Solo Mama Traveling Through Drug Purgatory: 5 Realities and Strategies

Holy wow. Who ever knew that changing prescriptions could be a living nightmare? Probably lots of people. I just never had the opportunity to hear about their experiences. They probably weren’t jumping up and down to share them with me (or anyone else).

The hardest thing to deal with has been the extremely horrifying days and the somewhat decent days. To help distance myself emotionally from the experience, I’ve decided write and express some raw realities and the strategies I’ve tried as a tool to work through the realities. Maybe there is some entertainment in here.

  1. Seeking validation excessively through human contact. This is something I’ve struggled with for years and it seems to have really amped up recently. The invention of a device that you can take with you everywhere becomes a tool to feed this addiction. I’ve never been a person who becomes addicted to substances. I can quit anything cold turkey. I can’t quit the addiction of human validation. These days, when I sleep, I keep my phone in an inconvenient place so I can’t check it all night long. I hide alerts from certain people whose texts are like taking a hit of a potent drug so I don’t keeping looking at my phone. I’ve had some success with these strategies. Continuing to work on it.
  1. Looking through the lens of negative thoughts at my life and imploding every 5 minutes. This one is tough. To support my medication transition, I’ve been involved with all sorts of extracurricular activities like learning coping strategies for living life with a significantly broken mind. One of the strategies I’ve been trying recently is looking at my negative thought, and accepting it as a thought, and not looking at everything in my life through this lens. I can also try visualizing the process of putting this thought on a leaf, and watching it float downstream in a river. All of this to acknowledge that thoughts are simply just that; they don’t have to ruin our days and our lives. It has its roots in dialectical behavioral therapy (distress tolerance, specifically radical acceptance), for all those out there who are much more knowledgeable in the ways of the mind and resulting behaviors. I’ve had a little success with this. It stopped me from freaking out on a human who wasn’t validating me fast enough. Still trying it out.
  1. The runaway mind and sleepless nights. This one relates to the above. This is where I can’t get to sleep because my mind has buried itself in all sorts of negative thoughts about how I suck as a parent, no man will ever love me, I won’t be able to pay my bills and I will end up on the streets, everyone I know who is my age with my level of education is smarter than me and has a better job, and my kids are going to be kidnapped. Once I am asleep, and have had a few hours of rest, I wake up again to the same thoughts. Like waking up in an endless nightmare of horrible thoughts. To try and curb this issue, I’ve taken to running meditations off of YouTube. One I really like is: Guided Meditation for Deep Sleep Create Your Destiny Hypnosis for Law of Attraction . I’ve found that male voices that are quiet and monotone and have a slight apparently British or Australian accent work the best for me. The combination of the voice, visualization, and progressive relaxation has been very successful in shutting down my thoughts. Thankfully, no one sleeps near me to hear a strange man droning on about relaxing my jaw at 3 in the morning.
  1. Beating myself with an iron hammer. It’s funny. If I were to beat anyone else up as much as I do myself, I’d be arrested for domestic violence. Is it possible to bring assault charges against myself? Can someone arrest me, take me to court and sentence me for the damage that I cause to myself on a daily basis with my words, thoughts, and recently, my behaviors? If I could incapacitate and even punish myself, would it deter me? Something to think about, considering the line of work I’m in. Another coping strategy I’ve learned recently is tapping. From my limited experience, it’s around disrupting my brain activity through cognitive and physical disruptions that occur at pulse points on my body. I like this because of the physical sensations. With my fingernails, it’s somewhat uncomfortable. It’s like gentle and somewhat irritating beating with a soft hammer, only strategically, in a helping way.
  1. Empathy for other’s pain and sadness is dulled and in some cases, non-existent. This is not consistent. Some days I want to hang a sign outside my office, not unlike Lucy from the Peanuts. I won’t even charge a nickel. Just come in and tell me why your life sucks. I need to know that other people suffer too. Some days though, you could come in and tell me your mother was attacked by a rattlesnake or your partner dumped you on your birthday, and I struggle to find a soft word for you. I might just blankly stare or fidget uncomfortably. I might even pull out a nail file to smooth the latest nick out of my fingernail. It’s grotesque behavior. Like that of a sociopath. Inexplicable. No words for this. I shock myself.

So there it is. Another raw, real excerpt from life. In sharing, I hope that some will find a connection point, or maybe just another perspective or some shared experience.

When Solo Mama Can’t Snap Out of It

“Snap out of it.”

Those words haunt me. They repeat themselves over and over as I drive to work, drive home from work, drive to meetings, sit in front of my computer and try to focus, as I make dinner, clean my house, make my bed and stream a hundred positive statements about myself through my brain, morning, noon and night. My mind is in a battle right now. A battle between living and being a mother and a good employee and a friend, and just functioning. Barely making it. “Snap out of it.” I am willing those words to come true. If I could just snap my fingers, and return to life.

“So, I’m just going to tell you, the next few weeks will kind of suck. You will just feel bad, and…” (shrugging for effect), “there’s just no way around it,” said the young, hip-looking nurse practitioner with rolled up jeans cuffs and mismatched socked feet, which had no shoes on them. His hair permanently stood up on end, probably shaped that way because he constantly ran his fingers through it as he talked, taking occasional breaks and resting his head in his hand as he read from his computer screen. A younger, lanky, somewhat attractive replica of Einstein. We were talking about changing old medications to new medications, new medications that may actually work better? After a waiting period of misery.

