21 01 2011

So I was picking Jackson up from my mom’s house the other day and we had one of our fights. For those of you who have to listen to the ongoing saga that is my relationship with my mother on an almost daily basis, you know that these fights are much fewer now that I live 45 minutes away instead of ten feet. However, when they do happen, they are loud, mean, and a culmination of weeks and weeks of unspoken frustration. On my part, the reason I don’t bring up these frustrations right when they happen is that my mom will counter any of my frustrations with a list of excuses and reasons why she is right. Usually these reasons start in the middle of my sentence and continue until I give up on trying to calmly talk sense and start yelling- at which point I am reminded that only SHE is allowed to yell, whereas I, as her child, do not and will never have the same privilege. At that point I have been put in my rightful place as a twelve year old who has no right to an opinion and I am dismissed, always with a hug on the way out the door for appearances sake. The next day all is forgotten.

This latest unresolved fight brought up something that made me think, though. My mom told me that being a mother is about making sacrifices, then listed examples of how I do not make those sacrifices. I will admit I am a much different mother to Jackson than my mother was to me and Erica. My mom has not worked in close to 20 years- she quit her job when my sister was born and although she talked of going back to work a lot when I was a kid, it never happened. It was always, “oh, once the girls are in middle school (high school, driving, college… etc)” It’s the classic “I’ll do it tomorrow”, where at some point one wakes up and realizes that tomorrow will never come. Since she did not work, she built her life around me and Erica- she was the room mom, the Girl Scout leader, the volunteer at every school event and field trip, always THERE. Some people I know say they would have loved to have a mom like this when they were growing up- but there is a balance, with one end of the spectrum being my mom and the other end being the mom who is always off doing something else, too busy for her kids. My mom’s friends were my friends’ moms, her activities involved us… in fact, I’m trying to remember her doing anything for herself, going out in the evenings… and I can’t. Oh wait- PTA. One night a month she went to PTA and it was always the joke at our house that my dad was going to let us eat crap for dinner and put us to bed too late, as in the second her car pulled in the driveway.

I guess I just have a hard time looking at this as a sacrifice, when it was clearly a choice. My dad- he sacrificed. We were short on money when I was in elementary school and instead of my mom getting a job during the day he got a second job. So he’s working 16 hour days and my mom is running a household. I’m not minimizing the effort she put into keeping things organized at home, I’m just saying that the things she did are things that most people do along with a job. For her, they were her job. Even now, she calls watching Jackson her “job” and every time she says it I get a little anger inside of me. Then my dad was laid off for two years and again, nothing. I guess I do resent this some because I still see the toll that took on our family and I wonder- what leads a person to believe that their responsibility is to be at home with the kids ALL the time? I don’t remember babysitters because we never had them. Like, never. Except my grandma. My mom didn’t trust “strangers” and thinks it’s awful that anyone other than her watches Jackson. She’s always asking, “Are you sure they are taking good care of him? Are you sure they want to watch him?” like I would allow someone to watch my son if I thought they were going to neglect him. Seriously, what kind of mother do you think I am?

There is always something I could be doing differently. Actually, always something Bob could do differently too, only I hear about that too. She wouldn’t want him to think badly of her and apparently doesn’t realize that I pass everything along to him. We SHOULD HAVE started cutting Jackson’s nails regularly when he was a tiny baby. SHOULD HAVE started letting him feed himself because we WILL be mad at ourselves in a few months. SHOULD HAVE gone to the doctor about this or that. SHOULD teach him how to be nicer to the cat, SHOULDN’T hold his arms when we change his diaper. Apparently she’s never heard the saying “Don’t should on yourself”. You know what? I like feedback of what has worked for other moms as much as anyone but I don’t like feedback in the form of suggestions (which I know are not suggestions so much as a nicer way of telling me I have to do something). I don’t like underhanded comments worked into innocent conversation to point out my lack of parenting ability.

