Category Archives: Coping

Thoughts on a Bad Night

I’ve started my fall travel-palooza. I’m only on my second leg, and I am very, very anxious about the rest of the trips.

I’m already exhausted and feeling overextended. I’m stressed, dehydrated and high or sluggish on carbs. I thought I would treat myself to a manicure and a massage at the airport a couple of days ago before my red eye, but by the time I got to my connecting airport everything—EVERYTHING—in my terminal was shut up tight. Closed. I couldn’t even get a diet coke. I folded myself up in my seat and tried to sleep.

I caught 90 minutes of shut eye at home that next morning, and then what feels like my never ending day got back on the road. I ran errands, bought food, filled prescriptions, bathed the dog, did the laundry, herded Hope to her band competition and back to fetch her at 11pm at night, tidied Hope’s room and prepped my room for the nanny. I grabbed a few—and I mean a few—winks of sleep before it was time to get up, finish packing, walk Yappy, and catch my Lyft to the airport.

But, I went left around that 11pm pick up. Actually, I didn’t go left, I went crazy.

My beautiful teen daughter is rather…messy. I was not allowed to be too messy; my room as a teen was tiny. There wasn’t much space to be messy. Hope has a decent sized room, and well, I hear that general messiness has come to be accepted as a typical teen quality.

I reject this, but apparently that doesn’t matter because at the level of my house, the data show that it is true.

Hope is a bit of a mess. I try really, really, really hard to be understanding. I swear to the Holy Homeboy that I do try to understand. I honestly believe that our messiness can be indicative of our emotional state—heck I call my front hall closet the magic closet. I swear, the lion, the witch, the wardrobe and all of Disney could possibly be in there, but I digress.

Hope’s room…Lawd.

When I’m home and can stay on top of her, she can stay on top of the room. I don’t expect it to be eat off the floor clean, but some level that hangs around “kind of tidy” is what I’d like to shoot for. That’s achievable when I’m home. Even still, I find that I have to roll through once a week with a trash bag and thin things out. I throwaway obvious trash and put personal care products away. I make her bed, pick up her laundry and put it in the hamper (literally INCHES away). I try not to go through “her” stuff too much, just align the corners of the piles. Then I hit everything with some sprays of Febreze and run the oil diffuser. I rarely comment on what I find, and she doesn’t get in trouble unless I find something really, really, really serious.

Well yesterday I had to do the trashcan routine, and Er Mah GAWD! For a kid who has a bug phobia, she has no problem creating environments where bugs would simply love to take up residence. I did what I normally do, but with the schedule and my lack of sleep, I ruminated on all the crap I had to clean up. I didn’t take into consideration that she might be stressed when I’m away and that it might contribute to the mess. I went straight tunnel vision with righteous fury that had hours to build.

And by the time I fetched her I was trying to keep a lid on my fury. I knew it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t want to spend our few minutes together bickering. I knew both of us were tired.

But I just couldn’t let it go, and not letting it go was like lighting a match to dynamite. I totally blew and I totally blew it.

Before I knew it, I was yelling and saying horrible things, things I knew hurt. I was a crazy mess, and embarrassingly, I admit that Hope was more mature than I was. And even as I saw her face, I could feel my heart cracking because I was conscious enough to know I was being a total and complete asshole.

This was not mothering. This was not who I wanted to be. I was a total mess.

And so I apologized.

Yeah, after I got in one more verbal lick. Seriously, I was so stupid. But I genuinely regret those moments. I worry about how they affected her. I worry that I’ve pushed her away. I worry that I’ve irrevocably damaged us. I worry that she won’t forgive me. I worry that I’ve dredged up old emotions that we’ve worked so hard to reconcile.

I feel like I failed in the most epic way. I know we’ll survive, but I worry that this will be a big setback. I worry that I have broken so much trust.

I wish I had been able to keep it together.

I worry that this is only the beginning of my travel season and that the challenges will only escalate as will my fatigue.

I flew to my next destination this morning. Before I left I hand-wrote my daughter a letter of apology. I gave no excuses. I didn’t dig in about cleaning her room. I didn’t ask for forgiveness. I just said I’m so sorry that I said the awful things I said, that I made her feel bad, that I let my anger, frustration and fatigue get the better of me. I asked for grace as we press through my travel season.

I asked the nanny to take care and to check in to make sure she was ok. I let them go do a little retail therapy, and I gave her some space.

