I hate driving

You know when you’re driving and you’re pretty sure you’re going to die? Not just any death either, one of those awful deaths. Like maybe you’ll feel really dizzy and crash into a bus full of children and you’ll both roll and burst into flames. Or maybe the brakes won’t work and you’ll have to keep on driving forever. That’s actually one of my fears. I hate driving.

I hate it because at its core, I hate independence. I hate knowing the world is so huge and the population is so vast that I could drive all day, from one side of the state to the next, and find excessive amounts of traffic.

You know that feeling when you’re driving on a narrow part of the highway and you swear you aren’t judging the size of your vehicle correctly? Like you just know you’re going to hit the side if you don’t slow down, but you want to speed up because you are suddenly aware at how uneven the road is and how scary it would be if the overpass collapsed?

I hate when I’m halfway somewhere. It means I’m too far from home to turn back and I have to keep going, stuck in a place in my head that is set on torturing me. Instead of worrying about normal things like “gee, I hope I’m not late”, my head sounds like this “was my banana tampered with? What if someone laced it with acid and I ate it before I left which means the effect would be kicking in right about now and….am I seeing things? What if I’m hallucinating this whole experience?” Cue the panic attack! See, fast heart rate is another symptom of acid!

I have this wonderful, imaginative and dissociative brain that thinks of such interesting things. But sometimes it turns on me like this. It’s not until I get there on time that I am able to see why I was nervous in the first place. I give myself a break. Of all the things I have overcome, driving might not ever be one of them.

But it’s cool. One day I’m going to teach my kids to drive and I’ll have 3 people indebted to driving me everywhere. ūüėÄ

Here’s to tomorrow’s drive to schools.

Acceptance

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I can’t wait to grow that tall, can you?

I had an interesting conversation today with my therapist. I told her that the depersonalization, rather than the panic itself, bothers me the most when I’m driving. Depersonalization, or feeling detached from oneself, is a common occurrence in drivers. It’s¬†a mental cruise control. You might miss your turn or¬†be unable to recall most details of your drive¬†after you reach your destination. It’s totally normal.

But¬†for¬†someone like me, depersonalization comes before the panic. Or, sometimes¬†it lingers around for days without panic and I feel like I’m not in control of my body. I know that’s not true.¬†On the contrary, depersonalization is a mechanism that¬†prepares you for action. It¬†essentially¬†cuts out the background noise¬†in your mind¬†in order to¬†listen for its cue to¬†fight. Or flight.¬†I would argue that my reflexes are sharp and accurate when I’m in a state of¬†depersonalization, so I know I¬†don’t really have¬†much to worry about when I’m driving. But still. It’s¬†uncomfortable.¬†I’m trained to fear it.¬†It’s the¬†Pavlovian bell before the food.¬†The depersonalization before the panic.

“It sounds like it’s a case of acceptance then” my therapist says. I laughed. Why would I accept¬†it?¬†My¬†only goal in life is to get better,¬†to realize happiness, to constantly improve.

“If you had diabetes”, she¬†went on, “You would know what you could and couldn’t eat. You¬†would know what to expect. Same with¬†anxiety.”

I think, in many ways, I have accepted it for what it is.¬†When I think about words to describe me,¬†“anxious” is one of the first word to pop into mind.I have no problem¬†talking about it, identifying with it, or working with it. I know my limits.¬†I know what I can and can’t handle. But still. It doesn’t stop me from pushing it. If I didn’t push it, I wouldn’t have even been able to drive myself to that appointment in the first place.

I don’t believe this is as good as it gets. I can’t accept that. I believe I’m the tree that is still growing. I think my therapist feels the same, but it got me thinking anyway. Have I not fully accepted it? I’m still running from it, trying to get back to what I feel is normal. But the truth is that I’m 27. Next year, I will have spent exactly half of my life with panic attacks and it’s not like they have eased up. Actually, they’ve only spread into phobias and triggers beyond my control. They are complex now. Maybe it’s time to face that. I might always be this way.

¬†I can’t believe it, though. I can’t accept it.¬† Even if¬†it were¬†diabetes, I¬†would feel the same.¬†I’d do whatever was in my power and miracles would happen. I’d have to believe. Same with anxiety.