I know motherhood is about sacrifices, and I could list the things I’ve sacrificed for Jackson and my whole family already but there’s no point. The point is that I can make sacrifices and put my family first and yet still have an identity other than MOM. I can go to EDA and not worry that I am a horrible person for staying out till 11 at IHOP with the girls. I can even go to Minneapolis for the weekend and have a getaway with my best friend and still feel the same love and affection for my son, stepdaughter and husband as I did before I left. I am always going to be Jackson’s mommy. In fact, just yesterday he looked at me, said “Mom” in his little voice, and hugged me tight… I just about melted. He is a good kid, a happy kid, and that didn’t just happen- he is like that because Bob and I are doing at least something right.

So yes- I make sacrifices. In fact, I’ve made some pretty big ones. But also- I am doing what is right for me as far as being Jackson’s mommy- and so far it seems to be working out for the best, so I’m just going to go with it.



6 01 2011

So Bob did this on his blog and I thought it was a cool idea… Here is my year in review.

I won’t say 2010 was easy… but I’ve had worse years for sure. It was also a year of growth and change, and that is never bad.

In March, my father-in-law passed away. He was diagnosed with cancer right after Jackson was born and by the end of February he was on hospice. Bob, Jackson and I pretty much lived at my in-laws’ house for a week and a half, as we were both lucky enough to get the time off of work. Throughout that time, as my father-in-law’s health got worse, everyone was sharing stories from his life- he was an amazing man who taught Bob many of the values that make him such a great husband and father. I realized I truly missed out on really getting to know him and that makes me sad still. The one good thing that came out of this bad event though, was that by the end of the funeral I truly felt a part of Bob’s family. It takes me a while to warm up to new people because I always have a filter on at first, worrying if they will like me. But after spending so much time with the same people, I couldn’t help but let my guard down and because of that I was finally able to feel as though I can truly be myself with them and they will love me for that without expecting more. The last day that Bob’s dad was lucid, we said goodbye to him as we were leaving the house. I promised him that I would always love and take care of his son and grandkids… and that’s what I’ve been doing, although it is not difficult since I find myself not being able to picture my life without Bob, Zoe and Jackson in it.
Also in March, I hit my one year mark without any eating disorder behaviors. For someone who had built a life around her eating disorder, this was a HUGE milestone. I suppose there is a turning point in everyone’s ED where they realize that there are better things out there… well, getting pregnant with Jackson started me on that path and by March I found myself knowing that I would not ever go back to my ED. I have a life to live now, and it cannot include ED.
Along the same lines, I spoke at the Candlelight Vigil in May and did a recovery night in June. Those were two of the proudest days of my life. I had points in my life when I just resigned myself to being sick for my whole life and so it was amazing for me to stand up in front of a whole bunch of people and offer words of hope from my own experience. I tried to send the message that if I can recover anyone can, because I do feel like that. My path was not always easy and I often made it harder because the idea of recovery scared me so much- but on the other side I cannot imagine going back because as stressful and hard as life gets, at least I am living it, feeling it, being present in it.
2010 was a hard year, money-wise. Whenever I thought we were doing well, all these bills would pop up and we would be screwed again. This is an ongoing battle for me, just learning how to conquer the anxiety that comes along with paying our bills and trying to make the numbers add up in a way that works… but whenever things seemed like they wouldn’t work out, we somehow made them end up okay. Plus- I pay bills now! I don’t just push them out of the way in a drawer, and that is a big step. Ignoring bills and spending more money than I had was what got me into debt when I was at school and even though the fact that I am not manic anymore makes it much easier to not spend money in an out-of-control way, it is still a huge step that I face paying bills head on even if I get upset or overwhelmed by them in the moment. It is the act of facing rather than avoiding that is the big step here.
At the end of May we moved into a rental house. This was an amazing opportunity that came to us out of the blue, from a friend I had not talked to in a very long time. It just kind of happened, right as we were looking at apartments to move into. Our house is not perfect, but it is the right size for us and the best part of it is that it is ours. I love the feeling of pulling into our driveway, going inside and knowing that I am truly home, with the people who matter to me the most.
