Monday, January 27, 2014

The Taste of Memory

I don't remember what it was, but a year or so ago D smelled something and remarked that it smelled like her childhood. Which is funny because she's still in her childhood. And also I couldn't think of anything that particular smell could be evoking.

Today I had a Jolly Rancher watermelon-flavored candy. It wasn't quite as strong as a scent would be, but it did take me back to my childhood. Which I am far from and I have the gray hair to prove it.

Anyway, it got me thinking about what flavor my childhood would be. There are a lot that I remember and I'll list them for you. (An excuse to make a list!!) Notice this will not be given in any order of favorites, i.e. I despise liver.

1. Abba Zabba. Aside from Jolly Ranchers, these were my favorite candy. My friend Jenny and I would freeze them before eating them. I lost a tooth in one once at the beach.

2. Liver. My daughter has never had this forced down her throat. I have neither eaten it nor made it as an adult.

3. Canned spinach. Mom, really? I don't think D even knows that this exists. Stringy grossness at its slimiest best.

4. Tacos. I asked for them every birthday.

5. Spaghetti. My sister asked for it on her birthdays. My mom made it out of the paper packet.

6. Oily meat. We experimented with a fondue pot for a while. I have vastly improved on the method.

7. Cheerios. My grandma made sure she had some every time that I visited. Until I was 21.

8. Chicken and dumplings. Family recipe.

9. Caramel cream pecan pie. We had this at Thanksgiving instead of pumpkin.

10. Lima beans. Another thing D has never been force-fed.

11. Fried catfish. Freshly caught by my grandpa.

12. Fish sticks. I was never a gay fish.

13. In-N-out cheeseburgers. The single defining meal of my California life.

14. TV dinners. My father, as a single man, was only capable of fortifying me in this inhumane manner.

15. Hot chocolate with vanilla ice cream. Because it was never that cold in California.

16. Fried chicken. I have yet to fry my own, but I'll beg to be invited anywhere that it's done.

17. Biscuits. The kind only my grandpa could make.

18. Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. We had them for breakfast on Christmas mornings.

19. Steak. The grill was used every weekend of the year, no matter the weather. Complete with wood chips.

20. Popcorn shrimp and hush puppies. Until I could no longer order from the kids' menu.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Single Girl's (or anyone's) Guide to Happiness

A few months ago the wife and I started to keep a gratitude journal. Every night we would each (separately, in our own homes) write three things we were grateful for that day. The only rule was that we couldn't use the same thing more than once. After just a few days, I started to see little things that I wanted to write down that night. A co-worker's laugh. Sushi. The smell of my dogs' feet. How comforting it is to listen to guys talk about sports (even though I usually tone that shit out). After a few weeks it started to make a real difference.

I started to look for other opportunities for gratitude and happiness. And, when D went through her serious suicidal thoughts, we looked for her happiness too. She did something brave that day. She asked for help. Someone told her she was pretty. Someone told her they want to be like her.

You see, if you look for the positive, that's what you will find. Even on my down days, I didn't have to reach that far. It could be something simple like a pair of fluffy socks because you don't have to conquer the world every day. When you open yourself up to positive, it walks right through your door.

As I mentioned before, being so close to losing D put things into perspective. It made me more willing to take risks. Failure sounded more like an inconvenience than an obstacle.

So I talked to my friend M who is a Pure Romance consultant. It sounded fun, I have student loans to pay off, and I couldn't really think of any reason not to do it myself. Someone doesn't want to do a party with me? No problem, my kid is alive today. It really is that cut-and-dry.

What I found, is that when you remove fear of failure, you open yourself up to real possibilities. The company is offering an incentive for new consultants. Book six parties in 60 days, get free product. I started with the idea that I would just see what happens. No agenda, no expectations. Still, six sounded like a big number and outside my realm of possibility.