The problem with anxiety is the nature of it. If you could accept and let it wash over you, it would mean your system was broken. You wouldn’t be alerted to danger. This is why you can never “get used” to panic attacks. That is why, no matter how many times I tell myself it’s only panic, my mind runs around in circles telling me something absolutely horrible is happening.

But it’s not. It’s just my primal brain stuck in a hellish place with no room to grow. And maybe, instead of placing myself above it all, I¬†should try to¬†stand where I really am. I’m dreaming of complete independence when sometimes I’m dragging my body where my mind is not ready to go. And I’m frustrated when I fall short.

So for today, I am going easy on myself. It doesn’t mean I won’t ever reach the top.¬†¬†I don’t have to abandon hope. It just means that growth is sometimes slow and stagnant and that’s ok. I’m just a baby tree, the best is yet to come.

I can’t wait to grow that tall. ¬†

Real Mom

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We are precious. My favorite photo of all time. I never dreamed at that moment of how our life would be together now. I could never imagine the profound impact you would have or the sheer joy and happiness your children would bring. I love you so much and thank you for accepting a so less than perfect mother!!

My mom on seeing this photo I posted to her Facebook wall.

Last week, she called me and told me she couldn’t read my blog anymore, to which I replied, “You aren’t supposed to be reading it!!”

I’m so blessed, friends. So blessed and I can’t take it for granted.

I was born to this 15 year old bi-polar girl. Her story isn’t mine to tell, but from my view, she simply didn’t know any better. She found drugs and fell in love with an abusive man and between them both, my childhood didn’t stand a chance. Whenever we talk about it, she sometimes asks me, “Do you have ANY happy memories of your childhood?” I want to say yes. After all, the “bad” years started when I was about 6 and ended when I was 10. Just 4 years. In the grand scheme of things, it’s nothing. Just 4 years.

But I’ve spent the rest of my life overcoming them and sometimes putting into perspective like that- JUST four years- frustrates me and makes me feel weak. Yeah, I’m sure there were good memories. I loved it when the abusive boyfriend was in jail and we didn’t have to worry. I loved playing outside with my friends, though I can’t recall a single one by face or by name. Certainly there were friends…right? That’s the problem. Dissociative amnesia. I don’t remember Christmases or birthdays or good times. I don’t even remember all the bad. I’m just left with this feeling. A dark, overwhelming feeling of doom and sickness and filth that I try to keep at bay long enough to get through the day.

The 4 years ended with my mother’s arrest. The state took my brother and I, separated us, and stuck us in different homes. Me, with my aunt and uncle. Him, his grandmother. My mom completed rehab and regained custody, but it wasn’t the happy ending you’d anticipate. My mom was still bi-polar and dealing with that meant walking on eggshells and learning how to cope in a hostile environment. It got worse with each passing year and ultimately shaped the way I deal with people. I’m like a bi-polar magnet, calling them from far away, as if¬†I know how to handle the abuse of a borderline personality and uncontrollable mood swings. At her worst, my mother was the type of person who could lull you into a false sense of security to gain your trust and learn your vulnerability only to use it against you when she lashed out at you later. Eventually, her ability to reason was more and more infrequent and we cut ties.

It was during a fall out that she got help. She got medicated. Now, I realize the irony that a phobic girl like me should be saved in some way by the very medication she refuses to take, but that’s how it went.

That was all it took. I mean it. That was it. A stupid pill. A glorious pill! And I got a mom for the first time. It took a good 22 years, but friends…it was worth the wait. At first, I didn’t know how to handle this new person. She was the good parts of my mom, but I always assumed those good parts were lies that fed the bad parts, so I didn’t trust it right away. I waited. I knew she’d crack.

I’ll never forget how I learned it was permanent. I was barely pregnant with my second baby and she and I were emailing about it. She said she didn’t know how she’d love another baby because her first grandson was her most favorite person in the world. I should have read it as a sweet sentiment. Instead, I read it as the old her, vindictive and jealous, without filter. I heard her reject the new baby. I went off. I told her THAT was the exact reason we didn’t talk. Because clearly she is mean and spiteful and if she doesn’t learn to keep her opinions to herself, we can’t be on speaking terms.

I waited. I knew that she would either apologize or flip out, but that’s how you had to deal with her. You had to be over the top and speak it in a language that could penetrate the mania. But she wasn’t that person. That fog had lifted. Instead, it made her cry.