In June, Bob and I celebrated our one year anniversary by going to Saugatuck, MI. I decided that it would be fitting for us to travel every year for our anniversary, even if it is somewhere close, since we essentially did a “destination wedding” (that sounds fancier than eloping in Vegas, haha). It was our first weekend away from Jackson and although we were both ready to come home to him we also had an amazing time. It was so nice to get away from our real lives for a few days and just have time to relax with each other because if there is one thing that we don’t get, it is that.
Jackson turned ONE (!!) in October!! I still can’t believe it although he is 14 months now… he is growing up so fast. We had a party at our house for his birthday and it was my second attempt at entertaining. Someone recently told me that I am doing “mom things” like they were shocked… this is someone who hadn’t seen me in a while. I do agree I have grown up a lot in the past year, although this sometimes comes at the price of forgetting I am only 23. I always think of parties as things that adults host, or at least family parties like we hosted. Before we had our housewarming party I had absolutely no experience with entertaining, I had never even thrown a college party. Since Jackson’s birthday was the second party we had I was slightly less stressed, but it wasn’t until everyone was there and I realized that things had gone off smoothly that I was able to relax and watch my little guy enjoy his party. He likes nothing more than everyone fussing over him. He’s the biggest flirt 🙂 I am so proud of him. Everyone always tells me how he is such a good kid… and I agree, and I know that Bob and I had something to do with that. It makes me feel awesome because there are a lot of days still where I doubt if I am really a good mother and a lot of days where I realize I just don’t know what the hell I am doing and so to see the things I am doing as a mom paying off as far as causing Jackson to be such a happy-go-lucky, good kid makes me happier than I can say.
In November I got promoted at work. I had to move stores but now I am a shift supervisor. The job came with a pay raise (!!) and more responsibility and is generally fun. I do still miss my old store, mainly because I was pretty close to a lot of the people I worked with there. I LOVE being in charge though. It has taken some getting used to though… there are still some days when I question what I am doing and realize I feel completely lost. But those days are less and less. I would say that this is as far as I dream of getting promoted but last year at this time I would have told you that there was no way I wanted to be a shift and now I am happy to have that job… so, never say never.
Christmas came too soon this year. I felt as though one minute it was Thanksgiving weekend and we were putting up our Christmas tree… and all of a sudden we were walking in the door after Christmas Day festivities. I hate how fast Christmas goes, because it is my all-time favorite holiday… but this year was a lot of fun. We had great family time, great food, great gifts… I couldn’t have been happier at the end of all the celebrations. I think I truly relaxed for the first time in weeks and that felt great.
And on a more general note, I also made peace with a few people who I was not at peace with before. I was able to get a lot of stuff out in the open, figure things out with one person who admitted that her grudge against me is her own shit that she has to get over and take a ride on a horse that I never thought would happen in a million years. Being at peace probably doesn’t affect these people at all- mainly because these past events are not things that they think about really, ever. But although these events don’t occupy my mind constantly, they were still things I held on to with shame and guilt and being able to make that peace took a lot of that shame and guilt from me.
All in all 2010 was a productive year. In 2011 I want to learn to worry less. I want to spend more time with my family. I want to feel 100% confident in my job. All I know is that whatever happens I will be lucky because I get to spend 2011 (and every year after) with my husband, son and stepdaughter, along with our families and friends.

when I grow up…

22 09 2010

For whatever reason, the change in season from summer to fall brings me back. Just a certain smell in the air can take me straight back to a few years ago. I sit here and wonder where time goes and how it passes so fast – my life has changed so much in the past three years and yet many of my memories feel as though they happened yesterday.
Let’s start back in fall of 2007. I was at Marquette, starting my sophomore year.

