Dear fellow PTO Mom

Dear Fellow PTO Mom,

We don’t know each other that well, but yesterday you saw me. I was struggling to walk in the door of the school to pick up my kid. You said hello, and I tried to be okay. I waited for Ms. Perfect to step in. I’m the president of the PTO, afterall. Ms. Perfect should have stepped in to preserve the image of having it all together. But she didn’t. So I looked at you, and tried to smile and said hi back. You asked me if I was okay, was something wrong? The tears broke free then, and you grabbed my hand in solidarity after handing me a tissue and we walked into school together. You helped my kid get her things together, because somehow you knew it was all I could do to keep the tears at bay. You saw me.

Later, you sent me a message, suggesting we have a drink together via video chat while we made our dishes for school potluck. I agreed, figuring you would forget. But you didn’t forget. You would called me after the kids were in bed. We had a drink and did some baking together. Most important we chatted about nothing but I felt less alone than I had all day. Thank you for reaching out and caring. Thank you for seeing me.

Deeper down the rabbit hole part 4 (Monday morning breakfast)

Continued from part 3 of deeper down the rabbit hole……… 

Reagan is sitting in a booth waiting for me, eating pancakes and eggs, fruit and bacon. She’s drinking a mimosa. 

“So………?” She says as I sit down. She smiles at me and her smile is warm and welcoming. 

I sigh. I look down and shrug. “I’m here. I made it through the night.” I smile and my eyes water. 

“I’m glad. Have you talked to hubby at all?” Reagan asks me. 

“No…..not really. I just…..I can’t.” I feel broken. Really, really broken. 

A waitress walks over to our table, and and she smiles at us. “What can I get you?” 

I ask for coffee, amd order yogurt with a bowl of strawberries on the side. When she delivers my food, I focus on slicing my strawberries into my yogurt. 

“I know you don’t want to hear this. And I am always on your side. Always. But you need to talk to him. He needs to know how bad he makes you feel.” 

I shake my head at her. “I can’t. I’ve told him so many times, and he just keeps doing it. I can’t keep doing this. I feel like I’m constantly asking for him to see him, to pay attention to me, and then he goes and does it again. So I end up hurting and sad. I love me up feeling needy and bad and not okay for being so needy.” 

“I know. You aren’t needy. You aren’t.” Reagan says in a serious tone. 

“I hate relationship. I never wanted this. You know?” 

“I know. But Alice. That’s what life is a about. Relationships.” Reagan says some other stuff about how we need relationships to survive and such. 

I roll my eyes at her. “Bea ruined it. I didn’t expect anything from people in relationships. I didn’t want to be seen or heard, I just wanted to hide and blend in and maybe….I don’t know. But I didn’t want anything!” 

“I know. But you have grown a lot. It’s okay.” 

“I wished I had not. It’s screwing everything up. I didn’t want anything to do with relationships. Not really. But Bea made it…..I don’t know. She just kept pushing a little bit, after little bit, and I just, I don’t know. I finally decided it mattered. The I wasn’t…..I don’t know. So scared, because she made it safe. And then I wanted that realness, being just me, in my friendships. I tested the waters with you, with Kay. And that was okay. Until it wasn’t and Kay left me. And then I wanted more from hubby. Stupid. Stupid. He can’t. I never should have…..” I stop talking, shut down, not able to continue.

“Can I ask you,” Reagan begins, and I nod. “What is it about relationships? I mean, why does the idea of being seen and seeing knock,you off balance? Do you know?”

I think for a minute. I might be able to put some pieces together, make sense of it all, but do I know? I mean really know why? “I don’t know…I just do….I think I’ve always been that way.” I shrug, remembering how I would tell made up secrets to my friends in middle school and high school, during sleepovers, so I would fit in. They were never things that were lies, just things that didn’t actually matter if everyone knew or not. They weren’t real secrets. 

“So with Bea, what happens? What was that like at first?” She asks. 

“I don’t know. She pushed a little, continuing to remind me that the work of therapy wasn’t just my stuff, the stuff we talk about, but that it was about the relationship between her and I. And I just….I don’t know. Refused to believe that. But when she would say things, or more likely write things in email to me that were definitely about really seeing me. Like once, early on, I wrote in email to her, after I had answered honestly about my eating disorder stuff, I wrote that she should give me a good star or an A plus or something, for you know, talking about that stuff as much as I had and having been truthful about all my self harm stuff. And she wrote back that no, she would not give me a gold star, she wouldn’t perpetuate the child hood message that I had to be good or perfect to be wanted. Bea wrote something about accepting me just for me. It upset me and freaked me out. At first I was mad and hurt that she wouldn’t give me a gold star. Then I was freaking out, and upset over her saying me, just me, was good enough. I threw my phone, I was so upset.” I pour some more coffee, add cream. 

