family

Write about a time when…

Still feeling blocked. My soul is aching from all the hate and the suffering it’s inflicting on various people groups in my country. I’ve been housebound with a sick child this week and I’m dealing with some mental health stuff triggered by stress and worry about a family situation I have no control over or say in, but impacts me and my youngest child.

I’m determined to follow through with this session of The Ultimate Blog Challenge and write a blog post everyday. I just want whatever I post to be interesting, if not entertaining.

So, I searched for a prompt I could write about substantively. Here’s what I found: Writing Prompts: 60 Ideas You Can Use Today

I chose prompt 21: Write about a time when you or someone you love was scammed.


In some ways, this is my origin story…or one of them.

It was the beginning of my junior year of high school. My life had been upended…again. I was 16.

My uncle, who had been my guardian since just prior to my mother’s suicide four years earlier, had gone through a divorce and a custody battle over my baby cousin. He’d moved me in with my grandmother while he moved forward into a toxic and destructive new relationship.

Meanwhile, my grandmother and I were taking care of my cousin a lot of the time. She was with me so often that, when I was 15, I was often mistaken for her mom.

For whatever reason, I never knew, he moved my grandmother and me back to the place we’d lived when my mom and I had first landed in Portland. It was just down the hill from where his ex-wife was staying and back into the school district I’d been unenrolled from following the breakdown of our not-so-happy little family.

It was homecoming week and I was sneaking into school while other kids were sneaking out.

My uncle was MIA and had failed to do what was necessary to reenroll me in school and, because I was under a guardianship instead of living with my biological parents, I wasn’t allowed to enroll myself.

Contrary to everything pop culture indicates about the adolescent desire to avoid the confines of educational institutions, I WANTED to be in school…desperately. You see, I believed that the only way out of poverty and away from the kind of life I’d lived was my intellect and education.

I’d taken the PSAT (Pre Scholastic Aptitude Test) the previous year, as a sophomore. My scores were high enough that I received interest letters from Harvard & Radcliffe and Whitman College. I was also offered my choice of ROTC scholarships…all contingent upon my graduation from high school.

I was missing half of my first term as a junior and was anxious, angry, and feeling abandoned, again.

That’s when I met him.

At first, I shied away from him. We were living in the place where respectable morphs into disreputable and he was an unknown entity. Strange men were suspect and not to be trusted.

Then, when I was at loose ends one day, I ran into him again. This time, he was with a girl my age. I thought she was his girlfriend. It turned out that they’d moved in right next door. Within a short period of time, they became my port in the storm.

It turned out that she wasn’t his girlfriend, but someone he was helping to get her life back on track. Or that was the story…and I believed it.

He was 30, passably attractive, and treated me like I was an adult. He listened and talked with me as if what I had to say mattered. He was my safe haven from the drama and paid attention to me when no one else, my uncle, could be bothered. I fell in love.

Within a couple of weeks, I was finally enrolled in school, but I’d missed almost two months of the beginning of the school year and was struggling to catch up. I spent every moment I could next door, getting homework help, friendship, and feeling as normal as I had ever felt.

Things got physical. I initiated. In hindsight, I know I was manipulated to that point. But, I thought it was my idea. He pretended to dissuade me, but, took what I offered anyway.

Then, my uncle decided to show up and assert his authority. Probably because my grandmother had been trying to get me to stop going where I was headed and had reached out to him.

There was a scene right out of an angsty teen drama, where my uncle and I were yelling at each other (cue Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It). “We love each other!” I loudly declared. I don’t remember what was said next, but I got my face slapped. I almost hit back, but, my uncle was holding my 2 yr. old cousin in his arms. He saw the look in my eyes and taunted me, “Go ahead. Hit a man with a baby in his arms.”

Next thing I knew, I was out the door and locked in the bathroom next door. Shortly thereafter, the two men were squared off, outside, and I was on the door stoop, screaming for them to stop.

I went into my appointment. Things calmed down and my uncle eventually left. I snuck back out and went next door. We knew we wouldn’t be able to be together if things stayed as they were. The next day, we left.

Three months after we left, he got picked up on a parole violation. A month later I found out I was pregnant. A few months after lat, I turned 17. He was released, then, we were on the run, again. Almost a year after we’d first run away, our son was born.

We spent a little over three years hitchhiking across the country and living out of cars. We put notes up in rest areas and told people stories about our circumstances designed to manipulate them into giving us money, food, and shelter. He was a low level scam artist and I became his apprentice.

