The fellow who runs the myPTSD website has come up with some good analogies for stress. Simple, visual reminders that once you have the disorder you permanently (or until you do massive amount of work to retrain) just operate at a “higher” stress level than average. He uses cups to illustrate how with PTSD your cup is always somewhat full even when nothing has happened to you today. You have less ability to absorb stress. Stress is such a stupid word. What does it even mean?
I’m having a hard time feeling like a self-contained unit. I feel permeable. I feel… thin. I feel scared. I feel like other peoples opinions just fucking matter too much.
So this year I set the date I wanted for a Christmas cookie exchange. There may only be two other women there doing it with me because my desired planning conflicts with the desires of most of the other folks I invited because they are all off doing a group thing together. That I’m not involved with.
Sometimes I’m good at feeling like people living their lives has nothing to do with me. Sometimes I’m good at knowing that a snippy comment from a friend is about *their* stress cup and not me and sometimes… not so much.
Sometimes I feel torn down and stomped on and spit on. Even though… no one did any such thing. The feeling is coming from me and it is really hard to have this feeling around people and keep it clear in my head that it isn’t about them. They aren’t the reason I feel this way.
I’m not sad because my friend made a bad joke about not loving me. I’m sad because my mother and father didn’t love me. My brothers and sister do not love me. If they do love me, they “don’t love me enough” to not hurt me.
Life is very complicated.
I get very enmeshed with my BFFs and I’m bossy and controlling in ways I shouldn’t be. Because it is one of the longest-ago-examples and because she will probably never speak to me again it is easiest to use Anna as an example. She isn’t the only one. I’m not going to give all the details (I have a small amount of tact) but I’ll say that she came from a problematic family. Not like mine–fucked up in their own special little way. Every single thing that I judged (then and now, really) as “wrong” or “fucked up” can be explained as a difference in what we have been socialized to accept.
With the 20/20 of hindsight… I’m very certain I was openly contemptuous of things I should not have been judging. I would yell at Anna about some of the interactions I witnessed. I swore at her that she needed to stand up for herself or she was pathetic. I was probably as abusive as her parents. I love Anna. Very much. I understand why she ended contact with me. I was not capable of hearing about the problems in her life without becoming so distressed that I reacted as if *I* was trapped in that horrible situation. I was never able to step back and objectively feel like it “wasn’t my problem”. It felt like my problem. Her family engaged in a wide variety of behaviors that…. Ok I can’t say more. She and her parents are semi-functional people.
What does “functional” mean? It is one of the things I focus on in raising my kids. How do I turn them into functional people. One of my relatives worked at a movie theatre for a few years starting at 18. He quit at 20 because he didn’t feel “respected” enough and he hadn’t been moved into management. He somehow destroyed one of the super expensive pop corn machines by fucking around. No shit they haven’t promoted you yet. But he was completely indignant. And proceeded to not work for years and mooch money off his much younger sister who worked at In-n-Out.
I want my kids to be able to support themselves without effectively stealing from people who don’t have enough for themselves. I think that being poor is something that happens. I think that being a house wife when you are poor is not the same thing as taking money from a sibling with an after-school fast food job. If one or both of my daughters married someone who worked with his hands and didn’t earn a lot of money I would try to encourage my daughters to figure out how to supplement their income even if they wanted to be housewives. But I’m going to encourage my daughters to prepare for a future of working no matter what.
I have written two books in the last few years on top of many other large projects. (I have entirely fallen into a spiral of self hate and I have not submitted books for publication.) My children think of me as “working”. They don’t think “stay at home” is the same as “does nothing”. That is not part of their world. They do not live in an environment where the work I do is devalued–it is seen as important and something that someone has to do and you can’t pay someone to really care about the same exact things as you. Even if I put my kids in the best hippy dippy unschooling-not-formal-curriculum private school in the world I couldn’t pay their teachers enough to care about them as much as I do.
Yes, some of those teachers would be better educated on a variety of topics about which I’m entire ignorant. That gap has been more obvious to me lately.
I don’t know everything. I don’t know what is right for everyone. I know that Noah and I both have family backgrounds that are very devoid of love. If you hear the stories about our parents’ childhoods and our grandparents’ childhoods…. no wonder they were miserable assholes. They were miserable. And they were totally assholes. We’ve got a long line of bullies and violent people behind us.
