April 21, 2018

All or nothing


I’m working out. Every day, I plot out ways to hit my 10k step goal, and I feel a little panicky if I miss the gym more than 1 day in a row. I’m eating very carefully. I have a food diary app that I carefully update, I plan out my meals and snacks, and I toss back what feels like gallons of water every day. Oh, I’m not starving myself, just being ever so careful to keep it healthy and controlled. When I don’t, though, when the calorie count gets a little too much over the budget, I get a little panicky, too. Then I have to make sure I work out that day and the next, too, just in case.

It’s kinda obsessive. I get that.

 It’s also pretty much exactly the opposite of how I was the past 6 months or so. Then, I was mindlessly binge eating while finding it incredibly difficult to get off the couch. I was exhausted, so tired that I’d look up and hours would have passed with absolutely nothing done at all, except for the quick and shameful fast food run to yet another drive thru window. I bought cookies and chips to keep around the house as “treats” for the kids and then I ate them all myself, feeling sick every bite of the way.

It was kinda depressive. I get that.

When I get to how I am right now, when the switch flips and I feel motivated and confident and goal-oriented, I try to make the most of it. And it’s not that hard, it’s really not. There’s also the uplifting fact that when I actually DO get started on something (exercising, eating healthy, writing, volunteering), it pushes the depressive times back. That’s the whole object in motion stays in motion trick. But it’s hard, too. I worry about slowing down, or missing a week from the routine, or taking a “cheat day”. There’s no such think in my world. If I cheat one day, then there’s another and another and another. Then I think, well, I’ll just get back to it tomorrow. And so on… you get it.

In either scenario, motivated or depressed, the common theme remains. I feel anxious.

When I’m depressed, I worry that I’m gaining weight, that the health problems eating away at my older family members will consume me, too. I worry my husband will be disgusted and annoyed at my lack of ANYTHING, that I’ll never get off the couch, that I’m failing my kids. I worry I’m setting a terrible example of laziness and poor health for my kids, that I won’t be able to play with them, that I’ll get old and fat and miserable and will have to watch my grandchildren play from a Lazyboy recliner, because I wasted away my chance at strength and energy and health and can’t get out of my damn chair.

On the flipside, I worry about failing again. I worry that I’m creating body image issues for the girls by actively dieting and exercising. I worry about skipping a workout, scheduling my week so I won’t have to miss it. Getting to the end of day without my 10k steps is devastating. Eating over my calorie goal is infuriating. I worry about weekends, when my husband cooks and there’s always the Sunday Morning Big Breakfast. I get angry when he, in his effortlessly thin body, flippantly talks about everything in moderation and balance and blah blah blah. I worry about the glass of wine or Saturday night cocktail that I want, but don’t think I’ve earned.

It’s all bullshit. I get that.

Other people have some balance. Other people can work out and then eat some nachos without counting the number of chips. Other people can take a day to binge watch Netflix with a side of Wendy’s and not have it ruin their week. Other people have their shit together. I bet it feels nice.

This is my brain, my bipolar II carousel, in real life. Ups, downs, wonky anxiety. The occasional panic attack. No actual reason, in a lovely and secure lifestyle, to feel that way. I know, I take meds to control this. I know, I can admit, they’re not working as well as they used to. But I’m not ready to fuck with it yet. A mild depressive episode is NOTHING compared to the horrified panic and terror I feel even THINKING about being experimented on again with brain altering drugs. Call it PTSD, call it whatever the hell you want. It’s something I have nightmares about. Literally. Mostly, it’s about the drug with the side effect of “night time paralysis”. That’s where I woke up at midnight to find myself drowning and frozen in quicksand and my voice swallowed in my chest. FOR HOURS. I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t move, I could barely breathe. It finally stopped the moment that Kurt reached over and touched my shoulder to say good morning. Then it let go, suddenly, and I started bawling.

So, no. There will be no new meds. And I’m not that bad off, all things considered. In fact, I’m pretty good. I feel healthy; for all that I am worried about not going to the gym tomorrow and already planning to just take a quick run through the neighborhood in the morning even if it’s raining. That’s not a bad thing. Plus, the more I take care of myself, the easier it is to take care of myself, and the better it feels to take care of myself long-term. Of course, I start to drive people nuts talking about all the ways I’m taking care of myself and how they should, too. But whatever.

You take the good with the bad and the bad with the good. That’s life.

