Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dreams That Die

When I was pregnant with my son, it was a very, very difficult time in my life. And I have no doubt that it was the very presence of his developing being in my body that kept me alive. Without that, I would have had zero motivation/reason in my mind to continue living. Things were really, really bad. I was alone, broken-hearted, betrayed, scared.

I wrote a poem for Zachary once he was born that summed up how I felt about what his existence had meant in my life:

For My Sweet Zachary

You came into my life as such a surprise,
At a time when my hope was all but gone.
The universe knew this.
It gave you to me as its gift.

To tell me to keep on....
To have hope...
To keep my heart open...
To remain loving, caring, committed...
No matter what the world throws my way.

I was terrified.
Afraid I would not be good enough,
For you,
To you,
With you.

This tiny life inside of me
Continued to grow each day.
And I remained amazed that my body
Could and would sustain such a miracle.
I was profoundly touched
That the universe believed I deserved such honor
To be chosen as your mother.

You arrived eight days early.
And I was giddy with excitement
As I labored to bring your life
Into this world,
To begin your journey
As an independent human being.

And when first I held you,
I'd never seen anything so beautiful
In all of my life.
And I cried that you were mine.
That the waiting was over
And you were here.

For me to love,
To hold,
To nurture,
To protect,
To teach,
To learn to let go.

We have so many years
Of this journey ahead of us.
And already
I've learned so much.
I've learned what really matters.
You are here,
You are safe,
You are healthy,
You are beautiful and happy.

And I've learned
That for now,
Loving you
Is all that I really need to do
To be enough.

I love you Zachary Ryan,
Now and always.

– Love, Mommy
June 11, 2001

It's probably time that I share this poem with him. It's been on another website of mine for years. Much of my older poetry is on there. I wrote poetry a lot when I was younger, it helped me work through many of my feelings growing up. I have continued to write on and off over the years, but this is really the last decent poem I've written...that I felt passionately enough about to write something that felt so true to my heart.

I have not always wanted children. Before I was married, I swore I would not have children because I was so afraid I would mess them up. By the time I got married, I'd done enough work on myself to think that maybe, just maybe, I could be a decent enough parent not to screw up a kid as much as I was. With my ex-husband, there was a tubal pregnancy, and subsequent fertility issues for me. We tried to conceive after the tubal pregnancy, but had no luck.

Zachary's father and I had been trying to start a family for 8 months...charting morning temperature every day of the month, checking cervical mucus, etc. All to no avail...until of course things were an absolute mess and it was pretty clear the relationship would be ending. I went back on birth control pills and got pregnant that first month back on them. Imagine my surprise...I was terrified, I had no intention of ever being a single parent. I have always believed that children need two involved parents.

My pregnancy was difficult on me. Alone, scared, stressed by finding out about the "woman" that he'd gotten together with. There was no partner with whom to share the joy or excitement or fear of my pregnancy. The nights that the baby's movements inside of me kept me up, there was no one to wake and share that with. It's still a really painful memory to me, all of those months.

For such a long time, I held out hope that I would have more children with a loving partner. In the last year or so though, my aging body has been something I've had to reckon with in my mind with regards to this dream. I very sadly reconciled myself to the fact that I would probably never have more babies. I started to believe though, within the past few months, briefly, that I might actually have this dream become a reality. It pains me to have to let it go again...I thought I was done with my heart breaking over the loss of this dream. Apparently, I'm not.

I look at the beautiful little boy I have, and I am so incredibly lucky to have him. He is my miracle. He wants siblings...he talks so much about how he wants it to be more than just he and I. And I understand that feeling for him. I really do. I want that too. At this moment though, I think that I'm probably destined to spend my life without a partner...without more children...and I want to go back to being okay with that instead of feeling heartbroken about it. I'm not quite sure how to get there again. Maybe it's just something that will take time.

My weight is now stable...my health is good. I'd be in a good place to have more children...well, except for being 40 (and I was reminded at my physical that my eggs are old, *sigh*). I'm a fit 40...more fit than I ever have been, mentally and physically. And yet my dreams feel like they are being left to die. It hurts...it really does. I feel angry about it too.

I struggle with why it is so hard for me to let go of connections to other people. It seems as though others are able to move on so much more easily when a connection has ended...almost as if people, relationships, are disposable. For me, all I can think is "how can anyone have that strong of a connection to another person and then simply walk away and let it go?" I can't do that...it seems to take so much time for the feelings to dissipate. I have people that I was so close to many years ago, and our friendships/relationships have ended, and STILL it plagues me...why we can't still be close. I think I'm a good friend. I certainly try to be. But the fact that a relationship with me can be so easily walked away from leaves me with self-doubt as to my worth as a friend and what I have to offer. What is wrong with me? Why can't I just turn the feelings off and walk away like others can?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Transfer Addictions?

