- Yeah, so work reentry is rough. Busy, busy, busy. I have so much to do. It would’ve still been insanely busy even if I had not taken a week off, so no regrets. I do wonder if/when America will get over this ridiculous “week long” vacation situation and consider a 2 week minimum. The work ethic here is killing us.
- Hope is saving up for a car, y’all. As we begin talking about his process, I’m acutely aware of how much I take for granted in terms of environmental learning from my family. My dad was a mechanic, and took enormous pride in fixing EVERYTHING, including his cars. I honestly am struggling to remember how I learned certain things about purchasing and maintaining a car; I just learned it along the way.
- Even though I’ve been intentionally talking about these things with Hope for years, I’m realizing the extent to which my daughter has been unable to take in and retain information. Trauma is a beeotch. I’m convinced that these 7 years has just been a brain “rest” period; the result is that Hope has been oblivious to a lot of the environmental learning that just happens in families. It’s not intentional; she probably was listening but just could not process the information.
- Case in point: I do not ever remember learning what mileage on a car was; I just somehow learned and knew that that was how many miles the car had driven. Last night Hope asked me if mileage represented how many miles the car had left to drive. I was like, “an expiration date?” Whew, I have laughed about it for 24 hours because: HILARIOUS. But then I think about what the question represents, and I wonder how many other things Hope just missed learning because of her rocky start in life. Makes me sad.
- These last two weeks or so, I’m seeing so much growth in Hope. She’s regaining some much needed confidence. She enjoys working. She’s helping out around the house more, even picking up groceries. She’s quick to remind me that she needs me, but I’m starting to see glimpses of her future. I’m excited to see how she progresses.
- The truth is that Hope is probably more stable than I am right now. I’m still feeling overwhelmed by most things. Running simple errands can be challenging; lack of motivation. I’m in my head a lot, which is not unusual, but it’s not a good thing these days. I really need a meds adjustment, but the simple act of dialing my doc’s number–which is on speed dial–just seems like…work.
- Even on the weekends, I’m likely to just stay home all day. This isn’t like me. I’m an extrovert; I like being around people. I get off on the energy. But even thinking about going out much is enough to shut me down for a couple of days. Some of this is pandemic fall out, but the rest of it…is just me.
- I am logging my food and stepping up my exercise. I might not have hot girl summer, but it will be toasty girl fall!
- Yappy is currently sleeping in the middle of the bed. I’ve been relegated to the edge because the look he gave me when I attempted to move him about 30 mins ago was wanton rebellion. He ain’t moving. I’m not sure how a 10lb dog because the master of me, but here we are.
- I have a serious case of wanderlust. I am eyeballing trips to Iceland and Costa Rica. My fantasy would be to go alone, like I did with Puerto Rico a couple of years ago. I just need some decompression time. Where should I go? Open to suggestions! I’m concerned about the delta variant, but I am vaxxed. I am unwilling to travel for work, but I need to get on a plan sometime soon.
Category Archives: Trauma
It seems June is not only Pride but PTSD Awareness Month. I did not know that before today. It’s kind of hard to keep up with the multitude of awareness months and days.
In many ways, PTSD has ruled aspects of my life since Hope became my daughter. She was diagnosed years ago, and the events of the last year resulted in a fresh new round of targeted treatment.
Although I’ve certainly struggled with my own traumas throughout my life, I had never been diagnosed with PTSD or C-PTSD…until very recently. I remember the anxiety I felt the first time I drove through the tunnel where I had my accident and how long it took me to not avoid it or to feel panicky about it. It definitely took a while, but I was treated for anxiety and just kept working at it. That’s representative of how I navigated things.
That is until recently.
When Hope started working again last month, I was excited for her to get up and out of the house and to hopefully find purpose in being functional. I knew she was a great worker; her managers loved her last summer and even when she volunteers she always gets this amazing feedback. The girl works hard, is great with people (despite being somewhat of an introvert) and is a great employee. I knew that getting a job would help her turn the corner after the challenges of the year.
Now intellectually, I knew all of that. But my emotional self was triggered AF.
