family dynamics

C’mon Get Happy

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This week’s WW topic is “Happiness.”

Today was the first of seven of these workshops I’ll be attending this week on my “90 meetings in 90 Days” journey. (I owe you a post to explain that. Tomorrow. Maybe.) Today’s discussion was interesting. I’m looking forward to see how it gets addressed in the other workshops.

The weekly handout suggested that being happy makes the healthy activities we do in our lives more possible and increases the experience of those things. It also acknowledged that partaking of those activities increases happiness.

The workshop’s Coach listed a formula that determines one’s happiness level:

50% Genetics
+10% Life Circumstances
+40% Attitude, Thoughts, & Actions

My immediate reaction was to scoff at the Life Circumstances percentage. I mean, although it hasn’t been as painful and difficult as other people’s, it’s been generously peppered with a lot of trauma. Consequently, I have PTSD. Plus, I experience Depression, Bipolar 2 Disorder, fibromyalgia, and am parenting a child with regularly tells me things like she wishes I would kill myself or that I had been born dead.

Yeah. Happiness is HARD. That’s a LOT of genetics and life circumstances.

I spend a lot of time fighting tears, dealing with bureaucracy, and managing conflict. I’m skeptical that Happiness is a state of being that’s more than occasionally possible for me.

I think Acceptance and Contentedness are much more doable. I think there can be moments of happiness. I think we have to be emotionally and mentally healthy and functional to be able to experience even those moments of happiness. I simply don’t believe that Happiness is achievable as a permanent state.

All that being said, I have my own formula:

Psych meds
+Therapy
+A supportive community
+Activity
+Self-Care
+Choosing to be in positive environments


The ability to experience happiness.

What say you?

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Sleep…or lack thereof

Back in September, immediately prior to the rebranding, I joined Weight Watchers (more about that later. Or you can head over to IG @humaninrecovery and see what’s been happening.)

Every week is a new topic of discussion about mindset, behavior changes, and achieving goals. I call it DBT Lite. This week’s topic is sleep.

Sleep doesn’t love me as much as I love it. It seems as if it never has…at least not since adolescence. I mean, I’m writing this at 2:45 A.M. because sleep abandoned me.

Correction: my lovely, not so little, daughter chased it away and it’s eluded me ever since, four+ hours now. Now, she’s sound asleep and I’m wide awake. *sigh*

Supposedly, not having my phone in the bedroom with me would help with getting back to sleep. I’ve tried. Can’t do it. It’s my alarm. It’s my fidget. It’s where I do the brain dump. It’s how I run my brain down until sleep is possible again.

I have horrible sleep hygiene…always have. My room is a cluttered mess. My bedroom & bed are multipurpose locations. My bed is shared with a growing, nearly 10 year old child with sensory issues and needs. So, she’s either burrowing into me, flailing arms in my face, and/or hogging the covers. Occasionally, she snores and breathes through her mouth…Her dad sent me an article yesterday which suggested an exam with an ENT could turn up some medical condition causing sleep disruption which can present like ADHD. More on that later.

In addition to clinging to me like a baby gorilla, she insists on listening to “girl music” when she’s ready to go to sleep. Read: female pop artists. She goes to sleep fairly easy once the music is going. Not me. For someone who has words constantly flowing through her brain, pop music is especially unhelpful when trying to go to sleep. Any music with words is, including what she calls “God music,” my CCM Pandora channel, heavily salted with music by MercyMe.

Then there’s temperature.

I can’t sleep if it’s warm…she freezes and turns into a heat seeking baby gorilla. I like it cool enough to want my feet under the comforter…yeah, I know, weird. The problem with that is the baby gorilla blanket thief.

Let’s see, what else?

Oh, yeah. My body & brain. I’m a premenopausal spoonie with Bipolar 2 Disorder & PTSD. If the nighttime neuropathy doesn’t get me or the busy brain, the night sweats and apparently shrinking bladder will.

And, so, I guess it isn’t that sleep doesn’t love me. It just doesn’t feel welcomed or wanted. *sigh*

The kicker is that I don’t even drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages to get and stay functional. Apparently, I’m a deceptively alive and youthful looking zombie vampire.

