Can you fix me?

I have been having a debate with myself forever over what is coincidence and what is meant to be. Do things happen for a reason or is there no rhyme or reason?

When we bought our house almost a year ago, we had some problems with the dryer. It was taking forever for the clothes to dry. I really didn’t notice it after awhile. But then other things started to break. The fan went out in our refrigerator. The dishwasher started to leak. I needed to get someone out to the house to fix these problems. While the guy was here, he might as well check the dryer.

I started to time how long it took to dry clothes. Three hours for a big load! I knew it was long but I didn’t realize it was that long. Maybe I just needed a new dryer?

The guy came out and pulled tons of lint out of the machine. It was backed up into the vent inside of the house. Big time fire hazard that I wasn’t even thinking about fixing until other things started to break.

Why did I ignore the biggest problem that needed fixing?

I think that I ignored it because it was still working, however dangerously and inefficiently. It only became a problem for me when something else wasn’t working at all.

This past week I went to see the counselor alone for the first time. I never would have set up an appointment by myself for myself. My husband insisted on talking to someone when we were having problems with our son. Now our son is doing so much better and here I am going to the counselor talking about myself.

I asked the counselor if she could fix me. She said that she could not, but I can. How come I ignored this for so long? I want to fix everyone else, but don’t want to work on the broken parts of myself.

I think the way I’ve been living my life has been working, although at times not very well.

The counselor asked me what are three things I wanted to keep the same about myself:

  1. My grit/determination
  2. Honesty
  3. Continue seeking self-reflection/growth

Then she asked me what are three things I want to change:

  1. Worry less/relax more
  2. Healing
  3. Be at peace

When discussing these goals, I realized that I was afraid. Part of me wants to stay the way I am. The demons I know aren’t as scary as the unknown. My anxiety and inability to relax has given me great determination as a runner. My depression and quest for full healing and making peace with the past is what I attribute to my honest self-reflection as a writer.

If I am able to change the things that I perceive to be negative in my life, will I still be able to keep the positive outcomes that was ignited by my pain?

Will I still have grit if I have nothing to run from? Will I still be able to write if I was totally happy with my life? Would it be worth giving up some of my grit in order to be at peace or relax more?

Would I even be me anymore? It was very confusing.

Some of the negative things in my life I turned into blessings. If I get rid of the bad, would I purge the good that came out of it as well?

Do I have to give up the good things I have to get the good things I want?

I guess the big question I can ask myself is why I didn’t do anything about the major problems until something else wasn’t working?

Why didn’t I start writing my book until I lost my job?

Why didn’t I ask for help until my house was almost on fire?

I was so upset when I lost my job, when my son was acting up, and when several appliances stopped working. But I now believe that God used these things for my own good to spur me into action that I needed to take. Maybe I am wrong, but I can’t believe that any of these things have been a coincidence.

 

 

 

Cycles of life

I’m at the period in my life when I’m feeling the most hormonal.

It’s crazy like the very beginning, without the excitement of what is yet to come.

I’m getting older, midlife.

Hot flashes.

My body aches.

My skin itches.

My stomach bloats.

I feel ugly and fat.

My clothes don’t fit right.

Lights seem glaringly brighter.

Sounds normally tolerated scratch like nails on a chalkboard.

I feel irritated and angry.

Like PMS on steroids.

What sounds like my normal voice to me comes across as an attack to them.

They ask why I’m being so rude.

But I respond in my regular tone.

What do you mean?

I cry at the slightest provocation.

My eyes are red and puffy wrapped in dark circles.

I want to be left alone, yet I don’t.

Mood swings.

Laughter mixed with tears of sorrow.

Anxiety kicks in, marching in double time.

I am exhausted.

I can’t sleep.

I stare at the clock.

Is it too early to get up?

When sleep finally comes, I wake up soaking wet.

He is cold, but the room is on fire.

I feel hot, not in a good way.

I feel stinky, gritty, grimy, and gross.

My body seems to have forgotten how to regulate itself right.

I want to wish time away so this will be over.

But I don’t have extra time to spare.

I know in a few days I’ll feel better.

Then the whole cycle starts again.

 

 

 

 

Another weekend, another party!

Another weekend, another party!