February 21, 2018

Please don't die today

I'm having a major struggle in my heart every morning. When my son has a mini-fit because I want him to stop wrestling with the dog and get upstairs and brush those teeth. When my daughters don't come downstairs until 5 minutes before we need to leave. When we're rushing out the door, late AGAIN. The whole time, I'm thinking, "Is this their last memory? Me fussing at them and getting annoyed? What if they die today, alone, scared and bleeding and the last memory they have of me is rolling my eyes because they can't find their shoes?"

I'm dropping them off and trying to remember their faces, just that way, in just that moment. I'm whispering "Please don't die today" as I drive off.

We're researching moving to another COUNTRY, for fuck's sake, just so I can take them to school without having a panic attack every morning.

And the worst part? The most horrible, horrible part? I know for a fact that in a few weeks, it'll be better. Oh, don't get me wrong, it won't be perfect. I won't feel safe for them, but the cutting reality of it will fade. I'll go back to just rolling my eyes and digging for shoes. I'll feel that moment of relief when they hop out of the car so I can go and get my coffee and start my day. The fear will fade. Until the next time.

A lot of people were annoyed about the way the news was tossing around the number 18 for school shootings this year. I saw an opinion piece about that number being open to serious interpretation. One comment stood out to me. It said it was important to remember it was really just the one time this year, that most of the other "18" didn't qualify as a real event.

Just the one.

I responded simply, "Kentucky high school shooting. Three weeks ago." Her response? "Sorry, I missed that one, but still, not 18."

She missed that one. The death toll was only 2, after all. The injured are all going to survive, basically. It's not 18. We're debating what level of gun activity qualifies as worthy of notice. I was so angry. I wanted to write back some scathing retort, but I couldn't talk because guess what? I'd had to google the shooting, to make sure I was remembering it correctly. I had already forgotten, too.

I can't decide what's worse. Feeling this constant ache every morning that I will never see them again, or slowly feeling better because I've already started to forget.

January 23, 2018

Take it down a size? Thoughts on a big house

In the mornings, I go upstairs and wake the kids up. This involves walking through the main living room (as opposed to the formal sitting room) with it's lofty ceilings, up the curved staircase, down a hallway and into a corner bedroom. Both my girls are sleeping in the one big bed. Because I am awesome, I put my ice cold hands on their warm and cozy skin and start to roll them around from the hips and shoulders. “Say words”, I demand. “I need to know you’re up, so say words to me”.

From somewhere in the pile of mussed hair and pillows, I hear, “mmmuum ughhh, WORDS.”

I’ll take it.

Next, I go back across the hallway, which is open on both sides to the room below. I grab my son’s clothes from his room. Because guess what? He is not IN his room. No, he is back in my room, downstairs, snuggled in MY bed. So off I go back downstairs, drop off the boy’s clothes, shake him awake again, and go to the kitchen. Then it's breakfast, pack lunches and snacks. I drink my coffee, which is already cold.

I wait.

The clock ticks.

Instead of making another round through the house, I stand in the open living room and yell. A full-throated call to arms, to make sure they hear me around the corners and doors.

“BREAKFAST IS READY! ARE YOU UP? TIME TO GET UP, RIGHT NOW!”

Changing bulbs? Not so much.
I have learned, after 5 years in this house, two things. First, the damn place echoes like the inside of a bell. Any noise in the living room bounces off the high ceilings and ricochets off the walls. Yet, strangely, the bizarre acoustics don't extend to the bedrooms. Go figure.

Second, the mere act of yelling makes me angry. I can be calling up to express my eternal love but by the time they respond, my body will be full of irritated angst. I call this the Banshee Effect. Also, being yelled at makes the other person feel pissed off, too. Now, sure. I could run back upstairs and do the whole routine again. But it’s not really practical. Plus, you know, exercise. Ew.

Eventually everyone is downstairs. They’re eating. I’m drinking my microwave-warmed coffee. Then, it starts again. “Go upstairs, wash your hands, brush your teeth, then come right back down. We need to go.”

Go. Up. Stairs. Those three syllables steal another 15 minutes off my life.

If you made it this far, kudos. If you gave up, I don’t blame you. I feel the same way.

We have 5 bedrooms in this house, including a guest room. They are "split bedrooms", which just means each is tucked away in separate corners of the house.Two of them are for sleeping, apparently. The other three are glorified closets. In a funny twist, we also have 4 bathrooms, which they manage to use and fully desecrate daily. Easier to poop around then sleep around, I guess. (Fingers crossed that’s always true). 

