- It’s my 5th pandemic “staycation,” and…I’m over it. I have been productive, which is a word that I do not like to associate with vacations. I filed my taxes today, completed a consulting gig, worked on a baby blanket and ate some leftovers. Yesterday, I exchanged a pair of sneakers at New Balance, because I prefer to go during the week when there are no crowds. I stopped off at Lidl to pick up a few things and swung by Michaels because I needed another skein of yard for this blanket’s border. Yeah, this vacation is uber exciting…#sarcasm.
- Hope, Yappy, and I will be going to see my parentals on Friday for the Easter holiday. I booked us a hotel room downtown where we will order room service, cuddle Yappy and enjoy a change of scenery. I hope to take Hope to the museum and run around the city ordering takeout from my favorite hometown joints.
- I think I’ve made the decision that Hope and I will take a real vacation this summer. I think we’ll go to the Caribbean where I can get nice dark bronzy brown, drink from sun up to well past sundown and snooze a lot under the umbrella. I want swimsuit tan lines and a tan line from that resort bracelet that gets you an endless supply of fresh towels and booze. As much as I want an adventure trip, I am still skittish about moving around too much–I think a vacation where I lay on the beach for a week is in order.
- Hope never really got up today. It makes me sad. Yesterday we went to see a movie. Only 6 folks were in the theater–Side note: first movie in more than a year. It was weird. We skipped the snacks because we couldn’t justify taking our masks off for popcorn. Just seemed silly. Anyway, we got takeout after the movie and it was great to see Hope out, about, and engaged. It was a reminder that she’s in there, trying to figure out how to beat the darkness back. I’m guessing it was probably exhausting being up and out. Figures that she would sleep even more today. if there’s no rain tomorrow, I might see if I can lure her out with a game of tennis outback.
- It’s hard to find things to engage Hope. She’s just not at a place where she can put her own plan together. I’ve offered to get her a tutor so she can continue her Chinese and Korean lessons. I’ve told her about places that are hiring. I’ve suggested that she look into a free online class just to create some structure. I suggest a lot, and I get frustrated a lot because I keeping thinking and Hoping that one day she will be at a place in her development and healing where she might chase down a lead. Each week, especially during lockdown, I’m reminded that she’s just not there. I desperately wish I could help her in a more meaningful concrete way, but the reality is that other than supporting her and keeping her safe is my role. The heavy work of healing is her job at this point. I respect that, but I still wish there was something I could do.
- A few months ago, I bought Yappy a set of FluentPet AAC buttons. The goal is to train Yappy to press buttons with recorded words so he can communicate with me (if he wants). This is another lockdown situation in which I watched too many dog and cat videos on instagram for too many days. A couple of weeks ago, I finally opened that box and set up his first button, “Outside.” We’re on week 3 of me making a big deal out of saying OUTSIDE and pressing the button and then going out with him. He hasn’t yet intentionally hit the button, but he is vocalizing a bit more–which is a real change because Yappy just doesn’t vocalize much at all—, and he gets excited when I push the button. I know he knows the word; it’s just a matter of seeing if he decides to tell me he wants to go outside. Stay tuned.
- I’ve had a couple of more sedentary weeks. It happens, but I’m trying to get back into my moving rhythm. I wasn’t taking as many work breaks to move around; I didn’t play as much music. I didn’t get on the treadmill as much. I don’t worry about it too much in the grand scheme of things but I also don’t want the lack of movement to become a bad habit. I like it when I’m more active. Several months ago I started jumping rope, only to realize I”m just horrible at it. Folks online talking about how you can stay fit by jumping rope–Hmmmph! I stumbled repeatedly. I bought several different jump ropes because clearly, the problem was the rope. #sideeye. Eventually, I ended up with this super cheap jump rope that has a counter–that was my game changer. I am finally up to jumping 200 a day. A long-term goal is to get to 1,000.
