Thursday, December 19, 2013

Processing the Spin Out of a Perfect Storm

Whew.. I'm back for a little update.

Xander is doing well in OT.  He's been discharged from speech and will be re-evaluated in a year.

Solomon is doing okay in speech.  We've been working hard (twice a week in formal therapy and lots of exercises at home) but we aren't seeing a ton of progress.  It's frustrating but I'm trying to just pray it out.

I've been going to Weightwatchers now for 6 weeks.  I've lost a little over 12 lbs.  I'm thrilled and the plan is working for me.  I need the accountability and social interaction.  It's been a wonderful experience so far.  

Brandon and I both finished our school this past week. And that is what the rest of this post will be about.

I had a hard time last week and since I'm no longer EATING my feelings, I nearly spun out of control in other ways. 

I've carried an amazingly large amount of baggage for many years.  Most of it stems from my childhood.  I was NEVER good enough.  Some of you that have known me for many years, know that I have a perfectionism issue.  It is not my natural nature.  I am MUCH more of a "good enough" person.  Try your best, do your best, etc.  I regularly tell my children, "Did you truly try your best?  Yes? Well, that is all I can ask for!" 

This is very different than how I was raised.  I had what I now consider the "misfortune" of being labeled "gifted" at a very young age.  I learned to read very young and I loved to read, so I really read anything and everything I could get my hands on.  Some things came very easily to me.  And honestly, I was pretty bored in my regular classes.  But my life really changed once my mom pushed the school to test me for the "gifted program."  I loved the gifted program in elementary school, but I quickly realized that it appeared I had to "work harder" than many of my "gifted" peers.  I couldn't do cool things like multiply two 5 digit numbers in my head when we were in the 3rd grade.  (Heck, I still can't!)

Looking back, I wish someone had gently said that we all have our gifts and that for SOME OF US, it is our work ethic.  God gifts each of us individually.  He uses gifts that aren't recognized by our culture or the world.

As an adult, I also see that testing can be biased.  There is comic going around facebook that has a few animals like a fish, a monkey, a bird and the "test" is to climb the tree.  Well the monkey is obviously going to win.. 

Anyway, getting back to my original point.  I'd bring A's home and it was "Stephanie, why didn't you get an A+? You are GIFTED!  You are smarter than this!"  I brought my first B home in the 2nd grade in math and you would have thought my world had ended.  I was afraid to go home.  I cried from the time that I saw my report card until I went home.  And I cried for good cause.  I was grounded from everything (including my beloved books) until progress reports came out.   My teacher suggested that perhaps my mom had overreacted and I remember my mom telling her that she wasn't raising a "mediocre" child-- she was raising a GIFTED child.  The G word has haunted me for many years. 

In third grade, I used to lay awake with worry the night before progress reports and report cards.  Sometimes I'd lay there thinking up really cool things I could propose for extra credit, just in case! Sometimes I just laid there with racing thoughts.

My heart used to race when papers were returned to us once a week for our parents to sign off on.  Mistakes (even while learning something for the first time) were unacceptable.  The line was drawn in the sand.  At 8 years old, I knew that to be considered "Good" or "Smart" by my mom, I had to be perfect- no exceptions, no excuses, no "off days".  The end. 

Perfection was driven into me at every point.  I remember testing for chairs in Band.  (For you non music folks, you test with your instrument and are "ranked.")  I was third chair.  Not good enough. "You'll never get a solo, Stephanie.  You are THIRD!"  I made the county honor band but was like 18th chair. (18th in the COUNTY with a very strong music program...)  Not good enough.  I didn't make All State.  "I don't know why I paid for your clarinet, you don't deserve it."  

Onto high school it continued.  Only now I was taking Honors classes, involved in multiple extracurricular activities, in a tough band program AND working 35ish hours a week.  I graduated with a 3.875 and was 7th in my class.  "Stephanie, I don't even know why I came.  SIX people beat you.  You don't even have a 4.0. Some of those kids weren't even in the gifted program!  It's not like you did anything special.  High school graduation is an expectation, not an option." No one else from my family came to my high school graduation. 

I was once told that I caused my own mother's breast cancer and that I am the reason that her hair fell out.  Not because she was undergoing chemotherapy.  It was me.  I was sixteen years old. 

