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Word Of The Day: Projecting

Okie Dokie.

Let me start by saying I’m not a “helicopter parent” (I hate that term) in the sense that I sometimes forget my kid’s teacher’s names and I let them play out of sight pretty regularly. I even periodically leave them home alone for 20-minute increments while I run to get something at Publix 1 mile away.

(Or maybe sometimes run to grab a rare Pokémon when the local Twitter guy says one has popped up nearby.)

BUT! There are a few things I do which tend to have that similar “over parenting” effect. As I was talking to my therapist (DRINK!) this week about Wesley’s plan, I casually kinda referenced how we do one-on-one dates because when he misbehaves so terribly he often reflects back that he doesn’t think we love him. To which, of course, I panic because THAT IS A TERRIBLE FEELING, to think your parent doesn’t love you.

And my therapist stopped me DEAD in my tracks and gently said, “Now, Kim. You’re projecting your own childhood feelings of fear of abandonment onto Wesley when he says those things.” She went on to expound that him saying ‘You guys don’t love me!’ is not the same thing as 8-year old Kim worried she wasn’t loved. 8-year old Wesley’s family is not the same as 8-year old Kim’s family. When he says those words, I am unknowingly projecting the feelings I had thinking the same thing as a child. But I had a childhood that actually produced legitimate doubt, he does not. He has two very loving parents at home. I’m basically trying to console 8-year old Kim’s fear of abandonment when I am responding to 8-year old Wesley.

HOLY SHIT, GUYS. She is right. And then I thought of another one he does that triggers the same response from me. He tells me he’s scared and I immediately drop everything to alleviate that fear. We’re actually embroiled in some really frustrating sleep issues due to me allowing him to “be scared” for months which meant he never slept alone anymore.

But here’s the thing. 9-year old Kim had an incident where some pervert thought it would be great to take off his clothes and walk down the hall where I was sitting watching TV in a building where my Dad worked. I had to talk to the police about it and I got really scared for awhile that he was going to kill me for ratting him out. Then 10-year old Kim had her house broken into. And also, young Kim lived on a busy street in sight of the interstate with the housing projects on one end and things like meat-packing plants on the other end. It was not a “safe” feeling neighborhood. It wasn’t even a neighborhood.

So when young Kim was scared? She had very concrete fears and traumas she was dealing with. She heard gunshots periodically. She called 9-1-1 once on the phonebook guy because no one should be at her door in that neighborhood. Wesley lives in suburbia with very minimal crime and deer periodically in his front yard. He’s never experienced a crime close to home. Essentially? I’m projecting 8-year old Kim’s VERY real fears onto 8-year old Wesley when he says he’s scared, so I’m responding to him as a way to comfort her which basically means: He’s playing me.

When Wes’s pediatrician asked him what scared him he said, “My sister told me this story once…” and I stopped him right there because I’ve heard him blame her before. She evidently told him a scary story a few months ago and it scared him that one night and I got onto her for doing that. (It couldn’t have been too scary, she doesn’t even like scary movies when Wesley loves them.) Well, ever since (because he heard me get onto her about it) he’s trying to blame her and that story every time he’s scared. So part of me knows he’s just trying to get what he wants by throwing his sister under the bus. But the other part of me just feels the legitimate fear still that young Kim felt growing up and gives into his requests anyway.

So basically I learned that I sometimes respond to my kid’s tactics to get attention, as a way to comfort young Kim. Projecting her feelings onto them when, in reality, they’re no where near as scared as she was, and no where near as fearful of being unloved as she was. They don’t have abandonment issues, that’s all me. But I’m consoling them like they’re worried they’ll be abandoned.

BOOM.

So last night Wesley started one of his episodes where he got angry and tried to play me for attention and I just ignored him. We were driving home from Soccer so it was easy, but I just kept driving and then when we got home I said. “Are you still hungry? Do you need something else to eat before bed or would you just like your bath?” I didn’t even address the tactics earlier. And do you know what he said, “Well, the first thing I want is to tell you I’m sorry.”

