Thursday, January 31, 2008

Shoo, You Big Heavy-Breathing Animal!

I thought I would post an update since my last blog entry was not very, err, positive. It was on the depressing side, literally and figuratively. Between then and now, I did have an appointment with my shrink. I did not realize it, but I had not had an appointment since before Thanksgiving. Since then, and with Family Christmas Drama and other Family Drama lying heavily on my shoulders, it is easy to see why I plunged so deeply into a freshly made Depression Hole.

I don't think that I blogged about all of that stuff, because I was so upset and the anxiety and depression were triggered almost immediately and then made worse at Christmas. It was a rather sudden, painful separation from myself and from blogging, which I now know was a mistake because I couldn't vent. I couldn't write it all out and give myself a different perspective, or give my readers a chance to let me know their thoughts on whether I was over-reacting or was justified in how I was feeling.

On top of all of that, my concerns for Grace are never far from my mind. It has been a long road in trying to get her diagnosed and then getting her school on board with our child psychiatrist with not only the diagnosis, but sharing information between each other to get her special services started. We are finally at the point where she's getting weekly therapy in preschool, one on one with therapists, and today she started PPT therapy at the early learning center. Every Thursday she'll be getting three different therapies: speech therapy, occupational therapy, and academic support. This is all to help her be ready for kindergarten in the Fall, especially since this preschool aka pre-kindergarten year was supposed to be her kindergarten year. She HAS to be ready for kindergarten in the Fall, but thankfully now that she's in the special services program, she will get continued support for as long as we deem she needs it through her school. LEGALLY. It's such a huge relief and it's been so stressful getting to this point. I would say that we're lucky, but it's taken a lot of hard work and active advocating for Grace to get this far.

Grace enjoyed today's sessions so much that when it was time for me to pick her up and take her home, she cried. She actually told her speech therapist that she did NOT want to go home yet and was having fun! I was very proud of her for expressing her disappointment so clearly, and I think that even through her own tears, Grace was proud of herself too. Instead of throwing a full-body tantrum-like episode, she cried into my arms, and tried to calm down. Granted, she was very upset the entire ride home, right up until we walked in the door and she snuggled up on the couch with Luna Tinkerbell (our cat).

With all of this taking up so much time and stress and energy over the last few months, with Holiday Family Drama thrown in for good measure, I found out yesterday that I've really dropped the advocacy ball for Grace in regard to getting her fully evaluated with autism specialists. Her therapy with the child psychiatrist has been invaluable, but now the school is giving her in-depth therapy that she was getting with the child psychiatrist. Now, I have to get her to an autism specialist to take do a neuropsychological work-up and some other tests to check her motor skills and intelligence levels. Once that's done, they would direct us on the additional therapies she needs that the school can't be responsible for. That is my next round of phone calls and action for Grace. I should have done this back in November, and it just slipped away from me. Between snow storms, illnesses with the kids and myself, behavior issues with Juliana and Grace, toilet regression with Grace, toilet training with Anneliese, being a Brownie Troop Leader and all that comes with it, personal money concerns, Family Holiday Drama, sleep disturbances with all three girls, cabin fever, disgust with my weight and difficulty losing it, I just completely lost the thought that it was something that Had To Be Done Right Away. I feel horrible about it, but I'm about to fix it.

Now, I'll bet a million dollars that you're wondering what the Holiday Family Drama was all about. Something bad enough to still be affecting me, and giving me enough kibble to feed that huge, yet quietly breathing animal.

OK, fine.

I decided this past Fall that I would let Manny be the one to organize the holidays in regard to where we would be and when. That meant HE had to talk to his sisters and mother, and my brothers and parents to organize everything. I needed him to understand why it stressed me out, and how hard it is to make everyone happy when it comes to the holidays and dinners. It was an effort to decrease my stress about the holidays as well. I have enough self-inflicted stresses, on top of the normal daily stresses, and Manny agreed to take it on this year. He thought it would be easy. He was wrong.