You know what? I got those six parties booked. I worked the booth at a wedding expo and booked two more. It is almost falling into my lap. Which only makes me want more. I am very close to believing that I can have everything I want. I do believe that I can be really happy.

Last year the wife and I decided to move to Nashville this year. When I was saying "next year" it felt very far away. Now that it is just a few months away, I canNOT wait for it. It feels like letting go and taking a leap and I have all the faith that I am going to land as light as a feather. (Although don't ask me to think about the actual logistics of moving because I will break out into a panic-induced sweat.)

The wife has the most fantastic job opportunity there and is interviewing today. It just feels right. It all feels right and good and the way it's supposed to be. I told her I have everything crossed for her but I know she's got it already. It's time.

I'm a Disney girl. I love Disney - the man, the movies, the park, all of it. I used to think that I believed dreams could come true. I wanted to believe it, but I didn't really. Because I wasn't open to it. But they can. Sometimes you create them and sometimes you just open yourself up and let it come to you. Don't think this doesn't take work, because it does. But even working your tail off will never work if you aren't really open.

A month ago I told my therapist that I don't think I'm allowed to be this happy. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. But that is stupid. I deserve to be happy. We all do. There are going to be challenges and frustrations and setbacks. That is part of life.

The cliches are all true though. Life is what you make it. And I'm going to make mine great. Really, really great.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Discretion Is Overrated. Apparently.

There seems to be some kind of correlation between my heater going out and my vibrators making an appearance. Or maybe it's having uninteresting men in my house?

So a month ago, my stupid heater went out. It was blowing cold air and this was during that 50-below-freaking-zero cold snap we had. What I didn't realize is that the access to the vent is in my bedroom closet. The closet that holds my dresses and shoes. Luckily, most of my really good shoes are in boxes but I was worried about my babies.

What I was not worried about, because I didn't even stop to think that someone crawling around in dust and spider webs and whatever other god-forsaken things are up there, was that he might use my bathroom to wash his hands. And I didn't even think about it until after he was done and left. And wouldn't look me in the eye. Whatever, weirdo.

But no. I'm the weirdo in this instance. Or the sexual deviant. Because after he left I went to the bathroom and saw my vibrator out there on the counter for all the world to see. TOM. The big one.

Last week the damn heater stopped working again. Another guy came out. Thank goodness. I also was very diligent in making sure that all vibrators were safely put away and there was no underwear on my floor. Yay, good for me.

When he looked at the thermostat, it showed the battery was low. He asked if I had batteries. AA batteries. I panicked. I knew that I had already scoured the house for and stolen from other devices for my newest friend. I pretended to look in my kitchen drawer, hoping against hope that they would magically appear there. No. Of course not. So I crept to my nightstand and, as-discreetly-as-I-possibly-could, pulled two batteries out of my new toy. Of course he knew. Everyone knows what it means when you take batteries out of something in your nightstand.

I'm not sure what the lesson is here. I don't think there is one. It's more like some perverse Murphy's Law. If my heater needs to be repaired, a vibrator will make an appearance. Live and learn kids, live and learn.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Defining Self-Harm

I opened up publicly about something that D and I have been going through yesterday. Because of the responses I got, I wanted to talk more about her self-harm. This is going to be long and might contain triggers, so please proceed with caution. 

Also, I want to add the disclaimer that I am telling you this from my perspective as a parent. I have not self-harmed, although I have been in dark enough places at some points where I could see the attraction of it. I am not a medical professional so I can only answer questions based on my experience and suggest that, if this ever happens in your family, you need to talk to a professional. 

D told me herself that she was cutting. This was after she told her school counselor and her pediatrician. While I was hurt that she didn't tell me at first, I was proud of her for standing up for herself and asking for help. I had to put my ego aside. 

To learn how to cope with this, I talked to her school counselor and her therapist. I scoured the internet for information. I read groups for parents and cutters. I read medical reports. And I still couldn't wrap my head around it. 

