Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Woman On the Edge

        I am at the mall. I don't enjoy the mall, but I arrive for the amazing gift awaiting all mothers that venture here. I call it the 'Big Toy' (a train for all you visual folks) . This is where all exhausted moms go with their preschool age children to let them loose and wear them out. The 'Big Toy' is available in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week and moms can go to just sit and stare. It costs nothing to come here...completely free. Fathers find relief in being here as well, however, for the purpose of my story, I am only going to discuss the mothers. If I am going to offend anyone, I prefer it be members of the same sex.

       This 'Big Toy' is to be my salvation. Now, the rules for the 'Big Toy' are written on a big board, that cannot be missed, and are as follows: Only children six and under, no food or beverages, no shoes, and socks must be worn. Well, I am all for rules and I am a rule follower...until today. It is 80 degrees outside (which is 120 for Seattleites) and my daughter is not wearing socks nor would it ever have dawned on me to check. You see, the sun appears here but once every seven years for an hour. So as it stands, my child is six and under, I have no food, no beverage and she has no shoes on, so technically I am omitting only one rule...the wearing of the socks.

          Let me clarify, I have no tolerance for parents that think the rules don't apply to them. They let their children run around the 'Big Toy' (also affectionately known as the petri dish) with no socks on, spreading their nasty little 'other child' germs all over it so that my child comes home with athletes foot of the mouth or is sick for a week. Yes, I am a hypocrite, for today I have deemed myself exempt from this one small rule. They need to know I am Not a rule breaker...however, I am uniquely qualified to have this one little indiscretion be overlooked for today. I am Yoda, the saint of all saints when it comes to following the rules or even making them. I have EARNED this one. I have plenty of "follow the rules" points and I intend to use them all today. Alas, I never inform anyone of this.

          I am not a saint today... I have crossed over to the dark side. I am not Yoda but Darth Vader with a light saber and a big ass chip on her shoulder. However, I will keep these thoughts to myself so as not to be considered a danger if provoked. I need to be here. I have no choice. It isn't an option. I am safer to all, ensconced in the 'Big Toy' foam walls, the womb of all wombs. I come here to utilize all remaining energy I have to heal rather than hide. I am crazy, exhausted, emotional, pissy and hot. There is no reason to subject my daughter to my unmanageability of life, so here we are. These feelings are just under the surface and it will only take one little 'straw' to turn them loose. I do not specialize in hiding my feelings nor putting on a facade, it is way too much work and all my energy goes into not killing anyone. My guess would be, at this moment, I don't look all that well or approachable, but I don't look homicidal...this is unfortunate for the people who are thinking of talking to me or, god forbid, confronting me.

         I'm on the edge and getting ready to jump, or more likely, push someone else off. I decide it is in my best interest to call someone and discuss my state of mind.  A loving, kind and patient friend answers my call and I can now take the time to explain the condition I am in. I made it, I have survived and am now safely held in the place of commonality with other like mothers. I let my guard down.

      I am not completely oblivious to my surroundings however. I am a mom and I have the psychic sense that allows me to know all that is going on around me within a five mile radius, even in my condition. So I know there are two big boys playing on the 'Big Toy' who are not six and under. There are also two mothers that could care less what anyone thinks about this. My rule breaker radar is on high and I know that this is very wrong. This scene only heightens my awareness  that I too am breaking one of the cardinal 'Big Toy' rules. The rule I am breaking may not be as blatant as this, unfortunately however, it has been noticed. I have been found out. This I feel in my soul and from the prickly sensation running up and down my spine. Shit! Perhaps the two moms will get the brunt of the attack. Yes, this is what must happen and I consciously cross my fingers.

         I am talking on the phone and I catch, from the corner of my eye, a mother looking at me. I try to look nonchalant, hoping beyond hope she can ignore this one little indiscretion. Really, why would another mother attack one of her own kind? If you are going to go after a rule breaker, I think the obvious choice would be to go after the big kid's mothers. I mean after all,  these kids can jump on, throw, push, or mow down the six and under crowd. Unfortunately, the odds of winning are in favor of the big kids' moms, with two in their corner and the possible lie that their kids are just 'big for their age'. I have no one in my corner and being single leaves me an easy target.