- Yep, still eating cake every day. I’m convinced that cake heals me at night. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
- I’m thinking about buying roller skates because, at 48, I have a death wish. This is why I need to quick social media. Stupid videos and subsequent ads got me making all kinds of bad decisions. Just some of the things I’ve recently looked into as a result of social media ads: roller skates, boxed cold brew delivery (this is totally worth it, btw), CBD bath bombs, other kinds of bath fizzies, hoopless hula hoops, dog toothbrushes, workout clothes with resistance bands sewn in them. Anyway, back to the skates, I enjoyed roller skating (she says totally forgetting about the couple of times she went skating in the last 10 years and nearly ended up in a body cast–ok, a minor exaggeration. Adults look so cool on those things in the videos. I already know I’m going to end up being one of those “How it started/How it’s going” memes.
- I got my second vaccine on Saturday. What a relief. I know that it doesn’t prevent me from spreading it or getting it, but just knowing that I would survive it…that’s a lot. I mentioned earlier that Hope and I are going to see my parents; we haven’t seen them since July of last year when we went for a few hours and sat mostly on the deck in the back yard. I’m so excited to see them; this is by far the longest that I have gone without seeing them in person. I miss them. Hope is super excited to see them as well. She saw them in October when she spent a few days with them. While we had a nice quiet holiday season here, Hope really missed seeing family over Christmas. She’s looking forward to having that time with them. So am I!
Tag Archives: Emotional Health
Ten Things on Wednesday: 3/31/21
Long weekends are super precious. Despite having no commute, I’m exhausted on Friday afternoons. Saturdays and Sundays seem to go buy in the blink of an eye, and then it just starts again.
This year, of course, Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day fell back to back; hallelujah.
I worked on a couple of crochet projects. Enjoyed my long, luxurious afternoon bath. Hope and I finished the final season of True Blood. Yappy got lots of snuggles ,and I made him a new sweater. I cooked chicken and waffles for Valentine’s dinner. I spent the evening with my own significant someone, who might actually get a blog name after all. Things haven’t felt so…psuedo-normal in a while.
Hope has been having repetitive nightmares for weeks now. She sometimes wakes up sobbing and terrified. It’s been a challenge. For whatever reason, she enjoyed a brief respite of no bad dreams. (Lots of potential reasons for the dreams; we’re working through it with the mental health folks.) The dreams are so damn persistent; I’m hoping this short break foretells that things are about to get back to normal. In any case I’m glad she got a break. My big girl Valentine.
Yappy turned 6 last fall, and promptly assumed the personality of a grouchy old man. He wants to dictate the direction and length of every walk. If he senses water dripping from anywhere above him, the situation is untenable. He’s very demanding about how I place the blanket on him and even how I lift the covers to let him snuggle with me in bed. He’s been working on training me to get it right for years now. This weekend Yappy allowed me to repeatedly try on his sweater as I was making it and after his first walk in his new sweater, we came in, I unhooked his leash and he bee lined it to Hope’s room. He’s been so good about making sure Hope gets lots of his attention. He switches back and forth between us when couch cuddling now. One of my favorite things is to see the two of them playing or snuggled up asleep together. It’s really just the cutest, purest thing. A girl and her dog. (He still chooses me at night if I’m not at my someone’s house). My fuzzy Valentine.
And yeah, I’ve got a special someone. At first I didn’t really see it going anywhere. Now I see some possibilities. He shared something about himself this weekend that really made me go, “Ohhhhh, ok, now a lot of things make sense. Ok, I see what I’m working with here.” I also realized how much it must’ve taken to share with me. I don’t take it lightly. So, while we exchanged small gifts for Valentine’s Day. The sharing was really the thing. My low-key Valentine.
Oh, and I discovered a cold brew tap in a box that I can order online. You just open the tap, sit it in the fridge and get your sip on. The way I love cold brew? Looking forward to coffee for tomorrow.
Also, folks who recommended progesterone cream….good looking out. Finally onboard and hoping to level out a bit soon!
Hope everyone had a marvelous weekend.
Ten Things on Wednesday: 2/10/21
- How is it mid-February? So much has been crammed into the first 6 weeks of the year that I swear it should be June.
- Anybody watching the impeachment? We’re 2 days in, and well, the House manager’s case is compelling. I mean really, it should be a slam dunk, but the way blind allegiance and hypocrisy are set up…
- Hope is really coming along this week, and when Hope does and feels better, we BOTH do and feel better. I think we might finally be getting a little more stable. This is a long road though, and I’m used to upset apple carts. My optimism remains guarded.
