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Next Life, NO Kids: December 2014

December 31, 2014

Dear Emily Ladau: A Response To Your Letter To Parents on HuffPost

Dear Emily,

I read your letter Dear Parents: No I Won't Run Your Child Over With My Wheelchair, and I wanted to respond. I couldn't help but feel like you were speaking directly to me, because I am that mother who moves her child out of your way when I see you coming down the street in your wheelchair. 

I cannot begin to understand what you must face on the daily with the amount of ignorance and discrimination present in the world.

I move my child when I see you coming down the road or aisle, because I don't want him in your way. I don't want you to have to stop moving or maneuver yourself around my daffed-out preschooler who is most likely staring off into space at a tile on the floor, definitely not paying attention to his surroundings.  I also don't want you to have an accident because he's practicing one of his many random, unpredictable break-dance moves. 

I move my son as a courtesy to you, not an insult. I imagine if I left him to block your path, you might be writing me a letter about how I should pay more attention to where I'm parking my kid, or about teaching him to be more mindful and respectful of disabled people. 

So, I move him. 

I move him out of everyone's way, so there really is no difference in the way I treat you. When people are trying to get somewhere, and the only thing standing in the way is my little boy, I do what I can to accommodate. 

I don't expect you to be grateful or anything, but I never thought you'd think it was out of some horrible plot to teach my kids that people with disabilities are evil or scary. That's SO not the case, and I wish so much you wouldn't assume that of all parents. 

I also want to address your concern towards my intervening when my child is inquiring why you're in your wheelchair. While I completely understand that you may view this as a way of teaching him that you're a monster, that's simply not the case. 

I don't let my son overwhelm you with personal questions because I am aware that not everyone is as open to the ruthless, intrusive interrogation tactics of a five-year-old. I don't want him to make you uncomfortable. There is no way for me to know how you will receive his questions, and because I know my child, I worry that it will get... weird - for all of us. I'm not trying to keep you from telling my son your truth, I'm trying to be respectful of the possibility that you won't appreciate the questions.

I try my best to teach all of my children to be mindful and respectful towards everyone - disabilities or not. I try to instill values and morals, and let them know they are responsible for their actions - actions which may affect other people's feelings. So, if we see you in a store and he heads over with his finger pointed, announcing loudly that you're coming our way, I do what I think is best and redirect his attention. This does not mean that I don't want him to be educated about or afraid of people with disabilities. I just don't want him to think that it's okay to make a spectacle of someone just because they look different. We do discuss your wheelchair, and the possibilities of why you're in it, all the way home and sometimes into the next day. 

I'll be honest with you though. After reading your letter, I feel this is a very slippery slope. I worry that there is no way for me to teach my child appropriate boundaries and keep you from feeling avoided. Because if I let him go at you with his curiosity, and he steps over the line, my fear is that it will result embarrassment - yours and/or mine.

I also worry about the next person he sees out and about that might look different, who is not comfortable with the exchange. Everyone has the right to personal boundaries, and that is what I want my children to understand. Emily, you ought to hear some of the stuff that comes out of his mouth when we're at home! I really don't feel comfortable teaching him that it's okay to drop that shit on strangers. 

And let's not forget that is exactly what you are. 

You are a stranger; and unfortunately in this scary world, we don't talk to strangers. I haven't really worked out the details in my head over this. Is it okay to talk to strangers if I'm present? But then what if we're at the park and I'm like there, but not right there, and he talks to the wrong one. Or, what if I am right there and the stranger is trying to chat so he or she is not be seen as a stranger next time? Maybe I watch too much Law & Order SVU, I don't know. What I do know is that it is never my intention to make you feel badly, miss out on interacting with you, or lose the opportunity for "teachable moments."

As far as people making comments about your disability, I wish I could fix that. We live in a terribly desensitized society where people think it's okay to say what comes to mind, without thought of people's feelings. I am trying to do my part to instill these lessons in my children. I appreciate the work you do as a Disabilities Rights Advocate, and it saddens me that you have encountered such discriminating comments.

