Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Taking Off Old Band-Aids

Over a month ago I received a F'book message from my cousin, M. I'm not sure quite how long it had been since we last saw each other but we guesstimated a year and a half. I think it had been nearly as long since I'd spoken to him or my aunt or vice versa, so definitely a bit of growing apart that so often happens in life.

I've written about my family dynamic a few times but it bears repeating or rehashing as I'm still in the midst of figuring all my feelings out and it's part of what is happening in my life lately.

Remembering my childhood I recall a lot of discussion about family. Mostly about how my immediate family wasn't very close to my relatives (usually as a response to me and my siblings' jealousy of other family units).

We saw my dad's side of the family a few times a year, and after my grandparents died usually only once a year at the family gift exchange and maybe at our family's 4th of July BBQ. We saw my mom's side of the family more often and the only relatives I recall ever "being close" to were my Aunt S and cousin M.

Aunt S and cousin M were the relatives I remember coming to graduations, seeing around the holidays, going to fairs with during the fall and summer, or just getting together with for games or a dinner party. M was the only cousin I remember really getting to know, being excited to see, or feel that knew me at all.

In addition to my blood family there are some close family friends that I consider family. My childhood neighbors R & I, and their daughter D and her husband P. My mother's best friend from college K and her children were like an extra aunt and cousins to me as well. My mother's teacher friend S and her family are also important to me and have been a great source of support for our family. For the most part I saw these people more often than relatives growing up.

I would say the status quo for my family involved seeing my Aunt S and cousin M several times a year, my other relatives a couple times a year, and my extra family friends often throughout the year. I remember being about 16 or 17 when I felt things beginning to change.

I don't know what the overarching story for my family was during this time, but for me I was growing up and getting new perspective (not accurate or good or bad, just new) and whether related or not, feeling and dealing with my depression for the first time.

From the middle of high school through college and even today I felt immense sadness for my Aunt S and for my family. With my depression and anxiety it quickly became overwhelming to see my Aunt S. I could not stand the sadness and despair I felt around her. Why so sad? Because my aunt is a chain smoker and killing herself. It sounds cliche but she has multiple surgeries under her belt, a cancer scare, difficulties walking and has never (to my knowledge) stopped smoking. Slowly I began to see less and less of Aunt S until we no longer knew how to talk to each other. It hurts me very much and I'm crying typing this, but that's what has happened. In turn, I saw much much less of my cousin M as well.

To complicate an already complicated transition period from childhood relationship to adult relationship, my other cousin J reappeared after nearly a decade absence. Where was he? Well, I had been led to assume he was in Bali but he was in prison. There was never a sit down discussion about this just secrecy, lying, and withholding information. In the end I found out from a friend of my aunt's, afterward that friend told my aunt what she had told me and Aunt S started talking about J like I knew the whole story, but she never told me herself. Eventually my mom apologized for not figuring out a way to tell me after I grew up (he initially went away when I was in grade school) but it's still a taboo and most of what she told me felt like a therapy session for her not a dialogue. So yeah.

I understand not telling the whole truth to a child, but withholding that information through high school and college, never discussing it... It really stung me. I suppose all the years I had been so close to my mom and aunt made it sting all the worse. Especially when the close relationship I had with my mom was a confusing codependency where I was sometimes made to feel like a companion or co-parent instead of a daughter, but that's a whole 'nother crazy story!

Basically, the relationship with my aunt and cousin started a downhill slide years ago was further complicated by my sense of betrayal over my invisible cousin J and then (from what I gather) further hindered by arguments and grudges between my mom, aunt, and their brother. What's all that amount to? A whole lot of distance, words unsaid, closeted feelings, and awkwardness.

So where does that put me today? Well, today I saw my cousin for the first time in over a year, maybe closer to two years. We walked Green Lake and caught up on each other's lives (he's moving out of the state soon and engaged to be married which kinda helped spur contacting me outta the blue) and while I tried to keep my cool, I cried a bit.

Things are still as confusing as ever. Our mothers aren't talking and he doesn't know what happened between them just as I have no clue. But solving our family's issues wasn't what I took from the visit. What struck me were the parallels between me and my cousin.

