Spare me, Liar. (Alternate title: I Whistle A Happy Tune.)

When one of my daughters was 9, as I was tucking her into bed she asked me, “How come you’re not afraid of anything?

I said, “What do you mean?”

She said, “Like, how come you’re not afraid of spiders?”

I told her that I’m not entirely sure, but I think it has something to do with the fact that as a child my best friend (and step-aunt – yes we have a weird family tree -) Marisa was really afraid of spiders and she was littler than me so I pretended not to be afraid, just to make her feel better when she had bad dreams. So I concluded that maybe I just tricked myself into not being afraid? Whether the fact that I’m not afraid of spiders is a result of that or just a coincidence, I guess I’ll never really be sure.

Coming full circle, this technique totally backfired when I tried not to pass along my lifelong phobia of snakes to my young daughters by going out of my way to say how “cute” and “fascinating” reptiles are when they were toddlers. This led to them shoving library books in my face and innocently exclaiming things like, “Look, Mommy! A picture of a snake! Your favorite!” Cut to me breaking out in the full meat sweats covered in hives. Just a simple picture in a children’s book would send me reeling, literally feeling the saliva drain from my mouth and the blood drain from my face as my entire back wet through my shirt and I started doing some weird panic version of heavy lamaze breathing. (Is lamaze breathing redundant? Would you still get the point if I had just said lamaze? Also remind me to someday publish my 600 page book of essays entitled, “Why I Can’t Go Back To That Library.” Spoiler alert: there’s more than one library.)

When the girls were older, we once got invited to a friend’s uncle’s farm in the country and it was like that horror scene from the National Lampoon’s Vacation movie where I looked over and saw my children playing with a F*CKING BUCKET of baby black snakes. You know…black snakes…the “harmless ones.” Harmless, that is, if you don’t have an automatic vomit trigger from fear and anxiety. I was too paralyzed to scream before I felt my knees start to waiver and my innards upheave, but I’m here to tell you ladies and gentleman, that I did not yell, puke, or faint, BECAUSE I’d been training for so long in case such a moment should arise. Poise-wise, it was my Jackie Kennedy at the funeral procession moment. Methinks I shall never summon a more courageous portrayal of “normal person doing fine” again; it was truly the performance (and bowel retention) of a lifetime.

That whole “fake it til you make it” thing is really misleading because it implies that if you fake it long enough you’ll eventually make it. In my experience this hasn’t always been the case. Marisa is still afraid of spiders, and yet I’m not, but I’m still afraid of snakes. (If you’re wondering how much appreciation she has for my sacrifices on her behalf, a couple of years ago she bought my kids souvenir cups at the Sedgwick Zoo in the shape of Boa Constrictors. She “swears” she thought they were “elephants.” OKAY, MARISA.)

Honest question: how many of you have intentionally lied to your kids about something you intensely fear/dislike to spare them the bad feelings you had to overcome?

Maybe the “making it” part of the old adage is that even if we couldn’t truly overcome our inner fears, at least we tried and hopefully didn’t pass our burdens onto our children unnecessarily. Then again, what if I’m just teaching my kids to be liars and telling myself it’s a means to an end of not having them absorb my fears? Also, how bad will I feel if one of them gets bitten by a snake?

 

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Actual Things: Unmarried Dot Com

Dear friends,

I’ve had a cold so long I can barely remember what it’s like to not have a cold. As I was lying in bed last night still hacking after a second dose of Nyquil and some good old fashioned night soup*, I started to get really fed up. (*Night soup is that thing where you are so desperate to stop coughing you get up at 1am, make soup to eat in bed, spill some of it on yourself and then pray you don’t die of an accidental cold med overdose leaving your children to find your puffy-faced body in a bed full of used tissues in the morning.) I decided to refocus on tranquility by saying all my thank you prayers. Since I’ve been Catholic most of my life I have a habit of ending my prayers with the sign of the cross, only last night instead of the traditional “Amen” I realized I accidentally ended my prayer with, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit, Dot Com.”

So there I was, wheeze-laughing in the dark in m’soup-stained tank top…

This brings me to my second actual thing. I overslept. Which means my kids overslept. Which means we had approximately 9 minutes for a 12 minute drive. By some miracle of traffic patterns, we coasted up to the door with about 15 seconds to spare as I tossed backpacks into the backseat like they were life jackets on a sinking ship. As I watched my sweet blonde cherubs head for the front door I rolled down the window and started shouting things like, “LET’S MOVE! LOOK ALIVE! I WANNA SEE KNEES TO CHEST!” It really put a pep in their step and I’m thinking that maybe I should start wearing a coach whistle to drop off.

