I just cannot understand

adults beggar black and white busy
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I’ve written about my daughter many times before, I’ve written about my best friend, and well since this is her blog you all know her too. I’ve even written about myself and how I try to be the best support system for them that I can be. What I haven’t written about is the frustration that often stems from being on the outside looking in at them. I just don’t understand, and I can’t.

My life has its medical issues, but in the long view of it all they’re minor and well controlled by medication. I can usually do whatever it is that I want to and am willing to put the effort into. I can decide to push it some days, and I can decide to eat right or wrong, and the consequences are generally predictable and short lived. I am as healthy as I look from the outside.

I cannot understand how my daughter can go weeks where she hurts so badly that she is afraid to eat food that has taste. I cannot understand how some days she can look pale and sick but say she’s fine and other days she can look fine and say she’s miserable.

I cannot understand how something as simple as driving can knock my best friend down for days, even if it’s just sitting. I cannot understand how the minute by minute weighing and measuring of what she feels has to be done, and what her body is capable of doing weighs on her mentally.

I cannot understand how my well meaning suggestions and help can actually make things so much worse for both of them. I cannot understand how something that seems to plain to me is so hard for them. I cannot understand that choosing to care for themselves often means neglecting things that are important to them, so they don’t. They both push and push and push until they fall down, because they want to be everything that they can be, they want to be the person they could be without sickness.

I just cannot and to be very honest, I don’t want to. I am so thankful for my health so that I can do what I can for them. I do not know how they feel, I have no clue what kind of mental fight it is for them to decide to get out of bed and do what needs to be done. I cannot understand that asking them to spend time out and about doing something fun may have consequences that are far reaching. Shopping, lunch and a movie can send them to the ER, but they still want to go.

What I can understand is that I need to be more understanding. I need to stop trying to put myself in their place, because it isn’t possible. I cannot, no matter how empathetic I am, know what they feel like. I can understand that they want to do the things with friends and family that seem so easy for us. I can understand that for them laying in bed and resting is more than self-care it’s self preservation. I can understand that even when they’ve done very little of what they feel like they should, they’re so mentally exhausted that they aren’t themselves. I can understand that they know what they need so much more than I do.

Finally, and most importantly I MUST understand that in order to support them, I MUST try to understand that no matter what they choose to do, they are doing their best to walk this amazingly thin tightrope of living life, and that I cannot understand the choices they’re making so I MUST stop judging them.I just cannot understand.

Saying No, Healthy Boundaries

“Hey, so I was wondering, since you are so good at it, we would really appreciate your help with something. Can you?”

No.

“Your the only one we can trust with this, we have no one else, if you don’t it won’t happen…”

No.

“Think about the people who will be negitively affected by this, you are really being selfish by refusing to help, don’t you care about them?”

Ummm, yes. And the next thing you know you have one more task added to your already full plate. One more stress, one more thing to schedule, one more drain on your already limited resources. But, you just couldn’t say no.

How often have you found yourself in a situation like the one above? You know that you cannot handle anything else in your life, but someone makes it impossible for you to say no to them. The conversation may not happen like that, in fact it may be entirely internal. The person asking may just be mentioning casually that they need some help with some task, and you begin to feel like if you don’t do it, no one will. Or in my case you feel like if I don’t do it, someone else will do it wrong. How do you weigh the needs of others against the needs of yourself, your family, and your health? There is no one good formula, but there are some tips I can give you for making sure that your small personal circle is taking priority.

  1. Will helping with this take me away from or infringe on a previous commitment? In any way?
  2. Will your offering to take on this new task take mental effort that you are already using for your other commitments?
  3. Do you have excess time or mental capacity to do this new thing to the best of your ability?
  4. And finally and MOST IMPORTANTLY does this new thing take away from the time that you need to have set aside to build yourself and your family up?

If you cannot honestly say that you can do this new task without sacrificing another part of your life, then go for it. If after asking these questions you feel like this new task is so important that you need to give up a previous comitment to make room for it, then do it. The only previous commitment you should never give up is your free time. Everyone needs time to relax and rechange, and you should never feel guilty for taking it.

P.S. So I started writing this post quite a few weeks ago, when I was watching friends and family members run themselves ragged trying to be all things to all people. I hadn’t quite finished when I took on a new substituting job, but told myself that I would complete it on my next day off.

Fast forward 5 weeks of giving too much to a job that should not have been mine, and I realize that the reason this subject was on my heart was that I needed to listen to the advice myself in the coming days and weeks.

Ahhh hindsight.

I sat down with all of the people involved today and told them that I needed to put my family and my mental health first and that I was sorry, I knew my leaving would cause a huge mess, but that I had to be done. And do you know what? They understood, and respected my decision, and offered me another long term position that didn’t require the extra time and mental strain.