By the end of her first week, I was enduring mini panic attacks when she left for work. I tried really hard not to fret and worry about her when she wasn’t home within 20 minutes of her shift ending—but I worked myself into an emotional frenzy anyway. When she called out twice in two weeks for what didn’t seem to me like legit excuses, I lost my ish. I tried to offer care and concern, but I also came down hard on issues of work ethic and commitment. I hounded her about her schedule. I became deeply concerned about whether she was eating enough and the right things to keep her well and energy powered.
I tried to keep a lot of my panic to myself, but I failed. By last week, I was kind of a wreck on the inside. I was tired of being constantly on edge, consumed with worry and hounding Hope such that I could tell long term it would damage our relationship. I was miserable.
I convinced myself that it was because I didn’t trust Hope to make good decisions. Based on some of the decisions she made last summer, which precipitated the emotional mudslide of the year, the concern wasn’t completely unwarranted. But it just wasn’t healthy how much I was fretting about it. Five days a week, I was losing my ish on the inside.
By the time my weekly therapy appointment came around, my therapist, who was already trying to help me with my panic attacks noted things were worsening. That’s when she said, “ABM, I think we need to change course in working through this. This isn’t just panic attacks, you are being triggered by Hope going to work and your inability to prevent what happened last time from happening again. This isn’t really about trusting Hope, this is about being terrified that something bad will happen to her again and your inability to stop it. This is PTSD.”
I looked at the Zoom screen, bit my lip and began to cry. What? How? I mean, I’m worried about Hope, but is it really all that? Seriously. Won’t this just get better with time? Are you serious? She walked through my symptoms from the last few weeks, talked me through the diagnosis and made some recommendations on moving forward. It was so clear she was right.
I’m still processing what this means, but I know that naming it has helped. I also talked to Hope about being really afraid. My daughter continues to amaze me. She was gracious and understanding; and I’m a little less afraid now.
But, really I’m still terrified and that’s going to take some time to work through. Of all the things I thought would trip me up, Hope going to work ain’t it, but here we are. I’m going to get through this though; I will. Might take more than a minute, but I will. I’ve asked Hope to be patient with me and that I will do my best to try to avoid being an overbearing, overprotective troll.
She smiled and said we’ll get through it. She’s right; we will.
Not gonna lie; I have a number of vices…
A good glass of wine.
An occasional edible or three.
Buying organizing stuff that I don’t bother using to actually organize.
And a bunch of other stuff…
But I also have a lot of healthy habits.
Simple prayers of gratitude.
Desperately fighting my anxiety and depression.
I’m fortunate that I have had only a few moments in this life where my mental health rendered me unable to function. About 15 years ago, I took a month off from work to just pull it together. It was hard. I was keeping crazy hours, trying to define myself professionally, trying to navigate a dreadfully unhealthy relationship, and struggling with an eating disorder. I just had to hit the pause button.
The early years of parenting nearly brought me to the brink. I’m not ashamed to admit that I wasn’t prepared to really tackle the trauma that Hope had endured. I thought I was, and Lord knows I fought for her every step of the way. The reality is that those pre-adoption classes that agencies make APs take as a part of the approval process are bullshit; they are soooo woefully inadequate. I knew nothing about secondary trauma, post-adoption depression or all the ways in which trauma might manifest in my daughter’s worldview.
There were definitely times when it brought me to my knees, begging for a timeout from the rest of my life so that I could really figure out how to parent and do it well.
I spent a lot of time just putting my head down and plowing through.
As Hope and I recover from another recent major trauma, I’m considering hitting the pause button once again.
I’m tired. This pandemic with non-stop social unrest has gotten the best of me, and it’s gotten the best of Hope as well.
In recent years, I’ve really tried to model healthy behavior for Hope. I work out daily; even if it’s just a YouTube workout video in the living room. I get outside every day, rain or shine. I balance my sweet tooth with attempts to get my fruits and veggies in. I get up; I get dressed even when there is no where to go. I, at least, put on fresh lounge wear. I make sure she sees me reading for pleasure, for work and for information.
When Hope fell into the deepest pit of depression a few months ago, I really tried to include her in light workouts, cooking, doing hair, reading. It was hard to see her decline and just roll over to go back to sleep. I get it; gosh to I get it. I often feel like I could just roll over and sleep for ages because my emotions are just too much that they feel both burdensome and invisible. But I’ve got to work and keep us fed and sheltered, so I soldier on.
