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Last night was one of the worst in quite a while. It had already been a long day, with Choo-choo arguing with me about EVERYTHING. I was apparently wrong about every single word that left my mouth, even though he would contradict himself just to prove this was true.

When I decided he was done with his snack because he’d eaten all the food from his plate and would be having dinner in only a couple more hours, he flipped. He cried. He flailed. He kicked and shouted.

Choo-choo literally stood screaming a constant tone at me for no less than five minutes. I, meanwhile, did what I always do. I tried calmly explaining to him what was going on and why he was done. I stepped away into an adjacent room to breathe and collect my bearings.

I just couldn’t take it anymore. I sobbed. I had huge tears rolling down my face, too many to differentiate between one or another. Choo-choo stopped crying long before I did.

This sadness and emotional instability of mine carried over into the night. After dinner and bath time, I got Choo-choo ready for bed. We read his chosen nighttime book, and we rocked for a while. The thing about rocking him is he doesn’t simply want to just cuddle and rock like he used to. It previously relaxed him and readied him for closing his eyes and falling asleep. Now all he wants to do in his chair is talk and squirm and play with my hair or his wall decals or the dresser. Anything he can get his hands on.

Pretty soon, I stood, calmly carried him to his bed, sang him his three lullabies (as one is just no longer good enough for him 🙄), and put him in bed. I arranged his toys, stuffed animals, and blankets exactly how he likes them, the same as I do every time he lies down to sleep. We did our hugs and kisses, and I was finally free to head back downstairs.

Diesel had already fallen asleep on the sofa while I was bathing Choo-choo, so I sat in an adjacent chair and turned on the TV (muted, of course, with the captions on lest Choo-choo heard it) for a little me time before bed. All was quiet.

Except for Choo-choo. I could hear him playing with his toys. Now, you might wonder why we put toys in his bed in the first place. We had a very good reason, though. Diesel and I started leaving toys in Choo-choo’s bed so that when he woke up in the morning and we didn’t hear him right away, he would have something to play with as opposed to the poop in his diaper, which he had gotten his hands into for months on end.

So there I was, trying to relax at almost 10:00 at night, wondering why on earth my kid was still awake. Then he started yelling for me. I run up there to find him requesting more rocking time. Yet when I rocked him, he would talk and play, the same reasons I cut our rocking short the first time.

This lasted until almost 1:30 AM. I was beyond frustrated and so very tired. It wouldn’t be more than twenty or thirty minutes after I put him back in bed when he’d start yelling for me again.

Finally–FINALLY–Choo-choo stayed quiet long enough that I assumed it was safe to try going to bed myself. I’d already been called out of bed twice, but I hoped the third time really was the charm.

I crawled in and leaned my back against Diesel’s. He had gone to bed in between my rockings of our son. I let the warmth of him run through me, soaking whatever calm I could from him. I spent most of the night holding Choo-choo and comforting him, yet all I wanted was to be held myself. I wanted Diesel to wrap his arms around me and reassure me that everything was going to be okay.

Of course, I had to wait until he woke up for work to get my hug, but I gotta say that it was totally worth waiting for. If only I could learn to comfort my son so well.

 

 

Mother’s Day

Yesterday was my third Mother’s Day. I haven’t really enjoyed this holiday since having Choo-choo. In fact, I’ve mostly hated it.

On my first Mother’s Day, when Choo-choo was still an infant, I was so miserable that I did not feel like celebrating the holiday in any way. Diesel offered me different options, and I chose having at least part of the day to myself while he and Choo-choo went to lunch with his parents.

Of course, I panicked and cried at the thought of being alone on my very first holiday celebrating my motherhood, so I decided to go lunch with them. Outwardly, I was having a great time. Inside, though, I hovered above the border of happy and depressed. This feeling lasted the rest of the day.

My second Mother’s Day, Diesel, Choo-choo, and I went out to a planned dinner with his parents. I was yet again on the border of happy and depressed. I wasn’t feeling the way I thought I should.

The same happened again this year. I planned to make this year better than the others. I had homemade presents for both my mom and my mother-in-law. I made a special blueberry pancake breakfast for Diesel, Choo-choo, and me. We were going to eat with his parents again. Even with Choo-choo fighting off the last of his cold, this was still going to be a great day.

Except Choo-choo didn’t want to take a nap, and Diesel was tired so he wasn’t as helpful as I’d wanted him to be. When Choo-choo was finally ready to sleep, his coughing made that too difficult. I couldn’t get our mothers’ presents done in time, as they were taking me too long to do.

I found myself frustrated and crying once more. My third Mother’s Day, and I was miserable yet again. This is something I never expected.