I wonder why my son always hangs out with his friends?

Friday night, game night. Shuffling the cards we have been dealt.

Saturday, a murder mystery party. Strangers in even stranger clothes.

Will the weekend adventures never end?

My son came home late last night. Who is in the house tonight? Strangers that he’s never met. Dressed up in some garish garb. Food prepared, glasses clink. Questioning who the killer is.

We talk and laugh the night away. I wonder if he thinks it’s strange?

Then an unusual thought occurred to me. I had more friends over this weekend than my parents did my whole childhood. Maybe that is what he would find strange. He doesn’t know the me from back then. The person I spent half my life being is just another stranger.

I wonder why my son always hangs out with his friends?

Another weekend, another party!

Until next weekend…

Depression

As I was getting ready for the last show, I saw a car pull up to the theater long before the show started. It was a navy blue car, the same color, model, and make as my dad’s car. The passenger door opened and a very large man struggled to get out of the car with a cane. He had his head down, but I could see a mass of white hair and a long white beard.

I knew my mom was coming to the show. But was my dad? Would he finally tell me that he was proud of me? The man looked up and I realized that he wasn’t my dad. I felt sadness for what never was and what probably will never be.

Depression, it hit me the hardest in my late teens and early 20’s. As I mentioned before, my childhood was the hardest period of my life. My brother Matt, who is less than 2 years younger than me, had some very serious health and mental health issues. He was violent towards me, towards others, and to our pets. He hit me, pulled my hair, and clawed my arms on a regular basis. I think he killed my cats. He threatened to poke my eyes out with a knife. The list goes on…seriously, just read the book once I finish it.

My dad was depressed too. He withdrew from the family. When he was home he would sit on the couch and ignore us while watching TV. If the house was too quiet, I worried that I would find him dead somewhere.

My dad is the most pessimistic person I know. His life mottoes are ‘sh!t happens’ and ‘life’s a bitch, then you die’. He never hugged us or told us that he loved us. We never had father-daughter ‘dates’. Nothing. Instead he told us that we were stupid and laughed at our feelings, dreams, and fears.

I consider myself a realist, which probably is just a nice way of saying pessimist. But I will never be like my dad. I will never tear someone else down to lift myself up.

My dad is everything I don’t want to be. He never took care of himself. He ate a lot of junk food. He never exercised. He weighs almost 350 lbs. He hasn’t brushed his teeth in years. He hasn’t showered in almost a year. He is lazy and hates to work. He doesn’t clean up after himself and is a hoarder. Once one building is full, it’s time to build another shed. He doesn’t finish anything he starts. My parents built their house in the 1970’s and the upstairs bathroom still has not been finished. Simple repairs lie in disrepair for years. He is even too lazy to bother getting dressed if he doesn’t want to.

Maybe that is why I do everything the opposite. I eat healthy, run marathons, can be a workaholic, try to maintain a healthy weight, get things done right away, and am a clean freak. I don’t like things that he likes just because he likes them. But the truth is, I am still his daughter. I can’t hide from that.

In early childhood, when my dad emotionally checked out, I was called up to the plate. I started trying to fix the problems at home. Nothing was kept from me. I was handling responsibilities that no child should have to handle.

A 6 year old should never have to watch her 3 younger brothers in the lake even for a few minutes. My youngest brother almost drowned that day.

A 13 year old shouldn’t be making the call whether or not the neighbor should come over and put our dog out of her misery when she was suffering a painful death. I made the wrong call and I have to live with that.

A college student shouldn’t have to help raise 3 teenagers. But that is what I was doing.

I home-schooled one year of middle school and two of high school so I could help my mom out. Even though I attended college in the drunkest city of the United States, I never went to a single college party. Most Saturday nights you could find me at home helping shower my disabled brother. Then I graduated from college, got married two months later, and right away started a family of my own. At times I feel like I am suffocating.

Sometimes I yearn to be the child I never was. In some ways, my kids are older than me. I gave them everything I didn’t have. The pendulum swung too far to the other side. I only told them the things they needed to know. I only let them be kids. I gave them few responsibilities and chores. I shouldered that responsibility so they didn’t have to. I was wrong. I realize that now. But how can we be functional parents if we both had nothing but dysfunction to model from?