With the recent developments, we’re back into the stuck in bed thing. It’s so hard because really, there’s a pandemic and crazies are out protesting an election that was resolved months ago. Other than going for a walk and to buy groceries, being out and about isn’t really an option. On my days off I still get up, get dressed and pull together a plan for the day—even if it is sitting on the couch watching movies. I try to stay active. I try to model pushing back on the darkness for Hope.
It’s hard to maintain that flow. It also feels useless as my beautiful daughter languishes in bed for days at a time, getting up to eat after I’ve gone to bed and jacking up my Netflix recommendations even when she has her own profile. I encourage her to try. She never regrets getting up and about, but she never initiates it on her own.
Recent developments have just taken their toll on me, and I’m finding it hard to keep going. I, too, could use some time to lay in bed—even though I know I won’t, or at least won’t the same way Hope does—and just sit with my emotions. I’m kinda overwhelmed with all that’s going on.
So, I’m looking to take some time off. Even with that, I feel bad because I need to cancel some engagements and some workshops I committed to recently. But I try to remember that if I got hit by a bus, those things would go on and folks would simply find someone else to do the things I thought I would do. Cancelling is not the end of the world, and some of this stuff…well, I probably should’ve said no to in the first place anyway.
I’m trying to model self-care. I’m trying to model coping. I’m trying to model self-love and resilience. I honestly don’t know if the lessons are landing, but I’m doing the best I can as I try to find my way through my own darkness.
We’ll see what the next month holds and whether I take the time I need and show my daughter how I hit the pause button. I just know I’m really tired, right now.
Each year I do a vision board. I have it blown up and I keep it framed in my bedroom so that I see it daily and am reminded that there are things to do.
My 2020 board included things like evolving my parenting now that Hope is in college, chasing some adventure, self acceptance, health and as always love.
How does the meme go?
How it started…It was to be a year of great promise.
How it ended…It was a year of survival.
COVID-19 pretty much took a wrecking ball to the year.
Hope is currently not enrolled in school, and I’m back to daily, active parenting. Just when she was becoming more social and connected, everything was cut off. It all made her really vulnerable, and just like that trouble found her. It’s been really hard dealing with the fallout of the summer’s drama. The pandemic made it just that much worse—there are so few outlets for having any sort of social connection.
Adventure? Well, going to the grocery store became an adventure. Going anywhere became an adventure. I feel like my world just closed in this year. In January I was counting down days to a trip to Israel in March, but instability in the region made my travel buddy want to cancel. We rebooked and planned a trip to Costa Rica, but then COVID hit and our trip got postponed to November. November came, along with a surge in cases, and Costa Rica was cancelled. In July Hope and I took a day trip to see my parents. That was a highlight for the year.
My vision board has hiking and relearning how to swim on it, meanwhile the pool never even opened. Adventure finally came about two months ago when I decided that we would start visiting local farms in the area. It was fun, and I have a lot of jam in my pantry now. It was wonderful having fresh pressed cider and fresh picked collard greens. I will likely sign up for a CSA in 2021 so that I can be sure to keep the goodness coming.
While I’m grateful that I found small ways of creating adventure, I’m sad that my world shrank in so many ways.
I have had a lot of time to think about what I like and dislike about myself. I’ve also had a lot of time to remember that Hope watches and learns from me. I have been able to make a lot of progress on self-acceptance. Listen, I’m not saying I’m “there,” but I’ve at least switched my thinking from focusing on my looks and size, to focus on what my body can do and what I need to do to make sure it is able to keep doing those things. I lost about 20lbs this year, most of it in January-March, but have largely kept it off. I walk every day. I’ve managed to increase my daily steps substantially. I cook more.
But I also still make a cake every 4-5 days; I still eat too much sugar, I still haven’t mastered hydration and my coping mechanism when it comes to consumption is still…an issue. 😊
I’ve been fortunate that I didn’t take a financial hit this year. I’m grateful for that. It’s meant that I’ve been able to keep debt low and afford some things that have made quarantining more comfortable—more streaming subscriptions, a new electronic standing desk, and some other odds and ends. I’m now contemplating some updates to the kitchen and my bathroom. I mean, if I’m going to be hold up here indefinitely, I probably should make it pretty and comfortable.