Yes. I’m 49.

This is Day 2 of

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Writing Prompt: Skylark Challenge 151, 2nd Entry


Poison, Scent, Fluid, Shattered, Pale


The fluid had a pleasant scent, obfuscating the poison. He turned pale, as it went to work. The cup shattered as it hit the floor.

She came into the room, horror evident in her eyes. Right then she knew. He had framed her for his murder which was a suicide.

Cold fear gripped her heart. Squeezing her chest, it made her forget to breathe. Pain shooting up her arm, she collapsed to the floor, beside the one who had made her life misery. She gave up on her life, knowing he’d achieved his goal.

“Mom! Dad! I’m home and I’ve got a surprise,” their son announced later that day, as he unlocked the front door and entered with his fiancé…never imagining their life together was over before it had begun.

They could never get past the vision of a marriage of such hidden unhappiness, ending in in such horrific and tragic darkness.

His death certificate read: Death by poison, suspicious circumstances. Hers: Death by heart attack, natural. The headline read: Wife poisons husband, dies of a broken heart.

When life goes awry: It’s ok to not be ok

Last Friday was one of those days where the first domino got knocked down and the remainder of the day’s plans and goals crashed one by one.

I’m sure you’ve experienced something like that at one time or another. If you haven’t, best be prepared because you will.

My daughter had a MAJOR meltdown that morning – it got physically violent (she’s on the Autism Spectrum) and she wound up not going to school.

That meant I couldn’t go to the gym or pool. There’s no space or place in my tiny, overcrowded apartment for me to do anything, including stretching. It’s THAT crowded and cluttered.

I was frustrated and irritable at this disruption in the new routine of self-care by exercise. I didn’t take it out on my daughter, but I was experiencing a significant amount of resentment.

Parenting a child with special needs is HARD and I NEED the stress release of the exercise.

When there is a spike in stress hormones coursing through my body, especially in combination with other hormonal changes, a fibroflare is likely to occur.

“What’s that?” you may be asking.

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 28 years ago. Symptoms include persistent, fatigue and increased pain response to anything and everything. During my most intense episodes, just running a finger across my skin feels like a razor blade.

So, I’m struggling against the fatigue to still make exercise a priority. Each day I exercise, the fatigue makes me feel like I’m moving through molasses once the exercise is done. I feel completely drained. It doesn’t help that I also happen to be an insomniac.

There are days when I fight to get the kid to school and to bed, go to the gym or pool, and, maybe, wash dishes. The rest of the time I’m sitting and dozing off.

I’m trading the energy from other things so I can exercise. But, the exercise is what helps me mentally get through the day.

In the past, I criticized myself for not getting more done, or anything done for that matter. I couldn’t let myself be okay with not being okay.

This process is showing me that I can be.

Eating Myself Sick (pt. 2)

Yesterday, I started writing about my most recent downward spiral into a binge eating episode. Now, for the rest of the story.

Two days ago was “Family Fun Friday” at my daughter’s school. Her dad decided he wanted to go and would pick us up, to go as a family, at 7:30 am. Every night my daughter doesn’t go to sleep before 10 pm, no matter how hard I try. Every morning, it’s a fight to get her awake, dressed, and out the door by 8:30 in time to catch her bus. It was very stressful knowing I not only had to have her up and ready an hour earlier, but, that I would also be in his presence, with his moodiness and anger over his current circumstances and belief that I’m to blame for the situation he’s in because I left the relationship nearly two years ago.

There was no time for a healthy or filling breakfast. So, I wound up eating two half pieces of pastry and half a muffin, along with a large cup of coffee with several creamers, while we were at the school. After we left and were on our way to where I volunteer weekly, less than two miles from his place, the arguing and criticism started. Then, he expected me to use his truck to go do my volunteering at the church. That way, I would go back with him when he picked our daughter up from school. No, thank you.

I wound up at his place, but, I didn’t take his truck. So, the angry texts started coming. Emotional manipulation and empty threats of a non-violent, but psychologically traumatizing nature started coming. Intellectually, I knew that the threats were empty, that his beliefs weren’t my truths, and that I’m not responsible for making him feel better. However, it didn’t stop the PTSD sensations of severe anxiety and overwhelm from taking over. I was jittery. My emotions were in turmoil. I couldn’t stop thinking of the “what if’s” and trying to formulate plans against them.

