Friday, April 27, 2012

The summation of my maternity

My LMB is suing my father to custody of the four minor children still in the home. The suit is an absolute joke, and given that her adult children stand in unity against her, good luck to her in the effort. However, it means my father is wracking up more legal debt, more stress, more times several of us have to go and testify in court *again*, etc.

So, my father was requested by her attorney to detail "everything" he knew about her parenting of the children and give a statement to it. After compiling stories from nine of the ten children of the marriage, and deciding he will not be revealing details to assist her in preparing for court, my father's attorney summarized her parenting.

It was such a perfect summation that I'm posting it here, taking out identifying information but otherwise leaving it untouched.

Answer to Interrogatory 3

We have ten children altogether. They range in age from 14 to 47. None of them have much contact with their mother and some of them have no contact with her at all. All of the children have chosen to limit their contact with her to one degree or another. [LMB] has a decades long track record of manipulation, lies, verbal, emotional, and physical abuse of the children. Similiarly, she has always put her own needs before the needs of the children. [LMB] has alienated her own children, has competed with them for attention and control, has lied to them and me [WR's father] over and over again about virtually every aspect of our lives together. The lies range from the mundane to the extreme of concocting elaborate stories directly and adversely affecting the health and well being of our children. [LMB] has conspired to send away a number of our adopted children, has spoken openly of ways she could accomplish bodily harm to them without being caught and has physically abused them. [LMB] has attempted for decades to convince the children that I am a bad person and has repeatedly told them that they should not get close to me because I would hurt them. Thankfully, none of the children have believed these lies. I was unaware of them for years.

[LMB] regularily ridiculed, embarrassed, and demeaned our children both at home and in public. [LMB] has never held her children in very high regard or thought them to be very intelligent or lovable. She has often described them in a very negative light. She has accused at least two of my daughters of trying to seduce me and appears to have felt that she was in some kind of competition with them. [LMB] has either never understood what were appropriate subjects of discussion with the children or, more likely, did not care to restrain herself to appropriate topics of discussion.

[LMB] routinely engaged in conduct that put her own interests in front of the needs of the children. This included placing the children in extreme physical danger. [LMB] routinely told lies that played me against the children in efforts to turn their affection from me. Despite all of these efforts, the net result of this behavior is that I have been able to develop and maintain a normal relationship with my children. However, many of them will only share personal information with me if I agree to not share any of that information with their mother.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Good enough

Yesterday, a friend of mine asked if I would take her out shopping. She has a wedding in June and she wants me to help her get an outfit and make-up. Of course, I will help her, but I had to laugh. This isn't the first time a friend of mine has asked me for beauty advice. It shocks me as much today as it does every other time it happens.

I am not a beauty or fashion icon. I was in middle school by the time I knew for certain that I was never going to blend in. I could not immulate the make-up, fashion ideas and clothing of my peers no matter how hard I tried. I had two choices. I could grow really thick skin and seek out what *I* liked, or I could continue to look funny and be made fun of for it. I was a walking target for bullies either way, but option number one meant not letting the bullies control me. It was a brave, albeit foolish, decision. The bullies still hurt, but I continued to grow thick skin and to teach myself to seek out what was ME and not what was fashionable.

I have always looked outside of normal. However, until I started having kids and my body started changing, I was very comfortable in my skin and at peace with being quirky. The changes in my body threw me for a tailspin, as did the thyroid condition that made my shape and size fluctuate wildly for years on end. I abandoned caring about myself until after I caught II. I've worked hard to reclaim that part of me since that point. I think I've done a good job, but I still would not consider me fashion forward.

I was the presenter at a Sociological Conference in February being severely reminded of how little I blend in. In a sea of black suits (rather pretentious for an undergraduate conference in my opinion honestly), I was wearing a plum gypsy skirt, a brown bamboo blouse I made myself, gorgeous grey kid boots and a homemade shawl with a kaliedescope of colors that blended all of the elements of the outfit into one showcase piece. I still maintain there was absolutely nothing wrong with my outfit, but I was very glaringly different at the conference. I nearly got self-concious and then I told myself to stop that. Everyone of us were there based upon our BRAINS. Our academic accomplishments got us there. Who darn well cares if I don't look the part well. Sociologists should work harder for an anti-hegemonic presona anyway, in my opinion.

Yeah, not the person to talk to if you want to make an impression of doing it better than others. I think I must be the friend you seek out if you want to make an impression against the flow, though.

My roommate/nanny has asked me for help with jewelry, clothing, make-up, even picking sandals. My teenage daughter has requested I teach her how to put on her eye make-up. Last fall, I was preparing a friend for court and another friend in the group declared that I was JUST the person to help prepare the friend's clothing, jewelry and make-up, since I could do it better than anyone else in the group. I had to check to see if there was something else there with my name, honestly. They were talking about the girl whose sister yanked her back when she was nearly ready to walk down the isle to completely re-do her make-up, declaring it not sufficient for a bride.

My sister pays $500 for a cut and color and never leaves her house without looking drop-dead gorgeous and totally put together. She buys her make-up at the expenseive make-up counter. I roll my eyes and stick with Walmart. I refuse to pay that much money for paint on my face! Yet, when I started to lose weight this year, my panic had everything to do with the fact that I love my clothing wardrobe for the first time since college. I may be large, but I'm growing comfortable in my skin again, and the thought of having to re-create my wardrobe in a smaller aize is heartbreaking after working so hard to build it over the last three years.