Two weeks before Christmas of 1988, a little over a month after our son turned two, I’d had enough. I was 19 and over it all. I was done and he knew it. He disappeared for a week with that month’s welfare allotment. The shelter we’d been staying in either needed the monthly “rent” – money they set aside to save enough for move in expenses – or we had to go. They gave me our “deposit” back so I could try to find someplace for us to go.

Somehow, he knew to come back that night. We fought. He wanted the money and I wasn’t going to give it to him. He almost killed me in front of our son, but, stopped short for some reason. Then, he left. I never saw him again.

His love was a scam that changed my life forever.

My WW Story

WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers. “Wellness that works.” What finally drove me to sign up for a weight loss program after decades of self-sufficient obesity?

Pain.

Not just any pain. A very particular kind of nerve pain. Specifically in my left foot. More accurately, the top of my foot…with periodic zaps of electricity pricking the sole of my foot from the inside out,

The top of my foot is so hypersensitized right now that the hem of my pant leg feels like a jagged, splintered shard of glass scraping across it.

Fun stuff.

According to the doctor it’s a rare condition called Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. Like Carpal Tunnel, but, in the foot.

Yay me! I have a knack for the unusual when it comes to pain and injury. A few years ago, I fell and gave myself a spiral sprain. That’s usually something athletes get, not the general population. But, that’s another story for another time.

The doctor laid out my options:

Gabapentin – an anticonvulsant sometimes used to treat a wide array of mood disorders with some extreme (but rare) side effects like agitation, increased libido, and mania…Sounds like it could trigger a manic episode and I’m already taking four different psych meds to manage the bipolar, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. No. Thank. You.

Surgery – I’m a single mom, struggling to parent my High Functioning Autistic child who also experiences ADHD. I also live upstairs. I can’t afford an extended recovery period from surgical intervention.

Weight Loss – the universal answer to whatever ails you if you carry excess fat on your body, Don’t EVEN get me started! However, it was the most viable of my three options.

Initially, I doubted I could effectively transition from a life so sedentary that my spirit animal could be mistaken as a sloth. After all, WALKING HURT! So, I decided nutrition was the key.

I have lost weight before, using activity and nutrition. As a matter of fact, I lost 20 lbs at the beginning of this year with walking and changing to a healthier diet. Then, I transitioned from my manic state to a bad depressive state, stopped moving, and switched to a fast food diet. The 20 came back and brought a few friends. Five to be exact.

So, here I was – a 49 year old, medically obese woman of 265 lbs with hypothyroidism, Type II Diabetes, high cholesterol, Bipolar II Disorder, PTSD, fibromyalgia, and, now, Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.

I also have the child I’m parenting, a 25 year old daughter, who is also parenting three littles, who (whom?) has me as her primary emotional support person and occasional baby sitter, and a son turning 32 in three days.

I have a lot of healing to do and a lot to live for. Also, I’m finally reaching the point in life where I believe I’m worth taking care of, too.

I needed help.

So, I searched Weight Watchers. They still had their Labor Day Special going on. It was barely something I could financially afford.

I’m destitute. Between my youngest daughter’s issues and mine, I am not currently able to sustain employment. Her dad pays for electricity, internet, this miniature hand-held computer I use to blog aka cell phone, and pays for all she needs. I live in public housing, survive on $352/mo of SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps), and a $72/mo stipend.

I committed close to half my stipend to the first six months of my Weight Watchers lifestyle.

Since I also experience a hitherto undiagnosed Binge Eating Disorder, I decided to approach this like a recovery program and committed myself to attend 90 meetings in 90 days.

Today, November 6, 2018 is my 53rd day and I will be attending my 55th meeting.

If you’re curious about or interested in how this part of my journey has gone, you can find it on my Instagram, humaninrecovery. Start here.

Addendum: I’ve lost about 20 lbs and I have walked daily for the past several weeks and can now walk two miles at a time…sometimes in under 20 min/mile. Yes, the nerve pain is still there.

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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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My whys


I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I joined WW (formerly Weight Watchers) mid-September this year. I have a laundry list (Why “laundry”? Wouldn’t “shopping” make more sense? I think so, too). Correction, shopping list of whys. Not the least of which is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, a rare disorder of the ankle, similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Here’s the complete list:
Family – I have two adult children (32 & 25), three grandchildren (4,3, & 1), and a nearly 10 year old on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum and who experiences ADHD.

Physical Health – Fibromyalgia, Hypothyroidism, Type 2 Diabetes, Sleep Apnea, High Cholesterol, and Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.