        The mother makes movements that lead me to believe she is readying herself to begin her attack on me (in all my glory). This is probably the same woman that is letting her two year old flail her arms wildly while standing precariously at the top of the train having not made the decision yet to jump. All the while, a steady breeze coming from the big boys mowing down the younger children is making the child sway from her precipice. The woman's child may or may not live through this experience...but she will be wearing socks.

      To my disappointment, the big boys leave with their disrespectful parents. My buffer is gone. There is nowhere for me to hide and no time to pack it all in. The thought of going anywhere else hasn't even occurred to me. Besides, the community pool is way too much work, pricey and requires wearing a bathing suit, which does nothing to enhance my state of mind. The bowling alley and skating rink are dark places that may match my mood but will surely again, not enhance it.  Staying home requires crafty ingenuity that I am not feeling nor can I access. Here I am in this sunny place of like minded moms, with the skylight for the possible SAD mom, cushy seats that roll into cushy floors for the overly worried mom and an enclosed area with only two ways out for the overprotective mom. These amenities all help, allowing what little energy is left to be directed to recouping and keeping the facade of sanity...if there's any sanity left. This last bit is questionable for me. All bets are off now that I am the chosen target.

       Now that the other rule breakers are gone, the mom eyeing me is headed this way. As she approaches I realize she isn't trying to even look friendly. This is the final 'straw' approaching. I am about to act like a crazy person. I hold my ground and stay on the phone as she approaches and says something to the affect of..."your daughter needs to have socks on." What I heard was "I am attacking you because you are alone and vulnerable and I didn't have the balls to attack the disrespectful parents of the over six kids that just left." Doesn't she know I feel the same way about the other parents? We are the same!! She just has to know, the small fact that my child's sock-less feet has no bearing on the continuity we share. I don't normally do this. I am her (the crazy version maybe) and she is me. We have a connection, dammit!

        I am devastated but just stare at her. I stay on the phone and say I am leaving soon. The crazy person is still under wraps but closer to the surface. I now need to end the call that is my lifeline to sanity. I am not thinking straight. I'm not ready to leave. I need more time! Pack up my things and reel in my child? Now?? Apparently all this does not matter for the "together" mom. No skin off her back...yet. She strode away and sat back down all the while drilling the hole of shame into me. I continue talking on the phone, not disclosing the injustice put upon me. I don't know how to end my phone call so I keep talking, hoping my sanity will return or the mom will give up on me leaving. The clock runs out and again I see her approaching me...

      I felt something snap inside me. I hang up the phone and I feel my body heat up and start shaking as she repeats what I heard before...you are not one of us and must leave. If this is not bad enough, another mom from the cozy womb club is rallying behind her. Now I have two moms forming an alliance against me. Do they not know who I am? I am the queen of rule following. I need this safe haven and I have all my 'follow the rules points'. I earned my right to stare off into nowhere without consequences. Why do they not understand this? Don't 'put together' moms have spare socks in their little baby bags? Could they not offer me a pair and if not, then couldn't they mind their own fucking business? We are no longer the same. I am not her and she, sure as hell, is not me. There is no more continuity...was there ever? She and I are not cut from the same cloth...I now just want the scissors to gouge out her eyes with.

      And that is it, I have toppled over the edge, but I'll be damned if I'm not taking one of them with me! I am unleashed, broken open, all the energy used to contain myself has imploded within and is going to come out and I have no control of this. I stand up, turn and...to this day I don't remember what happened. Possibly a barrage of angry babble that blames them for ruining my feel good moment or big words explaining my flawless 'follow the rules' character. Or perhaps it is unintelligible garble, sarcasm, a loud shriek or just a low animalistic moan. All I know is that I am in motion. I no longer am capable of  rational thought or behavior. I don't have a clue as to how I am going to leave in a calm and orderly fashion. I don't have a leg to stand on in this fight and they know it. I am breaking a listed 'Big Toy' rule and I know this is the punishment. I either withdraw on my own terms or be removed with force by some mall security person, who owns a badge and not a gun and missed passing the police test by that much. I decide to resign myself to leaving with my light saber sheathed.

        As I'm leaving, words are still pouring out of my mouth in torrents. Unable to stop them, I feel the eyes of everyone in that five mile radius following me. Perhaps they are waiting for my hair to light on fire or for me to shed my human skin to reveal the lizzard like creature with the pointed tongue...the only thing capable of the barrage of filth spewing forth from it's pursed mouth. The women are performing a high five as I leave the protection of the 'Big Toy'. They act superior knowing they just won the battle with the crazy, skinless, pointed tongue rule breaker. I am unable at this moment to leave with any dignity intact. I am also yelling at my child, who is in shock and on the verge of her own meltdown, as we leave the now claustrophobic and tainted 'Big Toy' sanctuary. The shame is immense.