It was obvious then that I didn’t know this woman. I didn’t know how to handle her and it was ok, because I didn’t need to anymore. It took quite awhile for me to trust that, but when it clicked, it was magic. A true miracle.

All of that anger I felt, victimized by a woman who wouldn’t even acknowledge what happened, it just vanished. The simple act of taking care of herself righted so many wrongs. No longer did I need to scream that I was justified, beg for approval, or rebel against the war. It was over. That person who made me feel small- she wasn’t my real mother. My mother isn’t her mental illness. She isn’t the sum of her mistakes or her addiction. All of those things¬†were actions set forth by mentally ill thoughts.

She apologizes so often. The guilt she feels weighs heavily on her, especially when she sees how heavily the past weighs on me. But, it’s weird. I don’t need to hear it. The load feels half of what it was simply because I have her in my life. The real her. There’s nothing to apologize for. Not a single thing.

Not many people with crazy parents get to make amends. Not many of them get medicated or come to their senses. Fewer apologize. Here I am, researching places to get our foodie fix when she comes to visit again. I’m making sure we have the ingredients for caramel corn and that Vampire Diaries updated on Netflix so we can binge and brush each other’s hair. I know we’ll stay up all night talking and laughing until we cry and then the kids will wake us up and we’ll nap in shifts until we decide we want to go out and shop. We’ll compare tastes in style and note how I am always the more mature, subdued one and will always pick the sensible beige pumps over the leopard print stilettos she tries on, though I will¬†totally suggest we¬†take a pole dancing class together.¬†Just between us, though, I’m pretty sure she’s been twerking since¬†before it had a name.

My mom is awesome. She’s fun and loving and thoughtful. ¬†My mom is the strongest woman I know. I not only accept this “so¬†less than perfect” mother, I love her with all my heart. She is my best friend. I forgive. I love. I honor.

I am forever grateful for this happy ending. I’m blessed.

-K.S. Boyer

Mommy Meltdown

I love kids. No wait. I mean to say I love my kids. I love their fresh, new baby smell and tiny noises. I love kissing the swirl on their baby heads. I love having purpose and bursting with pride. I love the chubby toddler phase and every “first”. I love when they start talking and say things like “when we get a kitty, I promise I will clean it’s glitter box!” I love watching them grow and learn. I love homeschooling. I love knowing they are safe and that their world is secure.

I learn a lot from them. I’m always surprised how safe and secure they feel. They are fearless. They are happy and social and na√Įve the way children are supposed to be. Their innocence inspires me to give them the life I wish I would have had. Morning snuggles, baking cakes together, singing songs, reading novels under the covers, exploring museums, taking trips, gathering with friends, having Pinterest parties, and building forts in the living room.

I hesitate to say no. I feel myself becoming more childlike and questioning the harm in things. Why can’t they make a mess? Why can’t they run and scream and shout? Why can’t they risk making mistakes? You only get one short childhood, but its lessons last a lifetime.

And maybe knowing that is also my greatest stressor. I mustn’t screw up my kids. It has to be perfect. But raising perfect kids, perfectly is impossible. In fact, just this morning, my attempt at taking my children outside to ride their scooters prompted this blog. It first began with Lily refusing to move her scooter from the patio because she saw a bee. So with one hand, I carried the scooter and let it slam into the back of my calves while I dragged my two year old with the other hand. Lately, he likes to stop in the middle of the sidewalk, sit down, and look around for sticks. Meanwhile, Aidan has taken off on his scooter and isn’t responding to my yelling to come back. I finally get Lily on her scooter and I pick¬† the baby so¬†so I can chase Aidan down, who is heading into the street, completely clueless. It’s then that I hear a cry from Lily behind me. She fell off the scooter and hurt her hand. The baby in my arms is now punching me in the face because he wants down and at that moment I wanted to cry. “I’M TRYING TO GIVE YOU A GOOD CHILDHOOD. WHY ARE YOU MAKING THIS SO MISERABLE?!”

It’s moments like those that I feel so trapped. It reminds me of when my brother was a baby. My mother was too far gone into addiction to care for him, so I did. I was barely older than Aidan, the clueless wonder heading into the street. If I went outside, I took my brother. Toward the end, just before the state intervened, we lived in an empty apartment with bare cabinets. Usually, it was pasta. I would measure his formula and make the pasta while my mother was locked in the bathroom getting high. Sometimes, the baby would make such a mess and would throw his food. I didn’t understand why. It would take so long to clean up and get him washed. I cried often. So trapped.

