Changes……PART ONE: school

So. I’m not really sure where to begin. So much has changed, again, and in such a short time, I’m still wrapping my head around everything. 

Perhaps the biggest change is with Kat’s school. Things finally came to a head with the local public school– as I had been predicting they would for some time. The special education case manager for my daughter this year was awful. She was dismissive, rude, condescending, and belittling. A few weeks ago, I began calling, interviewing, visiting, and adding Kat’s name to the wait list of schools I liked. There isn’t a huge selection of charter schools in my immediate town, but in the “bigger city” (where Bea’s office is, and where hubby works) there is a lot more choice. Even then, my choices were limited because I wasn’t going to take Kat out of a known situation for an unknown situation that wouldn’t be better. I added her name to a few wait lists, and assumed we would end up homeschooling before the year was out. 

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. I received a call from a school I had loved the moment I walked in the door, that Kat was at the top of the wait list and a student in the primary level was moving. I visited one more time, with more specific questions, loved the atmosphere even more, and Kat started two days later. 

I wish I could put into words how perfect this school is. First, the classrooms are multi-age classrooms, which means Kat isn’t in a room with 30 other grade K students. She is in a room with 25 other students, and there are a mix of K, first and second grade (primary level). She will stay in that classroom with the same teacher until intermediate level (3, 4, 5 grades), and then the last level is senior (6,7,8). Each of the three levels, they stay with the same teacher, and same class. 

The belief in this school is that nurturing and caring for the individual is important; that belief begins at the top level with the superintendent all the way down to the school receptionist.The school is full of emotionally attuned people, and that includes the other parents. I don’t feel like I’m wrong or annoying or anything else bad at this school when I request things for my daughter. At first I did– out old school really fed into my already negative feelings about having needs– and everyone there kept telling me I had no reason to apologize, I was advocating for my daughter. They complimented me on being intune with my kid, and they complimented me on being there for her and meeting her needs when I asked to stay at the school for Kat’s first few days. These people welcome parents. Seriously welcome them. There are parents in and out of the school all the time. A lot of them come to visit at lunch or recess, and no one views this as weird or annoying. They want parents to be involved, and they want parents input.

As for how the teachers are with the kids, it’s amazing. They respect the kids and listen to them, are genuinely interested in the things the kids want to talk about. I saw a teacher change her lesson plan because my daughter was afraid of the book that was going to be read. I’ve seen teachers sit and breathe with an upset child, and I’ve seen kids reprimanded so gently and quietly that you wouldn’t know it was happening if you weren’t watching carefully. I’ve heard a teacher admit mistakes and apologize to a child. This place is just so amazing, guys. It’s not perfect, but they don’t pretend to be. The school is perfect because they don’t hide the imperfect things. They are real and open and honest and want to be a team. 

I feel like I can breathe again, at least where school is concerned. Now, moving schools has meant I lost my rigid routine that was holding me together (not so awesome) and I am struggling to find a new routine, but maybe not so rigid. School now starts an hour earlier for us, and is an extra 30 minute drive. So things are interesting in the mornings, for sure. I used to get up around 5, do yoga, write, check social media/Wordpress/emails, and then get dressed, get Kat up, have her eat and watch a show while I packed lunch and whatever we needed for the day, and then I’d get her dressed. After that we would drive 10 minutes to school, I’d drop her off and come back home, or run errands, or go to yoga class, until I had to pick her up. Now, I get up at 5:30, get dressed (hair, make up, clothes), then pack up the car, make coffee, make Kat hot coco, get breakfast set in Kat’s travel tray, get everything in the car ready to go, wake Kat, get her dressed, put her in the car, and she eats breakfast and watches a show on the iPad while we drive to school. It’s a busier, crazier morning. Then, if I go home, I have about 2 hours at home before I have to leave and go back to school for lunch. It’s a more tiring day, and I’m not used to that right now. Afternoons have been rough– I somehow keep napping instead of doing yoga, or cleaning, or anything else, but I’ve not been sleeping great at night, so the nap is needed. 

Journaling and ruminating

I started this last night, and finished it just a little bit ago. It’s more journal entry than anything, not my usual posting. But I have been ruminating about what is going on with me, and this is what I got this weekend.

I’m tired, but hyped up. I’m not sure sleep is something that is going to happen, although it’s almost 1:00am. We drove out to my parent’s today. I’ve spent the day faking okay, smiling, laughing, talking, going through the motions. But I wasn’t really there. While I could tell you the things we did today, I can’t really tell you how I was feeling about those things, or the conversations that were had. In truth, I probably would leave out a few of the more minor things we did. That’s how gone I was.

