Sunday, January 22, 2012

You Got All That From Playing Words With Friends? Ooooooooookay…

In my last post, I mentioned that I tend to overreact and veer into drama queen territory.  So in case you didn’t read it, or forgot that I said that, consider yourself warned.

I downloaded Words With Friends to my iphone last Friday night.  And then I made the mistake of mentioning the game in a Facebook status.

Dummy – you know that Facebook is the Debil.  

Immediately, several friends mentioned that they play too and that I need to play with them.  Like an idiot, I believed them.

So, I invited one of my friends to a game.  My opening word ran horizontally, across the board.  Her first word also ran horizontally.  Horizontally and directly on top of my word, so she got points not just for the word she played but also for all of the other two-letter words that ran vertically.  Some of these were words that most people wouldn’t believe are real words – words like “ef.”

Be honest – can you use the word “ef” in a sentence – without first looking it up in a dictionary?  Yeah, didn’t think so.  

Really?  I thought this was a Hey-Let’s-Just-Have-Some-Laid-Back-Fun kind of game, and here I had stepped into Are-You-Fucking-Serious-This-Is-That-Competitive? territory.

Immediately my stomach started tightening, my blood pressure started ratcheting skyward, and my fuse was growing rapidly shorter.  I started snapping at the kids.  I had zero patience.  All of this within the span of ten minutes following my friend’s move.  Yeah, that is not an appropriate reaction to a game.  This is supposed to be fun and relaxing and mentally stimulating.

Not an appropriate reaction?  Understatement of the year.  More like a psychotic, insane, childish drama queen tantrum.

Tell me about it. 

But seriously, get over it.  Get over yourself.  It’s a freaking game.

I know that.  My reaction really bothered me. 

So I started wondering why. 

And then I started remembering some rather painful childhood memories.

Humor me, please.

From the time I was in about fifth grade until the end of my freshman year (when I moved from NJ to OH), I was bullied.

In fifth and sixth grade, my tormentor was a petite, dark-haired girl (let’s refer to her as H).  I’m not entirely sure why she singled me out as a target, but let me share some personal information: 
  • I skipped kindergarten, so I was a full year younger (not just chronologically, but emotionally) than my classmates
  • Despite my young age, I excelled in school and was selected to participate in a program for gifted and talented students
  • Because of my young age, I was very insecure and really wanted to fit in (a deadly combination that bullies can sniff out in a heartbeat)
  • I was (and still am) na├»ve, and give people the benefit of the doubt, and often trust those I shouldn’t

When H would pay attention to me, I was so flattered.  I didn’t realize that playing right into her game - luring me into trusting her only to be humiliated in front of my classmates.  It happened again and again, and each time I was crushed.  (What can I say?  When it comes to that sort of situation, I'm a little slow.)  I think I stopped being a target for her sometime during seventh or eighth grade.  I don’t remember what happened; maybe she got bored of me, maybe she outgrew it.  Apparently I never did.

Another significant incident happened in seventh grade.  This is the year we all leave our respective elementary schools and attend the Jr-Sr High School in town.  During lunch, I sat with a large group of girls, mostly friends from elementary school with a few others mixed in.  As the year progressed and we met more kids from the other schools, our table grew more crowded.  Little by little, I noticed that there was less and less room for me.  And then one day one of the girls (who I had been friends with since third grade) told me that there wasn’t room for me anymore.  Once again, I was crushed.  I was betrayed by girls who I thought were my friends.

What do these incidents from my past have to do with Words With Friends? 

Well, I had the same physical and emotional reaction to the WWF game that I did to those events.

I have a really hard time competing head-to-head against my friends.  I am competitive by nature, but honestly, I’d rather have my ass handed to me by a complete stranger.  When it comes from a friend, it feels like a threat to our friendship rather than part of the game.

When I saw my friend’s master-level move (word stacked on word), I felt like I was nine years old again, and H was bullying me.  Intellectually, I know that my friend is just playing a game and that she is not being nice to me just so she can lure me into a game and then soundly kick my ass, ha ha ha, joke’s on you, sucker.  But emotionally, I can’t separate her moves from K’s bullying.  My reaction was the same.

Note:  I started this piece last week and was too deep in processing mode to finish.  If it's okay with you, I'm ready to finish.

Well, it's been a mentally taxing week.  Between Hubster working nonstop and me processing all of the above, I'm pretty drained.  But some good things happened:
  • I did some more thinking, and some more writing.  And with help from my dear friend and kick-ass editor, I am pretty certain that I have found a compelling direction for my writing.
  • I talked to my Jedi Master-level WWF friend.  I explained how I felt, and she was incredibly supportive (she's like that in general; she's awesome, just like my other dear friend).  She said she wouldn't be offended if I wanted to stop playing.
  • I kept playing WWF.  I'm still getting beated, quite soundly, but it doesn't hurt quite so much.  Because I am learning more about how to play the game.  Who better to learn from than a Jedi Master, right?