It’s moments like those that I am pulled back into the dark recesses of my childhood memories. Teaching Aidan to ride a bike reminds me of my own bike. From sun up to sun down, I liked to ride. We were homeless sometimes and precariously housed others, usually living with other drug addicts. The few toys I had were stolen from other kids or taken out of dumpsters and though I still appreciated them, my bike was my pride and joy. Every time I stand behind Aidan and put my hands on his handlebars, I remember the blisters that would form from gripping the rubber handle all day. I can still feel the satisfying clicking of the chain spinning. I am reminded of those days, and it’s painful. I am also reminded that I haven’t been on a bike since the day we came home to our friend’s studio apartment to find the sliding glass door broken and my beloved bike stolen. I hate teaching my kid to ride. I really do.

I look at Aidan, so innocent and sweet, and I’m baffled, too. When I was his age, I knew how to call the police on Jereamy when he beat my mom. I knew if I told the police he had a warrant, they might actually come out to help her. Aidan has never even placed a phone call. He’s never made pasta. Or fed his baby brother. When I was his age, I knew how to navigate whatever neighborhood I was in with my bike. Not only does he not know how to ride well yet, but he has never been anywhere outside alone. At his age, I knew that Pyrex dishes were ideal for making meth. I had already smoked a cigarette. I slept outside. Had been molested. Watched my mom get beat. Lived with a paranoid schizophrenic who threatened to poison us. Saw a dead body. Witnessed a drug bust. Gone hungry.

Fuck.

I look at my kid and I can’t imagine him going through any of that. I look at him and I get angry.¬† I look at my kids and I’m conflicted with such pain and pleasure that sometimes I can’t make up my mind and I feel guilty. ¬†Other parents seem to be grown and mature, and sometimes I’m that 9 year old taking care of that 8 month old. I try to tell myself that every parent gets overwhelmed, but my inner critic tells me it’s just me. I’m broken. I wasn’t meant to be a parent. I wasn’t good at being a kid and I’m just not good at this grown up stuff, either.

It’s moments like this morning¬†that make me think about stuff like that. But I somehow managed to get the kids back inside, carrying a kicking Aaron, and yelling for Lily to “COME NOW OR GO IN TIME OUT” and I fed them the cupcakes they helped make and we got the books out and snuggled on the couch and I read- in character and everything. They snuggled close. I nursed Aaron and kissed the tops of¬†heads. We recited poems and colored and practiced writing and¬†letter sounds. I shook the thoughts, the dirt on my shoulder, the devil on my back. I shook it all. Because I’m a mom and I am strong for my babies. I’m not perfect and sometimes I’m overwhelmed. I don’t always understand children as I wasn’t much of one. But I happen to love 3 of them with all my heart and I know their childhoods are short. Sometimes, it’s that bittersweet thought that gives me hope and sometimes it’s just enough to keep me in the moment, far from the past.

And maybe that’s as perfect as it gets.

 

‚̧ K.S.Boyer

The Race

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 Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!

-Lewis Carroll

A few weeks ago, I sat in a psychologist’s office trying to figure out how to answer his question, “What’s been going on?” I didn’t know where to start. Do I tell him about the postpartum? The phobias? The panic attacks? My childhood? My current stressors? I went through the list in my head and chuckled. His eyebrow raised. Great, now I look even more crazy. I started with the recent stuff and worked my way back. At the end of the session, he came to the same conclusion I came to years ago. I have a diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and¬†Dissociative Disorder. Yeah, I’m crazy.

Just between you and me, I sometimes wish that if I had to be crazy, I could the kind of “chemically imbalanced” crazy. Instead, I’m the “tell me what happened to you then stop so we can go to your happy place” kind of crazy.¬†Pills just aren’t going to fix the main problem. And even if they could, it wouldn’t matter anyway, because I’ve suffered from a drug phobia ever since I was unknowingly drugged!

