Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Parenting, anxiety and me!

Sometimes I feel like a broken record. My anxiety level for the past couple of days has been unreal. My stomach aches all the time. I feel like I want to vomit fairly regularly. Nothing is going on. My life is smooth, relatively easy, I don't get a lot of surprises... and yet... here I am. I hate this. I hate that my body is so broken that it is incapable of ramping down my ambient stress level when there isn't much stress in my life.

I have fairly ruthlessly culled people from my life over the past year and some. I didn't really do it on purpose but the shape of my days is different than it was a year ago. I don't talk to as many people. I think I grow ever more isolated. It's hard but it feels like the right thing. People distract me from the business of my life. I don't feel good about that. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that wanting people distracts me from the business of my life. If I accept the fact that people are not going to show up and suddenly love me and want to help me I get by.

As always I feel like I don't explain well. Watching Shanna is how I learn about myself. It's a slow process. I understand things about myself as I see her doing things. Noah likes to tell me that I picked the high-intensity version of parenting. I feel like an asshole saying that about myself but it is basically true. I am with my kids all the fucking time and when I am with my kids I pour enormous amounts of energy into them.

A friend has an autistic son. I asked her to describe what his therapy looked like because I was curious. I felt kind of weird about the fact that my day-to-day interactions with my kids sounds remarkably like the therapy for autistic children. And I do that for 12+ hours every fucking day. I talk and talk and talk and talk. Shanna is, thank God, a highly verbal kid. So she listens to my explanations and takes them seriously. I can talk her into or out of almost any behavior. I explain in great detail why things are important. Hell, I'm coaching her to require a why so that she feels like she knows why things happen. "If I tell you not to do something and you really want to do it, ask me "Why" and I will explain. Most of the time I have a good reason." I let my kids destroy the house in the name of creativity day after day. I don't prevent them from doing things that make my life hard. I try to keep them safe. If it's not a safety issue I will tell her, "Ok I will feel frustrated if you do that but there is nothing inherently wrong with you doing it so I'm going to leave the room and not watch. Have fun." Usually I say this when she is about to do something that will cause me to be on my hands and knees for an hour picking something up. It's going to suck. But I'll do it because that is my job.

My job is to teach my children how to be functional adults. This is fucking tricky because I'm not sure I qualify every day. Hell, I'm not sure I understand what it means to be a functional adult. I see a wide variety of function out in the world. People get by. What is the base line? Am I shooting for the baseline? Oh god no.

I think a lot about why I want to homeschool. How do I want to do it. Am I doing it because I had a traumatic experience in school and I'm afraid my children will have the same life experiences? They won't. Full stop. I'll be frank and say that part of the reason I think about it is because I don't feel like I am really a fully functional human being as long as I hide at home with my kids. Do we really hide at home? Well, it depends on how you mean it.

I feel like this part of my life seems to be focused on figuring out how my body works so I can turn around and teach my kids how their bodies work. As usual I feel ashamed that I don't already know. I don't know because I have spent most of my life dissociated from my body. I don't know how different movement feels. I've never paid enough attention to know. I've never moved enough to know. I have hit this weird plateau in running. I can't go faster for a while. I need to stop trying. When I leave my house hoping for just a few seconds faster I spend the entire run feeling angry at the weakness in my body. I'm at this place where I don't think I can get much faster without a whole bunch of strength training I'm not really doing.

The pickle is I feel like my entire life works that way right now. Everything I am doing is at this stuck, hard place. What I need to do is just be stronger and everything will be fine. I'm at the stage of gardening where I need to weed like hell. Ugh. It's not hard for the first hour. After that it hurts. Running isn't hard for the first fifteen minutes. After that it hurts. Going on walks with the kids is easy for the first 3/4 of every walk. Then it hurts. etc.

It hurts in unexpected ways. Today I stopped at about 2.5 miles in and stretched for several minutes because my back muscles were so horribly tight I felt like they were about to spasm. My skinned knee is still stiff and uncomfortable. Other than that my knees and ankles are doing well so I don't intend to slow down on the running. But I need to stretch more.

There is nothing in my life I need to do "less" of... other than maybe whining. I could do less whining. But why do I feel like a whiner? I whine at my blog (not even daily) and I do it at random opportunities. It doesn't happen daily. I feel like I am not allowed to feel like my life is hard because I am sitting on a mountain of privilege and I need to shut the fuck up. So many people have it worse than me. Poor fucking baby. That's not really a useful attitude to have towards one's self. (oneself? weird.)

