I went to work. I worked 1.5 years. I attempted to to fit in and to believe I was producing something worthwhile. But I don’t believe. I don’t believe I’m producing anything, and each minute of each day at work, I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and that I’m overwhelmed. More to come.
I’m reflecting a lot on my past. I’m doing this because I feel as if I never grew up. I’m really stuck in the past, at an age when I should have developed a sense of self and I didn’t. I am not typing these words here because I’m self-diagnosing or because I’m taking an uneducated stab at my problems. I have studied my problems for years, alone and with my therapists. Lots of therapists. Lots of sessions. Many, many hours. Many thousands of dollars. I have yet to successfully accomplish the development of a strong and confident self and to render irrelevant the emptiness and sadness of my early years.
I cannot seem to put to bed my desire to figure out or make sense of my childhood. There is a truth in there somewhere that I’m driven to find. Maybe I’ll never find it, but I have a compulsion to continue the search. It needs to make sense to me, and I cannot define what I mean by “make sense”. Perhaps I need to see that I would have or could have behaved as my parents did if I had been raised as they had. Perhaps I need to find a way to justify their behavior toward me.
Strangely I seem to have found a way to justify my father’s actions already. I wonder again, though, if my justifications are based in reality, or if I’m just excusing his past actions based on his current dementia. Whatever the case, I find myself nearly always focused in on my mother’s indiscretions / abuses and the hurts I carry based on her.
After my failed suicide attempt exactly 25 years ago, at the age of 20, I began seeing a Psychiatrist twice per week. For the first time in my life I began to address how sad and scared and empty I felt and why. One of the most emotionally jarring visits was the time I realized for the first time how badly I wanted to be noticed by my mother. The doctor described me as a small bouncy ball that needed to be seen by my mother to exist, and explained that I fully believed I ceased to exist if “I” (the ball) simply rolled underneath a nearby couch and out of sight of my mother. This image affected me deeply at the time and caused the tears to pour down my cheeks. Since then, I’ve come to realize that I was always under the couch and had never been noticed by mother except as an annoyance to her daily activities. A chore. A chore that better shut up. A chore that had no grounds to speak much less complain. I wasn’t afraid I might roll under the couch and be forgotten, I was afraid I would never get out from under the couch in the first place – I was afraid I would never be noticed.
The memories and realizations about my relationship with my parents, my mother in particular, have been slow to come over the years and my processing of them has been even slower. I think my confusion in labeling and processing my childhood treatment lies in the apparent inconsistencies. Were they abusive? Were they neglectful? Did I suffer? Yes. Did I make straight A’s and succeed at many many things I tried? Did I participate in lots of extra curricular activities? Did I have clean clothes and plenty of food to eat? Yes. These are the contradictions.
There was very little praise at my house. Behavior modification was by negative reinforcement only. I’ll never know why neither of my parents understood a child’s need for reassurance and accolades. I can say by way of anecdote that my father insisted once, when I was about 12 years old, that I play the piano in front of some of his friends and family. Although I was so very shy and scared and didn’t want to, he continued pushing me and he continued to speak with me about doing it. I finally asked him why he was so interested in having me play, and I was absolutely surprised and amazed when he explained that he was proud of me and wanted to have others see how talented I was. This had never occurred to me because it had never been told to me. It was the same with all my activities.
I was a cheerleader for four years in middle and high school. My parents never attended an event where I cheered. Recently my mother confessed that she had no idea for which sports I cheered. She does remember failing to pick me up from a soccer game that was rained out mid-game and after which I sat in a friendly soccer mom’s car for over an hour until the appointed time for the end of the game when she arrived to an empty darkened rain-soaked field to pick me up. I was a springboard diver for three years. My parents attended possibly two swim meets where I competed. I was a gymnast for eight years. My mother attended one competition, my father attended none.
I remember having a vague notion when I was very very young, maybe five or six years old, that I was capable of so much more than my parents allowed me to do. I’ve looked through pictures of my childhood and the sweet, excited, anticipatory face of my early childhood was gone by the age of about seven. My face showed confusion and sadness. My moves were calculated from so early. How could I be so thoroughly ignored yet so completely disciplined into robotic submission? It is still a contradiction that is hard to work out in my mind and even harder to explain.