I’m not saying that everything is going to be perfect from here on out. Wesley definitely has issues we’re still investigating, but I’m learning that maybe I’m compounding some of his tactics at getting attention by projecting my own very real fears from childhood onto him when he says the words I used to say. When I feared being unloved? Or feared bad guys? I had very real experiences in my childhood that triggered those things as actual possibilities. And like the therapist said, if he had similar situations? We’d start by counseling those traumas. But since he doesn’t? We can kinda just can safely assume he’s playing me like a fiddle.

So last night we started a new thing. Before bed I told them I was going to try to get in the habit of telling them things I love about them or things they did that make me proud. So that no matter how much trouble they get into during the day, they know they’ll have that coming before bed. That way it kinda appeases my need to be like, “OH NO! HE WORRIES I DON’T LOVE HIM!” when he’s in trouble. I can ignore those jabs knowing I can reassure my love for him before bed and instead focus on whatever it is we’re addressing in the moment.

My therapist will be gone for my normal Thursday session next week so I’m super happy she left me with so much to think about this week. ūüôā

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I Blame Meme Culture

Why do we have such a stark political divide in this country? Well…I have a lot of thoughts and some of them are not pretty as some of the incite racism and classism and straight up bigotry as causes. But instead of opening up that can of worms, let’s take time to also blame shit like this:

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These are two different memes doing the EXACT same thing…simplifying complex political platforms to pro/con type evaluations. And they each paint a different party on the side of good/evil. Do you see how terrible this is? You may look at one and smile and say, “Yep. That one’s totally right.” But then take a look at the OTHER one, the one that puts YOUR side in a bad light. Isn’t it terrible? Aren’t platforms much more complex than, “Promotes Ignorance” or “Against a strong funded military?” I mean, I look at the one that blasts liberals and I want to no longer be liberal. WE SOUND TERRIBLE.

Simplifying political parties in this matter allows for NO nuance. It also allows for NO middle ground. None. ¬†And you know what? Middle ground is where stuff actually gets done. We wonder why our government has been so dysfunctional lately with filibusters and gerrymandering and the complicating of simple legislative efforts by the addition of conflicting addendums? This is why. Because it’s always RED v/s BLUE. Each side wants to say they won because we divide ourselves up into these overly simplified categories that fester hatred of the other side.

“I mean, of course I fear conservatives! Look at the meme! They fear diversity! Think about it! The Wall!”

“Liberals are what’s wrong with this country! Terrorism is their fault because they’re against a strong funded military! Look at the meme!”

It’s stuff like this that makes it so easy to divide ourselves because it makes us feel good about hating the other side because we can completely frame them in a light that is unfavorable. Kinda like calling conservatives “Women haters” or liberals “baby killers” – there are ways you can “prove” those statements are true, but why should we? Why do we have to oversimplify things to make them easier to hate? If we allow for complexities and nuance we might actually start to understand someone on the other side and THAT CAN NOT HAPPEN.

Obviously I’m voting for Clinton. That’s not a surprise if you’ve been around here at all…ever. So, obviously I don’t want Trump to be President. And yes, I have the fear…the “WHAT IF?” and the terror and the reflexes to say to non-voters or 3rd party voters, “So…then…you’re OK if he wins? Because I’m not.” But I also need to point out as a resident of a red state in a family with Trump supporters that…um…they feel the same terror when they think of Clinton winning. Like, SHEER TERROR. And they have been living in fear of what “Obama is doing to the country” for 8 years now, so their fear is like…almost a decade old. Ours is a new fear, like the last few months. Theirs? It’s been festering for awhile and has grown quite strong.

Now, obviously if I sat down with one of these people armed with links from reputable news sources supporting my fears and discounting theirs…it wouldn’t matter. Because they also don’t trust anything I consider a news source. And honestly? I get it. Because I don’t trust theirs. And while I feel that the strength of my sources is a quantifiable thing, they don’t. So, there is no argument. And their fear keeps thriving.

I see a lot of, “I have no problem if you unfriend me if you’re voting for Trump!” But I can’t do that. First of all, I see their fear and feel it’s sincerity. And since I have the SAME fear for their candidate, it’s hard for me not to find a tiny bit of empathy. And while I don’t feel like their fears are founded, but mine are, it doesn’t shrink their fear. Just like telling my son there’s nothing to be afraid of does NOTHING to make bedtime easier. He’s terrified every night. Period. No matter how often I prove to him he’s safe.