The flip side is that this has been one of the most challenging years of my career. The emotional toll is heavy. Dealing with rampant White supremacy in the midst of a pandemic is draining. The murder of George Floyd will be with me for a long time. The fall out has changed the way I think about the work I do, the pleasantries that I’m sometimes forced to engage in, the patience that I’m nearly always in short supply of. And watching some folks just fade back into racial oblivion is…toxic, yet to be expected during the best of times.
It’s been hard.
And love? One of the great loves of my life passed away in January, Elihu. I miss him every day. I wonder what I could’ve done to change the course of our relationship, even though I know my ending it was the right thing to do at the time. The loss of E came on the heels of losing another one of my great loves just the year before. Dating this year was trash. I am seeing someone, but I know it’s not a great fit for me, so I also know it has an expiration date. What can I say pandemics…#shrug. I’m hopeful that maybe I’ll make a meaningful connection in 2021—not meaningful like the Match commercial with Satan and 2020, but meaningful nonetheless.
But I suppose there are some bright spots.
- I survived my own bout with COVID early in the year.
- Hope had two jobs for a while and was really good at them.
- Yappy is much more affectionate with Hope, even if he is primarily still very attached to me.
- I managed it all without completely falling apart.
- I deepened some of my friendships.
- I did a lot of writing and creating, though not in this space.
- I found another level to my voice regarding diversity at work.
I’m also super conscious of the fact that lots of folks would trade places with me in a minute during this crapshoot of a year. Hope and I are fine. I would give my left foot to hug my mom and dad, see my sisters and snuggle my niece and nephews, but I guess I’ll settle for waving on camera. In the grand scheme of things Hope and I are very fortunate to be comfortable. Our families have not suffered any losses. We are able to afford what we need and largely what we want. We have each other and Yappy.
I have no idea what my vision board will look like for 2021; right now I just want a giant picture of OUTSIDE, but I’m guessing I should be more specific.
Hope and I have always talked. She tells me just about everything, and since she can’t keep a secret or lie well, I’m pretty sure of that. I’ve mastered the non-judgmental face while sometimes I scream on the inside; BTW, there’s been a helluva lot of screaming in 2020.
I’ve also always been open and honest when it came to discussing sex. I committed to having a sex positive home very early on. Now there are times when that’s been especially hard, really, really hard. But sex positivity remains the goal. Too many kids don’t get the chance to ask open and honest questions about sex, the feelings, the challenges, the ups and downs and the values I have around it. Parents often say they’ve taught their kids about sex, but they focus almost exclusively on the values associated with it, rather than the mechanics, the more detailed body stuff that we tend to learn either from friends or trial and error. I have always wanted Hope to know she can talk to me about sex; I want to be the first stop for inquiries! And I don’t claim to have all the answers; sometimes I have to say, “ya know, I don’t know the answer to that. Let me research and get back to you.” And then…I do.
Anyhoo, with COVID and the trauma of 2020, Hope and I only have each other day in and day out, we talk a lot and really substantively. And we talk about EVERYTHING.
Even when it’s awkward, I think, “wow the fact that we are doing this, talking like this is really mind-blowing.” I can’t even imagine my parents having some of these kind of chats with me at her age. Heck I don’t see us really having some of these chats at my current age and I’m pushing 50. It’s just not done!
This week Hope brought up some very specific questions and concerns that left me thinking….
Seriously, in the moment, I plastered on my “Oh this is totally normal” face and thought, “This is a wicked time for me to fast from alcohol cause I really need a cocktail.”
I allowed for a long pause, thought about how I’ve handled this issue in my own life, and then I made some recommendations. What I recommended shocked even me to be perfectly honest!
And it’s kinda got me really in my head. Not because I question the decision to make some pointed recommendations, but because these conversations really force me to confront my own hang ups and insecurities. I’m realizing that I’ve really got some stuff to unpack on my own, you know? #morestufftodiscusswithmytherapist
I want Hope to have a full, loving, meaningful relationship with herself, her body and hopefully one day a partner. Heck, I want that for myself too. It’s so taboo to talk about these things, and I feel especially so for women of color. I want Hope to know that how she loves herself directly influences how she looks for love externally. It took me way too long to learn that.
So, we’ll keep talking, and with this pandemic, all anyone around here can do is talk.
