So Sensitive

So Sensitive

I will never be grateful enough for my anxiety and depression.

That’s what I remind myself.

My anxiety and depression function well. Top of the class—if there was a grading scale for such things, which there isn’t and there positively should never be. It’s mental illness, not a spelling bee or a discus event. Luckily, I do therapy and Celexa because I have zero skills for phonics or field competition.

I have high-functioning anxiety and depression. So I’ve been told and which probably appears in a medical note somewhere. Except in the notes of the therapist who told me I wasn’t depressed because I showered every day. Before he recommend that I work out more. After we’d talked about running. But he meant lifting. Bro. Then showed me his bicep and told me to feel it.

Didn’t go back to talk to that particular mental health professional. The ugly white patriarchy is snarlinglingly pervasive, friends.

The gratitude should come from the gift that I am able to shower every day. I can go to work and take care of my son. That could change tomorrow. That is not the life so many others with mental illness survive. They lose hair because it goes unwashed. Which might seem incidental when they lose jobs and partners and children and their lives.

I make it through. I’m not pretty doing it. But I’m lucky enough to manage. Do I cry at work? Sure. I’m somehow able to do it in bathrooms and storerooms and can bounce back quickly and no one is the wiser. Except when I get caught and then I have to explain. That’s a fun day.

Certainly, I won’t assume to define anyone else’s depression or anxiety. For me, the depression is feeling alone, unseen and worthless. Anxiety is feeling that everyone is watching and judging and that the worst of every second is imminent. And then feeling worthless. Yes. It is as fun as it sounds.

Work families are like home families. You spend enough time with people, even if you love them, personality quirks coalesce and then separate. Aggressively.

My anxiety and depression do not tolerate teasing. It’s silly. Of course it is. “Do not tolerate.” I sound like a boring behavioral guide posted in a low-end dog training course handout.

By “do not tolerate”, I mean I freak out. By the outdated and moderately offensive phrase “freak out”, I mean I cry and spiral into my dark place. Because someone teased me. Teasing that I know was meant in simple, silly, sisterly way.

Weakness revealed.

And the panic hits like a punch in the gut from a jealous, perceived-overlooked sibling.

I’m right, my mind screams. I TOLD YOU SO!!!! Every awful, negative, hurtful, self-deprecating, harmful, reductive, critical, crushing thought I carry in my head, every hour of every day, is real. That easy, breezy giggle meant to break up a tense and challenging work afternoon breaks me.

Ridiculous and unreasonable. What adult behaves like this? What about the grade school trope where we tell kids to laugh along with teasing? Laugh along and don’t take yourself so seriously. Laugh first, laugh loudest and they can’t hurt you.

Anxiety and depression don’t understand that. They don’t really adhere to dinner table or playground rules of “they tease you because they like you.” At least that’s how my brain bubbles react.

They freak the fuck out.

A joke about talking too fast or looking like a lost sheep and I’m in so much physical and emotional pain that I get light-headed.

Personality like that, and it’s a curiosity why I avoid all social gatherings and friendships, huh? You should see me on New Year’s Eve. Hint: you’d have to be under my cover to find me and also I’ll be sleeping.

That’s okay. I’ve come to accept that. I’m not the butterfly. I’m the moth. Flying alone, bumping perpetually into the light that I love but can’t quite access.

I’m okay. I continue to strive to be grateful for my particular strand of anxiety and depression that keep we upright and moving forward, when I’m not flat on my back or sliding down my wall on my way there.

But there’s carpet to catch me. Of course, I’ll end the day with a rash when the pile is too rough.

Because I’m so sensitive.