I cannot reconcile the person my friends keep coming to for advice, commenting that that I know so well how to be feminine and beautiful with the self image I carry of myself. I compare myself to my sister, the eptiome of perfection. I compare myself to what my LMB always said about me (fat, ugly, ackward and wasting my time to try and change it). I cannot see what these friends see. Even though I've made a series of self discoveries in the last 2.5 years about myself and my self image, I still feel like the ackward swan that will never fit in with the Duck family. I'm taller than average. I'm gangly. There's something about my hair that I don't understand. My eyes look gorgeous but my weight literally bounces 40 pounds depending on what my thyroid does at any given time. Until I was 24, I was a natural blond. I don't know that I liked being blond, but it was who I was. Then, while pregnant with my first son, my hair turned a mousy brown. Now that I knew I hated. By 30, I decided if I could not be the hair color I always was, then I would at least be something I of my choosing and liking. These days, I dye my hair with henna and I think I make a good auburn redhead. I buy my henna in a year supply so I don't fall into my old habits of not caring for myself and ending up between mousey brown and auburn red. My eyes are olive. They aren't actually hazel, which is the color our society explains them with. From a distance, they appear green or brown based upon my mood. Up close, it is obvious they are olive green with golden flecks around the rims. The changes you see at a distance are merely dependent on how prominent those gold flecks are, not that my eyes actually change colors.

That something about my hair? I'm not even sure what it is. I suspect it's one of those things like my father that I wasn't allowed to have. I was taught to clean it squeaky clean every single day. It was never straight like my mother and sisters. It was frizzy and full of static. Worst of all if it was humid or rained, or my hair got wet, my hair curled. Sometimes it was only a wave, but often it was craziness. I'm still not sure what is up with my hair. Some days it wavaes, sometimes it really curls up. I'm only partially educated on caring for curly hair, and I'm less certain of what my hair will actually do over time as I let my hair discover what is supposed to do. My father has tight kinky curls. I have a daughter with frizz because she won't care for her curls that are almost as kinky as her grandfathers. I've seen enough pictures of me in the past when I was fighting to make my hair conform to what I was told it was supposed to be that I have to wonder what mine will do as I let it be what it wants to be now. It's another new discovery about myself that I'm now two weeks into and curious as to what will happen with it.

What is it about women that we can never accept ourselves and call it well enough? I know my sister looks drop dead gorgeous when she opens her door because she is too insecure to let the world see anything else. I often don't dress up at all because I feel so gangly that I wonder what the point of even trying is. My friend who wants my help is tiny, gorgeous...and hasn't dressed up and felt pretty in years. She feels as insecure as every other woman I know. She feels frumpy and ugly, yet she could turn every head in a room if she stood up and insisted someone take notice of her. My roommate/nanny was taught her entire life she was ugly....and she's gorgeous, stunning actually. My sister is drop dead gorgeous, but she's beautiful when she skips the requisite Southern Make-up Mask too, something she refuses to brave and attempt.

What are we so hard on ourselves? I know it's not a new question. Society, fashion, even women have been asking this for a long time and not finding answers. Yet, we continue to put ourselves down. If my friends look to me for fashion advice, it's not because I am somehow fashionable. It's because I've worked hard in the last 2.5 years to tap back into what was ME and I'm back to ocnfident in my appearance again. I don't want to be fashionable. I was to be confident and comfortable. I guess if I'm being sought out for advice, I'm getting back to that trait. I'm still going to laugh when someone looks to me for fashion assistance. Gypsy skirt in a sea of suits people....but at least I stood out.

Monday, April 23, 2012


When my sister asked me to start writing, we had a discussion. She envisions my writing about my past as a continuation of her own project. She is a child abuse advocate, and constantly searches for how to prevent abuse of children, as well as how to help guide victims to survival.

How my sister survived our childhood is not really a secret. She was strong, determined, and she had support from four grandparents and a father who adored her. She was able at a very young age to balance the abuse of our legal maternal bitch against the love and adoration others gave her. LMB used the thread of that love to frame her conviction of my sister as selfish and self-centered. I believe she was insanely jealous that everyone loved her baby moreso than she felt they loved her. LMB was a Narcisst. Her ability to grasp and trust that anyone loved her was non-existent. Her need for fulfillment and reinforcement was a bottomless pit. No normal, health mother would ever be jealous of the love bestowed upon her child. Ours was.

When I came along four years later, she had learned her lesson. She would not allow that family to love me the way they loved my sister. Instead, she isolated me. She created a dynamic where all I had was her, and all anyone knew of me was the perception she created of me. To the world, I was crazy, lying, worthless, and something to be avoided. To her, I was her toy, her stuffed animal and security blanket to be carted around and played with to provide the admiration and adoration that she felt no one else could or would give her sufficiently.

What of me? How did I survive? My sister apologized to me in diggng through our past. She admitted that in all of the years that she made fun of "mom and you," she never once thought it through. The "you" was me, and I was a child, a very young child, in fact. Narccistic mothers generally have what is called a "Golden Child." It is this child that they enmesh with, that they latch onto and that they guard like Gullom with his precious. I was that Golden Child. Statistically, Golden Children often survive and have somewhat normal lives, as they cannot distinquish the enmeshment from love at a young age. However, they generally never escape the control of the Narcisstic parent. They remain under their control, isolated from the outside world and barred from having normal, healthy relationships. They dno't actually become Narcisstic themselves. Rather, since the role of this child is to feed the emotional needs of the unhealthy parent, this child is sucked body and soul into that vortex of need, never having a chance to escape it to become a fully formed and independent adult.

What not one person in my family knew was that never was I fooled by LMB. They assumed we were one and the same. They assumed the woman fooled me and I really was the person she told them I was. And, the perception she created to explain me was cruel. It was meant to keep anyone from wanting to know me, much less getting to me to discover that I was something entirely different than what they thought. My LMB wanted more children, more biological ties to her. That necessitated that she needed to find relationships for me. However, she hand guided relationships that would allow her to dictate the relationship and continue to control me. Just as she isolated me from my family, she attempted to isolate me from healthy intimacy with anyone who might take me away from her.