       It takes me a long time to go back and always with the knowledge that one of those moms would recognize me. I, on the other hand, couldn't pick out those women that confronted me to save my life. I never register their physical appearance, only their behavior towards me and my reaction to it. From here on out, I always have my kid in socks or buy a pair at the store next to the 'Big Toy' just in case. That's one rule I never break again.

        ...To date, my daughter is no longer six and under and the option of going to the 'womb of comfort' has expired. I no longer need that 'Big Toy' to gather myself and my emotions...there are plenty of other tools I use to help preempt another episode like that one. I will not say I haven't had a meltdown of that magnitude since and I suspect I will have to tolerate a few in the future. It is just the nature of the beast for me. All is well at the moment and I haven't killed anyone to date. As some say, it was another opportunity to learn. I haven't killed them either. I'm doing ok. Wish I could say I cherish every moment that befalls me in my life, but who the hell does. What I can say is this... I don't follow all the little rules anymore and I don't care as much as I use to if I'm caught doing just that. I will always care a little and I will be ok with that too.

Thanks for reading,
Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

So Shut Up!!!

    Today I decided, like many warm, sunny days, to let my daughter play at the school playground after her Spanish class. We were there an hour after the bell rang, so the playground was mostly deserted. There alone was a little girl that was going to be my daughter's next best friend. She makes friends at the drop of a hat and has no qualms asking them any question that comes to mind or insisting they come along with her to play where she wants to. The little girl was more than happy to join her and so all was well. I had no phone, so I had no text, no games and had to just be with me...hard to do as of late. However, I was enjoying the sun, it doesn't come out but once every seven years in Seattle.
    Turns out the little 'best friend' she was playing with had siblings who also were hanging around the playground...one younger brother, one older sister and one older brother, possibly more. I am minding my own business, while keeping an eye on my daughter and 'tanning'. Then from a distance I heard what I thought to be an odd comment coming from the older brother and his friends...something along the lines of..."keep your hands off my sister".  Now the girls were playing on the bars and my daughter was helping the little one do turns or sit on it. This would require touching her. I let it go, not sure if that is exactly what I heard. Not five minutes later I got the verbal attack...It started with "hey you on the bench." I knew this wouldn't be good. First of all he was ruining my alone time and second my 'tanning' was now in jeopardy.
    I don't like confrontation. I am not one that thrives from it, on the contrary I usually run from it. I was the passive aggressive type when younger and still have that skill to this day. So when I was all of a sudden struck with a myriad of foul language, my blood turned cold. He was pretty far away and had to yell this at me. The word 'bitch' was used quite repeatedly along with some other choice phrases. At this point we had been at the playground for at least 20 minutes if not more with no incident. This was out of the blue, not provoked and certainly not expected. I have never been verbally assaulted or otherwise at or near her school, nor in such a venomous fashion. My comment was "nice."  Not in "nice to see you" but in"what the f***" nice. Well, that probably didn't help, so I decided the best course of action was just to get my child and go.
     I was so angry though that I just had to ask the older girl sitting near by if he was related to her. Yes he is and she let me know he is always like this. It is sad, I can only imagine how difficult it is for the family to deal with this or possibly where he learned it. At the time, I couldn't have cared less however. To my credit, I did comment that he could use some counseling. People who know me will not be surprised by this comment.  I discovered he is already in it. I thought this is good but he could use more...Then the little shit started up again. At this point I asked his sister for his name, his grade and the teacher he has. He was only in fourth grade! His sister said to me not to worry and that she will tell their mom when she gets home. That's all fine and dandy, but I wasn't done with him. So I asked my questions again. Armed with some of the information I asked for, I am good and ready to report his smart ass to the school office  tomorrow.
    As I was walking away with my daughter, again, he slung words that no child that age should be using, especially at an adult. I would have had my mouth washed out with soap and not been able to sit for a week! This was it, I was all done taking this crap from him. So I turned around, held both my hands over my head and yelled..."I KNOW YOUR NAME, I KNOW YOUR GRADE AND I KNOW YOUR TEACHER...SO SHUT UP!!!!", emphasizing each fact with my hands. This was not thought out in advance and I later wished something other than 'shut up' was used. Just as well, nothing else would have been anymore adult like. I didn't know his teacher and I don't have a last name and I couldn't see what he really looked like, but he didn't need to know this. I will find him tomorrow come hell or high water.
   Afterwards my daughter was so impressed with my response, she repeated it, hand gestures and all. This continued all the way home and then some. I do hope she doesn't reiterate the story verbatim tomorrow at school, especially not with the hand gestures. Oh well, it shut him up. He didn't say another word.
     I still feel the adrenaline writing this. This was a big step for me. I wanted to hit him which I know is a bad thing and he was too far away with too many friends anyway. I wouldn't have even if he had been standing right next to me...or so I believe. All bets are off if he goes near my daughter. So I took on a snotty little fourth grader and I don't feel bad nor fearful nor angry anymore. I believe I did the best I could in a bad situation and my daughter saw her mother stand up to a bully in a semi adult fashion. Well, it is progress not perfection. Maybe next time I can graduate to a fifth grade bully standoff. Until then, I will take pleasure in the fact that I wasn't walked all over and I didn't go to jail for assault.

