I’m getting real tired of having to say this. Seriously. Really. Damn tired. I got a job. I got some new friends who care about me, who reach out to me and want to do things with me, and who love me for who I am. They can accept my highs and lows and even when my daughter refuses to speak to them. They can hand me a tissue and a glass of wine when I burst into tears for no reason. And when I go to work, I come home and I’m TIRED. Most days I don’t have time to call and chat about nonsense. I want to gather my family around me, spend time with my husband and then go to bed. I am not pushing ANYONE away. And if anyone feels that way, well then, maybe the distance has been because you’re the one walking away from me. And hey, if the shoe fits? Then feel free to lace that bitch up and wear it. I know who I am, and I know who I’m going to actively seek out and spend my time with. I know what’s best for my family and for my daughter, and that’s what I’m basing my decisions on. I’m not thirteen, hell, I’m not 22. I don’t have the mental strength to make calls based on cattiness or he said, she said craziness. If it’s not good for me, my mate, or my kid, it’s not happening. Period. End. I’m not saying this again.
I know it’s been forever, and I’m not even going to attempt to give any explanation other than: Life.
In an attempt to get myself out of my house and into the world, I accepted a job at a florist. I was only supposed to be a driver, but the boss almost immediately promoted me to… I don’t know… florist office do-everything person. I’ll admit she can be a difficult person to work with, but I love her and I love my job. It’s been a little over three months and I’m incredibly happy there. However! There has been a bump in the road because I had to have unexpected back surgery. Anyone who knows me knows I have back issues. Pain, arthritis, sciatica, blah blah blah, whatever. It’s not abnormal to see me walking around with a limp and a grimace. I finally went and received an MRI and saw my exceedingly attractive neurosurgeon. As soon as he walked in the room, I knew. He wanted me to have surgery immediately, but I needed time to prepare and I was able to convince him to give me three weeks. So, here I am now, strapped into a plastic breast plate, unable to move most of upper body, with four screws and two rods in my back. It’s been three weeks since the surgery, which consisted of a one-level spinal fusion, which is when the surgeon fuses two vertebrae together. Fun!
I’m trying to stay positive, but it’s difficult because I feel as though I had made so much progress. Staying at home all day is definitely counter productive to my mental state. It’s not that I’m bored exactly, (I am, don’t get me wrong) or even lonely, (I am that too), but I feel the old urge to sleep. That quiet call from my bed and my brain to return to sleep so I don’t have to think about the pain I’m in or what I might be missing. The days pass by faster in a haze of waking and returning to bed, with a couple of hours in between to groggily watch Doctor Who on Netflix. The brace I’m wearing is, quite literally a prison. There is so little I can do to help my family, I feel so much like a waste of space to them. I know it’s only temporary, but when you have a mental illness and you’re suddenly paired with a physical problem; everything feels inescapable. Normally, the depression and fear that I live with is a horrible swamp that I am under. I can see a light above me, and all I have to do is fight the current and the detritus until I break the surface. But now, I have a stone tied to my ankle. It’s not so heavy that I can’t get my head above the water, but it’s exhausting. I’ll make it, it’s just taking time.
I’ll preface this post by saying that I am not saying anything disparaging against princesses, glitter, pink, stereotypically “girly things,” or the girls that love them. However:
My daughter is a Coraline in a sea of Elsas.
If you’ve never seen it, Coraline is a dark “children’s” movie based on a book about a little girl who finds a passage to another world where she can be happy. But she soon realizes that happiness comes at a price too steep for her to pay, and she has to fight her way out and back to her family. We hesitated in letting Sophie see this movie because even we were a little creeped out by the button-eyed antagonist. See for yourself:
But, of course, just like her mother, she jumped right on the bandwagon and fell in love. She decided MONTHS ago that she would be Coraline for Halloween and we spent hours scouring thrift stores for the aspects of her costume and braving the glue gun to achieve the perfectly crafted dragonfly barrette. Because, again, just like her mother, she is a sucker for accuracy. She didn’t mind a bit having to explain her costume over and over again to every baffled parent. She thought it was “awesome” that she was someone no one had heard of. My weird little heart swelled with pride when she slipped on those yellow rain boots and said, “Yep, I look just like her, Mama! This is the BEST!” I hope she never, ever grows out of this.
That’s her on the left and her buddy Zombie Alice.
I’ve been reading a lot about how vain the current generation has become; especially concerning the rise of the “selfie.” As someone who has struggled her ENTIRE life with loving herself, let me just put it out there: I get it. I GET selfies. And recently, I’ve started taking them. Why? Because I have decided that I am not this deformed and humiliating monster that I have been seeing in the mirror. I have made the conscious decision to be the one in front of the camera instead of always behind it. I refuse to be paralyzed by the incorrect, and, quite frankly, ridiculous notion that taking my own picture makes me seem self-absorbed. Sometimes, the reasoning behind a selfie is that I want to share my happiness with others, and yeah, sometimes it stems from the baser need of wanting others to tell me I look nice. Why is that a problem? Why is it wrong to want to feel validated when you’re feeling down? I’m not going to personally blow up my various news feeds with pictures of myself pouting in a bathroom mirror, but so what if I did? I’m not so sure selfie culture is about vanity, as much as it is about the need to feel legitimized. I’ve spent so much of my life feeling as though I don’t deserve to feel happy or to feel beautiful; and I am finally seeing how wrong that is. I’ve lived for years believing that my face, my body and my mind were so ugly that I was terrifying to others. So, the next time you see a picture of my smiling (or not, as the case may be) face, know that I am mainly posting it for myself; to remind myself that I, too, have a right to feel lovely.