- I’m entering a crunch period at work, and I’m struggling to work thought my anxiety about it. Lots of presentations, lots of zoom meetings, and a never ending inbox of cannibalizing requests. The things people ask of me are just…beyond. Like, I’m not a therapist. I’m not a search engine. I’m not a priest. I really don’t know what people expect when they email me. It’s just so unbelievable sometimes. It is exhausting, and I genuinely do not understand why people will spend 3 paragraphs writing about themselves and then ask something that an elephant in Thailand could probably figure out how to ask Google, Siri, Alexa or Google Assist. #Baffling. If I were to ever write a memoir about this period in my life, I’m totally including the shittiest of the shitty emails.
- Anyone watch Bling Empire on Netflix? I binged it a couple of weeks ago; it’s essentially if Crazy Rich Asians was a reality show. There’s a whole story line in which a TRA Korean adoptee searches for his birth family and another woman looks for her dad that she hasn’t seen since she was a young girl. Both characters find some resolution in their searches. It was really lovely to the guy’s mom be supportive of his search., but I was also glad to see that the show didn’t shy away from the fact that he really felt like he needed to know why he had to be adopted. The abandonment, the open wound…even with a good life and what appeared to be a good family and support system, he needed to know about himself and his people. Would love to hear other thoughts.
- I made CBD gummies last weekend. I purchased isolate from a local shop, researched some recipes and voila. I look forward to improving the next batch. Each gummy has about 15mg of CBD. Two take the edge right on off of me. I made them for Hope to help her sleep. We’ll see what works.
- I need a vacation so bad. Not a staycation, but a get on a plane and fly far, far away, where the food and language are different and the drinks are cool and plentiful. Travelzoo keeps sending me trips and I so want to book something. Maybe I’ll book something after I’m vaccinated. I soooo need to get away from the DC area for a minute.
- Yappy is not enjoying winter at all. At 6, he’s surprisingly showing his age. He’s not feeling the snow, sleet or rain. He’s only willing to cuddle on his terms. He’s demanding when it comes to just about everything. Doc says he’s healthy. My spidey sense kind of worries about him.
- Anyone else watching TV and sometimes getting anxious because folks are all close together without masks? Just me? Seriously though I’m really increasingly conscious about the trauma response to life during a pandemic.
- I need this upcoming long weekend. Got a few Valentine plans, but I mainly plan to rest. Of course I still need to create these presentations for next week…they ain’t writing themselves. But I’m looking forward to sleeping in, having my long hot bath and napping.
Hitting the Wall
This week, I feel like I hit the wall. I’m just over and done with everything. I feel like I could just crawl into bed and sleep indefinitely. I’m just emotionally exhausted.
Nothing about this year has been easy, but these last 4-5 months have just been brutal. Work just exploded after the murder of George Floyd, and while the intensity has died down some the expectations and work haven’t. I decided about 2 months ago to stop accepting speaking and writing engagements. That hasn’t stopped people from asking though, and I’m getting better at saying no without explanation.
My job cuts across so many other programs within my organization. During a recent meeting I swear I hear my name over and over and over on projects led by others. It was then that I realized part of why I am so effing tired. I’m spread pretty thin.
And then of course there’s home life. While we are past the crisis of the last two months, we are still very much in a tender phase. We’re stable, but fragile. I don’t feel like I’ve had much time or space to process anything because I was just trying to soldier us through it. I threw myself into finding support for Hope, figuring out what needed to happen with the rest of her college semester, dealing with health issues and just babying her, because she needed it.
Oh and can’t forget about Yappy and the day he shat all over the living room and dining room. Or the second COVID scare. Or the inability to get away from here and take a vacation. Or…Or…Or…
And Thursday evening, I feel like I just cracked. I don’t even want to watch TV. I don’t want to read. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want much of anything but to be left alone to just drift away to lala land. My brain just doesn’t wanna. I know that after I post this I will curl up on my couch and go to sleep. I already have my blanket and my pillow.