I'm not really sure why that mom made a joke about you running her son over either, and I can't speak for her. I can only speculate and think about why I might make inappropriate jokes in that situation. Maybe she was worried about what was about to come out of her son's mouth. Perhaps she was dealing with her own discomfort or anxiety about strangers, or maybe she really was just an ignorant dick. 

I just wanted you to know that we're not all ignorant dicks. Some of us are just trying to get through our own anxieties and the line at Penn Station - with both our food and our child - without having a nervous breakdown. 

I will definitely think about your letter, and continue to work on the boundaries between stranger and friendly face. I should probably also stop watching so much Law & Order... maybe.

I appreciate your truth, and the part of me it struck. 

Until we meet again,

A Mother Who Knows You're Not Going To Run Her Child Over With Your Wheelchair 

photo credit: EmilyWhitwam via photopin cc

Whether you love what you just read or hated everything about it, let's connect and talk about it! I'm always open to honest feedback. Come be social with me!

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December 23, 2014

Someone is Getting Divorced

I was going to title this post, "No one is Getting Divorced," but it's quite possible there are a ton of people getting divorced right now. I'm just not one of them.

The post that was published on Scary Mommy yesterday was published on my blog over a year ago. I was in a terrible place with my own mental health and with two young kids and a teenager in the mix, I was legit losing my fucking mind. My husband and I were arguing a bunch about stupid shit, and I sat down with my frustrations and decided to publish the piece. We have worked through much of that stuff, and are (for the most part) communicating much better these days.

My husband was obviously not thrilled about my airing our business on my blog. It has been a bit of a struggle between us honestly. I've always been quite the over-sharer, and he's pretty modest and shy. My blogging has definitely put a strain on our marriage, but I think in some ways it has saved it. He insisted I publish "I Don't Want My Marriage Today," stating that he didn't ever want to be the reason I censor myself. It was a HUGE step for both of us, mostly because by the time it was published we'd already worked out our feelings and were in a better place. 

Marriage is hard, and parenting on the same page can be even harder. Obviously even wonderful things can put a wrench in the works. Maybe that's why we feel so guilty talking about it. How many others would just die to have the luxury problem of children to parent? Perhaps that's why we pretend. The problem is, we may pretend so long we actually forget it's normal to struggle.

After the post went live, people we hadn't spoken to in months started to reach out to let us know they were there as support. It was obviously a little uncomfortable at first, but it was also pretty neat to see how many people we have who give a shit about our marriage.

This year has come with its own unique struggles with the adoption of my non-profit organization and the 9000 distractions it has created, but we've managed. We've survived another year of marriage, and enjoyed the majority of it.

Since starting this blog, I have learned many things. The posts I am completely terrified to publish are those that will resonate most with people. Perhaps because they're mostly about the things we don't often discuss or subjects that accompany stigma or judgment. Trust me, it is NOT easy to write about these things, and it often takes me over a week to click "Publish." 

I've NEVER regretted the decision to do so.

I have also learned that the connections my honesty here provides are always worth whatever fear and/or panic I may experience. When you say "Me too," it is the greatest compliment. When you trust me enough to tell me my words have touched you in some say or helped to lesson your pain, it matters to me. It means the shit I've gone through - the struggles I experience- make sense. It gives them purpose, and helps me to better understand the WHYs. 

Your support means the absolute world to me. Your willingness to come read my stories, and share bits of yourself with me is what has made this blogging experience so indescribably wonderful. 

Oh, and twitter is pretty fun, too. ;)

photo credit: jrayfarm1980 via photopin cc

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December 13, 2014

I Laugh at Mental Illness

I was diagnosed with “severe depression” when I was thirteen years old. It felt like all of my motivation, hope, and desire to live were hijacked overnight and replaced with the daunting task of making it through the day. It felt like someone pulled the rug out from underneath me, and it became a chore to breathe. Those feelings made everything more difficult, and surviving became harder and harder. 

It was exhausting. 