I wonder if it’s me, or if it’s the hype that comes along with the holiday. I always dreamed I would feel happy, joyful, and celebrated. Instead, I feel stressed out, pressured, and wanting to end the day before it ever begins.

Please understand that I say this only about me. I love celebrating other moms on this same day. I love letting them all know what wonderful, terrific, loving, kind mothers they are. All the same, if the day no longer existed, I think I’d be okay with that.

 

The Darkness, Pt. 3

Tunnel LightA few months before Choo-choo’s second birthday, Diesel and I had a life-altering fight. I had been having daily panic attacks, sometimes several in one day. I was in such a state that I couldn’t explain to him how I felt or what I needed him to stop doing.

You see, he was cleaning the kitchen. A fairly innocuous thing to do, except my OCD and anxiety despised germs and had decided only I knew how to get rid of them properly. I cried, and he wouldn’t stop. I stuttered through the panic, begging him to halt his actions. He wouldn’t.

Diesel believed I needed to be pushed outside my comfort zone in order to help me. Boy, was he wrong! This fight made me say something I didn’t mean and instantly regretted, but it had just flowed out of my mouth so quickly and easily in the moment.

We were on the verge of shattering our marriage, this much I knew. It was difficult for either of us to separate what was real with what was imagined. Emotions raged in us both. We had expressed things that shook us to the core. The only option I saw in that moment was the most painful one I could think of. Something needed to be done.

With time to process, however, a new solution appeared. Therapy. To be honest, I was utterly terrified. My anxiety produced hundreds of irrational fears about everything, including counseling. I had zero idea what to expect. I’m not good speaking to strangers, and the thought of divulging every ugly part of me was frightening. I was afraid I would be judged, afraid I would be thought of as a terrible mother, afraid I would never find the happy me.

I went anyway, though. Slowly, with the help I so desperately needed, I dug my way out of the darkness. I began to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. I started medication too, something I considered a necessary evil at the time but now something I embrace as simply necessary.

While I still have dark days, they are just that: days. Not weeks or months in a row. The anger is still there, as is the anxiety. I am better able to manage and control them now.

And, most importantly, I can finally enjoy time with Choo-choo and Diesel without wanting to run away. Sure, that thought pops up every once in a great while. The “oh wouldn’t it be nice to run off to Tahiti and never come back?” But the difference is, I don’t actually mean it now. I will never just take off and disappear. The same can’t be said of the me two years ago.

My marriage to Diesel is on track again, too. It’s still a little bumpy sometimes. It is even occasionally bumpy and hilly and mountain-y, but we are better equipped with finding our way to honesty, respect, understanding, and love.

I have learned that my past doesn’t have to control me and that what I experienced does not mean I am incapable of being a good wife or mom. Though I am still learning how to deal with life’s ups and downs, I am in a much better place than two years ago.

I now understand that I am never truly alone. Not in an emotional and certainly never in a spiritual way. My loved ones are my loved ones again, not people who don’t understand me and don’t want to help me, as my depressive thoughts made me believe.

As after the rain there is a rainbow, after my darkest days of depression, I know true happiness once again. As paraphrased from the “Sex and the City” movie, I’m not happy all day every day, but I am happy every day. I now see that I do have a purpose in life and that I do matter. I wish this and pray for this for not only other survivors of sexual violence, and violence in general, but for everyone.

 

 

The Darkness, Pt. 2

**trigger warning**

After Vader and the hell he put me through, in some ways I became really guarded. In others, however, I became reckless. I dated again but never loved. The moment a boyfriend said “I love you,” sheer panic filled me and I felt a very real urge to run.

I didn’t, though. I wish I had. I said those words back without meaning them too many times. I stayed in bad or untrustworthy relationships out of fear of so many things. I was so desperate to be with a guy who TRULY loved me and would never hurt me that I sacrificed my happiness in my search for him. I ignored the good guys who showed an interest, sometimes out of those same fears and sometimes out of loyalty to whichever non-Prince Charming I was dating at the moment.

I had known Diesel for years before he finally asked me out. By this point, I’d been single for a while. I had suffered through (what I didn’t have a name for at the time) post-traumatic stress disorder panic attacks, usually brought on by any kind of intimacy with guys. Even being alone with a guy, any guy, filled me with terror, most especially at night. I had finally started trusting males again as opposed to the hyper-vigilant state I’d been in after Vader waiting or looking for any number of bad things to happen. I even read a book you might have heard of: “He’s Just Not That Into You.” I really loved the book and the message it taught that we are all worth being with someone who not only cares about us but respects us. (Not a paid endorsement, but I do highly recommend it!)

