My friendship with insomnia is a lifelong one, going back as far as I remember into my childhood, and becoming particularly enmeshed and codependent once I became an adult. Particularly, an adult with children. I need some bloody Atavan.
I am well aware that my anxiety disorder and my insomnia are best friends. Sometimes we're a threesome, although I try to remain dominant at all times.
Tonight, I am not winning. Instead, I'm ruminating about a specific time in my life as a parent when I was particularly unhappy. I have no idea what brought on these ruminations [ironically, lack of sleep may be a large factor], but they are here nevertheless.
I was the most unhappy after I had two kids. Which most of you already know. Having Ayden was a surprise, and a major adjustment, but I was shocked at the force of my love for him, and my joy in watching him do the simplest things, like grow and develop and eat snails and rocks and produce poop. It was all kinds of awesome, and I felt pretty good at it. I was gentle and patient and affectionate. I tried to be responsive, so that Ayden would know that our connection was more important to me than anything. I hoped this would set a healthy emotional foundation for him, my first priority.
[As an aside, Brent was also filled with love and parented responsively, and still does. I just leave him out because this is my blog, dewds.]
Anyways, enter: Matthew. Within three weeks, I fell apart. I rapidly devolved as a human being, and I could barely recognize myself. I hated parenting. I had no patience. Sometimes I would enter a room already blazing with anger imagining what my kids had probably gotten into while I was out of the room, and be surprised to see two toddlers playing quietly. I freaked out all the time, slammed doors, and hid every chance I got.
So. The part I've been ruminating on this evening in my wide-awake wee hours of the night state is how strongly I was tempted to leave my family at that point in my life. I was certain my children would be better off without me in their lives, and the allure of wiping my slate clean and starting over in California or Florida or some warm part of another country was pretty sweet. I just wanted to forget, you know? I wanted to walk away and leave it completely behind me, in my past, so far back that it would never get examined again, and I could restart my life in some small beachfront rental house, working as an EMT far, far away. And not have to think about how wildly I was failing, every minute of every day, trapped at home with two small children I seemingly hated.
[I feel that it is likely not necessary to point out that I did not actually hate my lovely boys, but was rather deeply mired in an unrecognized near psychosis, but it makes me feel better to have it said].
I could not for the life of me figure out why I was so angry.
If we are trapped in a circumstance [particularly of our own choosing; have I mentioned that this was part of my self hatred cycle? Beat myself up for choosing to have children when I should have known better?], it is very normal to feel angry. Having children is isolating. It is in some ways monotonous. And for me at that time it was a constant stream of maternal failure. And I had a mental illness, to boot.
The main anchor that kept me from running away was my relationship with Ayden. If I could get it right, sometimes, with him, I figured it must be possible that I was redeemable. That I could move on and get better. And stronger than that, I figured that by walking away and never looking back, I would do far more damage to him than I was doing by being inaccessible and angry but searching for a way to get better. I didn't know if I would get better, and indeed it took me far longer than I was happy with to sort out what was happening and devise a way to deal. I had dealt with depression before and I wasn't depressed. SOMETHING was wrong, though, and I had to figure it out SOON or risk leaving a scar on my kids' emotional health and wreck their childhoods.
I guess looking back I did lots of things right. I fed them freaking ALL THE TIME, because they were little and were hungry all the time, I bathed them every night, kissed them lots, took them out of the house every day to the park, or tot romp, or play groups, videotaped their milestones and accomplishments, turned on kid's music and danced with them (I have one hysterical video of Matthew dancing on the toy box and suddenly tripping and flying off the toy box: the video cuts out as I rescued him and comforted him, and then the video cuts back in to him dancing on the box again with a big, fat lip), played 'chase the toddler,' took them swimming, and kept them safe. But man, I was unhappy and emotionally unbalanced and having difficulty finding any answer as to why, and how to get better.
I did get better, and THEN find the answer, which is backwards but it worked nonetheless. I stumbled upon the concept of an 'inner monologue,' and how to tune into what my inner voice was saying to myself about myself all day long, and change it for the positive. This was effective enough to pull me back away from all the anger and hatred and frustration, but left me with disbelief and massive amounts of guilt. After Riley was born I got diagnosed with postpartum anxiety and the light bulb went on: HELLO! ALL THAT TIME I WAS ANXIOUS! And in fact looking back I had been anxious for a very, very long time, before I had kids, before I got married, before I was even out of high school. As a child I worried a lot. I worried about my parents both dying, or me getting cancer, or my parents getting divorced, or about social situations. I had a tendency even then. And I had difficulty sleeping sometimes, too. Getting treatment from my midwife/naturopath and going to a support group that offered cognitive behavioural therapy changed my life. Man oh man, am I ever grateful that I never left. Think about all I would have missed out on? And truly, though I was heavily tempted, I did not actually consider abandonment to be a feasible option. I figured it would permanently damage everyone including myself to a degree that was irreparable and deep, but there were days when I thought the way I felt and acted was doing that anyways.
I'm grateful for health, and for second chances.
|2006, Ayden 3, Matthew 1 1/2, and me. Aren't they cute as buttons? Sheesh.|