Transfer addictions...they warrant some thought now and again. Whenever I go off-plan for any length of time (more than a day), well, I have to really start evaluating what the heck is going on in my life, in my head, and determine if my behavior is more related to general misbehaving or trying to mask some other turmoil in my life. I haven't written in several weeks. Why...hmmm...well, probably because I don't want to write about all the stuff going on in my head these days. It's ugly. And if I'm going to write at all here, for me, it needs to be an honest accounting of what's happening with me. So, I'd prefer not to write at all than to put some BS out there that doesn't genuinely reflect where I am...head, heart, mind/body. I guess occasionally I'm pretty good with avoidance.

Honestly, I feel as though I'm mentally spinning my wheels of late. I can't figure out where I am, where I'm going, or even where I want to go. I'm doing my best to talk to friends, read, sort through things in my own mind and in therapy. Truth be known, I haven't a clue what's going on with me lately except for lots of self-doubt and insecurities. I hate feeling that way. It's like all of my insecurities are ruminating in my head and I don't know how to dispel them. I feel inadequate, unlovable, fat, unattractive, and defective in so many ways. I don't even want to verbalize those things right now because they just make me sound so ugly as a person. Insecurity in general is so unattractive. I wish that awareness alone was enough to make it not so. I'd be so psyched.

For now though, I guess I'll just keep keeping on...one stinkin' day at a time sometimes, hoping each day will be a little better than the last. I'll keep going to the gym. Going to therapy. Being active with friends. Eating as I should and not always how I want. I've been showing more indiscretion lately with my food choices, always getting what I need but then eating more of the things I don't need. The idea of living in a state of chocolate and wine oblivion (ok, you could probably throw sex in there too) sounds pretty darn good sometimes. That scares me. I don't want to regain weight. I don't want to not be dealing with life on life's terms. I didn't go through all of the things I've been through in my life only to fail...but it's what I'm most afraid of. *sigh* Tell me it gets better...that I'm not just settling into a period of long-term weight loss that will always be this troubling in my mind. (Did that make ANY sense at all???)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Communication and Abandonment

I've realized that I really am quite an oddity. In spending a good deal of time with girlfriends lately, it's become clear that I communicate far more than "your average bear." I don't know how NOT to talk about what I'm feeling and thinking...sometimes to my own detriment at times. It affects my relationships. Hopefully, the folks who love me understand where this comes from and will have patience with me while I muddle through some of the muck. There will always be muck in our lives, won't there?

My friend Tammy and I were talking today about my need to communicate. And last night, I was talking with my friend Alla about this same topic. Yes, it's an actual need for me. How did it become that? Well, many years ago, when I was a kid growing up, I learned that to have feelings of my own, to have thoughts of my own, made me selfish and self-absorbed. To express feelings of any kind that weren't empathy for the crisis of another family member (ok, realistically that was mom), I was sure to receive a reprisal of some sort. Usually a tongue lashing and withdrawing of affection and the ever-present "knowledge" that I thought only of myself. (Side note: I realize now that kids and teens ARE ego-centric...it's actually TYPICAL, not uncommon.)

When I started in therapy, I was 12 years old. The reason for my therapy? I had an eating disorder. I was anorexic, which led to anorexia/bulimia. There were many therapists in the beginning. I liked some of them very much…but I guess mom did not and so, the therapist was switched. And finally, I decided that to be a “good” anorexic I needed to not talk at all. I spent months going to weekly therapy sessions where I didn’t speak a single word. Instead, I sat there and I peeled away the dead foliage from a hanging spider plant in the shrink’s office. I can’t remember why exactly I finally did start talking…I only remember what the experience was like. I was sobbing because I was opening my mouth, sharing the thoughts in my head, and so once again I had “failed” at doing something well…being the best at something. In this case, being a tough nut to crack anorexic. I’d opened my mouth.

Therapy became the only place that I could talk…well, until the therapist I saw for a while (that I HATED) basically said I had no reason to be afraid of my mom since she didn’t physically beat me. I didn’t realize that emotional abuse and withholding of affection couldn’t elicit fear in a child…someone never told my BRAIN that. And so, I was afraid of losing her love, disappointing her, and I never wanted to let her down. But I apparently did quite a fine job of letting her down and disappointing her and pissing her off on a pretty regular basis. Most of the time I thought she hated me and wished I didn’t exist. Because my mom didn’t beat me, he felt there was no justifiable reason for me to be afraid to talk to my mom about things, feelings…and so he told her that because my fear was not based in reality, I was a pathological liar. To this day, I am brutally honest with everyone because I fear being caught in even the slightest exaggeration/non-truth and being deemed a liar again. I’ve chosen partners who have lied to me ad nauseum…I know what a pathological liar is. I am not one, never was. I’m not even your generic, everyday liar. I don't lie. Never did.