I’m not sure how to get on top of this. I’ve taken another day off next week and I’m committed to trying to block off more time to just rest. I’m realizing that I’ve got some ego issues (but I just HAVE to be a this meeting) and some issues about disappointing others that I really need to confront and wrestle with because the status quo is not sustainable.
I’m also worried about how my mini-breakdown will affect Hope, who is coming off of her own crisis. I believe it is important that she remember I’m human, but I don’t like her seeing me like this. It can be triggering for her. But I also know that I”m simply incapable of faking it right now. I’m just empty–and this is after having a weekend completely free last week when she went to visit the grands.
I know I’ll be ok, but right now I just feel blah with too much to do and a lot of responsibility that I’m not sure I can handle. Rough times…
The Fall Season
The fall season is typically my most challenging of the year. While I am usually ready for sweater and boot weather, I struggle with the diminishing day light hours, less outdoor time–which means less patio time–and the sense that we should all be nesting.
This year, I feel like we’ve been force nesting for the whole year. When quarantine started for me and Hope, it was the just the second week in March. Since then, we’ve only been out of town once to visit my parents.
I buy the groceries, typically over 2-3 quick outings a week. We see most of our doctors online, but we have had several in person visits, including more frequent visits as of late. We’ve “risk splurged” and gone to the beauty supply store and a recent trip to Ulta to just…browse. I’ve hit Michael’s a couple of times for yarn. I’ve gone out to happy hour/dinner (outside only) with my podmates maybe 7 times (roughly once a month) and I recently started seeing someone and because of concerns about risk, we mostly hang out at his place.
Now that I write it out, it seems maybe like a lot, but it really hasn’t felt like it. Hope has definitely had more time outside of the house than me. She’s worked two jobs during this time, and at one point was out of the house nearly everyday. Both jobs are in the rear view now and she has withdrawn from school for the rest of the semester.
Hope is the epitome of a homebody. She will stay in pjs for days, snacking in bed (and sleeping with the litter of wrappers), and happily go down Tik Tok/YouTube video rabbit holes if I let her. While she might genuinely want to be more social, she can be content chillaxing in her adult onsie.
I like having the choice of staying home, but I’m social. I appreciate being out and about. I’m frankly worried about my emotional health going into the fall. I don’t feel like I have that many choices, and zoom and MS Teams are just stand ins. It honestly feels like things are closing in.
I’ve pulled out my therapy light. I’ve got several craft projects, and I’ve finally logged into some of the free movie apps. I recently started the couch to 5K program to see if I can build up to more time outdoors during the winter and fall months. Hope and I are binge watching Lucifer on Netflix, and I’m sure I’ll find something else for us to watch when we’re done.
Hope needs a lot of attention and nurturing right now. It’s been a rough few months. She’s doing great, but I’m worried about what if I can’t be what she needs during the dark months ahead? What if I go down my own rabbit hole? It’s not like I can call family for back up because of the pandemic. I mean, sure they will come if things are really necessary, but at what point is that? I haven’t really developed comfort with going away for a weekend–I worry about COVID exposure. We probably will for the holidays, along with pre-travel testing.
I am also worried about the upcoming US election, the fall out, these whackadoodle “militia” groups and just chaos. There was a “proud boys” gathering less than 2 miles from my home this week. Should I, too, stock up on weapons? Can goods? Am I even crazy for thinking about this?
So the fall, it’s here and…I’m fretting.
I’m a Mess Right Now
Before I even get into this post, I anticipate that it will be a hot mess of rants, rambles, emotional meltdowns and frustrations. It might resonate with your own hot mess of feelings. It might be just the thing you shouldn’t be reading if you are one of those cheery, obsessively positive people. So…gauge yourselves accordingly.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about trauma during this pandemic.
I’ve also been thinking about coping.
I feel like I’m experiencing a lot of the former and not doing terribly well on the latter.
Two weeks ago tomorrow I began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. For a week I dealt with irritating but mild symptoms. I was tired a lot, but unless there was a dramatic change in symptoms, I knew would be fine.
