Thursday, August 4, 2016

Bringing it all back home

Remember a few years ago, when we went to the hospital the day after the Superbowl, and brought home a beautiful baby girl?

Me too.

And for almost her entire first year, she lived here. With us. Our (foster) daughter. We knew it was temporary. And after a few months we were rooting on her biological family, all the while loving her more and more each day.

We brought her to meet our family.

We fought to get her assessed and qualified for services she needed - and got the early intervention she deserved.

She slept on our chests, next to our beds, in our arms.

And then she was gone. Gone to live with her biological family full time, for the first time in her life.

We saw her occasionally, but to be honest? My heart was broken.
We took a few more foster cases, even as I could feel myself withdrawing, wishing with each new case that, instead of loving a new baby we could just have Bella a little more often.... but as the months passed, her visits were fewer and fewer. Shorter and shorter. And then.... they ended. We were not allowed to see her anymore. "It would be confusing", we were told. The issue, of course, is that we loved her so much - and she loved us in return - and the bond that had been created was reinforced with every visit. And perhaps that was keeping her from truly bonding with her biological family. We certainly didn't want that. So we kept her photo on the shelf, and her crib in her room, and her blanket carefully folded in the closet. I dreamed of the day that she called, or showed up on my doorstep clutching a few wrinkled baby photos I had given her family in a memory box with her name painted on the lid. I prepared myself for a long wait. But I had this feeling - I could barely acknowledge it to myself, never mind say it out loud. I just knew she would be in my arms again some day.

And then, quite abruptly, about a year after our last visit, I was allowed to see her again.

And it was just as it had always been. Well, almost. She was a little unsure. A little hesitant. Maybe a little confused. But she seemed to sense that something was familiar.

And our visits became more frequent.
And then she was allowed to spend the night again.
And now she is here for a few days at a time. She follows "Sissy" and "Mah" around the house. She calls me mama. She has her room, and her bed, and her blanket and her toothbrush and she rules the roost. She is the baby of the family, and she revels in it.

The details are confusing, contradictory, and ever changing. But for now, she is here. And will - if everyone can agree to work together - continue to be here. Because as a friend told me, when her visits were abruptly ended altogether: "How could having more people to love you, be confusing?"

She is part of our family - and we are part of hers. And we love her. All of us. What a gift.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cinderella (is) Complex

Oh, hello there gentle reader. I know it has been a while.

I could make up all sorts of excuses about how busy I have been, and how crazy life is... which would be true. But I have to be straight with you - I got this totally obnoxious comment by a reader (not you, of course - never you) and I needed to take a minute. Step back from my brutally honest level of (over)sharing.

Because reining it in is never an option.

According to the commenter, I don't deserve to be a parent. BUT HE'S PRAYING FOR ME YOU GUYS. So thank goodness, all is not lost. Except, of course, my ability to write anything else for several months, so paralyzed was I by the message in my inbox.

Here's the thing about suffering from anxiety: shit like that, comments from someone who doesn't know you and obviously doesn't think you are funny and is sitting in judgment of you because YOU ARE A TERRIBLE HUMAN BEING AND MAY GOD SAVE YOUR SOUL - those comments are not easy to brush off. Nothing is easy to brush off. You automatically assume that everything - EVERYTHING - has more than just a little truth to it. Otherwise, why would they have said it? Why would they have done something  so heartless if there wasn't a really good reason for it? And besides, it is so easy - too easy - to believe the worst about yourself. To go straight down the rabbit hole and starting eating and drinking things you shouldn't in order to try to fix yourself. After all, it's not them - it is definitely you.

"Because they are a piece of shit" is not one of the options in your anxiety-riddled brain. Instead, you spend hours upon hours obsessing about how it could have been different. How you could make it better. What you could have said that would have made them like you, although, lets be honest, you are not likeable. Also you really aren't doing anything with your life and your hair is weird and your skin is a mess and you have no friends and no one likes you anyway.

And when I say "you" in the above paragraphs what I mean, of course, is me. This is me. This is how my mind works - or how it is broken, perhaps.

I'm itching. Right now, I am itching as though I am about to break out in hives. I might actually break out in hives - more from me scratching this invisible itch, than from whatever is causing the itch to begin with. My scalp, my chest, my face..... it is unbearable. I can't stand to be in my own skin.

I am anxious. About what, I have no idea.

Living with anxiety is usually totally manageable. It's just that sometimes, managing it requires a helmet, earplugs, blinders, an emotional support pony, and copious amounts of weed just to force myself to look at my phone in the morning. If you see a look of panic on my face, particularly in a social setting, kindly bring me a helmet and a stiff drink immediately, then point me in the direction of the bathroom so I can regroup. Or climb out the window.

"Why are you upset right now?" Sam asks cautiously as I scrub at my hairline while trying to load the dishwasher with my other hand. "Is it just the usual shit in your head, or is it something else. Like taxes or something."

"OH MY GOD WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?"

"What?!" He looks around frantically. "What did I do?"
"Bring up something I totally wasn't thinking about, a subject that you KNOW makes me sick with anxiety. NOW I AM GOING TO WORRY ABOUT THAT TOO."

"Oh for fuck's sake." he mutters.

My phone is dinging away, and a particularly lengthy alert sends it vibrating almost off the kitchen counter. I grab for it - still scratching my forehead frantically. "I WISH THIS THING WOULD STOP SENDING ME MESSAGES FOR A MINUTE."

"You could mute th-"

"I don't want to miss something important - what if one of the kids is trying to text me or my mom or someone..... I can't mute it, then I will just have to check it constantly. I just.... I don't know."

I slump down on one of the counter stools, feeling defeated. And exhausted. My phone buzzes. A calendar alert. Oh god - am I supposed to be somewhere? Or maybe a Facebook message. I reach for the phone hungrily, as much to end the buzzing as to satisfy my curiosity. Get my fix.

*deep breath* this is why social media is so dangerous for people with my brain.

And also so intoxicating.

The likes and comments - when they are positive - can make your whole day seem worthwhile.
But one negative comment - or even just a lack of a comment - can take you down like a baseball bat to the knees.

Trying to get through life with anxiety is actually, when you think about it, much like living as Cinderella. On the outside, you are looking good, dancing and laughing and the prince is falling in love with you more every day. But then the clock strikes midnight and it all goes right to shit - so you spend a lot of time watching the clock and trying to hold it together until you are at home and can fall completely apart in private.

Being on social media is more of the same. Here, for example, is an inner dialogue while I am cruising Facebook:

"Oh, look at that picture of my friends together having fun! They look gorgeous! That food looks amazing! What a fun time! I am not that pretty. I would look terrible in that dress and I always look awful in photos. But they didn't invite me anyway. Probably because I am so lame and wouldn't have been fun to have around. And I wouldn't be able to afford that dinner, from the looks of it. And talking about how broke I am is always so awkward. Easier to just not invite me at all, I'm sure. They probably think I am just trying to get them to pay for me, when I say I can't afford it. And that is not at all what I want. I would love to have more money and be able to do all of this fun stuff they are clearly doing without me. Oh god, what else did I miss. They were probably hoping I wouldn't see this. Or maybe they don't give two shits whether I see it or not, because they really care that little about me and my feelings. I suck. I am probably not going to be invited to hang out with them anymore. I'd better stop texting them like a desperate loser."

Boom.

So, I'll be over here with my support pony and a box of half-price chocolates I bought on February 15th. The house is a mess and I am in my sweatpants but feel free to stop by. You might prefer not to. I totally understand.

Nevermind.

Oh look, Instagram.....