I get depressed when I have memories of the horrible things that have happened to me. The PTSD depression is the worst I’ve ever experienced. Burying my painful feelings in the moment is a future time bomb. The feelings I’ve repressed have a way of coming out tenfold. The depression from that is intense and irrational. The urge to end it all is hard to fight. By the grace of God I was able to make it through to tell you about it. I want to say that will never happen again, but here I am stirring up my demons.

I actively mourn the childhood I never had. There is something joyous and magical most people experience that I’ve never had. It is utterly devastating. I don’t know if I will ever be able to get over it. It is the kind of depression that no pill can cure.

My life is everything I’ve ever wanted it to be now, yet somehow I cannot outrun the demons of my past and find peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some April Fool’s Day joke

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Yes, it’s snowing again! I told my husband this morning that it was supposed to snow today. He said nice try, I do realize it is April Fool’s Day. But I wasn’t joking.

I decided not to play any pranks this year. Maybe I am getting old. I was just not feeling it. Plus I couldn’t think of anything great that I didn’t already previously do.

Sometimes life can be a big enough joke and today was one of those days.

In February, I had a meeting scheduled with the dean of students to talk about Alex’s graduation. I was feeling very positive after the meeting although I was feeling very negative going into it. We came up with a plan that involved a lot of choices on Alex’s part. I thought it was a great plan and I was feeling more positive than I was in a very long time.

Alex applied at the local tech college for this fall. He got a job working in retail. Some days he has to be at work on the weekends at the crack of dawn or work late on a Saturday night. Things have been going great. I’ve even noticed a greater effort on his part to get up earlier and be to school on time. Until this morning, that is.

I was worried that I would be getting a call from the school and I did. But it wasn’t the type of call I was expecting. I received a call from the school saying Alex didn’t even show up today. I was really confused since things seemed to have turned around so wonderfully. I even asked the secretary if it was some kind of April Fool’s Day joke. I also received an email from the school counselor saying that my son would also be dropped from a class if his absence was unexcused.

I was stressing. Now I am not so sure my son will be graduating next month.

I tried to get a hold of my son to no avail. I was feeling very worried and upset. I told my husband what was going on and he could tell from my expression that it wasn’t a joke. We blamed each other, argued a bit, and then came up with a fairly solid game plan.

My son texted me back a while later. He was in a dead zone when I called. He said that he got an excuse from a teacher to work on a group project. He would straighten everything out with the school later. Why didn’t he just tell us that ahead of time??

The April Fool’s Day joke was on me. The strange thing is that nobody really was playing the joke.

Anxiety

A couple of weeks ago, I told Paul that once the kids leave home I will worry less. With less stress and anxiety, I would stop taking my medication for acid re-flux.

As a child, I lived with a constant stomachache. Sometimes it was a dull ache and sometimes it was a sharp fiery burn. I had a lot of nausea. I had it down to a science how much food I could eat to just feel okay. My parents never took me in and after awhile it became normal to me.

My autistic brother Matt also had stomach issues. He did a lot of gagging with his tourette’s. There were times that he even threw up at the table between the acid re-flux and tourette’s. It was not unusual for him not be able to keep his breakfast down and barely make it to the bathroom in time. There was a period of time that his valve between his stomach and intestines closed and he wasn’t able to keep any food down at all. He was very sick and almost died before the doctors figured out what the problem was and surgically corrected it.

As you can imagine, my stomachaches were ignored. It wasn’t until I was over 40 that I went to the doctor because of it because I was in a lot of pain. I probably had an ulcer. The doctor put me on 1 Prilosec a day and when that didn’t take care of my stomachache, I was put on 2 a day. It’s been a couple of years now.

I’ve always attributed my stomachaches to stress which I believe greatly aggravates it. Although there may be a genetic component to it since multiple family members have similar issues.

Childhood was the most stressful period of my life to date. Not only was my autistic brother violent towards me on a regular basis, he also had some very serious medical concerns as well. My dad was abusive. It was no wonder I had stomachaches.

It wasn’t all that long after I left my childhood home that I had a family of my own. Having 3 little children was stressful. I didn’t get a lot of help from either Paul’s or my family. I had a lot of stomachaches.