I turned the corner last weekend and physically felt great, despite still not having much of an appetite, all week. I dove back into work, which frankly is insane right now. Work has stressed me out, pissed me off, triggered so much anxiety, cursing and just full-blown emotional meltdowns that I just wash my face, put on my pjs and get in my bed shortly after I close my laptop. #depressionmuch?
And then, yesterday afternoon the sore throat returned. By 9pm I was coughing again and by 11pm my anxiety was in full bloom which only made me feel worse. I have no idea what this means other than abject terror about what’s next on this journey. I do know it probably means that my quarantine will get extended when I was so close to breaking free. I mean, I was just going to go to the Target, but still.
I’m a bit of a mess and overcome by constant waves of emotion.
Grief is a big one. I just keep cycling through the stages, sometimes even daily. Despite being externally low key these days, inside I’m at a level 10 just about 24/7. I’m probably tired from resisting the urge to populate every sentence I utter out loud with multiple f-bombs.
The quarantine has been especially challenging. I don’t always have the energy to connect outside of work hours with anyone—so no virtual happy hours these two weeks. Hope is hit or miss with her caretaking and engagement—she is ensconced in her room and only comes out for food or bio breaks. She will go to the store. She finally unpacked the rest of her college stuff from the car after I quietly, through gritted teeth raged that I’ve been asking her to do this for WEEKS. Yappy seems terrified to walk with her now. She grabs the leash and he runs to hide under the bed; I know there’s a story there. This has meant that despite my quarantine, I have had to suit up and take Yappy out ever so often to alleviate his anxiety and make sure he gets the opportunity to poop.
Cooking still falls to me.
Cleaning still falls to me.
I’m overwhelmed by everything and underwhelmed by the world’s response. I took off today because I was going to snap if I had to participate in one more Zoom call that should have been an email. I’m tired of expectations that I always be on camera. I’m tired that there isn’t a real, authentic acknowledgement that this ish is traumatic, and not just regular traumatic like “Do you remember where you were on 9-11?” No, this is like the year 2020 seems to be a never-ending cluster-f*ck…the whole gotdamn year. Yesterday I got up and took a walk (via YT video) because a series of back and forth emails in which I insisted that I could not help with a project (a boundary) resulted in a final passive aggressive email from my colleague. This was before 10am.
I’m over it.
I’m not motivated to do much of anything but find new cocktails to craft (I’ll be trying a Matcha Mule today). I bought yarn, I have downloaded patterns. I can’t even get myself to cast on stitches or to think about a project and I usually find knitting to be incredibly soothing. I have watched very little of the trending shows and movies everyone is writing about. I keep watching Law and Order, a couple of animal shows, and other stuff I’ve seen a million times. I just long to know what’s already coming—so I rewatch stuff I’ve already watched.
I’m a mess and I know it. I don’t even know how not to be a mess right now. I’m sad, mad, worried, sick, sick and tired, frustrated, confined, bored yet overextended at work and the thing that is seriously effing me up the most?
Some folks are trying to normalize this experience. This shit is not normal. And while I understand that it is the “new normal” and that normal as we once knew it is gone; I’m grieving *my* normal hard right now, so stop reframing this shit. I am not hearing it right now. STFU.
I’m beyond miserable, and there’s levels to my misery.
And then I feel guilty because, in the grand scheme of things I’m fine, Hope and Yappy are fine. My family is safe, sound and fine. There are so many people who are economically devastated in the midst of the mind f*ck this all is. I’m not experiencing that, thankfully, but I can’t even imagine having that burden too. It reminds me of the privilege I have despite everything.
So, yeah, just add woke guilt on top of the emotional dumpster fire that I am right now.
So this chilly Friday morning, I’m going to make me some coffee, put some Baileys in it, cut off several chunks of the bread I made yesterday, get in my favorite spot on the couch and sulk while watching L&O marathons on various channels and filling in with back episodes on Hulu for hours when I can’t find a broadcast episode. I will call my doctor to discuss the reappearance of symptoms and what it means for my quarantine, testing and over all health. I will snooze my work accounts—no I will not hop on your zoom for a few minutes. Let me lone!
Today will be for self-care in the form of tv watching, wallowing, carb loading, cannabis consumption and trying to get my mind right. I might even order takeout on a *Friday* (Thursday is takeout day at Casa d’ABM).