I’m hoping that we’ll be able to right our ship when I get home in a few days. Unfortunately, I’ll be off again to another city by week’s end. But I’m hopeful that my resilient daughter will bounce back. I hope that we won’t be too damaged by this event. I hope that I can learn how to keep my mouth shut and how to let the dumb stuff go.

I didn’t ask for forgiveness, but I hope to God that she does indeed forgive me.

My current worst fear is that she won’t.

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Self-Care Saturday

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that this week was just plain raggedy. I was in the office 5 days instead of 3 (I usually telecommute 2 days a week). Hope was riddled with anxiety about school and social issues. During a diversity related conference call I was called a guerilla, but of course on the call it sounded like gorilla and in either case it was so absurdly inappropriate that I felt like I was going to come unhinged. (He legit had me thinking I was crazy.) I have more projects than I can barely manage at the moment, and the small staff with whom I have the pleasure of working are experiencing multiple crises. These folks aren’t just my co-workers, they are my friends.

I left work early to go have adult beverages with an old friend and people watch all of the peeps in town for the Congressional Black Caucus. Then I headed to Hope’s evening band performance at her high school’s football game.

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This morning I staggered to the dog park with Yappy, stopped off to pick up cookies for the marching band, threw a couple of cornrows into Hope’s hair and dropped her off at school for today’s band competition.

I spent the next 4 hours running errands for the household.

I finally came home, showered, fixed myself some lunch and sat down on my beloved couch with Yappy.

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My fatigue is so damn serious.

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My mom tried to funny shame me for not signing up to chaperone Hope’s band competition today. I laughed and told her that chaperoning was not my ministry this week.

The rest of the day is about napping, watching movies, dog cuddling and maybe painting my nails…maybe. I need to vegetate. I feel like I’m just barely hanging on to functionality. I’m tapping out.

None of this is particularly special (except maybe the guerilla/gorilla thing<<<definitely special). It’s just been a really challenging week. All parents have them.

Hope is wrestling with something I can’t quite understand aright now. I’m supportive and encouraging, but I’m really just along for the ride. I fret about it, but seriously, there’s only so much I can do about it.

So, for today, I rest.

Tomorrow, I’ll try again.


I Need Some Self-Care

I have really been struggling lately. My anxiety is at an all-time high. I’m overwhelmed and often feel like I’m on the verge of tears even though I don’t think I am.

These feelings are all familiar. They represent my unfortunate friends, depression and anxiety. Sigh.

This is the fourth end of school year season I’ve gone through with Hope, and despite my best efforts it’s always miserable. I feel like I’m pulling a broken train down the tracks. I’m realizing that this spring/summer period of the year is when I am most vulnerable to depression and anxiety. It’s hard. I’m nagging, reminding, coaching, cheering, trying not to yell, blowing steam from my ears and baking a stress cake with absurd regularity, right through the last bit of school.

This year, it seems the odds are even higher. Other than band camp, Hope’s got several weeks where we still don’t know what the plan will be. The decision to go to summer school is coming down to the wire. The idea of Hope sitting around watching K-dramas on the couch—in my spot no less—causes me great anxiety. She needs a break, but she also needs to be busy because I fear that either there will be a butt sag in my couch and/or she will find some trouble to get into.

I am physiologically freaking the hell out, (lethargic, but disrupted sleep, up and down appetite) and I realized today it was time for an intervention, so I made an appointment for just that.

Last week Hope’s doctor and I decided to give her a bit of rope with her meds—let her go off of them for a while and see what happens.  It has barely been a week and I’m a wreck. Her ability to follow directions with more than 2 steps is non-existent.

I. Cannot. Begin.To. Deal With. This!

So I’m going to my own doctor to see if I can get some help getting my physiological responses under control.

I’m exhausted, but just racing at the same time.

I’m looking forward to just taking care of my needs, getting some quality sleep and getting my emotions under control so that I can make sure that I’m trying to meet Hope’s needs.

So, I need some self-care. I do. I also need some meds…yeah, definitely, I need some meds.

And cake, I definitely need some cake


It Still Stings

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. I’ve written about my own journey a few times in this space, but whenever it comes up in my offline life my emotional reaction to it always surprises me.

I’m always surprised by how deep-seated the pain of not being able to bear children is. It’s ironic since having biological children never seemed to be super high on my bucket list, but the process of learning that it wasn’t going to happen still stings to the point of tears.