For the most part, I’m ok. I compensate and hide it really well. I accomplish a lot, even though I panic the entire journey. I’m grateful that I can function and feel what happiness I do. But I can’t pretend I don’t stumble. All of this- this happy life, these accomplishments and successes- they are a lot of upkeep. I’m exhausted. I’m running twice as fast just to do what others do at regular speed. If I slow down, I will trip and everything will snowball until I am a giant mess. It happens. The momentum slows. If I try to shut down my anxious brain, my body will hurt. If I pause for a second, the panic catches up and depression seeps in.

If I introspect, I sometimes get angry. I think about the perpetrators and how they’ve altered my brain and how I’d do anything to feel normal. What would that feel like? What would the world look like at a regular pace?¬† What if I could hand this over to someone else just for a minute so I could feel the weight lifted? But that’s just the thing, isn’t it? No matter how altered my brain is,¬†my core remains the same. If given the choice to hand it over, I would never take it. I would absorb it all a million times over, because I am good. No kind of crazy will ever change that.

Maybe I need this. Maybe I would get bored at normal pace. Maybe I wouldn’t do half the things I¬†have done¬†if I didn’t have anything to prove or to run away from. So often when we’ve gone through hell, we think about what we’ve lost or the hardships we’ve endured.¬†How it’s changed us. ¬†But there is no telling what we’ve gained. We can’t possibly know.

What if, maybe, it’s a race we can win? What if I keep on going until reach something that resembles happiness and safety and comfort? What if the skin finally sheds? I don’t know,¬† but tonight, instead of feeling down about how hard everything is to maintain, I’m going to look for a reason it’s so important. What about you, friends? Are you keeping pace?

‚̧ K.S. Boyer

 

Day 147

Are you going through something tough¬†right now? I find that whenever I go through something, I push people away. As much as I may need their help, I don’t want them to see me like this. It’s only after it is over and I have recovered that I want to shout it from the mountain tops that I survived! Only then do I dare to talk about it.

In a way, it’s comforting to know that I can talk about my past because I survived. I am free to say things that I was once ashamed of. When I was 9, I was sent to my aunt and uncle’s to live while my mother completed rehab. Life normalized a bit. I had a good friend at school and made honor roll for attendance for the first time. Everything was great. Until I saw a familiar face, a girl whose cousin I used to be friends with. This was significant because I would often play with the two cousins while my mom and theirs shared the same meth lifestyle. Now here was this girl before me at school, reminding me¬†of who I really was and what the world was really like. She recognized me, too, and she went around telling everyone my mom did drugs and we were homeless. I was so ashamed, I denied it all.

Now look at me.

MY MOM DID DRUGS AND WE WERE HOMELESS.

Nothing but freedom.

Well, friends, I’m going through something. Something I don’t want to talk about because I haven’t worked through it to the end. I’m ashamed. It’s about my marriage. My hope is that maybe if I whisper or hint at my feelings, maybe they will stop building up so high in my head. For the first time, I feel like I’m not going to survive¬†this situation.¬†Sometimes when it starts to feel right and¬†the path is¬†smooth, something happens to remind me and it’s like seeing¬†the girl’s¬†familiar face. I¬†remember who I am and what the world is like. So I’d like to share something I wrote called Day 147. Because it happened on the 147th day after my marriage shattered in November 2011.

Day 147

I lost count really.

I had a conversation with my BFF. We were discussing the fish in the sea. We agreed that I’m someone who never fishes, the fish just seem to pop into my boat. Those on my line are usually retarded looking- like the 3 eyed fish from The Simpsons- all radioactive. Occasionally, and I mean RARELY, I find myself attracted to one of those normal-looking fish. It’s pointless, though, since they all come from the same toxic lake.

Figured I’d pull the plug and let the water drain. I’m sure my father holds is what keeps the water in, so I started there. And despite the fact that he’s dying, I still have so much anger inside. I still find myself asking the same question- why am I never good enough? What is it about you, Retarded Fish, that makes you able to hurt me? I don’t deserve this.

Maybe that’s my problem. I keep swimming in the same lake, with the same thought processes. And I guess when it comes to change, the pendulum always swings in one extreme to get away from the other, so what’s the opposite? Perpetrating? Victimizing? Why does one always have to get hurt? I can’t seem to answer that, so I keep letting myself be the one to take the fall. I can’t seem to ever return the favor. And that reminds me I’m the better person. It comforts me.

