Tag Archives: Emotional Health

Mood Swing Apps

I track our moods. I use apps. I like data. I want to see if there are patterns, if I’m gauging what I see and feel properly.

I use Mood Log to track Hope’s moods. It’s a simple app, with a clean interface. You can add emotions or behaviors and associate them with highs or lows as you desire. I try to log in the morning for consistency, though sometimes I’ll log big mood swings over the course of a day. It has helped in giving me some insights into how often her moods change…or rather how often I interpret a mood change.

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Hope’s Mood Log

I’ve been doing this for about two months now. I do look back at the week trends, but I only recently started looking at the trends over the two months. Hope’s weeks start low and the closer she gets to the weekend the better her overall moods are. I can see now in retrospect how stressed she must’ve been on Monday mornings going to school and how tough it must’ve been for her to rough it through the week.

It’s also become easier for me to just see regular ole teenage mood swings and those influenced by hormonal changes. Moving forward I’m hoping this will help me take a lot more things in stride.

I realized in order for me to do that, I needed to pay closer attention to my own moods. I use the app Pacifica to track mine. It is a little more dynamic that Mood Log.

My logs on Pacifica

My logs on Pacifica

I find I tend to rate myself more conservatively over time. For me to rate myself on the higher/good mood end I probably have to be ecstatic; really negative engagements with Hope during which we blew the roof off the house, will get dramatically lower rating.  Despite the extremes, I know my mood shift more than what I record. I find it interesting that I don’t seem as honest with myself as I do when I rating Hope. I’m not sure who I’m trying to impress.

At any rate, mood tracking helps me try to figure US out a bit more. I also share them with our therapists, who find them helpful in seeing what happens between visits.

Anyone else tracking moods? What are you using? Does it help?


Anxiety and Extroversion

I am an extrovert. I get lots of energy from being around people and stuff. I have some sensory issues that seem to be getting a bit worse as I get older, but I still love being in lively environments that give me the energy I need to remain vibrant myself.

I fretted last year that perhaps I was losing some bit of extroversion because I was increasingly desirous of just being alone. I had a new Meyers-Briggs assessment and found that I was even more extroverted than I used to be. I’m just really tired and that’s why I want to be alone…so I can go to sleep.

My darling Hope seems to be an introvert. She likes to be around people, but really seems to get more energy in super small groups, or alone with her own selected stimuli.

Here’s the thing though: because she struggles with anxiety, she presents as an extrovert.

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out, but I get it now.

Between the anxiety and her ADHD, she can chatter on for hours and hours. She bounces around. She can be boisterous and her voice really carries. Her conversations wind themselves like backwoods roads that have lots of little roads off of them: one left turn and she’s tripped down a long road to nowhere for a 15 minute drive.

Now these behaviors aren’t really associated with extroversion, but if you don’t know much about intro/extroversion, you might easily run up on Hope and think that she’s a little lively ball of people loving fun. Um, no. She’s just spastic and riddled with anxiety.

So, I’ve really, really, I mean really been on my “time-in,” attachment parenting tip these last couple of weeks. Movies, board games, cooking, rice krispy treats, dance parties. I’ve limited our screen time on devices unless we were watching something together. I’ve done her hair. I’ve cleaned her room and not freaked out about all the food wrappers. I have listened with interest as she talks through her social issues, her crush issues, her skin issues, her hair issues, her body issues, her issues’ issues. She has been delighted to just have all this time with me.

And I. Am. Exhausted.

The only time Hope is not chattering on or bouncing around is if we go somewhere. Her brain is so busy and so tired that it literally shuts down and she falls immediately asleep. Sometimes we can’t even get out of the parking lot of our condo property before she is asleep.

It makes me feel like those infant parents who take the kid on a drive in hopes that the kid will stop crying and fall asleep.

My brain and body have quite a bit more stamina and resilience than Hope’s so I’m able to hold it together until night fall, but the constant stimuli is just too damn much for me. I’m exhausted.

Sometimes while she’s talking I am literally wishing she would just be quiet. She never does though.

I take Yappy to the dog park nearly every day just to get a little quiet time, but then I low key chat with the other dog owners.

It just never ends and even extroverts need a break to recharge that small bit of ourselves that is introverted. I don’t even remember going to bed most nights, just mildly cursing when the alarm goes off in the morning because I know the interactions will start again within an hour.

How do introverts even kind of manage this level of interaction and engagement????