How are y’all?
Hope will graduate in 55 days, and it’s still unclear what will happen after that, other than coming home.
In total, my daughter applied to 5 schools. Her school required 3 applications. She initially applied to 3, accidentally applied to one and purposefully added the last school. To date, she has only been accepted to one school—the one she accidentally applied to. We are waiting to hear from two schools, but I’m not optimistic this late in the application season.
This process has been…somewhat grueling. There’s a lot of hurry up and wait in college admissions. There’s also a lot of big emotions. You are asking people to judge you on past performance and potential and to make a determination about whether you can be successful there. There’s a lot of vulnerability there.
It feels even more vulnerable when you aren’t the best student, test taker and have spent the last 5 years in a family of overachievers.
AbsurdlyHotTherapist reached out recently to tell me how things were going with Hope. I knew things were rough; I also knew that this admissions process was weighing on her self-esteem and that the fear of what’s next was also weighing heavily. I asked if we really should just change course and go back to the community college plan; he said yes. So, I reached out to the guidance counselor and suggested that maybe all this college stuff was making things really difficult for Hope. She replied that essentially Hope is not ready for college.
So, we’re back where we started, and that’s ok. Except that now we’ve coached Hope to have hope about going to a 4 year school, made her go through the process and basically watched her fail. So now the original plan feels like plan b because of failure rather than plan a because of appropriateness.
As a mom who had high hopes and expectations for Hope and insisted that she throw herself into this process, I feel like a lot of this is my fault. Hope made a big decision to go to this school (which she sometimes seems to regret now) and that decision triggered my own instincts to aim much higher than what might’ve been appropriate for my daughter academically and emotionally. I feel horrible about contributing to all this. I feel awful that I contributed to Hope’s stress.
And yet, I also feel like some of this pressure was necessary. Hope’s struggles with school are both extrinsic and intrinsic; some aspects of this part of our journey is a major reckoning of natural consequences. She and I’ve discussed this, and she sees her own role in the struggle that is school. But we both see and acknowledge that there are definitely things beyond her control.
I’ve worked really hard to set Hope up for success, conventional success and other forms as well. I haven’t been perfect, hardly, but I love my daughter. If I could change everything for her, I would. Heck, the recent college admissions scandal had one family paying $15,000 to facilitate admission; I joked with friends that I could scrape that together on behalf of Hope. My circle of pals always talk about this kind of thing; how unfair it is, and how so few have access to those kinds of resources, access and privilege. We talk about it, but we also largely have access to all three because we are incredibly hardworking and fortunate.
A recent brunch outing with a friend revealed a link to a contact at the first-choice school where Hope was not admitted; my friend offered to inquire on our behalf, maybe her application could be “re-reviewed.”
Gosh, I wanted to say yes. It was on the tip of my tongue. This is the kind of privilege that we all want right? You want to have those well-placed contacts at your fingertips to assist you, to help you garner the access that you want, even if you don’t deserve it. It didn’t shock me that someone in my circle probably had a connect, but throughout the process, I never once considered reaching out.
I paused a moment, wishing I could smooth this path for Hope. I declined the intervention. That school fairly quickly denied Hope. It felt like a swift and painful rebuke. But the reality is that even if I could get her in; then what? She goes and finds that she legit wasn’t ready to go there. She struggles academically, emotionally, socially and then what? Possibly flunk out because she should not have been there, and her application indicated such.
I imagined a fix on my end that just set Hope up for devastation. I could never do that to her.
So, now I’m back to figuring out our current plan. Do we go visit the school where Hope was admitted and figure out whether it might actually be a blessing in disguise? Or do we concede that maybe this 4 year college thing really is a bit premature? Or something else?
I don’t know.
I also am afraid. What if Hope doesn’t launch? What if her room becomes akin to her living in my non-existent basement? How long will it take for her to mature and figure things out? Will she find her calling, and not just some career that *sounds* cool? Can I continue to be patient while she figures this out? And how will this affect us financially?
It feels selfish to say these things, but I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge these thoughts and more were swirling around in my head.