I was four by the time I knew that I had no one and nothing on this earth except for a woman who I knew lied to me all the time, and lied about me to get me into trouble deliberately. I was twelve by the time I knew I absolutely had to find a way to get away from her someday. It was by twelve that I was making lists in my mind. I watched my LMB carefully. I took notes of what she did and what she did not do, and I took notes on what was appropriate behaviors. I constantly made notes of what I would NOT a person, as a spouse, as a mother. When I was seventeen, she had me completely isolated and removed me from my entire family so that she might finally steal the object of her desire--my biological child. I had no way to protect myself and my child. Seventeen and recovering from the trauma of a rape wouldn't leave a normal teenager prepared to fight off the assault LMB launched against me. Having no one to support me left me even less prepared to protect myself and my child.

Thus, I did the only choice I could see to protect the baby and myself. I acquiesed to give her the baby....on the sole condition that the baby was given to my father. I knew my father would accept her as his child and he would protect her from the crazy. I knew so long as the baby was never isolated from him the way I was, he would protect her entirely with his life. I set the groundwork, even as I was trapped, to make sure that baby bonded to her adoptive father, to make sure she completely adored him and he knew I considered him obligated to NOT be isolated from her. Then I started working to get me out.

My father was worthy of that trust for that child. At eighteen, she is the biggest Daddy's girl you have ever met. She has always been his child, just as my sister was. See, even when everyone thought I didn't have an original thought of my own, I saw. I saw that the bond between my father and my sister was what saved my sister. It was the same bond that saved my child.

I survived because I knew better. I survived because I wasn't her. I wasn't crazy. I knew what normal and healthy was. I knew how to get there, even though it was scary and exhausting. I fought without support, without love, and without anyone understanding to get there.

Somewhere in that journey, I met II. He saw me, not the persona LMB had created but ME. He saw what no one else saw and he was willing to help me, even if we didn't have some great love story. He stood and supported me through every battle I took to remove the enmeshment and force my family to see me outside of her perceptions.

I know that I would have made it even if I had not met II. I was determined to be free of LMB at all costs. However, just one person who saw me, who supported me, and who encouraged me, helped me get there faster, stronger and with my soul still intact. There's a reason I was SO devestated when I discovered II had betrayed me. This man, who had supported me in my fight for health and freedom was the one person who was NOT supposed to hurt me and betray me in this world.

I have learned that II is human. I'm okay with that. I had to first learn that I really would have made it without his help. For so long, I thought he rescued me. I hadn't wanted rescued originally and I fought against his offer, but somewhere inside of me, I still thought he rescued me. It's not true. He loved me. I rescued myself. I made it because I knew better than what LMB gave me. I wasn't the shadow people thought I was. I was always there, always watching, always taking notes. When I started fighting for my freedom, I fought with everything I had to get free. It helped that II was there to support me. I would have done it anyway.

When my sister asks how did I survive, the answer is not that much different than hers. I waited a long time for a support system like what she had. However, in my own way, I too was plotting my escape from the start. My escape looked different than hers, and my steps to get there were much different than hers. I still knew that the only way to survive was to get away from the LMB and to get freedom. Once I found a support system, it all came easier.

How does a child abuse survivor escape and have a normal life? They have to see and know that there is something different out there in this world. They can see this many places. When I went into other homes, I saw something different, something healthy, something with unconditional love and parents who were genuine and I ached for that different. They have to want that change. I ached for something different so much that it nearly broke my heart yearning for it. I had to want it to fight for it. Then, they have to fight. It is not easy to survive. It takes hard work, the humility to admit when you are wrong, and absolute honesty with yourself and others. Lastly, they need a helping hand. It might be something small, or it might be something big. As I started escaping I had a friend who would just listen to me and make me laugh. We made the mistake of getting romantically involved and messing up that friendship, but before that point, when I was struggling, I knew I could always call him and he would simply listen. I had a lot of helping hands along my journey. Even those small touches were something that helped me get to the next one. Every step gave me hope, gave me courage, and kept me sane.

My sister got out the more standard method, loved and supported outside of the crazy from the get-go. I had to go a non-traditional path. Truthfully, part of my healing always lay in being a mother, the kind of mother I yearned so deeply for myself but instead vowed to give to my own children. My sister needed to be solo to heal. I needed to be a mother, to love passionately, to turn the talents and unique comodities that made me a target by my LMB into something that could actually heal others and not merely be sucked away and stolen by her.

I was born to be a mother, to help hurting children heal and walk a path of health and security. Meeting that destiny kept me honest about my own healing, and gave me a chance to heal through being what my children needed and not merely what I was given. Everyday of my ordeal, I survived because I knew I would get out, and I would get to pour my love and my strength into hurting children. That promise, that destiny, that calling was the number one reason I survived. I survived because I knew they would need me, and the only way I could be there for them was to heal myself. I've done one thing absolutely right in this world. I've mothered my babies. I fought for healing every step of the way because I would never perpetuate my past. I needed to be healthy and indepdendent for them. That's why I often slip into sacrificing myself. That's why I was so shocked at II's mistakes. That's why I can't quite articulate to my sister how I got out. I realized that I couldn't just survive. I had to heal, or I could never be the mother they required of me. I had to give myself oxygen before giving it to them. In the big ways, I've done that and done that quite well. In the samll ways, I constantly ferret out and find where I need to make improvements.

I fell down the Patriachy rabbithole. However, I didn't totally get lost there. Now that I've climbed back up from that rabbithole, I've spent a lot of time working my journey so I can make sure I am strong and healthy for me and for my children. That's how I survived. It was my path, and the only one that could have led me to survival and healing.

