I generally don’t do well with meditation. I’ve had my problems with medication.
Wow, that sounds like a song. Don’t steal it, okay? . . . but I digress . . .
I just can’t seem to quiet my mind. It’s an ongoing problem. I’m better at researching issues and attempting suggested solutions from a list. Those have been my biggest breakthroughs in dealing with my crap. But lately I’ve been feeling almost new-age-like — until the books talk about meditation, intoning aspirations and such. I believe it does work for some people but I have trouble. I know it takes practice. The books say so.
It reminds me of the time my sister was on a girl scout camping trip. All of the girls were looking into the night sky at the stars and trying to identify the constellations. My sister and her friend were not impressed and a little bored. They realized that since everyone was focused and looking up to the sky they could just walk away — unnoticed. And they did.
That’s what my mind does. It just walks away. I almost actually walked away at a group therapy meditation session, but the therapist gave me a dirty look. I just closed my eyes. Whatever.
Anywho . . .
What was I talking about?
Oh yeah, meditation.
I’ve tried it and fallen asleep, I’ve tried it and gotten very angry that THESE PEOPLE ARE MAKING ME SIT HERE!!!! And, truth be told, I haven’t tried it very diligently. I did try massage once. I could not relax. Waste of money.
So it’s really weird that I’m walking around with my Feng Shui books and compass looking for my creativity and wealth corner.
Just Me With . . . random thoughts.
I’m tempted to preempt the trolls who will tell me to shut the f**k up and stop whining and go out and do something productive. Tell ya what, I’ll meditate on that, m’kay?
But seriously, I may write a song. Maybe that’s more of my meditation style.
Somewhat related: Getting Off The Meds
I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been painting. Obsessively painting. I wouldn’t quite call it manic on a clinical level, but yes, it had to be done.
Looking back, this has happened to me before. I paint when something isn’t quite right. The day after I had a miscarriage, I painted all of the hallway paneling in the old house. I should have been resting. I should have been crying. Instead, I painted.
Then there was when my then husband went away on vacation with his club when we had many young children at home. This, to me, was the perfect time to paint — everything– bold colors. He came home to a purple kitchen, a hunter green eat in area and a bright sky blue play area. I think I was jealous of his freedom, so, stuck at home, I changed my surroundings. All while caring for multiple toddlers with open cans of paint around. Perhaps not well-advised, but it had to be done.
Later, after my husband left for good (or so I thought . . . but I digress . . . See Surveillance with My Mother and the When My Husband Moved Back Home — The Tale of Three Carries ) I slapped beige paint over all of those colors in order to make my kaleidoscope house neutral for potential buyers. My children didn’t help me at all. They resented the change, hated the beige.
“We’re colorful people,” they said.
They were right. We are colorful people, but the HGTV gods told me I had to hide my crazy (Oops, I mean color).
Accordingly, all the evidence of my color rebellion against my husband’s hobbies and freedom was – neutralized.
I promised the children, however, that when we moved to our new house, we would bring color back. As that little hoarders house smelled so badly, I painted right away, see That Hoarder’s Smell, and I went bold: I had red living room, and the TV (family room) was a dark slate blue.
At one point I had an orange accent wall in my bedroom.
But lately, my little house had been pissing me off. Well, everything has been pissing me off. The red was making me angry, I think. I’m already bitter, I don’t need to see red, literally. The dark blue was making me feel sad and closed in, like I was living in an elevator.
My home’s overall darkness screamed despair and denial and hinted at failure, or maybe that was me . . .
I moved to this little hoarders’ house so that my kids could stay in the same schools. I had to move, and it was all I could afford. I was lucky to find it. I’m fine with living small, but I hate the neighborhood — which is on the lower end of the socio-economic scale — and it shows. Also, we are six tall people, and do our fair share of stepping over each other and our stuff. But I can’t move until they graduate, not even to a nearby neighborhood, unless there’s a big chunk of change in my near future. I’m still dealing with divorce debt. Freedom ain’t free.
If I wanted to pull them out of school and move across country — well, I can’t do that either. I’m divorced; I’m not allowed to move without my ex-husband’s permission. I’m stuck.
Until my youngest kids turn 18, my options are severely limited. Yes, I’m blessed to have a roof over my head, but sometimes it feels more incarceration than protection from the elements.
However, HGTV, the teachings of Feng Shui, and countless blogs suggest that if I change my surroundings I’ll change my life.
I took a shot.
So I’ve been painting, lightening up the color, lightening up my life. It goes along with my constant search for non-medicinal treatments for anxiety and depression.
I have to say, the rooms do appear bigger, brighter, calmer.
Still, I need color, so the plan is to get the color back through art and accessories. That’s the plan anyway.
It’s a good plan.
Well, it was a good plan.
Now I’m on the other side of not quite clinically manic, back to the depressed side of things. Suddenly I’m too tired. I don’t feel like hanging my old pictures or scouring yard sales for something colorful, because, at the end of the day, I’ll still be here. And whatever I do, someone in my house will hate it and loudly voice his or her displeasure. So why bother, right?
It’s like hanging posters in a jail cell. Sure, it helps, but the most important thing on the wall is the calendar, marking off the days until release.
Just Me With . . . a bright new look, but not complete. Methinks the angry red and the crying blues are bleeding through a bit. But, hell, I’m giving it a shot.
Release date? Sometime in 2017.
I’m just trying to make it “One Day At A Time” like divorced TV mom Annie Romano, except that I have two Barbaras and two Julies, and a boy.
Let me set the scene. As per usual I was unsuccessful in getting certain tasks completed before the kids came back from a visit with their dad. As per usual none of the kids gave the requested heads up text to let me know they were on their way before they came. (I didn’t know what time they were coming home, only that they’d be home earlier than the required drop off time because one of the kids had a rehearsal.)