I’m hitting it hard right now because school is out and most of our evenings are free. I have an opportunity to make some headway on our relationship before the school year starts again.  I see the fruits of these labors, I do, but OMG this is just crazy.

How do folks manage the need to just go into your quiet closet to recharge a bit each day?


Thoughts on Racial Identity Development

I’ve been fretting lately…fretting about Hope and her Blackness or rather her racial development.

Did you know that moving from the initial stage (pre-encounter stage) of racial identity development to the second stage (encounter stage) is usually precipitated by a negative encounter around race for people of color?

In lay terms, we all are getting along peachy keen until some dingbat says/does something racist, pointing out that the brown or black kid is different and that difference is bad.

For me, this happened when I was little, before I even started kindergarten. It’s a moment that I have long likened to eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The evil is knowing that people hate me because of my skin color and might go so far as to hurt and/or kill me. The good is having this knowledge and avoiding the naiveté that might get you killed. Racial identity is built on this foundation. If you are privileged not to have to this experience then your identity as a racialized person is stunted, and your privilege is allowed to bloom, so says the research.

I know that there have been events in Hope’s life that meet the criteria that would push a regular kid to the next stage of racial development, but given all that she’s endured it doesn’t seem to have registered. So much of her development in general was negatively affected. The racial piece, well, maybe it just didn’t register when she was just trying to survive.

I get all that. I really do. That said, racial identity development then is recognized as just another area that has to catch up.

When Hope first moved in 2.5 years ago, I remember being a bit put off because all the posters of pop stars were white, with very, very few exceptions—Selena Gomez, the Black girl in 5th Harmony and Bruno Mars. Turns out there aren’t really any teeny bopper pop stars of color these days. Hope’s not really into Beyonce or Rihanna so…yeah, white kids on the wall it is.

We dealt a little while with colorism and issues around Hope wishing she had lighter brown skin. Ughhhhh, she still vocalizes this when we go shopping for tinted moisturizers (#damnmakeup).

Then I noticed she only liked white or Hispanic boys; there aren’t many Black kids in the band and only like one or two boys and ok, they aren’t her type. So there aren’t many kids of color in her social circles here; they heavily populated her circles back home, but it’s like she left it all behind.

Recently, I realized during a social outing that she deliberately avoids kids of color; she doesn’t even want to associate with them. Same with my efforts to have us “friend date” other families with kids of color. She wants nothing to do with it.

I know she struggled with my version of Blackness; I was really different than the Black folk she had previously experienced. She even told me one time that in some ways it was like I wasn’t really Black. I struggled with that, and I don’t know if it’s my perceived unicorn status or what, but she is ok with me and my bougie, upwardly mobile, educated black folk. But she doesn’t seem interested in accepting the black diaspora.

And maybe it’s too much for me to expect from her at this point. She is still healing from all her trauma, embracing Blackness as an identity is probably not even on her subconscious list of things with which to grapple.

It doesn’t stop my fretting though, as I watch my beloved Hope cloak herself in social Whiteness. Even if I hope it never happens, I know that something will happen, something that will hurt her. I hope that her friends will be wonderful allies. They are good kids, but they aren’t forced to think about the things I think about, the dangers that our color expose us to, they don’t have to think about it unless they choose to.

From a parenting perspective it’s odd; I am glad that she’s bridging some of her social challenges, but I feel some kind of way about her not having any brown or black friends and her refusal to pursue any of those kinds of relationships. I’d love to see a mix of folks in her life who love her and support her. I want her to have safe spaces—sure her White friends can offer that, but I fret that having no friends of color limits her safe spaces if and when something goes down.

Add to this, my abject horror in thinking about police brutality, microaggressions, the resurgence of laws codifying acceptable discrimination and a nation’s willingness to increasingly accept racist discourse.

I worry.

Actually, describing my emotion as worry is an understatement. I am afraid. I’m also aware that all of this has a huge impact on my own well-being. I think the current political environment has exacerbated my emotion around Hope’s racial identity development. It’s complicated. I also know that this process is a natural one; it is not something I can control. I can’t control when, where or how it might happen.

I can only be there for my daughter. That’s it.

But it doesn’t feel like enough. Hugging her tight and soothing her over what might feel like an enormously painful betrayal, just doesn’t feel like enough. Teaching her how to move past it doesn’t feel like enough. Nurturing her healing doesn’t feel like enough.

