Do As I Say

“You know what’s sad?  I’ve never known you to not feel too big,”  S said to me yesterday.  She’s right.  And what is even more tragic – I’ve never known myself to not feel too big.

I don’t want to be like this, and while I can certainly talk a good game – especially when it comes to dealing with adolescent girls and women who struggle with self-acceptance – I absolutely fail at following my advice.  Do as I say, not as I do.  There are times when I’ve poured myself into dealing with certain patients, giving them more time than I have and more energy than I should, only to track my caloric intake for the day to find out I’ve eaten under 1,000 calories.

“Don’t get on the scale; it’s not a true measure of your health, your body size, or your self-worth, ”  I tell women everyday.  Yet, here I am looking at those same 3 numbers morning after morning.  Holding my breath, hopeful that today the scale will flash a different set of numbers.  And when I step off the scale, I feel judged.  I feel like a failure.  I feel lied to.

I am doing what I am supposed to.  I weight train 3 days per week; given up alcohol, chocolate, and ice cream; get my 6-7 hours of sleep nightly; track every single ounce that has passed my lips; increased my protein while significantly decreasing my fat (have you tried to do this?  It’s fucking hard); and I have eaten countless dinners of chicken breast-brown rice-steamed broccoli… all perfectly measured and weighed.

And those numbers have remained the same.

And I feel even worse.

I stopped weight training.

I stopped eating.

It’s not as bad as it has been in the past, but I’m definitely back to a very low-calorie diet.  And every bit of scientific education I have tells me this is wrong.  But when I step on the scale, I hear screaming in my head and a heaviness in my heart.  And S does not understand that, nor will she ever.  I don’t fault her for that.  I know she loves me and wants me to be happy.  But does she know that this is not a choice for me?  Does she know that I’m trying desperately to do as I say – but I find myself sinking deeper?

Bullshit

Did you wake up with a feeling of dread, with your heart racing, your mind swirling, on school mornings when you were a preteen or a teen?  Did you eat lunch in the bathroom (or just hang out in the bathroom alone during the time everyone else was actually eating and talking and laughing in the cafeteria)?  Did you worry?  Just worry about anything, everything, constant- full – unexplainable and intractable worry?

Do you know if your kid suffers the same way?

You probably think you know.  But you don’t.  Our kids tell us things in a way we can’t hear.  They speak in limericks and haikus.  They want us to read their minds.  Parents complain that their teens are always on their electronic devices, always texting friends, on social media too much.  Parents complain that their teens don’t open up to them.

Our kids are talking.  We just have to listen.

We have to stop talking.  We have to suppress that urge to advise our offspring about what to do, even though we have been there.  We have been in the bathroom alone wondering why we can’t sit at the lunch table and smile and laugh with everyone else.  Maybe we even still eat lunch alone.  We have to quiet ourselves for one minute and listen and yes decipher what the hell they are talking about.  And no, we might not understand the code they are talking in, but that feeling our kid will get when they can just talk freely with their mom or dad and not feel … judged, or less than, or worried that we will love them any less… that moment will be worth something.  Our kids are worth something.

My oldest daughter is being bullied.

Who am I kidding?  Even my 8-year-old son is picked on by his peers.  He told me last weekend that they call him gay at school.  His face was red and his eyes were wet.  My two middle daughters, they too are picked on… I am not naïve.  I know how hard middle school is.  I know which end of the stick my kids are on.

My oldest daughter is so beautiful, talented, smart, and truly … kindhearted.  I see a lot of characteristics in her that I had at that age.  When she tells me that there is a club forming at her school that’s focus is … “hating” her.. I can’t believe it.  Disbelief.  Who could hate her?  It just doesn’t make sense.  But, then I remember.

I am driving the car while she is telling me this, while she reads me the hateful things a girl is writing about her on Facebook and others are “liking” this girl’s hateful status.  There was no Facebook wall when I was in high school – nope – we had bathroom and locker room walls.  And yes, that could be painted over, but that never seemed to happen.

Yesterday morning the vice principal of her high school called me at work and informed me she was involved in an altercation.

“Is she okay?”  I started to shake.  I knew something was wrong.  All morning I felt not right.  I couldn’t understand a word he said after I asked the question and heard the answer, “She’s in the nurse’s office with a headache.”  I knew I had to go get her and I wanted him to shut up so I could just get there and see for myself.

How will you protect my child, exactly?

When I got there and was able to process what happened (a group of girls cornered my daughter in the bathroom first thing in the morning), I asked the vice principal and the police officer what was going to happen to ensure the future safety of my daughter when she returns after her suspension.