So the kids walked in to me in the middle of various projects — hanging a shelf, bagging their clothes they refused to wash, my private journal open on the kitchen table and Sex and The City blaring on all three TVs. (It’s one of my secret single behaviors to turn on all the TVs while cleaning so as I’m walking around the house I can still hear and glance at whatever is on. Don’t judge.) I was startled and felt like I got caught doing something wrong.
Turns out, I apparently had done something wrong.
My cleaning and organizing efforts were rewarded with a fit of rage from the Anxious child. Her twin, the Angry child was — guess what? Angry. As per usual, she did not enjoy her visit with her dad and brought her frustration home to me. The other kids just breezed in, dropped their stuff where they felt like it and perched various places in the house to eat the fast food their dad sent them home with. Someone got the Angry child’s order wrong and she was angry about that, too, no surprise. Somehow this anger was directed toward me.
It is always stressful when the kids get home. They’d only been gone for twenty-eight hours but the whole visitation process: getting them ready and out of the door when they’d rather not go, their behavior when they return, my guilt over how I choose spend my time when they are gone (not getting enough done, not having any fun) is always difficult. See Weekends Off.
After the tirade from the Anxious and Angry twins and my frustrated response, I still had to drive the oldest to rehearsal and get some dinner for myself.
During the drive I tried some relaxation techniques I’ve been reading about. I took deep breaths. I sat in my car for a bit to calm down. And, in an uncharacteristic move, when I returned I decided to sit down and watch something funny. Normally I would hide from my ill-tempered children or launch into a series of chores and attempt to get them to do the same. But instead I loaded the DVD player with my new favorite guilty pleasure, Pitch Perfect. Don’t judge. Okay, go ahead and judge. And yes, we own it.
The girls joined me. When he returned from his rehearsal, the Arrogant one — the boy, retired to his boudoir as per usual. To his credit, he was doing a massive amount of homework that he saved for when he got back from the visit. His choice, his stress.
What people say about humor and music is true. Watching Pitch Perfect made me feel better. Miraculously, both the Anxious child and her twin, the Angry child, calmed down.
But when I got up to go into the kitchen to get a drink, however, I was met with a surprise.
Someone had opened every single cabinet and drawer in the kitchen.
It’s not just a matter of neatness, leaving cabinets open has scared the bejesus out of me way back to The Sixth Sense!
Do you remember the abused ghost wife and the open cabinets in The Sixth Sense?
I stopped dead in my tracks. I was already emotionally fragile.
I WAS TRYING TO CALM DOWN!!!!!
But those people I made, those people I grew in my belly like mold, those people know that having all the cabinets and drawers open frightens me!
It probably goes back to Poltergeist as well.
I just don’t do well with kitchen surprises. I’m okay with bugs, I’ve dealt with some nasty stuff, see Piss, Puke and Porn, but open cabinets — scare me.
I froze in my steps, mouth agape. When I could finally move I gingerly walked the five steps back into the family room and cried to my four female spawn,
“WHO DID THAT? You know that scares me!”
Then I collapsed on the floor and laughed so hard I cried. I didn’t go back in my kitchen until I got a confession out of the Quirky one and ordered her to go in there and close everything up.
Oh, those people I made all had a good laugh about it. Great big belly laughs. I was a hysterical mess on the floor, but unlike some of my past days, it was in a good way.
I guess the experts are right that laughter helps with depression and anxiety.
But does it have to be at my expense? Does it?
I just looked at my girl, the Quirky one — the Offender, and said,
“You used to be one of the ones that I liked.”
Just Me With . . . a weird phobia, an unexpectedly devious Quirky child and a good laugh — on the floor.
Given my mood, it was a bold move on the Quirky One’s part. I have to respect her risk-taking.
Shout out to Merbear who inspired me to write something positive about my girls. Well, I don’t know if it was positive, damn kids.
Other Kitchen Surprises:
I danced around it on my Angela Jolie Post, my Adultery Diet Post and I described some of the effects of it with We Thought You Were Dead, Mommy — Almost F*cked to Death and the Twilight Zone posts but I never really say it. Even here and now within the constraints of a blog post I’m not going into great detail, not in one post anyway. Plus, posts are supposed to be short, right? I can only write so much here. (Thank goodness.)
There have probably been seeds of it implanted in me from my childhood, and in young adult life when I did a miniscule about of modeling. Years later I lost a lot of weight after my children were born, initially as a result of breastfeeding multiples and later from sheer exhaustion. See Fertile Myrtle.
But somewhere in my mind I have had this fear of “getting fat.”
Then there was the negative reinforcement of the world, it seems, when people said,
“You don’t look like you have five kids . . . “
It is meant as a compliment. But it probably got my psyche thinking, “What if I didn’t look like this?“
So, after the children, I kept busy (as if I had a choice with all those kids), watched how much I ate, and stayed slim. And I’d pretty much given my body to my husband, “Sex On Demand“.
Maybe I was still feeling vulnerable from my his stupid brief affair with a much younger woman.
“Maybe,” I thought, “I can’t get younger, but I can make sure I don’t get fat.” I don’t know.
Maybe I felt out of control because I suddenly had so many children and was completely overwhelmed yet somehow needed to make it look effortless. The Superwoman Syndrome.
So I stayed slim, but not yet dangerously so. I got some new clothes, highlights in my hair and was trying to give myself a home makeover — the new me — still fabulous after five kids, who were finally out of the diaper, toddler, and preschool grind. I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe we’d be able to leave the house soon?
But then . . . my husband left me . . .
. . . and I pretty much stopped eating.
Ironically his love interest at that time was younger and significantly heavier than me. My being thin and sexually available was ultimately unsuccessful. Maybe I just should have become an incredible cook . . . but I digress . . .