What I try to do instead is to constantly remind them that I’m more than this meme above. The one that says that people like me don’t think they should be able to defend themselves with ANYTHING. I mean, that meme says I won’t let them own weapons of self defense! WHAT? That’s so vague! Like, they can’t even own knives if someone is trying to kill them? That’s terrible!

So I spend a lot of time talking about specifics of gun control. I’m actually not a fan of using the no-fly list as some sort of yes/no test until we improve and vet the no-fly list. ¬†Or at least until we have set up way to defend yourself and get yourself OFF the list if you get put on it. It has no good oversight so I’m not for blindly trusting it to rule the 2nd amendment until we fix how it’s created and debated.

See? NUANCE! COMPLEXITY! No room for that in a meme.

I think it’s important to talk more about the complexities of our beliefs to our opposition to remind them that we don’t fit into these pre-form molds. I mean, yes…I’m 100% pro choice. I trust a woman and her medical care provider to make the best decisions together and I believe the deserve that right. I’m also 100% for transgender rights to live their lives how they identify. ¬†So maybe there are times¬†I fit into neat black/white boxes labeled “Baby Killer” or “Queer Lover” – but for the most part? There are gray areas. ¬†Especially in terms of economics and military. Specific legislation is what matters and sometimes I disagree with the wording on a bill I really want to support. Or sometimes something has been added on that means I no longer can support that bill.

I just wish it wasn’t so much us v/s them. I feel like this election wouldn’t have turned into a, “YOUR GUY IS THE SCARIEST!” “No! YOUR GIRL IS THE SCARIEST!” if we could just start allowing for complex discussion instead of promoting over-simplified memes.

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I’m Good.

We had a great visit with Wes’s Pediatrician yesterday about his anger issues, we have a plan in place for some evaluations, and I’m just happy to be on a path again. I had forgotten how good it feels to just be doing something. I also got an 8-mile run in yesterday, ate pretty well, and got to meet with my accidental book club (It’s what I call the group of women who have welcomed me since Fate led me to their group 6 years ago at Barnes & Noble) to discuss Homegoing and it was a great talk as usual. Yesterday was all around a good day. Which means feeling like poop for getting about 4 hours sleep is not so terrible.

Ravenclaw CoffeeI’m also drinking coffee this morning out of my favorite mug, AND it’s just a tiny bit chilly outside so I’m excited about that and we have no soccer tonight so I can be home and maybe cook an actual meal for my actual family.

Who am I kidding? It will be cereal while we watch this week’s This Is Us in our pajamas.

I just wanted to check in and let you all know it’s a good day. Monday was rough but your messages/comments/emails reaching out and patting me on the back telling me it will be okay…really made me feel like it was actually going to be okay. So while I don’t have anything profound to discuss today (I am working on things in my noggin’) I wanted to check in and say, “I’m good. Thanks in large part to you.”

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Parade Of One.

I sat down this morning to write with tears in my eyes about a bad night with Wes that just sucked me in and chewed me up and spit me out into a million depressed little pieces. But it’s really no longer a story I can share in detail in this kind of forum. With E and Nikki I just knew when it was time to stop telling the details of their stories without discussing it with them first, and this is one of those days.

But the point? I will be starting the long and painful process – AGAIN – of finding him a therapist. We did this a couple of years ago but the clinic he went to shut down without warning and I just kept putting it off since he was doing better.

This time though, I’ll call the Pediatrician first. If you’ll recall the last time, you all questioned why I didn’t make that my first step and I felt dumb because that NEVER OCCURRED to me as I had spent a years suffering with a Pediatrician with a not-so-great bedside manner. He mocked me for concern with Nikki’s stomach issues and Wes’s leg cramps because I kept coming back even though it was “just stress” and “just growing pains.” So the thought of him as a trustworthy consult never crossed my mind.

But it’s different now! We have a Pediatrician I trust. I’m going to call and I’m going to try not to cry on the phone (Which I did at every step of the way last time) and we’re going to get some help because the bad days/moments may be more spread out, but their severity have increased and I am no longer strong enough to control his destruction. Both physically and emotionally.

