Step Into the Sunshine

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There’s something about a confession that leaves even just the slightest bit of room for a shift. I wrote in my last post, I hate Breastfeeding that the second time around, I am hating the whole breastfeeding process. It felt good to say. And it’s not entirely true, anymore. It was true then. It’s not true today. I’m okay with that.

Maybe it’s the sunshine, or the fact that my nipples are mostly healing, or that it’s week 5 and we’ve settled into a little bit of a routine, but I don’t hate nursing today. I don’t love it. I don’t feel the necessity of it in the way I felt with Potamus. I feel ambiguous about future weaning, but I feel ambiguous about a lot of future events (like him starting daycare at 6 months old). But today I don’t hate breastfeeding, not in the sunshine, in my backyard, with this sweet lil G man.

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Fear of the Unknown vs Fear of the Known

I’m having trouble.

I’m currently in the blissful weeks of pregnancy. The afternoon nausea has gone, and I’m mostly even keeled (with the exception of dealing with a very trying almost 4 year old. WHEW I WILL BE GLAD WHEN THIS STAGE IS OVER. THERE I SAID IT.) I mostly am symptom free, and not yet in the showing + feeling kicks stage.

And yet, I am petrified.

Last pregnancy I was nervous, in the “can I do this? Can I really be a parent?” naivete way. But this time around? Petrified. I see pictures online of my friends’ brand new baby and I’m propelled backward in time with all of this new knowledge and I’m like “no no no no no this can’t be happening to me.” Like, wake me up from the nightmare.

Rationally I know I’ll survive, as we do. But thrive? Boy am I concerned about that. I sit in stillness for a minute and try to imagine a tiny wriggling 8lb baby on my chest while my son yells “mommy more orange juice” from the living room and think, “what the fuck have I gotten myself into?”

The fear of the known has always been hard for me. During sports seasons I would DREAD the daily conditioning, even to the point of making myself occasionally vomit to avoid practice. Knowing what was to come was terrible. The anxiety buildup was beyond what I could control. Something sprung on me in the moment isn’t fun, but I suck it up and deal much better. So having 10 months to think about this impending doom (as I can’t help but conceptualize it) is crazy scary.

And then I get the mommy guilt trip that I’ve thus avoided with my son so far. But this worry that somehow my antepartum anxiety is going to effect this little one. That I’ll give birth to a neurotic daughter* and thus feel terrible for creating a child just like myself.

I spin and spin and annoy myself to no end. Despite the fact that I know I will be okay. I’ve been okay this whole time, and I will be okay again, but I’m petrified of the hard parts. With my son I didn’t know what to expect. And so once he was born I rushed headlong into parenting with a naivete that I’m afraid will be tampered down by my obsessional desire to conserve energy at all costs.

Can anyone at all relate? Am I completely a nutcase?

Lego Ninjago does nothing for  my liberal "it's a culture, not a costume," leanings. At what age will I have to enforce that?

Lego Ninjago does nothing for my liberal “it’s a culture, not a costume,” leanings. At what age will I have to enforce that?

Were we really fristers after all?

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Apparently we’re good at taking pictures of un-reality. Because the day after Thanksgiving, I walked out of the bathroom to overhear my sister talking to the friend I had brought to Thanksgiving dinner, about how she think I criticize her so much, and how hurtful I am, and that it’s ‘so highschool,’ and I wanted to slam my fist into the door and walk out. Screaming. Crying. I wanted to do it all. Instead I walked back around the corner and put my kid to bed, because parenting duties don’t stop when you overhead gossip going on in the kitchen when they think you’re not listening.

The whole time we were there, my New York born, Seattle, living, friend kept saying things like, “your sister is so nice, she’s just such a nice person,” and honestly I’m sick of that. I’ve been hearing that kind of shit my whole life. My sister, the quintessential cheerleader personality, with all of her baubles and tittering laugh, being compared to my tell-it-like-it-is personality that questions every authority I’ve come across. I’m the older one, the responsible one, the one who doesn’t shamelessly flirt with everyone she meets. The one who came home and studied and didn’t sneak out to party with older boys and questionable friends. And all people who come in contact with her say “she’s so nice.”

I’m tired of feeling like no matter what I do, no matter who I am, that my way of being in the world is wrong. I’m tired of being labelled the ‘difficult,’ one because my personality doesn’t conform to the standard of femininity that my sister embodies. It makes me feel like shit to hear my sister say that I’m basically a terrible person and that she can’t even tell me to my face. Makes me think that she’s just been putting up a happy-happy-joy-joy cheerleader front all this time. And for what? To build a fake relationship with me and have it all go to shit when I overhear her badmouthing me?