At first I was too devastated to eat, and that, simply, continued.
I never used laxatives, or induced vomiting. (I absolutely hate throwing up). I just stopped eating, or really ate just enough to keep from falling over. I had a lot of other “behaviors” — they call them. Whatever, I don’t want to think about it now. Though it never got as bad as those horrifying pictures one sees on the internet, I admit it makes me uncomfortable to look at pictures of myself during my worst times . . . and I have destroyed most of them.
I was a bit like Emily in The Devil Wears Prada, except not nearly as glamorous.
I was in the throes of a deep, deep depression. But I had children, so I continued doing what I had to do for the most part, except . . . I failed to nourish myself. Or, I nourished myself just enough to continue to take care of the children, short-term.
Was it a cry for help or a form of suicide when suicide was not an option?
Funny thing happens when you don’t eat much or often,when you do eat you are rewarded with pain and nausea. Hardly incentive for a person who was crying all day long anyway. So I ate just enough to function, but my resistance was down, physical strength drained and when I started having dizziness and heart palpitations and losing my hair and a couple of hospitalizations and a blood transfusion later? Well, perhaps there was a problem. (Ya think?) Not to mention my historically unhealthy relationship with my estranged husband, see My High School Self, and the crap I was dealing with when he left. It was a rough time. Call me Forrest Gump, but that’s all I have to say about that — now, anyway.
They say I suffer(ed) from Anorexia.
I actually don’t feel like talking about this stuff. I mean, I’m hardly the face of —- gulp — an eating disorder. I’m an adult woman of color who has been diagnosed with a disease whose poster child is the face of a 14-year-old white girl. The stereotype for me is either the big mama in the kitchen or the strong, sassy and proud single mother. Well, I was/am neither. Food and cooking holds no interest for me and I did not choose, nor do I wave the banner of my suddenly single mother situation, it’s just something I have to deal with.
No matter, “Anorexia” is in my medical charts, I have been referred to and evaluated by a facility for eating disorders who determined that because of my family obligations, I should be treated privately. Whatever. I don’t feel like discussing it right now. Wait, did I already say that? It’s too much for a blog post, anyway, right? (Thank goodness).
Long, painful, story short, I’m so much better now. Therapy, medications for depression and medications for my chronic stomach ailments caused by my poor eating habits have helped tremendously. Though I’m off the daily anti-depressants now, see Getting Off The Meds, I’ve found that changing my lifestyle and removing triggers — as much as I can — have helped tremendously also. So I eat now, not always well and not with enjoyment, but regularly. I’m at a good weight, or so I’m told — I never look. People tell me I look great. (People in the know are careful not to exclaim that I’ve gained weight.) To look at me now, no one would know of my “issues.” Still, when I am down or stressed, I don’t eat. And sometimes, I just forget. It’s probably something I have to watch for a long time, maybe forever. But whatever. I am much healthier than I was, which is the most important.
Just Me With . . . well, they say it was anorexia. They say.
P.S. This may be the first post I delete.
Before I get beat up in the comments because I’m a mom and have to take care of myself for my kids, etc. , know that this just skims the surface (I mean people write whole books on this stuff), that I love my children and have worked my behind off for them, have tried to protect them and have provided a good home (a good part of which I built myself), that even mothers can go through a bad time, having children does not make one immune. I’ve learned that I have to feel good about me. Period. The rest will/has to come from that.
My husband had moved out. It had been six days. Six days of separation. (I had to make the picture relevant somehow. )
I was a wreck. Truly. I can’t even describe it here. I’m not ready.
It was the weekend after he’d moved out and my husband stopped by the house to see the children and to tell me he’d be away for a few days. You see, the “other woman” who I’d just found out about a couple of weeks prior, see My Worst Superbowl, Remembered, lived in another city. She planned to move to our town but that hadn’t happened yet. So he was going to see her. Ironically, she lived in a city where I had wanted to move, but my husband had vetoed that, said absolutely not, he would never live there. Now he was going there for a long weekend– to see his girlfriend. Huh.
On our anniversary weekend . . . Huh.
Regardless, the matter at hand was that:
My husband stopped by our house on his way to catch a flight to spend a few days with his girlfriend.
Let that sit for a minute.
My husband and I had been together since high school.
Let that sit for a minute.
We had been married for many, many years and had five young children.
Let that sit for a minute.
But on this day, six days after moving out, after breaking my heart, hell, after breaking me, and causing unspeakable pain to the children as well, he showed up at what used to be at our house . . . and knocked. That was appropriate, given the situation, but it was like a kick in the kidneys.
It hit me: He really doesn’t live here anymore . . .
Still, what sent me over the edge was . . . him . . . the sight of . . . him.
The brother looked good.
Now my husband has always been a very good-looking man, but he could be a bit of a slob sometimes. He went too long between hair cuts and shaves. He had a good job, but not the kind of job that required that he be clean-shaven. His facial hair came in spotty, he could never grow a full beard, so it wasn’t the sexy five-o’clock shadow. It was more of a “I just don’t give a crap look.” Still, he would clean up semi-regularly and when he needed to for an event. And when he did? He looked damn good.
On this day, six days after having moved out, he had shaved and had a fresh hair cut. And he was wearing, not the tee-shirt he usually sported on weekends, but a nice button down shirt and slacks. He looked damn good — for her — for his girlfriend.
Let that sit for a minute.
I didn’t know what to do so I went to the store while he played with the kids. Shortly after I returned he looked at his watch and said he had to go. I asked if he was going to her city (I didn’t use her name) and he said yes, and then snapped,
“What am I gonna do here?”
Ouch. Yeah, perhaps I’m not ready to share so much, but I digress . . .
Then he left. He left what would later be referred to as “the marital home” to catch his flight to get to his girlfriend’s house.
