Monday, November 17, 2014

On Being Enough

I've always felt inadequate.

When I was little, other children reminded me I was actually too much - too "weird", too fat, too much an introvert and too unable to emotionally cope with the day to day interactions of other kids. I could lose myself in a fantasy world all my own, a coping mechanism I developed coming into middle school, and that too was strange. I dealt with the emotional and physical repercussions of not fitting in by creating a world of magic and intrigue in my head that accepted me as whatever I wanted to be, and that appreciated my participation and existence. When I was old enough to get involved in extracurriculars like music, I was always reminded that I was not particularly GREAT at anything I did - by the results of tryouts and mandatory testing of skills and comprehension - and that my skills were always lacking at least a little.

By the time I was old enough to begin truly comparing myself to my peers (and especially to my close friends who participated in the same things), I found myself more concerned about what my mother had to say about what I was doing. Sure, I knew thanks to my teachers and the less compassionate among my peers that I wasn't particularly talented in the long run, but I also heard the comments from my mother who took pride in reminding me that one friend was a first chair in one of her three chosen instruments, was doubling up in performances, had joined jazz band and was a favorite of our band teacher, while another was trying out for drum major and accomplishing great things in her chosen instrument; others were far better performers vocally or could also dance and were far thinner than I, putting them in positions in show choir or other choirs I could only dream of being in. Not that I didn't try out - I did - but I was never good enough. There were always those whose abilities far exceeded my own, and I quickly became self-conscious. Whatever talent I had became quietly wasted, shared only with myself (and my by then long distance boyfriend, now husband), behind closed doors where I knew only I would be judging my ability.

Once high school was over, college became a secondary point of contention. It was no longer necessarily me being concerned about what my mother or any other parental figure thought, as I was suddenly an adult who supposedly needed only to be concerned about whatever judgement she passed upon herself. It became me versus my instructors, namely my choir teacher, whose push for perfection and need for impossible commitment from his students led to me leaving my two week old firstborn behind with my mother, effectively killing any attempts at breastfeeding that I'd begun (I dried up while I was away, as I had no idea how to pump and no ability to store milk) and essentially destroying the mother-child bond that I am still working on fixing and establishing seven years later. I was still not good enough when it came to the few things I enjoyed doing, but I had by that point accepted it; as I was in a smaller, less competitive environment, my lack of talent didn't prevent me from participating in certain activities and in some groups, because they were desperate for performers. The down side was that I still heard second hand about the things my friends were accomplishing at the actual colleges they had left town to attend, which proved absolutely soul crushing as I attempted to maintain my relationship with my husband, raise my child, afford to live, and continue school. I ended up dropping out, unable to cope with my chosen major, unhappy with my place in life, and unsure what I wanted to do with myself. Nothing really made me happy, and (adding insult to injury) I had to face all of this head on as the fantasy world that had protected me as a child had completely disappeared when I had grown up.

Now, a long time and three kids later, here we are. Unable to competently provide for my family I pursue the only hobbies I have as a source of income, only to be proven all the same that I am still not good enough, not talented enough for it to be worth my time and effort. I struggle with emotional and physical issues and silently cry out to finally be good enough, to finally be a decent enough person that someone is surely proud, yet I am still not enough - mostly to my mother, the one person I have always tried to impress. Nearly 30 years of existing and I still have yet to make her proud, a lack of accomplishment that sits heavy on my heart. The expectation of caring for my own children and house, running our errands and her's, spending time away from my family several weekends a month to specifically spend time with her and run even more errands for her, and I am told I should be at her house multiple times a week, vacuuming her floors and caring for her dog and making repairs on her house and cleaning for her. I should be doing all these things, I am told, because what I do is not enough. What I do is never enough - not for my kids, or my husband, or my mother. And it absolutely breaks me.

Friday, August 22, 2014

On Unhealthy Relationships

One could argue that the relationship that I have with food is mildly unhealthy in the way that one could say that Adolph Hitler was well meaning but slightly misled. The same in that a certain subsect of people would agree but in fact both statements are incredibly inaccurate. The fact of the matter is, my relationship with food is incredibly destructive.

