Having a Sally Field Moment

This morning my friend, Dawn, published this post. About me, of all people! When she told me that she wanted to turn her list into a blog post and asked if it was ok with me, I said sure. I admit, I was curious. But more than anything, I was really flattered. She likes me! She really likes me!

I’ve spent a lot of years of my life feeling like an outcast. Heck, I think there’s members of my family that don’t like me all that much. I feel like it started way back in first grade. I switched from public school to private school that year so I knew no one in my class. I also started school about two weeks late due to health issues. So, by the time I got to school friendships had formed and I was the weird kid. I went to that school with the same 40 kids for the next 12 years; I never stopped being the weird kid who no one liked and the popular girls picked on. When I got to be a teenager, I was the girl that no boy admitted to liking because that was social suicide. I got called ‘ugly’ a lot so I never thought I was pretty at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a few friends and my best friend is still my best friend to this day. But the people I became close to – none of them were people in that first grade class I walked into two weeks late.

I had high hopes for college. I was a single student on a campus of 40,000. Surely I could find My People there! I thought I did for awhile but then it turned out they didn’t like me all that much after all. I can’t even really say WHY the friendships fell apart but they did.

After college, my life went through a monumental upheaval and in the 18 months after graduation, I moved 3 times, broke off an engagement, met someone new, got engaged again, and settled in Pittsburgh. Where I knew no one but Scot.

Slowly my circle of friends grew, first through Scot, then through work. Eventually I found Twitter and lo and behold! THAT is where My People reside! I started venturing out from under my rock a little bit to meet people in person.

One of the first people I met was Dawn. I don’t know how to explain it except to say that Dawn’s friendship means the world to me. She is the sister of my heart. After so many years of feeling ostracized, to know that someone I love and respect so much thinks that I’m a good person – well, that’s just the best feeling in the world.

Pretty Lady

Pretty Lady

Mental Health: On Being The Spouse

It’s a given that we don’t talk as openly as we should about mental health issues. But there’s a related topic that we talk about even less: being the spouse of someone with long term mental health issues. So I’m going to talk about it. Nothing I say here is meant to diminish or denigrate the struggles of those with mental health disorders. Rather, I’m trying to highlight the issues unique to being a partner in these circumstances.

Where do I begin? I guess with the obvious – it’s HARD. Very hard. I believe that every relationship has its challenges – we are all humans who make mistakes, after all – so I don’t necessarily think that other couples have it easy. But there are a whole mishmash of emotions and reactions that go with this issue; it’s sometimes hard to sort them all out.

  • Guilt. Guilt is a big one. I feel guilty that I get frustrated with my spouse for things I know he has no control over. If I’m frustrated, how must he feel? But I do get frustrated and even angry sometimes. And when I calm down the guilt comes crashing in.
  • Jealousy. Seems a little odd, no? And yet, there are times when I am so jealous that he gets to have a breakdown. He gets to put down so many of his responsibilities and fall apart. I’m not allowed to do that. I have to hold things up, hold things together, take care of the kids, and keep our lives afloat. There are days when I want to be the weak one, just once, and those are the days I feel jealousy.
  • Exhaustion. All of the responsibilities of our lives, all the details I keep track of, all the things I do. Day after day without a break. Man, do I get tired sometimes. In fact, I get tired A LOT.
  • Confusion. Was that thing he did or said the result of depression/anxiety or did he really mean it that way and I have a right to be upset? Lord above, this one bites me on the ass. I thinks it’s one thing and then, whoops! Nope! Depression! Then it’s back to guilt and see bullet point #1.
  • Anger/Frustration. How come never get a break? Why is everything on me? It’s not FAIR!, says my toddler brain. And guess what? It isn’t. But in the immortal words of Grandpa from “The Princess Bride” – “Who said life is fair? Where is that written?” I bet my husband doesn’t think it’s fair that he has to live with anxiety and depression all the time, either.

So, how do we deal with it?

