mental health, self help

“Even heroes have the right to bleed”


This week, I did not go to work, not because I didn’t want to but because I couldn’t. I am walking the fine line of keeping my shit together and completely falling apart. I know that, and I also know what my priorities are, which are different than they used to be. Work or a career is not the priority anymore. My family is. My little boy is struggling right now and he can’t afford to have me fall apart so I am making choices, difficult choices. Liam is gone for the weekend and last night I put earplugs in then went to bed at 10:30 and slept for ten straight hours. This morning I made quiche for the first time from random ingredients that were in our fridge. Now I’m writing and watching the snow fall (while I wait for the quiche).

For five years I have been battling the family court, almost entirely on my own. To read, for five years, heinous lies about why you are unfit to be a mother, that you are a danger to your child can be debilitating at times. Curling up in a ball and waiting for it to pass over has never been option, though it has often been what I want to do. Instead I detach from the emotion and find the facts to disprove the fabrications.

For much of this time I have put on a brave face. “We’re going to be OK. It’s not easy but we’re doing really well.” And yes, we are doing really well, particularly in comparison to where we were five years ago. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a struggle. For months now I have given into the truth and often answer the question “how are you doing?” with “the struggle is real today.” Being honest with myself and the people who I trust gives me the opportunity to relax and feel what I need to feel.

My husband recently reminded me of a conversation we had shortly after moving in together. When asked what I would like to change about him, I said I wish he’d wash his hair more. (I dug deep for that one.) When I came back with the same question, I braced myself. Was I too fat, did I need to get a bikini wax, did I talk too much. He said “I wish you loved yourself more.” He reminded me of this conversation the other night when I was admitting to needing to just “be” for a while. He smiled and said he was proud of me for working so hard to accomplish what he asked for. Yes, I am that lucky.

I recently lost my job, and though I know in my heart it is probably the best thing for me, it dealt a serious blow. At a time when finances are already in disarray and my health is waning, I lost my minimal income and our health insurance. The uncertainty is overwhelming at times. Giving so much of myself to something and having it taken away was brutal and it hurts, six weeks later. But I have learned to love myself enough to know that this was beyond my control and no fault of my own. Other people’s weaknesses are not a reflection of my own. I recognize that often times when I get pushback and aggravation from people, particularly men, it is a recognition that my strength is greater than theirs. I can live with that.

What is hard to live with is knowing that my strength only goes so far and for so long. Liam is struggling with XN right now, with his emotional terrorism tactics increasing significantly in recent weeks. Liam comes home aggressive and angry until it turns to tears and confusion and hurt. Allowing myself to be vulnerable with him and talk to him about my thoughts and feelings and actions when my father and mother split, makes me a better parent. I was the same age as Liam when my mom left my father, and talking to Liam about this helps him feels less alone and less guilty. He has so much self-doubt right now, even self-hatred at times. It breaks my heart, but I know we can get through it together.

This vulnerability and superstar parenting is taking a toll on me though. After bedtime, I am spent. Any moment that isn’t filled with activity is filled with tears. I see my little boy and just want to protect him because he is so young and so innocent. He did nothing to deserve this hardship. Neither did I when I was his age. It wasn’t my fault. There was nothing I could have done and it wasn’t my job to fix the grownups in my world. Accepting that, thirty years later, is proving to be more of a challenge than I thought.

There are times that I start to cry with seemingly no reason. Whatever has triggered the crack in my hard exterior to give way to the flood could be a smell, an image, a song.  I am worn down. I am tired. I need to rest. I need time to sort through the garbage in my head and the hurt in my heart. Anxiety has returned. When I am with friends it is mostly fine. But dealing with new people, strangers, and particularly a new work environment is near impossible. I freeze up because I know that I am a little broken right now and need time to heal before I can face the world again.

I am not the Bionic Woman. I’m not a superhero. I am human and cannot do it all. And you know what? That is ok. I give myself permission to be a flawed, ailing person. I give myself permission to ask for help and to let a frozen pizza be dinner. I give myself permission to think about myself before everyone else (at least when I am by myself, let’s not push it too far). I give myself permission to cry and question and sleep. My family needs me. My little boy needs me to fight for him in this seemingly never-ending war, and part of the preparation has to be to take care of myself.

A few months ago my best friend sang this song in church, with my husband at the piano. It really shattered one of the places where I am still broken.

Superman (It’s Not Easy)

I can’t stand to fly
I’m not that naive
I’m just out to find
The better part of me

I’m more than a bird, I’m more than a plane
I’m more than some pretty face beside a train
And it’s not easy to be me

Wish that I could cry
Fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie
About a home I’ll never see

It may sound absurd, but don’t be naive
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed, but won’t you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream
And it’s not easy to be me

Up, up and away, away from me
Now it’s all right, you can all sleep sound tonight
I’m not crazy
Or anything

I can’t stand to fly
I’m not that naive
Men weren’t meant to ride
With clouds between their knees

I’m only a man in a silly red sheet
Digging for kryptonite on this one way street
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me
Inside of me
Inside me
Inside me
Inside of me

I’m only a man
In a funny red sheet
I’m only a man
Looking for a dream

I’m only a man
In a funny red sheet
And it’s not easy

No, it’s not easy to be me

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