Mental Health – Bipolar 2 Disorder, PTSD, Depression, Binge Eating Disorder.

Because I’m worthy of self-love and self-care.

I’ve spent nearly five years of hard work to reach this point. I had been a toxic person in a toxic relationship. I had severely broken relationships with my two adult children. I was so overwhelmed and depressed I was barely functional. I was so consumed with self-loathing that I hid from the world, making myself sicker and sicker, consuming all the food and media I could numb out on.

Now, I’m working on staying centered in the here and now, continuing to heal, grow, and build relationships with my children, engaging with the world and people around me, and learning how to treat myself with the care, compassion, and love I have and want to have for each person I encounter.

It’s past time for me to become the best version of myself.

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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.

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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.

Writing Prompts: August Scrawls, Days 1 & 2

I was stymied after prepping Thursday’s post on Wednesday. I had run out of the current prompts available on the social writing app I’ve been writing on – intermittently – for well over a year now. I needed more prompts, until either new prompts showed up on lettrs or my own ideas started flowing.

Did you know there’s a whole community of writers using Instagram? #writersofinstagram and #amwriting are a great way to locate fellow word warriors…but, you probably already knew that.

Nowadays, there’s a hashtag for EVERYTHING under the sun, on God’s green earth…(had to do it once “nowadays” showed up). So, I searched #augustwritingprompts. Lots of options popped up. Several set up scenarios and situations to write about. Not for me. I’m more of a minimalist when it comes to prompts. Give me something to interpret and write my own scene about, in my own voice.

I found such a prompt! It’s called August Scrawls and is hosted by @hopelessperriott on Instagram. A word a day! I can work with that. I hope.

Here are my first two days’ efforts:

Hunger

He hungrily watched her lips wrap around the oblong orb. His mouth went dry with thirst as a tiny drop of clear juice slowly meandered down. His pupils dilated as she captured it with her tongue. He longed to wrap his hands around the soft, golden skin. Mouth watering at the thought of tasting the firm flesh, he asked…

“Do you have another apricot?”

Gotcha! At least that was the idea. The word for Day 1 was “apricot.” How’d I do?

Here’s Day 2:

A Spectrum Moment

“Children, it’s time to work on your spelling words. Jennifer, will you please hand out this week’s practice sheets?”

Mrs. Vee, the teacher, surveyed her overly full classroom. Her eyes rested on the student in the far back corner, Shandi. Shandi was seated on a stool at the science workstation. Her head was bent as she intently stared down at the paper in front of her. She reached for a black marker and began drawing.

Mrs. Vee watched as Jennifer cautiously approached Shandi. Jennifer attempted to hand Shandi the paper. She kept looking at her artwork, seemingly oblivious to Jennifer’s presence. Then, Jennifer bravely placed the paper between Shandi’s face and the paper she was drawing on.

She reacted as badly as expected. The crumpled paper plummeted to the floor.

“Shandi! That’s enough. It’s time to work on spelling. You’ve had your art time. Now it’s work time.”

Defying her teacher’s authority, Shandi climbed down from her stool and stormed out of the classroom, disappearing down the hall to the CBC, Contained Behavior Classroom, where her IEP, Individual Education Plan, said she could go in times of distress.

Mrs. Vee sighed, then called the office, alerting them that Shandi had left the room, once again. “We really need more support from the District’s Autism Specialist,” she thought to herself.

Resigned to the status quo, she turned and addressed the classroom, “Who has completed writing five of the words?”

The word was “authority.”

This scenario is taken from the pages of my life as the parent of a child who interfaces with the world through the Autism Spectrum and experiences ADHD. There were a lot of these kinds of incidents over the past two school years. It’s felt good to interact with and try to support and encourage teachers who care. Most General Education teachers don’t receive much training or education in supporting kids with various special needs. I’m grateful my daughter is where she is.

Anyway, days 1 & 2 down. Hopefully, I’ll catch up with 3 & 4 tomorrow.

Granting yourself grace: Doing the best you can, as you can

I’m totally exhausted.

Every day this week, as I’ve been working toward this new way of eating, life has continued being what it is. Despite how much I need it to pause for a minute so I can get my bearings and make this transition, life goes on without any consideration to my needs.

The other people in my home are still themselves, God love them. Six of us are living in a tiny, two-bedroom, Section 8 apartment: Me, my 6-year-old, my 22-year-old daughter, her 22-year-old boyfriend, their 20 month old daughter, and their 8 month old son. My youngest daughter still needs me to figure out how to be the kind of mommy she needs instead of me trying to get her to be the way I feel I need her to be. The Bipolar II, the PTSD, the depression, and the fibromyalgia still factor into my emotional, mental, and physical capacities. The relational/financial enmeshement with my ex, the father of my youngest, is an almost daily source of stress. There are four days left to get the apartment ready for inspection.