I wish I could make it all go away. I wish I could make racism all go away. I wish I could make the need for this kind of identity development vanish. I just wish I could protect her from every other thing that might make her path hard; she’s suffered enough. I just want to keep her safe.

But I can’t, not from everything.

I know that, but it still breaks my heart.


Boss Behavior

We are struggling with Executive Function (Boss Behavior), and when I say we, I mean we—though our struggles with boss behavior are quite different.

From my perception of Hope’s view of things (we’ve talked about this so I think I’m being fair in my interpretation) goes a bit like this:

  • Most homework gets done when I remember it.
  • Hey I manage to do about a third of my chores each week.
  • I know that there’s a test coming up in one of my classes, but I don’t know which class or when the test actually is.
  • I manage to take my meds most days of the week when mom reminds me.
  • On a day home from school, I’ll still be cramming to do my homework at 9pm at night.
  • I just don’t like school, or chores, or the lists that mom makes me or well, anything that requires much organization.

Here’s my take on things:

  • Holy HeyZeus, according to ParentVUE, Hope didn’t do her French homework for a week.
  • Holy Batcrap, Hope didn’t do her math homework for two weeks.
  • I wrote her a list of things to do on her day home, one thing got done today in 8 hours.
  • Good gawd, I have to tell her to do EVERY. SINGLE. THING, will she ever function independently?
  • I’m so glad she’s cooking dinner, but whycome did she need a recipe to make a grilled cheese and her sudden need to follow details has resulted in an ice cold sandwich—I mean really, why does it take 2 hours to make a sandwich with a side of apple sauce????
  • But I told her to tidy her room and now I’m yelling and she’s pouting because this joint is messier than when she started because she is overwhelmed.
  • Impulse control and freak out = $7-$8 school lunches with pizza, a couple of chicken sandwiches, fruit snacks, candy and a stop at the 7-11 for more candy after school.
  • WTH????
  • WTF????
  • WT??????????????????

Yeah, so…all of that.

I flipped out again yesterday because I had provided my lovely daughter a list of things to do, and she accomplished 2 things on the list and could not for the life of her describe how she spent her day. I had forgotten how she struggles with organization, following lists, following directions. I seethed.

I worried.

We are in a dangerous spiral at school, which also has me freaking out. Her teachers are struggling with the right thing to say to me about her behavior in class, that is until I said, “so are you trying to tell me that she’s just checked out?” They all sigh and say, yeah.

We’ve tried tools. We’ve tried different kinds of lists. We’ve tried memorization techniques. We’ve tried all kinds of things: meds, apps, cognitive strategies, etc, etc.

Yesterday I finally popped off emails to the school counselor, the Absurdly Hot Therapist (who is looking mighty fine) and the psychiatrist.

We need help. I have done all I can do and I can’t drag her to the next level of development. I just can’t.

This is tough. I’ve gotten better about asking for help since Hope has come into my life. I see so much return on my work with her. I’ve marshaled all kinds of resources for her.

But figuring out this Boss Behavior thing has just got us stuck. I only recognized that it was really an issue a few months ago. I have read copiously. I have tried to figure out where the boundaries of her limitations are. I’ve tried to help her manage her stress so that she can better cope with her areas of functional difficulty. But I finally concluded this week, that I can’t do this.

Heck, half the time I shoot first, think about it later, meaning, I nag and needle her about what she didn’t do and later remember the pattern of the behavior that triggers one of those limited boundaries. It’s like when you see where the surveyor uses those little sticks with the flags on them to mark the boundaries, but you don’t really know where the boundaries are?

Yeah, that. That’s what it’s like.

So, I’m tired of wandering across the boundary and then kicking, screaming and cursing because I hit a tripwire. It hurts, and it makes me sad. It makes us sad.

This journey sucks sometimes.

I’m hopeful that I can get Hope the support she needs. I’m hoping I can build her confidence and that as a team we can help her be her best self. I am hopeful that I can inspire hope in her.

I totally want her to grow up to be a Boss Chick.


Controlled Cry Breaks

While reveling in the knowledge that Hope is coming to visit in a month, Grammy triggered a meltdown. This sandwich generation stuff is some mess; I’ll tell you that.

I sent off a happy email to my immediate family about Hope being in town for Thanksgiving.  I knew Grammy would hit the roof since she’s traveling to see my younger sister, Sister M, for the holiday.  She called and wailed about how she was going to miss it, and she wanted to come on this day and that day and she could stay three days and do stuff and on and on and blah and blah and blah!

