- What is your favorite color? Purple
- What is your favorite toy? My phone
- What is your favorite fruit? Blackberries
- What is your favorite TV show? Heartland
- What do you like to eat for lunch? ham sandwich
- What is your favorite outfit? Ripped jeans and shirt
- What is your favorite sport? dance, soccer, softball
- What is your favorite snack? chips
- What is your favorite animal? dog
- What is your favorite song? I always have a lot of favorite songs.
- What is your favorite book? Tree of Dreams and the Once series
- Who is your best friend? [H] and [K] and [M]
- What is your favorite cereal? Cheerios
- What do you like to play outside? Spikeball
- What is your favorite drink? Bai water
- What is your favorite holiday? Christmas
- What do you sleep with every night? A million blankets
- What is your favorite breakfast? Yogurt
- What do you want for your birthday dinner? Chipotle
- What do you want to be when you grow up? a marine biologist or dancer
My Sweet Baby Boo,
Happy Birthday! What a year this has been. Like everything in your life, you took a complicated situation and you turned it around to make it fabulous.
This past summer was one of the best summers ever. With softball cancelled, you took up tennis, which you ended up loving. We went to so many new places to go hiking. You learned how to paddle board and even got me out there with you. You and H spent more time together than ever.
When school started back up, things were definitely crazy, but you faced them with your usual determination. You excelled at online learning, even though you didn't like it. When you switched back and forth between online and in person learning, you, acted like it was totally normal and had been doing it forever. You faced all the challenges pandemic world threw at you with style and grace.
Even with the world turned upside down, you still managed to make the most out of everything you did. You found joy in bike riding. You encouraged your family to play games together. You took up new hobbies. You practiced all hobbies. You read voraciously.
This crazy school year transition did nothing to stop you from being involved in what you loved. You joined Student Council and ran for an office. It's OK that you didn't get it, you put yourself out there and tried. You joined Power of the Pen and stuck with it when so many others didn't. You joined Ensemble and National Junior Honor Society. You entered middle school and you made the most out of what time you actually had there.
You continue to amaze me by your fearless attitude and your kind heart. You are truly a good kid. I'm so fortunate you chose me as your Mommy.
I love you. Always.
This year, I have read more books than I have read in the past two years combined. There is one that I read and I have been throwing the idea for this post around for weeks now. It's been hard to decide what to share and what not to share lately. I decided to share this book review because maybe some people would really want to understand others who suffer from anxiety a little better. There may be some people who want to see inside an anxious mind, though I don't know why because it's pure chaos there.
The book Turtles All the Way Down by John Green was recommended to me a few years back by someone without anxiety. She said it really helped her better understand what people with anxiety were going through. I agree with her. For people without anxiety, this book does a fantastic job depicting that we struggle with. John Green captures the back and forth with logic versus illogic, actively knowing the difference between the two, and the inability to to fight the illogical thoughts, perfectly. In the book, the main character’s trigger is disease. one specific one, but all leading to it. The book takes you on the journey of the struggle she faces every day to work through this anxiety. It takes you through the rituals she has to cope with the anxiety. It shows the reader the internal battle that a person with anxiety deals with. To be fair, the book makes it more of an extreme case, yet, it shows the spiral a person goes through perfectly.
I use the word spiral here purposefully. Even before reading this book, I have always used the term "downward spiral" to try to describe what was happening. I found it interesting that the author uses it as well. Maybe it's how everyone with anxiety describes it. I really don't know. Most of us completely hide and don't talk about our panic attacks. We don't talk about the battles that take place in our heads every day over the simplest of tasks. When we get sucked too far into the spiral, there is little you can do to pull ourselves out.
This book, for a person with anxiety, is hard to read. It's more than that; it hurts to read. It doesn't matter what your triggers are, you can feel her anxiety. Worse yet, you can anticipate it. That's what a good author does. In this case, John Green suffers from anxiety himself, so he fully understands his character, making it all the more real to the reader. To a person with anxiety, this book is very uncomfortable. Sickness is a trigger of mine, but in a completely different way. I don’t have the obsession about becoming sick, but I could clearly see how she went from A to B to Z in a matter of seconds. Being caught in that spiral, knowing you have to hit the very bottom before you can get back out, is hard to “watch”. You know that so many people can’t understand why you can’t just stop and move on, so it makes you hurt for the main character knowing it’s not going to get better. Because it doesn’t get better. It can get under control, but it never goes away. I won't even delve into how hard it is to read about her friendships and relationships with others. Those of us with anxiety understand we’re burdens to others and this book just shows how taxing we are.
To be completely honest, though I think this book really helps people without anxiety better understand what it’s like to live with anxiety, it’s also something I would not let my children read. Sunshine is going on 12 and already showing signs of anxiety. We are working with her to give her coping mechanisms. The last thing a young person who is trying to figure out anxiety needs is more things to be anxious about. I do not want my child going into her first kiss thinking of all the things Aza, the main character, thought about. I don’t want her to worry every time she gets a cut or a scrape because C Diff is something she never knew about before. There is no need to add a list of new worries to an already anxious child who does not yet understand what is happening in their own mind. For Monster, my reasoning for him not reading the book is different. He knows my struggles with anxiety. He has seen me go all the way down to the bottom of the spiral. He is an amazing kid for how he has handled it. I was ready to let him read the book until the end. Not to give anything away, but it doesn’t have a happy ending. There is no reason for a child to have to worry that his parent may suffer the same fate of hospitalizations for the rest of their life.