Changing the way I eat, why I eat, how I eat, what I eat, and everything that goes with that, is like going to a new country, embedded in the culture and society without any preparation or guidance, only every obligation and aspect of your earlier life came with you and doesn’t give a crap the you have to learn a new language, new customs, and follow new rules.

I also have a mentality which has existed most of my life: If I can’t do it right, if I can’t get it right quickly, and if too many obstacles make getting it right quickly difficult, then I give up.

There. I said it. Out loud. For all the world to see.

I get easily overwhelmed and cave under an unrealistic, compulsive need to be in control and do things perfectly, according to my understanding of perfect.

Can you guess where I’m at in this cycle?

Here’s the thing, though. I absolutely cannot go that route this time.

That’s where grace comes in. What does it mean to “give grace?” The Free Dictionary offers several definitions. Two of them are what I’m talking about here:

grace (grās)
n.
4.b. Mercy; clemency.
6. A temporary immunity or exemption; a reprieve.

In other words, I need to be merciful to myself in my self-judgment. I need to free myself from my internalized obligation to “get it right.” I’m not even sure where that need came from, really. It’s just “out there,” in the world around us, right?

“Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.”

I wonder how many times I’ve heard that statement? It’s not really true, in a literal sense, though, is it? After all, I can’t possibly do this healthstyle change “right.” What’s right? The rules and guidelines that worked for others, in the context of their lives, circumstances, and resources. I’m not them. My life is not like theirs. No excuses, it’s just what is.

I can’t only focus on food, food prep, learning new recipes, spending two hours a day on grocery shopping trips via public transit. I still have to parent my child who experiences High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. I still have to pay attention to the Bipolar and PTSD triggers. I still have to do the work of trauma recovery. I have grandbabies who need a loving and open grandmother. I have adult children who are concerned about my overall wellbeing, and who get concerned when they see me start to obsess and get tunnel vision.

So, what do I do?

I accept that I have limits on my time, my energy, my resources, and my opportunities. I take note of the things that aren’t working and figure out what is keeping them from working, then brainstorm what the possible solutions are. I ask for help and provision when, where, and with whom it is safe and reasonable to do so. I forgive myself, instead of criticizing myself, for giving into the temptation of eating too much Southern Comfort Food while in a trauma recovery therapy group. I’m not going to hate myself for eating the homemade mac ‘n cheese, homemade potato salad, homemade greens with ham, and fried fish. Instead, I’m going to appreciate and be grateful that the community and relationship building that happened in an environment I’d previously felt very unsafe and uncomfortable in. I’m going to give myself credit for the efforts and changes I’m already making. I’ve eaten two, self-prepared meals, which, mostly, followed the eating plan.

I’ve learned, over time, that change is a process, not an event.* There’s a learning curve. There is a letting go of the way things were. New ways of thinking and doing have to be practiced. It’s a whole new way of being me . . . at a time when I have days, weeks, and months when I’m not even sure who I am.

So, I’ll do what I can. I’ll do it to the best of my ability, even when that ability is nearly nothing. I’ll give myself credit for the one time in however many, that I make the better choice.

For now, I think I’m going to take a nap before it’s time to start my day, since I’m dozing off at the computer. I’m going to give myself the grace to hit “publish” without all the grammar and spelling checked. Feel free to let me know about edits that need to be made. My brain and eyes are too tired.

Grace be with you.

 

Life update and seeking a sense of safety

It’s hard to believe it’s only 15 days into 2014. I feel as if it’s already been three months, so much has happened in such a short period of time. I feel a need to decompress. This means it’s time to just write about the stuff that’s been going on for me in my life.

