Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Tapping for the Win (sort of)!

A lot on the plate of late—and I don’t mean to be cheeky.  I’ve been struggling with the good ole pressures of being a working mom, schedule changes for the kids, extracurricular activities, the hubby having his own stressors with work and his health concerns (nothing imminent, just trying to be healthier in general).

So lately, Tapping is something that I’ve found to be a great coping tool “in the moment” for when anxiety bears down.  I’ve been trying it out for the last two weeks.  In a nutshell: it’s a self-soothing technique that interrupts the anxious thinking and is comforting both on emotional and physical levels.  Instead of thinking, OMG my ex is stressing me and I’m freaking out, I reword the statement to say: I’m feeling really anxious about the exie and even though I’m anxious, I love and accept myself.   While doing the acupressure tapping.

Well, let’s just break this down.  First of all, the words feel and sound weird on many different levels and I’ll share why I pooh-poohed this for a long time:
1. it’s just easier to believe the bad stuff. 
2.  likewise, it’s hard to believe the good stuff.
3.  Old habits die hard—you know how you always take the same route when walking to or driving to the store?  Or to work?  Or park at the same spot in that parking lot for whatever it is you’re going out for (school, store, work, etc?)…?   My brain works the same way.  It lays down tracks of thinking that over the years have become well-worn paths of thoughts and feelings.  It’s what makes one and two the rule rather than the exception.
4.  I have to admit though, that when I’m doing this technique, it does interrupt the stressed out thinking—instead of feeling overwhelmed by it, it becomes a smaller part of my consciousness.  Something I need to address, but it doesn’t engulf like it used to.

Obviously, I’m not a licensed medical practitioner.  I’m just sharing my experience in that lately this seems to have helped me make it through.  I’ve lived with anxiety and stress for so long, I don’t know exactly how to live without it, but it’s what I’m aiming for.

In other news, my oldest daughter DD1 has been selected for her “spring court” and she is super excited about that.  It’s based on student and teacher votes, as well as by demonstrating what it means to be a responsible student—being a self-directed learner, community contributor, complex thinker, using technology effectively and ethically, and being an effective communicator.  Awwwww….heart melting.

And after some back and forth with little sister’s teacher, she is confident that DD2 will improve on her listening and working quietly skills (le sigh, little sister is a smart cookie and super exuberant when it comes to her approach to life.  This can translate to distracting her classmates and talking too much, sounds like what I was told I was like when younger?  Oh dear!!!)

Life moves on.  And the latest news on the Exie front, the child support issue has been resolved, yes I settled, but whatever.  It is what it is.  And apparently he’s moved out of his mom’s house and has an apartment/house for the girls and himself.  I’m trying not to worry too much, because I know grandma was always helpful.  I wonder what it will be like for them?  I hope he doesn’t get too stressed out with being on his own and taking his stressors out on them.  On the other hand, maybe it will lead him to a new path where he can turn a new leaf and act more responsibly.  I’ll hope for that.   Deep breaths. 

I have anxiety about the unknown for my kids and my ex’s behavior, but I love and accept this part of myself.  I will be there for them no matter what.  Tap, tap, tapping.  Deep breaths.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Full Steam Ahead

Image Credit

I’ve been running at full steam with my daughters’ cookie booths and tennis and dance recital rehearsals and working full time and juggling big sister tween attitude and questions and mini-rebellion and then sudden mood change to sweetheart as we baked my mom’s sugar cookie recipe for pi day, so she could bring round cookies to school and share them with her math class.  Also rolling with the punches of little sister’s extra energy and every feeling under the sun (she’s definitely a feel-er) and if I think I run at full steam, little sister is like super-sonic speed.

I’m also struggling with depression with my mom’s passing (I’ve had some really good days, coupled with really sad ones), and generalized anxiety with the PTSD in dealing with my ex-husband and all the wounds that I’ve carried along the journey of this mid-life of mine.  To be truthful, today has been about treading water and keep my head from sinking under.  A weird sort of malaise, like I’m paralyzed by so much going on.

Some things I’m trying to do to ease the pain:
  • Taking it easy at work, but still being accountable (i.e. not signing up for more than I bargained for, dealing with a supervision issue immediately, turning in reports on time.)
  • Exercising (i.e. I’m supposed to exercise today, and seriously DO NOT WANT to do it.  So I’m forcing myself in T-minus 3 hours.  Ugh).
  • Eating healthier (except for the 1 cup of homemade chex mix that my coworker brought in, can’t resist.  At least it’s not 2 cups. Or 5, which is what I really want).
  • Drinking lots of water.
  • Brain Therapy—I’m trying neurofeedback.  I’m not sure if it’s ratcheting down my anxiety, but in a weird way, it was oddly validating to find that my brainwaves in the areas of anxiety and depression were definitely off “the norm.”  (I think some days it’s working—but then I’ll have a day like yesterday where everything is a trigger, and I wonder if my brain is just too screwed up, ugh!)
  • Regular Therapy—going to see my shrink tomorrow.
  • Deep breaths—there’s an app that monitors your breathing and encourages deep breathing, so when I’m overwhelmed with big sister/little sister drama, I employ the deep breathing.  (Note:  DD1 asked me to quit doing it because it’s “really annoying,” and internally I’m like OMFG, but externally, I told her it was either annoying breathing, or I start yelling and I really did not want to start yelling).
  • When the anxiety rings high, over the last couple of weeks I’ve been employing “tapping”—bilateral stimulation that is supposed to be calming and take the focus off the anxiety and back to the moment at hand.  
At any rate, I’m looking forward to my bed tonight.  Maybe a good night’s sleep will help?  Hang in there mamas and peoples across the world!  Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Letter to my Divorce Little Sister