I like books with happy endings. Since being a parent, it’s really the only type of book I care to read. I want happy endings because life is hard. Every day is a struggle to just keep going. We all fight our own demons. This book just happens to include mine. In an interview Green said anxiety is, “...not a mountain that you climb or a hurdle that you jump, it’s something that you live with in an ongoing way. People want that narrative of illness being in the past tense. But a lot of the time, it isn’t.” While true, when reading a book, I do want it all to work out. I wanted him to tell me that she went on to have a totally normal life. It wouldn’t be reality then, but that’s what I want out of a book. I want to escape all of my worries and fears while immersed in a book. I know, all too well, that with anxiety, life is never normal. I will never be free from my worries.
If you want to know what it’s like living with anxiety, then read this book. You’ll probably think that there is no way this is real. You’ll think people can’t really be thinking these things. I assure you, they can. If you want your books to end happily, this isn’t for you. Or, maybe that’s just the anxiety talking. Maybe, for people without anxiety, they see the ending as being more positive than negative. I view it as too realistic for what I want out of a book. I want to read to escape my day to day life. This book wasn’t that for me, but it might be for you. It could be the book that makes you think, “Thank God, I’m not that crazy.” Just remember, some of us are.
It was one year ago today that our little corner of the world stopped. One year ago, I stood at the corner of the street chatting with a friend, as I had done for years, discussing how school was going to be shut down for 3 weeks. Little did either of us realize that it would be the last time we would meet on the corner for a chat. You see, our daughters went to school just across the street. We didn’t need to go to the corner to meet them after school because we lived so close to the school. They could easily walk home alone, but it was our time. We knew that 2020 would be the last year we would meet on the corner because our girls were moving on to the middle school in the fall. Yet, as we stood on that corner March 12, 2020, we didn’t realize that would be the last time for our afternoon corner chats.
One year ago, when the schools gave us news they were closing for three weeks, I remember thinking it was only a matter of time before the library closed, too. Anyone who knows my kids knows that they can not go three weeks with no books, so I ran to the library and literally checked out over 50 books. Just for those “three weeks”. Sure enough, March 14, 2020, the library announced they would be closing.
One year ago, the boy’s hair was a little long. I remember thinking, if schools closed and the library closed, what was next? March 15, 2020, I ran him to Great Clips to get a haircut. Four days later, everything closed.
Three weeks, everyone came together. People checked on each other. People stayed close to their families. The world started to heal itself. Waterways got cleaner. Air got cleaner. Then, it stopped. Three weeks turned into an additional month. And people stopped caring. They stopped checking in on neighbors. They stopped being polite. They stopped being decent humans. They began showing their true, selfish colors. Never once did I think that, a year later, we’d be in the same place.
This year has been both damaging as well as encouraging. I previously wrote about the toll this year has taken on my anxiety. It has not only amplified my anxiety, but this year, there has been an increase in mental health issues across the board. More people are suffering from depression, anxiety, and varying personality disorder, than ever before. Yet, there is still a huge stigma on mental health and, as a nation, we turn a blind eye and refuse to address these issues.
People have shown us who they are this year. Even people we thought we knew, have shown their true selves. This is both a positive and a negative. This year has taught me who I want to associate with and who I choose to cut ties with. Cutting ties is not always a bad thing. By cutting ties with some, I have left more room in my life to deepen friendships and get to know others.
I would not trade the time I have gotten to have with my children this year for anything. I have three short years left with my son being home. Fourteen years have passed in the blink of an eye. For half of this school year, he was either online full time or hybrid (the schedule was different for my daughter, who was either online full time or in person full time). What this looked like for us was days where he and I could take walks together and have deep conversations. Since starting back to school full time, this is what I have missed the most, but it's not just walks with my son I have missed, but it’s lunchtimes with both kids. It’s having them come tell me about their classes in between each class. We had a lot of family time. Yes, sometimes too much. For the most part, it only strengthened us as a family. During the summer, the kids and I hiked all the time. Our family has played more games together than ever before. With things getting back to “normal”, we’re having less and less time to be able to do these things. Kids come home from school and they need snacks, yet they didn’t when they were doing online school. Then it’s time for homework, karate, dance, etc.
It’s not just the time with my kids that I wouldn’t trade, but time with Husband, too. He was able to work from home so much more this year. We were able to talk more, play video games together (I’m getting very good at Call of Duty), and just relax. Last night, I was able to relax with him for approximately 45 minutes between all of the things we needed to do. It was a huge reminder of how crazy our life is when things are “normal”.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I’m not ready for things to go back to “normal”. I liked having time. I liked slowing down. I liked not having to be social and fake with people that I don't want to waste my valuable time with. The things that really matter to my family, they didn’t change much. My daughter has had dance throughout all of this, even with some it being virtual. My son has had karate, with some being virtual.
