It’s interesting. People keep asking me how I am doing, that’s predictable (and appreciated!). I’m not sure what to say a lot of the time. “Well, I’m behaving as if I feel more cheerful. I am less explosive. I am not nearly as angry. I also feel completely dead sexually. When people touch me I feel my skin crawl. But I’m way more calm with way less time in time out!” Is that a win?
A number of people have expressed how impressed they are that I can simply suppress these memories. I can stop having flashbacks. I can black the body memories. But it comes with a price. I don’t get to really be me when I’m doing this. I’m just a shell. You see, my therapist is on vacation till August 1st. Perfect timing. I don’t really feel up to seeing a new person right now. I’m… yeah. I’m just not up for that. I miss people and I miss going out but I am so happy to be home that I’m kind of afraid to leave. I haven’t even been up to Oakland yet to see the friend I normally see at least once a week because leaving the house is insurmountable.
Why is leaving the house insurmountable? Because I only have so much patience right now and at home I can ask Shanna to do a very limited number of things so we have a limited number of fights. Once we leave the house all bets are off. We might have a great experience; we might have a horrible time. By “horrible time” I mean that she will pick a fight in front of other people and I will feel intense shame and humiliation that my child is such a brat. And I will end up yelling at her with far more intensity than the situation warrants because I am feeling shame and humiliation. So I would rather not take her out. It’s not that I never yell at her at home, but it’s far less. And when I can tell that I am starting to internally escalate things that don’t need to escalate I can safely separate us until I calm down more and can talk. It’s seamless and non-dramatic at home. Well, three year olds are dramatic.
I’m experiencing a lot more sympathy for why other people give in to their kids to stop the freaking constant whining. I still won’t, but my alternative is to send her to her room until she can talk in a tone of voice that doesn’t sound like nails on a chalk board. I don’t have that when we are out. Oh it feels like pressure. It feels like overwhelming-I’m-drowning-where-is-the-air pressure. It’s not a rational reaction. It is, in fact, completely irrational. I am comforted by books that tell me that three is just like this. Get through the year and it improves. Please G-d.
At home we do ok! Really! We have have far more good days than bad. Even our bad days at home aren’t that bad because I am way more liberal with “room time” than any “real” crunchy parent would be. What the hell is gentle discipline anyway? I don’t hit her. I do my best not to yell. But oh man I need space and the only way I know to get it is to tell her that she has two options: she can be civilized and polite, or she can be in her room. It’s not that all expressions of emotion are uncivilized or impolite. However, if you have to reach volumes that are harming my ear drums in order to express yourself you can do that outside the main room, sorry. No, I don’t think that children deserve to terrorize everyone around them as they develop emotions. And I cannot sit down and patiently let her do everything she wants to do. Sometimes things have to get done. I’m almost sorry. But mostly because it means that not only do I have to do an avalanche of work, I have to argue with her all day about whether or not she will let me do it without being a whiny brat because she wants me to do nothing but pay attention to her. Ugh.
I swear to G-d I do things with her. I play games. I teach her gardening stuff. We play on the swing. I read to them. I bake with her. Et cetera. Nothing is enough so I need to just say that I’ve had enough. My needs matter too. And she needs to deal with that disappointment because life is going to hold a whole lot more disappointments in it.
I think that is what the current rash of articles on over attentive parenting is saying. I feel like I am trying (and failing) to meet all of her needs because my needs were so extensively ignored and unmet. But there is a happy medium. My family didn’t know how to meet my basic needs and Shanna is not in that position. Shanna never has to wonder if she will have a place to live, food to eat (that is palatable), if she will see her mother or father or sister, or if she will get several hours of positive attention every day, or if she will be abused. Shanna is safe. Shanna really and truly is getting the basics that I didn’t have.
It impacts the whole rest of your life to not have those things as a child. That is why I still identify as white trash even though I feel guilty given the extensive privilege I enjoy now. I still feel like I’m not sure I will have a place to live or palatable food (this is a serious issue at this point in my life). Noah went to great lengths to create a family trust and he put all of his separate property I was previously not entitled to, all the inheritance stuff, into community property. No really, all stay at home moms are not created equal. I am not taking the risk that other people take. He truly can’t screw me, no matter what. I will never be destitute again. But I still go through periods where I am afraid to do things in the house because I think I will get in trouble. I angst and dither over doing things because I fear that everyone will be mad at me and make me go. This is not rational. This is in my bone marrow. This is why I feel like white trash. I feel like a dirty little imposteur and at any moment I will be made to go away from decent people. I’ve been told I wasn’t welcome before.
I was asked to leave the Seventh Day Adventist church when I was a kid. As an adult I would say that a small minded bully with no actual authority told me that she didn’t like me… but that’s not how it felt at 12. I was pushing to do a lock-in with the youth group. I had been to one at my friend Yvette’s church and I really wanted to do it again. A woman in an authority like position in the group took me aside and told me how offensive and inappropriate that was. It was disgustingly sexual and then she told me that I would feel more comfortable in a place that was less Godly.
