Social

Friday, September 26, 2014

I know it's confusing for people who know me and even those who are new in my life to understand that I suffer from social anxiety.  This anxiety is fairly new (since losing Max), it isn't crippling (thank god), it isn't always visible, and I am pretty good at faking comfort and confidence in social situations even if my heart is racing and I am feeling either completely removed (preferable) or freaked out (not preferable). This confusion has led to some really awful interactions and hurt feelings for me and others and at times has only served to cause me increased anxiety. I find that even when I warn people ahead of time, their expectations of me are just not realistic.

In the first year or two after losing Max, I hated to leave my house - my only comfort zone. If I left, I ideally wanted to know exactly who would be wherever I was going so I could prepare myself.  Being around people I didn't know was really really hard.  I was sad all of the time and couldn't fake my way through pretending to be anyone other than a grieving mother....I had no other identity in my early grief.  I couldn't concentrate on what anyone was saying.  I couldn't (not wouldn't - but COULDN'T) make small talk.  Being introduced to people or reintroduced to people I didn't know very well or at all scared me.  I felt too exposed and my brain was just not firing off the connections that would enable me to shmooze.  I knew that I was probably seen as unfriendly and uninterested - and the truth is that I was.  I had no interest in anything except talking about, brooding over, and missing Max. 

After a year and a half or two years, I grew a thicker skin.  The best way I can describe it is to think about how you feel when you are watching a particularly horrific story on the news - about a beheading, or something terrible happening to children, or people living in unlivable circumstances - your thick skin is what gives you the ability to change the channels, forget about what you just saw and just keep eating dinner.  Imagine that you couldn't change the channel.  You couldn't erase the images you'd just seen.  That is how I lived for a long time.

Today I leave my home.  All of the time.  I go to parties, and play groups, and I have even traveled for work several times this year.  I freak out for days (sometimes weeks) before entering nearly every single new environment.  Traveling to Israel twice this year caused me so much more anxiety than I can possibly describe.  Knowing that I would have very little (if any) down time, being with mostly new people who don't know me or my story, the fear of being asked about how many children I have..... it was so overwhelming. These trips had the added bonus of also taking me away from my kids for days on end, which also brought up a lot of the emotions (guilt, fear, dread, distrust) I have surrounding losing Maxie while he was at daycare.  At times I was removed and sullen - I felt misunderstood and isolated.  Keenly aware that I needed to figure out how to be a more upbeat and positive personality - like the one you are supposed to have while staffing a group of people in a foreign country. It was a challenge.

Of course I find that, most of the time, putting myself in new and unfamiliar situations is worth the anxiousness that is provoked.  I wouldn't keep putting myself out there if I didn't think it was worth it.  It is still hard though.  Much harder than it ever was for me in the past.  Sometimes the anxiety that the potential situation provokes is too much for me and I either decline the invitation or end up participating and feeling very aware of the fact that I am in no place to be around new people.

If you invite me someplace new - I am grateful for the invitation.  If you are with me someplace and I seem to go from friendly and engaged to sort of removed.  If you wonder why I am not as excited about the upcoming event as I once was - this is why.  I appreciate that you think I've pulled my act together.  I want you to know that I haven't.  I am still working hard on it though and taking more chances than I ever thought I would.  Give me some time.  Give me some space.  And, please, please, please - try not to take it personally.

Familiar

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ladies: Does this sound familiar?

Your husband comes home from work a little early and he's in a great mood.  He hugs and kisses you and is smiling ear to ear.  He's a little more cozy, lovey/dovey than usual...and you are thinking: "Wow! What a nice treat!". Not that he's usually an a-hole or anything - there's just a usual hustle and bustle to the evenings that seems lifted on this particular night. 

And then it hits you - his football team is playing tonight. As soon as that tv goes on, you will cease to exist for the evening in his mind. It isn't a special treat! It's Monday night football!!!  Grrrr.

As the game starts, you think, "This isn't so bad. As soon as I get the kids to sleep, I'll have the whole night to myself! I'll read...no, I'll watch tv in the other room, no the baby is sleeping in there...so, I'll read... or work on a long overdue project. The possibilities are endless really, and it's great to see him so happy.      

And then the other team scores and you remember that if his team loses, he won't be SO happy anymore. And, it looks like his team is gonna lose. And suddenly your night seems kind of bleak, and you're not sure why- because you don't even really LIKE football. Most likely you will go to sleep long before he makes it to bed, because he will probably fall asleep on the couch watching highlights. 

Anyway, just wondering if this sounds at all familiar?

One hot weekend!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Our air conditioning broke this weekend, and if you live in the LA area, you know that it was the worst weekend for a broken air conditioning. To be specific, the motor died - from a long year (I'd argue three years) of heat. It's just been running constantly for as long as I can remember. This past weekend, the temperature was well over 100 degrees both days. Somewhat miserable - but also a good excuse to wade in a plastic child's pool, hose each other down and finally escape to grandma'a house. Seriously - it was rough.