Cream of Wheat

I was involved recently in a conversation about whether picky eater visiting children in your home annoy you by refusing to eat or wasting food. The repetitive theme was that it ticks parents off to see the food wasted, even if they attempt to say nothing and simply think it.

I have a different perspective on children and food issues. I let my children waste food. I did have to a point where I required children to finish any snack they took rather than wasting it to take soemthing else. I do ask my children to attempt a taste of the food I serve them at meals. If they don't like it, they are free to make themselves a different meal, even though I won't make a second dinner for them.

I cannot bring myself to add guilt and force into feeding my children. I lived too long on the other end of that requirement, and I continue to suffer the shame, guilt, and pain from that experience.

I have taught myself to leave food on my plate when I am full. It took many, many years to be able to leave food on my plate and not clean it entirely. Even now, I can do it but often will fall back into cleaning it instead. What I have not taught myself is to not assume the guilt for leaving a plate unclean.

I'm not sure parents understand how intimate food is for a child. Food is not simply energy for the body. Food is nourishment for the soul. When you attach guilt and external requirements for that nourishment, you add to something that shouldn't happen. It causes children to not listen to their own hunger cues. It also perverts the emotional nourishment that food is supposed to be for children. It creates eating disorders, obesity, girls who hate their bodies and children who binge to feed emotional needs that food cannot fill alone.

I am perhaps more sensitive to feeding issues than most parents. My upbringing was anything but normal on this topic. My legal maternal entity launched a nasty campaign against my persondhood in regards to food.

I was required to always eat what was served to me at meals. I was required to clean my plate. My own preferences were never considered in what was served at meals, and the serving sizes had no relation to my hunger. I was never, ever permitted to snack between meals except for one piece of fruit per day. Again, my hunger had no relation to whether I was permitted to eat or not. I was lectured and berated about how selfish I was for being resistive to the food I was served. Then, to be absolutely certain that my destruction was complete, I was then belittled on a daily basis for being "fat."

None of that compares to the most egregious part of my 'training' though. My legal material entity was well known for serving some of the most disgusting concepts known to mankind. She was especially proud of her 'leftover soup' which literally consisted of her opening the fridge and dumping all of the left overs into a stock pot, add water and heat to make "soup." If I did not eat these delicacies, I ate nothing else until I gave in. So, dinner's left-over soup would be served....cold...every meal until I complied and ate it. There were no snacks between torture sessions, and no relief from the torture sessions once I dug my heels in and refused to eat something.

There were several food items I hated, not merely the 'left-over soup.' I hated liver with a passion. I hated most of her so-called vegetables. Yet, there was only one item so horrendous that I would brave her rules and refuse to eat it every single time. It was cream of wheat. I have no idea what that stuff is supposed to be. I know it looked like snot, tasted like sweet boogers, and nothing helped the taste.

If I was lucky, the cream of wheat would get spilled sometime after the second or third serving. If I was even luckier, my father would notice what was going on and force her to throw the nastiness out. Usually, serving cream of wheat meant that I would go several days without eating anything except my school lunches.

Two of my children are picky eaters. One of my children came to me with food ruined by previous experiences and is fully dependent on medical equipment to supply the life giving calories his body requires. Of all eight of my children, all but those three will at least taste what is served to them. They will politely decline what they do not like. One with mental health struggles had appetite triggered with the medication necessary for that child's mental struggles. Other than that child, not one of them have weight issues, no obesity, no guilt and shame associated with food. These children know that food is nourishment for body and soul, and that while mom doesn't want them to frivilously waste what they voluntarily take, if they truly cannot eat it all then mom will leave them alone.

I can't bring myself to get worked up over visiting children and their eating, or lack thereof. I have worked so hard to never pass the legacy of my past onto my own children that I simply prefer to let children lead the way on how to manage food issues. I made a promise to myself once upon a time as I stared into yet another bowl of torture. I promised I wouldn't do this to my children as it was done to me. It was a theme of my childhood, probably the one thing that helped me survive was that constant list of promises of what I would not pass onto my children. I have worked hard to make something better with my children and food.

I like to think I'm winning this battle. Certainly, I'm far enough past that memory that I don't even pause to notice whether little guests eat. I just try to offer them options they will like, and let their parents know if they didn't eat so they won't have to be hungry.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


One of my children is in intensive therapy. It is the nature of the beast of living with children with special needs. I have no intention of violating that child's privacy and divulging information about said child's life. However, the focus of that child's therapy is a concept that I feel works for myself just as much as said child.

This child works within the Dialectic Behavioral Therapy model. Basically, it is verbally processing, and over processing, just about everything in life. It is examining a situation first from the individual's perspective and then from stepping out to see it from other people's perspective and compare the differences, then specifically and deliberatelly walking through how to modify the situation to have allowed it to work properly instead of simply pushing ahead bull-headed into a bad situation.

This morning, said child was emotionally melting down all over my house. Ultimately, I removed a treat the child was given last night until child can calm down and be more deliberate in their choices. The child was following me around the house wailing and gnashing teeth demanding to know RIGHT NOW, what the child must do to have the treat returned.

My only response was simply that I could not answer that question. The wailing and emotional meltdown sounded like donkey brays directly into my brain and my brain was shutting down from the effort of listening to these spilled emotions all over my house.

I realized a few things in this interchange. I contemplated how the therapist was stressing the world mindfulness. We must all stop and think before impulsively rushing headlong into situations, especially when we feel emotionally out of control and just want to lash out. As humans, we need to be aware of how we are interacting with others around us. This is different than being responsible for the emotions other people feel. However, it is an appropriate response to want to be mindful of how we interact with other people before we take action.