My kids are going to need an inordinate amount of love. Generational trauma leaves effects that are detectable on brain studies. DNA is altered from severe trauma. Tendencies towards problematic parts of your DNA are switched on. Just about the only thing that any science can find that really solves this problem is a ridiculous, over-whelming amount of love. More love than “normal” people need.
I can’t pay someone else to love my kids as much as me. It just isn’t possible. I am deeply grateful for the privilege that allows me to be with them day after day, even as I crave more time away from them like a heroin addict wants a needle.
But I can carefully find people who come close. I can make specific, careful choices about how and when and where I make the decision to leave them with someone else even though they won’t be loved for a while. Because I am privileged.
It has occurred to me more than once that when I travel I should consciously prefer states with my gym membership. 2 hours a day of workout time with a baby-sitting system I feel comfortable with. Oh man that just sounds fucking awesome to balance all the sitting in the car. I’m having thoughts.
But appearing at least moderately stable is important for the kids. When I’m having bad periods (like I am) I talk to the kids about it. They feel free to ask me questions.
“Why are you crying?”
“Because I am sad.”
“Why are you sad?”
“I’m thinking about things that happened long before you when my life wasn’t wonderful like it is now. Sometimes it is hard because I feel like I am 2 and 12 and 22 and 32 and 33 and 42 and 52 and 62 and 72 all at once and all of the things I want to have done crowd in my head with all of the things I have done and they mix up with things that have been done to me and sometimes I feel sad. When you feel sad, it is a good idea to cry. That lets the emotion out of your body so you don’t have to hold on to it for a long time.”
“Oh. Should I hug you?”
“You don’t have to hug me just because I am feeling sad. But if you want a hug it is ok to ask me for a hug even when I’m sad.”
“May I have a hug?”
Calli is the one I worry about. Calli is the one who is going to need to have practice with boundaries 1,000 times with someone who is willing to call the plays standing there. Her emotions are so big and it is so hard for her not to hurt other people when she is angry. She wants to hit. She hasn’t hit in a while. I’m very proud of her. Someday I will think back and laugh at myself for worrying so much about a transient behavior problem when she was three that she outgrew by four. But I think she’s going to need more direct work on managing social interactions. She is less naturally inclined in that direction.
I’m more or less a one on one therapist she has to live with. Man that has to suck. But they are allowed to tell me, “I did not ask for feedback on this topic” and I usually back off. Usually with a quick “Yes, ma’am.”
That’s why my kids say “Yes ma’am” to me. I say it to them when they ask for just about anything. Modeling works.
Wendy, I want to not yell because if I don’t think it is ok for someones boss to yell at them… why is it more ok to yell at my kids? There doesn’t always have to be punishment. Sometimes a punishment doesn’t have to be manufactured in the form of a headache from being screamed at. Me being an asshole won’t convince them that I am right.
I need to stop yelling. I’m thinking about painting it on the wall. I found a pinterest quote I like. “There should be no yelling in the home, unless there is a fire.” David McKay, apparently.
Yes Wendy, I’m already working on a lot of things. Maybe I should work on fewer things for a few weeks and instead stay home and work on not yelling.
I don’t want to destroy any relationships this year. I don’t think anyone has done anything worthy of punishment. I just am out of spoons. I don’t have much on the calendar for November or December other than running and home school events. I consider those something I have to do to check my attendance card for “socializing” the children. It is funny feeling collegial with them. It is lower pressure than “friends” socializing. (Which isn’t to say that no one there is a friend. But the people who are friends are people I have spent one on one time with talking in a non-group setting. You know, like friends.)
I’m sad. And it isn’t anyone’s fault. I scheduled the open house to coincide with my birth mother’s birthday and my leather mother’s birthday. Complicated. I didn’t do it because of that coincidence. I mostly did it because it is my lowest mileage weekend in a seven week block and I would prefer to be all peppy and such. But coincidence.
I am not done with Noah’s stuff for Christmas. I need to do that. I want November and December to be mostly no shopping. Just the basics of staples. If I’m having trouble with food… I just don’t have the spoons to do much more eating out plus running plus paying attention to the kids…
And now they say I’m done.