Then I helped my husband run a business while having three teenagers. I had a lot of stomachaches.

I am no longer running a business. One of my children has moved out and soon will another. Maybe I wouldn’t worry so much if I wasn’t always stressed out.

Then Paul said something interesting. Alissa, you will always have anxiety. You will just find something else to worry about. I thought of this as I reread my old journals. They were filled with anxieties and worries.

Sometimes I feel so full of anxiety for no apparent reason at all. I feel like something bad is going to happen and for some reason it is my fault. I felt that way a lot as a kid. If I wasn’t hyper-vigilant enough and missed the signs that my brother was going to attack someone, then it was my fault because I didn’t stop it. But the truth is that sometimes no matter what I did or didn’t do, I couldn’t have stopped it. The truth also is that I have lived my whole life with an anxiety disorder.

What makes me think that someday it is just going to go away when it was always there? The smartest thing that I can do is accept the cards I have been given and play them as best as I can.

I can’t relax. I get a lot done.

I worry. I care too much.

I have useless nervous energy. Running burns it off and makes me feel human.

I feel anxiety. I can help others by understanding their struggle.

I try to control things I can’t. I’m not to blame for things outside of my control. I realize that now.

Doing rituals made me feel safe when I wasn’t.

Isn’t overthinking better than not thinking at all?

I have the solution for every what if scenario whirling around my head.

I have to run back home to make sure I turned off the coffee pot. Got a keurig.

I’m not saying that I am no longer anxious. I just learned to live with it.

I have many fears. But I won’t let that stop me because I learned over time how to manage it to my advantage.

I learned to cope. I’m afraid that I wouldn’t be able to function without it. Strange because most people would think that I couldn’t function with it.

 

The bittersweet end

Today is the bittersweet day after the show is over. I am relieved to have more time on my hands. I even started working on my book again. But I will miss playing the part. This role was one of my all time favorites. I enjoyed working with the cast and made some new friends.

Things did end up getting a little out of hand with the special needs child backstage this past weekend. I am glad that I mentioned something though. The special needs girl latched on to another teen girl that was totally inappropriate. She said that she would die without the other girl’s attention and demanded to know what she talked about with other people. She even followed the girl out into the wings and hung on her right before going on stage. This behavior was upsetting to everyone and I’m glad I spoke up even though I took some criticism for it.

I did make a new friend, another runner. We are planning on going running together this week. I’m not sure if it will work out. This other woman is younger than me and qualified twice for the Boston Marathon. She is younger and faster. I told her if it doesn’t work out that I wouldn’t have any hard feelings. We have a lot in common, so even if it doesn’t work out maybe we could still be friends.

Friday night, after the first show, the cast that likes to hang around and celebrate got kicked out of the theater after the last patron left. So it was suggested that the next night I would have a pool party at my house. I was already planning that for the second weekend, but last minute threw it together for the first weekend as well. Both nights I ended up going to bed at 3 AM. THREE IN THE MORNING!! I don’t remember ever staying up that late which made the Sunday performance a little hard.

I have a lot of new friends (and enemies) now that I have a house with an indoor pool. For the first time in my life, I am really popular. I want to think people like me for me, but I really don’t care anymore. It makes me feel special, liked. In a strange way it makes me feel like I can make up now for the childhood I never had.

I had some friends and family come out to the show. Some lady even asked me for my autograph. Yeah, like I am ever going to be famous for my acting. But it felt good.

Something strange happened. My mom came to the show and my stage husband raved on and on to her about how wonderful I was on stage and off. My mother replied, “Is that so?” and then spoke to me about a problem she was having. She wanted my help in solving the problem. Why would she talk to me about something like that right after a show? Why didn’t she rave about the show? Or me? Or my daughter who had her first solo in a performance? I really felt hurt and wondered if she was always like that or if it was the first time I noticed it?

Someone asked me why I liked performing. I really had to think about it. I like to be somebody else. I love the costumes and the makeup. I love to sing. I love to be challenged. The strange thing about being an anxious person is that I don’t feel a lot more anxious being on stage than I already feel. Which in a weird way frees me to try things that most people would be anxious about. Plus I already know how to deal with anxiety. Does that make sense?

