Yesterday was the best day I've had in a long time in terms of anxiety. It's kind of funny that it worked out that way because I started out the day freaking out. Night before last I posted something on facebook about processing while crying and three very helpful women told me that it was common and normal. I had been relaying that my therapist was congratulating me on how unusual it is that I can do what I do. But these three women wanted to make sure I didn't think I was a special snowflake. That's not what they thought they were doing so I decided not to debate.
I kind of think of it like someone in North Carolina telling someone in NYC, "Shoot we get storms all the time. Why are you people whining about a little water?"
Scope. It's about scope. And I'm not going to get into it on facebook. I feel character limits there. Plus I was on the ipad. So I deleted the post and went on with my day.
It was a great day. I went up to my friend Kira's house. In the way of everyone who loves me she and her husband have something of a hoarding problem. Hoarders fucking love me and I don't know why. Nearly all of my close friends over the year have had similar issues. Anyway. Apparently I was the first person to point out the connection between severely messy homes and mental illness to a few friends. I feel surprised that they hadn't made that connection already.
Hoarders don't feel loved by people so they collect things. That is my off-the-cuff semi-dismissive view of the people I have known who have this problem. I've known several dozen honest-to-dawg hoarders.
I like people. I like being around them. I like feeling useful and helpful and like I have something to give. I think I find the hoarders because they lack a specific skill set I excel in.
Holy shit can I clean and organize. I am not attached to things. Things are the opposite of safety for me. Things mean Problems. GET RID OF IT seems to be my obsession going through life.
So I went up to Kira's house yesterday. We've worked on it a few times over the past two years of friendship. I anticipate many more days doing similar things. Mostly because I had such a great time. I didn't medicate and I was more relaxed than I can remember being in years. I was useful. I was good. I was doing stuff that will have reverberating effects on their day to life for a long time. I probably did stuff that will make their marriage better (everyone has fights about messy houses) and it will be easier to parent.
That makes me feel good. The problem comes when I get too enmeshed and I either want to help more and fix more (what I did with Sarah) or I realize I am in over my head and I shove them away really hard (more complicated than that--but that's basically what I did with Alex).
I'm scared of the process of finding appropriate boundaries. How much help can I give? Well, let me tell you, it's probably good they live in Oakland. I don't feel compelled to help very often so I don't get overwhelmed. It's just too far. The hurdle of helping is so high that I can't do it much. When I do show up I move 1/3 of the furniture in the house by myself and move dozens of loads down the (frightening and perilous) steps into the basement.
I feel like fucking Superwoman. Kira took care of the kids. I would totally be the man in a dyke society. I have a hard time sometimes with how "womens work" my life is because I would rather be a construction worker. I kind of fucking hate cooking.
Cooking is endless fucking drudgery and making new messes that i will fucking have to clean alone so that people can uhm not notice that I did it. Whatever. In ten minutes this is out of existence and doesn't ever fucking matter again.
When I go clean someones house and get rid of many years of piled up paper their house feels dramatically different and their life tends to feel more positive and easier for a while. They literally have less work looming over their head.
When you supply a meal you just need another fucking meal in four hours. I hate cooking.
I've been thinking about my negative feelings about my house. I've been thinking about the fact that I probably wouldn't be able to afford going out and buying what I see in my head anyway. It only kind of exists. I've seen things that are similar but not quite.
Noah actually will be able to give me the house I want. It's just going to take about twenty-five years because first we have to finish paying off the mortgage and then we have to wait until we need a new roof. I'm not going to tear off a perfectly good roof on a whim let-me-tell-you. When I think about it that way it just means I have more time to get the design right. I have more time to decide what I really want and that feels really exciting. At that point in time our kids will be mostly done with college (if they go--we'll see) and we will have had the house paid off for a long time. That will be the first time we have had "extra money" in our marriage.