So I guess my post script lesson, is take your own advice sometimes.

Worth

This week I have been spending a lot of time thinking about worth. Finding the place where each person I know understands their worth and their value. What makes a person worthwhile? Do they have to make some sort of amazing contribution to the world, to their families, or do they just have to be a good person in order to have worth. What is our worth wrapped up in, what you do? Who you are? How you are viewed by others? Do we have intrinsic worth that we are ignoring in our quest for perfection?

“But what am I worth if I’m not able to….”
take care of my family
earn a good living
make friends easily
get dinner on the table
keep my house clean
keep my kids from fighting
…the list is endless.

You are worth love, respect, honesty, and time. YOU are worth so much more than your accomplisments. YOU are worth so much more than your contributions. YOU are worthy of being loved even if you are unable to do what you feel expected to do.

I have found that oftentimes people, especially me, extend so much more caring to others than they expect to recieve themselves. I will open my home to anyone but feel like people are put out when they open their home to me. I will answer a text or call for any reason at any time, but I won’t call even my best friends when I am having a breakdown. Why do we not allow the people around us to be as good to us, as accepting of us as we are to them? Does my husband care if I tell him that dinner is leftovers or cold cereal? No, but I feel like a failure if that is what I need to tell him. We both worked all day, he understands, it is me who puts unrealistic expectations on myself.

I remember a day, when my students at school were particularly struggling, acting out in explosive ways, and generally just exhausting. I left work feeling defeated because I could not figure out what had happened to make them feel like outbursts were their only option. As soon as I walked in the door my daughter told me that her disorder was in a flare and we needed to get to the ER. So without even getting to put both feet inside the threshold I was off again. As I’m walking out with her I have to tell my other daughter that since her Dad also had a work emergency she would have to miss her practice that night, one that was supposed to be mandatory. We get to the ER and they start treating her immediately, which of course requires multiple needles and invasive and embarressing tests. My daughter is having a full blown panic attack she has a massive fear of needles and need to privacy, trying to allow the doctors and nurses to work, because she knows they can’t help her without this information, she’s shaking and tears are covering her face. All I can do it tell her to let them do what they need to. I couldn’t help her, I couldn’t comfort her, I had abandoned her sister to yet another dinner of cold cereal, and not even remembered to tell my husband what was going on, I had failed my students, both of my children, and my husband all in the course of a few hours. I felt worthless, worse than worthless, I felt ineffective, useless, and like they would be better off with a better person doing my job.

My husband remembers this day differently. He sees a wife who despite being worn down still did everything in her power to take care of everyone in the family.

My oldest remembers a mom who loved her enough to help her through the tough things so that she could get treatment and go home faster.

My youngest remembers a fun night where she got to goof off, have ice cream for dinner, and relax.

My students and coworkers remember a teacher who didn’t allow the chaos of the day to affect the way she supported them.

How do you find your worth when you are dealing with the massive and minor roadblocks of life? For me it is reminding myself that my worth isn’t tied up in a to do list of accomplishments. If I don’t do the work of three adults, and still remember to nurture every single person I come into contact with it’s okay. Really, it’s okay. The beauty of humanity and relationships is that when one of us feels less than worthwhile there is someone else who can help us along the way. Again share your feelings, call friend, family, or a counselor, heck, even your pet if you can’t bring yourself to share in those ways. Tell them your struggles, feelings, and what is weighing you down. Allow them to prop you up when you feel lower than low. Then next time, when they are struggling you help them. Caring about yourself and others is one of the most amazing things that we are able to do as humans, and something that we can do even when everything else seems impossible.

*if you don’t feel like you have someone in real life to talk to, please reach out online, I have found some of my best support in the form of online relationships

Unfair

As a teacher and a mother I have consistantly had to deal with fairness. For some reason many people in our society, especially our children, have an ingrained belief that life is fair. They look at life through a lens that expects everyone to get their fair chance, to not be taken for granted, or taken advantage of, and that bad things won’t happen to good people. While the optimist in me wishes that I could still believe that the world is a fair place, the realist is constantly proven right. Bad things happen to good people, hard things happen, most often to the people who least deserve them. The lesson that I am working on teaching my children, legal and classroom, is how to accept lifes situations, fair or not, and go on in a way that allows them and those they come into contact with to live their best possible life.