It can also be perverted. Conservative Christianity has a accronym that I have heard so many times I cringe at just the thought of it. JOY. If you are Christian, it's actually not a bad concept in and of itself. It means Jesus first, others second, yourself last.

The problem is that it is easily used perversely and leads to emotional abuse and manipulation. Yes, there are times that we must make choices between our wants and those of others. In those times, it can be selfish to choose ourselves at the expense of others, especially when those others are vunerable and cannot meet their own needs without our assistance.

Going to the bathroom and forcing my desperate three year old to hold it while I go first would be selfish. It would be putting myself ahead of him and sacrificing his needs to mine. In normal circumstances, when I take early potty trainers to the bathroom, I allow them to use it first. Just as I allow other early potty trainers to skip ahead of me in line when they show signs of distress.

However, the teaching of always sacrificing self becomes perverted when we teach a mother that she can never use the bathroom ahead of her toddler. So, when mother is sick, or pregnant, and legitimately having an emergency, and her toddler diesn't even need the is not appropriately to have the toddler use the bathroom first. It's making a sacrifice that didn't have to be made in the first place.

From the time I was very small, I had JOY and other such principles grilled into my brain. The premise is supposed to be that when a compromise must be made, putting others first is the Godly response. It fails to account for the fact that usually, we do NOT have to sacrifice. We don't have to fail to care for ourselves because what we percieve is dependents or ourselves is not a conflict, it's merely a lack of creativity and balance. It's a failure to be mindful.

I learned the very hard way that I had take care of ME when my health completely failed me. I percieved that I had to choose myself or my children, exactly as I had been taught my entire life. I opted for my children...and let my health deteriorate to a level that I may never fully recover from. Learning to recognize that I can be healthy and cared for TOO has been a long process for me.

So, when I take this child of mine who needs so much extra help navigating this world and processing that which said child does not understand within it, it is not browbeating this child into never considering their own needs legitimate that I wish to teach. I want this child to recognize that this child's emotions are legitimate, this child's needs are worth of honor and recognition. However, so are other people's. There has to be balance, and that comes when we are mindful and not myopic nor when we live in martyrdom merely for the sake of bragging rights involved. Working to help this child find balance is a strong reinforcer for me that I too must find balance.

I'm a work in progress. I just never let myself forget anymore just how much I must strive and place that balance as priority. Working with this child today has reminded me that I have been out of balance when I let myself get so sick yet again. I've been actively working for a week to come back into balance. I still hav a way to go. Each day, I have to remind myself that caring for myself is NOT sacrificing my children. Their needs are totally met. Therefore, I need to take the time to care for me, even when I still....all these years down the road, continue to feel guilt for every effort towards my own health and healing that I exert.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I am not forgotten

I went looking back at my old posts. First, I realized I totally abandoned this blog in 2011. Honestly, there was so much on my plate, that I'm not surprised. I remember many times composing entries in my mind...and never getting time to sit down when I got home to actually post. What I did not do is sink back into the life I left. I have continued to put one step in front of another, and continue to do so even now.

In February, I was notified that I was induced into AKD, the Sociology Honor Society. I had pursued that goal like a rapid skunk since going back to school. Getting the invitation in the middle of what was going on with M was quite anti-climatic. Because of the medical situation with M, I was unable to attend my induction ceremony. That actually should have been last week. I need to notify my University to make certain my certificate is sent to me here. Also because of M's situation, I will be unable to attend my graduation ceremony in May. Again it feels anti-climatic. I dearly wanted to be there, to finally stand up and be proud of what I have accomplished. It's just not possible. I have my degree. I have fought long and hard for that half of my life. I haven't lost sight of my goals, just had to flex somewhat.

I have applied for an RN-BSN program. It will be a second Bachelor's degree. They are awaiting the reciept of my transcripts from all of my former colleges, who all state they have sent the transcripts. So, I should hear a decision on that application by mid-May, I expect.

I seriously considered doing a RN-MSN program. There are plenty outt there, both in brick and mortar environments and online. I decided with M's situation, it was better to take this one bite at a time, locking in each accomplishment as I hit the mastery of it for now. With the need to balance M and his seven siblings, I felt it was imperative that the RN-BSN be an online option. Everything but my preceptorships will be online. Since all I lack is the dydactic work and some clinicals, it won't be a rough journey on this step. The program I applied for assumes you have no work towards a Bachelor's already completed and that it takes 24 months to accomplish. The reality is that I have all but the nursing work accomplished. The best I can determine is that it will likely take me about 15 months.

I have all of my requirements to transfer my nursing license to the state we now reside in. Because we moved last month, I no longer must attend an RN refersher program. I have my continuing education requirements for this state. They do not require work for monetary compensation here. They are not a compact state per se, but once they verify that my nursing education was accredited and my NCLEX-RN scores were satistfactory, they will issue me a license. We'll have my application fee in May and I will transfer my license at that point.

One of the local hospitals has half of their RN job listings as part-time, most of them night shift. As soon as I get my active license, I'll be applying for every part-time hospital based night shift job possible. I can attempt to expand outward to day shift if necessary, but I'll try night shift first. I think as M gets worse, having something that allows me to step out and just be ME will become more vital for my own mental health needs.

I have looked at MSN programs. I am still going. I just have not decided where I will be and how I will approach that yet. M's Heptalogist told me in February that he had approximately one year left. I can clearly see that I need to do this next step online, despite the mind crushing anxiety that online coursework causes me. I think it best to make firm plans on the next step when I have a better idea exactly where I am and what demands my family places upon me at that point in the process. Thus, why I am working on locking each accomplishment one by one right now.