  • Communication. This right here is the key. Open, honest, CALM communication. In front of a neutral third party if necessary and not my spouse’s regular therapist. Someone else. Someone who just sees us as a couple. This isn’t a regular thing for us but we’ve done a few sessions in the past and it really helps. Also on the topic of communication, sometimes it feels like a Sisyphean endeavor and I just know that rock is going to roll back down the hill and crush me. Or I know that I have a thing to say and I just can’t get it out right. So I say “I’m having trouble phrasing this and I know it’s going to come out wrong, so please take it in the spirit it is intended and not how it sounds.” It may sound silly, but it helps my spouse to know that I’m not attacking and I’m not trying to be nasty – I just can’t figure the delicate way to say it. Then we can get to the heart of whatever the issue is without hurt feelings.
  • Time. Time together as a couple. Time alone. Time away. He gives me time away from the kids, away from the family – sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for a long weekend – because it helps me recharge and jump back into our lives. It’s so huge for me. I know what a monumental gift it is for him to take over everything on the home front. I’ve gotten better about asking for it when I really need it and so has he. There are times when he needs quiet and restful time and I try to make it happen. It goes back to communication – not just about problems but about everything. Also, time in the sense of longevity. We’ve been married 13.5 years. We’ve been together for over 15 years. Over the course of that long a relationship you learn what constitutes “big stuff” and “small stuff” and you just stop giving a shit about the small stuff. There are things that were once “big stuff” to me that are now very, very “small stuff.”
  • Patience. If there is one word that people never would have used to describe me when I was growing up, that word would have been “patient.” Because I wasn’t. About anything. But dealing with these issues has taught me patience. Patience with myself, patience with my spouse, patience with our circumstances, patience with my expectations of things. It does no good to let impatience lead to frustration. It doesn’t change anything. So I’ve learned to slow my roll and just simmer down on that front.
  • Love. We may get mad at one another. We may argue. We may not like each other sometimes. But we never stop loving each other. We never stop supporting each other. We never want out. No matter what the issue is that we’re presented with, we both know that we don’t want out so it’s not a consideration and it’s not an insecurity added to the situation. I once said that we are not perfect people but that we are prefect for each other. I truly believe this. So why would I go anywhere else?
  • Support. Friends. Family. Therapists. Doctors. They all have a role to play for us as a couple and for me as the spouse. As hard as it can be sometimes, it would be infinitely harder without the support we have around us.

I’m not afraid to say that these are my struggles; no one else should be either. It doesn’t make me a bad person and it doesn’t mean I love my spouse any less. These are just the challenges we face because of the circumstances we’ve been given.

Spectacular Six

Jamie turned SIX on March 4th. Lately I look at him and it’s like he morphed from baby to boy in 20 seconds flat. How in heaven’s name did he get so big so fast?!

Once upon time, he had ankle rolls.

Once upon time, he had ankle rolls.

At six Jamie is still mercurial and difficult sometimes (a lot of the time). He is also loving and sweet, funny and sassy, too smart for his own damn good. He certainly has his opinions and he will let you know about it. Unlike Liam at this age, who was insistently independent, Jamie often demands that we do things for him that he is completely capable of doing on his own. Let’s just say he’s down with being the baby of the family.

Just as I am proud to be Liam’s mother, I am also proud to be Jamie’s. There are different reasons, though. Man, that kid is stubborn but while we butt heads because of it, he also uses it to never give up when it comes to his speech difficulties. I was looking at an old video the other day – the first proof I had of him *really* talking – and I am shocked at how much he’s learned and how far he’s come. That video was barely intelligible as speech – even to me, who has always been Jamie’s best translator. I’m damn proud of the kid for working through it and getting to where he is. I’m proud of who he is as a person – someone who loves his family so completely, someone who never gives up, someone who is sure of who he is and what he wants.

So, here’s to six and all its glories! Here’s to big kids and long school days and endless summers. Happy Birthday, Jamie! You completed our family and we couldn’t be happier.

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Foreboding

T.S. Eliot famously said, “April is the cruellest month.” It’s only March 10th but April is sneaking up on me and my sense of doom is growing.

The last three years April has been terrible. Three years ago Scot lost his job. Two years ago, he lost his job AGAIN. Last year he had 2 surgeries. I used to love April – spring usually really sets in during April. The weather turns sunnier and the world smells of growing things. My birthday is also in the end of April

But now I’m coming to dread the whole damn month. I keep wondering what will happen this year. Will he keep his job? Need another surgery? Will a child break a bone? Will a dog die? Will something happen that finally breaks me and I lose my mind?

I have happy things planned for April this year. My parents are coming to visit. I’m going to Texas for a long weekend to visit with my best friend whom I haven’t seen in a couple of years. I’m going to see Indigo Girls with The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with a group of Twitter ladies. I’m excited by all of these things.

But I’m worried, too. I can’t shake the feeling that April is going to slap me in the face, punch me in the stomach, and kick me in the crotch again.