One year later, I never thought we’d still be fighting this virus. One year later, I never thought I would have to explain my every decision, to both sides, because we fall somewhere in the middle. We have been told we’re living in fear because we wear masks. Yet, it’s actually a mandate. I would love to know how we live in fear when my kids go to school in person, they still do dance, karate, and soccer. Kids had a full ski season and we have never prevented them from joining clubs they are interested in, though many clubs have been cancelled this year. Yes, we have only socialized with a small group of people, but, let me be honest, I like it better that way. On the flip side, we’re getting crap for doing too much. Taking precautions does not mean living in fear, nor does living your life while taking precautions mean you are being reckless. This year, we’ve lost the ability to see middle ground. Then we bring the vaccine into the mix and it’s like there are only two sides. There aren’t.
At some point in the past year, people lost respect for others. I have friends who have kept their kids home and are just starting to do more things now. We’ve seen them this year, outside, and masked, because we know that’s how they feel comfortable and we’re great with that. We’ve seen friends this year, outside, unmasked, because all of us were comfortable with that. We’ve gotten coffee, inside, with a very select group of friends, because we are all OK with it. It’s about respecting what people feel comfortable with. Yet, sometime this year, people have decided it’s fine not to respect other people. That’s not exactly true. The anger, hatred and defiance have always been there, this year just brought it to the surface.
I spent too much time this year letting all of the negativity, from all sides bring me down. I still have days where the negativity consumes me, but for the most part, I broke the cycle. A large part of that was stepping back from social media. I barely see actual people’s posts anymore because I have flooded my feed with beach pictures, Ireland and Scotland pictures, funny stories, dog pictures, and food posts. The Facebook algorithm has decided that’s what I want to see, and they are correct (though I could do without all the vitamin ads, I seem to have been targeted for those, too). I know this annoys a lot of people that I don’t see their posts, but I’ve been way happier and if it’s something someone really wants me to know, how about shooting me a text? I mean who wouldn’t be happy looking at a sunset over the ocean or castles on a hillside as opposed to angry words about the world? By stepping away from certain people and social media, I’ve been able to do things that make me happier. I’ve gotten back into doing yoga on a regularish basis, which always made me happier. I squeeze in walks with my family, or just the dog, when I can. I have read more books in the past three months than I read all last calendar year. I bake, not only for my own stress relief, but to help cheer people up. Doing kind things for others always lifts one’s spirits. A few weeks back, I had unexpected coffee with a friend, and decided I need to do more of that. Please note, I also see the privilege in all of this. There are people who do not have the time to do these things and I’m not blind to that. I would never tell people to make sure to cut out more time for themselves when their time is so very limited. However, I would say, try to do more of what makes you happy when you can, even if that means blocking out the whining kids, barking dog, and needy husband while you take that first sip of coffee so you can truly enjoy it for those 5 seconds.
I really wanted to end this with my biggest take away from this year, but I can’t. This year has been filled with so much, that there is no just one thing I have learned. There is not one main theme. The past 365 days have been such a roller coaster, filled with more twists, turns, and loops than anyone ever anticipated. I’ve learned a lot and lost a lot. Maybe the biggest take is that we just keep going. Just keep swimming...
I was an English Minor in college. I was also a Language Arts teacher. Language Arts always came easy to me- the writing process, grammar, structure of text. I learned a lot from teachers in the past. I learned a lot from the red pen.
There was something almost heartbreaking about getting a paper returned that was full of red marks. I never wanted to get papers with a lot of red pen, so I studied those markings and I learned. Yet, that visual taught me. It taught me where capitals went. It taught me where commas went. It taught me about run-on sentences. To be fair, it did not teach me spelling because to this day, I’m the worst speller, but it taught me about word choice. Notes in red in the margins with arrows taught me about context flow and to expand my ideas. Red arrows taught me how to better organize my thoughts. The red pen taught me how to be a writer.
Over the years, just with my kids, I have noticed several issues when it comes to writing instruction. The first thing I noticed is that writing structure is not formally taught anymore, at least not in the traditional sense. The writing process now is a lot more about thinking and gathering ideas than actual structure of text. That works for some kids, but there are students, like my children, who need more structure in their learning process. Even when I taught at a progressive school that let children progress at their own rates, we taught the writing structure. What the kids wrote about was more up to them as opposed to a set topic.
The second thing I noticed was that there was no red pen. Here, we could get into the psychology of it and there have been studies done on how red markings on papers are damaging to children’s psyches, but there was very little pen at all, red or otherwise. Teachers would “conference” with kids about their writings. What this meant was that students would write, be called over by a teacher, teachers would verbally tell them what was good or bad with their papers and send them back to make corrections. I don’t know about you, but, even now as an adult, someone droning on about what I did wrong and telling me that in a certain sentence something is spelled incorrectly or I need to add a comma in this place, by the time I get back to the writing, I have no idea what they said. This was a huge issue for my son. This held him back from his full potential. Finally, in 5th grade, his teacher put post-it notes on his papers and it made all the difference. It wasn’t red pen markings, but it was the same concept. That small change of adding a visual cue helped him better understand the structure of writing, correct his mistakes, and learn more about the process of writing itself. Now, in 9th grade, the boy is a much stronger writer and finds that the entire process comes much more easily now that he has a solid foundation.
In the four years since my son was in 5th grade, I noticed the biggest change to writing instruction. Everything the kids write is now done on computers. I understand that this year was different, but I’m not talking about just this year. Once in middle school, my son barely wrote anything on paper. At the high school level, essays are now just turned in digitally. A grade, with zero feedback is given. How are kids supposed to learn and be able to improve when there is no feedback? Every now and again, there will be a teacher who makes a note in the margins, but it’s not the same. My kids ask me to edit their writing quite often. When it’s on the computer, it’s hard for me to show them what to change. Capitals, periods, commas. Change this wording or that wording. Then we’re right back to the “conferencing” and they have no idea what to actually change. I have to literally stand over them, looking over their shoulder, and point to the screen and show them exactly what I’m talking about. This is not learning. They can not visualize what to fix in future writings. It’s not just kids, it’s adults as well. I speak from experience. I apologize to everyone who read my last post that had over 5 typos when first published. My husband caught them. When I tried to go back to fix what he said, I couldn’t find it or remember. He ended up having me pull it up on my computer in edit mode and he just fixed it for me. When you try to edit what you have written, it’s difficult, even when someone has pointed out your mistakes. You know what you wanted to say, what it’s supposed to say. That makes it more difficult to find the small errors.
What all of this has led to is a lack of structural integrity in writing. My daughter is an amazing writer. She writes the most magnificent stories. Her creativity astounds me. The amount of dependent clauses, lack of proper punctuation, missing capitals, and a multitude of run-on sentences appalls me. How can a child who is this amazing of a writer, and one that has received extremely high marks for her writing, lack this much knowledge of structure of writing? In her 5th grade year, I was more than a little excited because I knew that her teachers were amazing and could take her writing to another level. Things started to fall into place, and then everything shut down. All of the great techniques she had learned the first part of 5th grade seem to have vanished. What she remembers from all her elementary years is, “We’re supposed to write and worry about punctuation and capitals later”. I then circle back to the point where it is difficult to edit your own work, so we should try to write using these in the first place.
This year, every student has a Chromebook. Every Chromebook has Grammarly installed on it. I can’t stand Grammarly. It’s a lazy way out. It teaches nothing. No, it teaches that you don’t need to learn how to actually write. I’ll be the first to admit that when the marvelous invention of Spellcheck came out, it was a game changer for me with how awful of a speller I am. My mom felt about Spellcheck the way I feel about Grammarly. My only defense to this is that you can’t look a word up in the dictionary if you don’t know how to spell it! The main difference is, Grammarly teaches you that you don't have to learn how to properly write because someone else will fix your work for you. After years and years of Spellcheck, I’ve learned that I’m finally becoming a better speller because of how often I mispelled particular words (particular is actually one of those words). An important technique I learned my freshman year of high school was to try not to begin your sentences in a paragraph with the same word. This technique keeps your reader engaged. Grammarly does not care if you drone on and your writing is uninteresting and repetitive. You can pay Grammarly to check for those things, but only to a point. There is no substitute for learning proper writing technique and how to better articulate your thoughts.
Currently, in 6th grade, my daughter is learning about the structure of paragraphs. It’s funny because I was sitting in the living room writing this and she asked me to help her study for her Language Arts test. As I began to help her study, I found that what I’m writing about is exactly what she’s learning about. I also found out that she really doesn’t understand it. She has the vocabulary memorized. She can tell you what dependent and independent clauses are. She can tell you what a subordinate conjunction is, but she still does not understand the application of it. I blame the demise of the red pen….and her strong will. I have been trying to teach her these concepts for years, but she refuses to take any advice from me. Afterall, I don’t know anything about writing. I’m just a mom, not a person who knows what she is talking about. making her change things, such as run-on sentences. Hopefully, after this unit in Language Arts, some of the things I’ve been saying for years will sink in.
Writing instruction is becoming a lost art, yet we expect people to be able to write well thought out, articulate pieces. The more we delve into the world of technology, the more we rely on that technology to “fix” our mistakes. With a lack of foundation, how do we expect growth? We need to bring back the red pen. It can be green if that makes people feel better and less intimidated. We need to get back to teaching the fundamentals of writing so that the next generations are filled with people who can write stories that inspire, entertain, and inform. We need to do this so that we do not go backwards and head to primitive times when the only form of communication was pictures. This may seem extreme, but we are living in society where people can communicate with emojis, but can’t start a sentence with a capital letter.
I have always been a bit of psychology dork. I enjoy reading through articles in Psychology Today. I like finding facts and links to certain things, especially when it comes to effects of social media. I don't know why it took a Netflix documentary for people to see what I've been saying for literally years....social media takes a toll on our psyche. But I digress. Often times in my explorations, I come across something that I find interesting and I feel the need to share it. My latest is "victim mentality".