So I went and fucked Sean. That’s pretty much the timeline on that. Super Bowl Sunday was a few weeks after that. I went and visited family friends who were not making great life choices. Lots of drugs. Lots of risky behavior. My family thought it was great for me to go stay with them! They were also hosting a different family friend for the weekend. He also happened to be their drug dealer. On Superbowl Sunday I told him that I wanted him to do something to me. He asked what. I said I was too shy to say the word. He asked me what letter it started with. I said “F”. He started saying the predictable ones: fondle, feel, finger… then he got to fuck. I said yes.
He turned all the lights off. He did basically no foreplay. He didn’t use a condom. I lay there and physically did all the things I “knew” I was supposed to do. All the things I had learned from years and years of reading
porn romance novels, and stealing my uncle’s pornography. But I cried while I did it. I kind of thought that was just how it was supposed to go.
Apparently I unsuppressed some memories. I don’t want to be dead inside. I don’t want to feel like I am buried under the weight of all of the bad things. If I suppress them I say that they are unimportant. Not worth looking at. But it is important that these things happened to me. Maybe it is only important given the whole scope of my life, but that’s ok. Maybe it wouldn’t be the end of the world story for someone else to say that the cried through losing their virginity. It’s kind of a different story for me. I was told over and over from when I was a baby that my only value was in having sex. At 12 I felt like my attempts to be good and I really and truly was trying, resulted in being kicked out and told that God didn’t love me. So I turned around and fucked a 25 year old drug dealer–without a condom. That’s why mental health professionals think I should be dead. If I started off making choices like this when I was 12? 12! Oh my fucking god. I always thought I was so adult. That I was so mature. Everyone agreed that I was precocious, advanced, remarkably adult… No. I was heinously abused. It’s different.
When I kick myself over and over for sending my daughter to her room because screaming when you dislike something is not an option… I feel like I am crushing her spirit. I feel like I am abusing her. I feel like I am not just on a slippery slope, but rather everything I do is inherently abusive because I am an abuser. No matter what you do as a parent you can find someone to flog you and tell you that you are ruining your children. I insist that she not yell at me, not use a volume that causes me physical pain, and that she not hit or kick anyone. Ok, let’s tack on pestering. I really don’t allow pestering. Pestering is given warnings. If you cross these lines, that means you need some time to see if you like being alone more than you like being polite to me. No no no no. I AM NOT ABUSIVE BECAUSE I HAVE BOUNDARIES. I’m not. I’m not. I’m not. I feel like me asserting myself is bad. Like I don’t deserve to do it. Like when I inconvenience the people around me for my own comfort, “Shanna you don’t get to play the screeching game inside” I am doing something terrible. If I have to physically carry Shanna outside or to her room because she has decided to grab onto furniture and get louder? Well… I still don’t think I have crossed the line of abusive at that point either. I’m not going to be chased from room to room in my house by a screaming child. Just no.
Let me break to say that I don’t think she is being malicious. She’s enjoying the feeling and trying to get a rise out of me. I still don’t have to like it or tolerate it. But I worry about my reactions when we are out. Like on the train when she wants to get to me the easiest way is to start getting loud. She knows that it is a huge hot button. So I picked her up and carried her to the vestibule area. So far still ok. But then she wouldn’t stop screaming and I wouldn’t stop yelling either. So I made her stand in the corner. Which she didn’t want to do and she fought me. Thankfully Noah interceded because it wouldn’t have been pleasant for either of us if he hadn’t. I got my back up over something stupid. That was not the hill to die on because I had no method of enforcement that was appropriate and safe for all concerned. So I was going to lose no matter what. But the real problem was that we hadn’t given her proper breakfast and she was hungry. And that’s all our fault. And the real solution was to be more patient with her when we had inappropriately taxed her physically. But instead I hissed unpleasantly at her “You are in public and you need to be quiet. No. You don’t get to make the people around you miserable. That’s not ok.” Over and over. That’s not an acceptable reaction. That reaction is coming from my own intense fears about being looked at. That is me being told that I was never allowed to talk about the abuse or unpleasant things in a way that would make people look at me. I’m passing on that abused feeling.
I think that “abuse” makes you feel smaller, weaker, and less than. Abuse is being told in some way that you are a less than person. I feel like I don’t deserve to take up space in the world. That’s a lot of my suicidal feelings. I feel like I am a toxic force. Like I am a toxic waste dump that should be eradicated for the good of the herd. That’s how I feel about myself. No, I don’t have the expectation that I will be “nice” when I meet new people. I expect that I will feel awkward and uncomfortable and I will act out in some way because I am just that kind of stupid fucked up loser and I always make bad first impressions because I am just bad bad bad bad.