So, what does sex positive parenting look like for you?
Everyday I set a couple of small goals for Hope: help me with making dinner, going for a walk, showering and getting dressed. It is not easy, but most days we achieve one or two goals on the path towards healing from the trauma of the summer and early fall. Naturally, some days are better than others, but there is an element of “pulling teeth” to everyday.
This week I acknowledged to myself that juggling work full-time and a heightened level of care-giving is hard. Actually hard is an understatement. My job takes its own emotional toll on me, and this year that toll has been extraordinarily high. Racialized social unrest in a pandemic during an election year is like the worst of the perfect storms for folks like me who do diversity work. I usually am able to compartmentalize some things, but this year–really where was I going to compartmentalize my own emotion? Under the kitchen sink? I upped my therapy to weekly, figured out my preferred strains of cannabis that would help me relax a bit and cope and increased my exercise. I knew that my rope was frayed, but I felt like I wrapped around a little duct tape and was able to keep going.
Then things hit the skids with Hope, and everything has felt like a house of cards built on a seesaw for a couple of months now. At first I could busy myself with the immediate task of pulling together the medical and mental health teams (part of which involved securing a new psychiatrist who does not take our insurance). I’m actually not bad in crisis–I can clearly identify what needs to be done, so I got to doing those things.
Work continued to be demanding, and I began making a cake nearly every 4 or so days because: EATING MY FEELINGS. I tried to pull back on a few projects, and set better boundaries. My evenings became devoted trying to cook better meals, spend quality time with Hope and Yappy and trying to create some sense of normalcy in the midst of what is becoming the worst time in my life.
My own light began to dim a couple of weeks before the election. The idea that that Orange Demon could possibly win began to set in, and I had a harder time managing my anxiety. I took up crocheting a few months ago and I just started trying to focus on that. The COVID cases began to rise and the hopes of visiting my family for Thanksgiving started to fall. I started baking, crushing chicken figures like I was a toddler and throwing myself into dealing with Hope’s challenges. I started feeling just too tired to get my 13.5K steps everyday. It became hard to answer any phone call that wasn’t work related. I tried to pull it together. I bought a new desk, since it’s clear I won’t be in the office anytime soon. I became consumed with rehabbing an office chair I bought second hand (I ended up just running out to buy a new chair this morning), Amazon started making more frequent deliveries as well.
I could and can feel my depression and anxiety is at an all time high; I also feel like there was and is pitifully little I can do about it.
Hope began to make baby steps forward on her journey, and that was the only bright light.
And then both of our bad days collided. On the weekends, I try to plan several activities to get us out and about (safely of course). Last week we went to a farm and did some shopping. We got some fresh fruit and veggies, fresh pressed apple cider, jam and honey sticks. Everything was delicious and it set us up for a few good eats during the week. Hope wanted to go back this weekend, but I found another farm for us to visit that had more things (fresh ice cream!) to enjoy. We’re supposed to visit today.
But yesterday, I struggled. I keep crying for no reason. I was fixated on the stupid office chair, and I was furiously crocheting Yappy a 2nd new sweater. I
was am emotionally exhausted, which makes me feel physically exhausted. Yesterday’s goal was to go on a short family walk. The walk happened and the walk was a disaster. By the time we returned from the house, I just felt like giving up on everything.
I didn’t cook.
I didn’t fold my laundry.
I binged watched Fargo.
People called, but I could barely talk.
I sporadically cried.
I tried to nap, but couldn’t.
I air fried half a bag of tater tots and ate the left over cake and a bunch of chocolate covered peanuts because yum.
I finished Yappy’s sweater (Bright side: he looks very handsome in it).
I sat and just looked into space.
Today, is not much better. I do not feel like dealing with anything or anyone, sadly not even Hope or Yappy. I am disgusted that there are no more chicken fingers in the house–yet I also know I’ll be disgusted if I ate more chicken fingers. There is not more cake which means I need to make some, which is energy I don’t have. I know I can make a mug cake but it’s not the same. It’s mid-month and I need to pay bills, which frankly enrages me for no apparent reason other than hating the exercise. I still don’t have the energy to talk to anyone, even when I know it will help. My gout has flared because I’m eating poorly, so I hurt and I have no one to blame by myself, and well the Holy Homeboy for allowing me to have gout.
