Step-Devil and 8 year old me

Dear Reader,

This recounting is one of several I will share with you. I open up so you might know you are not the only one. To the teen or the young adult with similar backgrounds, I got through it, and so will you- if you fight for yourself. Don’t take on the inheritance they have given you. Create your own, change the meaning and the outcome of your story. It is not easy, but breaking those chains is one of the most liberating and validating victories you will experience. All my love. N.

“She’s a drinker”. “I’m a drinker”. “He is a drinker.” All these phrases are said with a tone of reverence in my family. We do not use the word alcoholic, but being a drinker is a badge of honor. Unfortunately for my brothers and I, the affect of the drinkers in our family didn’t bequeath us any sense of pride or honor. What we received instead was uncertainty, dysfunction, and pain.

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Step-devil was drunk in the dining room. My mother was yelling for me. I hated when they did this. I hated when they fought and brought me into it. I hated when the cops came, and took one of them away, or escorted us to my grandmother’s. I hated the stuffed animals the officers gave us. This night didn’t end with the cops, but it ended up with a little blonde girl standing up for herself the best way she could.

I came out of my room. Telling myself to not make any faces. Faces are bad on nights like this. My eyes meet his. His face was angry, and he was cruel.
“Did your mom tell you she is a slut’? He spat with all the vengeance he could muster. “Did she tell you Robert is not your dad”?

“Yes, she told me”.

The acidic words rolled off his drunk breath with unbelievable ease. He took pleasure in making other people feel small and weak. What is worse, is she didn’t stop him. She allowed him to hurt me. As a mother now, I cannot fucking fathom standing by watching some asshole hurt my kids, but she did. She always chose him.

Much of that night has been faded with time. What remains crystal clear is how I stood up for myself. After he was done, I went into my room. I took down all the things he given me. My New Kids On The Block poster, and sleeping bag, various toys and things. I took all that shit, and I dropped it by his feet and told him, “I don’t want this stuff anymore”, and I walked into my room, head held high.

I believe this was a defining moment for me. It planted a seed in my heart to be a fighter, to stand up for what is right no matter how terrifying it may be.

Holiday Mourning

My friends were the last people to see us before we drove away. It wasn’t my family who busted ass with us to move; it was them. Faithful them, loving them. They are beautiful.

When someone comes from a toxic family like mine, good friendships are precious. We spend holidays together, home school together, we plan camping trips, hiking adventures, and cry together. I have great friends in spades, five hundred miles away.

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I hit all three goals from last week. My last one, I hit as I rode my bike into town for my session. Coming in sweaty, ever the good student. I completed my tasks. Check.

Settling into her office, Max jumped on my lap. We covered the week’s events, and how I had TWO good weeks in a row.

“You know, the holidays are approaching us”, Jill starts.

“Yeah,” I reply, not giving much thought to it, assuming we would be moving on.

“What were your holidays like in WA?”

I describe to her how idyllic my friendships are. We plan our holidays so we can be together. We coined the term Framily. We are gangsters of friendship.

She replied, “You know, you aren’t going to have those experiences this year. It is only going to be you four”.

Instantly, the tears well up. The pain of leaving my people fills my body, and runs down my cheeks. I fight back the sorrow, but it’s useless. Grabbing a tissue, I have nothing to say except, “You are great at making a girl cry, Jill”.

“My job is to help you see the road ahead, so you aren’t blindsided. I’d like you to start thinking of some new traditions you can include in your holidays. So this time joyous, not lonely. Remember, you still have your friends; you can call on them anytime you need. To start making this place your home, brainstorm on new memories you can create”.

“That will take me awhile”, I blubber through tears and snot. Thinking to myself, I don’t want new fucking traditions, I want my old ones. I want my friends.

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What are your favorite traditions, maybe you can help me make new ones.

image(2)On my ride home. My bike was tired, so I walked it up that hill.

Anxiety Comes

{four weeks ago}

When I feel it coming on, I brace for it. If you have ever been in a car accident, you know the brace I am talking about. My muscles tighten so fiercely, my bones ache. My brain scrambles for the coping strategies we are familiar with.