I still long for, and dream of the PhD. However, today I think I need to set smaller, firm goals. I don't want *me* to get lost in the journey our entire family faces now. However, I don't want to set myself up for failure by trying to reach too far in a season that small grasps may be all any of us can focus on at any given time. I presented my paper from last year at an Undergraduate Conference while M was in the hospital (a friend came and sat at the hospital with him so I could be there, even though I did a horrible job at least I was brave and present). It's there. I hold it close to my heart and nuture it. I just cannot know what the future will bring to that dream right now.

II and I have one secret about the future we're holding onto. Like my dream of my PhD, we really don't know whether it will happen. However, we're holding it close to our hearts. It's a fragment of what we started No, it's not another baby....that ship has sailed permenantly. Its a secret promise in a little envelope for a possibility after we walk this journey with M. We take it out and mull it around and then we realize we simply cannot know and will have to wait and answer the questions it brings later.

We have settled into a pattern of preparing for the hardest journey of our lives. We know this season is like no other we have lived, nor will ever live again. We knew when we adopted M that this day would come. We truly thought we had another decade. However, as we settle into this journey, we are making sure that there is life, for everyone in this journey. We have individually determined the needs of all seven siblings. We've made educational decisions set up therapies, extra curricular activities, and support systems to help each child in this journey. We've determined what we think II and I both require to care for our needs, our heartbreak, both individually and as a couple. Now that the children are secured, we're now working to get both of us secured as well. My education and career goals are part of what I need to survive what we face now. I need to not allow myself to drown in this season. I haven't forgotten the need to make sure I have outlets, goals, outside resources. I'm so very grateful we didn't face this even two years ago. I hadn't even begun my journey of learning how to care for me back then. I stumble and fall now, but I know the goal is to make sure everyone walks through this season with their hearts as intact as is possible when we prepare to say good-bye to our son, their brother, our little broken one that the world said had no value who means so very much to all of us now.

As we walk this journey with M, this blog may change some. As I process the past that brought me where I am today, I will be writing more about that past here. Before I provide anything in a singular book format for my sister, I need to flesh some things out for myself. As I process how mothering in this sadness impacts myself and everyone in my family, I want to use this blog for that processing as well. It may also be a place where I share some of M's story, a goal I've had for years of writing his history so he will never be forgotten in this world. They may look a bit different than when I started talking about the raw pain of betrayal in my marriage. They really aren't. They are all part of the tapestry that makes me who I am, they all contribute both to the need to reclaim my womanhood and the process of doing that very action. It's not my goal to abandon this blog again, but to make it my safe haven, a place to process my writing as I process my life right now. I havent forgotten ME in all of this. I haven't forgotten anything. I am working on balance, on processing, on grief for my own past, for my son's present and my family's future. I'm working to realize that most of my goals for M were never acheived. The future is not certain, but the journey this family takes is unavoidable for all of us. It's all entertwined and entangled. I'm part of this too. I haven't forgotten that. I didn't want anyone else still listen to either, or think that I did.

Breath of Life

I am just beginning to breath again. I spent over two weeks struggling to breath. At first, I thought I was getting a cold, like everyone else in the house. Perhaps I was. However, no one else in the house began to shut down, to struggle to breath, to require being upright at night and to get winded simply by normal moving around the house once it started.

Initially, I had nasty mucous colors that clearly demonstrated I had a respiratory infection. However, it changed and became completely clear. Still, I stayed home and lamented that I could not breath. It took two weeks before I finally realized that if anyone I loved was having these symptoms, I would have recognized asthma and taken them for medical care.

I was diagnosed with asthma nearly three years ago. In December, the massive asthma flare-up that came with my double lung pneumonia was the biggest portion of my sick that nearly killed me. Yet, I still don't recognize that I need medical treatment when I cannot breath.

I think the underlying issue is that the diagnosis may be new for me, but the symptoms are most definitely NOT. I remember from a very young age that I would often complain to my mother that I could not breath. Everytime I told her this, I was belittled and marginalized. See, my father had severe asthma as a young child. His asthma was so severe that his mother spent many nights in his early years sleeping in a rocking chair, keeping him upright so he could breath. It was before there were great options for asthma and his parents fought valiantly to care for him without the options we have today.

Well, I was never permitted to be like my father. My mother was a Narcissist. I was born and raised to be nothing more than an extension of her and her needs. If I was like my father, then I couldn't be an extension of her. Thus, all traits that seemed remotely like my father were stamped out of me aggressively. I didn't struggle to breath. I was a liar. I was out of shape, overweight, and constantly sought drama. That was the story browbeaten into me anytime I dared to complain that I could not breath.

It was not until I passed the age of 30 and the episodes of suffocation became full blown anaphylactic shock, necessitating that I pay attention or stop breathing entirely, that I realized this was truly, truly a problem for me. It was two years into this change that I finally said to my doctor.....are we sure it's JUST anaphylatic shock? I have trouble breathing other times TOO, but unless it's so bad that I could die I don't do anything. My doctor looked at me that day with fear and wonder in his eyes and said, "Yeah, that's asthma. We need to treat that."

And then I never came back while struggling to breath for him to see just how bad this can get. Everytime I suffocate, I shut down. I cannot think. I simply retreat. A lifetime of being told it's all in my head and I'm a liar means that I abandon my own good sense and medical judgement on myself and simply wait for it to pass. That's what I've done my entire life.

Here are some funny facts I can remember to refute this paradigm though.

I wasn't overweight until I was in nursing school and my thyroid started crashing. In fact, until that point, I was significantly under weight. I was a full five inches taller than my mother, but I weighed far less than I should have for my height. Everyone in my family still refers to me as "the fat one," despite that reality.