It was great to be in the show, but I am ready to get back to my regular programming with a couple of new friends in tow.

 

Going home

Today my mom and I went to see Matt for his birthday. He spends the day at a program for autistic children and adults. While we were there, Matt’s caregiver asked him to tell us about his special morning in a high pitched sing song voice reserved for a small child. Everyone was optimistic and cheerful, except me.

I felt such sadness I could cry. My brother should be meeting up with his friends for his birthday, or maybe going out to eat with his wife and children after driving home from a long day of work. His normal isn’t right.

I feel such grief every time I see someone with a developmental disability, especially my brother, that I don’t want to be there. I feel guilty for visiting out of obligation. Visiting makes me think about the families and all of their lost dreams. He shouldn’t be putting stickers on a chart for good behavior, he is a grown man. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

I feel tired today. I slept good last night. But the night before was restless with nightmares. I was triggered by the developmentally disabled girl backstage. I heard people ask her sister what was wrong with her. I remembered all the times I was asked that about my brother. I got sick of explaining after awhile. They never asked about me.

Then I dropped my mom off at home. I went in and said hi to my dad. He didn’t get many birthday cards or calls this year. I wonder if it will be his last. He looks so old and weak. He rarely leaves the house. No one really cares about him much anymore, certainly not my mother. I want to reach out and help him. But he was a very cruel father. Why should I care? Why is it so painful to see the consequences of his bad choices when I was one of the people he hurt?

I walked through the house. There are still clothes from the 1980’s hanging in the closets. Hoarders. Piles of mail on the table. The same linoleum lies on the floor from my childhood worn with holes in it. Bags full of food line the floor. Dirty dishes clutter the counters. Nothing must be thrown away, but much more to be collected.

I feel depressed. But writing about it makes me feel better. I am starting to process how I feel and why I feel the way I do. I feel sad that my family is broken and nothing I do can fix it.

On the way back home, I drove through town and did not avoid it by driving through the outskirts. I drove by my Aunt Grace and Uncle Harold’s house. I drove past the area where my grandparents lived. I remembered how the town looked when I was a child. It was alive then with parades and festivals. But now it is a ghost town. Small town businesses closed. New houses stand where old homes once stood.

Everything has changed. But I still remember how it used to be back when my aunt, uncle, and grandparents were still alive. The town was alive then and that’s how I want to remember it with my loved ones alive in it. But that is not how it is anymore.

That is what it is like going home. The broken things still have not been fixed. The town and relatives that made my life magical as a child are no longer there. Emptiness.

Writing helps me process the way I feel. I think I understand why it is so hard to go home. Maybe you would feel the same way.

 

Leaving tonight?

I thought that things would be a little less crazy this week, but I was wrong.

My son was trying to sell something online for us and almost got scammed. A person sent my son a check for over the asking price for the object and told him to take it to the bank right away.  He did because the bank was closing soon and he didn’t know what to do. Then the person was going to have his “moving person” swing by and pick up the object along with the extra money for moving the item to another state. It seemed a little fishy, but everything happened so fast that I didn’t stop my son.

When Paul heard about it later, he worried it was some sort of money laundering scheme. He dug around online and found out it was a scam. The scammer sends a legitimate looking check for over the price and tells the person to give the money to the mover who is stopping by to pick it up. The person who picks it up steals the item and the money then the check bounces. Our item was scheduled to be picked up the day we are leaving for vacation.

Yesterday morning, I went to the bank and expressed my concerns about the check being fraudulent. Upon closer examination, the bank also thought it was a scam. Unfortunately, when the check bounces my son’s account with be charged. I feel bad that I didn’t stop my son from putting the check into his account. We both thought something wasn’t right but ignored it because they were pressing my son to cash it before the bank closed the night before. It really didn’t give me enough time to think.

It just started the day out bad yesterday. But it didn’t end there. Someone pulled out in front of me and I skidded on the ice almost hitting them. The roads here are still horrible. Last Monday we got a foot of snow. Then we had 4 days of temps in the double digits below zero, followed by an ice storm, followed by more cold weather so the salt didn’t melt the ice.