He had literally left me to go to her, and looked damn good while he did it. I, on the other hand, didn’t look so good — or feel so good.
He was gone and I lost it.
I guess it was a good-old fashioned panic attack, with an underlying dose of depression. I hadn’t been eating or sleeping and had been crying off and on for a month. I was already fragile. So fragile. And this, seeing my husband, my high school sweetheart, my first love, looking like he was going on a date, six days after having moved out, well that was too much. The thought of him, so coiffed and together and jetting off to stay with a woman and kiss her hello, maybe see her friends and family — like a couple — literally drove me mad. I went to my room. The kids must have been watching TV or something. I remember grabbing my address book (I didn’t have a smart phone at the time) and paging through it, trying to find someone to call, looking for someone to help me because I felt out of control. I was shaking. I was breathing too heavily. But my parents didn’t even know he’d moved out, I have no siblings in the area and my best friend who had helped me on moving day is not always available, being a physician. My heart was racing, my breathing panicked, the tears were coming and I had the kids to think about and take care of.
I found the name of a woman, an acquaintance, really. I’ll call her Christina. We’d met through our children and attended kids parties together, did the couples dinner thing at her house a couple of times (my husband and I rarely had people over, that’s another issue). I always liked this woman — but we hadn’t become good friends. There were a lot of reasons, my husband and her’s had nothing in common, I had so many kids, not a lot of money, was insecure socially and my husband was a loner and I followed his lead, as I’d been conditioned to do. Christina, a lawyer turned stay-at-home mom ,was also a professor’s wife with a manageable sized family. They entertained, they traveled, and she spoke three languages. This was not her home town. I think I felt inadequate around her, though we were both lawyers, or maybe it was that I saw in her a life I’d missed out on. Huh. But I digress . . .
Even though we weren’t that close, I dialed Christina’s number after my husband backed out of our driveway on his way to his girlfriend. Christina had unwittingly won my dysfunctional lottery, got my call — and answered.
I could barely speak yet I stammered something along the lines of:
He was here and he left.
He left to be with her.
I don’t know what to do.
I can’t handle this!
I know I’m supposed to be strong but I really can’t handle this.
I can’t. I really can’t.
The tears were coming much harder now. I was pacing, panting and alternately shaking and clenching my free hand.
I was not handling this with grace and ease. Not by a long shot.
I don’t remember what Christina said to me. I can’t remember not because it was so long ago, but because I was really — ill. I couldn’t have told anyone what she’d said even the very next day.
Long story short, as they say, she talked me down from my frenzy and kept me from spinning further out of control. I think she told me to breathe. I needed to be told that. I think she offered to take the kids or at least some or one of them.
I don’t know. I don’t remember.
I do know that her answering the phone that day helped me more than she’ll ever know. (Not to sound overly dramatic but the situation was pretty bad. I was pretty bad.)
Christina and I never became the kind of friends who hang out regularly. She did take my son to play with hers a few times, but our kids were not in the same grade, and we lost touch.
Recently, however, I ran into her at a school concert. I admit that since that whole ordeal I’ve felt a bit embarrassed by my actions, my condition and my persistent inability to bounce back. I know she never judged me but I often feel like other women deal with this stuff so much better than I do — so I judge myself. Still, I was glad to see her to exchange pleasantries. Truthfully, I’ve always admired her. But when I saw Christina she had a bit of news. She casually told me she’d moved out of her house and now lives alone in a nearby apartment. I knew her oldest was away at college, but she told me that the other boy, a ninth grader, lives with his father in their marital home. Huh.
I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “Um . . . what?” ( I have such a way with words.)
She smiled, repeated herself and said, “You never know what life brings” and added, matter of factly, that her husband was going to buy her out of the house and that she’d been on her own for about three months.
She seemed fine. In fact, she seemed good, really.
We exchanged cell phone numbers. I don’t know if she needs help or someone to talk to . . . or whatever. If I can help, I will.
Just Me With . . . maybe a new (old) friend?
I’ll try really hard not to hyperventilate when I call her from now on.
See Also: “My Daddy Moved Out” — My daughters announcing the break up.
Narrator: There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.
– The Twilight Zone, 1959, Season One
My narrator: Meet Roxanne, a divorced mother of five who sometimes forgets to eat, or chooses to save a simple breakfast bar for her children rather than “waste” it on herself. It’s an ordinary day for Roxanne, who had left home for her only true indulgence — getting her morning coffee. She didn’t know that when she returned into her neighborhood, she would cross into . . . The Twilight Zone.
Over the weekend we had some icy snow in my part of the world. I was out running errands (in other words: getting coffee). On the way home I was wondering whether I could get my children to shovel the sidewalks for me, doubted that they would before going to visit their father and worried about whether doing it myself would throw my back out again. My Aching Back A neighbor offered to pay my daughter to do hers. I wished that daughter or any of the children would do ours also, without back talk, threats or rewards — and before they had to go. It probably wouldn’t happen. I got my coffee, and while there I picked up my daughter’s favorite breakfast sandwich as a treat, plus I wanted her to get something warm in her belly before going out to shovel the neighbor’s walkway. As is often the case, I didn’t get a sandwich for myself, saving a couple of bucks, not wanting to spend the money on — me. As I turned into my neighborhood, I had my daily thoughts of “I really hate this neighborhood, I don’t like living here.” Followed by, “I wonder if I can figure out a way to move again but keep the kids in the same schools.” And rounding out the trilogy, “Don’t be ridiculous, there’s no reason to move except that you don’t like it here and that’s just not a good enough reason.”
Given all these thoughts rushing through my head it was rather amazing that I happened to spot a woman on the side of the road. She had plastic grocery store bags spread in front of her in the snow, was shaking and clenching her hands and seemed to be trying to figure out a way to pick them up again. Clearly she was struggling to carry her groceries home in the snow.