I remember countless hours of riding in the car in the front seat next to my mother who was driving, with my face turned slightly away while tears ran down my cheeks. There was no other time in our lives where my close proximity to her physically was more juxtaposed to her complete absence to me emotionally. No worse, my non-existence in her eyes. If I were to turn my face all the way to the front (and she were to see my tears), or all the way to the side away from her she would have noticed a problem and I would have been punished, for I had no right to my own feelings, especially if they were in reaction to her.
I only recently remembered a phrase she used on me often, all of my childhood, as a response to some complaint (real or imagined) that she didn’t want to hear from me. She would half yell half growl at me in her angry, flat, threatening way, “Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!”. If I continued to attempt to speak she would most likely punish me in my earlier years. As I got older, if I continued speaking, I would have changed the tone or content to try to be more agreeable, but ignoring from her would be the follow-up response. A book I was recently reading gave descriptions of tactics that difficult mothers used to control a child’s behavior and thoughts. Although I could remember this phrase being used on me undoubtedly hundreds of times, I was unable to figure out what it really meant and which method of control she was employing. I still am unable to sort it out. Perhaps that’s the point – it didn’t have to make sense if it served it’s purpose. Perhaps it was obfuscation.
I suppose there are a lot of words for it – isolated is just the one that popped into my mind today.
There is this world where I dwell, and I feel so completely alone here. I’m walled in. I’m untouchable. When I even begin to consider breaking out, I am overwhelmed at every turn. Any possible thought of where I should start, what I must do, what first step would be most helpful, dissolves me and leaves me feeling completely hopeless and without energy or direction.
My children must not know how sad and hopeless I am – I have decided this and I try every day to shield them from the ugliness. There was a time just a few months ago when I was not trying hard enough, and my son could see too much of my sadness. He is exquisitely sensitive and he began to feel the weight of my burden. I noticed he was starting to show signs of not coping well with his own 8th grade challenges, and I realized that I must find a way to keep my problems to myself so he could be healthy enough to focus on growing up healthy and happy.
Of course I understand that we live in the same house and they are not blind, so I know that they see some portion of my isolation, but I make a point to not talk to them about it and to not let them know the depth of my own fear and feelings of worthlessness.
It’s a different story with my husband. I could never ever blame him for my depression. This is my baby and I’ve had it since my early teens or even earlier. I can also blame myself for choosing him as my life mate – someone who has a kind disposition and loves me deeply, but has never really understood me. Add to this his propensity to only worry about himself (or at least only what slaps him in the face and/or gets in his way), and I truly feel like a ghost of a person around here. I cannot blame him for who he is, and most of the time I feel as if the biggest problem with our marriage comes from us being two people who are generally not so compatible, but who are stubborn enough (or is it lazy enough?) to continue to live forever in this limping, stumbling, bumbling half-marriage.
On the other hand, I feel that he does not put in enough effort where our marriage is concerned. If there was one thing that I could rest squarely on his shoulders as a fault, it is his apathy with respect to nurturing “us” every day. His idea of a marriage seems to be a commitment that we made years and years ago, and as a result we wake up in the same house every day. Beyond that, any attention to what I might want or need from him, or what might make our connection closer or deeper completely falls by the wayside.
When I look at how completely my wishes and my uniqueness (my very existence) were ignored as a child by my parents, how completely valueless I constantly found myself to be in their house, I come to the realization that I should not be surprised that I chose a husband who so pervasively makes me feel exactly the same way. It is the only type of life I’ve ever understood, so I must have chosen the ignoring and lack of acknowledgement for a lifetime because I didn’t know any other way to be.
This dynamic, though, (coupled with my depression) has now left my life completely emptied of value and meaning and hope.
There was a time when I desired things, something, and I fought against his contrariness, his self-focus and his non-acknowledgement to try to get what I wanted. I have lost the will to fight. I have lost the ability to accomplish even the tiniest of tasks, and any impediment to completion, even if it’s the knowledge that he will ask pointed question or worse, ignore me, renders me completely helpless and running for some sort of relief. I want to escape from the oppressive nothingness of it all, especially myself and my marriage, and I want to do anything but think, anything but try, anything but realize how totally empty and incapable I am of anything.
I am scared. I really am. It sounds so stupid to say it out loud, but I’m scared of what I might do.
I’m so unbelievably lost.
What is my day like? Twelve or more hours are spent in bed – most of that sleeping if I’m able. The rest of the time I’m either watching TV or using Apps on my phone, the whole purpose of which is to avoid feeling anything.