Both of us are in that marrying stage of life, he's engaged and I'm a newlywed. Both of us are working on ourselves, our emotional issues, our baggage, our relationships and thinking about kids. Both of us carry specific struggles with our moms, more precisely issues being typecast as "primary support person" instead of simply daughter or son. And both of us seem to desire that family we never had, or at least the family we miss having.

I wouldn't say there was any resolution to anything this afternoon, it certainly left me in an emotional tizzy! But I think it was important and valuable to see my cousin and have him tell me he loves me and tell him I love him too. I don't know where things go from here. All I know is I'm sad, I'm glad, I'm worried, I'm anxious, but I'm trying to simply be and remember that I can't help anyone until I help myself and I can't help anyone that won't help themselves first. M and I reiterated that numerous times today, "It's not our jobs to fix everything!" Ha!

Right now, I'm still reeling. I haven't had a therapist for a couple months now so sorting through my family issues had taken a back burner before being thrown in the fire today! But I've felt the sadness, worried about the relationship between my brother and sister and myself, wondered what type of support system my children will have, or I would have as a mother. I've felt lonely and today brought that back to the surface for me. Sure, it hurts and it makes me cry but I don't think it's a bad thing.

As an adult I've come to realize that families are always changing even though we like to think of them as stationary, reliable things they may actually be more like living, breathing entities. I can't say I know what a "functional" family looks like (then again, who does?) but I'm starting to see that a healthy family requires nourishment, exercise, and care just like any other living thing.

Feelings will be hurt, contact waxes and wanes, but love remains. A lot of families are out of practice, a lot of families don't quite have a language with which to conduct repairs and improvements, but the simple act of thinking, caring, and trying is worth the while. I may fail, I may be rebuked, I may be hurt, but the close family I want and miss isn't going to fall out of the sky. It's only as close as I'm willing to reach.

So I'll try. It may mean baby steps, it may mean popping a Xanax and charging into unknown territory, but I owe it to myself and the ones I love to try.

In other news, I saw Dave Matthews today without realizing it. Kind of a creepy moment while waiting for drinks at Starbucks. My initial reaction was, "Eek!" and thinking he was a hobo with a Dave Matthews complex wanting me to say he looked like Dave Matthews (had some grey-faced gauntness happening) but after the excited titters once he left I realized that was no hobo! That was Dave Matthews!

Fio goes to the groomer Friday bright and early (good grief I hope he kicks these "allergies" soon!) and Iroh has something funny stuck to his ear that I've yet to wash off (and the parenting award goes to...) and Millie came out of the catbox with litter on her nose recently. That pleased me, in a "ha, that's what you get!" sort of way. :)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What A Day

What a day, in a bad way! I think?

This Saturday I went to a meeting for my local doula organization, PALS. The phone message invitation I received was pretty vague and foreboding so I drove the half-hour south into downtown Seattle and tried not to let my mind run away with worst case scenarios.

The worst case scenario I envisioned? PALS was going under, my money and time commitment to certify through them would be wasted and I'd become even more isolated as a single practice doula in Snohomish County.

That I could've dealt with. Walking into a brain storm about how to save PALS and become "anti-racist" was not.

Three hours of group discussions about an issue I wasn't even aware of! Apparently a couple years back a new doula attended a meeting and was the only "doula of color" and subsequently made comments about PALS being racist and "white."

As it stands now the organization has 4 volunteer board members in over their heads and a couple of committees with 2-5 members, one of which is focused on eradicating racism. The few doula community events they host are subject to last minute day-of cancellations and overall the members just don't have the support they need and desire. They aren't a sustainable organization with only member fees for revenue and now they're reevaluating the entire organization.

A handful of volunteers for an organization supposed to be about supporting hundreds of doulas in the Puget Sound.

It's a mess.

The entire meeting I tried to wrap my head around anti-racism and how PALS became embroiled in a race overhaul in the midst of struggling to remain in existence, period. I struggled to rein myself in from breaking into "Fix-It" mode and found myself in a mental tailspin for the rest of the afternoon.

