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Ask The Band: Worn Out

Sometimes we all need a little bit of advice now and then. Do you have a burning question you’d like to ask us?

Do it! Ask the band.

The Band, I’m in a terrible funk right now.

I’m having some kind of weird mid-life crisis, though I don’t know if being just shy of thirty counts as “mid.” Either way, my main problem is that I just want to be left the hell alone. Of course, wanting to be left alone and actually being left alone are two completely different things, and the sad truth is that I will never be left alone.

It’s not due to the bipolar depression, although I know damn well it’s a contributing factor on my worse days; it’s simply because I’m tired. I’m tired of going through the motions of my daily life, getting up early to tend to all manner of things. I’m tired of everyone in my household demanding something from me at all times, whether it’s my daughters, who want/need all of my attention since they are both so young, or my husband wanting to constantly have sex, or even the damn cat for bitching about not having food even though his food bowl is completely full. (The cat is an idiot.)

I have no friends – all of them live in a different state because we moved away 2 years ago in order for my husband to pursue a new job opportunity. We have family not too far from us, but we barely see them as it is, so they wouldn’t dare step in and watch the kids in order for me to get the hell away for a little while.

A few days ago, one of my friends told me to come visit her so we could go on a bender, and to be honest, I would fucking LOVE to! It would be an opportunity to get away and have some fun for once, since all of my hobbies have gone to shit since becoming a stay-at home-mum five years ago. However, even if we still lived close by, that bender would never happen because my husband, while a great guy, is insecure as fuck, and at times errs on the possessive side of things. He would be paranoid about me cheating on him even though I’ve been a million percent faithful.

Pretty much all of my time I try to reach some semblance of reprieve by burying myself in my laptop: reading the news, blogs, messaging friends or (my secret shame) reading and writing fan fiction. (Now The Band knows my horrible secret!) Sometimes I listen to music. Music is a major way for me to unwind, and the advent of Spotify has been very useful since I can listen to stuff that I’m too cheap to purchase via iTunes. My husband thinks that I have some kind of bizarre internet addiction, but that’s so far from the truth.

I know this is a form of escapism.

I’m grumpy, I’m exhausted, and I’m just flat-out sick of everything.

This is my dilemma. I just want my family to back the shit off, but at the same time, it makes me feel like a terrible person. I don’t want to play with the kids. I don’t want to engage in “sexy time.” I don’t want to do the goddamn laundry or feed the goddamn cat.

What should I do?

Ask The Band: Control

Sometimes, we find ourselves stuck in a domestically abusive relationship and don’t see a way out.

Can you please help her figure out what to do next? 

I’m in a controlling relationship.

Funny thing, though: we are not a couple.

We haven’t been “together” since I was three months pregnant with his daughter. That was when he decided to back me into a corner and scream in my face over something silly. That was after he broke my phone in half. My two older kids were asleep in the other room, and he refused to leave MY house. The next day, I took my kids to my aunt’s house with me. He got pissed and started screaming at me again.

I called my aunt behind his back and he tried to slap me, with my terrified children at my feet. I moved out in three hours, after he went to work one Saturday, with the help of some amazing friends.

exhausted from abuse

I missed grabbing some things in the shuffle and he refused to give them back. After I told the landlord I’d moved, he finally moved out; then he moved in with a mutual friend. The friend called me one day so I could get my things from his room while he was gone.

You should have heard that fight: What right did I have going into his house and taking his things? He never did understand that it was NOT his house, and I was invited by the homeowners AND didn’t touch his stuff. I only took mine.

Shortly after that, he amazingly made up with one of his “mortal enemies” and moved in with them. The best part? The house was three houses away from my grandma’s – where I’d moved with my children. He’d call every time I left the house or returned home – every time there was a car in the driveway. Sometimes, he’d call over 10 times in one minute.

One night, I called the police. The next day I got: “I don’t know which of your boyfriends you had call me, but I know you’re a liar and that was not a cop. A cop wouldn’t have restricted their number.” That is the level of stupid I deal with.

Our daughter – who is now four – was born and things are just as bad. If he even THINKS I am seeing someone he says, “We need to talk.”  One time, after he found out I was dating someone, he refused to give my daughter back after a scheduled visitation.

I called the police.

They showed up and he said, “Oh I’m sorry officer. I never told her she couldn’t take the baby. I was just going to get her when she called.”

Mind you, he pushed me out of his way because I was just going to go in the house and take her. My other kids again, right there, saw it all.

If I make plans, he wants to know with whom, where, and when. And if he can watch the kids, which he doesn’t seem to understand will NEVER happen.