I want what I am doing so bad. I need this. It's ok that I have a crappy ceiling (I may figure out how to fix what is bugging me so I can stop the internal whine track) because I have lived in this happy home for longer than I have lived anywhere in my life.
I really like my kids. I was so proud of them yesterday. I worked for a solid eight hours. They had to play in a back room by themselves and they did it. They were so good. When they had needs they came out and cheerfully asked for what they needed. When they were feeling like they missed me they would come ask for a hug then go back to playing.
Kira's husband kept trying to get me to carry things through the front door because there are fewer stairs. I liked going through the back because then I got to see the kids.
At the end of the day Shanna told me it was sad that I didn't get to watch them play so she hopes the next time we go up I can stay with them. That feels really good.
I'm going to change topic and go back in time chronologically. In the morning we first had swim class (Calli was freezing and upset the whole time) then we went back to the house so I could move the laundry into the dryer and get food for the kids to eat as we drove up to Kira's because it was already a bit late for them.
I feel terrible guilt that I leave my kids in their car seats in the car with the windows cracked for about five minutes at a time sometimes but I'm not going to stop doing it. It takes fucking forever to get them in and out. A four minute errand becomes a twenty minute errand and I am screaming and them to hurry up and move. It's really stressful and shitty. So I don't do it. I deal with guilt instead.
As we drove up to Kira's house Shanna told me how nice I was for getting them food because they were really hungry. I said, "I try." She said, "Did your mom feed you?"
I assume most children ask these kinds of questions. I feel like I am hit in the stomach over and over. I laughed and said, "Of course she fed me. I grew didn't I?" But I thought about it. I added, "My mom gave me ramen. She couldn't afford things like fruits and vegetables. As a result I had a lot of stomach and body pain my whole life. I have terrible teeth. In general I am not in good health and some of it is that I wasn't fed the things my body needed when I was a child. I'm trying very hard to ensure that you have a different life experience."
"That's very nice of you."
"I think so too."
I love talking to Shanna. I feel like Shanna is the only one who can say things to me without me feeling minimized or dismissed. I'm not mad at the women who commented on facebook. But I freaked the fuck out when I read their comments.
It has been a very long and very hard journey for me to get to the point of understanding that for me to do things is not the same as other people doing things. My brain and body work differently for a wide variety of reasons.
When I say I cry and process emotions I mean that sob hysterically and type one to three thousand words an hour (depends on how easily accessible the memories are--if they are right on the tip of my tongue then my fingers fly) while physiologically having the experience of having a heart attack. I have terrible panic attacks. I hyperventilate and gasp and panic and feel like I am dying.
Not very many people spend many hours at a time feeling like they are dying from a heart attack and just continue to think about what they are thinking about. That kind of experience is very overwhelming. It's not the typical "crying". Yes, I understand that people cry and talk about their feelings all the time. Uhm, scope.
It has taken a long time for me to have the courage to say, "My life experience is different and harder and I get to say that without having to feel like I am exaggerating." Not every part of my life. I am really god damn good at cleaning.
Most people who feel like me just die. It hurts so much to live as me. I am in a fairly tremendous amount of pain basically all the time. It is extremely bad for your body to live with how much fear I feel. Organs are significantly impacted. Stress will kill you and I live with an amount of stress most people only get from living in an active war zone. And I have felt like this for about twenty-five years.
I am moving hell and high water to ensure that my kids do not understand this stress. That this is not passed on. I live a fairly ordinary life. I do have an extensive and varied social network. There are a lot of people who are close to my kids. Not every day close. I have to learn that most people don't have much of that. My kids are active in the community we live in and our homeschool group and Noah and I have a lot of friends who are talking to our kids a few times a year. Not a lot, but relationships build over time. It's normal to have a period where you stay home a lot after having babies.
Part of the problem with PTSD is that it triggers atypical depression. I've been looking more into this part recently. It's probably why it is so easy for me to "turn off" being depressed when I want to. It isn't true chemical depression it is my bodies coping mechanism for stress when I am stuck in one place. It keeps me from hyperarousing myself into death.