Thankfully another doula I knew at the meeting reassured me after I expressed my confusion and shock. She said, "We can only do what we can, when we can." The perfect comment for an overwhelmed Hannah.

As it stands, I can't entangle myself in the PALS debacle anytime soon. I haven't found them to be a source of support (especially since I already gave up driving to Seattle for therapy, driving there for a could-be meeting ain't on my to do list) and I've decided to look for other doula groups in Snohomish County. Not to mention ornament season is gearing up and I'm about to become very preoccupied.

I  still don't know what I think about the whole mess. I still don't know what I think about "anti-racism." Apparently my certification reading list is racist and white. I had no clue! I feel a sting from the whole thing, like I'm not good enough and just because I don't spend hours contemplating race relations I am racist.

Not sure if I will ever experience resolution, this may just be a lifelong confusion for me. It sure seems like that for a lot of people.

In other news, the hubster and I have taken to removing Fio's collar at night so his licking and scratching won't be so annoying. Need to pump more Benadryl into that mutt (holy cow, hubby just got up to give Fio meds as I typed that)! Millie gave the hubster front row seats to a puking, which he was fascinated by, and Iroh has been adorable napping on the couch at all hours. Although sometimes we have to evict him since he steals the hubby's favorite spot.

I've been practicing drawing and while I still have major confidence issues I have really been enjoying the practice, even if it means covering my hands in slick graphite dust and sprinkling eraser shavings all over my desk and lap!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Obsessive Thoughts

I never really identified with the symptom "obsessive thoughts" until the past few weeks.

I am not sure what clicked for me but I'm pretty sure things fell into place while I was tossing and turning in bed one night.

Many, many years I have struggled to fall asleep. I can usually sleep through the night but since grade school I've taken at least 45 minutes to upwards of 4 hours just to get to sleep.

It sucks.

Tuesday night/Wednesday morning was a horrendous example of my shitty sleeping. The hub and I were in bed before 9:45 pm but by 12:45 am I had not fallen asleep. I decided to grab my blanket and pillow and hit the couch but that didn't exactly solve the problem. I was able to doze for a few hours all together before the hubby coached me back to bed and left for work. I laid in bed for a couple hours but couldn't get back to sleep.

So what about those obsessive thoughts, right?

It's not just when I'm trying to sleep but that is when I first recognized my thoughts being especially problematic. When I'm trying to sleep I usually whip up a fun dream to occupy my mind until I drift off. Lately I've been noticing my thoughts interrupting my dream sequences and I cannot distract myself from the rehashing, worrying, and wondering. It seems to go right along with my shoulder tension. All those recurring thoughts get me tense, my shoulders start creeping toward my ears and I can forget about sleep.

The same thing happens during the day. I'll be going along hunky dory and then SWOOP my mind is off on an all too familiar track analyzing, fretting, and basically hijacking my day.

What are these thoughts about, you wonder? Well, there is quite a variety but the usual mix involves some variety of social/relationship anxiety with a dash of rehashing past events and a large portion of predicting the future with a sprinkling of paranoia all awash in skewed perspective.

What gets me is how sticky these thoughts are! Whether it's keeping me up all night or following me around all day they cause problems. The hubster is sick of hearing me sigh and vocalize or hum as I'm trying to get these thoughts out of my head and no matter how we work things through or chat it out, the thoughts persist.

These thoughts take up my head space, my air time, and prevent me from living my life. My brain is so overactive I can be opening the dishwasher, preparing to do dishes and then worry myself back to the couch in a few seconds on a completely unrelated matter. I get overwhelmed, panicked, and damn near delirious. Forget about leaving the apartment, too overwhelming. Forget about making plans, I can't make myself lunch.

My thoughts are dysfunctional. My thoughts are recurring. My thoughts are obsessive and my brain's brake pedal isn't working!

Calming techniques and reassuring myself seems to help. Many of the thoughts seem based in fear so I can sometimes calm myself down and sort of coddle myself back into doing something. It may take three tries to do the dishes, but maybe tomorrow it will only take two!

It's like quicksand, get caught up in the moment and you're trapped but take a few seconds to collect yourself and be calm and you just might get out.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Like A Slug

Like a slug, I am cruising. And by cruising, I mean slugging.