I’m also surprised by how deeply personal it feels. Certainly, I write about a good chunk of my life here, and I share a lot in my work because I don’t mind and it makes me relatable which makes my job a lot easier. Yet, some of the people closest to me still don’t know about this loss or if they know about it; I’ve successfully downplayed it to the point where it is assumed to be a non-issue, something I problem-solved through adoption.

I love being a mom, and more specifically, I love being Hope’s mom.

But please be clear that Hope is not a replacement kid; she doesn’t fill the hole of grief that sits below my navel. My love of her and mothering her co-exists with that grief, just like her grief around the circumstances that necessitated adoption sits beside her love for me.

It all just sits together at a big lunch table, maybe at separate ends, but it is there, sharing space, it’s visible, and it’s real.

Recently I was talking to a close relation on my way to work. We got to talking about assistive reproduction and the choices people make. There are so many ways you can rule out so many risks in having a child these days, but somewhere in the gap science meets miracle, and sometimes miracles aren’t always pretty. My conversation partner played up how science has reduced so much of the mystery and that really there should be no surprises. Our conversation eventually led me to tell her my own story about not being able to have biological children.

Before I knew it, I was reaching for a tissue from my glovebox and my voice was hitching with emotion. The rush of sadness and feelings of being betrayed by my body were surprisingly close to the surface despite my routine efforts to just contain them on an emotional box in my emotional storage shed. No, there they were in all their glory practically sitting on the living room table on Front Street in my emotional house.

It is still tender. It still hurts. It will probably hurt in some way or another forever.

There is no shame in not being able to bear children. There isn’t. It doesn’t make me less of a woman or a failure, even if my mind and heart sometimes tell me that it does. There is no shame in grieving the ability to have children, and yet many of us feel shame or something close to it—guilt, fear of judgment, cloaking sadness, even wild-green jealousy—and all of those feelings keep us from talking about infertility.

I look forward to the day when I don’t drop tears when telling my story. I look forward to just being able to talk about it more freely—I mean, sure it doesn’t come up all the time “Hey Brad, could you tell me what aisle the cinnamon Frosted Flakes are on? BTW, I am infertile!”—but I long for a time when I’m not as silent on the issue. I think it will help me continue to move past that chapter. I look forward to being well past childbearing age (Damn you fly, 50 yo Janet Jackson), when the looking beyond fertility becomes moot.

Sigh.

I just want to look forward to a time when it just won’t sting so badly.


Eat the Cake

I like cake.

Scratch that.

I love cake.

The first few weeks after Hope was placed with me, I made what I called my weekly stress cake. It resulted in what I now like to call my “adoption weight” that I’m still carrying around.

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via Giphy

Making a simple white cake with chocolate buttercream frosting is something that happens with some level of regularity around these parts. I get it from my mom. She also loves to cook and bake. I can go to her house on any given day, having driven 100 miles, and find cake. It might be leftover cake, typically, I’m going to find cake.

I love cake.

Cake isn’t one of Hope’s favorite things. I can probably count on one hand how many times she has expressed any interest in having some cake I baked. Even when we get to my mom’s house, she’s uninterested in the baked goods, typically bonding with my dad over Popsicles. Cakes aren’t Hope’s thing.

But cake is totally my thing.

So, during our great family visit of #springbreak17, Hope’s grandmother started asking me about cooking and baking. My cake fetish came up. She laughed heartily as Hope and I described my love of cake and particularly homemade white cake with buttercream frosting. She chuckled and began to describe her baking process.

Now, no disrespect, but my granny, my momma and me…we don’t do cake mixes. I bought a cake cookbook one time and found when I got home that it was a cookbook dedicated to fixing up cake mixes. Um. No. The book was returned.

Not only is cake my thing, but I am an unapologetic cake snob.

As a part of her baking process, Grandma Hope talked about how she jazzed up her cake mix, and I smiled broadly and politely, delighted in the story. I’m sure it’s good; it may even be great….but um…cake mix? #thatscute #cakesnob

So, the next day when we went over for our last visit, Grandma Hope presented us with a heart shaped chocolate cake. It was the sweetest thing. So very sweet. She even put it on a real plate that we were to take with us back home.

So, we make our way to our next major travel stop, cake in tow. Despite my snobbery, I looked forward to having a nice piece of cake as we settled into our hotel that evening. I even had my wine in a can. It was fittin’ to be a good night.