Oh, it gets better. Then my husband went to the dental hygienist and she refused to treat him because his blood pressure was too high. Yesterday Paul had several meetings with key clients to try to save accounts. After I lost my position at the company we previously owned, clients got a little skittish with all of the changes. The meetings were stressful for Paul and he was running late to his appointment. His blood pressure was 185/107. They told him he needed to see his doctor immediately.

Paul had appointments all day, but kept monitoring his BP. His BP has been borderline high for years. By the end of the day, his BP was still high and the nurse said to take him to the ER since he also had a slight headache. Off to the ER we went. I was paranoid by all of the illnesses we were exposed to last night. If I didn’t think my husband could wind up dead during the night from a stroke, I wouldn’t have risked it. Ah, the things we do for love.

We spent the evening with Paul in a hospital bed, in a gown with an IV in his arm watching the state of the union address. The nurse came in and jokingly said that the SOTU was giving her high blood pressure. Even though no fight ensured about politics, Paul’s BP was still high when we left so they gave him medication. We left to drive home through another snow storm. Big snowflakes and sleet pattered against the windows, but we made it home safely. I certainly did not want to go back to the ER.

This morning there was 4 inches of snow over glare ice. Arabella fell on her way out to the car for school. It’s just nasty out there. Paul spent hours plowing everyone out. Then tonight we are expecting freezing rain followed by another 6 inches of snow. Paul and I are planning on flying out early tomorrow morning for a sailing vacation in the British Virgin Islands with friends. I hope we can leave.

I will be taking some time off of blogging. You are probably sick of my whining and complaining anyway. When I get back, I will write a travel series about the trip and lighten things up a little. I try to do that after things get a little heavy. Then I will be back at it again.

Well, I better get packing.

Goal 8: Try not to be too hard on myself

When I was a child, my parents were very hard on me. They expected perfection and I tried to deliver. The better behaved I was, the more I was loved.

I was punished for not being good enough. My parents had a hard enough time with my autistic sibling, they didn’t need any problems from me.

When I got a bad grade in elementary school, my dolls were taken away from me for a semester.

I am hard on myself to this very day. If I don’t accomplish enough in a day, I feel very anxious.

So it is no surprise that when I had kids, I tried to be the perfect parent. I thought that if I was the best parent I could be that my kids would turn out the way I wanted them to. If I was loving enough, they would get good grades and like school. If they were disciplined right, they wouldn’t try drugs, etc…(Insert problem here).

Let’s be totally honest, if kids do something wrong the first place society looks is at the parents. What did the parents do wrong to have a child like that? I am just as guilty. There is some truth to that statement, but some kids just make bad choices against their parents wishes.

My own mother faced a lot of blame for having a violent autistic child in the 1980’s.

I tried to be the best parent I could be and that has to be good enough whatever my children choose.

It was so easy when they were babies. I had full control. I decided where we would go. I picked out the little outfits that they were going to wear. They ate what I made.

I tried to share my values and beliefs with them. But I’ll admit, as honest as I am, I lied to my children all the time. I lied to them about who I was. I tried to hide my faults. I pretended to like cartoons and Barney when I really wanted to be head banging to hard rock and watching horror movies. I didn’t swear around them and said a lot of nice words like please and thank you.

Hey, get me a beer was replaced by may I please have some more milk. Gangsta rap music was replaced with catchy tunes like I love you, you love me..we’re a happy family..

I hated pretending to be perfect and being someone I wasn’t. I always just thought that was a part of being a good parent though.

Then my kids grew up. I no longer picked out their little outfits. We stopped reading books together and listening to baby music. I was slowly more free to be me.

Part of the process of letting go is learning to fully be me again. It is losing some of my identity as a mother. Part of that is also showing my kids who I really am. I will share my book with them when they are ready and someday my blog as well.

I also have to accept that the choices my children make might not be what I have in mind for them. I have to be less hard on myself and them when they screw up. I also have to be less hard on myself when I am not perfect.

Perfection should not be my goal. If it is, I will live a life of disappointment because it is unattainable. Plus it annoys the crap out of my family. It is difficult to unlearn something that is so ingrained in me. But it is worth a try.

Maybe I would be a better person if I was a little less perfect. Now doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron?