Friday, August 5, 2016

Uncomfortably Numb

~A. L. Tennyson
I wish they warned me about this in Psychology class. I think there should be at least a whole semester devoted to how depression makes you unfit and unable to handle being a mother. Because that’s how I feel.
I remember watching a video a few years ago about a high school track athlete with Multiple Sclerosis. She was explaining that after intense exertion, the MS causes her to lose all the feeling in her extremities, even while her body keeps going through the motions. Besides feeling completely in awe of her perseverance in spite of her diagnosis, I thought that was such a similar description to what I feel like, parenting with depression. When it takes all the energy and motivation you have to simply get up and get out of bed in the morning, I feel like I spend the rest of my day numb - going through the motions. There is just nothing left for when the day doesn’t go as planned, or the kids are being especially cruel. And they’re kids. For the most part, they shouldn’t be to blame for expressing themselves when they’re frustrated and confused and unsure of how to show it meaningfully. But at the same time, it hurts. It hurts so much when they yell at you and tell you that they think you don’t care about them. Because - unbeknownst to them - the fear that you’re not able to care enough plays on repeat in your own head all day. When all of the daylight hours feel like you’re running a track race completely numb, using every amount of effort you have just to make sure your kids are content, and fed, and washed, and dressed. When you’re foregoing eating, and drinks, and the rest you so desperately crave, just to make sure that you are there, and present, and engaging with them so you don’t lie in bed later agonizing over all the wasted minutes and hours that slipped away when you were so lost and struggling with your own body and mind - just to have them turn around and scream at you that all your best effort isn’t worth it...
Not worth it, and not worthy. Their words repeat what your depression is telling you, every day. When the message echoes around you in stereo, its so hard to tune out the noise. But your one job as a parent is that you must not give up. Sometimes I wonder if the pain is my blessing in life, just so I know that the numbness isn’t all there is.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Bitter Pill

Notice the difference between what happens when a man says to himself, "I have failed three times," and what happens when he says, "I am a failure." ~S.I. Hayakawa
As parents, we all have our most challenging child. The one who frustrates us, pushes us, and makes us redefine our limits, our strengths, and ultimately plays on our weaknesses. We may love them all, but it's not easy to love them all the same.
Monkey is my most challenging. My enigma. Always changing and mercurial with her likes and her temperament. At times I think I can catch a glimpse of the little girl I knew and bonded with in the first 7 years, other times I think she's a changeling. But the hardest facet of her personality is that she will rarely ask for help. My Monkey will push ahead blindly, or hide and cry, but hardly ever will she ask for assistance. So most times it falls to me to judge when she has met her limit, and needs someone to step in. This can be met with resignation and acceptance, or it can be met with fierce denial and resentment. One can never tell. Whichever the case, I try to impress upon her that having help is an advantage, not something to be embarrassed about. But now what do I tell her when I can't get her the help she needs?
This school year has been a long and challenging uphill battle. We have tried tutoring, therapy, counseling, bribery, and punishment. Finally, in March, I thought we had scored by the school district agreeing to evaluate Monkey. But now it has all come to naught. Our request for an IEP was denied. Again. Instead of feeling relieved that my daughter will finally be able to get some individualized help in Math, I got a note at the bottom of the evaluation that read “We suggest flash cards or other methods of practice to help her retain basic concepts.” Really? My daughter has a 64 average in a subject, and you don’t think I’ve tried something as simple as flash cards?
I still can’t wrap my head around it. They promoted her to the next grade, but with an F. An F. Failure, flunkie, fan-freaking-tastic. I feel like I get an F for failing too. Because I failed my daughter. I told her all this year that she needs to learn to ask for help, because doing it solo while you’re struggling is not the way to do things. Yet, here I go asking for help, and we’re denied. I am at such a loss as to what to tell her. She already has internalized that her effort doesn’t matter because she “just fails it anyway.” What kind of example do I give her when my efforts fall short as well? What message is she left with?
We will be spending the summer blocking this entire episode out of our minds doing flash cards. And hoping for a miracle regarding her placement come September.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


I held a small ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the passing of my mom. I wasn't sure how well it would be received or attended, but I really felt like I needed to do something. It has been so long without her.
I had seen many years ago that Hawaii started a lantern floating ceremony on Memorial Day that looked so peaceful and beautiful. People write messages to loved ones and then float them off the coast of the beach. I wanted to try and recreate something like that for my mom. I think it was a wonderful success. The evening started off with a sun dog appearing in the sky, and a small breeze sent all the lanterns with their messages safely to the other side of the lake.
It was a beautiful evening surrounded by friends and family. I feel incredibly lucky to have so many people still here to remember her by. I'm hoping to try and do it again sometime, to keep her memory alive.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Five Little Words

"There was once a boy named Pierre, who only would say,"I don't care!"

Read his story, my friend, for you'll find at the end, that a suitable moral lies there." ~M. Sendak
Mommy lost her shit yesterday. I feel like it was inevitable, with how much stress I have been under, and how little release I have been finding time for. And of course, since Monkey has the shortcut menu to my hot buttons, she was the one to set me off. Just five little words that apparently blow my temper like an atom bomb. “You don’t care about me.”
Oh, my darling, how wrong you are.
I realize mothering is the most thankless of jobs. The day to day minutiae that actually makes a household run is something always expected, but never appreciated. I have yet to have one of my children thank me for the hours spent making them complete their homework, or hounding them about project deadlines, or telling them to turn off the video games, and go outside. The most feedback I get about dinner, and breakfast, and lunch is how horrible it is, and that they refuse to eat it. And I know the last thing they’re thinking about while they’re off doing their thing at dance, or sports practice, or a game, is what Mommy is thinking about on the bench while she’s waiting for them. About how she skipped dinner to make sure they were fed, or is cold because their sibling insisted they didn’t need a coat so she gave them her own, or how she wished she could be off doing the million other errands that need to be done, but she doesn’t have time for. Because she is with them, always. In mind, in thought, in action.
Most times I can take a step back from my anger and remind myself that they are blessed that they are truly unaware of what it is to experience someone not caring about them. That their hurt feelings and animosity are temporary and fleeting, unlike the scars some children carry from the burden of being neglected or alone. But every once in awhile, they witness the human side of me. The side that is just as hurt and resentful as they are about how unfair I feel I’m being treated. And as guilty as I feel about it now, as horrible and childish I myself acted, in a way I’m glad they saw me as raw as I was. I hope they remember that was Mommy caring so much about you that she was crying.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Breaking Through

“I am not what i have done. I am what i have overcome.”
May 7th, Mother’s Day weekend, I ran my first 5K with my husband. We wore orange in honor of my mother, we stuck together as we dodged through the strollers, and walkers, and dancers, and kids. My husband even got hit with a spraying can of beer. But we did it. I did it. Asthma and all. For her. For me. For the fact that I am still here breathing, even though the pain can still take my breath away.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In Wonderland

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
Most days, I still feel like Alice after she fell down the rabbit hole. It has been two long years to get to this point. Two years of doubting myself, second guessing myself, and losing every ounce of confidence I had about being a good mother. About being a mother who could help her kids, guide them in the right direction. Help them learn and grow. Its two years later and I feel that I have none of these qualities anymore. And still I have no answers.
After a personality change, a near complete withdrawal from extra curricular activities, and an academic freefall, my wish for an evaluation for Monkey was finally granted. But even if we get a diagnosis that deviates from simple ADHD, I still feel like it will get us nowhere. It's almost May already. The white rabbit would agree that we are late in every sense of the word. Even with an IEP, there is no magical cure that will create passing scores in her two suffering subjects before June. No magical drinks or edible mushrooms that will instantly make her ready to be promoted. I'm trying not to fixate on a future of summer school or a repeated grade, but the possibility looms over my head every day. And still no progress report from the school. I just get to sit and wonder what is going on in the otherwordly dimension of the Upper Elementary. It's frustrating to go from such open communication in her last school, to having none whatsoever in the next. My imagination does me no favors filling in the blanks in lieu of actual information.
So I drift in this stagnant ocean of helplessness and anxiety. Wanting to know, but dreading what they have to tell me. Fearful that I won't be strong enough to help my child navigate the next chapters of her life with my sanity intact. And on and on we cycle through the same repeated behaviors and conflicts, just like being stuck at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with no escape. With the depression in the background calling me like a siren, trying to seduce me into its arms.
My only solace is to keep distracting myself with other things. Keep pushing, and living, and moving forward, to distance myself from my own mind. Doing anything I can not to go through the looking glass in my mind to the other side.

Monday, March 14, 2016


Happy Birthday to you
Still lost without you
I just keep pushing forward

And try to live for you too

Friday, March 11, 2016


"Defeat is not final when one falls is final when one refuses to get back up and fight."

Proof that mind over matter is real….I have barely been able to get out of bed in the last three days. There is nothing physically wrong with me, except that my mind won’t let me go. I try not to think about the fact that my mother would be turning 65 in less than three weeks, a big milestone for her if she were still here (since she always said she could never imagine herself as a “little old lady”). But surprise, surprise, my mind remembers. And has been holding my body hostage accordingly.