But what if I could love? What if I could swim in the ocean and it not end in mass chaos? Can I hold my emotions in? Can I let them out? They are there, just not expressed. They are there, fully exposed, waiting to take the blow. Like a  martyr.

I victimize my damn self. I need to learn how to stop.

Maybe the point I’m trying to make¬†here is the answer to¬† learning how. No matter what you’re going through, you can’t play the martyr, allow shame to conquer, and then wonder why you feel so alone. Maybe it’s ok to talk about stuff and to admit them as they happen. Maybe it’s ok to let people see you like this. Maybe when you accept everything for what it is, the uninvited reminder dissipates.

I don’t know. But¬†I¬†do know that I don’t want to push you away anymore.

Best Friends Forever

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It was 4th grade. Mrs. Miller’s Class. It was my first day back after being taken out of my mother’s custody, out of the state’s, and finally into my aunt and uncle’s. It was the same class I had been in, but I didn’t even recognize it. I had gone so few days, always absent. As luck should have it, it was field trip day and I had to call my aunt to bring me a lunch and supplies for going to the Grand Canyon.

Everyone piled into the bus with their field trip buddies. I had been paired with the popular girl, Jessica. We hit it off…in a sort of “frenemy” way, where she was way cooler than me and we both knew it. The trip was long and as the day went on, I became way more interested in another classmate. By lunch time, I swapped Jessica out for my new friend and field trip buddy, Sharon.

Everyday,¬†Sharon and I¬†became closer. Our friendship resumed my paused childhood. She was a bit broken like me, I was safe to be the freak I felt I was.¬†If we were¬†two weird girls,¬†none of that mattered when we were together. We embraced it. In the winter, Sharon would bring her big trench coat to school. We would trade one shoe for each other’s and both climb in the coat, “like Siamese twins!” we’d say. Occasionally, Jessica would try to approach us¬†and we would put up our crosses for we had a suspicion that the reason she was so pale was that she was really a ghost. A super cool ghost.

A lot of kids hated our friendship. Even at nine, people called us lesbians. Most people just thought we were sisters, and that was even more hilarious to us. Every morning, I would walk to the corner and wait for Sharon. The crosswalk lady would unite us and we’d continue the way to school. Every afternoon, Sharon would walk me to the corner, and we’d say goodbye as the crosswalk woman led the way to the other side. If, for some reason, one of us didn’t show or came late, the crosswalk lady would let us know. Everyone saw us as a pair.

Sharon was a savior to me in many ways. As I cried out at night for my mom, the morning brought me hope and brought me Sharon. One in the same. When my mom was finally ready to come out of rehab and gain custody, she had only a small window to find a place to stay. Mom and Sharon’s mom met one day and we were moved in by the weekend. We danced in the yard, chanting “we’re gonna be roomies!”, holding hands, jumping. It was the start of a year we’d live together while my mom got¬†on her¬†feet. ¬†A savior, friends. Truly.

Sharon and I are still best friends to this day. As I type, she is chatting to me on Facebook regarding hairstyles she wants to practice on me. She is far away, in Arizona while I am trying to lure her here to Florida (why use sea salt spray when you have the actual salt water here?!). We are still a pair, our children being born just 9 months apart and both of us going through similar life stages. We talk nearly daily. In my chaotic life, she is my touchstone.

I can’t imagine my life without her. Her presence centers me, her words inspire me, the very thought of her makes me happy. She is my therapy. My trusted advisor. My best friend forever.

I love you, sister friend. I just wanted to remind you.

 

sunnishar

Happy Baggage

There’s nothing that reminds me of my childhood like my own children. In some ways, it’s scary.¬†Their innocence makes me question how I ever survived the things I’ve been through. I can’t imagine my kids hearing me yell at their father, let alone watch us physically fight. I can’t imagine my kids without clean sheets, let alone sleeping outside. As a mother, my heart breaks for the younger me. It breaks for my mom, too, because I know she’ll forever feel a guilt I’ve never placed over her. There are some things you don’t come back from.

Having my own kids brings the memories. Their fragility reminds me of how many stomach aches I used to have. Everyday, I sat in the nurse’s office. I had switched schools so many times, my memory confuses the hallways, but I remember walking down the corridor, pass in hand, relieved to get away from the classroom. I think I faked many stomach aches just so I could leave. The idea of focusing of multiplication tables while my mother was off, doing who knows what, was impossible. My world was survival.