Having cake is soothing to me; it’s not just my sweet tooth, it’s one of my favorite comfort foods. So, a cake, including cake mix cakes, made with love is going to hit my emo spot every time. This cake was going to allow me to get lit after several days of maintaining my emotions in a vice grip.

That is until Hope started making rumblings about *her* cake and how preemptively annoyed she was that I intended on taking a *big* piece of cake.

Wha? Hmmmm. Interesting. Ok.

Sister K ran an errand to get some things including some paper plates and plastic forks because I was getting some cake that night and needed something to put the cake on. Hope accompanied her and encouraged the purchase of small plates so as to limit the size of my anticipated cake debauchery. Sister K got an earful about the cake situation.

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via Giphy

By the time Hope and I checked into our room and settled in, my taste for cake had been soured by Hope’s anxiety about me cutting into the cake her grandma made for “her.” Never mind that she doesn’t even LIKE cake.

I called my mother and explained the situation. We marveled at how a proper Southern granny didn’t make scratch cakes! Yes, we were petty and judgy. I really wanted cake but SWORE that I would not touch Grandma Hope’s cake. I reasoned that I ain’t want her old box cake anyway.

After the family lovefest of the previous view days and the grace and southern charm required of me, I was saltier than a salt lick about not having cake–even a box cake! It brought out my petty and I confided in my Add Water co-host and good pal Mimi–who enjoyed a good chuckle at my cake related emotional shenanigans.

Despite my pettiness, I understood that Hope saw this as a very special gift from Grandma Hope. I intellectually understood that she had to play out this possessiveness, especially after how welcoming her family had become of me. This was an opportunity for her to have something from this visit all to herself. Oh, I get it, but I also knew that Grandma Hope made that cake largely for me because HOPE DOESN’T EVEN LIKE CAKE and she told her grandma so.

But whatevs. <Cue more laughs from Mimi.>

So I’m talking to my mom about this cake situation, and I ask her to make me a cake. Oh, yeah, I did. Dueling cakes. I had held my petty in check for 4 days…that might be a record. Ha! She said of course she would make me a cake because my momma loves her big petty, cake-loving kid. We debated the finer points of cakes made from scratch, milk vs. dark chocolate powder and marble cakes, because I come by my pettiness honestly.

I licked my lips in anticipation.

In the meantime, I hit the grocery store for a bit of commercially made cake to tide me over. I ate it alone and disposed of the container so Hope didn’t know. I might be petty, but I do have some semblance of couth that was still hanging on for dear life.

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I soon lost it though, and my petty was on full display by the time we arrived at my parent’s house a day or so later. I kissed my daddy hello, chatted about the lawn for a minute; walked into a house, grabbed a saucer and a knife and proceeded to cut myself a nice slice of homemade, lemon buttercream frosted white cake.

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It was delicious. And it was like a big emotionally satisfying sigh: Ahhhhhh.

Hope watched, and said, “You’re just going to eat that cake?”

Me, mouth full: “Yup. My mom’s cake.” #becausepetty

My mom commented that she could still make me a chocolate cake if I wanted. I declined. Got a plate of mac and cheese, a turkey wing and another piece of lemon cake. And all was well with my soul.

Hope got a Popsicle with her grandpa.

We are home now. Grandma Hope’s cake has traveled about 600 miles in a warm car and is 5 days old and counting. It is still wrapped in plastic and still uncut. I’m guessing it’s not going to get cut either, because cake isn’t Hope’s thing; it’s just not. I know there is going to be hell to pay when I have to dispose of the cake; it’s unfortunate. I really did look forward to having a piece of love on a plate.

I really do intellectually get why there was cake drama, but I also know that there was something about shaming me into not eating it that doesn’t make Hope happy. She wanted to protect the cake, but she is shocked that I haven’t touched it. I’m not sure she knows what’s behind the cake thing. I know that she doesn’t understand my own emotional connection to the cake. It will probably be many moons and a lot of therapy before she gets that connection.

I wish we had been able to enjoy the cake together. When Hope finally cut into her cake, she did offer me some. I wish I could’ve said yes, but I really wanted no part of the cake. My feelings, sadly, just were too much for me to even take one gracious bite. I’m tired and have been on my relative best behavior for a week. I did not want any of that cake.

Of course she dropped the first piece on the floor, which the deeply petty part of me took as a sign that sometimes the universe is petty and reactive.

I made myself some brownies instead.

Another time and another cake.