Anything else you'd like to share with the class?  

Why yes.  Thanks for asking.

I learned that even though it happened over thirty years ago, I'm still not over how H bullied me when we were girls.  And for whatever reason, how my mind processed that experience has affected me to this day.  Now that I know that, I must learn how to disconnect my reactions to my past from those of my present.  That will be some journey.

Not bad for a free app.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Taming the Beast

(I was inspired to write after reading this post by the Bloggess and this post from Moms Who Drink and Swear.  My battle is far from epic, but depression and the use of anti-depressants are such dirty little secrets that I wanted to give them some fresh air and sunlight.)

About four or five months after my second child (T) was born, I went on antidepressants for post-partum depression.

And I’m pretty darn sure that I suffered from PPD around the same time after my first (J) was born although, at the time, I thought that what I was experiencing was just, well… me being me.

To be honest, that I might have PPD didn’t even occur to me until after T’s birth.  When my hair started falling out (another pleasant post-partum surprise), I noticed that I had absolutely no patience with J’s completely age-appropriate behavior. 

Thinking back, I realized that I had similar feelings when my hair started falling out about four or five months after J was born.  It wasn’t as obvious the first time around:  J was my firstborn and therefore my sole focus, so I just chalked up my moodiness (aka frequent periods of extreme bitchiness) to lack of sleep.

It shouldn't be a surprise that I had PPD.  I saw several therapists during my twenties and thirties for generalized anxiety disorder, and (brace yourself, because this is a really shocking revelation) I have a tendency to overreact and be somewhat of a drama queen.  Plus, my grandfather was treated for agoraphobia and depression during the final years of his life, so I had genetics going for me, too.

Once I figured out that blowing up at a two-and-a-half year old for acting his age isn’t exactly (a) appropriate or (b) healthy for either parent or child, I called my OB.  She referred me to a psychiatry practice that accepts pretty much any insurance plan out there.  (Since they’ll take money from anyone whose check clears, I’m sure you can imagine how attentive they are to their patients.

I met with a psychiatrist who (I swear this is true) perused other patients’ charts during my appointments.  He prescribed me sertraline, the generic equivalent of Zoloft.  (Zoloft and its generic equivalent are the only anti-depressants compatible with breastfeeding, so it was the only choice available to me.

I held onto that prescription for about a month before filling it.

Why?  Oh, I had my reasons.  Reasons like:

  • I was embarrassed that I wasn’t “strong enough” to handle this on my own.
  • I was embarrassed by the stigma of taking an anti-depressant.
  • I didn’t know of any mom friends who admitted to having PPD, much less taking anti-depressants.
  • I felt like a failure as a mother because I couldn’t “snap out of” my moodiness.
  • I worried what my friends would think if they knew I was taking medication to treat depression.
  • I worried that my husband would think that my taking anti-depressants was an excuse not to “handle my problems” on my own.

    In other words, I felt a whole lot of fear and shame.

    And then (with help from a beloved and trusted neighbor) I realized something:

    • If I had insulin-dependent diabetes, I would take the medication.
    • If I had high blood pressure, I would take the medication.
    • If I had asthma, I would take the medication.

    I think you see where I’m going here.

    I finally filled the scrip and went on sertraline.  And do you know what the ultimate, twisted irony of it was?  Only 25mg of the stuff - the smallest dose you can take - made me so horrifically nauseous that I went out and bought a pregnancy test to make sure that the nausea was caused by the meds and not a pregnancy.  On the upside, it did its intended job and took the “edge” off my moods – I didn’t have such a hair-trigger temper anymore.  But feeling queasy 24/7 while nursing a newborn and minding a toddler was simply unacceptable.  I ended up quitting it cold turkey.

    So…  Did I kick my depression as easily as ditching the meds?  Unfortunately, no.  A few major things happened, including the birth my third son (S), which caused that monstrous beast to rear its ugly head once again. 

    But once I weaned S, I discovered something that kinda rocked my world:  after six years of trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, or breastfeeding, my hormones (and therefore, my moods) began to stabilize.  Oh sure, I still get bitchy the day after I ovulate and then again the week before my period, but this is nothing like before. 

    I also discovered that regular exercise keeps my mood elevated, especially when said exercise occurs while my kids are in the safe, loving environment of Child Watch at the local YMCA.  (Why did I not join the Y sooner?)