Because I was not "good enough" at home, I found my worth other ways.  I developed a ridiculous sense of sarcasm.  I discovered the art of wittiness.  I was a model employee.  I did other things that were the exact opposite of "good" since "good" wasn't "good enough.  I smoke, I drank, I partied.  I put myself in dangerous situations and have lived with those consequences.  And eventually I thought I had found "love" even if it was from the wrong place.   We all know the story, because I've told it here a few times.  I married at 18 to a "man" that was verbally and emotionally abusive.   Hmmm... I didn't even realize for awhile.  I had lived like that as a child for many years.  I expected nothing more from the man I married.  *sigh*

 And later he became physically abusive.  He cheated.  He lied.  He fathered another child in our marriage. He spent money selfishly.  He put his fist through a wall.  I left.  I went back.  I left again.  I found out I was pregnant.  And I went back again.  Until he pinned me down one night and choked me.  I remember thinking he was going to kill me.    

I left, not for myself, but for my unborn baby.  In the moment, I didn't see my value-- only hers.  And yet... I still had moments of weakness where I thought we could make it work.  If I could just be perfect....  He'd be happy.  If I fixed everything that disappointed him,  he'd love me.  He wouldn't go outside our marriage.  I thought I could be perfect and it would make everything okay. 

I can close my eyes and still hear the words my mother spoke to me when she was trying to convince me that we could make this "whole issue disappear."  (Code for she would pay for an abortion and I could divorce without a child in the mix.)  I refused and it angered her.  She told me that everyone would know about my "mistakes" soon and I had a limited amount of time to change it.  She made an appointment for me anyway.  I had an image to uphold for our family.  And I dared to defy her and did not go.  Through that single instance of defiance I gained some freedom.

But I have lived in semi-bondage for years.

And it showed it's ugly side this past week.

Tuesday I weighed in at Weightwatchers and I gained 1.2 lbs. It was the first time gained since starting Weightwatchers   I was annoyed but tried to rationalize it away by saying it was nearing that time of the month... and I maybe had lost too fast all the weeks before it.  I even looked at their little chart and saw that I had been losing to fast and this gain had put me back in the "safe" range.

Strike One.  

Then I got an assignment back that took a bloodbath.  I worked very hard on it and had made all the corrections from the time before and suffered the same result.  I was frustrated.

Strike Two. 

Then I realized that it was mathematically impossible to get an A in the class.  Even if I maxed out all of the remaining points.

Strike Three.

I heard all the voices from my past. They all came flooding back. They all told me that I wasn't perfect.  That a B wasn't good enough.  That I had failed.  I'd not get a 4.0 for this semester and I might not get into grad school.   Couldn't I do anything right?  Why had I taken all the time from our family if I wasn't going to do it right? 

But I was determined to not turn to food.  I bawled in the shower.  I cried in bed.  I shutdown.

Friday, I just felt out of control.  I couldn't make myself focus on my school work. I couldn't quiet the voices from my past...  I seriously contemplated if finishing my degree was worth it.  I sat on the couch in pajamas all day.  I nearly called the school to withdraw. 

So I went to the gym.  I ran, I lifted weights, I swam, I soaked in the hot tub.  And I came home and finished the remaining assignments in that class.

And I cried again.

I reached out to some friends and they all told me that a 3.8 is incredible for a mama of five taking five classes a semester.  Several identified with the curse of perfectionism.  They all told me that they don't think any less of me because I got a 3.8 GPA.

I wish I could say everything instantly went away.

But yesterday the official grades came out and I had to look that B in the face.  Strike One.

And it was the anniversary of my first marriage.  I married him 12 years ago and the anniversary still brings me shame and disappointment.  A reminder of my poor choice and all I survived. Strike Two.  

I feel like I'm teetering again. 

I'm not going to lie.  I'm still struggling.  But I'm fighting still.  I want to be free.  I never want to forget where I've been and what I've survived, but I want freedom.  I want to be able to look at a B on my transcript and not instantly hear the disappointment from my past or try to drown it out with extra unneeded calories. 

My head knows that no one on earth is perfect.  I know the Bible verses.  I just need my heart to feel and know the same thing. 

2014 will be about finding freedom... I want to be free!