So I’m sitting her at my laptop in the dark, in front of Donnie’s computer which has a stock imagery background of a beautiful beach and I look at the blue sky and limitless horizon and I tell myself: TODAY WILL BE A GOOD DAY.

I have talked before about how – some days – I hate the suggestion that we can so easily simply Choose Joy. Because many MANY days it’s not that easy. And honestly? Today is one of those days. I feel burdened with the weight of problems I can’t control. I worry about the damage that my child – a product of my body and my parenting – can inflict and I carry the blame for all of that like I’m the one screaming the words and causing the pain. I haven’t slept well in a while and while therapy has helped me give up my season pass to Depression World – I still have these days where it’s like I’m purchasing a Single Day Use pass ans the rides make me cry and the food is terrible. There is no laughter in Depression World and the mascot is me…walking in a One Woman Parade and carrying a sign that says, “I give up.”

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But that damn picture somehow gives me hope. There are places untainted by my anxiety and sadness. I’m not darkening the world with my depression. So I just need to remember those places exist. Those moments exist. This One Woman Parade Of Sadness is just temporary. I have a plan. I’m getting us all help. There’s always coffee. And I’m going to run tonight if it kills me. I’m going to try to find a running buddy to hold me accountable because I need that run like I need oxygen. I’m going to color awhile in my bullet journal.

I can’t necessarily Choose Joy when I’m marching the the World’s Most Depressing Parade, but I can at least put down the “I Give Up” sign. I can recall memories of brighter parades with balloons and candy. There are always blue skies and endless horizons somewhere. As much as I like to think the world revolves around me, it does not. I can make it through this. I may not Choose Joy today, as it will never be that easy. But today I Choose Survival. I Choose Action. I Choose Coffee. I Choose Coloring Books. I Choose To Run.

Let’s do this thing.

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Don’t Let Me Fool You.

There are women in my life who handle a lot more stress with work, family, hobbies etc, than I do – yet never seem to need therapy or medication to cope with anxiety or depression. And whenever they say things that remind me of that, I curl up in the corner and hide in my shame.

I talk a lot of talk and use a lot of hashtags about the importance of understanding that poor mental health is not a sign of weakness, that getting help is an act of BRAVERY, and yet…YET…I still battle my own demons of shame every day.

I thought of that this morning when I was reminded again of friends who seem to have a better grasp on life than I do and I felt embarrassed that I have made it so known that I seek therapy. I found myself thinking, Ug. I wish I didn’t talk so much about therapy now. She handles so much more and doesn’t need it or medication and here I am crumbling under the weight of half of her load and WHY DO I HAVE TO BE SO OPEN ABOUT EVERYTHING?

And I’m embarrassed and ashamed that I seek therapy. I’m that girl who talks about her therapist all the time. I’m hiding in the corner again.

But then I stop for a moment and think about my wings. The wings on my back that are tattered and worn. We all have them, you know. Mine were so tattered and worn though for so long – just falling apart after my Dad died – that I hadn’t flown in years. I hadn’t spread them in so long, I forgot they were there.

But lately, my therapist and I have been working together to mend the holes of the beautiful wings and I’ve taken them out a few times and soared over my anxiety and depression and felt the weight of the world fall to the side as I took a deep breath and remembered what it was like to FLY.

I think about how my husband told someone recently about how much better all of our lives are since I started getting help. Not just because I’m getting better, but because I’m sharing my lessons and my vulnerabilities with them and now we all feel more connected. I’m not carrying the weight on my own anymore and so now we can all fly as a family, helping each other along the way.

But, I still fight the voices of shame and embarrassment every day. So I actively try to keep preaching the lines of openness. Sometimes I fly because I’m feeling better equipped to handle the challenges of life, but other times I refuse to even show my wings.

So for all of you who sometimes vocalize your own struggles to remind me I’m not alone? Thank you. Because some days I still fight the demons of shame, I sit on the ground and watch the people above me soar with such ease and I’m embarrassed that I struggle so much to even get off the ground. So I thank those of you who have shown me the holes in your wings and have sat with me on the ground, sometimes even helping me repair mine, so we can fly together.

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