So Shut Up! ( Just practicing)

After reporting this incident to the school office, to the credit of the school principal and the disciplinary system, the fourth grader was easily found and identified. I was called back immediately to give my side of things, steps were taken and consequences were given. I received an apology in writing. This was done obviously made in the presence of authority and quite possibly with the threat of imprisonment in said office until completion. Either way, this young man will think twice, I pray, before barraging someone else with such harmful and hateful words. I am still ok with my reaction to this situation since I don't think about what I should have done. So, I will take this as a sign that my action was just and fair, did no harm to myself or others and I am my daughter's hero for today.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Whatever, I'm done...

       These are the words that come out of my mouth when I am at the end of my rope. They were even considered worth money as with any swear word... a quarter a piece at least, in our house. However, I am now out of money and had to call it quits because these words seem to be a part of who I am. These days, I am having difficulty writing or talking about my true feelings ( my authentic me) for fear of being judged. But frankly at this point, should I really give a damn? If I haven't been able to somewhat not care at this point, will I ever?
       I am in a twelve step program and have been a therapy junky for years. Oh yeah, and I am bipolar. Should I even advertise this? Probably not. Don't employers now check Facebook, blogs, My Space, etc. for unseemly behavior and reasons not to hire you or keep you? Who of my 200+ "friends" will read this on Facebook and develop an unsavory opinion of me...Whatever, I say. I was considering bungie jumping, but thought disclosing this little tidbit of information in a blog might be more daring and perhaps enlighten or help someone as opposed to the chance of a rope snapping. Since I chose this, I am alive to continue. I hope to have the desire to stay alive after this blog is posted.
       I seem to be consistent in both program and therapy most of the time. It wasn't until later in life, when I hit a major bottom that I believed and took seriously my bipolar diagnosis and followed a doctors advice. For years I felt that if I just did more, was better, faster, smarter, skinnier, more outgoing, taller, worked harder, add infinitum, that I would feel better and succeed like so many others around me. I could be like everyone else with a normal life, a college degree, a host of friends and...happy once in awhile. Today I try to remember that this is not the case. Today is better because I accept on some level that having bipolar and being an addict/alcoholic is what I am working with and I don't have to deny that or pretend it isn't there. I also make a conscious effort not to  compare myself to others. There is plenty of help out there and today I am choosing to use it whenever I am able.  Writing today is from my need to have a handful of really close friends...which I do not.
       I let a few choice people into the deep recesses of my personal journey, but I don't let them stay too long. I know shame comes along and decides that a judgement has been made and they must go. It is so glaringly obvious to me now that I crave healthy, loving emotional connections but don't really know how to have them long term. More and more I don't want people too close to me, or so I tell myself. I stand here craving to be emotionally attached to people, all the while giving them the finger. I don't suppose they can overlook that. I am afraid of being detached from, lovingly or not. Change is constant which includes losing and gaining people in your life. It is the loss that has become more and more intolerable over the years. Better to not have loved at all than to have to lose, must be my motto now.
         This all stems from a perceived goodbye letter from a friend, whose intent was not consciously to say goodbye and most likely won't turn into one unless on my part. It triggered that feeling of needing too much and shame around who I am. What did I do to get a letter like this?  Again, that emotional detachment I attract from others. Friends of mine whose lives get more difficult seem to need less and distance more. Is it just me they do that with or is it their pattern? Do they have other friends that respond in a more loving and open way? Is it because I distance and need less because I feel I need way too much?  I certainly don't want nor care to judge, it just makes me sad. I just want to be able to find a way to change this sad and very distinct lonely pattern I seem to have in my life. Where does my fault lie? Must I even continue to call it a fault? Could I embrace this part of me and work at healing it, not hating it? After all this, I start to think this must happen to everyone? Why am I so special? Here comes the...Whatever.