Oh yeah, I’m in deep. I *know* I should get Hope up and I know I should try to achieve the small goals, but real talk: My tank is empty and even the fumes are gone. I got nothing, and that’s hella problematic because Hope really doesn’t do well when I lose my shit.
And my shit is definitely gone today.
So because I’m the super fragile one today and I’m also the one who has to keep this boat from capsizing, I’m taking the day to just wallow.
My coffee is currently in a wine tumbler. I’m about to eat some buttered bread for breakfast. I’m going to take a shower, put on some comfy fleece and crawl under my weighted blanket. I might go for a walk at some point, and I might even stock up on more chicken fingers. I’m putting some butter on the counter for later, so I can make a cake. And I will make the Tikka Masala I was supposed to make yesterday, if for no other reasons than 1) the chicken might spoil and 2) I bought fresh naan yesterday and I don’t need the guilt of eating it without the dish.
Yeah, we are both fragile over here.
I am still in the emotional whirlwind. We’ve been stable the last couple of weeks, but it’s like a stable version of hell, soooo it sucks.
I’ve been angling for a breakthrough in this situation. I made a request that went unanswered.
I’ve been patient. I haven’t lost my schitt in front of Hope. I have moderated my outward emotions. I have not raised my voice. I have tried reason. I have tried science (I’m a nerd, leave me alone). I’ve leaned into every bit of every skill in my toolbox.
I announced to Hope on Sunday that she had 2 days to move the needle or I was taking matters into my own hands and escalating things.
Nothing happened so, I made my move today.
There is a part of me that wonders if it is the right decision, and there is a part of me that sees this escalation as the only path toward making sure I’m doing my job of looking out for Hope’s wellbeing.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about what I was like and who I saw myself as when I was Hope’s age. In some ways we are alike and others so vastly different. I realize just how much I took for granted looking back now.
I certainly engaged in my share of shenanigans in high school, but I was also a “good girl” so I showed up to college with some innocence. Despite all that Hope has been through, she also showed up with a bit of innocence.
I was an avid reader and continue to be an endlessly curious woman. I was certainly academically ready and my curiosity meant that I was always looking to understand all these new experiences. I am intrinsically motivated and I had some very specific goals to accomplish during college. I avoided just about everything that would possibly derail me—except a ridiculous boyfriend who was handsome but not at all what he appeared to be. Even that, I managed to escape with some emotional wounds that certainly shaped the way I viewed future relationships, but in the grand scheme of things, I got off lucky.
Hope and I are very, very different in this respect. She is not motivated in the same way, and trust over the last 6+ years I’ve tried to understand what motivates her. I still don’t know, and I’m not sure she does either. She is naturally curious, but I’m still not sure that she has figured out that she can channel and leverage that curiosity in ways that would directly benefit her.
I never doubted that my family was my support system and that they would be there for me. They had been engaged with me my whole life, so of course I felt secure in that.
Hope has only been with me for 6+ years, which on some days seems like an eternity and others seems like the blink of an eye. We are very attached, but I feel like there’s a part of her that is just out there. I get it. I will never, ever fill some specific holes, and I don’t try to. I can only be what I am to Hope. I love her dearly. I know she loves me, but the path to our family is a littered with loss.
That kind of loss changes you. It changes your brain development and function. It changes you emotionally. I am sure it changes you at a cellular level. And those changes…
Well, I believe that those changes have left my daughter vulnerable to all sorts of things.
She has come so far over these years, but emotionally, she’s not 19. She’s like a 15 year old dropped into college student aged stuff. And, some of it, she can handle and other stuff…it’s just clear she’s out of her depth.
There are few times I’ve been as afraid for her as I am right now. It’s consuming me. Between work, which continues to just be barely bearable because of workload, our family crisis is taking whatever is left.
So, I escalated things today to see if I can get this situation to some sort of resolution. I don’t know what that resolution is going to look like and that terrifies me. I don’t know what my relationship with Hope will look like when its all said and done. I don’t know what she will do next. I don’t know what the next revelation will be or how much it will hurt to hear whatever it will be. I just know that there will be more emotional upheaval before its all over.
And I just…I am just so very sad. So, so, so sad.