In the beginning, I was scared of being in a relationship with Diesel. He was so patient, though. He talked me through panic attacks. He held me when I cried. He told me he’d never hurt me and kept his word. He loved me and meant it. He was everything I needed and wanted him to be.

Fast Forward in time, around our second wedding anniversary. We’d been together over eight years by this point. After years of just us two, we decided to have a baby. We wanted to share our love with a child of our own.

Apart from the nausea, pregnancy was great at first. Then came a lot of soreness. A LOT. I gained almost 60 pounds. Every movement made me hurt. I was up there in the ranks of major hormonal snarky pregnant women.

Then, towards the end of my pregnancy, around the eighth month or so, something changed in me. Closeness with Diesel caused panic attacks and crying. Crying I had to hide from him because I didn’t want to upset him. I was miserable from more than just the pregnancy.

When I finally went into labor, I experienced I believe at least an hour of pushing with no epidural before they decided they needed to remove Choo-choo surgically. I had never felt so much physical pain in my life. I was immensely happy when they finally injected me with the spinal anesthesia. Choo-choo was finally out, and we were a family.

Then came the moments in the hospital I wish I could forget. Choo-choo wasn’t eating or sleeping. He wouldn’t stop crying. I wasn’t sleeping. I couldn’t hardly move. Diesel had some pretty rough moments I promised not to mention, but let me just say we were all falling apart.

In the weeks that followed, I struggled nursing him and had to bottle feed him. He still cluster fed and cried if he wasn’t eating. I cried daily, usually on the side of the tub or even on the bathroom floor. I still wasn’t sleeping. Choo-choo only slept if held. I felt so completely alone. It was a new version of hell.

I again started thinking those thoughts that the world, and specifically Diesel and Choo-choo, would be better off without me. “Oh, God, please make this end!” I would cry. I didn’t want to kill myself, but I wasn’t opposed to God doing it for me.

Everyone kept telling me what I was going through was normal. “You’re a first-time mom,” they’d say. “It’s always hard with the first one.” No one suggested depression. Not my loved ones. Not my doctors. I was so angry and so empty with no answers, only questions of “What is wrong with you?” and “Why are you acting like that?”

Diesel and I fought more times than I can count during this time. For the next two years, really. Our marriage was falling apart. I was falling apart. I didn’t have anyone to really help me through theses feelings. It felt like I’d fallen down a hole and had only a short amount of time until I’d suffocate. No one was going to find me. No one was going to pull me out. I was on my own.

 

 

 

The Darkness, Pt. 1

**trigger warning**

I have been working my way to this post. This is the really hard one to write, the one where I explain the lowest points in my life and how I got there. While I will try not to be graphic, I feel some things need to be explained in order to deliver a better understanding.

When I was a teenager, I had my very first boyfriend (someone I’ll call Vader).We shared mutual friends who set us up together. He seemed like he’d be the perfect first boyfriend: kind, funny, great to spend time with.

I quickly discovered, however, that he wanted things his way, not mine. As I said, he was my first boyfriend. I had never even held hands with a boy before him. I wasn’t ready to do anything beyond that. Vader had other ideas, though.

He planted a kiss on me knowing I was nervous and not prepared at all. Two weeks after I met him, he decided he wanted more. I tried to fight his wandering hand, but he refused to listen. He just kept telling me to relax and enjoy it.

I didn’t relax, and I did not enjoy it. I was saving myself for marriage, and he knew this. I cried because of this, but he said he did it because he loved me. I wish I had dumped him then. I had no idea that the worst was to come.

One month after we met, Vader and I were alone in his house. As far as I knew, someone else was supposed to be there so we had a chaperone of sorts. Plans changed, apparently, and I was not aware of this until we were already there.

Could I have left? I wish. He is a couple years older than me, so he had driven. I wasn’t yet old enough to drive. If I had called for a ride, I couldn’t figure out what to say without making Vader look like a bad guy. I thought I loved him. He said he loved me. I thought I could trust him.

We ended up in his room, how or why I don’t remember. I recall him stripping his clothes off and starting on mine though I told him to stop. He pinned me down and raped me. I was so terrified, I went into shock. I couldn’t talk. I could barely breathe.

I cried when he was done, and all I remember him saying is that I should get dressed so I did. I was numb at this point. My parents were gone when I got home. I showered, dressed, and thought about what happened. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t stop seeing it and feeling it.

I was too frightened to tell my parents or any other adults. The few people I found the nerve to tell either didn’t believe me or didn’t want to. They questioned what really happened or whether I saw it differently than reality. They made me feel it was all my fault. After that, I didn’t trust anyone else with this information.