“You never liked not knowing what someone wanted from you. And she was basically telling you she didn’t want anything.” Reagan says. 

I nod. She’s right. We talk a little more, and mostly I realize that I have issues with relationships. Like, real issues. I’m not even sure what, exactly, my problem is. I’m can’t really put it into words or explain why. Maybe it’s something I’ll think about later, I’m too tired to think now. 

To be continued………..


Girls weekend 

I’m gone for the weekend. Yesterday was my friend Rory’s birthday, and we decided to take a weekend and run away. So we left yesterday morning and won’t be home until tomorrow eveing. I’m really having a great time. We’ve eaten in some great restaurants — and I somehow have left my guilt at home– gotten cupcakes from a bakery that was featured on cupcake wars, and spent last evening wine tasting. 

We bought gifts for our kids, and coloring books for ourselves, and sat outside on a bench downtown, coloring and talking for a while.   Then we bought a few bottles of wine (and chocolate) and spent the night in the adults only jacuzzi drinking wine. We had some great conversation with a group of older ladies visiting for a girls weekend. 

It’s funny, I don’t feel like I am being fake, or acting like miss perfect. I feel like me. That’s it. Just me. It’s been, this weekend, the running away, it’s been good. It’s been healing and good. But I’m glad I have almost 2 more full days. Because I’m not ready to go back. 

But she’s supposed to be my anyway friend……

It’s only Friday night and Thursday already seems like a month ago. I’ve been on this crazy emotional roller coaster all week. I’m exhausted. 

Thursday’s session…..I talked about my kid, about a meeting I’d had with the school the previous week that ended in me yelling at everyone. I don’t get mad like that, and it was very unsettling– even if it was an appropriate reaction (as my daughters behavior analyst who also attended the meeting assured me). In fact, it was so unsettling I ended up texting with Bea later that night, simply because I couldn’t calm myself down and stop the feelings of anger– a feeling that leads to shame and fear. 

I’ve felt extremely vulnerable all week. Being cut off from Kay, hearing that our friendship is just over, has sent me down a dark and twisty rabbit hole. I’ve gone from emailing Bea, and texting Rory– just to make sure they are still here and not angry with me, too– to being livid with everyone. When I’m stuck in those feelings, it’s all I can feel, and I can’t control it. When I’m able to step away, I can see that Kay leaving has sent me into this clingy mode that then turns into a pushing away mode. My life has been a regular party this week, let me tell you (why isn’t there a sarcasm font yet????). The little girl, the teenager and the miss perfect grown up part have all shown up. 

So, I drove into therapy really needing connection and reassurance that Bea was still here and everything was okay. Unfortunately, the perfect me showed up in Bea’s office, and chose to focus on Kat instead of me. I’d been emailing with Bea since Kay’s text message, though, so she knew I needed more than just talking about Kat. I’d even emailed her about my self destructive behavior, which isn’t something I usually admit to so easily. I think I needed to test Bea a little, and make sure she wasn’t going to leave me just for being bad. 

Me: I was really bad last night. I made pizza for dinner with the intention of throwing up. And then I felt like crap after and didn’t feel better and that just sucked. And then I had nightmares most of the night until I gave up on sleep. Boyfriend nightmares.  

Bea: Kay was there for you and witnessed the horror of the boyfriend stuff. Feeling abandoned by her no doubt took away some of your safety, and your sense of yourself as having been wronged. “Bad” fits with that. Of course you weren’t “bad” yesterday–you were trying to cope and self soothe in the way you knew how. And being self destructive goes right along with your guilt.

I loved that she told me I wasn’t bad, that I was reacting in the way I knew how to and trying to cope. Kay leaving like this has triggered all kinds of crazy in my head. Thankfully, I have the miss perfect part of me to function in daily life; she’s so very, very good at acting normal even when I feel like my world is collapsing. She should be good at it though, she’s had 27 years to practice her act. 

Even with miss perfect showing back up and taking over, my trust issues were triggered. And so, I sent another email. 

Me: So you don’t think I’m bad? And you aren’t going anywhere? Even if I tell you no about something, or get mad, or disagree with you, or mess up? 

Bea: Yes, I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. You can disagree with me, get mad at me, and act as obnoxious as you want and I will still be here.

Just what I needed to hear. 
I also sent a text to poor Rory. We had been texting all week, but this was maybe the most vulnerable one I sent her. And while it sort of sucks to be that vulnerable with anyone, I think it’s progress, because a year ago I would have either pretended everything was fine, or I would have found something to be angry with Rory about, and push her away before she could leave me. 

