classroom apart or physically attack staff and students. I couldn’t let her be around my grandchildren because she was very mean to them.

She wasn’t always like this. She never acted like this when she was with her dad.

Last Thanksgiving some serious things happened and my adult daughter’s family became homeless. At that time, my grandchildren were five, four, and two. I couldn’t see them living on the street or in a shelter. So, they all crowded into my apartment. My little girl’s behavior escalated again, until it reached the point where she attacked me and punched me in the spine. I couldn’t take anymore and I had her move to her dad’s.

That was just before we went to social distancing, then shelter-in orders. I’ve only seen her a couple of times since then and done video messaging a few times. I don’t know what to do or say that is meaningful for her. I miss her, or the idea of her and having a good relationship with her. At the same time, I’m relieved I don’t have to be in her presence 24/7. So, lots of sadness with bits of love sprinkled throughout.

We’re supposed to spend some time together on Friday. We’ll see how it goes.

UBC 4/20 Day 10: The Colorwheel of Emotion

Color Wheel of EmotionMy therapy homework this week is to start identifying and naming the waves of emotion I experience. Here’s the way it works:

You can either work your way from the inside out, which is what my therapist asked me to do this week, or you can work your way from the outside in, which I think could be quite useful.

When she assigned this to me I asked her when or in what context she wanted me to do this. Basically, her response was to do it whenever I experienced a wave, big or small, of emotion.

I’m beginning with this very moment.

Honestly, I’m feeling anger. What am I angry about? Sleep…rather, the lack thereof. My scalp feels tight and achy. So does the back of my neck. I have been tossing and turning all night. I was too warm, so I turned the ceiling fan on. But, it was too loud and blew too much air. I could have gotten up and turned it down, but, I didn’t for some unknown reason. So, now, the kind of anger I’m feeling is exasperation and irritability. Being exasperated means I’m feeling agitated, frustrated, or both. In this instance, it’s both. I’m agitated that the insomnia has gotten so bad and I’m frustrated because I’m tired and want to go back to sleep, but I know it’s futile. I can tell that irritability is right beneath the surface. Annoyed and aggravated are the extensions of that. Again, I’m experiencing both: annoyed with myself for not getting up and adjusting the fan and aggravated by the knowledge or belief that it wouldn’t have done any good anyway.

Let’s try another one.

Yesterday, I received the email containing the link to the employee portal for the company I’ve been hired by. Through this portal were all of my onboarding processes: completing my I-9 verifying my right to work; the same with the W-4 telling the company how much of my earnings to submit to Federal and to Oregon, before giving me anything I had earned; I submitted my banking information to let them know how I wanted them to pay me; I received instructions on getting the TB testing done; and, finally, accepting and signing the job offer itself.

Ever since the HR guy told me I had a job, I’ve experienced joy whenever I think about it. On the wheel, joy is a base emotion like anger is. This means there’s more to it. After the phone interview, I felt optimistic. I was both eager and hopeful. I was hopeful that I would get the job offer and eager to know if I had the job. Once I got the first email offering me the job, I felt proud, triumphant that I had gotten the offer within a week and a half of submitting my application. Getting the second email containing the link to the employee portal made me enthusiastic and optimistic again. I was excited about embarking on this new leg of my journey, moving toward what I want to be doing with my life, instead of merely surviving. I was eager to do the preliminary onboarding process and move into training. In the midst of it all, I’ve felt proud. Triumphant that my hard work on my own healing and recovery, as well as all the job readiness and training I’ve done over the past nine months has paid off.

Then, I got to the point in the process where I was supposed to schedule the TB test. I contacted the medical facility the company uses for the testing, only to find out that they aren’t doing ANY pre-employment testing…because… COVID-19. Bounced back to anger, with a little fear mixed in. Back to feeling exasperated and agitated. I was feeling scared and nervous, which was really feeling helpless and worried that this whole virus fiasco might prevent me from starting work.

So, I sent an email to the person in charge of the onboarding process. The response made me feel something not on the wheel – relieved. I think that was a joy response to the worry being nullified. I also felt proud again, illustrious, perhaps. She said she was impressed that I had acted so quickly to do the onboarding paperwork and that they were suspending the TB test prerequisite until the medical facility is testing again.

All of those emotions were experienced over a seven-hour period yesterday.

No wonder I was ready for bed by 7:30 last night.

UBC 4/20, Day 2: Future Tripping

I’m pretty sure I got the job. I should find out for sure today or tomorrow, at the latest.

I don’t even have the job yet and my brain has, without my authorization, already begun worrying and spinning about things that might not ever happen, but, have the potential to. I call this “future tripping.”

What am I future tripping on? I’m glad you asked. I’m happy to tell you all about it. Maybe getting it out of my head will help.

1. What if my daughter goes into labor while I’m at work? What if she goes into labor before my shift is supposed to start? I’m the one who’s supposed to drive her to the birthing center. I have no idea who else she could call on to do this for her. Going into full-term labor, without any sign of complication is not a reason to call an ambulance. Even if it was, she’s adamant about not having this child in a hospital setting. She has trauma around her first child’s premature birth and three-week hospital stay.

2. Physicality…what if I’m not physically able to keep up with my physical duties? I’m incredibly out of shape. I may have indicated to the interviewer that I can do all the things, when I’m not 100% sure I can do them all. Some of that has to do with my weight/size. Remember the Binge Eating Disorder I mentioned in yesterday’s post? Well, between that and the lack of physical activity from the depression I struggled with for more than a year, I gained 60+ pounds over the past 15 months. The last time I stepped on a scale I was less than 10 pounds away from 300 pounds. I don’t look it, but I feel every ounce.

3. Parenting time with my youngest daughter. I’ve already barely seen here because of Social Distancing and Stay Home, Save Lives, since she lives with her father now. Saturdays were intended to be my days with her. During the interview, the interviewer asked about my preferred work days and hours, as well as location…promising, right? Currently, Sundays are my faith days and Tuesdays are when I have my counseling and other appointments. He said they don’t usually split days off. So, he said if I get Sundays, then Mondays would be the other day off. That means working on Saturday. If I get the day shift, 7am -3pm,then I could still spend time Saturday with her. If I get swing shift, 3pm – 11pm, I wouldn’t be able to see her on Saturdays at all.

4. Who will be available to help my daughter’s family for the post-birth, taking care of baby, as well as the other three. Their dad is there and has been doing a good job of parenting and being a stay home dad while my daughter works. But, honestly, both of them are dealing with some undiagnosed/untreated depression and PTSD. So, postpartum depression is a big potential thing. I know, I know. None of this on me or my responsibility…but, my daughter’s and my grandbabies’ wellbeing is so important to me.

I still don’t know for sure if I have the job. So, none of this is helpful to be worrying about. So, what is it all about?

My therapist touched on it a lttle bit this week: I have an issue with rejection and not being enough. I thought, at the time that it had something to do with a maternal/mentor relationship that ended about ten years ago. However, now that I’m really thinking about it, I think it all goes back to family of origin and never having any security and stability, plus never feeling that a) I couldn’t do enough or do things the way I was expected to; and b) the rejection I experienced from my adult children in recent history and having been told, about four years ago, that I would never have a place in my grandkids’ lives.

Things are really good with me and my daughter and significantly better with my son than they used to be. But, I guess, I still am carrying that fear of rejection and not being good enough to have a place in my own family. Whih is complete b.s. and patently untrue. Now, if my brain would actually process those truths, I’d be golden.

Enough is enough and so am I.