The one time I allowed him to watch all the kids, he decided to take a bath with my daughter – my daughter from a previous marriage. During this (naked) bath, he talked to her about his flaccid penis floating in the water. The detectives couldn’t prove anything, other than suspicions that he was “grooming” her, so everything was dropped.

This is the ONE thing I said would never happen to my kids, and I just handed it to him. Let the courts handle it instead of letting every single person I know kick his ass. And in the end, I should have just let them. Maybe then he’d understand.

It KILLS me that I have to leave my youngest daughter with him. It is sad that I had to teach my (then) not-even-two-year-old about good touch and bad touch. No one should have to do that.

The controlling goes on and on. I’ve told him to leave me alone. He always threatens custody, which, okay, I know I can’t afford that fight. He can because his mom always backs him up. no. matter. what. So, I stay quiet.

He makes sure our daughter has what she needs and I’m grateful for that.

But part of me wonders if it’s another way to control me – every time I refuse to tell him what I’m doing, he asks our daughter about me. Every time. Never fails.

He will buy me underwear or swimsuits, and he won’t take “no” for an answer. When we drop off or pick up our daughter, he backs me into a corner and kisses my neck. He makes inappropriate comments. I absolutely know this tactic. But I’m so tired of fighting – I simply don’t say anything.

Pervert is sometimes easier to deal with than asshole. In doing this, I know I’m letting him win. My depression will never get better with his behavior – I simply don’t know how to stop it.

He’s been blowing up my phone for two days because I didn’t tell him good morning or answer a rhetorical text he sent.

I love my daughter to pieces – don’t get me wrong…but sometimes…nope, can’t even write it. I love her too much.

I just want to take my children and run far, far away.

I don’t know what to do, The Band, and I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this.

How do you get out of a controlling, possessive relationship when you have children together, but you aren’t even “together” anymore?

My First Motherhood

By the time my first baby was born, I had been in therapy for about a year and a half. When I started therapy, I had reached a point where I knew I needed help, and the risk of reaching out for help was outweighed by the burden of sitting alone with the darkness I felt any longer. Therapy helped me a ton and I was in a much better spot when I became pregnant. My husband and I had been married for two years, and though the pregnancy was unplanned, I desperately wanted a baby.

Pregnancy was a roller coaster of emotions, with lots of vomiting. The last couple of months were good, and I felt strong and ready for childbirth, but still unsure of motherhood. My labor was not typical and there were a stressful three days and 20ish hours of active labor that led up to the birth of my daughter. By the time she was born, I was exhausted. The first thought I remember having when my husband placed my baby on my chest was “I don’t know how to do this,” followed by apologizing that she was crying and that I had been too loud during labor. I felt ashamed, like I somehow didn’t do it right. Then I felt doubly ashamed for commenting about the baby crying, because obviously babies are supposed to cry.  And what kind of mother would think there is something wrong with her baby crying right after she’s born? No one was putting this on me or making me feel this way. There was also joy and a deep cozy feeling when cuddling my new babe but, mostly, I was scared, tired, and feeling completely unqualified.

The nurse let me “rest” for a few hours after the birth, during which my husband and baby took a nap, and I ate and took a shower. Then the nurse came back in to give me a bunch of instructions on baby care before sending me home with an hours-old extremely delicate creature who completely depended on me for survival. I told the nurse that I was too tired to remember anything and I wasn’t sure I was qualified to care for a newborn. She told me that newborns were made for new parents (which was oddly reassuring) and to set an alarm to go off every two hours all night long, so that I could wake up to feed the baby. She emphasized how important it was that I feed the baby every two hours and wake her up to feed if she was sleeping.

The first night was hard. I remember my husband waking me up because I didn’t hear the alarm going off under my pillow. I don’t remember if the baby was awake, too, in the cosleeper beside our bed, but I do remember that every time I tried to nurse her, she would fall right back to sleep. The next day, I called the nursing support line and they told me she was a “sleepy nurser,” and gave me some tips on how to wake her up to nurse. My mom stayed with us for about three days to help out and my grandparents came to meet the new baby. After about five days, my husband went back to work and I was very much alone at home.

I remember worrying about a lot of things and wanting to do everything right. I remember her gazing into my face as I rocked and nursed her, looking into her big dark eyes and feeling like I was falling down a very deep tunnel. Then weird thoughts would flash through my mind:  “What if she can’t breathe while she is nursing, what if she knows I have no idea what I am doing, what if she is a demon? I am not emotionally stable enough to be a mother; what if someone finds out and takes her away from me?” This scared me to the point that I avoided looking into her eyes.  I never wanted to hurt my child, but I was afraid of the things going through my mind.