They had no good answers.

photoTo my friends who have children – listen to your children.  Just listen to what they are saying, and what they are not saying.  Follow them on Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter.  Follow from a distance.

Tell them the root word of bullying is bullshit.  That’s the advice Freckles gave me just now.

Motherly Advice

Sunday is my oldest daughter’s birthday.  Freckles turns 16.  It seems surreal.  I know it’s only been one year, but … saying “I have a 16 year older” feels so different from “I have a 15 year older.”

A couple of years ago, in my other blog, I wrote about her birth and how transforming it was for me.  Today I want to write to her, and tell her all the things I wish someone told me when I was 16.  Things I know she doesn’t want to hear today, but will be grateful for in 17 years.  Maybe.

  1. Get enough sleep.
  2. Get out of the house – even if it doesn’t seem like the most fun you’ll ever have, if you’re invited out – just get out.
  3. Don’t stop creating.  You have an amazing gift.
  4. Wear your seat-belt.   Every time.  In every car.
  5. Floss – I know it’s hard with your braces, but just make sure you have excellent oral health.  It’s not just for cosmetic or aesthetic reasons.  Your heart needs healthy gums too.  It’s weird.  I’ll tell you all about it someday.
  6. Listen to that inner voice.  The one that whispers so quietly you think maybe it’s nothing.  It is something.  If that voice is warning you (or encouraging you)… LISTEN.  Women so often ignore their intuition.  Don’t.
  7. Don’t wear too much makeup.
  8. Which reminds me – start a skin care routine, TODAY, and please have it include sunscreen.
  9. Don’t be late.  Not just in professional/work situations, but also in your personal life.  Your friends and family will feel honored and valued if you show up on time.
  10. Smile.  It’s the best accessory, and your eyes light up the entire room when you smile.
  11. Learn to cook an amazing dish that you would feel proud to cook for “company.”
  12. Learn to cook a simple dish that will comfort you during times you’re eating alone.
  13. Love yourself – unconditionally.  It is necessary to truly love another.  (I just started learning this… it’s a tough one.)
  14. Travel.  To another state.  To another country.  See things.  Experience things.
  15. Don’t pick a career based on how much money you make.  If you tell me you want to become a dolphin trainer, I support that!
  16. Which leads me to…  Don’t pick a partner based on how much money he or she makes.
  17. Keep your space tidy and uncluttered.
  18. Remember you are loved.  I know what you are going through with dad is painful, but it is teaching you very important lessons about love.  He doesn’t love you any less than he can or should.  He really IS doing the best he CAN.  The lesson here is acceptance.  Just accept what he can give, keep loving him, keep loving yourself, and stay in therapy.
  19. Never, ever, put anything on the internet that you don’t want the world seeing.
  20. Nothing you can say or do will make me stop loving you.

Happy Birth Day, my beautiful ray of light.  You are my sunshine.  I am honored to have gotten to know you as you’ve grown into a young woman, and I am so blessed to be a part of your continued growth into adulthood.  This weekend I celebrate you.

Inside Myself

I received a massage this afternoon.  A whole two hours of doing absolutely nothing.  My mind was racing.

I felt so vulnerable under that blanket, completely naked.  I worried about everything from the size and condition of my body to worrying if my massage therapist was bored.  Yes.  I worried that somehow I was boring her.

I thought about how I was going to floss more regularly.

I contemplated finally doing it… finally getting a personal trainer and getting into fitness again.

I thought about my friend who is having an abortion tomorrow.  Afterwards, she will go back home to mother her children.  I thought about my abortion.  I thought about shame, embarrassment, and regret and how those emotions and words are so intimately mingled.

I thought about my children.  I thought about the finality of my family.  No more babies.  I thought about the phrase “just be satisfied with what you have.”  Would someone tell a mother with one child that same phrase if she were unable to have any more babies?  Is it because I have five children?

“But you already have FIVE… how many kids do you want?”

I don’t know.  But there is this unsettling inside of me.  A longing.  An ache.

I don’t have any fertility issues. I actually could conceive if I were to try to.  But, that wasn’t the deal.  There are to be no more babies here.

No more full, round bellies pregnant with the anticipation of a new life.

No more aching breasts full of milk.  No more little bottoms to wipe.  No more first smiles, first coos, first haircuts.

I should just be satisfied with what I have; I already have five beautiful, healthy children.  I should think about how much time and effort a baby is and place that into working out.  I should focus on my oral health.  Finally get into that habit of flossing.  Maybe even buy an oral rinse.