Thanksgiving comes and goes, and all was well. The IL's were a little disappointed in the way the dinner thing turned out, but it was a great visit with them and my side of the family. The agreement was that we'd have Thanksgiving dinner with my parents and grandparents, and dessert with my IL's. Then for Christmas Eve, we'd be having the main dinner with my IL's, and try to go by my uncle's house for my grandparents and to share birthday cake for my Mom. If not then, then perhaps the Sunday before Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day, we'd share birthday cake for my Mom.

Great, right? Stressor number one happens when, at Grace's birthday party at my parent's house, my dad had a, err, rough day. He was wildly fluctuating in his mood, alternating between making sure everyone was happy to everyone annoying him and how much of a hassle it was to have everyone in his house to feed. Pasta. And sauce. Yeah. Anyway, it was nearing time to go, and Grace reached for her pretty pink paper gift bag, and didn't realize that someone had place a soda can behind it. The soda spilled, and my Dad, standing behind Grace, grabbed her arms and the look on his face was just so horrible and angry, and he slightly jerked her and visibly loosened his grip on her, then moved her away from the soda. The whole time, he was dropping the F*bomb and ranting under his breath about the mess. I cleaned up what I could and then grabbed Grace to get the kids all in the car. I had flashed back to being a kid, living in that house, and being fearful every single day of the face he made. Being fearful every single day that one thing or another would trigger me getting spanked and grounded and shouted at. If I had done, what Gracie did when I was a kid, I'd have been shoved around and screamed at and quite probably smacked. I know he wouldn't hurt my children, but I couldn't stop the fear from clutching my heart and taking the breath right out of my throat. I couldn't stop the pounding or the rush of blood through my ears. I told him I thought he was too rough with her, and it was time to go. I just felt that it wasn't safe for me or my children. I explained to Manny what happened and didn't realize Juliana overheard, so when they were getting buckled into the car, she confronted my dad and asked him if he was going to apologize to Grace for being too rough with her when she spilled the soda. He ended up blasting me, mocking me, and decided that I was over-reacting and was hurting HIM.

We had a birthday party for my grandfather the next week, and he went between ignoring me, glaring at me, forgetting to ignore me and remembering again. Over the next week, I avoided calling him, but we ended up corresponding through e-mail, and I tried to explain why I reacted the way I did without dragging up the childhood stuff. I don't think he would have acknowledged it, and it would have made things worse. But we made up, and I decided that we will not go there unless we have to.

Well, dinner at SIL's house was delayed about an hour. That threw everything off enough that we were running late in getting to my uncle's house. I called about 10 minutes before we were supposed to be there, not realizing it was that late, and my father gets on the phone and rips me to shreds. TO SHREDS, people. I was so shocked at how angry and how little he attempted to understand what was going on that I was just shocked into silence and tears. I'm apparently "a horrible person who doesn't care about anyone else's feelings, and broke not only my mother's heart but my grandmother's heart too. I'm selfish and don't try to compromise with anyone for anything." Forget the fact that he had made an agreement with Manny that if something like this happened, it wouldn't be an issue. Forget the fact that we would see them the next day on Christmas Day. I had "disappointed the 'entire family' and no one would forget about it. I ruined Christmas Eve for everyone."

It doesn't end there, folks.

Christmas Eve, around 11:30 PM, and ignoring wrapping the kid's gifts because I am making my mother's favorite cake. Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake, with homemade butter-cream icing. Everything was being made from scratch. I even decorated it festively, without any hint of Christmas on it. We bring it over on Christmas Day, when we had already planned to visit, so that we could see each other for the holiday and so my parents and brothers could give the girls their gifts. My father sees the cake, and informs me that it's not needed because there was still cake leftover from the night before that he'd bought, and because they'd already celebrated her birthday. He must have made that point three or four different times throughout the visit. He again went between ignoring me and forgetting to ignore me, hurling glares at me occasionally. He was clearly pissed off when my mother had some of the cake I made, and he told her that she couldn't keep any of the cake I made that was left over.