Here, a few days after school started… I thought I really had my shit together this time, that things would be different. I always thought that.

and here, barely a month after the last picture and almost exactly three years ago, I was already a mess. I was completely manic, although not diagnosed yet, drinking excessively and caught in a cycle of “crazy” that I didn’t understand and that I felt like I couldn’t escape from.
It’s not like I don’t have my good memories from my time at Marquette as well. These two pictures are actually from happy times. Yes, I was probably spending about 29 days a month in a state of extreme mania, fueled by alcohol and Ambien, with a crash one day a month resulting in me spending 24 hours in bed. I wasn’t going to class but I was throwing myself into work- hey, at least I was good at something (or so I thought). And I was expecting everyone else to save me, to take care of me- and yet I was unable to take anyone’s advice and I was crying out for attention- like, please, someone, realize I’m hurting, save me. But apart from all that, I did make good friends at school and have some enjoyable experiences that did not involve drinking. I did love my job up there more than I can express in words- and when I went to class and truly got into it, I loved that too.

But enough about three years ago- two years ago, I was at Arabella. Choosing to go to Arabella was the best decision I could have made for my recovery.

Here I am, beating the shit out of the last scale I ever owned.

This fall weather brings me back to smoking on the deck (probably my favorite part of the house itself), going to the Goodwill store to buy Halloween costumes, arm-wrestling Stephanie in the kitchen, going to the far away Starbucks with Judy instead of the one in downtown Naperville, late night talks with Nikki… so much more, but Arabella felt like a home to me after a few good years of feeling so unsettled.

Arabella was the best choice I could have made however leaving was SO hard. Before going to Arabella I had never felt the kind of love and comfort that comes from truly feeling at home in a place. I left that situation to move to my parents’ house- I wasn’t working, I knew I wasn’t going back to school- and everything felt like a mess, like there was no hope in my future. Two years ago I went from hopeful to hopeless in the course of a month and spent the next few months trying like hell to get people to take care of me and then dealing with the consequences of my desperate actions.

And what about a year ago… Bob and I had been married for about 3 months and we were living in Naperville. I was 8 months pregnant and getting ready for Jackson to be born.

Here I am at my baby shower, almost exactly a year ago. By this point my life had started to turn around. Getting pregnant with Jackson really did cause me to look at my priorities and change them for the better. This weather reminds me of going to the Pumpkin Farm last year and talking to Jackson, saying, this year you’re in Mommy’s tummy but next year you’ll be able to have fun here. I had no idea what lay ahead of me and was more scared of actual childbirth than any of the fears that I have now as a mom. A year ago, I was finally starting to get my life on track for good.

And now Jackson’s almost 11 months old. This fall we’re creating more new memories that, I can only assume, will fly by so fast and feel like yesterday come next fall. He’s developing his little personality- extremely stubborn, happier than I would have expected given his pessimistic parents and the king of extreme mood swings. He said hi to me yesterday and hi to Bob today. He’s getting so big, so fast, and I’m reminded once again how time just flies.

My life has (obviously) changed extremely quickly over the past three years and perhaps the biggest change of any is that I’ve become an adult. I’m not happy every day and things are nowhere near how I thought they’d be. But the big, important people and things that I now know I need in my life in order to be happy- they are there. I can look back on the recent past and know that I don’t have to be ashamed of addictive behaviors, lies or attention seeking- because none of those things made it to my present. I can’t and won’t pretend to be perfect- I’m never going to be. But I feel a hell of a lot better about the person I am today than I did three years ago and my life is much more content and drama-free.

And that’s a good thing.

i want it all.

13 09 2010

This weekend got me thinking. A lot.

Bob, Jackson, Zoe, my parents and I went to Augustana (my sister’s college) for family weekend. We hadn’t even been there two hours before I went outside to smoke and brought Bob out there with me, just to tell him that the weekend was making me miss Marquette.

My feelings about leaving school are mixed, even now. I think I tend to feel things more intensely than most people- or maybe it is just that I actually do feel now, rather than the numbing out I did for so many years. Either way, when I first realized I wasn’t going back to school, almost anything could cause me to miss being there. When I left Arabella and was living at my parents’ house, the feeling of longing for what I once had and then screwed up was so intense it was almost unbearable. I really didn’t think I could ever settle down here in Illinois and be happy.