On New Year’s Day, I was alone again the way I had been on Christmas Day. I also wound up being under attack from the toxic texting that tends to happen when Keith is on his roller coaster of emotions from the way things have gone and his feelings about the choices and decisions I have made regarding our relationship and us living together. It’s hard for him to see and understand that although I still love him and that I do recognize and understand he has made efforts to grow and change, the reality is for me and for our daughter at least, the way things were between the two of us, was dysfunctional and having negative impacts on our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

I do not place fault or blame solely on him, his anger, or the critical atmosphere which he grew up internalizing. It’s only half the story. The other half of the story is my depression and my seeming inability to develop, maintin, and grow in self-esteem and doing the things I need to do for my self-care when I am in relationship with him in the midst of the tension, conflict, anger, and criticism. I have a complete lack of self-will and self-determination to do anything other than to enable him in his anger and emotional dysfunction and that depth of codependency is mine and much like the impact of an alcoholic who cannot function and drink at the same time, to the point that he sacrifices all else in life, in my codependent state and relationship with Keith, I have sacrificed everything on the altar of his dysfunction. I am powerless over it when we are living together, which is something that others in our lives cannot understand, accept, condone, or approve of because it means they are not treated well by either Keith or myself and has caused them harm, whether we intended harm or not.

Hand in hand with the codependency is my habitual self-harm behavior using food. Both the codependency and the food have been ways for me to distract, detract, numb out, and avoid dealing with the unresolved emotional and psychological traumas I’ve experienced in my life. Things which I have accepted in my life and thought accepting was enough to deal with them. However, true acceptance doesn’t happen if there are false beliefs attached to the acceptance. So, the acceptance of the childhood abuse, neglect, and abandonment which led to three years of domestic violence abuse by my son’s father in my late adolescence, all was predicated on the false belief that I was responsible in one way or another for any and all of those things or that I somehow deserved or that I wasn’t worthy of having experienced anything other than what I had.

Monday of this week my son showed up unexpectedly and unannounced. After having spent the previous week sick with the flu and having just come from being in the home with Keith during his weekend time with Luna because I was too sick to go anywhere else and it was his time to be in this space with Luna, there had been some predictable negative interactions and I was feeling raw and emotionally vulnerable. So, I really wasn’t prepared to interact with my son, especially since the last communication from him toward me was to announce on Facebook in response to a comment I’d made on his sister’s status update that I had given up my right to have an opinion or some such thing then unfriend me a little over a month ago, after the precipitating incident that caused LaLa and her SpiritLove to move out and me to leave three days later. I just really didn’t know how emotionally and psychologically safe we would be with each other once I opened the door and allowed him to come inside. But, I love him and I’m committed to being able to have a relationship with him, so I took the risk and opened the door anyway. I’m glad I did.

He shared with me something that another family member of ours, my younger cousin who is about 2-3 years older than he is, had told him. She’d let him know that when she was growing up and going through the things she was experiencing, I had been her safe person and given her a safe place to come to in her childhood when she didn’t have any other place to go to and feel a sense of safety. It was the first time he’d ever encountered anyone having that kind of perspective on me and the kind of person I have been. It was certainly not the way he has experienced me in his life and not like anything he remembers from his childhood. Apparently, it made him consider me in a different light and he was able to come to the realization that I attempted to give him and his sister safety and be a safe person for them as much as I ever had attempted it for our cousin. It was such a relief to hear him tell me that.

It also triggered more grief and realization inside of myself because I now understand that I never had a safe person or a safe place while growing up and I have carried that lack of safety with me the entirety of my adult life. Even when I am in safe places with safe people, I do not experience a sense of safety. I think that sense of safety is that sense of homecoming I’ve only ever experienced with one other human being and I think that lack of sense of safety is one of my biggest barriers in my relationship with God, myself, and others.

Things the Grandchildren Should Know

I received a notification from a friend of mine today referring me to his guest post on a blog that is promoting the message that parents who experience mental health issues can still be good parents. He wrote a “a stripped down, vulnerable post, . . . about [his] childhood.” Things the Grandchildren Should Know. It truly resonated with me, on so very many levels and there were so many thoughts about current events in my life sparking off regarding how I perceive myself as a parent and pending grandparent, how I believe others perceive me – especially my own children, and the discrepancies which exist, both internally and externally, between all these perceptions.

I have already been parent and caregiver to a few mini-generations: I was what felt like a primary caregiver to my cousin who was born around the time I was 14. There was quite a stormy period when her parents, my guardians, went through a very complicated and combative divorce when she was about two years old. I found myself taking on a lot of adult responsiblity without much guidance or preparation, just doing the best I could do. However, as much as I loved and cared about what kind of life she was going to have, I knew that I had no control over her life or mine and eventually ran away when I was 16 to become a parent at 17. My son was born to a clueless mother who, for all intents and purposes was a homeless, rootless, orphan and a charismatic, nomadic, low-level hustler/con-artist of a father. Poor kid. By the time I was 19, I was a single mom, once again with overwhelming adult responsibility, without guidance or preparation, just doing the best I could do.