It’s a good thing I’m such a natural motivator because kids can be so inconsiderate, am I right? Like, I didn’t leave the house bra-less in a soup-stained tank top and accelerate through four yellow lights for you to mosey in 20 seconds after the bell and make me look like a bad mom.

Thirdly, and this is a biggie: I got unmarried a while ago. For months now I’ve mulled over when and how to share this information publicly, but the more I thought about it, the more all of your comments over the past years came flooding back and reminded me that I should just keep it real. It wasn’t in the plan for the original fairy tale ending, but I still got a lot of fairy tale moments over the years that can never be undone.

So I’m back to writing. As a single mom, I assure you I have a backlog of material to share with you. If you’re reading this, please know that I appreciate you. I hope you’ll forgive my absence and come back with all of your hilarious feedback I treasure so much.

And those are the actual things.

Love, Emily

 

Alternate Titles:

Working On My Night Soup

Accelerating Through Yellow Lights: A Philosophy For Life

Unmarried With Children

Fairy Tale Middles

I want to sneak in a HUGE thank you shout out to the many, many supportive women friends who have been true bright spots through this cloudy, unpredictable season of my life. Here are a few of them:

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Sunshine and Gray Skies: How I Explained Anxiety To My Kid

Anxiety Starter Pack

Congratulations, you’ve been born with a predisposition to Anxiety!

I’m not an expert at anything except my life, which is what I write about here. (This is a disclaimer.)

I’ve long been diagnosed with Anxiety disorder and was diagnosed with ADHD about two years ago. As my mother likes to say, I come by it naturally, which just means a ton of my family has their own beautiful shade of “the crazies.”

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“At first I didn’t want anyone to know how he left this world.”

Mood: Ripple by The Grateful Dead

I’ve blogged candidly about my struggles with Anxiety disorder. The goal is that whoever reads it comes away with  more compassion for Invisible Illness, which is why I’m sharing this post with you now.

Preface: I’m the baby of my siblings by many years, so I’ve been an Aunt since I was 9. I know other Aunts love their nieces and nephews, but somehow I just know I love mine more.  Like, don’t fight me on this. So when my oldest nephew Koltie-baby was home from college for Christmas a few years ago and said he wanted me to meet a girl named Brooke, I was cautiously optimistic.

Now it’s years later and I love our Brookie so much I think of her as one of our own.  To put it in perspective, the first time she stayed over at my house for a couple days I casually asked her what color she wants me to wear to her wedding.  I basically just want to squish her cheeks and tell her constantly that she is magical and I shall be her Crazy Aunt for all time.

Brooke at game

Brooke and Koltie

Brooke with fam

Brooke Beach

*I’m obviously the one in the Mom-Jean shorts.

About a year ago her parents were in town for a volleyball tournament so I went with my sister to “meet the parents.” I had my two children in tow and immediately pegged the happy, margarita-drinking couple from Texas as Brooke’s parents, David and Erin. David bought me a beer and we dove into conversation as I was internally surprised at how our shy “Brookie-Barbie” (as my children call her) had spawned from such an outgoing, charismatic dude. We spent a couple of hours drinking, eating, and talking. My kids ended up on Erin’s lap. David was the quintessential proud, genuine family man from Texas, complete with corny Dad jokes. There was never a lull in conversation and they both hugged me tight when it was time to leave. I love that my Koltie-baby picked a girl from such a fun, close-knit family filled with love and laughter.

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A few months later the unthinkable happened. Continue reading

Have you ever done it on a plane?

Had an anxiety attack, that is?

Picture it. Mother’s Day 2015. It was a rough flight back to Kansas City, lots of turbulence; stomach-lurching, panic-inducing dips and bumps that made it feel like the oxygen masks would drop down any minute signaling imminent doom. Instead of taking a Xanex like a good little puppy, I tried to tough it out by closing my eyes and drifting off into a place somewhere between sleep and denial.

I had just dozed off when all of a sudden I was roused by an urge to vomit. I grabbed my trusty barf bag from the seat-pocket in front of me as my mouth and eyes watered. My husband hastily encouraged me to try to make it to the lavatory. Reluctantly I stood up and made it about five wobbly steps before my vision blacked out and I fainted, collapsing into the arms of a very astute flight attendant with cat-like reflexes and man-like strength. I imagine what was going through her head as she saw me, pale and disoriented, weaving up the aisle, “This is it, Karen. This is what you’ve been training for. Damnit Karen don’t blow this…not again…not like Lubbock.” In her mind, the crew all rooting for her, pumping their fists, shouting, “Ka-REN! Ka-REN!” as she set her jaw and headed toward me, arms-outstretched, the whole scene playing out in slow motion as she grabbed me, snapping me back to consciousness.