I knew one thing and one thing only: I had to make the pain and sorrow end.

I came up with a plan. I knew how I would kill myself and when. I thought it out for two days. On the third day, the day I’d decided on, I found myself crying on the bed. What the heck was I doing? I wondered. I was planning suicide because of a boy. I would no longer exist on this earth because of one boy and what he did.

Obviously, I didn’t go through with it. Thank God I didn’t even try. Instead, I broke up with Vader. I did it publicly for safety. I had an urge to slap him across the face, giving him back a bit of the pain he caused me. Even with witnesses, though, I was too terrified he would hit me back. It was all very messy but quick.

I wish I could say that’s where it ended, but he had been my “first love” (no, I don’t consider him that now) and I was such a sucker for his pleas and apologies.

After we got back together, he routinely took me to his house, where we inevitably ended up alone somehow or other every time. I would all but beg them not to go. They weren’t bothering us or in the way, I’d say. I enjoy their company. But they’d always leave.

Vader would always take me to his room after that. He’d strip us down though I tried to fight him off. He would literally use all his body weight to hold me down and force me to do things I didn’t want to. I sobbed and begged him to stop. I tried kicking him off of me. He’d tell me to stop crying and that he would let me up if I’d just do what he wanted.

Why did I stay with him? I can hear you asking that question. The simplest answer I have is this: I was frightened. If he hurt me this way all the while saying he loved me, what would he do to me if he hated me?

I became a robot after this. I would just give him what he asked for because it was terrifyingly less traumatic. I didn’t know I was suffering from depression at this point. All I knew was that I preferred the path of less pain. “No pain” was not an option with Vader.

After three months of suffering, I ended it with him for good. Manipulator that he is, however, he wouldn’t let me go. We broke up, yes, but he called me all the time for the next year telling me how much he missed me, though he had a new girlfriend.

(Here is where I apologize to any girl or woman he might have hurt after me. I prayed every day that my silence didn’t make him think he was right or somehow justified in abusing anyone else. I hope his rape and assault ended with me, but the realist in me won’t let me disregard any other outcomes.)

I, meanwhile, had lost interest in everything. My friends, my family, schoolwork, dances, parties. None of it meant anything to me. I didn’t have words or labels for how I felt. I just knew nothing would ever be the same. I wasn’t sure happiness would or could ever find me again.

Toddler rules

At some point in parenting comes the inevitable moment when your child is old enough to notice when you give away their toys. Their reaction is usually the same: “Nooo!”

As parents, we learn to be stealthy and hide the soon-to-be departed items, sometimes under blankets or in closets, to keep prying eyes from finding their “beloveds” (that they hadn’t played with in forever) and returning them to toy boxes or beds.

I once made the mistake of explaining to Choo-choo that his long deserted toys would be going to other kids who will love them, play with them, and cherish them. Of course, this only made things worse.

His reaction was exactly what I should have expected. Worry filled his eyes. His face froze in panic. I could hear his thoughts: “What? Another child will be touching MY toys?? I don’t think so!”

Be stealthy, my friends 🙂

As I am

To some, it’s silly. Everyone has fears, they say. It’s all an excuse to avoid people or to avoid doing anything. They use the dreaded “c” word. As Diesel has said several times, “Just get over it!”

If only it were that simple. Trust me, I’d love to just get over it. Now, for some people, the “get over it” attitude works. They face their fears and live their lives. If this is how you survive, then good for you. I’m genuinely happy for you.

For me and others like me, however, this is not the case. Being pushed or pressured only makes things worse. When I am pushed into stepping outside my comfort zone, I become paralyzed with fear. The unknown is so terrifying to me that I am unable to make any kind of decision or progress. Sometimes, I end up having panic attacks. (More on those another day.)

Not everyone understands this. They are entitled to their opinions, of course. But I am not crazy and I am not weak. I’m scared. I have trusted and been hurt. I learned not to trust at all. While I am slowly progressing toward less fear, pushing me before I’m ready only sets me back.

I will not be ashamed of my anxiety. I will not be shamed into thinking there is something deeply wrong with me or I’m not trying hard enough. “Oh, you just aren’t fixing the right things about yourself!” Except I’m doing all I can. I try to eat healthier. I try exercise. I have a dozen books on improving mood, turning depression around, being mindful and thankful and calm. I am also in therapy and take needed medication. I battle every day.

I intend on winning the war someday. But until then, I will go about things in my own time. I hope everyone else finds their own way to wellness. Just know you are not alone.