I wasn't out of shape. I did LOTS of exercising. I walked 2-3 miles daily. I justt had to stop and catch my breath constantly...for years. I loved to hike. I could hike 5-8 miles up the mountains to chase waterfalls, in difficult trails. I just had to pace myself, stop to breath and wait for the gasping, suffocating to pass before continuing. My muscles were never tired, just my lungs.

Drama? I hate drama. Sometimes I feel like a drama magnet, but I would prefer to just live my life in peace and away from all drama. I run away from dramatic people. I consider them soul suckers. They can find me, but I will fight to get back to my peaceful retreat and be left alone. When I cannot breath, I am not exactly running around drawing attention to myself. In fact, I am sitting, struggling silently, and frustrated. I don't want to draw attention to myself. I downplay how awful it is and how badly I am struggling. II knows better. It's one of his consant frustrations with me, that he can look at me and know I'm struggling and yet I do and say nothing to get better.

I've been actively working in the last two plus years to learn how to seek out help when I need it and allow myself to do it without feeling like I'm calling attention to myself and thus creating drama. I'm much better than I was previously. However, I am still a work in progress. When I cannot breath, most of that work goes out the window fast and I just sit and go hypoxic wishing I could breath again.

Since seeing the doctor Tuesday, I've been remembering some other details about my life and this breathing thing. In addition to realizing just how often I feel off and stop moving simply because that suffocation has come back to overwhelm me, I'm remember some things that are pieces to my puzzle.

Despite what I was *told* by middle school I was put on a daily allergy medication. I was told I merely had allergies. However, I distinctly remember more episodes of suffocation and gasping for air in those years. That was the first episode of anaphylactic shock I suffered. All of the spin in the world could not erase that night of terror for me, long before I even understood such things. The next time I had anaphylactic shock, I knew exactly what it was, even though it had been half a lifetime since I had last experienced it, because I remembered it like it was yesterday, an old foe waiting to suck the life out of me all over again.

In high school, I was given a rescue inhaler. I was again told I merely had allergies, and they weren't significant. Yet, she felt it was "wise" if I carried the inhaler with me, in case I ever needed it. She was a doctor by then, no longer having to justify what she did with me to anyone in this world and able to prescribe for herself.

I wasn't taught to recognize asthma for what it was. I was taught to ignore it and downplay it. Thus, even this week, I wasn't certain it was asthma, just as I wasn't certain it was in December. I went to my doctor because I was almost certain, but not quite.

My asthma was flared so badly that despite 2 uses of my rescue inhaler that day, he couldn't fully check for underlying infection because the wheezing was so bad. I blew a 74% on my PFT. I have a child with Cystic Fibrosis. I understand pulmonary function tests. I know how awful 74% is. For a non-smoking woman in her mid-30s, a 74% is truly awful. That's how bad my lungs got before I was reasonable sure it was asthma and needed to see a doctor.

I'm back on a 13 day course of steriods. I'm to use my nebulizer as much as I need to through this. In my defense on the day I went to the doctor, I was having trouble getting to the nebulizer before getting to the doctor because I share it with M, and I wanted him to get his breathing treatments first. Thus, I relied upon my rescue inhaler for me, not to ignore my lack of breathing that day but to put his need as a priority. My intention was to go back and get a breathing treatment for myself once he was done and I ran out of time before having to take L to preschool and head for the doctor's office.

Once I am done with these oral steriods, I am going on inhaled steriods as a maintenance treatment for my asthma. This is my third episode since December, and they have become bad enough now that I cannot simply ignore them. Sitting and not moving to conserve oxygen is no longer working for me.

I've alluded to the fact that I was groomed for the life I fell into with II. I was groomed by a Narcisstic mother who became enamoured by that world when I was a child. She couldn't convince my father to enter that world, no matter how hard she tried. So, she lived on the fringes of the Patriachal Fundamentalist Christianity and deliberately groomed me to enter it fully as an adult.

Ignoring my own asthma wasn't me being obtuse. It was conditioned in me. Really and truly, I do NOT want to be hypoxic. I don't want to die. I definitely don't want to frustrate II that he has to beg and plead with me to see the doctor before it gets so bad he has to take me to the hospital. I was trained that anything having to do with my health needs was me being dramatic and lying. I was trained to sacrifice ME at all costs for everyone and everything around me. I'm getting MUCH better about taking care of me. I just forget everything I've learned when I cannot breath.

My sister wants to be write about that past. My husband wants me to recover from it. I want to continue to explore who I am and how that past impacts me so that I can be a better, reclaimed woman. There's just so much. These two weeks, this asthma that I cannot even recognize is sucking the life out of me because it's so deeply trained and engrained in me, this is just one shining example of it all.

Even so, my sister has a point. While I have focused for so long on how my past must be integrated into who I am, she wants me to focus on how I can tell others that anyone can survive because we make our own path in this world. She's not wrong, niether am I.

I am proud of the woman I am becoming. I don't view setbacks like these two weeks as failures. I see them as another layer of who I am, another opportunity to reflex, to dig around in what was planted into my psyche and focus on how to integrate those pieces into helping me continue to heal and work on becoming more aware and reclaimed. I'm startled at how deep this breathing issue really is for me. I thought I rooted it out in December when it nearly killed me....and yet clearly there's more still underneath. I'm especially intrigued to find out what I'm going to discover by going on maintenance meds finally. If I'm right, if my breathing has been an integral part of ME, of how I interact with the world, of how I plot and plan for how I can function within that world, then maintenance meds may very well prove to be life-giving to ways I never imagined possible.

My doctor said I would feel dramatically better by Wednesday, with simply one day of the oral steriods into me. If I did not, then I had an infection he could not detect because the asthma was so bad that it was impossible, and I would require antibiotics. He didn't think that was the case though. He was right. Within two hours of taking the steriods, I felt like a new person again.