Her counselor's opinion was that, since her cuts were so neat and symmetrical, she wasn't suicidal. She was looking for control. A lot of what I read confirmed that cutting isn't necessarily a suicide attempt. Because she had only been doing it a couple of months, I thought maybe it was just a phase. Her counselor also told me that it comes in waves at the high school. A group of girls will suddenly start doing it at the same time. 

In that first year, I went through a thousand emotions. I'm not proud of a lot of it, but then I was coming from a place of fear. When I felt she was doing it just for attention, I threatened to take away privileges. When I was really scared I yelled at her and told her I didn't understand her, that she was just stressing me out. I pleaded. I cajoled. Once, when we were in the dressing room while she tried on a bikini, I fought back tears when I saw the lines on her hips. I blamed myself over and over and over. I defined myself as a failure. 

I tried to be reasonable. I tried to be understanding. I shamed a lot. I researched more. I asked her why. Why? 

D is somewhat of a control freak. If we have an argument, she can't leave it to resolve itself later. She has to have it all smoothed over the moment she wants it. Which isn't realistic when I'm still angry. So some of the way that she chose to cut convinced me that she just needed that control and that was the way she found it. And some of that was true, but she also explained that it was a way to punish herself. She hated that she was depressed and felt sorry for herself knowing that there are so many people with "real" problems who have it worse. So she hurt herself. 

In my more reasonable moments, I told her that it scared me. I told her I didn't understand. I told her that everything I do is just because I love her and I want her to be happy. I let her know that I was wrong. Her response? Gratitude. Gratitude for telling her that I too make mistakes and I don't expect her to be perfect. 

In the really good moments, she expressed that she wanted to stop. One month she said she wanted to cut deeper, that she wanted to see how far she could go. She told me she liked it. I know that sounds like a horrible moment, and it was truly terrifying, but it told me that she was really working it out. She was testing her limits. Until, one day, she did cut too deeply. And it scared the shit out of her and she really wanted to stop. 

So then, like an addict, she started counting how long between cuttings. Two weeks. Several days. A month. When she made it to six weeks and then self-harmed again, she told me she was ashamed and worried that I would be disappointed. "But you said you were proud of me for making it so long." I hugged her and told her I was proud of her, no matter what. I was proud that she kept trying and I was proud that she opened up to me. 

I think her real suicidal moments came when she stopped cutting. Because she no longer was allowing herself that release, she was just stuck with all of the ugly thoughts bottling up inside of her. I told her that was pretty normal. Often, it gets a hell of a lot worse before it gets better. 

And, just like with the suicide, I don't think her self-harm is entirely behind us. I hope it is, but it served a purpose for her and she might find she "needs" it again. She has said that she doesn't want scars that she will have to one day explain to her children. She makes lists of reasons not to do harmful things. 

Now, why have I told you all of this aside from my own catharsis? Because there are dozens upon dozens of reasons that people do things that we can't explain. And if you're one of those people, or the parent of one of those people, it is really scary. And people judge. However, the biggest reason that people judge is because they just don't understand. It's simple ignorance. If you're up to it, you can try to educate them. If it's not in you that day, just walk away and take care of yourself. 

If someone you love is hurting, get help. Get help for them and get help for you. I went back to my therapist to help me cope and be able to better support D. Talk to people you trust. Gather the wagons, build your cocoons, and trust that it will get better. Communicate, communicate, communicate. 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Whatever It Takes

A few months ago my world came crashing down around me. I came home to D crying and telling me she wanted to kill herself. We've been working on and dealing with her depression for nearly two years and that included cutting, but I didn't realize just how bad she was feeling. While I hated her cutting, I told myself that, because it was out in the open, it didn't indicate any actual suicidal ideation.

She didn't want to tell me at first because she didn't want to scare me. She asked a friend to come get the knife that she had previously used to cut herself. The one she found hidden in her room. But when she found that she was afraid to be alone because she might really hurt herself, she had to tell me. I did my best to remain calm and supportive for her, but on the inside I was shattered.