Anxiety at that level completely shuts down my ability and desire to eat anything. This effect results in a binge later. When I left the building and took the hour long transit trip home, I was okay. As I got off the bus and started approaching my home, I could feel the tension and anxiety rising. So, I decided that I was going to go do something else with safe people for the night, and left almost as soon as I got home. Then, something happened that triggered my sense of obligation, and my fatigue was so extreme, I just went back home.

I made a healthy-ish choice for eating, which sort of satisfied the nutritional hunger. Time to relax and self-soothe. Catch up on recorded shows and try to knit a scarf for my son’s birthday, three days away.

However, as the evening went on, both a physical and mental/emotional hunger grew. Unfortunately, I happend to have a little bit of cash. I checked the balance of my SNAP benefits. I could go get something to eat at the grocery store and make a healthier choice between Popeye’s and Safeway. I got dressed and went out the door. As I got closer to the bus stop to go to the grocery store, the aching in my thighs from all the walking I’d done this week and the overwhelming fatigue washed through me. Then I saw the bus go by.

I checked to see when the next one would come. Nine minutes. Not much time at all, but too long to sit and wait in the chilly night at the bus stop. Okay. Keep moving and walk to the next bus stop. Check the time. Five more minutes. Look up. A yellow, orange, and red beacon in the night – Popeye’s. It’s just a minute’s walk, then I can sit down. When I leave, I’ll still be close enough to walk home.

$6.99 special: Two tenders and four shrimp, a side, and a drink. Sounds good. Coke, please. Yes, honey for the biscuit! Do you have butter? Oh, it’s REAL? Even better. Cajun fries for the side. Thank you for the coupons.

Sit by myself, put my headphones on, and start watching a recorded show on my phone. A text from the ex. An update on our daughter and her complaining of a headache and upset tummy. More criticism for not updating him during the week or having her call him.

Mmmm. That honey and butter on that biscuit sure is good. The rest though, meh, but I eat it anyway.

In comes a group of women. Loud laughter and conversation. Friends having a night in on a food run. On the outside, looking in. Thoughts and emotions swirling on the inside. Calm and still on the outside. I look down and see the coupons I’ll never use.

“Do you guys eat here a lot?”

“Mmmhmm,” head nods.

“Do you want my coupons? I’ll never use them. Oh, sorry, they’re sticky from the honey.”

Home again. Anxious again. Minor relationonal skirmish. Isolation. Knit and watch t.v.

Knock, knock, knock. “Come in.”

“Here. I ordered late night pizza,” two slices of pizza and a hunk of cheese filled bread in a small, long Domino’s box.

Gone.

5:00 a.m. nausea.

When self-soothing turns into self-abuse, it’s time to admit there’s a problem…again.

“Hi. My name is Lillian. I’m a food addict.”

Now, to figure out how to unravel and disconnect the eating from the PTSD and my relationships before I kill myself with food.

Eating myself sick (pt. 1)

I guess it’s time to get back to recovery basics, when it comes to my eating.

Yesterday was hard. It was the perfect storm of hormonal cycles, PTSD triggers, and physical exhaustion. Truthfully, the eating spiral started while I was working on my food plan and trying to figure out how to make it work.

The rationalizations and justifications of, “I’m starting tomorrow, so I’ll enjoy this bacon, egg, potato burrito with country gravy and a Coke for breakfast, now,” and, “After all, you’re not supposed to go shopping on an empty stomach, right?” were the first steps on the slippery slope of my binge eating disorder.

Eating has been my consistent “go to” for self-soothing/self-medicating ever since I was a pre-adolescent. It started after I told my mom about my step-dad having molested me for the previous two years and we wound up going and living with my grandmother.