Forest For

Never so acutely focused

While so helplessly detached

House built within my room

Without me hearing a single

Hammer blow

Only think to look up

When I stop looking down

The nail in my own foot

Through and through

Pointing to the new ceiling

So encompassed

By my own pain

I don’t see the art

He made

Work of children

Ignored

For the play of adults

Not managing tears

Real or forced

The stakes are too high

Serves me right

Should sweat

Streak across the floor

Hope the skin catches

Pinches in the grain

Remember the trees

Cut down with my axe

The next time I

Curse the sun

Beg

Beg for shade

And burn

Choked

I walked to work

with a wet scarf

choked

taut

pulled

from both

side

dampness

in two directions

moisture

most of it rain

but

little

least of it

was tears

More of it was snot

I’m sure

That’s what parenting is

Some days

Rain

Tears

Snot

If you’re lucky

you also get

a shower

a different sort of wet

a smile

and a hug at

the end of the night

uncloaked

unchoked

dry

Safety

Some parents use their kids as an excuse. Gets them out of work dinners, their own dental visits or unenthusiastic sex. The young creatures are marvelous scapegoats for these tasks. I know. I’ve done it all.

I’m afraid I’ve knit my child into my own safety net.

Didn’t chase the career I wanted?

It’s okay. I had a kid.

Tanked relationships?

It’s okay. I had a kid.

Another rejection letter for a writing piece?

It’s okay. I had a kid.

Except it’s not always okay.

My son is my life. And I don’t know if that’s always a good thing.

Some parents do incredible work with child raising as their primary focus. My mother was one of these parents. It’s still mind-boggling to me, remembering and watching to this day the sacrifice and giving she extending to caregiving.

I’m far more selfish.

Or maybe not.

There are many things about this life that aren’t enough for me. I want to swing and fly and walk the right rope. And I do it all with a net, just in case.

I don’t think that makes any more or less. Parents who strictly parent are awe-inspiring. Parents who run companies and are in love and volunteer to feed sick kittens are equally miraculous.

Me? I don’t fit in either box. I’m the one flat on her back, bouncing on a stretch of ropes and knots, still reeling from my most recent fall.

I hope there’s still time to get back up on the high wire again.

What I Didn’t

What I Didn’t

Learn to spell believer

Change to os to as for feminine

Include Ferdinand with Isabella
but that may have been intentional

That’s what I didn’t do in fifth grade today

Didn’t distinguish capability from intention
work from talent
strength from indulgence

He sees what I didn’t
make dinner
wash my hair
clean the crumbs

What’s the worse didn’t
That I didn’t

He can learn
because he watches
what I didn’t
and see his same
didn’t

And then he does
Lie in bed with a book
That others think
Is meant for another

Didn’t like I didn’t

He senses my shaking
and knows when I’m crying
even though
I like to pretend bathroom walls
are thicker than they are

Didn’t stop like I didn’t

He doesn’t want my reminders
but it’s my fault
when I don’t give them

Didn’t stand up because I didn’t

I watch him parent
what I didn’t
I try to take the blame
that he shouldn’t

I didn’t enough

I hope he knows it was my didn’t

Not his

His Trains

Two bedrooms.
Three babies.
Where does he sleep?

You have your dreams
wrapped and tied
with felled timber
and he’s left
to be your alarm clock.

To be the stark reality,
the cold winter floor,
the frosted window
in your cottage escape.

What you wanted,
then left,
now he’s left
to sure up
the beams
while you build
to the sky.

His trains
carry
your blueprints,
and the sledgehammer
that knocks down
his insulation;
transport an awkward visitor
to your family gathering.

I watch
and
I wave.
I hope he
survives the trip
and wishing on rails,

I dread
his crash.

A Fortress

Him: Mom, let me get under your blanket. I’m cold.

Me: It is no degrees outside. Put on some pants. 

Him: (Crawls under the blanket with me, rubbing clammy feet on mine)

Me: (Aw. And ew.)

Him: Pants are uncomfortable and I don’t like wearing them. 

Me: (Endlessly hugs the now-warm, still pantless child, who is clearly mine, and who tolerates the affection for one more second before he scampers back to his fort because sometimes too much mommy is too much. 

And we had a day in the fort with snuck-in food amongst the many pillows and too much TV. 

It was a glow of heat in the dark cold. 

And I remembered how much brightness there is.