Then the massage was over.  I was left alone in a room with my empty heart, a head full of wild hair, and mascara smeared across my face.  Alone.  I got dressed, tried to put myself back together, and thanked her.

You Might Have a Narcissistic Mother

You might have a narcissistic mother if she invites you over for Christmas, then informs you that her place will be “a kid free zone” that day (you have five kids).

I always thought my mom was just controlling, or mean, or attention seeking, or manipulative… Whenever I tried to explain my mother to my friends or partners they would say, “Oh it’s not that bad!… But she’s your mother!…She means well…” and this would leave me to feel like *I* was the crazy one. In the years since I first left home at 17, I have tried countless ways to distance myself from her. But – there she would appear, with money. Throwing money at me for my children’s clothes, school supplies, and just generally cash gifts at times. She would make sure I knew how much money she gave my sister. She would prepare my taxes, so she would have a complete picture of my financial history over the past year.

At first I just thought she was buying her way out of guilt over past events from my childhood.

But no. She’s never seemed less repentant than ever before.

No, the money is partly her way of maintaining some sense of control in my life. And it is partly her way of exhibiting even more narcissistic behavioral traits. It’s the, “Oh look at how important I am” bullshit all over again. Or sometimes the money represents, “Look at all the nice things I do for you…” No mother, giving money and doing kind things are NOT the same.

Then dad died.

You might have a narcissistic mother if she plans your father’s funeral (and they have been divorced 21 years).

Mom called me that morning and told me he died. I didn’t cry. I didn’t say anything except, “Okay.” Because if I show her any emotion at all, I know from experience it will only be used again later for her own personal gain.

I hung up and over the next few hours it sank in. I immediately wanted to be with my sister. She told me she was at our mother’s house. Even though I don’t go to my mother’s house for social calls, I drove over, not thinking of the emotional repercussions this may have. It felt good to be with my sister. I needed to see her. I needed to feel her. I needed to hear her voice. Fuck texting.

But there was mom. In all her important glory. Taking phone calls from insurance agents (we checked into life insurance already?) and making appointments with the funeral home. It felt surreal. It felt like something only portrayed in the movies. I asked who was going to the funeral home that afternoon to plan the services (because it seemed like my mom had it all under control and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to go). Mom explained to me that my step brothers would be there; I should put my differences behind me for my dad’s sake.

You might have a narcissistic mother if she refers to years of sexual abuse as a difference of opinion.

I sat in my mother’s living room while she talked on the phone and my sister texted and I never felt so alone. I was there, we were all there, but none of us were present. For the remainder of the afternoon all I could think about was how this is finally the time I stick up for myself. And I did. I explained that I would be at my dad’s services, but not for him, and not for her, and not for my step-brothers. I let her know that what happened was more than a difference of opinion and that once again she has demeaned, demoralized, and trivialized myself and my childhood.

She replied, “I didn’t mean it like that. I didn’t even think about it.”

That’s just it mom, NO one thinks about it anymore – except me.

You might have a narcissistic mother if she is never wrong about anything ever.

I could go on. Literally on and on. Like possibly write a memoir about growing up with a narcissistic mother and consequently trying to save my own kids from similar treachery. But instead I write this blog. If this post has made you wonder more about your own mother, check out this website. It’s been extremely affirming for me and at least one other friend I have. Or email me. Let’s discuss. Because I swear – you are not crazy.

Self Injuring and Junior High School: It Does Get Better, Right?

While we were busy taking care of Freckles’ needs last week, M was silently suffering. That’s not entirely true. After her basketball game Thursday evening she openly sobbed on the way home and told me she is depressed. She is 12. I listened. I didn’t know how to help in a way that wouldn’t diminish her feelings. Every single thing I wanted to say to “help her feel better” I realized sounded patronizing and asshole-ish. She has already heard about a dozen versions of my “It Gets Better Speech.” Nothing is working.

M was in therapy for over a year. We recently took a break for her to do basketball. I thought participating more in a school sport might be helpful. She has been in karate since she was eight years old and to say she is “focused” would be an understatement.

Today when I picked her up from karate, I saw the marks on her arm. She’s cutting. Two of my girls are cutting. I questioned her and she did not deny it. She said she could not remember when she did it. But she did it because she is depressed. I feel like such a failure. I feel like we are so disconnected.

I am afraid and worried. I am sick.

I feel like I “gave” this to my daughters.

All that is left to do is call her therapist. I hugged and hugged her tonight. I told her I loved her. I took her on my errand running and we had a little alone time, sort of (The Baby was with us and I was very distracted with my email on my cell phone).