I adore Hope. I believe in her; I do. I know she is afraid and worried about the future.
And so am I.
Hope is my shero. She is a supreme badass.
I long to be as strong as she is, of course without all the icky stuff that made her so strong.
I am and will always be in awe of my daughter, and after art therapy tonight, I told her so.
Hope is struggling, which means we’re struggling. It’s just been such a rough few months. I noted a few weeks ago that we seemed to unexpectedly turn a corner that at least made me think we were out of a danger zone. Despite being out of danger, my daughter is just struggling with so many demons related to her life story. It’s hard to watch; it’s hard to live with. It’s hard because I hate seeing her hurt at all; but it’s devastating because I feel helpless in trying to help her get emotionally healthy.
Recently I spent an hour just doing routine case management for Hope: touching base with some teachers about assignments, checking in with the guidance counselor, trading emails with AbsurdlyHotTherapist, etc, etc. It was in the emails with AHT that I learned about some recent emotional developments that made me grab a tissue. I knew things were tough, but I didn’t know that Hope was ready to talk about them. An abbreviated version of the development? Hope is feeling the full range of her emotions after suppressing them for a very, very long time, and feeling stuff supremely sucks.
I felt…relief about the development, but I know that it also means we’re really in for a long, rough ride. Feeling feelings is a good development, but after so long, yeah, it sucks so bad.
Hope has started talking to me about what she’s feeling, how often she feels sad, when she experiences anxiety. We talk about coping. It’s hard for her to deal with feeling stuff. I explained to her that her mind and body are strong; all the things inside her have worked hard to protect her for a really long time. As a result, emotional walls were constructed, feelings about big and small things, chunks of time and experiences were compartmentalized and put neatly away in the back of their minds because she simply didn’t have the time or capacity to deal with any of it.
It’s really amazing how hard the body and mind will work to prop you up, to make you resilient and to make you functional in the midst of a lot of dysfunction. It truly is a miracle. It is a gift from the divine.
The flip side of that miracle is when your mind and body takes its rest because things are no longer chaotic, the hypervigilance and the emotional shields are no longer necessary. It’s then when all of those feelings you’d unknowingly tucked away reemerge.
It’s taken four years for my daughter’s *body and mind* to acknowledge that she’s safe and secure in a way that allow for all of this other stuff to come tumbling out. Four years to get to what essentially is the beginning of the really emotional journey to healing. These four years have flown by in many ways, but four years is just over 1400 days and that kind of feels like a long time. Four years is only ¼ of Hope’s life.
In retrospect, these last few years of my and Hope’s journey together were just prep work; almost like we were being screened; like our admission to the hardcore emotional work was like taking the LSAT or the GRE and we needed a minimum score in order to advance. We finally have the necessary score.
As I talked to my daughter recently, I explained how things are going to be hard; the emotional work is going to be taxing, but that she was surrounded by a lot of people who loved her and would help her through it. We talked about what it feels like to feel things you’ve avoided for so long. We talked about what it’s like when you body and mind says they are ready to deal, but your daily consciousness is like, “that sounds hard, eff that.” We talked about “trusting the process” and learning to how to consciously trust since her body and mind seems to already trust that this life is safe.
I asked what else I could do to help her feel safe; she shrugged.
I told Hope that I thought she was the strongest person I know. I told her how I admired her because I do. Hope said she didn’t believe me, and because I love data, and Hope knows this, I listed the many reasons why I thought she was both strong and brave, She stared off while I rattled off my list with lots of examples. She’s a friggin superhero.
I told her because of all of that, I know that she can get through this healing process. Yes, she will need help and support, but she’s got that from me and her extended family. It will not be easy feeling all these icky feelings and figuring out how to reconcile them, and things even may feel worse before they feel better. She will get through this.
As for me, I am wrestling with emotions too. I’m over the moon that there’s been a shift. It hasn’t come easy for either of us. I’ve fought hard to create a home that gives Hope what she needs physically and emotionally. I’m in a constant state of worry if I’m doing enough; if there’s something new I haven’t tried that might make a difference in her life. I’m unfairly marginalizing our experience because I compare us to other adoptive families dealing with their own dramatic developments. I’m also depressed and anxious and exhausted of my own accord. At least a few times a day I sit down, close my eyes, take a deep breath and exhale a short prayer for Hope, for me, and for our futures.