Hope and Worry

I’ve been parenting for about 1,140 days. I am a babe in the woods. I have triumphed, and I have fallen down repeatedly.

Lately, I question everything I’ve learned these couple of years, and I’m scared.

I love my daughter, Hope. I have done my very best to help her heal, to help her grow, to help her catch up. I have tried to protect her from the world that has been brutal towards her. I’ve tried to protect her from herself when she has been unkind. I have prayed for and with her; I’ve wished for her. I’ve poured myself into her healing.

And for all the improvement we’ve made together, it’s still only 1,140 days, and I feel like we are in a bit of a free fall right now. It feels like I can never do enough. As a natural fixer, I am feeling woefully inadequate right now.

Something is wrong, very wrong. I know that Hope is struggling more than usual. I started paying close attention to moods, to behavioral patterns, to details that I had let go of a while ago. There are so many clues that something is wrong. I’ve seen them; I’ve started ramping all the support systems up again. I reached out to the therapists. I’ve scheduled appointments. I’ve been steeling myself to get back to the state of hypervigilance I used to maintain. But, I’m feeling my age now, remembering how exhausting the constant need for awareness can be. I’m wondering can I really maintain that level of being for an extended period of time, now. I’m also wondering what happens if I can’t.

I’m also wrestling with my own guilt. How and why did I get lax? Was I really lax? How come I didn’t know we had started spiraling? Why didn’t I just maintain everything? How did I let it get like this? Is this even something I can fix? How hard will this get before it gets better?

Is this free fall my fault?

I know intellectually that it’s not my fault but that fact really doesn’t matter, does it?

I see my daughter struggling. It seems she’s struggling with everything right now. School is hard. Social stuff is hard. Home is probably hard too. Emotions are thick; memories are vivid and on some kind of repeating loop. There are constant stomach aches and nausea and headaches and stress induced rashes. There are binges. There are hard core study times that swing to complete immersion into escapist fantasies. There is exhaustion, that’s really depression that swings from days of insomnia to sleeping for 18 hours.

I see it, but I can’t fix it. I gather those long arms and legs up and occasionally cradle Hope. I try to cook her yummy food. I try to be home as much as I can. I try to give her space, but I also try to smother her with attention. I try to give her lots of opportunities to thrive and to experience as much or as little as possible. I am strict but not inflexible. I’m compassionate. I try to meet her where she is, but I also walk away sometimes wondering if I did the right thing.

I want to heal her. I want her to be able to shrug off the effects of her trauma so that we can deal with the social challenges of blackness and womanhood. The reality is that we rarely get to wrestle with those because we are stuck in the quicksand of trauma. Her trauma suffocates us both. I fight with myself trying to just be ok with her life performance and trying not to worry that every bad grade will prevent her from a bright future.

I’m constantly forcing myself to abandon everything I conceptualized and believed about success. Our success is different. I know that, but it’s hard to believe that conventionalism is completely inappropriate in helping Hope navigate. So many of my firmly held, deeply etched values about life are constantly challenged and it is discomforting, disorienting, and dismaying. My prayers lately have been distilled to, “Lord just let us get through this day with no drama.”

And I still feel like we’re failing.

So, right now, Hope is struggling, and I’m worried. I’m not panicked by I’m really worried about the future, and by future, I mean next week and the week after.

I’m leaning back into my strengths: looking for possible solutions, marshalling resources and leveraging connections. I have no idea what happens next—long term is now just next month. I do think my daughter knows I’m trying; I don’t know what she really thinks about my efforts, but I know she thinks I’m trying to help her. I’m hopeful that she will continue to see me as helpful, reliable and safe. I’m hopeful I can continue to be that for her.

Hope and worry are sitting side by side for me these days.


We’re Not Typical

I’ve written about my learning disability a few times in this space. As I get older, I am actually struggling with my ability to read and to tolerate a lot of stimulation. There is a strong correlation between my stress level and my ability to process information and tolerate stimulation. How I’ve made it through the last few years is a mystery to me.

I’ve been trying to spend a bit more time resting and practicing self-care. I mean it’s the healthy thing to do right? But I’m finding that as much as I tell Hope that sometimes her brain needs to rest due to her issues, my brain also needs downtime.

I have a list of books that I’d like to read that’s several miles long. Yes, I could subscribe to Audible, but the way my pride is set up…Also, I listen to so many podcasts to uptake information that adding books to that list will not make the list shorter.