Whoooooooaaaaa!  Stop Grammy.  Slow your roll.

All I could think of was No.  No.  No.  No.  No.  No.  Did I say no?  Did you hear me say no?  No, you can’t stay 3 days, and heck no you can’t stay here.

No.

And then the tears started on both sides.  I was so overwhelmed.  She was firing off questions that I either didn’t have an answer for or didn’t want to answer, and she just was out of control.  And my inability and unwillingness to answer some questions somehow got twisted around to make me feel like an inadequate mom.

Then she announced that I had two people to consider: the tween and the senior.

I grew a small backbone and replied, no I only have to look out for the tween; she is the highest priority.  Grammy, you are not the priority.  You are not a priority right now.  I love you but you are not the priority.  You are grown and can take care of yourself.

Sobbing.  Gnashing of teeth.

Grammy is so excited, so excited.  I’m so excited that she’s excited.  But I need a chill pill.  In the middle of the busy workday I was clearing my schedule for a two week vacation that will be great, but will not be restful, fielding text messages about a bridesmaid’s dress that I didn’t know about but that I need to go order in two weeks, feeling like crap because this week is turning out to be not dissertation productive, having a consulting opportunity fall in my lap that I know I can’t take because I’m stretched too thin as it is, scheduling painting quotes, and responding to sweet emails from friends and family who want to know what to get Hope as welcome gift… Grammy’s hissy fit about not being welcome to visit Hope in the first 24 hours of her arrival was too damn much for me to deal with.

And the answer was still no.

Holy hell.

The security shields went up, and I got snappy.  Then I felt guilty.  Then I apologized, because well, Grammy is my mom.  I adore my mom; I can’t disrespect my mom.  I want her to be excited, but I need someone to actually care about me at this very moment.

I am falling apart.   This week I feel like I’m barely functioning.  My emotions can run the gamut in the span of about 15 minutes.  I’m exhausted.  I’m getting over a sinus infection.  I feel like I can’t seem to do anything right and in the midst of all the joy, all the happiness, all the hulabaloo, only a handful of people are asking me how I’m doing, I mean, really doing and managing and coping.  The truth is that this week is not so great. People care and want to be so helpful, but I’m feeling like very few folks are looking past all the excitement and seeing me in what is really feeling like an incredibly fragile state.

Much like Hope, the emotion that I feel at the center of all of this is anger.  I’m angry about melting down.  I’m angry about not being productive.  I’m angry that this sinus infection is still bugging me.  I’m angry that I keep forgetting to schedule my mammogram.  I’m angry that The Furry One still needs a bath and I can’t manage to muster the energy to do it.  I’m angry that as a fixer I can’t fix one damn thing that’s going on right now.  I’m angry that Hope’s angry (that’s a doozy right there).  I’m angry that work is so demanding at the moment.  I’m angry that my dissertation director hasn’t emailed me back about the 10 pages I sent him nearly 3 weeks ago.  I’m angry that one of my dissertation subjects now thinks we’re buddies and keeps calling me on my cell phone.  I’m angry that the paint quotes are all pushing $600 for one measly room.  I’m angry that the stress has triggered a physical pain response that exhausts me more than all the other crap in this stupid paragraph.

I feel like the most productive thing I’ve managed to do this week is cry for about 2-3 minutes of every hour that I’m awake. Yeah, I’ve got the controlled cry (feel it, cry it out, wipe tears, get back to the grind) down to a science. I have no idea why I even bother with makeup in the morning.  I do at least wear waterproof mascara.

It is one of the happiest times of my life, and I am literally furious 98% of the time.   Oh there’s a bunch of other emotions in there too, but if I had to characterize the emotions by color, I’m seeing shades of red most of the time.  It almost feels primal.

After the second Grammy/ABM meltdown of the day, I told my mom, I don’t need Grammy right now.  I need my mommy.  I need a hug.  A there, there it’s going to be ok.  I need a chicken casserole, and a pedicure.  I need a day without questions that ultimately make me feel like an invisible, but somehow still schnitty, new parent. I need a day to watch Netflix and drink cocoa in my PJs.  I need some nurturing.  I need someone to plan things for me for the next couple of weeks so I can collect myself.  I need someone to ask me how I’m doing and really, really mean it and not judge me when I say I’m really, really not doing ok.

Maybe she heard me.  Probably not.  My attitude and outlook is not the best this week.

Sigh.

Time for a controlled cry break, a shower and some coffee.  Time to get this hump day going.


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