Saturday was also our five year wedding anniversary. I think we've lived five lifetimes in these past five years. It was worth celebrating. We got a babysitter and Ted surprised me by taking me to "Inn of the Seventh Ray" in Topanga Canyon. It is actually where we went after our "legal" marriage five years ago. (We had to sign the marriage certificate in the rabbis office here in the States about a month before our religious wedding, which we consider the "real" wedding in Costa Rica on 9-6-9.) As we pulled up to the restaurant we noticed people looking pretty dressed up and I worried. Ted and I looked nice (if you consider a casual dress for me, and khakis with a collared shirt for him, and flip flops nice) but these people were in cocktail attire. Then we saw a guy dressed like my dad (nice jeans and a pressed Hawaiian shirt and boat shoes) and figured we'd be ok. When we got closer, we noticed that we knew one of the nicely dressed couples.  It was my friend Matt's brother, Greg, and his wife, Lauren. They excitedly told us that Matt and Ann were there too - for a cousins wedding! So, Ted and I did what I most like to do next - crashed a wedding. Well, we went down at least, found Matt and Ann, had a drink with them and met the groom, before going to the part of the restaurant not being used for the wedding and had a lovely dinner. It was a funny coincidence. Had we had a little more champagne, I would have insisted on going back after dinner for some late night boogies. But we were both tired and stuffed. 

Happy Anniversary Teddy, my love. Thank you for being my best friend and support. And, thank you most today for sending the HVAC guy over here to replace the AC motor!!!  I love you!

Still

Thursday, September 4, 2014

I've been working really hard to get everything organized for Maxie's Birthday Benefit - on October 12th. I find that the event brings up so much sadness for me, in so many different ways. I just don't know if it is something I should do again after this year.

A couple of days ago, I posted to an online mommy group to see if I could find any potential sponsors or silent auction donors. I am having such a hard time getting donations this year - I am hoping it will pick up. Anyway, last year I posted to the same mommy group and I got a donation for a pass to the Magic Castle, so I figured I'd try again. This year, so far, I've gotten 3 emails telling me how sad my post made them - which was nice. I also got an email that I can't shake.  A woman wrote to say that her son was a year younger than Max would be.  When he was only 5 months old, he went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing.  She immediately gave him CPR and then he was rushed to the hospital where he was put on life support. They spent two days in the hospital, and the boy was given a 15% chance of survival.  Somehow he pulled through and is alive today. She still suffers from PTSD (I'm not surprised) and is afraid every day that it will happen again (of course she is).

I know I should only feel happiness for this family and this little boy at hearing this story. I do feel those things. For sure I do. But I also feel jealousy and guilt and anger. If we had kept Max on life support for a few days more, would he have lived? Why did her boy live and mine died? What more could I have done? Why didn't I keep him home that day (or every day)? If he had been with me, would he still be alive?

I've been missing my baby like crazy these days. After Ted left for work this morning, I had a dream - that it was all a nightmare. Maxie was alive. I was watching him, awake in his crib, on the monitor. It was his face, his big blue eyes, his little tummy and pale skin. This whole thing was over - as if it had never happened. Understand that I pray for dreams like this every single day, but having one really throws me. Why isn't he here? Why did his story not turn out like hers? I can't tell you how much I wish it were me, reading her post, emailing her my story of my living child, and then telling her that I hug my child a little tighter.  I'm having a really rough time - Still.


It's so unfair.  It's so unfair.  It's so unfair.  It's so unfair.  It's so unfair.  

Making space

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When people spend time with me today, I believe that they are pleased to see that I have "recovered".  They believe that I have put the whole terrible episode of losing my son behind me and am now living a near perfect life - with an adoring husband and two beautiful children.  They often tell me how "great" I am doing.  I don't think that they have any idea that I am thinking about Max all of the time.  I am never not thinking about him.  Never.  I still have intense episodes of PTSD, I still have nightmares, I still wonder daily what I could have done differently, I still see other children who are four years old and watch with complete amazement that my child would be this age now.  It hurts all of the time, whether you see it or not.

When people interact with me these days, what I don't think they realize is that I don't have the capacity or patience for the little dramas that used to be at the forefront of my life: this one is mad at me because I forgot to return their last phone call, that one thinks I am mean, the other one is creating some big drama about a misunderstanding at work.  I get caught up in it for an hour or two - and then I realize - it's all nonsense.  What Ted and I have been through pales all of the little made-up dramatics that life and people present.  Those dramas are a luxury.  They don't make even a small difference in the big picture of life.

I am not a perfect person.  I am not sweet as honey - never have been.  I can be acerbic and sarcastic.  That's always been my personality.  Some people get me and like me and some people don't.  I tend to be drawn to people who are like me in this way: a little salty: people who like to tease and be teased.  Of course, not everyone in my life is like that.  That's ok too.  I will do my best to hear and appreciate you but sometimes my head and my heart are someplace else.  There are big traumas in life and there are smaller ones.  I tend to focus on the bigger ones.  If you care about me, I hope you will try to understand that.  If you don't understand that - that's ok too.  I've only got so much room in my heart and time on my hands these days, as I am sure you do too. 

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