    So today I sit here with my daughter and watch movies after a very rainy soccer game at which I try my best to look as if I am social and well put together. I can do nothing else. There is absolutely nothing wrong with today, except I feel sad on a whole. My desire to call and talk to someone can be stifled by food, television, movies, depression or a combination. Mostly I just stay busy. I choose not to call and so people don't notice that I don't. At my high points I tell myself I need to make up for lost time, being too productive and busy to reach out. (By the way, I am very proud of the long list of accomplishments I finish on my up days! Fills the hole) I do get calls into friends I neglect, but am ashamed to share where I have been. I seem to choose friends that don't need me, or I don't need them. Perhaps I need them too much or I won't call them back because of my depression. I am aware today that I have to initiate most if not all of the connections I have. At times it is crushing to know this and at other times it is a relief. I have offered and received offers to be consistent in making plans with friends, but I am unwilling or unable to follow up and then I feel bad.  This is because the facade I feel I need show to stay in a friendship can only hold up for so long. With the amount of years in therapy and recovery I desperately want to look more put together. Again, I thought I was past this desire. Not to say I am giving up trying... it isn't in my nature after all this. There are connections in the works once again. These are the feelings today, at this moment and they can change in a heart beat.
         Maybe my program has made it difficult to separate my bipolar from my behavior. Can I find where my disorder ends and my 'fault' or should I say addict begins? Did I work my steps, talk to my sponsor, go to my meetings, stay in the middle and not on the edge of the program? When the depression hits do I care? Is it the depression from the bipolar or from not working the steps. This is the insanity that competes in my head. The problem with depression is it can affect behavior and vice versa. I had a friend remind me that depression, if not treated specifically, colors everything else. Those words often got me through the really difficult times. It slowed down the beating I would give myself for not being able to nor at times want to pull out of the black hole I was in. Always in the back of my mind though, I questioned if I was causing it all.  Recently I had someone say to me... you have worked on your past, but it is time to live in the solution. What I heard was, you seem to be enjoying being miserable, would you like to try it the right way now? Of course this was not what was meant and I know it. It is just an ongoing tug-o-war in my head to trudge the healthy path and at times I am too exhausted to or ...I'm done. I know others can relate.
          So I feel the need, for me, to say that I have come a long way from where I was. Being self aware can be a good thing and it can also be frustrating. I play the piano again, mistakes and all, I have a wonderful daughter who I love dearly and try my best with. I don't drink, smoke or do drugs and haven't for years. I even was able to complete one college degree. All this has been painfully difficult at times and has made me question if I even want to continue... but I do. I am aware of what is and is not healthy in the way of food. I know when I am running and need to slow down, rest and just be with me. And I am ok with me a lot more than I use to be. I could even say today, at times, that I love me. I have fabulous friends that I cherish and love and would do anything for, even in my darkest moments. This blog, by no means, is written to cheapen the relationships I have. On the contrary, they are so important to me that I have a deep desire to keep them.
         So, depending on where I am at on the emotional spectrum, I take the time to try to determine the fine line between my behavior and my bipolar or I just accept myself for where I am at. This all sounds so...familiar, yet undecipherable  when read. Well this is my brain written down... now for public viewing. What I guess I am hoping for is this to be cathartic for me and if it touches just one person and lets them know they are not alone, then it was worth disclosing. A wonderful woman once said to me "try saying 'I don't want to be done' ." Perhaps I will fill up the quarter jar again and begin charging myself once again for saying "whatever". In the amount of time it has taken me to write this, I have gone from one end of the spectrum to the other and landed in the middle. Not bad...not bad at all.
         So here it goes... I don't want to be done, only with writing for today.