I stopped, backed up, asked if she wanted a ride. She only gave pause for a moment and eyed me to make sure I didn’t look like a crazy. (Sometimes I can appear quite normal . . . but I digress). It was bitter cold outside. She accepted the ride, put her bags in the back seat and sat up front next to me, thanking me. She explained that she rushed out so quickly to get some things from the store that she had forgotten her gloves. It wasn’t that the bags were heavy, she said, it was that her hands were frozen and she couldn’t hold them anymore. “My hands hurt so bad,” she said.
It didn’t really matter to me why she was in her predicament, I just wanted to get her home. It was too damn cold and icy to walk, especially with groceries, no cart and no gloves. She went on to explain that her brother couldn’t shovel the car out because of his eye. His eye. Huh. I pondered this. Why would his eye keep him from shoveling . . . maybe he’d had surgery? I drifted off to my own little world, thoughts racing for first place in my head.
Then my passenger said, “I’m Roxanne.”
Skid marks on the brain. Thoughts stopped on a dime.
“Get OUT!!!” I responded, perhaps a little too energetically, reminiscent of Elaine from Seinfeld.
“What?” she responded, looking concerned. It was an unfortunate choice of words for my exclamation — I mean, saying “Get Out!” to a passenger in my car! Smooth, Roxanne.
“MY name is Roxanne,” I quickly explained.
“Yes. Really. Wow, that’s wild.” It’s a fairly uncommon name. It was surreal.
Roxanne said that I could drop her at a nearby intersection but I told her, no, I would take her all the way home. During the ride I discovered that we had gone to the same high school, and though I had assumed she was older than me, it turned out but she was too young for me even to have known her from school. She appeared worn beyond her years. I didn’t recall ever having seen her in the neighborhood or around town. It was odd.
So what of my surprise passenger, Roxanne? A woman who shared my name, who was walking alone in the snow-covered street, who failed to think of her own needs while rushing to meet the needs of others. The consequences of her neglect of self was finding herself standing in the snow with frozen fingers, groceries at her feet and blocks from home. For whatever reason– her family was not there to help her and she had to accept a ride from a stranger.
It gave me pause.
I’m that Roxanne, too, coming home with a sandwich for a child so that she could shovel another family’s walk but bringing no food for myself.
I almost said to the other Roxanne, “How could you leave home without gloves? You’ve got to take care of yourself. You’re no good to anybody if you get sick or frostbite.” But what stopped me, other than that being creepy coming from a stranger, is that other people have been saying that to me lately. My therapeutic goals are largely based upon meeting my basic self-care needs without guilt.
“Roxanne, have you been eating and sleeping? You can’t take care of your family if you don’t take care yourself.” I’ve heard often. Too often.
Did the universe send me that other Roxanne to remind me that I need to help myself? I mean, I know that when I get sick, the whole system fails. I know this, yet I still need reminders that protecting myself from the elements, eating, sleeping and yes even doing something just for my sheer enjoyment of it is as important as, well — anything. Somehow, that reminder got in my car that day, and her name was Roxanne.
I dropped Roxanne off feeling good about having helped her, since it was so very cold outside, but I knew that both of us need to take care of ourselves. I need to take care of me.
Maybe picking up a reflection of myself — what I could become, what I have been . . . was meant to be that day.
My Narrator: Roxanne, a functioning, yet melancholy divorced mother who often puts her basic needs well behind those in her care, stops in the snow to assist an eerily familiar woman in distress, a woman who perhaps shares more than just her name in . . . The Twilight Zone.
Just Me With . . . an over-active imagination?
P.S. I told my therapist about it. She queried whether the woman was real.
I’m not even going there.
See the Sequel: The Twilight Zone — Again? Seriously?
I’ve made a conscious decision not to attempt online dating right now, or any kind of dating. It’s not that I’m afraid of getting hurt or afraid of the crazies. It’s just that, well, I hate all the boxes I have to check that define me. It becomes an exercise in self-examination (humiliation) that is just no fun. As in “How did this happen to me!!!!!“
I’m not so good on paper online. I have been married before; it ended in divorce. Of course, that’s not uncommon, but I have a whole bunch of children (five, yes, five children) from that marriage, who live with me. My career and net worth are, at least at present, not what they had the potential to be, for many reasons, some of which are related to the fact that I was married, had a lot of children in a very short period of time, got dumped and flipped out.
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be so good in person, either. I’ve got nothing to talk about. The course of my life and accomplishments have in no small part been influenced by my prior relationship, which, I know, is not appropriate casual dating conversation. For the last few years I have been dealing with the end of that relationship, recovery from that relationship, and depression. Again, not topics of casual coffee talk with a stranger. And talking about kids is also a dating no-no. Plus, I don’t have a list of exciting hobbies and activities I’d like to discuss and share with a potential mate, except for the music stuff which I don’t feel the need to bring a man into. And no, I don’t go to the gym, unless, of course, you count the physical therapy I’m still attending to recover from the injuries I received from the dangerous and stupid combination of starting an exercise regimen and fighting with my daughter (she won, by the way). My Aching Back. So I’m not a lot of fun in person, I fear. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot to offer, but I don’t have the energy or inclination or time to peddle my potential to a stranger.
I realize how negative I sound. I’m depressed. I should be dating Eeyore. Now Eeyore and I, yeah, we could hang out . . . but I digress.
