Real Life

Phew. It’s anxiety today. Man, it’s anxiety a lot of days.

I’m tired of anxiety. I think I’m starting to have anxiety about whether my anxiety will ever pass.

Why does anxiety feel like running around in circles? It feels like I’m running around putting out fires constantly, except there are no actual fires. I’m putting out imaginary fires. THAT is frustrating.

And futile.

Lately, I’ve been longing to have a job besides mom. You know, something to consume my time. The idea of going somewhere, working and having my focus be work is really appealing. I think I’m desiring a way to take my mind off of my family things.

The family things are heavy.

I’m homeschooling our oldest. She had a terrible year of bullying and just needs some recovery time. But, god damn, its a lot of responsibility to parent someone AND make sure they learn algebra.

The toddler toddles and whines and is currently attempting to roll up the 8′ x 10′ rug onto himself. He’ll probably get stuck soon…

I get a call, text, email about Evan every day. It’s okay, nothing too catastrophic, but I feel like I’m the teacher’s personal OnStar representative. Like she can just hit the button and I’m there. I suppose I should implement boundaries. I tried that last year…that’s when he got suspended. Sigh…

I think this just might be life.

Yesterday, Tess asked me “Why can’t things be less stressful?” She was referring to her dance class where she is learning something new every single week. It’s stressful for her. In my sage wisdom,  I responded that she wouldn’t become a better dancer without the stress. Someday, once she knows this whole dance, it will go back to being just fun and free. Until then, its stressful.

Maybe life feels so stressful to me, because I’m learning something new. My new medicine has my mood swings controlled and so I’m finally feeling what I’m told is “normal”. Except it feels damn stressful, because I can feel all the things and numbing doesn’t work like it once did.

But maybe, if I take my own advice and learn to handle this anxiety and stress? Maybe then there will come a time when I can dance the routine of life with fun and freedom.

Until then, I’m just learning how to cope.

Candidly,

Ash

Learning is Enough

I don’t know what it is about a toddler that just sucks the life out of me. Actually, toddlers aren’t so bad as long as you stick to an exact routine, never leave the house and always give them what they want.

Let’s face it though – that’s not happening.

Today, I’m worn out from yesterday. We attended a four hour pool party with the toddler. Basically, that is my definition of hell. Maybe its my propensity for anxiety, but I’m terrified the child will drown. Add in that he seems to have no fear of anything and that alone could do me in. Added to all of this was the wonderful opportunity to meet new people. This was a kick-off party for the school year. You know, where everyone knows someone and they are reunited. Unless you are brand new, in which case, you get to meet everyone for the first time…in a swimsuit.

Because we all have so much confidence when wearing a swimsuit.

It was {not} great.

My nerves were on edge the whole time. I tried to stick to my health plan. I felt really proud at the beginning when I ate fruit, veggies and humus instead of fried chicken. Then, the bastards, I mean really awesome planner people that I love, brought out brownies and cookies. After consuming a brownie, I realized I had ventured into stress eating to cope with the environs. I pressed on for another hour, but eventually gave up and we went home early.

I’m not proud of how I handled my anxiety. It occurred to me on the way home that not once did I deep breathe or use any of the coping mechanisms I’ve learned. I knew the day would be stressful and not aligned with my health plan, but did I take any steps to prepare?

Nope, not one.

But I’m learning.

Sometimes, it has to be enough to just learn from an experience. I struggle to let it be, but I’m working on it this time around.

Next time?

I’ll set a timer on my phone to take a break in the bathroom every half hour to breathe. I’ll bring a treat that is on my health plan so that I’m not tempted by brownies and cookies. I might even see if someone else can take the tiger, I mean toddler, for the day.

Yes, sometimes learning has to be enough. After all, if I’m not learning, then how am I evolving and growing?

Good things to remember.

Candidly,

Ash

The Fiction Surrounding Addiction

I remember in fifth grade learning about addiction. Instantly it was villainized. Unfortunately, the majority of D.A.R.E. programs simply inspire anxiety and fear. Don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer my kid not get addicted to drugs.

I also don’t want them to live in constant fear of being one of the statistics or horror stories their guidance counselor showed them.

Somewhere there is balance, I believe.

Interestingly enough, D.A.R.E. was not my first experience with addiction.

Watching my mom drink Diet Coke was.

Today, I sooooo get my mom. I’m addicted to Mountain Dew. How do I know this? The moment things go wrong, the moment stress supercedes my ability to cope? I stop for a 32 ounce.