Dear Lil Sis contemplating divorce (who is actually me 8 years ago),

Right now, you are living in unbearable conditions.  One moment, everything is good and loving, filled with laughter and joy. The next it’s furious screaming and yelling and swearing and knocking over your toddler daughter and choking your dog that you will eventually give away under the guise of “not being able to take care of it in the new house.” The man you are with is not the man you thought he was, or wish him to be, no matter how hard you try from the very bottom of your heart to support and love him, to understand him, to show him love and kindness.  He may love you, but he is injured somehow and you are not his cure.  He is his cure and he has decided not to work on it, no matter the lovely things he says when he apologizes to you in the middle of the night.  You know this, because he is also yelling and spitting on you. And you fear it is only going to get worse, because it has gotten worse, after it got “better,” your baby number two is triggering the same violent and more violent responses from him.  He is not following up with actions to back up what he has said so eloquently in words.

Divorce will bring out a lot of strength in you, but before it does, it will bring out a lot of fear and insecurity as much as it brings out trust and hope for a better life.  It will bring out hypervigilance and second guessing, it will bring out the fear of not being believed which will also be tempered by the belief in what is right.  It will bring out every penny you never knew you had, and you will borrow money and time and emotional space from your loved ones in ways you never knew you could and you will feel ashamed for it but at the same time so desperate to secure the safety of your kids you pray they will forgive you and that one day you’ll forgive yourself.  (And one day, you may pay it a tiny bit forward by buying groceries for another single mom without batting an eye, or paying a filing fee for a TRO for someone else and when they try and pay you back, you kindly refuse and remind them that you are doing this for them because you remember what it felt like and if this small thing can make it easier for them to breathe than that is the only thanks you need and that you actually wish you were a lottery winner so you could do way more than that).

But mostly, once the battle has been “won” so to speak, when you are rising from the ashes of the court appearances and supervised visitation and a final order granting you custody although because he is a career man they will not grant you full legal custody, at least you know you’ve secured some measure of safety for them.  You will realize that you have to still go on with life and parenting and working at your job and being the consummate professional, while at the same time trying to figure out how to coparent with someone who seems to hate you (although you know it’s really about his hurt and anger about himself and his circumstances and the very upsetting circumstances of his alcoholic, abusive father) and who blames you for everything wrong in the world, someone who never hesitates to find some opening to criticize you and bring you down and pretend to the world that he is a perfect human being and you are the crazy one.  You will be exhausted at this point.

This is really the crux of what I’m trying to write to you, after years and years of therapy, maybe you can prepare yourself for what’s to come.   Because while the divorce ends a lot of the worst things about your life such as living with your abuser and the access that he has to your physical and emotional space, it is not the “cure” of the many things that you will have to face, because your daughters, while protected as much as they can be, are experiencing him in ways that worry you.  The court process and “victory” is not a victory in the sense that everyone walks away with their better life—it’s better but it’s complicated.