Feeling is hurting. Pain is all I’ve been feeling for weeks. There are tears and more tears; they just keep flowing. How do I even describe the hurt – where does it all come from?
The only things I think of turn to pain in an instant. I should clean – the house needs it badly. I don’t do it; I can’t. This makes me cry. I should open mail and pay bills. I should schedule some long-overdue and much-needed appointments. I don’t. I should cook a meal. I should read a book. I should finish a project I’ve started. The things seem so simple written out like this. But each one is so overwhelming that I can’t even begin. I cry.
There’s a tight dry knot in the back of my throat every waking minute. I try to swallow past it. Then there is a catch in my day – one tiny challenge and I fall apart. My stomach churns and my head throbs. I can’t take it. I just want it to stop.
I’m incapable of accomplishing anything and it’s a hell I can’t explain and can’t escape… [more to come]
Tonight with my kids was much better than usual. I was something, someone, they needed and it showed. How do you value this sort of thing? I don’t know how to value it or if assigning such a value is really a necessity, but I do know something else: I feel like I have value based on these encounters and I feel better about myself as a result.
My son, now two weeks into 8th grade, stayed after school today to talk to his 7th grade Language Arts teacher. This was no ordinary tutoring session – my son was visiting because he had several new, original poems he’d written over the summer. And he was the recipient of the ONE Language Arts award given out by his teacher last school year so he had reason to expect that this discussion might be somewhat satisfying for him. Also, he had been personally invited to stay and chat and he felt privileged by the invitation. I picked him up about 45 minutes later and his pride and excitement showed.
I could not get him to say very much about their discussion except that he had shared his poems, and the teacher had shared his reactions as well as some of his own reasons for becoming a teacher and some other general news had been discussed. Much later tonight he opened up a bit more and he explained that his teacher had said that my son’s poem “Just a Dot” reminded him of a famous European poet’s poem about all people being interconnected and a single death affected all of society. I recognized this as possibly John Donne’s poem, and so I recited “No Man is an Island” to my son to see if this was indeed the poem they discussed. It was. And the look in my son’s eyes as I recited the poem was priceless. I feel like my recitation confirmed the validity of the teacher’s comments as well as helped him feel understood at home, because I was familiar with the reference. I also feel like he truly appreciated that I know these sorts of things and that he can share his experiences with me.
Later, my daughter (now two weeks into 10th grade) asked for help with a Geometry problem that she had not been taught how to do yet. She’s very good at Math and usually doesn’t ask for help, and we’ve had situations in the past where she became frustrated with me easily when I tried to help her. I read the problem and gave her a synopsis of what I thought she should do, but she didn’t seem to want to discuss it further. Then later, she came to me with it solved, but I felt that she had worked it incorrectly, so I told her I disagreed with her answer, but I said it gently. She got frustrated and said that it would have to do and was unable to erase her work with a colored pencil, and she walked away. Later, I spoke to her again and told her what I thought she had done, and again what I though she should do. Still later, she came to me with the paper again, and worked the problem according to my recommendations in a different color and had put a note on the paper to ignore the first color work. I was proud of her. And again, I was so glad that I know the things I do and that I’m able to help the kids with schoolwork in the way that I am. They trust they can come to me for help, and it’s obvious that they trust my help implicitly.
I try hard at my parenting and I make mistakes, as we all do, but this night was a night that I enjoyed a few small victories and helped myself feel valued in the process.
This is a bare metal truck similar to the one my husband has except my husband still only has half of the truck put together. And we don’t live in a cool barn / train depot thing.
My husband has an addiction to Doppler Radar. I don’t know any other way to describe it. If there is a hint of a chance of rain, he must see it on the radar. We have several computers (both laptop and desktop) in our home as well as several individual media devices (phones, kindle, tablet, ipod, etc.) and every one of them MUST have an app loaded and ready to take him directly to the local radar.
Sometimes we all are interested in the radar, obviously, because we have an outdoor event to go to which may or may not be cancelled based on the weather. It is at these times that his addiction seems the least aberrant – we are all interested to know the weather as it may affect our day significantly.
There are other times, though, when his addiction begins to seem more abnormal, for example when we are all home on an uneventful Tuesday night, after supper and several hours before heading to bed. As the storm rolls in my husband will become increasingly more animated, checking the radar on our various devices more and more often (before during and after the storm), and will often announce (to no one in particular) the color of the storm on the radar just above us (which correlates to the violence of the storm outside, I’m lead to believe, or is the amount of precipitation). Although I find this information ever so mildly interesting, I enjoy more asking him the color of the rain outside in an effort to tease him about checking the radar when you can actually see the precipitation with your own eyeballs.