The point I'm try to make is my house, more and more, feels too damn big (and, clearly, we are not morning people). I'm certainly not the first person to think about this, either. I love this place, I do. I love that we painted it all our favorite colors. I love that the kids have a playroom where they actually, you know, play (sometimes). I love that my husband has a functioning sound-proofed office in the form of the media room*, where he can work and also rock out on his guitar. (Okay, actually, I’m super jealous of the sound-proofed office, with its very own door to shut us all out as needed. But I digress. As usual.)

I love our kitchen and cozy “breakfast nook”, which we use as just a plain old dining room. I love that I get to use the “formal dining room” as my own little office (which doesn’t have a door and is wide open and where everyone comes and dumps shit on my desk and digs through my drawers and takes all my pens).

It’s a beautiful home. It’s just too much. The vaulted living room ceiling and wall of windows make it near impossible to heat or cool effectively. The scattered bedrooms create even more distance in a family of introverts that are already avoiding people. There’s a wet bar in the upstairs game room, where we pile all the random toys and boxes and crap that we don’t know where else to put, because, strangely, with all this space, the house has only one, tiny linen/storage closet. The downstairs guest room suite, which initially was a huge selling point, is basically pointless for our needs. We got it so our older family members, when they visited, wouldn’t have to use the stairs. But in reality, we get almost no visitors. Having a dedicated empty room for 95% of the time is just a waste of space.
Hard to get to the booze in this bar
It’s easy here to just melt off into a corner somewhere and never be seen or heard from again—at least until someone starts bellowing your name and stomping up the stairs to get you. And cleaning? Good Lord. Don't get me started on cleaning it. Let's just say that thing about "the more space you have, the more you fill" is very, very true.

It was our dream house. It's perfect in a lot of ways, except that now the dream, at least for me, has changed. The more time I spend in these walls, as the kids get older, the more I look around thinking about how much we just don’t need and how easily it can keep us apart.


*A media room is a Texas thing. Since we don't get basements here, pretty much all the houses seem to have a windowless, sound-proof room that you're supposed to use for movies or music or murder or man-caves. I rarely go into ours, so I'm not super clear what Kurt does in there, besides work. He's a pretty balanced guy, though, so probably everything gets equal time.

January 18, 2018

It’s been awhile, huh?


You know that whole thing about “an object in motion stays in motion” and “an object at rest stays at rest”? Thank you, Newton. You just aptly described my writing life. Starting about 5 years ago, maybe even a little longer, I slowed down. It started with the move to Texas. I got busy, I got distracted. I got depressed. Then I slowed down some more.

Finally, I just stopped. Stopped writing the blog, stopped writing essays and stories and letters, stopped chronicling my children’s days and memories. These days, more and more, I find myself writing in my head and then watching it vanish like mist when I try to put pen to paper. It’s frustrating, depressing, and incredibly discouraging. Why bother? I’ve gone this long without thinking out loud, why start now?

Everything came to a tipping point last year. I went through a pretty extensive relapse of depression and crippling anxiety—or more accurately, it went through me, full of jagged edges. Add to that (and because of that) marriage counseling, extended family worries, and the daily realities as a mom of 3, and I was a right solid mess. We’d gotten to the point where I was scrambling my meds with the doctor, popping anxiety pills before social interactions of any kind (Grocery store? Hell, no.) and contemplating maybe just never leaving the house again. Or my bed. Ever.

EVER.

Welcome to the wild ride of bipolar disorder, my friends. Eight years of doing pretty much fine, with little lapses here and there, then I cracked wide open. It's taken some work, some naps, and a shitload of love and patience from Kurt, but in the last few months I’ve come back together. The edges aren’t a perfect fit anymore, but they’re close enough. It's been at least two months now without panic-induced chest pains and hysterical sobbing, so that's cool. I mostly don't think my friends all hate me and my husband wants to ditch me. I've decided, most days, that I'm not damaging my children as a failed mother- at least not more than normal. It's fun, right now, just enjoying my kids- and noticing that they enjoy me, too. As long as I'm not being totally embarrassing, of course.

(I still think my dog is disappointed in me, but since the whole family agrees she’s depressed, I’m not going to take it personally.)

"You're a good girl, Marcy. What a good girl you are!"

This is all not to say that I’m suddenly a Changed Woman of Mighty Resolve and Glowing Confidence, not in the slightest. I know I've still got crap to work through, but I feel like, probably, I'm up for it. But I feel more… here. I feel better.