My life has jumped the rails recently, but not in a fiery obvious way, in a very discrete didn't-quite-catch-it way. Think of an action movie where the hero is on the ground but you didn't see the punch that landed him there. That's life right now. Startling change that kinda snuck up on me.

Thinking back on the last few months I can see where things went wrong. At the time I just denied the impact of my actions, or in this case inactions.

In July I was doing pretty well. I had been seeing a variety of care providers and was actually starting to care for myself. It's a difficult thing for me to care for myself, whether that be emotionally/mentally or through my actions, but I was nearly into a new pattern.

The problem came in the mail or over the phone, I can't remember which, but it was insurance related. Again. In the end it all worked out, but it shut me down.

I went to my last appointments in July then cancelled my planned acupuncture and ND appointments based upon my insurance anxieties. That in itself wasn't terrible but neglecting to hassle the insurance company and reschedule those appointments has landed me here, halfway through September without any support, not taking supplements, sleeping in excess of 10 hours a day and in danger of backsliding even further.

Things weren't perfect in August. I stopped taking my supplements and took less walks with the hub and Fio but I was busy with doula work and distracted from my dysfunction. This month, it's all about me and looking at what I've lost.

I know it's my responsibility, but I feel abandoned by my care providers. They've contacted me and say they are trying to work through the insurance crap but I feel sick about it all. Deep down I know I've betrayed myself, again. I'm punishing myself. Withholding help, trying to tell myself "buck up and improve or just curl up and die."

And even with these realizations I do not take action. I am stuck in a mental molasses, waiting for a white knight's grasp to haul me out and affirm that I matter enough to be saved.

I still don't have the capacity to save myself. This is a sad thing. Yet even with my grim thoughts I see these words as a good thing, a step in the right direction.

Maybe tomorrow I'll be my own white knight.

In other news, the cats are the easy ones lately as Fio has been scratching and licking himself to baldness with "summer allergies." The vet said Benadryl as he needs it but that isn't exactly gonna regrow the hair on his little tail nub. Very attractive. Blegh!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Nope, Still Here!

Had a couple births over the last few weeks and kinda got distracted from the blog.

Okay, that's not the only reason I haven't blogged but it's a big part of it. After a birth I'm usually out of things for a few days and August had two births crammed into it but I've also been hiding.

When I'm on top of taking my pills and supplements I use a weekly pill planner (two actually) and fill them weekly as I run out. Well after the first birth I didn't refill them and stopped taking most everything. After the second birth, I didn't refill them and still wasn't taking anything. I've popped a thyroid medication intermittently maybe twice a week but I've pretty much ceased all other supplements.

I kept it from hubster because I knew he wouldn't be pleased. I'm not very pleased with myself either!

The pills are one thing, but another down-on-my-health bother is my right hip. It's been bugging me for weeks now, usually only when I've been sitting on a hard surface for too long but occasionally after driving or even sitting on the couch.

I think it's because I've been so inactive and haven't been doing yoga for months now. At least that makes sense to me and I don't recall any injuries. Either way, it makes me hobble like an old crone until things unlock and start working again, thankfully it usually goes away with a few minutes of walking.

I seem to have aggravated my already annoying shoulder knot, but shoulder tension is a pretty regular part of my life so just a teensy more bothered by that lately! Need to suck it up and do some dang yoga already!

Otherwise, I've had a few down days but overall haven't taken a huge dip (thankfully). I know I'm walking the line and need to get my butt back in gear though, no need to tempt fate and the suicide gremlin (why yes, that's what I call it).

In other news, I went to British Columbia with my sister for a couple days this week and had a really good time. I sweated like a pig and stunk up the place but still enjoyed the trip and even the rain and thunderstorms (dang humidity I could've done without!).

Fio went to the vet and she deemed his recent scratching and skin irritation to be summer allergies that shouldn't need medication just the occasional Benadryl based on symptoms. Also said he should get a professional teeth cleaning next year and have his anal glands done soon. Lovely. That conversation led the hubby and I to this video:

We laughed and cringed. What mature pet owners we be!