Really though, this guy was a douche.

It may sound like an overstatement, but it's the truth and unfortunately it is a painful truth that I live with every day of my life; that I must face in front of my children, my husband, my friends and my family, every new person that I meet. I am morbidly obese. It is not illness that prevents me from managing my weight and my problems are entirely my own - they are my own creation, my own issue, and unfortunately figuring out my problems has been something that I have struggled with for nearly three decades with no success.

It would be easy to claim that I am exaggerating, but anyone who has ever known me knows exactly how unhealthy my relationship is with food. It is destructive, it is hurtful, and ultimately my dependence upon food to lighten my mood and to better destroy painful emotions is what will eventually kill me. That should be a terrifying eye opener but instead it drives me back toward the chocolate and the comfort foods that I and millions of other Americans turn toward daily for comfort and sustenance.

But mostly food.

"But surely you understand what you're doing is bad."

Well, of COURSE I do. I'm not an idiot. A smoker can likely name off a good portion of the health problems associated with imbibing in their addiction and may even deny entirely that they rely on smoking to calm them, entertain them, and to satiate their inner need for peace. (Of course, some smokers are completely aware of their situation.) The recent and tragic death of Robin Williams has brought to light the disparity in America of the treatment of obvious physical ailments versus mental problems - issues like anxiety, depression, BPD, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and every other mental disability under the sun aren't going to just go away if someone changes their frame of mind or thinks positive thoughts. Hell, Robin Williams played fucking Peter Pan of all people in Hook and the life lesson of "thinking happy thoughts will set you free" didn't exactly help him, did it?

Hulk new friend named "Ground". Strange name for new friend.

So, yes, for the majority of us who realize that most of our issues started in our heads, we're well aware of what we're doing and that it is inherently destructive. The problem is that knowledge of where the issue originated or even just knowing that we are not "physically" ill isn't enough for us to suddenly sigh in relief and declare that our problems are solved because they aren't. Not by a long shot.

Think back to when you were in grade school. Wanda told Billy who told Jenna who told Frank who told Amanda that Pat doesn't actually like you like you, just sorta likes you, and OH MY GOD you spent the next TWO WEEKS wondering what the hell you did wrong and was it that Mickey Mouse shirt you wore last month because seriously as much as you love that shirt you will totally give it up forever if it means that Pat will give you the time of day again. You spent every single moment of every day playing out scenarios in your head and preparing for anything and inwardly telling yourself that you just must not be good enough because if Pat won't like you, nobody will ever like you. Ever. At all.

What WERE you thinking, anyway?

Now imagine that being every day of your life, except you're an adult and people expect you to get the hell over things like any other human being. They do not expect you to have such insanely low self confidence that you avoid looking in the mirror, they don't consider that you refuse to look them in the eye because you struggle with social anxiety problems, they don't really want to think about the fact that you are over two HUNDRED pounds overweight not because of the thyroid problem you claim to have but because that girl looked at you funny and also you are behind on your bills so TIME TO EAT! 

Is it healthy?

Of course not.

Do we know that?

Hint: Yes.

But the problem is that as long as people think that mental issues of any kind can be resolved purely through thinking about puppies, we as a nation will continue to shutter those who are truly in need of help into the dark recesses of our society because we just don't want to think that maybe, just maybe, our problems are caused by something we cannot easily predict nor change without serious help and dedication. Or sometimes with therapy and medication.

My problem with food is one of those things that will require a complete mental reboot. 

And since I look like pretty much every other fat person out there, before you pass judgment on someone because of their size.. Consider their state of mental health.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

On Social Anxiety

I am not a particularly social person. That is to say that while I do have friends and enjoy the company of other people, I am not fond of new interactions unless I am already aware that I have a reasonable amount in common with someone. I don't often like going out in public to places where there will be a large number of strangers, because that further encourages my social anxiety - there are PEOPLE there. I will have to INTERACT with them. What will they think about me? What if my innately weird personality grates on them? What if they do not understand or appreciate my dry, sometimes dark humor?