I didn’t understand addiction or why my mother stayed with her abusive boyfriend. I am not sure that any kid could. All I knew is that my mother made bad choices and sometimes it was better that I should be there just in case she made another one. And maybe, perhaps if I was with her, I wouldn’t have to worry if she would come pick me up. There were a few times she forgot, but friends, I was afraid for her life.

I know that feeling¬†when my two year old screams¬†as¬†I leave the room. I know it well. Only I wasn’t two, I was probably around Aidan’s age, 8. I look at Aidan, who doesn’t even notice when I leave the house sometimes, and can’t¬† imagine a child feeling so helpless. But that was me, a lifetime ago. And now I’m here, always here for my kids, never wanting them to know what I have known.

School made me feel everything that was wrong with my life. The contrast between my friends with their new shoes, talking about their latest Goose Bumps book, while just the other day I had waited in a line at food pantry and ate bread straight out of the bag. The teacher, using good wholesome language, acting as if childhood was all unicorns and rainbows, oblivious that¬†I was grown just like her. I had seen shit she’d probably only ever read about. Then there was the office, constantly calling me up to get the number to the phone I didn’t have. In every way it could, the system failed me.

Sigh.

I homeschool my kids. Bet you didn’t see that coming, did ya?

A lot of people ask me why. A lot of people think it’s ridiculous. I mean, people in my life, not just strangers. I can cite research all day long, and I can show them how much more socialization they get in the community. But what I really want to tell them is what I can’t possibly make them understand. They weren’t there. They had their new shoes and the focus to pay attention to multiplication tables. They bought the idea that childhood was all rainbows and unicorns. They recall their friends and how, at the end of the day, they didn’t want their parents to come pick them up.

It isn’t my reason for homeschooling, but it’s the fear that keeps me going.

I tell you that to tell you this: not all baggage is bad. My children have benefited from this the most. Whenever my 8 year old kid reminds me of the 8 year old me, I just do what¬†should have been done. What¬†the system should have done. What the adults should have done. Kids bring your memories with them and present them in a new light. It’s an opportunity to get a re-do. It’s an opportunity to grow.

It’s baggage I’m happy to keep.

 

aidannn

25 Ways to Stop a Panic Attack

I wrote this last year and decided it’s worth a repost.


 

25 ways to end a panic attack

1. Listen to me: It’s harmless. It’s temporary. It lies. I know you don’t believe me. I know it’s finally here- the time you actually die and/or go crazy. I know every fiber in your body believes it will never end and it will get worse. But stop. Listen to me. It’s harmless. It’s temporary. It lies. When it’s over, tell me how I told you so.

2. Find a happy place. Use your imagination. Take a break from the flooding of panic and pretend you’re there.

3. Get lost. What is it that makes you passionate or happy? Go get lost in it. I can spend hours looking up crafts, home décor, and homeschooling resources. Whatever your interests are, dive into it.

4. Get a massage. Ask a friend or family member. Go to the spa. Touch brings you back down to reality.

5. Cry it out. Pent up anger, fear, and hurt can be masked by panic. Let it out.

6. Think about the last time. Remember when you were sure it wouldn’t end? It did. Remember how you survived that one attack even looking back on makes you worry? Why is this one different? Before you answer, remember it lies.

7. Accept. Accept it like a head cold.

8. Inhale. Swallow. Exhale. I know you swear you can’t feel your lungs, but judging by your swimming head and floaty arms, you might be sucking in too much air. If you can’t control your breathing:

9. Run off the extra oxygen. Once, my entire abdomen went numb from hyperventilating. I didn’t even know I was doing it. Get rid of the oxygen. Dance!

10. Afraid of _______? Do it. Prove it wrong. Remember to tell yourself you told you so.

11. Stay present.  Focus on being in the moment. Let the anxiety worry about itself for a minute.

12. Speak your mind. For years, I tried shutting off the panic by shutting down the thoughts. Now I just panic and I have no idea why. Allow yourself to hear your own anxious thoughts. Say them out loud. They might sound silly.

13. Plan a project. Throw a surprise party. Update your resume. Clean the garage. Create a new makeup routine.

14. Get some sleep. Let today be today and tomorrow be unwritten. Do not forecast, do not dwell on what’s already come to pass. Rest your head as best you can.