I was especially scared of trimming her fingernails. They were so tiny and her fingers were so precious. I worried that I would snip them with the trimmers by accident. Several people suggested that it was easier to chew baby nails than to trim them, but every time I thought of this, a picture would flash into my mind of my sweet baby’s finger chewed to a bloody nub.  Sometimes those flashes would come when I was trimming her nails and I started trimming them only when I was feeling well rested, for fear of having one of those thoughts and freaking out.

There were other things that I knew I weren’t right too. Anytime I saw one of those child safety tags they put on every piece of baby gear, I would visualize whatever horror they warned about happening to my baby. I would lay her in the Pack-n-Play, catch a glimpse of the warning label and have a flash of finding her suffocated. Same with the baby carrier, the stroller, and the baby bathtub.  She would cry when my husband tried to put her to sleep at night and I remember worrying that my husband was sexually abusing her, and wrestling with that being a totally crazy thought, but still feeling that I needed to protect her from him. (Please note my husband has never and would never do this. I think this just came up in my mind because my mother had been sexually abused by her father when she was a kid and I was just having really bizarre thoughts). Instead of resting, I would stay awake listening to them on the baby monitor, crying and worrying until she went to sleep. Once she was asleep, I would lay awake in bed thinking about all the horrible crap that could happen, plus my to-do list, and what a fucked-up person I was.

These thoughts were scary to me, but they weren’t entirely new. During the deepest part of my depression a few years earlier, I had similar gruesome flashes any time I saw my husband’s X-Acto knife. That gruesome image was always of the knife slicing my wrists, which is why I finally went into therapy, though I never told my therapist of my concerns about the knife. I was afraid that if I told her, she would have me committed or the have the baby taken away. I was not suicidal, did not use self harm, and absolutely did not want to kill myself.

When my maternity leave ended, I went back to work. I was incredibly sleep deprived because my baby would not take a bottle while I was gone and would nurse every two hours all night long. Her weight percentage had gone down and the doctor was concerned about her getting enough milk and gaining weight.  I kept up the night feedings, tried different things to get her weight up and worried about everything. The gruesome images and thoughts kept up for a while, too.  I can’t remember exactly when I stopped having them, but I remember having them when some friends came to visit when my baby was about six months old.

Around that time I attempted to handle my anxiety by smoking pot or drinking after I put the baby to bed at night. This helped me numb out a little but, ultimately, it added to my anxiety. Before becoming pregnant, I drank and smoked a lot, and it was too easy to fall back on those unhealthy coping mechanisms. I stayed in therapy for another year and a half for post-partum depression, and my therapist helped me “fact check” some of my irrational fears, like that my baby was going to starve to death or that my husband couldn’t adequately care for her while I was at work. She also helped me figure out what self care was, and generally made me feel loved and supported. Even though I never disclosed everything that I was experiencing, having her support was extremely helpful. I will forever be grateful for how kind she was to me and how much she helped me during this time.

Eventually, my husband and I decided that we were both worn too thin with our work schedules, and figured out how I could leave my job and stay home. When I left my job, I also lost the mental health care coverage I had through my insurance. My therapist and I made a self care and emergency plan in case the depression came back. When I ended therapy, I decided to stop smoking pot entirely. Facing shit without an easy numb-out was harder than I thought it would, and the first three days, everything felt very intense. Even though I didn’t smoke “that much,”  I knew it was important for me to quit and develop some healthier ways of being in the world.  I also joined a support group, took an online self care class for moms, started exercising, and found a really cool mental health video game that taught me about different aspects of self care.

When my second baby was born two years ago, I asked for more support from my family after the birth and I had a community of moms to talk with. I kept track of my two week timeline for depression and was more aware of how that looks in my own mind. Although there were things that I worried about and struggled with, I did not have any of the scary thoughts or gruesome flashes as the first time around. I did feel overwhelmingly joyful about gazing into his newborn eyes. It was a totally different and less scary experience. Having a completely different post-partum experience the second time has shown me how much of my experience was PPD and not just typical new motherhood.

I hope that my story will encourage other moms to get the support they need if they are experiencing PPD after the birth of a baby or depression years later. It can be hard to see the symptoms when you are in the fog of it, and it is worth seeking help if you aren’t sure about what you’re experiencing. Healing is worth it. You are worth it.

PTSD and Childhood Bullying – A Silent Suffering

I always thought that PTSD was something soldiers developed – I was naïve; had no idea anyone could develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. After my teenage son began to get into trouble, I assumed we’d become another statistic – a family with an out-of-control teen.