Through the lavatory door, I heard the worried flight attendant say to my husband, “Does she have a medical condition?” And I heard him say with a defeated sigh, “It would take too long to explain.”

I spent the majority of the rest of the flight in the front row next to a blind man and his sweet service dog.

The flight attendant offered to have an ambulance waiting for me on the tarmac but I assured her it wasn’t necessary, although at the time I had sweat through my T-shirt and was sitting with my head between my knees clutching a fresh barf bag so I’m not sure how convincing I was. I was glad the blind man couldn’t see me but I was concerned about what he (and the dog) could smell at that point.

One perk of this is that the flight attendant told me I can request special pre-boarding due to my condition so I can always sit in the first row. She also added, “and you don’t have to explain your condition to them,” which I thought was slightly judgey, but you know how Karen is. So dramatic.

So I guess you could say I joined the Mile High-Anxiety club. I’m thinking more and more about doing these T-shirts. Who wants one?

Anxiety

5 Things I Want You To Know When I’m Having An Anxiety Attack

5 Things On Anxiety

 

So, I’m the type of mom that prides myself on looking put together. But here’s a fun fact about me: I have Anxiety. With a capital A. The kind doctors treat, not the kind you get when you have to speak in public. Another fun fact: for whatever reason, the way my body handles too much Anxiety is by going into a full panic attack mode and this results in me sweating through my clothes, puking my guts out and eliminating everything in my digestive tract. FUN, RIGHT?

A couple of years ago, this was happening to me every couple of months. When I was 9 weeks pregnant it happened during a volunteering shift at the Ronald McDonald house. I became so overwhelmed I momentarily passed out and threw up all over the floor of the bathroom because I couldn’t physically lift my head to the toilet. They called an ambulance. The specialists I saw after that and various ultrasounds of my innards determined that there was nothing “wrong” with me, except that I probably have a serotonin imbalance. Which basically felt like they were saying, good news! You’re not sick, you’re crazy!

So why am I telling you this now? Today I had one of these episodes at my daughter’s new school. I was there for the preschool Valentine’s party and I brought little goodie bags for the kids and a bouquet I’d arranged for the teacher. As soon as I got inside I recognized the signs of imminent doom. For some reason whenever I feel sick I automatically need to be on the floor. As I felt the waves of panic washing over me I knew I had to get to the bathroom, so I ran to the teachers’ restroom and started vomiting loudly. I didn’t even have time to close the door. I tried to put on a brave face and go into the classroom for the party. The moms were so beautiful and so put together and I really wish I would have met even just a single one of them before because I would have collapsed into any of their arms for a hug and a cry at that moment. I had to leave the room again when I felt another wave of nausea and that time I didn’t get off the bathroom floor, where I was discovered by the school secretary. I awkwardly tried to explain my condition to this lovely, horrified woman who was putting on a tight smile and clearly, for my benefit, pretending that this situation was totally normal.

I don’t know how many people have this problem, but I do know what it feels like to try to explain to someone why you are violently ill, but not really “sick.” It’s awkward for both of us if you’ve never experienced it.

Things I want you to know when I have an anxiety attack:

1. I’m not reacting to anything specific, I’m having a reaction based on the chemicals in my brain going haywire. My brain makes my body physically sick and even when my brain feels better, my body takes time to catch up. From the time I realize it’s going to happen to the time I’m ill is approximately 5 minutes but it feels like 25 minutes of choking.

2. I’m not pregnant, so your awkward jokes about that being the reason I’m vomiting are not appreciated.

3. A cold bathroom floor is the only place that doesn’t make me feel trapped and restless. I don’t want to move. I would not be more comfortable anywhere else so don’t try to get me to move.

4. I don’t have the flu. I have lots of different prescriptions in an attempt to eliminate these attacks: anti-anxiety, anti-nausea, anti-spasm, anti-depressants…my purse looks like it belongs to Collette Reardon from SNL. Usually they work, but once in a while my body overrides them.

5. I can see how crazy I look by the expression on your face. I’m so sorry for scaring you. I’m scared too. I’m going to be okay, just not at this moment.

If this happens to you, I want you to know you’re not alone. Anxiety: I get it.

collette

Via