Tonight we will watch zombies on Netflix and she will sleep in my bed. S is still in Hong Kong. Tonight I will hold her close and I will pretend none of this is happening.

Suicide Watch

When I was 12 I tried to kill myself.  I took pills.  I don’t remember what kind – something over the counter.  I woke up the next morning.

I never told anyone.  I just woke up.  I felt grateful it didn’t work, but  I felt embarrassed.  I felt frustrated that I still felt empty and depressed.  I tried to fill that emptiness for years to come.

I don’t feel empty anymore.

This summer, Freckles sat at my kitchen table and told me “I took pills last night to try to kill myself.”  She sobbed.  I got up, put my shoes on, and told S, “I’m taking Freckles to the hospital.”  Minutes later the three of us were in the waiting room of the ER.  The receptionist inquired about the reason for our ER visit.  I said, “My daughter told me she tried to kill herself last night.” She made a pitiful face, and then asked if this has been going on for a while.

I was rude (my coping mechanism), and made a snarky comment which I cannot remember.

Six hours and a 45 minute ambulance ride later, S and I were signing admitting papers to an adolescent inpatient facility.

The entire time we were at our local ER I did not cry, I gave the practitioners a full “report” of my daughter’s psychiatric history and the details as I knew them of the current episode.  Just as I would if I were working.  When I was talking to the inpatient nurse on the phone, I did not cry.  My voice showed no emotion as I gave another, excellent report of my daughter’s past medical history.

This was how I got through the realization that my oldest daughter does not want to live anymore.  I pretended to be a nurse practitioner instead of a mother.

When we were finished, when we had our last hugs, and I had an armful of paperwork telling me how and when I could call or visit my daughter… S and I went to breakfast.  We sat in the IHOP and watched the sun come up.  We laughed and joked as if life had not changed in the last eight hours.

I drove us home and called the appropriate people to let them know I would need time off of my clinical rotation.

I cried myself to sleep.  And I didn’t stop crying for days.

That week was the most exhausting week of my life – emotionally and physically.  I drove an hour and a half each way to visit her everyday.  I called her on the phone.  I went to family meetings where her dad was “conference called” in.  I will never forget bringing her some clothes and having the bag searched, all plastic removed, the pen taken away, the string from the hoody cut off, and her journal cover taken away (that was hard for me – it was a leather cover, handmade, a gift I had given her with an inscription that means … a lot…).

I will never forget the bathroom, and the escorts who unlocked the door for me.

I will never forget the feelings of helplessness and hopefulness I had simultaneously.

Today Freckles wants to go back to the hospital.  She is home from school, sleeping on my couch, and we are waiting for our 2:30 appointment with her therapist.  Twice this week she told her school counselor that she doesn’t want to live anymore, and twice this week I have had her on my couch napping.

I am afraid.  Frustrated.  Sad.

She feels as if no one wants her and no one cares about her.  I yelled at her in the car – how could she think that?  I told her she was selfish.  I told her she needs to stop dating and focus on herself.  (She told me I was sending mixed messages.)

I don’t know what to do anymore.  I am drowning here.

Welcome

If you recognize this image, chances are good you used to follow my ramblings on the “other blog.”

It is time to move forward.  S and I are married, the kids have adjusted well, my oldest daughter –    who much of my previous blog’s angst was directed toward – is now back in my life as my daughter.  I have finished grad school and am awaiting certification as a family nurse practitioner.  We have two beautiful dogs.  We are ready to take the next step to buy a home.

But, life is not all rainbows and pony rides.

The laundry is not done.  We fight.  My yard is full of dog shit.  We are broke.

Some things never change.

My oldest daughter is still breaking my heart (mainly because I can’t heal her soul).  I still have amazing friends who help make me stronger every day.  I still have wildly inappropriate observations that I wish to tell the world about via the interwebs.

So here I am.  Again.  Still.  I am not sure what I will write about, but I can guarantee that it will be real.

Just Do It.

If you are a writer, you must write.

I say that I want to be a writer.  S says that I am a writer.  The truth is – I am not writing.  We are both wrong.

A few weeks ago I went online in search of creative writing programs in the hopes of learning how to write.  I could pay someone  to tell me how to do this thing I so desperately want to do.  As if there is a secret formula I need to learn, perfectly learn, and then I will precisely … be… a writer.

But there is no program.

There it is.

I must write.