When I first started delving into this topic, I was thinking that we all have victim mentality at times. I was thinking of how anxiety plays a role in this as well. Anxiety likes to tell you that when someone doesn't text you back in 5 seconds, they are mad at you, hence you are the "victim". I was wrong. Now, the interesting thing is, if I had victim mentality, I would not be able to actually see that I was wrong. I would be of the belief that I was correct, but no one wanted to make that connection. I would be of the belief that people were purposely hiding the truth about anxiety and how it affects victim mindset. I would do everything in my power to find links just to say I was right. Well, in this day and age, I can actually find those links, but they are from Jane Doe who decided to spout her beliefs and act as though they are fact. There is no research behind it. Things like this then actually feed into victim mentality. My anxiety made me feel this way. Well, yes, there are definitely ways your anxiety makes you feel, but victimized it not one of them. Victim mentality can lead to depression or anxiety, but those are symptoms, not causes.
I have actually been quite surprised with where my research has taken me with this topic. Victim mentality is classified as a personality disorder as opposed to a mental illness. This basically means that, while those with victim mentality want to blame the fact they have a disorder, they actually can't use that as an excuse because it is something they can overcome. It is not misfirings in the brain, it is a perception or belief. A personality disorder can cause a person to fail to reach their personal potential if not changed.
In our house, we have discussed egocentrism for years and years and years. My kids knew the word "egocentric" when they were three. I feel the need to explain what this word means since it happens to be 9th grade vocabulary word that most of the kids in my son's advanced language arts class didn't know. Egocentrism is thinking only of oneself with no regard to others, self-centered. Most children outgrow their egocentric phase by age 9 at the latest. It's normal and natural for all of us to have self-centered moments, but that is what they are , moments. Why does it seem like I've shifted gears here? Because it's actually all connected. Those with personality disorders, especially victim mentality, are egocentric. They have a belief that everything is happening to them. They are the center of it all.
It is important to see this connection because a lot of the time, those with victim mentality are seeking outside attention, They don't care if that attention is positive or negative. Being a teacher, especially dealing with children who are still in the egocentric phase, I have seen kids act out and parents not understand why since the attention they get is negative. The reason is, that for some kids, negative attention is better than no attention. We have all seen these people all grown up. They are the kids in high school who act out in class on a normal basis. They are the employees at work who have to make a big deal on how unfair everything is or how they are the smartest ones there. I'm not talking about an occasional outburst, but constant behavior of having to be heard, whether it gets them good or bad attention. It is most likely that these people are suffering some sort of personality disorder. I found one quote that was actually very interesting. Studies from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology have found that playing victim leads to a sense of entitlement and selfish behavior. This then snowballs. These people then start to create situations in which they will receive special treatment. When their attempts are ignored, they lash out until and change to anger to get what they want. Have you ever dealt with a person who, when you don't show them the pity they are desiring, flips and becomes angry instead? This is what it means. If the cycle is not broken, it can lead to permanent behavioral changes.
Victim mentality has appeared to become more prevalent in our society in the past years. Here's where I thought for sure my research would show it's all because of social media. I was incorrect, again-- second time with my assumptions on this particular subject. Social media helps magnify personality disorders but does not have a direct link to causing them. Those with a victim mentality have a tendency to be more drawn to social media. Social media amplifies, or maybe the better term is justifies, those with victim mentality because they see others like them. No, I'm not saying everyone on social media has a personality disorder, I'm saying that social media feeds into the "look at me" part of personality disorders. If you go back to my first sentence of this paragraph, I state, "has appeared". This is also where social media comes into play. Before social media, there were probably just as many people with personality disorders, but in our technologically advanced age, we can see it on a greater scope. Through this, please note my use of the term "personality disorders". While victim mentality is my main focus, there are common threads of most personality disorders and I feel the need to make it clear certain points are all encompassing. So, as much as I would like to say that social media creates victim mentality, it does not. It is still a dangerous platform for those who seek attention, especially when that platform gets taken away or a post, picture, etc doesn't get as many responses as desired, which links to the above research findings that when a person does not get the attention they desire, they lash out in anger.
So, after all the research and what's not related to victim mentality, what does it look like? There are several key traits to identifying victim mentality. Those with victim mentality tend to: avoid responsibility, not seek out possible solutions, may feel powerless, have negative self-talk; self-sabotage, lack confidence, have a great deal of frustration, anger and resentment. Avoiding responsibility is one of the key traits. "It's not my fault," is a key phrase, usually followed by some excuse. A lot of the time that excuse is placing blame on someone else. It's not my fault, my teacher/boss doesn't like me. It's not my fault, so and so did this instead of that. It's not my fault my mom/dad/wife/husband didn't do it. The other key traits is having a lot of frustration, anger and resentment. No one likes me. They are always picking on me (with no evidence, because there is a line of bullying). I'm the only one who ever gets in trouble. We all say and feel a lot of these things. The difference is overcoming them. We change the situation. Those with victim mentality will have the same excuse and behaviors no matter how many times they change schools, jobs, friends, etc.