Regardless of all the reasons not to do it, I could put myself out there anyway and pretend to be a good date. But here’s part two of the problem. What (oh I’m sorry) Who would I get in response to my online profiles? I’d get guys who are attracted to what I appear to be on paper online. Well, that’s just scary. I’m a little scary. I know that. Damn, I wouldn’t even respond to my own profile. Still, when I create these profiles (and never pay), I do get poked or pinged or prodded or winked at or whatever from men –men who apparently can tolerate the boxes that I’ve checked (oh the boxes, I check too many and too few). When I see these connections, I just want to scratch my head and say, “Dude, really, you’re into this?” I mean, I can barely tolerate the boxes I check. And if he checks the same boxes? Oh what a motley crew we would make.
My checked boxes may accurately describe my situation, but they don’t define me. Really, they don’t.
Wait, do they?
Do they? !!!!! (Singing: “Excuse me, while I start to cry . . . ” Playing air guitar.)
Perhaps it comes down to the fact that I don’t want someone to share this current on paper online profile life with, I’d like some company in a very different life that I have yet to create, or failed to create in the past (Shut up, Eeyore). So, no, I’m not ready online or otherwise to force a dating life. I need to take care of me, manage or overcome this depression, work to get out of this financial hole my divorce left me in. Yada yada yada . . .
That is the reasoned, socially correct conclusion.
That’s not me, either.
To be continued . . .
Just Me With . . . a decision not to force a dating situation.
See, Undateable, Part II.
The social worker said, “She wants to break you.” She, being my daughter.
The reasons why there is a social worker in my house are beyond what I feel like writing about now. But know that it was my reaching out for help, not a protective services situation. My daughter is struggling with anger and depression and literally ran — I mean ran from traditional counseling. You haven’t lived until you’ve chased a child around a therapist’s office, but I digress. Consequently, I sought another route which brings professionals to the house.
Over the years I had done what I was supposed to do. I told the children what they needed to know about the separation and divorce and move based on their age and capacity to understand. I did not talk about the legal aspects of it. The children never knew that I suffered through dealing with various court filings (actually for me I was usually responding to my husband’s filings) and court appearances. They don’t know about the financial and professional ruin and my poor health. They were too little, it was appropriate to shield them. The younger ones don’t seem to remember my good old-fashioned nervous breakdown and years, literally — years of tears. I suppose that’s good. I know it’s good. When my children are grown and thinking back on their childhood and mother I don’t want them to recall an image of me lying on the kitchen floor sobbing. That’s not cool.
She has stated that her misery is because we moved from the big marital home in the nice neighborhood, but I think it’s more. I agree, she wants to break me. I believe she thinks any appearance of strength or acceptance on my part somehow negates her feelings of loss. The more comfortable I get with leaving the old life — the old house, the more miserable she seems.
What she doesn’t know is that I’m already broken, I broke down long ago, my loss was substantial. For the last few years I’ve just been in survival and repair mode, with medications and counseling as needed, along with a fair amount of carpentry. As the children have gotten older I’ve enhanced explanations and have told them they can ask me anything and I will respond (age appropriately). I’ve explained why we had to move, and why we moved to where we are now . . . but she’s too young and too miserable right now to hear it.
Still, she is old enough to know that our move to a much smaller house in a poor neighborhood is not merely a new adventure; she can see that we have taken a step down, socio-economically. She also knows that her Dad also has a new life — with new people in it — and that’s just the way it is.
But, without acceptance of it all, it stinks.
Plus, my daughter is savvy, suspicious, practical and depressed enough to outright reject the “positive spin” talk. I’ve tried. She’ll need a different angle. She’s a lot like me that way.
And let’s face it, misery loves company, and she wants me to be miserable and angry, too. (I am, but I try not to show it.)
Though I’m thankful she feels comfortable enough with me to express her feelings, especially since she is uncomfortable with her Dad, I still want to (but won’t) say,
“Don’t break me, girl. You need me, more than you know. I’m all you got. I am not invincible. I am human, even though I am your mother. Don’t break me. Please. I’ve been broken before, you don’t remember — but it ain’t pretty.“
So when I recently tweeted, “I will not cry, I will not cry, I will not cry” after the heart wrenching session with my daughter and the social worker, it was because it hurt me to my soul and I feared that if I cried I would never stop. I know, sounds overly dramatic, but sometimes . . . it is.
Just Me With . . . some struggles.
I had been on this particular anti-depressant for a year, had been on others before that (since my husband moved out). The medicine, coupled with therapy, helped me during a very, very bad time. With the medicine I was better than I had been during those darkest days. But was I still depressed? Absolutely. Because of my general poor health, diet and limited success on the meds, “they” (meaning my psychiatrist, but “they” sounds as impersonal as it felt then) switched me from one anti-depressant to another, then another. I had made strides, was functional to a certain extent, but still had what they called “major episodic depression” . . . and when I was bad, I was really bad. And with that last medicine I was on, I felt numb, less creative and I suffered from fatigue — falling asleep behind the wheel — kind of fatigue. Emotionally, it seemed as though I had reached a plateau but from time to time, I would just fall off.
I simply wasn’t snapping out of it.
Then, after a particularly rough descent into a depressive episode, they suggested that my condition be treated more aggressively. In addition to stepped up therapy, there were more meds prescribed — “add-ons” they called them — additional medicines to take on top of the daily anti-depressant I was already taking.
The first “add-on” affected my eyesight. I could barely read anything. Also, it made me manic, it wasn’t unusual for me to be doing landscaping at 2:00 am and I– could– not–stop. (My yard looked great, though, but I digress.)
When I complained of not being able to see, and of being so agitated and let’s face it, weird, they switched me to a different add-on. Additionally, as part of a larger plan, since my general health and diet had improved, I requested a change in my daily main anti-depressant and asked if I could go back to the one that didn’t make me fall asleep in odd places. They didn’t allow me to change at first, but since my fatigue had gotten worse– almost falling asleep at the kitchen sink — and I was eating better than before, they said I could change. (Reportedly, without adequate nutrition the other anti-depressant could cause seizures. Wonderful. But I had been eating better, and promised to continue doing so.)