An example for you, last year my oldest daughter got sick. She was in middle school, playing football, and losing a ton of weight. She was very reluctant to share with me or her father what was going on. She didn’t tell us that anything was wrong, so initially we were worried about eating disorders. After only 2 weeks and 20lbs lost we knew it was much more serious, and started pushing hard to see a specialist. The local Dr’s quickly realized that her problem was more severe than they could deal with and she was rushed to a hospital about 90 miles away. There she recieved tests for anything and everything that could be causing her symptoms. By the time she left we had a diagnosis, a handful of pills that had to be taken daily, severe diatary restrictions, and a traumatized girl. A few weeks later I walked into my classroom and found a paper on my desk, with a post-it with a crying face attached to the front.  It was an assignment where the students were asked to write about one thing they would change in the world. My daughters paper was full of heartbreaking realism about living with chronc illness, and how she wished she could cure anyone else with any condition like hers. And how it was wasn’t fair.

It’s not fair.

Not Fair.

UNFAIR.

As a parent reading that essay it made me cry. It wasn’t fair, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t reality. Fighting about the unfairness of the diagnosis was tempting, we all wanted to scream and shake our fists at the unfairness of it all, and we did for a while. Long term however we could not allow ourselves to live in that place. We as a family, and my daughter especially, needed to move to a place of acceptance and begin to move forwards.

Unfairness happens, there are horrible things in this world that happen to people from all walks of life, there is trauma, sickness, violence, addiction, and death. Letting the unfairness of it all rule our lives is allowing these horrible things to win. It is important to find a way to move beyond the unfairness and restrictions. We need to find a way to live our best life even given the difficulties. Call a friend, a family member, a counselor, or all of the above. Find an activity that makes you feel accomplished, worthwhile, and important. Take an active role in your own health and recovery, don’t fight the unfairness of the day to day difficulties, instead do what needs to be done so that you can  do what you want to do. Continue to dream, plan, and expect a bright future. Is this easy? No. Is it fair that you have to do this? No. Is it important? Yes.

Okay? No! Not okay.

We live in a world ruled by tweets, insta stories and filters. The aura of perfection is thrust upon us from every direction. Advice about how to be better, and okay-er, and never have a bad day is rampant. This over connectedness to the veneer of perfection can make even the healthiest of us feel not okay, how much more does that apply to the people who struggle with physical and mental illness?

Giving my daughter explicit verbal permission to tell me when she is not okay has been a powerful thing for her and for me. Allowing her the space to feel what she is feeling, and to air them to me when she is feeling them has been an amazing step for us in this journey. Teenage girls struggle to be honest with themselves and their parents in general, and even more so when they have larger issues to deal with, so I feel like taking the time to tell her that she is not only allowed to tell me when things are bad, but is encouraged to is important.

For those of you who are reading this as friends and family of those who deal with chronic medical issues and trauma I want you to read this carefully, think about it seriously, and then act on it lovingly. Remember that it is okay for the person dealing with these issues to be not okay, they are allowed to be frustrated, defeated, and angry sometimes. Your job is to support them in any of their feelings, don’t make them feel like they are dramatic, depressed, or too much to handle. If you feel able to be truly supportive of their journey no matter what they are feeling that day, then tell them that. You need to give them explicit permission to have times when they are not okay and to share those times with you. Then, most importantly, you need to follow through. Listen, don’t try to fix it, just be there for them when they need to complain, whine, and generally not be okay. By doing this you will help them have more days when they are okay. I know it sounds backwards, but I promise being truly supportive of the bad days, will help increase the good days.

*if you don’t feel like you have someone in real life to talk to, please reach out online, I have found some of my best support in the form of online relationships. Not everything on social media is bad.

A Little Bit Alone

Y’all, I’m an introvert. Well, that’s not exactly true. I like people once I’m around them, I like to hang out, I like to talk. What makes me an introvert is that I am always dreading being with people, and coming up with reasons I shouldn’t or can’t go. Once I am with people I am constantly analyzing myself and those I’m with, seeing if they’re judging me, and constantly over talking to make sure that they “like” me. I am exhausted by the time I am done. I need to be alone to recharge.

Alone to recharge is different than isolating myself because of my anxiety around people. Sometimes alone is okay, sometimes is great, and important and necessary.

Alone is okay. Isolation is not.

Isolation, especially self isolation, is often a symptom of anxiety, frustration, and flling judged. Isolation can happen when we decide that it is safer to keep to ourselves than put ourselves out there. Isolation is lonely, even for those of us that like to be alone.

I am seeing more and more isolation as social media becomes more and more prevelant in our daily lives. Friends post that they feel inadequate, judged, unwanted, or not good enough to go out and be a part of the world, so they sit at home and watch the world through the lens of their computer. I am guilty of this myself. The problem that comes is that the internet is an extremely judgmental place that frequently increases feelings of inadequacy. By refusing to have personal contact with real people we are only reinforcing the cycle of isolation, judgement, and aloneness.