I don't believe that any of the things I am doing is really all that hard. Hell, even the marathon training doesn't feel that hard individually. What is hard is that I feel inadequate to the long list of work in my life. I don't see how I will do it all. I keep hitting this terrible wall of desperately wanting someone to teach me how to do this life thing. Where the fuck is my Mr. Miyagi?! Someone who will just pluck me up and teach me how to survive and work and find discipline? I need help.

That's nice, dear.

Where is my mommy? Where is the mommy who loves me enough to teach me about life the way I am teaching Shanna and Calli? Why don't I get that? Well, honestly, it's because not very many people want to put as much time and attention into another person the way I want to do with my kids. I want my kids to move through the world believing that just about everything has an explanation and if they want to know it we can bloody well figure out what it is. That doesn't happen in school. In school the reason you have to do something is because some arbitrary asshole somewhere made a draconian rule. Bowing to random arbitrary rules isn't very functional, in my opinion. In my opinion being functional means staying your course and figuring out how to survive in a terribly rigged system. Not a god damn person in the public education system tried to do anything to help me. I'm an outlier, fine. People can tell me hundreds of stories of them having good experiences. Research says that outliers do not do well in our system. Is there any chance in the whole god damn world that my kids won't be outliers?

It is an Adverse Childhood Experience growing up with a parent who has diagnosed mental illness. Hi. I'm Krissy. During my life I have been "officially" diagnosed with PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major and Minor Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and lots of people have unofficially thrown out a variety of other options for various reasons at various times. My kids are going to grow up with that. I can't prevent that. I can't not exist in their lives so they can benefit from not being around a crazy person. That feels bad to say, but it is a fact. My kids wouldn't be able to go to school and be just like everyone else and fit in and progress at the normal rate in the normal manner. They would always have the horrible reality of coming home to me. I would be highly disruptive to a child who was genuinely normal. I'm not good at that type of existence.

Stupid shit. A friend posted pictures of bringing in goody bags and cupcakes to the classroom for her daughter's birthday. I would be shittier than shit about stuff like that. I wouldn't want to spend the money. I would resent putting forth effort to do "expected" things and I would be inconsistent and pissy about it. I wouldn't encourage my kids to dress normally. I wouldn't encourage my kids to behave in ways that worked in the classroom. When Shanna says, "Shit. My glass is empty. That sucks." I just smile and don't worry about it. When she says "fuck" I completely ignore it in the moment. Later I work into the conversation how some people dislike certain words for totally illogical reasons. If you want those people to like you then you have to play their game. I'm not going to tell my daughter these words are bad because I don't believe it is true. I believe it is an irrelevant distinction. I think they are impolite in some circumstances just because it is good to treat people how they want to be treated. It is important to me to handle it that way.

My kids will have a profoundly different understanding of the world than most kids because I removed the explicitly sexual content from my view of the world and have otherwise just merged them with my experience. To me that is what life is. You take your children with you for your life. Shanna has some interesting things to say about the police given her experiences participating in the Occupy movement. She was upset about not going to the General Strike yesterday but Calli wasn't feeling well. Sick kids trump politics in this family.

That is what I am specifically teaching to my kids. Life is about this weird slightly moving hierarchy of importance of needs. You have to triage and decide your priorities over and over and over again. If you don't think about your life that way you won't really be able to make long-term planning decisions.

Right now we are trying to find balance on budgeting stuff, money is hard and complicated. I'm trying to figure out how to divide the hours of the day. How much time do I spend on different tasks around the house? The thing is, I'm doing the high intensity version of parenting. I do tasks around the willingness and ability of my kids to handle me working. That makes everything complicated. I'm juggling their attention needs, my need for time when I am not being pestered with 20+ questions every minute, the need to constantly be in the fucking kitchen cooking and cleaning up after the mess, and everything else I want to do in this life: writing, running, gardening, have friends. I keep reminding myself that my children won't be small forever. I'm crossing my fingers that this ridiculous outpouring of energy will eventually slow down. I have no way of knowing. I can't plan as if it will. I have to plan as if I am going to be this tired and interrupted forever. That way every improvement will be a blessing and a wonderful gift instead of something grudgingly grasped.

I really struggle with this whole "mental illness" thing. I have a lot of days where my body is in active fight or flight mode for a lot of the day. It is very hard to calm it down. I have terrible ranges of emotions. But I'm at work so I stomp the shit out of most of it. Producing people who can function within society is my goal. That means I can't cause them to develop the same kind of extreme coping mechanisms. I just can't. How can I teach something I have never experienced? How can I teach what it is like to move through the world without fear? I feel so much fear I want to vomit sometimes. And nothing bad is happening to me. I think that part of the reason that I have so many friends on the autistic spectrum is because I know my emotions are too extreme for the normal range so I need to hang out with people who just won't notice or care. Honestly hanging out with my kids is similar. Well, my kids notice. But they give me a kiss and a hug and smile and expect everything to be all better now. As far as they are concerned, it is. Because mommy smiles and hugs them and says, "I am so glad I get to spend my life with you." They do make me feel better. I had this whole range of emotions before I had kids. Before them I had sex with random people or did drugs or cut to deal with my emotions. Now we are trying to move in the "hugs not drugs" direction. The pot is so complicated. I have, uhm, tried a wide variety of street drugs. The pot is different in how it functions in my life.