I’ve been working on my words, mostly in private. I’ve written dozens of halves. Half a blog post, half a story, half a journal, half a letter. It’s… a start.

So, there’s my 2018 resolution, or recovery, or leap of faith. I’m taking some halves and putting them together. I’ll mix them all up in a pile, cut and paste, hope and gulp. Then maybe I’ll end up with something whole. Something new.  A beginning.


November 04, 2013

Nine Easy Steps for a Successful Child's Birthday Party

This past weekend, I hosted a birthday party for my daughter's 9th birthday. Since moving to Texas, we have outsourced our children's birthdays to bounce places and play areas. This is always fun and easy, but often really expensive. This year, we decided to keep it in house. My daughter wanted a tea party with a real tea set and finger foods and fancy clothes and crafts. Every day closer to the event, she had more ideas and suggestions.

By the weekend before, I was a wreck. I'm about as crafty as a raw potato, how could I possibly do a real tea party? What on earth would I serve? What could I find for them to do? I had visions of bored little faces staring up at me quietly, looking around with disdain. I pictured my daughter crying in disappointment that all her friends had such an awful time. I borrowed things, I trolled Pinterest like a madwoman, I lost sleep and spent too much money. Here's what I learned and what I will now, hopefully, remember for next time.

1) Once the day arrives, they don't care. They really don't. You said, "party time!", they said, "yay!" and then you gave them sugar. Beyond that, it's all a blur, a backdrop against which they smear frosting and echo their high-pitched giggles.

2) See step 1.

3) You don't need "activities", not really. You need two bags of balloons. Blow them all up until you pass out, recover, and then do the next bag. Disperse said balloons across the room. That's it. That right there provides infinite activities all of which are a variation of "bounce, scream and pop". If you turn on some music, you have freeze dance (involving kicking balloons). If you give them markers, which I don't recommend, you have art (involving scribbling balloons and drawing on their own faces). If you do nothing whatsoever, you have screaming, laughing, running, volleyball-ing, tackle football-ing and general euphoric mayhem. Which leads to step 4.

4) You are not in control. Nothing you do, nothing you've planned, matters. Once more than four children have gathered in a room full of balloons and the promise of sugar, there exists not even the illusion of adult superiority. They are in charge. They own you. Submit.

5) They aren't hungry. Or, to be specific, they aren't hungry for anything INTERESTING (like all the infamous "finger foods" my daughter requested). Pizza, plain jelly sandwiches and, if you want to go all out, a basic fruit plate, some carrots and ranch-- these things will satisfy the masses with a minimum of dried out leftovers.

6) Cupcakes are better (i.e. less messy) than cakes. Cakes are prettier than cupcakes. Either way, they will only eat (or, in recent events, smear over their entire faces) the frosting. One mom I know just serves cupcake liners full of frosting. You decide.

7) Ask for no presents. Seriously. One of the best things we've ever done is request that, instead of gifts, people bring a small donation for a local charity. Take your pick: food pantry, shelter, Goodwill, animal rescue, whatever interests your child. The end result is an impressive display of giving and an impressive lack of excess. It's a good idea to open any family gifts after the party has ended, making the most of the lingering energy and still making your child feel special (which they are!). Settle down, kick some balloons out of the way and open presents from Grandma and Mom and Dad. Later, when you take the items to be donated, make sure your child goes, too. Gratitude is a gift in and of itself.

8) This step is for you, the parent, and must be executed with discretion. It is, however, absolutely non-negotiable. It is a successful party must. Open a bottle of wine before the 1st child arrives. Set it off to the side next to a fresh wine glass, away from prying eyes and curious fingers. As the door closes behind the last child to leave, fill the glass and drink it down as quickly as your nerves demand. Repeat as necessary.

9) Party bags, the two-edged sword of modern day birthday parties. If you don't want to do them, don't, but also don't be surprised if you hear about it from the children and even from a few less-than-tactful parents. If you do want to do them, do not, I repeat do NOT, fill them with candy. Or glitter. Or markers. Or glitter. You will invite the wrath of every single parent and create a pay-it-forward chain of party bag horror. They'll send your kids home with candy and glitter and markers and bubble gum. Then someone else will send the kids home with candy and glitter and espresso. Next thing you know your kid will come home with a glitter-covered puppy wearing a bubble-gum collar toting a barrel of chocolate-covered espresso beans around its neck. Stop the madness! Give out toy rings, bouncy balls and maybe something that lights up when you shake it. And, of course, balloons.

You've got extra.