Dolly Madison Donut Gems in the morning for breakfast before school. Extra chocolate milk at school for lunch. Burger King on the way home from school with my mom. Snack or dinner while visiting grandma at the cafeteria she worked evenings at, during her lunch break. KFC when grandma got home after 9 p.m. from her job. Neither mom or grandma knew how much or how often I was eating. It was offered and I accepted. It replaced the “love and affection” I’d lost when my step-dad stopped paying attention to me  – which was the whole, warped reason I told my mom in the first place.

Getting fed was the way I felt like I was cared about and mattered…at home. At school, it was definitely self-soothing to drink that second chocolate milk. We’d moved several times during that year and I wound up in an inner city school in Houston. There was a large Latino population, a slightly smaller Black population, and a small White population. I didn’t fit into any of them. I talked White, was obviously a “half-breed” Latina, and obviously not Black. it was 1980, in Texas. Mixing races was very much frowned upon. Add into it that I was the “new kid” in sixth grade. I was either ignored or shunned, depending on which group of students I tried to interact with. So, I ate alone. That second chocolate milk and seconds on food, if it was available, filled in the interminable time between the end of one class and the beginning of the next, otherwise known as lunch and recess.

If I focused on how good the food tasted and how it filled me up, then I didn’t have to pay attention to the taunting or the isolation.

After school, mom would meet me in front and we would walk home, just talking about our days. These are vague memories, at best. However, I know that I enjoyed that time with her. Whenever, she could, she’d take me to the Burger King that was between the school and the apartment we shared with my grandma. Sitting there and eating my Whopper Jr. with fries and soda, extended my time with her. Time that was easy and uncomplicated. Time when I felt like she saw me and that I was loved.

Snack/dinner at Picadilly Cafeteria, where grandma worked, was usually an obligation kind of thing. Mom didn’t want grandma to know she’d fed me at BK. So, on those days, I’d have a snack – usally fried okra. I love the taste and texture of fried okra done right. Other days, when we hadn’t stopped at BK, I’d get a full meal. Mom and grandma, sitting with me while I ate, having quiet and easy conversation. Those were our family time meals.

Grandma LOVED Kentucky Fried Chicken, Original Recipe! My memory tells me she came home with a bucket nearly every night. My adult reasoning says it couldn’t have been nearly that often. Anyway, I was usually still awake, despite it being close to 10 p.m. If I was awake, the smell of the chicken was so good and grandma was so sure I hadn’t had enough to eat. So, I would eat…again.

So, food was how I knew I was loved. Food was how I received comfort and suffered through rejection and isolation. Eating was a deception and obligation for emotional safety. It was never about nourishment or health. It was always about emotion and relationships.

I suppose not much has changed on that front. On Thursday night, despite having eaten two very healthy and sustaining meals, one of which I stopped eating when I was satiated, that good ‘ole Southern comfort food got brought into my Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model group and I filled my plate. I overfilled it! Homemade mac ‘n cheese, homemade potato salad, greens & ham, and fried fish were irristable.

This was the fourth time I’d been in this room with these women, many of whom are African American, all of whom have experienced significant DV trauma. Some are recovering from substance addictions. None of whom did I feel a connection to. I was always uncomfortable in this room, with these women. All I could see was why I didn’t fit with them and the reasons why they wouldn’t feel like I should be there with them. I guess I was mentally back in that sixth-grade school yard in Houston.

But, that food! It was common ground. I was sitting at a table with a Latina and a White girl, surrounded by Black women. All of these women are so strong and so inspiring and I’d been so intimidated and unsure that I could be accepted by them. I ate, everything, after stating I’d gotten way too much and that I probably couldn’t finish it all.

Well, I finished it after a particular topic came up while we were eating and I got triggered into sharing a very painful memory of loss from five and a half years ago. Then, I ate a piece of homemade apple pie for desert.

Sorry this is so long. If you’re still reading, thanks for hanging in there. To be continued tomorrow.

Diving In: Facing fears, being reckless, or caving into “peer pressure”

Keith and I took Luna to the community pool next door during Family Swim time yesterday. About an hour after we got there, it turned into Open Play Swim, when kids can swim without having an adult supervising them as long as they meet a height requirement.

During Family Swim, there were five lanes reserved for lap swimmers while families had use of the shallow bay and one swim lane, which runs under the diving board. Three of the lap lanes go away during Open swim and the diving board is lowered for use.