So they instructed me, in writing, to:
- Cut the dosage of my current main anti-depressant in half,
- Discontinue taking the first add-on
- Begin new add-on medication, one I’d never taken before.
- Discontinue current main anti-depressant completely,
- Begin another anti-depressant, one I’d used before but had fewer side effects (meaning, I was awake)
In other words, my doc had told me to switch both my main anti-depressant and the add-on during a two-week period.
“Okay, whatever,” I thought. I just wanted to be able to see, be conscious, sit still and maybe get some creativity– some of the “me” back.
I followed the instructions.
But I had problems with the new “add-on.” That particular medication warned that if you get a rash from it, especially in your eyes, you could die. My eyes started itching, I had that kind of rash. Since they didn’t know which meds were causing it, and it was potentially fatal, I was told to stop taking everything, cold turkey. So, I did.
No one told me there could be side effects, no one told me there was withdrawal.
First I became so, so dizzy. I would walk into door jams, stumble around in my little house. I had been in the midst of home improvement projects that required me to be up on a ladder. I couldn’t even think of it. My equilibrium was off. Way off.
Then came the nausea and diarrhea.
Because of my history, Confessions of a Skinny Mom, I am no stranger to stomach ailments. But this was different. Sudden flu or food poisoning-like symptoms hit me, hard.
“Damn, am I sick? “
I kept having to go to the bathroom. “Whoa,” I thought. “This isn’t normal. Had I eaten something bad ? ” I wondered.
Without going into the gory details, suffice it to say that I stopped keeping track of my bathroom visits after eight trips to the toilet in an hour. I was too sensitive to sights and smells to camp out in there. Ewwww! So back and forth I went. (No pun intended.)
Next came the brain zaps. It’s so hard to describe. It’s like getting hit in the head with a heavy blunt object, but without the external pain. Sudden flashes of light out of nowhere, caused by nothing, but strong enough to make me stop talking, lose my train of thought, blink, cringe, shudder, look around
. . . at nothing.
Then light became my curse. It hurt to open my eyes, it didn’t matter whether it was artificial or sun light — any light hurt. I started to wear sunglasses inside, at night. Sound bothered me as well, but not as much as light. Unless — it was the phone. I couldn’t hold a phone to my ear; I thought my ears would bleed. I had to talk on speaker or I couldn’t talk at all.
I lived like a vampire, a vampire with the runs. (TMI? I know, it was too much for me, too.)
I shouldn’t have been driving.
Still, the kids had to get places and I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I tried to work through it. It’s a mom thing. I was trying to play it off. Wrong. So wrong. Clearly I hadn’t learned my lesson from my previous illnesses I ignored. “Almost F*cked to Death.” And did I mention it was Halloween and I have five kids? I did the best I could, and I did more than I should have, but it wasn’t much fun that year. Not at all. I told the kids I was sick and they’d have to be patient with me. I usually enjoy Halloween, but that year? — well, it was just too damn scary.
On the road it felt as though cars were coming right at me, like some sort of horror movie and awful amusement park ride combined . . . on drugs. I missed turns in my own neighborhood. I yelled at the kids to be quiet because I had to concentrate on what I was doing. It took so much focused energy to go forward. I white knuckled the steering wheel, for dear life. It was counter-intuitive, really. I mean, I know not to drive while under the influence. But my impaired driving was because I wasn’t taking anything. It didn’t make sense. Bottom line, though, my judgment, reflexes, everything was impaired. I should not have been on the road.
And I was so weak. So weak. I recall going to the store and needing a cart — to hold myself up. I couldn’t walk without swooning, and I had to close my eyes from time to time, even with sunglasses on. Like having a bad flu, I hurt all over.
Mentally, it took its toll as well, mainly because I didn’t know what was happening to me. The brain zaps and the light sensitivity, the nausea and the lack of depth perception and compromised equilibrium — it all started to affect my judgment. I wouldn’t say I was suicidal, exactly, but I wasn’t thinking right. I was agitated, confused. I thought I was going crazy. It wasn’t pretty. When I thought of what I went through alone, and what could have happened, I still shudder. I wasn’t thinking clearly at all. I didn’t have another adult to talk to about it. Paranoia had set in.
I was alone on that worst first night, fending off invisible blows to my head in a darkened room that seemed to keep spinning around. But a friend happened to call me, an acquaintance, really. I answered (on speaker) out of desperation, I was close to quiet hysteria. She casually asked how I was doing. Now I had diarrhea again — of the mouth. I quickly told her I wasn’t doing too well, confessed I had been on meds, developed side effects and stopped taking them pursuant to doctor’s orders but was freaking out! And I described to her how I felt. Poor thing, I know she wasn’t expecting so much information from me, but she listened, and was concerned. (I probably sounded like a maniac.) She talked me down from some of my agitation and convinced me to call the doctor. To this day I don’t remember who called me that night.
But the next day was Sunday, and Halloween, and did I mention I have five kids? Poor kids. I wasn’t my normal Halloween loving self. We got through it. By the time I got a message returned from my psychiatrist and told her how I was feeling, she said that I sounded sick and should see a doctor. Ya think? Wait. What? Isn’t SHE a doctor? Yes, yes, she is, but she suggested I see my regular primary care physician or go to the emergency room. I didn’t feel up to taking myself to the ER so I waited to see my regular doctor. He told me he thought my symptoms were from the withdrawal from the first anti-depressant, not the rash-making add-on. He said I could keep working through it and see what life is like off the meds.
Huh, I thought. So far, life off the meds hurt like hell and . . . IT WAS STARTING TO PISS ME OFF. Everything was starting to piss me off. Ahh yes, another lovely discontinuation effect of which I had not been warned.