[Don’t ask how I manage to write so much for work and in this space. I don’t know. I don’t understand. It does take a lot out of me, but it seems I’m better at output than input. #shrug]

Sometimes I talk to Hope about my own issues with dyslexia and stimulation processing. I try to explain to her that my issues are kind of the “opposite” of hers. I didn’t get diagnosed until I was in college, and never asked for accommodations after undergrad. She has wrestled with her challenges for years, while when I was her age, this wasn’t even a passing thought. I try to explain that I have a sense of what she’s going through. Neither of our brains are typical. We’re not neurotypical. We’re atypical.

In other words, we’re special.

I try to encourage her to take breaks, to get some exercise, and to do things to help her brain run optimally.  I try to model these behaviors since they help me. One day she might start listening to me.

I’ve been traveling a lot lately. I usually sleep on planes. They close the doors, and I nod right off. I try to pretend that I’m not, that I’ll be somewhat productive. I will download magazines and maybe a book on my Kindle app with the intention to try to at least flip through a little bit. But I almost always fall asleep. The best we can hope for is playing solitaire before landing…until last week.

I actually read a book. It was a 31-page book, called, Runaway: How a Slave Defied America’s First President. It was about a woman named Ona who was enslaved by George Washington; Ona escaped her enslavement. Apparently she was the only slave who successfully escaped from Washington, and he desperately tried to retrieve her.

Thirty-one pages may not seem like a lot for most adults, or even middle schoolers, but for me, in one sitting, these days? Well, I might as well had read half of War and Peace.

When I got home from my trip the next day, I took Hope out for our Friday night dinner.  Over wings and nachos, I told my daughter that I’d read a book.

“A whole book?”

“Well, it was a short book, but yeah,” I demurred.

Hope held her hand up over the middle of the table. I put my hand up, and she high-fived me.

sigh

Sometimes, I wonder whether she really listens to me, and then she does something like this. I delight sometimes when there’s clear evidence that she hears me, that something I’ve said means something to her. It meant a lot to me that I could share that small accomplishment with her. It meant even more that she understood what it means for folks with brains who work differently.

I feel like this is some common ground that we’ve found.

I also get a chance to see how kind my kid is: whether she truly gets how hard reading is becoming for me, she was kind to acknowledge that it was significant to me. Hope has a big heart. I see it often. I’m so fortunate to have seen it in this moment.

So, I celebrate our moments of being a non-neurotypical family.


Prioritizing Attachment

School sucks.

I was briefly so excited about the start of school.  School keeps us regulated. It provides Hope with some social engagement. It makes us (me) feel productive.

But the reality is that it all just sucks.

School is hard for Hope. Like really hard. Like really, really hard.

She’s smart, but she’s got some limitations and despite wishing really, really hard, she’s not going to be a valedictorian. She’s an average kid.

I don’t do average. My issue, not hers.

I’m an overachiever. My sisters and I pride ourselves in doing and being better than 100%.

This overachiever/perfectionist thing is a problem, but that’s a whole other issue.

So, realizing that getting Hope on honor is like me scaling Mt. Rushmore has been hard to accept for me. Heck getting her to do reasonably well in each of her classes consistently is like me roller blading in spandex pants with just a bra top on the beach. I mean, it can happen, but it won’t be pretty and I’d probably end up with a couple of broken bones.

I’ve hired tutors and sent Hope to a commercial learning center.  I regularly visit the school counselors. I check in with her teachers. I schedule visits with her docs to make sure that medications are managed. I pay for private testing so that we don’t have to wait months and months for data that will inform educational decisions. I have nagged, I have begged and pleaded to get homework done. Hell, I’ve even written a 9th grade essay just to get us across a finish line (this is particularly painful as I was my university’s honor code chair in undergrad. Look what parenting does to you!!!) #hangsheadinshame

I have done everything I can think of, and I’m exhausted. And so is Hope.

And you know what?

Hope’s grades haven’t budged upward.

Not at all, not even a little.

If anything, things are harder than ever.

And I’ve fallen into a really negative rut as I try to pull her through assignment to assignment, quarter to quarter, semester to semester.

About two weeks ago, I found myself pondering what must she feel like in the midst of all my interventions.

I see and feel the resistance and the resentment.

I wonder if Hope thinks she’s disappointed me. I wonder if all this effort to ‘help’ her has hurt her. I wonder if I’ve undermined my efforts to build her up. I wonder if I’m just another parent in a long line of parents who have tried to ‘fix” her.