What is it about being around my parents that sends me far away? I just don’t get it. Out of everyone on this earth, I should feel most comfortable being present, here and authentic, around my parents. They are the people who are supposed to always love you for you, be proud of you, like you, want to be around you, and they are not supposed to leave you (even if leaving is just emotionally leaving you). But that’s not what my parents did. On the surface, sure. It’s exactly they did. But….they really weren’t there. They didn’t give a message that they would love me just for me, or believe I was perfect just as I am. They sent the message I had to be perfect– smart, talented, happy, good, likable– if I wanted their love. So, I was those things. I worked hard at it. I’m very good at being perfect; or at least my mom and dad’s definition of perfect. I hid away, dissociated, was here but not here, all in order to be that perfect little girl. The habit is so learned, so ingrained in me, that I think I just automatically do it now when I’m with them

Why did they need perfect? Did I read the message they sent me correctly? I must have. I told Bea I remember being in second grade, and trying desperately to figure out how to change one of my marks on my report card before giving it to them, because I knew it wouldn’t be good enough. I told her I remember that same year, thinking my mom would rather me be thin and pretty like my cousin. The funny thing is, when I look back at picture of my cousin and I, we are the same size. So all of this, the crazy nonsense in my head, it started so young. Before I even knew who I was. It’s no wonder I’m still trying to figure it out, and it’s no wonder that it is all confusing and hard.

But…..on the other hand, I do have this determination, this sense of myself, somewhere deep down, that I do always somehow come back to. So my parents did a lot of things right, too. And I think my grandma and grandpa helped with that part of me. They wanted the real me, they loved just me. I knew that even as a kid. I know certain things about myself, like what I believe, what I’m afraid of, things I like. So I do have that sense. I think it’s a strange dichotomy, to have both those extremes given me from my parents. Most kids, I assume, would somehow fall into this grey space, a middle ground between being lost and knowing, believing in themselves. But not me. Oh no. I had to just split the two things apart, black and white, no grey space here.

I’m jumpy tonight. I don’t want to sleep in this room. I feel very….my head is achy and foggy. My chest hurts, I feel like I’m trying to breathe in air that is so thick you could scoop it up. My stomach hurts….like that feeling you get when a movie follows the main character from a cheerful scene to a dark road, and you know something bad is about to happen, but you don’t know when and so you are waiting, unsure when or if, and it’s a fun feeling when it’s a movie, but not so great when it’s a feeling that won’t leave you.

I emailed Bea again, trying to explain broken better, and to tell her I really feel like she isn’t getting it. Her response was probably kind and empathetic, but I only can find fault. I see and hear criticisms and frustration and a wish for me to go away and stop whining in most of what she wrote. I know, rationally, I know this is me projecting my own feelings into her words. Or maybe it’s the child part of me expecting that Bea will behave like every adult in my life always behaves. She did say that broken to her means fixable, and when the special vase in her office got broken a few weeks ago, she didn’t hesitate to take the time and the effort to fix it; that with time and effort, I will be fixed, too. I think she is saying that I matter enough for her to take the time and effort to fix. Or, on the other hand maybe she is saying I am taking too much time and effort to fix? This is what my mind does. It flips between thoughts like this, black and white. At this point, I can’t even reframe things to get them to the grey space.

I told Bea how I drew a picture for my first grade teacher in the last email. It was of a girl hiding in a closet, monsters on and under the bed. I can remember drawing it, and giving it her. I remember her asking me about it, and that scared, nervous, relieved feeling that washed over me at her words. I remember telling her that sometimes scary things happen at night. I don’t remember anything else. Obviously, nothing came of it. But I think I believed that if she only knew everything, she could stop it, she could fix it. She was the first grown up, outside of my family or my parents circle, that I really, truly believed in. On some level, I wanted to be saved. She didn’t save me though. It wasn’t until fifth grade, when she taught my class again, that I had another adult in my life I felt was trustworthy. I allowed her to catch me throwing up. I claimed I was sick. She never questioned further, but again, I think at least a part of me wanted someone to stop me. To care enough to stop me. I didn’t find another grown up to trust until I was in 7th grade. My small group leader at church, her name was Jen, was the next person I reached out to. She didn’t catch the secrets I was trying to tell, without telling. If there was anyone after that, I don’t remember them.