I genuinely admire my daughter. Sometimes I wonder how she gets up in the morning. Her strength and resiliency dwarf mine. She will get through this, and I will have a front-row seat. I will continue to learn so much from her. She’s a teacher and she doesn’t even know it.
She is my heart and my shero.
Narrow Range of Emotions
During all of our quality time this past weekend, I asked Hope how she was feeling emotionally these days. I got the standard issue response, “Same.”
Every time I ask Hope how she’s doing/feeling, she lets me know that nothing has really changed. The only thing emotionally that seems to have changed much over the last year or so is that Hope can actually talk about her emotions and what they feel like and what the impact they have on her looks like. I’m proud of this evolution even if she says it hasn’t had any impact on managing her emotions.
Hope says she has a very narrow range of emotions: anger ←and →sadness. She’s said that she just plays the appropriate emotions on the outside for everyone else’s benefit.
My daughter is a marvelous actress.
I scrolled through some of my favorite pictures of her on my phone—surprise pics from good gifts or a great musical performance.
“These reactions aren’t real?”
Hope tried her best to explain that a small part of her feels the emotions, but really, she just amps the reaction that she knows folks want to see. She feels sadness and anger all the time.
Then I was sad and angry, and a wee bit hurt that all those great moments we’ve had are a little tarnished because she had to fake the appropriate response.
I was sad that despite finding a home with lots of loves and 1st world comforts she’s still so sad and angry, and angry that so many people hurt her and still control her ability to live a fulfilled life.
My daughter can’t live authentically because she’s so broken that she can’t feel the full range of emotions available to her. That’s a doozy.
Trauma is such a bitch.
It’s hard enough learning to connect your body and mind through emotions and learning to harness everything, especially as a teenager. But when everything is so disconnected? I found myself really wondering how she processes other people’s emotions? Does she read them correctly? I mean, I guess she does since she tries to respond accordingly. But I have to figure that this emotional stuff is connected with her social challenges.
I believe in time, Hope will enjoy a widened emotional range; I’m hopeful.
I’m wildly emotional. We watched A Dog’s Purpose this weekend and I cried all through the dang thing. I was hugging Yappy and about the go get The Furry One’s ashes to sit with them. I laughed hard during Despicable Me 3, and I was shocked that the South Park movie was more vulgar than I remembered. My heart felt shaky from missing my 6 month old nephew when pictures of his first time in a pool came via text. Worry furrowed my brow when I heard my mom wasn’t feeling well. Empathy spilled out when I heard about Sister M’s dog being terrified of fireworks on July 4th. I felt it all. I am a big emoter, and sometimes it annoys Hope.
With such a narrow emotional range, my wide range has caused Hope to call me overdramatic on more than one occasion.
I asked Hope was AbsurdlyHotTherapist helping her explore ways to help her allow herself to feel more. I already knew the answer: there’s so much rage that has to be dealt with first that prying open the emotional landmine is secondary. She did say that going to talk about it was really helpful in letting off some steam each appointment. I’m glad.
It often feels like there is so much to juggle with Hope’s recovery. The facets feel countless, and the need to shift coping strategies is never-ending. Some mornings I lay there looking at the ceiling fan wondering what will be expected of me in parenting my daughter that day. I whisper a prayer to keep the drama to a minimum.
Beyond making sure she feeling physically safe, it’s hard prioritizing what to deal with. It’s also hard to control my own range of emotional responses. It’s hard to admit that I wish I emoted less so that I could focus on strategic management of Hope’s healing—but I’m guessing that would make me a less effective mom to her. She needs my emotion—not only as a reminder of my love but as a model for expressing emotion.
It’s all so complicated and painful.
I just hope that one day Hope will be able to smile genuine smiles; laugh real laughs, sleep with the light off, feel confident, know she’s loved and can return love in a healthy way. Until then I’ll keep playing whack-a-mole trying to help her, and just relish those moments when she appears to be authentic in her emotional expression.