We tried to explain what had happened the night before, but he just wouldn't listen. I haven't seen him since, and we haven't been there at all since Christmas Day. We're supposed to go there this coming Sunday so that they can celebrate Anneliese's 3rd birthday that's coming up. No dinner, just cake, which is fine with me.

I'm just sick to my stomach at the thought of going there and seeing him. I have no idea how he's going to be, even though he's been almost decent on the phone. I had called on New Year's Day and he'd fallen on the ice and landed don his back, spraining his wrist and banging his head. My concern must have softened him up a little bit, I guess, but things are still tense. At least for me. Now my therapist is telling me that it's probably time to sit down with my parents, or at least my mother, and explain my feelings about all of this, even though I've talked to her about it. I know I can't ask her to pass on the message, because he won't listen, and it'll just make it look like she's choosing sides. Everything is about what people are "doing to him" rather than him taking responsibility for being a jerk. I just feel like I'm 7 yrs old and scared at making the wrong comment or move, and I hate feeling that helpless. I'm sure it drives him crazy that he can't control me anymore, and essentially has no say in any sort of end result for when things don't go his way, particularly if I'm involved. Instead he lashes out and tries to control everything else.

I'm tired of being the sad, scared little girl who did her best to keep her father happy, so that he wouldn't hit her or yell at her on any given day. I'm 33 yrs old with a family of my own, and I don't want to be like him to my own girls or husband. I want to be appreciated and respected, and it upsets me that he can't seem to do that. So I have to accept it and move on, and lower him on my list of importance. I have to become more callous to his issues and not internalize them anymore. They're HIS issues. It just hurts too much to let him win and stress me out.


Anonymous said...

Omg!!! Jess, it's so weird....sometimes i think we have lived the same life. I had a VERY similar issue with my dad over the holidays too that is still driving me nuts. I soooo totally know what you mean. Your last paragraph hit me hard and made me cry because that's exactly how I feel.

I hope things work out with you and your dad. At least you guys have some communication. for me I just think it's pointless to even bother talking to him.

Anonymous said...

I meant to my dad not you and yours.

Dreen Pie said...

This whole post made me cry so much. My mom was never abusive per se, but she has a lot of control over my emotions, and when she is stressed she tries to stress me out also. She and I have always had the reverse role relationship. Many times during childhood I was the mom and she was like the child. I think I was put in her life to help her stand on two legs. It makes me really upset that he acts like that to you. It would make me feel unvalued, really. You are so worthy and wonderful, so smart and such a beautiful thoughtful person. And I'm really sorry it seems your mom sort of goes along with him. I'm not trying to be mean and I know that can be a touchy subject. I hope everything works out for you guys and Annelise's birthday is great!

Julie said...

"So I have to accept it and move on, and lower him on my list of importance. I have to become more callous to his issues and not internalize them anymore."

Yep that is it exactly. It's a hard thing to do but you can do it. Remember Manny and the girls are your family now and the most important one. Grandparents should revolve around your family (not the other way around).

Honestly, what I would do if I were you is next year have Christmas at your house instead of bouncing all over the place trying to make (and could possible "ruin") Christmas for everyone. It's too much pressure. Your father was totally out of line, both in how he talks to you and how he treated Grace.

It sounds like a toxic relationship, especially if he wants to control you and makes you feel like a scared 7 year old. You probably won't be able to change him, but you can change your relationship with him. Make some "rules" for yourself on how to deal with him. Like, "1. If he wants to spend a holiday with us he can come to our house" "2. When at his house, if he lays a hand or yells at one of my children we will leave right away." Get over trying to make him happy. You hold the power now, and he will need to make you happy in order to spend time with you and your family.

This is what I had to do with my mother. It's not easy, but it's healthy.