But then I just kind of fell into a new life here. I effectively cut the majority of my ties to my hometown when I left for school but I slowly started building new ones- and the best part about that is that I built them as myself, not as “Tifani-with-an-eating-disorder” or in general, “Tifani-who-is-sick”. Now I’m at the point where I would change some things about my life if I could- wouldn’t everyone? But the big picture is good. I have so many people and things in my life that I can’t imagine living without. My priorities are completely changed, for the better. All of these things make me not miss what I had at Marquette.

But then- well, we were visiting my sister’s campus and my mind just went straight back to Marquette. I do remember the bad times, but I also remember the good. As much as I was miserable there, I also was happy. Not in the same way I am happy here, I don’t think- but there were parts of my life there that did make me happy, parts of my life there that cannot carry over into my life here. I think I remember things differently than most people too- my memories are extremely vivid and… for lack of a better word… picture-like. I get these snapshots of times in my past and it’s like everything is there- the sights, sounds, smells- everything. Those memories can’t be recreated here. I can’t recreate the exact feeling of the PA office in Carpenter, smoking outside of Mashuda, relaxing outside of the Union on a warm day, walking through campus and knowing so many people, Greek Week… and I hate when something happens that makes me miss those things more than usual.

When it comes right down to it, I wouldn’t want to be in Milwaukee, because I couldn’t have the awesome people or things from my life here up there. Bob, Jackson, Zoe, my friends here, my mother- and sisters-in-law- none of them are up there and really, my ties to people in Milwaukee/at Marquette are so few now. And I also know- well, I don’t know for sure but I can guess- that if I had gone back up there I would not be sober or recovered right now. All of these reasons are more than enough to cancel out the longing feeling that will get duller until it is nonexistent again within a few days. But just know that sometimes I wish I could have it all. I want my wonderful husband, son and stepdaughter. I want my in-laws, parents, friends, therapist. I want Starbucks and work friends. I want Alpha Chi and Residence Life. I want classes I enjoy and the path to a college degree. I want my house here but the feeling of Milwaukee. Goddamn. Why can’t I have it all?


5 08 2010

I’ve found a new solution to dealing with money stress. Okay, it’s not necessarily new as it is 9 months old… but today it really worked.

Those of you who know me know how much I stress about money. This is probably a combination of legitimately not having a lot of money (because when we budgeted for our rent on our house we didn’t add in the random, unexpected and expensive expenses that came up starting in June…), my own worrying personality, and the fact that I’m the one who deals with the bills in our household.

I usually work out our bills while Jackson sleeps. This is partially because that’s when I have the time and partially because he’s so all over the place that if I do it while he’s awake I imagine he would eat the bills- and I can guarantee that ComEd doesn’t want a check with baby drool on it. But today I wanted to get some important stuff done right when I was thinking about it so I put him in his jumper and brought it in our bedroom to go through the bills. He was giggling the whole time and I was looking up at him every few minutes and we’d have a giggle fest for a bit and I’d go back to my bills.

As soon as I had worked out our budgeting for next pay period and a bunch of other stuff I started making Jackson giggle again. We giggled back and forth for about 15 minutes- seriously, I don’t know how Jax got so happy, but I love it. When we were done I realized that yes, I was still stressed about money, but it wasn’t completely eating at me anymore.

So today I am grateful for my little man- he’s happy and really, that’s what matters in life.

everything happens…

2 08 2010

I think it’s crazy how some things happen- maybe not for a reason, but when they are supposed to happen.