15. Carry on. You’re not ill, crazy, or dying. You might have had a setback, but the show must go on. Don’t make it a big deal.

16. Sit with it. Feel your every thought, notice how your body responds. It’s uncomfortable. But it ends. The more you do this, the less you fear them.

17. Decide to change. When you are in a negative state of mind, prior negative experiences, thoughts, and feelings are more readily available. Decide this is an isolated event in an otherwise wonderful day and life. Focus on positive change.

18. Don’t look ahead. Don’t fret about impending stressors. Don’t forecast. Stay present. Remember we overestimate how scary things really are.

19. Visualize. You’re sitting on the bank of a river, watching leaves fall into it. Each leaf is an emotion. You can watch fear float on by. You are not your emotions. Emotions are not the reality.

20. Ride it out. Go ahead. Spaz out, run away, scream, find the nearest exit, sit home, do your worst. It won’t change what I said in number 1.

21. Get out of your head. And into the world. Connect with friends, interact with others. You think too much.

22. Laugh. Ambiguous energy can sometimes be translated as negative. So when you’re feeling weighed down without reason, go ahead and laugh. Go on. If you’re going to go crazy, you might as well look the part. ūüėõ

23. Get some sunshine. So sit at the park and people watch. Read a book under a tree. Dig your toes in the sand. Just get out.

24. Journal. Find patterns in your thinking. Identify any cognitive distortions. Update the way you view the world. Express yourself.

25. Get out of a rut. Maybe stagnation is an issue here. Make some goals and a plan to follow through. Take control of your life.

ūüôā K.S. Boyer

Fortitude for the Phobic

In what ways have you grown recently?

If you’re anything like me, you often don’t give yourself enough credit. When I stop to really think about it, though, I’m amazing. In the past 5 years: I got a driver’s license after seven years of being a phobic, quit smoking, and got a degree. All while raising kids and being a nervous wreck.

We all have an inner critic inside us that speaks louder than our accomplishments at times, but it seems my inner cheerleader lost her voice trying to get through to me a long time ago. The critic is all I’ve got unless I tell it to pipe down. Today was one of those days.

I got a call on Wednesday from the Doctor, who wanted to see me regarding my labs. Before I even hung up the phone, my heart was pounding. Something that many people don’t understand about me is that I have a phobia regarding medication and chemicals. Of all the things I could have and have already accomplished, this phobia is the last one standing.

It affects my life in many ways. For one, I am more afraid of medication than pain, so I’ve had 3 natural childbirths. I needed to get my wisdom teeth out last year, but will not allow them to put me to sleep and panic over the carbocaine. I won’t take vitamins or supplements. I won’t use household cleaner. I won’t even drink caffeinated beverages. When my children need medication, I have to do a lot of rationalizing and deep breathing because I’m afraid for them, too. I would never withhold medical treatment from them and should my life depend on it, I would work through it and get it done for myself. But when it comes to this modern world where every ailment has a prescription, I have ultimately opted out of it.

Today was my appointment. I went in, assuming I was likely¬†low on iron or had a low thyroid function (two things I’ve encountered while pregnant), but was shocked when he said he wanted to do an EKG before discussing the results. He wants to rule out Lupus.

Lupus?! Are you kidding?!

This presses all of my buttons. More testing, potential problems with major organs should I have this, and very scary medications to control it. My future suddenly feels like an impending doom. My present suddenly lacks any past positive experiences: for the life of me, I can’t seem to recall my strength or my accomplishments. That was, until I sat down and¬† decided to look at them, here and now.

There are times like these where I am triggered and it changes my perspective of the world. I know it’s up to me to change it back. To look at it not like impending doom for me but impending doom for this phobia. Just like I earned the driver’s license, had the strength to quit smoking, and the patience for college, I can do this. All of those other things felt impossible at the time, too, but that’s just the¬†critic’s chant.¬†It’s that weak and small cheerleader who gets the glory in the end. We just have to acknowledge it.

So, in what ways have you grown recently? Think about them. Write them out. Store them in your pocket for the times you lack the strength to tell that critic to pipe down: you’re amazing. And if not for you, do it for me this once. Because I, too, need to be reminded it will all work out.

 

‚̧ K.S. Boyer