I then starting running over the last few months and really evaluating the state of our mother daughter bond.

It’s ok; I mean, there’s always room for improvement.

Thank I wondered how all my academic efforts might have hindered our attachment. I mean, if I was Hope I might pull back from all the criticism and all the effort to make me perform something that is so hard for me for any number of reasons.

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve made a decision.

After the next holiday break; I’m stopping the tutoring and learning centers. I’m going to still touch base with the counselors and teachers. I’m going to encourage her to breathe and know that she’s not defined by this academic thing. If she needs more time, then she’ll get more time. If she needs more coaching then she will absolutely have it.

I’m going back to prioritizing our relationship over her academic performance. It’s simply more important. She can take more time academically; but we can’t get this time back.

It’s just more important.

I love her, and while I want the best for her and I want her to benefit from all of the things I can give her, I think she really needs love, attention and encouragement.

We’ll come back to the schooling thing in time, but for now, she needs to know I love her just as she is.

She’s perfect.


The Height of Frustration

I procrastinate.

In fact, I am procrastinating right now.

There are meal plans to execute, and I am sitting on the couch. I would rather write and emotionally work through my latest kerfuffle with Hope (which happens to be ongoing on text at the moment), than fix the marinate for those chicken thighs that have been defrosting this afternoon.

I procrastinate.

Hope? Hope does not procrastinate.

After some google searches ala “why does my child take 5 hours to accomplish three tasks that should take no more than 3 hours max?” I turned up on the term time blindness.

Apparently time blindness is when you think you can manage time, but you totally, totally can’t. Not only can you not manage time, it’s almost like clocks don’t work for you at all. You need stimuli to remind you want you need to do next.

You think you’re just going to spend 15 minutes on this task, but somehow 2 hours have gone by while you went down a KPop YouTube rabbit hole.

Just going to run in an change clothes really quick? And 4 hours later…

It’s not that it happens once in a blue moon; it’s that it happens all the time. It’s persistent.

IT’S ALSO DRIVING ME BATTY.

It is beyond frustrating. It is hard to get anything done in this house when it takes Hope 30 minutes to make her bed.

I’m constantly working with her to actually care about time. I am also feeling backed into a corner with being really restrictive and limiting stimuli to help her stay focused.

Naturally restrictions don’t go over well; and with a side of melodrama you would think I don’t let her do anything.

This leaves me feeling icky. I know she’s got a lot going on in that brain of hers. There are big emotions, dark thoughts, and tangled neurons.

I also know that all of that puts her at greater risk for so many things that could further devastate her.

I often wonder if I’m just piling on to the myriad of drama we experience.

I am constantly researching interventions. I’ve got a couple that are core to my being able to survive this. Hope buys into none of the interventions. And it’s beginning to dawn on me that the consequences don’t mean much to her. I mean, yes she will suffer, but when her depression and anxiety are already high and her self-esteem is already low, then what really does she have to lose but to actually embody all of the bad things she thinks about herself?

So what exactly am I doing and is there a way out of this?

I’ve come to accept that straight A’s aren’t in our future and that my beloved daughter needs some additional support. The goal is getting her to a place where she can launch into a future life that will be good for her and to her…a life where she can be self-sufficient and live the life she wants to live.

I want that for her.

But if I’m being totally honest, I want that for me.

There is a lot of emotion for me around whether and when Hope will launch into a self-sufficient adult.  I know it won’t be after high school. I know that it may or may not be right after college…if she goes to college. With every life skill that is missing or developing or is behind in develop, my own anxiety ratchets up.

I’m ashamed that this sounds like I just can’t wait for her to be off into the world. It’s so much more complicated than that. I know that I still want more for my daughter than she wants for herself and after these years together, I still have trouble wrapping my head around that. The regressions are exhausting and I wish they would end, but I know they won’t anytime soon.

I also worry about how all of my worry and fretfulness affects our relationship. I can’t say I feel like we’re in the best place right now. I can’t say that she feels like I’m the safest person in her life right now. I mean, she knows I’m ride or die on the “big stuff” but this is really just daily life stuff. I can’t say I’m the most patient or empathetic. I can’t say I’m doing any of this right to meet her most urgent needs.

I’m also starting to realize that her most urgent need is simply to lay off and just be with her…to just catch her when she stumbles instead of trying so desperately to remove all of the barriers. I think she just wants me to love her, and this feels like conditional love, like all I’m trying to do is fix a broken daughter. And that breaks my heart.