    Like everything in life, learning to deal with my moods – with my depression and my generalized anxiety disorder – is a journey, a process.  Those were six long and frustrating years, it was a real struggle, and I questioned everything about my abilities as a wife and mother.  I still struggle, and I still question my abilities, but nowhere near as often or as harshly as I did during that time.

    Life will not stop throwing me curveballs.  I will likely still get down on myself.  I still need to change how I handle certain situations.  However, I am no longer ashamed that I have a tendency towards depression, or that I needed anti-depressants to help me through a tough stretch. 

    need to help and support each another, especially during the difficult times.  God knows there are a lot of them. 

    Saturday, January 7, 2012

    Unsolicited Advice

    Over the holidays, I had to go to the drugstore to have flavor added to an antibiotic.  My oldest had an ear infection, and the medicine tasted absolutely awful without it.  I brought my youngest with me (he’s three) and, like all toddlers, he was more interested in attempting to explore his environment without Mom than standing in line with her. 

    To minimize the potential damage, I picked him up for a while.  My arms and back started complaining, so I put him back down and held his hand.  This act was interpreted as an invitation for him to act “boneless” and hang limply from my arm.  Exasperated, I mention that maybe I should have left him at home.

    Here’s where the fun begins.

    A woman waiting behind me says, “Let him go, Mom.”

    Is she talking to me?  I think she’s talking to me, but who is this lady?

    “Let him go.  He’s controlling you.  He needs to know that you’re in charge.”

    Yeah, I know that, lady, but I’m freaking tired right now.  I was up late reading, I have a massive headache, I look like a pink panda bear because the toxic black mold growing in our attic that was stirred up by our construction caused an eczema flare-up on my face that still hasn’t cleared up after five weeks, my husband has been blasting Motley Crue while painting the kitchen and master bath over the past three days, and I am standing here waiting for the pharmacist because getting my seven-year-old to take the nasty antibiotic that I brought here to be flavored has been about as easy as stuffing a greased pig into a skintight wetsuit.  I am *really* not in the mood for you to tell me exactly what is wrong with my parenting technique at this precise moment.

    I don’t know what possessed me, but instead of ignoring this Parenting Guru, I turn around and give a weary smile.  Rather than let it drop, Madame PG took my gesture as an invitation to offer sympathy publicly critique my parenting method.

    “I raised five boys and they all salute me.  You have to let them know that you’re in charge.  If they come shopping with you, they need to know that they have to behave.  My boys knew that if they misbehaved while they were out with me, they wouldn’t be allowed to come with me the next time.” 

    Blah blah blah, I’m the best mother ever, you suck, blah blah.

    She continues in a stage whisper:  “He’s what, three, right?  They’re smart.  They know what’s going on.  He needs to hear you and me talking about this so he’ll know what’s acceptable.”

    Blah blah, listen to my advice because unlike you, I am an awesome mother, blah blah, me Me ME. 

    OMFG this woman would not. shut. up.

    Did I mention that this woman would not shut up?  She kept yammering on and on about how you can’t let your kids know that they’re pushing your buttons or that you’re annoyed or exasperated or, I don’t know, human, and that you always have to keep one step ahead of them.  I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her daughters-in-law.  Can you imagine having to hear this diatribe every single time you visit your in-laws?  Holy crap, I don't even know this lady and she just started spouting parenting advice.  Imagine having to hear this from your children’s grandmother every freaking time you see her.

    So what did *I* do? 

    Unfortunately, I totally suck at situations when I’m put on the spot.  I did nothing but mumble stupid shit like “Yeah, you’re right,” and “Oh, I know, I’m the mean mom.”  Just reading them is making me cringe at what a complete, spineless, jellyfish wimp I was.

    I would love to go back in time and relive that little exchange and instead say something like:

    “Look, you raised five boys, right?  You’ve got two on me; I have three.  And yours are grown, so you’ve been there, done that.  I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that your comments are well-intentioned, but I really do not appreciate that you, a complete stranger, are critiquing my parenting not only in front of my child, but also in front of all these people.”

    Nah.  Scratch that.  Let’s go all crazy-ass-bitch on her with something like this (keep in mind that my three-year-old is still at my side; expletives have been removed):

    “Ma’am, how I raise my boys is none of your business.  And if I were your daughter-in-law and you did this to me in public, I would be pissed off enough not to see you for a long while.”

    And then I would whip out my iphone and take a picture of her CBF*.  Me for the win!
    *Cat-Butt Face – you know, that look someone makes upon hearing something unpleasant; it looks like s/he just sucked on a lemon