My parents became concerned after I voiced feeling like I wanted "...to fall asleep and not wake up." I didn’t have the energy to think about killing myself; I just wanted to be gone. I was sent to a psychiatrist and put on medications that didn’t work. This started a very long stretch of what I like to call "pharmaceutical guinea-pigging." Up that one, lower that one, add a few more – and let’s see what happens. The problem with most anti-depressants is their inability to provide instant relief. I had to force myself to take pills every day for weeks - pills that caused immediate and disgusting side effects - before it could be determined that they weren’t working against my desire to die. 

When I was fifteen, I found the solution to all of my problems - Alcohol. Drinking enabled me to feel “normal,” for the first time ever, and interact with people in a way that didn’t have me crawling out of my skin or wishing I was invisible. I quickly found my sense of humor, and became "the funny girl.” 

After being teased most of my life by both kids at school and at home, humor served me very well. It helped me make light of my feelings of inadequacy and uselessness. I made jokes about being chubby and having acne before you did, and I learned that if we laughed together it hurt a lot less. 

I medicated myself with alcohol until I was 22, because it stopped working. The voices kept getting louder and more hateful when I drank. Playing the role of Drunky McDrunkerson lost its flare, and it became clear to everyone around me how much I hated myself. Alcohol turned on me, and the previously colorful veil it had provided me to hide behind turned ugly. I could not find comfort anywhere; not even in humor.

One night after trying one last time to rekindle my love affair with booze, I loathed myself into an attempted suicide. When I awoke the next day only half dead, I made the decision that it was time to get sober. Okay, I didn’t actually make the decision. The emergency room physician who referred my ass to a hospital for crazy people did. It was there that I realized and said out loud for the first time that I was an alcoholic.

I have been sober since that second day of May in 2000. The desire to drink didn’t leave right away, but lessened over time with help and support. I can’t remember the last time I thought alcohol would make anything in my life better. It’s just no longer an option.

Here’s the thing - I don’t want to be drunk anymore, I just want to be okay. Getting sober didn’t do that for me, and I had to change basically everything about the way I related to the world. I found out that being is achievable without a substance in my body.

Since then, I have soberly fumbled through many difficult situations. I have found peace in places I would never have imagined while drinking. I recovered from alcoholism.

The depression, however, never went away. No matter how long I stayed sober, or how much I changed - no matter how many different therapists I went to, it was always there. 

Years ago, after seeking help to process an experience that had me all fucked up, I stumbled upon a therapist specializing in trauma. It was determined that, for most of my life, my depression has actually been a symptom of something greater – part of a cycle that stems from all of the trauma in my past. I had to get sober to deal with the wreckage I created, in order to discover the roots that so many of my issues stem from. 

I have a dissociative personality disorder.

At some points this has been quite difficult to manage. Over time, I have identified many of my triggers – things that cause me extreme anxiety, irrational or intensified fear, and/or what is called “flight or fight response” (ie. do I punch you in the throat or run away screaming?) Understanding these things really has been half the battle, and gaining insight into why I’m such a basket case has been invaluable to my healing process. It has not, however, necessarily solved the problems they still create in my life. 

Living with this kind of diagnosis sucks more often than not, and brings back the feeling of just trying to survive the day - a feeling I don't enjoy or appreciate as a mother.

Bad days aren’t always just bad days for me. Sometimes they turn into catastrophic days, where I find myself questioning every decision I’ve ever made, and wondering if my life is a mistake. I get easily overwhelmed by mundane things, and when I do, that old familiar feeling of just wanting to go to sleep and not wake up creeps in.  I get irritable, sometimes child-like, and it becomes extremely difficult to focus on being a good wife and mother. I start to wonder what my husband could possibly see in me that's lovable, and worry that I'm causing irreparable damage to my children.

Sometimes I lose time and entire conversations, which can be frustrating and disappointing to those I love. 

If I manage to string a few “bad” days together, the depression kicks in resulting in hibernation via my good friend Agoraphobia. 

It has become vital to my pseudo-sanity that I laugh at some of this. I'm afraid if I don’t, I will completely lose my mind. I haven't needed inpatient hospitalization in over ten years, but if I focus too much energy on how fucked up and damaged I am, time in a psych ward starts to sound like a vacation. The people closest to me, who must adjust themselves to accommodate some of my broken pieces, don't always see the humor. 