Boof says it’s because I have the kind of personality that doesn’t let people come close without dropping their defense mechanisms. That I don’t put up with bullshit and some people don’t like that feature about me. That it’s not about my being being wrong in the world, but rather that it forces them to see how they are wrong in the world, and they must change to interact with me. Whatever it is, it doesn’t feel good. And it makes me want to cut off all relationships, like with my friend, or my sister, to pursue more authentic relationships. Ones that don’t feel like I am a difficult person.

Hyper Awareness as a Superpower or Albatross?

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I’m sitting at home on a Tuesday night, wearing my comfy gray sweatpants and eating some pre-Halloween candy. I’m pretending like Boof reffing a football game is the reason I didn’t go to yoga, even though I cancelled the childcare I had lined up. I’ve wanted to stay in, play legos with Potamus, and watch all the shows that have been sitting on my DVR. With November rapidly approaching I am feeling this prickly feeling inside, which I’m trying to ignore. Part of living with depression and anxiety is treading the very fine line of hyper-awareness and making a mountain out of a molehill.

My anxious mind starts to spin, asking the questions “why am I not going to yoga? Am I depressed? Do I want to sleep more because I’m depressed? Am I angry at work because I’m depressed? It’s only October and I’m not doing things I normally do, am I going to fall into a deep dark depression and become a crazy person who can’t take care of her child and ends up being committed into a hospital, and thus losing my job, and getting a divorce, and living in a box in pioneer square shooting heroin?”

You can see, the spiraling anxious thoughts actually contribute to depression, though this hyper awareness has saved my life before. It’s prompted me to notice when my exhaustion has become depression without falling into the deep hole I used to get into as a teenager. It has prompted me to go on medication less than 24 hours after having homicidal/suicidal thoughts postpartum. It has helped me make the decision to every year go on antidepressants in November and self-wean in the spring. Hyper awareness has been a super power that I have harnessed.

And yet, here I am, snuggled in my house wearing sweats and having no motivation to brave the rainstorm outside. I’m not apathetic, I’m quiet. I’m not depressed, I’m introspective. My hyper awareness is rearing it’s head because in the past these have been warning signs. That fine line between being overly tired from working/parenting and the tiredness from biological brain chemistry tricking me into wanting to sleep for days and days. I wake up every day excited to go to work, despite the dramas that happen by noon. I might leave every day frustrated and in a mood to co-ruminate with coworkers, but every morning I look forward to going back. I feel spontaneous, cancelling childcare and taking a trip to Target to indulge in the new Tay Swift CD and a bucket of legos for Potamus. Rather than isolation, I’m craving connection, but in a quiet autumn way.

I’m sleeping so fucking fantastically that I want to stay sleeping. Not because depression has taken over, but because for three years I haven’t gotten more than two-three hours in a row. Thanks to Potamus wanting to sleep in his own bed (for SEVEN HOURS last night!) and the marijuana that keeps my body from revolting from restful sleep (by having to pee all the time or having midnight anxiety thoughts), I am getting 8+ hours a night. It feels so glorious that it’s no wonder I want to repeat it again and again and again every night because who knows how many night sleeps I’ve lost (and who knows when I might lose them again!). It all makes me wonder, is this how normal people feel when the Fall comes around? The desire to stay inside, eat chilli and drink cider, and gossip with friends around the fire.

I want the sensitivity to my ‘symptoms’ to be used for good, and not as an albatross around my neck. I don’t want to rush headlong into depression because I’ve misread the signs along the way. I don’t want to treat myself as depressed when I’m not. And yet I don’t want to let myself get away with depressed thoughts/behavior that might come up, because I know how to take care of myself. It’s such a fine line of redefining and deciphering what is ‘normal’ behavior and what is a problem. Living with mental illness is such a delicate dance.

Growing pains, boundaries, and those dreaded parents…

Um, it’s been a day. To say the least. My head is spinning and I need to just get it out so I can sleep well tonight. Because, whoa.

I knew it was coming, there’s been talks for MONTHS that our program was going to undergo some growing pains. We’re in the hiring process, which in higher ed takes fucking ever, and today was the first day of the quarter. So  my day was spent triaging academic emgergencies (i forgot my schedule! can you help me buy books? i want to change my major!). It’s so lovely to see all thsese students and I want to give each and every one of them this undivided in the moment attention. But it’s hard because I’m being torn in 47 other directions. Namely being charged with overhauling our current method of seeing students and going to a case management model. Thanks a lot legislature for forcing this upon us!

