Even though I want to, I don’t blog much these days. There just isn’t time and emotional energy enough to sit down and write. When I do sit down and stare at my screen, I have so many thoughts swirling around that I can’t pinpoint just one. Tonight I’m going to at least try. Hopefully this post will make at least a little bit of sense.
I’m now seeing a personal therapist, as well as the family therapist we’ve been seeing for the past year. My personal therapist is helping me to find my identity again, as well as my confidence and my ability to handle life. Right now I feel like I’m one disaster away from falling apart.
Last week I talked to her about how I feel like I’m two separate people. When I’m at home with my husband (he works from home) and the kids are at school, I feel like myself. My husband is my best friend and we understand each other. We have fun together. I feel like I can be myself and be accepted, something I was looking for until I met him.
When the kids are at home, I feel like a complete fake. My eldest daughter now has a few coping skills at her disposal but she still has a relatively low stress tolerance level. If anything goes wrong, or if she feels like something is wrong (even when everything is fine!), she falls apart. This means she might retreat into herself, or stomp around the house, or start screaming at me, or any other other behaviors that shout “I’m not ok!” For over a year now, I’ve been doing my best to prop her up, to be her frontal lobe for her, to keep her from falling apart. This means that I’ve put on a false personality, as she is an extrovert and loud and a sensory seeker. I am an introvert, fairly quiet (unless I feel comfortable with you and then I can talk your ear off), and a sensory avoider. But to keep my daughter happy and regulated, I’ve been pretending to be an outgoing and cheerful person. I’m not. I’m a relatively serious, quiet, sometimes brooding individual. My daughter can’t handle the real me. If I’m not smiling and laughing, she thinks something is wrong. If she thinks something is wrong, her behavior spirals out of control.
Over the past few months, I’ve been letting myself not be the smiling, laughing person that my eldest thinks I am. My younger daughter has seen more of the real me, since I went to China by myself and refused to fake it for over a week while parenting by myself. My youngest doesn’t like it when I’m serious. She very insistently tells me, “mama, smile!!” But if I continue to be serious around her, she can handle it. My eldest can’t.
What’s the answer? I don’t know. I am trying to allow myself to be me all of the time but it is so hard. When my eldest starts losing control of her emotions or behavior, I have to be silly and playful to get her to laugh. If I can get her to laugh, I can bond with her enough that we can reestablish her regulation. But a silly and playful person I am not. This is so hard for me and feels so fake. But that’s what she responds to.
How do I balance my needs (being myself) with her need for regulation (which requires a personality that I don’t have)? Can she learn to regulate while I maintain my own personality? I don’t know. Do I always have to feel like a fake around my daughters? I don’t know. It doesn’t feel sustainable. It doesn’t feel fair to me or to them. They think their mother is one person but neither of them know the real me.