After we started family counseling, my therapist suggested that I try private therapy. About a week into it, I was diagnosed with PTSD. The therapist said were several things that led to PTSD.

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, can occur when something horrible or traumatic has happened in. It causes stress every time you encounter a situation is similar to the previously-experienced traumatic events.

I’ve had a few types of traumatic events. I had a rocky relationship with my father growing up and then his death was both very sudden and very traumatic. An abusive relationship with my ex. I’ve experienced abuse from my son. Lastly, I was bullied by a girl from second grade all the way through high school.

My reactions to everyday situations can be more intense than they need to be – but whenever I am in a stressful or threatening situation, I relive past experiences. It’s hell, reliving the same horrible day over and over.

Once, when I saw my grade school bully in the grocery store, while I was there with my kids and we were checking out. The sound drained out of the store. My heart began to race. Blood pumped in my ears. My face got hot. As soon as I was able, I grabbed my kids and ran for the car. I must’ve driven break-necking speeds home, but I don’t remember getting there.

I had a panic attack after seeing this woman! We live in a small town and the odds of running into her are probably higher than in other areas, but I never see her. When I did, I hit fight or flight mode, and flew! That was six years ago.

Since I began therapy, I’ve seen her again. My daughters were with me, and this time I made sure to make eye contact with her as I turned to my daughters and said, “Girls, let’s go check out. I think we’ve got all we need now!” I turned and went to check out. As we left I felt so proud of myself for facing her, and not fleeing like a chicken facing slaughter!

Thanks to the ways she traumatized me, I always tell my kids, “Don’t take anyone’s crap at school!” Recently my daughter was getting harassed by a staff member at her middle school. I contacted the principal and reported her. This woman has not bothered my daughter since I reported her; threatened to file a sexual harassment suit against the school.

Since starting therapy, I stand up more than I used to. Despite all the reasons my therapist thought that I was traumatized, I think the bully and my father’s sudden death were the two that really affected me.

I was a victim of domestic abuse, but I came to terms with it, and took a stand. I left my then-husband and married the man responsible for making me feel like I was worth more. I call him my White Knight because I was considering suicide when we met – he saved me.

My son and I have resolved many of our issues and are working on our relationship; things are getting better.

I still have issues with my dad’s death.

See, I was blamed for him dying. He died from cancer 14 years ago and afterward, I was told that being around stressed him out – caused his cancer to return after it had been in remission.

Being blamed for his death is a hard thing to overcome. But this year, I was able to make it past his birthday and the anniversary of his death (exactly a month apart) without being a total mess!

To all those out there who have been bullied, abused, or lost a loved one, don’t assume you are strong enough to deal with it on your own.

PTSD snuck up and took over my life. I’d been miserable for years because I didn’t know what I was trying to cope with on my own. I suffered for years without understanding why, until I didn’t want to live any more.

Now, I cannot imagine having missed one day of my kids lives. Good or bad, I want to be there for it all. When they graduate from high school, when they get married, go off to college, when they start their own families. I want to be there, protect them from the problems I had. To tell them, “You’re better than this!” Or smile for them after they avoid bad situations entirely!

Don’t hesitate to get help for PTSD. It really does make a difference.

I never wanted to go to therapy every week, but I am, and I am doing much better. My therapist told me last week that he thinks I am nearly ready to be done. I think that’s a remarkable thing to hear – I am better, I can do it.

My therapist told me recently that I’m a remarkable person for dealing with what I’ve experienced, and still managing to smile. I told him that despite any issues I’ve had, I have great kids and a loving husband.

That’s all I could ask for!

Dose of Happy: Student Identification

This week I notice my son had something I’d never seen before – a high school student identification card.

When you have a child who has had a non-traditional school experience (his first 1-½ years of high school at a therapeutic day school), suddenly the “normal” becomes cause for celebration.

It’s such a simple thing really – a photo on a piece of plastic – but it means so much more.

It means my son is just as important as every one of his peers.

It means that my son belongs.

It means that making a difficult choice regarding school placement when my son entered high school has paid off.

And that makes me happy!
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What’s your Happy?

Don’t think you have one? Look harder. Something will make you smile today.

We want to know!

Share it with the world on The Band Back Together blog or share it on Facebook. Whatever you want to do, do it. Just find a bit of happy in this Monday!

Covering The Scars: Failing Moms

If you are a friend, you’ve no doubt heard me refer to the young Prince and my daughter, Sam. You may not have heard me discuss My Dude, who will be 20.