It’s really really going to be a good thing once we get the hang of it. 2 hours of mandatory face to face meeting with students on my caseload. I’m really excited to dig in with these students and meet their needs and see their growth. Really fucking excited. But it’s hard to explain this new program, and everyone is stressed, and students are dropping in to my office left and right like old times to simply try and get bus passes or a quick errand. With working 16-20 hours a week, being dumped with a caseload of 26 students, who I need to see for 2 hours each (resulting in 52 hours of face time, in roughly 60-80 hours of work time), it doesn’t leave much wiggle room for meeting the new state requirements.

And then, since it was the first day of class, I got to go down to the classroom (I normally only teach Tues/Thurs) to meet the students. They’re awkward and precious and totally the same as they alwayas are, despite always being a fresh batch. I love it. They don’t know when to laugh at my jokes. They appear frightened of the syllabus. They’re bored to tears with the discussion of classroom guidelines.

And then there was this mom, who stood in my doorway asking me questions, and as I began the process of clarifying what she needed me to do, she just kept saying “stop acting like I’m an idiot, I’m the customer here.” I just go so bewildered because I was asking clarifying questions so I didn’t give her the runaround. I was actively trying to access her information online so that I COULD help her, even though I don’t normally have those tech permissions, and after she said “I’m the customer!” for the third time I wanted to scream “NO YOU AREN’T, YOUR DAUGHTER IS GETTING $10,000 OF FREE EDUCATION AND BOOKS EVERY YEAR, YOU AREN’T A FUCKING CUSTOMER, YOU ARE A CHARITY CASE!” But I refrained, because yes she’s a customer, but if you go to a restaurant and start yelling at a server because they ask what you are there to order, that’s pretty shitty behavior. Also, it’s fucking college, why is this student’s mommy coming to ask a question? ANNOYING.

Overall I am super super excited about this quarter. I’m nervous, though, because I know I need to set strong boundaries with myself over what I will expect of myself in my advising days vs. teaching days, and I might end up being less experimental in my class when I know that certain assignments work, because all my office attention is focused on getting these students seen. But if I can project myself out 6 months I’m going to be in a very happy place!

New Year Resolutions?

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For the past few weeks I have been struggling with my motivation for yoga. I initially attributed it to the end of the 30 day challenge, that had taken a lot out of me emotionally, but as I processed with Mari yesterday, I think I’ve come up with some interesting reasons why it’s been hard lately. I mean, really there are probably a million factors, like I’ve been doing it consistently for a year, I’m not seeing any more weightloss or health benefits, some of the initial newbie growth has slowed down, and the premature dark weather has left me wanting to just sit around eating bon bons. But in processing, there were a couple more things that trickled do the surface and seem a little more substantial. Namely, the idea of fitting in to a community, and that reasons/motivations for doing things change.

Fitting in is exhausting.

I’m not sure people think about fitting in as exhausting, but for me it is. I typically self-identify as other in a lot of ways, sorta dancing on the edge of the campfire, rather than really getting in to the fray. I figure there’s a bit of adoption trauma and some personality traits at play here, because this idea of fitting, of being ‘home,’ or comfortable with people puts me on edge. Because if I’m ‘in’ then I could be ‘out’ and it’s easier to be ‘out’ when it’s by choice rather than fucking up and getting kicked out, ya know? It’s easier to be seemingly ‘less predictable,’ because when I do things a certain way for a certain amount of time the routine starts to stick to me in a way that makes deviating from it difficult. Like being the ‘funny one,’ in a group of friends. I am funny (despite what Boof things), but I’m also a really deep thinker. I like playing the fool as an archetype, but I don’t want to live there permanently. So part of my hesitation for even starting a yoga studio was because I knew it would fit me. I knew I would like it. And then what? What do you do when you find your place? Settle in? Get into a rut? That rebel part of me wants to bail before I get too comfortable. I love my yoga studio. I love feeling a part of something. And yet, feeling a part of something is also exhausting.