Yes. These weeks (exactly 8 days actually – 1.1 week?) are sucking. And there are several more to come. And nothing makes me feel better, or alive, for more than about an hour or two. Not human company, not artistic expression, not the sound of children’s laughter, not some random out-of-context thing my children say, nor conversation with good friends.

Is there not a drug for this feeling? “Snap out of it.”

Writing words helps. I haven’t written for months and writing helps. But I’m like one of those people who has been given a truth serum and the only thing I can write about is how ugly I feel and have felt for weeks. Months. It has been like wearing a mask that has slowly been eroded by environmental factors- what are those things that beauty products fight these days? Free radicals? Free radicals have been eating me alive for the past several months and now I’m bare and raw, until my new medications take effect. Until my mask can grow back and the free radicals can be eradicated from my system.

Solo Mama: The Facebook Highlight Reel

Social media has taken over our lives. At least twice a week I hear someone say “I’m quitting Facebook” or “I’m taking a break from social media.” We hear more and more about how too much time on social media can be detrimental, not only because it’s making us forget how to talk to each other and interact as humans, but it is also giving people a false sense of the reality of other people’s lives, causing depression, anxiety and other ailments.

Strangely, it occurred to me the other day that I’m no longer affected as much by others and their seemingly perfect lives on Facebook, I’m more stressed out by my own highlight reel, which pops in as a “Facebook cares about you and your memory from x years ago” almost daily. Can anyone else relate? Pictures of my children’s happy faces, running through sprinklers, building snowmen, eating popsicles, taking vacations, drawing with sidewalk chalk and cheerfully skipping along in a beautiful setting, holding hands. My eyes tear up every day as I open up the Facebook app and see yet another memory of a happier time. I wonder, who are these happy children, smiling all the time at me and at each other? Will a study come out some day talking about how my Facebook memories can actually worsen my depression and make me think that I’ve already lived through the best times of my life? Instead of being jealous of all my friends, I will now find reasons to be jealous of myself, in my earlier, happier days?

Is it worth taking pictures of my kids right at this moment and posting them? One’s face is buried in an iPad and the other is writing incoherent sentences about a stuffed reindeer. Then in “x” number of years, this memory will come up and I will cry harder because at that time, maybe my son will be sitting across from me, smoking pot on my fake leather couch (which I will probably still have), watching reruns of Phineas and Ferb, while my daughter is hunched over on the couch next to him, texting some gross boy who is probably too old for her and complaining about wanting her own car. I liken this to seeing old pictures of myself, knowing that back when the picture was taken, I was probably complaining about being too fat, or having bad hair, or just generally being unhappy with how I looked and now I reflect back and think “damn, you were HOT!”

I need to cherish every day and live in the moment, because inevitably, Facebook will remind me that as the years pass, my children will get older, more surly, and more expensive as I get older, more poor, and less attractive. 🤪

Solo Parenting: Putting All My Distressing Thoughts in a Container

It’s no secret I’m an advocate of therapy. When you try to experience life to the fullest, you pull in the bad and the good, and the really really bad. You don’t give up on people and you don’t give up on hope. You need a backup though, and over the years, I’ve realized that I can wear my friends out as backups. Sometimes it’s just good practice to pay someone to be your backup.

I’ve been working with someone recently, a.k.a. paying someone to help me process and also assist me with developing some positive coping mechanisms. We’ve been talking about all sorts of abstract yet concrete things and I’ve been practicing some visualization. One practice that’s connected to a larger strategy that I’m working on is this idea of storing my distressing thoughts and experiences in a container for processing later. It’s not something that comes naturally, and I’ve kind of scoffed at similar practices in the past – for example, writing things out on paper and burning it, and even journaling is a somewhat lackluster practice for me. I just want the pain to be gone NOW. And we all know, in the day and age of mobile phones, messaging and texting, painful words and experiences can be as frequent as breathing. When I’m not feeling at my best, it just takes the wrong person to message the wrong thing, and my day can crash and become irreparable. I have to admit that I turn off my phone frequently, turn off notifications from people, or hide my phone for periods of time so as not to engage with someone when I’m hurting. Sometimes I don’t do it quick enough and I shoot off words I wish I could take back.

So back to this concept of putting distressful thoughts and emotions in a container. I’m trying to practice it on the go as things happen, or as I try to recall experiences. My container is a shipping container you’d find on a major port – maybe somewhere on the east coast on the ocean. There are lots of seagulls squawking and I can smell rotting fish in the air. I cross a wooden dock to where there is a collection of containers, and I heave open a metal lid to one of them (it’s probably more like a large dumpster, but a shipping container sounds more capable of holding my pain and distress), and shove my distress in that container. I try to pull it from my body, where I’m feeling the distress the most.

It’s interesting because different types of distress show up in different parts of my body. Distress caused by parenting and children usually shows up in my chest and sometimes up as far as my head. Friend and family distress shows up primarily in my chest and head. Romantic distress is solidly located in my stomach. Visualizing tearing the distress from my body and shoving it through the open lid of this container is gratifying but my practice isn’t quite perfected yet. As soon as I shove the distress in the container and start to walk away, it seeps out through the lid, which isn’t securely fastened, and chases me down the dock, oozing around my feet in an attempt to get me to process it – maybe just a little bit? – and ruminate over it. Instead of sending positive energy out, I’m trapped by my distress and futile attempts to process it. I feel creepy and sad and overwhelmed. Part of this practice is visualizing my safe place to go to after dumping my distress, but for some reason, that damn smelly shipping container gets a hold on me and I can’t walk away. I know not all distress is avoidable, but I do know that often I’m attracting distress into my life. And getting trapped in the vicinity of a smelly dumpster doesn’t help repel distress.