I took this picture yesterday, at the local Border’s bookstore. I think I need a reminder that I have good mommy moments as well as horrible ones.
There’s many times I blow it with my kids (well, come to think about it, AND my husband too). For all the good my intentions are, I have had a hair trigger temper at times, that seems to come out of nowhere. I spend a lot of time criticizing myself for all the times I am a mean mother when that is exactly who I do NOT want to be. I know I have issues stemming from how I was treated as a child that affect my current parenting practices. I have the intentions of parenting with gentleness and wisdom, but too often end up frustrated, overwhelmed, flooded with anger that bubbles up over really small events. I over-react far too often. I’m beginning to understand why. All the many negative events of my life have been stored up inside me and they come out in fits of frustration and anger and then, on top of it, I get angry at myself and full of shame for my over-reactions.
I told my therapist of an incident that occurred on Thursday with my daughters.
My middle child’s non-stop talking was driving me up a wall. But it’s not that she just talks – I think I could handle it if she just talked. She also screeches, shrieks, trills, sings, and babbles nonsense too. The girls really needed to be outside, because they were annoying each other at lunchtime, but it was extremely hot and humid. The yard by their swing set is over-run by weeds that i never got to yesterday. Neither husband or I ever attends to it. It really terrible. And it’s just one more thing around here in a list of things that makes me feel guilty because it is physical evidence of my reduced daily functioning caused by low energy and what I thought was a simple depression (it’s much more complicated than that).
My middle daughter was whining about this that and the other and then came out and said about helping clean her sister’s room was not fair.
I went completely nuclear. I yelled back at her, “well I never wanted kids…so hows THAT for not being fair” which is HORRID thing to say to your children. I was so horrified at my own ability to say that to my children that I retreated downstairs burning with shame and feeling residual anger. I had a cascade of wretched thoughts and feelings.
I sent an email to a friend in desperation, just trying to get my shame out and be accountable to someone ‘neutral’.
I don’t deserve my kids…I don’t deserve my husband…and sometimes I wonder if I even deserve to live. I don’t know if I even want to sort out my past anymore. It’s just more self-centered focus and it’s causing me to be angry over shit that is long over and done with and can’t be undone.
My therapist used this incident to try out some EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy. It was probably good to use this event, since it really troubled me greatly. I felt a tremendous amount of shame that I did that as I do for any other time I blow up on my kids. I wasn’t sure what was supposed to happen, but at one point I felt the tears come out as the guilty feelings returned, and I thought to myself, “what kind of mother would say something like that to her children?” and I just cried harder, at which point the therapist stopped the EMDR long enough to grab a tissue. Then we continued for a while longer before she stopped and we talked. She asked me if it was true, if I really didn’t want my children. I realized that, yes, I really did want them. Just prior to having my oldest, I had a miscarriage, and indeed I was ambivalent at first about having children, but that after I lost that baby, I realized I really was open to having them. Which, when I think about it, is the predominant ‘reason’ for me to inconsistently use birth control (which resulted in three babies in 3.5 years).
At the time though, I was so ashamed of myself to the point that I entertained momentary thoughts of suicide (something that really isn’t new, I’ve thought many times about suicide, starting from about 8th grade). Somehow, to me, visualizing the entire thing brings relief, and actually helps me get through life, because no matter what happens, nothing is really worth utilizing a permanent (and messy) solution to a temporary problem.
Oh, and if you ask me, I’m not even sure what I was supposed to feel, but I guess any feelings coming out are kind of good. And being able to admit what I said and cry about it helped. Though I can say, after the therapy, I was so drained. I just wanted to take a nap. But unlike the other couple of sessions I had undergone, I eventually returned to a better frame of mind about an hour later. Maybe it was because I went to my sister’s house and had a cup of coffee, rather than right back home.
As an aside, I was pleased to see this topic in Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf. He was able to articulate what it’s like to be someone who thinks about suicide but really doesn’t want to act upon it. He called them the “suicides” – which constituted not just those who acted on it, but those who merely thought about it but never would act upon those thoughts. I really related to the following excerpt.
On the contrary, on the “suicides” are to be found unusually tenacious and eager and also hardy natures.
He gained strength through familiarity with the thought that the emergency exit stood always open, and became curious too, to taste his suffering to the dregs. If it went to badly with him he could feel sometimes with a grim malicious pleasure: “I am curious to see all the same just how much a man can endure. If the limit of what is bearable is reached, I have only to open the door to escape.” There are a great many suicides to whom this thought imparts an uncommon strength.
On the other hand, all suicides have the responsibility of fighting against the temptation of suicide. Every one of them knows very well in some corner of his soul that suicide, though a way out, is a rather mean and shabby one, and that it is nobler and finer to be conquered by life than to fall by one’s own hand. Knowing this, with a morbid conscience of so-called self-contented persons, the majority of suicides are left to a protracted struggle against their temptations.
In light of a PTSD ‘diagnosis’ my responses of over-reaction to stress (among many other ‘symptoms’ I have) is perfectly understandable and my therapist did commend me for being aware and caring enough to seek help so that I ‘break the cycle’ and learn how to give my daughters in ways my own mother couldn’t. She is helping me to reduce negative self-talk and false beliefs and replacing them with more accurate truths about myself.
One of the things I’ve since come to realize, particularly after reading Babette Rothschild’s book The 8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery, that recovering from trauma doesn’t have to make you feel or behave worse before you feel or behave better. In fact, if you are feeling or behaving worse, it’s a good sign that you are (or someone is pressuring you into) rushing the process.
Another key point about it is that NOT all traumatic memories have to be remembered in order to be resolved, which is contrary to most modern trauma therapies that firmly insist on rooting out the trauma and re-living it to divest yourself of the stored up and unprocessed reactions. “The first goal of trauma therapy”, Rothschild states, “is to improve your quality of life on a daily basis”. You really have the choice to “tackle them fully, review them in general, leave them alone entirely, or table the decision until a later time.”
So, yeah…these things are kind of tough. Tough to deal with, a little tough to talk about. I mean, who actually wants to admit to ANYone with any kind of “authority” that you think about suicide at all when you are a mother? I worry that somehow someone’s going to ‘put me away’ or take my kids away. I suppose that is possible. But it’s not really something I can worry about.
And as to the question of whether or not I’m depressed? Actually, I don’t think so. I think I have a lot of negative self-talk, a lot of guilt, a lot of trouble with emotional regulation when I’m hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. Yes, the initial upbringing of neglect and abuse has deeply affected me, but I don’t do myself any favors when I short myself on my own self-care, and because I’m stirring up the memories of the past, it’s even MORE critical to pay attention to physiological signs of stress and anxiety. Everywhere I turn, it’s echoed that “mindfulness” is key – being aware of my body, of what’s happening right now, and eliminating false beliefs.
So, yeah. I’m learning a lot. Mostly to slow this process down and to forgive myself for lapses and most importantly to remember, like in the photo above sometimes I DO get it RIGHT.