Please don't make me go out there.

Of course, there are those of us with social anxiety who are lucky enough to be able to manage our symptoms (think full-blown panic attacks at the store when the cashier asks us if we want paper or plastic) through innocuous methods like deep breathing, redirected thinking, and the fact that if we don't go out and do things stuff may never get done. It's a tough road to walk down but all of us manage somehow, whether it's through guided therapy, medication, or being able to somehow weather the daily storm of human interaction all on our own.

It helps when we find people that either by force or by choice we are able to communicate with - typically parents, siblings, a few close friends, and children. We can talk to those few people, or at least agree to do things with them on a semi-regular basis, without immediately having to take a deep breath and remind ourselves that despite how terrifying being around other people can be, it's at least kind of okay with these people, because they know that we are fucking nuts and they at least aren't completely bothered by it.

We are not good at communicating feelings either.

The hard part is forming those relationships outside of the boundaries of our families. At least when it's a parent or sibling or child or spouse, it's someone we more or less see every day. We become comfortable to some degree through force of habit and through the weird bond of genetics. We may never fully be secure in our surroundings, but when we're with family, we're at least somewhat sure that our particular brand of crazy won't skeeve anybody out so much that they feel the need to leave the room.

But new people? No. Forget that. I am the kind of person who, if asked to call a restaurant to place an order, will give you puppy dog eyes to guilt you into doing it or try to find a way to order online. Please do not make me interact with strangers. I don't want to answer the door when they get here. When I am out in public I will mess with my phone just to avoid making eye contact with someone. I will look at the floor or the shelves. No, guy in the store, I do not want help finding what I'm looking for and I do not have questions - partially because I have been in your shoes and I'm willing to bet that you probably don't actually know where what I'm looking for is, but also because I do not want to have to actually speak to you.

I should probably get this t-shirt so everybody goes into this situation aware of who is the problem here.

The irony is that one of the ways I combat my extreme social anxiety is by playing myself off to be an extrovert. I've been told that I can't possibly suffer from social anxiety if I'm able to channel my emotions and fears into the facade of a person who is happy about being in the limelight and who flourishes in social situations, which I think is just a great way for a person to say, "I see your coping mechanisms, and I raise you the pair of your pants that I preemptively set on fire."

Like any other problem, I've found it's really easy for someone who has never had social anxiety issues to roll their eyes and say that you just need to get over it, or things aren't really as bad as you think, or it's all in your head. Well, yes, thank you, I KNOW it's all in my head because unlike some conditions, social anxiety doesn't exactly show up as a tell-tale rash on my shoulder blades accompanied by a wheezing cough and tiny black pock marks.

I hear ya, Katherine. But if you'd just think positive thoughts that plague would go away!

What it DOES show up as is the near-constant sensation of being on the edge of a panic attack at the mere idea of having to possibly make eye contact with a total stranger. Considering the fact that I think most store employees would assume you're in the midst of some kind of demonic possession if you suddenly curled up on the floor and screamed at people to please not look at you, I'd rather learn to calm that sensation and play it off like it's no big deal - and I should note that taking it to the opposite extreme and being incredibly friendly toward everyone not only lets me appear as though I am a confident, functioning human being, but that I am not spending every last second worrying about what you think about me and how I am supposed to actually TALK to you, much less LOOK at you.

So there you go. That's how I deal with my social anxiety, and now that you know that I have it, please be kind to me if you run into me out in public.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On Days

School started back up today.

I haven't been a stay at home mom to two rambunctious kids in a long while, and have never been to three, so it was a culture shock to me when I started full time after I officially lost my job in June. It's a whole new ball game, to have one baby attached to your chest and two others that you can't get to pay attention to you for two whole seconds. The disparity is extreme and hilarious at times, but there have been more than a few days that were taxing on everybody's emotions. 

I can't just say mine. 

I try to wax poetic every once in a while just to keep myself coherent; unfortunately the lack of sleep and stress of going from a relatively well-off two income family to a one-income family that struggles to pay its bills have left me incoherent at times. I forget even simple words, misspeak frequently, combine words improperly, and online I find my work riddled with confusing typos that I can't always explain. I can stare at an object and stammer in confusion trying to remember what it's called.
This has been my life as of late.