Me: Okay, I know this is incredibly ridiculous but I just need to make sure you are still here and not mad at me for anything. Because I’m sort of freaking out a little bit. 

Rory: Not mad in the slightest. Not even one shred
Me: I’m just feeling a little unstable at the moment.

Rory: It is ok. You aren’t nuts. And you and her have had big fallings out before 
Me: Not like this. I’m always the one who shuts her out for pushing me too much on something i don’t want to deal with. This is different. She left me. I didn’t do the leaving. 

Rory: I am sorry. But I won’t leave. 

The only person I didn’t double check things with was hubby. And not because I didn’t want to, but because he is seeing this falling out as typical girl drama and I am so not in a place where I can be vulnerable with him and risk feeling rejected.

So, Bea was aware of all my ups and downs because we had been emailing this week. She eventually changed the Kat subject into how I was dealing with everything. I froze and drifted away a little. I finally told her I had no words, that I just didn’t even know what to say. Bea asked some questions then, and helped me get started talking. 

I told her how Kay probably was more in the caretaker role early on in our friendship, that it was definitely unbalanced, and she was giving more than I was. The friendship, in the beginning was certainly more about her helping me, picking up the pieces of whatever mess I’d made, and keeping me from killing myself. But, I changed, and became more stable (even if that was a somewhat masterful illusion that didn’t fully hide all my flaws from Kay) and the friendship balanced out. It’s a different friendship than I have with Rory; in some ways, offering advice, or support, or taking care of Kay feels a bit like a child offering the adult help. But, Kay has always been the person in my life with the answers. I don’t know. I told Bea that although things started out unbalanced, and at times I worried I wasn’t a good enough friend, I did think they were more balanced now. She told me that I am caring and emphatic, even with her in the capacity of therapy, or when she has seen me interact with other adults (like the moms in a playgroup Kat was in, or when there is a client before or after me) and she couldn’t imagine me being less than that in my other relationships. I didn’t tell her, but that surprised me. It was unexpected. I don’t expect others to view me as kind; I’m always assuming they think I am selfish and self centered. It’s maybe the first time I’ve really thought that people truly don’t view me as I view me. 

I told Bea how Kay is my anyway friend, and I’m hers. She the one who sees all the ugly, hears the mean things I have to say, sees my hurt and tears and crazy, but she loves me anyway. And I saw her emotional ups and downs, her anger at her wife, the regrets she has, the hurt and pain caused by an insane ex-husband, and more, but I loved her anyway. An anyway friend is someone you don’t have to hide things from, you don’t have to be afraid of what parts of you they have seen, you don’t have to perform well, or be something you aren’t. Because they love you anyway. And an anyway friend is not supposed to leave. 

I don’t remember much of what I said in session, but I do remember saying this. “She left. She’s not supposed to leave. She left. And if she could leave, anyone could leave. And I’m freaked out over that. She left. But she’s supposed to be my anyway friend.” 

I don’t remember everything Bea said. But I do remember peeking at her and seeing her face. She looked sad, she looked like she really could feel my hurt, and like it made her sad for me. “I know. I can hear the little girl is really worried that anybody could just get mad and leave if Kay could leave. I’m still here. I’m not leaving. Well, I’m leaving this week for vacation, so I won’t see you Monday, but I will be back on Wednesday and I will see you Thursday.” 

It hit me then, how bad I really felt, and how scared I was that I could lose everyone. I started to cry, but forced myself to pull it together, knowing that the time was almost up. When I left, I stood by her office door, and asked very quietly, “I can email, right? Even though you’ll be gone, you’re still here and I can email?” I was embarrassed to ask this again, but the little girl desperately needed to know. 

“Yes, you can email. I’m still here, and I will be back. I’m not leaving.” Her tone was kind, and her voice was soft when she told me this, but there was something that said she was very firm and serious about this. 

I left feeling connected but sad. I still feel sad. And really disconnected from everyone right now. I’ve checked my email, hoping that Bea would email for some random reason, even though I haven’t emailed her today. And I saw her today when Kat was at therapy. (But Kat’s therapy session and subsequent conversations at home have been massively triggering for me, so I’m extra unsettled tonight….that’s a whole different post though). I’ve thought about emailing Bea, even just to say I feel floaty and lost and alone and as if I have no anchor and that I’m scared. But I haven’t, because I feel silly. Instead– for the moment at least– I’m going to curl up in bed with my dog and watch some Gilmore Girls. They always make me feel better.