I don’t know that I’m going to have a good day. Who knows. Maybe I will purge my bile on the internet and then go on with my day. It could happen. I’m hoping that purging my bile works. Noah is home and my no-t-twin is having a house warming. Maybe we could have a good day and go after nap time. That would be really nice. I can do two things at once when I am out in public. I can watch one child and interact with an adult or I can watch two children. That means that socializing in public is hard. But life is hard and this is really a first world problem. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you stop doing it.
I’m watching the sky. I’m torn between disappointment and elation. Lately the mornings have been feeling like a beach summer. It’s slightly humid but very chilly. It’s uncomfortable to move around the house in summer clothes. But it’s summer, damnit! And I keep wearing my summer clothes with layers because I am so eager to strip down to as little as possible. I miss warmth. I want it on my skin and I almost never feel this way. It’s really bothering me this year in a way it never has before. So the thing is, I want it to be warm in the morning so that I feel comfortable moving around and doing my work and then I can have the afternoon sloth to lie on the couch or play with the kids. I do most of my big chore jobs in the mornings because the children have more patience and I’m tired of having freezing cold toes. It’s freaking July. What the heck. Right now it is 57 degrees. That’s pitiful! (I’m working on the distracting part of suppressing. The kids will wake up soon.)
I spend a lot of time thinking about why I feel the need to process what I went through the way I do. It’s not exactly the most pleasant thing to do. At this stage of my life I feel like I am not in a position to take up a spiritual leader because I would need an intense cult… and yeah. Like that’s a good solution. I don’t want a religion to give meaning to my life. I am not a glory to anyone else. I can’t come up with any way in the whole fucking world to talk any kind of good about a spiritual practice that does not tell me to pick up a big stick any time someone from my family comes near me. No, I don’t need to turn the other cheek. And I’m not in a place where there is enough value there for me to deal with my current issues with organized religion. Really. In the cost benefit analysis, I lose. Just no.
But there has to be some fucking meaning in this story. Something. Some reason I did this and survived. I have to find something worth knowing in the mess. I have to find a way to believe that being me and existing is a right and good thing. That I am the right kind of me. Because being a mother is not going to cut it forever. I have to be alive and living in my body for me. And I don’t know a way to be me other than to tell my stories.
The part of me that I like the most is the part of me that looks at my behaviors that I dislike and I try to figure out why I do them so that I can either figure out how to stop doing them –and for real stop doing them, with accountability–or change my opinion of doing the behavior. In some way it is kind of awful. I’m developing situational ethics. But I am trying to reframe it as, “I want to do this, but it is at priority level 9 and right now 3 conflicts with it. Ok. Well… shit.” Because then I have reason to examine my options more carefully on how I am doing 3. Sometimes I am going to feel like a terrible person and feel a lot of guilt because… 9 is still a priority and I’m failing. I’m bad. I’m terrible. I deserve all manner of evil and badness rained on my head. That my friends, that is the crunchy guilt for me. If I do something in a less-than-crunchy way… say only use a plastic bag once and then throw it away. I have horrible anxiety and terrible self thoughts. If I only cared more… Ugh. There isn’t enough time in the day for me to handle my mental health shit and my crunchy guilt. Ha.
Talking about these things in the ways that I do is part of being me. I need to stop feeling like I should be silent in public; it’s not like I ever really followed that rule anyway. Rather I need to stop feeling guilty for taking up space. Other people are just going to have to deal with their own feelings of shame when I talk about their actions. That’s not my responsibility. If you feel ashamed of the things you did to me when I was a child it is right and just. I get to be that judge and jury. I’m the only one who experienced it. There will be people who agree with me and there will be people who disagree with me. That’s life. And in order to be me and find my own reason for living, I have to learn how to live with that. I have to stop feeling terrified of the fact that people will disagree with me and dislike me. I hide at home because I am white trash. Because I am dirty. Because I am low class in public. I explode and yell. I never can make my children look clean and put together. I can’t look clean and put together without professional help. The less said about my husband the better. *ahem* (I’m kidding! I like my husband! It’s just kind of rare for him to shave.) We all fit in well together. We are all similarly messy looking.
That was anxiety producing for me in the UK. The only time I saw a family that kind of resembled my mental picture of mine in terms of being messily put together they were… very attention grabbing in obviously low class ways. I had to stop and breathe for a moment as I realized that I shush my children in public and try to talk very quietly when I’m out because I don’t want to be that any more. I experience so much shame when I feel like people are looking at me the way I look at that woman. That was my experience of growing up. My sister was the loud “mother figure” bossing everyone around in this over the top domineering voice so that she could “sound like the boss”. She’s got a complex. Oh wait! She is probably acting like my dad. I was never really around him so I actually don’t know. I don’t know what my dad sounded or acted like around people. I don’t think I saw it more than a few times. I can’t remember living with him. So yeah.
My journey is really about finding balance between sharing the stories and working on my behavior while still having control when I need to have control. Which is pretty much all the time right now. Rats.