Here are some the things you may have to face:
1)      You will have to stay in regular communication with the person who intimidated and scared you.  Emails and texts that pop up will trigger a PTSD response that on good days, you’ll feel strong and tough enough that they won’t bother you, but on bad days, will  make you feel like you’re two inches or smaller.
2)      When your girls are reluctant to speak with you on the phone because they are with him, because daddy says we don’t see him as much and to not talk long with mommy, or come home and wonder about how come “poor daddy” says this or does that--you have to figure out how to support your daughters in their love for their father but also how to correct untruths about you and your situation.
3)      With Number 2, it’s more about taking the conversation away from dad or mom, and focusing on a third party, i.e. the ‘judge makes the rules” and mommy and daddy have to follow the rules, like you have to follow the rules that your teachers make for kids at school.  This eases the burden of having them feel like they have to defend what dad says or defend what mom says, at least, that is the hope.
4)      When they come home telling stories about how daddy doesn’t let us talk to uncle (his brother who lives with them), instead of jumping in and saying, that’s horrible!  You have to learn to couch it as, how does that make you feel?  And help them understand their feelings are okay and normal.
5)      Likewise, when they come home saying daddy yells at grandma (his mother who also lives with them), or daddy says he doesn’t have to listen to grandma because he is a grown man, you have to take a deep breath and say something like gosh, how does that make you feel? And when they say it makes them sad or scared, you can say, that wouldn’t make me feel very good either, I wish he wouldn’t do that.   And help them work out their feelings some more.
6)      When you are out at school events and the girls are reluctant to hug you in front of him, just smile and understand that they can’t show too much affection to you at the moment.  It will be difficult to see your daughters reign in their behavior and emotions because they somehow know instinctively that they have to take care of his emotional well-being.  And you will worry if that sets some kind of unhealthy stage and you have to trust that they will learn as they grow older what is healthy through your example and others in their lives.  You have to understand that they love their dad with all of their heart and it’s complicated.
7)      This is why the space you create in your house is so important that they can feel safe to express all emotions and feelings.  This means that as they get older, they have an easier time of letting their hair down—which means more talking back and yucky tween behaviors-- a sign that they feel like they CAN relax and speak their minds and be their whole selves, but also you have to tread with care because you still have to parent and be firm about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
8)      Little sis, in your and my case, we have a whole host of other PTSD and separation anxiety due to our beginnings, so when the girls leave you, coupled with when a stressful event comes up, like losing our only mom that we ever knew, it will be like a tidal wave over an exhausting 1-7.  Because of 1-7 you will wonder if somehow you can lose your babies, that he will brainwash them into not wanting to be with you, and that’s YOUR struggle to unlearn and not give into.  (And it doesn’t help that he is a PITA when trying to plan Mom’s memorial and travel.)

So these are some of the things we have to deal with.  I don’t have a magic wand in solving them, but I do have a list of things that I’ve done that seem to help so far:

1)      Therapy.  Lots of it. 
2)      Exercise, I know, I know, I hate running.  I even resorted to it as an excuse to making sure the dog gets enough exercise.  And as much as you might hate running, or as much as thinking about exercising makes you groan (me, too), I promise you that at least for the 30 – 60  minutes that you’re sweating it out, you are NOT freaking about about 1-8.  You’re too busy trying not to collapse.  And the benefit of this is that you will be healthy and hopefully live longer so you can be there for your kids (that’s the goal).
3)      Spend time with friends if you can.  Drinking tea.  Drinking wine. Stuffing your face with yummy food (good thing you do #2 you can tell yourself). Laughing as much as you can.
4)      Spend time with the hubby, doing similar things, and letting go in the love.  He is a good one.
5)      Take on a project at work—again that sounds crazy as a remedy, but like exercising, it takes the mind off 1-8 and usually you have something to show for it at the end.
6)      Crying is okay.
7)      Wallowing is okay, too, just don’t LIVE there.  (I’m working on that right now, since our mom died a little over a month ago).
8)      If all else fails, FAKE it.  You don’t feel like getting up and going out in the world?  That’s okay, just fake it.  I have a feeling that half the adults in the world are faking it, too.  (I could be wrong, but it makes me feel better.)
9)      There are people that will judge you.  That may even fall for his father of the year and poor me act.  Here’s the thing, if he’s acting like Father of the Year, that’s actually GOOD for the kids.  That is to their benefit.  And people will always be out there judging about things they don’t know, you can’t control that.  It may hurt, and that’s okay.  You know the truth.  Hold your head up high.  Just keep doing the best that you can.
10)   Hug your kids and laugh with them.  When you’re in the grunt of parenthood in the after school rush—dinner, bath, homework, going to bed, take that five minutes when they want to show you something and let it be.  Be in that five minutes.  Remember that this time is fleeting.  That smile and hug or laugh, that’s what this is all for.  That they feel loved by you all day, every day, always and forever.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Grief is a funny thing, and maybe even weirder for people like me who are adopted and have lost parents before we could speak—it left a hole in my heart which burst open wider when I lost my only mom I know. I did all the right things in her last days, bringing DD1 to see her and talking with her and holding her hand and laughing at her jokes and surrounding her with love, even sharing a Krispy Kreme donut hole because she loved sweets. But now that she’s gone I’m learning that grief is not a journey with a beginning, middle, and end. It’s become part of me, part of my heart, and I’m changed by it. Some days, moments, hours, minutes, I’m super strong. And others, so weepy and not strong. Sometimes, I’m filled with anxiety, triggered by life experiences I wouldn't wish on anyone. So I put my best foot forward, or sometimes I fake putting “my best foot forward”—(fake it until you make it, lol).

Lately, on my live and real person network, I’ve been posting lots of happy and sweet moments, and they are happy and sweet, the smiles and love are real--even with my whole and broken heart. But I guess I wanted to let you know that people may be smiling and acting responsibly and professionally getting the job done and laughing and being silly, but there is still grief there, and it’s okay to put it out there in the world. It’s okay to be a forty something year old grown a$$ woman and feel like: I miss my mommy. And it’s okay to have happiness and sadness at the same time and I guess that’s life. ❤️💔❤️