More discoveries await me. I want to see what I can do when I don't have to ask myself if I'm struggling with asthma and merely actually find myself able to breath. I'm not sure I've ever experienced that reality before. I cannot say with certainty that I have. I suspect I have struggled under this suffocation for most of my life and simply have lacked all framework to identify that it was not normal until it progressed to the point that even MY normal was no longer possible because I was having the life choked out of me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Never ready

You are simply never ready to face a child dying. This year has been a whirlwind of playing nurse as much as mother, managing M's medical care, coordinating a sudden move, settling and unpacking into a new home, caring for the emotional and physical needs of seven siblings, trying to manage interpersonal relationships and logistics with caregivers we have added to the team to assist with M's needs, and simply remembering to breath sometimes.

Every once in awhile, I stop and lift my head up to realize that I am at risk of losing myself in this season. I'm really trying to not, but it's SO hard to juggle the needs of so many people and the fact that M is medically fragile now. In March, pollen nearly took his liver out. This month, it's been a cold that the entire family got and he is not recovering from at all.

I do have everyone settled now. All but two children are in public school. We are in a very tiny school district and all of the schools are fully informed of the home situation right now. They have been heartstoppingly supportive and compassionate towards our family. The kids are supported and loved and all are thriving in school. So different from the last experimental attempt to put the children in public school two years ago.

All children who need doctors and therapists have gotten hooked into the care they need. I even secured a dentist, the one thing I typically take ages to find when we move.

The last act M's Heptalogist did as his doctor was to call where we were moving and set the path in motion for M to walk into every shred of support services that were available for him and our family. Consequently, our first doctor's appointment here involved placing M in Palliative Care as well as signing his DNR orders. He was immediately referred to Hospice and a wrap-around program run by our health insurance company.

M has a nurse's aide that comes every morning to clean him and his room. Since night is the worst of his behaviors, the burden of managing this has finally been lifted from my shoulders. If he is placed in a school situation, I will lose part of this assistance, since hospice cannot get to the house earlier than 8am. However, it looks more and more like M will remain homebound at this point. His health is simply too fragile and rapidly deteriorating now.

A hospice nurse comes once a week to assess M and to make sure he has the equipment and pain meds he requires. The social worker calls every other week and comes out monthly. They are sending a male social worker for grief and trauma therapy for my oldest son every other week. As we need more support, they will provide it.

The wrap around service provider is sending an art therapist for one sibling who is struggling. We expect we'll need to have her come for other siblings in time as well. They are helping me try to get hippotherapy set up for M. They are also sending me for weekly massage therapy. All of this is paid for by our health insurance company. Apparently, the mentality up here is that the insurance company will save money if they provide social, emotional and therapeutic support in situations like ours rather than leaving us to drown and watching the stress destroy our health and our family.

I have a friend who moved with us and is an live-in nanny for now. She needed a safe place to land and a chance to restart her life with her kids. The house we found has a seperate living area for her little family, and I have constant support so I can do the things I need to be doing right now.

I have most of what I need to transfer my nursing license completed. I will submit that next week. I have already applied for a RN-BSN program. It's online except for the preceptorship portion. Given what is going on with our family right now, I felt it was vital that I not be tied to a brick and mortar program in this upcoming year.

I'm supposed to be taking a night a week off for myself, but I can't actually remember the last time I did that. Yesterday, as I sat in the waiting room for my massage, I realized I have not taken time to myself in so long I cannot remember it. Possibly I did so back in November, but if I did I don't remember when or what. I know I haven't since I got sick in December and then all hell broke loose immediately after Christmas.

I don't want to be here. I don't want to be watching over my son and waiting for him to die. I don't want to remember how he entered this family and the anger I felt when I realized how he entered this family. I just want to scoop him up and protect him, and I can't. This child, who has never had a stroke of good luck in his entire life, finally surrendered to attachment and bonding in January. As he lay in the hospital fighting off death, he reached out for me. He's still suffering from FAS, Autism and Attachment Disorder. However, I can tell when he gets really sick and scared now, because he reaches out for me in his fear and pain.

In the middle of all of this, my sister called me yesterday. She wrote a memoir about her chldhood that she wants to seek publication on. She wants me to write mine as well. I've alluded to the fact that where I found myself in this life was a direct result of the abuse and grooming of my childhood. I just haven't written specifically about it. When I started this blog, what was paramount in my thoughts was the marriage situation. However, my past is part of who I am. While it has always been my intention to sit down and write it someday, I intended to write M's story first. My sister would like for me to start with my story. She is a child abuse advocate and feels very strongly that our case study, two sisters of a Group B Personality Disordered mother, can make strong advocacy for children and for the reality that you CAN overcome. She feels it was seque into M's story later.

I'm really not sure what I'm going to do. Sis has a point. She has no idea about this blog. She has some guesses about what happened in my marriage but I never confirmed nor denied any of that for her. My sister sees men in black and white. I knew if I intended to restore my marriage, she would never be able to have a relationship with II again if she knew. I don't know that it was wrong to not tell her. I also don't know how I can write my history without including that amongst all of the other stuff. The tapestry of my life is not complete without all of it. I don't know if I'm ready to out myself and give details of my history, my marriage, my struggles and how hard I've fought to have a normal life in spite of all of that.

I tend to view every person as a tapestry. We all have different things woven into what makes us who we are. Some of us have some really poor elements woven into that tapestry. However, woven well, some of the ugliest and cheapest thread can contribute to a masterpiece that is simply beautiful. We are who we are. Our histories are part of that but don't determine any of us. Most of the time, I prefer to not dwell on all of the elements that compromise who I am. My sister is asking me to do exactly that, and to do it while facing what is happening to my son.

I don't know the answer. I just don't know yet.