I knew I had a brain and I knew I wanted to live a different, better life, and give my son a different, better life. So, I sought out what that was. I had believed the Saturday morning promotional spots from G.I. Joe and other influential characters that stated, “Knowing was half the battle,” and bought into the concept that education could and would be my secular salvation. I went back to high school and won a tuition waiver to attend a local community college.

Apparently, I’d also grown up listening to too many Charlie/Enjoli commercials and women’s libber ads and bought into the idea that I could, “Bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, ever let him forget he’s a man.” I didn’t know how to cook, cleaning and organizing were never part of my in home curriculum, and early childhood development ed when I was growing up consisted of me teaching myself how to read, somehow, because I don’t remember any snuggle/cuddle bedtime stories or circle story times at the local library. So, I tried to find an in-home child care provider who seemed to have it together enough for the kids to enjoy being there, whom my son connected with, while I signed up for 18 credit hours and two work-study jobs at the community college two hours away by bus.

I worked hard. I wanted to play too. Play had never been much of a part of my life. I didn’t know how to do it. Friendships with my peers had always been difficult and problematic. I’d never really gotten along with “normal” kids. So, when I made friends with those who seemed “normal” and accepting, even though I didn’t “fit,” I jumped in with both feet. I went all out academically. I went all out with work-study. I went all out with my friendships and intimate relationships. I was trying to learn how to be a normal person and thought that making sure my son was cared for by someone who had it together and knew what she was doing, was the best thing I could do for him while I figured out a way to not be on welfare and isolated.

I had one relative who “supported” me with statements like, “I’m not going to let him drive me crazy and to suicide, like you drove your mother.” I didn’t realize that my grandmother was already experiencing dementia and her bi-polar love/hate, paranoid, meanness alternating with carte blanche offering the shirt off her back attitudes weren’t personal or about me.

Then, I crashed and burned for the first time, as an adult. I almost committed suicide. The only thing that stopped me was a voice inside of me – not one I recognized – telling me that I wasn’t going to kill myself and abandon my son to either the foster care system or to the family members who had contributed to my inability to function well as an adult. I got blackout drunk instead of ending my life and withdrew from school the next day. I sought therapy, but had difficulty not giving the answers I knew would enable me to get my financial aid back the next year. I wanted help, but didn’t trust that I could get the help I needed without losing custody of my son, so, I masked and dabbled at getting better, fooling myself probably more than anyone else would have been fooled, who really knew me. But, then, no one really knew me, so, it worked, until it didn’t.

Nine months later, I found out I was pregnant again. So, by the time I was 24 years old, I was single-parenting two children, while battling the many highs and lows of being inside of my head, and not knowing how to trust and reach out for the help I didn’t know I needed. Always needing to be in control of how other people saw me, so that I would not be in danger of losing my children, I sought all kinds of parenting help and supports for my children and what they needed based on their behavioral actions; always reacting to the things in the moment, seldom able to slow down enough to recognize or relate to the things that had come before.

I wound up in a long-term relationship, which has been almost 18 years long now, with someone as equally damaged in other ways, which neither of us understood or recognized. It’s been one chaotic, toxic, roller-coaster of a life that my two oldest kids have been subjected to, poor them.

Relations between my almost 27 year old son and I are intermittent and somewhat strained. However, one thing I have determined, no matter how much he may have given up on me, I will NEVER give up on him, and I have hope and a sort of confidence that the time will come when he needs to address and resolve some stuff inside of him, that will be easier to accomplish if I’m still around for him to come to. I plan on being here. In the meantime, I’m still working on and working through my things, so that I’m ready and capable, not just willing when that time comes.

My 20 year old daughter has her first child due next April. I’ve been asked if she’s ready to be a mom. My answer? “More ready than I was at her age.” However, she has something that I didn’t have; a mother determined to be available when she needs that support and encouragement. I’m also learning to honor and respect boundaries, not pushing and forcing myself into her life and plans with her boyfriend regarding her pregnancy and parenting plans. I let her know as often as possible how much I love her, how proud I am of her, and that I am going to be available when she needs me.

All of that being said, I cry on an almost daily basis because I’m struggling with the dark dog of depression (among other things) and parenting a pre-schooler who is showing signs that she may be on the autism spectrum, while in relationship with her daddy who struggles with his emotional and mental health issues as much as I do mine. Life is difficult and overwhelming, so is the depression. Yet, somehow, I manage to get up and get out of bed, get my little to school, and keep my current and future relationships with my children dangling in front of me as the incentive to keep moving forward.