“Slow down. Breathe. Nita, Breathe. Slowly, you can get a hang of this one”. Heart racing. “Breathe. You got this”.

Most of the time, I am able to lean into it until it passes. Usually, I get through it with a modicum of control. Sometimes, control is lost in the wave of heat, pain, and illogical panic. Sometimes, the deafening, paralyzing sensations get a hold of me, and I succumb to its wrath.

In our bedroom, I was folding laundry, and Tim was packing. His work was keeping him super commuting between Boise, and Seattle. Seattle, my home, my comfort. Here in Boise, I feel like a foreigner. The kids and I are settling into this new (beautiful) life largely alone, and apart from Tim. Making friends isn’t easy in my thirties.

My mind starts racing. School, laundry, the dogs, sports, housekeeping, dinner, breakfast. No friends, all alone. My only adult connection is packing. He is packing. Oh God, he is packing and leaving me here. With all this. This laundry never ends.

Heart racing. “Keep it together, girl”, but no one hears me, not even myself. My body is rebelling against my urges to control the anxiety.

I drop the shirt I was folding. Suddenly I’m on the floor in a puddle of panic. It’s hot. Control is lost, I cry, yell at my sweet husband, who is not equipped for these moments. I’m rubbing my foot on the floor, as if the stroking will calm the pain.

10 minutes pass.

He holds me. I weep.

Then he continues to pack.

What Can I Tell Jill on Wednesday?

“What are your three goals for the coming week”? Jill looks at me with her caring inquiry.

“I need to spend time alone. I value being alone. Intentional time with my kids. We are together all day every day, but intentional time is different than idle time. Home school doesn’t always lend itself to connectedness.”

I pause. Fumbling through my Rolodex of commitments, perceived obligations, and desire; what is most important for me to invest in this week? “Working out. I always feel better when I do. Riding my bike with the sun on my face. It helps.”

I felt satisfied with the answers. Confident Jill would approve, I gave a “that is my final answer” nod.

Are my goals genuine? Did I just say those things because I care for her approval? Maybe a little bit of both. They are certainly good goals, and I do care what she thinks of me. I shouldn’t, I know I shouldn’t. I usually don’t care what anyone thinks of me. I am going for help, why do I care if I look put together. Fuck. She knows I’m not put together. That is plain as day. Yes. Those goals, genuine for sure… I think.

Alone time. Check. Me, food, beer, and a book. It’s like a mini vacation. If you are ever in Boise, go to Sockeye Brewery. They are fantastic.

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Intentional time with my children. Check. Tim and I took the kids fishing.

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Working out….. It’s only Tuesday, I have until tomorrow to accomplish that. Oy.

Wrestling Pain

I sat with Max on my lap as my therapist and I covered the past weeks events. My sweet boy is struggling with his first season of basketball. His emotions get the better of him. He feels frustration and confusion so deeply, he often shuts down and cries.

“I don’t even know how to walk him out of this”, I told her.

She listens patiently as I describe how well he is improving, but how he can’t see it much of the time because the overwhelming sense of “not getting it” clouds his perception. How can I get him to persevere? How can this turn into a character building moment for him? How do I get him to balance his feelings with reality? Good or bad?

“Moving on, let’s talk about you”.

“I feel great this week”, I told my therapist.

It had been two months in this new place. This new place without friends, or family, and Tim’s work is keeping him in Seattle. Two months of figuring out a new rhythm, fumbling for a social life outside FB, and home school. All my support is 8 hours, or at best a Face Time call away. Finally I was feeling progress. Movement in the right direction. Just the week before, I felt totally lost, defeated and useless.

“Yeah, that concerns me”, Jill replied with a genuinely caring voice. “Your highs and lows are strong, how will you feel when Tim leaves again”?

My head shot up, recognizing the acute similarity in my son’s behavior to my own. Then the pain came. The pain of a mother who’s shortcomings have manifested in her sweet blue eyed boy. My heart wrestled- How can I possibly walk him through this, when in my thirties, I still am stumbling with waves of emotion fueling  my highs, and the depression breathing down my neck?

Too many questions and worries for a fifty minute session.

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