I digress. When my dad died and I ended up in the hospital, the principle of communication as a basic need was stressed as necessary to my very survival. How? Well, in a psychiatric hospital, there is such a thing as constant observation. That means being in a group with others who are constantly monitored/in the presence of a staff member. Sometimes, you're on "one on one", one staff to one patient. This can actually be better in some ways. But what it means as a group is that no one in the group could go in the kitchen to get our own coffee/cereal because there were sharp/dangerous objects in there. We couldn’t shave or use razors. We couldn’t shower without being watched, go to the bathroom without being watched, sleep in a room without a staff member there to watch you all night, sit in the dining room with others to visit or go in the TV room to watch a show unless everyone else in the group wanted to do that.

Being in a psych hospital meant that every physiological symptom, mood, etc. that you had was under scrutiny. Have a headache? What stressor caused it? Upset stomach? What prompted that? The goal of the staff there was to get you to talk about your feelings...communicate. There were many means to encourage this. The threat of being put on constant observation was one. I remember having a migraine and asking for aspirin and being told by the nurse that she’d be happy to give me aspirin right after I sat with her and talked about what was going on to bring on my headache. I didn’t want to talk. I told her to fuck off and keep her aspirin. That landed me on a six-week stint of constant observation.

I spent a lot of time on constant observation because I wasn’t going to follow their rules. I also employed distractions to not deal with my feelings. I crocheted massive blankets. You know what that got me? Put on crochet restriction. Yup, they basically told me that I could not isolate myself that way and so, I was only allowed to crochet for an hour a day. Things that people take for granted in their day-to-day lives as hobbies, distractions, tools for coping/escaping from the everyday stuff that can get you down? Well, in a psych hospital where everything is examined and there are no accidents and everything has a motivation, those kinds of distractions are not allowed to be employed. Unless you want to be restricted in every means possible, you learn to communicate. It’s drilled into your being that what you are supposed to do is talk about your feelings and your thoughts. If you keep them secret, they keep you sick. You verbalize them and work through them, health is restored.

I guess I learned that lesson really, really well over those two years. I don’t know how to NOT talk now…and I find it’s not always a good thing. The rest of the world doesn’t operate under these same rules/guidelines…and so, I’m perceived (or maybe just am?) intense. I’m often misunderstood as I muddle through an explanation of the rawest of my emotions. Oftentimes I am making sense of it AS I SPEAK…it doesn’t all make sense when it first comes out. And that, well, that leads to some pretty difficult relationships sometimes. I’ve probably hurt more than one relationship in my life unintentionally by being this honest, open and direct person in a world of folks who don't typically do or understand or maybe even want that.

One of the things that my mom used to do when she was having a hard time was to take off. Leave us. Literally, she would disappear for a few days. Her friend would call us and tell us that she was ok, but that she was overwhelmed and was going to be away for a few days. On occasion, this came on the heels of one of her attempts to kill herself. We had no means to contact her directly, only could contact a friend of hers. We didn't know where she was, how exactly she was, what we had done to upset her, or when exactly she'd be back. When we were younger and this happened, we would be sent to stay with friends for a few days. One of my best friends, well, my mom abused the ability to call on her family so much for help/assistance that I was no longer allowed to have my best friend's phone number. Her mom and dad decided that if I had the number, my mom would pester me for it at some point and use it to call them and ask for favors...which they didn't want to have to oblige. And so, I was unable to call my best friend for years...wasn't allowed to have her phone number. I also knew that if I did anything wrong (sometimes I didn't even know what I had done wrong, and I suspect that sometimes mom's disappearances weren't even related to anything I did), mom would take off/abandon us/me (her doing this continued until my senior year of high school when she finally had a therapist who told her he would help her work through her feelings, but she really needed to return to her child). In hindsight, it really doesn't or shouldn't surprise me that I have issues with people abandoning me when I'm less than perfect. I never expect anyone to stick around for me long-term.

So, lessons learned for now…communication is good. I believe that. Honest communication is imperative. But learning how to communicate honestly and openly with finesse? Well, that is an art form…one I wish to cultivate in myself. I think it will save me and others a great deal of heartache. Oh, and learning to recognize that if others don't communicate as openly as I do does not necessarily mean they don't care, love me, or are about to leave me. Of course, sometimes that IS the case, but not always. Abandonment issues die hard I guess.