Now, there are much worse things to which I could be addicted. There are worse coping mechanisms.

That doesn’t make my addiction any less harmful. Other addictions might be more harmful. It doesn’t change that I am addicted and it hurts me.

Comparison is the Thief of Compassion

There is a quote from someone somewhere that goes like this…

Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I would venture to say its also the thief of compassion. Comparison allows me to lie to myself about the problems I have. Its easier to ignore my problems when I can say they are not as bad as someone else’s. In reverse, I also can destroy myself comparing how awful my problem is.

More than all of this though, it’s really easy for me to think I’m better than someone else simply because my addiction is legal.

The fiction surrounding addiction is this:

It can’t happen to me.

Now that is a myth. It can happen to anyone and chances are many of us would be able to say we are addicted to something or another. When you boil it down, addiction isn’t this giant, scary thing.

Addiction is a coping mechanism gone awry.

This is what I know for sure…

I am very fortunate that the worst thing my mother did was drink a Diet Coke when she felt tired, in pain or stressed. Had it been something else – something like heroin?My life would be very different.

Addiction definitely comes down to choices, but it also comes down to how pain and stress were handled in our homes as children.

The choices made in my home when I was a child have made all the difference.

Candidly,

Ash

 

 

Accept & Adapt

I’m not much of a sports person. I’ve confessed my lack of understanding when it comes to the running fad. It’s not that I wasn’t introduced to sports when I was young or that I was completely awful at them (I wasn’t completely good at them either). I just find them lacking meaning. Or I struggle to find the meaning. One of the two.

I’m an introvert (will I ever stop writing that sentence?). I’d rather do things on my own to be quite honest. Doing things with other people is exhausting. Maybe this is why I like writing? Sure, someone can critique or edit things, but the actual act of writing? Solo mission.

Sports tend to be a team effort. Sure, there are exceptions – golf, bowling, etc. Some people argue those aren’t even sports at all. Regardless, one of the things I don’t like about sports are the variables. When I played basketball, we would practice plays every single day. Then, we would play in a game and everything would be chucked out the window, because the defense would do something that made our play ineffective. The coach (usually my dad) would call us into a huddle and come up with something completely new. And so our team would adapt.

Here is where it gets tricky for me. I’m not a good adapter. Sure, in my youth, I would go along with things and try my best to adjust. I’d run the play as it was drawn on the little white board and then, suddenly, I’d have the ball and be clueless. Truly, if I could have yelled “Ahhh!”, dropped the ball and run out the room, then I would have.

In the game of life, I have similar issues. Routine is really beneficial to me most of the time. Actually, I like to call it rhythm, because that is a more creative word for something pretty mundane. Yet, things happen. Sick people, depression, behavior problems, job impositions, etc. Maintaining a rhythm is akin to playing a flute in the midst of a heavy metal rock band. Sure, I might be playing to the beat, but nobody is hearing me and my work feels futile. Maintaining rhythm is an inglorious feat.

Just Adapt

I love the people who think rhythm is easy. It is for them. They flow with the fluctuations of life, letting go of what is not serving them. Such beautiful, fortunate people. I’m not one of them. Typically, when I talk to these people about my inability to adapt, then they will say something like “You just have to make yourself do it.” I stare at them like they have a third eye. In fact, I’m fairly certain they do have a third eye. How else can their resilience be explained? Surely, they are super humans.

I am not a super human.

Usually, when something throws me off my game, then I internally have a meltdown. My inner persona is screaming “What is happening here?!?!” while clutching her head and turning in circles. On the exterior? Smile. Smile. Smile. No one knows you are freaking out. Smile. Smile. Smile.

But First, Acceptance.

I am slowly discovering that problem probably isn’t so much about adaptation. The problem is my inability to accept change. Calling it a problem feels icky. Let’s find a new word.  Juxtaposition? Challenge? Opportunity.

My opportunity is trying to accept change. Remember inner persona girl screaming and clutching her head. She needs a moment. She also needs a steady hand, a comforter. Because I’m smiling on the outside, my inner persona gets ignored almost all the time. I’m the only one who can see her. I’m her only hero.

I’ve got options. I can tell someone what she’s doing, letting them know that the smile is just a mask. I’m getting better at this. The number of creepy conversations my husband has had with smiley, crazy girl should earn him a medal. Other options include listening to her, metaphorically stroking her back with deep breathing, encouraging her, reminding her of her strengths. Also, holding up a giant sign in front of her that says…

Everything’s not lost.