Case in point: My mom cuts off my therapy funding in June. I’m like, what the hell… I freak out because how am I supposed to pay? And if I were new to recovery and did not have a long-standing relationship with my current therapist I would just switch to one in my insurance network so all I’d have to pay was a co-pay. However, I’ve been to enough new therapists, told my life story to enough people… Josie and I are working on awesome stuff now and I was not ready to walk away from that and leave things unfinished.
Bob and I worked things out with our budget so that Josie and I didn’t have to end abruptly and I can look back now and realize that even though it would be nice if my mom still were paying, I would rather her stop paying now than stop paying right when I got married… right after Jackson was born… basically any other previous time. She stopped paying when I was at a point in my life where Josie and I were looking at ending therapy anyway and also when I’m at a point where my therapy is centered on real life stuff… I’m not going in there arguing about treatment, meal plan issues, etc every week. The things we are doing are driven by me and although there are things I do not want to leave unfinished, they are not life or death issues where I need to be in therapy every week or every other week for that matter.

Case Two: In my last appointment we start talking about body image/body awareness things. I bring up a horrible body image experience from the past. I then go back to my old journals to find that journal entry from that day… my last session was on 7/19/10… that body image experience happened on 7/19/04. Coincidence? I think not.

What I’m saying is that I am looking forward to working through these last few things in therapy- but I am also looking forward to being done with therapy. I’ve spent 14 years of my life in therapy… that’s a long fricking time but I finally feel “normal” – whatever that is.

where did you grow up?

15 07 2010

Back in Fairfax, Virginia
Me and the girls we grew up
In homes they built on battlefields.
Ponytails and panic
We were bad, bored and bulimic
We longed for something real.
-Christine Kane, The Way Clouds Do

A few other people and I rewrote this verse a couple of years back-

Back in Linden Oaks Rehab
Me and the girls we grew up
From homes that still are battlefields

and the rest is the same.

The point is, I was driving to work the other day and I got off the highway at the wrong exit- 59 instead of Eola. Luckily I knew exactly the quickest way to get to work from there. The next day I was on my way to my mom’s from work and again, I got off at the wrong exit. I completely missed 355 (really, Tifani, how do you miss an entire highway, especially one you drive on almost every day…) and had to get off 88 at Highland. Now, I was born in Lombard. My parents have lived in the same house for longer than I’ve been alive. And yet, when I turned on Highland, I turned the wrong way and ended up by Good Sam hospital. As I was turning around to actually drive toward my parents’ house, I was wondering, how is it that I can find my way around Naperville and the surrounding areas just fine but put me in the place I lived for 18-19 years and I’m completely effing lost?

I realized that it is really true that I may as well have grown up in Naperville. The first place I drove to, on the highway, by myself, was Linden Oaks, on my way to ANAD. I spent every Tuesday night at Rago during my junior and senior year of high school. Maria, Dr. Prinz, Josie, Jill, Lisa H, Lisa G, Irene… probably others… have known me since I was 15 years old. I’m still in touch with people who I met in treatment or through groups and yet I barely talk to anyone I graduated high school with. It is rare that someone who works at Rago or LOH doesn’t know me. And yet I only had an actual Naperville address for a year, not counting my two months at Arabella.

It’s no wonder I was so goddamn attached to treatment for so long though, when I look at it that way. However, when I think about what is involved in growing up- learning life lessons, discovering who you are, discovering what you like- I wonder if I would have done so much growing up if it weren’t for the fact that I “grew up” in Naperville. I know other people manage to grow up without the help of therapy and treatment over and over and over again. But would I really be the same person if I had not had the experiences I’ve had?

People say all the time that they do not have regrets, would not change their past for anything. I don’t know about the no regrets part of all that- if I thought about it I’m sure I could come up with a few. I do know, though, that I appreciate the good in my life now so much more since I’ve had bad. I appreciate being trusted and trusting myself, I appreciate the freedom to do what I want when I want, I appreciate my insight into my own thoughts and feelings, I appreciate my ability to empathize and help others…  all of these are lessons I learned through my years of treatment and therapy and those are lessons I would not take back for anything.

So yes, I physically grew up in Lombard and yes, I emotionally grew up in Naperville. I spent a while stuck at 15 or 16, but thankfully those life lessons caught up to me in the end and so finally my emotional age caught up to my physical age. And maybe I’ll eventually learn my way around Lombard… it could still happen…