Nonetheless, the full depth of his addiction came into focus for me this past weekend in a way I’d never seen before. On this day he was working in our closed garage, but, in order to do this he had to empty it of one of it’s biggest space-gobbling items, his unfinished antique truck. He’s been working diligently on this truck for several years, and he’s at a point where the cab is now together and sitting on a new chassis with new axles front and back, but without a bed. The cab (due to fabrication and sanding) is now bare metal with no protection of any sort from rust due to moisture (just like the truck in the image I attached above). My husband is understandably quite concerned with not getting his truck wet because doing so could introduce tons more worry and work if rust forms, and he usually ensures that the weather is perfect before rolling his bare naked baby out of the garage. Apparently this day he was not as painstaking as usual about confirming the weather, though, and so he must have had some misgivings about rolling her out, but he did so anyway.
I was indoors sitting on the couch, in all manner oblivious to the weather, as I usually am, when he came hurriedly into the house and urgently grabbed up the nearest ipod to check the radar. Up to this point his actions still made sense and I was only half listening to him as he mumbled something about possible rain. But then his words began to penetrate my fog, and I realized he was saying something like, “In fact it might already have rained on it.” I looked at him peering intently at the ipod and he distinctly said, “Yes, I’m pretty sure….no…I don’t know…it might already have rained on my truck.” Yes, those were the words I heard.
Now, I’m pretty good with logic, but I could not figure out why those words were coming out of his mouth at this particular time. Had it rained on his truck or had it not? Our garage and driveway connect, see, and when you roll the truck out of the garage it is MAYBE five to eight feet from the garage door maximum. And when one is working in the garage, EVEN if one does not want to open the large garage door for various and sundry reasons, there is still a person door just to the side that one can open and stick one’s head out of about 6 inches, and one would be able to see 90% or more of the truck in our driveway. However, I had come to understand that my husband, rather than actually LOOKING at his naked baby truck in the driveway, had rushed worriedly into the house and parked himself in the rocking chair to check the radar and see if it had rained on his truck yet. I’m still not sure I can fully conceive of the thought process behind his actions, and it was all I could do not to laugh out loud at him. But, I did manage to calmly suggest that he might just stroll out to the front and take a look at the old girl to see if she was wet. I told him droplets on her would probably be a dead giveaway for the magnitude and severity of the situation. I also reminded him of the weather rock that I had so many times offered to buy for him but that he keeps declining. I told him that he should’ve let me get it for him because then we could check the rock and see if it was wet and we’d know if his truck had gotten rained on.
I have no other explanation for the logic (or lack thereof) in his actions except to chalk it up to his doppler radar addiction. I suppose, after I finish this entry, I’ll look up this addiction and see if there is any hope for him. I am happy to report to you, though, that it had not rained on his beloved naked baby so far that day, and the rain held off for at least 24 more hours in which he easily finished his work in the garage and rolled her back into safety.
How low is too low? Where is the line between living on the edge or diving into the abyss? How long can I fly so low (solo) without risking my life? How can I justify flying too low for too long? How can I even find the energy to try to justify it? How can I even make myself realize that flying too low is a choice that needs justification?
This is where I am today. This is where I have been for nearly six years. This is what makes me weary to the marrow of my bones, and makes the firm responsive cocoon of my bed feel better than any other place on earth. The sleeping in this bed is the activity I covet above all other activities. And the idea that I accomplish something (anything) is a distant dream.
This flying too low is what makes my teenage son text his girlfriend the words, “My mom has problems.” Yes, sweet boy, she does. And the fact that he knows this means that I am not hiding these problems well. Although his use of this phrase rather than other much harsher choices does indicate some small victory on my part. After all, he could feel that I am untouchable, unreachable, unresponsive. He could tell his girlfriend that his mother is basically absent, or that her problems cause the family to have to function without her. He didn’t say those things because they aren’t true. They aren’t true because I’m still flying, albeit way too low. I’m here for him, and for his sister and for their father each and every day. I provide many things they need and I dig deep to do this. I am still flying.
But I know that I’m flying too low.
I’m starting here. These are my thoughts. This is where I am.