It is fine line when deciding if a person is actually being victimized or if they are only perceiving the victimization. Especially with children, we want to protect them and make sure they are not being bullied or hurt in any way. There are definitely teachers out there that don't like certain students. Yes, they may be tougher on those students, but that like or dislike does not typically impact grades. Yes, they can grade certain things more harshly, but, for the most part, an answer is either right or wrong and can be proven. We never want to assume a child is not being bullied when they say they are. This is where it gets harder. For me, this part is the hardest because I had a child who was bullied and you never want to assume that your child is making it up. Yet, for victim mentality, at the younger ages, they feel like everyone is against them and they are being singled out. In adults, you see this mentality with no matter what job the person has, co-workers or bosses are always unfair or out for them. (Sidenote, my next dorky research is going to be on narcissistic personality disorder because that plays a huge role in workforce issues as well). The biggest difference between victim and victim mentality is how you change the situation. Do you want others to change the situation for you every time or do you try to work it out on your own? It all circles back around to egocentrism and the need for attention. Victims do not want your pity, but those with victim mentality do because, again, negative attention is better than no attention.
Can this cycle of victim mentality be broken? Yes, unfortunately, though, for a lot of adults with this personality disorder, it's actually become critical to who they are and how they live. They seek out people who enable them. They thrive on putting themselves and those they love into into positions that are negative. Adults with victim mentality often have children with personality disorders, depression, or anxiety. Often times, one personality disorder can lead to acquiring other personality disorders. It's not uncommon to see someone who has victim mentality also have narcissistic personality disorder as well (see how I pulled that in there). A lot of times these people will develop OCD tendencies, especially if they see that it gets them attention, which they desire. When left to grow, victim mentality can lead to depression, rage, and isolation.
I would love to get more detailed with all of this, but I know this is starting to sound like a research paper! If anyone who read this is interested in learning more, there are several good resources I used. These are the ones that weren't so clinical. Don't worry, I did fact check through several different sources.
We tend to hide who we are from the outside world. We show people only what we want them to see. With social media, this is has become an even easier thing to do. Look at how together I am. Look at how much fun I have. Look at what an awesome parent/grandparent/etc I am. But we only show part of the picture.
I have been fairly good about being who I am, flaws and all. Still, there are many things no one sees. To the outside world, I'm an organized, motivated individual who normally has her shit together. In my head, I'm far from that. I'm a frantic mess, no matter how calm I appear. I am strong and independent. So much so that people forget there are times I can break. It was a hard week. I've had more hard weeks than easy weeks during the past year, but this past one was of the top three hardest. There's not any reason in particular. It was everything and nothing.
Monday, I cried. What people don't know is that I cry all the time, not crazy crying, but small bouts of tears. I seem like nothing bothers me, but everything actually bothers me. I take on the weight of the world. Monday was different Monday was breakdown sobbing all day long. I came home from taking the kids to school and I sat in my hallway in tears for a good 20 minutes. I've always been big on giving yourself time to feel what you're feeling. I have been holding it in for so long, I felt maybe I just needed that release. After 20 minutes, I picked myself and got on with my day. Except I didn't. I took laundry downstairs and burst in tears. I washed dishes sobbing. I sat in my car picking kids up from school and cried before they got in. I sat in the karate parking lot waiting for the boy, almost hysterical. It was literally all day and I couldn't stop it. I'd be fine for bit of time and then, out of the blue, a wreck. My family had no idea what to do for me.
The thing about only allowing people to see what you want them to see is that when they see you fall apart, they have no idea what to do. They tiptoe around you. There are a lot of pitiful, "Are you OK?" or "Tell me what's wrong." Sometimes, yes, I need comfort, but I don't want to be treated like I'm a sad little puppy. In the days leading up to my crappy week, I was having an anxiety moment. My friend happened to text me at just the wrong time - or rather wrong time for her, right time for me. I just laid it all out. This is what she said, "What I'm hearing you say is......Is that correct?" Then she didn't tell me I was stupid or make me feel pitiful, instead she said, "Let me see what I can find out about that." It was direct and to the point and exactly what was needed.
There is huge guilt that comes with anxiety. Guilt from so many different areas, but one place the guilt comes from is letting people see the vulnerable side of you. It's actually more than guilt. It's shame. Shame for burdening someone else with your problems. Shame for breaking down. Shame for not being able to cope. Most of the time the fear of experiencing that sort of shame and guilt is enough to not let anyone in. It is rare, that I ever let anyone in because of what I feel after. I can't tell you the number of times I've sat in my car trying to decide if I should go see my person so I could get a hug (pre-COVID) and then sucked it up and decided not to. My person would never, ever think any less of me or judge me, it's all about how I feel about myself.
With social media and a pandemic, the shame and guilt of anxiety has been taken up to a whole other level. Had so much fun with friends this weekend! #blessed. Just painted my third room of the house this week. #motivated Just finished my last Beachbody workout #strong People post this crap all day long. They do it to make themselves feel better. They do it because they are hiding. I'm guilty of it, too, so don't think I'm bashing everyone out there. I do think that there is a level of awareness certain people have though. I know that with the good, comes the bad. I try to find beauty in each day, even if it's messy and ugly. There is a reason we are going through it. Without the hard moments, you can't really be grateful. Those hashtags people use are a load of crap the majority of the time. They are used to make you see what they want you to see. For me, if I could have gotten a picture in the moment that my friend said to me, "So what I'm hearing you say..." , it would have been raw and ugly, but there was nothing I was more grateful for in that moment. Those are things no one wants you to see. Those are things no one wants to share on social media. And it's wrong.