Once she has accepted what is happening, she’s actually quite resourceful. More resourceful than I anticipated she could be. Her adaptability is stellar. She just needs to accept things first. I wonder why that is so hard for her? Oh, that’s right!

I’ve been ignoring her for decades.

Well, I’m guessing it will take some time to help her learn the path of acceptance.

Here’s to the journey!

Candidly,

Ash

Illusions of Sadness

When my first child was about six months old, she started to spend a lot more time playing, trying to roll and crawl. She was adorable. I loved her infinitely.

I did not love playing with all of the rattles and various infant toys. In fact, sitting with her, playing with her, it was not my favorite – at all. I was, of course, guilt-ridden by this. How awful is it to NOT want to play with your child? I reasoned that it was because she was so small. I mean, rattles are only so enchanting to adults.

Maybe that was all it was.

I didn’t have much time to figure it out, because we proceeded to have two more children in the following two years. Three children in three years made for endless messes, exhaustion and lots of sibling entertainment. Playing with my children wasn’t as much of an option in those days. Yet, every now and then, on a low-key weekend, I would remember with great mortification that I had such little tolerance for play.

Seven years later, our fourth child was born. It was so different this time. First, my mental health was addressed thoroughly in prenatal and post-natal care. It meant that I couldn’t nurse this small one like I had the rest. It also meant that I enjoyed caring for him since I wasn’t fighting with my mental illness 24/7. Yet, as he turned the corner of six-months-old, I found my old familiar “enemy” emerged.

Playtime.

This time, after years of therapy, I could feel all of it.  No longer shutting down all emotion, I now felt all the emotions.  All of the happiness and joy, but also all of the guilt, all of the sadness. I could no longer chalk my dislike of playtime up to boredom, because I didn’t feel boredom.

But what was it that I felt?

I spent a good number of days sitting with the discomfort while we played. Actually, I spent weeks that way. I wondered if I had some sort of inner deficit because maybe my mother didn’t play with me or enjoy the day-to-day play. It was possible, but it didn’t really resonate. As the youngest of three siblings, I knew I had plenty of playmates around from the very start. Plus, it just didn’t resonate with that feeling inside me. I wasn’t sad. I was just taught – like a rope stretched tightly.

An inner tensions, that’s what I felt as we played and I pretended to be surprised by simple peek-a-boo. If I sat playing long enough, then the inner tension would manifest as frustration. Not really with the baby or in that moment, but in snappy responses to the older kids or a penchant for eruption at disruption.

Then, one day, and it took much too long for this to occur to me, I realized that tension was basically anxiety. As I watched him attempt to capture a rolling ball, something clicked inside of me. Anxiety takes us away from the present moment.

All of this time, I had been playing with the little ones – I had actually been somewhere else. Sometimes, I was imagining all of the things needing to be done elsewhere. Other times, I was imaging the future in which my child would finally realize that the source and basis for all of the problems in their life was one thing – me.

An utter, incapacitating fear gripped me. What if I was doing all of this incorrectly? What if I was screwing up an entire human being? I tried deep breaths, to stay in the moment, but I couldn’t and we ended our already short fifteen minute play time early.

For days, I tried to reason with the anxiety, to improve this playtime experience, but nothing would alleviate the escalating tension during our play.

The intimacy of playtime gnawed too sharply at me – my inner rope fraying as the strands were severed one by one. As I began to see the way that anxiety affected me during play, I started to see it in other areas too. The distraction of playing on my phone while he slept in my lap or took a bottle.  The avoidance of starting new foods or routines.

Yes, my parenting was riddled with anxiety. I started breathing through the routines of our day, staying present in the moment, but found trying to do it for an entire day? Way too difficult. I narrowed my focus onto just breathing and experiencing playtime fully. I reminded myself that there indeed was no wrong way to play. I wasn’t screwing this up. Slowly, I found the joy in that one little area.

One by one the areas of my parenting, the moments in my day, became softer, richer, more alive. I remembered how often my therapist had said, “Anxiety keeps you from living.” I knew it to be true, deep in my core.

It was the start of something very precious, not just for my children and family, but for me as well. As I worked my way through the areas of my life besides parenting, I found deeper meaning and less fear. With less fear, I felt more free and I began to do one of the things I had stopped doing years ago – writing.

Now, hear this, I’m not saying I don’t have anxiety anymore. It is just as large and infiltrating as before, but I’ve found a way to cope, to live, to grow.

I hope you have or will too. Wishing you well.

Candidly,

Ash