We made appointments with her therapist and psychiatrist. We discussed inpatient treatment and we added an additional medication. We evaluated the options and decided that we would work to avoid the inpatient option. First, there isn't a facility in our town and she would have had to go away and neither of us was in love with that idea. She's also been behind in school and missing another large chunk of time didn't feel right. Still, we left it open as a backup. Because I would do whatever it took.

Those first few weeks were incredibly painful. My baby girl was miserable inside her own skin and I couldn't do anything to change that. I was terrified that I would lose her. Every morning I went to wake her up I would pause at the door, hoping against all hope that my worst nightmare wasn't about to come true. I canceled plans with friends so she wouldn't be home alone. I rearranged my work schedule, I let her break the normal rules of hanging out with friends after school. I did whatever it took to make sure she felt safe. Safe from herself.

In the beginning, she didn't want anyone to know. I wanted to respect her wishes so I didn't talk about it. And, although I wasn't ashamed of her and her feelings, I felt like I had failed as a parent. Where did I go wrong that I didn't protect her from this?

And then I had a Halloween party. I had fun. I laughed, everyone else had a good time, it was successful as far as parties go. When everyone left, I fell apart and sobbed to my best friend. Because if I'm going to lose it with anyone, it's going to be her.

A few days later I opened up to the few people I trusted. The amount of support I got was overwhelming. It gave me hope and enough strength to keep trying and to feel less alone.

D also talked to friends and received the support she needed. Her new meds started to kick in a little bit. I checked in with her daily, asking her to rate her emotional scale. Anything below a five required a plan of action and we knew what those actions were. While most of us can handle a low of four or even three or two, D spiraled to zero almost immediately from that point. We evaluated the reasons for her ratings and how we could change them. The important thing was to be in touch and communicate every day.

A couple of months later she thought she had it handled. She put off therapy appointments, she even canceled one at the last minute to go to play rehearsal instead. A couple of days later she walked in the house and fell into my arms crying, saying again how tired she is of feeling this way. So we talked about how we're stuck with depression. This is a thing that we have, like some people have asthma or any other physical disability or health issue. We have to take care of ourselves, we have limits that we have to respect in order to take care of ourselves. Some things are too much sometimes and that's okay.

Now, a few months later, I think we're over the hump. We've learned what we need to do and what to look for. And, while I can breathe again, I'm not naive enough to think we're past this for good. We're just not. D, as a high school senior, is dealing with a lot of emotions and fears and doubts and excitement about what will happen in the next few months and in the future. It's all very normal and expected. To someone with a tendency towards severe depression, these stresses can send her spiraling down again. My hope is that we have both learned what to look out for before it gets to that bottom level.

The greatest lesson I have learned through all of this is that there is a lot of shit that just doesn't matter. During those dark weeks, I couldn't even focus on my weight like a normal neurotic woman. Because who cared if I lost those 15 pounds and looked amazing? What does that matter if my baby girl is gone? My job seemed nearly pointless. My friends, who I have always known that I appreciate and tell them fairly regularly, meant the absolute world to me. I gained enormous perspective. I became less afraid of a lot of things. Because the scariest thing in the world is losing the person you love the most. Everything after that is just an afterthought.

I think D has learned the strength she has. It takes real courage to ask for help. It takes a hell of a lot to tell someone the ugliest part of yourself and risk not being understood or, worse, ignored. Not only did she ask for help, but she kept asking for help until she got what she needed.

I asked her permission before sharing this with you. She didn't hesitate to say yes and that tells me how much she has grown and how much self-acceptance she has gained. My reason for telling you is that if you feel alone, you're not. If you're afraid to talk, don't stay quiet. If you're not heard the first time, try again. Try someone else. Do not lose what is important to you because of fear.

Most of all, don't lose hope.

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