We've created a world for our children where all they see is the perfect. Look at my perfect life. We've created a world where we encourage our children to remain hidden from who they truly are. If you don't fit into the perfect little mold that social media is portraying, you are not good enough. I can't tell you the number of conversations we have had with our children regarding this. But we can't just preach, we need to put it into practice as well. That's why my kids do see me breakdown. That's why my kids see me and Husband fight. That's why some of my posts are uncomfortable for people. That's why my pictures aren't always picture perfect. I show the messy, but there is so much more that no one will see. No one. It's what we all do. We need to teach our kids that there is balance. We need to teach them it's OK to hide certain parts, but be true to who they are. Don't listen to what people put out for the world to see because it's only part of the truth. Know your truth and own it, but it's also fine not to show all of you. Just remember to not lose who you are in what you want others to see.
Today is our seventh "first" day of this school year. It's the seventh because we're the last half of the alphabet and one school is hybrid, which means when the one kid goes to non-hybrid, then we wait one day for the other one to go to the hybrid school. Since school has changed multiple times this year, it has given our family 7 first days. Today is the first day of non hybrid for both. Today marks 325 days since my son has gone to school 5 days a week in a building.
School is one of my anxiety triggers (I'd like to thank Monster's one first grade teacher for that). The first day is always the hardest day for me. Husband usually takes the day off to keep my mind off of it so that I just make it through. This year, I knew the first day was going to be hard. One starting high school and one starting middle school. I was prepared....sort of. When we were informed the first 4 weeks of school would be online, I was thrilled. I had more time. Then, the first day of in person came. Sunshine started first. It was fine because it was 6th grade and she had friends in almost every class. I could handle that. Two days later, the boy started in person high school. It was fine. It was all fine. I made it through. Then, several weeks later when COVID cases in the schools spiked due to parties, we were back online. That made the fourth first day, with yet another new online format. Two weeks ago, Sunshine went back for yet another first day back to in person. The next day, Monster went back and they were following yet a different school model.. Six first days and 4 new formats for learning. Today marks the 5th new learning model the boy has had this year and his 5th first day, making it out family's 7th first day. The rest of the first days have been tough, but this one may break me.
I have amazing friends who know how hard the first days are for me. Each new first day, I had friends texting me and bringing me coffee to make sure I was doing OK. Today is harder because I have nothing to do. When I say nothing, I mean I have a lot to do, but no one around to keep my mind off of the fact that this is, yet again, something new this year. There is only so much you can do before your mind starts wandering. Are they OK? What are they doing? Do they need help? Do they know what do to do if they do need help?
Today is also hard because of my lack of faith in humanity. I went to a small all girl Catholic high school and came from a tiny Catholic grade school. I'm not exaggerating when I say my schools were small. My entire 8th grade consisted of 14 people. My graduating class in high school was 87 people. What I know about public school high schools comes from movies, television, and books. Hence my fear and lack of faith in humanity. Monster is small for his age. It can't be easy being 5'1" and a freshman boy. Add to that a pandemic that 50% of the population doesn't take seriously and all of the unrest in our country, it puts my anxiety into overdrive. The boy's 4th first day, happened to be Inauguration Day. I'm not going to lie, I was terrified for his safety. Not because of any of our beliefs, but because there is so much anger and hatred in this country right now. Now, with everyone back at school, I feel this even more. I am doing my best to not try to think of Sandy Hook, or Parkland, or Columbine (obviously not thinking of the is working quite well....)
Deep down, I know it will be fine, but I am counting down the minutes until I go pick up the high school kids. I did not ask the boy to text me to let me know how his day was going, even though I really hope he decides to do that on his own. He's got his and I don't need to micromanage. I know that it will get easier, but each first day is a punch to the stomach for my anxiety. We have 16 weeks left of school. I can do this. I can do anything for 16 weeks. Then, I have my babies with me again for a short time until I get to go through the first day all over again. Hopefully, there will only be one first day next year, but I guess that depends on our society. Going to stay positive and think it will only be one first day that I have to suffer through next school year. That give me 6 months to prepare. I better get on that.
2020 was one giant leap for my anxiety.....backwards. One year took away years, and I do literally mean years, of progress. People who know me well, they know that one of my main triggers for anxiety is sickness. Enter global pandemic. That, alone, kicked everything up a notch for me. Eventually, that calmed down, until Sunshine got quarantined and cases spiked.. Since that moment, a series of events has taken my anxiety over the edge. It took 282 days into the pandemic for me to break. That's pretty good. I'm sure people were taking bets on it being way earlier. On Dec 19, my mind had my kids orphaned. I was literally trying to figure out if, when my son was 16, he could get emancipated and get custody of his sister. My mind had my children in the hospital, and either Husband or myself would never get to see them again since only one parent can be there. My mind had me as a single mother and trying to figure out how to live as a family of 3. People with anxiety read this and right away understand how I got there. People reading this without anxiety can not possibly know how these feelings, though not very logical, are so real and so painful that you can barely function. There were literally 5 people who knew what was going on with me, and of those 5, only 3 knew how bad it was. I avoided answering my person's question, "How are you?", because I knew I couldn't lie to her. I sidestepped the question every time. Telling her would make it all too real (and I'm still not going to talk about it, so please don’t ask).