My other thought was about how much I’ve grown and changed in the past year. I think if I’m to do new year resolutions, or old year reflections, I should honor myself and the rhythm I feel in the academic calendar year. Fall feels like newness. Fall feels like the time to look back and see, who was I this same time last year? And the answer surprised me. Because last year I strongly advocated for myself to have 2-3 nights off for ME time. I went to therapy on Mondays, and Tuesday/Thursday was about yoga. Boof had worked a crazy busy season as an accountant AND THEN worked a second job all summer at the Mariners, and with long home game stretches left me alone with an 18 month old toddler and little sanity. I forcefully took back time for myself and treated my yoga as a body and spouse empowerment exercise. I got sexy in the weightloss department, finally shedding those baby pounds. I felt like an adult and like I mattered in my relationship because I wasn’t just being a doormat martyr whiny wife. It rocked.

But this year? This year feels different. Rather than wanting time away to feel empowered, I crave those connecting quiet moments with Boof and Potamus. And yet the consistent routine getting me out of the house twice a week is actually a good thing for my mental health. Otherwise I’ll want to go to sleep at 5pm when I get home. So I realized that my perspective had to shift in order to enjoy yoga again. That I was clinging too tightly to the old reasons and not allowing it to change to embrace my new reasons. Like introvert time after a long day of teaching. That rather than driven empowerment competition with myself, it was more about relaxation and fun and simply being present in the moment.

The instructor, halfway through the class, as we were lying in our first round of savasana, read a quote about happiness. That happiness needs to be allowed to come in many forms. That it needs to be allowed to grow and change like a child would grow and change. And that seemed to fit and make everything click inside me. It felt right to be in the studio even though it felt different than last year at this time.

So that’s my new academic year resolution. To simply allow happiness, or my yoga practice, to be different and change and grow to meet the present moment. It feels right that way.

I am Jennifer Huston

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“Did you hear? They found her body today,” I said as I was laying in bed with Boof last night. While I don’t normally like to talk about, or even watch, the news (especially when I am in the throes of crisis counseling), I felt particularly drawn to this case, to this smiling blonde woman in the pictures plastered on the news. I had just spent time in Newberg, Oregon, and her face just looked back at me from the TV and the internet news media.

I am Jennifer Huston. I could feel myself empathizing, putting myself in her shoes. And while the police haven’t yet confirmed the cause of death, and she wasn’t found in the San Juan islands like some people thought, I resonated with the mythology around her disappearance and subsequent death. I don’t know what actually happened, as the articles said she complained of headaches in the days before her disappearance, but what I do know is that there is a mythology surrounding her disappearance and death. Suicide. Maybe they will come out with this confirmation today, maybe not at all, and my heart hurts for her family and her two kids who will grow up without her.

Regadless of what happened, the story in my mind is one that mixes with my own story. My own emotions. That feeling I get inside when it all seems to much and I just want to run away from it all. As if taking off on a full tank of gas and $40 in my pocket will solve the big life problems of being a wife, a mother, a worker, an American, a person with mental illness, an adoptee. As if running away will solve any of it. Will give me a break, at all.

Lying in bed, Boof said, “I’d hope that if you needed to leave for awhile, to clear your head or get rest or whatever that you’d tell me.” And I said, “in a good  moment I would. In a sane moment I would, you know? I’d schedule it and go and get some rest, but in my crazy panicky moments, you know, the ones where I’ve found myself driving 45 minutes north only to end up at the doorstep of my childhood home? In those moments I would want to escape, leave it all behind, reinvent myself in a world without responsibilities. It crosses my mind, and I hope it’s not something I ever do.”

I’m not talking about suicide. Just leaving. Escape. That blessed freedom on the road of nostalgia to a time when I didn’t feel so tied down to it all. That feeling of the woman in Kate Chopin’s Awakening, who simply walks into the ocean and drowns in order to escape. Because sometimes it feels like it’s all too much. Though, not right now, I just know that feeling. Of wanting to leave and take my green SUV and trail mix and sleeping pills to the San Juan islands for a retreat. And I could see not wanting to come back, not wanting to face the embarrassment of a country-wide manhunt, having to explain that “I was just tired y’all, I just needed a break.”

I had hoped the story would end differently. That after a week of missing mom reports we’d learn she had checked herself into a remote spa for some downtime, or a hospital for an evaluation, or that she was camping by herself and emerged stronger and healthier. Instead we hear a story of a life lost, without a cause given (yet), and two boys and a husband who are left to pick up the pieces. I think that bit inside me, that wants to leave, is outweighed by the thought of Boof and Potamus left to pick up the pieces. My heart goes out to the family, her boys, her husband, her friends. And maybe, just maybe, a story like this can help mom’s get the rest and relaxation they need, without resorting to disappearances, or suicides, or leaving families to pick up the pieces.