So, adults failed me all my life. The ones who were supposed to protect me, see me, love me for being me, couldn’t do that. The ones who were in my life– family, friends, doctors, teachers, coaches– they didn’t see what was happening, they didn’t see any sign something was wrong. And, finally, the adults I did reach out, even if it was a coded not direct message, missed the message. So, adults have always failed me. I think in some ways I am replaying this with Bea. Even though I am an adult, I don’t feel like a grown up. Bea says I’m getting more grown up and when all these pieces of me are integrated and not running the show, I will feel more grown up. But anyways, as I do with everyone my age (and sometimes with people younger) and older, I view Bea as the grown up. And I’ve reached out to her in a somewhat hidden message kind of way (instead of being very blunt and saying I’m hitting crisis point and I really need her to step on and help) and she is failing me. I did try a second time, and was more clear, and it still feels like she is failing me. I wanted someone, a grown up because grown ups can do things and have all the power, to fix it, to stop it, to save me. To make things better. Is that what I’m wanting from Bea? Because even I know she can’t do that.

If I’m honest, I can even see this scenario playing out in my marriage, and in my friendship with Kay. The thing about Kay is she has fixed me before, and she has saved me from myself. So she has done exactly what I wanted and needed. Hubby…well, he plays the role of the grown up very well. He takes care of me, and he would save me, fix me, if he could. But he is so very, very unaware of things, he misses the coded messages I send to him.

I’m not exactly sure where this is all going, I’m just trying to get out some thoughts I’ve been having since getting to my parents.

I’m trying to understand why they trusted him. I’m trying to see what it is that made my parents feel it was safe for me to be around him. Was it because he was charming? Or because he was kind, had this good boy, super helpful, super friendly kind of vibe? Bea once said– like months ago– she would be interested in Kay’s thoughts about Kenny. I asked Kay. She said he was funny, a jokester but in a good fun friendly way. That he was always very helpful towards any adult he was around, she didn’t like that, as a kid. She said she remembers thinking, and hearing from her parents, that the whole family was weird, but she couldn’t put her finger on what it was exactly. He was weird, she thought, because he didn’t have a lot of friends in his own grade. And, it was weird that while the rest of us were free to ride bikes around the neighborhood, and run down to the park and whatever else, Jackie was always accompanied by Kenny. He was supposed to keep an eye on her. Kay said it was odd how strict the smiths were with their two younger children, while Mandy did what she wanted, when she wanted and ran wild. I asked Kay how Mandy was wild. She said there had been rumors of a teen pregnancy and abortion. I don’t know if I believe that. Mrs. Smith is not the type to allow for an abortion. And then, Mandy had her first child without being married and she was young– just out of high school. So there was a lot of talk about her.

I thought Kenny was so cool and so awful all at the same time. He was fun, he played, when he came with us we could ride our bikes down to the little corner store and get a candy bar or cookie. But it was a busy road, so we weren’t allowed to go alone. I don’t know. I liked him. I had a crush on him. I wanted him to never be around me. I wanted him to babysit. I wanted to stay somewhere else and not have him babysit. I thought I loved him, I wanted to marry him. I hated him. I don’t know. He had a fun game he played with me, only after a long while, it wasn’t fun anymore. But I was older by that time and it wasn’t….,I don’t know. It was confusing. Hard, I don’t know. I liked him, thought he was my friend, and couldn’t do anything about the game not being fun anymore. And I had been involved, made a choice to play his games, and likes his games. So I was stuck. I don’t know. It all gets twisted in my head.

Bea says having nightmares about the boyfriend is on par with the present happenings, even though it may seem silly that it would be that important. I don’t even know what that means.

I’m wishing now I hadn’t written that email to her, that I had just gone with pretending it all away. Now I am going to have to face her, and I’m afraid. I feel like I’m going to be walking into…..something scary. Like I’m in trouble. Or going to be shamed. Or she is not going to be happy with me. I don’t know. I also feel numb and my feelings are hurt by her last email. No matter how many ways I look at it, I can’t find her usual warmth and understanding. Even though I know it’s there, that it is the headspace I am in. I don’t know.