It's more than a little frustrating but I manage well enough when I don't get frustrated - which isn't often. It's really hard to spend your days feeling less like a woman just barely under 30 who has three kids to keep up with and more like an 80 year old fighting off the beginning stages of dementia. I don't take that comparison lightly, either.

So between that, and the fact that most of the days around here have been either too hot to venture outside for long or nice and cool but insanely cloudy and rainy, I think I'm not the only one who has been happy for school starting again.

We just faked spring and summer, really.

I have kicked around the idea of homeschooling the kids for a couple of years now and I keep telling myself I'm going to officially do it, hunker down, find some course materials and fill out the paperwork and make it happen. The downside is that I know I struggle too much with basic things like involved mathematics and the concepts of syntax in English to be a useful and helpful teacher for my children. I realize that public school has its flaws, but I have no doubt that despite being forced to push agendas aimed toward successful test scores, most of the public school teachers are far more able than I to teach my children. I can encourage a love for learning and for them to further explore their interests, but I will be the LAST person on earth effectively teaching them long division.

Never mind, I don't even potato.

I also loved being involved in the extracurriculars at school - and given that I was already an outsider when I was in the musicals and plays and band simply because I was inherently weird, I can't imagine how my children would be treated. It's sad but true: kids can be cruel. I'm actually not worried about them not being very social, but I am incredibly concerned about them being mocked or feeling as if they weren't accepted. In adulthood it's much easier to look back and scoff at the concept of whether or not a few high school kids were willing to open their arms to an outsider, but when you are that outsider, it's much harder to not take personally. 

So for now my kids remain in public school, where they seem fairly content. A is in kindergarten and has the same teacher that G did, and G is in second grade. I was worried that since they're at the same school but in different classes that as soon as they were separated A would go into a panic, despite having his "girlfriend" (and undeniably closest friend) in his class with him. Instead, the report home I got when I picked them up was relatively positive: G had a great day, knew a couple of kids from first grade, generally enjoyed himself and likes his teacher. A got sent to the back of the carpet at carpet time because he had no intention of sitting still for ten seconds to be given instructions, and got in trouble a couple of other times for refusing to listen or follow directions. Which is pretty typical for him.

I'm okay with it because for him, that's really not too bad.

Maybe this year will be okay after all.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

On Taking Offense

I posted this on my personal Facebook wall earlier and it seemed to get a fairly positive reception. I'm going to repost it here, in its entirety - and to be honest I feel no real need to adjust, revise, or add anything. That's kind of a nice feeling! :D

Let me be clear.

If I post something about liking breastfeeding, or basically anything about breastfeeding being good etc, it is not because I want to shame anybody. I do not want to make you feel bad if you could not breastfeed, if you chose not to breastfeed, if you did for a day or a week or a month or six months and then either had to stop or chose to stop. I am not saying you are somehow inconsiderate of your child's needs, that you are less of a parent than a mom who breastfeeds, or that you did not do what was best or right for your family or child at that moment.

I encourage everyone to at least try. I do believe that breastmilk is better than formula for a lot of reasons and scientific evidence supports that claim through bountiful studies. I do think that if you are unable or choose not to breastfeed that attempting to use donor milk is the next best option but I completely understand that for some that is either not an option or not something they are comfortable with. Trust me, I understand.

I post about breastfeeding because I am proud of it. Because twice before I tried, and was either told by a doctor or by my mind that I needed to stop. I have dealt with the medical reason, with a doctor telling me I needed to stop breastfeeding my four day old or he would never recover from jaundice, was not encouraged to pump or continue attempting to breastfeed in the mean time (except by a very few select people). We were in fact told for four days to leave him in an incubator and not take him out unless he truly needed to be removed - FOUR DAYS of leaving my not yet a week old baby alone, not touching him, watching him cry and scream and still being told we could touch but not hold if we really wanted him to recover. I have dealt with clogged ducts, mastitis, stress, under supply that didn't seem to come up no matter what I tried, the inability to pump even a bit. I have dealt with being on medications where some said it was okay to continue breastfeeding and others said it wasn't. I have dealt with trying to continue during hospital stays and determining safety and whether or not a lip tie was worth revision. I have dealt with bad latch, with insufficient weight gain, with having a chest too big and bruised nipples.