My social anxiety has gotten so much worse this year as well. I mean, we’re not supposed to be social, so it stands to reason that this would get worse since I’m not forced to do it. There is a misconception with social anxiety. People tend to think of it as having trouble being around people. This is only partially true. It is actually so much more complicated than that. People are usually shocked to learn I have social anxiety because I can talk to anyone. The reason I can talk to anyone is because of my anxiety. I get so nervous around people that I just talk. I then spend hours, weeks, months, years, going over what I said and how I shouldn’t have said it or how I should have said something else, but I do talk. Talking face to face with people is the easy part. Phone calls, which were extremely painful before, are nearly impossible now. Even talking to friends on the phone has become extremely difficult. Then we bring in Zoom. There is literally one person I can Zoom with and even then, it’s uncomfortable for me, even though this person and I used to get weekly coffee and talk.
I’m not exaggerating when I say it took me years to build up the courage to take my kids to certain places on my own. The work I put into that one was intense and done very precisely and intentional. I started small and moved up. By the summer of 2019, I was taking my kids to all sorts of new places. This year, I could barely muster up the courage to take my kids berry picking by myself, which is something we’ve done for more years than I can remember. Certain things, such as going canoeing, have made me nervous in the past, but I’ve worked on it and overcome those fears. This year, I couldn’t go out canoeing with my kids. I had full on panic attacks even thinking about it. Husband made me get in the canoe with him and go around the lake to work on it, but even then, I could only go about ¼ of the distance we usually go before I started to hyperventilate. I took my dog for a walk and another dog jumped the fence and came after her. Everyone was fine. The owner came and got the dog. The dog never touched me or my dog. Yet, I had to call my husband when I was only a mile from home to come get us because of a panic attack. Now, I can’t walk my dog alone. I’ve never had a problem walking my dog alone, even when my old dog got attacked on a walk as a puppy. I went to apply for a board position, not even an actual job, and I couldn’t get past my name and address. The worst part is that it was a position I would have been great at and I really wanted.
Things changed from even the beginning of this pandemic to now. At the beginning, the kids, dog and I hiked new parks almost daily. I’m not sure what changed or when, maybe it was the dog jumping the fence, but I started to not take the dog. Then, I started to stick to trails we had already done. Now, we’re back to walking the neighborhood instead of going to parks unless Husband comes with us. If it wasn’t a for a friend of mine and her daughter, there are many things I wouldn’t have done this year. She went berry picking with us. She went hiking new places with us. She took us paddleboarding (strange I could get on a paddleboard, but not in a canoe). She explored new places with us. I’m fairly certain that without her this summer, I would have become a hermit.
I am determined to get back to where I was, but I also know it’s going to be a long, hard journey. I’ve already started taking baby steps. I’ve done so much to overcome so much that I look at how much I have regressed and I wonder what the point of even trying is. Then, I look at my kids. I’ve overcome so much because I want to give them the best lives I can. I will continue to fight through my anxiety because they deserve a mom who won’t give up. A friend of mine told me about a podcast she listens to. She said that it suggested that instead of worrying about trying to get this year back to some sort of status quo or pre-pandemic normal, that we should make 2021 about healing. This year has broken me in ways that I didn't know I could break. I think I'm beyond healing, so, maybe I make 2021 about picking up pieces and creating something new. Something better. Something stronger.
This year, there was no traditional handstand in the pool picture. There was no walk on the beach after Christmas dinner. Instead, there was a foot of snow we got to shovel. My kids have never experienced a Christmas this cold. Christmas, however, is not about where you are, but rather who you are with. Christmas is almost always just the 4 of us, so we were not missing out on being with family. The only difference it made not being away for Christmas was the amount of work I had to do....or maybe, rather, felt I needed to do. Our Christmases do not usually consist of presents. We specifically ask Santa not to bring presents to where we are because then we'd have to figure out how to transport them all home! There are usually one or two gifts we bring, which are normally books and games, so the kids have something more to do. Being home meant a lot of clean-up. Of course there is clean-up involved whenever we get home, but it's never on Christmas Day. This year, there was no traditional nap for me. There was washing new clothes, putting away new items, installing new computer software, hanging tapestries, and finding room for all of the new things that my "add to cart" addiction of 2020 brought.
There were still Christmas traditions we upheld. We baked cookies for family and friends. Our elf brought jammies for the kids on Christmas Eve. We left cookies for Santa. We had our traditional spaghetti dinner. We played games as a family. We listened to Christmas music. Know what? My kids missed nothing. Of course they were bummed we weren't swimming and playing on the beach, but they were just happy to be together was a family. Husband and I thought that this year was going to upset our kids, but, honestly, it upset us way more than it upset them.
We have a fleeting 18 years with our kids before they are off on their own. We want to make every moment count. What we sometimes forget is that it truly is about the moments. Moments are made regardless of your location. My kids both thought this was one of the best Christmases. They also thought this was one of the best years. The reason is because we are together. We are truly with each other. There is no stress of having to run and see people. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do. Just us, together. I didn't even take many pictures this year because we were so caught up being in the moment.
Next year, no matter where we are, it will be amazing because we'll be together.