I want her to be successful, but I haven’t given a lot of thought about what Hope’s definition of success is. Maybe for now…this is it. Just getting up everyday, going to school, trying, coming home, having dinner, petting the dog and mustering the energy to do it tomorrow.

If this is true, then a lot of my frustration is of my own making. I mean, don’t get me wrong, that 5 hours ish is still frustrating as hell, but it’s just symptomatic of much larger emotional sludge we’re covered in. So maybe the appropriate response is to just love on her and step away from the interventions and just let nature happen, whatever happens, just let her be loved. Our respective levels of frustrations need a break—surely my cortisol levels have made me have more than one food baby.

Maybe I’ll just go back to love as being the only intervention. I mean, things can get worse, but maybe this way we can at least be more secure as a mom/daughter unit if things do get worse. I’m tired of being frustrated. I’m ready to take a break.


Coping to Survive

We’ve had to make some drastic changes around Casa d’ABM recently in hopes of getting Hope back on track with a few things. It’s tough and painful, and it feels like all I do is pick on her and focus on the bad stuff.

But it’s not all bad stuff. I’m focusing on breaking bad habits and building skills that she desperately needs.

But I’m sure that for her, it feels like I’m picking on her.

Sigh…so in some ways, it’s kind of a short-term, no-win situation.

Damned if I help; damned if I don’t.

So…I’m back to throwing a bunch of interventions up in the air and trying to figure out which one fits, makes sense for us, and has the best chance at effectiveness.

Hope’s general outward response?

giphy1

My response to her response?

giphy1

Our joint response feels like it’s playing out like this:

dancing

Yeah, it’s like that.

We recently had an interesting chat. Hope was sharing her frustrations about coping with a bunch of stuff.

I asked her to give me some examples.

She did.

I made some suggestions.

She rebuffed them and doubled down on how her approaches were foolproof.

I noted that clearly they weren’t, otherwise this would be a moot conversation.

“Oh yeah, right.”

So, I probed how and when she developed her ways of coping. I asked her to explain to me why they had historically worked for her.

My heart hurt. Most of her coping strategies involved swallowing her emotions, withdrawing, learning to be ok just being sad because that was apparently her lot in life. I interpreted so much of the coping to be a sad acceptance of tragedy, the desire to limit her emotional trauma by just not being emotionally involved at all, and straight up denial.

How does that work for anyone??? How can you live like that?

And then it dawned on me.

These coping strategies are right on target if your goal is to survive your situation. If your goal is to just get to the next day relatively unscathed, without much physical or emotional hurt, then if you just fold into yourself, you can survive.

But what if your life doesn’t call for those specific skills anymore? Are those skills transferable in a more stable life? If all of your basic Maslow’s needs are met, and theoretically you can focus on some of those more abstract life goals, do those survival skills still serve you well?

Spoiler alert: They don’t work. You need a different set of life skills if you are moving from dysfunction to function.

I began to understand my daughter’s frustrations. She was using the tools she had developed and refined for years to survive in an environment where they didn’t really help her.

Just imagine that you are a whiz with a power drill; I mean, amazing! And then you are asked to go do a car repair…with just your drill. Let me know how that works for you.

Without being critical, I began to try to explain to Hope that she was going to have to try something new, and that I knew that was weird and scary, but her old bag of tricks wasn’t going to serve her optimally in this chapter of her life. In fact, her survival skills were becoming a hindrance.

She didn’t buy it. It’s ok, it will take some time.

Our kids, they are brilliant in their resilience, but their transition to normalcy is so hard for them to wrap their brains around. It requires them to trust, and that’s something they don’t really do. Hope tells me that she trusts herself, and that’s about it.

She does trust me, but there are some hard limits, and I know where those limits are and I try to earn my way beyond them.

It’s not easy though. I’m fighting years and years of her expertise in living her life in a way that she gets to see tomorrow. In nearly 44 years; I’ve never had to work that hard. Not on my worst day have I had to work that hard to survive. I can’t imagine that much change in her world view after only 3 years; that expectation is not appropriate.

She’s changed some. Her expectations of me increase, and with them her belief that I’ll deliver and ability to meet those expectations increases. But it is very slow, very incremental change.

As our Year of the Try comes to a close, I’m pondering next year’s family theme. I’m thinking the development of life skills is probably something we might give some focus in 2017.


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