I used to write a blog about my life, and the hilarity that ensued when attempting to turn wild little monsters (AKA, my kids) into mostly decent people. I also talked a bit about the struggles of being an “autism mom”, though the actual struggle was severely downplayed. People loved this blog. I’m not saying that because I personally wrote it and think that anything I’ve written naturally comes with a dash of amazing. I’m saying it because I was told repeatedly by people I barely knew, or had never met, how much they enjoyed it. It was funny, they would tell me, these strangers. It was so nice and refreshing for someone to look at these difficult things and find the humor in them. And, I guess, it was. For them. But I wasn’t laughing. Not really. I was locking myself in my closet and crying for hours. I was silently wishing that someone, anyone would just make it all stop.
Then one day, I stopped writing. I don’t just mean on the blog either, I mean I literally stopped doing the only thing I had left that gave me a sense of self, altogether. Because I couldn’t find the funny anymore. And when I wrote about the moments that hurt, when I wrote about the things that scared me so badly I couldn’t sleep for days, nobody wanted to read it. I’d get asked, “When are you going to start writing about all the funny things they do?” Well… there’s only so long I can pretend that cleaning my kid’s shit off a ceiling fan like some sort of twisted zookeeper is funny, my friend. People were, from my perspective, disappointed. So, I stopped.
Because my struggles were not funny anymore.
Now, that’s not entirely true. And I am writing this to be entirely truthful. With you, whoever you may be, and with me, most of all. I am determined to live my own truth. It wasn’t that there was no humor to be found. It was just that I couldn’t find it. I was angry, and sad, and confused, and lonely, and hurting so deeply in some places that I was convinced I was going to hemorrhage and die. Postpartum depression split me open from stem to stern, and without any real idea of what was happening to me, all of the things that I loved the most about myself silently started slipping away.
What I didn’t know at the time, and what I have since learned, is that postpartum is a hellacious beast. And, just like the more than 3 million women it affects every year, it comes in an unending variety of shapes and sizes. In the seven and a half years since my youngest son was born I have learned a lot about this disorder, and it is very likely that I will share what I have learned on a future post. But that’s not what I’m here for today.
Today, I am here to admit some hard truths. Today I am writing this in the hopes that my struggles; past, present, and future, may help someone else. Today I am writing this as a tool to help me become the best version of myself. Because I have changed. Dramatically. I am not the person that I was all those years ago. Not by a long shot. And I’m not even close to the person I want to be tomorrow. Seven and a half years ago I began a downhill slide, one so subtle I didn’t even notice it was happening. Until I was so deeply buried, the idea of digging myself out seemed impossible.
So many things contributed to this drastic and terrifying change. I am sure that over time I will dissect those miserable memories, even when I don’t want to. But here is what it boils down to. Here is the place I was in when I finally woke up. I was suddenly blinking at my strange new surroundings and wondering to myself, “Where is this, and how did I get here?”.
I was angry. I mean, really angry. Not just mad, not a bit irritated. I was absolutely furious. With everything. With everyone. With my husband, with my kids, with my friends and family. But above all else, I was so very angry at myself. I cannot think of a single point throughout my entire life that I could say I was filled with such unyielding self-loathing. I hated what I had become. I hated who I had become. How could I let this happen to myself? Where did I go? What have I done to my life? I was also terrified. I’ve never been so bone-deep frightened. And that’s saying something, given some of the things my kids have put me through. Who am I supposed to be now? How am I supposed to be that person? Where did I go?!
The unnecessary anger wasn’t new. My shameful lack of patience wasn’t new. I had been living in some weird fog for so long, and now I’ve woken up to discover that I have damaged the people that I love the most in this world. I have allowed hurt and anger to spread through my house like some 14th-century plague. I’ve got one kid who is half convinced I hate him. I’ve got another one who is so incapable of handling his emotions he never would have made it through the last school year if he hadn’t won the grand prize in the lottery of teachers.
I did this. I let this happen.
So, now what do I do?
Answering the question is the easy part. Actually following through is where the going gets tough. Now, I have to fix it. Now, I need to face the demons I have created. Now, I need to climb my ass out of this hole that I have dug, so I can face the mountain before me. Now, I need to be the person that not just my family needs, but that I need me to be.
Sounds easy enough, right?
I had experienced a few little snaps back to reality over the years, but every time it happened, I would find myself so overwhelmed by the immensity of it that I’d slide right back into my familiar fog. Until one day I didn’t.
My first real, hard snap back to reality happened about two years ago. My husband and I were fighting. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what we were fighting about. The constant push and pull of conflict was such a commonality in our marriage at that point that we could have been arguing about him forgetting to put something on the grocery list. Now, don’t get me wrong. We weren’t screaming obscenities at each other, or screaming at all for that matter. We weren’t being abusive or mean, we just weren’t getting along.
I opened my eyes one morning, and he wasn’t there. He wasn’t there because he’d left for a trip that had been planned for quite some time. It wasn’t that he was gone that bothered me. It was that he’d left without saying a single word to me. My first reaction, petty and small though it may be, was relief. I thought, at least we won’t be arguing. And then it hit me. Hard. This was my life. I was laying in my bed, with my children sleeping in their beds, and I was relieved that my husband had left for a week without saying goodbye to me. How is okay?