Living In The Moment: Mothering Your Adolescent Daughters

As a mother I know I love my kids.  I feel it so deeply that there are no words to express this.  It is unconditional, unwavering love.  When they were babies and toddlers it was easy to get frustrated, but it was easy to feel their love for me.  Babies and toddlers love their mamas hard.

My kids are older now.  Three of my girls are in either high school or junior high.  As many of my friends can attest to – these are not necessarily the good years for moms with pre-teen/teen daughters.

Let me illustrate:

They don’t want to hug you.  There are no more kisses (they lean in so you can kiss their forehead – but not often).  And very often you don’t get hugged back.  They might tell you about their bad day at school or they might just sulk in their bedroom.  They cry, they scream, they think you have no idea what they are going through.  But we do, don’t we moms?  We know.  And we cry at night sometimes because we can’t make everything all better.  We are terrified to let our daughters make the same mistakes we did, even though this path is inevitable and … some might say healthy.  We go into their bedrooms and watch them sleep, stroke their foreheads, and thank the Universe for the honor to raise them.

What a responsibility it is.  Raising kids.  I was never afraid of messing it up.  Which I find strange given the fact that I was such a young mother to start.  I think that babyhood is easy for me.  Babies have needs, I meet their needs, we go to bed, and it all starts over the next day.  Things really are simpler when they are young.  Toddlers are trickier, but also a little more rewarding.   Today I am afraid of messing it up.

I remember older folks smiling at me in the supermarket.  They would say things like “Enjoy them now while they are little, because it’s a lot harder when they get older.”  I seriously had issues with this advice.  Picture this: I was 22 years old with 3 daughters under the age of 4.  It was hard.  I was tired.  Somewhere along the line I heard the phrase “live in the moment” and that was much more helpful.

Today something wonderful happened to me.  I had some mid-day texting from my almost-thirteen-year-old daughter, M.  I felt this warm sensation wave through me.  My eyes filled with tears.  I felt my heart beating a little quicker.  I felt loved back.  It wasn’t anything particular she said in her text.  Nothing was special.  And I started remembering last night and the band concert I went to for L.  She’s in the sixth grade and plays the guitar.  Out of the blue, on the way to the school, she tells me, “You’re a good mom.”  I smiled and thanked her.

Right now I am sitting at the kitchen table with tears of joy streaming down my face.  Who knows if I am messing it up or not?  All I know is that I felt much love these past few days I am crying, oozing my emotions out.  And it feels good.  It feels right.  In this moment.

Remember When…

My memory is poor. Memories of my past. Not just stuff like “What did I have for lunch yesterday,” and definently not stuff like “What are the compelling indications for using a beta blocker instead of a thiazide for control of hypertension…” No, I can remember a lot of useful and unuseful items. It’s the memories of my childhood (and even my children’s early days) that are a problem for me.

Swiss cheese. My memories are like Swiss cheese. There are holes, some larger and some smaller.

I have “ran into” people on Facebook from my childhood and have tried and tried to remember who they are, what place they held in my life when I was younger, and how we ended our relationships. I apologize to new “friend requests” and explain… I simply do not remember. And I am not just talking about my young childhood days. This is like from when I was a young teen or adolescent. Can’t remember.

The worst is when my sister will describe an event we both shared from childhood. I can remember a little, or maybe I’ve heard the stories so often that they feel like memories now. I know I have memories that she doesn’t share.

I want to remember what she remembers. I want to share those very intimate brain spaces with her. I feel like my sister is all the family I have left. I don’t consider my NM a part of my family anymore. My dad has died and now his energy has met up with my bio dad. I feel comfort in that. I was very close to my maternal grandparents and I still long for conversations with both of them. I cry as I type this. If you have grandparents who are still alive… talk to them. Listen to their stories. Get interested in them. Listening to someone’s stories is one of the most powerful gifts you can give – each of you.

Of course I have a family with S and my kids. Our kids.

But I long for someone in my life to know me. To know my history. And to love me.

I am trying to remain present. I am trying to be as present as possible when it comes to time with my children. There are many memories my children have that I don’t have. I don’t know what was wrong with me when Freckles was little, but I don’t have many memories. I have almost zero memories of my little Karate Kid when she was a toddler. I remember some events from her babyhood, probably because they were some of the most stressful times in my marriage with their father.

The worst is when they tell me about a sad time they experienced, or a hurt I caused them, and I want to remember that so badly. But I can’t. It’s not that I have a different memory of the event; I have none.

Some day I think I would like to investigate my memory with a professional. I don’t know where to start that process.

Until then, I honor my loved ones by hearing their stories.