Rages, they call them. Sudden fits of anger. Lovely. I should have been chained to a pipe in a dark basement with nothing but a pissy mattress.
When I felt well enough to do research, I found that I was not alone, that this medication is almost never stopped cold turkey because of the horrific “discontinuation effects.” Patients usually plan to ween over a period of months, not days, and still suffer. Some liken the symptoms to heroin withdrawal and even suggest that cold turkey discontinuation only be attempted while hospitalized. But it’s not about a craving for the medication, anti-depressants don’t really work like that, it’s about the physical withdrawal the body goes through when the medicine is taken away. Because the withdrawal symptoms can be so debilitating, patients often plan the withdrawal during a time when they can take off work and all other responsibilities. Silly me, attempting cold turkey withdrawal while caring for five kids — at Halloween. But I didn’t know.
Armed with this information, I talked to my psychiatrist again, this time in person, and explained all of my symptoms and what my other doctor had said. She advised that my only choice was to start taking a low dosage of the same anti-depressant again and ween slowly from that.
What? Start taking it again? What?
Hoping that I’d already suffered through the worst of it, I decided not to start taking the drug again. My shrink apologized for not telling me that there could be “discontinuation effects.” How could she not tell me? Yeah, I was pissed, sitting there in her office, with my sunglasses on, blinking after the brain zaps. I was pissed. And I looked like hell.
The zaps went on for months, as well as the light sensitivity, lethargy and dizziness. It was not unusual for me to wear sunglasses in the grocery store, at night, leaning on a cart. Pitiful. But don’t talk to me. I might not be nice. Shhhh.
Imagine having a hangover while on a spinning carnival ride while seated next to someone who annoyed the hell out of you and who kept clocking you in the head. Yeah . . . like that.
It’s been almost a year now. I’m still suffering from some long-term discontinuation effects. I have trouble putting a phone to my ear, I never go anywhere without sunglasses, and I’m often suddenly irritable — but less so now. I have other physical symptoms — but these may or may not be a result of dealing with depression without medication. I don’t know.
Regardless, I wish I would have known that there was a possibility that I would suffer so from simply stopping the medication. If I had, I would have thought twice about starting this particular drug in the first place. Had I known — what I learned too late, I absolutely would have planned my discontinuation of the medicine so very differently, or at the very least timed it differently.
And this I know: I will never take anything again without researching not only the possible side effects while taking the medication, but the possible effects of discontinuing it.
In the end, I am just very grateful that I didn’t accidentally or intentionally cause any harm to myself or others while going through the withdrawal.
It was a horrible experience.
Just Me With OUT . . . Cymbalta.
Depression hurts . . . Cymbalta can help. But if you stop taking it . . . beware. Bwa ha ha ha! www.CymbaltaWithdrawal.com
P.S. I am not against the use of anti-depressants, or add-ons, or whatever it takes. And I know that some people do not suffer any discontinuation effects. My medicines got me off the floor during a unspeakably painful time. So no judgment on people taking medicine for depression. I do believe, however, that discussion of the type, timing, dosage, length of treatment and effects of discontinuation of treatment should be initiated by the prescribing physician and thoroughly discussed. There was much I didn’t know, and wasn’t thinking clearly enough to ask or research on my own. I was uninformed, and that’s never good.
I am angry. That is how my depression manifests itself these days. I’m off the floor. I don’t cry. But I have no patience for anyone and I’m pushing people away. That’s my M.O. I’m blinded by rage and can’t see anything but thankless obligation. Suppressing myself for the common good. That is what I do, that is what mothers must do. Therein lies my rage. It’s not pretty. It’s not good. Since I can’t let it out, it gets turned inward. And it waits. Customer service people and drivers beware.
No, I don’t bash my Ex in front of my kids, yes, I show support for his choices. Because I have no choice. blah blah blah And, I count my blessings for having healthy kids, living parents, a roof over my head, and an Ex who pays court-ordered child support. Yes, I know the drill. Those will tell me to put on my big girl panties, pray, etc. Yes, I know the drill. I’m not an idiot. I’m not a Stepford Ex-Wife either — though I play one in real life during every waking hour. I don’t drink. I never utter a profanity in front of my kids. I’m a good girl.
But just under the surface, is my rage, this is where my poor choices, failed career, and misspent youth doing the right things fester, while I watch, drive, stand in the rain, in support of everyone else or dry the tears and say the “right” things when someone comes to me crying because of something someone else did, or accept being ignored when it is not “my day.” I listen to crap to keep the peace and I bite my tongue while people pity me for not meeting my or their expectations. I say thank you when my mothering gets praised when I’ve never felt so alone. Yet I know that children are fickle creatures and will gravitate toward those who fulfill their needs and cling to those who fail them. I’m honored to have certain people in my life, yet curse myself for having needed them so badly. And I know that there are people suffering horribly from unspeakable disease, trauma and disaster, so how dare I be angry about anything? Yes, yes, I know, I know the drill. So again, thou shall not have feelings . . .
So I’m angry. And the perfect empowered, pump wearing, summer house, happily c0-parenting with one child, dinner party, career-minded, alumni event and conference attending, people can shake their heads and waggle their tongues, all because I have feelings and dare to get pissed. And, that’s why I’m pissed. I have feelings. I do the “right” things for my family — my broken home, but it is not and never has been enough for me and . . . I’m . . . pissed. I’m doing for my children, and I hope they do well and I hope to assist them to gain the tools necessary to do whatever they want to do — live their life, achieve what they want . . . happiness. But this —- this, is my life now and it . . . makes . . . me . . . mad. And I do not like it.
I realize I may get negative nastiness from this. Get in line, and take a number — Bash Me in Aisle Two, Use Me in Aisle One. These are, apparently, what I am here for, my true calling.
And this, my friend, is the voice of depression.
Just Me With . . . rage