What is the difference between drug addiction that is bad and being dependent on a medication for survival? Many diabetics require insulin. Thyroid medication is a big deal. Etc. My brain was damaged by what happened to me as a child. It does not function normally. I feel genuine terror and have the full body experience of being retraumatized some days. It really sucks ass. But I can take that sensation away and relax enough to have a conversation with my kids and be mellow. I feel disgusting for needing help. Why the fuck can't I just be stronger? Such a fucking loser.

Noah told me last night that he can tell I have been feeling unworthy lately. I've been struggling with finding a place in my head and my heart where I am comfortable with who I am and what I am doing with my life. In a variety of different places in the past couple of weeks I keep finding stupid things that all remind me that I don't have a lot of earning potential. My credential has lapsed. I would have to go back to college before I could usefully work in my field again. I think I would rather eat manure. I feel like I am a bad partner to Noah. I feel like he is giving up too much in being with me. I feel like a failure because I can't figure out how to settle into the traces and just be happy with my life. I can't figure out how to stop having panic attacks. I can't figure out how to be calm and mellow. I don't know how to be happy. I only know how to be scared and afraid and lonely and angry. What fucking good am I? How functional am I? This is what I don't understand.

I feel defensive and guilty because I want to keep my kids out of school and I don't want to try to be a "working" parent. It is stupid and ridiculous. No one who knows me is campaigning against me. I am only arguing with voices in my head. Part of the problem is I have this growing horror as I acknowledge that I am going to have to explain to Shanna that a lot of the ways in which I interact with her will get her into trouble out in the world. People don't like bossy know-it-alls who narrate what is happening in life. They think it is weird. It makes people uncomfortable. They don't want to hear that. And people get really upset if they think they are having a "private" conversation (loudly, in public) and someone comments. I have never understood why. I'm a sit-in-the-diner-and-talk-to-each-table sort of person. My older daughter is like me only she doesn't have any brain damage. She loves talking to people and she feels safe and comfortable in the world. So she has virtually no fear. Watching her makes me feel like I am living a good life. I don't want to miss even five minutes of the Shanna Show. Unfortunately it's hard to find balance.

Calli is so different. She is not @#$#@ interested in having me narrate for her the way I do for Shanna. She hits me when I try. This is going to be an interesting journey. I am startled by the things she manages to figure out by herself. This is going to be an interesting journey. Shanna thrives on hands-on directed learning. Calli wants to watch and then figure it out on her own. I'm surprised by the physical dexterity she exhibits. She is trying to keep up with Shanna and she is fearless in her attempts. She lands safely more than she falls so she keeps trying to do things that should be far beyond her development. I think I was quieter when Shanna was this age but I can't remember. The words blur. I think I was a lot quieter. I was a lot more lost in my thoughts. That is the hardest part about this job. I don't have a chance to think very often. I have to carve out deliberate silence in my life. I crave it. I need it. The constant talking is hard because it requires so much thinking. She makes a lot of conversational leaps that are hard to follow unless you know her whole little set of life experiences and she needs a lot of repeating of everything. Our daily conversational life does literally look like therapy for autism. I don't set specific developmental goals, I just conversationally speak that way about pretty much everything. If I introduce a weird or new word I will emphasize it and break in the conversation to explain what it means and use it several times in several ways so that it sticks better in Shanna's head.

It is really weird for me to sit and think really hard about what my life is going to be like in twenty years. What am going to do when my baby is twenty two? What will I do with all this energy? I'm kind of scared. I have no idea what the future will look like. I have no idea if I will ever get to the point where I stop vibrating with fear all day long for no reason at all other than bad things happened a long long time ago. I think being afraid I will always feel this way is making it exponentially worse. I don't know how to just accept the feelings and deal with them when they come up and wait them out. I have no trust that they will end. They never have. Well, they pause. I don't always always feel this way. It's so complicated.

And I don't even have time to get into sex. I have so much thinking to do about that. And it's largely being evaded. I don't think about sex when I am with my kids. That doesn't leave me a lot of time to think about it. This shit is complicated.

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