Once he realized the diving board was available, Keith got a huge grin and decided he was going to dive. He is long and lanky, so even if his form isn’t perfect, he still dives well and looks pretty good doing it. He goes straight to the end, bounces a couple of times then takes off, gaining some good height, arcing beautifully, and going in at a perfect angle for a smooth entry.

As Luna and I watched him go off the board, she clapped really excitedly, cheering him on, and giggling her happy laughter. Then she says, “I want you to dive, mommy!” Repeatedly.

I’m seven inches shorter and outweigh him by 100 lbs, give or take. I used to be really self-conscious when we go out in public together. I feel like we are the real-life representation of Jack Spratt and his wife. You know? The nursery rhyme, “Jack Spratt could eat no fat. His wife could eat no lean.” So, it’s still a pretty big deal for me to put on my three year old, sagging, faded, WalMart swimsuit, with the shoulder straps tied in knots to keep the thing on and wearing the two sizes too small, exercise shorts to keep my bottom section modestly contained, and get into the pool with him and Luna.

But, I’ve learned to do it because it’s more important for Luna to experience us enjoying time as a family than me not participating because I’m ashamed of my physical being and the fact I can’t afford a decent swimsuit. The truth is, I am continually battling the inner voices from the childhood taunts from Summertime at the local community pool when I was 8 – 10 years old:
Fatty, fatty, two by four
Can’t fit through the bathroom door!

Whale on the beach! Whale on the beach!

Always followed by the hysterical, maniacal laughter of the boys leading the chorus of whooping and hollering.

Add to that, all the tabloids and internet memes and videos of overweight women being mocked and ridiculed for daring to wear “revealing” clothing that shows their cellulite and rolls of fat in public, means the fact that I’m ashamed and embarrassed to be in a public pool with my family shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, really. I choose to go anyway and just try to hide how I’m really feeling.

Now, here is my little girl, who hasn’t learned that mommy is too fat to be seen in public with, much less to get up on a diving board, wanting to watch mommy dive the way she’d just seen daddy do.

I had a lot to think about and not much time to do it.

1) I was already in a pain flare from both the fibromyalgia and the lower back/sciatic pain that is getting worse again. What if I do it wrong and hurt myself?

2) It’s been well over two decades since I dove off a board. So long, in fact, that I don’t actually ever remember diving from an actual diving board, ever. What if I do it wrong and make a huge splash?

3) How will I look to others? Will I see smirks and looks of embarrassed pain on the faces of the teens and other adults in the pool?

“Please mommy, I want you to dive like daddy!”

I watched Keith jump into the air, arc, then angle, slicing into the water like it was air.

“Ok. Tell daddy you want mommy to dive when he gets to us.”

She did. He smilingly agreed.

I reluctantly climbed out of the pool and made my way to the board. Three short steps and the short blue plank suddenly narrowed by six inches and grew two feet longer. The closer I got to the end, the more wobbly and unstable the surface under me felt. Then I was at the edge.

Fear of hurting myself fought against the fear of how I would feel about myself if I didn’t do this.

I sort of bounced up and pushed forward, feet barely leaving the board before I aimed arms and head into the water.

Coming up, I knew I hadn’t done my back and body any favors. “Never again. That hurt my back,” I declared as I swam over to Keith and Luna.

I did wind up experiencing more pain throughout my entire body and worse back and sciatic pain for the rest of the day and night. However, while it made things more difficult, it didn’t stop me from doing a little grocery shopping, fixing a spaghetti dinner, or cleaning up after.

In this case my “peer pressure” was the pressure of going outside my comfort zone and doing something I was afraid of doing in order to please my daughter and not be the family “downer.” Knowing my physical health issues and my lack of insurance and still choosing to dive was probably a reckless decision. Somehow, though, I can’t help but believe that I made the right choice.

Luna may not know that she saw mommy being brave and courageous. She may not realize that I was acting as a “feminist” and choosing to go against what society pressures women who look like me to do. It may never enter her awareness that I lacked self-confidence or felt self-conscious and ashamed.

But I know. I also know that by doing those things in front of Luna, I created a new normal for us both.

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