Its a little exhausting when your biggest opponent is yourself. Everything is a fight, from getting up in the morning to going to sleep at night, and all the little tasks that need to get done in between. Nothing seems so hopeless as battling an invisible opponent who is beside you and around you every moment of the day. Most days, I wish my depression could take on a physical form so I could give it one good crack to the face. I am so tired of its bonds restricting me. I am so exhausted from trying to push past it so I can get on with my life and plans and daily duties. There is no motivation in the world that will work if the mind doesn't want to. And right now, my mind is dictating that we don't get out of bed for a few days. It is body-achingly exhausting to even think about getting up and going about a normal routine. Thank goodness for an understanding husband who doesn't question my inability to function and simply picks up the slack. A man who just congratulated me for getting dressed and downstairs, because he knows its not what I felt like doing.

I will get back to myself. And this too shall pass. Slowly but surely. I just need to keep fighting my way out of bed in the morning.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Open Letter to the Peanut Gallery

au·ton·o·my - (n) freedom from external control or influence; independence.
synonyms: self-government, self-rule, home rule, self-determination, independence, sovereignty, freedom

 I have always tried to be the loudest advocate for my child. All three of them. But within that philosophy was always the understanding between my husband and myself that we would raise them to advocate for themselves. Speak for themselves, ask their own questions, make their own decisions, and suffer the related consequences. For Scootch, this was easy. Him having food allergies makes teaching points a simple requirement of everyday life. Asking questions about food, sharing with adults that he has allergies, asking for help from others to check about the safety of what he was eating...I have to say in some ways he is the most confident of the three in regards of his own body. This is a more complicated hurdle with Monkey. Having to explain the subtle double standards expected of her is not an easy task. Nor is it pleasant to deal with her response to such conversations. She’s as loud spoken as her Mom, in that respect. But most important, we hope that the message they take away is that their body is their own. Not only does that mean that they are responsible for their body in terms of how it affects others, but also that no other person should be affecting their own body in an unwanted way if it doesn’t feel right to them. Whether its about how they dress, or the colors they like, how they paint their nails, or wear their hair, I'm hoping that giving them the freedom of body autonomy from an early age will strengthen their defenses against the poisonous influence of peer pressure and bullying in the future.

The most surprising effect of this process is not the reactions from my children’s peers, but from the adults. Although I’m sure I probably shouldn’t be surprised. Parenthood is nothing but opening yourself to be a target of criticism, it seems. I see this more and more as my sons go to school with their nails painted, and my daughter brings in bugs she dug up in the garden - to the delight of their peers, and the horror of the parents. No one could believe I never got my daughter’s ears pierced until she let me know she wanted them done at age eight. And similarly, I’ve discussed with Scootch and Little Bear that they have the same option, but both are sincerely not interested. In my thinking its simple; their bodies, their choice.

Over Christmas, my husband decided he wanted to color his hair again. Not a rare occurrence in this household, but novel just the same because of the proposed colors involved. Monkey caught wind of this and announced she wanted to color her hair too. Just the ends, and red for Christmas. The ensuing Daddy/daughter bonding was sweet to see. The two of them combing the beauty supply store for supplies, negotiating about the perfect color, and the excitement and elation of the actual process. And when the first attempt didn’t work out, I was happy to see Monkey discussing that she wanted to try again, but different this time. Maybe doing the under part of her hair instead of the ends. And more prep work involved so the color would actually stick. We are now the proud parents of a nine year old with a swath of magenta hair at the nape of her neck. And the backlash is ridiculous.

I will never understand how other adults feel their opinion is something that is worth pushing on others if there is no harm being done. In a year or two, the pink will be long gone, and probably cut off. Maybe replaced by purple polka dots, or maybe by a pixie cut. We are teaching our daughter, our children, to love their bodies. Push the boundaries of what they can do, and how they go about it. To express themselves, and feel secure in doing it. The whispered comments, and vitriol are not helpful, and not needed. Monkey and Scootch and Little Bear do not require your approval to feel good about themselves. Neither should they ever feel cowed or ashamed of not living by the so called “acceptable” standards because it makes YOU nervous or uncomfortable. As adults, you should know better, and as a fellow parent, you should be ashamed of trying to bruise the feelings of a child. Over hair. Something that is transient, ever changing, and not even guaranteed to be present throughout your entire life. 

In the future, if you have a comment regarding our children’s journey of self discovery, please remember that if you have nothing nice to say, it is better to respect my children's decisions about their own bodies, and say nothing at all.