The brain is fascinating to study. I think it is interesting to read papers that I would previously have been convinced I was too stupid to understand. I just had to build a shared vocabulary.
I've been thinking about my discomfort with not knowing lately. It's not like being a know-it-all has been good for me socially.
I was a "know-it-all" in school after school where I got beat up for paying attention in class. But now I have strangers arrive in my inbox, "Hi my name is _____. I am friends with _______. I told her that I was raped/attached/abused/experienced incest/etc and she told me to come talk to you."
That feels like a lot of responsibility to know things. I have to learn more. If I am going to help people I have to know more. If I am going to show up and tell someone that I can completely reorganize their life I have to be telling the fucking truth. I can't fall short. I can't be almost good enough. I have to deliver. Or I am a failure.
Kira you want to know where I get my energy? From the driving terror to prove I can do what I say I can do. You notice how I don't often show up and say, "I am committing to __________ work." That's because I take those kinds of promises ridiculously seriously. It's really most of what I build my sense of self on. I am able to accurately predict what I can do. Then I'll kill myself getting it done or I will feel gnashing anxiety until it is done.
I am so glad I painted the stripes in my laundry room after more than a year of waiting. I seriously felt bothered all the time. I feel a lot more relaxed. That's why I haven't yet decided what I am doing to deal with the insulation on the garage door. I don't want to commit to anything yet because then I will hate myself until I get it done. I bought myself a good year of procrastination without anxiety. I don't know what I want so there is no internal push to move forward.
Today I get to bring baby clothes to two friends who are expecting. Wonderful women who have blessed my life. I don't see either of them very often (I think once so far this year) but I have known them for many years. I'm trying to understand in my gut that relationships wax and wane. If I'm a nice person the relationships will grow closer when they have kids. If I'm an asshole they would be wise to keep their kids away from me.
I don't think very many people want to think about themselves that way. If I am a bad influence for your kids, by all means keep them away from me. I try very hard not to be. I try very hard to ensure that, partially because I have limited contact with most people, I am a good influence. I try to model good behavior. I consider modeling good behavior to be my primary job for the next fifteen years.
My kids were ridiculously good while I busted my ass for eight hours yesterday. I wish I could extract this emotion and freeze it in amber so I could put it on a string and wear it around my neck always.
Someone asked on the PTSD forum I frequent if anyone consciously re-parents themselves. I said, "Oh yes. I know that my voice is the voice that is going to be playing inside my kid's head when they are adults. I'm trying to replace my mother's voice with my daughter's voices. So I'm really nice and have firm with boundaries with my kids and they do the same right back at me. I win."
My kids are my reward for living right now. I am ridiculously grateful that I get to have the life I have. If Noah didn't happen to be a rich guy I would probably be in a really bad spot right about now. I wouldn't have the safety I have. I can't imagine how bad my body would feel if I actually had to worry about money. And yet I'm turning down every invitation from the home schooling group that involves money. That raises my stress level every time.
I tell myself that they are two and four and won't remember anyway. I tell myself that they are much better off staying home to play with me not feeling more stress all the time. I am an awful lot of fun when I'm not feeling extra stress. Driving is extra stress.
I love the parks we can walk to. Yes, we walk two and a half miles to the park. What else should we do with our day?
That's the vacant void of guilt. What else should I be doing? Well, today we are going to drive Noah to work and use the Prius to visit mamas-to-be who live near where he works. It will be quite cheap as our excursions go. That eliminates 75% of the stress I feel around driving. I really hate spending money. It's a fierce nasty knot in my belly. I don't want to. That's why Noah feels like he should make more money. Naw, I'd be like this even if you made millions. I just hate spending money. We have enough. I just want your time. I swear.
I'm really excited that I'm pretty likely to have two excellent days in a row. That's a blessing.
P.S. Judith-the braces make all the difference in the world. Thank you.