As I am working through the first few weeks of yet another deployment, I am finding myself jumping in to a world of isolation with the ease of an Olympic diver. Doing it all on my own, escaping into my phone, and ignoring the help that I am offered by others has become almost too easy. I fool myself into thinking that it isn’t self-isolation, but “being strong”; by telling myself that if I can do it on my own I have to, by telling myself that I can only ask for help in a real emergency, by using my children as an excuse to excuse myself from invitations.

I get angry when the people I love don’t accept help when they so obviously could use it, but, god forbid, I allow them to help me when I need it. As an example, one morning last week, when I was working two jobs, and my girls were getting up hours early to dog sit, my kitchen and dining room flooded. Not a leak, not a devistating television style flood, but 2 inches of standing water. Did I call any of the people who have offered to help? No. Did I ask someone else to take the girls to the dogs? No. Did I call my co-workers and ask if they could cover so that I could be a bit late? No. I took care of it myself. The calling for repairs, moving furnature, cleaning, getting everyone where they needed to be, making lunches for the kids, working a full day, everything. I was exhausted, on the verge of tears, and feeling like a failure. I didn’t need to do it that way, I had multiple people offer to help as soon as they found out, but for some reason I had to prove that I could do it alone, all by myself, without anyone.

What’s the point? I guess all comes down to allowing others to do for us what we would do for them, forgiving the things in ourselves that we would forgive in others, and letting those who we love help us in the way that we would help them. Be alone when you need to be, but don’t let the circumstances of your life isolate you from the people who you need the most.

The changing seasons hodgepodge

1. I read here a list of 13 things you should do in June. I’m paraphrasing a little but basically…

Go on a road trip with your best friend, pick fresh strawberries, host a garden party, take a morning run, treat yourself to a flower bouquet, spend a whole day hiking, discover a new coffee shop, try a new ice cream flavor, read at least one book, visit a Farmer’s Market, make a swing for your home, and visit a new city.

Which thing on the list do you most want to do? Of the activities mentioned, which one holds the least appeal? How many on the list will you attempt in June? What’s one thing you’d add to the list?

So many of these appeal to me right now, I will definitely be discovering a new coffee shop, that’s a priority. My family moves yet again as my husband gets stationed in New Mexico. Coffee is my birth stone, so that’s a necessity. I will not be planning a garden party or building a swing, that’s too impractical while moving.

2. What’s something you could do today to feel more peaceful?
Pray, breathe and let go. I am a planner and an organizer and moves always throw me into a spiral of stress. Letting go of my perfectionism and allowing people to help me will also help a lot.
3. June 7th is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day. Are you a fan? Swiss mocha, rocky road, chocolate chocolate chip, peanut butter and chocolate, or a dish of plain chocolate…what’s your pleasure?
I love ice cream, everything from peach to java chip. My current favorite is a nice cookies and cream.
4. If you came with a warning what would it say?
Perfectionist with control issues.
5.What’s the most interesting website you’ve visited in the last week?
HGTV, I am deep in redecorating mode.
6. Spring, summer, autumn, winter…which season are you? Why?
Which season am I? That’s a question I’ve never actually thought about before. I would say that I am winter, I’m quiet and deep, sometimes come across as cold, but help to balance of the super sunshine of my summery family members.
7. “You lose sight of things…and when you travel, everything balances out.” ~Daranna Gidel

Would you agree with that sentiment? Explain why or why not.
I’m not sure. It has been so long since I traveled for the the sake of traveling. One of the downsides of being a part of a military family is that vacations are almost always spent visiting family.
8. Insert your own random thought here.
Moving is hard.

Just a thought

Well we are moving again. This will be the 8th house we have lived in in 13 years if you don’t count the couple of month long stays with family in between moves when the girls were younger. Eight houses, four duty stations, three states, two countries, countless friends, and yet another new start. This is always exciting and frightening at the same time and this time I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  My husband is nearing retirement from the Air Force, and then hopefully we will hit our last new start and finally make friends we won’t have to leave behind in a few years.

I’m beginning to sound maudlin and that’s not precisely the case. I am excited to go to our new place, and be closer to my family and oldest friends.  (I am NOT saying we are old, maybe longest friends, but that sounds weird too) I miss living in the Southwest, Mexican food, dry temperatures, hiking, and history. I’m thrilled to get all of those things back.  I am excited to start a new job and see what else I can do with my life. I am excited that the girls are getting to go to some amazing schools, and grow more into who they are going to be. I am sad though, for them,  they are old enough to be leaving real friends for the first time and it’s hard. But they will do amazing things. I know they will.

So why a blog now? Because I want to. Well that’s a given. But mostly because I want a place to record my thoughts. My experiences. And hopefully my successes. image