We went to hubby’s family get together thing today. I can’t stand his mom, and she was crowding me a good portion of the day. I realize it was becasue Kat was clinging to me, and she wanted to be around Kat, but she kept saying all these comments like “I’m so jealous mommy gets to hold you. I don’t have any babies to hold anymore, my kids grew up and left me all alone.” I finally snapped at her. She got the message and backed off. Then, Kat misplaced her shoes. Everyone was supposed to be out getting pictures taken, which Kat wasn’t going to pose for anyway, and she was perseverating on her shoes. I took her back inside to look for them, and as we were walking away from the group, hubby’s mom yelled that we were supposed to stay out there and get pictures taken. I had to stop and explain the entire situation to her, the whole group hearing it, many of them with no context for anything because hubby’s mom doesn’t want extended family knowing Kat’s autistic. Ugh. It just makes me so mad. So I was very snippy about it with her. Then, after pictures, hubby’s dad kept trying to take extra pictures of me. His mom wanted a picture of hubby and I together for her Christmas letter (which I can not stand) because I was (and I quote) “actually looking thin today.” So I moved away from th camera, thinking that should have sent the message. So then I got stuck having to actually yell and state I was done with pictures, didn’t want my picture taken anymore. Which meant hubby and I got into, ending with me saying me that “if some asshole can’t see and respect the fact I don’t want my picture taken, that’s not my problem.” Ugh. So, yeah. It was not the best of days.

Reading, drawing, and talking, oh my!

I feel a bit like Dorothy in the wizard of oz. I’m walking along a road, one that I’ve been told leads somewhere great, and I’ve been facing my “lions and tiger and bears, oh my!” It’s just that my lions and tigers and bears happen to be reading, drawing, and talking.

Reading about sexual abuse. That’s right. I have avoided reading, studying, learning. I’ve been afraid. In all other aspects of life, I tend to become a “human google” for whatever it is that I am interested in, or needing to learn about. When Kat was diagnosed with a milk allergy, I lived vegan recipes. When she was diagnosed autistic, I learned all about autism. When we fought for autism insurance, I learned more about insurance policy and hubby’s company and various board members than I ever wanted to know. But……to become human google for sexual abuse? To acknowledge it and to be knowledgeable about it? To recognize myself on pages of a book? No. Just no. Except, I am currently reading my first book I’ve read about childhood sexual abuse.

Drawing for real. By that, I mean not drawing little things for Kat with crayon or marker, but using charcoal and drawing in a sketch book. I haven’t drawn in almost 17 years. I put down the charcoal when my parents decided I was smarter than I was talented and I needed to focus on my smarts. So, I focused on my academics. I did well, too. I was smart. They weren’t wrong about that. I missed sketching. I’m very stiff with it now, it doesn’t seem to flow the way I remember. It’s scary to do something just to do it; for no other reason but because you enjoy it. I haven’t done any amazing sketches. Nothing my parents would deem “good enough.” The best part is, I don’t care. I’m proud of the fact I am drawing, and I don’t care how good or not good my sketches are. Hubby is being supportive and proud of me for it, too.

Talking to my osteopath as openly as I possibly could on Thursday was hard. It was good, but hard. I was able to tell her my week had been full of trauma triggers and flashbacks, nightmares, and no sleep. I was able to tell her I thought my week long migraine was a result of that. Her response reaffirmed why I love her.

“Did I give you my little booklet on dealing with flashbacks?” She asked me.

“No,” I said, “but I wasn’t really talking last time I was here. I practically ran out of here.”

“Well, today is a different day. Tomorrow you might not be talking either. And then again you might.” Dr. B handed me a little orange booklet entitled “Living with Traumatic Flashbacks. “My sister had flashbacks for years. Her kids were older than Kat, but they knew when mom was in the corner crying, to call Aunt Lynn. As they got older, and she healed, she had a list of things that helped on her fridge, so they could help her. You can do the same with Kat, one day.”

I nodded, shocked. She really got it. She had loved through this with her sister; she didn’t think I was crazy at all. No wonder she had recognized dissociation, and had known how to handle it.

“You get this, you didn’t think I was nuts last week,” I finally said.

She looked surprised. “Think you were nuts? No. No. I thought something was very much not okay. I was worried. I did not for one minute think you were nuts.”

We talk about my sleep, my nightmares, and she makes a few homeopathic suggestions. And we begin treatment. We talk off and on.

Dr. B asks me something about therapy, and about the abuse, of which she still only has a general idea.

I responded to her, slightly dissociated now, “Well no one knew until just a few weeks ago when I told my shrink.”

“Surely Hubby knew.”

“No. He knows now. I told him last week,” I said.

“Oh sweetie.” She says. And then, “fuck.”