It wasn’t. It isn’t. And I knew it. Right then, in that moment, I knew my life was not okay. I spent that entire week running around like my hair was on fire. Taking in the state of my life. My kids, my marriage, my whole self. When reality finally crashed down around me, it hit hard. I threw up. A lot. I was violently, painfully ill. I had to keep sticking my head between my knees and silently willing myself to breathe as the full breadth of my life hit me with the force of a mac truck falling out of an airliner. I didn’t sleep for two days. Images of my life kept playing on forced repeat in the front of my mind, and I thought I might actually go crazy.
I didn’t go crazy. And eventually, the panic attacks stopped. Which is when the thinking started. My life had to change. I had to change.
Now, let me stop and be clear on something here. I was not, by any means, suddenly fine. I did not just wake up and suddenly everything was clear and focused. At this point in time, I barely registered the changes that were happening in my children. This is a horrible, heartbreaking, sickening thing to admit, and I can’t even type the words without crying. So many things were going on in my boys’ hearts and minds and lives that I was not connected with. Oh sure, we went places, or did things, and I was there at school functions and IEP meetings, and all the other necessary things a stay at home mom is expected to be at. Once, I even tried to be PTA secretary, which by the way, was an unmitigated disaster. But I was not there. I was coming back, I was waking up, but I still had such a long road to travel.
I spent that week doing some of the most intense soul searching I had ever done in my life. Was I happy? Uh, no. Clearly. Was I doing my family any favors by being so unhappy? No, definitely not. Why was I so unhappy? Oh man, don’t get me started. The list of reasons I gave myself that day for my own self-loathing and misery were embarrassing in many ways, enlightening in many others, and some of them, quite frankly, were freaking ridiculous. But again, I remind you, I was still encased in a shell of depression that had only just started to fracture. So, I’m going to give myself some grace. Because what really matters here, is that it had fractured.
Over the last two years, I’ve taken many steps forward. And I’ve taken quite a few steps back. When my husband got home from his trip we had a meeting of the minds the likes of which we hadn’t seen in a long time. There was, and still is, a lot of damage. There’s scar tissue, and hurt, and resentment, and anger on both sides. But there’s also love. And a determination to fix the problems, and build a future. Together. That week I made a decision I had been playing with for years. I decided to go back to school. And I did.
Some things changed. I started taking classes, which I’ve wholly enjoyed. Except for the moments when my true inner monster rears her ugly head, and I start to convince myself I cannot possibly do it. What right do you have to dedicate so much time to this ridiculous endeavor? You’ll never finish anyway. And seriously, your kids have eaten hot dogs like three times this week. This is how you become a better person? Really? Those moments are real, and intense, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be rid of them. But for now, every day, I win the small internal battles, and I push on.
And while I will take those moments of triumph for what they are, I have come to realize that a lot more things haven’t changed. I’m still impatient. I’m still angry and resentful. I am nowhere near the person or mother I want to be, and I have only just realized how much my words and actions have impacted the hearts and minds of my children. I started a yoga challenge last month. 60 days of yoga, in the studio, every day. I signed up because I thought it would be nice to give myself an excuse to get out of my house and away from my family, since we are all piled on top of one another at the moment (yay summer vacation!). What I didn’t realize, was that I would find such striking clarity while doing so.
I did not change over the last two years. Not in the ways it matters most. My internal dialogue is still filled with such vitriol, it’s appalling. My kids are constantly at each other’s throats, and the anger I see in them is a direct reflection of my own. I’m impatient, all of the time. Once again, the lightning struck, and reality crashed in. Only this time, I wasn’t a sobbing mess on my bathroom floor. I was laying in savasana, listening to the guy next to me breathe like a leaking firehose. It took everything I had not to sit up and shout to the room “This is NOT me! This is not who I am!” And it isn’t. I refuse to let it be. I will not allow this miserable bitch who has invaded my mind exist anymore.
I am done with her.
So, I’m not who I was. And I’m not who I am. Where the hell does that leave me?
With a long journey ahead of me. I need to consciously shift my perspectives. I need to stop seeing my children with a critical eye, and start seeing them with a loving eye. I need to stop telling myself how horrible I am, and start giving myself the grace I need to heal and become the woman I am meant to be.
Which leads me to this blog. And you. If you managed to get this far, and really, give yourself a pat on the back for that, because this is one really long post. I’m starting my own happiness project. If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry. I’m not one hundred percent certain yet myself, and I read the book. But I’m going to find out. Maybe we will find out together. Because I’m revamping this blog.
This place where I used to hide my pain with laughter. This place that was both weirdly sacred, and a cause of personal torture. I’m taking this place back. I am going to give it new life. I am going to put myself out there, warts and all.
This was the hardest thing I have written in a very long time. It’s not fun to peel back the curtain and expose all of your shortcomings to the world. It’s harder still because some of the readers may be people I know personally. Maybe you? I had initially planned on this being posted anonymously, because I’m terrified to think of someone I know and respect reading these thoughts and thinking less of me for them. But, I am living my truth. And that means no more hiding. So, if you know me, and even if not, I only ask that you reserve judgment. Because this isn’t an easy thing for me to do. But I think it may be a necessary one.
Life can be hard. But it is so much harder when we are horrible to ourselves. When our perspectives are so skewed in the wrong direction we can’t even see what we are doing to ourselves and our loved ones. It doesn’t have to be like that. We don’t have to be like that.