I’ve taken the plunge and decided to volunteer at my daughter’s school this coming Friday. They’re throwing a fair and I signed up to make cupcakes AND take tickets for the pony rides. I figured if I was going to be so out of my element, I may as well allow myself to be surrounded by ponies. It’s such a small thing, but for me, it’s momentous. Not only will I be in a crowd of adults I don’t know, I will also be hedged in by KIDS. Not only that, but I will have to interact with them.
It’s not that I don’t like kids, (I kind of don’t like kids, actually, they are so weird) I just have a hard time talking to anyone who won’t listen to reason. How do you tell a seven year old that no, she can’t actually eat an entire pack of peach cobbler flavored gum and have them see the clarity in that? To be fair, though, a lot of adults I encounter don’t abide by common sense either, so, maybe it won’t be too bad after all. Either way, it will be a new experience for me, and I can’t say I’m exactly looking forward to it, but the thought of it isn’t sending me into convulsions, either.
If you’ve been reading this for any length of time, you are well aware that my daughter has ADHD and a sensory issue. Something I DON’T talk about very often though, are her physical issues. She has a very weird and difficult to diagnose gastrointestinal disorder. I’m not going to go into details for the sake of her privacy and my sanity, however, I will tell you what it’s like to be bipolar and have a kid who’s plumbing isn’t hooked up quite right.
The emotion I feel the most often is guilt. I feel a crushing sense of guilt and defeat because I feel as though somehow, I am the one who did this to her. As though there was something I did, some great rage or lull I had when she was in utero that made her tiny parts come together incorrectly. Was it that time I had sushi? Or that time I fell into a depression and slept for three days? Maybe I laid on my left side too much and she got squished? What exactly did I do to hurt her?
Even parents who aren’t Bipolar suffer from these feelings of guilt. I think from the very first second you see that positive test, your guilt levels rise. For the rest of your life, your actions really have consequences that could ruin a life OTHER than your own. Scary.
Besides the guilt there is often a serious anger. Why my kid? With all the other things that happen in our lives, why MY KID? This feeling is always followed by that familiar weight of guilt the second we walk through the children’s hospital doors and I realize I have no idea what it is to truly suffer. At the end of the visit, I will walk my daughter right out of those doors again, get back in the car, and she will sleep, unencumbered by tubes and wires and beeping machinery, in her very own bed. The selfishness of my feelings is often overwhelming. How dare I be upset that there is this hiccup in her health? But don’t I have a right to be angry? There is no “winning” in this situation, just getting by.
Today, she is missing school because of her problem. This is the fourth time this year so far. And today, we are getting by. One hour at a time, but we’re getting by.
Nate and I often make jokes about how easy it was for the two of us to decide to only have one child. We say that we knew that when she got older, all of our lives would be easier, and our one and only daughter would grow up to be mature and at home with all kinds. So not true. Or, at least, it wasn’t true at first. We realize now that we love our one kid lifestyle. I love being able to pick her up from the bus stop and jet off to get fro-yo without having to worry about nap times, diapers and bottles for a younger sibling. Getting a babysitter or letting her go for a night at a grandparent’s house is easy for us. When she has friends over, I usually get to do my own thing for a while. It may seem selfish at first, but I really love those aspects of our life.
However, I don’t love how often she calls the cats her “brothers,” because she doesn’t have any. How she tells me all she wants for Christmas/birthdays/Halloween/President’s Day/whatever is a younger/older sibling; anyone at all who is remotely close to her in age and experience who can stand by her side. Someone to laugh with and blame things on and scream at and build pillow forts with.
When Nate and I first got married, one of the first obstacles we faced was an early miscarriage. Nate, not knowing how I could get so upset about losing something we had always said we didn’t want anyway, did not immediately understand why I was reeling. I didn’t understand it myself, actually. After our daughter was born, I had such a difficult time adjusting to motherhood. Sometimes I would quietly allow myself to envision what my life would be like if she had never been born. In the small, dark closet of my mind, I imagined myself happier, calmer and more at peace without an infant. Of course, following these little fantasy sessions was a rib crushing guilt that I would ever think that way about my own baby. Looking back, I know that I was struggling (and failing to deal with) a mixture of a depressive episode caused by my as then undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and likely some postpartum depression.
When she was a year old, Nate and I decided to try to expand our clan. We couldn’t. We lost three babies over the course of a few months. And each time I reminded myself of what I had thought when our daughter was new. “You brought this on yourself,” was my almost daily battle cry. The most difficult loss was when I was able to at least see the plus sign on the test before the miscarriage started.
Now, when friends announce pregnancies or plans, we laugh and tease. “Gosh, don’t you know what causes babies!!” and try to come off as the smug, smart couple who was genius enough to only have as many kids as they could handle. (ONE) My heart breaks for the babies we could have had and sometimes I think about how old they would have been, and what milestones they would be smashing this year. Would we be throwing a Spiderman birthday party?
We love the life we have, but it’s difficult to not think about, and grieve for the life we could have had.