My Dude has lead a life of struggle – he’s no angel, despite his problems and all of our efforts, we could not help him. We tried our best, we failed him, but when he is ready we will try again, and again, and again, and again.

This left his mark on each of our souls in this family; they say when one person has a disease, the entire family is sick. (Whoever the hell “they” are, that’s about the only thing “they” ever got right.)

He also left his marks on our house. Walls written on, slammed doors, the broken dishes. They’re really silly little things in the grand scope of things, when you consider how many times we’ve had to start over: house floods, hurricanes. When his lows were so low and the anger beast would rage out of his fists and into the walls, nothing was safe.

holes in the wall from bi polar son

The upstairs was covered with signs of his anger.

For years, the holes would multiply, weekly, monthly, until eventually, I learned it was silly to fix them because they would come back, bigger, with more vengeance.

So we stopped. We stopped fixing the holes, we focused on simply surviving the best we could. We made horribly hard choices that parents shouldn’t have to make.  He grew bigger, stronger, and his disease became more pronounced while he became increasingly distant.

Two years ago this week, what little was left of my world crashed down.

My Sam-I-am, left for the university; she’s my only daughter, my first born, my best friend, the first thing I had ever done right, and my biggest confidant. I wanted her to escape the madness, to spread her wings and go, but the selfish child in me wanted my friend, my baby, my daughter to stay. Two weeks before she left, I received a medical diagnosis that I kept secret for three weeks so she would go, as she’s the kind of girl who would give up her life to stay behind and help.

The diagnosis was so shocking, the amount of research was mind boggling while coping and adjusting our lives and goals around it.  But we did.  A couple months later, Dude had a break down, freak out, and then he left.

I have spent one and a half years without him, though he did briefly return twice. It didn’t go well either time, and both times he left on bad terms. Once, after a physical altercation with me.

Every night I go to bed not knowing where my son is, if he has eaten, if he is safe, if he is alive. When my phone rings from another state or an unknown number in the middle of the night, chills run up my spine and I feel like I will vomit, as I prepare for that phone call that no parent wants. Because I don’t know. I beg him to get to a doctor. A hospital. A police station. A shelter. Anywhere.

He’s never had a job. He’s never driven a car.  He receives no welfare, no medicaid, no anything, he’s not a drain on your tax dollar, but does have mental illness and he is walking around this country. How has he survived? I have no idea.  He is good looking, very good looking. He’s also very smart, and a great con man. I love him dearly but I’m not looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.  I wouldn’t want anyone to cross his path because honestly I have no clue what he is capable of: he hasn’t been on medication for over a year and I can’t legally make him take any, as he is an adult.

So for this past year and a half, when I don’t hear from him for a week or longer, and I worry, or I get a call of him just talking crazy I can sit on my stairs and run my hand over that hole in the wall and try to absorb some of his pain. Because I am his Mom. It’s my job. Kiss the booboo, make it all better, right?

But, I can’t. I have never been able to make it all better. He goes from loving me to wanting me dead in one deep breath. So I leave the holes in the wall to remind me of his pain, to remind me of how I can’t fix him, how I can’t help him. All I can do is love him, remember that he is real, even if he isn’t here.

Over the last three weeks he was calling 10-15 times a day, and full of tiger blood and all grandiose, like Charlie Sheen. For some reason the stars lined up and a guy who did drywall came by, so I hired him and paid him. My dad went in the hospital last Friday. I spent the entire day in the emergency room until he was admitted. I got home and at midnight I got a call from another State that my Dude had been picked up, they wanted to know about his mental health and he had asked them to call me. I had to say horrible things about him, to strangers, who think I that am a mother who doesn’t love her son. What they don’t know is I love him enough to say those things so they will get him help.

I hope.

In a strange twist of fate. The law being what it is, I can’t find out if they have my son, if he is alive, where he is, how he is. Nothing. Tomorrow will make six days since I have had an update and it’s eating at me, yet I have to go on, with work and life and baseball games for the Prince, Sam-I-am turns 22 on the 11th and graduates on the 13th. Still, I know nothing about my Dude. I kick out jokes, posts, tweets, pictures, but why isn’t my phone ringing, DAMN IT? I am his mother, I need to know he’s okay.

I went to the stairs today, put my hand on the wall where the drywall had been fixed. I just sat on there and felt I couldn’t have betrayed him more if I had tried. I’m so sorry, Honey. I hope one day you will understand that I love you to beyond the universe and back.

To all the parents who feel like they are failing, messing up, being judged, on the edge or losing it: you will survive. While I can’t guarantee your sanity, you will survive.

Hang in there.