Don't get me wrong; I'm not always a Hefty bag of crazy. I also have really great days...I think. Just kidding, I do. But there seems always to be an ominous, hovering fear that happiness and contentment is temporary. 

I have an incredible husband, children, and friends who love me. I have an amazing life that I would love to feel connected to every single day. I have made many wonderful memories I wish I could hold onto longer. Writing has helped me tremendously. 

Some days are harder than others, and there are times when I struggle to find humor. I hate struggling, and I really hate feeling like I can’t control my feelings and/or thoughts. I have too much love in my life and too many tools to feel hopeless; yet there are days I still do. I’m trying to keep my focus on all of the wonderful things I have in my life, and most days I’m successful. 

So I laugh. I make jokes so you'll laugh with me, and sometimes...it hurts a lot less.

I Am Not Okay - Next Life, NO Kids #trauma #depression #selfcare

Some of us don't want to talk about it - Next Life, NO Kids #sexualtrauma #callthemout

Look Who Came To Dinner - Next Life, NO Kids #Depression #PTSD

Whether you love what you just read or hated everything about it, let's connect and talk about it! I'm always open to honest feedback. Come be social with me!

Find me on Facebook, Twitter, or on my Facebook Page!

 photo credit: virtualwayfarer via photopin cc

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December 09, 2014

Elf on the Shelf People Scare Me

I thought it might be a good idea to start this post off with a little history behind Elf on The Shelf.

Once upon a time we were all sheep. Someone suggested it might be fun and help us control our children during the holidays if we invited the idea of Big Brother into our homes in the shape of an ugly, creepy, stuffed toy. Although some of us were and remain completely against the idea of violating our own rights to the expectation of privacy, many of us said, "fuck it, it'll be fun" and went for it. 

My friend Becky recently tweeted about feeling like the only person refusing to conform.

Next Life, NO Kids: Elf on the Shelf People Scare Me #StupidChristmasTraditions
Becky, you're not alone. I too think it's a ridiculous idea to teach our kids that some creepy little dude is moving around our house at night watching them. Isn't it enough that Christmas, which I'm pretty sure was intended to celebrate some kid named Baby Jesus, has been commercialized to the point where we wait for some big, fat, old guy in a weird red suit to sneak into our houses in the middle of the night to leave presents? Isn't it enough that my 5yo thinks he might be entitled to an iPad for Christmas because he heard a rumor at school that your kid got one last year? 

No, let's make it even worse. Let's take the "Santa's watching you, and if you don't stop being an asshole the big fat dude won't bring you anything, " right off the table. Let's send in a middleman - a crazy-eyed, skinny little elf thing that will forever take child stalking to a new level.   

Next Life, NO Kids: Elf on the Shelf People Scare Me 

Seriously, have you people not seen The Conjuring

Dafuqs-a-mattah with you??

Creepiness factor aside, I just don't love the message it sends that it's cool to spy on our kids...PERIOD. 

I'm not a fan of spying, and I feel like privacy has become a thing of the past in many ways, and that sucks. I mean, I don't even use the wifi at Target because I know they use it to track my location in the store to see what I'm buying. That kind of stalking kind of makes sense, but I still feel like it's a violation of my right to head in for toilet paper and lose hours walking around dropping shit into my cart that I do not need. Wait, what? 

I just don't think telling my kids a disturbing little stuffed toy is watching them and comes alive at night to roam will help anyone or anything; least of all my already rocky relationship with Sleep.

Next Life, NO Kids: Elf on the Shelf People Scare Me
I'm not even going to get into how many of you have concerned me with your elfish activity on social media. I'm not going to bring up the fact that some of you have actually created twitter accounts for those creepy little fuckers to communicate with your kids. And I'm definitely not going to discuss the countless pictures many are taking of their elf in awkward positions with Barbie. Heavens to Betsy!

 I refuse to write about these things for one very good reason...

You people legit scare me.

photo credit: ladybugbkt via photopin cc photo credit: Geek With Kids via photopin cc

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