I realize that despite all that I have not experienced HALF of the problems that some moms do, problems either they overcome or not (and struggling with them at all, despite the outcome, makes them far stronger than I). I am lucky for that and I know it, so I try not to complain.

I was formula fed. That doesn't bother me. My awesome mama did everything she could for me and I love her so much for that. Gabe and Alex were formula fed, one from about a week old and the other from around four or six weeks old. I have been there, mixing bottles and worrying about having enough formula and putting up with the stink and stains and preparation and lugging it around. I UNDERSTAND. I have been there and done it and got the t-shirt twice over.

So when I post about breastfeeding, it isn't to belittle you. It isn't to make you angry or diminish the severity of your struggles or personal experiences. It's because three times now I have seriously wanted to breastfeed, have struggled to, have hoped and prayed and begged for it to work, and now, on my last chance, I can say my child has been exclusively breastfed for seven and a half months and will not stop until he is ready. I am proud because I have WANTED this and this was my last chance to have it happen, and it DID.

So, please, don't take offense if you see something about it. Scroll on. But please, please never take offense.

Thanks for letting me rant.

Friday, July 25, 2014

On Double Standards

Two sets of parents sit down at a restaurant. The genders of the parents or their sexuality are unimportant but for the sake of this situation we'll err with the majority - two heteronormative sets of parents in monogamous relationships. One set has a small child with them; the other set is obviously expecting.

They are Mom A and Dad A, the newly expecting parents, and their good friends, Mom B and Dad B, the ones who already have a child.

The group settles in and exchanges their pleasantries. As seems to happen with every group with there are children or pregnancies involved, the conversation eventually changes to child rearing.

Dad B: "So.. Are you going to.." He makes a scissors motion with his fingers. "Have the baby.. You know?"
Dad A: "Circumcised? Well, yeah."
Mom A and B roll their eyes and go back to their conversation. This doesn't appear to interest them much.
Dad B: "Oh. Why?"
Dad A: "Well, you know." He looks uncomfortable. "Our doctor says it's healthier. Cleaner. All that build up of smegma junk, you know. And it'll smell."

They both laugh uncomfortably. Mom A nods at what she's heard her husband say.

Dad B: "Ya know, really, I mean.. You can teach them to fold everything back, clean themselves."
Dad A shudders.
Dad B: "You don't have to have it snipped."
Dad A: "Well.. Maybe the kid'll clean itself when it's a little older, but.. What about when it's young? I don't want to have to be messing around with a baby's.. Bits."
They laugh again.
Dad B: "You know, little babies, you just wipe them like usual. You don't actually have to pull anything around. You just.. Wash. And when they get older? Well, kids learn to clean themselves. And they continue as adults."

For a moment the conversation seems to stop. Dad A shrugs.

Dad B: "Have you guys talked about it at all?"
Dad A: "Well, kind of. But.. All the others will be.. Circumcised, you know. It's just the norm. I don't want my kid looking different from everybody else's kids. I can't imagine the confusion. Why didn't we do it, why's everybody else done, it's just.. How things have always been."
Dad B: "Trends are actually changing. Circumcision is becoming more rare. In fact, by the time our kids are in the locker rooms, most WON'T be. The ones who are cut will be the odd ones out."
Dad A: ".. Seriously?"
Dad B nods, very resolute. Dad A seems to think this over for a while.
Dad A: "But.. Ya know how it was when we were younger, right.. There was always that ONE who wasn't.. Cut.. And oh my god, it's all you heard about, how nasty it was, how gross it was. I don't want that to be my kid."
Dad B: "So they learn to wash. Besides. If someone is going to purely judge their interest in your child based on whether or not they're circumcised, of all things.. Is that really someone you want your kid in a relationship with? Doesn't sound healthy to me."

By this point the moms have begun to listen in. They're leaning a little closer, trying to make it look like they aren't paying attention, but it's obvious that they are. The dads pause, smile a little, clear their throats.

Mom A: "Circumcision reduces the instance of UTIs."
Mom B: "Aaactually, it really doesn't. Why is it that one gender gets a round of antibiotics and told to pay attention to hygiene more carefully when there's a UTI, and the other gets the recommendation of circumcision if it hasn't already been performed? Sounds like bunk to me. Besides, our country is really the only one left that circumcises frequently with no medical need. Europe, Canada, and so many others just don't anymore, and you don't hear about a massive wave of UTIs and other diseases spreading around like wildfire because people aren't cut."

Mom A blinks. She hadn't thought of that before. She frowns.

Dad B: "Hey, we don't want to tell you what to do. But there's really no reason to circumcise if it isn't medically necessary, you know? Plus, it's rarely done with the proper amount of anesthesia, a baby can't tell you if they're having symptoms of complications, diapers can mask the amount of blood loss to a point where it's already deadly and you don't know it, never mind that you're removing healthy erogenous tissue from a baby who can't consent." He shrugs. "It's just stuff. It probably won't kill them, but it might. It might not leave them scarred for life - or then again, maybe it will. You can't tell before hand if something bad will happen. It isn't a risk we wanted to take." He takes his partner's hand. She smiles.

Mom A: "You mean, you guys didn't..?" She points at the baby, who is happily babbling away at something.

The other two parents shake their heads.

Mom B: "Risk versus benefit. There just wasn't enough of a benefit for us. It made no sense. Our pediatrician agreed and was even the one who brought up whether or not we had considered it in the first place. He was thrilled when we said we chose not to."

Mom A frowns. She seems to be thinking something over very heavily, and finally, she clears her throat. She glances at her husband, then back at the other two.

Mom A: "How.. How do you explain the fact that they look different from you..?"

Mom B smiles and puts her arm around her partner.

Mom B: "We say that the cycle of abuse has stopped."
Dad B: "We say that we know that the decisions our parents made were the best they knew how to make, but that things change and people learn that things can be done differently."
Mom B: "And when our daughter is old enough to really understand why she wasn't circumcised, she'll have the choice to make for herself."

The A family looks kind of impressed.

Mom A: "I don't really want to circumcise my perfect little girl." She doesn't sound too proud. "But I thought it's something we had to do."

The other parents shake their heads.

The cycle can stop. If we don't cut our girls... Why do we cut our boys?

20 Things I Will Never Go Crunchy For: #17

#17: Kale.

I don't even need to include a link to anything. If you are at all crunchy, you are likely aware of what kale is. It is an insanely robust superfood, full of calcium and antioxidants and vitamin K and potassium and every other sort of good thing known to man that has ever come of a green plant. It has no fruit and the stems and roots are inedible but the leaves themselves are diverse, able to be eaten as part of a salad, used in rolls, added to noodles, stir fry, shredded and made into all sorts of interesting things, pressed into flat wafers for nearly any situation... In short, kale is pretty much perfect and if you go to your healthcare provider and mention that you have begun to consume more kale they will probably clap their hands with joy.

I hate it.

I will preface this by noting that I have always been.. Shall we say, difficult, when it comes to eating my veggies. As a child I would only touch potatoes and corn, and only moved into broccoli and green beans as an adult. I now will also eat spinach (raw and cooked in things) and will consume a few other things if they are well disguised, but kale is unfortunately the one thing I have yet to be able to get over. I have enough of a hard time with plain cooked greens, so that's out - and I've tried it in chips and as chips and all kinds of other ways that should be appealing as a junk food addict, but I can't get over the flavor.

I just CAN'T.

I keep giving it a good try, as parts of rice snacks and with teriyaki flavoring and everything else under the sun. Maybe I just haven't found that perfect combination yet, but I can't stand the stuff. And may the heavens forbid I ever get a good taste of the stuff - I promise I will probably gag, juvenile as that is. I don't even care. It's nasty.